Hope in the Face of Disaster – Creating a sustainable, viable, future path for civilisation | Feasta
Taking a long term view, this paper explores the many crises that civilisation and humanity will face over the coming decades some of which are already starting to have an impact. The paper proposes a central cause to these crises and particularly explores the widespread psychological inertia in the face of these vast problems. Some potential constructive choices that individuals, communities and nations could yet make are outlined.
The Illusion of Progress
There was a small village located in the centre of a large rainforest. Over time, the people decided that they would like to voyage out of the forest and to make their way to the sea, which they knew was close by. To do this they consulted the wise people in the village, notably the engineer, the politician and the philosopher. The engineer and the politician quickly took the lead in the project. The engineer made cutting tools like machetes that could cut easily through the dense undergrowth, and the politician organised the villagers in small working teams. Over time an efficient system was evolved, the engineer made the best and sharpest tools and the politician streamlined their application. Soon the village was making steady progress through the forest and everyone in the village was employed and working hard together. The philosopher, who sat in the trees all day long, seemed to make little contribution and people wondered what his value was.
One day the group came upon a particularly high tree. It stood out as the highest tree in the forest. The workers quickly bypassed it as they efficiently made progress, but the philosopher stayed behind and climbed to the top of the tree. From the top he had a fantastic view of the whole jungle. He could see the villagers, cutting like a snake through the jungle and in the far off distance he could even see the sea. Then to his horror, he noticed that the villagers were not heading towards the sea, but in fact were moving in the opposite direction, towards a large hidden chasm. If they continued on the same course, all of the villagers would fall to their death. Alarmed, he climbed down the tree and he rushed over to the politician and engineer leading the group.
‘We are heading the wrong way, we are headed towards disaster’ he shouted.
‘Shut up’ the engineer and scientist replied in unison ‘we are making great progress’.
In many ways the plight of humanity represents that of the tribal village described in the story. We have created an apparently wonderful economic model that seems to provide us with so many benefits. When you consider the incredible feats of technology and the global consumerist lifestyle we enjoy it is easy to marvel at what has been achieved. Of course what may be less obvious is the dark side of the growth economic model which is deeply inequitable, restricting its benefits to the relative elite in the western world and trapping the rest of the world in poverty. Most dangerous of all is the unsustainability of the model and where it is taking us in the future. There is now a perfect storm gathering that includes economic indebtedness, resource shortages, population pressures, and climate change that is guaranteed to derail civilisation. Despite this the political and economic mainstream are largely in denial about what is happening– like the hapless engineer and politician in the story everyone agrees that we must restart the ‘growth economy’ and continue to progress down the business as usual pathway. Very few people are taking the long term view and watching the direction towards doom that this pathway leads us. Too invested in the benefits of our current lifestyle, no one wants to hear the counsel of the philosopher who sees the disaster that looms ahead.
Where is civilisation heading?
Human decision-making is complex. On our own, our tendency to yield to short-term temptations, and even to addictions, may be too strong for our rational, long-term planning.
– Peter Singer
Like the philosopher in the story at the beginning it is useful to take a moment to climb the ‘tallest tree’ and to consider where civilisation is heading. Unfortunately the long term vista is not pleasant. Under the current business as usual economic model we are facing into a series of interrelated crises and global problems that are already beginning to have an impact.
Economic instability/ Financial System Weakness
The world banking crisis in 2008 and the resultant global recession revealed to the general public the inherent weaknesses in our world financial system. The economic growth model on which we depend has created a parallel system of finance that has built up extraordinary amounts of debt between countries and banks that has grown into an unsustainable bubble. In 2008 the world financial system was revealed as co-dependent, embedded and very fragile. Much like a house of cards, the collapse of Lehman’s brothers bank send ripples through the world bands that the nearly brought down the whole system. While some stability has been created due to massive intervention on the part of nation states and central banks, unfortunately this is largely temporary and the central weaknesses remain. Many countries have completely unsustainable levels of debt that simply cannot be paid back and when a future crisis happens central banks and nation states will have less capacity to intervene (having spent most of their reserves to stabilise the system since 2008). Despite these problems there is widespread denial about the scale of the financial problems we face. As the economist and founder of Feasta, Richard Douthwaite notes:
Few of us think that anything radical has to be done. We assure each other that minor tinkering, like holding an inquiry, beefing up the regulatory system and limiting bankers’ bonuses, will be enough to allow us to carry on living pretty much as we do now for the foreseeable future.
We are heading into an era of resource shortage and constraint. The cheap fossil fuel energy that has powered our civilisation will become increasingly scarce and harder to access. Such a peaking of supply will have serious ramifications across our economies and not just in transport and energy. Our world agricultural system on which we all depend is highly fossil fuel dependent – collapses in the supply of oil lead to collapses in food production and thus food shortages. Our world economy is so dependent on the cheap availability of oil, that even a small restriction in supply has the potential to collapse the entire system or plunge the world economy into depression.
Current and future resource constraints are not just limited to oil and indeed almost all the vital resources on which we depend are being depleted at exponential rates. Every human person and community depends on the availability of large supplies of water. With increased consumption and droughts caused by climate change fresh water is becoming harder to access in many regions in the world. Many countries are depleting underground water aquifers at exponential rates that far exceed rainfall’s ability to replenish them. Many highly populated areas of the planet will become increasingly uninhabitable in the near future.
In his book, Peak Everything , Richard Heinberg describes how we are facing decline in just about every resource our complex economies depend on whether this is uranium production, grain yields, fish stocks, arable land in agriculture etc. Having been used to everything on demand and plenty in the past, our societies will have to deal with resource constraint and shortage in the future.
Many natural biologists argue that we are currently precipitating the sixth great extinction on the planet. Some estimates put the current extinction rate at up to 10,000 the norm – we are systematically wiping out the earths species. Perhaps most devastatingly, this can be seen in the on-going collapse of life in the oceans. Overfishing and increased ocean acidity caused by CO2 emissions is leading to the collapse of ecosystems and larger dead zones. In a recent report, Alex Rogers, professor of biology at Oxford University, said:
The health of the ocean is spiralling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated.
While the mass extinction of species might be seen as an environmental problem, it will also threaten our own survival as the human species as our well-being is determined by the life in the oceans. In the same report Rogers continues
People are just not aware of the massive roles that the oceans play in the Earth’s systems. Phytoplankton produce 40 per cent of the oxygen in the atmosphere, for example, and 90 per cent of all life is in the oceans… The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.
As if the problems above weren’t bad enough, by far the most serious issue to come is global warming caused by human CO2 emissions leading to catastrophic climate change – this is biggest elephant in the room.
Already, we are beginning to see the early stages of this in increased rates of flooding, severe heat waves and sea level rises but worse is to come. For many years, 2 degrees was proposed as the safe limit that civilisation could tolerate but this looks likely to be breached on our current economic trajectory. As Prof Kevin Anderson of the Tyndal Centre notes
There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global mean surface temperature at below 2 ̊C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary.
In exploring future trajectories, the recent IPCC report concluded that if we continue our ‘business as usual’ rate of CO2 emissions, this could lead to 3- 5 degrees of warming by end century. Such rates of warming could make most of the planet uninhabitable for human life and threaten our very survival as a species. When you consider that the IPCC projections are relatively conservative and avoid taking into account many potential accelerating factors (such as permafrost methane release, dark Arctic Ocean heating etc.), then these predictions are truly alarming. As Kevin Anderson (quoted by David Roberts) states elsewhere
The thing is, if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic. In fact, according to the latest science, says Anderson, “a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable”.
What is the basic problem?
Because of his greed the foolish farmer opens the goose’s stomach in order to access more of the golden eggs she produced. In the end he is left with a dead goose and no more gold.
Like all species, humans have exploited the natural environment to provide food, shelter and warmth. Unlike other species however, we are the first to exploit irreplaceable and unrenewable natural resources in such excessive quantities that we are destabilising the planet on which we all depend. The most significant of these unrenewable resources are fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which we started using a few hundred years ago to kick start our industrial economy and on which we now depend on an increasingly huge scale to power our modern civilisation and consumerist lifestyle.
In the early days such natural resources were in such abundance that it might have seemed churlish to see them as finite or limited. In addition, we had little evidence that our burning of fossil fuels caused harm to the environment. As a result, our economies started to grow at exponential rates and our modern civilisation became increasingly complex and dependent on exploiting these finite natural resources. Over time our industrial economy has morphed into a complex global machine that requires increasing energy and natural resources at its disposal in order to sustain it. The modern economy and the financial system in particular require on- going economic growth for it to remain stable. Loans that banks make now require future economic growth so that they can be repaid with interest. Any sustained recession puts banks in particular and the financial system in general at risk of collapse.
As a result modern civilisation is collectively caught in the following terrible bind: In order to avoid collapse the modern economy requires continual growth and thus the increased exploitation of natural resources; however, economic growth depletes the earth’s resource base on which the economy depends and so will eventually collapse.
This means that whatever choice we make we are facing into some form of decline and collapse. However, the earlier we choose ecologically sensitive alternatives to our current economic growth model, the more manageable such collapse and decline might be.
In simple terms we are reaching the limits of the natural world and things will not be the same in the future. Already, we are feeling the tremors of the future shocks to come. World agricultural output is declining, the availability of crucial natural resources such as fresh water, fish stocks, arable land are all declining. Fossil fuels are increasingly harder to access or cause increasing environmental damage as they are exploited. The mining of tars sands and the boom in worldwide fracking are examples of this, both of which are barely economically viable.
As children we all learnt the parable of the foolish farmer and golden goose who because of his greed kills the goose on which he and his family depends. We are making exactly the same mistake with the planet. Instead of accepting the natural limits of the resources at our disposal, we are living beyond the planets means and are perilously close to destroying the natural world on which we all depend.
Why is No One Listening?
There have been many warnings of the predicament in which humanity finds itself. In the early seventies the Club of Rome group published the famous book The Limits to Growth which outlined the unsustainability of the world economic model. As early as 1988 James Hansen explicitly warned the United States Congress about the dangers of human induced climate change. Some of these warnings were taken up by politicians of the day and indeed President Carter issued a passionate speech about the over- dependence of the USA on fossil fuels in 1977 and called for a switch to renewable and more environmentally friendly alternatives. With the Rio Earth summit in 1992, attended by 152 world leaders, there was perhaps a peak of world optimism that collectively we might now face reality and turn away from the unsustainable and disastrous path we were on.
Sadly, however none of this hope for change has been realised in the last 20 years and indeed if anything things have got much worse. Instead of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels we have rapidly increased our consumption at an exponential rate. Instead of reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere these are now at the highest than at any time in human history. Further, what is particularly surprising is that people are now denying more than ever the reality of the problem. For example, research conducted by the University of Cardiff in 2013 found that the proportion of climate sceptics in Britain has risen to 19%, an increase of 15% since 2005.
Despite increasing and overwhelming scientific certainty about climate change, there is a parallel increase in denial of the facts by the public. Indeed, there are now active and well-funded denial lobbies intent on confusing the message. Even among those who accept the problems, there is an increasing avoidance of discussing these problems. As well as a growing number of ‘climate deniers’ we now have ‘climate ignorers’ who are people who despite a sense that all is not right in the world choose not to consider these issues and instead continue day to day on the same path.
So why would this be? Why would people choose to deny the serious problems of the future posed by not just by climate change, but also by resource depletion, and environmental destruction? Why would people deny such serious problems when they are becoming most apparent? Why would we turn away from corrective action at the hour of our direst need? While people have suggested the answer to this lies in the existence of well organised vested interests in the energy and fossil fuels industries and this is indeed true, I think there is also a collective failing in our human psychology that explains this rampant denial.
Denial, Fear and Loss
The only pain that we can avoid in life is the pain caused by trying to avoid pain.
– RD Laing
Denial is a common psychological response to deal with a serious threat or loss. Rather than experience the fear that we should normally feel when confronted by a major threat, we try to deny the reality of the threat in order to preserve our mental comfort. This is particularly when the evidence of the threat is indirect or far off. For example, many people who experience the early symptoms of a major illness will avoid thinking about it or seeking help for a considerable amount of time. They will reassure themselves that it is something minor and nothing to worry about, and avoid seeking help. Denial can be particularly strong when acceptance of the threat would mean we have to change or give up something we hold dear. For example, a person addicted to smoking or drinking will go to great lengths to deny the harm such behaviour might be causing their families and themselves, because they can’t imagine living without their preferred drug. In addition, because the damage of many addictions is far off and in the future, it is easier to deny its impact and to continue the habit unperturbed. For the smoker, the prospect of lung cancer in 20 years can be no deterrent to smoke the cigarette currently in their hand.
In many ways our collective behaviour in response to the prospect of climate change and environmental destruction is similar to the behaviour of a seriously addicted person. We in the West are addicted to availability of cheap oil and the consumerist economy that it provides us. Just like an alcoholic who will go to great lengths to deny the harm that alcohol causes in his life, so collectively our mainstream media and political system will go to great lengths to deny the harm that our economies dependent on fossil fuels are causing. When the denial is strong, people will cling to any belief (however unfounded) that seems to indicate there is nothing to worry about or that there is no threat to their livelihood. Picking perceived ‘holes’ in the evidence about climate, however tenuous, or clinging to ‘vague solutions’, however unrealistic are all powered by denial. When people read ‘denial’ articles, they can feel reassured momentarily and their fear of the future is abated. Of course such strategies only work temporarily as the evidence continues to grow and crises start to impact.
In addition, just as an alcoholic or drug addict will increasingly employ desperate measures to satisfy his addiction (despite the harm and moral depravity of such measures) so we employ increasingly desperate and ecological harmful strategies to secure an interrupted supply of oil to fuel our economy’s voracious appetite (whether this is fracking, exploiting tar sands or dangerous deep sea drilling).
Denial can also be particularly strong, the greater the threat and the more helpless a person might feel in the face of it. For example, many people on receipt of a fatal diagnosis may choose to actively deny or ignore these facts because they feel there is nothing they can do to reverse the diagnosis and the pain of contemplating its impact and their eventual death is too great for them. The recent growth of the number of ‘climate deniers’ and ‘climate ignorers’ can be explained by an increased awareness (on one level) of the problems and a resultant desperation to deny the facts and put them out of collective awareness. Though people have an increasing sense of unease about these problems they will avoid talking about them or engage in some form of wishful thinking that solutions will be found. They refuse to let the scale of the pending catastrophe sink in and do everything to keep it at bay.
As we shall see later, in helping people move from denial to a more constructive stance, they need to discover a purposeful goal of how they can respond to the current challenges which points to constructive action they can take.
Over Optimism and Collective Denial
One of the most striking things about the response to the current predicament is the lack of leadership and/ or collective denial that is endemic across our mainstream institutions. Our political masters, the mainstream media and most of our economists all agree that we must continue the economic growth or our ‘business as usual’ model, despite the patent unsustainability of this pathway and the harm it causes. In the face of the world economic crisis, there is an almost across the board consensus in the mainstream that we must return to economic growth to solve these problems. This consensus extends from the political left to the political right from business leaders to trade unionists and no one in the mainstream is proposing an alternative. There is almost no political will to question this consensus and to really consider the short term nature of such ‘solutions’ which even if possible will have such long term devastating consequences. Focused solely on re-election in a year or two, the last thing a politician wants to do is to talk about the reality of challenges for fear of making people despairing and fearful and vote not to re-elect them.
When denial is punctured
Crisis can be a time of opportunity and change, as well as trauma, and fracture.
The fact that climate change is a relatively slowly emerging phenomenon and that we are out of touch with the environmental destruction we cause means it is easy for most people to continue to deny these problems. This is likely to change once society is beset by an unending set of crises and catastrophes. Even though early change or adaptation is far more preferable to emergency change and forced adaptation, it is likely that until our addicted society experiences catastrophes, will the penny finally drop and our collective denial be punctured. Once this happens this will of course be a very perilous time. People, who have been hitherto in comfortable denial, will become fearful and desperate and may embark on desperate actions leading to social unrest, war and society breakdown. We need to be prepared to manage these social difficulties in the future which is likely to be as significant as managing the economy.
The famous psychologist Kubler Ross proposed a model of the individual’s response to bereavement or pending loss as going through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Once denial is passed a person may experience great anger at their loss, which is often accompanied by seeking to apportion blame and even seek retribution. This can be followed by bargaining or engaging in wishful thinking or unhelpful strategies to mitigate the loss and then by depression and grief as the impact of the loss finally comes to bear. Kubler Ross argues that once this grief work is done, the person can reach some level of acceptance and integration. Interestingly, many writers in the environmental field describe their own personal journey of awareness in similar terms. They describe a period of denial, before having a ‘climate change moment’ when they realise that the world on which they depend is unsustainable. This if often followed by a period of despair and finally by some acceptance and a commitment to constructive action.
Such a grief model may also give us some indication as to the stages we will collectively go through as the denial about the un-sustainability of our current lifestyles is punctured and we are beset by crises and consequences. If the first half of the age of oil has been characterised by exuberance, ever- increasing expansion, and an almost manic consumption of the world’s resources, the second half will be characterised by contraction, scarcity and depression. Once the denial falls away and it becomes clear that the decline of our western industrial economies is chronic and long-term, collective anger in likely to be widespread. People will seek to blame someone for the situation they are in, and there will be many looking for easy answers or scapegoats. It is at these times that people can choose radical and extreme political views. Just as the economic turmoil and the great depression of the 30’s led to the rise of dictatorships and totalitarian states in Europe, when the Nazis seized power by galvanising the public’s anger around easy scapegoats and negative ideals so these times will be fraught by similar dangers. In addition to anger, there is also likely to be widespread depression and despair. This is just as dangerous and has the potential to cause people to feel helpless in the face of negative forces within society, disabled them from taking action and to miss the positive opportunities in their midst.
In collectively, preparing for the many challenges ahead it is important to take into account the associated psychological, community and societal problems that will emerge. Once the crises occur, community and society leaders will have a particular responsibility to manage the public anger and despair that will emerge in order to avoid the destructive paths of social disorder. The twin challenges will be to help people channel their anger into constructive rather than negative courses of action and to present a vision that inspires hope in the face of widespread difficult circumstances. Such plans will be as crucial as economic and technological ones in helping people navigate a new future.
As a mental health professional my work is all about helping people face serious life problems such as addiction, disability or relationship breakdown and then in the face of such problems to live with meaning and purpose. I find it useful to conceptualise four stages to help individuals change which may provide a helpful framework in considering how we might collectively face the serious problems of resource depletion, climate change and economic collapse that are ahead of us. These four stages are
1) Honestly accepting the reality in which we find ourselves
2) Creating a meaningful vision/purposeful goal of how to live in the face of such reality
3) Focusing on constructive action
4) Building a community of support
Honestly Accepting Reality
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
– Joseph Campbell
At heart of addiction is fear. The addict fears that he cannot live without the drug or addicted object and will do anything to hold on to it. The antidote to this fear and the first step to overcoming addiction is to honestly accept the reality of your addiction and to take responsibility for your actions. Such honesty requires great bravery as you have taken responsibility for the harm your actions have caused. Using a second metaphor, our response to our collective predicament is similar to person facing a life threatening and potentially fatal illness. It requires great bravery for a person to face this new challenging reality and to allow the difficult feelings of anger and depression that might follow. Adjusting to accept a new much changed reality often requires a period of mourning, whereby a person experiences grief at the ‘loss’ of the future they were expecting and as they learn to live with very different expectations.
For us to face the hard reality of our collective predicament won’t be easy. Most people avoid thinking about it and those that do maintain a theoretical understanding. Scientists will talk about how we are committed to 2-4 degrees of warming, but may be reluctant to describe in detail what these facts will mean (inundation of major cities, killer heat waves, collapse of agriculture, social disorder). Some economists will talk about coming shortages in oil and other resources but few will visualise the food shortages, and the potential economic and social collapse that this will bring. Further, while many people recognise there are serious environmental challenges, such problems are minimised and not seen as a personal threat to their own existence. The melting of the Arctic ice is seen as a problem for polar bears, and climate change as one only affecting the third world, rather than both being seen as heralding serious threats to their own personal and national security. There is a disconnect from the obvious fact that we are utterly dependent on nature and the environment – its demise spells out our own destruction.
For us to wake up to the sheer scale of the problems we face will indeed require great honesty and bravery. It will be particularly hard for us to accept our responsibility – that is it was our actions which caused all these problems in the first place through our refusal to abandon a harmful economic model. Hardest of all will be to accept that the problem is not fixable, that much of what we have done is irreversible. While there is a lot we can do to arrest some of the problems and to mitigate some elements of disaster it is very likely that we are gone beyond the point of no return in many arenas. At best, we are looking into a period of long term decline and managed collapse. There is no way to sugar coat these hard facts, though the psychological acceptance of this reality is the first step to health. After denial, the Kubler-Ross model proposes the hard steps of anger and despair before reaching a stage of acceptance when people can learn to live again in a meaningful way.
Creating a Positive Vision
Grant me courage the change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.
– Serenity Prayer
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.
– Vaclav Havel
Once a realistic and grounded appreciation of reality is achieved the next step is to create a vision for living in the face of this reality. There are two parts to this new vision that are illustrated by the wisdom of the serenity prayer. On the one hand, our new awareness should motivate us to individual and collective action to create change. Anyone realising the facts of climate change and resource scarcity should indeed feel alarm about our current collective path and then throw themselves into action to change course. Like the philosopher in the story at the beginning, we need people to try to ‘shout stop’ and to work to get us to pull back from our course of ecological (and self) destruction. This is the work of the many groups that campaign for reductions of CO2 emissions and those that work to conserve and protect wildlife.
Setting realistic and specific goals is important in this area of work, whether this is achieving a definite limit on carbon emissions when tackling climate change or aiming for food and energy security when building nationals resilience.
While these goals are absolutely necessary to create a future for the next generation, some of these changes are inherently beneficial and can make sense as choices in their own right now. For example, setting goals for more community oriented sustainable living, where people rely on their own resources to live, can be a more healthy and happy choice than the choice to live in our isolated, individual consumer societies.
Such important actions require great courage in the face of powerful vested interests which seek to thwart them. There is indeed a lot at stake. Unless we inspire people to act immediately, even a chance of a sustainable future will be lost. Every day that is passed without changing course makes a survival future less likely. We also have to be realistic about what is achievable. While we cannot avoid two degrees of warming, (which though catastrophic might be survivable) we can do a lot now to avoid four degrees (which will result in wide-spread collapse for human society).
As well as a vision focused on change, once we understand the reality of our predicament there is also another vision for living that is focused on acceptance and serenity. Such a vision recognises that though we are facing into a difficult future of decline and collapse – we can still construct a purposeful and meaningful life in spite of this. This vision is not constructed out of optimism but one that is wrought out of hope. Such a vision might have many components. It can entail a refusal to go down the path of despair nor to give into misdirected outrage that can lead to enemy formation, scapegoating, totalitarianism. Central to this vision might be a commitment to hold onto values such as justice, fairness and compassion in order to preserve a future worth living for. Such a vision might also contain a commitment to appreciate and value the life we have, and a decision to reconnect to the wonder of nature as it is. In his work with people facing death, the great existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom proposed a ‘golden’ stage of death awareness, whereby people move beyond a simple acceptance of death to a point where such awareness makes their current life all the more precious and vital – each moment that remains is to be savoured and lived well.
Taking Constructive Action
Taking constructive action is crucial to managing and overcoming problems. A person with an addiction may first accept the reality of his addiction and then envision a positive life without being dependent, but unless he takes action to create a new way of living he will never move beyond the addiction the long term. Even a person who has experienced an irreversible loss such as a bereavement can find a new purposeful way of living such as dedicating oneself to a cause that is important to the loved one they have lost.
Taking constructive action in the face of a difficult reality is crucial to psychological health. Positive action in itself is an antidote to fear, channels anger in positive directions and turns the person away from debilitating despair.
Facing the current economic and environmental crises, there never has been such an urgent need for constructive action. Such action is both about arresting our business as usual path to destruction and finding alternative pathways as well as trying to adapt and build resilience in the face coming crises. Despite this urgency, most current global effort is on continuing the business as usual path with CO2 emissions continuing to soar and the environment continuing to be depleted). Even those with some understanding of the issues propose action that is far too little to have any impact on the sheer scale of the problems. Alternatively, other people adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude – we understand problems are coming but we will change only when we have to. However, if we wait until major crises hit and our economies are shattered then not only will our action be too late, it will also be impossible as we will have little economic infrastructure to put plans into action. You won’t be able to build flood walls or alternative energy sources if your economy is in chaos. Early preventative action, to build resilience or to reduce future problems, is always preferable and the sooner we act the better.
It can be useful to consider constructive action as taking place on four levels 1) personal, 2) community, 3) national and 4) international. Let’s look at what might be possible on each of those levels.
Personal resilience and preparedness
While it is easy to doubt what a single individual can achieve, one must not under estimate the power of individual leadership. Certainly, as they realise the unsustainability of our present world most people in the environmental movement go through a personal journey of alternating despair and fear as they reach a stage of acceptance of the facts. Such acceptance and psychological preparedness for what is to come is a very important stance going forward. Certainly, a lot of time is unnecessarily wasted by people holding on to out-dated worldviews that no longer fit reality and which cause further harm to the planet.
At the end of this journey is the challenge of personal action. What am I to do in the face of these challenges? What is my responsibility now that I know the facts?
There is a responsibility to communicate what you know and to campaign our leaders for the more sustainable use of the resources as well as to start emergency preparation for the coming crises. There is also the choice to build personal resilience and to learn how to help your family survive in a future world that may be devoid of the many comforts on which our survival depends. Simple things like prioritising one’s health, getting fit, learning useful skills and accumulating resources that will be of enduring value in challenging times all create personal resilience.
Building personal resilience is not just about building capacity to deal with future crises, the benefits also extend to how you live your life now. Take for example, the ‘Growing It Yourself’ movement, which has huge current popularity. Learning to grow your own vegetables not only teaches the useful future skill of self-sustainability, but it also provides you with physical exercise, a connection with nature (often lost nowadays) and the personal satisfaction of creating your own food. In addition, done as a family project, gardening can help improve your relationships with your family and has the potential to increase your connectedness with your local community if you share and exchange produce and ideas.
One of the most important benefits of a personal acceptance of the more challenging future we face is how it can alter a person’s appreciation of their current life. Realising the potential losses in the future, many people choose to live more deliberately and with great appreciation of what they have as they sense none of this may be available in the future.
If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late. If we act as individuals, it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
– Rob Hopkins
While the current economy is global, the future one is most likely to be local. As economic problems and future shocks come to bear this is likely to unhinge the global industrial machine and people are more likely to depend on their local communities and towns. This is the basic premise of the Transition movement pioneered by Rob Hopkins, which encourages people to come together in local groups to act now to build community resilience. These communities have initiated small-scale projects around energy, agriculture, transport, waste disposal, housing and education that all promote local supply and sustainability.
Whereas in the past villages and towns depended more on locally produced food and energy, currently now locally grown food makes up less and 2% of produce and local energy production amounts to even less. This means that towns are extremely vulnerable to any global disruption to energy or food supply. Everyone is completely dependent on international supermarkets and oil suppliers for the basic necessities of existence. The Transition projects that encourage project such as community farms, local cooperatives and community energy projects, all reduce the dependency on outside sources and have the potential to build the local economy. Instead of most of people’s money flowing out of the community to pay energy and food bills, the money can stay in the local community and build local jobs. Indeed, as future shocks rock the international economy such local economics will become much more important.
Grassroots movements such as Transition towns are about galvanising local people and communities into positive constructive action. Rather than sitting back, complaining about what is wrong or being fearful about the future, the Transition movement puts people in touch with like-minded people who can act together to make a difference. These projects connect people with their neighbours, provide meaningful community work and build social capital within communities. The personal psychological benefits of such constructive community action are enormous.
In addition, while these community projects are still small-scale and not yet on national agendas, in the future they have the potential to lead the way. Once economic and environmental shocks occur and the current system begins to break down people will increasingly look for guidance from on the ground communities that are better prepared for what is happening. In his most recent book The power of just doing stuff Rob Hopkins describes a myriad of small scale projects that have the potential to provide signposts for future action and sustainability.
While currently national politics is completely in denial about the unsustainability of the current economic system, this could change quickly in the face of serious crises. Such a change would be similar to complete transformation of the UK during World War 2. Politics became unified and focused on a single major goal of survival in the face of the Nazi threat. Out of necessity and within a short period the entire domestic economy was reorganised into a largely local one where communities returned to growing their own food and rationed their consumption of imported products. With the common enemy of the Nazis, political leadership was strong and communities were galvanised into action. The ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign to encourage locally produced food was extremely successful.
In the face of crisis, it is possible to conceive that current national politics could be transformed and reoriented in a similar way. Climate change and carbon emissions could become common enemies and national goals could be set for energy and food independence. Networks of cooperatives could be set up on regional and national levels that could support such projects. Having clear national goals such as growing 100% of our own food by a certain date, or building a renewable energy infrastructure, will be easier to explain to the public and to ensure national buy in.
While currently it may be difficult to persuade such a national reorientation, it will become more necessary as economic, resource and environmental shocks hit. As a result, early preparation is crucial. Even if most people do not fully accept the unsustainability of the current economic model, it still makes sense to create national plans now as to how we will deal with such potential shocks and emergencies. Some effort should be put into thinking how will we deal with a currency crisis? What will we do if oil/ gas supply is interrupted? How could we ensure food security for the population if world trade was interrupted? National ‘think tanks’ could be commissioned to plan a range of adaptive responses and emergency policies that can be enacted during crises. This can include plans for dealing with energy and food scarcity, mass unemployment, population migration, currency and financial collapse etc. Even in the face of large scale denial, there is a strong rationale for starting such preparation. Moving the discourse from an environmental one to one about national security is important in making progress. This is not about saving the environment, it is about saving ourselves.
International Cooperation and Resilience
One of the one most striking things about the global economic model is how interconnected it is. Most nations are bought into this co-dependent system and which our livelihoods depend. Whereas 30 years ago, countries like china and the soviet bloc seemed to possess some independence and to be following separate economic paths, this has all changed in the last few decades and these countries have fully joined the global economy thrown their hand into the consumerist lifestyle and the pursuit of economic growth. As a result, no nation is economically independent of another – shocks in one country quickly transmit across the system. The health of the European economy depends on that of US as well as on the economy of China and Russia and vice a versa. This co-dependence is particularly striking in the financial system – a collapse in one banking system has the potential to bring down every financial system.
As a result the problems associated with unsustainable growth such as climate change, environmental damage and resource destruction are all truly global problems. Any potential solutions or large scale mitigation strategies would only have a chance of working if they are international projects with buy in on a global level. Indeed, much effort has been put into broker international and global solutions such as the IPCC, in the large international meetings in Rio and Copenhagen.
Sadly, however, very little progress on the scale needed has been made. Nevertheless, while our global institutions exist we must continue to work hard to secure international agreements that might reduce CO2 emissions, limit environmental damage and share resources equally. When global crises start to hit hard in the future, it will be interesting to know how our global institutions will respond. While is possible that the stress of reduced resources and climate chaos could lead to fracture and conflict between nations, there is also the possibility that this could lead to more global awareness and force agreed global solutions as people work harder together to survive.
Building a Community of support
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
In my work as a mental health professional rarely do people overcome big personal problems on their own. It is usually in the context of support from family, friends or even a professional that people turn their lives around.
While there is a myriad of future challenges facing humanity that are already beginning to impact, the future still is unpredictable and open to choice. While few people yet take the long term view and see the direction towards which we are heading, it is incumbent on those who are aware to prepare and act now. If we do survive and continue to live purposely it will be down to our personal and collective choices. While we don’t know what exact questions will be asked of us in the future, let alone begin to fully answer them, we can build resilience and a state of preparedness for whatever future challenges are to come. If we strive now to honestly face the reality of our predicament, set meaningful goals that bind us together and take constructive action, then we can build a future worth living for.
1. Richard Douthwaite and Gilian Fallon (2010) p2, Fleeing Vesuvius Overcoming the Risk from Economic and Environmental Collapse. Dublin: Feasta.
2. Richard Heinberg 2007. Peak Everything: Waking up to the century in decline in Earth’s resources. Clairview Books
4. Kevin Anderson, Alice Bows 2011, p 42, “Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 369, 20–44 doi:10.1098/rsta.2010.0290
7. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, 2005 On Grief and Grieving London: Simon and Schuster
8. 6 Irivin Yalom 1999 Momma and the meaning of life William Morris Agency, Inc
9. Rob Hopkins (2008), The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, Devon: Green Books
10. Rob Hopkins 2013 The power of just doing stuff Devon: Green Books
- Co-creating a Global Climate Commons regime
- Busy doing nothing – seven reasons for humanity’s inertia in the face of critical threats and how we might remove them
- Cultivating hope and managing despair
- Response to the Green Paper: Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland
- Workshop: ‘Bringing together sustainable agriculture with sustainable economic development.’ – Liam Egerton
Disclaimer: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.Commentary, Discussion Paper, Slideshow
China Plans To Seize South China Sea Island From Philippines, Says “Battle Will Be Restricted” | Zero Hedge
Following Japan’s proclamations that it will take over another 280 ‘disputed ownership’ islands, it appears the increasingly dis-approved of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s path of militarism and provocation is working. As China Daily Mail reports,citing experts, China intends to take back Zhongye Island – ‘illegally’ occupied by the Philippines, according to the Chinese. The Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea. Philippines military is building up on the island and the Chinese see as ‘intolerable’ the “arrogance” relying on US support. It seems the Obama administration may have to ‘not take sides’ in another fight soon.
Background on the build-up…
Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, mayor of the Kalayaan island group, part of the contested Spratly islands administered by the Philippines, recently confirmed that the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed new air force troops in rotation to the disputed island of Thitu, according to Jaime Laude in a report for the Manila-based Philippine Star on Jan. 5.
Known as Pag-asa in the Philippines and Zhongye island by both China and Taiwan, Thitu is the second largest in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea and the largest of all Philippine-occupied Spratly islands.
Laude said that the air force troops were deployed to Thitu island by naval aircraft, which will give the residents of the island a chance to visit Kalayaan aboard the returning plane. He added that China’s maritime expansion into the South China Sea continues to put pressure on the Philippines, and the Philippine Navy have also been stationed in the area to defend the islands.
Six countries – Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim in whole or part to the South China Sea and its island chains and shoals.
And the Latest Tensions…
Via China Daily Mail (translated from Chinese media),
Relying on US support, the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye Island, a Chinese island that it has illegally occupied for years.
It will be an intolerable insult to China
According to experts, the Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea.
The battle is aimed at recovery of the island stolen by the Philippines from China.
There will be no invasion into Filipino territories.
A report in the Philippines Star confirmed the Philippines military buildup on the island.
Source: qianzhan.com “Sudden major move of Chinese troops this year to recover Zhongye Island by force”
Of course, claims that “battle will be restricted” are nothing but taunting and should China launch an offsensive here, we suspect the already dry and brittle tinder box in the South (and East) China Sea could rapidly escalate.
Disputes over land in Honduras’ Bajo Aguan Valley have led to the deaths of 63 people, mostly peasants [AP]
|An internal World Bank investigation says the bank’s private lending arm violated its own social and environmental rules in approving a $30m loan to a Honduran palm oil magnate allegedly tied to the forced eviction and deaths of dozens of land activists.
The months-long investigation found the bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) failed to properly vet Honduran powerbroker Miguel Facusse’s Corporacion Dinant, a palm oil and food giant embroiled in one of Honduras’ deadliest land conflicts in recent history.
The IFC said it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life resulting from the land conflicts – risks the agency determined were “manageable” when it initially assessed the palm oil project in 2008. Both the IFC andDinant said they disagree with parts of the audit released Friday but that they are taking the allegations seriously.
The audit by the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) says a standard news search required by the World Bank revealed damning allegations against Facusse. Public news articles show Facusse allegedly misused his political influence, was accused of involvement in the murder of an environment activist and land disputes with indigenous communities, had an arrest warrant issued in relation to environmental crimes, and had his properties used for drug trafficking.
The search, the CAO said, shows “IFC staff either knew about these allegations and perceptions and failed to deal with them as required … or did not conduct the required news agency searches”.
David Pred, executive director of Inclusive Development International, said the case shines a spotlight on the kind of “dirty business” the World Bank is increasingly engaged in as it expands its investments in high-risk environments.
“This audit, and the Bank’s response to it, shows that IFC’s social and environmental requirements, touted as the ‘gold standard’, come with a wink and a nod that companies like Dinant can literally get away with murder and still boast the World Bank’s stamp of approval,” Pred said in an email to Al Jazeera.
A history of conflict
The blood is being shed in Honduras’ northern Aguan Valley, where land disputes are age-old. Agrarian reforms of the 1970s saw indigenous-held land redistributed to farmer cooperatives. Those cooperatives ended up in bankruptcy with neoliberal reforms, and in the 1990s, the government and cooperatives sold the land to a few wealthy Hondurans, including Facusse.
Activists claiming ownership of Dinant properties are known to play a game of cat and mouse with security forces, occupying disputed properties, being evicted, and then returning. The confrontations often turn violent, according to groups like the International Federation for Human Rights, which have monitored the conflict.
The CAO audit notes the murders of at least 102 people affiliated with the peasant movement in the Aguan Valley between January 2010 and May 2013, according to civil society groups. Forty of those deaths, the CAO said, were specifically linked by human rights groups to Dinant properties and security forces.
The audit also notes allegations that at least nine Dinant security personnel were killed by affiliates of the peasant movement.
Dinant’s spokesman Roger Pineda has denied the company’s involvement in violence against anyone embroiled in land disputes surrounding Facusse’s property. He told Al Jazeera Dinant’s security forces are the victims of attack by armed invaders trespassing on the palm plantations. Pineda also rejected allegations Facusse’s landing strips were used to transfer drugs. He told Al Jazeera that drug traffickers had forcibly taken over the property and that Facusse surrendered his airstrip to local military authorities until recent months.
The five-point plan issued by the IFC in response to the audit said it would help Dinant conduct a massive security review and that the company would collaborate with local authorities to investigate credible allegations of unlawful or abusive acts.
“Moving forward, we will continue to monitor the implementation of Dinant’s environmental and Social Action Plan, and look to bolster our procedures in relation to environmental and social risks in fragile and conflict-affected areas,” the IFC said in response to the audit.
Leaving the job of investigating abuses to the people allegedly complicit in them is wrong, according to Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.
“Instead of the accurate, adequate, and objective assessment of the allegations its policies require, the IFC is leaving the job to the fox that raided the chicken coop in the first place,” Evans said. “Human lives and livelihoods are at stake here. The IFC should demand an external, expert investigation that could create a framework for Dinant to remedy any violations of its responsibility to respect human rights.”
The IFC said Dinant would lose its funding if it doesn’t comply with the action plan. The lending agency already put a hold on half of its $30m loan to Dinant in mid-2010, following human rights complaints by the Washington-based group Rights Action.
However, that did not stop the IFC from calling Dinant owner Facusse a “respected businessman” and later approving a $70m investment in one of Dinant’s biggest lenders, Banco Financiera Comercial Hondurena (Ficohsa). The investment will give the IFC a 10 percent stake in the Honduran bank.
The Word Bank watchdog found the IFC’s “deficiencies” are a by-product of its culture and incentives that measure results in financial terms.
“In a risk-averse setting, accountability for results defined primarily in financial terms may incentivise staff to overlook, fail to articulate, or even conceal potential environmental, social and conflict related risks,” the CAO said. “The result, however, as seen in this audit is that the institution may underestimate these categories of risk.”
The CAO is conducting another investigation into how smart the risks were in another IFC project in Honduras. Its query into the human rights impact of the IFC’s investment in Ficohsa, and its relationship to Dinant, is due to be completed in June.
As we embark on a new year, it’s important to keep the really big elements of our global predicament squarely in mind. To that end, we’re surfacing this excellent discussion on population growth that Chris recorded in 2012 with Bill Ryerson of the Population Institute.
At the heart of the resource depletion story that we track here at PeakProsperity.com is the number of people on earth competing for those resources.
The global population is more than 7 billion now and headed to 9 billion by 2050. If world population continues its exponential growth, when we will hit planetary carrying capacity limits with our key resources (or are we already exceeding them)? What are the just, humane, and rights-respecting options that are on the table for balancing the world’s population with the ability of the earth to sustain it?
Population management is an inflammatory issue. It’s nearly impossible to discuss without triggering heated emotions, and rare is the leader who’s willing to raise it. And by going unaddressed globally, the risk of problems created by overpopluation grow unchecked. War, poverty, starvation, disease, inequality…the list goes on.
Which is why we feel we need to have the courage to address this very important topic directly. And to have an adult-sized conversation about these risks and what can done about them.
In this podcast, Chris talks with Bill Ryerson, founder and president of the Population Media Center as well as the president of the Population Institute. They explore the current forecasts for world population growth, the expected future demand on world resources, and the range of options available for bringing them into balance sustainably.
We are adding about 225,000 people to the dinner table every night who were not there last night. So that is net growth of the world’s population on an annual basis of a new Egypt every year. In other words, 83 million additional people net growth annually. And that, from a climate change perspective alone, is a huge increment. Most of this growth is occurring in poor countries, so on a per-capita level, the people being added to the population have much lower impact than, say, if Europe were growing at that rate. But nevertheless, just from a climate perspective, with most of that 83 million additional people in low per capita greenhouse-gas output countries – this is between now and 2050 – at this rate of growth, it is the climate equivalent of adding two United States to the planet.
Clearly resources like oil, coal, and gas are non-renewable and will eventually run out or become more and more expensive and therefore not reliable as a source of energy. But what is the renewable long-term sustainability or the carrying capacity of the environment in each geographic territory, and globally? What is the current and projected future human demand for those resources, and do we have sufficient natural resources to meet our needs?
Doing this kind of accounting is not difficult. There are very good robust scientific designs for measuring resource capacity and human demand, and projecting out what do we need to do in some time in the next few decades in order to get from what is clearly population overshoot to achieving something that is in balance. Because as long as we are in overshoot – and the global footprint network’s calculation is we are now at 50% overshoot – that means we are digging into the savings account of our ecological systems, as you mentioned: the fisheries being one, forests being another. We are eating into the capital to sustain the growing population.
They also explore why population management is such a uniquely controversial topic. Not only are moral, civil, and religious beliefs in play, but the debate is also heavily influenced by large corporate and governmental organizations protecting their interests. So it’s no wonder that a calm, respectful, and reasonable conversation on population remains so elusive.
But we’re going to try to have one here.
Needless to say, our moderators are on high alert and will step in if they are needed. Thanks in advance for your conscientious, levelheaded, and respectful comments. We have the chance to do substantial thinking on some really meaty questions here. Let’s make good use of it.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Bill Ryerson (46m:26s):
By now you’ve likely heard that the U.S. is expected to overtake Russia this year as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas. The surge in production comes from a drilling boom enabled by using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, along with, in many places, horizontal drilling. These technologies have made previously inaccessible pockets of oil and gas in shale formations profitable.
But at what cost? Accidents, fatalities and health concerns are mounting. Here’s a look at what we’ve learned about the dangers of fracking in the last few weeks.
1. Exploding Trains
Another day, another oil train accident, it seems. On the night of January 7, a traincarrying crude oil and propane derailed near Plaster Rock in New Brunswick, Canada. A day later the fire continued as locals evacuated, unsure if they were being exposed to toxic fumes.
It’s a familiar story. 2013 went out with a bang in North Dakota when a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale derailed and exploded on Dec 30. The ensuing fireballs and toxic smoke caused the evacuation many of Casselton’s 2,300 residents.
Fracking has unleashed a firestorm of drilling in the Bakken (a rock formation under parts of North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan). The Casselton accident was the third rail accident in six months in North America involving oil trains from the Bakken (it’s unclear if the Plaster Rock train was carrying Bakken oil). The most horrific was the July derailment and explosion of a train that killed 47 people in the small town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. The second occurred in Alabama in November.
All of this has grabbed the attention of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “Crude oil produced in North America’s booming Bakken region may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas, a U.S. regulator said after studying the question for four months,” wrote Angela Greiling Keane and Mark Drajem for Bloomberg.
That doesn’t mean shipments will stop, only that trains may be relabeled to say they are carrying a more hazardous cargo.
As Gordon Hoekstra wrote for the Vancouver Sun:
The significant increase in the transport of oil by rail, and the growing evidence that Bakken shale oil is proving itself to be a very explosive commodity, shows that regulations on both sides of the border are not adequate, said Mark Winfield, an associate professor at York University who researches public safety regulation.
Even Robert Harms, who heads North Dakota’s Republican party and consults with the industry, has called for a slowdown, according to Reuters.
2. Workers at Risk
Those who live along train routes aren’t the only ones facing safety risks from the oil and gas industry. NPR reports that accidents among workers in the industry are on the rise—bigtime. From 2009 to 2012 the industry added 23 percent more workers but “the hiring spree has come with a terrible price: Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009,” wrote Andrew Schneider and Marilyn Geewax for NPR . “In fact, the fatality rate among oil and gas workers is now nearly eight times higher than the all-industry rate of 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers.”
Last July, I visited a well pad in New Milton, West Virginia. The following day there was an explosion at the site injuring several workers, two of whom died from their injuries. In my time in West Virginia I met several workers on other sites who were bleary-eyed from long hours on the job.
Sure, jobs are good, but safe jobs should be a priority. Accidents happen in a dangerous industry, but they also increase when workers are kept on the job for too many hours or lack proper training or industry doesn’t follow safe practices.
3. The Accidents You Don’t Hear About
Trains bursting into flames usually (and rightfully) makes the national headlines—especially when fatalities occur. But smaller accidents happen daily that often fail to make it beyond local reporting, if that. Those who live in communities adjacent to the oilfields and gaslands keep their own tallies.
In Tyler County, West Virginia on January 2 an incident occurred on the Lisby natural gas well pad. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection press release said, “A tank ruptured and leaked fluids to surrounding grounds on the well site.”
“Ruptured and leaked” may be accurate, but more than an understatement. A tank filled with fracking fluid (although the WVDEP hasn’t been able to say for sure what exactly was in it) ignited and ended up across the well pad. “What we’ve been able to determine is that a tank ruptured during the flushing of frac lines,” said Thomas Aluise, spokesperson for the WVDEP. “Vapors formed from the fluids inside the tank and were somehow ignited, possibly by static electricity, but that has not been confirmed. As a result of the ignition and subsequent rupture, the tank was dislodged from its foundation.”
Does this photo look like the tank simply “dislodged?”
The tank held 50 barrels of fluid, some of which has leaked into soil, a neighboring property, and potentially into a nearby stream. The explosion happened 625 feet from the nearest house and one person at the site, a contractor who broke his ankle, was injured in the incident. The company, Jay-Bee Oil & Gas, is required to submit plans for soil and water sampling by January 14, which seems like quite a while to wait to take samples if chemicals are leaking into the ground or water sources.
Jay-Bee does not have a glowing corporate record. “The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has cited the company for 21 environmental violations since 2010, and the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration has cited the company for 38 worker safety violations, “ wrote Gayathri Vaidyanathan for E&E. “The incident suggests that environmental and worker safety violations often go hand in hand.”
How many environmental and safety violations does it take before a company is shut down?
Accidents like this are common across oil and gas country. So are compressor station fires in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Wyoming. Or truck accidents, as Food and Water Watch reports: “Heavy-truck crashes rose 7.2 percent in heavily fracked rural Pennsylvania counties (with at least one well for every 15 square miles) but fell 12.4 in unfracked rural counties after fracking began in 2005.”
The Centers for Disease Control reported that the top cause of fatalities in the oil and gas industry are motor vehicle accidents. “[W]orkers drive long distances on rural highways to travel to well sites. Often these roads lack firm shoulders and other safety features,” the agency reports. This puts not just workers at risk, but everyone on the road.
All these incidences won’t make national news, but collectively they add up for the residents who live nearby who may fear for their safety while on the roads or in their own homes.
4. Not So Good for Your Health
Findings presented at a recent meeting of the American Economic Association by researchers from Princeton University, Columbia University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made headlines. The researchers “looked at Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 to assess the health of infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of natural-gas fracking sites,” reports Mark Whitehouse for Bloomberg.
“They found that proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half, from about 5.6 percent to more than 9 percent,” writesWhitehouse. “The chances of a low Apgar score, a summary measure of the health of newborn children, roughly doubled, to more than 5 percent.”
The study has yet to be peer-reviewed, so let’s see how it fares. It does not implicate drinking water, however. The most likely culprit is air pollution. Oil and gas operations have been found to release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to ground-level ozone.
So far no communities where fracking is occurring have done a comprehensive health assessment to see how residents may be at risk from activities related to increased oil and gas drilling. Is it time yet?
Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): Put A Fork In It: The Collapse in Globalization Is Well Underway
The Mystery of the Missing Jobs
Therefore, the real reason there are no jobs is simply because there is too much global spare capacity and under the fundamentally imbalanced globalization paradigm, the output gap just keeps growing.
The Labor Force Participation Rate – now at a fresh 35 year low – is the best indication that the globalized pseudo-economy is throwing off massive amounts of spare capacity aka. people. It was either this, or lower profits, so DowCasino took priority…
The illusion-formerly-known-as-the-economy is 120% borrowed money. We can thank the grandchildren for giving up their future so that today’s shrink-wrapped zombies could have a few more years of shopping sprees:
Over two decades ago, the Chinese Communist Party set out to create the leading capitalist economy on the planet. You can’t make this shit up. Fast forward and they have now surpassed the U.S. in global trade as of just this week.
It was text book export mercantilism. China ran the long game against America’s political attention deficit retards. No different than how England amassed Spain’s gold back in the 1600s:
The Balance of our Forraign Trade is The Rule of Our Treasure
“We must always take heed that we buy no more from strangers than we sell them, for so should we impoverish ourselves and enrich them.”
Lesson learned: No nation is obligated to be mercantilist in its trade relations, however, those that are not mercantilist certainly can’t trade with those that are.
America is Run by Political Retards
Apparently people four hundred years ago were not this stupid…
In any event, China is now Communist in name only and have thereby become the world’s largest Fascist state followed by the U.S. and Russia both of which are puppet democracies owned by and for ultra wealthy oligarchs. China’s *reward* for this metamorphosis is a society populated by millions of factory wage slaves making $.80/hour minimum wage, unsustainably polluted cities, trillions of non-amortizingunsecured foreign (Ponzi) debt and what will ultimately prove to be thousands of idled factories closely followed by widespread discontent.
Congratulations. You finally made it.
By: Tom Chatham
In the technological world we live in it is very easy to lose that capacity in a severe disaster. Our ability to use technology to leverage our resources and make informed decisions gives us a decided edge during disasters that improves our chances of surviving. When disaster strikes our ability to make certain things from scratch allows us to maintain some capabilities and overcome the problems we face.
When technology fails the need for keeping foods and medicines cold are still present. Those that have absorption units and a good supply of fuel can maintain refrigeration but most of society will lose that ability. In an emergency situation where refrigeration is a matter of life and death you need to have a reliable backup system to employ even if only for temporary periods. One possible backup system can be the use of CO2 fire extinguishers to produce ice for cooling. By “hosing down” a container of water with an extinguisher you can produce ice that can be used for keeping coolers or refrigerators cool inside for short periods of time. This may enable you to preserve some foods and medicines until other systems can be repaired or replaced. This type of cooling effect is due to the compressed gas in the container. When it is released and expands it creates a cooling effect. This is true with many compressed gasses such as Freon. A CO2 extinguisher works great for icing down a 6 pack when you are in the middle of the desert. This type of system is messy and should be used outside.
Canned Heat –
Canned heat, more commonly referred to as sterno, is an ideal substance to provide cooking ability and limited heat during a crisis when other forms of heating are not available. This substance can be made by utilizing a metal can and dissolving Styrofoam into different types of petroleum fuels. This causes the fuel to become thickened forming a gel. This type of fuel is more stable and safer to use than pure liquid fuels. Other types of liquids can be used such as alcohol. The following link provides one way to make sterno for emergency use.http://www.noodle.org/learn/323025/make-home-made-sterno-type-fuel-for-cooking-camping-prepping-a-vr-to-soulsurvivorx2
The ability to navigate from point to point following a disaster may become necessary to get to a safe area. This is not as difficult in a city environment as it is in open country that you are not familiar with. When you must travel long distances cross country and only have a general direction to your destination it is helpful to know what direction you are moving in. It is very easy to get disoriented in woods or mountains causing you to stray off course and get lost. A simple way to keep on course is the use of an improvised compass. The following link explains how to make a simple compass. This should be practiced before you actually need it to familiarize yourself with how it works. http://www.green-planet-solar-energy.com/experiments-with-magnets.html
During times of nuclear war or nuclear hazards such as the continuing Fukushima disaster it is important for you to know how much radiation you are being exposed to so that you can make informed decisions and take the appropriate actions to preserve life and health. It is easy to buy a radiation meter but it is a piece of equipment that is relatively expensive and may not be used very often making it a luxury that many average people cannot or will not purchase especially during times of financial difficulty. Because of this and the fact that
many people will not see a need for this type of device until something has already happened making acquisition of such equipment impossible it is good to know you can make a reliable radiation meter from household materials. The following link will allow you to make a meter from scratch. http://www.ki4u.com/free_book/s60p792.htm
When something severe such as an EMP or solar storm takes down the normal technology that we use, information will become very important. Even in the most severe cases it is likely that some transmitters will be restored in short order to transmit information. This will not matter to you unless you have receiving equipment to pick up the signal. The use of solid state devices and chips will render most if not all civilian receivers inoperable in such a disaster. Even if you have a functional unit you will also need power to operate it which will be difficult to produce under these circumstances. The ability to build a basic receiver from household materials that requires no power source will enable you to stay informed in the most severe circumstances which will help you stay ahead of the survival curve. The following link provides good information on building such units.http://scitoys.com/scitoys/scitoys/radio/homemade_radio.html
Clean Water –
The ability to produce clean drinking water has allowed modern society to control many diseases and keep people healthy. In a severe disaster you may be confronted with the specter of contaminated water. The ability to produce clean water and remain healthy when medical resources are limited will help provide an edge during disasters. The easiest way to purify water is to boil it killing all harmful organic organisms. This is something many do when water supplies are suspect. In a disaster this may not be enough. Organic threats are only one problem. Disasters can unleash chemicals and harmful particles into the ecosystem that cannot be made harmless by heat. Many of these threats may not be known by you until they accumulate in your system and suddenly cause disabling affects. The ability to construct a filtering system from locally available materials will give you one more wall of defense against unnecessary sickness. The following links provide a good starting point for making your own filters.
Many of the things we use today are taken for granted and we do not realize how dependant we are on them until they no longer work. The fact that basic science has been so politicized today and schools are dumbing down society means that many people do not know how many basic things work. Learning how things work is one of the best ways to combat the dangerous situations we encounter when disaster strikes. A little knowledge can go a long ways when things fall apart without warning.
The Greatest Myth Propagated About The FED: Central Bank Independence (Part 1) | New Economic Perspectives
It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence—as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. For a long time economists presumed those goals to be in conflict but in recent years Chairman Greenspan seemed to have successfully argued that pursuit of low inflation rather automatically supports sustainable growth with maximum feasible employment.
In any event, nothing is more sacrosanct than the supposed independence of the central bank from the treasury, with the economics profession as well as policymakers ready to defend the prohibition of central bank “financing” of budget deficits. As in many developed nations, this prohibition was written into US law from the founding of the Fed in 1913. In practice, the prohibition is easy to evade, as we found during WWII in the US when budget deficits ran up to a quarter of GDP. If a central bank stands ready to buy government bonds in the secondary market to peg an interest rate, then private banks will buy bonds in the new issue market and sell them to the central bank at a virtually guaranteed price. Since central bank purchases of bonds supply the reserves needed by banks to buy bonds, a virtuous circle is created so that the treasury faces no financing constraint. That is what the 1951 Accord was supposedly all about—ending the cheap source of US Treasury finance.
Since the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007 these matters have come to the fore in both the US and the European Monetary Union. In the US, discussion of “printing money” to finance burgeoning deficits was somewhat muted, in part because the Fed purportedly undertook Quantitative Easing to push banks to lend—not to provide the Treasury with cheap funding. But the impact has been the same as WWII-era finances: very low interest rates on government debt even as a large portion of the debt ended up on the books of the Fed, while bank reserves have grown to historic levels (the Fed also purchased and lent against private debt, adding to excess reserves). While hyperinflationists have been pointing to the fact that the Fed is essentially “printing money” (actually reserves) to finance the budget deficits, most other observers have endorsed the Fed’s notion that QE might allow it to “push on a string” by spurring private banks to lend—which is thought to be desirable and certainly better than “financing” budget deficits to allow government spending to grow the economy. Growth through fiscal austerity is the new motto as the Fed accumulates ever more federal government debt and suspect mortgage-backed securities.
The other case is in the EMU where the European Central Bank had long been presumed to be prohibited from buying debt of the member governments. By design, these governments were supposed to be disciplined by markets, to keep their deficits and debt within Maastricht criteria. Needless to say, things have not turned out quite as planned. The ECB’s balance sheet has blown up just as the Fed’s did—and there is no end in sight in Euroland even as the Fed has begun to taper. It would not be hyperbole to predict that the ECB will end up owning (or at least standing behind) most EMU government debt as it continues to expand its backstop.
It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?
While this two part piece will focus on the US and the Fed, the analysis is relevant to general discussions about central bank independence. We will limit our analysis to the questions surrounding what we mean by central bank independence. We leave to other analyses the questions surrounding the wisdom of granting independence to the Fed, democratic accountability, and potential problems. We will argue here that the Fed is independent only in a very narrow sense. We have argued elsewhere that the Fed’s crisis response during the global financial crisis does raise serious issues of transparency and accountability—issues that have not been resolved with the Dodd-Frank legislation. Finally, it will become apparent that we do not believe that lack of central bank independence raises significant problems with inflation or insolvency of the sovereign government.
For the US case we will draw on an excellent study of the evolution of governance of the Fed by Bernard Shull, one of the foremost authorities of the history of the Fed. As we will see, the dominant argument for independence throughout the Fed’s history has been that monetary policy should be set to promote the national interest. This requires that it should be free of political influence coming from Congress. Further, it was gradually accepted that even though the Federal Open Market Committee includes participation by regional Federal Reserve banks, the members of the FOMC are to put the national interest first. Shull shows that while governance issues remain unresolved, Congress has asserted its oversight rights, especially after economic or financial crises.
I’ll also include summaries of the arguments of two insiders—one from the Treasury and the other from the Fed—that also conclude that the case of the Fed’s independence is frequently overstated. The former Treasury official argues that at least within the Treasury there is no presumption that the Fed is operationally independent. The Fed official authored a comprehensive statement on the Fed’s independence, arguing that the Fed is a creature of Congress. More recently, Chairman Bernanke has said that “of course we’ll do whatever Congress tells us to do”: if the Congress is not satisfied with the Fed’s actions, the Congress can always tell the Fed to behave differently.
In the aftermath of the GFC, Congress has attempted to exert greater control with its Dodd-Frank legislation. The Fed handled most of the US policy response to the Great Recession (or, GFC). As we have documented, most of the rescue was behind closed doors and intended to remain secret. (See Felkerson 2012; and Wray 2012) Much of it at least stretched the law and perhaps went beyond the now famous section 13(3) that had been invoked for “unusual and exigent” circumstances for the first time since the Great Depression. Congress has demanded greater transparency and has tightened restrictions on the Fed’s future crisis response. Paradoxically, Dodd-Frank also increased the Fed’s authority and responsibility. However, in some sense this is “deja-vu” because Congressional reaction to the Fed’s poor response to the onset of the Great Depression was similarly paradoxical as Congress simultaneously asserted more control over the Fed while broadening the scope of the Fed’s mission.
INDEPENDENT OF WHAT?
Most references to central bank independence are little more than vague hand-waves. In the US, the Fed is a “creature of Congress”, established by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which has been modified a number of times. Elected officials play a role in selecting top Fed officials. And while the Fed is nominally owned by share-holding banks, and while the Fed’s budget is separate, profits above 6% on equity are returned to Treasury. Congress also has asserted its authority to mandate that the Fed release detailed information on its operations and budget—and there seems to be nothing but Congressional timidity to stop it from demanding more control over the Fed (indeed, Dodd-Frank sanctions many of the actions taken by the Fed during the GFC, now requiring prior approval by the President, the Treasury Secretary, and/or Congress for various interventions). Further, as we will see, the Fed’s operations are necessarily closely coordinated with the Treasury’s; the Fed, after all, functions as the Treasury’s bank. Finally, as everyone knows, Congress has provided a dual mandate to guide Fed policy although one could easily interpret Congressional will as consisting of four (at least some of which are related) mandates: high employment, low inflation, acceptable growth, and financial stability.
Above I have argued that the Fed is a creature of Congress. MacLaury has put the relationship this way:
Ultimately the [Federal Reserve] System is accountable to congress, not the executive branch, even though Reserve Board members and the chairman are president-appointed. The authority and delegated policy powers are subject to review by the congress not the president, the Treasury Department, nor by banks or other interests. (p. 4)
While many supporters and critics alike have stressed the Fed’s nominal ownership by member banks as evidence that it is somehow independent of government, the Fed’s Bruce MacLaury interprets the independence as follows:
First, let’s be clear on what independence does not mean. It does not mean decisions and actions made without accountability. By law and by established procedures, the System is clearly accountable to congress—not only for its monetary policy actions, but also for its regulatory responsibilities and for services to banks and to the public. Nor does independence mean that monetary policy actions should be free from public discussion and criticism—by members of congress, by professional economists in and out of government, by financial, business, and community leaders, and by informed citizens. Nor does it mean that the Fed is independent of the government. Although closely interfaced with commercial banking, the Fed is clearly a public institution, functioning within a discipline of responsibility to the “public interest.” It has a degree of independence within the government—which is quite different from being independent of government. Thus, the Federal Reserve System is more appropriately thought of as being “insulated” from, rather than independent of, political—government and banking—special interest pressures. Through their 14-year terms and staggered appointments, for example, members of the Board of Governors are insulated from being dependent on or beholden to the current administration or party in power. In this and in other ways, then, the monetary process is insulated—but not isolated—from these influences. In a functional sense, the insulated structure enables monetary policy makers to look beyond short-term pressures and political expedients whenever the long-term goals of sustainable growth and stable prices may require “unpopular” policy actions. Monetary judgments must be able to weigh as objectively as possible the merit of short-term expedients against long-term consequences—in the on-going public interest.
We can take that as our starting point: the Fed is part of government–a public institution–but is insulated from day-to-day politics and other types of special interest pressures. Let’s explore this independence in more detail, beginning with an historical perspective.
Fed Governance: Historical Perspective
Shull (2014) offers a detailed history of the evolution of Fed governance. He notes that the Fed is an independent government agency like the Federal Trade Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Each of these has substantial discretion in implementing laws through rules and regulations and in formulating policies. Most independent agencies have an Inspector General and are subject to Congressional oversight. The Fed is somewhat unusual in that it is self-financing and in that there is a widely held belief that if its formulation of monetary policy were not independent, the policy outcome would be worse. In other words, good monetary policy supposedly depends on independence (from Congress and the Administration).Thus, the Fed’s monetary policy is not subject to audit by the General Accountability Office—and courts have refused to hear suits that accuse the Fed of policy mistakes. In recent decades, the Administration has been reluctant even to criticize the Fed’s monetary policy. However, as we will see, that has not always been the case.
The movement to create a central bank strengthened after the Panic of 1907. Rival plans were put forward, which ranged from a bank-supported plan which would create a privately-owned central bank (like the Bank of England), to a proposal to house the US central bank within the Treasury. The Glass-Owen bill split the difference, with private ownership and a decentralized system, but with the Treasury Secretary and the Comptroller of the Currency sitting on the Board. The decentralized system was supposed to ensure “fair representation of the financial, industrial and commercial interests and geographic divisions of the country,” (quoted in Shull p. 4). The Board was to be “a distinctly nonpartisan organization and was to be wholly divorced from politics.” (ibid p. 5) According to Paul Warburg, governance was to be maintained by a “system of checks and counter-checks— a paralyzing system which gives powers with one hand and takes them away with the other.” (ibid) In other words, the idea was that by ensuring broad representation of interests, the Fed would be stymied by a “clash of interests” that would reduce the damage it might do; as Shull puts it, “The checks and balances thus constituted a form of internal governance.” (ibid p. 5) That of course sounds somewhat familiar as a typically American approach to governance.
When WWI came along, however, the Fed turned its attention to supporting the Treasury’s debt issue. In the inflationary period at the end of the war, the regional Feds raised discount rates sharply (up to 85%) and a deep retraction followed that led to deflation of farm prices. Congress revisited the governance issue as some critics wanted to force the Fed to seek Congressional approval in advance of future rate hikes. One of the Board members, Adolph Miller, understood the implication:
“The American people will never stand contraction if they know it can be helped. Least of all will they stand contraction if they think it is contraction at the instance, or with the consent of an institution like the Federal Reserve System….The Reserve System cannot ‘make’ the business situation but it can do an immense deal to make its extremes less pronounced and violent….Discount policy…should always address itself to the phase of the business cycle through which the country happens to be passing.” (quoted in Shull, p. 7)
As Shull argues, the governance by paralyzing checks and balances conflicted with the need to cooperate to use monetary policy to stabilize the economy. Congress tightened the reins on the Fed but also centralized decision-making at the Board in Washington. The GAO began to audit the Board and there were a number of Commissions and Committees that investigated new guidelines to control the Fed. However, the 1927 Pepper-McFadden Act replaced the Fed’s original 20 year charter with an indefinite charter, and a Congressional report at the time declared that the Fed had demonstrated its usefulness. In the end, Congressional anger dissipated and not much was done to constrain the Fed’s discretion.
Governance issues again came to the forefront during the Great Depression, with serious consideration given to government ownership of the Fed, to be housed in the Treasury. President Roosevelt (who seemed to have supported such a move) as well as many in Congress were concerned that the Fed was not sufficiently attune to the national interest. Title II of the Banking Act of 1935 was a compromise that preserved private ownership but moved to ensure the Board would be more responsive, focusing on the national interest. (Shull, p. 10) As power was further centralized in Washington, the “checks-and-balances” approach to governance continued to fade.
As in WWI, WWII saw the Fed cooperating with Treasury, in the national interest to keep rates on national debt low. That ended in the famous Accord of 1951, restoring “independence” of the Fed to formulate monetary policy. However, policy was still to be undertaken in the national interest, with the Fed keeping rates very low until the mid 1960s; the Fed mainly operated in short-term Treasury bills so as to have minimum effects on other financial markets. Monetary policy remained on the backburner until the inflation-recession cycle of the early 1970s. In 1975, Congress decided to exert greater control, in House Resolution 113.
In the Federal Reserve Reform Act of 1977, the Senate insisted on the requirement that it confirm the President’s appointment of the Fed’s chairman and vice-chairman. In addition Congress required that Class B Reserve bank directors had to be “elected to represent the public”. (Shull p. 12) The 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins full Employment and Balanced Growth Act clarified the Fed’s mandates and required semi-annual reports to both the Senate and the House. Later, after Chairman Greenspan got caught in “white lies” provided to Chairman Gonzalez, the Fed was required to release its transcripts of FOMC meetings (albeit with a five year lag). The Fed also voluntarily agreed to measures designed to increase transparency (including announcing its explicit interest rate target).
The final big changes to governance occurred after the GFC, when Dodd-Frank tightened limits on what the Fed can do in response to a crisis. This was a surprising turn of events, as Chairman Greenspan had become the darling of Congress and the media and his replacement, Chairman Bernanke, had declared the era of the New Moderation in which central bankers could do nothing wrong. However, in the aftermath of the crisis, many elected representatives as well as the media and the population at large blamed the Fed for the crisis and for bungling a response that made the downturn worse than it should have been. As we’ve argued elsewhere, even many of those directly involved agreed that the Fed’s crisis response “stunk” and that it should never be repeated. The Dodd-Frank legislation was designed in part to ensure it would not happen again.
However, yet again, Congress actually extended Fed responsibility, to include authority over large, systemically important non-bank financial institutions. Still, the Act restricted application of Section 13(3) in future crises, and for some actions required approval from the Treasury. It also mandated increased transparency (including a review by the GAO of all the Fed’s emergency assistance after the GFC). Congress also created the Financial Stability Oversight Council that is chaired by the Treasury Secretary and includes heads of agencies involved in overlooking the financial sector—including the Fed. In that manner it diluted the Fed’s power somewhat. Exactly what difference all this will make for the response in the next crisis cannot be foreseen in advance.
Next time, in Part 2, we look at the Fed’s supposed independence from our elected representatives. We’ll see that that is a fabricated myth.
 Thorvald Moe examines the role of Marriner Eccles and the discussions and events that led up to the 1951 Accord. Eccles was a dominant figure in the transformation of the Fed from the relatively weak and decentralized institution that had been created in 1913 to the modern central bank we know now. Moe makes a strong case that the vision of Eccles was instrumental in that evolution; as we will see, modern theories of central banks, however, deviate sharply from the Eccles vision in quite illuminating ways. See: Thorvald Grung Moe “Marriner S. Eccles and the 1951 Treasury – Federal Reserve Accord: Lessons for Central Bank Independence” Working Paper No. 747, Levy Economics Institute of Bard College January 2013.
 See two annual reports of research conducted with the support of Ford Foundation Grant no. 1110-‐0184, administered by the University of Missouri–Kansas City. See: L. Randall Wray, 2012. “Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crises,” Research Project Report, April 9.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/rpr_04_12_wray.pdf; and L. Randall Wray, 2013. “The Lender of Last Resort: A Critical Analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Unprecedented Intervention after 2007”, Research Project Report, April http://www.levyinstitute.org/publications/?docid=1739.
 Bernard Shull, who made a great presentation at the annual ASSA meetings in Philadelphia. His paper, “Financial crisis resolution and Federal Reserve governance: economic thought and political realities”, Jan 4 2014, is forthcoming as Levy Institute Working Paper.
 See James A. Felkerson, 2012 “A Detailed Look at the Fed’s Crisis Response by Funding Facility and Recipient.” Public Policy Brief No. 123. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/ppb_123.pdf; and L. Randall Wray, 2012. “Improving Governance of the Government Safety Net in Financial Crises,” Research Project Report, April 9.http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/rpr_04_12_wray.pdf.
 See Bruce K. MacLaury; “Perspectives on Federal Reserve Independence – A Changing Structure for Changing Times”; Published January 1, 1977, The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Annual Report 1976, http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/pub_display.cfm?id=690, which examines Fed independence with respect to Congress, the Executive branch (including the Treasury), member banks, and within itself (ie, for example relations between the Board of Governors in Washington and the District banks). I will use several quotes from this comprehensive survey.
 Bernard Shull, “Financial crisis resolution and Federal Reserve governance: economic thought and political realities”, Jan 4 2014, forthcoming as Levy Institute Working Paper.
 See L. Randall Wray, “The Fed and the New Monetary Consensus: The Case for Rate Hikes, Part Two”, Public Policy Brief No. 80, December 2004, p. 14 for a discussion of this episode.
 See Wray 2013, the second report of this Ford Foundation-funded project, cited above.