Sunday, June 24, 2012

#Earthinbrackets: The Rio Twitstorm

"If we are going to avert utter disaster, which grows steadily less likely, something needs to change, and quickly. We certainly saw nothing resembling change from world leaders assembled in Rio. The miasma is intact. "

The following is an annotated selection from tweets posted during the past week during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (“Rio+20”), the largest UN event ever held. Our own tweets were under the nom du twit, @peaksurfer. The conference marked the passage of 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit, which brought the world conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change. At the outset, high hopes surrounded this meeting also.

Gro Harlan Bruntland, 40 years after Stockholm
"We aspire to nothing less than a global movement for generational change.” Ban ki Moon on Rio+20

Gaia Home in the People's Summit. We got the goal in the crowdfunding! Thank you all! We'll meet at Rio de Janeiro - June 16th

#GaiaRio "The Case for Young People and Nature: A Path to a Healthy, Natural, Prosperous Future".

#eCOOLnomics at #GaiaRio this Sunday:
1T of eco-biomass =
1/3T Biochar equal to -
1 T CO2e, plus
1MWh electricity, so
1/3 carbon negative.

heading off to FUTURE EARTH - research for global sustainability launch event now. check for #thefuturewewant

Negotiations on food security & agriculture ending for today at #rioplus20. Cant say I see #thefuturewewant. But it can still be done.

US citizens are the most in favor of their government NOT agreeing to any international commitments at #RioPlus20:

Today! Brazil's Marine Protected Areas #RioPlus20 #thefuturewewant Tomorrow is #Oceans Day at Rio!

New Channel Launches to Broadcast About Ocean from #Rioplus20 #oceansatrio @oceansinc #oceans #thefuturewewant

@TheEconomist takes on Planetary Boundaries:
1556897 With big focus on the @TheBTI critique.

Rio+20: scientists call for action on population & consumption. Make no mistake: over-consumption is the lead villain.

@progressioIRL Handed supporter signatures to Minister #PHILHOGAN yesterday to tell him about #THEFUTUREWEWANT & our asks for #Rio+20

Negotiations have a lot in common with how we @_CEJA_ in CAP working group fine tune our positions word-by-word. #Rioplus20 #thefuturewewant

EU to G77: we reaffirm, take note, etc. It's now time to start committing, otherwise too weak text. #Rioplus20 #thefuturewewant

Request to strengthen text by EU not yet picked up.I feel we should start committing. How else will we move forwards?#thefuturewewant

One of the first signs that things might not go as well when the Heads of State arrived to approve the final document were the tightening of restrictions on cross-communication between civil sector groups like farmers, trade unions, scientists and environmentalists and the main plenary meeting. As before at many UN events, civil society was walled off into a exhibition space 25 miles from the conference venue but was still permitted access through its accredited representatives, bused in with biodiesel shuttle buses. Unlike earlier conferences, however, more than 1500 CEOs of transnational corporations were given access credentials and their offices and exhibits were placed right beside or even inside the main venue.

In Rio for start of #Rioplus20 and discussions of #futurewewant. Official start today. Follow @UN_Rioplus20

#GaiaRio HIGH LEVEL MTG 20-22 JUN Each Major Group gets just 15 passes to access plenary. Brazilian Civil Society will also receive 15. #RIO

Crowd gathering for big #endfossilfuelsubsidies action on Copacabana beach. This is going to rock. #RioPlus20

 Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies should be a minimum outcome of #rioplus20.

@ JeremyLeggett
Yep. Something we can join fantasist forces on.

Just got inside the high-level negotiations on energy here at #Rioplus20. Suddenly, #endfossilfuelsubsidies is on the agenda

Gro Harlan Brundtland at #Rioplus20: population, consumption, resource depletion, and discrimination unsustainable. Nice pairing.

#Rioplus20 M.Robinson: what works in family planning -- girls decide. T.Wirth: govt backsliding rampant. Deride critics! Girls take charge!

#Rioplus20 Tony Simons: we have to grow as much food in next 40 years as we grew in last 8000. Yes, thats exponential function! #beyondrio

The event was wreathed in WI-Max
 #Sustainability index looks beyond #GDP Can we find a better way to measure development? #RioPlus20

At the end of the first week, spirits were still high, but clouds were appearing at the horizon. Many good things had been inserted into the draft outcome document, including reproductive literacy rights, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a nuclear phase-out, and elevation of the United Nations Environmental  Programme (UNEP) and Development Programme (UNDP) to full agency status, with better funding and more autonomy.

Ban Ki-moon has announced more than 100 commitments on sustainable energy at Rio+20: #FutureWeWant

Right now, in Rio and in every nation, we need to #EndFossilFuelSubsidies. You voted, that's what you said. @tcktcktck #thefuturewewant

At the Rio+20 Conference, @FordFoundation talks sustainable cities and urban development: #RioPlus20 #TheFutureWeWant

Participants at the SD Dialogue on Energy for All: eliminate subsidies to C-dirty nuclear energy; same as #EndFossilFuelSubsidies #Rioplus20

Pic of the huge #endfossilfuelsubsidies trillion $ bill at #RioPlus20 @Avaaz

#Rioplus20 we ran into Nicolas Metro at Satoyama talk. Yesterday he was out planting trees with Brazil youth group. He got a C-minus.

#Rioplussocial is trending! Hope you're lending your voice for #socialgood at #Rioplus20. We can all contribute to #thefuturewewant

Lord J.S.Gummer #Rioplus20: we need to solve problems going the way of nature instead of technofixes. Not all questions have answers we like

In the early morning hours of June 19, the other shoe fell. It was Tuesday, and the next day the “High Level” meeting of Heads of State would kick off. They needed a document that all could endorse, so out came most of the best (and most controversial) parts of the agreement. Surprisingly, the US team held fast for including much that was ultimately deleted by Brazil.

Bunch of lead negotiators huddling around entrance to meeting room before plenary at midnight. New text at 2am local time #RioPlus20

#UNCSD #Rioplus20 closing negotiation meeting at midnight tonight. Brazilians to present final non-negotiable text. #EU, #US not v. Pleased.

#endfossilfuelsubsidies tweetstorm on the NYTimes radar; 2 stay on the #RioPlus20 Decl needs to get thru the nite #getthecoffeein

11pm plenary at #RioPlus20 now postponed. Looks like they might be going through the night. #getthecoffeein

Mr President, Please stop creating fresh terrorists with your murder spree, go to Rio, and rediscover what you promised us

Monbiot: Hope is the rope by which we hang ourselves. #rioplussocial #Rioplus20 #beyondrio #GaiaRio

Bhutan's Secretary of Happiness
RT @lmdo: "Using GDP as a measurement of development is overrated, it measures growth. What's next?" Gross Happiness Index #bhutan #rioplus20

No mention in new text of ending fossil fuel subsidies.

Plenary will reconvene today at 10:30 AM in P3-2, where #Brazil will introduce the 2AM #Futurewewant text for #Rioplus20 #GaiaRio

My friend and fellow Ocean Elder @richardbranson on "The New Wild West"

#Rioplus20 police moved in and tried to shut down Radio Cupula at Peoples Summit, but crowds surrounded & protected. All cool, still on air.

"It seems governments will accept weak outcomes at #Rioplus20 in order to safeguard multilateralism." @sajosve in #Rio

Trying to find non-cliche words to describe what is happening at #RioPlus20, but it's a cliche outcome.

Brazil's proposed text: "We commit to take action by 2025 (to reduce marine debris)" (para. 163). 2025?!

@CFigueres proposes negotiators bring their kids to these mtgs, so they have to take decisions in front of them. Big applause! #Rioplus20

Smokeless stoves were big
Rio+20 summit must move world beyond 'grow now, clean up later'

#rioplus20 telling that nobody in that room adopting the text was happy. That's how weak it is. And they all knew. Disappointing #Rio20

#Rioplus20 stands out from recent UN summits in that official business was concluded today with 4 days left. Going nowhere saves time.

Soundtrack for #Rioplus20 - let the sun shine #thefuturewewant

 Steiner of UNEP put on a brave face
This is Rio Minus 20 which Fails on equity, fails on ecology, Fails on economy #rio+20 #earthsummit text longest suicide note in history

Vandana Shiva: Rio+20 is the "end of democracy." Pretty clear here as educators, scientists, NGOs, and public kept out

Prince Charles at #Rioplus20: we are sailing headlong into the sorts of storms that are the stuff of nightmares #futurewewant

Prince Charles #Rioplus20 #futurewewant "need to join the three cogs together" to run machine smoothly. 3 cogs = "global, national and corp"

On June 20, mass protest marches passed without violence through the streets of Rio. While they did not generate a lot of news, or even come close to the conference venue, they did signal a general change of tone in both supporters and critics of the meeting’s progress.

cardboard table, pallet wall
#Rio+20 draft: "grave concern" on climate, all vague, nothing new - final draft doc on (h/t @marcelcrok)

#RioPlus20 draft text is now online, check it here: I cant believe delegates spent 2 yrs to deliver this weak text

"Unless we take action now, the legacy of Rio 1992 is under serious threat' says @nick_clegg #RioPlus20

Applause for UK delegate re integrated reporting - UK announced all listed companies on stock exchange must report GHG footprint.

Video presentation on the state of the environment "Welcome to the anthropocene". I hate horror movies #rioplus20

Richard Branson awards Equator Prize to 10 grass roots NGOs
Happening now: @Brttnytrlfrd addressing the opening plenary at #Rioplus20 about her vision for the #Futurewewant

@kellyrigg RT @greendig Brittany Trlfd: 72 hours to decide the fate of your children, my children. The clock is @tcktcktcking!” #Rioplus20

3 more days will call it #riominus20. “

@duycks: NGOs asking not to be noted in #RioPlus20 document" because nowhere close to #futurewewant.

Via Campesina rep speaks for farmers' 5 min at #Rioplus20 plenary "no farms, no food, no future." urges organic, ecoagriculture practices.

recycled cardboard meeting room
"the current document is a failure of leadership" said Mary Robinson commenting on #RioPlus20 #RioFail

UNDP's Helen Clark: it is not that we are asking countries to grow less, but to grow differently, as they will learn very soon. #Rioplus20

RT @alexjamesfarrow: True democracy & consensus at #RioPlus20 at the People Plenary. An un-named @UN source says 'Its amazing.' #riofail?

The current #Rioplus20 outcome is a failure but can we turn up the heat enough to stop the #RioFail #climate

Cardboard and bamboo
RT "#RioPlus20 is a wrap as far as @WWF is concerned. Leaders here have collectively failed to deliver the #FutureWeWant... Taxi!!!!”

Walkout beginning. Proud to be part of 350, a youth-led movement #riofail

MT @benmoran Front and centre on @AJELive - Protesters gather outside Rio summit (from Thursday): #RioFail

New post - Why I walked out of #Rioplus20
12/06/22/why-i-walked-out-of-rio20/ #Riofail

After allocating 5 minutes to Brittany Trilford, the teenage New Zealand keynoter who had won the Date With History contest put on by TckTckTck, and then giving 5 minutes each to representatives from the Major Groups (farmers, unions, scientists, charities, youth, indigenous peoples), the Plenary closed its doors and began a round of opening statements from each of the Heads of State. Each was allowed 5 minutes but after homicidal rapist thug Joseph Mugabe set the bar at 25 minutes, few others took less than 20, and since there were 180 or more nations to be heard, the opening statements used up all the time between Wednesday morning and Friday evening, when the conference was scheduled to close. Nonetheless, many of these statements were notable, even dramatic, and they succinctly describe the state of the political world in 2012, a house divided and at war with itself as well as nature.

Flowers at graveside
#RioPlus20 starts with Brittany Trifford: "your promises remain not broken but empty".

"I stand here with fire in my heart. I am confused and angry at the state of the world..." @BrttnyTrlfrd speaking truth to power. #RioPlus20

Applause to @BrttnyTrlfrd had goosebumps watching her remarkable #Rioplus20 speech via @TreeHugger #thefuturewewant

Video: @BrttnyTrlfrd's incredible #DateWithHistory speech to #Rioplus20 world leaders w thanks to @ClimateHotNews

#DateWithHistory winner Brittany leaves world leaders speechless with brave call for action at #rioplus20

Germany to close all nuclear plants by 2022 and cut 95% emission by 2050

Venezuela: Capital has dressed in green & come back as new eco-colonialism”

#RioPlus20 in 3steps: (1) discuss solutions a length (2) delete most constructive proposals at late hour (3) provide substanceless speeches

UK dep PM Clegg: "We will include natural capital in our national balance of accounts by 2020." But already discounting it by 60%

#RioFail has been hijacked by big polluters, profits, and the governments who negotiate on their behalf.

No panelists showed up to the side event titled US Priorities for Rio+20. Symbolic perhaps.

WORLD LEADERS STICK THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND Friends of the Earth uk press release #rioplus20

Hillary quoting Steve Jobs.'think different.' i like my iphone, but c'mon. whole speech is about 'unlocking private investment.' #riofail

Very strong speech by the @MGCY_UNCSD this morning: "You have sold our fate and subsidised our common destruction." #RioPlus20 #RioFail

Politicians may be able to live with #RioFail, but the people won’t

#RioPlus20=#riofail! Despite the Twitterstorm, clear deadlines to #endfossilfuelsubidies were taken out of final text. SHAME!

#RioFail isn’t a failure of the UN, but a success for the corporate polluter lobby via @CanadianYCC

@ec_minister claims ideology of ecologists blocking progress @ #Rioplus20. #riofail #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm #cdnpoli

THE FUTURE WE WANT IS NOT FOUND HERE. #RioFail #TheFutureWeWant #RioPlus20

BREAKING:The people have spoken! We reject the #RioPlus20 text & r convening a people's plenary w 100s sitting outside the negotation hall!

Young people walked out of the #rioplus20 Earth Summit #WhileTwitterwasDown in protest of a weak document that is not #thefuturewewant

#Rioplus20 commits to more sustainable water use, safe drinking water, stewardship of water supplies to grow food #futurewewant

World Leaders: We didn't elect & pay you to come to #RioPlus20 for the beaches. You must secure our future. Signed, #YourTaxpayers

In Rio, cafe TVs tuned to the Plenary
Why do we not have universal Rights of the Earth equal to the rights of corporations?

We are sacrificing our planet to corporations. We cannot survive without this planet.

Governments Happy with Future We Want - AlertNet: #RioPlus20 #futurewewant

In telling our children of #RioPlus20 we will struggle to explain why we had the ability & means to act, but were helpless 'A.Steiner'

A luta continua! RT @pablosolon: #Rioplus20: Impressions from the Peoples’ Summit: forging a global social movement Can End Poverty

Overview from @UN_News_Centre: $513 billion pledged for sustainable development at #RioPlus20 #FutureWeWant

@BarackObama: "This is all about the economy." No, Mr President, #rioplus20 is all about the economy. No viable environment, no economy.

Hillary Clinton and other top leaders

avoided traffic, coming and going by helo
#Rioplus20 was a failure of political leadership – but all of us, especially civil society & youth, have to take it forward. Mary Robinson

Delegates applaud at #Rioplus20 as #FutureWeWant outcome document officially adopted! See it here:

Leaders to world: "We agree to what we agreed 20 yr ago, except those parts about action and urgency. And thanks for the fish."


We were so actively involved, buzzing around between meetings from dawn until midnight, doing radio and TV interviews, and giving talks and open sessions at the Peoples’ Summit, that we didn’t have the time we would have liked to write a timely, more thoughtful report. That may yet come, but for now, our sense of the meeting was that, as usual, there was small incremental progress made and some very large setbacks. An end to fossil fuel and nuclear power subsidies was almost within grasp, and we could not have said that 20 years ago. But, fiddling while the planet burns is dead meme.

Sadly, when it comes to binding global treaties, the UN is the only game in town, apart from business vehicles like the G77 and the Pentagon, and if the UN, too, becomes a corporate capture, we truly are doomed. From what we witnessed in Rio, that is well underway. Hillary Clinton seems to be the lead cheerleader.

There will be another Climate Summit in December, with more negotiations on the Green Climate Fund (now also called the Green Power Fund) and interim meetings on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). While realism is creeping in with the steady collapse of ever more institutions, the negotiating process for climate, income equity, and food security seems glacial when compared to the daily loss of species, jobs, and freshwater resource, among other indicators.

If we are going to avert utter disaster, which grows steadily less likely, something needs to change, and quickly. We certainly saw nothing resembling change from world leaders assembled in Rio. The miasma is intact. Moreover, the impetus for making change has clearly shifted to the opinion leaders not in the press or blogosphere but in the streets.

The clearest and wisest voices heard in Rio were heard every hour in the Peoples’ Summit, from the Occupy and related protest movements, from indigenous peoples, and from youth. Our own venue, the crowd-sourced Gaia Home in Cupula dos Povos, developed a steady and regular attendance of hundreds, with barely standing room at the edges of our large circus tent on the days we talked about ecovillages, transition towns, eCoolnomics (carbon-minus food, fuel and housing), education, networks and social equity. We flew in experts, authors and activists from six continents although some biked 1000 km to get there, or came by sail, and we’d all like to see more of that. By the final day of the conference, we were told we had become the main stage for the entire event, much to our surprise.

While approval is not unwelcome, and we have been preparing for this for many decades, it did cost us more than expected to keep a high level of activity in an expensive urban environment. Donations are tax-deductible and should be directed to our Global Village Institute, which is easily found on (charity 62-1220750) or on PayPal. We will be planting trees to offset our entire carbon footprint as our superstars wend their ways home. Thanks to all who supported us so far!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Collision of Worlds: Rio+20 and Reality

" If we look at the underlying issues driving the water and sanitation crisis, they are right up at the surface: unsustainable (energy-enabled) human population growth, especially in areas with little or very polluted sources of water; climate change, which greatly expands the areas with little water; and consumerist civilization, which destroys what few sources remain by externalizing pollution cost in its economic model.

Last week we introduced the idea of Slavery 2.0, a concept we have been mulling for a couple of years. Our notion is that much of what we take as rights are in fact artifacts of a receding era of cheap, abundant, very Btu-dense energy. Now that petrocollapse is underway, we can kiss those rights goodbye, and in their place, prepare ourselves for Slavery 2.0.

If there exist alternatives to this bleak future, one of the places we might hope to find them would be at Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development getting underway in Brazil next week. We are flying down this weekend to be part of the delegation of the Global Ecovillage Network, and we are personally giving a side-event on eCOOLnomics this Sunday afternoon at the Gaia Home, a dome structure in Flamingo Park, at the inauguration of the People’s Summit.

As in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban, the official conference is being separated from the civil society displays and counter-events by a distance of 30 km, but free shuttle buses are available to delegates.

There are many excellent side-events being offered over the coming week, many of them open to the public, and they sound themes that will be familiar to readers of this blog. The ones we are most interested in are those describing the UN Foundation’s initiative for clean cook stoves, alternatives for food security that involve storing gigatonnes of carbon in soil, actions on the ground to reforest the planet a.s.a.p., attempts to drive a stake through the dead but beating heart of Wall Street, and Bhutan’s Gross Happiness Index.

However, there are still a great many countries and non-governmental groups in attendance that are in the sway of deluded cornucopians or technofixers and there are vast numbers of social gatherings and events dedicated to sating their appetites for ever grander delusion. It seems to us, just looking at the week-long schedule, that the closer you get to the venues frequented by corporatocracies like the US and China (now a monetary union), the deeper that delusion becomes.

brings together sustainability focused tertiary education associations with government delegates and student body representatives from across the world, to discuss the critical role that universities and colleges play in creating the societal shift required to reach the objectives and outcomes of Rio+20, and indeed in reaching sustainable development and a transition to a fair and green economy. As the primary interface for educating and skilling political and industry leaders, policy makers and professionals, tertiary education institutions provide the greatest opportunity to reorient current thinking.”

We think the buzzword-laden phrase “reaching sustainable development and a transition to a fair and green economy” some years past its expiration date, and we wonder if those words will decompose on their long way up the winding staircase to the ivory towers they are intended to reach.

Quoting their press release, 

“In 2010 the UN General Assembly recognized access to water and sanitation as a human right. In this way [they] crowned the evolution from the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights´ Observation Nº 15 as [a] landmark definition of [the] human right to water and sanitation (2002). Although [the] UN has recently recognized good performance of MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] targets on water and sanitation, in the current context where there are some 2600 million people without access to water and sanitation, the issue of implementation entails a major challenge.

From this perspective, this workshop aims not only to take a snapshot of current legal framework, but much more to analyze the complex and diverse realities being faced by governments regarding implementation of such an important right. From the budget constraints of a world in crisis, to participation of non-state actors (as NGOs, water companies), [the workshop will consider] available short-term solutions to ensure universal service. Against this background, the question of implementation requires a pragmatic view based on a rights-perspective to understand what actions should be developed by different actors (governments, business, civil society) at the time to comply, as well as which consequences may arise from lack of implementation or significant delays.

The event will stage five contributions and organize interactive discussion with participants on different views of human right[s] to water and sanitation. Based on the contributions and the discussion, a joint reflection document will be prepared as information for civil society and as input towards and beyond the official Rio+20 conference.”

While we join with most in the UN community in lauding the efforts by this group and others in that underfunded field, we can’t suppress a deep sigh. How many times have we gone to an acre of vegetables that has been neglected for too long and is overgrown with weeds, and we have to say, can one person with a hoe really do anything to make a difference at this point?(Admittedly this simile has become less apt since permaculture came to our rescue and our acres of vegetables are now part of productive, multi-layered ecosystems with scant concept of weeds or any need for hoes).

If we look at the underlying issues driving the water and sanitation crisis, they are right up at the surface: unsustainable (energy-enabled) human population growth, especially in areas with little or very polluted sources of water; climate change that greatly expands the areas with little water; and consumerist civilization, which destroys what few sources remain by externalizing pollution cost in its economic model.

The attempt to patch over these underlying rifts in the fabric of the natural world by some technofix like (fossil-fuel based) pumps to mine underground sources faster, giant green funds to build sewage treatment facilities along coastal estuaries, or solar-powered water treatment ozone-bubblers and UV-lights seems to us making the real problems worse by shrouding them in a fog of business as usual. Growth must stop. Growth must go in reverse. Get used to it. You want clean water? Stop using so much of it!

We know, that is a tough sell.

To paraphrase Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute, we face a triple-E crisis: economic (unleashed greed and skyrocketing inequality leading to ever more corruption, instability, violence and war), ecological (our biosphere is rapidly degrading to the point where it may not be able to support human life), and energetic (we are ravaging the planet's depleting energy reserves to continue to live in this unsustainable way). 

The answers being proposed by thoughtful civil society participants are a triple-R response: rights (protecting the rights of people in civil society, not corporations or unelected transnational entities, to make decisions about the issues that affect their lives), restoration (working to care for the biosphere and repair the damage we have done to it) and resilience (developing the ability of local communities to survive the degree of climate chaos that is now unavoidable).

We will be blogging and tweeting (@peaksurfer; #GaiaRio) this coming week, as we visit the various venues and listen to all the proposals, some misguided, like these education and sanitation ones, but others exceedingly wise. So stay tuned….

Friday, June 8, 2012

Slavery 2.0

"Our new consumerist aspirations drawn from Disneyesque utopian imagineering compel us to stop and ask, what comes next? How will we support the gains that have made? Can minorities be accorded equality of opportunity in a shrinking job market with a burgeoning de-skilled labor pool?"

For a number of years now we have been parsing tea leaves to mull what Hubbert linearization may do for human rights. To briefly recap, earlier civilizations almost uniformly were far more cruel, brutal and oppressive to the majority of their subjects than is our present globalized industrial society. Consumer societies have apparently learned that they can only abuse their buyers/producers to a point or markets shrivel. Hence, they have been steadily conferring more rights, expectations and aspirations for the better part of 150 years, and now some of that is coming around to bite our collective hindquarters.

Attacks on public employee’s unions (and the recent recall election in Wisconsin), the student fee-hike protests around the globe, and the Greek rebellion against fiscal austerity measures imposed by the European Union are all manifestations, in part, of unbound entitlements meeting up with the curve of binding entropy.

Going back to the last turning, the War of Northern Aggression was as much a product of Colonel Drake’s discovery of “coal oil” on Seneca land as any of the unleashed tensions set ablaze by John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raid. Fed by a steadily expanding diet of coal and oil, Northern industrialists vastly outproduced Southern planters in the key commodities of guns and steel. They wanted and, from a capitalist standpoint, needed, market hegemony, particularly to the Eurozone and the Western Frontier, both opened by steam power. A plantation economy based on the joules per kilogram of imported African slaves was no match. When the two horse armies clashed on the plains of Shenandoah, the trenches of Verdun were birthed. Warfare would never be the same, but, more importantly, neither would our thinking about human rights.

The rising aspirations of energy-rich consumers, including the children of former slaves, brought a near revolution a century later, as well-educated Northern freedom-riders took gasoline-fueled mass transit south into slavery’s last bastions and the Montgomery bus boycott was beaten harmless by car-pools using private automobiles owned by middle-class blacks and liberated housewives, their kitchens automated with General Electric and Westinghouse products. This victory was enlarged in the lunch-counter sit-ins, where young men and women demanded equal not separate access to the fundamental human rights of milkshakes, hamburgers, french fries and cole slaw. These same people would soon be sending children of their own to rich, formerly white male bastions of academia to be educated in the liberation theology that was breaking down walls from Berlin to Bothaville.

Alas, all of this was erected on an edifice of boundless energy density. Rather than trying to construct monumental civilizations on diffuse solar and renewable sources — our energy checking account from the Sun, harvested by plant and animal slaves, including the two-legged variety — we were, for a brief shining moment, able to draw down a one-time, 500-million-year store of fossil sunlight — our energy savings account, harvested by Caterpiller, Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil. As we now pass a halfway point on that savings account, with a world population past north of 7 billion, our new consumerist aspirations drawn from Disneyesque utopian imagineering compel us to stop and ask, what comes next? How will we support the gains that have been made?

Can housewives be liberated without all-electric kitchens? In post-nuclear Fukushima Prefecture they have had to hunt up those artisanal tofu-crafters still boiling curds in wood-fired pots to remind them how it was that food staples could be produced affordably without electricity. It can be done, they are told, but only with human labor substituting for those atomic pressure cookers. You can do it now, or you can wait, but panoplies of fresh Fukushimas lurk to ensnare the tardy.

Can minorities be accorded equality of opportunity in a shrinking job market with a burgeoning de-skilled labor pool? Can we, as civilization de-grows, afford to provide subsidies for art history or music theory researchers, or, for that matter, researchers at all? Or was all that an artifact of our vanishing Era of Abundance?

In his World Made By Hand series, James Howard Kunstler paints a picture of neofeudalism in upstate New York, circa mid- to late- 21st century. A few wealthy land-owners or Christian sects control the means of production, which are largely driven once more by plant and animal slaves, including the two-legged variety, whether they are called employees, brethren or citizens. There is a real allure in this vision, borne of the recognition that both capitalism and socialism were industrial era conceits, and both depended on a steadily expanding wealth of energy-dense fuels to confer their promised benefits. What they replaced, we need to remember, was theocracy and authoritarianism, or what we might call Slavery 1.0.

Somewhere between Slavery 1.0 and its return as Slavery 2.0, we’ve experienced a number of technical adjustments and bug-fixes which could be called Slavery 1.1, 1.2, etc. These would include the American, French and Russian revolutions against feudal aristocracies, the Bolivarian liberation struggles of principally the South, and the vast consumer societies that today comprise our global economy, from Cairo to Chicago. Each of the bug fixes addressed some social maladjustment that threatened to conflagrate into outright civil rebellion, but none threatened the underlying premises of the slavery mindset: income inequality; concentration of power into the hands of a select few; and indentured servitude for the masses, whether through export-driven economic systems, withholding of health, housing, food or water, or imposition of academic fees on the fleeting promise of being able to lift oneself out of slavery if one is willing to accept usurious loan terms for the rest of one’s life.

Take away the hidden energy subsidy and the façade tumbles. Aspirations for liberation then become an entirely different question, because to whom should complaints be addressed? Consumers are themselves the oppressors. Democracies are the reflection of their aspirations; oligarchies and transnational corporate vultures the implied end-result of a pyramidal structure; and theocracy and authoritarianism the most likely last refuge when all hope for anything better has been abandoned. Slavery 2.0 is coming soon to a mall near you and it may well be disguised as spiritual rebirth or torus energy from the Thrive-world. In the end, it will mean going back to a world we once knew but have almost forgotten, a little less kind and a lot more physical.

It will also be much hotter, lest we forget that our dalliance with that ancient, buried savings account had consequences.


Monday, June 4, 2012


" The Nobel Foundation believes this extra-legal conduct is literally the most radical power that a Peace Prize recipient can seize and we are left with little choice but to condemn it."

In the Stockholm Concert Hall, Monday 8 October, 2012, at 11:30 a.m.
Dr. Marcus Storch, Chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation:

We are gathered here today for the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize and to honor its recipient, Mr. Julian Assange, an Australian citizen now in prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While the Nobel Committee has already publicly condemned the decision of the Swedish government to permit the rendition without formal extradition of Mr. Assange, it is my role today to deliver an equally serious decision by the Committee, and that is as follows.

It is the decision of the Nobel Committee, after careful deliberation, to do something that has never been done in the 111 years of the award. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 92 times to 124 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2011. This year, the Committee announces that for the first time, an award to an individual is being rescinded. The Nobel Foundation wishes to convey on behalf of the Committee and staff that this step is not taken lightly, and it is one that is accompanied by profound regret. The 2009 award to Barack H. Obama is hereby rescinded.

There are many issues which entered into the deliberations of the Committee in making this decision, and certainly those issues raised by the award recipient himself in his acceptance speech — the obligations of a leader of a sovereign nation to protect peace and the security of his nation, even at the cost of conducting acts of war, for instance — but the conduct of this recipient has been so extreme in pursuit of what we can only term as aggressive acts of terrorism, that the Committee really has no alternative. The integrity of the prize itself, and of its creator’s intention, is at stake here.

The Committee has issued a written statement that enumerates the crimes against humanity which it feels justify the action taken, and I would refer those who wish to better understand this to that document. I would excerpt for purposes of illustration just one example of just how great a threat to peace this individual recipient has become. We now reliably know, for instance, that President Obama personally oversees a "secret kill list" containing the names and photos of individuals targeted for assassination in the U.S. drone war. According to public record and eyewitness testimony, Mr. Obama signs off on every targeted killing in Yemen and Somalia and the more complex or risky strikes in Pakistan. Individuals on the list include his own U.S. citizens, as well as teenage girls as young as 17 years old. We also know that these strikes have killed some 3000 innocent persons, persons completely anonymous to the President and his aides, many of whom are children younger than his own, but whom he later describes publically, without any justification, as “terrorists” or “militants.” These are terms that would more accurately describe his own actions, waging war unseen from the sky, raining mass death on wedding parties, funerals, and other innocent gatherings of people in non-combatant roles in countries not at war, as they go about their daily lives. The President of the United States therefore arrogates to his own discretion the power to order people killed, assassinated, in total secrecy, without any due process, without transparency or oversight of any kind.

Speaking for the Committee and the Board of the Nobel Foundation, we believe this extra-legal conduct is literally the most radical power that a government and a president can seize, and we are left with little choice but to condemn it and to take what small action we can: to revoke the prize which was awarded.

Thank you, and I will take questions now.




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