Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Transforming Power - Judy Rebick

Floods and extreme snowfall events, once in a hundred years, are almost every year. No matter what the season, we keep on pumping up more carbon into the Earth's thin atmosphere.

The actors on the scene, most voices and talking heads, learned and ignorant, are mostly white men, the silver-backs. What about women? And aboriginal people pushed to the fringes?

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

In the radio broadcast (click the title above) you hear a powerful speech by Judy Rebick, as she describes lessons from the women's movement, and the transition from anti-globalist protests - to climate action.

Rebick concludes that anti-globalist protests, like that in Seattle in 1999, were supressed in North America, in the anti-terrorist, super police binge following 911. But anti-trade, pro-job rallies continued in Europe.

Many of these activists have now recognized climate change as the supreme threat to the existence of humans and other species, much less our civilization.

Her background is interesting - and it's good to get a woman's point of view, after so many male scientists and experts. In our current failure to deal with the crisis, certainly we need other voices.

Judy Rebick is a Canadian feminist and broadcaster, now committed to save our climate for future generations. She rose to national attention as president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women from 1990 to 1993. In the late 90's, Rebick co-hosted the prime-time debate program "Face Off" on Canadian Broadcasting, plus a women's talk show "Straight From the Hip".

Judy Rebick moved early into electronic broadcasting, as she helped found a multi-media discussion and distribution site for independent Canadian producers on the Net. It's called

Currently the Chair of Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University in Toronto, Rebick's latest book is "Transforming Power: From the Personal to the Political."

This speech, "Transforming Power, Effective Action for the Planet," was recorded at the Spirit of Red Hill lecture series in Hamilton, Ontario on November 3rd, 2010. It was first broadcast by independent radio journalist Maggie Hughes, as part of her on-going programs called "the Other Side - of the News" on CFMU, McMaster Campus Radio in Hamilton, Canada.

I'll just add two closing comments.

I liked this speech, but don't agree with all of it.

I'm worried any trend returning to superstition when confronted with giant challenges like climate change. The worst case scenario, in my opinion, just happened when long-time "doomer" and operator of the Peak Oil news site "Life After the Oil Crash" - just quit to devote himself to Astrology. I'll stick to science, and modern knowledge, thank you.

Second, my thanks and appreciation to Maggie Hughes for keeping up the good fight. Maggie has specialized in finding a voice for the voiceless. She specializes in poverty and disability issues. Maggie also takes on the world, with climate change, and social justice. She's one of the best of independent, volunteer radio journalists. Find her web site at Thanks Maggie, for all that you do.

That's it for Radio Ecoshock this week. Find all our past programs, as free mp3 downloads, at And write me any time. The address is: radio [at]


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Bringing our war dollars back home.

Radio Ecoshock December 24, 2010 Holiday edition.

The Christians call their founder "The Prince of Peace." Yet America, which loudly proclaims it's Christianity, has been at war for decades, all over the world, during most of my life.

American states, cities, and towns are broke. They are laying off services to the most needy, cutting off even essential things like police and firemen. The media says America is too poor to deliver universal health care delivered by every other developed country. Following the real estate and banking crash, the States are going broke. While delaying payment of bills, States depend upon constant cash infusions from the Federal Government, which owes to many trillions, it prints money on demand, while buying their own bonds, through the Federal Reserve.

At least half of all available tax dollars, after the interest is paid on the massive Federal debt, goes into maintaining over a hundred military bases all over the world. By published figures, ten to twelve billion dollars a month to into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others speculate the real bill is much higher.

Why don't Americans demand their war money back? To spend it on rebuilding their own declining services? A finish to endless war, and the self-appointed role of Policemen of the World. Will America withdraw from militarism gracefully, or spend to the end, as the Soviet Union did?

A world at peace, with nobodies soldiers, in other people's lands. That is my idle day-dream. Peace seldom makes the newspapers, the television, or the violent movies and games. Who could talk about real peace?

My mind goes immediately to Bruce Gagnon. He is the coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. Bruce has a blog, a world campaign, a public access television show in Maine, and appearances in alternative video. He speaks, writes and protests. Bruce Gagnon has a lifelong commitment to the unsung underdogs of another American Dream: Disarmament, and Peace.

Even in my own mind, I'm not sure a less armed world is possible.

Bruce and I discuss some of the obvious objections to American withdrawal, the ones activists like Gagnon hear all the time. Against closing U.S. bases around the world, and resigning as the self-appointed "cop" of global affairs.

We hear about the award winning film "Pax Americana" and the Maine campaign to "Bring Our War Dollars Home" (which is spreading across the country).

The interview goes deep, into what makes America tick. Don't miss it.

Finally, we get a brief look at arms conversion in the United Kingdom, another former world empire that rapidly collapsed.

As student fees go up, as businesses go down, as welfare is cut off and pensions cut - people all over the world are calling for an end to wasteful military spending. On 17th November 2010 Stuart Parkinson, executive director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, addressed the Sheffield CND AGM on 'Arms Conversion for a Low Carbon Economy'. I run a small sample, taken from the hour-long presentation, thanks to Sheffield Indymedia.

I wrap up with the song "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens.

READ MORE (with links for all the sources of this program, and follow-up tips).

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The majority of humans on Earth are likely unaware that their 193 governments met in Cancun Mexico in December 2010. Their goal was to agree on ways to save the planet's climate from a brutal catastrophe.

Did anything happen? It depends on who you talk to.

I'm Alex Smith reporting. In this Radio Ecoshock special, you will hear five different voices on what really happened - inside the barricaded conference rooms, and outside in the streets.

Our guests are: Harvard policy expert Dr. Robert N. Stavins; Damon Moglen, head of the Climate Campaign for Friends of Earth, USA; Franklin Lopez, anarchist film-maker reporting from the Mexican climate activist scene; British radio broadcaster Phil England with a European perspective; and South American expert Nikolas Kozloff on Brazil, Bolivia, and the road not taken.

If you think international talks to save the Earth are boring, listen again. While we were waved away by the mainstream press, the usual suspects - from the World Bank to American arm twisters, busily tried to re-write the script.

Will the rich make big money from climate suffering? From the victims of floods, heat, drought, rising seas, and dying agriculture? Without our attention and action, that could be the New Deal.

There is a nexus of American analysts who find the Cancun COP-16 U.N. Conference was a success. The New York Time Headline: "Climate Talks End with Modest Deal on Emissions".

Harvard power Professor Robert Stavins says Cancun "must be judged a success".

We'll begin with Dr. Stavins, and move through more critical voices.


Professor Robert N. Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government. He is the Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, among many other titles.

His article on the Cancun talks, "What Happened (and why): An Assessment of the Cancun Agreements" has been widely republished in left-of-center media, including and AlterNet. It is the most upbeat, positive analysis I could find.

Stavins thinks the U.N. agreements need to move away from the binding emissions targets of the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, building instead on last year's Copenhagen Accord, which has voluntary targets. At Cancun, there were two principle documents agreed with unwieldy names only a diplomat could love: "Outcome of the AWG-LCA" and "Outcome of the AWG-KP".

These are not legal agreements, but "Outcomes" of "Ad Hoc Working Groups" on "Long-term Cooperative Action" and "Further Commitments" by developed nations to the Kyoto Protocol.

Still awake? We'll get a much clearer picture from our Ecoshock guests, I promise.

I'll quickly run down Robert Stavins' reasons for guarded optimism about Cancun, before our other guests comment.

#1. The assembled countries agreed to limit global heating at 2 degrees C. Most scientists either say that is now impossible, or it is still too high, leading to massive ice melt and other damage.

Stavins then quotes Michael Levi, from the Council on Foreign Relations, who applauds the Cancun results, "not because it solves everything, but because it chooses not to." That sounds perverse to me, but Levi thinks other institutions, like the G-20, should control some climate initiatives.

And Stavins has a good point in the interview, that we despite our needs, we do NOT have a top-down command situation in this complex world. Emissions reductions will actually carried out not just by governments, but by business, small provinces, and myriad others. We have to deal with what is.

#2. There is more talk in the Cancun agreements to monitor and verify carbon emissions. China has resisted this, but agreed. If it works, it could be important for climate science at least, and may help future emissions deals get enforced?

#3. A "Green Climate Fund" was established, reaching $100 billion annually by 2020, to compensate countries damaged by climate change, to help them adapt. That would be run by the World Bank, and the details may shock you.

#4 At Cancun, an agreement on "Reduced Deforestation and Forest Degradation" - called REDD, was reached. It has some loop-holes, of course.

And finally, things like the Clean Development Mechanism, and carbon markets were strengthened. These are all developments favored by the United States, and by Wall Street. Which makes the meeting a success.

Strangely, the American Bloomberg business news service gave the Conference results a thumbs down, with this headline "Global Warming Deal Decades Away As 'Dysfunctional' U.S. Delays Commitment." Decades away, with no deal to reduce emissions, we can kiss our gentle ice-capped Earth good-bye.

Socialist writer Patrick Bond says "'Climate Capitalism' won at Cancun - everyone else loses."

Let's get to it. Here is the other side of the news on the United Nations Conference of the Parties - COP-16 - in Cancun, Mexico.

Following Harvard's Robert Stavins, we continue with Damon Moglen of Friends of Earth, and carry right on through the anarchist report, a Euro perspective, and the South American alternative.

Don't miss the interview with anarchist Franklin Lopez. He talks about his long journey by bus to the Summit, with other Mexican activists. They set up two "climate camps", complete with dome tents and food. Sadly one camp couldn't agree with the other, so no joint actions were held. But some shit was thrown, literally, toward heavily armed Mexican security forces, guarding a government ministry of environment office. Action on the streets.

Lopez reports a unique perspective, especially the hope from many outside the security fences, that the power brokers inside would fail.

Then I'm happy to welcome back the host of Climate Radio, from Resonance FM in London, Phil England. Phil and his team covered the Copenhagen climate summit (COP-15) last year so well! I knew he's be plugged in to the debates around this year's COP-16 in Cancun, even though he was not there.

True to form, Phil raises serious issues about this new climate deal. He suggests that although the poorer countries were promised aid in Copenhagen, to adapt to climate damage caused by the Northern industrial emissions - that has now morphed in Cancun to LOANS. So the poor countries will once again be saddled with debt, for a problem they did not cause - and pay wealthy bond holders interest on their suffering. It sounds like climate imperialism to me.

I suggest you listen again to Robert Stavins' interview, to really hear how all that is phrased. The keywords "private sector" funding, means loans. And the carbon markets are tossed in, along with the impossible daydream of carbon capture and storage, being pushed by the coal industry. That has never worked, and won't.

Nikolas Kozloff always has the inside scoop on countries we don't hear much about. Especially Brazil, which when you count their deforestation and agricultural emissions, are now the world's third largest source of greenhouse gases! And Brazil is breaking out as both an industrial economy and a new oil nation (with their recent large field discoveries off the Atlantic coast.)

We learn, partly from Wikileaks documents, that Brazil failed to fulfill the green role in South America. Despite the Green candidate getting 19 percent of the popular vote in the most recent Presidential elections!

Actually, I have a much longer interview with Nikolas, cut because we had so many guests this week. In a few days, I will post the whole 24 minute talk, all about Bolivia, Evo Morales, and South America's role in the Cancun climate talks. That will be in the "Climate2010" page of our audio-on-demand menu, at Well worth a listen.

That's it for our Radio Ecoshock Cancun climate summit coverage. You heard Dr. Robert Stavins from Harvard, Damon Moglen at Friends of Earth USA, Franklin Lopez, the anarchist film-maker reporting from the Mexican climate activist scene; British radio broadcaster Phil England with a European perspective - a real treat to have the host of "Climate Radio" on the air; and South American expert and author Nikolas Kozloff on Brazil, Bolivia, and the road not taken.

If you tuned in part way, or want to listen again, download this free mp3 from our web site, at

I'm Alex Smith, going hard, to give you a ring-side seat as humans decide whether to sink or swim.

In the full hour piece, you heard a mini-slice of music from Manu Chao's "Radiolina".

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond the Tipping Point

A physicist, a leading expert on clean energy and climate, he was an advisor in the Clinton Administration. His book "Hell and High Water" becomes too true daily. Time Magazine called him “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger” . Dr. Joseph Romm's "Climate Progress" is the only blog right on my browser tool-bar. It IS indespensible.

We welcome Joe Romm back to Radio Ecoshock.

Among other things, we'll discuss the new theme issue from the British Royal Society "Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications." This series of papers looks at how the climate will shift drastically - if we continue to power our economy with fossil fuels.

Joe has more on the Cancun climate conference, his award winning blog (named one of the best blogs on the Net by Time Magazine) - and the bleak outlook for action by the U.S. or Canada.

That is followed by a knock-out interview with David Wadell. His presentation on "Beyond the Tipping Point" at Tallberg Sweden in 2008 warned that the IPCC, and most governments, were operating on unsafe assumptions about climate sensitivity. David tells us about the "positive feedback loops" that are STILL left out of climate models.

And even without those extra warming powers, the Hadley Centre in Britain, and MIT in the U.S. have proved Wasell's point. Both now say we could experience 4 to 6 degrees of warming in this century. Possibly 4 degrees C. warming (7 degrees F. extra heat as a mean global average) as early as 2070, or even 2060. Younger people will live to see this horror, unless we can turn the carbon clock back, in some as yet unknown social and economic revolution.... as we must.

I'm going to let you listen to the interviews, without further comment here.

Here are a bunch of links, so you can test out what Joe Romm and David Wasdell are saying. Going back to the original science. A link bonanza for you. Go deep, this is the Big One.

The audio from David Wadell's "Beyond the Tipping Point" film, to an international climate conference at Tallberg Sweden, June 28, 2008. One hour, in Hi-Fi (55 MB) or Lo-Fi 14 MB

Joe Romm of climateprogress on Hadley Centre upper projections.

Joe Romm of climateprogress on MIT study doubling projections of heating.

Downloads and video, for talks at the "4 Degrees & Beyond" International Climate Conference 28-30 September 2009, Oxford UK

Pay special attention to this talk by Richard Betts, which includes (at 16 minute mark) the very points David Wasdell raises - that serious positive feedback loops are still left out of climate models (which leads to underestimates of the real possibilities).


Joe Romm's introduction to these papers (and why they matter).

The Royal Society web page for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society "4 Degrees and Beyond" theme issue:

Some of the papers are now subscription only, having been offered to the public for a few days. Given the seriousness of crashing the Earth's climate system, and in the spirit of Wikileaks, I've posted all the papers here, as pdf files.

Editorial by David Garner




Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows
Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world

Niel H. A. Bowerman, David J. Frame, Chris Huntingford, Jason A. Lowe, and Myles R. Allen
Cumulative carbon emissions, emissions floors and short-term rates of warming: implications for policy

Richard A. Betts, Matthew Collins, Deborah L. Hemming, Chris D. Jones, Jason A. Lowe, and Michael G. Sanderson
When could global warming reach 4°C?

M. G. Sanderson, D. L. Hemming, and R. A. Betts
Regional temperature and precipitation changes under high-end (≥4°C) global warming

Fai Fung, Ana Lopez, and Mark New
Water availability in +2°C and +4°C worlds

Philip K. Thornton, Peter G. Jones, Polly J. Ericksen, and Andrew J. Challinor
Agriculture and food systems in sub-Saharan Africa in a 4°C+ world

Przemyslaw Zelazowski, Yadvinder Malhi, Chris Huntingford, Stephen Sitch, and Joshua B. Fisher
Changes in the potential distribution of humid tropical forests on a warmer planet

Robert J. Nicholls, Natasha Marinova, Jason A. Lowe, Sally Brown, Pier Vellinga, Diogo de Gusmão, Jochen Hinkel, and Richard S. J. Tol
Sea-level rise and its possible impacts given a ‘beyond 4°C world’ in the twenty-first century

Mark Stafford Smith, Lisa Horrocks, Alex Harvey, and Clive Hamilton
Rethinking adaptation for a 4°C world

Francoix Gemenne
Climate-induced population displacements in a 4 degree C + world

Rachel Warren
The role of interactions in a world implementing adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change.


David Wasdell Bio

David Wasdell video presentation, Tallberg Sweden 2008

David Wasdell videos

The Apollo-Gaia web site

Another important Wasdell paper, with the graphs and charts helpful for both his video at Talberg, and his Radio Ecoshock interview. "Runaway Climate Change, Boundary Conditions & Implications for Policy".


"Seeds of Your Past" by Dirtfella (Victoria, B.C.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Local Food - Growing Sane

Avocados from South America. Apples from New Zealand, instead of the next valley. Industrially-grown carrots with no taste, no vitamins, but a microscopic coating of carcinogenic pesticides.

Meanwhile we are paving over the nearby farms, leaving our cities utterly dependent on global corporations. On cruelty to workers and animals. On oil and daily long-distance trucks. If something breaks down, or just runs down into collapse, your city can go to a starvation in a single week.

And the great food system keeps heating the planet, threatening all agriculture.

Against all that, is a rising tide of support for local food producers. It is a food revolution, and I don't use that word lightly. You will hear two voices of sanity, and yes, of hope.

The local food movement started with a book "The 100-Mile Diet" by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon. In Vancouver, Canada, this couple went a year, eating only locally produced food. It wasn't easy then. It is much easier now, in many North American cities, as the idea of sustainable cities catches on.

Five years beyond the success of their first book, Smith and MacKinnon give us a rapid-fire tour of great ideas, the 10 best local food projects in the United States and Canada. With a culture check against a tiny village in Northern Spain. Are the Europeans really better with their food?

You'll be surprised as local food networks spring up in Toronto, New York, Michigan, and Los Angeles.

This talk was recorded by Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock, at the Museum of Vancouver, Canada, on November 25th, 2010. The Museum was one of the sponsors, along with the Tyee magazine, and the Tides Canada Foundation, who funded a series of 10 talks on transition and localization.

We'll tune in just after the introduction by David Beers, the editor of The Tyee, close friend and a food activist at the beginning of this localization of food.

If you want to know more, I'm going to share a few of my rough notes from the talk - but I encourage you to listen to the real thing!

Radio Ecoshock

READ MORE - MY NOTES ON SUSTAINABLE CITY MOVEMENTS from the speech, with many helpful links.

Thursday, November 25, 2010



It has come to my attention that last week's show was a bit of a downer, leaving some listeners depressed.

A scientist showing a savage economic collapse in a red-hot world by 2100. And a food expert predicting global famine. Come on.... is the future depressing?

The Management has asked me to read the following statement:

"Everything is fine. The future will be fine too. The scientists you may have heard are just egg-heads with a horrible agenda to enslave us all.

There is plenty of oil for all of us. Plenty of cheap food, eat your fill.

Just relax and go to your job, if you have a job, or stay home, if you have a home.

There is nothing to worry about. I am sorry if the future frightened or offended anyone.

Alex Smith

According to a pseudo-scientific study, as reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times, alarmists - like Alex Smith! - are causing more people to disbelieve in claims of global warming, (or Peak Oil, they might have added). The Post's headline: "Gloom and doom on climate can backfire, new study says."

Actually, as Joe Romm points out in the climateprogress blog, the study doesn't say that, and the testing was on just a small sample of college students.

But the study by UC Berkeley does show most people believe the underlying narrative of life on Earth is positive, essentially that God is Just.

In the program, you hear a clip from Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, speaking to a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March, 2009. He first quoted from Chapter 8, Verse 22 of the Book of Genesis:

"Never again will I curse the ground because of Man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood, and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done."

Speaking of rising seas, Shimkus said the Bible shows "The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood."

On carbon Shimkus said: "Today we have about 388 parts per million in the atmosphere. I think in the age of dinosaurs, when we had the most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet - not too much carbon."

More here from the Daily Mail. Hear the full audio in our Radio Ecoshock program.

Science shows the contrary. We are already entering a time of mass extinction, like the five previous great extinctions. And there may be no force to stop heating of the planet, once we give it a big kick-off. Science conflicts with, and loses out to, this deeply held religious belief.

Therefore, the mainstream media and climate doubters tell us, we should limit our talk to the positive side of the story.

I'll take a shot at it.

What a wonderful world it will be, lit up by LED lights! You will enjoy the ocean more, now that it's closer. Most people will save on clothing, now that Summer lasts most of the year.

How am I doing?

[The radio program has some funny clips about a future that sucks, taken from Bobs Slacktime Funhouse: BSTF 840 - "The World Of Tomorrow Will SUCK!" as broadcast on WREK Atlanta.]

But let's say, just as an act of imagination, that fossil fuels do run out. James Howard Kunstler has brought that future into print with his latest book. You'll hear that interview next. And we have Tracy Mayor on the program, the self-styled "Armageddon Mama", with the age-old problem: how to talk to your friends and family about the coming Apocalypse.


Authors and artists often express the future, years too soon for our own comfort. James Howard Kunstler is like that, and worse, he's one of the best American writers of the day. Some people love to read his articles, while hoping he's wrong as Hell.

I was honored to have James Howard Kunstler join us, to discuss his new novel "The Witch of Hebron" - and what it means for our future. It's a look at life in the post carbon age. How will we survive without oil?

As Kunstler points out, this is not another total doom story, like Cormac McCarthy's book "The Road". Jim Kunstler thinks humans will work out some new ways of living. In some ways, life may become more real and enjoyable than our complex, corporate, globalized high-stress experience. Local food, community and cooperation share the stage with a return to agriculturalism, and likely male-dominated hierarchies of local power. That last projection doesn't go down well with some of the ladies, and we talk about that too.

In his 1994 book "The Geography of Nowhere," Kunstler describes the modern landscape of strip Malls, anti-social architecture, and badly functioning suburbs. Perhaps we more ready to dream along with him, into a simpler world, precisely because we feel so little love for our present surroundings.

In 2005, he made a new mark in Peak Oil prediction, with his book "The Long Emergency". That began a movement. The International Energy Agency finally just admitted Peak Oil may have occurred in 2006, - and that may push more people into taking post-carbon novels seriously. Jim talks about Peak Oil and the economic disaster, in this interview.

We discuss how imagining the future can help us prepare for the many difficulties facing our economy and society now. Personally, I see a fairly long-drawn out series of shortages and Depressions, with some recovery now and then. James Howard Kunstler sees a devastating crash within the next 10 years. I ask him why. His answer is so well spoken, you have to hear it.

Stimulated by a question from a San Francisco city planner, I ask Kunstler how we can remold existing institutions, toward a softer landing. Jim talks more passenger rail, of course, but also localization, and new expectations.

I read James Howard Kunstler's blog at every Monday morning. You should too.


Kids today learn gaming skills for play, and keyboard skills for jobs. They'll all be virtual workers - unless the world doesn't turn out that way.

Under the shadow of ever-rising oil prices, an unstable climate, and an economy held up by magic balloons, - how should we prepare our kids?

Tracy Mayor is a parent who writes for a living - her work appearing in such diverse publications as Salon, Computer World, and the Boston Globe. Her latest book, "Mommy Prayers" captures the humorous desperation of motherhood.

I found Tracy through the New York Times, under the headline "Preparing Kids for the Apocalypse". That was kind of a steal from Tracy's original work in Brain, Child magazine, which she edits, - titled "Armageddon Mama, Parenting toward the Apocalypse."

Helpful comments on the article are here.

With my own family, I often wonder, what the Hell should I tell the kids about all this? Should I try to aim them toward college, or learning to make their own shoes?

Tracy's article in Brain, Child magazine wasn't the puff piece we so often see. She did the homework, and tracked down some useful information. For example, I didn't know about Sean Brodrick's new book "The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide."

We also discuss the persistent narrative about the coming breakdown. Brave men, followed by their hard-cooking women, take off into Montana, to defend the compound, with high-powered guns. Is that what really happens, when society goes into a period of stress? Not likely, not for most of us.

We talk about the best survival strategies, used by families in the Great Depression of the 1930's. And new developments of community-building and localization, today.

Another good resource is Rebecca Solnit's book, "A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (2009)".

At Kathy McMahon's recent talk about Peak Oil Blues, I was surprised to find so many women in the audience. They were quite educated about our dependence on oil, and the fact it will run out some day. I asked Tracy Mayor, "How is your family taking your conversion to 'Armageddon Mama' - and how do you handle the relatives, fixed in what McMahon called, 'pathological optimism'?"


There is some savage financial news out there. I've linked to just a half dozen stories you might have missed. (With a hat tip to the blog Automatic Earth) Consider these your homework assignment.

"Road map that opens up shadow banking" - by Gillian Tett of the Financial Times . You won't believe what these geniuses were up to.

The extent of the fantasy and fraud. Which leads up to a piece from the Wall Street Journal: "U.S. in Vast Insider Trading Probe".

The best may be an excellent expose by Jake Bernstein and Jesse Eisinger of Pro Publica. The title is "Banks’ Self-Dealing Super-Charged Financial Crisis." It is a long piece, with a complete explanation of the fraudulent Collateralized Bond Obligations, the CDO's, trillions of dollars of fantasy money stashed away in bank vaults as "assets." The Federal Reserve, on orders by George Bush, and then Obama, has purchased up to 40 billion dollars worth of these worthless papers from the banks, and they are still sunk. As the truth comes out, banks world-wide will collapse, in my opinion. It may take years, or it may take just days.

Here are the rest. Read it and weep.

Prime U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures Hit Record as Unemployment Hurts Finances
by Kathleen M. Howley - Bloomberg

U.S. Homeowners Drop Out of Foreclosure Program Amid Record Defaults
by Lorraine Woellert and Clea Benson - Bloomberg

Unemployment benefits to end for 2 million Americans
by Steve Nuñez - KGUN9


Shed a tear for the Irish people, who just found out what a bank crash looks and feels like. A scallywag named Sean brought the Allied-Irish bank from just 8 employees, to a giant empire of debt, which just collapsed. Seventeen percent of the banks deposits were withdrawn in the past two weeks alone.

A foolish or corrupt Prime Minister guaranteed all the Irish bank debts, with the people to pay for a generation or more. When the cupboards ran dry, the German and British debt holders brought in the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union, to enforce the debt. Now the poorest people will pay, as the government slashes social programs, while keeping taxes high.

Look at Ireland, and watch, for that is the future of many countries, a ripple of consolidation of the remaining oligarchs, unless they tumble as well.


There are drops of good news. Despite the collapse, some of the world's largest solar plants are now starting operation. SunEdison claims the largest single solar facility in Rovigo, Italy, at 70 megawatts. Germany has the largest over-all, with several linked solar farms. In fact, Germany and Spain lead the world in solar power.

Here is a web listing of the largest solar plants installed - and check out the photos.

Canada seems to have set a new record, opening an 80 Megawatt solar farm in Sarnia, Ontario.

The U.S. is way down the list, with the largest being a 25 megawatt solar plant in Arcadia, Florida. But Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced approval for what will be the world's largest Solar-Thermal plant, the Blythe Solar Power Project in the Mohave desert.

As fossil fuels run down, and as the public experiences their climatic danger, we will operate the remaining civilization on whatever cleaner power we have installed. That does include nuclear, but in the long run, the sun, the wind, the tides, and geothermal will provide.

We have taken the first baby steps.

But the road is long and dangerous. The U.S. government reported recently that nearly one in five Americans experienced some form of mental illness in 2009. Modern, disconnected life, with it's giant fears, has taken a brutal toll on us all. Check out our recent Radio Ecoshock programs on the psychology of climate change and Peak Oil awareness.

GARDENING TO SAVE SANITY (and maybe your life)

Part of the great healing is to re-establish our relationship with growing food. The process is good for us, as is the organic produce.

Like a great ice field cracking open, the impregnable icon of the lawn is starting to fall. In just one example, the City of North Vancouver is encouraging residents to tear out their lawns, and plant food gardens. City Councilor Craig Keating has raised bed gardens in his front yard.

The City even allows commercial farming of home yards. One company, "City Farm Boy" leases yards, and even roof-tops, to grow vegetables. Homeowners get a share of the fresh goodies, as do 38 shareholders, paying an annual fee for their weekly basket of veggies, from May to October.

This is Earth Shaking. People can stop poisoning their lawns, start composting their waste, and begin tasting real vegetables, that didn't travel thousands of carbonated miles.

I'm going to play you a clip from the radio show Unwelcome Guests, hour two of #523.

It is an interview of critical mass biker and 'Frisco life-changer Chris Carlsson. He is talking about his book "Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists and Vacant Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today."

We tune in as Chris explains the urban gardening scene in the United States.

Find Chris Carlsson's blog at, and read more in the zine "Processed World."

Growing food helped save me. It can help you too. Start small at home, find a community garden, find a community, right where you live.

We're going out with a music mix that's hard to beat. The famed Gospel Singer Mavis Staples, produced by master musician Ry Cooder. "Let My Little Light Shine" gets rocked, on the album "We'll Never Turn Back".

I'm Alex Smith. Don't tell me you are down and out. Not when you've got the light inside. Let it shine.

Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Atmosphere of Crisis

This week on Radio Ecoshock - we give it all.

There are two hot interviews.

Julian Cribb tell us about his new book "The Coming Famine. The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It."

I had a major realization myself, during this interview, and we'll talk about that shortly.

Then, Dr. Tim Garrett from the University of Utah blew my mind (again). I interviewed Tim back in February 2010 - after he published a peer-reviewed article suggesting that utter economic collapse, world-wide, might be the only way to avoid punishing climate change.

He applied physics to develop a formula which accurately modeled the relationship between energy use and wealth, as well as emissions of greenhouse gases. The model works backwards on historical figures, and makes sense. If it's true, we're in big trouble.

Garrett has a new paper out in the journal "Climatic Change". During our interview, he suggests one of my questions stimulated the new work. Namely, what would it take to keep emissions to the relatively safe 450 part per million CO2 level?

The new paper not only suggests that isn't going to happen, not with all the good will dreams and schemes in the world. It goes further. Using Hurricane Katrina as an example, Tim explains why the on-going pounding of our civilization by a disturbed climate will lead to horrible inflation. How does climate change lead to inflation? I asked, he answered. You must read the whole transcript here.

We wrap up with a French flavor of climate denial/doubt. I went out to record the latest climate news from the Arctic, and there is lots of it - but got a boatload of doubts and long-disproved theories from Marie Francois Andre. She's a Geomorphologist, not a climate scientist.

I speculate on why this gaggle of doubters develop spontaneously out of other disciplines, as the climate threat grows. Read it all here (with some links to real science of the Arctic, and other helpful stuff).


But let's get back to Julian Cribb. I just ran out of time to transcribe this important interview. If any of you can do it, please send an email to radio [at] Especially those who email me about missing out on the importance of population! Cribb's book is all about population (though he accounts for strong climate change, and Peak Oil, as well).

Here was my own discovery. I had already listened to an online lecture by Julian Cribb, given at the University of Melbourne. Highly recommended. It is 85 minutes, where he punches you with facts you vaguely knew, or never knew, that should rock our world.

If you have any trouble understanding the lecture link above, check out this page.

As I listened to Cribb's lecture, a little voice inside me rebelled. "The world will never reach 9 billion people, or 11 billion people! A plague, a war, some energy die-off will trim us back first...."

It wasn't until our interview, that I realized: I suffer from a from of Population Denial. There is Climate Denial (beliefs contrary to established facts) - but I had Population Denial (belief contrary to observable reality.)

Yes there may be a smaller chance that some disaster will stall world population growth. But for this century at least, it is much more possible that we will reproduce ourselves to death - going for 12 billion, maybe 15 billion humans on Earth.

I used Pessimism to protect me from that horrible prospect.

Julian Cribb does not. With his long-time agricultural experience (he won awards for his agricultural journalism) - Julian figures out our chances of actually feeding the coming generations. Where are the bottlenecks. What happens?

Until we get a volunteer transcript, you'll have to listen to the powerful interview, at the opening of this weeks' Radio Ecoshock Show, to here the awful truth from Julian Cribb.

Top that up with a synopsis of his arguments, found here.

Julian Cribb also has a blog (intended for food wonks, but all welcome) here.

Julian also asked me to point out this little detail in the great machine that feeds you and I.

I've got more coming up on food, plus a new interview with James Howard Kunstler. Tune in next week, as we travel beyond the oil Apocalypse.

I included two tidbits of songs this week. "1999" by Prince, and "The Dream Before" a 1989 tune from Laurie Anderson's "Strange Angels" album. Plus two quick clips from the CBC and BBC.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Trouble with Billionaires

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

I've got two tasty speeches for you: why the billionaires are taking over, and what we can do about it.

A quick note on this week's program. More than half of Radio Ecoshock listeners are American. Although we do have people grabbing the podcast from all over the English-speaking world, and beyond.

Our topic this week: a new book ""The Trouble with Billionaires, Why Too Much Money at the Top Is Bad for Everyone." You'll hear directly from the authors, tax Professor Neil Brooks, and journalist Linda McQuaig.

Some of the following speech is about Canada. But wait! Most of the examples of billionaires, and studies of what people really want, are American. You'll hear plenty about Wall Street, the greedy Hedge Funders, and why Bill Gates doesn't deserve his billions.

That is because many developed nations suffer the same disease: a collection of billionaires have taken over the financial system, the political system, and social discourse via the mainstream media - which is also controlled by billionaires. As we'll hear, it's an unannounced coup. Welcome to the Plutocracy, where Democracy used to be.

You'll also hear how other countries, like Sweden, deal with the same problems, to create a fair society. Horrors!

The event at the Vancouver Public Library November 3rd, 2010 was sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This recording is by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.

The whole event went way beyond what I can broadcast in a one hour show. For the radio program, I've zoomed in on the part of Neil's speech where he outlines the seven premises of the book. Then I've picked out "the best of" from Linda McQuaig's speech. I hope you'll agree I've picked the most important parts of the speech, but if you'd like the whole thing, find it in these two files:

#1 Speech by Neil Brooks with introduction by Seth Klein of the CPPA - 43 minutes, 10 megabytes

#2 Speech by Linda McQuaig, plus their responses to audience questions - 52 minutes, 12 megabytes

Should society be more equal, more fair in the distribution of wealth, created by a civilization in which we, and all of our ancestors, have built? Or should billionaires run the whole show?

Neil Brooks has been teaching tax law at the Osgood Hall school, part of the University of Toronto, for the past 35 years. In the speech, he begins admitting the book is another failure in a long string of failures. Brooks has been trying to get the Canadian government to introduce a more just society by taxing the wealthy more. Instead, the government has reduced taxes on the wealthy, and got rid of the estate tax, otherwise known as the Death Tax, altogether. This favors the concentration of wealth at the top.

Ironically, much of what Brooks teaches enables lawyers to go out and get even more tax breaks for big corporations. Neil says that at least one third of the wealth by the top 1 percent is never taxes or even calculated, as it moves through various loop-holes and off-shore tax havens. His book has a remedy for that.

In the radio segment, Brooks gives a quick overview of the general health of our society since the 1920's. That was the gilded age, when "Robber Barons" were well known. The 1930's Depression, followed by World War II, reduced the overwhelming fortunes of the very rich, and brought about a larger Middle Class. That balance stayed until around 1980's - when the return of Neo-liberalism, Reganism, and the alleged "trickle down effect" got money trickling upwards, and then rushing upward, into the very top one percent of the population. Poverty returned to more people, especially in America.

Actual experience, in North America and in other countries shows that taxing the wealthy less ends up creating a less just, and a poorer society overall. The economy suffers when wealth concentrates. There is much more to it, some of it shocking, but you need to listen to the Radio Program.

The second speaker was co-author Linda McQuaig, the long-time business columnist, author of a string of Canadian best-sellers, and social critic. She questions why Bill Gates, or any billionaire, should have money worth many lifetimes of work by the average person. And why have the rich taken over since the 1980's? Isn't it a coup?

In the radio program, we cut in as McQuaig talks about the former media baron Conrad Black, who once suggested Linda should be, quote, "horsewhipped." Black later hired McQuaig as a financial journalist at his newspaper the National Post. She currently writes for The Toronto Star.

That is the thorn in the side of wealthy, journalist and author Linda McQuaig. She was speaking at the Vancouver Public Library, with tax Professor Neil Brooks to announce her new book "The Trouble with Billionaires, Why Too Much Money at the Top Is Bad for Everyone." McQuaig is feisty, lively, and one of the best informed about the wealthy.

There is much more detail in the book, with names named. I could say the author's suggestions for higher taxes for the rich are spot on, but just a part of the solution. (No, tar and feathering is not the other part...)

Just look at the social disruption caused by Meg Whitman's pouring $143 million of her own money into the election for California Governor. Democracy bought out. Or the multi-billionaire Koch brothers pushing their right-wing agenda, and the Tea Party, in the U.S. While fighting off any action to limit climate disruption. Billionaires are a much great threat than we know. And we don't know, because they control the mass media.

Now, thanks to Neil and Linda, you know. And knowing is half the battle. The other half is to reclaim our Democracy, and social justice.

My thanks to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, for organizing this event, and allowing me to record it. Find them out more at

You can download the full speeches by Brooks and McQuaig, plus the Question and Answer period, as free mp3 files. Look for the "Economy" in our Audio on Demand menu, at our web site,

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for caring about our world.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Radio Ecoshock Show November 5, 2010

SHOW CREDITS: (for radio stations)

Jeff Tumlin recorded by Alex Smith, at the Gaining Ground Summit, Vancouver October 7th, 2010.

Odd clips from "Telstar" by the Tornados (1962); the Discovery Channel special (2006) "Perfect Disaster: Solar Storm"; global warming song (via You tube) from FLEP09, The Family Life Education Pasefika, New Zealand.


There is optimism - and then there's the facts. Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. We have a triple-header for you this week.

The Watchman is going to rattle out danger - with a brain wave escape hatch - as I interview California author Rebecca Costa.

Transportation planner Jeff Tumlin gives a short, stark warning speech about how cars make us fat, sick, and dead. Good commuting fare.

And we'll wrap up with happy bad news for the inner Doomster - NASA's new project to blackout your city, before the next Solar Storm starts the Long Emergency. Could it be the knock-out blow?

I don't mind if the future is scared and miserable. I just want my toilet to keep on working - and now the Sun wants to screw with my plumbing!

Do you think I'm crazy? NASA said so!

Keep listening.... and reading.

READ MORE - for all the links, my comments on this show, and the Solar Storm script, with more links to follow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peak Oil Vs. "Pathological Optimism"

RADIO STATIONS: end music is a clip from "End of the Age of Oil" by Dan Rovics.

Here are the extra file links for this program:

Your listeners can download Kathy McMahon's 80 full speech (in two parts) here:

Part 1, 38 min

Part 2 39 min

And this 20 minute interview of Karen McMahon by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.

Also: Radio Ecoshock is available to Radio Stations as two 29 minute segments, allowing you time for Station ID and announcements. Write me (radio [at] for details.


- Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock - on "the Peak Shrink", Kathy McMahon.

You know the Peak Oil three-step? First you find out our oil-based civilization has a nasty best-before date. Second, your own emotions and worries begin to surface. Then your friends and relatives start avoiding your "Doomer" talk.

As a clinical psychologist. Kathy McMahon has heard it all, through her blog Peak Oil Blues. She's been called "the Peak Shrink." Kathy has some ways to help you - and to fend off what she calls "pathological optimism" all around us.

Now, "The Peak Shrink" is on the road, with a series of speeches in the Pacific Northwest. I recorded the full speech, and an interview with McMahon, for Radio Ecoshock. You can listen in, with links at the bottom of this article.

Meeting Kathy is a relief. We are not crazy. The facade of the dying oil civilization is definitely crazy. Millions of people around the world are waking up to this fact, and sharing solutions.

Here is a quick summary of some points in Kathy McMahon's speech in Vancouver, Canada on October 18, 2010. - topics she explain so well in the audio.

Kathy began with the difference between "problems" (which humans enjoy solving) and "dilemmas" (which we loath). The dilemma has no good solution. We get more problems whatever we try, all options stink.

Peak Oil, amid our totally oil-dependent civilization, is a dilemma. Should we hope for a quick end to oil, to save the Planet's climate? Doesn't that mean a messy, possibly violent collapse, with widespread starvation? We don't know what to wish for.

McMahon reminds us the original Cassandra was the ancient Greek woman given the power to see the future. But the God Zeus adds the kicker - she will never be believed.

One Cassandra candidate in recent American history was 1970's President Jimmy Carter. McMahon reminds us of his correct predictions in a famous energy speech. The people chose Reagan instead.

But Kathy's real gift is to gather new understanding of our reaction to learning about Peak Oil (or climate change, and the crumbling economy). These come from the many letters, sent in from all over the world, to McMahon's blog "Peak Oil Blues" (

Students are upset to find the promised future disappearing. Housewives who can't convince their husbands to re-evaluate what they may need, to survive wrenching economic and energy changes.

In the Q and A session after Kathy's speech in Vancouver, I was surprised to find the number of women frustrated with husbands unwilling to even look at the facts about oil dependence, shrinking demands, and world competition for the last supplies. The wife is surreptitiously doubling up on long-lasting supplies ("to save money, dear") while hubby clings to a corporate job, and a brand new gas guzzler.

But what about those who take Peak Oil seriously? Kathy says we start out in shock, and then become mini-librarians crossed with a private investigator. Just the facts Mam.

What follows can be isolation from friends and family, who go into strong denial. "I don't want to hear about it" becomes a wall that can lead to loneliness.

Others go into supermarkets, see all the fruit flown in from around the world, but see it gone in the future, as the oil slips away. Ditto the imagined scenes of abandoned cars and vandalized monster houses. We may even reach a state of nostalgia for the present, remembering the good old days, while we live them.

Cases of outright depression can develop, and very rare cases of suicide have been reported. The Peak Oiler, now sure of the facts, goes through a state of shame and guilt, having participated in the gonzo waste of oil that was late 1900's civilization in the West.

Kathy McMahon admits she became a gambler, like all the rest of us. She had a family business selling new appliances into the construction industry, for new homes. As early as 2005, her reading revealed the suburban boom couldn't last. Should she sell the business, or try to get just one more good year out of it?

We all gamble, trying to say in the fossil system, as long as we have a job.

But the real target of the night, reversing labels like "Doomers" for those who dug up the oily facts - are the deniers who McMahon says cling to "pathological optimism".

You'll have to listen to the speech, or visit her blog at, to get this funny but true look, at the psychological labels we could give all those folks who say it will all be fine, despite the facts of Peak Oil.

There are 50 ways to deny Peak Oil, beyond those who just close their ears and refuse to hear about it. For example, in Frank Zappaism, otherwise educated people believe in magic. A new unknown technology will fix the problem, they say, so we don't need to worry about anything.

As a clinical psychologist, who works with couples, and sex therapy, when not online with Peak Oil Blues folks - Kathy McMahon sees several trends which make us even more unprepared for energy truth.

For example, new psychological studies are finding children who spend more than two years in front of a screen - any screen from TV's, to gaming, to I Phones - fail to develop in some ways. They are much more likely to suffer from mental illness later in life.

When Kathy visits a family, they must turn off all their electronic gadgets a half hour before the session. Even then, kids are whining to get back online, or gaming. They are addicted, and suffer "Nature Deficit Disorder". All this clouds the judgment needed to respond to Peak Oil, and a civilization under dire threats.

But all of us, Kathy says, have "cognitive maps" built in. These are the expectations the we think necessary to function. She gives the example in one startling statistic: when lost, children six or under are more likely to either return or be found, while older children create untrue ideas about their situation, perhaps from things they have seen on TV.

Likewise, our whole adult culture has many preconceived cognitive maps - that don't include dwindling energy supplies, or the realities of severe climate disruption. We make up new stories, rather than change our preconceptions.

Dr. McMahon has developed common-sense prescriptions for what ails us. We need to get grounded, and relearn how to make local friendships and community.

And - you'll like this - "we need to party more". Partying has dropped off drastically since the 1970's, even taking into account different age groups.

Others may want to form intentional communities, even mildly religious ones. We have to revive those skills.

In a funny part of the speech, McMahon reminds us that some people are annoying. That can't be a reason to quit, and go back to our bunkers. Humanity has always managed to adapt to annoying people.

We get examples of past and present community building efforts, mixed with scary statistics like:

Did you know a poll found that 40% of American women said they would get a divorce, if their husband lost his job?!

Or did you know psychologists and child-care workers are finding kids don't how to play? They can text, but they don't know how to invent things to do, outside.

There are a lot of personal answers in this 80 minute speech, delivered in Vancouver on October 18th, as part of a Pacific Northwest tour by Kathy McMahon. She lives in the country, in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts, along with some chickens, gardens, and pigs.

You can download Kathy McMahon's 80 full speech (in two parts) here:

Part 1, 38 min

Part 2 39 min

And this 20 minute interview of Karen McMahon by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.

If you have ever been discouraged by the dilemma of Peak Oil, or frustrated with friends and family who shut you down, take heart from Kathy McMahon, and the millions of people all over the world, who do know what is happening. Find them at

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Legacy: David Suzuki

This week on Radio Ecoshock, we are listening to a speech by famous geneticist, broadcaster, and author David Suzuki. For almost 50 years, he hosted the Canadian Broadcasting TV show "The Nature of Things", published 40 books, won awards. This is his "legacy" speech - before the release of a biographical film "David Suzuki - Force of Nature," at the Toronto Film Festival.

This talk was recorded by Alex Smith, at a standing room only auditorium at the Kitsilano High School, Vancouver, on September 17th, 2010. Dr. Suzuki tries to place humans in proper perspective, in the real world. I think you are going to learn, and like it.

Suzuki takes us back 4 billion years, as time travelers, to see how we would do without the services provided by the web of life. We don't last long.

Then he examines how our cultural lens - shapes our vision of Nature. Contrary to all previous humans, and continuing aboriginal societies, OUR myth is that all the other living things are "commodities" that we can use, abuse, or kill off at will. That could be our death myth.

But I won't try to put words in the mouth of Canada's most famous environmentalist, and a master communicator. I've heard David Suzuki before. This speech moved me more than any other. It is, as he says, his legacy. Please, take in the wisdom for yourself.

Dr. Suzuki went on to say his real legacy may be his children - all environmentalists - and the David Suzuki Foundation - which has been very active in many environmental problems, especially climate change. Find out how you can help, at

Our close-out music for the show was "350 Getdown" by May Earlwine - from the web site.

Thanks for joining us again this week.

Our own web site almost broke the servers this past month, with listener downloads, of green mp3 audio. More than half a terabyte heading out into the ears of the many, every month!

Thanks to some show volunteers, we've taken steps to strengthen our delivery system - meaning go ahead! Grab our free audio. Make CD's up for your friends, neighbors and citizens. Spread it around.

Maybe, eventually, enough people will understand the triple crunch, and take action to save - ourselves, our future, and the Planet for all the living creatures. That is the dream.

Get the free audio at - still, the Net's largest green audio download site.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Top Down or Bottom Up? Brand Vs. Korten

Should the very rich control our climate? Our food?

In the Radio Ecoshock for last week, I may suprised listeners with a very different point of view. Former Whole Earther Stewart Brand came out swinging for nuclear power, genetic engineering, and geoengineering as the new "green." I'll reply in just a minute.

Our main speaker this week is a refreshing antidote to Brand. David Korten was recorded at the University of British Columbia. He's a well-travelled specialist in the economy and cultural systems, author of the book "When Corporations Rule the World." Korten has a much better idea, in my opinion.

We'll finish up with an example of corporation concentrating functions as Stewart Brand says is inevitable. This time it's our enslavement of animals, in Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations. There's a set of two new books out - we'll talk with editor Daniel Imhoff.

This week we offer you a new talk by author David Korten. He describes where phantom wealth comes from, and how it distorts our world. Then he has some options of how we can re-build community a better way.

Korten's books "When Corporations Rule the World" and "The Great Turning, from Empire to Earth Community" have set the pace. His latest book,"Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth" (A Declaration of Independence from Wall Street) - couldn't come at a better time. This new talk was recorded September 27th, 2010, by the presenters, the UBC Reads Sustainability program.

But I begin this week’s program with a rant about Stewart Brand. His new “eco-pragmatism” reeks of the old conservatism, in my opinion. To be fair, I ran his recorded conversation last week, with little comment. This week, I tell you what I really think, in this piece:

"What’s the Matter With Stewart Brand?" Click on "Read more" below to find a link to that rant in print....

We end this week’s program with an example of what happens in the country, when big business takes over our food system. Daniel Imhoff is the editor of two companion books on CAFO - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. Earth Aware publishers have just brought out two new books on "The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories". There is a CAFO Reader<, and a big, big book of companion photos, that should frighten you.

READ MORE - Including a raft of supplemental audio for this program....

Thursday, October 7, 2010


We all know the creatures of the Earth are in dire straits. Billions of humans. More tens of billions of our food animals. All slashing down the landscape, denuding the oceans and polluting the atmosphere.

Unless we make a drastic change, the climate is headed for a catastrophic shift. Are we ready for desperate measures?

Stewart Brand became a household name in the 1970's with his Whole Earth Catalog - the tool that connected do-it-yourself energy, and back-to-the land implements, to an alternative culture. Now he's back, with friends in high places, and a big business frame of mind. Brand is promoting his new book "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto" - now in an updated paperback edition.

I caught up with Stewart at the Gaining Ground conference in Vancouver. About 14 people showed up. It became an opportunity for a unique conversation, with one of the plugged-in minds of our times.

As Stewart Brand roved, thought, and answered - I recorded with a mini-disk shoved in his pocket. Some of the participants did not expect to be on radio, I've replaced their questions with computer generated voices. Except for my own, of course.


I present Stewart Brand, and "ecopragmatism" as one set of solutions. He wants geo-engineering, like powdering the clouds with sulfates. Thinks the world needs genetically engineered food. Says nuclear power is required to avert climate change. Wonders if the power of well-meaning billionaires - might side-step the failure of politics...

His ideas are shocking to many people. This is not my idea of environmentalism - but in these desperate times - perhaps the last times for a stable climate - we should listen to all ideas.

These are not my positions. You be the judge.

This week you'll hear the first part of a unique conversation with Stewart Brand, recorded by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock, on October 5th, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.

Next week we'll run more from this conversation with Stewart Brand, author of "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto." Find an online version of the book at this web site:

Brand is among those who have made a shift toward the unthinkable: massive construction of nuclear power to avert climate change. Geo-engineering to stop the heat until we can make a shift. Genetically engineered food to help agriculture survive drought, floods, heat, or new insects. The big technical fix - almost the complete opposite of the do-it-yourself localized mentality made famous in the 1970's Whole Earth Catalog.

Why did Stewart Brand change, and how far did he go? Next week we'll hear his verdict on the 1970's - everything from communal gardening to the sexual revolution. And his strange trust in his "friends" - the multi-billionaires he admires so much. Almost as much as his changeable 90-year-old guru, Sir James Lovelock. Is "Ecopragmatism" green at all? Will the technical big fix really heal the Planet?

Be sure and join us next week for more Stewart Brand, - and my own reaction to Brand's proposed new "Green".

Meanwhile, I'd like to know what you think. Please send you comments on this program to this email address:

And keep your eye out on our climate page next week, for another big speech by Stewart Brand. Or download tons of free green audio mp3's, at the web site,

Plus - I have a surprise guest next week - an example of what can go wrong, when big business follows Stewart Brand's mantra of concentration.

Our good friend Dana Pearson has been hard at work on a new short song for Radio Ecoshock, and for everyone who wants inspiration, to save the planet from the climate shift. This one is called "Deal With It".

And we must.

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Post Climatic Stress Disorder - Climate Psychology

Friends did a month of rain that fall last night? Did rivers flood in the Fall? Did you know 214 all-time heat records were set in the U.S. September 24th?

It was 30 degrees in Toronto, feeling like 37 with the humidity - the heat of the human body. And just lately, Los Angeles hit an all-time high of 113 degrees - in late September!

Worried about your kids?

You might have Post Climatic Stress Disorder. PCSD is a serious condition. But don't worry, professional help is on the way....

This week on Radio Ecoshock, it's Climate psychology 101 - with psychologists Robert Griffin and Joseph Reser. Plus new film on the grand-daddy of the double bind, Gregory Bateson.

How does that make you feel?

What if humans are not capable of conceiving a slow-moving global problem. Maybe, we do not have the mental equipment to "see" climate change. If that were so, we may go extinct, due to a disability in our minds - and evolution works too slowly to fix such things. Do we have what it takes? Are we too stupid or psychologically challenged to survive?


Before I get into the debate and our guests - my own article on controversial psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich was published this Summer in the literary journal "The Centacle." Just click on the cover to get an Adobe .pdf file of this issue. "Wilhelm Reich, The Life and Death of a Social Pioneer" opens the issue.

My thanks to Raymond and his wife - of SpiritPlants Radio! - for patiently transcribing from my reading of this piece, buried on the Radio Ecoshock web site. I wrote it years ago, and then lost the printed version. Better to read it than listen, because as my first recording, I sound like an answering machine. It took me a while to find my radio voice.

Wilhelm Reich began the sexual revolution, and worked for a woman's rights to her own body, decades before the 1960's made it fashionable. He was heir apparent to Sigmund Freud, until his radical views got him kicked out of the Psychoanalytic Association, and Austria/Germany (thus saving his life from Hitler's goons).

But free thinking was no better loved in America, where Reich was among the first to criticize the radiation from nuclear weapons testing. For that, his earlier Communism (it was the McCarthy witch-hunt days), and his medical claims about "Orgone Energy" - the U.S. government arrested Reich and jailed him. This social pioneer died in American prison. Worse, in an under-reported example of American book-burning - the authorities burned all of his books- ironically including the classic "The Mass Psychology of Fascism". Read it and weep.

But on to our show on the psychology of climate change.

READ MORE (with notes on our guests, links to new climate psychology reports and audio - a re-think of how we approach the climate crisis....)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


"I feel great despair. My heart tells me to drop everything and run to the mountains, to try to find a place to take my family to ride out this great demise. Help!
Wednesday September 22, 2010 12:05"

Bill McKibben:
"Hey, me too on occasion. What salves that despair is seeing how many people are coming together to do great organizing. check out the pictures from last year at we may not win, but we're going to give the bad guys a run for their (considerable) money. "

That exchange came early in a online chat event with Bill McKibben. And that's what I'm hearing. Shadows of doubt.

Early in this program, after a solid round of hate rant against the Greens by Texas Talk Show man Alex Jones - we look deeper into the engines of climate doubt.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes has a unique marriage of expertise, in both global warming AND the history of science.

She is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego. Her early books were on Geophysics, Plate Tectonics, and Continental Drift theory. But now Naomi Oreskes enters a more public battle, with her newest book "Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth, on Issues from Tobacco Smoke, to Global Warming."

During my own research in the early 1900's, I found a small group of scientists promoting dubious products, like tobacco and even asbestos. They were joined by other authority figures, like Dixie Lee Ray, a former Governor of Washington State, who never met a toxic chemical she didn't like. Many of the press releases came from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

These front institutions, funded by billionaires and very wealthy industrialists, are the "think tanks" that bring out endless reports suggesting the poor should be dumped, the prisons privatized, and taxes must always fall. They don't like environmentalism, because it costs them money for pollution equipment, or even stops a few big ventures - the ones that can't pass any public smell test. Think the Coors family, and the Koch brothers for starters.

I suppose the surprise isn't that big polluters hire spokespeople, even scientists. My question is: how did such a small number of people get so much media attention, to look like an equal half in the public debate? How did they do it?

Dr. Oreskes did the digging. She found a second thread to this story. Beyond the wealthy polluters, there also lurked a cadre of academics raised on fighting the Cold War, capitalism versus communism. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, many of the same faces switched over to anti-environmentalism. Since big governments could legislate restrictive environmental protection laws - they must be socialist, if not Communist.

Under that theology, several top-rated scientists, including one former President of the National Academy of Sciences, began signing press releases saying the risk of tobacco, DDT, and other chemicals was over-rated. Perhaps they weren't so dangerous. It was, and is, a strategy of casting doubt.

The fact that several well-known scientists went well beyond their fields of expertise to endorse media machines designed to protect chemical, oil and tobacco companies raises my suspicions. At least two were found to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from electric power and coal providers. Others may have acted out of idealism alone, who knows?

That anti-Green machine was established an well-oiled, as the carbon dioxide problem became more visible. Suddenly, some of the same scientists declared global warming to either not exist, or be a harmless natural change. The same think-tanks produced reports saying the same. Delay, delay, and cast doubt, as the tobacco lobby did so successfully for years (at a cost of millions of lives around the world....).

Naomi Oreskes shows the roots, the development and the present growth of this denial industry. Don't miss this interview.

In the next segment, I was moved.

This very day, I went down to the Court House steps, to hear the words of a green grandmother threatened with life imprisonment, just for her activism to protect nature.

We all know Governments and big corporations make big mistakes. They blow up oil wells, reactors, banking systems and whole cities and nobody goes to jail. Nobody. But if you protest the destruction of Earth's environment - watch out! The full force of the law comes down.

I've heard of harassment and dirty deals against the Greens. But I've never heard anything so disgusting as came out today.

In British Columbia, which claims to have a green conscience, the government of Gordon Campbell was determine to ram through new highways in time for the Olympics. Never mind the environment, or the people who objected, including some of the First Nations people, who have never given up claim to that land.

Betty Krawczyk is at least 81. Maybe more. She has a long history of standing up to logging in the woods, or massive construction through the last urban green. She has been arrested many times. Betty wrote a book in her last 10 month jail sentence.

Now in an Appeal Court action, the British Columbia prosecutor is asking for a life sentence!

Her protest was non-violent - she stood on public land, with a First Nations woman, in front of a construction bull-dozer.

Now, without any jury trial, and without a lawyer, Betty Krawczyk will make her Appeal in Vancouver, Canada. The government Prosecutor is calling for a life sentence, comparing Betty's protests to cases of repeated rapes of children.

In Canada, a rapist might get 5 years or less. Murder has been punished with 7 years or less. But environmental protest - throw away the key!

We hear clips recorded from Betty on the Court House steps, plus famous civil rights lawyer Cameron Ward on the abuse of process. Rex Weyler also spoke, as well as a woman representing the First Nations people, who Betty helped many times.

It was a sad affair. If this speech doesn't move you, nothing will.

Then we move on to the inevitable: rising seas.

All our lives, all our maps, our ports, and our commerce depend upon a steady sea level. All places around the world are marked so many feet or meters "above sea level". That is history. Now the sea level will rise, just from the greenhouse gases we have already put in the air, and the heat we have already put into the sea.

I interview Dr. Peter Ward, a thought-leader in the field, and a leading scientist. He's the author of the break-through book "Under A Green Sky". That book explains how relatively sudden (in geological time) mass extinctions could occur - due to greenhouse heating. The very bacteria in the sea change, emitting hydrogen sulfide, which kills off many land animals and plants. This view is now widely held, due to further scientific studies which also lead in that direction.

In his new book "The Flooded Earth" - Peter Ward explains why, how, and how fast the seas will rise, due to global warming. Even this century, we are in for big changes, likely a meter or three feet by 2100. It could be slightly less, or a lot more, we don't know for sure.

And it also looks like the massive process of de-icing the world has begun. If that tipping point has in fact been reached, as scientists like James Hansen fear might be the case even at our present carbon dioxide levels - then nothing can stop a thousand-year melt that will leave the world more or less ice-free.

That has huge ramifications for everything, including the movement of winds and ocean currents. As Hansen says, we may be heading "for a different planet".

Even within the next 50 to a hundred years, Ward says, we could see significant damage to agriculture, just when we need food most for those extra three billion people. Even a small rise in sea levels can send salt into the water tables of low-lying deltas. Hundreds of millions of people depend upon delta food. Even California, in places like San Francisco, could lose a lot of productive land, this century, due to rising seas.

Not to mention the multi-trillion dollar cost of raising all those docks, and moving all those ocean-side homes - at a time when we expect to have less fossil fuels, at much higher prices.

In our interview, Peter Ward claims that the single biggest threat and impact of climate change will be rising seas, rather than hot weather, or even drought. We'll see.

That interview is available in three parts on You tube.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Find more at our You tube channel.

Sure enough, I have my first denialist heckler! Tom Harris from the "International Climate Science Coalition" says my "Russian Heat" video is "spam" because it depicts climate change as a real phenomenon, caused by humans! (When his 137 scientists say it's not). Find the details about Tom Harris here at

Kinda like Dr. Oreskes said. And it just keeps rolling on, even as we set record heat throughout the last decade. etc.

Next week, we'll look into the psychology of climate change. No, no, not the gump fed to governments. Work by field psychologists into the way you and I handle the news. How we adapt - or fail to...

Until then,

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When the World Is Running Down

This week on Radio Ecoshock - the losing game. One in seven Americans are now officially poor. Millions are losing their homes. The "Recovery" was just a fantasy: if we all believed hard enough - the empty shell economy could stumble on forever. Now, even the mainstream media doubts our chances.

I'm Alex Smith. Our theme song this program: "When the World Is Running Down (you make the best of what's comming 'round) by The Police.

There are people who know what is going on...what are they saying? You will hear three voices on the triple crunch. Climate chaos, energy decline, and a global Ponzi economy going bust.

Stoneleigh will warn you.

Laurence Budd explains life after Peak Water.

And we chat with musician and gardener Dana Pearson, about getting out.... and getting trapped.

When the world is running down....

How bad do you think it is? A new survey from StrategyOne finds two out of three Americans expect another "recession". Forty four percent of those people, think the worst is yet to come. Only 5% of those polled really expected a recovery this year.

Real average earnings went up only 6 percent in this decade. But consumer spending increased 54%. Retail chains flourished to serve this mass delusion, as people mistook their houses for a piggy bank.

In Germany, Der Spiegel has finally reported on all those people living in their cars in Ventura, California.,1518,712496,00.html

Radio Ecoshock covered that in our show for May 2nd, 2008 - two years ago. Download our pocket advice for living in your car, if you had to.

The same program, "Radio for Troubled Times" also features off-grid expert Nick Rosen. Tips to unplug.

State and city governments teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. The State of Pennsylvania just stepped in to hold off foreclosure on it's capital, Harrisburg.

Some places cut public buses, others close schools Fridays. Streetlights go dim, police officers get pink slips, along with teachers and even ambulance drivers.

Many of the bankrupt cities spent billions on major capital projects that enriched the bankers and developers. Now they cannot cover the interest - it all sounds so familiar, from the bad old days of "development" in South America and Africa.

Arianna Huffington writes "America is in danger of becoming a Third World Country".

There is a race for who can be most bleak in establishment mouthpieces, like the New York Times.

An alarming number of Americans are just one pay-check away from abject poverty. Others don't get that paycheck at all.

In the New York Times, future-writer Douglas Copeland has a new word for us:

BLANK-COLLAR WORKERS Formerly middle-class workers who will never be middle class again and who will never come to terms with that.

Fortune, say the wise Chinese, is a wheel. It rises, and falls, for everything that lives. In fallen times, is the greatest opportunity.

Did we need those foreclosed monster houses? Did we need all those cops rigged out for terrorism in tiny mid-West towns? Did we need the financial mill-houses? What do we need?

We are about to find out.


At the turn of the 21st Century, 16 percent of Americans moved to a different place - 43 million people. Going for a new job, a relationship, or just to start again - it is the American way. With all the roads in the world, Americans are a mobile people.

All that is changing - and I think this is an under-reported story of the times. In the good old days - which was just 3 or 4 years ago - your sold your home and went wherever.

Now, millions of Americans are stuck. They can't sell because they are "underwater" - owing the bank more than their home is worth. Or because the going price seems ridiculously low. Nobody can get a loan to buy it, and who wants to buy a liability like real estate these days?

That means an end to many dreams, less social mobility. Better marry close to home. No chance to get out and find work elsewhere. I'm not sure the American economy can withstand the uncharted impacts of frozen people in frozen real estate.

Reporters sometimes drain their friends for a story. I volunteered musician and master gardener Dana Pearson to stand in. We had a casual conversation, and Dana is brave enough to let it go on air.

I want you to hear this, because there is a sub-text, for all those planning to escape from dangerous or degraded cities. You may dream of that organic farm in Canada, where the climate will still be kind to your descendents - but is that door already closed?

I want to thank Dana for sharing his story. You will hear more from our listeners as this season goes on.

And you will see more as well. Radio Ecoshock is developing a You tube channel, with selected video interviews, recorded with a new tool called Vodburner. Capturing Skype video calls becomes the new TV. More people now watch You tube than conventional television. Radio Ecoshock will be there. Watch this space.

That's right. I'm "pathunknown" - that's the name Google machinery assigned to my You tube name. I've struggled through various Google help talk, but the bottom line is: if I cancel this account, I am warned I may never get another one! And nobody at Google can change it! The help people sound like my mother "only you can change it..."

Hey, Sergey Brin - the renewable energy fan at Google - if you or your minions read this - can you help me out? Please! I don't want to be "pathunknown".

Although, maybe I should accept that Karma. Maybe my path is unknown. Maybe the direction for all of us is uncertain....

Radio Ecoshock also has a large audience of downloaders - from our web site at, and from other podcast feeders and readers. Last June, we had over 31,000 Radio Ecoshock programs downloaded in a single month.

Hello to all those around the world who volunteer to be disturbed, with the awful truth, from one of the most depressing shows on radio...

And thank you for listening.