December 31, 2011

Greenwald: Ron Paul versus progressives

Glenn Greenwald has written an excellent piece on the discomfort of progressives with having Ron Paul saying what they should be screaming from the rooftops in opposition to Obama (excerpt below, click here for complete essay — well worth it):

The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal’s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Post just dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that — things liberalism has long held to be pernicious. ... The parallel reality — the undeniable fact — is that all of these listed heinous views and actions from Barack Obama have been vehemently opposed and condemned by Ron Paul: and among the major GOP candidates, only by Ron Paul. ... If Paul were not in the race or were not receiving attention, none of these issues would receive any attention because all the other major GOP candidates either agree with Obama on these matters or hold even worse views. ... Paul scrambles the comfortable ideological and partisan categories and forces progressives to confront and account for the policies they are working to protect. His nomination would mean that it is the Republican candidate — not the Democrat — who would be the anti-war, pro–due-process, pro-transparency, anti-Fed, anti–Wall-Street-bailout, anti–Drug-War advocate .... Instead, we hear only a dishonest one-sided argument that emphasizes Paul’s evils while ignoring Obama’s. ... It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize Paul harshly and point out the horrible aspects of his belief system and past actions. But that’s worthwhile only if it’s accompanied by a similarly candid assessment of all the candidates, including the sitting President.

The Deer Hunter

[New York Times, Dec. 30, 2011]

To the Editor:

In “Hunting Deer With My Flintlock” (Op-Ed, Dec. 26), Seamus McGraw says he has a responsibility to kill deer because there are too many. He has volunteered to kill a deer cruelly, ineptly and with an outdated weapon that causes additional suffering to the deer. I assume that the use of the flintlock is to enhance his self-image as a master of the woodland.

He says he hunts out of a need to take responsibility for his family, who evidently live where the supermarkets offer no meat. He says meat tastes more precious when you’ve watched it die. May I recommend a trip to a slaughterhouse?

I’m tired of hearing people who enjoy killing justify it with specious moral platitudes. Animals suffer when killed. No pearly phrases can make that any better.

Baldwin, N.Y., Dec. 26, 2011

To the Editor:

Seamus McGraw mounts all the standard defenses: I am feeding my family; there are too many deer; I kill as mercifully as possible.

But whether with a flintlock or a modern rifle, hunting cruelly takes the life of a living, sentient being that has as much right to live as any hunter or writer. It is only the prejudice of our species that justifies culling the deer population while protecting our own.

Highland Park, Ill., Dec. 26, 2011

To the Editor:

I don’t have all the answers concerning Pennsylvania’s burgeoning deer population (most of it caused by the burgeoning human population), but I want to comment on the self-serving tone of Seamus McGraw’s article.

For a man who claims not to enjoy killing, he takes considerable pride in his bloodletting. That his flintlock rifle failed him, and more important, the doe, because he flinched is reason enough to put down his antiquated weapon. It ought to be reason enough for such a firearm to be banned entirely.

Beyond that, though, is the tragedy of the doe’s sole contact with a human: a moment that could have initiated a communion between the two was instead reduced to carnage. Nothing noble there. No art in it either.

President, Make Peace With Animals
New Hope, Pa., Dec. 26, 2011

To the Editor:

Please give me a break. Seamus McGraw tells us he has to kill deer in his section of Pennsylvania because “with no predators to speak of — the wolves were wiped out centuries ago and the last mountain lion in the state was killed more than 70 years ago — the responsibility for trying to restore a part of that balance fell to me.”

Who wiped out the wolves and mountain lions? Hunters like him.

Boston, Dec. 26, 2011

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

December 29, 2011

This Is What We're Talking About

Suzanne Goldenberg writes in today's Guardian about how green the U.S. Navy's base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is and the Navy's overall plans to be very green.

Thus the lives destroyed by imperialist aggression, exploitation, and fear are offset by the lives to be saved in reducing carbon emissions! Guantánamo Bay epitomizes Good!

(Also noted in the article is the rare follow-up of real-life wind turbine performance compared with projections. In April 2005, four 950-kW wind turbines, costing almost $12 million, began supplying electricity to the base. It was projected that they would provide 25% of the base's electrical power. Instead, they provide less than 5% on a good day — which means they are actually producing much less than that on average, probably only 2%.)

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist
Rebel Against the Future

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism

December 28, 2011

Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

From Orion Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012, by Paul Kingsnorth [excerpt]:

... I became an “environmentalist” because of a strong emotional reaction to wild places and the other-than-human world: to beech trees and hedgerows and pounding waterfalls, to songbirds and sunsets, to the flying fish in the Java Sea and the canopy of the rainforest at dusk when the gibbons come to the waterside to feed. From that reaction came a feeling, which became a series of thoughts: that such things are precious for their own sake, that they are food for the human soul, and that they need people to speak for them to, and defend them from, other people, because they cannot speak our language and we have forgotten how to speak theirs. And because we are killing them to feed ourselves and we know it and we care about it, sometimes, but we do it anyway because we are hungry, or we have persuaded ourselves that we are.

But these are not, I think, very common views today. Today’s environmentalism is as much a victim of the contemporary cult of utility as every other aspect of our lives, from science to education. We are not environmentalists now because we have an emotional reaction to the wild world. Most of us wouldn’t even know where to find it. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability.” What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the nonhuman world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilization at the comfort level that the world’s rich people—us—feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” that is needed to do so.

It is, in other words, an entirely human-centered piece of politicking, disguised as concern for “the planet.” In a very short time—just over a decade—this worldview has become all-pervasive. It is voiced by the president of the USA and the president of Anglo-Dutch Shell and many people in between. The success of environmentalism has been total—at the price of its soul.

Let me offer up just one example of how this pact has worked. If “sustainability” is about anything, it is about carbon. Carbon and climate change. To listen to most environmentalists today, you would think that these were the only things in the world worth talking about. The business of “sustainability” is the business of preventing carbon emissions. Carbon emissions threaten a potentially massive downgrading of our prospects for material advancement as a species. They threaten to unacceptably erode our resource base and put at risk our vital hoards of natural capital. If we cannot sort this out quickly, we are going to end up darning our socks again and growing our own carrots and other such unthinkable things. All of the horrors our grandparents left behind will return like deathless legends. Carbon emissions must be “tackled” like a drunk with a broken bottle—quickly, and with maximum force.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt the potency of climate change to undermine the human machine. It looks to me as if it is already beginning to do so, and that it is too late to do anything but attempt to mitigate the worst effects. But what I am also convinced of is that the fear of losing both the comfort and the meaning that our civilization gifts us has gone to the heads of environmentalists to such a degree that they have forgotten everything else. The carbon must be stopped, like the Umayyad at Tours, or all will be lost.

This reductive approach to the human-environmental challenge leads to an obvious conclusion: if carbon is the problem, then “zero-carbon” is the solution. Society needs to go about its business without spewing the stuff out. It needs to do this quickly, and by any means necessary. Build enough of the right kind of energy technologies, quickly enough, to generate the power we “need” without producing greenhouse gases, and there will be no need to ever turn the lights off; no need to ever slow down.

To do this will require the large-scale harvesting of the planet’s ambient energy: sunlight, wind, water power. This means that vast new conglomerations of human industry are going to appear in places where this energy is most abundant. Unfortunately, these places coincide with some of the world’s wildest, most beautiful, and most untouched landscapes. The sort of places that environmentalism came into being to protect.

And so the deserts, perhaps the landscape always most resistant to permanent human conquest, are to be colonized by vast “solar arrays,” glass and steel and aluminum, the size of small countries. The mountains and moors, the wild uplands, are to be staked out like vampires in the sun, their chests pierced with rows of five-hundred-foot wind turbines and associated access roads, masts, pylons, and wires. The open oceans, already swimming in our plastic refuse and emptying of marine life, will be home to enormous offshore turbine ranges and hundreds of wave machines strung around the coastlines like Victorian necklaces. The rivers are to see their estuaries severed and silted by industrial barrages. The croplands and even the rainforests, the richest habitats on this terrestrial Earth, are already highly profitable sites for biofuel plantations designed to provide guilt-free car fuel to the motion-hungry masses of Europe and America.

What this adds up to should be clear enough, yet many people who should know better choose not to see it. This is business-as-usual: the expansive, colonizing, progressive human narrative, shorn only of the carbon. It is the latest phase of our careless, self-absorbed, ambition-addled destruction of the wild, the unpolluted, and the nonhuman. It is the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy. And without any sense of irony, people are calling this “environmentalism.”

A while back I wrote an article in a newspaper highlighting the impact of industrial wind power stations (which are usually referred to, in a nice Orwellian touch, as wind “farms”) on the uplands of Britain. I was e-mailed the next day by an environmentalist friend who told me he hoped I was feeling ashamed of myself. I was wrong; worse, I was dangerous. What was I doing giving succor to the fossil fuel industry? Didn’t I know that climate change would do far more damage to upland landscapes than turbines? Didn’t I know that this was the only way to meet our urgent carbon targets? Didn’t I see how beautiful turbines were? So much more beautiful than nuclear power stations. I might think that a “view” was more important than the future of the entire world, but this was because I was a middle-class escapist who needed to get real.

It became apparent at that point that what I saw as the next phase of the human attack on the nonhuman world a lot of my environmentalist friends saw as “progressive,” “sustainable,” and “green.” What I called destruction they called “large-scale solutions.” This stuff was realistic, necessarily urgent. It went with the grain of human nature and the market, which as we now know are the same thing. We didn’t have time to “romanticize” the woods and the hills. There were emissions to reduce, and the end justified the means.

It took me a while to realize where this kind of talk took me back to: the maze and the moonlit hilltop. This desperate scrabble for “sustainable development” was in reality the same old same old. People I had thought were on my side were arguing aggressively for the industrializing of wild places in the name of human desire. This was the same rootless, distant destruction that had led me to the top of Twyford Down. Only now there seemed to be some kind of crude equation at work that allowed them to believe this was something entirely different. Motorway through downland: bad. Wind power station on downland: good. Container port wiping out estuary mudflats: bad. Renewable hydropower barrage wiping out estuary mudflats: good. Destruction minus carbon equals sustainability.

So here I was again: a Luddite, a NIMBY, a reactionary, a romantic; standing in the way of progress. I realized that I was dealing with environmentalists with no attachment to any actual environment. Their talk was of parts-per-million of carbon, peer-reviewed papers, sustainable technologies, renewable supergrids, green growth, and the fifteenth conference of the parties. There were campaigns about “the planet” and “the Earth,” but there was no specificity: no sign of any real, felt attachment to any small part of that Earth. ...

Jan. 19:  Paul Kingsnorth & friends discuss this essay:

See also:  A Wind Farm Is Not the Answer, by Paul Kingsnorth.
See also:  Dark Ecology, by Paul Kingsnorth.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism

December 27, 2011

Rebel Against the Future

An Interview with Kirkpatrick Sale
by David Kupfer
Culture Change, Summer 1996

Kirkpatrick Sale has written a book on the Luddites titled Rebels Against the Future, released in paper-back in 1996 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., U.S. $13; 320 pp.

DK: From where was your desire to write this historical interpretation of the Luddites born?

KS: If you locate the problem as being the industrial system, it's simple to say: "Well, let's go back to the industrial revolution, the big industrial revolution."

And after you make that identification, the next one is to say: "Well, did anybody ever object to this?" And you find the Luddites there.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution (about 1785), they rose up in resistance. They made a brave effort that, although it failed, was so powerful that it embedded their dream in the language.

So I decided to study the Luddites in a positive light, which had almost never been done before. The two other books on the Luddites, written in England, essentially were saying these were foolish and misguided people.

Do you think the Luddites are misunderstood today?

Of course. Everyone assumes they were bad people who were against all technology and were fools to resist it. In general the Luddite image today is negative. People will say, "Well you don't want to use a computer, then you must be a Luddite," meaning a social outcast. Or they'll say, "Well I'm no Luddite, but I can't reset the clock in my VCR," meaning "I don't want to be thought of against technology, mind you..."

The connotation of Luddism is "taking us back," while it is human nature to progress, to build on and go forth.

To believe that what has happened to humankind in the last 200 years is "progress" is to fall into an industrialist trap of: "Anything new is better and everything is better tomorrow than it is today because we have more material advantages and more ease and speed in our life and this is good."

The Luddites did not want to turn the clock back. They said, "We want to cling to this way of life; we don't want a life in which we're forced into factories, forced onto machines we can't control, and forced from village self-sufficiency into urban dependency and servitude."

A modern Luddite is also trying to hold to certain elements of the past to resurrect the community. A modern Luddite would say that, of the array of technology around, we should choose what we want and what we don't. And we will do so in a democratic basis within this community and within this bioregion on the basis of the economic, social and environmental costs. Neo-Luddites wish to resurrect some values of the past such as communitarianism, non-materialism, an understanding of nature, and a meshing with nature. These things have been largely taken from us in these last 200 years and we must fight to preserve them.

Do you think that the Luddites today are one of the last positive minorities?

I do. And I wonder how much of a minority they are — sometimes I'm persuaded they're a majority. Millions of people believe that this new industrial revolution is, as Newsweek said in February, "outstripping our capacity to cope and shifting our concept of reality."

People feeling this way range from those who simply don't like these new technologies, to people who have lost their jobs because of them, to people who understand that specific technologies — such as asbestos or nuclear power or pesticides or silicone implants that were sold to them as great benefits of technology — have turned out to hurt us. Then there are philosophical opponents of these technologies.

If you put them all together, I think we have many tens of millions of people who at least understand the dangers of this technological revolution and wish they knew how to resist it.

Do you think these neo-Luddites see themselves as such?

Not for the most part. They have come to their positions often by happenstantial ways. What I hope is that we could get a movement going by saying to them, "Yes, there are a lot of other people like you — you are not alone." They might come to proudly say, "I am a Luddite, and I have millions like me who are proudly saying they are Luddites." If it happens to be a word like Quaker or Queer that started out as insults, but for people who were insulted that way said, "I'm proud of being a Quaker," and will take that. "I'm a Quaker, I'm a Queer, and will defend proudly what that means." And that same thing may happen to the word "Luddite."

Looking at your past works, they seem to outline a path to return to some sort of tribal mode of existence.

Yes. And by "tribal" I mean small-scale and communitarian and nature-based, which is what tribal societies have always been and always will be. This is why they were so successful, the reasons they have survived for a million years and remained the form of our society for the greater part of our time on Earth.

You've written that the term "post-industrial" is a misnomer. Where did it come from? Do you think the purpose of its introduction into the lexicon was to mislead people concerned about social/technological change?

"Post-industrial" was invented by the proponents of the computer revolution to suggest that all the bad things about industry were left behind and you're now in a new age where there's nothing but good things. We don't have those belching smoke stacks anymore; we have modern, suburban, glass-walled buildings in which we use computers; this is post-industrial. But that's sleight of hand. The industry that used to belch smoke is still an industry, even if it's using computers.

Why do you think there are so few images in the popular culture for sustainability?

"Sustainable" is essentially the opposite of "industrial." Sustainability implies a non-exploitive relationship with nature and a basic self-sufficiency in life. Well, industrialism can't allow that to exist because that kind of living would not create, manufacture, use or consume. Sustainability, community and self-sufficiency are antithetical to industrialism.

Yes, they have come up with this idea now called "sustainable development," but it is actually the most odious oxymoron going around. Development of the kind that is meant in industrial civilization is destructive of communities, people's lands, and eventually, of people's livelihoods. Sustainable development is a convenient industrial myth. It really means that corporations try to get people in the great world south to become consumers so they can keep this Ponzi scheme of industrialism going.

Ponzi scheme?

That's the con game of taking from one investor and paying off another. It's a con game, this industrialism. It needs the constant creation of different needs and finding different populations to force into consumptive ways. So the industrial system tries to make these people in the less developed world think there's nothing more wonderful than having a car. Thoughts, such as that there are a billion Chinese who might drive cars, are what sustains the entire industrial economy.

Finding new markets has always been the industrialist's necessity. But if a billion Chinese drove cars, or even a half a billion, the resulting pollution would cause the air to be unbreathable around the world. This seems to have escaped the notice of these people, or they don't care as long as they can make their profits in the short term.

It is seldom realized that 5 percent of the world's population here in North America uses up between 35 and 40 percent of the world's resources to sustain our way of life. If you then have another 5 percent at this level, then 70 to 80 percent of the world's resources would be used up. And if you have 15 percent of the world's population living at this level, that would use up 120 percent of the world's resources, which means global destruction and we all die. The logic of industrial progress is therefore the logic of global destruction.

In its attempts to oppose this destruction, what do you think is the environmental movement's greatest strength?

I don't think the environmental movement is proving to be very strong or imaginative these days. I think the mainstream environmental movement — the Washington lobbying kind of environmentalism — has reached a kind of dead end.

That the mindset of 20th century industrial society is the problem has to be drilled into the minds of environmental movement — but I don't see that happening. It's a profound realization, and very difficult to realize because it's like fish being able to say that the water that they swim in is polluted when fish don't even know that they're swimming in water.

It's a profound thing for people to say that this Western Civilization, which is all they know and all they ever have known, is itself polluted and that it needs to be dispensed with. But we have to understand that the enemy is much larger than what we've ever identified it to be before.

It does harken back to the appropriate technology movement which emphasized the need to recreate all our basic political systems ...

Except there was a sense back then that technology was the answer. I think that we have come beyond that because technology so often led into this mindset of science and technology providing solutions for us. A dangerous way to think.

But we still have leaders such as Paul Hawken saying we need to work with the corporations, convert them and make them sustainable.

Unless we start with the presumption that the corporations, and the legislatures that protect those corporations, are the enemy and the problem, there will never be hope for environmentalism. Even though there are good people, perhaps, in the corporate system — who are not themselves evil — it is the nature of the corporation to be evil because that's how it survives. Its task is to use up the resources of the earth in the swiftest and most efficient way at the greatest profit. And it has developed technologies that enable them to do that in a spectacular way.

I grant you that there is a certain liberal tradition that says we will compromise and we'll let them have this over here if they will let us stop them from building a dam here. There have been certain modest victories from working with the legislatures and corporations. But this is a dead end because you never win the victories. They can always put the dam in and always decide that they're not going to preserve that forest. They're going to cut it down, and you're not changing the mindset that allows them, this society, to have its assaults on nature.

Environmentalists also must realize the true glories in life are in nature, and that we must get ourselves back into nature in a communitarian way. Far from being a difficult and repressive kind of future, that is the most enlightening, liberating kind possible. This is not a common way of thinking among mainstream environmentalists, or even the grassroots. But it must be part of the vision if there's going to be any kind of sustainable future.

David Kupfer is a long-time environmental activist and journalist, semi-nomadic but now based in Selma, Ore.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, ecoanarchism

December 16, 2011

Rocky Anderson for President

Rocky Anderson, humans right advocate and former mayor of Salt Lake City, has announced that he is running for the Presidency of the United States under the banner of the newly formed Justice Party.

December 9, 2011

The War of the Banks Against the People

Michael Hudson writes at Counterpunch, "Europe’s Deadly Transition from Social Democracy to Oligarchy":

What banks want is for the economic surplus to be paid out as interest, not used for rising living standards, public social spending or even for new capital investment. Research and development takes too long. Finance lives in the short run. This short-termism is self-defeating, yet it is presented as science. The alternative, voters are told, is the road to serfdom: interfering with the “free market” by financial regulation and even progressive taxation.

There is an alternative, of course. It is what European civilization from the 13th-century Schoolmen through the Enlightenment and the flowering of classical political economy sought to create: an economy free of unearned income, free of vested interests using special privileges for “rent extraction.” At the hands of the neoliberals, by contrast, a free market is one free for a tax-favored rentier class to extract interest, economic rent and monopoly prices. ...

If the euro breaks up, it is because of the obligation of governments to pay bankers in money that must be borrowed rather than created through their own central bank. Unlike the United States and Britain which can create central bank credit on their own computer keyboards to keep their economy from shrinking or becoming insolvent, the German constitution and the Lisbon Treaty prevent the central bank from doing this.

The effect is to oblige governments to borrow from commercial banks at interest. This gives bankers the ability to create a crisis – threatening to drive economies out of the Eurozone if they do not submit to “conditionalities” being imposed in what quickly is becoming a new class war of finance against labor.

One of the three defining characteristics of a nation-state is the power to create money. A second characteristic is the power to levy taxes. Both of these powers are being transferred out of the hands of democratically elected representatives to the financial sector, as a result of tying the hands of government.

The third characteristic of a nation-state is the power to declare war. What is happening today is the equivalent of warfare – but against the power of government! It is above all a financial mode of warfare – and the aims of this financial appropriation are the same as those of military conquest: first, the land and subsoil riches on which to charge rents as tribute; second, public infrastructure to extract rent as access fees; and third, any other enterprises or assets in the public domain. ...

Bankers do not want to take responsibility for bad loans. This poses the financial problem of just what policy-makers should do when banks have been so irresponsible in allocating credit. But somebody has to take a loss. Should it be society at large, or the bankers? ...

At least in the most badly indebted countries, European voters are waking up to an oligarchic coup in which taxation and government budgetary planning and control is passing into the hands of executives nominated by the international bankers’ cartel.

December 8, 2011

Energy and Equity, by Ivan Illich (excerpts)

"El socialismo puede llegar solo en bicicleta." (Socialism can arrive only by bicycle)
—José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Assistant Secretary of Justice in the government of Salvador Allende

A low-energy policy allows for a wide choice of life-styles and cultures. If, on the other hand, a society opts for high energy consumption, its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labeled capitalist or socialist.
The possibility of a third option is barely noticed. While people have begun to accept ecological limits on maximum per capita energy use as a condition for physical survival, they do not yet think about the use of minimum feasible power as the foundation of any of various social orders that would be both modern and desirable. Yet only a ceiling on energy use can lead to social relations that are characterized by high levels of equity.
What is generally overlooked is that equity and energy can grow concurrently only to a point. Below a threshold of per capita wattage, motors improve the conditions for social progress. Above this threshold, energy grows at the expense of equity. Further energy affluence then means decreased distribution of control over that energy.
Even if nonpolluting power were feasible and abundant, the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving. A community can choose between Methadone and “cold turkey”—between maintaining its addiction to alien energy and kicking it in painful cramps—but no society can have a population that is hooked on progressively larger numbers of energy slaves and whose members are also autonomously active.
By exporting their crisis and by preaching the new gospel of puritan energy worship, the rich do even more damage to the poor than they did by selling them the products of now outdated factories. As soon as a poor country accepts the doctrine that more energy more carefully managed will always yield more goods for more people, that country locks itself into the cage of enslavement to maximum industrial outputs. Inevitably the poor lose the option for rational technology when they choose to modernize their poverty by increasing their dependence on energy. Inevitably the poor deny themselves the possibility of liberating technology and participatory politics when, together with maximum feasible energy use, they accept maximum feasible social control.
Participatory democracy demands low-energy technology, and free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.
Enforced dependence on auto-mobile machines then denies a community of self-propelled people just those values supposedly procured by improved transportation.
Extremes of privilege are created at the cost of universal enslavement.
The habitual passenger ... believes that the level of democratic process correlates to the power of transportation and communications systems. He has lost faith in the political power of the feet and of the tongue. As a result, what he wants is not more liberty as a citizen but better service as a client. He does not insist on his freedom to move and to speak to people but on his claim to be shipped and to be informed by media. He wants a better product rather than freedom from servitude to it.
Beyond a critical speed, no one can save time without forcing another to lose it.
At each new level, the concentration of power must produce its own kind of rationale. So, for example, the reason that is usually given for spending public money to make a man travel more miles in less time each year is the still greater investment that was made to keep him more years in school.
Acceleration inevitably concentrates horsepower under the seats of a few and compounds the increasing time lack of most commuters with the further sense that they are lagging behind.
The need for unequal privilege in an industrial society is generally advocated by means of an argument with two sides. The hypocrisy of this argument is clearly betrayed by acceleration. Privilege is accepted as the necessary precondition for improving the lot of a growing total population, or it is advertised as the instrument for raising the standards of a deprived minority. In the long run, accelerating transportation does neither. It only creates a universal demand for motorized conveyance and puts previously unimaginable distances between the various layers of privilege. Beyond a certain point, more energy means less equity.
Social classification by levels of speed enforces a net transfer of power: the poor work and pay to get left behind. But if the middle classes of a speed society may be tempted to ignore discrimination, they should not neglect the rising marginal disutilities of transportation and their own loss of leisure. High speeds for all mean that everybody has less time for himself as the whole society spends a growing slice of its time budget on moving people. Vehicles running over the critical speed not only tend to impose inequality, they also inevitably establish a self-serving industry that hides an inefficient system of locomotion under apparent technological sophistication.
But as long as any system of vehicles imposes itself on the public by top speeds that are not under political control, the public is left to choose between spending more time to pay for more people to be carried from station to station, and paying less taxes so that even fewer people can travel in much less time much farther than others.
A branch of industry does not impose a radical monopoly on a whole society by the simple fact that it produces scarce products, or by driving competing industries off the market, but rather by virtue of its acquired ability to create and shape the need which it alone can satisfy.
The proposal of a limit to speed within this order of magnitude engenders stubborn opposition. It exposes the addiction of industrialized men to ever higher doses of energy, while it asks those who are still sober to abstain from something they have yet to taste.
People are born almost equally mobile. Their natural ability speaks for the personal liberty of each one to go wherever he or she wants to go. Citizens of a society founded on the notion of equity will demand the protection of this right against any abridgment. It should be irrelevant to them by what means the exercise of personal mobility is denied, whether by imprisonment, bondage to an estate, revocation of a passport, or enclosure within an environment that encroaches on a person’s native ability to move in order to make him a consumer of transport. This inalienable right of free movement does not lapse just because most of our contemporaries have strapped themselves into ideological seat belts.
Transportation can abridge traffic in three ways: by breaking its flow, by creating isolated sets of destinations, and by increasing the loss of time due to traffic. I have already argued that the key to the relation between transport and traffic is the speed of vehicles. I have described how, past a certain threshold of speed, transport has gone on to obstruct traffic in these three ways. It blocks mobility by cluttering up the environment with vehicles and roads. It transforms geography into a pyramid of circuits sealed off from one another according to levels of acceleration. It expropriates life-time at the behest of speed.
At unlimited top speed neither public ownership of the means of transportation nor technical improvements in their control can ever eliminate growing and unequal exploitation.
A country can be classified as overindustrialized when its social life is dominated by the transportation industry, which has come to determine its class privileges, to accentuate its time scarcity, and to tie its people more tightly to the tracks it has laid out for them.
Underequipment keeps people frustrated by inefficient labor and invites the enslavement of man by man. Overindustrialization enslaves people to the tools they worship, fattens professional hierarchs on bits and on watts, and invites the translation of unequal power into huge income differentials. It imposes the same net transfers of power on the productive relations of every society, no matter what creed the managers profess, no matter what rain-dance, what penitential ritual they conduct.
The reconquest of power starts with the recognition that expert knowledge blinds the secretive bureaucrat to the obvious ...
There are two roads from where we are to technological maturity: one is the road of liberation from affluence; the other is the road of liberation from dependence. Both roads have the same destination: the social restructuring of space that offers to each person the constantly renewed experience that the center of the world is where he stands, walks, and lives.
Such a process amounts to public guardianship over a means of production to keep this means from turning into a fetish for the majority and an end for the few. ... A society that tolerates the transgression of this threshold inevitably diverts its resources from the production of means that can be shared equitably and transforms them into fuel for a sacrificial flame that victimizes the majority.

December 7, 2011

St. Olaf Wind Turbine

While gathering information about the wind turbine at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, one finds a detailed record of the first 3 years of its operation.

The turbine became operational on Sept. 19, 2006. Over the 1st 3 years, its average production was 22.9% of capacity (not a little short of the 41.5% projected). The calculated electricity savings over the 1st 3 years was $210,132.72.

The cost of the project was reported to have been $2.5 million, and the maintenance contract costs $36,000/yr.

Therefore, it would take 73.5 years to recover those costs.

Since industrial wind turbines are supposed to last 20 years and in practice last a much shorter time, someone is paying a lot of money for only a very big and noisy symbol.

vestas 1.65-MW
350' total height
total wt: 220 tons
base: reinforced concrete, 52' diam., 7.5' thick at center, >2 million lbs.
tower: 220', 116 tons
nacelle: 57 tons
rotor and blades: 47 tons
blades: each 130', 8.3 tons
rotor speed: 14.3 rpm
wind speed blades start turning: 7.8 mph
wind speed for max capacity: 29 mph
shut-down wind speed: 44.7 mph for 10 min, 53.7 mph for 1 min, or 71.6 mph for 1 s

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism