Monday, September 15, 2014

Can humans survive themselves?

After decades of environmental activism and organization, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that nothing can be done to prevent, or even mitigate massive environmental disruption, habitat destruction, species loss, air and water pollution and modification of natural climate variation.

This may seem obvious to some, and, I suppose, it is. It doesn't make it stick in my craw any less.

Looking back, there have been victories: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. These legislative actions helped slow the rate of destruction, at least for a while.

Stacked up against the totalitarian hegemony of the global growth at any cost economy, and the failure of democracy as a form of enlightened government, these gains are insufficient to forestall inevitable environmental degradation and resulting economic collapse.

This startling revelation walks hand-in-hand with another: humans are basically stupid and uncaring. I don't mean ignorant; ignorance can be cured by the application of information. Stupid means unintelligent, even to the point of willful ignorance.

In the human world, Homo sapiens has removed itself from the natural process of evolution. In the natural world, intelligence, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, is a required attribute for evolutionary success. Since humans no longer respond to selection pressure, intelligence is not required for success as a human being.

While this is bad enough among the general population, unintelligence has become concentrated in one critical area of human society.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a government bureaucrat. But I repeat myself.

Government bureaucracy has become the universal haven for all manner of unenlightened twits, worthless ninnies, mental feebs, recalcitrant do-nothings, corporate toadies, and status-quo apologists. They have perfected the Peter Principle and taken it to new heights of development.

Dealing with these obstructions to progress, in any sense of the word, is like trying to walk through a wall of marshmallows. Every effort to bring the light of day into the gloom of government offices is misdirected, mislaid, misfiled, obscured with coffee stains, glued into incomprehensibility with sticky-bun detritus, crumpled and basketballed into the round file of oblivion, benignly ignored or actively resisted.

As if that were insufficient, government bureaucrats (GBs) are unequaled in their ability to act as if they're doing something while all the while effectively emulating the Rock of Gibraltar. They've all gone to Bureaucrateze language school and each have the Official Bureaucrats Thesaurus (1875) close at hand for ready reference. Missives between and among GBs are replete with inaction phrases, weasel words (apologies to the genus Mustela), obscuratanisms and obfuscations. They excel in Concentric Bird logic (that which goes round and round in ever decreasing circles until it disappears into its own fundament).

The worst part of this appalling situation is that nothing can be done to change it. GBs are in control of the world and its social institutions. City Councils, Borough Assemblies, state legislatures and even that Great National Asylum for the Criminally Helpless in Washington, DC are all held in close thrall to the ministrations of the Government Bureaucrat Conspiracy.

"Is that a conspiracy theory?" whines the wag in the back row.

Yes, it is. GBs do indeed get together in conference rooms and plan how to build and maintain their throttle-hold on the reins of public process. Here is a web site, which, true to form, is slow to load, poorly organized and archaically non-interactive: Top 25 Government Conferences.

Back to my thesis: There's No Hope.

Any prospect for substantive change in the relationship between human societies and the natural world is dependent on an organized group of humans who don't care, don't know, and worse, know what they don't want to know about the effects of their actions on the broader biosphere, on which, ironically, their own future depends.

Thus, in answer to the title of this screed, the Cosmic Joke arrives at its inevitable punchline:

Homo sapiens will go to its long deserved grave laughing its empty head off.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Daniel Ellsberg Challenge

Jeff Morley, in his article: JFKfacts - The Ellsberg challenge, asks two questions posed to him by Daniel Ellsberg, liberator of "The Pentagon Papers":

"What do you want to happen as a result of your understanding of the JFK [assassination] story? What, if anything, does it require the American government to do in 2014?" 

Unfortunately, "the government" cannot and will not do anything regarding the Kennedy / King / Malcolm X assassinations, because the legitimacy of the United States government is held hostage to the truth. 

There will, of course, never be a grand reveal of the truth that strips away the fog of amnesia from the minds of the American public. This will not be allowed. While there may be startling revelations at some point in the future, they will be stage-managed by the mental manipulators, such that their effect on the perceptions of the public will be minimized, if not entirely negated. The Emperor's nudity must never be allowed to be revealed.

We already know, with little doubt, of the complicity and outright authorship of activities by United States government security agencies such as the FBI and CIA, in COINTELPRO-like programs to discredit the reputations of public figures, internationally and domestically. It is only a tiny step from disinformation (lying) and propaganda to averting the official eyes from more active interference, and yet a smaller step, once on the path, to participation. The result of the officially sanctioned oppression of the 60s is the prevailing surveillance state we experience in today's enemy-deficient world, where Terrorism has replaced Communism as justification for the recision of Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. 

One can hope that if documentation of government complicity in the 60s assassinations were to be globally distributed, say, by a WikiLeaks type action, such widespread opening of the collective eye would indeed destroy the legitimacy of the United States government sufficiently to cause its downfall and replacement by a democratic parliamentary form of government. This would, unfortunately, require a degree of public participation in the process of government now sadly lacking. But let us not discount the ability of the American people to rise to an occasion when sufficiently motivated. We are long past due our responsibility to "water the tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants."

Unless and until the documented truth is revealed, there is nothing the government need do, and nothing the awake and aware public can do about our ineluctably corrupt government. The corporate oligarchy controls access to information, inescapably surveils the public for signs of unrest and incipient rebellion, creates and maintains an atmosphere of fear of fictive external enemies, and maintains a monopoly of force against any potential or actual uprising.

In Oliver Stone's words, as Jim Garrison in his 1991 film, JFK

 It may become a generational
 affair, with questions passed down from
 father to son, mother to daughter, in the
 manner of the ancient runic bards.  Someday
 somewhere, someone might find out the
 damned Truth.  Or we might just build
 ourselves a new Government like the
 Declaration of Independence says we should
 do when the old one ain't working.

 An American naturalist wrote, "a patriot
 must always be ready to defend his
 country against its government."

That "American naturalist" was Edward Paul Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire, Fire on the Mountain, and The Monkey Wrench Gang, anarchist, gadlfy, curmudgeon, and inspiration to a generation of patriots who continue to defend this country, and its natural habitats and species, from an overweening government. 

There's plenty of work to do and time is on our side.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Signs of the Decline

In this critically important analysis, World Oil Production at 3/31/2014-Where are We Headed? Gail Tverberg points out the instability of global oil production leading to ultimate declines in oil availability and increases in prices.

"The fact that the selling price of oil remains flat tends to lead to political instability in oil exporters because they cannot collect the taxes required to provide programs needed to pacify their people (food and fuel subsidies, water provided by desalination, jobs programs, etc.) without very high oil prices."

The general trend is a global decline in oil production amidst unstable to declining production worldwide. The disparity between the cost of production and the price that consumers are able to pay increases the instability of global oil prices.

As I've said many times in the past, Peak Oil is far more immediately threatening to human societies than climate change. In fact, the economic results of Peak Oil will largely negate the contribution of human greenhouse gases to observed climate variation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Realities, the choice is up to us

This article by Richard Heinberg, Two Realities, is so important I want to spread it liberally about cyberspace.

There exists a vast chasm betwixt the environmental reality of the biosphere on this planet, and the infinitely smaller but nonetheless overwhelming reality within the noosphere of economists, Chambers of Commerce promoters, property developers, corporate CEOs, legislators and their pet lobbyists, and government administrators.

Economic growth is viewed as the universal panacea for all human ills, from poverty to environmental destruction, even though it is obvious to all who care to see that economic growth is the ultimate cause of these problems. Anyone who dares rise in objection to the mantra of continued economic growth is met with withering stares, outraged expostulation, public obloquy, and social sequestration.

Unfortunately, all governmental bodies are ineluctably under the thrall of growth maniacs, such that economic growth is unquestioned and unquestionable in public discourse. What passes for media these days are filled with assurances that economic growth is increasing, or bemoaning a lack of sufficient economic growth in the past quarter, with not the slightest question as to whether said economic growth is a good thing for human societies, let alone for the natural world.

The political will does not exist to reassess our growth mania and turn it around, in large part because those who control the economy are the beneficiaries, at least for the moment, of its excess. The populace is largely unaware of the conundrum, concerned with jobs, family and the consumerism necessary to live up to social expectations. Economic growth is viewed as the Great American Dream, despite the looming Great Global Nightmare that will sweep it all away as Peak Oil and climate change begin to seriously erode the fabric of the economic fantasy.

Despite this pessimistic outlook, the incipient proto-mammals of steady state economy are nibbling away at the dinosaur eggs of the growth-at-any-cost status quo. Heinberg has here set out a program of public awareness and funding for study and promotion of alternative economies, that, at the very least, may lessen the shock of global economic collapse on the horizon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Worlds... on one planet

In Two Worlds: #203 / A Two Worlds Analysis, Gary Patton states:
"My own belief is that global warming is 'real,' and is caused by human activity, and that global warming poses a major threat to human civilization."

It is true that climate variation (aka, Global Warming) is real. It is inaccurate to say that it is “caused” by human activity. Climate variation continues apace, as it has done for millennia. Human activity, particularly production of greenhouse gases and modifications of the landscape that affect atmospheric water vapor, modify, to a greater or lesser extent, this natural climate variation.

There are many factors that pose major threats to human civilization, in addition to climate variation. The most immediate threatening factor is Peak Oil, which will change human civilization much sooner and much more drastically than will climate variation.

It is certain that oil will soon become an uneconomical source of energy. It is certain that human civilization is unalterably based on abundant, inexpensive oil and other finite fossil fuels. It is certain that renewable energy sources are less energy dense, less portable and less reliable than fossil fuels. It is certain that no combination of renewable energy sources can replace the amount of energy now consumed by our civilization at present population levels, let alone with any future population growth.

The effects of present and future climate variation are uncertain. Beyond consideration of the accuracy and precision of numerical global climate models, which are only as good as their data inputs, climate variation is chaotic and nonlinear, and thus, virtually impossible to predict with less than hemispheric accuracy over a limited time period.
It seems to me that the one problem facing us, Peak Oil, will cancel out the other, human modified climate variation. Either we will find a way to lower our energy demands and switch to renewable energy sources, thus lowering our “carbon footprint,” or we won’t, thus lowering our “carbon footprint.” The former will allow some maximum cultural continuity, the latter will entail considerable cultural chaos and collapse.

Laid out thusly, in glowing black and white phosphors, the choice seems clear to me. We must do everything we can to lower our energy demands while at the same time using our remaining fossil fuel energy sources to develop as much renewable energy as possible… and here’s the catch: We must accomplish all this without laying waste to the natural biosphere that supports all life on this planet.

It’s a big prescription, to be sure. One way or the other, a thousand years from now, all will be well, as humans will have found a way to live within natural cycles of resource availability and waste assimilation, either by our own determination, or by Nature’s own resolute requirements.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.


Wilderness and wild spaces, even not so wild open spaces in urban areas, are increasingly under attack by gearheads, young recreationists and self-centered entitlement aficionados. Their mantra is "antiquated laws," which they chant whilst lobbying policy makers to change or rescind regulations to allow them unfettered access to places that have been long protected for their unique natural values.

No one is surprised by this contradictory behavior. Humans have always been masters at straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Popular human culture is replete with self-defeating behavior by a populace in thrall to consumerism and corporate personhood.

It remains for us 60ish conservationists to trod heavily in our expensive hiking boots in the path of the unknowing, youthful recreational enthusiasts, while we still have the gumption, intestinal fortitude and energy left to defend the wild at every opportunity, stand in their faces and so to them, "No, you will not destroy this wild place.

These laws regulate behavior that is destructive to the very characteristics of wild lands that make them attractive to humans in the first place. Those screaming the loudest for access are lobbying for the right to destroy that which they profess to enjoy.

What they refuse to understand is that environmental laws and regulations do not exclude anyone from these areas. It is behavior that is excluded, not individuals or groups of humans.




This past week, my wife and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by hiking into the Hoover Wilderness in the east Sierra above Mono Lake.

No toys, no gear, just us and our feet, eyes, ears, noses and skin. It was a healing walk, away from the din of what passes for civilization in the "developed" world.


"But love of the wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need - if only we had eyes to see." - Ed Abbey

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Supply Shock, Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution

Brian Czech’s Supply Shock, Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution, 2013, New Society Publishers, brings the “dismal science” to life as a luminous discipline. Czech, founder of the  Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, begins where Herman Daly’s 1996 Beyond Growth leaves off, bringing ecological economics into the present turbulent economy while explaining how we got here.

In addition to an enlightening and enjoyable history of economics, and projections for the economic future, Czech makes two significant contributions to our understanding of steady state ecological economics.

Czech tells us the story of Henry George, whose 1897 Progress and Poverty, brought land back into the equation of the means of production, alongside capital and labor. George promoted the idea of a single land tax, thus fostering the enmity of industrialists of the time who were busy locking up land along the expanding railroads for their personal profits. George’s work not only encouraged the burgeoning agrarian and socialist political movements, but also engendered the reactionary slide from classical to neoclassical economics.

Czech’s explication of  this largely forgotten economic history tells us that our present economic system is not carved in stone, and that we can indeed craft a new economic system more in keeping with modern realities of a finite, fully populated world.

Czech’s important contribution to ecological economics is his trophic model of human economies. Just as non-human economies can be organized on trophic levels, based on their relationships to primary producers (those who directly transfer energy from the sun to nutritional needs), human economies can be organized on trophic levels, based on their relationship to human primary producers (farmers and those who produce directly from the land).

The importance of this model lies in its explanation of production within our modern services and information economies, which professes to have a smaller impact on the environment because they exploit fewer resources and produce less waste than manufacturing economies. Czech points out that, just as large fierce animals are rare in non-human economies because they require a very large base of primary producers, service and information economies require a large base of primary producers (farmers) creating an excess of produce for its support. In an economic growth scenario, the expanding secondary production economy requires an expanding base of primary producers from a land and resource base that is constantly shrinking.

Therefore, continued net economic growth in a world of finite resources is impossible.

Czech’s trophic model of human economies firmly marries economic theory with ecological theory, exploring human economies as a subset of the broader natural economy, leading the way to a unified theory of steady a state economy that can function in perpetuity within natural cycles of resource availability.


Supply Shock is a significant contribution to economic theory that offers a path through and beyond the inevitable limitations of economic growth.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Human Society - Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

Dinosaurs didn't go extent. They just flew away!

The word sustainability has almost lost all meaning in environmental discussions, as it has been applied to all manner of human activity. Many are inclined to drop this word and use others in their stead.

Resilience, sustainability, adaptability. I hesitate to throw away any words, as words have meaning and reducing our vocabulary creates a depauperate language.

The word "sustainable" is particularly difficult because it is used to opposite meanings in economics and biology. Sustainable in classical economics means: "making decisions and strategic investments to sustain the community over the long-term." In biological terms, sustainable means "making decisions and strategic investments that are not harmful to the environment or deplete natural resources, and thereby support long-term ecological balance."

The concept I'm searching for is a quality of human society that allows it to continue indefinitely into the future without reducing the carrying capacity of the biosphere that sustains it. This concept embraces sustainability, resilience and adaptability.

Adaptability is a particularly slippery concept, because humans do not adapt to the world in the biological sense that others species adapt through the process of biological evolution. Rather, humans actively adapt the environment to human needs and desires. We do not grow fur to live in northern latitudes, we take from natural resources to invent fitted clothing and insulated houses. We do not grow gills and flippers to fish in the sea, we invent boats and fishing tackle. We change our environment to suit our needs. We are an impatient species, with no time for mundane evolution to bring us into conformity with existing conditions.

What is needed rather than adaptability is forbearance, the quality that Scots call ”let-a-be,” that Taoists call "wu-wei," allowing the world to rise of itself, rather than to shape it into predetermined human patterns.

What would a "wu-wei" human economy look like? Such an economy would take no more resources than are naturally replenished, leaving sufficient resources to support all life. Wastes would not be produced in greater amounts than are naturally assimilated through existing geophysical processes. Food for humans would be grown within existing cycles of resource availability and biodiversity.

In short, human societies would exist in a dynamic equilibrium with all other species, subject to natural cycles of resource availability. Humans would a be a part of, not apart from, the non-human world.

Non-human species have lived this way all the time. Those that fouled their nests or outgrew their food supplies declined or went extinct (or adapted and flew away). The process continues today, with the addition that non-human species must now adapt to the human propensity to ignore evolution and demand dispensation from adaptation.

Human economies are created and maintained to suit human desires and needs. They are a mental constructs subject to human construction and modification. We "Homo sapiens" invented our way into the environmental mess that our economies have created. We have the capacity to invent our way back into a cooperative, co-evolutionary relationship with non-human species that will benefit all and ensure our species' place on this planet in the future.

If only we would.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Be patriotic - Boycott Fireworks

Fireworks - Cheap Thrills with Toxic Consequences


Just a month from now, the United States goes through its annual paroxysm of patriotic excess, marked by ubiquitous fireworks displays that last from... well, now, until long after our country's largely imaginary birthday.

It's an American tradition. John Adams set it off, so to speak, before the ink was dry on the brand new Declaration of Independence, asking that the nation's birthday be celebrated: “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Fast forward to the 21st Century, where the fireworks industry has taken over the "Shew" and has substituted blowing shit up for any meaningful activity in support of a democratic country.

If it were just a bright display and a pop or two, all would be well, but modern fireworks deliver a toxic legacy that pollutes land, air and water, while the noise and bright flashes disrupt the normal life activities of wildlife, people and their pets. Many living beings flee, if they can, when the glorious 4th arrives, and those that remain are scared out of their britches, if they wear any, as the celebration progresses.

Americans are not good at polite restraint and the 4th of July is no exception. Not content with sparklers and glow worms on the front driveway, freedom lovers of all stripes travel for hundreds of miles to buy the biggest, loudest, flashiest and better-than-the-neighbors showiest fireworks for their 4th of July exhibition.

The results are wildlife fleeing in panic in every direction, attempting to get away from the last booming outrage, only to be confronted with other assaults on their flight path. Domestic cats and dogs cower in closets and under beds attempting to escape the din. Sleep for everyone is interrupted by aerial bombs.

If it was just the one night, it wouldn't be quite so egregious, but the aerial assault goes on for a month or more on either side of the 4th, with some fireworks saved up for New Year's Eve and any other occasion demanding rude noises and excessive celebrations.

Americans seem to be locked into a perpetual adolescence, unable to grow out of youthful exuberance and uncaring self-interest. It's time to soberly rethink this bombastic 4th of July celebration. Do we really want to pollute the neighborhood, drive off the neighbors, human and non, interrupt everyone's healthful sleep in the name of patriotism?

I think not.

Let's be patriotic this year. Wave the flag, watch a parade, sing the national anthem. Give money to your favorite charity and eschew their fireworks incentives.

Let's have a truly Safe and Sane 4th of July.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Reducing Coal Power Plants, and Increasing... What?

BBC News - US unveils sharp curbs on coal power plants: risks to health, communities and the economy

The Obama administration's proposal to reduce dependence on coal fired power plants is not a "climate" proposal. 

The "climate" connection assumes a causal relationship among extreme weather events that impact local economies, and human anthropogenic CO2. As climate scientists have repeatedly stated, this connection cannot be demonstrated with any certainty for any extreme weather event. The most that can be said is that weather extremes are consistent with projections from mathematical computer models used to test theories to explain observed climate variation. To date, these models have been unsuccessful in projecting present trends in global climate variation.

It remains to be seen whether or not a reduction of coal fired power plant effluent will have any effect on observed climate variation. Since global average surface temperature has remained statistically stable for the past decade and a half, while global atmospheric CO2 concentrations continue to rise linearly, the anthropogenic CO2/climate change connection is called to question. Observable results of a reduction in CO2 production, if any, must be weighed against complex and chaotic natural climate variation resulting from existing solar, geophysical and cosmic energy cycles.


Of greater concern is that this push to reduce existing energy sources, with no concomitant reduction in energy demand, will result in increased emphasis on energy production from nuclear power plants, fracked natural gas, and hydropower, prospects that threaten greater risks to public health, communities and their economies, and the natural environment. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Classical Economics Dismissed

Talking about climate change in human economic terms is like talking about bicycles in terms of fish. The one has nothing to do with the other.

Economists are trained at an early age to strain at gnats and swallow camels. Environmental consequences of human activities are passed off as "externalities." "Natural resources" (note the human centered term) are free and available for usurpation and profit by individuals and their corporate persons. When resources become scarce, the "invisible hand" of the market place will bring forth substitutes that will allow The Economy to grow indefinitely.

This, of course, is bollocks.

There really are limits to human growth, and we are stretching them as thin as spider webs. Many are convinced that we have already overshot the carrying capacity of the Earth for "Homo sapiens."

The influence of human activity on natural climate variation is unknown quantitatively, but the qualitative effects of the human presence on this planet are plain for all to see. No obtuse economic justification can deny the effects of human pollution, habitat destruction and resource exploitation.

Things that can't go on forever, don't.

What do you have when you chain 1,000 economist to the ocean floor? A good start.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Climate Change Can't Be Stopped, Human Change Never Starts

I don't know what's happening these days. I thought climate change hysteria couldn't be cranked up any higher, but sure enough, looky here, this article is over the top: To Stop Climate Change, Start Calling It By a Different Name

This is nonsense. There is no global climate disruption or climate chaos,  described in the above article, other than in the minds of those who do not understand climate dynamics and have no perception of geologic time.

The climates of the earth vary through time, naturally, continually and cyclically. They have done so for millennia and will continue to vary long after Homo sapiens has left the evolutionary scene. The earth is not a closed system, and its climate varies in response to solar and cosmic influences that have driven climate since long before humans came down from the trees.

Does human activity influence natural climate variation? Certainly. Do we know how much and in what direction? Hardly at all. Is there anything we can do about observed climate variation? Not with any certainty of a positive outcome.

Meanwhile, arm-waving and Chicken Little histrionics do nothing to mitigate climate variation or make our communities more resilient in the face of a naturally varying climate.

Let's assume for the moment that "Global Warming" is caused by human CO2 production and will result in catastrophic climate change (for humans at least). What "serious action" can we take "to curb the devastating effects of climate change" within the time frame prognosticated by arm-waving Chicken Littles? Stop driving cars? Stop heating our homes with fossil fuels? Stop raising cattle for human consumption? Stop producing electricity with fossil fuels? Stop building with cement? Reduce human population levels? Stop economic growth and development? Stop maintaining standing militaries that ravage the earth?

Can you say, "Not on your life?" Sure.

It's real simple. If human produced CO2 is really causing climate change that's going to destroy human civilization, then just stop producing CO2. If it were that simple and the consequences as dire as the Chicken Littles proclaim, we would have stopped it long ago. Look what we did in response to Hitler, and he was just a mustachioed paper hanger.

Do we need to stop polluting the Earth? Do we need to stop destructive resource exploitation? Do we need to reduce human population growth? Do we need to stop species extinctions? Do we need to stop natural habitat destruction?

Damned straight!

And if we did all these necessary things, guess what? We wouldn't have to worry about climate change!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Two Worlds?

Gary Patton, in his Two Worlds blog, posted an interesting rumination about the concept of Two Worlds, the human created world, and the non-human, aka "natural" world.

 Viewing the Universe as "Two Worlds" has merit from an analytical standpoint. It puts the propensity of humans to ignore the "real" world into sharp relief.

But it's a dangerous viewpoint from the standpoint of doing something about it. Despite virtual (human created) "reality," which, of course, is not reality at all, all life is subject to the inescapable laws, restrictions and realities of the world/Universe as it is. The Universe does not distinguish between reality and the human perspective. The Universe is the All That Is. And the human world is a microscopic tic in Spacetime.

Civilization, if that's what it is, is not long for this Universe. It is already declining so severely as to be unsupportable, nay, unsustainable. Civilization is devolving into marginalized local societies, as it began, and will soon enough descend into a second, deeper Dark Age that will have insufficient energy and resources available for any semblance of recovery.

Not to worry, write it off, it was a bad deal from the start and never got any better. The Universe will be better off when Homo sapiens joins the rest of the biosphere as a contributing member of the cosmic community. That which cannot go on forever, doesn't.

"The World" is a human concept, connoting the "Human" World. The Universe is reality, whether perceived by humans or not.

One world at a time, please.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Did We Learn From the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill?

Photo by LJ Evans
It's March 24th, again. This time it's 25 years since the Exxon Valdez ran up on the rocks of Bligh Reef and spread death and destruction throughout Prince William Sound.

The world loves an anniversary, especially big ones such as a quarter of a century. But it doesn't really mean much. Yes, it happened twenty-five years ago. Yes, those of us who were there remember that Spring and Summer that would never end.

Photo by Michael A. Lewis
Memories are dredged up by the photographs of dying animals, desperate attempts to rescue the few that survived, some only temporarily. It was a horrible experience for those of us who were there.

Did we learn anything from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Depends on what one means by "we."

Judging by the number of single occupant cars that zoom by my bedroom window of a week day morning commute, I'd say no, "we" didn't learn much of anything at all.

"We" are still dependent on traveling on our butts in a vehicle fueled by oil drawn from once pristine wild lands, at the expense of all life that once lived there.

Photo by Michael A. Lewis
"We" still make obscene profits from wresting fossil "fuels" from the earth and burning it to produce motion and electricity, while "we" pocket the profits and externalize the environmental costs.

"We" still leave lights on, leave the water running, import exotic food from agribiz farms thousands of miles away, ship materials and products all over the world for the least expense and greatest profit.

What have "we" learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Not a damned thing.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

I am a long-time proponent of anarchism, the body of thought regarding a social system based on non-hierarchical, decentralized, self-rule; that is, rules but no rulers.

I am forced to admit that human beings are not capable of sustaining such a society.

For the past couple of years, I've been involved in an attempt to protect a section of coastal California from a small, dedicated, vociferous, group of people intent on continuing their practice of allowing their dogs to run off-leash despite local leash laws prohibiting the practice.

At first, this might seem a contradiction. Laws? Illegal? Rules? Rulers? What does this have to do with anarchy?

Not much... and everything.

The off-leash dog proponents claim it is their right to allow their dogs to run off-leash whenever and wherever they want, despite ample evidence that off-leash dogs attack and injure people, other dogs and wildlife. It is clear that the common good requires rules restricting people from allowing their domesticated animals to roam freely in shared public space, hence, in our non-anarchic society, leash laws.

There seems to be a growing movement in the United States (the only country I know) of disregarding laws by considering them "obsolete." It's part, I think, of the "on demand" society created, at least in part, by the ubiquitous presence of television, computers, "smart" phones ( a "dumb" idea), and other instantaneous access technology that reduces human attention span, increases demand for material possessions and increasingly emphasizes personal individuality and desires over the common good.

Thus, those who want to go to the beach with their dogs off-leash seem to see this as an "entitlement" that no one else has any right to tell them they cannot do. They want it. They want it now. Any rules that stand in the way are "obsolete" because they don't agree with them.

"You don't know me well enough to tell me what to do" is the oft-heard and experienced attitude.

This trend, if it is a trend, is 180 degrees away from the ideals of anarchy. In this world view, every individual is an authority, there is no common good, the needs and desires of society are subservient to the needs and desires of the individual.

So we're stuck with some form of hierarchical society until Homo sapiens grows up enough to take responsibility for its individual self and relearns the concept of responsibility to the wider society.


Monday, March 03, 2014

A River (of Opportunity) Runs Through It (TR)

A River Runs Through It: Santa Cruz alliance working to re-brand the San Lorenzo - Santa Cruz Sentinel

The insufferable irony of this headline and story is overwhelming.

"A River Runs Through It" is a magnificent novel by Norman Maclean telling the story of the relationship of a man to a free running river. It is not a story about co-opting a river for personal aggrandizement and profit.

The San Lorenzo River was first "branded" by ignorant humans who built a town on the floodplain, then whined when the river reclaimed its own. They "re-branded" the river by building levees along its course to keep it out of their living rooms. They "re-branded" the most biologically productive estuary on this part of the coast by filling it in and building an amusement park and parking lot in its place.

Now, yet again, ignorant humans want to "re-brand" what's left of the river, making it into an extension of the Boardwalk amusement park, just another fun ride indistinguishable from the green monstrosity dominating the mouth of the river.

No matter that the river is already populated by wildlife that must flee in the face of a flotilla of fun seekers.



It's all about growth. It's all about business. It's all about turning the entire world into commodities for human consumption and profit.

What does economic development have to do with this "coastal watershed"?

Humans are not the only species on Earth. We just act like it.

"Man is the only animal that blushes... or needs to." Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

It's that time of year again, like it or not. Round these parts, this piece by Cactus Ed has become a Christmas tradition.

Enjoy!


Merry Christmas, Pigs! 
By Edward Abbey
from Abbey's Road








Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, "Not much." Easy to avoid it out here in the rocks.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist. Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative. And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York--she called me a creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can't please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.

The pig I'm talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to zoologists, but a good approximation--a close relation. Close enough for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a "wild pig-like animal," is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that's another issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.

Back to my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry, snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it's a problematic situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk of a saguaro cactus. That's the story I've been told by old-timers around here.

In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O'Ryan [sic] chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.

The herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is unpredictable. These couldn't make up their minds whether to run or stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome; they hoped I wouldn't stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their vigorous jaws at work--a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of prickly pear. In all nature there's no sound more pleasing than a hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.

Down by Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody out shopping for supper.

There was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell (at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble. Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights, raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.

Now and then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. One minute they're on the point of exploding in all directions, pig fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.

Then what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I'll admit I have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe that's the main difference between a serious literary artist like me and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the newspaper. But I don't want to make any harsh judgments here; this is supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports columnists too. And wild pigs.

As my hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug then we're obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes, scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That's the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we call Christmas.

As for the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas, I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I've charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.


If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I'd roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God's creatures in order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn't it farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Sermons aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish Department? Without a Sportsmen's Association? Hard to say. I wonder. But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all. Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like California, not fit for man or his dog.

Happy Christmas, brother and sister. Long live the weeds and the wilderness. Merry New Year, pigs!

Friday, November 15, 2013

So Long Arana Gulch!

The most egregious example of local bureaucratic cock-ups came to a head today with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the deservedly delayed and much opposed $6 million Broadway-Brommer Bike Road.

Long opposed by real environmentalists, the Broadway-Brommer project has suffered a spotty history over the last twenty years. Originally conceived as a street for cars connecting Broadway in the City to Brommer Street in Live Oak, the project was axed by Santa Cruz City officials in response to environmental opposition. Later, as a paved bike road, the project was again laid to rest by a subsequent City Council.

Nevertheless, City Public Works staff, reluctant to lose out on one-and-a-half million dollars of "free"federal money, revived the moribund project. Over the years, the B-B morphed from a car road, to a Class One Bicycle Commuter route with an enormous bridge spanning Arana Creek, to a curving, up and down bike road with bridges over Hagemann Creek and Arana Creek. Finally, donning funny nose and glasses, B-B was disguised as a "multi-use interpretive trail," as the overwhelmingly dominant component of the yet to be implemented Arana Gulch Master Plan.

The B-B project follows the historical government tradition of "destroying the village to save it." Since all of Arana Gulch is declared Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, Public Works staff struggled to find some way to justify building a paved road through the fragile species' only home. City officials had to find some way to make the project "resource dependent" to satisfy California Coastal Commission regulations for development in Sensitive Habitat Areas, such as Arana Gulch.


Thus was born the "interpretive trail." No, it's not a different route. Yes, it still paves over critical habitat of an endangered species. But now the project has interpretive signs that will describe what was lost when this Natural Area was drawn and quartered, north to south and east to west, by an 8 foot wide asphalt paved road with two feet of graded shoulder on either side, where nothing will grow.

The Boondoggle took it's first wee steps this week, kicked into a mockery of life with the traditional celebratory groundbreaking. Scores of brightly bedecked bicyclists joined toothy City Fathers... and one Mother, in the bright noon sun. A massive diesel backhoe supplied the necessary technology, mysteriously idling for no apparent reason, adding it's diesel fumes to the rapidly accumulating hot air.

To "Balance" this display of bureaucratic excess, Friends of Arana Gulch, a stalwart group of caring environmentalists who have consistently opposed the Broadway-Brommer project lo these many years, arrived in funereal black to mourn the demise of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. Bearing signs saying, "Good-bye to the Greenbelt," "Shame," "Less trees, less grass, less wildflowers, less wildlife," "Is Broadway-Brommer really needed?" and "Save it, don't pave it," the Friends stood in silent vigil for the animals, plants and insects who have no say in the future of their home in Arana Gulch.

The assembled officials donned unfamiliar hardhats, grabbed golden-painted shovels, and, after instructions on which end to point at the ground, posed for the obligatory photographs. They scraped meager scratches into the hard packed earth, gratefully returned the shovels to those who know how to use them, and decanted into the crowd for obsequious self-congratulations. 

Thus the fate of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt was signed, sealed and delivered. No longer a Natural Area, now an incipient Park for human recreation, and a paved shortcut for bicyclists in a hurry, Arana Gulch passes into history along with its sensitive species, unique habitat, its quiet, its open space, its true value. 

Arana Gulch is now just another anonymous feature in the urban development that has inundated the landscape from Moore Creek to Valencia Creek, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.





So long Arana Gulch! 
It was good to have known you.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Simple - Enforce the Leash Law


In a long running debate, a group of dog owners lobbying for exemption from Santa Cruz County leash laws loudly proclaim they are going to continue to let their dogs off leash no matter the law, and that enforcement of the leash law doesn’t work because there are still dogs off-leash on County beaches. This is a circular argument (that is, “I still break the law, so enforcement doesn’t work”) that is used as an excuse to demand that law breakers be exempted from the law.

"Enforcement" does not mean 100% compliance. No law ever achieves total compliance, no matter how stringently it is enforced. There are always individuals who decide to flout the law and take the risk of getting tickets or being arrested. 
Fortunately, we live in a society where the majority of the people obey most of the laws, and there is no need for an overweening police state to maintain public safety and order. It is only when the illegal acts of a minority group infringe on the rights of the majority that legal pressure must increasingly be brought to bear to protect public health and safety and maintain order in the community.
Such is the case with off leash dogs on County beaches. A small group of dog owners has decided that their desire to allow their dogs to run off leash on local beaches should take precedence over the desires of the rest of beach users for a beach experience unmarred by dogs running uncontrolled. The dog owners have organized to avoid getting tickets from Animal Services officers’ attempts to enforce County leash laws, as they let their dogs loose daily on local beaches.
Meanwhile, the dog owners who admit to breaking the leash laws have the audacity to lobby County government to not only overlook their illegal actions, but to suspend County Leash Laws on the beach in order to allow them to continue to run their dogs off leash. Leash laws were written and are enforced to protect public health and safety, the health and safety of other dogs, and to protect sensitive wildlife and habitats. These off leash dog owners claim their desires trump public health and safety, their own animals’ safety and County, state, federal and international wildlife regulations.
It’s time to put a stop to this egregious “off leash dog gang” behavior. There are 12 off leash dog parks in the County where dog owners legally can let their dogs run off-leash for exercise and socialization, without putting other park users at risk. 
If dog owners continue to blatantly ignore existing off-leash dog areas and continue to illegally allow their dogs to run off-leash in shared pubic space, they should be ticketed and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. No “half-price” sales, but full and escalating fines for these repeat offenders. Let them take responsibility for their disregard for the law and stop asking for a free ride from County government.
It’s hard and it’s fair.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dear Mr. President: Hands Off Syria!

Dear Mr. President:

Do not, under any circumstances, attack Syria.

Your message sent out as an email following your speech on Syria contains several misstatements of fact:

1) “...we have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force.” This statement is the heighth of hypocrisy. The American CIA has armed and trained opposition soldiers in Jordan and sent them into Syria to fight against the Assad government. This is unauthorized military action akin to President Reagan’s illegal arming of the Contras in Nicaragua.

2) Your administration has failed to provide any evidence to back up the claim that the Assad government launched chemical weapons against opposition forces. Furthermore, you have ignored evidence that the chemical weapons incident was initiated by opposition forces funded and supplied by Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud.

3) Syria provides no more threat to the security of the United States than does Israel, which possesses chemical and nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them throughout the Middle East. We send billions of dollars of “aid” (read, military arms) to Israel in response to intensive lobbying by pro-Israeli organizations in the United States. The true intent of American involvement is to destabilize Syria in order to isolate and threaten Iran, the last in the chain of anti-Israeli countries in the Middle East.

Mr. President, democracy does not consist of “Americans stand[ing] together as one people.” Democracy is rule by the people, not by a President who takes the powers of war-making away from them.

Stop the war propaganda. Stop the saber rattling. Withdraw from the eastern Mediterranean and start working, as a statesman rather than a tyrant, to bring peace to the Middle East.