Category Archives: Insects

10C Above Baseline

Earth at 10°C above pre-industrial is unimaginable. It’s a deadly horrifying thought, but as shall be explained herein, it should not be dismissed out of hand.

The following story might be labeled as reckless, and it might be criticized as a fearmongering piece of journalism and probably will be. Nevertheless, “10C Above Baseline” explores a dystopian world envisioned by John Doyle, Sustainable Development Policy Coordinator of the European Commission in Brussels.

Doyle’s thesis of a 10C world, within current lifetimes, is based upon sober-minded analysis. Of course, it envisions a planet of few or maybe no humans. Granted, it is hard to believe, very hard to accept.

Whereas the Paris Agreement of 2015 officially set goals amongst the nations of the world to employ mitigation measures to hold global temperatures to 2C but preferably 1.5C above pre-industrial, which is mid 18th century (1750s), except for IPCC measurement purposes, which are markedly different from the 18th century pre-industrial baseline, to wit:

The baseline period from which climate change is expressed has also moved on (a common baseline period of 1986–2005 is used throughout, consistent with the 2006 start-point for the RCP scenario).1  Hmm!

Meanwhile, 1.5C has become a cause célèbre among climate activists.  But, there’s a rub: In order to stay below 1.5C, greenhouse gas emissions, like CO2, need to fall off a cliff, decreasing by 15% per year, starting in year 2020. (Doyle)

Categorically, that’s impossible to achieve for a host of reasons.

Not so long ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report about 2C versus 1.5C. Its findings were grim, namely: At 2˚C (3.6˚F) rather than at 1.5˚C (2.7˚F) the danger to ecosystems increases several fold.

As things stand, the world has a comfort zone of 1.5C to 2.0C with 1.5C the clear preference. But still, at 2.0C all kinds of bells and whistles go off; e.g., (1) severe heat events increase by 2.6xs (2) the Wet Bulb Temperature WBT-impact (3) 2xs vertebrate species loss and (4) 90% of coral reefs gone for good, etc., etc., etc. as key ecosystems that support and originate life suffer.

Keeping in mind (lest you forget) there is no Planet B.

So then, what of 10C?

John Doyle, a climate resilience analyst, has studied the climate system and discussed findings at a UN Aid Agencies meeting.2

Doyle is working on mainstreaming Sustainable Development in the Information Society Directorate General with special emphasis on business partnerships to address energy and climate security.

A synopsis of Doyle’s disturbing analysis and speech follows herein:

In brief, Doyle’s presentation consists of horrifying expectations. More to the point, Doyle’s presentation is a daunting wake-up call above and beyond all wake-up calls, as video recorded by ScientistsWarning.org, Stuart Scott, Executive Director:

One of the video power-point headlines boldly proclaims:

Science… We’re heading fast for 10C degrees, 4C is extinction.

Doyle:

Roughly speaking, you’ve been told that we may be heading for 1.5c or 2c degrees above pre-industrial temperature. That’s not true. That’s basically very old science, and it’s essentially inaccurate. There isn’t a single independent scientist of the world that would support that position now. We’re actually heading for 10 degrees warming that could happen within 20 to 30 years. And, on the way to 10 degrees, we pass 4 degrees. Now, four degrees is interesting because that’s extinction for our species. So keep that one in mind. I’m not just making this up.

All of which prompts a question: Along the way to 10C, when does 4C happen? If 10C is on the docket within 20-30 years, as explained by Doyle, then it’s probably safe to assume 4C within 8-15 years. Regrettably, that’s within the lifetimes of pretty much the entire world population now approaching 8B. Talk about impact!

Predicting a 10C uplift in global temperatures beyond pre-industrial is a stunning proposition, absolutely stunning! Indeed, his speech is a death-defying prognostication, but truth be told, nobody will believe it!

A review of literature of other climate scientists adds some dimension to Doyle’s work, to wit: In December 2019, the Potsdam Institute For Climate Research, one of the world’s premier climate research orgs, caused an international stir with a paper published in Nature: “Climate Tipping Points – Too Risky To Bet Against.”

A very interesting statement is found within the Potsdam paper, as follows:

The Earth system has been unstable across multiple timescales before, under relatively weak forcing caused by changes in Earth’s orbit. Now we are strongly forcing the system, with atmospheric CO2 concentration and global temperature increasing at rates that are an order of magnitude higher than those during the most recent de-glaciation… Atmospheric CO2 is already at levels last seen around four million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It is rapidly heading towards levels last seen some 50 million years ago — in the Eocene — when temperatures were up to 14 °C higher than they were in pre-industrial times.

Here’s more Doyle:

Since the last International Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report AR5 was published… All of this has come to light since then. We’ve realized that we have been living in a fool’s paradise, thinking that nice gentle reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and maybe changing to electric cars should see us over the bump. This is simply not the case.

Doyle’s outlook darkens, as he declares the geo-engineering concept of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere is nowhere near ready for deployment and likely not possible because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which essentially says: “You cannot build a machine to clean up the mess you made making the machine.”

Heaven forbid! People are depending upon geo-engineering to bail us out. What if it doesn’t?

Here’s more Doyle:

In the last 30 years we’ve been able to measure that the total amount of vertebrate life on this planet has collapsed by 99%. And, what’s left, at least from the tiny human being up to the big elephant are found loads of cows, loads of humans, and virtually no wild animals. It’s way worse than that. There are no wild animals. There are no fish. There are no insects. Your microbiome inside your own body is collapsing, at least 20% to 30% down over the last 20 to 30 years… We are not on the verge of the sixth mass extinction; we’re in the middle of it. And very likely to be part of it.

Additionally, the Wet Bulb Temperature effect received mention:

This gives you the temperatures that living creatures can survive… on the left hand side you can see 42C (107.6F) degrees. Human beings can easily survive well over that. But there’s a catch… The fittest human being on the planet, if he is in a temperature of 36C degrees (96.8F) where there’s 100% relative humidity, he dies in six hours.

I (Doyle) was in a city (Brussels) in Europe in August. The temperature was 36C degrees and the relative humidity was 40. It only needed to be one and a half degrees higher and about 20% extra humidity for tens of thousands of people to be dying in the streets.

Doyle provided additional evidence of the ongoing extinction event. Flying insect populations have crashed by 80% in Europe over the past 40 years. We don’t survive without insects… no questions asked!

But, there is one question: What causes 80% of flying insects to drop dead within a half-lifespan of an average human? Something is horribly wrong!

Solutions? Eliminating fossil fuels in enough time to stem excessive warming will not work for numerous reasons. Not only that, fossil fuels account for approximately 80% of all energy production, and there’s no way that’ll change soon enough to help within the next 10 years.

As an aside to Doyle’s terrifying speech, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency) fossil fuel producers, like the U.S., Russia, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, plan on increasing oil and gas production by 120% by 2030, continuing to emit CO2 of ever-higher levels, bringing on more blanketed heat. China is embarking on mega-mega construction of new coal-burning power plants, and so is India, and Japan recently announced its intention to build 22 new coal-burning plants over the next 5 years, continuing to emit CO2 in ever-larger numbers, bringing on more blanketed heat. All of that in the face of irrefutable evidence of acceleration of climate change well beyond the influence of natural events. Maybe the world really is crazy after all.

According to Doyle: “The only option for “getting out of this mess is to stop pretending that we are going green.” To survive as a species, we must switch to local production and forget globalized growth. It’s over. The economic growth paradigm of neoliberal capitalism is incompatible with human survival, especially for life-supporting ecosystems.

It is worth noting that two respected French climate research organizations reached conclusions somewhat similar to Doyle’s but with much less gusto in their numbers.  National Centre for Meteorological Research (CNRM) and Institute Pierre Simon Laplace Climate Modelling Centre in Paris contend, if CO2 emissions continue  “business as usual,” then temperatures could increase by 7°C by 2100.

Still, it is incomprehensible, not impossible, that temperatures skyrocket 10C over the next 20-30 years. Is Doyle’s assessment realistic? What if it is?

Yet, Doyle’s thesis need not be 100% correct to disrupt and destroy ecosystems and cause panic amongst humankind. If he is 50% correct, large portions of the planet become uninhabitable. That’s just for starters.

And, if Doyle’s daunting analysis is only 25% correct, hard-charging 2C-plus circumstances will change life forever, less agricultural land, higher tidal flooding, and eco migrants by the hundreds of millions roaming countryside in massive waves of human flesh, searching for anything edible.

Indeed, it’s always instructive to look at other viewpoints, for example, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK, assuming “business as usual” expects 4C by 2055. That’s more than enough to do the dirty work.

An International Panel on Climate Conference at Oxford University conducted a program entitled “4 Degrees and Beyond” that examined the likelihood of 4C, if “business as usual.” Their conclusion: Half of the planet turns uninhabitable.

All of which highlights a problem. “Business as usual” is thriving!

(… already looking past the speed bump COVID-19)

According to Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, CO2 emissions for the month of April 2020 were 416.18 ppm versus 413.52 ppm for the month of April 2019. And, for added context, readings of 371.66 ppm were recorded for the month of April 2000.

“Business as usual” has not slowed down one iota in 62 years ever since Mauna Loa Observatory started collecting CO2 data in 1958. Noticeably, it has already accelerated+60% this century.

Maybe Doyle is on to something!

  1. AR5 Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  2. John Doyle, Sustainable Development Policy Coordinator of the European Commission, Information Society and Media Directorate-General.

Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  

In 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, produced a report that called for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming and move towards sustainable agricultural practices.

In addition to the devastating impacts on human health, the two authors argued that the excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, the destruction of the natural enemies of pests and the reduction in the nutritional value of food.  They drew attention to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides and expressed concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged and the huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.

At the time, Elver said that agroecological approaches, which replace harmful chemicals, are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. The two authors added that it was time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.

The authors were adamant that access to healthy, uncontaminated food is a human rights issue.

And this is not lost on environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason who has just sent a detailed open letter/report to Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK – ‘Open Letter to the National Farmers Union About Fraud in Europe and the UK’. Mason’s report contains a good deal of information about pesticides, health and the environment.

Health impacts aside, Mason decided to write to Batters because it is increasingly clear that pesticides are responsible for declines in insects and wildlife, something which the NFU has consistently denied.

In 2017, the Soil Association obtained figures from FERA Science Ltd under a freedom of information request. Using data extracted for the first time from the records of FERA Science Ltd, which holds UK Government data on pesticide use in farming, it was found that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops have increased markedly. The data covered British staples wheat, potatoes and onions. Far from a 50% cut – which the NFU had claimed – the increase in active ingredients applied to these crops range from 480% to 1,700% over the last 40-odd years.

Health of the nation

Mason’s aim is to make Batters aware that chemical-dependent, industrial agriculture is a major cause of an ongoing public health crisis and is largely responsible for an unfolding, catastrophic ecological collapse in the UK and globally. Mason places agrochemicals at the centre of her argument, especially globally ubiquitous glyphosate-based herbicides, the use of which have spiralled over the last few decades.

Batters is given information about important studies that suggest glyphosate causes epigenetic changes in humans and animals (diseases skip a generation before appearing) and that it is a major cause of severe obesity in children in the UK, not least because of its impact on the gut microbiome. As a result, Mason says, we are facing a global metabolic health crisis that places glyphosate at the heart of the matter.

And yet glyphosate may be on the market because of fraud. Mason points out that a new study has revealed the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Toxicology (LPT) in Hamburg has committed fraud in a series of regulatory tests, several of which had been carried out as part of the glyphosate re-approval process in 2017. At least 14% of new regulatory studies submitted for the re-approval of glyphosate were conducted by LPT Hamburg. The number could be higher, as this information in the dossiers often remains undisclosed to the public.

In light of this, Angeliki Lyssimachou, environmental toxicologist at Pesticide Action Network Europe, says:

The vast majority of studies leading to the approval of a pesticide are carried out by the pesticide industry itself, either directly or via contract laboratories such as LPT Hamburg… Our 140+ NGO coalition ‘Citizens for Science in Pesticide Regulation’ regularly calls on the (European) Commission to quit this scandalous process: tests must be carried out by independent laboratories under public scrutiny, while the financing of studies should be supported by industry.

Mason then outlines the state of public health in the UK.  A report, ‘The Health of the Nation: A Strategy for Healthier Longer Lives’,  written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity found that women in the UK are living for 29 years in poor health and men for 23 years: an increase of 50% for women and 42% for men on previous estimates based on self-reported data.

In 2035, there will be around 16 million cases of dementia, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and cancers in people aged 65 and over in the UK – twice as many as in 2015. In 10 years, there will be 5.5 million people with type 2 diabetes while 70% of people aged 55+ will have at least one obesity-related disease.

The report found that the number of major illnesses suffered by older people will increase by 85% between 2015 and 2035.

Ecological collapse

Batters is also made aware that there is an insect apocalypse due to pesticides – numerous studies have indicated catastrophic declines. Mason mentions two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars that have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The research adds to growing evidence of what some scientists have called an “insect apocalypse”, which is threatening a collapse in the natural world that sustains humans and all life on Earth. A third study which Mason mentions shows plummeting numbers of aquatic insects in streams.

The survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects.

Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the charity Buglife, says:

These new studies reinforce our understanding of the dangerously rapid disappearance of insect life in both the air and water… It is essential we create more joined up space for insects that is safe from pesticides, climate change and other harm.

Of course, it is not just insects that have been affected. Mason provides disturbing evidence of the decline in British wildlife in general.

Conning the public

Mason argues that the public are being hoodwinked by officials who dance to the tune of the agrochemical conglomerates. For instance, she argues that Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has been hijacked by the agrochemical industry: David Cameron appointed Michael Pragnell, founder of Syngenta to the board of CRUK in 2010 and he became Chairman in 2011.

She asserts that CRUK invented causes of cancer and put the blame on the people for lifestyle choices:

A red-herring fabricated by industry and ‘top’ doctors in Britain: alcohol was claimed to be linked to seven forms of cancer: this ‘alleged fact’ was endlessly reinforced by the UK media until people in the UK were brainwashed.

By 2018, CRUK was also claiming that obesity caused 13 different cancers and that obesity was due to ‘lifestyle choice’.

Each year there are steady increases in the numbers of new cancers in the UK and increases in deaths from the same cancers. Mason says that treatments are having no impact on the numbers.

She argues that the Francis Crick Institute in London with its ‘world class resources’ is failing to improve people’s lives with its treatments and is merely strengthening the pesticides and pharmaceutical industries. The institute is analysing people’s genetic profile with what Mason says is an “empty promise” that one day they could tailor therapy to the individual patient. Mason adds that CRUK is a major funder of the Crick Institute.

The public is being conned, according to Mason, by contributing to ‘cancer research’ with the fraudulent promise of ‘cures’ based on highly profitable drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies whose links to the agrochemical sector are clear. CRUK’s research is funded entirely by the public, whose donations support over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses across the UK. Several hundred of these scientists worked at CRUK’s London Research Institute at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Clare Hall (LRI), which became part of the Crick institute in 2015.

Mason notes that recent research involving the Crick Institute that has claimed ‘breakthroughs’ in discoveries about the genome and cancer genetics are misleading. The work was carried out as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes project, which claims to be the most comprehensive study of cancer genetics to date. The emphasis is on mapping genetic changes and early diagnosis

However, Mason says such research misses the point – most cancers are not inherited. She says:

The genetic damage is caused by mutations secondary to a lifetimes’ exposure to thousands of synthetic chemicals that contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – a global mass poisoning.

And she supports her claim by citing research by Lisa Gross and Linda Birnbaum which argues that in the US 60,000-plus chemicals already in use were grandfathered into the law on the assumption that they were safe. Moreover, the EPA faced numerous hurdles, including pushback from the chemical industry, that undermined its ability to implement the law. Today, hundreds of industrial chemicals contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested – in the US and beyond.

Mason refers to another study by Maricel V Maffini, Thomas G Neltner and Sarah Vogel which notes that thousands of chemicals have entered the food system, but their long-term, chronic effects have been woefully understudied and their health risks inadequately assessed. As if to underline this, recent media reports have focused on Jeremy Bentham, a well-respected CEO of an asset management company, who argued that infertility caused by endocrine disrupting chemicals will wipe out humans.

Mason argues that glyphosate-based Roundup has caused a 50% decrease in sperm count in males: Roundup disrupts male reproductive functions by triggering calcium-mediated cell death in rat testis and Sertoli cells. She also notes that Roundup causes infertility – based on studies that were carried out in South America and which were ignored by regulators in Europe when relicensing glyphosate.

Neoliberal global landscape

Mason draws on a good deal of important (recent) research and media reports to produce a convincing narrative. But what she outlines is not specific to Britain. For instance, the human and environmental costs of pesticides in Argentina have been well documented and in India Punjab has become a ‘cancer capital’ due to pesticide contamination.

UN Special Rapporteurs Elver and Tuncak argue that while scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge, especially given the systematic denial by the pesticide and agro-industry of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals.

In the meantime, we are told that many diseases and illnesses are the result of personal choice or lifestyle behaviour. It has become highly convenient for public officials and industry mouthpieces to place the blame on ordinary people, while fraudulent science, regulatory delinquency and institutional corruption allows toxic food to enter the marketplace and the agrochemical industry to rake in massive profits.

Health outcomes are merely regarded as the result of individual choices, rather than the outcome of fraudulent activities which have become embedded in political structures and macro-economic ‘free’ market policies. In the brave new world of neoliberalism and ‘consumer choice’, it suits industry and its crony politicians and representatives to convince ordinary people to internalise notions of personal responsibility and self-blame.

Readers are urged to read Rosemary Mason’s new report which can be downloaded from the academia.edu website.

Ecological Obliteration: Nobody Seems to Notice, Nobody Seems to Care

One of George Carlin’s great lines said with apropos satirical condemnation was “Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.” And what Carlin was speaking to was the ills of socioeconomic power, but when it comes to drastically dismantling the majority of the planetary ecology in under forty years his line is an even more salient observation of the mental state of the masses. This statement gives rise to a question that seems more pertinent than ever to ask the people of America, and the world over for that matter, the same basic question Marvin Gaye had – What’s going on? And why don’t people notice, why don’t they care?

And, yes, some movements out there seem to care and notice like Extinction Rebellion, but even given their efforts when I mention nature is in a critical state to the common person I’m still looked as a kook. I ponder, how much devastation is needed to the living planet before the general populace can show some appropriate panic, not that panic is the right response. It’s just what people in this society routinely do at any little disturbance when they realize something is actually wrong, but evidently the whole of the natural world hanging on by thread is no reason for these courageous folk to become distressed. They seem fine with it, happy to dismiss it as Chicken Little-ism, or the blathering bloviations of what they deem to be tree hugging reactionaries. The modern mind of the average consumer of information appears to be filled with 98% propaganda, 1.5% of entertaining inconsequential fluff that happens to be completely true, and .5% cognitive dissonance wondering if 98% of what they have in their heads is utter bullshit. But the modern human mind is too smart to be fooled, or more accurately and less sarcastically, they have too much supposed smarts not to be fools.

The mind of the modern human animal has been almost entirely heisted by the ego drive of pursuing power and aggrandizement of the self. Ego makes people blind and stupid, filled with agenda that causes severe myopia where all they observe is the agenda of the promotion of self and all else becomes of secondary concern. The people are lost in the delusions of hucksters promising fortune and glory.  It’s like they never saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and learned the valuable lessons of our beloved fedora wearing protagonist. They never learned that fortune and glory are a fool’s quest. It’s better just to give the sacred rocks back to the people and stop trying to think about what’s in it for me and considerately serve the needs of others when you can.

Perhaps the malaise goes deeper than an Indiana Jones’ film, if that’s possible.  Maybe it’s a sign of how much people are staying indoors and detached from the natural world as they live in a state of being consistently entertained, fearful, and over-rushed, and largely that stress and need for escapism comes from issues that humanity should have solved by now if the powers that be were actually interested in doing benevolent things. Like homelessness shouldn’t be a thing, but it is, purely because of socioeconomic reasons and having nothing to do with housing scarcity.

Anecdotally I’ll tell you what I now see in the natural world here in central Florida. As I continue to take walks out in Florida parks, something I’ve routinely done over the last 25 years, I try to appreciate what’s here now because it might not be soon, but I can’t help to feel the occasional pangs of resentment for what humanity has done and pine for what used to be. The beauty they have slaughtered with a hubris fit for an emperor without clothes hits my indignant mind of non-acceptance. I don’t want to believe, maybe others don’t either, but what I’m seeing in the once robust tropical Florida landscape that seemed so indomitable just a short time ago is now a shadow of itself, and starting to look like it needs to be put on life support.

The frogs are almost gone entirely locally, which are canaries in the coal mine of their environment. Frogs have relatively permeable skin and are among the first to die from toxicity, and when their numbers go down it’s often a sign the entire ecosystem around them has become filled with toxic things. Frogs used to bellow their songs out into the humid nights of Florida with a roar, and while there is a night or two in the summer where you can still hear their dulcet croaks, mostly what is heard is silence and the knowledge more than a few have croaked in a way that isn’t so melodic.

It’s not just the frogs, though. It’s everything. Locally, in less than a year I watched raccoons go from commonly seen to almost completely gone. Over several years I’ve watched bat populations go from swarms in the hundreds seen nightly during the summer months to rarely ever seeing a bat. I’ve observed insects in Florida fall in massive amounts and there is now a year to year reduction noticeable to the naked eye of already decimated populations. Ants and cockroaches showing up in your house used to be an inevitable part of living in Florida, not anymore. No exterminator needed.  They did such a good job there’s rarely anything crawling around these days. In fact, I can keep the back door open most of the year and not have to worry about an infestation growing inside the house. Most of everything is dead. Dead, dead, dead!!

It does seem as though if the majority of people went out even briefly into the wilderness with any regularity whatsoever they’d feel some mild agitation at the losses they are seeing, which are clearly evident in most places, because what is happening here isn’t normal.  It hasn’t happened in any prior generation, and it’s caused by us. Rachel Carson’s silent spring is closer than ever, but it’s not silent yet; however, definitely muffled with capitalists and patriots holding a pillow over the face of Mother Nature hoping to snuff out the old lady so they can plunder what’s left and make more baubles and gadgetry; stuff sure to amuse people as they sit around  watching the apocalypse slowly unfold in surreal bemusement on a high def screen. Of course, most will prefer to watch a dramatized version of the end of everything in a likely soon to be made Disney-produced trilogy starring Will Smith, and he’ll have some great iconic line like “Oh, hell no! Ain’t no mutha fuckin mutha nature dyin’ on my watch!” or something equally as compelling I’d imagine. Due to be released just before the end of everything. A viewing of which would be even more fitting with a last channel sign-off that hearkens back to over the air TV of yesteryear, a sentimental display of a proudly waving American flag with the national anthem humming along just before the all consuming static permanently takes hold.

The wildlife, insect, and plant die-off has been panic worthy. Almost as panic worthy as losing Kobe Bryant to a helicopter crash, which saddened and shocked people. I wonder what the reception would be to the masses if they accepted the truth of the natural world we depend on to live suddenly dying out? And if minds were in the right headspace they shouldn’t have to be told they get something out of nature to care about it, as one would think that helping other living things would be something we would selflessly just do as a society. But that’s not the case.

However, they clearly do care about Kobe Bryant and noticed his loss; he was a guy the majority of the people never met and someone who lived his life as an ego laden rich person who dribbled a basketball better than most. And while sure, the premature death of anyone strikes people as sad, but premature death happens all over the place, happens right next door, and most people don’t give one shit about their neighbor dying, but Kobe Bryant? Time to weep. Did you hear he dribbled a basketball? What a tragedy. He was about to save the world with his super powers, but alas, it is not to be.

And I’ll bet, to the modern mind, they’ll find themselves more outraged that I just blasphemed and callously made light of Kobe Bryant’s life and death than outraged at the whole of the natural environment being obliterated for no good reason. People feel an overly emotional loss for Kobe Bryant for the very reasons they can’t see the more pressing losses of nature around them. Ego blindness. They don’t want to be out connected to nature, but they want to be superstar Kobe Bryant. They want to be rich, good at sports, attractive, be fawned over, be envied. Basically they want to be the most popular kid in their high school as fully grown adults. So, of course, his loss is tragic. What a waste of a life that represented all the egotistical things this culture so desperately wants to be.

I would give you the numbers about how bad the decimation to nature all is, but I already know if you’re reading this then I’m probably singing to the choir and you’ve already heard them echoed repeatedly. So you probably know the world wildlife fund estimated a decline of 60% of wildlife over the past forty years. Or that a German study estimated a decline of over 80% of insects over thirty years. And it’s important to note that all things that caused these numbers to occur are happening at a faster rate now. So what is to be left in another 40 years while recklessly careening down the same trajectory? Let me run some quick math on my handy-dandy ecological calculator.  Oh, yes, I see.  It seems to have come out to “There won’t be fucking much left!” and I didn’t even know my calculator knew any other words than 80085.

The apocalypse has already been scheduled by capitalists and nation-states and it’s coming to a town near you if you care to see it. If capitalists and governments of the world do everything they already have scheduled over the next decade then the 2020s will be the last decade before the fall. Like, for instance, the largest mining project ever is being dreamed up so that people can wear more pretty rocks on their fingers and around their necks. Or the spread of radioactive brine that is being openly dumped across the country for equally idiotic reasons. Or if the military continues to expand, which is already the world’s largest polluter, and if it continues unchecked, should ensure there’s nothing to notice and nothing to care for by the end of the century, that is to give a rather generous timeline. To make matters worse they’ve already done enough ecological damage to make the idea of the world supporting the projected 10 billion people by 2050 a rather farcical idea. So what happens as our population expands and the ability of the world to support life decreases?  My guess, nothing good.

Yet almost no one views this course we’re on with the attention it deserves. We should be talking into the nights with one another. Finding out what is true while there is still time to find out. We should be healing the inner ego dominator that has been culturally installed within us all. Then perhaps each of us can come to the enlightening conclusion that this society must be let go of if we are to survive past what is to come. If enough of us learn to painfully let go of our ego-driven passions, just maybe we will then notice and naturally come to a state of caring for what we should have been noticing and caring for all along.

In the Eye of the Eagle: From Strict Catholic School to Adventures in Rainforests

A slow, tacking flight: float then flap. Then a pirouette and it has swung on to a different tack, following another seam through the moor as if it is tracking a scent. It is like a disembodied spirit searching for its host…” — description of the strongest of all harriers, the goshawk, by James Macdonald Lockhart in his book, Raptor: A Journey Through Birds

We’re watching a female red-tail hawk rejecting the smaller male’s romantic overtures barely 50 yards overhead.

There it is. Ahh, the male has full extension. So does his girlfriend. I see this every day from here. This courting ritual . . . testing each other’s loyalty. Watching them in a talon lock, spiraling down, now that’s an amazing sight.

I’m with Chris Hatten on his 10 acres overlooking the Siletz estuary along a gravel road. Saying he lives for that typical red-tail hawk behavior would be an understatement. His passion for raptors has taken him to many parts of the globe, and those trips involved exhilaration, danger, risks to his life, and the trials and tribulations of living primitively in tropical zones which Westerners sometimes deridingly call undeveloped countries or third world nations.

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 Wild Harpy eagle being recaptured and treated after being shot in leg, northern Guatemala.

We are traipsing around his property where Chris is ninety percent finished with a two-story 1,400 square foot home, a modern efficient house he’s been building for two years from a kit out of Lynnwood, Washington.

He told me he’ll never do that again – building a full-sized house.

The 42-year-old Hatten got a hold of my name when he found out I write about Oregon coastal people with compellingly interesting lives. He is in the midst of witnessing adjoining land (more than a hundred acres) to his property about to be clear-cut – forested hillside owned by Hancock Timber Resource Group, part of John Hancock Insurance (now owned by a Canadian group, Manulife Financial).

When he first bought the land eight years ago, representatives of Hancock told him that the company had so much timberland it would take years, maybe a decade, to get to this piece of property.

We discuss how Lincoln City and Lincoln County might prevent a clear cut from the side of the hill all the way down to Highway 101. “It’s amazing to witness in this coastal area — that depends on tourism — all this land clear-cut as far as the eye can see.”

The red-tail hawk pair circles above us again, while a Merlin flits about alighting on a big Doug fir.

When he first saw the property — an old homestead which was once a producing dairy farm — Chris said two eagles cawed above where he was standing, which for a bird-man is a positive omen and spiritual sign of good health. He calls his place “The Double-Eagle.”

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Hands on bio blitz Northern Brazil.

Non-Traditional Student Backpacks into Jungles

He’s not living in the house, per se, but rather he has a tent he calls home. “I feel suffocated inside four walls. I want to hear animals, hear the wind, be on the ground.” He’s hoping to rent out the house.

His current kip is set up near a black bear den, where mother bruin and her two cubs share an area he is willing to stay away from. “The mother bear and I have an understanding. We don’t bother each other.”

He’s part Doctor Dolittle, part Jim Fowler (from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and part John Muir. My own intersections with blokes and women around the world like him have put me eye-to-eye with pygmy elephants in Vietnam, great hammerheads off Baja, king cobras in Thailand, schools of barracudas off Honduras, and a pack of 20 javelina chasing me along the Arizona-Mexico border.

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Jaguar rescue northern Belize.

Hatten’s wildlife adventures indeed take it up a few notches.

“When I finished high school, I wanted to follow my dreams.” That was at Saint Mary’s in Salem, a school that was so constricting to Chris he had already been saving up dollars for a one-way ticket out of the country.

He had started working young – aged 8 – picking zucchini and broccoli in fields near where his family of six lived. “You feel invincible when you are young. You’re also more adaptable and more resilient.”

He ended up in Malaysia which then turned into trekking throughout Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, East Timor, and even down south to Darwin, Australia.

Those two years, from age 17 to 19, are enough to fill two thick memoirs. Upon returning to Salem, he applied to the National Park service and bought a one-way ticket to Alaska, working the trails in small groups who lived in tents and cleared trails with 19-Century equipment – saws, shovels, picks, pry bars.

With his cash stake growing, he headed back south, by mountain bike, along the Prudhoe-Dalton Highway. He hit Prince George, Vancouver Island, and stopped in the Olympics.

He then worked summers and attended Chemeketa College in Salem.

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Finding small spot fire Colombia River Gorge, Oregon, working for U.S.F.S.

Homeless-but-inspired at Evergreen State College

He wanted to study temperature rainforests, so he showed up unannounced hoping for an audience with a well-known scientist and faculty member — Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, who is an expert in temperate forests and sap maples. Chris had read the book she co-authored, Forest Canopies.

Before showing up to Evergreen, Chris had developed a sling-shot contraption to propel ropes into forest canopy. He barged into Nadkarni’s office with his invention. She was surprised Chris wasn’t already student, but she quickly made sure he enrolled in the environmental studies program.

Spending his last dollar on tuition, Chris resorted to sleeping in a tent and inside his 1988 Honda Civic while using campus rec department showers. He told me he received free produce on Tuesdays when the farmer’s market would pass out vegetables and fruit after a day’s sales.

Another faculty member, Dr. Steve Herman, motivated Chris to really delve into ornithology. Chris recalls coastal dune ecology trips, from Olympia in motor pool vans, all the way into the southern reaches of Baja. “We looked at every dune system from Baja all the way back north to Florence.”

The ornithologist Herman was also a tango aficionado, and Chris recalled the professor announcing to his students many times, in the middle of dunes in Mexico, it was time for some tango lessons. “He told us there was more to life than just science.”

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Educational Harpy eagle to take into classrooms Panama city, Panama, has one blind eye, could not be released into wild.

Adventures and Misadventures of a Bird Fanatic

My life’s work has been to produce scientists who will seek to protect wildness. But I also just really enjoy teaching people about birds. I’ve been lucky to get to do that for a very long time.

— Steve Herman, Evergreen State College faculty emeritus Steve Herman, 2017

Chris laments the lack of real stretches of wilderness in Oregon, most notably along our coast. These are postage stamp areas, he emphasizes, around Drift Creek, Rock Creek, Cape Perpetua, but “it’s abysmal.”

We have the Cascades in Washington and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and lots of wilderness in Alaska. But really, nothing along the Pacific in Oregon.

After camping in the forest around Evergreen College, Chris still had the travel bug bad. On one foray, he went to Thailand, studying the mangrove forests there. He traveled with Thai army anti-poaching teams who went after poachers. He came across poachers’ camps, witnessed firefights and saw a few poachers laid out dead. “The captain gave me a pistol and one bullet. He said the torture would be so bad if I got captured by tiger poachers that I’d beg for a bullet.”

He’s worked on the island of Hawaii with the USGS focusing on a biocomplexity project looking at how mosquitoes are moving higher and higher because of global warming. The consequences are pretty connected to other invasives – pigs introduced to the islands several centuries ago – disturbing the entire natural ecosystem.

Pigs chew down the ferns, and places that have never seen pooled water before are now wet troughs where mosquitoes can now breed.

Those insects carry avian malaria, and alas, endangered honey creepers can’t adjust to the mosquitoes like their cousins elsewhere who have evolved over millennia to just rub off the insects. The honey creeper is being decimated by this minor but monumental change.

Peregrine Fund

Right after matriculating from Evergreen with a bachelor’s of science, Chris ended up in Panama, working throughout Central America rehabilitating, breeding and introducing Harpy Eagles – the biggest forest eagle in the world with a wingspan of six and a half feet – into their native jungle habitat.

These are massive birds. They dwarf our American bald eagle, for sure. My job was to follow them when the fledglings were grown and released.

He acted like an adult Harpy who catches prey and puts it in the trees for the youngster to eat and learn some hunting skills. Frozen rats, GPS backpack transmitter fashioned on the birds, and orienteering throughout Belize and Southern Mexico were his tools.

It sort of blew me away that here I was living the dream of studying birds in a rainforest.

Territorial ranges for these birds spread into Honduras and south to Colombia. Wild Harpies eat sloth, aunt eaters, howler monkeys, even giant Military Macaws.

He ended up in the Petén, Tikal (originally dating back 2000 years), one of Central America’s premier Mayan archeological and tourist sites.

His role was to study the orange-breasted falcon, a tropical raptor which is both endangered and stealth. “We got to live on top of pyramids off limits to anyone else,” he says, since the bird was using the pyramids as nesting and breeding grounds.

He recalled tiring of the tourists down below repeating the fact that one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here – “I got tired of hearing, ‘Wow, is this really where Yavin 4,  A New Hope, was filmed? We’re really here.’”

Imagine respecting this ancient Mayan capital, and studying amazing raptors as the antithesis of goofy tourista comments.

No 9 to 5 Working Stiff

He tells me that his idols are people like Jane Goodall and David Attenborough. While he went to school in a conservative Catholic setting where his peers were mostly farm kids —  and some were already pregnant and married (before graduation), his family was not of the same stripe.

“We were like the people in the movie ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’’’ he says with a laugh. His parents took the brood to the Oregon Coast a lot, and that 1976 yellow VW van’s starter was always going out. “I remember we had my sister and mom blocking the intersections in places like Lincoln City while we pushed the van to get it started.”

He’s got a brother, Steve, an RN in Portland, and another Portland-based brother, Mark, owner of a micro-car shop. His older sister, Amy, is a newspaper journalist in Grand Junction, Colorado – a real lifer, with the written word coursing through her blood. She’s encouraged Chris to write down his story.

Their mother went to UC-Berkley, and has been a public education teacher for over 25 years. Their father (divorced when he was 12) got into real estate but is now living in New Zealand.

That one-way ticket to Singapore that got him into Southeast Asia, ended with him running out of money after a year, but he was able to get to Darwin, Australia, by paying a fishing boat in East Timor to get him down under illegally. He spent time picking Aussie Chardonnay grapes to stake himself in order to see that continent.

He was blown away by the kangaroo migration, a scene that involved a few million ‘roos kicking up great clouds of red dust. He ended up going through Alice Springs to see the sacred Uluru (formally known as Ayers Rock). He met undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Greece while making money picking oranges.

We talk about some frightening times in our travels, and per usual, the worst incidents involved criminals or bad hombres, not with wildlife. For Chris, his close call with death occurred in Guatemala where he, his female supervisor (a Panamanian) and another raptor specialist were confronted by men on horses, brandishing machetes and leading tracker dogs.

“’We’ll let you live if you give us the woman.’ That’s what they gave us as our option.” The bird team went back into the jungle, the two male researchers buried their female companion with leaves, and then Chris and the other guy took off running all night long.

The banditos chased them through the jungle. He laughed saying they ran virtually blind in places where eyelash vipers (one bite, and three steps and you’re dead), coral snakes and tropical rattlesnakes lived in abundance.

“It’s a very creepy feeling being hunted by men with dogs.” Luckily, the female team member headed out the opposite direction, with a radio. All in a day’s work for environmentalists.

That’s saying, “all in a day’s work,” is ominous since we both talk about how most indigenous and local environmental leaders in so many countries have been murdered by loggers, miners, oil men, ranchers, and coca processors (many times executed by paid-for military soldiers).

Never Return or There Will Be Tears

Two telling quotes from world-renown traveler and writer, Paul Theroux, strike me as apropos for a story about Chris Hatten:

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.

You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.

We talk about a crackling campfire being the original TV, and how being out in wilderness with 5 or 10 people for an extended period gets one really connected to working with people and counting on them to be friends and support.

“It’s tough going back to places I’ve been,” he says with great lamentation. In Borneo, a return trip years later discombobulated him. “The rainforest is being plowed over daily. I couldn’t tell where I was walking miles and miles through palm oil plantations. It was as if the jungle had been swallowed up.”

What once was a vibrant, multilayered super rich and diverse place of amazing flora and fauna has been turned into a virtual desert of a monocrop.

This reality is some of the once most abundant and ecologically distinct places on earth are no longer that. “This is the problem with any wildlife reintroduction program. You can breed captive animals like, for instance, the orangutan but there’s nowhere to release them. Everywhere is stripped of jungle, healthy habitat.”

The concept of rewilding any place is becoming more and more theoretical.

We climb the hill where the clear-cut will occur. Chris and I talk about a serious outdoor education center – a place where Lincoln County students could show up for one, two or three days of outdoor learning. We’re serious about reframing the role of schools and what youth need to have in order to be engaged and desirous of learning.

That theoretical school could be right here, with Chris as the lead outdoor/ecological instructor.

All those trees, terrestrial animals, avian creatures, smack dab on an estuary leading to a bay which leads to the Pacific is highly unique – and a perfect place from which to really get hands on learning as the core curriculum.

We imagine young people learning the history, geology, biology, and ecology of where they live. Elders in the woods teaching them how to smoke salmon, how to build a lean-to, how to see outside the frame of consumption/purchasing/screen-time.

Interestingly, while Chris has no desire to have children, he has taught tropical biology/ecology to an international student body at the Richmond Vale Academy on the island of Saint Vincent (part of the Grenadines).

Koreans, Russians, Venezuelans, Peruvians and Vincennes learned organic farming, bio-fuel production, solar power design, how to grow passion and star fruit. There is even a little horse program in the school, founded by two Danes.

Chris said that the local population is taught about medicinal plants, recycling and responsible waste disposal. “Everything used to be wrapped in banana leaves in their grandparents’ time. Now there is all this single-use plastic waste littering the island.

Like the dynamic rainforest that once carpeted the Central Coast – with herds of elk, wolves, grizzlies and myriad other species – much of the world is being bulldozed over, dammed and mined. Wildlife leave, stop breeding, never repopulate fractured areas where human activities are the norm.

But given that, when I asked Chris where he might like to go now, he mentioned Croatia, his mother’s side of the family roots. He may have swum with 60-foot-long whale sharks and kayaked over orcas, but Chris is still jazzed up about raptors – maybe he’d end up on the Croatian island of Cres which is a refuge for the spectacular griffon vulture.

“Nature has a purpose beyond anything an extraction-based society puts its monetary value on trees. We have to show young people there is value to natural ecosystems beyond extracting everything for a profit.”

One-Minute Q and A

Paul Haeder: What is your life philosophy?

Chris Hatten: Make the best use of your time. Time is short.

PH: How do we fix this extractive “resources” system that is so rapacious?

CH: We need to value forests for the many multitude of services they provide, not just quick rotations. Forests are not the same as fields of crops.

PH: Give any young person currently in high school, say, in Lincoln County, advice on what they might get out of life if they took your advice? What’s that advice?

CH: Get off your phone, lift up your head, see the world for yourself as it really is, then make necessary changes to it and yourself.

PH: What’s one of the most interesting things you’ve experienced — what, where, when, why, how?

CH: I have had very poor people offer to give me all they had in several different countries. Strangers have come to my aid with no thought of reward.

PH: In a nutshell, define the Timber Unity movement to say someone new to Oregon.

CH: They are people who mostly work in rural Oregon in resource extraction industries and believe they are forgotten.

PH: If you were to have a tombstone, what would be on it once you kick the bucket?

CH: “Lived.”

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Running in step, at sunset on the beach with horse St. Vincent and Grenadines

Our Vanishing World: Insects

About 12,000 years ago, late stone age humans precipitated the neolithic (agricultural) revolution that marked the start of the steady rise to civilization. Coincidentally, this occurred at the same time as the beginning of what is now known as the Holocene Epoch, the geological epoch in which humans still live.

However, since the industrial revolution commencing in about 1750, just 270 years ago, humans have been destroying Earth’s biosphere with such tremendous ferocity that the Earth we inherited at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch is vanishing before our eyes. And life is vanishing with it.

While this catastrophe first gained significant public attention with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962, efforts in response to her effort to raise the alarm, credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement, have paled in comparison to the ongoing human effort to silence Spring.

In fact, we are destroying the biosphere with such ruthless efficiency that the global extinction rate is now 200 species per day, with another million species ‘under threat’. Moreover, according to the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services researched and published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the scientific body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services this provides to society – ‘Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history.’

So severe is the crisis through which we are now living that the normally sober tone of scientific papers is vanishing too, with words such as ‘biological annihilation’, a ‘frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation’ and the “‘sixth mass extinction’ event in Earth’s history are being used with increasing frequency.

So how extreme is the threat?

Well, despite the number of elite-controlled intergovernmental processes and corporate scientists paid to promulgate delusion about our timeframe, an increasing number of scientists are now warning that existing and accumulating evidence indicates that human extinction is likely to occur by 2026 (assuming that we can prevent nuclear war and prevent the deployment of 5G in the meantime). Unfortunately, too, the full extent of this unfolding catastrophe is readily masked if the many interrelated factors – emotional, political, economic, social, climatic, environmental, military, nuclear, geoengineering and electromagnetic – synergistically shaping this outcome are not each and all considered.

For example, it is poor science to measure climate impacts in isolation from the cascading impacts they generate ‘downstream’ (such as the adverse impact of temperature increases on insect populations in rainforests and what this means for the rainforest habitats they occupy) and to predict outcomes for humanity based on the climate impacts alone. If enough insects are gone – whether through destruction of habitat, extensive pesticide use, 5G electromagnetic radiation, climate impacts… or a combination of these and other factors – before we reach the critical climate ‘tipping point’, then human food chains will collapse rapidly followed by the human population whatever the state of the climate at the time.

However, rather than reiterate the comprehensive evidence in relation to the synergistic threats to human survival here, let me instead present the evidence only in relation to the decimation of the global insect population – variously given such labels as ‘insectageddon’ and ‘insect apocalypse’ in an attempt to convey the gravity of the crisis – including what is driving it and what it means.

The Importance of Insects

So how important are insects? According to one recent study conducted by Caspar A. Hallmann and eleven associates, insects are vital to ecosystem functioning:

Insects play a central role in a variety of processes, including pollination, herbivory and detrivory [an organism, such as a bacterium, fungus or insect, that feeds on dead plant or animal matter], nutrient cycling and providing a food source for higher trophic levels such as birds, mammals and amphibians. For example, 80% of wild plants are estimated to depend on insects for pollination, while 60% of birds rely on insects as a food source. The ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the USA. Clearly, preserving insect abundance and diversity should constitute a prime conservation priority.

To underscore the importance of insects, in their study Bradford C. Lister & Andres Garcia simply note that ‘arthropods comprise over two-thirds of terrestrial species’.1   And, as Robert Hunziker observes: without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.

However, despite their crucial role in maintaining the habitable biosphere, insects have been in decline for several decades. And the decline is accelerating.

The Decline of Insects

Any study of insect populations readily confirms their rapid decline. For example, in the recent study by Lister and Garcia, they note that ‘Arthropods, invertebrates including insects that have external skeletons, are declining at an alarming rate. While the tropics harbor the majority of arthropod species, little is known about trends in their abundance.’ Hence they compared arthropod biomass in Puerto Rico’s Luquillo rainforest with data taken by Lister back in 1976. They found that ‘biomass had fallen 10 to 60 times’ and their analyses revealed ‘synchronous declines in the lizards, frogs, and birds that eat arthropods’. Moreover, they noted, over the past 30 years forest temperatures have risen 2.0 °C and their study indicated that ‘climate warming is the driving force behind the collapse of the forest’s food web’. Ominously, they observe:

A number of studies indicate that tropical arthropods should be particularly vulnerable to climate warming. If these predictions are realized, climate warming may have a more profound impact on the functioning and diversity of tropical forests than currently anticipated.

Why? Well although climate warming is disrupting the entire biosphere at an accelerating pace, the rate is generally slower in tropical habitats. Nevertheless, the evidence still clearly suggests that tropical ectotherms (organisms reliant on environmental heat sources) may be particularly vulnerable to the warming climate. Citing an earlier report based on research by Daniel H. Janzen, Lister and Garcia note that tropical species that evolved in comparatively aseasonal environments have ‘narrower thermal niches, reduced acclimation to temperature fluctuations, and exist at or near their thermal optima. Consequently, even small increments in temperature can precipitate sharp decreases in fitness and abundance. These predictions have been verified in a variety of tropical reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.’

In another recent report, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys present ‘a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, and systematically assess the underlying drivers’. In essence, their research reveals ‘dramatic rates of decline’ with the main drivers being i) habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization; ii) pollution, mainly by synthetic pesticides (glyphosate, neonicotinoids and others) and fertilisers; iii) biological factors, including pathogens and introduced species; and iv) the climate catastrophe. ‘The latter factor is particularly important in tropical regions, but only affects a minority of species in colder climes and mountain settings of temperate zones.’

Moreover, they note, the general studies of insect declines are ‘in line with previous reports on population declines among numerous insect taxa (i.e. butterflies, ground beetles, ladybirds, dragonflies, stoneflies and wild bees) in Europe and North America over the past decades. It appears that insect declines are substantially greater than those observed in birds or plants over the same time periods and this could trigger wide-ranging cascading effects within several of the world’s ecosystems.’

But perhaps the most alarming report is the one written following research conducted by Caspar A. Hallmann and his associates. Noting widespread concern about insect loss, they observe that ‘Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services.’ Employing a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (with 96 unique location-year combinations) their analysis estimated ‘a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study’. Moreover, the decline was apparent regardless of habitat type. ‘This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.’

Just one cascading impact of the rapid decline of insects in Germany is the ‘decimation’ of the bird population.

In summary, from the study by Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys: More than 40 percent of the world’s insect species are on the fast track to extinction.

Why are insects declining?

In essence, apart from the causes of insect decline noted above, such as destruction of habitat, poisoning (using glyphosate, neonicotinoids and other pesticides) and the climate catastrophe, insects are also adversely impacted by light, ingestion of plastic, wars, nuclear contamination and will be further and horrifically impacted, along with all life on Earth, if 5G is deployed. For an earlier study identifying the existing problem of electromagnetic radiation on life, see ‘Bees, Birds and Mankind: Destroying Nature by “Electrosmog“‘ but for recent updates on the extraordinary hazards of 5G to all life, see ‘5G and the Wireless Revolution: When Progress Becomes a Death Sentence’ and ‘Western Insanity and 5G Electromagnetic Radiation’.

In essence, without sufficient diversity and density of insects the existing biosphere will collapse and homo sapiens will join the fossil record. And we are rapidly approaching that particular tipping point.

Part of the problem is that far too much attention is being directed at the climate catastrophe while ignoring the vast evidence from other disciplines offering highly instructive research not only in relation to climate impacts but to other human behaviours that are negatively impacting ecosystem functioning.

This has a range of negative impacts, including that it deludes people into seeking outcomes that are hopelessly inadequate if we are to address the full extent of the crisis in our biosphere.

Is anything being done?

Not much. The elite’s corporations have enormous political power so have little trouble resisting efforts to contain their destruction of the biosphere, including of insect populations.

Hence, while scientists routinely offer fine suggestions, such as the following one, they are also routinely ignored.

A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments.

But, to reiterate, it is corporations that have political power and that also control the media narrative; not scientists.

So what can we do?

Given that the insect apocalypse is deeply connected to other issues of critical importance to human survival, as always it is vital that this issue is addressed strategically from a holistic perspective. For that reason, we must approach the issue by addressing fundamental drivers but also several vital symptoms that arise from those drivers. Let me explain what I mean.

The fundamental question is this: Why are humans behaving in a way that destroys Earth’s biosphere? Surely, this is neither sensible nor even sane. And anyone capable of emotional engagement and rational thinking who seriously considers this behaviour must realize this. So why is it happening?

Fundamentally it is because our parenting and education models fail utterly to produce people of conscience, people who are emotionally functional and capable of critical analysis, people who care and who can plan and respond strategically.

Given the preoccupation of modern society with producing submissively obedient students, workers, soldiers, citizens (that is, taxpayers and voters) and consumers, the last thing society wants is powerful individuals who are each capable of searching their conscience, feeling their emotional response to events, thinking critically and behaving strategically in response. Hence our parenting and education models use a ruthless combination of visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence to ensure that our children become terrified, self-hating and powerless individuals like virtually all of the adults around them.

This multifaceted violence ensures that the adult who emerges from childhood and adolescence is suppressing awareness of an enormous amount of fear, pain and anger (among many other feelings) and must live in delusion to remain unaware of these suppressed feelings. This ensures that, as part of their delusion, people develop a strong sense that what they are doing already is functional and working (no matter how dysfunctional and ineffective it may actually be) while unconsciously suppressing awareness of any evidence that contradicts their delusion. See ‘Why Violence?’, ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’, ‘Do We Want School or Education?‘ and ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War‘.

So if we are going to address the fundamental driver of both the insect apocalypse and destruction of the biosphere generally, we must address this cause. For those adults powerful enough to do this, there is an explanation in ‘Putting Feelings First‘. And for those adults committed to facilitating children’s efforts to realize their potential and become self-aware (rather than delusional), see ‘My Promise to Children‘.

Beyond this cause, however, we must also resist, strategically, the insane elite corporations that are a key symptom of this crisis by manufacturing and marketing a vast range of insect (and life)-destroying products ranging from weapons (conventional and nuclear) and fossil fuels to products made by the destruction of habitat (including rainforests) and the poisoning of agricultural land (to grow the food that most people eat) while now planning the imminent worldwide deployment of 5G.

But we can also undermine this destruction, for example, by refusing to buy the products provided by the elite’s corporations (with the complicity of governments) that fight wars (to enrich weapons corporations) to steal fossil fuels (to enrich energy, aircraft and vehicle-manufacturing corporations) or those corporations that make profits by destroying rainforests or producing poisoned food, for example. We can do this by systematically reducing and altering our consumption pattern and becoming more locally self-reliant as outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ or, even more simply, by committing to The Earth Pledge (below). In a nutshell, for example, if we do not buy and eat poisoned food, corporations will stop poisoning our food and this will save vast numbers of insects (and many other life forms besides).

You can also consider joining those working to end violence in all contexts by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

In response to a range of synergistically impacting behaviours, homo sapiens is on the fast track to extinction. Just one critical and largely ignored variable in this rush to extinction is our decimation of the world insect population denying us an ever-expanding range of ecological services.

On this count alone, we have already crossed a dangerous tipping point that will cause increasing problems over time. Whether we can stop short of the ultimate tipping point depends on what you decide.

  1. See ‘Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web’.

Agrochemical Apocalypse: Interview with Environmental Campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason  

The renowned author and whistleblower Evaggelos Vallianatos describes British environmentalist and campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason as a “defender of the natural world and public health.” I first came across her work a few years ago. It was in the form of an open letter she had sent to an official about the devastating environmental and human health impacts of glyphosate-based weed killers. What had impressed me was the document she had sent to accompany the letter. It was over 20 pages long and contained official data and referred to a plethora of scientific papers to support the case she was making.

For almost a decade, Rosemary Mason has been writing open letters and sending reports she has compiled to media outlets and prominent officials and agencies in the US, the UK and Europe to question their decisions and/or to inform them of the dangers of pesticides. She has been relentless in exposing conflicts of interest, fraudulent science and institutionalised corruption in regulatory processes surrounding glyphosate and other agrochemicals. Her quest has been fired by a passion to protect the natural world and the public but there is also a personal aspect: she is affected by a serious health condition which she attributes directly to the reckless use of pesticides in South Wales where she resides. And her assertion here is not based on idle speculation. In her reports, she has presented a great deal of evidence about the deterioration of the health of the British public and how agrochemicals play a major contributory role.

She recently sent me a report ‘How glyphosate-based herbicides poisoned our nature reserve and the world‘. It focuses on how she had set up a nature reserve in South Wales. What she and her husband (who has a professional background in conservation and nature) had achieved on that reserve was impressive. But thanks to the local council’s indiscriminate spraying of glyphosate-based herbicides, it was subsequently transformed from a piece of land teeming with flora and fauna into a barren wasteland.

What follows is an interview I conducted with Rosemary Mason about her nature reserve and her campaigning. We discussed her motivation, the support she has received and her feelings after almost a decade of campaigning.

Colin Todhunter:  Have you always had a passion for the natural environment?

Rosemary Mason:  I was born in the countryside during the war and my mother took us on walks and taught us about wildflowers, which was her passion. My brothers and I fished in the stream for minnows and sticklebacks and set nightlines for pike and chub (we never caught any). When I was a junior doctor, I became interested in bird watching and I am former chair of the West Area, Glamorgan Wildlife Trust. At that time, unlike today, farmland was full of lapwing, oystercatcher and redshank displaying and protecting their nests.

CT: Why did you decide to set up your nature reserve?

RM: In 2006, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust was launched in response to the massive declines in bumblebees, butterflies and insects in general, with the demise of traditional hedgerows, hay meadows, chalk grassland and wildflowers and the intensification of farming and the widening use of pesticides. At the same time, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council perversely announced the closure of its wildlife research centres for ‘financial reasons’, a decision opposed by 99% of 1,327 stakeholders. Monks Wood centre, which hosted BBC’s Spring Watch, pioneered work on DDT and pesticides in the 1960s and more recently revealed how climate change is affecting wildlife, with spring arriving three weeks earlier. More significantly, the research centres were also involved in assessing the impacts of GM (genetically modified) crops on wildlife, with findings contradicting industry claims that no harm would be caused.

In response, in March 2006, my husband and I decided to establish our own small pesticide-free wildlife reserve after attending a joint meeting of the Welsh Ornithological Society and the British Trust for Ornithology in Aberystwyth.

CT: I have read your new report about your nature reserve. I would certainly encourage everyone to read it. It describes in some detail how you and your husband set about attracting an impressively wide array of bird, insect and plant species to the reserve, many of which had virtually disappeared from the British countryside, mainly as a result of intensive farming practices. What I found impressive is your knowledge of these species and how you were able to identify them. From the narrative provided (which at times reads almost like a novel) and the enthusiasm conveyed, you put in a lot of hard work developing the reserve and what you achieved there was impressive.

RM: In brief, it was a miracle. I think the next five years from 2006 were the most exciting and fulfilling of my life. At the end of 2009, I wrote an account of speckled bush crickets. Judith Marshall, working at the Natural History Museum, is a world expert on grasshoppers and bush crickets. She said it was the first monograph to be written on a single species.

CT: Can you say something about the demise of the nature reserve?

RM: We published a second photo-journal in 2010, ‘The year of the bumblebee: observations in a small nature reserve.’ But in 2011, I knew something was wrong. The moths were disappearing from the area and the orb web spider had gone from the hedge. We were aware that the local council was spraying glyphosate-based herbicides on Japanese knotweed in the valley below and close to our reserve. But we had to be sure.

So, in August 2013 and August 2014, we sent samples of river water and tap water to Leipzig to Prof Dr Monika Kreuger for analysis. Between August 2013 and August 2014, the levels of glyphosate in tap water had increased ten-fold, from 30 ppt to 300 ppt. These were of the order of concentrations that stimulated the growth of breast cancer cells in a laboratory setting.

In August 2013, we asked our then Welsh Assembly Member to request the council to stop spraying glyphosate-based herbicides on Japanese knotweed. The council said they would only stop if they were authorised by the Health and Safety Executive. So, I wrote to the HSE at the beginning of 2014 telling them about measuring increasing glyphosate levels in water and that we had had many cases of breast cancer in our area. They refused to do it because they said that glyphosate-based herbicides were still legal. I begged them to do it on several occasions, as we saw the biodiversity in our reserve plummeting. Finally, they said if I asked the same question again, they wouldn’t reply to me.

CT: You have engaged in a long struggle for many years, trying to get officials at local, national and European levels to act on pesticides. You have written many open letters to policy makers and key officials and have usually attached lengthy reports referring to data and scientific papers in support of your case. I think you began doing this in late 2010. Whose work have you taken inspiration from along the way?

RM: The work of Dr Henk Tennekes, the independent Dutch toxicologist, was a real eye opener for me. In 2010, he published a paper and wrote a book ‘The Systemic Insecticides: a disaster in the making’. It is about the loss of insects and insect-feeding birds in Europe, caused by neonicotinoid insecticides. The RSPB and the IUCN Charities refused to help fund the book because it ‘wasn’t scientific enough’.  We subsequently discovered that Syngenta had funded neonicotinoid seeds for the RSPB Hope Farm Reserve. Systemic neonicotinoid insecticides are still on the market in the UK and the US nine years later.

I found Henk’s work to be shattering. It actually changed the course of my life. The fact was that he’d worked out that the effect on the brains of insects was irreversible, cumulative and there was no safe level of exposure. What was worse was that the Chemical Regulation Directorate didn’t seem to take it seriously. So, I wrote to Europe and the US EPA and the response was the same: ‘there is no evidence that the neonics are harmful to honeybees.’ Henk had written this book with amazing pictures and artwork showing the impact on insect-feeding birds throughout Europe. Humans had the same receptors; so, imagine the effects on humans if there are lots of neonics around. By March 2011, Henk and I decided that there would be a chemical apocalypse. So here we are, eight years later and bingo, our predictions were spot on!

Francisco Sanchez-Bayo, a toxicologist living in Australia, wrote papers with Henk agreeing that neonicotinoids insecticides irreversibly damaged the brains of insects and that levels built up over time. In 2019, he wrote a paper with a colleague in China, which proved that insect losses were global and due to pesticides.

Then there was the late Dr Maewan Ho of the former Institute of Science in Society who helped me to publish an article in the ISiS magazine in September 2014: ‘How Roundup poisoned my nature reserve’. She sadly died on 16 March 2016 from advanced cancer. She was an amazing woman and gave me much encouragement.

Finally, Polly Higgins, a Scottish barrister and environmentalist, gave up her practice and set up an organisation to end ecocide (destruction of the environment). Polly Higgins was an inspiration and campaigned tirelessly against ecocide. She died from cancer aged 50.

CT: Given all the open letters you have written to officials over the years, I cannot but feel you have by and large been stonewalled. Where does the buck stop?

RM: With David Cameron, the Health and Safety Executive and Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) . A ‘Letter from America’ was sent from nearly 60 million US citizens warning Europe not to authorise GM crops and Roundup because of the disastrous effects on human health and biodiversity. Wales and Scotland took that advice. David Cameron received it on 11 November 2014, but he and Defra ignored it on behalf of England and kept it secret from the public. Cameron also appointed Michael Pragnell, Founder of Syngenta, to be Chairman of Cancer Research UK, which I’ve written about.

The HSE refused to ask the Council to stop spraying GBH on our reserve because it was ‘still legal’. The European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority ignored the Letter from America too and kept on authorising GM crops for feed and food in the EU.

Of course, there are many others who should be held responsible too, such as Bernhard Url, chief executive of EFSA, and the recently retired Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies.

CT: How do you feel about the destruction of your reserve, the pesticides issue, the state of nature and those officials who have effectively ignored much of what you have said to them? Disappointed? Frustrated?

RM: Those are such inadequate words to express my feelings. I am devastated about the global losses of biodiversity and I weep for our reserve. Sometimes, I dream that it is all reversible, but I know it is not. I read books about nature as ‘comfort food’. I feel sorry for the children who may never see a butterfly or a bumblebee. Indeed, I am a bit disappointed about the lack of support I have had from certain environmental groups and media outlets that report on environmental issues. I would like the mainstream media to acknowledge the role of the pesticides industry, but I don’t suppose they ever will.

However, I have gained some satisfaction from receiving expressions of gratitude and praise via the academia.edu site where my work is archived. And at least Jon Snow (Channel 4 broadcast journalist in the UK) has revealed the chief cause of losses of biodiversity to be poisoning the land, not global warming.

How do I feel? Maybe ‘resigned’ would be the right word to use.

• All of Rosemary Mason’s work can be accessed on the academia.edu website here.

Silent Spring’s Encore

Rachel Carson’s famous and brilliant book Silent Spring (1962), which single-handedly ignited the environmental movement, has never been more relevant than it is today.

A mimeo of Silent Spring is scheduled for publication by the UN, as the most comprehensive study of life on the planet ever undertaken, an 1,800-page study by the world’s leading scientists that spells out in detail the results of a massive study of the world’s ecosystems.

The conclusion:  Nature is in “steep decline.”

According to Mike Barrett, WWF’s executive director of conservation and science: “All of our ecosystems are in trouble. This is the most comprehensive report on the state of the environment. It irrefutably confirms that nature is in steep decline.”1

Interestingly enough, in days of yore, Silent Spring’s opening chapter, “A Fable for Tomorrow,” described a fictional flourishing town in the heartland of America with its splendid natural beauty; however, within only a few pages, that alluring picturesque community degenerates: “A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed….”

Thereafter, Silent Spring turns non-fictional as it informs its reading public; i.e., the radicalized Sixties, that 500 new chemicals “… annually find their way into actual use in the U.S. alone to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience.”

Thus, Carson is renown for single-handedly exposing the death throes of biota via DDT exposure, fertilizers and pesticides. She rang the biggest, loudest clarion bell ever to hit the chemical industry, post industrial revolution. To wit: Both industrialization at full tilt GDP and lickety-split suburbia were dealt a thud to the head by Silent Spring’s exposé.

In essence, Silent Spring exposed capitalism’s thirst for unabashed growth, bringing in its wake chemicals necessary to clear, and open, pathways for unrelenting growth, but, along the way killing the proverbial golden goose, ecosystems that support life, an upshot of unchecked usage of chemicals, still true to this day, although more so.

Rachel Carson’s book, which was, and still is, considered “the handbook for the future of all life on Earth,” became the cause célèbre for elimination of DDT, saving the country’s symbol of glory, the American eagle, as well as opening the eyes of an ignorant public to the rough and tumble underbelly of capitalistic development, at any and all, costs, only profits count.

Ever since Silence Spring hit bookshelves in NYC, the world has experienced 60 years of precisely what Rachel Carson anticipated. The cumulative effect is still the best-kept dirty secret in America but likely not for long.

Accordingly, the 1,800-page UN study will claim there is no time to despair as “an environmental emergency for humanity” is at hand, a triple challenge of climate, nature and food production. It adds up to a veiled threat: Nations of the world must act quickly to develop a rescue plan for ecosystems, or it’s lights out, the end.

The “collapse of nature” is/will be featured in the UN report. Humanity is decimating its own living systems via conversion of forests, wetlands, and “the wild” into ploughed fields, dammed reservoirs, and concrete cities as 75% of the world’s land has been severely altered for immediate conversion for a bursting world population, aka: The Great Acceleration, without “one lick of concern” for impact on life-supporting ecosystems. As a result, ecosystems are a mess and a threat to life all across the planet.

Shame on the leaders of the Western and Eastern world for substituting high-end rough and tumble turbo capitalism that seeks individual wealth creation (the infamous 1% and several others) at the expense of a living/breathing/healing/supportive/life-giving biosphere.

But honestly, the problem is almost too simplistic: Essentially, humanity has been “cooking its own goose” far too long with ecosystems literally overdone, burned-out, exhausted, ignored by civilization. When, in fact, ecosystems are collapsing.

The federal state of Bavaria, Germany precociously just passed a public referendum, by a huge margin of voters, to “Protect Nature” as a result of crumbling ecosystems and massive loss of flying insects (75%) discovered in sixty-three European nature preserves.

All of which begs the question of why did a referendum to protect nature in the ultra-conservative domain of Bavaria come to surface? The answer is simple enough: Bavarians are conservative, believing in the status quo, caring for the land.  However, desperate citizens of Bavaria were startled by native landscapes that were (1) monotonous, (2) overly developed, and (3) strikingly “empty of life.” What could be worse? Answer: Only nuclear war.

Bavaria’s recognition of the “empty of life” imbroglio is more and more acknowledged by scientists in regions of the planet that are pristine environments; for example, a 40-year study of rainforests in Puerto Rico and Mexico discovered that arthropods had vanished! That’s the kind of stuff that precedes doomsday parades; the kind that nobody likes to attend.

As it happens, a world filled to the brim with both rogue chemicals and rogue greenhouse gases is a setup for exactly the kind of heart-breaking parade that Carson saw coming all of six decades ago. For example, according to the UN Environmental Program, five million people die and 86 million are disabled every year by chemicals, making chemicals one of the biggest causes of death in the world.

But, that’s only for starters because, according to the World Health Organization and the UN Environmental Program, toxic chemicals have been implicated in cancers, heart disease, diabetes and mental disorders (does that sound familiar?)

Studies at NY State University demonstrated exposure to multiple chemicals were far worse than single chemicals as for impact on the human body, causing developmental disorders, sexual dysfunction, infertility, nerve, brain, and bone diseases, autism, depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, cancers and heart disease. (Hmm- health problems that today are “on the rise like never before.”)

A large international study of 85 suspect chemicals found that even low doses of comparatively innocuous chemicals might trigger cancers when combined with other chemicals in diet or the living environment.2

Rachel Carson would be shocked to know that, 60 years subsequent to publication of Silent Spring, health authorities and world leaders have never/ever demanded adequate studies or thorough careful analyses of thousands of chemicals drowning the world in toxicity.

Meanwhile, toxic man-made chemicals are routinely found by scientists in birds, whales, seals, polar bears, and other life forms, which have never had contact with humans, as well as spread throughout the global food chain.3

Postscript: Rachel Carson dedicated her book, Silent Spring, to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), who said: “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” Amen!

  1. Jonathan Watts, “Biodiversity Crisis is About to Put Humanity at Risk, UN Scientists to Warn”, The Guardian, May 3, 2019.
  2. W.H. Goodson, et al, “Assessing the Carcinogenic potential of low-dose Exposures to Chemical Mixtures in the Environment”, Carcinogenesis, Oxford Journal, 2015.
  3. Julian Cribb, Surviving the 21st Century, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 2017.

Bavarians Vote to Stop Extinction

The world is in the throes of an extinction crisis unlike any throughout paleoclimate history, aka: the Sixth Mass Extinction, keeping in mind that the normal “background rate” for extinction is 1-to-5 species gone per year. But, what if it’s five (5) every 24 hours?

Answer: It’s a lot more than that.

The current worldwide extinction rate is more than 1,000xs the normal background rate, or, in the simplest of terms, instead of 1-to-5 species extinct per year, it’s alarmingly somewhere between 25-to-250 (maybe more) species of plant, insect, bird, and mammal extinct every 24 hours.

In fact, crucial resources for sustaining life have already been severely weakened, as demonstrated in studies of mass loss of arthropods, and other key elements of biodiversity happening all over the planet from Australia to pristine European nature preserves to uninhabited tropical rainforests, as the Anthropocene (the current geological age during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment) haphazardly destroys and poisons life-sourcing ecosystems.

For example, ecosystems are negatively impacted far and wide by chemicals to such an extreme that chemical toxins are now found in Mt. Everest’s snow at 29,000 feet as well as in deep-water squid at 3,800 feet, proving that what’s ordinarily considered “hard to believe” is, in fact, “almost beyond comprehension.”

Meanwhile, the world has started taking notice, and it’s Germany where the Age of Enlightenment has fortunately been resurrected by enlightened skeptics, known as “liberals” back in the 18th century, challenging current societal values and exposing false truths.

This quasi-enlightenment surge is happening in Bavaria, Germany’s most conservative of 16 federal states, led by the Christian Social Union (“CSU”) ever since 1946, as this powerful bastion of political conservatism responds to grassroots citizen campaigns and a recently passed referendum to “Protect Nature,” primarily via major changes in industrial farming.

As one conservationist remarked upon passage of the referendum: “The times when it was enough for politicians to pay lip service to biodiversity are over.”1

Henceforth, Bavarians will implement a sweeping set of conservation measures, including: (1) Setting aside 13% of state land in special ecological zones, inclusive of ecosystem infrastructure of hedgerows, meadows, and wetlands  (2) Organic agriculture must be practiced in 1/3 of Bavarian farmland, as well as cutting out fertilizers on all state-owned farms to reduce nitrogen pollution (3) Protection of wetlands, waterways, and threatened insect populations by eliminating insecticides as much as possible.

Already, three more German states are considering biodiversity referendums, as well as inquiries from Sweden and Australian.  Another proposal would designate large portions of EU agricultural subsidies diverted for protection of biodiversity.

The motivation behind Bavarian citizens reacting so strongly in the face of opposition by the ruling political establishment was awareness that native landscapes had turned monotonous, overly developed, and strikingly “empty of life.”

Another motivating catalyst was the landmark 2017 Krefeld Insect Study conducted by German researchers, as well as citizen scientists, that clearly delineated a mouth-dropping 75% loss in biomass of flying insects in a large number of nature reserves over a period of 25 years.

Krefeld Entomological Society, est. 1905 in Germany, trapped insect samples in 63 nature preserves. They consistently found massive declines of up to 80% in every kind of habitat sampled.

For example, data for hoverflies, a pollinator often mistaken for a bee, registered 17,291 trapped in a reserve in 1989. Twenty-five years later at the same location, it was 2,737 or a whopping loss of 84%! That number is well beyond classification for an extinction event. Thereafter, the only question going forward is whether species comeback is possible.

Today’s Sixth Extinction is so prevalent that scientists prefer to designate species loss as “functional extinctions,” which means functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect an ecosystem; e.g., a shortage of insect pollinators in the Maoxian Valley in China forced farmers to hire human workers at $19 per worker/per day to replace bees. Each worker pollinated 5-to-10 apple trees by hand per day.

Scientists from Bavaria’s leading research institutions are hopeful that their referendum will trigger a massive worldwide reduction in the use of insecticides and herbicides in agriculture, which should, in turn, boost insect populations.

According to the renowned Harvard entomologist E.O. Wilson, without insects and other land-based arthropods, humanity would last all of a few months.

It’s been nearly six decades since Rachel Carson wrote:

The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book (Silent Spring). What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened.

Well, finally, Bavarians discovered that fact 60 years later (whew!)

  1. Christian Schwägerl, “In Conservative Bavaria, Citizens Force Bold Action on Protecting Nature”, Yale Environment 360, April 25, 2019.

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Note: I enjoy intersecting with scientists who are associated with universities that are now struggling to keep afloat, for many reasons to include the rise of the admin class, deanlets, non-academic departments, states lowering the matching rate to pay for faculty, presidents of universities making way too much money but throwing more at the athletic departments; and, alas, these vibrant and fully-packed schools — supposedly the smartest and brightest —  have continuously sold out by taking bribe money from major corporations to shunt true research away from the capitalists’ intended and unintended crimes of their engines of profit.

I think, though, it’s good to shift from my radicalized (root deep) perspective and narrative to a more down played newspaper style. I have sent this to the editor of the newspaper I have been working with to promote environmental concerns in the area I know call home — since December 2018.

So, here, a story that on the surface is a sciency piece to bring the small communities that read the newspaper a chance at seeing some of the super stars at the university — home of the beavers — that is 50 miles away as a main campus and with a marine sciences teaching and research facility in the town of Newport:

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Analytical and organic chemistry were on display April 25 in Newport, and as a science buff and former science reporter, I find it fascinating to glean from a Ph.D.’s rarefied research pertinent information for the lay person. In this case, the average reader of the Times-News.

For one Oregon State University chemist — who was once a research scientist for Proctor and Gamble before her current 16 years at OSU — the big question she is preoccupied with ties into thousands of remediation sites in the country: Is the remediation making these sites more toxic?

For our Newport area, the public is lucky to have researchers, experts, artists and others speak about their research and projects at the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. One such speaker, Staci Simonich, OSU VP for Research Operations & Integrity and chemistry professor, presented her deep study into a by-product of the incomplete combustion of organic matter.

Simonich’s research presentation, “Is Remediation Worth It?:  The Potential for Remediation to Make Soils and Waterways More Toxic,” has huge implications for every American since, first, what she’s studying —  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — are ubiquitous and are known carcinogens and disruptors of DNA, as in producing birth defects. Second, we pay billions a year to clean up sites contaminated with PAH’s vis-à-vis industries associated with fossil fuel and coal extraction, processing and burning.

The OSU chemist, who supports a cadre of graduate students also researching PAHs, posits an age-old question: Is the cure worse than the disease?

Her team’s research is both compelling and, in some sense, earth shattering in a world of continued growth of industrialization, the burning of biomass (forests, jungle), and fossil fuel production processes such as hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking.

“Our results to date indicate that previously unidentified PAH breakdown products form in the environment and during remediation of Superfund sites,” she states.  “As the research continues, we will be able to assess which remediation technologies minimize their formation and if they pose a hazard to human health.”

The chemistry is somewhat straightforward – in the lab. However, “we are hoping to try to understand the transformation process of PAHs in a highly complex media – soil.” Deploying the fields of toxicology and chemistry will help engineers to understand what is causing the toxicity to stay the same or go up even after bioremediation.

These aromatic compounds are also found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust and in the smoke (and food) of barbecuing foods. The leeching out of soils into waterways is one way they bioaccumulate in the food-web.

In the end, for the average person, the lifetime cancer risks and the best bang for the buck are two overriding concerns. Oil spills on land and in water are regular occurrences – thousands and thousands a year, not of the Exxon Valdez or Gulf Coast variety and size. Many compounds are formed from the chemical evolutionary process of remediating a fouled site.

Simonich stated that we just do not know the toxicity of these metabolites created in the process of bioremediation.

The cheapest and most effective is composting using all sorts of complex organic substances mixed into the contaminated soil. Included in the clean-up process is biostimulation, bioaugmentation, phytoremediation at the site.

“There is no magic bug to cleaning up a site. In most cases, there are decreases in toxicity but not to a safe level,” she told the audience.

One area she and her students have studied is the SEE method of dealing with contaminated sites – steam enhanced extraction. There is an injection well, where steam is pumped in, turning into hot water that then moves the oil through the transportation process underground where the oil/water mix can then be pumped out. “The steam enhanced extraction process could increase toxicity,” she warned.

We also have to dispose of the water/oil mixture once pumped out.

Luckily for chemists like Simonich, they can get DNA and birth defect results from some of these remediated soils’ toxicity levels not through human subjects but by using a zebra-fish specifically raised to test developmental toxicity.

Here, the hours past fertilization tell an interesting story about cell damage, or genes that have been knocked out because of, say, soil contaminated by coal tar which is a big issue for the southeast.

As common as electrical and cable poles are in Lincoln County, many readers might not realize there is an unintended cancer causing consequence of the chemical treatment of wooden poles to keep them from rotting and decaying. Creosote is a culprit in many sites across the country where the soil is polluted through production and application of the substance.

For instance, the poison — a dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative containing a number of phenols, cresols, and other organic compounds – seeps into the soil initiating what Staci Simonich focuses on:  the measurement, fate, transport, and toxicity of PAH transformation products during remediation and atmospheric transport.

Another huge concern is the long-range transportation the North America relies on for goods coming from Asia. A typical trip for a container ship from say, Xiamen, China, to Oakland or Seattle, takes 19 days. The amount of smoke – containing many of the main 16 PAHs – is astronomical.

The implications are vast, as the wind currents move the particulates eastward where they end up precipitating out along the Pacific Coast range, and beyond, due to the cold condensation process. So Chinese diesel smoke from container ships ends up leaching out into our soils and waterways, again, affecting the health of both humans and non-humans alike.

I posed a question to her about just how safe are all the brownfields redeveloped throughout the USA – old railroad yards, mill and factory sites that have been in disuse and then re-purposed for prime real estate planned developments as more and more cities shift from manufacturing to services.

The chemist winced some, nodded her head, and basically indicated that we have no idea just what new compounds and off-shoots have been percolating through the soils and just how hazardous to human development and health they might be.

Staci Simonich Lab

End note: So, as many of my friends have stated, why is it us, the average person, who has to pay both the ecological/health costs of these capitalist systems as well as pay to mitigate the other parts of attempting to clean up the toxic mess?

We can’t blame China, when corporations have made a million Faustian Bargains with insane business leaders and greedy rich people who will capitalize on any means necessary to corner markets, kill competition, thwart ecosocialism, squeeze local economies, bring human suffering through unchecked mining, harvesting, burning and drives for more and more economies of scale business mispractices.

I will remind my readers that we have so many cascading issues at hand, beyond the existential crisis of global warming/world without ice.   We have microplastics in every human’s feces and have zero idea what that means to the human physiology. We have the kissing bug moving north in the USA, a seemingly benign insect story, right? Fueled by global warming in the USA

Benign? And, the conservative scientists are not yet going to hands down say the spread of the species into the USA starting in 1880 and now moving north to northern states is a result of climate change. Alas, this is why many in the world I align with are so skeptical of the sciences and the academics arena where science is touted but not politicized, which it should be!

Triatomine bugs, more commonly known as kissing bugs, are called as such because of their behavior of biting humans in the face, particularly near the mouth or eyes, and often when the human is sleeping.

Kissing bugs are common in places with warmer climates such as in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, but they have since been spotted in many U.S. states. In particular, kissing bugs have been spotted in southern states since the 1800s, but recently they are also being observed in northern states as well.

Unfortunately, the insects are carriers of Chagas disease, which is a condition that can cause fever, mild swelling, or in some cases inflammation of the heart or brain muscles. If left untreated, it can enter a chronic phase and even last for a lifetime.

The infection, however, does not come from the bite itself, but from the fecal matter of the insect, which gets smeared at the wound when the bitten person scratches.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 300,000 people with Chagas Disease in the United States, but that the number may be rising. Most of the cases are of people who got the infection after living in or traveling to South or Central America. As such, the agency has since set up education courses about Chagas disease for physicians and nurses.

As I teach and write a short book on the hazards of bad education, and the good, bad and ugly of US public education, I understand there are massive shifts in the way people think, or can’t think. “The Road Beckons” in Counterpunch:

Although I often took my students’ anti-intellectualism personally, I knew that their attitudes had developed in an accommodating milieu. Beginning roughly with the Reagan years, the colleges and universities transformed themselves into business-like corporations: marketing experts, corporate titles for academic officers, patent shopping, shilling for business paraded as public interest research, distance “learning,” grotesquely high salaries for those who bring in the most money, million-dollar coaches, education as product, students as consumers, the de-funding of the humanities and social sciences, and the general cheapening of learning. As business values consumed the colleges, class sizes shot up and more part-timers were hired. To compensate for lower pay and harder work, teachers began to cut corners, dumbing-down their classes in the process. This meant that less competent teachers could be hired, and this fit in nicely with the work-averse attitudes of so many students. Students flocked to easy teachers and soft majors, like business and communications, and the schools got worse and worse.

Inherently true is the fact that we again, simple bright people that we are, have to pay the ferryman — business, war lords, toll-tax-fine collectors — to live, and that living is now on a razor’s edge, so much closer to everyone in the world now being born mutated, knocked off genes, continual chronic illness and chronic way of thinking. Here, farmer, older than I am, Joe, from Merced, California:

Paul

The thing that chaps my balls the most is how Fukashima along with an estimated 450 plants worldwide along with 60 under construction,* each one a potential environmental nightmare long after man has gone the way of the buffalo, has fallen completely off the environmental communities radar. This atomic nightmare from Hell brought to us by those that bring good things to life/GE, is rarely talked about even among the most devote environmentalists. Many in the environmental community look to nuclear as being part of a green solution. It’s fine tuned insanity. Fukashima will continue to pollute the ocean long after today’s children are dead and gone, spewing its radiation like a drunken sailor on shore leave spews his puke.

And the other thing that really twists my nuts in a knot is how these corporations that cause all these environmental nightmares are let completely off the hook for the cleanup of their messes. Everyone of the corporations are LLC’s, limited liability corporations, that in the event that they truly fuck the goose that laid the golden egg to death, are allowed to file bankruptcy and reform as a new entity, leaving the victims to deal with the results of their negligence. The CEO’s and the top brass of these corporations make out like bandits. Hell they don’t even cover their faces with bandanas anymore while they hold you at gun point. PG&E is doing that right now in California. Look back at every super screw-up by these corporations and you’ll see it’s the people effected by their misdeeds along with the taxpayers that pickup the tab.

My objection to the Green New Deal is that it shouldn’t be up to us to pay for the GND but rather the corporations that have taken us to the brink of collapse. Those are the ones that should have their assets confiscated to pay for the GND. They’ve screwed the public for their profit seeking for years. Now it’s time for the public to make love to them against their will. The public as you have said before Paul, didn’t get to vote to have our water destroyed, our air polluted, our oceans filled with plastic, the people that benefited from foisting this shit on us shouldn’t get to vote on us confiscating their assets to clean up what they created.

I’ve written about it before, being verbally attacked at the farmer’s market one day for questioning the idea of people running to raise money for breast cancer victims. My question to the attacker was why don’t you run to raise money to hold the corporations that create the conditions that cause cancer accountable and throw their sorry asses in jail? Prevention is worth a pound of cure right? Why won’t the public hold these profiteers accountable? It was as though I killed a government mule, having the audacity to criticize people trying to help the victims of cancer.

I don’t pretend to have any answers, but until as Geoff Beckman today quotes, H.L. Mencken who wrote, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.”

I know of no greater group of people deserving of such a destiny than the corporate oligarchy and their minions in government.

Joe

So, the corporations need their Little Eichmanns to succeed and to formulate their schemes at indenturing most of us to their dirty, greedy, illegal and unethical practices. And now, the marketing of the environmental crisis, and it’s rarely now the crises of pollution, fence line communities sucking in all the vapors of plastics and polymers. Rarely do we care about the hundreds of thousands of carcinogens spit out through industrial capitalism. Rarely do we think what it means to have nanoparticles coursing through our bodies, messing with glands and nervous systems and crossing the blood-brain barrier.

The horrors a bigger and more tied to the technological enslavement we have allowed ourselves to live under than the bleaching coral reefs. All bad, but imagine, how many more percentage-wise people on planet earth born with more and more mutated genes and expressions of chronic mental, intellectual and physical disease.

For a bit of anti-NGD ending, John Steppling:

Our thought, so enslaved to instrumental logic, a logic that demands even superficial and meaningless *solutions*, cannot conceive a Nature that is not a colonial externality. That Nature, that which ostensibly everyone is trying to save (except for those who aren’t) seems just out of mental reach. The Garden of Eden story is very telling in a sense here. The cultic think is one that reflexively tolerates brutality and even fascist domination if it helps save the planet. That is certainly the way the marketing of new green projects sees it — lesser evil-ism in a sense, with apocalyptic overtones. And with every new threat or prediction the bourgeoisie double down on repressing their own terror, and double down projecting it outward onto those who will not fall in line. Nature, the planet Nature, is increasingly abstracted and these adumbrated narratives or story-lines are scanned and their linkage to the economic engine of society is repressed, pushed ever further back out of conscious reflection. The cultic neo New Age concerns for humanity have compartmentalized to such a degree that even ongoing Western genocides are barely mentioned. The economic logic of Capital has subsumed notions of a future, of value and concern and care and empathy. Saving the planet means tolerating the lesser evil. It is the derivatives market logic in a certain sense.

The possible is only found through de-organizing the instrumental. I fear the right image might trigger mass executions — not by the state (though that, too, I suppose) but by the bourgeoisie, the white concerned American.

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