Category Archives: Pollution

To Bag or Not to Bag

We’re probably not the first time there’s been a civilization in the universe,” states Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester and the author of Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth.

The idea that we’re destroying the planet gives us way too much credit. Certainly, we’re pushing the earth into a new era. If we look at the history of the biosphere, the history of life on earth, in the long run, the earth is just going to pick that up and do what is interesting for it. It will run new evolutionary experiments. We, on the other hand, may not be a part of that experiment. Source.

Damn, and I was just going to rattle on about why I am not making it to the Newport City Council meeting in an hour (6 pm, 4/15/2019) to see if the wise mayor and council vote for a single-use plastic bag ban. I have rallied around the ban for many more reasons than the negative effects of this throwaway bag on marine life, fish, reefs and the aesthetic value of not having a bag for groceries wafting high in the Sitka spruces around here.

I’m thinking a puny single-use plastic bag ban is the inch-worm step toward having a shitload of real conversations, action plans and paradigm shifts in how communities will attempt to weather the impending huge negative effects of climate change, food shortages, high cost of energy, pollution, lack of housing (affordable) and the lack of worthy employment, education, retirement, palliative care, and rehab.

If we can’t restrict one plastic item in the scheme of all the junk thrown at us by corporations and their chemical purveyors, then how are we going to have conversations about forcing all corporations to stop mindless over-production of junk and put an end to their Capitalism on Steroids of planned material-product obsolescence so they can continue to sell-sell-sell? How are we going to stop capitalism in its tracks, which is the ONLY solution to climate change, predatory wealth, and the resulting externalities of more and more pollution, toxins, wars, and death? That’s the only way to battle against what we have now, in 2019 as 410 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase, ocean acidification continues to rise, and hypoxia and mindless-endless wars continue to spread; wars and war making/prepping/staging sucking an amazing 52 cents of each tax dollar thrown at war material/war profiteers/war enablers/ war side businesses?

Broken schools systems, broken lives, and broken spirits, in a country that calls itself Christian and then supports the most irreligious, blasphemous devil-loving man/woman/LBGTQ-hating, racist and sexist and imbalanced human shadow called Trump. All of those seven deadly sins he has dripping from his Big Mac lubricated jowl.

The reality is there is no simple approach to anything these days — to even getting to first base in regard to community participatory thinking in order to make way at rolling up our sleeves to begin to solve problem after problem created by that perverted business principle (sic) that any of the Fortune 1000 and all the sycophants embrace (all solvable). And the unintended and intended consequences of our individual, family, group and national/global decisions need to be weighed ahead of the game. The tipping points, the feedback loops, and lag time and tragedy of the commons and the overshoot of everything capitalism does for profit with no regard to humankind, wildlife, air, water, food, soil, aesthetics and so on, this is what we need to be working on, not all the flippant shit we express in our collective capitalist angst and superficial consumerism.

I am also colliding with some heady stuff, tied to the Great Filter, while teaching some dirt-poor children in this rural county and working on imbecilic plastic bag bans (when we should be banning all plastics and go back to a world where we do things in bulk — think reusable containers, streamlining packaging and working with the finite planet. These juxtapositions are the thing of my morning first cup of coffee:

Humanity seems to have a bright future, i.e., a non-trivial chance of expanding to fill the universe with lasting life. But the fact that space near us seems dead now tells us that any given piece of dead matter faces an astronomically low chance of begating such a future. There thus exists a great filter between death and expanding lasting life, and humanity faces the ominous question: how far along this filter are we?

Combining standard stories of biologists, astronomers, physicists, and social scientists would lead us to expect a much smaller filter than we observe. Thus one of these stories must be wrong. To find out who is wrong, and to inform our choices, we should study and reconsider all these areas. For example, we should seek evidence of extraterrestrials, such as via signals, fossils, or astronomy. But contrary to common expectations, evidence of extraterrestrials is likely bad (though valuable) news. The easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

[…]

Finally, we would do well to keep a in mind a few unusual aspects of this Great Filter puzzle. First, let us keep in mind the interdisciplinary nature of the this puzzle. While it may comforting for each discipline to claim that the Filter must surely lie in some other discipline of (in their eyes) lessor repute, such claims should surely be backed up by detailed analysis using our best understanding of that discipline. It will no more do for astronomers to simply claim, without further supporting analysis, that people will lose their tendency to colonize, than it would do for biologists to simply declare that astronomers could not possibly know that the universe is as big as they claim.

Second, we must be wary of the “God of the Gaps” phenomena, where miracles are attributed to whatever we don’t understand. Contrary to the famous drunk looking for his keys under the lamppost, here we are tempted to conclude that the keys must lie in whatever dark corners we have not searched, rather than face the unpleasant conclusion that the keys may be forever lost.

Finally, we should remember that the Great Filter is so very large that it is not enough to just find some improbable steps; they must be improbable enough. Even if life only evolves once per galaxy, that still leaves the problem of explaining the rest of the filter: why we haven’t seen an explosion arriving here from any other galaxies in our past universe? And if we can’t find the Great Filter in our past, we’ll have to fear it in our future. —  Robin Hanson

How can we not question the scheme of things, big and small and unknown . . . and the observable now and the predictable future in our collective predictive consciousnesses? Really, though, the crux of this blog is about how quickly words become, now, in 2019, the tools of incarceration and damnation by the powers. Words that repeat themselves and end up on the precipice of propaganda time, with realities only set for the marketers, billionaires and political class. Just look now at Julian Assange. We are all Julian Assange! That is, those of us who write, we all are Assange. Those of us who publish. And who report!

The big question today and from hereon is: How might I end up erased or un-personed, because I espouse anti-Imperialism and anti-Americanism and anti-Capitalism ideals, or posit a much more aggressive revolutionary zealotry or even ask for people to face fascism with chaos/disruption/ physical force against the powers that be. Rejecting to jobs, rejecting payments, fines, levies, fees, prosecutions, mortgages, indoctrination, taxes, mandates, tolls; or invalidating popular propaganda and its evil twin, marketing, well, that in itself is violence against the state, the corporation, the old-new global or community or group order.

The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, “sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilization”. The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast. — John Pilger 

Now, this mental state I am shaking out of is tied to the big picture/small picture thing, and while the plastic bag ban I have written about here recently in the past, and those few little bits that have been published in the local newspaper, well well, life does go on in terms of the big big scale!

Experts Paint Sobering Potential for Sea Change 

No Ordinary Fish Monger — page 1

Students Grapple with Plastics — page 4

Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags in the US.

This is how democracy doesn’t work — going to a small town city council, rural county locale,  trying to wade through the ineptitude of our representative government. Many in the city councils around the country get paid squat. Many are using it —  political service/disservice — to make connections, both business and political, which is the same Hydra in fact. Much on that later, too! Many small town council members are attempting to do some good for the community, don’t get me wrong. But the solutions are still mired in the fantasies of economic growth unchecked, a green light to the business community, and a belief that everyone in the USA can pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps and find his or her 40 acres and a mule — or in modern parlance, his or her own 2500 square foot rancher on 1.5 acres with 2.3 children and 2.7 vehicles in the 3 car garage while managing a string of drive-through coffee stands! Or variations on that theme!

Environmental concerns are just postcard thinking by the masses, that majority of people who have not yet suffered the fence-line communities’ environmental (pollution) racism.

Q. What are some people that inspire you?

A. The work of W E B Dubois has inspired me a lot. He was not only a famous sociologist but also someone who could be called a ‘change agent’. He was not only a good social theorist but also very interested in the application of his work. I saw his work to be directly relevant to influencing the life of ordinary people. His work made me believe that research, policy, and practice must go hand-in-hand.

Q. How is climate change a social and environmental justice issue?

A. Climate change is the number one problem of the 21st century. We sometimes forget that climate change is much more than simply parts per million (of greenhouse gas emissions). It is an equity issue. It effects some people directly. The most peculiar aspect of climate change is that the populations that contribute least to the problem of climate change are most likely to feel its impacts. Such disproportionality makes it a serious social justice issue.

Climate change is also a very complex issue to solve. It is a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue—all at the same time. At the local level, the population at the front line of the impacts of climate change are also at risk to other things. For example, usually the most susceptible to climate change-related impacts are those with greater food and water insecurity.

Hence, climate change intersects with vulnerable populations not only after a disaster but also before a disaster. Because of the complexity and uniqueness of the climate change crisis, we cannot continue to plan (climate mitigation and adaptation) for it using the tools of the past. I think that from a planning perspective, we cannot assume that a uniform plan can work for all in terms of ensuring social justice. Planning has to be sensitive to the fact that communities and nations have different levels of wealth, health, and education. The goal for planning should be to build community resilience and provide an opportunity for people to bounce back both before and after a catastrophic event.  — Robert D. Bullard,  the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. He is often described as the father of environmental justice.

Look, I cut my teeth on environmentalism, and yes, we have disaster after disaster happening to ecosystems — wild, as in marine, and with homo sapiens, as in the average Joe and Jane, Lupe and Lorenzo! I put the human element in with the wild element, and, yes, there are huge issues tied to capitalism, population at 7.5 billion, corporate complicity (and its driving of other sell-outs and Faustian Bargain adherents) in driving the ecological crisis. There is no argument from me to say that the 2,700 billionaires (and their families) and the 36,000,000 millionaires (and their families) do not deserve the power they have buggered the world for nor the majority of their loot because it’s been at the expense of families, men and women and children, and entire communities, entire regions, entire countries, entire species. If I say lock them up, then, well, what a better solution than what the 36,002,700 super rich and their thugs and sycophants and Little Big Eichmann’s have had in store for us, the 80 percent, and the ecosystems destroyed by each and every cargo ship unleashed to the world.

But, we also are a rapacious species, self-deluded into thinking we are above the rest of the animal kingdom, and that it’s winner takes all. That attitude is not the attitude of the majority of peoples. Yet, those people, those civil societies, those battlers for agriculture and water rights —  to hold their land as bio-intensive and organic components of the ecosystems around them —  they are battling overlords and societies that depend on perpetual growth: perpetual growth in profits, in interest rates, in population rates and replacement rates for each passing generation.

The unborn and the old and the ones who want to stay poor but completely able and subsistence centered   on their own land can’t even get past the evil of the corporation and the government unregulators working with the thugs:

Glyphosate is the base chemical component for some 750 different brands of pesticides worldwide, in addition to Monsanto-Bayer’s Roundup. Glyphosate residues have been found in tap water, orange juice, children’s urine, breast milk, chips, snacks, beer, wine, cereals, eggs, oatmeal, wheat products, and most conventional foods tested. It’s everywhere, in brief.

In a long-term animal study by French scientists under Gilles Eric Seralini, Michael Antoniou and associates, it was demonstrated that even ultra-low levels of glyphosate herbicides cause non-alcoholic liver disease. The levels the rats were exposed to, per kg of body weight, were far lower than what is allowed in our food supply. According to the Mayo Clinic, today, after four decades or more pervasive use of glyphosate pesticides, 100 million, or 1 out of 3 Americans now have liver disease. These diagnoses are in some as young as 8 years old. (read old interview of great scientist exposing GMOs and Monsanto, who is now deceased,  conducted by yours truly here!)

I always feel as if a little bit of hope can creep up on me and assist me in my own sanity in the insanity that is now. Sure, everything that changes stays the same. Maybe, but much on that later. The fact this glyphosate story is just one of millions demonstrating there is no great filter running this society, though many believe we as a species will eventually get to speeds approaching FTL — faster than light — to help us explore, move away, become celestial pilgrims again and again!

Hope is like knowing sugar is bad-bad-bad for you, for the entire human physiology, the entire system of the homo sapiens regulating immune system, creating inflammation, gut issues, brain “fog,” and more. Not glucose for the body as the body breaks down veggie and fruit fructose to feed the brain.

Yet, we go out and eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup or down a soda or shot of whiskey. It’s all bad-bad-bad, but we have hope that just one scoop of Ben and Jerry’s or one margarita or that Lucky Charms binge is just a passing phase.

Wrong! Addiction and feedback loops and hungry insulin rushing through the body looking to eat. And, alas, comes the single-use plastic bag ban. We want those reusable ones, those cotton ones, and, well, the bag ban — single use ones, that is (actually the single use wimpy bags are used as garbage liners and poop scoop receptacles, so they are actually disposable bags with a second use-reuse-repurpose tag) — seems like a win-win.

But, there are life cycle assessments, and the jury is pretty much in, out there — you have to look at the consequences of one action creating another action or one product taken out of the consumer stream but replaced by other products.

Life cycle assessments and embedded energy . . . and that fact that when you chew that mango on the Oregon Coast, consider how many miles it traveled from where it came; how many machines sowed it and harvested it; how many pesticides and inputs “protected” it and grew it; how much oil was used to build the transportation system that moved it and all the equipment to grow and harvest it; and how many more miles were expended to take it from point a to point b, and then to points c and d, as well as how much packaging after processing was used to bring that mango to you at the local 7-11 as dried sulfur-gassed chews ready to be trucked to the vendor selling them at the beach kiosk?

Life cycle analysis. Maybe we need to do the same life cycle (destroying) analysis of products. Or the life cycle enslavement cycle of freaky thinker like Mister 9-9-6 man or Elon Musk!

Image result for 996 culture Musk

One of China’s richest men has been criticized for endorsing the controversial culture of 12-hour workdays in the country’s red-hot tech industry, saying employees who worked longer hours will get the “rewards of hard work.”

Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA), has spoken out on social media in recent days in support of the Chinese work practice known as “996.” The number refers to working from 9 am to 9 pm six days a week and is said to be common among the country’s big technology companies and start-ups.

Image result for 996 culture

“If we find things we like, 996 is not a problem,” Ma said in a blog post Sunday on Chinese social media site Weibo. “If you don’t like [your work], every minute is torture,” he added.

Ma’s comments prompted criticism from Chinese social media users.

“Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, (or) the children who need company?” wrote a Weibo user with the online moniker stupidcan123, in response to Ma’s post. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children” because of a lack of time, they added

“It has become harder and harder to raise money recently,” Zhao said in his brightly decorated office located in a fancy Beijing office building. “I’m under a lot of pressure. Sometimes I’m awake from around 2 am to dawn and can’t stop thinking about my company’s future.”

Eric Tao, founder and chief executive of Beijing-based random video chat company Holla, feels the same pain as Musk and Zhao. “As CEO of the company, I can’t under-perform this week and make it up by outperforming next week. It doesn’t work that way,” he said, adding that he works about 12 hours a day, so not as many as Musk.

In the scheme of things, 996 or 797 — 7 am to 9 pm 7 days a week — is what will (is) burning up the planet. Busy bees, these slave masters are. What are their billions made doing for society.

I know I know — a plastic bag ban is a drop in the proverbial pond.

I sent this email below to the mayor and council to circumvent going to a meeting an hour away (one-way) from where I live. Also, to circumvent the hard stares directed at me, as I am the only one who doesn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance and I am one of the few who doesn’t take off my hat for councils and judges, inside or outside.  I am not afraid to visibly emote or enunciate my concerns when I hear something said. You know, I also do not like the constraints of gaveling fools looking down on us and three-minute time minutes for public comments per citizen.

I also do not see the plastic bag ban as a win-win, since we have allowed the plastics and toxins and oil industries and other industries to dictate what we do, think, believe, purchase and invest in . . . with the dirty bidding of the elected officials behold to them.

Carrying Grocery Bags

Date: Monday, April 15, 2019 – 6:00 PM
TO: Council Chambers, Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Highway

Dear Council –

First, I have to say our form of shallow participatory democracy is not working when we have to spend so much time on a simple single-use plastic bag ban.

This may be an elected form of representational democracy, but the reality is you all do not have the collective IQ to drill down on much. We the people, for the people, by the people actually should be working daily and at night to determine how communities thrive, or survive or mitigate what many scientists and journalists like myself call the privatization of the external negative costs to the community, including air, water, soil, ecosystems, human and non-human health.

Corporations reap the profits but we the taxpayer and the tens of thousands of human communities and the ecological ones to boot pay for the clean-up and negative outcomes of rapacious capitalism.

Our collective IQ exponentially outshines those collectively of all the CEOs of those companies like Exxon or Georgia Pacific or Weyerhaeuser or Raytheon or Google or Wells Fargo, et al. The problem is in places like Newport, where livable jobs are scarce for the average person working in service jobs and warehouse and blue collar employment, families sometimes have to have five jobs between both parents to make ends meet.

Coming to City Hall for a Council meeting is both difficult and disconnected to their lives.

So, back to not just a low hanging fruit, one that is right there between your feet:

The average bag you pick up at the grocery store, or carry your takeout in, has a lifespan of about 12 minutes.

When discarded, they clog sewage and storm drains, entangle and kill an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year, and degenerate into toxic microplastics that fester in our oceans and landfills for up to 1,000 years.

Despite this, shoppers collectively use around 1 trillion billion single-use plastic bags every year. That’s 300 bags per person, per year, for every single person on Earth — or enough to circle the globe 8,600 times.

One trillion plastic bags – single use – are used, equating to 2 million per minute.

Now how is the average child from a family of parents barely getting to each new paycheck before an eviction or foreclosure notice going to wrap their heads around JUST single-use plastic bag consumption?

How will we have conversations about the incredible and perverse ways corporations have fed them and their parents on habitual overuse of plastics in everything?

A bag ban is a micro-start to the bigger conversations around ocean acidification (CO2 release from fossil fuels – plastics are fossil fuels – cement factories, cutting down and burning forests) and fisheries depletion and microplastics inside their own children’s gut, blood and feces.

We are the throwaway society we all embrace and decry because corporations profit from that lack of durability.

The ban is just a small start to the conversation which we need to start attacking the external pain and pollution and quickening of global warming we have to have now. Do we change our habits significantly when we have almost no choice in the matter since corporations control legislatures, federal agencies, local communities’ will and will power and narratives?

No, we have to demand a new system of production, resource exploitation, and citizen consumption.

Good luck tonight. LCA’s are deeper ways to look at all our consumption habits and the goods and services we demand as a very consumerist-centered society. That’s life-cycle assessments!

This is no small matter. You all are lowly representatives of the small city of Newport who will have to deal with these facts when looking at other plastics and other products used in the city. Life-cycle assessments and embedded energy and the amount of calories of energy (fossil fuel burning) to get food from farm to plate are big issues you might not think affect city council business but they will!

Vote for the plastic bag ban, but then be ready for bigger fish to fry, to use a pun that is probably not so funny these days.

I teach youth here in the Lincoln County school district. I write social-cultural-environmental-economic-media justice issues.

I continue to study (and was a leader in) true sustainability discourse, planning and education.

While I support the plastic bag ban, I am smart enough to look at the leakage of bans toward other uses of plastic to make up the bin and garbage can liner issue — yes, more plastic bags of heavier gauge will be purchased to offset that 12-minute single use bag.

Ponder how complicated the world is now that we have given the rights to clear-cut forests, dump toxins in river systems, emit pollutants in small and large communities’ air systems, and limit affordable housing to the purveyors of profit without social-environmental-cultural-racial considerations.

Even knowing all of the so-called ins and outs and positives and negatives tied to a city-wide ban on single use plastic bags, we have to show some mettle and begin to start the larger conversations on how what we get from corporations actually determines our futures and the futures of more than just seven generations out – about 140 years into the future!

Not easy reading:Bag leakage: The effect of disposable carryout bag regulations on unregulated bags/i.e.  Life Cycle Analysis of Single Use Plastic Bags.

Sincerely, Paul Haeder, Otis, Oregon –

P.S. — committed to not adding to the road congestion and air pollution of my round-trip to Newport even in my 46 mpg 20 year old car by staying put this evening! (ahh, even knowing the energy footprint of typing on a computer and using an email system is significant unto itself!)

Kenya has the strictest plastic bag ban of all. The punishment for breaking the law is up to four years in jail or fines up to $40,000. Rwanda has a strict policy as well.

Here’s the leakage:

This means that 28.5 percent of the plastic reduction from DCB policies is lost due to consumption shifting towards unregulated trash bags. The results also provide a lower bound for the reuse of plastic carryout bags, with 12–22% of plastic carryout bags reused as trash bags pre-regulation. In other words, a substantial proportion of carryout bags were already reused in a way that avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag.

If carbon footprint was the only metric of environmental success, the results in this paper suggest DCB policies are having an adverse effect, especially if we consider the effect on paper carryout bag use. However, if the unmeasured benefits with respect to marine debris, toxicity, and wildlife are great enough, they could outweigh the greenhouse gas costs.

LCAs of plastic, paper, and reusable carryout bags have been shown to be sensitive to assumptions made about the weight and number of trash bags displaced by the secondary use of plastic carryout bag, with the reuse of plastic carryout bags as bin liners substantially improving their environmental performance (Mattila et al., 2011). According to a UK Environmental Agency (2011) study, a shopper needs to reuse a cotton carryout bag 131 times to have the same global warming potential (measured in kilograms of CO2 equivalent) as plastic carryout bags with zero reuse, while that same cotton bag needs to be reused 327 times if all plastic carryout bags are reused as bin liners.

And, of course, plastic bags are a major threat:

The United Nations Environmental Programme (2014) estimates the environmental damage to marine ecosystems of plastic litter is $13 billion per year. This estimate includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning up beaches. While plastic bags and films represent only 2.2% of the total waste stream (CA Senate Rules Committee, 2014), plastic carryout bags and other plastic bags are the eighth and sixth most common item found in coastal cleanups. Once in waterways, plastic bags do not biodegrade, but instead break into smaller pieces, which can be consumed by fish, turtles, and whales that mistake them for food. A survey of experts, representing 19 fields of study, rank plastic bags and plastic utensils as the fourth severest threat to sea turtles, birds, and marine animals in terms of entanglement, ingestions, and contamination (Wilcox et al., 2016).

I’ll be posting an earth day, Earth Day, article soon, since that’s 4/22/2019. All the intricacies of just how screwed the planet it and how screwed 80 percent of us are in the immediate future. Screwed if we continue business as usual and coming up with the same asinine solutions to solve bigger and more complex problems  —

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

So minor good news is that Newport, on a vote of 5 to 2, passed the plastic bag ban!

NEWPORT — The City of Newport became the eighth city in Oregon Monday night to pass a plastic bag ban ordinance, outlawing single-use plastic bags often used at grocery stores and community events to carry out purchases. The council vote was 5-2 in favor.

Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion

Fashion and the Shrinking Aral Sea

The interconnected environmental catastrophe is the result of a particular lifestyle; a materialistic way of life relentlessly promoted by mass media and governments throughout the industrialized world and beyond. Consuming stuff, most of which is unnecessary, is the key ingredient; excess is championed, sufficiency scoffed at. Far from addressing need, satisfying desire is the driving impulse; the object of desire changes with every new fad of course, discontent is thereby ensured, unlimited consumerism maintained.

This pattern of insatiable shopping is evident within the polluting world of fashion perhaps more than any other sector; when we should be buying less, more clothes are produced and sold year on year. Worldwide, almost 100 billion items of clothing are made annually (400% more than twenty years ago), a third of which end up in landfill, increasing at a rate of 7% a year.

The global fashion industry is a major source of environmental contamination, as well as human exploitation. Every item of clothing that is produced carries with it an environmental cost in terms of energy, water, chemicals and land use. The choice of fabrics – natural or man-made – production methods, transportation, dyeing and printing, customer care, all are areas that cause pollution.

According to the United Nations Climate Change, “around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s) are churned out by the fashion industry, due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.” The industry consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined. In search of greater profits most manufacturing is now undertaken in China and India, where labor costs are lower, coal-fired power plants predominate, GGEs are highest and, in many cases, employee rights are non-existent. By moving production to developing nations, western companies outsourced, jobs, as well as the pollution and environmental impacts, threatening the health of local people.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) relates that textile factories in China, where “over 50%” of the worlds clothing is now made” spew out around three billion tons of soot every year burning coal, contaminating the air leading to respiratory and heart disease. Textile mills are estimated to generate 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic. Textiles are the largest source of synthetic fibers in the oceans, micro-plastics get into the water system every time garments are washed; the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on fashion reports that “a single 6kg domestic wash has the potential to release as many as 700,000 fibers.”

As well as textile production, the manufacture of leather goods has also largely been shipped to China – where most items are made – and India. Leather production is an intensely cruel and poisonous process. The animal welfare charity, PetaUK, reports that globally more than 1 billion animals are killed every year – cows, calves, water buffalo, horses, lambs, goats and pigs –and, in China, dogs and cats. Huge amounts of water are used in highly polluting tanneries; most wastewater and solid waste (hides and skins etc.) are dumped into rivers, riverbeds or farmland, causing contamination of the water and land. In Kanpur India e.g., everyday 50 million liters of highly toxic water is produced, 80% released untreated; the River Ganges receives most of it: holy it may be, clean it is not. The impact on human health is often fatal; chronic conditions such as heart disease, tuberculosis, asthma, mental disabilities, skin discolourations are widespread among people living near leather factories, which are shipping almost all their production to industrialized countries.

Polluting and poorly made

Different fabrics have different levels and types of environmental impact; synthetic fibers like polyester are made from crude oil (fossil fuel), producing much higher levels of GGEs compared with natural materials: “A single polyester t-shirt has emissions of 5.5 kg CO2, compared with 2.1 kg CO2 for one made from cotton.” But polyester can be recycled, although not indefinitely, is more stain-resistant, can be washed in cold water and dries quickly. Conventional cotton (non-organic), which is used to make almost half of all clothing, has its own environmental consequences; cotton farming uses 3% of the world’s arable land, causing deforestation and loss of biodiversity, and is responsible for 18% of all pesticides, 25% of insecticides. Some of these are highly toxic and dangerous to human health, e.g. Endosulfan, banned in many countries but widely used in India, is linked to several thousand deaths of cotton farmers and their families. Cotton is also a very thirsty crop: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 2,700 liters (715 gallons) of water – on average the amount one person drinks in two and a half years – is used to make a single cotton t-shirt.

In regions where water is scarce, cotton production has an intensely damaging effect: in Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea, which was the fourth largest lake in the world, has all but dried up because the rivers which fed the lake, were diverted by irrigation projects to supply cotton farmers. The disappearance of the great lake is a man-made environmental tragedy.

Huge amounts of water are also used in the dyeing process, the World Resources Institute states that globally 5 trillion liters (1.3 trillion gallons) of water are used each year for fabric dyeing, enough they say to “fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

The most polluting area of the apparel industry is ‘fast fashion’. Like all businesses, fashion is about profit: more profit is generated when people buy more clothing, more often. In the 1980s, when any remaining constraints on Neo-liberalism were removed, ‘fast fashion’ was introduced as a way of increasing the profits for clothing companies by making people buy more; the practice is now widespread among high street brands and has been picked up by designer labels.

Under the fast fashion umbrella up to 50 ‘cycles’ are produced every year; prices are lower, turnarounds quick, and overproduction common. Items are poorly made and so cheap they are sometimes not even worn before being discarded, at best lasting a matter of weeks before being dumped in landfill. The fast fashion fad has increased consumerism, contributed to a ‘throw away’ mentality, leading to huge amounts of waste; it has done enormous environmental damage and should be stopped as a matter of urgency. If companies will not voluntarily halt fast fashion practices governments should force them to do so. The global need is not for the corporate profit, the behavior to be cultivated is not more consumerism, it is saving the planet and encouraging drastic reductions in consumerism.

The Fashion Industry Charter

Aware of the widespread and varied environmental destruction that fashion is causing voices within the industry and beyond have been calling for action to change destructive practices for some time. Last year a group of organizations came together, and under the umbrella of the United Nations Climate Change, created the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action (FICCA), launched at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December.

The FICCA commits signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieving zero emissions by 2050, to phasing out coal-fired boilers, using ‘climate friendly’, sustainable materials and low carbon transport among other measures. The list of 43 founding companies includes Adidas, Burberry, Esprit, Guess, Gap, H&M, Kering, Levis, Puma, PVH and Target; associated NGOs have also pledged to support the initiative and encourage sustainable practices.

Creating sustainable fashion is a core theme of those working to reduce the catastrophic impact on the environment. This entails looking at production methods and water use, curtailing demand, moving from conventional to organic cotton and from virgin polyester to recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), collecting and recycling unwanted garments. ‘Sustainable fashion’ needs to be seen as part of sustainable lifestyles, this requires the promotion and adoption of what we might call Sustainable Values, principles that encourage expressions of social/environmental responsibility and cooperation, ideals that promote simpler lifestyles – we must consume less, shop based on need only and, when we do shop or buy services, ensure we do so in an environmentally responsible manner; repair clothes, buy good quality items that last longer and recycle.

Governments need to introduce public information policies aimed at making people aware of the environmental impact of living a certain way and introduce maintenance classes in schools; all product-based companies should be required to make easily accessible the full environmental impact of their products and methods, as well as the human cost, so people can make well-informed choices. Advertising has an important role to play in this, it needs to be closely regulated and reformed so that it gives out facts about products not propaganda.

All aspects of life are interconnected; the environmental catastrophe cannot be faced without the socio-economic mayhem being addressed, social justice created and ways of living inculcated that tend towards unity in all areas of life. Competition and conformity need to be expunged from society, particularly within institutionalized education, the focus on image challenged and rejected, the tendency to imitation curtailed.

If we are to collectively overcome the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, environmental considerations need to be at the forefront of our daily lives. A shift in living is required, a movement away from lives based on desire and the pursuit of pleasure to simpler lives based on meeting need, cultivating right relationships with others and the natural world and living harmlessly. The responsibility rests with all of us to live well and to pressurize our governments to act to halt the environmental catastrophe before it’s too late.

Climate change’s ‘evil twin’ Ocean Acidification (and problem stepchild, Ocean Hypoxia)

People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. Ninety-seven percent earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet – we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.

—- Sylvia Earle

Note: I am helping beat the drum here on the Central Oregon Coast around climate change, pollution, development, plastics and the like, by writing small stories (that’s what I am limited to) for the local newspaper, Newport News Times.

This is an exercise in concision, as Noam Chomsky was once told by Jeff Greenfield of ABC. While the mainstream corporate media hold sway over the public’s lack of understanding of almost everything important to our communities’ and earth’s survival, small town news, this Newport paper I am writing for also holds sway over some of the Central Oregon Coast’s news: it’s owned by a conglomerate, News Media Corporation, which, according to the web site, has dozens of small-town newspapers in its stable — 43 Years in Business;  150+ Publications; 9 States; 600,000+ Subscribers.

Here, at the Columbia Review of Journalism (CRJ), another Poll: “How does the public think journalism happens?”

Is it any wonder why Americans do not trust the press? But, do they trust politicians? Or millionaires and billionaires? The US Military? Teachers? Doctors? Social workers? Presidents?

In reality, Americans are born delusional thinkers because of their lack of critical thinking and unwillingness to learn this country’s foundational history as a subjugator of other peoples, as possibly the biggest threat to world peace, and as the biggest purveyor of pollution, financial war and arms sales.

But, back to the topic — writing for free, cutting back on not only nuancing but depth, to make a small blurb in the local rag to try and bring attention to a topic very important to the fragile cultural and economic bedrock of Central Oregon coast — this place needs clean beaches, decent ways to control growth, a strong, healthy marine and near beach ecosystem, and some way to help old and young human residents to thrive economically, educationally and locationally.

Here, about concision:

As one of the most important scholars alive, Noam Chomsky has frequently been asked about his thoughts on his virtual blacklisting from the American media. He has long been regularly featured in international media outlets — yet, in his own country, he was often ignored. In a segment on the University of California program “Conversations in History” in the early 2000s, Chomsky explained that one of the ways media outlets justified this was with the requisite of “concision.”

Chomsky joked that he could never be on ABC’s “Nightline,” because “the structure of the news production system is you can’t produce evidence.” He recalled “Nightline’s” Jeff Greenfield, who, when asked why Chomsky was never featured on the show, said it was because the scholar “lacks concision.”

“The kind of things I would say on ‘Nightline’ you can’t say in one sentence, because they depart from standard religion. If you want to repeat the religion, you can get away with it between two commercials. If you want to say something that questions the religion, you’re expected to give evidence, and that you can’t do between two commercials,” Chomsky explained.”

“Therefore you lack concision; therefore you can’t talk,” he continued. “That’s a terrific technique of propaganda. To impose concision is a way of virtually guaranteeing that the party line gets repeated over and over again and that nothing else is heard.”

I’ve gone through J-school, in 1975, in Arizona, covering all sorts of emerging issues, and ending up in Tombstone on a lab paper, and then working for a small conglomerate of newspapers along the Southern Arizona Border. Cutting my teeth in El Paso for the two dailies, one of which went belly up (Herald-Post).  The same bellying up happened in Tucson, where I learned journalism — Arizona Daily Star won out and the afternoon paper, Tucson Daily Citizen died.

So, you have all these small newspapers being shut down or being bought up to promote advertising. Little towns can’t get the news from on-line forums or big papers in Portland or Eugene. No matter how much the public loves to hate the media, or the Press, or journalists, the fact is real journalists (come on, if you don’t know what a real journalist is, then, you haven’t been reading) are out there in the tens of thousands, and in other countries, they end up splayed on the streets, shot through the head, and disappeared. Check out Reporters without Borders! United States, ranked 45 for press freedoms!

Back to the little outing I made April 4, 2019, to listen to a PhD with the state of Oregon talk about Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (OAH) and harmful algal blooms (HAB) and the how, why, what, where, when and who around the connected issues of culture, livelihood, marine health, resiliency, mitigation, adaptation.

Moreover, I know for a fact learning how to report on climate change — and ocean acidification is tied to the amount of CO2 the ocean absorbs (CO2 being a greenhouse gas and acidifier once it reacts to the chemistry of ocean, wave, air, organisms) — is not only vital in this day and age of dumb downing everything, but also because of the proliferation of the corporate PR firms and burgeoning corporate water carriers that the mainstream corporate media is (pressitutes).

A one-day conference, put on by the Nation and CRJ, titled: “Covering Climate Change.”

A new playbook for a 1.5-degree world

How does the media cover—or not cover—the biggest story of our time? Last fall, UN climate scientists announced that the world has 12 years to transform energy, agriculture, and other key industries if civilization is to avoid a catastrophe. We believe the news business must also transform.

Why haven’t (most) news organizations been covering this story as if everyone’s lives depended on it? How can they craft stories that resonate with audiences? How do they cover this urgent, far-reaching story at a time when journalism’s business model is so precarious?

The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation are assembling some of the world’s top journalists, scientists, and climate experts to devise a new playbook for journalism that’s compatible with the 1.5-degree future that scientists say must be achieved. Join us for a town hall meeting on the coverage of climate change and the launch of an unprecedented, coordinated effort to change the media conversation.

Tuesday, April 30 from 9:00am–3:00pm
Columbia Journalism School
New York, NY

As always, everything is centered in-around-because of New York City, East Coast. So, we have the west coast, from California to Alaska, and Baja, Mexico, that produces much of the seafood those diners in New York City love, yet, how many reporters from the West Coast will be there, and, should we be injecting kerosene soot and water vapors and CO2 directly into the atmosphere with all this flying/jetting around for one-day conferences?

Oh, the conundrum of it all, and yet, 4o people met on a glorious Thursday night to listen to one scientist try to do some jujitsu around the colluding topics tied to ocean warming, acidification, eutrophication, hypoxia, red tides, plastics, sedimentation and  declining oyster cultivation, declining wild salmon stocks, threats to the Dungeness crab industry and other fisheries threats. We didn’t even get around to how many impacts will befall cetaceans — the iconic grey whales (and other dolphins and whales that migrate and hang around) which are part of a growing whale watching tourism industry.

Here is the story for the Newport News Times. It hits around 1,120 words, certainly not reaching the concision of small town twice-a-week newspapers. It might be cut so much (mangled is my term) that it will be a shell of its original self.

At the end of this read, I will insert a few elements I believe are more necessary to this story and the contexts than the pure reportage and narrative flow I create, which I have been told are worthy of a read.  PKH

****

Climate Change’s ‘Evil Twin’ 

Ocean Acidification (and problem stepchild, Ocean Hypoxia)

In today’s changing world of climate change, it might not seem unusual to see a room with forty Lincoln County residents at the Visual Arts Center overlooking Nye Beach on a windless, rainless evening to talk about biochemistry, the atmosphere and oceanographic sciences.

It was a perfect Central Oregon Coast Thursday for tourists and residents alike – low tide and a sunset unfolding inside a cloud-enhanced blue sky. One fellow from Vancouver, Washington, with his family of four asked me where Café Mundo was, and then said, “Man, you are living in paradise. Absolute paradise.”

A few quick introductions for those attending the MidCoast Watersheds Council monthly meeting, and we were about to be schooled in pteropods, pelagic snails, corrosive sea water, pitted and wonky oyster larvae shells, with large doses of talk about Newport’s and the entire Oregon coast’s economic threats caused by increased ocean acidification.

We are talking about $270 million annually the west coast oyster industry generates. “I love looking at critters,” said Caren Braby, manager for Oregon’s Marine Resources Program. “I love working on policy issues important to residents and the communities I love. I’ve lived here in Newport and the West Coast for over ten years.”

The biochemist/biologist with a self-professed passion for all invertebrates gave the listeners a caveat: “I’m going to relate some pretty gloomy things in this presentation, but I will end it with some bright spots, some hope, solutions.”

The attendees were introduced to the basic chemistry of ocean acidification and hypoxia with a 13-minute video: “Ocean Acidification – Changing Waters On The Oregon Coast” – sponsored by Oregon Fish and Wildlife, OSU College of Earth, Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences, OSU’s College of Science, Sea Grant Oregon and the Turner Trust.

“The ocean may look the same, but the water is changing, especially on the Oregon coast,” said Francis Chan, an associate professor and senior researcher in Oregon State University’s Department of Integrative Biology. It’s all tied to the amount of carbon the ocean is absorbing largely due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. “Carbon is changing ocean chemistry faster than it has the last million years.”

Tying the negative impacts of human development, consumption and resource harvesting on the environment, to lower PH in our waters is depressing and challenging. For Braby, who’s big on “focusing on Oregon … describing the problem” Ocean Acidification threatens the Oregon Coast socially, culturally, economically and recreationally.

For instance, the Dungeness crab industry is Oregon’s single most valuable commercial fishery at $75 million last year. While the sea snails are the building blocks for salmon and other marine species food webs, acidification effects all shell-building species, including the iconic crab.

Those four threats Braby listed, plus the fact lawmakers are concerned with the state’s rural communities, are driving the legislature to follow the lead of marine scientists and stakeholders such as Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua & Siuslaw Indians, the shellfish industry, commercial fishing groups, conservation organizations and others to create in 2017 the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia (SB 1039).

Both holders of doctorates, Jack Barth, director of Marine Studies Initiative-OSU, and Brady are the OAH Council’s co-chairs.

Unintended consequences should be the lesson of the century when teaching young people how to tackle all these problems scientists like Brady, Barth and Chan are “describing.” For Caren Braby, acidification, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms are a triple whammy of not just alphabet soups – OA, OH, OAH, HAB —  but could be the tipping points in this coast’s livelihood, lifestyle and environmental, economic and cultural longevity.

“Even if we stop releasing carbon dioxide today, there will still be a thirty- to fifty-year increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean upwelling from deep within the ocean,” Braby told the audience. This lag time will affect the ocean’s PH level, causing more acidification. How much, we don’t know.

The deep-ocean conveyor belt brings to the Oregon coast cold water, called upwellings. That water comes from deep in the ocean and carries more nutrients that sustain ocean life. However, bad comes with the good – that water has less oxygen and tends to be acidified. Taking decades to travel to the West Coast, this water last touched the atmosphere decades earlier, when CO2 levels were lower than today. So future upwellings will carry the “memory” of today’s annual increases in CO2.

Ice core science is now giving us an atmospheric earth snapshot that goes back 800,000 years. Today,  atmospheric carbon dioxide is well over the maximum level during this long span. The rapid increase in fossil fuel burning and other man-made carbon dioxide emitters paints a gloomy picture for the past six decades – 1958 at 310 ppm versus 2018 at 410 ppm.

The hypoxia – dead zones – is basically less oxygen in large areas of the ocean. Much of the oxygen is displaced by harmful nutrient runoff or sedimentation, as well as algal blooms. However, OSU is looking at complex climate change elements, including wave and eddy action in the oceans.

Brady emphasized that biotoxins in several algae species – commonly known as a red tide — closed fisheries in 2015. Again, HAB’s are tied to acidified conditions in the ocean. The state’s scientific and commercial fisheries are looking at not only the predictive tools for HABs, but how to mitigate the impacts to clams, crabs, oysters and other commercial species along the food web.

“A massive hypoxic event caused the halibut to go away in both Washington and Oregon,” Braby stated. Add to that acidification’s effects on young salmon.

“Research shows ocean acidification could affect salmon’s ability to smell, which the fish rely on to avoid predators and navigate to their natal rivers.”

This is a global problem, but Braby and others caution Oregonians to not take the “we can’t do anything to solve this because India and China are causing it” approach.

Again, back to our sandbox: Oregon’s coast and watersheds. Braby admits there is not enough money allocated to both study and mitigate the ocean acidification and hypoxia issues we are facing. The Sept. 15, 2018 report she helped write posits five immediate next steps:

  1. continue the science and monitoring
  2. reduce causes of OAH
  3. promote OAH adaptation and resiliency
  4. raise awareness of OAH science, impacts and solutions
  5. commit resources to OAH science

For us overlooking Nye Beach, Brady emphasized the fourth step – socializing these issues through outreach, communication. She admits that scientists haven’t always been good at talking to the public, but Braby is armed to continue these sorts of public outreach events to get the message out about OAH and HAB.

 

Climate Change Mollifiers and Great Balls of Fire CO2 Deniers:

We Can Play the Game of Wack the Mole, But Think Hard Ocean Chemistry

The realities around acidification and hypoxia and biotoxicins and algal blooms will continue, continue, continue no matter how many reports are filed, agencies are created, scientists deployed, and public comment periods extended.

So, the great yawing world of pacifism and passive hope which is focused on our warped political system and endless pleas with lawyers to assist environmental groups and looking to technological fixes and active geo-engineering” things” to get the climate back on track, well, it’s what makes white civilization so-so flawed. There are real solutions tied to a deeper spiritual core than what white business Western Civilization can produce.

We are fiddling while the planet burns.

At the event written about above during that glorious waning night one big final ending struck me — people in the audience (mostly fifty years of age and upwards of 65 and older) wanted to discuss what the scientist and state bureaucrat, Caren Braby, had presented. They really want a forum, a community of purpose, to develop better tools to hash these “climate change issues” with neighbors, politicians, business owners, et al.

The gentleman with the MidCoast Watershed Council wanted the room cleared and questions quashed at a certain “acceptable” moment in the evening. However, people gathering and listening to a PowerPoint want civic engagement. The opportunity to engage 40 people and have some action plan drafted was lost in this American Mentality of Limited Scoping.

This so-called choir needs more tools to discuss the conjoining issues of climate change, resource depletion, food insecurity, growth (human & development), true sustainability, what energy in and energy out is, and so-so much more.

In fact, one of the active members of the Council discussed how insincere the political will is, discussed how flawed any movement on ocean acidification and hypoxia is without strengthening watershed rules, and how a regional approach is the only real way to move ahead, not just a state to state baby step approach. His 15 seconds of fame went poof, and the conversation ended.

There are many natural climate solutions tied to land stewardship that are not in place to help mitigate this huge problem for coastal communities and the marine life around them. This is where the rubber meets the pavement for small communities like Newport or Lincoln City.

While I am not a big proponent of harvesting the seas for food as a way to provide 20 percent of the earth protein, right now, the earth is criss-crossed with four to five times the number of fishing fleets than the oceans can sustain if fisheries are to stay robust and healthy. Many fisheries are in deep decline or near collapsing.

For Oregon, 37 percent of all greenhou se gasses originate through bad land use. Planting timber is the real solution to carbon sequestration, clean watersheds, protecting terrestrial and avian species and for the so-called coastal economies. How simple is that, planting billions of trees? In a world where private land rights trump everything, well, that seems to be the discussion point a group of forty citizens need to start massaging.

Unfortunately, these green solutions are not high on the table of scientists looking at chemistry and the invertebrates tied to specific fisheries.

Then, you can get so mired in the blue carbon and green solutions that are not high on the scale of bringing down global carbon dioxide levels.

The solutions, unfortunately, are all tied to wrecking “lifestyles, growth rates, consumption patterns, me-myself-and-I ego-centrism, recreation desires, class inequalities” Business As Usual mentality, from the Western Civilization’s (sic) perspective.

It’s all about human-focused survival, that is, what’s only good for Homo Sapiens — nothing said of the rights of any of the millions of other species to live on earth, or honoring wild-lands or mountain tops and corals, even geological formations, just for their sake alone.

Take a look at this article by Dr Phillip Williamson. He’s an honorary reader at the University of East Anglia and science coordinator of the UK Greenhouse Gas Removal from the Atmosphere research program, which is coordinated by the government-funded National Environment Research Council (NERC).

All the options, therefore, need to be on the table – not just the land-based approaches, such as planting new forests and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – which have dominated conversations to date.

This week, myself and colleagues attempt to address this gap by publishing an analysis of 13 ocean-based actions to address climate change and its impacts. The study considers the effectiveness and feasibility of both global-scale and local ocean-based solutions using information from more than 450 other publications.

Each potential action was assessed for a range of environmental, technological, social and economic criteria, with additional consideration given to each action’s impacts on important marine habitats and ecosystem services.

The study assesses seven ocean-based actions that have the potential to be deployed on a global scale. For the analysis, it was assumed that each technique was implemented at its maximum physical capacity.

Each technique was rated for its “mitigation effectiveness” – which was defined as how well the technique could help move the world from a high emissions scenario (“RCP8.5”) to a low emissions scenario where warming is limited to 2C (“RCP2.6”) – for a range of problems associated with climate change, including temperature rise, “ocean acidification” and sea level rise.

Here, sanity one and two:

  1.  protecting coastal areas from floods and nurseries for inshore fisheries
  2. planting new forests and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

Here, the insanity of where we are at in global outlooks and how to cut carbon emissions while still having everything hunky-dory:

  1.  “solar geoengineering” techniques such as, “ocean surface albedo” (the reflectiveness of the ocean) and “marine cloud brightening”, which would work by using ships to spray saltwater into the clouds above the sea to make them more reflective.
  2. assisted evolution” – defined as attempts to harness the power of evolution to make species more tolerant to the impacts of climate change:
  • One example of this could be to make coral species more tolerant to heat stress.
  • The last technique is reef relocation and restoration. This can involve transplanting healthy coral into a degraded reef following a mass bleaching event, in order to aid its recovery.

Source

For Caren, submitting public comments is one action. More research is her mainstay, and as she stated, she is euphoric looking into a microscope at invertebrates. She states: “If we don’t understand what’s happening, we can’t change things.”

Of course, we have shifting baselines, so what Caren and her team work on, well, the predictions of acidification of oceans have been around for decades, with the predicted breakdown in shelled species losing their ability to deliver calcium to make shells. We know what is happening, and we don’t need more collapses and disease and “proofs” before acting.

The partnerships tied to OAH and HAB are impressive, but we are not in a climate where passivity should be dictating our actions —  more science, more studies to delineate the problem and more monitoring, this is lunacy. Then, the proposed lunacy of iron shavings in the ocean and sulfur dioxide spewed into the atmosphere to dim the sky. If this isn’t proof the scientists and industrialists and technologists haven’t lost their minds, then nothing is proof positive of their insanity.

The average citizen wants to stick his or her head out the window and say: “So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” Howard Bale, from the movie, Network.

Here on the Oregon Coast, hypoxia events during summer months are growing in size and duration, and seeing more and more of these biotoxic algal blooms (phytoplankton) making it to the smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, and into oysters and clams, well, the bio-accumulation and bio-toxicity carries up the food chain.  Many warnings will be coming in the very near future —  “don’t eat the clams/oyster/fish” admonitions will be sent out as we move into the next decade.

Caren Braby also talked about pyrosomes, sea pickles (each is technically a colony of other multi-celled animals called zooids), that are not normally seen on the coast but are a result of hypoxia. Warming seas. What have you.

See the source image

We are in some really bizarre times — people like Caren Braby have their laurels and positions with the state and other agencies, but in reality, they are making their incomes off of collapse, the sixth mass extinction, and local communities (both human and not) demises. They have skin in the game, but the truly vulnerable who are precarious at work and in their rental situations, who depend on virile economies tied to clean seas, we have more skin in that game.

How’s this headline for yet another nighttime Stephen King flick: Box jellyfish will destroy future oceans by gobbling up the food

The reality is many thousands and thousands of out-of-balance changes are occurring at the flora and fauna level, let alone at the chemistry level. So, the most abundant animal on earth, zeroing out because of ocean acidification? Not a fairy tale you want to repeat to your five-year-old for bedtime story telling.

As the oceans become more acidic, box jellyfish may start eating a lot more. Their greedy appetites could have a huge impact on marine ecosystems.

Some of the carbon dioxide we release is dissolving in the oceans, where it becomes carbonic acid – making the oceans less alkaline and more acidic. Scientists are scrambling to identify which species will be most impacted.

They are particularly concerned about organisms that play pivotal roles in marine food webs, because if they disappear, entire ecosystems may collapse.

What happens to copepods affects all that depend on them, “which is pretty much everything,” says Edd Hammill of Utah State University in Logan.

Previous studies have found copepods may be fairly resistant to ocean acidification. However, these have largely focused on single species, so community-level effects may have been missed.

Image result for box jellyfish image

So these powerful swimmers, halibut, take off when they end up near a hypoxic zone. Entire coastlines (WA and OR) then have had halibut fisheries completely shut down with no halibut to be found.

Maybe the oceans are an allusion to what we have already done to the soil and air and freshwater on land. Not one place on the planet can you take a handful of freshwater from steam, creek, river, lake and be safe from bio-toxins and deadly amoeba. Every person on the planet has mircoplastic in their feces and many compounds like flame retardant in their blood.

And then we are back in the church of the scientist with her proclamation: “Pteropods are the canary in the mine shaft,” Care Braby stated.

How many canaries in the coal mine comparisons are there now on planet earth in terms of specific species crashing and ecosystems degrading?

Even one of the businessmen as part of the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery said the hatchery’s chemistry manipulations were just “scratching the surface” in terms of how big and far-reaching ocean acidification will be. The shellfish hatchery game, over in 20 or 30 years?

It was here, from 2006 to 2008, that oyster larvae began dying dramatically, with hatchery owners Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, experiencing larvae losses of 70 to 80 percent.

“Historically we’ve had larvae mortalities,” says Wiegardt, but those deaths were usually related to bacteria. After spending thousands of dollars to disinfect and filter out pathogens, the hatchery’s oyster larvae were still dying.

Finally, the couple enlisted the help of Burke Hales, a biogeochemist and ocean ecologist at Oregon State University. He soon homed in on the carbon chemistry of the water. “My wife sent a few samples in and Hales said someone had screwed up the samples because the [dissolved CO2 gas] level was so ridiculously high,” says Wiegardt, a fourth-generation oyster farmer. But the measurements were accurate. What the Whiskey Creek hatchery was experiencing was acidic seawater, caused by the ocean absorbing excessive amounts of CO2 from the air.

Source: YaleEnvironment36o.

Now is the time (30 years ago, really) to get communities to talk, to come up with collective solutions, to challenge business as usual, and science as usual.

And a flat-lined media, or so-called liberal press will not be benefiting anyone in terms of getting community conversations going and action started. If a rag or TV network is around just to sell junk, then, we have no hope.

One restaurant and seafood market owner I talked with in Newport is aware that her five-star restaurant and local sourcing of seafood is small time in the scheme of things. Her story, again, will be in the Newport News Times.

“There are so many forces beyond our control. I am worried about long-term food security. I want us to be looking at food systems, and to teach that in academic settings,” said Laura Anderson of Local Ocean Dockside Grill and Fish Market.

Welcome to Hell: Peruvian Mining City of La Rinconada

No one can agree how high above the sea level that La Rinconada really lies at: 5,300 meters or 5,200 meters? On the access road, a metal plate says 5,015. But who really cares? It is indisputably the highest settlement in the world; a gold mining town, a concentration of misery, a community of around 70,000 inhabitants, many of whom have been poisoned by mercury. A place where countless women and children get regularly raped, where law and order collapsed quite some time ago, where young girls are sent to garbage dumps in order to ‘recycle’ terribly smelling waste, and where almost all the men work in beastly conditions, trying to save at least some money, but where most of them simply ruin their health, barely managing to stay alive.

I decided to travel to La Rinconada precisely during these days when the socialist Venezuela is fighting for its survival. I drove there as the European elites in Bolivia were trying to smear the enormously popular and successful President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, while the elections were approaching.

Welcome to La Mona Mine

As in so many places in the turbo-capitalist and pro-Western Peru, La Rinconada is like a tremendous warning: this is how Venezuela and Bolivia used to be before Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. This is where Washington wants the entire Latin America to return to. Like those monstrous and hopeless slums surrounding Lima, La Rinconada should be a call to arms.

Just some five years ago we thought: This is how Latin America was never supposed to look again. We thought so, before the extreme right-wing forces in Washington managed to regroup and to deploy old dogmas of the Monroe Doctrine back to the frontlines, against Latin American independence and socialism.

*****

A driver refused to take me to La Rinconada, alone. For me, the fewer people involved the better. Even in Afghanistan, I work alone, only with my trusted Pashtun driver. But here it is different: the reputation of La Rinconada is that “you can enter, but you will never manage to leave.” I am told about the new mafia that operates there, and about the totally deteriorating security situation. In the end, I had no choice but to accept a crew of two men: a driver and a person “who is familiar with the situation related to Peruvian mines”.

Nature is nothing to gold diggers

We leave the city of Puno in the morning, passing along the magnificent shores of Lake Titicaca, which with a surface elevation of 3,812 meters, is the highest navigable lake in the world, shared by Peru and Bolivia.

“From the Peruvian side, the lake is getting poisoned by mercury,” explained Freddy, a mining expert. “La Rinconada and its gold mines are still very far, but the River Ramis is now bringing contaminated water from the area, particularly from the mining town of Ananea, directly into the lake.”

There is some sort of a motorway between Puno and Juliaca, a ‘center of commercial activity’ in the region; in fact, a huge, unkempt dusty city full of slums. Right after Juliaca, it is just rural misery.

I used to work in Peru during the so called ‘Dirty War’, fought between two Communist guerillas (the Maoist Shining Path and the Marxist, pro-Cuban MRTA) and the Peruvian state, which officially ended in 1992. Since then, the rural misery of Peru has not changed: dwellings made of earth, the desperate faces of villagers, and almost no social services, have remained. Right across the border, in socialist Bolivia, life in the countryside improves dramatically, continuously. But not here; not in Peru. And so, tents of thousands of anxious men are ‘going up’, reaching tremendous heights, risking their lives and ruining their heath, for at least a tiny chance to find gold, and to escape the endemic misery.

Miners taking a break

“My wife saved me,” I was told by a driver who, two days earlier, took me from the Bolivian border of Desaguadero, to the Peruvian city of Puno:

I was totally broke. We just had a baby. I had no idea what to do. And so, I told my family that I am going to La Rinconada. My wife stood up and said: ‘If you go, you will never return. And if you do, you will not be the man that I love, anymore. You stay in Puno and work here. I will work, too. We will somehow manage. Don’t you know: La Rinconada is a death sentence.’ I stayed. She was right. I saw people who went and came back totally destroyed.

*****

It is getting cold. Our Toyota Hilux climbs up, grumpily, with badly damaged suspension, but going nevertheless. The higher we climb, the colder it gets. It rains, then it stops.

Aluminum hell

The views are magnificent, but the countryside is covered by garbage. The river is filthy. The Llamas are eating garbage, cars are being washed in the rapids, and entire villages appear to be abandoned, turned into ghost towns.

After more than four hours of driving, after insane, neck-breaking serpentines, the first mines appear on the horizon. Then more filth, primitive machinery, and a mining town – Ananea.

Ms. Irma, the owner of a local eatery, prepares strong coffee and coca leaves soaked in hot water, the best remedy for altitude sickness. She is chatty, realizing that we represent no danger:

Sometimes, miners from La Rinconada, escape here. Ananeo is a bit below, and safer. We have water here. There, it is all poisoned; by mercury and other horrible stuff. You know the concept, how they work up there: 29 days they are laboring for free, and then for one day a month, they are allowed to grab what they find. It is a gamble: if they are lucky, they get rich during that one day. Or they find very little, or nothing. And even if they do, at night, it can get stolen from them.

She sounds old, maternal, compassionate, concerned. She has seen it all, it appears.

We pay and drive up.

Then, we see it: enormous lakes, yellowish, brownish, with streams coming from their surface. Long blue hoses. Everything is ruined and poisoned. Freddy says that there are some new technologies that could be used to extract gold, but the miners here use mercury, as it is cheaper. Primitive machinery is at work, just like on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan/Borneo; there, illegal mining is poisoning mighty rivers, here, it is leveling entire mountains, creating huge lakes, and moonscapes at some 5,000 meters of altitude.

The guards are obviously very unhappy about our presence. Still, I manage to film and photograph, and then we drive even further up.

The piles of garbage appear. Behind them, two tremendous mountains covered by snow. And an ironic metal sign: Welcome to La Rinconada”, “Do not litter.”

*****

I have seen a lot, on all the continents, but La Rinconada is truly ‘unique’.

Mountains and valleys are dotted with metal shacks, with makeshift structures. The filth is everywhere. There is no water supply. Electricity is scarce.

Cemetery covered with garbage

Garbage even covers the humble graves of a local cemetery.

In the main square, heavy drinking is in progress. It is dangerous to photograph here. I hide; use zoom. Two plastered miners are lying on their stomachs, and someone is throwing food into their open mouths, as if it was feeding time in a zoo.

Hand feeding smashed drunk miners at the main square

Prostitution is rampant. Children are doing odd jobs. At one of the garbage dumps, I ask two young girls about their age.

“25,” comes the ready answer. I guess 15, at most. But their faces are covered.

“How dangerous is it here?” I ask one of the miners.

He replies readily: “Very dangerous, but we have no choice.”

“Do people get injured on jobs? Do they get killed?”

“Of course. It happens very often. We are all taking risks. Some people get horrible injuries, others die. If they cannot treat them here, they take them to Ananeo, and if they are lucky, to a Juliaca hospital. Others are left here to die. It’s life. Some get saved, some don’t.”

Do they blame capitalism, the extreme savage pro-market system, adopted by their country?

“It’s life,” I hear the same fatalistic reply.

Do they know about Bolivia; about the great changes just across the border? Do they know that some 30 kilometers away from here, ‘as the condor flies’, on the Bolivian side, there is the pristine Uila Uila National Fauna Reserve?

Some know that it is much better ‘there’, in Bolivia, now. But they do not associate it with socialism or with the independent and pro-people policies of President Evo Morales. And they know very little about Venezuela.

All they know is that they were barely surviving on Altiplano, and that they are fighting for their lives, here, in La Rinconada.

Like in Indonesia, another savage pro-Western capitalist regime, people here are too preoccupied with their immediate essential problems; they cannot be bothered with ‘abstract’ thoughts about the environment, or lawlessness.

I see people pissing in the middle of the street.

“It is not just mercury,” I am told. “Everything here is mixed: poisons related to mining, urine, shit, urban waste…”

The urban landscape

The altitude is hitting me hard. 4,000 in Puno is bad; over 5,000 here is fatal. I am being held by two people as I film on the edge of a ravine, in order not to fall down.

Somehow, in a very twisted way, I acknowledge that the vistas around me are beautiful, stunning. I am impressed. Impressed by the ability of human beings to survive under almost any conditions.

Virtually all of this is illegal. But hundreds of millions are made, and washed.

People gain nothing; almost nothing. A miner makes 800 to 1,000 Soles (roughly $250 to $300) per month. Private companies and corrupt government gain billions. Once again, Latin America is getting poorer. But the West is not pushing for ‘regime change’ in Peru, or in Paraguay, or Brazil. This is how it is supposed to be; this is how Washington likes it.

Another miner dares to talk to me:

Most of the gold goes abroad. But before it does… If gangs do not rob us, miners, at night, they often murder small middlemen, those who buy gold directly from us.

Is he scared?

“Everyone here is scared,” he confirms. “Scared and sick. This is hell.”

“It is like a war…” I utter.

“It is a war,” he confirms.

But almost nobody comes here to report and to investigate. The life of a poor Peruvian person is worth nothing; nothing at all.

I film, I document… It is all that I can do for them. And for Bolivia, for Venezuela.

While I work, I feel that hell is near, it is here. It is not abstract, religious: it is real. But it could, it should be stopped.

Post-mining craters

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by RT

Homo Sapiens Plastica: The Right to Die Forever Preserved

It was a heck of a thing – a hundred people at the Newport City Council at 6 pm most of whom wanted to talk about the proposed single-use plastic bag (grocery) ban that is an ordinance largely led by citizens, and members of the Surfrider organization. Interestingly, the Newport voters five years ago were asked in a vote to decide whether a plastic bag ban was what they wanted.

A minority of citizens brought that up – how very few of the registered voters voted in 2014, and the vote against a plastic bag ban was barely a feather’s weight on the scale of pro to vote it down versus pro to vote for it. One of the city council members repeated that he was afraid of voting tonight on the ban because he wanted the citizens (less than 1/3 of registered voters last go around voted) to have a crack at it again, to vote again on the measure. He somehow thought that a council voting up and down on the ordinance stunk of overreach.

Sea Lion with wounded, entangled neck

Ahh, the vagaries of representative and participatory democracy. I have to put the word “democracy” into big bold quotation marks. Here’s one issue tied to that – first, the very people who will see the effects of more and more plastic in the gullets of birds and around the necks of seals and in the bellies of baleen and toothed whales are the very ones who are learning concurrently the tools of research and expressing their voices at a city council meeting. Yet, they are 12 or 14 or 16 years old, not old enough to vote on a measure they show so much interest in and for which will affect them way into gray-haired adulthood.

I’m not going to jump down their throats – the school kids’ throats – or their overworked/overtaxed teachers for not knowing or teaching about the harder and truthfully more important issues of our time: the racist society that we work-love-govern-consume-die in has put countless millions in jails, countless millions more in other countries in open prisons and in death camps, and has destabilized the world from culture to climate to citizenship to community. The USA might lead in plastic production, but we are devils when it comes to arms and bullets and bombs. Lockheed Martin is just one firm, headed up by a woman, that is the grim reaper and devil in Brooks Brothers, in our name!

I wonder how long a teacher would last in a public school attacking the top arms dealers of the USA: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon.

I am not going to ram down the throats of the citizens who think that a vote by the few people who believe voting counts on a benign ordinance is the only way to determine if the city of Newport has a ban on plastic bags. It’s too easy to list the tens of thousands of laws, codes, regulations, fees, fines, taxes, penalties, levies and regulatory language that we the people never voted on directly. I am not going to lecture people who think and believe there is a god-given right to use, buy, produce, consume, destroy, throw away anything in this barbarous society. They are, of course. wrong, but in late-stage predatory and extractive capitalism, that’s all Americans now have to hang onto: their right to their red white and blue lifestyles.

Image result for plastic inside whale's stomach

I am an ecosocialist, so I know all systems of oppression that are the basis of capitalism have to be thrown into the dustbin of failed experiments and genocidal ideas by the white man. The very idea of having standardized schools, standardized laws (against the people) and standardized oligarchical systems of benefits thrown to the minority (One Percent and Point Zero Zero One percent) against the majority in a casino game of gambling our futures on the whims and slippery thinking of the elite is plain wrong.

Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way.

— Rosa Luxemberg

Radical means setting down roots, the fabric of what it means to be a sane human and humane community. We need radical and revolutionary changes to this system of economic, cultural and environmental oppression.

Capitalism is the rotting rot of the evil!

If voting in a capitalist society really counted, or mattered, or gave the people a real choice and real chance at representative democracy, then it would have been outlawed ages ago, Emma Goldman famously stated.

The rights of nature do not end up on any ballot measure. We have to send in reams of paper to elected officials and to official agencies of the government and then also to the CEOs and shareholders of corporations to plead with them to stop this or that major attack on our ecosystems and wildlife.

We don’t get to vote with our money, or vote with our buying “power.”

Image result for orangutan burned palm oil

There is no power in consuming or buying or being labeled a consumer. There is no focus group in the world which is working for the benefit of the fabric of life – air, water, soil, biodome, ecosystem, ecology, human/non human community. The very concept of a throwaway society was never voted on, but rather was foisted upon the Americans who once were frugal, more or less.

Of course, this is the land of theft and thieves, ripped from the First Nations, and this concept of me-myself-and-I, or that is, my home and my family are my castle, that is what the concept of America the Taken is. This blind allegiance to the flag, and this racist pledge of one’s self to the group’s mob rule, well, that is part and parcel of the American lie. Do we even begin to start reparations for First Nations peoples?

When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women.

Nick Estes, author of, “Our History Is the Future,” which traces Indigenous resistance from the Lakota people’s attempt to deny Lewis and Clark passage down the Missouri River in 1804, to the Red Power movement’s demands for treaty enforcement in the 1960s, to today’s Indigenous-led fights against fossil fuel projects. Writing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, where 300 Indigenous men, women, and children were murdered by U.S. soldiers in 1890, Estes highlights the revolutionary premise of the nonviolent Ghost Dance movement the victims followed. With a long tradition of daring attempts at decolonization, Estes argues, Indigenous people represent a powerful challenge to the profit-driven forces that threaten continued life on the planet.

Demonstrators chant and hold up signs as they gather in front of the White House in Washington, DC, September 13, 2016, to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. The US government on September 9, 2016 sought to stop work on a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota that has angered Native Americans, blocking any work on federal land and asking the company to "voluntarily pause" work nearby. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Even a city council meeting in small-town America demands that mob allegiance to the Flag, one nation under god. A bloody idiotic pledge at a city council meeting at 6 pm. I, of course, do not stand for any flag, and taking a knee is not my cup of tea. I am a taxpayer, teacher, volunteer, activist and informed member of no blind allegiance to any body or group or country. I do not stand for the pledge or the national anthem, and some people get pissed off, and some would like to take me out to the back of the woodshed and shoot me.

In any case, the city makes a large chunk of its yearly income from visitors, beachcombers and general sightseers, the ones that come to town and plop down hotel fees and restaurant checks and park fees and fill up their cars with fuel.

Forget the microplastics debate. Just the fact that plastic straws and plastic bags and Styrofoam cups are unnecessary for human survival, and they kill marine life, now how difficult is it to prohibit these luxury items? For beautification of the town and environs that make the most money on visitors, of all any ilk, those on all sides of the same coin of American political belief “system” ;  and then what about the many out of state visitors and if we’re lucky to meet them, out of the country tourists?

No brainer — none of them, or us, wants to see plastic crap on the beaches and in the mouths of cormorants.

Yes, Japan and Norway and Iceland kill more whales each year than does the Safeway bag. Yes, US Navy sonar use and massive testing kills more whales than a plastic bag from Taco Bell does. Yes, more whales and other marine mammals are killed by ghost fishing gear and crab pot lines than the Target sofa-sized plastic shopping bag does. Yes, non-point pollution – from sewage and storm-water drainage overflows or direct source Big Ag and Farming pesticides and fertilizers and industrial raised animal waste kill more fish over time than does plastic Bic lighters do. But . . . the big but is how did we get in this place where shellfish warnings are given in a place that more or less looks pristine?

How is it that the Siletz Nation was ripped off by white men and then the  fiber wood  felons came in and logged hard; and now the forests reaching up to the coastline are clear-cut? Did I get to vote on that at the state level, in Portland where I once worked? Do I get to vote on that now that I live in Lincoln City? Who voted for confined animal feeding operations that produce more untreated manure, urine and body parts and blood than a small city produces and yet goes untreated, and many times is sludge that gets thrown across vast amounts of wild or green areas by the hundreds of square miles? That’s happening here, called biosolids, another name for toxic crap.

That is the contention now, is it not? Do we vote for our favorite glaciologist or paleo-biologist or climatologist or chemist or ecologist or physicist or oceanographer or archaeologist or botanist or geologist to run NOAA, NASA, or the US’s climate change policy group?

That simple process of having youth speak at a city council meeting, where the council was either going to vote for or against the proposed plastic bag ban; or was going to vote for or against bringing the measure up for a future public vote entailing expensive balloting measures; or for carrying through with more study group meetings as a council and then bringing it up for a discussion and then public council vote at a future city council meeting (that’s what the city council ultimately without unanimous agreement voted for) — now that was the galvanizing moment last Monday.

Seeing young people and their teachers and parents out for a city council meeting on a school night.

Again, the city council and city manager and maybe a planner or two will meet and discuss the ordinance that was crafted and recrafted by Surfrider; and it has to be made clear that this non-profit looked at other communities in Oregon and Washington which approved and put in force bans of single use plastic bags.

It’s more than just a little disturbing that in 2019 we are having spasms around forcing these purveyors of pain and pollution and toxic food to rein in their paper-plastics-pesticides-food calorie footprints. Plastic bags, and yet this community, Newport, and this county – Lincoln County – are rife with tipping points that are in free-fall: over-growth of human population, over-growth of youth living in poverty, over-growth of people working in the precarious labor market, over-growth of citizens about to be homeless in their pick-up trucks.

Aging in place with falling tresses and peeling roofing tiles. People who can’t name one person on their block but can tell you who R Kelly is. The adventures of surfing the internet and channel surfing for that just right R-rated flick but nary a moment to read the actual ordinance.

The conversation around plastic bags, man, this is the Pacific Coast, a town that depends on the fabric or façade of appearance – uncluttered viewshed and beach beauty. This is a coast where the fiber felons clear cut all the way up to the estuaries, rivers and beachheads. And we have to debate vociferously a plastic bag ban?

Talking about the inconvenience of banning plastic bags, some believe this is governmental overreach. Those jack-booted government agents are gong to come into our homes and rip those flimsy oil-based plastic bags from your cold dead hands.

This is what has happened in a society that has turned Tinsel Town thinking and the mall experience, where Disneyland and Disney cruises are the ultimate forms of cultural experience, into god-given rights.

Convenience. Hmm, how convenient is it to have to work for a felonious company like Amazon and rely on handouts and still have no health insurance? How convenient is it to let grandmother fester in her studio apartment with open sores and catatonic nightmares about being pulled out and tossed out on the streets because she’s amassed too many medical bills and rent-past due letters and warnings that the water and electricity are about to be turned off until payment is remitted?

We worry about the sanctity of shopping with those lovely little single use bags? Straws for slushy Starbucks concoctions? Waxed-up boxes for our takeout double cheeseburgers and fish and chips?

Do we have to go to Chris Jordan again? I used to teach this in my college writing classes, looking at things, the Story of Stuff, the power of mass consumption to pull the blinders off our collective magical thinking:

The number of cups airlines use in an hour — disposable, not! Look at his stuff here, Jordan, By the Numbers!

Chris Jordan’s Albatross — watch! If you do anything today, spend an hour and 47 minutes watching this documentary!

Then this daily consumption power of 7.4 billion people using those instant meal foil packages, all over the world. Plastic bags, all over the world. Flame retardant in every human being on earth, and then the shit hits the fan – every human has microbits and nano particles of plastics in their feces.

I’m curious when the city council vote or state capital amendment or federal election came up with my chance to vote on those realities? Atrazine in the food of babies and grandpa’s? The daily extrusion of more and more chemical produced in the factories of the felons, forced into foods, additives, pillows, clothes, internal combustion engine lubes, facial creams and toothpastes, into the bottles of crap consumed, and the wild fish caught.

The vote, man, where’s that vote tally for the rest of the world which has taken the burden of first world countries’ off-shoring of carbon chugging? All those First World so-called leaders bellowing how they’ve reduced their CO2 output, even though those same countries consume all the metals and products produced in other countries, whose carbon dioxide footprints are now chugging ahead to satisfy the needs of the multinational corporations and nefarious leadership of those countries to say, “yes, we Germans, have closed our coal-fired metal works factories and we have much cleaner air.”

In the scheme of things, the place to be is one where love and beauty can be captured, both in the eyes and ears, in the touch and smell of life, in hearing birds rustling and waves crashing.

Who better than literary muse and historical hero, communist Pablo Neruda:

Someday, somewhere – anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.

[or]

We the mortals touch the metals,
the wind, the ocean shores, the stones,
knowing they will go on, inert or burning,
and I was discovering, naming all the these things:
it was my destiny to love and say goodbye.

― Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day

I said in my last piece I’d be talking about Peter Ward’s book, Under a Green Sky. I also know that someone like Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers, also tugs at my consciousness. The reality of how geological time covers each 10,000 years of human history, in a blip of strata colliding with ocean and receding sea, or now, with each inch of sea wallowing up and moving into the fragile dungeons of our fears and dreams – cities along the coast.

Ward talks about that big impact, that dinosaur- killing event with the asteroid — Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary period around 66 million years ago when that space rock hit earth off of the Yucatan peninsula. But then, what about 200 million years ago, that event known as the “Permian extinction”: it wiped out 90 percent of all species and nearly 97 percent of all living things. While its origins challenged paleontologists, starting 30 years ago, as battle unfolded about whether it too was from above, an asteroid.

Paleontologist Peter. D. Ward studied with others, that great Permian extinction, and it wasn’t some space object that did in the world’s living creatures. Rather, it was caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide leading to climate change. And it was the heat that did them in, as in global warming or the greenhouse gas effect. In his book, we find out that the oceans, belching hydrogen sulfide did in the majority of all land, air and sea life. Think of the four of the five mass extinctions caused by too much carbon dioxide in the air which in turn fouled the oceans, which became stagnant and deadly.

Our fate is set in the same way, but it’s not basalt lava flows that are running up the CO2 levels; it’s our fossil fuel societies running up the carbon dioxide footprint. Deforested forests and jungles. Putrefying wetlands, and dying oceans. Methane releases now in the tundra zones. The albedo effect lessened because of less snow and glaciers, as well as dirty soot on snow and glaciers.

Yes, in 7 billion years, that sun of ours will implode and destroy us, planet earth. Yet, humanity is set on sixty-second time frames, 28-day calendars, two-year election cycles, 180-day school years, 100,000- mile bumper to bumper warranties.

Average human lifespan: 70 years. The solar year has 525,948 minutes and 48 seconds, and an average person has a heart rate of 80 beats per minute; then the total number of heartbeats in year would be 42,075,840 give or take a few seconds. That’s 3 billion heart beats for 70 years of living on earth as Homo Sapiens Plasitica/Consumpithecus.

All of those heart beats placed in the scheme of things! We try and frame that – perspective and scheme of things when we talk about Trump and those who toxically back him word, line and verse. We try and frame the context of any US administration whose marching orders have always been about empire, manifest destiny, overreach and displacement: displacing of original people’s, displacing of African citizens, displacing of people’s in other countries, displacing of various sub-communities and sub-populations within the 50 states and handful of territories.

Unfolding in real time the 6th Mass Extinction is part and parcel the reality of (un)civilization, the guns, germs, steel and artificial intelligence of our times. It’s the reality embedded in the defamation and despoilment of our own communities, our own parks and national monuments. What sort of species will save the whale when in our own communities we allow for old people, or the sick and infirm, to be put out on the streets? What sort of wolf protection or bee loving self can muster up the energy to stop the killing fields this country, with the support of other countries like Israel, UK, Canada, EU, Saudi Arabia, has created through the veins and arteries that are the delivery system of Capitalism’s own blood and heart flow?

Capitalism that weighs the actuarial logic of how long it takes for a person to drop dead from over-work, over-pollution, over-burdens of finances? We live in a system that says 20 deaths from exploding gas tanks on modern automobiles is worth the price in arbitration and legal payouts versus recalling millions of models and setting up a new assembly process?

A society that has allowable (safe) limits of tens of thousands toxins and carcinogens and nerve-eating metals in water, air, food, soil? Beauty products with asbestos in the foundation? What society, what species of animal, would allow babies to be exposed to mercury or aluminum in vaccinations, yet, somehow, we are going to protect the albatross from nurdles, fishing mono-filament and Bic lighters?

It’s that earth time, human time, the time it takes to wrap up this article and send it in on the Internet sphere, what does it all mean in the schema of things, when people who believe in the arc of social justice coming back to whack all those capitalists and armies of the capitalists? All those flimflam artists and scammers and deadbeats and despots against human kind and earth systems, will they get their comeuppance?

Yet, the average American, here in Newport, or in Hoboken, or Phoenix or Seattle (even Amazon-Boeing-Seattle) can’t see past their Maslovian Homo Sapiens Retailophithecus nose to save the gray wolf, save the orangutan, the golden toad, the bristle-cone pine, the everglades?

We are in these moments now, with instantaneous news feeds, Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of information on every imaginable topic on the head of a straight-pin. We have an opinion about everything but very little depth about anything. We are not critical thinkers but we are  criticizers and blamers. We are trapped in a hierarchy of needs way outside any desire or innate need to be people within communities. Struggling with the powerful, but we collectively are more powerful than all the Bezos’ and Gates’ and Bloombergs and Weinsteins and Koch Brothers combined.

Bearing Witness and an act of love for that species, which is really us, one species at a time. Chris Jordan:

I shaped it like a sort of guided meditation. At the beginning of these ceremonies you usually have to face your fears and something really scary happens. This is how it starts: facing the horror of plastic. We start with horror and fear, but when aren’t scared anymore then we open up to curiosity and learning. There’s a scene that I specifically talk about fear as birds have no fear of us. Then there’s a scene of curiosity as birds come towards the camera and look right into it in such an amazing way. In the presence of curiosity we get the encounter of others and we experience empathy. Empathy and curiosity are the beginning of connection. And connection is the beginning of love. As we fall in love with the birds we also see in multiple ways that they’re filled with plastic and begin to experience grief. That’s the core of the film – the understanding and experience of grief. Grief is not a bad feeling. It’s not the same of despair. It’s a sort triangle: it’s beauty, sadness and love, all mixed together. It’s incredibly vivid, it’s the experience of being alive and so it’s electrically powerful. It’s almost an ecstatic experience that connects you deeply with life.

What Albratross is really about is shifting consciousness and this is the attention behind the film and project. By shifting consciousness I mean reconnecting more deeply with our love for the living world. That’s really my wish. I want to spread Albatross as far as possible as it’s a love story, a love offering on behalf of all life, not only albatrosses.

Threading the Eye of the Needle: A Few Greenies Ain’t Gonna Cut Climate Change

Needle in a haystack. Little Dutch Boy putting fingers in leaking dike.

The beach clean-up along the Central Oregon Coast, near Devils Punch Bowl, down south to Beverly Beach, is an exercise in patience, Sisyphus, maybe, as many beach and marine life lovers are volunteering with tweezers in hand harvesting the global micro-plastic harvest.

Might as well have a fork to bring in all the world’s wheat crops.

Piece by piece. Or, scoops of sand, with organic matter like shells pieces and driftwood and these microplastic and plastic nurdles plopped on a gurney-sized fine mesh, is akin to — what? Using one household colander to strain the daily pasta and noodle intake in Oregon?

Scott Rosin is tall, grizzled, and head of Surfriders Central Oregon Coast. He’s chair of the Newport Chapter. Another chapter is called Siuslaw Surfriders, taken from the Newport-Yachats area where we live in, specifically the Siuslaw National Forest, also named after the river that runs through it to the Pacific.

Ahh, Rosin – former arborist, former surfer (his shoulder was blasted out in forestry work – he uses a paddle board to ride five-foot waves or less), poet and local activist – has been heading up this plastic clean-up on six consecutive Sundays, noon to 4 pm, on an incredible beach made to order for picnickers and surfers, even in March.

Helping hands included a few women, Mike Harrington, a 72-year-old member of the Siuslaw Chapter of Surfrider, and a black lab whose owner was down on her knees pulling out plastics of every color and shape.

This is what Scott told the Newport News recently about his efforts:

It would be great if we could get more locals involved. The beaches here are, or were, as beautiful as anywhere in the world. I’ve surfed and played on these beaches since 1973. I can tell you that the problem of visible plastic pollution here has grown exponentially.

Nobody knows what the full effects of plastic pollution may be. This isn’t a disaster that you can see coming, like a forest fire or a hurricane. I anticipate a long road to educating ourselves about the dangers involved.

It’s the local newspaper, and a message of doom and gloom and setting the doomsday clock to 11th hour (actually, 11:58) before the apocalyptic midnight hour hits doesn’t sit well for a local rag that sells ads for real estate, B&B’s, summer cottages, whale watching tours, crab fests, and buy-buy-eat-eat-consume-consume visitors.

Scott and I talked the real stuff tied to not just the amount of plastics in the ocean, and not just the bad-bad-bad hypotheticals of animals eating plastic and then humans eating them up, through the food chain. Anyone with a brain knows that whales and albatrosses and Homo Sapiens should be engorged with fossil fuel polymers.

We talked about these ideas of Americans thinking infinite population growth rates, infinite GDP rates, infinite investment profits, or infinite timber harvesting and infinite consumption and pollution are natural born rights.

The local rag will not allow such real and systems thinking discourse in the newspaper’s news or features sections.

One irony is that Scott and Surfriders and members of SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and the few volunteers from the American Cetacean Society might not realize that the Siuslaw people (nation) lived in villages along the river until 1860.

Siuslaw Nation living understanding the land, the estuaries, the ecosystems, the whales and avian world, the fish and fauna. The Siuslaw like all First Nations knew the limits of growth, the carrying capacities of their tribes, the allowable safe limit or killing animals or harvesting food.

So, these natural and long-studied indigenous people who could be here teaching in Oregon’s schools and advising all sectors of government and business, well, they no longer have a practiced language. We may romanticize that Oregon Trail story (even Woodie Guthrie has his song, Oregon Trail), but in 1860 the Siuslaw Nation was forcibly removed to an Indian reservation in Yachats. And, then, quickly those homes, farms, gardens and villages were destroyed and occupied by U.S. settler-colonists.

Now California transplants are on the beach trying in herculean effort to stop the infinite plastics tide from fouling everything they came to the Oregon Coast for in the first place.

From the evidence of locals who are blind to the plastic issue and looking out at these Surfriders and others, young and grizzled, the volunteers seem like a blast from the past. Environmentalists, who stick out like anachronous wandering souls, are the minority, as more and more business-as-usual and business-as-usual-to-the-tenth-power proponents have colonized the beach resorts, the city councils, school boards, county commissioner courts.

This Central Oregon Coast is magnificent, but even along the largest ocean covering 42 percent of the earth’s surface (62 million square miles), the Pacific (and the deepest of all oceans at that), microplastics from fish totes originating in Alaska come to the beach in small and colorful forms for a few volunteers to pick at.

Tumbling ghost fishing gear, equipment, supplies – all polymers – tumbling along the ocean currents and ocean floor, ending up floating at the surface, or just below. Colorful bits sea life take for sea nutrients.

Birds eat the plastics. Mammalian marine life eats the plastic. Fish eat it. The extra big yearly tides – the King Tides – push the plastic way up on the tide line. Now Homo Sapiens Plastica are out in small numbers trying to battle the plastic snow storm with a leaf blower.

Scott has never seen this amount of plastic in his 46 years fishing, playing and making a living in this part of the Oregon Coast.

We talked about plastic in every human being’s feces (recent scientific paper on that tidbit). We talked about how by 2050 plastic floating around the ocean and on the bottom will outweigh the total mass of all the organic-living matter in the ocean (another series of scientific papers). I talked about the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific, the deepest canyon in the world — 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide and maxing out at 36,070 feet deep from the surface.

In yet another scientific series of papers, researchers have ROV’s – remotely operated vehicles – filming plastic bags floating in the trench. Worse yet, the foundation of the food chain – amphipods – in each collection over many months resulted in every single crustacean-like animal containing plastic remnants in their guts.

We can read white paper after detailed scientific paper, but the bottom line is if humanity were to use even one-thousandth of our collective common sense, we’d all be ranting and raving about stopping plastic production and use of straws, wraps, single use bags, containers, noodles.

Forget the fact that plastics are oil based, and the process of polymerizing them involves a lot of electricity, toxins, off gassing and communities around the world exposed to the industrial toxins and waste products part and parcel tied to the entire harvesting, transportation (by a factor of 3 or 4) and production process.

Lucky for me, I can be a member of various touchy feely groups and do some volunteer work with them, but I am not longer hobbled by my scientific credentials or teaching certificates or so-called neutral journalistic standards. I can see through the hubris, magical thinking, delusional belief systems, the false hope and the elephants in the room as people in this society – good folks like Scott Rosin and others I met at a naturalist certification program I went through with the American Cetacean Society have their hearts in the right place, and many times their minds, but their guts are missing the fact that revolutionary change has to happen.

Not a future of greenie Jetsons, but rather a future like the Flintstones is only going to answer the call now.

I also ran into another old timer, like Mike Harrington, a member of Surfrider who ended up in Oregon in 1976, originally from Central California. He packed up the VW van and got his 20 acres near Eddyville.

He said he came here with two children and a wife, because he wanted his kids to be raised where nature and wildlife both counted and were part of their daily lives.

He made his livelihood as a farrier, and we joked about just who his customers are – well-off, bourgeoise, and those with big bucks and the largest ecological footprints.

It’s super tedious, this sieving the wet sand and separating the plastic from the organic matter. Harrington knows it’s a drop in the proverbial bucket (now it’s the drops in the ocean tub). “You have to start somewhere. I want to make this world a better world for my kids and grandkids. I guess it makes me feel better doing this.”

Amanda Zimmerman and Joanna Davis are sisters doing the bit by bit plastic treasure hunt. The sun is out, more than two dozen surfers are seeking curls, families are making sand castles, and the warmer winter Pacific shore waters are enticing some to go in up to their knees.

Joanna says she has to do something. She too is from California, and now is a 28-year-old living in Portland, wanting that Portlandia lifestyle. She has no children, wants none to bring in the world, and she tells me she’s shocked at how few shells and sand dollars she has seen seeing at Pismo Beach, the closest beach to her when she lived in Bakersfield.

The March 4 City Council meeting in Newport will discuss whether to go forward on proposing a single use plastic shopping bag ordinance. There will be many citizens there speaking on behalf of the proposed ban. Scott will be there, after having sent in written testimony.

I’ve looked at the no-to-the-ban citizens, and from the plastics lobby and grocery store lobby. Imagine, 2019, and a small city with 11,000 residents, and swelling to three times that in the summer months, can’t even wrestle with a plastic bag ban.

Even Forbes Magazine, rag of the uber rich, the uber capitalists, lists the coming age of plastic bag bans. But, again, if we can’t get Puerto Rico’s lights back on, and if we can’t even fund our PP12 schools, and if we throw money at Military Industrial Complex thieves and let them laugh to the bank, are we going to deal with climate change?

Ahh, more coming soon, on Peter Ward’s talk, Under a Green Sky (great book I reviewed).

You have Wallace Smith Broecker, the ‘grandfather’ of climate science, leaving a final warning for Earth at an ASU climate change conference via web right before he succumbed to Chronic Heart Failure. I’ll talk about him in a future blog-article.

We’ll talk about the humanity in all of this new fangled (not really) New Green Deal, which is again just another way to let Musk, Bezos, Silicon Valley, Gates, Dell and other techies play libertarian green game of thrones.

Plastics, man. And get this: Oregon’s State Parks will not let Scott and his cronies bring a solar-power pump to get ocean water to their sieving station. Imagine that, they have to haul all this water in 5 gallon buckets hundreds of feet to wash out the sand. Solar powered.

The state’s reasoning: “Well, goddamned goldminers might see this four hour operation and think, hell, I can bring in my gold mining dredges and pumps and arsenic and such. Damn fine idea.”

Are we going to really mitigate the worse and even least of the worse outfalls from climate change when we can’t even issue a special issue permit for greenies to clean plastics from the beach?

We love to believe that high-tech innovations will fix everything. To produce all of our fanciful technology, many of the raw materials are derived from exploiting other people’s land (Africa, South America, Asia), and the manufacturing comes at the expense of other people’s health and livelihood. Let’s hope eliminating this sort of environmental racism figures into the GND platform. Beyond that, thus far in the course of humanity, our technology has only further amplified all of our detrimental ecological issues. It involves over-consuming natural resources and over-producing more of what we don’t need, while leaving us with less of what we do – organisms and ecological systems.

People are saying the Green New Deal is impossible. What is impossible is saving our planetary ecosystem while preserving our current way of life. For any GND legislation to be successful, it must work to conserve more rather than produce more. Moreover, it must facilitate collective radical personal changes to our way of life that fundamentally change the underlying paradigms of our existence. Otherwise, it will be as fleeting as the original New Deal, and ultimately much more deadly.

When it comes to a Green Deal, the only sustainable policies are radical ones. And when it comes to a sustainable global environmental paradigm, unless you are talking about the natural world, less is always more.

Kristine Mattis received her PhD in Environmental Studies. As an interdisciplinary environmental scholar with a background in biology, earth system science, and policy, her research focuses on environmental risk information and science communication. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a science reporter for the U.S. Congressional Record, and as a science and health teacher.

Forbes Magazine list for Oregon and Washington. See all the places for which a ban is in effect — HERE.

KENMORE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags, 5-cent fee on paper bags

LA CONNER WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT ANGELES WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mm, 5-cent tax on all bags

TACOMA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags less than 225 mils thick

FRIDAY HARBOR WA Town-wide ban on plastic bags

SAN JUAN COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags

TUMWATER WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

THURSTON COUNTY WA County-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

OLYMPIA WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

LACEY WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MERCER ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

SHORELINE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

ISSAQUAH WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

MUKILTEO WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

PORT TOWNSEND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

BELLINGHAM WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

SEATTLE WA City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

EDMONDS WA City-wide ban on plastic bags

MILWAUKIE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MANZANITA OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

MCMINNVILLE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

HOOD RIVER OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

FOREST GROVE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

ASHLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags

EUGENE OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

CORVALLIS OR City-wide ban on plastic bags and 5-cent fee on paper bags

PORTLAND OR City-wide ban on plastic bags

Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe

Ask any reasonably well-informed person what the cause of climate change is and the chances are they will say greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s), but they would only be partially correct. While it is true that man-made GGE’s are clogging Earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat and resulting in widespread climate change, the underlying 21st century cause, in contrast to the 19th and early 20th century when information was scarce, is something much more personal and lethal: complacency. Widespread complacency among politicians, big business and to a lesser degree, the general public, is the reason why, despite the various cries for restraint, global GGE’s continue to increase.

Complacency is why air pollution is getting worse in cities and towns across the world, leading to a range of health problems and premature deaths; complacency has caused the destruction of the planet’s rain forests, 85% of which have been lost through human activity, and it’s why the oceans have been poisoned and robbed of fish. Complacency is fueling the greatest extinction of animal and plant species in our history, it’s setting forests alight, filling the oceans and rivers with plastics and other pollutants, and is the reason why the ice mass in the North Pole is melting at unprecedented rates, leading to rising sea levels, flooding and the erosion of land, destroying homes and natural habitats, taking lives, displacing people – potentially millions.

It is complacency, which a wise man once described as the root of all evil, that is causing all of this and more – the ‘I’m all right, Jack’ mentality’. And no matter how many reports are published and forecasts made, or how often someone speaks or writes about what is the greatest crisis in human history, few listen, even fewer act and nothing substantive changes, certainly nothing that matches the scale of the catastrophe. Do people even know there is a crisis, really? The level of apathy amongst governments and corporate power beggars belief, as does the lack of coverage in mainstream media, such as the BBC. Environmental issues should be headline news every single day, but scan the websites and publications of the mass media and the environment is barely mentioned.

Complacency is reinforced by greed and ignorance, greed for limitless profits, short-term gain and material comfort and ignorance of the scale, range and urgency of the crisis, and of the connection between lifestyle and environmental ruin. The fact that animal agriculture is responsible for more GGE’s than any other sector, for example, is not common knowledge, and when it is known, changes in behavior, where they occur at all, are slow. Cutting out meat, fish and dairy reduces a person’s individual GGE’s more than any other single factor. In a positive sign, and for a range of reasons, more people than ever are adopting a vegan diet, particularly in Europe and America. But globally 90% of the population continues to eat animal produce, and this needs to dramatically change. Dissipating ignorance and cultivating greater awareness is badly needed; to this end, a coordinated public information program is needed throughout the world; this is a worldwide crisis and, as all those working in the area know, it requires a unified ‘Environment First’ response.

S.O.P.: Save Our Planet

Restoring the planet to health is the major need of the time; together with a shift in lifestyles, this requires economic systemic change and a reorientation of political priorities. Knowing there is an environmental crisis, claiming to be concerned but doing little or nothing is pure hypocrisy; to their utter shame the vast majority of politicians are environmental hypocrites; weak and devoid of vision. T,hey constitute the very embodiment of complacency; they are indebted to big business and have repeatedly shown that they cannot be relied on to initiate the radical policies needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground and repair the environmental carnage mankind has caused.

The number one priority of governments around the world is ‘the economy’. This is the sacred cow around which they tiptoe and to whom they make their reverential offerings in the hope of being blessed by limitless economic growth, no matter the environmental cost. Where they exist at all, Government policies to reduce GGE’s are designed and limited by the impact they will have on economic development; as such they remain totally inadequate.

Development takes place within the constructs of an unjust system that is dependent on constant consumption, encourages greed, produces huge quantities of waste, and is maintained by the relentless agitation of desire. These thoroughly negative elements work to the detriment of human beings and are the driving impulses behind behavior that has led to, and is perpetuating, the environmental crisis. The system demands that irresponsible consumption not only continues, but deepens and expands into areas of the world hitherto relatively untouched by its poison; it obstructs environmentally responsible policies and lacks the flexibility required to face the challenges, certainly within the time-scale needed if the planet is to be restored to health. Given these facts, the only sane, rational solution is to change the system to one that allows for an urgent meaningful response: a sustainable and just system based on altogether different principles and reasons for being. Neo-liberalism is not a living organism without alternatives, as some devotees of mammon would have us believe: it is a man-made structure and can therefore be redesigned to meet the urgent social and environmental needs of the time.

Systemic change and shifts in government policy will not just happen by themselves, it is up to all of us to demand that the environment becomes the number one priority for governments across the world. At the same time, we all need to examine how we live and ensure that we do so in a way that is determined, first and foremost, by environmental considerations – not by pleasure, convenience and comfort, as is often the case, but by love, for living in an environmentally responsible way is an act of love.

The decisions we make today and in the coming years will affect life on Earth for thousands of years to come. Sacrifices and the breaking of habits are required and within the spirit of collective individual responsibility these should be gladly accepted. Every political, business and lifestyle decision needs to be taken with an understanding of how it affects the environment, and a simple question posed: ‘will this action add to or reduce GGE’s’? If it will increase them, then don’t do it.

Consider how you get around: do you really need that fossil-fueled car (private ownership of cars needs to be drastically reduced, particularly in cities)? What you buy and who you shop with, who supplies your energy and does it come from renewable sources? Where you go on holiday and can you avoid flying and go by train or bus? If not, go somewhere else. What do you eat? If your diet is based on animal produce then reduce your intake. Shop based on need, buy secondhand, limit how often you wash clothing, reduce waste, boycott environmentally abusive companies, write to your political representatives, call for a national public information program; live responsibly and encourage family and friends to do likewise.

Complacency, apathy and hypocrisy coalesce to form the most noxious causes of climate change and environmental vandalism, and until this Trinity of Destruction is overcome, and the crisis is taken seriously by the political class, corporations and the public at large, nothing substantive will take place; and unless fundamental change occurs, and urgently, life on Earth will become increasingly uncomfortable, ecosystems will continue to collapse, and one dark day, in the very near future, it will be too late. The Shroud of Complacency needs to be thrown off now, today, and widespread action rooted in environmental awareness initiated; where there is concerted, sustained action therein lies hope.

Democracy Or Extinction

What will it take for governments to take real action on climate? When will they declare an emergency and do what needs to be done? How much concerted, peaceful public action will be required to disrupt the current economic and political system that is driving humanity to the brink of extinction?

Meanwhile, climate records continue to tumble. 2018 was the hottest for the world’s oceans since records began in the 1950s, continuing a deeply worrying trend. Moreover, the last five years were the five hottest. The consequences are likely to be catastrophic. The oceans are crucial to the Earth’s climate; they absorb more than 90 per cent of the heating generated by greenhouse gases. Yet another sign of serious climate disruption is revealed with seemingly no impact on the juggernaut of economic ‘growth’ and government decision-making.

John Abraham, one of the authors of the new scientific study on this alarming rise in ocean temperatures, said:

We scientists sound like a broken record. Every year we present the science and plead for action. Not nearly enough is being done. We can still tackle climate change, but we must act immediately. We have the means to make a difference, we lack only the will.

It is, of course, heartening to see scientists finally being this outspoken. But it is not accurate to keep repeating the mantra, as many well-intentioned people do, that ‘we’ lack ‘the will’. Who is the ‘we’ here? Big business, powerful financial interests and corporate lobbies have fought tooth and nail to oppose any substantive action. They have battled hard over decades to obscure, rubbish and downplay the science – with huge sums devoted to disinformation campaigns – and to bend government policy in their favour.

US environmentalist Bill McKibben recently observed of the fossil fuel lobby that:

The coalition ha[s] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the earth.

One could argue that there is a lack of public will to expose and counter corporate power in collusion with nation states; that there needs to be a grassroots revolution to overturn this destructive system of rampant global capitalism. Perhaps there needs to be a revolution in human consciousness; an increased awareness of what it is to be fully human that respects ourselves, other species and the planet itself. Most likely, all of the above. If so, it is vital to say and do much more than merely say, ‘we lack only the will’.

Take the ad-dependent, establishment-preserving, Corbyn-hating Guardian. It obfuscated along similar lines in an editorial sparked by the record-breaking ocean temperatures. Global warming, the editors said:

can still be tackled if we act immediately; this is a test of will, not ability.

But where is the Guardian‘s systemic analysis of root causes of climate chaos and what needs to be done about it? The Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was murdered by right-wing paramilitary forces one hundred years ago this month, warned that global capitalism would lead to environmental destruction. This is not a defect of capitalism, she argued, but an inherent feature of a system that is rooted in brutality, gaping inequality and the unsustainable extraction of natural resources.

In her discussion of Luxemburg’s legacy, Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Bath, noted:

This is evident in the recent decision of Brazil’s new far-right president, Bolsonaro, to “integrate the Amazon region into the Brazilian economy”. This would expand the authority and reach of powerful agribusiness corporations into the Amazon Rainforest – threatening the rights and livelihoods of indigenous people and the ecosystems their lives are entwined with.

This destruction of indigenous peoples and ecosystems has been inflicted on the continent since Columbus ‘discovered’ America in 1492. Globally, the process intensified during the Industrial Revolution and, in more recent decades, with the rise of destructive ‘neoliberal’ economic policies pursued with ideological fervour by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and later acolytes. No wonder that Luxemburg saw a stark choice between ‘socialism or barbarism’. Today, the choice is most likely ‘socialism or extinction‘.

To any reader unsettled by the scare word ‘socialism’, simply replace it with ‘democracy’: a genuinely inclusive system where the general population has proper input and control, and does not simply have its wishes overridden by a tiny elite that enriches itself at our, and the planet’s, expense.

Media Barbarism

As we have long pointed out, the corporate media are a crucial component of this barbaric and destructive system of global capitalism. Our previous media alert highlighted that even the very names of ‘our’ newspapers propagate a myth of neutral, reliable news (‘Express‘, ‘Telegraph‘, ‘The Times‘, ‘The Observer‘) or a stalwart defender of democracy (‘The Guardian‘). And, as we have also noted, BBC News promotes itself as a trusted global news brand because it supposedly ‘champions the truth’.

Propaganda is what Official Enemies – such as North Korea, Iran or Russia – pump out. But not ‘us’. Thus, BBC Newsnight will readily grant BBC correspondent John Sweeney the resources to compile a condescending report on Russia’s Sputnik News:

Sputnik UK is well-named – it’s a tin can that broadcasts its curious one-note message to the universe: Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

Recall that Sweeney is a serial Western propagandist who welcomed, indeed pushed for, the invasion of Iraq. He wrote in the Observer in January 1999:

Life will only get better for ordinary Iraqis once the West finally stops dithering and commits to a clear, unambiguous policy of snuffing out Saddam. And when he falls the people of Iraq will say: ‘What kept you? Why did it take you so long?’

If, by contrast, a BBC correspondent had repeatedly called out the UK media’s ‘one-note message’ in boosting the war crimes of Bush and Blair – an extremely unlikely scenario – would they still have a major BBC platform? Of course not.

Or consider a recent BBC News article that proclaimed:

Facebook tackles Russians making fake news stories

That fake news is a systemic feature of BBC coverage, and the rest of Western ‘mainstream’ media, is virtually an unthinkable thought for corporate journalists. Try to imagine Facebook taking action against BBC News or the Guardian, or any other ‘mainstream’ outlet for their never-ending stream of power-friendly ‘journalism’.

Try to imagine BBC News critically examining Western propaganda, including its own output, in the same way that it treated Russian propaganda in this BBC News at Ten piece by Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford.

Try to imagine Guardian editor Katharine Viner being made accountable for the fake viral Guardian exclusive last month that Trump’s former campaigner manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. She has simply kept her head down and tried to stonewall any challenges.

Try to imagine BBC Question Time host Fiona Bruce being punished by her BBC bosses for brazenly misleading viewers about Labour being behind the Tories in the polls. Or for her poor treatment of Labour guest panellist Diane Abbott, the Shadow Home Secretary, who described the BBC’s behaviour as a ‘disgrace’. Bruce is married to Nigel Sharrocks, Chairman of the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board which earns significant sums of money from the BBC. There is no mention of this on Fiona Bruce’s Wikipedia page; nor is there a Wikipedia page on Sharrocks himself.

Veteran journalist John Pilger, effectively barred from the Guardian since 2015, and largely shunned by the corporate media, is clear that:

Real journalists act as agents of people, not power.

Such a simple powerful truth shames all those editors and media ‘professionals’ masquerading as journalists on BBC News, ITV News, the Guardian and elsewhere. When was the last time you saw a BBC News political editor truly challenging any Prime Minister in the past few decades, rather than uncritically ‘reporting’ what the PM has said or even fulsomely praising them?

Pilger was asked how journalism has changed in recent years. He responded:

When I began as a journalist, especially as a foreign correspondent, the press in the UK was conservative and owned by powerful establishment forces, as it is now. But the difference compared to today is that there were spaces for independent journalism that dissented from the received wisdom of authority. That space has now all but closed and independent journalists have gone to the internet, or to a metaphoric underground.

He continued:

The single biggest challenge is rescuing journalism from its deferential role as the stenographer of great power. The United States has constitutionally the freest press on earth, yet in practice it has a media obsequious to the formulas and deceptions of power. That is why the US was effectively given media approval to invade Iraq, and Libya, and Syria and dozens of other countries.

Pilger added his strong support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks:

The truth about Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia and many other flashpoints was told when WikiLeaks published the revelations of whistle-blowers. […] Julian Assange is a political refugee in London for one reason only: WikiLeaks told the truth about the greatest crimes of the 21st century. He is not forgiven for that, and he should be supported by journalists and by people everywhere.

In reality, Assange has been ignored, traduced, ridiculed and smeared by corporate journalists; not least by the Guardian which capitalised on his and WikiLeaks’ work.

Living Through the Worst-Case Scenario

Returning to the pressing issue of climate catastrophe, we are currently living through the worst-case scenario considered by climate scientists. According to a recent study in Nature, global temperatures could rise by a massive 5C by the end of this century. To understand the appalling seriousness of this, Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, warned several years ago that:

the difference between two degrees and four degrees [of global warming] is human civilisation.

In other words, we are talking about the end of human life as we know it; perhaps even human extinction.

Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University and the chair of the Global Carbon Project, which tracks worldwide emissions levels, warns of the huge risk of assuming that humanity will be able to develop technology to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere any time soon:

It’s a very dangerous game, I think. We’re assuming that this thing we can’t do today will somehow be possible and cheaper in the future. I believe in tech, but I don’t believe in magic.

And even the most magical high-tech fixes removing carbon or blocking sunlight will not be able to resurrect, for example, the 98 per cent and 75 per cent of insects already wiped out in Puerto Rican jungles and German nature reserves, respectively. These insects are the key to the survival of the entire food chain; when they are dead, they will remain dead, and we will die with them.

Instead of magic, scientists are increasingly calling for immediate radical action. But their urgent calls make, at best, a tiny splash for a day or two in the corporate news bubble; and then the ripples die away, leaving an eerie, deathly silence.

Almost in desperation, climate experts say that:

it may still technically be possible to limit warming to 1.5C if drastic action is taken now. [our emphasis]

Scientific research shows that the impacts of climate change could be mitigated if a phaseout of all fossil fuel infrastructure were to begin immediately. The internationally agreed goal of restricting global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible, say scientists. But it is:

the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal.

Worse still, the scientific analysis:

[does] not include the possibility of tipping points such as the sudden release of huge volumes of methane from permafrost, which could spark runaway global warming.

We have now had three decades of increasingly alarming reports from climate scientists since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988. Last October, the IPCC warned that we only had 12 years left to turn things around, taking radical action now. But alarm bells from scientists have not, and will not, stop governments in their tracks. Only peaceful and massive concerted action from citizens around the world stands a chance of doing that at this desperately late stage.

Remembrance: The Dehumanised Human

It is clear even from their titles that corporate newspapers are objective, balanced and impartial. Or so we are to believe. The Telegraph and Mail are disinterested systems of communication – the prejudices of telegraphists and postmen/women certainly do not influence the content of the messages they deliver. The Times and Financial Times simply reflect the key events of our time, as, of course, does the Mirror. The Sun impartially spreads illumination to the benefit of all life on earth. As does the Independent, with no shadows cast by the Russian oligarch by which it is owned or the adverts on which it depends. The Observer looks on and records, a mere Spectator. Only the Guardian hints at political engagement. A staunch defender of ‘free’ comment and ‘sacred facts’, the title is commonly understood to indicate the paper’s determination to act as a guardian of ordinary people against powerful interests.

And, as the name suggests, the Express is an entirely neutral rapid information delivery service – we will have to look elsewhere for political bias. Last November, the editors of the tabloid opined:

From the smallest village memorial services to the 10,000 who marched solemnly past the Cenotaph, the nation came together yesterday in an overwhelming display of respect for the fallen.

With poppies and soldier silhouettes, with beach artwork and bell-ringing, or simply with quiet reflection, they honoured those who sacrificed themselves for the freedoms we hold dear. Up and down the country, the two-minute silence was immaculately observed, though the message it conveyed was deafening: We will not forget. Leading it all, as ever, was the Queen. She has lived through most of the 100 years since the Armistice that ended the First World War and she remains as staunch and dependable as ever.

There was no hint of bias in this idea that the ‘nation’ was united in this view of the Great War and its commemoration. The nation ‘came together’ in ceremonies led by royalty and religion, with the key focus – appropriately enough – on silence.

Why this constant emphasis on silent remembering: ‘We will not forget’? What is it that we are supposed not to forget, and to what purpose? What exactly is the point of it?

Of course, we are being asked to ‘remember’ the suffering and death of ‘the fallen’, of those who ‘served’ and ‘sacrificed’. But, in fact, they did not fall. They were pushed: by bullets, shells and bayonets. They were pushed by elite-run systems of propaganda that think nothing of exploiting the vulnerability of children to patriotic, religious and militaristic manipulation long before they are capable of intellectual self-defence. They were pushed by nationalistic sloganeering and shaming, by the threat of jail, by the threat of bullets from a firing squad. In 1895, Tolstoy observed:

From infancy, by every possible means – class books, church services, sermons, speeches, books, papers, songs, poetry, monuments – the people are stupefied in one direction’ – unquestioning patriotism.1

And as psychoanalyst Erich Fromm explained on the basis of decades of research:

The average individual does not permit himself to be aware of thoughts or feelings which are incompatible with the patterns of his culture, and hence he is forced to repress them.2

The psychologist Stanley Milgram agreed, noting:

The individual often views authority as an impersonal force, whose dictates transcend mere human wish or desire. Those in authority acquire, for some, a suprahuman character.3

Milgram concluded of the modern individual:

The culture has failed, almost entirely, in inculcating internal controls on actions that have their origin in authority.4

This is the reality behind the claim that the ‘fallen’ had ‘sacrificed themselves for the freedoms we hold dear’. They ‘sacrificed’ themselves to defend a system that attacks the freedom of the young to think for themselves in challenging the views of ‘authority’ on the crucial issues facing us as human beings.

Consider religion as a further example. A child, of course, has not the remotest idea about the meaning of the word ‘God’ that features so prominently at times of ‘remembrance’. And yet innumerable societies throughout history have taken for granted that children should be exposed to education from the earliest age to ensure they become ‘good’ Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists. What strange, heretical parent would encourage the child to think, feel and decide for him or herself on these issues, to consider different ideas about how best to relate oneself to existence, how best to experience love, truth and delight?

Proudly irreligious parents need not crow too hard. Their tiny children enjoying the inborn delight of non-competitive being are trained just as fanatically for ambition – to exult in coming first in class, to despair at coming last, to get to the best university, to get the best job with the best salary – before the child has any idea of what is at stake, of what he or she stands to lose. Which school explores the mystical philosophy of purposeless being, the sheer ecstasy of living in the moment, comparing it to the heart-rending stress of exam-oriented, ‘success’-oriented living that subordinates the present moment to some future moment deemed far more important? Anyone who understands that authentic religion is fundamentally concerned with identifying and dropping the ambitious ego, knows that this, too, is a form of religious indoctrination.

In the Guardian, columnist Suzanne Moore wrote of the ‘remembrance’ ceremonies:

The act of remembrance is significant because forgetting is what destroys us.

But is it? We come closer to the truth when we amend Moore’s observation that: ‘Terrible wars are happening right now that no one thinks can end.’ The reality, of course, is that terrible wars are happening right now that no one thinks about at all; that no one thinks, writes or cares about.

‘Don’t you care about Yemen?’ Moore asked as an example of ‘petty political point-scoring’ at a time when we should all be united in ‘remembrance’. In fact, this was the sixth time since the war began in 2015 that Moore has mentioned the word ‘Yemen’ in her Guardian column5 – all have been the briefest possible mentions, all in passing. Moore has not offered a single substantive comment on the nature of the conflict – on the civilian death toll, on Britain’s role in waging a truly devastating war against an impoverished, famine-stricken country.

And this gives the lie to the whole focus on ‘remembering’. It is not ‘forgetting’ that destroys ‘us’; it is a level of power-serving propaganda, mendacity and indifference that overwhelmingly destroys ‘them’ while ‘we’ know little or nothing of what’s happening. There is no risk of us forgetting because we don’t know. We don’t know because journalism has been transformed into one more corporate product where celebrity media workers sell their ‘brand’ as columnists without risking their privileged lifestyles by treading on important toes.

A Country That Is Not Yours Needs You To Kill And Be Killed

The ‘fallen’ were pushed by a fantastically distorted version of the world calculated to manufacture their consent. The implication is unavoidable: the choices they made were not free choices.

In 1931, Winston Churchill noted ‘the reputation of the British empire as a valiant and benignant force in the history of mankind’.6 Churchill later described ‘what is called colonialism’ as ‘bringing forward backward races and opening up the jungles’.7 Like everyone else, he was ‘brought up to feel proud of what we had done’.

Historian Mark Curtis takes a different view:

As regards the promotion of the principles noted above – peace, democracy, human rights and Third World economic development – much of Britain’s history is embarrassing by virtually any standards.

Britain ‘led the world in enslaving what is now known as the Third World by a series of human slaughters and military conquests before instituting an economic imperialism that enforced virtual (and real) slavery on tens of millions of people while using their resources for Britain’s enrichment’.8

In November 1935, Major General Smedley D. Butler supplied a rare honest insight into the role of the West’s military:

I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service as a member of our country’s most agile military force – the Marine Corps… And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.

Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City boys to collect revenues in. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.9

When groups of powerful, violent egotists clash in pursuit of empire, extreme violence is inevitable. This is essentially what happened with the Great War, in which 1 in 3 British men aged 19-22 in 1914 were killed.

Of course, when exploitative elites clash, the public is told, ‘We are at war!’ What began as rape and pillage, as ‘opening up the jungles’, is magically transformed into a noble cause. Up to this point, there was no question of elites insisting ‘We are at business!’ or, ‘We are at self-enriching conquest!’ The spoils are not shared in the same way that killing and dying are shared. But when the violent thieves of state power meet resistance from other state thieves, ‘We are at war!’ ‘The nation is at war!’ and so: ‘Your country needs you!’

Suddenly it’s ‘our’ country! The giant corporations, banks and the elite class that owns them are imaginatively turned over to us, and thus ‘our’ country needs us!

In 1937, anarchist writer Rudolf Rocker commented:

The love of his own nation has never yet prevented the entrepreneur from using foreign labour if it was cheaper and made more profit for him. Whether his own people are thereby injured does not concern him in the least; the personal profit is the deciding factor in such a case, and so-called national interests are only considered when not in conflict with personal ones.10

Consider, for example, the behaviour of German capitalists after the Great War:

It never occurred to them that in order to rescue the rest of the nation from helpless despair and misery after the war they might be content with smaller profits. They stole what they could lay their hands on, while the nation fed on dry bread and potatoes and thousands of German children died of under-nourishment. None of these parasites ever heeded that their uncontrolled greed delivered the whole nation to destruction. While the workers and the middle class of the great cities perished in misery, Stinnes became the owner of fabulous riches. Thyssen, who before the war had approximately two hundred million gold marks, is today the owner of a fortune of a billion gold marks, and the other representatives of German heavy industry enriched themselves in the same proportion.11

As the modern climate change crisis reveals with even greater clarity, establishment self-seekers do not care much even for themselves, much less for ‘the nation’. Even as these interests have driven governments to invade Iraq and Libya to gain control of oil resources, fossil fuel interests, the most powerful industries in the world, have waged a no-holds-barred propaganda campaign against their own domestic populations to prevent them from understanding the true seriousness of the climate disaster.

This week, the Guardian reported that Brad Lister, Professor of Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in the United States, had returned to a Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years. Lister found that 98 per cent of ground insects had vanished: ‘The most likely culprit by far is global warming’. Lister commented:

It was just astonishing… It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest. We began to realise this is terrible, a very, very disturbing result.

He added:

We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on this planet, along with all the other life on the planet. It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.

This follows research in 2017 which found that 75 per cent of flying insects in Germany’s nature reserves had vanished over the previous 25 years. Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University warned:

We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse.

The response: last year, the world’s airlines carried 4.3 billion passengers, up 38 million compared to the year before. At a time when rapid and massive reductions are desperately needed, global carbon emissions reached an all-time high, up 2.7 per cent, after a 1.6 per cent increase in 2017. Unsurprisingly, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also reached an all-time high in 2018, 410 parts per million (ppm). Science writer Peter Gleick commented on Twitter:

The last time humans experienced 410 ppm was… never. Never. Humans hadn’t evolved yet.

Corporate media around the world have sometimes reported but always essentially shrugged off these terrifying developments – the focus on consumerism, entertainment and indifference continues as before. Even now, with scientists warning of a ‘climate emergency’, of imminent catastrophe, and even of human extinction, corporate interests are continuing their campaign of denial, even though their own lives and the lives of their children are at stake.

These are essentially the same forces driven by the same goals that built empires on the suffering of weaker peoples and animals throughout the world for hundreds of years. Remarkably, it turns out that, in 1914-1918 and in 1939-1945, ordinary men and women killed and died to defend a status quo that, within a few short decades, would bring humanity to the brink of extinction.

Who made fully aware of even a portion of this reality would have been willing to fight for the British Empire against the German Empire in the war of 1914-1918? Who would have been willing to experience the obscenity of killing another human being – of mutilating, burning alive, shredding; of being oneself mutilated, burned alive, shredded – for this cause?

Unsurprisingly, we are told in no uncertain terms that ‘respectability’ requires that ‘remembrance’ of this mass deception, this mass capitulation to self-destructive illusions, requires, not rational, open discussion, but solemn silence. We are to quietly ‘remember’, to sadly reflect, to quietly thank the ‘fallen’ ‘who sacrificed themselves for the freedoms we hold dear’ but do not possess.

The emphasis on silence serves a purpose; it is used to suggest that painful questioning is an insult to the ‘memory’ of the dead. As if a memory can be insulted. As if the dead can be insulted at all. As if responding with patriotic platitudes and deceptions would not be viewed as an insult by the people killed by them.

All too many of us have bowed low to ‘authority’s’ demand for silence. The result could hardly be more catastrophic. Erich Fromm saw it with astonishing clarity:

This attitude of the dehumanised human – of the person who does not care, of the person who not only is not his brother’s keeper but is not even his own keeper – this attitude characterises modern man.12

  1. Tolstoy, Writings On Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence, New Society, 1987, p. 95.
  2. Fromm, Beyond The Chains Of Illusion, Abacus, 1962, p. 120.
  3. Milgram, Obedience to Authority, Pinter & Martin, 1974, p. 162.
  4. Ibid, p.164.
  5. ProQuest newspaper database search, January 15, 2019.
  6. Quoted, Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995, p. 1.
  7. Ibid, p. 5
  8. Ibid, p. 5.
  9. Butler, quoted, Sidney Lens, The Forging of the American Empire, Pluto Press, 2003, pp. 270-271.
  10. Rocker, Culture and Nationalism, Michael E. Coughlan, 1978, p. 261.
  11. Ibid, p. 264.
  12. Fromm, ‘On Being Human’, Continuum, 1997, p. 29.

Human Delusion and Our Destruction of the Biosphere: We Aren’t Even Trying!

Have you heard the expression ‘climate change’? That lovely expression that suggests a holiday in a place with a more pleasant climate?

Unfortunately, only the rarest individual has the capacity to see through the elite-promulgated delusion that generated this benign expression and its twin notions that 1.5 degrees Celsius (above the preindustrial level) is an acceptable upper limit for an increase in global temperature and that the time-frame for extinction-threatening outcomes of this ‘climate change’ is the ‘end of the century’.

If you believe that this 1.5 degree increase is achievable or even viable for sustaining life on Earth and that the ‘end of the century’ is our time-frame then you are the victim of your own fear, which is suppressing your capacity to seek out, analyze and comprehend the evidence that is readily available and to then behave powerfully in response to it.

Therefore, your fear, rather than the climate catastrophe and other critical assaults on Earth’s biosphere, is the real problem.

The most casual perusal of the evidence in relation to what is happening to Earth’s biosphere – as distinct from the propaganda that is endlessly promulgated in the global elite’s corporate media – clearly indicates that the cataclysmic assault on our biosphere in a wide range of synergistic ways is now driving the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history and that, as a direct result of our relentless and rampaging destruction of habitat, it will take down humanity with it.  Well within 10 years.

Now if your fear hasn’t already been triggered so that you ceased reading this article, let me offer the barest outline of the nature and extent of the assault on Earth’s biosphere and why the climate catastrophe is only one part of it which nonetheless needs to be seriously, rather than tokenistically, addressed, as is usually suggested whether by most climate lobby groups or, of course, elite-controlled governments and the IPCC.

But before ranging beyond the climate to highlight other threats to the biosphere, did you know that governments and corporations around the world are currently planning or have under construction 1,380 new coal plants? That’s right. 1,380 new coal plants. In 59 countries.

For just a taste of the detail on this rapid coal expansion, try the report ‘Tsunami Warning: Can China’s Central Authorities S?’top a Massive Surge in New Coal Plants Caused by Provincial Overpermitting?’ and ‘The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?’

So if we are deluding ourselves about coal, what about oil? Can we expect a dramatic reduction in oil use to compensate for the substantial increase in coal use? Well, according to the just-released report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), while there is some projected improvement in fuel economy for cars and a projected increase in the number of electric vehicles, cars only account for about one-quarter of the world’s oil consumption and there is no projected reduction in the oil used to fuel freight trucks, ships and airplanes; for heating; and to make plastics and other petrochemicals. As a result, the agency expects global oil demand to keep rising through 2040.

To summarize: the IEA report notes that global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 and are on track to climb again in 2018 and, on the current trajectory, emissions will keep rising until 2040.

So, given that we are led to believe that there is supposed to be some sort of international consensus to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 (which is far too high in any case) above the preindustrial level. Why is this happening? Well, in relation to coal: ‘Powerful companies, backed by powerful governments, often in the form of subsidies, are in a rush to grow their markets before it is too late. Banks still profit from it. Big national electricity grids were designed for it.’

And just to illustrate what those of us who are genuinely concerned are up against, if you want to read the latest breathtakingly delusional account of the state of the world’s climate which prodigiously underestimates the nature of the climate catastrophe and utterly fails to consider the synergistic impact of other critical environmental destruction, you can do so in the US government’s just-released report ‘Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States‘ which is summarized here.

This report is presented in one of the global elite’s primary propaganda outlets as follows:

A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on [23 November 2018] presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.

At this point I must confess that despite my substantial knowledge of human psychology and widespread human insanity (and the fear that drives it), certainly afflicting the global elite, sometimes even I am impressed with the level of delusion that elites can propagate and have so many believe.

Still, as Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment under Adolf Hitler once noted:

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such ime as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

What Goebbels didn’t know is that someone must be terrified – as we terrorize our children – so that they can be so victimized by propaganda as adults.

Anyway, apart from our destruction of Earth’s climate by burning coal and oil, not to mention gas, elites use geoengineering to wage war on Earth’s climate, environment and ultimately us. For the latest update on the geoengineering assault on Earth’s biosphere, listen to Dane Wigington’s latest superb ‘Geoengineering Watch Global Alert News, #172‘ and read, watch and listen to the vast documentary record available on the Geoengineering Watch website which reminds us how climate engineering is annihilating plants, toxifying soils and water, and destroying the ozone layer among many other outcomes. For a video explaining the role of geoengineering in the latest wildfires in California, see ‘Climate Engineering Total Desperation, Engineering Catastrophic Wildfires To Temporarily Cool Earth‘.

All of the above is happening despite the existing temperature increase (about one degree) triggering the now-endless succession of deadly wildfires, droughts, cold snaps, floods, heat waves and catastrophic hurricanes (often in parts of the world where the corporate media can ignore them), as well as the out-of-control methane releases into the atmosphere that are occurring.

Moreover, these methane releases coupled with other ongoing climate impacts such as sea ice melt and permafrost thawing in the Arctic which has led to the ‘Arctic’s strongest sea ice break[ing] up for first time on record’ and the dramatic weakening of the Gulf Stream threaten imminent human extinction.

So do you think we are even trying? Or are we tinkering around the edges of this accelerating catastrophe and deluding ourselves that we are doing enough?

But this is far from the end of it. There are other critical threats to Earth’s biosphere that horribly complicate the nature and extent of this catastrophe. What are these threats?

Well, to leave aside a series of threats only marginally less drastic, here are some of the key ones, all of which seriously degrade (or destroy outright) vital components of the interrelated ecosystems (‘the web of life’) that make life on Earth possible.

Rainforests

We are currently destroying the world’s rainforests, mainly by logging them for timber and burning them down to make way for cattle ranches or palm oil plantations. In an extensive academic study, more than 150 joint authors of a report advised that most of the world’s >40,000 tropical tree species now qualify as globally threatened.’

Why are more than 40,000 tropical tree species threatened with extinction? Because ‘Upwards of 80,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed across the world each day, taking with them over 130 species of plants, animals and insects.’  If you missed that, it was 80,000 acres of rainforest destroyed each day.

Oceans

We are destroying the Earth’s oceans by dumping into them everything ranging from excess carbon dioxide and vast amounts of synthetic poisons to plastic and the radioactive contamination from Fukushima. The oceans absorb carbon dioxide as one manifestation of the climate catastrophe and, among other outcomes, this accelerates ocean acidification, adversely impacting coral reefs and the species that depend on these reefs.

In addition, a vast runoff of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes is discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths and generating ocean ‘dead zones’: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms.

Since the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, and despite the ongoing official coverup, vast quantities of radioactive materials are being ongoingly discharged into the Pacific Ocean, irradiating everything in its path.

Finally, you may not be aware that there are up to 70still functional’ nuclear weapons as well as nine nuclear reactors lying on the ocean floor as a result of accidents involving nuclear warships and submarines.

Soil

But not all of our destruction is as visible as our vanishing rainforests and contaminated oceans. Have you considered the Earth’s soil recently? Apart from depleting it, for example, by washing it away (sometimes in dramatic mudslides but usually unobtrusively) because we have logged the rainforest that held it in place, we also dump vast quantities of both inorganic and organic pollutants into it as well. Some of the main toxic substances in waste are inorganic constituents such as heavy metals, including cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. Mining and smelting activities and the spreading of metal-laden sewage sludge are the two main culprits responsible for the pollution of soils with heavy metals.

Far more common, however, is our destruction of the soil with organic based pollutants associated with industrial chemicals. Thousands of synthetic chemicals reach the soil by direct or indirect means, often in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other poisons that destroy the soil, by reducing the nutrients and killing the microbes, in which we grow our food (which many people actually eat, at great cost to their health).

Using genetically modified organisms, and the chemical poisons on which they rely, exacerbate this problem terribly. But two other outcomes of the use of such poisons are that the depleted soil can no longer sequester carbon and the poisons also kill many of the beneficial insects, such as bees, that play a part in plant pollination and growth.

And, of course, military contamination and destruction of soil is prodigious ranging from the radioactive contamination of vast areas to the extensive and multifaceted chemical contamination that occurs at military bases.

Partly related to military violence but also a product of using nuclear power, humans generate vast amounts of waste from exploitation of the nuclear fuel cycle. This ranges from the pollution generated by mining uranium to the radioactive waste generated by producing nuclear power or firing a nuclear weapon. But it also includes the nuclear waste generated by accidents such as that at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Again, for just a taste of the monumental nature of this problem, see ‘Emergency Declared at Nuclear Waste Site in Washington State‘, ‘Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity‘ and ‘Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.’

Like destroying the rainforests and oceans, destroying the soil is an ongoing investment in future extinctions. And so is our overconsumption and contamination of the Earth’s finite fresh water supply.

Fresh Water

Whether wetland, river, creek, lake or acquifer, Earth’s fresh water is under siege. Given corporate negligence, this includes all of the chemical poisons and heavy metals used in corporate farming and mining operations, as well as, in many cases around the world where rubbish removal is poorly organized, the sewage and all other forms of ‘domestic’ waste discharged from households. Contamination of the world’s creeks, rivers, lakes and wetlands is now so advanced that many are no longer able to fully support marine life.

Beyond this, however, Earth’s groundwater supplies (located in many underground acquifers such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the United States) are also being progressively contaminated by gasoline, oil and chemicals from leaking storage tanks; bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; and the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens.

Moreover, while notably absent from the list above, these contaminants also include radioactive waste from nuclear tests and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used.

By the way, if you didn’t know it, our purchase and use of all of those hitech products – cars, computers, mobile phones, televisions… – coupled with our consumption of intensively-farmed animal products, all of which are produced using huge quantities of fresh, clean water, is rapidly depleting and degrading the remaining fresh water on Earth, as well as savagely exploiting the people from whose countries we take the strategic minerals and water necessary for such production.

War

In addition to the above (and many other biosphere-destroying activities not mentioned), relying on our ignorance and fearful complicity, elites have a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars annually to kill huge numbers of our fellow human beings but also to destroy vast areas of Earth’s biosphere through war and other military violence.

Unfortunately, too few activists have the awareness and courage to acknowledge the role that war plays in destroying the climate and environment, and include anti-war efforts in their campaigns. Campaigns that will fail dismally, and spectacularly, if the threatened nuclear war should eventuate.

Extinction beckons

In summary, our multifaceted, monumental and unrelenting assault on Earth’s biosphere is generating an extinction rate of 200 species (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles) each day with another 26,000 species already identified as ‘under threat’ with some prominent scholars explaining how even these figures mask a vital component of the rapidly accelerating catastrophe of species extinctions: the demise of local populations of a species.

For further evidence from the vast literature on this subject touching only on impacts in relation to insects and its subsequent impact on birds, see ‘Death and Extinction of the Bees‘, ‘Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown‘ and “‘Decimated”: Germany’s birds disappear as insect abundance plummets 76%‘.

So severe is this assault on the biosphere that recent research warns that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity before global warming hits maximum velocity…. The worldwide loss of insects is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’. Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food crops…’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply collapses.

So what can we do?

If you are genuinely powerful, you can stop lobbying governments to tinker with their policies, for example, in the direction of renewable energy (which, alone, cannot solve the multiplicity of ecological crises).

Governments are not the problem. And they simply do as elites direct them in any case. (If you believe that voters decide governments and their policies, and that lobbying them is effective, then your fear is deluding you again.)

The real problem is you and me. We have swallowed one of the ‘big lies’ that Joseph Goebbels talked about: we have believed and acted on the capitalist imperative to endlessly overconsume so that economic growth can rise perpetually in our finite world: a planet that has ecological limits.

But, as I noted above, the big lie only works because our fear makes us believe delusion. Why? Because we were terrorized as a child into accepting material goods as a substitute for our capacity to be our unique and powerful Self.

The monstrous assault on Earth’s biosphere, that goes far beyond the climate catastrophe, is the outcome of each of us consuming more than we need and then fearfully deluding ourselves that it is necessary (or that the harm it caused was too little to matter or justified by some other consideration). Well, you can delude yourself as much as you like but it is still just that: a fearful delusion.

And the point is simply that you can choose differently and powerfully, if you have the courage. For a start, you can forego all air travel. You can travel without owning your own car. You can eat well without consuming meat or fish (and eating biodynamically/organically grown vegetarian/vegan food instead). In essence: If the demand for planet-destroying products is reduced, corporations will not produce them (and destroy the Earth in doing so). This is how the law of supply and demand works under capitalism.

Beyond these simple but vital measures, you can consider many other powerful options, particularly including (accelerated) participation in the fifteen-year strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘ which provides a simple plan for people to systematically reduce their consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding their individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all environmental concerns are effectively addressed.

The Flame Tree Project was inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi who identified the environmental crisis decades before it became an issue in the West, and who lived his own life in extraordinary simplicity and self-reliance, symbolized by his daily spinning of khadi. ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need but not for every person’s greed.’ He also invited us to powerfully follow our conscience, reminding us that ‘Hesitating to act because others do not yet see the way only hinders progress.’

But, critically important though he believed personal action to be, Gandhi was also an extraordinary political strategist and he knew that we needed to do more than transform our own personal lives. We need to provide opportunities that compel others to consider doing the same.

So if your passion is campaigning for change, consider doing it strategically as outlined in Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. For example, see the Nonviolent Strategy Wheel and the list of strategic goals necessary to halt the climate catastrophe and end war. Choose one or a few goals appropriate to your circumstances and conduct a strategically-oriented nonviolent campaign, as explained on the same website, to achieve those goals.

Sound strategy is vital given the insanity driving elite behaviour (such as planning/building 1,380 new coal plants). As mentioned above, see ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited‘.

If your fear makes it difficult to do things such as those suggested above, consider healing as explained in ‘Putting Feelings First‘.

If you want your children to be able to respond powerfully in the face of the biosphere’s progressive collapse, consider making ‘My Promise to Children‘.

And if you want to join the worldwide movement to end all violence against humans and the biosphere, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

The bottom line is this. You can systematically and rapidly reduce your personal consumption and, one way or another, mobilize others or nonviolently compel them to do the same. Or you can let your fear delude you that the ongoing destruction of Earth’s biosphere is somehow unrelated to your personal choices about consumption and the choices of those around you.

Extinction beckons. The choice is yours.