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Recommended Reading, Watching, Listening, Aug. 7, 2011

Debt Tantrum On A Sinking Ship - by Richard Heinberg

Republicans say that more government debt is unsustainable. If we keep piling it on, we’ll eventually get to a point where all government revenues are eaten up by interest payments. We have to get off the deficit treadmill now; if we do—if we downsize government by shrinking the federal budget—we can free private enterprise to create jobs and grow the economy.

Democrats agree that spending needs to be controlled, but argue that overly ambitious spending cuts will undermine the recovery. Government has a necessary role in priming the nation’s economic pump during a recession. At the same time, the super-rich—who benefitted so much from Bush-era tax cuts and are sitting on enormous piles of cash—should be helping the nation make ends meet.

These two perspectives are irreconcilable. Ironically, though, they’re both right. Debt will overwhelm us. Reducing government spending will cause the economy to relapse. But they’re also both wrong. Reining in government won’t automatically cause the growth of private enterprise. Yet neither will more stimulus spending. With high oil prices, falling home values, an aging work force, and maxed-out consumer debt, there’s just no basis for a self-sustaining U.S. economic recovery.


Who Killed Economic Growth - Animated video by Richard Heinberg
Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. Richard Heinberg propose a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Impressive animation - check it out!


Managing Contraction, Redefining Progress by Richard Heinberg

Our financial-monetary system is not just vulnerable to periodic internal disruptions like credit crises, it is inherently unsustainable in the emerging context of energy and resource constraints. And if the financial-monetary system seizes up, this will imperil society’s ability to respond to any and all other crises. This means that, whatever our other priorities may be, we must also immediately devote effort to reforming the financial-monetary system.


The Permaculture Movement grows from Underground by Michael Tortorello, The New York Times

In practice, permaculture is a growing and influential movement that runs deep beneath sustainable farming and urban food gardening. You can find permaculturists setting up worm trays and bee boxes, aquaponics ponds and chicken roosts, composting toilets and rain barrels, solar panels and earth houses.

Truly, permaculture contains enough badges of eco-merit to fill a Girl Scout sash. Permies (yes, they use that term) like to experiment with fermentation, mushrooming, foraging (also known as wildcrafting) and herbal medicine.

Yet permaculture aims to be more than the sum of those practices, said David Cody, 39, who teaches the system and creates urban food gardens in San Francisco.

“It’s an ecological theory of everything,” Mr. Cody said. “Here’s a planet Earth operating manual. Do you want to go along for a ride with us?”


Hard Work + Vision = Killowatts: A Story About the Totnes Renewable... by Naresh Giangrande, Transition Culture
Nothing sets me off more than people who portray Transition town folk as a bunch of happy clappy, ‘we just vision it and it will happen’ eco activists. Last night’s EGM of TRESOC was a delightful, difficult, heart warming, and frustrating exploration of unknown territory; raw Transition in Action. It was a good example of what happens when a project moves from the great idea phase into real decision involving, in this case, significant sums of money, within a community. Suddenly emotions run high, and fragile relationships can become frayed. Although last night I think we emerged intact, more or less. It is what happens when a community expresses its will grounded in a positive vision- amazing things can happen.


Nate Hagans: We're Not Just Facing an Energy Shortage but a Longage... - interview by Chris Martenson
This week's interview is one of the most important discussions we've had to-date on energy, its supply/demand dynamics, and the tremendous impact it has on our economic and social identity. It is clear now that we are staring at a future of declining output at a time the world is demanding an ever-increasing amount. Nate Hagens, former editor of the respected energy blog, The Oil Drum, gives a fact-packed update on where we are on the peak oil timeline. But interestingly, he explains how he sees the core issue as less about the actual amount of energy available to the world, and more about our assumptions about how much we really need...

So I think if we drop our energy consumption quite a bit, nothing has to change other than our supply chains and the way that goods and medicine and water and sanitation and all that gets to the cities and towns and states. That has to be deeply thought about on a national level. But I’m optimistic - if we were sitting here and the average American used 10,000 calories a day of total energy, and we needed 3,000 for our bodily functions to continue, that would be a real problem because there wasn’t much extra. But we have a huge amount of energy relative to what we need.




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