Category Archives: wildlife

Pisaster Disaster

starfish_quoteThis starfish wasting syndrome is not funny folks. In case you haven’t heard the story, an epidemic of disease among Pacific starfish, specifically pisaster ochraceous, or Ocher Starfish, the big orange “stars” of beaches and tidepools, is causing them to waste away, fall apart and die in alarming numbers.

alarming numbers
Humans have adored these strangely beautiful creatures for eons, and their popularity hasn’t waned one bit, but within the tidal ecosystem, the ocher starfish is a feared predator, at least to the degree that a bivalve mollusk can experience fear.

fearful-clam-

Frightening or not, the ocher starfish plays the same role in the intertidal zone as lions do on the Serengeti, or that wolves do in Yellowstone National Park. The ocher starfish is the apex predator of Pacific tide-pools. In fact, scientists have learned a lot of what they know about apex predators, like lions and wolves, from studying ocher starfish.

starfish look and learn

Ecology, especially ecosystem ecology, is a very new field of scientific inquiry. It seems hard to believe today, but before World War II, nobody really gave a rats ass about how ecosystems worked. The story of civilization has been one of “plunder first, ask questions later,” and so it goes that the science of studying ecosystems didn’t get under way until well after most of the world’s ecosystems had been severely impacted by industrial exploitation. As a result, we may never know how a healthy ecosystem operates. In a sense, studying ecosystem ecology today, must be a lot like trying to learn about antebellum life and culture by observing a confederate field hospital towards the end of the Civil War.

confederate_field_hospital-600x374

Still the nascent field of ecosystem ecology can teach us a few things about what happens to an ecosystem when you remove a keystone species. In fact, one of the landmark studies in the field of ecosystem ecology looked at the effects of removing just this particular species, pisaster ochraceous from a tide-pool ecosystem.

tidepool anemone-horz

The scientist in this study, Robert T. Paine, marked off two equal sized patches of tide-pool habitat. A couple of times a month, Robert would go to one of those marked off areas, and within it he would meticulously remove every single ocher starfish from that area, and hurl them, as far as he could, into the surf. In the other marked-off area, he did nothing but observe.

bob paine w starfish

Every two weeks or so, for a year, Robert went down to his little marked-off areas and began chucking starfish. Doesn’t this make “ecosystem ecologist” sound like a pretty sweet job? Spend your days splashing around on the beach skipping starfish across the water. How do I sign up? I guess his hands got pretty torn-up from the abrasive skin of starfish, but it still sounds like a pretty good job to me.

good job

Over the course of the year, Paine observed the results of his strange new obsession. In the area where Paine had removed all of the ocher starfish, the ecosystem collapsed. Initially Paine observed dozens of different species living together in that area. Within a year, half of those species had disappeared completely, and those that remained, did so only tenuously. Before long, all but one species completely vanished from the experimental area.

vanished where

The only species left inhabiting the area, had completely taken over. Every square inch of the marked off area was covered with large mussels, mytilus californianus, the ocher starfish’s favorite prey. In absence of starfish, nothing could stop the mussels from squeezing everyone else out of the picture, leaving a desolate monoculture where there was once a thriving, diverse ecosystem.

mussel

Paine published the results of his experiment in 1966 in the scientific journal American Naturalist, and it has become a foundational work in this emerging new field. Paine’s experiment revealed that certain species, specifically predators, have a greater effect on their ecosystem than their numbers suggest.

big impact

Paine’s work with starfish eventually led to federal protection of keystone predators like the spotted owl, and to the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. Paine had demonstrated that predators are critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems, and that without them, complex and diverse ecosystems quickly collapse into desolate wastelands overrun with pests.

desolate-wasteland

Like I said, ecosystem ecology is a new field, and its progress has been greatly compromised by the impacts of industrial exploitation. As a science, ecosystem ecology remains in its infancy, especially regarding marine ecosystems, but when it comes to the question “What happens to intertidal ecosystems when ocher starfish disappear?” thanks to Robert T Paine, science can give us a pretty good answer. Unfortunately the answer itself is neither pretty nor good.pisaster starfish-bob paine


Forget Schools, Declare California “For Adults Only”

adults only beach

I was glad to learn that our local school bond, “Measure N” failed in our recent primary election. Schools seem like a lost cause to me. Really, why should taxpayers waste their money on subsidized daycare for the offspring of people who are too stupid and irresponsible to use birth control. With 7 billion+ people on the planet, I don’t think it makes sense to subsidize parenthood.

child care subsidy

Seriously, what are the chances that anyone stupid enough to bring children into a grossly overpopulated world, in the midst of the greatest extinction event in 65 million years, at a time of unprecedented government surveillance and economic oppression, has enough brain power to participate in a meaningful way in their child’s education? No amount of school funding will ever help stupid, selfish, irresponsible people raise smart, generous pillars of the community. Besides, public school is what made their parents into the dimwitted monsters of capitalist conformity that they’ve become.

conformity hazard

We should remember that, just like short people, who have kids solely to make themselves look taller, stupid people have kids specifically so that they will have someone dumber than them around, to make them feel smart. As long as we continue to subsidize moron and midget reproduction through taxpayer funded public schools, we’ll remain locked in a race to the bottom, both in altitude and intelligence.

race_to_ the bottom

What do we think we have to teach kids anyway? We should know by now that our way of life is destroying the planet, and that we have no freaking clue how to live sustainably. Children raised by wolves would have more survival skills than today’s high school graduates, but of course, there are no wolves around here anymore.

wolves

I think we should put a “wolf bond” on the ballot. If it passes, the school board will spend $10 million to reintroduce wolves into Humboldt County. Then parents could tie a pork chop around their kid’s neck, send him out to stand in the woods and tell them to wait for the school bus. Let the wolves decide who’s worth educating. Problem solved.

raised by wolves

School bonds are such a ripoff anyway. It makes no sense to borrow money from a bank, and then have the taxpayers pay it back with interest. Taxpayers end up spending two, three or five times as much money as they get value, while bankers make a fortune from these low-risk investments.

bankers fleece school kids

It makes much more sense to pass a school levy. In a school levy, the taxpayers finance the schools directly and cut the bloodsucking banksters out of the equation, but thanks to Prop. 13, no one can muster the votes necessary to pass a school levy. Prop. 13 has turned California from the best state in the nation for public education into the worst.

California1-broke

Really, if you want decent public education, move to Mississippi or Alabama.

welcome to  mississippi

People come to California for the sunshine, the surf, the gay sex and the drugs, not because they want to get smarter. If we were smarter, we’d declare California an “Adults Only” state.

adults only bw

Think about it: Surfers don’t have the time, or sense of responsibility, to raise kids. Gay people have a foolproof method of birth control and drug addicts make terrible parents. In short, nobody in California should be having kids.

californians

If we made California “Adults Only,” we’d never have to spend another dime on public schools. We’d never get stuck behind slow school buses that stop every 300 feet. They could sell cigarettes and candy from the same display rack, and put porno magazines out with the comic books. We could leave loaded guns, Draino and dangerous pesticides anywhere we felt like, and we wouldn’t continue to ignore homeless adults while we built more playgrounds and ball-fields for kids with no future.

no future

Instead of listening to parents whine about their kid having to walk past a homeless adult, who might be smoking or drinking, homeless adults could report any children they see to the proper authorities, and a cop would pick up the kid and put him on a bus to Alabama. Pregnant women would still have a choice: abortion or deportation.

deport abort

I am so sick of irresponsible parents thinking that they have a right to tell grown adults what they can and can’t do, because of how it will affect their children. The time to change the world is BEFORE you have kids, not after. If you didn’t want your kid to see a naked schizophrenic humping a stuffed giraffe on the sidewalk maybe you shouldn’t have gotten knocked-up in a world as crazy as this one.

sick fuck

If you can submit your kid to the horrors of this sick world, then your kid should also see what this sick world does to people. If you aren’t willing to do anything to make the world better for the people who are already here, then you shouldn’t bring any new people into the world, at least not until we pass the wolf bond.

wolves protected


You Don’t Have to Call It God, but Don’t Pretend It Doesn’t Exist

jack lalanne quote

As you may have guessed, I’m not a religious man. I think about religion the way I think about classical music, only more so. That is: I’ve heard it. I’ve played it. I know what it’s all about, but it’s been done to death. I know some people still love it, but to me it seems antiquated and irrelevant.

irrelevant

I don’t worship a God of any sort, but nor would I call myself an Atheist. Atheism is a reaction to religion. Atheists renounce religion, and with good reason, I think, but I’m not about to deny the existence of a force greater than myself in the Universe when science makes it so plainly evident.

scientific-evidence ignored

Anyone who accepts Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, buys the basic premise of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and can agree on a definition of “organism” would have a hard time arguing against the existence of, if not God, then at least something like God, or something that might have been called God for a very long time, for lack of a better word. I don’t have a better word either, but if you have a moment, and don’t mind stretching your mind a bit, I’ll introduce you, and you can decide for yourself what to call it.

UFO

We’ll start with the hardest thing to get your mind around: Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Everyone recognizes the formula E=MCsquared, and knows that atoms are packed with energy, and that’s why we can build nuclear bombs.

e mc 2

That’s not the really interesting thing about relativity. The really interesting thing about General Relativity is that it demonstrated that space and time only exist in relation to an observer.

relativity World_line

Einstein wasn’t the first person to figure this out, by the way, the first physicist, perhaps, but not the first person. Immanuel Kant deduced the same thing, about 200yrs ago, logically, based on the a-priori nature of math and geometry. Einstein did the math and geometry and arrived at the same conclusion.

kant space and time

If you want to check Einstein’s math on this, you are welcome to do so. I know I’m not up to it, but I have read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and it seems like an airtight case to me.

kant touch this

This is a very different way to think about space and time than we are used to. To us, space and time appear unified, inexorable and absolute. We think of ourselves as inhabiting space, and passing through time.

just passing through

For example:

for example

I live in Ettersburg, East of Shelter Cove, South of Eureka and West of Garberville, I’ve lived here since the turn of the 21st Century. That is how I would ordinarily orient myself in space and time. Abe Lincoln, on the other hand, lived in Washington, DC during the 1860′s. So, it appears as though Abe Lincoln and I are separated by space, some 3,000 miles, give or take, and by time, 150 years or so.

lincoln funeral

General Relativity tells us that we don’t inhabit space and time so much as space and time inhabit us. In other words, I live in a very special place called “here” at a time called “now”, and in my experience, Abe Lincoln is a character from the distant past. During his life, Abe Lincoln also lived in a place called “here” at a time called “now”, but in his experience, I did not exist at all.

here-and-now

Abe Lincoln and I both perceive space and time, as the central character in our own experience of here and now, but the idea of a larger space and time in which we both exist at different times, and in different places, is just that, an idea. Ideas, like space and time themselves, do not exist outside of our perception of them. That’s what Kant and Einstein told us.

KantEinstein-

Space and time only exist within observers. That’s not how the world looks to us, and we cannot even imagine what existence outside of space and time is like, but that’s how it is, and that’s where we live. Still don’t believe me, take it up with Einstein or Kant. I recommend Kant’s The Prolegamena to Any Future Metaphysics for a good first step. If you’re still with me, try to stretch your mind around that for a moment.

stretch

You can’t really comprehend anything outside of space and time, but that is where you live, weird as it seems. You secrete space and time in order to make sense of your experience, and you build a concept of the world based on what you experience. So, space and time, as well as a concept of the world, in which you, and every other creature on Earth, inhabit space and time, only exist in relation to the observer who experiences them, namely, you.

observer curious

OK, that’s the hard part. Let’s take the definition of “organism” next:

organism object

An organism is a complex system of interdependent parts, such that the structure and function of each part is determined by it’s function within the whole, and the whole of an organism is always greater than the sum of its parts.

cells

That seems pretty straight forward to me. A cell is made of many parts, but they all function together as one organism. Many cells can function together to form a larger organism, like a plant or an animal. Many organisms can function together to form a still larger organism, such as an ecosystem. Organisms are not objects, nor are they machines. Organisms are alive. Organisms live.

its alive

And finally, What’s the gist of Darwin’s Origin of Species?

darwin origin of species

In the tiniest nutshell, I would say that the crux of Darwin’s biscuit is that all of the organisms that have ever existed on Planet Earth, are related to each other. Does that sound right? There’s a lot more to biological evolution than that, but for our purposes, that’s enough.

tree of life

Now, imagine all of the organisms that exist on Earth now, and have ever existed in all of history. Imagine the 7 Billion+ humans living now, plus every human who has ever lived, all of their pets, all of their livestock, all of their ancestors, all of the wild animals that have ever lived, all of the dinosaurs, every fish, bird, insect, plant, and mushroom, and don’t forget all of the tiny microscopic organisms like yeast, protozoa, and bacterium. Don’t leave anyone out.

animals

All of those organisms, Darwin would expect us to believe, are related, by birth, to every other organism, including those of you now reading this essay. Now go ahead and throw in all of the organisms that will exist in the future, even though we have no idea what they will look like or how many of them to expect. We’re talking about a lot of organisms now.

future_evolution

What separates this collection of individual organisms from each other? The answer is space and time, of course. Some of these organisms come from the past, others from the present, still others from the future. Some come from Africa, others from Asia and still others from Australia, and so on. No two organisms can occupy the same space and time. This you remember from geometry, and it corresponds to your experience of space and time in the real world. So, all of these organisms, though related, remain separated by their positions in space and time.

separated

What were we just saying about space and time? We went over how Einstein demonstrated that Kant was right when he deduced that space and time do not exist outside of the observer who perceives them. What does that mean for all of those organisms? It means that outside of our perceptions, all of those organisms are not separated. Outside of space and time, where perceiving organisms actually exist, all life on Earth remains undivided. In other words, every organism on Earth, past, present and future, are, in some incomprehensible, but very real way, parts of a single organism, that exists outside of space and time.

einstein quote

What did we just say about organisms? “An organism is a complex system of interdependent parts, such that the structure and function of each part is determined by it’s function within the whole, and the whole of an organism is always greater than the sum of its parts.”

Aristotle quote
So I ask you, “What would you call an organism made up of every single organism on Earth, such that the structure and function of every single organism on Earth was determined by it’s function within the whole, and the whole of that organism was even greater than the sum of its parts?”

hello my name is

Thanks to Kant, Darwin and Einstein, we know this organism exists. Without it, we wouldn’t exist. We know that we are a part of it, but what should we call it? Gaia?, The Big Organism?, God?, Bruce? Does it matter what we call it? You are never going to mistake it for anything else, and you’re never going to be able to talk about it any more coherently than this, so maybe it’s best not to call it anything. Still, I don’t think it makes sense to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

made you cum

In fact, I don’t understand why we don’t teach this in schools. The Critique of Pure Reason has been around for over 200 years. General Relativity has been around for most of a century. We teach evolution, and we teach relativity, at least to the degree that most teachers understand it, but but they never quite put it together. Instead, they teach that civilization, the economy and the “rule of law” is what unites us …against the rest of nature.

against nature steely dan


Agribusiness, Genetic Engineering, and Where to Draw the Line

draw the line

When Eric Kirk introduced his most recent talk show on KMUD, he said his goal was to take listeners “outside of their comfort zone”. I have to say that he succeeded in that. Listening to his show made me uncomfortable in the same way that watching a dull-witted kid beat a dog with a stick would make you uncomfortable.

beating dog

Even if you don’t like dogs or kids, a scene like that makes you squirm. You wish you had never seen it. The whole pathetic situation makes you sick to your stomach, but you know that you have to say something.

See-something

In this little metaphor, The show’s host, Eric Kirk, is the kid, our local liberals are the dog, and appearing as the stick, we had Eric’s guest, Saul of Hearts, a young Portland hipster, self-described liberal, and cultivator of a ponytail. I don’t know why these count as credentials in Eric’s book, but apparently they do.

credentials dog

The crux of this guy’s biscuit, was that genetic engineering really doesn’t seem that scary to him, at least compared to some of the diabolical things that scientists have been doing to plants for decades, such as using ionizing radiation and chemicals to induce genetic mutations.

three boobs

The show’s engineer, and local liberal, Michael McKaskil immediately snatched that stick and broke it to pieces, pointing out that genetic engineering was, in fact, qualitatively different than induced mutation. Michael pointed out that because genetic engineering involves adding DNA from completely different organisms, it alters the genetics of plants in ways that mutation never would or could, and of course Michael was right about that.

dog-teeth

Eric’s guest then turned the argument into one of “where do you draw the line?”, pointing out that between mono-cropping, pesticide use, aquifer depletion, chemical fertilizers, habitat loss, global climate change etc, etc, we have bigger problems with agribusiness than genetic engineering. Of course, Eric’s guest is not an agriculture reform activist. In fact, he only mentioned about half of the above, no where near exhaustive, list of ag related crises. Eric’s guest didn’t call for us to get up off of our sofas to do anything about any of these issues. Instead, he simply suggested that liberals are making too big of a fuss about GMOs.

draw the line somewhere

No, he’s not an activist. He’s a liberal blogger, much more concerned with his own career as a writer, than anything else. In other words, he’s a conservative, with a ponytail. Not that I have any great love of liberals, or political activists for that matter, quite the opposite.

quite-the-opposite-quote-by-rachel-miner

I feel the same way about our political system as I do about professional wrestling. It’s obviously fake. It’s embarrassingly stupid to watch, and you know that as long as it remains popular, humanity’s future looks bleak. Still, unless you’ve worked on a citizen’s campaign, you have no idea how much time, money and effort it takes to bring an issue like GMOs to the attention of the general public, not to mention the difficulty of explaining a high-tech problem to a poorly educated populace. That’s part of the reason that democracy has failed.

pro wrestling2

One caller to the show accused him of being an industry shill. I don’t think so. I just think him an opportunist. Right now, a lot of unpaid, volunteer activists are putting in a lot of time and energy to raise the issue of genetic engineering in the eye of the general public. By taking advantage of the fact that most people don’t know very much about big agribusiness, Saul of Hearts found an angle that allowed him to capitalize on the hard work of real activists.

capitalize

So much for the stick, but I must agree with him on one point, and that is: Agriculture is fucked! Agriculture is destroying the world. Even without GMOs, the single biggest reason that this planet is going down the shitter is agriculture. Agriculture is the leading cause of habitat destruction, both world wide, and locally. Agricultural runoff has created “dead zones” in parts of the ocean that once teemed with life, and agriculture fuels the human population explosion. Agriculture doesn’t make life better; agriculture merely insures that there will be more of us to share the misery of an increasingly impoverished world.

Homeless

Agriculture is bad news! It now covers a third of the Earth’s total land mass, and it continues to grow! Agriculture was undoubtedly the biggest mistake in the history of humanity, and people have known this since the beginning. If you were wondering where to “draw the line”, I think the authors of The Old Testament got it right.

where-does-god-draw-the-line

Agriculture is the “original sin” in the biblical story of Adam and Eve. If you recall the story, God provided everything for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, until they ate the “forbidden fruit”. After that, Adam had to spend the rest of his days toiling in the fields, while Eve had to repeatedly endure the pain of childbirth. In other words, whatever that “forbidden fruit” was, Adam and Eve’s punishment was to live like farmers.

adam tilling2

The writers of the Old Testament make it abundantly clear that God does not like farmers. In the story of Cain and Abel, God shows favoritism towards Abel, the herder, over his brother, Cain, the farmer. This so enraged Cain, that he killed Abel, and watered his fields with his brother’s blood.

cain and abel

Now, I’m not a Christian, or a Jew, and I don’t “believe in” the Bible, but this is what the witnesses of “the agricultural revolution” thought of the world’s first farmers. Thousands of years before the first written language, those ancient people would have known nothing about DNA, germ theory or the scientific method, but they weren’t stupid. Thousands of years ago they recognized farmers as vicious murderous people who were damned by God.

Damned-Nations

They watched those vicious, murderous, damned farmers turn the “Fertile Crescent” into a desert. They watched those damned farmers spread all over the world, systematically wiping out or assimilating every other culture they encountered, claiming new territories, replacing natural habitat with farmland and watering their crops with the blood of their brothers.

brothers_and_sister

Those damned farmers gave us overpopulation, genocide, slavery, and the environmental crisis. They replaced our natural love of nature, and all living things, with “the work ethic”, and lives of endless toil. Farmers have transformed the “Garden of Eden” into hell on Earth, and the destruction continues to this day. Farming destroys the natural environment, and replaces it with an abundance of dull-witted, mean-spirited people who don’t know any other way to live.

Hell+on+earth

Farming is also addictive. The more habitat you destroy, the fewer game animals you leave. The more crops you grow, the faster your population grows. The more we do it, the harder it is to stop. Unless we stop, farming will kill us all. On the other hand if we stopped all agriculture right now, that would kill almost all of us. These are not biblical prophesies. That’s what science tells us, should we ever decide to listen.

listen-to-your-science-teacher-1

The Bible tells us that God punished those damned farmers by sending plagues. Today, we call them pests, and we understand why they continue to plague us. In nature, there is no such thing as a pest species, but when you disturb the natural environment, plow it under, and plant crops, you disrupt the natural balance of life. As a result, populations of some species, like locusts, frogs, vermin and disease causing microbes, explode, while others, like wild game animals, become extinct. What those ancient people saw as “God’s punishment”, we now see as the natural consequences of converting habitat to farmland.

JA1122_locusts

These “plagues” continue to vex farmers to this day, but we still don’t get the message. We still think we can outsmart “God”. We believe the world belongs to us, to remake in our own image. We think we rule the world, and we’re hellbent to prove it. That’s why scientists created GMOs in the first place, but even they know that today’s GMOs won’t be able to suppress God’s wrath for more than a few years, because organisms adapt. Bugs learn to tolerate BT, and weeds learn to drink Round-Up.

BT resistant-bugs

We don’t trust science when it tells us that sacrificing the natural environment for farmland causes insoluble problems. Instead, science has become the false religion of the damned, and genetic engineering, its latest assault on nature. Genetic engineering, like the high-tech organochlorine pesticides of the plastic age that proceeded it, is bound to fail spectacularly, and profitably. So, yes, agriculture is a goddamned sin, and no, genetic engineering is not going to fix it, or make the world a better place to live.

gmo lie

If you’re going to draw a line, you might as well draw it at the place where we made the wrong turn in the first place. It can be very helpful to know where we first went wrong. There’s an old Turkish saying: “If you realize that you’ve made a wrong turn, no matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong road, turn back.” I realize that this whole discussion is a long way from the current political debate, but unless you look at the big picture, you’ll never make sense of the puzzle.

turkish proverb


The Big Picture; A Unique Musical Performance on KMUD

The Big Picture 6 cov

I’m really excited about my partner, Amy Gustin’s, latest radio show: Episode #9 of The Living Earth Connection, titled The Big Picture. The Big Picture airs Sunday March 30 at 9:30 AM Pacific Time on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio. You can also listen to it online by clicking “listen now” or by searching the archive @ http://www.kmud.org.

kmud-radio-logo

The Big Picture airs during a time-slot known as The Spiritual Perspectives Hour, and Amy’s show, The Living Earth Connection, airs only on the fifth Sunday of the month, and only in those odd three or four months a year that have five Sundays. I know that most religious programming sucks, but I promise you that this show will be unlike anything you have ever heard on the radio before.

nothing you've ever heard before

I’m really excited about this show because it combines Amy’s Animist message with my electric didgeridoo music in a way that took on a life of its own. The resulting one hour-long musical performance, traces the history of life on Earth from its earliest microscopic origins through the evolution of the human brain, and uses science to reveal the ecology of beliefs that underpin the current environmental crisis. That’s why we call this project, “The Big Picture“.

animist vision

The combination of spoken word and didgeridoo in The Big Picture engages the whole brain, synthesizing the rational intellect with the wordless depths of the emotional subconscious in a way you’ll find both entertaining and edifying.  I hope you’ll tune in.

tune in


Work, Wealth and The Good Life; Living Earth Connection #8

 

Work, Wealth and The Good Life

us-wealth

Please tune in to The Living Earth Connection, hosted by Amy Gustin, today, Sunday Dec. 29th at 9:30AM on KMUD. The Living Earth Connection is unlike any radio show you’ll hear anywhere. The Living Earth Connection looks beyond politics, philosophy and religion to examine the culture which is foundational to them all, and from which they all spring. The Living Earth Connection airs on the fifth Sunday of the month, and only in months that have five Sundays, in the “Spiritual Perspectives”, Sunday 9:30-10:30AM time-slot on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio, Garberville, CA, and online both streaming and archived at www.kmud.org.

kmud-radio-logo

In this episode of The Living Earth Connection, Amy Gustin examines how we think about “work”, “wealth” and “the good life”. How we think about work, wealth and “the good life” effects how we live in the world, and how we live in the world determines the contents of our lives and our footprint on the planet. These ideas are foundational to our culture, but in fact, most of us work way too hard, far too few of us enjoy the benefits of the “wealth”we create, and sum total of all of our work is killing the planet. The show looks at why this is, and how it can be different.

Workers clean up oil spilled by the refr

Work, Wealth and The Good Life is the eighth episode of The Living Earth Connection. You can download or listen to Work, Wealth and The Good Life, as well as all of the previous episodes of The living Earth Connection at The Living Earth Connection blog.livingearth back cover


Science, the New Religion

 

As an introduction to part two of this Thanksgiving Science Spectacular, ask yourself “Do I trust science, or do I believe in science.?” If you are not quite sure you understand the question, please read on. Even if you are sure that you understand the question, take a few minutes to see if you can digest this turkey of an essay.

 

turkey science

 

Science, the New Religion

 

religion-science

 

I love science; I really do. I never cared much for literature, but I have always loved science. I think we can learn a lot from science, and I think we could learn a lot more from science, were resources in this world allocated differently, but no matter how much we learn from science, we completely fail to learn our lesson.

 

lessons learned

 

The lesson we never seem to learn is: What we are doing is not working. Things are getting worse, not better. We’re failing as a culture, and the consequences of our failure are enormous and life-threatening.

 

Consequences

 

Every year the evidence of this fact grows. We’re wrecking the planet. Our way of life, how we conduct ourselves as human beings, is totally out of sync with the carrying capacity of planet Earth. At this point, the evidence could hardly be more stark.

 

quote-henry-james-sumner-maine-

 

We know there’s hardly any fish left in the sea. You’ve heard the old expression, “There’s plenty of other fish in the sea.” well it ain’t true no more. With the human population topping 7 billion, there’s plenty of other potential mates, if you are a human being. That’s true enough, but for fish, not so much. Science set us straight on that.

 

overfishing 2050

 

Scientists also pointed out the dead zones in the ocean, where algal blooms fueled by agricultural runoff, suck all the oxygen out of the water, so nothing else can survive there. Scientists explained why an island of plastic trash bigger than Texas formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists found PCBs in the blood of wild arctic polar bears, and told us about the mercury concentrations in fish. Scientists created, and then warned us about, persistent organic pollutants like dioxin, benzene and the whole brave new world of unpronounceable organochlorines like DDT. Scientists have informed us about the ongoing and accelerating acidification of the world’s oceans, and even told us what’s driving it, which seems to be, in fact, global warming.

 

ocean-acidification

 

And how about that global warming. Those scientists had to work overtime to convince us of that, didn’t they, but they finally did. We can now say with confidence that human activity is warming the planet, and changing the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere in ways likely to negatively effect the health and well-being of damn near every human being on the planet, let alone the wildlife.

 

global_warming_infographic

 

Don’t I wish they would let the wildlife alone, but they don’t. Scientists tell us that the human population continues to explode like bacteria, displacing habitat and driving countless species of plant and animal into extinction. Countless, because scientists don’t even have time to discover and name a lot of these species before they get wiped off of the face of the earth forever, in our never ending quest to replace lush, incomprehensibly complex natural ecosystems with simplified, impoverished, dysfunctional, man-made environments that only function to serve an expanding human population, and poorly at that.

 

dysfunctional man made environment

 

And scientists have informed us that the expanding human population leaves in it’s wake, an ungodly, I mean holy fucking shit you cannot even imagine how much, amount of waste. Toxic waste, bio-accumulative waste, non-biodegradable waste, radioactive waste, carcinogenic waste, mutagenic waste, medical waste, human waste, solid waste, airborne waste, water soluble waste, take your pick. We’ve got it all, and we’re making more every day. In a billion years of life on Earth, there was never a thing called waste, until about 10,000 years ago, when our culture was born. Waste is our invention, and it takes a lot of science to produce the tremendous variety and abundance of waste that we discard each year.

 

trash dump

 

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see it, and in fact, rocket scientists often don’t see it, because they are so damn busy building rockets, but the science is pretty fucking convincing for anyone who wants to look at it. We’re making a terrific mess of things here on planet Earth. Another thing that the science is pretty clear about, is that that we could have never made such a terrific mess of things without the help of an awful lot of scientists.

 

Mars Mission ISRO

 

To be fair, it wasn’t so much science that wrecked the world, there’s nothing wrong with learning about the world. It was that bastard technology. Science is a beautiful woman; technology is her pimp. Technology uses science to turn tricks. That is, technology is always looking for ways to use science to manipulate and exploit the world, for the purpose of making money, winning wars, or both. Yes, science is a whore, and so are most scientists. They work for whoever pays them the most money, and they do what the customer wants. What the customer wants, generally, is to extract more money from the Earth and it’s inhabitants. There’s nothing noble, beautiful or altruistic about that.

 

science whore

 

So, even though we have plenty of scientists telling us that we’re making an enormous mess of things, we have a thousand times more scientists focused on finding new ways to fuck things up even worse. Scientists dreamed-up nuclear power and convinced us it was safe. They did the same thing for deep water oil drilling. Scientists figured out how to get oil and natural gas out of shale, and gave us fracking. Scientists are turning life on Earth into patentable intellectual property by playing Russian roulette with a gene gun, and other scientists are working on new strategies to sell you this stuff, even though it’s killing you. Scientists are doing all kinds of crazy shit, and most of it is not helping the situation one bit, and they are all getting paid to do it.

 

scientist_getting paid

 

Still, we are so infatuated with this beautiful woman we call science, that we hardly notice that she’s robbing us blind, lying to us and stealing our future. Even when science tells us the truth: that we are rapidly replacing our global life support system with poison, we don’t say, “Oh my god, look at what we’ve done.” Instead we say, “Wow, that looks like a serious problem, we had better get some more scientists working to solve it.” That’s what I mean when I say “We fail to learn our lesson from science.”

 

regret1

 

We don’t trust science, or take what it tells us about the world seriously, so we don’t learn anything from science. Instead, we think that no matter how bad things get, science will save us. We don’t believe science, we believe in science, which is a very different thing. Belief in science is not a rational conclusion based in fact, it is a religious belief founded in faith.

 

science-religion

 

Very little evidence supports the idea that science solves problems, but we have plenty of evidence that science has created bigger problems than we know how to deal with. Still, we speak of science with reverence. Science has become our religion. Even people who know nothing about science, believe in science, and think it’s going to save us.

 

science savior

 

Ever since science convinced us that our other religions were just a collection of quaint stories and superstitions, we’ve treated science as our savior. That’s why we throw so much money at science. We don’t want to know more about the world we live in, we want scientists to save us.

 

science saves the day

 

Well there’s your science fix for today. Remember, the truth will set you free, but religion, even the Church of Science, is the opiate of the masses. Happy Thanksgiving!

marx quote

 


Gentrification at the SoHum Community Park

Gentrification at the SoHum Community Park

thanks gentrification

I got a lot of feedback on my most recent letter to the editor regarding the Southern Humboldt Community Park, almost all of it positive, so I decided to “double-dip” on the SoHum Community Park issue this week.

double-dip

I found it especially gratifying that Dennis Huber mentioned my letter on his KMUD radio show, Monday Morning Magazine. I’ve got nothing against Dennis. In fact, I like him, or at least I want to like him, and I enjoy listening to his radio show. I mean, I’ve never met him, and I’m not sure I would recognize him if I saw him, but he does put together a good show, and he obviously puts a lot of work into it.

kmud

I think Monday Morning Magazine is one of the best shows on KMUD, and it provides us with a good example of what community radio should be. I don’t always agree with Dennis, but I know he means well, and that he undertakes his work for the Community Park with the same spirit of generosity and civic duty as he does his radio show. I just think that in this case, his generosity is misplaced.

misplacedgenerosity

On the other hand, my motivations for writing a letter to the editor in defense of wild blackberries at the park are entirely selfish. I love wild blackberries, and I especially love the blackberry patch that is targeted for replacement with AstroTurf ball fields. Those blackberries are especially delicious. They ripen later in the season than other local blackberries, providing an abundant source of sweet fruit well into September. Convenient parking, easy access and a nearby port-a-potty also contribute to making that blackberry patch an especially attractive community asset, and one that I personally utilize quite a bit.

community asset mapping

My self-interest aside, I think the community park board’s alleged concern for the well being of this community’s young people is disingenuous. I think they are using young people as a cover for their plans, just like they used local craft artists as a cover for their plans to move Summer Arts and Music Festival to the park. Moving Summer Arts and Music Festival to the community park won’t help local craft artists at all. It might help the Mateel turn the only decent craft show in SoHum, into a music and marijuana festival subsidized by local craft artists, like they’ve been doing ever since the Reggae Wars, but it won’t help craft artists one bit. The park board would have known this, had they bothered to ask any local craft artists about it.

summer arts and music festival 2012

As I pointed out in my letter, Wilhelm Reich would argue, and I agree, not having a baseball field and not playing Little-League baseball would actually be a blessing to SoHum’s young people. Reich pointed out, I think correctly, that the serious global problems we face, like fascism, technological warfare, slavery, oppression and the environmental crisis, are symptoms of a sick culture, not a flaw in human nature, and that those problems can only be solved by changing our culture, not by the development of new technology, or the expenditure of capital.

create culture change

Thus far, we have completely failed, as a culture, to address the underlying causes of the environmental crisis. If your generation couldn’t stop the conversion of the natural world into garbage, pollution and disease, and instead only accelerated it, what makes you think your kids will be able to solve those problems, especially if you saddle them with the same suicidal culture that you were born into?

culture jam

I know that here in SoHum, we like to pretend that we’re not part of the dominant culture. We think that because we smoke marijuana instead of drinking martinis, and watch John Stewart instead of Bill O’Reilly, we’re part of an “alternative culture”, but those are just two sides of the same coin, minted from the same bankrupt currency. Just because competitive team sports play a big role in the culture that wrecked the natural world, that doesn’t mean that competitive team sports have any role in a culture capable of saving the natural world.

two sides ots coin

When it comes right down to it, all we really have to offer kids is a bad example and a degraded, overpopulated planet. Considering the enormous challenges we have foisted upon the younger generation, not having a baseball field is the least of their problems.

crisis_-what-crisis_

No, people don’t build ball fields to help children. Instead, parents remember ball fields from their childhood, and build them for themselves. Then they teach their kids to play baseball, buy them bats, balls, gloves and uniforms, and drive their kids to Little League, whether they want to go or not, because it makes them feel like superior parents, and gives them the opportunity to live vicariously through their children. Really, in a world dominated by the effects of Global Climate Change, the last thing we need is another excuse for rural parents to drive their kids around.

moms taxi

Besides being culturally regressive, ball fields at the community park would be bad for the environment, bad for kids, and bad for blackberry enthusiasts like me, but who would benefit from developing the park in this way? Obviously, this project would put money in the pockets of contractors, manufacturers of AstroTurf, retailers of sporting goods and uniforms, and big oil companies who will happily sell rural parents even more planet destroying fossil fuels to drive their doomed offspring all over creation. Besides that, plenty of people around here think like big oil companies, and expect to profit from this project in the long run.

greedy_pig

These people don’t care that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. They don’t give a fuck about building a sustainable culture from the ground up, and they don’t care about your kid’s future either. All they care about is money, and getting as much of it out of the land around here as they can. Those are the people who expect to reap the most profits from developing the community park.

southern humboldt community park

Real-estate agents, developers and bankers have plenty of reasons to encourage destructive, unsustainable development in SoHum. Investors and businessmen, like the ones who have denuded our hillsides, diverted our creeks and killed off our wildlife with pesticides for their mega-grows also have plenty of reasons to support expensive, man-made, middle-class amenities at the community park, and all of those reasons contain a dollar sign and a decimal point.

dollar-sign

There’s a name for the kind of development going on at the community park, and it happens all over America. They call it gentrification. Gentrification doesn’t build community, it undermines community. Gentrification doesn’t make a place a better place to live, gentrification makes it a more expensive place to live. Gentrification doesn’t help young people, it makes the place too expensive for young people to afford, and gentrification doesn’t attract artists or cultural creatives, it drives them out. To replace them, gentrification attracts vapid, greedy, status-conscious yuppies who haven’t had an original thought in their entire lives.

gentrification

That’s what the Southern Humboldt Community Park is all about: driving poor people and young people, as well as the last of the artists and cultural creatives, out of the community, and replacing them with stupid, bloodsucking yuppies who will consume what’s left of our natural beauty, leaving nothing but garbage, pollution and ugliness in their wake. Yes, the Southern Humboldt Community Park Board seeks to uproot the thorny, unmanageable, self-reliant, generous and sweet individuals who currently thrive here, and replace them with a phony, toxic, and expensive imitation of suburban middle-class affluence in order to help the richest and greediest among us acquire more money.

gentrification cat


Word Power; Insessorial

wordpower

Word Power;

Building your Vocabulary One Word at a Time

Insessorial

perching

insessorial (in seh ‘sore ee ehl) adj perching, or adapted for perching

crow_02q1

OK, we have a word, a nice adjective that they probably use often in the field of ornithology. I think you might find it useful in other circumstances as well. I don’t think I’ve ever come across it in context before, but when I stumbled across it in my dictionary I thought it noteworthy.

noteworthy

When I looked “insessorial” up online, however, I found this definition which gives us a little more information about the ornithological origins of this word, and provides us with a curious example of the word’s use in literature.

insessorial-definition short

What the fuck was Guy Davenport trying to say in 1974? I mean, I understand that Bruno is not lactating in order to provide nourishment for his coffee. I get the first half of this sentence. Bruno is standing by the fire slowly sipping his coffee, but what the fuck is going on in the last half of that sentence. Unless Bruno has a bantam rooster stuffed in his trousers, the last half of that sentence makes no sense.

man with two cocks

I assume that by “cock” Guy Davenport means “penis”. Then you get to “snub and insessorial” which according to my dictionary must mean “short and perched like a bird”.

bird perched on fist

A penis does not perch like a bird. A penis can dangle, waggle, protrude, penetrate or flop, but it does not perch like a bird.

penis

And where is Bruno’s penis allegedly perched? “…in the codpiece of his curt briefs” Briefs don’t have a “codpiece”. Suits of armor have codpieces. Trousers from the 15th and 16th century had codpieces, but not briefs in 1974. Briefs have a “hammock” or “pouch”, but not a “codpiece”, and they’re “briefs” for god’s sake, no need to tell us they are “curt”, or “short”. Have you ever seen long briefs?

briefs

So Bruno is standing around the fire, sipping coffee in his underwear. Guy Davenport, on the other hand has surrounded Bruno’s dick with flowery, nonsensical language, even though it, and in this case “it” can refer to either the penis or the language, is doing nothing.

Much-Ado-About-Nothing

All of this points to one thing. Someone, perhaps you, needs to find a better use for the word insessorial in writing. dictionary of hard words


It’s All About the Beer

It’s All About the Beer

1larg.beer.quiz

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I am not a big fan of civilization. I don’t think civilization is an advancement, culturally, evolutionarily or technologically. Far from it. I have asserted that civilization has thus far been a 10,000 year wrong turn, and the biggest mistake in the million odd year history of humanity.

civilization is a tragedy

I believe we made that wrong turn, that dreadful detour to which we can trace all of the major crises that threaten our future, like overpopulation, global climate change, habitat loss, mass extinction, overfishing, etc. etc. to a historic period, roughly 10,000 years ago, known as “the agricultural revolution”, a period in which humans began a major shift away from a hunter/gatherer nomadic lifestyle, and towards a farming lifestyle in which people were much more tied to a single piece of land.

ethiopia farmer

I asserted, in the piece titled Hello, My Name is Civilization, and I’m an Alcoholic (worth reading), that the so called “agricultural revolution”, as well as our entire cultural heritage since then, from written language, to the Old and New Testament, to science and mathematics, has been one disastrous 10,000 year drunken bender that resulted from the invention of beer.

notdead

If you thought I was pulling your leg, watch this documentary:

OK, now, the documentary claims that “Beer saved the World”, but while it ignores that disastrous consequences of civilization, like overpopulation, the environmental crisis etc. they point to plenty of evidence that proves my point.

evidence

At the end, you notice that as they look to the future, they discuss the challenges of taking beer into space. They don’t talk about how beer is going to solve global warming, slow down the exponential growth in human population or address the progressive desertification of planet Earth. No, instead they warn us that if we want to escape the hell-hole that our planet has become, we will have to learn to drink flat beer.

flat beer

“Saving The World”, according to this documentary, means drinking flat beer in space. I think that counts as one of those futures where the living envy the dead.

TheLivingWillEnvyTheDead

You be the judge. Do you think, as human beings, we made better decisions before the invention of beer, or afterward?

beer decisions


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 106 other followers