Saturday, April 29, 2006
"the next Charlotte Church" -- this is how advertising tends to go in the music world, it seems, x is the next so-and-so; her official website; NPR interview.
She's got the bloom of youth in her pictures, much like Charlotte Church when she first came out (and Britney Spears--of course there may be some computer assistance, but radiant youth usually does not need that much touching up; maybe some removal of acne and the like *embarrassed*). Even at the beginning, Miss Church was a bit overrated, and as she has gotten older I think her vocal skills have declined. (I believe she's moved away from opera/classical/traditional and folk music to popular music/musicals.) I have not heard the albums by Miss Westerna; I mention her on the blog because she is one of the featured artists for the BMG (Classical) Music Club--if not for this month, then recently, and I am curious about the quality of her voice.
Who Killed Classical Music?: Maestros, Managers, and Corporate Politics by Norman Lebrecth talks about the declining popularity of classical music and its causes. I think the over-commercialization of Classical Music is at least partly responsible. (I think this is one of the points Lebrecth makes in his book, unless I am remembering a different book.) One of my friends loves Il Divo (a creation of Simon Cowell of American Idol fame), but attempts to create successful crossover artists have only been mildly successful? (See also Bond; there's even the attempt to sell classical Chinese music to Western markets, with 12 Girls Band... and what of Sarah Brightman [UK]? She has crossed-over in the reverse direction, from Andrew Lloyd Weber to opera to Middle Eastern music to who-knows-what...) Lebrecth does criticize the Three Tenors (José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo--he considers the whole gimmick to be a part of the problem and a betrayal of the ethos of classical music. But my mom likes them...
There is also the article "What Killed Classical Recording" by Terry Teachout in Commentary (2001); I haven't read this article yet, but according to the abstract, it seems to state many of the same points as Lebrecth.
Anyways, here's some Charlotte Church stuff. Her website. Some fansites: 1, 2
I was thinking of posting some photos of Charlotte Church, but she's changed much in the past 5 years. (There are even some photos appropriate for the tabloids!--which is probably where they were published in the first place.) Here is a picture of Miss Church which makes me think of Lindsay Lohan:
Undoubtedly many of her "fans" also like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. (creeps) It's unfortunate Miss Church didn't receive more parental instruction, if her statement on one of the late-night shows that she moved into a flat with her boyfriend are to be taken seriously...
From "The dating game"
This is the most controversial piece of advice I give teenagers looking to court. Granted, it goes against our established custom in North America, but it is also a piece of advice I received from a youth minister whose pastoral experience with inner-city youth ministry corroborates my own experience. Thus, given our present cultural expectations, a little adjustment to the custom of
courtship is warranted.To explain: guys were originally expected to pay the girl's way because this offered an opportunity for the girl to judge the guy as a potential provider for the family. This was before our culture degenerated to the point where instant gratification may be purchased.
In short, quite often when a guy pays a girl's way, he unconsciously expects something by way of sexual gratification in return. Therefore, girls, pay your own way. If you do this, a guy is less likely to expect something in return. This also makes you more assertive, and thus more resistant, should a situation arise in which you are pressured to compromise your moral standards.On the other hand, in keeping with the spirit of the former custom, do not pay a guy's way. If he never has money, either because he has not earned it or because he cannot resist spending it, then he probably will not be a good provider in marriage.
See also "The Dating Game: The Dangers of Cash-Based Courtship," by Anne Morse
And a good history of the development American courtship practices in the 20th ce: From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America, by Beth L. Bailey
Review of The Murderer Next Door, "The limits of sociobiology"
Also, Howard Husock, "Jane Jacobs, 1916–2006: New York’s indispensable urban iconoclast"
Perhaps the major question is whether economics has any relation to ethics/politics or if it is completely separate from morality. (Other important questions are the nature of economics, whether it is descriptive or normative, and the role of mathematics/statistics in speculation about economics.) If one accepts that economics is subordinate to politics, then questions of the size of the community and the place of material goods in the good life become very important.
And let's not even start with the question of illegal immigration...
From the Ludwig von Mises Institute:
What is Austrian Economics
Epistemological Problems of Economics
History of Economic Thought on the Austrian school. (HET on the other various schools.) Wikipedia entry.
A brief biography of von Mises. The Ludwig von Mises Institute Europe.
Roderick T. Long's website
The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. A critique of the "Catholic Whigs" by Thomas Storck can be found here.
"Is Economic Philosophy Worth Teaching?" (Contains, at the very least, a questionable understanding of Christian personalism and Aristotelian political theory. Apparently many believe the Austrian school and the Christian personalism of Karol Wojtyla are very close, if not identical. This is debatable.)
"Why I am not an Austrian Economist," by Bryan Caplan (his homepage)
The Chicago School
A review of Caring for Economics: An Aristotelian Perpsective. My guess is that the book isn't that good, though I may take a peek if I have some time.
AD2000 review of Heinrich Pesch's Ethics and the National Economy, which provides a short summary of Pesch's Solidarism. An article on Pesch's Lehrbuch.
(for future reference: an exchange involving HCK Liu)
Some of those who have witnessed and experienced the failures of their fathers may react rightly against those failures, once they understand how negative their consequences upon themselves and other members of the family are. (Especially if children bond more quickly with the mother, and she is the target of abuse.) Of course, there will be strong feelings towards the father, perhaps a revolt. An extreme reaction may even develop, a rejection of all that is male, both good and bad masculine traits. Unfortunately, others are instead influenced by what they see and become tyrants when dealing with their women and children.
What can one do when the Christian ideal of husband and father is not adhered to in one's own family? And how often do we adopt the habits and behaviors of our fathers, either consciously or subconsciously, even though on some level we know we shouldn't? Despite the intention to avoid perpetuating the cycle of bad interpersonal dynamics between spouses, we are often weighed down by our actions flowing from what we have absorbed from others. How many psychic wounds are there to be healed?
One can see the impact of absent (whether physically or emotionally) fathers on family life in the children. Children who yearn for a father figure in their lives and affirmation from them. Sons and daughters who are left without a good masculine model in their lives. Boys and girls who suffer, unnoticed at school; many reaching out to the first male that will give them the attention they need. Others who act out, being violent in their pathetic attempt to deal with the violence in their lives. How sad is the child who has no one to hold his or her hand...
What of our daughters who do not have the fatherly guidance and affection they need, and end up in destructive relationships? Looking for love from men and compromising themselves in their need of a stable relationship, because the first man in their lives wasn't there for them. The illusions that they strive to maintain, despite the awareness that all is not all well.
Lord, have mercy.
Drs. Conrad Baars and Anna Terruwe wrote of emotional deprivation disorder, and of the negative effects of repressing the emotions, especially anger, both from a Thomistic point of view. (Incidentally, they argue for this repression being one cause of OCD.) EPD should be nothing more than a fancy name for something people should have a 'common sense' grasp of, but good parenting skills are acquired, not innate, and need to be grounded in good character.
Website for Conraad Baars. Healing the Unaffirmed. Psychic Wholeness and Healing. Feeling and Healing Your Emotions.
Paul Vitz has written on the impact of bad fathering upon religious belief. (see 1, 2 and 3, Faith of the Fatherless) His website. (academic page) See also the Institute for Psychological Sciences, where Dr. Vitz is a faculty member.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
John Montague Massengale (his blog)
Thomas Gordon Smith
dellachiesa.com (see their architect links)
Congress for the New Urbanism
New Urban News
Chicago Conscious Choice, April 2001 issue on NU
The Town Paper
Towards a more humane style and way of life... but is it too late?
By ROBIN PHILPOT
Sounds like Dark Ages Ahead might be worth checking out... I found this of particular interest in the article:
She developed the idea of smaller sovereignties in her recent book Dark Age Ahead. In it she explains how early medieval cities helped pull Europe out of the Dark Age because of subsidiarity, the principle that government works best when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it addresses, and fiscal accountability, the principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing money. Both of these principles have almost disappeared from the modern world.
The full speech from yesterday's general audience, courtesy of Zenit.
Role of Church
"Communion Embraces All Times and All
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience, on the theme "Tradition: Communion in Time."
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Thank you for your affection! In the new series of catechesis initiated a short time ago, we tried to understand the original design of the Church desired by the Lord to comprehend better our participation, our Christian life, in the great communion of the Church. Until now we have understood that ecclesial communion is aroused and sustained by the Holy Spirit, guarded and promoted by the apostolic ministry. And this communion, which we call Church, does not extend only to all believers of a certain historical moment, but embraces also all times and all generations. Therefore, we find ourselves before a double universality: the synchronic universality -- we are united with believers in all parts of the world -- and the universality called diachronic, that is, all times belong to us: Believers of the past and of the future form with us only one and great communion.
The Spirit appears as the guarantor of the active presence of mystery in history, who assures its realization through the centuries. Thanks to the Paraclete, the experience of the Risen One, made by the apostolic community in the origins of the Church, will always be able to be lived by successive generations, in the measure that it is transmitted and actualized in faith, in worship and in the communion of the People of God, pilgrim in time. And, in this way, we, now, in Eastertide, live the encounter with the Risen One not only as something of the past, but in the present communion of the faith, of the liturgy, of the life of the Church.
The Church's apostolic Tradition consists in this transmission of the goods of salvation, which makes of the Christian community the permanent actualization, with the force of the Spirit, of the original communion. It is called thus because it was born from the testimony of the apostles and of the community of the disciples in the early years, was given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the writings of the New Testament, and in the sacramental life, in the life of faith, and the Church makes constant reference to it -- to this Tradition that is the always present reality of the gift of Jesus -- as its foundation and norm through the uninterrupted succession of the apostolic ministry.
In his historical life, Jesus limited his mission to the House of Israel, but he already made it understood that the gift was destined not only for the people of Israel, but for the whole world and for all times. The Risen One then entrusted, explicitly to the apostles (cf. Luke 6:13) the task to make disciples of all nations, guaranteeing his presence and help until the end of time (cf. Matthew 28:19ff).
The universality of salvation calls for, among other things, that the Easter memorial be celebrated in history without interruption until Christ's glorious return (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26). Who will actualize the salvific presence of the Lord Jesus, through the ministry of the apostles, heads of the eschatological Israel (cf. Matthew 19:28) -- and of the whole life of the people of the New Covenant? The answer is clear: the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles -- continuing with the plan of Luke's Gospel -- present the mutual understanding between the Spirit, those sent by Christ, and the community gathered by them.
Thanks to the action of the Paraclete, the apostles and their successors can realize in time the mission received through the Risen One: "You are witnesses of these things. And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you" (Luke 24:48-49). "But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). And this promise, initially incredible, was already realized in the time of the apostles: "We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:32).
Therefore, it is the same Spirit who, through the imposition of hands and the prayer of the apostles, consecrates and sends the new missionaries of the Gospel (for example, in Acts 13:3ff and 1 Timothy 4:14). It is interesting to observe that, whereas in some passages it is said that Paul establishes the presbyters in the Churches (cf. Acts 14:23), in others it is affirmed that it is the Holy Spirit who constitutes the pastors of the flock (cf. Acts 20:28).
In this way, the action of the Spirit and of Paul is profoundly fused. In the hour of solemn decisions for the life of the Church, the Spirit is present to guide her. This presence-guide of the Holy Spirit was experienced particularly in the Council of Jerusalem, in whose conclusive words resounded the affirmation: "It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28); the Church grows and walks "in the fear of the Lord and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31).
This permanent actualization of the active presence of the Lord Jesus in his people, realized by the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church through the apostolic ministry and fraternal communion, is what is understood by the term Tradition in the theological sense: It is not
the mere material transmission of what was given at the beginning to the apostles, but the efficacious presence of the Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, which accompanies and guides in the Spirit the community gathered by him.
Tradition is the communion of the faithful around their legitimate pastors in the course of history, a communion that the Holy Spirit nurtures assuring the nexus between the experience of the apostolic faith, lived in the original community of the disciples, and the present experience of Christ in his Church.
In other words, Tradition is the organic continuity of the Church, holy temple of God the Father, built on the foundation of the Spirit: "So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22). Thanks to Tradition, guaranteed by the ministry of the apostles and their successors, the water of life that flowed from the side of Christ and his saving blood comes to the women and men of all times. In this way, Tradition is the permanent presence of the Savior who comes to meet, redeem and sanctify us in the Spirit through the ministry of his Church for the glory of the Father.
Concluding and summarizing, we can therefore say that Tradition is not the transmission of things or words, a collection of dead things. Tradition is the living river that unites us to the origins, the living river in which the origins are always present, the great river that leads us to the port of eternity. In this living river, the word of the Lord that we heard at the beginning from the lips of the reader: "And behold, I am with you always, until the eng of the age" is fulfilled again (Matthew 28:20). [Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in 12 languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Ecclesial communion embraces all times and all generations. Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the early apostolic community experienced the Risen Lord. Successive generations do the same, as the faith is transmitted and lived through worship and the communion of the pilgrim People of God.
From the beginning, Jesus intended that this saving work should extend to all the world and indeed, as we have heard today, the Risen Lord entrusted to the apostles the task of making disciples of all nations while guaranteeing his own presence with them.
This ongoing actualization of the presence of Jesus -- through the work of the Spirit and through the Church's apostolic ministry and fraternal communion -- is what we mean by the term Tradition; it is not just a transmission of "things," but the efficacious presence of the Lord who accompanies and guides the gathered community.
The Holy Spirit nurtures this communion, assuring the connection between the apostolic faith experienced by the first communities of disciples, and our experience today of Christ in his Church. Let us rejoice in the presence of the Savior who comes to meet us, to redeem us, and to sanctify us through the ministry of his Church! I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present, including the pupils and staff from Holy Faith Convent School in Dublin. May your Easter pilgrimage be a time of deep spiritual renewal. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of God's blessings of peace and joy!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Young Japanese on a pilgrimage to find the roots of the nation’s Catholicism
A group of young Tokyo Catholics spend time together searching for the roots of Christianity in Japan. Their first journey is to the birthplace of Catholicism and martyrdom.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/JCN) – A group of young Japanese Catholics had decided to find the roots of Christianity in Japan by organising meetings and pilgrimages across the country. The Shinsei Kaikan Youth Centre in Tokyo organised the first such event, a pilgrimage to places where its first representatives suffered martyrdom, to better understand the origins of Japanese Catholicism.
Shibata Yoko, 23, from Shizuoka parish, said she came with joy because since high school “no matter how much I thought about it [martyrdom], I could not understand it.”
It all began when she read Endo Shusaku's novel Silence, a story of the persecution of Christians in Japan. “I know that to die a martyr is splendid but I feel it is necessary to study the historical facts one by one.” Shibata and four friends along with two priests spent two weeks in March on a pilgrimage that took them to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shizuoka and Nagasaki to retrace the path taken by the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Nagasaki, whom John Paul II compared to the early martyrs of Christianity for their fortitude. They travelled to places where the first Kirishitan (Japanese converts to Christians) lived in the second half of the 16th century.
At the Historical Materials Museum in Yamaguchi, 21-year-old Mana Ide of the Saku Church in Nagano saw for the first time a letter written by a martyred missionary. She was surprised to find the missionary writing that he had no fear, describing martyrdom as something magnificent.
“I thought how different our way is of expressing our faith,” Ide said. “But I also thought that our love for God is not different.”
At the end of the experience, another pilgrim, Toshiro Ogaki, proposed to spend a while together thinking about the Church in Japan and how the martyrs accepted their fate.
Links on Japanese Christianity found on mousemagnet.
More stuff on Shusaku Endo:
"Kirishitan and Today," by Shusaku Endo, pdf
The Christology of Shusaku Endo"
"Shusaku Endo's enduring legacy"
Copy of an article from Christianity Today
"Suffering the Patient Victory of God: Shusaku Endo and the Lessons of a Japanese Catholic"
"Shusaku Endo's Jesus"
"Confessions of a True Believer"
Homepage for Peter Milward, S.J., Shakespeare expert and Jesuit living and teaching at Sophia University in Japan. Chronology for Fr. Milward
"Devotion to the Sacred Heart" Pt 1, Pt 2; "What is Education" by Fr. Milward and Kamran Mofid
Sophia University, English website (Jesuit university in Tokyo); the school song: mp3
The origin of the school badge and the school name(source)
The eagle on the school badge is modeled after the eagle which flies toward the light of truth and flutters forcibly, and its figure expresses The essence and the ideal of Sophia University. The characters described in the center of the badge are the initials of the motto of Sophia," light of truth" Lux Veritatis. Jouchi Daigaku has been known overseas by the name of Sophia University from the beginnings. This word "Sophia" was taken from the Greek and it means the wisdom which is expressed in ethical activities that further the goals of human existence. This wisdom is the ultimate treasure, which Sophia would give to students and exactly fits the name of "Sophia."
Some Japanese Christians did not embrace the missionaries who came to Japan in the 19th century, adhering instead to their own beliefs and practices, which by then was often an amalgalm of Catholic Christianity, mixed with Buddhism and other indigenous elements. Articles on Japan's "hidden Christians":
"Ikitsuki Journal; Once Banned, Christianity Withers in an Old Stronghold"
"Hidden Christians in Contemporary Nagasaki"
"Lack of Oppression Hurts Christianity in Japan"
"Japanese painting, used by ‘hidden Christians,’ restored"
"Japan's Hidden Christians dying out?"
Stephen Turnbull's introduction
Before the appeal, the pope turned again to the topic he himself has described as a commitment to “understand the original design of the Church”, and hence “our life in the Church today”; he talked about Tradition as “communion in time” to more than 50,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square despite the cloudy, sometimes rainy Roman weather. The encounter had a festive note, with banners and flags from several countries, including China, and a band in Tyrolese costume that drew a smile from the pope.
Ecclesial communion, in the words of Benedict XVI, “does not only extend to all believers in a given moment in time, which unites all believers in all parts of the world (synchronic communion); it also embraces all times and all generations of believers in the past and future (diachronic communion).”And so the “experience of the Risen Lord of the apostolic community at the beginnings of the Church, can always be lived by successive generations, in that it is transmitted and actualized in faith, in worship and in communion of the People of God, pilgrim in time. The apostolic Tradition of the Church consists of this transmission of the virtues of salvation, which makes the Christian community the permanent realization of the original community, in the strength of the Spirit. It is called so because it was born from the testimony of the Apostles and of the community of disciples at the beginning, it was handed down under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the writings of the New Testament and sacramental life, and the Church continually refers to it as its foundation and norm through the uninterrupted succession of the apostolic ministry.” And it is the Spirit who “actualizes” the “saving presence of the Lord Jesus through the ministry of the apostles – leaders of the eschatological Israel (cfr Mt 19:28) – and through the life of all the people of the new covenant”.
“This permanent actualization of the active presence of the Lord Jesus in his people, by the work of the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church through the apostolic ministry and brotherly communion, is what is meant, in a theological sense, by the term Tradition: it is not the simple material transmission of things and words, of what was given to the Apostles at the beginning, but the effective presence of the Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, that accompanies and leads the community gathered around him in the spirit”.
"On Ecclesial Movements and New Communities"
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: April 25, 2006
Steve Payne for The New York Times
The author Jane Jacobs on the porch of her home in Toronto, June 9, 2003.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jane Jacobs, an author and community activist of singular influence whose classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" transformed ideas about urban planning, died Tuesday, her publisher said. Jacobs, a longtime resident of Toronto, was 89.
Jacobs died in her sleep Tuesday morning at a Toronto hospital, which she entered a few days ago, according to Random House publicist Sally Marvin. Jacobs' son, James, was with her at the time. The author, who would have turned 90 on May 4, had been in poor health.
A native of Scranton, Pa., Jacobs lived for many years in New York before moving to Toronto in the late 1960s. She and her husband, architect Robert Jacobs Jr., were unhappy their taxes were supporting the Vietnam War and they eventually made Canada their permanent home. Robert Jacobs died in 1996. Her impact transcended borders. Basing her findings on deep, eclectic reading and firsthand observation, Jacobs challenged assumptions she believed damaged modern cities -- that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street was safer than a crowded one, that the car represented progress over the pedestrian.
Her priorities were for integrated, manageable communities, for diversity of people, transportation, architecture and commerce. She also believed that economies need to be self-sustaining and self-renewing, relying on local initiative instead of centralized bureaucracies.
"She inspired a kind of quiet revolution," her longtime editor, Jacob Epstein, said Tuesday. "Every time you see people rise up and oppose a developer, you think of Jane Jacobs."
"Death and Life," published in 1961, evolved from opposing the standards of the time to becoming a standard itself. It was taught in urban studies classes throughout North America and sold more than half a million copies. City planners in New York and Toronto were among those who cited its importance and her book became an essential text for "New Urban" communities such as Hercules, Calif., and Civano, Ariz.
Jacobs also received a number of prizes, including a lifetime achievement award in 2000 from the National Building Foundation in Washington, D.C.
With her bangs and owlish glasses, and her look of cheerful curiosity, it was easy to mistake Jacobs for an idle eccentric, the kind of woman to be found late at night in the research room of the public library.
But Jacobs was a dedicated, even iconic activist. In the 1950s, she was interrogated by the U.S. government over her loyalty to the country and in the 1960s she was arrested during protests against the Vietnam War. She successfully opposed a Toronto highway project not long after moving there and was a distinctive presence at public hearings.
"You sort of fell in love with Jane when you met her," Epstein said. "She was exuberant, original, strong-minded and a very kind woman."
Her most famous confrontation came in the early '60s, when she helped defeat a plan by New York City park commissioner Robert Moses to build an expressway through Washington Square, their rivalry immortalized in the 2004 play "Boozy." During a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, Jacobs recalled the city hearing where she first laid eyes on the mighty Moses.
"As is often the case in these hearings, the officials speak first and then they leave before they hear the opposition. So he was one of the first speakers," she said. "He was furious and he stood up there, inside the railed enclosure, and not where most speakers spoke -- outside where the public microphone was. He was privileged.
"He gripped this railing and he said, in dismissing scornfully our plan to have no more than the existing road and better not even that, he said, 'These protests are just by a bunch of, a bunch of, ... a bunch of mothers!"'
Born in 1916, Jacobs was a doctor's daughter with a compulsion to question authority, an unfortunate quality if she happened to be one of your students -- even more unfortunate if you were trying to tell her something about cities.
"One of our teachers, I guess it was the fourth grade, told me cities form because there's a waterfall around and so there is power," she recalled. "Well, I was very dubious about this and immediately told her that in our neighborhood park there was a waterfall and it had nothing to do with the city."
During the Depression, on days when job hunts went nowhere, she would invest a nickel in the subway and explore a neighborhood: the diamond district, the garment district, the meatpacking district. Soon, she made money out of her passion, writing articles for various magazines.
One of her favorite phrases was "in the real world." She continued a long tradition of American pragmatism, from Benjamin Franklin to John Dewey and William James. She believed ideas should come from experience as opposed to the other way around.
"Death and Life" emerged from her reporting. Not only did it attack canonical beliefs in city planning, it attacked such canonical figures as Moses and historian Lewis Mumford.
Jacobs thought cities suffered from an anti-city bias among planners, the romanticization of a more rural way of life. Because of this, she wrote, vital communities were being torn down simply because they were "crowded," other neighborhoods were fatally isolated and parks were being constructed without regard to their surrounding environment.
She specifically criticized Mumford, author of "The Culture of Cities," for his misguided attachment to the anti-city philosophy, and Moses for his dogmatic attachment to the automobile.
Her arguments were clearly heard. Mumford, who had praised Jacobs' magazine work as "devastatingly just," dismissed her as a "sloppy novice." Moses told her publisher, Random House, that "Death and Life" was "intemperate and inaccurate, and also libelous."
But Jacobs' book was widely praised and in her subsequent works, she examined the ideas outlined in "Death and Life" from a variety of perspectives: "Cities and the Wealth of Nations" focused on the economy; "Systems of Survival" on morals; "The Nature of Economies" on science and ecology. Her final book, "Dark Age Ahead," came out in 2004.
Jacobs is survived by her three children, James, Edward and Mary.
By Blair Golson, Truthdig. Posted April 19, 2006.
It became obvious to journalist Michael Pollan in the summer of 2002 that America had a national eating disorder. That July, The New York Times Magazine published an article titled "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" which reported that a growing number of respected nutritional researchers were beginning to conclude that perhaps Dr. Robert Atkins had been right all along: Carbohydrates, not fats, were the cause of America's obesity problem.
Almost overnight, in Pollan's estimation, bakeries went out of business, dinner rolls in New York restaurants went the way of the pterodactyl, and pasta became regarded as a toxin.
"These foods were wonderful staples of human life for thousands of years," Pollan told Truthdig, "and suddenly we've decided that they're evil. Any culture that could change its diet on a dime like that is suffering from an eating disorder, as far as I can see."
Pollan was well placed to make such an observation. The previous year, he had published a critically acclaimed, best-selling book called The Botany of Desire, an examination of humans' relationships to plants, and how plants shape human societies as much as we shape them. His writings on the natural world and food stretch back to the late 1980s. Early in his career, he was an editor at Harper's magazine, and since 1995 he has been a contributing editor at The New
York Times Magazine. Over the years he won a gaggle of writing awards and fellowships from environmental, food and journalistic organizations, in addition to publishing two other books, on gardening and architecture.
So when Atkins-mania achieved terminal velocity in the summer of 2002, Pollan started to wonder whether it wasn't time to ask some fundamental questions about a country so apparently susceptible to the whims of a fad diet. Pulling together the threads of stories he had written in the past decade on topics ranging from the ethics of vegetarianism to the dangers of over-reliance on corn, Pollan set off on a journey to answer a deceptively sophisticated question: "What should we have for dinner?"
The search for an answer found expression in Pollan's just-published book The Omnivore's Dilemma. The title refers to the quandary faced by animals like humans (and rats and cockroaches) that, in order to stay alive, must choose from the bewildering array of edible and non-edible substances. We can eat a lot, but what should we eat?
The subtitle of his book is "A Natural History of Four Meals," which is Pollan's way of describing his exploration of four types of food that eventually terminate in some kind of human meal: food that he himself grew and hunted; organic or "alternative" food (found at farmer's markets); industrial-organic foods (much of the stock at Whole Foods); and industrial, or processed, food (the snack or cereal aisles at Safeway). Through this series of "food detective stories," the author found things to cheer and things to fear about the ethical, biological and ecological ramifications of the American way of eating.
Truthdig managing editor Blair Golson recently spoke with Pollan from his home in Northern California, where he is the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He discussed how the omnivore's dilemma had returned in the unlikeliest of places; the truth about so-called "free range" chickens; and how in the world food manufacturers can get away with labels that read: "This product may contain one or more of the following…."
Blair Golson: The omnivore's dilemma is typically associated with animals in the wild that have to choose between food that will either nurture or kill them. What's the relevance of the term to modern human society?
Michael Pollan: Out in nature, if you're a creature looking for something to eat, you might see some attractive looking red berries and think to yourself, "I wonder if I can eat those without getting sick? And what about those mushrooms?" Well, the same thing is happening in the supermarket. There are many tasty things, some of which can kill you. Trans fats, for example, or all the sugar we're eating.
So we're back where we were once upon a time, trying to navigate a treacherous food landscape -- full of attractive things, but some of which are liable to shorten our lives.
BG: Is that what prompted you to write the book?
MP: It was a gathering sense that Americans -- myself included -- had gotten deeply confused and worried about what they were eating and unsure where to turn. To read the newspaper over the last couple of years is to read one story after another that makes you wonder if the way you've been eating all these years is such a good idea -- for yourself or the planet or the animals.
Just reading the coverage of mad cow disease was an incredible educational experience. For example, we read that you've got to stop feeding cows to cows. It's like, "What? We've been feeding cows to cows?" And we've got to tighten up those rules about feeding chicken litter to cows. "We've been feeding chicken crap to cows?"
If you read those stories, it made me realize that the system by which we're producing our food is not one I feel very good about participating in. So I began looking into the food chain and alternatives to the main industrial food chain -- doing what I think of as a series of food detective stories, and much of what I learned in these detective stories was astonishing to me, and forced me to re-approach the way I shop for food and go about eating it.
BG: Like facing up to the realities of shopping at Whole Foods?
MP: Yeah, I use the term "supermarket pastoral" for the experience of shopping in a place like that. Whole Foods, they're brilliant storytellers. You walk into that store, and it just looks like a beautiful garden, and there are pictures of organic farmers up on the walls, and little labels that describe how the cow lived that became your milk or your beef, and the cage-free vegetarian hens who got to free range.
They're creating in your minds an image of a farm very much like the ones in the books you read as children -- with a diversity of happy animals wandering around the farmyard. It's very cleverly designed, but unfortunately like a lot of pastoral forms of art, it's based on illusions. Not entirely, but if you go to the farm depicted on those labels, you find that in fact, things look a little bit different. Organic milk might be coming from a dry organic feedlot where 500 cows are milling around and never get to eat a blade of grass. I have a feeling that's not what the consumer thinks they're getting.
BG: Does the same thing go for free-range chickens and eggs?
MP: It's very interesting. Free-range chickens -- I did go visit a large organic chicken producer here in California, and if you look at their label, there's a farmstead with a little silo and a farm house and a farmyard and chickens running around, but if you go to the farm, the chickens are grown in these huge barracks as long as a football field. They're indoors, there are 20,000 of them in a house, and running along this barrack is what looks like a little front lawn -- mowed, maybe 15 or 20 feet deep.
There's a little door at either side of the barrack where, theoretically, chickens could step outside and take the air. But they don't. One reason is that the doors are closed until the chickens are about five weeks old. The farmers -- if you can use that word, the managers -- are concerned that the chickens might catch their death of cold or pick up a germ, so they don't open the doors until the chickens are five weeks old.
They smother them at seven weeks; so it's not exactly a lifestyle. It's more like a two-week vacation option. And the chickens don't avail themselves of this option because they've never been outside before. They're terrified of going outside. First of all, it's not big enough for the whole flock. Second of all, the food and water is inside; they're not used to it; they weren't brought up this way.
They're like the cat in the Manhattan apartment; when you open the door they just stand there in terror wondering about the other dimension of reality outside that door. Free range is a conceit. It's to make us feel better about these chickens. It's not doing anything for the chickens, as far as I can tell.
Yes, that organic chicken is still a better product, I think. It's getting better feed, it's got a few more inches of legroom than a conventional chicken, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.
BG: And hence your efforts to find places that were all they were cracked up to be…
MP: I went looking for a better model of farming -- a truly biological or ecological farm. They are out there. There are people doing amazing, visionary work. And the one I chose to focus on is a farm called Polyface. And it's run by a man named Joel Salatin and his son, Daniel. They grow six different animals on 100 acres of open land and another 400 of forest. And they do it in this very intricate rotation, so that on one day, the cows are on a pasture.
Then they wait a couple of days and the chickens come in. They eat all of the grubs out of the manure, which takes care of the farm's problem with flies and disease, and they spread that manure in the process of doing that, and they fertilize it with their own manure to keep the pastures very healthy. Then the chickens move out and another animal moves in. This rotation going through the farm several times every season, and the result is a great deal of high-quality food, but also, most astoundingly of all, an improvement in the environment of this farm. There is more top soil, more grass, more fertility than there would be if nothing were being done here.
That is a very significant achievement, because it belies this basic American idea that our relationship with nature is a zero sum game -- by which we all assume that for us to get what we want from nature, nature is diminished. This farm is saying, "No, that is not necessarily true. There is a way to get your food from the earth in such a way that it leaves the earth improved."
To me, that's an incredibly heartening message; it says we're not this pest species in nature, that we really have a contribution to make.
BG: Is there any evidence to suggest that that model is spreading?
MP: It's not about to take over American agriculture, but there's a very strong movement to put animals back on grass, get them off of feed lots, and sell grass-finished meat. Grass-fed beef is growing very quickly, and I find it a very hopeful development.
BG: But didn't you write that places like Polyface can't ever hope to make money supplying the biggies like Wal-Mart or Whole Foods because those places only buy from mega farms?
MP: You have to get out of the supermarket, basically. The supermarket is not going to support this world in the long run, I don't think. But the supermarket is not the only place to buy your food. There are very many good alternatives -- the farmers' market being the most obvious.
But also CSAs -- which stands for community-supported agriculture -- where you essentially join a farm and every week you get a box of produce. People are buying really good grass-fed meat over the Internet.
BG: If you're someone living in a major metropolitan city, and you wanted to eat in the healthiest way, patronizing the most ecologically friendly food purveyors -- setting aside cost for the moment -- how would you shop?
MP: I am that person. I've joined a CSA, so I get a box of produce every week. I also go to the farmers' market. I have found some producers of things like beef that I buy in quantity and keep in my freezer. But I also find grass-finished beef -- I'm kind of lucky here in Northern California -- I can find it in local markets. So I do a little bit of many different things. And it's a little easier to do here in California than in others places. Our farmers' markets are open 12 months a year, and that isn't true everywhere.
But I also get on the Internet and find interesting food. There are terrific websites. There's the Eat Well Guide, where you put in your ZIP code and it tells you about local farms doing interesting things. The other thing to do is to visit local farms and establish a personal connection, if you have the time and the inclination. I find that incredibly interesting. I like knowing farmers who are growing my food.
But all of us are going to take this to different degrees. I don't think it's all or nothing. I still go to the Safeway. I still stop at Whole Foods every now and then. And many people don't have the time or inclination to put any more work into it, and so maybe Whole Foods is fine, and maybe they've got a lot of money, because Whole Foods is really expensive. And that helps. The kind of farming that Whole Foods supports is better than conventional farming.
All I'm suggesting is that you can take it to the next step if you want. And the next step is incredibly rewarding, because the quality of the food is so high, and the kind of stewardship going on is very impressive. But like I said, it's not all or nothing. We have three food votes every day -- that's more votes than we have in most other aspects of our lives. And if you used one
of them in a way that supported a change -- an alternative food chain, that's a big accomplishment. That's enough to create these alternatives and make them more accessible and probably cheaper as well, as more people use them. You can go whole hog or just dip your toes in, but either way, I think it's a very important food vote you have.
BG: Sure, we have votes; but as a society, we seem to vote most often for fad diets. Why are Americans in particular so susceptible to those kinds of appeals?
MP: I think it is because we're not anchored by a single, stable food culture, that we're really vulnerable to messages from marketers, messages from scientists, and we're willing to throw it all out every few years.
BG: What do you mean a "stable food culture"? Do you mean the immigrant, melting-pot aspect of America?
MP: Yeah. Since we didn't have one national kind of cuisine, and one sort of eating rules, the result has been a diluted food culture that is much more vulnerable to marketing. If we had a
stable food culture that had a consistent set of answers about, "This is what you eat, and this is how you eat it," I think we'd be much less vulnerable to a news article saying, "Fat is good, carb is bad."
BG: But surely there's more to the erosion of a healthy food culture than our immigrant roots?
MP: The food marketers deserve a lot of the blame for this. When you sell a product like Go-Gurt, or a nonfood like this new stuff called "Gu" -- which is a pure nutrients in a gel that athletes are supposed to use, but that kids are taking in their lunch boxes -- you're destroying something.
You're destroying the idea of people eating together. If you're selling products designed to go in the cup holder, you are, not intentionally, but effectively destroying the idea of people sitting at a table across from one another and eating. We don't eat together as families nearly as much as we once did. Twenty percent of meals are now eaten in the car. Food marketers are barraging us with messages about what we should eat. New food products are redefining the eating experience. Your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize a Pop Tart or a tube of Go-Gurt, or know what to do with it. So we've changed the way we eat more in the last 50 years than probably in the thousand years before that -- at every level: in the farm, but also in the market. So all this has contributed to this confusion about what we should eat. Of course, because before you figure out what you should eat, you need to figure out what you are eating.
BG: Which, it turns out, is a ton of corn. Literally. You write that each of us is responsible for eating approximately a ton of corn per year. How could that be?
MP: Most of it is hidden from view, because most of that corn is passed through animals first. We eat corn in the form of chickens and pork and beef and eggs and milk. Almost all the rest of it is highly processed. It's in chicken McNuggets. Not just in the chicken, but in 13 out of the 38 ingredients there -- the additives, the various corn starches, the various oils, the oil it's fried in. It's kind of a hidden food chain. And it's not just corn. There's a lot of soybean in our food, too.
But the way our food system works, is we take these very simple commodity crops -- that the government heavily subsidizes, by the way -- and we break them down into their constituent molecules, and then we reassemble them in the form of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in highly processed foods: snack foods, chicken nuggets, Coca-Cola. We eat something like 56 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup sweetener every year.
When you're drinking that soda, you're really drinking quite a bit of corn. So we should worship the corn plant, because that's what's supporting us right now. We don't, because we don't realize we're eating it. The Mayans, who called themselves the corn people, had a healthier sense of their indebtedness o this one plant.
BG: What are the ramifications of relying so heavily upon one crop?
MP: The last people to rely so heavily upon one crop were the Irish in the 19th century who ate potatoes and nothing else. This wasn't very good for their health, and when the potato crop failed in 1845, a million of them died. In general, it's a really bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket.
Nature doesn't work that way, and we are leaving ourselves open to risk from the devastation of the corn crop from some new microbe or terrorism. As a health matter, we're omnivores. We do need those 50 or so different chemical nutrients, and you're not going to get them from processed corn. Processed corn is the building block of the fast food diet.
And that diet, we're learning, is leaving us mal-nourished, even as it makes us fat. There are kids showing up in clinics in Oakland with rickets -- very well-fed, over-fed kids who are suffering from nutrient deficiencies. That's from eating too much processed corn.
BG: Do you think we need new rules applied to food labeling? Either from the government, or maybe from the industry itself? Are labels the answer?
MP: I think labels are important. They are a substitute for people actually being able to meet farmers and go to farms. But I think there are a lot of other changes at the federal level that would help. Our food system is not a creation of the free market. It's a combination of a set of rules combined with the market. And those rules are dictating the fact that, for example, cheap corn and soybeans are the predominant ingredients in our food supply.
Because we subsidize those calories, we end up with a supermarket in which the least healthy calories are the cheapest. And the most healthy calories are the most expensive. That, in the simplest terms, is the root of the obesity epidemic for the poor -- because the obesity epidemic is really a class-based problem. It's not an epidemic, really. The biggest prediction of obesity is
BG: You write about resistant starch, a new starch from corn that is virtually indigestible, which means it goes through the digestive track without breaking down and turning into glucose. Does this mean it doesn't add any calories to our waistline?
MP: That's right. This has been the holy grail of food science for a while: to allow people to eat endlessly without getting full or fat.
BG: So how do you feel about this new substance at first blush?
MP: I think it's a crazy idea. In the same way Olestra was a crazy idea. Olestra was an oil that passes through your system, but people rejected it because of other things it did to your system. Did you ever read the warning label on Olestra? It warns of anal leakage. I find this very unappetizing. This is going to be a very novel food; and we don't know what it's doing to us.
The food we have, the food we have had, is perfectly fine. I get an enormous amount of pleasure in eating the carbs that are already out there. I don't think we need this. I think this serves the food marketers more than us. I suppose for obese people looking to lose weight, it'll be useful to them. But sell it with a prescription.
BG: We gotta ask: Why do ingredients labels say, "This product may contain one or more of the following…" How can the manufacturers be unclear about something like that?
MP: They're not unclear. What they're doing is keeping their options open. So that on a given day, they can use any fat -- they could switch from soy to cottonseed to corn oil, depending on today's market conditions. That symbolizes a food that is highly processed. The reason you process food is so that you're not highly dependent on any one raw ingredient, and you want to be as far removed from dependence on the corn market or soy market as possible. You engineer your foods so you could substitute any one ingredient for another.
BG: After all you've seen about the way that animals are grown and slaughtered, what moral calculus do you use to continue eating meat?
MP: I'm a limited carnivore. I only eat meat that is grown in a way that I feel morally comfortable with. And that's not a lot of meat. But I've found a few producers whose practices strike me as defensible. I also think that there are always trade-offs when we eat. Even vegans inflict collateral damage on the environment. Many animals die in row crop agriculture -- not just in animal agriculture, and we have to remember that. Animals are going to die so that we many live. And then you have to think about which animals, and how. And I think animals coming off of a humane farm where they get to live as their evolution dictates -- cows on grass, for example -- is better for them and for us than if they never lived at all. Domestic animals only exist to the extent that we eat them. There would be no pigs, no chickens, no cows as we know them, if people weren't eating them. I don't see domestication as something we've imposed on other species. I see it as a co-evolutionary arrangement, where the animal gets something out of it as well.
You can't domesticate a species just because you want to. There are many species who have refused to be domesticated. The ones who have are the ones who gain something from the relationship. And I think that's true even of the animals we are eating. Many animals depend on their predators for the health of their species. I also think you can make a very strong ecological argument for eating meat. As I described earlier, the sustainably-raised meat is ecologically a very positive thing for the environment, for the grasslands. There are many grasslands that are diminished for not having ruminants on them. And ruminants need predators to be healthy, and we are those predators in cases of certain ruminants.
And without animals on farms, you'd need artificial fertilizer, because you wouldn't have manure to compost. So I think truly sustainable agriculture depends on animals in relation to plants. And if we took the animals out, I'm not sure we'd like the result. I don't think the vegan utopia, from an ecological standpoint, is very sustainable.
I also think that if you didn't have meat agriculture, there are many places in this country and this world that would not be able to feed themselves. I'm talking about hilly places, places where grass grows, but where you can't grow crops. You condemn people in those places to eat off of a very long food chain. I'm thinking of New England: without meat protein, you'd have to eat off
BG: Finally, what did you mean in writing that we're not only what we eat, but how we eat, too?
MP: At the end of the industrial food chain, you need an industrial eater. What you eat, and how you eat are equally important issues. There is a lot of talk and interesting comparisons drawn between us and the French on the subject of food. We're kind of mystified that they can eat such seemingly toxic substances -- triple crème cheeses and foie gras, and they're actually healthier than we are.
They live a little bit longer, they have less obesity, less heart disease. What gives? Well, according to the people who study this: It's not what they eat, it's how they eat it. They eat smaller portions; they do not snack as a rule; they do not eat alone. When you eat alone, you tend to eat more. When you're eating with someone there's a conversation going on, there's a sense of propriety; you don't pig out when you're eating at a table with other people.
So the French show you can eat just about whatever you want, as long as you do it in moderation. That strikes me as a liberating message. But it's not the way we do things here. We have a food system here that is all about quantity, rather than quality. So how you eat is very, very important, and to solve the obesity and the diabetes issue in this country, we're going to have change the way we eat, as well as what we eat.
Blair Golson is the managing editor of Truthdig
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Also of interest, "Slum Ecology," by Mike Davis
(Thanks to Energy Bulletin.)
We have long since abolished slavery as an absolute moral evil. And, we have long since replaced the energy it supplied with a dependency on concentrated forms of energy mined from the ground, namely coal, oil, and natural gas. Those fuels, supplemented with some nuclear, hydroelectric and renewable energy, provide Americans with the equivalent of 147 "energy slaves." That means it would take the equivalent of 147 people working continuously 24
hours a day, 7 days a week to supply the energy currently used by each American. (Some people estimate the number is closer to 100 energy slaves; still, the point remains the same.)
But all those energy slaves are largely invisible. We flip a switch and the light goes on. We twist a key and the car starts. We turn on the stove and the flame lights. We adjust the thermostat and
the heat comes on. We get what we want from our energy slaves, it seems, without having to deal with real people in any way remotely approaching the intimate way those living with or without slavery in the pre-fossil fuel age had to. Our main task is to pay the bill. It is an illusion of autonomy.
It is a libertarian fantasy seemingly come true. Cooperation and community appear optional; we can get everything we need so long as we have a little money.
Of course, in reality, the modern, energy-intensive world is a marvel of human cooperation mediated by financial and information flows of gargantuan proportion. But, that's not how it
feels. The deserted, anonymous suburban streets; the impersonal big box stores; the self-service gas stations; the lonely commute; the untold hours in front of a computer--all can give us a false sense of being isolated and autonomous. At the same time these things give us unrivaled luxury in our living quarters, unparalleled selection in our consumer goods, unprecedented mobility, and unhindered access to information about nearly everything we might want to buy or
wish to learn.
We feel omnipotent and self-contained.How then will we come together for the great task ahead, a transformation that must move us away from this powerful, seemingly autonomous, but ultimately unsustainable existence? Will we accept the true context in which we live, that is, a world with limits? Will we rediscover our neighbors? Will we realize our dependence on one another? Will we find the will to cooperate rather than fight?
Will we be able to give up the illusion of autonomy which the fossil fuel age has engendered in nearly every one of us? And, most important of all, will we be able to do it in time?
(Thanks to Energy Bulletin.)
April 23, 2006
Are Americans willing to live with $100-a-barrel oil prices, which could translate into $6-a-gallon gasoline and heating oil? They may have no choice. It could happen as soon as five years from now, according to some energy experts. The price for a barrel of crude has nearly tripled in three years, from $25 in April 2003, to over $72 today.
But the more crucial question is this: Are Americans and their political representatives willing to make the individual and collective sacrifices needed to come up with viable mass-market energy alternatives to heat our homes, drive our cars and run our industries? They would have to accept the unpalatable rospect that a concerted national push for alternatives to oil will be neither
cheap nor easy, and it won't generate significant results for quite some time, even when such alternatives are made to work.
With global demand for oil rising much faster than supply, competition for this precious resource will continue to put enormous pressure on prices. The rapid industrial growth of China and India alone is already responsible for much of he price increase that's shocking motorists at the gas pumps today. And the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the world's total energy
requirements will rise by half in the next 25 years - an increase that will be unsustainable at the rate oil is being produced today.
No, the world is nowhere near running out of oil soon. But there is a general agreement that it's close to reaching peak oil production - a plateau after which production will begin to decline. It's a geological reality that won't change. As supplies of oil easily pumped from existing wells dry up, costly and complicated processes will be needed to extract oil trapped in shale and oil sands, or to liquefy coal into synthetic fuels. The result will be ever-higher prices for a shrinking commodity.
To be sure, there is more to recent price increases than competition from newly industrialized nations. The market in oil futures is jittery about the rise in tensions over Iran's nuclear weapons program, Iraq's failure to resume normal oil production, civil unrest that's cut Nigeria's production by a quarter, and an armed rebellion in Chad. In the United States, where not a
single new refinery has been built in the past 30 years, gasoline and diesel prices have been jacked up by fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Rita's damage to Gulf Coast refineries. Add to that the federal requirement for oxygenated fuels in the summer. While the former additive, the water-polluting MBTA, is being phased out, the ethanol brewed from corn in the Midwest is in short supply and costs a great deal to ship to the coasts, which increases gas prices. To add
insult to injury, Congress, in a blatant nod to the corn-producing states, has imposed stiff tariffs and fees on imported ethanol, which is considerably cheaper than the stuff produced in the United States.
No easy ways out
What's the alternative to oil? None of the clean, desirable alternatives - solar, wind, thermal and hydropower, hybrid cars - are more than "boutique" solutions. They're unlikely to replace more than a small portion of oil. Fuel in the form of ethanol from biomass - renewable sources like grasses, grain, sugar cane, even garbage - is feasible, but would require a massive federal program and a huge distribution infrastructure.
Developing a hydrogen-based economy is promising, but would need a decade or more of research and great quantities of power to free up the element from water - power that could only come from the wide adoption of nuclear power production, a proven alternative that carries major problems with the disposal of radioactive waste and the potential for theft of nuclear material for terrorist weapons. The dream of clean, safe nuclear fusion - the source of the
sun's power - remains just that: a search for the modern equivalent of the philosopher's stone. It's never worked outside the laboratory, and no commercial reactors are expected before 2050, if at all.
Coal is abundant in the United States - it's the largest source of carbon fuel in the world - and it's already producing much of this nation's electricity. But mining more coal has vast environmental costs. And using it with advanced scrubbers to clean up its emissions makes it almost as expensive as oil. Still, greater use of coal is part of the solution, as is the acceptance of nuclear power to generate more of the nation's electricity than it does today. Even environmentalists are increasingly embracing nuclear power as an oil substitute, as much for its potential to lessen global warming as for its energy substitution.
What's left? While substitutes are explored and nuclear power is sold to a skeptical public as a necessity, we must adopt the more prosaic but effective ways of dealing with fuel shortages and price hikes: conservation, higher mileage requirements for vehicles, greater reliance on public transportation and, for auto buyers, a willingness to switch to more frugal cars and trucks.
But even these stratagems, however sensible and promising, will only be stopgaps until the nation weans itself away from oil and develops a sustainable alternative.
Examining alternatives is important. But far more crucial is persuading consumers to stop deluding themselves that there will be easy solutions. This will continue to be a slow, rolling crisis that needs a combination of savvy management, creative ideas about alternatives and, above all, the political will to frame a sustainable energy policy and demand sacrifices to implement it. That's the more intractable shortage.
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Under election-year pressure to reduce surging gasoline prices, President Bush on Tuesday halted filling of the nation's emergency oil reserve, urged the waiver of clean air rules to ease local gas shortages and called for the repeal of $2 billion in tax breaks for profit-heavy oil companies.To read the rest of the article, click here.
Still, experts said Bush's actions wouldn't have much impact on prices at the pump. The president warned that motorists would have to dig deep into their pockets all summer long.
Bush urged lawmakers to expand tax breaks for the purchase of fuel-efficient hybrid automobiles, a politically popular measure that's also supported by environmentalists. He also directed the Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority to temporarily waive air quality laws in states if that would relieve a local gasoline supply shortage.
What the mainstream media are not telling you about the run up in oil prices
by Jeffrey J. Brown
Why Are Oil Prices up?
Oil prices are up substantially since mid-February. Most of the Mainstream Media (MSM) attribute this run up in oil prices to geopolitical tensions. However, a careful examination of recent supply data provided by the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) suggest a different reason--oil importers are bidding against each other for available total petroleum (crude oil + product) imports.
Since the week ending 2/10/06, average daily US net petroleum imports have fallen about 15%, down about two mbpd. Since the week ending 2/24/06, on a smoothed, four week running
average basis, average daily US net petroleum imports have fallen about 8%, down about one mbpd. (A comparable time period last year showed about a 2% decline.)
This sharp decline in net US petroleum imports corresponded to the beginning of the recent run up in oil prices.
It is true that we have relatively high crude oil inventories, but note that we don't know what
percentage of crude oil inventories consists of heavy, sour crude, which cannot be used in light, sweet crude oil refineries. Also, total product inventories are up only slightly year over year. It is quite possible that building inventories of heavy, sour crude oil have been obscuring falling inventories of light, sweet crude oil inventories.
Why is This Decline in Imports Important?
Producing regions tend to peak and then decline when they have used about 50% of their total recoverable conventional oil reserves (Qt).
Kenneth Deffeyes, using a method called Hubbert Linearization (HL), estimated that the world crossed the 50% of (conventional crude + condensate) Qt mark in December, 2005. According to the EIA, December 2005 was the all time record high for world crude + condensate production. The latest data, for January, 2006, show a decline of about 500,000 bpd.
In an article that “Khebab” and I coauthored, “M. King Hubbert’s Lower 48 Prediction Revisited,” we evaluated the accuracy of the HL technique as a predictive tool, once a region has hit the 50% of Qt mark.
As most people know, Dr. Hubbert, in 1956, accurately predicted that US Lower 48 oil production would peak around its actual peak in 1970. Using only production data through 1970, we found that actual post-1970 cumulative Lower 48 oil production was 99% of what the HL method predicted. We concluded that Dr. Deffeyes’ prediction that the world peaked in 2005 should be given a lot of credibility.
In our article, we also analyzed the top four net oil exporters worldwide, and we found that they are collectively farther down the depletion curve than the world is overall. In the article, we had the following statements:A critical point to keep in mind is that an exporter can only export what is left after domestic consumption is satisfied.
Consider a simple example, a country producing 2.0 mbpd, consuming 1.0 mbpd and therefore exporting 1.0 mbpd. Let's assume a 25% drop in production over a six year period (which we have seen in the North Sea, which by the way peaked at 52% of Qt) and let's assume a 10% increase in domestic consumption. Production would be 1.5 mbpd. Consumption would be 1.1 mbpd. Net exports would be production (1.5 mbpd) less consumption (1.1 mbpd) = 0.4 mbpd. Therefore, because of a 25% drop in production and because of a 10% increase in domestic consumption, net oil exports from our hypothetical net exporter dropped by 60%, from 1.0 mbpd to 0.4 mbpd, over a six year period.
We are deeply concerned that the world is probably facing an imminent and catastrophic collapse in net oil export capacity because of declining production and increasing domestic consumption in the top exporting countries.
Consider the simple math. If Deffeyes is correct that the world oil production peaked in December, 2005, then we will use--at our current rate of consumption--more than 10% of all remaining conventional crude + condensate reserves in the next four years.
Why Aren’t the MSM Discussing the Import Situation?
I think that we are seeing an "Iron Triangle" of sorts defending the status quo concept of ever expanding energy supplies: (1) most housing, auto, financing and related companies; (2) Most MSM companies that are selling advertising to Group #1 and (3) some major oil companies, major oil exporters and energy analysts that are working for the major oil companies and exporters.
The housing/auto group wants to keep selling and financing large homes and SUV's.
The MSM wants to keep selling advertising to the housing/auto group.
In my opinion, some major oil companies are afraid of punitive taxation, and some exporters are afraid of military takeovers. This group of oil companies, exporters and their analysts provide the intellectual ammunition for the other two groups, i.e., promising trillions and trillions of barrels of conventional and nonconventional oil reserves.
Is There a Solution?
There is one important exception to housing/auto group: Mike Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation, is calling for a much higher gasoline tax. While this is a start, I recommend a much higher energy tax, offset by the elimination of the Payroll Tax, combined with a crash electrification of transportation program, as outlined by consulting engineer Alan Drake, see link below.
Jeffrey J. Brown is a petroleum geologist in the Dallas, Texas area. firstname.lastname@example.orgM.
King Hubbert's Lower 48 Prediction Revisited www.energybulletin.net/13575.html
EIA Supply Data tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_sum_sndw_dcus_nus_w.htm
Electrification of Transportation as a Response to Peaking of World Oil Production www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_lrt_2005-02.htm
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
An earlier version of this article appears on GraphOilogy
Jeffrey wrote the recent Open letter to Texas newspapers about peak oil: 'Why aren’t you listening?', one of the most heavily viewed articles on Energy Bulletin in recent months.
UPDATE: The article is being discussed at EZ
Weekend EditionApril 15 / 16, 2006
A Conversation with Wendell Berry
Taking Care of What We've Been Given
By THOMAS P. HEALY
For the past four decades, writer Wendell Berry has crafted a body of work within the "green" American literary tradition that includes Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gary Snyder and Edward Abbey. His poems, essays and novels extol the virtues of agrarian life, lament the depredations of the industrial economy and celebrate the integration of ethics, responsibility and humility that come from devoting careful attention to the natural world. Berry also has been one of the most eloquent voices for peace in the period preceding the war in Iraq as well as in the catastrophic aftermath of the Bush administration's unilateral military action.
His most recent books are a collection of essays and speeches entitled The Way of Ignorance (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005) and Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Christ's Teachings of Love, Compassion & Forgiveness (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005) which assembles citations from the Gospels of the King James Version of the Bible that serve as the foundation for his faith and advocacy of peace and justice. Berry writes and works the land on Lane's Landing Farm, five miles from his birthplace in northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Madison, Ind.
TH: You retired from teaching?
WB: I didn't retire. I quit.
TH: Was that a sweet parting?
WB: Oh, it was amicable enough. I didn't go away with any grudge. It was time for me to leave.
TH: I only ask because it was the opportunity to return to Kentucky to teach that brought you back from your wanderings. In a mid-1970s "debate" in North Manchester, Indiana, with then-Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, he chided you for having off-the-farm income. He said you were making his point for him, "get big or get out," but also that people need to work off the farm to generate income. If they have a small farm, they're not going to generate enough income to actually live off the farm.
WB: Just depends on the one you're talking to. I've never tried to live from farming. Farming has contributed to our living here. We still grow a lot of our food and we have a small sheep flock
and we supply a lot of our own heating fuel from the woods on our place. I'm a very marginal farmer. I'm a very marginal writer too.
TH: You're kidding!
WB: Well, economically. I can't judge whether I'm marginal in any other way but I know damn well that I'm marginal economically. I don't write bestsellers. I have a cottage industry. My work
sells in modest numbers that are economically significant for me. But I'm not a huge literary property.
TH: Writing about your early years--"Trying to become a Henry County poet," as you expressed it in a letter to Ed McClanahan that he published in the final "All About Kesey" edition of Spit in the Ocean--it seemed that at the time you were expressing an ambivalence about that desire. Have you succeeded in becoming a Henry County poet? And was it worth all the effort?
Oh, I guess so. I've enjoyed being a writer and I s'pose I'm a poet and I certainly still am a Henry Countian, after a fashion. I live in Henry County and I like living here. I don't approve of everything that's happening here by any means.
TH: The erosion of agrarian life?
WB: Yes, absolutely. The ruin of the agrarian life, the disintegration of communities, a considerable amount of urban development in part of this county. Young people are not much interested in farming. There is a lot to worry about here.
TH: I remember reading that your children settled in the area and your son was farming. Is that still the case?
WB: My son and daughter both are farming here. My son is on a farm that my father owned for many years and he is farming with my brother too. He lives about five miles away. About 10 or 12 miles away my daughter and son-in-law are farming. And now in addition to cattle they have a winery.
TH: Wineries are part of the big push in Indiana for "agricultural tourism"--getting city people to visit rural areas to stimulate economic development. The other big push is for increased pork production through Confined Animal Feeding Operations.
WB: Those are wrong. That's not farming. It involves an immense cruelty to the animals and to the people who work in those circumstances and to the neighbors, and it's not sustainable.
TH: Individual farmers are using Community Supported Agriculture to market directly to consumers, and we're seeing an explosive growth of farmers markets.
WB: That's a great thing. The health of farming now is up to the consumers. So it's very exciting that these Community Supported Agriculture farms and farmers markets are having some success. The success that they are having doesn't represent a victory for good agriculture, so far, because the corporate hold is still oppressive and depressive and destructive.
TH: You don't have much good to say about the industrial economy, calling it "oppressive," "destructive" and "predatory."
WB: I have nothing good to say about it. I don't think anything good is to be expected from it. The corporations don't fulfill any responsibilities to the public or to the land that they're not required and forced to fulfill. That's their record.
TH: The whole sustainable agriculture movement and farmers' markets are grassroots phenomena. They're not getting support from the land-grant colleges.
WB: Well, the attitude is changing, and changing significantly in some colleges of agriculture, and one reason is that the failure of industrial agriculture is now too obvious to be ignored by anybody--even its one-time advocates. We've got the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico, we've got toxic ground water--there are places in Kansas where children and pregnant women are
instructed not to drink the water.
TH: Indiana has fish consumption advisories on all streams and rivers.
WB: That is a result of agriculture to a considerable extent, and you can't call that an agricultural success.
TH: There are people of my generation who grew up on farms or their parents or grandparents grew up on farms and they say, "Without mechanization, I wouldn't have been able to go to college. My pa, my grandpa couldn't have earned a living off the land." They suggest we have to have industrial methods in order to feed people. Why does this notion have such persistent currency?
People in prestigious positions persist in saying it but it's not true.
TH: In your book The Way of Ignorance, there's an essay "Imagination in place," in which you object to "anybody for rating the land as 'capital' or its human members as 'labor.'" Do you find these terms offensive?
WB: The issue is abstraction. The nature of things is that you can't properly value something
on abstract terms. Every parcel of land in the country is a particular place, and you can't love it or care for it or use it properly in the abstract. To reduce it to money value obscures its existence as a particular good. And when you reduce human beings to an abstraction like "labor" or a "labor force," you obscure the whole issue of their community membership and their involvement in a particular economy and their particular worth as individual people, individual
creatures--that's what I was saying in that essay. I'm against referring to people as "human resources" because it reduces them to abstract counters like dollar bills. I am insisting that you must not regard your community members as a labor force that is subject to being moved about at the whim of the economy. You must not accept the breakup of community relationships or homes as a normal cost of production. Communities shouldn't give up their members so easily.
TH: You maintain that the basis of the economy is the land, the air and the water, including the fertility of the land and the ability to make good use of it. Is that an accurate reading?
WB: That's right. Try to imagine an economy without fertile land or drinkable water or breathable air. You won't get very far. The people who've carried on this line of baloney about the "information economy" are fantasists. The idea that you can have a sound economy of money or stocks and bonds with a degraded landscape underneath it is preposterous.
We're investing in the development of fuel the effort and the economic power that we ought to be investing in taking care of our land and our forests.
TH: You mean alternatives to fossil fuels?
WB: No. Any fuel that's burnt is a very curious kind of property. When you think of fuel as a property, you're thinking about a property that is valuable only insofar as it can be destroyed, whereas land, as a property and given proper care, has a permanent value. Given the degraded state of a lot of our soils, it's a property that can appreciate as a "good"--on the condition of good treatment.
In Kentucky, we're destroying mountains, including their soils and forests, in order to get at the coal. In other words, we're destroying a permanent value in order to get at an almost inconceivably transient value. That coal has a value only if and when it is burnt. And after it is burnt, it is a pollutant and a waste--a burden.
TH: Your colleague Wes Jackson talks about "geologic time"--the tens of thousands of years it took to build up fossil fuels--and how we're using them up in "industrial time"--a couple of hundred years. We're spending the capital that has accrued over tens of thousands of years in hundreds of years.
WB: That's right. As Wes is pointing out to anybody who will listen, something like 99
percent of all the oil that's been burnt has been burnt in his or my lifetime. It finally comes down to a question of the stewardship of natural gifts. You have to take care of what you've been given. We've arrogated to ourselves the right to destroy what we have judged to be worthless or of
inferior worth--which, like the wetlands at the mouth of the Mississippi, turn out to have a very significant worth. The forested mountains of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia will eventually turn out to be worth more than the coal.
TH: I'm sorry to say that Hoosier John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, has written several briefs for Peabody Coal in support of "mountaintop removal."
WB: I know that, and I think you have to separate the sin from the sinner, if you can. You can't say that everybody who has written briefs in support of Peabody Coal is necessarily a monster of some kind. But you have to say that the result is monstrous.
TH: In your taxonomy of "ignorance" there's a special kind of ignorance for the corporate mind. So writing briefs in support of that corporate mind is a kind of willful ignorance of the values you hold?
WB: It is. The great writers have known--Shakespeare knew it--to make up your mind to be willing to commit evil is a very dangerous thing to do. It's always done on the assumption
that "well, we'll do it a little and then we'll quit; we'll destroy the Earth just a little bit, then we'll quit." An eastern Kentucky politician said to me, 'Well, we've got to have this coal. We can't say anything to the coal mine owners--can't require anything of them. We've got to indulge them because we need that coal to tide us over until we find something better."
TH: What about biofuels?
WB: Well, ethanol, from what I've seen in test reports--and I've seen significant ones and several, and from what I get from Wes and his people at the Land Institute--the conversion ratio on ethanol is a laugh. The ratio between the energy you put in and energy you get out is about one to one. A little more or a little less than one to one, even according to the USDA. So ethanol is just a way to get rid of surplus corn.
TH: And it's not going to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuel.
WB: No. And to start raising a burnable fuel from your cropland at the present cost in erosion and soil degradation and toxicity is a fool's bargain.
TH: Do you consider yourself a spiritual man or a religious man?
WB: Well, I don't like that dichotomy of matter and spirit very much, so you can say I consider myself a religious man.
TH: In your essay "Compromise, Hell!" you write, "If we believe, as so many of us profess to do, that the Earth is God's property and is full of His glory, how can we do harm to any part of it?" And in several other essays you ask, "How do we create an economy that makes love an economic practice?"
WB: That's right. I've developed that idea most painstakingly in the essay "The Burden of the Gospels." If you take love as the prescribed way of life, how do you make that an economic practice? That's the crisis question. A lot of people who accept that gospel of love don't think of economic practice as having any religious significance at all.
TH: And not just from an agricultural or economic sensibility. We're also talking about a peacemaker sensibility, especially if you look at the terrible violence in everyday life in America compared to the rest of the world.
WB: [Chuckling] It's very interesting to try to think of our nuclear stockpile as a property of Jesus.
TH: I can't see it. But there are so many people who wrap themselves in the pages of the Bible, using that sort of unctuous righteousness to promulgate horrific policies that really injure people, the planet and everything we hold dear.
WB: That's been true ever since Constantine, so we shouldn't be surprised.
TH: When you align secular political power with the presumptive moral authority of the religious community, you get problems.
WB: You sure do.
TH: I have thought that changes in the country could emanate from the Heartland here in the Midwest. After reading "The Way of Ignorance" I got to thinking that the Heartland is an abstraction, isn't it?
TH: So I'm way off base thinking that the Heartland is going to transform either East Coast or West Coast sensibilities.
WB: The Heartland could do it but the Heartland can only do it if it's willing to take national
security or regional security as the complex issue it really is. If the powers that be in Louisville and Indianapolis, for instance, were to ask themselves, Why should we be living like Phoenix, trucking in everything we use, when we're sitting here in the middle of a fertile, well-watered landscape? Why should we be dependent on long-distance transportation for our food?"
TH: That's a great question that's not being asked.
WB: It's a real question. It's a valuable question. They won't ask it until they ask another
question, and that is, "If you take our present life and subtract cheap fossil fuel from it, what would we have left?" That's the first question and it would lead naturally to the second one. That question is an exercise that I learned from Wes. It has certainly been the burden of a lot of conversation between us. Ask it of almost anything you can think of--the school system, for instance. Suppose you subtracted cheap fossil fuel from the public school system. It's a
petroleum-based education. And it's a cheap petroleum-based education, moreover.
Things will change as we leave this cheap fossil fuel, cheap energy economy.
TH: That's going to require a huge shift in perspective in how we view the natural world and how we view our work.
WB: Yes. You have an obligation to see that people can answer their calling. You have to take vocation seriously and then we've got to learn to pay the essential people fairly. We're living at
the expense of basic or primary workers, primary producers. We're living off the backs of small farmers and Central American and Mexican migrants. And all the while we're congratulating ourselves for getting over slavery. And that hasn't happened.
And there are a lot of people in well-paid jobs who consider themselves slaves. When you have a workforce whose motto is, "Thank God, it's Friday," you're in the midst of a very serious cultural and economic failure.
Thomas P. Healy is a journalist in Indianapolis. He can be reached at email@example.com