Category Archives: Planet Earth

One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy

Symbioses — prolonged associations between organisms often widely separated phylogenetically — are more common in biology than we once thought and have been neglected as a phenomenon worthy of study on its own merits. Extending along a dynamic continuum from antagonistic to cooperative and often involving elements of both antagonism and mutualism, symbioses involve pathogens, commensals, and mutualists interacting in myriad ways over the evolutionary history of the involved ‘partners.’

— Gregory G. Dimijian, “Evolving Together: The Biology of Symbiosis”

It’s about being really committed. I tell students who are not any smarter than their peers that this takes hard work … to work on one question for five to seven years.

— Sarah Henkel on what it takes to study for and gain a doctorate in marine sciences

One never knows the waters a science-based article will dip into when a writer features one of OSU-Hatfield’s multidisciplinary researchers. Scientists look at very focused questions while naturalists and generalist ecologists look at systems from a broader range, but that interplay is less friction than analysis. As a journalist, my job is to dig deep and find those connections.

For Sarah Henkel, looking at how human-made structures affect what happens at the bottom of the sea is both fascinating and important to all human-activities in and around marine systems.

However, one scientist’s invasive species is another scientist’s opportunistic species. She’s got creed in the study of the benthic zone (what’s happening on the ocean’s bottom) and wave energy.

In her office at Hatfield, Sara and I recognize that the world of ecology is evolving due to innovative research and new questions scientists and policy makers are no longer afraid to ask.

She’s not atypical – a smart scientist who is open to fielding a wide-range of inquiries.

Because of the heavy footprint humans have put upon the environment in the form of cutting down entire forests and jungles, as well as geo-engineering the planet through fossil fuel burning and all the chemicals released in industrial processes, newer challenges to both our species’ and other species’ survival end up in the brains and labs of scientists.

To say science is changing rapidly is an understatement.

One Floating Piece of Debris Can Change an Entire Coast

For Henkel, she wonders what the effects of one pilon, one mooring anchor, and one attached buoy have on ecologies from the sea floor, upward.

The ocean, once considered immune to humanity’s despoilments, is as far as its chemical composition and ecological processes fragile with just the right forcers. HMSC is lucky to have dedicated thinkers like Sarah Henkel working on questions regarding not only this part of the world, but globally.

Students working with Sarah gain varying knowledge she’s accomplished through transitions from inland girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, where creeks, deciduous forest and terrestrial animals enchanted her and her sibling, to marine scientist in Oregon.

“Ever since I was in third grade, I knew I was going to be a marine biologist,” she says while we talk in her office at Hatfield. When a child, she visited a “touch tank” at a museum near her home and was completely fascinated with the horseshoe crabs.

Posters of benthic megaflora – seaweed and eel grass – adorn her office walls at HMSC. We’re talking about kelps like bull whip, feather boa, deadman’s finger, witch’s hair, studded sea balloons, and Turkish towel displayed on posters.

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Symbiosis, Cooperation, Opportunism, Invasiveness? That is the Question.

While we talk about kelp/seaweed, she shifts to invasive species like Undaria pinnatifida which hitched onto debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Over a dozen species on a worldwide list of invasive species were on broken dock moorings that washed up near Newport. Three — Undaria pinnatifida, Codium fragile, and Grateloupia turuturu — are particularly hazardous.

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Some of Henkel’s work looks at one gene expression, say, in Egregia menziesii, to uncover how the species responds to various conditions. Some big issues dovetail to Undaria pinnatifida playing havoc in Australia and New Zealand.

Her fundamental question is how can certain invasive species establish niches in very different waters from where they evolved. Looking at temperature and salinity tolerances as well as desiccation limits of species helps cities, states and countries manage opportunistic invasives that not only thrive in new places, but push out endemic species.

East Coast-West Coast: Transplantation

Henkel’s a transplant herself, from Virginia, with a science degree from the College of William and Mary. She tells me that she was lucky to have gotten into a gifted and talented high school program where she attended half a day every morning, then getting bused back to her home school in the afternoon — for three years.

“It [Virginia Governor’s School] was set up like a college, with professors and curriculum more like college-level courses.”

She then transplanted herself to California State University–Fullerton in 2000 to work on a master’s degree. Then, further north, to UC-Santa Barbara for a doctorate in marine sciences.

The final thrust northward was in 2009, to OSU, where she has been ever since.

We laugh at the idea of humans also being an invasive or transplanted species: She brings up a place like San Francisco Bay which is considered by scientists as a “global zoo” of invasive species with as many as 500 plants and animals from foreign shores taking hold in Frisco’s marine waters.

“Scientists think there are more invasives in San Francisco Bay than there are native species.”

She, her husband Will, and their six-year-old live in Toledo because, as she says, “there’s no marine layer to contend with and Toledo has a summer up there.” Mountain biking is what the family of three enjoy – from Alsea Falls, to Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood.

If We Build It, Will They Come, Leave or Morph?

“The biggest issue facing wind and wave energy developers in the environmental arena is the high level of uncertainty regarding environmental effects will be difficult to reduce that uncertainty.” – Sarah Henkel

After her Ph.D, from UC-Santa Barbara, Sarah sent out more than a dozen applications for professorships and research positions to universities.

What got her into the OSU Family was her work at a California-based Trust looking at decommissioning offshore oil platforms.

“What sorts of animals are living on platforms? Do you cut them off at the top to allow navigation and then preserve whatever’s grown on it?” Artificial reefs are attractive in increasing species like corals, sponges, fish and crustacean, but she emphasized that’s mostly done in tropical locations. Henkel says she was a strong candidate for OSU because of the school’s work on the effects of wave energy equipment and lines on the ecosystem up here off Newport.

Image result for Oregon seaweed poster

The marriage between Henkel’s knowledge of benthic ecosystems and the need to understand not only what the moorings of wave energy machines do to fauna like boney fish, crabs, and other species, but also what happens to the mechanisms that are immersed in water as they capture the wave energy was perfect for OSU.

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She points out wind turbines also have anchoring systems and superstructures; however, the actual energy-capturing mechanisms are high in the air as opposed to wave energy devices.

Wave Energy, Blue Energy: No Slam Dunk

“The industry recognizes the value of looking like they are being good environmental stewards,” she says, pointing out her ecological expertise melds well with the industry’s ideal of sustainable, renewable clean energy.

Her role with the Pacific Marine Energy Center is to coordinate all the science concerned with the ecological effects of wind energy – both the siting, building, and operation of any wave energy array.

OSU is looking at wave energy while the other members of PMEC are studying tidal energy (University of Washington) and river energy (University of Alaska).

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small energy generating device, river

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tidal

The idea of studying sediment changes caused by anchors and structures located on the bottom – at the grain size level – may not be considered “sexy” when one thinks of marine biology; however, for Henkel the benthic zone is where it’s at.

“The classic question for artificial reefs is attraction versus production: Can there be more fish overall with this additional habitat, or is that artificial habitat attracting fish away from natural reefs?”

The permitting process for the wave energy site off Newport has been both Byzantine and slow, and it’s ironic that in her 10 years at OSU, she’s not had any opportunity to do the field observations and data collecting she was hired to head up. In that decade, Henkel said a 1/3 scale wave energy device was put into the ocean out here for seven weeks.

Henkel is not stuck in limbo, however, since she is conducting research into other aspects of the benthic region with far-reaching implications for our coastal economy.


Crabs on the Move

When we think of the Dungeness crab, most realize it’s Oregon’s leading commercial seafood product; it brought in an estimated $75 million in 2018. Henkel posed a question that many crabbers have had in their minds for years: How far will crabs travel in search of food?

In 2018, Henkel and a colleague from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superglued acoustic tags onto legal-sized Dungeness crabs near the mouth of the Columbia River and off Cape Falcon.

Acoustical receivers helped the team learn the frequency and distance crabs moved in rocky versus sandy habitat – data that, again, will help understand possible impacts of wave energy testing on marine reserves.

Those 10 tagged crabs in sandy environs near the Columbia left the region within a week; the transmitter, at a price of $300 each, went with them.

Most know that crabbers prefer sandy areas for their pots because of fewer entanglements compared to rocky bottoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve done a lot of sampling of benthic habitat and there just isn’t a lot of food down there,” Henkel told Mark Floyd of OSU. “There’s usually only very small worms and clams, yet there’s an enormous crab harvest each year and most of that is from sandy-bottomed regions.”

Good science means marching on, so another 20 crabs were tagged and then dropped in waters near Cape Falcon, a rocky benthic zone. Her findings were surprising: “Four of those crabs left the region right away, while the other 16 stayed an average of 25.5 days. One stayed for 117 days.”

“Even though it’s a small sample size, it’s clear that habitat can influence crab movement,” Henkel told Floyd. “The crabs in the rocky areas had more to eat, but they often also have mossy bellies, which may not be as desirable commercially. Commercial crabbers like to target migrating crabs in sandy areas that tend to have smooth bellies.”

Chemical Outflows Studied

Other interesting projects she’s been involved with include a 2012 study of marine species living in Newport waters to see if the Georgia-Pacific containerboard plant outfall pipe, located 4,000 feet off Nye Beach, may be exposing some marine life to contaminants.

In fact, it was the City of Newport that requested OSU researchers look at a variety of species, including flatfish (speckled sand dab), crustaceans (Dungeness crab and Crangon shrimp), and mollusks (mussels and olive snails) because they might be bioaccumulating metals and organic pollutants at different rates.

Henkel and colleague, Scott Heppell, found contamination of those species was not at levels of concern: “There was some concern that metals and organic pollutants may be bioaccumulating in nearby marine life. We tested for 137 different chemicals and only detected 38 of them – none at levels that remotely approach concern for humans.”

New Student Archetypes: Funding at the Whim of New Anti-science Administration

We discuss what characteristics current science students possess compared to when she was a young undergraduate science major in the late 1990s. “We see a lot more students who want their science to matter … they want to be studying things that will improve society.”

This social awareness also has created more collaborative and supportive learning environments, she stresses. “When I was a student, we had the attitude that we didn’t want anyone to see our data until we publish it.”

Now, she emphasizes, there is so much data coming in from all angles; for instance, one project can get 1,000 photos a minute just of one marine species in its habitat. Part of the sharing may stem too from being more socially conscious and concerned than the cohorts for Henkel when she first started school.

Other concerns are tied to this recent shift in administrations – from Obama to Trump. There was a lot of support for renewables under previous administrations, but now under Trump so much is up in the air for scientists working on research projects tagged as “climate change” or “renewable energy,” even those research projects around species protection.

Two large grants the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage are at stake.

The Scientist’s Toolbox: Adaptation

To adapt, Sarah says, wave energy research is now looking at developing, promoting and deploying small machines near navigational buoys and aquaculture operations, where batteries die in six months; in the case of aquaculture, automatic feeding machines run on batteries, but with a wave-energy generating device supplying constant power, there would be no gap in the power.

On top of that, thousands of research and navigational buoys in our oceans have batteries that need constant replacing and disposal. Wave energy at the sites would be a constant energy source and reduce waste from battery disposal.

Making lemonade – new breakthroughs in blue energy — out of lemons – subsidies and tax breaks in the billions for the oil industry but none for blue energy – is also part of the scientist’s philosophy.

Sarah’s big takeaway when talking about the power of the Hatfield campus is that students get to work with other agencies and collaborate on real projects. “Not many students can be destined for a job in the Ivory Tower,” she said. Seeing other scientists from other agencies in different roles gives students at HMSC so many more avenues for career paths.

Henkel may be a sea floor expert, but she still knows that looking at how seabirds react to/interact with wind turbines and wave energy fields is important, as is studying the electromagnetic frequency fields created by blue energy generation.

She’s on a mission to get down to the granular level of things, but in the end, each little piece of the puzzle is hitched to the big thing, called the ocean!

Earth 4C Hotter

A decade ago several prominent climate scientists discussed the prospects of a 4C Earth. Their concern was qualified “… if greenhouse gases do not slow down, then expect a 4C Earth by 2055.” Of course, that would be catastrophic, and one can only assume those scientists must have recognized real risks. Otherwise, why address the issue of 4C by 2055 in the first instance?

Not only that but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, AR4 (2007) addressed the 4C issue and a 2009 International Climate Conference at Oxford, “4 Degrees and Beyond” discussed the consequences at length; e.g., deserts in southern Europe, sea levels up 2 metres by 2100, unleashing a “carbon time bomb” in the Arctic, half of the world uninhabitable, etc.

Well, well, well…now that greenhouse gas emissions have sped up by 60% since 2010, not slowed down for a minute, the IPCC is talking about holding global average temps to 2.0C, preferably 1.5C, and they say the world has 12 years to tackle global warming (actually, nowadays it’s “global heating” because of massive heat intensity in certain regions of the planet) or all bets are off.

Because prominent scientists addressed the issue of a 4C planet and because climate scientists, in general, are constantly apologizing for being too conservative, too timid in their forecasts as actual climate change buries their predictions with a dagger to the heart, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at a 4C world. It could happen within current lifetimes just like the scientists speculated 10 years ago. But, of course, nobody knows for sure. After all, it helps to brace oneself ahead of time, just in case.

In all, based upon how conservatively low scientists’ predictions have been for so long, maybe 4C is realistic by 2055. But, beware if it happens, infernal regions of the planet will consume vast swaths of ecosystems and life forms like a monster arising from the darkest of caves.

Fortunately, this article is a fictional tale of what 4C would look like based upon predictions by prominent scientists 10 years ago. And, even though it may be considered heresy to suggest 4C within current lifetimes, who knows, maybe those same scientists no longer believe 4C could happen by 2055, but with GHGs zooming up, it would appear kinda inconsistent not to believe it any longer.

In 2010 the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK said average temperatures would likely be 4C above pre-industrial by 2055, “if greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) did not slow down.” Well, guess what’s happened to GHGs? Asking the question is the answer.

And, worse yet, it would bring in its wake a 16C rise in Arctic temperatures where at least twice the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere is frozen in time, waiting to be released via permafrost thawing. And, +16C would do it fast.

Accordingly, recent scientific field studies found thawing permafrost 70 years ahead of schedule in the High Arctic. Yes, 70 years ahead of schedule!1

That’s absolutely horrible news and but one more example of mind-blowing shock and awe with rapidity of climate change vis a vis scientists’ expectations.

What happens if 4C hits by 2055?

The short answer has gotta be: Pandemonium reigns supreme!

According to the scientific forum 4 Degrees Hotter: “Less than a billion people will survive.” Expect, on average, more than a million human global warming deaths every week. As such, mass graveyards stacked with bodies would become a new normal.

Prominent climate scientists were quoted in the 4 Degrees Hotter article:

According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of Europe’s most eminent climate scientists, director of the Potsdam Institute: “At 4C Earth’s … carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.”

Echoing that opinion, professor Kevin Anderson of the prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change stated:

Only about 10% of the planet’s population would survive at 4C.

A global average of 4C means land temperatures would be 5.5C-6C hotter, especially inland from coasts. The tropics would be too hot for people to live and most of the temperate regions would be desertified.

As a result, half of the planet would be uninhabitable. Populations would be driven towards the poles. Over 136 port cities each with populations of one-half to one million would require sea walls or translocation of nearly one-half billion people.

In Europe, new deserts would spread to Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey as the Sahara figuratively leaps across the Straits of Gibraltar. In Switzerland, summer would be as hot as Baghdad today. Europe’s population would be forced into a “Great Trek North” in order to survive.

Even as recently as this century, the European heat wave of 2003 killed 35,000, but it was only a sampler of what too much heat does to the human body.2

At the time, and according to the New Scientist, in 2003:

The EPI says it is confident that the August heat wave has broken all records for heat-related deaths and says the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

But, today, that’s a bad joke with CO2 in 2003 at 378 ppm. Today it’s 410. Therefore, “must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming” has been a total bust!

Temperature bands, called iostherms, will shift towards the poles faster than ecosystems can keep up. Thus, most ecosystems will collapse with breakdown of organic material, leading to ever-greater emissions of carbon self-perpetuating hands-free on autopilot, defined as runaway global warming.

Paleoclimate research suggests that the last time temperatures were 4C above pre-industrial; eventually, there were no large ice-sheets on the planet. Sea levels were 65-70 metres (213-229 feet) higher than today. Yet, ice sheets take considerable time to lose mass, even when it’s really hot. Thus, the sea level rise to 2100 would likely be only a few metres. But, still, get serious; it only takes a couple of metres for unmitigated disaster.

In a 4C world, temperatures would vary considerably on a worldwide basis. The Amazon, the Sahara-Sahei-Arabia region, India, and northern Australia would have higher temperatures than the average at any other place on Earth.

Already, Australia gave a recent “Preview of Hot Earth” late in the year 2018 in real time when record-breaking temperatures hit hard. More than 20,000 bats dropped dead in over two days as temps in northern Australia hit 42°C (107°F). Hundreds of thousands of bony herring, golden and silver perch and Murray cod died in Darling River because of extreme climate. Fruit on trees cooked from the inside out.3

That happened in today’s world while average global temperatures have only reached approximately 1C above post-industrial. What if 4C becomes reality or anything above 1C, like 2C or 3C? Then, what of northern Australia and other overly sensitive heat regions of the planet?

Meanwhile global average temperatures for July 2019 were the hottest ever since 1880. And, CO2 in the atmosphere is at its highest reading in 400,000 years, a period of time when atmospheric CO2 ran 180 ppm (low) to 280 ppm (high).

As of today, CO2 at 410 ppm has powered thru the 280-ppm ceiling of the past 400,000 years like a hot knife thru butter, and even more remarkable yet, it only took a couple hundred years to break a 400,000-year record. Hands down, that’s an all-time geologic speed record.

Thus, the human experience has turned into a vast experiment filled with unknowns because there are no comparisons throughout human history. Earthlings have shattered all records of the past 400,000 years. What happens next is a gamble.

All in all, it’s somewhat puzzling that scientists are not beating the drums about the threat of a 4C world hitting earlier than expected. Maybe they are… but privately.

  1. Louise M. Farquharson et al, “Climate Change Drives Widespread and Rapid Thermokarst Development in Very Cold Permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic”, Geophysical Research Letters, June 10, 2019.
  2. “The 2003 European Heatwave Caused 35,000 Deaths”, New Scientist, October 10, 2003.
  3. “Thousands of Australian Animals Die in Unprecedented Heatwave”, The Scientist, January 17, 2019.

Sea Level Rise!

Sea level has been stable, at current levels, throughout recorded history for 5,000 years. That’s about to change. Still, it’s very difficult for people to imagine a change in sea level after 5,000 years of rock solid stability.

Nevertheless, assuming sea levels do rise markedly, one of the biggest questions of the century is whether the world is prepared for sea level rise?

As a guess, the answer is: No, not even close.

Well, they better start making plans because there’s no stopping at 410 ppm CO2 and +1°C post-industrial temperature, sea level rise is locked and loaded. It’s only a matter of when, how much.

A recent scientific forum offers insight. In February 2019, John Englander, oceanographer and world-renown sea level expert, spoke at The Royal Institution, London, which is affectionately called “the home of science.” It’s one of the world’s most prestigious and long-standing institutions.

The Royal Institution has promoted scientific breakthroughs and new theories for 220 years. In 1859, Prof. John Tyndall spoke at the same spot and same desk where John Englander stood to deliver his speech. Tyndall was one of the first scientists to theorize the impact of greenhouse gases (GHG) on climate change.

One hundred-sixty-years later, John Englander spoke about the consequences of Tyndall’s observations, the onset of sea level rise:

We really can’t wait for the tragedy to evolve to deal with it.

Unfortunately:

We tend to make big changes and expensive projects when tragedy has happened… But, with this one, we really can’t wait for the tragedy to unfold to begin to deal with it. And, therein lies a particular challenge for all of us.

Accordingly, sea level rise should be the most important consideration for thousands of coastal communities around the world. And, not only that, but surprise, surprise! Sea level rise is a regular, normal feature in Earth’s climate history of the past 400,000 years. In fact, major instances of sea level rise happened four times during that time.

The four-glacial/interglacial periods of the past 400,000 years happened at the rate of one per 100,000 years with four Down (cold) Cycles each lasting 80,000 years and four Up (warm) Cycles each lasting 20,000 years.

The last Down (cold) Cycle ended 22,000 years ago. Thus, and therefore, today is the tail end of the last Up (warm) Cycle and a new Down (cold) Cycle should already be here, but, no, human greenhouse gases (GHG) like CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide have altered the normal rhythms of the planet, stopped dead in its tracks, preventing another long overdue Down (cold) Cycle.

Englander claims there won’t be another Down (cold) Cycle as long as people exist on the planet. People are “heat machines.” They have changed the planet’s chemistry and physics and thus, artificially extended the Up (warm-to-hot-to-hotter) Cycle.

The paleoclimate record shows temperatures over the past 400,000 yrs ranged plus/minus 5°C and CO2 ranged 180 ppm to 280 ppm.

Today’s CO2 at 410 ppm literally smashes the old record of 280 ppm that stood for 400,000 years. Hmm.

Over those 400,000 years, 5°C temperature change brought 120 meter (394 feet) sea level changes in its wake. Looked at another way, sea level rise equals 20 meters (60 feet) per 1°C temperature increase. Uh-oh! Earth’s already heated that much. Does this mean 20 meters (60 feet) of sea level rise is already “baked in the cake,” ready to burst forward?

Well, yes, but not exactly.  The key ingredient is when it happens because timing is tricky. In days of yesteryear when 280 ppm was top end, CO2 grew at a rate 0.1 to 0.3 ppm/annum, so sea level rise took centuries as temperatures slowly increased, whereas today, CO2 at 410 ppm and growing 3.0 ppm/annum (10xs the paleoclimate rates) is like a turbo-charged Indy race car on a geological track, and it has powered ahead, thus leaving sea level rise choking on fumes. But, it’ll catch up…count on it. Thus, there’s a lag time between GHGs today and temperature rise and sea level rise tomorrow.

Think of Earth, the biosphere, as a big oven, similar to the one at home, when turned to 450°F, the home oven takes several minutes to crank up to 450°F. It’s not instantaneous.  Similarly, the biosphere oven receives tons and tons of greenhouse heat-trapping gases, but its version of “several minutes” is “several years-to-decades” to achieve maximum heat. In other words, your 2010 auto exhaust generated today’s global warming.

It’s all about “timing.” After all, when warming cycles happen, sea level rise usually takes centuries and centuries to increase. For example, 14,000 years ago an increase in temperatures took seas up 65 feet over 400 years. Accordingly, that’s 1.5 feet per decade, which calculation, in part, led John Englander to make the assumption that today’s sea level rise will be 1-2-3 feet by mid 21st century. In turn, that would be a real shocker, especially to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with its median expectation of one-half a meter or 1.6 feet by 2100.

The IPCC’s absolute “worst-case” guesstimate is 32 inches by 2100, but a footnote hidden in fine print says the IPCC does not factor Antarctica into their calculations. Ahem! Antarctica is not included! Mercy!

Englander’s key points:

  • Sea level never rises smoothly. It’s not a straight line or a curved line. There are inflection points when it suddenly rises. So far, that has not been experienced. In fact, over the past 100 years, temps are up 1°C and sea level rise is only up 4 inches.
  • Sea level has been stable, at current levels, throughout human recorded history for 5,000+ years.
  • Thus, it’s very difficult for people to imagine a change in sea level, especially after 5,000 years of rock solid stability.

Today’s big problem: Sea levels are now (today) at an early stage of exponential growth, meaning, the rate of growth is doubling, cycle-by-cycle, for the first time in known history.  Based upon satellite recordings since 1993: sea level rise 1993-98 +1.5MM/yr. 1998-2011 +3.2MM/yr. 2011-2018 5.0MM/yr. That’s nearly double every cycle, which is an exponential function, and it’s trouble, very-very big trouble.

The exponential:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.1

An exponential, to wit: How long does it take to fill Yankee Stadium with water, assuming 1 drop of water is added, then 2 drops, then 4 drops, then 8 drops, then 16 drops, on and on, doubling the number of drops every minute? Answer: 47 minutes.

Exponential is fast, real fast, and sea level rise is now on an exponential pathway for the first time ever!!! That’s a very big pill to swallow! But still, timing is everything, which nobody knows for certain.

Meantime, the sources of sea level rise are readily identifiable as Greenland 24 feet and Antarctica 186 feet and another 3 feet in glaciers found in Alps and around the world in mountainous terrain.

Greenland is surprisingly big. Englander has been there 6 times; it’s 1,600 miles north to south and 1,000 miles east to west. It’s the biggest island in world with ice 2 miles thick that covers 80% of the island.

Antarctica is even more enormous at 7xs Greenland.  There are four parts to Antarctica:

  • East Antarctica – relatively solid but starting to rumble – it’s the final frontier of global warming
  • West Antarctica – glaciers go under water here and a high risk zone
  • Antarctica Peninsula- melting the fastest and closest to South America
  • Ice Shelves – thick ice slabs resting on the water, serving as backstops to glaciers- increasingly breaking off in ever-bigger chunks; e.g., Antarctica’s Iceberg B-15 at 183 miles long by 23 miles wide.

With mounting concerns expressed by scientists, six Antarctic glaciers are under special watch: Pine Island Glacier – a huge cavity discovered only recently – Thwaites Glacier, a new disturbing discovery found only recently, Haynes Glacier, Pope Glacier, Smith Glacier, and Kohler Glacier. All of these glaciers are located around the Amundsen Sea. Combined, these six have 10 feet of sea level locked up inside. Nobody knows when, but the entire region is extremely vulnerable, already showing the early signals of “losing it.”

Meanwhile, Englander’s guesstimate: By mid century, we could get a couple of feet of sea level rise. But keep in mind it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s the buildup that destroys, and that is now, unfortunately, on an exponential pathway. In other words, it’s an extremely dicey affair that could be gradual, or it could be rapid, awful, and nasty.

Englander’s conclusion: Sea level rise is unstoppable.

Interestingly, ever since the 1990s, mainstream science has been at least 30 years late with sea level projections, consistently way too low, but then again, exponential growth throws off the best of ‘em. It’s a wild card.

According to Englander, there are three key takeaways from his speech:

  • Reduce emissions, immediately – it’s most important to slow warming as much as possible as early as possible.
  • Regardless, sea level rise will still be catastrophic on a global scale. Even with 100% renewable energy tomorrow, sea level rise will happen. As an aside, oceans (2/3rds of the planet) absorbed 85% of planetary heat and emit CO2 when too warm/hot.
  • The sooner “engineering for the future” happens, the easier to adapt.

According to Englander, society has 20-30 years to redesign cities to prepare for the inevitable as thousands of coastal communities must move or adapt to sea level rise. As an aside, and in fairness to contrary opinion, there are scientists that disagree with the timeline of 20-30 years to do something.

The risk factor is heightened by the fact that past sea level rises had saw-toothed patterns with inflection points of rapid increase along the way, making it nearly impossible to predict timing.

As such, and here’s the big oops-a-daisy, with exponentials kicking into gear, it’s truly a gamblers’ world.

According to John Englander, there are no options. It must be dealt with. Come hell or high water, sea level rise is forthcoming.

  1. Albert Allen Bartlett, 1923-2013 /Harvard PhD, Professor Emeritus, Nuclear Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Extinction is Stalking Humanity

I have previously written a summary of the interrelated psychological, sociological, political-economic, military, nuclear, ecological and climate threats to human survival on Earth which threaten human extinction by 2026.

Rather than reiterate the evidence in the above article, I would like to add to it by focusing attention on three additional threats – geoengineering, medical vaccinations and electromagnetic radiation – that are less well-known (largely because the evidence is officially suppressed and only made available by conscientious investigative activists) and which, either separately or in combination with other threats, significantly increase the prospect of extinction for humans and most (and possibly all) life on Earth by the above date, particularly given the failure to respond strategically to these interrelated threats.

Before doing this, however, let me emphasize, yet again, that it is (unconscious) fear that is driving all of these crises in the first place and fear that underpins our collective failure to strategically address each of these interrelated threats in turn. And, as I have explained elsewhere and reiterate now, if we do not address this fear as a central feature of any overall strategy for survival, then extinction in the near term is certain.

So, beyond the usual issues that are considered imminent threats to human survival – particularly nuclear war, ecological collapse and climate catastrophe based on dysfunctional political, economic, legal and social institutions – let me briefly outline some of these other threats and, once again, invite a strategic response to each and all of these threats so that we give ourselves some chance of surviving.

In the ‘‘Human Extinction by 2026?’ article I cited above, I referred to the use of geoengineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately ourselves.

But if you are unfamiliar with the evidence of how Earth is being geoengineered for catastrophe, by inflicting enormous damage on the biosphere, try watching this recent interview by Dane Wigington of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt on the subject. Dr. Klinghardt carefully explains why geoengineering (simply: the high altitude aerial introduction of particulates – especially a synthesized compound of nanonized aluminium and the poison glyphosate in this case – into Earth’s atmosphere to manipulate the climate) creates a ‘supertoxin’ that is generating ‘a crisis of neurological diseases’ and, for example, crosses the blood-brain barrier causing diseases on the Autism spectrum (a spectrum of diseases virtually unknown prior to 1975 and now at epidemic proportions in countries, like the USA, where geoengineering is conducted extensively).

While careful to distinguish the offending toxic compounds of aluminium and making the point that these adversely impact all lifeforms on the planet, Dr. Klinghardt nevertheless maintains that ‘Aluminium could be isolated as the single factor that is right now creating the mass extinction on the planet including our own’.

Because Dr. Klinghardt cites the corroborating research on glyophosate and aluminium by Dr Stephenie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT, who investigates ‘the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health’, you might like to consult relevant documentation from her research too or watch one of her lectures on the subject.

Given the role of vaccination in precipitating autism, among a great many other disorders, by introducing into the body contaminants such as aluminium and glyphosate as well, you might also like to check out Sayer Ji’s 326 page bibliography with a vast number of references to the literature explaining the exceptional range of shocking dangers from vaccination.

Or, if you wish to just read straightforward accounts of the history of vaccine damage and the ongoing dangers, see these articles by Gary G. Kohls MD: ‘A Comprehensive List of Vaccine-Associated Toxic Reactions‘ and ‘Identifying the Vaccinology-Illiterate among Us‘.

Before proceeding, it is worth mentioning that given his commitment to understanding the causes of, and healing, disorders on the autism spectrum but many others besides, Dr Klinghardt offers treatment protocols for many (now) chronic illnesses, including those on the autism spectrum, on his website: Klinghardt Academy or Institut für Neurobiologie.

But worse than these already horrible impacts, Dr Klinghardt also explains how the nanonized aluminiums becomes embedded in our body, including the mitochondria (thus ‘jamming’ the body’s energy production ‘machinery’). More importantly, the metal reacts extremely negatively to electromagnetic radiation (such as wifi, which will get enormously worse as 5G is progressively introduced) and this destroys the mitochondria in the DNA very rapidly thus spelling ‘the end of higher evolution in the next six to eight years’. Why so soon? Dr Klinghardt carefully explains the exponential nature, a poorly understood concept, of what is taking place.

Moreover, he explains, because geoengineering is not confined to what is sprayed over land masses but includes what is sprayed over the ocean as well, the world’s oceans effectively have a layer of microplastic and metal covering their surfaces creating the effect of confining the Earth’s oceans in a gigantic sealed plastic bag. As Dr Klinghardt explains: This has reduced the water content of the atmosphere by 40% in the past two decades, causing droughts and desertification throughout Europe and the Middle East, for example, and substantially reduced the capacity of algae in the ocean to produce oxygen.

Having mentioned 5G above, if you are not aware of the monumental hazards of this technology, which is already being introduced without informed public consultation, the following articles and videos will give you a solid understanding of key issues from the viewpoint of human and planetary well-being.1

In essence, then, there is enormous evidence that geoengineering, vaccinations and 5G technology pose a monumental (and, in key ways, interrelated) threat to human and planetary health and threaten near term extinction for humans and a vast number of other species. Of course, as mentioned above, these are not the only paths to extinction that we face.

How have these threats come about? Essentially because the insane global elite, over the past thousand years, has progressively secured control over world affairs in order to maximize its privilege, profit and power, at any cost to the Earth and its populations (and now, ultimately, even its own members), successfully co-opting all major political, economic, corporate, legal and social institutions and those who work in these institutions while the bulk of the human population has been terrorized and disempowered to such as extent that our resistance has been tokenistic and misdirected (almost invariably at governments).

And this is why, even now, as humanity stands at the brink of extinction, most people’s unconscious fear will prevent them from seeking out or considering the type of evidence offered in this article or, if they do read it, to dismiss it from their mind. That is how unconscious fear works: it eliminates unpalatable truths from awareness.

Fear and Extinction

So here we stand. We are on the brink of human extinction (with 200 species of life on Earth being driven to extinction daily) and most humans utterly oblivious to (or in denial of) the desperate nature and time frame of our plight.

Why? Because the first three capacities that fear shuts down are awareness (of what is happening around us), faculties such as conscience and feelings (particularly the anger that gives us the courage to act) and intelligence (to analyze and strategize our response). Which is why I go to some pains to emphasize that our unconscious fear is the primary driver of our accelerating rush to extinction and I encourage you to seriously consider incorporating strategies to address this fear into any effort you make to defend ourselves from extinction.

‘But I am not afraid’ you (or someone else) might say. Aren’t you? Your unconscious mind has had years to learn the tricks it needed when you were a child to survive the onslaught of the violent parenting and schooling you suffered among the many other possibilities of violence, including those of a structural nature, that you will have also suffered.

But your mind only learned these ‘tricks’ – such as the trick of hiding your fear behind chronic overconsumption – at great cost to your functionality and it now diverts the attention from reality of most people so effectively that they cannot even pay attention to the obvious and imminent threats to human survival, such as the threats of nuclear war, ecological collapse and climate catastrophe, let alone the many other issues including the more ‘obscure’ ones (if your attention has been successfully diverted) I touched on above.

The reality is that fear induces most people to live in delusion and to believe such garbage as ‘The Earth is bountiful’ (and can sustain endless economic growth) or that the ‘end of century’ is our time frame for survival. But the fear works in a great many ways, only a few of which I have touched on in ‘The Limited Mind: Why Fear is Driving Humanity to Extinction‘, for example.

Defending Ourselves from Extinction

So how do we defend ourselves from extinction, particularly when there is an insane global elite endlessly impeding our efforts to do so?

For most people, this will include starting with yourself.

For virtually all adults, it will include reviewing your relationship with children and, ideally, making  ‘My Promise to Children‘. Critically, this will include learning the skill of nisteling.’

For those who feel courageous enough, consider campaigning strategically to achieve the outcomes we need, whether it is to end violence against children or end war (and the threat of nuclear war), halt geoengineering, stop the destruction of Earth’s climate, stop the deployment of 5G or end the destruction of Earth’s rainforests. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy or Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy. A lot of people doing a bit here and there, or lobbying governments, is not going to get us out of this mess.

The global elite is deeply entrenched – fighting its wars, upgrading its nuclear arsenal, exploiting people, geoengineering the destruction of the biosphere, destroying the climate, invading/occupying resource-rich countries – and not about to give way without a concerted effort by many of us campaigning strategically on several key fronts. So strategy is imperative if we are to successfully deal with all of the issues that confront us in the time we have left.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, consider joining the global network of people resisting it by signing the online pledge of  ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Or, if this feels too complicated, consider committing to:

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.

Sometime in the next few years, the overwhelming evidence is that homo sapiens will join other species that only exist as part of the fossil record.

Therefore, you have two vital choices to make: Will you fight for survival? And will you do it strategically?

If you do not make both choices consciously, your unconscious fear will make them for you.

  1. See ‘5G Technology is Coming – Linked to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Death‘, ‘20,000 Satellites for 5G to be Launched Sending Focused Beams of Intense Microwave Radiation Over Entire Earth‘, ‘Will 5G Cell Phone Technology Lead To Dramatic Population Reduction As Large Numbers Of Men Become Sterile?‘, ‘The 5G Revolution: Millions of “Human Guinea Pigs” in Big Telecom’s Global Experiment‘ and ‘5G Apocalypse – The Extinction Event‘.

As Cost Of Climate Crisis Grows, Climate Movement Escalates

Activists run towards the Garzweiler open-cast mine (David Young/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The warnings of climate chaos are coming so fast they are difficult to keep up with. Storms, heatwaves and climate-related weather disasters are increasing at a rapid pace. The leadership of the two corporate-dominated political parties are trying to keep the climate issue out of the 2020 campaign, but the movement is becoming too big to ignore.

Climate justice protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, politicians and the media are also growing. An industry publication describes how activists are “driving pipeline rejections” reporting, “From large, interstate pipelines to small lines connecting towns and neighborhoods, anti-fossil fuel activists have proven highly successful at blocking, through regulations or lawsuits, new natural gas infrastructure in the Northeastern United States.”

Day 214 of blockade against the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Reports of Climate Chaos Increase

Several reports in recent weeks are expressing new concerns about the climate crisis.

An MIT study published this week found that we may be “at the precipice of excitation.” MIT researchers reported that when the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the oceans pushes past a certain critical threshold, it can trigger a reflex of severe ocean acidification that lasts for 10,000 years. The history of the earth shows that over the last 540 million years, this has coincided with four of the five great mass extinctions. Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon at an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record, even though humans have only been extracting carbon for the last 100 years. This is likely to be similar to past global catastrophes potentially culminating in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

June 20 report by the Center for Climate Integrity found that US coastal communities face more than $400 billion in costs over the next 20 years, much of it sooner, to defend themselves from inevitable sea-level rise.

Related to this, a study published May 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that coasts should plan for 6.5 feet of sea level rise by 2100. Ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland could cause far more sea-level rise than previously thought.

These reports are forcing the power structure to face the reality of the climate crisis.  Last month, Moody’s Analytics examined the economic impact of the failure to curb planet-warming emissions in “The Economic Implications of Climate Change.” Moody’s warns there will be a $69 trillion price tag by 2100 due to the far-reaching economic damage of the climate crisis. They warned: “There is no denying it: The longer we wait to take bold action to curb emissions, the higher the costs will be for all of us.”

These reports come at a time of increased climate-caused disasters.

  • This year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state’s three biggest fire years on record. Fires are spreading farther north into the Arctic, burning more intensely and starting earlier in the year as climate models have suggested. On July 4, Anchorage hit 90°F, breaking the city’s all-time record by 5 degrees. Alaska’s statewide average temperature was 7.9°F above average, according to NOAA’s latest National State of the Climate report. For the first time in the 95-year record, the year-long July-to-June average temperature for Alaska as a whole was above freezing.
  • Around the world, global warming has clearly contributed to an increase in extreme fires from tropical rainforests to boreal evergreen forests, and they are often linked with heatwaves. Fires pose new threats to places that aren’t used to experiencing them, including temperate mid-latitude forests near regions with dense populations, as shown by unusual wildfires in places like Germany during last summer’s European heatwave and drought. There is rapid growth of unusually extreme fires burning across South America, Australia, and western North America like the extreme fires in California and Canada last year.
  • As we write this article, Tropical Storm Barry, a tropical storm fueled by warm offshore waters, is creating downpours in Louisiana. The situation is the compounding of risks that scientists have been warning about due to climate change. Like Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year and Hurricane Harvey, which sat over Houston for days in 2017, Barry is creating heavy rainfall and flooding on the coast and lower Mississippi Valley, according to the National Hurricane Center.
  • A report released July 10 by the NOAA reports that sunny day flooding has doubled since 2000 in the United States. Floods interfered with traffic in northeast states, swamped septic systems in Florida and choked Delaware and Maryland coastal farms with saltwater over the past year. In 2018, the US tied the record for high tide flood days. The report predicted that annual flood records will be broken again next year and for years and decades to come due to sea-level rise.
  • In Indian Country, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, weather on the Northern Great Plains has been getting more variable, erratic and destructive. In 2011, the Northern Plains faced a rash of wildfires and drought, followed in 2012, by severe flooding. Occasionally, these take the form of high-powered storms, like tornadoes that ravaged South Dakota reservations in 2016, or the ice storm of 2018, or the bomb cyclone of 2019. A bomb cyclone last March occurred when an unseasonably hot column of air shot suddenly upward and collided with the frigid high atmosphere sending barometric pressure plummeting. In seconds, the sky erupted bringing devastating wind, storm, and flooding. Homes and ranches of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were hit like a missile, more than 500 homes were left uninhabitable. Click here for information on how you can help.
  • This week, Washington, D.C. experienced nearly a month’s worth of rain in an hour. According to a paper published in the journal Nature, these intense rains are a byproduct of man-made climate change.
  • Last month was the hottest June on record globally. In Europe, there were record heat waves that sent Europe’s temperatures soaring to 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite these realities, there is inadequate action by most nations of the world especially the United States.  President Trump dismissed the need for climate action during the G20 summit in Japan saying he doesn’t want to take action to confront the emergency because such a move would threaten corporate profits. As experts have warned, if we do not confront the climate emergency now, we will pay much more later.

Climate Strike March in Cape Town, South Africa (Nasief Manie/AP)

The Corporate Duopoly Seeks To Avoid a Climate Crisis too Big to Ignore

In the 2020 election cycle, the Democratic Party is resisting climate change as an issue even though fifteen of its presidential candidates, more than 50 of its member organizations in the states, and a slew of progressive organizations that make up its voting base, some armed with petitions bearing over 200,000 signatures, are calling for the DNC to hold a separate climate-focused debate. On June 10, the executive committee of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County—the U.S. metropolitan area considered most vulnerable to sea-level rise – voted unanimously to urge Democrats to devote one of the 12 Democratic presidential debates to the climate crisis.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez, who rejected a climate-focused debate, tried to explain the party’s opposition in post on Medium, saying it would be impractical to hold a single-issue forum. His refusal led to hundreds of activists sitting in at the DNC headquarters, including sleeping overnight, before the first debate, demanding a debate on climate change.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a  resolution Tuesday asking Congress to declare that global warming is an emergency and demanding a massive mobilization of resources to protect the US economy, society and national security. They called for “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations.”

This week billionaire, Tom Steyer, entered the 2020 race pledging to spend $100 million and focus his campaign on climate change. In his first television advertisement, he focused on the corruption of government and the economy and on climate. He said: “You look at climate change, that is people who are saying we’d rather make money than save the world.”

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins has put forward an ecosocialist Green New Deal that not only transitions to a clean energy economy but remakes the economy and creates an economic bill of rights while cutting the military budget by 75 percent.

Activists demonstrate at home of FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur (Beyond Extreme Energy)

The Climate Justice Movement’s Power Is Growing

The movement is building power and impacting the direction of the US and the world, but the response by those supporting the status quo was shown in France last week when on the hottest day in French history climate protesters were brutally tear-gassed for demanding climate action.  This action, occurring in Paris where the Paris Climate Accord was reached, adds to the heightening of the conflict. The inadequate Paris agreement showed the movement must do more than rely on international agreements.

A longtime labor and climate activist, Jeremy Brecher, describes the climate movement entering a third phase. In the first phase, the man-made climate crisis was confirmed and the movement focused on international agreements and lobbying governments. The second phase arose when the Copenhagen agreement failed, leading to a protest movement against fossil fuel infrastructure, protests of fossil fuel corporations and against investors funding climate-destroying infrastructure.

The third phase centers around a global Green New Deal. It involves protests, electoral demands, and challenging inaction of fossil fuel-funded politicians. He points to groups like Sunrise, Extinction Rebellion and the Student Strike for Climate as examples of this phase. It is a meta-movement that integrates, environmentalism, ecological restoration, social justice, racial equality, workers’ rights, restorative agriculture, and many other challenges to our unjust and unsustainable world order into a practical program.

Climate protests, which have been ongoing for a decade, are having victories. Recently, two major oil pipelines for carrying crude oil from Canada’s tar sands region were called into question as judges in Minnesota overturned a key approval for a proposed pipeline and Michigan’s attorney general threatened to shut down an aging pipeline under the Great Lakes. These were the latest setbacks for a series of five pipelines designed to transport tar sands that have either been canceled or delayed. The other projects include Energy East and Northern Gateway, both of which were canceled, and Trans Mountain expansion and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which are on hold.

On July 13, climate activists from Beyond Extreme Energy held a protest outside Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s home in Massachusetts. They demanded that LaFleur vote “no” on all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Jordan Engel listed the 100 people responsible for killing the planet. Holding people accountable is becoming a reality in this new phase of climate activism.

People are connecting the issue of militarism with climate. In Maine, 22 people were arrested protesting spending on Navy ships urging “Fund Climate Solutions, Not Endless War.” The facts are in, the Pentagon is a top global climate polluter. Popular Resistance and other organizations are organizing the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet on September 22 and 23, while the UN High Commission meets, and encouraging people to participate in other actions that weekend, the Climate Strike and Puerto Rican Independence Day March. In our interview this Monday on Clearing the FOG, we speak with David Schwartzman, author of The Earth is Not For Sale, about ending Fossil Fuel Militarized Capitalism.

Extinction Rebellion brought the protest movement to the New York Times.  On June 24, 70 were arrested demanding the Times cover the climate crisis as a global emergency. During a sit-in on 8th Avenue they chanted “Report the urgency, this is a climate emergency!” On Monday, Extinction Rebellion DC demonstrated at the Capitol.

The movement continues to grow. More than 7,000 colleges and universities across the globe declared a climate emergency on July 10 committing to mobilize on the crisis.  This month, more than 70 health organizations called for urgent action on “one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced,” calling it the “cancer of climate change.” They cite storm and flood emergencies, chronic air pollution, the spread of diseases carried by insects, and heat-related illnesses. Extreme heat has been the leading cause of weather-related deaths.

Demonstration for adding climate crisis education to the medical school curriculum (Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

Movement Impact Is Noted

The movement is having an impact and industry and politicians know it. Long term campaigns to stop climate infrastructure, force banks and investors to divest from the fossil fuel industry and demand emergency climate policies are getting stronger.

At the beginning of July, after a meeting of OPEC in Vienna, their Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said, “there is a growing mass mobilization of world opinion… against oil,” children “are asking us about their future because… they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” Barkindo added the “mobilization” was “beginning to… dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry.”

In testimony to British lawmakers this week, famed scientist and environmental advocate Sir David Attenborough said:

We cannot be radical enough in dealing with the issues that face us at the moment. The question is: what is practically possible? How can we take the electorate with us in dealing with these things?

It is the job of the climate movement to push political systems to respond.

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams

Dear fellow human beings,

Some of us have wondered, “Are people today too disconnected and frantic to calm down, in order to solve global challenges together? Are we so polarized and self-absorbed that we cannot stop judging one another or insisting on our partisan ways?”

In Kabul, our thoughts and feelings are diverse, complicated and flawed, so we center our three dreams on relationships.

We have felt much joy in creating this video-letter. We dedicate it to planet earth and to everyone in the human family.

We hope that each of us can take tiny actions to free ourselves from the ravages of money and power.

With love from Afghanistan,

Dr Hakim Young and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

 

In Afghanistan, We Have Three Dreams Video

We’re the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, and we have three dreams.

Our three dreams are about reuniting with nature and 7.7 billion other human beings!

Our dreams aren’t prescriptions. They’re music and movements, distilled from today’s nightmares.

What we hope to gain is love, not money or political power, because love will be good for all of us!

We will re-boot the operating systems that have programmed us to chase after fake money and power.

After years of rote exams, we have hardly learned anything about becoming finer human beings. So, we have resolved to educate ourselves to question everything, and to love everyone!

We’re like children whose instinct is to become friends. More than being dreamers, we’re do-ers. So, we’re building three earth GENeration dreams, GEN for Green, Equal and Nonviolent.

We dream of Green earth relationships!

We practise permaculture and use solar energy.

Why? We’re part of nature and can’t survive without her. Our Mother Earth isn’t a “thing” for us to utilize or set on fire, but a “being” for us to embrace.

We dream of Equal earth relationships!

We have started worker cooperatives because the world economy isn’t fair for the planet or for 99% of humanity.

Our community is self-governing. We don’t need a Director. All of us are leaders, but we’re not like today’s cash-elected leaders who are some of the least desirable humans in the world.

We’re growing our web of Borderfree friends, because we’re from the same human family, the same tree of life. We want to be friends with all Afghans, US citizens, Russians, the British, Chinese, Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians, Sudanese, Venezuelans and every human being!

Our human genome is 99.9% similar, so we reject racism, exceptionalism, male superiority, moralism and others, because all of these are neither scientific nor kind.

We dream of Nonviolent earth relationships!

We all want peace, but so far, we’ve wanted peace only for our own countries, tribes, political and religious groups. So war has continued, and as a result, I’ve lost my uncle Sakhi, and my close friend Tariq.

We’ve more space in our hearts for love and peace than for war, so we’re training ourselves to be nonviolent mediators. We’ll reason and empathize with our leaders and extremists, and we will reach an agreement without using any physical force!

War starts in our militarized minds, so picture the global war on terror as a smart phone. We think it’s necessary and that it works well. But really?

Some people think that, like a phone, war is necessary, But though war may work, it only works physically for a short while, and only works for a few individuals.

For the rest of us, war costs us everything! It’s time to throw it away!

Killing one another unsettles our human psyche. So, to those who have divided us with trauma, distrust, sorrow and revenge, we say, “We’re breaking free!”

Well, these three dreams are really one dream, because we can’t fix the climate, without fixing inequality or war.

Everyone and everything is related! We just can’t separate ourselves from each other, from the earth, or from you!

Okay, thanks for listening to our dreams. We’ve taken up enough of your screen time. So let’s get off screen, terminate our business as-as-usual, and pursue the authentic relationships all of us long for.

Remember, we make up 64% of the Afghan population below 25. We’re the new Earth GENeration. We’re the music and the movements within you, so we hope to meet you someday!

“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” Henry David Thoreau

At 100, Gaia Faces its Biggest Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During a recent BBC interview, Lovelock said:

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

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

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

Lovelock’s climate warning:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In that interview, he also proclaimed:

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

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

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

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

Will our domination be our downfall?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So to Summarize…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. as quoted in Buhner, 2014.

Why Do We Think We Own The Earth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love in the Time of Xenocide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Sylvia Earle controversy

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

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

Huge!

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

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

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

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

Image result for dead dolphins gulf of mexico

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

Buyer Beware: Seafood ‘Fraud’ Rampant, Report Says

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

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

Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish

Hilsa: The fish that is being loved to death

‘Fish are vanishing’ – Senegal’s devastated coastline

Choose the Right Fish To Lower Mercury Risk Exposure

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

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

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

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

Image result for W Eugene SMith Minamata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Geoffrey Chaucer, 1390, The Parson’s Tale

Malcom X, those chickens coming back to roost.

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

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

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

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

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

— “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

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

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

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

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

Rolling Thunder, Cherokee Medicine Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adaptation and re-adaptation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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