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Sustainability: How Humans’ Economy Differs from Natures’

 

 

Our Finite World

A few years ago, I had an ah-ha moment when it comes to what we as humans would need to do to live in a sustainable manner. It is very easy. All we have to do is leave our homes, take off all of our clothes, and learn to live on the raw food we are able to gather with our own hands. We have a built-in transportation system, so that is not a problem.

Some animals are eusocial, that is, organized in away that allows for cooperative brood care and other joint tasks. If we follow that approach, we would get our extended families to join us living in nature, au naturel. We could then co-operate on tasks such as child rearing and gathering food.

Nature’s Provision for Order

Nature is organized in a number of ways that make certain that there will be modest change over time…

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John Taylor Explains Why Economic Failure Causes Political Polarization | Zero Hedge

John Taylor Explains Why Economic Failure Causes Political Polarization | Zero Hedge. (source)

Authored by John Taylor, originally posted at WSJ.com,

It is a common view that the shutdown, the debt-limit debacle and the repeated failure to enact entitlement and pro-growth tax reform reflect increased political polarization. I believe this gets the causality backward. Today’s governance failures are closely connected to economic policy changes, particularly those growing out of the 2008 financial crisis.

The crisis did not reflect some inherent defect of the market system that needed to be corrected, as many Americans have been led to believe. Rather it grew out of faulty government policies.

In the years leading up to the panic, mainly 2003-05, the Federal Reserve held interest rates excessively low compared with the monetary policy strategy of the 1980s and ’90s—a monetary strategy that had kept recessions mild. The Fed’s interest-rate policies exacerbated the housing boom and thus the ensuing bust. More generally, extremely low interest rates led individual and institutional investors to search for yield and to engage in excessive risk taking, as Geert Bekaert of Columbia University and his colleagues showed in a study published by the European Central Bank in July.

Meanwhile, regulators who were supposed to supervise large financial institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, allowed large deviations from existing safety and soundness rules. In particular,regulators permitted high leverage ratios and investments in risky, mortgage-backed securities that also fed the housing boom.

After the housing bubble burst the value of mortgage-backed securities plummeted, putting the solvency of the many banks and other financial institutions at risk. The government stepped in, but its ad hoc bailout policy was on balance destabilizing.

Whether or not it was appropriate for the Federal Reserve to bail out the creditors of Bear Stearns in March 2008, it was a mistake not to lay out a framework for future interventions. Instead, investors assumed that the creditors of Lehman Brothers also would be bailed out—and when they weren’t and Lehman declared bankruptcy in September, it was a big surprise, raising grave uncertainty about government policy going forward.

The government then passed the Troubled Asset Relief Program which was supposed to prop up banks by purchasing some of their problematic assets. The purchase plan was viewed as unworkable and financial markets continued to plummet—the Dow fell by 2,399 points in the first eight trading days of October—until the plan was radically changed into a capital injection program. Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, appearing last month on CNBC on the fifth anniversary of the Lehman bankruptcy, argued that TARP saved us. Former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich, appearing later on the same show, argued that TARP significantly worsened the crisis by creating even more uncertainty.

In any case, the crisis ended, but rather than simply winding down its short-term liquidity facilities the Fed continued to intervene through massive asset purchases—commonly called quantitative easing. Many outside and inside the Fed are unconvinced quantitative easing is meeting its objective of spurring economic growth. Yet there is a growing worry about the Fed’s ability to reduce its asset purchases without market disruption. Bond and mortgage markets were roiled earlier this year by Chairman Ben Bernanke’s mere hint that the Fed might unwind.

The crisis ushered in the 2009 fiscal stimulus package and other interventions such as cash for clunkers and subsidies for first-time home buyers, which have not led to a sustained recovery. Crucially, the actions taken during the immediate crisis set a precedent for giving the federal government more power to intervene and regulate, which has added to uncertainty.

The Dodd-Frank Act, meant to promote financial stability, has called for hundreds of new rules and regulations, many still unwritten. The law was supposed to protect taxpayers from bailouts. Three years later it remains unclear how large complex financial institutions operating in many different countries will be “resolved” in a crisis. Any fear in the markets about whether a troubled big bank can be handled through Dodd-Frank’s orderly resolution authority can easily drive the U.S. Treasury to resort to another large-scale bailout.

Regulations and interventions also increased in other industries, most significantly in health care. The mandates at the core of the Affordable Care Act represent an unprecedented degree of control by the federal government of the activities of businesses and individuals, adversely affecting incentives to hire and work and eventually worsening the federal-budget outlook.

Federal debt held by the public has increased to 73% of GDP this year from 41% in 2008—and according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will rise to more than 250% without a change in policy. This raises uncertainty about how the debt can be brought under control.

Despite a massive onslaught of legislation and regulation designed to foster prosperity, economic growth remains low and unemployment remains high. Rhetoric aside, many both inside and outside the government quite reasonably seek to return to the kinds of policies that worked well in the not-so-distant past. Claiming that one political party has been hijacked by extremists misses this key point, and prevents a serious discussion of the fundamental changes in economic policies in recent years, and their effects.

 

 

BP’s ‘widespread human health crisis’ – Features – Al Jazeera English

BP’s ‘widespread human health crisis’ – Features – Al Jazeera English. (source)

A slick PR job has not stopped the spread of anti-BP sentiment in the wake of health problems [Reuters]
New Orleans, United States of America – Peter Frizzell never thought his watersports off the coast of Florida would destroy his health.

“After sea kayaking after BP’s spill happened, I was sitting at my desk and started coughing up loads of blood,” Frizzell, an avid outdoorsman, told Al Jazeera. “My doctor ran a scope down to the top of my lungs and said my bronchi were full of blood.”

Frizzell’s medical records bear out that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, and he is far from alone.

Since the spill began in April 2010, Al Jazeera has interviewed hundreds of coastal residents, fishermen, and oil cleanup workers whose medical records, like Frizzell’s, document toxic chemical exposure that they blame on BP’s oil and the toxic chemical dispersants the oil giant used on the spill.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the toxic components commonly found in chemicals in crude oil, and several of these chemicals have been found in the blood of people living in the impact zone of BP’s disaster.

Returning to the Gulf two years after the BP oil spill

Several toxicologists agree, and now one accuses both BP and the US Environmental Protection Agency of knowingly placing people in harms way since they both had prior knowledge of the harmful effects of the oil and dispersants.

“BP told the public that Corexit was ‘as harmless as Dawn dishwashing liquid’,” Dr Susan Shaw, of the State University of New York, told Al Jazeera. “But BP and the EPA clearly knew about the toxicity of the Corexit dispersants long before this spill.”

Shaw, a toxicologist in the university’s School of Public Health, has been studying the health effects of chemical exposure for 30 years. She is also the president and founder of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, and explained that BP’s Material Safety Data Sheets for Corexit warned that the dispersant posed high and immediate human health hazards.

“Five of the Corexit ingredients are linked to cancer, 33 are associated with skin irritation from rashes to burns, 33 are linked to eye irritation, 11 are or are suspected of being potential respiratory toxins or irritants, and 10 are suspected kidney toxins,” she added. “BP’s own testing found that workers were exposed to a possible human carcinogen from the dispersant.

“We predicted with certainty the widespread human health crisis we are seeing in the Gulf today,” Shaw said.

Hazardous to human health

A newly published study conducted by doctors at Houston’s University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers and reported in the American Journal of Medicine, sheds more light on the potential health repercussions for the more than 170,000 people who worked in some capacity to clean up the 2010 disaster.

Their blood tests suggest an elevated health risk for Gulf spill cleanup workers. The study shows that people hired to clean up Gulf of Mexico beaches and marshes during the 2010 oil spill have significantly altered blood profiles that, just as Shaw and other toxicologists warned, put them at increased risk of developing liver cancer, leukemia and other disorders.

Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, response worker and or public exposures to dispersants were well below levels that would pose a health or safety concern.

BP statement

 

“People in the Gulf were exposed to massive amounts of crude oil and Corexit dispersants, both of which contain multiple toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and carcinogens that are hazardous to human health,” said Shaw, who served on the Department of Interior’s Strategic Sciences Working Group – a team of 14 scientists charged with assessing consequences of the oil spill and recommending policy actions in the Gulf.

“The combination of crude oil and Corexit is exponentially more toxic than either alone, since they contain many ingredients that target the same organs in the body.”

Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor, told Al Jazeera she sees clear indications of widespread toxic chemical exposure across the four-state impact zone of BP’s oil disaster.

“It’s pretty clear to me, after spending a year in the Gulf coastal communities during 2010 and 2011, that the suite of illnesses that developed during this time were above and beyond the background level of illnesses incurred in the Gulf,” Ott said.

“People across four states expressed concern that these headache-dizziness-nausea-respiratory problems-blood disorders-skin lesions were different than anything they’d experienced before, and far more intense.”

Ott said that people she is seeing along the roughly 900km impact zone are all consistently describing these same symptoms of exposure to chemicals in the oil and dispersants.

Skin lesions like this have become common in the impact
zone of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
[Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]

“Medical literature supports that these are the symptoms, and I would expect to see increased rates of early term miscarriages for women, early developmental issues for children born to women who were exposed to breathing these fumes and vapours, and also continuing chemical hypersensitivity.”

Unfortunately, what Ott describes is precisely what many Gulf residents are experiencing.

“We’re seeing spontaneous miscarriages, and cancer is rampant,” Trisha Springstead, a nurse of 36 years in Crystal River, Florida, told Al Jazeera. “These are occurring in Orange Beach, Alabama, and all over Mississippi and Alabama…women are not carrying to term.”

Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera he knows many fishermen who participated in the oil clean-up operation who have since died.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Blanchard said. “I know more than half a dozen guys who were totally healthy before the spill who worked on the clean up. They found out they got cancer and within one or two months were dead.”

Dr Wilma Subra, a McArthur Fellow Genius Award-winning toxicologist in New Iberia, Louisiana, has tested the blood of BP clean-up workers and residents.

“Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP crude oil,” Dr Subra recently explained to Al Jazeera. “Exposure has been prolonged enough to create long-term effects, such as liver damage, kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system. So the presence of these chemicals in the blood indicates exposure.”

Ongoing problems

According to Dr Shaw, thousands of people in the Gulf – clean-up workers, fishermen, residents – have now reported multiple severe symptoms related to chemical exposure from the spill.

“What ties them together as a group is their spill-related health problems, which are also typical of the health problems reported from previous oil spills,” she said. “Some of these include: blood in urine, heart palpitations, kidney damage, liver damage, migraines, multiple chemical sensitivity, neurological damage, memory loss, rapid weight loss, respiratory system damage, skin lesions, muscle spasms, seizures, and temporary paralysis.”

Frizzell is experiencing many of these symptoms.

Peter Frizzell’s medical notes show exposure to toxic
chemicals. His towel is soaked in blood he coughed up
[Photo: Peter Frizzell]

“I have neuropathy, my lungs are destroyed, I can’t feel my feet and legs at times,” he explained. “I still have skin lesions come up. How crazy is that that, out of nowhere, your lungs just explode. The day after I was exposed I soaked two full-sized bath towels with coughing up blood. That’s an indication of how much blood I was losing.”

Crude oil contains hundreds of toxic and carcinogenic ingredients, including volatile benzene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Benzene, a principal component of oil, is a human carcinogen that causes nerve damage, leukemia and other haematological cancers.

Official response

Al Jazeera asked Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal what his state was doing to safeguard people against chemical poisoning.

In an earlier statement to Al Jazeera, Jindal’s office said: “Coastal residents and response workers will be compensated through the deal reached between the Plaintiff Steering Committee and BP. BP must follow through on making whole [properly compensating] impacted residents and workers who experienced or are still experiencing health impacts as a result of the spill.”

At time of publishing, Al Jazeera continues to await an updated response from Jindal’s office.

Testimony in the second phase of the BP trial has just come to a close, and the penalty phase against BP has now begun, which is likely to take months. Litigators expect many of the personal claims filed against the oil giant to continue to take years.

Under a settlement with BP, clean-up workers are entitled to some medical payments for certain ailments that they can prove were tied to the spill-related work and their exposure.

BP stressed that workers received safety training and personal protective equipment in coordination with government safety agencies.

“Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, response worker and or public exposures to dispersants were well below levels that would pose a health or safety concern,” the company said.

Denying toxicity

“To deny the toxicity, BP deliberately put 170,000 workers in harm’s way,” Dr Shaw said of BP’s response. “BP told clean-up crews on the boats not to wear respirators because it made them look bad to reporters. A proper protective response would have been hazmat-style suits for anyone coming in contact with Corexit and oil.”

Joe Yerkes was a Florida fisherman who joined BP’s oil clean-up programme because he was put out of work by the spill. When he tried to return to fishing after the clean-up, he quickly became so sick he was unable to continue.
I have spent the last three years literally trying to survive.

Joe Yerkes, former Florida fisherman

He became violently ill, began bleeding from his nose and ears, and began vomiting blood. When Yerkes couldn’t get well, he had his blood tested and found it contained high levels of chemicals which his physician attributed to BP’s oil disaster.

Following the advice of his attending physician, Yerkes was forced to move away from the Gulf.

“I have spent the last three years literally trying to survive,” Yerkes, who now must use a cane to walk and regularly gives himself intravenous treatments, told Al Jazeera. “I have chronic headaches, a fever, and suffer chronic unbearable pain in my muscles and joints, and have had chemical pneumonia twice so far.”

Dr Ott is critical of how the US federal government has reacted to the health crisis.

“It is irresponsible at best, and disingenuous at worst for the federal government to pretend that people can be exposed to these chemicals and not connect the dots between these illnesses and what made them sick,” she said.

Dr Ott is particularly troubled because she has seen all this before.

For years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, she watched as her friends suffered from the same symptoms of chemical exposure she sees today in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I saw many of them adjust to living being chemically ill, then on the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of friends through this – because some people just died,” she added.

Dr Ott explained that chemical illness is a debilitating condition, and believes that now in BP’s impact zone, chemical illness is neither being diagnosed nor treated.

She concluded: “In the Gulf, there is a blanket denial that this is happening at all.”

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

Interventionist Government Policies Cause Of, Not Cure For, Busts – Investors.com

Interventionist Government Policies Cause Of, Not Cure For, Busts – Investors.com. (FULL ARTICLE)

Time is nearly up for Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve who supposedly applied his scholarly knowledge of the Great Depression to steer the U.S. to safety after the financial crisis.

In truth, Bernanke navigated a monetarist course that favored intensive intervention, following in the footsteps of many mainstream economists who grossly misunderstood the lessons of the Crash of 1929 and the ensuing malaise.

That lesson is that when corrective crashes occur, intervention is far from the cure — it is the cause.

Until we learn from the past, we will continue to expose ourselves to devastating booms and busts. The Bernanke-led Fed has only exacerbated the problem, leading us to the brink of an even worse correction.

To capture the lessons learned, we turn to a scholar of the Great Depression: Murray Rothbard of the Austrian School of Economics, who refutes the common misconception that “laissez-faire capitalism was to blame.”

His contrarian and far less popular — yet more accurate — view is that the booms and busts of the business cycle result from shocks to the system caused by monetary intervention….

 

Postcard from the frontline: a Canadian family physician on peak oil

Postcard from the frontline: a Canadian family physician on peak oil. (FULL ARTICLE)

I’m a small town family physician in Ontario, Canada with an unremarkable practice consisting mainly of obesity, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, anxiety / depression and the “worried well” who want to know why they feel tired all the time.  Nothing unusual, nothing particularly glamorous.  One thing which is different about my practice is that I became aware of peak oil five years ago, and since then I have been struggling to integrate this knowledge into my medical practice and family life.

I didn’t intend this to happen.  In the summer of 2008 I did some background reading into peak oil, prompted by an article in our local newspaper.  The more I read, the more concerned I became.  It appeared that although oil wasn’t going to run out any time soon, the global production of oil would soon peak and then decline, if it hadn’t already done so.  This, I discovered, was likely to result in two problems…

 

Would You Leave Your City Life to Live on a Farm? These Two Did | Theresa Albert

Would You Leave Your City Life to Live on a Farm? These Two Did | Theresa Albert.

 

Hong Kong Braces For Worst Storm In 34 Years As Typhoon Usagi Approaches, “Astronomical” Storm Surge Forecast | Zero Hedge

Hong Kong Braces For Worst Storm In 34 Years As Typhoon Usagi Approaches, “Astronomical” Storm Surge Forecast | Zero Hedge.

 

Environmental groups sue Ottawa over use of pesticides linked to cancer and water contamination | News

Environmental groups sue Ottawa over use of pesticides linked to cancer and water contamination | News.

Extreme Fear Is Reasonable | Monty Pelerin’s World

Extreme Fear Is Reasonable | Monty Pelerin’s World.

Worth Your Weight In Gold? | Zero Hedge

Worth Your Weight In Gold? | Zero Hedge.

 

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