Bob Higgins

The Creek’s Rising, Texas Is Aflame And My Lawn Chairs Just Passed Memphis

Posted in Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 10, 2011
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US Temperature Map Shows Heat and Drought Stricken Southwest

US Temperature Map From Weather Underground

The wildfires continue in Texas. Much of the southwest still suffers under a drought as this summer’s brutal and record breaking heatwave continues.

There are areas of Texas that have gone without measurable rainfall for a year.

It’s the driest it’s been since 1895 when they started keeping records.

Texas Governor Rick “Goodhair” Perry, this month’s centerfold for “Science Denial Magazine” says that people may just have to get used to this toasty new climate.

Perry is on the record, in the recent GOPTP candidates debate he accused climate scientists of manipulating data to keep the research grants and the money rolling in.

I don’t know, a vast worldwide conspiracy of marginally paid climate science academics seems, somehow… unlikely.

His state, or a large part of it is on fire, over fourteen hundred homes have burned and there are at least four dead but his ideological certainties remain un-threatened by readily available evidence and unchanged in spite of the hot breezes causing the copious beads of prairie sweat that stain the Stetsons of his neighbors.

Fanned by winds that are carrying off precious Texas topsoil by the ton, a scene reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of 80 years ago,the fires are raging out of control through much of central Texas amidst an atmosphere of political certainty about the righteousness of Lilliputian government, of no taxes and no money to fight fires or train even volunteer firefighters. They have to shell out of their own pocket to buy gear and gas.

As Lucia Graves and Jason Cherkis at TheHufington Post report: Back in May, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a budget presented by the state legislature that cut funding for the state agency in charge of combating such blazes.

The Texas Forest Service’s funding was sliced from $117.7 million to $83 million. More devastating cuts hit the assistance grants to volunteer fire departments around the state. Those grants were slashed 55 percent from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. Those cuts are effective now.  Rick Perry’s Budget Leaves Texans In Bind Amidst Historic Wildfires

This is an atmosphere that unfortunately, is not confined to Texas, a political cult has developed that seriously believes that people should fight their own fires. This cult apparently believes that only socialists call the fire department or the police.  A truly self reliant follower of this line of Randian “reasoning” would get a bucket and bravely put out the blaze or get his trusty six gun and capture the bad guys himself. If one needs a road to drive on to reach the fire well by golly don’t be a socialist wimp,just bring a shovel and take care of that project while you’re there.

While you have your bucket out

Wildfire update – Sept. 8, 2011

Current situation:

· Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 20 new fires for 1,422 acres, including new large fires in Red River, Smith, and Cherokee/Rusk counties.

· In the past seven days Texas Forest Service has responded to 176 fires for 126,844 acres.

· A more comprehensive assessment has been completed on the Bastrop County Complex by FEMA and the State Operations Center. The total number of homes destroyed on that fire is now confirmed at 1,386. Approximately 240 additional homes have been reported lost on other fires since Sunday, for a total of approximately 1,626. From: Texas Forest Service

Speaking on climate  in Sydney, Australia Ban Ki Moon declared that  “…we are running out of time” and as reports roll in of drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, extreme weather events worldwide, massive flooding in Northern Australia, Moon said, “This is a global race to save the planet.”

There is no such sense of urgency among American politicians as  Obama reigns in the EPA, takes the leash off of Shell in the Beaufort Sea and speeds the process of drilling offshore. The State Department indicates that it is likely to give approval to the 1700 mile toxic bitumen pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a project that will span the nation under spacious skies, climb purple mountain’s majesty, slice through amber waves of grain and cross our largest aquifer of freshwater  to provide greater security for oil company profits.

On the other side of the political food fight the republicans have no time for climate change, occupied as they are with fighting the twin scourges of Social Security and Medicare while defending the barricades against teachers, bus drivers, fire fighters and other enemies of the state and insuring that no woman gets an abortion and no child is exposed to science or gets a free lunch.

In a column at the Huff Post last week environmentalist, actor and director, Robert Redford asked the question, “Is the Obama Administration Putting Corporate Profits Above Public Health?”The short answer is yes…wait, that’s also the long answer and probably the only answer.

The waters are rising, the dead ocean is in the living room,the sewage ridden river is lapping at the kitchen door and the lawn furniture just blew past Memphis but please get these scientists out of our classrooms.

Everyone is being sold out here, every plant, animal and microbe on the planet is being sacrificed to the greed of big oil, big coal, big gas and big corporate profit. No air worth breathing? No water fit to drink? Is your food poisoning your family?

The republicans say they have the answer, just get rid of the American government and let the corporations run this place like a business.

Maybe that’s the “credible threat” that Homeland Security is currently babbling about, the republicans are taking over and they’re goin to run this show like Enron, Lehman Brothers or Bank of America.

I don’t know how credible the threat is but it’s pretty scary.

Bob Higgins

Must read:
Perry Tales: Rick Is Not Who He Says He Is

Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt

Posted in Bob Higgins at Clean Technica, Environment, Politics by Bob Higgins on September 1, 2011
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Unicorn Tears, An Approved Hippie Energy Source

Unicorn Tears As An Energy Source?

I sometimes think that many of us have a deep seated mania that causes us to believe that for a substance to be an effective source of energy it must be something that can be burned. Not only must it be combustible, the substance must be hard to get. This manic belief requires that the energy source must be searched out and dug up or clawed from the earth at great trouble and expense.

What’s more, to be a credible source the fuel must be retrieved from the bowels of the earth or the deepest depths of the ocean in an odyssey by intrepid explorers with fedoras and a five day growth of manly stubble, all else is considered to be alchemy.

“We know that renewable energies like solar and wind at this point in time are not capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands.” The Remarkable Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate from Clean Technica by Glenn Meyers

Not to single out a fellow writer here at Clean Technica, I’ve heard and read similar statements many times but the fact that they grossly distort the reality of the potential energy sources all around us does make them nettlesome. Actually we “know” no such thing.

I don’t know where this belief comes from or how it got started, maybe it’s primal. It could be an archetype, lodged early in the human mind, left over from the terror, fascination, even trauma, when some guy with a five day stubble first dragged a burning branch from a lightning struck tree back to the cave for a mastodon roast.

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt
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Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

Posted in Environment, Labor Health and Safety, Politics by Bob Higgins on July 20, 2011
Slum in Jakarta swamp

Slums built on swamp land near a garbage dump in East Cipinang, Jakarta Indonesia. Picture taken by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004

I arrived on the scene in 1944 when there were just over 2 billion people on this planet. According to infoplease.com we reached the 2 billion milestone in 1927 and passed 3 billion in 1950 so I’m approximating, after all, we’re not splitting a dinner check.

From what I read, we’re on the cusp of passing the 7 billion milestone in October of this year. (The lucky 7 billionth child gets free sandwiches from Subway for a full thirty days – less shipping and handling.)

What this means, aside from the brutally depressing fact that I am likely older than 5 billion people, or 65% of the population, I don’t know, but I’m fairly certain that continued growth at this rate will not usher in a golden age of plenty, abundant crops at lower prices, free rides for the kiddies, a wild explosion in the number of carpool lanes and cleaner air and water.

Not so, according to a column, “Population Boom” at the Boston Globe this morning. The writer set me off with his subhead, “More people leads to more prosperity.” That sounds like a slogan from the turn of the century Robber Barons celebrating the new industrial age, the rapid influx of cheap immigrant labor, and higher rents for fire trap tenement buildings.

The ability of technology and industrial society to conjure ways to feed, clothe, shelter and keep an ever growing, more densely concentrated population on a planet with diminishing resources from slitting each other’s throats is  not discussed in the article. I think I’d avoid it as well.

If we’ve learned nothing from the mayhem of the last century with its constant conflict over resources, its terrible wars, droughts, famines, epidemics and economic depressions we should have learned that more people at the party will not reduce the noise level and no amount of religious or ideological wishful thinking will make it so.

We are on the brink of destroying the world’s oceans and waterways with the byproducts of the lifestyles we’ve developed since the dawn of the industrial age. We face the very real threat of  massive water shortages, a more immediate threat of running out of the fuel that has driven this growth and the likelihood that our air will be so filled with pollutants from our own activities that it will require chewing rather than breathing.

The more the merrier may be a joyous concept to a mine owner looking for dirt cheap labor to strip away a mountaintop, and more people may mean prosperity and happy days for the few who benefit from the outstretched hands, parched throats and empty bellies of the impoverished but there comes a point when the party loses its glamor down in the hood.

While I can’t offer a solution to the problem of rapid population growth other than education and birth control, for the billion or so people who are already fighting for arable land and potable water, for adequate housing, light, heat, breathable air, a view of a horizon that includes gainful employment and human dignity, time is running out and the worship of expanding markets and easily exploitable labor is no help at all.

Bob Higgins

Originally posted at Clean Technica: Population? Stack’em Up, The More The Merrier

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Could A Small Nuclear War Reverse Global Warming?

Posted in History, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on February 26, 2011
Could A Small Nuclear War Reverse Global Warming?

Could A Small Nuclear War Reverse Global Warming?

From HuffingtonPost

Nuclear war is a bad thing.

Right?

Scientists from NASA and a number of other institutions have recently been modeling the effects of a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, or 0.03 percent of the world’s current nuclear arsenal, according to National Geographic. The research suggests five million metric tons of black carbon would be swept up into the lowest portion of the atmosphere.

The result, according to NASA climate models, could actually be global cooling.”

Lovely, all we need is a “small nuclear war” every two or three years and we can keep global warming at bay forever.

There would be no need to get off of fossil fuels, just burn oil and gas until they run out, then burn coal until there’s a layer of soot a fathom deep.

Another benefit I suppose, would be the job growth created by the need to bury corpses, my god, undertakin­g would be a major growth industry.

It’s warming to know that there are concerned people, smart people, doing all this contingenc­y planning, thinking creatively­, out side the bun and all.

Officials said that “The military will be in overall command of the limited nuclear wars but the devices will be deployed and detonated by drunken civilian contractor­s for purposes of deniabilit­y, the bar will be cash only because, you know, we have to get this deficit under control.”

How was this study paid for? A grant from the oil industry and the defense department­.

Bob Higgins

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Corralling Public Money, Alms for Oil

Posted in Environment, Financial Crime, History, Politics by Bob Higgins on February 12, 2011
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Oil Subsidies, Our Biggest Welfare Program Ever

Alms For Big Oil

The LA Times reported yesterday that former astronaut Harrison Schmitt was forced to step down as New Mexico’s energy “czar” due to his refusal to cooperate with a state mandated background check.

Schmitt who did one term in the Senate (1977-1983) and was placed in charge of the Republican Candy desk, is a staunch denier of ethnocentric climate change and has equated environmentalists with communists.

And you thought both sides of the equation had to balance?

No other information was available on why Schmitt was so shy, maybe he’s hiding more than climate data or maybe he’s just stubborn.

New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, thought that Schmitt would make a great partner in dismantling the forward looking environmental policies pushed through during Bill Richardson’s tenure, but now…. not so much.

Have a climate change problem? Put a solid denier in charge of environmental policy. No more problem. (more…)

Republicans: “They Weren’t Taino, They Were Indians”

Posted in History, Humor, News, Politics by Bob Higgins on January 21, 2011
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Republican Health Care Plan... "Bring out your dead"

With health care ‘repealed,’ GOP turns to climate change is the title of an article By Renee Schoof at McClatchy yesterday, in which She reports:

“Now that the House of Representatives has voted to repeal the health care law,  Republicans say they’re likely to move soon to another target — a rewrite of the Clean Air Act so that it can’t be used to fight climate change.”

This falls on the heels of their now stalled attempt to rescind the last congress’ progress on health care, and return to the old Republican, Tea Party and compassionate conservative favored “Bring out your dead” system. (more…)

The Next Greatest Threat

Posted in Environment by Bob Higgins on February 14, 2009
Photo by Belize.com
Over the last several years as more people, organizations and governments began to take the prospect of global warming and human influenced climate change more seriously there has arisen a kind of 60 cycle background hum over the potential dangers of social unrest, disease, famine and mass movements of populations resulting from such change.

A few days ago while randomly browsing on the web I read an article at the Kansas City Star that sent a quick chill through my bloodstream: “Intelligence director: Worldwide economic crisis top U.S. security threat.
The story, by McClatchy writer Warren Strobel detailed remarks to congress made Monday by National Security Director Dennis Blair, who in a significant break with the Bush administration policy of treating terrorism and weapons proliferation as the greatest threats to national security, gave clues that new focus would center on the potential social unrest resulting from the world financial crisis.

Retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair said the worldwide economic downturn could spawn political instability across the globe, hamper U.S. allies and drain support for the American-led international free-trading system.”Time is probably our greatest threat,” Blair said in prepared remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The longer it takes for the recovery to begin, the greater the likelihood of serious damage to U.S. strategic interests.”

A day later the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick quoted Blair (in the same remarks to congress) as saying this:

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