This Ecoshock program features two interviews.� We start out talking about South America, and how changes to the Amazon rainforest could impact the climate of the whole world.
I also cover two jaw-dropping stories this week:
#1. the complete fake-out as General Motors claims to pay back billions to the American and Canadian governments.� Wow, car sales must be great!� Nope.� The whole thing was a sham, as GM used some TARP money to repay the government.� Kinda like paying your mortgage with your VISA card.
#2. the giant Canadian media chain Canwest failed to report it�s paper the National Post, and denialist �journalist� Terrance Corcoran � are being sued by Canadian scientist Andrew Weaver for libel.� Details below � but the point is, we hear all about the opinions of the pro-fossil fuel guys, but not the news they are being called liars by top scientists.� It�s more media censorship on climate affairs, in my opinion.
Then we switch gears, looking at how the evolution of our brains has failed to keep up with the problems generated by technology. Meanwhile, brain and psychological research is being used against us, in the consumer society.
Let's start with the situation in South America, touching on the recent Cochebamba climate conference, the situation in Venezuela, and then the Amazon climate debate.
Avatar director James Cameron was just in the Amazon, meeting with tribes people who will be displaced by a new dam slated for the deep jungle.�
It's the Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River, an upstream tributary.� Flooding at least 400,000 square kilometers of forests and farms, if built, Belo Monte will be the world's third largest dam.� Though the Brazilian courts recently ruled against it, the government has forged ahead, already awarding the construction contract.
No one doubts the Brazilian people need more power, and they don't need the emissions and cost of coal or oil imports.� The giant metropolis of Sao Paulo has gone dark, or browned out, many times.� If South America cannot power it's cities, the exodus to cut down the Amazon may be worse.� Brazil also hopes to expand their electricity-hungry aluminum industry.
And yet, everything about this mega-dam project doesn't make sense.� As we learn from Amazon Watch, "the National Amazon Research Institute calculated that during its first 10 years of operation, Belo Monte would emit 112 million Mega grams (Mg) of CO2 equivalent, equal to the CO2 emissions of 2,156,460 passenger vehicles per year."� When all is said and done, the Belo Monte dam will add to the climate change that already threatens to dry out the Amazon.� Not to mention the lost species, and the impact on the weather of not just Africa, but the whole planet.
And during the long months of the dry season, this dam will hardly produce much, dropping to 10 percent of it's rated capacity for three to five months.� Unless the Brazilian government builds another five damaging dams upstream to feed the complex.� In fact, there are reports saying up to 70 dams are planned for the Amazon.
If the drought of 2005 returns, the project will fail, just as the electricity system of Venezuela is failing now, due to lack of rain and runoff for hydro power.
We're going to hear about that, with notes on the recent climate conference in Cochebamba, Bolivia - against the big picture of the drying Amazon.� Our guest is Nikolas Kozloff.� His new book is "No Rain in the Amazon: How South America's Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet."
THE BIG MEDIA LIE (in fact two of them�.)
How can I still be surprised when mainstream media tells another big lie, or squelches an important story?� And yet, a couple of whoppers last week left me with jaw dropped ...again.
After the government-backed assassination attacks on Toyota, the rival to government-owned General Motors, we were treated to an all-out top-down media blitz on the sudden success of GM.� Headlines and newscasters proudly announced the local boys just paid 6.7 billion dollars back to the American government, and another 1.2 billion to the Canadians - 5 years ahead of schedule.� Wow, General Motors cars are selling like hot cakes.� Billions of dollars in profits are rolling in.� We see President Obama and his team self-congratulating, and more air time from the GM CEO Ed Whitacre saying "We're back and we're the best!"
Yippee.� Except, it was all the big lie you hardly heard about.� Much as I hate to cite Fox News, or Republican Senator Chuck Grassley - it seems confirmed all those billions came not from big sales or profits, but right from the back pocket of the taxpayers, again.� In a shell game for the ages, TARP man Neil Barofsky confirmed GM used Treasury Funds squirreled away in a bail-out fund to pay out loans.� It's like saying "Hey, I paid $50,000 off on my mortgage" - but putting it all on VISA.� Here is another source on that story, from a newswire for lawyers.
In fact, GM has lost more billions over the last quarters, totaling $4.3 billion in losses since their bankruptcy last July.� Their next financial statement for the first few months of 2010 isn't due until May.� But sales are probably around 25 percent of what they were in 2007.� Which is great news for the atmosphere.� If we really cared about our grandchildren, we wouldn't build another oil-burning car.� The world is already over-populated with gas-guzzlers.
Still, shuffling billions in taxpayer money, and calling that success, is an impressive con game, even by American standards.
Meanwhile, the Canadians play their own.� Of course you heard that climate scientist Andrew Weaver is suing a Canadian newspaper and several denialist journalists for libel.� No?� Maybe that's because the story has been censored in most Canadian media.� I had to find out about it from a Radio Ecoshock listener in Australia (published in the Sydney Morning Herald), where the story was republished from the Guardian newspaper, in Great Britain.�
Andrew Weaver is a real climate scientist, and a lead author of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change.� He was viciously attacked by a right-wing business newspaper called the National Post, especially by a hack called Terrance Corcoran.� In four newspaper articles, and subsequent virulent comments, Weaver was accused of cherry-picking climate data, in order to keep his research money coming.� These articles also claimed that there has been no increase in annual global mean temperatures, and that climate models are "falling apart".
Weaver told the Guardian, ''If I sit back and do nothing to clear my name, these libels will stay on the internet forever.''� And he's taken the unusual step of demanding the National Post arrange a retraction from the various denier web sites that used their attacks.� The newspaper, he says, endorsed attack sites by linking to their reprints of the articles.
Get all the links you need, including the full legal filing, from Tim Lambert's Deltoid science blog here.
Apparently, you can't just make up lies about climate scientists, and climate science, and get away with it, any more.
I found news of this lawsuit in the overseas press, the government-owned CBC, and in various blogs.� But nothing about it in my local newspaper, even though Andrew Weaver is a well-known professor at the University of Victoria, not a hundred miles from Vancouver.� That is because Canada suffers from a horrible media monopoly known as CanWest.� Established by the Asper family, CanWest owns both major newspapers in Vancouver, plus a television station.� And dozens more major newspapers across Canada, including the National Post.
So when the newspaper chain is accused of libel, of printing things that are claimed to be grossly untrue, most Canadians don't get to hear anything about it.� I call that censorship.
Meanwhile, Canwest went bankrupt, and the newspapers are up for sale.� We can only hope the new owners will kick out the stable of climate deniers that filled up so many pages with anti-science opinion, and "we love our Tar sands" hysteria.� A vain hope, I know, but that's all we've got left.
Meanwhile, we have to get ready for the big decline.� Be sure and look for the article "The Imminent Crash Of Oil Supply: Be Afraid" By Nicholas C. Arguimbau.� I found it at countercurrents.org, thanks to a tip from listener, videographer and long-time media activist Tom Childs.
The graph of oil supplies comes from the United States Department of Energy.�
It is backed up by another report from the United States military's Joint Forces Command.�
We are running out of oil, folks.� You will start to see it for real starting around 2012.� Everyone knows it, and no one - not governments, not corporations, and not most of us, is really getting ready for a long steep decline in world oil supply.� Prices go up.� Food goes down.� Economies crash for real.� Look it up.
As Arguimbau points out, it can't be mere coincidence that the emissions cuts from fossil fuels proposed by the American government happen to match their latest projections of the fuel left.� An "18% drop from 2005 by 2020, and an 85% drop from 2005 by 2050."
The quick answer for local survival is rapid transition away from fossil dependence.� From transition towns to localization - as we've been saying on Radio Ecoshock for years.� We've dropped from the possibility of a "steady state" economy - too late for that - to the new movement for "de-growth".� I'll be covering a De-growth conference soon.� And next week, we'll hear from one of the most credible witnesses for the need to quickly reduce our economies - a new speech from Dr. Bill Rees, the co-inventor of the Ecological Footprint.
Rees questions whether our brain has evolved enough to cope with the challenges posed by Peak Oil and radical climate change.� We'll begin our preparation for his speech, with our next interview.� A Harvard evolutionary psychologist helps me work through the big question: "Are we smart enough to survive?"
Our guest is Dr. Deirdre Barrett. She's a popular writer, and a psychology researcher at Harvard Medical School.
Deirdre specializes in two fields that seem almost unrelated.� She has published and written books about dreams - how we manage to keep on "thinking," in a way, even at night.� We've all heard the expression "Let me sleep on that" which assumes that some deep cognitive process goes on.� People from artists to the religious have made significant works and life changes based on dreams.
Her first book was on hypnotherapy.� It's called "The Pregnant Man and Other Cases from the Hypnotherapist's Couch".� Her next, "The Committee of Sleep" is about dreams and creative problem solving.� She's also published "Trauma and Dreams."
Here is a link to her book page on Amazon.
Her most recent books, though, are on evolutionary psychology, with the idea that humans, including the human mind, evolved to deal with primeval circumstances like hunting, and the reactions necessary for survival in a non-technical world.
I called Deirdre after reading a review of her new book "Supernormal Stimuli, How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose," published by W.W. Norton in 2010.� It seemed to answer so many questions about how the consumer culture worked - and why we react so poorly to big problems like Peak Oil and climate change.� Finally a bit of light on why we humans continue to make such stupid choices, long after we know the facts.�
We started, as the book "Supernormal Stimuli" does, with the intriguing portrait of the Dutch biologist Niko Tinbergen, and his sometime sidekick, Konrad Lorenz.� That's great writing that kicks up some deep issues.
Actually, I found Niko Tinbergen's research a bit alarming and depressing.� Natural creatures can be easily fooled by just one fake clue, such as the right shade of red to a Stickleback fish, or a wooden carving, with the right curved belly to suit eggs.� I wonder, does love exist in Nature?� Are we all pre-programmed, just victims of stimuli, no matter how false?
No wonder, in the face of massive advertising and movie stars, so many millions bought cigarettes and passively died...
There has been a long-standing argument against taking biological observations, into the complexities of human thought, and social organization.� Allow me this train of three questions coming to mind.� First, I ask myself "Have experiments been done with super stimuli and humans?" Then "Should they be done at all?" And, finally I realize, with all the advertising, propaganda, and product design, "Oh-oh, we are living that experiment now."�
Just consider the super stimulation that a McMansion represents.� No wonder millions of people, and even the banks as former guardians of credit, succumbed to this unreal fable about housing.� What about the world's tallest, most Phallic building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai?
As a parent, or grandparent, is there a way to help protect very young children from commercially crafted supernormal stimuli, that are designed to take advantage of them?
One spooky thing about applying scientific study to human behavior and cultures: once an idea, like the imprinting geese by Konrad Lorenz, becomes popularly accepted, it gets misapplied to everything everywhere.� And then later, if the theory is found to be untrue, like some of Freud's ideas - it doesn't matter.� The fact that millions of people have accepted it as useful and true, makes it still useful and true as social cause and currency.� If it takes us decades to learn something, it sometimes needs hundreds of years to unlearn it.�
In a personal email, Deirdre told me "Our instincts about dangers and self-protection are so strongly coded for hostile humans, dangerous animals, and instantaneous natural disasters and not coded for modern issues like gradual planetary warming or long-term depletion of resources."
So we talk about the applications of evolutionary psychology, and biology, to the big problems of the day.
The Wall Street Journal review of the book complained about Deirdre�s theory that humans love complexity and problem solving so much - that they will take on a huge project, rather than applying simpler solutions.� She gives the example of the investment in nuclear technology, rather than using solar and wind.
We also talk about how cars, and other appliances hawked on TV, may just be supernormal stimuli at work.� Could the consumer society function without these primitive brain responses?
And...knowing what we know, what is an archaic humanoid to do?� How do we get out of the muddle of automatic responses to stimuli?� Can we use supernormal stimuli "for good" instead of self-destructive crud?
And here, as they said in the ancient age of television, is the 64 thousand dollar question.� Do you think humans have the evolutionary equipment to survive this civilization?
Be sure and listen for Deirdre�s answer.
Next week, we'll hear a powerful speech from the co-inventor of the ecological footprint concept.� Dr. Bill Rees, from the University of British Columbia, explains how we have already surpassed the renewable resources of the planet.� He says, only a planned economic contraction, perhaps even a guided collapse, can save what is left of the biosphere for future generations.