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I can't count how many times over the past nine months that I've been told by colleagues, friends, acquaintances and random strangers who've found my e-mail address that the greatest crisis facing America - and the world - is the economy. Inevitably, whatever a political conversation takes as a starting point, it winds up focusing on wage stagnation, job losses, home foreclosures and bankruptcies. And then on to government bailouts, government rescues and other examples of "lemon socialism." Which is a hoary euphemism for privatizing profit and socializing loss, the underlying philosophy of practically every free marketeer on the planet since the 16th Century.

As noted in a survey last month by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, only a minority of Americans consider the environment and global warming top priorities, while more than 80 percent say the economy and jobs are. At one level, that is perfectly understandable. For many people, "the environment" is a frill, but a job is not, unless you're among the most affluent. Ultimately, however, that's short-term thinking because the economy and the environment are not separate entities.  

Tom Engelhardt took a gloomy look at the situation Thursday in his piece, Is Economic Recovery Even Possible on a Planet Headed for Environmental Collapse?

Northern California, in fact, offers a glimpse of the havoc that the extreme weather conditions scientists associate with climate change could cause, especially when combined with other crises. In a Los Angeles Timesinterview, new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu offered an eye-popping warning (of a sort top government officials simply don't give) about what a global-warming future might hold in store for California, his home state. Interviewer Jim Tankersley summed up Chu's thoughts this way:

"California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not act to slow the advance of global warming... In a worst case... up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital to agriculture. 'I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,' [Chu] said. 'We're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California.' And, he added, 'I don't actually see how they can keep their cities going' either."

As for East Africa and the Horn of Africa, under the pressure of rising temperatures, drought has become a tenacious long-term visitor. For East Africa, the drought years of 2005-2006 were particularly horrific and now Kenya, with the region's biggest economy, a country recently wracked by political disorder and ethnic violence, is experiencing crop failures. An estimated 10 million Kenyans may face hunger, even starvation, this year in the wake of a poor harvest, lack of rainfall, and rising food prices; if you include the drought-plagued Horn of Africa, 20 million people may be endangered, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. ...

If, indeed, this is "the big one," and does result in a "lost decade" or more, here's what I wonder: Could the sort of "recovery" that everyone assumes lies just over a recessive or depressive horizon not be there? What if our lost decade lasts long enough to meet an environmental crisis involving extreme weather -- drought and flood, hurricanes, typhoons, and firestorms of unprecedented magnitude -- possibly in some of the breadbasket regions of the planet? What will happen if the rising fuel prices likely to come with the beginning of any economic "recovery" were to meet the soaring food prices of environmental disaster? What kind of human tsunami might that result in? ...

Maybe the world we knew but scarce months ago is already, in some sense, long gone. What if, after a lost decade, we were to find ourselves living on another planet?

As Engelhardt himself concedes, he's no eco-expert, just a persistent student at Google U. But there are experts who take a similar point of view. As I always feel compelled to say at this point, read the entire piece for the full impact.

• • • • • •

Here are a couple of tonight's rescued Green Diaries. The rest come after the fold.

Susanna Murley reports that the EPA to regulate CO2, or How coal plants die: "In the death throes of the Bush administration, then-EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson put the agency on record stating that CO2 is not a pollutant that should be regulated by the Clean Air Act.  This week, the current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson announced her intent to overturn that memorandum, putting the EPA on the path toward regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. As a result of this decision, coal plants are dropping like flies. The latest victim comes out of Oklahoma."

WattHead probes the Economic Stimulus, Clean Energy and the Scale of Our Challenge: Grading Stimulus Energy Investments: "The stimulus directs more than $80 billion to start the construction of a new, national clean energy infrastructure.  Many are hailing this clean energy investment as unprecedented, which in the context of the last thirty years of neglected energy priorities is undoubtedly true.  But with all those billions thrown about, it's hard to get a grasp on the scale of this investment.  What does $80 billion really mean in the context of the 21st century United States energy system?"

• • • • • •

[The Overnight News Digest is posted and includes the story, Unchecked economic growth imperils Amazon: study]

Gangster Octopus has good news for Watthead and writes Creating Jobs, Improving Infrastructure, Greening Energy: The Stimulus Is Already Working: "The Bonneville Power Authority today announced that, thanks to the Stimulus Bill, it can go ahead and build a planned $246 million 500 kV tranmission line in the Pacific Northwest. This project will employ up to 700 people at its peak and will allow access to 700 MW of new wind production when it comes online in 2012. Got that. Jobs ...check. Infrastructure improvement ... check. Green energy ... check.

terryhallinan turns the slogan around in Drill Baby Drill! For a Clean, Safe Energy Future: The Haynesville shale in Texas and Louisiana is very deep with bottomhole temperatures averaging over 300° F. Even North and South Dakota have hot aquifers that may be usable for geothermal power. The problem is that because of political deadlock we haven't even been looking for geothermal resources outside of California until recently. "Haven't looked much in California either actually."

I Support The Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse (Pics) explains CornSyrupAwareness: "It was discovered that there is no earmark for mice in the bill. Where did they even get this from?  Congress Matters does a great job of covering all the posturing about the mice earmark. Who reads these bills for these wingnut thespians?"

akmk asks Will Obama/Harper discuss caribou/salmon?: "As an Alaksan, I love my Canadian neighbors. The concept of Obama and [Prime Minister] Harper actually discussing the importance of healthy caribou herds and healthy salmon populations is about as endearing as any concept I've heard discussed lately. ... Yukon Premier Dennis Fenti has urged Mr. Harper to raise the subject with Mr. Obama to ensure that both countries ‘are being very vigilant in making sure that all terms and conditions of those agreements are being met by both parties.’"

Awaskow reports that Old King Coal is a Lethal old soul: protest in DC, March 2: "From The Shalom Center's perspective, Old King Coal is one of the archetypal "pharaohs" of our generation, bringing oppression on human beings and "plagues" upon the earth. (Mercury poisoning of children, destroying the mountains of West Virginia, pouring climate-shattering CO2 into the earth's atmosphere.) If you are in or can get to Washington, I hope you will feel yourselves called to take part in the protest, one way or another."

OrangeClouds115 cheats a bit with her headline Chicago Tribune Hires Jeff Gannon: "The Chicago Tribune printed an identical op ed by the Center for Consumer Freedom: Gourmet Activists: Food For Thought. CCF is a corporate front group who opposes Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the guy from the UN who won the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Al Gore. Why is the Trib printing their op eds - especially when the op eds are full of lies. There are two important things a reader of this op end should know. One is the background of the Center for Consumer Freedom. Once you know that, the ‘facts’ cited in the op ed are almost secondary, but just for the sake of setting the record straight, the second are the real facts and how they stack up against the fake ones that CCF likes to use."

Navy v. Oregon: EIS - Depleted Uranium is in the Details is Planet Waves’s Diary on a letter written to the Navy: "Carol Van Strum is the author of A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights a book documenting the use of Agent Orange in the Pacific Northwest. She has written exposes on chlorine and dioxin contamination in feminine hygiene products for Greenpeace, as well as book reviews on environmental, history and children's books for the Washington Post, USA Today and the New York Times. Below is a letter by Carol, responding to the Navy's Environmental Impact Statement on its proposed expansion of the Northwest Weapons Training Range Complex (NWTRC) along the Pacific NW Coast, where she lives."

LaughingPlanet explains Why you should care about the CA budget debacle: "The hostage crisis staged by Abel Maldonado (R- Santa Maria) resulted in the 11th-hour elimination of 12 cent/gallon gas tax from the budget. In a state that drives more than any other state (besides Texas), this was an environmental catastrophe."

NNadir's Diaries are almost impossible to capsulize in a single excerpt, but here's one from his Highly Radioactive Ground Water (2000X Background) Found In Mideast. Oh. Oh: "If you look, you will find that the chief external cost of nuclear energy is considered to be the decay of uranium in used nuclear fuel into radium - a process that literally takes billions of years. What's more - this uranium would have decayed over billions of years even if nuclear energy had not been discovered by people like Neils Bohr. It has always decayed in precisely this way since the formation of the earth."

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 09:04 PM PST.


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