Sunday, December 23, 2012

Harmonic Infinities

Proportional harmonies, the structures of Phi and the underlying quantum mechanics are the inherent patterns of the universe. Understanding these is achieved through many paths of inquiry - mathematics, music, natural science, philosophy and religious practice. They tie together as universal patterns and channels of energy, and are also expressed in the structures of music, which explains the video above.

These are inherent properties and relational structures to all things in the universe, as Einstein, Bell and Bohm discovered, and they are now beginning to be understood as parts of the whole interconnected life that nature and human society is bound by. Understanding this impact of human societies on the earth's systems is a crucial part of coming to grips with this energetic structure that plays out in nature. Its creativity and intelligence is orders of magnitude greater than our own, yet resonates with us.

As soon as we understand that in this biosphere the balance of these things is critical to life, and that there are limits to its tolerance for the degradation of extractive processes and the unbinding of carbon that took the earth millenniums to absorb, the path forward to a collective way of life that balances within the earth's natural bounds will become evident. The synchronicity of this approach is embedded in the Eden Projects and its association with the C&C method of carbon reduction.

May we enter a new beginning with the understanding of the true challenges of the world before us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Small Moment

A photo above of a traditional station of the cross in a public underpassing in Zagreb, Croatia last year. I love to see people in small moments of grace, and their meditation upon meaning. It happens in the big European cathedrals while the sermons float past the crowds of tourists in many languages, focusing on the local faithful who look inward while the world moves past their walls. It happens on winding streets looking over the piazzas of Rome and the waterways of Venice.

It happens in Nepal while the Buddhists mingle with people on the streets, touching each with a moment of retrospection. It happens in India in the streets and temples jammed with humanity among the Hindu traditions of erotic sculpture and Gods of Death and Life. And in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand with the connection of common culture and the touch of children with strangers and friends. The small celebrations of the Chinese in their festivals in the public square. The ablutions of the Muslims in their daily call. In Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, the sacred is blessed every day with the scattering of petals and the immersion in meditation. The African dusk is a time to gaze into the long shadows of the bush, and celebrate the native traditions with people from all over the world. Mexico is a celebration of The Dead in the zocalo, and in life with people in private spaces and the cathedrals in every square.

In our USA, these moments are more rare and formalized, not part of the everyday ebb and flow of life in all its gifts and trials. Somehow the quiet inner spaces and human connections have been drained from the common sphere of life in our cities, and the sprit retreats in the face of the commercialized public space. It somehow seems impolite to express that centered moment except in formal structures, the warp and weave of human life and its meaning is not strongly expressed in our isolated communities.

I would hope that our emerging global community can help bring these connections back into our everyday experience, unburdened by theologies, cliques and partisanship. I am heartened to see the flash music that erupts in civic and commercial spaces to break open the closed off pursuit of things. I love the public holiday events that are celebrated in parks and open city plazas, where people feel free to express their connection to life, music, ideas and play.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Urban Regeneration

A remarkable urban green space has been developed in Copenhagen in response to a site with heavy traffic and no urban forestry. It uses ribbons of concrete that support pedestrian movement through a site of trees and native plantings, in effect, unpaving the city.

The result is a sustainable and fully accessible urban space covering an area of 7.300 m2. Like a giant dune of sand or snow it slips in between the buildings, thereby creating a spatial coherence in the design. Simultaneously, the urban space, elevated 7 meters above the surroundings, ensures the mobility of pedestrians and cyclists, leading from SEB and the harbor past The Danish National Archives and on to the Tivoli Congress Center.

This kind of creative engagement, along with net zero building structure design, is the best hope for sustainable cities as a node of intelligence and human community.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It Begins to Turn

The COP 18 global conference in Doha is once again exhibiting the display of climate change brinksmanship. It's probably the last time that opportunities will be available to the global community to actually come to an agreement about the reduction of carbon emissions in time to salvage the ecosphere from catastrophic warming. There's no escape, the USA is now experiencing the disastrous consequences of climate change on the food and water supplies as severely as the rest of the world.

The only hope is that leadership will be asserted not only in agreements, but in myraid ways by all countries. The growing awareness by people all over the globe is beginning to coalesce on strategies that are being undertaken in many ways. But this also means a shift in our values away from the corporate model and into a humanistic value system, a critically necessary step in the cooperation of the world governments and their people in this immense crisis we face.

But this can be the beginning of a new way of living deeply in this natural world, while it still exists.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eyes on Qatar

The 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference opened yesterday in Doha, with a call for action from the President of the sessions, Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Atttiyah:

“Now more than ever, the issues at the heart of these negotiations are at the forefront of global debate and discourse. All seven billion people living on the planet share a single challenge: climate change,” Mr Al-Attiyah has said. “This is why we gather at the highest official levels in an international framework; this is our mission. If we do not make the changes we need to now, it will soon be too late. We must decide whether we let our lifestyles jeopardise our life.”

This is in response to the dire report from the World Bank regarding the impact of climate change that has already taken place. The US has refrained from being a part of the UNFCCC protocol because of its objection to being designated as Annex II country when India and China are equal carbon emitters and are not held accountable for that because of their earlier "developing country" status.

The US delegate to the conference, Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries at the opening day, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

"I would suggest those who don't follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous," Pershing said.

Now all eyes are on the US Administration to reaffirm a core commitment made at last year's COP in  Durban for a 2 degree limit on climate change. A statement made by Todd Stern, a State Department envoy, earlier this year, appears to back off from any commitment to this hard goal. However, the EPA is poised to finalize a rule approved in March that would put severe limits on the construction of new power plants in the USA.

How else is the US participating? The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements will be conducting a significant side project at the conference. Which indicates that US leadership could possibly come from a myriad of strategies rather than a single goal commitment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Carbon Can

The world community has a unique opportunity coming soon. Has the time arrived when global agreements are put into place that put a hard cap on the carbon emissions? Can we expect leadership from key players (i.e., the World Bank) in accomplishing the completely do-able shift to renewable and non-fossil energy? Can we actually preserve our world so that it's fit to live in by 2030? Can we change the corporate business model so that they can't simply externalize the carbon waste that's impacting the entire globe? Can these business models adjust to the long view?

As Eric Roston succinctly puts it in his Forbes article:

I bet the policy professionals and scientists who ponder climate change adaptation spend little if any time with investors and traders whose livelihoods rise or fall on the spread between company estimates and earnings. There’s a yawning chasm between how much tolerance companies and investors have for blips in performance, which is to say not much, and the large-scale threats to life and property in years and decades ahead, which as far as anybody knows could be considerable. I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

There are numerous examples of countries and regions going directly into renewable energy sources right now, and they're not waiting for some formal payback system. The profit is there already, and it increases as more businesses, governments and companies make the changeover, a synergistic effect. So there's really nothing keeping the global community from grabbing that can and opening it, since that creates so many opportunities for everyone to participate in a livelihood that pays back the earth and its climate as well as the investors. Broad-brush the numbers and work the concept.

So let's do it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

View from Above

The recent cover of New York Magazine captured a phenomenal shot of NYC immediately after hurricane Sandy, showing lower Manhattan completely dark except for the Goldman Sachs tower. The photographer, Iwan Baan, recalled that “As I looked at the glowing Goldman Sachs tower and the bright buildings surrounding this financial icon—I saw who has the power and how problematic that is for this country.”

This event, the outsize power of which is directly a result of climate change, has brought into stark relief the immense risks and dangers of climate change and the depth of the problem of energy production and its resulting carbon emissions.The International Energy Agency, which has been publishing energy charts for years, has now taken a public position that the current energy trends are completely unsustainable and threaten planetary existence. It points out that modest reductions in production and consumption won't make much difference in the accelerating trajectory of carbon emissions. A free report on the IEA key statistics is here.

The only possible response to this by the human community is an immediate and drastic reduction in fossil fuel production and use. This is entirely achievable, but will mean that these reduction goals must be committed to on a global basis, with no "cap and trade" games that allow more carbon to be emitted than are necessary to reduce emissions to the required levels, just so the fossil fuel industry can make its money going out the door. As one can see, the difference between these reductions is found in my discussion, based on a chart from the Global Commons Institute.

As I point out, the necessary reduction curve [red curve] was the initial number more or less agreed to by proponents of the big emissions reductions, such as Bill McKibben. However, after the cap and trade business came into play, that curve [yellow curve] was put out as the "new goal", and that has now been marketed by this "Do the Math" tour that only focuses on the Keystone Pipeline, not the vast network of oil and coal production across the globe. This yellow curve includes the allowance for the cap and trade market, but that isn't sufficient to slow down climate change. It simply allows the corporations to continue to make profit by selling carbon fuels for longer and at higher levels. It thus condemns the planet to irreversible climate change and its impacts on all life, not just human needs.

The necessary response is a drastic and immediate reduction in carbon emissions [grey curve], which will have serious global economic repercussions. But if the global community can shift rapidly to a new economy that embraces sustainable values, this change can become a possibility.

This kind of change does not have Goldman Sachs in its future.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sandy: A Lesson

Given that the immense damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy last week on New York City's subway system was entirely foreseeable under the climate change scenarios, one has to seriously question the ability of cities and states to prepare for a future of climate change, let alone make intelligent choices about local ecosystems and energy use.

If one looks back in time to an era before the development of the colony of New Amsterdam, one would see the natural waterways and vegetation that existed as an ecosystem at the turn of the 17th century, nearly 175 years before the United States came into being as the 13 colonies. This was a living ecosystem that could weather the storms and vagaries of the weather system, as well as providing a buffer for the life on land. The natural processes have been in dynamic balance for millions of years. Then the land was built over, smothered, and the Industrial Revolution of 200 years ago began pumping out the emissions that have led to dangerous climate change, with the attendant increase in catastrophic climate events.

Human habitation has its place on the earth, but we've overrun it. This process, driven by economics of "growth" that rely on consumption of resources and expanding population, is a destructive overgrowth, much like a bacteria that kills its host. This progression can be seen on Manhattan maps that show how the marshes were built over, and the low lying areas created by this growth were then developed, destroying the natural buffers provided by the waterways and marshes.

This is the kind of uncontrolled building and development that creates massive financial and physical losses when the coastal areas are built out. Ian McHarg did a classic study in his book, "Design With Nature" that showed how the dunes along the shore are critical for the protection of the built environment set in back of the dunes away from the shore. This permaculture approach is a fundamentally necessary part of truly regenerative design for human habitation.The options for facing climate change in coastal cities boil down to relocation, building infrastructure to cope with the new planet we're on, or cutting carbon emissions drastically. It's time for cities and their councils and planners to take serious responsibility for providing for public safety in dealing with climate change.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's qualified endorsement of Obama's record on climate change, on November 1 of this year, resulted from the impact of Sandy's destruction of the city. He spelled out the actions of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and their efforts, and made it clear that it's time for national leadership on this issue. There's a great infographic from this group here.

This lesson will hopefully spur the adoption of principles of ecological design and instigate the adoption of the necessary global carbon limits with new urgency.

Precautionary Principle

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back of the Napkin

Architects scribble on the back of a napkin all the time in order to capture ideas that erupt in odd corners in the wee hours. That approach might be beneficial for looking at the problem of dealing with climate change, and the fact that it's necessary to begin immediately with big carbon reductions in order to ensure global survival. This is not an overstatement.

So, each year, 7 GtC (Gigatons of carbon) are emitted globally. The USA produces about 20% of it, or approximately 1.4 GtC. So how much carbon reduction is possible by curtailing emissions and improving the carbon sinks? Limiting this napkin scribble to a direct reduction of California's portion of the 1.4 GtC per year and ignoring the global complexities, a straightforward approach is as follows:

Using the data for carbon emissions shown on Google Earth, one then goes to the Vulcan Project site and extracts the data for California, and you get 101,840,000 metric tons which have to be cut back in some portion EACH YEAR.

Then, using the emission reduction goals laid out in 2005 by our esteemed Governator, we follow the requirements  for these reductions targeted with the years by which these goals must be met. That will tell us how much carbon emission has to be cut using various strategies, at least until these goals are modified by some kind of global agreement.

Then these strategies have to be put into place to cut these carbon emissions; they need to be comprehensive and synergistic in order to accomplish these goals. So, doing the math, they can be laid out in a standard framework from which the many, many ways of reducing carbon can be accomplished. In addition, carbon sinks can be expanded and improved with the restoration of natural landscapes and watersheds. It's a two-pronged strategy.

As you can see from the framework, the carbon emissions can be tackled by sector depending upon what conditions exist in the various counties and cities in the state. The first steps involve the use up-front "hurt money" such as one finds in real estate development, in order to pay for coal and oil plant closures and rapid expansion of solar plants and wind farms, for example. Transportation efficiencies must increase drastically, particularly around the coastal ports. Structures must be constructed in existing urban areas that are "Net Zero" in energy and water consumption. Cities themselves can become regenerative. The list goes on and on, many people have developed these, and my list is here.

Enforcement of the strategies laid out within the framework will need careful oversight, and it's possible to measure carbon emissions in real time at specific locations. But the interesting thing is, by implementing many strategies at once, it's very possible to reduce carbon emissions quickly and to magnify this effect each year. Once the shift starts, it's simple to keep reducing the carbon because removing pollution and emissions sources increases the capability of the new power networks to grow rapidly. It's especially effective if the carbon sink restoration is allowed to take hold early on, as these restored areas of natural processes will do what life does, and that is, grow and function. All we have to do is get out of the way (i.e., shrink human habitation).

As the use of oil becomes unnecessary, its value diminishes, and it's no longer a fiscal lever for global power and conflict. For example, Randy Essex of RMI examines the futility of old-think with respect to oil supplies in the Middle East, coupled with military intervention. This perpetuates a destructive cycle which can be dispensed with by moving to renewable electric supplies with the tremendous savings in production and transport.Because of that, it behooves the large carbon-emitting countries to put a portion of their defense budget into shifting into a zero-carbon world because of the significant direct benefits it provides for national security. Germany has already started down that road. Ultimately the payoff for countries that are not large emitters is the preservation of their cultures and biospheres with the adoption of the new energy technologies.

As I said, this is just the back of a napkin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Just a Pixel

The City of Los Angeles has posted its Climate Change portal which examines in detail a study area that is simply one pixel in the large climate models:

The study looked at the years 2041–60 to predict the average temperature change by mid-century. The data covers all of Los Angeles County and 30 to 60 miles beyond, including all of Orange County and parts of Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and reaching as far as Palm Springs, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. The study overlaid this entire area with a grid of squares 1.2 miles across and provided unique temperature predictions for each square. This is in contrast to global climate models, which normally use grids 60 to 120 miles across — big enough to include areas as different as Long Beach and Lancaster.

It's a recognition that Los Angeles takes climate change very seriously; it's not a theoretical problem, and is trying to help the businesses and residents of the city prepare for the coming changes. The local Los Angeles Times has covered the issue of climate change denial in its press coverage. For example, the attitude of the climate deniers is challenged, in an interview with E.O. Wilson:

What are the consequences of this attitude on, say, climate change?

I've been asked this numerous times: Are we going to be able to pull this thing out in time? I believe in a dictum I first heard from the [deputy] prime minister of Israel, Abba Eban. He said, when all else fails, men turn to reason. Maybe this will happen in time, but right now we are pouring species and biodiversity down the drain for nothing.

Another LAT article questions the wisdom of ignoring the problem:

Droughts in Texas and Louisiana, melting glaciers in Alaska and wildfires in Arizona -- with combined losses running into the tens of billions of dollars -- might lead some to conclude that fighting climate change would be cheaper than ignoring it. But such logicians probably aren't members of Congress from those states, many of whom have deep ties to the oil and gas industry or are simply philosophically opposed to environmental regulation.

While climate change is really a discussion about carbon emissions and how to drastically reduce them, the conversation in Los Angles has been about local efforts in city planning and the restoration of the LA River. What's not mentioned is the impact of the Ports of Los Angles and Long Beach, the single biggest pollution source for the region, as well as their transportation infrastructure which stretches all across Southern California via the Alameda Corridor and designated highways. This transit corridor issue has reared its ugly head again with a new attempt by Metro to run freight through local cities. The surrounding communities are dead set against a massive, destructive proposed project which will drastically increase truck emissions, the 710 connector.

That issue aside, the approach that the city is taking in its local region is an emphasis on restoration projects, which includes habitat regeneration and the accompanying job creation that results from it. These projects can go far beyond simply restoring ecosystems, as a Volkswagen production facility in Mexico demonstrates.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Power of We

On this blog action day, it's appropriate to talk about how countries can collaborate and bring about change in the control of greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest threat to our planet and its life that we've ever seen. The carbon is building up, heating the planet, acidifying the oceans and melting the arctic.

Clearly the people of the world need to get together and rapidly agree on what the carbon limits must be. That's why it's so important to frame this around a constructive approach which is put out there in a big way as global public policy, and it's a powerful motivator if there's a consensus-based template out there that gives people tools to use immediately within their local ecosystems. These numbers have to be based upon actual real-time carbon measurements, which are completely do-able. There's also the possibility of anecdotal experience and its recording of climate change and its effects on people all over the world. It's a "witnessing" of the real climate impacts by people who have lived in a place for decades.

The solutions are pretty obvious in a lot of areas, but something needs to be mapped out by region and agreed to, quickly. Global policies have to change, and the many multiple ways in which these mitigation measures can be implemented can also be financially productive.

The focus on these solutions could be collaboratively managed by region, with the highest emitting countries responsible for the majority of the carbon reduction management, working in tandem with the smaller countries on the same continent. All would have access to the same data pool and observations (transparency). It's like online cybergaming but with real world impacts. Then these countries can trade off resources and carbon taxes locally, and use this balance to bring down the carbon impact in their region, according to agreed-upon global targets. Then each continent compares its carbon reduction rate to the others, and the race is on! The diagram above represents a conceptual grouping for North and Central America.

Who pays for the cost of these solutions? How are these costs quantified, the solutions actually implemented, enforced in the face of corruption, and the measurement of improvement communicated in a reasonably unbiased way? That's what's important about carbon reduction, otherwise known as convergence and contraction. It's a creative exercise done in a collaborative way.

It's the hope for a younger generation. We can't envelop people in despair, we need the world's people to cooperate in an urgently necessary task. So then what is the measure of success?

Acres of forests?
Smaller populations?
Restoration of watersheds?
Farming practices that work with natural processes?
Solar and wind power?
Net zero building practices?
Recycling instead of mining?
No more gas and oil?
Record carbon sequestration?

This might even be more fun than starting wars. Same goal, actually, control of resources and a share of the wealth, except that this is replenishment of resources for everyone, puts the carbon back where we found it and shares a responsibility for the common good. It's time for the old global regime to step aside.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Limiting Climate Change?

Climate change poses clear threats to human societies and natural ecosystems. The panel on Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change, part of the America's Climate Choices project, calls for the United States to respond to these threats by starting now to change the way we use and produce energy. In this video, several members of the panel discuss its conclusions, including a proposal for an emissions budget to guide U.S. policy as well as measures that might be taken to reach that budget's goals.

The National Research Council has issued three reports (Advancing the Science of Climate Change, Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change) examining how the nation can combat the effects of climate change. The reports are part of a Congressionally requested suite of five studies known as America's Climate Choices.

These resouces are promoted by the Citizens Climate Lobby. The report was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, posting this video about 18 months ago. The published report is available at this site, and there's also a free summary download. While it takes a reasonable position on managing carbon emissions, it doesn't go nearly far or fast enough; the suggestions are tepid and there's no teeth behind the core strategies outlined. There don't seem to be any numerical carbon goals or any specific ways of attacking the issue in a coordinated fashion, such as the C&C strategy. At most, it recommends a carbon tax. What really needs to be rapidly implemented is a tax on fuel consumption and an immediate end to oil and coal subsidies, with a concerted shift to wind, thermal and solar power sources for net-zero development.

This report is a small step in the right direction. But the giant leap for mankind has not yet been made, tragically so.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Urban Black Holes

 A black hole is an area of spacetime where an immense mass generating extreme gravitational forces prevents anything, including light, from escaping. Around a black hole there is a mathematically defined surface called an event horizon that marks the point of no return for anything that crosses this horizon. This kind of structure is a good analogy for what I've defined as black holes in the ecological system of our planet.

A comparison of the properties of the natural environment versus the built environment is simple. For example, a tree requires only the natural energy of its immediate environment versus the immense embodied energy required for a house. Not only that, the tree provides oxygen, creates its own micro ecology and cools its immediate vicinity with shade and the absorption of energy in the infrared wavelength. Sort of a natural solar collector and carbon sink. In this way, life has created its own method of sustaining itself using sunlight and water. Then you look at what human civilization has produced, which are structures which reverse the natural processes and use tremendous amounts of energy during their lifetime plus the embodied energies of its structure and the oil, gas and water used to make and transport its parts, as well as the energy to build it and snuff out the functioning ecosystem that used to be in its place. So these are little hotspots where the energy transfer works in reverse to the natural flow. When one aggregates many of these hotspots over an area, it creates a very destructive black hole. These black holes can be mapped.

So clearly if these black holes are not significantly balanced out with a healthy biosphere, the entire system collapses. This is in addition to the heat of carbon that's emitted by their existence as well as the transportation and shipping networks that support human habitation systems. Climate change is but one facet of the black hole problem. So there is a limit to the built environment that the planet can handle without the destruction of the ecological systems that support life on the planet.

Urban expansion - the black holes - will threaten biodiversity and impact the ability of the natural environment to function. There is a limit to the amount of human habitation that the planet can support, and we've passed that limit. We're now encroaching on the last remnants of the natural environment that provides what little balance is left in the ecosystem.

An explanation of the fiscal drivers that create these massive urban developments is described in an article that outlines how cities grow, particularly in California, but also across the globe. In effect, the financial models force more and more building for the cities to survive on the revenue this produces. This fiscal model is what drives the black holes that are shredding the ecosphere. The model is shifting to the premise that the form of cities must change because sprawl is too expensive, a retreat from the event horizon. Unfortunately for the fiscal model, the proposed solution of creating more dense development feeds right into the expansion of these black holes; it becomes a self-perpetuating cancer. This is not a solution for the long term. And these dense centers are poised to explode even further.

Unless human civilization comes to grips with its destructive proclivities, and reduces its footprint on the planet, there's not much hope for continued sustainable life on the planet. The ecological footprint must be reduced very rapidly by all the countries on the globe, and readjust our priorities as a civilization that allows us to adapt to the limitations of planetary resources and ecology. Therefore, the adoption of a new fiscal measure of productivity is imperative in our global systems.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Scream

We're watching the impact of global climate change in the northern hemisphere this year, and the consequences of it are frightening. Looking to the future, its impact is going to increase dramatically, leaving the next generation with little to live for. Prof Sir Bob Watson says that any hope of restricting the average temperature rise to 2C is "out the window". He said that the rise could be as high as 5C - with dire consequences for all of us.

As of right now, each country's share of global carbon emissions in 2008 data represents millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions that show no sign of abating. This chart and other resources is from the Union of Concerned Scientists. What is keeping us trapped here? Some of it is the dynamics of US and global power structures.

An excerpt from mi2g, an information storage and management company that pioneers global risk management practices and technology applications lays it out:

It should be kept in mind that the Kyoto Accord taught President Clinton, and the rest of the world as well, that no US President has the power to negotiate and approve an agreement that would have the effect of changing US laws and circumscribing the authority of Congress. When Vice President Gore flew to Kyoto to consummate an environmental agreement the initial news throughout the world was that an historic breakthrough in global cooperation had been achieved. Instead, the Congress reacted by advising President Clinton that he should not seek Senate approval.

At the time of Congressional inaction on the Kyoto Accord, much blame was assigned to the reluctance of countries like China and India to participate. Congressional politicians argued that the US could not limit its own economy when other major world polluters were free to continue without restraint. Frankly, this was a convenient excuse for Congressional reluctance to act, but it was not the only reason for inaction. This rejection was not simply a matter of Republican reluctance. The “Blue” Democratic states of the US industrial heartland and Democrats in the states mining coal and producing oil and gas could not accept that accord. An open vote would have become a huge political embarrassment to President Clinton as well as to Vice President Gore. In subsequent years, President George W Bush received the same advice from Senate leaders, so he simply avoided addressing the Kyoto accord in the same way as President Clinton had done, by ignoring it.

And with respect to the top-level corporate systems which brought the global investment banking system to its knees, and which are in control of Congress, we have a report from the IFG:

The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) released a special report on Dec. 6, 2011, “Outing the Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit From Today’s Climate Crisis,” which identifies the world’s top 50 individuals whose investments benefit from climate change and whose influence networks block efforts to phase out pollution from fossil fuels.Little information has been publicly available about the identities of the industrialists, investors and ideologues who are most responsible for the decisions over carbon-intensive activities that drive greenhouse gas emissions far past danger levels.IFG’s new report brings this information to light. The task of calculating carbon decision-making footprints is highly complex. However, IFG’s new study is an initial step in what will be a longer-term initiative of analyzing the roles played by the planet’s worst carbon culprits and how they fund sophisticated influence networks over almost all aspects of government policymaking, especially energy.

The online previews are here.

And the dirty little political backstory is here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Doing the Work

This "work" in climate change action refers to the final step in the six stages of grief, as outlined by Daphne Wysham. It appends the traditional five steps of grief, as originally described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and adapted by Steven Running with a final step in the process which calls for appropriate response to the acceptance of a lethal global problem.

This becomes a call to adapt a different benchmark for health and success on a global scale. Specifically, it is about replacing the outmoded and destructive measure of GDP with a measure that recognizes all risks and impacts of business, environment and public policy. This measure is proposed as GPI, and it is laid out extensively in this article from The Solutions Journal.

The state of Maryland has developed a Genuine Progress Indicator as a model for implementation. It's an accounting change that forces the negative impacts onto the balance sheet, and thus doesn't rely on monetary compensations for carbon emissions, but rather fundamental and behavioral and economic changes. This affects corporate behavior at a basic accounting level, which is the necessary means of changing the destructive nature of human habitation which is currently based upon a false metric.

Global implementation of this metric, preferably within regional groups, would put the world back on a path to ecological salvation. The benchmarks provided by C&C would establish a fair set of guidelines. This needs to be done soon, before the escalation of carbon emissions runs out of control.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Farm Urbanity Awakes

 A trend has taken hold in California and our local communities that brings our culture closer to that of Europe's traditions. Urban farming, taking the form of fruit and vegetable produce as well as bees, chickens and goats, has started to blossom. The idea has gone beyond the P-patch communal urban plot originally out of Seattle, Washington. The "P" stood for "Picardo", after the family who owned Picardo Farm in Seattle's Wedgwood neighborhood, part of which became the first P-Patch.

Locally, Los Angeles County has reversed its position on excluding urban farming, mostly because of its outdated rigid zoning ordinances, and is developing guidelines for this practice. The City of Los Angeles is drafting ordinances, as well. Eric Garcetti, a councilmember and gardener, pushed for the amendment to the city's General Plan that allows these urban gardens to flourish.

In San Gabriel, Jennifer Little is now farming on her property:

Little’s business model is so rare in Los Angeles that the coordinator for a study she’s participating in on urban agriculture through the UC Extension Program often tells her that there’s hardly anyone else in the city doing what she does. She wonders if that might mean she’s “crazy, or revolutionary.” “There are lots of great things about being an urban farmer,” she said. “For one, it's really nice to be home together all the time. Also it feels really good to work hard all day in the dirt with the sun beating down on you, and even though we don't make much money, we know we earn every penny.”

Even very small communities are getting into the act. San Marino has started an ordinance to allow raising chickens on property in a very exclusive residential community. The precedent here, however, is embodied in the Huntington Library in San Marino, which goes back to the local agricultural heritage in Southern California. It celebrates its food production in The Ranch, which is part of the estate grounds, and there is still a small section of orange groves around the Huntington mausoleum that was part of the citrus fruit industry that was established all over Southern California in the last century.

Pasadena's contribution to the local garden movement is Arlington Garden, a public garden on leased Cal Trans property. It was the site of the opulent, 17,000-square-foot Durand Mansion built in 1901 and demolished in the early 1960s. After Cal Trans acquired the property, it stood vacant for 40 years. In 2003 Councilmember Steve Madison and former city manager Cynthia Kurtz approached Caltrans about the possibility of leasing the property for city purposes. Madison hosted several community meetings in 2004 during which residents gave input on potential uses ranging from active recreation, such as soccer fields, to passive use, such as a park. The Mediterranean garden eventually arose as the final citizen concept, and is open to the public.

The trend, spurred by public rejection of corporate farming, imported foods and GMO crops, is an example of citizens taking back control of the renewal of their public and urban spaces for the common good. It also provides a future hedge against the looming food shortages of climate change. Forward-looking cities and regions are discussing strategies for adaptation to a hotter and more crowded planet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Since the development of a proposed contraction and convergence formula in the early 90's, things have changed. In the intervening 20 years, the relatively backward nation of China has moved from the category of a developing country to the second largest GDP on the globe with an economic system that's the biggest expression of crony capitalism in history. China has done this with a monolithic governmental banking system that operates purely in the interests of expanding Gross Domestic Product with export trade, as Japan did in the post WWII economy, except without the structure of the Marshall Plan. What this has done in the globalized economy is create a massive leveraging of Chinese economic influence into a global powerhouse, albeit with internal instability, pollution and toxic emissions that threaten to destroy the local environment.

The extreme ramp-up of energy development using coal to manufacture the world's solar panels and the myriad products of trade using an undervalued yuan to expand exports has moved China into first world status. It has also made up for tremendous amounts of carbon emissions; it has far overshadowed all other countries in its growing emissions and apparently intends to maintain this status quo. Thus, China now shares the obligations of the United States and Europe in the emissions reductions scenario.

China's responsibility for climate change is discussed in a book by Paul Harris. It describes China's contribution to global warming and analyzes its policy responses. Contributors critically examine China's practical and ethical responsibilities to climate change from a variety of perspectives. They explore policies that could mitigate China's environmental impact while promoting its own interests and meeting the international community's expectations. Mr. Harris has also explored this issue at a climate change conference at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, in June of 2009.

The conference paper outlines a new paradigm of sustainable cooperation with other countries around the globe in order to bring emissions under control.The dimensions of Chinese carbon governance will also need to work coherently together across scales if contraction and convergence towards a national cap is to be implemented properly and cohesively, without further exacerbating problems around the distribution of harms and benefits, particularly to poorer regions. China's current methodology of moving resources and people across its vast countryside reflects the old World Bank paradigm of development at all costs: physical, ecological and social. China's Guizhou province will move two million people out of its mountains and barren terrains before 2020, Guizhou Deputy Gov. Chen Yiqin said this month, as Xinhua reported. The province plans to move 100,000 people in 2012, and the plan is key to the Guizhou's supposed work against poverty. But the government is relocating these massive populations of Chinese without consideration of the social, economic and ecological impacts of these strategies, which are considerable yet not "on the books".

Such is the error of creating huge scenarios based upon an outmoded measure like GDP. It fosters destructive behaviors that are justified by accounting machinations. The same bookkeeping tricks that brought the global financial system to its knees. The time has come to create a different set of values that measure the integrity of the processes, the value of its citizens and resources of the land, such that the world can restore its natural properties and avert the worst of the climate change impacts, which have already begun.

It is imperative that China take its place at the table with the largest players and implement its contraction on par with the US and Europe, and abandon its headlong emissions growth fueled by coal sources. It has achieved the global position its government has sought, and along with that comes the responsibilities of protecting the planetary systems and resources that give sustenance to life.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


A proposal on the table from the Global Commons Institute provides a strategic way of reducing global carbon emissions in time to prevent runaway climate change: Contraction and Convergence (C&C). C&C was established and has been on the record as a formal well-supported position at the UNFCCC since 1996. A briefing, explanation and chart are here.

Back in the mid-1990s, Aubrey Meyer, in developing the case for C&C, set down a model for analyzing the implications of any proposal aimed at informing policy makers on how best to organize at the UNFCCC to limit the ravaging consequences of climate change. On a clear axis of time-dependency, this covered the key elements:

[a] the rate of accumulation of the carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere;

[b] the various rates at which the emissions contribute to that globally [contraction]; and,  within that,

[c] shares converging internationally on the global per capita average arising under any rate of contraction (with or without a population-based year set for any year chosen within the contraction process).

As you can see from the above chart, the principle is that all countries contract in a coordinated way in order to limit the temperature change that is generated by carbon emissions. In 1996, CGI's goal was to keep the temperature increase below a further 0.5 degrees C in 2060 with zero emissions at that point, so that carbon is limited to 350 ppmv in 2100, the original C&C intervention at COP-2 1996 Geneva. While this principle was supported, that rate wasn't, so the slower rate of 450 ppmv was proposed.This hasn't been adopted, while we quarrel, and temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degrees C. We've already passed 350 ppmv and are nearly at 400 ppmv in 2012, and are still pouring out carbon. So now we have a global emergency.

In reacting to this situation, James Hansen has inspired a group of activists who are positioned now on climate change with 'extreme urgency'. This is further supported by his recent article in the Washington Post. Last year Dr Hansen, together with 14 other leading experts in various disciplines relevant to global climate change, concluded that 1 degree C since 1900 is the danger limit for avoiding future planetary climate catastrophe. We are at O.8 C today. Previously Dr Hansen has published that in order to avoid planetary climate catastrophe the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has to be held below 350 ppm. Today it is 393 ppm and rapidly rising.

Recently, after being criticized by European leaders after the May climate talks in Bonn, Todd Stern of the US State Department qualified its support for a U.N goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels in 1900, and made it clear that all countries must reduce carbon emissions forthwith, not just first-world countries. This is a key statement, because it throws out the political carbon allocation derived from GDP analytics, and retreats from historical support of C&C (pg. 13, Equity and Survival)

Bill McKibben's recent article in Rolling Stone has since triggered much public debate about how to address the reduction of global carbon. The debate is contentious because of the importation of the GDP measure into the allocation formula in order to amplify the carbon emission reduction in a "polluter pays" scenario, which was part of the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements. As I've discussed before, this is not based upon science, but rather imports political agendas into the contraction allocation formula. Two of the discussed GDP - based scenarios in the chart above are:

[1] the red curve is the McKibben formula for no more than 154 Gt C "Maximum permissible", but using GDP allocations to create negative emissions for the USA by 2025 within the 1Gt C/yr from 2010, arriving at  0 emissions by 2040. Bill claims that 2 degrees C by 2100 is a safe temperature increase, but notes that there's only 154 allowable Gt C left before we exceed planetary limits.

[2] the yellow curve is the GDR curve which is nearly twice that at 267 Gt C., requiring negative emissions entitlements in the US by 2025, created by GDP allocations. In other words, allows overall more carbon but hits the US much harder. It's now preferred by McKibben, and also by Jeffrey Sachs, who at the same time was a co-author of the Hansen Paper from which McKibben drew his 154 Gt C. The original source of this is Hansen's Carbon Budget of 166 Gt C [i.e. reducing @ -6%/yr from 2010].

The third allocation calculation that is very immediate and urgent is one that is a straight emissions reduction per capita, with no GDP "adjustments". It reflects the urgency that is created because we're already committed to an apparent 2° C by 2100 by not having done anything. That much climate change is now considered dangerous, and so an immediate reversal is necessary:

[3] the grey curve is Peter Carter's 2012 emergency energy conversion and food security budget: virtual zero carbon emissions in 10 years with negative carbon to follow. 1Gt C per year from 2010 arriving at  0 emissions by 2020, in order to restore the 350 ppmv level of carbon in the environment at 2050. That's essentially where we are today with our extreme climate events. If you've done the real math, you know that it means massive reductions in carbon emissions, energy use and global stranded investments.

An interactive chart showing many options is here. You will see that under the IPCC scenario we never get back to the planet we used to have in 1950, when global warming had already started at about 310 ppmv.

So this is humankind's legacy?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The GDP Chimera

A fiscal "measurement" being tossed about these days as a means of allocating global carbon emissions allowances with respect to climate change is unfortunately not an accurate or reliable means of establishing parity in these emission goals. Gross Domestic Product is actually made up of many financial banking ledger tricks, between countries as well as global regions. It is ultimately a political tool. Inasmuch as GDP has been used as part of a "broad brush" look at consumption via the I-PAT formula, that is only an assumed relationship. This is a balance that fluctuates wildly and shifts with the flows of capital between corporations and governments, and is highly subject to interpretation. Further, it is based upon a growth fallacy that is fundamentally unsustainable. GDP is measured in value terms set by the market, not by physical reality, which is what carbon emissions are all about.

As an example of the feedback loops embedded in GDP, let's look at how China is pumping up its GDP in order to create wealth for buying resources from other countries. At the Yangtze River, near the town of Luohuang, another dam is proposed. This section of the river belongs to a nature reserve created to protect hundreds of species of fish, including the Chinese Paddlefish. When built, the Xiaonanhai Dam will destroy the reserve, flooding it, creating an enormous reservoir. At around five billion dollars, the dam is one of Chongqing's largest investment projects. Critics say Bo Xilai championed the project to help the city achieve historic GDP growth numbers, thereby securing himself a spot in China's top leadership, but with seriously destructive actions that negate the environmental commitments.

China is also a huge importer of coal. As a result of this consumption demand, western USA ports are figuring out how to increase their transit supply lines to export coal to China, which is the only big remaining market for coal. This of course simply balloons the whole carbon problem out of control, and is also utterly destructive to the existing local communities that would get mowed under by these giant infrastructure systems tailored to expand oil-fueled transport for their profit. This is the vicious cycle unleashed by the GDP economic model, and it feeds on itself to destruction, very similar to the fiscal banking collapse that we've experienced in the last few years, where none of the risk was priced into the model. This kind of risk exclusion is what the climate deniers are engaging in.

GDP is a disincentive if it's used to allocate carbon quotas because it discourages profitable investment and development of clean energy technologies. Why spend money developing profit if it's counted against a country or region's old industries that have already paid out on their investments? That also discourages pollution controls and regenerative development if it creates an additional obligation to fund technologies and infrastructure in third-world countries, at the cost of NOT reducing the biggest carbon emissions in the major leading countries. Additionally, third world countries should not be burdened with GDP-generated obligations if their profits and industry create a profitable reduction their carbon emissions and per capita energy use. This focuses on the principle of the "common good" as a primary human goal.

The measurement of energy use itself and carbon emissions is the only straightforward way to tackle the factors driving climate change: it can be objectively measured and calculated by the activities that drive the emissions. That ties it to the land itself and becomes a form of land value tax. If these criteria are set across the global economy, then they are simple to track and transparent with satellite and industrial production measurements that are externally verifiable. This creates rewards for restoration of ecology and reduction of consumption. Farmland becomes more viable, and pristine forests and tundras, even arctic areas, become extremely valuable in their natural state. And therefore there is no need to "consume" it.

This creates a level playing field so that the corporations, which are now far wealthier than many countries, have no where to run. It holds all activities accountable and measured against common agreed-to standards. Enforcement is achieved with cooperative global data sharing, with a fair means of rewarding industries that reduce carbon emissions. That means oil, gas, coal and shale extraction are heavily impacted, while farming is protected, renewable power is promoted, and natural resources are highly valued and conserved. That, in turn, makes it possible to reward population reduction and ecological restoration; the inverse of our current accounting system inherited from the old world of superstition and fear.

A comprehensive article on changing the value system from the GDP is here from Orion Magazine.

Update 5/23/15: The Paradox of Wealth  GDP measurements become everything, despite the fact that such measurements are concerned only with economic value added, and not with the entire realm of material existence.

Update 8/21/16:  GDP is a financial construct at its heart, a political and philosophical abstraction (from John Mauldin)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dead Ahead

US rainstorm maps dating back to 1948 show how the changing weather patterns anticipate a very dry southwestern USA in the foreseeable future. This climate change is heading straight for California and its major water and energy infrastructures. A summary of a report by the California Energy Commission and Natural Resources Agency that combines the work of dozens of research teams and will lay the foundation for a climate change adaptation strategy for the state is due out by the end of this year. The slide presentation of this study is here at Mercury News.

What's great about this study is that it examines many aspects of climate change impact, from energy and water to how high-elevation hydropower is particularly vulnerable to climate change and reduced snowpack. It also warns of deteriorating ecosystems and higher fire danger, more risk to our natural resources. Water is indeed the most critical resource for human civilization, as prehistoric habitation collapse has shown us.

This public policy document will seriously impact the statewide planning processes in the state going forward, particularly the critical Bay Delta Plan, which is still undergoing major disputes, mainly with the issue of draw down of water from the Delta for Southern California water supplies.The two water tunnels that would accomplish this are part of Governor Brown's controversial input into the Conservation plan. The chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, Phil Isenberg, has some cogent points laid out in his analysis of this proposal. The Stewardship Council was created by the legislature in 2009 to provide a balanced oversight of water plans for the California delta.

Another group, Restore the Delta, has a focus on preservation of the natural processes in the Delta. This is a group of local activists that got together in 2006 to give voice to this issue, and have proven very influential in state public policy. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of water policy and management, which is vastly complex in a state that developed at top speed over the last century. There are 3 main water sources coming into the Southern California region serving different geographic urban areas:

Los Angeles Aqueduct - constructed in 1908-1913

Colorado Aqueduct - constructed around 1940

California Aqueduct- constructed in the 1970s

There's also a mare's nest of agricultural water rights all throughout the central valley and Southern California, designed and built around the wettest years (1905 - 1924) on record in the region. So this system can't deliver the anticipated water quotas from historic periods, let alone the water needed to preserve the natural systems and supply the current urban areas of Southern California.

This is the resource and climate challenge that the human global impact has for all of us. Dead ahead.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Water Buffaloes

California has miles upon miles of aqueduct carrying open water across scorched deserts, particularly the Colorado River Aqueduct. The evapotranspiration of this water is fairly significant in this situation, despite denials from the Metropolitan Water District. Their claim that Federal permission is required to do something like this only applies to portions of the aqueduct system. What better way to reduce the loss of water in the vast aqueduct system, as well as produce additional power for the extremely high cost of pumping water uphill in places to get it into the Weymouth Plant in La Verne?

Provide solar panel covers along the stretches of aqueduct in the desert adjacent to the pumping stations, just as they have been built in India. These panels over a half a mile stretch of the Narmada Canal in the Indian state of Gujarat, now generate 1 MW of power distributed through nearby villages. If a third world country can do it, why can't California's Water Agency do it? Considering the critical water issues this state is dealing with, you'd think water conservation and power supply would be a top priority. The history of water in this state is complex and comprised of some of the biggest water engineering feats in history. The State is headed for even more complex engineering and supply issues with the plan proposed by Governor Jerry Brown, which contains provisions for a new Peripheral Canal that has been objected to by many residents, farmers, fisheries and environmentalists. It's a legacy from his father, former Governor Pat Brown. But the objections raised in earlier decades to this idea are being reinforced even more for this current plan, given the fact of local climate change as permanent drought.

The position of Restore the Delta is this: "The delta is in a biological meltdown. Taking more water won't restore an ecosystem that's already hemorrhaging from lack of flows," Jennings said. "This plan is not a path to restoration; it's a death sentence for one of the world's greatest estuaries." The price tag for this plan is also a huge concern for taxpayers. Estimates run as high as $50 billion for the total costs of the plan and the greatest share of all these additional costs will be borne by all California taxpayers, who will be saddled with increased borrowing and 30 to 40 years of interest repayments.

Typical of water politics in this state, the simple and ecologically balanced solutions get shoved out in favor of massive plumbing projects. Keeps the big boys employed and the rates on the rise.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Play Boondoggle

The California State Legislature has settled it: the overpriced political solution to actual high speed rail has been approved for funding, at the moment. It's the kind of design that only a deranged political process can produce. No engineer in their right mind would develop this kind of a project. To begin with, the local regional transit at each end - Bay Area and LA area - must be developed in order to feed the big high speed rail system with the ridership it needs to work. This was sketched out in my earlier 2009 post.

Secondly, the high speed rail route has to go along the Interstate 5 route and zip through without any stops at all in the central valley. That route is the same distance as Paris to Lyon, in two hours. High speed rail also requires straight tracks; anything else is a farce, especially when you consider the impact of high temperatures in the valley which would expand the steel rails into curves and derail the trains. Again, this is an issue I've covered before in 2010.

This project hurtles along relentlessly in spite of extreme budgetary overruns before it's even started, and has lost support among many in the global transportation industry. The Los Angeles Times has even gotten a direct quote from a transportation civil engineer:

"It's like California is trying to design and build a Boeing 747 instead of going out and buying one," said Dan McNamara, a civil engineer who worked for SNCF's U.S. affiliate. "There are lots of questions about the Parsons Brinckerhoff plan. The capital costs are way too high, and the route has been politically gerrymandered."

The biggest mind-blowing fact of the adopted design is SHARED TRACKS with Caltrain, which completely destroys any possibility of true high-speed rail. The requirements for high-speed are NOT compatible with any other kind of rail system, and can't be "shared". This is a complete misrepresentation of what the project will deliver. It's also unsafe. The HSR rails in Europe require nightly robotic inspections on the rails themselves because of the critical nature of maintaining clean, straight sets of rail that are not used by any other system.

While the legislature fiddles in the flames of the boondoggle, residents and businesses in California will be ripped off in taxes to pay for the bonds for decades for this project, particularly since the envisioned private sector participation is not materializing. For very good reason. The only hope now is that other issues facing this thing will bring about its demise. And, it turns out there's a good reason for "crazy".

Update 1/16/17:  California's bullet train is hurtling toward a multibillion-dollar overrun, a confidential federal report warns

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Midas' Remorse

The story of King Midas has a parallel in our current world situation; we're at the brink of losing all that matters throughout the globe in our lands, seas and living systems for the love of money. A pile of gold locked away in a private retreat. Remember this story?

Once upon a time there lived a very rich King, whose name was Midas. He had one little daughter whom he loved very much, and whose name was Marigold.

King Midas loved gold more than anything else in the world, except his little daughter.

One day Midas was enjoying the sight of gold in his treasure room, when a stranger appeared before him.

“You are a rich man, King Midas,” he said. “You have a lot of gold in this room. Nobody else in the world has as much.”

“Yes, I have,” answered Midas, “but not as much as I wish to have. I wish everything that I touch to be changed to gold.”

“The Golden Touch?” said the stranger. “But are you quite sure that this will make you happy?”

“Of course, I am,” said Midas.

“And will you never be sorry to have the Golden Touch?”

”Never!” cried Midas. “I’ll be very happy”. “Be it as you wish then,” replied the stranger.

“Tomorrow at sunrise you will get the Golden Touch.” In the morning, when the sun rose, the King woke up and saw that his bed had been changed to gold.

Midas was very glad, indeed.

He jumped out of bed and ran about the room touching everything. He took up a book, and turned over the leaves; at once the leaves changed to gold, and the words of the book could not be read.

He put on his clothes and found himself dressed in gold which was very heavy. He took out his handkerchief, and it also became gold.

In the garden he found a great number of beautiful roses. He went from bush to bush touching each one as he passed until every flower was changed to gold. Then, very happy, he went back to the palace to have breakfast.

King Midas sat at table waiting for little Marigold. Soon she came into the room, crying.

“Now, now, my little lady!” cried Midas. “What is the matter with you, this bright morning?”

Marigold held a rose in one of her hands. It was one of the roses Midas had turned into gold.

“Beautiful!” cried her father.

“Ah, dear Father, it is not beautiful. I ran into the garden to get some roses for you. But, oh, dear, dear, there are no more beautiful roses there. They no longer smell sweet, and they are quite yellow.”

“Oh, my dear little girl, don’t cry about it,” said Midas. “Sit down and eat your breakfast.”

Then he took a cup of coffee and wanted to drink it. He was astonished to find that he could not. When his lips touched the coffee, it became gold. Then he put a nice little fish on his plate and carefully touched its tail with his finger. It at once changed to gold.

“I don’t quite see,” he thought to himself, “how I’ll have my breakfast.”

Now he tried one of the hot cakes, and then an egg. Both changed into yellow gold. Hoping that by being very quick he might get something to eat, King Midas then took a hot potato and put it into his mouth. But the Golden Touch was too quick for him. He found his mouth full of hot metal. He jumped up from the table and began to dance about the room, shouting with pain.

“Father, dear Father!” cried little Marigold. “What is the matter? What has happened to you?”

“Oh, my dear child,” answered Midas sadly, “it’s terrible, it’s terrible.”

Pretty Marigold jumped up from her chair, and, running to Midas, threw her arms around him. He kissed her.

“My dear Marigold!” he cried.

But Marigold made no answer. Her sweet, rosy face became yellow. Little Marigold was a child no longer, but a golden statue.

Poor King Midas! He stood still for a moment not being able to say a word. Then he began to cry: “My child, my dear child! Oh, what have I done?”

Suddenly he saw the stranger standing near the door.

“Well, friend Midas,” said he, “how are you getting on with your Golden Touch?”

“I am the poorest man in the world,” said Midas, I have lost all that my heart really cared for.”

“Ah, so life has taught you a good lesson?” said the stranger. “Let us see, then, which of these two things is dearer — the Golden Touch, or one cup of cold water?”

“Oh, dear, cold water!” cried Midas.

“The Golden Touch,” went on the stranger, “or a piece of bread?”

“A piece of bread,” answered Midas, “is better than all the gold on earth!”

“The Golden Touch”, asked the stranger, “or your own little Marigold – warm, rosy and loving as she was an hour ago?”

“Oh, my child, my dear child!” cried poor Midas.

“You are wiser than you were, King Midas,” said the stranger looking at him. “Your heart, I see, is no longer filled with the love of gold alone. Tell me now, do you really wish to give up your Golden Touch?”

“Of course, of course!” cried Midas.

“Go then,” said the stranger, “and put your hands in the river that runs in your garden. Also take some water from the river and sprinkle it over anything that you wish to change back again from gold to what it had been before.”

King Midas wanted to thank the stranger. But the stranger had disappeared.

Midas lost no time. He went to the river at once and jumped into the water without even taking off his shoes.

King Midas went back to his palace. The first thing he did was to sprinkle the water over the golden statue of little Marigold.

The rosy colour came back to her face. She was astonished to see that she was wet, and that her father was sprinkling water over her!

“What are you doing, dear Father!” she cried, “I put on this nice dress only this morning.” Marigold didn’t know that she had been a little golden statue.

Her father didn’t tell her how foolish he had been; but he led her into the garden, and sprinkled the rest of the water over the golden roses, and changed them back into sweet flowers.