Category Archives: Political & Environmental Commentary

Animal IEDs

Wolf Bounty by Ernest Thompson Seton

Wolf Bounty by Ernest Thompson Seton

Sodium Cyanide

For those who believe that animals have no consciousness, that is, those who purport animals as non-sentient, animal cruelty cannot exist.

Historically, Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs were in that camp, and stayed there so as not to endanger trophy hunting. But that began to change when Ernest Thompson Seton argued the contrary (he passed the 73rd anniversary of his death a few days ago).

Not everyone got the Darwinian memo about animals as relations. Case in point: Intentional cruelty in the form of M44 devices. Wild Earth Guardians and others refer to them as poison bombs or cyanide bombs.

I would like to suggest Animal IEDs as a more graphic term. IEDs became all too familiar during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Targeted Indecency

Animal IEDs have a different target, often coyotes, but like their anti-personnel counterparts, anyone or anything getting too close comes to a bad end. Animal IEDs attract by scent, luring large wild predators, but also skunks, raccoons, foxes and dogs.

In human war, civilians and soldiers are killed indiscriminately. In our war on nature, all manner of curious or unlucky creatures, treated with the same insane disregard for life, meet the same end.

IEDs of both kinds represent an absence of simple morality and decency. I urge everyone to take action against these things. There are several groups leading the charge to ban these things once and for all.

And while we’re at it, all commercial animal trapping must be banned, from whales to foxes. The Middle Ages are over, we have no excuse to continue such practices.

 

 

Cthulhu, Morgoth, Trump, Explained

What Lovecraft saw. Posted on Wikipedia.

What Lovecraft saw. Posted on Wikipedia.

First, here’s my take: assigning the evil of the Trump era to Cthulhu and Morgoth seems entirely reasonable. This is a time when America has fallen into its most morally weak state. Actually, the only state possible under para-fascism. At our moment of greatest vulnerability, we are faced with certain environmental catastrophe, with America at its most morally weak state. (Thanks a lot Trump.)

Cthulhu (discovered by H.P. Lovecraft) and Morgoth (discovered by J.R.R. Tolkien) come from very different ideological places. I will use examples from my Generally True Patterns (GTP) to show that difference.

A thing becomes a thing following its move from an abstraction to a concrete reality or process (Chapter 8 GTP)

The origins of Cthulhu are obscure. It simply is and always has been. As a non-rational being, it has no motivation perceivable by us. But like measles, it is something one best get vaccinated against. Otherwise, look out. Its allies: people who convince you that prevention is your enemy and the disease unimportant. (Raison d’être #1 of the Trump administration.) Manifestation: white supremacists such as skinheads who particularly hate other white people.

Morgoth is rather more interesting. First for having a history, e.g. it was created as an Ainur, one of the first beings in existence. Also, it has motivation: wrecking havoc for the pure enjoyment of it. (Raison d’être #2 of the Trump administration.) Its allies: the Mob. It has a long rap sheet at the FBI, known as “Melko” on the street. Manifestation: Wahabbi jihadists.

Both of them start as enfolded potential—look out when they become unfolded reality.

All things, events, and processes arise in our perception from somewhere. (Chapter 2 GTP)

Morgoth is like “a cloud that cannot be seen or felt,” kind of like carbon monoxide. Pissed off since getting the stuffing knocked out of “him” at the end of the First Age, he reanimates out of our own perception generally, and out of need, specifically, by some among us. (As an aside, Morgoth got his comeuppance from Fionwë who was the General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the First Age and reputed to be a political moderate after the war.)

In the beginning Cthulhu “had shape…but that shape was not made of matter.” Whoa! A nihilist! For all that these creatures are like ether, and in most ways beyond our comprehension, when the form they take is what we define as evil, their presence or at least their influence can be perceived.

A change in the environment of an area will be accompanied by a change in the population of that environment (Chapter 6

An example of this is the increasing prevalence of flood-drought cycle disrupting the climate in previously stable areas. Existing life forms may be eliminated as the changed conditions create better conditions for new ones, or for returning ones in the case of Cthulhu.

So at a time and place of weakness, bad things find the opportunity to creep in. But all this is about symptoms, not causes, that is, Trump as symptom of things going wrong, not the cause. My guess is that Eärendel, wielding a disinfectant light known as a Silmaril, who chosen by the Ainur to guard the borders of our world from evil at the end of the First Age, has fallen down on the job. Low battery warning perhaps.

The above argument is proven by the fact that both Cthulhu and Morgoth have certainly returned. (Thanks a lot Trump: these beings are irresistibly attracted to moral weakness.)

By the way, I have heard that there is an evangelical-run museum somewhere maintaining that dinosaurs and cavemen inhabited the earth at the same time. Now that is ridiculous.

IPCC Climate Change Report

Sunset for Civilization

Sunset for Civilization

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put out a monumental report. Ninety-one authors from 40 countries, plus 133 contributing authors, cited over 6,000 references, creating the Special Report on Global Warming of more than 700 pages in length. The results predict sunset for our civilization.

We have a decade or so to work on changing our anti-environment ways. But maybe we have no time left to gradually change. We must do so immediately in order to reach “net-zero” human-caused carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Opposing this view, the British scientist Mayer Hill, among others, believe that achieving net-zero by mid-century will come much too late.

Whatever the timeline, every day during which CO2 does not diminish makes achieving net-zero more difficult to achieve. Making this worse is the increasing methane leakage from Artic permafrost, which will almost certainly require us to reach net-zero before 2050. (I experienced alarmingly hot Arctic conditions on my two trips to the far north.)

The IPCC report received scant attention from the major television news networks. The same networks refuse to acknowledge climate change in their hurricane news coverage. One could argue that the impending end of civilization deserved a bit more. But try convincing their commercial sponsors of that. (Parts of the print media have given better coverage to the issue.)

Would it be possible to mobilize against big-Carbon (or if you prefer, mobilize for net-zero) in the way we did for World War II? Back then, our way of life was at stake. Now, it is our lives that are on the line. And if so, who might lead us to net-zero?

The prevailing political conservatism is hostile to anything that might be anti-capitalism and even more so when internationalism is involved. If you believe with President Reagan that government is the problem or with President Trump that globalism is the problem, then pro-environment mobilization by all the world’s governments becomes an impossibility. IPCC is for them just another example of a world government agency run amok.

This is not trivial: the very psychological identity of the conservative is at risk. You can’t admit the existence of global climate change when your entire being is based on an ideology of anti-domestic big government and opposition to international bodies infringing upon national sovereignty.

American liberalism, in its current pro-Corporate incarnation (President Clinton’s contribution), is no less destructive to the environment. Liberal flirtation with identity politics doesn’t help, because “Nature,” as an identity in and off itself does not find a home in that worldview.

Free market capitalism (North America, Western Europe, etc.) and state sponsored capitalism (China, etc.) believe only in resource extraction for economic growth, in contradiction to the laws of biology. Our prosperity comes at the expense of all the other life forms on the planet.

Theological concerns largely center on human-to-God issues without recognizing Nature as a part of the mix.

We all have our political, religious, national, ethnic, gender identities. Have many of us identify first of all with nature itself? Narcissism is triumphant: we won’t/can’t give up our identities even if it kills us.

Modern civilization’s great political philosophers such as John Locke, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and John Stuart Mill did not prepare us for a challenge of this magnitude. Our great naturalist philosophers including Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Ernest Thompson Seton demonstrated insight into our relationship with nature, but neither did they prepare us for what to do next in our current situation.

The IPCC report on climate disruption is just the most recent; similar ones show up every few months only to be subsumed into the larger news flow of political scandals, natural disasters, celebrity shenanigans, etc. For their part, IPCC and other scientists suggest technical solutions, but the mindset needed to move us toward a net-zero ideology won’t come from them either.

We are awaiting neither left-wing nor right-wing leaders, not technical or social engineers, but instead, the rise of consciousness-raising moralists. Maybe a Gandhi or King or Mandela for Nature will show up. We need them soon.

This is non-gradual diminishment.

Yosemite and Gaylor Peak

Yosemite National Park and Gaylor Peak Photographs July 31, 2017

Gaylor Peak (11,004′) and the Granite Lakes are easily reached from the parking area at the east entrance to Yosemite National Park: Park, then start walking uphill on the trail. There may not be an better way into the Yosemite High Country than along this route.

Treeless, or nearly treeless alpine areas look a great deal like Arctic tundra, making this a fine way to see why many of us are fighting to save the beautiful Arctic, even if you cannot get there to see it for yourself. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)  has taken the utterly immoral and environmentally catastrophic position of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. This is part of the Republican tax break for millionaires bill expected to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the President next week (late December 2017). The Senator has claimed that sacrificing one of the last pristine areas on earth is justified by the opportunity to “create new wealth.”

This depends, of course, on your definition of wealth, in this case a zero sum game in which more wealth for some means less wealth for others. More baseline (copyrighted) photographs follow documenting what it looked like before Murkowski and her ilk completed the destructive sequence of destroying the livability of the planet through increased carbon pollution.

View from Gaylor Peak summit

View from Gaylor Peak summit

Lake at base of Gaylor Peak

Lake at base of Gaylor Peak

Corn lily at base of Gaylor Peak

Corn lily at base of Gaylor Peak

Gaylor Peak west face

Gaylor Peak west face

Area around Granite Lakes

Area around Granite Lakes

Granite Lakes Basin

Granite Lakes Basin

Wildflower garden above Granite Lakes

Wildflower garden above Granite Lakes

Wildflower garden closer view

Wildflower garden closer view

Down valley from Granite Lakes

Down valley from Granite Lakes

Another view, Granite Lakes Basin

Another view, Granite Lakes Basin

Another down valley view from Granite Lakes

Another down valley view from Granite Lakes

Frog in tiny pool in treeless area between the peak and Granite Lakes

Frog in tiny pool in treeless area between the peak and Granite Lakes

Yosemite and Dana Plateau

Yosemite National Park and Dana Plateau Photographs July 29, 2017

It seems that the GOP (Grand Old Pederast) party had a bad night this week. Now that this latest outrage is sort of passed, time to go back to the world of beauty. The Dana Plateau sits on the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park, a high mesa, the top of which somehow  escaped glaciation. A moderately stressful hike to get up there on the trail; Bob Hare and I took the scenic route (no trail) but saw (while still below the Plateau) some remarkably wonderful areas.

All that is missing from the Dana Plateau itself are remnant populations of Pleistocene megafauna seemingly appropriate for this Lost World. Choosing which of my photos to include here a difficult choice.

The route up; Dana Plateau on the left. Follow the obvious arroyo route to the mesa either in the arroyo itself or on the adjacent trail if it is not snowbound.

Flower meadow below Dana Plateau

First view after the climb up

The flat rocks tundra, scoured not by ice but by time and wind

At the edge

Climbing area “Third Pillar of Dana”

 

The author at the edge; Bob at a farther edge

More edge

Bob at the edge

Alpine flower bouquet

Another alpine flower bouquet–there were many of these

 

Yosemite Dome Photographs

Yosemite National Park and Dome Photographs July 28, 2017

For insight into the current political climate, take a look back at the year 2000 Ridley Scott movie, Gladiator. See if Emperor Commodus (d. 192 CE) reminds you of anyone in today’s less than stellar set of politicians.

Then, to make yourself feel better, check out this entry of my 2017 Yosemite photographs taken along the Tioga Road during an off-trail climb  north above Cathedral Creek with Bob Hare, seeking a view southwest toward Cathedral Peak. Destination was a dome visited by John Muir in 1901at 37° 53´44.06 N x 119°24´45.16 W.

Yosemite and Mono Pass

Yosemite National Park and Mono Pass Photographs July 27, 2017

The Mono Pass trailhead is located within Yosemite National Park a few miles south of the Tioga Pass entrance. Pristine and wonderful. Unlike some other places.

There are now millions of climate change refugees worldwide, including thousands in the United States who have lost everything to floods, hurricanes or firestorms. Climate experts have indicated that such disasters are more likely than not to continue.

This is one in a series showing places around Yosemite National Park that have, so far, escaped catastrophic events. Consider them as baseline documentation before inevitable future changes. Photos were taken summer 2017 on hiking/photography expedition with naturalist Bob Hare.

Photo copyright 2017 David L. Witt

Heading southeast and up towards top of Mono Pass

 

Lake at top of Mono Pass

 

East South East and down from Mono Pass into Bloody Canyon

 

Mono Lake in the distance

 

Looking up to Snow fields in Bloody Canyon–zig-zagged through the rocks to get around them

 

Lake in Bloody Canyon, named “Red Lake” by John Muir

 

Crimson Columbine/Aquilegia formosa  and Potentilla species in Bloody Canyon

 

Globe Penstemon/Penstemon globosus in Bloody Canyon

 

Glacial Tarn in Bloody Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Mountain Heather/Phyllodoce breweri

 

View down to Mono Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Bloody Canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Bloody Canyon

 

Bob documenting old cabins just west of Mono Pass

 

 

Why Trump is like Nasal Congestion

dsc_8391     Send Trump to the North Pole—it’s warmer there.

It’s beginning to look a lot less like Christmas up north. Mid-month December temperatures at the North Pole have risen 50° F above average to just below freezing—nighttime temperatures in Taos are colder. During summer, parts of the Arctic are warmer than Taos.

Time to start panicking?

Meanwhile: Hysteria reigns in North Carolina over who gets to use which bathroom. “Liberal” media (MSNBC, Huff Post, etc.) continue giving Trump more of the free publicity they used to propel him into the White House. The Obama administration slams Russia for providing armaments to Syria used to kill civilians there while at the same time providing armaments to Saudi Arabia used to kill civilians in Yemen. Democrats blame (among others) the Russians for costing them the election—easier to blame foreigners than there own stupidity (e.g., they really should have won).

From the Radical Natural History perspective, it is clear that negative media about Trump misses an important point. He is not a cause of our problems, but a symptom. Think of him as nasal congestion, an outcome of the corruption of the common cold, not the cause. It is the deeper virus-like corruption of a world civilization—that can tolerate, ignore, or even benefit from (in the very short term) the cataclysm of rising temperatures and species extinction—which has not the slightest compunction about producing Trump and his illiberal companions.

Time to start panicking, or past the time when we should have done so?

The Environmental Movement Betrayed Part II

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The outcome of the December 19, 2016 election is another disaster for environmentalists. Beginning in November, environmental advocacy organizations have made their usual response: a plea for more money.

The appeal for funds has become an end in and of itself rather than a means to an end. Environmental organizations will raise more money in reaction to the complete take-over of government by a single political party, but species extinction and climate heating will continue as before on an ever accelerating path.

As long as fund raising remains the goal, radical naturalists and well-meaning environmentalists alike will continue to lose wild-nature one piece at a time until it is gone.

We should instead see fund raising only as a means, and direct action (with results) as an end.

Here are a few things we can do now:

  • Admit that as goes the occupation regime in Washington, D.C., so goes the environment (nothing but disaster ahead without our concentrated opposition).
  • Reject the prevailing trend that partisanship must trump patriotism.
  • Accept that acting to save our environment from destruction and the agents that intend to bring that destruction about, is an act of urgent patriotism.
  • Agree that doing violence in doing so is not answer (we don’t want to become like them)
  • Pay attention to the “unpresidented” intervention by a foreign government in choosing the current leadership in Washington. React in the following way:
  • Call the election result what it is—illegitimate. Become an election denier, a Dearther (for the dearth of information provided by intelligence agencies and others that might have changed the election result).
  • Shame Democratic politicians into not attending the inaugural on January 20 (nothing else will get their attention). If they attend, they will validate the fraudulent election result.
  • Demand the appointment of an Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate, without restrictions, the actions of a foreign government in influencing the election.
  • Demand the appointment of a second Independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the actions of the FBI over its political intervention in the election.
  • Demand an immediate disclosure of all tax and business records by the new elected and appointed officials regarding their financial ties to foreign governments.
  • Stop referring to fascist (euphemism: “alt-right”) propaganda as “fake news.” The word to use instead: lies.

While raising money to support specific environmental causes is necessary, emphasizing money is not the answer—in that direction lays despair and hopelessness. Our opponents will always raise more.

Our usual defensive/reactive posture must be replaced by its opposite. We must fight to save nature (or itself and for our own self-interest) and create awareness that what we do in the world, destruction or preservation, is the very definition of morality.

Writing on the Wall photo by David L. Witt