Thursday, November 27, 2008

FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS It's going to be a bumpy ride...

It's the double whammy: the economy and the climate crash at the same time.

Outgoing President Bush is exercising his scorched Earth policy on BOTH, as he slides out the door.

This is Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith. The news is pouring in with changes too big for the imagination. In this program, you'll hear a quick clip from Barack Obama, his climate promises.

A Toronto Professor explains the links between economic and natural crashes. Peter Victor's book launch for "Managing Without Growth, Slower by Design Not Disaster" this past November 18th. The book describes an economy that does not depend on growth. Unreasonable demands for endless growth is killing off both the capitalist economy and the planet. The launch was attended by famed environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki and Toronto Mayor David Miller. Mayor Miller described that city's plan to "reclad" tower buildings - to finally add an outside layer to these energy inefficient giants built when energy was cheap. There's a make-work project for every city in the world - as oil and natural gas decline.

My thanks to listener John-Paul Warren of Toronto for recording the book launch and sending it in to Radio Ecoshock.


Then our feature presentation: the latest climate science from NASA's James Hansen, and Tom Helweg-Larson of the Public Interest Research Centre. I recorded the live webcast for you, from parliamentlive.tv You can download the 68 minute testimony from our Climate Page at ecoshock.org

I'll recap Hansen and Helweg-Larson with lots of clips, in less than 24 minutes - and point you to a free download of the full audio.

They testified to the Environmental Audit Committee in the United Kingdom on Wednesday November 26th. The climate news is horrific.

As George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian newspaper, we may already be too late. He claims the Iraq War is just number two on the list of crimes against humanity carried out by George W. Bush. Number One for all time is the Bush administration's stalling of real action on climate change (while helping make it worse). This article by Monbiot is one of his most powerful, check it out.

We get a bit of that, plus an argument from blogger Sharon Astyk, in a controversial article titled "A New Deal or a War Footing? Thinking Through Our Response to Climate Change."

Sharon takes apart the new energy program proposed by Al Gore in the New York Times on November 9th. She counts up the carbon costs of building the new solar heat plants, wind farms, the new power grid for America, converting our rolling stock to electric, and retrofitting all our buildings.

The only thing Gore doesn't mention is changing our wasteful lifestyles. Just like the free money Paulson pulls out of a hat, we developed people don't have to give up a thing. We'll just build our way out of it, using fossil powered machinery, and more gigatons of carboniferous cement, and steel. Just the urge to save ourselves will generate more new greenhouse gases than the atmosphere can withstand.

Sharon Astyk, says the better alternative is to cut our own energy consumption now by at least 50% - whatever that takes. Whatever it takes.

Also in this show: Robert Pollin describes a real green recovery plan, based on his new book. Our four minute clip comes courtesy of Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg of WBAI's Building Bridges radio show - great progressive radio from pro journalists. They are at buildingbridgesonline.org.

And we hear how carbon can stay in the atmosphere - forever! Dr. David Archer's new book "The Long Thaw" describes the ugly truth about CO2.

The show is loaded with references and quick clips, from places like peakmoment.tv and therealnews.com It's a radio journey. Even a bit of Monty Python to lighten the load.

Our music theme this week is "Fasten Your Seatbelts" from Pendulum, with a close-out tune "This Is Your Captain Speaking" by Laurie Anderson (who just married Lou Reed last April!)

Who knows what wonders will appear next week - and how many more trillions will disappear, as Bush-Paulson and company make the largest U.S. Treasury raid in history.

Alex Smith
host
Radio Ecoshock
www.ecoshock.org

Thursday, November 20, 2008

FOOD THREATS & SURVIVAL - PLUS HYBRID HUMAN POWER

We open up this program with a classic 1946 quote from U.S. President Harry Truman. Old Harry begs Americans to save scraps of bread to help feed the starving overseas. We haven't heard much of that recently, although an estimated 860 million something people are hungry to dying.

You get a 24 minute interview with Kathy Jo Wetter of ETC Group. They've just released a report ""Who Owns Nature? Corporate Power and the Final Frontier in the Commodification of Life." That's the title of the 100th newsletter coming from the ETC Group, published in November 2008.

It's an ambitious report naming exactly which corporations are trying to take over the world's food and drug industry, from seeds to processing and chemicals, all the way to your grocery store, and your body. Plus a lot of top ten charts that name names: the companies who control most of your food chain. They'd like to own it all.

Then I look at threats to our wheat supply, which is rapidly dwindling. We've used up more than we grew in 6 of the last 7 years. At their low point, just before the harvest, humans only have 55 days worth of wheat in reserve (as Lester Brown tells us in a quick clip).

Then there is the UG99 black stem wheat rust - a scary fungi that can destroy wheat crops. It was discovered in Uganda back in 1999, and spread up the East Coast of Africa. Then the only force five hurrican ever recorded in the Indian Ocean spread UG99 to the Middle East. It is now in Iran, and threatens to cross over into the Punjab bread basket of India. Maybe the Ukraine too.

Eventually this crop threat will reach North America. We have some fungicides, but not nearly enough, as outlined in this show. The resistant variety might take 5 years to get into the marketplace. A rust in 1954 killed forty percent - that's 40%!! - of the North American wheat harvest, so this is serious stuff.

Also, we don't have the big food warehouses anymore, in your city. The corporations are using a just in time system to deliver food directly from the source to your local food market. They use the trucks themselves as a rolling warehouse. So... if there is an emergency, whether climate, earthquakes, the bird flu, or just crop shortages and stopped trucks - you cannot depend on any outside source of food. Maybe it's time to consider your own food storage at home.

I interview Kari from Survival Foods Canada Business is really picking up there, as Canadians worry about their food supply, in the coming Depression. The same thing is happening in the United States, for companies like readyreservefood.com

FINALLY - WE CHANGE IT UP AND GO FOR HUMAN POWER STATIONS...

How about hybrid humans that produce their own electric power - just by walking around. Not only does this device exist - it makes walking easier, not harder. The invention is in it's earlier stages, led by Max Donelan of the Simon Fraser University Locomotion Lab.

The prototypes are being taken commercial, to provide power for those needing heart stimulation, or other internal body pumps that require a sure and rechargeable source of electricity. But the future possibilities are astounding. You would power your ipod/phone/computer just by walking down to the corner store. Perhaps in the future, all of us will become independent power stations, removing the need for bit climate killing fossil fuel plants.

I caught up with Max Donelan at a Cafe for Scientists in the Vancouver Public Library, on November 19th, 2008. In this 16 minute clip, introduced by CBC radio personality Hal Wake, Max explains his invention, plus the basics of human power use.

All in all, it's a full hour of information tinged with paranoia (or is that reality?)

Alex Smith
host
Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, November 13, 2008

GOING DOWN IN FLAMES

As corporate icons like General Motors tumble - what will be left of the economy?

This is a bleeding edge show with 3 interviews plus media clips.

In the first half hour: our second interview with Dmitri Orlov, author of "Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects." Our previous interview with Mr. Orlov was picked up by more than 40 radio stations. He predicted rapid economic collapse - and how right he was!

Now Orlov says we are hitting Step Two of a Five Part devolution common to other nations, in other times, including the Soviet Union. Step One is Financial Collapse, and we're in that now. Coming up next: commercial collapse, as businesses fold instead of banks and investment houses. (Find a summary of the five steps in this blog's November 12th entry)

That leads to Political Collapse, since the federal authorities depend on a huge tax base which cannot come from the foreclosed and bankrupt people and economy. Government becomes more irrelevant. In fact, Orlov says there is nothing much any government can do about our current economic crisis. In his words "I don't think the financial levers of power are actually connected to anything real".

So America's $750 billion of future taxes, Canada's newly announced $75 billion bucks for banks, and China's phoney $600 billion announcements... will just fall uselessly into a deep and darkening hole.

If we can't reorganize socially in time, Social Collapse is the next step. Gangsters and looters take over, post-Soviet style. The final step is Cultural Collapse, but Orlov doesn't expect things to go that far.

It's hair raising radio you won't hear anywhere else.

In the second half of the show, we zero in to another type of corporate default: disappearing newspapers. The Christian Science Monitor shocked the news world by dropping their 100 year old print weekday edition, going online instead. The New York Times owes a billion dollars, and they are slashing journalists, as is Gannett, America's largest news chain. One New England paper announced its own demise.

According to Paul Gillin, we'll see newspaper disappear in some major cities over the next five years. Maybe even famous ones, in your own city. Advertising has tanked, due to the economic crisis. Papers depended to a large degree on SUV ads from American car makers. Guess what, those ad budgets are slashed. Ditto the shrinking classifieds as millions of people use EBay and Craig's List instead. The publishers just finished a closed-door conference to see how they can survive.

Paul Gillin was editor-in-chief of the tech journal ComputerWorld for 15 years. Now he's a consultant for new media. Not to mention his blog at newspaperdeathwatch.com. Join us for that interview.

We wrap up with a look at Canada's media conglomerate called Canwest. In my city, they own both the dailies, several free giveaway news dailies, and one TV station. They are the news. Canwest bought out disgraced media baron Conrad Black, and then engineered a take-over of several cable TV channels. That was a controversial deal which saw, guess who, Goldman Sachs putting up most of the money. If revenues are poor, and they are, Goldman Sachs could end up owning more Canadian media channels than the law allows. And the Asper family, which owns Canwest, could lose control, as their stocks plummet from over $20 to just $2. Their empire is billions in debt, and revenues are slumping.

Oh yeah, Canwest owns Network Ten in Australia - and that company is hurting with falling revenues.

Canwest isn't all bad - but they lost me when they continued to print global warming deniers as columnists, over and over again, long after Vancouver Sun editor Kirk LePoint said "we get it" about climate change. The icing on the cake: last August the Sun ran an editorial, expressing the views of the newspaper, that "Coal Is The Future." Really? Well hopefully Canwest is not the future, or we'll lose the planet.

We run a full analysis of Canwest and their money problems by the Redeye Collective from CFRO Radio in Vancouver. They talk with Mark Edge, academic, journalist and author of "Asper Nation" from New Star Books.

Now that the wild election spending is over in both Canada and the United States, it will be interesting to see what companies are left standing by 2012. Maybe some of the right wing magnates will lose their seats at the table. What a shame that would be.

Don't miss this Ecoshock program. If you are not on our podcast subscriber list already, just click on the title above to download it. Or grab the full CD quality version (56 MB) here.

Alex Smith
host
Radio Ecoshock

Thursday, November 06, 2008

LAMENT FOR A NATION'S OCEANS

With the excitement of elections and a crumbling economy, who cares if ocean life is being killed off?

Jeff Hutchings does - even if the government is ignoring his warnings. Jeff is the Chair of the committee advising Canada on endangered species. And though warnings of extinctions come thick and fast - the government continues to issue fishing and hunting permits to kill off the last of a kind.

I debated running this speech, now, on Radio Ecoshock. Surely Americans will be too absorbed with their own affairs, to notice the end of fisheries of the world's longest coast line? Shouldn't I talk economy, with breezy interviews, and hot music instead?

My listeners do care. They know the human economy is built upon the natural economy. If our ocean stocks are going bankrupt, along with the food chain, we all need to know about it.

Normally, scientists at the top government levels work behind the scenes, keeping a cautious reserve and even secrecy. Not now. The situation off the coasts of North America, and the Arctic, are just too severe. Why even bother with endangered species, if the government will ignore all warnings - even if it saves just two - that's right TWO - jobs. Listen and weep.

Professor Jeffrey Hutchings comes from Dalhousie University, on Canada's East Coast. He's Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation and Biodiversity. This is the Canada Oceans 2008 annual lecture, recorded by Alex Smith at the Wosk Centre of Simon Fraser University, in downtown Vancouver Canada, on October 22nd 2008.

It's a powerful speech. CBC Radio, the national broadcaster, was recording it for the well-known program "Ideas."

Two points for listeners: (1) the word "extirpated" means that species will disappear from the region, but may still exist somewhere else in the world. It only appears "extinct" to those who have known it for generations in a locale.

(2) "on the Minister's desk" is a quaint Canadian phase which means the scientists have put their endangered warnings in a report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, for the Federal Government of Stephen Harper - but nothing has been done about it. It is being stalled, ignored, and in some cases abused - by approving a catch on endangered or severly at risk stocks.

You will also find out that Canada's most threatened mammal in the Arctic, due to climate disruption, is not the polar bear. Learn what it is, and why.

The event was held "in the round" at the beautiful Wosk Centre. The plush chairs, each with their own desk space and microphone, were filled with top fisheries people - the British Columbia government types, well-known university scientists, ocean environmentalists you see on TV all the time, and people who love the sea. In the quiet tones of a Canadian from the inner circle, Jeff Hutchings nailed them to their chairs.

Let's tune in to a lament for a nation's oceans, this week on Radio Ecoshock.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock