The One Way Forward

SUBHEAD: If you’ve driven down a dead end alley shouting “We can’t go back!” isn’t exactly a useful habit.

By John Michael Greer on 28 January 2015 for the Archdruid Report -

Image above: "Homecoming G.I." Arriving back at home after the war. Painting creaeted May 26th, 1945 by Norman Rockwell for Saturday Evening Post. From (

All things considered, 2015 just isn’t shaping up to be a good year for believers in business as usual. Since last week’s post here on The Archdruid Report, the anti-austerity party Syriza has swept the Greek elections, to the enthusiastic cheers of similar parties all over Europe and the discomfiture of the Brussels hierarchy.

The latter have no one to blame for this turn of events but themselves; for more than a decade now, EU policies have effectively put sheltering banks and bondholders from the healthy discipline of the market ahead of all other considerations, including the economic survival of entire nations. It should be no surprise to anyone that this wasn’t an approach with a long shelf life.

Meanwhile, the fracking bust continues unabated. The number of drilling rigs at work in American oilfields continues to drop vertically from week to week, layoffs in the nation’s various oil patches are picking up speed, and the price of oil remains down at levels that make further fracking a welcome mat for the local bankruptcy judge.

Those media pundits who are still talking the fracking industry’s book keep insisting that the dropping price of oil proves that they were right and those dratted heretics who talk of peak oil must be wrong, but somehow those pundits never get around to explaining why iron ore, copper, and most other major commodities are dropping in price even faster than crude oil, nor why demand for petroleum products here in the US has been declining steadily as well.

The fact of the matter is that an industrial economy built to run on cheap conventional oil can’t run on expensive oil for long without running itself into the ground. Since 2008, the world’s industrial nations have tried to make up the difference by flooding their economies with cheap credit, in the hope that this would somehow make up for the sharply increased amounts of real wealth that have had to be diverted from other purposes into the struggle to keep liquid fuels flowing at their peak levels.

Now, though, the laws of economics have called their bluff; the wheels are coming off one national economy after another, and the price of oil (and all those other commodities) has dropped to levels that won’t cover the costs of fracked oil, tar sands, and the like, because all those frantic attempts to externalize the costs of energy production just meant that the whole global economy took the hit.

Now of course this isn’t how governments and the media are spinning the emerging crisis. For that matter, there’s no shortage of people outside the corridors of power, or for that matter of punditry, who ignore the general collapse of commodity prices, fixate on oil outside of the broader context of resource depletion in general, and insist that the change in the price of oil must be an act of economic warfare, or what have you.

It’s a logic that readers of this blog will have seen deployed many times in the past: whatever happens, it must have been decided and carried out by human beings.

An astonishing number of people these days seem unable to imagine the possibility that such wholly impersonal factors as the laws of economics, geology, and thermodynamics could make things happen all by themselves.

The problem we face now is precisely that the unimaginable is now our reality. For just that little bit too long, too many people have insisted that we didn’t need to worry about the absurdity of pursuing limitless growth on a finite and fragile planet, that “they’ll think of something,” or that chattering on internet forums about this or that or the other piece of technological vaporware was doing something concrete about our species’ imminent collision with the limits to growth.

For just that little bit too long, not enough people were willing to do anything that mattered, and now impersonal factors have climbed into the driver’s seat, having mugged all seven billion of us and shoved us into the trunk.

As I noted in last week’s post, that puts hard limits on what can be done in the short term. In all probability, at this stage of the game, each of us will be meeting the oncoming wave of crisis with whatever preparations we’ve made, however substantial or insubstantial those happen to be.

I’m aware that a certain subset of my readers are unhappy with that suggestion, but that can’t be helped; the future is under no obligation to wait patiently while we get ready for it.

A few years back, when I posted an essay here whose title sums up the strategy I’ve been proposing, I probably should have put more stress on the most important word in that slogan: now. Still, that’s gone wherever might-have-beens spend their time.

That doesn’t mean the world is about to end.

It means that in all probability, beginning at some point this year and continuing for several years after that, most of my readers will be busy coping with the multiple impacts of a thumping economic crisis on their own lives and those of their families, friends, communities, and employers, at a time when political systems over much of the industrial world have frozen up into gridlock, the simmering wars in the Middle East and much of the Third World seem more than usually likely to boil over, and the twilight of the Pax Americana is pushing both the US government and its enemies into an ever greater degree of brinksmanship.

Exactly how that’s going to play out is anyone’s guess, but no matter what happens, it’s unlikely to be pretty.

While we get ready for the first shocks to hit, though, it’s worth talking a little bit about what comes afterwards. No matter how long a train of financial dominoes the collapse of the fracking bubble sets toppling, the last one fill fall eventually, and within a few years things will have found a “new normal,” however far down the slope of contraction that turns out to be.

No matter how many proxy wars, coups d’etat, covert actions, and manufactured insurgencies get launched by the United States or its global rivals in their struggle for supremacy, most of the places touched by that conflict will see a few years at most of actual warfare or the equivalent, with periods of relative peace before and after.

The other driving forces of collapse act in much the same way; collapse is a fractal process, not a linear one.

Thus there’s something on the far side of crisis besides more of the same. The discussion I’d like to start at this point centers on what might be worth doing once the various masses of economic, political, and military rubble stops bouncing. It’s not too early to begin planning for that.

If nothing else, it will give readers of this blog something to think about while standing in bread lines or hiding in the basement while riot police and insurgents duke it out in the streets.

That benefit aside, the sooner we start thinking about the options that will be available once relative stability returns, the better chance we’ll have of being ready to implement it, in our own lives or on a broader scale, once stability returns.

One of the interesting consequences of crisis, for that matter, is that what was unthinkable before a really substantial crisis may not be unthinkable afterwards.

 Read Barbara Tuchman’s brilliant The Proud Tower and you’ll see how many of the unquestioned certainties of 1914 were rotting in history’s compost bucket by the time 1945 rolled around, and how many ideas that had been on the outermost fringes before the First World War that had become plain common sense after the Second.

It’s a common phenomenon, and I propose to get ahead of the curve here by proposing, as raw material for reflection if nothing else, something that’s utterly unthinkable today but may well be a matter of necessity ten or twenty or forty years from now.

What do I have in mind? Intentional technological regression as a matter of public policy.

Imagine, for a moment, that an industrial nation were to downshift its technological infrastructure to roughly what it was in 1950. That would involve a drastic decrease in energy consumption per capita, both directly—people used a lot less energy of all kinds in 1950—and indirectly—goods and services took much less energy to produce then, too.

It would involve equally sharp decreases in the per capita consumption of most resources. It would also involve a sharp increase in jobs for the working classes—a great many things currently done by robots were done by human beings in those days, and so there were a great many more paychecks going out of a Friday to pay for the goods and services that ordinary consumers buy.

Since a steady flow of paychecks to the working classes is one of the major things that keep an economy stable and thriving, this has certain obvious advantages, but we can leave those alone for now.

Now of course the change just proposed would involve certain changes from the way we do things. Air travel in the 1950s was extremely expensive—the well-to-do in those days were called “the jet set,” because that’s who could afford tickets—and so everyone else had to put up with fast, reliable, energy-efficient railroads when they needed to get from place to place.

Computers were rare and expensive, which meant once again that more people got hired to do jobs, and also meant that when you called a utility or a business, your chance of getting a human being who could help you with whatever problem you might have was considerably higher than it is today.

Lacking the internet, people had to make do instead with their choice of scores of AM and shortwave radio stations, thousands of general and specialized print periodicals, and full-service bookstores and local libraries bursting at the seams with books—in America, at least, the 1950s were the golden age of the public library, and most small towns had collections you can’t always find in big cities these days.

Oh, and the folks who like looking at pictures of people with their clothes off, and who play a large and usually unmentioned role in paying for the internet today, had to settle for naughty magazines, mail-order houses that shipped their products in plain brown wrappers, and tacky stores in the wrong end of town. (For what it’s worth, this didn’t seem to inconvenience them any.)

As previously noted, I’m quite aware that such a project is utterly unthinkable today, and we’ll get to the superstitious horror that lies behind that reaction in a bit. First, though, let’s talk about the obvious objections.

Would it be possible? Of course.

Much of it could be done by simple changes in the tax code. Right now, in the United States, a galaxy of perverse regulatory incentives penalize employers for hiring people and reward them for replacing employees with machines.

Change those so that spending money on wages, salaries and benefits up to a certain comfortable threshold makes more financial sense for employers than using the money to automate, and you’re halfway there already.

A revision in trade policy would do most of the rest of what’s needed. What’s jokingly called “free trade,” despite the faith-based claims of economists, benefits the rich at everyone else’s expense, and would best be replaced by sensible tariffs to support domestic production against the sort of predatory export-driven mercantilism that dominates the global economy these days.

Add to that high tariffs on technology imports, and strip any technology beyond the 1950 level of the lavish subsidies that fatten the profit margins of the welfare-queen corporations in the Fortune 500, and you’re basically there.

What makes the concept of technological regression so intriguing, and so workable, is that it doesn’t require anything new to be developed. We already know how 1950 technology worked, what its energy and resource needs are, and what the upsides and downsides of adopting it would be; abundant records and a certain fraction of the population who still remember how it worked make that easy.

Thus it would be an easy thing to pencil out exactly what would be needed, what the costs and benefits would be, and how to minimize the former and maximize the latter; the sort of blind guesses and arbitrary assumptions that have to go into deploying a brand new technology need not apply.

So much for the first objection. Would there be downsides to deliberate technological regression? Of course. Every technology and every set of policy options has its downsides.

A common delusion these days claims, in effect, that it’s unfair to take the downsides of new technologies or the corresponding upsides of old ones into consideration when deciding whether to replace an older technology with a newer one.

An even more common delusion claims that you’re not supposed to decide at all; once a new technology shows up, you’re supposed to run bleating after it like everyone else, without asking any questions at all.

Current technology has immense downsides. Future technologies are going to have them, too—it’s only in sales brochures and science fiction stories, remember, that any technology is without them. Thus the mere fact that 1950 technology has problematic features, too, is not a valid reason to dismiss technological retrogression.

The question that needs to be asked, however unthinkable it might be, is whether, all things considered, it’s wiser to accept the downsides of 1950 technology in order to have a working technological suite that can function on much smaller per capita inputs of energy and resources, and thus a much better chance to get through the age of limits ahead than today’s far more extravagant and brittle technological infrastructure.

It’s probably also necessary to talk about a particular piece of paralogic that comes up reliably any time somebody suggests technological regression: the notion that if you return to an older technology, you have to take the social practices and cultural mores of its heyday as well.

I fielded a good many such comments last year when I suggested steam-powered Victorian technology powered by solar energy as a form the ecotechnics of the future might take.

An astonishing number of people seemed unable to imagine that it was possible to have such a technology without also reintroducing Victorian habits such as child labor and sexual prudery. Silly as that claim is, it has deep roots in the modern imagination.

No doubt, as a result of those deep roots, there will be plenty of people who respond to the proposal just made by insisting that the social practices and cultural mores of 1950 were awful, and claiming that those habits can’t be separated from the technologies I’m discussing.

I could point out in response that 1950 didn’t have a single set of social practices and cultural mores; even in the United States, a drive from Greenwich Village to rural Pennsylvania in 1950 would have met with remarkable cultural diversity among people using the same technology.

The point could be made even more strongly by noting that the same technology was in use that year in Paris, Djakarta, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Tangiers, Novosibirsk, Guadalajara, and Lagos, and the social practices and cultural mores of 1950s middle America didn’t follow the technology around to these distinctly diverse settings, you know.

Pointing that out, though, will likely be wasted breath. To true believers in the religion of progress, the past is the bubbling pit of eternal damnation from which the surrogate messiah of progress is perpetually saving us, and the future is the radiant heaven into whose portals the faithful hope to enter in good time.

Most people these days are no more willing to question those dubious classifications than a medieval peasant would be to question the miraculous powers that supposedly emanated from the bones of St. Ethelfrith.

Nothing, but nothing, stirs up shuddering superstitious horror in the minds of the cultural mainstream these days as effectively as the thought of, heaven help us, “going back.”

Even if the technology of an earlier day is better suited to a future of energy and resource scarcity than the infrastructure we’ve got now, even if the technology of an earlier day actually does a better job of many things than what we’ve got today, “we can’t go back!” is the anguished cry of the masses.

They’ve been so thoroughly bamboozled by the propagandists of progress that they never stop to think that, why, yes, they can, and there are valid reasons why they might even decide that it’s the best option open to them.

There’s a very rich irony in the fact that alternative and avant-garde circles tend to be even more obsessively fixated on the dogma of linear progress than the supposedly more conformist masses.

That’s one of the sneakiest features of the myth of progress; when people get dissatisfied with the status quo, the myth convinces them that the only option they’ve got is to do exactly what everyone else is doing, and just take it a little further than anyone else has gotten yet.

What starts off as rebellion thus gets coopted into perfect conformity, and society continues to march mindlessly along its current trajectory, like lemmings in a Disney nature film, without ever asking the obvious questions about what might be waiting at the far end.

That’s the thing about progress; all the word means is “continued movement in the same direction.” If the direction was a bad idea to start with, or if it’s passed the point at which it still made sense, continuing to trudge blindly onward into the gathering dark may not be the best idea in the world. Break out of that mental straitjacket, and the range of possible futures broadens out immeasurably.

It may be, for example, that technological regression to the level of 1950 turns out to be impossible to maintain over the long term.

If the technologies of 1920 can be supported on the modest energy supply we can count on getting from renewable sources, for example, something like a 1920 technological suite might be maintained over the long term, without further regression.

 It might turn out instead that something like the solar steampower I mentioned earlier, an ecotechnic equivalent of 1880 technology, might be the most complex technology that can be supported on a renewable basis.

It might be the case, for that matter, that something like the technological infrastructure the United States had in 1820, with windmills and water wheels as the prime movers of industry, canalboats as the core domestic transport technology, and most of the population working on small family farms to support very modest towns and cities, is the fallback level that can be sustained indefinitely.

Does that last option seem unbearably depressing? Compare it to another very likely scenario—what will happen if the world’s industrial societies gamble their survival on a great leap forward to some unproven energy source, which doesn’t live up to its billing, and leaves billions of people twisting in the wind without any working technological infrastructure at all—and you may find that it has its good points.

If you’ve driven down a dead end alley and are sitting there with the front grill hard against a brick wall, it bears remembering, shouting “We can’t go back!” isn’t exactly a useful habit.

In such a situation—and I’d like to suggest that that’s a fair metaphor for the situation we’re in right now—going back, retracing the route as far back as necessary, is the one way forward.


Turn off the lights on the way out

SUBHEAD: A world where we together create customs and culture all our own, without the power hoarders.

By Vera Bradova on 23 January 2015 for Leaving Babylon -

Image above: Painting "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Rhonda Gray. From (
Reality and power are so mutually incrusted that even to raise the question of dissolving power is to step off the edge of reality.
— John Holloway
I started this blog with a longing familiar to many: stop the world, I wanna get off! I had a dream, a dream to find a way out of Babylon, this accelerating nightmare that has us addicted and horrified, both.

The standard argument for the impossibility of an exit is simple and persuasive. Even if you move to the fringes, Babylon finds you, either to destroy, or to engulf and devour. Same thing, different time line. As we speak, the last unknown tribes are being chased out of the Amazon jungle to be wiped out. There is no place to go.

Except, I refused to believe it. My gut told me that escape is possible; we were not looking at the problem with sufficient snake-eyes. So I kept searching, imagining, looking for just the right crack in the edifice of this civilization. Here is what I found.

Hakim Bey fired up people’s imaginations with his Temporary Autonomous Zones. His T.A.Z. is a “liberated area of land, time or imagination where one can be for something, not just against, and where new ways of being human together can be explored and experimented with.” He documents many past escapes.

I just came across evidence that rural intellectuals in ancient China talked about, and tried to build into, those so-called “cracks in the system.” It saddens me to think that we know nothing else of them. Their efforts faded very long ago, and the Machine kept on grinding. Note to self: the crack must be persistent, durable.

Explorations of Amish attitudes, beliefs and lifestyle framed my search for a while. Since the Machine is an apt metaphor for the workings of Babylon, I felt that getting away from machines would be a good general direction; my feelings were strengthened by an introvert’s detestation of the increasingly deafening noise indiscriminate use of machines inflicts on most of us.

Full of admiration for the famous Amish community-minded restraint when it comes to adopting new technologies, I located and romanced a very old-fashioned Mennonite group that welcomes Babylon’s escapees.

Concurrently, I joined an online Mennonite community where a modified-Plain lifestyle was a reality for many. But when I found that I could be a full-fledged, outspoken member of that community only because I was taken for a man, I sobered up. Note to self: getting away from machines is good, but not as good as getting away from being dominated.

Nevertheless, “being Amish” provided a useful metaphor for my aim. I realized I wanted to be “out” as much, at least, as the Amish are out. I long to be part of another world that is palpable in its otherness.

Familiarity with Daniel Quinn’s and Andy Schmookler’s argument (viz the Parable of the Tribes) impressed upon me that going to the fringes was indeed a strategy, at best, to delay the inevitable. Fringe existence exposes one to marginalization and its accompanying vulnerabilities. The crack must defy the problem of power. (Problem of power in a nutshell: become Babylon, or be destroyed. Those who step outside it lose. Viz Aldous Huxley’s Island.)

John Holloway has spoken about spaces where a prefiguration of another world can be grown. He is among those who believe that for the underdog to grab power-over leads to yet another version of power-over. Not a path that leads to a brand new world, only more of the same.

Here is how he puts it: “You cannot build a society of non-power relations by conquering power.

Once the logic of power is adopted, the struggle against power is already lost.” The crack must emerge from a new way of using power. Knocking off the old power hogs and installing our own brand new power hogs just won’t cut it.

In an interview, Holloway hints: “These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.).

The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.” And in a recent book, he states: “A crack is the perfectly ordinary creation of a space or moment in which we assert a different type of doing.” So ecovillages and monasteries, Burning Man or the Rainbow Gatherings, coops and land trusts, and many lesser alternative spaces provide refuge. But are they sufficiently and durably “outside”? Not in my experience.

My sense of them, despite all the clamor about degrowth, “new economies” and all the rest, is that they are not strong enough to be a countervailing force against the Machine. They are, to be sure, part of the answer, but by themselves, they will eventually be pushed to conform, just like most Christians or hippies were.

The spaces opened up by them turned out not to be the radical and permanent exit they had once thought it was. They themselves carried Rome/Babylon with them wherever they went and infected all those spaces they newly inhabited. And the minions of the Machine have been many and well financed; they are sent out to co-opt or crush any alternative that shows significant success.

One example is the so-called “sharable economy” which is turning into yet another way to monetize the remaining few assets of increasingly impoverished people (rent your home to passing strangers, spend your free time picking up passengers with your car, why dontcha).

The space must robustly resist Babylonian contagion from seeping in. And it must be a realistic strategy to slow and stop the Machine: the new world we birth will share this “one and only planet” with Babylon, and so its runaway ruination must end.

James C. Scott talks about an important aspect of spaces successfully hidden for centuries from the depredations of empire: illegibility. When those in power cannot read you right, you are effectively hidden from view, obscured by being incomprehensible.

The agents of empire always, always work hard to make newly encountered cultures legible: they send in missionaries, anthropologists and medical people to “study” and “help” these folks so they can be successfully dominated and exploited in due time.

With new cultures within Babylon, the system sends friendly researchers, overeager NGOs offering to make you visible, and agents provocateurs. The crack must be hard to penetrate by and illegible to the PTB.

I tried eco-village living, and while I loved many aspects of it, especially the face-to-face, walkable community, I was shocked how “hijacked by Babylon” the relationships were. For all the efforts to clean up process, our process has not been cleaned up. A new kind of social relationship must be the molten core of the new world.

Nevertheless, there is great relief one experiences in an ecovillage — or an old-fashioned village — out on the fringes, despite the fact that the Machine still intrudes from the distance and Babylon is never altogether absent within. Distance from Babylon, just like distance from machines, is part of the path to sanity, at least in my view of it.

From complexity thinking I learned about emergence from tiny local beginnings. So finally, the obvious: the way out must be in our power to find, not something to petition the power brokers to bring about (as though they could or would!). It must be doable from each person, from the grassroots, outward. A tall order, ey?

There is yet another space. Having glimpsed this terra incognita, I am on the cusp of walking away into the world that emerges when at least two people, who have each cultivated the attitudes, skills and forms of thinking that allow power sharing, come to connect.

This space only comes into being when human beings relate in a new way — the power-sharing way — and form a new sort of relationship. It is born when two or more people are both willing and able to leave power games behind, and their radical communion opens up a portal into what Riane Eisler, somewhat ruefully, calls “partnership.”

Suddenly, we are in another world, a world of our co-making, emergent, brand new, uncolonized by any outside powers, yet to be explored, ready to be nurtured. Here is the ember of another reality, waiting to be stoked into flames.

A world of mutuality where we together create customs and culture all our own, without the constant interference of power hoarders.

And since the foundation, indeed the be all and end all, of Babylon — this particular civilization — is domination, once you step out of domination, you are out of Babylon.


Fear and Hope in Oura Bay

SUBHEAD: The Oura Coral Reef Ecosystem is the last intact one in Japan! US military actions threaten it.

By Katherine Muzik on 15 January 2015 for Asian-Pacific Journal -

Image above: Oura Bay's expansive cathedrals of blue coral is at least 5,000 years old. From original article.

On a sunny September day, last year, I tumbled from a diving boat into the bright clear blue sea of Henoko’s Oura Bay, feeling both fear and hope.  Would the corals living there still be fine, as they had been during my previous visits in years past?

Or would they and other marine life here be suffering and dying from various negative impacts of human behavior (toxic  runoff, sedimentation, garbage, ocean acidification, global warming, overfishing, etc.) which are steadily and inexorably killing coral reefs all around the world?

As I breathed through my SCUBA regulator, and peered through my mask, slowly descending, my worries vanished.  I saw waving red sea fans, a resplendent school of silvery Fusiliers, the Okinawan Prefectural fish, and countless beautiful and healthy corals. I was filled with joy! I felt I had returned to the seas of my childhood!  I swam like a turtle, slowly down and around a huge colony of Porites, over 7 meters tall, a huge golden colony, with no blemish at all.

I admired its perfection with gratitude, and then kicked my feet to swim happily through Oura’s expansive cathedrals of blue coral, to see my other old coral friends, at the so-called “Coral Museum”, many at least 5,000 years old. (Blue coral, Heliopora coerulea, has been declared by CITES to be a vulnerable species, on its way to extinction. Here at Oura it is fine!)

I felt so safe.  I had healthy corals all around me, fish, crabs, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, clams, everything fine as far as I could see.  Meanwhile above in the boat, awaiting me were my Okinawan friends, Nakasone the captain and Iha, a retired high school chemistry teacher. Guiding me was another friend, the expert diver, Makishi. I was snugly embraced by a SCUBA harness borrowed from friends at local Snack Snufkin divers.

What happiness! I was honored that these friends and others had invited me to visit, to help them explain to the world, how important the corals of Oura Bay are. Can’t everyone understand how unique and diverse this Bay is?  It is miraculously healthy.

There are thousands of species living here: over 420 species of coral, 1,040 species of fish, 403 species of algae and seagrasses, of sea 1,974 mollusks (including 120 kinds of sea slugs) and 753 crustaceans. More species inhabit the associated mountains, forests, rivers, mangroves, and tidal flats! Many are new to science and still undescribed. Feeling ecstatic, I returned to the blue sky above, but, oh no, there was an American military ship hovering nearby the dive boat. I was again filled with worry and fear.

From our boat, I could see long red floats, marking the area near shore where exploratory drilling had already begun, despite the appalling absence of an official Environmental Impact Survey. The dugongs have fled, but the corals and seaweeds cannot move away.  They will surely perish if we cannot stop construction.

Besides diving at Oura, during my 10-day visit to Okinawa in September, I sang my Waterdrop song in Japanese with children gathered at Sedake beach in Oura. I rallied with elderly and youthful protestors at the gate at Henoko’s Camp Schwab, and with more protestors at Takae, still defiant, daily, against Ospreys there.

I participated in two Symposia, one at Okidai (Okinawa University) with former Okidai President Sakurai and Architect Makishi, and one in Nago with Nago Mayor Inamine, held a press conference in Naha with the Governor’s team, and finally, as I left Japan, another one in Tokyo at the Parliament, with Itokazu Keiko, Okinawa’s Diet Member.

Why did I agree to travel all the way from Kaua’i to Okinawa to dive at Oura Bay?  Coral reefs all around the world are in great peril.  They are dying in the Florida Keys, in the Arabian seas of Oman, at the Great Barrier Reef. (As a Marine Biologist, I have studied corals in Florida, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Belize, Barbados, Mexico, Florida, Kenya, Fiji, the Philippines, New Caledonia, Australia, Tahiti, Hawaii, Japan and Okinawa, and therefore am acutely aware of their decline.)

When I lived in Okinawa, during 1981 to 1988, I dived from Amami Oshima down to Yonaguni, and I was shocked to discover that even then, most of the coral reefs of the Ryukyu Archipelago were dead or dying.

When I returned to Okinawa to live there again, thirty years later, from 2007 to 2011, I was further saddened. Even more of the island has been over-developed and paved with cement, and thus, the remaining life nearby in the sea is even more threatened by man’s activities on land. To destroy Oura’s unique and remarkable reef purposefully, to obliterate it, which will certainly happen with the current US-Japan military-industrial plan, is simply, not acceptable.

The 3.5 million truckloads of fill to be brought there will not only destroy the place from where it is removed, the fill will block and change Oura Bay’s incoming life-giving currents. A quick calculation shows, an impossible 9,589 trucks per day every day for a year, or about 959 trucks a day for ten years, destroying the reef and bringing dust and noise and more CO2 pollution.

Again, not acceptable! It breaks my heart to see videos of my old friends lying (perhaps even pushed by police) on the highway pavement outside Camp Schwab gates, and protesting from boats, risking arrest and their lives, to avert this tragedy.

I fear that Abe and Obama have forgotten compassion and history.  Their actions are not helping to end racism, militarism and extreme materialism, the giant triplet of societal and environmental destruction.

They are ignoring the facts:  the Oura Coral Reef Ecosystem is the last intact one in Japan! 80% of Okinawans are against the military airport construction at Oura! In November, Onaga, running for Governor on an anti-base platform, and anti-base Mayor Shiroma of Naha, were both elected by landslides!

Although this US military Base is purportedly part of Obama’s plan to “contain China”, also in November the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, warned that empires always fail, that disputes must be resolved peacefully! With eighty percent of the Japanese population voicing opposition to the bases, the LDP suffered major setbacks in the Okinawa election.

Nineteen different Japanese scientific societies have now publicly added their support to protect the life of Oura!

So yes I have fear, but I also have hope. My Uchinanchu (Okinawan word for Okinawan!) friends are indomitable.  I salute their tenacity, awareness, and political savvy.  As a democracy, Okinawans have the right to choose.  For example, they can choose to exchange a Marine Base for a Marine Sanctuary! Yes!

They can choose to perpetuate peace, not conflict, to perpetuate conservation, study and jobs in ecotourism for local students, scientists and fishermen.  Instead of Harm, let’s choose Harmony! Together we might be able to continue to keep this fabulous ecosystem safe.

Together we will help protect the rare and endangered blue coral, the dugong, the Okinawan rail, and Pryer’s Woodpecker.  We will speak for the fishes, seaweeds, seafans and clams!

I take great hope from my steadfast Uchinanchu, who now, in January 2015, continue to protest the US-Japanese military activities, as I remember the words of Rachel Carson in her book, “Sense of Wonder”:

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

• Marine biologist Katherine Muzik Ph.D., is director of Kulu Wai, Kauai, Hawai’i.  She has many years experience of research in Japan and Okinawa.

Protesters oppose Okinawa base relocation

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: U.S. Navy container ship remained stuck on a coral reef near Okinawa for a second day.

By Francis Burnsmon 26 January 2015 for Asahi Shimbun -
 Thousands of people, including lawmakers, formed a human chain around the National Diet Building in Tokyo on Jan. 25 to protest the central government’s planned relocation of a U.S. air base in Okinawa Prefecture.

“(The government) turns a deaf ear to the will of Okinawans and forges ahead with the relocation plan,” said Natsumi Okubo, a 28-year-old company worker from Tokyo’s Koto Ward, who joined the demonstration. “As mainlanders, we want to think about what democracy is all about.”

Organizers of the protest, including pacifist groups, put the turnout at around 7,000 people.

The central government is moving ahead with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma currently in Ginowan to the Henoko district of the city of Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

Voters in Okinawa Prefecture expressed their opposition to that move on Nov. 16 by electing Takeshi Onaga as governor over the incumbent, Hirokazu Nakaima, who had supported the relocation plan.

Onaga, who wants the U.S. air station moved outside the prefecture, says he has been repeatedly snubbed by the central government in his attempts to discuss the Futenma plan.

Among the participants in the Jan. 25 protest were the winners of Okinawa’s four single-seat constituencies in the Dec. 14 Lower House election who had all campaigned on a platform of opposing the relocation plan.

In Tokyo, they jointly condemned the Abe administration’s moves in relation to the project.

USNS ship stuck on Okinawa coral reef

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: U.S. Navy container ship remained stuck on a coral reef near Okinawa for a second day.

By Francis Burnsmon 1 January 2015 for UPI News -

Image above: File photo of Sgt. Matej Kocak at sea. From original article.

A total of 131 people, including 38 civilian crew members, 26 Marines and 67 soldiers, were still on board the USNS Sgt. Matej Kocak, officials said, with another ship on the scene if they need to be evacuated. The vessel was leaking but the amount of water coming in is "manageable," Lt. Charles Banks, a spokesman for the 7th Fleet, said.

The 821-foot vessel struck a reef or outcropping Thursday 6 miles off the coast of Okinawa. High tide that night did not free it.

Banks said experts were headed to the area to determine what must be done to get the ship off the reef. In one case in 2013 the USS Guardian had to be taken apart to remove it from a reef in the Philippines.

Banks said the divers had not discovered yet if any live coral was damaged when the ship struck.

"The safety of the civilian crew members and the environment are our top priorities. So we're taking this situation very seriously and will continue to investigate the situation until it's resolved," Cmdr. William Marks said Thursday.


Fukushima worst human disaster

SUBHEAD: Obesity rates now nearly double Japan average — Excessive weight gain after nuclear crisis “a marker of radiation brain damage”.

By Admin on 24 January 2015 for ENE News -

Image above: Children play in a facility in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 10, 2014. From (

Asahi Shimbun, Jan 24, 2015 (emphasis added): Obesity a growing problem among children in Fukushima… An education ministry survey released Jan. 23… found that 15.07 percent of 9-year-olds in Fukushima Prefecture were 20 percent or more heavier than normal. The figure was much higher than the national average of 8.14 percent, and the highest among all 47 prefectures. [It] was also the highest among all prefectures for 7-year-olds, 11-year-olds and 13-year-olds… According to the ministry, obese children are most commonly found in the Tohoku region… the trend has been especially acute in Fukushima Prefecture since the 2011 onset of the nuclear crisis…. The ministry said this appeared to be because children in Fukushima Prefecture are restricted from playing outdoors due to radiation fears…

National Research Center for Radiation Medicine (Ukraine), 2013: Rise of obesity incidence in ChNPP accident survivors is related to abnormal secretion of α-melanotropin [α-MSH]
  • Accident at the Chernobyl NPP… was followed by the intensive release of a wide range of radioactive elements with affinity to many endocrine tissues. The mentioned radioactive fallout resulted in both internal and external radiation exposure, among others, of the central endocrine structures of the human brain.
  • Higher incidence of borderline obesity – 37%… and of primary obesity – 32.5%… was found in the ChNPP accident survivors vs persons in the control group (31.1 and 24.6% respectively)… For the first time there was revealed a new abnormal way of a reaction on radiation namely – the ‘blunted’ protective response of the physiological increase of α-MSH secretion along with body mass index elevation normally preventing further growth of adipose tissue. There is no increase of α-MSH secretion or even there is a hormone deficiency in most [obese] survivors of the ChNPP accident
  • Received data indicate to the increased risk of borderline obesity and obesity after the prolonged exposure to radiation in moderate doses. The mentioned risk is stipulated by disorders in melanocortin system resulting in α-MSH deficiency at the background of obesity that can be considered as a marker of such an abnormality.
Poster presentation for ‘Rise of obesity incidence in ChNPP accident survivors is related to abnormal secretion of α-melanotropin’ (pdf), 2013:

  • The Chernobyl NPP accident in 1986 and Fukushima NPP accident in 2011 are still the most serious wide scale man made disasters in human history… Massive radioactive release and fallout followed both accidents. Wide range of radioactive isotopes were released some having high affinity to hormone-producing tissues including ones in the cerebral endocrine structures… Today the Chernobyl NPP accident is not over but has evolved into the long-term fourth phase
  • Subjects: The Chernobyl NPP accident survivors (emergency workers… and evacuees…)
  • Decrease of α-MSH… can be considered as a marker of radiation brain damage. Thus α-MSH can be considered as a sensitive marker of radiation impact which deficiency of synthesis leads to disorder of pathways preventing further body mass increase…
α-MSH: Most important of the melanocyte-stimulating hormones in stimulating melanogenesis, a process that… plays a role in feeding behavior… regulation of appetite, metabolism…

See also: Yomiuri: Alarming trend in Fukushima children -- Parent's radiation fears and stress from disaster blamed for spike in obesity rates


India and US seal nuclear deal

SUBHEAD: Less of liability opens the door for US corporations to help India develop more nuclear power.

By Staff on 25 January 2015 for BBC News -

Image above:  More nuclear of India. The "Dance of Death". India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke with protocol to meet President Obama personally at the airport in Delhi. From original article.

The US and India have announced a breakthrough on a pact that will allow American companies to supply India with civilian nuclear technology.

It came on the first day of President Barack Obama's visit to India.

The nuclear deal had been held up for six years amid concerns over the liability for any nuclear accident.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the nations were embarking on a "new journey" of co-operation, with stronger defense and trade ties.

Mr Obama said that the nations had declared a new friendship.

Security is intense in Delhi, with Mr Obama to be the guest of honour at Monday's Republic Day celebrations. Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in Delhi.

Renewed trust
The nuclear pact had been agreed in 2008 but the US was worried about Indian laws on liability over any accidents.

Now, a large insurance pool will be set up, without the need for any further legislation.

US ambassador Richard Verma said: "It opens the door for US and other companies to come forward and actually help India towards developing nuclear power and support its non carbon-based energy production."
The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says the sides also agreed to increase their bilateral trade five times, from the current $100bn (£66.7bn) a year. The US will also sell more military hardware to India.

Earlier, Mr Modi stressed the importance of the visit by breaking with protocol to receive Mr Obama personally at Delhi airport.

After his arrival, the US president travelled to the presidential palace, Rashtrapati Bhavan, for an official welcoming ceremony.

Mr Obama laid a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial and planted a tree.
At a joint press conference, Mr Modi said the two countries were "starting a new journey" based on "renewed trust and sustained attention".

He said of Mr Obama: "We have forged a friendship, there is openness when we talk."
He said the two nations would increase cooperation on defence projects and on "eliminating terrorist safe havens and on bringing terrorists to justice".

Mr Obama said the countries "had declared a new friendship to elevate our partnership", which "commits to more meetings and consultations across governments".

He added: "The new partnership will not happen overnight. It will need patience but will remain a top foreign policy priority for my administration."

Out of bounds The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says security around the Republic Day parade is generally tight, but this year the high-profile visit has taken preparations to a new level.

India Gate and the Rajpath (the King's Avenue), where Monday's parade takes place, have been out of bounds for most people for the past few days, with thousands of policemen on duty.
Security has been upgraded at several upmarket hotels, where the US president and his team are staying.

Traffic restrictions have been put in place across the city, and extra checks have been taking place at metro stations.

Mr Obama's visit to India has been shortened so he can visit Saudi Arabia and pay his respects following the death of King Abdullah.

It means he will not now visit the Taj Mahal.

Image above: The Tarapur Atomic Power Station in Maharashtra. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India on said Indian nuclear plants have remained safe during recent natural calamities but there was no room for complacency.From (


Broken Template

SUBHEAD: The future is saying - get smaller, get more local, get less complex, get less grandiose, do it now.

By James Kunstler on 26 January 2015 for  -

Image above: The grid we live in looks much like a circuit board. The Matrix? No its, suburban sprawl in Eden Prairie, Florida. From (

The more detached from reality American culture becomes the more strictly ceremonial leadership gets, as illustrated by the raft of bromides Barack Obama floated past the assembled vassalage of government last week in another grand effort to avoid the necessities of the moment.

Those necessities include freeing a hostage public from the tyrannical clutches of corporate despotism — the evil empire of big boxes, big burgers, big pharma, Big Brother — and the atrocious rackets fostered by them that masquerade as an economy. 

The template of the life we have known is broken and the pieces within are flying apart, and no amount of wishing or promising can keep them going. If this society is even going to survive, the people have to smash their way out of this template prison, probably against the efforts of the people and organizations now running it merely for their own benefit.

The future is telling us very clearly: get smaller, get finer, get more local, get less complex, get less grandiose, do it now. Do you want to eat food in the years ahead? 

Better make sure you live in a part of the country where small-scale farming and backyard gardening is possible because the General Mills Agri-Biz GMO Cheerios model will be folding its big tent along with its financing agents in the debt Ponzi banking system.

Do you want to have a personal economic future? Think about what you can do to make yourself useful in a local economy made up of your neighbors. And if you live in one of the thousands of soulless, neighborless suburban wastelands that amount to nothing but big box and big burger plantations, you better get out and find a real town in some other part of the country.

Do you believe that computers and robot factories will define the years to come? Maybe you have failed to notice that the US electric grid is decrepit and in need of at least a $1 trillion upgrade-and-rebuild, which, by the way, is not going to happen. What is all that crap going to run on? 

America’s disappointment with the broken promises of technology will be so epic that we’ll be lucky not to slide back into a world ruled by superstition and ghosts.

Do you think that $50 oil is going to make the world safe for WalMart, Walt Disney World, and Happy Motoring? In fact, $50 oil is going to crush what is left of the US Oil industry, especially fracking for shale oil and deep water drilling. And guess what — everything else is depleting at about 5 percent a year. 

The frackers will never again get access to the sort of junk bond financing that allowed them to ramp up their Ponzi demonstration projects in the Bakken and Eagle Ford. 

And they will never again regain their current level of production — which is the net result of past Ponzi financing, now ending in tears. So, forget “Saudi America” and “energy independence,” unless you mean living in a walkable community near a navigable waterway.

Do you want to be an educated person, that is, someone capable of comprehending reality and functioning within its demands? In the USA, that means you must learn how to speak and write English correctly, especially if you are in a “low performing” ethnic minority group. If you can’t conjugate verbs, you will have a hard time distinguishing the past, the present, and the future in your daily activities. 

Among other things, you’ll be incapable of showing up on time. And that, of course, is only the beginning. It’s that simple. 

These abilities used to be the result of an eighth-grade education in the United States. We would be lucky to get back to that high standard, and our knucklehead fantasies about universal access to community college be damned. It’s only a new layer in the current racket that pretends to be education.

That is the current state of the union and a glimpse of the trajectory it’s on, which the inept leaders of our country do not comprehend and cannot communicate.


Off Grid living is illegal

SUBHEAD: Court magistrate rules that living off-grid is illegal in Cape Coral, Forida.

By Daniel Jennings on 22 February 2014 for Off Grid News -

Image above: Example of an off-grid "tiny" house with garden. From (

Living off the grid is illegal in Cape Coral, Florida, according to a court ruling Thursday. Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that the city’s codes allow Robin Speronis to live without utility power but she is still required to hook her home to the city’s water system. Her alternative source of power must be approved by the city, Eskin said.

As previously reported in Off The Grid News, Speronis has been fighting the city of Cape Coral since November when a code enforcement officer tried to evict her from her home for living without utilities. The city contends that Speronis violated the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of his clients’ case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

Part of the conflict: She must hook up to the water system, although officials acknowledge she does not have to use it.

Speronis told Off The Grid News in February she hopes to win her case and set a precedent for others in her situation. After court Thursday, Speronis told Off The Grid News that she actually won on two of three counts, although she acknowledged her legal battle is far from over.

“But what happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

Magistrate Admits Code is Unreasonable
Eskin spent several hours reviewing the case and admitted that the code might be obsolete, the local Press-News newspaper reported.

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” Eskin was quoted as saying.
Eskin’s remarks indicate that he views the code as both obsolete and unreasonable and in need of change. Yet he felt he had to enforce it.

The city did overstep its authority and may have violated due process procedures, Eskin noted. He felt that the city had not given Speronis proper notice of violations and ruled that some of the charges against her were unfounded.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis told the News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living … you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

Case is Unresolved
Speronis disconnected all the utilities from her modest home in Cape Coral for an experiment in off-the-grid living some time ago. City officials ignored her activities until she went public and discussed them with Liza Fernandez, a reporter for a local TV station. A code enforcement officer designated Speronis’s home as uninhabitable and gave her an eviction notice a day after the piece aired.

The widow and former real estate agent now has two choices. She can either restore her hookup to the water system by the end of March or appeal Eskin’s ruling to the courts.

It is not known what action the city will take but city officials told Fernandez that they would be willing to let Speronis stay in her home if conditions are “sanitary.” At the hearing, Eskin noted that city officials have not actually been in Speronis’s home to make that determination.

The International Property Maintenance Code is used in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The code states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water. Speronis has electricity and water. She gets running water by collecting rainwater and electricity from solar panels.

Off-Grid widow evicted

By Mchael Faust on 16 April 2014 for Off Grid News -

A Florida woman who is at the center of a legal and political battle over off-grid living is now living in a tent in her backyard after the city kicked her out of her house, Off The Grid News has learned.
The city of Cape Coral, Florida, got a warrant and inspected Robin Speronis’ home and then posted a notice to vacate, giving her until Thursday to do so.

Speronis lives off-the-grid and does not use utility water or electricity, and maintains that her house is as sanitary as any home in the neighborhood. Her fight for the right to live self-sustainably has captivated the off-the-grid community.

The Rutherford Institute, a legal group, is representing her in her legal fight.

Speronis tells Off The Grid News that she is essentially moving to tents in her backyard, thanks to help from her neighbors and friends.

“My community has been supporting me and yesterday donated two tents and other supplies to create an outdoor living area in my backyard,” she told Off The Grid News via email Wednesday. “I have a six-person tent and a four-person tent.

As I have said before, I’ll let The Rutherford Institute do the legal fighting and I’ll do the living with the support of the community. We are all so powerful and we CAN create a beautiful world that no government can take away from us.”

Cape Coral uses what is called the International Property Maintenance Code, which the city says requires all residents to be hooked up to on-grid water and electricity. Speronis says she has the right to refuse both.

In February a judge ruled that Speronis must hook up to the city’s water system, although he said she did not have to use city electricity. The city dug up her yard and capped her sewer in March, an action that violated state law. They also took her dogs.

The city’s code enforcement posted the vacate notice over the weekend.

“I am such a threat to the city of Cape Coral that again they’ve had to make me, technically, legally, homeless. I am technically homeless right now,” Speronis told a local station, FOX 4. “They did enter my house. They were very cocky. They were very condescending,” Speronis added.

Speronis is a Christian, and said her faith has sustained her during the tough times.

“The Greek word for church, Ekklesia, means community,” she said. “I am Greek Orthodox. I am now living the truth that I believed when I started my urban off-grid adventure — that is you can’t live off-grid in an urban setting unless you have community — church.

“How appropriate for Holy Week,” she said, referencing the assistance she’s received.

Losing her dogs was tough, and she’s cried a lot over it, Speronis said. She said she felt God telling her not to worry about her dogs and that “special angels” were watching over them.
“Still, I do have to go through the necessary grieving process,” she said.

Her case appears headed to federal court after the Rutherford Institute — a nationally known civil liberties legal organization — got involved in early March. The case could set a precedent for off-the-gridders nationwide.

“The application of these burdensome rules, regulations, and inspection requirements against individuals attempting to live independent and environmentally sustainable lifestyles sends the wrong message: that citizens must be dependent on the state, whether or not they wish to be,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. “This case is emblematic of a growing problem in America today, namely, that bureaucrats and local governments will go to great lengths to perpetuate dependence and compliance with the nanny state.”

Speronis uses solar panels for electricity and collects rainwater for water. She cooks on a propane stove and keeps clean with a camping shower. She uses an alternative toilet system.

Off-Grid widow jailed
By Mchael Faust on 10 July 2014 for Off Grid News -

Robin Speronis’ story captivated nationwide attention earlier this year – an off-grid widow ordered by her city to hook up to public electricity and water or face eviction.

She stood her ground and inspired thousands of people, and she even celebrated a partial court victory in February. But the city didn’t stop targeting her, and in May she was arrested and placed in jail, where she spent a month behind bars. And just as quickly, the district attorney dropped the charges and she was released, no questions asked.

Speronis is this week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio, giving us the details about her arrest and legal fight you won’t hear anywhere else. Her off-grid battle for freedom is our battle, and she tells us:
  • Whether off-grid citizens are now being targeted.
  • Why her month in jail only served to encourage her.
  • How her off-grid battle impacts all of us.
The cruel, mean-spirited bureaucrats even took her dogs. If you’re a homesteader, off-gridder or simply a liberty-loving American, this is one episode you need to hear!

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 27:05 — 31.0MB) 

Japan to kill Pacific Ocean

SUBHEAD: Japanese government approves dumping Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant radioactive waste water into Pacific Ocean.

By Admin on 21 January 2015 for ENE News -

Image above: Tanks of radioactive water at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on June 12, 2013.From (

NHK Jan 21, 2015
Regulators approve Fukushima wastewater drainage — Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved a plan by [TEPCO] to drain filtered wastewater from the firm’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant into the sea… The firm also plans to reduce the level of radioactive material in the water before releasing it into the nearby Pacific. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority approved TEPCO’s plan to install drainpipes and a pumping system and to reduce the level of radioactive cesium-137 to less than one becquerel per liter.

NHK Transcript  Jan 21, 2015
Japanese regulators have approved a controversial plan by [TEPCO]. They say TEPCO officials can flush filtered waste water into the ocean… Fisherman: “We can’t trust Tepco… If they proceed with their plan the situation will surely go back to how it was before. I’m worried the government and Tepco will act to suit themselves.”

Wall St Journal Jan 21, 2015
Japan’s nuclear regulator has officially called on [Tepco] to work toward discharging low-level contaminated water… just two days after a worker fell into [a tank] used to store contaminated water… Tepco is using a processing system [that] is unable to take out the tritium [and] is reluctant to release it into the ocean to avoid… criticism from neighboring countries and some nations with a Pacific Ocean coastline… there is no detailed study about tritium’s long-time effect on animal genes. Mamoru Takata, a Kyoto University professor and expert on radiation’s long-term effects, said monitoring would be necessary to detect any worrisome signals.

Dr. Gordon Edwards Aug 8, 2014
(50:00 in): It can’t be dumped into the ocean, because it’s completely unsafe because of these fission products. They have built over 1,000 large tanks, huge tanks… that contain this very, very radioactively contaminated water. At the moment they’re trying to filter out these fission products… It’s impossible for them to remove all those hundreds of radioactive materials. They know how to remove about 62 of them, but there’s other ones that they cannot.

Recent ENE links about die-offs in Pacific Ocean:
Sea urchins with insides empty, and black lesions in Hawaii…
"It's like a scene from a horror movie" along West Coast…
Hawaii coral "the worst scientists have ever seen"…
Sea creatures sick, dying or disappearing along Pacific Coast…


Industrialized Oceans

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
SUBHEAD: Empty seas? If nothing's done, extinction levels in the ocean could soon resemble those on land.

By Jeremy Hance on 15 January 2015 for MongaBay -

Image above: Although most bluefin tuna species have been decimated by overfishing, they are still caught. Photo by Stewart Butterfield. From original article.

This is obvious, but still important: humans are not a marine species. Even as we have colonized most of our planet's terrestrial landscapes, we have not yet colonized the oceans. And for most of our history, we have impacted them only on the periphery. A new review in Science finds that this has saved marine species and ecosystems from large-scale damage and degradation—that is, until the last couple centuries.

"We have driven cod stocks down to unfishable levels, certain shark species have crashed by [more than] 90 percent, we are now wringing our hands about bluefin tuna declines in both the Atlantic and Pacific," lead author Douglas McCauley from the University of California Santa Barbara told "We see these sorts of headlines constantly sprinkled across the news."

With the rise of industrialized fishing, super trawlers, deep sea exploitation, pollution, and aquaculture, the human impact on the oceans is escalating rapidly and may be on the same course as what happened on land beginning in the Nineteenth Century: an industrial revolution of the oceans with the associated ecological impacts.

"There are factory farms in the sea, and cattle-ranch style feed lots for tuna. Shrimp farms are eating up mangroves with the same appetite with which terrestrial farming consumed native prairies and forest," added co-author Steve Palumbi with Stanford University. "Stakes for seafloor mining claims are being pursued with gold rush-like fervor. Three hundred-ton ocean mining machines and 750 foot fishing boats are now rolling off the assembly line to do this work."

Still the majority of these marine impacts are relatively recent, most of them only going back a few decades.

"What is easy to forget as we lament these truly depressing numerical declines in marine fauna is that, relative to land, the course of marine defaunation has involved relatively few outright species extinctions," said McCauley

But looming in the background of all of this—and rising to the foreground—are climate change and ocean acidification. Researchers have warned repeatedly that these twin carbon impacts could lead to mass extinction across marine environments, if we fail to reign in fossil fuels quickly.

In other words, according to McCauley and his colleagues, the oceans have not yet suffered the same human impacts as terrestrial ecosystems, but they could soon without better care and management.

Extinctions in the oceans versus land
To date, the IUCN has confirmed that humans have driven 15 marine animals to extinction over the last 500 years, including some famous examples like the great auk, Stellar's sea cow, and the Caribbean monk seal. However, in contrast, the IUCN has recorded 514 extinctions of land-based animals during the same time period, pointing to a much greater extinction crisis on land so far.

The researchers believe extinctions have been rarer in the oceans, not just because major human impacts started later, but also since marine species "tend to be more widespread, exhibit less endemism, and have higher dispersal," according to the study. Most land extinctions have occurred on islands, where species literally have no-where to run, but such tiny, isolated ecosystems are much rarer in marine environments.

However, McCauley cautions that the 15 formally recognized marine extinctions should be viewed "as an absolute minimum estimate."

"We are a bit slow to declare that an extinction has occurred in the oceans because it is so hard to definitively prove that there might not be a couple more of an endangered species out there somewhere, a little deeper maybe, or hidden under a coral ledge we can't get to," he explained. "It took us 73 years to find the Titanic and that is a 50 thousand ton ship. That helps us recall just how hard it is to find out if a last goby or a last shrimp might still be out there."

In addition, the oceans probably contain a number of lost extinctions, or extinctions that have gone totally unrecorded by scientists. In fact, of the 15 extinctions identified to date, only three of them are invertebrates. Marine birds, mammals, and fish have been far better studied, and monitored, than the world's more diverse, but less charismatic, lifeforms.

McCauley points to bottom trawling as one type of fishing that has probably pushed species never known to science to extinction.

"We can see the sediment plumes roll off trawlers as they chew up the seafloor from space," he said. "We can now trawl in some of the deepest parts of the ocean and this measurably squashes and flattens out the seafloor. In my opinion, it is not possible that we have disturbed this much of the ocean floor and have not driven at least some undescribed species extinct. And this is just one form of fishing, and fishing is only one form of marine disturbance."

Much of this comes down to a simple lack of data and knowledge about the world's marine environments. It's often pointed out that our maps of the moon and Mars are more detailed than anything we have of the ocean floor. Moreover, studying marine species has proven incredibly challenging, and much like land species, the big and beautiful still take precedent.

"We lament the challenges of characterizing insect diversity in rainforests. The challenge of characterizing diversity under the oceans is just so much harder. Imagine trying to count insects in a rainforest that is 100 feet underwater—that is near to what we are up against in characterizing invertebrate faunal diversity in coral reef ecosystem," McCauley said.

Marine defaunation and the other three extinctions
But extinctions aren't the only measure of impact on the oceans; in fact, given the dearth in data and the paucity of monitoring they are probably a poor measure. Instead, researchers say we should really focus on "defaunation," a term that has become increasingly popular among biologists and ecologists to describe human-impacts on animal communities.

Fauna encompasses all animals of a certain area (like flora for plants), including both vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as their diversity and abundance. So, the term defaunation, like deforestation, means the total loss of animals. This includes traditional extinctions and overall biodiversity loss, but also declines in populations.

Through examining defaunation in the oceans, McCauley and his colleague's paper also focuses on three types of extinction: local, commercial, and ecological.

"While outright species extinction in the oceans is rare, marine defaunation has caused many local, ecological, and commercial extinctions," McCauley said. Local extinction means a species vanishes from a particular region, while commercial extinctions means the species is so rare that it is no longer viable for harvesting—though in some cases the species is still caught like bluefin tuna. Ecological extinctions means that animal numbers fall so low that the species is simply unable to carry out their usual role in the wider ecological community, whether this be as predator, ecosystem engineer, or the clean-up crew.

"Imagine if the global population of garbage collectors crashed to only 100 individuals," McCauley explained. "It would really be no comfort to us, as we waded through streets full of trash, to know that somewhere in the world garbage collectors still existed—because the critically important services that they provide would have gone functionally extinct. It is the same for marine animals. They do things that are important to humans and are important to their own ecosystems."

Defaunation describes what has happened to whales, sharks, rays, marine birds, sea turtles, and many commercially-targeted fish and invertebrates. While they're still around, many of their populations have been decimated. For example, a 2008 paper by Jeremy Jackson found that populations of large predatory fish worldwide have fallen by 90 percent, oysters in coastal seas and estuaries by 91 percent, shorebirds by 62 percent, and pristine coral reefs by over 60 percent, among other alarming statistics.

"All signs indicate that we may be initiating a Marine Industrial Revolution. We are setting ourselves up in the oceans to replay the process of wildlife Armageddon that we engineered on land," McCauley said.

So, what can be done? A lot of things, according to McCauley and colleagues.

"We need to carefully and thoughtfully manage this emerging wave of industrial use of the oceans," said McCauley, who admits "we need food, minerals, and energy from the oceans—but all of this extraction can't be left to run wild. We need to thoughtfully zone out marine development so it takes wildlife into consideration, not vice versa."

And this isn't just about protecting wildlife, but also about safeguarding protein-rich food for some of the world's poorest. Around a billion people—most of them in developing countries—depend on fish and other seafood for the majority of their protein.

Artisanal fisherman in Cebu, Philippines. Many in developing countries depend on marine environments for their protein. Photo by: Malin Pinsky.

"According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 40 times more wild animal biomass is harvested from the oceans than from land," the researchers write. "Declines in this source of free-range marine food represent a major source of concern."

To better safeguard the ocean, the authors suggest more Marine Protected Area, which to date only cover around 3 percent of marine waters. But they also note that this oft-repeated solution can't be the only approach given how far many ocean species roam and disperse. Instead, other solutions must include improved management, much stricter zoning, and innovative programs.

"We need policy to manage these species and their habitats in over 95 percent of the oceans that are not set aside in marine protected areas," McCauley said. "There are some smart policies already in circulation for doing this, for example whole ecosystem management plans [and] incentive based fisheries. More than anything else, it is important to realize that we have to put these policies and tools already in front of us into place immediately and commit to them."

Yet, the biggest challenge—the most global challenge—remains the evil twins of climate change and ocean acidification.

"This may be the hardest and yet most important part of slowing marine defaunation," said McCauley. "Big marine protected areas and smart harvest policy isn't going to do us any good if we cook and acidify ocean habitats. By some measures climate change is going to be harder on marine animals than it is on terrestrial fauna."

Trawlers scrapping the ocean floor off Louisiana. Trawling is one of the most destructive fishing practices as it sweeps across the seabed taking up everything in its path. Photo by: Malin Pinsky.

Scientists especially fear for coral reefs as the world's oceans both heat up and acidify. Research has shown also that a number of shell-dependent invertebrates could be hugely impacted by ocean acidification, which is happening at a faster rate than anytime in the last 300 million years. Ocean acidification may also screw with the behaviors of many marine species, including fish.

"Yet, marine animals are already exhibiting some impressive potential to adapt to this change," noted McCauley. "If we can slow rates of ocean warming and acidification, even a bit, we buy these animals more time to adapt and can do a lot to help protect the intrinsic resiliency of the oceans."

This means rapidly curtailing global greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to rise despite decades of research and warnings.

But, ocean conservation also suffers from a lack of direct contact with most people.

"What is out of sight is often out of mind," he said. "If monarchs stop appearing in your backyard, alarm bells ring, and that becomes the stuff of local newspaper headlines. We pay attention to defaunation when it occurs in the terrestrial ecosystems that we hike in, garden in, and camp in. We are doing a much less good job of tracking defaunation and responding to defaunation in the oceans because it is simply such a foreign environment to so many of us."

On a positive note, though McCauley said there was time remaining to save the vast majority of the ocean's species, including its megafauna.

"We still have the raw ingredients we need for recovery. There is hope for sharks and tunas, but there is not that same hope for the dodos, mammoths, moas, passenger pigeons, and hundreds of other terrestrial wildlife species that have crossed over the extinction threshold."

  • Jeremy Jackson (2008). Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean. PNAS Online Early Edition for the week of August 11-15, 2008.
  • Douglas J. McCauley, Malin L. Pinsky, Stephen R. Palumbi, James A. Estes, Francis H. Joyce, Robert R. Warner. (2015) Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean. Science. Vol 347. Issue 6219.

Hawaii Home Rule Tour

SUBHEAD: Tour with special with Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell, musical artist Makana and more.

By Christiane Douglas on 21 January 2015 for ShakaMovement -

Image above: From promotional material provided.

Hawaii Center For Food Safety presents Vandana Shiva Home Rule Tour with special guests Andrew Kimbrell, musical artist Makana and more.

We will join community leaders from across Hawaii on Oahu and Maui to share stories from the frontlines of a global movement to empower community food systems. From Hawaii to India, these stories capture the importance of home rule in the future of food. Together, we rise. Please join us.

January 25th, 2015 - Maui
What: Dr. Vandana Shiva Talk Story Session
Location: Seabury Hall
Time: 3:00 pm
Cost: $15
Get Tickets Here:
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More than anywhere else, counties in Hawaii should have the right and authority to determine the future of their food system. This is home rule. Hawaii is home to untold biodiversity and some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. However, it is also ground zero for the outdoor experimentation of pesticide-promoting plant technologies, genetically engineered to withstand heavy spraying of toxic chemicals.

On Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai, chemical and biotechnology companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Dow Chemical, Bayer, and BASF have purchased prime agricultural land, taking advantage of Hawaii’s isolation and year-round growing season, in order to field test crops that have been genetically engineered (GE) to withstand greater applications of pesticides.

Despite public health concerns and contamination of natural resources, the State of Hawaii has taken no action to regulate the activities of biotechnology companies performing open-air testing on genetically engineered seed and synthetic pesticides.

As a result, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Counties asserted their county’s authority to create policies that address these issues and protect the safety and health of its residents and land. Otherwise known as “Home Rule,” Hawaii has shown the world just how important this kind of political power is in the movement to create more safe and sovereign food systems.

Video above: This January, Dr. Vandana Shiva, internationally acclaimed food sovereignty activist, author, and philosopher, will join community leaders from across Hawaii on Oahu and Maui to share stories from the frontlines of the global movement. From (

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