Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The REAL issue could make the Anthropocene the shortest epoch in planetary history!



Most of the U.S. is aware of climate change but 90% think - 1) it doesn't apply to them, or 2) they can't do anything about it, or 3) it's a bunch of political bullshit (aka they're in denial). All of those viewpoints are grievously in error.

If we understand that WE are part of a materially finite system of life AND, at the same time, a human created system of social and material process that has foundational requirements (capitalism - endless growth, endless consumption, endless waste with no impact) that cannot be satisfied in a materially finite system, and we have pushed out to the limits of that materially finite system, then we realize we must make some choices. Failure/refusal to make a choice is a de facto choice in the negative, so... If we accept the current scientific understandings in climate, weather, ecology (including habitat for all of life on Earth), human habitat specifically, agroecology, paleo-climate, and more, then there are basic, systemic principles that apply to all of that life -

1) Climate and weather are the seasonal and real-time manifestations of Earth's constant energy balancing act - and more energy is entering and being retained by the system... unbalanced. As a result we WILL be facing and dealing with ever more violent and sudden energy balancing activities as planetary feedback systems try to balance increasingly out of balance energy profiles globally. Laws of physics applied on the global scale.

2) All living things on Earth have varying "zones" of conditions within which their life is possible - at the center of which their life is "ideal". Those zones are defined by temperature, moisture availability, nutrient availability, and shelter conditions (conditions which protect the life form from extremes of habitat condition and allow the life form to "rest"). We could ( and do) call this the "Goldilocks Zone" - where conditions are "just right".

3) Given that all life forms have a Goldilocks Zone, not all Goldilocks Zones are the same. If living conditions in a given location change so as to exceed the Goldilocks Zone limits, the affected organism suffers what is called a "loss of habitat". That organism must either move to new effective habitat, adapt to the current changed habitat, or die. A form of adaptation would include being protected by another organism.

4) Due in part to human activities over the last 100-200 years conditions for all of life on Earth are now changing rapidly and exceeding the Goldilocks Zone of many species alive today. Some species are moving, some are attempting to adapt, many are dying. The changes are accelerating and/or are moving much faster than predicted/anticipated. As a result the changes are too fast for many species to adapt, which means that they must either move, be protected, or die.

Because we are in an increasing exponential curve regarding the level and scope of life-threatening impact now occurring, the choices that we make in the next 5 years in relation to this basic and foundational knowledge of the systemic impact of our ecologically unguided and self-centered choices and actions over the previous two centuries, will affect all life on Earth immediately and the ability of Earth to continue to sustain carbon-based life as we know it for the next 100,000 years... and YES, this does include human life.

The actions needed are wrenching and quite realistically civilization ending. A complete cessation of all industrial capitalist activities. A complete reconsideration of how and what living on a planet with finite resources means for humanity and the life it is utterly dependent upon for it's sustenance. A complete reorientation of the human supporting food system. The magnitude of change rests on the magnitude of overall impact to carbon based life's ability to thrive on Earth at all. At best the saving grace for humanity may be aboriginal cultures that haven't entirely lost their sense of who they are and where they came from, and worst case, the extremophiles of Earth's Tree of Life, such as the amazing array of life found around highly toxic and anoxic deep sea high-heat thermal vents along volcanic fissures may be the only things that make it through

Welcome to what may well be the end of the shortest epoch in global history - the Anthropocene!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Convenience - The Core of The Problem

From the documentary "Fresh" - "I used to have a Pakistani room mate at college, and he said to me one day 'George, there is only one thing Americans are afraid of.' to which I responded 'What's that?' and he said 'Inconvenience!' " George Naylor, Corn Belt Farmer

On almost every level the Pakistani room mate was right. Look at any supermarket. 90% of the stuff on the shelves is packaged the way it is for convenience - but that convenience costs us. The very existence of that store is a matter of convenience. - and THAT costs us. I live near a town of 7,687 people (plus or minus 13 on any given day). It has TWO grocery stores either of which is capable of feeding that many people but one has higher priced, better quality goods and the other has lower priced, and in most cases, lower quality goods and they probably split the town's population between them... if we don't account for the fact that many in the town travel routinely outside the town at distances that give them access to other markets entirely. So, 1/3 of the shopping gets done somewhere else, 1/3 gets done at store #1, 1/3 gets done at store #2. HUGE amounts of convenience thinking driving that profile.

One of the things we need to accept is that most of the "convenience" availability drives extra material extraction from the natural world (it was expedient when the process got started and nobody has complained so it continues) and massive uses of energy, most derived from fossil fuels (coal, oil, or gas). When I talk about We The People needing to re-assume responsibility for EVERY joule of energy that is expended on our behalf every day, this convenience function is the big chunk of what I mean when I say that. Our egregious consumption of energy is almost entirely about convenience. Gas in your two or three cars? Much more convenient than hitching up two or three horses to go to town and several other places. Faster, more comfortable, safer, more weather resistant, nicer ride - more convenient.

Turning on the lights? Much easier and cleaner and more convenient than filling the oil lamp with kerosene, trimming the wick, lighting it (make sure you protect your ceilings from the column of heat from that chimney if it's wall mounted). Pushing a button on the food processor? Much easier, cleaner, less work than hand chopping or mincing the ingredients for supper... if your cooking "from scratch"! Maybe not - just reach into that freezer and take out some pot pies, frozen vegetables, and cook a couple of potatoes in the microwave - all relying on electricity piped through your walls to convenient outlets.

Americans are awash in functions of convenience, so much so, that it's almost impossible to escape - unless you simply move out of it entirely, into a space that was not occupied by the convenience culture before. It can be done. It's either that "move out" or engage the level of rigor and discipline to not use and avoid all the mechanisms of convenience that surround our every moment... or move out into unformed space and create your own "inconvenient" personally energy responsible space.

Its up to us to solve this problem. Its about our consumption - our excessive consumption. If we don't change that, then we are headed for the scrap heap to join every other species that has ever lived... and gone extinct. The biggest reason for extinction is habitat loss. We are on the verge of losing ours too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

You've Only Got Two Things To Worry About!

You have TWO primary concerns with abrupt climate change - 1) how you manage your survival zone (aka Goldilocks Zone - where all the conditions are "just right") as the prevailing conditions change - permanently as far as you're concerned., and 2) how you manage the survival zone of your food supply (which is more delicate and sensitive than yours is).

Stable climate is the absolute foundation of our social processes and system. It is what limits our risks to a range that make "extreme events" both rare and profitable to insure against. What we have previously thought of as extreme events are going to become the norm, affecting everything about our way of life in western civilization (which as a substantial side note, isn't sustainable as it is and becomes positively volatile under abrupt climate change). We are already moving into this period of time and far too little is being done to prepare for or mitigate the risks.

Radical departures from stable conditions usually result in loss of habitat. Most extinction, throughout the history of life on Earth, has been caused by “loss of habitat”. The effect of climate change on all elements of life is completely dependent upon each lifeform’s available habitat. For most lifeforms that occupy the solid surface of the planet a relatively stable climate is a necessity to maintain habitat. Any sustained departure from the required stable condition must either be overcome by changing external factors (adaptation), by changes to the actual lifeforms or their life functions (evolution), or the loss of habitat results in death (extinction).

Your Goldilocks Zone is comprised of the range of internal temperatures that we must maintain to stay alive, as well as the availability of air (aka correct level of oxygen), water, functional food, protection from the elements, and rest to sustain a meaningful life. To be specific that means 5 critical factors. These factors define the human Goldilocks Zone
        1. Oxygen - People can begin to experience brain damage after as few as five minutes without oxygen. For humans and many animals to sustain normal functions, the percentage of oxygen in the breathing environment must be within a relatively small range. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, determined the optimal breathing range to be between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen in air.
  • Several things may prevent you from getting the oxygen you need. Environmental risks such as high altitude, dense smoke, or carbon monoxide can prevent you from getting enough oxygen.
  • Some medical issues may prevent your body from receiving oxygen like cardiac arrest, stroke, drowning and others.
  • Without a consistent supply of oxygen, you can experience a condition called cerebral hypoxia which affects our brains.
    • At levels at or below 17 percent, your mental abilities become impaired.
    • When levels drop to 16 percent or below, noticeable changes to your behavior will occur
    • Levels under 14 percent will cause extreme exhaustion from physical activity.
    • Once levels drop below 10 percent, you may become very nauseous or lose consciousness.
    • Humans won't survive with levels at 6 percent or lower. After 10 minutes without oxygen, the brain damage can be so severe that most people will die.
  • Higher-than-normal oxygen levels in air aren't as harmful to life, however there is an increased fire or explosion risk. 
    • With extremely high concentrations of oxygen in the breathing zone, humans can experience harmful side effects. 
    • Very high levels of oxygen causes oxidizing free radicals. These free radicals will attack the tissues and cells of the body and cause muscle twitching. 
    • The effects from short exposure can usually be reversed, however lengthy exposure can cause death.

        2. Water - Other than the air we breathe (and it's approximately 21% oxygen), water is the most essential component for human survival. The body’s functional chemicals are dissolved and transported in water, and the chemical reactions of life take place in water.
  • It is estimated that an average person cannot survive for more than 3-4 days without water. The daily requirement is about 3 liters (approx. 3.2 quarts). Ideal drinking, sanitation, and hygiene needs can be met with approx. 50 liters (13.2 gallons)/day
  • During hot weather it is recommended that the average person consume more, if available, to replace the amount lost due to sweating, respiration and excretion to maintain a balance of body fluids. In moderate climates you may be able to get by on less.
  • When the hydration balance is unable to be maintained the body will start to go through the dehydration process.
    • A 2.5 percent loss in water volume in a person leads to a 25 percent reduction in blood volume. This means the blood gets thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump nutrients throughout the body.
    • This lower blood volume also reduces flow to the extremities, leading to numbness in the fingers and toes.
    • The thicker blood also has a harder time making its way through the small capillaries in the brain. The lack of oxygen to parts of the brain can make it impossible to concentrate or focus for any period of time.
    • The length of time one can survive without water depends on activity level and environmental temperature. Higher activity will invariably reduce life span, as will higher temperatures.
    • With no water, the maximum length of time a person can survive is 10 days. Starting at 80 degrees Fahrenheit life expectancy is reduced to 9 days. With every five-degree increase in temperature, the life span decreases a day.

        3. Food - sustenance, a source of biological "fuel", or what we call food, is the next most important factor after oxygen and water.
  • A body that does not have food can survive for quite a long time by subsisting on the fat reserves in the body and the glycogen reserves in the liver and, eventually, the proteins in the muscles.
  • The first two to three days without food, the body will depend solely on the fat reserves to run the muscles of the body. These fatty acids can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. The body can survive for as much as two weeks without intake of energy rich foods (fats & carbohydrates) 
  • The brain relies on the glycogen reserves to send glucose to the brain. After day three, the liver begins to synthesize ketones (short strand fatty acids) that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The ketone stage can last for up to two weeks.
  • Once the fat reserves are used up, the body will begin breaking down the musculature into proteins that can be converted into amino acids that are then transformed into glucose. Muscles break down quickly, within one week.
  • Once this process has completed there is no other internal source of energy and the body dies. Signs of starvation include apathy, listlessness, withdrawal, changes in hair color, flaky skin, and massive edema in the abdomen and lower limbs, all of which lead to a higher chance of infection.
  • Most individuals who experience starvation don’t die directly from it. Most die due to infectious diseases that attack the body as it consumes its own defenses.
        4. Shelter (Protection From temp and moisture extremes… or the frequently cited "elements") - A shelter that helps to keep your body at a constant temperature and stable water content - temperature and humidity being the key components of climate - is also a necessity. This could include appropriate clothing.
  • When a person is exposed to "the elements", water and temperature loss is increased.
  • Cold temperatures and high winds can strip away valuable moisture as quickly as high temperatures can cause sweat related loss.
  • A shelter should consist of a place to make fire to create heat as well as protection from the wind and rain.
    • Without the ability to keep a constant temperature and hydration, a person runs the risk of hypothermia or heat stroke.
    • A person’s normal temperature in 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. If the core temperature drops to 91.4, a body will go unconscious. At 86.0 degrees, the body loses the ability to control internal temperature. At 82.4 degrees, there is complete muscle failure.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, a temperature of 107.6 degrees results in a breakdown of the central nervous system. At slightly over 111 degrees, the brain overheats and causes death.
    • Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause hallucinations and illogical behavior, which can cause a person to fail to take the proper steps to keep himself alive.
        5. Rest/Sleep - For a long time sleep was not considered a basic human need. Studies on sleep deprivation helped to change this in the 20th century. In terms of human need, sleep is one of the five most important elements.
  • Sleep deprivation can cause a myriad of problems ranging from decreased body temperature to cognitive impairment and hallucination.
  • Although the mechanisms of sleep are not well understood, the problems associated with lack of sleep are.
    • Headaches can begin as soon as 24 hours after missing sleep.
    • 72 hours in, memory is impaired and temporal and spatial distortion start to occur. 
    • After 96 hours without sleep, cognition is markedly impaired.
    • After 144 hours, hallucinations ensue and there is a considerable loss of attention and manual dexterity.
    • The longer a person goes without sleep the less coherent thought patterns become.
  • This lack of clear thinking can be detrimental on its own, if coupled with a lack in any of the other basic needs areas it could be life threatening.
With minor variation, these same requirements exist for EVERY form of carbon-based life on Earth, except that for most OTHER lifeforms, the specificity is much more limited and intolerant. You do the math... If you need specific numbers I have them. Ask and ye shall receive...

Think about it! Be prepared! Keep your powder dry and your candles lit!

The Smokemaster

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lifeboat Time (comprised largely of a John Michael Greer blog post from 2007)

While David Wasdell was busy formulating the detailed view of what was wrong and how it could affect things, which he presented in Nov 2007 @ Westminster, another person who was clued in to the realities, by the name of John Michael Greer, wrote a cogent blog post that was well worth much greater public attention than it got. His post, "Lifeboat Time" is MUCH more relevant now than it was then, and it was spot on then... BUT it has been taken down in it's original location (The Archdruid Report, linked below, is no longer active) and is now promised for an as yet unidentified future date of hard copy publication. With that in mind, I make it available here, for your consideration.


Lifeboat time
by John Michael Greer, originally published by The Archdruid Report  | Nov 29, 2007 

"One of the more notable news stories of the last week concerned the fate of M/S Explorer, a cruise ship built for polar seas that turned out to be not quite up to the rigors of the job. Before dawn on November 23, while cruising just north of the Antarctic peninsula, she rammed into submerged sea ice, leaving a fist-sized hole in the hull and water coming in faster than her pumps could handle. Fifteen hours later the Explorer was on the bottom of the sea.
Fortunately the captain had the great good sense to order an evacuation well in advance. Even more fortunately, everyone knew what to do, and did it without quibbling. Crew and passengers abandoned all their possessions except the clothes they wore, donned survival suits, climbed into lifeboats, and spent five cold hours watching the Explorer fill up with water and heel over until another ship came to pick them up. Later the same day they were safe at a Chilean coast guard base on the South Shetland Islands, waiting for a plane ride home.
I thought of that story this morning while surveying the latest round of debates about peak oil, global warming, the imploding debt bubble, and half a dozen other symptoms of the unfolding crisis of industrial society now under way. By this point there are few metaphors for crisis more hackneyed than the fatal conjunction of ship and iceberg, but the comparison retains its usefulness because it throws the issues surrounding crisis management into high relief. When the hull’s pierced and water’s rising below decks, the window of opportunity for effective action is brief, and if the water can’t be stopped very soon, it’s lifeboat time.
By almost any imaginable standard, that time has arrived for the industrial world. Debates about whether world petroleum production will peak before 2030 or not miss a point obvious to anybody who’s looked at the figures: world petroleum production peaked in November 2005 at some 86 million barrels of oil a day, and has been declining slowly ever since. So far the gap has been filled with tar sands, natural gas liquids, and other unconventional liquids, all of which cost more than ordinary petroleum in terms of money and energy input alike, and none of which can be produced at anything like the rate needed to supply the world’s rising energy demand. As depletion of existing oil fields accelerates, the struggle to prop up the current production plateau promises to become a losing battle against geological reality.
Meanwhile the carbon dioxide generated by the 84 million barrels a day we’re currently pumping and burning, along with equally unimaginable volumes of coal and natural gas, drives changes in climate that only a handful of oil company flacks and free-market fundamentalists still insist aren’t happening. Worried scientists report from Greenland and West Antarctica that for the first time since measurements began, liquid water is pooling under both these huge continental glaciers – the likely precursor to an ice sheet collapse that could put sea levels up 50 to 60 feet worldwide within our lifetimes.
In related news, Atlanta may just be on the verge of edging out New Orleans as the poster child for climate catastrophe. Unless the crippling years-long drought over the southeast United States gives way to heavy rains very soon, Atlanta will run completely out of drinking water sometime in the new year. The city government has had to explain to worried citizens that they are out of options, and there aren’t enough tanker trucks in all of Dixie to meet the daily water needs of a big city. Nobody is willing to talk about what will happen once the last muddy dregs in the Georgia reservoirs are pumped dry, and the drinking fountains, toilet tanks, and fire hydrants of greater metropolitan Atlanta have nothing to fill them but dust.
As Macchiavelli commented in a different context, though, people care more about their finances than their lives, and even the Atlanta papers have seen the drought shoved off the front page now and then by the latest round of implosions in the world of high finance. For those of my readers who haven’t been keeping score, banks and financial firms around the world spent most of the last decade handing out mortgages to anybody with a pulse, packaging up the right to profit from those mortgages into what may just be the most misnamed “securities” in the history of financial markets, and selling them to investors around the world.
On this noticeably unsteady foundation rose the biggest speculative bubble in recorded history, as would-be real estate moguls borrowed dizzying sums to buy up property they were convinced could only go up in value, while investors whose passion for profit blinded them to the risk of loss snapped up a torrent of exotic financial products whose connection to any significant source of value can be safely described as imaginary. All this hallucinated wealth, though, depended on the theory that people with no income, job, or assets could and would pay their mortgage bills on time, and when this didn’t happen, the whole tower of cards began coming apart. Some of the world’s largest banks have already taken billions of dollars in losses, and nobody is even pretending that the economic carnage is over yet.
Connect the dots and the picture that emerges will be familiar to those of my readers who have taken the time to struggle through the academic prose of How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse. One of the central points of that paper is that the decline and fall of a civilization unfolds in a series of crises separated by incomplete recoveries. The point is not an original one; Arnold Toynbee discussed the same rhythm of breakdown and respite most of a century earlier in his magisterial A Study of History. If that same pattern will shape the fate of our own civilization – and it’s hard to think of a reason why it should not – the second wave of crisis in the decline and fall of the industrial world may be breaking over our heads right now.
No, that wasn’t a misprint. Historians of the future will likely put the peak of modern industrial civilization between 1850 and 1900, when the huge colonial empires of the Euro-American world hit the zenith of their global reach. The first wave in the decline of our civilization lasted from 1929 to 1945, and was followed by a classic partial recovery in which public extravagance masked the disintegration of the imperial periphery. Compare the unsteady, hole-and-corner American economic empire of today with the British Empire’s outright dominion over half the world in 1900, say, and it’s hard to miss the signs of decline.
Today we may well be facing the beginning of the next wave. One advantage this concept offers is the realization that the experience of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generations may offer a useful perspective on what’s coming. In the summer of 1929, nobody I know of predicted the imminent arrival of unparalleled economic disaster, followed by the rise of fascism and the outbreak of the bloodiest war in human history. Such things seemed to be stowed safely away in the distant past. From today’s perspective, though, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that something not unlike the bitter experiences of 1929-1945 – different in detail, surely, but equivalent in scale – may be in the offing.
If that’s likely – and I believe it is – we’re in much the same situation as the passengers of M/V Explorer were last Friday, but with an unwelcome difference. No alarm has been sounded, no order to evacuate announced over the p/a system. The captain and half the crew insist that nothing is wrong, while the other half of the crew insist that everything will be all right if they can only replace the current captain with another of their own choosing. The only warning being given comes from a handful of passengers who took the time to glance down into the hold and saw the water rising there, and while some people are listening to the bad news, next to nobody’s making any preparations for what could be a very, very rough time immediately ahead.
Those of my readers who have been paying attention know already that the preparations I have in mind don’t include holing up in a mountain cabin with crates of ammunition, stacks of gold bars, and way too many cans of baked beans in the pantry. Nor do they involve signing onto the latest crusade to throw one batch of scoundrels out of office so another batch of scoundrels can take its place. Rather, I’m thinking of a couple of friends of mine who are moving from the east coast megalopolis where they’ve spent most of their adult lives to a midwestern city small enough that they can get by without a car. I’m thinking of the son-in-law of another friend who is setting up a forge and learning blacksmithying in his spare time, so he’ll have a way of earning a living when his service economy job evaporates out from under him. I’m thinking of another couple of friends who just moved back to his aging parents’s farm to help keep it running.
For a great many people just now, actions like those are unthinkable, and even the simplest steps to prepare for financial crisis – paying down debts, reining in expenditures, making sure savings are in federally insured banks rather than the imaginary economy of paper assets, and putting by extra food in the cupboard and useful supplies in the shed to deal with the spot shortages and business bankruptcies that usually accompany economic crisis – are off the radar screen. That’s unfortunate, because some tolerably simple changes made now, while there’s still time to make them, could spare a lot of people a lot of grief not that far down the road.
It’s no fun to be jolted out of bed before dawn by a warning siren, and told that you have to head for the nearest lifeboat station, leaving everything behind but the clothes on your back. It’s even less fun to climb down into an open lifeboat in 20°F weather, knowing you’ll be tossed around on the gray Antarctic seas until somebody responds to the SOS – if anybody does. Still, add up all the unpleasantness of both and they’re still preferable to a last-minute scramble for survival on a sinking ship, when half the lifeboats and survival suits are already under water and the deck is heeling over so fast the other half may be out of reach.
Millions of people went through some approximation of that last experience between 1929 and 1945. Millions more may undergo the same sort of thing once the current crisis gets under way. There’s been plenty of talk about peak oil and the twilight of the industrial world, and that’s been useful in its way, but talk doesn’t substitute for constructive action when lifeboat time arrives." 
After reading this, ask yourself - Can we keep the ship of state afloat with sufficient change in culture, economy, and society? It will pretty much mean rebuilding the ship from the keel up, such that we no longer operate anything like the way we have... and doing that while we are still at sea. 

The alternative is identify the lifeboats and get in them in an orderly fashion, because, as the author says  -
"It’s no fun to be jolted out of bed before dawn by a warning siren, and told that you have to head for the nearest lifeboat station, leaving everything behind but the clothes on your back. It’s even less fun to climb down into an open lifeboat in 20°F weather, knowing you’ll be tossed around on the gray Antarctic seas until somebody responds to the SOS – if anybody does.
 
Still, add up all the unpleasantness of both and they’re still preferable to a last-minute scramble for survival on a sinking ship, when half the lifeboats and survival suits are already under water and the deck is heeling over so fast the other half may be out of reach. Millions of people went through some approximation of that last experience between 1929 and 1945. Millions more may undergo the same sort of thing once the current crisis gets under way. [Ed. Note: they have] There’s been plenty of talk about peak oil and the twilight of the industrial world, and that’s been useful in its way, but talk doesn’t substitute for constructive action when lifeboat time arrives."
Remember, there is no one to respond once we are in the life boats, and he was writing this in 2007 just before the last collapse. We are now facing collapse #3 and business is no longer, and can no longer be, "as usual". If and when we get into the lifeboats this time, we take up oars and row for shore, wherever we think that is, and we start over, from scratch. Maybe you should not leave everything behind except the clothes on your back. Bring your pocketknife and some matches...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The bottom line is TRANSFORMATION

As Naomi Klein says, frequently "There are no solution options left on the table that are not radical." I've found myself having to make this case rather forcefully with a number of people lately who are very much inclined to be "sustainable" but they have great difficulty letting go of the idea that sustainability CAN NOT/DOES NOT mean "greening up" stuff that we do now. They don't get that "going green" wasn't probably EVER a functional response but that it's just not even in the solution window now. Recycling all your cans and using helical light bulbs is so far short of the mark that it almost doesn't move the needle onto the scale. Change really HAS to be  T-R-A-N-S-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N-A-L!! Don't take a page from the "Amish book" - Buy The Book!!!

Further more, it's worth noting that in the same period of the last 6 months I have seen a huge number of folks who have the same romantic notions about "being sustainable" that some white folks here (in the US) had about "being indigenous" about 100 years ago. "The noble red man, aligned with nature, continues to live... blah, blah, blah" and while said "noble red men" have never completely lost track of their culture and heritage, they will be the first to tell you that it wasn't about nobility. It was about doing the best you can under varying circumstances, and it was about a lot of hard work, pretty much all the time. It was also about community that worked together and had not lost its ever present sense of what community means.

These "nouveau natural" people (same genetic lines as the pseudo-indigenous, I'm pretty sure) think they've gotten sustainability religion and what they've gotten is a romantic image of Grandma canning peaches with the scent of the rich peach-ness floating on the air, mingled with cinnamon and clove. The aroma therapy is great, but the vision lacks substance. These folks have not/are not thinking about planting and growing the trees that the peaches came from, protecting the saplings against "too cold" conditions, or "too hot" conditions, recognizing that you will be sharing some of the crop with the birds, and insects (or badgers as the case may be) and so you do what is realistic to make sure that you grow enough for everybody AND you bust a hump when they are ripe to get them off the tree and into the house.

Being ready to light the fire and spin into action on short notice for the canning requirements of the moment as various thinks hit their optimum ripeness and you have to can them before they get past prime, the cleanup and spin-up again, hot on the heals of cleanup if necessary. Getting all the jars ready to rock, with fastidious attention to detail, because slack in the canning department is poison in the winter - Hell, HAVING enough jars to handle the load - most people have NO idea how many jars it takes to can up a winter's worth of food (or more), or for that matter how productive the garden has to be.  Quite obviously, the list goes on...

So, while we are busy engineering the transition I think it is CRITICAL that we remain clear about what we are transitioning to. If it's not transformational relative to now, it's not the right place. How to recover the baby we threw out with the bathwater... that is not a pretty picture to contemplate but if that baby is still alive we NEED to recover it, not just try to make a new one.

Prepare yourself - we are getting ready for the "great reveal" when we discover how much no-shit real work was being done that tempted Western culture to use human slavery first and then hydro-carbon chemical energy slaves and then in a (potentially final) burst of market capitalism excess, newly re-enslaved people as wage slaves to ride herd on the energy slaves for them. Witness the rise and fall of the oligarch supreme. TRANSFORMATION - because hanging on to the tattered remnants of the greatest fail in human history is our death warrant. TRANSFORMATION - because the fundamental survival of life relies on evolution, and the rule of evolution is that when conditions become unsustainable, you change locations, you change your way of being, or you die!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Essential Bottom Line - The Human Goldilocks Zone

Basic human survival needs define the human Goldilocks Zone:
These needs are summarized here -

1. Oxygen (usually as a component of air) - People can begin to experience brain damage after as few as five minutes without oxygen. For humans and many animals to sustain normal functions, the percentage of oxygen in the breathing environment must be within a relatively small range. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, determined the optimal breathing range to be between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen in air.
            A. Several things may prevent you from getting the oxygen you need. Environmental risks such as high altitude, dense smoke, or carbon monoxide can prevent you from getting enough oxygen.
            B. Some medical issues may prevent your body from receiving oxygen like cardiac arrest, stroke, drowning and others.
            C. Without a consistent supply of oxygen, you can experience a condition called cerebral hypoxia which affects our brains.
                1. At levels at or below 17 percent, your mental abilities become impaired.
                2. When levels drop to 16 percent or below, noticeable changes to your behavior will occur
                3. Levels under 14 percent will cause extreme exhaustion from physical activity.
                4. Once levels drop below 10 percent, you may become very nauseous or lose consciousness.
                5. Humans won't survive with levels at 6 percent or lower. After 10 minutes without oxygen, the brain damage can be so severe that most people will die.
            D. Higher-than-normal oxygen levels in air aren't as harmful to life, however there is an increased fire or explosion risk. With extremely high concentrations of oxygen in the breathing zone, humans can experience harmful side effects. Very high levels of oxygen causes oxidizing free radicals to form. These free radicals will attack the tissues and cells of the body and cause muscle twitching. The effects from short exposure can usually be reversed, however lengthy exposure can cause death.

2. Water - Other than the air we breathe (and it's approximately 21% oxygen), water is the most essential component for human survival. The body’s functional chemicals are dissolved and transported in water, and the chemical reactions of life take place in water.
            A. It is estimated that an average person cannot survive for more than 3-4 days without water. The daily requirement is about 3 liters (approx. 3.2 quarts). Ideal drinking, sanitation, and hygiene needs can be met with approx. 50 liters (13.2 gallons)/day
            B. During hot weather it is recommended that the average person consume more, if available, to replace the amount lost due to sweating, respiration and excretion to maintain a balance of body fluids. In moderate climates you may be able to get by on less.
            C. When the hydration balance is unable to be maintained the body will start to go through the dehydration process.
                1. A 2.5 percent loss in water volume in a person leads to a 25 percent reduction in blood volume. This means the blood gets thicker and the heart has to work harder to pump nutrients throughout the body.
                2. This lower blood volume also reduces flow to the extremities, leading to numbness in the fingers and toes.
                3. The thicker blood also has a harder time making its way through the small capillaries in the brain. The lack of oxygen to parts of the brain can make it impossible to concentrate or focus for any period of time.
                4. The length of time one can survive without water depends on activity level and environmental temperature. Higher activity will invariably reduce life span, as will higher temperatures.
                5. With no water, the maximum length of time a person can survive is 10 days. Starting at 80 degrees Fahrenheit life expectancy is reduced to 9 days. With every five-degree increase in temperature, the life span decreases a day.

3. Food - sustenance, a source of biological "fuel", or what we call food, is the next most important factor after oxygen and water.
            A. A body that does not have food can survive for quite a long time by subsisting on the fat reserves in the body and the glycogen reserves in the liver and, eventually, the proteins in the muscles.
            B. The first two to three days without food, the body will depend solely on the fat reserves to run the muscles of the body. These fatty acids can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. The body can survive for as much as two weeks without intake of energy rich foods (fats & carbohydrates) 
            C. The brain relies on the glycogen reserves to send glucose to the brain. After day three, the liver begins to synthesize ketones (short strand fatty acids) that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The ketone stage can last for up to two weeks.
            D. Once the fat reserves are used up, the body will begin breaking down the musculature into proteins that can be converted into amino acids that are then transformed into glucose. Muscles break down quickly, within one week.
            E. Once this process has completed there is no other internal source of energy and the body dies. Signs of starvation include apathy, listlessness, withdrawal, changes in hair color, flaky skin, and massive edema in the abdomen and lower limbs, all of which lead to a higher chance of infection.
            F. Most individuals who experience starvation don’t die directly from it. Most die due to infectious diseases that attack the body as it consumes its own defenses.
            G. Virtually every food resource of humans is another form of animal or plant life... which also has a Goldilocks Zone!

4. Shelter (Protection From temp and moisture extremes… or the frequently cited "elements") - A shelter that helps to keep your body at a constant temperature and stable water content - temperature and humidity being the key components of climate - is also a necessity. This could include appropriate clothing.
            A. When a person is exposed to "the elements", water loss is increased and core temperature can increase or decrease beyond the survival range.
            B. Cold temperatures and high winds can strip away valuable moisture as quickly as high temperatures can cause sweat related loss.
            C. A shelter should consist of a place to make fire to create heat as well as protection from the wind and rain.
            D. Without the ability to keep a constant temperature and hydration, a person runs the risk of hypothermia or heat stroke.
            E. A person’s normal temperature in 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. If the core temperature drops to 91.4, a body will go unconscious. At 86.0 degrees, the body loses the ability to control internal temperature. At 82.4 degrees, there is complete muscle failure.
            F. On the other end of the spectrum, a temperature of 107.6 degrees results in a breakdown of the central nervous system. At slightly over 111 degrees, the brain overheats and causes death.
            G. Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause hallucinations and illogical behavior, which can cause a person to fail to take the proper steps to keep himself alive.

5. Rest/Sleep - For a long time sleep was not considered a basic human need. Studies on sleep deprivation helped to change this in the 20th century. In terms of human need, sleep is one of the five most important elements.
            A. Sleep deprivation can cause a myriad of problems ranging from decreased body temperature to cognitive impairment and hallucination.
            B. Although the mechanisms of sleep are not well understood, the problems associated with lack of sleep are.
                1. Headaches can begin as soon as 24 hours after missing sleep.
                2. 72 hours in, memory is impaired and temporal and spatial distortion start to occur.
                3. After 96 hours without sleep, cognition is markedly impaired.
                4. After 144 hours, hallucinations ensue and there is a considerable loss of attention and manual dexterity.
            C. The longer a person goes without sleep the less coherent thought patterns become.
            D. This lack of clear thinking can be detrimental on its own, if coupled with a lack in any of the other basic needs areas it could be life threatening.

NOTE: There are other things you could add to this list like sex, mobility, emotional connection, sense of belonging, etc. The difference is that although sex is needed for the species to survive an individual can live without it. Mobility is an important function and improving one's mobility usually improves one's survivability but humans are essentially mobile as they are created so this is not a basic external need. Emotional connection and a sense of belonging are group needs, not individual survival needs. The truth is, there are only five basic needs; Air, Water, Nutrients, Shelter, and Sleep.

How Does This Stack Up For Us?
1. Our Goldilocks Zone -
        A. Air has to have 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen, fairly clean, and fairly constant (no longer than
5 minutes without) - preferred intake = 12-20 breaths / minute.
        B. Water has to be fairly clean, freshwater, and ABSOLUTELY no longer than 9 days without @ 80 F (on average) - preferred intake = periodically during the day @ 3 liters/day
        C. Food has to be fairly fresh (NOT decomposing), provide critical nutrients, and be at least every two weeks (to prevent serious damage and loss of faculties). This means having the ability to either access fresh foods on a very regular basis or to access preserved foods in lieu of fresh on an even MORE regular basis. Preferred intake - several times per day @ approx. 2 lb./day mixed nutrient food (fats, carbohydrates, sugars, protein, salts, trace minerals, & vitamins) and 2400 calories. If the Goldilocks Zones of your food sources are being exceeded...
        D. Shelter is primarily to ensure stable body temperatures and moisture levels, as well as basic security from harms. It must be able to prevent extreme exposure to "the elements" and protect us from extremes of condition or environment. This may be as little as good clothing or as much as a fixed location dwelling. Preferred availability = full protection as needed, with a minimum of nightly for functional rest, while maintaining core body temperatures between 91.4 and 104 degrees F at all times, and providing protection from temperature extremes or other harms to skin surface and extremities.
        E. Rest is a key biological factor, and completely within our control. No greater than 72 hours of sleep deprivation before critical functional loss, and preferred intake = daily for at least 8 hours.

2. Conditional Status
        A. Our air is frequently out of our control. We rely upon what could be called "the commons" - the sense that the air belongs to everybody, and as a result we have significant increases in health problems due to poor quality air, caused by a variety of issues - mostly man-made - like factory exhausts, car exhausts, chemical pollution, etc. Much air in high human populated areas has the oxygen we need... but a lot of other gunk we don't need - smog, smoke, gaseous pollution, particulate pollution, etc. For many people the answer is - we don't handle our air well. Global warming makes air warmer, and climate change means air becomes more of a threat because of increased movement and violence of movement.
        B. Our water availability is excellent - at the higher socio-economic levels of the developed world! Everybody else has problems to varying degrees. We have VERY low levels of freshwater world wide, compared to the vast amounts of salt water, and much of that is frozen at the poles. We, collectively, don't get, use, or handle our water well. Climate change radically changes the distribution and availability of fresh water supplies in any given biome and increases the risk of poor consistency and/or quality of water availability.
        C. Most of our food comes from, and is dependent upon, plant and animal propagation - what we call agriculture - and ALL of that food production is dependent upon the same kind of conditions (the Goldilocks Zone) as we are, with varying specific requirements - but outside the Goldilocks Zone, they die… just like we do. This is where our critical problem really lies - the fact that climate change threatens the entire food supply both directly and indirectly.
        D. Our available shelter is directly dependent upon the health and functionality of our environment, and thus available shelter components/options, as well as our functional ability to easily attain the first three critical needs above. The more difficult it is to acquire the first three, the more time in a day acquiring them takes up. The more time it takes the less time there is for acquiring and applying the components of effective shelter. The critical needs is the ability to maintain core body temperatures but extremities can take a hit if conditions get too hot or cold.
        E. Our rest opportunities are largely dependent upon our degree of rest deprivation and the degree to which the other four have been attained. Any shortfalls in the other four mean we are closer to critical survival issues and may be less able or inclined to rest. That said, at some point the body will almost force a rest state, and that could be at exactly the wrong time from a life sustaining standpoint, so, better to chose the time earlier. Abrupt climate change increases the probability that routine periods of rest will not be available or will be disrupted, unless substantial accomplishment exists in the first four.

Think about it! Be prepared! Keep your powder dry and your candles lit!

The Smokemaster

Friday, June 30, 2017

On the "Problem" of Climate Change in the West

The unfortunate news is that the western half of the present United States has a long history of dryness and bleak conditions that well and thoroughly predates white occupation. We are just getting to see one of it’s major shifts as it happens. In the map provided below, you see the major desert ecoregions that we recognize today in North America. They are, by number,
Cold Deserts   
1. Thompson-Okanagan Plateau
2. Columbia Basin
3. Northern Basin and Range
4. Wyoming Basin
5. Central Basin and Range
6. Colorado Plateaus
7. Arizona/New Mexico Plateau
8. Snake River Plain
Hot deserts:
9. Mojave Basin and Range
10. Sonoran Desert
11. Baja Californian Desert
12. Chihuahuan Desert



Notice that they take up a sizable chuck of what we think of as the Rocky Mountain west. What we do NOT recognize as desert today is the area (that is encircled by an aqua line) to the east of the Rocky Mountains, more formally referred to as the high plains (the western part of the so called Great Plains west of the Mississippi). Notice that this area exceeds the boundaries of the present United States. This area was a desert 6 thousand years ago. As we were driving across this area last year I told my wife to look for any area where the soil might have been thinned by wind or rain, like the base of a rock outcropping, and notice the composition of the soil. It was very pale and tan colored. This is because we were seeing that desert exposed. It takes about 1000 years for 3 centimeters of soil to form. That’s more than an inch but not by much. That means that about 18 centimeters of soil (or 6-10 inches) of soil have formed in the intervening time. Not much when it gets right down to it. That desert is still there and it will be coming back over the next 10-20 years as global warming and climate change really hit with full force.

6000 years ago, the western part of the present United States was much more inhospitable to human life than it is now. A period of relative increase in moisture and decrease in regional temperatures (hold that thought for later) resulted in increased forests, increased ecological opportunity for everything we have come to know and love about those mountains during this life time. All that is about to change. What I am describing, is, unfortunately the direct impact, on a continental scale, of “average global temperatures” rising by 1-2 degrees Centigrade. Ecological zones change. Land ecosystems gain heat and lose moisture. Most of the entire ecosystem has to adapt, move, or die because that much of a change (which seems like “so little” to so many) takes most of the life in an ecosystem out of the narrow ranges we call their “Goldilocks Zone” - that space where everything is “just right” for them to thrive.

Mankind is an amazingly adaptive animal - but when will we be outside of OUR Goldilocks Zone? We rely on our technology to maintain the processes of adaptation that we apply in every climate zone of Earth. What will happen when massive human migration - on the North American continent alone, not counting anywhere else - cause a complete restructuring of society and our way of life as we know it. Will that technology be available? What of “localized” agriculture, in the form of permaculture and the like? How localized can your agriculture be when the heat and the sun and the wind don’t really support the growth of typical moderate zone perennials and annuals that we rely on for our staple food supply? The so called growing zones of the United States have already shifted north by one whole zone worth in the last twenty years. Was no one paying attention?

I have been saying, for some time now, that if you want a rule of thumb draw a line from the n.e. corner of the state of Washington down to about the city of Charleston S.C. I call that line the line of progressive depopulation. Everything south west of that line will become progressively more inhospitable to humans as we proceed into the century with pockets of habitability and vast areas uninhabitable by humans by the end of the century and we’ll be well on the way to that by mid-century. The human population of the current United States will have suffered a relatively HUGE area of habitat loss. Remember that habitat loss isn’t just about living conditions for humans, it’s about living conditions for EVERY OTHER LIVING THING we depend upon for functional human life. That doesn’t just mean crops that won’t grow, fruit trees that will die, and a relative sudden lack of fresh water supplies, that means every form of ecological service that Nature provides today that will change our world as the ecological conditions change, as well as the availability of food, water, and shelter.

We turned the rudder on the human ship of civilization over 150 years ago, and we’re baffled that the ship is starting to turn. Had we known the intricacies of ecological inter-relationship then that we are just beginning to understand now, things might have been different… but I doubt it. We are a greedy and lazy animal at the baseline. We have a minimum of 40 more years of continuing offense to the natural world, based on the aggregation of effect for greenhouse gases over a forty year period. The effects we are feeling today are the cumulative effects of the last 40 years of our offensive and egregious behavior with greenhouse gases and the last 150 years of human disregard for the natural world. If we stopped doing EVERYTHING offensive - and unsustainable - to our way of life TODAY we’d STILL have another 40 years minimum to ride out. There you have it. Read it and weep.

Thanks for being there and being you. Keep up the good work.

Keep the candles lit, and your powder dry.

The Smokemaster