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Targeting coal: protest mounts
by Jan Lundberg   
13 July 2006
Culture Change Letter #136 - July 13, 2006

Anyone concerned about the burning of fossil fuels and resultant climate change is scared beyond words because of the prospect of coal usage growing or continuing. But there is an additional side of coal, an even darker one - to many who have seen coal industry practices in Appalachia - than the distinction of being the worst polluting of the main fossil fuels.

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining of coal that even the most cynical of educated citizens would not guess exists. But it does indeed, to the tune of 800 square miles already. One consequence is that there have been 6,000 "valley fills” of debris from mountain tops in West Virginia and Kentucky. Since 1980, according to the National Mining Association, only 5% of the destroyed land has been returned to some kind of “economic development” such as bogus wildlife habitat.

The nightmare does not stop there. “Sludge impoundment” occurs behind dams in former valleys that become a source of toxic leaks, and dam failure is an historic fact. And when sludge is put into old underground coal mines, this contaminates ground water for drinking. Other issues involving coal is processing - very poisonous - and transport that poses outrageous risks.

With global climate change becoming quickly the out-of-control threat that scientists thought would not be occurring for decades, “positive feedback loops” are kicking in. So the very idea of tearing apart much of Appalachia for more coal, when a vast portion of the whole eastern part of the U.S. depends on rivers springing forth from the Appalachian Mountains, is more than appalling and insane.

The maturation of Matt Simmons, energy-industry investment banker and peak oil guru
by Jan Lundberg   
23 June 2006
Culture Change Letter #134 - June 24, 2006

"Maybe the enemy is us... Grow food at home." - Matthew R. Simmons, June 20, 2006, at the Pentagon-sponsored seminar series Energy: A Conversation About Our National Addiction

It does not take long for people who study peak oil to see some heavy implications of the end of abundant oil. After a while some of the more realistic probabilities become clear and often become one's main topic of conversation. The possibilities, dangers and opportunities start motivating one to change his or her life.

But it takes more than the few years that most students of peak oil today have under their belts for the stark picture to come into clear focus. It helps if one has grounding in the petroleum industry, but it's all too rare; people in extractive industries seldom seem to show they care for the greater welfare of the world. And those who don't want to believe there is now - or soon will be - an historic crisis regarding the peaking of world oil extraction are often 100% wedded to the status quo. It is left, then, for many a non petroleum professional to hold forth and help lead us.

However, Matthew R. Simmons, Chairman of the energy-industry investment banking firm Simmons & Company International, stepped forward and has recently become a phenomenon for our times. He is sufficiently independent to add up and share what he has been observing and learning over decades. His firm has completed for its clients' investment-banking projects that have valued over $65 billion. He has given 75 speeches since publishing his book on Saudi Oil, Twilight in the Desert (2005). "As I study the oil situation, the problems get worse... [but] the peak oil movement has grown from being a pimple to a pandemic," Simmons told Culture Change.

The Whole Human Being: a "new" and savvy citizen for our times
by Jan Lundberg   
20 June 2006
Culture Change Letter #133 - June 20, 2006

Note: Busy long-time readers of Culture Change may wish to skip the more analytical first fifteen paragraphs and get down to the passion and taking-action second part. - JL

In this time of mounting threat to our species and the entire biosphere, our weakness seems to come down to individualism and materialism. Are such modern traits, heretofore thought by most to be strengths, the Achilles heel of a dying dominant culture? If so, what do we do about this?

The trouble is that our manufactured, packaged possessions - especially those requiring power - are warming the globe and poisoning the environment. Many a U.S. home has even more televisions than people, and the U.S. has reached and surpassed the point of having more working cars than drivers.

Despite global warming's being commonly known, the trend is for even more stuff per capita than before knowledge of climate change and peak oil hit public awareness. Then there is rising population, not part of our national discussion - except that there is no celebration planned for the 300 millionth U.S. resident to come along this autumn.

Centering one's life around unlimited material things buys into a big lie: "Survive, get by, and be happy if we have the right objects and goods." Whether people are getting to suspect this corporate con game to get us to consume, discontent and busyness are on the rise. But until there's another model, materialistic living seems like the ticket for most of us.

A Call to Action: The Necessity Defense
by Jan Lundberg   
12 June 2006
Culture Change Letter #132 - June 13, 2006

Earthís climate may be spinning out of control due to greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in extinction rates not seen for possibly tens of millions of years. Why? Great numbers of humans have recently become habituated to technological convenience. Despite such an obvious truth, the reality has been successfully packaged and sold as progress for all too many of us, included the "educated."

There is practically no leadership to address the climate crisis to get at root causes. Fortunately, this is being addressed by the Peak Oil movement which recognizes the urgent need to cope with "energy descent." Meanwhile, most unfortunately, the funded environmental movement keeps pushing a half-baked technofix-approach for both global warming and to replace petroleum.

If governments protected our long-term interests, drastic action would be taken immediately. Such as: a plan to counter global warming would include the armies of the world being deployed to plant trees. This would be only marginally successful in many areas because of climate distortion and depleted water supplies due to overpopulation and mismanagement. But it would be worth the effort if all-out reforestation were combined with defending life's diversity.

As The Machine World Fries the Planet...
by Jan Lundberg   
03 June 2006

We must hold a council of all generations

Culture Change Letter #131

Just walking on an asphalt parking lot in the sun, feeling the artificial heat, tells us this society has no wisdom as it warms the globe. Contrast this with walking under some trees where the air is cooler. And one encounters a mulberry tree with sweet fruit. It is not enough to feed many people, but doesnít it serve as a reminder that food can be grown naturally and collected locally? The fact that people are doing nothing about fruit-tree propagation in residential common areas is evidence that we are going down as a society and taking the climate with us. In the U.S. the average piece of food has traveled 1,500 miles, enabled by oil.

The very idea of ignition as a commonplace activity reveals the insanity of a culture that has jumped off the cliff. To ignite? Itís not to cook food or to thin the understory of ancient forests to enhance hunting. Itís to fry the planet. Do you like engineering and think ignition is all fine and dandy? Sorry, you canít treat the planet like itís all yours.

The wheel was a great invention indeed. But how many wheels do we need? How many people do we need? A baby is pushed down a sidewalk in a stroller on wheels. No one thinks of those metal and plastic wheels that were manufactured out of nonrenewable resources, or of the pollution generated. No one thinks of the wear and tear on those wheels that have historically ended up in landfills. No one thinks of all the pavement required to accommodate strollers, skateboards, scooters - not to mention car and truck tires and wheels. The native Americans lived differently, for thousands upon thousands of years. Instead of wheels, they used sleds and travoises, living off the sweet land.

Technofix bubbles of hydrogen and biofuels at Pentagonís Energy Conversation
by Jan Lundberg   
24 May 2006
Culture Change Letter #130 - May 24, 2006

Energy in the form of hydrogen, as well as biofuels, is one of the few mainstays of hope for clinging to global economic growth. When it comes to todayís growing worries over both the world peak in oil extraction and global warming, government and industry favor certain renewable energy technologies to supplement and then supplant decades more of fossil fueling.

What of lifestyle change and truly sustainable, local economics? That's not what's being planned for you by the corporate state or even by some entities we would trust. Therefore, we are all allowing a tragic waste of time and more global warming that is avoidable. The technological solution (or "the technofix") is what we examine in this report, for its appeal serves to excuse the absence of immediate, realistic national and global action on preparing for what a growing number of people see as petrocollapse.

The funded environmental movement is in the technofix camp rather than tackling maximum petroleum reduction, and has thus far generally not addressed the issue of Peak Oil. So, such organizations are hampered in trying to curb global warming.

Many proponents of hydrogen and biofuels do want to see massive conservation of energy and other resources. Such green proponents are also often anti-war, anti-nuclear power, in favor of global veganism, and ready to acknowledge the Earthís need for a much smaller population of humans. It is obvious to green proponents of massive alternative energy systems that action must be taken immediately to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and runaway species extinction. But that action and its relation to oneís vision of the future are a burning issue involving every one of us.

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