Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 30 2009: The Worth of the Earth

National Photo Co. Arms and Asses 1912
U.S. Army burro and cart, near Washington, D.C.

Ilargi: (Here's for a first, I think: I don’t remember ever doing this before, but this is -largely- a "repost" (not to be confused with a "riposte"), with a few editing tweaks.

I wrote the article below 17 months ago, on May 27, 2008. While checking out some things a few days ago, I found a -flattering- reference to it somewhere on the Web and re-read my own words. Which is another first.

It is a reaction to an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel, entitled The Price Of Survival: What Would It Cost to Save Nature?, which you can find posted here below my humble essay. I wrote it because the article, despite its obvious qualities, is based on a series of fundamentally flawed assumptions regarding the way our economic system handles our natural world.

In essence, the authors claim that protecting our planet's biodiversity is a potentially profitable undertaking within our present economics. I say it's not.

It takes us a little bit off the pure finance path, but at the same time it seeks to explain why that path exists in the first place, why we do what we do as "economic actors", and why we're doomed to keep on doing it. Can't get much more essential than that. Here goes, May last year:)

Ilargi: I’ll just write, not think, here. Stream of consciousness. Seems appropriate. Please, if you’re so inclined, bear with me.

You’ll find another great article from Der Spiegel below. It has one huge problem, though: it is based on ideas and assumptions that are so wrong and misguided they can only do harm.
We can not buy back our world once it's gone, and we can neither restore nor save it with money.

As long as we keep stating the earth’s value in monetary terms, we are irrevocably doomed.

If you accept that you come from, and belong to, the world around you, and understand that Darwin has delivered proof that (wo)man has come from all that has been before, that 90% of our genes are identical to those of our pets and so on, then putting a dollar price on plants and animals and rivers and skies is identical to putting a dollar price on your own life, and on your children and loved ones.

Everything alive is a part of you. Dollars are not.

In our economic system, based on debt, credit and interest, the future value of everything under the sun necessarily gets discounted over time. That is because currencies lose their value over time. It’s also in our genes: we prefer what we have now over what we might have later. Our ancestors were the ones who focused on immediate threats. Those who focused on future ones generally didn’t live long enough to procreate.

There is an economist in the Spiegel article who says:
"Protecting diversity is much cheaper than allowing its destruction."

He’s wrong, because of what I just said: all future values are discounted, so destruction is more profitable than preservation. This economist has never grasped the essence of his own chosen field.

The article continues:
"Biodiversity - and efforts to preserve it - could in fact become an enormous business in the future".

See, there's the rub, right there, in the word 'could', [sometime] in the future . In the here and now, using and destroying all we can get our hands on is the only thing that makes sense economically. If that is hard to wrap your mind around, wait till you get hungry, and you face the choice between eating or protecting diversity. You’ll eat.

The only things in the natural world that have a value in our particular breed of economics are those that can be sold at a profit, today; and that is all the value they have. All else is luxury.

Preservation only has a chance in times of plenty, and even then only in theory. After all, we are today coming out of the by far most plentiful time in human existence, but it has not exactly been a time of preservation. Quite the contrary, it has both led to, and was accommodated by, the worst destruction of the natural environment ever in history. That is not a coincidence; it’s destruction that gave us our riches.

Now, we are entering a much poorer time economically, and that will lead to an even worse destruction, by an order of magnitude, if only because the riches made us multiply like so many rabbits.

As long as our world views emanate from an economic system based on perpetual growth, there is, after the short high we are now leaving, no way but down and worse.

We would need to take food, water and indeed the entire natural world, including ourselves, out of any and all profit calculations, or they’ll all be devoured in the course of time by the ever-growing credit monster that requires us to pay interest over every breath we take, every plant we grow, every meal we eat, and every house we build. As long as we run our societies on that system, there is no other possible outcome than what we are witnessing today.

To fully understand this, you need to shake off your dreams and illusions about preservation and doing good, and take a good hard open look at the numbers on species extinctions and environmental degradation. People have been talking about saving the planet for a long time, but all the planet does is deteriorates. And not just that, the deterioration accelerates.

Groups like Greenpeace are almost religiously accepted as being highly beneficial, but in reality they are some of the worst players around, since they facilitate the perpetuation of the lies and illusions about saving and preserving, while the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. Donating to them is like paying the Medieval church to be absolved of your sins. That makes them guilty, if not of perpetrating crimes outright, then certainly of aiding and abetting, of being accomplices to the foul deed. Good intentions don’t buy you salvation, not when they’re built on illusions that serve only to make you feel good.

If we are to save this planet, we will have to throw out our economic model. But that is an issue utterly absent from any green program. Green movements indeed are but modern religions, far removed from reality, unable to grasp what happens right before their eyes, and focused instead on making those who donate feel good -so they’ll keep sending donations- , on keeping the false idea alive that we can continue to live close enough to the way we do and save the planet at the same time.

Man is like yeast, which destroy their own living environment when given the chance. At least yeast have the excuse that they can’t think. Man can think, but is still incapable of understanding that thinking does not control his actions.

What does drive us to do what we do happen to be the same things that drive yeast: billion-year-old primitive instincts with no regard whatsoever for the future. We discount the future in the exact same way that our economic system does. It's a system ideally fitted for how our brains function, and that will make it -near- impossible to get rid of it before it’s too late.

Being able to think equals being able to lie, to lie to ourselves and to others about why we do what we do. That makes man both the most tragic and the most destructive animal ever assembled by evolution. As such, we are at the same time both a unique success and a unique failure.

I’ve often wondered why it is, and what it means, that man allows himself to destroy the world his children need to live in after he’s gone. What does that say about the idea of "love for your progeny"? It drags down that love to the level of some semi-automated, genetically predetermined (re-)action, like a cat that licks her kittens; but perhaps that’s where love stops, for man and cat. And even then, an amoeba's care for its infants may be a more appropriate example.

And yes, it can be puzzling at first glance: while they obliterate the natural world without which their sons and daughters have no chance of survival, most parents would die to save their kids from a fire today. And there is the essence: it’s about today. Everything we do is. We are no better at "doing future" than yeast is.

"But now a revolution is taking shape in the way we think", claims the article, citing the value of biodiversity to our economic model. "[..] the economic weapon must shoot in the right direction."

But that weapon can only shoot in one direction, and there’s no reverse, no steering wheel, and it’s short-range only. The sole chance we have is to take out that "economic weapon" altogether, not try in vain to point it in the "right" direction.

We shouldn’t have multinationals giving money to the Congo, we should make sure no multinational ever sets another foot there. For every dollar they donate, they destroy a hundred; that is solidly engraved in the system.

I will gladly admit I cannot say this better than Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend did in their 1993 book "Valuing the Earth” (note how similar the title is to those of this post and the original Der Spiegel piece) as they discuss the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:

"Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment—that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs.

The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process.

A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products."

It is impossible to overestimate the relevance of that statement as well as its corollary. That is, if you’re curious to know why you do what you do.

Click on images for larger versions

The Price Of Survival: What Would It Cost to Save Nature?
by Philip Bethge, Rafaela von Bredow and Christian Schwägerl

How much is the Earth worth to us? At a global conference in Bonn, Germany, representatives of 191 nations are discussing a revolution in conservation. By making a highly profitable business out of saving forests, whales and coral reefs, environmentalists hope to put a stop to a dramatic wave of extinctions.

The envoy from Europe can hardly believe his eyes. Butterflies the size of dessert plates are fluttering around his nose. Orchids hang in cascades from towering trees. Hornbills sail across the treetops. The tropical air is filled with the saturated scent of growth and proliferation.

Biologists have already tracked down more than 10,000 plant and 400 mammal species in the Congo basin. These plants and animals are part of the world's second-largest uninterrupted rainforest, one of the planet's most potent carbon storage systems. Indeed, it is for precisely this reason that Hans Schipulle, 63, is tramping around in the wilderness near the Sangha River on a humid morning in the Central African Republic.

"This forest stores carbon dioxide, and thus helps to slow down global warming. It regulates the global water supply and holds valuable pharmaceuticals," says Schipulle, a veteran environmentalist who works for the German government. "We must finally realize that these are services that are worth something to us."

Schipulle is in the region on a sensitive mission. Since December, he has headed the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), a group founded by Americans, Europeans and the countries along the Congo River. The alliance aims to prevent the Congo basin from being plundered and transformed into oil palm and coffee plantations by mid-century. The Congo rainforest is still largely in one piece, but investors from around the world have already discovered the region's potential for big business -- ore, diamonds, plantations and lumber.

But Schipulle and his partners have other plans for the Congo basin. They want international financial institutions or the world community to fork over money to preserve the rainforest as it is today. The threat of clear-cutting poses a double risk for the world. First, destroying the Congo rainforest would eliminate one of the earth's most important cooling systems. Second, the carbon dioxide (CO2) released as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture would further accelerate global warming.

Bayanga, a nearby village, is living proof of the traditional conflict between protecting the environment and fighting poverty. Until recently, its residents benefited from the destruction of the rainforest. A sawmill in Bayanga provided employment for 370 people, but the mill was shut down after Schipulle and his alliance presented an urgent appeal to the government in the capital Bangui to prevent a dubious logging company from being allowed to overexploit 4,520 square kilometers (1,745 square miles) of forest.

It was a small victory for nature, but village residents still need work and income. An eco-tourism project sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has created jobs for only 94 people so far, providing the community with about €10,000 ($15,500) in annual revenue -- but not enough to reduce poverty.

How can Schipulle explain to the people of Bayanga what their forest means for the rest of the world? Is it really possible that eco-tourism, environmentally responsible forestry and coffee plantations along the fringe of the future protected forest regions will be capable of feeding the men, women and children of the village?

An Emissions Trading Market for the Congo Rainforest

Schipulle firmly believes in this vision. The World Bank already plans to incorporate the entire Congo basin into its Forest Carbon Partnership program. The Washington-based organization wants to enter the emissions trading market with the CO2 stored by the Congo rainforest. Because deforestation in tropical regions is responsible for about 20 percent of climate change, protecting the forest is synonymous with protecting the climate -- and the world community is increasingly willing to pay a lot of money to make that happen.

The possible rescue of the Congo rainforest is only one of many examples. A new age of conservation is dawning. For the first time, a value is being assigned to forests, plants and coral reefs, a value that makes them worthy of protection. It is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the environmental movement.

Romantic notions about nature and the environment aside, governments, conservationists and scientists are posing new questions, the answers to which will shape the future of mankind: How much is the Earth worth? Can the value of its diversity be quantified? How much should taking inventory of the planet be worth to us? Finally, who should foot the bill for decades of mismanagement at nature's expense?

Officials from around the world are currently addressing these crucial concerns at a United Nations conference on bio-diversity in Bonn, Germany. Representatives from 191 nations and roughly 250 environmental, conservation and development aid organizations are focusing on ways to stop the loss of species and natural habitats. Dozens of draft resolutions, many of them controversial despite being formulated in the dry language of international diplomacy, are under review. Even the name of the gathering belies its importance: the Ninth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

At issue in Bonn is no less than the future of the planet and man's dramatic failure to leave a livable earth to his children. Wilderness, species, habitats and ecosystems are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. From one day to the next, human beings wipe out between three and 130 species, depending on which estimate you go by. Each year, virgin forest one-and-a-half times the size of Switzerland falls victim to logging. Moors are disappearing, rivers are being forced into concrete channels and erosion is transforming mountainsides into wasteland.

A Nail in the Coffin for the Amazon Rainforest?

Agriculture is taking up an ever larger portion of the Earth, especially now that plants are no longer grown solely as food, but also -- like sugar cane and oil palm -- to produce biofuel. Just last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed an energy agreement in Brasilia with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. Under the agreement, Brazil can continue to supply Germany with biofuel as long as it complies with certain environmental standards. But for many environmental protection groups, the deal is merely another nail in the coffin for the Amazon rainforest.

In addition, the destruction of nature and global warming tend to reinforce one another. When sea levels rise and mangrove forests disappear, coastlines become more exposed to the elements than ever before. As carbon dioxide continues to acidify the oceans, the calcium structures of corals, snails and mussels become brittle.

At issue is the survival of exotic species like the red-headed vulture, the Banggai cardinalfish, the Gulf of California harbor porpoise, the Santa Catalina rattlesnake and the Indian gharial. But the survival of mankind as a species is also at stake, as the example of the recent cyclone in Burma illustrates. If the mangrove forests that once protected the Burmese coastline had been intact, the flooding would likely have been much less devastating.

Without corals, many types of fish would not exist, because reefs protect fish as they mature. The flora and fauna of the oceans hold potential cancer drugs worth, according to economists' estimates, as much as $1 billion (€645 million) a year.

Many of the things humanity considers costly and desirable are also part of biodiversity, such as turbot fillets, teak garden furniture and caviar from Russian sturgeon. But we also value the song of the nightingale, the scent of lilac, a view of untamed mountains, empty meadows and dense jungles.

The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), well aware of these riches, hope to "significantly" slow down the loss of eco-systems and species by 2010. But what exactly does this "sufficiently fuzzy objective" mean, Jochen Flasbarth, head of nature protection at Germany's Environment Ministry (BMU) asks sarcastically?

At the Bonn conference, about 6,000 experts are debating exactly that question. Ideally, they will bring meaning to what might otherwise be empty words and phrases, but in the worst case scenario the conference will end in little more than bland declarations of intent. The parties can only adopt resolutions in consensus, and there are no mechanisms to apply pressure to obstructionists.

Despite the potential difficulties, some of the approaches being taken at the conference are at least promising:

  • One of the goals is to create a global network of sanctuaries with representative habitats.

  • Using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a model, the delegates hope to establish a panel of experts for the biodiversity convention that brings together representatives of the scientific and political communities.

  • The agenda calls for the fair balancing of interests between developing countries, with their abundant diversity, and the industrialized nations, which want to exploit these resources.

  • The experts intend to search for new mechanisms to pay for the protection of diversity. Without new sources of funding, all negotiation can be nothing but empty talk.

"This conference deals with economic interests," says German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. According to Gabriel, it is critical that we assign "a measurable cost to the loss (of environment)," or else we run the risk "of deleting data from nature's hard drive." Chancellor Merkel has already indicated that she will announce a significant increase in German government funding for the protection of the world's forests when she appears at the conference next Wednesday. Norway, which invests $500 million (€323 million) a year, is her benchmark. Back home, the government in Berlin is urging German states, responsible for domestic environmental protection issues, to allow 10 percent of forests owned by states and municipalities to return to nature.

Environment Minister Gabriel also plans to present the initial results of a study, initiated in collaboration with the European Union, on the global costs of species and habitat loss. According to an excerpt SPIEGEL has obtained of the document -- titled "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity" -- the loss of biodiversity costs the world 6 percent of global gross domestic product. Poor countries are the hardest-hit. The annual cost of species and habitat loss amounts to as much as half of their already modest economic strength.

"Protecting diversity is much cheaper than allowing its destruction," says Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev, who Gabriel and EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas convinced to head the study. Biodiversity -- and efforts to preserve it -- could in fact become an enormous business in the future. The new conservationists hope to sell intact forests because they store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). They also expect to see drugs developed from creatures like the cone snail and corals produce handsome profits in the future. The last oases of diversity are also expected to attract more and more well-heeled eco-tourists.

"Bonn has to push for a breakthrough," says Achim Steiner, the head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). To this day, according to Steiner, the promises made at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago, where both the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity were born, have "not been kept or have been systematically broken."

Biodiversity is more than just the diversity of plant and animal species. It also encompasses the entire cornucopia of habitats, as well as the genetic information that lies hidden, as a biological treasure, in many organisms that have yet to be studied. Experts estimate that the planet's inventory includes between 10 and 20 million species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes. This diversity is not evenly distributed, however. Life is concentrated in so-called hot spots, which include regions like the Mediterranean coast, the tropical Andes and the Philippines.

And the future of diversity is not bright. Take Germany, for example. According to a study published in April by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), titled "Facts about Nature 2008," 36 percent of all animal species studied in Germany are threatened. More than two-thirds of German habitats are considered threatened. Nature reserves make up only 3.3 percent of the country's land mass. Every day, 113 hectares (279 acres) of land disappear under asphalt and concrete.

The global situation is equally alarming. Last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red listed 16,297 plant and animal species as threatened, including almost a third of all amphibians, one in eight bird species and almost one-fourth of all mammal species. To develop its list, the IUCNB evaluated more than 41,000 species. The ones on its threatened list make up close to 40 percent of the total.

"A Sixth Global Mass Exctinction Has Begun"

To make matters worse, the rate of decline is formidable. A current UNEP estimate concludes that species are becoming extinct 100 times faster today than would normally occur as a result of evolution.

"A sixth global mass extinction has begun," says UNEP Executive Director Steiner. The diversity of species has already been severely compromised five times in the past in the wake of meteorite collisions, volcanic eruptions and rising sea levels. But today it is the more than 6.6 billion people that are destroying nature at an unprecedented pace. They hunt and fish at uncontrolled rates. They transform more and more land into farmland to fill their bellies. They chop down the last virgin forests to produce biofuel for their automobiles. They pollute the water, the soil and the air with toxic substances. And they drag species from one part of the earth to another -- with sometimes devastating consequences.

Ascribing a Monetary Value to Nature

Man's footprint on the globe is growing inexorably. And Homo sapiens, the supposedly perceptive human race, have failed miserably to secure the Earth's biological diversity. But now a revolution is taking shape in the way we think, as environmentalists and economists discover the marketplace of nature. They are putting their heads together to translate the achievements of mangroves and nightshade, whales, moors and rainforests into monetary value. Under this new mindset, destroying nature will no longer be profitable while protecting it will. Pavan Sukhdev, the director of the joint German-EU study on biodiversity, considers this the obvious solution. It is now or never, says Sukhdev, that "the economic weapon must shoot in the right direction."
>p>On a recent spring morning, the 48-year-old Indian pointed to the concrete wasteland of Berlin's Alexanderplatz square. "That's how desolate the entire earth will be if we don't succeed," says Sukhdev, who also heads the global markets division at Deutsche Bank's Indian office in Mumbai. Ten years ago, he says, a friend asked him the following question: "You're a banker. So tell me, why are some things worth something while others are not?" While searching for an answer to her question, he hit upon the idea of calculating prices for forests, wetlands and the courses of rivers.

Sukhdev's calculations, ridiculed at first, have since become the driving force behind the conservation revolution. Economists now perform detailed calculations to reflect what diversity does for people. Bees, for instance, are worth $2 to $8 billion (€1.3 to €5.2 billion) a year, because they pollinate important crop plants worldwide. Reeds growing along riverbanks are also considered valuable. Along the central part of Germany's Elbe River, for example, they are responsible for €7.7 million ($11.9 million) in annual savings, because they filter the water, thereby eliminating the need to build additional sewage treatment plants.

On the coast of Pakistan's Beluchistan Province, one hectare (2.47 acres) of intact mangrove forest produces the equivalent of about $2,200 (€1,420) in annual income. The ecosystem is a breeding ground for economically attractive fish species, as well as acting as a protective wall against flooding. Salt marshes in Scotland are worth about €1,000 ($1,555) per hectare to the region's mussel industry.

Tourists visiting Germany's Müritz National Park to marvel at sea eagles, ospreys, cranes and red deer contribute €13 million ($20 million) in annual revenue. In Britain, a team of researchers working with conservation biologist Andrew Balmford has calculated that a global network of protected areas could produce about $5 billion (€3.2 billion) in annual revenue. The group's calculations reflected the reserves' economic benefits for tourism, climate protection, nutrient cycles and the water supply.

If the destruction of natural habitats continues unabated, even the key to the earth's future energy supply could go undiscovered. US geneticist Craig Venter has collected thousands of samples of microorganisms living in seawater during voyages on his yacht, the Sorcerer II. Venter hopes that the samples will contain genetic sequences that could be used to produce fuels for cars and airplanes in the future.

In 1997, American ecological economist Robert Costanza estimated the annual value of the services nature provides for mankind at $33 trillion, a figure that was 1.8 times the world GNP at the time.

A Shift in Thinking

Despite their enormity, these numbers have been of little use to species and ecosystems in the past, because few have been willing to pay money for nature's assets. Indeed, the world's powerful corporations continue to treat animals, plants, forests, rivers and wetlands as a free resource. But at least some industries seem to be approaching an important watershed moment.

For instance, companies already earn $43 billion (€28 billion) in annual revenues with plant-based natural remedies. The active agents in 10 of the world's 25 most successful drugs were originally derived from fungi, bacteria, plants and animals living in the wild. The precursors of aspirin came from willow bark and meadowsweet. The purple foxglove plant is the source of the agent in the heart drug digitoxin.

Companies spend billions searching for the next mega-drugs derived from nature's diverse sources. But does nature get anything out of the bargain? Initial models show that it can. In Costa Rica, for example, there is already a tradition to the search for miracle drugs from the jungle. The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) was founded in the capital San José in 1989. In the 1990s the pharmaceutical company Merck invested $4 million (€2.6 million) in the research institute, which has since acquired a global reputation. Merck executives pledged to donate 10 percent of the profits of potential discoveries to the country, with part of the proceeds to be earmarked for conservation.

Do Costa Rica's butterflies, forest plants and slime molds hold the key to new drugs to fight malaria and cancer, or can they at least provide the ingredients for new skin creams and anti-dandruff shampoos? World-renowned researchers at INBio continue to seek answers to these questions, constantly hunting for useful natural substances.

On a recent morning, for example, fungus specialist Jorge Blanco was carefully scrutinizing the leaves of Monimiaceae siparuna, a plant that resembles the laurel family. Using a scalpel, he cut apart the precious green leaves and placed the pieces into dishes of culture medium. Soon fungi that previously thrived only inside the leaves would sprout. To get the plant Diego Vargas, a biologist working at INBio, spent two hours on the previous day in an SUV, driving the winding roads in the Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo along the slopes of the Barva volcano.

Vargas, wearing a baseball cap, a white T-shirt and blue rubber gloves, photographs plants in the virgin forest, then uses garden shears to snip off the seed heads of various plants and carefully places them in bags. Peering into the undergrowth, he finds Monimiaceae siparuna, a plant with tiny yellowish blossoms. He twirls his garden shears like a cowboy wielding his Colt, then deftly cuts off the seed heads: a small snip for Vargas, but could it be a giant snip for mankind?

"Many of the fungi that live in the leaves of this plant have never been studied, because they are so hard to isolate," says Vargas. "They may very well produce many interesting substances with which we aren't even familiar yet."

Since INBio was established in the late 1980s, its scientists have examined thousands of insects in their quest for useful natural substances. Nowadays, the high-tech equipment at the institute's special laboratory in Heredia, a San José suburb, is used mainly to analyze plant extracts, microbes and fungi.

The great bio-boom has not materialized yet, prompting Merck and a few other major investors to withdraw their funding. "The pharmaceutical companies no longer want to pay for the long process that is needed to find promising substances in nature," says Giselle Tamayo, technical coordinator of INBio’s biodiversity prospecting division.

Sharing the Blessings, While Protecting Biodiversity

Nevertheless, Tamayo insists that the research facility, which now works primarily with universities, is still "a model of success." The institute, says Tamayo, helps to demonstrate how developing countries can share in the blessings of biotechnology while simultaneously protecting their own biodiversity. A share of the licensing fees INBio receives goes into protecting Costa Rican forests.

Costa Rica is already considered a model country within the international conservation movement. In the country's booming ecotourism industry, about 1.5 million tourists spend close to $1.5 billion (€970 million) a year to visit the natural wonders of Costa Rica's rainforests and montane forests. And protecting those forests has been elevated to a national doctrine in Costa Rica. In the 1970s and 1980s, loggers cleared almost 80 percent of the Costa Rican rainforest. Today more than half of the country is forested once again.

In the southern part of the country, the densely forested Osa Peninsula juts out into the Pacific. Deep in the jungle, in the mountains above the tiny village of Golfito, Jorge Marin Picado keeps watch over 46 hectares (114 acres) of primeval forest. A flock of pale red Aras flies over the site, where the smell of rotting vegetation fills the air. Lianas snake their way up giant trees. Picado, wearing the standard machete in his belt, is the manager of the finca, or farm, perched along the edge of the coastal range. Under an agreement the farm's owner has signed with the Costa Rican forestry agency, the government pays him $350 (€225) per hectare each year to keep the forest undisturbed and prevent anyone from stealing plants or illegally cutting down trees.

Rewarding Farmers for Keeping Trees Untouched

The government calls the system its "Environmental Services" program, and conservationists consider it exemplary. Under the program, the government rewards landowners for planting new trees or leaving existing forest untouched. "We want to enlarge the forest area and offer farmers an alternative," says Katia Alegria of the forestry agency. As a result, pastureland where cattle have grazed until now is becoming forest once again. Instead of oil palms and banana trees, species like teak and the local ron-ron tree are growing in the new and preserved forests.

The program is funded with taxes on the sale of gasoline and funds from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, into which the CBD member states pay. But Costa Rica also hopes to turn a profit in the future from the carbon dioxide captured by trees.

Indeed, the ability to capture enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it could ultimately be forests' lifeline in this era when man is desperately searching for ways to halt global warming. Bogs can also bind substantial amounts of CO2. Restoring and preserving them "offers a cost-effective way of curbing climate change and protecting diversity," says UNEP Executive Director Steiner. This is also an opportunity for Germany. Researchers at Greifswald University have calculated that restoring one hectare of lowland bog in Germany and allowing the native alder forest to grow results in the capture of 30 tons of CO2 a year.

The governments of countries with large tropical rainforests, like Guyana, Indonesia, Brazil and Papua-New Guinea, have become especially enthusiastic advocates of the revolutionary idea of selling their forests as greenhouse gas sinks. If the plan works, they could rake in billions in profits, which in turn could be spent on protecting forests.

A New Currency for Environmentalism

The currency in the new environmental age is called a "forest certificate," and a potential market for the green money already exists. In the EU emissions trading system, for example, industrial corporations and energy utilities are allocated carbon dioxide pollution rights known as CO2 certificates. They define how much carbon dioxide a given company's factories are permitted to emit into the atmosphere. If a company's CO2 emissions exceed its allocated limit, it must buy additional certificates to offset the difference. Unused pollution rights can be sold. In other words, the certificates have a real monetary value, which is currently at €25 ($39) per ton of CO2, but could increase to €60 ($93) in the future.

The tropical rainforest countries are keenly interested in entering this growing market. At the next UN Climate Change Conference, in Copenhagen in 2009, the course could be set for the development of a market in forest certificates. Large electric utilities, like Germany's RWE, are already waiting in the wings. "Forests as a part of a global emissions trading system would be of interest to us," says Michael Fübi, the company's climate protection manager. The company would benefit by satisfying climate protection requirements more quickly and at a lower cost than through the installation of costly new technologies. In the medium term, however, this could not serve as a replacement for modernizing power plants, says Fübi.

How much money this forest certificate system would ultimately generate is still written in the stars. Experts estimate that it would cost $10 billion (€6.45 billion) a year to truly benefit the world's forests. Otherwise it would be far more profitable for tropical countries to cut down their forests for lumber.

"Logging produces from $100 to $500 million (€65 to €322 million) a year in revenues for Papua-New Guinea," says Kevin Conrad, Papua-New Guinea's special envoy for climate protection and conservation, highlighting the country's dilemma. The country has to be offered more than this amount to make protecting its forests an attractive proposition, "otherwise the forest will be gone -- and it'll happen very soon."

Turning Canopies into Capital

In Brazil, the chainsaw is still winning out over conservation. Almost 20 percent of the country's 3.65 million square kilometers (1.41 million square miles) of Amazon rainforest have already been cut down and turned into pastureland and soybean fields. After taking office in 2003, Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva managed to reduce the rate of deforestation from 28,000 to 12,000 square kilometers (10,810 to 4,633 square miles) a year. She introduced new rules that allowed owners of forests to log on no more than 20 percent of their property, and imposed a credit freeze on violators. But last week Silva, an icon of the global forest protection movement, made the surprising announcement that she was resigning, saying that she was tired of "playing the green fig leaf" for President Lula da Silva.

As it happens, dead forests are more valuable than living forests on global markets, and it will take a lot of money to reverse this. There are, however, a few initial success stories. The World Bank, for example, has introduced its Forest Carbon Partnership, a program designed to protect both the climate and the environment simultaneously. One of the partnership's model projects could soon be that of Germany's Hans Schipulle, who hopes to transform the Congo basin rainforest into a cash cow.

In anticipation of a growing market for forest certificates, the US investment bank Merrill Lynch recently agreed to pay Indonesia's Aceh Province $9 million (€5.8 million) a year for four years to protect the rainforest in its Ulu Masen preserve. Canopy Capital, a London-based company, has spent a sum numbering in the millions to secure the value that it believes Guyana's Iwokrama rainforest could soon have for mankind. Canopy's managing director, Hylton Murray-Philipson, explains the concept: "No one would pay anything for the intact forest today, but I believe that it is extremely likely that markets will soon take a different view of the value of nature." Experts predict that the trade in the natural assets of forests, bogs and reefs could translate into $10 billion (€6.5 billion) in revenues by 2010.

Can such global financial transfers truly bring about change? "Once CO2 trading translates into large amounts of money, the question that inevitably arises is who actually owns the forest," says Tom Griffiths, who is with the human rights organization Forest Peoples Programme. "Is it the investors or the people who live in the forest?"

Future Power Struggles over Carbon Sinks

Griffiths fears that a highly profitable forest protection system could lead to power struggles over lucrative carbon sinks, which in turn would translate into more corruption, speculation, land grabs and conflicts. The logging company Asia Pacific Resources International, for example, clears forests and drains peat bogs in Indonesia to plant new tree plantations. Suddenly the company has launched a CO2 pilot project in which it plans to restore a few bogs. But the project smacks of an eco-scam, too, because Asia Pacific will only be able to pocket profits from CO2 trading as a result of the fact that it destroyed large swathes of the ecosystem in the first place.

To secure biological diversity in the long term, the parties to the Biodiversity Convention are also promoting classic methods of conservation. There are roughly 100,000 nature reserves around the globe. According to a recent study by the WWF, the world community spends $6.5 to $10 billion (€4.2 to €6.5 billion) a year on protected areas. This sounds like a lot of money, but in fact is well short of what is needed.

Experts estimate that at least twice as much will be required to protect nature in the long term. Professional environment police officers must monitor the reserves. Education is critical in helping local populations find new ways to live in harmony with nature. Microloans are needed to help people implement new business models compatible with the natural environment.

Connecting Countries that are Biodiversity Rich with those with Deep Pockets

But one of the most immediate goals should be to establish additional reserves in the world's biodiversity hot spots. BMU conservation strategist Flasbarth has high hopes for a German initiative called LifeWeb. The program is designed to bring together countries with great biodiversity and those with deep pockets.

"Every country can use the system to specify which areas it would protect, and at what price. The hope is that interested parties will then bid for the right to pay for conservation," says Flasbarth. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, is traveling to the Bonn conference with an offer to place 140,000 square kilometers (54,054 square miles) of rainforest under protection. But will it be able to attract investors for the project?

The CBD member states plan to place 10 percent of all the earth's land-based ecosystems under protection by 2010, as well as 10 percent of the ocean surface by 2012. It is a bold plan. The goal could be reached on land, albeit with great effort. But achieving such a goal in the oceans is pure illusion. Strict protections have only been applied to less than 1 percent of the world's oceans to date. Indeed, the oceans are where international conservation and species protection efforts have failed most markedly.

Declining Fish Stocks

Some experts estimate that if the current trend of overfishing continues, commercial ocean fishing will have become all but impossible by 2050. Meanwhile, the countries of the world pay more than €20 billion ($31 billion) a year to subsidize the fishing industry -- and in doing so they pay for one in five fish caught in the world. Around the globe, there are about 4 million fishing boats routinely hunting down all manner of sea creatures. Experts say that to prevent the destruction of current populations, the global fishing fleet would have to be cut in half.

Overfishing threatens to destroy entire ecosystems. According to the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment study, 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed, while another 20 percent are severely compromised. The heavy equipment used by trawlers is destroying coral banks in the northeast Atlantic. Deep-sea fishermen are steadily scraping away at the unique natural wonders of underwater mountains.

"Imagine if hunters were to cut down entire forests to catch a few deer," says Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the IUCN's Global Marine Program, "people would be outraged." But this is precisely the sort of devastation caused by the use of trawl nets, Lundin explains. "Many people have no concept of the destruction of the oceans."

Zoologists demand tighter controls on board trawlers to limit illegal fishing. Most of all, they hope to see the establishment of zones where fishing would be banned completely. The concept they envision would involve zones of intensive fishing alternating with these protected regions, where young fish could grow to maturity undisturbed and populations could recover. The international community is still hesitant when it comes to establishing marine reserves and few laws govern the high seas. But opinions are gradually changing when it comes to the territorial waters of nations.

A Plan for the Caribbean

The goal of an initiative currently taking shape in the Caribbean, for example, is to place 20 percent of all ecosystems in the Caribbean Sea under protection by 2020. At issue are 5 million hectares (12.35 million acres) of waters complete with shimmering coral reefs, dense mangrove forests and so-called Blue Holes, often circular, underwater sinkholes inside atolls that can be up to 200 meters (656 feet) deep.

Details of the ambitious program, known as the Caribbean Challenge Marine Initiative, will be presented in Bonn next week. The countries that have signed on so far include the Bahamas, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Conservation groups like the US-based Nature Conservancy (TNC) are also involved. The effort centers around conservation funds, the proceeds of which would pay for rangers, patrol boats, research and environmental education.

"The funding must be secured for the long term, otherwise the entire idea will fail after a few years for lack of funds," says Eleanor Phillips, the director of TNC's Northern Caribbean program. She helps run the project from her office in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. The city is on New Providence, one of the islands in the Bahamas archipelago. The conservation problems faced by groups like TNC are concentrated on a few square kilometers in Nassau.

Tourists, especially from the United States, routinely overrun the city. They live in concrete hotels or gated residential communities. Entire mangrove forests, says Philips, are cleared to make room for the houses of the rich. But the forests are breeding grounds for many Caribbean fish species. Every day in Nassau harbor, fishing boats bring in tons of Nassau grouper and Caribbean queen conch, which are then hawked as island specialties in every snack bar.

The two species were once abundant. The tropical waters used to be filled with enormous schools of Nassau grouper. Within hours, fishermen would bring up hundreds of the large fish, which can weigh up to 25 kilos (55 lbs.). The queen conch was so plentiful that islanders could gather an entire evening meal by snorkeling in the azure-blue ocean for a few minutes. Now, fishermen like Eudie Rolle, often to be found sitting on a quay in Nassau harbor behind a table covered with the tasty sea snails, are left to complain about how difficult the beautiful pink shells are to find. Rolle has been fishing for 57 years. "In the past," he says, "all we had to do was gather the conch in waist-high water. But now my sons have to sail 150 miles out to find any."

"We are very concerned," says Michael Braynen of the island nation's Department of Marine Resources. "In the long term, we need to reduce the number of fishermen in the Bahamas. But then we have to offer them alternatives."

Balancing Nature Protection with Livelihoods

This is the underlying problem. Those who seek to effectively protect nature, make ocean zones off-limits and allow forests to remain untouched must ensure that the people who have depended on these facets of nature for their livelihoods are given new opportunities. The solution in the Bahamas is called ecotourism.

Andros is a short, 15-minute flight from Nassau. The island, roughly 170 kilometers (106 miles) long, is home to about 8,000 people and the world's third-largest barrier reef lies off its eastern coast. Islanders like Peter Douglas take the island's few tourists on tours of the colorful, luminescent coral banks and undersea bluffs. Enterprising islanders have developed eco-lodges in the bush behind the coast. Prescott Smith, for example, offers fly-fishing vacations for wealthy business executives. For $1,600 (€1,030) a day, his customers can learn to elegantly cast their flies in the island's mangrove swamps for longfin bonefish or Atlantic tarpon. But instead of keeping their catch, they adhere to a "catch and release" policy.

The islanders are defending their small paradise against investors in mass tourism. They have found ways to profit from nature without destroying it. "Scientists, governments and the big conservation groups are fighting the locals," says Prescott Smith. "They come here and say: You're the problem." But true conservation, according to Smith, must incorporate the local population. "Only if the people here truly get the feeling that their own interests are at stake will they protect the country."

Indeed, even as the world gathers to discuss the CBD, such small-scale, bottom up projects may be the world's best hope. Such a grassroots approach is especially valid in places where poverty is widespread. The poor have no other choice but to live from the resources of nature and, if necessary, to destroy them. This too is an issue that will be discussed at the Bonn conference in the coming days.

Most of all, however, the CBD partners must attempt to establish a focus for the next two years. The 10th Conference of the Parties of the CBD takes place in 2010, presumably in Japan. By then, the group hopes to have implemented many of its ambitious environmental goals.

"In Bonn, it is especially important that the parties do not block one another on the major issues," says BMU conservation director Flasbarth. The sticking points are predictable. When the CBD came into being, for example, many of the parties wanted to see mechanisms established to ensure a fair balancing of benefits among industrialized and developing nations. The idea was that everyone ought to be able to benefit from the planet's genetic treasures. At the same time, the parties argued, the populations of the countries in which the profitable species originate should also share in the profits.

But it has been 16 years since the Rio Earth Summit took place, and still, rules to address this problem have yet to be established. The developing countries are suspicious, because bio-pirates have already hijacked parts of their biological treasures. In early May, for example, it was reported that residents of the South African village of Alice are challenging two patents, held by the German company Dr. Willmar Schwabe Arzneimittel, for the production of the drug Umckaloabo. Umckaloabo is made from the roots of the Capeland pelargonium. The locals claim that they have been preparing tinctures from the plant for centuries and using them to treat colds.

They claim that ased on this knowledge, Spitzner, a subsidiary of Schwabe, now produces Umckaloabo. "The patents are illegal and must be revoked," says Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety. Besides, says Mayet, the company owes the people of Alice a share of profits.

Another bone of contention is the biofuel boom. German Chancellor Merkel did little to ease tensions when she recently signed an energy treaty with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. The Brazilians see German concern for the Amazon rainforest as an attempt to corner the biofuels market. To produce bio-ethanol, they plan to have planted sugarcane in an area almost as large as Great Britain by 2025. "If we tell the Brazilians that we're boycotting this, the negotiations over rainforest protection will come to an abrupt end," warns German Environment Minister Gabriel. Merely the attempt to place the topic of bio-energy on the agenda at the Bonn conference was met with indignation in Brasilia.

The Pricetag of Curtailing Exctinction: €30 billion

In short, a high level of diplomatic skill will be needed in Bonn to advance to the core issue: Who will pay how much and for what? The annual cost of curtailing species extinction by 2010 is estimated at €30 billion ($46.5 billion). The EU heads of state are even more ambitious and want to put a complete stop to the loss of biodiversity in Europe by 2010. However, the WWF believes that this goal can only be reached "at a significant additional cost."

Mastering the crisis will likely require a wide range of funding models. Focusing on biodiversity as a source for new drugs and cosmetics is one possibility, the trade in CO2 certificates is another. Private sponsors can also have an important impact. The conservation group TNC, for example, manages a fortune of $5.4 billion (€3.5 billion), some of it donated by wealthy patrons. In 2007 alone, TNC spent $566 million (€365 million) to purchase land and protect it for future generations.

Others have chosen to engage in something akin to colonial megalomania and personally control the fate of nature. Patagonia, for example, appears to be firmly in the hands of billionaires. For years, Douglas and Kris Tompkins, the co-founders of the apparel companies North Face and Patagonia, have
owned several thousand square kilometers of untouched wilderness in the region. Some of their neighbors are speculator George Soros, fashion magnates Luciano and Carlo Benetton, actors Sharon Stone and Christopher Lambert, and CNN founder Ted Turner.

The not-quite-fabulously-rich can acquire tropical islands or hectare-sized pieces of wild animal corridors through organizations like TNC or World Land Trust.

Economist Pavan Sukhdev also recommends levying, in addition to the value-added tax, a kind of value reduction tax in wealthy countries -- a way of compensating for the environmental damage associated with the production of a car or a refrigerator. The revenues from such a tax could flow directly into large-scale conservation projects.

Sukhdev also wants to force companies and consumers to assume more responsibility. "A coffee company could charge a small surcharge and invest the money in the rainforest next to its plantations," he says. When it comes to organic food, consumers are already prepared to pay a premium today. "So why not create an Eco-Plus label to test whether they are willing to pay an additional premium to fund conservation projects?"

Nowadays, people can already make their travel climate-neutral by offsetting the emissions from aircraft or rental cars through companies like the German firm global-woods. The company uses the revenues to support reforestation programs in Argentina, Paraguay and Uganda. Another example is the Marriott hotel chain. The company has paid $2 million (€1.3 million) to the Brazilian state of Amazonas to protect the 589,000-hectare (1.45 million-acre) Juma preserve from loggers. In return, Marriott receives CO2 credits, which are then offered for sale to hotel guests so that they can continue to relax in their hotel saunas without suffering a bad conscience.

Fisheries experts, on the other hand, recommend only buying fish with the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label. Anyone hoping to enjoy eating marine creatures in an environmentally responsible way in the future will have to do without species like halibut or sole. When it comes to wood, most conservationists recognize the certification awarded by the Forest Stewardship Council.

According to estimates, within only two years consumers worldwide could be spending up to $75 billion (€48 billion) on fish, wood, medicinal herbs and food produced in an environmentally friendly way. In addition, people have long been willing to pay directly for species protection. According to the BfN, every household in Germany would pay an average of €100 ($155) a year to preserve biodiversity. This would amount to a total of €3.5 billion ($5.4 billion). "That's three times as much money as we have had at our disposal so far for species and habitat protection," says Burkhard Schweppe-Kraft, an economist with the BfN.

If natural landscapes are increasingly assigned a value, they could lose their role as "the world's free garbage dump," as Gordon Shepherd of the WWF puts it. But Shepherd also warns that adding value to nature is "no panacea." Indeed, it raises many questions. For instance, developing countries would have to prove that their goal is not simply to rake in additional cash, but that they are serious about protecting diversity.

The industrialized countries, for their part, are likely to be accused of merely orchestrating an enormous green-washing of a failed industrial policy, which for decades treated nature as a cheap self-service shop. Are the mechanisms of the global economy truly suitable for ensuring diversity?

"Conservation based purely on profit could fail in places where, for example, it seeks to protect animals that collide with our interests," writes Douglas McCauley of Stanford University in the journal Nature. According to McCauley, nature that does no harm, but is also of no benefit to man would also fail the economic test.

When wolves kill sheep or cormorants wreak havoc in commercial fish ponds, it is nothing but nature at work. On the other hand, people would be unlikely to pay for conservation based solely on its benefit to man.

Economics and the preservation of diversity are often diametrically opposed. About 50 years ago, for example, the Nile perch was deliberately introduced into Lake Victoria in East Africa. Fishermen in the countries adjoining the lake, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, remain enthusiastic about the arrival of the edible fish to this day, because it helped fuel copious economic growth. But the new arrivals spelled ecological disaster for the lake's diverse and unique population of haplochromine cichlids, leading to what social biologist Edward Wilson once called "the most catastrophic wave of extinctions in recent history."

Making the economic value of ecosystems the sole basis of conservation would mean that "nature is only worth protecting if it is also profitable," warns biologist McCauley, referring to the risk of a sudden decline in value.

What happens to the rainforest, which we now want to see serving as a CO2 storage system, if a cheaper technical solution is ultimately found to dispose of greenhouse gases? Will the forest then be liquidated, to borrow an economic term? The value of nature -- its beauty, and its cultural and evolutionary importance -- cannot be estimated, says McCauley. "In the long run, we will achieve more progress if we appeal to human hearts and not their wallets."

In other words, it is up to man to decide what kind of world he wishes to inhabit. Anyone familiar with wilderness knows what will be lost if environmental destruction continues unabated. By the time the world community can agree to a business model to save biodiversity, it could be too late.

We should also consider the need to preserve "refuges for the soul," says Beate Jessel, the president of the BfN. The CBD partners should also take this to heart if they hope to avoid becoming lost in a jungle of international agreements and bilateral sensitivities in Bonn.

Are we negotiating ourselves to death? Words must soon be followed by deeds. Indian economist Pavan Sukhdev, at any rate, sees the situation as dead serious. We face a decision, says Sukhdev, one whether or not our civilization is to survive.

Sukhdev was in Berlin recently for a meeting with German Environment Minister Gabriel to discuss the crisis. The ministry lies across the barren Alexanderplatz square, past a gray, concrete desert. "It's an ideal place for an environment ministry," says Sukhdev. "Every day you see the things you want to prevent."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.


: Joseph j7uy5 said...

From an ecological perspective, it is important to note that there are many different strategies that an individual can follow, in order to survive. One of these strategies is parasitism. Within a community, there is a strong tendency for individuals to emulate those who seem to be most successful. Currently, the most successful individuals are parasites. Therefore, many persons are trying to emulate the parasites.

Eventually, parasitism will go out of style. This always happens. If it happens before the parasites have ruined everything, there still is a chance that we can survive.

The problem is, cheap oil has enabled the parasites to ruin things with astonishing speed. Even though parasitism is going out of style, the speed and scale of the destruction that has been wrought is too great for there to be any hope of recovery.

Even Bill Gross knows that we are getting to a "new normal," and that the new normal will be bad. But he seems to have no idea how bad. Either that, or he does know, but is afraid to say.

NZSanctuary said...

Nice post.

We think we can "fix" things, that we can govern the earth as if it is some machine we are operating. It is a sad comment on how removed we are in general from the reality of our world.

Cheap energy and the technology to exploit it has enabled us to build a fantasy world for many of the people on this planet. And many of those on the outside have even come to believe those on the inside who claim this fantasy land will allow us to forever hold the old reality at bay.

It defies belief that the phrase "attract talent" still gets printed in regards to financial institutions and pay!

Erin Winthrope said...

Great post!

You and John Michael Greer have identified the central dilemma.

I love these lines.


"while they obliterate the natural world without which their sons and daughters have no chance of survival, most parents would die to save their kids from a fire today. And there is the essence: it’s about today. Everything we do is. We are no better at "doing future" than yeast is."

John Michael Greer's:

"those who promote policies that allow people to get rich and live extravagantly today can count on an enthusiastic response, even if those same policies condemn industrial society to a death spiral in the decades ahead. Posterity, it’s worth remembering, pays nobody’s salaries today."

Robert said...

I was at McGill, the Montreal Neurological Institute and the Royal Victoria Hospital from 1956 to 1959. Through mutual friends I met the McGill biology professor N,J,Berrill and his family. Dr Berrill was familiar with Hubbert and was the first person that I ever heard discuss what is now called peak oil. He was also a friend of Julian Huxley. Berrill wrote scientific books and papers about biology as well as popular books on the place of man in nature. These include Man's Emerging Mind, Sex and the Nature of Things and The Person in the Womb. His wife and son were also writers with an emphasis on marine biology. Google if interested. Or check out your local library.

Bigelow said...

Semi-apropos today’s post
“From FTW’s perspective, as we have said so consistently, until we change the way money works, solutions to Peak Oil, food shortages, collapse and sustainability remain unreachable from a national or cultural level because it is simply more profitable to let people die and accelerate collapse through excessive consumption than it is to behave like a species that wishes to survive.”
Until You Change the Way Money Works…, Michael C. Ruppert

Bigelow said...

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered the shift of Iran's foreign currency reserves from the U.S. dollar to the euro.

Arabian Business reports that the Iranian government and its President ordered the removal of the US dollar to be replaced by the Euro, which was introduced in 1999, in order to protect themselves from the crumbling United States economy and devaluing dollar.”
Iran dumps US dollar for euro

Chaos said...

Those interested in further reading along these lines may wish to peruse any one of a number of books Derrick Jensen has written. You may disagree with his conclusions (in essence, that industrial civilization should be taken down as soon as possible, by any means necessary, i.e., by causing collapse of integrated systems through sabotage, mostly), but his logic is difficult to argue with.

Ilargi said...

Thanks Bluebird, corrected.

Spice said...

Re: Seed Saving
Another technique people could use for single flowering plants like corn and such is to plant the different varieties two weeks apart to stagger the pollination windows. This works great for smaller spaces.
This can also be used in continually flowering varieties for the first crop from the earlier planted variety as long as the other variety was not flowering when the fruit set. (e.g. tomatoes and peppers)

Re: Hybrids
Hybrid corn and some hybrid veggies use a "hybridization" method that's a bit like the Egyptian Pharaohs.
Basically they inbreed two strains until they're sick and stunted and fully homozygous. They then cross two of these pathetic strains to get a dominant, tall strain that is completely heterozygous. Not true hybridization.
So Illargi... you're not a corn-type hybrid. Are you a shining half-breed like myself? ;-)

Re: Parasites
I don't believe that humans can mimic parasites. Or they're just lousy at comprehending what a parasite does. A true parasite doesn't want to kill it's host. If it does so it has no place to live, and consequently dies. These types of humans are in fact pathogens. They want us dead because they don't care.

Ilargi said...


There are plenty parasites that do kill their host.

Unknown said...

It's too early to say for sure, but given this morning poor opening in the stock markets following on another poor opening earlier this week, a downward trend might finally be taking place. Time will tell if this is the beginning of the next phase of the crash.

Also, good choice for repost, Ilargi. Right on the (damnable) money.

el gallinazo said...

This morning’s posting inspired me to mention that I bought an air ticket to Costa Rica about a week ago (an offer I couldn’t refuse from Spirit Airlines), and will arrive there mid-October. I will be meeting some close friends from St. John, a married couple, and we will be driving around the country with the eventual idea of picking up some farmland for doomsteads. The wife of this couple is Cuban born and completely bilingual. She is also a TAE junkie lurker who never posts. Right after Christmas, another close St. John friend, fluent Spanish speaker, and TAE junkie, who rarely posts under “j,” will be doing a gig with a holistic center in Costa Rica. In my humble opinion she may be the world’s best masseuse :-)

Costa Rica has a lot going for it:

1) Tropical climate with elevated mountainous areas which allow one to find sub-tropical zones, if as in my case, one cannot endure a full tropical climate. No energy input requirement necessary to maintain body comfort. Amazing natural beauty and biodiversity.

2) Huge hydropower. Exports a lot of electricity to neighboring countries. Even after global collapse, if they show half the ingenuity keeping their turbines going that Cubans have shown with their ’57 Chevies, then one could expect grid electricity well into the future.

3) Dynamic democracy with strong multiparty competition built into the Constitution. Could well be the hemisphere’s most functional democracy. A strong middle class. No standing army – but then I would miss USNORTHCOM’s upcoming starring role in the US. The country is also very ecologically aware as today’s post indicates.

Right now the cost of property and living is much higher than many other Latin American countries, Peru for example, but this would probably be worth it for the advantages listed above. My current knowledge of Costa Rica is totally from books and the web, and there is no substitute for “boots on the ground,” (as our fascist MSM likes to put it). If after spending time there, I definitely decide to make the plunge, I think my strategy would be to try to study the local agriculture, improve my crappy Spanish, find a secure warehouse, and start to stockpile hardware in anticipation of the collapse of globalization. Maybe bring Greenpa down as a consultant when the temperature in MN hits 25 below :-)

Land price “inflation” in Costa Rica has been high in many areas from tourism, ex-pat retirement, “development,” and speculation. I would imagine that there is a lot of leverage involved in the “development” and speculation. Many if not most ex-pats are now reputedly (at least) dabbling in the real estate speculation/development business, which of course will be coming to an abrupt end. They don’t have a Fed to inject huge amounts of future krill debt to hold up the real estate market, so I would imagine prices to fall dramatically as world credit dries up. So I would try to hold off buying for a year or two and just try to get all my other ducks in a row.

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The latest post also sets out the 'obligations' that go with winning it, mainly to nominate 7 others as being your favorite blogs. I hope this leads to more traffic and to more support for your great work.

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el gallinazo said...

If the stock market falls below 1000, then it's toast.

mitzi said...

When my father was young, the river running past the family farm contained potable water and large bass and other game fish. The farmers regularly dredged the channel and used the gravel on the local roads, but were otherwise fastidious to keep the water clean for their livestock and children. The banks and steep hills were forested, and erosion was minimized. Then the Army Corps of Engineers ordered them to stop dredging. The local authorities paved the roads. The subdivision developers bought the farms, houses grew instead of trees, and the new owners polluted the river in their desire for the perfect lawn. The water clouded. A neighbor's chlorination system failed and he became very sick. We all got city water. The fish died. Now not even the frogs can be heard, the river flash floods places that never flooded before, and dead deer are found by the water in dry weather. Put people on the land who love it and its diversity, and educate them about how to treat it well, and they will. Put people who consider everything a commodity on the land, and you'll wind up with barrenness of land and soul.

Anonymous said...

@Rumor. Even if QE had been maintained, diminishing marginal returns would still have reduced the velocity of public-sector credit expansion to nil, thus terminating any false rally.

But of course, QE has been suspended because it, in and of itself, was never the solution. Like the booster rockers on the doomed Apollo 13, it was merely an attempt to maneuver & trigger the larger economy into position so that physics would take over.

But anyone who can either (a) read the most recent Z1; or even easier (b) look around one's own neighborhood/town, can clearly see that private-sector credit expansion is not occurring.

Ergo, no credit expansion, no recovery. No recovery, no market rally. Rather, all the traders who have been waiting for the top are just waiting to pile on which will serve to accelerate the decline.

Years from now, I would imagine if Bernanke were inclined to grant an interview, he would be perfectly frank. Like a football team with 1 second on the clock and 50 yards to go, they can either throw a 'hail Mary' or they can take a knee. Which do you suppose they do? Likewise, Ben will simply claim that we could have had our failure in March or Oct - which did we want?


Anonymous said...

Greenpeace is targeting our economic model. See banner at G-20 summit.

So do they get a pass now or are they still doing damage?

bluebird said...

el gallinazo - about Costa Rica. Something from NPR to read or listen to.

NPR - Rainfall Shortages Threaten Costa Rica Power

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear these sentiments being expressed outside of my own head. I was putting together a similar thought for my blog today.

I have been hearing a lot of people planning, calculating, figuring and it makes me cringe.

Many activists, preservationists, politicians, spiritualists, environmentalists, still carry the fatal flaw that they think they are in control of the uncontrollable, and by "doing" they can produce a positive, desired outcome.

I advocate doing nothing. Not the continuation of the things we are doing, not "not changing", but doing less until we are doing nothing. No fixing, planning, or scheming is needed to do nothing.

Thoughtless; I have no concept of money or worth, I have no concept of good or bad. I live the plan of no plan, the plan that ends all plans. I am nothing anymore, there is no one here to oppose. I am invisible because I am seamless, border-less, undefined.

Everything is the way it is, there is nothing I can make better and nothing that can be made worse.

There is only acceptance.

Ilargi said...

Thanks Aaron, much obliged.

el gallinazo said...


Yes, I knew about this already. Climate change is such a crap shoot. If Costa Rica gets less rain, then it will just have to adjust its demand for electricity. With the collapse of globalization and tourism, this would probably happen automatically. The huge Intel plants must use a lot, and the rich ex-pats may just have to turn off their infinity pools and A/C. CR has a governmental structure where reducing electrical demand for non-essentials and luxuries may be possible.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the wonderful post!

"Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life; we are merely a strand in it." ~ CHIEF SEATTLE (1788-1856) Native American Leader

Greenpa said...

RE: today's topic:

Yes, but.

You're quite correct that monetizing nature is not a good thing to do. But.

It beats the hell out of considering the whole of nature as coal to be strip-mined.

Consider the possibility that what the article from Der Spiegel represents is a herd phenomenon; and shows a pretty significant change in herd direction.

Intellectuals, businesses, politicians, and professors are all part of the herd, of course, and the percentage of us with any concept that we are part of the Great Amoeba is vanishingly small.

So it's herd movement you see here- never mind all the logic and reason and their fallacies- that's still just the regular "whoopie tie-yi- yay!" kind of herding noises that arise from time to time.

So here's the deal. The herd has been pretty much stampeding right dead at the World Ecosystem Cliff. Moving fast.

A few of the RNA molecules up in front have been screaming information back into the Great Amoeba- "CLIFF!! CLIFF!! We're all going to die!!!" (mixing metaphors is like my fave.)

And Der Spiegel is reporting that the herd may be turning... and is now heading towards the cliff at only a 60° angle, instead of the previous 90°.

Yep; still going off the cliff. But I do think it's an improvement.

And once the herd starts to change direction, herd inertia loosens, and it is often possible for further change to come easier. For a while.

I know, I'm just a cock-eyed optimist. But complaining that a significant change is herd movement is inadequate may be truly missing the point.

The herd may be changing direction. Which may indicate all the screaming of eco alarmists may have actually reached ears.


Keep screaming. Or pushing on the iceberg, in my other metaphor. It's moving.

(hey, look, I didn't mention the krill.)

el gallinazo said...

@Over the illusion

"I advocate doing nothing."

Well, just don't advocate it too energetically or you may get yourself involved in a paradox :-)

Farmerod said...

El G

We considered relocating to CR a couple of years ago but opted for a 3 week stay on a very small coffee farm run by an ex-pat CDN. His place was at 800m south east of San Isidro so it was temperate weather most of the time.

One of the issues in the news then was the imminent US free trade agreement with the usual (valid) concerns about jobs.

IIRC, Intel has a big operation near San Jose and there was a fight to make sure they weren't just offshoring pollution.

Some of the ex-pats in the Nicoya Peninsula beach country were angry at sudden huge tax assessments that were based on the new, much higher property values. I have no idea what happened to that.

The (ironic lack of) water issue for hydro has already been mentioned; it was in the news 2 years ago and I don't know how long before that.

We opted not to relocate because we just thought the culture shock would be too much. But the subject of Costa Rica comes up a LOT in our household; everyone wants to go back for a visit.

I haven't contacted the owner of the coffee farm for a while but, at the time, he was thinking of selling the whole operation. He obviously wasn't making much money but his place would make a decent doomstead except for the flooding that, he says, seems to have gotten worse (destroys the small road and bridge that passes by). Let me know if you're interested in visiting.

Anonymous said...

@el gallinazo,

Read my post I just put up! Yes, you are right, it is a very delicate thing!

Greenpa said...

Over, and El-

Wooo! Way!


Chaos said...

El G,

We visited CR about 18 months ago and loved it. IMO, you are completely correct to consider the character of the nation; CR's literacy rate, birth rate, per capita income, and participatory democracy, along with the lack of standing military, make this country one of the few to consider. I also like the relatively long distance to the US, as it would tend to discourage the rampaging hordes.

Anonymous said...

El G,

Although, my husband and I have not visited Costa Rica, South Florida acquaintances who have lived in CR tell us that organic foods are readily available at farmers markets and grocery stores there. Apparently, CR's rich soil facilitates organic farming. I've heard the place is beautiful too, but in certain places there are too many obnoxious, rich, "bourgeois" Americans. I do love the fact that Costa Rica abolished its military in 1949, and that 25 percent of the land is conserved.

Best wishes for your visit.

jal said...

Darn it!
The economist and the forecasters got their projections wrong again.

The economy is not doing better.

They must have the most secure job in the world.

Wrong wrong and wrong again and still they get to keep their jobs.


z said...

Wooo! Way!

not just 无为 but 无为而无不为 wherein contains the recent "key discoveries" of the most advance branch of mathematics...

Anonymous said...

Over The Illusion,

Good post. Thank you for describing Wu Wei. :)

el gallinazo said...


Thanks for the feedback. (Same with Chaos.) I enjoy your posts and wish I had double checked my calculations when you warned us of the SDS / SH slow hole in the bucket.

I think that the coffee industry is toast (pun intended) in the new world order and wouldn't want to buy a coffee farm as I wouldn't want to pay the premium and would feel guilty as hell killing the trees to plant veggies and perhaps fruit and nut trees. But I would be interested in any more input you might give me about that locale. Privately, so we don't get Ilargi's dander ruffled.

Ironically, I was planning to go to Costa Rica originally when I first decided five years ago that I had to get off my pebble every year for at least six weeks or go stir crazy. But the only time I could leave was the height of hurricane season, and Mitch had just walloped Central America a year or two earlier. So I opted for Peru. No hurricanes - just devastating earthquakes. My city up in the Andes, Huaraz, lost half its population in May, 1970. Of course, Costa Rica has earthquakes **and** hurricanes.

Well, I gotta go somewhere, and hopefully I can stave off Paradise for a few more years, and I ain't going back to the USA for more than a visit unless Bozo the Clown's men in black frogmarch me back for imitating Darth Cheney's draft strategy in my youth :-)

el gallinazo said...

Ahimsa said..

"I've heard the place is beautiful too, but in certain places there are too many obnoxious, rich, "bourgeois" Americans."

Well, I'm just obnoxious. One out of three ain't bad.

Hombre said...

Over The Illusion - OK, I'll bite.

Do you eat?

Do you write, text, music, create anything?

Was the actions of, say, John Muir, S. B. Anthony, Ghandi,in vain?

Have you any obligations? Family, etc.?

gylangirl said...

Hm. Good post about the silliness of trying to paint with all the colors of the wind. If we could just let the wind do it and stop getting in the way.

We do need to find a way to coexist within nature. All species experience die off after an overshoot. You'd think our advnanced brains would have figured out that: pushing everything irresponsibly sexual in pop culture but also preventing birth control education and supressing women's rights to limit their own fertility leads to: overshoot. [I know I know, they do it to supress the wages and make more profit.]

@ gallinazo apropos today's posting, there's a permaculture training site in CR. That's where I'd go for a vacation if it were me. Certification in 2 weeks with a skill that will be useful wherever you go.

Pocohontas to John Smith
From Disney's "Pocahontas":

You think I'm an ignorant savage
And you've been so many places
I guess it must be so
But still I cannot see
If the savage one is me
How can there be so much that you don't know?
You don't know ...

You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

{gylangirl: Illargi says nope!}

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they're worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you'll never know
And you'll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you'll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind

Chaos said...

Re: Rich, obnoxious Americans in CR

I think the golf course crowd will go away, along with the depressing signs of "resort" development and tacky tourism we saw on our trip. My strong impression is that there are many areas of CR which are not subject to this phenomenon. Look up "Costa Rica Johns" on TOD; he's an inspiring poster child for this kind of stuff.

Gravity said...

A measure of wheat for a penny,
and three measures of barley
for a penny, and eight measures of wit for a ppm, and any measure for a geode or emmy; and see thou hurt not the toil of the swine.

Cash for quicksilver!

bluebird said...

This might be an event that could shatter people's confidence.

GM to shut down Saturn after Penske walks away

Anonymous said...

@Coy Ote

Of course I act.
But there is no actor.

I eat because my body tells me I am hungry. I write blogs because I see there is suffering.

Action is secondary, intention is the root.

I do not know if Ghandi or Muir had no actor, so I do not know if their actions were in vain. An action with no actor has no results so there is no gain or loss.

Gravity said...

Have you seen the recent re-make of
'The day the Earth stood still'?
Its not very good, inferior to the original in my opinion, but its message is somewhat more urgent and relevant.

"The problem isn't technology,
the problem is you."

Critics were somehow offended
by this delivery though, as its tone was too pessimistic for general consumption, automatically provoking more cognitive dissonance as a psychological defense mechanism against inconcievable truths.

Hombre said...

OT Illusion - I suspect you and John Woolman and the old Lenni Lenape would have appreciated sitting in silence together.

Bluebird - There was a time when the demise of Saturn would have ruffled some mental feathers in some folks but now I rather doubt it.

El Galileo - You sir, should write a regular publication with your large vocabulary and wit to match. But, keep posting here--it gives me a chuckle and a lift.

Windbow - Whether their work is in vain I will leave to those more atute, but I have appreciated their INTENTIONS very much, for a long time.

Taizui said...


One of your best posts! (new to me since I didn't start TAE till late 08)

We met in Asheville last month and I bought your book after your presentation.

I was pleased to see that you and Sharon list Ilargi and Stoneleigh in your acknowledgements. Also pleasantly amazed to find a remarkably TAE-like vision of the future expressed in your writing -- I was expecting a more mainstream publication, which is why it took me a few weeks to start reading it!

All TAE followers,
Aaron and Sharon Astyk recently coauthored "A Nation of Farmers." I'm about 1/3 through the book, but am impressed by their no-nonsense, let's get up and just do it message. An effective antidote for when TAE starts to get me down.

bluebird said...

CNN's Colleen McEdwards visits a metro Atlanta subdivision where residents'homes are surrounded by overgrown, vacant lots.

Zombie Subdivisions

Taizui said...

Illusion, Greenpa, Ahimsa,

Woo Way indeed! Did I stray too far from "acceptance" with my "just get up and do it" comment on Aaron's/Sharon's book? (even if it is about abandoning our finance-based lifestyles)

Hombre said...

More major shipping woes -

"Carrier unable to meet payments on $5 billion debt
CMA CGM reached agreement to establish a committee of French, European and international banks that will help it restructure its troubled balance sheet, the company said Tuesday.

The French carrier, the world’s third-largest container line by capacity, met with its creditors in Paris on Sept. 25 to ask for a moratorium on its debt. The group of banks, which includes major financial institutions from Asia and the Republic of Korea, discussed measures that CMA CGM said will ensure its “continuing development.”

Hombre said...

Taizui - Those two eloquent sodbusters (Aaron and Sharon Astyk) are pretty well known and admired around these parts... TAE. So you are right in the sweet spot of things with mention of them--no worries.

el gallinazo said...

The Woo Way or the path of Buddha are for those who wish to bail out of the wheel of karma and are buying a ticket on the Midnight Express to do it. It mixes poorly with American Idol and would be viable for a tiny fraction of a percent of Americans. Doing good works also gathers valuable credits toward graduation though a more pedestrian path.

Coy Ote - Thanks for the kind words.

jal said...

Zombie Subdivisions

Great place for a "tent city"!


ogardener said...

"When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money."
~ Cree prophecy

TAE Summary said...

* Cheap oil enables parasites; Polite parasites don't kill their hosts

* Iran is moving to the Euro; French shipper is deep in debt; Saturn to be phased out

* Disagree with my conclusions if you must but don't argue with my logic

* QE has been suspended because it is not a solution; QE was a hail Mary pass; Today's market dip is the edge of the abyss; If the S&P falls below 1000 it will be in the hundreds

* Overshoot leads to die off; Climate change is crap shoot; Monetizing nature is a bad thing (but could be worse)

* Should you paint with all the colors of the wind or leave that to the professionals? Pocahontas and John Smith had no actors - They were cartoons

* We can't fix things so doing nothing is the best we can do
- Seinfeld's razor: When confronted by two courses of action do nothing
- Doing nothing is a delicate balance between inaction and otiosity
- Malone's rule: Having no concept of good and bad is the best Wei to Wu women

* Naked zombie subdivisions in Atlanta; Woooo Wayy!

* The problem isn't technology, the problem is you

NZSanctuary said...

Wu wei:

Do less. If anyone has trouble understanding this concept and how it can be applied, a good example of it is Fukuoka's journey as he developed his no till farming method:

He basically looked at bits of traditional agricultural lore and said "What if I don't do that?", and began interfering less and less with the natural order of his farm. He still had to work hard, although not so hard as a traditional farmer, but the key concept was in continually doing less fixing/governing/interfering.

Ventriloquist said...

Every day,

In every way,

The comments thread

takes a new and different


Each of which

is the most

intriguing segue into

the next best way to view

life in general

and the specifics of life . . .


As has been said before,

Reality . . .

it is more than a concept.

Keep it up,

the intellectual bank here

surpasses far and away

the intellectual bank

of the Oligarchy and their minions.


John Hemingway said...

Excellent post, Ilargi:-)

Top Hat Cat said...

Seeing how the post today is about the 'worth' of the world, this U-tube from Club Orlov in reference to Jim Kunstler's 'Elephant in the Room' comment is perfect comic timing.

Ilargi said...


That thing is old...

But yes, popping up all over all of a sudden. Not for the easily offended.

Jim R said...

Thanks Ilargi, for that. It's what everybody's been talking about since the '70s -- well everybody who matters to me, anyway. Kunstler, John Michael Greer, Rachel Carson, John Muir, etc. Guess it's been longer than since the '70s.
my US¢2 ..

Reminds me of a story from North Austin here. (Mary is a dog nut, and we have um, a lot of little and not-so-little furry friends about the house) We were in bed one night and all heard the coyotes singing in the greenbelt out back. Sounded like they were having a party. Our dogs just quietly hunkered in the bedroom, their ears down.

So the next day I encountered our next door neighbor. They have a mastiff for a pet, really sweet boy but he isn't afraid of much. Liz said to me "Did you hear the coyotes last night?" and I replied "Yeah, they were having a good time weren't they." and she came back with "They were killing something out there, I just know it!" ... and she was afraid for her mastiff.

After a bit more conversation it was established that my neighbor has almost a religious fanatic's hatred of coyotes, and can't be convinced otherwise. And they are educated people, we would have thought they'd be more tolerant. Why do people move to these far suburbs and then want them to be something other than Texas hill country?

It's sad when the best solution is collapse, the more total and faster the better. Ugh.

In other news the Nikkei just lost a digit. It's sort of like being at Milliway's but without the escape vehicle :-o

Ian said...

My Take:

Why do a few walk away from a plane crash relatively unscathed? Why do some get swept away in tsunami, earthquake, flood, economic crisis, depression, inflation, random shooting - and others survive?

Will your plans, schemes, plots & devices save you from what’s coming?

And does it really matter?

With the greatest respect to TAE’s originators and respondents – for whom I have the greatest respect for their intelligence & integrity - are you perhaps missing the point?

Is there more to all of this than meets the eye?

Ian said...

I should have added that I've no religious affiliations what-so-ever.

APC said...

A question for Stoneleigh. A couple of days ago, you wrote:

"It's looking increasingly likely that the market has either topped already, or is very close to doing so. Hold on to your hats - it could be a wild ride."

I was wondering. What am I watching for? I follow the CAC 40 on euronext. Should I expect to see a massive selloff in one day? A small bleeding away a la .3% daily? How does this all playout?

Caith said...

FTSE has best three months ever.

Glennjeff said...

Congratulations Illargi, you appear to have completed one full circle, and have come back on yourself, isn't life strange, at least stranger than fiction.

I was thinking last night about putting some buddhist thought here and here it already is! I'm over the illusion as well.

The following is a really good resource on buddhism

Iran dropping the dollar and testing missiles eh, that's one way to proclaim "screw you Uncle Sam". Now Uncle Sam comes back upon himself to find a profound ugliness.

Noticed all the strife and natural disasters around the world recently, starting to look biblical to me. Not that I care for religious zealotry but heres a link,

A great comment thread today, THANKYOU.

Zaphod said...


Sometimes two walk away from a plane due solely to luck.

But in general those further back in the plane have better chances.

And those who ignore their luggage and plow over seats to get to the emergency exits live more often than those who "just have to" get their purse or luggage, or those who politely wait for them to do so.

Being aware, nimble, and having your priorities straight can make all the difference. Maybe not - sometimes your number just comes up - but you can bias the odds.

Bigelow said...

An 80s tune to characterize our specie’s predilections:
Tears For Fears

And Sh*t a more narrative version of current conundrums:
Fred tries to wake the sheep

Hombre said...

Ian - "Will your plans, schemes, plots & devices save you from what’s coming?"

No... but... 3 non-original points...

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

It's not the destination, it's the journey.

It's easier to walk a path without blinders.

bluebird said...

Ilargi - Thank you for reposting the intro. That is one of your best.

Anonymous said...



Voir l'article du 2 septembre, surtout le dernier graphique.


Greenpa said...

The Mac people here, like Elgae, will truly enjoy this:

PC people also.

And if you can stand aside from the hilarity, it's also highly valuable for gaining some insight into why reason can have nothing to do with herd movement; regardless of the intelligence of a specific krill.

Unknown said...

Interesting piece by Rolfe Winkler on Reuters:

Krugman and the pied pipers of debt

Some nice graphs

Greenpa said...

Ian: "Is there more to all of this than meets the eye?"

I've always preferred Calvin's response to Hobbes on this point.

Hobbes (as they wander alone in the woods:

"Do you believe in God?"

A panel of pause.

"Well, SOMEBODY'S out to get me."

Greenpa said...

Glennjeff: "I was thinking last night about putting some buddhist thought here and here it already is! "

Actually, the Woo-Woo Way is Dow ist.

Hombre said...

DYIer - "After a bit more conversation it was established that my neighbor has almost a religious fanatic's hatred of coyotes, and can't be convinced otherwise."

;-) Not this one I presume!

Seriously, isn't this part of your quote interesting, or rather, revealing...

"...a religious fanatic's hatred..."

Stoneleigh said...


I was wondering. What am I watching for? I follow the CAC 40 on euronext. Should I expect to see a massive selloff in one day? A small bleeding away a la .3% daily? How does this all playout?

Crashes don't happen at the beginning of moves, as positive feedback spirals don't work that way. Cascades or crashes typically happen later in a downward phase (third wave at several degrees of trend simultaneously for elliottwave afficionados), once some 'momentum' has built up. Large, but short-lived downward spikes are also typical at the end of downward moves, acting as a set up for a new rally. These patterns unfold at all degrees of trend at the same time, so you see larger and smaller versions of them.

A typical pattern early in a new downward trend would be a series of sharp downward moves, interspersed with choppy upward rallies, at quite small scale for the time being.

Greenpa said...

Speaking of earthquakes:

Here is the chain of my thought, really unchanged from decades ago, but nicely supported by that study-

The mostly granitic continents float on the mostly basalt crust of the earth. Float is exactly the right word; it's just that the bobbing and wandering happen slower than is immediately visible to us ephemera.

Now imagine a big bathtub, full of ice water- with substantial continents of ice, mostly in broken bits that are just slightly stuck together by surface tension, floating on top of it. The ice continents cover, oh, about 1/7th of the surface.

Everything bobs around pretty easily. Earth is exactly the same; only the time scales are different.

So, you let it get absolutely quiet; no ripples. Then- you lift out a chunk of ice, from one "continent".

Will everything else have to move, to find the new equilibrium?

What a silly question. Of course. No doubt. In the ice tub world, you would see the consequences of lifting out a chunk, all the way across the oceans, in a matter of seconds.

It's all connected. And the connections are elastic; not rigid.

So what do you suppose will happen in the real world, when some NINE CUBIC MILES of ice - per year, mind you- is removed from the Antarctic ice cap? And a proportionate amount from the Greenland cap? Etc.

What must happen, if you believe Physics, is the Antarctic continent will respond to the weight loss by floating higher. (And, incidentally, that 9 cubic miles/year is now in the ocean- adding weight to the water which floats on floating crust- which will have to find a new equilibrium...)

And the ripples from the disturbance- must- spread, throughout the entire tub. Stresses on all connections; all of them; will change.

Will some of them slip, suddenly?

They have to.

Which is why I have mentioned twice here the potential for large unexpected natural catastrophes to drive some of the coming changes.

The article in BBC states that they have now MEASURED a weakening in the San Andreas fault, specifically linked to the big tsunami generating earth slip in 2004; on the other side of the world.

Yep. Push one chunk of ice down; or lift one out- everything else has to move and rearrange. Has to. Yes, global climate change causes earthquakes.

Seriously; I do not recommend choosing a doomstead near major faults.

Greenpa said...

Oh; and:

Bigelow said...

“Because unless you truly believe that the stock market is its own isolated bubble, which many do, at some point cash from assets will have to support equity and debt valuations. And once the government cash funding vacuum pops, the market-economy divergence will also collapse. At that point, every dollar used by the government via stimulus and Federal Reserve pumps will have an equal and opposite effect on stocks, thereby throwing America not just into a debt funding crisis, but a complete economic and capital market tailspin. Alas, it appears impossible to prevent this, as the administration and the Federal Reserve Chairman are dead set on executing their inherently flawed experiment...and the American middle class.”
Albert Edwards On The Upcoming Economic "Abyss"

Unknown said...

Oops. The Dow just lost the last month's worth of gain in an hour. Perhaps the start of the next downturn. This is third sharp downward inflection in a week and a half, so momentum may be building for the wheels to come off this '09 bull trap.

el gallinazo said...

Coy Ote

In Buddhism and Hinduism, that final non-run for the non-goal posts involve what in modern scientific terms would be considered complete self-regulation of one's own brain activities. Other than following the path of harmlessness or ahimsa, the outside world becomes of little importance and distracting. People who can actually do this successfully are in their last stages of dwelling on the mortal coil. For the rest of us, its main importance is just knowing that it is possible and that a tiny minority of people in each generation succeed at it.


Re first stages of the equities market collapse. My take is that we would probably be seeing what we are now seeing. Days of 1% plus and then 1.5% minus, with a slow downward trend. The downward trend would gradually increase until there is a sudden rush for the exits which will mark the first of the "black" days. After that it will be three steps down and one step up, until the market temporarily stabilizes well below the last 666 low. Just my take. I think we are right now in the very first stages of the scenario I just outlined.

Glennjeff - re Iran

I think what we are seeing now is a quiet but intense battle between the neocons and the "realists" about bombing Iran. The obvious truth, regardless of the MSM blather and how one feels about fundamentalist Islam, is that Iran has done absolutely nothing legally wrong in following the NPT protocols. The Israelis want to start a war to maintain their nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. The US regards Iran starting to sell crude in Euros as a great provocation. The fact that the MSM is parroting this bullshit is an indication that the neocon/Israeli lobby is winning the battle. The realists know that bombing Iran will bring crude up to $300 a barrel, and don't realist the domestic results of this.

I think that the MSM should have a special Judith Miller award for which journalist can parrot the junta's propaganda most effectively. Or perhaps it should just be restricted to NY Times journalists.

Speaking of truth, for you truthers, don't miss David Ray Griffin's latest presentation - it is quite amazing in its clarity. The fund raising is quite moderate, so just listen through it.

Ilargi said...

New post up.

The Carcass of Mother Goose


Farmerod said...


(And, incidentally, that 9 cubic miles/year is now in the ocean- adding weight to the water which floats on floating crust- which will have to find a new equilibrium...)

I find that statement unintuitive.

Also, I meant to ask you about your hybrid is not a hybrid is a hybrid or words to that effect.

Jim R said...

Coy Ote,
You know, I thought Austin was supposed to be all progressive and stuff. And these neighbors are long-time Austinites, they are elementary school teachers. I thought they would have read that other Austinite's book, Voice of the Coyote by J Frank Dobie. </sigh>

Regarding the Fred video... youth is just wasted on the young, don'tcha think? I didn't know about Fred before today.

Anonymous said...

Greenpa @ 10:43

Thank you for saying it so well!

Fred Pearce's 2007 book "With Speed and Violence" mentions that oceans could rise in a matter of a few days through a worldwide tsunami after a tipping point has been reached.

One reason to move away from coastal regions.

goritsas said...

Ian said...

Is there more to all of this than meets the eye?

More faux profundity from the peanut gallery. Perhaps an equally important question might be: Is there less?

In any case, whatever philosophical credibility you felt deserving of was irretrievably dashed when you rushed to annotate your post with yet another post reassuring us you’re “not religious”. Makes your point entirely worthless. If your point can only be valid if you’re not religious, of what value is it to those that are?

Coy Ote said...

It's easier to walk a path without blinders.

If one is walking along a path blinders are incidental. Blinders do not impede progress as ones focus is upon the path. Not of the non-path. Blinders may improve ones progress under such conditions.

Greenpa said...

Farmerod said...

(And, incidentally, that 9 cubic miles/year is now in the ocean- adding weight to the water which floats on floating crust- which will have to find a new equilibrium...)

I find that statement unintuitive."

I know, you're right; very hard to visualize. But it does follow from believing in physics, and familiarity with plate tectonics. There are lots of plates and faults in the ocean floor, and if you pile more water on top of them- even a millimeter more- the stresses on the junctions MUST change. It's really tiny; but any non-zero force will eventually have visible effects.

"Also, I meant to ask you about your hybrid is not a hybrid is a hybrid or words to that effect."

:-) Actually, they were all "nots". I was adapting a moderately common phrasing, used to deny that X and x are the same. Probably derived from "a rose is a rose is a rose", which would make any rose enthusiast or breeder choke.

The word hybrid is used to denote so many wildly different genetic cases that it is largely useless to make generalizations about hybrids. And is well known among geneticists for generating utterly false understandings about how a specific type will behave. As was the present case.

Hombre said...

El G - "Other than following the path of harmlessness or ahimsa, the outside world becomes of little importance and distracting."

Yes, I remember as a young man studying many Eastern teachings, and trying to find some balance in the notion of reduction of "attachments" which would, said the teachings, lead to the reduction of "sufferings" etc.

I respect those who are seriously trying to find such a pacific mindset, but have found too many personal "attachments" in my own life. You know, spouse, kids, grandkids, a cold beer after a hot job!

So I like the word balance these days and try not to lean too far in any direction, nor get too involved with any ism, sect, or movement. Just be.

Hombre said...

goritsas - "Blinders do not impede progress as ones focus is upon the path."

Yes, I should have used the term blindfold rather than blinders, as that sometimes means only a block to peripheral vision.