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Demeter

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

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Weekend Economists in the Children's Hour: Hallowe'en to El Dia de Los Muertos, 2014




Autumn is the perfect time for nostalgia! Try to think back to your childhood's innocent (or not) time (some of you never left, some barely made it out, some can't remember):

Burning leaves in the streets, dial telephones, ice cream trucks with popsicles for a nickel



NASA and New Math

Color television replacing black and white

Big sedans and station wagons giving way to all kinds of strange vehicles

and kids cartoons morphing into Sesame Street.



How on earth did we get to today?

Off-grid German village banks on wind, sun, pig manure

http://m.france24.com/en/20141026-off-grid-german-village-banks-wind-sun-pig-manure/



If Germany has taken a pioneering though risky role in shifting to renewable energy, then the tiny village of Feldheim -- population 150 -- is at its vanguard. The hamlet near Berlin is Germany's first to have left the national grid and switched to 100 percent local, alternative energy, swearing off fossil fuels and nuclear power decades before the rest of the country plans to near the same goal.

  • Electricity now comes from a wind park towering over its gently rolling fields and reaches homes through Feldheim's own mini smart grid. More than 99 percent of the wind power is sold into the national system, along with electricity from a solar park on a former Soviet military base.

  • As winter nears, people here will heat their homes from a biogas plant powered by local pig and cattle manure and shredded corn, while on the coldest days a woodchip plant will also burn forestry waste.

    The villagers took bank loans and state subsidies to build the system, in partnership with green power company Energiequelle, but say it is paying off as electricity and heating bills have been slashed. Feldheim no longer pays for 160,000 litres (40,000 gallons) of heating oil a year, said Werner Frohwitter of the local energy cooperative.

    "This money is no longer going to Arab sheiks or (Russian President) Vladimir Putin," he said at the village 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Berlin. "This money is now staying right here."
  • I have reflected on this coming apocalypse from an engineering/education perspective

    "Appropriate Technology" was the geeky side of the Green Movement: meaning, use the lowest quality materials and power possible for the job. Don't split the atoms to boil water to turn a turbine....go to hydro, wind, tides, solar. Don't chop down redwoods to make toothpicks, and more notions of that nature.

    But if the premise that the End of WWII didn't solve a thing (which the Cold War, Vietnam, Reagan's little escapades, W's big ones, and Obama's foot-dragging have shown), then it's not a question of appropriate, any more. The question has dropped back several centuries to "SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY", in other words, everything that people knew before the Industrial Revolution, plus whatever we can keep alive from technological advances since then.

    IF we are clever, and put an absolute ban on warfare of any kind, including economic (which refers to both the USA, China, AND the Pope and Fundies of all stripes that strive to prevent family planning), we might be able to sustain our technology for the foreseeable future.

    Since that's not likely to happen, we need to take inventory.

    WHICH technologies are sustainable at the 17th century level of civilization?
    WHICH technologies might we convert to 17th century sustainability?
    HOW do we keep the information gained in the past 250 years from being forgotten, misunderstood, or misapplied (again)?


    Think of the areas of expertise we have to consider:

    AGRICULTURE: good agricultural practices ended with the Industrial Revolution in large part, as farms turned into factories and eating local became a sign of backwardness. There's a lot of this that has to be re-applied, restored, renovated.

    TRANSPORTATION:
    without transportation, the world shrinks to a day's travel on foot.
    Modes of travel:

    Foot & Swimming
    Wheeled carts/ chariots / carriages / Draft animals
    Sailboats / Wind-driven prairie wagons
    Bicycles and other human-enhancing mechanics / Rowboats, paddle wheels

    and already we are reaching into manufacturing technologies that aren't sustainable:

    Flywheel-driven or enhanced / solar powered / steam driven mass transit / bio-diesel

    Forget air travel, space travel, anything "wasteful". Manufacturing will have to scale down to the area in which it can be utilized. No sending coals to Newcastle, nor cheddar to Vermont. Making sensible choices will put most of our Useless Eaters/Obscenely Wealthy out of power, if there are any not hanging from lampposts.

    MEDICINE: Just as the technology and the basic research is starting to catch up with the complexity of the human animal, we are in danger of reverting to cowpox inoculations. This just makes me mad. So little of the past 100 years of medical development will be sustainable through a hard collapse.

    CLOTHING, SHELTER: Some rudimentary knowledge persists, and some skilled practitioners of ancient crafts. Insulation and passive solar design are the things we most need to keep current. Fashion will yield to practicality and warmth.

    POWER: If the effort starts now, we might be able to keep solar, wind and water at modern levels of efficiency, which would make it possible to sustain our technology level. If not, say goodbye to:

    COMMUNICATION: Quills and rust-based ink, anyone? Maybe the hand-operated printing press can be revived. Goodbye, Internet! It was nice knowing you.

    MATERIALS SCIENCE: The biggest strides in technology have their roots in innovations in materials science: turning raw, unprocessed materials into something more useful: integrated circuits, super-conducting metals, plastics, graphene, buckyballs. Even anodizing requires power. Without the refined materials, technology isn't possible, no matter what Gilligan's Island portrayed.

    THE GEEKS ARE GOING TO NEED HELP. NOBODY EVER WANTS TO HELP THEM, EITHER.

    Geeks only get rewards when they invent cheaper ways to kill more people, thereby boosting profits for the profiteers. Geeks need peace, communications, refined materials, education and power.

    Otherwise, as Spock said, it's back to the stone knives and bearskins. Except there won't be many bears.

    Oh, wait, my sister's got a bear in her bird feeder, in a Mass. suburb...maybe the wildlife will come back in force!



    A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy -- The Archdruid Report by John Michael Greer

    A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy

    ... Yes, I’m aware that many people believe that such a thing can’t happen: that science, technology, or some other factor has made progress irreversible. I’m also aware that many people insist that progress may not be irreversible yet but will be if we all just do that little bit more. These are—well, let’s be charitable and call them faith-based claims. Generalizing from a sample size of one when the experiment hasn’t yet run its course is poor scientific procedure; insisting that just this once, the law of diminishing returns will be suspended for our benefit is the antithesis of science. It amounts to treating progress as some sort of beneficent fairy who can be counted on to tap us with her magic wand and give us a wonderful future, just because we happen to want one.

    The overfamiliar cry of “but it’s different this time!” is popular, it’s comforting, but it’s also irrelevant. Of course it’s different this time; it was different every other time, too. Neolithic civilizations limited to one river valley and continental empires with complex technologies have all declined and fallen in much the same way and for much the same reasons. It may appeal to our sense of entitlement to see ourselves as destiny’s darlings, to insist that the Progress Fairy has promised us a glorious future out there among the stars, or even to claim that it’s humanity’s mission to populate the galaxy, but these are another set of faith-based claims; it’s a little startling, in fact, to watch so many people who claim to have outgrown theology clinging to such overtly religious concepts as humanity’s mission and destiny.

    In the real world, when civilizations exhaust their resource bases and wreck the ecological cycles that support them, they fall. It takes between one and three centuries on average for the fall to happen—and no, big complex civilizations don’t fall noticeably faster or slower than smaller and simpler ones. Nor is it a linear decline—the end of a civilization is a fractal process composed of crises on many different scales of space and time, with equally uneven consequences. An effective response can win a breathing space; in the wake of a less effective one, part of what used to be normal goes away for good. Sooner or later, one crisis too many overwhelms the last defenses, and the civilization falls, leaving scattered remnants of itself that struggle and gleam for a while until the long night closes in.

    The historian Arnold Toynbee, whose study of the rise and fall of civilizations is the most detailed and cogent for our purpose, has traced a recurring rhythm in this process. Falling civilizations oscillate between periods of intense crisis and periods of relative calm, each such period lasting anywhere from a few decades to a century or more—the pace is set by the speed of the underlying decline, which varies somewhat from case to case. Most civilizations, he found, go through three and a half cycles of crisis and stabilization—the half being, of course, the final crisis from which there is no recovery...

    READ ON AT LINK (IT'S LENGTHY) FOR A GLIMPSE AT FUTURE HISTORY

    SEE MORE IN THE COMMENTARY

    A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy by John Michael Greer MUST READ!

    A Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy

    ...When I mention that I expect the decline and fall of industrial civilization to take centuries, accordingly, people take this to mean that I expect a smooth, untroubled descent. When I mention that I expect crisis before this decade is finished, in turn, people take this to mean that I expect industrial civilization to crash into ruin in the next few years. Some people, for that matter, slam back and forth from one of these presuppositions to another, as though they can’t fit the concepts of prolonged decline and imminent crisis into their heads at the same moment...The overfamiliar cry of “but it’s different this time!” is popular, it’s comforting, but it’s also irrelevant. Of course it’s different this time; it was different every other time, too. Neolithic civilizations limited to one river valley and continental empires with complex technologies have all declined and fallen in much the same way and for much the same reasons. It may appeal to our sense of entitlement to see ourselves as destiny’s darlings, to insist that the Progress Fairy has promised us a glorious future out there among the stars, or even to claim that it’s humanity’s mission to populate the galaxy, but these are another set of faith-based claims; it’s a little startling, in fact, to watch so many people who claim to have outgrown theology clinging to such overtly religious concepts as humanity’s mission and destiny.

    In the real world, when civilizations exhaust their resource bases and wreck the ecological cycles that support them, they fall. It takes between one and three centuries on average for the fall to happen—and no, big complex civilizations don’t fall noticeably faster or slower than smaller and simpler ones. Nor is it a linear decline—the end of a civilization is a fractal process composed of crises on many different scales of space and time, with equally uneven consequences. An effective response can win a breathing space; in the wake of a less effective one, part of what used to be normal goes away for good. Sooner or later, one crisis too many overwhelms the last defenses, and the civilization falls, leaving scattered remnants of itself that struggle and gleam for a while until the long night closes in...

    ........................

    One wrinkle many people miss is that we’re not waiting for the first of the three and a half rounds of crisis and recovery to hit; we’re waiting for the second. The first began in 1914 and ended around 1954, driven by the downfall of the British Empire and the collapse of European domination of the globe. During the forty years between Sarajevo and Dien Bien Phu, the industrial world was hammered by the First World War, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, millions of political murders by the Nazi and Soviet governments, the Second World War, and the overthrow of European colonial empires around the planet.

    That was the first era of crisis in the decline and fall of industrial civilization. The period from 1945 to the present was the first interval of stability and recovery, made more prosperous and expansive than most examples of the species by the breakneck exploitation of petroleum and other fossil fuels, and a corresponding boom in technology. At this point, as fossil fuel reserves deplete, the planet’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants runs up against hard limits, and a galaxy of other measures of impending crisis move toward the red line, it’s likely that the next round of crisis is not far off. What will actually trigger that next round, though, is anyone’s guess...here’s a narrative sketch of the kind of future that waits for us:

    SEE LINK (I'M SUCH A TEASE)

    Weekend Economists Making Choices October 24-26, 2014



    How the Pill Overcame Impossible Odds And Found a Place in Millions of Women's Purses By Ann Friedman BOOK REVIEW

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119569/birth-pill-jonathan-eig-reviewed-ann-friedman

    Margaret Sanger promised it would be “a miracle tablet.” Hugh Hefner hailed it as “a powerful weapon.” A 30-year-old woman with six children called it “my ray of hope.” The pill is now so common—four out of five sexually active women have used it—that it’s easy to forget that oral contraception was once the stuff of fantasy.

    In The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, Jonathan Eig chronicles the decades-long effort to make that fantasy a reality. In his telling, this transformation is thanks to a unique alliance between feminists and scientists: the spotlight-seeking activist Margaret Sanger, the rebel researcher Goody Pincus, the single-minded heiress Katherine McCormick, and the photogenic family doctor John Rock. These four people provide a formula for what it takes to create scientific breakthroughs that are ahead of their time politically: an incredible amount of drive and little concern for traditional values, a willingness to flout powerful institutions and their rewards, a tremendous amount of money, and, eventually, a way to appeal to the mainstream. It’s no wonder that, despite lots of modern talk about disruption and innovation, truly world-changing breakthroughs are so rare.

    America before the pill sounds like something out of Margaret Atwood.
    Contraception was illegal in most states from 1873 until after World War I, and not even recognized by the American Medical Association until 1937. Single women in 26 states were denied contraception until well into the 1960s. While some women were lucky enough to live in a state with more liberal birth-control laws or near a clinic that was willing to circumvent them, many were out of luck. Women used douches as a dangerous and ineffective morning-after contraceptive. Some tried the rhythm method, but even doctors’ knowledge of the reproductive system was still spotty, so that technique wasn’t very effective. Condoms were available, but married couples were reluctant to use them. Some clinics offered diaphragms, which were often poorly fitted and difficult to obtain. And these methods were only available to women with male partners who were interested in preventing pregnancy. Many men were not.

    As early as 1914, Margaret Sanger, then a women’s health activist in New York, had a crazy idea: reliable birth control—ideally in pill form so women’s partners wouldn’t even have to know they were taking it. It wouldn’t just ensure that “woman” was not synonymous with “mother,” it would be the dawn of a new era of women’s pleasure and self-realization: sex without fear of pregnancy. Sanger knew that as long as men had the final say in when and how women became mothers, they would have the final say about all aspects of women’s lives.
    This was a long-term goal, though. In the meantime, Sanger founded the Birth Control Federation, later called Planned Parenthood, to distribute condoms and diaphragms and lobby for the liberalization of contraception laws. She became a figurehead. She fretted that talking about “family planning” instead of “birth control” would dilute her movement, yet seemed to have few qualms about cozying up to racist, eugenicist “population control” advocates in the hopes of spreading the birth control message wider and farther. But in the post-war era, as contraception became more accepted but still remained politically taboo, Sanger grew sick of the incremental approach. She did not want to focus on improving the diaphragm. She did not want to distribute more condoms. She wanted a pill.

    This was a tall order. The midcentury medical establishment was still figuring out how hormones worked—an oral contraceptive was a pipe dream. And Sanger couldn’t exactly roll up to a respected research institution and ask their most forward-thinking scientists to create one. Anti-contraception laws were still on the books in most states, and even though enforcement was lax, venerated institutions weren’t eager to push the bounds of legality. Sanger herself was a nationally known firebrand—not the type of person that tenured Ivy League medical researchers would have lunch with. Instead she sought out Pincus, “a scientist with a genius IQ and a dubious reputation” who had been fired from Harvard and recently established his own private research institution in Worcester, Massachusetts. Pincus was “interested in science and action, not long-term budgets or endowments,” Eig writes. He loved a challenge. And so when Sanger came to him in 1950 with her crazy idea for a pregnancy-preventing pill and asked if it was possible, he said he was willing to try.

    Pincus’s research was enabled by the largess of Katherine McCormick, who had earned a biology degree at MIT and later inherited a fortune when her schizophrenic husband died not long into their marriage. She, like Sanger, saw controlling fertility as essential to women’s self-determination. In 1923, when contraception was still very much illegal in the United States, she smuggled diaphragms from Europe by buying them in bulk and having them sewn inside newly purchased clothing. When the paltry research budget Sanger was able to wrangle from Planned Parenthood proved insufficient, McCormick stepped in, funneling millions of dollars (in today’s money) toward Pincus’s research...

    BUT IT WASN'T ALL RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS, NOR SMOOTH SAILING. IT WAS A HARROWING ADVENTURE! READ MORE OR LISTEN TO THE PODCAST BELOW:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/07/354103536/the-great-bluff-that-lead-to-a-magical-pill-and-a-sexual-revolution

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.---Margaret Mead



    Margaret Sanger


    Katharine McCormick, biologist & millionaire philanthropist; FOR A SHORT BIO:

    http://www.amazingwomeninhistory.com/katharine-mccormick-birth-control-history/

    AUTHOR JONATHAN EIG
    http://www.trbimg.com/img-543fdc4b/turbine/ctfl-jonathan-eig-web-jpg-20141016/900/900x506


    MANY OF MY GREAT AUNTS TOOK TO THE CHURCH, TO AVOID BEARING 17 CHILDREN, AS THEIR MOTHER DID....WE AREN'T THAT FAR FROM THAT TIME...ONLY 3 GENERATIONS OR SO!







    Venezuela seizes warehouses packed with medical goods, food

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/us-venezuela-economy-idUSKCN0ID00A20141024?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

    President Nicolas Maduro's government said on Thursday it had taken over warehouses around Venezuela crammed with medical goods and food that "bourgeois criminals" were hoarding for speculation and contraband. The socialist government says businessmen and wealthy opponents are trying to sabotage the economy to bring Maduro down, while also seeking to make profits from hoarding, price-gouging and smuggling across the border to Colombia...Maduro gave a live address to the nation from one of two warehouses seized in central Aragua state, where he said 14 million syringes and 2 million surgical gloves were among a massive hoard of medical equipment bound for Colombia.

    "There's enough medical equipment here to cover Aragua's needs for a year. This is the criminal bourgeoisie. They are going to pay with jail, I swear it," Maduro said, standing in front of piles of boxes and wheelchairs.

    "The bourgeois parasites are hurting the people's health."


    Maduro, the 51-year-old successor to the late Hugo Chavez who died of cancer last year, said the goods had been bought with dollars obtained from the state's foreign exchange board and were due to be sold across the border in Colombia. The government has in recent months undertaken a huge crackdown on smuggling, including closing the border at night and arresting 1,266 people.

    Critics say Venezuela's security forces have been at the heart of the trade for years, and contend contraband will not go away as long as state subsidies and exchange controls create price disparities offering tempting opportunities.

    MORE

    Poached Eggs And The New Corporate Toast

    http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/236377/poached-eggs-and-the-new-corporate-toast.html

    LADIES, SISTERS, THIS ONE IS FOR YOU....

    Why the U.S. Is Building a High-Tech Bubonic Plague Lab in Kazakhstan

    http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/why-the-us-is-building-a-high-tech-plague-lab-in-kazakhstan

    ...When it opens in September 2015, the $102-million project laboratory is meant to serve as a Central Asian way station for a global war on dangerous disease. And as a project under that Pentagon program, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the lab will be built, and some of its early operation funded, by American taxpayers.

    The far-flung biological threat reduction lab may look like a strange idea at a time of various sequester outbreaks, but officials say it's an important anti-terror investment, a much-needed upgrade to a facility that has been described as an aging, un-secure relic of the 1950's, and one that the Defense Dept. fears can't keep pace in an era of WMD.

    It's also an investment, they add, in a country where scientists are hungry for more international participation and better facilities—and where the U.S. is keen to keep sensitive materials and knowledge in the right hands and brains....

    Mother Ruins Harry Potter To Indoctrinate Her Kids Into Conservative Christianity

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/09/18/mother-ruins-harry-potter-to-indoctrinate-her-kids-into-conservative-christianity/

    Fan-fiction is a fun activity which allows fans of literary works to keep the adventures of their favorite characters alive. In the wrong hands, however, a good work of fiction can turn into a fictional abomination.

    That’s what a woman did when she completely re-wrote Harry Potter by turning it into a conservative Christian-obsessed world where the main characters are fighting against the evil forces of Congress — led by Voldemort — who are allegedly trying to destroy their Christian beliefs. She did this because she thinks her kids will turn into witches if she allows them to read the books as written by author JK Rowling...Even beloved character, Professor Dumbledore, didn’t escape getting a complete makeover. He’s been turned into a southern preacher at the re-christened Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles.

    So far, six chapters have been written. Here are a few examples of the content you’ll find via Tickld. Just be warned, if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, prepare yourselves for quite a shock.

    Reverend Dumbledore beamed. “Why thank you, little one!” His voice had a distinctive southern twang to it that made Harry feel so safe and welcome. He knew in that moment that the Reverend was a man of God.

    “My father says that dark times are coming,” Hermione spoke worriedly. “There is a man named Voldomort who wants to destroy all that we stand for. He is pushing an agenda in congress which will stop us from practicing our faith freely.”

    “But that is what our founding fathers built this nation for!” Harry cried indignantly. “The freedom of religion!”

    Hagrid beamed widely. He had been praying so hard to save a soul today; and he was so happy to have saved the soul of such a sweet, earnest little one. The poor boy, being raised by two parents who were not Christian; and who both went to work and left him with a babysitter all day long. It was a good thing Hagrid had got here in time. Five years down the road, Harry might have been a fornicating, drug addicted Evolutionist!

    A smug-looking young man about Harry’s age with slicked-back hair even paler blond than Luna’s and wearing a sweater vest and khakis strolled languidly down between the rows of tables.

    “Please, ignore this fool,” Draco drawled smugly. “Luna here thinks she can have a career even though she’s a woman; and women are stupid.”

    Harry gaped at this horrible person. What a mean thing to say!

    “Women shouldn’t not have careers because women are stupid!” Harry shouted indignantly. “Women are not stupid at all! Women should not have careers because women are nurturing and loving and their gifts serve them best in the home!”


    Yeah, someone seriously wrote this. If you can stomach reading more, just click here: https://m.fanfiction.net/s/10644439

    As you can probably tell, this fictional re-write is clearly the work of a conservative “Christian.” The passages include intolerance toward people of other faiths, a hatred of sex before marriage, and a general frowning down upon women not staying in the home to raise children. It also strongly suggests that evolution is evil and that Voldomort is basically President Obama. The author herself even reveals her paranoia by stating her fears that her children will be led into a life of witchcraft if she lets them reads the actual books....

    I WONDER IF JK ROWLING WILL COME DOWN ON THIS ONE...SHE'S VERY TOLERANT, BUT EVEN TOLERANCE HAS LIMITS...
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