Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Time of the Technofix

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm your host Alex Smith.

Before we begin, here are a couple of links you may want, to follow up on this week's show:

This week's Radio Ecoshock show (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

The Extraenvironmentalist podcast Episosde #37 (1 hour 54 minutes)

David Barsamian speech in Vancouver, Canada April 15, 2012 as recorded by Radio Ecoshock 1 hour 16 min - in CD Quality (70 MB) or Lo-Fi (18 MB)


Regulars may have noticed I've been a day late posting new shows at our web site ecoshock.org. Or the program blog at ecoshock.info is not as full as usual. That is because I've been on the road in the United States for the past few weeks.

As a person concerned about carbon emissions, I've avoided long distance travelling since 2003. That's hard for a natural gypsy and world-traveller. I settled in a relatively energy efficient condo, in the progressive city of Vancouver, used mass transit, and made a once-yearly pilgrimage to a camp site in the mountains every summer.

Now I'm a carbon super-sinner just like you, and I'm not totally sure why. We left the city to go back to the land in the late 1970's, living without electricity, growing most of our own food, and all of our own heat. That was before we knew about climate change. Few followed that example.

Again, I can see that humans are not responding even to the simple idea of minimal human living in cities. Sure we recycle, maybe turn off a few lights, cycle or walk more.

In winter, the cities could not exist without fossil fuels. In the Southern U.S. - where record heat came again this spring - millions depend on air-conditioning to survive.

There are much better alternatives. We've covered quite a few on Radio Ecoshock - like the "Passivehaus" homes that need no outside heat or cooling. I'll be talking to such a home-builder in Australia in a couple of weeks. Our pioneer ancestors obviously lived without fossil fuels or chemical pollution, but with much smaller cities, and most folks in rural farms.


In my latest tour, I asked Americans if they thought the climate was changing. I was unable to find a single person who doubted it. People became very alive talking about the strange weather. Many had experienced storms, droughts, floods, fires, heat waves in March, and so on. Only a few wondered if it was just a passing phase of Nature. Most believed humans had triggered a change.

You would never know it; from reading the local papers which I purchased everywhere we went. I found crime stories, hatred of the poor, hatred of the government, and no inkling of a serious problem, other than reports of odd weather.

Nor did I see any significant signs of change in the dozen Western States I visited. Twice we saw wind farms. Once I saw solar panels on a single building. Big cars and trucks are plentiful, while people complain bitterly about the cost of gas. People are worried about the economy, but not about the environment. They don't seem to see the big changes ahead for all of us. Gas will not run out. Most people think we'll still farm as usual, buy whatever we want at the supermarket. It's too bad the river is too polluted to swim in. But really, those environmentalists have gone too far, making it harder to fish and hunt, making crazy rules, making us all feel guilty. That is what is out there.


In Southern Utah there are natural wonders of red sand stone: the deep canyon walls of Zion, the amazing hoodoos at Bryce. All of that comes from the time about two hundred million years ago when the hot house world was encircled by tropical deserts. Eventually, the giant sand dunes hardened into stone, were uplifted, and then eroded by water.

Climate scientists and those who study deep time warn we can return to those giant deserts. In fact, there are already slowly forming, as the Mediterranean area dries out, the forests die and burn, to become like the Sahara to the South. Scientists like Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Arizona has already warned, on this program and in many papers and reports, that a long-term drying has struck the U.S. Southwest. It could last hundreds of years, or thousands of years. Australia also has vast areas formerly farmed that are now drying and burning. Desertification is the curse of China. Even the Brazilian rainforest experienced two massive droughts in the last 15 years.

Long-time listeners will recall Dr. James Lovelock's summary of British climate models which predict a band of desert dry lands stretching around the globe in a few centuries, as the world heats up at a record rate.

All this has happened before, but never so fast, and never triggered by the actions of a single species.

It's not just the climate. In a recent show we covered the damage to plants by our industrial pollution, a chain of nitrous oxide producing low-level ozone. One of my long-time correspondents, and music contributors, Dana Pearson, was discouraged. Like many, he thought we could transition a modern society using solar power and other non-fossil energies. Find Dana's music at soundclick.com or just search for vastmandana.

I've just had a different sad report from another show volunteer, Kris Kanaly who is helping improve the graphic design of our Radio Ecoshock blog. With no budget at all, Radio Ecoshock couldn't function without our volunteer help.

I wrote Kris about my climate pessimism. I said considering our utter dependence on machinery and electrons, we will likely burn everything, all the oil, all the gas, all the coal, no matter how dirty, destructive and expensive the methods might be.

His reply surprised me twice. First, at the Arkansas River, where he likes to camp, swimming has been permanently banned. The culprit is not climate change. The cause is water polluted to toxic levels by agricultural runoff. You know, excess nitrogen, animal dung, pesticides and other nasties. They can't or won't stop it. The pollution is just part of our massive Confined Animal Feeding Operation food system. You want it at the supermarket, cheap. Forget about swimming or drinking in another big river. Too bad for the other species killed off. It's another case of our systemic destruction of Nature.

The second surprise was just as extreme. Where I found Arizona drying up, this Spring Oklahoma is inundated with rain. This in a state which experienced several years of record droughts, along with neighboring Texas. Sure, climate change should really be called climate disruption. Swings in rainfall should be expected, with severe precipitation events becoming the world-wide norm.

But Kris is suspicious there are other causes. He sent me the Weather Modification Annual Meeting Program Agenda, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 25th to 27th, 2012. This is not about conspiracies to change the weather using the secretive HAARP antenna farms in Alaska. Nope, and we are not talking about Chemtrails either. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss making rainfall in the Southwest. It's the first step of local geo-engineering. These scientists, government reps, and corporations hope to contradict the trends of climate change, or at least adapt the atmosphere to fit the needs of industrial agriculture.

We hear about using aerosols - airborne particles, to add rainfall in Colorado. Or "Low-level Atmospheric Stability during Icing Periods in Utah, and Implications for Winter Ground-Based Cloud Seeding." Wyoming has a pilot weather modification project.

There seems to be an attempt at regulation, through the Atmospheric Water Management Standards Committee. I have no idea how much, or if any, public protection, or protection for nature, is built into that community. Frankly, I'll bet most of you had no idea weather modification is being employed in the Southwest. I didn't know.

The grand-daddies behind a lot of this rain-making seem to come from Texas. You've heard how the last few years of drought, especially in 2011, killed off the range cattle industry, dried up lakes and reservoirs, and cost many billions of dollars of crop losses in this mass producing agricultural state. Everything from rice to carrots went downhill when the rain just stopped in Texas, to be replaced by unbelievable record heat waves for not weeks, but months.

There are massive cloud seeding operations in Texas. Everything from satellites to "duel polarization radar" are used to measure and time things. It's a big and growing industry, which fully acknowledges the climate is changing, and drought is part of the picture.

Those crazy Americans? Not really. The Las Vegas conference heard reports on weather modification in Canada, Australia, Japan, and France.

It's called the technical fix. Like all technical fixes, there are always unforeseen consequences. Kris in Oklahoma believes their unusual spring rains are the result of Texan weather modification being a little too successful, right at the moment. The intended rain may be blowing into Oklahoma instead. Thanks for this heads up Kris. Find his excellent graphics work at Kanalydesign.com

So the boys are playing with the sky, trying to fend off what Texas refineries and all our fossil dependency will bring. I'm going to play you part of a long podcast about the problems of depending on a technical fix. It's from Justin Ritchie and Seth Mozerkatz hosts of "The Extraenvironmentalist" Episode number 37. The dynamic duo interview Michael Huesemann. Huesemann and his wife co-wrote the book "Techno-fix" - the antidote to the whole movement of techno-optimism.

At the end of the program, I'm also going to play you a slice from long-term lefty broadcaster David Barsamian on what we can do. You can download his whole speech as I recorded it in Vancouver, from our blog or our web site.

Like me, Barsamian is no wild optimist about our chances. Here is a teaser from the question and answer period I recorded.

[Barsamian on doomed future and possible socialism]

First, let's go to Arizona, the end of my journey, to hear from Dr. Michael Huesemann, the research scientist, in an interview for The Extraenvironmentalist. As that interview is almost two hours long, we'll go for some of the juicy bits about the belief that technology can save us from the death spiral of technology.

[Techno Fix Part One]


A group of 21 scientists have just published a grim forecast in the journal "Nature". Using various models, and the science of times past, the group concludes we are headed for an environmental melt-down of epic proportions. I'll be interviewing one of the paper's authors in a coming Radio Ecoshock program.

This study is just one of many warning us our fossil-based industrial civilization is not just unsustainable, but suicidal for ourselves and the whole range of planetary life. Sure something will survive, but life as we know it seems like a temporary burst, like a bloom of algae that chokes off its own oxygen. The road-side fast food joints, long-distance golf and sex tourism flights, everything trucked in from everywhere - it's a thin veneer of a life form that is unlikely to last more than a few short generations.

Or will humans pull out a technical miracle, like a pill that cures some complex fatal disease? That's the subject of this week's program, the dogged belief that technology can save us. Back to Dr. Michael Huesemann as interviewed for The Extraenvironmentalist.


If we are waiting for a predictable collapse of an unstable financial system, a toxic regime of food production, and the inevitable end of affordable fossil fuels - what should we do in the meantime?

That's the questions I asked long-time alternative broadcaster and author David Barsamian when he spoke in Vancouver on April 15th, 2012.

David Barsamian has many claims to fame in the counter-culture. He transcribed a series of long interviews with popular social critic Noam Chomsky into books standing the test of time. In fact, over several decades, Barsamian interviewed social historian Howard Zinn, the late Edward Said, and many of the underground heroes of our time. His latest books are "How The World Works" with Noam Chomsky, and "Occupy the Economy" with Richard Wolfe.

Barsamian was also a pioneer in using small radio stations to broadcast the news and views silenced by the mainstream press. In the mid-1980's he developed the syndicated weekly series called "Alternative Radio", based out of Boulder, Colorado and carried by 125 stations in the United States and Canada.

Barsamian was sponsored in Vancouver at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University, by the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy. The topic was "Media and Democracy". His speech covered current issues in the Middle East and a refreshing update on the continuing difficulties of covering sensitive problems in alleged Democracies. Over decades, David has covered India where most reporters seldom ventured. On his latest visit, trying to document the discovery of mass graves in the disputed Kashmir region - Barsamian was immediately deported on his arrival in India.

I recommend you download Barsamian's speech from the Radio Ecoshock features page at ecoshock.org - or find a link in my blog for this program at ecoshock.info. As far as I know, Radio Ecoshock has the only online recording of this speech.

Keeping within the themes of our program, I'm going to skip ahead to the Question and Answer period. After David outlined the many reasons for the decline of the West, and the developing twilight of the American Empire, he suggested a new dream is developing.

Here is the end of that April speech in Vancouver:

[Barsamian quote, another world is on its way.]

Given all the problems we've covered in this Radio Ecoshock program, and more than a hundred previous shows, I had to ask the obvious question. It the West, and the American Empire are tottering toward decline or collapse, what should we do in the meantime?

[Alex and Barsamian exchange]

Google David Barsamian or "Alternative Radio" to hear more. And check out theextraenvironmentalist.com.

I began this program by thanking two show volunteers, Dana Pearson and Kris Kanaly. I'll finish with a huge thanks to Carl Hartung, who saved the Radio Ecoshock website from extinction, and keeps serving up terabytes of free downloads for all the listeners, from ecoshock.org. Find a like to Carl's site at the bottom of every web page at our site.

We are out of time. I'm Alex Smith. Join us next week for more of the awful truth.

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