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. :)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ever Get The Sense They Are Counting On Our Lack Of Focus?

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time.” South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Madame:

While baseball season crescendos, and football season swings into high gear, the modern day Romans are willfully ignoring the seminal issues of our time.  One of them is the Climate Summit and the demonstrations surrounding it.  Their seemingly willing acquiescence to minimalist or dismissive coverage would seem to indicate they are okay with not being informed on it, let alone caring enough about the subject to be emotionally invested in it.

Or they are in denial:

Someone told me he was incensed that “all the funding is going to prove climate change exists but none is going to the skeptics of it.”

This person is a working class college student  who also has an effectively full-time restaurant job.  Where would his expressed viewpoint come from, and more importantly, why would he believe it important to him to have it?

Readers can do their own critical thinking on those questions, but one thing his response illustrates is that we are creatures of great illogic and manipulatable emotion at times.  What would be the reason for funding climate change research but not funding research that was skeptical of it?  Some selfish advancement or personal aggrandizement of the 97% climatologists who agree climate change exists? ALL of them?  We haven’t exactly seen them bumping around the Waldorf plunking down several hundreds on lunch, nor tooling down the freeway in the latest sports car, nor taking exotic vacations, nor living in lavish mansions (a few do, but that the vast majority do not …).

Or it’s a conspiracy of the renewable energy industry?  Quite a conspiracy to get 97% buy in of a lot of people.  Conspiracies usually fall apart  with far fewer people (climatologists number in the tens of thousands).  And if it WAS a conspiracy, the result would be, what?  That we get a world of non-polluting, sustainable, local jobs creating, renewable energy that our descendants can be proud of instead of bequeathing to them some nightmarish world?

In any case, the question’s premise is manifestly incorrect, because skeptics and deniers, some with marginal or vaporous credentials, have had a wealth of funding, albeit from fossil fuel industry-related organizations and plutocrats connected to them.  Their “findings” have been lackluster at very best.  It doesn’t take very much thought to realize that if the findings had been at all credibly awesome or paradigm-shattering, the plutocratic influence on the mass media would have gotten them plenty of coverage.

Further detracting from the premise is that many formerly skeptical climatologists, some after having done their skeptical research, have changed their minds.

Climate change denial is a mere subset of the general denial prevalent in the West, and in America in particular.   Denying or ignoring reality, and especially the harmful results of what we are doing and not doing, has become too much of a norm.  When anxiety and fear over the pace of change is thrown in, the result has been a people far too selfishly susceptible to abdicating on acknowledgement of the problem, let alone action.  When personal and family economic anxiety has been made forefront in people’s lives, as the plutocratic transformation has made it for so many, the abdication becomes an even more fearful one.   Many ill-informed, misinformed Americans, of course, take it one step further and actually do the unwitting bidding of the status quo perpetrators, becoming fierce opposers of beneficial change.

We are more than willing to insure our possessions, our lives, and our national defense against far less likely phenomena, and far less disastrous consequences.  Planetary/ecosystemic insurance against the effects of climate change, in our uprooted disconnection from nature, is somehow a foreign concept to both minds and emotions of too many.  And this is even as the costs of climate change mount for all to see every year.  But with our primitive social accounting systems, apparently we miss the connections, let alone the second, third, fourth, etc. order effects.

It gives me no pleasure to recall it, but over 20 years ago I wrote that the looming effects of climate change would become more inescapable to see the world over, and that its effects would move beyond the so-called “Third World” and into the lives of the West. 

Going on as we have is doing the equivalent of deliberately injuring our children and grandchildren.  Perpetuating the unsustainable status quo is increasingly a malevolent choice.  And as Hedges continually says, systems management for the plutocrats will do little but make it worse.

What feelings and thoughts will our descendants have about us if we continue this pattern?  Bewilderment?  Contempt? Or will they seek to have no thoughts or feelings about us at all?

And another important question.  Do we care what they’ll think and feel about us?


Pan-culturally, it would appear the answer is not affirmative, perhaps even… “meh.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Invisible News

 
Professor J,

Thank you for the thing that you can always be counted on for, a thorough answer. And yes you were correct in assuming that the places you mention were the ones I was speaking of. However I hadn't even considered the perspective that millions had gone from illiterate to literate under those regimes.

And that kind of thing is why I keep showing up here every week. I don't know why we don't have legions of followers!

Meanwhile you were so busy answering that question you neglected your own topic. So since I'm swamped right now (what kind of crazy person agrees to blog for 31 days in a row?) I'm going to help you push that topic along before it is too far removed from the news...oh wait. Where was the news coverage? In case our readers want to be well versed on the topic when you get to it, here's some background.

TV Misses Yet Another Opportunity to Cover Climate Change

Sunday News Shows Ignore Historic Climate March 

That Big Climate March Thing? That Never Happened

I kept seeing posts about it show up in my FB feed, but then I follow a lot of environmental and conservation websites. The average person probably didn't even know anything was happening.

Here's a quote from Media Matters:

CNN aired only a third as much coverage as MSNBC on the United Nations' Climate Summit and related events including the historic People's Climate March. Even Fox News aired over twice as much on the subject compared to CNN -- though much of its coverage mocked or dismissed the events. 

Surprise.

Okay, Prof, back to you! 





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