Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Words Arranged

After ten years of blogging on this site, Words Arranged (Hayduke Blogs) is moving to new digs!

Please join me at as I explore the unseen.

The fun continues on Words Arranged.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Famines and Wars Predicted but Americans are Largely Unconcerned about Climate Change

    In a recent article in City Watch, Seth Berenstein whinges on about apparent ho-hummieness about climate change among the public in the United States (mistakenly calling us "Americans" (Does that include Canada, Central and South America?). We're apparently supposed to be "extremely worried" about climate change, as if being worried would in some way make it go away.

    There are two problems with the popular perception of climate change that make it a non-issue.

    1) The case for human causation, and, thus, human solution to the perceived problem of climate variation, is very weak. We all know that climates have varied for millennia, long before humans had the capacity to influence weather, let alone climate. If climate didn’t vary on its own, we’d all still be buried under miles of glacier ice. Despite this simple fact, we are expected to accept as rote that humans are so powerful as to cause climate change, and, worse yet, we're even powerful enough that we can control climate change.
    2) The social changes necessary to lower anthropogenic CO2 to levels suggested by the IPCC as sufficient to forestall climate disaster are never full explicated. They would amount to dismantling western civilization and replacing it with a low energy, highly dispersed economy, instead of the present high energy, highly centralized economy. This is not, mind you, a bad idea, whether it affects climate variation or not. But I digress.

    No one knows how to do this, no politician or economist wants to do this, and few in the public understand the full implications of the anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis. Life in the United States, and much of the rest of the world, is dominated by propaganda promoting the very totalitarian capitalist consumer economy that is said to be the source of “global warming.”

    How do we get the problem to solve itself?

    Whether or not observed climate variation is “caused” by humans, or is a natural phenomenon subject to limited human influence, speculation about famine and wars, based on interpretations of worst case scenarios projected by an international policy organization run by the “Sustainable Development” arm of the United Nations, are baseless at best and ultimately counterproductive. This is eminently evident in the response of much of the public around the world to alarmist media pronouncements leading up to the looming major global summit meeting attempting to solidify the global corporate stranglehold on local economies.

    Beyond the rampant hyperbole and screaming headlines, one thing is true: human growth and development must stop and some way must be found to decrease economic disparity throughout the world, global warming or not. Famine and wars will continue as they have for thousands of years, with or without climate change.

    And still, all of life shares this world of finite resources. We Homo sapiens cannot continue on our present economic and social course. Either we deal with this reality or Nature will deal with us as she has done with all other species.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

"Science" Writers For Hire

"Blissfully ignorant of the interconnected nature of the universe, not having science on their side, nor science education, ... SCIENCE-writers-for-hire, ... mostly Bachelor Degree holders – rely on the word “science” to reinforce each other’s delusions, and propaganda, peddling failed technologies to the most marginal farmers in the world – for corporate profit."

Click HERE for the full article by Vandana Shiva

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Escaping the Broadcast

"The broadcast is state media, their institutional infrastructure, their political economy, the culture they create, and the social control the culture serves through the socialization it administers." Gene Youngblood
"Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward." --Edward Abbey
"Until they become conscious they will never rebel and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious." George Orwell
"The greatest success of propaganda is the belief there’s no propaganda." Gene Youngblood

In Secession From the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, Gene Youngblood makes the case that culture in the United States and most of the rest of the world is dominated by state media and its associated agendas supported and defended by a corporate oligarchy.

As we've seen in the case of climate change, the message is totalitarian, in that it does not allow dissent, skepticism or denial. Opposing or even questioning voices are disallowed, removed from the discourse, marginalized, ignored.

Escape from the message promulgated by state media domination, The Broadcast, requires awareness of alternatives. It requires the fish to become aware of the water.

Daniel Quinn wrote about becoming aware of the broadcast in his 1992 book, Ishmael. He called it becoming aware of the invisible bars of the cage. Until one can see the bars, one is unaware of being in captivity.

In a world dominated by the broadcast, generated by people who have become expert at defining the message and inserting it ubiquitously in every medium, it's difficult to step outside the cage and look back at the reality of the bars. Once one becomes aware, it is evident that our civilization is driven by two great myths that are so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we accept them unquestioningly and consider them unexpressed reality rather than mythology.

Myth #1: The Universe was made as a place for mankind to live out his destiny as the pinnacle of evolution, bringing order to the chaos in the non-human world, having dominion over all other life forms, in control of all natural processes.

Myth #2: Our civilization and our culture is the one right way to live and all other cultures must be reshaped to conform with our own, the pinnacle of civilization.

How do we become aware? How do we become aware of the need to become aware?

Youngblood looks to the Internet for a direction and a model. Today, the Internet is the source of all knowledge, the conduit of economic activity, the preferred advertising medium, the propagandist's dearest tool. It holds and distributes our cultural memories, our civilization's dreams, our imaginarium, our exercise book where we do our sums and scribble on the pages.

The Broadcast is distributed liberally throughout the internet, in all the mainsteam news and information sources, in Wikipedia, in official government and corporate web sites, on Facebook, in chat rooms, on blogs and forums. The Internet is an echo chamber of the status quo, the place where thoughts are formed and dreams shaped.

It is also the place where dissent, skepticism, rebellion and alternatives are revealed and developed.

Youngblood suggests that one can avoid the broadcast, yet shape an alternative world view by careful selection of Internet content and contributions. He holds the hope that control of the Internet can be avoided long enough for "us" to create networks of connections that allow us to step outside the Broadcast and form an alternative, perhaps the first real human civilization.

I have my doubts, though I have my hopes as well. As long as I can sit here and pound on this poor defenseless keyboard, I'll continue to escape from the cage and build a meaningful life as free as possible from the dominant mythology.

Coming up on Words Arranged: Ways to avoid the Broadcast and live a life of greater freedom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cultural Hegemony or Biological Hegemony?

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony "describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class."

The Italian anarchist, Antonio Gramsci viewed cultural hegemony as operating within a society in which a shifting alliance of social classes struggle for domination of social norms and ideas. Gramsci was to first to identify popular media as the means through which this struggle takes place. This results in an on-going dialectic between the ruling classes and the subordinate classes as to the dominant definition of reality.

In today's world, we see international business interests attempting to defend and increase capitalist domination of the global economy, and thus, local economies, through international trade agreements supported by international trade organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Through economic manipulations, less developed countries are encouraged to shift their local economies from local production for local consumption to local production for global exports.

Also at the international level, the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development "provides leadership in promoting and coordinating implementation of the sustainable development agenda of the United Nations... and to promote integration and coherence of policies and the implementation of actions in the social, economic and environmental areas." In plain language, this means the United Nations promotes economic growth to reduce poverty and increase the quality of life for people in less developed countries.

Meanwhile, people at the local level struggle to maintain cultural traditions, social norms and ideals against the negative effects of increased industrialization, environmental damage and cultural loss as due to the efforts of transnational corporations and international economic manipulation.

The definition and perception of climate variation takes place in this swirling miasma of competing agendas. Public relations firms are contracted by national and international agencies, including the United Nations, corporations and non-profits to spread their interpretation of climate variation and its implications for public policy and private initiative. As a result of media attention, climate variation has become a critical topic on which political careers depend, a moral issue for religious leaders and media pundits, a scientific conundrum based on popular misunderstanding of the scientific process and the nature of evidence and theory formation.

The current cultural hegemony of climate change holds that 97% of scientists believe that human CO2 production causes observed global warming, and that reduction of CO2 emissions will "stop" climate change, or at least diminish its effects on human civilization sufficiently to allow us to accommodate  coming changes. Those who question these conclusions are labeled "deniers" and "climate skeptics" and marginalized in the discourse, regardless of qualifications or affiliations. Popular media parrots the consensus view without analysis or question, adding hyperbole and unsupported conjecture to the confusing mixture of opinion.

The situation oozes of cultural totalitarianism, in which only one mode of thought is allowed, in which ad hoc thinkpol roam the information superhighway seeking deviant thinkers and writers of thoughtcrime to be pulled over and diverted to the off-ramp to the Ministry of Love for reprogramming.

The question remains: cui bono? Who stands to benefit from the popular perception that human action causes climate change and all the cultural carnage that will follow? Does the global agenda to "stop climate change" benefit the people who will be affected, or does it benefit an economic elite in supporting a global economy based on unlimited economic growth? Which vision of reality supports all life on the planet, including human life, and which is designed to benefit humans at the expense fo the rest of the biosphere.

How do we shift from cultural hegemony to biological hegemony? How do we escape from the totalitarian domination of a destructive world view?

Next up on Words Arranged: Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Exploring the Unseen

Now, to that other new thing up in the upper left corner...

"Exploring the Unseen." How can we explore something we can't see?

Glad you asked!

I've recently read several interesting articles that have placed my mental feet on this particular path:

Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, by Gene Youngblood 

The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade,  from the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA, translated from the French original

Cultural Hegemony, by in Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution

I've been studying climate variation for 25 years now, as an archaeologist, a dendroclimatologist, and, most recently, as an interested amateur observer. Over the years, the debate over the source of observed increases in global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration has resolved into a struggle between proponents of anthropogenic climate change (aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)) and so-called "climate skeptics" or "deniers," as they are characterized by the more vehement AGW proponents.

AGW followers loudly protest perceived funding of skeptics and deniers by fossil fuel interests threatened by demands to "leave fossil fuels in the ground," shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and shift to organic agriculture to reduce petroleum based fertilizers and equipment fueling. They accuse corporations such as Exxon/Mobil of employing public relations firms to support their cause and foster doubt about global warming by questioning the science, which, they vociferously proclaim, is settled. There are even public relations firms that have vowed to never represent climate deniers and skeptics, as AGW has more and more become a moral issue.

This got me to thinking, a dangerous proposition, I know, but inevitable. If the anti-AGW crowd employs cadres of dedicated Edward Bernays acolytes to sow seeds of doubt about AGW, how is it that the dominant perception is that of human caused global warming and the necessity for humans to do something NOW! to stop it? Where did that idea come from and how has it become ubiquitous in global western culture?

In steps the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is viewed by many as a science organization involved in studying climate change. It's not. The IPCC is a policy organization that analyzes climate science (and other non-science) research to recommend national and international policies on how to deal with human caused climate change. AGW is the base assumption in their mission statement.

The IPCC is a daughter organization of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization, which are all a part of and beholding to the United Nations Development Programme. And you'll no be surprised to learn that the United Nations has its own Department of Public Information, which contracts with numerous prestigious public relations firms to spread its message of "Sustainable (sic) Development."

The Department of Public Information "fosters dialogue with global constituencies such as academia, civil society, the entertainment industry, educators and students to encourage support for the ideals and activities of the United Nations."

There you have it. An international organization with billions of dollars of funding to dangle before academia, Hollywood, and the public and private education system to build support for "Sustainable (sic) Development."

Development (aka growth) of "less developed" countries is now hobbled by environmental pressure to stop economic growth and the negative effects of unlimited growth in a finite world. AGW is used as a big economic guilt stick to beat about the heads of "more developed" countries, by accusing them (us) of being the proximate cause of climate change with an obligation to fund development in "less developed" countries so they can better survive the effects of climate change to come.

Have you ever pulled a loose thread on your sock, only to have it unravel into a loose pile of threads on the floor? That's what it's like to attempt to follow the connections woven into the AGW propaganda machine, connections that remain unseen, looking like a whole sock, until one starts to take them apart.

The concept of human caused climate change looks more and more like cultural hegemony, "the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class."

What then do we do now? How do we explore the unseen and bring it into the seen? How do we escape from cultural hegemony?

I'll toy with these ideas, and many others, in future editions of Words Arranged.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Attentive readers who have followed this blog (assuming there are some!) since its tentative birth on a certain Sunday, February 6, 2005, will notice something new, up there in the upper left hand corner.

No, Hayduke is not yet dead. He lives on in the words of another writer, Ed Abbey, and remains alive and well in his own special world. When I started this experiment I was concerned with Hayduke's future as a voice for wilderness protection and environmental activism, in a world increasingly digitized, sanitized and commodified.

Meanwhile, in my special world, life goes on and continues to evolve. The concept of environmentalism from the 60s and 70s has become its own endangered species, steamrollered by a juggernaut of "Global Warming" alarmism that has flattened everything in its path into a one dimensional paean to international sustainable (sic) development, economic growth and corporate domination.

Over the past ten and a half years, I've learned a lot about writing, publishing, the Internet, social media and cyber-activism. In many ways, it's discouraging, in fewer ways, potentially promising. The Internet is a vast resource and an even vaster energy sink. Time is relative; time spent on a computer doubly so. While the Internet makes communication faster and easier, it also makes distraction far faster and easier, and much harder to avoid.

Words Arranged is not so much a new direction as a consolidation of my scattered attention. My writing, photography, web sites and blogs have piled up like stacks of books in my library and have begun to succumb to gravity in chaotic piles on the floor. Entropy always increases, and in my case, faster than my ability to retain some semblance of order.

I've learned to create websites to help organize complex technical information, so I'm taking this same strategy back into my creative life to help organize my thoughts, in my head, in print, in images and other media. If I can organize where I've been and what I'm doing now, maybe I'll have some indication of where I will go next.

As the Cheshire cat told Alice, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"In Wildness is the preservation of the world"

    One of my favorite activities is people watching. When Jean and I take Amtrak to our various destinations, we love to sit in the terminals and watch the never ending panoply of human beings passing by. What an amazing biodiversity! So much variation, one has difficulty realizing that Homo sapiens is a single species.

    One species we are, however, characterized by an almost infinite ability to change with the times, adapt, accommodate, get by, and respond to changing conditions through any mechanism other than evolution.

    The most pressing problem I see now is that the majority of humans have distanced themselves from the "natural" world through a manufactured infrastructure. This has resulted in an almost complete disconnect from Nature, certainly a widespread lack of understanding of natural systems, ecology and interrelationships among humans and life in general. Here's a particularly egregious example of the outcome: Photos of beach tourists prove they are disconnected from Nature.

    The result is a government and regulatory structure that responds to human centered demands at the expense of the natural world, with little regard for the effects of economic and human population growth on habitat, species, and resources for all life. We see it every day here in Santa Cruz, a supposedly "enlightened" populace, concerned with all manner of things "progressive" (sic), except, in almost every instance, things environmental. Supposed "environmental" excuses are trotted out to support most any project the Powers that Be wish to pursue, for their own economic and social reasons.

    Thus, the once Greenbelt (no longer), Arana Gulch, was destroyed and turned into a playground for humans, based on the excuses of saving an endangered species and "getting people out of their cars and onto bicycles" (another lie, proven false). The Santa Cruz tarplant has now been extirpated from its only home, as a result of neglect and active destruction of its federally designated critical habitat. More cars now drive to Arana Gulch than ever before, and those who traveled by bicycle before the destruction continue to travel by bicycle on their preferred routes.

    "Forcing" change resulted in a continuation and intensification of the status quo, and increased loss of natural habitat.

    Ignorance of ecology and the natural world, coupled with a political system dominated by corporate interests and money has resulted in self-centered, destructive and ultimately suicidal societies that have reduced the biosphere to marginal viability, bordering on self-destruction.

    The only way to stop or even slow down the destruction is to tear down the barriers to human understanding of Nature and natural systems. Get rid of cell phones and cell phone towers. Eschew automotive travel and get back on our feet, walking upright and free, not crammed into spam cans on our butts. Tear up half the roads and unstraighten the rest, unpave the parking lots and return them to native vegetation and animals. Round up the growth maniacs and send them off to an island in the South Pacific where they can build sand castles to their hearts content. Retire airlines and cargo planes and use the metal to build light and efficient railroads, linking villages and communities spread aesthetically across the continent. Stop city growth at an ecologically sound limit, and don't give in to development pressures to build more and more housing. Create incentives for residents to stay and live in place and stop moving on to "new" territory when they see the smoke from their neighbors' BBQ.

    Get kids away from computers in school and out into the natural world. Let them lead their parents back to natural understanding of the real world, the natural world, our true home in the wild.

    “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 11, 2015

Making politics local

The environmental perspective, based on an understanding of ecology, anthropology and science in general, is the orphan child of the political process.

There is no candidate for national office, with any prospect of election, who acknowledges, let alone supports preservation and protection of the natural world, finite resources, steady state economy, conservation, human population reduction, energy demand reduction, topsoil depletion, species extinction, natural habitat loss, potable water depletion, GMO dispersal, organic agriculture, adaptation to natural climate variation.

In other words, there is no candidate for national office I could vote for. Political gamesmanship (hold the nose, vote for the lesser of many evils) merely continues the status quo. I have no stomach for "strategic voting." I vote my principles and only support candidates who have demonstrated their understanding of our place as cooperating and contributing members of the natural world. If there be any.

It makes my task pretty easy, albeit frustrating. 

Why is there no national democracy in the United States? The corporate oligarchy that runs the United States government has fashioned the political system to respond to dollars, not votes. The candidates that are elected are prechosen by the system that eliminates all but a few with the proper obeisance to corporate power and control, who have paid their dues along the way, toed the corporate line, mouthed the corporate platitudes and emerged in the election process wearing the corporate seal of approval.

Not to blame it all on corporations, of course. The voting public has just as much responsibility for the outcome as the corporate sponsors of political candidates, corporate lobbyists and think (sic) tanks. If consumers didn't buy the products that corporations produce, corporations wouldn't market the products for consumers to buy. That includes political candidates as well as cheap plastic crap from China. If voters would stop voting for those whose loyalties lie elsewhere, they'd stop being elected.

That leaves local elections as the last vestige of democracy in this country. Let's keep our politics close to home, where we can keep an eye on elected officials, hold their feets to the fire and make sure they do what they said they would do when asking for our vote and support. It's a full time job, this keeping an eye on local politicos. Its fun, challenging, occasionally gratifying, always interesting, offering opportunities for pleasant walks to community meetings, confabs with friends and neighbors, occasional exercise for the bile and bladder. Long after the election season has passed, the process of community government continues apace.

Some day, after the End of the Age of Oil, local politics will be all that's left. That Great National Asylum on the Potomac will be a passing memory, a faint rumor, something to tell stories about on blustery winter nights around the wood stove, fairy tales to teach the children about the evils that lurk beyond the horizon. Politics in Place, where we live our ideals and principles every day.

Sounds to me like something to work toward.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Digital Media is not the Same as Print

    As I grew up, in the analog world, I was taught cursive handwriting, reading skills and critical thinking skills because the written word was the medium of cultural transmission. Throughout my work life, I worked in visual media, first photography and motion picture film, then video, and finally, reluctantly, digital imagery and computer graphics, web pages and email.

    As a photography lab manager and museum curator, I was concerned first and foremost with archival preservation of text and images. I quickly learned that the only archival preservation process is printing on low-acid materials, stored in archival containers and kept in stable storage environments.

    Nothing else lasts.

    No other information storage process is archival. All digital media will be lost in the future, unless it is transferred to archival materials, or constantly copied to the latest digital format in use. Left to their own devices, all digital media will degrade in 25 to 50 years, resulting in permanent information lost absent any further curatorial processes.

    As we contemplate a future with less energy available for industrial processes, the prospect for digital information storage is grim. Digital storage requires immense amounts of reliable energy, available on demand 24 hours a day. No one knows how long we can keep up this energy intensive practice, much less how it can be expanded to meet exponentially growing information demands.
     Also, and maybe even more importantly, watching a video on a computer, or other electronic device, is not the same as reading a book. Information processing in the human brain functions differently when observing visual imagery than when reading printed words. Something about the left to right perception, translation of words to thoughts, pausing for reflection and review, create a perception completely different between the two media.

    Studies show that understanding and retention are less when watching visual material on a computer than reading the same content in a physical book. Taking notes by hand results in greater retention of the material than typing it into a computer. I know this from my own experience. Using a laptop, I can take notes of a meeting far faster and more accurately than writing by hand in a notebook, but I remember and understand less when written on the keyboard.

    I would caution against depending on a "tools course for visual literacy” for students coming into the world. Teach them the basics first, reading, writing and maths, then, when they've mastered the analog tools, teach them the digital shortcuts.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Breakthrough Institute, Breaking Through Environmentalism

    Have you heard of The Breakthrough Institute?

    From their website:

    "The Breakthrough Institute is a pioneering research institute changing how people think about energy and the environment. Breakthrough's mission is to accelerate the transition to a future where all the world's inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, prosperous, and fulfilling lives on an ecologically vibrant planet. Our core values are integrity, imagination, and audacity."

 This is a pro-growth, pro-nuclear power, pro-industrial agribusiness (pesticides and herbicides) and, of course, pro-GMO propaganda machine, aimed at Millennials, wearing the funny nose and glasses of a "think(sic) tank". Their chief propagandists are Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, 2004 authors of "The Death of Environmentalism," and, more recently, the "Ecomodernist Manifesto."
    "Ecomodernism" is a post-modern deconstruction of environmentalism that posits a "decoupling" of human civilization and technology from the natural world, as opposed to changing human civilization to exist within natural limits of raw materials and natural geophysical cycles. It emphasizes advanced technology (nuclear, GMO, industrial agriculture) and ignores any negative impacts of these technologies on the natural world.

    It's a very dangerous, highly funded (from the nuclear and industrial agriculture industries) movement. They have "interns," that is, young, impressionable (read: ignorant) acolytes, who swallow and thoughtlessly repeat their blindered rhetoric, sounding like a faith-based religion rather than science.

    I've been following them on social media lately, and they are, almost without exception, rude and condescending to anyone who doesn't automatically accept their propaganda and bow down in obeisance to their received "wisdom." Shellenberger appears everywhere, spouting his vapid rhetoric, twisting what other people say, accusing anyone who criticizes his outpourings as "afraid of technology," "afraid of radioactivity," "antiquated," "obsolete," and, no doubt, suffering from the heartbreak of psoriasis.

    This is the new religion of of the god of technology. Though receiving opposition from many quarters, they blithely soldier on, employing money as a substitute for thought and analysis, utilizing social media to infiltrate the minds of the Millennial CPIs (Cell Phone Impaired). Nature abhors a vacuum, including the empty human brain, which is being filled with unreality, wishful thinking and outright lies.

    I'll be reporting on this disgusting trend as I follow along, barf bag in hand.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The solution to Our Environmental Ills

Some folks say that we are the source of the environmental crisis increasingly apparent to even the most hardened conservative.  The “we” are us, ”we” created the problem and “we” possess the solution.   

Hmmm... must be some other "we." I didn't create the problem. However, I do have the solution!

The problem was in full bore when I was born. It must have been my parents who created it. But wait! It was going well when they were born, too. And my 11th Great Grandfather brought it with him from England, where they had been practicing it for centuries, when he came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

As population increased in Europe during the Medieval Warm Period, consumption of resources increased until the plagues of the 14th Century and the "wood crisis" of the 16th Century that limited further increase. Europeans expanded outward seeking news sources of wealth and energy, prompting another increase in population. The Industrial Revolution led to further increases in population and consumption.

No one created the problem and no one had the solution. The problem was endemic to human evolution and culture.

The "problem" is the per capita rate of human consumption of natural "resources" (the word says it all), multiplied by the total number of humans in any given ecosystem. Human culture has reduced the human death rate and culture has increased the per capita rate of consumption. Thus we find ourselves at the aforementioned precipice, toes dangling in the breeze over the edge.

The solution is simple: reduce human population and/or reduce human consumption, such that humans do not consume more than is naturally replenished nor produce wastes faster than they are naturally assimilated.

There are two ways to accomplish these goals:

    1) Do nothing and wait for Nature to take its course. Continued human growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. Things that can't go on forever, don't. Human economies based on continuous growth will collapse; disease and famine will accomplish the rest. There won't be sufficient resources left for a human culture to ever again regain its present state of development. The future is less not more.

    2) Decide to voluntarily reduce our population through serious birth control, emancipation and empowerment of women to control their own reproductive lives, and elimination of incentives for large families. And reduce per capita consumption and organize distribution such that everyone in the reduced population has sufficient resources to live a full and satisfying life. The future is less not more.

There's no reason to think that humans have the political will to pull off Option Number 2, certainly not before Option Number 1 begins to take effect. Humans are too much like the monkey with his fist stuck in the jar, unwilling to let go of the fruit in hand to save himself from the approaching tiger. Even those who take climate change seriously and bang on unsparingly about its dire effects are unwilling to change their own lives enough to make a difference. Millions of cars and trucks clog the highway every day beneath glaring billboards proclaiming climate doom and gloom.

This cannot, and will not, long continue.

As Jean has said many times, a thousand years from now everything will be OK.

As it must.

    “To aid and abet in the destruction of a single species or in the extermination of a single tribe is to commit a crime against God, a mortal sin against Mother Nature. Better by far to sacrifice in some degree the interests of mechanical civilization, curtail our gluttonous appetite for things, ever more things, learn to moderate our needs, and most important, and not difficult, learn to control, limit and gradually reduce our human numbers. We humans swarm over the planet like a plague of locusts, multiplying and devouring. There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies. The man-centered view of the world is anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, antinature, antilife, and--antihuman.”
― Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

California Drought and Anasazi Transformation

    Lots of arm-waving, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair on the Left Coast these days over The Drought. Of course, those whose interests are served, and pockets lined, by spreading fear of GLOBAL WARMING, and other myths, pound on about how climate change is the cause of The Drought, and, of course, humans are the cause of climate change.

    Rather than sorting through the rhetoric, I decided to ask someone who might know about these things, atmosphere, weather, climate, etc. Here's what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program 
Office has to say about the California drought:

    "The current drought is not part of a long-term change in California precipitation, which exhibits no appreciable trend since 1895. Key oceanic features that caused precipitation inhibiting atmospheric ridging off the West Coast during 2011-14 were symptomatic of natural internal atmosphere-ocean variability."

    So there we are.

    This doesn't let Homo sapiens californicus off the hook by any means. There's still plenty of growth maniacs running wildly about the place, ignoring natural limitations of resource availability, planning new housing developments, industrial parks, airport runway expansions, new dams on rivers, if there are any rivers and creeks left untrammeled. No matter what the human problem is, from poverty to urban crime to childhood obesity, growth is the first solution pulled out of the hat.

    It's time to stroll down to the local haberdashery and get a new hat.

    What's needed is a whole lot less growth and development and a whole lot more simple adaptation.

The Anasazi of 12th Century New Mexico figured it out. When times got tough and rain scarce in the Southwest, they abandoned their Great Houses in Chaco Canyon and vicinity and scattered into the uplands, where summer temperatures were cooler, rain more frequent and predictable. They reinvented themselves as Pueblo people and continued to live in place. They've lived there for 800 years or so, far longer than the upstart Europeans who repeatedly tried to drive them off or wipe them out, and failed.

   Now it's our turn to be the Anasazi, if we're smart enough, if we care enough. The imported European lifestyle just doesn't work on this coast or this continent. Natural cycles far outspan the puny timescale, unbounded hubris and unrealistic aspirations of American endeavor. If we are to continue as a culture, a prospect looking increasingly doubtful, it will have to be as a very different culture, one which lives as a part of the natural world, not apart from it.


    Not to worry. Those things that can't go on forever, don't. Mother Nature bats last. It's hard and it's fair.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chicken Little Comes Home to Roost

Over-concentration on climate change as the greatest challenge to human civilization obscures the fact that humans have been operating unsustainably since fossil fuels were developed as the basis of human population increase and industrial production.

Fossil fuels are a temporary energy source, based on accumulations of millions of years of solar based photosynthesis. We are using up these energy reserves in hundreds of years, 10,000 times faster than were originally produced. We are now well into the end of the Age of Oil, the energy source of choice for Western civilization.

It’s just a coincidence that we are also discovering that our energy choices are influencing naturally occurring climate variation in ways that make our global environment less well suited to the patterns of development of Western Civilization. We are producing wastes, in this case carbon dioxide and other gases, faster than they can be assimilated in the biosphere through natural cycles.

This deadly, to humans, combination of borrowing energy from the past and limiting human energy choices in the future, in resulting in the unavoidable demise of our way of life, Western civilization. In order to significantly change the outcome we face, we would have to stop all greenhouse gas production, stop all burning of fossil fuels and reduce human population by a third. Even then, atmospheric and terrestrial processes already set in motion will continue on their present path.

As a result of our dominant social, political and economic systems, our governments do not have the will to change our way of being by taking the steps necessary to make a significant difference in the outcome. Like it or not, the future will have less energy availability, less food, less money and more and more strife and chaos.

The good news is that after human population and industrial activity decline, things will be better, for the remaining humans and the rest of the living world. Fortunately for all, there will be insufficient energy for our descendants to rebuild the same society we see crumbling about us today. Our ancestors will be forced to live within their means, unlike us, and will return to life as a part of Nature, not apart from Nature.

It’s hard and it’s fair.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Living in a natural soundscape

Noise pollution is making us oblivious to the sound of nature, says researcher | Science | The Guardian

It's happening here, even in Our Fair City.

Here in Santa Cruz, just a mile from the beach, we can hear the sound of the surf, at least at 2 AM when there's no automobile traffic on local streets.

Two hundred years ago, locals could hear the surf all the time, from anywhere in this area now inundated by roads, parking lots, houses, shopping centers and commercial buildings ... and the noise they generate.

Imagine the audio landscape experienced by the original human inhabitants of Coastal California throughout their daily life. Elk whistling on the mountain slopes, shorebirds calling and chuckling on the beaches, songbirds in every bush and tree, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles surfing the morning breeze, crows, scrub jays and mockingbirds filling the air with their critical observations on the human condition. The riffle of raven feathers as they fly by. The prehistoric clack of great blue herons seeking their roosts in the cypress.

In a natural sounsdcape, one can learn the time of day, the seasons and the weather on the mix and variety of sounds wafting on every breeze.

In our noisy world, this rich natural complexity of the soundscape has been greatly simplified, reduced to automobile noise, motorized leaf blowers, car sound systems set on stun, and the ubiquitous electronic technobabble plugged into most every pair of ears. The demanding jangle of modern sounds allows no respite for thought, contemplation or even quiet enjoyment of natural sounds, soothing to ears and brains that evolved in a meaningful audio environment. Even libraries are no longer a quiet place for reading and introspection.

It's no wonder that Santa Cruz City parks planners contemplated including a Quick Response (QR) Code on interpretive signs for the Arana Gulch Amusement Park so that children could listen to bird songs on their cell phones.

Let's use our ears for something other than auxiliary input jacks.

Let's listen to the natural world and learn its glad tidings.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Future is the Here and Now - Only More So

The future changes faster than we can keep up.

Here within the confines of our Coastal County, the future is changing so fast that local government officials and institutions haven't kept up with the way the future was, let alone with what the future is fast becoming.

City and County governments are still responding to the current economic implosion by promoting more and more economic and infrastructure growth, not realizing that it is growth that is creating the local economic implosion.

As I've said several times before, bureaucracy plans for the past, rarely for the future.

Our Coastal County has reached a state of permanent diminishing returns, in which continued investment in increasingly complex infrastructure results in an increasing inability of the County to maintain and pay for what it already has, let alone what it continues to build. As complexity increases, non-lineal returns take over, such that historic methods of responding to municipal crises no longer work; even worse, they are counterproductive, producing more problems than solutions.

For example, the recent $6.5 million permanent pink permeable pavement shortcut through Arana Gulch, rammed through the City Council as a Public Works make-work project, has resulted in an expanded physical infrastructure handed over to City Parks and Recreation, who have no funds, staff, resources nor even any desire to adequately maintain it. The two extravagant ("wandering beyond") bridges and their connecting cement umbilicus will remain a financial drain on County coffers until they crumble in well deserved decay and return to the earth from whence they came.

As William Howard Kuntsler tells us, eloquently: "The future is telling us very clearly: get smaller, get finer, get more local, get less complex, get less grandiose, do it now." (The Broken Template)

This means get off the growth wagon, tell AMBAG what they can do with their continued, unrealistic demands that the County accommodate growth in a world of finite resources. There's not enough water here for the people who live here now. "Water neutral development" is just a poor euphemism for increased efficiency and reduced per capita consumption, which is held hostage and ultimately overshadowed by population increase. We cannot optimize our way out of the reality of finite resources. Ocean water desalination is no answer either, as finite energy is as restrictive as water, in the long run more so. The post-fracking future bending toward us is the death knell of cheap energy and the inevitable long slide down the muddy slope of energy availability.

The future is less, not more.

And that's a good thing. Without the distractions of the new and bigger and glitzier, we can relearn to be content with the present, the adequate and sufficient, the resilient, the modest, the tried and true.

We can settle into our own and become indigenous to this place where we live. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’

    In a Guardian article, ‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’, Jo Confino describes the 42 year frustrating struggle by Jørgen Randers to inject a note of sanity into government climate policies.
    "It is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell.

    "I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the
decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be
solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually
increasing difficulties for all voters."
    We see this inability to include a long term perspective down to the local government level.  City of Santa Cruz Water Department managers are unable to view future water supply challenges in terms of population growth, insisting that water neutral development, that is increased water use efficiency, will allow population growth indefinitely into the future.

    Of course, increases in efficiency are a short-term solution, since efficiency can only increase to a point of diminishing return. Population increases will inevitably overcome efficiency of use.

    But the bureaucratic mentality cannot embrace this viewpoint, because that means the entire capitalist consumer approach must be abandoned on the scrap heap of history. So the blinders remain fully in place as the opportunities for meaningful and effective change swoosh rapidly downstream to the ocean.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding Balance Between Individualism and Society

One thing I learned studying anthropology is that all societies deal with the struggle between the needs of the individual and the needs of society. Society requires stability, knowledge of the rules, the consequences of ignoring the rules, and participation by all members of the society in its maintenance.

The core problem in modern “liberal” societies is the fact that the majority of their members are inadequately prepared to function as contributing members of the society, instead encouraged to act as individuals in pursuit of individual “rights” and “freedoms.”

We see this in daily social discourse here in Santa Cruz. At a recent County Commission meeting, public comment on the dogs off-leash issue was dominated by an unruly demand by a small group of dog owners that County government give them what they wanted, which was freedom to pursue their individual desires with no consideration for the broader public good. The meeting devolved into intimidating mob rule, rather than consideration for others and cooperative participation in the course of local government.

Organized religion once was the domain of family and societal values, a place where members of a society learned the rules and the means and methods of carrying out public life within those rules. Since the Enlightenment, religion has lost its place as the arbiter of public values, with nothing to take its place in a society dominated by science, with its lack of overt values, and industrial commercialism, with its overweening values of independence, individualism and consumption.

In addition, schools have been stripped of their responsibility to teach values, and therefore, young parents no longer have the skills to teach values to their children. And children, being the learning vacuums they are, pick up their values ad hoc from popular culture: their peers, popular music, film and television. 

We therefore live in a society that no longer knows how to conduct itself in its own interest. The desires of the individual are paramount, while the needs of society are left wanting. 

As we move into a time of increased societal stress, as a result of environmental changes piling up due to corporate structured, value-free society, this lack of social nurture will bode ill for the survival of our society. 

That which cannot go on forever, won’t.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Where can I take my dog off-leash on the beach in Santa Cruz?

It seems that everyone wants to come to Santa Cruz, California to let their dogs run off-leash at the beach!

Even during the winter, a percentage of visitors to the beaches of Santa  Cruz County are from out of town. It must be the sun... or something. A percentage of those visitors bring their canine charges with them as  well and can't wait to get their dogs sandy and smelly at the beach. Go figure!

How are they to know - before they get here - that their off leash dogs are not allowed  on Santa Cruz County beaches (except Mitchell's Cove before ten and  after four)? Or that there are five beaches (Main Beach, Cowell, Natural Bridges, Wilder Ranch and Scott Creek) that don't allow dogs at all?!

As it turns out, there's an app for that, or at least, a web site.

Click HERE for the answer to this and other questions at Santa Cruz Off-Leash Beach!