Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Carry On Through the Crash

Economy and energy blogger Nicole Foss from The Automatic Earth; J.B. MacKinnon co-author of the 100-Mile diet: what nature was, is now, and will be. South Dakota youth organizer Jenna Grey Eagle looks for a Power Shift.

Are you checking Google News or the stock market to see if the economy has crashed yet? Even the mainstream talking heads and investment managers say it's hasn't felt this ominous since the Titanic.

Download/listen to this week's Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


But first... It's time for the Fukushima Funnies!

It's a barrel of laughs at Fukushima Japan, the site of the world's first triple nuclear melt-down. The lost reactor cores were already flooded with runaway groundwater. Now the whole place is drowning as a series of tropical typhoons wash over Japan. According to the Japanese weather Fukushima weather station, they got 6.9 inches of rain in September, with lots more developing in October.

After the leak of 400 tons of highly radioactive water in August, on Tuesday October 1st the operator TEPCO admitted four tons of contaminated rainwater spilled out during a transfer between holding tanks.

The same day, a Japanese fast food company Yoshinoya Holdings announced they would grow vegetables only 60 miles from the leaky nuclear plant, smack-dab in the middle of countryside doused with Cesium and Strontium from the exploding reactor buildings and fuel pool fires. That land will be radioactive for hundreds of years. Mmm, tasty food, and it's already hot!

The very next day, Wednesday, more water spilled out of make-shift storage tanks with rad readings up to 200,000 becquerels per liter. That's about 6700 times higher than the legal limit, which is 30 becquerels. The underpaid workers, likely hired because they owed money to Japanese mobsters - true story! - they didn't notice the latest leak for 12 hours because, quote... "it was raining!"

No worries. With highly radioactive water pouring into our Pacific Ocean, TEPCO had a high-tech solution: they dumped some sand bags into the drain.

The contaminated water tanks are already 98% full. It's typhoon season. Each typhoon adds another 1400 tonnes more water.

No worries. Bloomberg news quotes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference, saying of Fukushima, "Overall, we believe things are under control".


You've seen the numbers. Over 48 million Americans on food stamps. One in three Italians lives with their parents. Austerity in the UK fails to halt growing debt. Canadians run up record debt. Hidden behind government figures, unemployment is going up in many developed countries.

How long can our economic system last? That's the big question - and Nicole M. Foss has been travelling in Europe, North America, and Australia to warn us. She was previously editor at the Oil Drum Canada, and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. Nicole holds degrees in biology and law, and she blogs as "Stoneleigh" at one of the world's top financial blogs, "The Automatic Earth".

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Nicole Foss (25 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

We talk about Nicole's recent tour of Australia and New Zealand. She's spent a few months there giving talks over the past couple of years. Then we do a quick peek at the economy of the Netherlands (in trouble), the UK (drowining in debt) and Canada (drowning in debt and in a surreal real estate bubble).

But Foss recently wrote up the experience of Detroit. She says that's the "poster-boy" for a lot of coming municipal bankruptcies, as Merideth Whitney famously predicted. Watch that on this 2010 video from CBC News.

Whitney may have been early in her call, but not wrong, says Foss. Nicole has written this detailed case study of Detroit as a model of the future. Don't miss it.

Even though climate change is arriving earlier than we thought, and dragging billions of dollars in losses out of the productive economy - Nicole Foss is certain an economic crash will come much sooner. That's the big one to watch, she says. Prepare now.


On November 25th, 2010 at the Museum of Vancouver, I recorded this public presentation by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon. It was five years after their book that became a social movement, "The 100-Mile Diet".

My transcript notes for this talk are here.

I wondered what independent journalist and author J.B. MacKinnon was up to in 2013. Wonder no more. Through the magic of the mail slot came a symbol of the ancient world of knowledge, a paper-based book called "The Once and Future World".

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with J.B. MacKinnon in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here is a good book review and sneak preview of the new book at Harper's Magazine.

One of the most interesting aspects of this fabulously well-written book: MacKinnon drills down into the ways humans deny what we have done. He takes the examples of animals hunted to extinction in the past couple of centuries. We've denied creatures like the Dodo bird ever existed. Or explain to ourselves the once plentiful Sea Auks on the East Coast were simply "too stupid to survive". There are all kinds of memory tricks we play - and all of them could apply just as well to denial of our role in climate change.

We get an update on the way the 100-Mile Diet has changed the way the world operates. MacKinnon is happy this shows change is possible, but he also worries some people have made it into a kind of green snobbery, a way of become a "status consumer".

Read James MacKinnon's blog at


We often hear the original inhabitants of the Americas were more in tune with nature. Considering they flourished and did not damage the natural world, I think it's true.

So I am especially pleased to reach Jenna Grey Eagle. She grew up near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, as a member of the Ogala Lakota people. Jenna has been working with youth, and is planning a delegation to the Power Shift conference in Pittsburg, starting October 18th.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Jenna Grey Eagle (10 minutes)

We really need younger people to step up now, even though they didn't start the fire of climate change. We talk about what young Lakota people saying and doing about this issue.

Jenna writes passionately about the burdens carried by so many First Nations people. It is hard to get past the stereotypes, even among other climate activists.

We also discuss the blight of "man camps" - the male-only camps springing up all around the oil and gas industry in the United States and Canada. Separated from their families, working crazy hours for big money, these camps can be a real threat for residents nearby, who are often aboriginal people.

These days, Jenna is working for the Energy Action Coalition. Check out their web site for sure.

To get a different perspective on this "energy boom" - Jenna Grey Eagle recommends these sites:

Honor the Earth (featuring the work of long-time aboriginal activist Winona LaDuke)

...and Moccasins on the Ground: Activist Training for Sacred Water/Mother Earth Protectors.


Next week on Radio Ecoshock we'll get back to the story of the millenia, human-induced climate change. I've got a global emerging threats analyst Robert Marston Fanney lined up. Plus guest scientist Alex Rogers on the State of the Ocean 2013.

Thank you for all your tips - talk to me. The email address is radio @ - or use the contact form on our web site, I like to hear what is happening in your area, and your country.

My special thanks for those who contribute regularly, through our monthly membership. Join the program at our web site, and keep it call coming.

From the boundary, I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.

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