Global Military Dominance — “When will they ever learn . . .”

Yet another good news / bad news story, this one from TomDispatch in the U.S.A. – who would have guessed that, eh?

The good:

“Whatever world we now inhabit, it’s not the twentieth century anymore. Though no other power has risen to directly challenge Washington, the United States no longer qualifies as the planet’s “sole superpower,” “last superpower,” “global sheriff,” or any of the similarly self-congratulatory phrases that were the coin of the realm in the years after the Soviet Union dissolved.”

. . . . . and the bad:

“Only one small problem, . . . the Department of Defense evidently doesn’t have a clue.

Senator Tom Cotton — he of the “Senate 47″ — who just gave his maiden speech on the Senate floor calling for a policy of total U.S. “global military dominance” and bemoaning that “our military, suffering from years of neglect, has seen its relative strength decline to historic levels.”

The “one small problem” referred to above is that this is shaping up as a new “cold”, or more likely “hot” war between America and China with all the rest of us hoping the missles won’t go astray and land on us by mistake. I lived with that fear from the age of five when they dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki until 1991 when Mikhail Gorbachev ended the insane policy of Mutually Assured Distruction aka “MAD”. It seems that particular insanity was only in remission and will probably return to join the others, like perpetual economic growth, that we deem necessary in order to keep the world unstable.

A Reason For Celebration

. . . . . and now, something completely different for this blog and, hopefully for your thoughts. An ecological book about the place of the human species in the cosmos — written by a Roman Catholic priest; and a passage from the Old Testament — quoted by me!

(From Wikipedia) Thomas Berry, C.P. (November 9, 1914 – June 1, 2009) was a Catholic priest of the Passionist order, cultural historian and ecotheologian (although cosmologist and geologian – or “Earth scholar” – were his preferred descriptors). Among advocates of deep ecology and “ecospirituality” he is famous for proposing that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary inspiration and guide for our own effective functioning as individuals and as a species.

The following excerpt is from his book ‘The Great Work’ – 1999


Even beyond the Earth, the sense of community would extend throughout the entire universe seen as a single coherent community that has emerged into being with a total dependece of each component on all the others. Indeed, we need to think of the universe as the supreme norm of reality and value, with all component members of the universe participating in this context, each in accord with its own proper role.


This was a great validation for me of a point I have been trying to make about the need to raise human conciousness in order for us to recognize the need to take action against the aggregation of crises we have created and which now threatens the very continuance of our species.

If this view of the universe could be brought into the common conscience it would be a great cause for celebration, not trepidation and all that would be left would be the event which would allow us to “see the face of God” as explained in Exodus 33:20 (NIV) – But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Field Notes From THE Catastrophe

I recently began reading “Field Notes From a Catastrophe” – Elizabeth Kolbert, 2006 and was initially happy to have found the ideal first book for those who are new to concerns about THE catastrophe(s) which will shape the future of human life on Planet Earth. To explain the oddity of the expression THE catastrophe(s), THE is capitalized to indicate the only issue that really counts in the present human condition and the appended pluralism highlights that this issue is a tightly interconnected “perfect storm” of crises.

This book is concise – 187ppg for the main body; accurate – with a couple of very minor and inconsequential errors in science (based on other sources); and should be eminently understandable by anyone with the equivalent of a Canadian high school education. Elizabeth Kolbert is a very experienced journalist (New York Times, New Yorker magazine) and obviously takes great pains and knows how do do her research. Her sources are a Who’s Who of legitimate experts on, the Arctic, climate modelling, ancient civilizations, biology, US politics and ocean levels.

The only reasons I am presently depressed by this book is that I have had to relive all the missed opportunities since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the G.W. Bush fiasco of America, the grotesque degradation of Canada by Stephen Harper – not mentioned in the book but ever-present in my thoughts – and the exposure of the depth of greed, ignorance and stupidity of the biological species of which I am a part.

However, of the fifty-some-odd books I have read over the past several years relating to these interconnected crises, I would strongly recommend this one as a place to start a serious exploration of our future under continuance of the business-as-usual model of civilization.

When my generation entered parenthood in the 1960’s, we thought we were bringing children into a world that was improving and would keep doing so as far as we could see into the future. In actuality I can now look back and see that, by the end of that decade, my own Quality of Life had begun to descend. I now look at Standard of Living as measured by GDP – the total amount of money we spend annually as a nation – and Quality of Life as quantified only be a general feeling of well-being, as being in reverse relationship – as the first goes up, the second goes down.

This feeling is corroborated by the increasing incidence of psychological illness, stress, obesity; environmentally forced or lifestyle diseases such as asthma, COPD, novel forms of cancer, diabetes; and zoonotic diseases which take advantage of over-crowding and human movement into previously unoccupied areas.

So – what to do?

First, we can stop reproducing ourselves. Obviously, that won’t happen. However, even to leave our descendants a chance of what we would consider to be a liveable life, we need to achieve large reductions in population. If we don’t, part of the un-liveableness of future human life will be nature’s way of dealing with over-population – pandemic. Perhaps we are currently seeing early, and so far controllable manifestations of this with HIV/AIDS, Ebola and related hemorrhagic fevers; avian, porcine and possibly equine Influenzas; the re-occurrence of mumps and measles and the mysterious polio-like disease affecting children in the US.

In order for the viral world to mount a horror show that would top anything Hollywood has ever produced, a single strain could evolve the following traits — it would be zoonotic (able to pass between species including human like a number of avian influenzas), pass from human to human through aerosols as easily as measles, have a long incubation period and be as deadly as ebola. Currently, virologists are saying that this is not likely to occur but, on the other hand, a bit of reading about past viral evolution seems to indicate that anyone who expresses confidence about what viruses may or may not do next is skating on thin ice. One outbreak of such a virus near a large city and 3 weeks of worldwide air traffic should lead to the normal pattern of those who look after the sick being the second wave and those who look after disposal of bodies being the third and nothing much left but to roll the credits.

Second, we can stop denying the science and the voluminous evidence all around us that massive change is already happening and start demanding that our so-called leaders do something to counter it. Reduction of lifestyle, sustainable energy, the end of economic growth, universal education (especially of girls), localization and raising individual levels of consciousness would all be good places to start. You can start this last one right now with a trip to your public library.

You might point out that the changes outlined above will never be initiated by democratically elected officials and you would be right — so maybe it’s time to take a second look at anarchy (if we do nothing we will get it anyway). Or just to realize that business-as-usual, including nation states and their political and economic systems are “just so 20th century” and get our butts into the 21st. It has already been here for 15 years for those who have been too busy shopping to notice.

The world may be in good hands after all (just not for a couple of generations).

For those of us who understand the crises facing Humanity and our home planet Earth later in the 21st century, getting people to become informed and then demanding that our “Leadership” do the same and start making changes often seems like an un-climbable mountain. We sit ourselves down at the TV every night to watch the Capitalist News – opinions of the corporate elite being spread like propaganda by news media owned by – the corporate elite of course. The resulting “Evening News” bears little resemblance to reality, but presents the fantasy of a future just like the past – only BIGGER and BETTER! And, because we want to believe the fantasy, we do. And because we do, we make no attempt to ameliorate our ways of living to save something for those who come after us.

But there is hope.

Brigette DePape, Tamo Campos and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois represent the second generation beyond mine – and what great representatives they are! It is true that all three of these heroes have broken the law or very strict rules, and have had to face consequences. To some people, this makes them look like bad people but they are not. In fact, they are some of the best people our country has as citizens and the actions they have taken put the rest of us to shame. When laws are made to favour those who make them at the expense of others, they must be broken; and broken again and again until they are stricken from the codes that govern our society. It takes heroes to do that and that is exactly what these young people are – heroes.

Future

If you don’t know the stories of these brave, young people here is a good place to start your quest in an article from —

While it comforting to celebrate the presence of a younger generation which seems to be taking an interest in looking after their own future, this should in no way let we-who-have-done-the-damage off the hook for reducing our over the top lifestyles and beginning the repairs. Three years of reading have given me a reasonable idea of the on-going damage, probably 40 author’s ideas on what can be done at this point and a sobering view of what cannot be repaired in the foreseeable future regardless of the level of effort.

I hope that I can provide some support for the young heroes mentioned above and all those that have already joined in by opening up some eyes and softening some hearts towards the plight of the generations we will leave behind on our threatened Earth when we depart. I am convinced that, if we can make the massive societal change that is called for, we will find that the loss of thousands of acres of mini-storage and millions of basements, garages and outbuildings full of junk will bring a huge relief of stress and a much higher quality of life to all of us.

Different Strokes . . . (of the pen)

I have just finished reading Derrick Jensen”s “Endgame – Volume II : Resistance”; and started “The Long Descent” by John Michael Greer (2008). Jensen sees the end of the Industrial Age as sudden and catastrophic and councels the hastening of that event by whatever means we have at our disposal. The reason for this is to save as many resources as possible for the rebuilding of society by following generations. I don’t take exception to any of his thinking as described in the book.

Greer, on the other hand, sees the end coming as a long and painful descent to a time with a much smaller population to match the much more limited residue of resources. This has been the result of the ending of most, if not all previous civilizations which have simply run out of  resources as we are currently doing. His councel is to keep looking ahead at reality, transition as painlessly as can be done and emphasize the retention of culture and knowledge where possible.  I also agree with his premises and view for the future.

A third route into the future is the one we are currently following, pretend the crises don’t exist and carry on with the status quo — this route will, without question be the most damaging to Earth and may well leave humanity with no chance of survival. At the very least, isolated pockets of our descendants would have a place in nature similar to the earliest of the human species — both predator and prey.

Below is an excerpt from “The Long Descent” —


” . . . Imagine that someone, confronted with a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, insisted instead that he would live forever. For that reason, he refused either to treat the illness or make sure his family had some means of support in the event of his death. He would be considered completely irresponsible by most people — and for good reason. This is exactly the collective situation we’re in right now. For more than three decades we’ve known exactly what factors are pushing industrial society towards its own collapse, and it’s no secret what has to be done to make the transition to sustainability, but the vast majority of people in the industrial world remain unwilling to embrace the necessary changes — and nothing currently suggests that they are interested in thinking about the generations in the future who will grow up in the ruins of our society.

At this point it’s almost certainly too late to manage a transition to sustainability on a global or national scale, even if the political will to attempt it existed — which it clearly does not. It’s not too late, though, for individuals, groups, and communities to make the transition themselves, and to do what they can to preserve essential cultural and practical knowledge for the future. The chance that today’s political and business interests will do anything useful in our present situation is small enough that it’s probably not worth considering.  . . .”


I see these 2 concepts as complementary rather than opposing. At my age (75), I can’t move quickly enough to take part in “removing” dams to let the salmon back up the river without getting caught but I can have a place in at least promoting intentional communities, shelters built from natural materials, permaculture, steady-state economics and other ways of living on the land without destroying it, something that Aldo Leopold said we had never learned how to do. That way, the dam removers will have a place to hang out between gigs and nutritious food to keep their strength (and speed) up.

Judgement Day (secular style)

One last (for now) excerpt from Endgame by Derrick Jensen. This is the most important of all and that which no one should be able to avoid reading.


 

“To whom will you be called upon to answer? By whom do you wish to be called upon to answer?

With every word I write—expecially when what I write scares me—I think about these questions. And here are the answers I come to every day. I write for the salmon, and for the trees, and for the soil beneath my feet. I write for the bees, frogs, and salamanders. I write for bats and owls. I write for sharks and grizzly bears. When I find myself not wanting to tell the truth as I understand it to be—when I find the truth too scary, too threatening—I think of them, and I think of what I owe them: my life. I will not—cannot—disappoint them.

And I consider myself answerable to—responsible to—the humans who will come after, who will inherit the wreckage our generation is leaving to them. When I want to lie, to turn my face away from the horrors, to understate the magnitude of what we must do and what we must unmake, to give answers that are not as deep and clear and real as I can possibly comprehend and articulate, I picture myself standing before humans a hundred years from now, and I picture myself answering to them for my actions and inactions. Them, too, I will not—cannot—disappoint.”

On Effecting Flexibility of Worldview

An interesting question just occurred as I was having a second cup of coffee and reading Endgame – Derrick Jensen (2006) – “Can a person whose worldview is based on a rigid and un-provable ideology (economic, political, religious, whatever) change that view?”

No.

So why think about it?

Because virtually every human being who wields power has such a worldview.

Is there something that can be done about that?

Maybe, but probably only one or two that are currently legal in most industrialized countries.

Dam (sic) Civilization

Starting a couple of months age, I hit a wall in my reading regimen. Books that were too long, too specific or overly academic put a ponderous damper on my enthusiasm for the (truthful, meaningful and real) written word.

Then, for Father’s Day, my granddaughter gave me a copy of Alan Weisman’s Countdown (2013), long but the subject needed it to be. I got back on track and followed up quickly with Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead (2004) and John A. Livingston’s Rogue Primate (1994). The stage was set for my current read – Endgame, Derrick Jensen (2006).

“There are two million dams in [America], 75,000 of them over six feet tall. Every one of these dams will someday fail, yet before constructing these two million dams, nobody bothered to find out what would happen to the rivers when the inevitable happened.

What makes this even more inexcusable, absurd, obscene—evil—is that we can say the same thing about deforestation, the murder of the oceans, the manufacture of CFCs, the fabrication of plastics, the burning of oil, in fact all of civilization. Nobody bothered to find out what effects these would have on the natural world. The reason is clear: those who make the decisions don’t care.

If the entire culture is predicated on an unexamined self-assumed right to exploit everyone and everything around you, why should you bother to think about the effects of your actions on others?”

This is a book which, with the exception of the section on dam removal that I am currently reading, I have thought through. Over several years, countless periods of sleeplessness, usually bracketed around 3:00am have enabled me to independently come up with so many of the concepts Jensen built this work on: western society is insane, corporations and their institutions are the enemy of the Earth, governments and their institutions are the enemy of the Earth, civilization is the enemy of the Earth, globalization must be dismantled, financial systems must be dismantled, current systems of government must be dismantled, civilization itself must be dismantled, “This culture is insane. It must be stopped.”

So, to me, the book reads like an old and trusted friend, corroborating my thoughts on all the most extreme and most urgently needed changes to reality; REAL reality, the reality of the only planet in the multiverse which will ever support the lives of homo sapiens (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

It’s no wonder Vince Ready walked away

Take a close look at these two tweets from Premier Clark about negotiations with the teachers as she sees them:

1/2 We remain committed to negotiating a fair deal with the BCTF as soon as possible, but it has to be affordable for taxpayers.

2/2 We want a deal that gives teachers a raise and invests in classrooms, but it must also be in line with settlements for other unions.

In the first, she sets herself up as judge-and-jury of fairness and affordability; that sounds a bit like Vladimir Putin judging what is best for Ukrainians. In the second she says that a deal with the teachers “must also be in line with settlements for other unions” – which other unions represent members who are responsible for children’s education and future?

For me another telling clue to the depth of difference between Christy Clark’s society and mine is her use of the word “invest” when talking about children, their education and their future. Thankfully, my world is not about deals, money, investment and standard-of-living; it is about learning, sharing, cooperating and quality-of-life. I hope this is true for the majority of parents and look forward to the day it becomes true for politicians.

On Eudaimonia And The Flourishing Soul

An excerpt from my current read, ‘What is Good’ – A.C. Grayling, 2003:

“Aristotle had a particular concept of happiness in mind, to which he gave the name ‘eudaimonia’. . . a much richer notion than what is now generally meant by happiness. More precisely, ‘eudaimonia’ means a flourishing state of the soul. The English word ‘happiness’ (especially in contemporary usage) embodies a very pallid conception in comparison; one could make everyone happy by putting suitable medications in the public water supply, but that would scarcely convey what Aristotle had in mind.”


Below is a review from Goodreads:

One of the most fundamental questions in our life is to find out what we value – what principles we want to live by and which codes we will use to guide our behaviour. Most of us want to live a good life. But what, in today’s secular society, does ‘good’ actually mean? To classical Greeks, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the senses, creativity and beauty were all aspects of life to strive for. Then came the volcanic declarations of St Paul and his fundamentalist ideas on sin and human nature. In WHAT IS GOOD?, A.C. Grayling examines these and other proposals on how to live a good life, from the ‘heroic’ ideals of the Greek poets to Kant’s theories on freedom and the UN Declaration on Human Rights.


aristotleI tried to read this book over a year ago and did not get far before inserting a bookmark and placing it on the “Partially Read” shelf. There it sat until a few mornings ago (about 5:30am) when, as I was thinking about something in the current human condition, I detected a whisper – “Take another look at that book by A.C. Grayling” . . . so I did. I’m very glad I stopped when I did and elated that I started over from the beginning. I’m sure it is destined to be a ‘can’t-put-it-down’ tome this time around.

So here I am at 74 years old finally taking a serious look at classical Greek philosophy and lovin’ it . . . go figger eh? By the way, the picture is Aristotle, not me, just wanted to be “perfectly clear” about that.