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The Carbon Crisis

February 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Kent Shifferd

Can We Fix Humanity’s ‘Biggest Mistake’ in Time?

by Kent Shifferd

The great release of carbon-based energy began in the second half of the eighteenth century, prompting the poet William Blake to coin his famous line about “England’s dark, satanic mills.” All history before that was characterized by an organic tool kit. Our technology was mostly biodegradable and not very powerful. Nature was strong — humanity was weak. I am not suggesting we want to revert to that relationship, but did we go in the right direction, and if not, what can we do about it now?

Why was the release of carbon energies humanity’s greatest mistake? The answer is simple; it has led to the severe damage to the biosphere we now see all around us. The biosphere, that thin zone of life that surrounds the earth like the skin on an apple, is the only place in this solar system that we can live and we are utterly dependent upon its natural processes. It provides oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and soil that produces all our food. As everyone knows, it is a vastly complicated, living web whose interconnections we will never fully understand. The release of carbon energy has made it possible for us to recklessly pull apart the strands. (more…)

Spoiler Alert

November 21, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Missy Beattie

Reality Is No Stranger to Fiction

by Missy Beattie

Laura and Erma had a solution for my anxiety. “We’re calling a moratorium on reading news articles after dinner. Start The Walking Dead.”

Pillow-propped in bed, I’ve watched the series on my laptop, via Netflix.

In two frenzied installments, I zipped through Season 1, saying, “Just a little more,” and I’d click another episode as soon as the previous ended, seduced by each cliffhanger ending. I finished Season 2 and then 3, ahead of Laura and Erma.

I had a couple of panic attack symptoms, racing heart for one, and had to talk myself down with, “This isn’t real.” I was without discretion. Because this horror story is frightfully entertaining. Plus, it is plump with metaphors. If you’ve seen The Walking Dead, now in its 4th season, you know this — all those existential questions of morality. (more…)

Food Mosaics

October 07, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos, Politics

UN Appeals for Urgent Agricultural Reform

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

I remember going to one of the preparatory meetings on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at the State Department. It was late 1978 and I represented Congressman Clarence Long (D-Md.).

There must have been at least forty federal bureaucrats around a huge wooden table in a large conference room. I asked them how many peasants they or the United Nations had invited to address the 1979 Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Conference in Rome. After all, who knows more about the pain of the peasants than peasants themselves?

The icy silence that followed my question was a reminder that this conference had nothing to do with food and agriculture or agrarian reform. It was rather a forum for the amusement of men and women from the North and the South who guarded the world’s food and agriculture. (more…)

A Sustainable Future

August 30, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Peter G. Cohen

Visions of a Post-Carbon World

by Peter G. Cohen

Surely one of the reasons that it is so difficult to achieve meaningful environmental legislation is that we don’t have a vision of a sustainable future. That’s understandable. For the last 250 years we’ve used coal and oil for energy rather than human and animal labor with great success. We’ve become dependent on carbon fuels. Coal and oil companies have spent millions to make sure that it stays that way. 

Coal has become the main source of electricity, which is so wonderfully clean and convenient that people can’t wait to get the latest electrical gadgets. Oil developed with the gasoline engine in cars, ships and planes. Now it is also essential for plastics and hundreds of chemicals. Gas was at first a lighting fuel and now can be used to heat homes and dinners, to power cars, electrical generators and factories.

These fossil fuels have been an enormous benefactor of mankind. We resist learning that by burning them we are destroying the climate that makes life possible. Furthermore, the big enemy, atmospheric CO2, is invisible. We can see smoke and soot, but not carbon dioxide or methane. They are invisible assailants. We must trust our scientists to read the signs of degrading earth and changing weather.  Everything that science has predicted about climate change is coming true, only at a faster rate than anticipated. (more…)

Looking … Seeing

August 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Missy Beattie

Reflections on the Health of Our World

by Missy Beattie

I saw the dime when I was running. I continued on and then circled back, picking up the coin to throw to the gods for an unselfish wish. I thought about the mythology, a ritual I usually associate with finding a penny.

Later, mid-afternoon, as I walked to the grocery, a disheveled man approached. “Can you spare a dime? I need something to eat,” he said. I started to tell him I’d tossed one on his behalf just hours before — that if my wish came true, he wouldn’t be hungry. No one would.

I thought it was clever — to ask only for a dime. He smelled like stale beer. But so what? Around 4:00, I’d have a drink. Maybe two. And possibly smell like stale Prosecco later.

Tucked between finding that dime and encountering the hungry man, a floor expert was in my apartment. Because… (more…)

Extreme Whether

July 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Ecology

New Play Highlights Challenges of Climate Change 

by David Swanson

When my dad, Neil, goes to rallies against the tar sands pipeline, people rush up to him and thank him for everything he’s doing. They don’t actually have any idea what a great guy my dad is. It’s just that his Scandinavian face looks a lot like James Hansen’s.

Extreme WhetherSo, I already had a weird sort of family relationship to Hansen, whom I’ve never met, before I read Extreme Whether, a new play by the brilliant Karen Malpede that tells a personal story of Hansen in which everything is also political.

Hansen, of course, is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an outspoken advocate for putting a halt to global warming. Hansen warned Congress in the 1980s, revealed government deception in the 2000s, and has been speaking the truth, even more bluntly, if possible — and getting arrested for it — in recent years.

“Several times in Earth’s long history,” Hansen says, “rapid global warming of several degrees occurred.… In each case more than half of plant and animal species went extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world that we inherited from our elders.… And if you melt all the ice, sea levels will go up two hundred and fifty feet … producing a different planet.” (more…)

Fascinating Hypocrisy

July 08, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Missy Beattie, Politics

Like Love Notes from a Charlatan…

by Missy Beattie

I should unsubscribe to Organizing for Action (OFA) — a group supporting the election of Democrats, but I won’t, because I’m mining data from the obscenely insincere. The emails open with a clever ploy, use of the familiar, my given name. It’s almost intimate. Some are signed “Barack”. Here’s one, minus a few sentences:

Missy –

My administration is taking steps to cut carbon pollution, prepare our nation for the unavoidable impact of climate change, and put America’s best and brightest to work to solve this issue on a global scale.

One thing we know is we’ll face a well-organized and well-financed opposition by the special interests that profit from keeping things the way they are — and there are members of Congress who fundamentally deny the science on this issue.

I need to know you’ll fight alongside me. Say you will. [Subliminal, using the title of a love song.] (more…)


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