Friday, March 31, 2006

Growth Poleaxes Africa; The Death of Farming

If you like the phrase "starving children in Africa," don't worry, it'll be around and in use for quite a long time. Today's news reveals that overfarming in that dark heart of the planet has rendered 75% of arable land unusable, "afflicting" 240 million souls with hunger (whatever that means...probably some reporters required usage when writing about starvation). Essentially, no crop rotation and little rest for the soil is a formula for disaster in agriculture. (So is overuse of nitrogen-based fertilizers, but that's another story). The study recommends modern "Green Revolution" techniques, brought upon by copious donations (because lack of infrastructure makes transportation very expensive) from Western nations. Interestingly, the story is absolutely devoid of any mention of the underlying problem: too much population growth. Chaos suggests that a population control program would be far more sustainable, at least in a world of limited resources. Neither the reporter of the story nor the authors of the study referenced therein were able or willing to challenge the structural underpinnings of modern society. For clarity, here it is again: if the human inhabitants of Gaia do not stop unlimited growth and the corresponding overconsumption of its limited resources, Gaia will teach them to, in her own harsh way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Your Constitutional Right to Drive (And Others You Didn't Know About)

Hey, guess what? Citizens of the Empire may have a few more constitutional rights than they realize. At least some of them(17%) believe that the US Constitution gives them the right to drive a car, and a higher percentage (21%) think that they have a constitutional right to own a pet. Less than 1% could name the actual five protected rights: freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and to petition the government. On the other hand, 20% could name Bart, Homer, and three other members of the Simpson family. Chaos supposes this is why citizens have so willingly acquiesced in the current government's theft of rights: too much tv. Many serious events are now scheduled to occur in the next few years, only a few of which have been touched upon here. The somnolent citizenry is utterly unequipped to even understand them, much less to take action. As one commentator stated, "don't get too far away from the chairs, you don't know when the music is going to stop."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Have Breakfast With Tom, Please

Tomdispatch, run by the erudite and articulate Tom Englehardt, is a highly recommended stop on the Internet superhighway, especially for valuable perspective on the Iraq War and the Empire. Check out today's post for a different take on peak oil and breakfast, by Chad Heeter. Think you're "doing the right thing" by eating organic? Maybe not so much. Chaos noted with surprise the shocking similarity of Chad's breakfast to Chaos'. An interesting reflection on how truly dependent the Empire is on black gold...

Back to the Future, Again: Climate Change

Another day, another study finding that things are going to get worse than anyone thought. Published today in Science (no, not some crackpot journal), the paper indicates that sea levels are set to rise in response to polar ice cap melting. The result will be conditions last seen 129,00 years ago. "If we don't like the idea of flooding out New Orleans, major portions of South Florida, and other valued parts of the coastal U.S., we will have to commit soon to a major effort to stop most emissions of carbon to the atmostphere." So sayeth David Peck, author of the study. Major effort? Soon? The government ignores, while the public slumbers, dreaming of who will bear Brad Pitt's baby and what's on sale at Sprawl Mart next week. South Florida always seemed kind of trashy anyway.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Meme of Peak Oil

What is a meme? In short, it is a self-propagating unit of cultural evolution, resembling somewhat a gene. An evolving idea of significance, in other words. The study of memes is called memetics. It might be more easily understood alongside the aphorism "ideas have a life of their own." A fuller explanation of this slippery noun can be found here. Chaos has observed in the last half year or so, how the concept of peak oil has gradually acquired the status of a meme. Recently, two more examples have surfaced. The first is at the nation's cable news network of note, CNN, which ran some brief video interviews (one with Matthew Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert) under the title of "We Were Warned." (BTW, check out General Motors whore Bob Lutz, whose "we just make these giant SUVs because Americans want them" and "we got caught with our pants down on the hybrid thing" are classic). The second comes from the Austin Texas South by Southwest Music and Film festival, which featured in this year's addition a striking documentary called Oilcrash. Regretfully, Chaos cannot provide a firsthand account of it, but according to actual viewers, it is appropriately fear-inducing. Look for it at your local megaplex someday soon.

And so, the meme of peak oil advances, grows, becomes stronger...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Empire Becomes the Glass House

The US State Department issued its annual report on human rights around the world, specifically excoriating China for its "poor" record, noting instances of "harassment, detention, and imprisonment" of those opposing the government. Also noted were torture, physical abuse leading to deaths of detainees, forced labor, coercive birth policies, trafficking in women and children, restrictions on free speech, assembly, religion, and severe government corruption. This is hardly a new phenomenon; in fact, it pretty much occurs every year. This year, however, the defensive response of China and other governments criticized has particular resonance. "No country should exclude itself from the international human rights development process or view itself as the incarnation of human rights that can reign over other countries and give orders to the others" said Premier Wen Jiabao's cabinet. Other countries responses were in accord. Particular mention was given to the Empire's tendency towards torture (Abu Ghraib), indisciminate killing of civilians during military operations, and of course, the famous legal "black hole," Guantanamo. The dribbling away of the US's international standing in human rights is the natural effect of the rulers here who thought that the ends justified the means. It seems that the Empire's actions, once again, have come back to haunt it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The "Bond King" and the US Economy

If Warren Buffett is perhaps the premier stockpicker in the known world, Bill Gross of PIMCO is surely the number one poohbah in bonds. It doesn't hurt to have a scorching record either. Since this man, like Buffett, has managed to beat the odds over long periods of time, his insights are well worth listening to, and Bill Gross has had enough of the current government and its financial mendacity. Taking on the Economic Report of the President, Gross excoriates the calculated Pollyanna statements regarding the international competitiveness of US students in math and science (US students rank very low by high school), health care spending (high and going ever higher), unfunded future liabilities (think Social Security and Medicare), the current account deficit (importing more than we export; becoming a debtor nation), and the astounding government and personal deficits (the savings rate has dropped to zero). None of this is new or has been insufficiently explored by others (in fact, here's more on this). Gross's conclusion, however, is that dollar devaluation is inevitable and investments might better be deployed overseas. Quite a jolting conclusion from one who has made his fortune in domestic markets.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Melting Ice in Antarctica

Not that this is particularly news anymore to readers of this blog (it seems like we cover this ground about every two or three weeks, whenever new findings appear...) but here's the latest on climate change caused by humans: new study in Nature today finds that ice caps in Antarctica are melting faster than previously known. As you might guess, melting ice leads to higher entropy in the form of higher sea levels, and, we find from the study, disappearance of rivers and lakes in Africa. Chaos believes that the willy-nilly dumping of millions of years of sunlight deposits in the atmosphere by humans is the climatological equivalent of pouring gasoline on a fire (albeit in slower motion).