Category: Sailing

The Morse Code is 175 years old!

Two days of nostalgia follow! (You have been warned!)

As many of you already know, my father died fairly suddenly on December 20th, 1956. I had turned 12 some six weeks previously.

After about a year my mother remarried. His name was Richard Mills. Richard came to live at the house in Toley Avenue and had the unenviable task of taking on a new ‘son’ and ‘daughter’. (My sister, Elizabeth, some four years younger than I.)

Richard was a technical author in the newly-arrived electronics industry and one day he asked me if I would like to build a short-wave receiver. He coached me in the strange art of soldering wires and radio valves and other components and in the end I had a working receiver. That led, in turn, to me studying for an amateur radio licence. More of that tomorrow.

But the point of the introduction is to relay that The Morse Code is 175 years old on the 24th May.

Read more:

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Simply elegant, Morse code marks 175 years and counting

The elegantly simple code works whether flashing a spotlight or blinking your eyes—or even tapping on a smartphone touchscreen

There’s still plenty of reason to know how to use this Morse telegraph key. (Jason Salmon/Shutterstock.com)

By
Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of South Carolina

May 21st, 2019

The first message sent by Morse code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on Friday, May 24, 1844 – 175 years ago. It signaled the first time in human history that complex thoughts could be communicated at long distances almost instantaneously. Until then, people had to have face-to-face conversations; send coded messages through drums, smoke signals and semaphore systems; or read printed words.

Thanks to Samuel F.B. Morse, communication changed rapidly, and has been changing ever faster since. He invented the electric telegraph in 1832. It took six more years for him to standardize a code for communicating over telegraph wires. In 1843, Congress gave him US$30,000 to string wires between the nation’s capital and nearby Baltimore. When the line was completed, he conducted a public demonstration of long-distance communication.

Morse wasn’t the only one working to develop a means of communicating over the telegraph, but his is the one that has survived. The wires, magnets and keys used in the initial demonstration have given way to smartphones’ on-screen keyboards, but Morse code has remained fundamentally the same, and is still – perhaps surprisingly – relevant in the 21st century. Although I have learned, and relearned, it many times as a Boy Scout, an amateur radio operator and a pilot, I continue to admire it and strive to master it.

Samuel F.B. Morse’s own handwritten record of the first Morse code message ever sent, on May 24, 1844. Library of Congress

Easy sending

Morse’s key insight in constructing the code was considering how frequently each letter is used in English. The most commonly used letters have shorter symbols: “E,” which appears most often, is signified by a single “dot.” By contrast, “Z,” the least used letter in English, was signified by the much longer and more complex “dot-dot-dot (pause) dot.”

In 1865, the International Telecommunications Union changed the code to account for different character frequencies in other languages. There have been other tweaks since, but “E” is still “dot,” though “Z” is now “dash-dash-dot-dot.”

The reference to letter frequency makes for extremely efficient communications: Simple words with common letters can be transmitted very quickly. Longer words can still be sent, but they take more time.

Going wireless

The communications system that Morse code was designed for – analogue connections over metal wires that carried a lot of interference and needed a clear on-off type signal to be heard – has evolved significantly.

The first big change came just a few decades after Morse’s demonstration. In the late 19th century, Guglielmo Marconi invented radio-telegraph equipment, which could send Morse code over radio waves, rather than wires.

The shipping industry loved this new way to communicate with ships at sea, either from ship to ship or to shore-based stations. By 1910, U.S. law required many passenger ships in U.S. waters to carry wireless sets for sending and receiving messages.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, an international agreement required some ships to assign a person to listen for radio distress signals at all times. That same agreement designated “SOS” – “dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot” – as the international distress signal, not as an abbreviation for anything but because it was a simple pattern that was easy to remember and transmit. The Coast Guard discontinued monitoring in 1995. The requirement that ships monitor for distress signals was removed in 1999, though the U.S. Navy still teaches at least some sailors to read, send and receive Morse code.

The arrow points at the chart label indicating the Morse code equivalent to the ‘BAL’ signal for a radio beacon near Baltimore. Edited screenshot of an FAA map, CC BY-ND

Aviators also use Morse code to identify automated navigational aids. These are radio beacons that help pilots follow routes, traveling from one transmitter to the next on aeronautical charts. They transmit their identifiers – such as “BAL” for Baltimore – in Morse code. Pilots often learn to recognize familiar-sounding patterns of beacons in areas they fly frequently.

There is a thriving community of amateur radio operators who treasure Morse code, too. Among amateur radio operators, Morse code is a cherished tradition tracing back to the earliest days of radio. Some of them may have begun in the Boy Scouts, which has made learning Morse variably optional or required over the years. The Federal Communications Commission used to require all licensed amateur radio operators to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code, but that ended in 2007. The FCC does still issue commercial licenses that require Morse proficiency, but no jobs require it anymore.

Blinking Morse

Because its signals are so simple – on or off, long or short – Morse code can also be used by flashing lights. Many navies around the world use blinker lights to communicate from ship to ship when they don’t want to use radios or when radio equipment breaks down. The U.S. Navy is actually testing a system that would let a user type words and convert it to blinker light. A receiver would read the flashes and convert it back to text.

Skills learned in the military helped an injured man communicate with his wife across a rocky beach using only his flashlight in 2017.

Other Morse messages

Perhaps the most notable modern use of Morse code was by Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In 1966, about one year into a nearly eight-year imprisonment, Denton was forced by his North Vietnamese captors to participate in a video interview about his treatment. While the camera focused on his face, he blinked the Morse code symbols for “torture,” confirming for the first time U.S. fears about the treatment of service members held captive in North Vietnam.

Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, a prisoner of war, blinks Morse code spelling out ‘torture’ during a forced interview with his captors.

Blinking Morse code is slow, but has also helped people with medical conditions that prevent them from speaking or communicating in other ways. A number of devices – including iPhones and Android smartphones – can be set up to accept Morse code input from people with limited motor skills.

There are still many ways people can learn Morse code, and practice using it, even online. In emergency situations, it can be the only mode of communications that will get through. Beyond that, there is an art to Morse code, a rhythmic, musical fluidity to the sound. Sending and receiving it can have a soothing or meditative feeling, too, as the person focuses on the flow of individual characters, words and sentences. Overall, sometimes the simplest tool is all that’s needed to accomplish the task.

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I do hope you read this article in full because it contains much interesting information. Many people will not have a clue about The Morse Code and, as you can see above, it is still relevant.

Finally, I can still remember the The Morse Code after all these years!

Support the Orcas

If you can, please support this PDX event coming up on the 5th.

In my post that was my letter to Mr. Neptune, Colette left a reply that was a ‘heads up’ to an event being held in Portland, Oregon on October 5th. Ergo, this coming Friday.

Now the odds are that very few of you dear readers will be within reach of that event.

But that doesn’t stop me from promoting the event so that the details may be shared as far and wide as possible.

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PDX ACTIVIST

activism and resistance events in Portland

Save Our Orcas

Holladay Park Portland, OR

NE 11th Street & Hollady Street

Description

Join us October 5th for a peaceful Demonstration to help endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. There are only 74 left after the loss of 2 baby Orcas this Summer. You may have seen the dead newborn Orca carried “Save our Orcas”. Meet promptly at Holladay Park at 3:00pm.

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Here’s a news item taken from CBS News.

Then for those that would like more background on the Orca whale, let me republish the opening paragraphs of an item from Wikipedia.

The killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals and dolphins. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves, and even adult whales. Killer whales are apex predators, as no animal preys on them. A cosmopolitan species, they can be found in each of the world’s oceans in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas, absent only from the Baltic and Black seas, and some areas of the Arctic Ocean.

Killer whales are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups (pods) which are the most stable of any animal species. Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviours, which are often specific to a particular group and passed across generations, have been described as manifestations of animal culture.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature assesses the orca’s conservation status as data deficient because of the likelihood that two or more killer whale types are separate species. Some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to prey depletion, habitat loss, pollution (by PCBs), capture for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with human fisheries. In late 2005, the southern resident killer whales, which swim in British Columbia and Washington statewaters, were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.

Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans,[6] but there have been cases of captive orcas killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks. Killer whales feature strongly in the mythologies of indigenous cultures, with their reputation ranging from being the souls of humans to merciless killers.

Orcas leaping. Picture from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) website.

A Letter to Mr. Neptune

Continuing my series on examining my navel.

Dear Mr. Neptune,

Your oceans of the world are truly breath-taking. The power you can display in the odd wave or million through to the tranquility you so often also display defy rational explanations.

I have had the profound experience of sailing upon your waters, dear Mr. Neptune, over a number of years sailing back and forth between Cyprus and Turkey. Not a long distance but still sufficient to experience being solo on a yacht day and night.

Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

Then on my way sailing back to Plymouth, SW England, the magical, almost primeval, feeling of being alone on the Atlantic Ocean. Looking up at the night sky, feeling so insignificant, so infinitesimally minute with 500 miles of open ocean in all directions and those stars above my head.

No question, that practically everything about your oceans is beyond the understanding of us humans. Indeed, I had to look up online how much water there is on Earth to discover there is:

It’s roughly 326 million cubic miles (1.332 billion cubic kilometers), according to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Because I simply didn’t have a clue.

And knowing there are approximately 326 million cubic miles of water doesn’t help because I am still left not having a clue as to what that means!

So, thank goodness, Mr. Neptune this is all a ‘walk in the park’ for you!

But I do have a question for you.

What do you make of this?

The image is cropped from the following:

The description of these figures is:

Figure. (upper) Change in global upper-level (0–2000 m) ocean heat content since 1958. Each bar shows the annual mean relative to a 1981–2010 baseline. (lower) Annual mean ocean heat content anomaly in 2017 relative to a 1981–2010 baseline.

And it was taken from research undertaken by Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu and found on the web here.

Ocean Heat Content

Owing to its large heat capacity, the ocean accumulates the warming derived from human activities; indeed, more than 90% of Earth’s residual heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean (IPCC, Cheng et al. 2017). As such, the global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming and is impacted less by weather-related noise and climate variability such as El Niño and La Niña events (Cheng et al. 2018). On the other hand, ocean thermal expansion due to ocean temperature change contributes substantially (30%~50%) to the sea level change, which can considerably influence human populations in coastal and island regions and marine ecosystems. Therefore, monitoring the OHC changes and understanding its variation are crucial for climate change.

Is it possible, Mr. Neptune, that even you as the master of all our oceans is worried about the future?

I hope not but I do fear your answer.

Sincerely,

Paul

Ghosts

Here’s that article I wanted to share with you.

But then I got sucked back to memories of sailing!!

Oregon’s lighthouses as recently published over on Mother Nature Network!

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The tallest lighthouse in Oregon has a haunted history

Yet there is more to Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport than these ghostly stories.


JAYMI HEIMBUCH   February 16, 2018

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon has a long history, which of course means rumors of ghosts and hauntings. (Photo: P Meybruck/Shutterstock)

On a scenic basalt rock headland that juts almost a mile into the Pacific Ocean stands a beautiful white lighthouse. At 93 feet tall, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located in Newport, Oregon, is the state’s tallest lighthouse. It’s been guiding ships for 145 years.

First lit on August 20, 1873, the lighthouse has gained quite the storied history. And that includes two ghost stories.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of two in Newport, Oregon. (Photo: Dee Browning/Shutterstock)

One tale tells of a construction worker helping to build the tower who fell to his death. His body lodged between the double walls, never to be retrieved. He — and his ghost — have been sealed in ever since.

The second story is that in the 1920s, Keeper Smith went into town and left Keeper Higgins in charge. But Higgins fell sick and asked Keeper Story to take over. When Smith saw from Newport that the lighthouse beacon wasn’t lit, he rushed back to find Higgins dead and Story drunk. Story, overtaken with guilt, feared the ghost of Higgins and from then on would take his bulldog up the tower with him.

A view from the northern side of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. (Photo: Jeremy Klager/Shutterstock)

As with most ghost stories, the authenticity of these is highly doubted. The first story is unauthenticated, and the second story is impossible. As Lighthouse Friends clarifies:

A great tale, but unfortunately not supported by the facts that Story and Higgins didn’t serve at the same time at Yaquina Head and Higgins didn’t meet his demise in the tower. Rather, Higgins left the Lighthouse Service before 1920 and returned to live with his mother in Portland. Second Assistant Keeper did die of a heart attack in the watchroom atop the tower in March 1921, but he too served before the arrival of Frank Story.

aquina Head Lighthouse stands tall under big cloudy skies. (Photo: haveseen/Shutterstock)

Fortunately, much more than ghosts can be seen at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands on what is now the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, one of the most spectacular

spots on the coast for viewing ocean wildlife such as sea birds and harbor seals at close range, as well as traipsing through tide pools at low tide. An interpretive center highlights information about these wild inhabitants and features exhibits on the historical details of the lighthouse.

Yaquina Head lighthouse by the Oregon Coast during a beautiful sunset. (Photo: RuthChoi/Shutterstock)

The original oil-powered light has given way to an automated first-order Fresnel lens and a 1,000-watt globe. It flashes with its own specific pattern: two seconds on, two off, two on, and 14 off. The pattern is repeated around the clock.

May the lighthouse stand tall for generations to come. (Photo: Tomas Nevesely/Shutterstock)

While a little illumination causes the ghost stories to fade, visitors can still see a lot with a visit to Yaquina Head. Whether it’s grey whales at close range during their migration, or the sun setting over the ocean and silhouetting the tall structure, visitors are always happy they stopped to take in both the scene and the history of this special place.

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I really hope that despite the advance of digital GPS navigation systems it will still be a very long time before these magnificent lighthouses are turned off!

We are of the stars!

I so relate to this item from EarthSky News!

Long-term readers of this place will possibly recall that between April, 1989 and June, 1994 I lived on a Tradewind 33 sailing yacht Songbird of Kent. I have written before about those days.

Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

When sailing at night when the sky is clear it is impossible not to feel deeply connected to the stars above one’s head.

My logbook for Songbird of Kent reports that at noon on Wednesday, 1st June, 1994, I departed the yacht harbour at Horta in The Azores bound for Plymouth, South-West England. Plymouth was 1,257 nautical miles (2,329km/1,447 statute miles) from Horta.

Horta on Faial Island of the Azores

The logbook has an entry for the 6th June.

0400 Lat. 43 deg 25 minutes North, Long 22 deg 3 minutes West. Engine Off. Still no wind but must sleep after 19 hours of helming. 840 miles to run. Wind 2 knots from SW. Baro 1027 mb, Viz Good.

The visibility was wonderful and seeing the stars up in the night sky all around me, as in all 360 degrees about me, practically down to the horizon on this moonless night is an image still etched in my mind.

That’s why I want to republish this article that appeared on the blog EarthSky News yesterday.

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We are galaxy stuff

A new study – based on supercomputer simulations – reveals that each one of us may be made in part from matter that passes from one galaxy to another.

This image shows M81 (bottom right) and M82 (upper left), a pair of nearby galaxies where intergalactic transfer – transfer of materials between galaxies – might be happening. Image via Fred Herrmann.

Sagan famously said that we are made of star stuff. He meant the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created inside stars. Yet Sagan’s expression of this idea, which quickly became a cornerstone of popular culture, might not take the concept far enough. According to astrophysicists at Northwestern University, our origins are much less local than previously thought. In fact, according to their analysis – which they say is the first of its kind – we’re not just star stuff. We’re galaxy stuff.

This study is being published on July 26, 2017 (July 27 in the U.K.) by the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Northwestern researchers found that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy may come from distant galaxies. As a result, each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. That is, atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and so on in our bodies may be created not just by stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, but by stars in far-flung galaxies.

They arrived at this conclusion using supercomputer simulations. The study required the equivalent of several million hours of continuous computing.

The simulations show that supernova explosions eject great quantities of gas from galaxies, which causes the atoms made inside stars to be transported from one galaxy to another via powerful galactic winds. According to their statement, intergalactic transfer is a newly identified phenomenon, which, they say, requires supercomputer simulations in order to be understood. According to these astrophysicists, this understanding is critical for knowing how galaxies evolve … and hence for knowing our own place in the universe.

Animation of gas flows around a Milky Way-like galaxy, as seen by the team’s computer simulations.

Daniel Anglés-Alcázar is a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). He led the study, and he said:

It is likely that much of the Milky Way’s matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way.

Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants.

Space is vast. Galaxies are located at almost inconceivable distances from each other. So, Alcázar and his team said, even though galactic winds propagate at several hundred kilometers per CIERA second, the process of intergalactic transfer occurs over billions of years.

As always, this new research built on earlier studies. Northwestern’s Claude-André Faucher-Giguère and his research group, along with a unique collaboration called Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE), had developed numerical simulations that produced realistic 3-D models of galaxies. These simulations followed a galaxy’s formation from just after the Big Bang to the present day.

Anglés-Alcázar then developed state-of-the-art algorithms to mine this wealth of data. In this way, he and his team were able to quantify how galaxies acquire matter from the universe.

The scientists say the prediction of intergalactic transfer can now be tested. The Northwestern team plans to collaborate with observational astronomers who are working with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories to test the simulation predictions.

Simulated examples of intergalactic winds, shown as green string, in action around galaxies, shown as clusters of yellow dots. The galaxy at the center is ejecting the winds, blowing them toward potential the other galaxies.

Bottom line: Supercomputer simulations suggest that each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. Hence, we are galaxy stuff.

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16th June, 1994

1945 Lat. 50 deg 21 minutes North, Long. 4 deg 10 minutes West. ARRIVED MAYFLOWER MARINA. Wind Nil. Baro 1023 Mb. Viz Good.

LOG CLOSED!

Mayflower Marina is at Plymouth.

More sharing the thoughts of others.

Unexplored waters ahead!

My sub-title comes from personal knowledge of what it feels like to set out on an ocean voyage into waters that one has not sailed before. In my case, leaving Gibraltar bound for The Azores on my yacht Songbird of Kent in the Autumn of 1969.

Tradewind 33 - Songbird of Kent.
My home for five years – Tradewind 33: Songbird of Kent.

Despite me being very familiar with my boat, and with sailing in general, there was nonetheless a sense of trepidation as I headed out into a vast unfamiliar ocean.

Coming to matters closer to hand, there is a sense of trepidation felt by me and countless others as to what world we are heading into if we don’t take seriously the risks that are ‘tapping on our door’.

So hold that in your mind as you read a recent essay published by Patrice Ayme’; an essay that highlights very uncertain times ahead if we, as a global society, don’t get our act together pretty damn quick. Republished here on Learning from Dogs with Patrice’s kind permission.

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Record Heat 2015, Obama Cool

2014 was the warmest year ever recorded. 2015 was even warmer, and by far, by .16 degrees centigrade. The UK (Great Britain) meteorological office announced that the temperature rise is now a full degree C above the pre-industrial average. At this annual rate of increase, we will get to two degrees within six years (as I have predicted was a strong possibility).

What’s going on? Exponentiation. Just as wealth grows faster, the greater the wealth, mechanisms causing more heat are released, the greater the heat. Yes, it could go all the way to tsunamis caused by methane hydrates explosions. This happened in the North Atlantic during the Neolithic, leaving debris of enormous tsunamis all over Scotland.

heat-2015
2015: Not Only Record Heat, But Record Acceleration Of Heat

The Neolithic settlements over what is now the bottom of the North Sea and the Franco-English Channel (then a kind of garden of Eden), probably perished the hard way, under giant waves.

Explosions of methane hydrates have started on the land, in Siberia. No tsunami, so far. But it can, and will happen, any time. The recent North Easter on the East Coast of the USA was an example of the sort of events we will see ever more of: a huge warm, moist Atlantic born air mass, lifted up by a cold front.

Notice that, at the COP 21 in Paris all parties, 195 nations, agreed to try their best to limit warming to 1.5 degree Centigrade. At the present instantaneous rate, that’s less than 4 years away. Even with maximum switching out of fossil fuels, we are, at the minimum, on a three degrees centigrade target, pretty soon.

By the way, if all nations agree, how come the “climate deniers” are still heard of so loudly? Well, plutocrats control Main Stream Media. It’s not just that they want to burn more fossil fuels (as it brings them profit, they are the most established wealth). It’s also that they want to create debates about nothing significant, thus avoiding debates about significant things, such as how much the world is controlled by Dark Pools of money.

Meanwhile, dear Paul Krugman insists in “Bernie, Hillary, Barack, and Change“, that it would be pure evil to see him as a “corrupt crook“, because he believes everything Obama says about change and all that. Says Krugman: “President Obama, in his interview with Glenn Thrush of Politico, essentially supports the Hillary Clinton theory of change over the Bernie Sanders theory:

[Says Obama]: ‘I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics, making a real-life difference to people in their day-to-day lives.’”

This is all hogwash. We are not just in a civilization crisis. We are in a biosphere crisis, unequalled in 65 million years. “Real-life differences“, under Obama, have been going down in roughly all ways. His much vaunted “Obamacare” is a big nothing. All people in the know appraise that next year, it will turn to a much worse disaster than it already is (in spite of a few improvements, “co-pays” and other enormous “deductibles” make the ironically named, Affordable Care Act, ACA, unaffordable).

The climate crisis show that there is no more day-to-day routine. At Paris, the only administration which caused problem, at the last-minute, was Obama’s. How is that, for “change”? The USA is not just “leading from behind”, but pulling in the wrong direction. Really, sit down, and think about it: under France’s admirable guidance (!), 194 countries had agreed on a legally enforceable document. Saudi Arabia agreed. The Emirates agreed. Venezuela agreed. Nigeria agreed. Russia agreed. Byelorussia agreed. China, having just made a treaty with France about climate change, actually helped France pass the treaty. Brazil agreed. Zimbabwe agreed. Mongolia agreed. And so on. But, lo and behold, on the last day, Obama did not.

I know Obama’s excuses well; they are just that, excuses. Bill Clinton used exactly the exact same excuses, 20 years ago. Obama is all for Clinton, because, thanks to Clinton, he can just repeat like a parrot what Clinton said, twenty years ago. Who need thinkers, when we have parrots, and they screech?

I sent this (and, admirably, Krugman published it!):

“No doubt Obama wants to follow the Clintons in making a great fortune, 12 months from now. What is there, not to like?

Obama’s rather insignificant activities will just be viewed, in the future, as G. W. Bush third and fourth terms. A janitor cleaning the master’s mess. Complete with colored (“bronze”) apartheid health plan.

What Sanders’ supporters are asking is to break that spiral into ever greater plutocracy (as plutocrat Bloomberg just recognized).”

Several readers approved my sobering message, yet some troll made a comment, accusing me of “racist “slander”. Racist? Yes the “bronze” plan phraseology is racist. I did not make it up. And it is also racist to make a healthcare system which is explicitly dependent upon how much one can afford. Krugman is all for it, but he is not on a “bronze” plan. Introducing apartheid in healthcare? Obama’s signature achievement. So why should we consider Obama as the greatest authority on “progressive change”? Because we are gullible? Because we cannot learn, and we cannot see? Is not that similar to accepting that Hitler was a socialist, simply because he claimed to be one, it had got to be true, and that was proven because a few million deluded characters voted for him?

We are in extreme circumstances, unheard of in 65 million years, they require extreme solutions. They do not require, nor could they stand, Bill Clinton’s Third Term (or would that be G. W. Bush’s fifth term? The mind reels through the possibilities).

“Change we can believe in”: the new boss, same as the old boss, the same exponentiation towards inequality, global warming and catastrophe, the same warm rhetoric of feel-good lies.

As it is, there is a vicious circle of disinformation between the Main Stream Media, and no change in the trajectory towards Armageddon. Yes, Obama was no change. Yes, Obama was the mountain of rhetoric, who gave birth to a mouse. Yes, we need real change, and it requires to start somewhere. And that means, not by revisiting the past.

Patrice Ayme’

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Yes, we do need real change, and every day that we think that this change is the responsibility of someone else then that is another day lost forever. Or in the more proasic words of Mahatma Gandi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Writing 101 Day Two

A room with a view.

Here’s what WordPress sent out:

Today’s Prompt: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

The spaces we inhabit have an influence on our mood, our behavior, and even the way we move and interact with others. Enter a busy train station, and you immediately quicken your step. Step into a majestic cathedral, and you lower your voice and automatically look up. Return to your own room, and your body relaxes.

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image. – Joan Didion

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Giving your readers a clear sense of the space where your story unfolds will help them plunge deeper into your writing. Whether it’s a room, a house, a town, or something entirely different (a cave? a spaceship?), provide concrete details to set this place apart — and to create a more immersive reading experience.

You can go the hyperrealist route (think the opening four paragraphs of Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Soul, a masterclass of telling detail). Or focus on how a specific space makes the people in it feel and behave, like blogger Julie Riso did in this visceral recounting of her hike through an Estonian bog.

So here we go!

 The lonely sea and the sky.

The title of my story is taken from that famous poem Sea Fever by John Masefield. Here’s that first stanza of Masefield’s poem:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

There is a place in my mind to which I can so easily travel that resonates perfectly with my chosen title. A memory of a dark night out in the Atlantic ocean one time in the Autumn of 1969.

First let me set the scene of this place in my mind, a scene almost fifty years ago, written from that time.

The call of the open ocean

Those first few hours were utterly absorbing as I went through the whole business of clearing the yacht harbour at Gibraltar and heading out to the South-West hugging this unfamiliar coastline of Southern Spain. It was tempting to move out to deeper waters but the almost constant flow of large ships through the Straights of Gibraltar soon quashed that idea. Thankfully, the coastal winds were favourable for me and my single-masted sailing yacht.

After such a long time sailing in the relatively confined waters of the Mediterranean, it was difficult for me to imagine that in a few hours time the southern-most point of Spain would pass me by and the vastness of the Atlantic ocean would be my home for the next few weeks.

Soon the city of Tarifa was past my starboard beam and the Spanish coastline was rapidly disappearing away to the North-West. The horizon ahead of me was already approaching 180 degrees of raw, open ocean.  There was just a flicker of a thought that whispered across my mind: Oh Paul, what have you gone and done!

Where this crazy adventure had been born.

In 1986 I had the opportunity to take a few years off. Off from a working life, that is. I had started my own company in 1978 after eight years of being a salesman for the Office Products Division of IBM UK. In 1986, the successful sale of my company meant that for a while I could go and play. By chance, that summer I went on a vacation to Larnaca on the Island of Cyprus; Larnaca being on the Greek side of what was a divided island (and still is!) between Greece and Turkey.

Larnaca struck me as a lovely place on a lovely island in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Again, quite by chance, one day during my vacation, when strolling around Larnaca Marina, I noticed a yacht with a For Sale notice on the yacht’s pulpit. The yacht, named Songbird of Kent, was a Tradewind 33, a type that I had heard about previously from reading yachting magazines. I vaguely recalled that the type had been designed in the UK by John Rock, himself an experienced deep-water yachtsman, for the purpose of serious ocean sailing and that many Tradewinds had completed vast ocean crossings.

I was still looking at the yacht, lost in some dream about sailing the seas, when a call brought me back to ground, so to speak. It was a call from a man who had just come on deck from the cabin and had spotted me looking at Songbird.

Hi, my name is Ken and I’m the owner of Songbird. Did you want to come onboard and have a look around?” I couldn’t resist!

It transpired that Ken, and Betty his wife, an English couple, had been living on Songbird for some years, cruising the Mediterranean each Summer, and now wanted to return to England.

It was obvious that the yacht, a single-masted vessel with double head-sails known in the trade as a cutter rig, had been cared for in every possible way and that the yacht was offered for sale in a manner that meant she could become my permanent new home with little or no effort on my behalf. Thus so it was that three hours later Ken and Betty and yours truly had agreed terms for the sale of Songbird of Kent. One of those spur of the moment things that we do in our lives that, so often, make being alive such a reward.

I should explain that as a younger man (I was 42 when I agreed to buy Songbird) I had devoured the books written by such round-the-world solo sailors as Francis Chichester and Joshua Slocum and many others and harboured this silly, naive dream of one day doing a solo transatlantic crossing. Later on in life, when living in Wivenhoe in Essex, I bought my first yacht but never achieved anything more than local coastal sailing and a couple of overnight sailings to Holland; all with others I should hasten to add, never solo! However, I knew for sure that if there was one yacht that was perfect for open ocean sailing it was the Tradewind.

So it wasn’t long before my home in Great Horkesley, near Colchester, had been sold and I was adjusting to a new life as a ‘live aboard yachtie’ out in Cyprus.

I loved living in Larnaca for a whole bundle of reasons that I won’t go into here. Except one! That was that in my years of living and working near Colchester, which was where my business had been based, I had been introduced to gliding and eventually had ended up becoming a gliding instructor. So imagine my delight at finding that there was an active gliding club on a British ex-military airfield thirty minutes away from Larnaca. It was not long before I was fully back to gliding.

One day, I was doing gliding experience flights for some visitors. Early in the afternoon, up came a quietly spoken Englishman who wanted to get an idea of what it was like to fly in a glider. Les, for that was his name, settled himself in. I checked his straps were secure, pointed out the canopy release and jumped into the seat behind him, and within moments we were airborne.

Later on, when back on the ground and sitting to one side of the old runway, Les and I started chatting about our backgrounds and what had brought each of us to Larnaca. I learned that Les was not only Les Powles, the famous solo sailor, but that he was living on board his yacht, Solitaire, right here in Larnaca Marina.

Over the following days, often with a beer or two in hand, I heard Les’ tales about him having been in his 50s when he built Solitaire, with little prior knowledge of boatbuilding. That he had just eight hours of sailing experience when he decided to sail solo around the world. That remarkably, he had made it across the Atlantic, albeit discovering that his navigation skills didn’t quite match up to his boatbuilding abilities. This translating to his first landfall being the coast of Brazil, a 100 miles south of, and a different hemisphere, to the Barbados he had been aiming for!

I listened for hours, in utter rapture of what Les had achieved. This quiet, unpretentious man that had achieved so much. Including how after solo circumnavigation number one, Les ended up completing a further three solo circumnavigations, all of them full of incidents. Particularly, the last one, with Les being given up for dead when he hadn’t been heard of for over four months. When eventually he sailed up the Lymington River in Hampshire, in a skeletal state, his arrival caused a media frenzy. Lymington Marina subsequently gave him a free berth for life. Les’ boat had been damaged in a storm, he had lost all communications and had virtually run out of food by the time he made it back to England. Oh, and Les was 70 at the time!

At one point in me listening to Les he asked me about my own sailing ambitions. I remarked that I had this tired old idea of a solo sailing across the Atlantic.

Have you done any solo sailing before?”, Les asked me.

I replied, “At the start of most Summers, I sail alone from Larnaca across to the Turkish coast to meet up with family and friends who want to cruise along with me.

Continuing, “Generally I head for Alanya or a little further along the Turkish coast; to Antalya. It takes me two or three days to get there non-stop, most often with me going west-about Cyprus, and then straight up to Turkey. But I am embarrassed to admit that I hate both that trip, and the return solo trip at the end of the Summer. Detest would be a better word than hate.

Pausing before adding a moment later, “If I can’t stomach solo sailing for three days then there’s no chance, no chance at all, that I could sail solo across the Atlantic ocean.

It was then that Les said something both profound and deeply inspiring.

Paul, guess what! The first three days of being alone at sea are just as terrible for me, too. Indeed, I have never met a solo sailor who doesn’t say the same. Those early days of adjusting to your new world, your new world of being alone out on the ocean, are the worst. But never lose hope that from some point around the third or fourth day, you will have worked through that transition and found an unbelievable state of mind; a freedom of mind that has no equal.

Back to reality.

So here I was, Les’ words still ringing in my ears, as slowly but persistently the coastlines of Spain to the North and of Africa to the South became more and more distant and fuzzy.  It was at 15:30 that I made an entry in my yacht’s log: “No land in sight in any direction!

Now was the time to make sure that my bunk was made up, flashlights to hand, and my alarm clock ready and set. Alarm clock? Set to go off every twenty minutes; day and night! For this was the only way to protect me and my yacht from being hit by one of those gigantic container ships that seemed to be everywhere. It took at least twenty minutes from the moment a ship’s steaming lights appearing above the horizon to crossing one’s path!

It was in the early hours of my first morning alone at sea, when once again the alarm clock had woken me and I was looking around an ocean without a single ship’s light to be seen that more of Les’ words came to me. I remembered asking Les: “What’s the ­appeal of sailing?” Les replied without a moment’s hesitation: “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not ­responsible to anyone but yourself.

Yes, I could sense the solitude that was all around me but it was an intellectual sense not an emotional one. That would come later. Inside I was still afraid of what I had let myself in for.

Remarkably quickly however, the pattern of solo life aboard a thirty-three-foot yacht became my world. Frankly, it staggered me as to how busy were my days. Feeding myself, navigating, trying to forecast the winds, staying in touch with other yachties via the short-wave radio, keeping the boat tidy and a zillion other tasks meant the first few days and nights just slipped by.

But it was a sight on my fourth night at sea that created the memory that would turn out to remain with me for all my life. The memory that I can go to anytime in my mind.

That fourth night I was already well into the routine of waking to the alarm clock, clipping on my harness as I climbed up the three steps that took me from my cabin into the cockpit, scanning the horizon with my eyes, checking that the self-steering had the boat at the correct angle to the wind and then, if no ships’ lights had been seen slipping back down into my bunk and sleeping for another twenty minutes. Remarkably, I was not suffering from any long-term tiredness during the day.

It was a little after 3am that fourth night when the alarm clock had me back up in the cockpit once again. Then it struck me.

Songbird was sailing beautifully. There was a steady wind of around ten knots from the south-east, almost a swell-free ocean, and everything set perfectly.  Not a sign of any ship in any direction.

Then I lifted my eyes upwards. There was not a cloud in the night sky, not a single wisp of mist to dim a single one of the million or more stars that were above my head. For on this dark, moonless night, so far removed from any shore-based light pollution, the vastness, yet closeness of the heavens above was simply breath-taking. I was transfixed. Utterly unable to make any rational sense of this night splendour that glittered in every direction in which I gazed. This dome that represented a vastness beyond any meaning other than a reminder of the magic of the universe.

This magic of the heavens above me that came down to touch the horizon in all directions. Such a rare sight to see the twinkling of stars almost touching the starkness of the ocean’s horizon at night. A total marriage of this one planet with the vastness of outer space.

I heard the alarm clock go off again and again next to my bunk down below. But I remained transfixed until there was a very soft lightening of the skyline to the east that announced that another dawn was on its way.

I would never again look up at the stars in a night sky without being transported back to that wonderful night and the memory of a lonely sea and sky.

ooOOoo

As dear Les said, “… a freedom of mind that has no equal.

That place in my mind, that dark, stupendous night out in the Atlantic, still has the power to remind me of that freedom!

I know it will be one of my last thoughts when my time is up.

Neat solution!

First of all a Very Happy Summer Solstice wherever you are (in the Northern Hemisphere!)

Neighbour Larry sent me a link to a delightful story about solving the problem of a yacht, with a mainmast stretching 85 feet above the water level, passing under a bridge that had a clearance of 65 feet above that same water level.

Here’s a picture to whet your interest. (Notice I wrote ‘whet’ not ‘wet’!)

A case of lateral thinking!
A case of lateral thinking!

The story was reported in UK’s The Daily Mail newspaper nearly three years ago.  So I shall take a chance and republish it for you.

Beats going the long way round! How sailors got their 80ft mast under 65ft bridge

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
UPDATED: 11:04 EST, 20 September 2011

It may not look like an entirely safe practice – but it sure beats going the long way round.

These sailors came up with an ingenious way to get their boat – complete with 80ft mast – under a 65ft bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway. A video posted on YouTube shows how the sailors keeled the boat over by dangling containers filled with two tons of water from the mast.

But it is not a solution for the faint hearted.

Any miscalculation with the weight has the potential to send the whole boat crashing into the water.

The sailor ‘hunterparrot’ who posted the video said he initiates the roll by fixing the containers to the mast and slowly turning to port. The severity of the roll is then controlled by letting the ropes affixed to the mast out gradually with a cockpit winch.

The intracoastal waterway is a 3000-mile network of waterways that run up the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. It runs from New Jersey, around Florida to Texas.

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The photographs in that Daily Mail article may be viewed here.

Then across on the forums of the Wooden Boat Magazine was this:

Really? If the bridge clearance is 65 feet and the mast height is 80 feet, then the cosine of the heel angle would be 65 / 80. This corresponds to a heel angle of about 36 degrees; the mast is 54 degrees above the horizontal. Still, a pretty impressive maneuver.

If the bags are full of water, then his setup is self-limiting. As the bags start to immerse, the pull on the halyard is reduced. This means he would be nearly unable to capsize unless he winches the bags WAY too high. I think he has done this trick before.

I think the reason he is sitting on the high side is twofold: He can see the masthead more easily and it is more comfortable

The weight of one person really doesn’t make much difference when you are trying to heel that big a boat that far.

If someone had to do this sort of trick a lot, would it be worth putting a small video camera on the top of the mainmast? This would make it easier to judge clearance.

God bless!
Wayne

The link to that forum discussion  is here.

Finally, watch the video!

You all have a wonderful Mid-Summer’s Day and …. duck your head when passing under that low bridge! 😉

Not seeing the wood for the trees!

A postscript to the last two days.

This week is taking on a life of it’s own, so far as Learning from Dogs is concerned!

For when I penned Monday’s post, Running on Empty, I had not yet read George Monbiot’s essay Are We Bothered?. When I did so, it struck me as the perfect sequel to Monday’s post and formed the crux of yesterday’s post The nature of delusions.  That second post also included a personal account of my delusion with regard to ocean sailing and seemed sufficiently wordy not to be extended by my further reflections.

Thus the decision to run over to a third day!

Let me offer, first of all, my own reflections to George Monbiot’s concerns. That I distill, using his words, to: “The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet.” Expanded in his concluding paragraph:

So the perennially low level of concern, which flickers upwards momentarily when disaster strikes, then slumps back into the customary stupor, is an almost inevitable result of a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money. How we break the circle and wake people out of this dreamworld is the question that all those who love the living planet should address. There will be no easy answers.

When I first read Mr. Monbiot’s essay, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yet, upon further reflection, I became less sure that “a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money.” was the core of the issue.  I think it is a symptom.

Stay with me awhile I take a small deviation. To dogs, and other animals.

Many creatures have a powerful and instinctive means of assessing danger.  One only needs to observe the wild black-tailed deer that frequent our property to know that the slightest hint of danger or the unknown has them dashing away to safety.

A young black-tailed deer seen at home last September.
A young black-tailed deer seen at home last September.

Dogs are the same in that they will run early on from a danger.

Humans also have the propensity to be cautious about a clear and present danger.  However, it’s my proposition that when the danger is unclear and when that danger threatens the very essence of who we are and the world that we have constructed around us, we can be blind to the point of madness. I can think of many examples in support of that thesis and I’m sure you can too.

Yes, we have “a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money.” But I contend only because of the power of capitalism, of the power of modern marketing and advertising and the allure of being ‘one of the crowd’.

So back to my proposition.  It is this.

That when our lives are threatened by something unclear, complex and, ultimately, of devastating impact, we are very reluctant to embrace it and even more reluctant to both embrace it and escape to safety; whatever the latter implies.

Mankind’s effect on the environment, the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the increasing acidification of the oceans, the growing concerns about global weather, and on and on, are the most unclear, the most complex and the most devastating of futures to embrace.

(Thanks to Patrice for using this recently.)
(Thanks to Patrice for referring to this recently.)

So it really is no surprise to see mankind in general behaving as though this is a bit of a hangover, and an aspirin and a good night’s sleep will sort it! Especially when there is so much money and control invested in selling the same message; the message that there really is nothing to worry about.

There will be a so-called ‘tipping point’. A point in our awareness where the urgency to prevent the destruction of the biosphere will be paramount. And it will be a miracle if when that point arrives it isn’t far too late to save us.

I truly hope that I am wrong.

oooo

Remember what I wrote in yesterday’s post? About experiencing an Atlantic gale?

Fewer than 48-hours before my estimate of coming into Horta Marina on the Azores island of Faial, Songbird of Kent was struck by an early, fierce Winter gale. I seem to recall it was touching Force 10 Beaufort Scale (54 – 63 mph or 48 – 55 knots).

Anyway, it just about finished me off: literally as well as psychologically! I was so frightened, so utterly scared that I could think of nothing else other than getting to Horta and never going sailing again.

It revealed my delusion!

That was my ‘tipping point’ when it came to ocean sailing.

The gale subsided and I motor-sailed the 150-odd miles to Horta without any break for sleep or rest. Came into the harbour early in the morning after the second night since the gale. As soon as I was securely berthed, I closed the boat up and found a local hotel where a hot shower and a clean bed could restore a part of me.

Within a week, I had engaged a crew to sail the boat to Plymouth in South-West England and I flew back to England on a commercial airline.

Once Songbird of Kent arrived at Plymouth, she was put up for sale at a price that wouldn’t delay matters and that was that!

Oh, and I have never read any more books about single-handed ocean sailing. (But see my P.S.!)

oooo

P.S.

In yesterday’s post, I referred to Les Powells. Remember when I was in Larnaca, Cyprus? This is what I wrote:

Living on a boat close to me was Les Powles. Many will not have heard of Les but this quiet, softly-spoken man knows a thing or two about solo ocean sailing. As an article in The Guardian newspaper explained (in part):

In the 1980s and 90s a British man called Les Powles sailed three times round the world – always single-handedly, once non-stop. He couldn’t afford a radio transmitter, and on his greatest adventure he didn’t speak to anyone for 329 days. At 84, his ­circumnavigating days are now behind him, but he still lives on his boat, the Solitaire. What’s the ­appeal of sailing, I asked him. “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not ­responsible to anyone but yourself.”

Three times around the world – solo!

Thus getting to know Les was a great inspiration in getting me over the hurdle of can I really do this! (Les once said to me “the first three days are the worst!”)

Anyway, I have discovered that Les is living happily on his boat in Lymington, England and has written a book about his sailing life.

Les Powells book

It has been ordered and arrives today. This one will be read – from the comfort and safety of our rural home in Oregon!

The nature of delusions.

Sometimes the truth isn’t so obvious!

Yesterday, I wrote a post under the title of Running on empty!  I listed just a few recent items that had left me feeling very dispirited.  Trust me, not a familiar place!

I also raised the question ……

All of this is sending out a message. The message that if we are not very, very careful this could be the end-game for human civilisation on this Planet.

But do you know what really puzzles me?

It’s that this message is increasingly one that meets with nods of approval and words of agreement from more and more people that one sees going about one’s normal life.

…… then didn’t expand on what was puzzling me!

Let me come at this again; in full!

But do you know what really puzzles me?  It is the terrible lethargy across so many societies. The lack of any substantial social and political force for change. Especially, when so many scientists involved in climate research are warning we are leaving it dangerously late.

I’m no psychologist; far from it. But I want to recount a true story that gave me an insight into one of my own delusions.  Please stay with me because it does have a message at the end of it! 😉

oooo

Many years ago, I spent 5 years living on a boat in Larnaca in Cyprus.  My boat was a wonderful heavy-displacement ocean-going yacht.  A type known as a Tradewind 33.  Here is a picture of my boat.

Tradewind 33 - Songbird of Kent.
Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent.

For years I had devoured all the books written by the great yacht sailors who had sailed the oceans, many of them completing solo circumnavigations of the world.  Part of me wanted to sail the oceans.

Living on a boat close to me was Les Powles.  Many will not have heard of Les but this quiet, softly-spoken man knows a thing or two about solo ocean sailing. As an article in The Guardian newspaper explained (in part):

In the 1980s and 90s a British man called Les Powles sailed three times round the world – always single-handedly, once non-stop. He couldn’t afford a radio transmitter, and on his greatest adventure he didn’t speak to anyone for 329 days. At 84, his ­circumnavigating days are now behind him, but he still lives on his boat, the Solitaire. What’s the ­appeal of sailing, I asked him. “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not ­responsible to anyone but yourself.”

Three times around the world – solo!

Thus getting to know Les was a great inspiration in getting me over the hurdle of can I really do this!  (Les once said to me “the first three days are the worst!”)

Thus it came about that I departed Larnaca and worked my way Westwards along the Mediterranean, eventually arriving in Gibraltar.  After a few days getting ‘Songbird’ ready for my first ocean leg, Gibraltar to the Azores, I took a deep breath and headed West out into the Atlantic Ocean. Frankly, I was a tad too late to be starting out but the thought of spending a Winter in and around Gibraltar was too much to contemplate and, anyway, it was only 8 or 9 days sailing to the Azores; a distance of 1,125 land miles or 980 nautical miles.

Fewer than 48-hours before my estimate of coming into Horta Marina on the Azores island of Faial, Songbird of Kent was struck by an early, fierce Winter gale.  I seem to recall it was touching Force 10 Beaufort Scale (54 – 63 mph or 48 – 55 knots).

Anyway, it just about finished me off: literally as well as psychologically! I was so frightened, so utterly scared that I could think of nothing else other than getting to Horta and never going sailing again.

It revealed my delusion!

It proved that I had been in love with the courageousness of those many ocean sailors that I had read about. In love with the idea of a solo Atlantic crossing and being seen as a courageous hero. But, in truth, utterly in denial about what ocean sailing was really about!

So with the theme of delusion in your head, have a read of a recent post by George Monbiot. The post is called Are We Bothered? It is republished with the kind permission of George.

ooOOoo

Are We Bothered?

May 16, 2014

The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 9th May 2014

That didn’t take long. The public interest in the state of the natural world stimulated by the winter floods receded almost as quickly as the waters did. A YouGov poll showed that the number of respondents placing the environment among their top three issues of concern rose from 6% in mid-January to 23% in mid-February. By early April – though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just published two massive and horrifying reports – the proportion had fallen back to 11%.

CarbonBrief has plotted the results on this graph:

GM1

Sustaining interest in this great but slow-burning crisis is a challenge no one seems to have mastered. Only when the crisis causes or exacerbates an acute disaster – such as the floods – is there a flicker of anxiety, but that quickly dies away.

Why is it so difficult to persuade people to care about our wonderful planet, the world that gave rise to us and upon which we wholly depend? And why do you encounter a barrage of hostility and denial whenever you attempt it (and not only from the professional liars who are paid by coal and oil and timber companies to sow confusion and channel hatred)?

The first thing to note, in trying to answer this question, is that the rich anglophone countries are anomalous. In this bar chart (copied from the website of the New York Times) you can see how atypical the attitudes of people in the US and the UK are. Because almost everything we read in this country is published in rich, English-speaking nations, we might get the false impression that the world doesn’t care very much.

GM2

This belief is likely to be reinforced by the cherished notion that we lead the world in knowledge, sophistication and compassion. The bar chart puts me in mind of the famous quote perhaps mistakenly attributed to Gandhi. When asked by a journalist during a visit to Britain, “What do you think of Western civilization?”, he’s reputed to have replied, “I think it would be a good idea.”

Our erroneous belief that we are more concerned about manmade climate change than the people of other nations informs the sentiment, often voiced by the press and politicians, that there’s no point in acting if the rest of the world won’t play its part. For example, last year the Chancellor, George Osborne, remarked:

“I don’t want us to be the only people out there in front of the rest of the world. I certainly think we shouldn’t be further ahead of our partners in Europe.”

But we’re not “the only people out there in front of the rest of the world.” In fact we’re not in front at all. As this map produced by Oxford University’s Smith School suggests, we are some way behind not only some other rich nations but also a number of countries much poorer than ours.

GM3

As for the US, Australia and Canada, they are ranked among the worst of all: comprehensively failing to limit their massive contribution to a global problem. We justify our foot-dragging with a mistaken premise. Our refusal to stop pumping so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is pure selfishness.

Both the map and the bar chart overlap to some degree with the fascinating results of the Greendex survey of consumer attitudes.

For years we’ve been told that people cannot afford to care about the natural world until they become rich; that only economic growth can save the biosphere, that civilisation marches towards enlightenment about our impacts on the living planet. The results suggest the opposite.

As you can see from the following graph, the people consulted in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries, even though those impacts tend to be smaller. Of the nations surveyed, the people of Germany, the US, Australia and Britain feel the least consumer guilt; the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil the most.

GM4

The more we consume, the less we feel. And maybe that doesn’t just apply to guilt.

Perhaps that’s the point of our otherwise-pointless hyperconsumption: it smothers feeling. It might also be the effect of the constant bombardment of advertising and marketing. They seek to replace our attachments to people and place with attachments to objects: attachments which the next round of advertising then breaks in the hope of attaching us to a different set of objects.

The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become. Even if you somehow put aside the direct, physical impacts of rising consumption, it’s hard to understand how anyone could imagine that economic growth is a formula for protecting the planet.

So what we seem to see here is the turning of a vicious circle. The more harm we do, the less concerned about it we become. And the more hyperconsumerism destroys relationships, communities and the physical fabric of the Earth, the more we try to fill the void in our lives by buying more stuff.

All this is accompanied in the rich anglophone nations with the extreme neoliberalism promoted by both press and politicians, and a great concentration of power in the hands of the financial and fossil fuel sectors, which lobby hard, in the public sphere and in private, to prevent change.

So the perennially low level of concern, which flickers upwards momentarily when disaster strikes, then slumps back into the customary stupor, is an almost inevitable result of a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money. How we break the circle and wake people out of this dreamworld is the question that all those who love the living planet should address. There will be no easy answers.

http://www.monbiot.com

ooOOoo

Tomorrow I will offer my own reflection on all of this – and finish off the story of me and ocean sailing!