Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Ghosts of America

I have become totally disenchanted with politics and politicians. It seems that our representatives on both sides of the aisle spend all of their time kowtowing to corporate lobbyists, posturing, and grandstanding -- the name of the game is no longer 'what is best for America?' but 'how low can I go?' When Marco Rubio ran for the US Senate here in Florida, I was convinced that he was no better than the rest. His ads were nothing more than clichéd sound bites and his capacity for thought seemed to be limited to bumper sticker slogans. So I was pleasantly surprised and unexpectedly impressed by an interview he did with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Who'da thunk a junior senator and a comedian could hold such an intelligent and thoughtful conversation on such wide-ranging issues?

Senator Rubio struck me with his apparent sincerity. He seems to genuinely want what is best for our country, not just what is best for his career. And he seems more interested in doing what is right than what will get him re-elected. I admire his heart and spirit even while I disagree with him on virtually everything.

Rubio bases his ideas on what are, in my opinion, false assumptions and misinformation. He is right when he says that only economic growth can pay down our deficit, but his assumption that growth is still possible is both naïve and unfounded. I could go into the whole ‘the delusion of limitless growth in a finite world’ argument, but I’ve been there and done that already. That delusion is troubling in and of itself, but when he said that ‘with all the new discoveries, America can become energy independent in a matter of years,' I felt as if a bucket of ice water had just been dumped over my head. When it comes to the energy situation, the senator is not only badly misinformed, but dangerously misguided. Set aside for now the spurious claims of the fossil fuel industry that we could ever drill and blast and frack our way to energy independence and consider instead the catastrophic environmental costs of attempting to do so. He has no idea.

I woke up this morning wishing that I could do for Marco Rubio what the ghosts of Christmas did for Ebenezer Scrooge. I wish I could take him back to America Past, when the forests and mountains and prairies were still intact and unpolluted. Then I would take him to America Present and let him see for himself the mountains being blown apart, the wild places being cracked open and injected with a chemical soup, the poisoning of our earth, air, and waters, the degrading of our landscapes, the dead and dying zones in our oceans, the destruction of our communities, the accelerated extermination of entire species. I would take him to Canada to see the total devastation of the boreal forests and the toxic wastelands that are the legacy of our consumptive greed. Then I would take him to America Future to see what would be left of our country as our grandchildren struggle in a denuded, toxic land to battle the extremes of climate chaos while trying to provide for the bare necessities -- food enough to stave off starvation, water clean enough to drink and plentiful enough to share with plants and animals, and shelter strong enough to withstand floods, wildfires, and mega storms.

America Future doesn’t have to be that way, any more than Christmas Future was pre-ordained for Mr. Scrooge. But it is the future we will get if we don’t change course now. Senator Rubio, I believe you do want the best for our country, but you are dangerously ignorant and misinformed. Please re-evaluate your assumptions, Sir. Go beyond bumper sticker slogans; take the time to understand the complexity and limits of the real world. Wake up, look around, and do what is right.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Warriors and Heroes

Two inspiring videos came across my Facebook page this morning. Forget Lance Armstrong, this man is my hero:

Will Allen: The Urban Farmer from Spark Project on Vimeo.

And this interview has me so inspired, I'm ready to put on my princess warrior costume and go into battle:

Higher Ground

Hurricane Isaac just brushed by. Only a few days ago, it seemed that he was headed straight for us and so we prepared. We spent two days carrying tools and books and the artifacts of a lifetime to our second floor. My husband boarded up our windows while I filled the pantry with food, the first aid kit with supplies and the refrigerator with containers of water. Then we hitched up the boat and headed for higher ground. By the time we left home, Isaac had already changed course and was no longer a direct threat, but it only takes a 5 foot surge to inundate our house; predictions for our area were a 3-6 foot surge. Why take a chance?

We came home the next day to a house that was high and dry. Instead of just putting everything back where it was, we are going to take this opportunity to do some deep cleaning -- and to get rid of some of the stuff that no longer serves us.

Not everyone was as lucky as we were. The low-lying areas of Louisiana are still getting pounded by Isaac's slow moving progress, relentless rains and winds. Even here, the wind is still whipping up white-caps and bending palms.

I walked out to our dock this morning and paid my respects to Isaac's power, and it came to me that there is a lot we can learn from storms.

*Even the most educated predictions are never wholly accurate -- each storm is unique and while we may project the path and potential of a storm, there are always unknowns.

*It is wise to heed the warnings. We may not know exactly what is coming, but being prepared and having options is always a smart thing.

*While storms bring great destruction and lasting change, there are always silver linings. That may be really cliché, but true nonetheless.

So the lessons of a storm: Be prepared, be flexible, accept that the future cannot be known with any certainty, and look for the good that comes in a storm’s wake. I also believe that storms can be messengers. If so, then the message of Isaac is that the time has come to move to higher ground -- both literally and figuratively.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yet One More Time

Okay, I've finished reading Korowicz's 78 page paper and I'm still processing. There’s some interesting stuff on what Korowicz means by ‘collapse,’ a term I’ve had a hard time understanding (emphasis mine):
As this paper is opening up a discussion about a collapse in the globalised economy, it would be useful to have a definition of what collapse might be. Following Tainter and Homer-Dixon we could associate collapse with a sudden loss of complexity. However, there has been confusion in such studies where collapse has been also identified with a break-up of empires but which did not significantly alter the socio-political complexity of the constituent parts....

A systemic collapse in the globalised economy implies there is connectedness and integration. It also requires contagion mechanisms; these have been framed within the trophic web model. (In our framework we are not considering global pandemics, nuclear war or asteroid impacts, for example). It should be born in mind that a collapse could have intermediate states, characterized by partial breakdown and semi-stable states. However, here we are just outlining broad features.

The two other considerations are how big a fall has to be for it to be considered a collapse and over what time period. A global systemic collapse as framed here is different from much of the word's common usage in relation to the current crisis - a relatively sudden fall in income, a significant rise in unemployment, and a forced shift in a societies' previously held expectations of what the near-to-medium term holds. However, the operational fabric continues to operate as before, supermarkets are re-supplied, money works, and a diversity of complex goods and services can operate.

Rather, drawing upon section III.1, it can be argued that collapse happens when a system crosses a tipping point and is driven by negative feedbacks into a new and structurally and qualitatively different state, one with a different arrangement between parts and a fall in complexity. The operational fabric could cease to operate and the systems that are adaptive to maintaining our welfare could cease or be severely degraded. As a society, we would have to do other things in other ways to establish our welfare. Functions and specialities, a diversity of goods and services, and complex interdependencies would be lost.

Korowicz goes on to describe what such a collapse might look like (again, emphasis mine):

We consider one scenario to give a practical dimension to understanding supply-chain contagion: a break-up of the Euro and an intertwined systemic banking crisis. Simple argument and modeling will point to the likelihood of a food security crisis within days in the directly affected countries and an initially exponential spread of production failures across the world beginning within a week. This will reinforce and spread financial system contagion. It is also argued that the longer the crisis goes on, the greater the likelihood of its irreversibility. This could be in as little as three weeks. . . .

Consider briefly a 'soft-to-mid-core' (Spain, Italy.....Belguim, France?), disorderly default and contagion in the Eurozone, coupled, as would be likely, with a systemic global banking crisis. There would be bank runs, bank collapses and fear of bank collapses; uncertainty over the next countries to default and re-issue currency; plummeting bond markets; a global market collapse; and a global credit crunch. Counter-party risk would affect trade, just as it would affect the inter-bank market. However, production and supply-chain networks are far more complex than the banking and shadow banking system.

Within days there could be a food security crisis, health crisis, production stoppages and so on within the most directly impacted countries, and the number of such countries would rise. Those with access to cash would clear out supermarkets in panic. Many would immediately suffer as we now hold little cash and have small home inventories. Supermarkets could not re-stock, and even if they could, there would be declining availability of fuel for transporting goods. Hospitals adapted to JIT would also run low on critical supplies and staff might not be able to get to work. Pandemic modeling has shown that removing at random only small numbers of a population can cause cascading failure of functions across an economy. Lack of inputs and people required for production would also begin to shut factories within days. Governments, emergency services, and the public would by and large be shell-shocked. Without serious pre-planning, a government would be unable even to provide emergency feeding stations for weeks. There would be growing risk to critical infrastructure.

Imports and exports would collapse in the most exposed countries and fall for those at risk. It would also cut global trade as Letters of Credit dried up. The longer the crisis went on the more countries would be at risk. But once the contagion took hold, it would be very difficult for the ECB/ IMF or governments to stop; it would be a large-scale cascading failure at the heart of the global financial system.
Okay, so what do I think? First of all, there is a part of me that is saying, “Who are you to have an opinion? You don’t know Jack Shit about any of this,” and the other part of me is saying, “What, am I just supposed to take things on faith and swallow them whole? And if I’m going to do that, which camp speaks the Word of Truth? Should I just eenie-meanie-minie-mo, grab an opinion and away I go?

So at the risk of exposing the depths of my ignorance, I’ll wade in. I believe K’s analysis of our systemic risk is solid. Anyone that is paying attention can see that our globalized financial system and economy are zooming down a one-way street that ends in a brick wall cleverly camouflaged as Endless Prosperity Blvd. I’ve been aware of this for some time -- because our financial structure is based on ever increasing levels of debt and because the ability to service debt is dependent on growth and because there are real world physical constraints to growth, a crash is inevitable -- the biggest question becomes ‘when?’ and the logical answer seems to be ‘soon.’ It is obvious that the world’s financiers are attempting in every way they can to shore up those countries most at risk and will continue to do so for as long as it works. It is often said that they are merely kicking the can down the road, but no one knows how long before they reach the dead end. In the meantime, confidence in the game they are playing keeps the market afloat.

So what happens when kicking the can only results in a stubbed toe? Things will start to unravel, international banks and agencies will do what they can to contain the damage, and the optimism of Wall Street will be strained and perhaps broken. The market is so volatile these days with all the instantaneous trades courtesy of our whiz-bang toys that panic can spread faster than an Australian wildfire. Not that it will, but that it might. I am not sure K is right, though, when he describes the speed at which the supply chain might break apart. It seems to me that our shared mythology, the one that says all problems are temporary and that growth will resume any minute now, is so strong that it will carry us for much longer than one might expect. Some how, some way, we will patch things together and make them work. For a while, at least. Although the supply lines will eventually begin to fray, factories will stay open as long as they can, international trade will limp along, and businesses may shed some marginal employees but won’t close entirely until they have no other choice. At some point, however, our unfounded optimism is going to founder -- and as the waves of a new reality begin to wash over us, panic will set in. I just don’t think it will happen as fast as K predicts. Neither do I believe that our infrastructure will begin to crumble within the time frame he suggests.

I also don’t believe that any government would be able to do much to prevent the collapse. JMG wrote about the measures taken by the US government back in the 30’s and I don’t see how they would be effective today. First of all, banks are no longer national but international and have more real power than that of most nation states. Secondly, seizing control of a bank drowning in toxic debt does nothing to enrich a government, nor does, quite frankly, the seizing of gold even if one could do that these days without inciting armed rebellion; we haven’t been on a gold standard for a long, long time. Even assuming that a government would have the political will to respond in a timely manner -- or that any government action would be seen as a legitimate use of authority in today’s anti-government climate -- how could a government, itself already trillions of dollars in debt, restore viability to a crashing financial system?

So I seem to come out somewhere between Korowicz and JMG -- and I don’t think they’re really all that far apart to begin with.

Assuming that what we are speaking of is a collapse, most likely in the financial sector, that leads inexorably to a new stasis however unstable and temporary, I do think it is a matter of time. The questions then become how soon, how fast, how bad? As for how soon, my best guess is anytime between later today and three years from now. If I’m generous, I’ll give it five. As for how fast, I think the first stage, the collapse of the financial sector, which includes Wall Street, could happen within hours of something triggering a national default and/or a panicked sell-out, or it could drag on for months with heroic efforts being made to contain the damage. As for how bad, I really don’t know. In part, it depends on timing. If things fall apart over a period of months, and if it is summer and local foods are available, and if there is a steady downturn between now and then that accustoms folks to survival thinking and creative solutions, we might not see actual starvation, at least not here in America -- there is already starvation in this world, just not here.... If it happens with a sis-boom-bah, during the winter when heat and food are more critical, and if there are natural disasters on top of an economic melt-down, we could see a more pronounced denouement.

So now that I've hashed through it all, yet one more time, does anything change -- or is this just a self-indulgent intellectual version of a dystopic video game?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Ought to Know Better

We went out in the boat today, and as we motored in, we passed the houses of friends and neighbors. Some of the houses look more like hotels than homes, and the boats moored to their private docks are yacht class. If I were a casual observer, I might think, "Damn, these people have it made!" The casual observer wouldn't know that Larry is in a battle for his life with leukemia, or that Steve's wife, weakened by MS, died when she was swept from their house during hurricane Ivan. They wouldn't know that Eddie's promising son found his life permanently altered when a car crash left him brain damaged and unable to earn his own way in the world. It struck me how easy it is to judge, and misjudge. Not that I don't do it, but that I ought to know better.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One of Those Days

I once had a friend named Donna. Donna and I used to take long walks in the woods and talk about anything and everything. She was as interested as I in everything from world affairs to the paranormal; she was extremely intelligent and well-informed. When Donna spoke, I listened, and when I spoke, she listened. We argued and disagreed and together created new perspectives and gained new insights that changed how we saw the world. That changed us.

Some days I miss Donna more than words can say. This is one of those days.

Mulling It Over

John Michael Greer had another thought-provoking post this week, and I am still mulling it over. This is actually his second response to a paper by David Korowicz, which I am still in the process of reading. The first time around, JMG had this to say:

Korowicz argues, if I may oversimplify his careful prose, that the current global financial system is a tottering mess that could come apart at the seams in no time flat, and it’s under stress already from a variety of factors, including peak oil. If and when it comes apart, he suggests, the entire structure of letters of credit and currency flows that supports global trade in little luxuries like enough food to eat could quite readily come apart also, producing a fiscal cardiac arrest that could shatter supply chains and bring most nations’ economies to a screeching halt in a matter of days or weeks.

Is this a plausible scenario? It’s considerably more than that, for a close equivalent happened in late 1932 and early 1933 in the United States.... as banks folded one after another, the basic trust that makes a credit-based economy function evaporated; nobody could be sure if the bank that received their deposits or their loans would still be there the next day, bank runs followed, and the whole economy shuddered to a halt....

Could that happen again, on a global scale? You bet. It’s the sequel, though, that didn’t get into Korowicz’ analysis. Faced with the imminent reality of national collapse, the US government did not sit on its hands, which is what those with the capacity to do something are always required to do in fast collapse theories. Instead, it temporarily nationalized the entire American banking system, declared that all assets held by the banks were owned by the government until further notice, made private ownership of gold by US citizens illegal, and ordered every scrap of gold in the country much bigger than a wedding ring sold to the government at a fixed, below-market price, with stiff legal penalties for anybody who tried to hang onto their gold stash....Flush with seized bank assets and confiscated gold, the government poured money into the nationalized banks, which could then meet every demand for funds, stopping the panic in its tracks.

It is this argument that JMG continues in this week's post:

Korowicz is quite correct in suggesting that the current global financial system is a house of cards that could easily come crashing to the ground, taking a quadrillion dollars or so of imaginary wealth with it and dealing the world’s industrial societies a staggering blow.

It’s purely his suggestion that this could cause the global economy to freeze up, not for weeks, but for years or even longer, that strays out of the realm of realism into territory mapped out well in advance by Western civilization’s penchant for apocalyptic fantasies. In the real world, of course, governments facing sudden financial collapse don’t just sit on their hands and make plaintive sounds; they take action, and there are plenty of actions they can take ... and while it’s always popular to say "It’s different this time," I hope my readers recall how often, and inaccurately, these same words get used in the not unrelated field of speculative bubbles.

At the risk of sounding like another deranged adherent of apocalyptic fantasies, I am going to say, "It's different this time."

It's different this time because of scale. Everything is bigger and more connected and more interdependent now than it was in the 1930's; it may be a tired maxim, but true nonetheless, that the bigger they are, the harder they fall -- which is the whole concept behind 'too big to fail.' The failure of a giant creates a chain reaction that can quickly devolve into collateral damage on a previously unknown scale.

It's different this time because of the speed at which things happen now -- the current speed of international communications would have been inconceivable a few decades ago. Take, for example, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. At that time, extraordinary measures were taken to share the event with Canadian subjects:

Millions across Britain watched the coronation live, while, to make sure Canadians could see it on the same day, RAF Canberras flew film of the ceremony across the Atlantic Ocean to be broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the first non-stop flights between the United Kingdom and the Canadian mainland. In Goose Bay, Labrador, the film was transferred to a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-100 jet fighter for the further trip to Montreal. In all, three such voyages were made as the coronation proceeded.
source Wikipedia

Contrast that to someone today using a smartphone to record the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and posting it on Facebook moments later.

And last, but not least, it's different this time because of the now precarious state of governmental legitimacy, a topic which JMG also addresses at length in this week's post:

A successful political system of any kind quickly establishes, in the minds of the people it rules, a set of beliefs and attitudes that define the political system as the normal, appropriate, and acceptable form of government for that people. That sense of legitimacy is the foundation on which any enduring government must build, for when people see their government as legitimate, no matter how appalling it appears to outsiders, they will far more often than not put up with its excesses and follow its orders.

So the question becomes, if the financial sector were to fail, and if the government were to attempt to react massively and quickly enough to stave off economic collapse, would gun-toting Tea Partiers hand over their gold and allow their banks to be nationalized by an Obama administration? Or a Romney administration, for that matter? Or would we have an armed revolt just-in-time to ensure cascading disaster?

Not sure you're right on this one, JMG.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More Garbage

I really don't care that Ann Romney's horse is in the Olympics. I'm not even interested in whether or not Mitt Romney continued to work at Bain Capital, shipping jobs overseas, after he said that he had left. And if I never see his tax returns, that's okay with me. As for Obama's remark "You didn't build that," it was awkwardly put, but so what? And much as we would like a scape goat, the slow job growth really isn't his fault.

What I care about are the issues no one ever mentions -- climate change and the way it is already affecting our weather, the dire consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels, the horrific environmental impacts of fracking for gas, mountain scalping, and the wringing of black sludge from tar sands -- irreversible impacts not only to the land itself, but to our waters, turning one of our most valuable resources into toxic cesspools. I care about our dying oceans, our melting glaciers, and the growing hole in the ozone layer. I care about corporations gone amuck -- buying our elections, writing our laws, shutting down competition, controlling our food sources and engineering food itself. I care about the erosion of civil rights -- the violations of our freedom to assemble peaceably, to speak freely, to bargain collectively, and to vote democratically. I care about the legacy of our generation and I care that no one, NO ONE, is talking about these things on a national stage.

When are we going to get real?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Smoke and The Dollar Store

James Howard Kunstler has a way with words. I often find him a bit overbearing and overblown, but I always admire the craftsman's work. Having lived in Europe for most of my adult life, I found today's post exceptionally entertaining and his images incredibily apt.

That Old Martial Spirit

By James Howard Kunstler
on August 6, 2012 8:48 AM

A great orgasm shuddered through the money world last week when Mario Draghi paused between scamorza con arugula tidbits to remark that the European Central Bank (ECB) would stop at nothing to keep the financial blood of Europe circulating. Of course you wonder how many pony glasses of Campari he knocked back before that whopper came out. The markets squirmed with glee. I suppose it feels good to have quantities of smoke blown up your ass.

This is the last month of the Great Pretending over on that lovely continent of exquisitely preserved towns and the corniche winding down to the crashing green sea, and the lunch table under the grape arbor... I mean, compared to, say, the universal slum vista of tilt-up, strip-mall America along the deafening highways, with the wig shops, tattoo dens, pawn shacks, dollar stores, parking lot swap-meets, and supersized citizens waddling through the greasy 100-degree heat of a new climate regime. When things blow, as you may be sure they will, at least the Europeans will sink amid all that loveliness while the American experience will be more like getting flushed down a toilet.

Check, Please

Good article on 'the power of negative thinking,' though I do think it might be more accurately entitled 'the dangers of positive thinking.' Maybe not quite the same impact . . .

Wearing rose-colored glasses, wallowing in wishful thinking, expecting to get something for nothing used to all be considered the behavior of fools -- nowadays, the positive thinking/visualization mindset pervades our culture to the point where realism is suspect and any suggestion of negative consequences is regarded as an invitation to disaster. We are exhorted to avoid any and all dire predictions lest they become self-fulfilling prophecies of doom. Time for a reality check.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Case in Point

As I was saying . . .

For the Love of Country

Here in America, we have been throwing away our freedoms in a vain hope that life will somehow be safer. We have sent our children to kill and be killed in wars against countries that were no real threat to our nation's autonomy. We have become distracted by the bread and circuses of celebrity scandals, mud-raking politics, and fear-generated denial of what is real and true. We have become a nation consumed with consuming, driven by a sense of entitlement, and convinced that our actions have no consequences.

I am an American. I feel extremely fortunate to have been born in a land where I can write these words without fear of government reprisal. I am deeply thankful for the abundance and privilege that are mine as a citizen of this country. It is with a grateful heart that I make these criticisms. Love of country is not waving flags and shouting "We are the greatest." Love of country is the everyday actions of people who care enough to face the truth even when it is unpleasant.

The first step towards solving a problem is acknowledging that there is one . . .

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rumors of Alligators

My backyard was teeming with wildlife this morning -- I had a rare glimpse of a beach rat that shares our premises. Our neighbors are appalled that we tolerate his presence, but I find him fascinating. He's rather cute -- he reminds me of an oversized chipmunk, without the stripe, and he and his offspring provide food for the herons and owls. I was truly upset when I saw a heron eat one once, but it is nature's way and I've learned to accept that. The beach rat leaves us alone and we reciprocate in kind.

As I walked out onto our dock, I startled a great blue heron that was wading beneath. He took flight with an indignant squwak and settled on the other side of the canal, regarding me with an annoyed ruffling of feathers. I apologized for having interrupted his breakfast, but couldn't help laughing all the same. With mullet jumping all around, I knew he wouldn't go hungry for long.

A sting ray, one of the larger ones I've seen lately, shot past just below my feet, overturning a small hermit crab in his haste to arrive at some unknown destination. I scanned the waters for other signs of life -- hoping to get a glimpse of the alligator that was spotted in our canal, but there was only the usual suspects -- the tiny pin fish that feed in the shallows and a trio of mullet swimming a tight circle.

Of course, I didn't capture any of it with my camera -- I am too slow, and life mostly too exuberant to smile and say cheese for a rank amateur. I do, however, have pictures I took a few days back of more sedentary neighbors -- a confederate rose that blooms out of season, a heron that perched on the top of our boat lift and was totally indifferent to my presence, and a view of our canal in the morning light.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ships and Boats and Things That Pass in the Night

I'm still playing with the new camera . . . and bemoaning every shot that gets away. These are boats that have sailed or chugged past, brought closer with the power of the telephoto lens. I really, really wanted to capture one of the tug boats at night -- all lit up like a floating Christmas tree -- but all I got were some blurry spots on a black background. I'll keep trying!

The sailboat . . .

the barge . . .

. . . the tug pushing the barge . . .

and the one that got away.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Neighbors

This morning as I went out to sing, I noticed that the Swiss chard that I grow in flower boxes was looking wilted, so I grabbed a watering can and filled it. It wasn't until I started sprinkling that I saw this little fellow:

But the little green guy was not my only surprise -- a male cardinal in all his crimson glory was perched on the wire enjoying the fresh morning breeze. Cardinals are a rare but very welcome sight in our part of the world:

I have been hearing this fellow for several weeks now, but this is the first look I've had:

I'm hoping to get a bit faster on the draw with this camera -- the pictures that got away were the best of all: the red-headed woodpecker in flight with his black and white striped wings stretched wide, the cardinal perched in the oak tree -- the red of his feathers vibrant against the green of the new leaves -- and the osprey that swooped just overhead. Sigh.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Morning Has Broken

Up until now, this blog has been mostly a soapbox -- someplace I could go rant into the Universe and on some level, be heard. But I am feeling the need, of late, to connect to this time and this place and to give thanks for the beauty that surrounds me.

Most mornings, I go out in my pj's and bare feet in the early morning light, and I sing to the world. I sing to the tiny, darting fish in our tea-colored canal, to the solid presence of the old oaks and to the stateliness of the young palms, to the purple martins, and mockingbirds, and blackbirds that flit and soar and fill the day with music, to the rising sun, to the fading moon, to the air that sustains us, to the water that surrounds us, to the color and beauty of the flowers that somehow manage to grow in our sterile white sand, and to all the creatures that share in the life of our planet. I sing in a quiet, croaky voice because I am no singer! But it doesn't matter what I sound like, what matters is the peace and joy that I find in the act of giving thanks and in the greetings that I offer to the day.

Today, I took my camera with me. It is a brand, spanking new camera with more knobs and menus and settings than I will ever understand, much less use. But it takes great pictures even when set to 'ignoramus.' These few images, these small fractions of the greater glory, are what I wish to share today. This is for You, Mother Gaia -- and to You, I send my love in deep gratitude for Your awesome and inspiring beauty.

Classical Interlude

The other day, I shared some of the gick that gets posted on my Facebook page, so today I'll share another of the good bits. The looks on all their faces was so sweet and wonderful that it made me cry. There is so much good out there . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We Are Stardust

Trying to bring my blood pressure back down. This is a beautiful piece and as I watched, I felt something inside me shift:

Facebook Can be Hazardous to Your Health

I admit to being a Facebook junkie. The first thing I do each morning is make myself a cup of tea and log onto Facebook. I never know what I will find there -- if I'm lucky, it will be photos and videos of my two beautiful grandchildren, or news from an old friend. Most days, however, it is a collection of fascinating snapshots of our world -- literally, as in photos of the beauty around us -- or metaphorically, as in news, both hopeful and dire. There are stories of the devastation of Canada's boreal forests, or of man's cruelty to animals, or of the relentless exploitation of indigenous tribes that leave me horrified and heartsick. There are stories of great compassion, love, and change that leave me uplifted and hopeful. Two stories claimed me today -- and they are related.

The first was the outcome of the vote in North Carolina this week. Sixty-one percent of the voters in that state voted to amend their constitution to define legally recognized unions in the strictest of terms. NCmountainwoman had this to say on her blog:

As you might imagine, the opinion pages of the newspapers have been filled with comments. It is of interest that every single pro-amendment letter included the words "God" or "The Bible." Honest...I looked at each one. Every single pro-amendment television ad also included those words and many quoted scriptures. It's always useful to find a good sound bite and "Protect the Sanctity of Marriage" was a winner. . . .

My criticism is that religion should not have been the driving force in this vote. And it was. Our own church included "Vote Yes" literature in every Sunday Bulletin for the past two months. Most of the full-page advertisements supporting the amendment were paid for by religious groups.
Our next stop is a 'sermon' by Jesse Lee Peterson, a Tea Party activist and frequent guest on Fox News . . .

I leave it to you to connect the dots . . .

Based on my current blood pressure, it appears that my addiction to Facebook is beginning to impact my health, and not in a good way.

(On a side note . . . who in H*** does Rev. Peterson think these 'whores' and 'sluts' are having sex WITH? Obviously not with other women, or they would have no need of birth control. Okay, blood pressure just went up another point or two!)

Not the Only One

Ahh, so I'm not the only one . . .

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fanning the Flames

Okay, I admit it. I'm a fan and I'm still trying to figure out why. Yes, the books have all the classic elements -- suspense, a love triangle, quirky characters, and a strong sense of time and place. But there's more . . . and a comment by a neighbor last night sent me off on the trail.

“Kids killing kids! Now that’s a great premise for a movie,” he sniffed.

Well, when you put it that way, it does sound just plain ugly. So why do I like the series so much? And why do I feel obliged to defend it?

First of all, I understand that premise -- we lived it. Back in the sixties, we didn’t call it a reaping, we called it a lottery. All boy children on their 18th birthday were required to submit their names and were issued a number -- if your number came up, they handed you a gun and sent you to an arena called Vietnam where you and other children were forced to kill or be killed. As a boy child, you could volunteer to go, but you could not say, “No,” not without incurring the wrath of Uncle Sam.

There are differences, of course, between the Viet Nam era and the Hunger Games -- I’m not saying there aren’t. I’m just saying there are striking similarities. There are also striking similarities between the wasteful excesses of the pampered Capitol citizens and the wasteful excesses of pampered Americans. Most of us here in the US of A have the wherewithal and privilege of buying strawberries in January or asparagus in August, of tossing uneaten food in the trash, and of spending our money on cosmetic surgery -- while men, women and children in countries being exploited across the globe are dying of treatable diseases and starvation. I don’t know if the author of the book intended to draw these parallels, but they strike me all the same.

However, the books, and the movie, are not about children killing children, or even about unearned privilege or exploitation. Those are elements of the setting, but they are not the theme. The books are about love, compassion and courage. When those three elements come together, as they do in Katniss and Peeta, something unstoppable ignites, and tyranny goes down in flame.

The author of the series, Suzanne Collins, is apparently reluctant to give interviews -- and it is my guess that she wishes to avoid direct questions about the layers of meaning of what is not, after all, a simple story. There are the names, for instance -- Gale being a strong wind that can be indiscriminately destructive. Peeta, or Peter, is the rock. Snow, as in snow-job? Coin, as in the corruption that comes when money is king? As I re-read the books, I find more examples of the mirror Collins is holding up, inviting us to see ourselves more clearly. If what we find is disturbing, then we need to dig a bit deeper, down to our inner core of love, compassion and courage. It is there that the true Self rests, the one that resists being changed by the Game.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gaia's Gift

The sky was moody this morning; pearlized clouds veiled the rising sun as seabirds pirouetted on wing-tip to the chorus of song-bird trills. The air was cool and damp, with a hint of dew. The deep purple of wild spiderwort communed with the butter yellow of meadow beauties, attracting the attention of a fuzzy bumblebee. As I watched the world awaken, the satin waters of the Intracoastal were parted by the rolling rhythm of two sleek dolphin backs, and the sun suddenly shone forth, overlaying a path of gold on the silver sea. It was a gift from Mother Gaia, and a message that all is right with the world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fairies and Angels and Other Fair Folk

My last post was so doomy and gloomy and yicky sticky that I thought I would offer an antidote. Today I came across this lovely idea and intend to try it out.

I'm not going to cut and paste and ruin a perfectly good story. You'll just have to read it for yourself!

Walk a Crooked Mile

There is so much going on in the world and on the internet right now that it's hard to absorb even a tiny fraction of it, much less find time to form an intelligent opinion, but I'm going to try.

A while back, I posted a couple of posts on Kony 2012, but since that time, I've learned a lot more. This refutation of the video seems more complete and thoughtful than most: Top Ten Ways to Tell Kony is Phony.

So I walk away from all of this chastened. In the world of instantaneous, global communication, it is increasingly difficult to discern what is real and true and what is not.

I had another brush with the obscurity of truth a day or two ago. I visited the website of Tom Brown, Jr., a man who has taught thousands of people wilderness survival skills, reverence for the earth, and awareness of Spirit. Tom is not a person who is easily hoodwinked, nor is he one to panic, so it was with a shock that I read an email he sent out in November of 2011. In that email, he references
a warning from NASA about the major solar flare storm that will batter the Earth in 2012 along with several other related reports and research papers. A quote from one of the papers reads as follows; “A ‘Space Katrina’ coronal mass ejection would devastate modern civilization, bringing down our power grids and frying satellites en masse. Food would rot, trains wouldn’t move, traffic would be gridlocked, phones and the internet wouldn’t work, the financial markets would be devastated, planes and ships would be lost or wrecked.” Many other articles warn of looting, gang wars, rioting, starvation, disease, and martial law. Consider that the major solar storm of 1859 turned 2/3rds of world's sky red this is even more disturbing for they forecast this storm to be much bigger.

So I went to NASA to see what was actually being said, and I found only this:
Q: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?
A: Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.

That's not to say there are not a lot of panicky websites out there claiming that NASA did indeed make that prediction, and that specifically, "award winning astrophysicist Alexia Demetria" had been the spokesperson. I could not find any reference to this elusive astrophysicist, however, at NASA or anywhere else.

So the takeaway from all of this is that the internet is a powerful teacher and that one of the most important lessons it teaches is skepticism. I'm still learning!

While I'm here, I am going to link another video. I cannot verify the accuracy of the information therein. If anyone knows another side to this story, I would love to hear it, for this is the stuff that nightmares are made of. It is hard to believe that mankind has become this depraved . . .

Friday, March 16, 2012

As the World Evolves, Even Money Becomes Sacred

"Within every institution of our civilization, no matter how ugly or corrupt, there is the germ of something beautiful: the same note at a higher octave. Money is no exception. Its original purpose is simply to connect human gifts with human needs, so that we might all live in greater abundance."

"The story of our separation from each other and from nature is becoming obsolete, is no longer true, is generating crises that are unsolvable… At each crisis moment we have a collective choice: do we give up the game and join the people, or do we hold on even tighter? It’s up to us to determine at what point this wakeup will happen." Charles Eisenstein

Interesting concept . . . see the webpage here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Take That, JH Kunstler

I really ought to be more grateful to James Howard Kunstler. It was, after all, his book, The Long Emergency, that introduced me to the concept of Peak Oil. What's more, he is a master wordsmith who can paint more color into a single sentence than anyone else I know. I was a big fan . . . and still am to some extent . . . until I read World Made by Hand and came to the conclusion that he doesn't seem to think much of women. His female characters are either weak and dependent women who are only good for home cooking and sex or else sex sirens who lure men into compromised positions (yes, he does seem to be obsessed with women as sex objects. . . ) The other problem I have with JHK is his virulent antipathy to suburbs and the people who live there. I think he is wrong there, and have stated so before. Now I have proof of what is possible . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Toast to the Authentic Self

In the article linked in yesterday's post, Guy McPherson and Sherry Ackerman talk about authenticity -- about living the truth of one's being. Today, Rima Staines posted an elegant tribute to an exceptional man. As I read Rima's loving words, it struck me, "This is what an authentic man looks like! This is the potential we all share" -- not that we will all live on the edge of elfdom, weaving lives from the elements of nature and strands of fantasy, but that we each have a brilliant core that is unique, and loving, and endlessly creative. Rima's words elicited the image of an entire planet inhabited by people who feed their inner fires, who live from the core of their beings, and who honor and love the web of life. That is the promise of authenticity.

Thank you, Rima, for sharing this amazing person with us all. And thank you, Thomas, for giving us a glimpse of our human potential. Once the encrustations that dim our lights are chipped away, the core star, the authentic self, may shine forth with a power as yet unrealized. Here's to you both . . . and to us all!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I found an interesting article today -- somewhat of a duet between Guy McPherson and Sherry Ackerman.

I don't agree with everything they say; to my mind, they state the current situation in overly harsh, critical terms. I don't think we are a bunch of robots; I think most of us are well-meaning, loving individuals who are being distracted by the smoke and mirrors of 'civilized' life. Even the blindest, most distracted among us generally have someone they love, and that love may very well be contributing to the evolution of mankind as essentially as the words of McPherson and Ackerman. Maybe the reason there are so many of us in the world right now is that in order to raise our collective vibration to the next level, it takes this many hearts loving their children, this many hearts loving their pets, this many hearts loving even their favorite sports teams, to reach the critical tipping point.

I also think their assessment of our education system is too one-sided -- I think we do a better job of teaching kids to be articulate and thinking than they give us credit for. Having taught for many years myself, I know that most teachers out there are doing their level best to educate the whole child; we don't always succeed, but we try.

Those critiques aside, this dialogue promises the possibility of a much brighter, more authentic future and is, overall, quite heartening and well-worth the reading time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Feeding Your Mitochondria

I heard about this diet through Oriah Mountain Dreamer, a woman who has suffered from chronic migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome for many years. After switching to this diet, she has experienced her first 'normal day' in quite some time. We all know we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, less grains and dairy, and choosing grass fed meats, but here is more proof of just how powerful, how essential those choices may be:

Friday, March 9, 2012

On the Side of Angels

Okay, there's this whole Kony 2012 phenomenon going on and I'm finding it fascinating. There's The Invisible Children video, which I posted yesterday, and there's the controversy surrounding the organization, its aims and its finances. The Daily What sums it up well with somewhat of a rebuttal here.

I love it when I find an opinion of mine challenged by intelligent, informed dissent, and the article in The Daily What does exactly that. I love intelligent, informed dissent (as opposed to the more common canned spin that masquerades as opinion) because it challenges me to rethink my position -- perhaps to realize where I've been mistaken, perhaps to clarifiy and solidify my original thought. And so I've waded through the arguments pro and con and come out with the following:

The finances of the organization don't matter nearly as much to me as the message -- and the message is that love and compassion can change the world -- that by banding together in a common cause, we can help alleviate some of the pain and suffering of those who are without hope.

If we start by taking a stand against one man, just one man, and if we hold just that one man accountable for his crimes against humanity, then the message we send is, "Bullies beware. You, too, may be hunted down and made to pay for the lives you have destroyed." On the other hand, if we stand by and do nothing, then the message we send is that the world doesn't care -- the tyrants and bullies can do as they wish, no matter how horrific and destructive, and get away with it.

Could we be making a mistake? Could we be arming one group to take down another, creating more conflict in the long run? Maybe. Prudence suggests that any action should be well-considered and as minimal as humanly possible. There are no guarantees about anything in life . . . you do what you think best and hope it works out. Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong, that's a risk we all take. But doing nothing is just as risky as doing something -- if we err, let it be on the side of the angels.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nothing is More Powerful Than an Idea Whose Time Has Come

There are so many things piled up in my head right now that I'm not sure where to begin.

Maybe I could begin with The Hunger Games, the popular series that I am currently reading. Maybe it has to do with seeing parallels between the United States and "The Capitol" -- both of which exploit others in order to maintain their luxurious life-styles, both of which maintain the status quo militarily, both of which have citizens that are largely clueless and don't really understand the human cost of their privileged status.

Then there is the video I just watched --


and all the layers of resonance. There is the 2012 connection and the hope that I cherish that this year may be the year in which humanity changes course. There is the outpouring of love and the recognition of how we are all connected that is at the core of how things have to change. There is the call to the young people who will be the ones who lead the change. And there is even James Inhofe, a man who has led the global climate change denialists, taking a stand against injustice and earning my love and respect for the first time. And then there is Kony, symbolic of man's inhumanity to man, perpetrator of his own Hunger Games, only 30,000 times worse.

Watch. Join. Send love. And when March 23 comes around, go watch The Hunger Games and understand how we are all in this together.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Everything is Connected to Everything Else

I was just thinking about this earlier this morning -- well, not about the Pauli exclusion principle, but about how everything is connected to everything else and about how when we do harm to Other, we do harm to ourselves. If we truly understood that concept, wars and eco-destruction and exploitation would be unthinkable.

All You Need is Love

I've received more guidance related to my last post. As I am travelling at this time, it has taken me a while to post the expanded version -- in the meantime, I'm finding out how difficult it is to follow the advice I've been given. I guess any new skill needs practice!

'Send love.’ It’s such a simple message -- one that has been around forever. It is the message of every major religion in the world -- from Paganism to Evangelical Christianity. It is the subject of innumerable songs; the Beatles did it well -- two of their songs have been singing through my consciousness all morning long. The message is so pervasive as to be trite, and in this case, trite is oh so true. It is a message that transcends all cultures, all walks of life, all economic classes from the poor and starving to the mega rich. It is the message of the 100%. It is a message that I have always understood but I never got until now, and now that I have it, it has changed the way I see everything. I no longer see my neighbors as shallow sheep of the consumer industry, wreaking unknowing havoc upon generations yet unborn, I see them as beings with great capacity for love. Even the moustache-twirling executives of Monsanto and Exxon are beings with great capacity for love.

I not only see people differently, I now know how to talk to them, even those with very different value systems and interests -- just ask them about the people and pets and things they love. Ask them about the music they love or their favorite time of the year. Ask them about their favorite places in nature, or about the nicest thing anyone ever did for them, or about their favorite teacher or vacation or childhood memory. Ask them about what they most love to do -- and if what they most love to do is shop for shoes, ask them about that. Love does not judge. It is not about changing others -- it is not about changing their minds or opening their eyes, it is about keeping the focus on love, and love does not judge. Bring the focus to love every chance you get, not only in your own internal mind chatter, but in every place and time, in every conversation, in every interaction. It is about that eliciting that special expression -- the sweet smile, the gentle glow -- that one has when talking about the Beloved. Should you find yourself confronted with negativity, in yourself or others, greet it with compassion and look for the Love from which it springs. “I know you must be worried about your grandson. You love him and want the best for him.” “It must be frustrating to work for someone like that. You are so dedicated to doing what’s right for the customer. You must really love what you do.”

We all have the capacity to love but that capacity is rarely fully realized; the ability to send love is something that improves with practice. So send it every chance you get. Send it until it becomes as natural as breathing and as constant as the beating of your heart. Send it to people and plants and the food you eat and the sheets on your bed.

As I made the bed this morning, I sent my love to the cotton plants from which those sheets had been made. As I did that, I realized that not only had the cotton plants contributed to those sheets, but a long list of humans as well -- the farmer who grew and harvested the cotton, the truck driver who took the cotton to the mill to be processed, the mill workers, the factory workers who wove the cotton into sheets, the dyers who printed the sheets with flowers, the workers who packaged the sheets, the truck drivers who drove the sheets to the store, the stockers who put the sheets on the shelf, the cashier who rang up the purchase. Then there were all the machines involved -- machines designed and made by man -- and all the fossil fuels expended -- fossil fuels created through a partnership of Mother Earth and Father Sun. In sending my love, I caught a brief glimpse of the miracles that surround us disguised as humble sheets and other everyday objects. Love, it seems, is not only for the beneficiary -- it is the gateway to joy and a course in miracles.

When I finally realized the impact of this message and its corollary -- that by bringing more awareness of love into the world, we change everything, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. And then I realized that the guidance I received is being sent to every soul upon this planet -- the secret of 2012 is that this is the year when Love lifts us all to the next level and we begin to heal. It is not my task to spread the word; it is my task to send Love.

Here is to all of us, human and otherwise, who inhabit Mother Gaia; here’s to humble sheets, to everyday objects, to joy and miracles, and to Love.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

With Love from Me to You

Yesterday, I watched a video by Guy McPherson, The Myth of Sustainability. It's long, but well-worth the time. McPherson talks about the challenges we face in terms of climate change, peak oil, and other apex moments. I haven't kept up with the latest in the climate change department, so this video came as a real shock -- it brought home to me just how dire things really are. The models that predict how hot the world is going to get and how soon have changed dramatically in the past couple of years -- while they were originally predicting 2 degrees by 2100, they are now saying we could heat up to something like 6 degrees by 2050. I may not have the numbers right, but the risk of human extinction is alive and well and growing exponentially. That reality, if the predictions are correct, puts anything I personally might do into the context of futile, or so it might seem. So I am hoping with all the hope that’s in me that the mystics are right and that we will experience an evolutionary jump this year -- a jump that enables us to heal the wounds we have created.

Last night as I channeled Reiki through my heart chakra, I thought about the challenges our world faces. If an evolutionary jump is our only real hope, then what is my role in all of this? Why am I even here? The answer that came to me was, "To aid in the transition by raising your own vibrations." “And how does one do that?” I wondered in frustration. And the response was immediate and clear, “Through love. Love is the higher vibration you seek. Focus on love. Send love to your children and your grandchildren. Send love to the trees and the mountains. Send love to the people who are so ignorant and misguided that they do not understand the damage they do. Send love to the people who are being sacrificed in the name of industrialism and progress. Send love to the politicians who are sleep-walking our world into chaos. Send love to the dirty, polluted places of earth. And send love to the beautiful, pristine places that remind you of what a fantastically wonderful planet you are fortunate enough to live upon.”

Send love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

This and That

Just a few this's and that's that deserve to be passed along:
With a stockpile of salvaged, old growth redwood fencing, he [Jay Nelson] recently built a tiny studio for his friend, and neighbor, Lana to use as a home office. It's just under 100 square feet and that means it's small enough so that San Francisco doesn't require a permit.

This via Hank Wesselman
Introduction to Sacred Numbers & Creation by Hawaiian Kupuna Hale Makua. Filmed in June 1998. Produced by the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network.

Just for fun, the Swedish chef of Sesame Street fame makes popcorn.

And last but definitely not least, There's No Tomorrow -- a comprehensive overview of the challenges we face presented in a thirty minute animation. I DO wish they had come up with a different title and I DO wish they had spent more time on what the future may look like . . . and presented it in a more positive light. I'm optimistic about our future. I don't believe we are going to be sentenced to lives of hard labor -- I believe that as we reconnect with nature and community, that as we find ways to live sustainably, and that as we transition from the virtual lives most of us now live to lives of engagement, we will find that we are happier and more alive than we have been for generations. I believe we will awaken as if from a hypnotic state and find that life is good.

That's not to say that the transition won't be rough . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

Something revolutionary is happening these days. I can't quite figure out what it is, or where we are going with it, but I smell it in the air like a storm on the horizon. Maybe we're just coming of age, or maybe we're finally waking up and realizing that we don't have to follow-the-leader. Maybe things have just gotten so muddled that there's no choice but to admit that we're lost and need to take our bearings and head in a different direction. Whatever it is, I am glad for it. Whatever it is can be glimpsed here.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Amazing Time to be Alive

The last time I posted, I was really depressed and angry about the irreparable anthropogenic destruction of our amazingly beautiful, abundant planet . . . but that isn't the whole story. There is a lot of good stuff going on, too -- and it heartens me every time I turn on the computer and read about another individual or group that is out there working toward a better future. So today, I'm sharing a few of the 'positives.’ Some of these are repeats, but well-worth the revisit.

Peak Moment TV is one of my favorites:
An online television series featuring people creating resilient communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future. Programs range from permaculture farms to electric bikes, ecovillages to car-sharing, emergency preparedness to careers for the coming times. As of May 2010, over 170 half-hour programs are available online.

Peak Moment highlights the people here and now who are changing the world. The change we need is not going to trickle down -- it is going to come from the people themselves -- living more sustainably, more authentically, more joyfully, and serving as the role models of a new paradigm. Peak Moment gives us a preview of what that life could be. is another favorite. Paul Wheaton, the self-described dictator of the empire, oversees a network of forums, videos, articles and podcasts. There is more information at Permies than I could absorb in a lifetime, and a wealth of people who have been there and done that and are willing to help anyone who asks. As a resource, it can be a bit overwhelming, but if you want to know about rocket stoves, Hugelkultur, or WOFATI's, this is the place to go!

Then there is the Transition Initiative:
Whether we like it or not, over the next decade or two, we'll be transitioning to a lower energy future - essential because of climate change and inevitable because of diminishing supplies of fossil fuels (particularly oil). There are a variety of possible outcomes depending on whether we stick our heads in the sand or whether we start working for a future that we want. Transition Initiatives, community by community, are actively and cooperatively creating happier, fairer and stronger communities, places that work for the people living in them and are far better suited to dealing with the shocks that'll accompany our economic and energy challenges and a climate in chaos. And here's how they're doing it...

The Transition Initiative brings people together to do what individuals alone cannot do -- transform entire neighborhoods, towns, and even cities. It addresses concerns such as zoning laws and codes, the commons, public transportation, and local government.

Some of the good stuff has been around for some time, now. An old-time favorite of mine is Michael Reynolds, the Garbage Warrior who builds beautiful, self-contained living spaces that provide their own energy, water, and food, and are built of cast-off materials. If Earthships are not your thing, Dan Phillips at Phoenix Commotion can show you how to build a house from rescued building materials and what others consider junk. Be sure to check out his Budweiser and Bone houses. Then there is Sunray Kelley who has been creating soaring, whimsical structures for a life-time. And Lloyd Kahn, former contributor to Whole Earth catalog, a seventy-something skate-boarder and homesteader in his own right, is a chronicler extraordinaire of the alternative shelter movement, or Roger Dean who envisions fantasy homes that would not look out of place in a sci fi setting. (There seems to be something about gray-headed men with long hair -- perhaps they are the real embodiment of mythological wizardry).

There is a growing network of organic farmers, farmer’s markets, CSA’s, co-ops, restaurants, and natural food stores. Check out Local Harvest for a place near you. Or go to Global Ecovillage Network for a list of ecovillages, co-housing projects, and sustainable start-ups the world over.

I won’t go into the long list of individual bloggers out there -- people who are documenting the changes in their own lives, both physical and spiritual -- there are just too many. The wealth of inspirational books, DVD’s, CD’s, artwork and photography, is astounding. This is an amazing time to be alive and today, I feel thankful and privileged to be a part of this incredible moment of history.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Forgive Me My Trespasses

I don't know if I am trespassing on forbidden lands by copying and pasting the following article in its entirety, but somehow, I don't think Derrick would mind me giving his words another nudge. I thought about copying just a few lines and providing a link to the longer article, but which lines to choose? Rarely have I read anything more true . . . and so, I am passing this along whole cloth:

The Occupied Wall Street Journal

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That the real, physical world is the source of our own lives, and the lives of others. A weakened planet is less capable of supporting life, human or otherwise.

Thus the health of the real world is primary, more important than any social or economic system, because all social or economic systems are dependent upon a living planet.

It is self-evident that to value a social system that harms the planet’s capacity to support life over life itself is to be out of touch with physical reality.

That any way of life based on the use of nonrenewable resources is by definition not sustainable.

That any way of life based on the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources is by definition not sustainable: if, for example, fewer salmon return every year, eventually there will be none. This means that for a way of life to be sustainable, it must not harm native communities: native prairies, native forests, native fisheries, and so on.

That the real world is interdependent, such that harm done to rivers harms those humans and nonhumans whose lives depend on these rivers, harms forests and prairies and wetlands surrounding these rivers, harms the oceans into which these rivers flow. Harm done to mountains harms the rivers flowing through them. Harm done to oceans harms everyone directly or indirectly connected to them.

That you cannot argue with physics. If you burn carbon-based fuels, this carbon will go into the air, and have effects in the real world.

That creating and releasing poisons into the world will poison humans and nonhumans.

That no one, no matter how rich or powerful, should be allowed to create poisons for which there is no antidote.

That no one, no matter how rich or powerful, should be allowed to create messes that cannot be cleaned up.

That no one, no matter how rich or powerful, should be allowed to destroy places humans or nonhumans need to survive.

That no one, no matter how rich or powerful, should be allowed to drive human cultures or nonhuman species extinct.

That reality trumps all belief systems: what you believe is not nearly so important as what is real.

That on a finite planet you cannot have an economy based on or requiring growth. At least you cannot have one and expect to either have a planet or a future.

That the current way of life is not sustainable, and will collapse. The only real questions are what will be left of the world after that collapse, and how bad things will be for the humans and nonhumans who come after. We hold it as self-evident that we should do all that we can to make sure that as much of the real, physical world remains intact until the collapse of the current system, and that humans and nonhumans should be as prepared as possible for this collapse.

That the health of local economies are more important than the health of a global economy.

That a global economy should not be allowed to harm local economies or land bases.

That corporations are not living beings. They are certainly not human beings.

That corporations do not in any real sense exist. They are legal fictions. Limited liability corporations are institutions created explicitly to separate humans from the effects of their actions—making them, by definition, inhuman and inhumane. To the degree that we desire to live in a human and humane world—and, really, to the degree that we wish to survive—limited liability corporations need to be eliminated.

That the health of human and nonhuman communities is more important than the profits of corporations.

We hold it as self-evident, as the Declaration of Independence states, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it. . . .” Further, we hold it as self-evident that it would be more precise to say that it is not the Right of the People, nor even their responsibility, but instead something more like breathing—something that if we fail to do we die.

If we as a People fail to rid our communities of destructive institutions, those institutions will destroy our communities. And if we in our communities cannot provide meaningful and nondestructive ways for people to gain food, clothing, and shelter then we must recognize it’s not just specific destructive institutions but the entire economic system that is pushing the natural world past breaking points. Capitalism is killing the planet. Industrial civilization is killing the planet.

Once we’ve recognized the destructiveness of capitalism and industrial civilization—both of which are based on systematically converting a living planet into dead commodities—we’ve no choice, unless we wish to sign our own and our children’s death warrants, but to fight for all we’re worth and in every way we can to overturn it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

America the Ugly

Last night, we watched the documentary, "Gasland." It was filmed by a young man who lives in the woods of Pennsylvania and whose very way of life, the woods and streams he loves, may be destroyed if the gas and oil companies have their way. He set off on a journey across America, visiting others who have had to deal with the threats to health and home, the devastation of the environment, the ugliness and pollution of gas extraction. I knew that fracking was a terrible problem, but I didn't know how widespread that damage already is. It is a heart-breaking story -- and the images of America the beautiful being transformed into America the ugly and toxic are really hard to take.

It's not just fracking that is destroying the few pristine places we have left and leaving a polluted mess in their wake. It's mountain top removal in the Appalachian mountains.

And it's laying waste to the ancient boreal forests of Canada to squeeze oil out of the tar sands.

It's thousands of miles of vulnerable pipeline across the heartland of our country and risky oil drilling thousands of feet below the waters of our oceans. It's putting people and nations at risk with dangerously lethal nuclear power plants. We are making changes to this world that can never be undone and we are leaving an incredibly toxic, impoverished world for generations to come. We are like the drug addict who is so hooked that he will do anything -- lie, cheat, steal, murder his own children if he has to -- to support his habit. People are literally dying now to support our energy habit and yet we show no signs of remorse, no inclination to enter rehab.

I don't understand it. I really, really don't. We are turning our earth into an ugly, toxic wasteland. Dick Cheney, who engineered an exemption for gas and oil companies from the clean water and clean air acts, is a human being, and a reasonably intelligent one. Gas and oil executives have to live on this planet, too and I assume they all love their children and grandchildren. Can they not see what they are doing? Have they no concerns for the death and destruction that is their legacy?

I feel like we are living in a bad sci fi movie and there's no way out.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

You've Got to Have a Dream

I like to play the What If? game every once in a while. What if I had a magic wand and could create any kind of future I wished, what would that future look like?

In my fantasy future, permaculture would be the norm -- from its concepts of living simply, working with instead of against nature, and recognizing the interconnections of the natural world -- to its ethics of sustainability, respect for all life, human and otherwise, and culture of sharing. Urban and suburban neighborhoods would be transformed into human scale villages and communities. Existing homes would be retrofitted with straw bale wraps, earth plastered walls and/or living roofs. Recycled bottles and bits of discarded materials would be artistically incorporated into the transformed living spaces, while the ingenuity of creative minds unleashed would find inventive uses for old ‘junk.' Parking lots and driveways would become urbancrete and the liberated land put to better purposes. Malls and big box stores would be dismantled for their building materials or converted to community gathering places. In wooded areas, tree houses connected with aerial walkways and zip lines would free up the forest floor for nature to reclaim its own, while in cleared areas, stone cottages or hobbit houses would gradually be surrounded by food forests and disappear into the landscape. Some people would live and travel in variations of gypsy caravans, facilitating trade while spreading news from one locale to another. Others would travel the coasts in sailing ships or ply the interior waterways in their houseboats. There would be a richness and diversity to life -- no two communities would be quite the same, and solutions, while local, would be respectful of the greater environment.

Okay, it’s just a fantasy -- but it seems to me that the first step in creating a better world is imagining what it would look like. In the words of Rodgers and Hammerstein, "You've got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"

Today, I am thankful for the power of creative imagination and for dreams of a better world. And who knows, dreams do sometimes come true.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Life on a Small Boat

Oriah Mountain Dreamer had an interesting post yesterday, one that I think will be worth recalling in times to come. She talks about not being able to find solid ground under her feet with all that has happened to her in the past eighteen months. Then she came across a passage in a book by Pema Chodron about the futility of trying to do just that. Oriah concludes:

I’ve been thinking of moving through life as less about finding solid ground and more about learning to walk across the deck of a small boat on the open seas. Sometimes the waters are rough, sometimes they’re calm. Sometimes you keep your balance. Sometimes you fall overboard, and hopefully a fellow seafarer is there to throw you a line, as you will throw one to them when the time comes.

Hoping and trying to control the weather or the sea is a futile waste of energy that can wear us out. Learning to walk and rest, dance and dream on a rolling deck is a far more useful skill.

I really like that image -- and so, for today, I am thankful for Oriah, for Pema, and for the bits of wisdom shared across the miles of cyberspace.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worth Repeating

This from Lloyd Kahn. With thanks for a bit of beauty in my day.

Cats Don't Die

I'm beginning to believe that cats, when left to end their lives naturally, do not die in the same way that other animals do. They rapture.

For the past few months, I have watched the health of my nineteen-year-old cat decline inexorably. He lost weight, his fur became increasingly ratty looking, and his teeth started falling out. Then he stopped eating. On Saturday, he was so weak and frail that he could barely walk. I held him in my lap and infused him with Reiki to ease the transition; I told him what a wonderful companion he had been and assured him that life would be even better on the other side. Then I put him in the shade of an azalea bush and gave him some time alone. When I came back to check on him, he was nowhere to be found. I searched the yard, checking all his favored spots. No cat. My husband searched the neighborhood even though it had been years since he had strayed from our vicinity. No cat. The neighbors, out walking their dogs, joined in the search. No cat. I can only conclude that he raptured -- and I know of two other cats that have done the same.

It's been several days now, but I keep checking the front door to see if he might have, after all, found his way home. I know it's irrational, but we are not rational beings for all that we believe ourselves to be. I've been surprised, too, at the depth of the emotional hole I've been thrown into. He was never a lap cat -- always too independent to want to be held -- but he was there, a serene, calm presence in the household -- a shadow who followed me around the yard, watching with curious, non-judgmental eyes, the activities of a human. And he is missed.

Today, I am thankful for nineteen years of cat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do Something an Alive Person Can Do

Ran Prieur had a couple of interesting posts this week. I hope he doesn't mind me taking his words and posting them here.

Personal conservation does nothing to avert climate change. It might, if everyone had their own oil well. You could convert your house to solar, cap your well, and leave your oil in the ground. In practice, all the oil (gas, coal, etc) is sold to whoever wants it, and nobody is talking about leaving the oil in the ground. All of it will be burned, and anything you conserve will just be burned by someone else. Now, there will come a time when the remaining oil is so expensive to extract that renewable energy is cheaper, and then it will be left in the ground for economic reasons. So the best way to reduce climate change is to spend money on renewable energy research, and burn oil to build alternatives to the present system. I'm reminded of the permaculturist who said that five gallon buckets are the best use of fossil fuels. . . .

A few readers have argued against yesterday's post, but I haven't changed my mind. No fossil fuels will be left in the ground until they are outcompeted by other energy sources, and your personal conservation has negligible effect on when this will happen. More generally, I disagree with the moral system in which you imagine your actions being magically multiplied. The test of an action is not what would hypothetically happen if everyone did it, but what will actually happen if you do it.

This is related to a test proposed by Bruce Sterling, and described in this Ribbonfarm post, Acting Dead, Trading Up and Leaving the Middle Class. The idea is that you're wasting your life doing anything that your dead great grandfather, in the grave, can do better than you. You're using fewer resources? Your great grandfather is using no resources, and if he could talk to you, he might say, "Stop doing stuff that a dead person can do. You're alive -- do something that an alive person can do."

Of course, I'm totally in favor of shifting out of the industrial consumption economy, but for a different reason than ecopuritanism. If you learn to live on less energy and less money, then you become stronger. You have more unstructured time to learn internal motivation, more mental space to think independently, and more skills that everyone will need as the industrial economy continues its decline. You're not "saving the world", but becoming a seed of a better world to come.

This is something I struggle with constantly -- I want to live more sustainably but doing so is not always possible and frequently not practical. Sure, I would rather take a train to visit my new grandson in Oregon, but the connections are just not there. So I fly. And I console myself that that jet is going to Oregon with or without me and I might as well take my seat along with everyone else. I hang my clothes to dry -- except when there is a pouring rain, and then I use the dryer -- knowing that waiting a few days for the sun to reappear makes no difference to the global situation but a big difference to our own convenience.

I have noticed that in the world of permaculturists, there is a lot of 'do as I do' advice and I find it off-putting. We don't need more group-think; we need to consider what others have to say, but think for ourselves. Each of us is in a unique situation and we need unique solutions to the challenges of life. I believe in diversity and in a diversity of options. And I like Ran's point -- the idea of doing something an alive person can do -- and instead of trying to save the world, to focus on planting seeds of a better world to come.

Today, I am thankful for all those people out there planting seeds of a better world to come.