Peak Everything: Eight Things We Are Running Out Of And Why

Graph Going DownAnother excellent article from the folks over at TreeHugger.com about various resources being depleted around the world and some of the root causes. Here’s a brief summary of these scarcities. Be sure to visit this page and the links for more to get more details about each Peak Resource.

  • Peak Corn

Blame Earl Butz. Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford’s Secretary of Agriculture brought in the Farm Bill that dramatically increased the amount of corn produced in America. He encouraged farmers to “get big or get out,” and to plant crops like corn “from fence row to fence row.” Further billions in subsidies to farmers encouraged production, and soon America was awash in cheap grain, and with it cheap meat. Food costs as a portion of the American diet dropped to the lowest level in history; we became corn. Michael Pollan writes: “If you eat industrially, you are made of corn. It holds together your McNuggets, it sweetens your soda pop, it fattens your meat, it is everywhere. It is fed to us in many forms, because it is cheap- a dollar buys you 875 calories in soda pop but only 170 in fruit juice. A McDonalds meal was analyzed as almost entirely corn.”

  • Peak Oil

In 1956, American geophysicist M. King Hubbert calculated that the rate of production of fossil fuels would peak in the United States in about 1970 and then start declining. He was laughed out of the conference room. However, ultimately he was proven correct; now we are probably at the worldwide Hubbert’s Peak. A hundred years ago you just stuck a pipe in the ground and the oil rushed out; now it is not so easy, and America’s oil comes from deep under the ocean, is cooked out of rocks in Alberta, or is purchased from nations with security issues. Now the United States, Canada, Norway, and the United Kingdom are well past their peak, while Saudi Arabia and Russia are approaching it. Oil is still being found (there was a recent big hit in Brazil, and there are thought to be big reserves in the Arctic.) but it harder to get at and a lot more expensive.

  • Peak Dirt

Really, Peak Soil – the world is losing soil 10 to 20 times faster than it is replenishing it. Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe tells us that dirt is complicated stuff, made from sand or silt, then years of plants adding nutrition, bugs and worms adding their excrement, dying and rotting.
“The resulting organic matter feeds a whole underground ecology that aerates the soil, fixes nutrients, and makes it more hospitable for plant life, and over time the process feeds back on itself. If the soil does not wash away or get parched by drought, it very gradually thickens. It takes tens of thousands of years to make 15 centimeters of topsoil, about 6 inches’ worth.”

  • Peak Natural Gas

Blame the price of oil. Everyone knows that the price of oil is way up, but it is an international commodity. Natural gas, on the other hand, usually is subject to more local rules of supply and demand in North America alone. However it does follow the market. Director of Energy Policy Malini Giridhar of Enbridge Gas told the Star: “Oil trades between 6 to 12 times the price of natural gas,The price ratio is now 11 times, which is close to the upper end of the range.” Commodities markets are pushing up natural gas in reaction to higher oil prices, she said, rather than to gas supply and demand.

  • Peak Water

Blame Willis Carrier. Before he invented air conditioning,not many people lived in the American Southwest, it was just too hot for much of the year. It was only after World War II, when air conditioning became common and affordable, that the mass migration of people and industry could happen from cooler Northern states to California, Nevada and Arizona. Without AC, Atlanta and Florida are almost uninhabitable.

  • Peak Electricity

Blame air conditioning. It is the biggest draw on the grid, and as the climate warms, the demand is only going to get higher. Coal is the quickest and easiest solution, but also the dirtiest; burning a ton of coal generates 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide. Coal plants also spit out mercury and acid. Our politicians are promising millions to develop “clean coal”, but that is unlikely to kick in before 2030.

  • Peak Rice

Blame rats. First of all, most of the rice in America is sold to Asians for whom it is a staple; it really doesn’t take much of a panic to run out of Basmati rice over here. Most rice is eaten in the country where it is grown, and only 6 percent of the rice crop is traded around the world. In some countries, as much as 17 percent of the crop is eaten by rats; so good secure rice storage might be the first place to start.

  • Peak Metal

Blame China. They can’t get enough of the stuff and they don’t care where it comes from- in Shanghai, 24,000 manhole covers were stolen in 2006. The United States now exports $61 Billion in scrap to china each year, now the second biggest export. India and Russia are also net importers now. Blame Growth. Demand for products made from metals is exceeding production capacity; copper mines are expensive and environmentally controversial and consumption is outstripping supply. Blame M. King Hubbert. He was talking about oil, but the Hubbert’s Peak theory applies to any resource- as supply gets scarce it gets more expensive to get it out, and in some cases the resources are running out. Lester Brown predicts that there is less than a 25 year supply of copper. Chile, which produces 1/3 of the world’s copper, should see production declines starting this year.

23/6 celebrates Easter: The Year in Resurrections

From the Pretty Damned Funny dept at 23/6


When we think of Easter, we think of hidden eggs, baby chick-shaped candy, and enormous human-sized rabbits breaking into our homes to leave gift baskets. However, there’s a lot more to this two thousand year-old religious holiday than pastel sweaters and toxic Easter egg dye. Why is this particular Sunday so important that millions of pseudo-Christians have chosen it as one of only two days each year they attend church services? Well, because it’s the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Yup, rose from the dead. And no, he wasn’t a zombie. Though that would have been awesome. So, In honor of Jesus’ amazing, literally death-defying feat, 23/6 takes a look back at all the other long-dead things that have miraculously managed to come back to life in the twelve months since last Easter in The Year in Resurrections.

TreeHugger tips for spending your Tax Rebate wisely

from TreeHugger.com

It would not be the American way to suggest that you save it or pay down some debt, but if you are going to spend it, do it wisely. If you are going to do the right thing and blow it, do it right. Here are some of our suggestions.

1. Buy local: It is your patriotic duty to squeeze the most stimulus out of your dollar, and you do that by not shipping it overseas. Michael Shuman, in the Small-Mart Revolution explains how much better it is to spend your money in your local economy. In one study comparing two bookstores in Austin, Texas, economists found that $13 out of every $100 spent at Borders stayed in town, compared with $45 out of every $100 spent at the local bookshop.

2. Invest it in efficiency: Look at our series of posts on greening your house for winter—start with a programmable thermostat and keep going down the list until the money is gone. Trust us, you will get it all back within a year or two anyways in energy savings.

3. Buy a bike: Not a cheap one that will fall apart in weeks, but one that you can really have fun riding year round, so you can start using it instead of your car. That investment will pay for itself in weeks. Nervous? Don’t miss our posts on how to commute to work by bike and how to ride your bike all winter.

4. Buy some good books: Yes, we know that the library is the greenest way to read, but authors have to eat too, and we only suggest keepers. Start with selections from our series on how to build a green library.

Defining Deviancy Down – Republican Style

Here’s another great article from TomPaine.com about how the Republican party has done a wonderful job of accusing the Liberal Democratic Party of destroying Family Values while the so-called “conservative” Republicans have done more to destroy the fabric of modern society than any other political party in history. I’m still convinced that the 2 Major Parties are still just 2 wings of the same Money Party but here’s a great example of lying through your teeth propaganda at work.

…people like Merril Lynch’s Stanley O’Neill who, after being fired for overseeing the loss of 8 billion dollars the company invested in sub-prime loans, was forced to settle for a mere 160 million dollar golden parachute — on top of his 48 million dollar salary.

And let’s not forget the decadent elites in Washington, who having passed punitive bankruptcy reform that makes it extremely difficult for people to even get a clean slate when things don’t turn out well for them financially being asked to bear the burden for Stanley O’Neill’s risky ventures. They are now expected to tepidly try to pass some mitigating legislation which the Bush administration will likely veto.

Meanwhile, you have the e. coli conservatives making huge profits selling lead toys to your kids (when they’re not accidentally dosing them with date rape drugs), enabling mine-owners to take shortcuts that end up killing their workers, and simply pretending that threats such a global warming don’t exist. The stories of war profiteering in Iraq are so appalling and grotesque that it’s almost impossible to absorb. And then, of course, there’s is torture.

So, here we find ourselves more than 40 years after the conservatives began decrying the moral depravity of the left and 15 years after Patrick Moynihan told us that our liberal culture was defining deviancy down and we find that they were right all along. They just got one little detail wrong. It wasn’t the liberal left who were morally depraved. It was them.

While the culture at large was adjusting to the idea that families don’t all look the same and that private sexual morality was not the business of the state, the decadent economic elite and right wing ideologues had systematically defined deviancy down to the point where Moynihan’s deviant “altruism” can be illustrated as giving bonuses to workers who denied cancer patients their medicine; his deviant “opportunism” is seen as giving hundreds of millions of dollars to failed business leaders who lost their companies billions; and his deviant “normalizing” can be observed as society tossing aside its taboo against government-sanctioned torture.

If those are the “old” standards the culture warriors of the right have been trying to defend, they’re killing us. Literally.