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
   
    Michael

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.

Michael