Co-op America's plan to combat global warming calls for a moratorium on coal. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels -- it creates more pollution than oil, natural gas and gasoline when burned. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said recently, "There's not a coal-fired plant in America that's clean. They're all dirty." If we're going to get serious about fighting global warming, we need a complete halt to the coal industry.
Mountaintop removal mining flattens mountains, devastating communities and ecosystems in Appalachia. A biologically diverse habitat is being destroyed, and the rich Appalachian culture it inspired is threatened. It is a deadly lose-lose for climate change -- accelerating coal burning and deforestation.
In the process of mountaintop removal mining:
forests are clear-cut to expose the tops of mountains, which are then blown off with explosives
coal is extracted using large machinery
unused soil and rock are dumped into adjacent stream valleys, filling them up and creating a flat landscape
Residents of Appalachia living near these mines are threatened by:
dangerous toxic sludge dams
dynamite blasts that damage homes and create clouds of rock dust from poorly regulated mine operations
poisoned or depleted well water and polluted streams
This destructive practice has been facilitated by the Bush administration's disregard of a Reagan-era regulation, known as the "stream buffer zone rule." This rule prohibits any mining activities to take place within 100 feet of a stream unless it can be proven that water quality and quantity will not be adversely impacted. According to the Office of Surface Mining, the Bush administration has blatantly disregarded this rule by approving the destruction of 535 miles of streams since taking office.
The administration is now proposing to repeal the steam buffer zone rule and give mountaintop removal mining companies a blank check to dump toxic waste and hundreds of millions of tons of mountain remains directly into steams.
You can help stop the destruction of Appalachia's communities, mountains and streams by saying NO to King Coal.
Stop climate change. Stop King Coal. Stop mountaintop removal.
Join Co-op America members nationwide and sign our letter on the proposed rule change to the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining.
Mark your calendar: You need to be in Minneapolis on June 6-8, 2008, for the next National Conference for Media Reform.
Activists, media makers, educators, journalists, policymakers and concerned citizens will converge once again to call for real and lasting changes to the media. Find out why so many call this event the most inspiring and informative conference they've ever attended.
Registration will open in a few months. For now, mark your calendar and join our conference mailing list.
2008 provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to put media reform in the national spotlight. Join us in Minneapolis and help build this critical movement.
Last year's conference in Memphis was a remarkable event. More than 3,000 people connected, strategized and drew inspiration from rousing speeches, provocative panel discussions and hands-on workshops focused on all aspects of the media.
P.S. Don't take our word for it. Here's what other participants had to say about the National Conference for Media Reform:
"The entire Conference was an A++++++++++; it was the best conference I have ever attended in my very long life. Kudos!!!" -- Joya J., Scottsdale, Ariz.
"Finding out that I am not alone nor one of a few outsiders but a member of a large and growing community of progressive activists means I look to the future with less dread and more hope." -- Charles M., Searcy, Ark.
"The value for me was being lifted from a socio-political valley of lonely shadows to a sunlit plateau populated by smart, energetic people who have done and are doing things to take back our democracy." -- Kelly P., Astoria, N.Y.
It may not seem like using a compact fluorescent light bulb or fixing a leaky faucet will do much to reduce your energy costs - or protect the environment.
But if every household practiced just a few simple conservation ideas like the 101 easy ways to save below, we could reduce energy consumption by a significant amount.
All it takes is a few minutes each month, and you'll notice a difference - and make a difference!
1. Do a home energy audit. This survey analyzes your home's structure, appliances and insulation, as well as your family's lifestyle. Alliant Energy offers customers a free energy audit called My Home Comfort Check Up that provides a personalized report detailing specific ways to save energy throughout your home.
Heating your home
2. Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. Dust and dirt can quickly clog vital parts, making your furnace run harder and eventually break down.
3. Have your heating system inspected regularly - especially if it's natural gas. A $50-100 annual tune-up can help reduce your heating costs by up to five percent.
4. If you have a forced-air furnace, do NOT close heat registers in unused rooms. Your furnace is designed to heat a specific square footage of space and can't sense a register is closed - it will continue working at the same pace. In addition, the cold air from unheated rooms can escape into the rest of the house, reducing the effectiveness of all your insulating and weatherizing.
5. Install a programmable thermostat. If you use it to set back the temperature by 10 degrees for eight hours every night, you'll lower your heating bills by 10 percent. A $50 digital thermostat can pay for itself in energy savings in less than a year.
6. Don't set the thermostat higher than you actually want it. It won't heat your home any faster, and it will keep your furnace running longer than necessary.
7. Vacuum registers and vents regularly, and don't let furniture and draperies block the air flow. Inexpensive plastic deflectors can direct air under tables and chairs.
8. If your home has a boiler system, avoid covering radiators with screens or blocking them with furniture. It's also a good idea to add a reflecting panel behind radiators - you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
9. If your home has electric baseboard heating, be sure to keep furniture and draperies away from the heaters, and leave at least a three-inch clearance under the heating unit.
10. Keep curtains and blinds closed at night to keep cold air out, but open them during the day to let the sun warm the room.
11. Avoid using space heaters, including electric, kerosene or propane models. Not only are they expensive to operate, they're also very dangerous.
12. If you have hardwood or tile floors, add area rugs to keep your feet warm.
13. If you'll be going on vacation, lower the thermostat to 55 degrees. This will save energy while preventing water pipes from freezing.
14. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned and inspected regularly, and burn only fully dried hardwoods to produce the most heat output.
15. Check the seal on the damper by closing it off and holding a piece of tissue paper inside the firebox. If drafts blow the tissue around, repair or replace the damper.
16. When using the fireplace, turn down the furnace to 55 degrees. If you don't, all the warm air from the furnace will go right up the chimney, wasting energy and money.
17. Add fireproof caulk where the chimney meets the wall, inside and outside.
18. When the fireplace is not in use, make sure fireplace dampers are sealed tight, and keep the glass doors closed. If you never use your fireplace, plug the chimney with fiberglass insulation and seal the doors with silicone caulk.
29. Maintain your central air conditioner by cleaning the outside compressor with a garden hose (be sure to shut off power at the fuse or breaker first). Keep plantings at least one foot away for adequate airflow.
30. During late afternoon and early evening, turn off unnecessary lights and wait to use heat-producing appliances. It's also a good idea to shade south- and west- facing windows during the hottest part of the day.
31. Plant a tree. One well-placed shade tree can reduce your cooling costs by 25 percent. For maximum benefit, place leafy shade trees to the south and west, and evergreens to the north.
32. Use ceiling fans to help circulate air throughout the house, and make sure your attic is properly ventilated. A ceiling fan should run clockwise during the summer, and counter-clockwise during the winter.
33. Set the fan on your central air conditioner to "on" rather than "auto." This will circulate air continuously, keeping the temperature more even throughout the house and aiding in dehumidification.
34. Make sure your window air conditioner is the proper size. It's better to get one that's too small than too large - a larger unit will start up and turn off more frequently and won't do as good a job dehumidifying the air.
35. Don't judge the efficiency of your air conditioner by the sound of the fan shutting on and off. The blower will continue to circulate cooled air throughout your home up to 15 minutes after the compressor has stopped. (The same holds true for the furnace.)
36. Raise the thermostat to about 78 to 80 degrees whenever you go to bed or leave the house. A programmable thermostat will do this for you automatically.
37. If your home can't accommodate central air conditioning, try a whole-house attic fan. This device pushes hot air out through attic vents, lowering the temperature throughout your home about five degrees in less than ten minutes. Attic fans cost less than 25 cents per day to operate.
38. During the winter, remove window air conditioners and seal the windows with caulk and weatherstripping. You might also want to cover the central air compressor with a tarp to keep it clean.
39. Seal doors and windows with caulk, weatherstripping and plastic film. An investment of $50 in weatherizing supplies can reduce heating costs by two to three times that much. Don't forget the basement windows!
40. Add foam gaskets behind all outlet covers and switch plates, and use safety plugs in all unused outlets. These are prime places for outside air to leak into your home. Be sure to shut off power at the fuse box or circuit panel first.
41. Check the exterior of your home for air leaks, especially around openings for water spigots, air conditioner hoses, dryer vents and gas pipes. Use caulk or expanding foam to seal spaces.
42. If your home has a large, single-pane picture window, use heavy draperies during the winter to help hold back cold air.
43. Reflective window film can help reduce heat gain during the summer, and it will keep furniture and carpets from fading.
44. Check window panes to see if they need new glazing. If the glass is loose, replace the putty holding the pane in place. Most types of window glazing require painting for a proper seal.
45. If drafts sneak in under exterior doors, replace the threshold. If that's not practical, block the drafts with a rolled-up towel or blanket.
46. Seal the edges of unused doors and windows with rope caulk. Don't seal them shut permanently - you might need quick ventilation or escape during an emergency.
47. Choose the right kind of caulk for the job. Use latex or acrylic caulk inside - it's easy to clean and more forgiving if you're a beginner. Silicone caulk is great for outside use because it lasts longer and seals virtually any type of surface.
48. Don't forget to weatherize the attic access. Secure batt insulation to the back of the hatch or door, and use weatherstripping to seal the opening.
49. Set the water heater temperature at 120 degrees - about halfway between low and medium. This will help save energy and prevent scalding, while keeping unhealthy bacteria from growing.
50. Install a water-saving showerhead. Don't worry - it won't reduce your water pressure. A family of four, each taking a five-minute shower a day, can save $250 a year in water heating costs by switching to a low-flow showerhead.
51. Fix leaky faucets, especially if it's a hot water faucet. One drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month - that's more than one person uses in two weeks.
52. Use aerators on kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. If you have hard water, clean aerators and showerheads with vinegar regularly to reduce deposits and build-up.
53. Take showers, not baths. A five-minute shower will use about 7.5 gallons of hot water, while filling a bathtub can use up to 20 gallons.
54. If your water heater is more than 15 years old, install an insulating wrap to reduce "standby" heat loss. It's also a good idea to insulate hot water pipes where they're accessible.
55. Use smaller kitchen appliances whenever possible. Microwaves, toaster ovens and slow-cookers can use 75 percent less energy than a large electric oven.
56. Vacuum the refrigerator coils about twice a year to keep the compressor running efficiently.
57. As your mother always told you, don't leave the refrigerator door open. Every time it's opened, up to 30 percent of the cooled air can escape. The same rule holds for the oven, too.
58. Keep the refrigerator temperature about 36-38 degrees, and the freezer at 0-5 degrees.
59. Don't overload the refrigerator or freezer. The cold air needs to circulate freely to keep foods at the proper temperature.
60. Make sure the refrigerator is level, so the door automatically swings shut instead of open. If the floor isn't level, use shims to prop up the front of the refrigerator.
61. Don't worry about placing hot leftovers in the refrigerator. It won't affect energy use significantly, and cooling food to room temperature first can increase the chance of food-borne illnesses.
62. Check the seal on your refrigerator door by closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it's time to replace the gaskets. You can purchase a replacement kit from an appliance dealer or a home center.
63. Use your oven's self-cleaning feature immediately after cooking, while the oven is still hot. This will reduce a lengthy warm-up time.
64. Use lids on pots and pans to reduce cooking times, and don't put a small pan on a large burner.
65. Keep the grease plates under range burners clean to reflect heat more efficiently.
66. Run the dishwasher only with full loads, and use the air-dry cycle. If your dishwasher has a "booster" water heater, use it; this will heat the water to the 140 degrees recommended by manufacturers, while maintaining an energy-saving 120 degrees on your primary water heater.
73. Look for a compact fluorescent wattage that's about one-third of the incandescent wattage you usually use.
74. Use lighting control devices like dimmers, motion detectors, occupancy sensors, photocells and timers to provide light only when you need it.
75. Keep lamps away from thermostats; the heat produced can cause your furnace to run less than needed or your air conditioner more than needed.
76. Dust light fixtures regularly. A heavy coat of dust can block up to 50 percent of the light output.
77. Use only a single bulb in a multi-socket fixture. Be sure to check the maximum wattage the fixture allows.
78. Replace an incandescent outdoor light or high-intensity floodlight with a high-pressure sodium fixture. The bulbs will last longer, use less energy, and handle temperature extremes better.
79. Use low-voltage lighting kits to light walkways, patios and decks. The soft light will also attract fewer annoying insects.
80. Decorate with pale colors on walls, ceilings and floors. Soft tones reflect more light, so you can use lower wattage bulbs and delay turning on lights until later in the day. Using high-gloss paint can help as well.
81. Read light bulb packages carefully. Watts measure the amount of energy needed; lumens measure how much light a bulb produces. Energy-saving bulbs produce more lumens per watt of electricity used.
82. Get rid of spare refrigerators or freezers. An extra appliance can add more than $100 to your energy bills every year, and it's a safety hazard for small children.
83. Keep outdoor hot tubs covered when not in use. If you have a pool, use a solar cover to use the natural warmth of the sun to heat the water.
84. Keep waterbeds covered with quilts or blankets to help retain their heat. You might also want to insulate the bottom with a sheet of rigid foam insulation.
85. Keep the garage door closed, especially during the winter.
86. If you need a new lawn mower, consider an electric model. They're less expensive to operate (about three cents of electricity per use), 75 percent quieter, and they significantly reduce toxic emissions.
87. Instead of air-polluting and expensive charcoal or propane, try an electric or natural gas grill. They're more economical and more convenient - you'll never run out of fuel.
88. Unplug any electrical device that's not being used. Many appliances, especially computers, televisions and VCRs draw power even when turned off.
89. Place humidifiers and dehumidifiers away from walls and bulky furniture. These appliances work best when air circulates freely around them. Be sure to clean the unit often to prevent unhealthy mold and bacteria from developing.
90. If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls, and use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.
91. When you take a vacation, don't forget to give your appliances a rest too. Turn off and unplug everything you can, set your water heater to the lowest setting and shut off the water supply to the dishwasher and washing machine.
Buying new appliances
92. Remember that it pays to invest in energy efficiency. In some cases, the money you save in energy costs can pay back the purchase price in just a few years.
93. Always read the Energy Guide label carefully, and make sure you're comparing "apples to apples." Energy use can range significantly even within a single brand.
94. Choose the capacity that's right for your family. Whether it's a furnace or a refrigerator, it doesn't pay to purchase a unit that's too large or too small.
95. In almost every case, a natural gas appliance is more economical to use than an electric model. The $50-75 price difference can be paid back in energy savings in less than a year.
96. Replace inefficient appliances - even if they're still working. An aging water heater or refrigerator could be costing you much more than you think. If your central air conditioner is more than 10 years old, replacing it with a high-efficiency new unit will cut your summer electric bills by about one-third.
97. Shop during the off-season. Many heating and cooling manufacturers offer significant rebates during seasonal sales promotions, and dealers may charge less for installation.
98. Investigate new technology carefully. Some innovations, like convection ovens or argon-filled windows, may save energy and make life more convenient; others, such as commercial-grade kitchen appliances, might be merely expensive cosmetic enhancements.
99. Look for the "EnergyStar" logo. This designation from the Environmental Protection Agency means that the appliance exceeds minimum federal energy- use standards, usually by a significant amount.
100. Don't forget to ask about warranties, service contracts, and delivery and installation costs.
1. Abandon the world. The world is the enemy of the Earth. The "world as we know it" is a deadly parasite on the biosphere. Both cannot survive, nor can the world survive without the Earth. Do the logic: the world is doomed. If you stay on the parasite, you die with it. If you move to the Earth, and it survives in something like its recent form, you can survive with it.
Our little world is doomed because it's built on a foundation of taking from the wider world without giving back. For thousands of years we've been going into debt and calling it "progress," exterminating and calling it "development," stealing and calling it "wealth," shrinking into a world of our own design and calling it "evolution." We're just about done. We're not just running out of cheap oil — which is used to make and move almost every product, and which gives the average American the energy equivalent of 200 slaves. We're also running out of topsoil, without which we need oil-derived fertilizers to grow food; and forests, which stabilize climate and create rain by transpiring water to refill the clouds; and ground water, such as the Ogallala aquifer under the Great Plains, which could go dry any time now. We're running out of room to dump stuff in the oceans without killing them, and to dump stuff in the atmosphere without wrecking the climate, and to manufacture carcinogens without all of us getting cancer. We're coming to the end of global food stockpiles, and antibiotics that still work, and our own physical health, and our own mental health, and our grip on reality, and our will to keep the whole game going. Why do you think so many Americans are looking forward to "Armageddon" or the "rapture"? We hate this shitty world and we want to blow it up.
In the next five or ten years, the US military will be humiliated, the dollar will collapse, the housing bubble will burst, tens of millions of Americans will be destitute, food, fuel, and manufactured items will get really expensive, and most of us will begin withdrawal from the industrial lifestyle. SUV's will change their function from transportation to shelter. We will not be able to imagine how we ever thought calories were bad. Smart people will stop exterminating the dandelions in their yard and start eating them. Ornamental gardens will go the way of fruit hats and bloomers. In the cities, pigeon populations will decline.
This is not the "doom" scenario. I'm not saying anything about death camps, super-plagues, asteroid impacts, solar flares, nuclear war, an instant ice age, or a runaway greenhouse effect. This is the mildest realistic scenario, the slow crash: energy prices will rise, the middle class will fall into the lower class, economies will collapse, nations will fight desperate wars over resources, in the worst places people will starve, and climate disasters will get worse. Your area might resemble the botched conquest of Iraq, or the depression in Argentina, or the fall of Rome, or even a crusty Ecotopia. My young anarchist friends are already packing themselves into unheated houses and getting around by bicycle, and they're noticeably happier than my friends with full time jobs. We just have to make the mental adjustment. Those who don't, who cling to the world they grew up in, numbing themselves and waiting for it all to blow over, will have a miserable time, and if people die, they will be the first. Save some of them if you can, but don't let them drag you down. The first thing they teach lifeguards is how to break holds.
2. Abandon hope. I don't mean that we stop trying, or stop believing that a better world is possible, but that we stop believing that some factor is going to save us even if we do the wrong thing. A few examples:
Jesus is coming. If you believe the Bible, Jesus told us when he was coming back to save us. He said, "This generation shall not pass." That was 2000 years ago. Stop waiting for that bus and get walking.
The Mayan calendar is ending. Some people who scoff at Christian prophecies still manage to believe something equally religious and a lot less specific about what's going to happen. At least Jesus preached peace and enlightenment — the Mayans were a warlike people who crashed their civilization by cutting down the forests of the Yucatan and exhausting their farmland. That's what we should be studying, not their calendar and its alleged message that a better world is coming very soon and with little effort on our part. Now the Mayan calendar gurus will say that it does take effort and we have a choice to go either way, but go back to 1988 and read what 2004 was supposed to look like, and it's obvious that we've already failed.
Technology will save us. If it does, it will be something we don't even recognize as "technology" — permaculture or orgonomy or water vortices or forest gardening or quantum consciousness or the next generation of the tribe. It will not be a new germ killer or resource extractor or power generator or anything to give us what we want while exempting us from being aware and respectful of other life. Anything like that will just dig us deeper in the same hole.
The system can be reformed. Yes, and it's also not against the laws of physics for us to go back in time and prevent the industrial age from ever happening. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago the ecologists said "we have to turn it around now or it will be too late." They were right. And not only didn't we turn it around, we sped it up: more cars with worse efficiency, more toxins, more CO2, more deforestation, more pavement, more lawns, more materialism, more corporate rule, more weapons, more war and love of war, more secrets, more lies, more callousness and cynicism and short-sightedness. Now we're in so deep that politicians right of Nixon are called "liberal" and the Green Party platform is both totally inadequate and politically absurd. Our little system is not going to make it.
Also, there's a time lag between smokestacks and acid rain, between radioactivity and cancer, between industrial toxins and birth defects, between atmospheric imbalance and giant storms, between deforestation and drought, between soil depletion and starvation. The disasters we're getting now are from the relatively mild stuff we did years or decades ago, before SUV's and depleted uranium and aspartame and terminator seeds and the latest generation of factory farms. Even if we could turn it around tomorrow, what's coming is much worse.
We're not strong enough to destroy nature. Oddly, this argument almost always invokes the word "hubris," as in, "You are showing hubris, or excessive pride, in thinking that by lighting this forest on fire to roast a hot dog, I will burn the forest down. Don't you know humans aren't capable of burning down a forest? Shame on you for your pride."
In fact, we've already almost finished killing the Earth. The deserts of central and southwest Asia were once forests -- ancient empires cut down the trees and let the topsoil wash off into the Indian Ocean. In North America a squirrel could go tree to tree from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, and spawning salmon were so thick in rivers and streams that you couldn't row a boat through them, and the seashores were rich with seals, fishes, birds, clams, lobsters, whales. Now they're deserts populated only by seagulls eating human garbage, and nitrogen fertilizer runoff has made dead zones in the oceans, and atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing oceanic acidity, which may dissolve the shells of the plankton. If the plankton die, it's all over.
Maybe we can't kill absolutely everything, but we are on the path to cutting life on Earth down to nothing bigger than a cockroach, and we will do so, and all of us will die, unless something crashes our system sooner and only kills most of us.
3. Drop Out. (See my essay How To Drop Out.) Dropping out of the present dominant system has both a mental and an economic component that go together like your two legs walking. It's a lot of steps! Maybe you notice that you hate your job, and that you have to do it because you need money. So you reduce expenses, reduce your hours, and get more free time, in which you learn more techniques of self-sufficiency and establish a sense of identity not dependent on where you get your money. Then you switch to a low-status low-stress job that gives you even more room to get outside the system mentally. And so on, until you've changed your friends, your values, your whole life.
The point I have to make over and over about this process, and this movement, is that it's not about avoiding guilt, or reducing your ecological footprint, or being righteous. It's not a pissing contest to see who's doing more to save the Earth — although some people will believe that's your motivation, to justify their own inertia. It's not even about reducing your participation in the system, just reducing your submission and dependence: getting free, being yourself, slipping out of a wrestling hold so you can throw an elbow at the Beast.
This world is full of people with the intelligence, knowledge, skills, and energy to make heaven on Earth, but they can't even begin because they would lose their jobs. We're always arguing to change each other's minds, but nobody will change if they think their survival depends on not changing. Every time you hear about a whistleblower or reporter getting fired for honesty and integrity, you can be sure that they already had a support network, or just a sense of their own value, outside of the system they defied. Dropping out is about fighting better. Gandalf has to get off Saruman's tower!
4. You are here to help. In the culture of Empire, we are trained to think of ourselves as here to "succeed," to build wealth and status and walls around ourselves, to get what we desire, to win in games where winning is given meaning by others losing. It is a simple and profound shift to think of ourselves instead as here to help — to serve the greatest good that we can perceive in whatever way is right in front of us.
You don't have to sacrifice yourself for others, or put others "above" you. Why is it so hard to see each other as equals? And it's OK to have a good time. In fact, having a good time is what most helping comes down to — the key is that you're focused on the good times of all life everywhere including your "self," instead of getting caught up in egocentric comparison games that aren't even that fun.
Defining yourself as here to help is a prerequisite for doing some of the other things on this list properly. If you're here to win you're not saving anything but your own wretched ass for a few additional years. If you're dropping out to win you're likely to be stepping on other outsiders, instead of throwing a rope to bring more people out alive. And as the system breaks down, people here to win will waste their energy fighting each other for scraps, while people here to help will build self-sufficient communities capable of generating what they need to survive.
In the real world, being here to help is easier and less stressful, because you will frequently be in a situation where you can't win, but you will almost never be in a situation where there's nothing you can do to help. Being here to win only makes sense in an artificial world rigged so you can win all the time. Thousands of years ago only kings were in that position, and they reacted by massacring all enemies and bathing in blood. Now, through a perfect conjunction of Empire and oil energy, we just put the entire American middle class in that position for 50 years. No one should be surprised that we're so stupid, selfish, cowardly, and irresponsible. But younger generations are already getting poorer and smarter.
5. Learn skills. Readers sometimes ask for my advice on surviving the crash — should they buy guns, canned food, water purifiers, gold? I always tell them to learn skills. You know the saying: get a fish, eat for a day; learn to fish, eat for a lifetime. (Just don't take it too literally — there might not be any fish left!)
The most obvious useful skills would include improvising shelter from materials at hand, identifying and preparing wild edibles, finding water, making fire, trapping animals, and so on. But I don't think we're going all the way to the stone age. There will also be a need for electrical work, medical diagnosis, surgery, optics, celestial navigation, composting, gardening, tree propagation, food preservation, diplomacy, practical chemistry, metalworking, all kinds of mechanical repair, and all kinds of teaching. As the 15th century had the Renaissance Man, we're going to have the Postapocalypse Man or Woman, someone who can fix a bicycle, tan a hide, set a broken bone, mediate an argument, and teach history.
Even more important are some things that are not normally called skills, but that make skill-learning and everything else easier: luck, intuition, adaptability, attentiveness, curiosity, physical health, mental health, the ability to surf the flow. Maybe the most fundamental is what they call "being yourself" or "waking up." Most human behavior is based neither on logic nor intuition nor emotion, but habit and conformity. We perceive, think, and act as we've always done, and as we see others do. This works well enough in a controlled environment, but in a chaotic environment it doesn't work at all. If you can just get 10% of yourself free of habit and conformity, people will call you "weird." 20% and they'll call you a genius, 30% and they'll call you a saint, 40% and they'll kill you.
6. Find your tribe. We minions of Empire think of ourselves as individualists, or as members of silly fake groups — nations, religions, races, followers of political parties and sports teams, loyal inmates of some town that's the same as every other. In fact we're all members of a giant mad tribe, where the relationships are not cooperative and open, but coercive, exploitative, abusive, and invisible. If we could see even one percent of the whole picture, we would have a revolution.
You may feel like you want to do it alone, but you have never done it alone. To survive the breakdown of this world and build a better one, you will have to trade your sterile, insulated links of money and law for raw, messy links of friendship and conflict. The big lie of post-apocalypse movies like Omegaman and Mad Max is that the survivors will be loners. In the real apocalypse, the survivors will be members of multi-skilled well-balanced cooperative groups.
I think future tribes are already forming, even on the Internet, even among people thousands of miles apart. I think the crash will be slow enough that we'll have plenty of time to get together geographically.
7. Get on some land. This might seem more difficult than the others, yet most people who own land have not done any of the other things — probably because buying land requires money which requires subservience to a system that makes you personally powerless. I suggest extreme frugality, which will give you valuable skills and also allow you to quickly save up money. You probably have a few more years.
If you don't make it, it's not the end of the world — oh wait — it is the end of the world! But you still might know someone with room on their land, or someone might take you in for your skills, or if you have a tribe one of you will probably come up with a place in the chaos. And if not, there will be a need for survivors and helpers in the cities and suburbs. So don't force it.
If you do get land, the most valuable thing it can have is clean surface water, a spring or stream you can drink from. Acceptable but less convenient would be a well that doesn't require electricity, or dirty surface water, which you can filter and clean through sand and reed beds. At the very least you need the rainfall and skills to catch and store enough rainwater to drink and grow food. (The ancient Nabateans did it on less than four inches of rain a year.) Then you'll need a few years to learn and adjust and get everything in order so that your tribe can live there year-round, even with no materials from outside. With luck, it won't come to that.
8. Save part of the Earth. When I say "the Earth," I mean the life on its surface, the biosphere, as many species and habitats as possible, connected in ways that maximize abundance and complexity — and not just because humans think it's pretty or useful, but because all life is valuable on its own terms. We like to focus on saving trophy animals — whales, condors, pandas, salmon, spotted owls — but most of them aren't going to make it, and we could save a lot more species if we could put that attention into habitats and whole systems.
So how do you save habitats and whole systems? You can try working through governments, but at the moment they're ruled by corporations, which by definition are motivated purely by short term increase-in-exploitation, or "profit." You can try direct physical action against the destroyers, but it has yet to work well, and as the world plunges to the right I think we'll see more and more activists simply killed.
My focus is direct positive action for the biosphere: adopting some land, whether by owning or squatting or stealth, and building it into a strong habitat: slowing down the rainwater, composting, mulching, building the topsoil, no-till gardening, scattering seed balls, planting trees, making wetlands — a little oasis where the tree frogs can hide and migrating birds can rest, where you and a few species can wait out the crash.
Tom Brown Jr. mentions in one of his books that the patch of woods where he conducts his wilderness classes, instead of being depleted by all the humans using it for survival, has turned into an Eden, because his students know how to tend it. Some rain forest environments, once thought to be random wilderness, have turned out to be more like the wild gardens of human tribes, orders of magnitude more complex than the soil-killing monoculture fields of our own primitive culture.
Humans have the ability to go beyond sustainability, to live in ways that increase the richness of life on Earth, and help Gaia in ways she cannot help herself. This and only this justifies human survival.
It requires a new set of skills. A good place to start is the permaculture movement. Sadly, in the present dark age the original books are all out of print and rare, and classes are so expensive that the knowledge is languishing among the idle rich when it should be offered free to the world. But the idle poor can still find the books in libraries, and many of the techniques are simple. What it comes down to is seeing whole systems and paying attention and innovating, driven by the knowledge that sustainability is only the middle of the road, and there's no limit to how far we can go beyond it.
9. Save human knowledge. When people of this age think about knowledge worth saving, they usually think about belief in the Cartesian mechanical philosophy, that dead matter is the basis of reality, and about techniques for rebuilding and using machines that dominate and separate us from other life. I'd like that knowledge to die forever, but I don't think it works that way. Humans or any other hyper-malleable animal will always be tempted by the Black Arts, by techniques that trade subtle harm for flashy good and feed back into themselves, seducing us into power, corruption, and blindness.
Our descendants will need the intellectual artifacts to avoid this — artifacts we have barely started to develop even as the Great Bad Example begins to fall. In 200 years, when they are brushing seeds into baskets with their fingers, and a stranger appears with a new threshing machine that will do the same thing with less time and effort, they will need to say something smarter than "the Gods forbid it" or "that is not our Way." They will need the knowledge to say something like:
"Your machine requires the seed to be planted alone and not interspersed with perennials that maintain nitrogen and mineral balance in the soil. And from where will the metal come, and how many trees must be cut down and burned to melt and shape it? And since we cannot build the machine, shall we be dependent on the machine-builders, and give them a portion of our food, which we now keep all for ourselves? Do you not know, clever stranger, that when any biomass is removed from the land, and not recycled back into it, the soil is weakened? And what could we do with our "saved" time, that would be more valuable and pleasurable than gathering the seed by hand, touching and knowing every stalk and every inch of the land that feeds us? Shall we become allies of cold metal that cuts without feeling, turning our hands and eyes to the study of machines and numbers until, severed from the Earth, we nearly destroy it as our ancestors did, making depleted uranium and polychlorinated biphenyls and cadmium batteries that even now make the old cities unfit for living? Go back to your people, and tell them, if they come to conquer us with their machines, we will fight them in ways the Arawaks and Seminoles and Lakota and Hopi and Nez Perce never imagined, because we understand your world better than you do yourself. Tell your people to come to learn."
I'm writing today to ask for your help. The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy because of a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board in Washington, DC to almost triple the licensing fees for Internet radio sites like Pandora. The new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays, and broadcast radio doesn't pay these at all. Left unchanged, these new royalties will kill every Internet radio site, including Pandora.
In response to these new and unfair fees, we have formed the SaveNetRadio Coalition, a group that includes listeners, artists, labels and webcasters. I hope that you will consider joining us.
Please feel free to forward this link/email to your friends - the more petitioners we can get, the better.
Understand that we are fully supportive of paying royalties to the artists whose music we play, and have done so since our inception. As a former touring musician myself, I'm no stranger to the challenges facing working musicians. The issue we have with the recent ruling is that it puts the cost of streaming far out of the range of ANY webcaster's business potential.
I hope you'll take just a few minutes to sign our petition - it WILL make a difference. As a young industry, we do not have the lobbying power of the RIAA. You, our listeners, are by far our biggest and most influential allies.
As always, and now more than ever, thank you for your support.
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Beginning in the 1950s,
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the world's largest bomb.
In the Soviet Union,
Andrei Sakharov was the
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