Wednesday, 3 April 2019

What I've Been Reading, March 2019



Responding to Collapse,

Peak Oil

Climate Change

  • Europe is Using Wood from U.S. Forests to Replace Fossil Fuels, Institute for Energy Research
    "Carbon accounting of forest management has long been fraught with controversy, as scientists warn that it does not reflect the true climate impact. They believe that trees should be allowed to mature and store carbon instead of being harvested. The European Union, on the other hand, intends to partially meet its commitment to the Paris agreement by using all forms of biomass, including wood pellets."
  • 10 Myths about Carbon Pricing in Canada, Canada's Ecofiscal Commission

Economic Contraction


Disaster Mythology

Hazard and Risk


Practical Skills

My little granddaughters (age 6 and 7) were here during March Break and we did some peg weaving.

I've been meaning to study up on how linen is made from flax for some time, and You Tube offered the videos below when I went looking for peg weaving.


  • The Brexit Endgame, by Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker
    Brexit is scheduled to take place on March 29th—but the United Kingdom isn’t ready.


Science Based Medicine

  • The 5 deadliest habits to avoid as you get older, by Erin Brodwin, Business Insider
    Overall this is a pretty good article. It needs to be a little more clear about what constitutes "processed" foods, about which many people have strange ideas. For instance, I would include honey in this food group—doesn't matter if it was processed by bees, it's still a refined carbohydrate.
  • The Power of the Nocebo Effect, by Shayla Love, Vice Magazine—Tonic
    "Nocebo is the evil twin of the placebo effect—and my constant companion. I set out to find out what it is, and how I could learn to harness the more positive effects of medical mind games."
  • Glyphosate and cancer – revisited, by Andrew Kniss, A Plant Out of Place—thoughts from someone who spends life amongst the weeds.
    The largest data set we have (by far) which does the best job (by far) of accounting for confounding variables shows absolutely no association between handling glyphosate and developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lacking an Owner's Manual

The human body/mind/spirit doesn't come with an owner's manual, and we continually struggle to figure out how best to operate them.

There is No God, and Thou Shall Have No Other Gods

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I am an atheist, but I may not have made it clear that I think any sort of worship is a bad thing and that believing in things is to be avoided whenever possible. Indeed, I do not believe in believe itself. That's what the "Thou shall have no other gods" is about—it's not enough to quit believing in whatever God or Gods you were raised to believe in, but also we must avoid other gods, including material wealth, power and fame.

Refugees and Migration

Poverty, Homeless People, Minimum Wage, UBI, Health Care, Housing



Except for Red Moon, all these books are old favourites I pulled from my bookshelves to re-read this month.


Non-fiction reading was slow going this month, as I tackled a couple of books that I am finding tough going. So here are some more gems from my bookshelf. I stumbled on The Kon Tiki Expedition in my elementary school library when I was 10 years old. Stayed up most of the night reading it.


famousdrscanlon said...

Thanks for the The Global Rich List. A great opportunity for Canadians to practice some comparative gratitude.

You know the Langley chemist is a politically conservative, pro industry, climate denier-minimize with as much creditably on glycosate as the industry funded genetic literacy project?

You are not up to speed on the vast peer reviewed research. You cherry picking. How much research have you read on the microbiome and it's centrality to good health? There's 20 years of it with more every year. Many industrial chemicals humans never evolved with, fuck with it including glyphosate. Are you 100% certain it's "safe"? No hesitation pimping it's propaganda? What if you are wrong? What's really at the root of you consistently pimping pro glyphosate links? Is it even in the top 50 collapse issues or is it something personal/political? It's not a collapse issue, but it is a health issue and an important one and any fool with google could read plenty of the research on glyphosate & the microbiome if their bias allowed. Why anyone would believe a 'better living through chemistry' indoctrinated white boomer is beyond me.

Thank Christ your not dispensing mental health advice and telling depressed people they have a mythical "chemical imbalance" and need a big pharma fix which hasn't worked at all.

Put your faith in Monsanto kids, they always tell the truth and really really care about people over profits.

Robert Callaghan said...

Awesome post gramps. Great homeless links.

Globalism is fatal fascism that says you are too helpless and small to change anything. In other words it's bullshit. Every single thing we do or don't is the most important thing in the world because we are at the very pinnacle of the road runner cliff in Gaia's history, the tippy toe teetering over the edge kind of history. Academia is the fraud that aids health and education bankruptcy. Socialists plead for power. Power must be taken. We don't need governments, NGOs or corporations to do it, we just need open honest accounting of 100% private carbon taxes on the rich. The tax is paid in universal basic income credit worldwide to quash hidden assets. That's why god invented computers, not just for crypto currencies and porn.

Kids do drugs to escape the pain old people give them. Then we lock them up and deny them jobs. But there's more to it than that.

I'm 2 yrs older older than god going on 16. I don't trust physicists an priests. Everything kills to live, blades of grass think cows are cereal killers, but 9 billion apes and 25 billion chickens is a tad much.

The Ecosystem of All

Our mental ecosystem is at odds with the survival of all the non-subterranean bacteria on earth.

Physics says all the trees act as a space/earth solar battery. Trees are the batteries that save us from the vacuum of space. We are searching for the perfect battery and trees are it.

We created a mental ecosystem of electrons and minerals.

This ecosystem preys on ignorance and rewards luck and knowledge.

This ecosystem makes nerds billionaires.

Right now China has a robotic robot manufacturing plant.

China is buying up American chip and bio-tech companies because chips are China's #2 import.

China uses petrochemicals to turn those minerals into phones.

Petrochemical use is growing 7X faster than human population.

China has more highway than any country on earth.

China has 60% more high speed trains than all other countries.

China has the largest car market on earth.

China is a leader in methane clathrate and nuclear power.

China's Huawei phone will put Apple out of the hardware market.

China just built the world's largest underground tunnel to Tibet.

India's energy emissions growth is through the roof.

Euro/American men are becoming feminized and sterilized through years of petrochemical and pharma exposure.

Like my momma always said never mix your drinks.

We have micro-plastics lodged in our brains. We eat food that kills bugs, birds, bees, flowers and trees.

We are strip mining soil to grow poisoned food for personal wealth.

To prevent wealth from destroying earth, we have to tax it and pay it back in a universal basic income.

But we're too busy trying to be rich.

Scientists, politicians, preachers all chasing the dollar.

We see Yemen aid funding appeals while we let them starve.

China is a world leader in 5G.

The idea that China and Germany are environmental leaders is a lie.

Germany owns Bayer and Monsanto, both pharma and petrochemical.

Germany burns imported clear cut forests for 50% of its green energy and burns palm oil in their diesel fuel.

China is building 400 nuclear plants and 700 coal plants.

Most of the men in Asia/Africa are very young and have not been exposed to petro- pharma- chemicals long enough to feminized and sterilized.

After 30 years solar panels and wind turbines are 2% of total world energy demand, during which time emissions went up 60%.

Emissions must go down 100% in 20 years to avoid runaway hothouse extinction.

We can't have a 5G surveillance target war economy and a planet.

We have to tax world wealth with 100% private carbon taxes or the rich will destroy the planet flying to climate conferences.

Did you know 3.5 billion people fly each year?

Wealth + China ≠ Earth

We are the environment and wealth is the conspiracy.

You can comment at Loki's Revenge Blog

Irv Mills said...

@ Robert Callaghan
Thanks! Glad you liked the homeless links.

Irv Mills said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irv Mills said...

@ Unknown
Since you seem somewhat interested, I'll share with you where this is coming from.

I started this blog in 2012 after a run in with some of the local flakes (or as my dear wife would call them, "whackadoodles"), as an outlet for my frustration with people whose ideas are based on ideology rather than evidence--what I call "woo". Thus the tag line "a reality based approach to life in the age of scarcity." If I'd known then what I do now, this blog would probably have been called "Crunchy without the Woo". But at that time my conception of the scientific consensus was much like yours is today.

About a year later my youngest son started dating a young woman who was working on a degree in zoology and microbiology, and who loves to call people out when their ideas don't match with the current scientific consensus. And since under graduate study is basically an introduction to what the consensus currently is in your field, she is well qualified to do so. Also not in the employ of any of the biotech companies and with politics about as far left as you can go. My son (like me) had, up to that point thought that GMOs and pesticides were bad things, but his ideas soon changed and he let me know that mine should as well. This met with some initial resistance on my part, but I eventually came around when confronted with extensive evidence and solid reasoning.

Some years later, after following the lead of the woman who eventually became my daughter in law, and doing a lot of reading, I have come to understand that the actual scientific consensus is very much different from what you conceive it to be. Unknown, your naiveté is appalling--there really is such a thing as "big organic"--a multi-billion dollar a year affair. They rely on fear to get you to choose their products, and they spend a LOT of money to convince you that GMO's and pesticides are things to be feared. Evidently with a good degree of success.

If you want to know what all this has to do with collapse, read my "Business as Usual, Crunchiness and Woo" series of posts:

If nothing else, it will give you an opportunity to make some more pithy comments. But please, read the whole series before deciding what you think of it.

Perran said...

The other day I was out spraying our peach and nectarines with a copper spray at leaf fall to help control curl leaf next season. Some varieties are more susceptible than others but all varieties will get annihilated if no fungicide is used. The same applies for apples with black spot.

At some point down the line even basic chemicals such as copper aren't going to be available. Not only that the means of applying them will be lost as well.

I got thinking about my little backyard orchard and what varieties will still be producing if I'm to live through systemic collapse (a good chance as I'm 37).

Most apples will be badly affected by back spot. Nectarines and peaches probably will get killed by curl leaf. Plums do ok. same with apricots and cherries if you can keep the birds off. Pears do alright as well although both pears and cherries get cherry slug which eat the leaves.

I'm thinking about not spraying. Survival of the fittest. I know I'm going to loose stuff but maybe that's better in the long run.

Also I've been thinking about planting way more nut trees. I think nuts could prove to be a vital source of calories in the future. Especially in hilly wet country like where wee live as grain production is all but impossible.

Irv Mills said...

@ "Clipping Path Service"
I'm pretty sure this comment was made only to get a link to your site on my site. I can delete the comment, but not the link, so I'll let it stand.
But if I see much more in the way of these nuisance comments, I'll find a way to get rid of them completely. Grrr....

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran
Interesting comment. I should have an interesting answer ready in a few days. Until then...

Unknown said...

Irv have you read Tripping over the truth by Travis Christoffersen?
well worth a look


Irv Mills said...

@ Nik (unknown)
I haven't read the book, but I have looked at reviews and it's pretty clear that this is yet another helping of pseudoscience ("woo") served up to those who are desperate to hear anything except the actual truth about cancer. The truth you'll find in the scientific consensus. I am reading another book, "The Cancer Chronicles", by George Johnson, which provides a pretty good survey of what the consensus is about cancer, without dishing out any false hope. Highly recommended.

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran
I promised you a reply a while back and am only now getting around to it, mostly because I've been hesitating to bring up many of the issues that I think need to be discussed. I started writing a very lengthy comment, but realized I was repeating myself, so instead I've just written some brief explanations and links to previous posts of mine that you likely haven't seen as yet. Some interesting reading, I think.

You've commented a couple of times recently, so I gather you've been reading this blog, but I'm not sure if you've picked up on my basic thesis here, which is 1) that the scientific method is the best tool we have as yet for determining the facts about the world we live in and 2) that those facts are accumulated in what is known as the "scientific consensus", to which we should refer when we want to understand how the world works. Because it is based on science, this consensus is provisional and subject to refinement as more facts, and better understandings of them, become available. But it is the best we've got, and if you reject it, I really can't imagine what you'd be basing your understanding of the world on.

My tagline "a reality based approach to life in the age of scarcity" refers to my belief that if we are to successfully adapt to the changes going on in the world (collapse) we must base our efforts on the facts as indicated by the scientific consensus, rather than whatever ideology we happen to adhere to.

Check out my series of posts, "Business as Usual, Crunchiness and Woo" for a detailed look at the current world order (Business as Usual, BAU), the "crunchy" counter culture which opposes it , and the "woo" (pseudoscience) in which both sides indulge.

In brief, BAU claims that it is on side with science, even though it pursues an unsustainable growth oriented paradigm that is leading us straight toward the collapse of our civilization and the destruction of this planet's biosphere. Sadly, "Crunchies" accept BAU's claims and reject much of the scientific consensus as BAU propaganda. Because their ideologies are not reality based, both sides are ill prepared for the collapse.
--continued in next comment--

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran, continued from last comment
Agriculture is certainly one area where this "both sides are wrong" thing can be clearly observed. Conventional agriculture, as part of BAU, has been strongly and often unfairly criticized by those who are opposed to BAU, so I have been saying relatively little about it here recently. But do check out the final three posts in my "Political Fantasies" series from a few years ago:
A Political Fantasy, Part 6: Agriculture, an Overview
A Political Fantasy, Part 7, Agriculture: Details
A Political Fantasy, Part 8: Agriculture -- What Lies Ahead

I just reread those posts myself and they say practically everything I'd want to say to you about the subject.

If you've been reading my monthly lists of "What I've Been Reading", you'll have seen that I often include links to articles that are critical of the organic approach to farming and gardening, and in favour of some aspects of "conventional" farming. Basically this is because the whole idea of "organic" is based on a logical fallacy--the "naturalistic fallacy"--which says that things which are natural (as opposed to synthetic) must be good. A little thought will bring to mind many natural things which are definitely not good for you and some synthetic things that are. Of course, when you get right down to it, it can be hard to nail down what "natural" really is. We began to leave natural things behind a couple of million years ago when we started using fire and tools.

Here is a link to a pair of excellent articles in Scientific American about some of the myths surrounding organic agriculture:
Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture
In the immortal words of Tom Petty: "I won't back down".
--continued in next comment--

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran, continued from last comment
I am pleased to see an organic farmer (at least I assume you are one) admitting that he uses pesticides. And indeed fruits are one area where it is, as you say, pretty tough to do much without pesticides.

Unfortunately the rules for being a "certified" organic farm (here in North America, anyway) are based on this "natural is good" idea, and the few pesticides that are allowed are all in some sense "natural". It might seem odd that any pesticides at all were allowed, but of course without them, some types of farming are just about impossible. The trouble is there are synthetic pesticides that control the same pests and are more specific, more effective and less persistent in the environment. This means that they can be used at lower doses and less frequently, while causing less harm to other species that they aren't aimed at and, because they break down fairly quickly, they don't build up in the environment. It might well be better to forego, or at least great reduce, the use of all kinds of pesticides. But if you have to use them, surely the goals of organic agriculture would be better served by modern, synthetic pesticides. A definite case where "natural" is not the best.

The other huge mistake in the rules for organic certification is that genetically modified organisms are not allowed. Despite the fact that we've been modifying the genetics of plants and animals since we first domesticated them, modern genetic engineering techniques are viewed with a good deal of fear and suspicion, largely born out of ignorance. Strangely, mutagenic plant breeding where radiation or mutagenic chemicals are used to create new strains of plants, is not forbidden to organic growers, even though the risk of something going seriously wrong is much greater.

The scientific consensus is that modern genetic engineering is safe, safer indeed than many of the traditional breeding techniques. I know that in the organic agriculture/food business that is a sacrilegious thing to say. But keep in mind that this is a multi-billion dollar a year business that relies on fear to get people to buy its products, and spends many millions of dollar a year on propaganda to convince you that those fears are justified. Despite the scientific consensus telling us just the opposite.
--continued in next comment--

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran, continued from last comment

Of course, for those of us who are collapse aware, all this must be viewed in a different light. Feeding seven plus billion people, regardless of the techniques used, is going to have some bad effects on the biosphere of this planet, and I don't believe it can be done sustainably. If collapse proceeds as many of us expect, this eventually won't be a problem, as our population will be decreased drastically whether we like it or not.

I think you're quite right that pesticides(natural or synthetic) are unlikely to be available once collapse has progressed just a few steps farther. I hope we can turn to some combination of agroecology and integrated pest management. But these are science based techniques and I am already seeing them watered down with woo to the point where they don't really work.

GMOs, though, are a different matter. As collapse forces us to abandon much of our current high tech industry, it's probable that we won't be able to continue engineering new organisms. But the ones that have already been developed will still exist as a very valuable legacy of crops adapted to the challenges posed by climate change, and bacteria engineered to produce rennet, insulin and many other products. Unfortunately, many GMOs have been developed but not brought into commercial use because of strong, though misguided, opposition. It may already be too late to realize the potential of this technology.

This comment is already too long, so I should bring it to a close. Please do read the posts an d articles I've linked to, and let me know what you think of them.

Perran said...

Hi Irv, thanks for the lengthy reply. I'll get around to reading all the links over the next week.
When I referred to our orchard I probably gave the wrong impression. The trees are in our backyard for personal consumption. It's just that we have over 100 fruit and nut trees so I like to call it our "orchard".
I have worked a fair chunk of my working life in orchards though so I do know a thing or two about the industry. I tend to agree with you regarding organic agriculture being a bit of a scam. I know organic growers and they go through just as much diesel if not more than conventional growers.


Perran said...

My main issue regarding growing food in the future is that eventually oil depletion will render a lot of methods useless.
We run a small flock of sheep on our property. How do you keep on top of worms when modern medicine is no longer available? How do you keep on top of black spot in apples without chemicals?
I think natural genetics is going to play a vital part. Survival of the fittest.
Of course we're not going to be feeding 7 plus billion under such circumstances.

Irv Mills said...

@ Perran
I am very happy to see your reply to my reply. It seems you are one of those rare folks in the "collapse Sphere" who has reality based opinions on agriculture.
I agree that industrial scale organic agriculture is largely a fraud. But, hey, the prices for organic produce are good, and it's pretty tough to make a living as a farmer, so I don't much blame them. I know quite a few small scale organic farmers and gardeners who actually believe their own propaganda. They spend a lot of time worrying about synthetic pesticides and GMOs, when they should be worrying about the kind of issues you have raised.
To be fair, there are many conventional farmers who truly believe their industry will be able to feed 9 or 10 billions people in a few decades. And they'd laugh at you if you tried to tell them about Peal Oil. Another kind of denial that will soon do a lot of harm. Diesel fuel, limited water supplies and climate change are going to make farming very challenging in the near future, and a lot of people are going to starve as a result.
A hundred trees sound like a pretty respectable small orchard to me. All I have is a small vegetable garden in my front yard and a couple of plots at the local community garden.

Perran said...

Hi Irv,

I'm slowly reading my way through your links (I think I've read some of them before). So far I mostly agree with what you've written.
I find it really frustrating that so few people try to understand this sort of stuff.
I've tried talking about oil depletion to family and friends. I've explained many of the things that you've written about. Nobody wants to know about it. It's generally a big fat conversation killer.
Luckily my wife has a sympathetic ear.

On a side note, today marks 6 years since my son had brain surgery to cure his epilepsy. If he hadn't had that surgery he never would have learnt to talk let alone read. Tonight he sat down and read to me. We are incredibly lucky to live in the age we do. I doubt that this sort of life changing surgery will be available in the not to distant future. It'll become one of the many things rendered impossible by oil depletion.


Irv Mills said...

@ Perran
In this business "mostly agree" is high praise--if you can't find something to disagree with you're not paying attention.
It does get frustrating, with most people deep in denial, which is not just a river in Egypt. But I noticed that for the first few years of this century, up to about 2012, when events such as the "Great Recession" made people think about collapse, it was a lot easier to talk about this kind of stuff.
Then things changed and now people seem to be busy convincing themselves that the economy has really recovered, and don;t want to hear anything to the contrary. I expect the day will come when it becomes clear that this is not so and once again people will be more receptive.
Two years ago my wife had spinal surgery which realigned the vertebrae that was pinching her spinal cord. The extreme pain she had been experiencing was gone almost instantly and she got her life back. I'm not sure if we're headed towards loosing all of modern medicine, but I fear the much of the more advanced stuff will be lost and much unnecessary suffering will return.