Thursday, June 09, 2016

FW: North America Procurement Council - Trillions Magazine June 2016 Issue


The writing in this magazine could be improved here and there, but overall a great effort to communicate climate change concerns.


From: Trillions Magazine []
Sent: Thursday, June 2, 2016 8:54 PM
To: Suckow, Paul (CSD)
Subject: North America Procurement Council - Trillions Magazine June 2016 Issue



You are a registered member of the North America Procurement Council (NAPC) and we want to keep you informed of our activities and important issues. So, we have created a monthly magazine called "Trillions" that is freely available to you at:

(right-click on the link to download to your computer or click to load in your browser. If the link is not active you can copy and paste the URL into your browser address bar.)

Included in this issue:

Climate-Change Reality Check

Climate Swells Slums

Change Philosophy

Biodiversity Endangered

and more...

The June audio version is available here.

The July issue of "Trillions" will focus on the vital topic of democracy: how to get it back and make it better than ever.

For future issues we need writers and advertisers. If you would like to contribute in some way to "Trillions" or the NAPC please contact Tim Loncarich at or by phone at 902-821-2146.

North America Procurement Council, Inc. PBC
PO Box 40445
Grand Junction, CO 81504
TEL 302-450-1923

This email is an important public notice, not spam. We respect your privacy and time and only want to help. To unsubscribe (opt-out) click here or reply to this email with "remove" in the subject line. For more info. call us at 302-450-1923 or use the secure contact form at


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Biblical history: Hebrew myths coopt a shared memory of all non-african descendents of a group of ancient Africans that crossed the Red Sea 85,000 years ago?


African Origins

by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003)

Although other intelligent apes, including several Paranthropus species, continued to walk the African savannah from 2.5 million years ago, it is humans - genus Homo - with whom we are concerned. Humans represented a new evolutionary concept in a number of ways, not only with their enlarged brains, mixed diet, and smaller teeth, but in their adaptive behaviors, including the making of the first shaped stone tools by the very earliest human species.


Meet the Ancestors

3.5 Million Years Ago
Australopithecus afarense lived in Africa and walked and stood on two legs,but it is thought to have lived mainly in the trees

2 Million Years Ago
Paranthropus boisel lived in Africa, their teeth four times larger than ours allowed them to eat tough vegetation.

2 Million Years Ago
Homo habilis also lived about two millions years ago in Africa. Intelligent scavengers and tool-makers. Probable ancestors of modern human beings.

1.5 Million Years Ago
Homo ergaster lived about 1.5 million years ago in Africa. Much larger brains than previous hominids, and more skilled tool-makers and hunters. Probable ancestors of human beings. Spread into Asia, where they are known as Homo erectus.

500,000 Years Ago
Homo heidelbergensis lived in europe 500,000 years ago. Sophisticated tool-makers and fierce hunters.Probable ancestors of Neanderthal man but not of human beings

200,000 Years Ago
Homo neanderthalensis lived 200,000 to 30,000 years ago. Dominant hominid species in Europe for much of the last Ice Age. Driven out by Homo sapiens, modern man.



If we take Homo habilis as the prototype, then Homo erectus was the line-defining human - the Model T Ford of the new genus. Even more successful than the Model T, they dominated the planet for a million and a half years. With a sad, wary face, a flat nose, and, initially, a rapidly growing brain, Homo erectus was just like us from the neck down. They had stone tools - simple retouched pebbles at first, but later more sophisticated hand-axes. Their African progenitor Homo ergaster was the first human to leave Africa, 1.95 million years ago, to become the Asian Homo erectus. The latter were slightly smaller than ourselves, and rapidly spread to the Middle East, Russia, India, the Far East, and Southeast Asia, carrying with them their so-called 'pebble-tool' technology. There are controversial claims that the smaller predecessor on the tree Homo habilis also made this leap at the same time. There is better evidence, however, that all subsequent human species made it out of Africa at the first available interglacial warm-up between ice ages.
Homo erectus types then dominated the world for nearly a million years until another terrible series of ice ages dried up much of Africa over a million years ago and brought about the emergence of a new, more specialized family. The first African representative of this new model was Homo rhodesiensis. The same size as us and with a brain volume of as much as 1,250 cm3, they used a more sophisticated stone tool kit known as Acheulian, named after a village in France near where the style was first found. Acheulian tools included largish flat stones shaped on both sides to form teardrop-shaped pointed hand-axes. This new arrival first made it out of Africa to Europe, and possibly to China, during a brief warm-up about half a million years ago, and carried the Acheulian technology with them.
Then, 350,000 years ago, another severe ice age struck, perhaps forcing yet another large-brained human onto the African stage around 300,000 years ago. They are known to some as archaic Homo sapiens, and to others as Homo helmei. To avoid confusion I shall use the latter name. Beetle-browed, the same size as us, and with an average brain volume slightly larger than ours at 1,400 cm3, they represented the plateau as far as dramatic brain growth was concerned. They were also associated with the start of one of the most important revolutions in human technology, known as the Middle Palaeolithic. Some have gone so far as to suggest that if brought up in a modern family, these heavy-browed creatures might fit into our society.
A larger and longer out-of-Africa movement, during a warm period, saw Homo helmei spreading throughout Eurasia 250,000 years ago. Homo helmei may have given rise to Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Asia and had several possible relatives in India and China from the same period. The source human family containing our own ancestors remained in Africa, for the time being, physically separate from their Neanderthal cousins in Europe.
Our own species, Homo sapiens, was born over 170,000 years ago, out of what was nearly a human extinction in which the total population fell to an estimated 10,000 in a mother of all ice ages. Although Homo sapiens duly made it out of Africa to the Levant at the next interglacial, 120,000 years ago, the genetic evidence indicates that their descendants died out there without issue in the ice age after that. (The Levant - an old-fashioned label, but useful in this context comprises modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan: the Mediterranean Near East minus Egypt.) When modern humans finally spread out of Africa to the rest of the world around 70,000 - 80,000 years ago, Eurasia was still inhabited by several other human species. The European Neanderthals, and possibly the Southeast Asian Homo erectus, persisted until less than 30,000 years ago, but no genetic traces of them remain in living humans.



The Y chromosome, like the patrilineal surname, passes down virtually unchanged from father to son. Every now and then occasional mistakes in the copying process occur, and these mutations can be used to estimate the time frame in which the two individuals share a most recent common ancestor or MRCA. ( The X-Chromosome also passes from mother to child.  But there is one additional piece, that passes from mother to child, the mitochondrial DNA, an ancient and critical vestige of our proto-existence in the deep past as single-celled life forms.


The Adam Gene
by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003)

Analogous to the maternally transmitted mtDNAresiding outside our cell nuclei, there is a set of genes packaged within the nucleus that is only passed down the male line. This is the Y chromosome, the defining chromosome for maleness. With the exception of a small segment, the Y chromosome plays no part in the promiscuous exchange of DNA indulged in by other chromosomes. This means that, like mtDNA, the non-recombining part of the Y chromosome remains uncorrupted with each generation, and can be traced back in an unbroken line to our original male ancestor.
Y chromosomes have been used for reconstructing trees for less time than mtDNA has, and there are more problems in estimating time depth. When these are solved, the NRY method may have a much greater power of time and geographical resolution than mtDNA, for both the recent and the distant past. This is simply because the NRY is much larger than mtDNA and consequently has potential for more variation.
Yet Y chromosomes have already helped to chart a genetic trail parallel to the mtDNA trail. At the major geographical branch points they support the story told by mtDNA: they point to a shared ancestor in Africa for all modern humans, and a more recent ancestor in Asia for all non-Africans. In addition, because men’s behaviour differs in certain key ways from women’s, the story told by the Adam genes adds interesting detail. One difference is that men have more variation in the number of their offspring than women: a few men father considerably more children than the rest. Women, in contrast, tend to be more even and ‘equal’ in the number of children they have. The main effect of this is that most male lines become extinct more rapidly than female lines, leaving a few dominant male genetic lines.
Another difference is in movement. It has often been argued that because women have usually travelled to their husband’s village, their genes are inevitably more mobile. Paradoxically, while this may be true within one cultural region, it results in rapid mixing and dispersal of mtDNA only within that cultural region. For travel between regions, or long-distance intercontinental migrations, by sea for example, the burden of caring for children would have limited female mobility. Predatory raiding groups would also have been more commonly male-dominated, resulting in increased mobility in the Y chromosome.


The Eve Gene

by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003)

To say that we get exactly half of our DNA from our father and half from our mother is not quite true. One tiny piece of our DNA is inherited only down the female line. It is called mitochondrial DNA because it is held as a unique circular strand in small tubular packets known as mitochondria that function rather like batteries within the cell cytoplasm. Some molecular biologists say that, aeons ago, the mitochondrion was a free-living organism with its own DNA, and possessed the secret of generating lots of energy. It invaded single celled nucleated organisms and has stayed on ever since, dividing, like yeast, by binary fission. Males, although they receive and use their mother’s mitochondrial DNA, cannot pass it on to their children. The sperm has its own mitochondria to power the long journey from the vagina to the ovum but, on entry into the ovum, the male mitochondria wither and die. It is as if the man had to leave his guns at the door.
So each of us inherits our mtDNA from our own mother, who inherited her mtDNA intact from her mother, and so on back through the generations – hence mtDNA’s popular name, ‘the Eve gene’. Ultimately, every person alive today has inherited their mitochondrial DNA from one single great-great-great-. . .-grandmother, nearly 200,000 years ago. This mtDNA provides us with a rare point of stability among the shifting sands of DNA inheritance. However, if all the Eve chromosomes in the world today were an exact copy of that original Eve mtDNA, then clearly they would all be identical. This would be miraculous, but it would mean that mtDNA is incapable of telling us much about our prehistory. Just knowing that all women can be traced back to one common ancestral Eve is exciting, but does not get us very far in tracing the different lives of her daughters. We need something with a bit of variety.
This is where DNA point mutations come in. When mtDNA is inherited from our mother, occasionally there is a change or mutation in one or more of the ‘letters’ of the mtDNA code – about one mutation every thousand generations. The new letter, called a point mutation, will then be transmitted through all subsequent daughters. Although a new mutation is a rare event within a single family line, the overall probability of mutations is clearly increased by the number of mothers having daughters. So, within one generation, a million mothers could have more than a thousand daughters with a new mutation, each different from the rest. This is why, unless we share a recent maternal ancestor over the past 10,000 years or so, we each have a slightly different code from everyone else around us.



After the line of modern humans diverged from the lines of other large, intelligent, tool-making and scavenging ape-men (such as Homo habilis who was distinct 2 million years ago) in East Africa over 160,000 years ago, mitochondrial DNA evidence from the mothers (and newer evidence from the fathers’ Y-Chromosome) has outlined the journey which all modern humans have taken in populating south-Saharan Africa from 160,000 years ago through 135,000 years ago, four groups of hunter-gatherer people traveled east to the woodlands near the mouth of the Red Sea, south to the grassy/arid Cape of Good Hope, west to the Congo Basin and the Ivory Coast, both heavy rainforests at the time.  All carried the 1st-generation mtDNA “L1”.


Herto Man

by James Randerson
11 June 2003


Three fossil skulls from Ethiopia, recovered at the village of Herto, have been revealed as the oldest human remains yet discovered. The 160,000-year-old finds plug an important gap in the fossil record around the time our species first appeared, providing confirmation that Homo sapiens originated only in Africa. They have been given their own subspecies - Homo sapiens idaltu.
"The problem with the African record is that it has been really sketchy," states Tim White, University of California, Berkeley, who led the team that made the discoveries. “There are good human fossils from 100,000 years ago but from then back to 300,000 years ago the remains are either highly fragmented, poorly dated or both.”

In contrast, the newly revealed skulls have precise dates thanks to the fragments of volcanic rocks found with the fossils. When rocks cool, they begin to accumulate argon gas from the decay of a potassium isotope. Analyzing the gas gives the rock's age, in this case 154,000 to 160,000 years old.  

The recovery of the fossils began in 1997, when White stumbled across a fossilized hippopotamus skull. His team eventually recovered skull fragments from 10 humans, along with many stone tools and animal fossils. The child's skull was in over 200 pieces strewn over hundreds of meters and it took two years of painstaking work to reconstruct it. The child's skull is also marked and broken edges have been polished. This suggests to White that the skull was carried around after death and buffed up in the process - possibly as part of an ancestor worshipping ritual. This is the earliest evidence that bones were kept by descendants and points to an advanced level of cultural development.



Herto Man migrated east of the Nile River from 135,000 to 115,000 years ago north along the grasslands at the edge of the Red Sea and across its open gateway to the Levant’s Fertile Crescent.  The line died out 90,000 years ago due to a drop in global temperature and desertification of the entire area.


Reconstructed Eve

by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003)

The image of Out-of-Africa Eve has been reconstructed from one of the best-preserved Skhul remains from the Levant; her features reflect a robust build typical for that period, a relatively narrow skull and a broad upper face. These features, but not always her associated behavior, differ from those of her neighbors – the Neanderthal.

The hypothesis that early modern humans were not successful in their first attempt to adapt to the Levant and adjacent parts of Europe and western Asia refocuses our attention on the differences between the Middle Paleolithic Upper Paleolithic modern human adaptations as clues to later humans' adaptive radiation. The presence of well-entrenched Neanderthal populations in the Levant, effectively blocking the major land route out of Africa, may have been a major stimulus to the development of Upper Paleolithic adaptations by modern humans along the Northeast African "frontier."


The fate of the Neanderthal populations of Europe and western Asia is veiled in mystery, but the veil is slowly lifting. Following at least 200,000 years of successful adaptation to the glacial climates of northwestern Eurasia, they disappeared abruptly between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, to be replaced by homo sapiens sapiens – modern humans.

The emergence of genetic science in the past decade has thrown light on the situation. The mitochondrial DNA sequences from actual skeletal finds of Neanderthals were radically different from those of all known present-day populations, proving that very little interbreeding between local Neanderthals and the intrusive modern populations in Europe.

There is some evidence to suggest that this did take place, as stated by Alan Rogers, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Utah, in his article ‘The record of our past is written in our parasites’. 

Questions concerning exactly how and when modern humans arose from their primate ancestors are amongst the most intensely debated topics in evolutionary biology. Fragmentary fossils and patchy genetic data provide key insights but fail to address a key question - did modern and archaic human species come into direct contact? Not only did they meet, but our ancient human relatives brought with them an unwelcome side effect - their head lice! 

Parasites can be used as unique markers to investigate host evolutionary history, independent of host data. Here we show that modern human head lice, Pediculus humanus, are composed of two ancient lineages, whose origin predates modern Homo sapiens by an order of magnitude (ca. 1.18 million years). One of the two louse lineages has a worldwide distribution and appears to have undergone a population bottleneck ca. 100,000 years ago along with its modern H. sapiens host. Phylogenetic and population genetic data suggest that the other lineage, found only in the New World, has remained isolated from the worldwide lineage for the last 1.18 million years. The ancient divergence between these two lice is contemporaneous with splits among early species of Homo, and co-speciation analyses suggest that the two louse lineages co-diverged with a now-extinct species of Homo and the lineage leading to modern H. sapiens. If these lice indeed co-diverged with their hosts ca. 1.18 MYA, then a recent host switch from an archaic species of Homo to modern H. sapiens is required to explain the occurrence of both lineages on modern H. sapiens. Such a host switch would require direct physical contact between modern and archaic forms of Homo.

However, all genetic traces of this interbreeding were subsequently eliminated from the European gene pool. The mtDNA suggests that the initial evolutionary separation of the Neanderthals from the populations which eventually gave rise to the genetically modern populations reach back at least 300,000 years. This is supported by fossil evidence from Africa and Europe.

As well as genetics, another vital tool used for identification is the study of the patterns of culture and technology associated with the initial dispersal of anatomically and genetically modern populations across Europe. We call this period ’Aurignacian’, or Upper Paleolithic, broadly within the time range of 40 to 35 thousand years Before Present [BP]. It heralded a sudden flowering of modern cultural behaviour, manifested by complex and carefully shaped bone, antler and ivory tools, far-travelled marine shells, personal ornaments, and rock art – both abstract and figurative. This Aurignacian display is conspicuously absent from the preceding Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal communities of the region. It is an archaeological watershed which correlates with populations of anatomically modern humans.

But, can we identify substantial and anatomically distinctive specimens of human skeletal remains with Aurignacian technologies? Yes: the Pestera cu Oase Cave in Romania [AMS 35,000yr BP], Ksar Akil in Lebanon [40,000 yr BP], Kent’s Cavern in Devon [31,000 yr BP], Les Rois in western France [32,000 yr BP] and Mladec in the Czech Republic [35,000 yr BP].

So, populations that were fully anatomically modern were present in Europe and the Near East within the Aurignatian period –around 30,000 years BP. Genetic studies show a dispersal of fully modern [ie. African-derived] patterns of DNA across Europe probably up to 50,000 years BP.

Archaeological research shows a dual pattern of colonization by anatomically modern populations across Europe, along two different routes.

1. ‘Aurignac’ – a broad arc of western, central and southeastern Europe and the Near East, marked by a range of distinctive tool forms – scrapers, blades, and split-base bone and antler spear-head forms. Known as ‘classic’ Aurignacian.

Main sites: Bulgaria – Bacho Kiro & Temnata : Lebanon – Ksar Akil

2. ‘Mediterranean’ – along the Mediterranean coast of Europe, from northeastern Italy to the Atlantic coast of northern Spain. Known as ‘proto’ Aurignacian. Different pattern of technology – small carefully shaped bladelets, for spears and arrows.

Both routes foreshadow the later spread of the earliest agricultural Neolithic communities.

And what of the interaction?

The pattern implies inevitable and numerous episodes of contact and interaction between the expanding populations of modern humans and the indigenous Neanderthal populations across Europe. There is the appearance of a number of modern features of Aurignacian technology among some of the final Neanderthal communities. Recent ethnic contact situations, regardless of the respective cultural and cognitive capacities of the two populations confirm such patterns of behavioral interaction and technological transfer. So does that mean the Neanderthals had the same brain capacity? This is still controversial, and further research is required. Despite some interaction, the likely scenario would have been one of direct competition for space and resources between the two populations. Our use of the new technology and our organizational abilities – through complex linguistic and symbolic communication - would have been advantageous, especially whilst the climate at this time was experiencing rapid oscillations.

Bradshaw Foundation



5,00 year later, at 85,000 years ago humans migrated east out of Africa a second time, this time over the Gates of Grief – the reef-strewn mouth of the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden. 


Gates of Grief

by Stephen Oppenheimer

The southern route out of Africa - the second and only successful exit - was at the southern end of the Red Sea, an isthmus 25km wide and 137 meters deep, known as the Gates of Grief [Bab al Mandab] from its numerous reefs. 

A southern route across the Red Sea which is most accessible when the Earth is glaciated goes some way to explaining the mounting evidence for our own defining exodus 85,000 years ago from Africa.

The strait was very much narrower during glacial periods, allowing easy island-hopping across the shallows and the reef islands of the Hanish al Kubra, at the northern end of the isthmus. Measurements made on the Greenland ice cap show that the second coldest time of the last 100,000 years was between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago. At its coldest, 65,000 years ago, this glaciation took the world’s sea levels over 80 meters below today’s levels. Certainly a stimulus to move.

Perhaps dwindling food resources on the western shores of the Red Sea, attractive beaches on the Gulf of Aden, and cool wet Yemeni uplands for refuge were what spurred our ancestors to take their momentous step.


Single Mitochondrial DNA Line - Out of Africa

All non-Africans belong to and are descended from the African L3 line. The dotted line in the diagram below indicates the Out of Africa L3 Eve at the Gates of Grief.

L3 b, d, e and f stayed in North Africa, alongside their ancient ancestors the L2 who stayed in sub-Saharan Africa and L1 a, b, c, d, e & f who continued to fill south, central and east Africa.


All other L3 Mitochondrial Eve lines crossed the Red Sea at its craggy mouth during an ice age when the waters were 400 feet lower and reduced the water depth to about 150 feet, and peopled the entire Eurasian continent from the place where cool grasses were then plentiful in the Yemen highlands:  L3 m & n settled in India, L3 m being the dominant group both there and further away in East Asia.  From India, a small L3 n population dispersed to Europe (L3 n1a & b) and also pushed on into East Asia (L3 a, i & n8).  Smaller groups of N-descendants (L3 r & w) found niches in the Indian subcontinent alongside their numerous M-relatives, and spawned proto-Europeans (L3 i, w, x) and eventually the R-group sired large populations of Levantines and Europeans after the ice age meltdown (L3 h, j, u, t , v) with half the hardy U-group successfully then reentering India.  The N-descendants also included moderate numbers of east Asians (L3 a) while the later descended R-group eventually spawned twice as many East Asians (L3 b & f) as their L3 a relatives.  By 80,000 years ago the beach-combing migration had reached Southeast Asia.  By 75,000 years ago Indochina and western Indonesia, then still connected by land bridges, were settled on the way to Borneo and coastal China around 68,000 years ago.  The low water mark 68,000 years ago would also have facilitated island-hopping to Australia at that time.  Meanwhile the Toba explosion at the Indonesian super-plume wrought unimaginable destruction centered on the Indian Ocean, but caused a six year world-wide nuclear winter and launched a thousand-year ice age with global homo sapiens sapiens population crashing to less than 10,000 adult people at the low point!  Why is it that our collective memory focuses so much on floods when clearly the most devastating event in modern human history was a volcanic eruption?  Perhaps so few people survived the thousand year winnowing that the better remembered (and less shockingly destructive) progressive ice age meltdown with its many successive flooding events had an easier time finding its way into oral histories that became our mythic legends, and none who lived through the Toba experience cared to ever retell, relive or even mention those dark years again!

Generations are shown above 
descending from 1 to 16.

The figures above represent the 15 surviving African maternal mitochondrial lines older than 80,000 years. From those fifteen lines only one mitochondrial line would, over many generations, become the Out-of-Africa Eve line, or the common ancestral mother line of the rest of the world. This random selection and extinction process is called genetic drift because the original mix of lines has drifted towards one genetic type.

Tracing back from the 16th generation shows they all have the same ancestral mother.



by Stephen Oppenheimer

Toba Lake in northern Sumatra is the world's largest active volcanic caldera. The volcanic eruption that resulted in Lake Toba (100 x 30 km) 74,000 years ago, is known to have been by far the biggest eruption of the last 2 million years. This mega-bang caused a prolonged world-wide nuclear winter and released ash in a huge plume that spread to the north-west and covered India, Pakistan, and the Gulf region in a blanket 1–5 metres (3–15 feet) deep. Toba ash is also found in the Greenland ice-record and submarine cores in the Indian Ocean, allowing a precise date marker. In our story the Toba eruption is the most accurately dated, dramatic, and unambiguous event before the last ice age.
Toba is also regarded by some as having caused worldwide population extinctions as a result of the ‘nuclear winter’ that followed. I have taken this into account in my reconstruction. India bore the brunt of the massive ash fall, and may have suffered mass extinction, since the Toba plume spread north-west across the Indian Ocean from Sumatra. This event may explain why most Indian maternal genetic sub-groups of the two founder lines M & N  are not shared elsewhere in Asia and the dates of their re-expansions are paradoxically  younger in India than elsewhere in East Asia and Australasia.

Arriving in Asia before Toba

If our ancestors left Africa 85,000 years ago, their descendants would have lived in Asia over 10,000 years before the Toba explosion, and beachcombers around the Indian Ocean would have been in direct line for the greatest volcanic ash fall in the whole of human existence. The Toba eruption is thus a valuable date mark, since the ash covered such a wide area, is accurately dated, and can be identified wherever an undisturbed layer of it is found.
The early archaeological dates for human presence in Australia have been reinforced by an extraordinary reappraisal of the Kota Tampan Palaeolithic culture found in Lenggong Valley, in Perak on the Malay Peninsula, two-thirds of the way from Africa to Australia. This culture first identified by the find of large, curious, and rather crude pebble tools, fashioned on one side only, was thought by archaeologists in the 1960s to be the work of an earlier human species. However, when the geological layers surrounding the tools were reassessed, it became clear they were more recent. Wider interest was sparked in 1975, when Tom Harrison, the colourful curator of the Sarawak Museum, argued that the tools related to the great eruption of the Sumatran volcano Toba.

Archaeological evidence

Malaysian archaeologist Zuraina Majid has explored the remains of this human culture in a wooded valley in Perak State, near Penang. A continuous Palaeolithic tradition known as the Kota Tampan culture goes back tens of thousands of years there. At one site, tools from this tradition lie embedded in volcanic ash from Toba. If the association of the tools with modern humans is confirmed, this means that modern humans got to Southeast Asia before the Toba eruption – more than 74,000 years ago. This, in turn, makes the 85,000-year-old exodus more likely. Genetic and other evidence for a human occupation of Australia by 65,000 years ago fits this scenario.
The Toba event specifically blanketed the Indian subcontinent in a deep layer of ash. It is difficult to see how India’s first colonists could have survived this greatest of all disasters. So, we could predict a broad human extinction zone between East and West Asia. Such a deep east-west division, or ‘furrow’, is still seen clearly in the genetic record.

The Genetic Trail

How does such an early date for the exodus fit with the genetic data? This is perhaps the most controversial and exciting part of the story. The short answer is that the genetic dates and tree fit the early exodus well. This also resolves the question about the origins of the Europeans: why it was that Europe was colonized only after 50,000 years ago, yet arose from the same maternal ancestor as the Australians and Asians.
The South Asian region, the first homeland of that single, successful southern exodus, shows the presence of the genetic roots of that expansion not only in the so-called aboriginal peoples around the Indian Ocean, but among the bulk of the modern populations. Among these roots we can detect genetic base camps for the most westerly of the subsequent pioneer treks inland to the vast Eurasian continent. These treks set off, after a pause, for Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. It seems that the vanguard of the beachcombing trail retained a surprising proportion of the original genetic diversity left in the out-of-Africa group and moved rather faster round the shores of the Indian Ocean. So fast, in fact, that they travelled right round to Indonesia and on into Near Oceania, arriving in Australia long before their first cousins made it to Europe.
The exact chronological relationship of the exodus and the subsequent arrival in Southeast Asia to the massive Toba volcanic explosion of 74,000 years ago is critical. First, Toba is one of the most accurately and precisely dated events of the Palaeolithic, and its ashfall acts as a time datum for the whole of southern Asia. Second, the effects of Toba’s direct ashfall followed by the inevitable ‘nuclear winter’ would have been disastrous for any life in its path, and pretty bad farther afield. The presence of tools thought to be made by modern humans found with Toba ash in the Malay Peninsula suggests that the beachcombing vanguard had arrived in the Far East before the eruption. Triangulation of this anchor date with other pieces of evidence supports this scenario.

Other clues include:

New dates for the Liujiang skull in South China, luminescence dates from Australia,  the date of the lowest sea level enabling passage to Australia at 65,000 years ago, genetic dates of the expansion of the L3 group at 83,000 years ago, and the onset of significant salinization of the Red Sea dated to 80,000 years ago. The best evidence for early modern humans in Asia should come from real fossils and their dated context. Such work is in process at the site of Liang Bua in Flores.
Now, if Toba really did blow its top after India was first colonized, we would expect a mass extinction event on the Indian Peninsula which affected the eastern side more than the west. This is certainly one interpretation of the paradox of the Indian genetic picture, in which the genetic trail of the beachcombers can be detected, but the bulk of Indian subgroups of M and R are unique to the subcontinent, especially among the tribes of the south-east. This is what we would expect for a recovery from a great disaster. The oldest of these local lines have been dated to around 73,000 years ago.
In the next sections we shall see what those pioneers did on the North and East Asian mainland after they arrived, and how they got to those places. Explicit in all these predictions is the central role of South Asiam (particularly India, Pakistan, and the Gulf) as the fount of all non-African dispersals. As far as the gene tree is concerned, the earliest branches of non-African gene lines are in South and Southeast Asia. The dates of first colonization of East and Central Asia by modern humans are problematic, because of uncertain skull dating and the evidence for a more recent Mongoloid replacement, but if the redating of the Liujiang skull at no less than 68,000 years is correct, South China could have been colonized at the same time as Southeast Asia. If modern humans had reached Southeast Asia before the great Toba volcanic explosion, the sharp genetic break between India and the Far East may be explained by the ash cloud that covered India around 74,000 years ago.




by Stephen Oppenheimer

The Toba explosion 74,000 years ago and the genetic evidence
Perhaps more important than the precision of the dating, the connection between stone tools and Toba volcanic ash in Malaysia puts the first Indians and Pakistanis in the direct path of the greatest natural calamity to befall any humans, ever. The Toba explosion was that disaster, the biggest bang in 2 million years. Carried by the wind, the plume of ash from the volcano fanned out to the north-west and covered the whole of the Indian subcontinent. Even today, a meters-thick ash layer is found throughout the region, and is associated in two Indian locations with Middle and Upper Palaeolithic tools. An important prediction of this conjunction of tools and ash is that a deep and wide genetically sterile furrow would have split East from West; India would eventually recover by re-colonization from either side. Such a furrow does exist in the genetic map of Asia
In spite of the proximity of Toba to Perak, the Toba ash plume only grazed the Malay Peninsula. The human occupants of the Kota Tampan site were the unlucky ones – others on the peninsula escaped. Some argue, on the basis of comparing skull morphologies, that the Semang aboriginal ‘Negrito’ hunter-gatherers, who still live in the same part of the dense northern Malaysian rainforest, are descendants of people like Perak Man. The continuity of the Kota Tampan culture as argued by Zuraina Majid provides a link back to the 74,000-year-old tools in the Toba ash.
The Semang are perhaps the best known of the candidate remnants of the old beachcombers. Another relict group possibly left over from the beachcombers in Indo-China and the Malay Peninsula are the so-called Aboriginal Malays, who are physically intermediate between the Semang and Mongoloid populations.
For a film documentary, The Real Eve (Out of Eden in the UK), with which Stephen Oppenheimer 's book is associated, Discovery Channel helped to fund a genetic survey of the aboriginal groups of the Malay Peninsula which I conducted in collaboration with English geneticist Martin Richards and some Malaysian scientists. This survey was part of a much larger on-going study of East Asian genetics.
The mtDNA results were very exciting: three-quarters of the Semang group (i.e. the ‘Negrito’ types) have their own unique genetic M and N lines with very little admixture from elsewhere, which is consistent with the view that their ancestors may have arrived with the first beachcombers. Their two unique lines trace straight back to the M and N roots (the first two daughters of L3 outside Africa). Their M line is not shared with anyone else in Southeast Asia or East Asia (or anywhere else) and, although it has suffered loss of diversity through recent population decline, it retains sufficient diversity to indicate an approximate age of 60,000 years. Their other unique group on the N side comes from R, N’s genetic daughter. This lack of any specific connection with any other Eurasian population is consistent with the idea that after arriving here so long ago, they have remained genetically isolated in the jungles of the Malay Peninsula.

The colonization of Australia over 60,000 years ago was part of the same Exodus

Some are still convinced that Australian aboriginals represent an earlier migration out of Africa than that which gave rise to Europeans, Asians, and Native Americans. Yet again our genetic trail tells us otherwise. Several studies of Australian maternal clans have shown that they all belong to our two unique non-African super-clans, M and N, and large studies of Y chromosomes show that male Australian lines all belong to the same Out-of-Africa Adam clan as other non-Africans (M168). The same pattern is seen with genetic markers not exclusively transmitted through one parent. In other words, the combined genetic evidence strongly suggests Australians are also descendants of that same single out-of-Africa migration. The logic of this approach, combined with the archaeological dates, places the modern human arrival in the Malay Peninsula before 74,000 years ago and Australia around 65,000 years ago. It is also consistent with the date of exit from Africa predicted on beachcombing grounds.
My date estimates for the trek around the Indian Ocean in route from Africa suggest that the beachcombers could have taken as little as 10,000 years to eat their way down the coastline to Perak and roughly another 10,000 years to reach Australia. Such a time requirement is fulfilled by the difference between leaving Africa around 85,000 years ago and arriving in Australia 65,000 years ago. The former date is consistent with dates estimated for the African L3 cluster expansion using the molecular clock.

A genetic furrow in India resulting from the Toba explosion?

There is an abrupt genetic change to the north and east of India. These changes can be inferred even from physical appearance. In Nepal, Burma, and eastern India we come across the first Mongoloid East Asian faces. These populations generally speak East Asian languages, contrasting strongly with their neighbors who mostly speak Indo-Aryan or Dravidian languages. By the time we get to the east of Burma and to Tibet on the northern side of the Himalayas, the transition to East Asian appearance and ethnolinguistic traditions is complete, as is the rapid and complete change of the mitochondrial sub-clans of M and N. In Tibet, for instance, the ratio of M to N clans has changed from 1:5 to 3:1, and there is no convincing overlap of their sub-clans with India. Instead, Tibet shows 70 per cent of typical East and Southeast Asian M and N sub-clans, with the remainder consisting of as-yet unclassified M types of local origin. The north-eastern part of the Indian subcontinent therefore shows the clearest and deepest east–west boundary. This boundary possibly reflects the deep genetic furrow scored through India by the ash-cloud of the Toba volcano 74,000 years ago.
To the south of the Indian peninsula, the main physical type generally changes towards darker-skinned, curly haired, round-eyed so-called Dravidian peoples. Comparisons of skull shape link the large Tamil population of South India with the Senoi, a Malay Peninsular aboriginal group intermediate between the Semang and Aboriginal Malays (see above).

M born in India, N possibly a little farther west in the Gulf

M, who is nearly completely absent from West Eurasia, gives us many reasons to suspect that her birthplace is in India. M achieves her greatest diversity and antiquity in India. Nowhere else does she show such variety and such a high proportion of root and unique primary branch types. The eldest of her many daughters in India, M2, even dates to 73,000 years ago. Although the date for the M2 expansion is not precise, it might reflect a local recovery of the population after the extinction that followed the eruption of Toba 74,000 years ago. M2 is strongly represented in the Chenchu hunter-gatherer Australoid tribal populations of Andhra Pradesh, who have their own unique local M2 variants as well as having common ancestors with M2 types found in the rest of India. Overall, these are strong reasons for placing M’s birth in India rather than further west or even in Africa.
What is perhaps most interesting about the unique Indian flowerings of the M and R clans is a hint that they represent a local recovery from the Toba disaster which occurred 74,000 years ago, after the out-of-Africa trail began. A devastated India could have been re-colonized from the west by R types and from the east more by M types. Possible support for this picture comes from the recent study by Kivisild and colleagues of two tribal populations in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. One of these populations, the Australoid Chenchu hunter-gatherers, are almost entirely of the M clan and hold most of the major M branches characteristic of and unique to India. The other group, the non-Australoid Koyas, have a similarly rich assortment of Indian type M branches (60 per cent of all lines), but have 31 per cent uniquely Indian R types. The Chenchu and Koya tribal groups thus hold an ancient library of Indian M and R genetic lines which are ancestral to, and include, much of the maternal genetic diversity that is present in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Neither of these two groups holds any West Eurasian N types. The presence of R types in the Koyas but not in the Australoid Chenchus might fit with some component of a recolonization from the Western side of the Indian subcontinent. As evidence of their ancient and independent development, and in spite of their clearly Indian genetic roots and locality, there were no shared maternal genetic types (i.e. no exact matches) between the two tribal groups.




by Stephen Oppenheimer (2003)

Dating the arrival of Anatomically Modern Humans in East Asia: Who made the Kota Tampan tools and when?

No one has done more research into Kota Tampan and the Lenggong Valley culture than archaeologist Zuraina Majid, of the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang. Her extensive work at a number of sites in the Lenggong Valley suggests that a local pebble-tool culture may have existed from the days of that great Toba volcanic eruption right up until 7,000 or even only 4,000 years ago. If that is so, it may provide the answer to one of the most nagging questions about the unifacial oval pebble tools: who made them? On the face of it, these are by no stretch of the imagination sophisticated tools. Better-looking tools were made long before in Africa and Europe by archaic humans, so why should anyone think that the unifacial pebbles encased in volcanic ash had been made by modern humans living at the time of Toba?
Two of the highest authorities on the Southeast Asian Palaeolithic, Australian archaeologists Peter Bellwood and Sandra Bowdler, agree with Zuraina Majid and Tom Harrison to the extent that these tools were most likely made by Anatomically Modern Humans. For a start, the dates for most of the pebble tools found in the Lenggong Valley are too recent for them to have been made by anyone else. Second, no pre-modern humans have ever been found in the Malay Peninsula, let alone in the Lenggong Valley.  

Perak Man

Zuraina’s trump card in this respect is the much publicized finding by her team of ‘Perak Man’ in the Gunung Runtuh cave in the Lenggong Valley in 1990. Surrounded by the same class of pebble tools, this complete skeleton of a modern human was described by experts as having Australo-Melanesian characteristics. He was about 10,000 years old. This clear recent association of pebble tools with modern humans undermines the argument that the Kota Tampan pebble tools were too crude to be the work of moderns. The same locality also provides a continuity link with the older tools, which Zuraina argues is supported by technical comparisons. So, for the moment at least, Perak Man is the best local evidence that the older pebble tools encased in ash were made by the same (modern) human species.
Another venerable expert on the archaeology of Southeast Asia is Richard Shutler. He makes the more general point that these kinds of tools were first brought to Island Southeast Asia (meaning all the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) by Homo sapiens about 70,000 years ago. Shutler cautions against the view that such tools reflect cultural backwardness, agreeing with others that the quality of the available raw material determined what could be used for tools, and that for more sophisticated implements such as knives, bamboo was more likely to have been used.

So how old was the Kota Tampan ash?

When it was first dated, several decades ago, the result came out at 31,000 years old. This date for ash from the Toba volcano has always worried geologists, and even archaeologists such as Peter Bellwood. The trouble is that Toba did not undergo a massive explosion at that time. Toba’s last big bang, the largest explosion in the world in the past 2 million years, came much earlier, 71,000–74,000 years ago. More recently several geologists, including the one who did the original dating, have agreed that the ash surrounding the tools was indeed 74,000 years old. The dating is critical. If the Kota Tampan pebble tools were made by modern humans, they would be the oldest precisely dated evidence for modern humans outside Africa. It therefore looks as though the ancestors of the Australians could well have left Africa and arrived in Malaysia on their beachcombing trail before the great Toba explosion.

Liujiang Skull

Another piece of evidence from the region may help place Anatomically Modern Humans in the Far East over 70,000 years ago. This is the famous southern Chinese Liujiang skeleton. Consisting of a well-preserved skull and a few other bones, Liujiang was discovered in a small cave at Tongtianyan in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 1958 by people collecting fertilizer. There is no doubt that this person was anatomically modern, but from the start there has been controversy over its age.

A uranium date of 67,000 years was reported, but has been questioned on the basis of its exact location in relation to dated geological strata. In December 2002, a Chinese group headed by geologist Shen Guanjun reported their reinvestigation of the stratigraphy of the cave and dating of the skull (extending to several neighbouring caves) and claim it should be placed in a time bracket between 70,000 and 130,000, and not less than 68,000, years ago. The skull was found in a so-called intrusive breccia, a secondary flow of debris containing jumbled material of different ages. From their paper in the prestigious Journal of Human Evolution, the lower date bracket of 68,000 years seems solid, since it comes from multiple date estimates of the flowstone above and covering the breccia. (A flowstone forms when flowing water deposits calcite down a wall or across a floor.) Their preferred dating of 111,000–139,000 years ago based on unstratified fragments of flowstone and calcite within the breccia seems more speculative.
I have stuck my neck out to place modern humans in Malaysia by this date on the basis of the Kota Tampan site where tools were found under a thick layer of volcanic ash from Toba. The key tools were indisputably artefacts, and the ash did come straight from the sky 74,000 years ago. But in spite of majority view that the Kota Tampan tools were the handiwork of modern humans, they could still theoretically have been made by other humans, since no bones have been found on-site which would confirm the identity of their makers. The only modern human remains of that antiquity found in the region are the now re-dated Liujiang skull and partial skeleton from southern China. The dating of the earliest Flores (Eastern Indonesia) occupation by modern humans remains to be published. I have several corroborating reasons for relying on such a connection. First of all, the logic of the low-water colonization of Australia 65,000 years ago fits; and second, increasing numbers of genetic dates outside Africa easily reach back to this time. The next available low-water slot for the colonization of Australia would have been around 50,000 years ago, but that does not fit the other evidence so well.






Blombos Cave (BBC), situated near Still Bay in the southern Cape (34025’S, 21013’E), is some 100 m from the coast and 35 m above sea level. The site was discovered by Prof. Christopher Henshilwood in 1991. Initial excavations were by him and Cedric Poggenpoel and later with a team of excavators. Under Prof. Henshilwood's direction the cave has been excavated in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004. Further excavations are planned for the future.

It is a very significant site that contains excellently preserved Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits that date to older than 70,000 years. Excavations have yielded remarkable, yet anomalous finds that are directly relevant to the 'modern' human behaviour debate. These finds include a range of bone tools, finely crafted bifacial stone points, ochre pieces engraved with deliberate designs, an engraved bone fragment and evidence for 'modern' subsistence practices including fishing.

The interior of the cave contains 55 sq. m of visible deposit with an estimated depth of 4-5 m at the front and 3 m toward the rear. When excavations at Blombos Cave [BBC] commenced in 1991 the cave entrance was almost totally sealed by dune sand, also c. 20 cm of undisturbed aeolian sand overlay the surface of the Later Stone Age [LSA] indicating no disturbance of the cave’s contents since the final LSA occupation c. 290 years ago.

The LSA deposits are less than 2000 years old, not as deep as the Middle Stone Age, and are more massively bedded and undistorted. In addition, burned layers tend to be thicker and several appear to preserve their original hearth-like structures. In the MSA levels the matrix is composed mainly of aeolian, marine-derived dune sand, blown in through the cave entrance and is intercalated with marine shell, decomposed humic materials and limestone, and wind-borne halites. Ground waters rich in calcium carbonate (CaCO3) percolate through the cave roof and walls creating an environment suited to the preservation of bone and shell, particularly near hearths and ash deposits. Carbonised partings represent occupation horizons and separate major units. The MSA deposits undulate considerably from the back to front of the cave due to subsidence that produces a ‘wrapping effect’ over the rock falls and occasional slump faults into gaps between rocks.

MSA phases

Sterile yellow dune sand 10 – 60 cm thick named BBC Hiatus blew into the unoccupied cave during lowered sea levels about 70 000 years ago. Shortly afterwards the cave entrance was blocked by a 40 m dune. It is likely that the cave only reopened after the mid-Holocene (c. 5000 - 3000 years ago) when high sea levels eroded the base of this dune 30m below the cave causing the dune at the entrance to subside. BBC Hiatus separates the LSA and MSA across 95% of the excavated area and provides visible evidence that the LSA occupation did not disturb the underlying MSA deposits . Possible exceptions are squares E2/F2 and E3/F3 where the sterile dune layer is relatively thin (2–5 cm), probably due to clearing or the excavation of bedding hollows by LSA people. Anthropogenically turbated LSA deposit is clearly visible in the D1/D2 section. However, even where the BBC Hiatus level is thinnest there is no visual evidence that LSA people disturbed MSA deposits.

The five uppermost layers below BBC hiatus are assigned to the M1 phase. Small basin-shaped ash and carbon hearths are common in this phase. Carbonised sand and organic ‘partings’ of a few millimetres thick act as visual markers for the separation of discrete occupation layers. M1 phase lithics are typified by Still Bay type bifacial foliate points. Two slabs of engraved ochre and an engraved bone came from this phase. 

Small and portable, this red ochre stone is engraved with what must be "tally" marks. It is one of two such stones recently found in the cave which have been dated at 77,000 years old, making them the oldest form of recorded counting ever found.

The stone is worn which probably indicated that it was constantly handled over a period of time, how long is impossible to tell. It looks as though the stone has been reused at least once before as the lighter marks appear to have been erased rather than worn away naturally. If the dating is accurate this stone was used 5000 years before the Mount Toba eruption of 74,000 years ago. 

Four layers typified by carbonised deposits, large hearths and shellfish comprise the M2 level. Few bifacials were recovered in the M2 phase and are probably intrusive from the younger M1 levels. Shaped bone tools, possibly awls and projectile points, came mainly from the CFA/CFB/CFC layers in M2. Dominant in the M3 phase are shellfish deposits and a high density of ochre pieces; the M3 lithic assemblage has yet to be analysed but a preliminary study by Dr. Marie Soressi, University of Bordeaux, France is in progress.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Emailing: Birth to Death

Your message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:

Birth to Death

Note: To protect against computer viruses, e-mail programs may prevent sending or receiving certain types of file attachments. Check your e-mail security settings to determine how attachments are handled.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What fossil fuel divestment means for the Houston area

Course Correction 

Closer than Horizon

It's the end of 2015, and Houston's traveled "T-plus 27" years past the outside estimate for how long humans may safely extend fossil fuel exploitation before stemming a tide of climate change that increasingly threatens modern civilization plus uncountable animal and plant species with disaster and near-extinction.

Around 1978 Exxon's own excellent internal science staff formulated an estimate with only five to ten years remaining at expected global emissions curves to define an alternative path away from fossil fuels.  Well it's taken longer than desired, but with this year's Paris climate accord in hand the whole world now stands united to attempt this major course correction together.

Portland, Oregon and surrounding Multnomah County have followed a joint climate action plan since 1993, now in its fourth installment. Other places started a bit later, and many have yet to begin their first such project.  Unfortunate for locals, Houston, Texas in billing itself the Energy Capital of the World to its peril equates that title with fossil hydrocarbon exploration and production.  This excerpt downloaded yesterday from the Portland, Oregon local government Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) web site gives energy industry leadership pause:
"In November 2015, Portland City Council passed two new resolutions, signaling local resolve to move away from fossil fuels. The first resolution, passed on November 4, opposes oil trains carrying crude oil from rolling through Portland and Vancouver. The second resolution directs City bureaus to identify how to use the City's authority to restrict the development and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure (other than infrastructure like pipes to serve direct end users.) Resolutions are not legally binding on their own. Any legally binding code changes will come back to City Council for consideration at a later date. 
The new resolutions build on a history of action:
  1. Reduce direct use of fossil fuels: The City has been systematically working to reduce fossil fuel use in Portland for more than 20 years, as detailed in four successive climate action plans. This most recent decision reflects the commitment of Portland’s leadership to stay the course, rather than a radical departure from past practice. 
  2. Don't invest City financial resources in fossil fuels: In September 2015 City Council passed a resolution that adds fossil fuel companies to the City’s "do-not-buy" list of corporate securities.
  3. Reduce fossil fuels in our electricity supply: The City continues to partner with clean energy advocates and allies to make it easier for renewable energy development to take place in Oregon. BPS has run programs to help residents and businesses go solar, like Solarize Portland, and has piloted new program ideas like crowdfunding for solar on community buildings. BPS has played an active role in supporting state legislative and regulatory proceedings that advance clean energy, like the Renewable Portfolio Standard."
Consider that Portland has a 20-plus year lead embracing climate action, and we have reason to expect other US cities and counties will enact similar measures quite rapidly as part and parcel of a national contribution toward global fossil fuel emissions reductions of 80% by 2050.  What would this mean for Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, and for surrounding Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties?

The status of diversification in the Houston-area economy

Anyone that lived through the 1983/86 crash in Houston can easily recall to this day what over-reliance on a single fuel to support the regional economy felt like when boom turned to bust.  The CEO of Shell Oil Company walked away from a Kingwood mansion and threw in the keys.

Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (from BLS)

Here's a look at the nation's post-war unemployment history.

Series Id:           LNU04000000
Not Seasonally Adjusted
          Series title:        (Unadj) Unemployment Rate
  Labor force status:  Unemployment rate
Type of data:        Percent or rate
  Age:                 16 years and over

          US Data

The 1983 economic crisis became just as pronounced as the 2008 financial meltdown from which we still recover at a national scale.

Texas Data

Above, a chart of Texas unemployment data clearly displays the dual-spiked economic disaster that a less-diversified Houston weathered in the 1980's (more specific metro-area data only extended back to 1990, and could not show these details).  Also notable, at the tail end of the graph you'll find an early warning of impending economic downturn we've yet to feel in full.

Dating back to the first quarter of 2012, recently released BLS data quantified how Harris County job providers recovering from a 2008 "great" recession employed a little over 2 million workers in a little over 100,000 establishments, sending out $2.8 billion in weekly wages.

Of these about 6 percent of all employees and 1.6% of all establishments directly engaged in the oil and gas industry, and supported almost 18 percent of total wages within the county.   The average weekly wage directed by primary oil and gas industry participants amounted to over $4,000 per worker per week.  

In addition, about 4 percent of employees and 2.8% of establishments derived petroleum products in plastics and chemicals industries, generating almost 6 percent of total area wages. These workers shared in an average weekly wage that neared $2000.  

Also, about 10 percent each of area employees and establishments provided support to primary and secondary oil and gas industries (exclusive of the financial services industry), so that supporting actors sent home almost 13 percent of total area wages.  These tertiary wage-earners averaged near $1800 per week.  

This means in 1st quarter 2012, about 20 percent of jobs and 14.1% of establishments in Harris County, Texas were tied with petroleum industries, providing over 36 percent of the county's entire wage stream.  The average weekly wage for this portion of the workforce in Harris County was $2,499.81, or 187% of the county average.

The Houston area was widely considered to maintain additional employment strengths not directly related to petroleum-dominated industries. So beside petroleum interests and in order of wage-earning power during 1st quarter 2012, Harris County industries with generally better than twice average US location quotient were:

  1. Financial Services: almost 7 percent of all employees worked in almost 13 percent of all establishments earning over 12 percent of total wages.  Average weekly wage was $2,433.17, or 182% of the county average.
  2. Aerospace: with just ten employers that provided 3,131 jobs earning $6.4 million in weekly wages, the business of outer space made up a mere quarter percent of the Harris County total.  Average weekly wage was $2,051.26, or 153% of the county average.
  3. Biotech: with a lower location quotient (LQ) of only 0.75, biotech actually appeared underrepresented in Harris County with only 56 establishments supplying 742 jobs earning $1.2 million in weekly wages.  This industry supplied four hundredths of a percent of Harris County's total wages, leaving plenty of room for growth.  Average  weekly wage was $1,672.63, or 125% of the county average.
  4. Rice Milling: a mature Harris County industry with a whopping 6.71 L.Q., provided 184 jobs in just seven establishments offering $254,621 in weekly wages, which is only one hundredth of one percent of the county total.  Average weekly wage was $1,383.81, or 103% of the county average.
  5. HVAC: the air conditioning industry in this hot and humid land had L.Q. of 1.62 where 212 establishments provided 7,382 jobs offering $9.4 million in weekly wages, which is about one-third percent of county total wages.  Average weekly wage was  $1,273.90, or 95% of the county average.
  6. Coffee Bean Roasting: a recent startup industry in Harris County, green coffee roasting maintained 490 employees in eleven establishments offering $605,325 in weekly wages, which amounted to an embryonic two hundredths of one percent of county total wages.  Average weekly wage was $1,235.36, or 92% of county average.
  7. Medicine: an average-paid Medical Center with lower-wage supportive services like ambulance drivers and home health care workers, combined to offer $188 million in weekly wages (6.74% of the county's total) to 178,819 workers (8.6% of the county total) spread over 8,706 establishments.  Thus averaged, a weekly wage of $1,053.47 was 79% of county average.  The gigantic and expending size of the Texas Medical Center hinted at a large and growing population in the Houston metro area,  Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land was the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States and second-largest in Texas with a population of 6,313,158 in 2013 and 6,490,180 in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau's most recent mid-year (ACS 1-Year) estimates.  Considering the size of population served, the medical profession in Harris County still has a location quotient of only 1.27, meaning it has ballooned but only to 27% larger than the average medical industry of a US metropolitan city.
  8. Finally, with over three times the L.Q. average, Harris County's innovative Bus and Rail Transit industry employed 3,120 workers in 12 establishments offering a total of almost $3 million in weekly wages, between one and two tenth's percent of the county total.  Average weekly wage was $910.45, or 68% of the county average, marking this the lower-wage industry among the big ones in the Houston area. 
Remaining jobs not clustered above fell closer to or below the US average location quotient of 1.0, so the majority of employees (64.4%) performed typical duties as in any big American city.  This huge range of jobs taken together averaged to around the same wage as the bus and train transit drivers got: $910.98 per week.  


So the top 20 percent of earners working in Houston-area's predominant energy industry took home over one third of all wages, all tied to oil and gas.  Other employment clusters led by financial services captured 15% of total wages, and the remainder followed (almost 2/3 of total area jobs) with under 44% of area wages.

Can we do without the petrol-jobs?  Not if we want to remain a vibrant, viable metropolitan area that is pushing ever closer to a desired world-class standing.  Will similar jobs be maintained in our future?  This is only likely if the oil majors perform a tremendous strategic turnaround of their own.  

Options include:
  • implementing ever more efficient co-generation solutions wherever the remaining fossil fuel budget may be burned.
  • right-sizing petroleum production for almost exclusively closed-loop feed stock and not so much direct-burn fuel purposes.
  • becoming a serious supplier of pure carbon buckyball lubricants and nanotube fiber stocks as sequestering develops a non-fossil-fueled ability to retrieve and split CO2 from ambient air.
  • partnering with the private aerospace industry to create prodigious amounts of pure hydrogen and oxygen to fuel ever cheaper launches and deeper space ventures, and on the side power embedded fuel cells and entire trains of self-driven hydrogen cars on land, rail and in the air.
  • mitigating existing ship channel properties to redevelop the land for future-trade post-Panamax business, especially if asteroid mining begins to pay raw-materials dividends.
  • hugely retooling and reinvesting in future base-load energy options such as modular breeder reactors and eventually magnetically-constrained slow fusion direct electric and heat production.
  • exploiting that intense nuclear energy and supplementing it with abundant alternatives to create a stream of custom hydrocarbons (boutique fuels) from seawater and feed stocks.
  • partnering with the public to mainline carbon-fee dividends to customers' checking accounts.
  • participating in a tremendous new public-private partnership to develop free energy as public good, perhaps distributed underground from a safe, secure superconducting spine that will traverse the center of North America from Hudson Bay to Houston.
  • taking ownership of whatever the OPEC oil states may leave to private oil majors after they have predominantly purchased winners of competition in advanced bio-fuel industries.
  • final development of identified fossil fuel reserves but only within Earth's limited remaining carbon budget, and in order of most economical-ecological exploits first - the rest will remain in solid earth reservoirs.
  • eventually, and this is really looking ahead, making good on those space company partnerships to transport valuable new bulk hydrocarbon resources from Jupiter's moons for safe delivery to a carefully carbon-neutral future Earth.
Any/all scenarios require that Houston-area industry maintains and further develops its hydrocarbon and energy expertise even if we soon experience a shift from once-thru fuel-to-be-burned to more durable feed stocks that can be shaped and reshaped.  This is similar, but more extensive and profound than the sustainability shift which occurred within the timber industry between the 19th and 20th centuries.  Wood fiber has not yet reached the point of up-cyclability.  Let's do them one better!

With hope and happiness for a new year, Houston Climate Justice wishes the very best for 2016!