Saturday, August 15, 2015

There Is a Hole in the Dyke
August 13, 2015

Major breakthrough: the electrical utilities in Travis county are asking customers to reduce their usage of electrical power between 3 and 7 PM.  This is especially notable since governor Abbott has been more secretive about the drought than Perry.  Perry opposed conservation of water aggressively.  This means that the water and power situation is vastly more critical than the GOP that runs this state has been willing to admit. 

We are still in the dark as to the details of how much water we have left, be we know the ruling powers are very worried.  Sociopaths and particularly the Tea Party variety never compromise and never change their minds.  The rumor mill has it that the majority of the Texas legislators are Tea Party members.  The public of course will not comply with the request to reduce power usage, the mass denial about the danger of the drought and Global Warming is something out of a science fiction book that I read when I was 12 (I read 120 books in that year including every sci-fi book in the Fort Worth Public Library). 

The next step will be rolling brown outs, probably in a week or less as this hot hot weather continues.  The public will be shocked and outraged, but they have no one to blame but themselves for voting these sociopaths into office.  Texas basically dropped out of the Democratic Republic system because they stopped voting.  Perry's last election was won by garnering 17% of the registered voters.  All of the super right wing church goers voted, and the majority just stayed home.  Our negligence is about to bite us in the ass as we slide toward running out of water and power, and this great city will be destroyed and the capitol will have to be moved.  The whole tragic scenario will probably bankrupt the State, and damage millions of lives.  The water issue aside the developers and builders have way over built the entire area out stripping the natural resources that are available. An economy based on continuous growth and hyper growth at that, is a fantasy driven by greed.

A scholar and a gentleman,
Austin, Texas

Saturday, August 1, 2015


                                        GLOBAL WARMING DEMYSTIFIED : PART II
                                                                     June 24 2015
Revised August 1,2015

This is an oversimplified explanation; but, so many people “don’t believe” in
Global Warming. Either that, or they “don’t believe that Global Warming represents
any threat to us.”  This paper is an attempt to break through these levels of resistance based on false “beliefs”.

Our young planet, in geological terms, has had five different extinction cycles.
Each has been caused by global warming from millions of years of volcanic eruptions all over the planet.  Huge masses of molten rock from the planet’s core covered everything in layer after layer. 
When the volcanic activity settled down, the evolutionary process as described by Darwin and Wallace led to giant forests that covered most of the land mass.
Imagine the forests of the Pacific Northwest, trees about 350 feet tall for as far as the eye can see, as well as the trees of the Amazon Rainforest. These forests were everywhere that there was land to support them.

The earth then went through another phase of belching toxic gases (CO2 and methane) with lava that covered everything, including the enormous mass of trees.
Cellulose, that forms the structure of all plants, is composed of chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached as well.

Over millions of years of time, through five cycles of growth and extinction, the buried tree masses were “condensed” by pressure from the layers of lava above.
The result was pockets of “fossil fuels”: condensed energy from trees that had captured energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Then after the last extinction cycle, which led to the current evolutionary cycle, the young planet continued to cool down. With this cooling, evolution progressed long enough to produce a more intelligent species : homo sapiens or “us.”  Ironically “homo sapiens” means the “wise ones”, but we certainly are not behaving like Wise creatures, as we have yet to even acknowledge threat of Global Warming, much less take any actions to reduce our burning of fossil fuels.  The politics of such actions are complex, and beyong the scope of this essay, but are discussed in depth in other essays on my blog:

A couple of centuries ago, this clever new species  (us homo  sapiens) discovered the pockets of oil and gas, staring to use them to expand the ability of living more comfortably anywhere on this planet and expand the industrialization of the planet.  Little did we know, however, until a decade ago, that we were essentially releasing the energy of five gigantic forest fires of enormous trees that once covered the planet ALL AT ONCE !
There have been 5 previous extinctions and four of them were caused by Global Warming caused by volcanic activity, either one enormous volcano that emitted an unfathomable amount of CO2 and methane (ten times the global warming effect of CO2) along with enough volcanic mass to cover an entire continent with layer after layer of lava that covered the huge forests (that stored energy from the sun by a process called photosynthesis which means using light to create living tissue mad up of organic compounds) present at the time.  This process went on for a few million years, before it stopped. 

The global Warming caused the extinction of 95+% of the biological life on the planet, leaving only primitive organisms in the oceans.  Then the evolutionary process as described by Darwin and Wallace started over again.  Then after millions of years new species of trees and other vegetative masses again covered the planet.  Meanwhile the previous species of trees covered by huge masses of lava were undergoing the process of transformation into oil and gas due to pressure and time.  Then another round of volcanic activity occurred on our young planet, covering the new species of organic matter as before.  “Organic” materials are composed of carbon and hydrogen and the more advanced the vegetative matter the longer the chains of carbon and hydrogen became.  The pressure and time process converts complex organic compounds to simpler structures that are easier to burn.  Depending on the depth of the organic matter in the new layers of the earth’s crust and length of time determines the “quality” (meaning how easy and how hot it burns), which accounts for the great variety of fossil fuels that “modern man” found when the drilled holes in the earths crust to extract the liquids(oil) and gases (natural gas) and solid forms (coal)of organic matter.

Hundreds of millions of years that it took to compress and store all the energy from the sun captured in trees and other plants through photosynthesis is being released in a nanosecond of Geological Time.  Our ecosystem is very adaptable; but, the equivalent of five forest fires that covered the planet all at once, just cannot be absorbed.  Vegetation removes CO2 from the atmosphere to use as building blocks for the growth of the vegetation.  And we are hampering this organic process of removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere by the frenetic cutting down of the massive forests as exemplified by what is happening to the Amazon.  Not only are we cutting down the trees but the Global Warming itself diminishes the effectiveness of the photosynthesis in the trees.  Thus, the global temperature is rising, heading rapidly toward another extinction cycle…caused solely by us!  This drama does read like a science fiction novel in many ways.  It is as if there was a global plot to destroy the homo sapiens species by tricking us into doing all the thing possible to hasten our demise. Global Warming is a scientific issue with political ramifications that are like those of a science fiction novel.  Like it or not, this situation is not science fiction, but a real as the drought in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and the western 2/3 of Texas.  We must deal with it NOW, or our species will perish just like the dinosaurs.

We seem so terrified by the projected possible outcome and we retreat to our television for escape, and the television viewing weakens our cognitive faculties to deal successfully with the crisis.  Again, the drama sounds like something from the 120 science fiction books I read when I was 12 years old.  Having already been exposed to seemingly bizarre scenarios based on science as perceived to be in the future, has made it easier for me to not be shocked and not be frightened when exploring the real life issues that have emerged in last two decades.

We are failing miserably at our first encounter with Climactic Change, but the story is not over. 

There are well defined strategies for coping with Global Warming.  Science isn’t the weakness that will cause us to fail, but the lack of political will, will cause us to fail.
People whine about “it just seems all to difficult” to deal with Global Warming.  So what if you have to live with less creature comforts that you have been conditioned to expect, but for example, my grandparents in Texas had a good life living on and totally dependent on the 90 acres of land.  They had no air conditioning, no store bought clothes (my grandmother made all the clothing for a family of eight).  Their “cash crop” was cotton with witch they bought fabric and sugar, everything else the made themselves.  Worked hard in the repressive heat, but they accepted it as just part of life, picking cotton in the scorching sun in August.  It was the only thing they knew, so they accepted it as part of life, and did their best, which was good enough.  Have we lost our courage to deal with some hardship in order to live?

Or to put it another way, have we anything more rewarding to do than to do everything in our power to ensure that our children and grandchildren survive?

A scholar and a gentleman

Austin, Texas

No Free Ride in Nature

August 1, 2015

The laws of Nature, what we now call ecology, must be followed if our species is to survive on our little blue planet.
The basic principles are simple.   Nature wastes nothing; everything is “recycled”; and, there is no free ride.  Perhaps to word this statement more clearly: any action or machine created that makes like more comfortable or easier has a cost.  This cost is frequently hidden to our senses if our views of the laws of Nature are too narrow; or, we avoid looking carefully for the effects of what makes life “easier” or more “comfortable.”

Said in a more experiential language : “ if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” 

In our roles as caretakers of the Planet as the Native Americans describe it, if we are too “comfortable”, we need to look even more intently at the costs and risks of this comfort.

It is not our birthright to be comfortable.  Life itself is a great gift.
If we are negligent in looking for costs and risks, eventually  our lack of insight will (crudely put) “bite us in the ass.”  The bite will not be pleasant and the accompanying misery will be vast.  The unexpected events at Chernobyl and the recent reactor meltdown in Japan are good examples. These examples are spectacular and easy to see.  Many disruptions of the ecosystem are very subtle and difficult to see.  For example, DDT, the effects of which were the inspiration for Rachel Carlson’s book “Silent Spring” essentially launched the study of ecology.

Monsanto’s genetic engineering of plant crops was given a “fast track” through the regulatory system because of greed.  It is far too soon to assume these altered genes are benign. Signs are already starting to show that they are NOT.  It was recently revealed by a “whistle blower”, an employee of Monsanto, that Monsanto has a unit dedicated to produce smear campaigns regarding the validity of any scientist speaking out against the safety of Monsanto’s GMO products.  This was no news to the scientific community for many excellent researchers had been treated by this unethical practice.  However, for more na├»ve members of the general public this was shocking.

Television, a clever invention of engineers using new scientific knowledge, was embraced as a harmless source of entertainment.  One genius named Marshall McCluhan, an English Professor at McGill (a University of the prestige level of Stanford) in Canada even warned us in a very lucid manner that television would cause massive mental illness.  He was ignored after a brief period of interest by information technologists in the late 60’s, then he was forgotten.  I read his opus “The Medium IS the Message” in 1969 while studying Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas in Austin.  His prognostications made so much sense to me that I have not watched television since.  I know of no other person of my “baby boomer” generation that made such a commitment and held his work in such high regard.  Perhaps that is why I can see the effects of television on our cultures cognitive function more easily than others.

McCluhan died in 1980 with no recognition of the profound brilliance of his work, which came from his career long interest in linguistics. No investigation was done during his lifetime, but in the early 90’s cutting edge psychiatrists, neurobiologists and geneticists rediscovered his work and following his lead that television would cause a deterioration of our values, impair our critical thinking and be every bit as addictive as heroin.  One researcher observed that many heavy television watchers had behaviors almost identical to heroin addicts.  A senior researcher responded that he had read a statement like that before, and was able to recall it was in McCluhan’s work that he had read over twenty years ago.  A frantic search ensued, and there it was: almost word for word as the junior researcher had observed.  This profound bit of information connected to the other aspects of the mental illness McCluhan predicted and totally changed the direction of their work and by 2003, they had the mechanism by which this phenomena effected the brain down to the level of neuron to neuron communication by chemical messengers. Now, a half century later, it is clear to anyone who bothers to look, that television was far from benign. It has caused, in fact, such massive mental illness that our political system has been sabotaged by voters watching television and having lost their ability to think critically have voted into office sociopaths who have turned this nation to one consumed with money and possessions.  Lost are our human concerns to the degree that a recent Vice Presidential candidate was a one issue politician: get rid of Medicare.

We have also lost our sense of values (what is truly important in life) as well as our capacity for critical thinking. Because of this, and the addictive power of television we are hampered in our ability to see the harmful effects of television.  As those who work in the addiction rehabilitation arm of mental health care, like Alcoholics Anonymous and its several spin offs, the most difficult step is the first one: admitting that you are an addict.  Denial is huge in the well educated and prosperous portion of our population, and the latest Department of the Census reports that the average number of hours per day that Americans watch television is still increasing.  The more troubling the society becomes the greater the need to “escape” the barrage of bad news.  A “vicious circle” that will be hard to break, but our survival as a nation and as a species as the result of Global Warming are at stake.

Television is the despot’s dream come true : control over the mass population and a built-in characteristic that prevents the masses from seeing that they are being controlled!

The price of television is the unraveling of all the social systems that keep a culture glued together.  In place of this is the birth of consumerism, which now, through Global Warming, threatens the survival of our species. 

Could the cost of television have been any higher ?!

A gentleman and a scholar,

Austin, Texas