Clean up on Line 3

Because Line 3 is a crude oil pipeline, and pipelines leak because that’s what they do. McKibben, via LGM:

It’s easy to forget now how unlikely the Keystone fight really was. Indigenous activists and Midwest ranchers along the pipeline route kicked off the opposition. When it went national, 10 years ago this summer, with mass arrests outside the White House, pundits scoffed. More than 90 percent of Capitol Hill “insiders” polled by The National Journal said the company would get its permit.

But the more than 1,200 people who were arrested in that protest helped galvanize a nationwide — even worldwide — movement that placed President Barack Obama under unrelenting pressure. Within a few months he’d paused the approval process, and in 2015 he killed the pipeline, deciding that it didn’t meet his climate test.

“America’s now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change,” Mr. Obama said. “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.”

And that’s what puts the Biden administration in an impossible place now. Enbridge wants to replace Line 3, which runs from Canada’s tar sands deposits in Alberta across Minnesota to Superior, Wis., with a pipeline that follows a new route and would carry twice as much crude. It would carry almost as much of the same heavy crude oil as planned for the Keystone XL pipeline — crude that is among the most carbon-heavy petroleum on the planet.

An environmental cause that is really an economic question. The slim chance of recouping the cost of building the pipeline before crude oil usage decline makes it no longer viable builds a strong case against pipeline, maybe even stronger than it leaking – which it WILL do, because…
Not easy, but becoming more clear as the science gets tangled with economics, in a good way!


I hadn’t checked in with Adbusters in while, and when I did, saw this article on happiness, aka the modern blues:

I don’t get it. I was the first kid on my block to have a Nintendo. I got a car on my 16th birthday. I didn’t have to work a single day in college (unless you count selling homemade bongs at Phish concerts). My grandfather grew up with nothing. He had to drop out of high school during the Depression to help his family get by, earning money shining the shoes of drunks at a local saloon. Why is my generation, one of relative privilege and wealth, experiencing higher rates of depression than any previous generation?

I turned to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard for some illumination on this conundrum. It seems that in the 19th century, for the first time in history, humans began to require observable proof of happiness. According to Baudrillard, happiness became something that had to be measurable in terms of material gain, something that would be evident to the eye. But I’m surrounded by stuff and yet I’m still glum. At my age, my grandfather had fewer possessions and more happiness. So what do you make of that, Mr. Baudrillard?

Nothing shocking here, especially right here. And the I-never-had-to-work-for-anything glumness is a bit self-indulgent. But the point about Baudrillard becoming somewhat passé is a good sign, I think. As this incomplete notion regarding material happiness increasingly slips into the common experience, people moving beyond it becomes more the norm. We’re at a strange stage in this evolution, that will be much clearer to look back on than it is to experience first-hand and make sense of. But corners are being turned, and this isn’t to sound overly hopeful or optimistic – it’s just a consequence of overconsumption. Even our tendency to want/have/own/possess lurches back toward balance. Thank your animal nature for rejecting your bourgeois tendencies.

The Conquest of Russell

This (misspellings and all) is from Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness (1930), specifically Chapter Three: Competition.

If you ask any man in America, or any man in business in England,what it is that most interferes with his enjoyment of existence, he will say: ‘The struggle for life.’ He will say this in all sincerity; he will believe it. In a certain sense it is true; yet in another, and that a very important sense, it is profoundly false. The struggle for life is a thing which does, of course, occur. It may occur to any of us if we are unfortunate. It occurred, for example, to Conrad’s hero Falk, who found himself on a derelict ship, one of the two men among the crewwho were possessed of fire-arms, with nothing to eat but the other men, When the two men had finished the meals upon which they could agree, a true struggle for life began. Falk won, but was ever after a vegetarian.
Now that is not what the businessman means when he speaks of the ‘struggle for life’. It is an inaccurate phrase which he has picked up in order to give dignity to something essentially trivial. Ask him how many men he has known in his class of life who have died of hunger. Ask him what happened to his friends after they had been ruined. Everybody knows that a businessman who has been ruined is better offso far as material comforts are concerned than a man who has never been rich enough to have the chance of being ruined. What people mean, therefore, by the struggle for life is really the struggle for success. What people fear when they engage in the struggle is not that they will fail to get their breakfast next morning, but that they will fail to outshine their neighbours.

It is very singular how little men seem to realise that they are not caught in the grip of a mechanism from which there is no escape, but that the treadmill is one upon which they remain merely because they have not noticed that it fails to take them up to a higher level. I am thinking, of course, of men in higher walks of business, men who already have a good income and could, if they chose, live on what they have. To do so would seem to them shameful, likedeserting from the army in the face of the enemy, though if you ask them what public cause they are serving by their work, they will be at a loss to reply as soon as they have run through the platitudes to be found in the adverdsements of the strenuous life.
Consider the life of such a man. He has, we may suppose, a charming house, a charming wife, and charming children. He wakes up early in the morning while they are still asleep and hurries off to his office. There it is his duty to display the qualities of a great executive; he cultivates a firm jaw, a decisive manner of speech, and an air of sagacious reserve calculated to impress everybody except the office boy. He dictates letters, converses with various important persons on the ‘phone, studies the market, and presently has lunch with some person with whom he is conducting or hoping to conduct a deal. The same sort of thing goes on all the afternoon. He arrives home, tired, just in time to dress for dinner. At dinner he and a number of other tired men have to pretend to enjoy the company of ladies who have no occasion to feel tired yet. How many hours it may take the poor man to escape it is impossible to foresee. At last he sleeps, and for a few hours the tension is relaxed.

The Pleasure Principle

Happiness is a kind of Dodo, an odd bird, though certainly not extinct. It means as many different things as there are people, though our predilection for collective experience has shaped a view toward happiness that we generally agree on. Departures from this are seen as just that – alternative, avant ‘something’, deviant – indeed that is where these concepts come from. But we have given the pursuit of happiness such a central role in our public and private lives, it has become the thing we guard the most as well as infringe upon most regularly. The very flexibility of happiness in this regard seems to be its key and its lock, if you will.

As we often ignore the big problems in favor of smaller, more manageable ones, happiness can be difficult to deal with. Not being happy, per se, but defining what it is and going on from there. Simply because the royal We have attached many things to this idea or achieving it (a combination of property and resources that equal a certain level of luxury) those things must then be compromised as we pivot toward becoming more planetary minded. But does this mean we will have to compromise our levels of happiness? This is a high-minded question, surely, weighted-down with the concrete boots of bourgeois comforts that surround us, that make happiness, like most other things, needlessly more complicated than it needs to be.

But it’s the tale of the green tape, right? If we could just cut our consumption of food, fuel and shelter by eighty per cent and not be concerned about its impact on our happiness, the prosperous way down would lose both its spartan implications and its sex appeal and hence, become a limp marketing tool. It would seem to imply that we would become ambivalent about our self-preservation, which is impossible. So what are we trying to preserve if not our most flexible characteristic, i.e., our definition our happiness?


Via, the new economics foundation has released its second Happy Planet Index, an attempt to quantify happiness in terms of some factors more tangible than GDP, but also as a function of resource consumption. This is interesting on its own and represents multiple philosophical tangents at once. One way of getting to the point of being able to perceive and then opt for the reality of less is to release ourselves of some of the constraints we have battened to our happiness. 

Whatever it is, SUVs, suburbs, exurbs, plastics, a forty-hour work week with two weeks of vacation per year, a cellphone plan as individual as you are, the idea has grown more rather than less contained, simply because of all the pre-requirements.

The ways we use happiness to sell ourselves products bares a rather perverse relationship to the methods we use to shield our delicate selves from some of the unsavory things necessary to live as we do. What we are doing is protecting our happiness as if it were a sort of achievement in and of itself, and not a journey that could entail many things. That could even be quite different and nonetheless, still make us happy.

After all, if we can compare ourselves to others and imagine how things could be worse, can’t we also imagine how they could better?

The Happiness of Pursuit

What if you woke up one day and found that this, or any, site you read had undergone a for-profit makeover? Being that it would have to be something very subtle, in order to establish continuity with the day before but represent a turn toward selling you something, would you/we even notice? You’d think, sure. But a better question might be, how would we notice? Of course, you would expect there to be tell-tale signs – more ads, maybe a flashier graphic or a graphic flash file to get things going right at the top (wow, a flash header – why didn’t I think of that?) The point being that the site would want you to know, because of course, we’re reassured by the profit motive – it’s the last honest and pure thing we’ve got.

Worry not. I have not yet begun to sell out. At least not yet. I only thought back around to this upon being pointed to this site (thanks, Ben), which to me seems like a full-throated expectation of (still) being able to sell green living. It’s an excellent idea and I’m as encouraged by it as I’m surprised we’re still right there. I guess since there is no viable internet business model, maybe that’s what all of this amounts to. But at its heart I don’t really believe that. Not yet. At this point the medium seems less than useful for that one sacred mission, and so of course seems of great utility. We can expect this ratio to diminish along such an inverse relational plane, but only to give way to another new one or return us to a renewed emphasis on an old one.

But… the continued optimism about what we can sell goes quite a bit beyond earning a living and circles back on us when it comes to sustainability, as in the way we think about a more ostensibly altruistic goal, like saving the whales. We could and perhaps should reflect on this not as a selfless extention of human empathy for a fellow creature, per se, but a rather direct notion toward saving ourselves. This extends to the oceans, all water, all land, then the air… the ocean within the fish, as they say. All routes to self-preservation, expressed through a more urgent concern for a more directly endangered entity. Endangered by us to be sure; but marked in a but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-we kind of way that we understand better than we let on. Maybe it’s the shroud of inevitability that we just can’t shake, that hasn’t worked its way up to profit making, but once it does and that comes to be percieved as clearly endangered as it surely is today, most of our efficiency and sustainability initiatives will become finally and absolutely mandatory. The we’ll really have something to sell. What a day of strange rejoicing that will be.