Blog Archives

U.S. corn growers “farming in hell” as drought, heat portend another global food price spike

Things are grim if you’re a U.S. corn farmer right now:

The worst U.S. drought since Ronald Reagan was president is withering the world’s largest corn crop, and the speed of the damage may spur the government to make a record cut in its July estimate for domestic inventories. Tumbling yields will combine with the greatest-ever global demand to leave U.S. stockpiles on Sept. 1, 2013, at 1.216 billion bushels (30.89 million metric tons), according to the average of 31 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s 35 percent below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s June 12 forecast, implying the biggest reduction since at least 1973…“The drought is much worse than last year and approaching the 1988 disaster,” said John Cory, the chief executive officer of Rochester, Indiana-based grain processor Prairie Mills Products LLC. “There are crops that won’t make it. The dairy and livestock industries are going to get hit very hard. People are just beginning to realize the depth of the problem.”

— Jeff Wilson, “U.S. Corn Growers Farming in Hell as Midwest Heat Spreads,” Business Week (Bloomberg News), July 9, 2012

And although despite the drought “U.S. production in 2012 is expected to rise 9.5 percent from last year to a record after farmers sowed the most acres since 1937,” the overall outlay of the situation also hinges on global economic circumstances, which in turn highlights the troublesome nature of globalization itself):

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Recommended Reading 15

This week’s recommended articles and essays (and videos) include: the political battle behind climate science research; the rising push for a future where urban infrastructure is relocated underground; a look at Wal-Mart’s destructive effect on America’s middle class; the alteration of reading, writing, and publishing by the snooping technology that accompanies e-books; a brilliant, long essay by Theodore Roszak about the musical and psychedelic cultural streams that gave birth to today’s cyberpunkish utopia/dystopia of a computer-permeated civilization; an essay about America’s dangerous social experiment in raising galactically spoiled and lazy kids; interesting speculations about the relationship between Walt Whitman, Frankenstein, and Dracula; the use of infrasound for military purposes and to create perceived supernatural manifestations; a consideration of the relationship between movies and consciousness as informed by Inception; and a report on a new survey showing that a majority of Americans “believe” in UFOs.

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Heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods, superstorms: The future is here

Last year my family and I weathered (in all senses of the word) the great Texas drought-heatwave-wildfire apocalypse of 2011. Twice within a span of three weeks, my wife and I stood on our back porch and watched the smoke from a major fire several miles away billowing up from behind a span of folds and ridges in the countryside. We talked seriously with our son and daughter-in-law, who live right across the street from us, about staying alert and being ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice.

The view from my back porch on September 5, 2011. Wildfire near a local dam and lake system.

So presently I feel not just sympathy but empathy for those who are suffering through the epic wildfires in Colorado, and the epic heatwave gripping the middle part of the U.S. (including my home state of Missouri), and the dramatic superstorm that hit Washington, D.C. and Virginia yesterday, and the recent torrential rains and floods that hit Florida. And that’s not even to mention the similar phenomena being endured by people elsewhere in the world.

As I was looking up information on yesterday’s D.C. storm, I was struck in particular by the reporting in The Washington Post, not just because of the facts, which are startling enough, but because of the tone. Reading the Post‘s coverage, one gets a distinctly creepy feeling about the shape of the future we’re now entering:

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Recommended Reading 14

This week’s installment of Recommended Reading covers: the cinematic nature of the Book of Revelation’s apocalyptic vision; historical and psychological revelations and reflections on the nature of societal and cultural collapse; the nuttiness of America’s techno-optimistic utopianism; the rise of neuroscience-enhanced psychological/spiritual training for America’s military; the possible future of art as “post art” that is seamlessly integrated with everyday living; and some insights into, and recommendations for, a dogmatically (and insanely) growth-based economy that has been failing for many years to inquire into the real point of economic activity in terms of a truly human (and thus truly ecological and globally life-enhancing) “good life.”

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Recommended Reading 13

This week’s installment of recommended links and readings covers: the psychological, spiritual, and cultural aspects of apocalypse; a bizarre restriction on media coverage of a major event unfolding in America right now; the psychology and spirituality of creativity in art and life; a hopeful statement about the future of books and publishing; a wonderful early essay about horror films by Robert Anton Wilson; and a cool artistic remix/reimagining of a classic science fiction film.

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Recommended Reading 12

This week’s links and readings add up to an exceptionally rich and varied smorgasbord. Topics include: planetary environmental Armageddon plus other modes of doom, along with the American psychology of denial regarding the true direness of our present situation; the authentic rise of an American totalitarian state along the lines of Nuremberg; the egregiously overlooked (by formal policymakers and pundits) role of religion as a causative and formative factor in world affairs; Facebook’s Promethean desire to reshape the world and suck up all of its money with our collective personal data; the manipulation of our neurochemical responses by modern technology and advertising to induce maximum addiction; our perpetual state of chronic enslavement to clock time; a call to end the insanity of “maximum productivity” and build a more human and humane economy; a blessedly clear-sighted graduation speech that tells kids they’re not at all special; a defense of the value — not just aesthetic but political — of formally correct English; examinations of the cultural influences on Prometheus, the American gothic legacy of Ray Bradbury, and the exquisite horror of fairy tales; and a wonderful explanation of why reading Robert Anton Wilson is actually good for you.

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Recommended Reading 9

This week’s recommended articles, essays, and blog posts cover: various possible modes of doom that await us (or that are facing us right now), including climate change, economic collapse, and some other usual suspects; the hijacking of global culture by money and its possibly psychopathic servants; the historical role of alchemy in giving birth to our modern-day economic system driven by credit-based currency; a philosophy professor who has taken it on himself to publicize the anti-technological cultural critique of Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber, since in many ways these critiques may be pointedly on-target; an essay from no less authoritative a source than MIT Tech Review explaining why Facebook is not the new Google but the new AOL, and why it may collapse and bring down much of the rest of the Web with it; a 2008 report from The Wall Street Journal about one rather shocking way (in my opinion, at least) that American megachurches have begun to exploit corporate marketing tactics; and excellent essays (plus a video) about the life, thought, and work of Philip K. Dick, Whitley Strieber, and Ray Bradbury.

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Recommended Reading 7

This week’s collection of recommended articles, essays, blog posts, and (as always) an interesting video or two, covers economic collapse and cultural dystopia; the question of monetary vs. human values; the ubiquity of disinformation in America and the accompanying need for true education of the deeply humanizing sort; the ongoing debate over climate change and its apocalyptic implications (including the apocalyptic implications of one possible means of dealing with it); the possibility of an Armageddon-level solar storm; the ongoing attempt to use the Internet for mass mental and social control, along with advice about protecting your privacy online; the clash between, on the one hand, neurological reductionism and scientism, and, on the other, more expansive ways of understanding science, consciousness, human life, and the universe; the rise of a generation of parentally-dominated college students in America (and its implications for art, psychology, and culture); religious controversies, both current and historical; the practice of eating corpses for medicine; the prospects for artistic achievement in the 21st century; the question of Lovecraft’s paranormal beliefs; Stanley Krippner’s career as a parapsychological researcher respected by both skeptics and believers alike; and a capsule summary of current UFO evidence.

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Recommended Reading 1

In the wake of my exit from Facebook a couple of weeks ago — something I still intend to write about here in the near future, in tandem with an explanation of my reasons for leaving Google as well — I’ve taken the time, energy, and attention that I was using to post things over there (links to articles, essays, blog posts, films, and other material) and channeled it over here to The Teeming Brain. Hence, my rather drastically increased rate of posting in recent weeks.

But, as I had expected, I’m finding that a lot of the smaller tidbits, the mere links to and excerpts from a variety of worthy items that I often posted at Facebook sans accompanying commentary by me, don’t feel quite right to offer as solo posts over here. So I hereby inaugurate a new and ongoing Teeming Brain feature titled Recommended Reading. Each Friday I’ll post a gallery of links to what I regard as the most compelling (important, inspiring, striking, galling, entertaining) items that I’ve encountered, read, and/or watched on the interwebs during the preceding week. I greatly appreciate this sort of hands-on curation of valuable content by a number of tuned-in bloggers and writers who help to separate the intellectual wheat from the deluge of digital chaff. So, in essence, this is my way of paying it forward.

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Report warns of society-wide increase in mental illness due to climate change and severe weather

I grew up an hour from Joplin, Missouri, and spent a lot of my formative years heading over there for high school debate-and-drama contests, martial arts lessons, and more. I know people in Joplin and the surrounding small towns. My wife and I still drive through Joplin when traveling home for the holidays. So this year’s epic Joplin tornado hit home for us even more than it did for the millions of Americans who watched the news coverage from afar with horror.

Maybe that’s why the news about a newly released report from Australia’s Climate Institute that links the current and future rise of more severe weather to a rise in mental and emotional illness leaves me fairly thunderstruck (no pun intended). Or maybe it’s that plus several additional considerations, including the facts that 1) my family and I relocated from Missouri to Texas in 2008 partly to escape the epic recent surge (over the past decade) in tornado outbreaks and catastrophically severe winter weather 2) my sister just rode out historic Hurricane Irene in Salem, Massachusetts 3) one of my closest friends was displaced from his home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and 4) in our new home state of Texas, my family and I are currently enduring historic, record-shattering heat, drought, and wildfires, with local news reported dominated by talk of associated crop losses, burned homes, and impending electricity blackouts due to overstrained grids. This comes on the heels of a 2010-2011 winter that brought record cold temperatures down here.

These things are beginning to hit home, and so the details of this new report about the collective psychological effects of widespread severe weather brought about by climate change make for fairly grim reading. Still, better forewarned than forearmed.

Rates of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says. The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse … The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a “preview of life under unrestrained global warming” … The paper suggests a possible link between Australia’s recent decade-long drought and climate change. It points to a breakdown of social cohesion caused by loss of work and associated stability, adding that the suicide rate in rural communities rose by 8 per cent. The report also looks at mental health in the aftermath of major weather events possibly linked to climate change … [According to the executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Professor Ian Hickie,] “When we talk about the next 50 years and what are going to be the big drivers at the community level of mental health costs, one we need to factor in are severe weather events, catastrophic weather events.”

Full story at The Sydney Morning Herald.