My thoughts about culture and our present conditions. As Dianne Moore says in Learning to Love a Wounded World, "This requires a willingness to feel everything…. the horror and the beauty of what is here…. the fear and the Love.”


Bio Diversity and the Sixth Mass Extinction

Human Population Growth And Extinction

We’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction crisis. Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson estimates that 30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) are being driven to extinction. Compare this to the natural background rate of one extinction per million species per year, and you can see why scientists refer to it as a crisis unparalleled in human history.

The current mass extinction differs from all others in being driven by a single species rather than a planetary or galactic physical process. When the human race — Homo sapiens sapiens — migrated out of Africa to the Middle East 90,000 years ago, to Europe and Australia 40,000 years ago, to North America 12,500 years ago, and to the Caribbean 8,000 years ago, waves of extinction soon followed. The colonization-followed-by-extinction pattern can be seen as recently as 2,000 years ago, when humans colonized Madagascar and quickly drove elephant birds, hippos, and large lemurs extinct. [1].

The Extinction Crisis (From The Center for Biological Diversity)

Sometimes just a picture can show more than words:

Species Extinction and Human Population Growth

The authors of Human Domination of Earth’s Ecosystems, including the current director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, concluded:

“[A]ll of these seemingly disparate phenomena trace to a single cause: the growing scale of the human enterprise. The rates, scales, kinds, and combinations of changes occurring now are fundamentally different from those at any other time in history. . . . We live on a human-dominated planet and the momentum of human population growth, together with the imperative for further economic development in most
of the world, ensures that our dominance will increase.”

For the deniers of the value of a nature unfucked by human hubris and self centeredness, here is a lesson in our industrial civilization’s monocultural attack on bio-diversity, and a glimpse into a possible future we are leaving our children and grandchildren — if any survive — a future for which they will understandably curse us:

They’re Taking Over! by Tim Flanery

Most jellyfish are little more than gelatinous bags containing digestive organs and gonads, drifting at the whim of the current. But box jellyfish are different. They are active hunters of medium-sized fish and crustaceans, and can move at up to twenty-one feet per minute. They are also the only jellyfish with eyes that are quite sophisticated, containing retinas, corneas, and lenses. And they have brains, which are capable of learning, memory, and guiding complex behaviors.

The Irukandjis are diminutive relatives of the box jellies. First described in 1967, most of the dozen known species are peanut- to thumb-sized. The name comes from a North Queensland Aboriginal language, the speakers of which have known for millennia how deadly these minuscule beings can be. Europeans first learned of them in 1964 when Dr. Jack Barnes, who was trying to track down the origin of symptoms suffered by swimmers in Queensland, allowed himself to be stung by one. With nobody attending but a lifeguard and his fourteen-year-old son, he was lucky to survive.

It’s now known that the brush of a single tentacle is enough to induce “Irukandji syndrome.” It sets in twenty to thirty minutes after a sting so minor it leaves no mark, and is often not even felt. Pain is initially focused in the lower back. Soon the entire lumbar region is gripped by debilitating cramps and pounding pain—as if someone is taking a baseball bat to your kidneys. Then comes the nausea and vomiting, which continues every minute or so for around twelve hours. Shooting spasms grip the arms and legs, blood pressure escalates, breathing becomes difficult, and the skin begins to creep, as if worms are burrowing through it. Victims are often gripped with a sense of “impending doom” and in their despair beg their doctors to put them out of their misery.

It’s difficult to know how many victims the Irukandji have claimed. The extreme high blood pressure that often kills is hardly diagnostic. Many deaths have doubtless been put down to stroke, heart attack, or drowning. There is some evidence that the problem is growing: Irukandji have recently been detected in coastal waters from Cape Town to Florida.

The box jellies and Irukandjis are merely the most exotic of a group of organisms that have existed for as long as complex life itself. In Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin argues that after half a billion years of quiescence, they’re on the move:

If I offered evidence that jellyfish are displacing penguins in Antarctica—not someday, but now, today—what would you think? If I suggested that jellyfish could crash the world’s fisheries, outcompete the tuna and swordfish, and starve the whales to extinction, would you believe me?

Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean by Lisa-ann Gershwin, with a foreword by Sylvia Earle University of Chicago Press, 424 pp

Our oceans are becoming increasingly inhospitable to life—growing toxicity and rising temperatures coupled with overfishing have led many marine species to the brink of collapse. And yet there is one creature that is thriving in this seasick environment: the beautiful, dangerous, and now incredibly numerous jellyfish. As foremost jellyfish expert Lisa-ann Gershwin describes in Stung!, the jellyfish population bloom is highly indicative of the tragic state of the world’s ocean waters, while also revealing the incredible tenacity of these remarkable creatures

Recent documentaries about swarms of giant jellyfish invading Japanese fishing grounds and summertime headlines about armadas of stinging jellyfish in the Mediterranean and Chesapeake are only the beginning—jellyfish are truly taking over the oceans. Despite their often dazzling appearance, jellyfish are simple creatures with simple needs: namely, fewer predators and competitors, warmer waters to encourage rapid growth, and more places for their larvae to settle and grow. In general, oceans that are less favorable to fish are more favorable to jellyfish, and these are the very conditions that we are creating through mechanized trawling, habitat degradation, coastal construction, pollution, and climate change.

Despite their role as harbingers of marine destruction, jellyfish are truly enthralling creatures in their own right, and in Stung!, Gershwin tells stories of jellyfish both attractive and deadly while illuminating many interesting and unusual facts about their behaviors and environmental adaptations. She takes readers back to the Proterozoic era, when jellyfish were the top predator in the marine ecosystem—at a time when there were no fish, no mammals, and no turtles; and she explores the role jellies have as middlemen of destruction, moving swiftly into vulnerable ecosystems. The story of the jellyfish, as Gershwin makes clear, is also the story of the world’s oceans, and Stung! provides a unique and urgent look at their inseparable histories—and future.

Thoughts about a species’s social pathologies

This, from 1996, co written by well known and much respected Richard Leakey, with a deeply seated understanding of the fossil record of our past including past mass extinctions, and a prize winning science writer, Roger Lewin.  Together they turned their eye to the future:

The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind

It is known that  nothing upon Earth is forever; geography, climate, and  plant and animal life are all subject to radical  change. On five occasions in the past, catastrophic  natural events have caused mass extinctions on  Earth. But today humans stand alone, in dubious  distinction, among Earth’s species: Homo  Sapiens possesses the ability to destroy  entire species at will, to trigger the sixth  extinction in the history of life. In The Sixth  Extinction, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin  consider how the grand sprawl of human life is  inexorably wreaking havoc around the world. The  authors of Origins and  Origins Reconsidered, unimpeachable  authorities on the human fossil record, turn their  attention to the most uncharted anthropological territory  of all: the future, and man’s role in defining it.  According to Leakey and Lewin, man and his  surrounding species are end products of history and  chance. Now, however, humans have the unique  opportunity to recognize their influence on the global  ecosystem, and consciously steer the outcome in order  to avoid triggering an unimaginable upheaval.

The primary argument for this grand scenario of human-caused global ecological disruption and the ongoing scientific recording of species extinction, and against any possibility humans should be concerned that this will lead to a Sixth Mass Extinction, centers, at this juncture, on one factor: global climate change and its possible anthropogenic source in the consumption of one major, modern complex society-fueling resource, fossil (or abiotic, if you are of that belief) condensed energy and its release of CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

This is a subset argument in a much larger and far more complex issue, but its like a hand held up to block the sun.  It works to block the sun from one’s eyes, but the sun still shines around the hand, everywhere. Joseph Tainter was one of the first to bring out the more difficult levels of comprehending the problem for humans with his 1988 book: The Collapse of Complex Societies.

Slowly a movement towards understanding complexity at the management level has arisen as members of society recognize the inherent contradictions of our institutions. (The Reality of Complexity, Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos)

As a result ideas have begun to be introduced in an effort to help adjust management thinking to this new paradigm.  Among the management tools they have been developing are these new features in risk assessment evaluation called computer modeling.  Computer modeling takes the age old linear process and moves it into an entirely new realm.  A realm that is both human and organic in its fundamental reality, but at the same time alien to the predominant human logical thinking processes that have evolved during the Age of Reason to make sense of that reality as humans have developed societies as if they were ecological niches within the complex natural ecologies of the planet. But these ecological niches are beginning to look more like disease pathologies for the living ecologies of the planet as they have sprouted and expanded around the globe. For the most part this logical process has evolved into a vastly applied technique throughout modern societies that can be safely called institutionalism. 

Institutions have been evolving with complex societies for pretty much the last ten or so millenniums of human species colonization of the planet. Institutions provide an organizational structure within which participating individual humans conform to logical processes that have a concerted purpose, and in doing so, the individuals often give up their long evolved gifts of applying their other genetically endowed characteristics to their own actions involved in their survival for the purpose of a managed hierarchy which they often do not understand, nor need to understand.  Those understandings are left to managers.  And of course, the question might be raised: do the managers understand what they are managing?  Does Barak Obama and the Presidency team truly understand what it is managing?
The result has been the rise of vast and powerful societies with amazing technological capabilities that involve individual development of unique skill sets, usually from systemically created institutions designed to teach those skill sets, that end up being directed within a hierarchical structure by a set of experts trained in scientific management. 
But at the same time scientific management is struggling to come to grips with complexity.  Many complexity theories arise, not all of them are compatible.  Thus nothing guarantees that management can overcome impending chaos and continue to keep the modern institutions functional.  Potentially, then, a sixth mass extinction looms. Some of the first experts to grapple with this challenge include Gregory Bateson who wrote about it as Steps to an Ecology of Mind, and Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and Human Sciences).

In the process Bateson left us with these cracks in the wall that open a possible view into a universe of wisdom:

The problem of how to transmit our ecological reasoning to those whom we wish to influence in what seems to us to be an ecologically good direction is (thus) itself an ecological problem.
To want control is the pathology! Not that the person can get control, because of course you never do… Man is only a part of larger systems, and the part can never control the whole…
The whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured. This is not funny, and I do not know how long we have to do it in.
The myth of power, is of course, a very powerful myth; and probably most people in this world more or less believe in it… But it is still epistemological lunacy and leads inevitably to all sorts of disaster… If we continue to operate in terms of a Cartesian dualism of mind versus matter, we shall probably also come to see the world in terms of God versus man;  chosen race versus others; nation versus nation and man versus environment. It is doubtful whether a species having both an advanced technology and this strange way of looking at the world can endure…

Combine modern contradictions in problem solving processes that takes place in the actual minds of managers of interacting institutional systems, and logical and linear processes within the hierarchy of the institutions that have developed in order to achieve minimum costs in achieving goals and the profit of goals for continuing and endless growth, alongside the rise of a surplus capital-based, deeply alluring and immensely powerful technologies of the industrial revolution, and we come to the crux of this modern day, human-oriented crisis.

Studies in human species pathology anyone?

50th Year Memorial Tribute to John F. Kennedy’s Assassination

50th Year Memorial Tribute to Kennedy’s Assassination Song, Childhood’s End, and video production by Rick Ryan and others whose names are unknown (to me):

I was skipping school that day. We had a 17 inch black and white Admiral television and I watched as the media began to shape our national reaction to this crime. I was transfixed, of course, not really aware of all that’s behind what I was watching.

It was a very symbolic crime. And our media works with symbolism to grab our emotions and capture our attention, shape our attitudes. I have some doubts that the course of our nation was dramatically changed on that day. But the nostalgia of the presentation in the Anniversary Video was indeed moving for me, because I was there, embedded in that atmosphere. We had mostly Republicans in my family and their emotions were not really on par with some of the media, though I don’t recall anyone being actually happy about it.

The secrecy state that was in the shadows as it grew behind and deep within the facade of the presidential institution, the icon we elect and think of, even adulate as our leadership, has come gradually out of the shadows after that iconic coup d’etat. I’m not sure that’s an expression of good or the arrogance of its hegemony within our culture. But now I know, as I did not know then, as I did not know when Johnson soon after lied us into Vietnam — and put me personally in jeopardy with that lie, destroyed the lives of several of my friends — that the secrecy state was already there, well entrenched, and working as an institution to become an industry of its own within our government, a government that is supposedly ours, but which increasingly was becoming corporate and oligarchic, beginning long before The Kennedy Assassination, which is in some ways not just the criminal act of Kennedy’s assassination at this point, but some kind of iconic event.

That secrecy state (for probably as revealingly a view of it as that security state will allow us, try: Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry) is now a full-fledged industry, and we Americans allow it to flourish, we pay for it with our taxes. How willingly do we do so if we aren’t allowed to examine it? What process in a participatory government allows evidence to be sealed for 50 years?

That we would accept anyone as being potentially so pivotal an individual– as JFK is considered pivotal by so many — speaks volumes for our collective sense of participatory democracy at this stage of moving from our Revolution in 1776. Even then, 1963, 187 years after that declaration of independence, I can still recall the adulation and the crushed hopes that followed.

We Americans have been evolving through a long process, a lot of it a discovery process. Some call it an experiment, I concur with that. We humans experiment with our cultures, our societies, as we attempt to adapt to this planet, even the universe. Not everyone understands what participatory democracy would be as we collectively experiment.

Not everyone agrees with democratic principles. Some prefer a more authoritarian atmosphere. After several thousand years of hierarchically ordered “civilization” experiments we’ve lost much of the cultural memes of self governance that probably underlie the developments of our brains and our ability to create systems of communication. Language being one of the biggest breakthroughs for any species… And we’ve pretty much wiped out the few remnants of indigenous culture that could have helped us recover self governance. The Iroquois Nation, for instance, that even inspired a few thoughts that went into our Constitution.

But what actually was the coup if JFK was in actuality an icon of something, not a powerful directive leader, not a new form of royalty (a term I heard tossed about back then) that could be of itself the change of course that only royalty can be, not just any pedestrian commoner in a community of democratic participants? In this atmosphere, what happens to a community of equals that can always come up with something iconic of itself out of its depths to replace the loss of a designated public servant manager of one of its Constitutionally defined institutions…?

If there is indeed a depth in our Americanism, if there is a quality that is only reflected in the leaders that are elected, then it doesn’t seem likely that one person can change the course of nation. On the other hand, if the public are more the followers, are of the authoritarian follower variety, then the leaders are by definition authoritarian leaders, and you have a different context to for a nation’s course to consider. I’m not trying to say those are the only options, there is surely more complexity in us than that. But I do have to wonder why any leader’s loss changes the course of a nation dramatically. After all, leaders like Hitler take followers where leader’s insanity may be inclined to take them. But isn’t that what we were trying to change after centuries of royalty, medievalist, feudalist leadership, and the chaos on our private lives of various forms of empire?

Enough Americans were at the very least naive enough to allow a secrecy state to arise within their government. Many of those who have protested this process, who’ve tried to reveal it, have faced publicly manipulative actions, like the McCarthy era witch hunts resulting in public punishment to cow the threat of anyone who might be so inclined. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of fear and war that preceded the Camelot imagery of those romantically characterized Kennedies. I could see how this could go with their monied class position and all that continues to remain of that in the New England of Old England where they reside in their elegant mansions living the really good life we all deserve (if we only were to work hard enough, or maybe be crooks but clever enough not to get caught).

In many ways they were a reflective element in an American Exceptionalist Dreamscape. It’s a dreamscape still with us that helps create illusion. Illusion that can cover a process that’s allowed the truth to be sealed accompanied by fifty years of conspiracy theories in the ever muddied waters. Now that’s symbolic, I would say.

The fog boat

finished my fog boat today. The heavier the fog the higher it goes.
Until it was finished, I was trapped on the foggy bottom.
I bumped into earthly dimensions.
But now… Such joy.. such fright…anticipation.
I’m rowing into an unknown murk, no ups, no downs
—-no anchor—-
Looking hard rather than hardly, I can’t see a thing ’til it’s here.
My eyes ache.
Suddenly a hazy form,
the mist thins,
I draw near until…
the whole of it becomes crystal clear: shocking; stabbing…
Ren Huntsinger March 9, 1977

And Lying the Truth

Novelist Dorothy Allison once casually noticed, probably in one of those softer epiphanies when we writers get nudged by our subconscious, and sometimes the nudge begets a story, “Literature is the lie that tells the truth.”

If you really want to feel absolution deep in your bones, and you want to speak the truth in public — two not necessarily coordinate plots on a map of life — you need to learn to tell the lies that are truth.

A truth of a truth I’ve experienced regularly goes clear back to kindergarten. None of our national narratives apply to the actual experience of finding oneself lost and adrift in search of the answer to: who am I?

People tell what they like to pretend are factual stories about who they are all the time. But they are not necessarily stories of truth. They may try valiantly to live those stories every day. In so doing, they are trying to tell, by their own actions, the factual truth about who they are.

While the factual truth is one thing, nothing they actually do embraces that. In fact their whole life is one long effort of denial.

And that one thing is the truth of doubt.

One of the ways I keep my own nebulous awareness positive is I remember how ignorant we all really are. Recognizing our commonality cuts through the sense of disconnection, and the isolation that follows. I remember, after certainty after certainty collapses, that what we think we know comes from our very limited ability to translate the world through our own mental processes, not someone else’s, and each one of ours is limited, at times to the point of blindness, and prone to emotional distortion.

Of course, that’s no reason to stand on the tracks and tell yourself the approaching train is an illusion. In certain circumstances I’m willing to take the risk I’m wrong and get off the tracks just in case what I’m perceiving is a real train.

Remembrance of a Commoner, like myself, I suppose

It was recently called to my attention that Barry Commoner died. That event, so to speak, happened in September of 2012.

I am in remembrance, therefore, which is, I suppose, a version of mourning.

Some people really should be remembered. Barry will be missed. His was a voice of “common” sense for me when I first began to grapple with environmental issues in this dysfunctional economic system that regards its generally anti environment accomplishments to be so uncommonly special. He recognized some very basic truths, like, humans are merely one of many species in a vast system, and that system involves interconnectedness. Thus he would see that elevating any part of that system above and apart from others is an act of ideological arrogance and hubris, not a truth. That truth appears in all our human insanities, such as our tendency to kill each other through mass systemic means, like warfare.

I read The Closing Circle: Nature Man and Technology not long after it was available in 1971, which was not long after I returned from the insanity of Vietnam, and it led me to study many aspects of our human endeavors, as well as nature itself, thus ecology and anthropology became my undergrad majors instead of literature, my first love. I’ll never regret that change of focus, and I did not lose literature in the change. If anything literature was enhanced for me, and the Transcendentalists I loved became even more enhanced, especially the works of Thoreau as I saw its connections to ideas floating around then, like Small is Beautiful (and it still is for me).

Though I don’t much care for acronyms, I somewhat fondly remember TANSTAFL from this list of four laws from The Closing Circle:

1. Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (TANSTAFL). Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.

I thought he would have made a visionary president back when I still thought the presidency meant something other than being an extension of neoliberal economics, and I voted for him. The nation went with Ronald Reagan, and here we are.

Meanwhile, Oscar Wilde simple has always appealed to me more.

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.” — Oscar Wilde

Simple runs deep in my experience, maybe it’s deep in my blood as well (Please! Do not confuse my simple simple with the simple in the movie Blood Simple!)

Simple is merely the history of my own peasant life going back to living on the periphery, as I’ve always seemed to, outside Ann Arbor on a farm that was being crushed out of existence by encroaching suburbia. We were not wealthy, we were steadily going bankrupt. Nevertheless, my father, being an original health food nut — health food was the term for organics before organics was popularized — helped me to become acquainted with ways of growing food that shunned the modern industrial techniques with a deep sense of moral integrity and an organic understanding that messing with nature in that way was also messing with our own biological make up. He just turned 92 in September, still healthy and active. He may be the living proof of his own beliefs or just the lucky recipient of good genes.

Whatever reasons for his long and healthy life, a love and desire for good quality food, how it is nurtured into existence, how it can taste, is the legacy he passed on to me. While his tastes are a bit simpler, which suits him just fine, I learned to cook my own so I could have it the way I want it, and that was something I set myself to learning early on. All the women in my life have been very happy with that odd ball non hyper-masculine characteristic.

There are many other advantages to growing up a simple peasant with never enough extra cash to buy stuff. You learn skills. Kind of like the teach the man to fish and he will never need a hand out parable kind of skills. When I got tired of burning my brain cells out writing strategic plans to help corporations grow and expand like cancer, I could and did turn to those skills. I can also personally attest that having such practical abilities is also very appealing to the opposite sex, much more so than beating one’s chest and shooting people dead. The result for me has been many opportunities to practice Darwin’s evolution of love theory, with all the compassion, empathy and humane consideration that goes with it.

And that’s why I am so concerned for so many people today who have become specialists within these technological institutions where they don’t even know what the ultimate purpose of what they do is really about. The end result is a kind of perpetual life of political contradiction, a proverbial double bind with no way out. They are just part of the machinery of the Matrix. And as such, subject to its illusions, like watching an NCIS immersion military/cop show displaying all the characteristics of a high tech police state in a positive feel good light, along with Ninja fighting women acting out the female version of hypermasculinity…. speaking of watching the end on tv.

Oh, and one more comment on what someone said about “it’s hard to be positive about the mess made of the environment.” This goes back to my own practice here in SW Washington State where once were giant furs and cedars that rivaled California’s Sequoias and Redwoods in size. I live daily with the site of clearcuts and the invisibile loss of a once marvelous ecosystem. Some of it I can see, some of it I only know by theory. But there is this force of life that is also ever present and cannot be ignored. And so my practice is to face reality and by a kind of Buddhist non attachment, come to see the deeper beauty and love it.

Meanwhile there is this from Dave Pollard’s article: Preparing for Collapse: Non-Attachment, not Detachment

Dave Pollard wrote:

We are what we are, we did what we did, we ended up here.

I’m very curious to see what comes next. Aren’t you?

Paul didn’t get a terribly sympathetic response, so I wrote to Paul and asked him how he had managed to reach this stage of acceptance. I also asked him about a gorgeously-written and deeply-moving recent article in Orion, Gaze Even Here, about “evoking a consciousness of brokenness”, in which the author, Trebbe Johnson, says that she and her companions found solace in spending time “gazing” at clearcuts and videos of animals dying in oil-slicks until their grief and anger and revulsion turned to curiosity, acceptance, compassion and even love. I mentioned that some people in my circles had seen my attempts at non-attachment, at letting go of what I know I cannot change, as detachment, as an emotional shutting down or turning away.

To Make the Impossible Mission… Possible

If this:

The Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin: Nature Bats Last.


Climate Change is Simple


Dave Pollard wrote:

The message is two-fold:

1. Not only are we fucked, but it’s coming much sooner than we expected. It’s coming in the first half of this century, not the second. By 2050 life for all but the simplest and most well-protected species on this planet will almost certainly be impossible, except for small numbers in a few marginal areas.

2. The whole issue of mitigation and the need for activism is now more-or-less moot. Even if we were to collectively and massively change our behaviour starting tomorrow, it would only delay collapse by a few years, and quite possible make the collapse even more catastrophic. Until recently there was at least a chance that perhaps a combination of behaviour change and the reduced availability of cheap fossil fuels might combine to pull us back from the brink, or at least make a much-changed and simpler life possible for a much smaller population of humans and other creatures. That chance is gone.

And here’s our collective global mission impossible:

John Duffy wrote:

If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us… We need deindustrialization, and we need to wring the bloody neck of capitalism, before hanging it, drawing it, quartering it, and setting the remaining bits of its corpse on fire to make sure it can’t rise from the dead like the unholy zombie that it is… This is all to say, I can’t fight my enemies and my allies at the same time. Liberals, lefties, environmentalists and everyone else who purports to give a damn has to give up on being capitalism apologists who somehow think we can keep this gravy train of mass consumption going.

I would have posted the entire essay, I think it’s that important for our collective spiritual well being, which Dave Pollard titled: Preparing For Collapse: Non-Attachment, not Detachment. I think it’s a Buddhist flavored essay, though Dave does not claim it to be. Instead I posted the videos I found linked early on in the essay, and then the few points I did pull from it.

I don’t think there would be a will to change even now that it may be too late. That’s part of my own version of non attachment. As John Duffy wrote: “If we want to not die, then we need to stop doing the things that are going to kill us…” Now that we’ve created these complex societies, we don’t really have a collective will to live that comes from each individual. We have institutional mandates and people just go to work. That broader spectrum will to change is out of our hands. Too many are willing to give it away. We’ve traded the guidelines for life that nature sets for our own technologically based institutions, thinking we could out play nature’s game. Nature always bats last, she always has home field advantage. We are just visitors.

Perhaps this is more than most can grapple with, but…:

Dave Pollard wrote:

The climate scientists, abetted by the ecological economists, have pronounced the certain and imminent (i.e. within most of our lifetimes) death of the vast majority of life on our planet, including the human species. Now, we can mourn. Most of our human family will continue to fall into one of the three categories of non-acceptance of this pronouncement that I wrote about in my If We Had a Better Story Could We Tell the Truth? post:

(Edit: Pollard prefaces the following three groups with this:

Recently, to my surprise, it’s become more acceptable to tell the grim truth about our civilization. Still not acceptable, mind you, but every once in a while when I do, I’ll notice someone nodding at me, giving me a sad smile, a quiet signal of comprehension and appreciation.

There are three (very large) groups to whom one cannot usefully or comfortably (or sometimes even safely) tell these truths:)

1. The incredulous: Those who either know so little or haven’t had the opportunity to think about what they know, that they find the idea of collapse preposterous, unimaginable, and/or unthinkable.

2. The hopeful: Those who believe that collapse is not inevitable or can be significantly mitigated, or believe that even if it is inevitable and can’t be significantly mitigated, we should try anyway.

3. The deniers: Those who are intimidated or offended by, or overwhelmed with anger and/or guilt at, the very idea of collapse.

Guy MacPherson in his Twin Sides of the Fossil Fuel Coin presentation linked earlier in this post lists 8 big positive feedbacks that are already set in motion. He says these are the factors that everybody is consciously ignoring that begin to occur with a rise of just 2 degrees centigrade in the atmospheric temperature of the earth, which he argues has already occurred. (He begins a discussion of these 8 positive feedbacks at about 7 minutes into his presentation. By positive feedbacks he’s referring to self perpetuating processes that will feed the increase of the climate conditions that will cause rapid, non linear and unpredictable climate responses along with an inevitable rise in global temperatures to as much as 16 degrees — and he explains what that will mean, like temperatures in some areas soaring to 170 degrees Centigrade. He has the phrase: ‘Climate chaos (with positive feedbacks)’ up on the screen for a fair part of the early part of his talk.

Feedback 1 at about 11:30 minutes: Arctic Ocean methane hydrates (Science, March 2010) (this is related to your point, poly, about the Gulf Stream shooting past Greenland and up into the Arctic Ocean).

This is causing an ice free arctic ocean, with less reflective ice and more deep blue coloring to absorb heat from the sun. (Science, January 2011) Feedback 2, about 14 minutes into the presentation.

At the same time the warmed air from the warmer waters are warming the air over Siberia. Thus we get Feedback 3, increasing methane gas releasing across the arctic tundra. (Tellus, February February 2011) Around 14:30 in. These methane vents the scientists were looking at went in one year from being around a foot in diameter to a kilometer.

I.e., rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses.

In 2010 a profound drought in the Amazon Rainforest caused it’s natural decomposition rate to rise to a point where its carbon emissions exceeded all the carbon emissions from fossil fuels in the U.S. for that year. (Science, Feb. 2011). Feedback 4. (Around 15:30 minutes)

Boreal Peat is drying from heat and as it dries it releases carbon directly into the atmosphere, the warmer it gets the more it dries, the more it releases. (Nature Communications, November 2011). Feedback 5. (Around 16:10 minutes)

Antarctic methane has been triggered (Nature, August 2012) Feedback 6. (About 16:30 minutes)

Russian Forest and bog fires have grown in recent years. (NASA, August 2012) Feedback 7 (16:39 minutes)

The above seven apparently are irreversible, but eight is reversible:

Drilling in the Arctic increasing because the Arctic Ice is disappearing in the summer. Feedback 8. (17:05) The Obama Administration recently fast tracked drilling in the Arctic.

Political response?: Barack Obama (14 November 2012): “If the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, ….I won’t go for that”

The one piece of potential good news is that none of these eight positive feedbacks include economic collapse. Economic collapse, therefore, offers us one faint glimmer of hope. I offers us a potential way that our own positive feedback corporate industrial insanity to keep doing what we do can be cured. It may be the one possible factor that may somehow prevent the worst scenario of runaway greenhouse gases jacking the global temperature up into the uninhabitable range.

Embracing the potential for economic collapse and working to find new ways to live at the local level is the message that keeps coming out of all of this dire analysis. He goes through the list of what anyone of us with half a brain knows will happen if any politician even breathes a hint of this where it can be published. He points to the demise of Dennis Kucinich’s career as one example. He brings in a discussion of the rise of the security state with the militarization of the police just to point out that somewhere deep in the secretive halls of our government there is some notion that something like economic collapse may be possible.

That is why people like Derrick Jensen advocate for actively bringing down industrial based economies, in other words, he says bring down civilization. He has a better imagination than I have. There aren’t many scenarios I can imagine where that could ever be accomplished intentionally now, other than by individuals quietly throwing down their tools and walking away, much as I imagined soldiers would throw down their guns and just walk away and end the insanity of Vietnam.


Then we will all just sensibly, practically, with a now fully awake collective consciousness begin to develop a whole new economic way of life that would be based locally on creating sustainable life support ways of living, conscious of the importance of respecting the environmental systems that we don’t, can’t control on this planet, systems we understand enough to know that we can’t live without them. Living locally with environmental feedbacks that are under any given small communities control. While this could possibly satisfy the basics that we need to live decent lives, water, food, shelter and community, there is no ignoring human addiction to more.

So, yeah.

Moral Injury Poem

Morally Me

Whenever I see one of those roundish yellow stickons,

framing the words “support our troops”

my guts churn,

and I burn just a little more.

The first time I saw one I had to figure it out.

Eventually I saw that it was a representation of a yellow ribbon,

going around,

and then I had to recall a song I’d heard years ago.

Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree.

It’s been three long years, do you still want me.

A soldier coming home. Coming home.

Then images of a wife played by Jane Fonda.

A damaged hard shelled husband running.

A crippled Vietnam Vet played by Angelina Jolie’s father.

Then images of Dustin Hoffman and a young cowboy jigolo selling himself from some other movie.

That’s how my mind went through seeing one of those things on a car the first time.

Do you still want me.

I am not the same me anymore. Do you still want me?

I am morally injured. I have PTSD.

They are sort of same but not,

They overlap a little but not all the way.

Support our troops, tie a yellow ribbon…..

If you don’t, I’ll stay on the bus and go right on by.

Put the blame on me.