November 16, 2008
Abdicating the "A" Word, Frantically Fighting for the FamiliarBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
Negative experiences can lead to joy and understanding. Life is untidy. When we reject this messiness - and in so doing reject life - we risk perceiving the world through the lens of our economics or our sciences. But if we celebrate life with all its contradictions, embrace it, experience it, and ultimately live with it, there is a chance for a spiritual life filled not only with pain and untidiness, but also with joy, community, and creativity. ~Derrick Jensen
It's Friday again, and as I write, I notice that the term "Black Friday" has become all too familiar. Some apply it to the day after Thanksgiving, but more recently, it has become synonymous with other Fridays in history when the U.S. stock market suffered breathtaking losses. One week ago today, November 7, was a particularly bloody day for the Dow as unemployment data in the United States, fudged as it may be, was released, and it became clear that, as one subsequent headline stated, "Having A Job Is Soooo 2007."Expand» |
I'm somewhat sheltered; I admit it. I inhabit the halls of academia, but I also manage a website where up to the minute news is gathered and reported, and I visit stores for necessary items, buy gas, and make medical and dental appointments, so I'm not living a hermetically sealed lifestyle. I may live in a state not yet as hammered by the Second Great Depression as others, but I feel and sense its reverberations everywhere.
About five years ago, even before Truth To Power was born, I was reporting stories forecasting the coming global economic meltdown. I have never been nor will be an economist, but I vowed that I would learn some basic economic concepts in order to grasp what some were calling at that time a "housing bubble." I was assiduously reading and researching the dot connections between 9/11, Peak Oil, economic meltdown, empire, and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. People whose research I respected were warning of an economic collapse, an energy crash, and the catastrophic effects of global warming-none of which, it appeared, would become an imminent threat for at least another decade.
Suddenly, somewhere in 2006 it became apparent to me that the convergence of calamity would occur sooner, rather than later, and I realized that the fabric of empire was unraveling much faster than I had anticipated. I do not wish to re-state the obvious nor attempt to trace the unfolding of events in the past two years and beyond. What I argue, rather, is that the collapse of Western civilization is well underway-and that my work is not to impede but to assist that monumental, mythical, and momentous phenomenon.
Throughout the major spiritual traditions on earth one finds what Jung called the archetype, theme, motif of apocalypse. We are all too familiar with the fundamentalist Christian notion of rapture, tribulation, and new millennium now popularized in Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series. Yet Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and myriad indigenous traditions include, for different purposes and with their own unique embellishments, concepts of apocalypse. It appears that apocalypse is a mythic, archetypal phenomenon deeply embedded in the human psyche. Without exception, apocalypse, which actually means "unveiling" or "revealing", is perceived universally as a process in which that which is hidden will be revealed, resulting in some sort of purification. A Hopi prophecy says that "When the Blue Star Kachina makes its appearance in the heavens, the Fifth World will emerge. This will be the Day of Purification." Hopi elders believe that we are now transitioning from the Fourth to the Fifth World and that purification is the purpose of the current upheaval.
I believe that because apocalypse is a fundamental archetype, something in us knows that that is precisely what we are experiencing in the final days of 2008 and are likely to continue experiencing for years to come. Whether we admit it or not, the archetype of apocalypse is percolating in our psyches. Economists and politicians in denial or simply wishing to keep their jobs insist that good times will come again-that everything will bounce back to "normal" in a couple of years. "A long, and deep recession" they continue to parrot, even as beads of sweat gather on their foreheads-a stunning example of fighting for the familiar. We're just sailing through some rough waters, they insist, unable to grasp that what began as a few choppy waves has now become a sea change.
What it is difficult for humans to wrap their minds around is the unprecedented nature of the current moment. We grasp for whatever straws of evidence we can produce that might prove that there's nothing really idiosyncratic about it. Species have come and gone before; the earth itself has been decimated and then restored more than once, we protest. Yet such statements, while accurate, miss the staggering reality that never in human history has our species devoured in a mere two or three centuries nearly all of the hydrocarbon energy painstakingly produced by the planet over the span of millennia; never have so many humans inhabited the earth at one time, nor fouled the earth's surface and atmosphere to the extent of the current blight. And what is even more astounding is the fact that never before in human history have all of these factors occurred simultaneously with the others. So argue as we may for continuity, the current moment is dramatically unique.
Moreover, if apocalypse is an unveiling, what is it that might be revealing itself in the current predicament? Is it the looting of billions, perhaps trillions by the federal government and corporate capitalism? Is it the impotence of presidents and politicians to reverse the unraveling? Is it the reality that they actually orchestrated financial collapse and will profit handsomely from it? Will the "revelation" be the public validation of whistleblowing economic investigators like Chris Martenson, Catherine Austin Fitts, Pam Martens, and Nomi Prins?
I for one wish that those realities were actually being revealed in the waning weeks of 2008, but it may be years or decades before the extent of the plunder becomes fully transparent. However, economic meltdown is not a cause of the collapse, but rather a glaring symptom of it. What is being revealed, I believe, is the profligate, soul-murdering toxicity of Western civilization and all of the assumptions from which it has emerged. As Derrick Jensen notes, "We are members of the most destructive culture ever to exist. Our assault on the natural world, on indigenous and other cultures, on women, on children, on all of us through the possibility of nuclear suicide and other means - all these are unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity." From civilization, the values and behaviors that have engendered Peak Oil, climate change, species extinction, and population overshoot were birthed. In essence, civilization is ego and humancentric, refusing to recognize any limitations of its agenda, and deems itself entitled to extract, conquer, own, dominate, and destroy whatever might impede that agenda.
Has civilization also brought us unprecedented opportunities? Indeed it has, but quite often at the expense of our own wellbeing and that of the earth community. And while the majority of inhabitants of civilization are honorable and decent human beings, they have overwhelmingly been deeply wounded, if not driven mad, by it.
All traditions that include an apocalyptic aspect juxtapose an old paradigm with a new one and invite adherents to allow the unveiling of the old to purify consciousness so that they might step into the new. Without exception, according to these traditions, the transition is painful and demanding and necessarily imposes circumstances in which the world as one has known it ends.
Sadly, most individuals being devastated by the current apocalypse, reel with anguish as their homes and livelihoods vanish; as their bodies break down for lack of healthcare; as depression, violence, and suicide reverberate across this nation-yet all the while they question few of the assumptions of civilization on which their lives have been constructed from birth. They wish only to return to the comfort and familiarity of the old paradigm. Hence the delusion of magic bullet "solutions" that will painlessly allow the human race to continue its resource-devouring lifestyle. I have written and continue to believe that it will take massive individual and collective suffering before most Americans will be capable of questioning those assumptions and discerning the difference between the old paradigm and the new. Quite frankly, it is unlikely that most will.
I Told You So
Apocalypse is demanding the diminution of human ego, in which case, the appropriate response to the masses who didn't listen is not "I told you so," but rather, deep compassion and deep grief. The inability of our species to read the writing on the wall is another chilling testimony to the power of civilization to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually incapacitate its inhabitants. There but for fortune go any of us.
In her article "Are Human Beings Hard Wired To Ignore the Catastrophic Threat Of Climate Change?" Lisa Bennett reveals evidence that suggests that civilization has so damaged human beings that we have been virtually unable to take action to stop climate change which due to our inaction, may now be unstoppable.
I would be the first to admit that I do not have infinite wisdom or impeccable acumen with which to discern all aspects of the current unveiling. I find little pleasure in forecasting what will happen next since apocalypse now has a life of its own. It is by definition mysterious and uncertain. What I do know is that things aren't going to "bounce back" because the "normal" and "familiar" have faded into history. We're in uncharted, unprecedented, and untested waters. How desperately we demand the familiar, but in spite of our flailing, life as we have known it is over. Perhaps the best description of our plight was offered by the late Susan Sontag, not in the words "apocalypse now" but rather, "apocalypse from now on."
Politicians, regardless of how charismatic, brilliant, and astute they may be have little to offer us because their agenda is one of expanding, perpetuating, preserving, and protecting civilization and its values at all costs. While they may be able to ameliorate short-term pain with placebos and band aids, both the overwhelming magnitude of collapse and their commitment to civilization preclude the dawning of insights that might assist them in facilitating their constituents in making a conscious transition to a new paradigm. In fact, as Gerald Celente notes, Obama's "Yes We Can" is a delusion that obscures the harsh reality that "No, we can't" because:
Going to Summers, Rubin, Reich, Tyson, Volker and the rest of them to fix the economy is like fighting the War on Crime by bringing in Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Seagal, and Machine Gun Kelly.
Re-Thinking "Gloom and Doom" Definitions
Whereas some folks who have been forecasting collapse take it personally when others don't pay heed, I tend to take personally the label of "doomer." Those applying the label would not do so if they understood things like apocalypse, civilization, and new paradigm. What I endeavor to do in my writing is clarify those concepts so that my readers can grasp that what we're living through is so much larger, grander, more compelling, momentous, and mysterious than mere "gloom and doom."
What exactly does doom mean? That depends on one's perspective. If you mean that since the earth was built to sustain 2.5 billion people riding bicycles, not 6.5 people all wanting to live in 6000-square-foot homes and that the earth must shed at least 4-5 billion people in order to sustain itself-from that perspective, collapse is synonymous with doom. The current extinction of 200 species on earth per day, and the possibility of the entire human race becoming extinct within a few generations is certainly not a cheerful topic of conversation. But if I seriously believed that these sorts of realities are the only ones to consider in conversations about collapse, then I would deserve to be labeled a "doomer." They aren't, and I don't.
If we can allow it, collapse may take us into mythic territory-to the place within us that civilization was designed to destroy but hasn't-and cannot, to the unveiling of a "new" paradigm that isn't "new" at all because something in us remembers that it is how we were meant to live with ourselves and the earth community.
Civilization does not have to die in order for any of us to experience the unveiling, but there is no question that to do so would be easier if civilization were a faint memory in our minds. I for one am not willing to save it, preserve it, prop it up, put it on life support, or apply salves of salvation. What I am willing to engage in is a vigil-a death watch for civilization while it breathes its last breath and celebrate what is revealed in the process.
Unquestionably, collapse entails suffering, and there are no guarantees that any of us will survive. Many innocent members of the human and other species will perish. Wise people from the great traditions tell us that the transition cannot be made painlessly. What is also true is that it offers something extraordinary-something like what I see in small communities where people are already creating local currencies, becoming first responders for crisis situations, organizing neighborhood watches to provide food and heat for the vulnerable, maintaining winter farmers markets, celebrating the holidays in unique ways that do not focus on consumption but rather, on cooperation. At the same time that I feel pervasive despair nationally, I see unexpected people in unexpected places seizing unexpected opportunities. Who knows if they will survive? Who knows if anyone reading this article will survive? Who knows if I will survive?
But if mere physical survival is all it's about, then we are left with nothing but doom and gloom. If, however, things like cooperation, compassion, building authentic community, and living from a new paradigm, even if only for a brief period of time, occur, then civilization will have been transcended and dealt a significant death blow. Humans who participate in those ventures will have tasted something far more momentous than mere physical survival-something civilization can only obliterate, not sustain: the opportunity to savor one's inextricable connection with all aspects of the earth community. Or as Richard Heinberg reminds us, "Growth is dead. Let's make the most of it. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
Juan Santos, whose articles are frequently featured on the Truth to Power website says it eloquently and succinctly:
...the key tasks before us lie not in saving the global economy, not in creating a "green" economy, not in inventing new ways to exploit new energies in order to continue to mine the life of the Earth, nor in any other activity that would seek to preserve this system in any form whatsoever.
As I ponder the quote by Derrick Jensen at the beginning of this article, I notice an extraordinary paradox: If I reject collapse, I reject life, not death. Civilization kills all that it touches. Could it be that the more I facilitate its demise, the more alive I become?«Collapse
September 7, 2008
From "Dominion" to Domination: The Duplicity and Complicity of Matthew ScullyBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Dr. Steve Best, Ph.D.
Mathew Scully (pictured here between two of his fellow enthusiastic enablers of war crimes, Michael Gerson [left] and David Frum), is not just a hypocrite or opportunist. He is a menace to all life, beings, species, and nature.Expand» |
In 2002, arch-conservative Matthew Scully wrote a book called, Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy, that was universally and uncritically acclaimed by the animal advocacy movement. Because this movement is overwhelmingly single-issue in its focus, and in most cases doesn't care about a person's views or politics except how they relate to animals, no one had a problem with the fact that Scully was a senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He wrote some of the key fear-peddling diatribes that got Bush elected and he was recently re-enlisted to help Bush sell the Iraq war "surge" to the American people.
As someone who is concerned about a person's overall political standpoint, and who would not embrace a Leftist who is a speciesist anymore than an animal rights person or vegan who is a racist, I had some serious problems with Scully and the fawning adulation of his book by virtually the entire animal advocacy movement. Many people, such as Karen Dawn (the founder of DawnWatch.com), saw it as a key sign of progress that the conservatives were embracing the animal cause (in welfarist form), and thus concluded that animal advocacy could be introduced to an entire new audience of people-some very rich, powerful, and influential ones at that.
No one mentioned that Scully had blood all over his hands by sycophantically serving Bush-Cheney (providing the "eloquence" they lacked) and the neo-con invasion and occupation of Iraq - all at the cost of more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi lives, over 4,000 US troop deaths, countless US troop casualties and destroyed lives, and over three trillion dollars.[i] And all based on lies and blatant deceit by Bush and his henchmen, all of whom - were there any justice in this country or backbone in the Democrats - would have been impeached and jailed for crimes of the highest order.
Nor could I understand the praise over Scully's book. Really, Dominion is two books: the first sections are indeed well-crafted and hard-hitting critiques of factory farming and hunting. But the bulk of the book was just nauseating, amateurish, antiquated medieval/early modern natural law theory which tried to justify the critique of animal cruelty in cosmic laws, rational imperatives-as if the issue of animal welfare or rights were not controversial and could not be seen in endless ways by diverse groups of people. It had a very uncomfortable authoritarian tone to it: here are the moral laws of the universe; here is moral truth. And he urged the same naïve Socratic belief that contaminates the thinking of the pacifists who dominate the animal advocacy movement - the idea that if we can only reason with people, show them this "Truth," they will no longer abuse animals. As if there were no violence and cruelty in the human heart, no desire to dominate the weak, no lust for profit off slavery of any group.
And consider the subtitle: notice that he is calling for MERCY (to the slaves) not LIBERATION (of the slaves). And we needed a burdensome arsenal of arcane metaphysics, philosophical, and legal theory to reach this conclusion? A few rights/abolitionist voices tried to expose the severe limitations of this overwrought speciesist and welfarist tome, but they were drowned out by the roar of the multitudes celebrating the movement's "revolutionary" breakthrough into new social sectors -- so "new," in fact, that there were now more white, elite, and "privileged" people in the animal advocacy/vegan movements than before.
To whatever degree he cares about animals, Scully's real constituency are rich, white, Republicans and -- having written speeches for Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 -- he had already become a shining star in the firmament of right-wing ideologues and corporate fat cats, each of whom need the best PR and BS teams they could assemble. And thanks to the fawning adulation of the likes of Karen Dawn, Scully overnight became the new darling of the animal movement. When not making the rounds of Congress or aerial warfare conventions, Scully continued to write speeches for Bush and anyone on the Right with the right fee. And, as it turned out, as so many of us were bracing ourselves for the nauseating Republican National Convention in early September 08, not wanting to hear another disingenuous word from "straight-talking" McCain but curious to hear about unknown Alaskan female governor whom he shrewdly chose to win Hillary's armies of disaffected, we learned -- at this crisis moment and critical juncture for the Far Right -- that Matthew Scully stepped in to write the kind of speech the McCain team thought necessary to disguise their malignant and predatory policies in terms of populism and family values. Right-wing soldier that he is, Scully stayed up the entire night before the speech and gave the magic words to which Sara Palin only had to give life in order to sell this sordid spectacle and sham to the US public and bring us another 4 more years of Bush--or probably much, much worse.
The moment was tense. The stakes were high. An unknown -- a woman! -- was walking onto the stage to accept her party's nomination for Vice President. But could she prove herself at the podium? Thanks to Scully's adroit words and Palin's androgynous mix of feminine soft talk and macho militarism, the chronically anxious Right erupted into a roar of elation as they felt they had, with the addition of Palin, finally found the ticket they wanted -- one entirely devoted to militarism and privatization, increasing their already obscene levels of wealth and waging a full-blown culture war against abortion, sex education in the schools, the ban on prayers in pubic places, and so on.
Well, as the right-wing pundits droned on all next day, Palin/Scully "blew it out of the water." Even Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joseph Biden said she was going to be "a tough debater" and had "a very skillfully written ...speech." And one awestruck fan gushed, "Palin sounded at times like she was speaking a foreign language as she gave voice to the beautifully crafted words that had been prepared for her on Wednesday night."
Congratulations, Scully, you did it! You galvanized and unified the most reactionary forces of the country that want to finish the job -- on the Constitution, liberties, privacy, human rights at home and abroad, the United Nations, international justice, restrictions on trade, unions, animal protections and the environment -- that Bush brought to such a high level in eight years. There is nothing innocent about what Scully does: he is a hack, a propagandist, a demagogue, a mouthpiece for nihilistic ideologies that are anything but "pro-life." To the degree that Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Palin are truly menacing forces -- who threaten not only neighboring nation states but the entire planet itself, Scully is their Paul Joseph Goebbels: a total ideologue, a skilled orator (on paper), and a devotee to the party line.
Whereas Obama is known to have fairly progressive views on animals, Palin is an aggressive supporter of hunting and herself an avid hunter. She goes so far as to champion aerial hunting of wolves and threatened to sue the EPA if they listed the polar bear as an endangered species.[ii] Beyond her regressive views on animals, she has helped mobilize the base of the far Right in a way McCain could not do himself because she is such an extreme conservative. According to MoveOn.Org:
**Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is "God's task." She's even admitted she hasn't thought about the war much--just last year she was quoted saying, "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."
**Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party. Six months ago, Palin told members of the group--who advocate for a vote on secession from the union--to "keep up the good work" and "wished the party luck on what she called its 'inspiring convention.'"
**Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. She hasn't made clear whether she thinks evolution is a fact.
**Palin doesn't believe that humans contribute to global warming. Speaking about climate change, she said, "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being manmade."
**Palin has close ties to Big Oil. Her inauguration was even sponsored by BP.
**Palin is extremely anti-choice. She doesn't even support abortion in the case of rape or incest.
**Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She's said she will only support abstinence-only approaches.
**As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library. Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them--shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time, "news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor." [iii]
Unfortunately, thanks to Scully, Palin's "homespun" speech (professionally crafted by a DC-insider), was a smash at the RNC, and she "hit it out of the ballpark" as nearly every conservative pundit said the following day. And so we have Scully -- who wrote a book critical of hunting - to thank not only for supporting a psychopath whose lust for killing animals perhaps rivals that of Ted Nugent, but for reinvigorating a fascist movement that has excellent chances at winning the next election, and taking the US even deeper into the innermost circles of hell, as somehow I suspect that McCain-Palin will be even worse for the US, the world, animals, and the planet than Bush-Cheney.
Karen Dawn of DawnWatch in 2001 at "an evening with Julia Butterfly Hill and Sophie B. Hawkins, hosted by Gloria Steinem."
And yet, still we hear hardly a word from the animal community about what a thug and criminal Scully is and what a traitor he is to the animals, to fellow humans, and to the entire planet. The most pathetic comment I have heard so far is from Karen Dawn, a well-known animal activist and social butterfly who runs the newsletter, Dawnwatch, which comments on media representations of animal issues. Given her social and economic status - the fact that she lives in the affluent area along the California coastline, that she is a regular in the LA party and cocktail scene, that she loves to see and be seen with celebrities - it is not surprising she takes an apolitical view of animal issues, and in fact believes that this movement ought to strive to be a powerful single-issue, DC-based powerhouse like the NRA.
Here is Dawn's self-serving, cowardly, and deplorable commentary the day after Palin's speech:
"The news this week is the Republican Convention, and the animal news is the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate. Before I write any further on that issue, I need to stress that DawnWatch is entirely non partisan. If you've read [her new MTV-style book] Thanking the Monkey you know of my commitment to non-partisan animal activism. It would be unfair to the animals for their advocates to alienate half of the human population. And in Thanking the Monkey, I explain that the somewhat common assumption [which I personally have argued for in detail] that animal advocacy is a left wing issue is false. Democrat voting records are better on animal issues overall, but the exceptions are shining. Republicans John Ensign of Nevada, and Christopher Shays of Connecticut are just two of those current outstanding exceptions. And former Senator Robert Smith of New Hampshire, an ultra right wing conservative, is the only person to date to speak passionately against vivisection on the Senate Floor.
Perhaps most notably, one of the finest books ever written [!] on animal protection is "Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy." It is by Matthew Scully, who worked as a senior speechwriter for George W Bush, penning the book on his off hours. Scully sees his compassion, or mercy, for animals, and his vegan lifestyle, as perfectly in line with his Catholic conservative values ...
In an extraordinary twist of fate, Scully was selected to write Sarah Palin's speech, which aired last night. Let us hope that in the time Scully and Palin spent together working on the speech, he began to influence her thinking. I hope every Republican on this list will urge her to read his book!"[iv]
"Let us hope that in the time Scully and Palin spent together working on the speech, he began to influence her thinking." How naïve and deep in denial can this woman be?! Does Dawn think that Scully and Sarah had a reasonable and open chat about the evils of hunting?! That he gently reminded her that animals are not meat machines to shoot down in cold blood, just as he appreciatively received his lucrative paycheck for selling out the planet by helping some of the most dangerous forces in our history in their bid to win an election? I suspect Scully talked far more with Palin about his fee than her bloody proclivities to kill animals.
Dawn is indeed critical of Palin's zeal for hunting and her abysmal environmental record, but she would rather be an enabler to this carnage than offend her powerful, rich, and influential friends. I do not exaggerate when I draw a line connecting McCain/Palin to Scully and to opportunists like Dawn.
In contrast to Dawn's vapid view that we can bring all people and parties into the animal cause, another animal advocate (infinitely more authentic and profound than Dawn), Norm Phelps, penned (in a personal email to me) some extremely critical remarks on Scully and the far Right:
"I think the fact that Matthew Scully wrote her convention speech (which was a masterpiece of viciousness) should give us all pause about the notion that conservatives will ever be serious animal advocates. I used to think that AR [animal rights] was a non-political issue and that we should keep it that way in the interests of converting as many people as possible and having the greatest impact on society. I no longer think that. I now believe that the mindset that leads conservatives to pursue policies that are hostile to the well-being of most of humanity (everyone except themselves and those to whom they are close) almost invariably leads them to policies that are hostile to the well-being of most animals (everyone except those to whom they are personally close, such as their companion animals).
"There is nothing that I find more perplexing and discouraging than the blatant speciesism that is rampant in most progressive circles. But in spite of this, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the liberal to progressive end of the political spectrum is where we have to concentrate our efforts and where we will ultimately find our victory. Conservatives can, in many cases, be persuaded to welfarism (properly so called, not as redefined by the so-called "abolitionists"), but not to AR. Scully's vehement denunciations of AR in Dominion are, I think, an important indicator of this, as is the fact that this man who wrote so eloquently of the suffering of animals could put his gifts in the service of a woman who practices and celebrates all manner of barbaric cruelty to animals. Scully obviously considers the lives and suffering of animals less important than politics as usual."
Phelps is right to argue that the Left is just as abysmal in its views on animals, and yet draws this distinction:
"The speciesism of liberals/progressives contradicts their fundamental values, which creates an opportunity for animal advocates. The speciesism of conservatives reinforces their fundamental values, which creates a solid wall. But I still think it is dangerous for the AR movement, as a movement, to align with other social justice movements until we have succeeded in raising their consciousness about animals to the point that the alliance can be formed on a basis of at least approximate equality. And I think a lot of groundwork needs to be done before we reach that point. I guess where I'm headed is that we need to be taking that groundwork seriously and getting busy at it--which, of course, is what you've been doing for some time now."[v]
While I agree with Phelps that Leftists are Paleolithic in their views on animals and we should not be too ready to tie ourselves to a human rights/social justice platform as it is, and that we do need indeed to educate the Left, I have also disagreed with him (in quite friendly terms) that animal liberation is winnable without human and Earth liberation and a progressive alliance politics that fights against the main threat to the planet today, which is the capitalist grow-or-die economy.[vi]
But while we examine the problems with both the Right and the Left, let us not lose focus on the idiocy, cowardice, and opportunism in our own movement, for there are far too many "animal advocates" who are in fact advocates for something far less noble: money, power, glory, fame, and self--advancement. If it was not obvious with the writing of Dominion six years ago, Scully in particular has since revealed himself to be a sham, fraud, charlatan, prevaricator, hypocrite, and (neo-)con man, an enemy not only to animals, but also a de facto opponent of women, science, secularism, freedom of speech, and the environment.
Like the politicians he serves, Scully talks out of both sides of his mouth at once and serves each and every contradictory cause that advances his own good. No principled or consistent person writes a book against hunting, and then writes a speech for a vicious defender of hunting and avid killer herself. Can any animal advocate among us ever imagine doing this?! This is the moral and logical contradiction that would haunt a Kantian, someone with a conscience, anyone with principles or moral consistency. But it never troubles a utilitarian-opportunist.
In a nation rife with political and historical idiocy, layer upon layer of confusion, and pernicious myths linking capitalism with democracy and justice, the masses are so easily manipulated by the power elite that they can be convinced that the Clintons (who are at best center left on the political spectrum) are communists!
And nor is his work done. The Far Right loved his Palin speech so much that they will surely contract him again. Without hyperbole, I say that Scully is less a "progressive vegan and animal welfarist" than he is a reactionary and a dangerous man. He has been the words, phrases, metaphors, rhetoric, narratives, jokes, and overall a key voice and mouthpiece of the Extreme Right who want to take this country back to pre-Enlightenment, pre-secular medieval serfdom where rights mean only property rights, liberty falls to security and hierarchy, and democracy is a forgotten dream.
To end by reiterating a crucial point: Mathew (Straight-Laced, Compassionate Conservative, Corporate and Family Values Man,) Scully is not just a hypocrite or opportunist. He is a menace to all life, beings, species, and nature. This is not an ad hominem attack, it is simply a fact. Look who he works for and examine what they do. Because of the gigantic powers he brings to life, puffs up, drives forward, and legitimates with the rhetoric of his folksy, small-town populism, he represents gigantic global corporations that destroy families and communities. Because Scully casts the spell and brings out the smoke and mirrors that cover up lies and package a hideous program of destruction as "progress," and because he gets the job done, time after time, Scully is a significant danger -- and I do not exaggerate -- to this entire planet.
Scully's real project is not "dominion." It is domination-corporate hegemony of the planet and the advancement of the US Empire. To the extent his discursive artistry helps to disarm Congress and to lull Americans back into their complacent and jingoistic sleep, Scully shares responsibility with Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Rice, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Monsanto, and ConAgra for turning this beautiful planet into a living hell for most of its inhabitants and for leaving behind a wasteland and battlefield that will prove even more difficult (if not impossible) for future generations to survive, as ever more species vanish forever.
[i] For data on the ever-mounting numbers of Iraqi civilians and US soldiers killed and injured, see the Iraq Body Count website at: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/. On the soaring costs of the war, see Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz, "The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More," Sunday March 9, 2008, The Washington Post, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/07/AR2008030702846_pf.html.
[ii] On Palin's regressive record on animals and the environment, see John Dolan, "Party whores: Sarah Palin's Big, Sleazy Safari," September 2, 2008, AlterNet, at: http://www.alternet.org/story/97207/sarah_palin%27s_big%2C_sleazy_safari/; "Environmentalists can't corral Palin: GOP vice presidential candidate nicknamed the 'killa from Wasilla', Associated Press, posted September 4, at MSNBC.com, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26546967/; and ""SARAH PALIN SUPPORTS SHOOTING WOLVES AND BEARS FROM AIRPLANES," Defenders of Wildlife, at: http://www.defendersactionfund.org/. This page includes a disturbing video link to what this barbaric practice that Palin ardently supports looks like in reality.
[iii] "Who is Sarah Palin," MoveOn.Org., at: http://pol.moveon.org/emails/palin_announcement.html?rc=homepage.
[iv] Karen Dawn, "Palin provides vital opportunities for animal friendly letters," September 4, 2008, at:
[v] Phelps cited with permission in a personal email to me on September 4, 2008.
[vi] Steven Best, "Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the Future of the Left," The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Volume 2, Issue #3, June 2006; at: http://www.inclusivedemocracy.org/journal/vol2/vol2_no3_Best_rethinking_revolution.htm
Steven Best, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso. He has published numerous books and articles on philosophy, cultural criticism, social theory and animal rights. He has appeared on TV shows like Extra! and is frequently interviewed by national print and radio media including the New York Times and National Public Radio. Best is Cyrano's Journal Special Editor for Animal Rights, Speciesisim and Human Tyranny over Nature.«Collapse
September 4, 2008
Yes, we're matricidal: Murdering Mother Earth one forest, one species and one atom at a timeBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Jason
By Jason Miller of Thomas Paine's Corner
I am the earth. You are the earth. The Earth is dying. You and I are murderers. -Ymber Delecto
What a sorry lot we humans are, particularly those of us immersed in the "American Way of Life." Killing is indeed our business. And business has never been better.Expand» |
According to the World Resources Institute, 4 species go extinct every hour "due to tropical deforestation alone."
More than half the tropical rainforests are gone and at the rate we're going, we will have reduced chopped, hacked, sawed, dozed, and burned our way to the virtual eradication of the "lungs of the planet" by the year 2030.
Kids, get ready to start suffocating because we're NOT giving up our meat habit! Patrick Henry was prepared to die for liberty, but we have a nobler agenda: Give us more grazing land or give us death!
Reflecting the spiritually perverse beings we are here in America (don't be fooled by our carefully polished veneer of civility and humanity--we're the most savage murderers of all) is the fact that we are considering replacing our "commander-in-chief," (the most heinous war criminal since Hitler) with a senile war-mongering septuagenarian and his recently anointed reactionary sidekick (see photo below) who never met a non-human animal she wouldn't slaughter or an ecosystem she wouldn't decimate in the name of "hunting," "free enterprise," or "resource acquisition."
Or we may occupy the impending vacancy in the White House with a pseudo-progressive who has sworn his allegiance to the genocidal "state" of Israel and to corporate America whilst surrounding himself with a depraved and ruthless entourage, most of whom sold their souls to Wall Street and the military industrial complex years ago.
McCain at the helm? Obama on the throne? Who cares? Either way we party on here in America, oblivious to the devastation and suffering our obscene existence is causing. Our factory farms will continue torturing and slaughtering billions of animals each year to satiate our meat addiction, McDonald's will keep our arteries clogged and our ascent to obesity intact, Big Pharma will inundate us with soothing and sedating "happy pills" to ensure our guilt-free participation in the murder of the planet, Big Oil will gleefully continue meeting our gluttonous demand for its "black gold," and the corporate media will keep our wretched and vile hologram intact by constantly re-enforcing rabid nationalism, ahistorical thinking, consumerism, narcissism, alienation, rugged individualism, "free" markets, the virtues of wealth, and the "superiority" of the American Way.
While numerous complex entities and dynamics enable the power elite to maintain their strangle-hold on wealth and power, military might remains their principal means of dominating, extorting, exploiting, stealing, and annihilating with impunity. While we outspend the rest of the world (that's all other countries combined, mind you) maintaining and expanding the war machine we revere with religious fervor, it is not money alone that gives our lords and masters the capacity to keep the world safe for capitalism and corporate plunder.
Our dirty little secret here in the US is that we built and buttressed our crumbling empire by unleashing a force so potent and so capable of rendering life on Earth extinct that it makes capitalism's "slow motion" ecocide look like candy-striping. In 1945 we became the first and only country to harness the power of nuclear fission and utilize it as a weapon of mass destruction. Our cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians cemented our position as global hegemon.
When the uber-capitalist ruling elite of the US saw a socioeconomic system that was a potential threat to their supremacy, they successfully convinced most of their wage slaves that they were well off under a system of the rich, by the rich and for the rich and that the "communist threat" in Russia must be extinguished. What was their solution? They forced the Russians (who were moving with amazing rapidity to industrialize an agrarian economy which was dwarfed by that of the US) into a pissing contest over who could manufacture the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Their strategy was of course successful. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed. Country-clubbing white men with snow on the roof-top and fog on the brain maintained their "right" to clench their billion dollar net worth statements in one decrepit claw and the deeds and titles of their myriad precious possessions in the other. And the rest of us could breathe easy knowing that the "American Way of Life" was no longer in jeopardy. But at what cost to the Earth and the rest of its inhabitants?
Nuclear non-proliferation is a joke. Treaties, vows, resolutions, good intentions, and promises involving crossing hearts, hoping to die and sticking needles into eyes have resulted in even more nukes brandished by more nations. Meanwhile, we US Americans continue dictating who gets "nuclear privileges" AND we still possess more WMD's than any other nation. When is another country going to invade us, depose the evil junta in DC, and hold a public lynching like our puppets did in Iraq?
Thankfully sanity (or perhaps just sheer luck) has prevailed and we have been the only nation brutal and stupid enough to employ nuclear weapons. And we have put our nuclear knowledge to constructive use by harnessing the power of the atom to create electricity. Yet when Prometheus brought us the "fire of the Twentieth Century" and told us we could use it for peaceful purposes, he failed to warn us that if this "fire" gets out of control we're all cooked.
Nuclear power only produces 20% of the electricity consumed in the US, but accounts for a number of staggering problems we simply keep sweeping under the rug for future generations to solve. Forget logic or consideration for our children or for Mother Earth, though. John McCain, Greanpeace founder Patrick Moore, and a host of other whores to the nuclear power industry hail nuclear energy as a "green" alternative to fossil fuels and clamor for more.
Yes, let's build more nuclear power plants. After all, given our culture of militarism and death, why not erect as many temples honoring Thanatos as is humanly possible?
Let's take a closer look at the technology many are ready to embrace as the "remedy for Climate Change."
Nuclear power is touted as a cheap alternative to coal (and other ways of producing energy). While it is a less expensive means of actually generating electricity once a reactor is online (the operating cost is about half that of a coal-fired plant), there are tremendous fiscal costs associated with building a nuclear facility, removing and storing radioactive waste, and decommissioning a plant once it is retired. (One hasn't been closed yet but the estimated cost to do so is around $300 million).
And just who's underwriting these outrageous costs? We the taxpayers! On May 12, 2008, the Wall Street Journal wrote, "For electricity generation, the EIA concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and 'clean coal' $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59."
More importantly, the threat nuclear energy poses to the environment is so high that calling it "green" is an absurdity one would think had sprung from the mind of Lewis Carroll.
Since nuclear plants rely on large bodies of water to cool reactors (and avoid a melt-down) and discharge about 70% of the heat they generate (as waste), they are vulnerable to droughts and cause significant thermal pollution in the bodies of water that cool them.
Nuclear power production begins to contaminate the environment with radioactivity before the fuel even arrives at the plant. It takes a tonne of uranium ore to produce 3 kilograms of uranium oxide. While the tailings that are left behind emit small levels of radiation, they do release radon gas and radioactive dust at a rate 10,000 times faster than the unmined ore. This nuclear contamination stays in the environment for 100,000 years and over time reaches such high levels that a Los Alamos Laboratory report concluded that we need to, "to zone the land in uranium mining and milling districts to forbid human habitation."
Nuclear power facilities produce a steady stream of low-level radioactive waste, including gas, solid and liquid. Gaseous and liquid wastes are "cleaned and diluted," but are eventually released into the environment. Solid wastes are transported to one of three low-level radiation disposal sites in the US where they continue accumulating and emitting radiation into the environment. Sounds Earth-friendly, doesn't it?
About once a year 33% of a reactor's fuel rods are replaced, producing anywhere from 12 to 30 tonnes of high level nuclear waste. The frightening part is that we've been using this "green" technology for 40 years now and still haven't figured out a safe and permanent means of disposing of its extremely dangerous and lethal by-products. Temporary pools or dry cask storage (large steel cylinders that require constant monitoring) onsite at nuclear facilities house most of the spent reactor fuel, which will remain a dire threat to the environment for tens of thousands of years. Nuclear power plants are running out of storage capacity and the "permanent storage solution" at Yucca Mountain, projected to be operational in 2017, is little more than a tentative and distant speck on the horizon. Perhaps we could erect dry casks on some of the sprawling estates that McCain has forgotten he owned....
The Chernobyl Disaster
How remote is the possibility of a nuclear melt-down resulting in a disaster? Let's ask the thousands of heavily irradiated victims of Chernobyl and those living in the vicinity of the "near miss" at Three Mile Island.
Lest we forget, nuclear reactors are "dual-use" by virtue of the fact that plutonium is one of their by-products and plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Small wonder our ruling class trembles with fear (hence their belligerence, bullying and macho posturing) at the prospect of Iran (a nation which refuses to genuflect to the American/Israeli Empire) developing nuclear reactors to generate power.
And someone please explain what it is that's so "green" about a source of electricity that produces waste that people (whom our malevolent and brutal foreign policy has pissed off--there are millions and millions of them) could use to make a "dirty bomb" and then deploy it against us. Granted the potential efficacy of a dirty bomb is subject to debate, but who wants to find out? We already have 104 repositories for bomb-making materials scattered across the United States. Let's push to add more!
While many anti-nuclear activists focus their efforts on opposing the issuance of licenses to build new nuclear power plants, another approach may prove to be more effective and is in play at this moment. Members of IPSEC, a group of over 70 community groups, have devoted themselves to shutting down the nuclear power plant known as the Indian Point Energy Center. Grassroots and non-profit, the objective of IPSEC groups like Riverkeeper is to replace nukes with a truly safe form of sustainable energy and to preserve the integrity of the environment. If IPSEC is successful in setting a precedent by catalyzing the shuttering of Indian Point, a domino effect could ensue and spell the beginning of the end for the menace of nuclear power.
For a litany of reasons, IPSEC is wholly justified in its appeals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny Entergy Corporation's bid to renew Indian Point's license for another 20 years. In fact, if sanity and moral considerations amounted to more than a pair of sickly midgets making desperate and ridiculous attempts to halt the stampeding herd of narcissistic consumers and greedy corporations that are the embodiments of monopoly capitalism, there wouldn't even be a debate.
Indian Point is situated about 25 miles from New York City, a rather populous area, eh? (93 million people live within a 500 mile radius of this nuclear facility, most of whom would be impacted by a major accident or meltdown at Indian Point).
Indian Point's two reactors that continue to function were built in 1974 and 1976, which means that they are old, hence prone to cracks, leaks, fissures, wear, deterioration, and the like. It also means that they were built to less stringent safety specifications than newer reactors.
At one time Indian Point had three functional reactors. In an October 2001 article (entitled America's Terrorist Nuclear Threat to Itself) long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman wrote, "Indeed, Indian Point Unit One was shut because activists warned that its lack of an emergency core cooling system made it an unacceptable risk. The government ultimately agreed."
In 2006 the NRC fined Entergy Corporation, the owners and operators of Indian Point, $130,000 for problems associated with its system designed to warn nearby residents to evacuate in the event of a nuclear crisis.
Until they finally began moving them to dry casks in January of this year, Indian Point had 1500 tons of spent fuel rods stored in temporary pools. These pools have been leaking tritium and strontium-90 (both highly toxic substances) into the groundwater and the Hudson River since 2005 and are demonstrably vulnerable to sabotage or attack. And as Wasserman elucidates in the previously cited article, these pools (not to mention the reactor cores) are horrific accidents waiting to happen:
"Without continuous monitoring and guaranteed water flow, the thousands of tons of radioactive rods in the cores and the thousands more stored in those fragile pools would rapidly melt into super-hot radioactive balls of lava that would burn into the ground and the water table and, ultimately, the Hudson."
Indian Point Energy Center manifests nearly all that is inane and insane about humans shattering atomic nuclei and hubristically believing we can play with the fires of hell without getting burned.....
Yet there's at least a "little" Eichmann in all of us as we faithfully participate in our ecocidal "American Way of Life." So what do we care about a little radiation here or a few meltdowns there?
Remember, "Killing is [our] business.....and business is good!" Just ask a member of that species that will be extinct in about 15 minutes....
Jason Miller is Cyrano's Journal Online's associate editor.
For those of you refusing to bow at the altar of Thanatos, click on the links below to find out what you can do to help IPSEC shut down Indian Point:«Collapse
August 3, 2008
Oil Price Falls! Peak Oil a Non-Problem!BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Richard Heinberg. Originally published at Post Carbon Institute
Two weeks ago, oil was soaring toward $150 a barrel; now it's nosediving to $120 and may even see $100 again. Peak Oil? Humbug! Problem solved. The market works after all.Expand» |
Not so fast.
I can see the headline of the Wall Street Journal a year or two from now: "Oil Price Falls from $300 to $275, Disproving peak Oil Theory."
For years oil depletion analysts have been painting a consistent scenario that goes as follows. Sometime around 2010 (give or take two or three years), growing decline rates in oil production from existing oilfields will overwhelm new production streams coming online. The price of oil will rise dramatically. However, when it does it will cripple the trucking industry, the airline industry, tourism, agriculture--essentially, the whole economy. A serious recession will ensue, which will reduce demand for oil (among other things). Oil's price will temporarily drop in response. Then, as declines in oil production worsen, the price will resume its upward march--but again in a
This scenario is hinted at in the second sentence of the Hirsch Report, which says, "As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically...."
Volatility is in some ways an even worse problem than high prices, because sustained high oil prices make long-term investments in alternative energy sources and public transportation look sensible--whereas periodically collapsing oil prices discourage such investments.
Now, as the US economy is reeling, partly as a result of recent high oil costs (there's also a bit of bother with banks, mortgages, and credit), there is the likelihood that urgent concerns on the part of families and policy makers to actually do something about dangerous oil dependency may wane if the downturn in gas pump prices continues. And of course politicians in Washington are doing their part to dampen the flames by insisting that all we need to do is rein in speculators or drill in protected areas and the good times of cheap gasoline can roll on forever.
What everyone needs to remember is this: the fundamental cause of the recent oil price spike has not gone away. Global demand for oil is still increasing; supply isn't. The current brief respite from the hammering effect of new oil price records being set almost daily is not an occasion to go back to sleep, but an opportunity to consolidate efforts toward energy conservation and transition.
The days of skyrocketing oil prices will be back soon enough. Will we be ready?«Collapse
June 30, 2008
The Day of the BulliesBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By David Irving. Originally published at Thomas Paine's Corner
Conservatively speaking, approximately 100 million vertebrates in the world are experimented upon annually by the animal research industry of which approximately 22 million animals belong to the United States. Most of the animals are killed after research. While the animal research industry has managed successfully to brain wash the public into thinking animal research consists primarily of medical research, that is not the case. A large portion of animal research takes place in the cosmetics industry, the military, the EPA, the FDA, private research laboratories for industrial use, animal food companies, and others.Expand» |
As an example, hundreds of thousands of military experiments have been conducted on animals in the greatest secrecy at a cost to taxpayers of over 100 million dollars annually. The military shoots, blasts, burns, scalds, and poisons animals. It subjects them to radiation, nerve gas, mustard gas, breaks their bones, and tortures them in every conceivable manner like attaching cartons of mosquitoes to restrained monkeys and rabbits so that the mosquitoes will feed on them in mosquito virus tests. Animals don't make war, but they are made to suffer the consequences of the brutal wars human beings wage.
The March of Dimes is famous for experiments in which their researchers sewed the eyelids of kittens shut for a year in visual development tests before killing them. The visual development they claimed to study occurs in cats after birth while it occurs in humans before birth so that the tests were meaningless. The March of Dimes has also conducted research funded by tobacco companies to show that nicotine had beneficial effects. Research at the March of Dimes has also included implanting electric pumps into the backs of pregnant rats to inject them with nicotine and cocaine even though the hazards of smoking and cocaine to human babies is well known. Other addiction testing has been done by university researchers like Ron Woods who locked baboons in refrigerators filled with cocaine smoke in drug addition studies. The subject of how unjust it is, not to mention immoral and decadent, to experiment upon animals to try to solve the addiction problems human beings have created for themselves is never considered. That includes Columbia University where researchers have repeatedly operated on baboons and their babies in utero to measure the flow of nicotine through the umbilical chord.
The IAMS pet food company also engages in animal research projects. Their research has included confining dogs and cats in small, barren cages for as long as six years in which the dogs were debarked by cutting their vocal chords and then forced to endure painful surgery in which their gums were repeatedly cut and sutured to implant gingivitis, though gingivitis could have been studied on dogs that had developed the condition normally.
The cosmetics industry is another giant in the world of animal research. Procter and Gamble, for example, tests cosmetics for irritancy by locking rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets and other animals into restraining devices and then applying burning chemicals to their eyes and shaved portions of their skin. This is done without sedation or pain killers and causes excruciating pain. Some of the animals strain so forcefully against their restraints in these tests that they actually break their backs trying to escape. Those that survive are put through additional tests until they are finally killed. When chemicals are dripped into the eyes of these animals, it is called the Draize Test, and many in the medical community agree it is useless and unnecessary. More than 600 other companies produce the same kind of products that Proctor and Gamble makes without resorting to animal testing. Donated corneas to which chemicals may be applied and human skin cultures for irritancy testing are also available as alternatives to these animal testing procedures and are less expensive. However, Procter and Gamble refuses to abandon this senseless research because it does not want to admit it is wrong. The FDA continues to approve it. All so that we can have better kitchen products, better make-up, mascara, and all those other necessities Procter and Gamble makes.
None of this research discussed we've been discussing takes curiosity research into account, for example, subjecting restrained primates to a continuous three hour-long studio-generated sound ten decibels louder than a shotgun blast, a research project conducted at New York University.
The above research does not take into account the abuse of animals by supposedly legitimate medical researchers that continuously comes to light year after year after year as, for example, at Huntingdon Laboratories in England where researchers were photographed hitting puppies, shouting at them, simulating sex acts with them, and dissecting what appeared to be a live monkey. As reported by a whistleblower at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was able to back most of her charges with 59 videotapes in tests for alcohol, dopamine, and nicotine, rodents were infected with oversized tumors so large the animals could hardly carry them around and some of the tumors ulcerated and burst; a researcher broke the necks of rats to get rid of those for which she had no need; rodents have been packed together under such crowded conditions that they suffocated to death and resorted to cannibalism; mice with untended teeth grew so long that they could not eat and some of them starved to death; a researcher jokingly held up a tiny white mouse and said, "Say Bye, bye," and then beheaded her with a pair of scissors; rats screamed when being beheaded with scissors without anesthesia or numbing agents; and researchers have amputated the toes of rodents for identification purposes.
The animal industry is a huge, parasitic gravy train dependent upon mass brain washing of the public through continuous public relations efforts and 100 million innocent creatures subjected to enslavement and torture by human beings. The abuse and exploitation of animals in the world today is representative of a primitive reliance on the worst instincts of human beings.
I have developed a deep respect for animals. I consider them fellow living creatures with certain rights that should not be violated any more than those of humans.
- Jimmy Stewart
It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe
...when we removed the body (of his cagemate) to the operation room, the other chimp wept bitterly and was inconsolable for days. The incident made a deep impression on me. I vowed never again to experiment with such sensitive creatures.
- Dr. Christian Barnard (Founder of Physicians for Responsible Medicine)
I believe I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of enmity without looking further.
- Mark Twain
Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.
- George Bernard Shaw
To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than the life of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.
- Mahatma Gandhi
It is our duty to share and maintain life. Reverence concerning all life is the greatest commandment in its most elementary form. Or expressed in negative terms: "Though shalt not kill." We take this prohibition so lightly, thoughtlessly plucking a flower, thoughtlessly stepping on a poor insect, thoughtlessly, in terrible blindness because everything takes its revenge, disregarding the suffering and lives of our fellow men, sacrificing them to trivial earthly goals.
Reverence for life comprises the whole ethic of love in its deepest and highest sense. It is the source of constant renewal for the individual and for mankind.
-- Albert Schweitzer
David Irving is a Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Columbia University, class of 1980, School of General Studies. He subsequently obtained his Masters in Music Composition at Columbia and founded the new music organization Phoenix in New York City.«Collapse
Terrorism's New Face: NGO's and People of ConscienceBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Dr. Martin Balluch, Association Against Animal Factories, From prison hospital in Vienna , Austria. Originally published at Thomas Paine's Corner
On Wednesday 21st May, my life was to change drastically. We had prepared a new campaign on a constitutional change for animals, which would have gone for a vote in Parliament at the beginning of July. The campaign was to be launched the very next day. For this campaign we had managed to unify just about the whole movement in Austria to pull on the same string. As many of you, who know me, will have expected, this is one of my primary aims, to unify the movement for double strength.Expand» |
But the campaign was not to be. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, police launched the most violent attack ever in Austrian history against a social justice movement and against NGOs. Hundreds of armed police officers smashed in the doors of 21 different homes, of 6 different NGO offices and of our warehouse of demo material. 25 people were arrested and questioned by police. 10 people were put on remand since, one of them me.
In order to 'catch' me, police not only broke into my home, but also in the home of two of my brothers and my girlfriend's. Black clad, masked up officers stormed through the broken down door and run, guns drawn, to our beds. They pointed their guns at my head and pulled me out of my bed naked. My brother was pushed onto the wall and had the gun put into his neck.
One of the 10 people police intended to put on remand was not at home. So they phoned him, and guess what? Trustingly, he went to the police station suspecting nothing evil. Till today, 19 days later, he is still rotting in a cell, not knowing why. Incidentally, he is campaigns director of the well known animal welfare group 'Four Paws', which has offices in 6 different countries.
After police had arrested us, they searched all our homes, including those of my brothers, who are not involved in the animal rights movement. Police mainly took computers, but also brochures, books, videos and mobile phones.
You would be forgiven to think that this massive police operation was the state reaction to a high level of animal rights related criminal activity. But instead, fact is that ALF activity in Austria is on a much much smaller scale than in all other countries with a big animal rights movement.
You would also be forgiven to think that police must have had information that dangerous ALF-attacks were about to happen, or that they would discover firebombs or terrorist material. But again, you could not be more wrong. They had no such information, they did not even look for such material. They were only interested in computers, books and videos, i.e. in stuff that says something about the attitude of those people they had arrested. This is what this case is about: the attitude of people, no specific crimes.
If the police had any evidence against any of the arrestees regarding crimes they supposedly here committed, they would have said so by now. But the arrest order says something else. We all were arrested for 'forming a large criminal organisation with a hierarchical structure like a company'. And the crimes this organisation under the name ALF supposedly has committed, is EVERY SINGLE animal rights related crime that ever happened in Austria ! This sounds like a joke, but it is not. Every single animal rights related crime ever, every lock glued, every tyre punctured, every window broken and so forth, but also - believe it or not - every run-in, every home demo and every undercover investigation without criminal aspect, to every topic imaginable, from vivisection to fur, factory farming, circus, the lot, is supposed to have been done by our criminal organisation.
You would expect that if police and the State Prosecution suspect you of such heinous crimes, they would come to you after your arrest and question you. But wrong again. Ever since I have been put on remand in a cell, I have never been asked by anyone any question related to this case. My solicitor has demanded to see the police evidence, and so for we have seen some 2500 pages. And in all those pages, some animal rights related crimes of the last 2 years are forensically analysed, even a bite lock that was put on a door was investigated for DNA traces. And no evidence against any of the 10 arrestees was found. Also, police has listened to our phones, had us under surveillance, put cameras pointing at our front doors, have put V-men into our groups and have read all our emails. For 2 years! And still, they have found no evidence. So they started the huge police operation, desperate for something to use to charge us of anything, and be it tax fraud.
My arrest and remand is 'justified' as follows. There is some albeit comparatively little, animal rights related criminal activity. Hence, there must be a big, hierarchical organisation run like a company, which is responsible for it. Further, since I have been active in the movement for decades, since I have international contacts and since I am influential in the movement and have run many campaigns, I must be the head of this organisation. Full stop. That is it. That is the evidence. Can you believe it? I can't, but for all I can see, it seems to be reality.
How is it possible that I am sitting on remand for such a ludicrous 'suspicion'? Good question. For 2 weeks I was given no reason why I was arrested. Then I could see the 'evidence' and was put before a judge last Friday 6th June. The prosecutor read out the list of all animal rights related crimes and non-criminal actions in the last 11 years, which took a while. Then he said I am suspected to lead a criminal organisation, which is responsible for all of them. Then my solicitor said that there is no evidence. Then I wanted to give a statement, but the judge did not allow me to do so. She just handed me a prepared verdict, which said that I have to remain on remand for another 4 weeks, then she will consider my case again. And that she did with all 10 arrestees, including the campaigns director of Four Paws International.
So, what is behind all this? I think behind all this is the most fundamental attack on animal rights movement ever in the history of our movement worldwide. Let me explain. About 11 years ago, we embarked on a new type of campaigning in Austria . We used the classic grass roots campaign tactic with media work and civil disobedience actions for legal reforms. And we were very successful indeed. First, we banned fur farms, then wild animal circuses, then battery cages and vivisection on apes, and at last rabbit cage farming. Theses successes caused a lot of concern for powerful groups in society. After the hen battery cage ban was achieved in 2004, we started to feel an increasing amount of police repression. The anti-terrorist police department started to watch us and slander us by releasing statements how the suspect us of criminal activity. Also, police restricted our rights to protest ever more. Then the Minister of the Interior publicly called us a violent group. We tried to sue him for it, but he turned out to be immune to law suits as a minister. But he admitted in Parliament when questioned that his accusation was based on wrong assumptions. We publicly called him a liar, but, revealingly he did not react......
Or so we thought. At about the same time a special police squad was formed and started a major surveillance operation on us, i.e. on a number of different animal rights groups, NGOs and individuals. The rest you know already.
Since, after years of intensive surveillance, police could find no evidence of any criminal act, they had to come up with suspicion of an offence that does not need concrete evidence. For that they used a recently introduced law against terrorist groups and the mafia. This law says it is illegal to form a big (i.e. more than 10 people) organisation, which is hierarchical and run similarly to a company, which aims to influence politics or economy, and which was for that aim at least also and at least occasionally, criminal acts. Since we do run campaigns to influence politics and economy, and since there is some sort of animal rights related criminal activity, even if not related to us, on a very low level and of no serious kind but still, the State Prosecution is using the law now - for the first time in history against an NGO. And don't forget: some of those 'crimes' recounted by the State Prosecution include flyposting, run-ins, blockades and undercover investigations inside factory farms. This is a very worrying development.
Police is using an anti-terrorist law against legitimate and non-criminal political campaigning. Amnesty International has voiced concern. A Green Party MP has visited me in prison and the Greens have put critical questions to the minister of the interior in Parliament. But he refused to comment.
Instead, the state prosecutor released a statement to media that we are suspected of committing arson and 'gas attacks', in order to slander us.
This is a political trial, a full scale attack on legal and legitimate reformist law campaigns, which were successful. Please protest against those criminals, who are behind this attack on us, and who are probably high up in government.
I support this protest as much as I can. Immediately after my arrest, I went on hunger strike. Apart from before my court hearing in order to be able to attend, I have not eaten since. I am on my 19th day today. I have been in prison hospital for the last week, have blurred vision and fell unconscious once already. I have been told that soon they will start force-feeding me.
I need your help. I count on you. Thanks for all the support you have given us already. Please trust that there really is no evidence whatever of criminal activity against me. There is none now, and there never will be any.
To write letters (or emails) of support to ten animal welfare workers, click below:«Collapse
June 19, 2008
Disaster Capitalism on a Grand ScaleBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Environmental Justice
As the cost of food and fuel spirals out of control, and the mortgage and credit crises all strike at a global level, one has to ask if this is a "perfect storm" or a manufactured opportunity - or both. In her book, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein documents the planned manipulation and creation of disasters as opportunities to advance a corporatized free market environment. While generally operating at a national level, the process has also been utilized at a regional level. For example, the deliberate attack during the Asian market collapse. As I have watched the unraveling of the global economy, I have wondered if the scheme has not moved to a global level.Expand» |
There are an array of events and actions that seem to provide evidence that "disaster capitalism" is at play in current global events. These current disasters are running side by side and sweeping across the world. The global food crisis (particularly grains), the massive run-up in fuel prices, and the global mortgage crisis which has morphed into a global credit crisis, all evidence the hand of economic "liberalization."
While called "liberalization," this is a process aimed at undermining the sovereignty of nations by removing any "barriers" to trade, and any nation-based efforts to control their own economic and social policies. This "liberalization" is actually aimed at chaining the total resources of the planet to the total control of private capital.
This call for "liberalization" has sounded loudly twice - once from the UN world food summit, followed a week later by a statement from John Negroponte (U.S. Deputy Secretary of State) for removing trade barriers on food.
They (heads of state) agreed urgent economic assistance for affected countries, and to support agricultural production and trade through further liberalisation and reduced trade barriers. These measures, the conference statement says, would assure "better integration of small-scale producers with local, regional and international markets." (IPS)
"These restrictions should be lifted. They have taken food off the global market, driven prices higher and isolated farmers from the one silver lining of the rise in food prices: higher incomes for agriculture producers," he said. (Negroponte as quoted by Reuters)
There is apparently no discussion of how creating the import/export economies has undermined the food security of nations, nor how that has replaced small agriculture with plantation agriculture. Nor any discussion that while "biotechnology" may produce some yield gains, that it places the food chain directly in the hands of transnational agri-business.
It also seems a major oversight to call for dramatic increases in the amount of money for food aid at the same time that the push is on to further corporatize the food supply. Just whose pockets is food aid filling?
MORTGAGE / CREDIT CRISIS
The lie underlying the mortgage / credit crisis is the huge losses. While certainly lots of folks got hurt (and continue to be hurt), those bundled investments made a profit at each sale and re-bundling. Those profits went in somebody's pockets. Further, Both the U.S. and the British federal reserve banks have thrown billions of dollars (and pounds) into the gapping maw. Those finances coming ultimately from our pockets ... and ending up in someone else's. This is a massive expropriation of present and future wealth - not to mention the potential collapse of national economies.
OIL (COST) CRISIS
There is something significant happening beyond the realities of oil supply and capacity, and that is the commodities and futures market. It is estimated that 25% (or more) of the current cost run-up is "speculation." It has been said that the market is "out of control."
I suspect that a combination of profit-taking is happening, and this is totally predictable in a scarce resource market - even if that scarcity is being manipulated. Regardless, the crisis creates opportunities to push through more transfer of wealth and accomplish "other goals." Those goals range from a renewed push to exploit every potential oil resource (off shore drilling, ANWR, the Arctic) as well as increased pressure and manipulation on producer states (OPEC, military bases in Africa, increased U.S. military placement in Latin America). Those "other goals" may also include increased military presence and control of civilian populations.
TYING IT TOGETHER
The instituting of a global war on terrorism manufactured by the neo-cons and the Bush administration (with the help of Congress and corporate media) has been great for achieving multiple goals. In the United States and elsewhere, the implementation of "anti-terrorist" legislation and machinery has undermined the transparency of government while creating actual threat to those who would resist the power grab. The occupation of Iraq has generated tremendous regional instability while removing oil resources from the market - both of which have been a consistent feature in increasing oil costs. Further, it has normalized (if not institutionalized) massive levels of corporatization - particularly of the military. This in turn has led to an incredible increase in global military spending. In fact, according to Agence France Presse there has been a 45% increase in global military spending over the last ten years. This is certainly a wind fall for the "defense" industry.
Also facilitating the current catastrophe is the "liberalization" of the financial markets. One of the segments of the market that is linked to at least two of the three crises is the commodities and futures market. In the wake of the Enron scandal, there was noise made about closing the "Enron loophole." As far as I can tell, that "loophole" remains in full usage.
Legislation was not moved forward until September of 2007 to address this "weakness" in the commodities sector. That legislation was H.R. 4066 / S. 2058 -To amend the Commodity Exchange Act to close the Enron loophole, prevent price manipulation and excessive speculation in the trading of energy commodities, and for other purposes which was referred to Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on 9/17/07. That bill was added to the farm bill that Bush vetoed - which explains a lot about why he really vetoed the bill. The legislation to close the loop hole and provide greater oversight was included in the farm bill (Text of bill) which became Public Law 110-234 over Bush's veto. However, 110-234 does not seem to exist in either text or pdf form in the GPO database, one can view the enrolled House version H.R. 2419 . I believe that this is (coincidentally) the bill which had some sort of error and was returned to the Senate (where apparently it has languished once again).
It seems to me that one way to control the "out of control" market speculation on both petroleum and grains, is to clamp down on this market - both here and globally. At the very least, there should be a commodities "holiday" to allow a cool down period, and to move to improve the transparency and controls on these markets.
As these crises continue to drag down economies, nations, and peoples, more and more "shock doctrine" mechanisms will be thrust forward. The current situation and crises create a perfect opportunity for a corporatist end game. Such a move, would be catastrophic for us all.
I could be incorrect in my reading of the current environment. However, I could also be right. I write this to raise people's awareness of the possible "invisible hand" that is at play so that we (meaning the people of the world) are not totally disenfranchised in a Ponzi scheme pitched as "saving" us. The disasters themselves pose deadly challenges for much of the global population. I strongly believe that increased "liberalization" is not going to resolve any of these issues. However, it would dramatically advance an agenda that has already caused immeasurable harm to billions of people and the earth which is our home.
Global Military Spending Soars 45 Percent in 10 Years, Agence France Presse, 6/09/08
Myth-makers caught short in oil speculation. R. M. Cutler, Asia Times, 6/18/08.
June 14, 2008
World rice shortageBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Marina Johnson
"They're taking no chances with this year's harvest on the farms in Supamburri. Alongside the heavy machinery, there's a new feature: shotguns. The message is clear: Hand off my rice." ITV News Correspondent, Inigo Gilmore ("Rising Food Prices"). This is the heart of Thailand's rice-growing region, and there's great anticipation around this season's harvest. With many countries facing shortages, rice has never been more prized, so prized, in fact, that for the first time this area has seen significant and organized thefts of the crop. For this reason local farmers are keeping a close watch on this harvest.Expand» |
Food supplies have dropped so low, enough to incite riots and protests in several developing countries. Unrest tied to food prices has been reported in Cameroon, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt. Widespread riots in Haiti have resulted in several deaths. Those most affected in these countries are landless laborers and urban slum-dwellers who are now spending 70 percent to 80 percent of their income for food. They can't afford the increased prices ("As Food Prices").
Haiti imports 90 percent of its food. So you can imagine, if the food prices have gone up three times over the last three years, that's going to be a country that will be very affected, "Anybody who's a wage-earner and basically has the money to buy food is suddenly finding that they can no longer put two meals on the table for their family and they have to claw it back to one." Komi Kharas, Brooking Institution ("As Food Prices").
World rice consumption has increased 40 percent in the past 30 years. Annual world production had reached a record 420 million metric tons. But global supplies have fallen to their lowest level since 1983-84 (Brinkerman). Around the world, the cost of food is going up, 83 percent in the last three years, and the rise in prices is threatening to plunge more than 100 million people deeper into poverty and hunger. This food shortage is affecting the entire world but is felt the strongest in the poorest of nations even reaching into the middle class. Reasons for this epidemic are vast; some even out of human control, but there are steps we can take to once again feed the hungry.
"What started with a shortage in Thailand and a typhoon in Bangladesh is now putting tremendous pressure on domestically produced rice," Rich Lenardson, manager of Sun Food Service Brokerage in Portland, OR. "I've sold rice since 1978 and I've never seen the kind of price increases we've seen in the past month or so here" (Brinkerman).
The high cost of fuel for transporting food, bad weather in key agricultural areas of the world, the increased food demand from developed nations and market speculations are also contributing to the high prices. "It's a complex converging of events. It's a mixture of issues ranging from bad weather -- climate change plays a role. In Australia, for instance, there's a multi-year drought that has really eaten into the global food supply," Anthony Faiola, The Washington Post ("Supply").
Several reasons are cited for the problem, high energy prices, which boost cost of food transport, climate change, which causes bad harvests in areas from Africa to Australia, and increased consumption by newly prosperous China and India, which are producing less food as farmers move to the cities. Among the numerous factors contributing to the problem are record oil prices that have driven up the cost of transporting food and increased demand.
Another factor, particularly in the U.S. and the European Union, is the diversion of crops such as corn to produce ethanol and other biofuels. In the meantime, the high prices also make it harder on aid agencies to help out; all being tied to the controversy over ethanol, the diversion of corn into a biofuel, rather than for food is an ongoing debate in this country. America produces approximately 40 percent of the world's corn and we're diverting 30 percent of our production into corn-based ethanol currently. "We've got our foot on the accelerator to produce more corn-based ethanol and to accelerate this sort of connection between food and fuel." Raymond Offenheiser, Oxfam America ("As Food Prices"). These new demands from the biofuel industry are taking up more and more of the U.S. corn production, affecting wheat prices, because farmers are inclined to plant less wheat and more corn.
A statement released by, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown's office said that delegates planned to work with the G8 and European Union to form a global strategy that would increase support to the world's poorest countries and attempt to tackle the price problem. It was also agreed that governmental approaches to biofuels should be assessed. "Prices have surged alongside rising energy and production costs, the effects of climate change, and a squeeze on land for production. Prices have spiked as African and Asian countries rushed to secure rice stocks amid fears of social unrest." Gilmore.
In India, a country where millions live a hand-to-mouth existence, concerns about securing those domestic stocks prompted the government to ban rice exports. India is traditionally one of the largest exporters of rice in the world, and this new ban is causing alarm. The Indian government hopes it will stabilize the price of rice there, but the fear is it may push up prices elsewhere. Signs show that is already happening, India's ban follows an export ban by another major exporter, Vietnam, and all this is putting pressure on Thailand, the world's only remaining major exporter.
China has almost doubled its consumption of meat, fish and dairy products since 1990. This takes a lot of grain off global markets since, for example, it takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. This increased demand in China reached a tipping point over the past few years, with China disappearing as one of the largest grain exporters in the world into an importer of grain virtually overnight. Demand in China and India has been increasing now for a decade or more. And globally, the system was able to cope with that demand, up until just a few years ago.
An additional 100 million people, previously not requiring food assistance, are now not able to buy food, said World Food Program, WFP, executive director Josette Sheeran. "This is the new face of hunger -- the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are" ("Global Food"). The U.N.'s World Food Program says the problem is getting worse. Food prices are going through the roof right now, which means that every day that passes we can buy less food than the day before. The U.N.'s World Food Programme was forced to tack an additional $755 million to this year's budget of $2.9 billion to account for rising prices. Oxfam America reprehensive, Raymond Offenheiser, "I think the entire humanitarian community is very concerned about the amount of money that's going to be available for food assistance over the coming year" ("As Food Prices").
The prices of rice, maize and wheat have hit record highs and have doubled in the past year. "Foods price escalation has been especially evident in recent weeks. In Asia, the price of rice has more than doubled in less than two months, from $460 a ton at the beginning of March to more than $1,000 currently," Sheeran told the BBC ("Global Food").
The cost of staples last year rose significantly. Rice was up 16 percent; wheat rose by 77 percent. This year, the spike is even more dramatic. Since January, rice prices have soared 141 percent; one variety of wheat went up 25 percent in a single day ("As Food Prices").
Due to desert conditions and dry hot weather, Mauritania, a small country in northwest Africa, is forced to import approximately 70 percent of its food supply. This is a country that's clearly dependent on the global marketplace for its food. But in a situation like they have now, where food prices have surged to, in some cases record levels, in a very short period of time, you see a situation growing where these people are simply unable to pay for their food. The food is in the markets; they just can't afford it. People who live on less than a dollar a day have to pay 70 to 80% of their income just for food. "There was a family at a marketplace in the capital of Mauritania where they were selling their last goat. They had five goats last year, but because prices have soared as they have, these people have been forced to either sell their goats or to eat them. So what they're doing at the moment is trying to hang on to what little they have. They're skipping meals. They're eating less food. They're eating poor quality food. They used to have rice puddings, for instance, that had rich milk, as well as cooking oil and sugar, and they've dwindled that down to recipes including only rice and water," Faiola ("Supply"). Presently, situation like this are quickly becoming the norm in many countries.
And as prices started to go up, many consumers decided they would be better off to buy now because prices might keep going up in the future, creating a lot of panic buying. The countries that were previously willing to sell stopped selling, reinforcing the bubble in markets. Human resources director for Sysco Food Services of Portland, Oregon, Don Haverkamp, feels, "Consumers in some instances appear to be reacting to fear of shortages by binge buying and hoarding," A sign informs customers of a purchase limit on bags of rice at a Costco:
~Due to increased demand, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history. Please see a supervisor to find your limit~
Analysts trace the trouble back to India, which slapped impositions on exports last year to protect domestic supplies. The ripple effect of that decision finally started to be felt in U.S. stores. "A 50-pound bag of jasmine rice that sold retail for $22 or $23 jumped to $39, $50," says Celia Chan, president of United Pacific Co. Inc., a Beaverton, Oregon wholesaler. "Some U.S. farmers, seeing the chance to increase their own profits, are now trying to capitalize by raising the prices," she said, adding, "It's really hard on the restaurant business now" (Brinkerman).
Even though the evidence is undeniable, some experts feel that the situation is causing undue panic. "I don't know why people keep asking the same question. There is plenty of rice for consumers," David Cola, USA Rice Federation, Washington D.C. "The U.S. produces 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the world's supply, and U.S. farmers grow nearly 90 percent of the rice Americans consume each year." However, Mr. Cola is failing to acknowledge the impact outside of the United States. Regardless of one's view of the situation, at the end of the day, this is not a problem of a global food shortage. This is really a problem of distribution. This is a problem of people who don't have enough money to buy food
One might ask how this could have happened. If you can draw a line from a wheat, corn or soybean farm in the American Midwest all the way to Mauritania in West Africa, one might ask: wasn't globalization supposed to make food cheaper for poor people? For the last 15 years or so, there has been this assumption that countries like Mauritania could effectively abandon their government-fixed price systems that they had and give up this idea of having to stockpile food for a rainy day, the idea being that the global marketplace would, of course, provide. As a result, when a market increases in demand, for instance, when we see rising demand from China or India, the prices are not adjusting the way they should be, because there's an inhibitor in the market. With the situation where the United State, Europe, and Japan are protecting their famers by offering government subsidies, these subsidies allow these farmers to sell their crops for less. Smaller countries that do not offer subsidies are unable to compete in the market and soon abandon their food farms to grow cash crops. As a result, less food is grown and sold while demand is getting larger every decade.
World Bank President, Robert Zoellick: "It's getting more and more difficult every day. In many developing countries, the poor spend up to 75 percent of their income on food. When prices of basic foods rise, it hits hard. Food riots have already occurred in several nations this month. At least seven people have died in violence in Haiti, where more than half the population lives on a dollar a day or less. The price of rice there has doubled since December." ("As Food Prices"). This situation is very serious, in Egypt; rioters burned a market and neighboring school. In Thailand, a country that exports 90 percent of the world's rice, farmers now carry guns to protect their crop.
World Food Program managers call this crisis a silent tsunami that threatens to plunge more than 100 million people world wide into hunger. "It's probably the toughest challenge that we are facing as and aid organization in our history," said Bettina Luescher, a New York spokeswoman for the 45-year-old agency. The WFP bought rice in Bangkok for $460 per metric ton on March 3. Five weeks later the price hit $780 (Brinkerman).
But one of the things that has happened here is that the market for food has become connected with the market for energy, because you need fertilizer to grow your crops -- most of the fertilizer is produced from natural gas. Energy is needed to transport and distribute food, the shocks that we are now seeing and the pressures in the energy market are inevitably spilling over into pressures in the food markets. As some governments are limiting their exports to protect their own populations, we have got to reinvigorate investment in agriculture and the agricultural sector in many of these countries in order to get a sustainable, a long-term solution. One of the things we may need to rethink is, how do we want to structure food? Do we want to link this market so closely to another very vulnerable market, which is energy? Or do we want to develop different forms of agriculture, which are less energy intensive?
This is not Greek tragedy where fate is decided by the gods and humans can do nothing about it. No, we have the ability to influence our futures; we can fix this problem and need to act quickly.
"As Food Prices Soar, U.N. Calls for International Help." The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. WOPB, Portland. 23 April. 2008.
Brinkerman, Jonathan. "A World of Factors Boosts Rice Prices." The Oregonian 4 (2008): A1and A4.
"Global Food Prices Dubbed a 'Silent Tsunami'." The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. WOPB, Portland. 23 April. 2008.
"Rising Food Prices Felt Around the World." The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. WOPB, Portland. 11 April. 2008.
"Supply, Price of Food Increases Hardship for World's Poor." The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. PBS. WOPB, Portland. 29 April. 2008.
June 2, 2008
Location, Location, Re-locationBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Alternatives
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
For approximately ten days last month I traveled across the United States from my former home in New Mexico to my new home in Vermont. My journey has been the culmination of years of researching and soul searching in response to the odyssey of my species and the earth community which has now entered an irreversible trajectory of collapse.Expand» |
At the completion of this transition, I feel compelled to clarify a number of issues around my relocation and relocation in general. Obviously, for the past two years on this website I have been talking about relocation as one piece in the complex tapestry of collapse preparation. Therefore, I feel that I owe it to regular readers and subscribers of Truth To Power to let you know that I've taken this enormous step since many of you have relocated long before I did, and many more of you are contemplating doing so. I believe that where we choose to stay or move to is monumentally important in terms of how we prepare or do not prepare for collapse. I do not believe that everyone should relocate, and I certainly do not believe that everyone should relocate in Vermont since relocation is a highly individual decision encompassing myriad factors, and one size definitely does not fit all.
I hasten to add that I just arrived in Vermont a few days ago and that I do not have elaborate plans for making a seamless transition into some groovy ecovillage where I intend to live happily ever after in harmonious community with other collapse watchers. I'm taking this process one step at a time and may be settling in at some point in shared living space with friends where a process will be implemented for addressing conflict and the logistics of inhabiting our common dwelling places together. Should such a group coalesce, there will be formidable challenges and hopefully, extraordinary moments of celebration as people come together and confront the demons we have all introjected from empire, not to mention the fundamentals of survival. As a seasoned Buddhist might say, I have a plan, but plans from moment to moment must be open to change. Relocation and living in community as collapse exacerbates will be a long, demanding, arduous process, but I have taken the first step, as have many of you.
Relocation involves much more than logically choosing a geographical area inside or outside the U.S., taking into consideration the climate, access to arable land, water, wood, and other resources for living sustainably-a decision requiring most individuals to carefully weigh the assets and liabilities of any given place and then acquiring the financial resources necessary to make the transition. Just deciding where one wants to live is challenging enough; equally stressful for most people is finding the means to relocate, and as the price of gas and just about everything else soars, it feels as if the sands of time are running out and against those who have not yet made their move.
What seems to get less attention when the topic of relocation is discussed is the emotional factor-that is, the goodbyes, the myriad feelings that surface as one leaves a place and people-perhaps even immediate family members, in order to relocate in an unfamiliar venue. What is already an emotionally challenging experience may become more agonizing as family and friends living in denial of collapse perceive one's decision to relocate as extreme, bizarre, or dangerous. But the emotions associated with leaving are usually rivaled by those one experiences when arriving at the new destination-feelings of unfamiliarity, disorientation, ungroundedness, anxiety, paranoia, and disconnection. None of us is an expert in relocation even if we have moved many times in our lives. After all, relocation engendered by one's awareness of collapse is not the same as simply moving to another state or country under pre-collapse circumstances.
In other words, other relocations in one's life may have been motivated by job change, the end or beginning of a relationship, the desire to be closer to family, or a hundred other conventional reasons. In those instances, moving is less emotionally complicated. One simply takes care of the business of moving, experiences the typical emotions around saying goodbyes, and then moves on. Relocation needs to happen, so we relocate. Done.
Because the prime motivating factor for many individuals in current time is preparation for the demise of empire, one is almost certain to feel passionate about the decision, but the quality of feeling about relocating will be experienced differently than with respect to prior moves. Typically, when people relocate in anticipation of collapse, many second thoughts and pejorative inner voices, as well as some skeptical external voices from well-meaning friends or family, are likely to scream things like: "What the hell are you doing? Are you crazy? Don't you think this is a little extreme? What if you're wrong, and after a few years of crisis, the world just goes on as it was? Won't you regret your move?"
After relocating, even if the new setting is structured and one's living arrangements are already well in place, a plethora of other thoughts and feelings may surface-as stated above: a sense of disorientation, ungroundedness, fear, anxiety, ambivalence. These emotions will vary in intensity and frequency depending on how different the new setting is from the old, but because the intention of relocation is to settle into a very different milieu, they are likely to be ubiquitous. What will invariably come to the forefront of consciousness is the need to trust oneself and one's decision about relocating. It will be important to mentally return to the months or years of preparation one has put into the relocation and remind oneself of all the reasons for making the transition-and reach out to fellow relocaters and friends who support ones' decision.
At this point, relocation becomes a highly emotional and, dare I say, spiritual issue. Any time I am faced with trusting myself or others, I'm in the territory of mystery, and mystery is about something greater than my own human ego. The more experience one has in consciously living beyond the parameters of one's ego and intentionally inhabiting the domain of one's life purpose, the less stressful the transition is apt to be because the "muscles" of trust have been sufficiently exercised in the context of other issues. Relocation is never easy, but it can be made easier by trusting the process that brought one to make the decision, trusting allies who have already earned one's trust, taking action, and finally waking up in the new location with all the attendant emotions and challenges and feeling, not denying them.
Having allies and a structure in place in the new setting is important, but in any event, unforeseen challenges will arise. Such is the nature of the journey of relocation. The toxicity of the culture of empire is a prime motivator for most of us as we relocate, and one aspect of that toxicity is the need for certainty and predictability. When we step out of empire and into our journey, into a new way of thinking and living, we invariably sign up for uncertainty and anxiety and guarantee that our survival and well being depend on trust as much as strategy.
For me, collapse is about far more than survival. In fact, survival may be the least important issue. What matters much more for me is the possibility of creating a new way of being in the world that rejects empire and its values and offers the opportunity for creating and maintaining community based on serving the earth community.
Well, if you're now thinking, "All right, already, enough of the spiritual babble, what about the logistics?" I will tell you why I chose Vermont as my destination; my understanding of the state based on my research suggests the following*: First, Vermont is sparsely populated with about 630,000 residents. It has abundant water and arable land with ample access to firewood which of course will be critical for woodstove and pellet stove heating as home heating oil, the predominant means of heating in the Northeast, becomes increasingly unaffordable. The state has no billboards, and residents must pay for any trash they do not recycle. In addition, Vermont is currently fine-tuning its own state healthcare system, Catamount, which provides reimbursement for anyone making less than $2600 a month. Residents can also buy health insurance through Catamount on a sliding scale. Just this past week, Vermont was rated second only to Iowa in the quality of its healthcare for children. The state also has an abundance of small farms, a thriving organic dairy industry, and a strong emphasis on eating and buying local. Most notably, Vermont is an incredibly rural state with only three towns of 15,000 or more: Burlington, Rutland, and the state's capital, Montpelier. When traveling throughout the state one has the feeling that one has left the U.S. and is inhabiting some other country because rural Vermont bears little resemblance to "McAmerica". Furthermore, Vermont is third in the nation for the amount of money it spends per capita on education, and small private and state-funded colleges are ubiquitous. Also, an Amtrak line runs from Montreal to New York City, and trains can be boarded daily from Rutland to the Big Apple.
Perhaps most enticing about Vermont is the remarkable environmental consciousness of the majority of its citizens and the sense of community and mutual support they demonstrate. In fact, I have never known a state, and I have lived in many, where cooperation is as valued as it is in Vermont. A great deal of focus is now being placed by Vermonters on renewable energy with widespread Peak Oil awareness and preparation. As for the arts, Vermont is an oasis of music and visual arts, and some have said that one cannot throw a stone in Vermont without hitting a writer.
Politically, the state tends to balance conservatism-that is fiscal restraint, balanced budgets and a "live and let live" sensibility and neighbor helping neighbor, with a long history of support for progressive causes-from support for abolition in the 19th century to support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered persons in the 21st. Seen from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Vermont is the most radical state in the nation-the only state where one does not need a permit to carry a handgun and at the same time, a state where LGBT individuals feel safely able to become an integral part of community life. Vermont has a rich history of supporting human rights and was the first state to outlaw slavery.
In addition, a strong movement for Vermont independence, yes secession, is the passion of a significant number of Vermonters. Familiarity with Vermont's history reveals a long-standing tradition of independence modeled on the democratic republic template of the Founders of the United States. In-depth information about the "once and future Republic of Vermont" can be obtained at the Vermont Commons website where Truth To Power has a regular blogspot and where authors promoting independence offer a treasure-trove of information and support for their cause. Many supporters of Vermont independence believe that it will become an increasingly viable option as the collapse of empire intensifies and globalization is supplanted by localization.
However, as with any venue, Vermont has daunting challenges, not the least of which is its winters. Home heating oil costs this coming winter will be astronomical, and renewable energy for heating will be a critical necessity. Because of its long winters, newcomers quickly discover that they must participate in seasonal outdoor activities such as downhill or cross country skiing or snow shoeing in order to prevent "cabin fever" and to assist them in emotionally adapting to the season's length. The pay-off for those long winters, however, is lush summers and resplendent autumn foliage that bolster the state's tourism and fine arts enterprises. Because of Vermont's low population and its de-emphasis on growth, finding gainful employment is challenging. Public transportation is still inadequate in Vermont as it is in most regions of the nation which means that unless Vermonters work at home, they are required to drive fairly long distances to their jobs. At this writing, a few stores are selling gas at $3.89 in Vermont, but most Vermonters anticipate rising gas prices very soon. Culturally, Vermont is mono, rather than multi-cultural, the predominant ethnicity being Anglo-American. In addition, LGBT individuals in the state are working hard to get legislation passed that would make civil marriages legal.
As for my own rationale for leaving the Southwestern U.S., I have been researching the issue for several years, and in the light of what are certain to be lethal water shortages and climate changes that are likely to make that region uninhabitable, especially as energy blackouts become more frequent, I felt compelled to move north. Through a series of connections with friends in the Northeast, I chose Vermont for many of the reasons stated above, but also because it felt like the best option for me. I have also carefully considered relocating outside the U.S., but as the Terminal Triangle that I have written about so often-Peak Oil, climate change, and global economic meltdown exacerbate and engulf the entire planet, the assertion that leaving the U.S. is absolutely necessary for one's survival has felt increasingly spurious to me.
If you feel motivated to relocate, be advised: the sooner the better. Time is running out. Also, it is important to understand that no place is perfectly safe, no place offers one all of the attributes that make for sustainable living, and certainly no place is without challenges. Most importantly, the emotional and spiritual aspects of collapse must be attended to with as much ardor as the logistical aspects because they loom at least as large, if not larger, than the fundamental process of continuing to breathe air, eat food, drink water, and maintain one's basic creature comforts.
During my transition to Vermont I was able to offer more postings on the site than I had anticipated. I suppose I expected more disruption of daily postings than actually occurred, and for the fact that I was able to continue postings most days during the transition, I'm grateful. Truth To Power now has a new home as well as many subscribers in the Green Mountain State. I look forward to posting news regarding local political and sustainability projects in Vermont which may be useful to all Truth To Power readers everywhere, and I support all of you who are considering relocation. Choose the place that is best for you, and go there soon.
*With special thanks to Rob Williams, Professor of History at Champlain College and Editor of VT Commons, for fact-checking information about Vermont in this article«Collapse
May 27, 2008
API: Greenwashing Again or Pure Propaganda?BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Peak Oil
The American Petroleum Institute (API) is unleashing a new advertising campaign to soothe the American public. I am sure it has nothing to do with Oil execs grilled on fuel prices by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.Expand» |
EnergyTomorrow is registered to API (look up at Lookup). One of the ads API is currently running is an excellent example of propaganda - the truth, but not quite the truth.
There are several striking things that jump out in the advertisement. First is the upbeat tone that distracts one from the message being given. One barely notices the substance, part of which is accurate. For example, it is true that the predictions are that energy demand will increase by 45% by 2030.
The ad begins by stating "Oil and natural gas power the past." However, the ad is telling us that oil and gas in the United States can meet future demand. Instead of talking about non-hydrocarbon energy sources, they stick with hydrocarbons as the energy solution.
The ad then states that the U.S. resources (112 billion barrels "technically" recoverable reserves according to the site) to fuel 60 million cars and 160 million households for 60 years. Look at these figures. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Commission, as of 2003 there was a total of 231,389,998 registered vehicles - not including 5,328,300 motorcycles. According to the Census Bureau, there were 116,011,000 households in the U.S. in 2006. The population is estimated to be 363,584,000 by 2030 In 2006, the number of people per household was approximately 2.6 people (Census Bureau). Assuming a consistent household size, that would mean there would be 145,433,600 households in 2030.
The population is going to grow; the number of households is going to grow; but the number of vehicles in the U.S. is going to decline to by over 75% (from the number of vehicles today). There are approximately 1.99 vehicles (excluding motorcycles) per household today, given the expected growth in population, there will be even fewer registered vehicles than that. Those registered vehicles include semi-trucks and other non-passenger vehicles. So, it looks like there are not going to be a lot of folks on the road.
So what about those 112 billion barrels of "technically" exploitable oil in the United States? Well, there is ANWR, the national parks, the coasts of Florida and California. If we signed all that over to the oil companies then "maybe" they could get that amount of oil. Costs and environment and legacy for the future be damned.
The advertisement also conflicts with the information on their own site Facts About Oil & Natural Gas. There they reiterate the 60 million "Cars can be powered" and then state "along with 25 million homes can be heated with crude oil resources from the U.S. for 60 years" (emphasis mine). That is 25 million homes - not 160 million households. In other words, only 15% of the homes could be heated.
So what about those "alternative" energy sources? According to the "Facts" page,
6 Percent of energy use currently supplied by renewable sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which expects the figure to increase by two percent by 2030
On another cheery note for the those who support ethanol (but don't particularly care to eat):
12.3 Percent of gasoline used in the United States that would be saved if every acre of corn was used for ethanol.
So one is wondering what "advanced" technology, and "smart" energy policy are going to do to make up an energy shortfall of roughly 80% for cars and 85% for homes.
My, that is an upbeat message - even if it is pure propaganda.
Other Items of related Interest
EnergyTomorrow.org - API propaganda site.
May 23, 2008
Rapid Unveiling and the Demise of Adolescent AmericaBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Impacts
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
Well here it is folks-the great unraveling so many of us have been forecasting during the past five years as we've read the tea leaves and researched the unprecedented convergence of myriad natural, political, economic, and environmental realities. As most of you know, I'm traveling, yes on the road, across this country. I was going to wait until arriving at my final destination before writing about my experience, but with oil rapidly heading for $200 a barrel, it feels important to do so sooner rather than later because our lives have just changed more dramatically than we can imagine, and we will only be able to comprehend to what extent as the repercussions of the end of the age of oil reverberate through what is left of industrial civilization.Expand» |
In my travels I've seen exactly one RV on the road, a few SUV's and vans, a number of small cars and motorcycles, and lots of eighteen-wheelers going 55 MPH. Motels have a record low number of guests, and few people are eating in restaurants. I thought about writing an article entitled "Ghost Town USA: Echo Across America", but that was before oil reached a new record of $135 yesterday. The speed of collapse is taking even a seasoned collapse-watcher like me by somewhat of a surprise, and I feel compelled to talk about it as it unfolds in this moment.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what we are witnessing-and there are oh so many, is the ubiquitousness of blame. Attending almost every report on skyrocketing gas prices is the question: "So whose fault is it?" I certainly am not surprised by this, but I find it unsettling to say the least. Because Americans in particular have been absolutely recalcitrant and incapable of looking at collapse, they are being and will continue to be increasingly blindsided by it. Sadly, when humans are traumatized, their functioning becomes progressively more primal and animal-like, and their capacity for taking in and assimilating new information is markedly reduced.
When Peak Oil experts first began sharing their research, they told us that food, perhaps more than any aspect of our lives, would be impacted by it, and so it is. The double-barreled trauma now hitting Americans which is putting both gasoline and food out of their reach, is certain to result in reactive, vindictive behavior that will irrationally target a plethora of scapegoats. Add to this a foreclosure or two, a bankruptcy, car repossession, job loss or loss of health insurance and you have a recipe for mayhem. Such behavior, understandable as it may be, is adolescent in nature and therefore, untempered and unwizened, making acting-out individuals exceedingly dangerous to themselves and others.
Like me, you are probably witnessing the barrage of blame in your community and nationally if you are paying attention to mainstream news. Dmitry Orlov has given us a treasure-trove of information about human behavior in the throes of collapse chaos. What is and will be different from the collapse of the Soviet Union for Americans, however, is the level of violence that is likely to proliferate as collapse accelerates. Russians were never intoxicated with affluence and entitlement as Americans are. Their history has been replete with suffering; ours marinated in privilege reinforced by gun culture and firearm fetishes.
What those of us who comprehend collapse must understand as we navigate the daunting days ahead is that what is happening to America and the human species is an initiatory experience similar to those which have been structured and honored by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The very best explanation I have read of this process is Nature And The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness And Community In A Fragmented World, an extraordinary book by psychologist Bill Plotkin in which he illuminates the stages of human development and emphasizes how they have been skewed by a capitalistic, consumer-driven culture-and how each stage might be lived in fulfillment in the context of a holistic community. The current planetary initiation differs from the traditional, tribal initiation in that the former is involuntary and unwanted, whereas the latter is perceived as essential for the well being of the initiate and the tribe.
In tribal cultures young people have the opportunity to experience ritual rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood, that is, an initiation, which involves some type of ordeal created and supported by the tribe's elders. Ordeals may include rugged endurance challenges in the wilderness, treacherous hunting experiences, or isolation for a period of time in nature. In all instances, the experience is one of discomfort and danger and literally sets up a brush with death for the initiate. Many traditional societies, and some psychologists such as Carl Jung, believe that the human psyche requires initiatory experiences in order to develop in a functional manner and that without them, one's emotional and spiritual development is impaired.
Since cultures are comprised of individuals, it follows that when the individuals of the culture have not been initiated, the culture itself is likely to remain in an adolescent state. Many cultures that have experienced collective suffering such as protracted wars, famines, and disease have in the process, experienced a collective initiation which may produce some of the results of an individual initiation. This may be the reason that some European countries that endured two world wars appear to have a more mature relationship with the earth community. For example, many of those countries are far more aware of environmental issues and have taken more profound steps to live consciously in harmony with the ecosystem as noted in a recent National Geographic survey which ranks the U.S. last in environmentally conscious behavior.
I believe that the collapse of civilization, now accelerating at dizzying speed, is indeed a collective, planetary initiation of the human species. It involves all of us, not just those "clueless Americans out there", and it will deliver to each of us countless unwanted ordeals on every level-physical, emotional, financial, social, and spiritual. What traditional cultures which practice ritual initiation understand about it is that what matters most in the initiatory process is not whether the initiate survives physically, but that that person's consciousness is transformed-for her own enhancement and for that of the tribe.
What I want to reinforce for all of us is how imperative it is in the days ahead for us to walk consciously, cautiously, and compassionately through the fires of this long, protracted initiation. Beyond our physical, financial, and logistic preparations, we must continuously work-and it will be work-to open our hearts and minds to the larger purpose behind the ordeals. We must ask ourselves what each particular experience wants to reveal to us, how it comes to us to open our eyes and cleanse the doors of our perception. We will be incessantly reminded that civilization has come to all this-depletion and exhaustion of the earth community and all of the suffering that attends that. In a sense, I believe, we are fortunate to be living in this time and on this planet because something greater than our finite human egos is delivering a message with unmistakable clarity: Living estranged from the earth community as if we are the only and the most important species on earth does not work, and collapse wishes to make certain that we understand unequivocally and irrevocably that our only survival and our only serenity will be found in living as if we and the earth are one.
Moreover, because we and the earth community are one, it is imperative that we reach out to our neighbors and community members. Their awareness may range from totally clueless to that of fellow collapse watcher, but bonds must be made and trust built-for our well being and for theirs. In the days ahead, we will need them, and they will need us. The more familiar we are with each other, the less likely that any of us is scapegoated or victimized by panicked, hungry people who feel victimized and powerless to cope with what they perceive they have been dealt.
The time for a sense of entitlement is over. We are not entitled to anything; I repeat: We are not entitled to anything. Each day, each moment, each breath, each bite of food and drop of water, each smile or warm hand on our shoulder, if we are fortunate enough to have them, are precious gifts to be savored, treasured, and given thanks for.
As I have been writing in recent months, I hold a vision of possibility-the potential for small pockets of survivors to create local outposts of conscious community in which individuals can live compassionately, practicing out of necessity and choice, those behaviors that sustain themselves and the earth. Those who have already begun this process may have an advantage, but none of us will be immune-nor should we be, in my opinion. It appears that this momentous initiation is the only way in which humans can fully and finally comprehend the toxicity of civilization.
Many citizens of the former Soviet Union discovered through the experience of collapse what ultimately mattered most. Yes, there was violence, crime, paranoia, hunger, thirst, deprivation, and astounding loss, but unprecedented compassion, trust, bonding, cooperation, and support flourished in the midst of total societal disintegration. For me, collapse is the opportunity for an outpouring of the latter qualities that causes me to at least partially welcome the demise of all that has prevented us from living and sharing them. Perhaps finally, amid a frightening unraveling, we will grow up-becoming mature human beings who ultimately find it impossible to tolerate anything remotely resembling industrial civilization because we will at last have become adults.«Collapse
May 18, 2008
Evolve or die: Can we shed our moral primitivism before it’s too late?BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Impacts
I would like to recommend to you an excellent interview Evolve or die: Can we shed our moral primitivism before it’s too late? posted at Thomas Paine's Corner. This interview of Steven Best by Jason Miller is an excellent discussion of the intersections (and magnifying effects) of capitalism and specieism. While in some ways an emotionally distressing article, it addresses head on the trail over the cliff of cruelty and profit.
May 11, 2008
Gravediggers of the world unite! Capitalism Must Die….BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Jason
By Jason Miller of Thomas Paine's corner
“What this means is that corporations and those who run them cannot stop exploiting resources and amassing wealth until they have… .I cannot finish this sentence, because the truth is that can never stop; like cancer, they can only continue to expand until they kill the host.” –Derrick Jensen
Yes. It’s another anti-capitalist rant by Jason Miller. Big surprise! I’m the associate editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online, the anti-capitalist tool. We’re not big fans of free market ideology and its tacit socioeconomic license to rape, pillage and plunder.Expand» |
Here’s a novel idea—if you don’t like my diatribes against the predominatingly rotten-to the-core system that ensures the most despicable human beings wield the most power, don’t read them! And you relentless “keepers of the faith,” dazzle us with more of your intellectually dishonest arguments supporting capitalism. I’m quite familiar with the mental gymnastics you do to buttress a heinous system that rationalizes and “legitimizes” your greed, ruthlessness, selfishness, speciesism, hyper-individualism, exploitative and abusive tendencies, and the wholesale commodification of the Earth and its sentient inhabitants. It is obvious to all but the most self-deluded that capitalism is destroying the planet and us. So go ahead and jerk us off with your inane apologetics “validating” capitalism. And then go fuck yourselves.
Fortunately, there are those with the will, conscience, and intellectual capacity to wrench their minds free from the mental shackles of capitalist indoctrination. Yet like the seemingly endless drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture, the Bernays-crafted inculcation keeps many amongst the poor and working class singing the praises of the free markets that are robbing them blind and drives a fair number of good little Proletarians to the cruel madness of libertarianism. Visions of benevolent Invisible Hands gently guiding them to the promised land of free markets (where liberty and fairness rain down from the sky as manna from heaven) dance through their impaired cerebral tissue, a tissue ossified to the extent that most driven to the feverish state of libertarianism are more resistant to reason than the most dedicated of religious zealots.
Those whose minds remain supple and open refuse to accept the idiotic Panglossian view that a slightly evolved and cleverly disguised form of feudalism is “the best of all possible worlds.” They embrace the possibility of humanity evolving socio-economically to a much more egalitarian, just, humane, and sustainable system without attempting to create an unattainable “utopia.” And they recognize that the short-comings (many of which were imposed or caused by the United States, capitalism’s chief defender) of Maoism, Stalinism, and a number of other anti-capitalist revolutions and systems are not valid reasons to summarily reject and dismiss the notion of putting capitalism out of our misery and replacing it with a system that promotes the greater good rather than the “success” and comfort of a few individuals.
Consider but a few examples of the contradictions, perversions, crises, and abominations which are the inevitable consequences of the systematized greed and selfishness of capitalism, a highly contagious and lethal virus that is plaguing the world—to the extent that it has even infected those bastions of “communist evil,” Russia and China:
Food riots are occurring with increasing frequency around the world, food prices in the US are soaring, and 35,000 human beings starve to death each day. Yet instead of pursuing legitimate alternatives to the Peak Oil crisis, we divert significant volumes of precious sugar and corn to the manufacture of biofuels. Meanwhile, the sector of the power elite that “represents” We the People in Congress allows the major oil companies to keep record profits derived by exploiting their oligopoly on a commodity as essential to human survival as food in an industrialized society. “Our” Congress lacks the spine (or is it the will?) to compel rapacious corporate bastards like Chevron to employ reasonable portions of their staggering profits to innovate alternative energy sources. “Big Oil” has been raping the people and the planet far too long in its relentless pursuit of obscene profits.
When CNN recently ran an editorial by Glenn Beck (its resident pig-of-a-man apologist for free market economic slavery, proud ignorance, and ugly Americanism) thanking Big Oil for “providing” us with the fuel we need to make our economy run, that was a clear indication that nationalization of these parasitic entities is long over-due. (But then again so is Beck’s removal from the human race, a punishment he richly deserves for using virtually every breath he draws to help ensure the hellish reign of capitalism does not end).
We are becoming all id and no superego.
With television providing the seductively addictive medium for the cult of consumerism, far too many of us have been sucked into the spiritually comatose state of blind pursuit of life at the expense of the rest of Earth’s sentient beings, the liberty to run over, fuck over, and slaughter as many human and non-human animals as we see fit, and happiness derived from instantly gratifying ourselves with as much stuff and pleasure as we can jam into our over-flowing basements and eerily vacuous inner selves. We are becoming all id and no superego. Fuck conscience. Unabashed political sociopaths like Bush and Cheney reflect the depraved perversity of our collective inner selves. Lurking beneath their smirking cynical “adult” veneers are depraved children whose intellectual and moral aspects were quick frozen just before they reached their third birthdays.
The truly scary part is that there is a little Cheney in all of us. (Fortunately there is a lot more in some than in others). But take heart. You can minimize the damage your inner Cheney does. When he steps to the forefront of your psyche, simply envision your superego quail hunting with him, shooting him as he did his “friend,” and unceremoniously stuffing him and his badly mutilated face back into the inner recesses of your unconscious.
Driven by emotion and humanity’s most repulsive qualities, capitalism is intrinsically unstable. All the Fed intervention, Keynesianism, dog and pony “economic stimuli,” and liberal band-aids (i.e. our myriad half measure “social welfare” programs and business regulatory laws) cannot prevent the inevitable crises of capitalism (i.e. recessions, depressions, massive unemployment, homelessness, severe environmental damage….). FDR,” radical communist” that he was (according to the craven parasites hoarding most of the nation’s wealth), may have had good intentions when he crafted the New Deal, but ultimately the crumbs he threw the poor and working class to avert a revolution served the long-term interests of the power elite by prolonging capitalism’s inevitable demise.
Today capitalism’s grave diggers stand poised to shovel with a vengeance. Besides the aforementioned food shortages, sky-rocketing fuel and gasoline prices are finally putting a potentially lethal economic bite on the US American middle class, a group of people who have served as the buffers and unwitting foot-soldiers for the malevolent swine comprising the power elite. (Marxist sociologist C. Wright Mills provided us with masterful analyses of the power elite and the middle class in The Power Elite and White Collar).
War criminals guilty of Nuremberg-class crimes perpetuate a genocide that has resulted in the slaughter of two million Iraqis and the creation of 4 million Iraqi refugees. And that doesn’t count the millions of Iraqis who died in Gulf War I and as a result of Clinton’s barbaric economic sanctions. Rather than dangling lifelessly from the end of a rope (like the Nazi war criminals and Saddam Hussein), Bush, Cheney, et al continue perpetrating crimes of equal or greater magnitude while holding onto the most powerful positions in the world. Seventy percent of the US population is opposed to this capitalist-driven imperial invasion launched to secure a stranglehold on the rapidly dwindling supply of precious petroleum. Yet instead of getting the withdrawal Democrats promised when they retook Congress, we got a “surge.”
In our bourgeois democracy and ostensible “republic,” we have the illusion of choice between two supposedly different parties. But, as almost every social and political analyst worth his salt has concluded, ultimately the Republicans and Democrats serve the same class interests. Those of the rich and powerful. The rhetoric (and some of the actions) of the Democrats serve to create a façade of pseudo-humanity which “softens” the appearance of the empathy-deficient sociopaths who conduct US foreign policy in a brutal, murderous fashion and who allow an intolerable degree of economic suffering at home (given the extent of the wealth of this nation). Yes, Derrick Jensen nailed it when he suggested we have a one-party system. Barring a VERY limited number of exceptions, our “elected” officials are members of the Capitalist Party.
Even something as mundane as a trip to the post office serves as a poignant reminder of the extent to which our system is turned upside down. The US Postal Service, a government entity for many years, is still a quasi-public entity. Yet we leave something as “trivial” as health care in the hands of private enterprise and the Invisible Hand of the “free market” gives many of us the finger. And despite the fact that polls dating back to the 1970’s have consistently shown that over 70% of US Americans want universal health care, the power elite has leveraged its formidable economic influence to perpetuate a private health care system that ranks at the bottom of the industrialized world. Some “developing” countries actually rank above the “almighty” United States in key indicators of the health of their population. We may have the most the latest and greatest medical technologies, but what good are they if large numbers of people can’t access them?
Yet in the twisted mind and blackened heart of the capitalist, these arrangements are ideal. Mail delivery is essential to conducting commerce. “The mail must go through” and having a powerful and ubiquitous entity like the USPS ensures that businesses get the mail that is critical to maintaining the flow of their sacred profits. Health care is another matter. The power elite have access to the best medical attention known to man. What the hell do they care if a significant percentage of the poor and working class suffers through their illnesses and pain, goes bankrupt trying to get healing and relief or simply dies? As long as our economic lords and masters have enough wage and debt slaves from whom they can exploit their surplus labor and interest AND there are no riots or major social upheavals, they’re happy. Besides, Big Pharma and other elements within the health industrial complex make money by the truckload—-and that, my friends, is the essence of capitalism. Even if it means wringing profits out of the elderly, weak and infirm.
Yes, capitalism is the bane of the Earth. It is a linear system premised on infinite growth. Corporate media whores love to crow about “the growth of the economy” as if the further expansion of our highly toxic, industrialized, and consumption obsessed society on a planet that is already on life support is a “good thing.” Let’s celebrate! We drove another 100 species to extinction, increased the toxicity of the air and water, and eliminated 5% more of the rain forests!
Not unlike the Church in the Middle Ages, the infrastructures of capitalism, both physical and socioeconomic, pervade nearly every aspect of our being. Corporate media, industrialized education, inculcation, peer pressure, and Madison Avenue ensure that nearly all of us spend at least part of our lives as dogmatic adherents to the “faith.” Here are some of their soul and planet murdering lies:
1. Profits and property are valuable and inviolable. People are disposable.
These beliefs are driven into our minds with sledge-hammer blows from the moment we emerge from the birth canal. And not only do they set us up to be moral abominations (at the very least by participating in the evils of our capitalist empire in banal ways) but from a pragmatic standpoint, our perverse and distorted “faith” has plunged us into global instability: politically, economically, socially and environmentally.
The silver lining to this frighteningly ominous cloud is that collapse or revolution is coming. Neither Mother Nature nor the oppressed will tolerate abject abuse and exploitation indefinitely. Egalitarianism, democracy, social justice, sustainability, communalism, and respect for the Earth clash violently with the essence of capitalism, but no intellectually honest person can dismiss them as socialist dogma, the “backward” ways of “primitive indigenous populations,” or utopian impossibilities. We must embrace and implement these principles if we are to ensure the continued existence of human animals, non-human animals and the Earth itself.
Meanwhile, once the grave diggers have completed their task and chaos ensues, Derrick Jensen will be able to blow up all the dams he wants and the Second Amendment will prove to be the anti-capitalists’ best friend
Jason Miller is a recovering US American middle class suburbanite who strives to remain intellectually free. He is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor and publishes Thomas Paine’s Corner within Cyrano’s. You can reach him at JMiller@bestcyrano.com«Collapse
May 9, 2008
12 Stepping Our Way to ArmageddnonBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Impacts
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
The end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded. H.G. Wells, 1946
With the image of the 12 Steps in mind, I decided to look more closely at them in relation to the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) and notice how they might in fact be useful not only for recovering from addiction, but for navigating Armageddon. At first I felt shy about applying the Steps to the collapse of civilization, thinking that my readers would think I had seriously gone around the bend, but then someone sent me the "12 Steps Of Peak Oil" from a Vancouver newspaper. At that point, I realized how relevant the Steps might be not only to Peak Oil, but to Peak Civilization itself. Seasoned 12 Steppers argue that despite their 1930s origin, the Steps are applicable to any situation-no matter how monumental, and the collapse of civilization is about as big as it gets. So let's take a closer look.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 1 requires that I admit my powerlessness over the situation with which I'm confronted. Maybe you're thinking, "Well hey, that's no problem-did I ask for this debacle? All those years that I was an upstanding citizen and voted in elections and had faith in the American dream? What was that for? I did all the right things and now we're looking at Armageddon. Of course, I know that I'm powerless."
But that's not exactly what I mean by admitting that one is powerless. Many of us are stockpiling food, learning skills, busily relocating to other parts of the country or world, investing in precious metals, and so much more, but let's not forget that no matter how much we prepare, we're ultimately powerless over the outcome. While we may know that intellectually, letting it sink into the gut is a whole different story.
Powerless means that we don't know the outcome and can't control it, and that's really scary. I mean what it really all comes down to is the "D" word, you know: Death. And even if we end up celebrating a 100th birthday eating soy cupcakes with our friends in some groovy ecovillage, collapse means that we'll be encountering many more endings than we can now imagine, beginning with the end of our current way of life no matter how small our footprint may be.
Control freaks won't do well with TEOTWAWKI; flexibility, on the other hand, is an essential attribute for survival. No matter how "manageable" our lives might be in the current moment, the collapse of empire is certain to challenge that and will compel us to align with others, give and receive support, trust our intuition as well as our intellect, and be willing to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. As a 12 Stepper might say, true empowerment lies in admitting one's powerlessness.
Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
People entering recovery often have a terrible time with this one. First of all, they feel they might have to buy into all that God stuff, but worse, they feel as if in order to recover, they have to admit that they are insane.
Let me hasten to emphasize that I too recoil at the use of the word "God" and wish to define "power greater than ourselves" as broadly as possible. Over the decades, countless atheists have benefited from using the 12 Steps for addiction recovery precisely because they were able to do the same. Atheists, agnostics, and feminists will have a much easier time with the Steps if they widen their concept of Higher Power to something non-theistic and gender-neutral.
"Insanity" as the Steps define it simply means that one does not recognize anything larger or more significant than one's own ego. Simply put, "something greater" could be one's concept of nature or one's confidence in the human spirit or anything else that one considers more benevolently powerful than oneself.
The 12 Steps inherently fly in the face of the ethics of civilization, based as those values are on the supremacy of the human ego-a pre-eminence that consciously or unconsciously deifies itself and whatever material gain it can amass unto itself at the expense of everyone and everything else. Now what could be more insane than that, and isn't everyone reading these words interested in transforming that paradigm into something more compassionate and sustainable? 12 Step programs further define insanity as doing the same thing that doesn't work over and over again, each time expecting different results. I can think of myriad examples of this in the culture of empire, starting with, "Maybe this time, if we just elect the right candidate for president then...."
12 Stepping into Armageddon begins with thoroughly examining how the culture of empire has inculcated us on every level and in every aspect of our lives. It means understanding how empire has programmed us to believe that we are all-powerful and that if we just do all the right things, we will succeed because our ego needs are the raison d'etre for our existence. When we are unable to recognize our powerlessness and resist acknowledging something greater than ourselves, we also rebel against the limits that life on this planet demand of us. We walk around as little "gods" and "goddesses" believing that we can consume whatever we like whenever we like at the expense of all other species as well as our own.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to that power.
OK, breathe. Remember-you don't have to use the word "God", and this Higher Power thing is gender-neutral.
This Step is particularly challenging because it requires action. Steps 1 and 2 just require me to admit something, but Step 3 asks me to DO something-something repugnant to the children of empire. It means I have to surrender my will to that "something greater". Eeeeeeew!
Step 3 is where the rubber meets the road-or not. In order to continue with the rest of the Steps, and therefore recovery, if that's what I'm using them for, or navigating collapse, as the case may be, I have to defer to a greater wisdom. What's even more distasteful is that I'm asked to surrender not only my will but my life.
Well, here we are again back to the dreaded "D" word. Anyone who has been researching and preparing for collapse knows the precarious position of the planet and the human race. If 200 species per day are going extinct, then the bottom line is that we are all staring our own mortality in the face as never before in human history. Collapse is, above all, forcing us to confront our personal mortality and that of our loved ones which is the principal reason so few are willing to deal with it. Who would sign up to feel that vulnerable? However, if we can allow that particular emotion, it becomes more possible to surrender our will and our life because what else do we have to lose?
The logical progression of the Steps is simply that since I'm powerless over the outcome, and there is something greater than my human ego and my five physical senses, it behooves me to consider abdicating my attempt to control what my finite humanity cannot. For this reason, I find that Step 3 relinquishes me from having "hope" because hope is ultimately another attempt to control what I cannot.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
So now that I know that my ego can't manage my life, and I'm willing to surrender the outcome of my life and the world as I have known it to a power greater than myself, I have to look more deeply within. If we are using the Steps in relation to TEOTWAWKI, then a moral inventory could be a somewhat different experience than if we're applying the steps in relation to an addiction. Nevertheless, TEOTWAWKI is not unrelated to the addiction issue. In fact, humanity's addiction to material gain and economic growth has resulted in a delusional disregard for the earth's limits. An expression often heard among 12 Steppers is "self-will run riot" which pretty much summarizes humankind's obliviousness and even contempt toward the earth community.
But let's define our terms. Inventory simply means taking stock of what we have and don't have-what we may need more of or less of. The collapse of empire forces all of us, whether we consciously intend to or not, to consider our values and priorities. People losing houses, jobs, having to relocate out of necessity or by choice, finding that their pensions have suddenly evaporated or who have lost health insurance are forced to make tough decision about priorities.
Those of us who have been aware of collapse for some time and have been preparing for it are faced not only with making decisions such as the ones mentioned above, but are also compelled to look more deeply within to notice what qualities we need to develop in the face of collapse and which ones we may need to minimize. For example, I grew up as an only child and have lived an extremely independent life as an adult. I currently find myself working on reaching out to trusted others, making plans to live in community, and although fiercely committed to personal space and daily periods of solitude, consciously forsaking a life that is all about just me and my needs.
In so doing, I am taken to deeper layers of Step 4 as I contemplate my own part in the collapse of civilization. Although I have left a very small footprint on the earth for most of my life, I must own responsibility for the ways, no matter how small, in which I've polluted the ecosystem, my disconnection from the earth community, aspects of personal independence that have manifested in dysfunction, isolation, arrogance, and rationalization about my need for interdependent connection. In other words, although I'm not on the board of Monsanto, I have played a role in violating the human and more than human worlds.
5. Admitted the exact nature of our wrongs.
Taking a searching and fearless moral inventory compels us to admit our errors to ourselves, to something greater, and to someone else. I begin this process by verbalizing these errors to the power greater than me and then to whomever or whatever I have harmed.
With respect to TEOTWAWKI, I must apologize to generations younger than mine for the failure of my generation to preserve and protect the earth. For example, when teaching college students about the collapse of civilization and its repercussions, I'm often confronted with, "Yeah, and it's your fault and the fault of your generation." Without the slightest hesitation, I wholeheartedly agree, and I tell them that I am genuinely sorry. I also point out that collapse has built up over a period of centuries and that inherent within the values of civilization were the seeds of its own demise. Nevertheless, I have made choices in my lifetime that reinforced those values.
6. Were entirely ready to have all these defects of character removed.
Defects of character? What is this?
It's easy to become defensive around this Step unless one takes it to the next level. I define "defects of character" as those aspects of my personality that have resulted from the programming of empire, or my wounds, if you will. These are the qualities that I have taken on while growing up in empire culture which mitigate against the earth community and my connection with it. I'm very ready to have those removed, but I'm also aware that that means I may need to change my lifestyle, perhaps in drastic ways. Speaking only for myself, I need to look at my appetite for meat (which I've almost extinguished); my tendency to think of my own needs first even when I know I shouldn't; my workaholism, which although greatly diminished in recent years is not entirely absent; my tendency to isolate; my quickness to judge others-the list goes on and on. None of these qualities will be useful as collapse accelerates, and I am working to transform their presence in my life which the next Step facilitates.
7. Humbly asked for the shortcomings to be removed
Now I'm back to Step 3 and my relationship with "something greater". Because I've surrendered the outcome to it, I can also surrender my character defects and ask them to be transformed-a word that I personally prefer over "removed" since I have come to believe that no part of me can ever be totally removed. Like energy, parts of myself can be transformed but never made to disappear.
8. Made a list of all we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
While Steps 4 through 7 are about oneself, Steps 8, 9, and 10 are relational. Step 8 asks me to notice carefully who has been harmed by my empire-inflicted wounds. This definitely does not apply exclusively to people. Without meaning to, I've harmed animals, birds, trees, soil, water, air-myriad members of the earth community, and I need to reflect on that. In fact, even after learning about collapse and how I need to live differently, I have not changed my behavior to the extent that I want and need to. Step 8 is about willingness and paying attention.
9. Made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
So now that I'm willing to make amends, I must do so. Certainly I must make amends to the people in my life that I've harmed, but just as important are those members of the more than human world that I've overlooked, minimized, disregarded, or just simply didn't notice. Just as a 9th Step may require me to sit down with another human whom I've harmed and make amends, it may also require me to spend a day in the forest, or somewhere else in nature, expressing my regrets to trees, insects, streams, birds, or other non-humans for my obliviousness to them and the countless services they perform in the ecosytem from which I benefit.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
So Steps 6-9 are not one-shot deals. I am asked to practice them repeatedly. Inventory-taking is forever because what I have or don't have constantly changes, and it's important that I use both the "glass half empty" and "glass half full" approaches to my evolution. Just as I cannot successfully navigate collapse by myself, neither can I practice the Steps in isolation. I need the entire earth community in order to utilize them effectively.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with something greater
Some readers may recoil at the words "prayer" and "meditation", but I remind all of us of one of the key slogans of 12 Step programs which is: "Take what you like and leave the rest." If you find yourself reacting to "prayer" and "meditation", don't worry about it. The point of this Step is to improve conscious contact with something greater, and how we choose to do that is far less important than that we do it. Armageddon will not be easy to navigate, but it will be impossible without a conscious, working connection with a power greater than oneself.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Virtually every person preparing for collapse has had at least one, if not countless experiences, of attempting to share research, options, and the realities of collapse with others, only to find oneself blown off by the other person. Not unlike the individual addict who must be ready for recovery before fully applying the Steps, the people with whom we share information about TEOTWAWKI will either be ready to learn more or they will resist and maintain their head-in-the-sand posture. So we must be discreet and respectful, remembering that walking our talk (practicing these principles in all our affairs) is the most important message we can carry.
Waking up is an extraordinarily mixed blessing. With it comes tremendous clarity and joy, as well as sometimes excruciating sorrow as one witnesses more clearly civilization's trajectory of self-and-other destruction. Just as addicts in recovery frequently experience the tragic deaths of other addicts in their lives who will not engage in the recovery process, individuals preparing for collapse invariably encounter numerous loved ones about whom they care deeply who prefer to remain asleep. I feel sorrow daily for those I know who will probably never open their eyes. But I have opened mine, and I imagine that most people reading these words have as well. I carry that and these incredibly practical Steps with me, alongside a plethora of emotions and wonderfully awake allies, as each day we journey more deeply into Armageddon.
While I do not feel optimistic about survival in the abyss into which we appear to be descending, I believe that the principles inherent in the Steps can facilitate our planting seeds that may ultimately germinate and flourish as a new paradigm lived out by some of us and our descendents who are committed to creating lifeboats of localized, sustainable living that serve the entire earth community.«Collapse
May 4, 2008
We Can Survive, but Can We Communicate?BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
By Carolyn Baker and Sally Erickson of Speaking Truth To Power
[As promised in my last article "Peak Civilization And The Winter Of Our Disconnect", my colleague and friend, Sally Erickson and I are offering what we believe are vitally important tools for enhancing communication with our peers as we navigate collapse.-CB]
When we think of preparing our minds, bodies, hearts, and living situations for collapse, the focus is often on our individual or household living situations. Equally important is our need to develop a circle of trusting, mutually interdependent relationships. The culture we live in is based on hierarchies of control and influence. Work relationships, kept in place largely by paychecks and ordered by project managers and bosses, are the most common experience most of us have of being part of an organized group. We have little experience outside of those hierarchies. Even more rare in our hyper-independent culture is to depend on others for mutual aid, support and comfort. So, for most people, it likely feels overwhelming to consider how to build a wider circle of people based on mutuality, as part of preparation for the ongoing collapse of basic life support systems.Expand» |
As daunting as that challenge may seem, consider that individuals in isolation will have a hard, lonely, and extreme challenge if they try to survive the world that will remain when systems collapse with ever-increasing rapidity and intensity. Humans are hard-wired as social beings. Absent the distractions of media and entertainment we will find that we need each other. At the same time, we will discover how emotionally and spiritually wounded we've become as members of the largely bankrupt, and often abusive, culture that empire has created.
Sadly, peoples' experiences of community end all too often in pain and disappointment. Such experiences range from attempts to live in intentional communities to the struggles of serving on church committees or being part of activist organizations. As a whole we are ill-equipped to create cohesive and cooperative groups and then to resolve ongoing issues and conflicts that naturally arise. People often express cynicism, despair and helplessness around the possibility of successfully creating and maintaining a sense of working community within a culture of empire. Clearly, it is critical to acknowledge the need for a sense of real connection, for the ability to work through conflict, and to cooperate in effective and joyful ways with others. Once we have come to terms with the need to do so we can begin to find others who have identified the same need and are ready for the task.
Let's first identify what we are talking about when we talk about community. In this context community does not refer only to individuals or families who own land together or who happen to live in proximity to one another, although proximity will more and more be the rule as fuel becomes scarce and travel is limited. We define community, in this context, to be a congregation of people who have, by the commitment and skills they possess, learned to establish relationships characterized by trust, understanding, mutual respect, and bonding that transcends personality and allows and even embraces differences of background or ideology. Such a group is able to think together effectively and to tap into deep wisdom about challenging issues. They can do this because they trust each other enough to question and suspend the assumptions and core beliefs that limit their insights as individuals. Such a group does not come together, as a therapy group does, for the purpose of healing per se, although insight and healing of isolation, unresolved past conflict, fears, and insecurities often occurs. The purpose of the kind of community we are speaking of is to come together to glean wisdom from listening and speaking with one another and to offer connection, support, comfort, and mutual respect. Such a group of people learns together to find better solutions, wiser actions and more joy together than is possible for them to do as isolated individuals, couples or families.
When defined in this way, the idea of community appeals to most people, even when they doubt their ability to find or create such an experience. But the times demand that we do what we've not believed we are equipped to do. It helps to remember that humans are indeed "hard-wired" for this. Indigenous peoples overall have felt the benefits of inclusion in close-knit social units. It is the wounding of the current culture that has disrupted that hard-wiring, often for many generations, and certainly most seriously in current times. But deep trust and connection is something we need in order to feel fulfilled and secure. Once accepted, the need to build community is simply another task to attend to as the current system unravels.
As tempting as it is to focus only on the logistics of living arrangements, how resources and tasks can be shared, preparation for crisis conditions, and other issues, it is equally important to develop skills to create and maintain authentic connection and to work through conflict. When groups fall apart it is almost always as a result of emotionally charged issues. It is important that people make a commitment to find ways to work with people's emotions, to communicate fully, and to bond. Groups will do well to cultivate skills in listening and truth-telling, because when emotional issues are not consciously addressed and worked through, they often sabotage a community's very existence. At the very least unresolved conflict makes life miserable and drains huge amounts of energy that would better be utilized attending to other needs. Much talk of ecovillages and intentional communities abounds among collapse watchers. Evidence that dealing with relationships is essential is the fact that most of these situations devote a significant amount of time to building a workable sense of community.
Conflict is inevitable. A community must develop skills to effectively resolve conflict so that people feel cared-for and respected. Its apparent absence is a red flag signaling the likelihood of dysfunction, of unspoken feelings and truths that need to be told, or of a strict authoritarian hierarchy that keeps conflict as well as individual creativity submerged. Indigenous cultures at their high points skillfully navigated conflict, and in fact probably welcomed it. They evolved creative skills for addressing it compassionately and assertively, with elders, both men and women, who carried those skills and wisdom down through generations. Those of us reared in the hierarchies of empire are not so lucky. Most people don't feel fully adult much less secure enough to be considered real elders. We are having to glean the best we can from older cultures and learn from the most innovative practices that have come from psychology and organizational development to find our way in to creative, cooperative relationship.
Here are some insights that may be useful:
People who have had opportunities to sit in listening/ truth-telling circles often at first feel overwhelmed with the amount of emotional work that needs to be done in order for group members to bond and build trust with each other. This has certainly been our experience. But when people make the commitment and see the process through the difficult stages, they find new optimism. Groups that break through to what Scott Peck called "true community," experience what human beings are capable of. Regular people, with the garden-variety neuroses and the wounding that is typical of most of us educated in public schools and reared in the typically dysfunctional families of empire are surprised at the connection possible. What we realize is that community members are able to consistently do this work together, and that when we do, we successfully dissolve internalized patterns that have been inculcated by empire. What we experience in the place of those old patterns is the joyful connectedness that empire had rendered utterly impossible.
Those who have participated in community-building workshops and other kinds of training in dialogue and human interaction find this is a repeatable experience. People find they are able in this work to include and allow for differences. This experience is akin to the profound, intimate joining that indigenous people experience and sustain, which has allowed them to survive and thrive. Such experiences of mutual respect, understanding and bonding are likely to support individuals and groups in critical ways during time of societal upheaval. There are principles that underlie effective group interaction. It helps immeasurably to have one or two strong facilitators present who are familiar with the inner terrain a group must travel to develop trust and to transcend differences. The process is rarely smooth. Facilitators are different from what we generally think of as leaders. Facilitators help the group, as a whole, move into shared wisdom. This is very different from a group that accepts and follows the wisdom or philosophy of a charismatic leader or the dictates of an authoritarian leader. Rather, this kind of community may be said to be "a group of leaders." Each person is regarded as someone who brings a unique set of gifts, experiences, skills, and insights. Strong facilitators help empower individuals to share those individual qualities for the greater good of the group.
Key to building this kind of community experience is the practice of compassionate listening and truth-telling. When one person speaks, the rest of the group listens attentively and stays present with both heart and mind. Speakers "speak from the heart" and speak when truly moved to speak rather than compulsively or in reaction. Another key is that each person learns to take responsibility for his/her part in whatever concerns or complaints he/she identifies. This requires each individual to examine his/her own assumptions and core beliefs and patterns, and to risk sharing those with the group so that they can be examined and understood.
What follows are some "Principles Of Dialogue" that Sally Erickson has synthesized from group development theory, Scott Peck's model of community building and David Bohm's explorations of formal dialogue practice.
1) We agree to identify and suspend assumptions and core beliefs. Suspending doesn't mean eliminating. It means holding them aside so as to be able to listen more deeply to another's experience, knowledge, insight. It means being willing to allow beliefs and assumptions to shift as the conversation reveals greater insight and understanding.
What happens when we suspend our assumptions and question core beliefs? We are likely to experience initial anxiety. As we sit through that anxiety, habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and being soften and we find new possibilities. For example, if we usually talk a lot in a group, we begin to listen more. If we usually don't talk, we find the courage to speak when moved to do so. If we tend to stay in our intellect, we notice and identify our feelings and are more aware of our bodies. If we tend to be largely in our feelings and body, we begin to use the mind and insight more. Long-held beliefs and assumptions are revised or abandoned in the light of new information and insight. Group wisdom emerges that is greater than the sum of the collected individual's knowledge.
3) We agree to come together as colleagues. While individuals are not necessarily equal in specific knowledge or skills it is important to regard ourselves and each other as equal in value. Each person possesses unique abilities in a variety of arenas that are important to the community: insight, ability to listen and be present, intuitive gifts, dreams, clarity, connection to the natural world, as well as factual knowledge, skills, etc. When we come together as colleagues we make a commitment to notice the tendency to regard ourselves, and others, as either higher or lower. And we agree that when we notice that tendency we will work to open to find the unique value of others and ourselves in cooperation.
Group Norms and Standards
With every passing day it becomes clearer to us that as civilization continues to self-destruct, we need to discern how we prefer to spend our time and energy, and with whom. What we least want to do is mimic the culture of empire by limiting our focus to logistics, thereby losing sight of our deep humanity. We know that we cannot survive alone. Even if we have learned every physical survival skill imaginable, we still need our fellow human earthlings in order to navigate collapse. Moreover, if I and my companions in collapse cannot deeply listen to each other and speak our truths with compassion, even if we survive, it will be within an internally vacuous emotional domain that would render survival nothing less than absurd.
A William Stafford poem "A Ritual To Be Read To Each Other" illumines the subject at hand:
Stafford reminds us of how important it is to know each other in a world where the culture of empire and its "patterns that others have made" may cause us to follow the wrong god home. Not only must we know each other, but we must, like elephants connected by trunk and tail, hang onto each other in order to find our way. We could fool each other, but we dare not because if we do, we may get lost. It is imperative that we be awake and that we be transparent with each other because the darkness around us is so deep, and our commitment to community is essential in navigating that darkness.
The rewards of investing our time and vital energy into our community are infinite and succinctly captured in the words of author and psychotherapist, Thomas Moore in The Re-Enchantment Of Everyday Life: When we all, leaders and participants in community, discover the sheer joy of creating a way of life that serves families, ennobles work, and fosters genuine communal spirit, then we will begin to touch upon the sacredness that lies in the simple word polis, which is not just a city defined in square miles, income, or population, but a spirit that arises when people live together creatively.During their Northeast and West Coast screening tours of their documentary "What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire", Sally Erickson and Tim Bennett conducted dozens of brief talking circles following the screenings. Viewers of the movie had the opportunity to listen and tell their truth regarding the emotions that surfaced during the film. From these experiences, Sally and Tim are developing training to support ongoing circles for individuals preparing for collapse, who desire to engage more deeply in local community building. Theirs is not the only successful process, and they encourage people to gain a variety of skills to create community and sustain it through all the vicissitudes that collapse will bring forth. It is vital for people creating community to develop a viable communication process. Other models include Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication process, Peter Senge's leadership training materials and workshops, Tej Steiner's Heart Circle work, Council Training at the Ojai Foundation, as well as Scott Peck's work. Resources in one's home locality ought to be considered as well.
A combination of modalities may be useful, but what is just as important as the method is the community's commitment to the process of healing the wounds of empire both internally and as they manifest in our relationships with each other. As we move out of the disintegrated structures of the culture of empire there is a tremendous opportunity to move into integrated and joy filled structures of relationship, inner and outer, with ourselves, one another and the whole community of life. Relationships that bring comfort and joy will be a mainstay as we sail through these most difficult times ahead. In addition, dialog circle work can facilitate our finding a greater group wisdom about how to navigate these times than we can find on our own.
Sally Erickson is the producer of the independent documentary What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire. She has also been the founding member of an intentional community and a psychotherapist, counselor and mentor for over twenty years.
For more information on dialogue circle training and facilitator training, you can contact Sally Erickson and Tim Bennett by emailing requests for information to email@example.com«Collapse
April 24, 2008
Peak Civilization and the Winter of Our DisconnectBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring. ~George Santayana~
The appearance of springtime in North America may be more welcome this year than at anytime in recent history. The winter has been long, cold, and dreary-particularly in the Rust Belt where the devastations of housing foreclosures, unemployment, and the resultant blight have left a trail of human misery and degradation not seen since the Great Depression. Ten percent of the population of Ohio now relies on food stamps while hordes of domestic animals abandoned in foreclosed homes endure long and grotesque deaths from starvation.
For countless Americans across the nation, this winter has brought with it something far more distressing than brutal, bone-chilling temperatures-horrific, traumatic revelations that the American dream, neatly packaged and sold for decades, has become their worst possible nightmare. Should they happen to see on TV the guy from the Countrywide commercial greeting them with "Homeowners...", they are probably wondering why he hasn't been assassinated and at the very least wondering why Countrywide is still in business.
Something is festering in the psyches of the formerly middle class of this nation-something far more ominous than burgeoning public assistance and food stamp applications or mushrooming meth labs. If the subprime mortgage massacre had occurred in a vacuum, the dirty little secret might have been kept a bit longer, but juxtaposing it with Peak Oil, skyrocketing food prices, wacky weather and debilitating droughts, not to mention proliferating pink slips, it daily becomes embarrassingly obvious that Jim Kunstler was spot-on when he uttered his infamous declaration in the documentary, "The End Of Suburbia" that "the entire suburban project is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."
And yet during this "winter of disconnect" we have heard delusional economists and the President himself describe the current horrors in terms of "a soft patch" or the need to "ride this one out until things bounce back." And overall, the human race is virtually ignoring climate change and perseverating in the madness of the ethanol panacea.
And speaking of insanity, Europe is rapidly returning to coal-fired power plants, while in China, coal "remains the major source of fuel for two billion people"-nightmare scenarios with respect to global warming and climate change. Meanwhile, Monsanto and other genocidal monsters of food and population control, tout ethanol as an energy panacea--the only tangible result of their hype being mass starvation and astronomical food prices. Or as a friend recently commented: Ethanol is a fabulous solution to our energy dilemma because it will provide more fuel for us to drive around and look for food.
The Four Seasons Of Civilization
Duane Elgin, author of numerous books including Voluntary Simplicity, postulated fifteen years ago that civilizations evolve through specific stages which ironically follow the shape of a bell curve, similar to the Peak Oil curve, in their development and to which Elgin refers as the "four seasons" of growth. This was long before the bell curve of Peak Oil was familiar to many other individuals besides M. King Hubbert, father of the Peak Oil theory, who died four years before Elgin's book was published.
According to Elgin, Stage I of the development of a civilization, "Springtime" is characterized by high growth and an era of faith in future potential. During springtime, there is little bureaucratic complexity, and activities are largely self-regulating. Stage II or "Summer", is an era of reason where social consensus begins to weaken and bureaucratic complexity increases with less self-regulation and more external regulation. "Autumn" follows, ushering in an era of cynicism where consensus weakens considerably, special interest groups surpass the power of a shared social purpose, and bureaucratic complexity mounts faster than the ability to effectively regulate. An era of despair characterizes Stage IV, "Winter", and the collapse of consensus is supplanted by conflicting social purposes. Bureaucratic mechanisms and their complexity become overwhelming, and society begins to break down.
Elgin believes that three possible outcomes are likely to emerge from the breakdown of the system. One outcome is collapse as the biosphere is pushed beyond its limits and can no longer support the burden of humanity. Stagnation is another option, in which members of the system expend energy on simply maintaining the status quo. Revitalization is the most desirable option which results from a "period of intense communication and reconciliation that builds a working consensus around a sustainable pathway into the future."
The author notes that we get collapse by "perpetuating the status quo and running the biosphere into ruin. We get stagnation when citizens are passive and rely on remote bureaucracies and technological solutions to handle a deteriorating local-to-global situation. We get revitalization only when we directly engage our predicament as individuals, families, communities, and nations."
Although Elgin has presented the three options in this particular order, it is clear to me that the current civilization has long since passed through stagnation and is rapidly collapsing. In my opinion, while revitalization may have been possible decades ago when society's elite first learned of Peak Oil, climate change, and numerous renewable energy options, it is now possible only as a consequence of collapse for the simple reason that the progression of collapse has rendered voluntary revitalization extraordinarily problematic, if not impossible.
Richard Heinberg's Peak Everything reveals unequivocally that virtually every resource on earth has reached or passed its peak of availability to the human race. Elgin's 1993 theory, however, offers a larger picture in which the likelihood that civilization itself has peaked and is on the downward side of the bell curve is logically plausible.
The immediate "winter of our disconnect" (and discontent), described above, has been characterized by an astonishingly rapid unraveling of civilization which appears to accelerate with every passing day. The larger winter is not about specific events such as foreclosures, bankruptcies, food rationing in America, or melting glaciers, but rather the final evolutionary stage of civilization and its eventualities in which we now find ourselves embroiled. In other words, particular occurrences of unraveling indicate irrefutably that we have entered Peak Civilization.
It is crucial, in my opinion, to comprehend Peak Civilization so that just as we understand that all of earth's resources have peaked which would prevent us from embracing the chimera of a "return to normalcy", we more astutely grasp the progression of human evolution and its implications in the macrocosm. That is to say that a clear understanding of Peak Oil prevents any rational human being from assuming that a return to cheap and abundant energy is feasible in his/her lifetime. Likewise, recognizing that civilization is in an irreversible trajectory of descent may assist us in conserving our valuable mental, emotional, and spiritual energy so that we do not expend it on phantoms of long-term revitalization.
Past-Peak Elections-You Have No Government
At this point it becomes necessary to distinguish between long-term and short-term revitalization. From my perspective, as stated above, collapse must occur in order for long-term revitalization to become possible, so attempting to prevent collapse also prevents one from honoring the current stage of civilization now unfolding. One example of understanding civilization's "winter" is to grasp that the only thing more futile than addressing energy depletion with ethanol use is the delusion that legitimate presidential elections actually occur in America offering valid choices between two genuinely opposing candidates who represent two distinct political parties and who are beyond domination, contamination, or exploitation by the transnational corporations that in fact manage the United States.
Furthermore, to fully understand Peak Civilization is to understand that the federal government per se does not exist, but rather an elite corporate cartel engaged in the management of citizens-citizens who are now completely on their own in terms of their survival as the pseudo-government continues to implode. Moreover, the cartel's direct intent is the cessation of nation states to be supplanted by corporations and their subsidiaries.
Therefore, the task before us is not to perpetuate the status quo by participating in the ersatz federal election debacle, but to, in the words of John Michael Greer "transition to a Third World lifestyle." I believe that any politician who suggests that we can do otherwise and survive as individuals or as a nation, may be committing a crime against humanity. Politicians and centralized systems are incapable of effecting meaningful change. Or as Greer states, "...getting the Federal government to do something constructive about the situation, for instance - a waste of time. That sort of change isn't going to happen. It's not simply a matter of who's currently in power, although admittedly that doesn't help. The core of the problem is that even proposing changes on a scale that would do any good would be political suicide."
Although nothing could be more unpalatable for the American public, transitioning to a Third-World lifestyle is precisely what it is being forced to do. And as Greer comments:
There's no way to sugar-coat that very unpalatable reality. Fossil fuels made it possible for most people in the industrial world to have a lifestyle that doesn't depend on hard physical labor, and to wallow in a flood of mostly unnecessary consumer goods and services. As fossil fuels deplete, all that will inevitably go away. How many people would be willing to listen to such a suggestion? More to the point, how many people would vote for a politician or a party who proposed to bring on these changes deliberately, now, in order to prevent total disaster later on?
What Peak Civilization Really Looks Like
Peak Civilization by definition means the disappearance of public education, healthcare, government-issued currency, commercial food production, public access to regional water supplies, interstate commerce, the North American energy grid, and the very infrastructure of the United States. Yet one need not succumb to fatalism. While long-term revitalization cannot be realized now, its seeds can be and are being planted by the proliferation of vibrant relocalization movements erupting and evolving around the world, many of which have been spotlighted at the Truth To Power website. As Duane Elgin emphasizes: "A revitalizing society is a decentralizing society, with grassroots organizations that are numerous enough, have arisen soon enough, and are effective enough to provide a genuine alternative to more centralized bureaucracies."
The first headlines of food rationing in America are buzzing across the internet as I write this article. They underscore the unequivocal reality that collapse is going to compel us to feed ourselves or quite simply, we will perish. I believe that food security is the most urgent, the most immediate issue to which we must attend at this moment of Peak Civilization. For months, this website has been informing readers about food storage and preservation and other aspects of preparedness. It is now time, if you have not already done so, to organize groups of citizens in your neighborhood, schools, churches, and community centers to plant and maintain gardens. In addition, collapse is compelling us to rapidly mobilize our neighborhoods and communities to not only accumulate our own supply of stored water but to organize citizens to work with local public water utilities to ensure that they remain public and are not privatized.
Health care professionals reading these words need to consider offering local workshops on a regular basis teaching citizens how to treat injuries and illnesses in the absence of a viable healthcare system. Doctors, nurses, dentists, and all manner of medical personnel are likely to be overwhelmed with patients during and after the full-scale breakdown of the system when hospitals and clinics have closed and almost no one can afford health insurance. A recent CBS News video link emailed to subscribers recently by Truth To Power confirms the imminent, total collapse of America's healthcare system and reveals the extent to which anyone with the slightest bit of training in the field is likely to find her/himself inundated with throngs of sick people desperately seeking care.
Seeds Of Revitalization
Greer emphatically stresses that "The key to making sense of constructive action in a situation of impending industrial collapse is to look at the community, rather than the individual or society as a whole, as the basic unit." Those familiar with Greer's article, "The Coming Deindustrial Society", recall his three requirements for community: A community must have some degree of local organization; it must have a core of people who know how to live without fossil fuels; and it must have food and a production and distribution system for it.
In a future article, Truth To Power will add another requirement, namely, the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately with other community members.
Our challenge at this moment in history is to recognize and intentionally connect with the evolutionary season of winter in which Peak Civilization finds itself because as Duane Elgin admonishes us: "It is time to begin the next stage of our human journey." As I witness most of humanity's current "solutions" to its climate-energy-food-water-population-economic dilemmas, I see only myopic, psychotic strategies, and I have to ask myself whether or not it will be necessary for us to annihilate ourselves and the planet in order to transition into a more advanced evolutionary paradigm that will not permit the human race to ever again engage in anything like the current madness. Tragically, I see almost nothing that suggests otherwise.
It is crucial that we comprehend that not only have we entered winter, but that that particular season is going to last a long time. As we navigate that winter, we are allowed our discontent, but we dare not permit ourselves to disconnect from current reality. Simultaneously, it is imperative that we hold a vision of revitalization and plant its seeds everywhere at the same time that we honor more the changing of the seasons than our addiction to springtime.«Collapse
April 23, 2008
Recipe for Catastrophe: Climate, Fuel, and FoodBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Environment
Food riots turn deadly in Haiti. Food riots fear after rice price hits a high. And so it starts. Globally there has been roughly a 25% increase in food prices. In some areas - such as Haiti - food prices have increased almost 50% in the last year. The poor of the planet who always live on the razor's edge of survival, are getting hit by multiple blows aimed directly at the food supply.Expand» |
From subsistence farmers eating rice in Ecuador to gourmets feasting on escargot in France, consumers worldwide face rising food prices in what analysts call a perfect storm of conditions. Freak weather is a factor. But so are dramatic changes in the global economy, including higher oil prices, lower food reserves and growing consumer demand in China and India.
This didn't start with the current economic crisis which comes with the so-called "mortgage crisis." It doesn't start with the recent sky rocketing increase in oil and gasoline. It started with the U.S. turn to bio-fuels production. It has been accelerated by multiple other issues.
The U.S. bio-fuels incentives put not just the U.S. food supply, but the global food supply, in competition with the fuel supply. Farmers (and corporate agriculture) in the U.S. took much of the corn crop to the refinery rather than to the food processing plants. Most of the food price increases seen in the U.S up until about a month ago were due solely to this shift. Globally this policy has increased grain costs, but the new push has also hit the global cooking oil supply. This switch from food (or even cooking oil) crops, to crops for fuel, result in both rainforests and existing fields falling to the more "profitable" crop - that which can be used for bio-fuels.
The global food supply is also being hit by a series of other blows. This includes the continued steep rise in the cost of oil, and climatic disasters.
China was hit hard this winter by horrendous storms in January and February of this year. Those storms hit heavily in Southern China, dramatically impacting the growing area. Poor harvests are among the factors that are creating a rice shortage which is hitting Asian nations hard. Rice prices have increased as much as 70% during the last year alone, The price has more than doubled since 2003.
The spread of the deadly virus, stem rust, against which an effective fungicide does not exist, comes as world grain stocks reach the lowest in four decades and government subsidized bio-ethanol production, especially in the United States, Brazil and the European Union, are taking land out of food production at alarming rates. (Rust to fertilize food price surge)
The fertile Ganges delta and Sundarban Islands (India and Bangladesh) are rapidly disappearing. This is largely due to the glacial melt from the Himalayas caused by global warming. Some of the Islanders have been displaced for each of the last three years, and daily they fight a losing battle against the rising waters (Guardian, 3/30/08). While the assumption in the U.S. is that fuel prices are driving increasing costs (at least partially true), it is food that is driving inflation in India. There was a 7% increase in food prices for the first three months of this year alone.
There are expectations that Asia and Africa face famines (or should we say increasing famine) from global warming.
The United States is not immune to the food catastrophe happening around the globe. Eckholm, writing in the NY Times reported that the confluence of a flagging economy and inflation are driving increased food stamp usage. Since only those near or below the poverty line are eligible for food stamps, growth of usage shows growth in this population. However, it under-represents the number of people who are struggling. The cost of everything is going up while wages remain stagnant (at best). While many folks may hold onto their jobs, the increasing costs are dramatically eroding incomes. We should look for dramatically increasing food bank usage as the various forces at play on the food supply continue to mount.
As much as half the population of the planet faces dangerously increasing food pressures. It is telling that riots regarding food prices are starting to occur (i.e. Egypt and Haiti). These type of events will likely increase. Unfortunately, while riots may result in governments applying some price controls, they will not affect food availability, and food availability is a very real issue in an expanding number of places. At this point, the big nations seem to be doing little if anything to address the growing global crisis. The United States, rather than acknowledging the impacts of bio-fuels incentives, expanded the programs again this year. It is very likely that corn prices may go up by over 50% this year.
Since corn is in almost everything in the U.S. food supply, then that cost will be directly felt come later this year. Of course, that increase will also effect the cost of fuels using corn-based fuels. There is no anticipation that oil prices are going to come down, nor that the economic recession is going to ease in the near future. Therefore this situation is likely to get worse before it gets better - if it gets better.
Further, the situation is complicated by shortfalls in food reserves. Nations have been strong armed by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to switch agricultural production from food for sustenance to commercially exportable crops. The expectation being that sustenance crops would come from outside the country (primarily the U.S. and Europe). This is one reason why changes in incentives and production in the United States have such devastating consequences on grain prices globally (Digiacomo, Bello).
The image of 3 billion people rioting for food will hopefully not become a reality. However, to avoid that scenario governments need to act now - not later. Hesitation or avoidance of the issues driving the growing food crisis will not make it go away. Some things are seen fairly immediately - dramatically increasing transportation costs for example. However, much of the current pricing and shortages are from last year. The situation has deteriorated since then, and certainly for the current and upcoming growing season. We need to get ahead of this problem, or it will hit with crushing affect come late summer to next winter.«Collapse
April 22, 2008
Negotiable or not, the American Way of Life must be extinguished...BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Environment
By Jason Miller of Thomas Paine's Corner
(As inspired by a conversation with Derrick Jensen)
"There's got to be just more to it than this; Or tell me why do we exist?" -Iron Maiden
We in the Western "developed" nations, particularly in the United States, are an utter disgrace to our species. Our myopic, self-centered, jejune, hubristic, and benighted ways of examining and interacting with the rest of the world, including other human animals, non-human animals, and Mother Earth herself, are reprehensible to the point of nausea and beyond.
Is the Western consumerist culture that we inflict upon the rest of the world truly the pinnacle of our evolution? If it is, I resign my membership in the human race. Though I don't fear that I'll be compelled to tender my resignation any time soon because our so-called "non-negotiable American Way of Life" is a piece of shit, for myriad reasons.Expand» |
And why wouldn't they be? We carry perceived entitlement to such pathological lengths that we actually believe that the world and all of its inhabitants are resources we can objectify and use to enhance and ensure our "prosperity," "security," and "the growth of our economy." We are conditioned to believe ahistorical, manipulative and grossly distorted sound-bites streamed into our shriveled, atrophied cerebrums by well-coiffed, polished talking head sycophants who owe their careerist souls to a system that is destroying the world.
And why wouldn't we US Americans believe that our "shining city upon the hill" is entitled to whatever our little hearts desire (and our $1 trillion per year military can plunder)? We are all living large thanks to the genocide our forefathers committed against the natives of Turtle Island. After all, who's going to worry about a little thing like 10-100 million dead "red men?" Or the 100 million black slaves who contributed mightily (and involuntarily I might add) to the development of our economic juggernaut of a nation? I can already see the shoulders shrugging and people assuaging potential guilt with the shop-worn arguments that "we've more than made it up to them," "you can't change the past," or "I wasn't there when it happened." Well, guess what. I'm not suggesting reparations or apologies. Fuck applying band-aids to gaping wounds. We are barbarians masquerading as enlightened Christian folk--we've even deluded ourselves into believing our shit smells like roses. How far do we go before we call a halt to our insanity?
Stocks of large marine animals have fallen 90% since 1950. The polar bears and penguins are drowning and disappearing in droves. Cattle, pigs, and chickens suffer unspeakable horrors in torture facilities euphemistically labeled factory farms mostly so we can get our "fast food fix" and destroy the world one burger at a time by eating at McDonald's. 50% of the world's tropical forests are gone and if present trends continue they will all be gone by 2090. A unique species of life goes extinct every 20 minutes.
Conscienceless sociopaths like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney routinely rise to the ultimate positions of power, visibility and responsibility in our nightmare society. We have already slaughtered over a million Iraqis in retaliation for the 3,000 people they DIDN'T kill on 9/11. Disproportionate scapegoating at its finest. Job well done, USA! (One shudders to think how many we would've killed had Iraqis been the actual perpetrators of the WTC bombings).
I wonder, dear reader, if you are wondering the same thing I'm wondering as I'm writing: Just what the fuck is wrong with us? We US Americans excel at paying lip service to worshipping Christ and/or the God of the Old Testament, but the truth is that our real god is Mammon. Even those who reject mainstream culture and its obsession with wealth and material possessions are forced to subjugate themselves to the almighty dollar in our filthy capitalist dog-eat-dog, winner-take-all system.
We fancy ourselves to have a monopoly on "freedom" and "decency." In fact, we've mind-fucked ourselves into believing it is our "duty" to "civilize" the rest of the world. In reality we are wage and debt slaves who each play a role in perpetuating a system that is grossly immoral, exploitative, and malevolent. We export our evil via our blood-drenched foreign policy. "Get them before they get us" is our motto--even if we happen to be the equivalent of Mike Tyson pulverizing an infant. Hey, he might've attacked us when he grew up, right?
For those of us who haven't had every shred of moral decency indoctrinated out of us, there is cause for some optimism. Like a pyramid balancing on its apex, capitalism is destined to topple. Linear, short-sighted, chaotic, grossly immoral, and dependent upon infinite growth in a finite world, it has already reached obsolescence in the minds of most intellectually honest critical thinkers. Its myriad victims have discovered perhaps its ultimate vulnerability: asymmetric warfare. In its insatiable thirst to commodify everything, capitalism is at odds with Mother Nature herself. If the victims of imperialism and monopoly capitalism don't bring this son of a bitch down, the Earth will. And I feel confident that I speak for many when I state that the world will be truly blessed when our violent, hierarchal, and malignant culture of murder and mayhem is throttled to death like a perpetrator who finally encounters a victim with the means to eradicate him.
Meanwhile, we can accelerate the demise of the dominant culture, as Derrick Jensen has labeled our rotten-to-the-core Westernized, capitalistic way of being. As Jensen suggests, we need to build upon the culture of resistance that is rapidly expanding in the pre-revolutionary environment in which we find ourselves.
As the inevitable revolution or crash approaches (the power elite can only fuck the people or the environment so hard before the backlash takes them out), there are many things we can do (each according to our abilities and resources) to monkey wrench this merciless, murderous machine.
Students of history will note that all manner of people and activities are necessary to bring down a deeply entrenched rotten and oppressive establishment. Strikers, boycotters, organizers, thinkers, writers, spiritual leaders, protestors, civil disobedients, conscientious objectors, providers of resources, and groups engaged in direct action like the ALF are all essential to the success of resisting the considerable might and tenacity of those who hold a majority of the world's wealth and power.
So, as Jensen suggests, find what you love and do it in such a way that it puts a little more wobble on that inverted pyramid.
And when the time comes, those of us who are clinging to our guns so bitterly will know what to do with them.«Collapse
March 29, 2008
Give an Hour for the EarthBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Activists
You can participate in the Climate Hour (an hour of power-less). Participating is simple - just turn off your lights and unnecessary electrical appliances from 8-9 pm.
Sign up at Earth Hour US for more tips for saving the planet.
March 26, 2008
World Made By Hand: Not Just Another Book ReviewBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
A review of the 2008 novel by James Howard Kunstler (Atlantic Monthly Press)
"The world has become such a wicked place," she said quietly, just a statement of factExpand» |
This dialog between the main character of World Made By Hand, Robert, and his housemate-become-lover, Britney, offers a glimpse into the anguish of those few survivors of collapse living in the small village of Union Grove, New York in a post-petroleum world.
As I sit down to write this review, I've just finished lunch-a generous bowl of organic broccoli slaw mixed with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, diced turkey breast, and Caesar dressing. For dessert, a bit of Hagen Dazs coconut sorbet chased with my twice-daily regimen of vitamins and supplements. In a "world made by hand" I would have none of this unless I were able to grow or raise it myself or trade something for these items, assuming that they were even available. I would be forced to rely on my friends and neighbors in close proximity, and they on me, for life's fundamental necessities.
I was riveted to this stunning novel by James Howard Kunstler even as my heart was laden with sorrow while turning every compelling page. Like nothing I've ever read or imagined, the book takes the reader into the smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and emotions of a post-petroleum world devoid of electricity, media, sophisticated technology, and a plethora of conveniences and distractions that are ubiquitous in twenty-first century Western civilization.
Robert is a former corporate executive who has adapted reasonably well, or so it seems, to a post-collapse world where "It was chilling to reflect on how well the world used to work and how much we'd lost." (4) In this world there are no cars, no rubber tires, no shopping malls, big box stores, healthcare systems, radio, television, or paper money. However, "Farming was back," and that was the only way people got food. Travel in this world is about walking, riding horses, or hitching horses to wagons with wooden wheels, and people make do by stripping everything in sight-houses, stores, cars-anything that will provide materials for survival. The residents of Union Grove and the surrounding area have survived horrible pandemics and were fortunate enough not to be living near Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. when nuclear bombs went off, apparently dealing the final blow to a tanking economy. Robert lost his wife to the flu epidemic and a son who took off with a friend's son to "see the world", and while Robert knows his wife is dead, he has no idea where or how his son might be.
Union Grove is fortunate to have a doctor of sorts-Jerry, who completed part of an internship but never received a license to practice medicine. Much of his equipment was stripped from nearby hospitals, but his inventory of medicine, anesthesia, and medical supplies is dicey at best and sometimes non-existent. As with the local dentist who holds similar credentials, opium is the substance of choice for numbing pain, and the patient is never certain how comfortable or how agonizing a visit to the doctor or dentist in Union Grove may prove to be, but at least the village has one of each.
The national political system has collapsed with some figurehead "president" ostensibly running the country from somewhere in Minnesota and an "acting" governor of New York maintaining a lone office in the dilapidated shell of what used to be the state capitol in Albany. All commerce and social organization is intensely local, and almost nothing is known of life outside Union Grove.
As I mentioned, no food is available in Union Grove unless one grows it oneself; however, some crops, such as wheat are especially challenging to grow due to "a persistent wheat rust in the soil that returned no matter how you rested a field."(16) In some instances, certain fruits and vegetables are luscious and abundant, and in other situations, people make do with whatever is available at the time. Hints of global warming abound amid a record-breaking summer heat wave, and we can only speculate the degree to which climate change may be affecting the soil.
Most people have little access to electricity and generally leave their radios on constantly just so they might know when the power is on and when it isn't. News from electronic media is almost non-existent as are newspapers. In fact, about the only thing that a listener might hear on the radio is the ranting of fundamentalist Christian preachers. One or two members of the community appear to have powerful generators that offer a minimal and unreliable power source, but refrigeration to prevent the spoilage of food or the decomposition of dead bodies is unavailable.
Early on in the novel Kunstler sets up a dichotomy between a large group of newcomers of a religious sect, the New Faith group, and the mostly non-religious residents of Union Grove. Eccentric, austere, and proselytizing, the New Faithers at first appear to be adversarial newcomers but over time prove to be invaluable allies of the community. In the absence of an official justice system, the values and survival skills of the group are useful to Robert, who eventually becomes mayor, in containing the barbaric lawlessness and sadistic violence of a local pot dealer who could only be described as a quasi-Hells Angels, trailer trash outlaw.
At one point Robert and a half-dozen other Union Grove residents journey by horseback to Albany to retrieve a boat and crew who had disappeared after sailing down the Hudson from their village. There, they discover incomprehensible corruption and violence so egregious that shots are exchanged, and Robert is forced defend his life by shooting someone who had fired at him. Hardly the utopia hailed by some proponents of ecovillage living, Kunstler's post-petroleum world is volatile and often savage. It clearly behooves anyone who wishes to protect herself and loved ones to own and sometimes carry a weapon.
While Union Grove is a village in which people still know how to party, make music, and dance long after the world around them has collapsed, and although they are incredibly resourceful in distilling mood-altering beverages and cooking up scrumptious, festive dishes, one cannot read Kunstler's exquisite description of them without feeling the gray pallor of sorrow that pervades their community. More than once while riveted to the saga I could not put down, my throat constricted, and my eyes moistened.
Not infrequently in and around Union Grove, insanity and suicide prevail. "Depression" was a word the residents of Union Grove had dropped, according to Robert, because "despair was a spiritual condition that was as real to us as the practical difficulties we struggled with in everyday life." (17) And on another occasion he states, "I tried to avoid nostalgia because it could destroy you. I was alone now."
In terms of an immediate family, Robert was alone, but in ways that were both poignant and lovely, he was held in a community of survivors and friends who assisted each other with dogged loyalty and a quality of compassion that neither cynicism nor despondency could erode. The spirit of cooperation demonstrated by the Union Grove survivors was stunning-so much so that the reader must acknowledge it as one of the most desirable byproducts of collapse.
I didn't need to begin the first chapter of World Made By Hand to be moved to tears. That began when I opened the book to a quote by my favorite poet, Rilke, immediately following the dedication:
Whom will you cry to, heart? More and more lonely,
Every time that I have allowed myself to deeply and graphically imagine, without restraint or rationalization, a post-collapse world, I experience a bone-marrow sorrow and a palpable sense of loss that defy words. Jim Kunstler has captured those emotions masterfully in World Made By Hand. In fact, this novel provides extraordinary reinforcement for an ongoing theme to which I've devoted a great deal of writing in the past year, namely, how can we possibly expect to prepare ourselves to live in a post-petroleum, post-collapse world by attending only to the stockpiling of food, water, land, and skills without emotional and spiritual preparation? How can we not acquire the tools necessary for navigating the emotions of sorrow, despair, overwhelm, grief, rage, terror, and yes, clinical as it may sound, depression? What will give us meaning? What will console us? What will allow us to keep going when any sense of purpose has eluded us? And perhaps most importantly, how will we communicate with each other? How will we skillfully and compassionately speak our truth and listen deeply to each other? What specific skills in these areas do we need to learn and practice right now? Personally, I find it difficult to believe that the residents of Union Grove, or any other post-collapse community, could function as harmoniously as they do in the novel without transforming the interpersonal land mines all of us have incorporated from living in the soul-murdering milieu of industrial civilization.
These questions are not addressed in World Made By Hand or any of the few fiction and non-fiction works so far published on collapse, each one of them underscoring the urgency of my own forthcoming book The Spirituality Of Collapse: Restoring Life On A Dying Planet. So I thank Jim Kunstler for his extraordinary novel, not only because he is bolstering my commitment to my own work, but because he has provided us with an incredibly well-written depiction of the demise of civilization and what that has already begun to mean and will mean for all of us and for future generations. At the same time, World Made By Hand offers a desperately needed dose of reality and an exhilarating reverence for the kind of world that human beings were meant to create and cherish. After all, light follows darkness.«Collapse
March 20, 2008
A 98 Year-Old Teaches Me About "The Great Work"BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Activists
By: Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
I am part of the rainforest protecting myself. I am that part of the rainforest recently emerged into thinking. ~ John Seed
Recently while visiting Vermont, one of my friends there suggested that I meet Marion Leonard, a 98 year-old environmental activist living in Rochester. While I had no doubt that my friend's effusive praise of Marion was valid, I had to meet Marion for myself to appreciate what a phenomenal soul she really is.Expand» |
Marion was born in 1909 and grew up on Long Island as the daughter of a physician. She attended Pembroke College which later became Brown University and there met her husband, Warren. She and Warren first visited Vermont in 1932, and they both fell in love with the state. He was a teacher-a profession highly in demand during the Great Depression, but Marion did not become a teacher; instead, she became a librarian at the Putney School. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, she and her husband worked in various schools throughout Vermont and then spent eight years living in Rome.
In the eighties Marion and Warren lived back on Long Island in Sag Harbor where she worked ardently as an environmental activist with friends there who founded "Save The World", an anti-nuclear power movement. Later they returned to Vermont and settled in Rochester where they were very drawn to a shared housing facility for the elderly where Marion still lives subsequent to her husband's passing in 2005.
When I asked Marion how she became an activist she told me that her father modeled for her his connection with the earth, even though he didn't speak about it in those terms. He told his children that heaven is here, not somewhere else, and that their duty was to make the earth the paradise it was meant to be.
In those days, people did not speak of "environmental activism" because at that point, the planet was not yet in crisis as it is today. Nevertheless, Marion grew up with and retained a lifelong emotional and spiritual connection with the earth that some members of younger generations have only recently developed as a result of educating themselves about the crisis.
Marion repeatedly states, "We're part of the earth," and I asked her to explain to me what that means to her. "What I mean," she responded, "is that we are the earth thinking about itself. We are the global brain, as Peter Russell names it-the only species that we know of that can think about its own situation." If we are aware of that concept, she believes, then we are more likely to make the right choices that will benefit ourselves and the earth.
Marion attributes her understanding of this concept to her dialogs with Dominican sister, Miriam McGillis, when Marion had just turned 80. She says she was profoundly influenced by McGillis's perspective which made more sense to her than anything she had ever heard.
Marion repeatedly uses the phrase "the Great Work", and I asked her what she meant by it. It is a phrase used by McGillis but also by the historian, author, and geologian, Thomas Berry who authored the book The Great Work. Although she had been a librarian for many years, she had never heard of Berry or his books, but in recent years, Marion has met Berry, whom she affectionately calls "Tom" and emphasizes that he's five years younger than she is.
For Marion, "the Great Work" is one's understanding that one is the global brain and that all beings of the earth-animal, plant, mineral, and the elements of earth-are part of the earth family or community. It also means for Marion an understanding that nature never gives up and that the "blessed unrest" to which Paul Hawken repeatedly refers and which is also the title of one of his books, refuses to be crushed. The Great Work means understanding that we are not separate from, but are part of, the earth community and that nothing is more important than cherishing, protecting, and preserving it. In other words, we are the earth-not some disconnected entity-- endeavoring to sustain itself.
One of the most important aspects of the Great Work, according to Marion, is local action. She's very concerned about the effects of global warming on her own community in Central Vermont through which the White River flows. She's thrilled with the proliferation of small farms and local farmers markets in the state; in fact, she says there are too many for her to keep track up of. Right now, she's working with other residents in her living community and with other citizens in the Rochester area, to plant and maintain a four-season garden. She frequently attends meetings for environmental causes outside of Rochester and has been active in the Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) for a number of years.
When I asked Marion to tell me about the most rewarding aspect of her efforts she said that it has to be watching young people awaken to the Great Work. She knows she's made a difference in many lives but never expected to live as long as she has or have the influence she's had.
When meeting Marion I was taken aback with her altertness, mental acuity, and vitality. She wore no glasses or hearing aids and never had to ask me to repeat myself. She apologizes for her occasional rambling, but more often than not, I found it relevant, on some level, to our conversation. Marion is nothing less than radiant with joy, her remarks punctuated with lighthearted laughter. She takes a walk every day to the Rochester post office to pick up her mail, and she remains as physically and mentally active as possible.
When I asked her to what she attributes her excellent physical and mental state, she replied that much of it has to do with the nutritious foods she eats. She also acknowledges that to some extent she's led a modest, privileged life, having been able to avoid some of the hardships others have been forced to endure.
But Marion also attributes her good health to the Great Work to which she has devoted so many decades of her life, and she is a testament to the reality that poor mental and physical health among the elderly is often related to depression, purposelessness, and inactivity. From her perspective, none of this is necessary if an aging individual can remain committed to a cause and invest his/her energy in struggling on behalf of it.
When one enters Marion's room it's impossible to miss her refrigerator, covered with activist bumper stickers and her two file drawers labeled "Earth" and "Vermont." They leave no doubt that she will lovingly and enthusiastically attend to her passion for the earth and her beloved Green Mountain State until her last breath.
I remain in regular contact with Marion by phone, and she's reminded me several times that she'll be 99 on May 24. I don't know if I'll be able to attend her party, but I savor every moment of our conversations and will be forever grateful for what she has taught me and so many others about the Great Work.
Marion Leonard may be contacted at P.O. Box 437, Rochester, VT 05767.«Collapse
March 13, 2008
How Does Tomorrow Dream?BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Environmental Justice
As the global struggle for power and resources continues, and as we mark the fifth anniversary of the United States' war of choice, this message from John Trudell rings true in one's heart. Thanks to Kelly for finding and sharing this.
March 6, 2008
Personal Survival in a World Gone MadBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power Reviews "Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide To Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation In A World Gone Mad" by Mike Byron.
We must leave the old left/right, liberal/conservative paradigm behind us. Smaller government under local control-as will be the case in the Renewal communities-could actually be considered a "conservative" idea....We are creating a new tomorrow from what will soon become antiquity; we are not rehashing petty divisions or reaffirming old prejudices. ~Mike Byron~Expand» |
I can't remember exactly how I met Mike Byron, but we encountered each other online a few years ago and immediately sensed that we were intellectual and political allies. Mike generously wrote an endorsement for the back of my book U.S. History Uncensored: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You, and shortly thereafter, he sent me a copy of his first book, Infinity's Rainbow. After finishing it, as I recommended it and attempted to describe it, I found that I could best do so by calling it a catalog of the planetary emergency in which the earth community finds itself. Then Mike requested an endorsement from me for his next book, The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow which I was delighted to provide because it takes Infinity's Rainbow many steps further and offers options for individuals and communities in the wake of civilization's collapse.
Lest the reader erroneously infer from the words "infinity's rainbow" that either of these books are pieces of abstract, airy-fairy fluff, I hasten to assure you that they are not. Mike Byron is a professor of political science and history and in my opinion, has critically analyzed the complex relationships between the monumental issues of our time: Peak Oil, climate chaos, and the economic sea changes that "a world gone mad" is forcing us to address. In his words, The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow offers a guide to: "Navigating the coming years of crisis; surviving and transforming our world; and participating in the creation of a new, sustainable economy."
In this review, I'd like to share how the book skillfully does this along with my experience of immersing myself in the pages of its sobering information and compassionate wisdom. Dedicated to his wife and partner, Ramona, her presence enhances the book with several stories which provide a delightful right-brain complement to Mike's analytical research and commentary.
The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow is a blending of reality and vision. While it's true that the first page of the introduction states that "...the patient effort of five hundred human generations and the struggles of ten momentous millennia are in the process of being obliterated forever, as though they never occurred," it is also true that the very first paragraph states:
This book is intended to empower you to navigate through the coming years of crisis, to survive and transform, and to participate in the creation of a new and sustainable political economy. It is a guide for thoughtful, knowledge-based action. (xiii)
Fortunately, Mike doesn't convey any feel-good "hopeful, happy endings" but rather encourages the reader to seize her own opportunities for empowerment in the face of what some like Bill McKibben have called "the end of nature".
In Chapter 2, Byron states that "While learning is always continuing on an incremental basis, it is existential crisis alone that actually compels fundamental change if collapse is to be avoided." (20) I would argue, as does Byron in a later chapter, that collapse cannot be avoided because it is well underway, and I would also argue that collapse itself will produce monumental existential crises that will manifest the "memes" or "fundamental units of information that are linked schematically in an associative manner." (21) The example the author gives of a meme is the sight or thought of a rose leading to recalling by association "the scent of the flower, romantic occasions, walking hand-in-hand on a beach".
Memes lead to a common view of reality that results in a common culture. Thus, it seems to me that one of the basic causes of the collapse of Western civilization lies in the commonly accepted memes which have engendered stories that have brought us to where we are: that humans are superior to the other-than human world; that our survival depends on unrestricted, indiscriminate growth; that profit is more important than people and the earth community; that nature's abundance-which we have come to call "resources" are infinite and that humans have a fundamental right to privatize, use, control, and squander them. Collapse will unequivocally alter these assumptions and cause humans to create very different stories from the ones that have formed the underpinnings of empire.
But not only must the stories be changed, according to Byron, so must how we do things, and most importantly, "we must also fundamentally change ourselves." (23) Out of the ashes, he believes, could rise a sustainable civilization. While I agree, I also cannot imagine this happening in the short span of a few decades but rather requiring at least centuries. Humans are now visiting ecological trauma on planet earth that will take millennia, if not millions of years to eradicate.
Those who appreciate systems theory may revel in Chapter 2, "Concepts." As one whose eyes begin to glaze when delving too deeply into these principles, the most meaty portion of the chapter was the last page in which Byron combines both harsh reality with the promise of transformation.
"It is now far too late," he says, "to prevent our looming petro-collapse and all of its environmental consequences. Like the Titanic approaching the iceberg, collision with our attractor is now both inevitable and imminent. The difference is that, unlike the Titanic, we are actually speeding up as we approach our 'iceberg'." (34)
This paragraph is so momentous, so poignant that the reader must ponder it carefully. Please let it sink in: We cannot prevent catastrophe, and the pace with which we are plummeting toward it is accelerating. When the impact of these two statements sinks in, how can anyone reading these words assume that his/her own or the planet's "business as usual" can continue?
But the author does not leave us there because he quickly adds:
However, it is possible for many of us to survive the catastrophe and to sow the seeds for civilization to be renewed with all of the learning of past ages relatively intact. This is because at the very center of it all are the ordered patterns of memes from which our minds emerge and interact with the minds of others. We can ensure that the lessons learned from this impending collapse are firmly incorporated into the minds and culture of our successor civilization's citizens and into their institutions and laws. (34)
At the risk of sounding nit-picky, I must add that I personally do not want civilization to be renewed. I want it to be eradicated and relegated to the dustbin of human history as quickly as possible. I do have a vision, as I have written about repeatedly on this website, of what humans might create as an alternative to civilization, and I believe that this is also Byron's intention in writing this paragraph. No doubt this is a semantic issue, but I need to emphasize my repudiation of civilization and my commitment to the development of localized niches of eco-centric habitation and functioning which will do whatever it takes to ensure that civilization does not re-emerge on planet earth.
In Chapters 3 through 5, Byron takes us on a sobering journey through current reality, and I suppose that since I am already so familiar with its content, I most appreciated the opening quote of Chapter 3 by A.H. Almaas: If you haven't struggled with a question, you cannot digest the answer even if it is handed to you.
Each time I'm asked "so what do we do about collapse and its attendant catastrophes?" the essence of the Almaas quote leaps to mind. The current presidential election charade is nothing if not the antithesis of what these words assert. The culture of empire is one in which individuals refuse to think or feel deeply about anything unpleasant or that challenges them to venture beyond the bounds of narcissistic consumerism. Thus, the intolerance of the overwhelming majority of Americans for being present with the dilemma without immediately jettisoning into "solutions." And as my friend, Tim Bennett, writer of "What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire", says, when people ask for "solutions", they fundamentally don't want an answer because an honest answer will require them to change everything about their lives down to their toenails. What the citizens of civilization desire instead, is some soporific, like a political candidate or a mass movement that will allow them to continue to live their lives exactly as they have been living them with the exception of perhaps a few minor changes that cause minimal discomfort.
I was relieved when I discovered that Byron ends his three-chapter analysis with a repudiation of national electoral politics by asserting that they "cannot be an effective means for regaining control over our corporate hijacked civilization." Here, I would want of Byron only one thing more--to lose the word "civilization" and perhaps replace it with "planet" because I believe that the fundamental assumptions and constructs of civilization must be questioned and eradicated. In fact, "industrial civilization" is itself a corporate hijack, and on one level or another, it always has been, even before the corporation existed.
I define civilization as Derrick Jensen does, "stories, institutions, and artifacts-that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities." Industrial civilization has exploited and defiled the earth for the past 6000 years and is inherently based on hierarchy, inequality, environmental and human degradation, and as a result of a fundamental split between humans and nature in the European psyche, skillfully analyzed by psychologist and author Ralph Metzner, has developed a "use" relationship with the more-than-human world.
With this in mind it was reassuring to read Byron's unequivocal emphasis on the pivotal issue of values:
I can't stress this point enough: the ultimate source of civilization's crises arises from our own deepest values. If these are not changed-if we do not change-then no technology can do any more than briefly delay civilizational Collapse-at the cost of making the Collapse of even greater magnitude than would otherwise have been the case. (131)
From Chapter 8 ("Strategies For Survival") onward until the book's end, Byron offers options for those who are willing to stare down collapse and allow it to transform every aspect of their lives. Consistent with the above quote regarding values, Chapter 8 begins with a section on knowing oneself and the assertion that individual survival first begins with critical thinking. "Clear critical-thinking abilities," Byron says, "in conjunction with physical health and robustness are the two fundamental essentials for individual and family survival. Hard times require sound minds and healthy bodies." (140)
But it is not enough to merely think; one must become an agent of change. Byron opens this section with a personal admission that he has reluctantly come to the conclusion that political change is not an effective means for bringing about the radical alteration of civilization's trajectory-this from a former Democratic candidate for Congress in 2004! In fact, he states that change at the top could only be brought about by revolution and that the only meaningful change that can occur must happen in local communities. Following his outline of Saul Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals," Byron emphasizes that revolution must begin within the existing political system, by which he means a local political system and that people must be willing to give up the existing system "before they will become receptive to fundamental change." (144)
As I ponder the last sentence, I feel nothing but pessimism about the facility with which the ruling elite has manipulated the masses into the national election chimera. In my opinion, until Americans have bought out of that delusion, it will be impossible for them to give up on the existing system and therefore comprehend that all solutions are local, and that if the "solution" isn't local, it isn't a solution. In fact, Byron states in a later chapter that "Simply engaging in politics as usual is an almost certain recipe for death during the Collapse-or, at the very least, impoverishment and curtailed freedom or outright serfdom for most of us." (179)
Consistent with similar advice offered by Dmitry Orlov in his new book Re-Inventing Collapse, recently reviewed by me at this site, Byron suggests residing in an intermediate-sized community that has adequate resources for food and water and that is detached from large urban centers. Although extreme isolation in a rural area may at first feel safer, both Byron and Orlov note the "safety in numbers" factor of which those attempting to navigate collapse must be aware.
A fabulous "Be Prepared" section (149-151) offers specific advice for survival and sustainability in real time, life-threatening situations. This section is a no-nonsense regimen that would make any seasoned Boy Scout proud and that one would want to post on one's refrigerator prior to collapse and carry in one's pocket afterward. Subsequent sections of the chapter include planting a victory garden, studying and implementing permaculture techniques, and familiarizing oneself with When Technology Fails: A Manual For Self-Reliance And Planetary Survival.
In Byron's "World Reborn" chapter, he states that he has come to believe that the universe is not without purpose and that civilization's collapse and renewal have great meaning. What I'd like to have read here, and I hope Mike will consider writing it, is an entire book that elucidates his sense of that meaning. My forthcoming book, The Spirituality Of Collapse: Restoring Life On A Dying Planet, attempts to do just that, but because Mike and I have similar, yet differing perspectives on this, I'm exceedingly curious to hear the details of his. In his "Letter From The Future" he summarizes the planetary initiation that collapse will provide which will transform the human species and allow it to realize its fullest potential, including the likelihood that the evolutionary leap produced over time by collapse will qualify earthlings to join the cosmic community of highly organized, vast intelligences-a community which pre-collapse earthlings are not yet equipped intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually to encounter.
In the book's final chapter "A New Direction", Byron envisions "a very quiet secession from a political economy that is dying, in conjunction with simultaneous alliance to another that is being born"-a process which he calls "the Renewal." In the section "Shackled Feet Can't Jump: The Human Rights of Women Are Essential", Mike emphasizes that the Collapse will eradicate the last vestiges of patriarchal oppression of both genders so that all human beings can make the greatest possible contributions to the Renewal. In this section I was humbled and honored to find a segment of my 2006 article "Post-Petroleum Woman" quoted in which I added from my perspective what may be a more gender-balanced approach to the Peak Oil issue than is generally offered by the preponderance of male researchers who overwhelmingly inform the conversation about that issue. To this I must also add an excellent blog post by Sally Erickson, producer of "What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire" in which she takes to task the white male "man-date" of fixing the world in order to avoid collapse. The words of her very latest post "Orlov And The Wonderful, Terrible, Radical Simplification", resonate with Byron's with respect to the "meaning" inherent in the Collapse:
I see the collapse as a piece of the story of the human, a real live myth, a very big and very profound story. I see this time and these events in ways that I imagine Gaia or Mother Earth may see them. What all of this represents is a vitally necessary process of cleansing and balancing. At its best, what we are involved in, and witness to, is a spiritual initiation rite of the highest order for an adolescent species in sore need of such an initiation.
Borrowing from Timothy Leary, Byron offers a twenty-first century maxim, asking us to tune in to ourselves, turn on or against corporate deceptivists, and drop out and create a new reality. In this section he speaks of "quiet defections" from the dying milieu, but I have to wonder if in the throes of the most chaotic stages of collapse, "quiet defections" or "quiet secessions" will be tolerated. I suppose this depends on how much petroleum and other resources the regime will have at its disposal to track dissenters and round them up. My guess is that the sooner one begins the defection process, the better for him/herself and the sooner the Collapse/Renewal that is trying to unfold can do so. It is important to add, I believe, that even now, we are seeing signs of the complete collapse of state and local governments as the global economic meltdown that is well underway is already imperiling the financial resources necessary to maintain and develop local infrastructures and essential services. Thus, as Byron emphasizes, it will be essential to be "prepared to spring into action at the local level as that happens." (189)
In his "Letter From The Future", mentioned above, Byron offered a sketch of what a post-Collapse government might look like-a subsidarity, as he names it, which would function at the level closest to the people affected, meaning that countless subsidarities might evolve. For these, Byron offers five indispensable principles for just and humane government founded on two underlying principles: "A transcendent belief in cooperative interdependence and an all-encompassing structure that spreads this belief: the Renewal."(195) The so-called transcendent belief simply means taking responsibility to leave the world livable for one's children, reusing and renewing everything, and living our lives according to the principle of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. (196)
This then, is the "path through Infinity's Rainbow", and it's a path with which I feel delightfully familiar. It's also a path about which I am quite certain Mike Byron will elaborate in future volumes of what he calls the Infinity's Rainbow series. As the unraveling continues, those of us who have been tracking it for months and years will benefit from reading The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow, and we will undoubtedly await Byron's forthcoming insights as we journey up and down, in and out of our personal and collective rainbows of Collapse and Renewal.
Mike Byron, Ph.D., is a professor of political science in the San Diego area and has published and presented many papers on politics and computer simulation. He was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in California's 49th Congressional District in 2004. Visit his website.«Collapse
February 28, 2008
Eugene Oregon: Community and Personal Collapse Preparation. Part 2BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
CB: Thank you Dan for that fascinating and comprehensive analysis. Now bringing all of this closer to home, what kinds of preparations have you personally been making in recent years for Peak Oil, climate change, and economic chaos?
I'm very fortunate. My wife and I live on three acres with a vernal creek in a semi-rural neighborhood on the edge of Eugene. Over the last five years, we've worked steadily on the little things to build more self-reliance into our land, centered on a very productive, nearly year-around, organic garden and a collection of fruit trees. With canning, a root cellar, and plans for grain storage in the winter to come, we're aimed at the possibility of feeding ourselves through a year, but we are certainly not there yet.
Food self-reliance is a tenuous thing. Alone, as a couple both nearly sixty years old, my wife and I would struggle through any kind of crisis. Make no mistake about that! The next level of security is provided by our relationship with our neighbors. Little by little, a consensus is building in our small valley neighborhood that when things get tight, we must work together. This is a work in progress that I apply myself to on a regular basis. For example, I will be showing What a Way to Go to a neighborhood gathering this week to prompt discussion and connection. To me this is an important aspect of facing any crisis, financial or otherwise; it's more feasible to build a lifeboat out of the neighborhood I currently live in than trying to move off the grid to build a lifeboat from the ground up.
CB: When our readers visit the Truth To Power website, they are likely to see a banner ad for your book, "Prairie Fire", at the top of the site. What is the book about? What inspired you to write it? What has been the response to the book?
DA: Prairie Fire is essentially a game plan for American family farmers as they confront Peak Oil and climate change. It's a "what if" story of an agricultural revolution in the United States told like a Tom Clancy thriller-in this case, however, global tensions arise from grain shortages, not from weapons of mass destruction.
Imagine if the drought that took place in Australia this past year and caused wheat prices to break ten dollars a bushel had occurred in China, the world's largest grain producer. And what if someone knew there would be a grain shortage two months before it happened and bought heavily in wheat and corn futures? This is the backdrop of Prairie Fire, a financial market pump and dump scheme applied to the commodities market.
Two things inspired the novel. The first was my concern that environmental non-fiction spoke only to the choir. If you read enough environmental books, they become repetitive and a little dry. I wanted to write an environmental book that was dramatically engaging and in that way might reach an audience that was more than those already aware of environmental problems. That is, use all the hooks of an ordinary novel, adventure, romance, and personal conflict, to tell the story of the American family farmer and the literal and figurative erosion of America's Heartland.
The second source of inspiration was a little book written in 1995 by Lester R. Brown of the Earth Policy Institute Who Will Feed China? In his book, Brown suggests that the weakest point in the world food supply system is China's grain harvest. Near the end of the book, he hypothesizes that we are but one catastrophic weather event, one major drought in China away from a worldwide grain crisis. This is the premise of Prairie Fire. A seemingly harmless warm winter in South East Asia diminishes the Himalayan snowpack by thirty percent. A dry spring follows. Water shortages cut China's grain harvest by a quarter. Grain prices around the world triple. Prairie Fire addresses what these dynamics could mean to family farmers in the United States and commodities markets around the world.
The response to the book has been very strong. Because I'm a self-published writer with no source of advertising other than my website and my website networking (thank you, Carolyn!), selling the book has been slow. I sell at book fairs, over the internet, and in two local book stores. I have heard from about 30 enthusiastic readers, and as the reviews at Amazon.com. Prairie Fire tells an engaging, relevant, and thought provoking story. The book does contain some scenes of sex and violence (I rate it R), and three readers (one of whom was 98 years old and enjoyed the book) have said it is too racy for a book with an environmental message. In response to this, I would say that as a novel, Prairie Fire mirrors life. What we see in life-in all its diversity, good and bad, beautiful and ugly-should be reflected in a novel.
CB: When you observe what's happening now with incredible upheaval and transition occurring in our world, what kinds of emotions are evoked for you? What feels most important-top priority, for you personally in these daunting times? What kinds of changes within yourself and your immediate circle of connections have you experienced?
DA: As stated earlier, I became aware of global warming 37 years ago. At that time, it seemed like science fiction, and I wondered if I would live long enough to see the climate actually change. I have, and in a much more rapid manner than I could ever have guessed in 1971. Throw in Peak Oil and the manipulation of the financial markets, and I'm overcome with sadness and a disappointment for who and what we are. Why must we humans, with all our knowledge, technology, and potential for good, be so incapable of managing our planet home? Why must our capacity for greed so dominate our capacity for intelligence and altruism? I feel as though we are a sadly flawed species living out a Greek tragedy, the unfinished parable of planet earth.
In a sense, the human species has always lived on the edge. As H.G. Wells once wrote, "history is a race between education and catastrophe." Whether the fascist war machine of Adolph Hitler, the threat of nuclear holocaust during the Cold War, or the vast and complex implications of climate change, humans seem bent on courting crisis. What's different about today's situation is the speed at which the drama now takes place and the size of the crisis we face. We've been accelerated through time and space by the power of our technology, a critical piece of which is the worldwide web you are using now. The threat of collapse or mass destruction has not really changed in any basic way as a human tension; it has simply become sharper and more visible with each passing day because we have more ways to measure and chart it. In effect, the same choices that have always existed for humans confront us now but with more on the line. We either learn to live together or we live amid deepening crisis. We either live as an implicate part in the entire web of life on this planet, or we try to continue to live in denial of this overwhelming truth. One way is sustainable; one is not.
It's my sense that it's as difficult to anticipate and fully prepare for catastrophic change as it is to prepare for one's death. Abstract intellectual ratiocination and common sense material preparation for the end is never more than a dress rehearsal-until that moment when the store shelves are empty or the hurricane has leveled your home. That said as a qualifier, I still believe all begins with self awareness.
My top priority is to keep my mind open. And not to lose my sense of humor-in the grand sense. Our number one responsibility, I believe, is to come to grips with our psychological self, to take a good long look inside and find out who we really are, learn how to rid ourselves of greed, learn to how bridle ego and petty desire, learn how to share and to give and to live with less and more simply. At bottom, we must learn how to cooperate. To be member of a group or a team with no motivation other than enabling the whole. This is good advice regardless of the global situation.
Should the economy collapse or a catastrophic weather event decimate the region where you live, the coming out of it will occur through the spontaneous forming of community, either as an emergency enterprise or a long-term way of living. And this is best done when an individual has given up selfishness, shed vain materialism, and embraced the interconnectedness of all life and each other. I work on my attitude and humor more than anything else because it is my being and my mental health that will make me the most helpful to others if conditions are reduced to basic survival. In this, I am no better than a work in progress.
The most important change in my life is that I have become active in the Eugene community. I am not fond of speaking in public. I have never been an activist except during my time in college. I am not outgoing at all. But I am out there now. And though real relocalization at the city-wide level often seems unlikely or impossible without the impetus of immediate emergency, personal action is empowering.
Among my friends, even those engaged in community action, with some exceptions, I still see either unchanged cynicism, denial, or a paralysis caused by the day to day squirrel cage demands of a stressful and pressure filled life. I am not sure how to answer to this. I write to help inform.
CB: What is your vision of the kind of world we might create before, during, and after the collapse of empire?
In general, I see many possible scenarios for the future. Some are bad, some are difficult. In any case, culture change is inevitable. For me, with the single caveat that global warming has the potential to make everything else moot; the most likely short-term scenario is a steady and heavy crush upon the poor and the middle class of this nation. The rising price of petroleum alone virtually guarantees some kind of extended economic recession or depression. As most of this interview suggests, I believe a relocalized society and economy is a pragmatic way to prepare for, to survive from, or to rebuild after whatever comes down. Relocalization is not religion. It's a management plan designed to counteract the rising price of energy and to help diminish carbon emissions. It will not stop what is already unfolding, but it may alleviate the worst of it-again with the caveat that climate change could be full of unwelcome and unanswerable surprises.
Ravi Logan was invited to the Russian province of Khabarovski Krai in 1992, in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, to teach and assist in the implementation of the PROUT economic model as a substitute for the communist command economy and an alternative to market capitalism and the incursion of economic globalism. Though this effort was eventually undermined, Ravi Logan is a wise and intelligent man who has first-hand experience in post-collapse rebuilding.
While I am not a PROUTist, the PROUT model is a useful one, and I have had many long and rich conversations with Ravi about what we might anticipate in a collapse and what we might create out of it. A significant part of our discussion has been the role played by cooperatives in rebuilding. When we are left with the shell of a society, we can not rebuild alone. We will have to come together to form and create all the basic elements of society again, beginning with food, water, and energy systems. Essential to doing this is learning how to work together and share the results. This is the basic premise of a cooperative.
If I were to envision something to replace the capitalist megalith, it would begin with a decentralized economy with many parallels to the PROUT economic system. It would be a localized society that emphasized balance, diversity, and the interconnectedness of all life. The basic working element would not be corporations or other large profit motivated entities; it would be a mix of small entrepreneurial businesses to stimulate creativity and non-government owned, cooperatives to ensure social stability, all guided by the principles of sustainability, equality, and individual self-realization.
CB: What suggestions would you give our readers regarding relocalization and collapse preparation?
First, know who you are. Know your strengths, know your weakness. Verify your real needs and adjust your mind and your emotions to embrace change. If peak oil or financial crisis will do anything good, it will be teaching Americans to live with less and to waste nothing. Learn to welcome this like a drink of cool spring water.
Then take a good long look at where you live. Does the bioregion you live in have the capacity to feed itself? Does it have a secure water system? Is there a high potential for drought? What will it look like if civil order is lost? These are basics. Figure them out.
If you are satisfied with where you live, work on personal and community self-reliance. If there is a crash of any kind and you have three months worth of food and water, you will not have to take part in the first stages of crisis and the violence of cleaning out food stores shelves. Know your neighbors. Be prepared to rebuild with the people that live around you. Prepare to work cooperatively. Even plan large cooperative neighborhood meals to practice working together.
Should the global economy collapse and business as usual come to stop, the hard shell of infrastructure will remain. In a way, much like William H. Kötke describes in his article target="_blank">The Revolution that is Arising from the Earth, workers from closed manufacturing plants can return without management and form a work cooperative to get the up plant producing again. This is what we'll need once the smoke has cleared: cooperation.
CB: Please add anything else you'd like to talk about, expound upon, or any rants that occur to you. Feel free to put yourself in the shoes of our readers and just let your thoughts and feelings flow.
Life, it seems, is at least psychological. We have consciousness and we have the abstract tools to understand that consciousness. Awareness for our psychological being is where everything starts. Be here now, as Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass, might say. This is sound advice. Be fully mindful of the moment. The realization of community on this planet, either as a whole or in localized parts, begins with clear-seeing individuals.
DAN ARMSTRONG is the editor and owner of Mud City Press, a small publishing company and online magazine operating out of Eugene, Oregon. He has written extensively in both fiction and non-fiction. For access to his books and short stories, political commentary, humor, and environmental studies CLICK HERE. To order his novel "Prairie Fire", click on the banner at the top of this site.
February 22, 2008
Eugene Oregon: Community and Personal Collapse Preparation. Part 1BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Alternatives
By Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
This is the first part of Carolyn Baker's exclusive interview with Dan Armstrong, writer, activist, and owner of MUD CITY PRESS.
CB: I'm going to ask you about your book "Prairie Fire", but first I'd like to find out a little bit about your background. Tell us about your roots, how you came to settle in the Eugene area, and your passion for writing.Expand» |
DA: My background is that of a middle-class suburbanite baby boomer. My father was an officer in the Navy (as was my grandfather) and as a youth, I lived either in a suburb near a Navy base on the east or west coast or within a short-commute to the Pentagon.
I grew up in the belly of the beast.
I entered Princeton University as a freshman in 1968 to study Aerospace Engineering, headed to a career in the defense industry. As a junior in 1971, I did an independent research project on the effects of greenhouse gases. To my surprise, I found that we were already well into a positive feedback loop of warming. This project, along with my involvement in student demonstrations against the Vietnam War, began what would be a lifelong questioning of the American way of life. Instead of taking a job in the weapons industry, I went to graduate school at the University of Oregon in Eugene to study journalism and the theory of mass communication. Street life in Eugene in the early 1970s, however, proved far more interesting and meaningful to me at age twenty-three than graduate school, and before the year was out I'd said good-bye to the establishment and hello to counterculture. By 1974, I was nothing more or less than a Eugene hippie trying to live the simplest life I could. The beast had burped me up and spit me out.
As part of a counterculture lifestyle, I sought self-realization through art. I wrote fiction and did sculpture, working part-time as a house painter or construction worker to make ends meet. I have continued in this manner all of my life, though I have added editing to my resume.
My passion for writing is intimately connected to my state of mind. For me, writing is therapy, a kind of intellectual yoga. It's a way of ordering my ideas, stretching my imagination, and bringing peace to my inner being. After writing for forty years with only the slightest financial return, it's clear to me that I write because I have to.
CB: So tell us, what does "relocalization" mean to you? How and why did you become interested in it? How important is relocalization to you personally?
Despite being a fiction writer who gives in fully to the extravagance of fantasies and humors of all kinds, I ground myself in simplicity and common sense. Relocalization, to me, is a common sense response to all the challenges we face today. Peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation, food concerns, financial instability, political corruption, and the negatives of globalization are all soothed by condensing the way we live, compacting our circle of activity, and connecting with local environs, local politics, and the immediate community.
My personal attraction to relocalization stems from two things, Peak Oil awareness and my loss of faith in the national government. As the price of gasoline climbs, it simply makes dollars and cents to create a way of life that involves less driving, both for the individual and in the design of a community. As we are all too aware, our national government has been bought and sold. It responds to the leverage of huge sums of money and is something individuals can affect only indirectly-if at all, but we can directly impact and take part in local government. At the very least, we can sit in on the city council and make public comment. If you apply energy to local politics, whether in the city council or at neighborhood meetings, you have some modest chance of effecting change. Add that Peak Oil is a market issue and is changing the economic gradient of everything in the direction of relocalization. And as time goes on, the strategy of relocalization will be an easier and easier design concept to get city managers to listen to.
CB: You are involved with relocalization efforts in the Eugene, Oregon area. Please tell us about Eugene's relocalization programs. I'm sure our readers would welcome details.
DA: Eugene, Oregon makes an interesting case-study of a mid-sized city confronting the triple threat of Peak Oil, climate change, and financial meltdown. A smaller city like Willits, California with a population of about 13,500 is one thing, but a community like Eugene and sister city Springfield with a surrounding population of about a quarter million is an entirely different animal. What is going on here in Eugene merits a few words, both positive and negative.
On one hand, the Eugene area (which means Lane County or the southern end of the Willamette Valley) seems the perfect fit for relocalization. Eugene has been a countercultural haven for more than forty years. The population is a nearly even mix of rural Oregonians, longtime hippies, and middle-class baby boomers. Clearly this is an over simplification, but the point is, a significant portion of the community has been anticipating and participating in culture change for quite a long time. The city is designed around bike paths. Vegetarian and organic lifestyles are commonplace. Community gardens and home gardens are everywhere you look. The city is surrounded by extensive and fertile farmland. Wildlife is prevalent. Water is aplenty, and the entire valley is insulated from the outside by large mountain ranges. In a sense, it is a secluded piece of paradise.
The Eugene populace and the newspaper, The Register Guard, are decidedly liberal. Climate change and Peak Oil are topics that do appear in the Op-ed columns. The mayor, Kitty Piercy, regularly talks about sustainability, relocalization, and climate change. With her efforts and the efforts of others, a Sustainable Business Initiative passed through the city council in 2005, and just last fall a Eugene Sustainability Commission was formed. In other words, Eugene accepts that our future is challenged.
On the other hand, as local activists have discovered, there is a wide gap between adding buzz words to the city manager's lexicon and actually changing business as usual. In Eugene, as in any American city, money and big business leaders make things happen, and regardless of how they wear their hats, profit and growth is really what they want. That said, my experience during last year in Eugene is revealing in what we can expect and what we can't expect regarding large-scale community relocalization.
Last fall, I organized a film screening of What a Way to Go: Life At The End Of Empire with four other activists in Eugene. I tend toward a quiet home life instead of participating in social gatherings, and though I did speak to the city council on Peak Oil and relocalization on one occasion, putting together the documentary screening was the first time that I had made an effort to spread "crisis" awareness through any means other than my Mud City Press website. Sally Erickson and Tim Bennett came to Eugene for that screening, and the event was a huge success for all involved, but particularly inspiring for me. This first dip into pro-active community engagement prompted me to kick myself in the butt and get involved with the activist community of Eugene. Like many out there, I was a concerned but isolated citizen, and the decision to activate involved pushing myself through a kind of invisible psychological barrier. It wasn't easy, but it became a very empowering decision.
After the showing of What A Way to Go that night in late October, about 50 people in the crowd of 200 stayed to talk and pass the talking stick with Sally and Tim. I had never done this before and found it a powerful experience. A woman, Pam Driscoll, a well-known Eugene activist, took the opportunity to announce that there would be a meeting of all the action groups in Eugene to form a Peak Oil and Climate Change Coalition. Though I was not a member of an organization at that time, I attended the meeting and was thrilled by the turn-out. Some 40 organizations were represented-spanning interests from anti-war to peal oil to permaculture.
Over the next three monthly meetings, the coalition battled to find its identity, settle internal differences, and finally determine that relocalization was a strategy we could all agree on and use as a central theme for our activity. During those three months, there were several community presentations and demonstrations on forest management practices, climate change, and Peak Oil. I attended nearly every one. At first, the coalition's formation seemed to prompt higher turn outs for these kinds of political activities in the city. But as time went on, the audiences diminished, and gradually the audience returned to being only those in the choir. From my point of view, the energy was here in Eugene to be tapped, but it was still sadly unfocused.
During this period, however, the Peak Oil and Climate Change Coalition did enable a lot of networking among like-minded organizations. This has proven to be the coalition's most powerful asset and facilitated my meeting several people involved in Lane County food security organizations, including the Helios Resource Network, Food for Lane County, and the Lane County Food Policy Council. Because I'd studied global agriculture for many years, written several articles on global food supplies and based the novel Prairie Fire on this topic, I decided it made sense to concentrate my efforts on food security. I turned my focus from speculative global scenarios to the local food system.
The food networks in Eugene, and probably most cities, have several things going for them. Most have existed for many years for the sake of the poor or homeless and often have city or county affiliation and/or modest funding. Because of the practical nature of food security, food issues attract people across political lines, meaning it is not a particularly polarizing topic. Everyone can understand an empty plate or the returns of a home garden. When I attended meetings or presentations devoted to food security, not only was the audience full, but it contained farmers, restaurant owners, market owners, political activists, permaculturalists, and more likely than not a neighbor. And should there be any kind of crisis, if you have food, you can get along without oil and your food stores can work as currency. For my two cents, food security is a very smart place to begin relocalization.
The word relocalization suggests that what was once local is no longer and that it should be. Nothing could be more apt than applying this concept to food sources in Eugene-or pretty much anywhere in the U.S. Regarding food sales and production, the net effect of globalization in the last thirty years has been to take the local out of what we eat. Give or take a percent or two, only about five percent of what we eat today-wherever you live in the United States-comes from within 100 miles-or by definition is locally grown-meaning ninety-five percent of what we eat must be shipped in from long distances.
American farmers, and really all farmers in the world, tend to follow market lines. In the globalized economy, this means moving away from diversify and catering to specialized markets. In Iowa, for example, where there is the potential to grow all kinds of food products, corn and pork production dominates the large and mid-size farms and very little of what they produce stays home for Iowans. This may be the best way to chase profit, but it tends away from local economic balance and, in a world where the price of fuel will only increase, away from economic stability-and local food security. In any kind of big picture perspective, this is nonsense if not suicide.
Even in a place like Oregon's Willamette Valley where there are more than a million acres of rich and fertile cropland, where more than 250 different edible plants can be grown and propagated, this imbalance exists. Fifty years ago, the Willamette Valley provided its inhabitants with more than half of what they ate, growing a wide variety of food crops in significant quantities, including close to three hundred thousand acres of wheat. But now, because large food conglomerates dominate the food industry and almost everything we eat comes from more than a thousand miles away, farmers in the Willamette Valley sell, as mentioned before, only about five percent to local buyers, whether individuals, food markets, or restaurants. Sixty percent of what was grown in the Willamette Valley in 2006 was grass for grass seed, which is shipped all over the world for suburban lawns and golf courses. Grass seed is our cash crop. The Willamette Valley is hailed as the grass seed capital of the world. At the same time, less than fifty thousand acres of wheat were planted in the valley in 2006. In other words, prime Oregon farmland is being used primarily to grow a non-edible luxury item instead of food. Globalization enables specialized and long distant markets while at the same time diminishing crop diversity at home.
This is not news. Organizations in Eugene like the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition and Helios Resource Network have been pushing local food buying for many years with just this intention-reversing the effects of globalization and bringing more stability to the local agricultural economy. It just makes good sense. Unfortunately, because products grown in countries where labor costs are significantly less than in the United States, a strawberry grown in Peru can be cheaper to Oregonians than one grown in the Willamette Valley-even with freight costs added in. This makes progress in establishing local food markets extremely difficult. In the last year or so, however, concerns for Peak Oil have added fuel to the relocalization fire. More than just smart thinking for a balanced and diverse agricultural economy, as the price of petroleum fuels climbs, the labor cost advantage of food producers in distance countries will be lost to freight costs. The buy local movement can now gradually gather market force behind it instead of against it.
This is a start.
In addition to lost agriculture diversity in the Willamette Valley, there has also been a gradual loss of food system infrastructure. Because we are receiving ninety-five percent of our food from distant places and because much of it already packaged, grain millers, food processors, and local farm produce distribution hubs are also disappearing from the Willamette Valley, meaning not only don't we grow our own food, but we also don't have the capacity to process or distribute what we do grow. We have erased such large portions of the Willamette Valley food system that this very fertile region can no longer feed itself. Again, this is nonsense if not suicide.
The situation reveals itself in three parts for the Willamette Valley. Less than twenty percent of what is grown here is food; food system infrastructure is declining, and the markets for selling local food are few and far between. This was not the case fifty years ago. Thus the solution, and the target of relocalization efforts regarding food security in Eugene, is changing what farmers grow, rebuilding food industry infrastructure, and creating more markets to link buyers, growers, and distributors. And this is what we are focusing our energy on in Eugene. These same targets are probably applicable in almost any city or region in the United States-except those without any cropland at all.
So exactly what are we doing to encourage these kinds of changes in Eugene?
Everything begins with the market. If we can increase demand for local produce and grain, we can change what the farmers grow and verify the need for rebuilding the food system infrastructure.
At the first level, this means getting people to buy locally grown food. The Helios Resource Network and the Willamette Food and Farm Coalition have promoted local food buying awareness, including a farmers market and Community Supported Agriculture subscriptions, in Eugene for several years by publishing a local food register called Locally Grown and by sponsoring regular "Eat Here Now" pot luck dinners.
The local food register is an essential hard copy networking device and works as a yellow pages devoted to local growers and buyers. As Lynn Fessenden, the Executive Director of the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, told me two weeks ago, this is Eugene's most powerful tool for stimulating local food buying.
The pot luck dinners are social events that stir the human energy stew. These large gatherings are usually held at churches or schools and enable people to share dishes they have prepared from local produce. This is always a fun community activity, invariably includes music and sometimes dancing, and in the last year attendance has steadily increased. There is evidence of a surge in local food buying here in Eugene.
At the second level, the local food networks sponsor presentations and lectures about local food buying and its potentials. These presentations are aimed at local farmers, local restaurants, and local food markets with the idea that connecting farmers and large buyers can stimulate buying. Again these activities are centered around a meal made from local products. There was one such presentation that I attended two weeks ago at the local community college. The keynote speaker was David Yudkin of Hot Lips Pizza in Portland, Oregon. Curiously enough, he began his talk with an overview of Peak Oil and how rising fuel prices would gradually increase demand for food grown closer to home. I found this significant; the often controversial Peak Oil message was being given not to the choir but to a collection of farmers and restaurant owners. They didn't bat an eye. The reality of rising petroleum prices is here and now. Tell farmers how they can save a dime, and they will.
Yudkin then went on to describe how he sought out local farmers to grow all the ingredients he uses to his make his pizzas, telling the audience that items like olives and pineapples just simply weren't available fresh in the Northwest. So instead of shipping them in, he found viable substitutes. In the case of pineapples, he has substituted pears. Not the same, but this is what you do. Regarding olives, he has struggled to find a substitute, but, as it turned out there was a Willamette Valley farmer experimenting with growing olives attending the presentation and Yudkin was able to make this important connection that day! Again, that was the purpose of the gathering.
Yudkin also said that by buying locally he actually knew the people who supplied him with his needs. He knew how they grew their food, how they treated their employees, and was able to talk to them face to face at their farms if necessary when problems arose. He did say this was not the easiest way to run a pizza parlor, but that it was personally rewarding for him because he had created a community of people that he worked with and knew as friends. After a slow start and much investment of time and money, Hot Lips Pizza now has a large following in Portland and is very successful.
At a third level, it's necessary to introduce farmers to the food processors. A month ago, the Lane County Food Policy Council had a gathering where a grain mill operator, a natural food store distributor, and an organic farmer addressed an audience of farmers and food network organizers. Again, amazingly enough, the presentation began with Peak Oil and the logistics of transportation and included a locally grown meal. The organic farmer, Harry MacCormack of Sunbow Farm was at the center of this presentation, telling the audience how he has gone to other farmers he knows and spoken to them directly about growing organic wheat instead of grass seed-one of the central issues for Willamette Valley food security. Five years ago this would have been an impossible sell, but with the price of wheat rising just as fast as that of petroleum, he is now making some headway. In the end, if the grain mill and the food distributor can promise to buy the wheat or other local food products, even offer advance contracts, farmers can have a measure of security that what they grow can be sold. That the food processor is close to home is just more good (meaning fuel saving) news. This connection between farmers and local infrastructure is effectively a form of community supported agriculture (CSA), but on a larger scale.
At a fourth level, the idea that a diversified agricultural economy with a strong local food systems infrastructure makes good common sense, especially as we face Peak Oil, must be directed to the city management. This takes individuals to either write Op-ed pieces or go to the city council and make public statements. This is where I made my contribution as a researcher/writer. And the truth is, once the facts are laid out, it's not a hard sell.
In terms of results, Eugene has begun to take real steps forward. A local grain miller, the only one in the Willamette Valley, and a local natural food distributor, the only one in Eugene, wanted to move to larger sites-both closer to the farmland for improved logistics and fuel savings. Unfortunately, the sites that they hoped to move to were constrained by zoning codes. The grain miller said he would have to consider leaving the state if the site weren't available to him, and the food distributor said the inefficiencies of his current smaller site would incur wasteful costs and safety issues. Fortunately public action and comment about food security reached city officials. The distributor was granted a zoning waiver and a tax break, and the grain miller nears a similar decision. In other words, something has happened-two important pieces of our food system infrastructure will be preserved-and at the same, as it became a front page newspaper story, the importance of these ideas reached the general public.
So what can I say? I've seen positive changes in the last half year. Not regarding less car use, not regarding a moratorium on building new highways, not regarding legislation to expand mass transit, not regarding a change of business as usual-all of which is frustrating, but in the actual connection of farmers, markets, and food system infrastructure. A full and meaningful transition, however, will take time. An individual buyer makes the decision to support this transition every time he or she buys food. Farmers make this decision each growing season as they buy their seeds for either food products or lawn products. And the infrastructure can take anywhere from one to five years to rebuild.
All in all, as a point of emphasis, what really advances the discussion of food security is organizing presentations and meetings around a meal. This breaks down the wall between the audience and the presenters and gives everyone the opportunity to talk casually, to get to know each other, and to begin linking the threads of community. Nowhere else in all my involvement have I felt or seen the kind of community building that I've seen in the food relocalization movement. While emotional Peak Oil or climate change presentations, sadly, have done little to change business as usual, food discussions do. If you want to get involved, I suggest food security as a good place to start, not because it will change the world today, not because it will bring salvation, but because you can see incremental positive response. And if you're fighting your state of mind, this helps.
DAN ARMSTRONG is the editor and owner of Mud City Press, a small publishing company and online magazine operating out of Eugene, Oregon. He has written extensively in both fiction and non-fiction. For access to his books and short stories, political commentary, humor, and environmental studies CLICK HERE. To order his novel "Prairie Fire", click on the banner at the top of this site.«Collapse
February 21, 2008
Review: The Final Empire - Part 2BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
Part 2 of the review of the new book by William Kotke by Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
We are proposing to create no less than a completely new human culture that relates to the earth in a completely different way....those who choose to respond in a positive way need gather the seeds of Natural cultures and the truly beneficial things created by civilization and carry them through the apocalypse. ~William Kotke~Expand» |
In Part One of this review, I focused on the author's stunning explanation of collapse as a kind of time bomb imbedded in civilization. What I failed to mention is that Kotke wrote this book in 1993 which makes its contents all the more momentous. Likewise, his vision of alternative communities based on the principles of natural culture was ahead of its time in terms of defining how humans need to live in relationship with the more-than-human world.
At this point, I'd like to share how The Final Empire and the timing of its appearance in my life, in synchronicity with other concepts and events, informed my vision of possibilities.
On a chilly morning in Boulder, Colorado I sat in a circle with about 34 other individuals as we concluded a weekend of deep talking, deep listening, and deep feeling regarding the topic of collapse and the end of the world as we have known it. People began to cry and allow words and sounds of grief to pour forth, and not only grief, but fear and rage. My body softened, and tears flowed. Piles of used Kleenex accumulated under my chair, and I felt the deepest connection I had ever experienced with a group of human beings in my life, many of whom had been total strangers only 48 hours before. For several moments I knew as clearly as I knew that I was sitting in a chair in a room in Boulder that these fellow humans were my unequivocal allies and that in a world of famine or thirst, I would never allow them to perish, nor would they allow me to perish.
But not only did I feel a warm, intimate connection with the other individuals in the room, but in the pit of my stomach I experienced a sensation of being profoundly and palpably connected with the earth. For a moment I flashed on an experience I had over a decade ago in Yosemite National Park when a friend and I spent a morning in silence in a secluded meadow. We wandered about, sometimes in close proximity, but most of the time hundreds of feet apart, feeling ourselves joined to the grass, the trees, the birds, a quietly bubbling stream, the sky. While those hours yielded the most intimate connection I had ever experienced with the earth until that time, I felt something far more momentous occurring in my body while sitting in the circle. For the first time in my life I experienced the earth as my family-its other-than-human members as my siblings, parents, and children. Savoring viscerally my relatedness to my family, the awareness that my family is dying because members of my species are killing it, surged through my cells and opened a floodgate of yet more grief.
But grief was not the endpoint-not the final destination of this unprecedented experience. In fact, what I noticed is that my tears had literally cleansed the doors of perception so that I began to notice and nurture a vision of the kind of world humans are capable of creating before, during, and after the collapse of civilization. It did not come from my head or intellectualizing about what would be politically or environmentally correct. It was unequivocally natural, pristine, innocent, and real.
Before traveling to Colorado I had finished William Kotke's The Final Empire: The Seed Of The Future, and as the experience of intimacy with the earth flowed through my body, a plethora of images began to congeal into vision. However, the vision of which I write was not merely an optical phenomenon but rather something like a symphony of possibilities in which all of my senses were engaged. The "seed of the future" had been gestating in my consciousness and body, and it was being watered by tears-my own and those of the other individuals in the circle, and tender shoots of opportunity were sprouting.
Kotke writes that "Creativity, balance, adaptability, shared energies, unity-diversity, transformation, and relationship are modes of behavior that we find fundamental to life....When we create human culture that is patterned on these principles and integrated with the web of life than human thought and action will be consonant with the purpose of life on this planet."(356-57)
Sitting in the circle, informed and illumined by The Final Empire: The Seed Of The Future, I was blessed with an epiphany-one that did not force me to "have hope" but that I literally gave birth to effortlessly in which I experienced on a cellular level a principle that was not new and which I've been privileged to taste and savor at various sea-change moments in my life. But now, sitting in the circle, as with those other moments, it all made perfect sense.
Earlier in the weekend, when intellectual engagement was appropriate and necessary, we considered Peter Senge's Integrating Principle, explained in his article "The Leader's New Work," and Robert Fritz's Structural Tension Principle which honors the power of creative tension resulting from "seeing clearly where we want to be, our ‘vision,' and telling the truth about where we are, our ‘current reality'." As I sat with this principle I realized that I had been focusing primarily on current reality virtually to the exclusion of vision. Further, it became clear that even if my vision is unrealistic, naïve, implausible, and rendered moot by collapse, it is vital for myself, and for my community, that I continue to embrace it.
Why? Because from holding vision alongside current reality, creative tension emerges which allows for the dynamic realization of possibilities which could not have been created by fixating only on current reality or on one's vision. "Without vision," Senge says, "there is no creative tension. Creative tension can't be generated from current reality alone." Often we remain in analysis of the current situation to our detriment because as Senge notes, "All the analysis in the world will never generate a vision."
Conversely, "...creative tension can't be generated from vision alone; it demands an accurate picture of current reality as well." This is one reason I cringe when people talk about "preventing collapse" or refer to those of us who are willing to look deeply into the abyss as "doomers." They appear to insist on having the groovy, green, good times rolling endlessly or bypass feeling all of the painful emotions that collapse quite naturally evokes by quickly supplanting them with their vision. At the same time, however, staring into the abyss without vision may be equally unproductive.
In fact, Senge reminds us that:
The principle of creative tension has long been recognized by leaders. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind, so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths, so must we create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism."
But King was assassinated, and only part of his vision has been fulfilled. In the case of the collapse of civilization, cataclysm could result in the extinction of humans, and subsequently, millennia may be necessary for the earth to restore itself. So why have a vision? My vision may be nothing more than a pipedream, and if so, what's the difference between having a vision and taking Prozac? Well, if nothing else, perhaps fewer side effects.
Damn, This Is Hard Work!
However, as I contemplated Senge's principle, more than familiar to me from my veneration of Carl Jung, I understood that I need the vision not simply for "balance" but for the possibility, no matter how slight, that it might, just might, make a difference. Equally important, my community needs my vision, just as I need theirs. As Senge explains, individual visions become shared visions in a holographic or morphic field where their power has the opportunity to become exponential.
Now while all of this may sound very exciting, I want to emphasize just how difficult it actually is to hold in one's heart, mind, and gut these stark opposites-the current reality alongside one's vision of what could otherwise be. It is easier for anyone, any day of the week, to become absorbed in either one of the opposites because it requires much less work, but that absorption also holds much less potential for affecting meaningful change. Holding this kind of excruciating tension is not unlike giving birth-enduring brutal pain alongside the reality that a new life is in the process of emerging.
For me, holding a vision and wanting to fix the situation are two very different things. As stated in Part One of this review, I have no desire to repair civilization. In fact, my vision, I believe, can only be realized as a result of civilization's collapse, and that makes it much more challenging to keep alive. After all, it's much easier to nurture our vision when it appears that life as we have known it is just going to continue indefinitely.
As I've written many times, I have no idea how collapse will unfold or play out, but I have a vision. It's only my vision, and like all visions, it may ultimately prove illusory, but I choose to hold it alongside current reality-firmly enough to produce creative tension yet gently enough to allow it to expand or adapt.
What I envision as I struggle, and I mean struggle, to hold current reality along with my vision is a transformed culture, but not without suffering, before, during, and after collapse. I reiterate my belief that collapse is both a "long emergency" process with dramatic tipping points along the way. It will not be a singular event in time. It will almost certainly bring with it a massive die-off of humans. Unprecedented economic Armageddon, widespread energy depletion, catastrophic illness, mindboggling climate change, and calamities that we may not now be able to imagine will probably be in the mix. Urban and other highly-populated areas are likely to be decimated, but around the earth, myriad pockets of surviving individuals and communities will probably hold-but not without anguish. The individuals and communities that endure are probably going to be those that have prepared on a variety of levels for the cataclysm. But, if I'm going to be brutally honest, I must admit that the wild card is always a nuclear exchange, and in the light of that ghastly possibility, all bets are off.
Nevertheless, survivor groups are likely to be those that have consciously achieved a level of food security, community gardens, and drinkable water supplies. They will have learned some pre-collapse skills such as permaculture, game hunting, butchering, organic farming, water dowsing, the making of shoes and clothing, alternative healing and herbal medicinal techniques, and communication skills which involve deep listening and truth-telling. Upon realizing that paper money and government-issued coinage are worthless, they will probably have implemented their own forms of currency, and they will recall that during the Great Depression in the United States, hundreds, if not thousands of such currencies existed.
Because federal and state governments will have dissolved, survivors will have learned to organize simple but effective local creative economies. In the face of extremely limited resources they will have constructed makeshift and eventually sophisticated solar, wind, or water energy sources that provide minimal power and must be used very sparingly by the community. They are likely to implement some form of healthcare, particularly if healthcare professionals, both alternative and traditional have survived, and were sharing their skills in the early stages of collapse.
Levels of stress, depression, and PTSD will be unprecedented, and individuals who have learned some form of meditation or stress reduction techniques are likely to fare better. Likewise, those who have learned skillful communication techniques from experience and have practice in expressing their feelings authentically and compassionately will not only have an advantage, but may be frequently called upon to assist those who are emotionally fragile or devastated. It will become painfully obvious from the first traumas that practical preparations such as accumulating food, water, and precious metals and learning survival skills are inadequate preparations within themselves for the emotional repercussions of collapse in whatever form it takes.
In addition, in order for these communities of survivors to navigate their daunting transition, it will be imperative for them to retain and nurture humor, celebration, and moments of mirth. Music, art, dance, and other right-brain forms of expression will sustain them and provide release from what will certainly feel like overwhelming challenges.
Some form of heartfelt connection with the sacred or something other than oneself will be invaluable for these fledgling communities, not only to sustain individual psyches but to inform the quality of life the community ultimately orchestrates. Group and individual rituals are likely to erupt from their psyches and from the earth. Moreover, I envision pockets of surviving communities where all of the above is not merely theory but ongoing practice. I imagine that the going will be very rough in the beginning, but eventually, these communities are likely to thrive and ultimately blossom as outposts of sustainable, compassionate, dynamic, creative living where the very experience of being human itself will be dramatically redefined. Such communities could very well fashion the kind of world for which all citizens of empire have ached for centuries, whether or not they were consciously aware of their longing.
In "The Seed Of The Future," Kotke admonishes us from what was then a 1993, pre-collapse world, regarding our most urgent responsibility:
To be actively mobilizing toward setting up what might be called ‘seed' communities is the really significant action. If people don't actually get out of the money economy to a significant degree, if they don't create a new land based culture that aids the earth, all the other political and environmental efforts will ultimately be meaningless. (460)
Mobilizing toward setting up "seed communities"? During the past two years of Truth To Power's existence, a number of examples of vision have been featured on the site. It feels extremely important to mention some of those, along with others that we have not focused on.
Across the United States a number of relocalization movements are thriving or developing. In addition to the famous relocalization efforts of Willits, California, one of the most notable is the Boulder Valley Relocalization movement and another, the New York metropolitan area's Local Energy Solutions. Eugene, Oregon's Sustainable Business Initiative Task Force is working with the city council to create a sustainable Eugene by 2020, and Rutland, Vermont, along with a number of communities in that state, is making unprecedented strides toward food security and sustainability. Also, in 2007 I interviewed Lisa McCrory and Carl Russell of Randolph, Vermont-who operate "Animal Powered Field Days" each summer which highlights the use of draft animals in organic farming. And, last year in an article entitled "Ethical Markets: The Exuberance Of What Is Possible" I spotlighted the work of Hazel Henderson, a renowned author and expert on growing green economies. And of course, as Truth To Power readers know, I have over the years referenced and written about Catherine Austin Fitts's Solari model which focuses on financial literacy and "the vision that bringing intimacy to how money works transforms our world." A tireless visionary, Fitts has pioneered and prognosticated where others seemed unable to read the most obvious tea leaves. Much of her forecasting is now manifesting as economic collapse just as she suggested it would.
As part of my commitment to holding the tension of current reality alongside my vision, I will continue to spotlight those who are in Kotke's words "gathering seeds of Natural cultures and the truly beneficial things created by civilization" and carrying them through the apocalypse.
The Final Empire: The Seed Of The Future has brought me an unexpected gift of re-imagining both collapse and rebirth. And so I enthusiastically recommend it to you; after all, who knows what gifts it may drop in your lap?
February 7, 2008
Review: The Final Empire - Part 1BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
A review of the new book by William Kotke by Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
My intention in reviewing this stunning book is to share how it has illumined my understanding that collapse and vision are not separate, but that in fact, they travel together and need each other. That is to say that collapse makes vision possible, and vision makes collapse the most desirable option of all as we confront the earth community's current dilemma.Expand» |
Disaster is not approaching, It has arrived. It is happening now.
It has repeatedly been my experience that when a book is supposed to enter my life, it does. Often it falls off the shelf into my lap, and at other times a friend suggests it, or the author him/herself sends me a copy for review. William Kotke has written articles for this website, and his Final Empire has been reviewed elsewhere, most notably by Dan Armstrong. However, the timing of my requesting a review copy of the book from him could not have been more momentous. As a result, I am not only reviewing the book, but using the review as an opportunity for sharing a recent shift in my perspective that may make this the most important article I've ever written in my life. It is written in two parts: The first contains Kotke's extraordinary analysis of why civilization is collapsing and must collapse, and the second offers his vision of what is possible when empire has been eliminated.
My intention in reviewing this stunning book is to share how it has illumined my understanding that collapse and vision are not separate, but that in fact, they travel together and need each other. That is to say that collapse makes vision possible, and vision makes collapse the most desirable option of all as we confront the earth community's current dilemma.
For at least the past two years I have been writing and speaking about the collapse of empire/ civilization, along with a chorus of other voices such as Matt Savinar, Mike Ruppert, Dmitry Orlov, Catherine Austin Fitts, Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, and Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson. I name only a few of us, mindful that ours are not the only voices speaking from the depths of exhaustive research and personal experience. And now in the first month of 2008, the world is beginning to witness a dramatic unraveling of civilization. The spectacle has begun with the convergence of what I have been naming for years as the "Terminal Triangle": Peak Oil, climate change, and global economic meltdown. A number of related issues such as population overshoot, species extinction, and global pandemics, abide in the mix, but the "Big Three" are now juxtaposed in what appears to be the beginning of the end of life as we have known it on planet earth.
William Kotke has brilliantly articulated what I would not only describe as an "encyclopedia of collapse" but has skillfully depicted a vision of possibility imbedded within the core of apocalypse. The introduction and first chapter of this masterpiece can be read online, but they do not include what I believe are the book's fundamental underpinnings consisting of Chapter 9, "The Cultural Dynamics Of Empire" and Chapter 10, "The Psychology Of Empire", nor do they contain Kotke's elaboration of the exquisite vision he holds for the earth community.
The author painstakingly describes the history of the disintegration and the collapse of the ecosystems in such a manner that the reader cannot escape the reality that all of this is inherent in the very nature of civilization itself. In fact, he thoroughly convinces us that no project in the history of the human race has been so unequivocally doomed from its inception as civilization, its ultimate destiny being its demise and the obliteration of everyone and everything in its wake. Had I had the slightest doubt that civilization must and will collapse in order to spare what it has not yet annihilated on this planet, my uncertainty would have been expunged by Kotke long before arriving at Chapters 9 and 10.
The Cultural Dynamics of Empire
Kotke takes on the linear concept of cultural evolution which assumes that natural cultures of ancient times were "in much worse condition than we are today" and that "we are at the forefront of social evolution." Contained within this notion is the delusion that humans invented agriculture as an escape from unsatisfactory conditions. (197) This myth presumes that "there has been a qualitative advancement with the change from forager/hunter culture to civilization." On the contrary, Kotke notes, compared with natural culture, civilization has brought forth a lowering of living standards and a world in which starvation is increasing--where "progress" is defined primarily by the technological objects that we have invented.
But the fundamental question that must be asked is: "What is it about the culture of empire that has produced the prospect of planetary suicide for the earth community?" Most of us know the standard answers to this question: Human culture changed from cooperation to competition; from social equality to hierarchy; from matrilocal consciousness to patriarchy and an emphasis on the warrior. (199)
Yet even more specifically, natural culture understood that each living thing is a spiritually conscious entity as well as understanding that "everything in material reality was spiritually vivified." The hallmark of that culture was a "continuing and direct spiritual contact with the cosmos" and one in which decisions were made with their repercussions on subsequent generations in mind. (200-201)
The culture of empire is characterized by a rejection of adaptation and insistence on control. It may be argued that as a result of natural culture's intimacy with the cosmos, its most remarkable asset was a willingness to adapt; whereas a culture immersed in materialism can only manage, manipulate, and dominate. Natural culture is one informed and guided by something greater than itself, but the culture of empire is a culture where the ego reigns supreme. Civilization inculcates the belief that bigger is better in every realm, and especially with respect to population. Increase in numbers of citizens offers the hope of physical safety, and economic growth delivers the false promise of immunity to scarcity. In summary, "a profound change takes place in the psyche of the culture when this change from forager/hunter to civilized, imperial energy systems occurs." (203)
Imperial culture, Kotke emphasizes, in contrast to natural culture, is shortsighted and accumulative. No longer is value found in preserving soil, water, forests, or other resources. Thus he argues that:
No one in the empire advocates long-term gain in soil fertility when the short-term gain of profit margins or production quotas are the whole point of the effort. This is the reason that nothing real will be done to avoid the final collapse of civilization. The structure of empire is to enrich the emperor/elite at the expense of the earth and society, not to manage affairs for the benefit of the whole life of the earth. (205)
Therefore, the culture of empire is one in which the earth is a "resource" to be used for the benefit and gratification of empire. Another word for this is quite simply, fascism.
Kotke's brilliant analysis of the cultural dynamics of empire confirms nothing if not the desirability, indeed the absolute necessity, of the collapse of civilization.
In "The Psychology of Empire" we are offered an intimate exploration of empire's impact on our hearts, souls, and bodies with a daring statement by Kotke that "We live in a culture that conditions us toward psychological disintegration" and the admonition that "the examination of these disintegrative factors will aid us in creating a new culture that is pointed toward healing and wholeness." (216) He then presents the analogy of malignancy, stating that "empire feeds on the earth like a tumor" because humans do not depend on the life of the earth for their sustenance but on what human society produces by way of using and exploiting the earth.
When one considers the cancer epidemic of recent decades in the light of the above assertion, one can only wonder to what extent our collective "feeding on the earth like a tumor" is influencing the incidence of this fatal disease. Kotke quotes cell biologist, L. L. Larison Cudmore, who states that "Cancer cells do not respect the territorial rights of other cells and refuse to obey the two rules obeyed by all other cells: they neither stop growing nor stop moving when they encounter another cell, and they do not stick to their own kind. Quite simply, they are cells that have decided on autonomy and independent growth, rather than cooperation....Cancer will not stop its hideous course of uncontrolled growth and invasion until it or its victim is dead." (218)
In other words, the cancer dynamic is without limits, inherently colonizing, omnipotent, and anti-dependent. Can we find a more apt description of empire consciousness?
Enculturation to empire begins in the birthing process itself which is not given the proper reverence it deserves, often complicated by or intruded upon by medication, technology, or both. Equally sacred is the bonding process, so frequently minimized, thwarted, or non-existent in the culture of empire. Yet another characteristic of civilization is its stilted relationship with erotic pleasure and the "anguish, shame, guilt, and automatic negative response to sexual love." (237) Thus the "civilized" child frequently enters adulthood carrying massive anxiety and little sense of connectedness with other humans or the earth. One of the most common outcomes is addiction, which empire feeds and perpetuates endlessly with a plethora of substances, things, activities, and people. Unlike growing up in natural culture, the child of empire "Not knowing the security of life and the earth and not knowing the security of a natural clan providing the learning of human sociability, the industrial human becomes a victim of all the forces of society that tend to make the person powerless and dependent, the perfect subject of addictive dependencies." (248)
Therefore, Kotke wisely concludes: "The logical extrapolation of civilization is the mental institution." (249) Neurosis, schizophrenia, and catatonic states, politically defined as insanity, are simply "logical extensions of the already existing social isolation of the individual in the culture of empire. It is also the logical end of the culture itself in the cosmos, lost in space and surrounded by life but talking only to itself." (250)
By the end of "The Psychology of Empire" it is difficult to even consider arguing for "reform" or the prevention of collapse. In fact, Kotke boldly and blatantly argues for collapse!:
We are not fighting to reform a maladaptive and dying social body. There is no conflict with civilization, it is passing away. There is no battle for civilization's power, the power to kill. There is only the open, positive and sharing sustenance of the new life. (252)That is to say: Stop trying to fix a dying system. Rather, in Kotke's words, "As with a physical wound, the imperial tissue that has lost integration with the body, lost coherence with the complex flows of energy, falls away. One allows the diseased and injured portions to fall away, while resisting injury to that which is still healthy. One focuses on the new growth, the area of healing....In the case of civilization, it is now poised, tipping and beginning the slide into complete disintegration."
We must realize, says Kotke, that "the dear thing cannot be saved, even with major surgery."
The Ramifications Of Surrender
Some may object to the use of the word "surrender", with its spiritual undertones. However, I was greatly inspired last year by Sally Erickson's blog piece "Catastrophe As Spiritual Practice" in which she shared how surrender to collapse can be a powerful component of our personal, as well as planetary, evolution. These past two years have been for me a cellular-level experience of comprehending more deeply than ever what that actually means. The spiritual dimension for me is non-religious and non-theistic, yet informed by something greater than myself.
From the beginning of this millennium until I encountered the topic of collapse, I had been a prisoner of ego, intent on doing battle with the darkness of empire, hopeful that enough grassroots momentum could be marshaled to affect change and return the United States to the principles of a democratic republic verbalized in the Constitution, albeit not always practiced, through political and community action. What I have learned from my willingness to descend into the abyss of collapse is that there is no return to the "Common Sense" of Thomas Paine, nor is the prevention of collapse even desirable. On the contrary, the collapse of civilization is the only "hope" humanity has of restoring sanity to its own species.
Unfortunately, as I have written profusely about the desirability of collapse, some readers have argued that embracing collapse is synonymous with "giving up." For this reason, the second part of this review of Kotke's Final Empire will be devoted to exploring the other half of the book, "The Seed Of The Future," in which I will demonstrate that surrendering to collapse is anything but giving up.
What natural cultures understand that empire culture does not and cannot, is that before we can take action that makes a significant difference, we must surrender to the worst case scenario; that is, we must be willing to abandon, reject, and resist "hope" and open to abject despair. In other words, as Paul Tierney's poem reminds us, when we circumvent pain, we also circumvent grace.
Hope Vs. Vision/Mindset
As Truth To Power readers know, I have a strong reaction to the word "hope", and I take great pains to distinguish it from vision or mindset. For those who don't know, I want to explain why-again. My 2007 "The End Of The World As We Know It: Hope Vs. Mindset" addressed the issue by illuminating the word "hope" as an unfortunate casualty of the language of empire. Although not quite as cynical about it as James Howard Kunstler, I agree with him when he argues that any hope we have must come from within ourselves. Empire has inculcated in us the belief that our hope lies in something external-politicians, policies, programs, or other people, and as a result, the tendency is to embrace those as our "hope" rather than journeying into the recesses of our own psyches in order to create a vision that we can manifest in relationship with our fellow humans and the entire earth community. More often than not, our "hope" is a defense against feeling despair, but until we have visited the abyss, we are ill-equipped to affect meaningful change and are more likely to engage in activities that appear to be innovative but actually perpetuate denial-our own and that of our allies.
When I abandon the ego-driven project of preventing collapse, when I surrender to utter hopelessness, a fertile space is created in my psyche and my life for giving birth to and nurturing my vision. No longer is my vision jaded by fantasy or a compulsion to circumvent upheaval. I can stand in the tracks of the non-humans struggling to avoid extinction engendered by "superior" humans and open to the possibility of sacrificing myself and my own species so that they may live. My surrender allows me to find my proper place and purpose in the earth community-one species among countless others, willing to allow those others the last word because, of course, they will have it anyway.
Part II of this review will explore "The Seed Of The Future", creating and tending one's vision.
February 3, 2008
Who Wins, Oil or Arctic?BY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Activists
Whether to open the Chukchi Sea to exploratory oil drilling now rests in the hands Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. He plans on opening 20 million acres of the Chukchi Sea for leasing on February 6, 2008. The Chukchi and Beaufort seas are the home of almost one-fifth of the global polar bear population. Of course the polar bear is not the only creature at stake, but it has become the iconic image of the global warming endangered arctic. I urge you to take action on three fronts - Kempthorne, Bush, and your Representative. Each of these links takes you to the appropriate email response form.
Contact Dirk Kempthorne (World Wildlife Fund)
Contact President Bush (Defenders of Wildlife)
Contact Your Congressperson (National Resource Defense Council)
January 30, 2008
Population and Intensive Crop Culture Are UnsustainableBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Guest
By Peter Salonius. Originally published on The Relocalization Network
A growing number of media commentators, such as Allen Greer in The Australian, John Gray in the Guardian's Observer and Alan Weisman in his book 'The World Without Us', have begun to suggest that a world with fewer people would be far better placed to deal with climate change and the exhaustion of the dirty fuels of the industrial past. Many of them appear to think that high technologies such as nuclear energy and Genetically Modified crops in combination with curbs on population would begin dampen the environmental disruption that is becoming increasingly obvious.Expand» |
However the problem, as I have come to understand it is even more serious than that visualized by these thoughtful individuals who are convinced that the neoclassical economic model of open-ended expansion and 'so-called sustainable growth' is a recipe for disaster.
As we run up against all of the renewable and nonrenewable resource depletions(Peak Oil, Peak Soil, Peak Minerals etc.) that will characterize the foreseeable future, we require an entire rethink as to how we do business, due to the fact that the human enterprise has been living on borrowed time for millennia.
After 44 years of research and thinking about agricultural cultivation and silviculture, I have reluctantly been forced (I am a passionate farmer/gardener)to conclude that:
INTENSIVE CROP CULTURE IS UNSUSTAINABLE
Humanity has been in overshoot of the Earth's carrying capacity since it abandoned hunter gathering in favor of crop cultivation (~ 8,000 BC) and it has been running up its ecological debt since then.
William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel originated the idea of the Ecological Footprint and they appear to believe (lots of publications) that the global human family overshot global carrying capacity sometime in the 20th century. Trying to get a perfect measure of overshoot is tantamount to 'fiddling as Rome burns'. We know we are in serious overshoot and we know that the total human footprint(whatever enormity it is) must get smaller.
I am convinced that we begin unsustainable resource depletion (overshoot) as soon as we use (and become dependent upon) the first unit of any non renewable resource or renewable resource used unsustainably whose further use becomes essential to the functioning of society, such as:
THE FIRST TONNE OF COAL
This last category of unsustainable renewable resource depletion (excessive leaching/export of plant nutrients from arable soils associated with most agricultural practice, and more recently also with harvesting of nutrient-rich forest biomass) has been looming over us, unseen, for 10,000 years. We can expect that it will catch up with us shortly because most of us are dependent on foodstuffs produced by unsustainable farming, and fiber produced by unsustainable forestry.
Recent visions, such as that put forward by the Post Carbon Institute's Relocalization program, of a fabric of local food and biofuel systems, revitalization of local industry, and community cooperation are good first steps that recognize global trade will wane as fossil fuel depletion gains momentum. They are also an attempt to wean humanity off industrial food production that treats soil as a medium for fertilizer-dependent hydropinic agriculture, and simply a substrate to stand plants up in. These are people who are interested in popularizing organic agriculture, solar powered tractors etc. that will make local economies more self sufficient.
HOWEVER, these alterations are still tied to AGRICULTURE as a food production system - as they must be in the short term.
All agriculture depends on the replacement of complex, species diverse, self-managing, nutrient conservative, natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems with monocultures or 'near monocultures' of food crop plants that rely on intensive management. The simple shallow rooting habit of food crops and the requirement for bare soil cultivation produces soil erosion and plant nutrient loss far above the levels that can be replaced by microbial nitrogen fixation, accumulation of volcanic dust, and the weathering of minerals (rocks and course fragments) into active soils and plant-available soluble nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium.
Under regimes dominated by complex, species diverse, self-managing, nutrient conservative, natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems, erosion rates of soil mass are minimal, and the diverse and deep structure of the below-ground rooting community, and its microbial associates, makes the escape of plant nutrients entrained in downward-moving drainage (leaching) water to the ocean very difficult.
Our ultimate goal, as we attempt to achieve a sustainable human culture on Earth, must be to move toward the sustainable exploitation of complex, species diverse, self-managing, nutrient conservative, natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems at rates that do not cause the loss of physical soil mass or plant nutrient capital any faster than they can be replaced by biological and weathering processes.
Obviously, as we move back toward a solar energy dependent economy, we will no longer be able to run the massive ecological deficits that temporary fossil and nuclear fuel availability have allowed.
Just as obviously the "solar-energy dependent economy" will not support the human numbers that have been able to exponentially increase slowly as a result of agricultural mining of soil nutrient stores for the last 10,000 years, and rapidly because of the availability of non renewable fossil and nuclear energy subsidies during the last 250 years.
In order to lower the human population to levels supportable by sustainable exploitation of complex, species diverse, self-managing, nutrient conservative, natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems we must begin to reestablish these natural ecosystems on lands that have historically been increasingly devoted to intensive cultivation during our agricultural past.
The best suggestion so far to produce Rapid Population Decline (RPD) is for the collective global human family to adopt a One Child Per Family (OCPF)'modus operandi/philosophy'. Even with general acceptance of RPD and OCPF, the human population decrease that is necessary to achieve a sustainable solar energy-dependent culture, will take several centuries.
As human numbers are contracting/shrinking under a OCPF/RPD scenario, the extant population will insist on being properly nourished - and the only way we can produce enough food for them is by agricultural means that will further deplete the arable soils on the planet.
During the centuries of transition, as we move toward a solar-dependent culture that again sustainably exploits complex, species diverse, self-managing, nutrient conservative, natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems, we should be exercising as responsible an agriculture as possible on the shrinking arable land base upon which it is still practiced. During this transition, the growing portion of the arable land base that is abandoned will rapidly revert toward natural grassland/prairie and forest ecosystems soon as we cease cultivating it.
Review: Deforesting the Earth. Opens in google documents so requires google account.
Sustainability or Collapse?. Opens in google documents so requires google account.
Peter Salonius is a Research Scientist with the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre Natural Resources Canada - Canadian Forest Service Email: firstname.lastname@example.org«Collapse
January 21, 2008
The Shell Game: The End of Oil, The Next 9/11, and The End Of CivilizationBY: Rowan Wolf <> Category: Social Implications
A review of the new book by Steve Alten by Carolyn Baker of Speaking Truth to Power
With a doctorate in Sports Administration from Temple University, unhappy in his job, and struggling to support a family, Steve Alten wanted to write, but his rigorous schedule left no discretionary time for doing so. Nevertheless, he began writing every night from 10PM to 3 AM and on weekends, delivering in eight months a novel which would evolve into a novel/movie series about a pre-historic great white shark. After a long chain of science fiction thrillers, Alten has taken a decidedly political turn, and tomorrow, January 22, 2008, will release his new futuristic page-turner, The Shell Game (Sweetwater Books), subtitled: The End of Oil, The Next 9/11, and The End Of Civilization.Expand» |
Change is avalanching upon our heads, and most people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it. ~Alvin Toffler~
When Steve sent me a review copy of Shell Game, despite glowing reviews of it from people I know and respect, I sighed and squirmed in my chair. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't DO fiction-or to be more specific, I resist it because of the difficulty I usually experience with trying to organize the characters of a novel in my mind. Nevertheless, I emailed Steve and assured him that I would review the book and began skimming it with dread. Peeking into the pages with immense caution and aloofness, something completely astounding happened: I found myself inexplicably riveted. That someone like me could not put the book down speaks volumes, and no one was more surprised than I was.
As reviewer Bill Douglas points out, Shell Game opens from the perspective of the neocons "THEN, the novel proceeds to dis-assemble that 'reality' taking the reader on a journey that shows the ugly underbelly of false flag terrorism, diminishing civil and human rights, and the lies that led into past wars, and portend to lead us all into future wars."
Early on in the book, we hear protagonist Ace Futrell, a petroleum geologist and former college football star, testifying before Congress regarding the precariousness of world oil supplies, his grim report engulfed and lost in a morass of political posturing by both parties. Futrell is married to Kelli Doyle, who had worked undercover for the CIA and the neocons, but is now gravely ill with terminal cancer. In her final days, Doyle is penning an expose entitled "To The Brink Of Hell: An Apology To The Survivors" in which she is disclosing the machinations of empire which are driving humanity to the collapse of civilization. The first sentence reads: "Frankly, I hope this scares the hell out of you." In another portion of Doyle's tell-all memoir she unleashes a litany of the lies of empire, noting that "All presidents lie." Roosevelt, she says, lied about Pearl Harbor, Lyndon Johnson about Vietnam, Reagan about Iran-Contra, and Clinton about personal affairs in the Oval Office. Yet she emphasizes that:
"...it was the lies coming from the Bush-Cheney White House after the events of September 11, 2001 that led us to the invasion if Iraq and to a crossroads in western civilization that will affect you and your loved ones and a billion more innocent people.
Doyle's subsequent revelations then echo the exhaustive research of Mike Ruppert in Crossing The Rubicon and the work of countless other 9/11 truth researchers, which explains the posting of the Bill Douglas review on 9/11 Blogger. In fact, Alten's mesmerizing novel is already being embraced by many in the 9/11 Truth movement and is likely to take root in its fertile soil-possibly giving birth to a movie version of Shell Game which would be nothing less than a two-hour nail-biter.
Like any good story, Shell Game is not linear but rather unfolds in a spiral of intrigue that culminates in a second 9/11-this time a nuclear one occurring in Los Angeles. But first and second 9/11's are not the principal focus of Alten's captivating novel. He has painstakingly clarified the corruption, greed, and power-driven madness that makes such catastrophes possible in the twenty-first century and intertwines these with the reality of a planet in the throes of unprecedented resource depletion. One is tempted to ask, "With all we actually know, how could this happen?" until Ace Futrell in Shell Game is rudely awakened by a conversation with Kelli's cousin, Jennifer.
This fictional dialog could not be more timely than in the non-fiction election year of 2008, and Jennifer, a former campaign strategist trained under Karl Rove, enlightens Ace regarding the duplicity of the mainstream political process. Insisting that Jennifer explain why in the face of all of the evidence regarding climate change and energy depletion, Congress essentially takes no meaningful action, he asks:
So, despite all the evidence of climate changes, despite rising gas prices, despite air pollution and respiratory problems...despite the fact that the world is running out of oil and we're ill prepared for what will happen next-nothing will change?
Not in Washington. Ace, it's not about the problem, it's all about the message. Most candidates' policies run counter to their own voters' interests. They get elected on sound bites and staying on message. Repeat the biggest lie often enough, and the public will accept it as truth. Give me enough money to blitz the media, and I could get Elmer Fudd elected, assuming he occasionally went to church and could lose the lisp....You begin with the message, something you can sell. Doesn't matter if it's true. Then you spend a million dollars in ads hammering it into the American psyche. (133-134)
In my opinion, Shell Game was worth the read for this particular dialog alone between Ace and Jennifer of which I have quoted only a small portion. Without having access to a former campaign strategist's explanation as Ace has in the story, I grasped the same realities several years ago which is one of a plethora of reasons that I personally have no intention of ever again voting in a federal election in America-at least until the present political system has thoroughly collapsed.
Shell Game's value lies not only in underscoring the catastrophes toward which the human race is hurtling but in analyzing the mindset of empire that has made them inevitable. Alten's novel feels eerily prescient and replete with tragic scenarios that now seem probable-perhaps unstoppable.
The book ends with the closing comments of Kelli Doyle's memoir, simply: "Will we ever learn?"
I sit with that question, and as I do, another question comes: "How do we learn? What will it take for us to learn?"
Other civilizations have created and maintained natural cultures and lived harmoniously with each other and the ecosystems for millennia, so we know that such functioning among humans is possible. It is absolutely possible that humans can once again create and maintain similar cultures for significant periods of time, but can we do this without having to experience the collapse of the current civilization? I think not, yet as one who sincerely believes in miracles, I dare not preclude the possibility. However, I'm no longer willing to say that "time is running out" because time has already run out. I must now answer Kelli Doyle's question with another question: What will it take to wake us up? What will it take for us to learn? Shell Game demonstrates some horrifying possible answers to those questions. It will not offer solutions, but it will take you on a spellbinding adventure that even a fiction-phobe like me could not resist.«Collapse