Monday, October 27, 2014

The world's breadbasket is in a long drought

"Frankly, there’s not much hope. How do we accommodate this new reality? Farming is never going to go back, regardless of how much rain we get next year, to the way it was in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a long-term era of scarcity.
California is much bigger than it was when these reservoirs were built, 40 or 50 years ago. There’s more water going to cities and the environment now. That boom era of California farming, I think everyone recognizes, is just a thing of the past."

the price of food will go up while availability goes down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

making fuel from straw

"Last year a commercial scale advanced biofuels plant was opened in Crescentino near Turin, with the aim of producing 75 million litres of bioethanol every year from straw and arundo donax, an energy crop grown on marginal land.
The Italians recently announced plans to open three further plants in the south of the country.
Novozymes, one of the companies involved in the Crescentino initiative welcomed the government's decision to make it legally binding on fuel suppliers to include advanced biofuels in their petrol and diesel."

This makes so much more sense than using food to make fuel, like corn ethanol.  I hope this comes to the US soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cults like ISIS

Growing inequality and a general lack of concern for civilians living under ISIS's rule could eventually spell the end of the group, Elizabeth Palmer and Khaled Wassef report for CBS News.
In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS's de facto capital, civilians chaffing under the jihadist's strict rule are becoming disenchanted with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Residents are poor and disenfranchised — while fighters for the group are living lavishly. "

From the book The False Messiahs, by Jack Gratus, it's easy to see that ISIS is nothing new in history. Someone like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, comes along, gathers a religious following, builds a movement, and then the whole thing collapses. I suspect, based on how ISIS is utilizing short-term strategies that will alienate most people, it will not last very long either.
A short example from the book is the Pastoureaux movement beginning in 1251 in France. "They were led by one of the three original preachers, a man who claimed to have received a direct call from the Virgin Mary to summons the Crusade. He was said to have come from Hungary and was known as Jacob, the Master of Hungary." Jacob had great sway over those who heard his message, and he gained a large following. "He claimed that his elect would never go hungry or in need because he had the power to increase their provisions indefinitely. In fact, the Pastoureaux provisioned themselves by going into towns and villages and taking what they wanted." They quickly looted over 100 communities.
"Town after town welcomed his people as holy and Jacob as Christ himself." Jacob's movement grew as he plundered and preached. But when he began to preach against the nobility and proclaimed them the enemy, the authorities chose to end his reign, and he was captured and hacked to death. (pp. 74-5).
Several such movements are related in this remarkable book. These movements, like ISIS, had a leader claiming religious dictatorship, claimed to be the restoration of past glory, were extremely violent, and were completely intolerant of outside ideas. They all failed.