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