Sunday, May 15, 2022

Amplification Loops on Fault Lines

"We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology -- E.O. Wilson"


Last week I began untangling a string about how we as a species have evolved in the past two centuries into behaviors that run counter to our own survival. I described how modern public relations magicians had been able to capture the group attention with seductive language, and though behavioral psychology and cognitive science, to segment and manipulate how people get information or act upon it.

There are many people, some of them self-described neoluddites, who simply disconnect from the Matrix in an attempt to escape it. They may cancel their Facebook account. They may stop watching cable news or voting for either of the major parties. But they still gather information, even if it is from alternative, more palatable sources for them. They may think they have escaped the Matrix but the Matrix does not think it has lost them. They are still datapoints in the algorithms of pollsters, especially if they fall into he undecided category. They are now in the category of “those who are attempting to escape the Matrix.” Globalized technological civilization does not permit escape. It is like a cult, with many traps to prevent you from ever leaving. 

Even dedicated neoluddites may inadvertently use or consume manufactured terms like climate change instead of climate chaos, pre-owned cars instead of used cars, or Homeland Security, mother country, freedom fighters, and gluten-free “all-natural” (an oxymoron).

George Lakoff, author of The Elephant in the Room, likes the example of Mother Russia, drawing as it does upon timeless respect for Mother Earth (Mat Zemlya). It is one reason why today so many Russians support the “police action” in Ukraine. By thinking of your nation as your mother you associate it with your childhood experience. These are among the ways that social engineers, and Lakoff includes himself, manipulate culture into believing ideas that are totally fictitious — by honing in on our herd instinct that we have conserved over evolutionary time as a mechanism for group survival and the reason we cluster in towns and find solace in the safety of relationships with family and neighbors whom we trust.

Tristan Harris, whom some may recall from the recent Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, describes himself an “an American technology ethicist.” After studying Freud, Bernays, Luntz and public relations at Stanford, he worked as a metasystem designer at Google. Now he has a TED collective podcast, Your Undivided Attention, where he interviews insightful disrupters like Kate Raworth, Audrey Tang, Daniel Schmachtenberger and Yuval Noah Harari. In a recent podcast interview on Nate Hagens’ The Great Simplification, he explained our predicament this way:

HARRIS: The important thing to establish here is that the mind can be persuaded. Everyone is persuadable. … You’re always using language and when you use language you’re casting spells that create a framework for seeing reality. And we just have to be aware of this, because increasingly there are actors that are better and better at knowing which language to use to get us to feel or believe one way or the other. And then you link this with the tech equation — technology is getting better and better at reinforcing certain language patterns over and over again. 

HAGENS: I just hired a coach to help me with various efforts with my organization and one thing she said off the bat was that the language I used to describe our situation is too negative. I say “the problem.” Instead I should say “the challenge” or “the opportunity.” And the facts are all the same but the language that I use tends to be too negative because I’m freaking terrified about what’s coming so naturally I have negative sounding words.

It is not necessary to this situation that there be some evil genius behind a curtain manipulating our thoughts, the sort of Ministry of Truth found in George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1948). We are doing it to ourselves, more or less innocently, because whenever we click a thumbs-up “like” for some friend’s post from a pro-Trump rally or for a photograph of an abortion rights demonstration, we are throwing raw meat to the bots in the basement who adjust our social media feeds thereafter to be pro-Trump or pro-abortion and erect a shell around us, moderating whose posts appear on our screen, what news headlines we see, how we are stimulated or soothed, even what possible Tinder dates we get to swipe. 

Naturally, we are alarmed when we hear this. Maybe we write our politicians, or complain at one of their stage-managed town meetings. And they pledge to haul Mark Zuckerberg before the court of public opinion and stage a mock trial to expose his ties to Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Congressional pronouncements, or hearings, are mostly Kabuki theater, operating for drama, screenviews, clicks and swing voters, but then if you are Putin or Xi, it’s the best news you could hear, because there are plain fault lines within the populations of countries that threaten you. So then Russian and Chinese bot trolls elbow aside the Israeli and Saudi bot trolls to buy silent ads pushing for what makes both sides more angry. They turn up the temperature. Protest becomes sedition.

HARRIS: That’s what my colleague Renée DiResta calls amplifiganda because they’re just selecting what your own domestic voices in your country are saying — the most polarizing and divisive voices — and they’re just piling onto those things. So you can think of the news feed algorithm behind Facebook and Twitter and so on as a fault line finder… and then it just puts an amplification loop on that fault line. It’s like turning up the contrast in a photograph where all the lines suddenly get really visible.

Amplification is a trillion-dollar industry driven by advertising and subscriptions. It is minting new billionaires every week. Cyberwar defenders are not just at a disadvantage, they are hopelessly outgunned.

What do they do in that circumstance? They lash out, futilely but dangerously. The damage they do is more to themselves — and “free” societies — than to perceived or real enemies, and the more desperate they become, the speedier they hasten their own demise. 

Caitlen Johnstone writes

The Department of Homeland Security has secretly set up a “Disinformation Governance Board”, only informing the public about its plans for the institution after it had already been established.

The disinformation board, which critics have understandably been calling a “Ministry of Truth”, purportedly exists to fight disinformation coming out of Russia as well as misleading messages about the US-Mexico border. 

***

“It sounds like the objective of the board is to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure who opposes that effort.”

The answer to the question of “who opposes that effort” is of course “anyone with functioning gray matter between their ears.” No government entity has any business appointing itself the authority to sort information from disinformation on behalf of the public, because government entities are not impartial and omniscient deities who can be entrusted to serve the public as objective arbiters of absolute reality. They would with absolute certainty wind up drawing distinctions between information, misinformation and disinformation in whatever way serves their interests, regardless of what’s true, exactly as any authoritarian regime would do.

I mean, is anyone honestly more afraid of Russian disinformation than they are of their own government appointing itself the authority to decide what counts as disinformation?

***

We went from a massive narrative control campaign about a virus, which people accepted because they wanted to contain a deadly pandemic, straight into a massive narrative control campaign about Russia and Ukraine. Without skipping a beat. Like openly manipulating everyone’s understanding of world events is just what we do now. Now we’re seeing increasingly brazen censorship of political dissent about a fucking war that could easily end up getting us all killed in a nuclear holocaust, and a portion of the Biden administration’s whopping $33 billion Ukraine package is going toward funding “independent media” (read: war propaganda).

***

Nothing about the state of the world tells us that the people who run things are doing a good job. Nothing about our current situation suggests they should be given more control, rather than having control taken away from them and given to the people. We are going in exactly the wrong direction.

Harris tells Hagens that we live in an increasingly complex world where technology is redefining freedom of speech — a world where computers can flood the public marketplace with synthetic media of videos of things that didn’t happen — of photos of faked nerve gas attacks in Syria or bombings in Kharkiv. Where do privacy and free speech get protected there? Is sharing faked videos to millions of people giving them informed choice?

These are not yet answerable questions. Perhaps that is because the framing is wrong. We can’t solve hyperwicked problems with standard anti-wicked thinking.

We’ll continue our more advanced anti-wicked thinking next week, same time, same place. Hyper-jumps or not, take the red pill.

_____________________________

Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, ​they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project “The Green Road.”

The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses.

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad

 _________________________________


The COVID-19 pandemic
has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration #ReGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

Edward Bernays’ Red Pill

"Instead of knowledge, universal access has given the common man a rubber stamp inked with advertising slogans."

 

The terms "red pill" and "blue pill" refer to a choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth by taking the red pill or remaining in contented ignorance with the blue pill. The terms refer to a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix.

—Wikipedia

 

Writing this week for The Atlantic, a Johns Hopkins Russian scholar, Peter Pomerantsev, describes his recent visit to Ukraine where he interviewed a family near Kyiv, the Horbonoses, who had been compelled to share their cellar bomb shelter with five occupying Tatar and Siberian soldiers.

At first, the captain fervently repeated Kremlin propaganda: He and his compatriots were in Ukraine to rescue the Horbonoses, he said; the soldiers were fighting not Ukrainians but Americans; this wasn’t a war, but rather a “special operation.” Once it was over, they could all live happily under Putin’s rule, he said.

Irina would push back. She didn’t need rescuing, she would say. There were no American soldiers or bases in Lukashivka, or anywhere in Ukraine. She didn’t want to live under Putin. When the captain said that he had been told Ukrainians were barred from speaking Russian, she told him they could speak in any language they chose. (I spoke with the Horbonoses in Russian.)

Gradually, he was worn down, confronted not simply with Irina’s protestations but with the grim facts of the war. In the conflict’s early days, he was buoyant, believing conquest to be imminent. He would rush into the cellar, declaring, “Kyiv is surrounded! Chernihiv is about to fall!” But as the weeks went by, and neither Kyiv nor Chernihiv fell, his mood soured. At one point, Sergey told me, he had to show the captain where Kyiv was on a map, leaving the Russian surprised to learn that it was not anywhere nearby, as he had assumed, but nearly 100 miles away.

***

As the weeks progressed, the Horbonos family began to see that the Russian soldiers were beginning to understand how much unnecessary damage they had wrought.

The Horbonoses’ home, a house they had been building for 30 years, was completely destroyed; their library burned for two days before collapsing into rubble. When Irina couldn’t take it anymore, she would begin to cry and scream at the soldiers in the darkness of the cellar: “We had everything! What are you doing here?” The Russians would only sit in the dark, silent.

By the time the Russians left, a bond of sorts had built up between the family and the soldiers. “What are you doing here?” the Horbonoses would ask. “What’s the point of this war?” Despondently, the Russians would answer that they had come expecting not a fight but a celebration, “a victory march in Kyiv.” Now they were not wholly convinced by the Kremlin’s narrative. They apologized for all the destruction they had brought.

It would be so much better, one said, if they could someday visit as guests. Sergey was livid. “You’ve come here to kill me and destroy my home,” he said, “and we are meant to be friends? We can only be enemies.” The Russians again apologized, and soon all of them began to say that the war was senseless. They even began calling it a war.

If you think about the evolutionary timeline of any intelligent species, after it obtains the self-awareness to interrogate itself and reflect upon its strengths and failures, it can begin to build what might be called second order or “meta” tools to improve its qualities of intelligence, compassion, foresight, and so forth. These tools might include schooling its young, caring for its old, a spiritual practice like meditation or ritual observances, journaling, metaphysical dialog, or communing with other species or mind-altering plants. We don’t know how many of these activities our evolutionary cousin cetaceans or cephalopods may have engaged in. I like to imagine my Paleolithic ancestors passing the last Ice Age in earthen or subterranean habitats while expressing their deepest thoughts through images painted on walls, clay figurines, and eloquently spoken languages.

Our evolutionary mental augmentations were likely very gradual and are now deeply embedded in our genome and culture—in our likes and dislikes, our knee-jerk reactions, our loyalty to leaders and tribe.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our tools and methods to become more self-aware are slower by orders of magnitude than our abilities to evolve and enhance our physical prowess as a species though instruments and technologies. Only recently have we probed our collective psyche enough to discover embedded programs like normalcy bias, confirmation bias and loss aversion—that gaining money in the stock market or a poker game doesn't doesn't feel as good as not losing money feels bad; or that saying nasty, insulting things about a member of a different tribe gives you an instant wave of gratification from the dopamine rushing to your brain.

A child learning magic tricks quickly discovers some of these hidden parts even before he or she has a name for them. Making a coin vanish from one’s closed hand entails misdirection, concealment and illusion, but it also requires a willingness from the audience to suspend disbelief and believe in magic—placing mind over reality.

In the late 19th century, Sigmund Freud proposed that personality was made up of three key elements—the id, the ego, and the superego—and that there is a reservoir of thoughts, memories, and emotions that lie just outside the awareness of the conscious mind. Freud called it the subconscious or superego.

"The father of public relations" Edward Bernays took that theory of mind and monetized it with the publication of two books, Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928). Bernays evangelized that by understanding the subconscious mind and how that influences the behavior of group, it would be possible to manipulate both individual and group without anyone even realizing it. To test his hypothesis, Bernays launched public relations campaigns convincing women to smoke ("Torches of Freedom") and to get USAnians to start their day with a hearty, cholesterol-rich breakfast centered around bacon and eggs. He quickly found himself in demand by the US intelligence community for crafting propaganda, which Bernays soon learned to call “psychological warfare” (because good nations don’t engage in propaganda). After WWI he found a calling in the business community, who were eager to hypnotize the subconscious group mind of consumers into buying their junk. Cheap commodities had created a problem because a surfeit of fossil energy and automation allowed them to be churned out far beyond actual demand. Bernays discovered that he could manufacture demand as rapidly as the growth of supply. By convincing people that, for instance, only disposable cups were sanitary, or that automobiles should always be the latest model to retain your social status or attract potential mates, Bernays and his acolytes birthed a throwaway culture of spendthrift consumerism. You can add to this any number of addictive consumables—alcohol and tobacco products, Big Pharma anti-depressants and mood-enhancers, sugary soft drinks and snacks for children—and the economy soars while public health craters.

In 1924 Bernays set up a vaudeville "pancake breakfast" for Calvin Coolidge to change his stuffy image to that of someone with a sense of humor. In the 1932 presidential election. Bernays advised Herbert Hoover to sow disunity within the opposition and to present an image of himself as an invincible strongman, a strategy used by office seekers ever since, leading to logjammed governance and bloated military budgets. In 1954, paid $100,000 per year by United Fruit Company, Bernays convinced the CIA to overthrow the Guatemalan democracy and become the scripted supplier of information following the coup. Cambridge Analytica, for all its sophisticated tools by which to alter election outcomes in the country of your choice, has not invented anything new.

In the Minority Rules (1927), Bernays wrote:

But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given [the common man] a rubber stamp, a rubber stamp inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of tabloids and the profundities of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamp is the twin of millions of others, so that when these millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. [...] The amazing readiness with which large masses accept this process is probably accounted for by the fact that no attempt is made to convince them that black is white. Instead, their preconceived hazy ideas that a certain gray is almost black or almost white are brought into sharper focus. Their prejudices, notions, and convictions are used as a starting point, with the result that they are drawn by a thread into passionate adherence to a given mental picture.

Bernays had latched onto the powerful concept of segmentation. Through polling, he could locate those who agreed with the proposition he was being paid to promulgate, those who disagreed, and those who were in the middle. He didn’t need to spend much time with those who agreed or disagreed. The former were in his creel and the latter were unlikely to be snared. His target was the mass in the middle—the undecided—and once identified, the shape of their reality could be custom fit.

Bernays ideas were foundational for pollsters and pundits like Frank Luntz, who crafted the art of election manipulation by confining discourse to one-minute soundbytes, talking points and subliminal, dog-whistle messaging. Luntz hit his stride with Newt Gingrich's fraudulent and divisive Contract with America and its do-nothing governance strategy, as well as knee-jerk support for pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian brutality; misdirecting the gaze away from Saudi Arabia; always voting for more military, NSA and CIA funding; and word crafting such as death tax instead of estate tax, and climate change instead of global warming. Bernays and Luntz were kids who had figured out how magic works. It is about clever deception, such that even if revealed it delights rather than antagonizes.

They developed a trade, and a whole new school of thought, of how to turn the creativity and free will of human beings into monetized, predictable commodities of human behavior. It is that engineered behavior that has moved from mindless bacon and egg breakfasts and Coca Cola to destroying climate, biodiversity, civilization and our common future. This is the school that built the fortunes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and TikTok. It is the foundation for Web 3.0, the metaverse, and whatever follows.

I will continue to explore this, and a possible responses, in the essays that follow.

____________________


Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, ​they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project "The Green Road." 

The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses. 

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad

 ______________________

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration #ReGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:

1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Musk on Mars

"Don’t expect to see dome cities adorn the Red Planet like they did the covers of 1940s science fiction magazines."


I think Elon will find that space travel is easier than content moderation.

—Tyler Crowley

Just days before the enigmatic founder of PayPal, Tesla and Space X acquired control of Twitter for $44 billion, stock trading news wires lit up with the story of how Elon Musk had secured a $675 million funding round that valued his Boring Company at about $5.7 billion. The company plans to bore tunnels under many cities to alleviate traffic and to complete the TBC Loop, an all-electric, zero-emissions, high-speed underground public transportation system taking EVs long distances through low-pressure tubes via pods traveling up to 760 miles per hour. Las Vegas, a city known for its scorching heat and flash floods, also contracted with TBC for transportation tunnels along its famous casino strip and to the airport. Boring claims its latest tunnel machine is going to build about 600 miles of tunnels, or 30 times more tunnels worldwide than in the last 20 years combined, every year.

Prufrock is a next generation Tunnel Boring Machine designed to construct mega-infrastructure projects in a matter of weeks instead of years, and at a fraction of the cost. The current iteration of Prufrock, called Prufrock-2, is designed to mine at up to 1 mile/week, meaning a tunnel the length of the Las Vegas strip (approximately 4 miles) can be completed in a month. Prufrock-3 is designed to be even faster, with the medium term goal of 1/10 human walking speed, or 7 miles/day. In the short term, if each Prufrock-2 mines at 1 mile/week, and TBC produces 1 new Prufrock machine per month, then TBC will be introducing 600 miles/year of capacity. As a point of reference, less than 20 miles of underground subway tunnel has been constructed in the United States in the last 20 years.

— TBC Press Release

Musk is known to place his various enterprises into a matrix that interconnects and synergizes their seemingly different products and services. Tesla developed the battery technology that allowed Solar City to build large off-grid projects that formed their own solar microgrids and then became the grid. Space-X became the launch platform that enabled StarLink to leapfrog existing cabled internet and deliver broadband straight to consumers from space. Now The Boring Company could make possible, at least in Musk’s unfathomable imagination, his mission to Mars, the outer planets and their moons.

What is seldom discussed by Star Trek aficionados is a poorly kept secret known since at least the Apollo 11 mission, when NASA affixed a film badge to Neil Armstrong. Here is what that badge showed when developed back on Earth:


Those tracks and pinholes represent ionizing radiation—cosmic rays—blasting through “First Man” Armstrong’s body at near-light speeds. Some may have come from the original Big Bang. Others from a galaxy like our own, or from our own star, the Sun. The big black line diagonally running across the strip is labeled as a heavy nucleus, which is to say an alpha particle. Ordinary atoms of high atomic number, such as radium, thorium, uranium or americium, may have had their electrons stripped away in stellar collisions that created a very heavy, highly charged proton-neutron pair, or “heavy nuclei.” What is recorded on Armstrong’s badge are the ionization events produced by glancing collisions of the film substrate with the particle along the core of its track. Had the particle passed into Armstrong’s body, as similar particles undoubtedly did, the ion track would have left broken strands of RNA and DNA caught exposed during cell mitosis—the most actively cell dividing organ being bone marrow, the source of white blood cells—leading to any of hundreds of lethal diseases attributed to radiation mutagenesis, including all types of cancer. Armstrong was lucky. He logged a total of eight days and 14 hours in space (two of those hours walking on the moon), sustained no serious or lasting injury, and lived to the ripe old age of 82.

Musk knows that to get to Mars using existing rocket technology, astronaut colonists would need not 8 days but 9 months. According to NASA, if you wanted to make it a round-trip, it would take no less than 21 months as you will need to wait at least three months on Mars until Earth and Mars are in alignment to make the trip back home.

Because of what was observed on Armstrong’s film badge, NASA embarked on many years of experiments and calculations about what radiation may mean for space travel. One such study involved twins in the astronaut program, one of whom, Scott Kelly, spent 11 months on the International Space Station while his identical twin got jabbed and poked regularly in Houston. The medical results demonstrated several long-lasting changes, including lasting alterations in DNA and cognition. Scott also returned to Earth slightly younger than his twin.


Consistent with chronic exposure to the space radiation environment, signatures of persistent DNA damage responses were also detected, including mitochondrial and oxidative stress, inflammation, and telomeric and chromosomal aberrations, which together provide potential mechanistic insight into spaceflight-specific telomere elongation.

— NASA Twin study

 

The study showed that better countermeasures against the risks associated with radiation would be needed if any human being was going to make it to Mars and back. Musk might be thinking he can shorten flight time with on-orbit staging, booster acceleration and ballistic capture at the terminus of each flight, but that still will not avoid weeks of radiation exposure with each trip.  

The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) onboard the Curiosity Rover collected data during travel from Earth to Mars, followed by years of the same on the surface of Mars itself. The Martian Radiation Experiment (MARIE) on board the Mars Odyssey satellite is collecting similar data.

Absorbed radiation dose rate during the transfer between Earth and Mars range from 1.75 to 3.0 mSv/day (300 mrem). The standard for nuclear power plant exposures to the public is, by way of comparison, 2 mrem/hr but no more than 100 mrem in a calendar year. For workers the limit is no more than 5000 mrem in a calendar year, although it should be noted that nuclear workers on average die younger than in other occupations and suffer many radiation-related ailments. In any space travel, the annual non-occupational nuclear plant limit would be exceeded in the first 8 hours of flight and the occupational dose reached in the first 17 days. At 342-547 uSv/day (34-55 mrem/d) on the surface of Mars, colonists would exceed the average natural radiation they were annually exposed to on Earth every 5 or 6 days. Levels on Earth typically range from about 1.5 to 3.5 mSv/yr (150-350 mrem/y) unless you live near Fukushima, Chernobyl or Rocky Flats. Natural background exposure for everyone has approximately doubled since the atom was first split in 1942.

Natural background radiation is ubiquitous and, for most people, the main source of radiation exposure (UNSCEAR 2000). About a third of this is attributable to cosmic rays and terrestrial gamma radiation whereas the rest is due to inhalation (mainly indoor radon) and ingestion of radionuclides (UNSCEAR 2000). Whereas the effective dose from radon is delivered primarily to the respiratory system, terrestrial gamma and cosmic rays dominate doses to the red bone marrow (Kendall et al. 2009), the primary site of leukemia initiation.

—Spycher, et al (2015)


The usual go-to’s for shielding from radiation are water, concrete, lead, and carbon-steel. Weight considerations take those off the table for space flight. A search for kevlar-like shields is underway. Hydrogenated Boron Nitride Nanotubes (HBNNT)—microtubules that can be woven into composites, fabric, yarn, and film forms—could be integrated into the spacecraft structure as well as the astronauts’ spacesuits. Fabricating a heavy polymer on Mars with an army of construction robots might be possible, but apparently Musk has a different plan: The Boring Company.

While NASA has conjectured it might be possible to find lava tubes below the surface of Mars and radiation in the interior of those lava tubes would be 82% lower than on the surface, wouldn’t it just be cheaper to drill your own tubular habitats to a depth where you’d be 99% protected?

Don’t expect to see dome cities adorn the Red Planet like they did the covers of 1940s science fiction magazines. Any colonial cities of the 21st century, if they are to happen, will be deep underground.

Given the speed and ferocity of climate change on Earth, we might all be living in something like that here well before then, so it won’t be a big change of scenery for colonists to get used to. The man with his finger on the pulse of where disruptive markets will be going in the future is the same guy who just bought Twitter. Don’t ask me why.

References

Bloshenko, Alexandra D., Jasmin M. Robinson, Rafael A. Colon, and Luis A. Anchordoqui. "Health threat from cosmic radiation during a manned mission to Mars." arXiv preprint arXiv:2012.09604 (2020).

Demoury C, Marquant F, Ielsch G, Goujon S, Debayle C, Faure L, Coste A, Laurent O, Guillevic J, Laurier D, Hémon D and Clavel J (2016) Residential Exposure to Natural Background Radiation and Risk of Childhood Acute Leukemia in France, 1990–2009, Environmental Health Perspectives, 125:4, (714-720), Online publication date: 1-Apr-2017.

Luxton, Jared J., and Susan M. Bailey. "Twins, Telomeres, and Aging—in Space!." Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 147, no. 1S-2 (2021): 7S-14S.

Garrett-Bakelman, Francine E., Manjula Darshi, Stefan J. Green, Ruben C. Gur, Ling Lin, Brandon R. Macias, Miles J. McKenna et al. "The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight." Science 364, no. 6436 (2019): eaau8650.

Scott, Ryan T., Kirill Grigorev, Graham Mackintosh, Samrawit G. Gebre, Christopher E. Mason, Martha E. Del Alto, and Sylvain V. Costes. "Advancing the integration of Biosciences data sharing to further enable space exploration." Cell Reports 33, no. 10 (2020): 108441.

Schmitz-Feuerhake, I., Dannheim, B., Heimers, A., Oberheitmann, B., Schröder, H. and Ziggel, H., 1997. Leukemia in the proximity of a German boiling-water nuclear reactor: evidence of population exposure by chromosome studies and environmental radioactivity. Environmental Health Perspectives 105 (suppl 6), pp.1499-1504.

Spycher, Ben D., Judith E. Lupatsch, Marcel Zwahlen, Martin Röösli, Felix Niggli, Michael A. Grotzer, Johannes Rischewski et al. "Background ionizing radiation and the risk of childhood cancer: a census-based nationwide cohort study." Environmental Health Perspectives 123, no. 6 (2015): 622-628.

 


The Green Road

 

Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, ​they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project "The Green Road." 

The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses. 

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration #ReGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:

1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Witch-hunting with Jesús

"Can you provide a definition for the word “woman?” — Sen. Marsha Blackburn to Supreme Court nominee Jackson "


Looking up the background of Alicia Garcia-Falgueras, I immediately fell in love. Garcia-Falgueras is a neuroscientist in Amsterdam whose 46 publications probe the connection between musical composition and the brain structures of composers, the potential for brain injury among Spanish kitesurfers, Hula Hoop fitness and centripetal force, and dressing, fashion, and sex differences in history. For instance, her Fashion in Cadiz in 1812: male and female dress in the early Romantic period or her El herreruelo o ferreruelo en el Quijote y en otras obras de la literatura áurea, looking at capes and male skirts in Don Quixote and in other works of the golden literature in the context of flamboyant cross-dressing.

What interested me more about Dr. Alicia was her post-doc work at Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience where she has teamed with one of the world’s preeminent researchers on biological assignment of genitalia, Dr. Dick F. Swaab (no joke). Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab published a landmark study in neuroscience in the journal, Functional Neurology, that I will return to presently.

Country Roads

Reentering the United States after a couple years living in a country whose constitution bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, I had not expected the debate here to be at such a fever pitch. While skipping through the FM radio channels on a drive through rural Tennessee, I learned that nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed in the first quarter of 2022, 154 of those targeting transgender people and others going after “woke” schoolteachers. Homophobia has always run deep in the Bible Belt, but this 240 number was up from from just 41 in the year before I left, so Republican depravity has definitely been trending up in my absence. Since the start of 2021, 11 states have written trans sports bans into law. Arizona has proposed the third-highest total of anti-LGBTQ bills so far this year, 17, behind Iowa and Tennessee. 

“The authors of these bills and the dark money groups pushing for them do not want it to be possible to be a trans kid in this country,” said Gillian Branstetter, a longtime trans advocate and the press secretary for women’s advocacy group the National Women’s Law Center. “They’re responding to trans kids as if they were responding to a contagion.”

—Mustafa Akyol, The New York Times

In 2015, Obama appointed the first-ever special envoy for LGBTQ+ rights to coordinate U.S. diplomacy on the matter. He also appointed five openly gay men to serve as ambassadors. I recall attending a reception in Havana for the openly gay Norwegian Ambassador and his Cuban partner. In 2017 Ireland elected its first openly gay prime minister, followed soon after by the election of Serbia’s first openly lesbian and first female prime minister. For contrast, President Cobblepot tweeted a ban on military service for transgenders and rolled back health-care rights and guarantees for TQ+ patients. His administration launched the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which threatened LGBTQ+ and women’s rights under the guise of religious liberty and ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, affecting services such as foster care and adoption, refugee assistance, and HIV prevention. Almost on queue, Russia passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2020.

Right to be Queer

Despite the United Nations recognition of human rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity since 2007, or European countries extending protection under Article 21 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Commission in 2020 denying funding to member states that do not respect LGBTQ+ rights or fail to prosecute homophobic hate crimes, a third of the world—seventy countries—continue to criminalize homosexual activity, and in twelve countries adults who engage in consensual same-sex acts can still face the death penalty. Iran regularly executes LGBTQ+, sometimes by beheading.  But it is not just the Middle East. Homosexual activity remains a criminal offense in 35 of the 54 sovereign states of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is legal in only 19. Two Commonwealth countries, Brunei and Northern Nigeria, impose the death penalty. Punishment does not even require a country. Non-state actors like the Islamic State or some Latin cartel gangs are equal opportunity executioners without borders.

We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change.

— Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General

Even where same-sex sexual activity is not illegal, officials often overlook abuse and murder of LGBTQ+ individuals perpetrated by law enforcement officers, militant groups, street gangs, and even family members of the victim in so-called “honor killings” or rape as a way of “undoing” a gender identity. In some Catholic- and Muslim-majority states with a history of authoritarianism, thumping the Bible or Quran is used to justify horrendous acts of abuse. In Central America, LGBTQ+ people face structural discrimination, persecution, and are more susceptible to homicide, hence the recent surge of LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in other countries. A US survey found that half of trans and nonbinary youths — seriously considered suicide within the prior year.

Where was Jesus?

Where did Jesus stand on queer rights? Biblical scholars will say he defined them according to Genesis 2:24: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5 ; Mark 10:7–8) and from that evangelicals conclude Jesus affirmed the covenanted union of one man and one woman as the only normative expression of human sexuality. There are many problems with this logic including the factual absence of an historic Jesus; scriptural revision by Dark Age monks laboring under Papal Edict; and changed conditions, including better science.

What about Islam? ISIS claims the Prophet Muhammad said gays "should be thrown from tremendous height then stoned.” In actually, there is nothing of the kind in the hadiths (sayings of Muhammed). However, the Old Testament, or Torah, clearly decrees that homosexuals “are to be put to death” (which is why an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed a teenage girl to death at a Gay Rights parade in Jerusalem in 2017).

At the heart of the Islamic view on homosexuality lies the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is narrated in the Quran, too. According to scripture, the Prophet Lot had warned his people of “immorality,” for they did “approach men with desire, instead of women.” In return, the people warned by Lot tried to expel their prophet from the city, and even tried to sexually abuse the angels who came down to Lot in the guise of men. Consequently, God destroyed the people of Lot with a colossal natural disaster, only to save the prophet and a few fellow believers.

—Mustafa Akyol, The New York Times

Did the people of Lot receive divine punishment for being homosexual, or for attacking Lot and his heavenly guests? Was the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah divine punishment or an extreme weather event? Is that (theoretical) historical event really the reason for today’s gay death penalties across the Islamic world? Seriously?

There is a bottomless hunger for the misery of trans kids.

—Gillian Bransetter

Which brings me back to my affection for Alicia Garcia-Falgueras and Dick Swaab. Their multi-year research used doppler fetoscope scans, surveys of galanin neurons in the intermediate nucleus of the hypothalamus and thionin staining of amniotic fluid samples in different groups of fetuses to view gender identity and hormonal changes through pregnancy. They performed follow-ups to adulthood that included external surveys of various groups—control male (M) and female (F) groups, male-to-female transsexuals (MtF), castrated males (CAS), premenopausal women (Pre-men), postmenopausal women (Post-men) and miscellaneous LGBTQ+ (gender dysphoric) subjects as old as eighty. Here is their conclusion:

The process of sexual differentiation of the brain brings about permanent changes in brain structures and functions via interactions of the developing neurons with the environment, understood in its widest sense. The environment of a developing neuron is formed by the surrounding nerve cells and the child’s circulating hormones, as well as the hormones, nutrients, medication and other chemical substances from the mother and the environment that enter the fetal circulation via the placenta. All these factors may have a lasting effect on the sexual differentiation of the brain.

The testicles and ovaries develop in the sixth week of pregnancy. This occurs under the influence of a cascade of genes, starting with the sex-determining gene on the Y chromosome (SRY). The production of testosterone by a boy’s testes is necessary for sexual differentiation of the sexual organs between weeks 6 and 12 of pregnancy. The peripheral conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone is essential for the formation of a boy’s penis, prostate and scrotum. Instead, the development of the female sexual organs in the womb is based primarily on the absence of androgens.

Once the differentiation of the sexual organs into male or female is settled, the next thing that is differentiated is the brain, under the influence, mainly, of sex hormones or the developing brain cells. The changes (permanent) brought about in this stage have organizing effects; later, during puberty, the brain circuits that developed in the womb are activated by sex hormones.

***

The human fetal brain develops in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone and in the female direction through the absence of this hormone. During the intrauterine period, gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender), sexual orientation, cognition, aggression and other behaviors are programmed in the brain in a sexually differentiated way.

Sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy, whereas sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy. This means that in the event of an ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain.

Our observations on reversed sex differences in the brains of transsexual people support the idea that transsexuality is based on an opposite sexual differentiation of i) sexual organs during the first couple of months of pregnancy and ii) the brain in the second half of pregnancy. There is no proof that the social environment after birth has an effect on the development of gender or sexual orientation, while the possible effects on sexual differentiation of the brain by endocrine disrupters in the environment and in medicines given to the pregnant mother should be investigated.

Neurobiological research on sexual orientation and gender identity in humans is only just gathering momentum, but the evidence shows that humans have a vast array of brain differences, related not only to gender, but also to sexual orientation. There is a need for further multidisciplinary research….

In a separate paper published in 2019, the authors elaborate further:

In the past decennia, our understanding of the sexual differentiation of the mammalian brain has dramatically changed. The simple model according to which testosterone masculinizes the brain of males away from a default female form, was replaced with a complex scenario, according to which sex effects on the brain of both females and males are exerted by genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. These factors act via multiple partly independent mechanisms that may vary according to internal and external factors. These observations led to the “mosaic” hypothesis—the expectation of high variability in the degree of “maleness”/“femaleness” of different features within a single brain.

The Last Little Schoolhouse in Texas

Today, if a high school or college biology teacher in Texas were to use a textbook printed after 2009 that mentions the mosaic pattern of gender assignment or informs her class that sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy, whereas sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy and that hormonal misassignment in that second half is not uncommon, perhaps 10 percent of the time, she could be jailed. The new "don't say gay" law echos a similar bill passed in 2005 when Texas attempted to outlaw gay marriage and civil unions but inadvertently ended up banning all marriages. That had to be quietly repealed. The 2022 bill, which is now being modeled by many other jurisdictions, is so broadly defined that it effectively bans all discussion of gender and sexuality, including that of heteronormative relationships and biological sex.

As a result, parents are being informed by high school principals and elementary teachers that to avoid arrest, from now on, their children will no longer be referred to with gendered pronouns but instead the neutral "they" or “them," and that all discussion or mention of subjects that potentially refer to sexuality will be banned from school, including heterosexual relationships and families. Texas teachers are carefully following the law by avoiding all mention of gender and sexuality issues. What may be more challenging will be what to do at kindergarten about prince/princess stories, bible stories and later girls/boys locker rooms/restrooms, and gendered dress codes. Texas courts should be quite busy for some years to come. 

None of which will stop the harassment, assaults and murders. Pause to think of that on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. That date was chosen in recognition of the day, in 1990, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

For the ten percent or more of children —all 700 million of you— whose gender hormone assignments in third trimester did not match sex organ assignments in your first trimester, through no fault of your own, just a roll of the dice, I hope you will locate your identity wherever it falls along the mosaic of possibilities. I hope you can live a long and joyful life, unharmed by idiots like Marsha Blackburn. If that is not happening, think about relocating to México.

References:

Akyol, Mustafa, What Does Islam Say About Being Gay? The New York Times, July 28, 2015 https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/opinion/mustafa-akyol-what-does-islam-say-about-being-gay.html

Arnold, AP . 2012. The end of gonad-centric sex determination in mammals. Trends Genet 28:55–61.

Blackless, M, Charuvastra, A, Derryck, A, Fausto-Sterling, A, Lauzanne, K, Lee, E. 2000. How sexually dimorphic are we? Review and synthesis. Am J Hum Biol 12:151–66.

FAIR Education Act Implementation Coalition, 2021. LGBTQ Rights Timeline in American History, https://www.lgbtqhistory.org/lgbt-rights-timeline-in-american-history/

Mendos, Lucas Ramón 2019. State-Sponsored Homophobia 13th Ed., ilga.org

Swaab, D.F. and Garcia-Falgueras, A., 2009. Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation. Functional Neurology 24(1): 17-28 

____________________________

The Green Road


Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, ​they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project "The Green Road." 

The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses. 

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad

____________________________

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration #ReGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:

1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Climate's Red Forest

"We are only just beginning to see what damage our dalliance with the Anthropocene has wrought."

Among the reveals of the IPCC’s latest climate report is a look at where the scientific consensus erred in its previous reports. Surprising to many have been the admissions about how misplaced was the IPCC’s earlier faith in nuclear power.

Beyond Nuclear reports:

Not surprisingly, nuclear power is exposed as the boondoggle it is. IPCC estimates nuclear has less potential for curbing climate change than either shifting humans to a healthy diet, or reducing methane from oil and gas.

The IPCC report states,

Large contributions with costs less than USD$20/tCO2-eq-1 come from solar and wind energy, energy efficiency improvements, reduced conversion of natural ecosystems, and CH4 emissions reductions [coal mining, oil and gas, waste].

By comparison, nuclear has grown in cost and diminished in deliverables spectacularly. The problems that plagued it 20 years ago plague it still, and to those can now be added being utterly unsuited for heat waves, wildfires, war-zones, coastlines, downstream of dams, aircraft or drone collisions, and anywhere there is passing interest in bomb-making or radwaste smugging to that end.

Here is a chart I compiled, simplified from one that appears in the report:

It is unclear from the report if front end fuel chain costs for mining and milling of uranium, transportation, fuel fabrication, or mine tailing cleanup of sites are included in the assessment of carbon footprint or costings. 99% of the greenhouse gas emissions occur not from the reactors themselves but from the fuel cycle, including some very potent fluorocarbons used in gas centrifuge fuel enrichment.

Starved of investment (once bitten, twice shy), nuclear operators have been going back to formerly captive regulatory bodies to keep the old plants running on bubble gum and sealing wax until at least some of the enormous construction and yet unknown decommissioning costs can be recovered. But there is a new sheriff in town. The NRC Commissioners voted on February 24, 2022 to rescind the second round of 20-year license renewals for nearly a dozen U.S. reactors. NRC said if utilities want a 60-80 year operating life, they had better first provide an updated environmental analysis going out to the 2050s and beyond. Under Trump there was no requirement to consider worst case extreme weather events, sea level rise, dam failures, wildfires or other elements of the accelerating climate crisis.

Moreover, the new sheriff announced April 5 that he had uncovered “multiple violations of federal law committed by the agency and the industry in the Subsequent License Renewal review process,” (emphasis mine) and would need to address those before considering renewals in the future. There are significant “technical knowledge gaps” in understanding how the materials in reactor systems, structures and components (particularly the large irreplaceable concrete containments and embrittled reactor pressure vessels) respond over 80 years of nuclear bombardment and ground subsidence.

The NRC and the nuclear industry must now also reset and recalculate the environment analyses that previous Commissions had used to grant “generic” approvals based on antiquated 1996 data.

In the first decade of the new millennia there were a rash of claims about small modular reactors, thorium breeders, or molten salt systems that could never melt down. These “advanced” or “second-generation” reactors advertised they would address climate change in a so-called “nuclear renaissance” with large investments from Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and other wealthy backers with no background in health physics. Just like the “Clean Coal” and “Synthetic Gasoline” fantasies, those projects have all but completely collapsed in suspensions, cancellations and abandonment. Those that remain are propped up by megabucks from taxpayers, hobbyists and dabblers.

The Ukraine invasion brought these designs into sharp focus after Russian troops overran the site of the Chernobyl disaster and made camp in the “Red Forest,” so named for the radiation damage to its trees. “Hey, look!” said the generals, “There is a giant gap in the Ukrainian line. Let’s go through there!” Only after they had kicked up enough dust to produce acute radiation sickness were the troops evacuated to die somewhere else, bleeding from every orifice.

The IPCC report states that:

Most of the countries which might introduce nuclear power in the future for their climate change mitigation benefits do not envision developing their own full fuel cycle, significantly reducing any risks that might be linked to proliferation.

That statement is nonsensical because the plutonium and U-233 of greatest interest to bomb-makers is kept on site in swimming pools to cool for decades after being burnt. Moreover, some “advanced” reactors like Gates’s TerraPower Natrium Small Modular Reactor use cheaper, low-enriched uranium that then can become bomb-grade plutonium cores for nuclear weapons—with serious proliferation implications. Somali pirates taking possession of Gates’ nuclear yacht could become overnight millionaires.

This past week Wired ran a story titled, “35 Years Later, Studies Show a Silver Lining From Chernobyl.” It described a recent study that purportedly found that radiation exposure didn’t genetically harm future generations. What the article ignored is something health physicists have understood since Müeller’s experiments with fruit flies and X-rays in the 1930s — the kind of double-break DNA and recombination that occurs following exposure to even very low doses of ionizing radiation (indeed, more at lower doses than at higher because the germ cells survive to reproduce) causes genetic mutations that typically express only a few percent in each generation. True, the Chernobyl children had only fractionally more genetic abnormalities (ie: elevated morbidity and early mortality) than an “unexposed” control group. But Müeller found increased death and disease still present after 30 generations. We are less than two lifetimes removed from Marie Curie, the Radium Dial Painters, the Hiroshima Hibukusha, the Nevada Downwinders and the Bikini Islanders. We have only just begun to see what damage our dalliance with the friendly atom has wrought.

Reading a New York Times story on atrocities in Ukraine, my eyes were drawn to a street scene where the murder of a civilian was caught by aerial drone footage. What struck me was not the drama of the moment, but how all the high rise buildings were blackened and gutted yet the single family houses were relatively untouched. The scene recalled for me how US armor had moved through the streets of Falujah under instructions to fire one depleted uranium round into every house, and that so much uranium dust accumulated in Falujah that the sunsets turned green. That horror show included many squid-like babies. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and other senior US officials were all found guilty for their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan by the War Crimes Commission in 2012.

“We have no plan to arrest them,” commissioner Musa Bin Ismail told Vice in 2012.

They will be haunted all their lives by the fact that they're war criminals who have murdered countless people and affected countless lives through their acts and policy while in office. Their lives will be unsettling, full of regret and the feeling of guilt, punctuated with long stretches of sorrow and unabated sadness. They will die with disgruntled souls.

Rumsfeld died in 2021, unable to the leave the United States because of outstanding war crime arrest warrants in Germany and France, and the prospect of spending his final years imprisoned in Spandau. Depleted uranium ordnance is being shipped from NATO arsenals into Ukraine as I write this.

Don’t mistake this rant for my giving a pass to coal, which produces radioactive emissions from mines, tailings piles, piles and smokestacks, causing millions of deaths in unsuspecting populations. Radioactivity is not the only toxin produced by coal plants and oil refineries, so a fossil fuel cycle is potentially as murderous and is the nuclear fuel cycle. Sabine Hossenfelder describes that neatly in her 20 minute class.

In an article on Direct Air Capture for Bloomberg Green, Nathaniel Bullard wrote:

In 1976 Amory Lovins, the cofounder and chairman emeritus of energy think tank RMI, wrote a short but significant essay about U.S. energy’s future. In it, he contrasted the current — and expected — system of massive power plants and complex engineering as the “hard path” to the future. The alternative is a “soft path” that relies on “smaller, far simpler supply systems entailing vastly shorter development and construction time, and on smaller, less sophisticated management systems.”  

More than four decades later the IPCC is clear that while the soft path is scaling rapidly, the hard path still will be needed to solve hard problems.

I am not so sure about that. Lovins’ calculations still hold the unstoppable inertia of a Moore’s Law.

As the Trinity mushroom cloud rose ominously into the sky over Alamogordo at 5:29:45 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945, Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad-Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The quote comes from Krishna telling Arjuna that his fate is to progress through four states—desire or lust; wealth; the desire for righteousness or dharma; and the final state of total liberation, or moksha, in which the distinction of life from death becomes meaningless. Krishna tells Arjuna he should neither mourn nor rejoice over what fate has in store, but should be sublimely unattached to results of his actions. Oppenheimer, in contrast, never reconciled himself to what had occurred. Later in life he said the quote meant that “physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.”

The Rev Dr. Stephen Thompson, a Sanskrit scholar, told a Wired reporter:

Oppenheimer, it can be inferred, never believed that the people killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not suffer. While he carried out his work dutifully, he could never accept that this could liberate him from the cycle of life and death.

There are good ways out of the climate crisis and terrible ways. The good ways—exemplified by the ecovillage on the cover of the IPCC report—will make life infinitely better for all who come after. The bad ways—the destroyer of worlds—will only make our future far worse.

 


The Green Road


Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, ​they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project "The Green Road." 

The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses. 

Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to greenroad@thefarm.org.

There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad

__________________________

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.

As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.

Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.

#RestorationGeneration #ReGeneration

“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”

— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.

Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.

How it works:

1. Open the Amazon app on your phone 
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features 
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity 
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app

Friends

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The Great Change is published whenever the spirit moves me. Writings on this site are purely the opinion of Albert Bates and are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 "unported" copyright. People are free to share (i.e, to copy, distribute and transmit this work) and to build upon and adapt this work – under the following conditions of attribution, n on-commercial use, and share alike: Attribution (BY): You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Non-Commercial (NC): You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Share Alike (SA): If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws. Therefore, the content of
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