12 03 2016

This prose poem by Derrick Jensen, which appeared in the most recent issue of Yes! Magazine, seems to me like the perfect sequel to my post on speciesism. I would like to thank Mr. Jensen for graciously giving his permission for me to read it on the air and publish it here.

In the time after, the buffalo come home. At first only a few, shaking snow off their shoulders as they pass from mountain to plain. Big bulls sweep away snowpack from the soft grass beneath; big cows attend to and protect their young. The young themselves delight, like the young everywhere, in the newness of everything they see, smell, taste, touch, and feel.

Wolves follow the buffalo, as do mallards, gadwalls, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, redheads, canvasbacks, and tundra swans. Prairie dogs come home, bringing with them the rain, and bringing with them ferrets, foxes, hawks, eagles, snakes, and badgers. With all of these come meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds. With all of these come the tall and short grasses. With these come the prairies.

In the time after, the salmon come home, swimming over broken dams to forests that have never forgotten the feeling of millions of fish turning their rivers black and roiling, filling the rivers so full that sunlight does not reach the bottom of even shallow streams. In the time after, the forests remember a feeling they’ve never forgotten, of embracing these fish that are as much a part of these forests as are cedars and spruce and bobcats and bears.

In the time after, the beavers come home, bringing with them caddisflies and dragonflies, bringing with them ponds and pools and wetlands, bringing home frogs, newts, and fish. Beavers build and build, and restore and restore, working hard to unmake the damage that was done, and to remake forests and rivers and streams and marshes into what they once were, into what they need to be, into what they will be again..

In the time after, plants save the world.

In the time after, the oceans are filled with fish, with forests of kelp and communities of coral. In the time after, the air is full with the steamy breath of whales, and the shores are laden with the hard shells and patient, ageless eyes of sea turtles. Seals haul out on sea ice, and polar bears hunt them.seaturtle

In the time after, buffalo bring back prairies by being buffalo, and prairies bring back buffalo by being prairies. Salmon bring back forests by being salmon, and forests bring back salmon by being forests. Cell by cell, leaf by leaf, limb by limb, prairie and forest and marsh and ocean; they bring the carbon home, burying it in the ground, holding it in their bodies. They do what they have done before and what they will do again.

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers that welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries  that grow to be eaten by those that then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi that join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings that live inside you, that make it possible for you to live.

In the time before, the world was resilient, beautiful, and strong. It happened through the magic of blood flowing through capillaries, and the magic of tiny seeds turning into giant redwoods, and the magic of long relationships between rivers and mountains, and the magic of complex dances between all members of natural communities. It took life and death, and the gifts of the dead, forfeited to the living, to make the world strong.

In the time after, this is understood.

In the time after, there is sorrow for those who did not make it: passenger pigeons, great auks, dodos, striped rocksnails, Charles Island tortoises, Steller’s sea cows, Darling Downs hopping mice, Guam flying foxes, Saudi gazelle, sea mink, Caspian tigers, quaggas, laughing owls, St. Helena olives, Cape Verde giant skinks, silver trout, Galapagos amaranths.


But in those humans and non-humans who survive, there is another feeling, emerging from below and beyond and around and through this sorrow. In the time after, those still alive begin to feel something almost none have felt before, something that everything felt long, long ago. What those who come in the time after feel is a sense of realistic optimism, a sense that things will turn out all right, a sense that life, which so desperately wants to continue, will endure, will thrive.

We, living now, in the time before, have choices. We can remember what it is to be animals on this planet and remember and understand what it is to live and die such that our lives and deaths help make the world stronger. We can live and die such that we make possible a time after where life flourishes, where buffalo can come home, and the same for salmon and prairie dogs and prairies and forests and carbon and rivers and mountains.

music: George Winston, “Before Barbed Wire” and “Frangenti


10 03 2013

I have been writing this blog and doing this radio show now for nearly eight years.  I have devoted about a quarter of my time to it every month, and many things around our homestead have not happened because I have been keeping faith with this blog, my radio program, and the Green Party of Tennessee.

More on the Green Party in a little bit.  My blog has had, according to WordPress, nearly 47,000 visitors in these eight years, but, on the other hand, my spam protector tells me that it has protected me from 36,000 spam posts, meaning, as I understand it, that only about a quarter of my readers are actually on site to read, with the balance–that’s fifteen out of an average of twenty a day–only here to peddle fake Viagra, knockoff watches and handbags, and other detritus of our consumer-driven culture.  I don’t understand where the payoff for these people comes from.  Nobody I know takes them seriously.  It would certainly save a lot of human and electric energy, not to mention bandwidth, if such nonsense could be eliminated.   But I digress, as I so often do.  One thought leads to another, in an endless stream.

Here’s the point.  I have spent about as much time as I can trying to wake people and point out to them that the building is burning, and they/we need to either fight the fire or get out of the building, or both.  It’s time for me to quit talking about taking action, and actually take action myself.  Not to follow my instincts on this would be co-dependent, I think.  I have been there, and done that, and don’t care to dwell there any more.

So, I am looking for someone else in the Nashville area who would like to do this show–I’ve had a few nibbles, but no firm bites yet.  John and Beth can’t do it all themselves, and would like to cut back on their involvement as well.  If nobody wants to take it from our hands, “The Green Hour” will slip into the dustbin of radio history.  I am thinking that I may repurpose the “Deep Green Perspective” blog as an autobiography, since I think my whole life has been lived, in effect, from a “deep green perspective,” and I’d like to tell my story while I still remember most of it.  Anyway, if you’d like to play radio host, get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »


10 03 2013

A guest post by Derrick Jensen

Published in the March/April 2013 issue of Orion magazine

OCTOBER 2012 was the 323rd consecutive month for which the global temperature was above average. The odds of this happening randomly are literally astronomical: one in ten to the hundredth power. For comparison, there are ten to the eightieth power atoms in the known universe. So if all the atoms in the universe were white, except one was green, your odds of reaching blindly into a bag of all the atoms in the universe and picking out the green one would be greater than that of having 323 consecutive months of above-average temperatures were global warming not happening.

A sane person might think that in the face of this, and with life on earth at stake, the debate over whether global warming is happening would have ended. A sane person might think that in the face of melting glaciers and melting ice caps, we would be desperately discussing how to stop it. A sane person might think that after Hurricane Sandy ripped into New York City (the center of the universe, according to some), the denial would be over.

But this sane person would be wrong. In December of 2012, former head of the EPA and White House “Climate Czar” Carol Browner said, “A majority in our House of Representatives appears to not even think the problem is real. It’s sort of stunning to me because I’ve never seen the breadth of scientific consensus on an environmental issue like there is on this.” The next speaker at the event, a conference about the Clean Air Act, was Joe Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who currently sits on the Environment and the Economy subcommittee. As if to prove her point, he stated that atmospheric carbon can’t be dangerous because it’s “a necessity of life.” In fact, he noted, he was exhaling carbon as he spoke! Q.E.D. Besides, he said, greenhouses are good things: “There’s a reason that you build things called greenhouses, and that’s to help things grow.”

It would be easy enough to laugh at his stupidity if he weren’t in a position of power and using that position to help kill what remains of the planet. It would be easy enough to just label his denial “stunning” and move on. But his denial is part of a larger pattern, and articulating patterns is the first step toward changing them….

Reprinted with permission.  You can read the rest of this article here.

music:  Jennifer Berezan, “The Whole World Is Burning

Eliza Gilkyson w/John Doe, “Chimes of Freedom


12 04 2009

Over the past several months, I have read three books on the same subject–what to do when the trucks stop running and the big box stores close down.  I guess you could call this reading diet “cramming for finals.”  In order of increasing complexity,the three are Terry Kok’s Sustainable Life Beyond the Big Lie (Emergency Remedial Edition), Peak Oil Survival (Preparation for Life After Gridcrash) by Aric McBay, and Albert Bates’ Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, subtitled “Recipes for Changing Times.”

It so happens that I know two of these three authors personally, and can vouch for their bonafides.  Aric McBay, the third, lives in Canada and our paths have not, to my knowledge, crossed, but he is coauthoring a book with Derrick Jensen and that’s a good recommendation in my book–which is, as yet, unpublished, in part because I think it’s a whole lot more important for me to actually do things than it is to write about them.  The word is out there–we hardly need any more inspiring communicators, we need boots on the ground.  In fact, my wife wishes I spent less time at my infernal computer and more time doing things, and sometimes I think she’s got a point.  But I digress….

Since it’s the shortest, I’ll tell you about Terry Kok’ and his Sustainable Life” pamphlet first.  Terry is a rowdy, ragin’ agin’ Pagan, and a founder of the Lothlorien Community in Southern Indiana.  Terry and the community have parted ways, a story I don’t know enough about to tell or judge, but Terry has started over on a hilltop in southern Indiana, where he and his partner live in a partially completed “Closed Ecological Life Support System”–Terry is concerned that the coming planetary changes may include temporary loss of a breathable atmosphere.  Terry also hosts a Yahoo group called “Andorprojex,” which deals in great detail with many post-collapse survival questions, and his pamphlet is, in many ways, an invitation to join his e-group.  I have been an active member of it in the past, and it’s an informative list, but since most of the same territory is covered by our local Cumberland-Green River Bioregional elist, I’ve backed out of Terry’s and concentrated on getting closer with the folks at hand.  If you don’t know of a local group in your area, or if you have more time to be on the internet than I do, I recommend hooking up with Terry and his merry band.

In only twenty small pages, Terry gives concise introductions to energy efficiency and production, sustainable shelter, gardening, health care, ecovillages, and rousing yourself and others out of civilization’s trance and into action.  In closing, he leaves us with these words:

We, the people, need to care for one another, pool resources for mutual aid and support, and become sustainable–or mark civilization up as another failed experiment in the forgotten history of the world.  We cannot afford to mess around this time.  The changes are real.  So must be our responses.  Consider yourself forewarned & forearmed….

The pamphlet is available through the Faerie Hill website, http://faeriehillfarm.com, at the bottom of the “home energy” page.

Aric McBay’s volume, while still relatively slim at just over a hundred pages, is packed with useful instructions and how-to diagrams that you will be glad to have on hand when the ‘net goes down.  He includes plenty of basic information on how to catch, store, and purify water, how to keep food cool when your refrigerator doesn’t work any more, how to build rocket stoves, and much more.  (No, rocket stoves don’t burn rocket fuel–they’re an extremely efficient wood-burning cookstove design!  They are being disseminated widely in Africa to try and turn back deforestation there).  The book concludes with a checklist of useful tools and materials to have on hand just in case….  There is little philosophy or background material in the book, once you get past the fifteen pages of introduction that outline our current predicament.  Deeper background is available on his website, www.inthewake.org; I found the interview with Chellis Glendenning particularly worth reading.

The only criticism I have of McBay’s book is that it’s a little too dry–it reads like a post-apocalyptic boy scout manual. That is not the case with Albert Bates’ newest book, which is like a long, rambling conversation with a gifted, witty polymath–which is exactly what Albert is.  He has recently revised the Post-Petroleum Guide, renaming it The Financial Collapse Survival Guide and Cookbook , but it‘s only available on Kindle, and I don’t have a “kindle’–nor, frankly, do I plan on getting one. with all due respect to my high-tech friend.  Books will be readable long after we lose the ability to recharge, let alone make batteries.  Making paper?  We’ve been doing that for about five hundred years. Somebody ought to be able to figure it out.

Collapse is already taking its toll on Albert’s publishing plans–if I remember the story correctly, a Spanish-language print edition of the Financial Collapse version was scotched because the publisher first couldn’t get credit to print it, and then went belly-up anyway.

OK, enough about the author, what about the book?

Well, for a book about how to survive the end of civilization as we know it, it’s pretty upbeat.  From the recipes, we can gather that Albert expects that we will still have such amenities as flour, cooking oil, salt, sugar, and peanut butter, for example.  Something like most of these substances can be produced at home given enough garden space and a couple of smooth stones, but let us not forget that salt was, until recently, a rare and precious commodity, and that sugar, likewise, was considered more a medicine than an everyday sweetener.  Many of the spices his recipes call for will, likewise, revert to being rare commodities brought by sail from the Indies (or, in the case of cocoa, Central America, unless it is submerged and dessicated by the further progress of global warming).

The chapters are expressed as steps to be taken.  Some are pretty broad:  “Rebuild Civilization,” or “Utopia By Morning,” which examine our flawed present and our best-outcome potential futures.  Others are more hands-on:  “Save Your Water” and “Begin Storing Food”are two examples.

In his chapter on saving water, Albert includes informative, relevant sidebars on water privatization and ancient Meso-American water storage techniques (that are still relevant today), and a bit more detail on water purification, but you’ll have to read Aric McBay’s book to find out anything about water filtration.  Albert does refer us to other books for details on this subject, but this information is buried in the text.  Such practical references, as well as the great quotes with which the Survival Guide is liberally peppered, cry out for a bibliography, but alas, there is none.

Overall, however, I score Albert’s book very highly for its vision and comprehensiveness, especially his willingness to deal with what will be the real substance of successful post-collapse community:  our ability to not just get along with each other, but to work together to maintain a saner, more grounded society.  A quote:

…Too many people want to start ecovillages rather than join existing ones.  Is it that they think the existing ones don’t have the  same values they do?  Are they worried that their design sketches might not be appreciated?…..I don’t think that it is a matter of mismatched values.  I think it is about ego.

People who are unwilling to set aside the supremacy of their own preconceptions and listen to, and maybe even try out, the ideas of others are unlikely to adjust well to the life of any small and intimate community.  Sustainable community is not about dominance.  It is about listening.  And after everyone has listened to everyone else, usually the best choice emerges on its own merit….

Every group has conflicts, and they aren’t even a bad thing.  Conflicts show that people care enough to be invested and to go for what they want….People in conflict can sometimes behave unscrupulously, using coercion and threats, intimidation, economic leverage, emotional abuse, gender or other privilege, minimizing, belittling, distorting, denying, or blaming to get their way.  In isolation, shielded from consequences, they can come to believe these methods are the most effective.

The problem with letting individuals get away with outrageous conduct is the that it lowers the level of discussion; people end up listening to an exchange of taunts between bullies instead of a reasoned exploration of solutions to real problems…..This is as true at the UN or in any government as it isin your family, workplace, or personal relationships.

As a solution, Bates points to the success of Marshall Rosenberg and others with a technique called “Non-violent Communication, which emphasizes clear, non-critical expression of one’s feelings, empathic listening, clear, non-demanding expression of one’s needs, and an ability/willingness to hear what others need, even when it is wrapped in several layers of neurosis.  I might add that this takes patience and some courage to employ, but I can’t think of a better alternative, whether we are dealing with grumpy neighbors or the financial establishment.  At this point in time, we have everything to gain, and everything to lose.   In another couple of centuries, either these books and others like them will be enshrined like the U.S. Constitution, or they will be forgotten along with most of the rest of human history.  It’s up to us.  Now.

music:  DJragon, “Green Magic Spell, Brighter Days

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