Friday, August 27, 2010

ODAC Newsletter - Aug 27

Cairn Energy Plc fell in London trading after its first well off Greenland found natural gas rather than crude oil.

An exploration well encountered gas in thin sands in the Baffin Bay basin, the company said in a statement in London today. The find is "indicative of an active hydrocarbon system" and the well hasn't yet reached target depth, it said...

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Danes block Greenpeace vessel in ArcticAlan Jones, PA, The Independent, 23 Aug 2010View original article

A Danish warship today confronted a Greenpeace ship which is on a mission to target "dangerous" deep sea oil drilling sites, the environmental group claimed.

The incident happened in the freezing seas off Greenland as the protest ship Esperanza approached one of the world's most controversial oil drilling projects operated by the British company Cairn Energy, said Greenpeace...

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BP frozen out of Arctic oil drilling raceTerry Macalister in Nuuk, The Guardian, 25 Aug 2010View original article

BP has been forced to abandon hopes of drilling in the Arctic, currently the centre of a new oil rush, owing to its tarnished reputation after the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The company confirmed tonight that it was no longer trying to win an exploration licence in Greenland, despite earlier reports of its interest. "We are not participating in the bid round," said a spokesman at BP's London headquarters, who declined to discuss its reasons for the reverse...

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Oil companies warned on North Sea accidents Roland Gribben, Telegraph, 24 Aug 2010View original article

North Sea oil and gas companies have been taken to task about their safety record after a sharp increase in accidents to workers and oil and gas leaks from offshore installations.

Steve Walker, head of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) offshore division, has bluntly told companies that their health and safety record covering 27,000 workers is "simply not good enough."

He said: "The industry has shown it can do better and it must do in future."...

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U.S. spill panel question drilling policyAyesha Rascoe, Reuters, 26 Aug 2010View original article

The BP oil spill was a massive "failure" in government oversight and administrations should be forced to consult with experts in the field before making expansive drilling policy, top officials of the White House's oil spill commission said on Wednesday.

Commission Co-chairman Bob Graham, a former U.S. Senator from Florida, said regulators and offshore drillers were aware of the possibility of a major well blowout, such as the one that caused the BP spill, but ignored the risks...

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Oil spill: safety valve was wrongly plumbed on rig, says BP executiveThe Daily Telegraph, 25 Aug 2010View original article

Harry Thierens, BP's vice president for drilling and completions, told a US political hearing that the blowout preventer was connected to a test pipe, rather than the correct one.

"It would mean that the pipe rams could not be closed," Mr Thierens said in evidence to a federal panel on Wednesday. "I was frankly astonished that this could have happened."...

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Job Losses Over Drilling Ban Fail to MaterializeJohn M. Broder and Clifford Krauss, New York Times, 24 Aug 2010View original article

When the Obama administration called a halt to virtually all deepwater drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon blowout and fire in April, oil executives, economists and local officials complained that the six-month moratorium would cost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Oil supply firms went to court to have the moratorium overturned, calling it illegal and warning that it would exacerbate the nation's economic woes, lead to oil shortages and cause an exodus of drilling rigs from the gulf to other fields around the world. Two federal courts agreed...

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BP Oil Spill Has Little Impact on Global DrillingClifford Krauss, New York Times, 25 Aug 2010View original article

As John Broder and I report in Wednesday's Times, the economic impact of the Obama administration's moratorium on new deepwater drilling since the BP accident has been far less than many people predicted.

A negative impact has been even harder to find in other countries despite the fact that companies around the world use much the same equipment under similar industry protocols. Large offshore accidents in Mexican, British and Australian waters since the late 1970s barely slowed deepwater development, and history may well be repeating itself...

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Peak oil alarm revealed by secret official talksTerry Macalister and Lionel Badal, The Guardian, 22 Aug 2010View original article

Speculation that government ministers are far more concerned about a future supply crunch than they have admitted has been fuelled by the revelation that they are canvassing views from industry and the scientific community about "peak oil".

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is also refusing to hand over policy documents about "peak oil" — the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and then declines — under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, despite releasing others in which it admits "secrecy around the topic is probably not good"...

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Crude Oil Heads for Third Weekly Decline on Slowing Economy Grant Smith and Christian Schmollinger, Bloomberg, 27 Aug 2010View original article

Crude oil fell, heading for its third weekly decline as a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing added to concerns that the economic recovery is faltering.

Prices have lost 0.5 percent this week following gains in U.S. crude inventories. The U.S. economy probably slowed in the second quarter even more than initially estimated as companies reined in inventories and the trade deficit widened, economists said before a report today...

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Dozens Killed in Wave of Attacks Across IraqStephen Farrell and Anthony Shadid, New York Times, 25 Aug 2010View original article

Insurgents launched what seemed to be a coordinated wave of attacks on police forces across Iraq on Wednesday, intensifying their onslaught as the American military prepares to switch from combat operations to a training and assistance role at the end of the month.

Security members gathered at the site of a bomb attack in Basra, Iraq, on Wednesday.
In northern Baghdad's Qahira district, a car bomb killed 15 people and wounded more than 50 in an assault on a police station, according to an official at Iraq's Interior Ministry. The blast flattened the building and other houses nearby, spread rubble in the street and shattered glass more than half a mile away, according to reporters who visited the scene...

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US mounts global push for shale gasShaun Tandon, AFP, 25 Aug 2010View original article

The United States has offered to help major economies such as China and India develop shale gas, a rapidly growing sector in North America which US officials bill as a clean alternative.

Twenty nations held two days of talks in Washington in first-of-a-kind shale gas talks initiated by the United States, where some forecast that shale -- a miniscule presence a decade ago -- could dominate the gas market by 2030...

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Natural-Gas Futures Premium Is at Narrowest in Seven Years: Energy MarketsMoming Zhou,, 25 Aug 2010View original article

Natural gas for January delivery is trading at the smallest premium to September futures in seven years as traders speculate that economic growth will slow.

January futures, covering the period when North American heating demand typically peaks, were 69.6 cents higher today than gas for September delivery. That compares with an average spread of $1.58 over the past 10 years. The difference is the narrowest for the day since the summer of 2003, when stockpiles indicated ample winter inventories...

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Nabucco pipeline confirms feeder lines to Iraq, GeorgiaEurActiv, 23 Aug 2010View original article

The Nabucco pipeline project has taken another step forward by ordering engineering work for two feeder lines from Turkey to Iraq and Georgia. However, a third planned feeder line from Turkey to Iran has been put on the back-burner due to political considerations, the consortium announced.

At a recent Steering Committee meeting in Ankara, Nabucco shareholders agreed to modify the feeder line concept, a press release says. Due to the current political situation, they decided to put on hold the third feeder line to the Turkish-Iran border...

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Merkel Rebuffs E.ON, RWE on Nuclear Tax, Demands AlternativesTony Czuczka and Brian Parkin, Bloomberg, 23 Aug 2010View original article

Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged German atomic-power plant operators E.ON AG and RWE AG to come up with alternatives to a planned tax on nuclear fuel that they oppose, sharpening her conflict with utilities and industry.

Merkel, in her first television interview since returning from summer vacation, refused to budge on the tax on utility profits announced in June, saying the government needs the 2.3 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in annual revenue...

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Safety regulator tells nuclear reactor makers to redouble efforts Rowena Mason, Telegraph, 26 Aug 2010View original article

It is increasingly unlikely that the UK's first nuclear reactors will get full regulatory approval by mid-2011, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Areva, the French atomic specialist, and Westinghouse, its Japanese rival, had been hoping to gain full permission for their designs by next June, after a lengthy and meticulous assessment process...

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Russian atomic agency looks to diversifyBernard Simon in Toronto and Isabel Gorst in Moscow, Financial Times, 25 Aug 2010View original article

Rosatom plans to use its proposed majority stake in Canada's Uranium One as the starting point for global diversification, according to Sergei Kiriyenko, the Russian atomic agency's chief executive.

"The acquisition of Uranium One is not the end of the line for us in developing our uranium strategy", Mr Kiriyenko told the Financial Times on Tuesday...

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West jittery as Iran completes its first nuclear reactorJonathan Owen, The Independent, 22 Aug 2010View original article

Iran's ambitions to become a nuclear superpower edged closer to realisation yesterday, with the opening of the country's first energy-producing nuclear reactor.

The long-awaited project, dogged by opposition from the US since plans were first drawn up in the 1970s, is now complete...

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Sunny outlook for solar panelsFiona Harvey and Luke Sampson, Financial Times, 25 Aug 2010View original article

A record number of homeowners installed solar panels this month, in a sign of Britons' enthusiasm for domestic renewable energy generation.

But some householders are in danger of signing up for solar panel deals for which they will gain only a limited benefit, experts warned on Tuesday...

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British Gas introduces solar PV panel schemeRenewable Energy Focus, 22 Aug 2010View original article

The utility firm takes advantage of the UK Government's recent feed-in-tariff (FITs) to encourage people to generate their own low-carbon energy including solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

British Gas is the latest company in a host of firms offering to install electricity-generating systems on homes in order to take advantage of a UK Government scheme that will pay the owners of solar PV panels for the electricity they generate...

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Biden says country on track to double renewable energy capacityReuters, 26 Aug 2010View original article

Government stimulus spending has put the country on track to double renewable energy production capacity by 2012 and halve solar power costs by 2015, Vice President Joseph Biden said on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama's stimulus spending poured $814 billion into the U.S. economy, including more than $100 billion for science, technology and innovation projects...

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£70m tidal power scheme goes on display in AngleseyBBC Online, 23 Aug 2010View original article

Plans to harness tidal power off the coast of Anglesey are going on public display.

Marine Current Turbines and RWE npower renewables hope to generate a fifth of the island's electricity needs from the £70m project...

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Straw theft is omen for the future of foodGarry White and Rowena Mason, Telegraph, 22 Aug 2010View original article

Mining giant BHP Billiton has made its bid for Canadian group PotashCorp of Saskatchewan because it sees a bright future for agricultural commodities. It looks like a very sensible move — providing the price is right.

Demand for potash will increase as the global population grows — and prices are likely to move higher. This means grain prices are likely to rise too.

This is bad news for farmers — and ultimately consumers — because it means the price of rearing animals is probably going to rise because of increasing feed costs. But it's not just feed prices that are going up and squeezing farmers' margins — the price of straw and hay is also heading higher...

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Putin ponders climate change in Arctic RussiaDarya Korsunskaya, Reuters, 23 Aug 2010View original article

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin traveled beyond the Arctic Circle on Monday to look into evidence for climate change after a record heatwave ravaged central Russia this summer.

Putin, who has in the past displayed a light-hearted approach to global warming by joking Russians would have to buy fewer fur coats, flew to a scientific research station in the Samoilovsky island at the delta of Siberia's Lena River...

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ASPO-USA 2010 Peak Oil ConferenceASPO-USAView original article

The ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference, October 7-9, 2010 in Washington, DC, is the world's premier event focused on peak oil challenges and solutions. It is produced by the nonprofit Association For The Study Of Peak Oil & Gas - USA (ASPO-USA). The format includes keynotes, plenary sessions, concurrent educational tracks, networking receptions, and exhibits. The conference is supported by more than 30 publications, websites and partnering associations. ODAC newsletter subscribers can receive a $50 discount off the Peak Aware Package registration option by inserting the code mediapartner when prompted on the eRegistration page linked from

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Pulaski carport taps into solar power for TVA, autosODAC Newsletter - July 30

Friday, August 20, 2010

ODAC Newsletter - Aug 20

Crude oil fell to a six-week low as rising U.S. jobless claims and a contraction in manufacturing in the Philadelphia area bolstered concern that the economic rebound in the world's biggest oil-consuming country is slowing.

Oil declined 1.3 percent after the Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose to the highest level since November. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's general economic index dropped to the lowest reading since July 2009. Total U.S. petroleum inventories are at the highest level in at least 20 years, according to the Energy Department...

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OPEC Raises Its Forecasts for Worldwide Oil Demand for This Year and NextGrant Smith,, 13 Aug 2010View original article

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries boosted its global oil demand forecast for this year and next as emerging economies in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America push consumption higher.

OPEC bolstered its outlook for 2010 and 2011 by 140,000 barrels a day each in its monthly report today. Worldwide crude oil use will increase by 1.05 million barrels a day, or 1.2 percent, next year to average 86.56 million a day, the organization's Vienna-based secretariat said...

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Final BP well plug delayed until September-US govtKristen Hays, Reuters, 19 Aug 2010View original article

BP Plc likely won't put the final plug in its blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well until September to allow replacement of a critical piece of seabed equipment, the top U.S. oil spill official said on Thursday.

Concern over how to safely proceed after pouring cement in the Macondo well from the top, as well as weather delays, pushed the last step past the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Sept. 6 from mid-August, retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said at a briefing in Washington...

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BP oil spill: scientists find giant plume of droplets 'missed' by official accountSuzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, The Guardian, 19 Aug 2010View original article

Scientists have mapped a 22-mile plume of oil droplets from BP's rogue well in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, providing the strongest evidence yet of the fate of the crude that spewed into the sea for months.

The report offers the most authoritative challenge to date to White House assertions that most of the 5m barrels of oil that spewed into the Gulf is gone...

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Drilling Permits for Deep Waters Face New ReviewJohn M. Broder, New York Times, 16 Aug 2010View original article

The Obama administration said Monday that it would require significantly more environmental review before approving new offshore drilling permits, ending a practice in which government regulators essentially rubber-stamped potentially hazardous deepwater projects like BP's out-of-control well.

The administration has come under sharp criticism for granting BP an exemption from environmental oversight for the Macondo well, which blew out on April 20, killing 11 workers and spewing nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico...

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BP's cash driveLex column, Financial Times, 19 Aug 2010View original article

Pictures of Barack Obama swimming in (or close by) the Gulf of Mexico are good news for BP. If the water is clean enough for the US president, it can only bode well for the company's potential oil spill liabilities. It estimates these to be a little over $30bn and has embarked on an extraordinary cash drive to fund them – and more...

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Florida Weighs Billing BP More Than $1 Billion to Plug Fund Gap Jim Snyder, Bloomberg, 19 Aug 2010View original article

Florida may send BP Plc a claim for more than $1 billion to close a budget gap after the largest U.S. oil spill as neighboring Gulf Coast states weigh their options.

Steve Yerrid, a Tampa lawyer chosen by Florida Governor Charlie Crist to advise him on legal issues concerning the spill, said the state may seek an initial payment in the “lower range” of billions of dollars to make up for lost tax revenue...

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Rockhopper admits Falklands well is dry Jamie Dunkley, Telegraph, 19 Aug 2010View original article

British oil explorer Rockhopper has confirmed that the latest well to be drilled in the Falkland Islands under a controversial exploration programme is a dry hole.

The drilling of Rockhopper's Ernest prospect had been widely anticipated since the company's Sea Lion well - drilled in the same basin in May - made a significant oil discovery, sending Rockhopper's shares soaring by over 500pc.

The company will now carry out further tests on the Sea Lion discovery to help it plan a potential appraisal campaign, Sam Moody, Rockhopper's managing director, said...

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US oil speculators fined for $100-a-barrel "vanity trade" James Quinn, Telegraph, 18 Aug 2010View original article

The US commodities regulator has imposed a $12m (£7.7m) fine on oil traders responsible for speculatively pushing the price of oil above the $100-a-barrel mark for the first time in January 2008.

The Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) fined a former division of ConAgra Foods for its involvement in the so-called "vanity trade" which was responsible for purposefully pushing up the price on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX)...

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Last US combat troops leave IraqAdam Gabbatt, The Guardian, 19 Aug 2010View original article

The last US combat troops have left Iraq, seven-and-a-half years after the US-led invasion, and two weeks ahead of President Obama's 31 August deadline for withdrawal from the country.

The final troops to leave, 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, rolled in convoy across the border and into Kuwait this morning, officially ending combat operations which began in March 2003...

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Shell Expects to Spend Up to $50 Billion in AustraliaJames Paton, Bloomberg, 19 Aug 2010View original article

Royal Dutch Shell Plc plans to spend as much as $50 billion in Australia over the next decade, more than in any other region, as Europe's largest oil company continues a shift to gas production.

“The stars have aligned for Australia” because of improving technologies and increasing demand in Asia for cleaner-burning fuel, Ann Pickard, Shell Australia's chairman and executive vice president for exploration and production, said in an interview in Brisbane today...

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Boon or bane?The Economist, 19 Aug 2010View original article

POLISH politicians have of late tended to avoid saying anything that smacks of bipartisan consensus. One exception has been the near-universal belief that, thanks to abundant reserves of shale gas, the country is set to become "a second Norway", a land of energy-fuelled plenty with a highly functional state and exemplary social justice.

There are three problems with this proposition. First, it is far from assured that Poland's shale-gas reserves will live up to the hype provided by pundits eager for the country to free itself from Gazprom, the Russian monopolist that currently provides well over half of Poland's 13.6 billion cubic metre annual uptake. True, companies such as ConocoPhillips or Exxon Mobil have been sanguine about Polish gas, and the former has already begun prospecting. However, this is hardly proof that they will find anything worth extracting. At this stage no one actually knows how much gas is trapped in Polish shale. Estimates range from 150 billion cubic metres to over 20 times that figure. This should, at the very least, give optimists pause...

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Coal-fired power stations win reprieveAllegra Stratton, The Guardian, 15 Aug 2010View original article

The coalition is watering down a commitment to tough new environmental emissions standards, raising the possibility of dirty coal-fired power stations such as Kingsnorth going ahead.

Green groups are aghast that a flagship policy called for in opposition by both Lib Dems and Tories, and which they last year tried to force on the Labour government, will now not be implemented in the coalition's first energy bill to be published this year...

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UK needs clean coal for new energy policy - governmentKwok W. Wan, Reuters, 17 Aug 2010View original article

New coal-fired power plants will need to fit carbon removing technology to comply with the upcoming Emission Performance Standard (EPS), energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne said on Monday.

The British government is to consult in autumn on the EPS, which aims to limit carbon emissions from power generators and is expected to influence whether utilities build coal or gas power plants...

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More opencast mine bids 'likely on greenfield sites'BBC Online, 15 Aug 2010View original article

Applications for opencast mining on greenfield sites are likely to increase to meet the UK's demand for energy, the British Geological Survey has said.

The research council says the stock of brownfield sites suitable for opencast mining is now running out...

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The reality of nuclear energy is inconsistent with dreams of a renaissanceMichael Dittmar, The Guardian, 16 Aug 2010View original article

Repeatedly in recent years there have been calls for a revival of nuclear power. Yet that renaissance never seems to come.

Of the more than 200 countries in the world, only 30 use nuclear power. In July 2010, a total of 439 nuclear power plants with a net installed capacity of 373.038 gigawatts (GW) were connected to various national electricity grids, about 1.2GW more than at the beginning of 2006...

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Britain is struggling to power the nuclear revolutionRowena Mason and Abigail Townsend, The Daily Telegraph, 14 Aug 2010View original article

China started generating electricity from the first fourth generation nuclear station without fanfare last month, using largely home-grown technology that reduces waste, increases efficiency and vastly brings down costs compared with existing plants.

It's only a trial project, with the first commercial-scale model planned for 2020, but nevertheless is a step towards production-line nuclear plants that it aims to produce for the world. If it can bring down costs, China is likely to have customers galore rushing to reduce their carbon emissions by providing the equivalent of Ikea flat-pack parts for countries from Belarus to Ghana...

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Sheffield Forgemasters' expansion into nuclear power may go ahead if Government loan is approvedRichard Tyler, The Daily Telegraph, 15 Aug 2010View original article

The coalition Government caused a storm when ministers decided in June to cancel an £80m loan for the project.

Sheffield Council's Liberal Democrat leader Paul Scriven has told The Daily Telegraph that the loan could be partly financed through a bid by the planned Sheffield City Region local enterprise partnership (LEP) to the regional fund...

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Europe shows how local communities can make money from renewablesKate Hathway, The Ecologist, 13 Aug 2010View original article

Kate Hathway from the local communities charity Urban Forum says we should look to Europe for tips on successful community renewable energy projects
Standing on the streets of Freiburg in Germany is frustrating. It's the same in Kristianstad in Sweden or on the Baltic island of Gotland. Why? Well the same green investment that has been happening in the UK with so little effect has worked on these European streets...

View report

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Drilling to begin for Cornwall geothermal power plant in 2011The Ecologist, 16 Aug 2010View original article

Planning approval for attempts at the first commercial geothermal power plant in Cornwall could see renewable heat and electricity being generated as early as 2013
The UK could soon have its first commercial geothermal power plant after an exploratory drilling project was granted local planning permission in Cornwall.

Engineers will begin drilling a 4.5km deep borehole early next year at a site near Redruth, with a further site at the Eden Project still awaiting approval...

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Plan for first floating wind farm off ScotlandBBC Online, 16 Aug 2010View original article

First Minister Alex Salmond is seeking to establish the world's first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland.

The prospect came as he arrived in Norway as part of a mission to strengthen trade links...

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We have to create a more local, decentralised energy systemGreg Barker, Climate Change Minister, The Daily Telegraph, 14 Aug 2010View original article

When David Cameron became Prime Minister he pledged that the new Coalition would be the greenest government ever. As Climate Change Minister my job is to help deliver this promise.

However, I am glad to say that the old debate of green energy versus energy security has become increasingly irrelevant. That is because in the 21st century energy security and climate change are two sides of the same coin...

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Winter fuel payment cuts to hit millions of pensioners James Kirkup, Telegraph, 18 Aug 2010View original article

Older people will have to wait at least six years longer to receive winter fuel payments, under government plans to cut the welfare bill.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that ministers have resolved to increase the qualifying age for the annual payment from 60 to at least 66. Talks are under way about an even bigger rise...

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China overtakes Japan as world's second-largest economic powerDavid Prosser, Business Editor, The Independent, 17 Aug 2010View original article

A sharp slowdown in the pace of Japan's economic recovery has enabled China to overtake it as the world's second-largest economy, leaving only the United States in front of it.

Data released yesterday revealed that the Japanese economy grew at an annualised rate of 0.4 per cent over the three months to the end of June, a substantial reverse following the 4.4 per cent growth seen in the first quarter...

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Sharp upturn in use of shipping containersRobert Wright - FT, CNN, 19 Aug 2010View original article

The use of shipping containers, a barometer of the global economy, has risen sharply this year, surpassing even the record levels of 2008.

Two of the most important companies in container trade -- Denmark's AP Møller-Maersk and Dubai's DP World -- on Wednesday reported further evidence of the recovery in the trade in the boxes that carry the world's manufactured goods...

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ASPO-USA 2010 Peak Oil ConferenceASPO-USAView original article

The ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference, October 7-9, 2010 in Washington, DC, is the world's premier event focused on peak oil challenges and solutions. It is produced by the nonprofit Association For The Study Of Peak Oil & Gas - USA (ASPO-USA). The format includes keynotes, plenary sessions, concurrent educational tracks, networking receptions, and exhibits. The conference is supported by more than 30 publications, websites and partnering associations. ODAC newsletter subscribers can receive a $50 discount off the Peak Aware Package registration option by inserting the code mediapartner when prompted on the eRegistration page linked from

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Pulaski carport taps into solar power for TVA, autosODAC Newsletter - July 23

Thursday, August 19, 2010

La Via Campesina: Fighting for food sovereignty, social justice, land rights and gender equity

...Dena Hoff talks about La Via Campesina’s vision of social change, and how the agricultural challenges faced around the world are not always so different from those faced in the U.S.

Name: Dena Hoff

Affiliation: Co-coordinator for North America for La Via Campesina

Location: Eastern Montana

Bio: Dena Hoff is a farmer and activist in Eastern Montana, where she has raised sheep, cattle, alfalfa, corn, edible dry beans and other crops, with her husband since 1979. In addition to her work with Via Campesina, Hoff is Vice President of the National Family Farm Coalition and former Chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Via Campesina has been credited with coining the term “food sovereignty.” Can you describe what it means and how your work supports and promotes it?

Fighting for food sovereignty, social justice, land rights and gender equity

Dena Hoff (left), and Edgardo Garcia from La Via Campesina Central American Region, accept the Food Sovereignty prize in Des Moines last fall on behalf of La Via Campesina. (Photo credit: Carlos Marentes)

Food sovereignty is about a system of agriculture where people get to decide their own food and agricultural policies in their own countries without being dictated by foundations or institutions like the WTO or the IMF or the World Bank or trade agreements. People decide what they’re going to eat, who’s going to produce it, what’s going to be produced. And more than that, it’s a whole life system that is sustainable, that respects Mother Earth, that respects human rights and the rights of people to live in dignity, to be well-fed, to be reasonably taken care of, have a decent standard of living. Everything that food sovereignty encompasses is human rights, women’s rights and education: everything that makes a good life and protects the planet.

Via Campesina is a very large social movement. We’re not a legal entity at all, but we are made up of groups around the world. We think that we have as many as 300 million members, though we’ve never been able to get a direct number. We’re growing, growing, growing because people realize that we can only change the world into a place where everybody can live and a world where everybody wants to live by banding together, standing together, sharing each other’s stories and showing solidarity. We need to educate people: people who are not farmers but who of course are eaters, people who care about the environment, people who care about human rights and social justice and the environment – they need to be part of this movement. It’s going to take everyone.

There are too few people who control the power, who control the resources, who control the wealth of the world, and the destiny of the rest of us. I don’t like anybody pulling my strings. I am not a puppet, I am an independent human being and I have wishes and dreams and fears for my own family, my children, my grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews, my community. And I want to see these things become reality and I’m just willing to just keep working forever.

The biggest part of that responsibility is educating other people, and getting them to stand up to power and that’s a very difficult thing. People do not like conflict, people do not like to stand up to power. They have some idea that the people who are in power are smarter than they are and have something that they don’t have – if only they knew that those people who are controlling their lives are just ordinary people!

Until we give people the confidence to take back control of their own lives and their communities, nothing is going to change. It’s a big, big, task. But it should hearten people to know that there are millions, and millions, and millions, and millions of people around the world who are very dedicated to doing this, and who are willing to do it.

What role does gender play in La Via Campesina’s work?

Gender is extremely important, because most of the world’s farmers are women! And a lot of those women are hungry women, because they are the people who are being forced off land, have no access to resources and no access to credit. We also started a campaign in Mozambique at our Fifth International Assembly against violence against women. So we have that international campaign, and the young people have just taken it up! They have put on plays, and they have dramas, and they are doing literature and are going around to communities and educating people on why it is so important that women have an equal voice, equal rights and equal opportunities.

Gender balance is very important to us. There will never be any real equity in the world until women are seen as equal partners, standing shoulder to shoulder with men. One of our original seven pillars was gender. We also fought very hard in 2000 for gender parity on our coordinating committee, and we got it – we have a male and a female for each of the assigned regions.

We have a lot of programs in a lot of countries also for training women: in agriculture, in literacy, and also in political training. So that they have an understanding of what’s impacting their lives. We also have programs that help them develop means of making a living, so it’s very important.

What are some of the similarities between what’s happening to agriculture across the world, and what’s happening here in the U.S.?

Land grabs happen in this country too (see: Large Scale Land Investments Do Not Benefit Local Communities). In my neighborhood, groups of bankers or lawyers or investors are investing in farmland because I guess they think they’re going to get a better return than on some other thing. And farmers have no recourse. I mean no-one here who wanted to expand or who wanted to help one of their children get started in agriculture, they can’t possibly match those prices. The land is lost for agriculture. A great big and lovely farming ranch along the Yellowstone River went to a real estate developer from Maryland who’s now running for the legislature in Montana. Land is being turned into hunting or fishing places or little retreats – it’s not being used for agriculture.

Look at what’s happening in Detroit. They have torn down about forty buildings in downtown Detroit, they’re going to tear down about that many more. And there are a lot of vacant lots that can be used for urban agriculture. But, there’s a big developer who wants to commercialize it for profits instead of the city giving the lots over to the community for urban farming. So there’s a big fight going on in Detroit – that’s land grabbing, isn’t it?

I belong to the Northern Plains Resource Council, that’s my state organization in Montana. They have, for years, been trying to protect family agriculture, educate people about the importance of it and protect it from energy developers and speculators. The National Family Farm Coalition has been involved since 1987 in policy work in Washington, DC, trying to get a decent farm bill so that we can protect our family agriculture. But when you go lobby, you hear “We don’t need American farmers, we can import everything cheaper.” Congressmen will actually say that to you.

So my question has always been: If transportation, communication and energy are a matter of national security, shouldn’t food be a matter of national security? Shouldn’t water be a matter of national security? Instead of just a commodity for someone to make money from?

How does global agriculture and trade policy affect the environment, global hunger, and poverty?

Fighting for food sovereignty, social justice, land rights and gender equity

“We want people to take an interest in the policies of their own countries, in the plight of family agriculture, family fishermen, migrant workers and landless workers, and get educated about what these people face” (photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

We had all the hype about how industrial agriculture was going to end hunger, how GMOs were going to end hunger, and look what’s happened. There’s a billion hungry people, almost a half a million of those are in the United States. Hunger is increasing, poverty is increasing, and all of the industrialization hasn’t done one single thing to end hunger, and we’ve been destroying the environment. So the solution actually turned out to be very, very damaging – far more damaging than the problems that we had before industrial agriculture was proposed as the solution to hunger and the environment.

Look at the deforestation for biofuels in Brazil, the destruction of traditional agriculture in Indonesia in favor of palm plantations for biofuels. Shoving people off the land and forcing them to the cities where there are no livelihoods is not the solution. Or forcing them to become slaves as is happening all over the world. We like to think that we’re in the twenty-first century, and slavery is something of the past: it isn’t. It’s worse. It’s getting worse every day. There are so many examples of people being forced into slavery, literally having their livelihoods taken away from them because somebody else wants to make a profit off of the resources that they made a modest living with. And then if they wish to survive they can become practically slave labor for these people who just took away their livelihood. So if that’s not slavery, I don’t know what the definition is.

Why are large scale land acquisitions, or land-grabs, problematic?

It’s problematic because there are a lot of places where land is owned communally, or there’s not a deed to the land, and it’s just land that communities have made their living with, in some places for over 1000 years, maybe more. And suddenly, this has a value beyond somebody’s livelihood, beyond somebody having to have food and shelter. And someone finds out they can make a profit, and they come in and take it.

Now in the case of Mali, Mali has put food sovereignty in their constitution – and then their President leases large amounts of arable land to the Saudis, for ten years. That’s totally against the constitution, it’s totally illegal, but there doesn’t seem to be a national or international mechanism to force governments to abide by their own laws and their own constitution. It just seems like increasingly the world is a more lawless place, where anything goes if it makes money.

What policies or programs are needed for more robust protection of land rights and land reform?

Well, first of all I wish the international court would actually take a look at what’s happening in countries where a lot of land grabbing is going on, and tell governments that this is not acceptable, and that you are being held up to international public scrutiny, and we’re not going to allow you to do this. Ultimately I guess it’s just the people having to take control. And that’s difficult, especially in governments where they just send the army in to kill you if you protest.

Do you think there’s any role for multinational corporations to play in improving the situation for farmers and peasants here and across the world?

I’m not sure that’s the role they want. Their mission is their bottom line, to pay dividends to their investors. Their mission is not to do good. Their mission is not to protect the environment or nurture societies. They’re doing what they’re set up to do, and they’ve been given far too many rights and too much power. I mean, equal protection under the law for a corporation? A friend of mine who was inside used to say, “What kind of craziness is that?” Corporations have no soul to save and no ass to kick and they are totally unaccountable to anyone.

What happens when they do something ugly that causes people to lose their lives? If I would do something accidentally like kill someone in a traffic accident, that would be manslaughter, I would be brought up on charges, I would have to suffer the consequences. You don’t really hear about anyone in a corporation having to take responsibility for the lives they cause to be lost through their greed and negligence. They have the same protection as any individual, but I guess they don’t have the same responsibility.

How could agencies like the World Bank and UN Food and Agriculture Organization do a better job to support La Via Campesina’s mission?

They could do a better job by ensuring that people in countries that need food aid have access to means of production so that they can feed themselves, and not rely on charity. To make them self-reliant. Education, condemning the privatization of water, health care – the poorest people don’t get those basic things and they don’t get basic services, because they simply can’t pay. And all this hype about corporations being able to produce more – producing more is not the answer. You can go to the markets in the poorest countries and you can see mountains of food, and people starving to death right nearby. If they have no means to a livelihood, they have no means to feed themselves, and no means to make a living, then they can’t buy food. There can be all the extra food in the world, but if they don’t have money, they die.

How can people get involved to help La Via Campesina’s efforts?

We always need people to hook up with our organizations in all of our countries, and support legislation in those countries that will turn governments around – so that they do the right thing for civil society and are not totally governed by corporations. We have six organizations in the U.S. that belong to Via Campesina. And we’re always looking for people who can help with translation.

We want people to take an interest in the policies of their own countries, in the plight of family agriculture, family fishermen, migrant workers and landless workers, and get educated about what these people face. And also how it impacts you! Because even if you think you are isolated and insulated from all the trouble that’s happening, it impacts everybody because everybody eats. Everybody eats!

If there are only huge massive plantations producing our food with basically slave labor, if workers have no rights, and the environment is just sneered at (because no-one enforces environmental laws), if human rights are not protected, and people are allowed to be brought into the country illegally or otherwise and then just dumped if they’re injured or hurt, and are not well paid – that does not reflect very well on us as a society or as people. Especially people that like to call themselves “good Christians”, and think that anybody who doesn’t look just like them should be shipped out, or denied services. That they shouldn’t be allowed to eat, that they shouldn’t have health care, that they shouldn’t be allowed to be educated because they “don’t belong.”

My family came as immigrants from Europe, and they had things to overcome too. I think people in this country should realize that unless you’re a Native American, you’re an immigrant – and [they should] identify with the new immigrants.

So much of La Via Campesina’s work is about mobilizing people. What agricultural or economic policies do you think could be implemented to address the needs of small-scale farmers and agricultural producers in order to help create the change you envision?

Certainly a decent farm bill with a farmer-owned reserve, and a farm bill that actually gives farmers a price so that they can live and support their communities. Because it isn’t just about farmers –I mean, the money they make supports a whole entire community, our states. And I think people need to understand the importance of agriculture to this country, and what happens to countries that let their agriculture go, and depend on importing all their food from somewhere else. There are plenty of examples in the world of countries that can no longer feed themselves because somebody decided it was cheaper or more intelligent to buy all their food from somebody else, and concentrate on economies that don’t feed people, and concentrate the wealth into the hands of just a very few.

Final thoughts:

Everybody has to become an activist, even if it’s just educating themselves. Even if it’s just making a phone call or planting a garden, or looking around and seeing if your neighbors are one of the one-in-eight people who are hungry. Be aware of what’s going on around you!

Ronit Ridberg is a research intern for Nourishing the Planet project.

Home construction fails to lift recoveryHaitian farmers: so all can eat, produce it here

Peak oil notes - Aug 19

Supply and demand

Oil prices fluctuated between $75 and $76 a barrel until the American Petroleum Institute released their report Tuesday evening showing that US crude stocks had increased by nearly 6 million barrels last week. This news sent prices falling below $74 on Wednesday morning. When the EIA’s weekly and better based stocks report was released Wednesday morning showing that crude stocks had actually declined by 800,000 barrels, the markets reversed to close at $75.42. Despite the correction, the EIA report still showed that US oil stockpiles are at the highest level in 27 years. When combined with concerns about the course of the global economy, the markets are concerned that there will be too much oil supply available for the foreseeable future. In general the oil markets continue to move in step with the equity markets rather than following inventory and supply/demand signals.

A contrary opinion is held by analysts and Goldman Sachs who note that in the past two months crude inventories stored on tankers has fallen by some 40-50 million barrels to an 18-month low, more than offsetting the onshore crude buildup. Goldman Sachs believes that demand for oil exceeded supply by 600,000 b/d in June and July resulting in the drawdown of oil stored on tankers. The analysts expect that demand for oil will increase in the second half of 2010, leading to $85-$95 a barrel oil.

Iran continues to defy UN sanctions by announcing that it will build new nuclear enrichment sites. Beijing approved another 24 electric power plants as China’s electricity consumption continues to set records.

The US Interior Department will restrict the use of categorical exclusions as it moves to tighten offshore drilling regulations.

President Medvedev has called on world leaders to take action to fight against global warming in the wake of the unprecedented heat wave that continues to ravage Russia. Moscow is starting to get the message that global warming can be dangerous and is likely attributable, at least in part, to anthropogenic climate change.


Baghdad too is engulfed in a heat wave which has sent day time temperatures to 120ВєF (40ВєC) and is sending the demand for electricity to new highs, although the electric grid can only provide a fraction of the necessary power. The demand for gasoline and diesel to power home generators has led to fuel shortages across Baghdad. The government has banned public protests against electricity shortages and has deployed security to prevent crowds from forming. In the meantime a suicide bomber killed 45 and wounded 129 men lined up to join the Army.

The political situation in Iraq is far from stable. It has been five months since the elections and the country is still not able to form a new government. With US combat forces about to complete their withdrawl, the chances that the country will be able to achieve a substantial increase in its oil production looks increasingly tenuous.

Peak oil notes - Aug 12Pulaski carport taps into solar power for TVA, autos

On the death of Matthew Simmons

Last week Matt Simmons, who was America's preeminent proponent of the idea that world oil production was about to peak, died at the age of 67. Simmons was unique among those talking and writing about peak oil in that he came from the very heart of American capitalism, a self-made investment banker for the oil industry. Unlike most who are outspoken on the issue of peak oil, Simmons was a Republican, an energy advisor to President George W. Bush, and commanded the attention of the financial and mainstream media.

Whenever the price of gasoline got a little too high for comfort, the worthies of the Fourth Estate would summon the unorthodox-but-acceptable Simmons to explain to obviously skeptical interviewers just why he believed that cheap gasoline would not be around much longer.

In the days following Simmon's death some 400 obituaries appeared on the web, on television broadcasts and in hard copy publications around the world. Some of these were written by people and organizations who understand the threat of peaking world oil supplies and praised Matt for his leadership in analyzing and publicizing the issue. Others were written by hostile skeptics who sought to play down his significance or focused on those instances in his voluminous pronouncements where he was wrong. A few even attributed his death to assassination at the hands of the CIA or BP because of recent anti-BP comments on the Gulf oil spill.

Many of the obituaries however were prepared by mainstream and financial news organizations that are either agnostic about peak oil or hold plainly hostile attitudes towards the concept because of the threat a falling oil supply holds for the American way of life or perhaps even to capitalism. Forced to say something because of Simmon's position in the business community, it is interesting to see just how peak oil treated is in the various obituaries that appeared in the financial press.

Most of the major publications relegated the story of Simmon's death and works to their blogs. In an era of dwindling advertising revenue, however, this has become normal and should not be taken as an effort to downplay the story. Nearly all the stories had some reference to Simmon's global prominence as a proponent of peak oil. One or two even said he invented the concept. Most mentioned his 2005 book Twilight in the Desert which discussed in detail the prospects for Saudi Arabian oil production

The most interesting distinction, among the major publications' mentions of peak oil was the use of the word "theory" as a means of denigrating the concept. Many put the term in quotes as another sign of denigration, but a few devote a phrase or two explaining what it means.

Now anybody following peak oil soon learns that 50 years ago, when the concept was seriously introduced, peak oil could easily be called a "theory." Today, however, with global production stagnant, the peak oil story has been reduced to a handful of numbers denoting how much oil was actually produced in a given year. This can be the actual number of barrels of oil produced in a single year - currently around 31 billion -- or is more commonly expressed as the average daily production during the year, currently about 86 million barrels per day. When the number of barrels of oil or equivalents produced each year becomes generally smaller in successive years, then you have peak oil.

There really is not any "theory" in this concept, for a declining number series is about as much of a fact as anything in this life can be.

With dozens of obituaries prepared for mainstream and financial media outlets, the treatment of peak oil varies widely. Among the most favorable treatment of peak oil was that of Llewellyn King writing for the Hearst newspapers who took the occasion of Simmon's obituary to remind us that peak oil is an open secret that haunts the oil industry.

The Wall Street Journal landed somewhere in the middle of the controversy by concluding that peak oil remains hotly contested and the information about reserves from less than forthcoming oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria is incomplete.

At the other end of the scale a few writers were almost gloating that Simmons was gone and as evidenced by cheap and plentiful gasoline, peak oil was still nowhere in sight. One even suggested that the whole concept of peak oil might have died with Simmons.

And so the debate goes on. Even in death Matt Simmons, as evidenced by the unprecedented widespread treatment of the subject, made yet another contribution to spreading the word about peak oil. For the time being, however, it would seem that for many peak oil has much in common with Harry Potter's dark lord, Voldemort - something so terrible that it cannot be spoken of or written about.

A critical examination of Matt Simmons’ claims on the Deepwater spillElectric plane idea keeps show abuzz

Standing together in climate disasters

Dear Friends,

Sometimes 'climate change' can seem like an abstraction. That is, until you see it in action, as we have this summer in Pakistan, in the mountains of China, in Ladakh, and in the overheated peat bogs of central Russia.

This is all part of the reality we face in our current world of 392 ppm CO2. Our main work is to try and slow down the climate crisis before it gets worse--by getting to work on climate solutions that can get us back to 350.

But working to create a safe climate future doesn't mean we don't need to try and help the victims of the climate crisis along the way. When our comrades and colleagues issue a call for assistance, we do everything we can to respond.

The recent floods in Pakistan have displaced 20 million people, and nearly a fifth of the country is literally underwater. The scale of the suffering is difficult to fathom--and though relief efforts are underway, reports from the ground indicate that the response has been far too small and slow to provide the level of relief needed.

That's why we hope you'll take a moment to send some money off to the relief agencies and local groups dealing with the recent climate disasters:

All of the countries recently devastated by the floods, mudslides, and heatwaves were hugely active in the International Day of Climate Action last October 24 (check out the photos below) and they're all planning events for 10/10/10: the Global Work Party. It's both tragic and inspiring to see the pictures of a fifth of Pakistan underwater--and in those same areas see amazing events registered 10/10/10.

In the face of a changing climate, we hope you'll send some money to the victims of climate disasters--and that you'll keep working in your community to build this movement.

Many thanks,

Bill McKibben for the Team

P.S. We're sure you've seen the heart-wrenching images of Pakistanis underwater, Russians coping with fire, and the Chinese recovering from devastating mudslides. We thought you might like to see a more hopeful set of pictures from these countries:

Standing together in climate disasters


Standing together in climate disasters


Standing together in climate disasters

China is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350? 350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in "parts per million" (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a "people powered movement" that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.

You should join us on Facebook by becoming a fan of our page at and follow us on twitter by visiting

To join our list (maybe a friend forwarded you this e-mail) visit needs your help! To support our work, donate securely online at

Geithner: Credit conditions won’t stall economic recoveryDems roll over, abandon climate bill. will citizenry follow suit?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Population: The multiplier of everything else

The multiplier of everything else


When it comes to controversial issues, population is in a class by itself.

Advocates and activists working to reduce global population growth and size are attacked by the Left for supposedly ignoring human-rights issues, glossing over Western overconsumption, or even seeking to reduce the number of people of color. They are attacked by the Right for supposedly favoring widespread abortion, promoting promiscuity via sex education, or wanting to harm economic growth. Others think the problem has been solved, or believe that the real problem is that we have a shortage of people (the so-called “birth dearth”). Still others think the population problem will solve itself, or that technological innovations will make our numbers irrelevant.

One thing is certain: The planet and its resources are finite, and it cannot support an infinite population of humans or any other species.

A second thing is also certain: The issue of population is too important to avoid just because it is controversial.

The Magnitude of the Problem

The Big Picture of Growth Globally and in the United States

The world’s population is growing by about 80 million people annually—the equivalent of adding a new Egypt every year. The total population is approaching 7 billion, seven times what it was in 1800. Every day approximately 156,000 people die, but 381,000 are born—a net daily growth of 225,000 human beings.

The cost in human suffering that results from unplanned and excessive childbearing is staggering: 500,000 women and girls die worldwide every year from pregnancy and childbirth1—a figure equal to all of the U.S. deaths in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. Most of the women who die are in their teens and early twenties, forced by their societies into bearing children too young and far too frequently.

But the developing world is so capital starved owing in large part to its high population growth rate that allocating some portion of government budgets to reproductive health care is often extremely difficult. For its part, the developed world as a whole has failed to come close to meeting the commitments for population assistance made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. To achieve the commitments made in Cairo, both developed and developing countries would need to triple their current contributions. The lives of billions of people are being rendered increasingly desperate by being denied access to family-planning information and services they want and need.

The top three countries for population growth are India, China, and the United States. India grows by about 17 million per year, China by about 7 million per year, and the United States by about 3 million per year. These three countries, plus Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Brazil, and the Philippines, are poised to grow by 1.6 billion by 2050, representing 63 percent of the world’s projected growth of 2.6 billion in the coming four decades. These projections are based on assumptions about reduced fertility rates in all twelve of these countries. If the expected fertility reductions do not occur, the world’s population could double to 13.6 billion by 2067.


Read the full report:

»  Download the PDF (1.6 MB)Read other reportsFrom the Post Carbon Institute/Watershed Media Book:

The multiplier of everything else

The Post Carbon Reader

Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch


Table of Contents

Content available for download

Order the book

about The Post Carbon Reader

How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world's leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.

Published by Watershed Media

Forthcoming in October

440 pages, 6 x 9“, 4 b/w photographs, 26 line illustrations

$21.95 paper 978-0-9709500-6-2

Healthier Ford will again pay chairmanBeyond the limits to growth

Confessions of a recovering environmentalist

Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity … and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is imagination itself - William Blake

Scenes from a younger life # 1:

I am 12 years old. I am alone, I am scared, I am cold and I am crying my eyes out. I can’t see more than six feet in either direction. I am on some godforsaken moor high up on the dark, ancient, poisonous spine of England. The black bog-juice I have been trudging through for hours has long since crept over the tops of my boots and down into my socks. My rucksack is too heavy, I am unloved and lost and I will never find my way home. It is raining and the cloud is punishing me; clinging to me, laughing at me. Twenty-five years later, I still have a felt memory of that experience and its emotions: a real despair and a terrible loneliness.

I do find my way home; I manage to keep to the path and eventually catch up with my father, who has the map and the compass and the mini Mars-bars. He was always there, somewhere up ahead, but he had decided it would be good for me to “learn to keep up” with him. All of this, he tells me, will make me into a man. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Only later do I realise the complexity of the emotions summoned by a childhood laced with experiences like this. My father was a compulsive long-distance walker. Every year, throughout my most formative decade, he would take me away to Cumbria or Northumberland or Yorkshire or Cornwall or Pembrokeshire or the Welsh marches, and we would walk, for weeks. We would follow ancient tracks or new trails, across mountains and moors and ivory-black cliffs. Much of the time we would be alone with each other and with our thoughts and our conversations, and we would be alone with the oyster-catchers, the gannets, the curlews, the skylarks and the owls. With the gale and the breeze, with our maps and compasses and emergency-rations and bivvy-bags and plastic bottles of water. We would camp in the heather, by cairns and old mine-shafts, hundreds of feet above the orange lights of civilisation, and I would dream. And in the morning, with dew on the tent and cold air in my face as I opened the zip, the wild elements of life, all of the real things, would all seem to be there, waiting for me with the sunrise.

Scenes from a younger life # 2:

I am 19 years old. It is around midnight and I am on the summit of a low, chalk down, the last of the long chain that wind their way through through the crowded, peopled, fractious south country. There are maybe fifty or sixty people there with me. There is a fire going, there are guitars, there is singing and weird and unnerving whooping noises from some of the ragged travellers who have made this place their home.

This is Twyford Down, a hilltop east of Winchester. There is something powerful about this place; something ancient and unanswering. Soon it is to be destroyed: a six-lane motorway will be driven through it in a deep chalk cutting. It is vital that this should happen in order to reduce the journey time of travellers between London and Southampton by a full thirteen minutes. The people up here have made it their home in a doomed attempt to stop this happening.

From outside it is impossible to see, and most do not want to. The name-calling has been going on for months, in the papers and the pubs and in the House of Commons. The people here are Luddites, Nimbies (“not-in-my-backyard” people), reactionaries, romantics. They are standing in the way of progress. They will not be tolerated. Inside, there is a sense of shared threat and solidarity, there are blocks of hash and packets of Rizlas and litres of bad cider. We know what we are here for. We know what we are doing. We can feel the reason in the soil and in the night air. Down there, under the lights and behind the curtains, there is no chance that they will ever understand. We are on our own.

Someone I don’t know suggests we dance the maze. Out beyond the firelight, there is a maze carved into the down’s soft, chalk turf. I don’t know if it’s some ancient monument or a new creation. Either way, it’s the same spiral pattern that can be found carved in rocks from millennia ago. With cans and cigarettes and spliffs in our hands, a small group of us start to walk the maze, laughing, staggering, then breaking into a run, singing, spluttering, stumbling together towards the centre.

Scenes from a younger life # 3:

I am 21 years old and I’ve just spent the most exciting two months of my life so far in an Indonesian rainforest. I’ve just been on one of those organised expeditions that people of my age buy into to give them the chance to do something useful and exciting in what used to be called the “third world”. I’ve prepared for months for this. I’ve sold double-glazing door-to-door to scrape the cash together. I have been reading Bruce Chatwin and Redmond O’Hanlon and Benedict Allen and my head is full of magic and idiocy and wonder.

During my trip, there were plenty of all of these things. I still vividly remember klotok journeys up Borneo rivers by moonlight, watching the swarms of giant fruitbats overhead. I remember the hooting of gibbons and the search for hornbills high up in the rainforest canopy. I remember a four-day trek through a so-called “rain” forest that was so dry we ended up drinking filtered mud. I remember turtle-eggs on the beaches of Java and young orangutans at the rehabilitation centre where we worked in Kalimantan, sitting in the high branches of trees with people’s stolen underpants on their heads, laughing at us. I remember the gold-miners and the loggers, and the freshwater crocodiles in the same river we swam in every morning. I remember my first sight of flying fish in the Java Sea.

And I remember the small islands north of Lombok where some of us spent a few days before we came home. At night we would go down to the moonlit beach, where the sea and the air would still be warm, and in the sea were millions of tiny lights: phosphorescence. I had never seen this before; never even heard of it. We would walk into the water and immerse ourselves and rise up again and the lights would cling to our bodies, fading away as we laughed.

Now, back home, the world seems changed. A two-month break from my country, my upbringing, my cultural assumptions, a two-month immersion in something far more raw and unmediated, has left me open to seeing this place as it really is. I see the atomisation and the inward focus and the faces of the people in a hurry on the other side of windscreens. I see the streetlights and the asphalt as I had not quite seen them before. What I see most of all are the adverts.

For the first time, I realise the extent and the scope and the impacts of the billboards, the posters, the TV and radio ads. Everywhere an image, a phrase, a demand or a recommendation is screaming for my attention, trying to sell me something, tell me who to be, what to desire and to need. And this is before the internet; before apples and blackberries became indispensable to people who wouldn’t know where to pick the real thing; before the deep, accelerating immersion of people in their technologies, even outdoors, even in the sunshine. Compared to where I have been, this world is so tamed, so mediated and commoditised, that something within it seems to have broken off and been lost beneath the slabs. No one has noticed this, or says so if they have. Something is missing: I can almost see the gap where it used to be. But it is not remarked upon. Nobody says a thing.

What took hold

It is 9.30 at night in mid-December at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. I step outside my front door into the farmyard and I walk over to the track, letting my eyes adjust to the dark. I am lucky enough to be living among the Cumbrian fells now, and as my pupils widen I can see, under a clear, starlit sky, the outline of the Old Man of Coniston, Dow Crag, Wetherlam, Helvellyn, the Fairfield horseshoe. I stand there for ten minutes, growing colder. I see two shooting-stars and a satellite. I suddenly wish my dad was still alive and I wonder where the magic has gone.

These experiences, and others like them, were what formed me. They were what made me what I would later learn to call an “environmentalist”: something which seemed rebellious and excitingly outsiderish when I first took it up (and which successfully horrified my social-climbing father - especially as it was partly his fault) but which these days is almost de rigueur amongst the British bourgeoisie. Early in my adult life, just after I came back from Twyford Down, I vowed, self-importantly, that this would be my life’s work: saving nature from people. Preventing the destruction of beauty and brilliance, speaking up for the small and the overlooked and the things that could not speak for themselves. When I look back on this now, I’m quite touched by my younger self. I would like to be him again, perhaps just for a day; someone to whom all sensations are fiery and all answers are simple.

All of this - the downs, the woods, the rainforest, the great oceans and, perhaps most of all, the silent isolation of the moors and mountains, which at the time seemed so hateful and unremitting - took hold of me somewhere unexamined. The relief I used to feel on those long trudges with my dad when I saw the lights of a village or a remote pub, even a minor road or a pylon; any sign of humanity - as I grow older this is replaced by the relief of escaping from the towns and the villages, away from the pylons and the pubs and the people, up onto the moors again, where only the ghosts and the saucer-eyed dogs and the old legends and the wind can possess me.

But they are harder to find now, those spirits. I look out across the moonlit Lake District ranges and it’s as clear as the night air that what used to come in regular waves, pounding like the sea, comes now only in flashes, out of the corner of my eyes, like a lighthouse in a storm. Perhaps it’s the way the world has changed. There are more cars on the roads now, more satellites in the sky. The footpaths up the fells are like stone motorways, there are turbines on the moors and the farmers are being edged out by south-country refugees like me, trying to escape but bringing with us the things we flee from. The new world is online and loving it, the virtual happily edging out the actual. The darkness is shut out and the night grows lighter and nobody is there to see it.

It could be all that, but it probably isn’t. It’s probably me. I am 37 now. The world is smaller, more tired, more fragile, more horribly complex and full of troubles. Or, rather: the world is the same as it ever was, but I am more aware of it and of the reality of my place within it. I have grown up, and there is nothing to be done about it. The worst part of it is that I can’t seem to look without thinking anymore. And now I know far more about what we are doing. We: the people. I know what we are doing, all over the world, to everything, all of the time. I know why the magic is dying. It’s me. It’s us.

How it ended

I became an “environmentalist” because of a strong emotional reaction to wild places and the other-than-human world: to beech trees and hedgerows and pounding waterfalls, to songbirds and sunsets, to the flying fish in the Java Sea and the canopy of the rainforest at dusk when the gibbons come to the waterside to feed. From that reaction came a feeling, which became a series of thoughts: that such things are precious for their own sake, that they are food for the human soul and that they need people to speak for them to, and defend them from, other people, because they cannot speak our language and we have forgotten how to speak theirs. And because we are killing them to feed ourselves and we know it and we care about it, sometimes, but we do it anyway because we are hungry, or we have persuaded ourselves that we are.

But these are not, I think, very common views today. Today’s environmentalism is as much a victim of the contemporary cult of utility as every other aspect of our lives, from science to education. We are not environmentalists now because we have an emotional reaction to the wild world. In this country, most of us wouldn’t even know where to find it. We are environmentalists now in order to promote something called “sustainability”. What does this curious, plastic word mean? It does not mean defending the non-human world from the ever-expanding empire of Homo sapiens sapiens, though some of its adherents like to pretend it does, even to themselves. It means sustaining human civilisation at the comfort level which the world’s rich people - us - feel is their right, without destroying the “natural capital” or the “resource base” which is needed to do so.

It is, in other words, an entirely human-centred piece of politicking, disguised as concern for “the planet”. In a very short time - just over a decade - this worldview has become all-pervasive. It is voiced by the president of the USA and the president of Anglo-Dutch Shell and many people in-between. The success of environmentalism has been total - at the price of its soul.

Let me offer up just one example of how this pact has worked. If “sustainability” is about anything, it is about carbon. Carbon and climate change. To listen to most environmentalists today, you would think that these were the only things in the word worth talking about. The business of “sustainability” is the business of preventing carbon-emissions. Carbon-emissions threaten a potentially massive downgrading of our prospects for material advancement as a species. They threaten to unacceptably erode our resource-base and put at risk our vital hoards of natural capital. If we cannot sort this out quickly, we are going to end up darning our socks again and growing our own carrots and holidaying in Weston-super-Mare and other such unthinkable things. All of the horrors our grandparents left behind will return like deathless legends. Carbon-emissions must be “tackled” like a drunk with a broken bottle: quickly, and with maximum force.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t doubt the potency of climate change to undermine the human machine. It looks to me as if it is already beginning to do so, and that it is too late to do anything but attempt to mitigate the worst effects. But what I am also convinced of is that the fear of losing both the comfort and the meaning that our civilisation gifts us has gone to the heads of environmentalists to such a degree that they have forgotten everything else. The carbon must be stopped, like the Umayyad at Tours, or all will be lost.

This reductive approach to the human-environmental challenge leads to an obvious conclusion: if carbon is the problem, then “zero-carbon” is the solution. Society needs to go about its business without spewing the stuff out. It needs to do this quickly, and by any means necessary. Build enough of the right kind of energy technologies, quickly enough, to generate the power we “need” without producing greenhouse-gases and there will be no need to ever turn the lights off; no need to ever slow down.

To do this will require the large-scale harvesting of the planet’s ambient energy: sunlight, wind, water power. This means that vast new conglomerations of human industry are going to appear in places where this energy is most abundant. Unfortunately, these places coincide with some of the world’s wildest, most beautiful and most untouched landscapes. The sort of places which environmentalism came into being to protect.

And so the deserts, perhaps the landscape always most resistant to permanent human conquest, are to be colonised by vast “solar arrays”, glass and steel and aluminium, the size of small countries. The mountains and moors, the wild uplands, are to be staked out like vampires in the sun, their chests pierced with rows of 500-foot wind-turbines and associated access-roads, masts, pylons and wires. The open oceans, already swimming in our plastic refuse and emptying of marine life, will be home to enormous offshore turbine-ranges and hundreds of wave-machines strung around the coastlines like Victorian necklaces. The rivers are to see their estuaries severed and silted by industrial barrages. The croplands and even the rainforests, the richest habitats on this terrestrial Earth, are already highly profitable sites for biofuel plantations designed to provide guilt-free car-fuel to the motion-hungry masses of Europe and America.

What this adds up to should be clear enough, yet many people who should know better choose not to see it. This is business-as-usual: the expansive, colonising, progressive human narrative, shorn only of the carbon. It is the latest phase of our careless, self-absorbed, ambition-addled destruction of the wild, the unpolluted and the non-human. It is the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy. And without any sense of irony, people are calling this “environmentalism”.

A while back I wrote an article in a newspaper highlighting the impact of industrial wind-power stations (which are usually referred to, in a nice Orwellian touch, as wind “farms”) on the uplands of Britain. I was emailed the next day by an environmentalist friend who told me he hoped I was feeling ashamed of myself. I was wrong; worse, I was dangerous. What was I doing giving succour to the fossil-fuel industry? Didn’t I know that climate change would do far more damage to upland landscapes than turbines? Didn’t I know that this was the only way to meet our urgent carbon targets? Didn’t I see how beautiful turbines were? So much more beautiful than nuclear-power stations. I might think that a “view” was more important than the future of the entire world, but this was because I was a middle-class escapist who needed to get real.

It became apparent at that point that what I saw as the next phase of the human attack on the non-human world, a lot of my environmentalist friends saw as “progressive”, “sustainable” and “green”. What I called destruction they called “large-scale solutions”. This stuff was realistic, necessarily urgent. It went with the grain of human nature and the market, which as we now know are the same thing. We didn’t have time to “romanticise” the woods and the hills. There were emissions to reduce, and the end justified the means.

It took me a while to realise where this kind of talk took me back to: the maze and the moonlit hilltop. This desperate scrabble for “sustainable development” - in reality it was the same old same old. People I had thought were on my side were arguing aggressively for the industrialising of wild places in the name of human desire. This was the same rootless, distant destruction that had led me to the top of Twyford Down. Only now there seemed to be some kind of crude equation at work that allowed them to believe this was something entirely different. Motorway through downland: bad. Wind-power station on downland: good. Container-port wiping out estuary mudflats: bad. Renewable hydro-power barrage wiping out estuary mudflats: good. Destruction minus carbon equals sustainability.

So here I was again: a Luddite, a Nimby, a reactionary, a romantic; standing in the way of progress. I realised that I was dealing with environmentalists with no attachment to any actual environment. Their talk was of parts-per-million of carbon, peer-reviewed papers, sustainable technologies, renewable supergrids, green growth and the fifteenth conference of the parties. There were campaigns about “the planet” and “the Earth”, but there was no specificity: no sign of any real, felt attachment to any small part of that Earth.

The place of nature

Back at university, in love with my newfound radicalism, as students tend to be, I started to read things. Not the stuff I was supposed to be reading about Lollards and John Wycliffe and pre-reformation Europe, but green political thought: wild ideas I had never come across before. I could literally feel my mind levering itself open. Most exciting to me were the implications of a new word I stumbled across: ecocentrism. This word crystallised everything I had been feeling for years. I had no idea there were words for it or that other people felt it too, or had written intimidating books about it. The nearest I had come to such a realisation thus far was reading Wordsworth in the sixth form and feeling an excited tingling sensation as I began to understand what he was getting at amongst all those poems about shepherds and girls called Lucy. Here was a kindred spirit! Here was a man moved to love and fear by mountains, who believed rocks had souls, that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” (though even then that sounded a little optimistic to me). Pantheism was my new word that year.

Now I declared, to myself if no one else, that I was “ecocentric” too. This was not the same as being egocentric, though some disagreed, and though it sounded a bit too much like “eccentric” this was also a distraction. I was ecocentric because I did not believe - had never believed, I didn’t think - that humans were the centre of the world, that the Earth was their playground, that they had the right to do what they liked or even that what they did was that important. I thought we were part of something bigger, which had as much to right to the world as we did and which we were stomping on for our own benefit. I had always been haunted by shameful thoughts like this. It had always seemed to me that the beauty to be found on the trunk of a birch tree was worth any number of Mona Lisas, and that a Saturday-night sunset was better than Saturday-night telly. It had always seemed that most of what mattered to me could not be counted or corralled by the kind of people who thought, and still think, that I just needed to grow up.

It had been made clear to me for a long time that these feelings were at best charmingly naГЇve and at worst backwards and dangerous. Later, the dismissals became encrusted with familiar words, designed to keep the ship of human destiny afloat: Romantic, Luddite, Nimby and the like. For now, though, I had found my place. I was a young, fiery, radical, ecocentric environmentalist and I was going to save the world.

When I look back on the road protests of the mid-1990s, which I often do, it is with nostalgia and fondness and a sense of gratitude that I was able to be there, to see what I saw and do what I did. But I realise now that it is more than this that makes me think and talk and write about Twyford Down and Newbury and Solsbury Hill to an extent which bores even my patient friends. This, I think, was the last time I was part of an environmental movement that was genuinely environmental. The people involved were, like me, ecocentric: they didn’t see “the environment” as something “out there”; separate from people, to be utilised or destroyed or protected according to human whim. They saw themselves as part of it, within it, of it.

There was a Wordsworthian feel to the whole thing: the defence of the trees simply because they were trees. Living under the stars and in the rain, in the oaks and in the chaotic, miraculous tunnels beneath them, in the soil itself like the rabbits and the badgers. We were connected to a place; a real place that we loved and had made a choice to belong to, if only for a short time. There was little theory, much action but even more simple being. Being in a place, knowing it, standing up for it. It was environmentalism at its rawest, and the people who came to be part of it were those who loved the land, in their hearts as well as their heads.

In years to come, this was worn away. It took a while before I started to notice what was happening, but when I did it was all around me. The ecocentrism - in simple language, the love of place, the humility, the sense of belonging, the feelings - was absent from most of the “environmentalist” talk I heard around me. Replacing it were two other kinds of talk. One was the save-the-world-with-windfarms narrative; the same old face in new makeup. The other was a distant, sombre sound: the marching boots and rattling swords of an approaching fifth-column.

Environmentalism, which in its raw, early form had no time for the encrusted, seized-up politics of left and right, offering instead a worldview which saw the growth economy and the industrialist mentality beloved by both as the problem in itself, was being sucked into the yawning, bottomless chasm of the “progressive” left. Suddenly people like me, talking about birch trees and hilltops and sunsets, were politely, or less politely, elbowed to one side by people who were bringing a “class analysis” to green politics.

All this talk of nature, it turned out, was bourgeois, western and unproductive. It was a middle-class conceit, and there was nothing worse than a middle-class conceit. The workers had no time for thoughts like this (though no one bothered to notify the workers themselves that they were simply clodhopping, nature-loathing cannon-fodder in a political flame-war). It was terribly, objectively rightwing. Hitler liked nature after all. He was a vegetarian too. It was all deeply “problematic”.

More problematic for me was what this kind of talk represented. With the near global failure of the leftwing project over the past few decades, green politics was fast becoming a refuge for disillusioned socialists, Trots, Marxists and a ragbag of fellow-travellers who could no longer believe in communism or the Labour Party or even George Galloway, and who saw in green politics a promising bolthole. In they all trooped, with their Stop-the-War banners and their Palestinian-solidarity scarves, and with them they brought a new sensibility.

Now it seemed that environmentalism was not about wildness or ecocentrism or the other-than-human world and our relationship to it. Instead it was about (human) social justice and (human) equality and (human) progress and ensuring that all these things could be realised without degrading the (human) resource-base which we used to call nature back when we were being naïve and problematic. Suddenly, never-ending economic growth was a good thing after all: the poor needed it to get rich, which was their right. To square the circle, for those who still realised there was a circle, we were told that “(human) social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand” - a suggestion of such bizarre inaccuracy that it could surely only be wishful thinking.

Suddenly, sustaining a global human population of 10 billion people was not a problem at all, and anyone who suggested otherwise was not highlighting any obvious ecological crunch points but was giving succour to fascism or racism or gender discrimination or orientalism or essentialism or some other such hip and largely unexamined concept. The “real issue”, it seemed, was not the human relationship with the non-human world; it was fat cats and bankers and cap’lism. These things must be destroyed, by way of marches, protests and votes for fringe political parties, to make way for something known as “eco-socialism”: a conflation of concepts that pretty much guarantees the instant hostility of 95% of the population.

I didn’t object to this because I thought that environmentalism should occupy the right rather than the left wing, or because I was rightwing myself, which I wasn’t (these days I tend to consider the entire bird with a kind of frustrated detachment). And I understood that there was at least a partial reason for the success of this colonisation of the greens by the reds. Modern environmentalism sprung partly from the early 20th-century conservation movement, and that movement had often been about preserving supposedly pristine landscapes at the expense of people. Forcing tribal people from their ancestral lands which had been newly designated as national parks, for example, in order to create a fictional “untouched nature” had once been fairly common, from Africa to the USA. And actually, Hitler had been something of an environmentalist, and the wellsprings which nourished some green thought nourished the thought of some other unsavoury characters too (a fact which some ideologues love to point to when witch-hunting the greens, as if it wouldn’t be just as easy to point out that ideas of equality and justice fuelled Stalin and Pol Pot).

In this context it was fair enough to make it clear that environmentalism allied itself with ideas of justice and decency, and that it was about people as well as everything else on the planet. Of course it was, for “nature” as something separate from people has never existed. We are nature, and the environmentalist project was always supposed to be about how we are to be part of it, to live well as part of it, to understand and respect it, to understand our place within it and to feel it as part of ourselves.

So there was a reason for environmentalism’s shift to the left, just as there was a reason for its blinding obsession with carbon. Meanwhile, the fact of what humans are doing to the world had become so obvious, even to those who were doing very well out of it, that it became hard not to listen to the greens. Success duly arrived. You can’t open a newspaper now or visit a corporate website or listen to a politician or read the label on a packet of biscuits without being bombarded with propaganda about the importance of “saving the planet”. But there is a terrible hollowness to it all; a sense that society is going through the motions without understanding why. The shift, the pact, has come at a probably fatal price.

Now that price is being paid. The weird and unintentional pincer-movement of the failed left, with its class analysis of waterfalls and fresh air, and the managerial, carbon-Гјber-alles brigade has infiltrated, ironed out and reworked environmentalism for its own ends. Now it is not about the ridiculous beauty of coral, the mist over the fields at dawn. It is not about ecocentrism. It is not about reforging a connection between over-civilised people and the world outside their windows. It is not about living close to the land or valuing the world for the sake of the world. It is not about attacking the self-absorbed conceits of the bubble that our civilisation has become.

Today’s environmentalism is about people. It is a consolation prize for a gaggle of washed-up Trots and at the same time, with an amusing irony, it is an adjunct to hyper-capitalism; the catalytic converter on the silver SUV of the global economy. It is an engineering challenge; a problem-solving device for people to whom the sight of a wild Pennine hilltop on a clear winter day brings not feelings of transcendence but thoughts about the wasted potential for renewable energy. It is about saving civilisation from the results of its own actions; a desperate attempt to prevent Gaia from hiccupping and wiping out our coffee shops and broadband connections. It is our last hope.

The open land

I generalise, of course. Environmentalism’s chancel is as accommodating as that of socialism, anarchism or conservatism, and just as capable of generating poisonous internal bickering that will last until the death of the sun. Many who call themselves green have little time for the mainstream line I am attacking here. But it is the mainstream line. It is how most people see environmentalism today, even if it is not how all environmentalists intend it to be seen. These are the arguments and the positions that popular environmentalism - now a global force - offers up in its quest for redemption. There are reasons; there are always reasons. But whatever they are, they have led the greens down a dark, litter-strewn dead end street, where the bins overflow, the lightbulbs have blown and the stray dogs are very hungry indeed.

What is to be done about this? Probably nothing. It was perhaps inevitable that a utilitarian society would generate a utilitarian environmentalism, and inevitable too that the greens would not be able to last for long outside the established political bunkers. But for me, now - well, this is no longer mine, that’s all. I can’t make my peace with people who cannibalise the land in the name of saving it. I can’t speak the language of science without a corresponding poetry. I can’t speak with a straight face about saving the planet when what I really mean is saving myself from what is coming.

Like all of us, I am a footsoldier of empire. It is the empire of Homo sapiens sapiens and it stretches from Tasmania to Baffin Island. Like all empires it is built on expropriation and exploitation, and like all empires it dresses these things up in the language of morality and duty. When we turn wilderness over to agriculture we speak of our duty to feed the poor. When we industrialise the wild places we speak of our duty to stop the climate from changing. When we spear whales we speak of our duty to science. When we raze forests we speak of our duty to develop. We alter the atmospheric makeup of the entire world: half of us pretends it’s not happening, the other half immediately starts looking for new machines that will reverse it. This is how empires work, particularly when they have started to decay. Denial, displacement, anger, fear.

The environment is the victim of this empire. But “the environment” - that distancing word, that empty concept - does not exist. It is the air, the waters, the creatures we make homeless or lifeless in flocks and legions, and it is us too. We are it; we are in it and of it, we make it and live it, we are fruit and soil and tree, and the things done to the roots and the leaves come back to us. We make ourselves slaves to make ourselves free, and when the shackles start to rub we confidently predict the emergence of new, more comfortable designs.

I don’t have any answers, if by answers we mean political systems, better machines, means of engineering some grand shift in consciousness. All I have is a personal conviction built on those feelings, those responses, that goes back to the moors of northern England and the rivers of southern Borneo - that something big is being missed. That we are both hollow men and stuffed men, and that we will keep stuffing ourselves until the food runs out and if outside the dining-room door we have made a wasteland and called it necessity, then at least we will know we were not to blame, because we are never to blame, because we are the humans.

What am I to do with feelings like these? Useless feelings in a world in which everything must be made useful. Sensibilities in a world of utility. Feelings like this provide no “solutions”. They build no new eco-homes, remove no carbon from the atmosphere. This is head-in-the-clouds stuff, as relevant to our busy, modern lives as the new moon or the date of Lughnasadh. Easy to ignore, easy to dismiss, like the places that inspire the feelings, like the world outside the bubble, like the people who have seen it, if only in brief flashes beyond the ridge of some dark line of hills.

But this is fine; the dismissal, the platitudes, the brusque moving-on of the grown-ups. It’s all fine. I withdraw, you see. I withdraw from the campaigning and the marching, I withdraw from the arguing and the talked-up necessity and all of the false assumptions. I withdraw from the words. I am leaving. I am going to go out walking.

I am leaving on a pilgrimage to find what I left behind in the jungles and by the cold campfires and in the parts of my head and my heart that I have been skirting around because I have been busy fragmenting the world in order to save it; busy believing it is mine to save. I am going to listen to the wind and see what it tells me, or whether it tells me anything at all. You see, it turns out that I have more time than I thought. I will follow the songlines and see what they sing to me and maybe, one day, I might even come back. And if I am very lucky I might bring with me a harvest of fresh tales which I can scatter like apple seeds across this tired and angry continent.

About the author: Paul Kingsnorth is a writer. Among his books are One No, Many Yeses (Simon & Schuster, 2003) and Real England: The Battle Against the Bland (Portobello, 2008). He is co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project. His website is here

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