Archive for the ‘DANGER’ Category

More Earthquakes for Italy?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Looking for survivors in Italy.

BBC Science — There remains the potential for future quakes in Italy’s Apennines region, say scientists who have reviewed the latest satellite maps of the region. The new radar imagery suggests Sunday’s big tremor ruptured a segment of a fault in between sections broken by two other quakes in recent weeks. But the Magnitude 6.6 event has still left the deeper parts of the fault system locked in place. And this unrelieved stress now represents a risk down the line.

The researchers are keen to emphasise, however, that predicting precisely when and where a future quake might strike is not possible. No-one was killed in Sunday’s big tremor but more than 30,000 residents have been left homeless as a consequence of the damage it wrought. The new space data comes from Europe’s Sentinel-1 satellites which overfly Italy every day or so. These platforms are able to sense ground movement by comparing before and after radar imagery acquired from orbit.

The scientists turn this information into an interferogram – a colourful, but highly technical, depiction of the displacement that occurs on a fault. (11/02/2016)


America: Home of the wimps?

Friday, December 18th, 2015

David Cay Johnston

CommUnity of Minds — David Cay Johnston writes: Listening to Republican presidential candidates on Tuesday night, you would think that America has become a nation of wimps, cowering in fear for no good reason over a murderous band of Middle Easterners with little power to harm us.

Polls show strong support for Donald Trump, who wants to spy on mosques and ban all Muslims from entering the country. Ben Carson fears a Muslim president would follow Sharia, unaware of the most basic principles of our Constitution. Sen. Ted Cruz spreads sophisticated versions of the same un-American rhetoric and calls President Barack Obama “an apologist” for terrorists during appearances on conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck’s show.

All three, along with the other Republican candidates, say if elected they will protect us from “radical Islamic terrorists.” But the reality is that their vile comments threaten America far more than those they attack.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a pipsqueak. It has no capacity to occupy a single inch of American soil and never will. It is no military threat to America or Europe. All it can do is recruit foolish people to harry us with violent crimes that have no military significance.

Yet under the influence of such political hyperventilating, Americans express their fears to journalists and pollsters about this mouse that cannot even roar. Their anxiety is as ludicrous as the plot of the 1959 Peter Sellers farce about the fictional Duchy of Grand Fenwick invading Manhattan so that, by surrendering, it could get American aid for its wine industry.

Trump’s remarks inciting hatred of Muslims (and Mexicans) have made him ISIL’s chief recruitment officer. ISIL has no better friend than Trump, though his ignorance and narcissism blind him to this awful reality.

ISIL markets the idea that Islam is under attack, persuading people long on zeal and short on good sense to embrace its apocalyptic fantasies that the end is near. ISIL is an enemy not just of America and the West, but also of any Muslims who do not hew to its vision of religious piety, itself a murderous apostasy that offends the Prophet Muhammad and his teachings.

Carson, Cruz and others help ISIL by encouraging the idea that America and its allies are at war with Islam, something that George W. Bush and Obama frequently emphasized is not the case.

Now the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, has joined in. At a town hall last week in Waterloo, Iowa, after the massacre in San Bernardino, California, she pandered, saying, “It’s OK, it’s OK to be afraid.”

No, it is not OK to be afraid. And shame on her for saying that, lending credence to the modern Know-Nothings in the Republican Party.

Being afraid is what ISIL, the remnants of Al-Qaeda and their murderous friends want. What they cannot withstand are smart responses that degrade their capacity and demonstrate American distaste for government violence beyond the minimum necessary in response.

What we should fear are pandering politicians. We should be anxious when politicians promise safety at the price of trashing our Constitution, our values and our history.

Anyone who has read the writings of Osama bin Laden and his ideological spawn knows that their objective is to get America to destroy itself by getting into endless land wars in the Middle East.  (12/18/2015)


An Open Letter to GAIA

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Kahili King

Future Positive Serge Kahili King writes:


Dear Gaia,

Thank you for your last communication. The birdsongs were delightful, the sunrise was spectacular, and the scent of plumeria carried into my room by your trade winds was a very nice touch. I certainly admire your mastery of the sensory medium.

But this is more than just a letter of praise, much as you deserve it. It’s a plea for assistance in the survival of our species.

Oh, I know that many humans (one of your more rambunctious, prolific and mischievous group of apes, in case you aren’t familiar with the term we apply to ourselves) are very concerned about your survival, but they don’t know you as well as some of us . Those of us around the world who communicate with you on a regular basis know that your survival is not at stake. You would still be you whether you were a parched desert, a landless ocean, a ball of ice, a globe of lava or even a radioactive mass. And I’ve no doubt that you are creative enough to come up with some form of life under any conditions, since that’s one of your specialties.

No, Gaia, the problem is us humans, the apes with imagination. Not only have we put ourselves in danger, but we are endangering a lot of your other species in the plant and animal realms. Of course, I realize that we may not be high on your priority list. We are fairly numerous, but we don’t come anywhere near matching the numbers of your plants, insects, fishes, rodents and birds, even though we’ve tried pretty hard to diminish them. And I know we haven’t been around as long as some of the ones I’ve just mentioned. And I also know that your natural forces have wiped out considerable numbers of species over the eons. So why am I writing in hopes that you’ll help us? (08/17/2014)


State of the Species

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Future Positive The mechanisms in use  by modern humanity see to me to be obsolete and no longer working. In my 68 revolutions around the Sun, I have never seen so much human caused chaos and disorder. I first read this essay in the November/December 2012 issue of Orion Magazine. This essay was a finalist for a 2013 National Magazine Award in the Essay category. I originally re-posted it on CommUnity of Minds in November of 2012, and was reminded of it again today. It was and is well worth revisiting. –-Timothy Wilken

Charles C. Mann

Charles C. Mann writing in 2012: By 2050, demographers predict, as many as 10 billion human beings will walk the earth, 3 billion more than today. Not only will more people exist than ever before, they will be richer than ever before. In the last three decades hundreds of millions in China, India, and other formerly poor places have lifted themselves from destitution—arguably the most important, and certainly the most heartening, accomplishment of our time. Yet, like all human enterprises, this great success will pose great difficulties.

In the past, rising incomes have invariably prompted rising demand for goods and services. Billions more jobs, homes, cars, fancy electronics—these are things the newly prosperous will want. (Why shouldn’t they?) But the greatest challenge may be the most basic of all: feeding these extra mouths. To agronomists, the prospect is sobering. The newly affluent will not want their ancestors’ gruel. Instead they will ask for pork and beef and lamb. Salmon will sizzle on their outdoor grills. In winter, they will want strawberries, like people in New York and London, and clean bibb lettuce from hydroponic gardens.

All of these, each and every one, require vastly more resources to produce than simple peasant agriculture. Already 35 percent of the world’s grain harvest is used to feed livestock. The process is terribly inefficient: between seven and ten kilograms of grain are required to produce one kilogram of beef. Not only will the world’s farmers have to produce enough wheat and maize to feed 3 billion more people, they will have to produce enough to give them all hamburgers and steaks. Given present patterns of food consumption, economists believe, we will need to produce about 40 percent more grain in 2050 than we do today.

How can we provide these things for all these new people? That is only part of the question. The full question is: How can we provide them without wrecking the natural systems on which all depend?

Scientists, activists, and politicians have proposed many solutions, each from a different ideological and moral perspective. Some argue that we must drastically throttle industrial civilization. (Stop energy-intensive, chemical-based farming today! Eliminate fossil fuels to halt climate change!) Others claim that only intense exploitation of scientific knowledge can save us. (Plant super-productive, genetically modified crops now! Switch to nuclear power to halt climate change!) No matter which course is chosen, though, it will require radical, large-scale transformations in the human enterprise—a daunting, hideously expensive task.

Worse, the ship is too large to turn quickly. The world’s food supply cannot be decoupled rapidly from industrial agriculture, if that is seen as the answer. Aquifers cannot be recharged with a snap of the fingers. If the high-tech route is chosen, genetically modified crops cannot be bred and tested overnight. Similarly, carbon-sequestration techniques and nuclear power plants cannot be deployed instantly. Changes must be planned and executed decades in advance of the usual signals of crisis, but that’s like asking healthy, happy sixteen-year-olds to write living wills.

Not only is the task daunting, it’s strange. In the name of nature, we are asking human beings to do something deeply unnatural, something no other species has ever done or could ever do: constrain its own growth (at least in some ways). Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, brown tree snakes in Guam, water hyacinth in African rivers, gypsy moths in the northeastern U.S., rabbits in Australia, Burmese pythons in Florida—all these successful species have overrun their environments, heedlessly wiping out other creatures. Like Gause’s protozoans, they are racing to find the edges of their petri dish. Not one has voluntarily turned back. Now we are asking Homo sapiens to fence itself in.

What a peculiar thing to ask! Economists like to talk about the “discount rate,” which is their term for preferring a bird in hand today over two in the bush tomorrow. The term sums up part of our human nature as well. Evolving in small, constantly moving bands, we are as hard-wired to focus on the immediate and local over the long-term and faraway as we are to prefer parklike savannas to deep dark forests. Thus, we care more about the broken stoplight up the street today than conditions next year in Croatia, Cambodia, or the Congo. Rightly so, evolutionists point out: Americans are far more likely to be killed at that stoplight today than in the Congo next year. Yet here we are asking governments to focus on potential planetary boundaries that may not be reached for decades. Given the discount rate, nothing could be more understandable than the U.S. Congress’s failure to grapple with, say, climate change. From this perspective, is there any reason to imagine that Homo sapiens, unlike mussels, snakes, and moths, can exempt itself from the natural fate of all successful species?

To biologists like Margulis, who spend their careers arguing that humans are simply part of the natural order, the answer should be clear. All life is similar at base. All species seek without pause to make more of themselves—that is their goal. By multiplying till we reach our maximum possible numbers, even as we take out much of the planet, we are fulfilling our destiny.

From this vantage, the answer to the question whether we are doomed to destroy ourselves is yes. It should be obvious.

Should be—but perhaps is not.  (08/17/2014)


Understanding Mechanism and Consequence

Sunday, November 17th, 2013
CommUnity of Minds

First Atomic Bomb Explosion

CommUnity of Minds — Timothy Wilken, MD writes: Human intelligence develops over time and can achieve four levels of understanding. We start with PERCEPTION then develop and sometimes master CONCEPTION, then develop and sometimes master MECHANISM and finally develop and sometimes master CONSEQUENCE. These levels are sequential–CONCEPTION follows and depends on first mastering PERCEPTION, MECHANISM follows and depends on first mastering CONCEPTION, and  finally CONSEQUENCE follows and depends on first mastering MECHANISM.

It is possible for most humans to understand, and then master their intelligence fully. Those who choose to do so, can with practice, develop the ability to access five modes of thinking: Survive, Adapt, Control, Create, and Co-Operate at will. With additional study and contemplation they can gain mastery of the four levels of knowing: PERCEPTION, CONCEPTION, MECHANISM, and CONSEQUENCE.

PERCEPTION is the understanding of space and sameness—spacial integrity— recognizing WHAT is associated with Good Space and WHAT is associated with Bad Space. PERCEPTION is also knowing WHERE to go to enable or avoid a recognized event—knowing WHERE to go to secure Good Space and WHERE to go to avoid Bad Space. PERCEPTION enables the ability of Adaptation.

CONCEPTION is the understanding of time and difference—temporal sequence—local cause and effect, and from that understanding knowing WHEN to act in time to encourage a desired event, or WHEN to act in time to discourage an undesired event from occurring. CONCEPTION enables the ability of Control.

MECHANISM is the understanding of HOW things work together—what events and actions are necessary to produce a desired resultant—knowing how PERCEPTION and CONCEPTION relate to each other. MECHANISM enables the ability of Creation.

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the understanding of the potential risks and benefits of our actions and their effects on our selves and upon others. CONSEQUENCE enables the ability of Co-Operation.

Let me provide one example of these four levels of knowing, and how they might apply to one problem currently threatening our civilization. As Albert Einstein warned us over sixty-six years ago: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Einstein had discovered one of Nature’s MECHANISMS: E=mc2

The scientists and technicians working at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico used their KnowHow to weaponize this MECHANISM of Nature with the creation of nuclear bombs.

Now let us examine the threat of nuclear weapons from the perspective of our four levels of human knowing.

PERCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to adapt to a nuclear event — to know what is associated with a nuclear blast, and to know where to go to escape from the blast of a nuclear weapon. Where is Good Space? Where can I go to avoid Bad Space?

CONCEPTION is the level of knowing necessary to control a nuclear event — to know when to act to either detonate, or deactivate a nuclear weapon. What is the proper sequence of actions to control the process? And, when do I enter the activation code? Or, when do I enter the deactivation code?

MECHANISM is the level of knowing necessary to create a nuclear event — to know how reality allows the forces of nature to interact and result in a nuclear explosion — E=mc2. And, it also is the level of understanding necessary to invent and manufacture the technology of a nuclear weapon — the Manhattan Project. How do I design a nuclear device?

And finally, CONSEQUENCE is the level of knowing necessary in order to co-Operate — to know why we should never have created nuclear weapons in the first place. Why are we creating these devices? What will be the consequence of their existence? (11/17/2013)


Honeybees and Consequence

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

CommUnity of Minds — Timothy Wilken, MD writes: The animals have perceptual intelligence. It is perceptual intelligence that allows the animals to survive in the fight or flight world of adversarity and to adapt to their environment.

We humans share the perceptual intelligence of the animals, but are blessed with a 2nd form of intelligence called conceptual intelligence. Conceptual intelligence allows us to speak with a voice, be aware of Time, and learn from our mistakes. It is conceptual intelligence that allows we humans to control the events in our lives by understanding how cause and effect work, to use tools to leverage our actions, and lets each new generation start from where the last generation left off.

Some humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual intelligence to generate a 3rd form of intelligence called  genius intelligence. Examples of humans possessing  genius intelligence include: Albert Einstein in science, Michael Jordan in sports, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in music. It is genius intelligence that allows some humans to understand mechanism. Those understanding mechanism can invent new tools of science and technology, create new ways of playing basketball, and create original musical masterpieces.

A few humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual and together with their genius intelligence to generate a 4th form of intelligence called goodness intelligence. Examples of humans possessing goodness intelligence include: Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the Dali Lama to name a few. It is goodness intelligence that allows a few humans to understand consequence. Those understanding consequence can see the truth. They can see good action. They know that they should avoid hurting others, and whenever possible they should help others.

As today’s author warns: “Beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared.”

Goodness intelligence grants us humans the ability to understand consequence. If we understand consequence, then we realize that we should move as quickly as possible to understand the plight of the honeybee. For only if we understand this crisis can we hope to rescue the honeybee, and perhaps rescue ourselves as well.


Giving New Meaning to being Pro Life

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

BBC Life Sciences — A stocktake of UK nature suggests 60% of animal and plant species studied have declined in the past 50 years. The State of Nature report, compiled by 25 wildlife organisations – from the RSPB to the British Lichen Society – collates assessments of 3,148 species. Conservationists hope it will offer clues to the fate of the UK’s 59,000 species. Beetles and wildlfowers are among the most vulnerable species.

According to the document, reasons for the decline are “many and varied” but include rising temperatures and habitat degradation. …

Turtle dove, hedgehog, harbour seal, early bumblebee, small tortoiseshell butterfly, natterjack toad (c) NaturePL / Photoshot / RSPB / Butterfly Conservation

“This ground-breaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope,” said naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who launches the report today.

“We have in this country a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife,” he said.

“The experts have come together today to highlight the amazing nature we have around us and to ensure that it remains here for generations to come.” …

The State of Nature report outlines a new “watchlist indicator” which charts how populations of these species have fared in the last 50 years and the overall trend is a 77% decline, despite successes for some including bitterns and adonis blue butterflies.

A further 6,225 UK species have been assessed according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List criteria, 12% of which are considered under threat of extinction. The highest number of threatened species are found within the flowering plants but bees, flies, moths and butterflies each have more than 200 listed. (05-22-2013)


Remember the Scottish Wildcat ?

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

From the Scottish Wildcat AssociationBBC Animal Science — A scientist who has developed a genetic test to identify pure Scottish wildcats has warned that the species could be extinct within two years. Dr Paul O’Donoghue said cross breeding with feral and hybrid cats made extinction a certainty unless “urgent” conservation activity took place. The University of Chester biologist said pure wildcats should be trapped. He also suggested that private individuals could be keeping the “very best” wildcats as pets. The senior lecturer in biology asked for these people to come forward and help with the conservation effort.

In remote and rural parts of the Highlands it is known for people to take wildcats that visit their properties into their care. Dr O’Donoghue and his team have developed a test that can look at a small blood sample and scan all of the 63,000 genes that make up any individual cat. …

The biologist said the species was now one of the rarest in the world. He said it was of the “utmost importance” that large scale live trapping took place and cats found to be pure-bred wildcats then be placed in protected areas in the west Highlands.

In September last year, conservationists forecast that Scottish wildcats would be extinct in the wild within months as numbers of pure-bred cats had fallen to about 35 individuals. (05/22/2013)


Winner Takes All

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Web of Debt BookWeb of Debt — Ellen Brown writes: Cyprus-style confiscation of depositor funds has been called the “new normal.”  Bail-in policies are appearing in multiple countries directing failing TBTF banks to convert the funds of “unsecured creditors” into capital; and those creditors, it turns out, include ordinary depositors. Even “secured” creditors, including state and local governments, may be at risk.  Derivatives have “super-priority” status in bankruptcy, and Dodd Frank precludes further taxpayer bailouts. In a big derivatives bust, there may be no collateral left for the creditors who are next in line.

Shock waves went around the world when the IMF, the EU, and the ECB not only approved but mandated the confiscation of depositor funds to “bail in” two bankrupt banks in Cyprus. A “bail in” is a quantum leap beyond a “bail out.” When governments are no longer willing to use taxpayer money to bail out banks that have gambled away their capital, the banks are now being instructed to “recapitalize” themselves by confiscating the funds of their creditors, turning debt into equity, or stock; and the “creditors” include the depositors who put their money in the bank thinking it was a secure place to store their savings.

The Cyprus bail-in was not a one-off emergency measure but was consistent with similar policies already in the works for the US, UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, as detailed in my earlier articles here and here.  “Too big to fail” now trumps all.  Rather than banks being put into bankruptcy to salvage the deposits of their customers, the customers will be put into bankruptcy to save the banks.

The big risk behind all this is the massive $230 trillion derivatives boondoggle managed by US banks. Derivatives are sold as a kind of insurance for managing profits and risk; but as Satyajit Das points out in Extreme Money, they actually increase risk to the system as a whole.

In the US after the Glass-Steagall Act was implemented in 1933, a bank could not gamble with depositor funds for its own account; but in 1999, that barrier was removed. Recent congressional investigations have revealed that in the biggest derivative banks, JPMorgan and Bank of America, massive commingling has occurred between their depository arms and their unregulated and highly vulnerable derivatives arms.  (04/18/2013)


The Recreation

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

File:Creación de Adán.jpgCommUnity of Minds — Don Halcom writes: In the next sixty years the entire world will be forced to re-create itself. This is not a prophecy of doom but a fact.  The single event that will require this re-creation is the exhaustion of fossil fuels. The world consumption of energy per capita grows faster, with respect to time, than the population growth. This predicts the exhaustion of fossil fuels sooner than the optimists calculate.

The entire infrastructure created by the exploitation of fossil fuels will have to be replaced by a new one. Literally everything will need to be changed. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the houses we live in, the lights we use, the heat we need, the transportation we use, the roads we use, the medicines we need, the energy we use — everything about the infrastructure will have to be re-created.  We are that dependent upon fossil fuels.

The desperation of this event cannot be minimized. Politicians, economists, businessmen, philosophies, governments, armies or the clergy will not solve this problem. Only one institution has any chance of performing this re-creation and that is science. Without science, all the other institutions are useless for this task.

Science and the exploitation of fossil fuels created our current infrastructure. Science and something new will have to re-create a new infrastructure. Any other path will only lead to a total collapse of modern civilization. If you believe that this is an exaggeration, then you are part of a group that does not understand the current world we live in. It is very easy to take our surroundings for granted and assume they will always be the same. The existential event that is about to confront mankind will swamp any other disaster in the history of the world. If you do not believe me just hide and watch it happen. If you do believe me then get involved with the re-creation. Procrastination will only lead to a condition that will not allow the re-creation to occur in a peaceful manner. We must have sufficient motive, resources and time to accomplish the re-creation. It is a problem of bootstrapping ourselves to a new world. …

The most important conclusion is that massive energy consumption is the creator of population growth. We cannot support 7 billion people (or more) without the use of fossil fuels energy. There is only a finite amount of sunshine and land to create the future energy requirements.

We must reduce our current crude oil energy equivalent consumption by an estimated 80%. About 20% of our current crude oil energy consumption should support a world population of about 1 billion with a life style similar to our current system.

Here is the most difficult part to execute; we must initiate controlled population reduction in a planned way over about the next sixty year from about 7 billion to about 1 billion. Population should stabilize at about 1 billion. Our grand children demand it. Religion will be the major obstacle here. In my opinion, wars are not ethical solutions.

About 12% of the earth’s agricultural land could be devoted to BioDiesel production. This is about four times the current land used for cooking oils. Remember that at least 60% of the earth’s agricultural land is required to maintain the current status quo of crude oil based energy equivalence. I did not include coal and natural gas in these calculations which will also become exhausted in the future. To replace the latter two will require even more agricultural land. The game only gets more intractable. We will have to determine the plants we want to use to replace the coal and natural gas. Got any good ideas? I will guarantee that no “computer” scientist or economist or banker or politician or stock market analyst or pure mathematician or justice of the Supreme Court will solve these problems.

Diesel engines and jet turbines will be the only engines in the future. Electric motors/generators will also be used.

We are no longer going to have the energy resources to employ all of our current working population when fossil fuels become extinct. We are already seeing hints of this. All of the infrastructure will be smaller as well as the goods for sale from such a system. All of economics is the result of the real physics of the planet and not the reverse. We can only use what we are given.

Failure to abide by the above suggestions will result in the ugliest set of wars we can imagine and will kill most of our grand children in a short period of time. Stupidity is not an excuse.

I apologize for presenting such a dark calamity but it is better to know about it now than to wake up one morning and find WWIII erupting outside our windows. It will happen if we do not wisely execute the transformation of our existing infrastructure and that begins now, not 50 years from now. Time and resources are the enemies.

I fully realize that our current ways of thinking and living are opposed to this transformation ever occurring. We do not live on a planet chocked full of infinite resources. I repeat; stupidity is not an excuse. Our current crop of politicians and economist may, in fact, be that stupid. Infinite growth requires infinite resources which do not exist on this planet. If your daddy told you that this is not true, then your daddy was wrong. Do your own thinking. Make it scientific thinking this time and not just another fairy tale about the princess and the knight in shining armor living happily ever after. We cannot have everything, we only imagine we can. This is dangerous thinking. The world is changing too rapidly to day dream about the good old days. Make our dreams about tomorrow realistic. Please help modulate our lusts. (01/09/2013)