Category Archives: Good News

Good news about America. There is plenty of it out there, if one looks for it.

Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

Summary: During the past two weeks I’ve posted much good news to help you prepare for the New Year. Concluding the series is the best news of all: a solid leftist declares an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988.

Good news about the climate

Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop
— the only question is how bad it will be

“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions,
especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.

Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news.

“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …

“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:

‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’

“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …

“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”

This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.

To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.

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A New Year’s resolution for America

We begin 2017 as a nation governed by fear. Campaign 2016 proved this, as both candidates appealed primarily to our fears. I believe we have become fearful because we have forgotten who we are. American is different, like Athens more than our neighbors, as explained in this excerpt from Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (it should be at the top of your reading list):

“For the ancients the soul of the city was the regime, the arrangements of and participation in offices, deliberation about the just and the common good, choices about war and peace, the making of laws.  Rational choice on the part of citizens who were statesmen was understood to be the center of its regime.  …Pericles {in his Funeral Oration, as given by Thucydides} says nothing about the gods, or the poetry, history, sculpture or philosophy of which we think.  He praises Athens’ regime and finds beauty in its political achievement…”

This is even more true of America than Athens. We are not famous for our philosophy, art, or culture. Our contributions to history have been political — from the Declaration of Independence and the preamble of the Constitution (“We the people…”) to the magnanimous settlement of WWII and creation of the United Nations.

The Americans who sat through the long hours of the Lincoln-Douglas debates understood this. The mad festival of Campaign 2016 showed how we have abandoned this tradition, as we were yet again forced to choose between bad and worse.  To see where this leads, read Christian Meier’s biography Caesar.  He describes how the Roman people grew tired of governing themselves, finding the burden too great to bear.  Inevitably, strong men came forward to take this load from them.  People who will not govern themselves have no right to complain about the decisions of the elites who rule them.

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This New Year, let’s resolve to face the future with care, not fear

Summary: Sometime during the past few generations we lost our traditional confidence in ourselves. Fear replaced it. It makes us weak and easy to manipulate. Fortunately our fears are exaggerated, and our history gives us reason for confidence. Let’s shed our fears to make a great 2017!

 

Doomster

Climate change, peak oil, 4GW, social decay, ecological collapse, economic collapse, pandemics of new and old diseases — the list rolls on. It’s the Crisis Crisis, with the doomsters dominating our news. Every day they make readers ask “How can civilization survive until next week?” But for thousands of generations humanity has confronted such serious problems as we climbed from scavengers to become the dominant species on this planet. It’s been a long climb.

Early Victorian London was one of the world’s greatest cities, one of the first modern cities. Its people lived closer to nature than those of today’s London. Their food was “organic”, since the agrichemicals industry — with its artificial preservatives, colorings, and other adulterants — had not been invented.

“The groaning tables on Victorian Christmas cards groaned beneath platters of food that would be condemned as unfit by modern health officials. …In 1842 a royal commission found that the average professional man lived thirty years; the average laborer, seventeen.”

— From William Manchester’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory.

Fantastic progress in technology changed people’s lives to health, affluence, and security most of us in the West enjoy today. It has spread. In Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel Moonraker, MI6’s secret agent 0011 vanished into the “Dirty half-mile” of Singapore; today Singapore citizens consider US cities to be as crime-ridden holes compared to their well-run city-state.

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Good news: a new industrial revolution has begun!

Summary: For the next chapter of this series about good news, let’s look at the new industrial revolution. Our experience with the last industrial revolution shows us the potential and peril that lies ahead. It will be exciting. Let’s work to make it fun, not painful.

“For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.”
— Treebeard in Tolkien’s The Return of the King, end of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The future

We so easily lose track of the fantastic progress humanity has made during the past two centuries — driven by the progress of science. But this progress slowed down after WWII. This history is the a key aspect of our time, yet it is unseen by most people.

To better understand our situation, look at Dodge City in 1877. Bat Masterson is sheriff, one of those maintaining some semblance of law in the Wild West. Life in Dodge is materially only slightly better than that in an English village of a century earlier. But social and technological evolution has accelerated to a dizzying pace, and Bat cannot imagine what lies ahead.

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Good news: the singularity approaches!

Support: Amidst the gloom that envelopes both Left and Right, evidence grows that another discontinuity in history approaches — a singularity. If so, it will evaporate many of today’s problems and create new ones. Only aware eyes and open minds can prepare for what is coming. This is another in this week’s posts about good news.

Singularity

Contents

  1. The singularity in our distant past.
  2. The singularity that just ended.
  3. About singularities.
  4. We see the singularity that lies ahead.
  5. Works about the singularity.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  The singularity in our distant past

The great singularities lie in our past. For a fun illustration of this see some “Early Holocene Sci-fi” by Pat Mathews.

Shaman:  I have foreseen a time when everybody can have all the meat, fat, and sweet stuff they can eat, and they all get fat.

Chief:        You have had a vision of the Happy Hunting Grounds.

Shaman:  It is considered a great and horrible problem! People go out of their way to eat leaves and grass and grains, and work very hard to look lean and brown.

Chief:        You’ve been eating too many of those strange mushrooms, and are seeing everything backward.

There have been several singularities in our past. Consider these awesome accomplishments of our species, each of which radically changed our world: discovery of fire (giving us power over the environment), agriculture (giving us control over our food supply), and writing (allowing accumulation of knowledge over time).

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One of the 20th century’s top minds sees a great 21st century for humanity

Summary: As part of our holiday festivities, here’s an article by one of the great intellects of the 20th century.  John Maynard Keynes made seminal contributions in statistics, risk management, and (above all) macroeconomics. Here he looks at our future, seeing things already happening yet about which we remain unaware — with even better news in our future.

Comet 's office of the future

“Economic possibilities for our grandchildren”
by John Maynard Keynes,
The Nation and Athenœum, 11 and 18 October 1930.

 

Today’s economic pessimism

We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth cen­tury is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down — at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improve­ment in the decade which lies ahead of us.

I believe that this is a wildly mistaken inter­pretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another.

The increase of technical efficiency has been taking place faster than we can deal with the problem of labour absorption; the improve­ment in the standard of life has been a little too quick; the banking and monetary system of the world has been preventing the rate of interest from falling as fast as equilibrium re­quires. And even so, the waste and confusion which ensue relate to not more than 7½% of the national income; we are muddling away one and sixpence in the £, and have only 18s. 6d., when we might, if we were more sensible, have £1; yet, nevertheless, the 18s. 6d. mounts up to as much as the £1 would have been 5 or 6 years ago.

…The prevailing world depression, the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants, the disastrous mistakes we have made, blind us to what is going on under the surface-to the true interpretation of the trend of things. For I predict that both of the two opposed errors of pessimism which now make so much noise in the world will be proved wrong in our own time — the pessimism of the revolutionaries who think that things are so bad that nothing can save us but violent change, and the pessimism of the reactionaries who consider the balance of our economic and social life so precarious that we must risk no experiments.

My purpose in this essay, however, is not to examine the present or the near future, but to disembarrass myself of short views and take wings into the future. What can we reasonably expect the level of our economic life to be a hundred years hence? What are the economic possibilities for our grandchildren?

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A Christmas gift to us from George Washington

Summary: For Christmas we interrupt our usual warnings for a reminder about an event from our past that still can inspire us today. America was created by the Founders’ bets against long odds, conditions far whose than those we whine about today. Regular service will resume tomorrow. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas peace

A real Christmas story, for which Americans should be grateful

Here is a Christmas story known to few Americans, which should be read by all:  Washington’s Gift by Thomas Fleming in the Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2007 — “Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.”  A copy appears at the David Gold website.

“There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

“The story begins with Gen. Washington’s arrival in Annapolis, Md., on December 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace — just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for General Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress — without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

“Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers — especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him ‘The Great Illustrissimo’ — a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.

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