Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Enlightened Local Government

Local government today suffers from a crisis of ineptitude.

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."
― Thomas Jefferson

Participation in the process of government requires an educated, enlightened citizenry. In a society where rational discourse, critical thinking and evidence based decision-making is not taught in schools and is discouraged by popular culture, those who populate local commissions, committees, boards and councils are left with no basis for "wholesome discretion."

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Beyond those who actively participate in the process of government, the general public is uneducated in the day to day role of citizens in a democratic nation. Public meetings have become rowdy expressions of entitlement and unreasonable demands. Mob intimidation has replaced cogent comment and supportive participation. Individualism and personal consumption have displaced concern for the common good.

If we must have government, it should arise of itself from an educated populace, not be imposed from above by a powerful elite minority.

“Government should be weak, amateurish and ridiculous. At present, it fulfills only a third of the role.
― Edward Abbey

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Nature of Humans

As I've commented before, I'm wary of distinguishing between "Nature" and "Not-Nature" with regard to human beings.

Humans are part of "Nature," that is, Homo sapiens is a species of animal that co-evolved with all other species. It’s important that we internalize this reality. 

When we deny the reality of our basic “Nature-ness,” we allow ourselves to engage in behavior that is destructive to the world of Nature. We ignore the fact that what harms Nature harms us as well. We give ourselves license to take from Nature without giving back, to take from Nature faster and in greater amounts than can be naturally replenished. We allow ourselves to create waste and “throw it away,” into Nature, faster and in greater quantities than can be naturally assimilated. We forget that there is no “away.”

It’s also important to understand that humans cannot bring about the “End of Nature.” Even if humans fail to end our profligate ways, resulting in global environmental “collapse,” Nature will abide. It may be that Nature will change to a form that does not support intelligent (sic) upright featherless bipeds, but it will still be Nature and natural systems will continue to operate as they have since the beginnings of life on this planet.

Nature Bats Last is not just a bumper sticker.

There’s no getting around the bitter fact that we can’t do anything we want and get away with it. We might as well get over it and get on with the task of becoming responsible members of the community of life on this tiny, much abused, whirling mudball we call Earth. Our friends and neighbors on the planet will welcome us with open arms, legs, wings, flippers and pseudopodia.

An article in Mother Earth News, Coming Home to Nature, speaks elegantly about the unity of humans and Nature.

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