Friday, January 18, 2019

No, Capitalism Will Not “Starve Humanity” by 2050

No, Capitalism Will Not “Starve Humanity” by 2050

By Chelsea German and Marian L. Tupy

Forbes magazine recently published an article titled, “Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity by 2050.” The author, Drew Hansen, a businessman and regular contributor to Forbes, starts out by claiming that capitalism has “failed to improve human well-being at scale.” This assertion is easily refuted by evidence. Over the last few decades, hundreds of millions of people were lifted out of extreme poverty. In fact, the share of the world’s population as well as the total number of people living in poverty is at an all-time low, despite a population increase of 143 percent since 1960. The left-leaning Brookings Institution predicts that absolute poverty will have been practically eliminated throughout the world by 2030. If this is not good news for global capitalism, what is? Capitalism, Hansen continues, is also responsible for widespread destruction of animal species, decimation of forests, and a growing risk of starvation. Let’s examine each of Hansen’s claims in turn.

Is capitalism killing off species?

Hansen claims that “species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate.” Journalist and Human Progress advisory board member Matt Ridley, who holds a doctorate degree in zoology from Oxford University, rebutted this often-used claim in his book The Rational Optimist:

[There is a] now routine claim that extinction rates are running at 100 or 1,000 times their normal rates, because of human interference …There is no doubt that humans have caused a pulse of extinction, especially by introducing rats, bugs and weeds to oceanic islands at the expense of endemic species … But now that most of these accidental introductions to islands have happened, the rate of extinctions is dropping, not rising, at least among birds and mammals. Bird and mammal extinctions peaked at 1.6 a year around 1900 and have since dropped to about 0.2 a year. Ridley also notes that the extinction rate has fallen even farther in the most industrialized countries, where people tend to care more about environmental stewardship. He himself has worked on various projects to help protect endangered birds. Capitalism, by creating wealth and enabling humanity to move past worries of basic survival, has helped us to preserve other species.

Is capitalism destroying the forests?

Hansen says that 6 million hectares of forest are being lost every year. While forest area is slowly declining, there are plenty of reasons for optimism. In a recent paper for the Breakthrough Institute, environmental scientist Jesse H. Ausubel describes how as countries grow wealthier and their populations come to care more about the environment, forests rebound:

Foresters refer to a “forest transition” when a nation goes from losing to gaining forested area. In 1830, France recorded the first forest transition. Since then, while the population of France has doubled, French forests have also doubled. In other words, forest loss decoupled from population. Measured by growing stock, the United States enjoyed its forest transition around 1950, and, measured by area, about 1990. The forest transition began around 1900, when states such as Connecticut had almost no forest, and now encompasses dozens of states. To see the effect of rising wealth on forest protection, simply consider the contrasting trends in Europe and Africa:Agricultural advances that let farmers harvest more food from less land are also helping to spare forests. Ausubel notes that smarter agricultural practices in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe freed at least 30 million hectares (an area the size of Poland or Italy) and possibly as many as 60 million hectares from agricultural use and returned it to nature.

Does capitalism make people poorer?

Citing the 2014 U.S. Census, Hansen notes that 15 percent of Americans live in poverty. (The Censusdefines poverty as an income of less than $12,071 a year for a single-person household, or $33 a day). But, what does it mean to be poor in America? As the Mercatus Center economist Steve Horwitz writes, “poor U.S. households are more likely to have basic appliances than the average household of the 1970s, and those appliances are of much higher quality.”

In 1984, for example, 83 percent of all households in the United States owned a refrigerator. By 2005, 99 percent of poor American households owned a refrigerator. The evidence of an improving standard of living for poor Americans is abundant and available – to those who are willing to see. Hansen fails to mention that living on $33 a day is not poverty by historical standards. Throughout most of human history, almost everyone lived in extreme poverty. Only in the last two centuries has wealth dramatically increased. Early adopters of capitalism, such as the United States, have seen their average incomes skyrocket.

Moreover, Hansen does not put American poverty in a global perspective. Thirty-three dollars per person per day would be considered luxurious in the developing world today. (Globally, absolute poverty is measured at $1.90 per person per day.) Our understanding of poverty is undoubtedly skewed by America’s riches. But remember that if you make $32,400 or more per year, then you are in the global top 1 percent of income-earners (adjusted for differences in the cost of living).Does capitalism lead to starvation?

Hansen then repeats the old and discredited idea that humanity won’t be able to feed itself as the population grows. Thomas Malthus first made that argument in 1798. Since Malthus’ time, humanity has found ways to produce more food per unit of land through innovations like synthetic fertilizers and increasingly advanced genetic modification techniques. As production increased,the prices of food fell. Today, food is 22 percent cheaper than it was in 1960, in spite of global population growth of 143 percent. As a result, calorie consumption increased, and the total number of undernourished people fell.

Malthus’ mistake was to ignore human beings’ ability to innovate their way out of problems. But, as Julian Simon found in The Ultimate Resource, people are excellent problem-solvers, and the free market helps to coordinate solutions to most of our everyday challenges. A challenge (feeding a growing population), led to technological innovation (the Green Revolution and GMOs) and that led to a solution (higher agricultural productivity and falling food prices). Far from leading to starvation, capitalism has ensured that the supply of food rose to meet growing demand.

If humanity does face starvation in 2050, it will not be because of capitalism – it will be because anti-capitalist views like Hansen’s have prevailed.

Marin County "Income Discrimination" ordinance hurts Homeowners, too

On March 5, 2017, Marin County Board of Supervisors heard the the first reading of a new ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate against "income source" such as Section 8 and other types of government assistance.  This affects even homeowners who rent out a room in their house.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Rohnert Park cannot afford the CASA compact

Dixie school board receives petitions, testimony for name change

Dixie school board receives petitions, testimony for name change

Marin Community Foundation to pick up cost of process, if approved


Dixie school board members listen to public comment Tuesday. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

By KERI BRENNER | | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: January 16, 2019 at 5:36 pm | UPDATED: January 17, 2019 at 6:39 am

Momentum in favor of changing the name of the Dixie School District edged forward this week as proponents delivered petitions for new names, offered two hours of emotional testimony to the board of trustees and announced that the Marin Community Foundation would pick up the tab.

Supporters, organized as “Change The Name,” say the time is right to offer children a “teachable moment” about how to have kindness and compassion for people of color or others who may be hurt or offended by the violence, slavery and racism evoked by the name Dixie’s ties to the Civil-War-era South.

“Taking a vote in a predominantly white community, resulting in keeping a name that, by definition, is racist doesn’t make any sense,” said Dixie school parent Lala Luciano, one of at least 20 speakers at Tuesday’s overflow board meeting at the Dixie district office in north San Rafael.

“White people, living in predominantly white communities, should not get to be the final arbiters of what affects people of color, what is or isn’t racism or how racism affects people of color,” Luciano said.

Dixie parent Lisa Pavlovsky urged the board to reflect that even though some residents may not have been bothered by the name Dixie for many years, that does not mean everyone feels that way.

“Just like we teach our kids to be upstanders for those who are being bullied or treated poorly, so should we do the same for our neighbors,” she said. “Just because we are not personally affected by something, does not mean we are outside agitators and have no right to fight for change.”

Parent Nathan Hunt echoed that thought.

“No one in this room chose the name Dixie,” he said. “But by not changing the name, we’re choosing it all over again.”

Supporters also announced Tuesday that the Marin Community Foundation has agreed to cover administrative costs for the name change. According to the board agenda from Tuesday night, the initial estimate for the change is $18,283. That includes redoing signs on buses and buildings, and replacing wording on letterhead, the district website, logo, email and business cards.

“My offer is this: using private philanthropic funds, MCF is prepared to offset these costs for the district,” Tiburon resident Noah Griffin read to the board from a letter by Thomas Peters, CEO of the Marin Community Foundation. “It is our hope that by doing so, the discussion can be focused on the more substantive and poignant merits of the proposal before this board.”

Opponents, organized as the “We Are Dixie” group, deliberately did not attend Tuesday’s board meeting, saying in a written statement they didn’t want to be part of the “media circus, or to add to the divisiveness and bickering in the community.” They say their position against the name change is not due to racism, pointing out the name Dixie is not considered offensive elsewhere “within the country, especially since 56,000 people — 7,400 of whom are African American — have the first name Dixie and there are currently 21 cities in the U.S. with the name Dixie.

“We also request that the legacy of the Dixie School District not be wiped away without listening to the generations that built it,” they said in a statement. The group opposes the petition process and insists the district continue instead with plans for a 2020 advisory ballot measure on the issue, a measure approved by the district board last month.

“We Are Dixie believes that only a democratic vote by Dixie district residents and taxpayers will settle this issue, and there are members of the community who have already offered to fund (the ballot measure election in 2020),” the group said in a written statement Wednesday. “We acknowledge that there are differences of opinion within the community, but We Are Dixie believes that not a single child will receive any tangible benefit from a name change. However, our children are quickly learning that if you stir up enough emotion, facts and logic will not matter.”

Although numerous residents, including Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly, have called for a “healthy discussion” as the best way to heal the bitterly divided and polarized community, We Are Dixie said “a vote is necessary because … Change The Name advocates have needlessly divided our community and poisoned the well for civil discourse.”

The district, with about 14,000 residents, is roughly 97 percent white. The district has three elementary schools and one middle school. At least three previous efforts to change the name have been made since 1989 — all of which were turned down. The current fourth attempt, however, comes at a historic time when cities, schools and groups across the nation are taking down Confederate statues, monuments and flags and striking the song “Dixie” from the event program playbooks.

“The name change is something that’s going to stick with these kids forever, a lesson they will carry with them when daughters become congresswomen, when sons become doctors, when these kids become teachers,” said Patrick Nissim, who graduated from Dixie schools and who still lives in the district. “They can carry that lesson forward and tell their kids how proud they were to be part of the new school district that was named.”

Earlier Tuesday, supporters delivered petitions with 13 proposed names to Superintendent Jason Yamashiro. The board is expected to review the petitions, confirm they have the required 15 valid signatures each, and then schedule a public hearing and a vote within 40 days. The names, all to be followed by “Elementary School District,” were: Terra Linda, Big Rock, Miwok, Live Oak, Terrawood Valley, Live Oak Valley, Mary Dixie, Oak Valley, Miwok Hills, Skywalker, Miller Creek, John Muir and Lucas Valley.

“We are in the process of validating the signatures and names on the petitions,” Board President Brad Honsberger said in an email Wednesday. “There will be a public hearing at our next board meeting on Feb. 12. This will be followed by a board discussion and a vote on each of the petitions filed.”

Peters, CEO of Marin Community Foundation and a 25-year Dixie district resident, said in a Dec. 10 letter to Honsberger that the board should “seize the moment of opportunity” to change the name.

“The plain fact is that in today’s American cultural and linguistic context, the predominant connotations of the word Dixie evoke not only rebellion and treason, but pain and terror,” he says in the letter. “No amount of local interpretation of diary entries, historical footnotes, genealogical searches or nuances of irony or humor can override this reality.”

The “titles and symbols of the Confederacy stand, first and foremost, for humiliation, degradation and threat,” he added.

Peters also told the board that “by selecting a more appropriate and inclusive name, (they) would send a powerful and poignant message both to the whole community and to (the district’s) young students, now and into the future.”

San Rafael Councilman John Gamblin, a Dixie district resident, urged the board, even while moving forward, to “take a slight step back” to try to bring the community together in some fashion before rushing ahead to approve a new name.

“This is a train that’s rolling,” he told the board. “I don’t envy any of you with this decision, because it’s huge. You will make some people happy and make other people not happy. … I encourage you to focus on the process and take a slight step back to heal what is happening in our community.”

Paint it Black

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Marin Clean Energy's liability numbers

Marin Clean Energy's liability numbers

Marin Clean Energy's greenhouse gas (GHG) emission numbers are out and, once again, they do not track with reality.
For the latest year of available data, MCE increased GHG emissions to the atmosphere 162,569 tons compared to the same energy volume being produced by PG&E for calendar year 2016.
Click on image to enlarge
MCE claimed it would reduce GHGs by 175,000 tons in 2011. It claimed this reduction would continue to 534,000 tons per year by 2020.
Click on image to enlarge
Since MCE’s 2010 business launch through 2016, MCE has increased overall emissions 1.07 billion pounds of GHG.
All this begs the question: If MCE is increasing global warming, what is its financial liability in the wildfires that strike California?

PG&E Currents (2016 emission rate by independent analysis)
MCE Technical Committee, August 30, 2018, agenda item #06, “MCE (2016) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Analysis” (by MCE staff consultant).
California Energy Commission Power Source Disclosure reports, Schedule 1, for the calendar year ending December 31, 2016.

We don't have $15 million to spend for housing in the South Bay

Monday, January 14, 2019

This Is Novato 1955

Should Marinwood CSD have its own Goat Herd?

California town launches ‘Goat Fund Me’ to prevent wildfires

NEVADA CITY — The threat of catastrophic wildfires has driven a California town to launch a “Goat Fund Me” campaign to bring herds of goats to city-owned land to help clear brush.
Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada began the online crowdsourcing campaign last month with the goal of raising $30,000 for the project.

The campaign’s website explains that because it takes time to secure grant funding, the town needs money now to hire goat ranchers because they’re only available this winter.
The ranchers have rented out their herds to other municipalities in California the rest of the year and were expanding their herds to meet demand, city officials said.
“Why not do something — and as soon as we can?” Vice Mayor Reinette Senum told the Los Angeles Times . “If we’re not proactive, if we don’t help ourselves, no one else is going to step up.”

The foothill community is about 47 miles southeast of Paradise, which was decimated by a wildfire in November that killed 86 people and destroyed about 14,000 homes.
City officials said booking a herd costs between $500 to $1,500 an acre. Some 200 goats can munch on an acre of overgrown brush daily.

City Manager Catrina Olson said she, along with residents attending council meetings to talk about the project, are excited about the impending work, an idea “that’s catching on because there’s such high fire danger in our state.”
“It’s an interesting way to run a city campaign,” said Brad Fowler, a local rancher working with the city to rent out goats. “I like how people can choose to spend their money.”