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The Coming Collapse of Agriculture & Human Survival

By Michael Haughey May 27, 2014 Adding to the Global Warming tipping points already passed, are a few really big ones that may lie just ahead.  These events could occur

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The Promise of GMOs: An End to World Hunger

By Michael D. Haughey, January 24, 2013 In the beginning they were not called GMOs.  They were the promise of a better world through genetic engineering.  Oh sure, there were

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The Democratic Experiment in the United States is Over – The Landmark Supreme Court Decision

The landmark case of “Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission”, in a 5-4 decision split between the Reactionary Right-Wing judges and the Conservative Judges, overturned long-standing precedents in deciding that corporations have the same right to use their own money to fund campaign ads as individuals. In all likelihood, the democratic experiment in the United States is all but over. The final descent has begun.

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Public Option – Red Hering

don’t believe the lies about single-payer not being politically realistic. That is politician-speak for what they really fear – they are afraid of losing their substantial health industry lobbyist campaign donations. The more they say it is “politically unrealistic”, the more we know they are afraid because it really is possible

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Open Letter to the Denver Post regarding Vincent Carroll’s article, “Public TV and the Truthers”

the articles fail to meet the Posts’s own published ethical standards for journalism such as the requirements of intellectual honesty, to present all sides, to be fair and even-handed, and to avoid loaded phrasing

The Coming Collapse of Agriculture & Human Survival

By Michael Haughey

May 27, 2014

Adding to the Global Warming tipping points already passed, are a few really big ones that may lie just ahead.  These events could occur before 2040, and quite possibly much sooner, and could be followed quickly by the collapse of the world agriculture system.  One tipping point already passed is the change in the Jet Stream.  We have been seeing the effects of global warming in extreme weather events for quite a few years now.  The reason is even understood to a sufficient degree to lead to further concern.  That is not the subject of this brief article, but suffice it to say that one component is the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the planet, and that has changed the jet stream.  The jet stream changes have resulted in/contributed to extreme weather events.  The more worrisome of the tipping points already passed is that methane under the Arctic Ocean in the shallow waters off the coast of Eastern Siberia has warmed to the extent that huge frozen deposits are now melting and have melted.  I’ll discuss some of the details of that in another article.  The methane release that is occurring now will have a warming effect on earth that is not yet in the IPCC models.  Thus the dire predictions of the just-released IPCC report may turn out to be miniscule compared to what is about to happen.

Related to the methane currently being released is a really big tipping point: it is very likely that there will be a large release of methane from the already melted deposits below the sea surface.  A number of events could disturb these deposits and cause a large release.  A small example of this occurred as a result of a Magnitude 5.3 earthquake on February 20, 2014 under the Arctic Ocean that raised atmospheric methane levels about 25% even down the east and west coasts of Greenland.  Subsequent earthquakes have occurred along the same fault (Gakkel Ridge) including on April 13 and April 22, 2014.  A larger event (earthquake or underwater volcano) is possible that could in just a few days increase the average methane in the Earth’s atmosphere world-wide by a factor of ten.

Another event that will likely occur soon is the total summer collapse of the Arctic ice.  If the predicted El Nino materializes this summer, this could be the year.  Each such event increases global warming resulting in a positive feedback.  In short order there would be runaway global warming at a rather fast pace – unstoppable.

When the scientists state that the collapse of agriculture is in the cards, I’m not sure there is a good general understanding amongst the populations of Earth of what that means.  The increasing cycles of drought, fire, and floods will result in some areas no longer being able to support agriculture.  In time perhaps outdoor agriculture may become impossible everywhere.  This means almost no food for 7 billion people (or more) on planet Earth.  Your imagination can take it from there.  The resulting conflicts, disease, malnutrition, and eventual near-extinction of the human race could become mind-bogglingly catastrophic and horrid.

The point has already been passed where global warming becomes unstoppable.  The current pace of global warming is relatively slow compared to what is likely after a big tipping point is passed.  In either scenario – rapid runaway global warming or present path runaway global warming – we humans have a decision to make collectively.  Humans should have made that decision decades ago, but didn’t.  Plenty of leaders and scientists tried, but to no avail.  The decision is whether to party to the end, or do something about it.  If your decision is to party to the end, then you should be content with how little humans have done so far.  If you believe there must be a way for humanity to survive, then we have a lot of work to do.

The present path runaway global warming is still expected to lead to collapse of localized farming and the movement of arable zones toward the North and South Poles.  In that path, the transition to more indoor agriculture can be slower.   However, the possibility of a rapid transition means we need to be prepared or risk civilization itself.

A lot needs to change, and it will require a lot of “money”.  So the first order of business is to address how to pay for all the needed changes.  Really it is quite simple.  The “hippies” had it right in the 60’s and 70’s – it IS the system.  More specifically, it is the world-wide monetary system whereby most money is now created as debt out of thin air (debt-based money issued by privately owned central banks) which is at the heart of that system.  Since money is issued as debt when loans are made, there is no money in the system to pay the interest on that loan until more and more loans are made in a never-ending upward spiral of debt.  Humans have certain frailties, and one is a weakness for collecting power and wealth even beyond any possible necessity or practical use.  There are a sufficient number amongst us who are sufficiently sociopathic that they will amass wealth and power no matter who is hurt in the process.  They will not even understand that others are being hurt.  A system that rewards this behavior ultimately leads to where we are now – with a huge gap between the uber-wealthy and the rest of us.  We can re-distribute that wealth all we want, and if that system remains in place, a new set of uber-wealthy will emerge and the cycle will repeat forever.

The inherent problem with regard to global warming is that money can’t be spent without incurring incredible debt and that prevents the solution from happening at anywhere near the necessary pace.  The first step in the effort to prepare for runaway global warming is to abolish money as debt in almost all instances (and eliminate central banks) and have governments issue debt-free fiat money and spend it into economies interest-free at the rate that provides full employment without inflation.  Within this new system, economic systems, including regulated capitalism, can create more than enough private wealth for everyone to live comfortably.  Now that money is available to be spent into the economy, communities and governments can decide what projects should be financed.  This is where we come to being able to pay for what is needed to allow humans to survive the coming collapse of agriculture.  In this new system, money becomes simply the hard work of all of us – labor becomes capital.  The only limit to money supply is the available labor.  Money becomes what is should be – merely a medium of exchange and a representation of value.  If two people have labor, time, and talent to devote to a service or product, they have inherent capital that they can trade using the fiat money as a medium of exchange.  Most attempts to make it more complicated than that are often attempts to obfuscate the transaction and take advantage in an unscrupulous manner.  When the government uses debt-free fiat money to pay person A to make Product A, Person A now has money to pay Person B for Product B.  The money is now circulating in the economy and will continue to do so as long as people have time, labor, or talent available.

Scientists probably have a reasonable concept of what Earth will look like after the collapse of agriculture and well into the worst of global warming.  By that I mean temperatures, humidity, storms, and other weather factors.  A prudent approach, therefore, would be to design our buildings and food production systems to be compatible with that future.  If we don’t, we are done.  Growing food outdoors (on farms and in fields) may become nearly impossible with the wild swings from drought to floods.  But we know a lot about growing food in greenhouses and using hydroponics.  We can also build buildings that can withstand the weather and function fully on renewable energy.  The logical course of action, therefore, is to prepare our society and our buildings for indoor food production.  Greenhouses may need to be strengthened in some areas to withstand extreme weather.  Hydroponics will help maximize the use of indoor or protected growing areas.  Renewable energy can power it all, helping to eventually limit the severity of Global Warming in the future.

Another effect of Global Warming will be sea level rise.  It is necessary to prepare for rising oceans in where and how we construct buildings and cities.  We know that all the frozen water on the planet, once melted, would raise oceans by about 220 to 250 feet.  Therefore building within about 300 feet vertically of present sea level should stop, and higher than that in areas subject to possible Tsunami’s.  Building within the 220 ft to 300 ft zone could be achieved if necessary by applying more rigorous construction standards.  Anything below that zone needs a plan for eventual relocation or demolition and recycling.  The timeframe for this transition is not well understood.  The IPCC estimates keep getting higher, but are still in the range of only a few meters by the year 2100.  The models that informed the IPCC, however, do not include any poorly understood or recently learned inputs.  Since that includes the big tipping points just over the horizon, we can be confident that the sea level rise predictions are too low.  That means that the plans for transition of populations away from sea coasts will need a degree of schedule flexibility to accommodate much more rapid sea level rise.

The increase in severe weather and the oscillation between drought and flood will have a negative impact on water quality.  There will be plenty of water somewhere, but it will come in muddy and heavily polluted bursts (floods) in violent storms.  We will need to capture and clean that water.  In some places that will simply be too difficult and those places may end up abandoned.

Since fossil fuel burning is the root cause of the present global warming and also of the worsening of global warming, a rapid conversion to renewable energy, and not nuclear, must be achieved.  Without the burdens of the present debt-money system, this will be much easier to accomplish.  Fossil fuels should not be burned for energy ever – or at least only in extreme circumstances.

We need to focus our attention on buildings, greenhouses, and hydroponics in terms of survivability for a large population of humans – eventually perhaps over 7 billion humans.  Building codes can be changed to allow and even require spaces for indoor hydroponics and greenhouses.  Water can be recycled within buildings using biological filters (basically doing what wetlands do naturally).  Structures, in some areas at least, may need to be very strong to withstand future weather.  Structures will need to last a long time as we may have great difficulty in the future finding and processing the materials to make them.  The present speculative cheap-building trend probably cannot continue, and fortunately will not be necessary under the new money system described above.

Transportation is another topic, however there are still options.  Mass transit will help, organizing communities so that living spaces are closer to work spaces will help, and cars can be made to last longer and be more efficient and to run on other fuels – be they electric or bio-fuel powered.

In Summary, we must first change the monetary system before we can prepare for the full effects of Global warming.  The magnitude of necessary preparations for the coming collapse of agriculture cannot be achieved until we change to a monetary system that can pay the costs without adding the further burden of debt and interest payments.  It should be obvious even from the light sketches above that the necessary changes and adaptations are monstrous and will require all our efforts and creativity.

 

Recommended reading:

I recommend the following books to learn about the diabolical ways that the uber-wealthy have taken control of the monetary system for their own benefit.  The uber-wealthy will stop at nothing as they continue to extract more and more of the fruits of our labor and enslave us to satisfy their greed.

 

“Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown

 

Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth about Our Money System and How We Can Break Free

And

 

“The Shock doctrine” by Naomi Kline

 

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

The Promise of GMOs: An End to World Hunger

By Michael D. Haughey, January 24, 2013

In the beginning they were not called GMOs.  They were the promise of a better world through genetic engineering.  Oh sure, there were doubters and skeptics – aren’t there always?

The ability to engineer crops to increase yields, increase nutrient content,  increase resistance to insects and disease – this was the promise, and the hope and expectation of the world.

Now we call them GMOs – for Genetically Modified Organisms.  According to Wikipedia, scientists first noticed in 1946 that genes can transfer between organisms.  It wasn’t until 1983 that the first genetically modified plant was engineered: an anti-biotic resistant tobacco plant.  In 1992 the first genetically modified tomato was approved by the FDA according to Food and Water Watch.  It was engineered to ripen after it was picked to accommodate the long transport time from field to market.  We now have about 20 years of experience with GMOs in our food supply.  Has it been a success?

This topic is huge.  This article will therefore only skim the surface, yet hopefully provide enough references to facilitate further information-gathering.

The Science – how are GMOs made?

It was a mystery for quite some time.  How did they actually get the genes from one species into another?  We envisioned tiny little scientists in white lab coats with ultra tiny instruments inserting genes into cells while somehow inside an incredible microscope, and then getting the cells to multiply on a mass-production scale.  Or maybe that was just me.

That is not how it is done.  I’m not really sure how they do it – still a bit like magic.  Sometimes they use a bacteria or a virus to infect another organism (in an unnatural way).  Another method has been described as more like using a shotgun to spray genetic material from one organism into another organism in the hopes of creating a useful mutation.  Tiny particles of Tungsten are coated with the genetic material and “shot”  into the target organism.  The result is a bit random.  Through a long, long, long series of trial and error, eventually they get a result that is somehow useful.

As you might expect, there are other mutations in the resultant organism in addition to the useful mutation.  As I understand it there are about 3 billion genes in a typical chromosome, so the scientists cannot be expected to understand all the possible interactions.

The Primary types

The GMO food on the market today consists primarily of two types of GMOs.

Glyphosate resistant plants are one type.  Glyphosate is Roundup, a product of Monsanto with a multi-billion dollar market.  Another category name for these plants is “Roundup ready”.  Roundup is used for weed control.  The idea is that you can spray Roundup on the crop and only the weeds will die.  Glyphosate partially works by essentially chelating nutrients and minerals out of the food of the organism that feeds on it, the target being weeds.  They weaken and die.  The process has also been described as unleashing a systemic poison preventing the formation of essential amino acids.  It appears that both are true.  The chelation may occur primarily in the root zone.  Chelation is basically binding to target molecules, and the Glyphosate binds to micronutrients and minerals in the soil.  Once bound, they are no longer available to the plant.  One effect is that the chelated nutrients are also not available to other plants in the root zone.  Other plants that are not the target weeds are thus affected, and as these chemicals wash further into the environment, the effect spreads.

Bt infused crops are the other primary type.  Bt is a bacteria that is an insecticide.  In these plants the bacteria Bt has been genetically inserted (using the shotgun approach) and the result is a plant that has a built-in insecticide.  The plants themselves are toxic (theoretically only to insects).

There are eight GM food crops. The five major varieties—soy, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar beets—have bacterial genes inserted, which allow the plants to survive an otherwise deadly dose of weed killer. Farmers use considerably more herbicides on these GM crops and so the food has higher herbicide residues. About 68% of GM crops are herbicide tolerant.

According to How Stuff Works:

“Glyphosate-based herbicides all work on the same biochemical principle — they inhibit a specific enzyme that plants need in order to grow. The specific enzyme is called EPSP synthase. Without that enzyme, plants are unable to produce other proteins essential to growth, so they yellow and die over the course of several days or weeks. A majority of plants use this same enzyme, so almost all plants succumb to Roundup.” 

And ResponsibileTechnology.org says:

“The second GM trait is a built-in pesticide, found in GM corn and cotton. A gene from the soil bacterium called Bt (for Bacillus thuringiensis) is inserted into the plant’s DNA, where it secretes the insect-killing Bt-toxin in every cell. About 19% of GM crops produce their own pesticide. Another 13% produce a pesticide and are herbicide tolerant.”    

The Bt toxin dissolve in the high pH insect gut and become active. The toxins then attack the gut cells of the insect, punching holes in the lining. The Bt spores spills out of the gut and germinate in the insect causing death within a couple days.

The same process is suspected in humans.  The cells of intestinal lining become perforated and leak undigested food into the bloodstream.  The industry claims that natural Bt is common and not harmful, which is itself a questionable claim.  However GM Bt is genetically modified and therefore is not the same as the natural varieties.

What actually happened

It turns out that GMO crops can have a good first year, maybe two, although generally not even that.  Then the yields decline.  The primary reason is that weeds and insects mutate on their own (natural evolution) and become resistant.

For the Roundup ready GMOs more and more Roundup has to be sprayed on the plants each year and even with that the yields still decline because the weeds become more resistant.

For the Bt resistant crops, the effect is not 100% and pesticides still have to be used.  Bt bacteria secrete a toxin that is harmful to insects.  Very quickly the insects become more and more resistant and pesticide use has to be increased.

The result is that in just a few years the GMO crops need far more herbicides and pesticides than the non-GMO crops.

Whereas sustainable non-GMO agricultural methods used in developing countries have conclusively resulted in yield increases of 79% and higher, GMOs do not, on average, increase yields at all. This was evident in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2009 report Failure to Yield – the definitive study to date on GM crops and yield.

Mega-Corporatization of GMOs

There is really big money in GMOs.  By now you have heard the reports of farmers being sued by Monsanto because their crops contain GMO seeds patented and copyrighted by Monsanto.  Monsanto generally wins these cases, except one or two recent cases, even though the GMOs got into the farmers field because the wind carried them there from someone else’s GMO crop fields.

We can get an idea of how big the market, and thus how strong the economic and political forces, by looking at the penetration of the agriculture market already by GM crops.  ResponsibileTechnology.org (and others) provide this data:

Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres).

That has to be huge – at least in the $billions.  Given the current Mega-Corporation culture where outright lying and buying elections and politicians seems to be accepted, is it any wonder that huge obstacles are in the way of information getting out and protections for the consumer and environment being enacted?

The tide may be turning slightly, if only for a moment, as consumers and organic farmers fight back.  “This past spring a lawsuit was filed against Monsanto, preemptively seeking legal relief from the strong-arm tactics for which the firm has become famous.”

Environmental impacts

The claim of Monsanto and others is that GMOs are harmless and that Roundup biodegrades in a very short time.  The claim is that should the herbicide come into contact with the soil, over time it breaks down into harmless carbon dioxide and nitrogen.  Supposedly that is s=due to the natural Bt that is already present in the soil.  That may only be true of overspray that lands on the ground.  Roundup that gets into the soil, perhaps having been transported there by the sprayed crops, may be another matter entirely.   Not all of it biodegrades.  It still gets into the environment through the air and waterways and kills other species.

The Bt toxin similarly kills or weakens other organisms.  Note this passage on the Rachel Carson Council website:

“There is a common understanding that the widely used herbicide, glyphosate is easily degraded and adsorbed in soils and thus, harmless for use in agriculture. We can demonstrate, however, that this conclusion is wrong and dangerous for farmers because in former risk assessments the behavior of glyphosate in the rhizosphere was not properly considered. In… experiments we can show that foliar applied glyphosate to target plants is released in the rhizosphere after a fast translocation from shoots to roots. In the rhizosphere glyphosate can ….achieve negative results on non-target plants. Such a negative side effect is for example, inhibited acquisition of micronutrients such as Mn, Zn, Fe and B, which are involved in plant disease resistance mechanisms. … We predict an increase in disease problems, particularly on soils with low micronutrient availability as already reported in the USA. In view of plant and soil health, we urgently call for a re-assessment of glyphosate “ (Neumann, 2006)

I had to look up “rhizosphere”.  It is a microecological zone in direct proximity of plant  Another definition is:  “The soil zone that surrounds and is influenced by the roots of plants.”

The poisoning of the rhizosphere is just the beginning.  Almost all the corn in Mexico is now contaminated with GMO thanks to Monsanto and from seeds that have blown in the wind and pollinated non-GMO crops in spite of Mexico’s efforts to keep GMOs out of their country.  Weeds and insects are evolving to be more resistant to the sprays used, so more poison is needed.  For a place to learn more, The Institute for Responsible Technology is a good place to start.

Human health impacts

It is important to recognize that, just as with insects, some humans are more resistant to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs than others.  Some of us are canaries in the coal mine.

Just because something biodegrades doesn’t mean that it becomes less harmful or that all of it bio-degrades.  One study found glyphosate in the urine of ALL samples tested.  As an example of biodegrading but remaining harmful, DDT metabolizes in the human body within 6 months into DDE which is just as harmful.  DDE has a half-life of 20 to 30 years.  After 6 months the DDT cannot be detected by normal testing, but the DDE can.  Since DDE is also in the sprays, it is difficult if not impossible to know how much of the DDE was originally DDT.

Roundup sprayed crops do contain roundup residue.  You just can’t wash off 100% of the stuff.  Since it travels from the leaves to the root zone, one can deduce that it is also in the plant itself, at least for a time.  Thus when we eat it we get the residue on the leaves, the part in transit to the root zone, and whatever soil comes with the plant when it is harvested.

In humans, the glyphosate can chelate minerals and nutrients out of your body just like it does in the root zones of plants, making you weaker and more susceptible to disease and allergies.

Bt crops still contain small amounts of Bt toxin.  We eat them and over time they accumulate in our bodies.

In humans, the Bt toxin can make the stomach lining porous which releases undigested food into your blood stream.  Since your immune defense system has never seen food in this undigested form, it attacks, which is the very definition of an allergic response.  People are commonly becoming allergic to more and more foods that previously never caused allergic reactions.

How do you know if YOU have Bt toxin or the Bt gene in your system?  I tried to find out for myself, and I could not find any test.  After some research it seems that testing for the Bt gene or toxin in humans has been done once, at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec, Canada for a research project.  So here is the catch 22:  this incredible poison that has the potential, indeed the probability to infect bacteria in your intestines so that they produce the Bt toxin, has been unleashed upon us in our food supply and there is no test!  Not only does the GMO industry, the government, and the medical community tell us that it is safe and cannot transfer into mammals – let alone humans – but there is no test to prove that they are right or wrong.  At the very, very least our government(s) should not allow such a poison to be unleashed upon us until there is a test!.  There are, however, studies and mounting evidence that in fact the Bt toxin IS in our systems.

As reported in NaturalNews.com, “The physicians at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec, Canada discovered Bt-toxin in 93 percent of 30 pregnant women, 80 percent of umbilical cord blood of their babies and 67 percent of 39 women who were not pregnant. Considering Bt-toxin is linked with cancer, autism, severe food allergies and autoimmune disease, these findings are downright frightening.

93% of pregnant women?  That extrapolates to meaning that it is in just about all of us.

What can you do?

First and foremost, DO NOT eat any of the 8 primary GMO crops unless they are certified organic.

corn,

soybeans,

canola,

cottonseed,

sugar beets,

papaya from China, or Hawaii (most)

zucchini and yellow squash,

alfalfa

OR any animal products (unless organic).  Remember that animals eat this stuff as feeds tock, especially corn and alfalfa.

GM alfalfa is fed to livestock.

That is just the 8 primary crops – there are others (some potatoes, etc.).

Don’t trust “All Natural” labels.  That is now meaningless and often used to market products that contain GMOs.

Look for the Non-GMO Project Seal on products.

Sugar: If a non-organic product made in North America lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT “pure cane sugar”), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.  Don’t buy it, don’t eat it.

Dairy products may be from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. If it’s not labeled Organic, or Non-GMO Project Verified, DON’T EAT IT.  Also look for labels stating No rbGH, No rbST, or no artificial hormones.

Use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Visit NonGMOShoppingGuide.com to see a complete list of Non-GMO products available from each brand in this guide or use the ShopNoGMO App on your iPhone—available for free at the iTunes store.

Watch the film Genetic Roulette – can be watched free on the responsibletechnology.org website.  This is one of the better documentaries on GMOs and leaves a visceral impression of why avoiding GMOs is a necessity.

Join the increasing number of voices who are saying NO to GMOs.

Eat organic.  Become an organic vegan.  Become an organic Raw-Foodist.  Move to another planet.

Join the class-action lawsuit against Conagra for lying to us with the “natural” labels.  “the law firm suing ConAgra, Milberg LLC, is asking people who feel as though they’ve been deceived by natural labels on GMO foods to submit their claims on its website. As part of the basis for the lawsuit, the firm cites numerous studies that show nearly everyone in the U.S. wants GMO ingredients to be labeled on foods.”

This may be the most important of all.  The next time you visit  your doctor, insist on a blood test for the gene “Bt Cry1Ab toxin”.  Don’t take no for an answer even  though you know there is no test.  It is important that the test be for this particular gene, not the Bt gene that was inserted into the crops initially.  The original gene changes in the plants and the GMO industry like to test for that in their crops and then say “see – it is not there”.  If enough of us demand the test, that could create a market for one of the testing companies.  Once there is a test available to all of us and not just in research laboratories (it has to be an accurate test), then knowledge should spread.  And knowledge is power.

Closing Thoughts

The expectation of a hunger-free world through the magic of genetic engineering has not come to pass.  Instead more of a Frankenfood has been unleashed upon us and the world now has literally a fight for its life.  The sooner we get rid of GMOs the better.  That is not to say that in the future the scientists will not learn how to make GMOs that are safe, but that time, if it ever comes, (and if the Human race lasts that long) is a long way off.

We canaries had given our warning.  Stay GMO-Free.  Fight back.  Your health, your life, may depend on it.

Suggested Reading and informative documentaries:

Genetic Roulette (DVD – see above)

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

The World According to Monsanto (Book)

   

The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of Our Food Supply


 

 

 

 

 

Food Inc.

   

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It


 

 

 

 

 

More to come…

 

The Democratic Experiment in the United States is Over – The Landmark Supreme Court Decision

By Michael Haughey, Updated:  January 21, 2010

We no longer have a fight to save our democracy.  We now have a long struggle to restore it.  In the interest of accuracy, we might acknowledge that we never really had a democracy.  Thom Hartmann likes to describe it as (and this is my recollection, not a direct quote) a constitutionally protected, democratically elected, representative republic.  Whatever we call it, it is near the end.

 

Thom Hartmann is the author of “Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights”, in which he says that the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394) did not actually grant corporate personhood, and that the supposed granting of corporate personhood derives from a mistaken interpretation of a Supreme Court clerk’s notes.

 

It now seems certain that conditions in the United States, for most people, will get far worse long before we see any improvement.  The landmark case of “Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission”, in a 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010 split between the Reactionary Right-Wing judges and the Conservative Judges, overturned long-standing precedents in deciding that corporations have the same right to use their own money to fund campaign ads as individuals.  It also overturned portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.  As laws are challenged and overturned based on this mis-interpretation of the U. S. Constitution, corporations will be able to spend unlimited general funds on elections.  That includes multi-national mega-corporations and foreign corporations that have a “presence” in the United States.  In essence, corporations, including foreign corporations, will be able to buy elections in the United States.  The power this represents is immense and it seems unlikely that what remains of democracy in the United States will be able to withstand the assault that is coming.  Corporations have been buying elections and politicians for quite some time to a large but limited degree.  They have also succeeded in having much of our commons privatized.  All of that will now accelerate.  While we will be saying that we can fight this and win, in reality our chances are bleak.  This merging of corporate power and the government is the underlying force of Fascism.  Now we are essentially there.  To learn what lies in our future, we can look at lessons from the past.  The Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, and Mussolini’s Italy all come to mind.  

 

This path has been paved over a long time.  Two important landmarks along that journey were the judicial errors that corporations are persons and the more recent decision that money equals free speech.  That set the stage for this declaration that money cannot be limited in elections because it is free speech, and that corporations can exercise that kind of free speech without financial limitations.

 

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that “the Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether.”  Therein lies the miniscule opportunity to do something about this.  The disclaimers can be like the warnings in the advertisements for your favorite pharmaceutical on TV.  Those seem to be mostly ignored.  The disclosures may end up requiring identification of those responsible for the ad; however over time their immense power will get those rules eliminated as well.

 

In all likelihood, the democratic experiment in the United States is all but over.  The final descent has begun.  What will likely follow is collapse of the United States itself.  After that who knows.  Given the immense military power of the United States, the end could be brutal.  What, indeed, will survive?  What power will rise to the top of that primordial soup? 

 

Sugested additional reading

“Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights” by Thom Hartmann

  

 

Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became “”People”” — and How You Can Fight Back


 

 

 

 

Public Option – Red Hering

By Michael Haughey, October 26, 2009

Beware the Public Option – it is a Red Hering.  The purpose is to convince us that we are getting meaningful reform.  It is a Red Hering that will distract us from real reform.  Remember – Insurance is the problem, therefore a “Public Option” for insurance leaves unresolved the primary problem.  It won’t seriously reduce cost or provide health care for all.  In short, it will give us a program that will disappoint anyone with expectations of “change we can believe in”.  The insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will then proclaim – with their million-dollar-a-day advertising campaigns – that the “public option” is a failure and convince the weak-kneed politicians to go back to the old system – obscene profit for all insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

 

In a single-payer system there is still the option to buy additional non-profit health insurance.  That is the case in all countries with a single payer or universal health care system.  If you are uncomfortable with the single-payer system, you can thus add some insurance coverage. 

 

In order to significantly reduce costs (by 30% and more) and provide significant improvement in health care delivery, two things are paramount.  First, the cost of insurance bureaucracy and excessive profits must be eliminated from basic health care.  That is the cost part.  Second, health care decisions must be taken out of the hands of bureaucrats and accountants and over-paid executives and put back into the hands of health care professionals.  The public options do neither.  They promise cost reduction by “healthy competition”, while requiring everyone to buy health insurance – thus handing over 40 million new customers to the health insurance industry.  That is a Red Hering – surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.  They promise no “prior condition exclusions”, yet do nothing to limit how much insurance companies can charge in premiums for persons with “prior conditions”.  Again – a Red Hering surely written by the health insurance lobbyists.

 

The biggest Red Hering is the fake debate over cost containment – the claim that they need to meet the President’s maximum cost of $900 billion.  They prey on the public fear of taxes by focusing on avoiding tax increases to “pay” for the “public option”.  They thereby avoid the discussion of the real solution – a single payer system that eliminates insurance payments and replaces them with taxpayer funded payments that leave all the insurance bureaucracy and excessive executive payments eliminated – for a likely savings of over 30%.  Anyone who passed high school math should be able to figure out that if you subtract your and your employers health insurance payments and then add in taxes that are 30% less – the result is a 30% savings.  How stupid do they think we are?

 

Finally – don’t believe the lies about single-payer not being politically realistic.  That is politician-speak for what they really fear – they are afraid of losing their substantial health industry lobbyist campaign donations.  The more they say it is “politically unrealistic”, the more we know they are afraid because it really is possible.

 

What to do?  A few things come to mind, and others have many more ideas.  First – insist on a public debate in Congress of Single Payer.  Make them discuss it in full view of the American public.  Then make them vote and go on record for or against Single Payer.  Any who vote against it – vote them out next election.  Similarly, lets force a debate on finally getting money out of politics and don’t let up until it happens.  The government belongs to the people, and the people should pay for it – not the lobbyists.  All funding of government, especially elections, by we the people.  All of it – and all of it completely transparent (in the open).  How to get there?  One way to start is to vote for candidates not yet bought out by the lobbyists.  Right now they are mostly in 3rd parties.  You know – the ones you’ve never heard of because they have no money.  But there are a few in the major political parties who have kept their ethics at a high level and worked for their true constituents (instead of the lobbyists interests).  Dennis Kucinich and Bernie sanders come to mind, and I’m sure there are a few others.

 

Again – beware of Red Herrings and gimmicks.  Term limits are interestingly most supported by the party not in the majority, and then lengthening (extension) of term limits supported by the same folks when they do have a majority.  If it sounds too easy – too good to be true – it probably is.  There are no simple solutions like term limits.  We must learn about our candidates – do the hard work, make them answer questions and call them on it when they weasel. 

 

Finally, make our voices heard.  Phone calls to congress-persons, letters, e-mails, letters to the editor, start your own web site (like this one), demonstrations – do all you can in your own way.

 

Open Letter to the Denver Post regarding Vincent Carroll’s article, “Public TV and the Truthers”

To Mr. Dan Haley

October 8, 2009

Denver Post Editorial Page Editor

 

Since we have not heard back from you after sending this letter, and after several phone calls to which you have not responded, we have chosen to publish our letter as an open letter.

 

You are the person who chooses which editorials are printed in the Denver Post, thus we write with the following observation, complaint, and request for a face-to-face discussion:

 

With Vincent Carroll’s article, “Public TV and the Truthers”, this is the third time within a few weeks of which we are aware that the Denver Post has treated the thousands of citizens of this country (and around the world) who work for a new and real investigation into 9/11 with contempt and ridicule.

 

Besides Mr. Carroll’s article, there was Joanne Ostrow’s article, “KBDI pushes limits on controversial pledge tie-ins”,  and even Mike Littwin gave a hostile jab saying the “truthers”  are more weird than the “birthers”.

 

As shown below, the articles fail to meet the Posts’s own published ethical standards for journalism such as the requirements of intellectual honesty, to present all sides, to be fair and even-handed, and to avoid loaded phrasing.  None of the authors has attempted to present any facts or a reasoned analysis for their dismissal of these citizens.  They instead have all stooped to ad hominem attacks, displaying a striking and perplexing lack of curiosity as to why a new investigation is supported by 45% of American citizens (2006 Zogby poll).  Thus, the overall tone of each piece is that of propaganda and not news or journalism.

 

Besides ignoring the evidence and facts which sustain this growing worldwide movement (see postscript below for a number of examples), you are also failing to inform your readers about the four mothers from New Jersey who were widowed on September 11th (aka “the Jersey girls”) who went to Washington and waged a battle with the Bush administration to bring about the original 9/11 Commission.  Those widows, who merely sought accountability and answers, ultimately concluded that the Commission served to cover up the issues rather than address them.  They are now supporting the voter petition that has been signed by 80,000 New York City residents to put the issue on the ballot this November (see nyccan.org ) and create a new 9/11 investigation in New York.  You are completely missing this human interest story.

 

In reviewing the ethics guidelines of the Denver Post, we were surprised to find these sentences (emphasis added):

As journalists, we seek the truth and strive to present a responsible and fair glimpse of the world.  Our power must be used responsibly. The newspaper is our powerful vehicle, and we endeavor to face the public with respect and candor.

Our power must be used responsibly. Our notebooks and cameras are tickets into people’s lives, sacred worlds and complex institutions.

Our job is to intensely scrutinize the activities of others as watchdogs that challenge authority and give voice to the voiceless. Our own actions should withstand equally intense scrutiny. We should be transparent.

Transparency is won through accuracy, compassion, intellectual honesty and an introspective mission to convey complete, contextual views of our world.

Our goal is to begin and end each day with a primary obligation to the public’s right to know.

With every ethical scar, we threaten a delicate relationship with readers. Ethical breaches violate hard-earned trust and shatter our credibility.

The constant tension of demanding a better society, while still living in it, is an obligation of a passionate and compassionate journalist.

Ethics is the constant process of examining and drawing these lines. It is a communal effort, and we should hold each other accountable in the protection of our values.

Nailing our stories can be as simple as phoning three people – or as grueling as spending months chiseling away the nonessential, the rumor, the red herrings.

Our aim is to deliver the facts with precision and context.

We believe in getting not only both sides, but “all” sides.

A strong sense of fair play must imbue our writing, accurately reflecting motives of sources. The tone and language of stories must be even-handed and avoid loaded phrasing.

Mr. Haley, how we agree with these ethical standards!  But we submit that each point in this list has been ignored by these authors and thus by the Denver Post, thereby violating its ethical standards. The writers have been anything but the “watchdogs that challenge authority”.  The 45% of Americans who believe we should have a new and real investigation, and the citizens who have devoted themselves to educating the public about the extensive evidence showing that we have not been told the truth about what happened on 9/11 have been rendered “voiceless” in the Denver Post.  Finally, a “strong sense of fair play” has not imbued the writing of these authors, and most obviously, “all sides” are not being heard in this important debate.

With frustration, yet in the spirit of respectfully holding “each other accountable”, we suggest that we have a face-to-face meeting to determine how we can work together to help the Denver Post regain its moral high ground expressed so eloquently in the ethical guidelines on your website.  We suggest that we include as many of the above-mentioned columnists as possible, and we would like to include from our group a journalism major, an engineer, and an attorney who are very interested in meeting with you to discuss this situation.

To consider the possibility that we have not been told the truth about 9/11 takes courage, as it involves a paradigm shift that threatens our worldview. Yet the evidence and history will bear out that the paradigm shift is necessary to conform to present reality.  We invite you to do what Martin Luther King advised:  “do not what is politic or expedient, but do what is right”.

We are an educational organization, and our intent is not a confrontation, but a sincere mutual outreach to get to know each other and discuss this civilly.

Yours truly,

Colorado 9/11 Visibility

Michael Anderson

Tim Boyle, Software Support Manager

Jon Fox, Major, USMC (retired), Captain Continental Airlines (retired)

Michael D. Haughey, P.E.

Marti Hopper, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

Dorothy Lorig, MA, National Certified Counselor

Gregg Roberts, Co-author, “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe”, Associate Editor, AE911Truth.org, 911Research.com

Simone Schellen, M.Ed.

Frances Shure,  Licensed Professional Counselor

Earl Staelin, Attorney

Michael Wolsey, visibility911.com

P.S:  Here are a few examples of the evidence and facts which fully justify the search for what happened on 9/11 and the movement for a real investigation and accountability:

1) Three WTC buildings collapsed in a manner that was unprecedented in the history of steel-frame buildings (except by controlled demolition).  The 47-story WTC 7 collapsed that day, even though it was not hit by a plane, and had a few relatively small, isolated fires. The government’s top investigative engineers (NIST) have agreed that the collapse exhibited precisely freefall acceleration for more than 100 feet.  Freefall means nothing is supporting the structure that is falling.

Even though NIST concluded that the twin WTC towers fell in 11 and 9 seconds, essentially free fall speed, a more careful researcher, David Chandler, has measured the acceleration of the North Tower for several seconds of its “collapse” and found it to be approximately 2/3 of freefall. But it is the constancy and symmetry of this downward acceleration that causes more than 900 architects and engineers  to call for a new and full investigation of 9/11 and the building collapses.

They agree that the only reasonable interpretation of these facts is that the underlying structure of all three buildings was removed by explosives. There is no known alternative explanation, and NIST does not offer one. They simply admitted these facts and then refused to investigate the possibility that controlled demolition was used to bring down the WTC buildings.  The 9/11 Commission never mentioned WTC 7.

2) No tall steel building has ever collapsed due to fire, even much worse and longer fires than those on 9/11.  There are many examples of this.

3) Nanothermite, a powerful military explosive, was found in abundance in all four independently collected samples of WTC dust.

4) General Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, with close ties to the CIA, had $100,000 wired to Mohammed Atta a week before 9/11, and then met with high-ranking Bush administration officials in Washington in the week leading up to 9/11.  The 9/11 Commission refused to investigate these facts and failed to report them in its official report.

5) Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation on 9/11, testified to facts suggesting that Vice President Cheney ordered an air defense stand-down on 9/11. Other witnesses corroborate that a stand-down order came from the highest levels of the White House.

6) The government has refused to release any of the 85 videos that would show exactly what hit the Pentagon, and seized all private such videos within minutes after 9/11.

7)  Rex Tomb, Chief of Investigative Publicity for the FBI, when asked why there is no mention of 9/11 on Bin Laden’s Most Wanted web page, said: “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11”.

8.) The failure of the 9/11 Commission:

The chairs of the Commission have stated “We were set up to fail”.

Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, wrote the Bush administration’s preemptive war doctrine, a fact he failed to disclose to the Commission before his selection, and according to Phillip Shenon of the New YorkTimes, he wrote an outline of the Commission’s proposed findings before the investigation had begun.

60% of the 9/11 commissioners have publicly stated that the government agreed not to tell the truth about 9/11 and that the Pentagon was engaged in deliberate deception about their response to the attack.

In August 2006, in the Washington Post, John Farmer, senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, stated: “I was shocked how different the truth was from the way it was described…”  The (NORAD Air Defense) tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years…”.

Max Cleland,former Senator from Georgia, resigned from the 9/11 Commission, stating: “It is a national scandal. This investigation is now compromised. One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9/11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up.”

Several top commissioners suspected such serious deception that they considered referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

Over 25% of the footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report refer to information obtained through torture making it highly unreliable and inadmissible in a court of law.

Blue Cross Democrats Ignore the People

By Michael Haughey, Updated:  August 1, 2009

I attended one of the many Democratic health care caucuses this week. I expected (silly me) an open discussion of health care options. Instead, there was a tight agenda of presentations with very little time for the attendees to voice their opinion. So we voiced our opinion in the guise of questions for the presenters.

The main presentation was well done, as far as it went. However there was absolutely no mention of single-payer. The audience had to bring that up in the Q & A.  Then there was to be a straw poll between the House and Senate approaches to health care reform (for what purpose it is hard to tell). Once again, the audience insisted that if there was to be a “poll”, single payer must be a choice.. But no – single payer was only allowed to be a separate question that IF it were an option, how many would prefer it. The count for that was announced as 95% for single-payer.

It does make one wonder how far is the reach of the lobbying from the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and related industries for the one option that can work to be so fiercely resisted even by our supposed representatives who were elected on the very platform of achieving single-payer.

It gets worse, of course. The versions of health care reform that are coming out of the congressional committees are clearly being written by the health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. How do we know this? Look at the REQUIREMENT for everyone to buy health insurance or face a fine. That is blatant marketing by the government for the insurance companies, with the added penalties if you don’t comply. Government run by corporations. Isn’t that fascism? They claim to have subsidies and exceptions for “poor” people, but look closely at that. The current versions of the plans seem to set that level using low income levels set by the Federal government (Federal Poverty Level). We were told the Federal Poverty Level is $10,400. So lets get this straight – if you are just above that level, you are required to buy insurance, as at last check, that insurance will cost nearly as much or even more than that total income of $10,400 (per person). Is that per person? Or per family? The numbers are absurd. There was also a claim that if the insurance costs more than 10% of your income (and I think that more than 100% does qualify as more than 10%), there might be some subsidies. The subsidies were not explained, however it probably means that the money comes out of our taxes for the subsidies. So our taxes essentially go straight to the insurance companies. But they claim they are not raising taxes, so that means something else important will be cut, and no doubt privatized.

All these plans seem designed to fail so that the insurance companies can say “see”, we told you that a public option won’t work. Hopefully the public is smart enough to see through that and demand single-payer.

The bottom line is that single payer (more specifically Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care with no insurance company involvement in basic care) is the only plan that will work for “we the people”. So lets make it clear to our elected “representatives” that we will accept no less and it must be done now. Further, lets be adults about it and pay for it with tax increases knowing full well that those taxes will be 30% to 50% less than what we are now paying the insurance companies.

 

Living Buildings – The Human Analogy

By Michael Haughey, September 23, 2003

Introduction: This article is an excerpt from presentations by Michael D. Haughey, P.E., to the Colorado Chapter of the US Green Building Council at the “Fall Greening Conference”, on September 23, 2003; and the keynote address to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers) at their annual Technical Conference on September 25, 2004, and to other groups. It is a subset of the concept of Integrated Design. Those presentations began with background material about the need for extreme energy use efficiency and sustainability in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. Those concepts will be discussed in other articles. This article begins at the question:  “What does the future hold for building energy efficiency and sustainability”.  Some explanatory material has been added to broaden the article to be suitable for a general audience.

Many excellent and noble concepts have been developed over time to address the question of how to make buildings more energy efficient. A concept that gained momentum during the introduction of direct digital control systems (modern computer controls) in the 1970’s and 1980’s was that of Intelligent Buildings. It was thought that by now buildings would be learning from how occupants used their building and anticipating and adjusting to their needs. Prototypes were installed and there seemed to be momentum building. However, good old fashioned economics would not be overcome. While some controls are sold as “intelligent building controls”, in reality they are not. The market place continued to demand lower and lower costs. Meanwhile the coming energy crises looms and global warming and climate change are already happening.

An Intelligent Building, as originally conceived, would need a number of components. It would need sensors to tell it what is happening throughout the building as well as in the exterior environment. These would include temperature, dew point (or humidity), concentrations of various gasses such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, concentrations of various pollutants such as nitrous oxides and ozone and excessive levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and sensors to know how many occupants were in the building and where and their level of activity. There would be mini-computer programs, or algorithms, to compare what the sensors were reading to the levels that the occupants desire. Other computer programs would learn from how the building reacts to changes in building use as well as external weather changes. A historical database would contain information about weather and the information gained from the learning program. Predictive logic would take all of this information and use it to predict how the building will respond to changes in both use and weather, and that would feed into programs to adjust the building systems to accommodate those changes. All of this would result in an automatic response to the occupants needs.

The concept of “Integrated Design” has also been gaining momentum. Traditionally, an architect would develop concept designs in response to the owners requirements for a building. Once developed, those design would be given to the engineers to add their systems to the design. While the architect does have a good idea of what typical systems, such as heating, cooling, and lighting systems, will need in terms of space and other accommodations, it remained common for there to be surprises that led to less than optimal results. The concept of Integrated Design brings all stakeholders together from the beginning. Not only are the engineers involved in the concept design phases, but the future building occupants as well as the nearby community are often involved as well. In this way the systems can be integrated into the building design from the start and have the benefit of the perspective of a wider variety of eyes. While economics still preclude this from truly occurring in many if not most designs, it is becoming more widely accepted. Combining Intelligent Building concepts with Integrated Design concepts paves the way for Living Buildings.

I believe that Living Buildings are now the ultimate goal, depending, of course, on how “Living Buildings” are defined and implemented. In many cases, they will be able to take advantage of and optimize the earlier concepts of Intelligent Building Design. The Living Building concept is simply that the building itself becomes essentially a living entity responding to the environment and the needs of the occupants in an energy-efficient and sustainable manner. The components of the building begin to take on multiple roles. Where heating and cooling systems were once completely separate systems attached to and hidden within the building structure, now we would be designing building components, such as walls and windows, to BE the heating and cooling system.

To see how this might work, I like to use the “Human Analogy”. The building acts like the biological systems of the human body – one derivation of the term “Living Buildings”. A number of examples can be envisioned:

The human body sweats to remove heat – a building can use evaporative cooling systems and roof sprays
The human body constricts exterior blood vessels to increase insulation – a building needs a variable insulation system
The human body dilates blood vessels to pump heat to the exterior for efficient heat removal – buildings can do the same
The human lungs clean and filter the air we breath – the building mechanical systems filter and clean the air, and can do a better job with available technology

Windows and other openings provide light and self-adjust as needed

Window glass changes shading characteristics as heat or light needs change, or as the brightness of daylight (sunlight, direct or indirect) changes
Physical shading devices adjust themselves automatically to provide cooling (or really, avoidance of heating)

The building becomes the mechanical system:

The building mass stores heat or cool from night to day and vice versa
Natural ventilation – stack effect – provides ventilation: cross ventilation and wind towers are some of the concepts already in use
Fresh air is tempered through ground heat exchangers as well as by being passed through rows of plants
The building “sweats” to help remove heat (roof sprays and vegetated walls)

The building becomes the electrical system:

PV (photovoltaic) circuitry built into the building exterior provides electricity from the sun
Natural ventilation and wind towers coupled with wind turbines also generate electricity

If you think of buildings acting like the human body, and then expand the thoughts to other living systems, there opens up a vast array of ideas and possibilities. We will then also be using “biomimickry” to design buildings. What ideas can you think of?

The Challenge is partially to develop new technologies, however many of these technologies already exist. The larger challenge is to apply the technologies and concepts economically and to integrate capital, utility cost (operations), and productivity budgets. Many government entities, such as school systems, are plagued by the requirement to keep capital and operating budgets completely separate. Thus capital can’t be spent to reduce operating costs through energy savings.

A significant advantage to a well-designed Living Building, also true of a well-designed sustainable building, is that it can be inherently more comfortable and a healthier place for humans. Comfort and health in turn can lead to increases in productivity. Think for a moment how fast you work when you are hot and uncomfortable and your lungs hurt from breathing fumes vs. being cool and breathing fresh air while being bathed in a light breeze. Try to put a percentage to how much slower you move when you are trying to keep cool in a hot environment. Now we can take a peak at the numbers. A 1% productivity improvement when converted to salaries and overhead costs is about equal to the annual energy budget for a typical building. How does that compare to your estimate?

A word of caution is in order. In the interest of saving energy, some building designs count too much on the occupants accepting a lesser level of thermal comfort, yet the sales pitch for the building includes the anticipated productivity improvements. However, if the building is less comfortable, it is likely that the anticipated productivity improvements will not occur. We must be realistic in assessing what is comfortable and recognize that each individual person is different. Therefore one of the most important features of an Intelligent Living Building is the ability to adapt to the requirements of each occupant without excessively increasing energy consumption. Clearly there is much work to be done in this area.

There remains much to be done in developing the overall concepts as well. New technologies need to be developed and implemented. Technologies need to become smarter yet simpler to use. And unfortunately we are running out of time. There is an urgent need to achieve Intelligent, Living Buildings. If you doubt that we still have a long way to go, ask your local or favorite architect or engineer to describe the latest “Intelligent Living Building” project they have worked on. If you get more than a blank stare, or a denial of the concept, then look at the building yourself and see if you agree that it is truly an effective Intelligent Living Building (built in an environment that really requires a building to protect occupants from the environment, that is to say not in Hawaii).

Finally, to put some perspective into where we are now in terms of efficient building systems, here are a few examples.

Lights can now be controlled to change their output in response to daylight using photocells. Lights can also be turned on and off depending on whether people are in the room using motion detectors of infrared technology. Heating, cooling, and ventilation systems can be controlled in coordination with the lighting systems to use les or no energy when occupants are not present. Task lighting (lights on individual desks for example) can be used to dramatically reduce the overall light energy used in a space, keeping the general light levels much lower.

A number of efficient technologies are also available. Direct and indirect evaporative cooling systems can be effective in some climates and combined with mechanical technologies in intermediate climates. Ground Source heat Pumps can use the earth to store heating and cooling energy and thereby dramatically improve the system energy use efficiency. Variable speed motors are used for pumps and fans to save energy at conditions that are less than full load. High efficiency motors, as well as high efficiency boilers and chillers are also in use now.

Heat recovery systems are in use in a wide variety of applications to take waste heat or “cool” and recycle it back into the system to save energy. Natural ventilation can be integrated using controls to provide cooling when available and automatically (or manually) turn itself off when mechanical cooling is needed (or the converse – turn off the mechanical cooling when natural ventilation is in use).

Do you recognize any of these technologies from the building where you work?

The list of current technologies goes on, and the future list of Living Building Technologies will hopefully be a long one as well.

I expect that in the future architects, owners, engineers, and occupants will work together to “engineer” buildings as active, “living” systems that put more energy back into the grid than they use and also help to clean the air and water in the nearby communities. Countering the effects of climate change and peak oil demands no less.

Suggested Reading:

Biomimicry

 

 

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature


 

 

Passive Building Controls

 

 

The Building Environment: Active and Passive Control Systems


 

 

 

Predictive Building Controls

 

 

Predictive Optimal Control of Active and Passive Building Thermal Storage Inventory.


 

 

 

Smart Buildings

 

 

Smart Buildings Systems for Architects, Owners and Builders


 

 

 

More to come

 

Paying For Single Payer

By Michael Haughey, July 11, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion on Capitol Hill this week about how to pay for the “Public Option”. First of all, we want Single Payer, not a “Public Option” run by insurance companies. Second, the question is absurd. But before we get right to the explanation, I must request that politicians do something so that they may hear and understand. I will now speak directly to the politicians (most of them). There is a hand in your pocket. It belongs to a lobbyist for the insurance industry. I want to reach down, grab that hand, and yank it out of your pocket. You see, after that hand deposits money in your “pocket”, or really, makes threats about removing support from your next campaign, it grabs onto your “little brain” and squeezes. The result is a loss of blood to your “little brain”, you know, the one you think with most of the time. Don’t act dumb (no act required, I know), your actions belie the fact that you are in fact thinking with your “little brain”. Now – get away from the hand and let the blood return. Give it an hour.

Ready? Here it is. We pay insurance companies for “health Insurance” now. That’s right – we, the common people, actually pay for our health insurance, that is if we can afford it at all. For this example, lets say that I am paying $600 per month. To the insurance company. Now lets put in place Universal Public-Funded Single-Payer User-Selected Provider Basic Health Care with absolutely no insurance industry involvement whatsoever in basic care. Then I would pay less than $420 after eliminating the 30% plus that insurance companies and the paperwork cost us. I would pay the $420 as taxes to the government, who would be the “single payer”. Now I know math isn’t as important to politicians as it was when I went to school, but try to follow this. $600 minus $420 equals $180, which is how much my cost has been reduced. That’s right – I would be paying less. The Single Payer program would be paid for by $420 of the $600 that I used to pay to the insurance company. Most of us don’t care if we pay that $420 to the government if we are no longer paying $600 to the insurance company. So a full switch to Single Payer means that everyone who can chips in through a raise in taxes that is LESS that what we now pay fore insurance. See how that works? I know some of you think taxes are a foreign religion that you must never give in to. Give it a rest. Taxes are a necessary cost for doing collectively that which we cannot do as individuals, rich people excepted. Wasn’t that easy? Now if you still don’t understand, I suggest you go back through K-12 public school and pay attention this time.

What did you say, “you don’t want government running health care”? Have you listened at all? Single payer means government, really “we the people”, pays for health care. Health care would be provided by doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on. How is it run now? By doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on UNDER the direction of insurance companies who decide what care will be paid for. How do insurance companies decide what to pay for? By doing whatever maximizes profit for their investors and executives. That is, after all, their legal fiduciary responsibility. How do those decisions get made under Single Payer? By the doctors, nurses, hospitals, university research programs, and so on. See the difference? Some countries don’t even have billing departments. They just provide health care, further lowering costs since the billing and collections departments don’t even exist.

Simple. Effective.

Now stay away from that hand and do what must be done. Show that you have some, shall we say, “courage”.

 

Rising Seas and Human Response

By Michael Haughey, May 30, 2009

Rising, and warming, seas are personal – for the Silvertip. It is a family matter. His (her) cousin the Polar Bear is in serious trouble. Fishing is lousy, land habitat is disappearing, and ice floes are further and further apart, making hunting and survival very difficult. They are truly endangered. The Silvertip too has lost habitat, so he understands.

You may have noticed, as I have, that scientists are very clear in saying that the IPCC climate models did not include dynamic melting influences in the land-based ice sheets on Greenland, West Antarctica, or East Antarctica. Yet statements from scientists about future possibilities for melting of these ice sheets are hard to find. James Hansen wrote an article for New Scientist in 2007 (“Huge sea level rises are coming – unless we act now“) about the possibility of rather dramatic sea level rise in this century, or the order of about 16 feet, but at least a few meters. 20 feet of sea level rise is roughly what could happen if all the ice on Greenland or all the ice on West Antarctica, but not both, melted. Melting of the ice on this planet is increasing at an increasing rate. James Hansen gave us his educated guess at what may lie ahead for rising seas. Consider two excerpts from James Hansen’s article:

As an example, let us say that ice sheet melting adds 1 centimetre to sea level for the decade 2005 to 2015, and that this doubles each decade until the West Antarctic ice sheet is largely depleted. This would yield a rise in sea level of more than 5 metres by 2095.

and

Sea level is already rising at a moderate rate. In the past decade, it increased by 3 centimetres, about double the average rate during the preceding century. The rate of sea level rise over the 20th century was itself probably greater than the rate in the prior millennium, and this is due at least in part to human activity. About half of the increase is accounted for by thermal expansion of ocean water as a result of global warming. Melting mountain glaciers worldwide are responsible for several centimetres of the increase.”

There is evidence of an accelerating rate of sea level rise, and there is ice core evidence of a precedent in similar and even lesser conditions.

Consider this excerpt from James Hansen’s article: “…the palaeoclimate record contains numerous examples of ice sheets yielding sea level rises of several metres per century when forcings were smaller than that of the business-as-usual scenario. For example, about 14,000 years ago, sea level rose approximately 20 metres in 400 years, or about 1 metre every 20 years.”

Note that by “forcings”, he means forces that result in melting of ice, such as the rise in average world-wide temperature.

One meter every 20 years is roughly 16.5 feet in 100 years. If all the ice on both Greenland and West Antarctica melts, that would result in about 40 ft of sea level rise in addition to the few meters form thermal expansion and the 10 meters or so from melting glaciers. But little is said about East Antarctica, which poses a possible addition of about 170 feet of sea level rise should all that ice melt. It is interesting to read the scientific summaries and articles because they are quite forthright in saying they simply do not know what is happening in East Antarctica nor what could happen. They also say that sea level rise from whatever might happen to the land-based ice sheets is not included in the climate models used to make the predictions. In fact melting from Greenland and West Antarctica is not included in the models used as input to the 2007 IPCC reports.

James Hansen explains that Earth is receiving 0.5 to 1.0 watts per square meter more energy from the sun than it is losing, and that amount of energy imbalance is enough to raise sea levels one meter per decade from the melting of ice, if all that energy only melted ice. It doesn’t all go to melting ice, of course, but it puts the present energy imbalance in perspective. This also contradicts the common misperception that sun-spot variations are driving global warming as those variations are much smaller over time. The 11-year sun spot cycle causes a variation of 1.3 watts per square meter reaching the earths outer atmosphere (see NASA data).  30% of that is reflected back to outer space, and 40% of what gets through to land is re-radiated back into space. The net is about 0.55 watts per square meter imbalance variation from peak to low, or 0.27 watts per square meter imbalance over the average of the cycle during the peak of the 11-year cycle. This causes a secondary sine wave imposed on the global warming trend. The positive feedback mechanisms that are occurring and about to occur will further raise the energy imbalance from the sun. It is not a constant value. It has increased or perhaps come into being due to the burning of fossil fuels and related positive feedback mechanisms and more is to come. In summary, Earth is getting hotter, faster, and sea levels will be rising faster and faster as a result.

The media event Earth 2100 (see the artice “A Glimmer of Hope Amidst the Fog” on this web site under the Media category) depicts part of a devastating possible result from about 6 feet of sea level rise. Comparatively, 20 feet to 50 feet of sea level rise would likely result in unimaginable catastrophe. So how do we feel about 220 feet? Sea level rise is, of course, only one of a vast array of mostly negative results to be expected from climate change. The list is frighteningly long.

Clearly we as a society must find ways to work together collectively far beyond the economic restraints of “paybacks from energy cost savings”. Does anyone still believe that unregulated capitalism can provide the incentives necessary and in the time needed to avert such a catastrophe? A collective all-out effort planet-wide may not be enough, so clearly pure capitalism will not be the solution. Quite likely regulated capitalism can provide some very important incentives, and social-democratic mechanisms can provide many vehicles for mobilizing just about everyone toward mitigating this common threat. What else is needed? What else is there? We must put tremendous amounts of creativity to work in addressing the mitigation of the factors causing climate change. Not to do so would be to commit moral and criminal assault on future generations and likely many of the people living today. Some small communities are making significant progress. But none of the larger societies or nations on this planet are making anywhere near sufficient progress any where near fast enough. That includes capitalist, socialist, democratic, communist, dictators, theocracies, and all combinations of political systems. None of us have it right, so forcing our systems on other nations is not the answer. We must combine the best of each and create new possibilities. We must find a way to direct our efforts toward a common purpose using resource conservation far beyond what economists tell us is “economic”. All buildings, existing and new, from now on, must on average be net energy producers from renewable energy sources and from very aggressive energy conservation. All other aspects of our societies must likewise end the use of fossil and nuclear fuels and replace them with aggressive energy conservation and renewable energy sources. It must begin at that level now, and it must be competed very soon. Remember that the goal is to preserve the planet as a habitable place for humans. So the goal is not necessarily sacrifice, but rather wise abundance. Buildings are a great example. They can be more comfortable, more productive, healthier places to live and work, all the while producing more energy through renewable energy than the energy that they consume.

I say “we” and “all buildings” and such, because one person or one corporation making the necessary changes will probably just go out of business. But when we all act together, collectively, with a common understanding, then we all operate on a level playing field. Then, and only then, can we make the needed progress.

The hopeful side, and it is very hopeful, is that there is more than enough to be done to provide creative and productive work for everyone on the planet. We can solve many issues with this one effort. The first step is underway – the understanding of the extreme seriousness of the problem. Once the problem is fully understood, what we must then do will become quite obvious. Some of the next steps are also, simultaneously underway. We as a world-wide society are developing and deploying, although much, much too slowly, some of the technologies that will be a part of the solution as well as making some of the personal and societal changes that will also be needed.

Our primary goal is really very simple. We must stop and quickly reverse the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels before we are inundated with the positive feedback contribution from the methane release crisis. If methane release gets in full swing, we may not be able cope with the resulting climate change. It may be simply too much.

If you still do not believe that climate change is occurring and coming faster and faster, I urge you to study the information that is available and that is coming out of recent research. In the meantime, the rest of us have serious work to do. We can certainly use your help, and we urge you to consider that the worst that can come of our efforts is a better planet for humans and all of life. How bad can that be?

One area of research I suggest watching very closely is that studying the science behind the melting of the land-based ice on the three major ice sheets (Greenland, West Antarctica, and East Antarctica). It was only a few years ago that the moulins on Greenland were discovered and their process began to be understood. Rather than rivers of melt-water that flowed into the ice sheet and re-froze, it was discovered that they went all the way to bedrock. The melt-water not only didn’t re-freeze, but lubricated the underside of the ice sheets. The ice sheets began to slide more quickly toward the ocean. What else don’t we know about the physics of melting ice sheets? At what point do they begin to crack and fall apart, exposing more and more surface to warmer air and melting faster and faster? The planet is within 1 degree C of the warmest temperature in the last millions years. Again from James Hansen’s article: “There is strong evidence that the Earth now is within 1 °C of its highest temperature in the past million years. Oxygen isotopes in the deep-ocean fossil plankton known as foraminifera reveal that the Earth was last 2 °C to 3 °C warmer around 3 million years ago, with carbon dioxide levels of perhaps 350 to 450 parts per million. It was a dramatically different planet then, with no Arctic sea ice in the warm seasons and sea level about 25 metres higher, give or take 10 metres.”

The recent International Polar Year 2007-2008 expeditions (http://www.ipy.org/ ) are likely to ad to our collective knowledge. Reports are expected soon. Most likely there will be more questions than answers.

Warming from CO2 increases in the atmosphere is potentially catastrophic, and yet that may not be the worst of what is about to happen. It is the positive feedback mechanisms that frighten most. One of the most recently discovered is truly the most potentially catastrophic. That is the release of methane that has been sequestered for thousands and millions of years.

Sarah Simpson’s article in Scientific American “The Arctic Thaw Could Make Global Warming Worse” tells the story of courageous and hardy Katey Walter, who discovered a new methane release mechanism during her doctoral research in the Siberian Arctic tundra.

Lakes in the Arctic could release 50 billion tons of methane (there are about 5 billion tons of methane in the atmosphere now accounting for a third of the current global warming trend), per Sarah’s article. She points out that “…the Siberian shelf alone holds an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of methane in the form of gas hydrates.”  That alone is “equivalent to the newest estimates of the total greenhouse gases that would be released during a complete permafrost thaw”.  It is particularly worrisome because the impact could be huge and previously it had mostly been considered too small to be a factor:  “Conventional wisdom long held that permafrost should take thousands of years to melt away, so researchers expected it to play a negligible role in climate change. But recent findings – Walter’s lake discovery in particular – have wrecked that prediction.”  The decayed plant matter in the permafrost has been sequestered for thousands of years and has contributed to previous post-ice age warming. The methane hydrates that are sequestered below the permafrost, however, have been sequestered for millions of years. If those begin to release, the global warming impact could be monstrous.

There are at least three significant carbon stores in the Arctic. The permafrost contains carbon in the form of CO2 that is the result of decomposition of plant matter in the presence of oxygen. Under lakes in the Arctic are stores of methane within the permafrost that formed from decomposition of plant matter largely in the absence of oxygen due to the presence of overlying water. Below the permafrost are stores of frozen methane hydrate that also formed by decomposition of plant matter largely in the absence of oxygen.

To summarize, in order of increasing potential global warming impact: first is CO2 primarily from human impacts (direct, indirect, and from positive feedback mechanisms); second would be methane released from permafrost; and third, and most worrisome, would be the release of methane from the frozen methane hydrates below the permafrost. A number of factors have not yet been included in the global models that once included will doubtless move the computer predictions toward more rapid warming and faster sea level rise. Will we experience the worst case scenarios predicted for a few hundred years hence within our lifetimes?

We are entering uncharted territory at an unprecedented speed. It is not known exactly what will happen, but how often can you enter uncharted territory at an unprecedented speed and not have something very unexpected happen? Will we be lucky, or will we be reciting our full repertoire of four-letter words? Do you feel lucky? Do people in the path of a hurricane or flood feel lucky? Will we as the human race soon be wishing that hurricanes and floods were the worst we have to worry about?

Sea level rise by itself gives us a lot of reasons to worry. The fair weather sea level is one part of the problem. It can have many effects that are somewhat understood and probably more that are not understood yet. Salt water will penetrate into previously fresh water supplies. The increased weight of the water might cause seismic activity (earthquakes). Then there are the stormy weather impacts. Storms, especially hurricanes, bring what is called storm surge. The combination of wind and low atmospheric pressure in a storm raises the ocean height, similar to the pull of the moon during high tide, from a few feet to perhaps 20 feet or more in a strong hurricane. When the sea starts out higher, this storm surge will now travel much further inland. The flatter the land, the further it will travel. In addition, ocean features like barrier reefs and coastal wetlands that used to protect land near the ocean will be under water. Will they provide protection then or will the storm surge just roll by? Many of the most densely populated areas on the planet as well as productive agricultural land will eventually have to be abandoned. The immigration “problem” of today will be a fond memory by comparison.

We are not helpless or without hope. We can change our energy consumption efficiency and sources of energy without degradation of quality of life. We can probably capture and do something with the methane that is being released from the Arctic lakes since, so far, it seems to come up in discreet locations (although lots and lots of locations).

Yet will we, the human race, act in time? Waiting for this crisis would be to act too late. The Silvertip, looking down from the mountains, sees a self-centered human race that seems only to react to crises. He has serious doubts that we will act in time or with sufficient resolve. Is he right?

Copyright 2009, Michael D. Haughey. Some rights reserved.

 

Yet Another Political Sex Scandal

By Michael Haughey, June 18, 2009

You probably know the one. It was on the radio today and the last few days as well. It was probably on TV, but who watches that anymore? Another politician involved in a sex scandal. There are calls for resignation, and the usual refusal. What makes this one special? Nothing really. What makes it amazing? That “we” even care. Why is this a big deal? What does it say about us as an electorate? How can we change?

This yet-another-sex-scandal says more about us than the individuals involved. That there are calls for resignation says even more. If this is so important, does that mean it is a primary reason for choosing any particular candidate? Since no-one is perfect, does that end up forcing candidates to have to lie, at least those who want to get elected? We are, after all, voting for political candidates, not priests or popes or any other spiritual leaders. It is as if voters select politicians for spiritual and/or moral inspiration. What folly that is! For inspiration, I would suggest looking to a good book, someone like Ghandi, or your favorite spiritual or religious leader. But certainly not a politician.

There are better ways to select and judge politicians. I would suggest their understanding and position on actual issues. Do they merely throw out platitudes to get elected, or do they really seem to understand. We can show up at their town hall meetings and ask some hard questions. If the question is avoided or answered with a sleight of hand, that should tell you a lot. Do they say one thing and then do another? Their actions, how they vote, how well they bring differing constituents and viewpoints to the table – those are important to me. What is important to you?

It is hard not to notice that the media, maybe us too, seem to hold politicians to a higher standard than candidates for the local priest (talk about scandals) and even the pope. I think I’d rather have someone who is flawed, because it is from our mistakes that we learn the most. Someone who is perfect probably hasn’t learned much. Someone who appears perfect has probably learned how to create an illusion.

Finally, but not least, I suggest taking a close look at issues that are being pushed aside in the media in order to cover the scandal. There is a good chance, maybe even a high probability that it is no coincidence that someone leaked the damaging information at just the right time to take the public attention off something much more important. It need not be a scandal – any sensational news story will do. Pay attention and take notice. These things make the news right at the time we as a nation are debating something important. Not long ago it was the torture memos, and that news story almost completely disappeared. Now it is taking coverage away from the debates on health care and perhaps more telling, the possibility of a wage cap on corporate CEOs.

In summary, when a sensational news story breaks, take a hard look at what is suddenly not being discussed. Then act. Demand coverage of the important issues. Make your own coverage.