Monthly Archives: October 2014

We Are Nature…

Desert Tarantula, Aphonopelma chalcodes_1DW3581  …in an often beautiful but sometimes insidious form. Although our behavior is studied through sociology and anthropology, our behavior is part of natural history (even when abhorrent).

Greed, in its incarnation of corruption, is a kind of aberrant nature phenomenon. Within nature, it is unique. There are no other animals that destroy their environment with intentionality.

One of the more unusual outcomes of natural history is politics. As the driver of America as the last, best hope, it is clearly failing. Individual rights, national rights, and even states rights (pay attention to this one, conservatives) have given way before the unstoppable avalanche of corporate rights.

An interview in the October 27, 2014 edition of Time caught my attention.  Human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson gave an example of how government has shifted its spending priorities from the actual needs of citizens to corporate welfare: “Prison spending has gone from $6 billion in 1980 to $80 billion today. Those dollars are coming from education, health and human services, and roads.” He might have added environmental protection, public health, and so on…and on.

The powerful forces of corruption and environmental destruction at least are not unopposed. Examples follow:  

Ralph Nader’s new book.

The rights of whales and dolphins.

Wilderness preservation and expansion in New Mexico.

Dave Foreman and honest environmentalism.

Education and advocacy for the most endangered wolf subspecies.

Thom Hartman anti-corporate commentary.

Jim Hightower anti-corporate commentary.

{Desert Tarantula, Aphonopelma chalcodes, dlw photo October 14, 2014}

ISIA Terrorists Crawling Out of the Woodwork. Southern Senator claims: “We’re all going to die!”

800px-IC_Pyrrharctia_isabella_caterpillar      Waving its ominous black flag of conquest, the international Isia isabella network is on the move. Seeking, if not world domination, then at least a sheltered place to hold up for the winter, expect these sleeper cells to re-emerge in great numbers next spring.

{Photo from Wikipedia Commons by IronChris, September 24, 2006, Montreal, Quebec. Isia isabella is an synonym for Pyrrharctia isabella. Either way, it is a woolly bear!}

Bolivia Pokes it Finger into the Eye of Multinationals

ijnz5yyg      U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (served on the Court 1939-1975) had the audacity to suggest that wild nature could have legal rights. A lifelong outdoorsman, this made sense to him; in the age of corporate-friendly U.S. Presidents (Republican and Democrat), he seems an anomaly, a lonely voice of reason against the nature-destroying policies of large corporations and the governments they control.

And now: along comes Juan Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia since 2006, anathema to both the Bush and Obama administrations. While there are minor differences between the past two U.S. administrations, two areas of agreement include dislike of wolves and dislike of anti-corporate socialists.

Adding to Evo’s list of crimes (from the standpoint of the Washington, D.C. politicians owned by the corporations) is one most remarkable. Ignored by reporting in mainstream American media, Evo and his government have gone a step further than Justice Douglas, and made recognition of the biosphere a matter of law.

According to an article in Earth, We Are One, “Bolivia has become the first country in the world to give nature comprehensive legal rights in an effort to halt climate change and the exploitation of the natural world, and to improve the quality of life for the Bolivian people.” Whether or not this is the first step in saving the earth is unclear, but it could give the American corporate politicians a nervous breakdown. At least, I hope so.

Believing in the sacredness of earth and the collective good of all beings (including us) is a radical notion that would have been readily understood by the worst of the early communists such as St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi.

Evo’s “Law of Mother Earth” should be the law of the land. All land.

{Portrait of President Morales, stock photo from the web}

That bastion of the American Left, the Department of Defense…

027 Glacier rivers DSC_0068 …has reaffirmed its concerns about climate change as a threat to national security. First put forward as part of its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, this year, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (the first former enlisted man to head this department) listed several challenges to the military including the likelihood of being called upon to provide more humanitarian interventions and needing to plan for damage at coastal bases due to the rising sea level. While the majority of the U.S. Congress denies or ignores the consequences of climate disruption, the military is one of the few government institutions to acknowledge the preponderance of scientific evidence. Also this summer: a new report on the economics of climate change and the latest evidence about ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

DOD Report              Risky Business Report            Melting Ice Report

While the first DOD and Risky Business reports recognize that consequences will arise from the melting ice scenario, they stop short of calling for an all out give-no-quarter war on the use of carbon energy sources. When a hurricane threatens a coastal base, the Navy protects its ships by sending them elsewhere. But that doesn’t stop the storm.

{Rivers on unnamed glacier, Baffin Island, July 29, 2009. DLW photo.}

All reactionaries are unhappy…

SAM_2895     …but each is unhappy in his own way. The source of their unhappiness is a wedding of psyche to stasis, desperation to stick to the old ways: racial purity, domination of women, fundamentalist religious fantasy, sexual bigotry, authoritarian lust. I am not singling out any one group—the ideology of stasis crosses religious, national, ethnic lines to create a global ideology, notwithstanding the most fervent ideologues hate one another with great passion. This is (rather perversely) a good thing because if Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, Rush Limbaugh (not a national leader) and others of their kind throughout the world ever recognized their great commonalities, the rest of us would be in trouble.

Their greatest commonality is unhappiness—a state of mind engendered by their being forever separated from their greatest desires (named above). They can’t always get what they want nor can they get what they need. No matter how hard they try, they will be eternally (really, for all eternity!) disappointed. The laws of nature are against them (a topic to be explored more fully in essays on time and motion). Lusting for the unattainable has a long history. The problem is their deeply felt need to share their unhappiness with the rest of us.

To the extent that a conservative streak exists in all of us, there arises a feeling of dis-ease. The symptoms come out not only in the poor treatment of our co-species members, but also in our relationship to nature. Right-wing rage comes out of the disconnect between us and nature.

{Albino marmot, Wheeler Wilderness, New Mexico, June 28, 2014. DLW photo.}

The Role of Noise

_1DW1724 Willow Lake and San Luis Valley series looking west from top of waterfall   The Prairie Suite, blog and novel, takes its title from a philosophy of integrating humans with the natural world from which we have been estranged. (Actually, we have always been a part of it; recognizing that connection is the problem.) A source of estrangement as writer/naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton expressed in the 1930s is greed. (For more on this, see Seton Legacy Project blog.) Greed for money (most obviously), but also for power, and ultimately, for space. We expand in absolute numbers, but also in our footprint, going beyond the boundaries of individual bodies to and into all parts of air, earth and water. Which is to say that the space taken up by any individual is multiplied by where and how we effect that space (e.g. consumption, pollution, etc.) The destruction we create is proof of our integration with nature.

That integration is missed due to noise, the chaos of our things and processes that drown out the sounds of nature. The philosophy of the Prairie Suite emphasizes listening to the sounds of wild nature and finding meaning  by cutting through our own noise.

{Willow Lake, Crestone Range, Colorado, September 13, 2013. DLW photo.}

As the World of Homo sapiens Gradually Winds Down to its Conclusion, Someone Needs to Chronicle it

That would be me.

The first week of October brought with it the continuing stream of bad news. The World Wildlife Fund‎ in “The Living Planet Report 2014” headlined the news: More than 52% of wildlife lost in 40 years. Hunting, fishing, and habitat loss were the primary reasons. So far climate disruption is, according the study, a much smaller factor in this catastrophic picture. Just in time, however, to illustrate the affect of planetary heating, Arctic walruses are being forced to congregate on land rather than their favored ice because there is no ice for them to haul out on. The optimistic staff at the World Wildlife Fund claims that there is still time to turn this around, and that we as a species could yet decide to live upon this planet in a different way.

The regenerative capacity of 1.5 earths is needed to meet current human resource demand. We are currently .5 earths short of having what we need at a time when human population and per capita claims on environmental resources are skyrocketing, e.g. more individual passenger cars being created for India and China, more electronic gadgets being consumed in the U.S. and elsewhere. The higher per capita income, the more resources are taken from the environment.

The human ecological footprint is measured in many ways, including water use and consumption of food products from land and water. The one that stands out is carbon use. That obviously is on an upward trend. U.S. television, particularly public affairs and news programming on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC is filled with pro-carbon propaganda. There are no laws against lying in television ads, so the onslaught of bullshit continues.

Together, China and the U.S. account for a third of the total human carbon footprint.

Page after page of the report documents biocapacity and the overall water footprint. Overall land and water resources support all human and non-human life. We are taking more than our share. More for us. Less for all others. We can perhaps grow more food, but that entails the destruction of more natural habitat. More stuff for us to eat, fewer places for the wild ones to live.

Page 67: “Humans have profited hugely from the extraordinarily

predictable and stable environmental conditions of the last 10,000

years – the geological period known as the Holocene. The favourable

state of the planet during the Holocene made it possible for settled

human communities to evolve and eventually develop into the

modern societies of today, by profiting from the natural capital

offered by a stable biosphere. However, advancements in Earth

system science suggest that the world has entered a new period

– the “Anthropocene” – in which human activities are the largest

drivers of change at the planetary scale (Zalasiewicz et al., 2008).

Given the pace and scale of change, we can no longer exclude the

possibility of reaching critical tipping points that could abruptly

and irreversibly change living conditions on Earth.”

And so on it goes through scores of pages of local and global data. Anyone who cares about the future should read this document. Maybe especially so those who have children or grandchildren. The total number of Americans likely to read this report: too small to be significant.

There are many pages showing things that we should do to avert catastrophe for ourselves and our fellow creatures. This is where the report goes fails to perform its needed task. The report assumes that humanity en masse will make rational decisions in regard to the environment. Unlike the rest of the report, this assumption is not supported by a shred of evidence. Worse, even if the less than 1% of the population who make the decisions for the rest of us were to agree with all aspects of the report, the report provides no solutions mechanism or enforcement practices for any of the recommendations.

So while the report authors may be entitled to say, “I told you so” when the collapse occurs, they will have little else to show for their efforts. Tellingly, the report does not call for drastic population control measures nor does it call for the near-term elimination of carbon fuels. The first can be construed to suggest racism and genocide (biological and cultural) while the second calls for a devastating restructuring of the world economy; the two together call for civilizational transformation too awful to contemplate. Taking no meaningful action leads to the fall of civilization (as in The Prairie Suite novel) or at least to the fall of wild nature. (There is a third morally correct and highly effective method: the empowerment of women and girls through education and economic and political parity, but resistance to this is probably the harshest of all.)

No wonder the report fails to take the critical step of proscribing actions needed to head off the predicted disaster. It is just too scary even to contemplate. A Gordian knot.

Here is the theme song for our carbon, expanding civilization: “Suspicious Minds” performed by Elvis: “We’re caught in a trap. I can’t walk out because I love you too much baby.”