Politics Blogs - Blog Top Sites Blog Flux Directory Green Assassin Brigade: February 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Geoengineering: Coming to a planet near you!

There is an interesting article called Hacking the Planet in the New Scientist talking about the changing attitudes among climate scientist who are beginning to believe it’s too late to prevent climate change by simple reduction and that proactive methods including tinkering with various earth systems are needed.

Some suggestions include giant space mirrors to lower the sunlight hitting the planet, dumping particles into the upper atmosphere to the same ends, man made clouds, seeding the oceans with iron and limestone, reforestation, man made trees and biochar.

If things get so bad because we are too stupid or selfish to cut back our carbon footprint now, should we let the SHTF and risk dying out or do we try to intervene?

Which of these techniques should we try?

Which ones are going too far?

At this point reforestation just makes sense as it's returning things to the way they were before we got here, but will reduce our food output. Fine with me, too damn many of us anyway! It's cheap enough for almost any nation to take part, can increase habitat and bio diversity, this is an absolute no brainer.

Biochar is a good short term sequestering tool and some of it could be sold to farms and gardens and soil adjuncts to increase soil fertility, I’d buy some. We currently have vast forests that are dying from infestations this fix allows us to keep all that carbon hidden for a time.

Aerosols released into the atmosphere are potentially dangerous (especially if they use sulfur like some advocate) but can be terminated with only a short 1(yearish) lag impact.

Limestone added to oceans to speed CO2 absorption: We no idea what it will really do but might be necessary to stop acidification from killing the ocean

Iron added to increase algae blooms, adding biomass in the ocean and sequestering CO2 - as above

Ocean going spray ships adding sea water to the air, creating low clouds that will reflect the suns rays- easy to stop and start, short lag time, but no effect on acidity and no data about the spinoff effects

Giant space mirrors – WTF? mega pricey and it can’t be done quickly - They can't consistently get satellites or orbiters into space and they expect to take on a job this big. Not promising despite the claims it would be very effective

The bottom 4 technologies may all work but I certainly think it's far too early to consider tinkering on this scale. It is however both unfortunate and very likely we will reach the stage where we will need to make such a decision. Too damn scary!!!!

I just finished Gwynne Dyer’s The Climate Wars and he discussed some of the possible geopolitical implications of countries endangered by climate change acting unilaterally to use some of these fixes. Fascinating book, worth the read.Recommend this Post

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Embracing the Doom: What kind of doomer am I?

Well according to last week’s Star article I am officially a doomer simply because I accept the possibility that the last 50 years of greed, excess and prosperity may come to an end , the result of peak oil. I'm totally comfortable with this label.

However unlike classic peak oil doomers I also believe that debt, monetary and fiscal mismanagement, environmental degradation, global warming, and even unsustainable population growth are all issues that alone on in concert will lay a world of pain on our species and/or our planet in the coming years. I don’t even need to be right about all of these issues because each one alone could sow the seeds of despair.

So I if I’m a doomer what should I do about it?
What are my options?
My priorities?
What kind of doomer am I?

I think the last question may be the most important in deciding how people will deal with the issue of our impending doom, so let’s look at the kinds of doomers, their sub groups, those confused with doomers, and the various strengths and weaknesses of particular survival strategies.


Despite the stereotypes portrayed in many articles the vast majority of doomers I know are not survivalists.

Survivalists have been a noticeable and growing subculture since the height of the cold war and have not suddenly sprung up just because of peak oil. While part of the movement was based on nuclear survial others rose from people’s fear of a societal collapse due to monetary issues like devaluation, inflation and the destruction of stable hard currencies that were replaced with Fiat currencies. Earlier preparedness advocates were often divided between retreaters, those who would opt out of normal society and become remote homesteaders or hermits (that crazy guy on the hill) and those who were more militant, who talked at length about self defence and purchased significant firepower; these were relegated to the survivalist category.

While some cold war survivalists turned away as the threat of nuclear Armageddon abated the hard core simply adapted to other threats like Y2K, terrorism, natural disasters, pandemic, the rise of domestic fascism, the old standby of financial collapse or more wacky reasons like the end of the Aztec calender, magnetic pole reversal, dark planets or stars swinging through the solar system or the weird acid trip Armageddon of Revelations.

The common Survivalist

Survivalists are not just people who are prepared but people who also expect societal collapse, lawlessness, banditry and feel the need to defend themselves and every damn combat ration they managed to hoard. Many survivalists also have their own social agenda be it racial, religious, anti government/anarchist/radical libertarian, anti urban and some even supporting class warfare.

Not all survivalists are doomers and few doomers (IMO) are survivalists.

The classic Survivalists take preparations seriously and often form communities of like minded people giving them strength of purpose and manpower but the advantages of this set are often offset by their very agendas. Today is an age of information and if they think their compound, stash of weaponry and often intolerant social ideals have not been flagged by law enforcement, municipalities and their neighbours they are naïve. While their claims of defensive preparations may be legitimate they may find their failure to integrate, share and aid the communities they choose to bunker up in make them a perceived threat. The survivalist’s own agenda and beliefs may create the very confrontations they expect.

Much of the survivalist literature I’ve seen seems to believe that a finite crisis will pass allowing the survivalists a “coming out “ where they will be higher up the pecking order than before the crisis. Storing food rather than being prepared to grow their own seems prevalent which can also add to the perception that they may become predators rather than neighbours. Hoarding is all fine and good for a short emergency but the ability to grow food for future seasons is paramount for Kunstler’s Long Emergency

The Retreater

The retreater like the survivalist takes preparations very seriously but is more likely to live the life rather than just plan for it. These people will move into a remote area alone or in larger groups in a belief that a low profile avoidance strategy is a better bet than the “Let them try to take my MREs“, gun toting bravado of the survivalist. Retreaters do not have to be pacifists any more than all survivalist are looking for a fight it is simply a variation in optimizing ones chances of survival.

Retreaters are more likely to live full time in their retreats and try to become totally self sufficient. This drive to be away from society pushes them to the fringes, away from good land, medical services, and even neighbours. The choice of being cloistered like a hermit on marginal land poorly suited for agriculture begs the question “is this a life worth living”. To simply live and survive may not be enough for many people and the lack of community and social interaction may weigh heavily on those opting to retreat from society.

Both the survivalist and retreater share the worse case scenario of how the future will unwind believing there is no point staying part of society and trying to save it for everybody. This seems an overly pessimistic and selfish vision and I cannot consider myself either of these despite the label of doomer I proudly wear.

Homesteader: back to the land

Like the retreater the homesteader moves back to the land and tries to achieve some level of self sufficiency. A homesteader may still be on the grid but in most cases will also be preparing their property and lifestyle for a time when private or government utilities and services may be lost or become unreliable. Unlike the retreater the homesteader is not limited to live on the fringe of society, rather their limitations on location are based more on affordability and their personal land preferences than a need to hide.

Homesteaders will not shy away from contact and the wise ones will dive in with both feet in an attempt to forge lasting bonds and friendships with the established community. It is nearly impossible for any person to become proficient in all the skills needed to be self sufficient. Not only would it be difficult to learn all the skills it would be inefficient in both time management and the cost to acquire the specialty tools required. Horse ownership gives us a perfect example, while the average person can learn to care for and groom a horse, and perhaps even give it rudimentary training the average person is not going to have the tools, training or experience to be their own vet or farrier. A homesteader would need a great many skills to become totally self sufficient including farming, animal husbandry, building skills, cooking, baking, hunting, canning, bee keeping, cheese making, brewing, nursing, midwifery, sewing, weaving, spinning, knitting, shearing, yada, yada, and will most definitely never be totally self sufficient. Society and technology even at the level of 1600s cannot be individually sustained, community is a must and something that will cause most retreaters and survivalists to fail.

Homesteading like the other models can be single family, extended family or a cooperative venture like the Eco village.

As a doomer I see the homesteading model as preferable survival strategy. Anyone who can both feed his family and have surplus to trade for more specialized services and products will be as close to self sufficient as practical and depending on the level of surplus may actually be considered affluent. I also believe I have a wide enough skill base to at least make a go of it.

Adaptors: Adapting in place

Most people because of their current employment, family ties, lack of the capital needed to start over, the shear lack of the skills required, ignorance of the issue or just because the have no desire to live in an rural setting will be forced to adapt in place and make the best of what they have; they just don’t know it yet and are in for one hell of surprise.

Unlike the masses who will have this decision made for them by circumstance, some doomers actively decide to remain and adapt to the coming changes where they are. These are the people who are already modifying their houses with small wind mills, solar panels, solar hot water and high levels of insulation so that their homes can remain comfortable in a low carbon economy. Adaptors vary in their preparedness plans but often do things like replace their lawns with veggies, hide rabbit farms in their garages, join community gardens and advocate for more gardens, lobby for zoning changes to promote urban agriculture, join CSAs, form food co-ops or buying clubs, buy local food, learn to can and cook from scratch, take up home crafting like knitting, weaving, spinning, sewing.

Like the other varieties of doomers Adaptors probably still store extra quantities of food, water, medicines, seeds and barter goods it’s just they don’t plan on moving. Some may even own a gun despite their lack of bunkers and camouflage macho wear. Adapters may also be reorganizing their homes so they can become multi generational homes or welcome friends or strays to lower living costs.

An adaptor may not have the means to BUY into adaptation but rather be a King of the thrift store or Queen of the garage sale going out of their way to duplicate the thrift and creativity that served people so well in the Great Depression.

Of all the options adapting in place is the one that will be the norm because most people will have no choice. Cities hold the majority of jobs, the majority of homes, and the majority of government services and despite an eventual need for additional agricultural labour to offset some of the energy inputs, people are not going to flee the cities unless everything falls apart and the survivalists were right.

The adaptors and homesteaders both believe change is coming but believe that we can survive, thrive and have purposeful lives even in a post or low carbon environment. I have to have to accept this belief and work towards it as the best option I can provide for my children. While I may be wrong I will not give into chaos and anarchy willingly.

Decision making

People have to decide several things

Are the fears of doomers regarding peak oil without merit? (no!)

Can you say without out a doubt that you believe bad things never happen and that oil depletion can be managed without a severe impact to your lifestyle? (no!)

If you can say at this point you are not a doomer go back to reading your people magazine and drinking your Staryucks coffee. (oh look, Brad is having Angelina Jolie cloned so she can pump out more babies faster, but rumours have it Aniston stole the zygote with the intention of raising it to hunt down the real Jolie. Wow fascinating)

If you can see the threat, what can you do about it? (Prepare?, ignore?, suicide?)

If you do want to prepare which survival strategy outlined above suites your means, yours skills, your willingness to uproot and your view of how bad it can get?

In my case this has been a long evolved decision process. I’ve always wanted to live the homesteading life even before I knew of any sound reasons to want it, yet I do not have the means to leave my job in the city and give it a go. My job currently ties me to a desk 60k from where I live and I cannot support two separate properties. I’ve found no kindred spirits to share a property with and my employer despite selling telecommunications does not believe in telecommuting for its union employees, sucks to be me!

So while I would prefer the homesteader’s route and have tried to learn some of the relevant skills, I will be forced to become an adaptor and can only hope that some opportunity will come along allowing me to change course before it’s too late. I also believe that at some point there will be increased pressure for people to return to the land in order to off set expensive energy inputs with manual labour. When this time arrives I want to own my own land and treat people fairly rather than becoming someone else’s serf or share cropper

What kind of doomer are you?

Related Posts

Embracing the Doom Pt2 How Doomy how Soon?

Embracing the Doom Pt 3: Urban Adaptors and Food

Being your own seed bank

Renewal in canning and stealth doomers

Top doomer accessories
.Recommend this Post

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Doomers Amongst Us!

An article in the Star today takes a look at doomers and their preparations for what they believe will be a crisis as oil depletes and the modern high carbon society collapses. The story covers a self sufficient farmer/homesteader type , the Bug-Out and start over type and the optimistic urban survivalist who opts the Adapt in Place scenario. (Personally I prefer the first option but will likely be forced by necessity to follow the last.)

As I read the article I can imagine the eyes of my friends and family rolling they way I do when I bring up such subjects, and then I start to panic thinking "Shit, these people seem better prepared than I am." I can't help but laugh when I see the "ideal" provisions list for a family of 5 with pet. I'm truly sceptical that any family needs 34 cans of anchovies or would want to live after 114 of Spam but we know the Star published this abridged version of the attached provisions list making sure there were just enough items on it to heap scorn on these "poor deluded" survivalist types. Can't take them too seriously can we?

I want to know where was the doomer like me? Someone concerned about growing local food and the conservation of open pollinated seed, strategies that will create personal food security and alleviate the need to store outrageous amounts of food.

Where was the reference to Cuba and the movement to low carbon urban farming and food self sufficiency? A reduction in fuel does not need to bring starvation and panic but it will if we do not prepared for it.

I think the doomers they covered were far too weighted towards the "screw you I'm saving my own ass" camp and ignored the good work and advocacy by people looking to Power Down society and adapt. It seems that making the doomers survivalists types rather than seers and mentors for the masses was a better way at marginalizing people who would question the status quo.

It was unfair to imply that most doomers are simply survivalists looking for the next perceived crisis, especially considering the connotation that the survivalist label has generated in the U.S.
At least they did not ask these people how many guns they owned!

What concerned me most about the article was the ignorance of commenter's who cling to claims that oil is not depleting, that Alaska, Alberta, Unknownia all still have massive reserves that will keep us wallowing in our exuberant lifestyles for another century. Beside these cornucopians we have the usual techno fix types who think that wind mills and solar will somehow replace a dense, easily transported liquid hydrocarbon for cars, fertilizer, pesticide, or as used in a gazillion chemical compounds including many medicines.

Did they all miss the report I posted about last week questioning the sustainability of most new "Saviour" techs which are commonly touted as our future.

When it comes down to it unless people are hoarding guns so they can steal their neighbours food, fuel, wife, land etc, why ridicule them? As long as they are not working on an online longpork cookbook why sneer at them. Each prepared person is one less the government will be able to fail, one less that will initially compete for resources as they decline, and one more likely to have the skills rest of us will need to learn. We've all heard the the boy scouts motto, about 7 fat years followed by 7 lean years, the stories of hardship from your depression era family, yet suddenly it's insane to be prepared "just in case". Are we too affluent to worry about mere food?

Also don't forget that the financial Doomers like Marc Faber and Peter Schiff are now becoming celebrities in financial circles for being all to correct. While chicken little was just a stupid bird it was those around Cassandra who could not see the truth.

Associated article

Embracing the doom: What kind of doomer are you?

.Recommend this Post

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bye Bye Facebook, YOU SUCK!!!!

I got a rude awakening this morning when I found my facebook account had been disabled because I was using a fake name (Green Assassin Brigade) I know I’m not alone as many Bloggers and just regular people use an alias or nick name for one reason or another. My blogging name(s) are the largest part of my online persona and between them I'm sure far more people know me for my blogs than my normal mundane existence. Sad but true. When you consider how low my hits are it's even more pitiful.

I’m also trying my best to avoid a particularly deranged and unpleasant member of my family and will under no circumstances change my account nor my blogging name to my legal name. So Facebook account Nazis, I have written you to reconsider and you can either reinstate me or Bite me! You work poorly, you occasionally freeze my machine, the games you offer mostly suck and you waste my time. Good riddance.

What I found absolutly insane was this statment on their site.

Why doesn’t Facebook allow fake names?
Facebook is built around real world interactions. Operating under an alias detracts from the value of the system as a whole. Users who operate under fake names are also prone to abuse. We take this standard very seriously and take down fake accounts as we become aware of them.

"Real world interactions",, WTF This is the fucking internet it's not "real world interactions ,, idiots!!!

I suggest someone without an alias start a FaceBook group "Aliases are real people too"

Update 1.

no response from Facebook but you can join this facebook group to support reinstatement.

.Recommend this Post

Economic downturn and collapsing trade equals drug shortages; What’s next?

This article highlights the threat that globalization and inherent interdependency of today’s market can have on the supply of essentials.

Like my previous rants about food security here we see yet another example of the risks associated with being too dependant on our trading partners for the basics of life. We should never be in the situation where we risk losing our supplies of medicine simply because of a lower Asian price point, or because of a decision made thousands of miles away which we cannot alter or influence.

Our system is precarious in its complexity at the best times but in today's unstable environment anything from a trade war, failed financing, bankruptcy or just a bad business decision could sabotage our health system.

Some things need to be produced nationally regardless of the difference in price. Some things need to be stockpiled regardless of the cost advantages of a just in time delivery system.

We need to establish a safe, secure and reliable domestic drug supply, it is a matter of life or death!Recommend this Post

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is Sustainable Sustainable or not?

It would appear that the scientific community is catching on to the idea that all their wonderful techno fixes to reduce carbon emissions may not be adaptable to mass production because of the rarity of the elements required for the various technologies.

This article in new scientist reports on discussions from the Financial times energy conference in London which showed that the rarity and cost of Platinum will stymie the immediate wide spread adoption of fuel cells. Likewise Indium which is required for today’s highest quality solar cells is also quite rare and is had to find in economically feasible deposits. This trend to base “sustainable” energy research and development around the use of rare or unsustainable resources is a false economy and will just leave us with expensive technologies that still will be unable to meet our needs.

While not mentioned in this article there are many other resource bottlenecks which could dead end the adaptation of various new “Green tech”

The availability of lithium for wide spread use in care batteries has been argued repeatedly over the last couple of years and I’m still unclear if we will ever have enough to make all our cars battery powered. While very common, lithium is a widely dispersed element in small concentrations, the few current viable deposits are lithium salts found in old dry sea beds and don’t meet the projected need to convert even a portion of the world’s cars to batteries. More deposits may be found or made viable at higher prices but at what cost and what will be the political considerations if it is found in a hostile country, or one who wishes to hoard for national use?

Rare earth metals required for permanent magnets used in wind mills, regenerative braking and other high tech fixes are exceedingly rare, hard to find, mine and refine.

Silver, which is now being adapted for diesel catalysts in Japan, super conducting cables for the smart grid and for new Silver-Zinc batteries is also showing signs of depletion and eventual shortages.

(Not that I believe nuclear is Green but)
The uranium required to fulfill the new demand for reactors is also in short supply, while I suspect there is still a lot in the ground and higher costs will increase the viability of resources short term there will be shortages and long term peak Ur has already predicted.

Thorium has been proposed as a substitute for Ur but no commercial reactors are using it. Thorium funding dried up in the 50s when the U.S. realized it could not be weaponized like Ur. Who'd have thought?

It seems each time we look towards a new techno fix to our problems we seem to use rarer and more costly materials than previous technology did. The Power Down scenario where we learn to use less of everything seems far more capable of being sustainable than mining every square inch of the planet, using even more energy we don’t have looking for minute traces of elements just so we can turn around and use that energy to mine some more. This scenario only needs one misstep to cause energy shortages and collapse of the status quo.

While I understand there are other technologies that MAY solve some of these issues without relying on scarce materials such as organic solar cells, I also understand that both energy shortages and food shortage will probably hit us before these solutions are commercially viable, if they ever are. The endless drive to expend more energy looking for ways of generating more energy is far less efficient or sustainable than learning to live with less energy.

Why won't someone in power admitt this?Recommend this Post

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I need bigger boots

A new study claims that not only could melting glacial ice cause much higher sea level changes than earlier predicted but could also change the balance of the planet and alter the axis of rotation, who knows what mannner of chaos that will create.

The new study takes into the continental rebound that will take place as melting ice lightens the load on portions of the crust. There is also an apparent gravitational attraction from the antartic ice that pulls water towards the south poll, when it melts not only the water held in ice but the water attracted by the ice will move north. These previously ignored factors can change the estimates for sea levels from the current 5 meters to 7 meters in some areas, especially in the northern hemisphere. Washinton and Vancouver sink in the new scenerio.

Of course unless global warming is proven to promote Islam or kill the unborn, Conservatives continue to ignore all such studies.Recommend this Post

Lux Interior : RIP

More signs of my faded youth as I read this morning that Lux Interior the cadaveresk front man for the Cramps passed away due to a heart condition.

While I was not a huge punk fan(with exceptions) I did love that short 80s revival of Rockabilly which the Cramps twisted into a psychobilly sound both distinct and alluring. I had several Cramps albums and actually saw them at the Masonic Temple when a good friend bought me tickets for my 18th or 19th birthday.

Lux's music was raw, minimalist and sometimes almost claustrophobic from the constant grind created by a noise box on the base guitar on some tracks. While I rarely play them these days Green Door, Goo Goo Muck and Drug Train are still favorites.

Recommend this Post