CLIMATE

7 02 2015

This is a chapter from Charles Eisenstein’s book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.”  You can read the entire chapter here, and buy the book here.

What, then, of the climate change activist who says, “Certainly, inclusivity, exposing unconscious racism and classism, giving voice to the marginalized, nonviolent communication, deep listening skills, and so forth are all worthy goals, but we are talking about the survival of our species here. We need to achieve CO2 reduction by whatever means necessary. These other things can come later. None will matter if we don’t stop the six or eight degree temperature rise that our present course entails. Therefore, to devote oneself to these things, or indeed to most social issues, is a bit frivolous.”

It may not be obvious, but this view buys in to another version of the Story of Separation, in which the universe comprises a multitude of independent phenomena. In it, an environmental leader’s neglect of his family or contracting of minimum-wage janitorial services has no bearing on global climate change. Quantum mechanics, with its collapse of the self/other, object/universe, observer/observed distinction, offers us a new set of intuitions about how reality works. I won’t say that it “proves” that by changing your beliefs or relationships you will remedy climate change. It does, however, suggest a principle of interconnectedness that implies that every action has cosmic significance. But even without sourcing that principle in quantum mechanics, we can get there simply by asking, What is the real cause of climate change? CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases, perhaps? Okay, what is the cause of those? Maybe consumerism, technological arrogance, and the growth imperative built in to the financial system. And what is the cause of those? Ultimately it is the deep ideologies that govern our world, the defining mythology of our civilization that I have called the Story of Separation…..

….Yes, my friends, the conceptual revolution we are beginning goes this deep. We need to rediscover the mind of nature, to return to our original animism and the ensouled universe it perceived. We need to understand nature, the planet, the sun, the soil, the water, the mountains, the rocks, the trees, and the air as sentient beings whose destiny is not separate from our own. As far as I know, no indigenous person on Earth would deny that a rock bears some kind of awareness or intelligence. Who are we to think differently? Are the results of the modern scientific view so impressive as to justify such arrant presumptuousness? Have we created a society more beautiful than they? In fact, as the example of the quantum particle suggests, science is finally circling back toward animism. To be sure, scientific paradigms that countenance an intelligent universe are mostly heterodox today, but they are gradually encroaching on the mainstream. Take the example of water. Emerging from the shadows of homeopathy, anthroposophy, and research by marginal figures like Masaru Emoto and the brilliant Viktor Schauberger, the idea that water itself is alive, or at least bears structure and individuality, is now being explored by mainstream scientists like Gerald Pollack. We still have a long way to go before anything like the sentience of all matter can be accepted, or even articulated, by science. But imagine what that belief would mean when we contemplate mountaintop removal mining, polluting aquifers with fracking fluid, and so on.

Whatever the mechanism—greenhouse gases, deforestation, or solar fluctuations—climate change is sending us an important message. We and Earth are one. As above, so below: what we do to each other, even to the smallest animal or plant, we do to all creation. Perhaps all our small, invisible acts imprint themselves upon the world in ways we do not understand.

music: Brother Martin and the Intangibles, “We Are Water,” “Molecules”  (“Molecules” can also be heard here, and both songs are on the Brother Martin and the Intangibles Facebook page, which you will find if you click the “Intangibles” link)

Advertisements




COAL KILLS

9 02 2013

CORRECTION:  The opening power point presentation was given by Dodd Galbreath, not “Dodd Lockwood.”  My bad!

On Thursday night, I went to the Sierra Club’s “peoples’ hearing” on TVA’s proposal to spend a billion dollars on scrubbers for the stacks of its Gallatin, Tennessee, coal plant.  The meeting, along with a couple of other recent news items, was a pleasant, uplifting surprise.  All too often, public meetings and the news alike leave me with a hollow feeling closely associated with how it feels to be heading down a roller coaster curve that I know, just know, is going to make me toss my lunch.  But not this time.

First, the facts of the matter, to the best of this admittedly biased reporter’s ability to state them.  TVA’s Gallatin coal plant, just upriver (and usually upwind) from Nashville, is over fifty years old.  It consumes 9 to 12,000 tons of coal a day to supply electricity to 300,000 homes  (that’s 80 pounds of coal per home per day), and emits about 750,000 tons of CO2 per year to do that–that’s two and a half tons of CO2 per household, anda total of about 23,500 tons of sulfur dioxide, as well as large quantities of mercury, lead and other heavy metals and radioactive elements.  The EPA has ruled that all coal plants must install scrubbers to remove the sulfur dioxide, etc., or close down.  The  “coal ash” that results from the scrubbing process will, apparently, be stored in large piles and containment ponds on the banks of the Cumberland River, just like the piles and ponds next to the Clinch River near Kingston Tennessee.   (Remember what happened there?) and at every other coal-fired power plant in the country, because nobody’s figured out any safe use for all this highly toxic material.  (oops, sorry, I’m editorializing! ….well, that  IS the fact of the matter.)   Because these ponds and piles are going to take up a lot of room, TVA will have to close down The Cumberland River Aquatic Center, which specializes in growing endangered mussel species (essential for restoring stream health) as well as gar and sturgeon.  TVA has been strongly resistant to any kind of public input into their decision to do all this. Read the rest of this entry »





ISLAMIC TERRORISTS? WHO NEEDS ISLAMIC TERRORISTS? WE’VE GOT TORNADOES (AND FINANCIERS)!

7 05 2011

Suppose I told you that terrorists had launched a series of attacks on the U.S. that killed over 400 people, caused billions of dollars in damage, and leveled large sections of several cities?  Suppose I told you that these same terrorists had also caused the flooding of  hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland and numerous small towns?  And suppose i told you that our government seems utterly clueless about the identity of these terrorists and is doing nothing to stop them–that, indeed, a great many legislators, including a majority in one house of Congress, are simultaneously denying that these terrorists exist and passing laws that seem designed to aid and abet them?   And suppose I told you that our government is not only ignoring these terrorists, but dashing madly off in the wrong direction, using its resources to combat imaginary enemies, and even prosecuting  people who attempt in some way to counter the real threat to our national, not to say individual, security?

It’s happening.  The terrorists didn’t use bombs, or airplanes, or anthrax.  Tornadoes and torrential rain did the trick.  Our country is undergoing a massive, sustained terrorist attack from the natural world.

And suppose I told you there was yet another gang of terrorists who are doing everything they can to destroy this country economically–by defunding and demoralizing our educational system, eliminating every middle-class job they can get their hands on, and throwing people out of their homes, even when they’re not behind on their mortgages?  And that this gang of terrorists seems to be proceeding with the overt backing of not only our government, but millions of voters?

I mean, it’s like “mice for fat cats” or “rabbits for hawks.”  Instead, we’re calling it “The Tea Party.”Finally, suppose I pointed out to you that the government, instead of going after these terrorists, who are doing such widespread, real damage, is spending our tax dollars prosecuting environmentalists who attempt to bring attention to the real terrorists, whistle blowers like Bradley Manning,  who draw attention to what a poor job the government “of the people” is doing “for the people,” and luring Muslim youth into government-fabricated “terrorist plots” so it can prosecute and incarcerate them at our expense, as well as threatening to arrest state employees for helping implement state-run medical marijuana programs, and busting Amish farmers for selling raw milk to willing customers.

Can you say, “straining out gnats and swallowing camels,” boys and girls?  Is there a pattern here?  Can you connect the dots?

The dots most people aren’t connecting here are the ones that point to how we, including me,  my wife, our numerous internal combustion engines and our dependence on grid-generated electric power, are feeding both the power of our planet’s weather systems and the power of our insatiable financial elite.

Both equations are simple.  The planet is warming, and we are turning its forests, with their ability to sequester both water and carbon dioxide, into various single-use consumer goods that sequester neither water nor CO2, meanwhile burning all the carbon-based fuels we can, as fast as we can, throwing even more CO2 into the atmosphere, warming the planet.  A warmer atmosphere creates more evaporation, putting more water in the atmosphere.  More moisture in the atmosphere creates the potential for more and stronger storm systems.  And here we are, biting our own ass.

Similarly, it’s almost impossible to function in this country without feeding the corporate demons that seem to be hell-bent on devouring the world.  Automobile?  Insurance? Property?  Internet connection?  Tools of any kind?  Medical care?

Food and clothing?  Maybe you grow most of your own food and buy most of your clothing at yard sales, but unless you’re saving all your own seeds, using only homemade compost, and scratching the ground with a pointed stick, you’re still dependent, and, let’s face it, all that second-hand clothing came from a factory somewhere.  Still dependent.

And, if you try to hole up and devote all your time to being self-sufficient, you’re likely to have your local codes people knocking on your door, and, by the way, how are you going to pay your land taxes?

Truly, we are all caught in a web.  Some people are resigned to being spider food, but some of us are doing everything we can to free ourselves.  The Hopi had a word for our situation–“Koyaanisqatsi,” which means

“crazy life, life in turmoil, life out of balance, life disintegrating, a state of life that calls for another way of living”

So, just how are we going to get back in balance, find that other way of living?

In the Tibetan tradition, when you are afflicted with a demon, sometimes the best thing to do is to create a bigger demon who will smash the one who is attacking you; and that, I think, is what we have done.  Financial vampires may seem to have the upper hand right now, but the natural world demons they/we have unleashed will, in the end, prove to be much more powerful than any financial instrument, weapon, or government.

I’ve said it before, stolen it from James Kunstler, actually, but–get yourselves plenty of popcorn and drinking water, and a good umbrella.  It’s gonna be a great show from the cheap seats.  The expensive seats?  You wouldn’t wanna be in those.  That’s where things land when they go off the track.

music:  Jackson Browne, “Before the Deluge





SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK

11 12 2009

I am amazed and dismayed at how difficult it can be to get some people to cut loose of a bad idea.  Sometimes it’s local–like the May family’s recent hiring of a notorious  zoning attorney to work on getting their “Maytown Center” fantasyland approved.  Sometimes it’s national–like all the people who project their liberal expectations on Barack Obama and keep urging him to stand up and roar, when the reality is that he’s just a pussycat in Wall Street’s lap, and no more likely to pounce on Wall Street, the insurance/pharmaceutical establishment, the military establishment, or America’s carbon- and credit happy way of life than your cat is likely to pounce on you and eat you for breakfast.

And that brings us to the climate talks in Copenhagen.  Prospects do not look good for a serious, binding treaty, and why?  Two main reasons: the first is that big corporations are addicted to short-term profits and have the political clout to make sure that nothing interferes with their money fix.  The second is that we, the people of the United States, or “estamos jodidos“, as they say in Mexico, are  addicted to our petroleum-inflated, corporate-backed standard of living, and will happily vote out of office or ignore any politician who attempts to interfere with our comfort fix.  Ask Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or Cynthia McKinney.

Thus, we have the irony that many of those who excoriated the Bush junta for dissing “the reality-based community” are now themselves out of touch with hard, physical reality.  The hard, physical reality is that the climate is changing much faster than the IPCC predicted it would.  The hard, physical reality is that the planet’s carbon dioxide level passed the threshold of safety at 350 parts per million, and agreements that “hold” us to 450 ppm will not prevent massive, catastrophic changes to the only planet we have to live on.  Nature bats last, she doesn’t negotiate, and she doesn’t care how much some pundits fume about East Anglian emails.

But the wealthy elite who dominate our political system don’t seem to get this.  They think that the “political reality” that serious climate change legislation won’t fly trumps the “physical reality” of impending disaster, so if we can’t shut down every coal plant in the US and China in the next three years, if we don’t stop deforesting the tropics for grazing land and Canada for tar sand, if we don’t stop acidifying the oceans before we kill off the phytoplankton that provide 70% of our oxygen, it’s OK.

It’s not OK.  Maybe the plutocrats who run the big businesses of the world think their wealth will permanently insulate them from the consequences of their inaction.  In the long run, they are very, very wrong.

But in the short run, which unfortunately is all that counts for most people, it has been true.  Those who are suffering the most from climate change, or who are about to suffer the most from climate change, live in the third world, while it is we in the first world, with our material addictions, who have triggered  the catastrophe.  Geography insulates us from them.  Hurricane Katrina was an early warning, a reminder that calamity can strike America, too, and we should not let the fact that the Atlantic has been relatively quiet since then lull us into a false sense of security.

If, as seems likely, there is neither an agreement nor even an agreement to come to agreement as a result of Copenhagen, there is one deus ex machina that might derail catastrophic climate change, and that is economic collapse, which has already idled thousands of oceangoing cargo vessels worldwide, and at least slowed down that once fast-growing source of carbon emissions, which along with international airlines, was exempted from control under the so-called Kyoto accords.

Economic collapse has all but shut down urban sprawl in the US.  Home construction was the last big domestic industry possible in this country, since you can’t readily build homes in China and ship them here, and even building materials imported from China turn out to be suspect, as the recent flap over weird sheetrock demonstrates.

And, if the Chinese and Indians try to keep their economies (and carbon emissions) strong by developing their domestic economies, they will first find themselves up against the hard reality of spiraling oil prices and diminishing oil supplies, and then they will have to deal with their countries becoming uninhabitable as the Himalayan glaciers melt off over the next thirty years, drying up the sources of all of both countries’ major rivers.  Ooops….where’s a sixth of the world’s population gonna go when they get thirsty?   And, considering how much the US owes China, are we gonna be able to tell them no, they can’t come here?  Yes, the stage is set for chaos, boys and girls….

And the US government is gridlocked.  The “solutions” they pass in Congress are pitiful.  It’s not about what the Repugs won’t let the Dims do.  That’s a puppet show, and the puppet master has a Repug puppet on his right hand and a Dim puppet on his left, and we’re supposed to believe they’re really different.  The gridlock is that the wealthy, who are creating and benefitting from the mess the planet is in, won’t let the government do anything that is against their interest.  Forget “We, the people.”  It’s “We, the rich people, ” and they are determined to keep their priviliges no matter what.

“Green corporations” are a crock.   Walmarts with “green roofs” and massive energy conservaton systems and recycling, even if they’re full of “green products” are still part of the problem, not part of the solution, because they are still designed to pump money out of communities and into the hands of shareholders. It’s not just about changing content, it’s about changing form.  Once upon a time, the dinosaurs were so big and ferocious that  us mammals could barely hang on. Then the planet went through some sudden changes, and the dinosaurs’ size and inflexibility worked against their ability to adapt.   We’re approaching a similar point, but the dinosaurs of this age are the legal fictions of giant corporations and national governments.

What this means for you and me is that it’s time to take things into our own hands.  No, I don’t mean let’s go burn down Brentwood,  Temporarily thrilling as that might be, it would create a lot more problems than it would solve.  I mean let’s get together with our friends and neighbors and figure out what we can do together to get ready for the  excrement that’s already hit the fan.  Let’s turn our lawns into gardens and build henhouses and keep milk cows, let’s learn to make, make do, and do without.

This is going to seem terribly futile from a certain perspective.  BIg changes are afoot, and I’m telling you to grow beans?  And to that, I can only reply with trite maxims like “Start where you are,”  or “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”  Trite, but true.

I know it’s short notice, but I’ll be getting together with some old and new friends Monday night here in Nashville, 7:30 to 9,  to continue the discussion of what we can actually do…..go to earthrevolution.org and send a “contact” email to rsvp, and you’ll get directions.  Thinking globally, acting locally, y’know?

Ah, this just in–according to our Copenhagen correspondent Albert Bates, US EPA administrator Carol Jackson has announced that, no matter what Congress does or doesn’t do, the EPA will regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and that US emissions will be going down.  A bold move, or at least a bold gesture.  Call me cynical, but I have to wonder how long it will take the Congressional coal&oil caucus to muzzle her efforts, and maybe even give her the Van Jones treatment.  Stay tuned….

music:  Jefferson Airplane, “Crown of Creation”





IS IT GETTING STUFFY IN HERE?

13 06 2009

There’s been a lot of concern lately about rising carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, but a recent study by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography raises an even more serious issue–the atmospheric oxygen level is dropping.

It hasn’t fallen by much, yet, but we are running on a narrow margin when it comes to oxygen.  Our atmosphere is about 20% oxygen, and, according to OSHA standards,

“if the oxygen level in… an environment falls below 19.5% it is oxygen deficient, putting occupants of the confined space at risk of losing consciousness and death.”

To requantify that, while our atmospheric CO2 level has risen by nearly 50% and not made enough difference to get most peoples’ attention, a drop in the atmospheric oxygen level of just 2.5% would kill us.  Long before that occurred, decreasing atmospheric oxygen would make it difficult to think clearly.  Maybe we, and other surviving species, could make a quick evolutionary adaptation to lower oxygen levels.  Maybe not.

That still might not alarm some people….”Hey, a tenth of a percent in two hundred years?  It’ll be 5,000 years before we run low!  No problem–for us, anyway!  Let’s party!”

The authors of the article that brought this phenomenon to my attention, in fact, didn’t seem too concerned about the possibility of oxygen depletion, but I was surprised by some of the things they didn’t mention–such as the fact that both our major sources of oxygen are at risk.  On land, the richly diverse, oxygen-producing rain forests of the world are being turned into cardboard boxes, toilet paper, and two-by-fours–and the ground they occupied, its natural cycle disrupted, dries up and turns into savannah, which produces only a fraction of the oxygen generated by rain forest.  At sea, the continued acidification of the ocean threatens the continued existence of microscopic sea life that produces 70-80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere.  And then there’s plastic poisoning…more on that later.

So, if we don’t end our carbon-dioxide belching ways, or if we pass a tipping point that sets runaway greenhouse conditions in motion, we really could smother ourselves, probably in a lot less than five thousand years.  Hey, all you folks making big noises about “the rights of the unborn”–how about this issue?

Now for the “DEEP green perspective” on this.

Humans have been seriously exploiting the planet’s oil and coal deposits for only about two hundred years, and in that  time we have used up about half the available crude oil and most of the best-quality coal, and have begun digging into “tar sands” in Canada and Venezuela, and “lignite” coal in a variety of locations.   Tar sands would have become good quality oil in another few million years, just as lignite, in the natural geological evolution of the planet, would eventually have become anthracite coal. What’s the hurry here?

Both coal and oil  were created when massive amounts of living matter, mostly plants, were buried and compressed for millions of years.  At our current rates of consumption, we probably have enough oil and coal left in the ground for another hundred years or so of our current lifestyle, or maybe a little longer, since as they become rarer, their prices will rise and inhibit consumption.   That will leave a gap of millions of years with effectively no available oil or coal on the planet–for all intents and purposes, they will be gone forever, which is too bad, because they are very useful, and the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room where we predict our future  is that solar power, wind power, and biofuels, for all they can do, cannot replace the many functions coal and oil serve in our culture.  In fact, they are all, to some extent, dependent on a continuing supply of “conventional” fuels for their manufacture and deployment.  Oops!

It seems that, until recently, it didn’t occur to anyone that we might run out of petroleum and coal, with the result that we, like not-so-Wiley Coyote, have run off a cliff without noticing, and are about to fall a long way, with a very painful landing awaiting us.

Moreover, by burning so much oil and coal all at once, we have done serious damage to the web of life on this planet.  It’s the only planet we have to live on, y’know?

If we were the only species at risk from our own behavior, I would say we were suicidal.  But, since we have decimated or eliminated so many other species on the planet, I classify our behavior as not just suicidal, but murderously sociopathic.

If we had the intelligence with which we like to credit ourselves, we would have realized long ago, when the first coal mines played out and the first oil wells went dry, that there are only limited quantities of these marvelous hydrocarbons available, and rationed them out carefully like the precious substances they are, stretching our coal and petroleum supplies to last for thousands, not hundreds, of years, sparing damage to our environment, and allowing us plenty of time for careful research and transition out of our dependency on these irreplaceable gifts.

But no, we have not done that.  We have exploited limited resources that took millions of years to create and burned them senselessly or turned them into stupid plastic crap that made a few people materially wealthy for a very few years and now will impoverish and sicken our children and what descendants they can manage to conceive for untold generations to come.  Again, I have to ask, “where are all the ‘Right to Life’ people on this issue?”  and I have to wonder what makes us think we are “Homo sapiens,” “the wise human”?  Has our behavior really been so “wise”?  Give me a break!

music:  Talking Heads, “Air





ABOUT THAT COAL PLANT YOU THINK YOU JUST GOTTA HAVE….

15 04 2008

Copyright © 2008 Earth Policy Institute

April 9, 2008

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Accelerating Rapidly

Frances C. Moore

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels stood at a record 8.38 gigatons of carbon (GtC) in 2006, 20 percent above the level in 2000. Emissions grew 3.1 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, more than twice the rate of growth during the 1990s. Carbon dioxide emissions have been growing steadily for 200 years, since fossil fuel burning began on a large scale at the start of the Industrial Revolution. But the growth in emissions is now accelerating despite unambiguous evidence that carbon dioxide is warming the planet and disrupting ecosystems around the globe.

Global Carbon Emissions from Fossil Fuel Burning

more





CHENEY/BUSH FLIP OFF EVERYONE OVER OZONE

27 03 2008

Everyone including their own Supreme Court.  It’s all about the short-term bottom line for these guys, it seems.  In its entirety, from the LA Times:

Bush’s EPA hurts the environment, again

In overruling the EPA, Bush again shows his disregard for the environment and the courts.
March 17, 2008
What do you do when the president behaves as if he is above science and the law? When it comes to environmental regulation, George W. Bush has repeatedly ignored both, and this country’s system of checks and balances has been powerless to stop him.

The latest outrage came last week when the Environmental Protection Agency released its new standard for ozone, the primary ingredient in smog. The administration lowered the standard that regions must meet to comply with clean-air rulesfrom 84 parts per billion to 75, which seems like progress until one considers that the EPA’s panel of independent scientists had recommended a standard no higher than 70 parts per billion. The higher limit set by the EPA won’t protect Americans from the damaging effects of ozone, which irritates the lungs, worsens asthma and kills susceptible populations.

Ignoring scientists is nothing new for Bush, but in this case he also ignored the U.S. Supreme Court. The EPA wanted to include a tougher secondary standard during growing seasons, designed to protect forests, crops and other plants from ozone, which retards plant growth and depletes soil moisture. Alarmed at the costs this would exact on polluters, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson saying the EPA couldn’t impose such limits without considering their economic effect. This is flatly untrue; a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in 2001 held that the EPA did not have to consider the costs of its clean-air regulations, only their scientific basis. When the EPA still refused to back down, the White House sent a curt letter saying the agency had been overruled by the president: The secondary standard was out.

The administration, in fact, seems to be making a habit of defying the Supreme Court. On the same day the EPA was releasing its watered-down ozone standard, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) was posting a letter to Johnson questioning why the agency’s efforts to crack down on greenhouse gases had apparently “been effectively halted.” Last April, the court ruled that the EPA had to regulate carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming. Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which was already investigating the EPA’s inexplicable refusal to let California regulate greenhouse emissions from vehicles, now will also examine its refusal to crack down on CO2 nationwide.

We could go on listing the casual abuses of power, but why bother? Bush is immune to criticism, shrugs off every court ruling and is unswayed by scientific evidence. There is only one check on his power that he won’t be able to dodge — the end of his term. It’s vital that voters replace him with someone who will reverse his extraordinary attacks on public health and the environment as quickly as possible.

 








%d bloggers like this: