World Views — God, Me, Environment

When the resources are gone....

Terry Tempest Williams is a favorite writer of mine, not only because she writes of the environment, the living and physical world we live in, but because the God-view that is woven through her writing is familiar to me, close to my own. Williams talks of the consciousness of being in the world in an article in the online The Progressive.  She then compares that consciousness to the “world view” held by many scornful of  environmentalism, specifically naming current GOP candidates Santorum, Gingrich and Romney. Williams quotes Santorum:

Consider Rick Santorum’s recent comments to Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation, when he said Barack Obama’s “world view” is different than that of most Americans. The day before, Santorum had said that the President believes in “some phony ideal, some phony theology . . . not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”

When Schieffer asked him to clarify his statements, Santorum said that he was referencing not the President’s faith but environmentalism.

“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” he said. “That’s what I was talking about: Energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. . . . I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do.”

“The Earth is not the objective,” Santorum said. “Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.”

The most frightening thing about Santorum’s comments are that so many people have the same world view.   Many seem to have no consciousness of the reciprocity, the symbiosis in our existence in this world.   We have become parasites of the highest order, sucking the life out of all that has been supporting us.

Williams includes this from Gregory Bateson (1904-1980), an anthropologist who saw human beings as part of a system:

If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you. And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks . . . against the environment of other social units, other races, and the brutes and vegetables. If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic byproducts of your own hate, or, simply, of over-population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

I cannot say it better so will simply repeat Bateson’s pronouncement while thanking Terry Tempest Williams for her essay on the need for consciousness.

Life undisturbed

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic byproducts of your own hate, or, simply, of over-population and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

Solar Power Trends — depends on the State

Pshaw! California. It's just a state full of liberal treehuggers! - source: New York Times, 1/25/12

The graph is part of an article on solar trends in the U.S. talking mainly about California.  Pshaw! California. It’s just a state full of liberal treehuggers!

I recommend the entire web report.  On page 20, Appendix C, there is state by state data for ’09, ’10 and Cumulative Installed Capacity.  I want to do some comparison with political data — just for fun, of course, because I really loved my statistics class (fyi, that’s a joke).

Some questions for discussion:

  1. What state do you live in and what are your thoughts on your state and solar?
  2. What do you think I’ll find with my political comparison?  Shall we take bets (Do I hear $10,000 anyone?)? 

Ocean Conservancy’s Marine Wildlife and Seascape Photo Contest

Incoming Tide, photo entry; © Tiffany Smith

Ocean Conservancy is having a photo contest and both my daughter Tiffany and my son Jonathan have entered! We would be SO happy if you would check all the photos and vote for their photos if you would like, but donations go, 100%, to Ocean Conservancy! It is a lovely thing!

Low Tide at Second Beach; © Jonathan Smith

Ocean Conservancy’s Marine Wildlife and Seascape Photo Contest.

Thanks, I love you friends!

Obama’s Keystone XL Decision – A Triumph of Good Sense

Jennifer Rubin, on her “Right Turn” opinion page at the Washington Post says that “Keystone XL decision hands the GOP a gift.”  She must be in a lot of pain to be so detached from reality.

I won’t get into everything that she says, suffice it to say that I think she is wrong for SO many reasons.  First and foremost, job numbers, the primary focus of proponents of this monstrosity, would be minimal, (approximately 6,000) most of them short-term construction jobs, not the “hundreds of thousands” of jobs that John Boehner seems to dream of.

Laughable. Talking jobs benefits Obama, not Republicans (see graphs below). Solyndra, mentioned by both Rubin and Boehner, is also not an Obama problem as Solyndra was approved under Bush and was less than 2% of the energy loans from 2005 and the only one that has gone bad. Solyndra’s guaranteed loan was for ~$500 million, not the billions that went into later bailouts of both auto and finance. The stimulus was not a failure; without it the recession would have been a depression. The debt accumulation, well that will be argued until the end of time — when did it start, who increased it, etc. Needless to say, we went from a debt surplus at the beginning of Bush to a record deficit at the end of Bush, largely to his putting two wars on the country credit card, and it took a whole lot of congressional enabling from both sides of the aisle to make that happen.

Rubin also brings up entitlement reform but I assume she is referring to the favorite conservative buzzwords of social entitlements such as health care, food stamps, social security, unemployment, etc. If not, please forgive me for making such assumptions, I’ve been conditioned by the Republican debates. If you are talking inclusively about all entitlements, you include such things as corporate and individual tax loopholes (see today’s news about Mitt Romney’s offshore tax havens), corporate subsidies, forgiven FDIC loans in addition to social entitlement. I’m not so sure Romney is going to look like such a pretty boy when you examine him through that lens.

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, again leads the way in good sense. From Politicusa:

In December, Senator Sanders urged Obama to call the Republicans bluff on Keystone XL. President Obama did more than call their bluff. He let the Republicans kill Keystone XL for him.

Republicans set themselves up for this one when they demanded that the 60 day deadline be included in the payroll tax/unemployment benefits extension. Republicans are already trying to spin Obama’s decision as a refusal to create jobs, but the truth is that Keystone XL project would only create 6,000 or so jobs. Most of the full time jobs would not be filled by locals, and the other jobs would be temporary construction.

The Keystone XL project is not a job creator, or a path to energy independence. The oil that would come from the project was destined to be sold on the global market. If anything, Keystone would open up all US production to the international market. A point that Republicans never seem to understand is that oil drilled in the United States [belongs] to the oil company, not the country where it was extracted from.

Incidentally, the US would not have received any tax revenues for the Canadian oil.  We would be merely a conduit for their dirty oil and the revenues produced without keeping either.  The oil would go to the Houston refineries to be processed then shipped out to international markets.  All tax revenues would bypass the U.S. because we are in no way a partner in the sale of the oil.  Refineries would be paid for cleaning up and refining the extremely dirty oil but otherwise we just take the risk of a pipeline spill right in our heartland and get the refinery pollution.

Finally, if John Boehner, Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to talk about jobs,I bring you JOBS, JOBS, JOBS (“The Progress Report,” Jan. 6, 2012, Think Progress) with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

2…the number of years of consecutive employment growth in manufacturing, after not one single year of growth between 1997 and 2010.

8.5 percent…the unemployment rate, the lowest since February 2009 just after President Obama took office.

22…the number of consecutive months of private sector job growth.

12,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in December of 2011 alone.

212,000…the number of private sector jobs created in December of 2011 alone.

280,000…the number of public sector jobs lost in 2011.

315,000…the number of health care jobs created in 2011.

673,000…the number of private sector jobs lost during the entirety of the eight-year Bush presidency.

1,080,000…the number of net jobs created during the entirety of the eight-year Bush presidency.

1,600,000…the net number of jobs created during 2011, after accounting for job losses in the public sector.

1,900,000…the number of private sector jobs created during 2011.

IN TWO  SENTENCES: In either of the past two years alone, President Obama created more private sector jobs than President Bush did during the entirety of his eight-year presidency.  While today’s jobs numbers are a promising sign, it’s no time to get complacent when 14 MILLION Americans are still out of work.

 

Sunflowers and Solar Energy

The beauty and science of Nature. Photo by Louise Docker

Why haven’t sunflowers been the efficiency model for solar research all along?  If you have ever noticed — really noticed and watched  — sunflowers, you know that their name, “sunflower” is not because they look like our solar orb, but because their growth is  largely driven by what they can gather in from the received radiation.  Sunflowers require very little water, can grow almost anywhere, prolifically reseed themselves for the next sunshine season, but the flowers!  The flowers turn and follow the sun as they absorb energy from sun up to sun down!  Don’t miss an opportunity to watch a large field or mass of sunflowers if you haven’t done so already; see how they are gathered together, watch as they worshipfully bow, lift and bow again as the lightgiver travels across the sky.  How can one not smile?

The beauty and efficiency of nature is an amazing thing and I have only surprise at the length of time that it took for the MIT researchers and their German collaborators at  RWTH Aachen University to realize the significance of the design.  At this point in solar power plant design, they require large spaces  (footprint) for all the collection mirrors.  The mirrors all  face  and reflect the received solar radiation onto a tower which then converts that radiation into thermal energy.  These researchers, as detailed in this article in Science Daily, have reduced the footprint by 20 percent while increasing the potential energy generation.  The pattern inspired by the sunflower not only allows for a more compact layout of the mirrors (heliostats), but it minimizes the shading and blocking effect of neighboring mirrors.

Now, it seems to me, the challenge should be to perhaps use that same sunflower pattern in solar panels used for localized, home or other structures.  Converting solar energy to thermal energy to electricity could probably be much more efficient if it bypassed the thermal step.  Is there anyone out there doing this?

H/T Scinerds

Solar energy: New sunflower-inspired pattern increases concentrated solar efficiency.

The 20 Worst Wall Street Banks Funding Our Filthiest Polluters | | AlterNet

. . . in 2010 we had the highest CO2 emissions since the beginning of industrialization. And there’s a question of who is financing these emissions? Who is paying for the plants that are causing these emissions?

This article focuses on the financing of the coal industry because the COAL industry is the biggest polluter — from the mining operation (listening, Utah?) to the burning to produce energy.  What use is cheap energy (again, Utah?)?   I’ll just bet that the savings in power bills doesn’t offset the higher doctor bills resulting from breathing filthy air.  Talk to the parent of a child with asthma and see if they would have preferred to pay$10, 25, even 50-100 more on their energy bill rather than have their child deal with the lifelong effects of pollution-caused asthma.

JP Morgan, Citi and Bank of America top the list.  Anyone surprised by this?  Just another reason to go local with your money!

The 20 Worst Wall Street Banks Funding Our Filthiest Polluters | | AlterNet.