The Green Revolution

No, not that one. This one:

The Green Revolution refers to a transformative 20th-century agricultural project that utilized plant genetics, modern irrigation systems, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase food production and reduce poverty and hunger in developing countries. The Green Revolution began in Mexico, where scientists developed a hybrid wheat variety that dramatically expanded yields. Following its introduction, hunger and malnutrition there dropped significantly.

The model was subsequently extended to Asia, Latin America, and later Africa to increase food production for growing populations without consuming significantly more land. Over time, however, the techniques and policies of the Green Revolution were questioned as they led to inequality and environmental degradation.

Ahem. Such language. But being mindful of these transformations is important, especially as we seem to be on the verge of several others happening simultaneously and at terrific speed. For instance, which kind of battery will follow lithium-ion? In early 2023, we heard about iron-air batteries that use a water-based electrolyte and store energy using reverse rusting. Now, that’s the sexy tech we need. Companies are being funded and manufacturing facilities built. The storage needs changing, not to mention the problematic issues around mining lithium, are driving this ongoing series of shifts. Like the earlier Green revolution, it’s less important to cheer these development as good or bad but rather to see them in a kind of continuum and consider how each new standard performs under these changing market conditions. Yes, market – the economics as well as the social and physical constraints.

Climate tech is on-again, off-again as we get jaded accustomed to shiny new things, seek improvements and various strategies win out. But as the pressure continues to push costs down and use up, the newer green revolution can usher in a more stable form of societal improvements for everyone.

That, we should expect.

Video: the great Arthur Blythe (Thanks D!), with Bob Stewart on Tuba, doncha know.

Happy New Year + some book recommendations

Happy 2024! Green also means eternally fecund in its way, much like this day, much like you yourself. You are ready to fruit!

I take this moment to wish you well and to recommend some recent readings (though of course they should be required). In lieu of takes or reviews, some digressions on how I came to them or vice versa.

Re-visioning Psychology, by James Hillman. The late JH is/was a close friend of a close friend, so one-degree and all. But I had never read him. Representative sample:

We sin against imagination whenever we ask an image for its meaning, requiring that images be translated into concepts. The coiled snake in the corner cannot be translated into my fear, my sexuality, or my mother-complex without killing the snake. We do not hear music, touch sculpture, or read stories with meaning in mind, but for the sake of the imagination. Though art may hide a multitude of psychological ignorances, at least it does not ask images what they mean. Interpretations and even amplifications of images, including the whole analytical kit of symbolic dictionaries and ethnological parallels, too often become instruments of allegory. Rather than vivifying the imagination by connecting our conceptual intellects with the images of dreams and fantasies, they exchange the image for commentary on it or digest of it. And these interpretations forget too that they are themselves fantasies induced by the image, no more meaningful than the image itself.

Upon the death of Tom Verlaine one year ago, Patti Smith wrote a touching and very generous remembrance/eulogy/essay about him and their relationship. Avoid your heroes, yes, but checkout the obits. Smith shared some terrific authors she learned of or read with Verlaine, some which were unknown or little known to me but contiguous of the tight circle I know well, of which I tracked down

The Blind Owl, by Sadegh Hedayat

Love with a Few Hairs, Mohammed Mrabet

Laziness in the Fertile Valley, Albert Cossery

Other honorable mentions:

Trouble in Mind, a play by Alice Childress

Answer to Job, by Carl Jung

Ask the Dust, John Fante

Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee

So… push yourself into your greatness in 2024. Find a way. Fight the fascists. Punch the nazis. Vote like women’s healthcare depends on it (it does) and like we’re about to turn a corner on climate change (we could be), all of which and more are very much in the balance and under threat. Do it and be just.

Thanks for reading. Always free.

 

 

The thing about GROWTH

Interesting digression from Joel Klotkin about a dilemma that continues to plague us, which is also wrapped tightly around all efforts to de-couple ever-growing returns in economic activity from energy-intensive work and employment:

The global phenomena of low economic growth and rising prices has sparked middle-class-led rebellion—what one Marxist publication describes as “a strike against the rising cost of living.” While the specific issues may vary in each instance, the new protests are motivated by middle- and working-class fears that slow and de-growth conditions will “proletarianize” their once decently comfortable living standards.

Many of the progressive gentry dismiss these movements as primitive populism, producing detestable things like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. But the “great revolt” has since expanded to countries with liberal cultures and evolved welfare states, including France, Chile,  even Norway and the Netherlands. In most places these rebellions are led not by perpetually outraged students, laid off workers, or angry immigrants, but by solidly middle-income workers who feel their long-term prospects, and those of their children, are increasingly dismal.

These fears are particularly acute for workers in environmentally inconvenient industries, such as energy, manufacturing, or home-building, who are losing their jobs or have been explicitly targeted for unemployment by the green Left. Those who continue to work in unavoidably energy-intensive industries like agriculture continue to be saddled with ever rising costs for critical commodities like diesel fuel. These energy price rises particularly impact most Europeans who drive to work.

This is obviously not unrelated to the perpetual ‘make the miners into coders’ solution that is stupid on its face (we don’t need that many coders) and insulting by implication (they can just do something else!).

The need for ever-increasing growth needs some re-imagined parameters. Instead of successive generations wanting their kids to earn more and more, what if our dream was for them to work less and less? What else might they do? Do you mean we can’t think of or value anything else beyond work? Is that the actual problem? The idea/reality that it is blasphemy to consider the merits of working a 20-hour week, or that we have trouble imagining these merits says far more about us that we should be comfortable with.

Hmmm. What’s Green?

Image by author.

Climate Strike

I’ll take the day off here in solidarity, by republishing a post I wrote eleven years ago this month:

As a country we’ve made a living bragging about how ambitious we are, how audacious our concepts of freedom, liberty and happiness are as to make their fulfillment just a matter of conquering a lesser will.

Well, here’s the way to defuse most every geopolitical conflict for the next century or so, at least until things even out and Republicans can get elected again and start whining about socialism or how unjust their tax burden is. Cheap desalination powered with clean energy is the key to making the fossil fuels conundrum exit stage left. As the article points out these are massive public works projects with very sophisticated interactions with the natural environment; The question is not will they work, but do we have the will to make them work.

In the speech by House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday that had all the Republican house members whining and crying with hurt feelings, she recalled that people around the world constantly tell her that the greatest emerging market in the world is rebuilding the public infrastructure of the United States of America. She said it could be done in a fiscally responsible manner. Even with only what we know how to do right now, it could also be done in a highly innovative manner, geared toward sustainably shifting our transportation and land-use conventions in the permanent direction of clean water and low-carbon power.

Building a green house isn’t green, but takes a lot of green. The reviewer says it at the end:

Maybe the real meaning of being green is closer to what modest Kermit had in mind: learning to make the best of what we already have rather than having to create, spend and construct something “eco-friendlier.”

Yes it is. One household living off the grid does not a difference make; we need to get the grid off the grid. Meanwhile, live close to work, know where your food comes from, spend and buy accordingly.

Image: Climate strike in Sydney, September 20, 2019. Photo from Kym Chapple on Twitter

Not exactly the smoothest criminal but perhaps the one we deserve

Apologies to Mr. Jackson, but let’s introduce Mr. Mencken of 1920:

As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Brought you courtesy of Mr. Harriot:

He has become the world’s most powerful man in the world’s most powerful country through a system that rewards white men for being white men. He has no particular intelligence or expertise, yet he has convinced his poor Caucasian co-conspirators that the only way they can succeed is by placing their foot on the neck of the people who don’t look like them. The brown people. The black people. The non-Christians.

Isn’t that the most American idea of them all?

Good grief. Okay, I get it. Green – young, inexperienced. Naive. Wet behind the ears. Easily fooled.

Uncle.

A Nobel gesture

Congratulations to Richard Thaler on his 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics. The professor took some hardly veiled shots at the Preznit, but also offered some “gee, I just can’t figure it” about the stock market:

“His ratio of certitude to knowledge is nearing record highs,” Thaler said on Bloomberg Radio with Tom Keene and David Gura. “We all need a lot of humility, and especially about the economy.”
Thaler also expressed surprise that the stock market is returning good performance with few disruptions during what he sees as uncertain political times. Congress is grappling with a tax reform proposal, but infighting among Republicans has called into question whether a package will ultimately pass.

“Who would have thunk that the stock market would just continue to go up” during “what has to be the most uncertain times of my lifetime,” Thaler said. “Surely it can’t be based on the certitude that there will be a massive tax cut, given the seeming inability of the Republican Congress to get their act together. So I don’t know where it’s coming from.”

Well, who knows? If you read PK, he seems clear headed about it, if full of Robert Hughes allusions. But how about this: Maybe the indices keep going up, despite the uncertainty and turmoil, because as a set of money-making wagers, they actually feed on that level of chaos. Maybe as a ruse, or cover, for the Ponzi nature of the games being plied and played. The ‘it’s all so complex and confusing, who knows how it works’ absolutely accrues to the benefit of some. See the bankster/fraudsters of 2008 and how they have ascended to far more dizzying heights in the time since, and the extent to which questions about all this convenient success equal nothing more than conspiracy theories. They don’t even bother with calling people Commies anymore.
Quite a trick.

The Rain in Nanjing

Welcome to this post about how crappy the air in Beijing is. Terrific, thanks. And you? Okay everybody take a seat and a dust mask respirator. Here we go.

Do you happen to see the film Interstellar? It’s Matthew McConaughey in a new kind of car commercial… kidding, it’s interesting, if not good – no, it’s thrilling, if an odd-brand of heavy science blockbuster. I enjoyed it. But…

The dilemma constructed to necessitate finding a new planet is the Earth becoming unlivable – mostly, we can’t grow food anymore and there are horrible dust storms and… okay has anyone in Beijing seen the movie? They probably can’t see it because of the pollution, because they are basically living in the movie right now:

A sports class is in full swing on the outskirts of Beijing. Herds of children charge after a football on an artificial pitch, criss-crossed with colourful markings and illuminated in high definition by the glare of bright white floodlights. It all seems normal enough – except for the fact that this familiar playground scene is taking place beneath a gigantic inflatable dome.

“It’s a bit of a change having to go through an airlock on the way to class,” says Travis Washko, director of sports at the British School of Beijing. “But the kids love it, and parents can now rest assured their children are playing in a safe environment.”

Beijing marathon runners don face masks to battle severe smogThe reason for the dome becomes apparent when you step outside. A grey blanket hangs in the sky, swamping the surroundings in a de-saturated haze and almost o

bscuring the buildings across the street. A red flag hangs above the school’s main entrance to warn it’s a

no-go day: stay indoors at all costs. The airpocalypse has arrived.

Come on. And this, bon Dieu:

This year’s Beijing marathon, held on a day that exceeded 400 on the scale, saw many drop out when their face-mask filters turned a shade of grey after just a few kilometres. Some said it felt like running through bonfire smoke. With such hazardous conditions increasingly common, it’s not surprising that foreign companies are now expected to pay a “hardship bonus” of up to 20 or 30% to those willing to work in the Chinese capital.

And yet denial still persists. Many Beijingers tend to use the word “wumai” (meaning fog), rather than “wuran” (pollution), to describe the poor air quality – and not just because it’s the official Newspeak of weather reports. It’s partly because, one local tells me, “if we had to face up to how much we’re destroying the environment and our bodies every day, it would just be too much.” A recent report by researchers in Shanghai described Beijing’s atmosphere as almost “uninhabitable for human beings” – not really something you want to be reminded of every day.

We wouldn’t want that. They won’t even use the right word for it. I know – we have our own problems calling things what they are. And like the Chinese, we know what to do about the proliferation of gun violence and people without healthcare, but also choose to do nothing about it. In this search for clean air getaways and other euphemisms we know what to do and what words to use.

I’m just saying. It’s air. You sort of… need it.It’s just that the power of cinema to show us a believably horrible scenario based on what we are doing right now that is truly too horrifying to contemplate much less address crosses back and forth between enough lines that perhaps we should evacuate the idea that there are any lines between now and then because there might not be. We might be there.

Image: Not from the film Interstellar. At all.

The Modern Transport System

In China.

High-speed trains linking Beijing and Shanghai made their passenger debut Thursday on a $33 billion track China hopes will help ease its overloaded transport system.

The fast link, which has been hit by safety concerns and graft, is opening a year ahead of schedule and will be able to carry 80 million passengers a year — double the current capacity on the 1,318-kilometre (820-mile) route.

So we get safety and graft concerns, too, but without the fancy new rail lines to show for it. And sure, destructive for the airline industry, okay, what else? Have you flown recently? The airlines are about as cavalier about comfort, cost and efficiency as is sub-humanly possible. The flight distance between Atlanta and Boston is about 950 miles, and we’re at least twenty years away from China building a high-speed rail route linking the two cities. Probably more.