Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bemoaning the loss of the Mythic California Dream: How can so many not know what Steinbeck knew?

    The California Dream is the psychological motivation to gain fast wealth or fame in a new land. As a result of the California Gold Rush after 1849, California's name became indelibly connected with the Gold Rush, and fast success in a new world became known as the "California Dream". California was perceived as a place of new beginnings, where great wealth could reward hard work and good luck. ...Overnight, California gained the international reputation as the "golden state"—with gold and lawlessness the main themes. - from Wikipedia

A curious narrative is being reported and repeated in news stories such as The California Dream Is Dying offered in The Atlantic. No, the "California Dream" is not dying. It is a 170-year-old myth sold to gullible people. As further explained in that Wikipedia entry:

    Generations of immigrants have been attracted by the California Dream. California farmers, oil drillers, movie makers, aerospace corporations and "dot-com" entrepreneurs have each had their boom times in the decades after the Gold Rush.
    Part of the "California Dream" was "that every family could have its own private home."
    As historian Kevin Starr has pointed out, for many if not most migrants to the golden state, "the dream outran the reality." The Okies of the 1930s "found their California dream transformed into a nightmare,' notes Walter Stein. As a result, "the California Dream is a love affair with an idea, a marriage to a myth."

If you read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath you get a good picture of the disappointment experienced by The Okies of the 1930's. But his other writings make clear that the current climate "change" called a drought is a good example of the myth as explained in 2017 here in Foolish planning and the inevitable wildfires: What could have been learned from John Steinbeck about California's true climate. That post expanded on a 2014 post To A God Unknown: Steinbeck, Stine, and Medieval California. Both those were based on what Steinbeck wrote in his 1933 novel To A God Unknown. But the following from East of Eden offers a direct view of California's climate:

Now the problem is exacerbated with something we have labeled "Climate Change" which for California means even drier made more disastrous fires because too many people live in California.

And a significant part of California's wealth is large agriculture dependent entirely on a water supply propped up by federal and state facilities, all of which is collapsing around us as the reservoirs go dry.

The drought is just one piece of the myth gone wrong. There is the the 20th Century housing myth.

Yes, we did have a huge housing boom after WWII. But it wasn't something that just happened. Compounding the California Dream myth, the federal government established funding mechanisms for building thousands of new homes to be purchased by people who would not have otherwise been able to afford them at the time. This was done through loan guarantees from the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration. From Wikipedia:

    During the Great Depression many banks failed, causing a drastic decrease in home loans and ownership. At that time, most home mortgages were short-term (three to five years), with no amortization, and balloon instruments at loan-to-value (LTV) ratios below sixty percent.[4] This prevented many working and middle-class families from being able to afford home ownership. The banking crisis of the 1930s forced all lenders to retrieve due mortgages; refinancing was not available, and many borrowers, now unemployed, were unable to make mortgage payments. Consequently, many homes were foreclosed, causing the housing market to plummet. Banks collected the loan collateral (foreclosed homes) but the low property values resulted in a relative lack of assets.
    In 1934 the federal banking system was restructured. The National Housing Act of 1934 created the Federal Housing Administration. Its intention was to regulate the rate of interest and the terms of mortgages that it insured; however, the new practices were restricted only to white Americans. These new lending practices increased the number of white Americans who could afford a down payment on a house and monthly debt service payments on a mortgage, thereby also increasing the size of the market for single-family homes.
    Since 1934, the FHA and HUD have insured almost 50 million home mortgages. Currently, the FHA has approximately 8.5 million insured single family mortgage, more than 11,000 insured multifamily mortgages, and over 3,900 mortgages for hospitals and residential care facilities in its portfolio.

This is what many think is the California Dream - housing funded by a federal program. Much like the Gold Rush, it was a myth-expanding reality though the federal government action did make far more new Californians "richer" than the Gold Rush did. And then those Californians adopted Proposition 13 putting a fence around their federally created wealth.

If you reread the first quote in this post you will note that "gold and lawlessness" were the main themes of the California Dream. Gold has been replaced, apparently by bitcoin, but lawlessness (defined as "being without law; uncontrolled by a law; unbridled; unruly; unrestrained") continues in the technology boom.

Probably more of the critical narrative appearing in print today is that folks migrating into California are not finding the economic promise of the Mythic California Dream. Housing? If you do a little research you will learn that in the 20th Century a multitude of cities were incorporated in California within which thousands of those federally funded homes were built. That incorporation of new cities stopped in 2000. The reason is simple - new cities must be allocated natural resources that are not available because there aren't enough to support even the existing economic structure.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

We have always known that half of our population will not get vaccinated even as family members die

As someone who prior to the age of 15 nearly died of influenza three times, being vaccinated annually for the flu is just routine. Some years I still get the flu, not surprisingly because some don't see the need or just don't think about vaccines. Perhaps some have chosen to not be vaccinated.

It hasn't been made clear about the parallels between influenza and covid-19. Consider the facts. The 1918 influenza pandemic - labeled the Spanish Flu - was the most severe in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

Mortality comparisons among Americans between the Spanish Flu and Covid-19 would seem to be a common information quoted in news articles. But that has not been the case. The fact is that in 1918 the U.S. population was estimated at 105 million. The 675,000 deaths attributed to the influenza epidemic made up 0.64 percent of the total population, a little more than six in every thousand people. The current US population is a little more than 330 million. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 make up about 0.15 percent of the total population, or between one and two in every thousand people. If COVID-19 caused deaths at the same rate as the 1918 epidemic, the total would approach two million.

Fortunately since the 1918 flu the combination of herd immunity and vaccinations has reduced the annual death rate from the flu. Still, as indicated in the chart to the right, Americans - maybe including some of your friends and relatives - are hospitalized and/or die every year from the flu.

As an example, in 2017-18 the flu killed 61,000 Americans. Prompted by the deaths among their fellow Americans, the following year a whopping 45.3% of adults got vaccines. You may remember the indignant outcry about that. You don't? That's because it didn't happen and doesn't happen. To Americans the death of 1,800,000 of their peers - you know, grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, kids - since flu vaccines became readily available in the mid-1950's is a small price to pay for the freedom to be...what?

Still, it is my responsibility to get my flu shot each year to protect me and my family. And so I have for 60 years, though not this year because the risk was nearly nothing. Instead I got a Covid shots in January and February, as soon as they were available.

With that said, because of my familiarity with the flu vaccines I know that even with a shot, I still can get the flu from someone who has it. I know that because I have gotten it as a gift from folks who didn't get shots. And Covid is similar in that the vaccine is not perfect.

Life is not simple. It must be noted that an incredibly small number of people who get the vaccines have a reaction and a very few of them die. Given that less than a half a percent of unvaccinated folks will die each year from the flu and covid, it's hard to choose to take the even significantly smaller risk the vaccines represent.

The future is going to offer that challenge - the addition of covid vaccines to the lineup that includes protection against flu, pneumonia, etc.

What may be difficult to understand is that at best about 50% of Americans will get their shots. That's just the way it is. And there are a whole range of other choices made by Americans that indicate at best we are a 50% nation despite every effort made to inform folks of what has been learned by those we pay to learn on our behalf.

Friday, July 9, 2021

War is not a reflection of confidence but rather of vile, evil indecency, a last choice the result of failure

It has been the sorrow of members of "The Silent Generation" to have lived a life in which the above statement of President Biden's could not be implemented until 2021. We can only offer hope for peace for future American generations.

We can also share the lessons learned from 1961 to 2021:

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Fact - 35 years ago Californians were warned of a 9° climate temperature increase within this Century

In Christopher Nolan’s science fiction film, Interstellar, set in the year 2067, the first few minutes of the film consists of interviews by survivors of an apocalyptic dust bowl. Those scenes are in fact are from a Ken Burn's documentary, real interview clips of actual survivors from the Dust Bowl which nearly destroyed the middle "Red States" of the United States in the 1930s. The Dust Bowl was the result of decades of individuals acting with full encouragement of the government in a time when we had no "climate scientists." Today Americans, particularly those living in the same "Dust Bowl" states, continue to behave in a similar fashion ignoring climate science, even to the point of assuring their government abandons their grandchildren to a disastrous future.

Beginning in posts here in 2011, the impacts on our grandchildren of governmental policy failures became the term used to create context about our failures as a people.

If you follow climate news you know the a heat dome impacted California and the Pacific Northwest last month. Firefighters battled 44 large wildfires that have burned nearly 700,000 acres. One of the coldest inhabited places on the planet, Verkhoyansk, Siberia, the land surface temperature was 118 degrees. And these are not isolated events:

Katharine Hayhoe, a 49-year-old climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, noted “These extremes are something we knew were coming, the suffering that is here and now is because we have not heeded the warnings sufficiently.”

Hayhoe was only 14 when Congressional leaders first began reciting, repeating, warnings of impending climate change.

Indeed, the "alarmist" headline read "ACTION IS URGED TO AVERT GLOBAL CLIMATE SHIFT." Of course that was 35 years ago in a December 1985 New York Times article that told us:

    "Scientists have warned that carbon dioxide, from the burning of fossil fuels, and other man-made gases, such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons, are accumulating in the atmosphere. These gases trap in the earth's atmosphere solar infrared radiation that would otherwise escape back into space. Projections based on mathematical models indicate the average temperature at the surface of the earth, starting by the end of this century, could increase by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100."

Elements of the post that follows appeared here previously, but given the recent climate "warming" impacts we need to be certain that readers be given the opportunity to consider its message.

Because agencies of the United States government and the Chinese government recently have accepted as inevitable a near-maximum catastrophic impact from Climate Change, the subject must be taken up again. The May 2018 Chinese study, which corresponds to the July official projections accepted and published by the Trump Administration, is unequivocal.

Of course, almost no living person in the Baby Boom generation (or older) will be alive to experience the full catastrophic impact even in the earliest year of the Chinese models - 2064. And at least half of the Gen X generation will be gone before the Chinese model's "most likely" full catastrophic impact year - 2084.

That means Climate Change is still a somewhat abstract concept to the generations of people who voted in the greatest percentages in the latest elections - excluding those who died from the recent heat. And too many of them keep telling themselves it is a lie as they try to figure out how to stay in their home until they die, in many cases despite regular flooding or wildfires or both.

And by "them" I must include "me" because as I wrote in 2016 Al Gore's campaign on climate policy beginning "40 years ago, he..., well, kids..., my generation failed him and you." 

We have already changed the world catastrophically

As explained in a previous post here, Elizabeth Kolbert is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who has won many awards for her extensive writings on Climate Change. In that post a quote from the 2015 update to her 2006 Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change summed up the situation (emphasis added):

     In the years since I wrote this book I’ve been asked hundreds of variations on the question: “What should I do?” What people seem to be looking for is both advice on concrete actions they can take and the assurance that what they do will make a difference. Given the paralysis of the political system, the time lag built into the climate system, and the high likelihood that the threshold of DAI [dangerous anthropogenic interference] has now been crossed, it’s difficult to offer such assurances. We have already changed the world dramatically, indeed quite probably catastrophically. But even when it comes to catastrophe, distinctions can be made. What we choose to do—or not to do—in the coming decades will determine the future both for our own kind and for the millions of other species with whom we share this planet. It is possible that we could still limit warming to around two degrees Celsius, and it is also possible that we could lock in warming of six degrees Celsius or more. These two possibilities represent radically different worlds.

In her 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History she explains that the Earth is in the midst of a man-made sixth extinction, chronicling previous mass extinction events, and comparing them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions of our present time. In a July 2014 interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart promoting the book at the end they both acknowledge a kind of despair:

Unfortunately, in 2018 in both the U.S. and China formal findings have been made that we have "locked in warming" of 4°± Celsius most likely within 60 years.

Under the direction of the Trump Administration the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued aDraft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks proposing reduced average fuel economy standards for those vehicles.

The DEIS has determined that the draft official policy of the United States government will be acceptance of a near worst case scenario, a 4.387°C (7.876°F) global temperature rise since 1880 by 2100. That is because any lesser scenario would require deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming. A lesser scenario “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels...which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

In May 2018 a collaborative research team from China published a new analysis that shows the Earth's climate would increase by 4 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels, most likely by 2084. They found that most of the models projected an increase of 4°C as early as 2064 and as late as 2095, with 2084 appearing as the median year.

"Our ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive picture of the mean and extreme climate changes associated with higher levels of global warming based on state-of-the art climate models, which is of high interest to the decision-makers and the public," said Dabang Jiang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps some would want to dismiss both government agencies as being too pessimistic. The problem is in 1995, now 26 years ago, then Vice-President Gore reflected on his experienced reality in a 1995 New York Times article:

    "We are in an unusual predicament as a global civilization," Al Gore said when I interviewed him early in his Vice Presidency. "The maximum that is politically feasible, even the maximum that is politically imaginable right now, still falls short of the minimum that is scientifically and ecologically necessary."

In other words, as Kobert outlined in The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History various species have already gone extinct. Others are adapting, doing things like moving to higher elevations. But they haven't experienced anything close to the impacts of an increase of 4°C which will strain every species including humans.

All of which should lead us back 90 years to the Dust Bowl Era pictured at the beginning of this post.

In his 1933 novel To A God Unknown, John Steinbeck tells an allegorical tale of the California experience. The protagonist, Joseph, comes to California to create his future. He discovers a place of apparent wealth and promise. And indeed he appears to be achieving all that he dreams. But over time, tragedies strike and a drought undoes his life work.

Late 19th and early 20th Century immigrants to Californian hadn't read To A God Unknown. Instead they believed that water was an endless resource of wealth for future Californians. Unfortunately that wasn't true. It was Johnny Carson who observed that California has four seasons: Fire, Earthquake, Flood, and Drought. But mid-20th Century Californians didn't hear that.

Lands that once were orchards in Southern California. the San Francisco Peninsula, and Santa Clara County, and farms in the Central Valley became subdivisions of housing for large populations, urban/suburban populations that were now dependent upon that water for human consumption competing with the remaining agricultural interests. In 2009 the Southern San Joaquin Valley became the first area in the State to suffer significantly from the return of centuries of drought that received intermittent decades of relief.

No one can say we weren't warned.