2017-07-15

The Empire Express, 15 July 2017


Editorial


What transpires from many of the following items is the indication, the plea, the outcry, and even the demand for rising up before too long. The writers, speakers, and interviewees agree more or less in their view of the complete corruption of civilization's institutions but they differ in what to do about it. The more despair is involved the more violence is being calculated into the equation. The more compassion rules the more the change becomes a matter of individual inner liberation.
Jensen, Hedges, Eisenstein, Adyashanti, and Macy each make solid points for their case. Some are giving a flaming speech, some are invoking kindness; all of them are asking, Will you be a part of the solution?

Ongoing Assault


Barbarians, that's what the Elite calls the general population. A long read.

The uninhabitable Earth (annotated edition) – David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine, 20170714
Now that major magazines and newspapers are picking up on reporting from the climate front articles like this (first issued July 9th) come as less of a surprise. Still, there was an outcry both in the mainstream media, and the scientific press, not to talk about the dumbstruck ignorant population, about how someone dare painting such a dire picture (“climate change porn”) and thus found a “suicide cult”, without substantiation. On July 14th, five days later, the magazine issued an annotaded version which provided sources for the information given.

Though the threat of human extinction still looms at the comfortable distance of almost a century to go the description of the consequences of global warming in this long essay feel more realistic than most of what can be read elsewhere.

Heat increases municipal crime rates, and swearing on social media, and the likelihood that a major-league pitcher, coming to the mound after his teammate has been hit by a pitch, will hit an opposing batter in retaliation.”

Ok, quoting this paragraph wasn't fair of me. The extent and depth of what climate change will mean to us as a civilization and as a species has been covered as good as it gets. That is because the author has obviously done some research and also spoken to a number of scientists personally. If you've seen the piece about those four Australian concerned climatologists, this is your follow-up story, this is what they are scared about.

From the 'crisis of perception' to the 'systems view of life' – Daniel Christian Wahl, Medium, 200170708
The old paradigm is crumbling, something new emerges. I am not entirely sure whether the author would agree with seeing ecosystems in terms of communities or if we have to take the word 'system' in its mechanistic sense in which humans still can 'trigger' desired events, but the general direction sounds fine.

Some very practical consequences of global warming: How is life changing in Alaska (and Canada and Siberia), what becomes of human settlements and infrastructure? Remote was yesterday.

Documents expose how Hollywood promotes war on behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA – Tom Secker & Matthew Alford, InsurgeIntelligence, 20170704
US military intelligence agencies have influenced over 1,800 movies and TV shows”

Imagine – Derrick Jensen, Tlaxcala, 20170703
Jensen straight forward in his critique of industrial civilization and people's lack of imagination that stands in the way of overcoming it:
'Imagine for a moment that we weren’t suffering from this lack of imagination. Imagine a public official saying not that he cannot imagine living without electricity, but that he cannot imagine living with it, that what he can’t imagine living without are polar bears.”

Humans in 2167: Internet implants and no sleep – Bryan Gaensler, Down To Earth, 20170630
From an author who is affiliated to the University of Toronto, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, comes a vision for the next 150 years that misses out on none of the classic memes of science fiction. Among the many excellent articles featured by Down To Earth this is one of incredible naiveté. Sorry for spoiling the party, but Earth is already going through the early stages of her sixth mass extinction to which humans are not exactly immune, while the future envisioned here simply extrapolates the destructive course of civilization into the next century as if there were infinite resources allowing for infinite growth on this finite planet. The article describes an impossible future that fails to amaze me with its dull promise of technological progress and a lifestyle that is completely devoid of meaning. I cannot find it “sad” at all that this "will never happen in the real world."
Take it as a reminder that, despite the trillionfold pain afflicted to life's community by visions like this, this is still the official story of Empire's destiny and that, as long as you are dreaming of technological golden ages, you are literally asleep to what's real.

There will be an extremely painful oil supply shortfall sometime between 2018 and 2020. It will be highly disruptive to our over-leveraged global financial system.”
The convergence of crises reaching its peak point.

Corrected satellite data show 30 percent increase in global warming – Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 20170630
Orbital mechanics and other overlooked factors influencing satellite observation led to a difference of 0.17°C in temperature measurements. The actual global average temperature thus amounts likely to around 1.7 to 2°C, depending on the baseline applied.

When ideas become a commodity public intellectuals like Chomsky have a hard time. On the other hand, though, hard times are the fertile ground on which ideas thrive organically. Out of all the confusion created by an overabundance of ratcatchers emerges a growing certainty;

What intellectuals need is the same as what everyone else needs: a society that prioritizes human flourishing over private profit, and strong political networks that guard public goods against the prophets of an atomized, high-tech future. However difficult that society may be to achieve, one thing about the present gives hope. We are finally getting clear about who its enemies are.”

Stop Fascism – Chris Hedges, 20170526
His Portland speech finds clear words for what civilization has done to the planet, calling for strong resistance to the madness which has taken over governments, corporations, and all of humanity's institutions.

Pearls Before Swine


Personality; not just for people anymore – Carl Safina, Huffington Post, 20160828
Humans have human minds. But believing that only humans have minds is like believing that because only humans have human skeletons, only humans have skeletons,” the Stanford professor says.
He is talking about insights gained from wildlife observation, and I concur because my experience with farm animals like goats, cows, and chickens completely matches Safina's descriptions.

We usually see “elephants”—or “wolves” or “killer whales” or “chimps” or “ravens” and so on—as interchangeable representatives of their kind. But the instant we focus on individuals, we see an elephant named Echo with exceptional leadership qualities; we see wolf 755 struggling to survive the death of his mate and exile from his family; we see a lost and lonely killer whale named Luna who is humorous and stunningly gentle. We see individuality. It’s a fact of life. And it runs deep. Very deep [...] Humans are not unique in having personalities, minds and feelings.”

I find it important to stress that individuality does not equal separateness of the individual from her environment. But that is a story for another day.

After one became three: working the work that is love – Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, 20160822
An autobiographical account of one human being's place in the web of life that is not about living in the green. A love story that is rather enchanting than romantic, addressing climate change without counting carbon molecules.

Darcia Narvaez – Derrick Jensen, Resistance Radio, 20160228
An interview with the professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, IN, on child rearing in primitive and in civilized communities, and how the differences affect the moral development of human beings. To me this is one of the Wow! sources with regard to the human condition.

Grief and carbon reductionism – Charles Eisenstein, 20160203
Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific evidence-based predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of activism and energy that we are seeing now in Flint. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. And that requires experiencing grief. There is no other way.”


Ruminants and methane: not the fault of the animals – Alan Broughton, Green Left Weekly, 20160115

I suspected as much. Something must be done about greenhouse gas emissions. But bovines are an integral part of Earth's life community. If there is any harm in what they are doing it is the result of our abusive relationship to them. This goes not only for 'cow farts' but also for goats as desert makers, and other myths. Our hysteria with finding someone to blame for Earth's predicament is twisting the discussion and hurts those who have done least to bring it about: subsistence farmers and their symbiotic species.


Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say – Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 20151202
Less destructive forms of forestry and nurturing kinds of food creation could do a lot to stop or even reverse the trend. But ask yourself: Can that happen within a system that depends on economic growth? Does morality have a chance below the bottom line of profit? Will we apply technology to restore what we have pushed off-balance for the sake of better technology? Can we ever prefer the well-being of other beings over our own as long as we believe in our own superior importance?

The courage to see, the power to choose – Joanna Macy, Naropa University, 20141017
What if we could look the pain, the suffering, the fear in the eye? Are we able to overcome the paralysis that befell us and do something about the rampaging injustice and the destruction of the living world? A celebration of the joy of being alive – and the grief that brings it about.

The space race is over – Paul Kingsworth, Global Oneness Project, 20140501
What is to be done about this? The answer to this question, as so often, seems to me to be personal rather than political. There is no way to prevent this society from Romanticizing progress and technology, and there is no way to prevent it coming down hard on visions of human-scale and ecological development. It will continue to do this until its own intellectual framework, and probably its physical framework, collapses under its own weight […]
But what we can do, when presented with a vision which projects an ideal onto either the future or the past, is examine our own personal need to be deluded […]
This is the work of a lifetime, but perhaps in the end it is the only work.”

The essay could have been written in response to the above-listed article about humans in 2167 but it is three years older and it can be applied to anything we identify with, from apocalyptic warrior to space age hero.

Adyashanti: complete interview – Global Oneness Project, 2009
The interviewee describes how in the development of human consciousness, there comes a shift from a sense of a separate self toward the experience of unity. He points out that the fear of losing our individual identity keeps us from making this shift. I'd have named this piece “On fear,” though it might as well be called “On activism.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization

“Last orders, please!”


Famous Last Words

Go shopping!


[previous issue / later issue]

2017-07-11

All nonsense


They say that if there is no money there is no motivation.
They say that if there is no competition there is no progress.
They say that if there is no fertilizer there is no fruit.
They say that if there is no hope there is no action.

Science has proven it?
I have proven, by living differently, that those assertions are wrong, and I dare everyone to repeat the experiment that has been successfully performed immeasurable many times over, by yourself.

Do not believe me, but do also not believe some corporate-paid strangers who claim experthood on how to live when all they have to offer is highly specialized knowledge in one narrow field of science.

2017-07-08

They are not dumb, they are different


Despite a plethora of supportive reports David Suzuki says we do not have enough data to predict that global warming will definitely bring about human extinction. Derrick Jensen quotes people claiming that millions of years provide not enough data to state that indigenous peoples are living sustainably.
Theoretically, that is true. There is never enough data to predict the future. It's highly unlikely but some undiscovered feedback loop might reverse global warming, and the tribes may kill life on Earth if only we give them enough time to do so.

It's a different thing regarding another claim which concerns present-day matters of fact: that there is not enough data to support the notion of human-like animal intelligence. I'd just turn that around and say, there is not enough data to support the notion of human intelligence superiority. What do we actually know about animals? That they do not write novels? That they do not have a theory of gravity? That they did not paint a Mona Lisa? That they do not conspire to get rid of us? What if they do, but in their own way, a way that we cannot understand because the inquiry into animal intelligence is sort of forbidden terrain? Our inability understanding 'simple' animal communication does not exactly encourage the notion of evolutionary hierarchies.

Lack of understanding is not a one-way street.
Beyond our civilization, most of what we do also makes absolutely no sense, even to humans themselves – those humans who have the privilege of still living outside the Matrix, in aboriginal tribes. They have no use for abstract art or historic novels or mathematical functions or a language built from hundreds of thousands of words, so they don't produce them. Counting to three is enough for some of those tribes, sixty words are enough for others, simple stick figure murals are enough to serve most tribals' needs. They don't need money, they don't measure time, they don't form complex societies. They are capable of more, as we know from individuals who have been abducted and pulled into the Machine, but they don't apply it. And that served them well for millions of years.

So what justifies the notion of our way of life as an expression of human superior intelligence?
Exactly nothing. Looking at all the problems it continues to cause, the opposite may seem more correct. But that does not do humanity justice; we know by the example of the tribes that our problems are cultural phenomenons only. Similarly, the intricacy of our societies, the cleverness of our technology, and the beauty of our arts are cultural in nature rather than expression of humanity's supposedly higher intelligence.

With open eyes intelligence can be seen ranging from a Universal level down to the behaviour of atomic particles, and it is not dependent on the size – or even the presence – of a brain. I find the way everything makes sense truly astounding, though I am aware that this might be so due to my personal bias. But then again, I am in and of this world, a member of the web of life, an offspring of its evolution, and basically one with it. Why would I not be able to intuitively make an accurate guess? There is no doubt in my mind that science's efforts to measure intelligence are heavily distorted by a cultural lens which is farther removed from a direct grasp on reality than my own bias. Science literally claims to observe matter in separation from the observed.

How would I put it more appropriately?
Well, it seems to me that our language, art, music, technology, society etc. are specific applications unique to our culture(s). They naturally vary from culture to culture and from species to species. They are expressing basic faculties common to all of life, plant and animal (including human), even existence as such. One basic faculty is communication, one of its applications is language. Cognition is a faculty, reasoning is an application. Intelligence is a faculty, technology an application.

If the theory of evolution has any root in reality it must follow that human faculties emerged from animal faculties. There is no reason to believe that ours are mounting sky high above everyone else's.

2017-06-28

The Empire Express, 28 June 2017


Editorial

Three distinct areas have emerged as today's focus points: clear indication of the climate's rapid deterioration, studies in anthropology and sociology, and the battle to bring down the Megamachine. You might also express it in terms of observation - realization - action; or, past - present - future.
A lot of that has close relationship to food supply which is absolutely no surprise to anyone who pays attention to their basic needs.
The question of how to deal with the dire realities of today's world permeates many publications even when their main topics seem harmless. The threat of a global war, nuclear war even, and the collapse of our culture is hovering over our heads; anarchists, anti-imperialists, environmentalists and primitivists are pondering the role of violence in their struggle to save whatever they are out saving. Does pacifism equal collaboration with the omnicidal System? Is there a moral obligation to use violence against things and/or people? Or is there another way?
I think those belong among the most burning questions of our times, and while I personally tend to favour nonviolent liberation I do suppose that some situations might require the application of force. Can't plan this beforehand, though, because it depends on the specifics of the moment. In any case, let compassion prevail. Don't act from a place of hate.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news

Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future – Kerry Brewster, ABC news, 20170627
An Australian climate scientist studying heat waves says, “I don't like to scare people but the future's not looking very good.“ She and many of her colleagues have second thoughts about having children and they are moving to places like Tasmania where temperatures are lower – as do many of the rich and powerful. If you need reliable indication of an impending climate collapse, here tweets your canary.

Carbon in atmosphere Is rising, even as emissions stabilize – Justin Gillis, New York Times, 20170627
That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever?”
If you are aware that various tipping points have been reached beyond which self-reinforcing feedback loops kick in you do not need to read this article. Just share it with people who wonder what is going on.

Vulnerable ‘chokepoints’ threaten global food supply, warns report – Damian Carrington, The Guardian, 20170627
Both climate change and political issues may interrupt global trade at any moment now. A number of African countries depend heavily on food imports, but the problem is not theirs alone. The failure of raw materials and fossil fuel supply is sure to fell the economies of developed countries in no time. The whole situation is a threat to all of global industrial civilization and has a potential to bring it down permanently – which is why big harbours, channels, and straits have been identified as trouble areas by the anti-capitalist movement.

Subsea permafrost on East Siberian Arctic Shelf in accelerated decline – interview by Nick Breeze with Dr Natalia Shakhova and Dr Igor Semiletov, Envisionation, 20170624
Latest research results show that the threat of a multi-gigaton outburst of methane from the ESAS is real and would have severe and immediate impact on the world's climate.

The twilight of anthropolatry – John Michael Greer, Ecosophia, 20170621
Check out any other issue where the survival of industrial society is at stake, and you’ll see the same thing. In case after case, it takes very little work to identify the habits and lifestyle choices that are dragging our civilization to ruin, and only a few moments of clear thinking to realize that the way to avert an ugly future has to begin with giving up those habits and lifestyle choices. Yet that last step is unthinkable to most people. It’s not just that they refuse to take it, for whatever reason; it’s that they don’t seem to be able to wrap their brains around the idea at all.”

Then what is it that keeps people from acting according to their best knowledge? After all, civilized humans deem themselves the most intelligent species on Earth by far. We even call ourselves homo sapiens, wise apes. The author thinks that we cannot believe anything will ever be able to come and bite us because of “A paradigm that insists that human beings are above nature—in the full literal sense of the word, supernatural—and therefore can’t possibly need to rethink their own choices for nature’s sake.”
Though the concept is not exactly new JMG puts it in a way that helps with reconsidering humanity's place in the greater scheme of things. We are divine, but no more so than squirrels and apple trees.

Forbes' “Go Bust” prescription for Indian farmers is a death warrant – Colin Todhunter & Binu Mathew, Countercurrents, 20170614
A piece in one of the 'finest' business magazines, on the need to industrialize Indian agriculture, led to this systematic rebuttal of both the analysis and the conclusion of Forbes' neoliberal line of argument. Well written, but I am missing the insight that, very soon, the world is running into a food crisis and no one is going to eat if farming productivity is getting measured in financial rather than nutritional value.

The business model of big agribusiness in the US is based on overproduction and huge taxpayer subsidies which allow it to rake in huge profits. However, it drives a model of agriculture that merely serves to produce bad food, creates food deficit regions globally, destroys health, impoverishes small farms, leads to less diverse diets and less nutritious food, is less productive than small farms, creates water scarcity, destroys soil and fuels/benefits from World Bank/WTO policies that create dependency and debt [...]
While [Forbes author Tim] Worstall argues that unproductive agriculture is a burden on society, it is not agriculture that has been the subsidy-sucking failure he imagines it to be. It has been starved of investment while the corporates secure the handouts. If anything, farmers have been sacrificed for the benefit of the urban middle classes whose food has been kept cheap and whose disposable income and consumer spending provides the illusion of growth.”

Earth is not in the midst of a sixth mass extinction – Peter Brannen, The Atlantic, 20170613
Interesting read. But palaeontologist Doug Erwin's argument does not convince. First of all, mass extinctions may have similarities to failing power grids but they are not that, not pieces of technology. It's simply an analogy like, comparing civilization to a ship, or seeing life as a journey, and it might be just as wrong as the computer/brain analogy. Secondly, previous mass extinction events played out over thousands or even millions of years before the collapse was complete. As we cannot foresee how the extinction of a certain species affects the web of life as a whole, we cannot tell whether key species of today have already vanished or not. We might already be over the edge (or we might not, agreed). Saying that today's ecosystems don't look like they were 90% collapsed is like driving a car at top speed over a cliff saying, a crashed car wouldn't make one hundred miles per hour. From the figures I know the world has lost more than 90% of its vertebrates and insects populations within the last 100 years, and that is a pretty close call for extinction. Add to this the increasing speed at which we eat up living beings and destroy habitats, then look at ocean acidification, abrupt climate change, global pollution, and disastrous technological events, and do not forget to include the general disregard for non-human beings when money enters the game; then tell me again about being alarmist.

Mandsaur agitation: how demonetisation brought MP farmers onto streets – Aman Sethi & Punya Priya Mitra, Hindustan Times, 20170612
Humanity's behaviour towards the world we inhabit is often described as 'soiling our nest'. Most civilized people definitely got mental issues when it comes to natural processes, even when they are being adapted for human use, like in agriculture. The average consumer looks down upon their farmers, and generally feels that food prices are too high. But those who produce the vital goods each and every one of us depends upon work the hardest and longest, earn the least, and take the highest risks. Some of the governments know very well that they cannot stay in power if the farmers become aware of their potential leverage. That's why they are getting shot at while the general public doesn't care. People don't care in Delhi, they don't care in Auroville, they don't care in Berlin or New York or Buenos Aires or Cairo. They don't care in your home town, and likely you don't care either, do you?
Maybe you should. Because when the day of food shortage comes it's the farmers who will eat, if anyone. I say 'If anyone' because it seems more likely that, with all the obstacles and hardships put on the farmers, and with all the destruction brought upon the landbase, no one will eat.

Paris 2 degree rise relates to 1750 – Paul Beckwith, 20170610
The Canadian climate scientist explains where some of the confusion about the actual rise in global average temperature comes from.

It's habitat, habitat, habitat, stupid – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170607
An essay discussing our crop plants' dependence on habitat, and the dependence of civilization on crop plants.

Vanessa Beeley on White Helmets, Syria – Sane Progressive, 20170526
It is thanks to a handful of independent investigative journalists that we can see the extent to which the public is being fooled into believing that governments were fighting morally good wars. The war in Syria not only shows that this is true for the West's attack against yet another sovereign nation, but for the whole so-called War on Terror which is really only a deadly sham. In Syria, it is no longer ISIS or al-Qaeda who are being bombed by Western troops. Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others did a great job describing how the so-called terrorists are being financed by Saudi, Israeli, US, and UK governments. Especially disgusting is the role of the White Helmets that our media style into angels. But listen to the reporter for yourself.

Now: The Invisible Committee – Non (copyriot.com), 20170520
This world is no longer to be commented on, criticised, denounced. We live surrounded by a fog of commentaries and of commentaries on commentaries, of criticisms and of criticisms of criticisms, of revelations that trigger nothing, except revelations about revelations. And this fog takes away from us any hold on the world. There is nothing to criticise in Donald Trump. The worst that one can say about him, he has already absorbed, incorporated. He embodies it. He wears as a necklace all of the grievances that one could ever imagine holding against him. He is his own caricature, and he is proud.”

This is not an essay about the US president.

The truth is not something towards which we would tend, but a non-evasive relation to what there is. It is not a “problem” except for those who already see life as a problem. It is not something that one professes, but a way of being in the world. It is therefore not something that is possessed, or accumulated. It is given in a situation, from moment to moment.”

It is a call for an anarchist revolution, written by an “Invisible Committee” of authors that has, ten years ago, published “The coming insurrection.” Its analysis of the global predicament goes deep, its scope of interest is wide, and although I am really not a friend of applied violence I have to admit that its place in the grander scheme of things seems properly defined.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that - obviously - didn't change the world.

The demoralized mind – John F. Shumaker, Newint, 201604
Unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life […]
Research shows that, in contrast to earlier times, most people today are unable to identify any sort of philosophy of life or set of guiding principles. Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited […]
Cultural deprogramming is essential, along with ‘culture proofing’, disobedience training and character development strategies, all aimed at constructing a worldview that better connects the person to self, others and the natural world.”

International migration flows: tracking the trends – Down To Earth, based on UN international migrant stock 2015
In 2015, the world saw the highest levels of forced displacement recorded since World War II. There was a dramatic surge in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people across the world.”

Ho'oponopono for beginners.

Thinking on a clean slate: preface to the human story – M. J. John, Human First – Thinking Beyond Industrial Civilization, 20141208
Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information. The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it ever since.
[...] Everything from telegraphy and photography in the 19th century to the silicon chip in the twentieth has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.
[...] For most humans living today, it is hard to imagine life without technology – without second-hand intelligence-dependency. But on the scale of human history, the
Internet and mobile devices are recent inventions, a few decades back, and the modern science and technology a few centuries back. Until just 5,000 years ago, we lived in small groups, hunting and gathering. While that life might seem to be ancient, it is also the life for which our bodies and our brains are adapted. So, we have something to learn from people who still live naturally, as we did for almost 99.9% of human life here on Mother Earth.
[...] In ancient Greece, even slaves had a deep social role as part of a household, unlike even higher class modern workers, who are valued as things, interchangeable as parts in engines of profit. Medieval serfs worked fewer hours than modern people, at a slower pace, and passed less of their money up the hierarchy. We declare our lives better than theirs in terms of our own cultural values. If medieval people could visit us, I think they would be impressed by our advances in alcohol, pornography, and sweet foods, and appalled at our biophobia, our fences, the lifelessness of our physical spaces, the meaninglessness and stress of our existence, our lack of practical skills, and the extent to which we let our lords (leaders of religion, government and market) regulate our every activity. They are sure to consider us as pitiful creatures.
[...] Supposing there were no books, TV, radio, the newspapers, phone and the Internet, we would know very little of what went on or is going on in the world. We would have fewer thoughts, fewer second-hand ideas. Being less cluttered up mentally, we would be better able to concentrate on things near at hand. We would be able to live more intensely. Perhaps we would be closer to REALITY, the real knowledge or the TRUTH. This was, of course, the condition of our ancestors in bygone days, even as it is still the condition of many people untouched by industrial civilization in some of the so-called ‘undeveloped’ countries.”

A veeery long essay taken from the book “Life on meltdown: exposing the root of this genocidal collective stupidity” by M. J. John, and it has, of course much more to tell, beyond critisizing industrial civilization. I chose to quote these passages, especially at such length, because, for the resolving message to come across, it takes for the reader to let go, just one moment, of the idea that humanity is living at the apex of its abilities. There are massive amounts of evidence today that both human intelligence and human sensory and memory functions are actually in decline. Think of it.

An anthropologist's presentation regarding tribes of the Northern Congo basin, explaining the locals' understanding of equality and its rootedness in different kinds of blood. Beyond the social equality – between men and women, old and young people, strangers and family, and all kinds of other dichotomies – there is also equality between human and non-human populations in their forest. I found it interesting to see how the concept of equality differs between civilized and tribal nations. Profound differences in lifestyle result from that.

This book is about fighting back. The dominant culture—civilization—is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being [...] it won’t stop doing so because we ask nicely.”

Cartoon

The train of civilization

“Must go faster!”

Famous Last Words

It can't happen to us.

2017-06-15

Apocalypting conservatively


I am aware that many of those who read my posts think that I overstate the severity of the global warming and that it doesn't look all that bad. Let's just pretend for one hour or so that you were right. Listen to the good professor in the embedded video who delivers a textbook speech on the ramifications of the IPCC / Paris Agreement scenario. There is no rogue mentality visible here, no revolutionary mind at work, no panic attack spilling over, yet the outlook, based on the – irresponsibly conservative – figures from the IPCC models, is devastating.

David S. Battisti's Edinburgh lecture in short: The interior of the continents would heat up twice as much as the global average, leading to a 4°C rise in most grains-producing regions until mid-century.. This would result in massive losses in food production, 10% on average for every degree added. Due to plant physiology, higher temperature, and greater weather swings the mid-latitudes – the US and Europe, among others – would lose between 10% (in good years) and 100% of crops as compared to today. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere skyrockets, massive ocean acidification will impact the marine food web in unpredictable manners.
With population rising to 9+ billion heads by mid-century, the loss of 1% of arable lands per year due to erosion etc., and the loss of crops due to climate change agricultural production has to double within the next 35 years. This is obviously not going to happen because there is not that much suitable land and that much water available, and, after three decades of research, genetic engineering still cannot provide suitable seeds.

One of the outstanding features of this lecture is the non-issue of mass starvation, population collapse, and the social, economic, and political turmoil this scenario will inescapably bring about. I find it incredible how learned folks tend to isolate items of interest and completely neglect their consequences. What exactly is the use of going through the exercise of modeling future developments and not inquiring into what they mean for our lives?
Consequently the students attending the talk seem to take the message with good humour, and so may you do. But think of it: this is the ultra-conservative outlook on a future that you and I, and certainly our children, would see. Take into account that the temperature has risen by roughly 1.5°C since the beginning of industrialization, and how that already impacts our weather. With an open ear you will hear phrases like “faster than expected”, “worse than foreseen” and “with unprecedented speed” all over the place when it comes to climate change. Is it really a good idea to disregard the more alarming voices among scientists who have reason to believe an abrupt multi-degree temperature rise is probable in less than a decade?

See also:
  • 2°C to Midnight; an essay on the inaccuracy of the IPCC's climate models and the futility of the 2015 Paris agreement.
  • Deep into the Spiral: an outlook on the near future, based on more accurate figures than the IPCC's.

2017-06-02

The Empire Express, 2 June 2017


Ongoing Assault

Recent news

A relation of love with the land – Manu Sharma, Ecologise, 20170530
When humans love the earth they live upon, when they truly see each part of the ecosystem as equal and valuable, when they build a non-violent relationship with it, something magical occurs […] Balance is restored in a matter of years.”

One week's headlines on abrupt climate change – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170526
One fine analyst you should have heard of if you are concerned about global warming is Robin Westenra. Many of the articles I have been wading through on collecting interesting material for the Empire Express are gathered in one of his latest essays, a digest of news on research on, and results of, abrupt climate change. Though it shows just one one-week's segment of a really huge pie, the headlines illustrate the rapid decline of the situation, an unraveling which goes on week after week after week at increasing speed.

The empty brain – Robert Epstein, Aeon, 20170518
A very interesting piece on the history of the cognitive sciences and the myth of the brain/computer analogy.

The willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive or fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life. We are human as a result of it, not in spite of it.”

The extent to which the planet gets turned into trash and poison is truly staggering.
"We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic," [Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at the University of Tasmania] said. "It's something that's designed to last forever, but is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away."

The globalization of misery: Mosul on my mind – by Tom Engelhardt, Information Clearing House, 20170515
"The globalization of misery doesn’t have the cachet of the globalization of plenty. It doesn’t make for the same uplifting reading, nor does skyrocketing global economic inequality seem quite as thrilling as a leveling playing field (unless, of course, you happen to be a billionaire). And thanks significantly to the military efforts of the last superpower standing, the disintegration of significant regions of the planet doesn’t quite add up to what the globalists had in mind for the twenty-first century. Failed states, spreading terror movements, all too many Mosuls, and the conditions for so much more of the same weren’t what globalization was supposed to be all about.”

I'm not so sure about intentions. After all, it is the difference in wealth that keeps the shareholders happy.

How do you degrow an economy, without causing chaos? – Jonathan Rutherford, Resilience, 20170515
Well, how do you? I guess we never had a nation willingly walking away from progress, and doing so without leaving plenty of shards. Our timeframe is pretty short, and we are living in a system that is based on growth, so you can't just slowly adapt to no-growth or negative-growth conditions. Grassroots movements may have to play a role here; if they gained traction, the state might hook up by nationalizing corporations, Rutherford says. (topic relates to the Ted Trainer interview; see below)

Prepping for the end of the world – Mike Sliwa, The Good Men Project, 20170514
Maybe dying has a lesson that outweighs the frantic struggle to survive?“

Recent studies have shown that there’s a direct correlation between climate change and CKDu [chronic kidney disease of unknown origins]. The disease affects farm workers across the globe [...these] are the very people who provide the basis of our economies and lifestyles. Climate change will impact our entire economic system and CKDu is potentially a canary in the coal mine, a warning of what is to come.“

There is a large contingent within the biosphere that would love to see ants take over after humans step down,” said Eldridge, who cited the insects’ tireless work ethic, longer tenure on the planet, and ability to work well in groups.“
Hilarious!

Where have all the insects gone? – Gretchen Vogel, Science, 20170510
Observations in the wild in Germany show that insect populations have dropped by 78% in 24 years. That's worse than the decline in vertebrates.

People acquainted to me know that I have a pretty simple, radically downgraded lifestyle. I go to bed shortly after the sun sets; I get up at dawn. My place is more or less a roofed platform with grills for walls, so it's very open to its environment. Most of the wake times in bed I just listen to the birds, crickets and frogs, and though their numbers have audibly fallen we still have a huge biodiversity existing in our farm. I enjoy being with those fellow creatures every day. After all, “you only get so many Mays in your life”, says ornithologist Tony Whitehead who invites people for forest walks at dawn. I know what Tony is talking about, and he's right. How many of those Mays do we actually remember? I confess, I have difficulties recalling even one. Springtime memories, yes. But how old was I back then? And, was it May, or April? It's really better not to reduce one's nature time to Sundays or, worse, to postpone it till after pension, but to be out constantly, consciously.
“Only now, once you’re outside and engaging with this stuff, is the basis for a meaningful engagement and then a meaningful advocacy for the natural world can come about. You have to get out here”.
Especially recommended article.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained, “[W]e can’t honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them, and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.” North Korean president Kim Jong-un could have said the same thing about his seven nuclear warheads, especially in view of US bombs and missiles currently falling on seven countries.”

Commercial opportunities are vastly outweighed by damage to the climate,” the unknown author subtitles his or her considerate article. Several problems standing in the way of an Arctic gold rush are described. “Nothing, however, looms larger than the potential for environmental calamity.” Given that countries were unlikely to keep within the limits of the Paris Agreement, more radical measures – various ways of geo-engineering -- needed to be taken. But,

Even if such ways to cool the planet could be managed on the vast scale necessary, other unwelcome outcomes cannot be discounted. When volcanoes release vast amounts of aerosols and sulphates into the air, they damage the ozone layer—might the same be true for geoengineering?”

Overall it seems that the time has come for climate change to hit the mainstream press, which is quite surprising, but truly astonishing for a magazine like this is the article's summary:

To ensure political and commercial stability in a defrosting Arctic, and to limit the harm caused by and to the warming pole, countries need to pay it far greater attention. The danger is that it is already too late.”

With all the natural sinks exhaling their carbon quickly, the (non-existent) efforts of mankind to curb emissions have exactly no consequences for the outcome.

This high-level waste must be isolated from the environment for one million years – but no container lasts longer than 100 years. The isotopes will inevitably leak, contaminating the food chain, inducing epidemics of cancer, leukemia, congenital deformities and genetic diseases for the rest of time. This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights.”
...provided there are future generations.

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that - obviously - didn't change the world.

Towards a unitive life: An interview with Shyam BalakrishnanS. Sharath & Jayan P.M., Ecologise, 20151105 [as featured in Keraleeyam Magazine; translated from the Malayalam by the interviewee]
The interviewee became famous in India after he has been falsely accused of being a Maoist and has been harassed and arrested without warrant by the police. Kerala High Court acquited him, ordering the state to compensate him, because “being a Maoist is not a crime”. Balakrishnan does have radical thoughts, though. He talks of the irreconcilable relation between democracy, nation-state, and capitalism, advocating the fostering of a non-dual, unitive existence which respects life.

The essential truth about us is our oneness... Those living in the delusion of a private life are missing the greatest beauty that nature holds.”
Since the nation-states contradict the natural and basic principles of life, they must fall. The sense of otherness and territory are the prime capital of nationhood. We must fully accept that every community has its own culture and unique characteristics but this doesn't make it necessary to have a territory guarded by armed human beings.”
we have to integrate all the values ranging from food to freedom scientifically and we must live that through infinite diversities.”

Ted Trainer Interview on 'The Simpler Way' – Jordan Osmond & Samuel Alexander, The Simplicity Institute, 201511
The current crisis can be taken as an opportunity to shift to a simple lifestyle. The Australian academic explains why there is no way capitalism could be reformed, and why there is no need for fear of an impoverished existence. There are indeed 'benefits' from ending consumerism...

What it would really take to reverse climate change – Ross Koningstein & David Fork, IEEE Spectrum, 20141118
Two engineers at Google report on their failed attempts at tackling the climate issue by providing cheap renewable energy.

Those calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change.”

So even if we listened to our best experts, started right now, and put all our energy into it – we are still running against a wall, one of them being the financial bottom line against which they fought an uphill struggle.

There are, no doubt, all manner of unpredictable inventions that are possible, and many ways to bring our CO2 levels down to Hansen’s safety threshold if imagination, science, and engineering run wild.”

One may dream, of course, but when our lives depend on it we'd better come up with something more solid, no?

We’re hopeful, because sometimes engineers and scientists do achieve the impossible.”

Hopium, Hopium. Some day I might win the lottery, but from my experience, it is rather like, sometimes you lose, and sometimes somebody else is winning.

We can’t yet imagine which of these technologies will ultimately work and usher in a new era of prosperity—but the people of this prosperous future won’t be able to imagine how we lived without them.”

There! The golden age, lingering just around the corner. Let's face it: money is one of the major problems in the game, and most people rather believe in fantasy tech than to imagine a world without currency. What it would really take to reverse climate change is for industrial civilization to cease existing, and for mankind to survive and wait a few million years until the planet finds a more human-friendly mode of operation again.

Why Capitalism makes us sick – Dr Gabor Maté, 20140928
From the perspective of a physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction and is also widely recognized for his perspective on Attention Deficit Disorder, Dr Maté explains the connection between psychological and physical sicknesses, and inhowfar those are being caused by the way we organize work and society. No surprise there, but this is a well presented analysis. See also his interview "Attachment, Disease, Addiction".

Cartoon

The train of civilization

“Dear Passengers! Travelling at our current high speed, we are going to get term... uhm, I mean, arrive at terminal before twenty-one hundred, faster than expected.”

Famous Last Words

"What do you mean, crash?"


2017-05-26

The limits to reason


How did humans get to the idea that they could domesticate plants and animals for food prdoduction? How did they do it, and what were the implications? What has changed over the millennia and how did this affect people, plants, animals and the land?
Many among us may think they know the story, but what we actually heard was the narration of the agricultural perpetrators. The picture they paint gives rationales and justifications for modern industrial agriculture, based on utilitarian materialistic notions of bottom lines and benefits. What is missing from their picture is the suffering caused by rapist practises that sprang from rapist minds. While this may sound like a harsh judgment, consider that the rapist is separating himself from his victim, and he objectifies it so he can use it for his own benefit. The victim's “bottom line” does play no role in his calculations. In his mind, there is no soul, no heartache, no dignity, no connectedness, no oneness, no sacredness.
In various publications Daniel Quinn pointed out that this rapist totalitarian agriculture is but one way of growing food. Other ways are not about production in the first place; they help embed humans into the web of life. Experience from organic gardening and farming does support this notion, but the case may also be made historically and etymologically.
The morpheme agri- is derived from a Latin word and means “field”. -culture, again from the Latin, means “to till, to inhabit, to protect, to nurture, to worship, to honour.” The relationship expressed in the word Agriculture is therefore a close, nurturing, loving one, originally.
What we commonly understand, today by the word agriculture, because its practices have become so ubiquitous, is a subduing of the Earth, forcing our will upon soil, plants, and animals so they deliver what we demand of them. Totalitarian agriculture is the starting point and main driver of the physical destruction of the biosphere as well as the emotional and spiritual destruction of human beings.


TENDING OUR LAND. A new story. By M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho
By NASA Langley Research Center, public domain
Focussing on the history of Indian farming and agriculture practices since the dawn of civilization, Jackson and Coelho give a new account of the succession of ideas and notions around tending the land. This is at the same time a history of modern science and its failures to grasp what almost every culture on Earth understood: that humans are an integral part of the world, not separate from it, and that the way we relate to it has consequences on a material level; that in fact relationships are the actual substance of reality.

"17th century specialists assumed that they were impartial observers of the objects and events they study. Such findings are thus objective, free from personal bias, and thus reveal the true nature of the phenomena studied. This assumption is based on the concept of a duality of body and mind formulated by Rene Descartes." (p73f)

But the duality between free mind and causally-determined matter makes no sense, says Whitehead (quoted after Tending our land):
"Western peoples exhibit ... two attitudes [that] are really inconsistent ... A scientific realism, based upon mechanism, is conjoined with an unwavering belief in the world of man and higher animals as being composed of self-determining organisms. The radical inconsistency at the base of modern thought accounts for much that is half-hearted and wavering in our civilization." [A. N. Whitehead, Science and the modern world, 1925, p76]

Jackson and Coelho express that there is no clear separation between the observer and the observed, so,
"In view of this assumption about the process of observation -- who observes, what is observed and how -- it would only be prudent to doubt the entire edifice of 17th century science. It seems likely that the specialists, in fact, see what they expect to see based on their assumptions about the nature of the world. Since they are unaware of the assumptions they hold they think they are seeing 'the' world as it 'really' is." (p73)

In other words, the world of clearly separate entities, entities which consist of lifeless inert mass, entities which can be used and manipulated as humans please, is basically a delusion. The case can be made for things the size of galaxies, as well as for atoms, and everything inbetween.

"Size, volume, shape, density, position and velocity are not attributes of the atoms themselves, but refer to the relationships among them [...] abstracted from this reference frame, an atom cannot be described; it cannot even be said to exist." (p69)

"Another way of describing the unreality of physical entities is to say that in the world we construct from our experiences there are no spatial boundaries. If there are no boundaries there cannot be any independently-existing entities", (p70f)
because it requires a defined area or volume for them to exist.
And really, particle physicists have been unable to discover such entities. The same goes for the macroscopic level. Can soil exist or be seen without the organisms living in it, of it, and creating it? Can a human being exist without the myriads of microspecies living on our skin, off our hair, in our bowels? Can a planet exist in and of itself, without its gravity field and the gravity fields of its neighbouring celestial bodies? With everything so tightly interlinked as to be inseparable the scientific description of relational dynamics becomes utterly ridiculous.

by MLWatts, public domain
"It is not possible to describe the simultaneous interactions of three or more bodies in one equation; say for example, the sun, planet, and the planet's moon, or the entire solar configuration, or a human body or a landscape" (p73)

Though we can point at “things” and though we can roughly or with relative precision predict those things' near-term development, truly exact forecasts are simply impossible. But,
"If we assume that what we observe are relationships and not objects, the appropriate research protocol is to describe these relationships. It is a process of synthesis rather than of analysis." (p72)

So if we described the world in terms of relationships like some Eastern, and almost all indigenous, cultures used to rather than in terms of forces and masses, the outcome might be quite different. It certainly makes a difference regarding our behaviour, and our relationship to the living planet. And that in turn might mean all the difference in view of the future course of the global crisis we are currently undergoing. If what happens, eg. to the climate, is the outcome of humanity's impoverished, disrespecting and abusive relationship towards basically everything -- and how could we deny that the uglification, the exploitation, the pollution etc of the planet are just that -- then re-establishing a loving relationship with the universe might result in a 'miraculous' healing.

"Everything in the universe we [Indians] are told is not only living, but is also sacred. What does it mean to say that life is sacred? Sacredness is a feeling, not a concept. How, or from where, does it arise? We can only say: from a sense of mystery. It will not do to say that the ancients lacked our present particular knowledge and so fell back on superstitious belief. Rather we must admit, as they did, that there is a limit to human reason. Admitting this humbles us and gives rise to a sense of awe in the face of the universal mystery of manifestation; awe and reverence are the very essence of the sacred." (p61f)

A miracle is not something we can hope for. Similarly, sacredness is not something we can work for. Both would arise from a change in our deepest understanding, therefore today's science would be unable to explain it. From a rational point of view, reducing emissions or cleaning up pollution would have done the job (though we know already that it's too late for this to have any significant effect), but what would have actually happened is the mending of broken ties through re-establishing the sacred dimension of things.
Our actions are the result of inner -- mental, emotional, spiritual -- states and processes. Whether physical actions are effective elements in a cause-and-effect mechanism, or if they are merely symptoms of inner processes is one of the great differences in worldview between East and West, and it might be the difference between a living and a dead planet.

See also:
Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510.
An essay made from excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016