Tuesday, February 11, 2014


SHOW SUMMARY: Thomas Peterson from World Meteorological Assoc. and NOAA on science of extreme weather events hitting us. Jonathan Bates, co-author of "Paradise Lot" on permaculture on a small lot in New England.

Whether you are freezing in North America, drowning in Britain, or roasting in Australia, extreme weather is hard to miss.

Thomas Peterson leads a team of scientists studying the role of climate change in messing with our weather. We talk about the drought of 2012 in the States, Hurricane Sandy, wild rainfall in Britain and N. Australia, and more.

Then to solutions. Jonathan Bates and his co-conspirator Eric Toensmeier turned an unpromising small lot in Holyoke Massachusetts in "Paradise Lot". It's famous small-scale homestead of permaculture. You could do it too.

Plus new music from Neil Young, "Mother Earth" recorded live on his recent Honour the Treaties" tour, against the Tar Sands and damage to First Nations people.

You'll also hear a short remix by Alex of "Into the Blue", sung by Lokka.

Troubles and solutions: it's Radio Ecoshock.

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


Can scientists finally say "this extreme weather event, that flood, this storm, was caused by climate change"? Not so fast. Nothing is simple about the way this Earth works.

The planet's top weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization, set up a special branch looking into this. Dr. Thomas C. Peterson is President of the WMO Commission for Climatology. He's also the Principal Scientist for the National Climactic Data Center at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in Ashville, North Carolina.

For the past two years, Dr. Peterson helped gather up scientists to examine the links between human influences on the climate, and the extreme weather events that dominate the news and millions of lives.

Here is a helpful article about this: "Global Warming, or just the weather?" by Revecca Lindsey, published at climate.gov September 3, 2013

The new report we discuss in this program is here: "Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 94, No. 9, September 2013."

The 2011 version of this paper was among the most read articles in the American Meteorological Society Bulletin.

Download/listen to this interview with scientist Thomas Peterson in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

We talk about Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. drought of 2012, floods in Northern Australia and England, extreme weather in China, and their connection to climate change. In some cases scientists concluded warming made the event worse or more likely. In other cases, they were unable to find a link, chalking it up to "natural variability".

I want to add a footnote to my conversation with Dr. Peterson. He explained it's early days trying to narrow down the climate influence on crazy weather events. It's also hard to find scientists who can devote more time to short-term projects like the WMO annual survey of extreme weather.

Still, I came away from that report with some doubts. Too many times, the authors decide climate change was not an important factor.

For example, the paper on the record wet summer of 2012 in Britain concluded there was no link to the concurrent record melt back of Arctic Sea Ice. The paper was titled: "Are recent wet northwest European summers a response to sea ice retreat?" ed by F.B. Simon. Their conclusions that melting sea ice was not a factor directly contradicts other published science. I'm hoping to interview a British expert with a different opinion.

The case of extreme rainfall in Northern Australia in 2012 was even more bizarre. First that paper says climate change models show only a 10 to 15% influence on rainfall in that region. Since the 2012 rains far exceeded that, the authors say it must be natural variation, and not climate change. If it doesn't fit the models, or is more extreme than we expected, that's not climate change?

Remember none of the climate models predicted the early melt-back of Arctic sea ice in the first decade of this century either.

Other papers find climate had little influence, whereas the real causes were things like higher ocean surface temperatures. But why were the oceans so hot? That falls beyond the study.

I think there are just too many loose end in this WMO report. That's partly because this project is so new, and doesn't have massive funding that is needed, perhaps with a full-time team of experts. Like the volunteer IPCC project, we only get part of the picture.

No doubt, as this WMO extreme weather survey becomes better known, it will get more support, and get better at attributing and predicting extreme weather. We need that.

What is the future of this branch of science? There was a September 2012 workshop on "The Attribution of Climate and Weather Extremes: Assessing, Anticipating and Communicating Climate Risks" at Oxford University. People from disaster management to lawyers and insurance companies are interested in the results.


Before we go to our New England permaculture guest, let's hear rocker Neil Young. This song "Mother Earth" was performed live in December 2013, as part of the Honor the Treaty tour, which highlighted severe problems with the Canadian Tar Sands.

Watch the video on You tube of "Mother Earth" recorded live. Find out more at Neil's web site.


Chances are you are not living on an ideal homestead of 20 acres, ready to feed yourself and your family, come what may. What if you are on a normal city lot, maybe even in a northern climate? What can you do?

Quite a bit. We're going to visit with Jonathan Bates. With fellow permaculturalist Eric Toensmeier, Johnathan has turned his one tenth of an acre yard in Holyoke Massachusetts into what they call "Paradise Lot". That's the title of Eric's best-selling homestead book telling you what works, and what doesn't. The blog for Paradise Lot is here.

As it happens, I've seen a video tour of this yard, with Permaculture promoter Geoff Lawton. The place really looks fantastic, stacked with greenery and food.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Jonathan Bates in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Jonathan and Eric also figured out a way to supplement their income from their project, which is important. We are not going to home-stead without any income. In addition to the books, Jonathan has specialized in his nursery, called Food Forest Farm. That started when people wanted cuttings from the many perenial hardy plants grown on their property. Why cast out the cuttings as "weeds" when they could be sold? Find that home business here.

Paradise Lot has also branched out into tours, workshops and community education.

We also discuss Northeast Permaculture, the informal network of permaculture people in and around New England. Pretty well every state there is represented. Find out more here. This may also give you some ideas on how to organize in your region, if that isn't happening yet.

Eric also has a really useful book out entitled "Perennial Vegetables" (check out http://perennialvegetables.org/) and is currently writing a new book on "Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices".


I got a lot of emails and comments about our last show with permaculture leader David Holmgren, and his new essay "Crash on Demand". Some of his long-time followers say David has not changed his basic position: we need to create a permanent culture that does not depend on fossil fuels, and is compatible with the long-term survival of the ecosystems.

I wrote David to clarify whether he was really calling for a mass effort to crash our economic system.

Holmgren has published a condensed version of "Crash on Demand" (see link below) which confirms he is sticking with the original version of permaculture. If enough people leave the industrial death system, and it crashes, that is just a side effect of doing the right thing, he says.

Keep up to date on this discussion on David's web site. There is lots going on, including this:

"In the follow up email exchanges, Alex Smith from Ecoshock Radio raised a further question which was not covered in his interview.

Is David saying that the system will crash anyway and by scaling up permaculture activities will fasten the inevitable, or is he really calling for non-violent efforts to crash the economic system, to save the planet, or is not calling for that? To answer that, he has compiled what could be termed as a concise summary of “Crash on Demand”. You can download the text here. We recommend you to read the whole essay first, though.

Crash on Demand, a concise version

If you missed the original interview with David Holmgren, download this .mp3

Or you may want the whole 1 hour program which includes a very insightful response by Nicole Foss. Download the show here.

Other listeners question whether such a passive approach can possibly save us from the developing climate catastrophe, much less a severe energy crunch. Personally, I don't see permaculture growing fast enough to tip us into survival mode. It will help those involved, people like you and I.

But it seems the death culture can go on for a long time, consuming the planet even while billions of people drop off the wealth machine. The minority will still emit more greenhouse gases, kill off more species, drag more out of the sea and land.

The real answer is.....[drum roll] [splat]. OK, I don't have a good answer for our future. That is why I keep calling up the best I can find, searching for clues. I hope that is why you keep listening.

Lately our situation feels surreal. All over the web and social media, people call this the Wylie Coyote moment. It's that impossible time when the coyote has run off the cliff, and is still suspended in mid-air, before he plummets into the canyon below.

Outside a tiny conference in December at the Tyndall Institute in Britain, there is practically nothing going on about climate change. The cold winter in North America may persuade people this isn't a problem. But that same cold means we are burning a record amount of fossil fuels, adding still more to the blanket that will eventually burn us out. It doesn't matter what we think about climate change. It only matters how much we change the atmosphere.

Find the videos for that Tyndall conference here. I specially recommend the 15-minute presentation by scientist Kevin Anderson. Hats off to Chris for that tip.

It's the same with the economy. Everyone from top bankers, some of them committing suicide, - to the person in the street, afraid to invest in the rigged stock markets - everyone knows we're living on borrowed time. The giant ponzi scheme of debt and derivatives will tumble. We just don't know when.

We are living in deep fog now.


If you have suggestions of people you want me to interview, guests with vision even in darker times, please send me an email. The address is radio at ecoshock.org

I value your input, even if I can't answer each and every email. Your support for Radio Ecoshock has been essential, thank you.

Don't forget to educate yourself, to arm yourself with knowledge, from our years of past programs, all available as free mp3 from my web site, ecoshock.org


Music is going to play a greater role in Radio Ecoshock, speaking to the heart instead of the brain. If you are getting this program as a Lo-Fi podcast, why not switch to the CD Quality podcast instead? Subscribe to the high quality podcast here. You'll get the full sound package, free as always.

I composed the music for the introduction in this show. My new hobby is combining royalty-free music loops with synthisizer music that I write. We'll head out with another short sample, where I completely remix audio with a vocal fragment by Lokka, called Into The Blue. Find her original on this page, by playing the first sample under the title "Vocals with Lokka 3".

Listen to my short version (2 min 30 seconds) here on Soundcloud

Alternative address: https://soundcloud.com/radioecoshock/into-the-blue-remix

Along those lines, I want to thank John "Skippy" Lehmkuhl, the "Plug-in Guru" for his help. John answers emails, and has a series of great free videos, and cheap courses, to help anyone wanting to make your own music. I've bought several plug-in packs for synthesizers like Massive from John. He's really got a handle on the sound we want for dance music.

I also got some help, and some loops from the folks at producerloops.com. The Swedes produce some killer dance tunes. Check out the Swedish Pop series here. Press the arrow for the demo - it's happiness in one little tune.

Finally, props to Steve at ADSR Massive in Hong Kong. On You tube, Steve gives out tons of free training on the Massive synthesizer. I get his weekly newsletter with free training videos here.

Be your own band! We can do it now. Be happy, make music. I do it, for Radio Ecoshock, and for my own sanity.

I'm Alex. See you next week.

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