Stuff to read

  1. #Greenblood: Dozens of journalists have been killed while reporting on environmental crimes
  2. #ExtinctionRebellion activists are using drones to disrupt flights from airports. I’ve predicted that they will go beyond this, to actually down planes that are contributing to climate change. 
  3. The Dutch are pretty honest. Read the story of my returned gold ring
  4. An interview with Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist
  5. The DeGrowth movement is growing (see my post)
  6. Life without wireless in your face
  7. Amazon doesn’t care if its site is full of counterfeit books (I see this firsthand with fraudulent copies of my books).
  8. The entrepreneurs behind Worn & Wound (a watch-enthusiast site). Related: Dan Henry turned his watch passion into a business.
  9. A long tale on the short life of SpeedX/BlueBird (shared) bikes
  10. The market is going nuts for companies promising big profits on zero capital. Be afraid.

Decline

I have time to write this because my return to Amsterdam has been delayed by 34 hours.* To say that I’m angry is a considerable understatement.

The reason I’m delayed (American Airlines declared a plane unfit for flying) is not on its surface objectionable, but let’s step back a moment…

On my flight to a conference here, American changed my connecting flight to one that was 4 hours later, which forced me to stay at a shithole airport hotel in Indianapolis and delayed my reunion (after 25 years) with my family on my mother’s side. That cost me $80 and a lost night of sleep.

I had to rent a car to get to my family because there’s barely any public transportation in a country built around cars. That cost me another $200.

Yesterday, we heard “Flight 204 to Amsterdam is cancelled.” I, along with 250 other people, scrambled. I was able to improve on their initial offer (a flight 48 hours later) by flying to London for a day-long layover. I will be home 34 hours late. In compensation, American gave us sandwiches and a hotel voucher. There was no transportation, so I paid $30 for a taxi.

While I was reveling in the ongoing bad news, I met other passengers who had already had other flights cancelled and delayed. One (un)lucky one knew  what to do, as she’d already been cancelled, so she was one of perhaps a dozen able to escape last night.

(I blame these delays and snags on a corporate culture that trims maintenance and redundancy to a minimum, which leads to cascading failures when anything goes wrong. Second, these corporations “follow the law” in terms of minimum compensation — $12 of food and a hotel room — without regard to the value of our time or other costs. Many people will miss work on Monday without AA paying any damages.**)

When we arrived at the hotel, the taxi driver resisted my credit card (drivers pay massive surcharges to use the credit card terminal). He wanted a tip (for driving?), but I did not pay, so I unloaded the massive bag of my pregnant companion. People on the edge do not have time to help.

Although this hotel room is nice, the lobby looks like a 60s relic. I didn’t feel like going out (City Hall is across the street) as I’d already walked past a dozen homeless people and beggars. I gave one of my sandwiches to a homeless woman who was setting up for the night.

My main goal over the next two days is to not lose my luggage, to use the least dirty of my clothes, and try to enjoy my involuntary 24 hours in Philly and 10 hours in London. Let’s see.  

America’s president is a conman and human rights abuser. Its Congress is a dysfunctional scrum beholden to lobbyists from the swamp. Its streets are lost to the homeless, idiots in cars blasting music after midnight, and predatory cabbies. Farmers are losing their crops to storms caused by climate change their tribe denies. Businesses profit through extortion and lies. Send thoughts and prayers.

This country is not becoming “great again.” Its decline echoes that of the USSR, which imploded from failing systems, corruption, greed, and the departure of anyone who could excape.

I am done with America. It’s no longer the land of my birth, of opportunity, of righteousness, of compassion. I have many friends here. I have family here. I know that there are many innovators, caring individuals and passionate problem solvers here, but I have lost faith that these good people can overcome the downdraft of America’s failing institutions, greedy oligarchs, and corrupt politicians.

It’s time for me to exchange my citizenship for another, so that I can live permanently in the system that’s improved my life for the past 9 years.

What a pity.


Updates from 25 June:

* I ended up changing flights 3 times (routing thru LHR to arrive 34 hours late, then to arrive 30 hours late, then getting on the same flight 24 hours later, which was 4 hours late — thus 28 in total — due to another plane failure). In the process of making these changes, I was told by three different AA staffers that this summer has been hell due to grounded 737Max planes (caused by Boeing’s lies about safety) and weird weather (climate change).  I can see how these problems can cause delays, but I think they are actually caused by a system that’s set up on a “run to fail” basis, overworked staff and undermaintained planes are always on the edge. (The staff are only paid when the plane is in the air, so they got nothing for 4 hours of sitting on the ground.)

** This is AA’s entire apology:

I find it comically inadequate and asked for my $988 ticket to be refunded. Note that I would have received €600 back under EU regulations if I’d booked the flight via KLM, which codeshares with American 🙁

Stuff worth your time

  1. The economics of migration, explained.
  2. A useful, if slightly frustrating, conversation on climate change with Bjorn Lomborg, who believes that “people will find ways to survive” — a policy recommendation I do not support. 
  3. How Satoshi channeled greed into value (blockchain institutions)
  4. Way too much data on watches and male perspectives on their wrists
  5. A decent overview of how the Americans won, then lost, the world
  6. If men want to ban abortions, then they need to pledge celibacy. Related: Women don’t just casually abort 
  7. A big Dutch technical university wants more female professors, so they are only accepting female candidates for positions over the next few years

Moving home — a climate vision

A few years ago, I grew alarmed (and continue to be alarmed) about the increasing risks we face due to climate change disruption. In response, I called for short stories describing how we might (not) adapt to climate disruption. I released 60+ of these CliFi stories in two volumes of Life Plus 2 Meters (free to download).

This year, I asked my environmental economics students to write their own CliFi visions. They did a great job, and I asked if they wanted their stories “published.” Here’s the second, from Marieke.


Moving home

Dear Lorenzo,

You have no idea how happy I am with your letter! It scared me – your plan to walk to Tadzhikistan. I started hearing stories from the news (yes, there are newspapers again – they are delivered per boat, once a month). I realized how fucked up the world is right now. And the idea that my son is out there… But I know you did it for us, thank you so much for that, thank you for being courageous. And for the map (with all the warnings – for both water and political tensions), it’s very useful. It makes me sad to hear that Turkey has closed its borders, but the route via Russia indeed seems doable (luckily it is not that cold anymore). I think we will walk like this (see map), I hope we will make it within a year.

I will talk to the council asap and we will make the final arrangements to come your way. We don’t want to take too much with us, but we have made some old-style covered wagons, we have tents and even some horses. We are taking as much food as possible, and dad is very excited about taking the portable garden wagons.

Life here is quite good actually, I am happy (although I miss you a lot). Right now, we have 272 members (a few babies are coming). We have created such a beautiful place. I know everyone complains about life being so much better before the flood, but I honestly don’t think it is. We have gone back to living with nature again. Dad and Jan-Thijs are managing the gardens, we have built houses from driftwood and earthships from all kind of waste that has stranded on our island. We have over 50 students in our school, I teach them about life before the flood, we make art together and they learn to work on the land. Almost every week another refugee arrives, they all integrate in the community very quickly, we have the kids teaching them.

I am sad to leave, but we really can’t stay. The weather is getting more extreme, last year the drought had destroyed almost all dad’s crops. And I am worried about the diseases. We’ve only had a few minor issues, but Janna has been taking care of the patients with herbal medicine. I don’t want to risk staying here though.

And honestly, the best thing about our community is the people right now. They are amazing. We sing together every morning, there is a fire in the night (helps in keeping away the mosquitoes). We make art, we learn so much from each other, there is love again and so much hope! The place you describe sounds perfect to continue our work.

The journey will be challenging, but worth it. I love you, see you soon,

Mom 

p.s. I’ll try to get hold of a telegram machine – but they are extremely expensive, so don’t count on it.

Wealthy — a climate vision

A few years ago, I grew alarmed (and continue to be alarmed) about the increasing risks we face due to climate change disruption. In response, I called for short stories describing how we might (not) adapt to climate disruption. I released 60+ of these CliFi stories in two volumes of Life Plus 2 Meters (free to download).

This year, I asked my environmental economics students to write their own CliFi visions. They did a great job, and I asked if they wanted their stories “published.” Here’s the first, from Jacinta.


Wealthy

It’s only 4 am; I dread midday… Summer is unforgiving. I feel the sweat catch as it pools along the strap of my mask – I’ve let it dangle round my neck; risky, I know. But I’m in the depths of the forest. The air might not be clean but it’s the closest I’ll get. Each day I reckon; it’s worth the risk. To feel the unconstrained movement of my face. The gentle breeze that caresses my cheek. The touch of my calloused fingers against my weathering lips… Ah yes, the lower half of my face is becoming increasingly lifeless. A fleeting feeling of anxiety sweeps through my body, but I don’t latch on to it. Even the concerns of my mind can’t take away from this moment; here in my mansion of peace.

I’m acutely aware of the time. 30 more minutes before the Early Walkers swarm this place; I’m not the only genius to find daily refuge amongst the trees. Though they make it redundant, in their masses this place becomes as suffocating as the outside. I need to relish every second I have. Here my breath is free, and with it; me.

Navigating the crowd, I grudgingly fasten my mask back on my face. It’s always a bitter-sweet moment. I know I’m fortunate; my mask is light yet robust, with strong filters and is one of the best on the market. I could never have afforded it. I won it in a card game against a Roldie. I cheated, but he doesn’t need to know that. 145 years old and none the wiser. Unsurprising, since he sees nothing beyond himself.

Past me might have felt guilty, but there’s no room in my new world for feelings like that. Plus, a Roldie doesn’t need it. He could easily afford another. Not to mention, he lives basically mask free; shielded in his fortress, with air so filtered I’m surprised there’s any oxygen left.

A feeling of fury flows through me, as I contemplate the unjustness of it all.

I exhale and let it pass; holding on to it gains me nothing. The Roldies might live in luxury, medicated to absurd ages, but I’ve never meet one that was filled with happiness. They are so obsessed with staying alive, they forgot what it means to live. Maybe that’s why they come and play cards, to experience the occasional thrill of not having control.

I let them win regularly enough to not grow suspicious. Sure, even if they do (my morning flashes in my mind’s eye) it would make little difference, since I’m on my way out soon. Maybe I’ll make it to 40, surpass the average age. Who knows? All I do know; my death doesn’t scare me. Death has always been too present to shy away from. From the famines and droughts, to diseases and WWIII. To find peace and happiness in this world I long ago realised; even life isn’t something I can afford to feel attached to.

Stuff to read

  1. The man controlling Russian media (for Putin)
  2. If you’re interested in “fair” water pricing, then read this paper [pdf] on Nairobi’s system: “we find that high-income residential and nonresidential customers receive a disproportionate share of subsidies and that subsidy targeting is poor even among households with a private metered connection.”
  3. “Why should migrants respect borders when we didn’t respect theirs?” Good question.
  4. GMO crops in Spain/Portugal increased profits, and lowered herbicide, insecticide and diesel use. Adopt!
  5. Google and Amazon allow you to opt out of spying — a little.
  6. George Orwell’s 1984 is ever more relevant: “The crucial issue was not that Trump might abolish democracy but that Americans had put him in a position to try. Unfreedom today is voluntary. It comes from the bottom up.”
  7. A fantastic hitjob on Uber, a company that’s taken $70 billion from gullible investors who bought the “Uber Technologies, Inc. operates as a technology platform for people and things mobility” lie.
  8. American rivers are too full (climate disruption!) for barges to move. Chaos in the Midwest. Will they vote for “Mr Coal Trump” again? (Don’t let USACE near this problem — they caused it with all the channeling, etc.)
  9. The mathematics of digital compression
  10. A Dutch researcher wins the “Borlaug food prize” for suppling better seeds to millions of small farmers.

H/T to DL

A local ecosystem in Pakistan

In response to my post last week, Danial Khan (from Zarobi village, near Swabi city, KPK province, Pakistan) sent the following write up “to discuss what’s going on in my village and the water issues our rural community is about to face. It’s worse than I thought. I was born and raised in small rural community. Throughout my childhood there weren’t serious water issues, but things are now changing so rapidly…” Danial is working on his master’s degree in environmental economics.

Introduction

The following project will look at some of the issues about bore wells and the environmental and geological impact that these have on local towns and villages.

What is a bore well?

An example of a bore well

A deep, narrow well for water that is drilled into the ground and has a pipe fitted as a casing in the upper part of the borehole. This is typically equipped with a pump to draw water to the surface. Water belonging to a bore well used to be considered purer and cleaner but this was found to no longer be the case if built on areas that they are not supposed to be built on.

Difference between a bore well and a well

A borehole is usually drilled by machinery and is relatively small in diameter. In contrast, a well is usually sunk by hand and is relatively larger in diameter.

Environment and geological disadvantages

Throughout my research, I have come across the following:

  • There are too many bore wells being constructed throughout our village. It seems to be commonplace in most households.
  • Since they are costly as compared to normal wells, a house that is not as affluent or are earning under certain thresholds are unable to afford one.
  • There are too many bore wells built for public and personal use, and as a result, the water level of normal wells have decreased excessively which is major problem faced by those who are unable to afford a bore well. This decrease in water levels has left many people without water.
  • Construction of bore wells leads to a lot of noise pollution which can lead to a lot of disruption to locals.
  • Bore wells are being built in unsuitable places therefore causing the water wastage. For example, many of the bore wells are built on the edge of dirty open sewer lines and the people using the water get diseases because the water is contaminated.
  • The sewer lines contain all kinds of diseases because not only the drain water comes to it but also the wastes from toilets from many homes goes directly to the sewer lines, which goes unnoticed.
  • Contaminated water can cause many types of diseases, including cholera, Guinea worm disease, typhoid, and dysentery. Water-related diseases cause 3.4 million deaths each year.
  • Since the availability of water is scarce in summer many people head towards the bore wells built near sewer line in their neighborhood to get water to drink.

Political Stance

  • Political parties are building bore wells just to put their names on it and make themselves look good and give the impression that they’ve done something for the sake of poor people, and more importantly for votes without any regard for consequences
  • Bore wells are commonly placed in the center of sewer lines, which shows that they don’t care about the people who are going to drink from the public bore wells.
  • It is difficult to make sense of the thoughts locals have with regard to these issues and contamination as the majority of people living here are uneducated and not affluent.

Below are examples of bore well that I came across during my research:

Although the wall reads “save water safe future,” I find it becomes increasingly hard to imagine a future with water quality such as the one shown above. As seen here, the main sewer line of the village is so close to this bore well, also causing water pollution for the passing by people:

Note from DZ: The water is flowing from the well towards the sewer, but the sewer can pollute the well by percolating into the groundwater below.

Solutions

  • Bore wells should be built on clean ground away from sewer lines.
  • People should not make garbage dumps near drinking water.
  • The number of bore wells should be reduced significantly, and government should take action against vote grabbers who are building these bore wells in inadequate places.
  • People with no access to the bore wells in the village should have no problems when the water level decreases naturally or the number of wells increase.
  • Most importantly it’s upon us to raise awareness against such harmful activities that go unchecked and the common problems that exist.

Stuff to read

  1. Looking for inspiration regarding specialization? Listen to this
  2. So what happens after we reach “peak mobile”?
  3. If you want to geek out on the complexity of the energy transition (from fossil fuels), then check out this energy model. It focuses on the EU, but there’s a LOT of data and complexity to explore!
  4. What’s Really Driving the Cryptocurrency Phenomenon? Related: Nothing Can Stop The Bitcoin Protocol and the trust among developers of a trustless protocol
  5. The supporters of populists have a lot in common with the Germans who chose Hitler.
  6. Indoor pollution is a real problem (even in Amsterdam) — and it’s worse in theatres!
  7. How many times will your town flood before you call it quits? This Maryland town had three “1 in a 1,000 year” storms in 3 years.
  8. This [pdf] is the best analysis of the connection between drought, climate change and the war in Syria
  9. Whoops! One cotton bag has 7,000x the impact of one plastic bag!
  10. An excellent podcast on affordable housing policies (fails)

How’s your local ecosystem?

Ten years ago, I wrote that we should talk about “local warming” rather than “global warming” if we’re going to make the topic relevant for people.

This post touches on the same subject: Doing something for your local ecosystem for pride, rather than doing something because “it’s the right thing to do.”

  • Don’t “eat organic” to save bees you’ll never see, do it because you’re caring for a fruit tree in the neighborhood.
  • Don’t drive a “clean car” to prevent climate disruption, but to save the lungs of your poorer neighbors living next to the road.
  • Don’t avoid having children “for the Earth” but because you’re going to adopt an orphan or help with local education and cooperation.

I’m writing these ideas as examples because I’m more interested in what you do (in your own way) to improve the ecosystem that supports your quality of life and your community. I’m also asking you because I believe that people can find many imaginative ways to contribute to the public good.

My one-handed conclusion is that we don’t need to wait for a major power to fix a global problem; we can make a difference ourselves, locally.