“PLANET OF THE HUMANS” –IMPERFECT, BUT VITALLY IMPORTANT

13 05 2020

Depending on who you’re reading and your own viewpoint, “Planet of the Humans,” the new movie from Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, is either a bomb or a bombshell.  Numerous prominent, well-respected climate activists have characterized the film as “BS” and called for it to be removed from circulation, saying  the film contains

“various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”

Others, such as Richard Heinberg, offer a more nuanced view of the film, writing that it doesn’t always do justice to its subject, a critique of our response to the climate change we have provoked, but that, while

Planet of the Humans is not the last word on our human predicament. Still, it starts a conversation we need to have, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen.

So far, over seven and a half million people have seen it since it debuted on YouTube on the day before Earth Day, and it is, indeed, starting some conversations. I had an overall positive response to it, and have been surprised at how many, and who, among my friends have not shared my appreciation. This post/broadcast will be devoted to why I think it is a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about how, or perhaps whether, we are going to keep the planet’s climate within bounds that will allow human beings to be part of its ecosystem, along with my criticisms of it, and my response to others’ criticisms of it. Read the rest of this entry »





COME YE AMATEURS OF WAR

12 01 2020

I want to start with The Green Party’s official press release about the murder of  Iranian Major General Qassim Soleimani.

Greens joined demonstrations in at least 80 cities in 38 states over the weekend in response to the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassim Suleimani on Iraqi soil, which the Green Party has called an act of war and an unconscionable escalation of hostilities in a region where the U.S. has already wreaked immense devastation over decades.

Lisa Savage, seeking the U S Senate seat from Maine and Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, spoke at a demonstration on Saturday in Portland, ME.

“U.S. military aggression serves war profiteers, not the people,” said Savage in a recent statement. “We cannot bomb our way to a peaceful resolution of the conflict zone our nation has created in Iraq, nor is deliberately provoking Iran in our best interests as a nation. Diplomacy and the restoration of congressional authority over the president’s use of the U.S. military are urgently needed. We need senators and congresspeople willing to stand up to the Pentagon and the executive branch of government to say no to more warmongering.”

Suspicion among peace advocates that the drone attack was designed to move Iran, Iraq and the U.S. even further to the brink of all-out war has since been borne out by President Trump’s abhorrent threat to destroy Iranian sites that are “important to Iranian culture.”

Greens are also alarmed by reports that the Department of Homeland Security has ordered Customs and Border Protection to “’report’ and detain anyone with Iranian heritage entering the country who is deemed potentially suspicious or ‘adversarial,’ regardless of citizenship status” (source: Council on American-Islamic Relations).

Several state Green Parties also issued statements and calls to action.

The Green Party categorically opposes measures ‘authorizing’ preemptive or illegal military actions, or delegating to the president sole power to commit acts of war. Greens have called for the repeal of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) 2001 to restrict the president’s ability to direct more attacks.

A great deal has already been written about this, much of it pure dissembling. The Democrats are outraged, not so much about the murder and the effects it is likely to have, as about the fact that they weren’t consulted first. Only few deeply principled Dems have denounced it wholeheartedly–Bernie Sanders and his deputy Ro Khanna, Tulsi Gabbard, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar, mostly. Some of the more libertarian Republican–Mike Lee and Rand Paul, f’rinstance–are also not pleased.

Corporate media have mostly framed Soleimani as a “terrorist with blood on his hands,” conveniently ignoring the fact that part of the job description for “general” is “being wiling to get ‘blood on your hands’ by ordering the soldiers under your command to risk their deaths in order to kill other people.” Every general in the world–Iranian, American, wherever, has blood on his, or, these days, her hands, or at least has indicated a willingness to do so. Disparaging a general for having “blood on his hands” is like criticizing a farmer for having dirt under hir fingernails. It comes with the territory.

Generals are willing to “get blood on their hands,” but generally recognize that it’s better not to–it’s better to outmanoeuvre your  opponent, and better still to find a way to make peace. That, in fact, is what Soleimani was doing in Iraq on the day he was murdered. According to the Prime Minister of Iraq, Soleimani was on his way to meet with him about getting together with the Saudis and de-escalating tensions in the region, and the US government knew it–in other words, all those top US government officials who are braying that Soleimani was “planning the deaths of more Americans” are either lying, or haven’t done their homework. The US has given the rest of the world yet another in the long list of reasons not to trust Uncle Sam.

Read the rest of this entry »





ASKING INCONVENIENT QUESTIONS

14 07 2019

As long-time readers of this blog know, I ran for an at-large seat on the Metro Nashville Council in 2015, mostly in an effort to publicize the long-term concerns I express. I received a couple of thousand votes and came in second to last. I said I’d be back, but when this election cycle came around, I didn’t file papers to run, for several reasons. First, somebody asked me to run last time, and nobody asked this time. Second, as I ran last time and got a better understanding of what was involved, it seemed that, if I ran again, I would have to run with the pledge that I would hire somebody as a legal consultant to help me translate my somewhat radical proposals into Legalese, the language in which our governments do business. From there, I concluded that it would be more efficient, and more credible to the voting public, if I, or the “we” that constitutes the local Green Party, simply found a lawyer who shared my/our values, and offered to help her or his campaign. And that’s as far as that got.

A few weeks ago, after attending a Mayoral candidates’ forum in which my concerns for Nashville’s long-term stability were not addressed, I wrote the following letter to all four major Mayoral candidates, and to the ten at-large council candidates I think have the best chance of winning. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Candidate:

I ran for at-large Metro Council in the last election. For a variety of reasons, I’m not in the race this time, but I still have the concerns I ran on four years ago, and I am still writing my blog and doing my radio show, and that is why I am writing you now. I would like to hear from you about “my issues,” and I would like to share your response (and comment on it) as my next radio show/blog post, which will air/be published in mid-July, so I am also asking your permission to publish your response. If I need to do any editing/condensing, I will share my proposed edit with you, to make sure that I have preserved your intentions. Here’s what I’m asking:

The way I see it, Nashville is currently enjoying an extraordinarily prosperous period, especially compared to a great many other cities in this country, and regions of the world. However, the same crises that have overtaken them loom over us—a runaway climate crisis, an increasingly fragile national economy, and the rapidly approaching exhaustion of many of the material resources our civilization depends on, from fossil fuels to rare earth metals to fish, forests, fertile soil, and clean water. To what extent do these factors inform your political agenda?

To what extent do you share my concerns? What do you think the city should, could, or is likely to do in response to them?

Thank you for your time and attention.

No mayoral candidate wrote me back, although Facebook Messenger informed me that John Ray Clemmons opened my letter–at 7:30 in the morning. I hope that some day we will find out that it served as a wake up call for him.

I did better with the council races, with six responses to ten letters sent. Three of the candidates who didn’t respond are the ones who are generally identified as Republicans, although technically Metro Council races are non-partisan. The fourth non-responder was Gicola Lane, one of the organizers behind the initiative that established a Police Review Board here in Nashville.

I can understand why a political candidate would be inclined to handle my questions very gingerly. Al Gore nailed it when he called climate change “an inconvenient truth.” It’s easy to see human history as an increasingly rapid spiral into greater wealth and technological complexity. By and large, people don’t want to imagine that things might move some other way– a spiral of decreasing resources, complexity, and expectations. As Bill Clinton is rumoured to have said, “Nobody ever got elected by promising the American people less.” When Winston Churchill told the British people, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat, toil, and tears,” he wasn’t running for office, he had just been elected, and the Germans were taking over Europe and saturation-bombing Britain as a prelude to invasion.

It’s difficult to get people to see that we are in a “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” situation with climate change. Instead of an invading army, we are threatened by the way our own actions are skewing the planet’s climate into a “normal” that is far less human-friendly than the climate in which we have evolved as a species. So far, for most Americans, that change is nibbling at daily life, rather than devouring it wholesale, and so, for most of us in America, and especially here in Nashville, it is possible to live as if nothing has changed or is going to change. City election issues can be restricted to budgets and taxes,  infrastructure, zoning, education, policing, and similar daily life issues. These mundane issues offer almost infinite details to keep us occupied and keep us from looking at the longer-term questions I have been asking. When our community governments do address these questions, they will tend to do so in the context of the short-term, daily-life issues they are used to dealing with. With that in mind, let’s go through the responses I received, with some commentary from me, and then I will suggest a few things the city could do that would tend to steer the city, just as it is, into an entity that is better prepared to deal with the financial and material shortages and extreme weather events that we are likely to see in the mid-term future. Read the rest of this entry »





INITIATION

5 05 2019

This is the final chapter of “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible,” by charles Eisenstein. The book is available on line here. Please consider supporting Charles’ visionary, transformative work by purchasing this book, or another of his works.

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.

―Jorge Luis Borges

But will we make it? If, as in so many other questions, evidence and reason alone are insufficient to determine a belief, then how will we answer that question—especially when the answer implicates everything else, even our basic stories of self and world. I offered an answer earlier: to choose the story you will stand in.

How to choose? What will you believe, given how easily reason, logic, and evidence are conscripted to the service of a story? Here is an alternative: Choose the story that best embodies who you really are, who you wish to be, and who you are in fact becoming.

Behind the fog of helplessness of the question “Will we make it?” is a gateway to our power to choose and to create. Because written on its threshold is another question, the real question: “Who am I?”…….

initiation

music: REM “You Are The Everything

Eliza Gilkyson “Lifelines”

Rumors of the Big Wave “The Only Green World





DESTINY

10 03 2019

This is the chapter of Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can read it for free here

 

There are no facts. There are only stories.

—Whiteman (Nigerian shaman, quoted by Adebayo Akomolafe)

I speak of the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible, because our minds, steeped in the logic of Separation, so often tell us it is not. Even as we begin to accept a new logic of interbeing, still the old doubt lingers on. That is because intellectual beliefs are just an outcropping of a whole state of being. This book has explored various facets of that state of being: the habits associated with it, the wounds bound up in it, the stories that reinforce it, and the social institutions that reflect and sustain those stories. Change on all these levels is necessary in order for any one of us, and therefore all of us, to inhabit a more beautiful world.

Because this world is not possible from within the Story of Separation, it will take a miracle (by the definition of the chapter “Miracle”) to get there; in other words, we can get there only through the methods, actions, and causal principles of a new story, a new understanding of self, life, and world. By the same token, the despair that says, “We can’t make it” illuminates the deficiency of the methods, actions, and causal principles we equate with the practical and possible…..

the rest of the chapter





THE VEILS OF DELUSION

13 01 2019

Before I get going with my main topic for tonight, I want to briefly address “the government shutdown,” because what I have to say about it seems obvious to me,  but I haven’t heard it from anybody else: Reactionary political organizer Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wanted to shrink the government down to such a small size that he could drown it in a bathtub, and I think that is exactly what Pres. Turnip and his friends are attempting to do–not shrink the government, but see if it’s been shrunk to the drownable point yet. In all likelihood, we are not at that point, but those attempting the drowning are not prepared to admit failure about this, or it, seems, any other issue. Don’t get all smug, Democrats–in your own way, you’re the same kind of crazy.

That gets us back to the original point of this monologue/essay, so on with the show.

I had one of those spontaneous flashes of political insight the other day, the kind of thing that sometimes pops up when I’m trying to settle in and do my own mental housecleaning. There’s nothing like stumbling knee deep through your own mental trash to hang you up when you’re trying to do something to clean up the planetary garbage crisis. Inasmuch as I don’t feel like I’ve been terribly effective in my efforts to clean up the world outside, I guess I must not have done all that well at straightening my inner world, although I can chalk up a few achievements. I navigated a divorce without my ex and I, or the friend she left me for, hating each other, and I haven’t been pushy with a woman, punched a guy, or helped myself to my friends’ peanut butter in quite a few decades. Peanut butter? Yes, I used to be a compulsive peanut  butter eater. I no longer suffer from that affliction. Long story, actually several of them, but some other time, OK? We’re here to talk politics.

The flash of political insight was, “Climate change denial is to Republicans as Russiagate is to Democrats.” Let me lay out the parallels for you. Read the rest of this entry »





from”The Electile Dysfunction Chronicles”: the climax of Chapter 2018

25 11 2018

My apologies for being so late with this show, our first live show since the election. The first thing that happened to me was, “Climate change ate my homework.” Two weeks ago, heavy rain took me offline for enough of the week so that I couldn’t get the show together in time. Last week a close member of my extended family passed away, and his family scheduled his memorial gathering for….Sunday evening, so here I am, the Sunday after  our Continental Native American Day of Mourning, finally getting on the air with an election report.

Honestly, it was not a great election for the Green Party.  We had a few candidates whom we thought might pull off Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez-type upsets against Democrats in races where the only candidates on the ballot were a Green and a complacent corporate Democrat, but none of those races were even close. Beyond those few contests, Greens rarely polled as high as five percent.There’s even one instance of a Missouri Green running against a Republican, with no Democrat in the race, who allegedly received no votes. He didn’t even vote for himself? I find that a little peculiar. I’ve had friends  who voted Green in precincts that later reported no votes for Green candidates, so I have to wonder if that’s what happened there, only on a grand scale. More on that later.

The “successful losers,” especially Kenneth Mejia in California and Samson Lebeau Kpadenou in Florida, along with many of our other candidates, are philosophical about their losses, saying they understand that, the first time you run, you’re mostly just getting your name out there, and are likely to do better in future elections. There are plenty of examples in other countries of parties that have experienced a meteoric rise in popularity as the public camr to the understanding that their countries’ traditional major parties are either utterly clueless about how to meet changing conditions or actively making matters worse, but that has happened in countries that have much more open democracies than ours. More on that later, too.

Perhaps The Green Party’s biggest win in November of 2018 was in a race that didn’t have a Green running in it. Read the rest of this entry »





LAUGHINGSTOCK NATION

14 10 2018

Recently, our President addressed The United Nations, and something unprecedented  took place. When he said,

 “My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

That usually solemn body broke out in laughter.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Several commentators that I read were aghast, enraged that our country has been brought so low that our President is laughed at by other world leaders.

Not me. I’m glad it finally happened, and I hope it’s not the only time. I wish the world had started laughing at America’s pretensions a long time ago.

I wish that, when Colin Powell falsely asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he had been laughed at. I wish the UN had laughed at George Bush for supporting those lies, instead of acquiescing and giving the US permission to invade Iraq and Afghanistan on the ludicrous pretext that a bunch of Saudis hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings in the US. I wish the UN had laughed at Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech. I wish French and British diplomats had laughed at the US when this country put them up to the UN resolution that was wrongly used to justify intervention in that country’s US-incited civil war, which plunged Libya from being, as Iraq once was, one of the wealthier, more stable countries in the region into being a failed state and a gateway for African refugees seeking to escape to Europe. Not that African refugees don’t need a safe haven. Read the rest of this entry »





INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

14 10 2018
     Last Monday was “indigenous Peoples’ Day,” still celebrated in some quarters as “Columbus Day.” In my quarter, I sat quietly on my porch that morning and did my best to reach out to the spirits of the beings, human and non-human, whom us Europeans destroyed by disease, murdered, hunted to extinction, and dispossessed in order to seize this continent. I opened my mind to the whole ecosystem they danced in, and the cultural forms in which they danced, in harmony, for tens of thousands of years before we, far cleverer and far less wise, showed up. I sincerely hope the few hundred years of our rude interruption turns out to be a small blip in a long era of peace and harmony, although the extent of our violation is so great that, when this ecosystem returns to a normal level of stasis, it is likely to be a very different stasis than the one that has prevailed here since the end of the last glacial epoch.
     After a while, my quiet time  was punctuated with multiple volleys of distant, but distinct, gunfire. We live about a mile from Nashville’s municipal shooting range, so I am used to this, and always feel grateful that, whatever the fantasies in the heads of the shooters may be, I do not need to be concerned that the shots indicate any immediate danger to anyone, including me. A great many of the world’s inhabitants do not have the luxury of staying relaxed when they hear gunfire. This particular morning, it occurred to me that the shooters, who do not normally turn out on Monday mornings–weekends are more common–were there because it was a national holiday, and that it was quite likely that to most of them, this was not “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but “Columbus Day.” To me, it seemed that discharging firearms was an appropriate way to celebrate the life of the man who initiated the genocide of all the ancient, but firearm-free, cultures of North and South America.
     I let those thoughts go, and just kept sitting, contentedly wrapped in the trees, the birds, and the unusually warm October morning. After a while, there had were more shots. “A metaphor, perhaps?” I wondered.
      Then  the roar of a low-flying jet swelled into prominence. It occurred to me that airplanes are the modern equivalent of the sailing ships of Columbus’s various invasion fleets. Like the galleons of old, wherever airplanes go, they bring destructive, bland, corporate culture with them. Those who impose air travel bulldoze vast swathes of the natural world to create airports. Their construction, and the fuel they burn, are inseparable from corporate culture. Airplane culture is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and this reinforced my recurring thought that I can not, in good conscience, travel by air again.
     Full disclosure: the last time I flew, it was to visit family temporarily in Costa Rica, nearly 20 years ago, and that was  only after confirming that I could not book passage on a freighter from the Gulf Coast to Limon, Costa  Rica’s gulf port, which ships a great many of America’s bananas. Freighters, in any case, burn bunker oil, one of the most polluting fossil fuels.
      I kept sitting, the noise of the plane rapidly faded into the distance, and I was once again alone with my four-legged and winged neighbors and the spirits that, against all scientific evidence, I keep sensing in the world around me.
     Maybe what happened to me this morning was a message from the embodied spirits who once inhabited this valley, and the non-embodied spirits that persist here. Maybe they were telling me to hold steady, do what I can, and not be distracted by gunfire or airplanes or those who produce them. This is a time for combining clear vision, strong intention, courage, fearlessness, and, most important of all, it seems, patience. The foolish fog that has enveloped us will pass, and pass faster the less we lose our focus and contribute to the confusion.
     Mother Earth will return to a steady state. If we help Her, that steady state will likely include us. If we do not work in harmony with Her, She will cast us off in favor of whoever will, even if She has to go back to jellyfish and cockroaches and start over again from there. The choice is ours.
 




WHAT I’D LIKE FOR MY BIRTHDAY

9 09 2018

I passed my 70th birthday last month. There was no party. Nobody sent me a card, though lots of people posted on my Facebook page, and nobody gave me any presents, which is OK, because I have no lack of the kinds of things people usually give as birthday gifts. But if somebody had inquired as to what I’d like for my birthday, here’s what I would have told them.

I’d like for a significant portion (as in, “enough to change the direction we’re heading”) of the humans on this planet, all over the planet and at all levels of age and society, to have, as they say, “a turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness” that causes them/us (I’m a willing candidate for such a turning. Some people would even say I’m badly in need of it!) to real-ize that we’re all in this together, that it’s inappropriate for a few to have so much when so many have so little, that we need to shut down all fossil fuel extraction and use, including plastic and fertilizer manufacture, as well as all uranium extraction and use, immediately, and just deal with the difficulties that will arise from that. Whatever they may be, they will be far less difficult than what we will encounter, and already are, by staying on the fossil fuel-nuclear energy path. Yes, we won’t have all the marvellous toys we have become so used to—but we, our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren (I’ve got two) will have at least the possibility of a livable planet. That beats extinction, toys firmly in hand and foot on the gas, any day, at least in my book.

I’d like to see all human enterprises—communities and businesses alike–managed democratically, by the input of those involved in them— workers, customers, residents. No more domination, either by patriarchs or capitalists. (Is there a difference?)

And, while I’m asking for big things, I’d like to see the seven billion humans on this planet split among ten different alternate Earths. I think that a 90% cut in the human population would return us to a relatively stable ecosystem. We are seriously overgrazing this planet, with quite predictable results, just as our ancestors’ goats overgrazed the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, turning them from “The Garden of Eden” into scrubby desert and near-desert. I think 700 million people with a societal awareness that “we’re all in it together,” including the non-human members of our ecosystem, would be smart enough to not overgrow their/our habitat.

I know that splitting us off onto ten alternate Earths sounds awfully magical, but it’s the only compassionate way I can think of to get our population back to sane numbers as fast as it needs to happen without invoking either horrid calamities or an untenable culture with ten very old people for every young one. On the other hand, we could navigate a generation of full-time elder care more easily than we could violate the known laws of physics.

That’s what I would like for my birthday, in order to rest easy through whatever time I have left on this planet.

Hey, you’re saying, your birthday is about YOU—what do you want for yourself? Read the rest of this entry »








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