By Jonathan Tirone, Sachiko Sakamaki & Yuriy Humber on 31 March 2011 -
Image above: Possible photo of blue flash during "criticality" event at Fukushima Dia Ichi Nuclear Plant. From (http://enenews.com/ethereal-blue-flash-may-occur-during-localized-criticality-bloomberg).
Japan’s damaged nuclear plant may be in danger of emitting sudden bursts of heat and radiation, undermining efforts to cool the reactors and contain fallout. The potential for limited, uncontrolled chain reactions, voiced yesterday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is among the phenomena that might occur, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo today.
The IAEA "emphasized that the nuclear reactors won’t explode," he said. Three workers at a separate Japanese plant received high doses of radiation in 1999 from a similar nuclear reaction, known as ‘criticality.’ Two of them died within seven months.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant’s operator, and Japan’s nuclear watchdog, dismissed the threat of renewed nuclear reactions, three weeks after an earthquake and tsunami triggered an automatic shutdown. Tokyo Electric has been spraying water on the reactors since the March 11 disaster in an effort to cool nuclear fuel rods.
"The reactors are stopped, so it’s hard to imagine re-criticality," occurring, Tsuyoshi Makigami, a spokesman for the utility, told a news conference today. A partial meltdown of fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated reactions, Denis Flory, nuclear safety director for the IAEA, said at a press conference in Vienna. This might increase the danger to workers at the site.
‘Ethereal Blue Flash’
Nuclear experts call such reactions "localized criticality." They consist of a burst of heat, radiation and sometimes an "ethereal blue flash," according to the U.S. Energy Department’s Los Alamos National Laboratory website.
Twenty-one workers worldwide have been killed by “criticality accidents” since 1945, the site said. The IAEA acknowledged "they don’t have clear signs that show such a phenomenon is happening," Edano said. Radioactive chlorine found March 25 in the No. 1 turbine building suggests chain reactions continued after the reactor shut down, physicist Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a March 28 paper.
Radioactive chlorine has a half-life of 37 minutes, according to the report. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said there’s no possibility of uncontrolled chain reactions. Boron, an element that absorbs neutrons and hinders nuclear fission, has been mixed with cooling water to prevent this, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the agency, told reporters today.
Contamination of seawater found near the plant has increased. Radioactive iodine rose to 4,385 times the regulated safety limit yesterday from 2,572 times on Tuesday, Nishiyama said. No fishing is occurring nearby and the sea is dispersing the iodine so there is no threat, he said. There was 180 becquerel per cubic centimeter of radioactive iodine-131 found in the ocean 330 meters (1,082 feet) south of the plant.
Drinking one liter of fresh water with that level would be equivalent to getting double the annual dose of radiation a person typically receives. Workers have averted the threat of a total meltdown by injecting water into the damaged reactors. The complex’s six units have been reconnected with the power grid and two are using temporary motor-driven pumps.
Work to repair the plant’s monitoring and cooling systems has been hampered by discoveries of hazardous radioactive water. Dismantling the plant and decontaminating the site may take 30 years and cost Tokyo Electric more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. The government hasn’t ruled out pouring concrete over the whole facility as one way to shut it down, Edano said.
Dumping concrete on the plant would serve a second purpose: it would trap contaminated water, said Tony Roulstone, an atomic engineer who directs the University of Cambridge’s masters program in nuclear energy. “They need to immobilize this water and they need something to soak it up,” he said. “You don’t want to create another hazard, but you need to get it away from the reactors.”
The process will take longer than the 12 years needed to decommission the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania following a partial meltdown in 1979, said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University. Tokyo Electric’s shareholders may be wiped out by clean-up costs and liabilities stemming from the nuclear accident, the worst since Chernobyl.
The company faces claims of as much as 11 trillion yen if the crisis lasts two years and potential takeover by the government, according to a March 29 Bank of America Merrill Lynch report. Radiation “far below” levels that pose a risk to humans was found in milk from California and Washington, the first signs Japan’s nuclear accident is affecting U.S. food, state and Obama administration officials said.
The U.S. is stepping up monitoring of radiation in milk, rain and drinking water, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement. The number of dead and missing from the earthquake and tsunami had reached 27,690 as of 10 a.m. today, Japan’s National Police Agency said.
By Dan Allen on 21 January 2010 in Energy Bulletin -
Image above: Igor, a former reactor shift supervisor at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in better days. He still misses operating the reactor. From (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12339804).
There are two human musicians in the band – ‘Dr. Atom’ (aka Dan Allen, high school teacher) and his brother, ‘Mikey Ion’ (aka Mike Allen, ornithologist).
The all-original songs were written for Dr. Atom’s high school Chemistry class & are sometimes performed live therein. Dr. Atom sings in a fake British accent because pretending to be someone else makes his barely-competent live performances less embarrassing for him. (The accent in these songs is basically a double imitation: Dr. Atom imitating Joey Ramone who was imitating late 70’s British punks.)
Three peak-oil/energy relevant songs are included here with lyrics: Americium, Peak Oil Blues, and Energy Matters. I also give a brief commentary on each song to improve your listening experience. Rock on.
What do you do with a poison that lives for a thousand years in the heaping piles of rusting barrels in a decommissioned reactor core? What can you do?Americium, americium, americium
Deadly actinide with a patriotic name Legacy of the nuclear age Will long outlive our civilization What can you do?
Americium, americium, americium
Its gamma rays will fall upon the decaying fragments of the concrete walls and the vines that try to grow upon what remains of what we were. What can you do?
Americium is one of the long-lived, ultra-toxic radioactive actinide elements populating the spent fuel of our current nuclear reactors. It’s deadly for thousands and thousands and thousands of years – during which time it needs to be baby-sat to keep it in one place. Note: Civilizations don’t last that long, people. At some not-too-distant time people are gonna stop being able to take care of it, and it’s on its own – free at last. Horrible, horrible freedom.
Image above: The Chernobyl control room 25 years later. From (http://nationaljournal.com/pictures-the-chernobyl-disaster-25-years-later-20110324)
So at what point were we planning on dealing with the massive amounts of ultra-toxic spent-fuel of the current nuclear reactors?
Will it go away if we ignore it? (Well yea, if you live in geologic time -- which we don’t.)
Will the not-yet-developed 4th generation nuclear reactor technology (that could potentially ‘defuse’ the waste) be beamed down to us from a more advanced civilization? (…Fingers crossed.)
So then what were we thinking?
The first rule of growing up: don’t shit in your own bed. Nuclear waste is one of our still-not-potty-trained Industrial Civilization’s shameful defecations. There are scores of others – CO2 being the Big One. …We’re up to our necks, people. And it’s rising fast.
PEAK OIL BLUESWe had us some fun, burnin’ it up like a billion little suns Turning it day from night, yea we did it up right It was a hydrocarbon party that was ragin’ for generations But the Sun’s coming up now and, man, it ain’t pretty
We’re on the back-side of the peak (Hubbert’s Peak) And it’s fallin’, fallin’, fallin’ down (fossil fuel production) And we better start facing up to it (economic contraction) Living on the backside of the peak
We had the power of the gods and the mind of a child Energy-dense and pound-foolish – it’s a dangerous combination Building towers to the heavens, digging pits halfway to hell Moving mountains, oh we had so much energy to burn
We sucked the rivers dry, ravaged the forests, emptied the oceans of fish We wrecked the climate, wasted the soil, and perpetrated mass extinctions Wow, what a gas! What a gas! …but we’re out of gas now (mournful sigh)COMMENTARY ON 'PEAK OIL BLUES':
Now and then it’s instructive to sit back and say, ‘What exactly have we accomplished with all this ancient sunlight we found – these miraculous, energy-dense fossil fuels?’
Well…you can think of a whole bunch of good things we got from fossil fuels: lots of scientific knowledge, some comfortable low-labor living for a lot of people, some neat techno-gadgets, The Ramones, etc. (But then again, you can think of lots of good things we had before fossil fuels: strong communities, intimate personal knowledge of the natural world, Mozart, etc.)
Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to come up with a list of very bad things we got from fossil fuels: fragmented communities, degraded ecosystems, an over-crowded global civilization on the verge of catastrophic collapse, possible destruction of the entire biosphere (if/when the climate flips-out). Looks like a pretty huge net loss, huh?
It can make you sad. Did it really need to happen like this? Are we really that dumb?
ENERGY MATTERSSo this kid puts up her hand and says with a smirk on her face, “What’s with all this energy nonsense Why should I care about ∆H?”
I can understand molecules and atoms Liquids and solids, solutions and gases I’m perfectly fine with stoichiometry But why in the world should I care about energy?
And I say… Energy (oh!), energy (oh!), it matters! Energy (oh!), energy (oh!), it matters a lot!
Without energy, how would matter change? How would atoms and molecules Form & then rearrange?
It’s the difference in potential energy Between fossil fuel and their combustion products That has created and powers Your industrial society
Energy – it matters!
Indeed it does. If you want to understand a civilization, you’d do well to look at their energy use – where it came from, how much they used, what they used it for, and what was sacrificed in order to get it. That tells you a lot of their story right there.
We were ‘lucky’ enough (cough) to find gobs of cheap fossilized sunlight right under our feet. We went hog wild with it and sacrificed the biosphere in the process.
That’s a great story. Woo hoo.
Video above: "Russia Today" interviews Prof. Christorpher Busby. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MognnB0g56Y)
By Oyvind Holmstad on 30 March 2011 in Permaculture RI -
Image above: Closed loop shrimp farm where effluent goes to farmland. Still frame from "Eritria - Part 1" vedio below.
The two videos below are much about scaling up mangrove systems for sustainable sea water farming, done in a true permaculture spirit from which both people and nature benefit. Sadly this is in stark contrast to industrial aquaculture, where they throw cheap energy on unsustainable systems to maximize profit.
Today mangroves are disappearing fast. Thirty-five percent of mangrove ecosystems disappeared between 1980 and 2000, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Shrimp farms have been a primary cause of mangrove loss, as well as urbanization and agriculture. This is why the message from The Seawater Foundation is of such an importance, as they show how to change and provide hope for the future.
Video above: "Greating Eritria" Part 1. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P1rPnVUME4).
Video above: "Greating Eritria" Part 2. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnzIg3XdcjY).
A similar form of sustainable shrimp farming is the Chinese Gei Wai, a shallow fish pond surrounded by bunds. Make sure you get real mangrove prawns on your pizza next time you order a sea food topping!
Mangroves and other coastal ecosystems provide a lot services for humanity, among them is their capacity to capture and store CO2. Carbon sinks along the world’s coast lines, including mangroves, sea grasses, and tidal salt marshes, store massive quantities of carbon for centuries at a time, and could provide an immediate and cost-effective tool to counter the impacts of climate change.
Video above: "WWF Living Planet Report 2010 - Mangroven". From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Pw7TGQRMU)
By Joel Salatin on 30 March 2011 in The Nation -
Image above: Aerial photo of feed lot by Pete McBride. From (http://www.petemcbride.com).
In this twelfth video in the series “Peak Oil and a Changing Climate” from The Nation and On The Earth Productions, American farmer, lecturer and author Joel Salatin outlines the key issues America faces as its citizens increasingly rely on factory farms, concentrated animal feeding operations that require cheap energy in order to operate profitably. He condemns regulations that appear to be on the books to benefit animal factories and prevent individuals from farming sustainably.
Salatin calls this the "food inquisition." The regulatory climate created by government, he says, makes it possible to "capriciously and arbitrarily exclude small local food producers, processors, canneries, cheesemakers, etc. from accessing the market." Salatin advocates for the decentralization of food production and notes the US has thirty-five million acres of lawn, which should be much better utilized in order to prevent Americans from going hungry when peak oil begins to have a real impact.
He urges Americans to quit buying processed food and "get in touch with their kitchens." He believes communities should fund their own food treasures and rediscover the domestic culinary arts.
Video above: "Breaking Free from Factory Farm" with Joe Saletin. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBViL8gOaLU).
How to eat animals & respect them too
Joel Salatin is no simple farmer. When he speaks, he at times takes on the air of a Southern preacher, philosopher, heretic, businessman, activist, or ecological engineer. Since Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the film Food, Inc. brought him to fame as the man who raises meat the right way, Salatin has become a sought-after speaker.
There’s a missionary quality to Salatin’s farming. He speaks of his work as a ministry and as healing. He calls his animals “co-laborers” and “dance partners” and says he respects each animal’s distinctiveness. Who better to articulate an ethic of how, when, and whether we should raise and eat our fellow animals ?
You claim that the kind of agriculture that you do could feed the world. How would that work?
We farm grass, and we harvest that grass with cows. But we don’t just turn the cows out into a field. We move them every day from paddock to paddock and only give them access to a single spot a couple days a year. We let the grass grow to what we call full physiological expression, the juvenile growth spurt. By doing that we’re actually collecting a lot more solar energy and metabolizing it into biomass than you would if the grass were kept short like a lawn.
The difference is, for example, Augusta County, where we are, averages 80 cow days per acre (a cow day is what one cow will eat in a day). On our farm we average 400 cow days per acre, and we’ve never bought a bag of chemical fertilizer and we’ve never planted a seed. We’ve taken the soils on our farm from 1.5 percent organic matter in the early 1960s to an average of 8 percent organic matter today. That cycle of herbivore, perennial, and predation builds up root biomass below the ground and sequesters carbon and organic matter. It’s the same process that built all the deep soils of the world—the Pampas in Argentina, outer Mongolia with yaks and sheep, the American plains with the buffalo.
Now, if you consider vegetables, we could do edible landscapes. There are 35 million acres of lawn in the United States. I tell people, we’ll know that we’re running out of food when the golf courses around Phoenix start growing food instead of petroleum-based grass to be irrigated with precious water. We’ll know that we’re short of food when we can’t run the Kentucky Derby anymore, because we need that land for farming. Go to Mexico. They don’t mow the interstates. Every farmer along the highway has a staked-out milk cow.
By Ex-Skf on 28 March 2011 for Ex-Skf Blogspot -
Image above: Diagram from Asahi Shinbun News story apparently showing flooded space below turbine room separated from reactor containment by duct.
From a story in Asahi Shinbun News (http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0328/TKY201103280198.html) that was published at 3:00PM JST 3/28/2011 it was reported that their may be "holes" in three reactor containment vessels at the Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear Plant. Why the hell are they reporting it now?? The information was supposed to have been revealed in the press conference that TEPCO had past midnight on March 28, according to the article:
(The opening paragraph in Japanese is different now, though admitting the same thing, after Asahi updated the article.)Fukushima Dai Ichi reactor pressure vessels with holes at the bottom, underground tunnel flooded with radioactive water! "So what?" Says the world, by ignoring the news completely.This is just unreal and it's not even in the headlines in Japanese news sources. Nothing on English news sources. Am I hallucinating? No. I go to the link from my yesterday's post, and the Asahi Shinbun article is updated with additional information with underground tunnel from the Reactor No. 2 all flooded with highly contaminated water which has possibly have been draining into the ocean. Asahi Shinbun updated their story at 7:26PM JST 2/28/2011:
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted to the possibility in its early March 28 press conference that the steel Reactor Pressure Vessels that hold nuclear fuel rods in the Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear Plant may have broken. TEPCO explained the situation "Imagine there's a hole." Because of this "hole", contaminated water that's been poured into the Pressure Vessels to cool the fuel rods continues to leak, it is assumed.
In the Reactors No. 1, 2, and 3, the water level within the Pressure Vessels are not rising as much as desired. TEPCO admitted in the March 28 press conference that the reason why the Pressure Vessels haven't been filled with water was "probably a hole near the bottom, that's the image we have". Asked why there was a hole, TEPCO answered they did not know.
The Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) are the most important of the 5-layer protection against radiation leak (other 4 are the fuel pellets, cladding of fuel rods, Container Vessels, and the Reactor buildings). The RPVs at Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear Power Plant is made of 16-centimeter thick steel, and it has an outlet at the bottom to insert measuring instruments. It is possible that the leak is from that area.
東電は、水面か ら露出した核燃料が過熱して損傷した可能性を認めている。専門家によると、核燃料を束ねた燃料棒が損傷して崩れ、圧力容器下部に落下して かたまりになると、表面積が小さくなって効率よく水で冷やせなくなる。極めて高温になった燃料が圧力容器の壁を溶かして穴を開けた可能性もある。
TEPCO also admitted to the possibility of the exposed nuclear fuel rods overheating and damaging the RPVs.
According to the nuclear experts, if the fuel rods get damaged and start to melt, it will fall to the bottom of the RPVs and settle. It then becomes harder to cool with water effectively, because the surface area is smaller. It is possible that the melted fuel rods melted the wall of the RPVs with high temperature and created a hole.
(The reference below to the TEPCO's belief in the integrity of the RPVs are removed in the updated article. This is the text that appeared in their 3:00PM article, which I copied when it appeared to my Japanese blog.)
On the other hand, TEPCO said it didn't think the RPVs are completely broken, because the pressures inside the RPVs were higher than the atmosphere. "It is not like Chernobyl where the RPV exploded and the fuels were outside the RPV." TEPCO continued to believe in the integrity of the RPVs.
TEPCO announced that 1000 milli-sievert radiation was detected from the water from the underground tunnel from the turbine building of the Reactor 2 and the vertical duct [to the tunnel?].
東電によると、２７日午後、タービン建屋から 外につながるたて坑と地下トンネルに水がたまっているのを見つけた。２号機の場合、たて坑は深さ１５．９メートル、トンネルは長さ７６メートル。たて坑の 出口から１メートルのところまで汚染水が上がってきており、水の表面の放射線量は毎時１千ミリシーベルトを超えた。
TEPCO found out about the flooding of the duct and the underground tunnel in the afternoon of March 27.
The vertical duct is 15.9-meter deep, and the tunnel is 76-meter long. The contaminated water was filling the duct up to 1 meter from the top, and the surface of the water measured 1000 milli-sievert.SO THEY WAITED 12 HOURS TILL THEY SAID ANYTHYING about RPVs and this underground tunnel filled with water. The press conference was held past midnight on March 28. It has been leaked that TEPCO's president was incapacitated and bed-ridden for over a week because of stress before he was supposedly back at the helm. I'm sure he is wishing he hadn't won the race to the top.
たて坑 の出口から海までは約５５メートル。海にもれた跡は確認できないという。トンネルには継ぎ目があり、防水加工は完全ではないという。２号機では、タービン 建屋内でも、高い濃度の汚染水が見つかっている。東電は建屋の汚染水とトンネルの間で水が行き来しているとみている。
From the duct, it is 55 meters to the ocean. TEPCO said it couldn't confirm whether the water flowed into the ocean. There are seams in the tunnel and the seams are not completely leak-proof. Highly contaminated water has also been found in the turbine building of the Reactor No.2. TEPCO said the contaminated water may be sloshing between the tunnel and the turbine building.
Editor's note: The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Japan has excellent material on Fukushima Dai Ichi disaster we have not seen elsewhere (http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english). See the following PDF files from (http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110330-1.html) and (http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110329-5.html):
Summary of Events at Fukushima Dai Ichi from March 11 earthquake to march 29th (http://www.islandbreath.org/2011Year/03/110330nisasummary.pdf) Schematic diagrams of damage to each of the six reactors at Fukushima Dai Ichi to date. (http://www.islandbreath.org/2011Year/03/110330nisareactors.pdf) Plan diagram of five area test sites where plutonium from nuclear plant detected. (http://www.islandbreath.org/2011Year/03/110330nisasoiltest.pdf).
Q: How do you know if you are rich, middle class or poor in America?
A: When you go to work, if your name is on the building -- you’re rich; if your name is on an office door -- you’re middle class; if your name is on your shirt -- you're poor…and, if someone else’s name is on your hand-me-down work shirt.
You always hear about natural-born musicians, artists, teachers, nurses, even businessmen. But what happened to the natural-born farmer and extended farm family when the rural-to-urban migration saw us go from 92% of Americans making their living (and dying) on the land in 1900 to around 2% today? What happened to the natural sense of community that engendered -- that "we're all in it together," culture we now long for? And, what about America's supposedly classless society? How's that working out for ya?
Here’s a new book that answers these questions and more.
The Shower Line
Nobody writes about class in America and about America’s unacknowledged class war like Joe Bageant. Dubbed the “Sartre of Appalachia” by CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair, Joe writes about America’s largest, yet invisible to most, class -- 60 million poor, undereducated white laborers. These are the folks who as Joe notes are on the other side of “the shower line” -- those who pull off their sweaty work clothes and take their showers after their back-breaking day’s physical labor as opposed to those who shower and dress far more finely before heading off to work.
Joe’s first book, Deer Hunting with Jesus introduced us to many of these salt-of-the-earth folks and explained the whys and wherefores of their rather self-defeating worldview. In his latest book, a memoir cum polemic, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir Bageant delves into the origins -- his own and that of the 60 million others existing on the hidden side of the great shower line.
Joe’s memoir begins in 1951 at grandparents Maw and Pap’s small farm along Shanghai (it’s an Irish term) Road in Morgan County, West Virginia. Like many a homestead along the Blue Ridge Mountains, it was a multi-generational subsistence farm (“the farm was not a business”) that had been the norm in America before the great corporate-driven rural-to-urban shift that coincided with the end of World War Two.
Joe’s childhood days “Over Home” were whiled away on the usual attendant chores, hand-picking bugs off garden crops, watching Pap plow fields behind his draught horse or hand-harvest the large cornfield, sweating away with the adults during the all-hands-on-deck haying and wood cutting, helping with the late Autumn hog butchering, dodging the ever-present snakes and bullying older cousins and hunting with the adults or developing future hunting skills plinking holes in a broken metal bucket set on a fencepost.
A Multi-faceted American Tragedy
For the Christian teetotaler Pap -- who likely never brought in more than $1000 in any given year -- freedom “resided in yeoman property rights” -- the Jeffersonian ideal of an Agrarian Democracy. No one in Maw and Pap's hard-working extended family ever went hungry or homeless. As Joe notes, this rural system of subsistence farming and barter right up the great rural-to-urban migration was “an economy whose currency was the human calorie.”
And, that’s what this book is all about: the post WWII shift from Maw and Pap’s agrarian democracy to the urban-dominated/techno/bureaucratic/military/security/consumer Empire of today. He writes how that shift and the resulting class stratification has led us to the brink of economic and ecological collapse.
Joe notes: “Damn few of us grasp how the loss of traditional aesthetic and foundational values, the yeoman tradition, are connected with so much modern American tragedy.”
The rush to “agri-business;” the obesity/diabetes health crisis; the out-migration to teeming cities; the resulting army of disposable laborers; the meth epidemic devastating the “white working-class’s futureless young”… all are tragedies personal and political. It’s also the root of our ecological crisis. You just can’t have “ten thousand years of agriculture synthesized into money” without it. Joe posits, “In all likelihood, there is no solution for environmental destruction that does not first require a healing of the damage done to the human community.”
“Lunchpails and Laptops”
Joe traces the family’s urban migration and the series of laborer jobs Daddy took on to support the family once they moved to town. Weekends saw the clan come Over Home and engage in the activities they always had before, especially gardening, canning and hunting. By Joe’s sixth grade, the family was bouncing around from one rental to another; the large family meals of Down Home replaced by Swanson’s TV dinners when available, and “coffee bread” -- white bread soaked in coffee -- when times were toughest.
Just as he did in Deer Hunting, Joe presents a thorough explanation of who “Mama’s People” are: poor, unattractive, alcoholic (or teetotaler), anti-Black, violent, petty criminal, third grade-educated, Christian Fundamentalist, NASCAR-loving, Scots-Irish rednecks whose misfortunes inspire a litany of country songs. Joe deftly explains how these folks are manipulated into serving as "bullet magnets" for endless Imperial wars and as shock troops for the mean-spirited "conservative" ideology that convulses American society today. Yet, he never demeans anyone. "Polite” society does enough of that. Joe just sticks to the facts.
As if society’s disapproval wasn’t enough, Joe explains how the corporatization of all things American coupled with a surplus of expendable heavy laborers has led to a “culture of shame.” Not only are Mama's People the scapegoats of the educated classes, such folks beat themselves up and desperately try to hide their roots. That’s the ugly truth about Chamber of Commerce propaganda that declares that one only has value if they are producing goods for someone else's profit or are part “of the middle class commissariat.” These "truths" and the "nothing prevents anyone from being the next Horatio Alger" myth are bought by people who then bemoan their predicament as "my own damn fault." Many, like Bageant's Daddy, simply recast their personal histories as a "Leave It To Beaver" happy fantasy. That kind of shaming has always kept the peasantry in line.
Joe developed an unlikely appetite for reading. He escaped the usual high school bullies by retreating to the library. Eventually he parlayed that love of books into knowledge that allowed him to get one step out of the permanent underclass he so lovingly writes about. He can write about it so well, cuz he never really left. Joe went through a series of working class jobs, just like his kin. He suffers the same work-related and diet-caused ailments.
“The Few Can Indeed Screw the Many”
The small multi-generational family farm was over by the mid-60s. By then, 22 million Americans had traveled the corporate-delineated one-way path from farm-to-city as America went from agrarian to consumer society. Once Joe's generation who left the farms passes on, memories of what we once had will be lost, just as hundreds of years of hard-won intricate knowledge of place was lost in the great migration -- gone irretrievably in less than 50 years. A society where the top 1% control 45% of the income and an even larger share of the wealth and where 67% are counting on Social Security for their entire retirement income is a class society by definition...and screwed.
Some Fight Back
But people do fight on: people in Chiapas are taking it on; folks in Joe’s backyard -- Christian Greens -- are fighting the crime of mountaintop-removal coal extraction; some two billion or so worldwide still do multi-generational agriculture on small plots … if they survive the same, inexorable corporatiztion (see, Monsanto), they'll be in better shape when it all comes tumbling down.
These days, many educated, far more wealthy children a couple generations removed from the great shift engage in magical thinking escapism. (On some level who can blame them?) Some who do see what's coming just retreat into an "it's beyond fixing" paralysis. Yet, I’m encouraged that this last weekend while I was finishing Rainbow Pie, I met some young folks who are engaged in small-scale farming in the Blue Mountains out here in the northwest.
One told me she did it because “I like it. Always have. And, it sure seems like it'll be a useful skill after the collapse.”
Two days later an environmental activist friend told me and my Wilderness First Responder buddy Tim that she was thinking of getting a nursing degree because “I figure it'll come in handy after the collapse.” (My New Age friends would call this a whole lot of "synchronicity.")
Even if it's likely to be way worse than either -- or any of us -- envisions, their heads and hearts sure are in the right place. And, to their ever-lasting credit, they're living the sanest response and they are not letting the bastards get their day, too.
“When Empires Die; They Die Broke”
Yep. Some folks are rising above the national denial and preparing for the economic and ecological shit-storm -- the first squalls of which we are now battening down against. But, as Joe notes, we’re pretty unlikely to make a dent in the underlying causes if we continue to deny the existence of our massive, permanent underclass. We’re unlikely to dent it without an extensive, improbable multi-generational investment towards a just society. That would take years and trillions of dollars which just aren't there; squandered on Imperial follies and sequestered in the holdings of that top 1% -- virtually all of whom have multiple overseas hide-outs (see- Bush/Paraguay).
Continued denial of this ruling class-driven Apocalypse is deadly and immoral. Bageant notes that as the American class denial he has dedicated his life to shedding light upon continues … "we deny the one truth held in common by every enlightened civilization: we are our brother's keepers.” Like Deer Hunting with Jesus, Rainbow Pie should be a required college Sociology text. I recommend people purchase and read both books , starting in order with Deer Hunting with Jesus.
Down Home may well be done with, but, Joe Bageant has done a great service gleaning some sobering truths out of the ashes of America's abandonment of agrarian democracy. If there is a future, historians then will scoff at the fabricated “truths” of the Chamber of Commerce propaganda network and look to Rainbow Pie and the collective works of Joe Bageant for a faithful, authentic explanation of just how it all went wrong.
Joe died of cancer March 26 at the age of 64. RIP
- The price of conventionally produced food to rise and not come down again;
- Prices to rollercoaster so that budgeting is unpredictable;
- Some foods to become very expensive compared to what we're used to;
- And other foods, beginning with some of the multiple versions of the same thing made by the same company to garner a bigger market share and more shelf space, to gradually become unavailable.