Archive | July 2014

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future


The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway)

“… Clear warnings of climate catastrophe went ignored for decades, leading to soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, widespread drought and — finally — the disaster now known as the Great Collapse of 2093, when the disintegration of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet led to mass migration and a complete reshuffling of the global order.” – Naomi Oreskes

“The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future” presents a gripping and deeply disturbing account of how the period in the early decades of the twenty-first century, a time when sound science and rational discourse about global change were prohibited and clear warnings of climate catastrophe were ignored. What ensues when soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, drought, raging wildfires, massive flooding, stronger storms and mass migrations disrupt the global governmental and economic regimes? Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway call it “The Great Collapse of 2093”.

Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway imagine a world devastated by climate change. Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called “carbon combustion complex” that have turned the practice of science into political fodder. Based on sound scholarship and yet unafraid to speak boldly, this book provides a welcome moment of clarity amid the cacophony of climate change literature.

Naomi Oreskes is one of the world’s leading historians of science. She became Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University in 2013, after 15 years as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where her research focuses on consensus and dissent in science. She has won numerous prizes for her work, and has lectured widely in diverse venues ranging from the Madison, Wisconsin, Civics Club to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” cited by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, led to Op-Ed pieces in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and to Congressional testimony in the U.S Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Oreskes’s research highlights the disconnect between the state of scientific debate. There really no longer exists the need for scientific debate since global warming is already a well established phenomenon, as are the changing climates of a warmer world. The causal factor is the super huge quantities of fossil fuels burned by humans since the time of the Industrial Revolution, which has resulted in an unnaturally high levels of greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere. But this is seldom the way this worldwide threat is being presented in the mass media and is therefore perceived by the American people. Oreskes and Conway’s writings aim to show what may come to be inevitable within this century if we continue with “business as usual” practices and we fail to bring fossil fuel burning to a screeching halt, now, before the really drastic climate patterns emerge. No less than the entire planet Earth and everything living off of it including the oceans creature are being jeopardized by our actions..


Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology residing in Pasadena, CA. He is currently employed by the California Institute of Technology. He studies and documents the history of space exploration, and examines the intersections of space science, Earth science, and technological change. He most recently received the 2009 NASA History award for “path breaking contributions to space history ranging from aeronautics to Earth and space sciences,” and the 2009 AIAA History Manuscript Award for his fourth book, “Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History.”

In 2010, Conway co-authored the book “Merchants of Doubt” with Oreskes. Merchants of Doubt identified some parallels between the climate change debate and earlier public controversies.
Hear the authors’ talk about this book and their companion book “Merchants of Doubt: “How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”.

Merchants of Doubt (2)

Governor Walker has been Asleep at the Switch on Climate Change Threat


Overall, it has cost the state more than $5.75 million to protect Scott Walker during his first term as Wisconsin’s governor, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week.

The figure is the costs associated with providing security for Walker on at least 110 out-of-state trips — including travel for official, campaign and personal reasons — during his first three years in office.

Walker even reportedly took a state trooper to provide security on his family’s week long vacation flight to the Bahamas last August. Many other trips required airline flight, which Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times has called our “biggest carbon sin”, dwarfing most families’ other total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

A large part of Governor Walker’s increase in spending on security came as a result of Walker’s decision to outlaw collective bargaining for most public employees under Act 10.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter interviewed Walker for the report, which appeared in the newspaper’s July 12, 2014 edition. “Have you been asleep for the past three years?” Walker said when pressed about his rising security budget and his perceived need for increased tax-payer funded security on his out of the state trips and for his family’s vacation.

The same question ought be asked of Governor Walker – if he has been asleep the last three years that climate change, resulting from global warming brought on by too much fossil fuel burning, has become a reality and a much greater threat to the planet than just 3 years ago? So why is it then that he continues to see the need to travel so much despite the obvious hefty costs on our budget and the sustainability of our planet? In addition to that, why does he not set a better example for everybody by spending his vacation dollars here in his own state which could use those dollars rather than in some exotic location?

House Passes Bill to Increase Fossil Fuel Subsidies $31 Million to $593 Million, Slash Energy Conservation Funds $112 Million and Reduce Protections under the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts


The Week ending July 11, 2014, the heavily dominated Republican House of Representatives passed the 2015 energy, water budget. Voting 253 for and 170 against, the House on July 10 passed a bill (HR 4923) that would appropriate $30.4 billion for energy, water and nuclear-safety programs in fiscal 2015.

The bill increases spending for fossil-fuel research by $31 million to $593 million while reducing funds for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs by $112 million. The bill provides $11.4 billion for the National Nuclear Safety Administration, $5.5 billion for Army Corps of Engineers water projects, $1.1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation, $304.4 million for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, $123 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and $80.3 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Additionally the bill prohibits funding for certain environmental protections under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

The bill also prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from enforcing its ban on firearms on on its land and limits U.S.cooperation with Russia in nuclear-nonproliferation program.

A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate; A no vote was to not advance the bill to the Senate.
Representatives Ryan, Duffy and Ribble vote yes to sent the bill to the senate; Representatives Pocan, Kind, Moore and Sensenbrenner voted no.


“The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

By Gaylord Nelson, US Senator, Author, Earth Day Founder, Metal of Freedom Recipient, Wisconsin Governor (two consecutive, State Legislator, and nature lover.


The House on Thursday, July 10, voted to bar funding of the Department of Energy or Army Corps of Engineers policies to combat or address climate change. Representatives Pocan, Kind. Moore voted no; Representatives Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy and Ribble voted yes. On Wednesday, July 9, it voted down an amendment (by a vote of 172 for, 245 against) that would increase funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by $111.6 million and decrease funding for fossil fuels research by $161.9 million.

Voting yes: Pocan, Kind, Moore.
Voting no: Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy, Ribble.

A yes vote was to spend more in fiscal 2015 on clean energy and decrease funding for fossil-fuels research.


Rebates for Driving Less: a Nonstructural Alternative to Expanding the Capacity of Highways

Air pollution from cars claims more than 58,000 lives in the U.S. every year, according to MIT reasearch.

By Michael T. Neuman (August, 2004)

Madison, Wisconsin is on the verge of having to make a long term decision about its future. Should it expand the capacity of its highways and freeways leading into the city to accommodate more commuter traffic into the city? Or should it say “enough already”, and demand the county and state reduce automobile commuting traffic into Madison, thereby relieving the burden of “too much” motor vehicle traffic, which most similar or larger sized cities in the U.S. already experience.

Presently, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to use $210 million of public tax revenues to expand the capacity of Verona Road on Madison’s west side into a major freeway development, and to add two more lanes on to the West Beltline. The Verona Road freeway will be designed to accommodate more than twice the number of vehicles that currently use Verona Road today.

The additional two lanes on the West Beltline between Todd Drive and Mineral Point Road will channel still more traffic onto the Beltline. Where are all these tens of thousands of additional motor vehicles going once they get there? The South Beltline traffic flow in the morning is already way beyond its capacity, and Madison’s arterials which channel traffic into the downtown area and the University area (via Midvale Boulevard; University Avenue; Monroe Street; Regent Street) are all operating at congested levels now. They will all have no alternative but to become even more congested.

How will the additional motor vehicle traffic affect the quality of living in Madison? Starting with the project area, the Verona Road/Freeway and West Beltine highway expansion will surely mean more air pollution, road dust and noise pollution for areas closest to the more heavily used freeway. The high density, low-income neighborhood of Allied Drive, home to numerous minority populations, will become increasingly polluted by the increasing traffic levels on both sides of this area. Other residences, places of business and land paralleling the Verona Road Freeway, West Beltline and Madison’s west side arterials will similarly become more polluted, because of the tens of thousands more motor vehicles passing by.

Motor vehicle highway use has already increased dramatically in Dane County over the past decade. The DOT estimates that the number of motor vehicle miles traveled per year (VMT) in Dane County in 2003 was 4.8 billion, up from 3.0 billion VMT in 1990 (a 60% increase). In contrast, Dane County’s population grew by 22% during that same time period, which means Dane County not only has more drivers, but its drivers are driving significantly more miles than ever before.

Most of the growth in automotive travel in Madison has happened on the highways that surround and feed into Madison. The number of vehicles traveling on state highways that run through Madison rose from about 225,000 to about 255,000 per day between 1995 and 2000 (14% increase). Similarly, the number of vehicles using arterial streets in Madison rose between 1995 and 2000 from about 130,000 to about 145,000 per day (11% increase). Meanwhile, Madison’s resident population went from 199,518 to 208,054 residents (4.3% increase).

A study report released by the Sierra Club last month documents many of the known health hazards for people who live near heavily traveled highways. The study reports on numerous scientific studies in published medical journals that disclose substantial evidence linking heavy motor vehicle traffic with a wide range of human health ailments, especially in children and adults more sensitive to air pollutants. The evidence includes higher hospitalization rates for asthmatics living near busy roads, an increased prevalence of childhood leukemia and other forms of cancer, and a higher incidence of heart attacks and strokes in populations that live near heavily traveled roads. (See

The problem of asthma has reached almost epidemic levels in the U.S. population, growing 160 percent among pre-school children during the 15 year period from 1980 to 1994, and 75 percent in the total population. According to statistics kept by the Madison Metropolitan School District, the number of students with asthma tripled from 1987 to 2002, from about 3 percent of the population to about 9 percent of the population. See

Air pollution is especially threatening to young people because a child is more, active and with greater activity there’s more air intake and more exposure, according to John Hausbeck, environmental epidemiologist with the City of Madison’s Department of Public Health. “There is reason to believe a child would be exposed to more pollutants than adults in a similar site.”

The highest incidence of asthma cases is found among low-income and African-American toddlers, according to a recent report by the Harvard Medical School: “Inside the Greenhouse: The Impacts of CO2 and Climate Change on Public Health in the Inner City.”

The Harvard Medical School study confirms that serious public health risks are created when children and adults are exposed to even moderate levels of urban air pollution, especially when that exposure takes place during warm temperatures, a condition likely to occur with increasing frequency if the rate of global warming quickens, as predicted.

“African Americans are the most vulnerable and also suffer the most from climate change”, concludes a recently published study: “African Americans and Climate Change: An Unequal Burden” (Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., July 21, 2004).

African American households emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than white households, states the report. As consumers, African Americans use fewer products that produce carbon emissions, and they use 30 percent less gasoline than whites, per capita, according to the report. Yet because a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans live in poverty, and thus have limited housing options and lack health care or health insurance, or even air conditioning, they are more vulnerable to climate change and air pollution factors because they are less likely to have the resources necessary to mitigate problems that develop from climate change (and pollution).

If changes aren’t made in Madison to improve air quality, the city and the surrounding area risk being “non-compliant” for ozone levels, which would result in stricter limits and mandatory testing of auto emissions, plus possibly higher gasoline prices because of the additives that would be needed to cut down on the ozone in the air. Adding capacity to the Madison area highways system, which the plan for a Verona Freeway and expanded West Beltline does, would be counter-productive to achieving improved air quality in Madison and maintaining compliance with the Clean Air Act requirements.

Contrary to assertions of the road building industry and other state highway building advocates, alternatives do exist to building multi-million dollar highway capacity expansions. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recommended the DOT consider transportation demand reduction (TDR) alternatives in its State Highway Plan 2020 back in May 1999. However, the DOT declined to investigate them, and instead recommended the construction of $20 billion highway improvement and expansion plan which has yet to be fully funded.

One of the TDR alternatives DNR recommended be further studied was a program that would offer people monetary incentives if they reduce their annual driving mileage. Instead of spending billions of public dollars (acquired through gasoline taxes and vehicle license fees) to design and construct multimillion dollar highway projects, this alternative would offer those same billions of dollars back to the public as financial incentives (monetary rewards, or “rebates”) to drive less, or not at all.

The incentives would be high enough to really encourage people not to drive so much, but instead to carpool more frequently, take transit whenever possible, and walk or bicycle (to work, shop, study, etc.).

This plan might encourage communities in outlying suburban areas of Madison to team up and charter new, less polluting buses (individually or with other communities) which would cary Madison’s commuters much more efficiently, rather than the present system of everybody driving separately. Each full bus would take 50 to 60 cars off the highway system and Madison’s streets, going both ways; this would reduce the eventual need for the costly major urban highway expansions, and reduce the urban traffic pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions as well as the need for additional maintenance on the expanded highway system.

An example of how the plan would work is provided as follows:

A person voluntarily enrolls in the program by having the odometer of his vehicle read and recorded. After a year goes by, the person has the odometer read again, and if the odometer shows less than 6,000 miles for the preceding year, the person received a $400 check. If the odometer(s) shows less than 4,000 miles, the person receives $800. If the odometer(s) shows less that 2,000 miles, he receives a check for $1,200.

The amounts paid per mileage threshold could be set higher, or lower, based on the overall transportation budget level and the desired results. The main source of funding for the program would be the state highway fund–the portion of the fund that would have otherwise gone into highway expansion projects in Dane County. Once those funds ran out, the program could be phased out completely, as most people in Dane County would not be inclined to go back to their former fuel wasting driving patterns.
The plan would encourage people to choose locations for living that are closer to where they work, shop, and play, rather than choosing their residences at considerable distance from where they normally need to be, as is presently the case for many people who commute long distances to work.

This plan was initially offered as a state plan alternative in 1999, yet there is no reason why the plan could not be used by any county or region, with approval by the state. Adoption and implementation of this plan would help keep Dane County and the south central region’s air healthy to breathe; it could significantly reduce the volume of motor vehicle traffic on incoming highways and city streets, thus improving traffic safety; and it would eliminate the need for costly and socially undesirable highway construction and expansion, such as the Verona Road Freeway and the West Beltline Expansion project in Dane County.

Originally published at:

Candidate for Wisconsin Governor Declares Opposition to Huge Open-Pit Iron-Ore Mine in Northwestern Wisconsin


The company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), has already purchased the mineral rights for 21,000 acres of the Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron Counties, Wisconsin, and has proposed a what the Sierra Club says would become the largest open-pit iron-ore taconite mine in the world. The mine would be 22 miles long, 4 1/2 miles long, 1/2 of a mile wide and up to 1,000 feet deep.

Located in the area of the Bad River in northwestern Wisconsin, which is part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in a speech he delivered in the area in 1963 as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country”, the proposed mine’s impacts are of great concern to the adjacent Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, who’s 125,000+ acre reservation is located on the south shore of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake of the world in geographic size.

Although claiming to have no interest in circumventing Wisconsin’s formerly strong environmental protection mining laws, GTAC representatives later worked behind the scenes, reportedly with Republican legislators and Governor Scott Walker, to gut Wisconsin’s mining laws. According to former Trec Bicycle executive Mary Burke, who is currently the leading Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Governor, “By letting mining companies write their own rules, Scott Walker’s policies have put Wisconsin’s public health and great outdoors at risk.” Burke’s website states further: “That’s why Mary opposes the GTAC mine – the approach the Governor, legislature and industry took didn’t balance protection of our natural resources and public health with the need for job creation. Our precious natural resources are one of Wisconsin’s greatest assets.”

Surprise! Lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker Rid High-Capacity Well Law of Groundwater Cumulative Impacts Requirement Challenges to WDNR Permits


Starting this Monday, July 7, 2014, Wisconsin residents can no longer challenge state Department of Natural Resources permits for a high-capacity well if state officials failed to look at what the well might do to overall groundwater in the area, according to a Wisconsin Public Radio report by Chuck Quirmbach, July 1, 2014.

Wisconsin lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker got rid of the cumulative impacts challenge when they passed the state budget a year ago. The new language covering the hi-cap wells — often used by water-intensive industries — takes effect on Tuesday.

This change comes much to the dismay of Amber Meyer Smith of the group Clean Wisconsin.

“Really, property owners are losing their ability to protect their property,” Smith said. “More and more people, especially in the central area of the state that are facing huge problems from over-pumping of groundwater due to neighboring industry and other high-capacity wells.They’re just going to lose one more tool in their toolbox to protect their own access to water, for their wells, for drinking water, for access to their favorite lakes and rivers and streams.”

DNR officials can still look at the cumulative impact on all the wells in an area, but if the agency doesn’t do so, challenges to the permit are now limited.

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos didn’t respond to a request for comment, but has told other media that the new legal language protects the DNR by taking the judicial branch out of the permitting process.

Some environmentalists haven’t ruled out taking the new limits to court.

FDR’s “Four Freedoms”


The “Four Freedoms”
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to Congress January 6, 1941

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation….