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Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans.

wwltv.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:01 PM

Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn’t been contained as of 10 p.m., and that the collision was still being investigated.

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn’t give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

“A large amount of that has been discharged,” Kidd said. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. The Coast Guard said that Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tow vessel and barge, was working with it and the Texas General Land Office at the scene.

The Coast Guard said six crew members from the tow vessel were in stable condition, but it offered no details about their injuries.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff.”

“That stuff is terrible to have to clean up,” he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to help containment efforts, but stormy weather was forecast for the area on Sunday. Suydam said almost every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there helping out under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Bruce Clawson, the director of the Texas City Homeland Security, told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank, but that there is no danger to the community, which is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

Tara Kilgore, an operations coordinator with Kirby Inland Marine, declined to comment Saturday.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice. And the Coast Guard said that part of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic.

Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, said there is very important shorebird habitat on both sides of the Houston ship channel.

Audubon has the internationally-recognized Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary just to the east, which Gibbons said attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat. He did not know how much oil had been spilled, but said authorities were aware of the sanctuaries and had practiced using containment booms in the past.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans.

wwltv.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:01 PM

Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn’t been contained as of 10 p.m., and that the collision was still being investigated.

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn’t give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

“A large amount of that has been discharged,” Kidd said. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. The Coast Guard said that Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tow vessel and barge, was working with it and the Texas General Land Office at the scene.

The Coast Guard said six crew members from the tow vessel were in stable condition, but it offered no details about their injuries.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff.”

“That stuff is terrible to have to clean up,” he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to help containment efforts, but stormy weather was forecast for the area on Sunday. Suydam said almost every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there helping out under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Bruce Clawson, the director of the Texas City Homeland Security, told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank, but that there is no danger to the community, which is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

Tara Kilgore, an operations coordinator with Kirby Inland Marine, declined to comment Saturday.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice. And the Coast Guard said that part of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic.

Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, said there is very important shorebird habitat on both sides of the Houston ship channel.

Audubon has the internationally-recognized Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary just to the east, which Gibbons said attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat. He did not know how much oil had been spilled, but said authorities were aware of the sanctuaries and had practiced using containment booms in the past.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

Could a global grab for fertile soil, bring civil unrest? – ABC Rural (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Could a global grab for fertile soil, bring civil unrest? – ABC Rural (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Updated 9 hours 32 minutes ago

The estimated 1.6 billion hectares of fertile soils currently under cultivation can certainly feed the current world population.

If we still have approximately 800 million undernourished and hungry people on this planet, it is due to serious imbalances in the distribution of wealth, land and natural resources in general.

Market driven preference to allocate part of the fertile soils to producing energy or biofuels instead of food, as well as unsustainable consumption habits and market distortion in the food distribution chain, are causing the perception that our current land resources are insufficient and that we need to further expand agricultural cultivation to new areas.

It is an approach often requiring massive energy inputs, like fertilisers, irrigation and land levelling, and ultimately results in highly unsustainable agricultural models.

The close link between energy prices and food commodity prices on the global markets has been clearly demonstrated during the 2008 food crisis.

Since then we have observed a growing interest by large investors in acquiring land property rights in many parts of the world.

Buying fertile soils is certainly one of the most safe and remunerating forms of long term financial investment, given that fertile soils are a limited, non-renewable natural resource that will be more and more scarce in the future.

 

Buying fertile soils is certainly one of the most safe and remunerating forms of long term financial investment, given that fertile soils are a limited, non-renewable natural resource that will be more and more scarce in the future.

Rapidly progressing soil degradation processes, like erosion, organic carbon depletion, salinisation, contamination and compaction, together with massive urbanisation expanding especially on the most fertile areas of the world, is already seriously threatening the available fertile soil resources.

With a growing population, a changing climate and on-going land degradation we need to develop a common vision to preserve the available soil resources for future generations.

There needs to be a common approach to global soil resources, assuring that all humans to assure the needed food resources for nations lacking sufficient soil resources of their own, needs to be regulated in order to prevent massive displacement of populations as well as emerging conflicts.

The current trend towards ‘land grabbing’ or acquiring exclusive property rights on fertile land for assuring the needed food resources for nations lacking sufficient soil resources of their own, needs to be regulated in order to prevent massive displacement of populations as well as emerging conflicts.

Dangerous trends towards identifying soil resources as a topic of national security (soil security), therefore excluding access to those resources to populations lacking a sufficient agricultural production basis, need to be prevented.

We need to recognize that soil resources are a common natural capital sustaining the lives of all of us on this planet and need to be shared by all humans if we want to feed the world.

The recently established Global Soil Partnership aims to do this.

As a voluntary partnership of all countries and stakeholders genuinely committed to sustainable soil management, it federates the ‘coalition of the willing’ for soil protection at global level.

Through the establishment of Regional Soil Partnerships it allows for the full involvement of all local actors in this new, challenging vision of sustainable and equitable use of the available soil resources in the world.

First posted Sun 23 Mar 2014, 9:07pm AEDT

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times

World energy use threatens water | The Japan Times.

Water and sand are mixed and pumped into a well during a fracking simulation at the Marcellus Shale formation in Camptown, Pennsylvania. | BLOOMBERG

Crisis brewing across most of globe: U.N.

World energy use threatens water

REUTERS

OSLO – Rising demand for energy, from biofuels to shale gas, is a threat to freshwater supplies, according to a United Nations report released Friday.

The report urged energy companies to do more to limit their use of water in everything from cooling coal-fired power plants to irrigation for crops grown to produce biofuels.

“Demand for energy and freshwater will increase significantly in the coming decades,” U.N. agencies said in the World Water Development Report. “This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions.”

By 2030, the world will need 40 percent more water and 50 percent more energy than now, the report said. Water is under pressure from factors such as a rising population, pollution and droughts, floods and heat waves linked to global warming.

Around the world, about 770 million of the world’s 7 billion people now lack access to safe drinking water, it said. And the energy sector accounts for about 15 percent of water withdrawals from sources such as rivers, lakes and aquifers.

“This interdependence calls for vastly improved cooperation” between water and energy, said UNESCO head Irina Bokova.

The report lamented the water sector’s lack of influence compared to what it called the “great political clout” of energy. March 22 is World Water Day in the U.N. calendar.

All energy production uses water, often as a coolant, it said. The least amount of water is used in wind and solar power, while heavy users include hydraulic fracking to produce shale gas or the extraction of oil from tar sands.

The report said that hydropower dams are sometimes built with little thought for other water users, and it urged caution about biofuels, partly because of water use required for irrigation.

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

World faces 'water-energy' crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

The Peak Oil Crisis: Our Harsh Winter Continues

The Peak Oil Crisis: Our Harsh Winter Continues.

MARCH 19, 2014 7:15 PM
By Tom WhippleTwo weeks ago we discussed the impact that the polar vortex was having on our natural gas supplies and noted that our stocks of natural gas were already 500 billion cubic feet below where they should be for this time of year. Two weeks ago the forecasters were optimistic that the record winter of 2013-2014 was over and that things would soon be warming up.

It turned out however that the forecasts were wrong and yet more frigid weather poured down across the U.S., drawing down our stocks of natural gas and heating oil still further and interrupting the drilling and fracking of new shale gas and shale oil wells. New forecasts say that the abnormally cold weather is likely to continue through the rest of March and on into early April.

We won’t have the final figures on how much natural gas was drawn from our stocks this winter for another month, but it is starting to look as if our stocks, which normally range from a high of 3.8 trillion cubic feet to a low of 1.8 trillion, could fall to as low as 750 billion and that the total drawdown this winter will be close to 3 trillion cubic feet as compared to the normal 2 trillion. Since November the U.S. has been consuming an average of 91 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day which is 13 percent higher than the five-year average for this time of year.

The key question is whether this can be replaced in time for the next heating season or the ones after that.

In addition to increasing our consumption, the cold weather has also slowed our domestic production of natural gas. Our natural gas imports from Canada, about 7 billion cubic feet per day, are down about 10 percent from last year. It is even colder in Canada and they need their gas to keep warm before exporting any surplus to the U.S.

You will recall that our shale gas wells, which now supply about 40 percent of our total natural gas consumption, deplete very quickly so that many new wells need to be drilled and fracked each year just to keep production level. There are very few conventional gas wells being drilled these days and production of shale gas other than from the Marcellus shale in the Appalachians is nearly flat. The rapid pace our gas wells are depleting means that the U.S. now needs about 19 billion cubic feet per day of new gas production just to keep up with our annual average consumption of 71 billion cubic feet per day.

As a goodly share of this 19 billion cubic feet per day of new natural gas production must come from the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it should be apparent that this location is not conducive to drilling and fracking during the cold and snowy winter months. A recent weekly EIA report shows natural gas production in the eastern U.S down by 30 percent from last year.

Last week the Department of Energy issued a report discussing how we are going to overcome this trillion cubic foot deficit in our natural gas stockpiles before the beginning of next November’s withdrawal season. The Department starts with the assumption that the drawdown is not going to be as bad as it currently seems and then posits that if everything goes right – higher production and lower consumption – we might be able to inject a record 2.5 trillion cubic feet into our storage caverns this summer. Even this will leave us about 500 billion cubic feet below where we would like to be next fall.

Natural gas consumption during the next seven months is problematic. If temperatures are unusually high, a lot of natural gas will go into electric power stations to keep us cool. If it is a cool summer, then we might have considerable surpluses that could be injected into our storage caverns. The relatively low price of natural gas, currently about $4.50 per million BTU’s, is another problem.

Some independent analysts say this is well below what it costs to produce shale gas these days and that producers are solvent only because they are making an effort to produce “wet” gas that contains valuable natural gas liquids such as propane which can be sold for enough to offset the loss on the “dry” gas which is what keeps us warm. Gas coming from the Marcellus shale, mostly in Pennsylvania, is generally dry so that there is a good chance that many producers are simply losing money on their natural gas production while waiting for higher prices that will allow profitability.

Looking ahead for the next few years, questions are starting to arise about the long-term sustainability of our natural gas production. This winter will leave us with a major deficit in our stockpiles which unless the weather cooperates is not likely to be made up in the immediate future. Unusually hot summers or cold winters will make rebuilding of inventories difficult or even impossible.

Thanks to the hype about the 100 years-worth of natural gas we are supposed to have in reserve, everybody seems to have an idea as to how to use this bonanza more quickly. Some want to send LNG to Europe so it can reduce reliance on Russian gas. This of course requires liquefaction facilities to make LNG that can’t become operational for many years. Our imports from Canada are shrinking. Our exports via pipeline to Mexico are increasing. Many want to convert our fleet of 18-wheelers to natural gas. The EPA wants to replace the dirtiest of our coal burning power plants with natural gas and there are those who believe that nuclear power plants are too dangerous to keep around.

If even some of these additional uses come to fruition before the end of the decade, our natural gas could become very expensive and even scarce.

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we’d have it sorted by now. | Transition Network

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we’d have it sorted by now. | Transition Network.

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we’d have it sorted by now.

Has the climate debate stalled? Does extreme weather in the UK mean we’re talking about it more or less? When’s a good time to try to make the connections between climate change and floods? And is there anything Inner Transition has to offer to the questions about how and when to have these conversations?

Yesterday the Inner Transition group in Totnes ran a public event called “Weathering Change – a chance to talk about the weather”. We planned the event back in January just as the gales were starting to blow which took out the railway line by the coast, and the lashing rain was starting to build the large sea which still lies over the Somerset Levels. [This picture (left, below) was taken from the train, showing the Levels now more like a sea.]

Somerset Levels

As the floods and disruption worsened many people I talked to seemed really enthusiastic about the event – and I started to worry about numbers – what to do if forty people come? We offered guidelines for hosting a conversation to the local Transition Streets groups, imagining it might be a conversation others would want to have.

In fact just 8 people turned up, most already involved with Inner Transition. We had a rich and deeply connecting evening talking about how the weather has impacted us practically as well as at a feeling level. As has happened for me before, hearing others and having a space outside my daily life to be heard, enabled me to reach a deeper sense of how much feeling the changing weather brings up.

We also spoke about how we manage our responses in order to go on living. I could let myself feel how much anger I have at the destructive behaviour of our politicians and business “leaders” that I just don’t get in touch with – if I let all the anger through and tried to act on it I would burn out really fast. We acknowledged that we also live in a state of denial some of the time, carrying our lives on as usual.

happinessLast week I was invited to be part of the conversations at a conference called “Breaking the Deadlock: why the climate debate has stalled”. It brought together academics and researchers, “practitioners” – those involved on the ground of public engagement around climate change, and a couple of people involved in energy policy from the UK and Scottish governments. The aim of the conference was to look at whether “psychosocial approaches” can help move the debate on, starting with the interesting question of what kind of thing a human being is.

Underneath most ideas about our world are implicit assumptions about what humans are like and how we behave – and they often reflect our own inaccurate self perception. Two common misperceptions I’ve come across:

In classical economics humans are assumed to be totally rational, so that when they have full knowledge of a (supposedly perfect and fair) marketplace they will make rational choices. While the economic theory relies on this corporations and advertisers make good use of the fact that people are much more swayed by their emotions, identity, aspirations and aversions, and use this effectively to sell us stuff.

The second example is in movements for change which assume that once people get information they will take action based on a rational analysis of that information. “If I show you a film about peak oil or climate change you’ll join Transition to do something about the problem.” Many people who pioneer Transition may well be like this – when I heard about peak oil put together with climate change I changed the direction of my life. But I can see that for most people this isn’t how it works – there’s a long inner process between hearing information that can be shocking and overwhelming, making sense of it, and coming to some new way of acting in the world.

Here is one person’s definition of a psycho-social approach, and the insights it provides about how humans really work:

  • Our inner worlds are powerfully determined by emotions and the need to manage them, including defending against things which feel overwhelming.
  • We construct our inner world and understand the outer world through narratives and stories.
  • Humans are inconsistent and contradictory rather than rational and consistent.
  • Our sense of self and our behaviour is largely influenced by our social context and its norms, frames and values.

It was great to meet up with other “practitioner” organisations, including the Climate Psychology Alliance,Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN, who are developing an event to help places affected by flooding talk about what’s happened and link it to Climate Change) and Carbon Conversations.

Carbon Conversations designed an in depth process supported by a trained facilitator and workbook to give information and explore responses to Climate Change in facilitated small groups. Thousands have been through the process, and after the small number who came to the Weathering Change event I wonder whether we really need a smaller trusted group to open this emotional territory.

I read an article by Carbon Conversations founder Ro Randall several years ago, which described its focus on the process of loss, to help people work through the “Tasks of Mourning” as defined by psychologist J Worden from his model of loss. These include

  • acknowledging the reality of the loss,
  • working through grief,
  • creating a new identity in the changed circumstances,
  • and redirecting the energy of the old attachment to new relationships.

Looking at my own process I can see that the third task alone involved changing my work, living in a different place, starting a new relationship, renegotiating all my friendships – some of which I’ve lost as well as new ones I’ve found – and learning totally new skills like growing organic veg. All of this happened without a single gram of carbon being saved. It took a lot of time and internal energy. But it’s the foundation for all the changes in the way that I now live.

At the conference I could feel my disappointment that those working with limited models sometimes think that their way is the best. I’ve found that any model you use shows you a different facet of the whole picture. If we focus on loss and grief we may forget that actually the system we’re losing is in many ways more like a self destructive addiction than a beloved friend. Yes it’s supported life for many countries and many people, but only through huge destruction of our natural world, of many other cultures, and the creation of huge inequality. So an addiction lens helps us to see something else – that the end of the industrial growth system potentially has huge benefits if we can find a different system that’s rooted in something more healthy.

I found it really helpful that one of the key speakers at the conference gave us a much more complete overview of ways of understanding and taking action in the world. [It looked to me very like Wilber’s four quadrants, which I’ve also used to help teach a complete and integrated understanding of healthy and destructive human systems.] The four quadrants can roughly be defined as inner / outer and individual / collective. Here’s an abbreviated version of the model:

The Quadrant Approach To Engagement (Renee Lertzman, PhD)

Emotional experience

Feelings, construction of meaning, defence mechanisms, denial, narrative, empathy, dialogue, motivational interviewing

Activities: conversation / support groups, qualitative research, workshops, leadership development, arts

Behavioural

Movitiations, reasoning, probabilities, levers and drivers, cognitive processes, rationality, triggers, shift, switch, incentives, proactive change, quantitative research

Activities; Behaviour change programmes, energy efficiency, utlitities, transport (incentives / taxes), employee engagement

Socio-cultural –

World views, ethics, ideologies, beliefs, messaging, frames and values based engagement

Activities: faith based programmes, public opinion polls

Contexts: marketing, political messaging, policy segmentation,

Systems

Collaboration, design, social practices, systems thinking, resilience, infrastructure, solutions focus

Social innovation projects, pu blic / private partnerships, community based projects, participatory design, piloting

Activities; Resource issues (regional / watershed),

Renee, who brought this model suggested that these different modes of engagement tend to operate only within their own set of systems which then limits and weakens their practice, since the reality is that humans are operating in all four quadrants all the time. This strongly reflects what I’ve seen particularly in the two major movements for positive change that I’ve been involved with. In the personal growth movement the focus starts with personal inner experience – “The change starts with what’s inside me, to make positive change in the world I need to heal myself first”. Political and environmental change movements take the opposite view: “We can only act within the systems around us – the systems need to change before people can change”

switchesFor me this is a classic case of the need for “both / and” – arguments about which of these is more true are a waste of time. I think it’s part of the rare potential of Transition (some have told me that for them it’s a defining distinction which makes Transition worth giving time to) is that we attempt – despite difficulties – to include both ways of creating change.

Here’s why this inclusive approach is important. People who only see the personal inner quadrant can get stuck in their personal journey. Is it helpful that there are people with great inner peace and even accessing states of enlightenment if their personal practice includes unsustainable consumption of carbon through flying to workshops or particular diets? Surely at some point there has to be a connection between our inner practice and the needs of our community and the ecological systems that support life, or we’re living our own individual version of separation and denial.

And on the other hand, many social and political movements have ended up either burnt out, or split apart by conflict because they didn’t have the inner insights and process skills to deal with their own their unconscious process – which will naturally include unhealthy dynamics around power and privilege which permeate all of us however deep our aspiration to cooperation or equality.

So the strongest and most lasting movements will be those which truly practise inclusivity – by rising to challenge of understanding the different worldviews and language of those who focus on other quadrants, and who can truly embody the quality of peace and resilience that comes from valuing diversity.

A final word about Happiness!

A nice coincidence is that today, Thursday 20th March is International Happiness day. I’m not sure if the timing is deliberate, but on this day you can listen for free to a discussion between Hilary Prentice – who first dreamt up Inner Transition in Totnes – discussing exactly question. Starting from the perspective of why self awareness and inner disciplines are invaluable for activists – but I imagine also acknowledging that the bridge needs to go both ways.

My final meeting in London was with Mark Williamson from Action for Happiness, part of a growing movement that aims to make Happiness a political priority, the thing governments should focus on growing rather than our material or financial economy. I’m planning to write more about this, but the work that underpins the Happiness movement is key to Transition because it explains how it is possible to create energy descent – a steady, major reduction in our use of energy and resources – while creating a better way of living.

The key to this lies once again in understanding what a human being really is and what makes us happy. Increasing evidence shows that this does not come from material possessions or consumption beyond having our basic subsistence needs met – but rather from things like having happy, close, loving relationships, meaningful and connected work, and knowing that those around us are also in a state of well being.

Have a happy day of happiness!!

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we'd have it sorted by now. | Transition Network

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we’d have it sorted by now. | Transition Network.

Sophy Banks: Climate change – if we were rational, we’d have it sorted by now.

Has the climate debate stalled? Does extreme weather in the UK mean we’re talking about it more or less? When’s a good time to try to make the connections between climate change and floods? And is there anything Inner Transition has to offer to the questions about how and when to have these conversations?

Yesterday the Inner Transition group in Totnes ran a public event called “Weathering Change – a chance to talk about the weather”. We planned the event back in January just as the gales were starting to blow which took out the railway line by the coast, and the lashing rain was starting to build the large sea which still lies over the Somerset Levels. [This picture (left, below) was taken from the train, showing the Levels now more like a sea.]

Somerset Levels

As the floods and disruption worsened many people I talked to seemed really enthusiastic about the event – and I started to worry about numbers – what to do if forty people come? We offered guidelines for hosting a conversation to the local Transition Streets groups, imagining it might be a conversation others would want to have.

In fact just 8 people turned up, most already involved with Inner Transition. We had a rich and deeply connecting evening talking about how the weather has impacted us practically as well as at a feeling level. As has happened for me before, hearing others and having a space outside my daily life to be heard, enabled me to reach a deeper sense of how much feeling the changing weather brings up.

We also spoke about how we manage our responses in order to go on living. I could let myself feel how much anger I have at the destructive behaviour of our politicians and business “leaders” that I just don’t get in touch with – if I let all the anger through and tried to act on it I would burn out really fast. We acknowledged that we also live in a state of denial some of the time, carrying our lives on as usual.

happinessLast week I was invited to be part of the conversations at a conference called “Breaking the Deadlock: why the climate debate has stalled”. It brought together academics and researchers, “practitioners” – those involved on the ground of public engagement around climate change, and a couple of people involved in energy policy from the UK and Scottish governments. The aim of the conference was to look at whether “psychosocial approaches” can help move the debate on, starting with the interesting question of what kind of thing a human being is.

Underneath most ideas about our world are implicit assumptions about what humans are like and how we behave – and they often reflect our own inaccurate self perception. Two common misperceptions I’ve come across:

In classical economics humans are assumed to be totally rational, so that when they have full knowledge of a (supposedly perfect and fair) marketplace they will make rational choices. While the economic theory relies on this corporations and advertisers make good use of the fact that people are much more swayed by their emotions, identity, aspirations and aversions, and use this effectively to sell us stuff.

The second example is in movements for change which assume that once people get information they will take action based on a rational analysis of that information. “If I show you a film about peak oil or climate change you’ll join Transition to do something about the problem.” Many people who pioneer Transition may well be like this – when I heard about peak oil put together with climate change I changed the direction of my life. But I can see that for most people this isn’t how it works – there’s a long inner process between hearing information that can be shocking and overwhelming, making sense of it, and coming to some new way of acting in the world.

Here is one person’s definition of a psycho-social approach, and the insights it provides about how humans really work:

  • Our inner worlds are powerfully determined by emotions and the need to manage them, including defending against things which feel overwhelming.
  • We construct our inner world and understand the outer world through narratives and stories.
  • Humans are inconsistent and contradictory rather than rational and consistent.
  • Our sense of self and our behaviour is largely influenced by our social context and its norms, frames and values.

It was great to meet up with other “practitioner” organisations, including the Climate Psychology Alliance,Climate Outreach Information Network (COIN, who are developing an event to help places affected by flooding talk about what’s happened and link it to Climate Change) and Carbon Conversations.

Carbon Conversations designed an in depth process supported by a trained facilitator and workbook to give information and explore responses to Climate Change in facilitated small groups. Thousands have been through the process, and after the small number who came to the Weathering Change event I wonder whether we really need a smaller trusted group to open this emotional territory.

I read an article by Carbon Conversations founder Ro Randall several years ago, which described its focus on the process of loss, to help people work through the “Tasks of Mourning” as defined by psychologist J Worden from his model of loss. These include

  • acknowledging the reality of the loss,
  • working through grief,
  • creating a new identity in the changed circumstances,
  • and redirecting the energy of the old attachment to new relationships.

Looking at my own process I can see that the third task alone involved changing my work, living in a different place, starting a new relationship, renegotiating all my friendships – some of which I’ve lost as well as new ones I’ve found – and learning totally new skills like growing organic veg. All of this happened without a single gram of carbon being saved. It took a lot of time and internal energy. But it’s the foundation for all the changes in the way that I now live.

At the conference I could feel my disappointment that those working with limited models sometimes think that their way is the best. I’ve found that any model you use shows you a different facet of the whole picture. If we focus on loss and grief we may forget that actually the system we’re losing is in many ways more like a self destructive addiction than a beloved friend. Yes it’s supported life for many countries and many people, but only through huge destruction of our natural world, of many other cultures, and the creation of huge inequality. So an addiction lens helps us to see something else – that the end of the industrial growth system potentially has huge benefits if we can find a different system that’s rooted in something more healthy.

I found it really helpful that one of the key speakers at the conference gave us a much more complete overview of ways of understanding and taking action in the world. [It looked to me very like Wilber’s four quadrants, which I’ve also used to help teach a complete and integrated understanding of healthy and destructive human systems.] The four quadrants can roughly be defined as inner / outer and individual / collective. Here’s an abbreviated version of the model:

The Quadrant Approach To Engagement (Renee Lertzman, PhD)

Emotional experience

Feelings, construction of meaning, defence mechanisms, denial, narrative, empathy, dialogue, motivational interviewing

Activities: conversation / support groups, qualitative research, workshops, leadership development, arts

Behavioural

Movitiations, reasoning, probabilities, levers and drivers, cognitive processes, rationality, triggers, shift, switch, incentives, proactive change, quantitative research

Activities; Behaviour change programmes, energy efficiency, utlitities, transport (incentives / taxes), employee engagement

Socio-cultural –

World views, ethics, ideologies, beliefs, messaging, frames and values based engagement

Activities: faith based programmes, public opinion polls

Contexts: marketing, political messaging, policy segmentation,

Systems

Collaboration, design, social practices, systems thinking, resilience, infrastructure, solutions focus

Social innovation projects, pu blic / private partnerships, community based projects, participatory design, piloting

Activities; Resource issues (regional / watershed),

Renee, who brought this model suggested that these different modes of engagement tend to operate only within their own set of systems which then limits and weakens their practice, since the reality is that humans are operating in all four quadrants all the time. This strongly reflects what I’ve seen particularly in the two major movements for positive change that I’ve been involved with. In the personal growth movement the focus starts with personal inner experience – “The change starts with what’s inside me, to make positive change in the world I need to heal myself first”. Political and environmental change movements take the opposite view: “We can only act within the systems around us – the systems need to change before people can change”

switchesFor me this is a classic case of the need for “both / and” – arguments about which of these is more true are a waste of time. I think it’s part of the rare potential of Transition (some have told me that for them it’s a defining distinction which makes Transition worth giving time to) is that we attempt – despite difficulties – to include both ways of creating change.

Here’s why this inclusive approach is important. People who only see the personal inner quadrant can get stuck in their personal journey. Is it helpful that there are people with great inner peace and even accessing states of enlightenment if their personal practice includes unsustainable consumption of carbon through flying to workshops or particular diets? Surely at some point there has to be a connection between our inner practice and the needs of our community and the ecological systems that support life, or we’re living our own individual version of separation and denial.

And on the other hand, many social and political movements have ended up either burnt out, or split apart by conflict because they didn’t have the inner insights and process skills to deal with their own their unconscious process – which will naturally include unhealthy dynamics around power and privilege which permeate all of us however deep our aspiration to cooperation or equality.

So the strongest and most lasting movements will be those which truly practise inclusivity – by rising to challenge of understanding the different worldviews and language of those who focus on other quadrants, and who can truly embody the quality of peace and resilience that comes from valuing diversity.

A final word about Happiness!

A nice coincidence is that today, Thursday 20th March is International Happiness day. I’m not sure if the timing is deliberate, but on this day you can listen for free to a discussion between Hilary Prentice – who first dreamt up Inner Transition in Totnes – discussing exactly question. Starting from the perspective of why self awareness and inner disciplines are invaluable for activists – but I imagine also acknowledging that the bridge needs to go both ways.

My final meeting in London was with Mark Williamson from Action for Happiness, part of a growing movement that aims to make Happiness a political priority, the thing governments should focus on growing rather than our material or financial economy. I’m planning to write more about this, but the work that underpins the Happiness movement is key to Transition because it explains how it is possible to create energy descent – a steady, major reduction in our use of energy and resources – while creating a better way of living.

The key to this lies once again in understanding what a human being really is and what makes us happy. Increasing evidence shows that this does not come from material possessions or consumption beyond having our basic subsistence needs met – but rather from things like having happy, close, loving relationships, meaningful and connected work, and knowing that those around us are also in a state of well being.

Have a happy day of happiness!!

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