Vietnam is our future

by John Rember

1.

In the fall of 2010, it’s still possible to buy two round-trip plane tickets from the west coast of the United States to Vietnam for two thousand dollars. Once there, it’s cheaper than staying home. A clean hotel room with a shower and toilet costs two people fifteen to twenty-five dollars and includes breakfast. Lunch can be locally-grown fruit, and it’s hard to eat a dollar’s worth. A lavish dinner for two costs ten dollars. Beer is cheap and good. Wine is expensive and not good.

Of course, a lot of times a beer sounds good with lunch. Beer doesn’t go with mangos or papaya or pineapples or bananas. It goes with curry, or a seafood hot-pot, or braised pork ribs, or prawns in tamarind sauce. Sometimes you get hungry near a tall hotel, with a rooftop restaurant where menu prices are in dollars, the tables have bouquets, and even the chairs wear tablecloths.

So you can spend money as if you were a rich American tourist. Even with Vietnamese inflation running at twelve percent in 2010, being a rich American in Vietnam isn’t nearly as expensive as being a rich American in Venice or London. But if you are a Vietnamese farmer, in the fall of 2010 you’re paying more for basic necessities such as food and fuel than you were in 2009, and a lot more than you were in 2008, because inflation in 2009 was twenty-four percent.

The reason for this inflation has been an invasion of foreign capital, some brought in by tourists, but most brought in by people building infrastructure for more tourists. Earlier rounds of inflation have come with the sweatshops and electronics factories built when the Vietnamese government opened its human resources to international capitalism.

The government doesn’t call it capitalism. They call it enhanced communism, and sure enough, the government takes a generous cut from the new factory builders and the new factory workers and anyone else who wants to invest in Vietnamese land or resources.

But tourism is regarded as the real cash cow. Neighboring Thailand has made an art form of tourism, building whole cities of hotels on islands that once held only rubber and coconut plantations. The Vietnamese are following their example. They too want eight-hundred-dollar hotel rooms and sex tourists and people who will order Armani suits from people not named Armani. They ignore signs that Thailand’s tourist industry has been overbuilt, with half-empty hotels lining its beaches even before the crash of 2008.

People hoping to get in on the ground floor of the Next Best Place are waving their money, and the government admits anyone with the price of admission. Vietnam is like Thailand, only its beaches aren’t as crowded with tourists. That’s a good thing, at least in the eyes of tourists, who can be a self-loathing species.

But not all tourists are looking for the perfect deserted beach, the most primitive trek, or the best curry dish in the world. Not all of them are looking for low-priced art or antiques. Not all of them are looking to lie drunk on a sun-drenched beach chair for two weeks. Some of them are looking for their youth, and in Vietnam, some of them can pinpoint the spot where they saw it last.

2.

I didn’t take the first chance I had to go to Vietnam. That was in May of 1968, when I graduated from high school. Some of my classmates had joined the Marines that spring, and they went from commencement to boot camp. As a college student, I didn’t have to worry about going to war until my junior year, when a draft lottery was instituted.

The night of the lottery, my college roommate and I purchased a six-pack of Rolling Rock, a bag of Doritos, and two cans of bean dip. A party.

Our lives were tied to the numbers that were picked for us, but we didn’t understand that. We each opened a beer, scooped up gobs of bean dip with our Doritos, and turned on the radio. The lottery started. The second date called was my roommate’s birthday. His draft number was two. The party was over.

My roommate enlisted rather than be drafted into the infantry, and ended up going to language school and learning Japanese. He spent his war on Okinawa, eavesdropping on Japanese military communications. Once out of the Army, he became an auto mechanic in Philadelphia, probably the only auto mechanic in Philadelphia capable of reading Toyota shop manuals in their original language.

My own number was 117. Selective Service drafted to 113 that year.

Vietnam didn’t teach me Japanese, but it shaped me. It gave me a deep distrust of the powerful and demented old men of my government. It derailed my plans to go to law school and become wealthy and live in a gated subdivision and learn to play golf and eventually become one of those old men.

I couldn’t articulate those thoughts at eighteen, but I did sense that Vietnam pulled my life out of its ordained path and made it more alienated and thoughtful than it should have been. Though invisible, it was always there, always exerting a genetic influence. It was like discovering that you were adopted, and that your real parents were Vietnamese. Who knew?

3.

Julie and I fly into Saigon from Boise on November 17, 2010. It’s a twenty-three hour trip. We are jet-lagged and confused.

We get ripped off right away by a taxi scam. It costs us thirty-five dollars to be delivered to the wrong hotel. It should have cost us ten to be delivered to the right one. It’s our first encounter with Vietnamese economic policy. It will remain in our minds during all subsequent transactions in Vietnam.

The good news is that over the next two months we will save far more than the twenty-five dollars we lose to the taxi-scammer. Paranoids make hard bargainers, and we refuse to be good-willed American tourists, free with our dollars and excited about mailing souvenirs home. Instead we look for the next person who might trick us and take our money. I take the lead in this matter, refusing offers for treks and tours and motorcycle taxi rides to the best hotel in town. “We’re not rich American tourists,” I say. “We’re poor American tourists.”

There is no way to translate “poor American tourist” into Vietnamese. American tourists get to Vietnam on jet planes, from a country that lets its citizens leave and then return. They have carbon footprints that Paul Bunyan can’t match. They have cards that pull wads of money from ATM machines.

When a poll was taken of young people in Southeast Asia, asking them what they most desired in life, the majority wanted an ATM card.

So we walk instead of ride around Saigon. We do not take a tour. For reasons of claustrophobia, we do not visit the Cu Chi tunnels, used to shelter a Viet Cong battalion during the war. We consult the guidebook and walk around our crowded neighborhood. We visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the war rooms under the presidential palace of the defunct Republic of South Vietnam. We find some good restaurants and once, an air-conditioned coffee shop where even the prices are modeled on Starbucks.

Saigon is a city of seven or eight or nine million. Motorcycles are the preferred form of transport. Most intersections lack traffic lights. Five or six streams of traffic, fifty motorcycles wide, will move through each other without as many collisions as you’d expect. The decibel level is in the hearing-damage range.

Our hotel is comfortable and in a neighborhood of restaurants and shops, but the size of Saigon, its traffic, its noise, the beggars displaying Agent-Orange-mutated children, and the warnings in our guidebook of motorcycle thieves make us want to go south, through the Mekong Delta to the island of Phu Quoc.

4.

Life on Phu Quoc: up at dawn, watch the sunrise off the balcony. Walk down to the restaurant, have a coffee, have another coffee. Walk a mile along the beach or until you pass one hundred thousand lost flip-flops, whichever comes first. Walk back. Have lunch. Start a new book on the Kindle. Feed the tan. Swim in the crashing surf. Have a beer. Have dinner. Finish the new book on the Kindle.

Watch the evening thunderstorm march across the water on legs of lightning. When the rain hits, head for the suite for the night. Go to sleep to thunder. Dream of war.

Rinse. Repeat.

We stay at a small boutique hotel on a secluded southern beach of the island. Our suite is all teak and marble and beveled glass. It would be luxurious except there is no electricity after 10 p.m. No television anytime. No hot water, even though our bathroom has a jacuzzi tub inset into its marble surfaces. Not much water pressure. It would take all day to fill the tub. But the shower dribbles enough cool water to wash off the salt after a day at the beach.

Julie and I don’t normally stay at boutique hotels, but our hotel wasn’t planned to be boutique. It was supposed to be much larger, with a dozen or so bungalows built out behind the hotel. Our suite, I decide, is the owner’s intended residence.

The common areas, the kitchen, the restaurant and gift shop are all built for the crowds that will come with Phase II.

Phase II is not going to make it. Work has yet to start on the bungalows, or on a good water system, or on the power lines to run twenty air-con units. Meanwhile, Phase I is deteriorating, despite the efforts of a small army of landscapers, beach attendants, waitresses and bartenders. From the balcony, I can see peeling paint and the balding thatch of aging beach umbrellas. The hotel’s two jet skis sit rusting and unused in a litter-filled storage bay behind an artisan-crafted rock wall from the restaurant.

But the crippled luxury of our hotel suits both our sensibilities and our budget. The food is beyond good, and an expert massage on the beach costs three dollars. Long walks along the coastline don’t cost anything except time and sweat, and reveal more beaches and more shoals of plastic, and now and then a single standing wall of a collapsed house, a remnant of the time before the war.

5.

At the end of World War II, the population of Vietnam was less than 25 million. Now it’s ninety million. Population density is 628 people per square mile, twice that of China. Seventy percent of present-day Vietnamese were not born when the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

It’s a country of young and hopeful people, and there’s no thought that they will ever run out of resources to exploit or markets to sell to. But we see lots of inflation-impoverished old people, lots of unemployed young ones, lots of people selling lottery tickets, lots of new plastic crap in the markets on its way to becoming the old plastic crap that marks the high-tide lines. Every year the new market economy grows seven percent, and that growth is seen as proof that things will get better and better until everyone has an ATM card.

The communists need to change their name of their party to something more American. They’re a new hereditary elite, feeding off an ability to pass laws in their favor and siphon tax dollars for their own companies and appoint their relatives to high positions in companies or governments.

At street level, you pass rows of shops, all selling the same goods. Hotel districts are expanding in beach towns — you can spot them by the construction cranes. The buildings going up are monsters with hundreds of rooms. Under the skeletal shadows of the hotels, restaurants park children on the sidewalk, and it’s not uncommon to have tiny smiling girls thrust menus under your nose five or six times in a single block.

Fans of capitalism tout its capacity for creative destruction, but more than once in Vietnam I had the thought that what was being destroyed was a nation’s young people. They compete with each other on a life-and-death basis, and it made me glad that there was an ocean between Vietnam’s young people and ours.

6.

A temporary incursion into Cambodia:

Kampot is a small, lazy town on a Cambodian estuary that leads to the Gulf of Thailand. The food is good. Our hotel is clean and new. A population of English-speaking expatriates is happy to recount sad life stories and local survival tips for the price of a beer. The Honey Bar, whose outside sign has a dissipated Pooh Bear hoisting a beer mug, is for sale for five thousand dollars, and that includes the girls who work there. We leave Kampot thinking we should have stayed maybe a year longer. I’ve been a bartender. I could do it again.

We escape Phnom Penh as quickly as we can, distressed that our hotel has been built on the site of one of the Khmer Rouge’s slaughterhouses, and by the taxi drivers’ incessant cries: “Killing Fields? You want to go to Killing Fields?”

We tour Angkor Wat and a small percentage of the temples that surround it. A thousand years ago, these jungle-covered ruins were the biggest city in the world, ten miles on a side, containing a million people. It shows the scale of our own time that two to three times that many were killed in the Khmer Rouge genocide alone.

When we were in Kampot, we met a down-at-his-heels Australian running a small-time tour business with his Cambodian in-laws. He had explained for us the pathologically laid-back attitude of Cambodians: “Most of them had their whole families killed by the Khmer Rouge. They live with no sense of the future.”

7.

Hanoi is not laid-back. It is the capital of a huge and diverse but officially unified nation, although in our short time in the capital we see evidence of deep divisions between rich and poor, young and old, north and south, mountain and lowland, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese.

Communism still has a religious heft in Hanoi, even as global capitalism pays the bills. A few of the self-sacrificing heroes of 1975 are still in power, and younger middle-aged bureaucrats still pay lip service to the people’s struggle against American imperialism. A still younger generation of communists is composed of a familiar international breed: intelligent but unimaginative young people who do all the right things in high school and college to worm their way into the existing power structure. Once there, they display a commendable respect for enforcing rules, following procedures, and advancing their careers. But like the generation before them, they have little ideological backbone when it comes to keeping their fingers out of the cookie jar, and Vietnam’s corruption index matches that of Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Tanzania.

A local magazine survey of Hanoi residents reveals that what Hanoians want most in life is not an ATM card. They want a car. This, in spite of the fact that if everybody in Hanoi who wants a car gets one, there will be no room – none — on the already gridlocked streets.

One good thing the government has done is to build housing for the homeless, and down the coast from Hanoi, there are countless five- to ten-story concrete buildings going up around every town. Much of Vietnam is made up of limestone mountains, and those mountains are being ground into powder, and the powder is mixed with water and gravel and poured into forms. There are a limited number of forms: one for family housing, one for multi-family housing, one or two for tourist hotels, and so on. Different colored ceramic facades distinguish one building from another.

In the future there will be no mountains left in the country. In their place will be a vast grey hive, a labyrinth a thousand miles long, with caste-specific cells for genetically-engineered farmers, shopkeepers, soldiers, party members, and tourists.

8.

The week we arrive in Nha Trang, it’s been listed by an international tourist organization as one of the ten worst beach towns in the world. We don’t know that when we check into the Ha Van hotel, where friendly people usher us to a nice twenty-dollar room that comes with the best breakfast we’ll have in Vietnam. We don’t know that when we discover the Louisiana Brew House, across the shore highway from our hotel, where you can sit by the pool all day, drinking beer and Kindling your way through a Russian novel, and eat a superb lunch at poolside or in the attached restaurant. We don’t know that when we walk through the town’s bizarre beachfront sculpture garden in seventy-degree sunshine, or when we visit its restored Cham Dynasty towers. We especially don’t know that when we find an inexpensive Indian restaurant on a narrow back street right across from an ATM.

What could Nha Trang done to have gotten itself on a ten-worst list? It’s the most touristed place we visit in Vietnam, but we’ve become hardened to the beggars and street-hawkers and sidewalk touts, and they have long ago learned to read the subtle signals of that hardening, and they mostly leave us alone. Nha Trang has a half-dozen half-completed high-rise hotels, and some of the completed hotels in town are empty, even though the weather is good. If you dine upstairs at the Indian restaurant, you look across the street to a clothing factory, where the teen-aged workers get ready for bed, right next to their sewing machines. They look out at you with eyes a hundred years old. They see you looking back at them, and you both realize how unbridgeable the gap is between you, how improbable for each the gaze of the other. The blinds come down with a snap. You go back to your beer and lamb vindaloo.

Perhaps the worst thing that Nha Trang has done is to sprawl into a miles-long high-rise carnival on a beautiful white half-moon beach. It doesn’t help that the beach lies between two fog-topped mountain headlands and faces a soft blue bay full of dark green islands.

There is a headless chicken tendency in the tourist industry, one that keeps on keeping on even when it’s clear the tourist infrastructure threatens to kill the thing that attracted tourists in the first place. Nha Trang isn’t quite there yet. It won’t get there, either.

We still want to go back in ten years, not just for another week around the pool at the Louisiana Brew House, but to see what becomes of a place built on the ability of people from all over the world to buy cheap airline tickets in a time when airline tickets won’t be cheap.

9.

In the mountain town of Dalat, home to Vietnam’s wine industry, a university, a replica of the Eiffel Tower, an astonishing botanical garden, and the summer palace of Vietnam’s last emperor, we strike up a conversation with our waiter in the restaurant across the street from our hotel.

He speaks good English, and acts happy to see us. He’s twenty-one years old and goes to Dalat University. He grew up on his parents’ coffee farm. His name is Kong, he says, like King Kong. He flexes his muscles and laughs.

He asks us where we’re from and we say America and we ask where he’s from and he says he’s from his mother. It’s a joke we’ve heard before in Vietnam but when we ask where his mother’s from, he says his parents have always lived in the mountains north of Dalat.

Does he see his parents? Not often. They work the farm. When Kong isn’t working as a waiter, he needs to study.

Kong wants to meet us for coffee in the morning. He has some questions he wants to ask us, and we reluctantly agree. I tell Julie that if he tries to sell us something or get us to go on a trek, I’m out the door. But Kong wants information, not money.

“How can I get rich?” he asks, even before the coffee comes.

I’m not the person to ask, I tell him. I revert to an old cultural narrative and tell him to work hard, save his money, and do everything he can to stay out of debt, but that advice doesn’t even work in America any longer. Finally I say, “Kong, some money is good, but you can have too much. Make sure you own things. Don’t let things own you.”

He doesn’t like this advice. “Interesting,” he says.

I ask him about his family’s farm and he says it’s on a steep hillside. Each coffee plant has to be watered by hand in dry season, he says. He has one brother and three sisters. His brother will run the farm. His sisters will be married to other farmers. He is the oldest son, and for that reason he was chosen to go to university.

He asks how old I am. When I tell him sixty, he says that his parents are younger than me but they look much older. He says that he would like to own a car someday, when he’s a hotel manager in Saigon.

“You will never be rich if you buy a car,” I say. He doesn’t like this advice either.

Julie compliments him on his command of English and apologizes for our not knowing Vietnamese.

“You learn Vietnamese?” he asks. “Why?” Then he says, “I have to learn English. English is my future.”

10.

There is little awareness in Vietnam that the world might run short of oil, or that the economy won’t grow by seven percent every year forever. There is no understanding that recent floods in the central part of the country might be related to changes in the world climate, or that the rice fields of the Mekong Delta could be under sea water by the year 2100. There is no fear that tourists might stop coming due to collapsed economies, or that tourism might become morally unaffordable in a world of scarcity. Population growth is seen as a problem by a few government officials, but when Vietnam’s official two-child policy was recently relaxed, it took only a year for the population growth rate to almost double.

Where it’s not being used as space for concrete buildings, the whole country is being cleared and terraced to grow vegetables. Vietnam will still have food if industrialism and globalism and world currencies get tossed on the ash-heap of history. But it’s not hard to imagine the great tourist hotels becoming high-rise versions of the overgrown temples of Angkor Wat. As for the ambitious young people who have put their faith in our cherished western narrative of hard work and accumulated wealth, I think there will be a time that they will be angry and disappointed for themselves and their families. At least they won’t starve, I think, but then I remember that when the Japanese confiscated the Vietnamese rice crop in 1945, two million of them did.

Near the end of our time in Vietnam, Julie and I hike to a high peak outside the city of Dalat. On our way back down we stop at a roadside café, and a wizened old woman sells us two cans of Coke and sits down at our table. She looks at our wedding rings and smiles.

“How many children?” she asks.

“None,” says Julie. “Zero.”

I try to say that we’re content to be uncle and aunt, but that doesn’t translate well.

“I have eleven children,” she says. “My children have ten children.”

She asks me my age, and I tell her.

“I’m fifty-eight,” she says.

I pay her for the Cokes and get up to leave.

“No children,” she says, “No grandchildren.” She shakes her head in pity, and makes a face so sad that it looks like she’s crying. I’m making the same face, but she’s not looking at me.

________________

John Rember’s latest book is MFA in a Box, available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. His weekly blog on writing can be viewed at mfainabox.com.

Comments 69

  • Thanks. This was beautiful.

  • Thank you for the visit to Vietnam. I was too young to know where my brother was and he doesn’t talk about it much. The last part about the children and grandchildren really says it all. Thank you John for writing such a touching piece and thank you Guy for sharing.

  • Right, this is how human beings are everywhere outside of the weird world of wealthy Westernized “liberals”. The idea of voluntarily having no children and not seeking wealth is incomprehensible in most of the world, and given global demographic trends, people like the Rembers and the strange, suicidal culture that produced them will soon be gone.

  • John Rember

    It’s amazing how fast Vietnam changed from communism to capitalism.Just
    12 years after the war ended,the ruling communist died,and immediately
    it changed.Remind me of China.Virtually all of their capitalistic growth
    came after 1978.Amazing how rapidly the VEG(vanity,envy, and greed)become all consuming in a society.

    I stayed in the First Hotel in Saigon(nobody calls it Ho Chi Mihn City)
    It is part of a large government owned complex,built for their nouveau riche.The horrible display of new found wealth was sickening.Puts our
    Yuppie Scum class to shame.

    The Cu Chi tunnels were actually expanded for western tourists,but I
    didn’t think I’d fit,even though I’m fairly skinny.

    Double D

  • Sean,

    Sad how you must label people, shows how little you understand the demise of humankind.

  • Gardengate, Sean Strange keeps coming back to this discussion site under various names such as the Comist, Singulatarian and no doubt he is also Alpha Omega. You can get a better feel for him at his blog http://seanstrange.blogspot.com/ As alpha omega he told us The Cosmist was dead but dead or not, here is his alter ego Sean back again.

  • John

    Many thanks for the post. I really enjoy your writing – always have. It was interesting to read your commentary of life in Vietnam today (as well as other SE Asia countries). You took pains to come off as a non-tourist tourist, and was mostly successful – to us anyway, probably not to the Vietnamese who contrary to your efforts otherwise, saw you as who you are – a money-spending tourist, albeit a tight-fisted one, to them anyway…. 😉

    At the end of World War II, the population of Vietnam was less than 25 million. Now it’s ninety million. Population density is 628 people per square mile, twice that of China. Seventy percent of present-day Vietnamese were not born when the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

    Not certain what your real message was here, but England’s population density is almost twice that – a bit over a thousand per sq mi…belly-button-to-asshole as we used to say in the Marine Corps (in a former life).

    If you dine upstairs at the Indian restaurant, you look across the street to a clothing factory, where the teen-aged workers get ready for bed, right next to their sewing machines. They look out at you with eyes a hundred years old. They see you looking back at them, and you both realize how unbridgeable the gap is between you, how improbable for each the gaze of the other.

    They were looking at a future unattainable. You were looking at a future imminent.

    What you saw was the future of the global capitalist society in all its glaring reality. A tourist Mecca made for image, but with a dark and foreboding interior characterised by a vastly wide wealth divide and an oppressive system that grinds the soul to a grey colourless powder, worth no more and twice as disposable. This is where we are headed if BAU is possible. This is our children’s legacy.

  • The idea of voluntarily having no children and not seeking wealth is incomprehensible in most of the world

    Sean has actually said something here I agree with.

    Only the wealthy can choose not to have children. To the rest of the world, children mean added family income, security, assistance in old age. To be childless can only the the stuff of nightmares.

    Only in the West with our social nets, our pensions, our health coverage, our educational opportunities can we afford to chose not to have children and not to seek wealth. To the rest of the world, however, we are wealthy even when we don’t seek wealth. The very fact that we can afford not to seek wealth makes us wealthy in the eyes of most. But those days are now passing. Our future is staring us in our collective face, and we don’t even see it any more than John and his wife saw it staring into the eyes of those invisible caricatures of the human race, the eyes of those without hope.

  • Thank you, John, for the post: a picture in words, a journal outside the tourist box. A land and a people that sustained the worst of the collision between the two ideologies fueled by fossil fuels: communism and capitalism. Each of these tried to shape industrial civilization according to their own values. 

    The transition to private enterprise under the aegis of the authoritarian state – fascism – has been so subtle in former communist countries as to be almost unnoticed, the only remaining communist country being North Korea. Even in America we see the trend to an increasingly authoritarian state in bed with “private” enterprise. 

    At one time, Vietnam had the distinction of being the only Buddhist country with both the Mahayana and Theravada traditions, but all of that seems to have been erased in the turmoil of the collision. 

    The Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” comes to mind as humanity rushes headlong towards the greatest transition in its existence, with no one knowing for certain what the outcome will be. 

  • Thank you John. Cultures ripped apart just in time to watch global civilization be ripped apart. Every day the collapse is put off 200,000+ more humans who will face untimely deaths. May it come sooner rather than later.

  • “Italian government officials have accused the country’s top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.”

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/05/27/italian-scientist-charged-manslaughter-failing-predict-earthquake/#ixzz1Nf5ps41Q

    Hmm what charges then for those who lied about climate change and peak oil?

  • Storms slam Eastern seaboard, more coming
    Thunderstorms expected from Florida to Vermont
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43202759/ns/weather/

    Story includes links to flooding on the Missouri (which will then feed into the Mississippi). A friend in St. Louis had already told me it was flowing high and fast. And link to flooding in Montana.

  • Interesting link….huge areas of the States will likely be abandoned by government and industry owing to lack of population and a deteriorating infrastructure. The breakup of the USA has begun.

    http://247wallst.com/2011/05/27/some-regions-of-us-completely-abandoned/

    Get ready, Guy….thar she blows off the starboard side!

  • Actually, you might want to take a look at port side as well…..perhaps also stern and bow? I see deep shit all around.

  • Some interesting insights into what is happening in Vietnam, John. And little of it is surprising. ‘Cargo cult’ went global quite a while ago and gross imbalances in currency values remain the foundation of globalisation.

    I did notice that you chose a relatively cool time to visit. Presumably daytime temperatures over June to September would be in the range 30 to 40oC, with humidity in the range 70-100%.

  • Apparently climate change not only produces drought conditions resulting in low water levels for hydroelectric power plants, but might have an effect on the stability of the electrical grid as well during periods of drought.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-27/drought-conditions-in-texas-strain-power-transmission-lines.html

    The infrastructure globally is showing cracks and requires too great an investment to keep it maintained properly. This will only accelerate in the years to come.

  • Victor, wow, washing transmission lines. I think the grid may well be our most serious achilles heel.

    Meanwhile in Japan

    Crippled nuclear plant not prepared for heavy rain, wind
    Saturday 28th May, 04:31 PM JST

    The crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is not fully prepared for heavy rain and strong winds forecast due to a powerful typhoon moving Saturday toward disaster-affected areas of northeastern Japan, according to the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

    Heavy rain has been forecast for the areas from Sunday to Monday due to the season’s second typhoon, Songda, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

    TEPCO has for the last month been spreading anti-scattering agents around the troubled Nos. 1 to 4 reactor buildings to prevent radioactively contaminated dust from being carried into the air and sea by rain and wind.

    But some of the reactor buildings have been left uncovered after they were damaged by hydrogen explosions following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. TEPCO plans to launch the work to put covers on the destroyed buildings in mid-June.

    A TEPCO official said, ‘‘We have made utmost efforts, but we have not completed covering the damaged reactor buildings. We apologize for the lack of significant measures against wind and rain.’‘

    Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told a press conference that the current measures ‘‘cannot be said to be appropriate.’‘

    He added, ‘‘We are now doing the utmost to prevent further spreading of radioactive materials in consideration of the typhoon.’
    http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/crippled-nuclear-plant-not-prepared-for-heavy-rain-wind

  • Kathy

    You know, Japan being Japan and located where it is subject to seasonal and recurring typhoons and given they are operating under in a disastrous situation getting worse by the day, you would have thought these folks would have made preparation for the next typhoon one of their highest priorities!!!

  • More good news from the global warming front – not…

    We had record CO2 emissions last year – far more than scientists had hoped for:

    Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/may/29/carbon-emissions-nuclearpower

    Quote: The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change” – is likely to be just “a nice Utopia”, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions.

    Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.

    “I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions,” Birol told the Guardian. “It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

    And for those who believe the global recession would keep emissions in line:

    Emissions from energy fell slightly between 2008 and 2009, from 29.3Gt to 29Gt, due to the financial crisis. A small rise was predicted for 2010 as economies recovered, but the scale of the increase has shocked the IEA. “I was expecting a rebound, but not such a strong one,” said Birol, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on emissions.

  • John Rember

    Glorious American Killers

    That was the movie you missed at the Cu Chi tunnels.It was eerie listening to the commentary by a woman speaking perfect English,joyfully
    and proudly extolling the heroic feats of those who killed the most Americans !!

    Double D

  • http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28205.htm
    At least listen to Eisenhower at 7:40.

    Dear people. As the united force of the “willing” – Nato is bombing another country – back a century – killing for peace, solely “humanitarian” reasons being the drive to do this.
    Destroying every attempt to find ceasefire – even before this thing, bombing for no – fly zone started they rejected attempts the Libyan government, then finally found reason, sought.
    Today again, president Zuma on his way to mediate ceasefire, wonder if it takes until tomorrow before Nato rejects peaceful solution.
    Libya is going to become what? Irak II?
    But maybe that is exactly what they want, a country being helped to bleed itself to death, while the oil keeps flowing and the flow grows ever more until is no more.
    Can’t tell how angry, and at the same time how sad I am about this.

    This is not the beginning of the WW III, it is continuation of the ever ongoing war.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_United_States_military_operations

    The link above is for your look into the mirror and maybe you are going to call me too, what some are calling me over here -antiamerican – whenever the question arises: “How come a country is in constant war?”

    We have got the warmongers over here, Sarkozy, Cameron, those people are the death nail to the European Union -the so called project for peace is killing itself out of its middle trough all the rising contradictions. War might “help” for some time and then bust!

    It is all Orwell, Orwell speech, Orwell action, Orwellian war is peace.
    The disaster is going to get a lot worse, first for the people in Libya, then for us.

    Good night US and the rest of the world.

    Ah, yes. If still welcome here by tomorrow I’ll attempt to translate a truly beautiful poem for you, I received today from an authoress who writes in German.

  • Victor, that is sobering to learn that emissions have risen but not surprising. As we go down the energy cliff fuels will be less clean burning, and many of the controls we now have will go down the drain. The problem cannot be solved by a recession or a depression. Nothing less than a total collapse of industrial civilization very soon has the least bit of chance of keeping climate change from becoming an extinction event.

    I find the rapidity with which climate events are increasing in number and violence stunning. Fools, we kept thinking it was a century or at least decades away….something to worry about later…

  • Sent to me by a friend in the hog industry
    http://nationalhogfarmer.com/weekly-preview/0523-dark-clouds-corn-crop/
    Dark Clouds Forming Over Corn Crop

    May 23, 2011 6:07 PM, Mark Greenwood

    I pose the question since it is again raining outside my office window. This spring reminds me of 2009, when we had a very late start to planting and we were on pins and needles all summer to see whether we would get a good crop. We actually had great yields that year, but the quality of the corn was a significant problem. We are in need of a record crop, but it’s not off to a good start. Time will tell what will happen with this year’s crop.
    Many livestock producers are very concerned about the current supply of feed and they have questions about the best approach going forward. There is very little margin for error and considerable anxiety in trying to figure out the best approach to managing the risk.
    We work with many producers across the United States. Many have corn coverage until fall, but after that it drops off significantly. Everyone is hoping for an opportunity to buy corn at a lower price.
    It’s also a good idea to make sure you have some physical ownership of corn going into this fall. Ideally, you would have too much corn on hand going into the fall. I realize this takes capital. As a lender, it’s my opinion that having your feed needs covered going into the fall is a good position because supply could be tight. Think of it as insurance – you hope you don’t need it, but you have it just in case.

  • 98 degrees predicted for Wed. That is a bit much for the start of June. Luckily out in the sticks here we never go as high as the predictions. 86 degrees today here in East Central Al. Running about 10 degrees above normal highs – I see that it is worse in the north, and running about the same amounts lower than normals in the west

    https://weather.com/maps/maptype/currentweatherusnational/usdeparturefromnormalhighs_large.html?clip=undefined&region=undefined&collection=localwxforecast&presname=undefined

  • I go away for a few days and come back to see the comments filled with more awful news, which is why I go away for a few days at a time. The vignette on Vietnam is interesting for lots of reasons, but the desperate desire to have a car to drive streets already choked with traffic caught my eye. I had a power outage yesterday in the midst of a thunderstorm, which reminded me how absurdly dependent we are on business as usual, which is also what the Vietnamese must expect. Is their information world as open as ours?

    I waver between expecting fast collapse (because we won’t be able to stop it) and incremental collapse (as we keep piling on). Right now, it still looks like the latter, though that could change any moment.

  • re. ‘Global Warming’s Evil Twin’ from victor, i’m almost inclined to send the link provided about ocean acidification to someone who i consider a dogma addict, as most sheople appear to be. i’m inclined to say: ‘look at this. scientists say we’re acidifying the ocean which will kill off much of it’s life, including the seafood that’s fairly important to us. we’re leaving a poisoned sickened disrupted depleted over-populated world to our descendents. we’re destroying the biodiversity that’s such a wonderful aspect of life today, and somehow u sheople just don’t get it! u’re more impressed by ancient myths of supernatural gods and the path to ‘salvation’ via faith. u’re too goddamned stupid to understand the dire surreal situation we’ve created here, and too goddamned crazy to care enough. your goddamned crazy faith is focused on the eternity of your imagination, rather than the (sur)reality of here and now, ‘this life’. here we have fundamental differences. i and a relative handful of others don’t believe in your ‘afterlife’. the only ‘afterlife’ we’re concerned with is the world we leave to future generations. presumably there will be future generations whose lives will matter to them, as they should to us. presumably they should matter as much as our own lives if not more, since the whole concept of ‘valuing life’ here depends on extending it into the future as far as possible/desirable.

    but what would be the use? i can offend, but can’t enlighten minds immersed in dogma and make-believe. choosing such a path and staying the course if possible to the end would likely result in martyrdom of some sort. i’m already there spiritually, already crucified by this surreal nightmare of utterly bizarre absurdity and insanity. by the knowledge that we’re fucked if we do, and fucked if we don’t. our civilization rewards depravity in the form of ruthless sociopathic exploiters/elites. our leaders are ignorant and crazy as are sheople in general. this is surreality as i see it and undoubtedly many of u see it, although u may be less inclined to put it so harshly.

    much more likely than enlightenment is what kunstler addresses in his weekly blog entry today: the rise of rightwing political extremism as collapse progresses. read more here if u like:

    http://kunstler.com/blog/2011/05/memorial-day-enter-hitler-release-20.html

    i fear things are going to get surreally crazy on the road to wherever it is we’re going. maybe a decade or 2 from now those of us still around will yearn for the good ole days of palin/’bama/bush/clinton. who knows what lunatics are now waiting/developing on the fringes? who will be scapegoated as things fall apart? what role violence and persecution of scapegoats will play in population decline? who wants to find out?

    may u live in interesting times, indeed! i’d rather not. if i was smarter and perhaps mpre determined/courageous, i’d be looking for a way to kill myself most easily, surely, and painlessly at some future date to avoid the worst of what’s to come, maybe save myself much pain and grief. this crazy world’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better, with or without homo sapiens. it surely isn’t going to get better as long as we’re dominant, insane, and idiotic!

  • Terry,

    Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think.

    Thanks, nice rant.

  • Terry,

    “the only ‘afterlife’ we’re concerned with is the world we leave to future generations”

    Well put! I’ve just written a 4 page explanation to city slickers about why they should buy our beef and how important it is to support soil and carbon farmers rather than corporate, industrial farmers. I carefully slip in the odd phrase about civilisation collapse. It will be interesting if the information actually starts opening their minds or whether they’ll go straight to the last page to compare prices.

  • Terry.
    Thank you for this speech, great, love it.

    “…although u may be less inclined to put it so harshly.”

    It is expression suiting best. People get offended by words used,
    not understanding the message, they complain about words (my experience)
    A thing that made me wonder, when all the pictures about torture, executed by the civilised countries, where released, they hid body parts
    of the tortured. For what purpose, not to spoil the “dignity” of the tortured? Not to offend the onlooker by the sight of genitals, the onlooker, the one who should think that torturing is one of the worst thinkable offence man can do to each other?
    But instead he is protected from the sight of “offending” body parts to
    not be harmed. Oh my dear.

    Thanks again for this.

  • VT/Brutus

    I share your pain….as do many of us on this site. Will collapse come slow or rapid? A bit of both, I fear. It will likely be slow at first (as it is proceeding now) with BAU, sucking the life out of the natural world and accelerating climate change and ocean acidification, committing the natural world to huge changes that are irreversible before the end comes. When the final collapse does come, it will be quick and deadly, leaving human chaos in its wake.

    I believe there is ample evidence provided by human history, the psychology of human behaviour and the nature of the structure of civilisation today to support the concept of BAU till the end. I believe that the PTB do have goals in all this. They will use love/hatred of religion, left/right politics, engineered social/economic disruptions, and wars to promote a global corporate environment where the state is emasculated and concentrated upon security, people are focussed on external and internal scapegoats, corporate taxes are minimised, public services privatised. These folks see a globalised capitalist world run by multi-national corporate and banking interests where the top .01% rule, the next 19.99% represent the skills necessary to support them technically and politically, the next 50% to provide the cheap labour necessary to maintain a massive producer/consumer global society, and the bottom 30% today as useless fodder. It is this 30% they would target for abandonment and ultimate elimination and to provide a more stable world into the future. It is these that the world would be better off without, being significantly useful neither as producers nor consumers.

    So yes, you will see more and more nationalist right-wing movements develop and prosper. Fascism will be put into place with a facade of democracy overlaying it. Many will die over the coming years as public services are reduced and privatised, social nets are eliminated and nationalist/resource wars fomented. Those that die will be blamed for their own demise as slackers and misfits not willing to pull their own weight.

    But in the end, peak oil and other resource depletion issues will catch up with humanity and the intricate and fragile web of a globalised civilisation will tear apart and collapse suddenly, leaving rich and poor alike in desperate straits. In country after country, we will be thrown instantly into the Stone Age as the electricity grids begin failing permanently.

    Make no mistake about it. Though Collapse might be relatively slow at first, in the end there will come a sudden and punishing destruction of the ability of humans to function as a viable society.

  • This article from the Independent warns that we have less than 20 years before irreversible Arctic methane meltdown begins, a widely recognised positive feedback loop. I would challenge that conclusion saying that the trigger has already been pulled – there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere to cover that 20 year period and more. Even if we stopped today, the melt would occur.

    https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/melting-of-the-arctic-will-accelerate-climate-change-within-20-years-2290780.html

    The article is interesting because of the results of the recent study carried out, but also because of the comments at the end – heavily weighted in favour of the climate sceptics. Society is in denial, and there is nothing short of climate catastrophe that will change their minds. And then it will be much too late to do anything about it.

  • Why Cities Keep Growing, Corporations and People Always Die, and Life Gets Faster

    A Conversation With Geoffrey West [5.23.11]

    For the past few years Geoffrey West, a physicist former president of SantaFe Institute has been calling for “a science of how city growth affects society and environment”.

    After years of focusing on scalability of cities and urban environments, West, is now is bringing “some of the powerful techniques, ideas, and paradigms developed in physics over into the biological and social sciences”. He is looking at a bigger picture and asking the following question: “to what extent can biology and social organization (which are both quintessential complex adaptive systems) be put in a more quantitative, analytic, mathemitizable, predictive framework so that we can understand them in the way that we understand ‘simple physical systems’?’

  • Victor.

    “I believe that the PTB do have goals in all this.”

    What is this, do those people truly not understand what the final outcome is?

  •  i and a relative handful of others don’t believe in your ‘afterlife’

    The dichotomy between the here and the hereafter in the theistic religions is manifest in the devaluation of the former in favor of the latter. It is less pronounced in Judaism, where the Divine is approached in a more circumspect manner. Constraint within the dimensions we perceive limits our concepts of reality: anything beyond is non-existent for our purposes. For example, our linear, one-dimensionally constrained time does not exclude two, three or multidimensional time outside our ken. Acting appropriately within the realm of our constraints is the right course of action. 

  • Victor.

    ‘comments at the end – heavily weighted in favour of the climate sceptics. Society is in denial, and there is nothing short of climate catastrophe that will change their minds’.

    The officers report relating to my latest submission the council, in which I flag collapse of present economic arangements by 2015, collapse of the industrial food system around the same time, and a global environmental meltdown over coming decades (within the lifetime of children presently alive), contains the following:

    ‘Oprtion 1. The Council continues to monitor the challenges presented by climate change and the environment and ensures that policy settings reflect those changes.

    Option 2. The Council chooses not to accept chamges to policy settings over time.’

    I jest not! These people are completely nuts.

    The council could be willing to measure the depth of the water in the compartments, as the Titanic sinks, and perhaps be willing to change the instructions for the orchestra from ‘We are sailing’ to ‘Six months in a leaky boat, lucky just to stay afloat’. But as for preparing buoyancy aids or launching lifeboats, forget it.

    Denial is institutionalised and is promoted on daily basis.

  • Bernhard, What is this, do those people truly not understand what the final outcome is?

    I believe they cannot allow themselves to understand what the final outcome is, therefore they do not understand. The final outcome thought is banned from their thinking by their greed.

    But so to those who promote alternative energies so we can get rid of fossil fuels and keep our current lifestyle (and provide it in fact for all) cannot allow themselves to understand that they can’t produce their solar panels and windmills without fossil fuels, that ERoEI matters, that 18 wheelers can’t run on batteries from coast to coast etc. Nor can they allow themselves to understand that population must be controlled because space, food, arable land, and the ability of the planet to absorb waste are finite.

    Their goal is the good life for Everyone, while TPTB want the grand life and better for themselves. Any goal that promotes Business as Usual in any way is disastrous, whether an evil goal or a well meaning one.

  • What is this, do those people truly not understand what the final outcome is?

    Bernhard/Kathy

    Whilst I believe there is a huge element of pure greed and a strong desire for the good life involved in this question, I also believe that we are trapped by our own social and corporate structure which we have weaved over time and are set in a motion that has momentum none of us can stop. What I mean by this is that the drive for continuous growth begets continuous, unrelenting, ever-more-strengthening need for further growth. It is a treadmill we cannot escape without endangering all that we have built and most of the lives on earth. This is further exacerbated by our fundamental corporate laws nationally and internationally that demand that the corporation’s sole responsibility is to protect shareholder profits and return on investment. Even if corporate management, as individuals, lead good, honest well-meaning lives in private, they are forced by law and culture to protect the company at ALL costs and within the law (or otherwise, if you can get away with it or if it costs less to break the law than it does to keep it), no matter the moral, ethical, social justification else-wise.

    We grow because we MUST grow. The entirety of our global civilisation is built upon this principle, and it generates an inertia that cannot be deviated from and a momentum that cannot be stopped, until we run headlong into mass destruction.

    The less honest people, the greedy people, the criminal element will take full advantage of this system, but the honest and well-meaning are caught up in it as well.

  • Kevin

    I rest my f**king case!

  • Kevin

    What they are really saying is that your proposal is simply not in their economic interests at this time and carries with it more risk than they are prepared to take on. And of course what it ultimately communicates is deep, deep denial. These are issues to painful for society to face in a direct manner. Thus, they won’t.

  • Victor.

    The intersting things is, of course, that what I have been proposing over the years would most definitely have be in their best economic interests. What it does not match is their ideology.

    I’d hate to be cast adrift in a boat with them: first they would throw away the compass and fishing gear, and then they would eat all the rations.

  • Discovery. I grow some catnip in the garden but I do not have cats. I like it, the bees love it, and I snip some from time to time to scatter in the chicken coop and nest boxes to help hopefully to deter roost mites and other chicken parasites. It self seeds in my continual mulch garden with ease so I am often having to dig some up so it doesn’t take over. I was doing that this morning while being buzzed by several deer fly. Inspiration. I took two long branches and wove a sort of wreath which I put on my head. Buzzing immediately stopped. From now on I will be seen in my garden with a catnip wreath 🙂 (I have pennyroyal too which might have worked as well or better but last year’s drought and heat almost killed it all)

  • SD town on alert as floodwaters flow from Montana – BILLINGS, Mont. — Some South Dakota residents are being told to be ready to leave their homes by Thursday as the Missouri River rises downstream of communities that are already flooded by record-breaking rain and bracing for unusually heavy snowmelt…Meanwhile, flooding disrupted emergency phone service across a broad swath of eastern Montana as heavy showers added more water to flooded rivers and streams that had started to recede over the weekend. Snow was falling in the mountains and warm weather forecast for later in the week was expected to trigger a new round of flooding as the spring melt begins.
    Authorities said northwestern Montana and downstream states including the Dakotas were next in line for high water problems.
    http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/sd-town-on-alert-962569.html

    So far the Mississippi River has not changed course to the Atchafalaya as I think it was Sam who posted an article about that game changing possibility. http://blogs.forbes.com/christopherhelman/2011/05/16/is-this-the-year-the-atchafalaya-river-captures-the-mississippi/ But the flood waters from the Missouri will have to go down the Mississippi and once again put that system under stress.

  • ‘I’d hate to be cast adrift in a boat with them: first they would throw away the compass and fishing gear, and then they would eat all the rations.’- kevin

    ah, but we are effectively cast adrift in this boat called planet earth, while tptb ignore compass readings and lead the way in racing to consume rations which ought be conserved.

    kathy, if i recall correctly from that link, there was a graphic showing the mississippi and major tributaries showing volumetric flow rates. i was surprised the missouri’s flow is so low, much lower than other, less lengthy or well known tributary rivers (but considering it drains a large region of low rainfall, much of it desert, we shouldn’t be so surprised.) the upshot is that flooding of the missouri shouldn’t be a problem downstream, since it contributes such a small percentage of flow to the mighty mississipp.

  • Terry, OK I see what you are saying – looks like the Ohio is the biggest feeder into the Mississippi by a lot. So it may not be the problem I was thinking, however the levees have been under pressure and are likely more fragile. I saw a vid of them patrolling the levees – one showed water bubbling out on the other side of the levee – they “fixed” it by putting some sand bags on top of where it was bubbling out.

    http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/05/swollen_surging_mississippi_ri.html
    “We’re putting as much pressure on this system as it was designed for,” he said, adding that 500 engineers are inspecting the levee system to ensure that it is holding.
    Repairs are imperative, McHugh said, to rule out the possibility that “a situation where a flood of less magnitude could have more impact next year.””

    Possibly then an additional flood of less magnitude this year could have more impact than the big flood. But thanks, I am less worried 🙂

  • Curtis, glad you are back. Thanks for the humor 🙂 2035 – no problem, lots of time and resources left to set up solar panels on the moon. (had to google the ROTFLMAO because the MAO part was new to me – Duh!!!! – but of note to anyone note understanding an acronym used by others – here is a link http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com to check them out)

  • Good one,Curtis. We are dreamers, aren’t we!

  • http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43221576/
    Food prices could double in the next 20 years and demand in 2050 will be 70 percent higher than now, U.K. charity Oxfam said on Tuesday, warning of worsening hunger as the global food economy stumbles close to breakdown.

    “The food system is pretty well bust in the world,” Oxfam Chief Executive Barbara Stocking told reporters, announcing the launch of the Grow campaign as 925 million people go hungry every day…

    Food prices are forecast to increase by something in the range of 70 to 90 percent by 2030 before taking into account the effects of climate change, which would roughly double price rises again, Oxfam said…
    Food prices are forecast to increase by something in the range of 70 to 90 percent by 2030 before taking into account the effects of climate change, which would roughly double price rises again, Oxfam said.

    “Now we have entered an age of growing crisis, of shock piled upon shock: vertiginous food price spikes and oil price hikes, devastating weather events, financial meltdowns and global contagion,” Oxfam said in a report.

  • Another extraordinary record. We will have to wait till next year to find out whether it is unusual or not:

    New Zealand sweltered through its hottest May since record-keeping began … but the weather was hardly perfect, as some areas were drenched in more than double their usual rainfall.

    Figures issued today by climate agency Niwa showed that May was 2.3C warmer than usual.

    The average monthly temperature was 13.1C, a heat normally expected for April.

    The previous hottest May, recorded in 2007, had a mean temperature of 12.4C.

    Niwa’s principal climate scientist, James Renwick, said the numbers were extraordinary and unusual.

    “A monthly jump of two degrees is extremely unusual – it’s a surprisingly big step up,” he said.

    “We’ve had a very strong La Nina event in the tropics since about August last year, which brings weather from the north over New Zealand and warmer air down from the sub-tropics.”

    Mr Renwick said the warm tropical air flow also caused the destructive storms and flooding which hit the Bay of Plenty at the end of April.

    “The warmer the air, the more water it can carry, which is why the areas which were the warmest, like the eastern Bay of Plenty, also had more than double their average rainfall.

    “So it’s been very wet in a lot of places and very warm, but with not a lot of sunshine.”

    At the start of May, eastern areas of the North Island were battered by torrential rain and gale force winds which caused widespread flooding and a state of emergency in Hawkes Bay.

    Later in the month, Nelson’s rivers were pushed to bursting point when the region had 3.5 times its normal rainfall. But its temperature was 3.5C warmer than normal.

    At Whakatane, the airport raingauge showed the region had 2.5 times its normal rainfall.

    Mr Renwick said the La Nina event, which was responsible for the record-high temperature, also caused the tornado which tore through Auckland’s North Shore at the start of the month, killing a man at Albany.

    “To get a vigorous tornado, you’ve got to get a vigorous thunderstorm,” said Mr Renwick.

    “And for that to happen you’ve got to have a lot of moisture in the air and energy.”

    He said global warming had increased New Zealand’s average temperature by about 1C in the past hundred years, so other heat records were becoming more and more likely.

    “It makes it easier to get a warm month because the background temperature keeps increasing.”

  • Victor.

    Regarding the lunacy of local government: council officers are required to produce reports that say everything is under perfect control, and that the council is doing a wonderful job. For a council officer to write a report that said otherwise would be to destroy their career. Catastrophic system failure is therefore inevitable.

  • I listen to our politicians, no matter what persuasion, to the trivia they concern themselves with, the tinkering around the edges of the black hole, and wonder how they fail to address the major issues of our times. Then I think “How can they?”

    Our previous prime minister tried to put a super tax on mining companies. He was deposed in no short order for our present and more compliant prime minister. The Australian people went to bed one night with Kevin Rudd as prime minister and woke up with Julia Gillard as prime minister.

    If the Government agreed with the assessment of the majority writing on this blog and saw their primary role was to bring down civilisation in order to minimise collateral damage, if they were successful, they would be knowingly sentencing billions of people to death maybe within their term of office. And if they made policy changes that started to make real differences, they would completely halt the economy of the country, put millions of people out of work, reduce millions to the poverty line, if not below, and within a blink of an eye have a revolution on their hands. How long do you think they would stay in power? And if the Opposition took over the reins and did the same thing, how long do you think they would survive assassination?

    Even now when our Government is trying to push through a Carbon Tax on the major polluters, the pressure is on to exclude the mining industry. After all, it is the mining industry that is giving us relative economic prosperity while most of the rest of the western world is drowning in debt. And of course the media is pushing the pain to the little people as the main reason not to have it.

    I’m not saying bringing down civilisation shouldn’t be done. I’m saying that our politicians are not the right people to do it. They took on office for better or worse knowing they had the responsibility of millions in their hands. That burden would make it very very difficult to make the Hobson’s choices that need to be made.

    Maybe some of us could come up with a ten point plan for how a Government could effect the end of the industrial age in as gentle a manner as possible. If I’d been given that as an assignment at university, I bet I would have flunked it.

  • Nicole, I believe that our politicians are bringing down civilization, not in the orderly manner we might wish for, but perhaps quicker by being unintentional.

  • Sam, removed from the coop for relocation our first gray rat snake of the season. 5 1/2 feet long.

    Hope your setting hen is doing well.

  • Nicole.

    Don’t forget who owns Australia. The claim was made and given thw stamp of authority in 1771, I believe. The owners will do whatever they like with the place.

    The general populace are just ‘cattle’, kept compliant by sets of bizarre rules, misinformation, and the trinkets of consumerism (for the moment). All will continue to be ‘well’ until climate catastrophe makes the mining of coal, iron ore, bauxite etc. impossible, or the Chinese bubble economy collapses completely, whichever comes first.

  • Kathy,

    “but perhaps quicker by being unintentional”

    I hope you’re right.

    Kevin,

    I think the same people own Australia who own the rest of the western world, and you’re right – it isn’t us.

    We live on a farm with a right of way through it to the next property. We have just heard that he has approached the mines about selling his property to them. That would put the mines 1 km to the northern boundary and right on the southern boundary. Bring on the end of civilisation. We are fast running out of time.

    Talking about cattle, I just came back from visiting some friends who are caretakers on a property that is leased from the mines by a large corporate agricultural business (the Company). On the way there, I saw a cow lying by the side of the road, obviously distressed. Had my friend call the Company who told him, the cow had found the move too much and had laid down to rest. She’d get up in her own time. When I drove past the other way, the cow was still there, but with a bloody eyeball where a crow had pecked out her eye. I’m so angry. What right have we as humans to abdicate the responsibility we take on when we keep animals!

  • Here in the mountains of Idaho it has snowed ten out of the last eleven days. There’s still old snow under the eaves outside some of the buildings. The river hasn’t risen much yet–normally it’s at high water right now, but the water is still low and the snowpack is almost 200 percent of average for this date. It’s been in the forties during the days, twenties at night. The folks working on the community garden are deciding between radishes, rhubarb, or chives for the August harvest.

    For a good explanation of why it’s impossible to predict the direction of climate change, check out James Gleick’s book, Chaos. Some of his chapters also touch on the difficulty of predicting the dynamics of other complex systems. My own take on this is that if you want to know what the weather will do, look out your window. If you want to know when collapse will happen, look no further than yourself and the people you love.

  • This story came out last week, so perhaps you’ve heard about/seen it already, but it’s a graphic example of the future for those of us living here in “America, land of the Free”. Thank the gods we have government looking out for us to protect us from those awful terrorists – they’re known for dancing at inappropriate times in public places, at least that’s what I’m told.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/05/anti-war-veteran-arrested-for-dancing-in-jefferson-memorial/

  • Dr House

    Makes perfect sense to me. I have heard, though it’s not confirmed, that many terrorists dance; therefore, it has to be considered a potential terrorist activity. You can’t be too careful! I for one have stopped dancing as I don’t want to be associated with that lot.

  • Seems like something like this was suggested here
    Japanese seniors volunteer for Fukushima ‘suicide corps’
    By Kyung Lah (CNN)
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/05/31/japan.nuclear.suicide/

    “We have to work instead of them,” says Yamada, referring to the estimated 1,000 workers currently at the nuclear plant. “Elders have less sensitivity to radiation. Therefore, we have to work.”

  • Victor, try to listen to this song and not dance – go ahead risk dancing one more time to a really seditious song.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rRTFCaLf4Q

  • You will notice on the clip about the dancers that two of them were kissing too which is clearly seditious

  • Yes, the last part was the most important part.

    I have said a few times that people who know something in the Western world are much less likely to reproduce, for a reason I don’t know yet, and their knowledge will quietly die with them.

    The younger people in ‘Nam will probably remember, or go to their ancestors and ask, what was being done from 1945 to 1975. Soon they will quickly relearn how to live like a Victor Charlie; it’s in their genes.

  • Wonder what TurboGuy thinks of that?….. 😉

    Those officers really did a professional job of taking down the dancer (oops….”protester”….oops…”terrorist”) – great slam onto the pavement…tight grip on the neck. Very professional. Well done. Good cop.

    The cops I have known in the past (on a friendly basis, not a professional one) have been highly professional for the most part and just want to do a good job. Unfortunately, it is the job that I have a problem with. It is the interpretation of the law that falls short. It is the mentality that dancing at a public monument is an act of unlawful protest or terrorism. It is the mentality that brute force is not the last measure but the first. It is the mentality that anyone who disagrees with the government is to be suspected of terrorism. It is the mentality that the government is allowed to see into every aspect of the private citizen’s life, but that the private citizen has no right to see into the “secret” affairs of government. It is the mentality that one has to get official permission to protest government policy, conveniently forgetting that the Constitution guarantees that right. It is the mentality that “you are either with us or you are against us”, and if you are not with us, we don’t need a system of laws to deal with you.

    America has become a brutal nation, devoid of higher principles, lacking mercy, full of two-tiered laws (one set for the rich and powerful, another for the common man), and a for-profit prison system full of the worst of human rights violations by “professional” prison guards. America has become a country where the policeman has the right to taser at the slightest provocation, which might only consist of the person asking a question. America has become a country where when a suspect is taken down, rightly or wrongly, the police have the right to surround him and gang beat him half to death for “resisting”.

    The America today is not in the least the America I grew up in. And if you think that America is the “light on the hill”, the beacon of hope for mankind, the defender of truth and honesty, freedom and justice, then I have to ask you a question, “Are you from the planet earth?”

  • Victor I am afraid that this America now is like the America you grew up in if you were black. http://withoutsanctuary.org/ Or if you were imported Hispanic labor. The Braceros – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxEZrpcJpSU Or Japanese during WW II. Or just plain poor.

  • Kathy

    You have a point there….

  • I guess we are all Americans now…. 😉

  • Well, most of us…. the bottom 80%

  • Yep Victor, now is the time for the middle class to learn by experience about poverty and disregard for rights.