Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Are you trying harder and harder to get things done? Stop it. Stop right now, and enjoy your life. You might live longer, and help save the planet as well.

That's the message from Cecile Andrews, author of "Slow Is Beautiful". Her book tour speech of the same name has been heavily downloaded from our web site.

Now Cecile has a new book out this year, called "Less Is More, Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, A Caring Economy and a Lasting Happiness"
- co-authored with Wanda Urbanska.

Way back last Spring, in our May 22nd 2009 Radio Ecoshock Show, I teased listeners with the first 15 minutes of Cecile's book tour speech. Now you'll hear the rest.

If we want to seriously save the planet, we need to bail out of consumerism, measuring ourselves by the brand names we buy. It turns out, we shop because we're unhappy with ourselves. And we're unhappy, because we have so few connections with family and community. The answer: build community and the simplicity movement.

It's something you can do yourself. Cecile Andrews tells you how. But why be so serious about it? Cecile's speech made me laugh out loud, and she wants you to have fun too.

Here is Cecile Andrews, continuing her talk called "Simplicity".

We're examining our need to rush around and buy things. Maybe there's a better way. Cecile Andrews is a community educator, with a doctorate and a wicked sense of humor. She and her husband Paul are founders of the Phinney Ecovillage, a project to build Sustainability and Community in her North Seattle Neighborhood.

Andrews' previous books include "Slow Is Beautiful" and "Circle of Simplicity". The new book contains short essays from many helpful authors. For example, Sarah Susanka talks about the role of clutter in our lives, while David Korten works on connecting and caring.

Andrews is also involved in the Take Back Your Time campaign, which has asked Congress to make 3 weeks vacation a minimum for all Americans. Find that at

Find Cecile's blog at You can download her full talk from the Speeches section of our Audio on Demand menu, at

I'd like to thank Josh Reimer of VIP Video in Vancouver for his recording.

So what do you think? Can we give up our compulsion to go for the fast lane, no matter what it costs the planet - or our own sanity? Are you ready for slow talk activism, and community building?

I started living the simple life a couple of decades ago, and I'm so thankful I did. The seasons don't pass, the moon doesn't change it's phases, without me knowing about it.

Join us in reclaiming our lives from the machine!

I'm Alex Smith, your host on Radio Ecoshock. Write me any time. The address is radio [at]

Thanks for tuning in.

Our end song is from the debut album "Audio Visuals" by The Administrators singing "Stuck In Our Ways". Find it on You tube.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Copenhagen Hope & Despair RE-Podcast

Sorry folks, I don't know where the system broke down, but apparently many of you got the incorrect file? A Brown Bagger program instead of my Radio Ecoshock show for this week went out to the podcast list (even though the correct show comes up when I click on the blogger title....

Strange tech.

So, attached, hopefully, is the Real Radio Ecoshock Show for this week, December 25th.

Apologies, and enjoy.


COPENHAGEN Hope & Despair


1. There is a 30 second music bed for your station ID, exactly at 29:30 to 30 min, with a re-intro at 30 min.
2. Cut into the 3 minute end song, if you need more time for announcements.
3. The only complete song is "It's Up To Us" by California artist Spring Lundberg (at the end).
4. Tiny song clips from "Ballad of Hattie Carol" by Bob Dylan.

The Copenhagen climate conference, known as COP 15, was one of the most complex in the world. Thousands of delegates, from almost 200 countries. The bureaucrats, the heads of state. Thousands more from NGO's - plus up to a hundred thousand protesters. Multi multi media cranking out instant reports 24/7.

And we're still not sure what happened.

We know what didn't happen. Not a single carbon atom was banned from the sky. Humans acknowledged a problem, but failed to solve it.

Promises were made. The leaders tried to set an upper level to global warming, of 2 degrees Celsius of average warming over the world. They were unable to leave the building before scientists and technocrats reported 3 degrees C was unavoidable.

A few billion dollars were launched in trial balloons, tied down by countless strings of if's and conditions.

The assembled people noticed Africa. The big powers sewed up a deal, as the United Nations broke down. Somehow, President Barrack Obama ended up with both the glory and the blame.

We'll hear many points of view, including clips of Obama, James Hansen, John Schellnhuber, Lumumba Diaping, Gwynne Dyer, Bill McKibben, Jeff Luers, George Monbiot, The Stimulator, Sam Hummel, Jan Lundberg, Phil England, and a cast of ... thousands.

The Radio Ecoshock Copenhagen wrap up edition. You be the judge.

I'm going to start with President Obama's remarkable speech to the Plenary. You may have heard it, but give it a second ear. Is it honest realism? Just a speech? Or something darker?

[Obama speech]

The man can talk. But many at the conference, especially in the developing world, reacted with fury. Why? First of all, Obama is raising the same cold-war problem of verification. The Chinese leader, feeling his sovereignty pinched, left the building. Lesser countries felt a blunt threat - take the deal originated by just 5 major polluters, or get nothing at all.

The Sudanese representative said the 2 degree deal sealed the fate of Africa - calling up the image of the Holocaust. We'll get to that.

But first, is the hammer-head criticism of Obama justified? I want to read you some quotes from a remarkable article posted in Salon magazine, and then on the Grist discussion board. It's by Sam Hummel, who works for a non-profit organization trying to get universities to involve the climate in their curriculums and operations. As far as I can tell, this is Sam's first notable publication.

Filed on Grist on December 22nd, 2009 Sam titled it: 5 common mistakes in the coverage of the Copenhagen Accord. He was there, staying up all Friday night as the Copenhagen Accord was debated by the nations. And he backs up some claims with online footage and documents, all quite helpful.

Sam feels the media coverage was awful, as though the reporters hadn't watched events unfold.

I quote, while editing for length:

Fallacy #1—The “Copenhagen Accord” text preempted a better agreement from being adopted at COP15.

For Venezuela or Cuba or Nicaragua or Sudan or Tuvalu to suggest that continuation of the deadlocked plenary with the negotiators of the 193 countries could have produced an adoptable document contradicts the evidence of the last two years and two weeks of negotiations. According to what I heard negotiators saying, many proposed texts had been floated but nothing had achieved the kind of support that would make it signable. ...As the COP15 began its last day, there was *no deal* of any kind ready for the many world leaders present that day to sign. Why any reporters or commentators would give air-time to the suggestion that the UNFCCC negotiation process had produced something better, I’m having a hard time understanding.

I think the Norwegian diplomat said it best when speaking to the full plenary of negotiators saying (I paraphrase) that the negotiators as a group needed to be able to be self-critical and recognize that after two years and 2 weeks of negotiating *they* had failed their heads of state, and the world, by failing to have something ready for their leaders to sign when they came to Copenhagen

Fallacy #2—The poor countries of the world rejected the Accord.

The claim I’ve seen in some early articles that “the poor countries of the world rejected” the deal is totally inaccurate. It is deeply unfair to throw all the developing nations in an undifferentiated block like this. Sudan, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba and Tuvalu quite vociferously opposed the Accord on both procedural and content grounds. But among the dozens of developing nation representatives that took the floor Friday night, they were in a clear minority.

While recognizing the many short-comings of the Accord, one developing nation after another pleaded with the countries mentioned above to drop their opposition so that the Accord could be adopted. This pleading was truly heart-wrenching....

Sam Hummel says that because of a tiny minority of intransigent countries, and the United Nations need for a total consensus - the Copenhagen Accord could not be formally accepted, but only "noted".

Fallacy #3—The Accord came out of an undemocratic backroom deal that minimized the voice of developing nations.

Initially, the strongest and most compelling argument raised by the handful of nations actively opposing the adoption of the Accord was that the Accord had come out of an undemocratic, non-representative backroom deal that had circumvented the UNFCCC process. They are without-question correct on one of those points: it is true that the Accord was brokered outside of the UNFCCC negotiating process by a body made up of less than the 193 countries assembled. With the COP15 in total deadlock (according to many of the negotiators who spoke last night) and with many heads of state on the scene, the President of the COP, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, invited 28 heads of state and their lead negotiators to a series of “Friends of the Chair” meetings to try to break the impasse. Obama was a participant in some of these meetings.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also participated in many of those meetings, the 28 nations selected were intentionally representative of all the major UN negotiating groups, the major carbon emitters, the major economies, diverse regions and the majority of the world’s population. I can’t find a complete list of the participating nations online anywhere but the representative of Grenada listed 23 in her remarks:

1. Sweden (outgoing President of the EU)
2. Spain (incoming President of the EU)
3. Saudi Arabia (head rep for OPEC)
4. Russian Federation
5. Norway (leader in climate funding)
6. Maldives
7. Lesotho (head rep for LDCs)
8. South Africa
9. Bangladesh
10. Algeria (head rep of the Africa Group)
11. Denmark (COP15 President)
12. Mexico (COP16 President)
13. Germany
14. France
15. UK
16. Ethiopia (head rep for the African Union)
17. Colombia
18. Korea
19. China (largest national population)
20. India (2nd largest national population)
21. US (3rd largest national population)
22. Brazil
23. Grenada (head rep for AOSIS)

The convening of the Friends of the Chair meeting does not represent an undemocratic process. The role of the nation convening an international conference is to do everything possible to make the conference a success. With the conference on the verge of total failure, it was entirely appropriate for the Prime Minister of Denmark to convene these heads of state and try a new strategy for producing a document that could be adopted.

Fallacy #4—The Accord is a worthless “sham” and failure.

"Consider this for a moment: Would the President of the Maldives and representatives of so many other nations have spent hours begging the dissenting nations (listed above in Fallacy #2) to unblock the passage of the Accord if it were truly worthless? True, it is not nearly the agreement we need. Everyone, from the COP President himself to Ban Ki-Moon to Obama to every single negotiator on the floor last night acknowledged as much. Critically important things did not make it into the text, such as legally-binding reduction targets and a commitment to reduce emissions quickly enough to possibly achieve a less than 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. And the funding that is pledged in the Accord is paltry when compared to the recent bank bailouts (a common refrain heard in the debates over funding). But when the conference was about to end with absolutely nothing, it’s foolish to say it would have been better to adopt nothing. That would have been truly worthless."

I've been reading from an article by Sam Hummel. Sam explains that the recognition by developing countries, including China, Brazil and India, that they too must help control carbon emissions, helps knock out the argument used by opposition in the United States for the last 12 years. From the Senate to the Republican Party, American leadership was unwilling to cut national emissions, unless other countries were held to the same standard. More on that as we develop this story.

Finally, Sam Hummel tackles Fallacy #5 - Obama is to blame!

Sam writes:

"I have hardly read a positive word about Obama in regards to the Accord. On the right, Obama is being trashed for having agreed to spend billions of dollars, going along with the “global climate hoax” and taking his eye off the economy for 10 seconds. On the left, activists are calling Obama a sell-out and an underminer of the UN. In the case of progressive activists, I think the critique shows a sincere misunderstanding of where the hold-up is when it comes to getting the US to act on climate issues. The hold-up is and has been in the US Senate for nearly two decades."

He goes into an explanation of the roles of the Executive Branch versus Congress. Then, according to multiple news stories, Obama's actual role was not as the central leader, but one in a roomful of leaders, all playing a role. The details of who did what are in found 35 minutes into the final press conference, as described by Robert Orr, UN Assistant Secretary for General Policy and Planning, in response to a question by Andrew Revkin of the New York Times.

Incidentally, Andy Revkin, a fixture on the climate reporting scene, has now left the New York Times, although he may continue his blog, known as Dot Earth. I expect a book will come out from Revkin eventually, on his trials and tribulations following American climate science and politics.

Sam Hummel ends up by listing the many ways this conference left him hopeful. Like the pledged made by many national leaders, regardless of the outcome in Copenhagen. Or the way politicians appear finally to have grasped the science. He finds hope that 133 heads of state showed up at all.

Most of the NGO's who had worked, lobbied, demonstrated, or were beaten and arrested, were bitterly disappointed. Despite world-wide actions by Greenpeace, Bill McKibben's, Avaaz, and many more - no binding emissions reductions were set. The political machine may have moved, but the atmosphere continues to be polluted. No future child or city was saved.

The European press was particularly savage. In the Independent newspaper, 20th of December, Joss Garman called Copenhagen a "Historic failure that will live in infamy."

Quoting Garman:

"The most progressive US president in a generation comes to the most important international meeting since the Second World War and delivers a speech so devoid of substance that he might as well have made it on speaker-phone from a beach in Hawaii. His aides argue in private that he had no choice, such is the opposition on Capitol Hill to any action that could challenge the dominance of fossil fuels in American life. And so the nation that put a man on the Moon can't summon the collective will to protect men and women back here on Earth from the consequences of an economic model and lifestyle choice that has taken on the mantle of a religion.

Then a Chinese premier who is in the process of converting his Communist nation to that new faith (high-carbon consumer capitalism) takes such umbrage at Barack Obama's speech that he refuses to meet – sulking in his hotel room, as if this were a teenager's house party instead of a final effort to stave off the breakdown of our biosphere.

Late in the evening, the two men meet and cobble together a collection of paragraphs that they call a "deal", although in reality it has all the meaning and authority of a bus ticket, not that it stops them signing it with great solemnity."

End quote from Joss Garman in the Independent.

I'm Alex Smith, wrapping up the Copenhagen climate conference, December 2009.

Now I'd like to look at a couple of under-reported stories, starting with the militarization of climate change. During the all-night fight to get the Accord ratified by all nations, Lumumba Diaping came out with terrible accusations. Diaping at times represented the group of 77 developing nations, plus China. But on this occasion, he appeared to speak for his home country, Sudan. Here is what set things on fire, as he denounced the Accord, then known as L-9:

Here is the famous Diaping quote:

"This document threatens the lives, and the livelihoods, of millions of people in developing countries, and the existence of the African continent.

You have relentlessly, and single-mindedly decided to advance, through this document, with the Circle of Commitment, and those who have agreed. The heads of states, the heads of government behind this document, to accept a solution that is based on a 2 degrees Celsius, which will result in gross violation of the right to existence of the African and the African continent.

L-9 [the "Danish Accord"] is murderous. It condemns and turns Africa into a furnace. Because 2 degrees Celsius becomes 3.5 degrees, according to IPCC AR-4 Regional Report, Working Group Number Two.

L-9 asks Africa to sign a suicide pact. An incineration pact. In order to maintain the economic dominance of [a] few countries. L-9 is devoid of any sense of responsibility, morality, and it is a solution based on values - the same very values in our opinion, that turned six million people into furnaces.

Mr. Prime Minister, no one, no Obama, or yourself, can force Africa to destroy herself. And I want to say this on record. There is nobody - no African President or Prime Minister, has been mandated, or given a mandate, to destroy, or aid and abet, in destroying Africa."

That was Lumumba Diaping from Sudan.

I have three observations. Number one, he is likely speaking the truth, as far as scientific prediction for his continent. Speaking to climateradio, George Monbiot thinks Diaping is the real hero of the conference.

[Monbiot on Diaping, from]

Personally, I wouldn't accept any comparison to the Holocaust of World War Two, as a type of genocide, from a representative of Sudan. Isn't that the country that just armed it's warriors to commit genocide on the helpless people of Darfur? Isn't the rest of the world helping to feed the millions left in hopeless refugee camps, when aid can get past the Sudanese militants?

This will be the coming challenge of trying to measure the impacts, and deaths, of Africans from climate change. The continent already suffers from deadly mis-rule, and genocidal acts. Like the South Africa denial of the AIDS virus, and real treatment for the millions dying. Like the Rwandan tribal genocide. None of this, nor the wild surge of over-population, can be laid at the feet of car drivers in Europe or North America.

But we can be sure that climate will be blamed for almost everything. That is my third reason why I think this Sudanese speech bears watching. Remember also that Sudan is opposed to the United States, and was a safe harbor for Osama Bin Laden.

We can easily see a coming trend to teach young militants to hate the West because of climate change. I also realize some people hate the West, for reasons that are partly just. But these same people find mass murder of relative innocents as their only strategy. I expect eventually, some person or group will mount a terrorist attack on the West, using climate change as their excuse. That's going to muddy the waters of environmentalism, and action on climate change, in a way we can barely predict, other than it won't be good.

Right now, such a justification would be insane. Nobody should kill people for predicted future deaths. We don't know the future for sure.

But 20 years from now, after real devastation from a damaged climate has become evident, it seems unlikely people will just lie down and die, or lose their country, without complaining in blood. If we do nothing, we may accept their judgment of us.

The Pentagon knows this, the threat we can hear from Diaping of Sudan. Here is a clip from the famous Canadian war reporter, Gwynne Dyer, from a speech I recorded in Vancouver on the 6th of December, 2008:

[Dyer quote re military units all over the world planning for climate change hostilities]

On the other hand, all the U.N. and U.S. climate negotiations completely leave out the American military's giant carbon foot-print. Just as the assembled nations left big carbon pollution by airplanes and ships out of Kyodo, the American military gets a free pass. Yet they are the largest single greenhouse gas polluter in the world! According to an article by Sara Flounders at - the official figure is 320,000 barrels a day for the American military. But that doesn't include all the fossil fuels consumed by contractors - often as numerous as the troops - or the greenhouse gases generated by the arms industry. Just the Iraq War emits more than 60 countries. Check out that article.

The pretense that the American military machine doesn't need to be included in damage to the atmosphere is typical of the illusions humans allow themselves. Reality is not fooled at all. Just more climate damage.

Meanwhile, the Australian climate scientist Andrew Glikson has gathered facts showing the $10 billion dollar climate aid pledge by Europe is:

0.5 % of global entertainment spending, 0.7% of the U.S. military expenditure for 2008, and 1.4% of the U.S. bank bailout. The gambling industry takes in over $100 billion a year.

So we can hardly take the Copenhagen climate aid figures seriously, and obviously neither the leaders nor their population think capping climate disruption is as important as warring, gaming, or watching television.

Is the money offered just a bribe? Will we in the West pay the people of low island states in the Pacific to move? What is the cost of destroying cultures thousands of years old? Will we transplant their fabulous animals and plants? Where?

Are you ready to take your share of 100 million people displaced from Bangladesh as the seas rise?

I doubt it.

On another topic, UK columnist and author George Monbiot has repeatedly chastised Anarchists in Europe. He doesn't see any revolution soon, and thinks governments must implement solutions. But even Monbiot seems downcast about the political outcome at Copenhagen:

[Monbiot on the failure of governments.]

Take that, Mr. Stimulator! That's a dig at the fine video and audio podcast called "It's The End of the World As We Know It", found at

[Look for “Plan C: Life After Cop15” at]

Here's The Stimulator's sample reaction:

[clip Stimulator and Bill McKibben]

I'm Alex Smith, this is the Radio Ecoshock Copenhagen climate round-up. In his latest podcast, the Stimulator brings up another hero of the climate fight: Jeff Luers, now finally released from his draconian prison sentence.

[clip Stimulator and Jeff Luers]

Jeff was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for torching 3 gas guzzling SUV's. He was early trying to warn America about the need to conserve energy and stop making climate change. No one was hurt, the cars were refurbished and re-sold, and eventually another judge threw out Jeff's horrible sentence, reducing it to 10 years. Jeff never stopped his activism, even from jail, and how he's truly free!

When judging these difficult things, like the Copenhagen climate summit, I try to pay attention to what top scientists are saying.

Quite amazing, the climate scientist who warned the American government back in 1988, came out hoping the Copenhagen climate talks would fail. That would be Dr. James Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA. Why did James Hansen curse the latest climate talks? Here is an interview clip from a half hour spent with Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! (blessed be they).

[Hansen, explains his opposition to the Copenhagen deal, as proposed...due to cap and trade, with carbon “off-sets”.]

And sure enough, in my opinion, the cap and trade scheme, with it's Wall Street derivatives, billions in gifts to polluters, and phony carbon offsets is just a climate slaughterhouse. To get a grip on why, please watch the new video by the creator of "The Story of Stuff", Annie Leonard. This one's called "The Story of Cap and Trade" with Annie's sensible explanation anyone can grasp. That's free at

I say, cap and trade is a scam which will lead us to 6 degrees of more of global warming, before the century is out. I join James Hansen in urging you to look into it.

By the way, Bloomsbury, the publisher of James Hansen's new book "Storms of My Grandchildren" sent me a review copy. I'm reading it now, and plan to have Dr. James Hansen as our Radio Ecoshock guest early in the New Year. If you have suggested questions for Dr. Hansen, write me at this address: radio [at]

I'm Alex Smith. This has been Radio Ecoshock, broadcast by at least 21 radio stations in North America, plus satellite, cable, podcast and download.

Be sure and visit our web site this week, at That's eco shock like an electric shock dot org. I’m going to re-post the speech “Climate Diet” – which has some easy tips for all of us to reduce emissions.

As you can tell, I've had it with politicians and big conferences. The bigger the stage, the bigger the failure.

Along with many of you, I know the solutions are up to us personally. I've cut my carbon by 40 %. How about you? If we all do it, and all harass our neighbours and family to do the same, we don't need vague promises from Washington, Beijing, Moscow, Ottawa, or Delhi.

My old friend Jan Lundberg, at, says after the failures of government at Copenhagen, each of us has to take up the burden of change.


Quoting Lundberg:

"The real state of affairs is truly, "It's up to us." From personal lifestyle change that's openly shared and publicized, to concerted and individual direct action, to local initiatives toward weakening corporate power including via boycott, it's all up to us. Nations and global institutions have failed to honor life itself, and they're taking us down -- not unlike the uncounted species going extinct daily. It's hard to face our true challenge when it's easier to wait until the next election and pretend again that one is doing one's bit."

Jan kicked off this Fall's Radio Ecoshock Show on September 4th, 2009. Our interview was rebroadcast widely, and has been heavily downloaded ever since. The former oil analyst described the monster of climate change meeting the Godzilla of Peak Oil, in a society already weakened by the banking and real estate bubble.

It's Up to Us. That's the title of our wrap up song by Jan's daughter, Spring Lundberg, after her case against Humboldt Country and California law enforcement, where the young singer was tortured with pepper spray. But now, after Copenhagen, we can all see, it's up to us.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for helping to bear the load.

[Song "It's Up to Us" by Spring Lundberg]

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Coming up on Radio Ecoshock - hot from Copenhagen, American energy - and the destruction of Africa. Two continents adrift in hard choices. We know climate change is upon us. It's just a matter of how fast, and how bad. The struggle stretches from Washington to Denmark to Kenya, where the President's family live, among the growing millions of climate refugees.

RADIO STATIONS: Background music for our feature on Africa is: "Talking Timbuktu" Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder. Note, each half of the program can be run as separate half hour features. Paul Kingsnorth interview is 27:24; Copenhagen Digest is 29:30. Links below.

Stick around, in our second half hour, we're off to Copenhagen, with voices you've never heard from the mainstream media. What Obama can do - no matter what watered down roadblocks Congress puts in the way. And why the fragile culture of Africa will boil away, with just 2 degrees of global temperature rise. Guess what! People there are not willing to die for our energy economy. From out of the darkness, Radio Ecoshock, with a digest of the best of independent radio coming from the Copenhagen convention center - courtesy of Phil England of

Radio Ecoshock Show "Uncivilized" 1 hour CD quality (55 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

But we open with the question: when does doubt become realism?

"...civilization as we have known it, is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system, and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world."

That's the starting point for our next guest, Paul Kingsnorth, a founder of The Dark Mountain Project. Paul is a well-educated, well-published environmentalist in England. He's been arrested at a protest, helped edit the Ecologist magazine, and Greenpeace publications. He appears regularly in British newspapers, radio, and television.

ALEX SMITH: Let's start with current events: was there ever any hope that climate change could be stopped, by our current political leaders, at Copenhagen?

PAUL KINGSNORTH: I don't think so, no, not at all. The conclusion was pretty foregone from the beginning. I think that the ways we look at climate change are probably the wrong ways.

If we look at climate change as a "problem" that we can solve within a certain amount of time, if we can just get the technology right, and if we can get the political will, and if we can build a big mass movement of people.

I don't think that's really what it is. I think climate change is almost an existential problem for us. It's a predicament we have to live with, rather than a problem we have to solve.

And I think the root of that is the fact that we treat climate change as if it's something that's external. It's a sort of problem we've created that we can solve with human genius. But climate change is our society, climate change is who we are.

Climate change is our computers, our televisions. It's our flights. And we're all complicit in it, those of us living in the rich world.

And the system that the political leaders who gathered in Copenhagen have to promote, because it's what their voters want them to promote, and it's what global corporations and the global economy wants them to promote, is the system that creates climate change.

So it's almost impossible to believe, I think, that they can turn around and suddenly flick a switch and turn it off again.

And I think we're having real trouble understanding that. I think that applies to environmentalists as well as the public as a whole. We still see climate change as a kind of challenge that we can tackle with the old fashioned methods of protesting, and marching, and letter writing, and campaigning. And I don't think it's responding to that at all.

ALEX: One thing brought home to me, by the alleged "leak" of the Danish text, - we in the West are committed to the expediency of atmospheric imperialism. We'll keep polluting, even if we lose whole countries and continents in the less developed world. Am I being pessimistic, or realistic?

PAUL KINGSNORTH: This is one of the things the Dark Mountain Project was set up: to try to distinguish between pessimism and realism.

I think that the whole of the environmental movement, in which I've been involved for a long time, is built on this edifice of hope. And hope can be a very good thing. But if it's false hope, it's a very dangerous thing.

And we've almost come to believe that anything's possible if we just hope for it enough. And I think we need to take a cold, and a hard, and a realistic look at the way the world is, and the way that human society is. And the way that human society is rubbing up against the ecological reality.

It's all very well, taking to the streets to kind of urge our leaders to act at Copenhagen. But our leaders are running this enormous machine, and this machine IS about cannibalizing resources from the rest of the world. It's about keeping the consumer economy going. You can't just turn that around, however much mass action you have.

And the problem is with climate change, is that actually you're never going to get millions of people on the streets to campaign against climate change. Because they'll be campaigning against their own way of life. They'll be campaigning against their own comfort, in the West at least.

And so we're all complicit in that system. The voters are complicit, the corporations are complicit, the politicians are complicit. We might want to stop climate change, but actually I don't think that we can, at least within the time scale that's apparently available to us.

I think we need to be honest about that. Because only when we're honest about that, can we start to think about what we do next....

Hear this interview with Paul Kingsnorth. (27 min, 6 MB)

Find out more about The Dark Mountain Project

or Paul Kingsnorth


There is no single story coming out of the Copenhagen climate talks in December 09. There are hundreds. Today we'll cover the struggle of two continents: North America, the great wealthy polluter, and Africa, the poorest victim of global climate change.

We'll do it as only radio can. On a shoestring, a band of radio activists found the voices we never hear in mainstream media. They broadcast it daily to London, to Resonance FM, and to the States through Democracy Now! You'll hear Amy Goodman, Phil England, and Frederika Whitehead, plus audio from More importantly, you'll get first hand the voices of the dispossessed, the representatives of Africa.

In spite of my years of studying climate change, my many interviews with top climate scientists, I never understood until now the real impact of climate disruption on Africa. Where hundreds of millions depend upon simple rain-fed agriculture, the rains are not coming, or flood everything out when they do. Wealth measured in cattle is now mile upon mile of skulls strewn across the widest part of the continent. Lake Chad, Africa's largest lake, has almost disappeared, drying out into a few marshes. Even farming rich South Africa is drying out, with worse to come in the next decades. We all need to wake up and listen to the distress calls from Africa.

Here is a map of some climate change impacts on Africa.

Meanwhile, the oil empire of America is trying to decide what to do. We'll begin there, with a quick news bite from Amy Goodman, an interview with Cassie Siegel on the legal moves, and then Naomi Klein on Obama's damage.

Does America have to gut the Clean Air Act to make new climate legislation? Hear Phil England of with Cassie Siegel, of the Center for Biological Diversity....

Incredibly, in oil-dependent Nigeria, there has been a major conference calling for a halt to further oil exploration. Leave it in the soil, to develop a real economy, and to save the climate of Africa. Listen to Phil England of climateradio with Nnimmo Bassey, head of Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.

But African representatives at Copenhagen were aggrieved and angry to discover their Danish hosts colluded with the biggest countries to write a polluters treaty, called the Danish Accord. We play a clip from the spontaneous protest that broke out in the main conference hall. It's heart-breaking - a deal that condemns millions of Africans to drought, more diseases, and heat deaths.

And it all links back to the United States, historically the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. We wrap up with a passionate letter to Obama, written by the African delegates. Really, it's a letter to Americans as they decide about their energy future - and the right to go on polluting the atmosphere.

Listen to this digest of alternative radio. (29 min 30 sec, 7 MB)

It's official, this past decade was the warmest ever recorded. Doubt and despair, as the world hurtles into more decades of climate change.

Alex Smith

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Ecocities? Don't make me laugh... Just as Green Mayors finally arrive, the financial collapse is draining cities into poverty. San Francisco has almost half a billion dollars in revenue shortfall. Vancouver is slashing, starting with a 40 year-old plant conservatory. The only stimulus left is for the banksters and dinosaur highway projects.

It's time to call in Richard Register, one of the inventors of the ecological city concept. He knows the time is late. The climate is damaged. Energy is declining, along with the economy. Now Richard is going to take you on a lightening tour around the world, with visions from even the poorest people, with better ways to live. Maybe the big change will give us back living spaces to love.

I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock. In our second half hour, we'll explore the currents of microscopic toxins that swirl around the globe, right into our homes and bloodstreams. We'll go chasing molecules with investigative author Elizabeth Grossman.

We'll also get expert tips on cutting your personal footprint up to 40%. That's The Economical Environmentalist, Prashant Vaze from London. He's an economist, formerly a top advisor to the British Prime Minister's office, on climate change policy. But don't expect boring wonk talk - Prashant walked the walk. He ventured to cut his personal carbon footprint drastically, while still working, seeing his extended family, and trying to live in the big city. Like the rest of us. How did he do it?

And bulldozing suburbia? Well, yes - eventually. That's the way Peak Oil and climate change take us, beyond the landscape that cheap oil and cheap money built. Read about it here.

Ecoshock 091211 1 hour CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB.

No copyright music. No station ID. And if my blog sucks this week, it's because I have the swine flu...and it ain't pretty. Still, I think it's a good program for you again this week.

No point getting into the Copenhagen mess yet. I'll save that until we see the results, if any.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Science or Conspiracy?

Do you believe in climate science? Or is it a world-wide conspiracy to control your life?

We begin with a digest of a key hearing at the U.S. government, December 2nd, 2009. You'll hear testimony from Dr. John Holdren, Obama's top science adviser, and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, head of NOAA, among other things. The sparks fly when Republicans like Jim Sensenbrenner talk about a global scientific fraud, "scientific fascism" and a "culture of corruption" in science.

I try to referee the event, with the top 30 minutes of audio, from the full 1 hour 46 minute recording. The digest is 7 megabytes in Lo-Fi, and I introduce each speaker. You can download the whole thing here, as a 26 MB Lo-Fi mp3 file.

Just as a sanity check, you can also download Chairman Ed Markey's 8 minute closing remarks here.

The official government web site for the event is here.

Find some of the video of John Holdren on the hacked email controversy, at Joe Romm's Climate Progress blog, here.

In the second half hour, we finally have some fun, among all the bleak news. British broadcaster Hugh Warwick gets his first tattoo. He's been chosen to represent the hedgehog. It's "A Prickly Affair" - fun yet serious, as we try to get close to nature. In America, the book is called "The Hedgehog's Dilemma".

What is the dilemma? It was first expressed by the philosopher Schopenhauer. The hedgehog wants love, but gets hurt by the spines as it approaches. So it withdraws, and then feels lonely.

Warwick suggests we are in the same position now with Nature. We want to experience the wild, but if we do, in our millions, we end up damaging the wilderness. Yet when we withdraw into cities and cyber-life, we feel disconnected. Humans have some hard-wiring to expect and need the smells, touch, and sights of the natural world.

And hedgehogs are marvellous creatures. They can live for an hour and a half without air. When hedgehogs hibernate, you might think they were dead. Yet they are one of the few wild animals we can approach, even nose to nose - because they don't have to run or fight. If threatened, they just curl up in a ball.

Find out all about them, with Hugh Warwick, who's not only written the book, he's studied them, and championed them, for 20 years. Warwick often appears in the BBC and other nature shows. His story about the Hedgehog Olympics in Colorado reminds us of the film "Best in Show".

It's Hedgehog Heaven. Grab that hilarious interview here.


Thursday, November 26, 2009


[opening clip from Greenpeace]

To be a life scientist now, is to explore despair. Arriving for the glory of the natural world, the experts find themselves chronicling the end of species, of the climate, of the ecosphere.

I'm Alex Smith. We're going to dedicate this Radio Ecoshock program to the sea, and to one of it's lovers, Dr. Daniel Pauly, head of the Sea Around Us Project. His latest article, published in The New Republic magazine September 28th, 2009 is titled "Aquacalypse Now, The End of Fish". I'll tell you where to find more Daniel Pauly online.

We'll hear some clips from Dr. Pauly, and an interview with one of his prize students, Dr. Jennifer Jacquet at the University of British Columbia. Her paper shows that a third of our ocean harvest is being fed to pigs and chickens. That's right, in this upside down world, pigs may not yet fly, but they have been morphed into major ocean predators, thanks to our industrial food complex.

In our second half hour, we'll zero in on the mighty salmon. This popular food fish is challenged around the world by humans - their rivers dammed, streams destroyed, our sewage and warming oceans. No worry. We'll make our own - farmed fish. Our guest Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society warns that aquaculture, from Scandinavia to Chile, is pushing out the sustainable wild stock. Horrible things are happening, in places you and I never see.

Our Radio Ecoshock show for March 23rd, 2007 carried a 47 minute portrait of Dr. Daniel Pauly, based on a speech he gave at the Vancouver Institute, among other sources. It's still a good introduction to the man and his work. I'll play you a couple of minutes, and then we'll go to more recent news from his institute.

The music clip in there was from "Fisherman's Blues" by the UK band "The Waterboys". Find them at

Now let's go with a teaser from the Daniel Pauly article that kicked me into action, again, calling on you to help stave off disaster, down deep in our oceans. This is the opener from "Aquacalypse Now":

[End of Fish reading]

That was courtesy of The New Republic magazine. Get the rest at

In the show, we run a lively interview with Jennifer Jacquet, one of the new generation of scientists taking on the sea. She's the lead author on a new paper showing that a third of our fisheries catch is now going to animals, mainly pigs and chickens. It's a big conveyor belt taking the last of our sea creatures right into the agri-industrial complex.

Jacquett says consumer choice, knowing what to eat and not, is good - but nowhere near enough to preserve the fisheries. Pigs, chickens and farmed salmon don't get to chose their menus. We need to reach not just government, but the big fish companies, and the supermarkets - the big players that shape the ocean debacle.

We also chat for a moment about former ocean explorer and TV personality Jacques Cousteau. Why has he vanished from public view, and from the brains of the younger ocean science crowd?

Jennifer also talks a bit about Dr. Pauly.

I've covered scientist Dr. Daniel Pauly whenever I can. He's one of the most experienced. Other fisheries scientists use his calculations, and his software, to count the fish left on our oceans. Find his important speech to the Vancouver Institute on our Oceans page at That was delivered March 10th, 2007. I've titled it: Global Fisheries: Are the Gloom & Doom Justified? You'll find the full speech and the Q and A as free mp3 downloads.

Next I interview Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society.

Catherine worked for 17 years as a Greenpeace campaigner, on both oceans and forestry issues. She represented Greenpeace in the negotiations with multinational forest executives, as they hammered out the Great Bear Forest agreement. That protected up to 50 pristine mountain watersheds along the Central and Northern coast of western Canada.

Then Stewart was hired by The Living Oceans Society to handle negotiations with a giant aquaculture company, Marine Harvest. It's one of three Norwegian fish-farming corporations straddling the world, from Canada to Chile to Europe. Living Oceans works in partnership with several other NGO's, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Georgia Strait Alliance, and more. That's called CARR, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform at

Catherine and I cover the basics of salmon, followed by the latest moves to save the wild salmon from sea lice, pesticides, and escapes from farmed salmon pens.

You'll find out what you can do about it.

Salmon aquaculture, as we've heard, is simply unsustainable. Here is what Dr. Daniel Pauly said about it:

[Pauly on Aquaculture]

We could go on and on about the risks from fish farming. Just two quick examples. Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper reported November 23rd that Asian Carp were poised to invade the Great Lakes. DNA tests showed this invasive species, which threatens to kill off most other food fish from the lakes, has bypassed a fence set up by the Army Corp of Engineers. The fence was suppose to stop the Asian Carp from traveling from the Mississippi River to the Lakes.

The Asian Carp was brought to the United States to control algae in catfish farms. Now it's poised to wreak major changes in both Canada and the United States.

Or how about this one: some aquaculture operations have been feeding dried cow blood to the fish. Now scientists are hurriedly testing to see if that practice risks transmitting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, known as Mad Cow Disease, through farmed catfish. See the article in Science Daily November 6th, 2009.

On October 22nd, 2008, Daniel Pauly listened to a detailed listing of the Canadian government's failure to protect endangered ocean species. This was a break-through speech by a top government advisor, Dr. Jeff Hutchings. You can download his "Lament for A Nation's Oceans", as recorded by Radio Ecoshock, from the oceans page at our web site,

When it comes to protecting the oceans, Canadians have a wretched record. The U.S. isn't much better. The Europeans have already stripped their cupboards bare. The Japanese steal fish from people all over the world. It's sad, and it's madness.

By the way, the latest ocean science questions why so many ocean species died during the great extinction periods on land. Like the time the dinosaurs died, and the four previous great extinctions. Many scientists now believe the ultimate cause of massive marine die-off was ocean acidification, derived from excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

[Pauly on extinction from acidification]

Finally, what does an ocean scientist say, one he knows that democratic governments fund the industrial fisheries, the very machine that strips our ocean stock down to nothing? Dr. Pauly was asked to comment, and this is what he concluded:

Democracy isn't working. The scientists tell bureaucrats the fish are disappearing, and nothing happens, no matter who is in office. All we can do is raise Hell. If we try as individuals, like the old anarchists, Pauly says, we fail. The only solution is to organize.

[Pauly clip Democracy Deficit Raise Hell]

Join the people who care what is happening to our oceans. Find your regional non-profit, join them, donate, help. Organize, or we lose the lush gifts of the sea.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock.

We close with a clip "Fisherman's Son" from the Rankins.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Economy: Dinosaurs Will Die

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. This week's program is about schizophrenia: the state of hoping the system will crash before it kills the planet, while counting on all the usual creature comforts of home, jobs, and a well-stocked supermarket.

Yes, I know the Western world is hanging in suspension. We're waiting for the shopping to resume, for the economy to rebound, for the good life to return. Most politicians and the mainstream press promise that it will all go back to the normal process of chewing up and spitting out the last of the planet's goodness.

Meanwhile we go to movies like 2012, slurping up scenes of the destruction of everything. Part of our secret selves hopes it all goes down in flames, or floods. Even while we worry about our children having a decent life. You see how it goes?

I know you are worried about the economy. Maybe even your own job or home is at risk. Despite the propaganda, we'd be crazy not to worry about it. I've been told the general formula for every speech and radio program goes as follows: we paint the grim picture, but always, always end on a positive note. Give humans solutions, or they'll just go numb and do nothing.

Sorry. This week we violate the rules. Lately Radio Ecoshock has run a series about greening our cities. A couple of listeners have written back, saying cities can never be sustainable, as Derrick Jensen says. Have I fallen into the camp of false good cheer?

We'll start out with one of the most promising solutions I've heard about lately - a dream of new economics coming from a British government advisor, Professor Tim Jackson. He's got a new book out "Prosperity Without Growth".

Then we'll head into more pessimistic territory with Dave Cohen, an analyst for ASPO, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. Having written the American Empire is now obviously in decline, Cohen asks "Now What?" We talk more about the economic crisis, Wall Street bull (and bears) - and the energy crisis.

Along with James Howard Kuntsler, and our recent guest Richard Heinberg, Cohen says normal consumption is never coming back. We might as well prepare ourselves for very hard times.

We'll trash smug Canadians a bit, since real estate north of the border is just as stupidly over-leveraged as the American market. Then we'll notice Australia melting in the heat, while they push even more coal. A big Canadian company has just bought into the dirty Aussie coal market. Aren't we proud?

In the end, I wonder, is hope just getting in the way of dealing with the limits of reality?

This show is peppered with audio clips, including shorties from Max Keiser, Jeff Buckley's song "The Sky Is A Landfill", Bob Holman's "We Are the Dinosaur", and of course ending with the show title "Dinosaurs Will Die" from NOFX. We open with "Times Is Hard" by Loudon Wainwright III.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


I tossed this recording of "Greening Portland" into a small line at the bottom of last week's Radio Ecoshock blog, thinking maybe a few people would be interested. To my shock, over 400 people downloaded it within two days! I didn't know that many people read my humble show notes... Thanks for being here.

I'll go into a description of this week's program and speakers, followed by a bigger question about the role of cities in solving climate change, now that we see big governments too paralyzed, or too corrupt, to act. We'll role through the latest Scientific American article, James Howard Kunstler's theory, Derrick Jensen's despair, and a glance at the ideas of Dr. Bill Rees. Maybe cities are the leaders, the only meaningful level of government?

What makes the city of Portland so desirable as a place to live? It's walkable, a national leader in bicycle commuting, and a green model in many respects.

Yet this West Coast allure also drives unique problems for Portland. Sure the economic crash brought high unemployment, as everywhere else. But Portland has become a refuge city, a place where people come seeking jobs and a comfortable social culture. That's raised unemployment and problems like homelessness. As other West Coast cities like Vancouver and San Francisco know too well, perceived success breeds it's own challenges.

To give you ideas for your own city, we're going to hear a brief from Portland's Green Mayor Sam Adams. But in a sign of the times, Adams cedes the stage to the two women who are leading the city's sustainability drive, Susan Anderson and Erin Flynn. Susan Anderson is the Director of the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Erin Flynn is Urban Development Director for Portland. She's also the driving force behind Portland's new Five-year Economic Development Strategy.

Mayor Sam Adams was elected in May 2008 with a good majority, after four years on Portland City Council. In addition to his outstanding green credentials, Adams "is the first openly gay mayor of a top U.S. city" (according to Wikipedia).

All this recorded by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock, at the Gaining Ground Resilient Cities conference in Vancouver, Canada, on October 20th, 2009. Download this presentation from the Cities page at

At the end, we'll also hear a clip from Sarah Severn of the Nike corporation, which has headquarters in Portland. Did you know the "air" in Nike running shoes was actually a terrible global warming gas? (Sulfur hexafloride). We'll hear how Nike fixed that, and their other efforts toward sustainable energy.

That same morning, Sarah Severn of Nike, the shoe maker, outlined their efforts to green the corporation. She covered such things as water usage, toxics in their materials and manufacturing, and this brief on Nike and climate change. You can download Sarah Severn's full 26 minute presentation from the Cities page at (26 min, 6 MB here)

Sarah has been the Global Director of Nike's Environmental Action Team (NEAT), a department of Nike's Corporate Responsibility division. She's also on the Board of Directors of the non-profit group "Focus the Nation" ("Community and the Road to Copenhagen")

The introduction is by Rob Abbott, the corporate greening consultant, and author of the upcoming book "Conscious Endeavors: Business, Society and the Journey to Sustainability"

Find out more about the conference at



Oh, and by the way, we just added our 18th station to broadcast Radio Ecoshock. It's WRFA_LP 107.9 FM in Jamestown, in Western New York State. Another is coming, in Whitehorse, in Canada's Yukon. Please write, email or call your local radio station requesting Radio Ecoshock. It's free, and ad-free, all for the cause of a better climate.



Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Future: Dark or Resilient?

Hi there.

We have so much great audio for you this week - I don't have time to tell you about it. Buckle up for a new Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg, famous Peak Oiler, author of "The Party's Over", "Powerdown" and now his latest "Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis."

Then it's off to the Resilient Cities conference for the keynote speech by Paul Hawken, author of the Ecology of Commerce, and lately, "Blessed Unrest" - the strength of movements to make social change.

A double-decker audio blast. Let's go.

We were lucky to get Richard Heinberg. It's not just that he's now famous as a mover and shaker in the "post-carbon" movement. Or that he does big speeches and big media interviews all the time. But Richard jealously guards his time for research. Heinberg doesn't just offer opinions. He digs into the background, the facts, the stats - as he did for the coal industry for his new book "Blackout".

I followed some of Heinberg's research in the regular issues of his newsletter, called the "Museletter". I get it by email. Or you can find it here.

We talk about coal. Will available coal run out in just a decade or two? Why build new coal plants at all? Will a coal shortage, or "peak coal" save us from climate change? (No).

But I also ask Heinberg about his new concern. We could experience a different kind of "blackout". What if the electricity goes out, or becomes spotty, and all our knowledge for this civilization is in computers? Without backups in paper libraries, we are risking it all, just as energy to run those electric plants becomes questionable. I'll bet this becomes Heinberg's newest book. Find out more about "Our Evanescent Culture" here.

Paul Hawken is a man beloved by many people, in many social movements. His 1998 book "The Ecology of Commerce" became a hit in business schools. He also co-wrote "Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution" with Amory and Hunter Lovins, and lately "Blessed Unrest, How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming".

That book blossomed into a database of organizations working for a better ecology and social justice - millions of them, around the world, found at Very helpful to find groups in your area - so get active!

I was surpised to find that Paul was one of the first into the whole foods business in the United States in the early 70's - Erewhon Natural Foods. And Hawken is still active in business - but now in the new digital age. He's got a couple of companies which specialize in data distribution and other exotica. Check out his bio at

We broadcast Paul Hawken's keynote address to the Gaining Ground Resilient Cities conference in Vancouver, Canada on October 20th, 2009, recorded by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. The topic: "The City and the Resilient Future" Enjoy.

Find it online at, in our program archive, and on our "Cities" page. I've uploaded a ton of speeches from that Resilient Cities summit - they had some of the best speakers in the world! People at the top of their game, the best. I've got some more to post, once I've prepared the audio, including Richard Register, the dean of eco-cities.

So far you'll find Bill Rees of course, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's new green plan (announced at the Summit), and an intriguing speech by Sarah Severn of Nike. Normally I don't post much corporate stuff (they can afford to advertiste themselves) - but this shows what a corporation can do - even without prodding by the government.

I didn't know "Nike Air" actually contained a terrible global warming gas down there in the shoes. Sarah explains how Nike replaced it with common Nitrogen, harmless. Nike is based in Portland, and I've included 6 minutes of her climate initiative in a special on Portland, which I call "Greening Portland". That features Mayor Sam Adams, plus his green city leaders Susan Anderson and Erin Flynn. I like how Adams gave up the stage for the women who are actually doing a lot of the work. You don't often see that, and we should.

Find all that here: - and check back in a week or two for more from the Resilient Cities Summit. You'll likely hear more on Radio Ecoshock as well, including Richard Register.

Our bits of music this week came from Million Dollar Nile, the Seattle green band. Good music, with a green message (and not phoney or stilted like so much we hear).

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Bill Rees, originator of the ecological footprint, says we are already into overshoot. We can plan to reduce our use of Earth's resources, or plunge through a series of disasters.

Full keynote speech from "Resilient Cities" 091021 plus Q and A with Warren Karlenzig on Post Carbon Cities, including China's "eco-cities". That presentation, with host Daniel Lerch from the Post Carbon Institute, was October 20th, all at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Canada.

Breakthrough information.

Ecoshock 091030 1 hour CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB

Production notes: end music clip: "99 and a half won't do" by Mavis Staples (cut if you need time for station ID; break-point with re-intro at 39:37)

Friday, October 23, 2009

RESILIENT CITIES for Transition Times #1

THIS WEEK: The latest speeches from the "Gaining Ground/Resilient Cities" conference in Vancouver, Canada October 20-23.

You'll hear Post Carbon Institute fellow, and green city guide author Warren Karlenzig - plus former Shell Oil executive (now turned anti-corporate activist) Anita Burke. Much more in the coming weeks, as we hear from Paul Hawken, Richard Register, Bill Rees and more. This is the latest on the latest, from people struggling to plan for the "long emergency" facing our cities and our society.

Here is how I started off the show, before out two main speeches:

Don't you sense the artificial calm?

Every financial loss and boon-doggle is translated into the language of recovery. A monster company losses 27 percent of it's business, but that's "up" from 30 percent lass month.

Wells Fargo bank, sitting on a pile of mortgages you could smell from the Moon, reports a billion dollar profit from, quote, "hedging mortgage servicing costs". Which sound to me like betting on your own bad assets.

While we enjoyed our Summer holidays, during the slow news cycle, over 900,000 more homes were foreclosed in America. That's a lot of kids and old folks with broken lives and broken bank accounts, with lots more to come.

It's always the slow news cycle now, in the mainstream media. The real reporters have been sent home, as advertising revenue crashes. Magazines and magazine stands are closing. Even major TV networks are slashing and teetering on the edge.

The fog machines are rolling. Everything, even the worst, is just part of "the recovery". Everyone admits government advertising, stories planted by the CIA, and Wall Street bull is messaging us, pleading with the masses, to keep on shopping. It's propaganda.

I'm not buying it. I'll bet you aren't either.

One spooky side effect: as government tax revenues fall off a cliff, and corporations slash their good will community lending - countless non-profit organizations are also struggling, or quietly closing up. A ballet company folds, after-school volunteer programs can't get bus money, personal assistants for the severely disabled can't get paid.

I don't know about you - but I've received dozens of desperate appeals from well-known bulwarks of social change - threatening to disappear without my immediate financial donation. The fabric and richness of our society is coming apart.

What's left is an eerie silence. We know something is going on, but we don't know what it is.

Just one example: part of my mission is to record the brightest minds for Radio Ecoshock listeners. A couple of years ago, we had a regular parade of authors and lecturers rolling through town, many funded by book publishers. This Fall, there was a drought of speeches. The last of the struggling book publishers slashed speaker tours in favor of Web promotion. That's good for the atmosphere - less flying around - but bad for all that personal interaction, when people educate themselves with events that enrich their brains and hearts.

This past week, a whole crowd of climate, sustainability and green city folks descended upon Vancouver. Three conferences, plus added shoulder events, gathered around the 6th annual "Gaining Ground: Resilient Cities" conference, offering "Urban Strategies for Transition Times".

Finally, a forum for answers. How are we going to live in cities, with dwindling energy supplies, an economy in need of serious remodeling, and a food system in dangerous disrepair? Can we plan for rising seas, storms and heat events - now that 4 degree global warming seems almost inevitable?

Some of the great names, people who have labored at these questions all their lives, showed up, pouring out their hearts and brains. People like Paul Hawken, Richard Register, and Bill Rees. Plus the new crowd, break-through women, two green mayors, and authors galore. They spoke, I recorded, and you get the green gold for the next few weeks of Radio Ecoshock.

In one week, this meeting of the minds tried to plot out a survivable direction for world cities, the place where more than half of all humans now live. "Sustainable" is out. They called it "Resilient Cities" now - because everyone knows we are coming in for some hard knocks. Nobody knows how to stop the financial hurricane or the rising seas. We just hope to organize for the long emergency, to develop our ability to bounce back. To be resilient.

In the same October week in Vancouver, The Canadian Society for Ecological Economics held their 8th Biennial Conference. Plus another meeting, dubbed "Resilient People Plus Climate Change". Did I mention the panel held by the Vancouver Peak Oil group, or the evening presentation by the Post Carbon Institute?

It was a flood of enviro's, would-be green politico's, iconic authors, scientists and energy specialists, in three crazy days and nights.

Maybe this is the new paradigm, as green conscious activists organize to hold several conferences at once, exchanging speakers, saving carbon spewing air flights. One thing for sure: it felt like a movement, a gathering of the wise heads, a mixture of panic and determination, to steer a different course.

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

My hard drive is sagging with super audio for you. Later in the show we'll hear a former Shell executive demand an end to the fossil fuel regime. But our first guest speaker will set the stage.
That's Warren Karlenzig.

The buzz these days is greening big cities. New York rediscovers EcoDensity, while West Coast mayors vie for title of most green.

But most North Americans don't live in big cities. The vast majority live in suburbs, or just beyond in the exurbs, the land of mini-estates and 3 bay garages.

I learned that, and much more about the real struggle of car-dependency in America - from Warren Karlenzig. He's the author of "How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings" - the book used by citizens and planners alike to measure real livability.

Karlenzig is a recognized figure in the California sustainability movement, an advisor to governments and big corporations, a media spokesman. I'd characterize him as ubiquitous, a specialist in facts, often reporting on green success in many parts of the world. He's the President of Common Current, and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute - which hosted the speech we're about to hear.

In October 2009, Vancouver Canada hosted the conference "Gaining Ground, Resilient Cities". The Post Carbon Institute organized an evening with Warren Karlenzig, along with authors Daniel Lerch and Bill Rees. From "Urban Resilience in a Post Carbon World," here is Warren Karlenzig, recorded October 20th by Radio Ecoshock.

We also heard an impassioned speech from Anita Burke, a former Shell Oil exec, now an activist for change. Anita rocked the room by calling for an end to our current economic system, and most of our social models - all leading to catastrophe.

Not everyone agreed with her solutions - maybe not the mayors for rebuilding green cities. The nice Nike woman talking climate safe running shoes didn't say that either.

Bill Rees would have cheered on Anita Burke. Bill is the professor who invented the "eco-footprint" concept - and he's on a rampage. Apparently, the business-as-usual world is headed for breakdown - as we'll hear from our Bill Rees special, next week on Radio Ecoshock.

Don't forget our web site: The Resilient City speeches will be appearing on our "Cities" page over the next few weeks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NATURE AS KILLER: The Medea Hypothesis

From the edge of the Earth, broadcast, podcast, by cable and satellite, this is Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith.

Gaia - the great interconnected force of living things on a minor planet called Earth. British scientist James Lovelock wondered how life created it's own space, with the oxygen and nutrients we all need. It's a soothing idea. Some Greens took it further, suggesting Gaia is a super-consciousness that watches over balance and survival. A few worship Gaia.

Dr. Peter Ward, a deep time digger and climate investigator says Gaia, if there is one, can also be a mass murderer. The rock record shows at least 5 great mass extinctions before us. Ward offers us a different Greek myth: Medea - the wife of Jason the Argonaut, who swiped the Golden Fleece. In a fit of rage against her husband, Medea killed her own children. In a new book, the Medea Hypothesis, Peter Ward says Gaia is out. Bountiful Nature can become ecocidal, and only intelligent life can stop the death cycle we are now approaching.

Peter always stuffs us full of the latest science. He's not well-known to the public, but other climate scientists are listening closely, as this brilliant mind sparks off a new paradigm for life and death, Earth-style. But can we trust a creature with obvious pathological flaws to save the species? Should humans try to replace Nature?

Following our interview with Peter Ward, I answer a few questions about Radio Ecoshock, as a local college stations turns the tables, to interview the elusive Alex Smith. We talk the future of food, the economy, and radio itself. You'll also hear the new climate anthem, a re-worked "Beds Are Burning" from a host of celebrities. Plus "Fear Itself" from Loudon Wainwright III.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beyond 4 Degrees

What will our grandchildren experience in the year 2080? Or will some of you feel the heat, the climate and social disruption as soon as 2060? Scientific studies are pouring out their warnings - we have already passed the danger levels. And there is no sign of action to stop horrible climate change.

What if the politicians fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the Earth's climate from warming? What if the people of the world keep on pumping out carbon dioxide, as they now do? Can we survive? Will the Earth hit runaway climate change, morphing to another Venus?

The widely accepted danger line is 2 degrees Celsius, that's 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit, global mean temperature rise over pre-industrial levels. We have already warmed at least .7 degrees C. Counting the masking effect of other pollution, the warming in the pipeline may already be around the 2 degree level - and the major polluters show no sign of agreeing on steep cuts at the Copenhagen climate treaty talks in December 2009.

So what will happen?

In this program, we're going to cover major new scientific reports about our climate situation. Then, almost as a relief, we'll go to an interview with one of the long-time activists with solutions, from the UK, Dr. Jeremy Leggett. He's an oil expert who crossed over to Greenpeace, before becoming a solar energy entrepreneur.

I also have some new climate music for you.

Right now, we'll get hot and heavy with an international climate conference held at Oxford in Britain from September 28th to the 30th. The title is: 4 DEGREES & BEYOND. We'll hear the results of some of the first scientific studies of a failed climate world. I have a digest of a speech from Professor John Schellnhuber.


"Radio, Radio" by Elvis Costello
"Don't Kilowatt" by Seattle group Million Dollar Nile

LINK FOR AUDIO AND SLIDES FROM "4 Degrees & Beyond" Conference:


1. Prof John Schellnhuber, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research "Terra quasi-incognita: beyond the 2 degree line. (past director of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research)

2. Dr. Richard Betts, Met Office Hadley Centre "Regional climate changes at 4+ degrees"

3. Prof Nigel Arnell, University of Reading 4+ degrees C: impacts across the global scale

4. Dr. Pier Vellinga, Wageningen University, "Sea level rise and impacts in a 4+C World

5. Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, "Sea-level rise in a 4 degree world

6. Prof David Karoly, University of Melbourne "Wildfire in a 4+ C degree World

7. Dr. François Bemenne, Sciens Po Paris "Cimate-induced Population Displacements in a 4+ degree World

The conference opened with one of the top climate advisors in the world. Professor John Schellnhuber is from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He is a past director of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. The German version of his name is Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. He has directly advised many heads of government, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and even Barack Obama. The title of his talk: "Terra quasi-incognita: beyond the 2 degree line."

This was a presentation to fellow scientists, so part of it is heavy going for the rest of us. It was accompanied by slides, and I'll give you the web address for those.

In order to hit some key points from this speech, and several others from the 4 Degree conference, covering several hours of audio, I'm going to attempt a digest of this latest science.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


[Production Note: no copyright music this week]

Everything in the techno-capitalist society forms us into separate atoms. We demand our own space, travel in personal metal boxes, and struggle as individuals.

When disaster strikes, hardly anyone remembers how to respond. How will your community react to a major threat? Will it fall apart, or grow stronger? Is there anything you can do to prepare?

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm your host Alex Smith.

It's a real shock when those lonely atoms, conversing through electronic screens, realize their real community is endangered, or falling apart.

The cause may be economic. A major employer, or a whole industry like the auto sector, shuts down. Or maybe gas prices collapse real estate prices in a former commuter haven.

Communities can also be hammered by a climatic event: long-term drought, burned over by fire, drowned by super-floods and storm surges, or hit by a devastating storm. The disaster can even be environmental. A nuclear plant or a pesticide plant blows up, or a super-tanker spills it's oily guts.

Not to mention the possibility of a terrorist attack, like a dirty bomb or a biological release. Did I mention earthquakes?

In this program, I'll interview Riki Ott, THE Exxon Valdez spill expert. Her town of Cordova Alaska became an early case study in how a community reacts to disaster. Still fighting the big corporation who ruined their fishing industry, and split the townsfolk, Dr. Ott has developed a program to help damaged communities anywhere in the world. She gives us practical tips you should know BEFORE your community gets hit with the unexpected.

We'll follow up with a speech by Dr. John Helliwell. He's an economist called in to an audience that included mayors of towns experiencing near total loss of employment, after major forest mills shut down. I expected a pep talk about business plans and government rescues. Helliwell surprised us all, with a new way of looking at success - one not based on wealth and more production. Instead, John Helliwell is part of a growing consensus that our economic emphasis is all wrong. We should be aiming for Gross National Happiness. An economist who sees the community links becoming more valuable than business, a voice long overdue.

First, let's talk with Riki Ott.

[Ott interview]

I want to add to Riki's Ott's response about the role of women when communities hit a calamity, whether it's natural or human-made. Riki explained that women took up a leadership role in organizing not just meetings, but the networking and re-organization that helped partly heal the community. Women tend to be experienced in both communication and working co-operatively.

The darker side is this: when things go badly, women can also be further victimized by the despair and rage felt by men. I've lived in a town where the mine closed. I reported on the increased domestic disputes, growing alcohol and drug abuse, and outright beating of women by their spouses. If a factory or a mill closes, or natural events wipe out jobs - the community will have to increase services for women, at the very time when there are fewer municipal resources to go around. A women's shelter, or at least a network of safe-houses, may be needed quickly. Keep that in mind.

In an ideal world, both men and women would find some kind of counseling for the loss of value which accompanies unemployment. Without a job, many lose their sense of self definition and worth. We can't count on higher levels of government to provide this. People need to self-organize to talk to one another.

It's my observation that larger governments are beginning to fail. They spend themselves into bankruptcy, and over-build into huge bureaucracies that are unable to respond in any meaningful way. This is true in the most advanced countries, as the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Mississippi showed. If your community is struck, don't wait around for the government to save you. Organize and act locally.

There are also a few cases where the community fails, and nothing can really save it. There are plenty of ghost towns where a big mine closed, and the economy shut down with it. People just moved on.

I can foresee similar situations coming from the developing economic meltdown, coupled with climate disruption. Take the Ohio rust-belt, where heavy industries fled overseas. Former CIBC investment guru Jeff Rubin predicts they will rebuild, because soaring oil prices will make shipping from China too expensive. Others calculate that ocean shipping will remain far cheaper than trucking, so imports of Chinese products will continue.

I say the Ohio and Indiana area will not re-industrialize because they are 95 percent powered by coal. As climate change becomes too obnoxious to deny, and carbon pricing clicks in, new industry will only locate where renewable power is available. The Mid-Western states will either have to enter a crash program to find carbon-free power, or face a permanent loss of population.

Sometimes communities do survive to find new and safer economies. It's happened many times, in many places. In some cases, though, it's better to get out, no matter what your loss in real estate, hopes, or good memories.

Let's get into a different kind of optimism, built from a different kind of economic world view. This speech by Dr. John Helliwell was recorded by film maker Clancy Dennehy on September 17th, 2009 at the Forestry building, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. While it contains some references to B.C. towns devastated by mill closures - this speech is really about a global movement to redefine what an economy is. Does it produce happiness?

The introduction is by Jack Saddler, Dean of the UBC Faculty of Forestry.


You have just heard the 2009 Forestry Lecture in Sustainability, presented by economist Dr. John Helliwell. The speech was organized by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry on September 17th, 2009.

The lecture was followed by an eminent panel including two top government officials, Doug Konkin, Deputy Minister of Environment, and Dana Hayden, Deputy Minister of Forests and Range. Plus Don Roberts, Managing Director, CIBC World Markets, offering a business critique.

You can download a full one hour presentation, which includes the panel comments, from the Brownbagger radio show archive, located at That's a free mp3.

My thanks to Clancy Dennehy for his recording. Look for Clancy's upcoming art film simply titled "Vancouver".

So what have we learned?

If a major disaster strikes your community, at some point you have to decide whether it's time to pitch in and rebuild - or to leave. There's an old saying, which is only true half the time: "The strong give up and move on. The weak give up and stay." I'm just saying.

If you decide to fight on - don't wait for an outside savior. Big government can't create community. Lawsuits can take 20 years before they let you down.

Big corporations can leave or fail. Build a local economy.

Redefine who you are, and include everybody. Listen to each other. Organize. And if you can, it before disaster strikes.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Write me any time. The address is simply radio at

Thank you for listening this week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Excuse me. Do you mind if I turn your blue skies white? Why spend all that money on wind farms and insulation? Keep on driving, brothers and sisters, because Big Science is going to fix global warming.

While they talk up a new Manhattan project to block out the Sun, it's another year of multi-billion dollar profits for the coal and oil companies. Stall, stall, stall, while the money rolls in!

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith. In this program, we'll dig into geoengineering - the industrialization of the climate. You'll hear top climate scientist Alan Robock. He's got a laundry list of reasons why trying to control the climate may not be such a good idea. Diana Bronson of the ETCgroup joins us, to counter the Academies and think tanks pushing geoengineering.


Alan Robock's reply to Bjorn Lomborg, Eric Brickell and Lee Lane's "science" of geoengineering (at

Royal Society press release and report "Stop emitting CO2 or geoengineering could be our only hope." 28 Aug 2009

Bjorn Lomborg's geoengineering article in the UK Telegraph

Bjorn Lomborg's errors site: A comprehensive list of errors and flaws in Bjorn Lomborg´s book: The Skeptical Environmentalist, compiled by biologist Kaare Fog

Bjorn Lomborg's own site

From Joe Romm's Climate Progress blog: British coal flack doubts global warming, but says let's use geoengineering so we don't have to stop burning carbon...

Scientist Ken Caldeira's response to the Lomborg Report (via

ETCgroup's main site

ETCgroup press release "The Royal Society’s Report on Geoengineering the Climate: Geoengineering or Geopiracy?"

Risks of geoengineering to precipitation changes - Susan Solomon via

Music: "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" by Neko Case and "See You in The Sun" by Shane Philip (Canadian content).

In this week's program won't hear Bjorn Lomborg - the self-styled "skeptical environmentalist" now pushing projects to reduce the Sun's rays reaching Earth. I invited Mr. Lomborg to do an interview, but he was too busy. I believe he is busy. Lomborg has op-eds and interviews going in all the major media. Newsweek and Time magazine love him. Newspapers print his words uncritically.

In early September, Lomborg was at the White House to meet Joe Aldy, special assistant to the president for energy and the environment.

Bjorn Lomborg knows the major governments of the world, the IPCC, and all those other carbon cutters - are on the wrong track. Lomborg doesn't dispute that rapid global warming is upon us. But cutting greenhouse gas emissions is much too expensive he says. Citing a report written for his organization, called the "Copenhagen Consensus" - Bjorn Lomborg has a half dozen good reasons why we should just keep on burning gas, oil, and coal.

Say what?