Tropic of Chaos Review: Military Soothsayers

Chapter 2: Military Soothsayers

These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

General impression: This chapter takes a look at how the global Military Industrial Complex, which should include the private prison industry, is preparing for climate change by planning for war. And war is made virtually inevitable by the instability and deprivation from the wars of the 20th century, combined with the exploitation and extraction of material resources from Africa in particular. Once again, we are reminded that history never really stays in the past.

Soundtrack: Marti’s Last Stand, Enter the Haggis

Click here for lyrics.

What can we do in response to this? Learn, spread the word, keep reminding people that the companies that profit off of war and repression are constantly lobbying lawmakers to keep creating profits for them, be it through war, or increasing arrests. With the intentional chaos engulfing our government, it’s easy to lose track of problems that aren’t making a lot of noise, so it’s worth amplifying them. If minds can change on religion, they can change on other ideologies, so don’t view efforts to get the message across as pointless!

Imprisoning Our Kids for a Profit

The Case for Outlawing For-Profit Prisons

The True Cost: Why the Private Prison Industry is About so Much More Than Prisons

Big money behind war: the military-industrial complex

Defense Contractors Spend Millions to Overturn Limits on Military Spending

And now on to my thoughts on the chapter: [Read more…]

Ethical Black Hole: Fossil Fuel Interests Still Use Astroturfing to Subvert Democracy

I suppose one could argue this isn’t really “news”, since fossil fuel interests have been funding misinformation campaigns for decades. Still, every year they continue working to prevent a shift to renewable energy sources is another example of just how little they care about their fellow humans. From Climate Progress:

The paid actors, who played the role of civic-minded residents, held signs about the power plant project’s job-creating potential at New Orleans City Council meetings. Some of the actors also gave speeches in favor of the proposed Entergy New Orleans LLC power plant during the public comment period.

Roughly 50 people turned out to support a $210 million effort to build a power plant in the city during an October 2017 meeting. Several of them told the Lens, a local New Orleans news outlet, they were paid $60 to wear orange shirts. Others were paid more to speak in front of the city council members.

In a vote of 6-1, the New Orleans City Council in March ended up voting in favor of Entergy’s proposed power plant.

In my opinion, doing that should be illegal, and punished by banning any company or person trying it from all political spending or lobbying for a period of time. 5 years sounds good for a first offense.

Comparisons are regularly drawn between the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation campaign, and the tactics used by tobacco companies to hide that danger. I think that comparison is no longer fair to the tobacco lobby. Their kind of evil is global in scale, but small in scope. They profit from the destruction of individuals.

Companies and people who lie to the public about climate science while making money off of fossil fuels are profiting off of the destruction of civilization. Whether or not we end this century with an intact civilization, the world as we know it will be gone, and replaced with a less stable, more hostile one.

It’s hard to think of a greater crime against humanity.

Book Reviews: Tropic of Chaos, Chapter 1

Section 1: Last Call for Illusions

Chapter 1: Who killed Ekaru Loruman?

These book reviews are a way for me to think through what we know of the changes we expect in our climate, and how to respond to them. In particular, I’m focused on actions we can take now to support our future efforts towards a society run on progressive, secular humanist values. I’m new to book reviews, so let me know if you have questions or suggestions. If you want to read along with me, the book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, by Christian Parenti

General impression: This chapter lays out Christian Parenti’s expectations for the coming decades in stark detail. This is made more alarming by the fact that this book was written in 2011, and we’ve seen things unfold in a manner very much like what Parenti forecasts. As with so many other things, we have met the enemy, and he is us. The most urgent danger is not rising seas, or killer heatwaves, or destructive storms; the most urgent danger from climate change is how humans react to scarcity, crisis, and refugees.

Soundtrack: Screwed, Janelle Monaé (I promise this won’t all be her, it just kept running through my mind while I was working on this)

Click here for lyrics.

What can we do in response to this? The idea bouncing around in my head currently is something I like to call “prosocial prepping”. Build and maintain a store of food and water. Then, when something happens, you’ll have that ready to use for yourself, or to help your neighbors if they need it more, or even to ship to a part of the country that needs it. Of the problems we’re going to face, all but a fraction will center on problems of resource distribution and humans desperate to survive. To the degree that you are able, position yourself so you can help things go smoothly.

And now on to the chapter review: [Read more…]

If only greenhouse gasses were visible to the naked eye…

This isn’t new footage – the video is from 2016, and at least some of the footage in it is from 2015, but it’s useful to have clips like this handy, to help our monkey brains come to terms with solving an invisible problem.

(For those who can’t see or hear, the video shows Californian scrubland on a sunny day, with text-over saying that you can’t see the gas leak, but an infrared camera can. The image then goes to black and white, showing a dark plume of gas blotting out part of the sky. The text-over says that it’s methane, and goes on to explain that that particular leak put out 4.4 billion cubic feet of methane – enough to heat 70,000 homes for the winter – between its detection in October of 2015, and the making of the video four months later. It then talks about Methane’s properties as a greenhouse gas.)

Russia, China, and North Korea could hand Trump a second term.

This one’s been bouncing around in my head since Trump announced he was going to meet with Kim Jong Un. Whether or not the Trump administration is working directly with Russia, I think it’s clear by now that Putin has been putting a fair amount of effort toward bolstering his own regime by wearing down any place that seems to have it better. It also seems clear to me that this kind of activity works to the benefit of any other kind of autocratic regime, like the one in North Korea

And so we come to my fear – If Trump’s regime is good for domestic politics from the point of view of Putin and Kim, then it would be trivially easy for them, probably along with China, to effectively stage a massive success for Trump that even he couldn’t screw up. The official end of the “Korean Conflict”, normalization of relationships with Pyongyang, and a promise to behave (now that they have nukes), or even a promise to dispose of their nukes, could easily be enough to get another majority in the Electoral College, if not in the popular vote.

I have no idea how likely this scenario is, but it seems to be well within the realm of possibility, and I find that worrisome.

Istanbul (Not They Might Be Giants)

So I just had my mind blown, and felt a need to share it with the world. This is some serious shit here. It turns out that They Might Be Giants did not write the song Istanbul (Not Constantinople)!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the song, you can hear it here, and for those who need them, the lyrics are here. For all those who understand how crazy this is already, I would like to present to you the original Istanbul (Not Constantinople), by The Four Lads:

A new tool for creating better batteries

Any version of the future that includes the use of modern technology will need better batteries than we have today. Our current technology could support a lot more of our power grid than it does, but even if we could swap over to 100% renewable right now without any power storage problems, better batteries would still be a good thing. This article is not about a better battery design, though; it’s about how to find better materials for any battery that might be designed down the road.

[Read more…]