Category Archives: Ecology

Chakras, Subtle Bodies and the Aura

It’s a modest apartment in Newport where I sit with Susan Swift to go over “quite the life” as any listener might say about this feisty, spiritual and articulate, world-traveling woman.

The hitching post Susan and I tie our respective philosophical steeds on is “philosophy” and “fate,” although we could have brought in a whole team of other steeds to pull the conversation toward all spiritual directions.

“I know what is mine to do,” the 73-year-old Swift states early on in our talk. Since her life here on the coast — Five Rivers first — not only started in 1972 as a search for environmental justice, she also fell into a what would be a life-long walkabout as a student of karma, Dharma and the meaning of interconnected “souls.”

Before the Central Coast mountains, Waldport, Seal Rock and Newport, Susan was living the Southern California lifestyle in Compton.

The Alsea basin seems worlds away from her birthplace of Inglewood. Quickly, though, she and her husband and a whole slew of residents became embroiled in cloak and dagger drama, rising to the level of the US Forest Service spraying chemicals on their land, Dow Chemical and their lawyers attempting to wear down citizens’ groups, bugged telephones, and various sundry nefarious things unfolding in a seemingly isolated rural community.

One of Susan’s cohorts has already been featured in my column Deep Dive — Carol Van Strum. For more information on those battles with toxics, bad science and broken promises by officials breaking the rule of protecting public health, safety and welfare, read Oregon Coast TODAY, “A Real-Life Toxic Avenger.”

Sometimes a young life lived produces an amazingly detailed and complex life, for sure. However, in the end, when a journalist runs into a person like Swift, with seven-plus decades under her belt, a series of floodgates open up.

Toxins, Dirty Water, Building Family

Sure, Citizens Against Toxic Sprays is a big part of her foundation, 45 years ago when she was living in the woods, in a teepee and a small shack with Calvin Parker, husband number two (one of three, but who’s counting), and her son Joe Lund from a previous marriage.

C.A.T.S. was created with the organizing skills of Susan and others in the rural community, propelled by fear — the debilitating, permanent and deadly harm being perpetrated by officials and for-profit companies upon adults, children, pets, penned animals, wildlife and drinking water through herbicide spraying.

There’s plenty of newspaper copy and radio clips on Susan’s life out here, her singing, putting on events for the legal battle against the chemical companies and their spraying ways; her work on the Lincoln County Planning Commission and other issues tied to public health. She’s been featured in a November 23, 1980 article in Salem’s Statesman Journal.

What anchors much of what I see while talking with Susan (and in reporting on the people of this area) is best captured in one short passage from that article about Susan written by Kristine Rosemary with the Statesman Journal:

Now, to make any sense of the art of diplomacy as practiced in the hidden rural valleys and insulated towns of the Oregon Coast Range, you must consider this: It is a place of overlapping generations of emigrants, each with its own notions of how to live with the land. Rain and shards of Chinese-looking mists blow into those hollows in a thrashing wind. And writhing vines of domestic blackberry gone feral make a slow triumph of thorns. The children of homesteaders who came to farm these fertile valleys were joined 50 years after, by a second wave of urban exiles.

An emblematic quote and a microcosm of what this Oregon Coast now faces with population influxes, lack of affordable housing, more pollution to contend with, climate change and shifting economic, cultural and generational baselines. What is left out even in this Statesman Journal’s prescient description is what’s not included so many times in countless articles — who was here first.

The Siuslaw and Kuitsh people began settling the coast more than 9,000 years ago. They have probably lived in the same locations for hundreds of generations.

Who knows if that paper mill, hotel or housing development was built on an ancient significant site? Or on top of sacred burial grounds, or over summer root-picking fields or a shaman’s spiritual place?

Coast as Healing Center

Susan Swift, RN, formerly known as Mrs. Parker, Swedish massage therapist, is keenly aware of Native American history as her daughter, Autumn Rayne, is part Cheyenne. What has been germinated from those early days in Five Rivers, then in Waldport, and then to the Valley and even Portland, is a determined septuagenarian who has lived on a wildlife refuge in India, ended up in Egypt on a spiritual journey and has met the Dali Lama.

There are stories layered onto life lessons, like shoots on an old fig tree. Her past, Susan says, is her journey forward. She’s helped Mo and her husband (of the Oregon Coast’s famed seafood and chowder restaurants, Mo’s) get through the last days of their lives as their in-home certified care taker. She’s played guitar and sang with husband number three — musician and instrument maker, and she’s chased elephants out of her garden of succulents.

Iterations of her life include head of the Lincoln County Planning Commission, nursing school, working at a mental health unit in Portland, and now writing, which she’s recently pursued in a memoir workshop at the senior center.

The coast is the healing breath she takes with her wherever she ventures. Susan believes she has past lives (that we all do) to account for and to make amends with, as well as to understand in order to carry forth on a pathway to enlightenment. Ironically, Susan Swift says her gift of energy empathy and nursing came at a young age: “I first learned my hands could take away pain when I was 10 years old.”

Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.

— Thích Nh?t H?nh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist

Do what you love because the universe will support you. Speak and say what you want.

Be specific. Then get out of the way and let the universe take care of the details.

— Susan Swift, July 8, 2019

She laughs because her prayers for a partner were answered, but she wasn’t specific enough — “I didn’t mention that partner should be on the same continent.” That spiritual partner was living in India.

She went to India for a workshop with 45 people from 15 countries. That’s where she met this tall, dark handsome Reiki master. “He was raised Muslim, and I was raised Christian, and we came to the same spiritual place, looking for the same spiritual answers.” That was in 2005. She returned to the USA and had a spiritual awakening with him over the years — sharing emails, letters, phone calls.

“In 2010, I retired, closed up the Vancouver house, put everything I owned into my son’s house in Covington, Washington.” She spent a total of four years in India, on a wildlife refuge: Mudamalli Wildlife Refuge in Tamil Nadu. Her partner was Nijamudeen. Susan was “totally embraced by this huge Muslim family.”

Her travails get complicated as Susan courses back and forth through her own chronological history and these many points of enlightenment in her 73 years. She has a thousand stories floating around her cranium. I fill pages and pages of notes.

How she got to India, with her healing touch on a dog that had been attacked by a black panther, covers all levels of spiritual and geographical ground. She went to Egypt in 2003 on a prayer for peace journey with 250 people from 25 nations. She talks excitedly about going down the Nile and to a resort on the Red Sea. She talks about the guides and hotel charges playing the song, “Imagine” by John Lennon, wherever they went since the tour’s theme was taken from the songwriter’s famous piece.

The trip was part of a far-reaching international push to get George W. Bush and his administration to hold off on a violent attack on Iraq, to instead follow international players’ plans to get Saddam Hussein to agree to step down with loads of money.

“I told an Egyptian woman that this was my first use of a passport as an American, and I was ashamed and told her I couldn’t handle it. She held me and told me calmly: ‘America is the world’s great hope for democracy and freedoms. We understand that your president was appointed by the court and wasn’t elected by the people of your country.’”

The Enlightened Being is Really Inside Our “self”

Now rewind to 1982, and Susan Parker is headed for Seaside, to catch a talk by the Dali Llama concerning China’s latest offer to return Tibet to China. “It was quite an entourage. I was at the greeting line. Oh my gosh, there I was telling the Dali Llama I was so honored and most joyful about his visit, with my sandalwood mala in my hand. He leaned in and bonked third eyes with me.”

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A life is not always marked out with milestones set forth in an organized and clear path, but for the sake of brevity, it might be wise to follow our Central Coast resident using a timeline to get through some of her dynamic, compelling life chapters.

She grew up in a working-class family in Compton, and as stated earlier, she knew she had healing hands as a youngster placing them on her mom’s two ruptured spinal discs. The young Susan wanted to be outside playing baseball, “but my hands seemed to know what to do with the muscle spasms the size of my fists.”

Those healing hands more than five decades later would take care of a large tumor on Nami (Namaste), the Basenji dog in India she adopted, and used her healing words to help Gemmee, who has his shoulder gashed after it had outrun a black panther. “Nami never barked, just commented about everything in this yodeling song.”

Back to the Land on the Lam

Back to how she ended up in Five Rivers — she was with Calvin Parker, a Northern Montana Cheyenne she met in Pasadena. He was a sergeant in the US Army, about to be sent to Vietnam. He ended up AWOL, and the couple moved to Five Rivers where his sister was living in an old school house.

They lived in a 15-by-30, cold-water shack heated by a wood-burning-stove. “During this time, I was dreaming of a dark-haired, light-eyed girl.” (which eventually was their daughter, Autumn Rayne)

Susan ended up taking minutes for the local school committee. She found an old mimeograph machine and put together the Five Rivers Run-off Community Newsletter, stuffing flyers into mailboxes. That’s when she took notice of the herbicides issue popping up in editorials inside the Newport News Times.

“I hadn’t gone to school at that point, but I created a health form survey, passing it out door to door, all the way from Highway 34 to the mill. So many miscarriages, tumors and cancers were reported.” That was 1974, and Susan Swift shakes her head as she tells me that a scientist from OSU still advocates there is nothing wrong with 2,4,5-T.

This community of mostly women fighting the forest service and prevailing conservative strains of science worked together to build their adopted family on many levels. Susan laughs again recalling she was living in a teepee with two kids before getting her first place in Waldport. She was a single mom with a three- and 11-year-old. “They were exposed to musicians and artists coming and going all the time.” Joseph Lund graduated from Waldport High in 1985, and did the first video yearbook for the school.

She became an EMT-in-training for the Waldport Ambulance, graduating as the first woman to drive the ambulance. She ended working at a spa in Yachats. In 1978 she was lecturing at Lane Community College teaching different classes on the health effects of herbicide exposure, chemical releases in forestry and the dioxin molecule, diagramming it on the board, showing students how it worked.

She moved into her first house in Seal Rock, and put out her first shingle, “Susan Parker, LMT,” above a Waldport barbershop. The place became a center for healing. Transpersonal healing, encounters with lives, and more would begin to charge her life and encompass her interests.

“No matter what you believe, doing things out of compassion for others is as healing as we can get.”

She moved to Newport in the 1980s, at this point managing the Ocean Food Co-op. She was one of the spearheads to create an Oceana board of directors, hire a paid bookkeeper and charge a $10 yearly fee.

She met Husband Number Three at an open mic session at a local bar and eatery in Waldport. He was a guitarist and “amazingly gifted instrument maker.”

“I bought a guitar for twenty-five dollars cash and twenty-five in food stamps. I taught myself guitar and sang the songs I wanted to sing . . . positive ones. That’s when he said, ‘I like your voice.’” The marriage lasted one and a half years, but they are still friends.

With a belief in past lives, Susan takes many things both in stride and contextualized through transpersonal psychology, but she also has both feet in the waters of transglobal spirituality and multiple contexts for enlightenment and “godliness.”

Healing & Being in the Right Place Spiritually

Fate, she calls it, or her life’s proscribed journey points. She even ended up getting the finances for nursing school after working hard to take care of Mo (Mohava Niemi) who she was with until Mo died in 1992, as well as taking care of Mo’s spouse, Dutch Niemi, until he too passed on.

Dutch (he was a Finnish fisherman) had always wanted to send a child in need to college, but instead after Susan’s healing ways and hearing all the people taking care of his medical needs tell Susan she was a born natural for RN school, Dutch came through. “Dutch said he wanted to help me. That $9,000 helped me pay off bills and made it possible to go to nursing school.”

She worked for Dutch on weekends while she was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. That healing and spiritual medical caretaking continued after nursing school graduation. She worked for a Portland neurosurgeon for three years, and she worked with the Oregon State Mental Hospital Portland campus as the lead nurse for six.

Her first nursing job was at Corvallis Manor, but she also took her caring hands and gifted spirit of empathy to a group home for developmentally disabled adults, Portland’s Eliot House.

“I treated every patient as a precious soul.”

While there was a 20-year absence from Lincoln County between 1994 and 2014, the draw to this area has been strong. She has joined up with Lincoln County Community Rights which just celebrated the two-year anniversary of its successful effort to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County.

She’s done some driving for Yaquina Cab, shuttling people to and from the hospital. In this interview, Susan and I gravitate back to her story and her natural gifts — her abilities to organize and to start things, and her deep well of beliefs around alternative healing, energy fields on the body, and reincarnation.

These are book-level ideas, sculpted around a life still in the making, but one lived complexly and with mindfulness: with the added hues and tones of adventure, unique healing and death and dying situations painted in. One can hope she will see the light and eventually put down in writing a life well-lived, one where young and old might learn new (or old) meditative and mediation practices.

In our vapid celebrity culture, which is obsessed with putting the limelight on the rich, famous, or infamous, an authentic woman’s gritty and universal story should be compelling, to say the least.

“We have a choice everyday how we think. What you focus on, expands. We can choose how to go through this life. We need to just get out of our own way and begin living.”

•••

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Reintroducing Otters after a Few Centuries of Harassment

Even in the vast and mysterious reaches of the sea we are brought back to the fundamental truth that nothing lives to itself.

— Rachel Carson1

“I’ve never lived on the West Coast, but I really have absolutely fallen in love with the place.”

Dominique Kone and I are talking at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, covering a lot of ground in the 28-year-old’s narrative, from early years in small towns like Blue Hill and Bucksport, Maine, and then his undergraduate days in the big town (50,000) of Waterville where Kone entered Colby College on a track and field scholarship.

The beauty of going deep on these stories is that readers learn how the NCAA Division III’s fastest athlete in the 100- and 60-meter dashes finds himself in Washington DC working for the PEW Charitable Trust and goes on to set down roots in Corvallis with much time spent completing a master’s in science at the Oregon Coast.

We first meet at an American Cetacean Society gathering where Kone is giving a large audience a thorough and enlightening rundown on his work as a community ecologist studying the possibility of the sea otter finding a home back on Oregon Coast’s waters.

These iconic tool-using mammals, sometimes reaching five feet in length and hitting 100 pounds, have not been a presence on our coastline for decades. Many residents and naturalists might see another member of the weasel family scurrying around the tidewaters and creeks, but those mammals are officially river otters.

Dominque (Dom) Kone’s work is tied to interdisciplinary approaches studying a species like the sea otter (Enhydra lutris).

The Power Point’s title is a typically erudite one associated with grad work: “An Ecological Assessment of a Potential Sea Otter Reintegration to Oregon” under the auspices of the Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Lab.

Communicating Science His Gift

The powerful element to Kone’s presentation is his at-ease presence and articulateness with a crowd that considers itself amateur biologists.

In the parlance of OSU and other institutions, “transdisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” define what Dom and his two project fellows are doing to make science much more vigorous and relevant across many disciplines.

This sea otter project is part of a grant OSU received from the National Science Foundation, spurring multiple disciplines in higher education to study the risk and uncertainty in marine science. Dom is one fellowship recipient in his team of three – the others are a social scientist and geneticist.

While the reader will get some of the history surrounding sea otters on the Oregon Coast — from Warrenton to Brookings — and then their localized extirpation and subsequent reintroduction and disappearance, two vital questions in the fellows’ research have been posed and require answering:

1. Does Oregon have suitable habitat for reintroducing the sea otter given the overlapping human activities that have developed over time?

2. What are the potential ecological effects of sea otter reintroduction?

Dom makes it clear that those questions are much more complicated and overlaid with other factors related to potential resource competition, such as interactions with human-based fisheries, which target the same food sources otters do. Add to the mix a marine mammal with the sea otter’s history in California, Washington, Canada and Alaska both positively and negatively affecting the ecosystem separate from Homo sapiens’ needs.

Systems Thinking, Holistic Practices

“My adviser is a professor in the fisheries and wildlife department, but I study within the marine resource management program.” That means Dom has a thesis/project adviser and committee members that include two OSU faculty — a marine ecologist and public policy expert — in addition to an Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (ODFW) shellfish manager and a sea otter ecologist from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The reason inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches are a hot topic, Dom says, is “because a lot of issues facing resource managers involving the environment are really complex to address requiring multiple disciplines to find solutions to all the challenges they face.”

For Dom, who went from four years in the highly diverse and energized DC, to our laid back Corvallis and Coast, he says he has been surprised how gratifying it’s been to be in a place where he can listen to the interests and needs of so many people directly affected by environmental policies and ecological and climatic changes.

He went from a kid who had no robust science classes or ecology clubs in high school in Maine, to this spark plug of a graduate student working on cutting-edge research. Both places, Maine and Oregon, have that one identity issue in common: He was one of three black students in his high school (one was his sister), and he is often the only black student in an OSU classroom.

He touts the added-value of the interdisciplinary project: “I gained skills I wasn’t expecting, like being a good teammate, collaboration and accountability. And I’ve benefited from interacting with people from different disciplines. I’ve increased my communication skills and learned valuable conflict resolution tactics.”

A perfect toolbox for anyone working on endangered species and environmental policies while attempting to integrate the public’s and business stakeholders’ perceptions, needs and demands.

Note: First published at Deep Dive

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In otter news

We talk about conservation biology, ecology, environmental issues and what needs to be done to address many coalescing problems we face on the Central Oregon Coast, in the state and around world in general.

“It’s really important to look at connections and feedbacks,” Dom says as we cover myriad topics. “We need to understand the ecological processes. And scientists can play an important role in listening to stakeholders and their values and concerns. As a scientist and educator, I see my role as educating people on how complex these impacts and variables are in our ecosystem.”

Continually, we talk about the idea that for too long, humans have not considered themselves as part of the natural world. That dominating role has created untold damage to ecosystems that are at the same time both resilient and fragile.

I liken it to arrogance and myopia.

Whether it’s DDT used to kill insects or bringing the American beaver close to extinction, the unintended consequences are apparent to ecologists like Dominique: The American bald eagle almost went extinct due to the DDT causing eggshells to thin and the unhatched chicks to die under the crushing weight of their parents. The eagle’s recovery – largely by banning DDT – is a success story.

For the beaver, much of the East Coast waterways and standing ponds and lakes (wetlands and storm buffers) were created by the beaver, that once numbered 200 million in North America. The fur trade brought them close to absolute extinction. About five percent of the total number of beavers before the fur trade now live in North America (10 million).

Moreover, the fur trade almost brought sea otters to the brink of extinction, Dom states. There were around 150,000 to 300,000 sea otters before heavy hunting, dating from 1741 to 1911, brought the world population to 1,000 to 2,000 individuals living in a fraction of their historic range.

There’s an international ban on hunting them, and from what Dom has studied, we have more than 50 years of managing them through conservation efforts. Dom tells the naturalists with the American Cetacean Society that reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have aided some of the rebounding.

These translocation efforts, from 1965 to ’72, shuttled sea otters form the Central Coast of Alaska to other parts of that state and then British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

These creatures are enigmatic and iconic. We surmise that the last native sea otter in Oregon was shot and killed in 1906. Those 95 sea otters transplanted from Amchitka Island, Alaska, to the Southern Oregon Coast were our best chance at recovery. Sightings make the scientific journals — in 2004, a male sea otter hung out for six months at Simpson Reef off of Cape Arago. Then, in 2009, another male sea otter was spotted in Depoe Bay. Both otters could have traveled to from either California or Washington

“Within five or six years, the otters mysteriously disappeared,” Dominique states.

He nuances the Alaska population’s vitality by pointing out that maybe three of the stocks are doing well, while the Southwestern Alaskan stock is threatened. Ironically, in 1970, another OSU graduate student, Ron Jameson, monitored the 95 otters while they were here, with sightings along the 276 miles of Oregon coast.

“Very few sea otter carcasses were found on the Oregon coast,” Dom said. “Mortality can’t explain their disappearance.”

Otters Doing What Otters Must Do – Explore!

Other explanations for their exit from our coast could be “otters were doing what otters do – disperse and explore other locations.” The mystery spurs scientists to find answers: Lack of food? Lack of habitat? Human disturbances?

Dom is deft at fielding questions from the crowd of 35, and he explains how conservation biologists consider sea otter recovery an important link in marine conservation. The interrelationship of one species with the total ecological health of other species was first named in 1969 by Robert Paine who looked at the sea otter and other fauna as “keystone species.”

The Central Oregon Coast should think of kelp forests as one key benefit of sea otters making a comeback: These are nurseries for many different aquatic species. Kelp forests give protection to juvenile aquatic animals, who would otherwise be vulnerable targets.

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Here’s the interconnectivity of otters and kelp forests: Sea urchins multiply, forming barrens that sweep the ocean floor consuming entire stands of kelp.

The keystone element to this species Dominique and his cohorts are studying is that since the sea urchin is a main food source for the sea otter, the mammal acts as “protector of the kelp beds.”

We call this “balancing the ecosystem,” so by keeping urchin populations down, the kelp thrives, and the result is other aquatic species are able to mature and live in their natural environment, and sea otters, a threatened species, are able to survive.

The California and Aleutian Island sea otter populations have either declined or plateaued, and therefore the sea otter remains classified as a threatened species.

This otter research project is really a look at how viable a recovery or restoration project is for Oregon — considering all the implications of so-called human resource management.

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The graduate student is looking into the entire suite of unanticipated outcomes or impacts a sea otter reintroduction program might have on the following individual and intersecting issues: law and policy; ecology; fisheries management; politics, economics; social and cultural stakes; genetics; even oceanographic.

Interestingly, while Dom is working as a scientist pulling together the history, biology, fisheries management and public policy sides to Oregon’s possible sea otter reintroduction, he is quick to point out powerful indigenous groups’ spiritual-centered connection to the sea otter, such as the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians and the Coquille Indian Tribe. “We also are looking at what restoring the cultural connections to the sea otter before tribes were forced from coastal lands will do for those communities.”

This once prevalent species comes with it more than its tool-making and cute coastal presence. We have stakeholders with the urchin, Dungeness crab, mussel and clam fisheries. We have all these other human activities, too, along the coast that might make the recovery effort difficult: pollution, shipping lanes, recreation and toxins.

The linchpin for much of my life interviewing people is what makes them tick and from where they came: family, significant emotional events, perspectives honed by trials and tribulations.

Diversity Sets the Standard

Dom’s parents met at Husson University in Bangor, both on basketball scholarships – she having been a white woman with many generations tied to Maine, and his father an African from the Ivory Coast.

Dom says he identifies strongly as a black man, not as bi-racial. While he got interested in science watching religiously PBS’s Nature, he did have opportunities in our country’s national parks through an outing club.

He was the only black child and teen in many situations. When he went to Colby College as a star sprinter and long jumper, he still did not experience much diversity there. It was when he got to DC, as an intern for the National Wildlife Federation and then later as a policy researcher at PEW, that he got a taste of real diversity.

“Sometimes as the only person of color in a room, I have to be aware I am not just representing myself, but my race, yet I don’t want to represent a group since that group is very diverse, too.”

Dom is aware that he can be put into situations of borderline tokenism, and that he has to understand that for younger people, seeing someone like him excel in the sciences gives younger people of color not only a role model but proof that there are inroads being made to accept a more diverse student body, faculty and scientific community.

“Diversity and inclusivity are almost buzz words these days,” he said. “Getting into a program like this one doesn’t solve all the problems. Half the battle is won, part of the systemic hurdle to overcome, but they have to make people of color feel valued and heard, so they will want to stay.”

Dom defends his thesis in December and says he wants to step back from academia for a while, hoping to work in a science policy arena, for a non-profit or governmental agency. He likens his work experience and academic background as a good foundation to be a “boundary spanner” – that is, someone working on scientific research but also developing public policy and drawing on his communications skills to be a workshop facilitator.

“I’ve always wanted to get into endangered species,” he said. “It is amazing, though, how much work goes into any one species, let alone the ecology as a whole where that species interacts with other species.”

One thing we can gather from Dom – he is highly motivated to understand “intersectionalities” in the environmental world. The sea otter seems like a talisman for him to move forward.

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Much like the rain forests of the Amazon, Kelp forests are considered by scientists to be one of the more effective sequesters of carbon dioxide. The linkage between sea otters, sea urchins, kelp forests and ultimately climate change mitigation are coming to the fore.

“A recent study shows kelp forests with higher sea otters present can absorb up to 12 times more CO2 from the atmosphere than if they were just left to the urchin explains the linkage between sea otters, sea urchins, kelp forests, and ultimately climate change mitigation,” according to the organization Friends of the Sea Otter.

Count Dominique, 28, as one of those sea otter’s friends.

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  1. Silent Spring Introduction, 1962

U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?

At 100, Gaia Faces its Biggest Challenges

James Lovelock theorized Gaia while working for NASA in the 1960s when he was hired to determine if there was “life on Mars.”

Gaia may be younger but James Lovelock, Mr. Gaia himself, turns 100 on his upcoming birthday, July 26th.

For over 50 years, he has been Britain’s leading independent scientist. His independence from a formal relationship with an educational institution or governmental agency gives him a unique perspective. He’s one of the few scientists without an axe to grind, and of great interest, he’s been observing the scene for 100 years. He’s a living treasure trove of scientific knowledge whose reputation, at one point in time, withstood sharp criticism by the scientific community. Today, he’s a proven genius.

His Gaia hypothesis, which contends that the earth is a single, self-regulating organism, is now accepted as a founding principle of most climate science. His theory proposes that the atmosphere, oceans, rocks, soil and all living things constitute a self-regulating system that maintains favorable conditions for life.

To his everlasting credit, he helped save all of humanity by developing an invention for detecting CFCs in the atmosphere that was instrumental in discovering the infamous Ozone Hole of the 1980s.

The ozone molecule (O3), which is randomly scattered throughout the stratosphere at 10-to-20 miles above Earth’s surface, filters-out hazardous effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, without which life would burn up.

After the Ozone Hole was identified, it led to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in September 1987. Human-made chlorines, CFCs, were prohibited.

Thereafter, research monitoring the atmosphere claimed the ozone hole in the Northern Hemisphere would be fixed by the 2030s and the Antarctica hole fixed by the 2060s.

Until… Alas, a new alarm was set off in Southeast Asia. The Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 discovered a source of illegal CFCs coming from provinces in eastern China manufacturing polyurethane insulation. The manufacturers were using CFC-11 because of its better quality and cheaper costs than alternatives.

According to third-party analyses: “This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China,” lead author Dr. Matt Rigby, the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science. “Using computer simulations of the transport of these gases through the atmosphere we can start to put numbers on emissions from different regions and that’s where we come up with this number of around 7,000 tonnes of extra CFC-11 emissions coming out of China compared to before 2012.”

Oh please! Somebody find a bucket… quick, hurry up!

Not only that but CFCs are very potent greenhouse gases. One ton of CFC-11 is equivalent to around 5,000 tons of CO2.

Getting back to a semblance of sanity and the James Lovelock story, one of his most elegant pieces of hard science was discovery of the cycle in which algae in the oceans produces volatile sulphur compounds that act as seeds to form oceanic clouds. Without these dimethyl sulphide seeds, cooling oceanic clouds would be lost.

Lovelock’s gargantuan influence is nearly impossible to describe in one article. It requires a book, not an article. Still, a lot can be gleaned from his voluminous studies, interviews, and analyses, especially regarding the status of Mother Earth.

One of his starkest warnings was that the earth is overpopulated by a factor of seven. Stating:

It cannot for much longer maintain both its ecosystem and the supply of food, energy and materials to such a large population.

Of course, therein, by implication, he references the Great Acceleration post WWII when world population growth took off like a space ship blasting off. After all, it took thousands of years to reach 2B people by 1945, but it only took one generation to nearly triple, up 275%, to 7.5B people. If anybody has questions about how and why ecosystems throughout the planet are strained, if not outright crumbling apart, then look to the Great Acceleration in harmony with rampant High Capitalism for answers.

With High Capitalism, ecosystems are handled like throw-away Dixie Cups. As a result, a gigantic crack is starting to appear in Earth’s crust, running from pole to pole as it comes apart at the seams. Infinite growth is the greatest illusion of all time, that, nevertheless and unfortunately “turns on” Wall Street and political leaders around the world. But, that formula for “growth to the sky, to infinity,” is not working very well for Gaia, which has already reversed course downwards towards surefire darkness and chaos. Which means that something has to change before all hell breaks lose. The likeliest target for change is current political theory, as the neoliberal brand of capitalistic democracy has gotta go the way of the Dodo Bird, otherwise, the planet will likely suffer serious climate disasters.

There’s a better way: Eco economics treats the economy as a subsystem of Earth’s larger ecosystem and emphasizes natural capital instead of consuming it and destroying it.

During a recent BBC interview, Lovelock said:

There is a real danger of losing our tenure on the planet altogether…. We’ve got to care about this matter of global warming because if we don’t do anything about it, there won’t be anybody here… It’s about time we went back to taking an interest in the environment… What happens to the planet when more CO2 is put into the air? The earth will get hotter. It will heat up to a point where no life on it of our kind will be possible…1

In an earlier interview with Nature Video, regarding his book The Vanishing Face of Gaia, A Final Warning (Publisher Allen Lane), he outlined expectations for global warming: After informing the interviewer that he preferred to use “global heating” rather than “global warming,” he outlined consequences: “When tough times come, it’ll be very rapid, indeed.”

And, as outlined in his book, he believes the “climate downfall” will be quite the opposite from an old adage: “It’s darkest before the dawn.” In his view, it’ll be: “It’s brightest just before the darkness” (which incidentally defines High Capitalism today, in terms of capital growth but not in terms of individual gratification).

Lovelock’s climate warning:

Assume the system becomes unstable and goes into positive feedback, as the positive feedback strengthens, any small permutation in either direction gets amplified.

Which describes the trigger behind “climate downfall,” when least expected.

In point of fact, there are already instances of “positive feedback”; e.g., permafrost collapsing in the North and disappearance of arthropods in tropical rainforests, among many other instances. It has already started, where nobody lives.

He further stated that he feared that the earth’s move to a new state 5-6C hotter is probably inevitable, and that we should be planning to meet that challenge. There are already early signs of that, especially in the northern latitudes.

Even though Lovelock has personally planted 1,000 trees, he admits that the climate problem can’t be so easily solved:

You cannot plant an ecosystem. An ecosystem includes: bacteria or haematids, insects, invertebrates and all kinds of stuff, all the way up to big trees. You cannot plant ecosystems…  it has to come naturally.

Recently (August 2018) in an interview, he said:

Humans’ time may have run out and artificial intelligence could be about to take our place on Earth.2

In that interview, he also proclaimed:

The Earth is in dire trouble and could soon experience intense climate-related disasters.

Mr. Lovelock said that he felt the Earth was something like himself. It is very old, but still has some time left.

“I’m looking forward to quite a few years to go in this beautiful region and so is the planet, but you can’t bank on it,” he told the Today programme.”

  1. BBC Ideas interview of James Lovelock, February 8th, 2019.
  2. Independent, August 8, 2018.

Will our domination be our downfall?

For those of us who’ve been paying attention to the general state of the world and human society, it’s readily apparent that we as a species have sent ourselves hurtling into the depths of a global crisis that has the potential to wipe ourselves out along with many of our fellow Earthlings. So how exactly how has this happened?

It’s easy and certainly well justified to point our finger at the many harmful industries that have emerged from our society—fossil fuels, unsustainable agriculture, overfishing, mining, the military complex, etc. (have a look at this list of Harmful Practices Critiqued for a more extensive list). And yet what if there is a deeper cause that we can point to—a common “seed” that underlies all of these harmful industries and practices?

I believe that there is such a seed, one that is surprisingly simple to name and yet highly elusive, difficult for many of us to grasp. In a nutshell, I would say that this seed is a domineering attitude that appears to have increased in magnitude over the past 10,000 years or so of our evolution. In recent years, our collective eyes have begun to open to the great harm and even horror wrought by our ongoing efforts to dominate each other. But as the even larger horror of the accelerating global ecological collapse has become increasingly apparent, many of us have come to recognize that our domineering attitude is also probably the leading culprit.

I suggest that we drop down even one more level on this causal ladder and ask oursevelves, what is it that feeds humankind’s urge and sense of entitlement to dominate each other, our fellow Earthlings and the Earth? And I would say that just as the justification of one human group to dominate another is typically fueled by that particular group’s belief in their own superiority, so it is that humankind’s general belief in our superiority over other living beings fuels our ongoing desire and entitlement to dominate the Earth and our fellow species.

It’s readily apparent that pervasive among contemporary society is the strong belief that human beings are superior to other species, which in turn has spawned a number of closely related beliefs, such as: “The Earth belongs to us,” “We made it to the top and are entitled to do what we want,” “We are the most important/valuable species on this planet,” “We have dominion over the Earth and all of its creatures,” etc. This belief is so insidious that it even reveals itself within seemingly virtuous beliefs such as, “We are stewards of the Earth,” or “We need to work hard to manage the environment/ecosystems.” So strong is this belief in our superiority that I would say that very few people even regard it as a belief; rather, it is generally seen as simply a fact of life.

But let’s take a moment to scrutinize this belief more closely. In particular, let’s look at what I believe are the major core assumptions that maintain and reinforce it.

Assumption #1—We are the most intelligent species on the planet

Initially, this assumption may appear self evident. Certainly it’s true that we humans are an extremely inventive and productive species—the signs are everywhere, in our vast technology, our sprawling cities, our complex cultures and societies. If we define “intelligence” broadly as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to the meeting of our needs,” then at first glance, it would appear that we are indeed very intelligent when compared to most other species.

However, I feel that there are three serious problems with this reasoning that need to be addressed—I’ll call them problematic sublevel assumptions: (1) that because the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior; (2) that we really are as intelligent as we generally consider ourselves; and (3) that superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and a general sense of entitlement to dominate those species with less intelligence. Let’s take a moment to look at each of these in turn:

(1) Since the products our own intelligence are so much more readily apparent to us than those of other species, then our own intelligence must be superior.

Let’s approach this by first taking a more intuitive/spiritual tack…

Take a moment to remove the anthropocentric blinders off and look around at the world—I mean really look around at the world. Take in this incredible web of life composed of billions of complex living organisms living together in symbiotic harmony. Take in this complex dance of creativity and adaptation that has gone on continuously for billions of years, and which is far more complex than any human mind could ever fathom, let alone replicate. Think about it—with our vast knowledge and technology, we haven’t been able to replicate even the simplest single-celled organism.

So if this awesome intelligence and creativity hasn’t come from us, then where is it coming from? Some spiritual and philosophical traditions conjecture an omniscient, omnipresent source of intelligence and creativity simply inherent in the fabric of existence; others say that a more personal God or group of Gods/Goddesses play a prominent role; and still others say that an incredible stroke of “luck” has set the wheels/physics of the universe turning in just exactly the right way for this evolutionary flow of life to unfold.

Despite all of these differences, there is one answer to this question with which virtually all scientific and spiritual traditions agree—that this intelligence did not originate from humankind, but that rather humankind has originated from it. Philosopher Alan Watts offered the following helpful analogy: Let’s turn the word “apple” into the verb “to apple,” as in “An apple tree apples.” In this way, we can say that “the universe peoples.” The universe also “dogs,” “frogs,” “starfishes,”  “cockroaches,” “forests,” and “mountains.” This vast intelligence is the source of humankind’s much narrower intelligence. Certainly we have access to this intelligence, as it is our source after all, but we can say the same thing about every other living being on our planet and in our universe. From this perspective, how can we really say that our own intelligence is so superior, so special?

let’s move on now to the cutting edge of human science—don’t our latest discoveries in neuroscience and biology clearly reveal our superior intelligence?

Within the fields of these and related scientific traditions, it was initially postulated that intelligence is essentially correlated with the number of interconnections between the neurons of a brain. In the most simplistic and reductionistic terms, this theory says that a neuron functions more or less like a computer bit—it acts like a switch that either fires or doesn’t fire depending upon the signals it receives from its fellow neurons, which in turn determines the firing/not-firing of other neurons. And as more and more neurons are connected together in this way, an increasingly complex web of linear and circular causality forms and ultimately emerges into increasingly complex forms of intelligence. And since the human brain has more neural connections than the brain of any other species discovered on Earth (it’s estimated that we have approximately 100 trillion such neural connections), then we must therefore be the most intelligent species.

However, our understanding of this has evolved in recent years to embrace a much more complex picture. First of all, we now recognize that the intelligence (as defined above) of an organism is based on far more than simply the activity of the neurons of the brain (or more specifically, the cerebral cortex). As brought to the forefront by the pioneering work of Candace Pert among many others, we now understand that every cell in our bodies are individual living organisms in their own right, with each actively communicating with the other cells of the broader organism, and with each contributing their own intelligence to the overall intelligence of the entire organism.

We also now know that a number of other species have brains much larger than ours—both in size and in the number of cerebral cortical neurons and interconnections. For example, both the brain size and overall (full body) neural count of African elephants are about 3 times those of humans; and the long-finned pilot whale, a type of dolphin, has more than twice as many brain (cerebral cortex) neurons than humans, and likely a correspondingly far higher count of interneural connections.

So while the evidence mounts that an increase in intercellular connections does correlate with a general increase in intelligence (i.e., the capacity to gather knowledge and apply this to meet one’s needs), it is becoming well established that the neuron cell is not the only intelligence-generating cell in the game. All other living cells within an organism contribute to the intelligence of the whole, but with each kind of cell specializing in a particular kind of intelligence (i.e., retaining specialized sets of knowledge, developing specialized sets of skills, and applying these to specialized needs/functions essential to the organism).

Furthermore, we can say the same thing about the connections that exist between living organisms themselves—bee and ant colonies, flocks of birds, herds of deer, etc., clearly demonstrate much greater intelligence than can be found within any individual member of these groups. This concept is often referred to as swarm intelligence—a phenomenon that is very well established but the details of which we are only just beginning to grasp. And this brings us to a particularly profound concept within our exploration of intelligence within contemporary biology and evolution—what I believe is a real mind-bender, a game-changer, really.

So you know those simplest of all living organisms—the bacteria that we often think of as being little more than “germs”? They’re so simple that they don’t even have a nucleus, let alone anything remotely akin to what we tend to think of as a brain. Now let’s take a moment and expand our view backwards in time. Based on ever accumulating research, the bacteria (technically called prokaryotes, but the term “bacteria” suffices for this discussion) are the very first living organisms to have come into existence on the Earth, coming into existence over 4 billion years ago. They adapted and evolved over a vast amount of time, first converging to become nucleated single-celled organisms (protozoa, algae, etc.), with further convergences resulting in multi-celled organisms (fungus, plants and animals), which finally brings us to well… us.

Swarm intelligence demonstrated by leaf cutter ants (aboveEli Duke, CC BY SA-2.0) and a self-organizing flock of birds (below) [/caption]

Let’s now take a moment to look at our own bodies. The leading edge of our own science has brought us to quite a startling conclusion. Our entire body and every cell within it is essentially composed of an extraordinarily complex colony of bacteria culminating from a very long line of the Earth’s very first bacteria evolving ever more complex relationships with each other. This doesn’t even factor in the many trillions of “exotic” bacteria living within our gut, with whom we are also symbiotically engaged in order to digest our food among other essential processes to sustain our life. Let’s take a moment to let this seep into our sense of superiority for a moment.

Now let’s take a moment to look around—wherever we happen to be located, right here and now. Every single plant, insect, animal, mushroom, and other living form we see or can imagine shares this same basic feature with us. Just like us, they also are embodiments of what we think of as the most simple (“least intelligent”) living organisms having converged into more complex forms. The entire web of life, in other words, is the grand culmination of a mysterious universal life force emerging first into the simplest living cells (bacteria), and then spreading across the entire surface of the Earth, merging together and emerging into the extraordinary array of symbiotic communities of single-celled and multi-celled organisms that we call “organisms,” and ultimately forming the living ecosystems of the Earth.

Finally, let’s extend our view spatially across the surface of the Earth. In addition to the colonies of bacteria that have come together in various ways to form individual living beings, the entire surface of the Earth—the entire biosphere—is filled with these little guys. Actually, it’s more accurate to flip this statement around—this extensive web of bacterial life is itself the fundamental nature of the biosphere. Lynn Margulis, acclaimed microbiologist, puts it like this: “Bacteria initially populated the planet and never relinquished their hold.”

Now let’s weave back into this story the principle that intelligence emerges from the symbiotic interactions among living cells and living beings, and that greater interconnectedness generally results in greater intelligence. Firstly, there are untold trillions of bacteria hooked together in what is well established to be the far largest self-organized living system on the planet, what many refer to as the ultimate superorganism of the Earth; and secondly, we know that the bacteria communicate with each other very effectively, and even in ways that other kinds of cells can’t—such as being able to instantly (without sexual reproduction) share with each other bits of their genetic material and the information coded within them, and even doing so across bacterial species, genus and even family lines.

Many people, even many scientists with a particularly reductionistic bent, have come to recognize that this global bacterial superorganism is far more intelligent than we could ever imagine, and that it plays many crucial roles in maintaining the conditions for life on this planet. As the Gaia Theory has evolved (the well established theory that the entire biosphere acts as a unified and extraordinarily intelligent organism in her own right), a number of people have conjectured that it may be appropriate to consider this bacterial superorganism as being akin to Gaia’s “brain.”

One prominent lifelong bacterial geneticist, James Shapiro, has summarized this emerging understanding of our bacterial kin in this way:

The take-home lesson of more than half a century of molecular microbiology is to recognize that bacterial information processing is far more powerful than human technology….These small cells are incredibly sophisticated at coordinating processes involving millions of individual events and at making them precise and reliable. In addition, the astonishing versatility and mastery bacteria display in managing the biosphere’s geochemical and thermodynamic transformations indicates that we have a great deal to learn about chemistry, physics, and evolution from our small, but very intelligent, prokaryotic relatives”.1

Furthermore, in addition to this bacterial superorganism, there are other vastly intelligent living systems at play whose behaviours are still far beyond our own comprehension. For example, there are the myriad mycelial networks that facilitate the communication and exchange of essential nutrients among the plant and fungus life of most of the world’s terrestrial ecosystems; and there is the complex interplay among many other kinds of micro-organisms and inorganic elements that has successfully regulated the Earth’s temperature, oxygen, atmospheric composition and ocean salinity and pH levels for billions of years.

The mycelium of a fungus spreading through soil (outside) (Nigel Cattlin / Alamy); Microscopic view of mycelium — 1 square mm (inside). Bob Blaylock, CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption]

In summary, the more we begin to grasp the intelligences of other living organisms and living systems, the more clear it becomes just how limited (and un-superior) human intelligence actually is.

(2) Are we really as intelligent as we consider ourselves?

To answer this question, let’s return to our working definition of intelligence, but add one key emphasis: “The capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs.” Considering the key quality of sustainability and now being able to compare human intelligence with the much broader and much older intelligences found in living systems such as bacterial superorganisms and mycelial networks, challenging this particular assumption is relatively straightforward.

In contemporary society, it is well established that the Earth is entering its 6th largest extinction event (in the past billion years of complex life), and that it is we, the human species, who are causing it. Our behaviour is changing our climate in extremely dangerous and unpredictable ways, and we are decimating the Earth’s oceans and terrestrial ecosystems, due primarily to completely unnecessary eating habits and farming practices, along with other problematic behaviours. We consider it acceptable to generate energy by boiling water with extraordinarily concentrated radioactive materials (i.e., nuclear power), the leak of which we know will devastate the local environment for hundreds and even thousands of years. We have over 14,000 nuclear weapons ready to detonate, with the plan to continue making more, and with some countries actively threatening others who also possess such weapons. We continue to pour millions of tons per year of toxic chemicals into the environment and even onto our own food. And the list goes on…

So at first glance, observing that the human species has managed to inhabit nearly the entire planet, and that our population has grown over 1000-fold in the past 10,000 years, it may appear that we are indeed extremely intelligent. But when we consider the fact that it is very clear that we cannot continue to exist much longer with our present behaviours, and yet we persist with them anyway, this belief in our intelligence being so superior becomes very doubtful indeed.

(3) Superior intelligence (at least as we see it) must imply superior worth and entitlement.

Hopefully by now, the case has been made well enough that considering our intelligence to be so “superior” to that of other living species and living systems on this planet is highly problematic at best, which then makes this final argument in favour of humankind’s superiority moot.

But for those who still find themselves hanging on to the belief in our superior intelligence, I’ll say a few words about this final point—that superior intelligence must imply superior worth and entitlement. This argument is often used to justify our exploitation of other species and the Earth, in general, and even the exploitation of one human group by another (i.e., racism, sexism, slavery, etc.). Fortunately, human society has evolved quite a bit in recent years with regard to recognizing the problems inherent in exploiting other human beings (though it is certainly still a major problem!). Many of us have been able to see the enormous suffering that this attitude causes, both to those who are exploited and also to the exploiters’ own sense of integrity and ability to live in a peaceful society.

And now it’s beginning to dawn on many of us that the exploitation of other living beings and living systems is at least as problematic as the exploitation of other human beings. The living systems of the Earth are clearly collapsing, and if we maintain our course, we will certainly collapse right along with them. So let’s honestly re-evaluate this assumption: Is the global catastrophe taking place right before our eyes the result of the sense of entitlement by the intelligent; or is it a result of a sense of entitlement by the ignorant…?

Assumption #2—We represent the pinnacle and/or cutting edge of evolution

This second primary assumption that props up the belief of human superiority, particularly by those who believe in the theory of evolution, is that the human species represents either the pinnacle or the cutting edge of evolution.

From a purely anthropocentric perspective, this is certainly true. We are the latest “model” in our own particular evolutionary lineage. But for those of us who may believe we’ve reached some kind of a pinnacle (a kind of climax in our evolutionary journey), where is the evidence that our evolutionary lineage must stop with us? And why would the process of evolution on the Earth move along so persistently for billions of years, and then suddenly stop with us? (…unless, of course, we manage to wipe out all life on Earth, but that is another story.) And for those who believe we may not have reached such a pinnacle yet, but that we must certainly represent the cutting edge of the Earth’s evolution, let’s keep in mind that there are millions of other evolutionary lineages taking place within this vast Gaian tree of life, many of which are far older than our own particular branch, and many that will likely continue to evolve far after we are gone. What makes our particular branch so special?

Assumption #3—We are essential to manage/maintain life on Earth

From the perspective of Gaia theory, all living beings and living systems existing on the Earth are merely manifestations of her, merely different aspects of this one unified organism. So they all play important roles in some way at any given point of time in her evolution. However, just as with our own physical bodies, some parts are simply more vital than others.

For example, our physical body could lose a toe or even an entire leg and most likely continue to survive. But if we lose both of our lungs, then the loss would be too great and our body would certainly die. Likewise, Gaia has evolved to where she has become highly dependent upon terrestrial plant life (particularly tropical rainforests) and microalgae within the open ocean to generate the oxygen necessary to maintain her life. These essentially act as her “lungs” providing this essential nutrient to the other parts of her organism. If these systems were depleted enough, it is possible that Gaia could die, or would at least be forced to regress to a much more primitive state. On the other hand, if humankind were to go extinct, our loss would probably be much more akin to Gaia losing a little toe, or more realistically, only sustaining a small cut to her little toe—certainly not terminal to the organism. In the big picture of Gaia’s life, spanning over 4 billion years now (that’s 4,000,000,000+), humankind in its current form (Homo Sapiens) has emerged only about 200,000 years ago. To put this in perspective, if Gaia were 80 years old, humankind would have emerged onto the scene about 36 hours ago.

So it’s really impossible for us to make the case that Gaia needs us. Actually, at this point, the case is all too easily made that this “little toe” of humanity has become cancerous and is now acting as a direct threat against the life of the entire organism—of all life on Earth. If you were Gaia, would you not seriously consider cutting off that cancerous toe? (btw, I’m not advocating for the extermination of humankind—I’m just pointing out that as we broaden our perspective, we should naturally find ourselves moving towards a much more humble position).

Assumption #4—Our religious scriptures say that we are superior

Granted, I find it a bit more difficult to challenge this particular assumption than those above. When a person’s convictions are based solely upon what they have read or what somebody else has told them, and they have chosen to abandon critical thinking or deep personal reflection, then there’s not likely to be much potential for a paradigm shift. However, even within the religious scriptures and creation stories found within different cultures and spiritual traditions around the world, we find a very interesting theme that many (most?) of them share—and that is the recognition that our sense of superiority has gone hand in hand with our separation from our source of abundance and vitality.

In the West, this theme is probably most well known as illustrated in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil, which then led to their being banished by God from The Garden of Eden. Essentially, the story goes that Adam and Eve lived for many years as members of a thriving and abundant ecosystem. But then they became tempted to “eat the fruit” which shifted their paradigm from one of harmonious unity to one of disharmonious duality—the “knowledge of good and evil.” One way of interpreting this story is to see it as a metaphor that represents the moment when humankind replaced their value for living in harmony with the natural world (as merely one member of a thriving ecosystem) with a dichotomous value system—inferior/superior, better/worse, more/less valuable, more/less worthy, mine/yours, and of particular relevance to this article here, humans/nature.

For those who have studied the theory of human evolution, this theme has clear parallels to the historical moment when humanity abandoned its indigenous roots extending back hundreds of thousands of years. At this point of time, about 10,000 years ago, humankind is believed to have generally “stepped out of nature” to embrace a much more dualistic mindset—humans vs. nature, human superiority vs. other species’ inferiority, the Earth and other living beings as being ours to own as property and personally dominate, exploit, etc. And we can look around now and clearly see where this path has taken us—initially to enormous short term abundance and population explosion, but ultimately heading right off the cliff of our own extinction.

So even within scriptures that are often used to justify the superiority of humankind and our entitlement over other species, we find upon closer inspection this common core theme of a paradise lost, or of a deep ignorance having gripped us. As soon as humankind stepped out of their niche of living at one with the Gaian system, and attempted to instead place themselves outside of and superior to this heretofore unified living system, we ultimately lost our paradise.

So to Summarize…

Are we unique? Yes! Do we have unusual capacities and skills never before seen within the life of the Earth? Almost certainly. However, we can also say the same thing about every other species present and past.

As for our superior intelligence? Humankind does appear to possess a somewhat unusual form of intelligence combined with an upright posture and opposable thumbs, the combination of which makes all kinds of interesting technologies possible. However, considering the broad definition of intelligence as “the capacity to develop systems of knowledge and apply them to sustainably meet one’s needs,” humankind has clearly not demonstrated a degree of intelligence anywhere near as advanced as that of other living systems on the Earth. To the contrary, humankind, or at least in its present form as manifested within contemporary society, has demonstrated an unusually profound ignorance, having made the terrible choice of attempting to remove itself from the Gaian system, which, of course, is just as impossible and futile as a little toe attempting to sever itself from the larger body.

As for our general sense of superior worth and our associated sense of entitlement to do what we please with our fellow Earthlings and the Earth in general? Well, as discussed above, from the perspective of Gaia, there are clearly other species and living systems far more vital to her ongoing survival than the human species…

This leaves us then with the question of our own continued survival. If humankind is not as intelligent nor superior as we have come to believe, and if it is true that our attempt to leave the Gaian system has been a very bad one, then what does that mean for our own future? I believe that the answer to this question lies within a close reflection upon our past.

Looking historically, the evidence is quite compelling that our departure from living harmoniously with the Gaian system coincided with an intensification of the belief in our fundamental “superiority,” as well as our fundamental sense of entitlement to exploit other species and the environment to our own very narrowly perceived needs. And if we track our progress over the centuries since we have adopted this belief, what do we find? We do indeed see that we have been able to experience tremendous benefit initially, in the sense of an explosion of our population and the capacity to survive on most of the surface of the Earth. But in recent generations this short-term benefit is finally revealing the very serious long-term harm of this belief system and its associated behaviours. Though the ride may have been good to many (and hell for many others) while it lasted, the writing is becoming all too clear upon the wall:  We have been “superior”ing our way to our own demise.

So what to do? We may not be superior to other species, but like all species, we do have our own unique capacities. And as humans, we appear to have an unusually strong capacity for productivity (both creative and destructive), self-awareness and self-reflection. What would happen if we shift the focus of these attributes to the serious attempt to return to the “Garden of Eden,” to establishing a harmonious niche as simply one species among many on this diverse and abundant planet?

I like to think that this would be possible, though certainly very challenging. What if we take our capacity for self-awareness/reflection/transformation, and work on shifting our paradigm to…

(a) expanding our understanding of ‘the self’ to contain all other living beings and the entire Gaian system;

(b) cultivating an equal compassion/regard/respect for all living beings, beyond simply other human beings and companion animals who are personally close to us;

(c) humbling ourselves in the face of Gaia—recognizing that she has a wisdom far deeper, older, and broader than our much more limited personal minds could ever fully grasp…

…and closely related to this, (d) reorienting our efforts at personal and human surviving and thriving to be much more in line with Gaia’s wisdom and natural behaviours.

This would entail shifting our focus from “managing” the environment (Gaia has demonstrated that she can do this perfectly fine without us, thank you very much) to managing ourselves—(a) stopping our destructive behaviours, and (b) simply stepping back from as much of the Earth as we can, and making space for Gaia’s own capacity to heal and regenerate herself.

In summary, then, it appears that the more our limited human minds begin to grasp the much vaster and more intelligent minds at play on the Earth, the more apparent it becomes that we simply need to lose the superiority complex and graciously re-engage openly and compassionately with our fellow Earthlings.

In other words, isn’t it about time that we got over ourselves and re-join the party?

• You can learn more about Paris Williams’ latest work and the Centre for Nonviolence and Conscious living at cncl.info

  1. as quoted in Buhner, 2014.

Why Do We Think We Own The Earth?

We are now in climate crisis.  Almost every week another major scientific study hits the news, telling us we are losing this, destroying that and completely obliterating the other; whole ecological systems under threat while those with the power to take the hard decisions twiddle their thumbs and set ‘to-do’ dates that will be all too late to have any impact.  As a recent report notes: ‘Much scientific knowledge produced for climate policy-making is conservative and reticent.’  Policy makers do not want to face the inconvenient truth.

The trouble is that, even if we could somehow halt catastrophic climate change – now looking unattainable – we are also, by the way we live, destroying the ecological systems that keep us and all the earth alive, something equally catastrophic.  Plastic in the sea has nothing to do with climate change.  The loss of topsoil and soil degradation is mostly to do with industrial farming methods.  The destruction of forests is due to financial greed and while it will greatly exacerbate climate change, satisfying the desire for more money comes first.

People who think they ‘own’ the earth are those destroying it.  They are also often the ones who do not believe in climate change.  Surely the rich will always have enough money to buy what they want.  But you can’t buy what you have destroyed.

Many people understand the word ‘environment’ as being something ‘green’ when it is simply a term for our surroundings.  Of course, we should protect green/natural environments, but what we must really protect is the ecology of those areas.

Ecology is the way things work; it is how all life combines to support itself; it is true biodiversity, the balancing of living systems to the benefit of those systems.  It is a whole thing, or it should be, but we keep destroying bits here, there and everywhere. Then wonder why the whole doesn’t seem to work any more.

We can’t pick and choose with Nature.  We can’t say ‘I want to protect that species because it’s useful, but exterminate this one because it gets in my way.’  We accept all of Nature, or we accept nothing.  And we should include ourselves in that, yet we prefer to stand outside – and rule.

How did we arrive at this state of an arrogant claim of ‘ownership’ of the earth?  Let us go back to the ‘beginning’ – Genesis, in particular Genesis 1, verses 27 and 28.

  1. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
  2. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

This, of course, is the Authorised Version of the English Bible, also known as the King James Bible, published in 1611.  Probably the most printed book in the world, the writing, though now very old fashioned, is beautiful.  It has affected and added greatly to the English language.  No modern translations can equal its power.  More importantly, people remember the words and unfortunately it has done a far better job than subliminal advertising.

Consider those words ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over…’  How many people over the last 4 centuries have been taught them, read them, heard them in church?  Missionaries have carried them across the world, spreading the underlying message: ‘We humans own the earth.’

The Authorised version has been updated and put into modern language many times, but out of 27 bibles in English, 23 still use the word ‘subdue’; 13 use the phrase ‘have dominion over’.  The alternatives for subdue and dominion are ‘govern’, ‘rule’, ‘rule over’, ‘reign over’, ‘be masters over…’, ‘be its master’ or bring the earth ‘under control’.  The more recent American bibles make the message clear.  The Contemporary English Version, published in 1995, says:

Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control. Rule over the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky, and every animal on the earth.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all use Genesis in their thinking, but this isn’t just about monotheistic religions.  Pretty well all religions put humanity first.  That’s what they’re there for, to help us believe in ourselves as a species; to believe that some higher being or beings will look after us, the humans; put us, the humans, first.

It is easy to see how the West, propelled by men whose lives, regardless of their appalling acts, were based on the bible, has fulfilled the message.  Human population has been, for many years, expanding.  We do cover the earth and there are too few places left that are not under our control.  And our expanding population means an ever-growing demand that the earth must provide for us, even as we destroy the ability of the earth to provide what we need, let alone what we want.

In modern secular society people can be too wrapped up in consumerism to think about whether humans have the right to own the earth.  There is a lot of angry (and justified) discussion about how a very few people own most of the earth.  ‘How unfair!’ we cry.  But if we take that money, power and property away from the ultra rich, we will not give it to the earth where it belongs, but to ourselves, the common man.

It shows up in all shades of political thinking.  Most political parties (barring the alt-right) will claim some desire to help protect the environment, by which they mean ‘manage’.  Take this example from a Socialist Party’s leaflet, with the headline ‘There is only one world’:

… the world’s natural and industrial resources must become the common heritage of all humanity so that they can be used to directly meet the needs of the world’s population…

How did ancient man arrive at this attitude, this arrogance that became the rule so precisely displayed in Genesis?  It wasn’t always like this.

Hunter-gatherer societies, as described by anthropologist Douglas Fry, were small nomadic groups leading relatively stress-free lives, and they did not struggle to find the food they needed.  Then farming took over, in what Jared Diamond called ‘the worst mistake’ in history.

If you grow your food you have to stay in one place in order to care for your crop – your crop, and therefore, perhaps, your land.  That one simple act changed how humans thought and lived.  It created tribes with chiefs; it created ‘territories’ and fights over land; it created civilisations with growing populations, armies and a land bled dry by overuse; civilisations that inevitably collapsed.

Growing food certainly meant more people could be fed but, as Diamond points out, ‘Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.’

The modern world believes it has a ‘right’ to the earth and all it contains, while native peoples believe they have obligations towards the earth that feeds them.  Being indigenous does not mean being perfect in the way humans treat their environment.  Despite having an intimate relationship with their environment, and a deep sense of reverence for the earth, indigenous people still altered the land to enable the way they lived.

For the Algonquin peoples, living in the northeast states of America, ‘natural resources were not just passively foraged; they were actively managed, through such practices as regular burning to clear deadwood, produce pasture, and encourage the growth of nut trees and fresh browse.

Their sometime neighbours, sometime enemies, the Iroquois farmed as well as hunted, but ‘when cornfields lost their fertility or wood and game became scarce, every decade or so’, the people moved to another location.  Really?  Ten years to empty your environment?  There was room enough to do that then.  There isn’t now.

Time and again civilisations have collapsed, often for the reasons that possibly ended the Mayan culture: overpopulation and overuse of the land, endemic warfare and drought.  The Chaco Canyon culture died, it seems, not just because of environmental stress, but of a rigid belief system: ‘the Puebloan people survived only by letting go of tradition’.

But now our civilisation is global and we are collapsing on a global scale.  This time we have nowhere to move and start again.  Forget that dream of relocating to another planet.  We haven’t the time or resources left to go wholesale into space to live on another earth-like planet.  And if we haven’t learnt from our mistakes here, another planet would be trashed.

We humans are proud of our intelligence, our inventiveness, our technology.  That pride in ownership, that greed for more control, and that push to provide more and more goods for ever-eager consumers, using resources that become less and less, has led to the ruination of the planet and now, more than likely, to our own extinction.

Now universities are studying possible technical fixes, geo-engineering, in the hope that we can bring climate change under our ‘control’.  But the danger there is that if some of these fixes appear to work, then everyone will say ‘that’s alright then’, and carry on as before in our earth-damaging way.

In humanity’s desire to own the earth, there are several things we won’t own.  We won’t own the waste we create.  We won’t own the carbon emissions emitted by other countries on our behalf.  We won’t own our mistakes, or the misery they create – and we won’t own our responsibilities.

We are losing the topsoil all across the earth.  Soon, the soil that grows our food (and the food of many other life forms that populate this little planet) will be dead.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

Rivers are struggling.  Some will dry up as the glaciers that feed them melt. There will come a day when there are no more glaciers and the earth will lose its major source of fresh water.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

Left alone, rivers have clean water, are full of life and their regular flooding has benefits.  The Nile Delta, now endangered, once owed its reputation as ‘the bread basket of the world’ to its annual floods.  But the majority of the world’s great rivers are no longer free-flowing.  We have rerouted them, dammed them, constrained them, polluted them with antibiotics, herbicides, pesticides and poured human and animal sewage into them or drained them of their waters to irrigate ‘our’ land.  We have done everything except to allow them to act naturally.  This is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

With a possible major sea level rise, the oceans, poisoned and stripped of most life, will take over land that the human race has claimed as its own.  This also is too big for a technological ‘fix’.

All life has its own form of intelligence which allows it to survive by fitting in to the whole ecological system.  The natural environment should be a thing of beauty, full of busy life, something that both inspires and calms.  It has become a bleak and empty place, where you return from a walk over the hills with a mental list of the things you haven’t seen – because our collective ego has killed them.

For far too long, humanity has regarded itself as ‘outside’ Nature.  We think we are exceptional.  Our ‘intelligence’ rarely produces long-lasting benefits to anything but ourselves.  God forbid that we should be just one form of life among many, with no more ability to survive than the rest of life.  How could we, being who we have become, face that loss of importance?  There is only one thing that makes humanity truly exceptional; our desire to own and control everything, partnered by our horrible ability to destroy what we try to control.

Can we learn from Chaco Canyon and the Pueblo people?  Is it too late to ditch our rigid world view, our superiority, our belief in our ‘right’ to own and control our world?  Can we, before our much-vaunted ‘civilisation’ crashes and we die, learn instead to live kindly with this earth?

Love in the Time of Xenocide

If artists are the antennae of the race, and writers and thinkers are also artists, then a vibration some are receiving and beginning to transmit to the culture more broadly now is new in the history of our species: the world is dying.

Christy Rodgers, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide”

I’m digging what some of us artists are doing to act as narrative catchments, looking deep into the well of humanity’s general self-delusion and hubris. This is on the heels of heading from the Central Oregon Coast to Portland, to attend an Oceans conference at Portland State University in downtown Stumptown Sunday afternoon.

Patience here, dear reader, since I am also part of a grand global transformation, though time and again I have written over the decades that I get it and got it at a very young age —

  • capitalism as a system of penury, pollution, trickle down insanity
  • the rapacious quality of narcissism of the Western world (me-myself-and-I consumerism)
  • the despoiling of soil, land, air, river, ocean water by collective madness of money making
  • misogyny which has hitched the world’s girls and women to the shackles of male stupidity and sexual violence and forced birthing
  • war lords, even those hiding in Sweden or Switzerland, becoming the Mafioso of the world, full stop
  • the capturing of a free thinking press and evisceration of holistic education by privatizers and corporate overlords to create the Orwellian maxim of, lies are truth, war is peace

So, with my fiance and her daughter — OSU chemistry/physics undergraduate — we headed to a mild conference (tabling non-profits do not make a conference) to also listen to celebrity diver-scientist, Sylvia Earle, aged 83. We’ll talk about her Mission Blue. We’ll talk about this hopey-dopey thing she promulgates. We’ll talk about her down-dumbing to audiences. Later. And I paid for tickets, which is something I have rarely done in my 62 years on the planet.

Image result for Sylvia Earle controversy

Yes, the guilt of using up fossil fuels, clogging the road system and sending water vapor and CO2 into the atmosphere to hear someone I have already heard elsewhere in another iteration of my time as community college teacher and sustainability leader.

How difficult was it for me to NOT open my mouth and start railing against this celebrity culture before the talk — and expose a 21-year-old hopeful undergraduate science student to negativity — and then spew out my prophecy of …  this is just going to be another white person-attended milquetoast thing with dyed in the wool democrats and Obama lovers again not even attempting to stammer that capitalism is the evil, war is the tool for this evil, magical thinking is the conduit of this evil, and chaos in all forms of discourse/thought/ community its product?

Huge!

I’ll in a future piece nuance and dice and parse what Sylvia Earle’s talk was — a refitted talk that she’s done for decades — and how that crowd in Portland did in some sense send pulsating streams of bile into my throat as I felt like the one and only one who was disturbed by the lock-step cult of celebrity thing going on in that big PSA pavilion, one big basketball arena that was burping up so much air conditioned streams that dozens of folk scurried around looking for sweaters and coats to keep from blue-lipping themselves into a stupor.

I’ve been here before, running talks with the likes of Winona LaDuke, James Howard Kunstler, David Helvarg, Bill McKibben and others. I was the thorn in the side, the lightning rod, the agitator, the one person who took the discourse away from slanted academic or literary bunk and platitudes, toward a more militant rhetoric, one where revolutionary thinking had to set the stage. Some guests were uncomfortable, and audiences, too but many speakers and others I interviewed or MC-ed for responded deeper than they had ever in public, many have told me. I even took them to the studio and interviewed them on my old radio show. Here are a few captured on my blog, PaulHaeder dot com.

Too-too many times, the rank and file wherever I practiced as teacher, journalist, social worker and activist have demonstrated their partial or complete colonization (where I ticked off the issues in the list above) which has assisted in depositing magical thinking and elitism and exceptionalism into the very fiber of the average American. Including many of the people who I rub elbows with!

The stage was set, Sunday, and we were there, a few hundred captives, held to the standards of this organization that sponsored the event — SAGE, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity. There was a choir, and there was a forced “all audience members please stand up and sing” moment, Hallelujah’s,  and there were no young people on stage, no haggling of ideas, no argumentation about how criminal capitalism is, and our war economy (Earle is a capitalist and military supporter), no debate about how we do in fact help save the ocean, no hard-edged and outside-the-box discourse and presentation.

Image result for dead dolphins gulf of mexico

As she spoke May 19, the headlines were hurtling in, headlines that would have made some good grist for deep conversation:

Buyer Beware: Seafood ‘Fraud’ Rampant, Report Says

American Academy of Pediatrics Says US Children Are Not Eating Enough Seafood

New study of migrant and child labour in the Thai seafood industry

Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish

Hilsa: The fish that is being loved to death

‘Fish are vanishing’ – Senegal’s devastated coastline

Choose the Right Fish To Lower Mercury Risk Exposure

Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial mercury emissions increase, according to a 2009 study led by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Harvard University.

Mercury-containing plants and tiny animals are eaten by smaller fish that are then gobbled up by larger fish, whose tissue accumulates mercury. That’s why larger, longer-living predators such as sharks and swordfish tend to have more of the toxin than smaller fish such as sardines, sole, and trout.

In comments submitted to federal health officials earlier this year, a group of scientists and policy analysts pointed out that a 6-ounce serving of salmon contains about 4 micrograms of mercury vs. 60 micrograms for the same portion of canned albacore tuna—and 170 micrograms for swordfish.

When you eat seafood containing methylmercury, more than 95 percent is absorbed, passing into your bloodstream. It can move throughout your body, where it can penetrate cells in any tissue or organ.

Image result for W Eugene SMith Minamata

But again, this is the cult of celebrity, even scientists, and so the evening was suffused with homilies and genuflecting and really a sixth grade level Power Point talk, not scientific, not political, not deep, not philosophical, not earth rumbling/shattering. Imagine those headlines above debated in the talk. The contradictions. The implications. Mercury, right, perfect for baby and grandpa!

Related image

So, the trip back through Oregon’s hinterland — farms, orchards, big hay operations — with all those “Jesus is the Way” billboard signs, all those “Trump and God Reign” fluttering flags, all that once-thick-forestland-turned-into-Johnson-grass property, all those RVs and heavy-duty pickups and SUVs rushing for a week at the beach, and all the cannabis shops and junk food shacks reminding me that most people did not make THIS bargain two or three generations ago.

The cancer is capitalism-addictive-consumerism; the tuberculosis is the credit cards, banks, IMF, World Bank, and mortgage companies holding people on their knees with a debt gun to our heads; the neurological damage is the assault on democracy through the prostitution of politicians-journalists-educators in that old time religion, careerism; the illiteracy is through the ever-deadening death-entertainment of a floundering press and piss poor publishing realm.

Much more on that later —  the concept of a Sylvia Earle even headlining a “world oceans day” anemic event, and the obvious lack of hard-hitting discourse and thought on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Below is a piece I wrote, specifically for Oregon Humanities magazine, a call out for manuscripts to work with the theme, adapt.

For the Summer 2019 issue, share an experience about conforming in response to some sort of pressure. Tell us what it takes to alter and revamp a system that needs to change. Explore a historical or current event that shows the process and outcome of adaptation.

No, this isn’t an angst riddled preface to the piece that was NOT accepted for publication, which also would have had a small check involved. I was told by the poet laureate of Oregon (K.S.) to not expect a big huge hug when sending in my submission, implying that the staff — editorial people at this non-profit, Oregon Humanities — have their own little dance to the beat of a different literary drummer thing going on.

I get that, these non-profits staffed by some pretty middle of the road peeps, or culture wars warriors, or people who have a set and proscribed middle land of what they believe is music to their ears or what would be acceptable stuff for their funders’ and readers’ sensibilities.

Therefore, the rejection letter I got yesterday, via email, with a couple of typos in the body written by the editor of this magazine, was expected, but like anytime I attempt a corn-artichoke-green chile-vegan cheese souffle —  and it’s definitely putting in all that energy, using all those well-handled ingredients, shepherding all the care and the oven acumen —  when the souffle comes out floppy or semi-deflated, my hardened heart still skips a few beats and I want to kick the cast iron ceramic pot into the woods hissing and steaming.

Same with a rejection letter! Err, make that plural. Dozens of them. In the hundreds. Even after 45 years of rejections, I feel the bile bubble up! Then I remember how much I hated that masters of fine arts group of people I have intellectually intercoursed with over the years!

There is good writing out there, just not much of it coming from MFA programs. What may have provided an engine for a genuine attention to craft, fifty years ago, Rockefeller Foundation notwithstanding, has withered and left an enfeebled cult of pseudo expertise. For the genetic disposition of creative writing programs is linked to the paradoxical stigmatizing and entitlements of University attendance. The goal of the CIA and State Dept is one thing, and we’re talking less than best and brightest here, and the ideological imprint is actually probably minor, but the unintended vaccinations of rationality, the ingesting of sociological and a generic lexical sensibility is significant. Art that has lost anger and moral obsession, has left a low stakes hobby culture of career minded ruthlessness coupled to creative flaccidity. The work is constrained in the same ways, psychologically, that allows mute absorption of all aspects of the Spectacle. The concrete and specific becomes generic by a rational process of observation that brackets the irrational and working within the institution is a tacit acceptance of the hierarchies of the system that desires to kill off dissent and opposition, and that means killing off the impulse to question. The white supremacist establishment shares the structural dynamics of the University. MFA program as Pentagon. Now there are exceptions, I guess. But creative writing largely, following the lead of the Iowa Writers Workshop is in the business of staying in business.  — John Steppling

The compulsive repetitive nature of mass marketing has gone a long ways in the training of perception. But it is the mystifying of repetition, the pretense is of difference. And this seems crucial. The liberal white class, the people who run institutional theater, and University programs in writing, believe largely in a marketed reality within which stories of individualism can be played out. Clear cut the forest, the better to inspect ‘psychology’ as it is operative in each ‘character’. This links also to my last post and this idea of mastery. You cannot master the forest, without mostly cutting it down. The sense of space: that theatrical space, linked to an ‘off stage’, to an elsewhere that is unconscious, is by its very nature submissive. The submission allows for that walk in the forest. That walk is creative and it also the discovery of a path. The Situationists used to say, get a map of Berlin and use it to navigate yourself around Milan. — John Steppling

I’ll shift out of the woe is me thing, and discuss quickly what just took place on Dissident Voice Sunday, a Christy Rodgers piece, “Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance: The Five Stages of Ecocide.” I was opening up DV, when I found Christy’s powerful piece, and read it, because I was not able to settle down after watching on my free Hulu, If Beale Street Could Talk.

She covers the so-called stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Grief, Acceptance — as we collectively and individually confront the great dying, and confront all those feedback loops and lag times and tipping points to our rape of the world as they are now being played out as the chickens coming home to roost.  Fricken Chaucer: Some six centuries ago, when Geoffrey  used it in The Parson’s Tale:

And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfully retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

— Geoffrey Chaucer, 1390, The Parson’s Tale

Malcom X, those chickens coming back to roost.

Rodgers is talking about this climate warming chaos, the stages of grief, confronting what in our lifetimes is the most dramatic event civilization has spurred and will ever witness. She is part of an artist collective, Dark Mountain, and she is prefacing the latest anthology by talking about the deep remnants of human pain during this bearing witness and bearing the weight and cause of the quickening of species extinction and the betrayal of all those goods and services capitalism and other forms of rendering civilization put into the equation of take or give.

Dark Mountain’s latest anthology, #15, In the Age of Fire, has just been published. Material from its 51 authors and artists is showcased on the project’s website. Rodgers, DV:

Acceptance doesn’t mean accommodation with oppression and injustice. It means acknowledgment that we aren’t trying to prevent the apocalypse, because civilization is the apocalypse. We are trying to open a path to a future that is worth living in. Our feelings are experienced individually, and they do not directly impact the material world. But they are not irrelevant. The path to truth for a complex being must itself be complex. On the day a hundred thousand people come into the streets to grieve together for the lost reefs, the lost forests, and all the unnumbered victims, human and non-human, of civilization’s rise, we can mark the beginning of a new era in human life on this planet.

At the Brink of Extinction on the Coast Near the Salmon River

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

— “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

A crossroads is the big X in my life, like the symbol of the thunderbird in many myths of original peoples of the American Pacific Northwest, Southwest, East Coast, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

Of all the places I now am rooted in and adapting to —  the Central Oregon Coast —  I am thinking long and hard about what it means to have traveled through body, soul and mind in a 62-year-old journey.

I’m thinking about how I ended up in Otis, near Cascade Head on the Pacific. From birth in San Pedro, California, upbringing in the Azores, formative years in Paris, France, and learning teenage years in the Sonora, from Arizona to Guaymas, I am here reinvigorating what many elders I’ve crossed paths with as adopted vision quest instructors have taught me.

When you are ready, come to me. I will take you into nature. In nature you will learn everything that you need to know. –

Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

I was told that very lesson by friends’ dads and aunties from so many tribes – Papago, Chiricahua and White River Apache, Navajo, Yaqui, Tohono O’odham. Even at the bottom of the Barrancas del Cobre, several Tarahumara elders imparted the same wisdom: In nature you will learn everything you need.

I received the same tutelage in Vietnam by ethnic tribes leaders near the Laos border 25 years ago. And I learned the same points in my life six years ago on the Island of St. John from a turtle hunter who had grown up in Dominica.

Ironically, just a few days when I was welcoming 2019 into my life, I received the same sort of holistic “how to live in harmony” message from a social worker friend who is also an enrolled member of the Grande Ronde tribe. He texted me this:

“I chatter, chatter as I flow to join the brimming river, for men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.”

This from a tribal elder who I worked with on independent living programs for foster youth. One of our clients was from the Grande Ronde tribe living in Clackamas County, Oregon, receiving services for developmental disabilities caused by fetal alcohol syndrome.

My former colleague waited five minutes before a follow-up text came to me: “Bro’, that’s from Lord Tennyson, so don’t go all Dances with Wolves on me, man . . . haha.”

That text came to me while I was solitary, across from a sand spit where 20 harbor seals were banana-splitting in their favorite haul-out near Cascade Head, where the Salmon River pushes out freshwater ions, tannins, soil streams into the Pacific just north of Lincoln City.

The pinnipeds were cool, but listless. Instead, I was busy espying two bald eagles swooping down on the sand a hundred yards from the seals who then began pecking and ripping at a pretty good-sized steel-head carcass.

The moment before the incoming tide shifted hard and was about to isolate me on a lone rocky outcropping, I was thinking like a mountain, sort of – at least I was deep in the afterglow of having just reread Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac:

A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank, to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.  – Thinking like a Mountain, Aldo Leopold

How did I get here, Oregon’s Central Coast? How did I end up learning about eagles pecking at the afterbirth of sea lions in and around the rookeries here on this coast? Why is the eagle, a talisman for me since my early years traveling throughout the American Southwest and into Mexico, so important to me now?

Adaptation or extinction, change versus stagnation. For so many reasons, change and evolution have been part and parcel of my life – newspaper journalist, novelist, college professor, case manager for adults with disabilities, social worker for homeless veterans, and a million more intersections in a world of apparent chaos.

The Mexican flag of those Estados Unidos Mexicanos is an eagle on a prickly pear cactus with a snake in its mouth. I learned as a high school junior that the ancient Aztecs knew where to build their city Tenochtitlan once they saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a lake.

The beauty of the American eagle adapting to the toxins in DDT is clear: Homo sapiens seems historically to never employ the precautionary principle for both ourselves as a species and others in the ecosphere when creating and dispersing new powerful technologies and chemicals.

All of this was coursing through my mind as a scampered across large sloughed-off rocks and boulders where the Pacific was now tangling with the Salmon River.

Eagles there dining on entrails and then in my memory cave, like a magical realism moment, other eagle quests flooded my memory – and I was there, in the now, with a river otter toying with me just offshore, and then studying that tidal estuary, hoping to keep my Timberlines dry, ruminating about age, and all the adaptations I’ve made easily and also kicking and screaming, yelling, “No more change . . . no more upheaval.” Like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha:

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!

See the source image Another one of my muses, Gabriel Garcia Marquez then came into focus while those eagles were picking apart muscles of the steel-head and then clouds only this part of the Pacific can incubate started swirling above me on cue —

He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I am still waylaid by that concept, eliminating the bad [to] magnify the good. I am coursing through understanding myself in this walkabout, here in Otis, not exactly the center of anyone’s universe. But then, the nagging Marquez again, and a quote I used to deploy to students in El Paso to think beyond their false hopes: “He who awaits much can expect little.”

I have lived most of my life working with the so-called “bad” — disenfranchised and economically strafed people, those with substance abuse challenges both mocked and misunderstood, and those not on the neural normal scale – assisting them to adapt to their own hard histories and epigenetic bad cards dealt to be self-enhancing people.

There seems to always an eagle overhead when I am going deep into the recesses of memory. In Spokane when I was with a battle-scarred veteran friend who was at a cemetery ready to commit suicide. When I put my sister’s ashes into the sea near Hyder, Alaska. The moment I was called in Vancouver when my brother-in-law died.

Then, it hit me while driving away from Cascade Head — those eagles have been my talismans for six bloody decades! The words of writers, from the minds of people like Louise Erdrich or Jorge Luis Borges, or way back to Beowulf, and farther back to Muhammad al Tulmusani, are also my talismans of sort, but the eagle has been my vision quest. Not the brown eagle of the Aztec incubation, but the bald eagle.

These galvanizing moments are serious times of not just reflection, but ruminating and cultivating change. Adapting.

My father said when I was born in 1957, several bald eagles from Catalina Island were spotted near the San Pedro hospital where I was delivered —   Little Company of Mary Hospital.

Here, 62 years later, I now have the sense to take that “sign” to my grave – bald eagle vision quest.

I’m thinking about 36 million years ago, when the first eagles descended from the kite line. I’m thinking reptiles, and 66 million years ago when birds evolved from the lizards. Looking at the ocean broiling up in Whale Cove will do that to the mind.

Millions of years of adaptations, brother, sister, eagle, and then Thoreau ends up dredging from me a fractal of thought every single day in this tidal wetlands as tides in and tides out signal climatic climaxes yet to come:  “Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

Adaptations for this American symbol,  Haliaeetus leucocephalus —  as the continual use of DDT (and other pesticides) spread throughout the country  —  was a world of constant trials and tribulations. And near extinction.

From 1917 to 1953, the “adaptation” of Alaskan human salmon fishers to an abundance of salmon was to harvest more and more runs, intentionally killing more than 100,000 bald eagles as a threat to “their”  catches.

The lack of adaptive abilities of a species like the bald eagle when faced with the unnatural distillations of chemicals by humanity should have hit us hard fifty years ago: birds that weigh in at 10 to 14 pounds, with wingspans of up to 8 feet, having strength and agility to pull salmon out of the sea while underwater themselves, and a lifespan of up to 30 or more years in the wild can’t weather man-made toxins.

If the 36-million-old eagle can’t make it under the assault of better living through chemistry , then it’s easy to understand humanity’s lack of adaptive skills (how many short years of evolution have we been messing with our adaptations?) to stop business-as-usual industrial and lifestyle processes like spraying DDT. We too are now experiments in the grand cauldron of chemicals produced and released daily.

The effects of that process of humanity “adapting” their environment to their needs —  industrial agriculture demanding insect-free habitats with these pesticides that Rachel Carson, mother of the environmental movement, discussed in her 1962 book, Silent Spring  — was the near extirpation of the American symbol of strength, power, independence and persistence!

Haliaeetus leucocephalus, from Greek, sea, hals and eagle, aietos and white-head, leukos kephalē !

Recall from our Baby-Boomer high school biology books — DDT and other pesticides spread like a slow-motion tsunami across America, sprayed on plants and then eaten by small animals, which were later consumed by birds of prey. Today, we call it bio-accumulation. That poison did its dark magic “art” on both adult bald eagles and their eggs.  The egg shells became too thin to withstand the 36-day incubation period, often crushed under the weight of one of the parents.

Again, what I learned in the 1970s as a high schooler – eagle eggs that were not crushed during brooding mostly did not hatch due to high levels of DDT and its derivatives. Large quantities of PCBs and DDT ended up in fatty tissues and gonads. The maladaptation of the eagle to pesticides was to become infertile due to man’s maladaptation, or in the case of Homo sapiens, the rearrangement of ecosystems and organic pathways.

That was me in Tucson, Arizona, scrambling through desert ‘scapes. I was junior in high school when DDT was officially banned in 1972, largely due to Rachel’s amazing book and petitioning. That was eight years after she had died (Apr 14, 1964) at age 56 from cancer (many attribute breast cancer to the poisons of her time).

Eagles were listed in 1967 as endangered on one listing and then later, 1972, nationally through the Endangered Species Act.

I remember eagles as brothers and myth carriers from many of my buddies who were Navajo, Zuni, Apache and Hopi. Their mothers and uncles would tell us many stories about eagles. I remember traveling to El Paso for a wrestling match and seeing the Thunderbird burned millions of years ago into the Franklin Mountain range. This amazing natural formation of red clay on the mountainside, watching over the Chihuahua desert, captured me then, and later when I was a reporter and teacher in that part of the world.

I was touched then as 17-year-old wrestler visiting a place where a huge eagle to me (thunderbird), was there with outstretched wings and head tilted to the side as if protecting us all from predators, who I knew even at that age were us, Homo sapiens.

Image result for Thunderbird El Paso images

Ten years later and for two decades I was there at that sacred place, a mountain along the Paseo del Norte, straddling Juarez, El Paso and New Mexico. In the 1990s developers were wanting to move (bulldoze) more and more up Thunderbird Mountain for more and more eyesores, AKA tract home subdivisions. Writers and artists on both sides of the border came together to not only stop that sort of desecration, but also to stem the tide of pollutants in the Rio Grande and the denuding of the fragile Chihuahua Desert.

On one of our 10- foot wide protest banners we held along the US-Mexico border, the bald eagle was painted on large and brilliantly, as a symbol of resistance and a “comeback kid story” because man’s chemicals were banned. For many thousands living and working in Juarez, their offspring came out stillborn or with anencephaly – parts of its brain and skull missing. Those industrial chemicals from the American-owned twin plants have not been banned.

Proof of Homo sapiens’ chemicals prompting maladaptation in our offspring.

So, here I am in Otis, Oregon, thinking about that El Paso Thunderbird while watching the estuary bring in swamp-creating waters from the Pacific. What does it mean that I am adapting now in Otis, the town that was up for sale in 1999 for $3 million. That’s 193 acres (another auction occurred in 2004). I have coffee at the quasi-famous Otis Café which was not part of the town’s auction (it never got bought). The café owner’s grandfather bought the land from descendants of the Siletz Indians for $800 in 1910.

As a direct result of the DDT ban, on June 28, 2007 the Department of Interior took the American bald eagle off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species.

The reality of putting the bald eagle in peril, and then its eventual recovery and broad habitat colonization means that they are seasonal residents near Yaquina Head. Eagles are like those proverbial human Snow Bird residents of Oregon who end up in Arizona or Nevada or even Hawaii to get the chill of Pacific rain forest winter out of their bones – they go where the living is best.

Here is the adaptation for the eagle – they go into the rookery of the murres, which have a major nesting colony at Yaquina Head. The eagle swooping in and taking the occasional adult murre isn’t the problem, scientists point out.

It’s the encroachment of “secondary predators” that is having a negative impact on the murres’ reproductive success.

An adult eagle is expert at swooping in and grabbing an adult murre and flying off. That’s not putting the murre species in peril. It’s the crummy hunter juvenile bald eagles who end up landing on the rookery. All the adult murres then scatter into the air.

That door then opens for brown pelicans and gulls to alight and grab eggs or murre chicks. These secondary predators will destroy hundreds of eggs in minutes.

Adaptation and re-adaptation.

Image result for murres and eagles

 

Image result for murres and eaglesEcosystems out of balance, and now in Otis, I am adapting to the reality of the human footprint; even a small one like mine, is significant to each and every micro-biodome I come in contact with.

Soon, maybe, the eagle will be put on the hit list, and they too will feel the hard impact of game wardens’ bullets taking them out because, again, adaptation for the bald eagle means things get more and more out of balance.

Murres or eagles? People or salmon? Crab cakes or whales?

The weight of place, and being one with geographic and ecologic time always culls my disparate attempts at calm and inner self exploration. Otis, the Pacific, the entire riot that encompasses rowdy sea lions and the humpback’s 12-foot blowhole sprays, all those murres and double-crested cormorants, petrels dive bombing, black oystercatchers waddling at the tide lines, now are gestating into entire “memory palaces” for me. I think of my place alive in the world. The mutable feast of learning in my walkabout is a continual journey of adapting.

I am looking at an amazing gift of words, and from the Oregon Humanities Magazine, a serendipitous parallel moment for me and the works of Melissa Madenski, who in her essay is talking about this same geographic arena, where she’s lived for more than four decades and just recently left. She talks about spruce, alder, hemlock and maple and their powerful bio-nets and biological relationships through their interconnected forests of roots they share:

Unlike me, they don’t question or worry—that is the wisdom I project on them at least—a symbol for acceptance of what is. I’m coming to believe in my own memory palace that lives in my roots and the roots of my children, a stability that remains even as visible markers disappear. Look at the big picture, I tell myself. You got to live here for over half of your life; your children were able to grow up here; you got to love the land and leave good soil. – “Unclaiming the Land” (February 26, 2018)

Today, I foist my emotional and spiritual rucksack loaded up with my own learning and traveling as I engage with Otis, the Central Oregon Coast, and the people and cetaceans, alike, a repository for my next learning, my new series of adaptations. The bald eagle for all its battles and all the mythological connections, is my talisman and vision quest.

But I feel like that Zuni Eagle Boy who came upon an eaglet that had fallen out of the nest. The boy hunted for the eagle, foregoing working in the fields while the rest of his clan worked and worked.

His brothers resented the boy for raising this chick, who got big and healthy, big enough to fly away. But the eagle stayed with the boy. The clan was ready to kill the eagle to get the boy back, returned to the fields to grow corn and squash.

The boy saw that the eagle was downtrodden in his cage, and asked why. The eagle said he had grown to love the boy for saving him and raising him but had to leave so the boy could go back to his duties and be a boy with his people.

The boy wanted to leave with the eagle, and finally the eagle succumbed to the boy’s pleas.

The eagle told the boy to fill pouches with dried meats and fruit and blue corn bread and to put two bells on the eagle’s feet. The boy climbed on the eagle’s back and they flew off. They ended up in Sky Land, in the city with thousands of eagles who looked like people when they took off their wings and clothing of feathers when they entered their homes. The boy received wings and feather clothing.

As in many stories of rite of passage and adaptation by Native tribes, the Eagle Boy disobeyed the orders of the Eagles to not go south, and once the boy did, he thought it was a beautiful and safe place. Until people of bones – skeletons – chased him.

He made it back to Sky Land, but he was not welcome there for disobeying. Finally, the eagle that the boy had raised said he’d help him fly back to his people. The boy took an old cloak of feathers and made the arduous journey back. His friend the eagle circled above him the entire way to make sure he made it safe, and once Eagle Boy landed, the eagle took the cloak of feathers and flew away.

The Eagle Boy lived with his people, who honored him because they knew that Eagle Boy wanted to be  with his people, even though he could fly away at any time.

Like Eagle Boy, I look to the skies and smile at the eagle’s graceful and wide veronicas as thermals take them up where humans can’t see clearly. The boy adapted and loved his people, even though the journey to the Sky Land was always with him and in his stories of adventure.

I am here, looking for my own Sky Land, but cognizant of the fact the love of my clan – family, fiancé, daughter, friends – is the uplift I count on to make it through the every-changing evolution of my mind and body. I can be an eagle on the ground, scampering through gravity-fed fields, hoping to understand how I might lay claim to finally understanding what all the adaptations mean in a life so lived.

Kilowatt and Gallons Per Wash-load Illiterate Americans

No Water. No Life. No Blue. No Green.

Sylvia Earle

In the tradition of many of my posts, I end up looking at the local through a sometimes fine and other times coarse lens to extrapolate what this country, and most First World We Are the Only Ones Who Matter countries, is facing way beyond a world without polar and glacial ice.

The formula is simple — and you can replace “there” or “here” with whichever community or city or county or state or region you care to discuss. This is an earth where almost everywhere on the planet is supercharged on noxious capitalism and addictive consumerism;  where the 99 Percent of the People Are Up a Shit Creek without a Paddle: the roads here, or the bridges there, or the emergency response here, or the water system there, or the schools here, or the housing there, or the chronically ill, under-employed, unemployed here, or the disenfranchised there, or the poor here, or the health care system there, or the ecosystems here or the state of the economy there.

Look, the conversations in a town like Newport don’t involve some of the important issues that, say, a Dahr Jamail might write about. Newport, which numbers 10,000 as regular citizens/residents but balloons on some days — when the sun is out and the temperatures in Portland and all over the state of Oregon and Washington, and parts of Idaho, and California hit above 90 degrees F — to 50,000 people  is small town, small minded, simple yet has to deal with modern and global warming issues no matter how distracted we get on the pot holes issues.

Up and down this coast and California’s and Washington’s, many communities can only survive (regressive real estate taxes and sin taxes/hotel taxes/gas taxes) with that huge influx of tourists pushing their big butts into these respective communities with internal combustion machines with other internal combustion machines (boats, jet skis) in tow. We survive on trinkets, fish and chips sold, time shares, Air B & Bs, booze, food and drugs (and pot, now that cannabis is legal in OR).

One big Black Friday retail and service economy chunk of the year that feeds the residents in a boom or bust cycle that has made it almost impossible for parents to raise children because parents have to have two or five jobs between the two of them. The schools are busting at the seams and burn-out is high in public service jobs.

And, many tourists come out here, think: “This is it for my last hurrah . . . I’m moving here”; or they imagine it’s the ideal place from which to land after leaving the madness of big city life and/or to raise a family and send them to school while enjoying the beach town life.

Oh, I understand the draw, but the reality is leaving one city because of its wild fires or increasing vehicular traffic or rising crime rates or lowering air/water quality levels or degrading environmental situations or discordant populations or weakening school systems or flagging labor opportunities or lowering standards of living actually just brings all of that and more to communities like Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Reedsport, Coos Bay etc.

The world of Corrupt, Dog-eat-Dog, Disconnected, Non-Systems Thinking Capitalism follows American wherever they go. Nothing about regional planning for resiliency, for sharing of assets and that includes water, air, industries taught in schools, taught at work, or taught within families or generations. Instead, Americans are acculturated to boom or bust; and I notice more and more Americans laugh at the places and people they left behind. They blame the people in LA for sticking it out, even blame them for being 4th, 6th or 10th generation Californians. Americans like to piss on everyone else’s parade, not just internationally, but domestically as well. This is the schizoid blue state/red state/purple state infantilism and corruption.

People here laugh or scream at Salem, Portland, Bend, what have you. You know, so much for rah-rah “we are one state and should act accordingly as one state for all.”

Here’s how one scenario, locally, plays out nationally — again, replace pink shrimp fishermen/women with Volkswagen workers or Amazon workers or hospital workers or, well, you get it: pit worker against worker.

 

NEWPORT — It’s been weeks of blue tarps and yawns on the Newport shrimp boats. But now, frustration is on deck too.

The Pacific pink shrimp season has been open for a month, but processors and fishermen are still far apart on price. The captains and crews of some 115 boats along the coast are holding out while a deal is cut. Their patience is being tried as a fleet of some 20 boats from Washington and Columbia River ports make hay in the traditional fishing grounds of the Newport fleet.

“I don’t know what these guys would do if that was happening out front down here,” said Coos Bay shrimp boat owner Nick Edwards.

Some 500,000 pounds of shrimp landed so far by boats breaking the strike indicates there’s good product volume to be had.

But, Edwards said, shrimpers are looking at offers of 30, 60, 80 and 90 cents per pound for the different grades of shrimp, down from 45, 72, 90 cents and $1.20 last year, when fishermen struck for 44 days to get that price schedule.

Edwards blamed the slow and steady consolidation of processing facilities under just a few corporate names for a lack of competition and less chance for a deal fishermen can accept.

Newport fisherman Gary Ripka said that north coast boats breaking the strike have traditionally observed an unspoken agreement to stay well north of Newport.

“They’re rubbing it in our faces,” he said. “They’re fishing right in front of town. Good trips. It’s become a real boiling point.”

Oh my, oh my! So much for red-blooded All-American solidarity. This is capitalism run amok a million times over. Pitting worker against families, men against women, youth against old. Breaking solidarity strikes. Market monopolization the curse here, and everywhere. Hell, the reputation of Pacific Seafood Group in Newport gouging independent fishers and controlling all aspects of the market, including the only ice making facility in the area to pack on board the catch of the day, speaks of the crude, mean, boom and bust, I got mine, you ain’t getting yours mentality of a country that was based on murdering millions of First Nation inhabitants and using stolen peoples to toil the land. A nation of Irish and German white slaves, and Chinese slaves.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Ha. Replace Argentina with Flint, Detroit, Baltimore, and hundreds of cities in the USA. How’s that Flint Lead Enhanced Water working out?

We shit on our own water supply, spray carcinogens on our own human offspring, and we cook the goose that lays the golden egg.

Much of the allure here is the wide open beaches, cold Pacific tides, sometime incredible sunny summer days in the 70s, and, well, fish and crustaceans on the menu. Whale watching. Sea lion and seal entertainment.

But we have gray whales washing on shore emaciated, sick, big carcasses rotting on shore. More and more of them. Seals and sea lions, sickened, too. Rivers clogged or polluted. Yet, the tourist brochures show whales in pristine condition, seals and birds in a natural wonderland, dolphins breaching the waters and elk crossing the Highway 101.

Like all communities who do not know the value of all those ecosystems and nature services, and like all communities that have a few rich and the rest struggling hard, and like all communities with a rural character that have high youth poverty, high drug use, high homelessness, Newport and Lincoln City are in the midst of more struggle than just shrimpers duking it out for higher rates per pound.

We are vulnerable to droughts, vulnerable to huge rain events, vulnerable to an earthquake. Vulnerable to education cuts. Vulnerable to population influxes and depopulation. I wrote about that, here:

Water, Water, Water: War Against Humanity

Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Change

Below is another article about another transplant — the water planner is from Seattle area. He is here, in quietude, and my guess Mike below is in the high echelon income bracket. He has a nice house, I am sure, and he has the time to redesign it to be more “green” and water “efficient.”

He showed a group of us some really cool rainwater collection and gray water collection systems, even gray water filtering systems to deliver potable water. You know, the designs Mike has facilitated mostly go to the very rich, or rich communities. But, in the end, water is more precious than gold, and cities across the country are using valuable H2o to water grass and trees. We have toilets that leak, toilets that flush five gallons a use. We have people who have no idea how the water that gets to their taps in Lincoln City got there.

The amount of electricity to move water from source to plant, from purification, to pumping station, to tanks and then from tanks to homes, well, it’s huge.

Electricity in the water

Much of the electricity used to supply water is consumed in pumping. To collect water, it is pumped from below ground or from surface water such as lakes and rivers. It then needs to be pushed through pipes to the water treatment plant, pushed through treatment systems (such as filters) and pushed through more pipes up to a water tower (typically). From there, gravity does the work to push the water to your home. This pumping consumption, along with some miscellaneous treatment plant consumption, on average adds up to about 1.5 kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed per thousand gallons [kWh/kgal] of water. This does not include energy that may be applied to the water in your home, such as heat for hot water.

When the water goes down the drain, it requires more electricity. The wastewater is collected, pumped, treated and discharged. An additional 1.7 kWh/kgal of electricity is expended on wastewater pumping and treatment.

So, in total, and the amount varies depending on where you live, about 3.2kWh of electricity is consumed for each thousand gallons of water delivered to your home. For a kitchen faucet delivering five gallons per minute of water, the water-embodied electricity is pouring out at about 1,000 watts. That’s like running a virtual hairdryer every time you turn on the faucet.

What Uses the Most Energy in Your Home?

So, while we sit on our thumbs and allow the billionaires and millionaires and the military industrial octopus complex determine our destinies while destroying other countries’ destinies; while we listen to and view on dumb phone every conceivable perverted story akin to a Trump-Kushner Family Outing; while we stiff arm salute corporations, the boss, the job, the junk we have and the more junk we want, a gigantic swatch of the country, maybe 80 percent, will not be prepared for earthquake, flood, heat wave, fires, droughts, crop failures, disease outbreaks, food shortages, money woes.

So you betcha we are all Flint or Houston or Detroit or Paradise or Des Moines or Puerto Rica . . . . One hell of a lot more has to be done daily to fight, with weapons and tools. Yet, I am finding (see future postings, a future book of mine) more and more people who hate to know their history and who think life, including 12 years of school (or more if they are college-bound) is about “the job.” What we can’t use on the job, or to get a job, then it’s superfluous. More and more Americans across all sectors are desirous of only ways to perform on the job, how to land a job and what to do in that job.

Here is the story on Stormwater management. I hope it makes it in the local newspaper, though I think the editor is getting Paul Haeder Fatigue Syndrome because I go to these events, report on them and then write about them. I’ve already beaten a dead journalism horse to death many a time. But to repeat — we have gutted journalism at the local level so-so much that there is nothing in most towns, and those that have a day or two a week newsprint paper, well, threadbare seems to robust a word for today’s small-town and community news!

**–**                                     **–**

Local Sustainable Water Management Expert Encourages More Green Design

Water is a human right, according to many around the world. For Lincoln County, Oregon, residents, the fact that we have water delivered to us from one source – a plant on Big Creek River – belies the fragility of this source of sustenance.

For one local resident who is an integrated stormwater management expert, water planning is big: we may see up to 80 inches of rain a year hitting our county, but we need to make sure that rainfall gets back into the groundwater and replenishes the water cycle.

Michael Broili, principal of Living Systems Design, is passionate about sustainable development. He spoke to the Mid-Coast Watersheds Council monthly group in Newport about what designs could be beneficial for Lincoln County residents.

“Water’s been so much of my life,” Broili said, emphasizing he now resides at South Beach, after spending a quarter of a century in the Puget Sound area. “I was in the Navy and then was a commercial fisherman, and then water management design for twenty-five years, so I know the value of water.”

He talked a lot about water management as a holistic approach for getting cities, schools, businesses and home owners to look at ways to develop gray water collection systems to help offset the need to use pure water from the Water Plant to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets.

A typical short term rain event creates tons of water just coming off a small roof, let along all the impervious surfaces like parking lots, warehouses, and compacted roads and streets.

“One inch of rain coming off a thousand square foot roof produces 623 gallons of runoff,” he stated. That’s almost 2.5 tons of water.

Reducing this water sluicing from hard surfaces back into stormwater catchments and diversions prevents so many of issues tied to the health of rivers and other watersheds, as well as stopping erosion.

The 20 people at the Visual Arts Center got to see some designs Mike helped create and implement in cities like Seattle, Shoreline, Edmunds that help rivers stay healthy through less disturbance (scrubbing) from surges during rain events.

Rain gardens and bio swales are two ways to get water from a parking lot to filter through biological means (grass, soil, gravel, plant roots) so the runoff ends up cleaner as it heads back into the stormwater systems.

Mortality of salmon species has been cut through mitigating the hydrocarbons that might have ended up directly into streams but were instead held and retained through several biofiltration landscape designs.

On a more holistic level, practitioners like Broili call it Hydrologic Restoration, and while we are in a rural area, unlike Portland or Seattle, all the designs for new construction Lincoln City or Newport could help utilizing graywater capture systems for landscape purposes, as well as creating innovative and healing rain gardens with some dynamic zones and robust planting. Existing structures could be retrofitted to these designs.

His mantra is simple when it comes to construction sites – “Find ways to reduce site disturbance and restore soil function.”

Some of the members of the MCWC wanted to know about permeable road and parking surfaces as well as green roofs. “The goal is to disconnect hard surfaces and bring back the water cycle to a near forested situation where no runoff occurs because of the natural features of complex soil layers, leaf litter (duff) and transpiration from trees.”

The MCWC’s mission is aligned with many of Broili’s hydrologic planning goals – “MCWC is dedicated to improving the health of streams and watersheds of Oregon’s Central Coast so they produce clean water, rebuilding healthy salmon populations and support a healthy ecosystem and economy.”

Part of May 2’s presentation was anchored by a famous Benjamin Franklin saying, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”

We discussed the City of Newport’s Ocean Friendly Garden that was spearheaded several years ago by Surfrider at City Hall. Surfrider also looked at pollution going into Nye Creek, finding several homes’ sewer discharge was directly entering the stormwater system.

The City’s sewer and stormwater infrastructure has been mapped and various groups including Surfrider helped  advocate for revisions to the municipal code to mandate best management practices for sewer, stormwater and other non-point source pollution controls.

Six years ago, the City of Newport created a new stormwater utility and an opt-out incentive program for residents and businesses who want to disconnect from the system in order to install the green infrastructure Broili discussed to prevent rainwater from leaving their property.

“This may seem like big city stuff,” Broili told the crowd. “But rural communities and a city like Newport can benefit from integrated water management.”

**–**                   end of article                  **–**

Again, I could go on and analyze what I wrote and what bigger issues parlay from this small talk on a small part of sustainability, yet it is not so small, is it, given the precious nature of water, how we get it, how it is taken from the water cycle, and what happens to the ecosystems, to boot?

I’ve also reported on James Anderson’s research tied to water vapors and increased storm activity.

The ocean was running almost 10º C warmer all the way to the bottom than it is today and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere would have meant that storm systems would be violent in the extreme, because water vapor, which is an exponential function of water temperature, is the gasoline that fuels the frequency and intensity of storm systems.

The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero. When you look at the irreversibility and you study the numbers, this along with the moral issue is what keeps you up at night.

This Harvard scientist worked on the ozone hole decades ago — remember, chlorofluorocarbons?

I know every day I wake up I am about to teach people things — PK12 or daily in my interactions with people, or what I can teach myself. I understand that capitalism and the way industry has been set up have to disappear. It is not an easy task when the controllers and the purse strings and one’s survivability is set by a small elite with their roving marauders of money launderers, banks, cops, collectors, usury thugs.

I’ll let Dahr Jamail have the last word, over at Truthout:

Each day I wake and begin to process the daily news of the climate catastrophe and the global political tilt into overt fascism. The associated trauma, grief, rage and despair that come from all of this draws me back to the work of Stan Rushworth, Cherokee elder, activist and scholar, who has guided much of my own thinking about how to move forward. Rushworth has reminded me that while Western colonialist culture believes in “rights,” many Indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself.

Hence, when the grief and rage threaten to consume me, I now orient myself around the question, “What are my obligations?” In other words, “From this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?“

Each of us must ask ourselves this question every day, as we face down catastrophe.

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

***

Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President

Earth Day is 24/7, and Every Hour and Every Minute of Every Day According to Local Activists

For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.

— The Culture of Make Believe, Derrick Jensen

Part One — I am scrambling to get this first part of the Earth Day two-part article series up and running while I work hard Friday night to write the second, more sobering part of what Earth Day 2019 is and, unfortunately, what it is not.

I like going local by looking at global issues. I will talk about the reality of recycling products as a big scam. I will write about all this chatter from millionaires like Naomi Klein and now the leadership of the so-called alternative web journalist site, The Intercept. I watched the interview and the live-illustration by Molly Crabtree, “We Can Be Whatever We Have the Courage to See,” which, according to Klein’s millionaire husband, Avi Lewis, has had 4 million hits already as of April 18, 2019.

Hits on the internet, and this Lewis fellow declares this as a huge win for Mother Earth, for “the movement, and, surely, a grand win for the New Green Deal. This can be so dishearenting to hear the idiocy around these moments and digital expressions. Earth systems are in total collapse, and it’s more than some Canadian writer’s world view or the Holly-wood-ization of the world seen through the looking glass of the two dirtiest countries’ liberal spokespeople: Canada and USA.

Daily, it becomes more and more delusional on all aisles of the political manure pile, but also on all fronts of mainstream media and fake alternative media. The Press is out to lunch, man, big time. Having Today’s (4/18) Democracy Now:

We can be whatever we have the courage to see.” That’s the message of a stunning new video released by The Intercept, Naomi Klein and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple Wednesday that imagines a future shaped by the Green New Deal. It’s called “A Message from the Future with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The film was co-written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself, along with Avi Lewis, the co-founder of The Leap. We speak with Avi Lewis and award-winning artist Molly Crabapple about the power of art to create social change.

Crabtree’s new thing is as follows:

As an award-winning animator, she has pioneered a new genre of live-illustrated explainer journalism, collaborating with Jay Z, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The ACLU and The Equal Justice Initiative to tell stories about America’s prison system and history of institutional racism.

“Live-illustrated explainer journalism”! Wow. That’s a whole other book to write about, what this all means to humanity’s greater and greater loosening of its grip on sanity. In any case, the part two of my Earth Day hit will look at this new-fangled mixed up and same old Capitalism loving soft shoe bull crap lying about what has to be done to mitigate a world without ice. Because that’s the fact, Jack, so bullet trains and cool ass urban jobs and folks like Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, a Canadian self-proclaimed Jewish couple with Jewish children, well, they are living the good millionaires’ liberal lifestyles, and, the revolution and the rebellion will not live in the belly of the controlled opposition which they are very centered inside.

Interesting the power centers in Canada vis-a-vis the family lines of both Klein and Lewis, from Wikipedia, really are at the top of elites. I bring this up to point out that the narrative around climate change and the New Green Deal and poverty and envirogees and starvation and physically harming toxins in this Mad Mad Mad World of Consumerism CANNOT be shunted into elitist and vain-glory liberal and pro-Capitalist politics or centers of non-profit gobbledygook:

Avi Lewis is the great grandson of Moshe Losz (Lewis), an outspoken member of the Jewish Bund who left Svislach, Poland (today Belarus), after being interrogated by the Russians and threatened with death or the Gulag for his political activity. He left for Montreal in 1921, with his wife Rose (née Lazarovitch) and three children. Avi Lewis is the grandson of former federal NDP leader David Lewis and the son of former Ontario NDP leader and diplomat Stephen Lewis and journalist Michele Landsberg. Avi Lewis is married to journalist and author Naomi Klein; his sister Ilana Landsberg-Lewis is the executive director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Naomi Klein was born in Montreal, Quebec, and brought up in a Jewish family with a history of peace activism. Her parents were self-described “hippies” who moved to Montreal from the U.S. in 1967 as war resisters to the Vietnam War. Her mother, documentary film-maker Bonnie Sherr Klein, is best known for her anti-pornography film Not a Love Story. Her father, Michael Klein, is a physician and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Her brother, Seth Klein, is director of the British Columbian office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Before World War II, her paternal grandparents were communists, but they began to turn against the Soviet Union after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. In 1942, her grandfather, an animator at Disney, was fired after the 1941 strike,[ and had to switch to working in a shipyard instead. By 1956 they had abandoned communism. Klein’s father grew up surrounded by ideas of social justice and racial equality, but found it “difficult and frightening to be the child of Communists”, a so-called red diaper baby.

Klein’s husband, Avi Lewis, was born into a well-connected political and journalistic family; he works as a TV journalist and documentary filmmaker. The couple’s only child, son Toma, was born on June 13, 2012. (Wikipedia)

I continue to question the elite’s role in furthering the decline of people and third world societies, and those playing around with apocalypse (art, education, performing, documentaries, non-profit complex) and those seeing green as the new non-profit profit industry, or green washing or green pornography thing, or green whacking or green is the new black towering inferno of lies, as in profits for all and great new renewable energy jobs and business pretty much as usual thinking.

You see, I just taught at a Toledo, Oregon, school, actually both HS and elementary schools. I will write about that, too. Youth that are really bad, according to one teacher (math) who hails from New Jersey but went to school in Massachusetts, taught there, Vermont, Eugene, OR, Bullhead City, AZ, and now Toledo. She told me that hands down this high school was the worst place she ever taught at.

She’s got 14 or more years under her belt as a traveling teacher, and now she lives in Newport with her highly-paid (compared to Toledo or Newport wages) husband who works for Oregon State University (average undergraduate/grad tuition — for a state school in a dumpy town, Corvallis,  is:  $11,166 for Oregon residents and $30,141 for out of State students and the 2019 graduate school tuition & fees are $14,061 for State residents and $24,483 for others). Interesting, this 50 year old-ish teacher with a middle class wage and state retirement portfolio, and a second wage earner in the mix, and they are white, so there is probably inherited well in the mix, telling me, a part-timer, 62, precarious worker (a substitute teacher, come on!), that in her limited scope, Toledo, Oregon (not Ohio) has the worse students in both Junior/Senior High School in her realm of teaching.

Image result for Toledo OR paper mill

This town is Koch Brothers-polluted with a paper-mill run by Georgia Pacific which is owned by the billionaire Koch brothers who despise poor people, hence the dirty water, the dirty air, the dangerous jobs and the low pay for parents and those future workers barely getting through high school (many want to quit and go to Jobs Corps or get their GED’s while pumping gas).

What makes these students “the most destructive to school property and the most disruptive and disrespectful,” according to the East Coast teacher, we’ll talk about that too, soon, in a future article. Or what makes a teacher declare that in the public school realm, that too will be addressed.

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

You know, all that paper the Klein-Lewis family uses for their copy and books, manuscript and TV scripts, etc., hmm, where does that shit come from? What are the consequences of all that paper use/misuse? All that virgin paper used in Congress, in political halls of injustice, and, yes, colleges and PK12?  Really, come on — these children are coughing up a storm from the pulp mill pollution. These youth I talked with several times are broken and need alternatives to classrooms with broken lights, peeling paint, and rows of desks — they are so down on themselves, so not confident they will go anywhere in life, so traumatized and broken, so chronically seized with negativity and put-downs and self-loathing . . . or self-delusional.

I guarantee, Earth Day to them is a day off, since it falls on the bizarre holiday of Easter Sunday/take off/Monday!

Image result for Toledo, Oregon paper mill and high school

Back to Part One —

Local Environmentalists Meet Inside for some Presentations — A Far-Cry from the Earth Days I Organized in Spokane! 

Celebration in Newport is April 22, at the public Library

The first “earth” day started really with nuts and bolts issues focusing on stopping air and water pollution, using a more sexy crisis as a platform for marching:  awareness around the annual increasing depletion of whale populations worldwide. That was in 1970, and the iconic blue and humpback whales were plastered all over posters and some were paper mâché giant icons that led the marchers on a pathway of civic engagement and political action tied to the planet’s degraded ecosystems, including those in cities.

On April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to bring voice to the planet and hold corporations responsible in large part for the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the U.S. and around the world, smog alerts were common, turning deadly. This fortified leading scientists and health experts to connect growing air, water, food and soil pollution to developmental delays in children, respiratory ailments and cancers in both young and old.

Almost 50 years ago — biologists supported by universities that were not so beholden to corporate influence and censorship — proved global biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants. We were just beginning as citizens to see how timber cutting and plowing over the rain-forests of the world for animal feed crops – to just name a few heavy-handed human scale degradations – could exponentially expand creating a much different – and lesser — world.

Those big events across the globe, especially the first earth day in Washington DC, pushed politicians, media and the average citizen to become aware of ecological challenges. The US Congress and President Nixon responded to the pressure, and in July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as significant environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

For Lincoln County – with three branch campuses of Oregon Coast Community College, and with the OSU Hatfield Center and a plethora of environmental and conservation groups, 2019 Earth Day is more like a whimper than a roar . . . a pebble splashing in the big blue Pacific Ocean.

It’s a huge body of water now hobbled with acidification fueled by the world’s oceans absorbing 93 percent of all carbon dioxide expelled through fossil fuel burning and forest burning.

Hypoxia, or dead zones, buffet the oceans around here, and from time to time, these oxygen-squeezed sections have huge marine species die-off’s. Sometimes fish like halibut just flee the waters nowhere to be found.

Towns like Newport, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Waldport and Yachats depend on whale watching, beach tourism, sport fishing and, of course, commercial fishing, yet we have significant issues tied to clear-cutting forests up to the ocean (or Highway 101); solid waste (bio-waste) dispersal on land and into watersheds; and significant fracturing of natural ecosystems through construction, road building and dike deployment to “hold back” natural sea and freshwater flooding. Our estuaries were once amazing natural systems of biological and hydrologic ebb and flow.

Interestingly, the Earth Day theme for the big groups organizing it last year was “End Plastic Pollution.” Many organizations – thousands – were working on ending single-use plastics and promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, as well as pushing for 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability, and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

That has become the strategy of non-profits and grassroots groups – educating citizens so they can become active players in demanding governments and corporations control and clean-up plastic pollution.

Most environmental issues, whether it’s stopping the slaughter of whales or curbing pesticide use, go to the core of the topic at hand by looking for frameworks from which to regulate. Part of the Earth Day celebrations I have been involved in as a coordinator in Spokane, Auburn and El Paso included passionate and knowledge voices who have lead movements, written books, directed documentaries and risked their lives to stop wanton destruction of, say, the Amazonian rain-forest.

Yes, getting entire groups of people and communities (including the colleges I taught at and for which I acted as sustainability coordinator) to take personal responsibility for whichever consumptive practice is producing more and more negative environmental effects, such as plastics, involves educating them on how to live a life of reducing, refusing, reusing, recycling and removing.

In one more year, 2020, the 50th anniversary of earth day arrives, but this year’s theme is Protect our Species. That includes the threatened and endangered species that are both rare, like the white rhino, snow leopard or the killer whale pod living in the Puget Sound, and once ubiquitous like butterflies, turtles, lizards, what have you.

However, there are more threads to the environmental quilt that are not just frayed, but outright missing in huge patches.

We are losing many insect species, and birds around the world are becoming fewer in terms of sheer numbers and diversity. Writer and researcher Elizabeth Kolbert made popular the science community’s assessment that we are in the Sixth Mass Extinction.

Kolbert:

Regarding the Anthropocene, on some level that’s neither here nor there. You could say that a meteor strike is natural in the sense that it’s part of the cosmos or whatever. But a meteor strike is unusual, and its effect is an unusual and devastating one for many other species. So I don’t think whether we are “natural” or not is the issue. Obviously, we’re having a very dramatic impact on the planet and on other species. And if you want to say that’s natural, fine. And if you want to say it’s unnatural, fine. We need to decide whether we like the impact we’re having, not whether we’re natural or not.

I am pretty new to the Central Oregon Coast—as in four months. Part of my journey into communities is I get to know the people, the systems within community structures – especially services tied to youth, aging, poverty and social justice – and the built and ecological environments.

I’m teaching PK12 in the schools. I just became a member of both Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I also am closely tied to Oregon’s writing communities, and my hope is to get more involved in the ones out here on the coast.

I’ve met some dedicated people on microplastic beach clean-ups and the big SOLVE beach clean-up. I’ve made an effort to listen to subject matter experts in order to glean from them knowledge I need to move forward as writer and activist.

I posed four fundamental questions to many environmental and conservation-minded people, tied to the value, meaning and effectiveness of Earth Day awareness and celebration campaigns —

  1. Students ask, “What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.
  2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — you are concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?
  3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past few years tied to the environment?
  4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.”

For Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager of Surfrider Foundation, his eye is on individual habits and consumption choices: “Consider the source and eventual fate of your purchases and consumption habits – think about that before you buy it. From foods to plastics, we need to understand the full impacts of what we purchase and consume. Buy local, reduce consumption or avoid “single-use”, compost, grow food and plant trees.”

It makes sense to look at the area’s youth as future leaders in the movement to stop the pollution and mitigate the effects of global warming. Martin Desmond, 67, is a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and has been in Newport for six years. He states: “The most effective action that students can take is to become involved with getting carbon reduction legislation passed at the local, state, and federal levels.”

For someone who has been here on the coast for 46 years, Scott Rosin, 70, has a simple answer for students to abide by:

Be aware of your effect on the environment every waking minute and act accordingly in a positive manner. If you can transcend to effective action instead of bogus rationalizations or despair, do so.

While Earth Day can be a day of celebration and self-congratulatory homilies, I know false hope, greenwashing (using environmental and ecological language to make money and still not stop pollution and degradations), and all those adults in the room telling youth and activists to “just take baby steps” will not turn the tide, so to speak, on the great melting of polar and glacial ice. We are talking about scientists who are independently looking at a world without ice in the coming hundred to three hundred years.

For 42-year-old Plybon, with 19 years as a resident of South Beach, he is concerned about several big issues the country and Lincoln County have to face. Again, this earth day story is not for the faint of heart: “Climate change and water,” Plybon stated. “The inhabitability of our earth will be the challenge of the next generations – that’s not an environmental issue, that’s an everybody issue. Today’s kids are asking what next, will we have a place to live?”

Rosin, on the other hand, goes right back to the plastics on the beaches and in the oceans, which now account for millions of marine birds perishing as well as turtles, seals and sea lions, whales and dolphins choking or starving to death. Every apex predatory in the ocean – those that we end up eating – has microplastics in their blood and flesh.

“Plastic pollution in the environment and particularly the ocean is a death sentence for most animals larger than mice, as surely as the Yucatan Meteor was sixty-six million years ago. The difference is that event and outcome (to channel T. S. Eliot) was practically instantaneous (a bang,) whereas what we face will take years (a whimper.)”

Celebrating wilderness is probably the best bet for any Earth Day participant. Get out in the woods, on the mountaintops, in the rivers and ocean. Remember those powerful spiritual moments in nature and then fight for those same memories for future generations to experience.

For Plybon, making large connections to one species has been amazing.  “Fishing in Alaska with my dad —  behind the big sockeye run — for trout, everything makes sense. My family and existence, the idea of ‘salmon nation,’ the connections of the forest and wildlife to a single species’ migration and reproduction make this world feel fragile and inexplicably connected.”

Desmond too has family memories about deep connections to nature:

We took our grandkids to Yellowstone several years ago when Lillian was four years old and Evan was one and a half years old.   While Yellowstone is known for its unique geothermal features and large numbers of bison, elk, grizzly bears, and wolves, our Evan got the most pleasure out of watching ground squirrels crawl up to his shoes while we were illegally feeding them.  For Lillian, she remembers swimming near Mammoth where a hot spring pours into Gardiner River.  Our granddaughter Lillian has now collected 12 junior ranger badges from national and state parks.

Finally, anyone working hard on conservation and fighting to restore and preserve the environment can get philosophical, as Rosin did when I asked him about his most memorable time in wilderness: “The illusion of the ‘natural’ life I believed I was once living has evaporated to the point I that I can no longer mentally conjure it. Once, respite only required paddling beyond the breakers and keeping my back to the shore. Now I know what floats around me.”

Here, for a list of Monday’s Newport speakers:

Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport Group and 350 Oregon Central Coast will be sponsoring an Earth Day celebration from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday, April 22nd at the Newport Public Library.

Mark Saelens, District Manager for the Solid Waste District of Lincoln County, will speak about the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts. Saelens is a former Newport City Councilor.

Martin Desmond, volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby – Newport group, will give an update of HB 2020, the carbon reduction bill that is moving through the Oregon State Legislature. The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction is expected to pass out the bill on Earth Day. Desmond will briefly speak about the development of climate action plans for Lincoln County.

Rio Davidson, owner of Cascade Coast Solar, will discuss the potential of solar energy installation in commercial and residential homes in Lincoln County. Cascade’s solar systems typically pay for themselves and start saving money on energy bill in seven years to ten years.

Jason Gonzales, the Forest and Watershed Campaign Organizer of Oregon Wild, will speak about impacts to forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Gonzales grew up near Sierra Nevada mountains, exploring the granite domes, freezing rivers, and giant pines on public lands around Yosemite National Park.

Aimee Thompson of Thompson’s Sanitary Services will discuss current recycling and disposal procedures. Thompson’s is offering free compost, Saturday April 20 near its main office, 7450 NE Avery Street, Newport, in celebration of Earth Day while supplies last, limited to one pick-up load per person.

Organizations that will have informational tables include Oregon Wild, Cascade Coast Solar, Thompson’s Sanitary Services, Lincoln County Community Rights, Friends of Yaquina Lighthouse, Oceana Natural Foods Co-Op, Citizens Climate Lobby – Newport group and 350 Oregon Central Coast. Light refreshments will be served.

We will also be serving light refreshments.  Thanks for your interest.

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Note: I attempted to get a more “diverse” set of responses from a more diverse set of interviewees — youth, teachers, poor people, tribes people. I wrote the above article for the local Newport Times News, for Friday’s edition (not sure it will make it in). I have to say the new normal is outright fear of answering questions posed to people by writer/journalists — as in fear of reprisals (not sure which ones), fear of being in print media, and many more issues, including not having approval of the various employers to speak as a teacher or tribal member on some environmental board.

I got one woman’s take, late, after my deadline for the local Wednesday and Friday newspaper; I will include her responses here, since I think they are important. Joy also is the Oregon Chapter leader for the American Cetacean Society, for which I just finished a naturalist certification course under her auspices.

1. Every year the most common question I get from students and people I talk with about deep ecology and ecosocialism is,

“What’s one thing I can do for the environment?” Give us your best answer here.

JP: “Everyone can do the 4 R’s: Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Start with number one Reduce. Buy less by buying only what you really need and will use. Choose durable items that will last. Buy gently used, shop at garage sales and thrift stores.”

2. Earth Day is going on 50 years in 2020. What is one big issue — and why — are you concerned about that needs addressing not only in the USA/Lincoln County but globally?

JP: “Our oceans! Over 2/3 of the earth is ocean. The ocean is critically linked to our survival on earth and is under attack in multitudes of ways. Pollution of all types, chemical, industrial, plastic, and coastal development are destroying habitat. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. It negatively impacts the food web as well as fisheries. The world needs to focus on ocean health.”

3. What is one big change you have seen to your community you’ve been in the past 10 years (or more if it’s the same community) tied to the environment?

JP: “I grew up in the Midwest in an area and time where the environment was only looked at as a resource to be used for farming. My children however, grew up in a time and place where they learned to recycle, to compost and garden, and to take walks to pick up garbage while in elementary school. They and their generation learned a better way to take care of the environment. We still have a long way to go but society can make positive change.”

4. Tell us your favorite or most memorable time in “wilderness” or “nature.” A couple of sentences.

JP: “I have so many it is hard to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate to spend time in many environments from deserts to forests to the ocean.
I recall hiking along the Umpqua River outside of Roseburg. I was by myself, it was so quiet and peaceful, just the sounds of nature and deer for company. Of course, being surrounded by blue whales is an incredible experience!”

5. Name, age, organization/affiliation, is this your home (where) and for how long? Joy Primrose, 53, Oregon since 1992 — ACS Oregon Chapter President