The New Economic Frontier Is a Chance for Community Resilience

From Common Dreams:

by Rob Hopkins

There’s a TV advert I remember from the 1980s that has stuck with me. It features a recently unemployed man telling his wife that he and his friend are “going it alone”, that “the bank says yes”, and that they are going to set up their own business. I think the ad was for a car or something. It captured the spirit prevalent during that decade, where business was the new frontier, anything was possible, and there were no limits.
I’m starting a brewery. I don’t know much about brewing, but with other driven and skilled people from the place I live we’re going to do it. We’re not going it alone, though: we are bringing our community along with us and inviting their support. We don’t need the bank, thank you very much, we have a local person investing in us, and plan to do a community-share launch so that the community gets the chance to invest in us, too. I think our brewery also captures a spirit that’s increasingly prevalent.
It is the spirit in which we don’t wait for an imaginary cavalry to come riding to our economic rescue, a spirit visible across the country in the explosion of local food businesses, pop-up shops, craft breweries, crowdfunding, community energy projects, and the revival of independent record shops. It’s a different, more suitable approach to economic regeneration than most, recognising that anything is possible, but within the limits of energy scarcity, austerity, and the reality of living on a finite planet.
Our brewery is part of a wider story. My town, Totnes in Devon, where it will be sited, is the UK’s first ‘Transition Town’ (there are now thousands around the world), a project I, along with others, initiated in 2005. It’s an experiment that shows a more localised and lower-carbon economy can be an opportunity for huge creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.
A coalition of our town council, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Development Trust recently published an economic blueprint showing how shifting just 10 per cent of what we spend on food, installing just 10 per cent of the area’s potential renewable energy-generation capacity, and starting to retrofit the most energy-inefficient housing could bring £5.5 million into the local economy each year. It’s a shift from dreaming of inward investment to a focus on internal investment, where we build more economic resilience in the local economy. We become our own cavalry.
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Humanity Imperiled

From Tom Dispatch:

The Path to Disaster

By Noam Chomsky
June 4, 2013

What is the future likely to bring?  A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside.  So imagine that you’re an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what’s happening here or, for that matter, imagine you’re an historian 100 years from now — assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious — and you’re looking back at what’s happening today.  You’d see something quite remarkable.

For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves.  That’s been true since 1945.  It’s now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.

And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction.  So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.

How to Destroy a Planet Without Really Trying

The question is: What are people doing about it?  None of this is a secret.  It’s all perfectly open.  In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.

There have been a range of reactions.  There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them.  If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed.  Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada.  They’re not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they’re really trying to do something about it.

In fact, all over the world — Australia, India, South America — there are battles going on, sometimes wars.  In India, it’s a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences.  In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand.  The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the “rights of nature.”

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The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse

From Alternet:

In an environment of confusion and despair, it helps to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel so overwhelming.

By Don Hazen
June 4, 2013

Every day, thousands, probably millions of people ask their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues similar and increasingly familiar questions: What has happened to our country? How did we get here? Isn’t it scary? Can anything be done about it?

There is an abundance of evidence that there are forces tearing apart the U.S. economy and society, causing increasing levels of fear, anxiety and trauma for large numbers of people. Many people are mystified as to the specific causes of their fears, with a mass media system that constantly broadcasts propaganda about how great America is and a new digital media system that may be exacerbating the problems for a society under immense and unprecedented duress.

There is the added problem that the theories and the means of social change we are familiar with, and to which we still turn, are not remotely up to the task we face, and have mostly proven to be inadequate. Virtually every problem we face has gotten worse over the past 40 years, and heavily sped up since 9/11 and the economic crash of 2007.

In an environment of confusion and despair, it can be helpful to name the beast—essentially to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel both intractable and overwhelming. So, what follows is a kind of Users’ Guide To What Is Freaking Us Out.”

What Has Happened to Us?

So the big question is: what is the “it” that has happened to us? Depending on your vantage point and the myriad problems in front of us, “it” can be any number of causes and factors.

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Hundreds of Health Professionals to Obama: Act on ‘Superbugs’ Now

From Common Dreams:

“The huge overuse of these antibiotics on our farms, in meat production, is an important—and unaddressed—contributor to the problem.”

Andrea Germanos

A group of nearly 800 health professionals has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take action on the rampant overuse and misuse of antibiotics in livestock which has contributed to the rise in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” and poses a massive threat to public health.

  “In our hospitals, and in our communities, antibiotics increasingly are failing to treat drug resistant superbugs,” stated David Wallinga, MD of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Healthy Food Action. “The huge overuse of these antibiotics on our farms, in meat production, is an important—and unaddressed—contributor to the problem.”

Livestock are given these antibiotics to encourage faster growth and to compensate for the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions the animals are confined to in the industrial agriculture system.

Antibiotics are so used, they write, “over 70 percent of total reported sales of medically important antibiotics in the United States” are used not for human but for animal use.

The group quotes the Director General of the World Health Organization, who warned last year that “a post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it.” Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this year that there is an alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant, deadly “nightmare bacteria,” a warning echoed by Britain’s top health official, who said that antibiotic resistant “superbugs” pose a “catastrophic threat.”

The health professionals write that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) actions on this issue are “stalled,” and that the current guidelines that merely encourage the pharmaceutical industry to phase out the overuse of antibiotics in livestock are inadequate.

They are asking Obama “to ensure that FDA moves immediately to use its regulatory authority to withdraw approvals for the non-therapeutic use (i.e., use of antibiotics for purposes other than disease treatment and disease control) of all medically-important antibiotics from food animal production, thus preserving their use for treating sick people.”

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Anti-Vaxxer

From Slate:

By Posted

The Kennedy family name is laden with history and brings to mind a definite set of characteristics: glamor, power, intelligence, wealth, influence. Kennedys have had their name on a president, numerous senators, representatives, ambassadors, and other high office holders.

The Kennedy dynasty, if you wish to call it that, has seen its share of triumphs and disasters, of course. I need not go into detail; scores of books have been written about them, from putting humans on the Moon and the championing of civil rights to personal tragedies of assassination, death, scandal, and more.

Most of these issues are in the past. But there is an ongoing problem associated with a Kennedy, one I consider extremely troubling. Specifically it’s with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is an attorney, a radio host, and an environmental activist.

He is also, as it happens, a full-blown anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist.

And I do mean full-blown. RFK Jr. has a long history of adhering to crackpot ideas about vaccines, mostly in the form of the now thoroughly disproven link to autism. He’s been hammering this issue for a decade now, and his claims appear to be no better and no more accurate now than they were when he first started making them.

To be clear, I am a parent myself, and when my daughter was an infant, my wife and I fretted over this issue. Concerned about her development and health, we did the research and found that the overwhelming benefits of vaccination far outweighed the very slight actual risks. That is why our daughter is fully vaccinated, as are both my wife and I. We keep our booster and flu shots up to date as well.

So the anti-vax claims of Kennedy are very concerning to me. I’ve written about him before, but he came to my attention again when Keith Kloor at Discover magazine noted Kennedy was the keynote speaker at the 2013 AutismOne/Generation Rescue Conference. Both AutismOne and Generation Rescue claim to be about advocating for people touched by autism—and there is no doubt their concern is genuine—but when you scratch the surface you find they also advocate dangerous nonsense about medicine and treatment.

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Will Ohio Be Fracking’s Radioactive Dumping Ground?

From Truth Out:

By Mike Ludwig
Wednesday, 05 June 2013

As hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has boomed in Ohio, Pennsylvania and nearby states in recent years, waste wells in Ohio have absorbed millions of barrels of liquid waste from oil-and-gas drilling operations in the region. Environmentalists and other observers are now calling Ohio a “dumping ground” for the fracking industry. Drillers now want to dump potentially radioactive waste mud, drill cuttings and frack sand from fracking operations in municipal landfills in the state, and environmentalists are up in arms.

“I am not against fracking, I am against stupid,” said Julie Weatherinton-Rice, a senior scientist at Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants and an adjunct professor at Ohio State University. “I am seeing a lot a lot stupid and a lot of heads in the sand, and that’s what’s going to kill us.”

Fracking produces both solid and liquid wastes. The liquid wastes, known as “flowback” and “brine” in industry lingo, are laced with chemicals and can be radioactive from materials that occur naturally in the underground shale formations where oil and gas is extracted. In Ohio, brine is typically pumped into underground injection wells.

Fracking also produces solid wastes such as drill cuttings, rocks, mud, dirt and used frack sand. These wastes can also be contaminated with radioactive material, especially if they come from Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale formation at the heart of a fracking boom is known to contain considerable levels of radium-226 and other material. A truck carrying fracking waste was recently turned away from a landfill in Pennsylvania after setting off radiation alarms.

But the waste must to be disposed of somewhere, and Ohio’s 39 landfills may be the place.

Weatherinton-Rice told Truthout that she is already aware of solid fracking waste dumps at landfills in Ohio, and several reports indicate that some landfills are already accepting waste. But a proposal in the state legislature would codify regulations for solid waste dumping and open the fracking waste floodgates, according to environmental groups.

“If passed, this proposed law would put a big, trashed-out ‘Statue of Radioactive Liberty’ on Ohio’s eastern border,” said Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC).  “It would proclaim to the oil and gas industry: ‘Bring us your spent, cast-off, radioactive waste. It’s welcome in Ohio.’ ”

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