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Here’s the future of the suburbs – watch and enjoy!

The video below is a 14 minute tour into the future….

 

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Will this be the fate of our urban forest?

Probably.   We should have a tree planting AND harvesting plan at the city wide level.   Think we will?  Not with the hope of an 8-sided TV screen in Rupp!

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AFP

Greeks ‘fell trees for warmth’ amid economic chill

ATHENS (AFP) – Rising oil prices and chilly economic times are prompting increasing numbers of Greeks to chop down trees for winter warmth, a group of forest engineers warned Tuesday.

Nikos Bokaris, a spokesman for the Panhellenic Union of Forest Engineers, said the debt-wracked nation’s forest ecosystems were not yet under threat, but urged the government to act quickly to prevent broader damage.

“You have to remember what happened in Albania,” Bokaris said, describing how that country’s population felled trees en masse after the collapse of communism. “Even the trees lining the roads were chopped down.”

Greek foresters filed 1,500 criminal complaints last year, twice as many as in 2010. About 70 percent of Greece’s forests are public, with most of the rest belonging to various religious institutions.

Bokaris attributed the rise to a sharp drop in national funding for forest management, coupled with a near-doubling of oil prices in 2011.

He said forest funds had been slashed from 20 million euros ($26 million) in recent years to 10 million euros from now on.

The cuts are part of Greece’s austerity measures agreed with international creditors in a bid to win vital debt bailouts.

The Greek arm of environmental group WWF has also expressed concerns. Its forests expert Konstantinos Liarikos said both individual and organised group activity were impacting the forests.

“Wood poaching,” as some in Greece call it, is not a new phenomenon in a country where even modern homes in Athens still have fireplaces. Domestically provided firewood is often not enough, with the shortfall made up by Balkan lumber.

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Here’s the chart that shows why our gasoline prices aren’t going down anytime soon

China is very thirsty for oil. In January, they imported the most crude oil in their history.  Their economy is slowing, so it appears that they are using this imported oil to build the world’s largest stockpile. Do they know something about this year and oil prices that we don’t? (hint – the price is likely to sky rocket…)

We’re on the edge of another recession, so how can prices be so high?  We import 2/3s of all the oil we use, and we are buy that oil on the world market.  The world market is much more expensive than our domestic market. As China buys more than it needs, the price rises.  We pay the cost at the pump.

Meanwhile, the US media is blowing the “energy independence” trumpet loudly. Why we have all the oil we need right here! And we use less every year! (thanks to the end of  economic growth).  Yet, cognitive dissonance will set in as gas tops $4 a gallon.    Obama will do everything he can to avoid a spike.  We’re in for an interesting year.

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From Zero Hedge

Say what you will about the tenets of Chinese economic slowdown assumptions and what not (despite inflation obviously continuing to be a rather pesky issue), at least its steadfast determination to have the world’s largest crude oil stockpile is an ethos. At 23.4k metric tons of imports in January, China just imported the most crude in its history, despite the traditionally slow period around the Chinese new year. The trendline is unmissable – at this rate China will become the world’s largest importer of Crude in a few short years, surpassing the US easily with its 28K metric tons of imports in a couple of years. Oh, and anyone who thinks that China will volunteer to lose Iran as a primary source of crude imports as its oil is “liberated” by Western powers as the country is obviously en route to having the world’s largest crude stockpile (as to why this may be the case, read here), we have a bridge to Isfahan to sell you.

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Random Thoughts: February 8 2012

1.   The Republican assault on science is really a confirmation that we have hit the limits to growth prophesied 40 years ago by the authors of “Limits to Growth.”  Why else would they abandon all interest in truth for the sake of continued greed, pollution, and destruction? It must be that they know it has to end or else….So rather than take the “else” they just dismiss science. It is denial at its most tangible.  Republicans have developed a willful ignorance and, where necessary, a flat out willingness to lie about scientific truth.  The world is getting hotter.  We are causing it.  We have reached peak oil.  Prices go nowhere but up from here. Even in a depression.  In the words of Richard Heinberg, “the party is over.”  And Republicans want to keep you from learning about that fact.

To wit.  The Wall Street Journal – the defacto newspaper of the Republicans – recently published an op-ed entitled No Need to Panic About Global Warming.  The article was signed by 16 “scientists”, who turned out to be fossil fuel-sponsored shills who didn’t disclose the fact in the article.  Here’s the thesis:  “there’s ‘no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy’. From the article: ‘The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2. The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere’s life cycle.'”

Yep, they said that. So don’t worry.  We can pollute all we want in an effort to keep the greed machine cranking out money for the rich.

Now, this piece has been thoroughly debunked as an “amateurish collection of falsehoods and half truths”.  The issue is of course that these people are just making shit up in an effort to deny reality.  That says more to me about the real physical limits we are facing than anything else.

See #3 below for more fun from the WSJ.

2.  There are some funny numbers over at the Lexington Venture Club.  We get a breathless tout from Commerce Lexington about the “groovy success” of the start-up community!  But the numbers don’t really add up.

For example, in 2011, the club claims to have given out nearly $70 million dollars to local companies. For that, we have an employment of 605 full time workers, and 175 part time.  Now, it is not clear if they mean that these are new jobs or if they are simply the number of people employed at the firms.  If these are new jobs, then for every new full time hob created, the club spent $90,065 and for every part time job they spent $87,822.

If these are not new, but rather existing jobs, then we need to see how much spending nearly $70million will increase employment year over year.  In 2010, the Club reported 537 full time jobs in these firms and 211 part time.  That’s an increase of 68 full time jobs and a loss of 36 part time jobs.   So, if you spend $70million you get that?

Lets look at this over time.  In 2005, the Venture Club reports that 176 full time jobs and 109 part time jobs existed in companies that received venture funding.  In the intervening six years the club has invested a total of $343,209,452 and has added a total of 429 new full time jobs and 66 part time jobs.  I’m not real good at math, but something seems really out of whack.

This whole shtick that small business and entrepreneurs are going to “innovate” their way to job creation appears to be a myth.  The reality says that huge investments are not translating into a large number of jobs.  They may be great investments for investors and the workers, but they are not transforming our city.

Where does this investment come from?  Of the $69,858,852 invested, 25% comes from government sources.  So THIS is the kind of government spending the righteous can get behind?  Not much of a return if I say so myself.

Then you’ve got the whole “this is good for the city” angle – it adds tax revenues to the coffers through the payroll tax!  These jobs are touted as having an average wage of over $65,000.  Well, at the city’s current payroll tax rate of 2.25%, then the 605 full time jobs at the firms paid $889,812 in taxes to the city last year.  Sounds like a lot, but in a budget of approximately $274,000,000, it amounts to 0.32% of the budget.  A pittance.

Then we get nonsense such as UK Prez Caputo saying that entrepreneurs are “the future of our city and our country.”  Yeah, at the rate of 279 jobs (1/2 part time) and $70 million in investment per year,  how long will it take and how much will it cost to put the 19,318 unemployed people in Lexington back to work?

So, $343,000,000 has been invested – $85 million of that government money – creating a handful of jobs and adding nothing to the city.  Why would anyone but successful investors celebrate this number?

3.        Does anything exceed a Republican’s capacity for seeing themselves as victims? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal “What Pepsi can learn from McDonalds” describes how Pepsi has lost its way trying to offer more healthy alternatives.  Look the McDonald’s, the author says, where they pretend to offer healthier alternatives, but really they are selling the same old shit and making huge profits from it. Here’s the crux:  “Here’s what McDonald’s has come to understand that Pepsi hasn’t. McDonald’s spends $2 billion a year on advertising and brand-building. To build a brand is to create a hostage, and a full-time activist industry has evolved to expropriate a small sliver of this value to promote its own causes.”  So the promotion of the crap McDonalds does only enables the leeches who want people to eat better. McDonalds could be a hostage to them.   Ah but McDonalds doesn’t really care, because they ignore the critics and only changes what they do when consumers demand it.  “McDonald’s has learned not to panic about this. In May, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and two other groups ran full-page ads demanding the company retire its mascot clown, Ronald McDonald. The ads generated probably millions of dollars in free publicity for the activist groups in various media. Ronald is going nowhere.” 

And this:  People don’t get fat because of Pepsi and McDonalds, but rather “Let’s also admit that neither McDonalds nor Pepsi is responsible for our inbuilt Pleistocene craving for fat or the disappearance of exercise from American lifestyles, if these are in fact the reason for the rise in obesity. The science itself remains muddy: A problem with insulin regulation increasingly seems a more precise explanation of the obesity trend.” 

Seriously.  Read that again.  And then read point number one of this essay.

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Who said it?

“This is a president who believes that the American pie has now grown as large as it will ever get. It’s not going to get any bigger, so what he’s telling people across America is, ‘If you aren’t satisfied with your piece of the pie, and you think the man next to you has a bigger piece,’ he says, ‘I’ve got solution for you: I’ll take part of his piece – I’ll keep most of it – and I’ll give a little bit to you, and you should be happy because that’s what America is going to be under four more years of Barack Obama’.

Now we can’t have that because what Mitt Romney believes is that the size of the American pie is infinite, that the only thing – the only thing – that limits the size of the American pie is our work ethic, our integrity, our ingenuity, and that means America’s pie is limitless.”

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What kind of jobs in 2020?

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics Wednesday released its predictions for what jobs will see the biggest growth – and the biggest declines – between 2010 and 2020.

Overall, government analysts expect employment to grow show growth of 14.3 percent from 2010 to 2020, meaning 20.5 million new jobs will be added.”

WOW!  That means that we’ll be adding over 2 million jobs per year!

Wait a minute……we have added only 3.1 million new jobs since 2010.  That leaves us with needing to create 17,400,000 over the next 8 years.  That’s only 2,175,000 new jobs a year over the next 8 years.  Surely we can pull that off right?

And what kind of jobs will they be?

Here you go:

the largest job growth by 2020:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Retail Salespersons
  • Home Health Aides
  • Personal Care Aides
  • Office Clerks, General
  • Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food
  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
  • Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand
  • Postsecondary Teachers
  • Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants
  • Childcare Workers
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
  • Cashiers
  • Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education

Hell yeah!  Mostly just the kind of low wage work that corporate Amerika wants us to have.  Poor people are docile people, at least here.

What this list really tells me is that despite our vaunted pitch that education will set you free, very few of these jobs require much more than the basic minimum.  Yet how many college-educated young people will fill these jobs – most of which don’t really need a college education?  Don’t you notice the basic mismatch between what we are saying – go to college! – and what kinds of jobs will be waiting for you when you get done?

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Growth forever! But what if…..?

Below is a snippet of an interesting post by Gail Tverberg.  The basic premise is simple:  our political and financial overlords are making assumptions about “growth” going forward which will allow them to both pay back past debt and take on more debt.
But what if…..?
What if growth isn’t in our future because we have hit resource based limits?  What if  the economy doesn’t – can’t – continue to expand forever?  That’s the point of the first graphic.
The point of the second graphic is even more ominous.  Her point is that oil production is likely to rapidly decline in the very near future.  The reason is not as many would suspect at first:  there is plenty of oil in the ground, but it is more expensive than ever to get to.  High prices destroy demand which means that prices will fall, thus eliminating the incentive to spend enormous amounts trying to get the stuff out of the ground.  It is a fascinating paradox.  And one that bodes ill for us, as we are simply not prepared.
read her whole post “More reasons why we are reaching the limits to growth” here
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Figure 2. Two views of future growth

The problem is that when limited oil supply is rationed by high oil prices, economic growth slows down, and eventually decreases (Figure 2). When this happens, it becomes much less advantageous to borrow from the future, because the future is no longer better than today. If an economic contraction occurs for very long, the whole debt system can be expected to undergo a major “unwind”.

Logic says the result would be fairly cataclysmic. We recently started seeing the beginning of this unwind with the financial crisis of 2008-2009. We are seeing more of the potential unwind with the problems in Greece and the rest of Europe, and with the US government reaching limits on borrowed debt. Exactly how this will play out is uncertain, but debt defaults in Europe could spread to banks worldwide, in one scenario.

With much less credit available, demand for extracted energy products would fall, because with less debt, people can afford to purchase fewer products that use energy, such as new cars. Prices of oil and oil substitutes will fall, making oil extraction unprofitable in locations where extraction costs are high. The result is not likely to be a slow decline, of the type attributed to M. King Hubbert. Instead, a much more precipitous decline can be expected (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Historical crude, condensate, and NGL production based on BP and EIA data, plus a Guesstimate of Future Oil Supply.

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Here’s a good idea that will never happen…..

Read this, and see what you think the chances are of this occurring.  It’s right, of course, and I think that nature will force this on us, but only after decades of grief and strife.  It would be so much better if we could choose how best to deal with reality, rather than having it forced upon us by lovers of greed, inequality,  and pollution.

Here’s the clincher of why it will not work here in the US:  governments must have a “stronger interface between science and policy…”  HA!  At least one of our political parties has declared war on science. You know, science is the crazy talk that people spout to keep us from all living the way God wants us to live.

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UN panel says retool world economy for sustainability

 

From AP

The world can no longer afford to ignore the environmental cost of economic growth and must redefine the very concept of national wealth, a UN panel of heads of state and environment ministers said Monday.

The panel challenged leaders to recognise that “current global development is unsustainable.”

“We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Addis Ababa to mark the release of the panel’s report, which outlines more than 50 policy recommendations.

By 2030, the report warned, the planet will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water.

These needs are emerging “at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply,” it said.

Continuing along the same path as today risks “irreversible damage to both ecosystems and human communities.”

Entitled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing,” the 100-page report seeks to shape in broad strokes the agenda for the Rio+20 summit this summer.

The June 20-22 event in Rio de Janeiro takes place 20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit that set down the UN conventions for protecting biodiversity and tackling global warming.

Led by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma, the 22-member panel said a new blueprint for growth and low-carbon prosperity must be “mainstreamed” into economic policy as quickly as possible.

Social and environmental costs must be factored into how the world prices and measures economic activity, and into a revised measure of wealth that goes beyond the narrow calculus of gross domestic product (GDP), it said.

“Our report makes clear that sustainable development is more important than ever given the multiple crises now enveloping the world,” Zuma said in a statement.

The report called for:

– a new nexus between food, water and energy. “All three need to be fully integrated, not treated separately, if we are to deal with the global food security crisis”;

– a stronger interface between science and policy. “We must define what scientists refer to as planetary boundaries” beyond which human activity could wreck the planet;

– reducing social exclusion and closing the widening gap of social inequality.

European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, one of the report’s authors, said it should be a “wake up” call for action.

“Government support for fossil fuel industry is about seven times more than for renewable energy,” she said in a statement.

“We simply can’t continue as if business as usual was the cheapest solution. It is not.”

Hedegaard said the Rio+20 summit was an opportunity to “kick off this global transition towards a sustainable growth model for the 21st century.”

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Bloomberg Businessweek: don’t worry about peak oil – our problem is we have too much!

Yep – the editors at Businessweek gave their commentary section over to the wishful thinking of a pro-growth think tank. See, according to this article, peak oil is so much not a problem, we don’t even need to worry about it anymore. We’ve got more oil and other resources than we know what to do with. Thus, that pesky 40 year old study called “Limits to Growth” can finally be ignored.  There are no limits to growth on this entire planet!  Instead, we can use all those resources to make life better for everyone.  You know, like we’ve been doing for the last 40 years.  Yep, its all getting better thanks to our insatiable appetite for resources.

The article says that some people think we are running out of oil, even as soon as 10 years from now.  This is just one of the statements made from either willful ignorance or is blatantly misleading.  NO ONE says we are running out of oil within 10 years or even 100 years.  What we are running out of is the oil that we can afford to burn.  A fact that this article never addresses.  Peak oil is not just a geologic phenomenon,  it is more importantly an economic phenomenon.

Read this article and ask yourself:  where does the author mention the impact of higher oil prices on the global economy? Where does the author prove via factual statistics that there is indeed ever increasing oil reserves? How does the author show that oil will never get too expensive?

The same holds true for all the other resources he mentions.   Instead, if one reads this with even a slight degree of skepticism, the entire argument is revealed for what it is:  a shill for more resource depletion and pollution in order to keep the “growth” economy going for the benefit of those who have always benefited from it. You know who they are.

If you read this article seriously, you will certainly fit the title of the piece: “everything you know about peak oil is wrong.”

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Everything You Know About Peak Oil Is Wrong

We’re not running out of resources. Quite the contrary. And in our abundance lies a paradox

By

At some point in the coming months, the confrontation between the West and Iran over the Islamic republic’s nuclear program may reach a breaking point. Even assuming the two sides manage to avoid full-fledged military conflict, the crisis could still cause significant disruption to the world economy. An embargo against Iranian oil exports, or a move by Iran’s leaders to close the Straits of Hormuz—or both—could send the price of oil soaring and jeopardize the re-election hopes of leaders from Paris to Washington. And as happens with every oil crisis, pundits will insist that the pain we’re feeling is nothing compared to what it will be like when the world finally runs out of black gold.

We’ve been warned before. Four decades ago this year, five scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published an influential set of predictions regarding the sustainability of human progress. Titled Limits to Growth, their report suggested the world was heading toward economic collapse as it exhausted the natural resources, such as oil and copper, required for economic production. The report forecast that the world would run out of new gold in 2001 and petroleum by 2022, at the latest.

Over the intervening years, the threat of “peak oil” has stayed with us—the date when global petroleum production was to reach its supposed maximum, afterward and evermore to decline as dwindling reserves were tapped out. And the exhaustion of the world’s oil reserves was just the start. A host of other critical natural resources, from phosphorus to uranium, have been declared peaking or already peaked.

Forty years later, however, rereading Limits to Growth invokes a growing sense of irony. Far from being depleted, worldwide reserves of minerals continue to climb. New technologies suggest the dawn of U.S. energy independence. The biggest concern isn’t that the planet is running out of resources—it’s having too many for the planet’s own good.

Start with oil. In 1971, the Limits to Growth team forecast that the world’s supply would run out 10 years from today. And yet according to renowned oil analyst Daniel Yergin, technology advances and new discoveries have allowed oil reserves worldwide to keep growing. For every barrel of oil produced in the world from 2007 to 2009, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added. The World Energy Council reports that global proven recoverable reserves of natural gas liquids and crude oil amounted to 1.2 trillion barrels in 2010. That’s enough to last another 38 years at current usage. Add in shale oil, and that’s an additional 4.8 trillion barrels, or a century and a half’s worth of supply at present usage rates. Tar sands, including some huge Canadian deposits, add perhaps 6 trillion barrels more.

We’re awash in more than oil. One British study from the 1930s predicted an acute global shortage of copper “within a generation.” Not so much. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates global land-based copper resources to be 3 billion tons or more—the equivalent of 185,000 years at current production. That’s almost double the estimate of resources from 11 years ago, which means the number may have further to climb. And when we do finally run out of land-based supplies, there are still the undersea sources to use up.

The long-term picture for phosphate, vital for fertilizer production, is also reassuring, despite a price spike in 2008: Estimated global phosphate reserves climbed from 11 million tons in 1995 to 65 million tons in 2010—equal to 369 years of current production. The list goes on: Current resource estimates suggest it will take 347 years to run out of helium, 890 for beryllium, centuries for chromium, more than a millennium for lithium and strontium. And for those Americans worried about the price of makeup, resources of talc in the U.S. alone are enough to provide more than 1,000 years of supplies at current rates of domestic production.

If we keep on using more minerals, and we don’t do a better job of recycling them, and plans to mine the moon don’t work out, we’ll surely run out of supplies one day. But for pretty much every vital mineral resource, that day looks to be a long way off, which is great news for the world economy. Limits to Growth suggested the world would be on the verge of complete economic collapse around about now, with industrial output falling to its level of 1900 by the end of this century, as resources vital to sustaining a modern economy dried up. However dire today’s global financial crisis, we are nowhere near such a doomsday scenario.

What’s more, expanding resource reserves are great news for poor countries, home to many of the world’s recent mineral discoveries. A growing number of developing economies are likely to earn money from drilling and mining, following in the recent footsteps of countries such as Ghana (on the cusp of an oil boom) and Mongolia (ramping up its copper exports). Although development experts often invoke the “resource curse”—the idea that oil and mining industries predestine a country to dictatorship and poverty—recent analysis by the World Bank suggests the fear of the curse is overblown. “As one might intuitively expect,” the Bank reports, “greater natural resource wealth is associated with higher GDP per capita.”

Managing this planetary cornucopia will, however, present significant challenges. Were we to continue expanding our resource use at current rates, we may pollute our way to a denuded planet. Mining, drilling, and moving industrial commodities is a messy business—the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is just one example—to say nothing of the impact on climate change. The tar sands fields in Alberta, Canada, alone contain 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. That is equal to roughly a half century’s supply at current global oil use—and it’s an environmentalist’s nightmare to extract. Two tons of tar sands are needed to produce every barrel of oil. Getting the sludge-like stuff to the surface takes pumping steam into the tar beds, which in turn takes burning natural gas to heat the steam water. Tar sands oil, in other words, requires greenhouse gasses to produce and emits even more when it is consumed. That was a major reason why climate change activists lobbied so hard for the White House to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

And yet the world economy is becoming increasingly lightweight. Industries consume fewer mineral resources for each dollar of output. As much as two-thirds of global economic activity consists of outputs that don’t pollute or even weigh anything at all—things such as entertainment, education, finance, and health care. The services sectors’ share of global output climbed from 53 percent in 1970 to 71 percent in 2010, according to World Bank data. In part because of that, the amount of energy the planet needs to generate the same amount of wealth is declining.

That evolution may not be happening fast enough to stave off climate change, but it suggests the possibility that we can keep improving global living standards even while reining in our collective impact on the global environment. If we tax carbon emissions, provide financial incentives to preserve global forests, and better regulate mining and drilling to reduce spills and toxic waste, perhaps the global population can protect the planet without sacrificing the well-being of future generations.

There are still plenty of good reasons to conserve the world’s mineral resources—just as there are very good reasons to avoid another war in the Middle East. But fear that the resources will run out isn’t one of them.

Kenny is a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation.

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10 lessons from the world’s great biking cities

Another post with so much common sense its almost ridiculous.  Until we have a mayor, or council members, or business leaders, who are true bike commuters, will we ever get to where we need to be?  Or, is the tipping point near without leadership from the top?

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By Christine Grant

In the Seattle suburb where I grew up, the main transportation choice most residents face is what kind of car to buy. I moved to the city after college and, inspired by the “car-lite” lifestyles of several friends, decided to give cycling a try.

I fell in love with it. Urban cycling freed me from slow buses, parking meters, and mind-numbing elliptical machines. I arrived at work with more energy. I lost weight. I discovered charming neighborhood restaurants. I could smell fresh laundry and dinners in the oven while I pedaled home through residential streets. Getting from A to B on my bike became the best part of my day.

Recently, I won a fellowship and got to spend six months living life on two wheels in the world’s most bike-friendly cities. I brought home 10 lessons for us here in the States:

A bike lane in Denmark. (Photo by Christine Grant.)

1. It’s the infrastructure, stupid!

Amazing infrastructure makes cycling normal and safe in bike meccas. For example, parked cars to the left of the bike lane not only provide a barrier between motorized traffic and cyclists, they also minimize a cyclist’s chance of getting “doored.” Most cars only have one occupant, the driver, and drivers get out on the left.

Bikes move at different speeds than cars or pedestrians, so intersections are safer for cyclists if they have their own traffic signal rhythm. Cyclists in Copenhagen generally get a slight head start over cars so that they’ll be more visible as they cross the intersection.

2. Bike share!

Bike-share programs are sweeping the world, and they are very successful at boosting bike numbers. About 130,000 trips are made each day in Paris on public bikes thanks to the pioneering Vélib bike-share program.

Barcelona’s bike-share program has been wildly succesful at boosting ridership. (Photo by Christine Grant.)

In Barcelona, people used to point and stare if you were pedaling a bike, but in just a few years, a bike-share program called Bicing has changed that. Bicing started in 2007 and quickly tripled cycling trips in the city, according to Miquel Ruscalleda, who directs Barcelona’s cycling efforts. Currently 46 percent of the people you see on bikes in Barcelona are on bright red Bicing bikes.

Ruscalleda also reports that the “safety in numbers” phenomenon is working in his city. Cyclists had a .008 percent chance of being in a traffic accident in 2005, and the rate has dropped to around .005 percent presently.

3. It’s safer than a sofa.

Sedentary living doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. Combating diseases of sedentary living requires 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day — a minimum many people around the world are unable to meet. But almost 40 percent of Copenhagen residents meet their minimum exercise requirements by cycling to work or school.

Copenhagen’s Public Health Department calculates that even when accident costs are factored in, every mile of cycling translates to net health benefits worth $1.30. A recent public health campaign in Copenhagen reminded residents, “You’re safer on your bike than on the sofa!”

Barcelona’s bike counter. (Photo by Christine Grant.)

4. Say “thank you.”

Cyclists also save city governments money by reducing traffic congestion, stormwater run-off, air pollution, and road maintenance expenditures. Many cities are doing little things to show their gratitude.

Barcelona recently installed a counter on a main route displaying the time, temperature, bike count for the day, and progress toward the official annual ridership goal for that route.

Copenhagen has begun putting in footrests at intersections. They say, “Hi, cyclist! Rest your foot here … and thank you for cycling in the city!”

5. Turn streets into backyards.

Dutch road engineer Hans Monderman hated traffic signs in cities and towns. His reasoning was simple: Most drivers don’t look at signs. Speed bumps and stop signs also don’t do much because drivers are notorious for accelerating to “make up time” after each interruption.

Monderman redesigned Dutch towns so that drivers felt like they were passing through someone’s backyard. Monderman’s “backyard” plans called for street furniture — benches, picnic tables, sand boxes, pea patches, trees, flowerpots, and ping pong tables. Drivers either saw or sensed the presence of people and children, and basic social laws kicked in: It isn’t polite to speed through someone’s backyard.

Many residential streets throughout Europe now embody Monderman’s principles.

6. Let prices tell the truth.

Driving — and parking — is much more expensive in other parts of the world. Filling up a tank of gas in Japan will cost you about $7.25 per gallon, and gas prices in most European countries are also much higher than in the U.S.

Donald Shoup, an economist and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking says, “People who want to store their car shouldn’t store it on the most valuable land on the planet, for free.” Street parking is typically $4.50 per hour in European cities.

A woman in Kyoto bikes in heels. (Photo by Christine Grant.)

7. You don’t need “bike clothes.”

Most of the women and men I saw on bicycles throughout Europe and Japan didn’t wear special clothes. People just wore their usual outfits, heels and all.

Women from London to Tokyo looked beautiful, stylish, and feminine while they were cycling. Men frequently pedaled in suits. “Style over speed,” says Mikael Colville-Anderson, who started the Cycle Chic movement.

8. Electrify it.

A cargo bike with two kids and groceries can be hard to get up hills. That’s why many parents in hilly Zurich, Switzerland, use electric-assist bikes. They can also help people who are battling obesity or recovering from a heart attack. A bike shop owner I interviewed in Zurich makes custom electric-assist bicycles for disabled customers who would otherwise be dependent on public transportation.

For this mother and her daughters in Kyoto, biking is a family affair. (Photo by Christine Grant.)

9. Admit it: It’s emotional.

Smell and touch are the senses most linked to our emotions. In Europe and Japan, I spoke with dozens of urban cyclists who talked about the curious happiness derived from activating your senses and connecting with your city on a bicycle. One Amsterdam father’s voice actually cracked with emotion as he reflected on his morning and afternoon rides with his son. His toddler sat in a front-mounted childseat. The father talked about how nice it was to smell his son’s head during the commute to day care.

10. It’s a virtuous cycle.

“Cycling isn’t just a part of the Dutch DNA,” Marc van Woudenberg told me in Amsterdam, where 47 percent of residents make at least one trip per day on a bicycle.

The Dutch have the highest rates of utility cycling in the world because citizens have made it clear to politicians that cycling infrastructure is a priority. Better infrastructure recruits more people onto bikes, which creates more advocates for better infrastructure, which recruits more people onto bikes, and so on. Today, the Dutch continue to advocate for infrastructure that will facilitate cycling.

After six months on my bicycling wanderjahr, I’m inspired by all the creative ways cities are transforming themselves to meet the needs of the 21stcentury: low on carbon, high on physical activity, low on noise and danger, high on fun and style. Here in the U.S., we have exciting opportunities to join the world’s great bike cities and redefine urban transportation on two wheels.

Christine M. Grant frequently wears heels when she cycles in Seattle. You can read more about the cycling cities she visited on her blog Shift.

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Local Economies for a Global Future

This is the best possible way forward.  Do any of our local leaders get it?

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by Jason F. McLennan

We are about to take a dramatic leap into the next era: the modern age of Heavy-Near, Ideas-Far. In a world where energy is increasingly scarce and expensive we simply won’t be able to transport goods and people over far distances. Yet we’ll prioritize energy use for technologies that bring us together virtually – that allow us to connect and share regardless of the distances between communities.  The world is about to get simultaneously bigger and smaller depending on the field of human activity concerned.  Imagine an America where people stick much closer to home. Where we aren’t defined by the open road, but by the quality and depth of our neighborhoods and communities. Where the majority of the things in our lives – our clothes, furniture, food and building materials come from close at hand rather than being globally sourced. We eat according to seasonal variations and see the reemergence of incredible regional diversity in architectural and cultural expressions.

At the same time it won’t be a return to provincialism and hierarchical society—an intensely localized economy will be punctuated by key global technologies that keep us connected, informed and up-to-date—with uniform access to information and ideas despite socio-economic, gender or racial backgrounds. The possibilities for environmental and social/cultural healing is immense.  Yet, this radical re-ordering won’t be easy for us and will at times be violently resisted by those rooted in the current paradigm. I believe that the riots we have been seeing around the world are natural permutations of this emerging paradigm—a world where the average person is super-connected with one another and informed—and frustrated with the status quo world power that refuses to change.

Here are some of the characteristics of the new re-ordering as I see it:

  • The ‘global economy’ as its now defined will shrink rapidly between 2012-2030, as energy scarcity will limit our ability to ship things all over the world. In a short span of time the cost of transporting human or material cargoes over any appreciable distance will simply be too high and the market will begin to correct itself. In its place will emerge strongly local ‘living economies’ with an emphasis on local materials, local knowledge, durability and craft.
  • Super-sized retailers and one-stop shops will all but disappear. If Wal Mart, Costco, Target and others like them survive, its because they will have learned to operate on a new business model based on locally produced goods globally managed through information management technologies (heavy near, light far).
  • As we focus again on food and goods that can be grown or made locally it will have the positive effect of reinvigorating local cultures and revealing regional variations. Artisanship will reemerge and quality will trump quantity. Food and drink will become intensely local—inspiring the re-emergence of creative cuisines and local flavors. Wine from France or Australia will once again be a true luxury here—but thankfully equally good vintages will be available close to home!
  • ‘Winning’ technologies (as defined by those technologies we’ll continue to invest in) will be those that require less energy to make and operate relative to the benefits they provide.  Web-enabled cell phones are a perfect present-day example, as they put a world of information in the hands of any user and draw very little energy in the process, which is why they already are ubiquitous in third world countries. Small solar panels will power hand-held electronics and tablets. Larger machines (cars, elevators, HVAC systems, etc.) will either be completely re-engineered to be super-efficient or will disappear. Larger utility infrastructure (regional energy grids and regional waste treatment plants etc.) will give way to a network of decentralized, distributed technologies.
  • The era of the automobile will finally end. Expect a rapid ‘de-autoization’ of our culture over the next twenty years- despite the introduction of better electric vehicles and hybrids. While some larger specialty vehicles will continue to be supported (I think we’ll keep trains and specialized automobiles for key tasks like ambulances and fire suppression) the original mechanical horse—the bicycle, will emerge as the world’s transportation tool of choice even here in the US (as it is already in many places). Electric assist will extend our ranges, but there is still nothing more efficient than a person on a bike.
  • As we become more globally connected via electronic information exchanges, we will become more physically disconnected beyond a small radius of travel. The costs of mechanized transport will limit our ability to travel overseas and relocate on a whim, but virtual communication we will expand our ability to share ideas with our across-the-world neighbors. So while you may increasingly talk and share ideas with people in other countries the chances of physically visiting them will diminish. The flip side is that we will know our own communities much more intimately while maintaining open dialog with our fellow global citizens. Information will become even more democratic and widely shared.
  • The ultra-rich will continue to be the exception to most of the rules. Wealthy individuals will pay— dearly—or the privilege of globetrotting and having heavy special goods shipped from afar. Yet in a world where the exploitation of the environment and other people’s is no longer tolerated, what it means to be ‘rich’ will begin to be redefined as well.
  • It goes without saying that the network of Certified Living Buildings around North America will only grow and become beacons of hope for the future of our homes, buildings and offices.

Making Global Lemonade

We delivered ourselves here on the very vehicles that we’re managing to make obsolete. So it’s up to us to plan for this next natural cycle of innovation so that we can embrace it mindfully. The path I’ve described is of course by no means certain. The future could spiral in many directions—some quite dire. But I am hopeful of the path that I think is quite possible. Heavy Near—Light Far.

Photo courtesy of Trim Tab

I believe we will return to an intensely local way of living, and one that is globally conscious. We will continue to innovate, and we will share our new ideas with friends we’ll never meet. We’ll eat and wear what’s available in our region, and we’ll create culturally rich communities as we do so. We’ll work with colleagues who live in various countries around the world, and we’ll embrace the beauty of our virtual collaborations. We’ll live in a world of relative scarcity compared to what we had in the 20th century, but we’ll be more connected and abundant from deeper connections to place and culture and a proper relationship with the natural world. We’ll rely on the human machine and ‘current solar income’ to propel us forward, and enjoy the vitality that follows. The transition likely won’t be easy, and we’ll weather many storms, but there is a chance, I believe, to find equilibrium on this planet again.

read the whole article here


This article by Jason F. McLennan was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Trim Tab, the International Living Future Institute’s magazine for transformational people and design. To see this and other issues of Trim Tab, go to https://ilbi.org/education/trim-tab.

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Newsflash: college majors teaching people about food are “useless”

This is another sign of just how screwed up we are here in this country. The article below appears to be advising people who are considering college what kind of major to undertake. It points out that some majors are “useless” in getting a job.  And no one going to college wants to be wasting their time with something “useless.”

Three of the five “useless” majors involve food. Another involves making clothes – kinda important.  And the other is about human expression, which Lord knows we need more of.

The article says that business majors are what we need more of.  Seriously.  Obviously the people that write shit like this have no idea of where the world is going.

So yeah, don’t be useless – get a degree in business. And hope to God that someone you know got one of those useless degrees that will be willing to keep your ass feed and clothed in the hard times coming.

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College Majors That Are Useless: Are you going back to school in hopes of graduating to more job opportunities? You might want to avoid these degrees.

By Terence Loose

If you’re considering going back to school in hopes that you’ll graduate to more opportunities, there are certain degrees that you might want to avoid.

Consider the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) 2012 Job Outlook study, which surveyed almost 1,000 employers on their future hiring plans. Many areas of study, such as fashion design and the performing arts, didn’t even make the list.

On the other hand, majors like business had 83 percent of the surveyed employers saying they planned to recruit them. Close seconds were accounting and computer and information science majors with nearly 60 percent of surveyed employers planning to recruit them.

At the other end of the spectrum are degrees that are either so specific they can’t be applied in a variety of fields, or those linked to careers with virtually little to no projected job growth.

Want to make sure you don’t pick a dud of a degree? Check out our list of most useless degrees.

Useless Degree #1 – Agriculture

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 24,988
Typical coursework: Crops, plant diseases, animal husbandry, basic veterinary science

When schools such as the University of Idaho cut their agriculture programs, you know times are tough for this degree. The state has more than 25,000 farms, for cow’s sake, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census, in 2007.

Still, if your idea of a good day is getting up with the sun and working till it sets as an agricultural manager, a degree in agriculture might be your calling.

Just don’t expect farms and ranches to be calling you, says Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and author of “The 10 Best College Majors for Your Personality.” “It’s true that farms are becoming more efficient now and so there is less of a need for farm managers,” he says. That means less jobs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects 64,000 fewer jobs in this field over the next seven years.

Total Number of Agricultural Managers in 2008: 1,234,000
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: -64,600
Percent Change: -5


Useless Degree #2 – Fashion Design

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 89,140
Typical coursework: Fashion history, sewing, tailoring, color, design, pattern making

The world of high fashion is glamorous, exciting, and, unfortunately, highly exclusive and competitive.

“Fashion never dies out, never ends, and even though everything gets made overseas now, there’s always a need for designers. But it’s incredibly competitive. It’s one you really have to establish yourself in,” Shatkin says.

And those glamour positions are expected to be the ones with the fewest opportunities among an already small field, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Because it’s so tough, Shatkin suggests that getting a practical minor with this degree is very smart.

Total Number of Fashion Designers in 2008: 22,700
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +200
Percent Change: +1


Useless Degree #3 – Theater

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 89,140
Typical coursework: Theater, acting, directing, design, playwriting, communications, dramatic literature

Here’s the good news: Sign up for theater as a major and at least you’ll be really good at acting like you have a job.

Here’s the bad news: Actors endure long periods of unemployment and frequent rejection, says the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department goes on to say that because earnings are erratic for actors, producers, and directors, many hold second jobs. In other words, how do you feel about waiting tables?

Of course, says Shatkin, “People go into this with such a love for it you can’t stop them.”

Total Number of Actors/Producers/Directors in 2008: 155,100
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +16,900
Percent Change: +11


Useless Degree #4 – Animal Science

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 80,756
Typical coursework: Animal breeding, reproductive physiology, nutrition, meat and muscle biology

Here’s another degree aimed at a career that at first glance doesn’t look all that discouraging. After all, animal scientist employment is projected by the U.S. Department of Labor to grow 13 percent from 2008 to 2018.

But crunch a few more numbers and you quickly realize that you could be in for stiff competition to grab a piece of that pie. Fewer than 5,000 animal scientist jobs are projected to exist in the field by 2018.

The problem, says Shatkin, is the degree is so specific that trying to apply it to anything else means a tough time convincing people it gives you any useful skills for jobs outside animal science jobs.

Total Number of Animal Scientists in 2008: 3,700
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018: +500
Percent Change: +13


Useless Degree #5 – Horticulture

Number of Students Awarded Degree in 2008-2009: 24,988
Typical coursework: Crops, plant diseases, agricultural business and economics, crop and fruit science

If you like the farm life but aren’t all that keen on all the whining and clucking of an animal farm, perhaps a degree in horticulture is growing on you.

Unfortunately, the number of jobs in the field itself is not growing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And Shatkin agrees. “Better than agriculture, but not by much. If you’re lucky, you may find some way to apply that to a related business like food processing or production,” he says.

Total Number of Farmers and Ranchers in 2008: 985,900
Projected Change in Number of Jobs 2008-2018:
-79,200
Percent Change:
-8


*All job and job growth and coursework information for 2008-2018 is attained from the U.S. Department of Labor. Number of degrees awarded information comes from Newsweek’s Daily Beast.com’s “20 Most Useless Degrees” report.

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Baltimore’s can-do approach to food justice

I’m working on a project in Lexington called FoodWorks:  East End.  The goal opf this project is to create a food information center – a place where people can go to learn about all things food related.  It’s a small step toward improving food justice here.   The article below highlights some really creative ideas – I hope to bring some of them here.

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By Vanessa Barrington

Cities all over the country are addressing the lack of access to fresh and healthy food on the part of their residents, but few are in as much of a bind as Baltimore.

Like Detroit, and other cities known for their class and race disparity, Baltimore has been losing population and gaining vacant land at a fast pace in recent decades. The result is vast swaths of neighborhoods located far from grocery stores. Baltimore gave itself a D on its own 2010 Health Disparities Report Card, which found that 43 percent of the residents in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods had little access to healthy foods, compared to 4 percent in predominantly white neighborhoods. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of the city’s adults and almost 40 percent of high school students are overweight or obese.

In other words, the situation is a dire one. But it’s not all bad news; in fact, the city of Baltimore is going to great lengths to make a change.

Speaking on a panel at the recent Community Food Security Coalition Conference in Oakland, Calif., Abby Cocke, of Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability, and Laura Fox, of the city health department’s Virtual Supermarket Program, outlined two approaches to address the city’s food deserts. Both were presenting programs that have launched since Grist last reported on Baltimore’s efforts to address food justice. And both programs come under the auspices of The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, a rare intergovernmental collaboration between the city’s Department of Planning, Office of Sustainability, and Health Department. They also show how an active, involved city government and a willingness to try new ideas can change the urban food landscape for the better.

According to Cocke, Baltimore’s Planning Department has a new mindset. She calls it a “place-based” model. “In the past,” she says, “growth was seen as the only way to improve the city, but we’re starting to look at ways to make our neighborhoods stronger, healthier, and more vibrant places at the low density that they’re at now.”

Intercropping farms within the urban landscape

In cities like Oakland — where well-known urban farmer Novella Carpenter was slapped with a large fine recently, resulting in a public push for changes to the zoning laws  – shifts in urban policy have been largely reactive. Other cities, like Detroit, have taken a hands-off approach. Thanks to Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability, however, the city is actively encouraging the creation of small entrepreneurial farms on vacant lots to bring more healthy fresh food to city residents.

In 2010, planning officials met with urban farmers to find out what they would need to grow food in the city. Planners mapped out 20 publicly owned parcels (ranging from one to 12 acres) that met the farmers’ criteria. City officials then encouraged experienced commercial and nonprofit groups to submit a business plan. Of the 10 initial responses, four commercial farms — including Five Seeds Farm and Seed and Cycle — and one nonprofit, Real Food Farm, were qualified to start farming.

The parcels will be leased to the would-be farmers for a mere $100 a year, and the city will make start-up capital available for those who need it. Baltimore is also rewriting its entire zoning code, one major goal of which is to facilitate farming within city limits. In addition to making its citizens healthier, says Cocke, the city hopes to “transform vacant lots, increase environmental awareness among its citizens, create green jobs, and raise its profile as a leader.”

fod desert

Image: Center for a Livable Future Bringing the supermarket to libraries and other public spaces

Urban farming is a useful way to make more people aware of where their fruit and vegetables comes from, but it can only provide so much food. That’s where Baltimore’s Virtual Supermarket program — a creative public-private partnership that utilizes the city’s libraries to bring fresh groceries to remote neighborhoods — enters the picture.

According to Fox, the original idea was to launch the program in churches in underserved areas. But city officials quickly found that most people didn’t feel comfortable going into unfamiliar churches. Not to be deterred, and recognizing a good idea, the city began looking at other easily accessible neighborhood spaces, and eventually settled on public libraries.

Working with The Center for a Livable Future at nearby Johns Hopkins University, the health department conducted a mapping project to target neighborhoods with no access to fresh food, low vehicle ownership, low income, and high mortality rates from diet-related diseases. They found that as much as 18 percent of Baltimore qualifies as a food desert, using these criteria. (This data is the basis of the city’s first official “food desert map,” which will be released in January 2012).

Partnering with Santoni’s, a local, family-owned grocery chain, the city launched Virtual Supermarket in March 2010 in two public libraries. Users place orders from the city’s free-to-use library computers, and Santoni’s staff members deliver the food. Customers can pay with EBT cards, cash, or credit/debit cards.

Today the program includes three libraries and one school, and its success has enabled the city to hire a full-time community organizer to recruit potential customers at senior centers and public housing complexes. To date, 150 different customers have made 700 orders.

Although the city prohibits tobacco, it doesn’t regulate what types of foods people can buy. Nonetheless, 60 percent of the Virtual Supermarket customers polled reported that their diets have improved. Most importantly, according to Fox, the program keeps Baltimore residents from having to travel an hour by bus to the nearest store, or pay to take one of the numerous unofficial cabs that line up outside the city’s grocery stores. She says she sees it as a “health equity program,” adding, “why should someone have to pay $15 to get their groceries home in a cab when someone in a wealthier neighborhood who owns a car would pay 25 cents?”

What’s next for Baltimore? For one, the city is upping its focus on cooking. They’ll soon be staging cooking demonstrations at farmers markets and other locations, and launching a program to get citizens talking to their neighbors about nutrition and cooking.

Last March, Baltimore also became one of the first cities in America to hire a full time Food Policy Director. Holly Freishtat works out of the Office of Sustainability in the Department of Planning. As Fox sees it, embedding healthy food policy into the planning department makes complete sense. After seeing some city residents endure an ongoing ordeal simply to get fresh food on their tables, she says, “Where you live affects your whole being.”

Vanessa is a writer, cookbook author, cook, and food consultant based in Oakland, CA. She is the author of DIY Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food from Scratch and the co-author of Heirloom Beans with Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo. Her writing also appears regularly on both EcoSalon.com and CivilEats.com.

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Goodbye growth. Hello contraction

by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Habituating to Contraction  

The Savior State has pulled out all the stops to prop up the Status Quo. Its gargantuan borrowing and spending have fixed nothing. Contraction is replacing expansion as the new normal.

For the past 67 years, Americans have been conditioned to expect expansion and more of everything: more income, more stuff, more opportunity, more benefits, more medical care, more government entitlements, and so on.

As a result, Americans have habituated to permanent expansion. The concept that contraction–less of everything–is the new normal simply doesn’t register; it is rejected, denied, or decried as a great tragedy. The notion that it is simply reality does not compute with a populace habituated to permanent “growth” that is at worst interrupted by brief recessions.

U.S. politicians have learned that Soaring Rhetoric (TM) about “morning in America,” “the New Frontier,” “hope” and other ritualistic appeals to permanent expansion win elections, while accurate descriptions of reality lose elections.

The voting public’s demand for “permanent good news” promising permanent expansion has spawned a feedback loop of officially sanctioned manipulated statistics and media spin (a.k.a. propaganda) that expands with every administration, even as the real economy visibly weakens. Though the Obama Administration has perfected the techniques of presenting “permanent good news,” the divergence of the real economy and the official “story” that “we’ve returned to permanent expansion” is widening.

The real story is the “expansion” has cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars in new debt and trillions of dollars of backstops, shadow purchases and money-printing by the Federal Reserve. Roughly speaking, $6 trillion in additional Federal borrowing has been blown to simply keep the Status Quo from imploding, and around $13 trillion in guarantees, backstops, asset purchases, and losses made good have been issued to keep the Status Quo’s financial sector afloat and in charge.

By any credible, unmanipulated measure, for example, the number of people with fulltime employment or household income, the economy has yet to recover to 2007 levels.

This reality must be denied, both by the power-obsessed politicos who fear the truth like vampires fear garlic-garlanded crosses, and by voters who fear a reduction in their personal share of the swag.

Humans habituate quickly to a wide range of conditions and expectations, but once they’ve settled into the new habitat, they are resistant to new conditions. Needless to say, humans prefer a future in which there will be more of everything over one with less of everything, as permanent expansion means there will be few if any troublesome cost-benefit analyses, hard choices or painful triage, and little need to adjust to new realities.

Changing conditioning is difficult and often arduous.

Americans have been conditioned for three generations to expect the Savior State to “do something” during downturns to “make it right.” The idea that systemic problems are now beyond the reach of the Federal government does not compute; there must be something the government can do to “fix” everything.

This notion that the Central State is effectively omniscient and all-powerful is central to the belief system of Americans now. The concept that the government cannot fix the problem, or that government central-planning has made the problem worse, is anathema to everyone conditioned to believe government intervention will “save the day.”

The basic reality is the Federal government has already pulled out all the stops in the past four years to “make the economy recover,” and all its unprecedented actions have accomplished is to maintain the Status Quo via unsustainably gargantuan borrowing, spending and backstopping.

If we scrape away the rhetoric and bogus statistics, at heart the current fantasy that the U.S. has “decoupled” from the global economy and will remain an island of “permanent prosperity” in a sea of recession boils down to this belief: the Federal government “won’t let us stay in recession.” In other words, it’s within the power of the Central State to make good every loss, guarantee every debt, maintain the Empire, solve every geopolitical challenge and find technological or military solutions to potential energy shortages. All we need is the “will” to force the government to use its essentially unlimited power to “fix everything.”

A people conditioned to this expectation will have great difficulty accepting that their government has already done everything possible, and that these stupendous debt-based expenditures are simply not sustainable going forward. Some problems are not fixable by more government intervention; indeed, government intervention in the marketplace is like insulin: the system begins to lose sensitivity to Central State manipulation and intervention.

2012 is looking like the year that the American public will have to face up to the fact that the Central State’s massive efforts to “fix the economy” have failed, and that Central State support of the Status Quo cannot fix what’s broken.

We will have to habituate to contraction, and the belief in a god-like Savior State with unlimited powers and money will fade as the economy’s systemic illnesses–extreme concentrations of power and wealth, corruption, financial leverage, excessive debt and so on–reassert themselves.

All that has happened for four long years is systemic problems were papered over to benefit the Status Quo. Everything that is broken awaits real repair.

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Cycles and cents: One city sets out to prove that bikes are good for business

There’s so much common sense in here, it’s almost ridiculous.  I saw where the city has installed 30 bike racks on downtown recently.  Woohoo. For a city that seems to be desperately craving jobs and investment, it’s amazing to me that bikes aren’t a much bigger part of the equation.

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by Mark Hertsgaard

Look out, Minneapolis and Portland. Long Beach is making its move, aiming to surpass you as America’s Most Bike Friendly City. Does that sound odd for a city whose chief claim to environmental fame has been its massively polluting port and offshore oil facilities — a city that, like the rest of Southern California, has long been in thrall of the car?

Well, all that’s changing, and the change is coming from the top. Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who says he tries to bike 100 miles a week, actually laughs about the car addiction of his mega neighbor to the north. “I love that scene in L.A. Story where Steve Martin gets behind the wheel, backs out of his driveway, and drives to his neighbor’s driveway,” Foster says. “He won’t even walk as far as his neighbor’s house!”

Of course, there are still plenty of cars in Long Beach (though Foster himself drives an electric one), but bicycles are getting more respect, not to mention resources, than ever before. With help from state and federal grants and pressure from local cycling enthusiasts, the city government has installed 130 miles of bike trails, established protected bike lanes (that is, lanes separated from vehicular traffic by physical barriers) on major commuter thoroughfares, created bike boulevards that enable kids and parents to bike or walk safely to and from school, and installed 50 new bike racks.

Perhaps most innovative has been the city’s effort to establish bike-friendly shopping districts — the first in the country, officials say — engaging local merchants by showing them how, contrary to common belief, biking can actually bring more customers and vitality to shopping districts.

“The math is pretty simple,” says April Economides, the principal of Green Octopus Consulting and the leader of the city’s outreach to local businesses. “You can park 12 bikes in the amount of space it takes to park one car. And someone who shifts from owning a car to a bicycle tends to have more discretionary income, because, for a commuter, the typical cost of a bicycle is $300 a year, compared to $7,000 a year for a car.”

Economides, a vivacious 36-year-old whose family owns one of the best-known restaurants in town, describes herself as a “social change agent” who leverages the power of small business. “At first, most merchants didn’t think about bikes or even had a negative view of them,” she says. “My job was to educate them about how biking can put more money in their pockets.”

Kerstin Kansteiner, whose Berlin coffee shop is a member of the East Village Arts Bike-Friendly Business District, confirms the point. “I see it every day,” she says. “The bike racks outside our shop increase our visibility and bring us more customers. People on bikes stop at places they haven’t visited before because they don’t have to try to find parking.”

Lauren Lilly, the 28-year-old co-owner of Yellow 108, a sustainable clothing business that sells its hats and sunglasses in Whole Foods and other retailers nationwide, says the company moved to Long Beach from L.A. last year “because we saw Long Beach as an up-and-coming area, and it’s a lot less expensive.” Her showroom is located on one of Long Beach’s bike boulevards. “We saw lots of bike commuters going by, and that’s our core demographic: working professionals who want to live a healthy, planet-friendly lifestyle.”

In the Belmont Shore neighborhood, a green sharrows lane extends for a mile through an upscale shopping district. The lane is not physically separated from vehicular traffic, but it feels almost as safe to a bicyclist. “Putting green paint down is a sign that the city authority says that bikes belong here,” says Charlie Gandy, a consultant to the city government. “In southern California it’s assumed that bikes don’t belong, but this sends a different message. That’s also important for the larger public education campaign around the role of bikes in our community.”

Local officials concede that making Long Beach the most bike-friendly city in America is still more an aspiration than a reality. Still, boosting cycling reinforces a new narrative for Long Beach, says Allan Crawford, the bicycle coordinator in the city’s Department of Public Works. “Long Beach has always been seen as the poor stepchild to L.A., but now we’re recreating our image,” he says. “We’re saying, especially to young people, Long Beach is a lot cheaper than L.A., and it’s not sterile like Orange County [Long Beach's neighbor to the south]. It’s easy to get around here, we encourage a car-light lifestyle, it’s still a great beach town, and there’s all these hip places to enjoy, too.”

Not everyone is pleased, of course. A taxi driver named Kenny says bike lanes only reduce parking spots and slow traffic flow, especially because cyclists are “lackadaisical” — by which he seems to mean they don’t pedal as fast as cars want to travel.

Mayor Foster says there is an element of truth to such complaints, but only a tiny one. “Parking is always an issue,” he says. “But I drive [the commuter thoroughfares of] Third Street and Broadway every day, and I don’t wait any longer for [traffic] light changes than I did before.”

Then he quotes an ancient philosopher: “I like a line by Aristotle, ‘Beware the barrenness of a busy life,'” Foster says. “Sometimes I can’t remember at the end of a day what I did the past eight hours. That’s moving too fast. A bit slower pace in life is a good thing.”

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Who said it?

“How much of the popular sport of blaming the poor for their poverty, I wonder, and how much of the current pseudoconservative fad of insisting that the poor aren’t actually poor, comes from people who are desperately trying to convince themselves that their jobs are irreplaceable, their retirement funds secure, and the sudden dizzying fall into the ranks of the impoverished can’t possibly happen to them?

If the downward arc of business as usual in an age of decline is what we’re facing, though, that sort of tortured logic is a pretty fair guarantee of final failure. The only way out of the trap, as I’ve argued here rather more than once, is to accept a steep cut in your standard of living before it becomes necessary, as a deliberate choice, and to use the resources freed up by that choice to get rid of any debts you have, get settled in a location that has a fair chance of keeping a viable degree of community life going, and get the tools and learn the skills that you will need to manage a decent life in an age of spiraling decline. To those who cling to the idea that they can maintain their present lifestyles, admittedly, it’s hard to think of any advice less welcome, but the universe is in no way obligated to give us the future we want—even if what we want is a sudden blow that will spare us the harder experience of the Long Descent.”

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50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

This is really frightening….better to just ignore it probably…..

from the economic collapse blog

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Even though most Americans have become very frustrated with this economy, the reality is that the vast majority of them still have no idea just how bad our economic decline has been or how much trouble we are going to be in if we don’t make dramatic changes immediately.  If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them.  Just “tweaking” things here and there is not going to fix this economy.  We truly do need a fundamental change in direction.  America is consuming far more wealth than it is producing and our debt is absolutely exploding.  If we stay on this current path, an economic collapse is inevitable.  Hopefully the crazy economic numbers from 2011 that I have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.

At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point.  Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends.  If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that “business as usual” will result in a national economic apocalypse.

The following are 50 economic numbers from 2011 that are almost too crazy to believe….

#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be “low income” or are living in poverty.

#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be “low income” or impoverished.

#3 If the number of Americans that “wanted jobs” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.

#5 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.

#6 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#7 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.

#8 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006.  Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.

#9 A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

#10 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

#11 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#12 Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

#13 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.

#14 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.

#15 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

#16 As the economy has slowed down, so has the number of marriages.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.

#17 The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year.

#18 In Stockton, California home prices have declined 64 percent from where they were at when the housing market peaked.

#19 Nevada has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for 59 months in a row.

#20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant.  That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

#22 New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.

#23 As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents.

#24 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#25 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980.  Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#26 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

#27 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

#28 The United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#29 It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.

#30 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse.  According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

#31 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#32 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America’s biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#33 Today, the “too big to fail” banks are larger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

#34 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#35 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.

#36 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.

#37 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.

#38 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.

#39 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#40 Sadly, child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America.  According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#41 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#42 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#43 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits.  Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

#44 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP.  Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.

#45 For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars.  That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.

#46 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.

#47 Amazingly, the U.S. government has now accumulated a total debt of 15 trillion dollars.  When Barack Obama first took office the national debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.

#48 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

#49 The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.

#50 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.

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The peak oil crisis: 2012 – apocalypse now?

Merry Christmas……

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by Tom Whipple

This would not be a biblical apocalypse or even a Mayan one, but rather an event of our own making. The world has made so many problems for itself in recent decades that the whole edifice of civilization is showing signs of coming unglued.

This sort of thing has happened within living memory – remember 1914 and 1939 – so a year in which much comes undone should not come as a great surprise. If you are looking for a general theory of what is about to happen to us, you might start with Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies in which the author identifies 17 examples of rapid societal collapse. In a nutshell, if anybody thinks the Roman Empire collapsed from too much complexity, one should look at the U.S. tax code or the efforts to refinance the EU’s sovereign debt. Compared to the machinations of the 7 billion people currently running around the world, the Romans were running a kindergarten.

Whether the global civilization, or significant parts thereof, comes unstuck sooner or later is obviously a judgment call, but a case can be made that some very bad things might be coming in the next year or so. There would seem to be two fundamental problems behind the coming upheavals. One is that we are running into constraints on resources and the other is that the OECD nations have simply accumulated so much debt that it is unlikely to ever be repaid. No one ever thinks of the atmosphere’s ability to absorb and carry off carbon emissions as a resource, but as the world’s climate changes for the worse, that is exactly what it is. It could easily turn out over the course of the next 10 decades, that the atmosphere’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases turns out to be far more important than reserves of fossil fuels.

Looking at what seems to be shaping up for 2012 that could be of apocalyptic proportions we have the rapidly deteriorating financial situation in the EU. Despite endless expressions of optimism on the part of political leaders, most unbiased observers believe there is nothing that can be done to prevent an economic downturn. Some are politely referring to this downturn as a double-dip recession, but others foresee a global depression equal to or worse than the one that occurred 80 years ago. The “worse than” thesis comes from the notion that there will not be the quantities of cheap energy available to support a recovery, and that there will have to be a major transition in the sources and use of energy before economic growth will ever resume.


A case can be made that some very bad things might be coming in the next year or so.


While most attention has been paid to refinancing debt, persistently high oil prices are gaining increasing recognition as a major factor in slowing economic growth. While high oil prices coupled with new technologies have brought forth new sources of oil, most commentators ignore the fact that this “new” oil is simply unaffordable in today’s economies. The older cheap stuff that we have been living on for the last century still makes up about 75 percent of our daily consumption, but, and this is a big but, the cheap oil is disappearing at the rate of 3-4 million barrels a day (b/d) each year. In 20 years cheap oil will be largely gone, replaced by unaffordable “unconventional oil,” if we can raise enough capital to exploit the stuff. Recent economic research shows that when the U.S. spends more than 4.5 percent of its GDP on oil, it goes into recession. Although there is some debate on how to calculate the price at which oil prices seriously damage the GDP, some say $90 a barrel will do nicely. Keep in mind that oil has been selling in most places for over $100 a barrel during 2011 and shows no signs of retreating very much in the near future.

The second set of problems likely to explode in 2012 is the political instability. The most serious is in the Arab world, but as demonstrations in Moscow, China, Kazakhstan, Europe, and even mild ones on Wall Street show, social unrest is turning into a worldwide problem as resources become constrained and economic growth slows. Mankind now has seven billion mouths to feed and these are increasing by 70 million each year. There is going to be a turning point, the only question is when?

Unrest and various geopolitical confrontations have already reduced or eliminated oil exports from Libya, Yemen, and Syria this year. Efforts to sanction Iran seem to be picking up steam and the oil markets are nervous that many countries soon will be forced to stop buying Iranian crude. The Syrian situation continues downhill and the delicate Iraqi political balance that was crafted by the US appears to have lasted for only a few days after the last US troops were withdrawn. It is a good bet that there is going to be less oil exported from the Middle East and possibly Central Asia by the end of next year – raising oil prices despite deteriorating economic conditions.

On top of an emerging global economic downturn and the prospects for less oil from the Middle East, we have the United States where the electorate seems to have voted itself into political gridlock while seeking to vote for better times. It seems likely that very little in terms of improving economic policies will be accomplished in Washington until another election or two takes place and the electorate can sort out some sort of coherent path for the country. Until then a large case of fiscal austerity and more unemployment will be the order of the day.

The case for major new troubles starting in 2012 rests on the likelihood of the collapse of much or all of the Eurozone and increased turmoil in the Middle East. The interesting part of this scenario is both of these situations can come about in numerous ways. This of course increases the chances markedly that something very bad will indeed happen soon.

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Are Slower Cities Better for Bikers, the Air, and Our Mental Health?

Do planners in Lexington ever think about such things?  If they do, what becomes of those thoughts?  It sure isn’t reflected in the city we inhabit.

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By Will Doig, Salon

This story originally appeared at Salon.

In Hollywood movies, the cities of the future have speeding monorails and flying cars, everyone careening toward their destination at a zillion miles per hour. (The future always looks surprisingly like “The Jetsons,” which turns 50 next year.)

It makes for great CGI. But does it make for a great city? For generations, velocity has defined the urban experience: screeching subways, maniacal taxis, hustling crowds. Life in the fast lane. A New York minute is no minute at all. Even as our roads become clogged with traffic, we think of cities as most city-like when they move at a blur.

But look around (if you have a second) and you might notice that a lot of the new ideas seeping into cities are aimed not at making them faster, but slowing them down. The buzziest mode of transport now is a bicycle. Streetcars, a pokey throwback, are returning. Walkable neighborhoods, traffic-calming measures and “slow zones” are catching on, and freeways are being torn down and replaced with lower-speed boulevards. Even things likesit-down pedestrian plazas and pop-up cafes seem to indicate a desire to slacken the pace.

Slower cities have a lot to recommend them. “It’s not just a road safety issue,” says Rod King, the creator of “20′s Plenty for Us,” a movement to reduce London’s speed limit to 20 miles per hour. “There are a lot of peripheral advantages to slowing down traffic.” The advantages include increased biking because roads aren’t so scary, the need for less infrastructure like speed bumps, and better air quality (racing from one traffic light to the next burns more fuel). Add in the public-safety benefits of slower cars (which are hard to overstate — a few extra miles per hour canliterally kill) and putting on the brakes starts to look like a no-brainer.

For this reason, speed may be the next battleground for urban streets. Advocates for safer, more walkable and bikable cities have spent the last decade agitating largely for infrastructure: bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, curb bulb-outs and other concrete improvements. Now, they say, the fight is turning to “enforcement” — a demand for cities to crack down on dangerous driving.

Such efforts are already getting results. Seattle’s mayor wants a 20 mile-per-hour speed limit on some city streets. Last month, Washington, D.C., was talking about 15. Advocates are starting to pressure police to ticket urban speeders. There’s a growing awareness that cars could be a bigger urban menace than guns. (In a future column, we’ll look at the push to get tough on drivers who kill pedestrians.)

But the slow-city movement isn’t just about cars, nor is it always about safety. There’s a growing sense that getting around — even if it is slower — can become a joy in itself.

The streetcar resurgence is a prime example. Streetcars are sometimes slower than the bus lines they replace (some of them aren’t much faster than walking) and yet they’re wildly popular. “There are two things people say about the streetcar” in Portland, Ore., says Michael Andersen, creator of the publication Portland Afoot. “One is, ‘The streetcar is soooo sloooow.’ And the other is, ‘I loooove the streetcar.’”

The benefits and drawbacks of slow-mo transit have become a hot topic among planning geeks. In 2008, urbanist Patrick M. Condon asserted that slow streetcars would be better for Vancouver than faster rapid transit. His argument: “A high-speed system is best if the main intention is to move riders quickly from one side of the region to the other. Lower operational speeds are better if your intention is to best serve city districts with easy access within them …” In other words, in dense urban neighborhoods, slower transit with more places to hop on and off can be more useful than a fast subway that makes a single stop.

It feels strange to equate slowing down with moving ahead, but in some ways, slowing down cities, much like the slow-food movement, is about shrugging off some of the 20th century’s ill-conceived “innovations.” A hundred years ago, city streets were a multi-use melting pot of cars, trolleys, horses, buggies, bicycles and pedestrians, all moving together in a low-speed symphony. It was easy to share the road because few things moved fast enough to be really dangerous. It wasn’t until the 1930s and ’40s that we started to see the streets as reserved for things that could go very fast, and pedestrians were expected to stick to the sidewalks. “Over time, without express agreement or even acknowledgment, the streets gradually became off-limits to the unwheeled,” wrote the New York Times in a recent look back at mid-century urban street life.

Now, gradually, the pendulum appears to be swinging back toward slower streets, partly because walkable neighborhoods and urban density are in vogue again. A lazy streetcar, a strolling pedestrian or a languidly pedaling bicyclist are all signs that neighborhood life in that area is healthy and abundant. They indicate that you’re somewhere that’s packed with businesses, parks, playgrounds — things that people want to stop and use — and, in circular fashion, they encourage even more of that stuff to be built.

Not everyone buys it, of course. Condon’s argument sparked a small riot on transit consultant Jarrett Walker’s popular blog under a post titled, “Is Speed Obsolete?” Does slow transit really take cars off the road, or just pedestrians? How are streetcars better than buses? And for that matter, are bicycles even a slow way to get around? (Who could forget last summer’s thrilling bicyclist-versus-JetBlue battle royale in Los Angeles?) The debate over slowing down cities remains very much up for grabs.

Maybe the bigger dilemma is that, too much of the time, our cities aren’t going fast or slow. Chuck Marohn, executive director of the nonprofit Strong Towns, has argued that we continue to make the mistake of building 45 mile-per-hour cities — places where we travel (usually by car) at a speed that’s somewhere in the murky middle. This happens because we forget the difference between a street, where vibrant, valuable, low-speed development should flourish, and a road, which should quickly take us from one place to another. Instead, Marohn says, we’ve ended up with a bunch of “stroads” — four-lane arteries, lined with mini malls and parking lots, that are too fast to encourage good development, and too slow to efficiently move us in and out.

But there are signs everywhere that that might be changing, and that the value of slower streets is hitting home. Merchants who originally worried that traffic-calming measures would hurt their bottom lines are now realizing the benefits. Pedestrian plazas and pop-up cafes have proven extremely popular as amenities that encourage people to pause, socialize, and do a little texting. Even New York’s slow zones are a hit. It all goes to show that a great city doesn’t need to move at the speed of Hollywood to have its own kinetic energy. Life in the slow lane can be just as sweet.

© 2011 Salon All rights reserved.

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Some thoughts on the Rupp Arena Redesign…..

As we ponder over the renderings showing a gleamingly refurbished Rupp Arena and the shiny new adjacent buildings, something pretty sad jumps out at me:  the coal smoke pouring from UK’s electric plant.

We will never be the city of our imagination until we address the twin realities we face:  resource depletion and global warming.  All the slick pictures showing what could be are meaningless as long as we have the largest carbon footprint in the nation.  No amount of work on renovating the Palace of Rupp to keep the masses placated 30 nights a year will lead us to the city we need to become.  See, all the buildings shown in the picture will be powered by coal – unless some huge leap of consciousness occurs among our city’s leaders, which seems to be unlikely.

How many more mountains will be destroyed to power these buildings?   How much more pollution will we tolerate to get this shiny city?  How will we afford the ever increasing costs of fossil fuels?

The city we need to be lies in the answers to those questions.

But I think most people will ask when the view these drawings is one most important to them:  where are the parking lots?

All that said, I do like how the Town Branch weaves into and through the entire complex.

 

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Lawrence Kansas has a peak oil plan: why don’t we?

Hell if the cornhead Jayhawkers in a college town can begin planning for the future, why can’t we? If we really care about economic “growth” then why don’t we have a plan to avoid dealing with the end of growth that would actually put our city in an advantageous position relative to other cities that don’t have a plan?  I think the problem is the wannabe 1%ers who run this town do not want to ever hear anything that contradicts their worldview.  That problem must not exist in Lawrence as the city council there unanimously approved the Peak Oil Task Force Report

From the report:

“If our community fails to anticipate and respond to the end of affordable, plentiful oil, the eventual scarcity and expense of everything dependent on petroleum may well leave Lawrence with a limited and unappealing range of choices. But if Lawrence is proactive in transitioning to lower oil use, it may be able to choose optimal transportation modes and lifestyles. The challenge is to develop local alternatives to oil before the need becomes severe. A related challenge involves presenting those local alternatives as opportunities that Lawrence’s citizens will embrace.”


Key Conclusions
This report, Solutions to Peak Oil Vulnerabilities: A Response Plan for Lawrence, Kansas, is based on the following key conclusions:
1. Reliable sources, including the U.S. Department of Energy, predict that worldwide demand for oil soon will exceed known worldwide supply and extraction rates.
2. Oil and oil-related products will become increasingly expensive and difficult for communities to procure.
3. Lawrence is vulnerable to peak oil challenges in areas such as transportation; food supply; water, wastewater, and solid waste treatment; energy delivery; emergency services; and communications.
4. Reducing local demand for and consumption of oil and oil-related products will be Lawrence’s most immediately effective strategy for coping with peak oil challenges.
5. Lawrence should initiate adaptive measures before the need becomes severe.
6. Communicating peak oil challenges and recommended actions to the citizens of Lawrence will increase the effectiveness of adaptive measures.

The goal of this report is to chart a course for a resilient local government, a resilient business community, and resilient patterns for living and working.

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Sounds good and reasonable – why don’t we have a plan like this? Especially since we are entering into a new comprehensive planning phase….

I really like this economic growth aspect:  “Partner with the Chamber of Commerce and economic development interests to aggressively recruit businesses engaged in research and manufacturing of renewable
energy technologies.

Read the whole thing here

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Get this straight: the rich DO NOT create jobs

Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators

By Nick Hanauer

(Bloomberg) — It is a tenet of American economic beliefs, and an article of faith for Republicans that is seldom contested by Democrats: If taxes are raised on the rich, job creation will stop.

Trouble is, sometimes the things that we know to be true are dead wrong. For the larger part of human history, for example, people were sure that the sun circles the Earth and that we are at the center of the universe. It doesn’t, and we aren’t. The conventional wisdom that the rich and businesses are our nation’s “job creators” is every bit as false.

I’m a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I’ve started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc.

Even so, I’ve never been a “job creator.” I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.

That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.

Theory of Evolution

When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it’s the other way around.

It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.

That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years.

Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s. In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.

One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, I go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.

It’s true that we do spend a lot more than the average family. Yet the one truly expensive line item in our budget is our airplane (which, by the way, was manufactured in France by Dassault Aviation SA), and those annual costs are mostly for fuel (from the Middle East). It’s just crazy to believe that any of this is more beneficial to our economy than hiring more teachers or police officers or investing in our infrastructure.

More Shoppers Needed

I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.

If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.

It is mathematically impossible to invest enough in our economy and our country to sustain the middle class (our customers) without taxing the top 1 percent at reasonable levels again. Shifting the burden from the 99 percent to the 1 percent is the surest and best way to get our consumer-based economy rolling again.

Significant tax increases on the about $1.5 trillion in collective income of those of us in the top 1 percent could create hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our economy, rather than letting it pile up in a few bank accounts like a huge clot in our nation’s economic circulatory system.

Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high.

We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.

So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business.

(Nick Hanauer is a founder of Second Avenue Partners, a venture capital company in Seattle specializing in early state startups and emerging technology. He has helped launch more than 20 companies, including aQuantive Inc. and Amazon.com, and is the co-author of two books, “The True Patriot” and “The Gardens of Democracy.” The opinions expressed are his own.)

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Soaring Oil and Food Prices Threaten Affordable Food Supply

I’m glad to see UK has its priorities in order about the whole arts and entertainment district.  If city leaders  want to do something really important for the future of Lex, then ensuring food security will be at the very front of the list.  But don’t hold your breath:  we have too many people at the top who are holding on to the hope that the old world isn’t dying.

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by Richard Heinberg

Advance version, for publication in UNCTAD Trade and Environment Review 2011/2012 (February 2012).

Abstract
The current global food system is highly fuel- and transport-dependent. Fuels will almost certainly become less affordable in the near and medium term, making the current, highly fuel-dependent agricultural production system less secure and food less affordable. It is therefore necessary to promote food self-sufficiency and reduce the need for fuel inputs to the food system at all levels.

The connection between food and oil is systemic, and the prices of both food and fuel have risen and fallen more or less in tandem in recent years (figure 1). Modern agriculture uses oil products to fuel farm machinery, to transport other inputs to the farm, and to transport farm output to the ultimate consumer. Oil is often also used as input in agricultural chemicals. Oil price increases therefore put pressure on all these aspects of commercial food systems.
Figure 1: Evolution of food and fuel prices, 2000 to 2009
Sources: US Energy Information Administration and FAO.
Thus there is concern that high and volatile prices of crude oil may cause food prices to continue to increase (Bloomberg, 2011).
Moreover, as oil prices rise, so does demand for biofuels, which are the only non-fossil liquid fuels able to replace petroleum products in existing combustion engines and motor vehicles. But biofuels are often made from corn and other agricultural products. As demand for these alternative fuels increases, crop prices are forced upwards, making food even less affordable.
Export-led agricultural strategies also increase the world’s vulnerability to high oil prices. Most donor agencies have encouraged the less industrialized countries to focus on the production of cash crops at the expense of staples for local consumption. As a result, people in these countries are forced to rely increasingly on imports of often subsidized cereals or those funded by food aid programmes. However, rising transport costs contribute to rising prices of food imports, making them ever less affordable. Fuel costs represent as much as 50 to 60 per cent of total ship operating costs.[1] From early 2007 to mid-2008, as fuel prices soared, the cost of shipping food aid climbed by about $50 per ton – a nearly 30 per cent increase, according to the United States Agency for International Development (Garber, 2008).
Meanwhile, many poor farmers who cannot afford machinery, fuels and commercial farm inputs find themselves at a disadvantage in the global food economy. Compounding this are agricultural policies in industrialized food-exporting countries that subsidize domestic producers and dump surpluses onto developing countries, thus adding to the economic disadvantages of the smallholder farmers in those countries. As a result, millions of those farmers are being driven out of business annually, those countries are giving increasing priority to production for export and they are witnessing a burgeoning landless poor urban class (whose immediate ancestors were subsistence farmers) that is chronically malnourished and hungry.
Soaring food and fuel prices have a disproportionate impact on developing countries and on poor people in developed countries. Americans, who, on average, spend less than one tenth of their income on food, are able to absorb the higher food prices more easily than the world’s poorest 2 billion people, who spend 50 to 70 per cent of their income on food.
Why are oil prices so high? Speculative investment in commodities plays a role, though there is a persuasive case to be made that oil prices would be rising even if oil futures speculation were entirely curtailed. The oil industry is changing, and rapidly. As Jeremy Gilbert, former chief petroleum engineer for BP, has put it, “The current fields we are chasing we’ve known about for a long time in many cases, but they were too complex, too fractured, too difficult to chase. Now our technology and understanding [are] better, which is a good thing, because these difficult fields are all that we have left” (Gilbert, 2011).
The trends in the oil industry are clear and undisputed: exploration and production are becoming more costly, and are giving rise to greater environmental risks, while competition for access to new prospective regions is generating increasing geopolitical tensions. According to the International Energy Agency, the rate of world crude oil production reached its peak in 2006.[IEA 2010a) The IMF has joined a chorus of energy industry analysts in concluding that scarcity and high prices are here to stay.[IMF 2011a, 2011b]
A collapse in demand for oil resulting from sharply declining global economic activity could cause oil prices to fall, as happened in late 2008. Indeed, this is a fairly likely possibility. But while it would make oil cheaper, it would not make fuel more affordable to most people. It is theoretically possible for the world to curb oil demand through policies that limit consumption, and it is also conceivable that some unexpected technological breakthrough could rapidly result in a cheap, effective alternative to petroleum. However, these latter two developments are rather improbable. Thus there is no likely scenario in which the services provided by oil will become more affordable within the context of a stable global economy at any time in the foreseeable future.
While wealthy consumers are able to absorb incremental increases in food prices, a sudden interruption in the availability of fuel (due to geopolitical events) or a significant gradual curtailment of fossil fuel production (due to the continuing depletion of world hydrocarbon reserves) could lead to a breakdown of the food system at every level, from farmer to processor to distributor to retailer and finally to consumer.
To summarize, high oil prices contribute to soaring food prices. Our modern global food system is highly oil-dependent, but petroleum is becoming less and less affordable. Extreme weather events also contribute to high food prices, and, to the extent that such events result from anthropogenic global warming, they are also ultimately fuel-related. Thus there is no solution for the world’s worsening food crisis within current energy and agricultural systems.
What is needed is a major redesigning of both food and energy systems. The goal of managers of the global food system should be to reduce its dependence on fossil energy inputs while also reducing GHG emissions from land-use activities. Achieving this goal will require increasing local food self-sufficiency and promoting less fuel- and petrochemical-intensive methods of production.
Given the degree to which the modern food system has become dependent on fossil fuels, many proposals for delinking food and fossil fuels may seem radical. However, efforts to this end must be judged not by the degree to which they support the existing imperatives of the global food system, but by their ability to solve the fundamental challenge that faces us – the need to feed a global population of seven billion (and counting) with a diminishing supply of fuels available to fertilize, plough and irrigate fields, and to harvest and transport crops. Farmers need to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels in order to build resilience against future resource scarcity and price volatility.
In general, farmers can no longer assume that products derived from petroleum and natural gas (chiefly diesel, gasoline, synthetic fertilizers, and synthetic pesticides) will remain affordable in the future, and they should therefore change their business plans accordingly. While many approaches could be explored, which in any case would depend on specific geographic locations, the necessary outlines of a general transition strategy are already clear.
  • Farmers should move towards regenerative fertility systems that build humus and sequester carbon in soils, thus contributing to solving climate change rather than exacerbating it.
  • Farmers should reduce their use of pesticides in favour of integrated pest management systems that rely primarily on biological, cultural and physical controls.
  • More of the renewable energy that will power farming activities can and must be generated on farms. Wind and biomass production, in particular, can provide farmers with added income while also powering farm operations.
  • Countries and regions must undertake proactive steps to reduce the energy needed to transport food by reorganizing their food production systems. This will entail support for local producers and for local networks that bring producers and consumers closer together. More efficient modes of transportation, such as ships and trains, must replace less efficient modes, such as trucks and planes.
  • The end of the fossil fuel era should also be reflected in changes in dietary and consumption patterns among the general population, with a preference for foods that are grown locally, that are in season, and that undergo less processing. Also, a shift away from energy- and meat-intensive, diets should be encouraged.
  • With less fuel available to power agricultural machinery, the world will need many more farmers. But for farmers to succeed, current agricultural policies that favour larger-scale production and production for export will need to change in favour of support to small-scale subsistence farming, gardening and agricultural cooperatives. Such policies should be formulated and put in place both by international institutions, such as the FAO and the World Bank, and also by national and regional governments.
If such a transition is undertaken proactively and intelligently, there could be many additional benefits, with more employment in farming, more environmental protection, less soil erosion, a revitalization of rural culture and significant improvements in public health. Some of this transformation will inevitably be driven by market forces, led by the rising price of fossil fuels. However, without planning, the transition may prove destructive, since market forces acting alone could bankrupt farmers while leaving consumers with few, if any, options for securing food supplies. Removing fossil fuels from the food system too quickly, before alternative systems are in place, would be catastrophic. Thus the transition process requires careful consideration and planning.
There are reasons for hope. A recent report on African agriculture by UNCTAD and UNEP (2008) suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the amount of increased yields thought to be possible only through industrial farming, and without the environmental and social damages caused by the latter. Recent research by Badgley et al. (2007) also concludes that organic and low-input methods can increase yields in developing countries while maintaining yields in industrialized countries.
Generally, smaller farms have greater biodiversity (Hole et al., 2005), place greater emphasis on soil-building (D’Souza and Ikerd, 1996) and display greater land-use efficiency than large farms (Rosset, 1999).
Nevertheless, despite these promising trends and findings, it is axiomatic that no food system tied to the earth’s finite soil and water resources can support an ever-expanding and ever more resource-demanding population. The prudent path towards reforming the global food system must therefore coordinate agricultural policy with appropriate population, education, economic, transport and energy policies. The transition to a post-petroleum food system will need to be comprehensive. In its scale and required speed it promises to be one of the greatest challenges in human history. But the challenge will only grow the longer it is postponed.

References
Badgley C et al. (2007). Organic agriculture and the global food supply. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 22: 86–108.

Bloomberg (2011). Food Prices may extend gains on volatile oil costs, FAO says. 12 May

Chen Rui (2009). Analysis on “new fundaments” and range of oil price trend. London, World Energy Council.

D’Souza G and Ikerd J (1996). Small farms and sustainable development: Is small more sustainable? Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 28: 73–83.

Garber K. (2008). Fuel costs cut deeply into food aid. US News and World Reports, 7 July.

Gilbert J (2011). No we can’t: Uncertainty, technology and risk. Lecture at the ASPO-USA Conference, Washington, DC, 9 October 2010 (cited in Richard Heinberg R, 2011, The End of Growth. Gabriola Island, BC, New Society Publishers).

Hole D et al. (2005). Does organic farming benefit biodiversity? Biological Conservation, 122: 113–130.

International Energy Agency (2010a). Executive summary. World Energy Outlook 2010. Paris, OECD/IEA

International Energy Agency (2010b). Key graphs: World oil production by type in the new policies scenario. In: World Energy Outlook 2010, at: www.worldenergyoutlook.org/docs/weo2010/key_graphs.pdf.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2011a), “Impact of High Food and Fuel Prices on Developing Countries—Frequently Asked Questions.”. Last Updated: September 30, 2011

IMF, “IMF Sees Oil Prices Staying High.” (2011b), April 7, 2011.

Rosset PM (1999). The multiple functions and benefits of small farm agriculture. Paper presented at the FAO/Netherlands conference on Cultivating Our Futures, Maastricht, 12–17 September 1999.

UNCTAD/UNEP (2008). Organic agriculture and food security in Africa. Study for the UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity-building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development, UNCTAD/DITC/TED/2007/15. Geneva.


[1] World Shipping Council, Record fuel prices place stress on ocean shipping,at: www.worldshipping.org/pdf/WSC_fuel_statement_final.pdf , 2 May 2008.

Image: Bloomberg news

Original article available here

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Predictions for the next 10 years

Our decade from hell will get worse in 2012

Commentary: Market crash, political gridlock, revolution, new class wars

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Fasten your seat belts: 2011 was far worse than expected. Our earlier predictions for America’s Worst Decade just got worse.

As financial historian Niall Ferguson writes in Newsweek: “Double-Dip Depression … We forget that the Great Depression was like a soccer match, there were two halves.” The 1929 crash kicked off the first half. But what “made the depression truly ‘great’ …began with the European banking crisis of 1931.” Sound familiar?

Yes, huge warnings: But America’s deaf. In denial. When we predicted the 2011-2020 “decade from hell” we didn’t see the big macro events dead ahead: Arab Spring virus that’s now Occupy Wall Street, promising to explode into an even more powerful force in 2012 … war on the middle class … widening inequality gap. … Washington gridlock … the Super Rich’s blind resistance to all new taxes.

As Ferguson puts it: “To understand what has been happening in our own borderline depression, you need to know this history. But hardly anyone does.” Get it? America’s already in a “borderline depression,” and virtually nobody gets it. American leaders are dummies about history. Worse, nobody may be able to stop our depression from turning “great.”

Investors beware: Please, protect your assets: “Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.” We’ve already forgotten the lessons of the 2008 disaster. No wonder we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of the 1930’s triggering the Second Great Depression. Soccer anyone?

More bad news for 2012: from Gross, Grantham, Shilling and Stiglitz

Ferguson’s in good company with his dark forecast. Pimco’s Bill Gross asks rhetorically: “Where is the euro headed? More than likely down, perhaps significantly.” Gross warns of a “terrifying situation” where “the euro may fall … and take the U.S. recovery with it.”

Then there’s Jeremy Grantham, whose GMO firm manages $100 billion. He predicted the 2008 crash a couple years in advance. Predicts ‘Seven Lean Years” ahead, till 2016, the end of the next presidential term. Now, in his latest newsletter he feels “sadly … vindicated by my ‘seven lean years’ forecast.” The world “will not easily recover from the current level of debt,” as our self-destructive American and European leaders have “permanently slowed their GDP growth.”

More bad news: As we close out the first year of the “Worst Decade in American History,” economist and long-time Forbes columnist Gary Shilling just issued his semi-annual outlook: “Global Recession Likely” in 2012. OK, the best he can say is that this one “will be milder than the 2007-2008 nosedive.” Of course, you’ve already forgotten those pains, right?

And over at Vanity Fair, Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz also reexamines the dark history of the Great Depression, warning that in our ignorance of history we’re missing a fundamental economic “shift in the ‘real’ economy,” missing what will generate future jobs, just as we did back in the ‘30s. Yes, we “risk a tragic replay” of the Great Depression.

10 predictions for America’s Worst Decade Ever

Over the past decade we predicted the 2000 crash, the 2008 meltdown, the short-lived 2009 rally. Future historians will look back on the 2011-2020 decade as America’s Worst Decade. Worse than the 1930s Great Depression. Totally predictable. Totally denied.

So here’s an update of the 10 predictions of a chain reaction of events that are building to a critical mass, will consume America in what economist Joseph Shumpeter called “creative destruction” that will eventually, after cleansing the greed from America’s toxic capitalism, trigger a renewal of the American Spirit, as happened in the Great Depression.

Here’s how all this will generally unfold in the coming decade:

2011. Super Rich keep spending billions to control Washington

The conservative takeover of America’s democracy the past three decades became total and complete last year when an activist Supreme Court overturned long-established legal precedent giving soulless corporations — whose sole allegiance is to wealthy shareholders — the same inalienable rights as humans, accelerating their quest for absolute power. Hopefully Senator Bernie Sander’s proposed 28th Amendment will change that, but doubtful.

2012. Super Rich solidifies absolute power over our political system

That Supreme Court decision legalized political bribery. Now, billions pass through lobbyists to politicians with one goal: A promise that politicians vote for their special interests. Our middle class is in a rapid trickle-down into third-world status. The inequality gap steadily widens. Doesn’t matter who wins the 2012 race. Democracy is systemically corrupt by money. Obama, Mitt, Newt, all pawns of the system.

2013. Global population bubble exploding, rapidly wasting resources

America’s Conspiracy of the Super Rich drains trillions from middle-class taxpayers. They see the global population growth explosion of 100 million annually not as exhausting the world’s scarce resources, but as a tool to get richer through free-market capitalism and globalization. They ignore the tragedies as global population climbs to 10 billion, fail to hear the warnings of environmentalists like Bill McKibben that it may “be too late. The science is settled, the damage has already begun,” we can’t save the planet.

2014. Pentagon’s global commodity wars accelerate toward 2020 peak

At the outset of the Iraq War, Fortune analyzed a classified Pentagon report predicting “climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues.” And billions of new people will spread unrest worldwide as “massive droughts turn farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes.” Another history lesson forgotten: “An old pattern could emerge; warfare defining human life.” Yes, in denial politicians chose war and catastrophes over cooperation.

2015. Gilded Age globalization explodes America’s Global Empire

About the time of the Pentagon’s prediction of WWIII in 2020, Kevin Phillips warned in “Wealth & Democracy:” “Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out.” Similarly, Ferguson, warns in “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of The American Empire,” that we are in denial, thinking “about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms.”

2016. Reaganomics capitalism self-destructs, crashes, bank bankruptcies

“But what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic,” asks Ferguson. “What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly,” too rapid to respond in time. True to form, a new conservative president will keep ignoring the lessons of history. And, as Jared Diamond’s warns in “Collapse:” “One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations share a sharp curve of decline … demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak in population, wealth and power.”

2017. Class war and revolution: Rich class loses big, surrenders

Warren Buffett saw the revolution long ago: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” But by the 2016 presidential election, political rage explodes into a new American Civil War over inequality. The gaping income gap pops a bubble, causes economic collapse. Riots spread preventing another massive bailout of our too-greedy-to-fail banks. New depression ignites class rebellion.

2018. The Fed and Wall Street banks collapse, Glass-Steagall reinstated

Diamond warned us: Leaders need “the courage to practice long-term thinking, make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions.” Instead, they fail to act boldly, delay. History tells us leaders act in short-term self-interest, not long-term public interests, especially politicians backed by billionaires who see only quarterly earnings, year-end bonuses, next election.

2019. Global commodity wars spread, killing millions, wasting trillions

Over half our federal budget goes to the Pentagon’s war machine, limiting America’s domestic priorities. Predictably, new commodity wars are ignited by an accelerating global population versus a decline in the world’s scarce resources. That also forces a total rethinking of the balance between spending to protect against external enemies and a rapid deterioration of domestic programs: employment, education, health care, retirement.

2020. America’s first woman president, patriarchal dominance is dead

By the end of the decade, it is finally obvious that patriarchy — male dominance of leadership roles in philosophy, economics, politics and culture throughout history — has failed our civilization, bringing the world to the brink of total destruction.

Why do male leaders consistently fail us? Jeremy Grantham brilliantly captured that fundamental flaw in our nation’s character a few years ago: Male leaders are actually quite emotional, myopic and “impatient … management types who focus on what they are doing this quarter or this annual budget.” But true leadership “requires more people with a historical perspective who are more thoughtful and more right-brained.”

Unfortunately, “we end up with an army of left-brained immediate doers.” And that guarantees “every time we get an outlying, obscure event that has never happened before in history, they are always to miss it.”

Worse, today’s male brain is so rigidly hard-wired in short-term myopia, it quickly forgets history’s most recent lessons, like 2008. As a result, our males leaders “collectively miss even totally obvious events that happen over and over in history.”

Class war? Or Gender War? By 2020 we’ll have an answer, but by then it may be too late.

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Has Iran just closed the Straights of Hormuz? UPDATED

  • HORMUZ STRAIT IS NOT SHUT: IRAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN – Bloomberg

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This could be really bad if it were to last.  America wouldn’t stand for it – we could be at war with Iran soon.

33% of all the world’s oil comes through this area – oil could hit $200+ per barrel within a week – West Texas Intermediate just shot up more than 3% in 15 minutes to over $100 a barrel

Does Lex have any contingency plans for an event like this?  I do know that there’s an argument brewing over the important stuff – Rupp and Arts and Entertainment……

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It’s On: Iran Closes Straits Of Hormuz, Oil Explodes

Zero Hedge on 12/13/2011 09:53 -0500

Iran has closed the Straits of Hormuz for military training as was expected yesterday, according to RanSquawk. Oil, and all other commodities, are outtahere.

And entire commodity complex:

And for those curious about more, RanSquawk speculates that the source of the data is a report in the Tehran Times saying that Iran will hold War Games in which it would close the Straits. Unclear if this is what Ran referenced when they said the Straits were already closed.

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