Saturday, October 31, 2009

A really scary Halloween feature

No I'm fine I can last till Halloween is overImage by Tattooed JJ via Flickr

UPDATE II: a REAL scary interview here: The Case for Deflation.

Original post: Short version of "The Crash Course." Well worth a look.

UPDATE: Bill Moyers interviews James Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, and one of the few economists who saw through all the "magic of the market" nonsense. It's so good you have to read the whole thing over there. I couldn't find one section that stood out enough to quote separately. The whole thing is outstanding.

Cut Crime: Plant more trees and gardens

NYC Central Park CanopyA crime-reduction tool. Image by AF-Photography via Flickr

The smart-on-crime strategy: Less paving, more planting:

Planting gardens and parks in neighbourhoods reduces vandalism, graffiti, litter and yobbish activity, research has revealed.

Even in the roughest inner-city estates, those living near gardens, parks and green spaces tend to be better behaved, healthier and live longer than those in 'urban deserts', the study found.

Professor Frances Kuo, who did the research, said being close to greenery was 'essential to our physical, psychological and social well-being'.

Autumn leaves in Hyde Park

Tree friendly: People living near green spaces such as Hyde Park in London (pictured), are less likely to commit crime

'The relationship between crime and vegetation is very clear - the more trees, the fewer crimes,' she said.

'It actually encourages people to use the spaces outside their homes which provides a natural form of surveillance.

'In fact, the data seem to indicate that if you have a landscape where you introduce well-maintained trees and grass, people will find that a safer environment.'

Professor Kuo studied some of the poorest districts of Chicago and demonstrated that crime in neighbourhoods with trees was lower - by as much as 7 per cent - compared with those without a view of greenery, even after factors such as income and education were taken into account.

The University of Illinois professor has carried out extensive research since the mid-1990s showing the benefits of green spaces.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Last Call for Salem Saturday Market 2009!

Farmers' MarketThis is the LAST CHANCE to enjoy the Salem Saturday Market in 2009! Image by NatalieMaynor via Flickr

Don't miss it!
Hi Friends!

Saturday, Oct. 31, is the last day of the Salem Saturday Market for 2009!

Friends of Salem Saturday Market will be there holding a yard sale at our booth ~ our first big fundraiser. Swing by our booth on the northwest side of the Market to see the great stuff we’ve got for sale, at ridiculously affordable prices.

The money we raise Saturday will help get us through the winter months. Although the Market may be finished, our activities and events certainly are not! FSSM is a year-round organization, and we want to keep the momentum going that we’ve gained all summer. So come take a look at our booth, see what we’ve got for sale, or just say hi. We’ll miss seeing all of our great members & supporters every week!

We’re not the only ones with good deals Saturday ~ a lot of the vendors will be selling garage-sale items, too. You’ll find even more great stuff than usual!

Bring the kids, too, for trick-or-treating and a costume contest. There’s even a costume contest for dogs!

We hope to see you you down there – rain or shine! – to bid farewell to a wonderful Market season!

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Oh, snap! Another U. Chicago prof. demolishes "Superfreakonomics" idiocy

DunceSteven Levitt, your stool awaits you. Image by Candie_N via Flickr

A truly inspiring, thoughtful, and careful demolition of the superficial, wrongheadedness that permeates the "Superfreakonomics" chapter on the supposed "global cooling."
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Upcoming: Trilogy Celtic Trio

Camerata Musica
Trilogy Celtic Trio
2:30 p.m. Sunday, November 8
Loucks Auditorium (Salem Public Library)

Trilogy Celtic Trio (affectionately known as “the three Lauras”) weaves a musical tapestry of misty remembrances, far-away places, and a foot-stompin’ good time when they bring their harp, voice and fiddle to town. Trilogy is a collaboration among Celtic harpist Laura Zaerr, vocalist Laura Berryhill and fiddler Laurie Goren.

Inspired by respect for tradition and tempered with an enthusiasm for new horizons, the group draws from Scottish and Irish sources, presenting innovative arrangements with innate graciousness and integrity. Audiences are encouraged to arrive on time for the 2:30 p.m. concerts. Late-comers will only be seated between pieces.

Admission is free and open to the public. The series is supported by a grant from the Salem Foundation and contributions from patrons. More information is available at the Camerata Musica website,, or by phone from George Struble, 503-364-3929.

ADDENDUM: Boy, it's feast or famine isn't it? That's the same day that Cherryholmes plays at the Elsinore. Bluegrass is an offshoot of the Scots-Irish tradition, so some of the music might well sound familiar at either show.

The Carbon Footprint of War (The Progressive, Oct. 2009)

Gulf WarA war fought for oil is going to make oil impossibly high-priced, in a world where simply living will become harder for billions of people. Image via Wikipedia

. . . The U.S. armed forces consume about 14 million gallons of oil per day, half of it in jet fuel. Humvees average 4 miles per gallon, while an Apache helicopter gets half a mile per gallon. The Iraq War, which George W. Bush launched in part to protect vital oil supplies, consumed oil at a phenomenal rate. . . .

U.S. forces in Iraq during 2007 consumed 40,000 barrels of oil a day, all of which was transported into the war zone from other countries. The U.S. Air Force uses 2.6 billion gallons of jet fuel a year, 10 percent of the U.S. domestic market.

By the end of 2007, according to a report from Oil Change International by Nikki Reisch and Steve Kretzmann, the Iraq War had put at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air, as much as adding twenty-five million cars to the roads. The Iraq War by itself added more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than 60 percent of the world's nations. . . .

The mechanization of the military provided many more opportunities to increase carbon dioxide production during the world wars of the early twentieth century. World War II's Sherman tank, for example, got 0.8 miles per gallon. Seventy-five years later, tank mileage had not improved: the 68-ton Abrams Tank got 0.5 miles per gallon. Fighter jets' typical subsonic fuel consumption is 300 to 400 gallons per hour at full thrust (or 100 gallons per hour at cruising speed) during hundreds of hours' training, or combat missions. Blasting to supersonic speed on its afterburners, an F-15 Fighter can burn as much as four gallons of fuel per second.

During the 1950s and 1960s, U.S. B-52s were in the air at all times, on the theory that an airborne fleet would prevent the Soviet Union from obliterating the entire U.S. nuclear armed armada on the ground. Each of these B-52s burned hundreds of gallons of fossil fuel per hour while aloft. The B-52 Stratocruiser, with eight jet engines, consumes 500 gallons of jet fuel per minute, or 3,000 per hour. In a few minutes, a B-52 consumes what an average automobile driver uses in a year.

What I'd like to know is, how many years of riding a bike to work would it take for me to offset one F-15 flying for an hour? Assuming that my bike replaces a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, my daily commute of five miles would use a gallon a week. That's nearly seven years to fuel a fighter jet at top thrust for one hour.

We don't have that kind of time. Thermal inertia delivers the results of atmospheric change roughly a half century after our burning of fossil fuels provokes them. The weather today is reacting to greenhouse gas emissions from about 1960. Since then, the world's emissions have risen roughly 400 percent. The Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the Afghanistan War have all played their part. But we haven't even felt their full environmental effects yet. . . .

Global warming has already accelerated beyond even the predictions of pessimistic scientists. The polar ice caps are dissolving and the permafrost is melting, injecting more carbon dioxide and methane into the air. And as the ice caps melt, the sun reflects off the dark water instead of the white snow, and the atmosphere heats all the faster. This summer, large swaths of tundra have been burning, adding still more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Before the hot wind blows in our face, we need to recognize the environmental insanity of war.

The Pentagon wants to go "green," though—and not only with its light bulbs. It is also using solar energy at some of its bases, and is even trying to manufacture a synthetic fuel for the B-1 bomber. But we don't need a "green" military with high-mileage tanks, or bombers flying on biofuel. Anyway, war, for the foreseeable future, will depend largely on fossil fuels. As the Pentagon now tells us, we have no national security without climate security. War has become the ultimate environmental oxymoron.

Instead, we need to address the reasons countries and groups go to war: nationalism, religious fanaticism, tribalism, poverty—and scarcity of resources, like oil. And we can't do that by consuming that oil in spasms of nationalism.

Peacemakers are often assumed to be naive dreamers. Given the environmental circumstances, however, a timely end to war is not naive, but necessary. The Earth can no longer afford war.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

A fun, important idea

Death Match: Wind Turbines vs Climate Disruption as Cause of Species Mortality

BEIJING - DECEMBER 13:   A wind turbine is see...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Overstated headline at original post -- wind turbines do get a few birds (and some bats as well, even more disturbingly and much more importantly) but the gist is right -- compared to the broad species decline that rapid climate disruption is already causing, wind turbines aren't even on the same scale.


By far, the largest causes of mortality among birds include loss of habitat due to human infringement, environmental despoliation, and collisions with man-made objects. Since wind turbines fall into the last category, it is worthwhile to examine other human causes of avian deaths and compare these to mortality from wind turbines.

Avian Deaths caused by….

Utility transmission and distribution lines, the backbone of our electrical power system, are responsible for 130 to 174 million bird deaths a year in the U.S.1 Many of the affected birds are those with large wingspans, including raptors and waterfowl. While attempting to land on power lines and poles, birds are sometimes electrocuted when their wings span between two hot wires. Many other birds are killed as their flight paths intersect the power lines strung between poles and towers. One report states that: "for some types of birds, power line collisions appear to be a significant source of mortality."2

Collisions with automobiles and trucks result in the deaths of between 60 and 80 million birds annually in the U.S.3 As more vehicles share the roadway, and our automotive society becomes more pervasive, these numbers will only increase. Our dependence on oil has taken its toll on birds too. Even the relatively high incidence of bird kills at Altamont Pass (about 92 per year) pales in comparison to the number of birds killed from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. In fact, according to author Paul Gipe, the Altamont Pass wind farm would have to operate for 500 to 1000 years to "achieve" the same mortality level as the Exxon Valdez event in 1989.

Tall building and residential house windows also claim their share of birds. Some of the five million tall buildings in U.S. cities have been documented as being a chronic mortality problem for migrating birds. There are more than 100 million houses in the U.S. House windows are more of a problem for birds in rural areas than in cities or towns. While there are no required ongoing studies of bird mortality due to buildings or house windows, the best estimates put the toll due collisions with these structures at between 100 million and a staggering 1 billion deaths annually.4

Lighted communication towers turn out to be one of the more serious problems for birds, especially for migratory species that fly at night. One study began its conclusion with, "It is apparent from the analysis of the data that significant numbers of birds are dying in collisions with communications towers, their guy wires, and related structures."5 Another report states, "The main environmental problem we are watching out for with telecommunication towers are the deaths of birds and bats."6

This is not news, as bird collisions with lighted television and radio towers have been documented for over 50 years. Some towers are responsible for very high episodic fatalities. One television transmitter tower in Eau Claire, WI, was responsible for the deaths of over 1,000 birds on each of 24 consecutive nights. A "record 30,000 birds were estimated killed on one night" at this same tower.7 In Kansas, 10,000 birds were killed in one night by a telecommunications tower.8 Numerous large bird kills, while not as dramatic as the examples cited above, continue to occur across the country at telecommunication tower sites.

The number of telecommunication towers in the U.S. currently exceeds 77,000, and this number could easily double by 2010. The rush to construction is being driven mainly by our use of cell phones, and to a lesser extent by the impending switch to digital television and radio. Current mortality estimates due to telecommunication towers are 40 to 50 million birds per year.9 The proliferation of these towers in the near future will only exacerbate this situation.

Agricultural pesticides are "conservatively estimated" to directly kill 67 million birds per year.10 These numbers do not account for avian mortality associated with other pesticide applications, such as on golf courses. Nor do they take into consideration secondary losses due to pesticide use as these toxic chemicals travel up the food chain. This includes poisoning due to birds ingesting sprayed insects, the intended target of the pesticides.

Cats, both feral and housecats, also take their toll on birds. A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) report states that, "recent research suggests that rural free-ranging domestic cats in Wisconsin may be killing between 8 and 217 million birds each year. The most reasonable estimates indicate that 39 million birds are killed in the state each year."11

There are other studies on the impacts of jet engines, smoke stacks, bridges, and any number of other human structures and activities that threaten birds on a daily basis. Together, human infrastructure and industrial activities are responsible for one to four million bird deaths per day! . . .

The National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) completed a comparison of wind farm avian mortality with bird mortality caused by other man-made structures in the U.S.

The NWCC did not conduct its own study, but analyzed all of the research done to date on various causes of avian mortality, including commercial wind farm turbines. They report that "data collected outside California indicate an average of 1.83 avian fatalities per turbine (for all species combined), and 0.006 raptor fatalities per turbine per year. Based on current projections of 3,500 operational wind turbines in the US by the end of 2001, excluding California, the total annual mortality was estimated at approximately 6,400 bird fatalities per year for all species combined."13

This report states that its intent is to "put avian mortality associated with windpower development into perspective with other significant sources of avian collision mortality across the United States."14 The NWCC reports that: "Based on current estimates, windplant related avian collision fatalities probably represent from 0.01% to 0.02% (i.e., 1 out of every 5,000 to 10,000) of the annual avian collision fatalities in the United States."15 That is, commercial wind turbines cause the direct deaths of only 0.01% to 0.02% of all of the birds killed by collisions with man-made structures and activities in the U.S.

(Footnotes from original.)
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Oregon's filthy secret is Salem's too

Note that the head of Salem's Willamette University, M. Lee Pelton, sits on PGE's board and supports continuing and increasing the use of coal even as his university touts its sustainability initiatives, never mentioning that 40% of the electricity powering the campus is from coal, the methamphetamine of the energy world.

high-profile green innovations are helping the city's image become synonymous with sustainability (see: condo developers topping their downtown towers with wind turbines) the city runs on a dirty secret. Forty percent of [SALEM'S] energy comes from a very un-green source: coal. . . .

The Boardman coal plant in Eastern Oregon releases tens of thousands of tons of toxic chemicals into the air annually, including five million tons of carbon dioxide (as much as nearly one million cars). The Sierra Club is part of a coalition that's currently suing the plant in federal court for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act.

With the background noise of bongos and tribal chanting filling Pioneer Courthouse Square on Saturday, PGE representatives hyped the company's clean wind and biomass energy programs. But altogether those earth-friendly energy sources make up only four percent of PGE's power. In a draft of the company's new two-year plan released last month, PGE promotes energy efficiency—but also says it will increase its reliance on coal. . . .

PGE spokesman Steve Corson says if the company switched from coal, it would need to rely more on natural gas. "That would leave us vulnerable to natural gas price hikes," says Corson, explaining that power rates might increase. PGE is currently planning to keep Boardman open until at least 2040 after installing the environmental upgrades. Critics say the threat of a rate increase is off base when PGE's departing CEO Peggy Fowler got a $4.5 million severance package last year.

Don't be in the dark on bike safety (via Recumbent Blog)

Dreamy Bike Ride - Calgary 2008-06 13This is a person greatly increasing the risk of being killed or crippled by a car -- no lights and no helmet, a deadly duo. Image by ItzaFineDay via Flickr

This quote from WashCycle makes you stop and think…

"While only three percent of bike rides happen at night, over half of all cyclists killed are hit while riding at night without lights. . . .

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

As energy costs break city and state budgets, public health costs set to soar

A Salem GraveyardImage by Merelymel13 via Flickr

Guess what? An unstable climate means exposure to a whole host of problems we're not used to dealing with, including diseases following vectors into places where they've never been seen before. Couple that with more extreme climate problems and skyrocketing energy costs (making staying comfortable in more extreme weather more difficult) and you start to think that, you know what, maybe we ought not to roll the dice on climate change so much . . .

Alas, nearly every one of the failures to prepare listed below applies to Salem, where officials are busily pretending that we can continue sprawling, flying, and driving like it was 1959 and that there's no need to be concerned about local food resiliency or helping people learn to be more food secure.
Ailing planet seen as bad for human health
Climate change will make Americans more vulnerable to diseases, disasters and heat waves, but governments have done little to plan for the added burden on the health system, according to a new study by a nonprofit group.

The study, released Monday by the Trust for America's Health, an advocacy group focused on disease prevention, examines the public-health implications of climate change. In addition to pushing up sea levels and shrinking Arctic ice, the report says, a warming planet is likely to leave more people sick, short of breath or underfed.

Experts involved with the study said that these threats might be reduced if the federal government adopts a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. But no legislation could stop them altogether, they said. Emissions already in the atmosphere are expected to increase warming -- and the problems that come with it -- for years to come.

"That [a cap on greenhouse gases] really is not enough," said Phyllis Cuttino of the Pew Environment Group, which funded the study. "We can see all these problems coming, but as a country, we haven't done enough to prepare for them."

The idea that climate change will be bad for people as well as polar bears is not new: It was explained in detail by a United Nations panel that won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work on climate in 2007.

Monday's report summarized some of the biggest worries for Americans in particular. They included:

-- Heat waves, which the report says are expected to increase. The danger is expected to be worst, the report said, in concrete-clad cities, where the lack of greenery creates an "urban heat island." Under climate change, the experts said, summer heat could also sneak up on people in cities where air conditioning hasn't been needed in the past.

-- More "extreme weather events," such as hurricanes, floods and wildfire-breeding droughts. Drought could also create crop failures, the report said, leading to malnutrition.

-- More widespread diseases carried by mosquitoes, ticks and other pests. If warmer temperatures allow these animals to expand their ranges northward, the result could be more cases of West Nile virus, Lyme disease and hantavirus.

-- Increased air pollution, caused because heat contributes to the formation of smog. This, the report said, could increase the incidence of severe asthma or pulmonary disease.

The experts who worked on the study said they could not provide a timetable for when and where these effects will appear. But they said it is already time to get ready for them, but many governments are not doing so.

"Some of the most personal effects of climate change are going to be health-related ones," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health. "We should want the government doing as much as possible now to prevent these effects, or minimize them when they occur."

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The right way to deal with utility monopolies: The public option

Monticello, Minnesota found out. If you want something done, threaten to do it yourself.

Got leaves? Or a million of 'em?

A handful of compostLeaves make wonderful rich compost for your gardening. Image via Wikipedia

You have an opportunity to put them to good use:
December 5, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

The Fall Leaf Haul is a leaf collection program designed to provide Salem residents a means to compost their leaves and grass clippings. No tree limbs are accepted.

The program is for Salem residents only (no commercial landscapers, please).

Food or cash donations will be taken for the Marion-Polk Food Share and Parks Tradition Fund. The sites are being organized and staffed by neighborhood associations and other volunteers.

The sites are located at the State Fairgrounds (Silverton Road at Lana Avenue NE), Sprague High School (2373 Kuebler Road S) and Wallace Marine Park (200 Glen Creek Road NW).

If you are a senior or disabled citizen who needs help getting bags of leaves to one of the collection sites, call Center 50+ at 503-588-6303 for assistance by November 12.

To volunteer a couple of hours to help at a site, call 503-589‑2195 for information.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Important: For the record

Instrumental temperature record of the last 15...Image via Wikipedia

"Global cooling" is nonsense. Now someone is sure to pipe up and say "Maybe figures don't lie, but liars sure do figure" -- but of course that would first tar the folks who came up with the phony "global cooling" numbers, but that little bit of reality doesn't matter to the committed denialist.

AP IMPACT: Statisticians reject global cooling

WASHINGTON – Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book. Only one problem: It's not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press. . . .

In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

"If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect," said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.

Yet the idea that things are cooling has been repeated in opinion columns, a BBC news story posted on the Drudge Report and in a new book by the authors of the best-seller "Freakonomics." Last week, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 57 percent of Americans now believe there is strong scientific evidence for global warming, down from 77 percent in 2006.

Global warming skeptics base their claims on an unusually hot year in 1998. Since then, they say, temperatures have dropped — thus, a cooling trend. But it's not that simple.

Since 1998, temperatures have dipped, soared, fallen again and are now rising once more. Records kept by the British meteorological office and satellite data used by climate skeptics still show 1998 as the hottest year. However, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA show 2005 has topped 1998. Published peer-reviewed scientific research generally cites temperatures measured by ground sensors, which are from NOAA, NASA and the British, more than the satellite data.

The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA's climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.

"The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record," said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. "Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming."

The AP sent expert statisticians NOAA's year-to-year ground temperature changes over 130 years and the 30 years of satellite-measured temperatures preferred by skeptics and gathered by scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880. . . .

UPDATE: Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum's review of the story:

Here's a thought experiment for you. Suppose you had some data and you wanted to know what to make of it. The problem is that the subject of the data happens to be a political hot potato, and you know that everyone you show it to is going to cherry-pick just the pieces that bolster all their favorite preconceived notions.
Well, here's an idea: Show the data to a bunch of different experts but remove all the labels first so they have no idea what they're looking at. Just give them the raw numbers and ask what they think.

That's the delightful idea that AP science writer Seth Borenstein hit on a few days ago. He sent data on global warming to several independent statisticians but didn't tell them what the numbers represented. He just wanted to know if they thought the data showed any kind of flattening or decrease in recent years.

Answer: No. "Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880." In other words, contrary to the chatter from global warming skeptics, the Earth didn't start cooling a decade ago. It only looks that way if you compare current temperatures to 1998, which was an unusually hot year due to a strong El Niño. But if you look at all the data, instead of just cherry-picking one single comparison, the news, unfortunately, remains grim. The current decade is the hottest on record, and the next one will be hotter still.

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Another manifestation of peak oil: Salem not alone with decrepit sidewalks

Cracked SidewalkImage by Grant Neufeld via Flickr

The Salem City Council's vote a little while ago to abandon the responsibilities it assumed for maintaining sidewalks back in the 1980s meant that the city simply tossed miles and miles of decayed and sometimes impassible walks back into the laps of property owners, most of whom live in areas with decayed sidewalks because they don't have much money.

That step was a key sign that things are heading in the wrong direction here and that the problems are fundamental and systemic. Even as the city is failing to provide one of the most important basic public safety amenities, it continues to pour money into paving and repaving and into the rathole of planning the fantasy about yet another auto bridge between connecting Salem's Marion and Polk County pieces, a $600+ million dollar delusion.

Knowing that infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly all over the US and that Salem is not alone in putting the needs of a small subset of people (drivers) ahead of prudent foresight and responsible administration, it's no surprise that Salem's sidewalk woes are showing up elsewhere:

Lois Thibault, coordinator of research for the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that provides guidance to local governments on ADA issues, said Jackson is in the same boat with a lot of cities that for years stalled spending federal dollars on sidewalks to spend money on roads.

"It's deferred maintenance," she said. "We've been so focused on new construction that we've let the maintenance go.

UPDATE: Speaking of sidewalks:
If you're like me, you want vibrant neighborhoods where you can walk to the local grocery, relax in the local park, and have a short commute to work.
Right now, we have the chance to make our dream for livable communities a reality. Oregon is working to develop policy tools that will help Salem-Keizer, Springfield, Eugene and other Oregon cities shape their future.

Join us on Oct. 28 for "Activist 101: Building a Livable Salem-Keizer," co-hosted by Environment Oregon and 1000 Friends of Oregon! This is a great chance to hear from local environmentalists and policy writers, as well as learn how to make a difference yourself.

Click here to sign up!

We all deserve communities where our kids can walk to school or the local playground . . . where we have the option to take the bus or ride a bike to go shopping or to work . . . and where we no longer drive so much that one-third of our global warming pollution comes from transportation.

Right now, nearly half of our city roads lack the basic infrastructure of sidewalks to make streets safe for children; our dependence on cars costs family households more than $10,000 per year; and global warming pollution is threatening to cause more storms, droughts and unpredictable weather patterns.

We can change all of this. Right now, Oregon leaders are developing planning tools that will help Salem-Keizer, Springfield, Eugene and other local communities make the right decisions for improving our communities' livability, while also reducing global warming pollution.

Activist 101: Building a Livable Salem-Keizer
Thursday, Oct. 28, 2009, 6p.m. - 7:30p.m.
Salem Central Library's Anderson Room
585 Liberty St. SE, Salem

Learn how to get involved at "Activist 101: Building a Livable Salem-Keizer," co-hosted by Environment Oregon and 1000 Friends of Oregon on Oct. 28!

Thanks! I look forward to seeing you soon!


Nicole Forbes
Environment Oregon Field Organizer
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A warning from one who would know

The First Oil Well in the USLike all oil wells, even this one (the first in the US) still produces some oil -- just not very fast. THAT is what peak oil is -- a mismatch between the flowrates demanded and the flowrates the earth will yield. Image by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Fact. No. 3: Supply. We are not running out of oil. The issue is not our endowment of oil resources, it is the world’s production capacity. Additions from exploration last replaced annual production in 1987. The easiest oil has been discovered. Costs are increasing for new barrels, where wells can be drilled in water depths of over one mile to targets up to six miles deep, and discoveries can take over a decade to develop.

Oil field declines are running at more than 5 percent per year. That means we have to add at least 4 million barrels per day each year just to keep production flat. Yet non-OPEC production is in the process of, if not peaking, reaching a plateau. The U.K. Energy Research Centre just published a report that there is a significant risk that worldwide production of conventional oil could peak before 2020 and enter terminal decline. If we do not act now, we will have a devastating oil crisis in the next 5-to-10 years.

We will need the courage to act to prevent this crisis and make the commitment to change our behavior – not just in demand; not just in supply; but both.

The United States must take a leadership role. With five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its oil consumption, the United States can no longer blame oil producers for rising prices. We need to have the courage to demand 50 miles per gallon as the national standard for all vehicles; gasoline hybrids and diesel could get us there. A gasoline tax of $1 gallon would boost conservation and help pay down the federal deficit by $120 billion per year.

This outstanding summary -- one of the best ever in the mainstream media -- further warns that living without cheap oil is less science-fictional all the time:

It is 30 years since the film Mad Max was made, launching the career of Mel Gibson.

The film made a big splash at the time for its terrifying view of a world without oil, where gangs of grisly looking people roam deserts in a post-apocalyptic world, killing each other to get their hands on the few drops of petrol that some have managed to produce in makeshift refineries. Social order has completely broken down.

Great film if you like that sort of thing but complete fiction, of course. Or is it? Three decades later, and I wonder if the film was, in fact, years ahead of its time.

Just think back to summer last year when oil prices spiked to $150 a barrel – 10 times the level of a decade earlier. In petrol stations in some European countries, people started to drive off without paying and drivers had to be banned from filling cars before they had paid up. In Britain, people stole heating oil out of the tanks that sit outside many houses in the country.

Imagine what would happen if prices rose, say, to $300 a barrel. Or higher. Not only would it become too expensive to drive unless absolutely necessary, but food would become prohibitively expensive to transport, goods from China would be too expensive to ship, and plastics, which come from oil, would be unaffordable. The cold turkey after more than a century of cheap oil would be painful indeed. For developing countries it would be fatal – many could not afford energy at those prices.

Oil has fallen sharply in price since last summer, but this is only because the world tumbled into its worst recession in decades, clobbering industrial output and trade volumes, and therefore oil demand. What is curious, though, is that oil prices, having tumbled below $40 earlier this year, went back above $81 a barrel last week, their highest for a year.

There are plenty of possible reasons, such as the continuing fall in the value of the dollar, in which oil is priced, or the piling in of speculators who think a recovery will push up oil prices. Or you could reach for the old chestnut of supply and demand. Demand has fallen a lot, sure, but maybe supply is not what it used to be. Indeed, take a graph of the oil price over the past couple of decades, chop off last year's spike to $150 and this year's plunge to $35 and you can see that oil prices have been on a steady upwards trend for a decade. The question is why?

An excellent new report, Heads in the Sand, released last week by the non-governmental organisation Global Witness – the group that first brought "blood diamonds" to the world's attention – looked in depth at what is happening to the supply of oil. And it is frightening.

The author, Simon Taylor, has spent two years working on this issue, in particular, analysing the forecasts issued late last year by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), in which it admitted for the first time that world oil supplies were about to start to dwindle just as demand from countries such as India and China is accelerating rapidly. The IEA had previously asserted that oil production would not peak before 2030 at the earliest. Now it thinks we might be very close to that point.

The IEA figures showed there could be a gap of 7m barrels a day between supply and demand by 2015. That represents about 8% of the expected world demand by then, 91m barrels a day. The gap will grow as demand keeps growing. Taylor warns that world supply levelled off between 2005 and 2008, so quite where the new oil is going to come from is unclear.

Taylor takes issue with the IEA's recommendation that the world spend $450bn (yes, billion) a year looking for new oilfields that may or may not be there and so render its forecasts overoptimistic. He thinks governments should admit they have ignored the problem and don't have a plan B. . . .

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet summer passing into autumn's chill, too soon!

Pumpkins and Gourds Everywhere!Image by cwalker71 via Flickr

The Friends of Salem Saturday Market (a membership organization, by the way -- makes a great holiday gift for your family!) notes that our wonderful market continues twice more before following Persephone into the nether regions for the long dark. But there are still some gatherings during the interim before the Market resumes next April:

Can you believe Salem Saturday Market is already coming to a close? There are only 2 more Saturdays before it shuts down for the season. This summer flew by!

There are still a lot of dedicated vendors out there each Saturday, selling produce, meats, hot food, flowers, crafts and more. Come buy directly from the producer while you still can, & thank them for braving this October weather!


The Market may be winding down, but Friends of Salem Saturday Market is a year-round organization, and we’ve got some fun events in the works. Here’s a sampling:

Oct. 31: Our first fundraiser – We’ll be holding a yard sale at our booth! All the proceeds from the sales at the FSSM booth go directly to supporting our mission and events. We’ve got a lot of great, gently used items for sale: MP3 players, purses, a scanner, books, home decor, baby stuff, and a lot more! Rain or shine!

November: Here’s another benefit for FSSM members! We’ve visited several farms, and now we’ve got a chance to see how crops are handled after they’re harvested. FSSM members are invited to take a tour of Ankeny Lakes Wild Rice Company. These local folks gather wild rice from Oregon, Idaho and Canada, and process, mix, season and package it in a facility south of Salem. We will email members soon with a date and invitation to this exclusive event!

Nov. 22: Sustainable Holiday Market - Straub Environmental Learning Center is hosting this second annual event at Willamette University. We’ll be there to educate consumers, explain our mission, and to sell gift memberships to FSSM. A membership to FSSM makes a thoughtful gift and is a wonderful alternative to combat materialism.

Dec. 13 & 14: Holiday Gift Market - We’ll be at this huge event at the Fairgrounds. As another fundraiser, FSSM will be hosting a “Gift Valet Service.” Our volunteers will hang onto your purchases while you continue shopping. All donations benefit FSSM’s msision. And, you’ll again have another chance to buy gift memberships to FSSM!

Our Board of Directors is hard at work planning more events and activites. Thanks for your support!

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Finestkind civic activism for Minto Brown tomorrow and Halloween

Minto BrownSome of the beautiful vistas likely to disappear soon. Image by voodooangel via Flickr

Some locals are doing what the City of Salem should have done well before ramming through the hasty sale of easements in Minto-Brown Island Park:
CARE ABOUT MINTO BROWN? Then make sure to let the City know what kind of plantings you’d like to see in the recently designated federal easement areas in the park.

Salem residents have an opportunity to influence the design of these two 100-acre parcels, including proportions of open space to woodland, and best locations for different kinds of vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses), at these meetings:

Phase I (initial input from the public) – Tuesday, Oct. 27, 6-8 Leslie Middle School, repeated Saturday, Oct. 31, 10-1 Pringle Park Community Hall.

Phase II (presentation of two or three alternatives, opportunity for public feedback) – Thursday, Nov. 12, 6-8 Leslie Middle School, repeated Saturday, Nov. 14, 10-1 Pringle Park Community Hall.

Phase III (presentation of draft of final plan, opportunity for public feedback) – Tuesday, Nov. 24, 4-7 p.m., Salem Conference Center.

Join us Saturday October 24, or Saturday, October 31, for a walking tour to the easement areas, with an optional visit to areas previously restored under similar programs. We’ll meet in the Picnic Shelter parking lot and begin the tours at 2 p.m. Allow about an hour and a half. By the end of the tour you will know which sections of the park are included in the easement areas, and be prepared to offer your recommendations to the City at the public meetings.

Drop-ins are fine, but if you have questions ahead of time, or can let us know you’re coming, please email us at bassett3 [at symbol] or call us at 503-364-6806. And if you know anyone who might be interested, please pass this info on to them. Thanks.

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Alan Simpson, one of Reagan's old cronies, finds a strain of humanity and good sense somewhere deep inside. This doesn't even touch on what will be the real angle for many people: putting kids away for life is a fast way to bankrupt society to the point where law and order breakdown is inevitable.
A sentence too cruel for children

By Alan K. Simpson
Friday, October 23, 2009

Rather than serving in the U.S. Senate for almost 20 years, or having so many other wonderful life experiences, I could have served a longer sentence in prison for some of the stupid, reckless things I did as a teenager. I am grateful to have gotten a second chance -- and I believe our society should make a sustained investment in offering second chances to our youth.

When I was a teen, we rode aimlessly around town, shot things up, started fires and generally raised hell. It was only dumb luck that we never really hurt anyone. At 17, I was caught destroying federal property and was put on probation. For two years, my probation officer visited me and my friends at home, in the pool hall, at school and on the basketball court. He was a wonderful guy who listened and really cared. I did pretty well on probation. At 21, though, I got into a fight in a tough part of town and ended up in jail for hitting a police officer.

I spent only one night in jail, but that was enough. I remember thinking, "I don't need too much more of this."

I had a chance to turn my life around, and I took it. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether other young people get that same chance.

On Nov. 9, the court will hold oral argument in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida, two cases that will determine whether it is constitutional to sentence a teenager to life in prison without parole for a crime that did not involve the taking of a life. There is a simple reason the criminal justice system should treat juveniles and adults differently: Kids are a helluva lot dumber than adults. They do stupid things -- as I did -- and some even commit serious crimes, but youths don't really ever think through the consequences. It's for this reason that every state restricts children from such consequential actions as voting, serving on juries, purchasing alcohol or marrying without parental consent.

The Supreme Court recognized the differences between teenagers and adults when it held a few years ago, in Roper v. Simmons, that it was unconstitutional to impose the death penalty on defendants younger than 18. Locking up a youth for the rest of his life, with no hope for parole, is surely unconstitutional for the same reasons. The person you are at 13 or 17 is not the person you are at 30, 40 or 50. Everyone old enough to look back on his or her teenage years knows this.

Peer pressure is a huge part of youth behavior, whether one grows up in Washington, D.C., or Cody, Wyo. The guys will say, "Go get the gun. We'll pick up just enough money for tonight." And almost unthinkingly, you'll do it. There is simply no way to know at the time of sentencing whether a young person will turn out "good" or "bad." The only option is to bring him or her before a parole board -- after some number of years -- and give the person the chance to declare, "I'm a different person today" -- and then prove it.

Parole boards can examine how youth offenders spent their time in prison. Did they read books or work in the library? Did they make furniture? Get a college degree? Those are critical questions for review.

If at that review a parole board finds out that a miscreant hasn't changed, then keep him or her in prison. But some juvenile offenders make real efforts while they are in jail, and we should make honest adjustments for them.

We all know youths who have changed for the better. When I was a lawyer in Cody, the court sometimes appointed me to represent juvenile offenders, and parents who knew of my history often asked for help with their children. I once handled the case of an 18-year-old who stole a car and drove it to Seattle. I later hired him as chief of staff for my Senate office, and he turned out to be one of the most able of the people I put in that job.

I was lucky that the bullets I stole from a hardware store as a teenager and fired from my .22-caliber rifle never struck anyone. I was fortunate that the fires I set never hurt anyone. I heard my wake-up call and listened -- and I went on to have many opportunities to serve my country and my community.

When a young person is sent "up the river," we need to remember that all rivers can change course.

The writer, a Republican, was a U.S. senator from Wyoming from 1977 to 1996. He is among former juvenile offenders who have submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the petitioners in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida.

Sigh. As if it needs to be said, not destroying the climate is good for the economy

How's the weather doing? – ¿Qué hace el tiempo...Time is running short while the storm clouds build. Image by marcp_dmoz via Flickr

It's a measure of our insanity and suicidal ideation that this needs to be said.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interesting: Pretty mainstream guy warns that industrial society cannot survive

A community of interest gathers at Stonehenge,...Image via Wikipedia

Update: Think it can't happen? Did you ever think US bonds might not be rated AAA?

Good blog too.

In his new book Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age by Sustainable Living, Thomas A. Lewis analyzes the gathering threats to our society's life-support systems, and the inability of our political and economic institutions to save us. With chapters on food, water, oil, electricity, politics and finance, he makes a convincing case that we can't win the race against catastrophe. What sets Brace for Impact apart is that after it faces the conclusion from which others shrink -- that industrial society cannot survive -- it then shows how easily individual families and communities can weather the coming collapse through sustainable living. . . .

Brace for Impact begins with chapters on the mounting failures of industrial agriculture. "Losing Ground" chronicles the destruction wrought by the way agribusiness grows crops, and "Fat of the Land" the horrors -- and dangers -- of the way it raises animals. With subsequent chapters on water (dwindling supplies and worsening pollution), imminent oil shortages (peak oil, in fact, may already have arrived) and rampant problems in the electrical grid (for which the solution is not a "smart" grid, but no grid at all), the book offers an exhaustive catalog of the rising threats to our supplies of food, water and energy. Then, after examining the political and financial institutions that refuse to recognize the dangers, let alone move to counter them, Brace for Impact faces the inevitable conclusion: industrial society is about to crash, and cannot be saved.

But Lewis argues that while it is not possible to save everyone from the crash, it is entirely possible, indeed relatively simple, for any individual, family or community that embraces sustainable living to avoid the worst consequences. In a final chapter, "Sanctuary," Lewis points the way toward security and prosperity in the ruins of an age destroyed by greed. . . .

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Paging Dr. Pelton -- call your lawyers

Graphic displaying carbon dioxyd concentration...The thing about crimes against humanity is that there are a LOT of potential plaintiffs out there. Image via Wikipedia

In what will be just the first of many suits, Katrina victims have received the go-ahead to file suit against the companies most responsible for disrupting climate stability . . . companies like PGE, Oregon's foulest polluter, which merrily pumps millions of TONS of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, where it will stay for thousands of years.

Dr. Pelton, head of Willamette University and a well-paid board member for PGE, might want to ask his attorneys whether aiding and abetting the destruction of Earth's livability comes under the "sound business judgment" rule in corporate law.
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Gigantic brass ones award for Salem

Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO have brass balls.Image by Jim Frazier via Flickr

After trying (and very nearly succeeding) to sneak through the sale of easements that will permanently bar agriculture from 200 acres of rich farmland in Minto-Brown Island Park and then ramming it through at the last minute over the objections of a diverse group of citizens and the city's own parks and recreation advisory board, NOW the city is all about public outreach.

In other words, it's like telling a homeowner "We really want your input, would you prefer that we bulldoze your house or use it as a fire department training site?"

Truly shameful. With the price of brass so high, you'd think Salem wouldn't have such a money problem.

The status of the Minto Brown Park Restoration Project as of October 22, 2009 is as follows:
• On August 24, 2009, the Mayor and City Council agreed to enter into the easement agreement.
• A survey of the property to define boundaries and setbacks is underway and should be completed soon.
• The current pumpkin crop is scheduled to be harvested during the last week of October.
• Once the harvest is complete, the area will be planted with a cover crop of barley. This will prevent erosion during the winter and provide food for the annual geese population.
• The consultant will begin planting plan soon. We are seeking input from Salem residents.

Reminder that the public involvement meetings to participate in helping develop the planting plan for the Minto Brown Park Restoration Project begin next week. An invitation is attached to this email.

The meetings will take place in three phases as described below. Child-friendly activities will be available at all meetings.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Leslie Middle School, 3850 Pringle Road SE or
Saturday, October 31, 2009, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Pringle Hall, 606 Church Street SE.

These initial meetings are to introduce Vigil-Agrimis, a local design firm that specializes in planning, analysis, and design of water and natural resources projects. Vigil-Agrimis will be working with Natural Resources Conservation Service, the City of Salem and the community to develop the restoration plan for this project. We would also like to take this opportunity to solicit your input regarding some overall planting concepts. Our goal is to work toward restoring the floodplain to a more natural condition and your feedback regarding the level of open space and types of natural habitat is an important part of the development process.

The second set of meetings scheduled on:
Thursday, November 12, 2009, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Leslie Middle School, 3850 Pringle Road SE or
Saturday, November 14, 2009, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Pringle Hall, 606 Church Street SE.

At these meetings, two or three alternatives based on the input received at the first meetings will be presented. Attendees will have the opportunity to provide input on these alternatives.

A final meeting is scheduled on November 24, 2009, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Salem Conference Center, 200 Commercial Street SE. It is anticipated that the consultant will present a first draft of the design (50 percent completed) to the public and solicit feedback.

We look forward to seeing you at the public meetings.

For more information go to or contact Mike Gotterba or Nitin Joshi at 503-588-6211.
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Salem university, headed by board member of states worst polluter, wins Nation Wildlife Federation sustainability award

Interesting. Willamette University -- headed by Dr. M. Lee Pelton, who sits on the board of PGE, Oregon's worst polluter and the operator of Oregon's worst greenhouse gas source, the Boardman Coal Plant --
PGE's coal-fired power plant in Boardman, Oregon is the dirtiest power plant in the Northwest. Studies have shown that up to 50% of the haze on smoggiest days in the Columbia Gorge comes from Boardman. Air pollution can ruin stunning views (see photo below) in the Gorge and affect the health of residents and habitats alike.

But in addition to air quality problems, Boardman emits five million tons of carbon dioxide a year, making it Oregon's #1 source of the climate-changing pollutants.

We need your help to convince PGE to join the rest of the region in preparing for a clean energy future, a future that protects the Columbia Gorge.

-- has won an award from the National Wildlife Federation for campus sustainability work.
In announcing the award, Willamette says:
All of these activities are designed to enhance Willamette University’s central mission of research and teaching, advance the critical understanding and adoption of sustainability, and demonstrate the fundamental role higher education must play in resolving the fundamental issues of the 21st Century.
You can read Dr. Pelton's thoughts on sustainability here. And you can write to him here in case you want to ask how him how he manages to square any of that with his work for Oregon's worst polluter, a company that is fighting tooth and nail to keep on destroying climate stability by burning coal.

For International Climate Action Day, think globally and act locally: Ask Dr. Pelton why he backs coal, the meth of the energy world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RISE AND SHINE for sustainability this Monday night!

fresh eggs fryingOne of the most important emergency preparedness steps Salem could take is promoting poultry keeping. Image by thomas pix via Flickr

The long ordeal over letting a little common sense prevail is --- with luck --- drawing to a close, and the Salem City Council will consider three separate means of permitting a few urban hens in single-family-residential zones.

Please attend -- and bring your children, parents, and friends to pack City Hall with advocates for urban hens. The Salem City Council can't quite bring itself to think that people in Salem are every bit as competent or as neighborly as people in almost all other cities in Oregon, despite this low opinion of us reflecting poorly on them and us both.
Monday, October 26, Salem City Hall, Room 240 (Council Chambers) 6:30 PM
Please come and show your support!

THIS IS IT! There are three draft chicken ordinances to be voted on Monday night by our elected officials. It's a bit complicated, but you can read for yourself the various options by going to the following website and clicking on the third Future Report listed:

Five pro-hen speakers are lined up to address important issues. Nobody else has to speak if you don't want to. In fact, it might be best to keep the number of speakers down to a minimum because they are tired of hearing about chickens. But we definitely need to fill the room with people so that when I ask all supporters to stand, the Mayor will see that we have NOT lost momentum or support. At the September 14th meeting she said the chicken issue is "losing momentum to show there's enough community support and therefore Salem is just not ready for chickens." Let's prove her wrong!

(Almost didn't post that clip because of the crowing, which of course won't be an issue in Salem, because the proposed ordinances all forbid roosters, which urban hen keepers don't need as the hens are for eggs and as pets, not for breeding.)

Also, this Saturday (October 24) there will be a 350 Health Faire at the Tea Party Book Shop on the corner of Liberty & Ferry from 10:00 to 5:00. Chickens In The Yard (C.I.T.Y.) will be there recruiting support and selling our Viva La Chicken Revolution T-shirts and window decals. Please consider stopping by and picking one up. (And wearing it to City Hall Monday night!)

Thank you.
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Coal is the Meth of the Energy World

"Cheap" coal comes with (a very, very conservatively estimated) $62 BILLION dollar annual hidden price tag.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why doesn't government get Peak Oil?

View from Hubbert's Peak prefaceImage by n2teaching via Flickr

Good article on peak oil in the Christian Science Monitor. And even the execrable "Marketplace" program has one here. The question is this: Why are such articles otherwise so rare and so little discussed by governments?

This is from an interview with Colin Campbell, one of the founders of the Assn. for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) after the recent ASPO international conference in Denver:
Question: The peak oil message doesn’t seem to be heard in the halls of government and in corporate board rooms. Why?

Colin Campbell: The question of peak oil is a difficult, sensitive one. There are many people, especially in government and industry, who’d prefer not to know it. The reason is quite logical: they’re looking for expansion, for economic growth, for prosperity, and for a continuation of the successful epoch we’ve lived in. To suddenly wake up and say, well, things are changing radically and we don’t really know what it means, is not something an executive would wish to say. And yet I think behind the scenes they are beginning to plan and prepare in sensible ways. You’ll find the oil companies, for example, are selling and disposing of secondary marketing chains, secondary refineries and so on, because they know full well that the supply is going to lead to surplus refining capacity. I think if you look elsewhere, the airline businesses is changing radically because it’s so dependent on cheap oil. We see hidden messages that do deliver the correct reading of all of this, but it’s not something people really want to talk about.

Question: What about the notion of making America energy independent?

Campbell: It can’t be done voluntarily. To make America energy-independent is not something I think any government can achieve. But within 50 years that’s what nature will deliver. Countries will have to be energy independent. They have no alternative. Some may get there quicker than others, but it’s not something some government will say, well this is our plan of action. It will delivered to them by the force of nature. So America will indeed be energy independent and probably quite soon if these imports dry out. What that means and how they react to such a situation is another day’s work.
Given the way we've organized industrial oil-dependent societies, government officials who ignore the looming rapid collapse of oil exports (as producing nations keep more and more of their oil for their own uses) is guilty of gross negligence and supreme indifference to risks of harm to the people they supposedly serve.
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