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Rolla Peace News

Jan. 18, 2023
Dear Friends:
Editor's notes:

As I continue to recover from surgery, I hope to put out the Rolla Peace newsletter on an occasional basis.

I received some very nice comments on last month's newsletter. I'll discuss some of them below.

If you haven't read Bill McGuire's new book, “Hothouse Earth, an Inhabitant's Guide.” yet, please do read it. It's probably the most important book on the climate catastrophe I've read in a long time. The Rolla Public Library has a copy. Check it out.

Webperson's note:

If you are having trouble reading this, it is posted at
In this newsletter is:

1. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)
          a) From Our Readers: Old Growth Prairies Are Superstars at Sequestering Carbon
          b) From Our Readers: Adam Hochschild
          c) California and the Ukraine
          d) Climate Catastrophe Updated

From Our Readers: Old Growth Prairies Are Superstars at Sequestering Carbon

A reader sends links to two articles on prairies, one from the Missouri Prairie Foundation. (article starts on p16 of their magazine) The other comes from Eastern Washington University.

Old growth prairies contain a wide variety of different plants that sequester most of their carbon in their root systems. Thus, they are well able to maintain their carbon mass in times of drought or forest fire and regenerate themselves later.

There is certainly plenty of room for both forests and grasslands in protecting the Earth from global warming.

The bottom line: If you destroy an old-growth prairie to plant a monoculture forest, you are walking backwards, adding carbon to the atmosphere.

From Our Readers: Adam Hochschild

A reader recommends books by Adam Hochschild, particularly his newest: American Midnight: Democracy's Forgotten Crisis, 1917-1921

American Midnight covers the period 1917 to 1921, a period that began with the entry of the United States into World War I, its first major involvement in European Wars. This period continued with US involvement in the Russian Civil War on the side of the Whites and the deposed monarchy against Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

The period was also noted for the influenza pandemic which started in crowded US army barracks and spread around the world killing an estimated 25 to 50 million people. The period also saw the “red scare,” the rise of vigilante justice, the erosion of civil rights and the Espionage Act, under which the US is now attempting to prosecute Julian Assange for publishing a video of US troops gunning down unarmed civilians in Iraq and other war crimes.

Atrocities from this period reverberate strongly in the present.

Our reader also recommends King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa in which Hochschild describes the genocidal plundering of the Congo under Belgium's King Leopold II.

The atrocities perpetrated in the Congo were made famous by Joseph Conrad in his 1902 novella, Heart of Darkness. Here's Conrad's description of Africans being left to die after being worked to death:
“Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth, half coming out, half effaced within the dim light, in all the attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair. Another mine on the cliff went off, followed by a slight shudder of the soil under my feet. The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die.

“They were dying slowly—it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now—nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest. These moribund shapes were free as air—and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. The black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against the tree, and slowly the eyelids rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me, enormous and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths of the orbs, which died out slowly.”

Again these atrocities reverberate in the present. You can feel them, for example, in the Israeli colonization of Palestine, with around two million people crammed into Gaza, the world's largest open-air prison, with barely enough food, water or medicines to survive..

While I have not read either book yet, the reviews sound enticing.

California and the Ukraine

While Nature pummels the State of California with storm after storm and heavy rains and flood, the war in The Ukraine, which appears to be stalemated, goes on. Russia appears to be sticking to its game plan developed early in the war: Invade and hold whatever you can. What you can't invade or hold destroy from the skies. I've seen estimates that one of every three Ukrainians have become refugees or internally displaced. Thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed.

NATO's game plan appears to be limited to sanctioning Russia and supplying the Ukraine with ever more powerful weapons of war in the hope that they will continue fighting. (There is no question of Ukraine winning. Remember, Russia has nuclear weapons. The purpose of arming the Ukraine is to bleed Russia dry.)

There is a thin line between giving a belligerent war materiel and being a part of a conflict. Sooner or later this will lead to World War III. Better to make Peace and negotiate a settlement — before it's too late.

It should be noted that according to SIPRI, Russia's military spending in 2022 was slightly below the UK's and slightly above both Germany and France's expenditures. Except that Russia has nuclear weapons, European NATO v. Russia would not even be a contest.

When it comes to GDP, the comparison is even more stark. Russia trails behind all three European economic powerhouses.

The insanity of the whole war was displayed in stark relief with the bitter fight for Soledar, a town of !0,000 whose claim to fame is a salt mine.

Climate Catastrophe Updated

My ongoing climate essay has been updated to include 2022. The United States suffered 18 different billion-dollar weather-related disasters in 2022. Hurricane Ida led the pack piling up over $100 billion in damages, followed by the western drought which weighs in at $22 billion in damages. Many other countries also suffered tremendous weather-related loses in 2022, most notably, Pakistan. At the height of the flood, 1/3 of Pakistan lay under water.

Perhaps we would do well to stop fighting each other and instead try to adapt to a warming climate.

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