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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.


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.”


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


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?


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?


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

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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.


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:
Percent Change:

*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’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.


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 and

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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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