Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Rambly Return



Professor J,

I never worry about you running out of things to say in my absence. When I return home I'm always interested to see how you've used your extra posting opportunity.

I needed a little get away. It's been quite a year. Or two. Or three. My body didn't need nearly the rest that my mind did. A break from everyone's crisis du jour complete with sun, salt water, and sand was just what the proverbial doctor ordered. Another benefit (and reason that people feel better at the beach) is that all that time bare footed in the sand is having a physical effect. You can read about grounding or earthing and the research that is ongoing here. Another example of how our modern lives, spent disconnected from nature, are causing us harm. Being deficient in vitamin D is another. That's before we even get around to the atrocious American diet and lack of exercise, both of which also generally improve seaside but anyplace would have the same effect if we would pay attention to those things.

So I can't help but wonder if it isn't just the time off to relax that is making everyone so happy on their vacations, but a lot of physical factors at work like the effect of increased sunlight, an adjusted circadian rhythm, and an improved diet. You know, in addition to being away from your boss who may be a jerk and the stress of commuting.

I liked that in your last post you actually presented us with things to say that might make a difference. I've used many of those and in lots of situations it actually does help. I've had a few times when I took a stand feeling awkward and alone only to have people come to me later and say "I'm so glad you spoke up." or "I felt the same way but wasn't going to say anything." (Things are really bad if I have to be the brave one.) We discount our small efforts but all change starts small. Thanks for reminding us to be persistent and courageous.

Someone posted this great clip from the old show, Roseanne and it just seemed so timely.
Next time a politician comes to the door I'm going to offer to walk with him!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Avoiding That Tool Classification

Good Readers:

Madame will be back in this blogosphere for you Wednesday.  Send her your “thank you for rescuing us from the spankdaddy” sentiments, lol. Until then:

A reflexive retort is often, “But I didn’t do any of that or support any of that!”

Don’t let yourself off the hook so easily.

Because, yes you did.

Silence, willful ignorance, apathy, diversion—they all become tools of implied agreement with the malevolence being done.

As Getty Lee sang, to not choose IS a choice. You don’t have to be Edmund Burke to realize that when good people do nothing, that is all that is required for malevolence to succeed.

Only some people can be big activists.  But anyone can say…

“That isn’t factual.”

“That isn’t right.”

“We shouldn’t do that.”

“That doesn’t speak to my values.”

“We need to find another way.”

“I won’t be a part of that.”

“We can do better.”

“It’s only really hopeless if we say it is.”

And then…

“I want it on record that I want something different.”

“I don’t like hopeless feelings; bet you don’t either, so let’s do something about it together.”

“The universe seems to respond to action.   Let’s take some action, no matter how small.”

Because one person taking a stand, voicing some counter to malevolence, CAN feel like the proverbial drop in the bucket, the spit in the wind.  But when you join with even ONE other person—preferably local—to take some action, it unleashes energy, possibility, and the promise of at least some small effect.  As well as the mutual support group benefit that is so important in this disconnected society.  And if you can find one that is thoughtful and considerate (like Madame,  for instance!) you will avoid the narrow echo chamber effect that stunts and divides us.

You’ll also find you’ve rescued your true inner self-respect from the land of delusion.

Isolation and disconnection are the tools of the malevolent status quo.  One’s social circle is the biggest influence on whether—and for who—one votes.  Make a determination that you and yours will not disempowered about that at least.  And if you say you don’t care or don’t know enough, you are failing as a citizen for not paying attention.  If you don’t know where to go to get independently informed, pick something from Factcheck.org, The Real News, PBS, CSPAN, Reuters, World News (which includes the BBC, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, Times of India, etc.), The Independent Media Center, or AlterNet, just to name a few.  You don’t have to become a news junkie.  Just starting by using those sources to check what the candidate or officeholder is saying about the issues that seem important.

And if you ever want additional suggestions about sources or anything else, let me know.  I’ve got plenty!


Next post:  In addition to responding to Madame, I’ll be addressing the “tired of having two poor or lackluster choices” excuse for not voting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fai Ling: The Grump-Miester Speaks

Dear Readers:

Madame is off for some well-deserved R&R.  Which leaves you with Mr. Grumpus!  (That would be yours truly).  What makes me a bit of a grouch lately?  Because--

I am failing.

You are failing.

We are failing.

As a people, as a culture, as a nation, as those trying (not very hard) to avoid repeating self-destructive history.

We momentarily seem to focus on real threats to our civilization, and then fail as we let ourselves be diverted by some spectacle or spectacles, some diversion, some red herring, some misprioritization.  Then we often make it worse by choosing ignorance or denial.

A reminder of something might help shake us from our lotus-trance:

There are no Romans around anymore.  They failed.   They were effectively self-wiped, with only modest outside “help” in the wiping. As a people and a nation, this once noble people, who thought themselves chosen by Heaven, thought that because they were ROMANS it would all somehow work out regardless of what they did or didn’t do, found out that they had no immunity to the forces of adverse change.  They who were the standard bearers of civilization both chose unwisely and failed to choose at all.  And so, although elements of their culture would go on, they didn’t. 


In this infinity of mirrors, the irony is that our arrogance, our invincible ignorance, and our delusional belief in unchanging “specialness,” are together leading us down the same path of self-disintegration.  And with our failing to lead (to write the understatement of the new century) on preservation of the environment, it may be even worse than that.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whatever. Later.

Madame:

Well said.  Disconnection seems to be indeed a, or the, root problem.

And distraction is why, seemingly, only the most momentous—and apparently urgent—things can get us to focus for very long.  Unfortunately, it often is sham-urgency for media-inflated things that only divert us from real problems.

This culture is a constant bombardment of seductive, tranquilizing, numbing perpetuations of the status quo.  The very opposite of urgency to change is the norm.  Escapism—sports, movies, games, television, the internet—gives the constant impression that there is no urgency, that the problem can’t be that bad, that “things will work out without me having to get involved” and that “almost no one else—certainly no one I know—is getting worked up about it or doing anything about it; must mean I don’t need to either.”

Climate change ends up getting treated as topic of the hour (not even day or week).

I bet we would find its counterparts in the thinking of the first few centuries of the Roman Empire—which came from a Roman Republic. 

The pundits are predicting that apathy, emotion, and diversion will keep voters from turning out for this election.  Who are these people?

Those who presently, newly, benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   Ironic.

Those who are upset about their economic situation yet will also ignore or turn on what benefits and might benefit them (ACA, other government programs, and, especially, better policies).

Those who think we should do more about climate change.

The analysts say these people will mis-target their economic dissatisfaction.   Or that they will listen to negative ads put out by well funded, plutocratic-connected provocateurs.  That they will listen to defeatist talk, hopelessness talk, futility talk.  That they will not get get truly informed and they will not think critically.  That they will not make the effort to get to the polls.  They will give up the one thing of power—voting—they have left. 

And America will get an even worse government, that does even less, and what little it does do will often be detrimental.  And our problems will get worse.

Prove this wrong America.  I will be among the first to rejoice if it’s wrong!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Can We Mandate Introspection?

Professor J,

Isn't that what fantasies are for? ;)

Your story about the lack of earthworms is a familiar one. The cost of a manicured lawn is far more than people should be willing to pay, and I suspect that few people have actually calculated the very real and long term cost. Those trucks make me cringe. My yard would probably make lots of other people wince as it is organic and dandelions and violets are welcome. Beekeeping presents a different perspective of what is beautiful. Recently at the recycling center near my house I saw hundreds of bees flying in and out of soda and beer cans. Maybe I should rename my honey Tipsy Honey. :)

Once again you have provided a thorough answer and detailed accounting of the struggles and the cost.

I liked this sentence from your post, "One small thing is to quite silently agreeing that a "little" eco-injury is okay."

I'm currently listening to a course on meditation and one of the precepts covered in an early lecture is to cause no harm. At least not as far as we are able. Of course we are able much more that we care to recognize. We could often do the right thing and for the right reason but, we (as you pointed out) have allowed ourselves to tell ourselves lies. Causing great harm not only to the earth and its creatures, but to our own disconnected spirits and minds. We seem to care little for the victims of our actions whether its the next generation or ourselves.

This disconnection, in my own humble opinion, is the root of the problem. So few people take even a moment on occasion to think about the repercussions of their actions and choices. We are consumed with consuming, and what good consumers we are. The ramifications of our actions (many of which are mindless) have far reaching effects without and within. We drive our cars to work or home and don't even remember how we got there. Our over worked over distracted minds are numb. A larger part of your plan would need to be to get people to think about their actions.

And that is painful.

Our (feigned) ignorance is so much more comfortable than facing the actual problems we are faced with. So we continue to distract and avoid in nearly ever area of life from relationships, community, and our part of the responsibility for all the things that have come undone and need to be healed, strengthened, and cared for. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Legacy Matters

Madame:

I like it that when you politically and economically fantasize, you go all out! LOL

You ask big, complex questions, don’t you?  :)  I’m not a curmudgeon.  I’m enjoying the dickens out of the Royals and their infectious, fun enthusiasm for a game that Americans in this fast-paced society can otherwise find long and not very exciting.  We can enjoy those things.  Then we have to get busy on taking action. 

ONE stunted, skinny, weak little earthworm.  That’s all I found on a sidewalk after a hard and not brief rain.  Considering I walked over 200 feet, there should have been dozens. 

But then I remembered that a management company paid a “lawn care” company to “care for” the grass around that sidewalk.

What should we do, you ask?

One small thing is to quit silently agreeing that a “little” eco-injury is okay. 

REPEATEDLY.

When we want-what-we-want for various aesthetic  (“I like the way the grass—yes, I know, it’s grass only and mono-grass at that—looks”), selfish (“I like the way things are; I don’t want to do something different”),  justifying (“What I do won’t make a difference”), conditioning (“But it’s always been this way”), arrogant (“No one is going to tell me what to do”), etc. reasons, we pile up the eco-injuries. 

The strands of life are intricately interwoven, and our awareness and discernment  of the interwoven effects of our actions is far too limited.  Severing or twisting the strands—and a great number of them—is not GOING to have consequences, it IS having consequences.

Plan B, the book (and its continually updated versions) by Lester Brown, lays out what we must do.  It requires first, fortitude.  We the people must say that we will accept short-term pain and hardship—and a lasting change in habits and routines—in order to attain intermediate and long term benefit and sustainability.  We must say that we will not have our short-term selfish instincts exploited by the unscrupulous systems managers of the destructive status quo, by all the “can’ts” of the naysayers and problem pointers who have no sustainable solutions of their own, but only vague generalities.  We must say that we are thinking of our descendants, our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, our cousins, our friends’ children—the future Americans and future humans on this planet.  We must “get the wind in our sails” by embracing many of the ideas in the now nearly 25 year old documentary “After the Warming.”

To do that will mean we can’t be diverted by pseudo-solutions that are wonky, manipulatable, and only half-solutions at best.  Credits, caps, and other complex solutions will not be very effective. 

People, businesses, and markets react to, and plan well, on things they can directly see, anticipate, and measure.  That means a gradually increasing direct tax on fossil fuels and associated warming substances, with the heaviest taxation on the most polluting and most climate change contributing, until those substances and practices reach their true social costs.  With that sort of direct and painfully clear indicator, things will change rapidly, and a sustainable energy economy will come into existence.  Ingenuity and enthusiastic energy opened up by doing something people can believe in and get behind eagerly will accelerate the process even more.  The renewable energy economy is not a far off dream; it is waiting on the edge of this one, and the world is waiting on a hypocritical America to move, to trigger the momentum that will tide turn in the right direction. 

The collected taxes should go directly to practices that attempt to ameliorate the effects of climate change and, ideally, move to stabilize the change.  In the long term, the tax can be part of a broader paradigm of heavily taxing things that are injurious to the common good, and easing (or even largely eliminating) taxes on things which contribute to the common good.

Of course, the tax should be rebated back to at least those payers (directly or indirectly) who are at the poverty level, and maybe a bit beyond.  What it should not do in any way is go to the fossil fuel companies and other polluters.  Those will either change and embrace renewability and sustainability, or they can go the way of the horse and buggy industry.  Their past actions have done the opposite of earning them the right to any favorable treatment.

We are in the beginnings of crisis management as to climate change.  It will get worse before it stabilizes.  When we first stabilize, then drop back to 350 ppm, we will have reached the sizable turning point.  Of course, we may be a planet re-covered in trees by then.

This tax will have pain.  This tax will have negative consequences, from lost jobs, disrupted lives, to agonizing short-term hardships and inefficiencies—in a world economy where fossil fuels affects, directly or indirectly, nearly everything, any number of things , some of which we cannot foresee, are going to be disrupted, have bad side effects, or worse—when the instant and disposable thoughtless economy transitions and shifts.  This tax will have recessionary effects that could last 10 years—on people and small businesses already so economically and structurally weakened by the plutocratic transformation that six years after the Great Recession we have not really recovered.

But once that transition period has reached the synergy point, we will see the benefits reverberate and cascade, and the pain will rapidly turn to improvement.  We will reap many benefits.  We will assume well the mantle to be good stewards.  We will be, for the first time in a very long time, rightly and continually proud as a society—even a world society—at the results of our courage, hard work, and sacrifice.  We may even rediscover each other, and a slower pace that comes with reconnection.

And we will be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and say, “I SACRIFICED FOR YOU, I HELPED CHANGE THE WORLD FOR YOU.  I LOVE YOU IN REAL DEEDS THAT TRULY MATTER, NOT JUST WORDS.”

“I DIDN’T LEAVE YOU A NIGHTMARE WORLD.”


Or we can have the opposite conversation. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What's a Girl (Or a Country or the World) To Do?

Professor J,

Just for fun lets imagine a world where we wake up and the dissenters have been won over. Oil company executives and share holders don't even care about profits anymore because they've read your last post and come to their collective senses. Good God, the conservatives are even on board.

So, the first action or piece of legislation would be?  I'm asking this question because I'm not sure people understand what they can do.

I am not saying that it all seems so dire we shouldn't act. I am simply asking what actions should be taken and in what order.

For those of us who even care to collect rain water, recycle, compost, keep bees, etc. it all seems like a drop in the ocean. I do those things more out of a feeling of personal morality and responsibility than because I feel that they make a real difference.

What I really want to know is--if you could wave your magic wand and have the entire country, no, let's say the world, in full agreement and ready to move forward on real solutions--what would that look like?

While you are at it please tell me of any other problems you think would be created or solved at the same time? And at what point (perhaps scientists already have something quantifiable in mind) would we know we'd turned the tide and averted disaster?

Once again this is just me with more questions. :)
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