Tag: New York City

Don’t believe your eyes!

There are some very creative people out there!

Just over a week ago, Dan Gomez sent me a link to an item on StumbleUpon.  It was a feature called Don’t Believe Your Eyes featuring the work of Matthew Albanese.

I am not going to reproduce all the images despite them all being on that StumbleUpon webpage simply because I haven’t had time to ask Matthew’s permission.  I will just offer a few of them so you may be wowed as I was.

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Matthew Albanese is an artist who fascinates with special effects and magic. Matthew owns a stunning artwork collection of photographs that will blow your mind with their realistic presence. On the left side in the gallery you can see the final image and on the right you will be able to see how image was created using his special effects. Scroll down and enjoy today’s gallery of 15 beautiful artworks.

BOX OF LIGHTNING

Matthew-Albanese-16-2

Diorama for Box of Lightning.. Backlit etching in plexiglass painted black.

HOW TO BREATHE UNDERWATER

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Diorama made out of walnuts, poured and cast candle wax, wire, glitter, peanut shells, flock, plaster, wire, dyed starfish, compressed moss,

jellybeans (anemones), sponges, wax coated seashells, toothpaste, clay, figs, feathers, Q-tips, nonpareils.

A NEW LIFE

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Diorama made using painted parchment paper, thread, hand dyed ostrich feathers, carved chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic potting moss and cotton.

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OK, if you want to see the whole set you will have to go Matthew’s website.

But I will just sneak in the last one from that series of fifteen.

PuyEOkVh

Paprika Mars. Made out of 12 pounds paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and charcoal

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Matthew Albanese’s fascination with film, special effects and movie magic—and the mechanics behind these illusions—began early.  Born in northern New Jersey in 1983, Albanese spent a peripatetic childhood moving between New Jersey and upstate New York. An only child, Albanese enjoyed imaginative, solitary play. He loved miniatures and created scenarios intricately set with household objects and his extensive collection of action figures. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography at the State University of New York, Purchase, Albanese worked as a fashion photographer, training his lens on bags, designer shoes and accessories—this small-object specialization is known in the retail trade as “table top photography.” Albanese’s creative eye soon turned to tabletop sets of a more wildly eclectic nature. In 2008, a spilled canister of paprika inspired him to create his first mini Mars landscape. More minute dioramas—made of spices, food and found objects—followed. In 2011, Albanese was invited to show at the Museum of Art and Design of New York. His work has also been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Winkleman Gallery, and Muba, Tourcoing France. Matthew is represented  at Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York

ALL IMAGES, TITLES, DESCRIPTION AND BIO ARE COPYRIGHT AND IN OWNERSHIP OF MATTHEW ALBANESE WEBSITE

Plus ça change – footnote

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).

The final of three repostings from a year ago.  To recap, I wrote on Monday, “… out of curiosity I wondered what I had published a year ago, in early February 2012.  To my amazement what was published was as fresh and relevant as if it had been published today.

The second post from a year ago was reposted yesterday.  Today the footnote is from the 9th February, 2012.  (It reads in its original form with the links and references unchanged.)

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So many vested opinions!

Regular readers will know that I published recently, in two parts, a post with the heading of Climate, truth and integrity, the first part being here and the second part here.

To me the arguments supporting the premise that mankind is engaged in the process of destroying our very being are powerful and convincing.  But if there is any serious scientific doubt, then I am reminded of that saying in aviation circles about a risk to the safety of an aircraft, “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”  Surely, that’s the stance the climate change skeptics should be taking!  Because when the evidence of global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction is drawn together and there are no skeptics left, then will the last person left alive please switch the lights off!

Anyway, I’m going to republish, with permission, a recent Post that appeared on Tom Engelhardt‘s powerful blogsite, Tom Dispatch.  It was written by Bill McKibben of 350.org fame.  Here it is,

Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Why the Energy-Industrial Elite Has It In for the Planet

Posted by Bill McKibben at 9:39am, February 7, 2012.

Introduction

Two Saturdays ago, I was walking with a friend in a park here in New York City.  It was late January, but I was dressed in a light sweater and a thin fall jacket, which I had just taken off and tied around my waist.  We were passing a strip of bare ground when suddenly we both did a double-take.  He looked at me and said, “Crocuses!”  Dumbfounded, I replied, “Yes, I see them.”  And there they were, a few clumps of telltale green shoots poking up from the all-brown ground as if it were spring.  Such a common, comforting sight, but it sent a chill through me that noticeably wasn’t in the air.  Even the flowers, I thought, are confused by our new version of weather.

Later that same week, as temperatures in the Big Apple crested 60 degrees, I was chatting on the phone with a friend in Northampton, Massachusetts.  I was telling him about the crocuses, when he suddenly said, “I’m looking out my window right now and for the first time in my memory of January, there’s not a trace of snow!”

Of course, our tales couldn’t be more minor or anecdotal, even if the temperatures that week did feel like we were on another planet.  Here’s the thing, though: after a while, even anecdotes add up — maybe we should start calling them “extreme anecdotes” — and right now there are so many of them being recounted across the planet.  How could there not be in a winter, now sometimes referred to as “Junuary,” in which, in the United States, 2,890 daily high temperature records have either been broken or tied at last count, with the numbers still rising?  Meanwhile, just to the south of us, in Mexico, extreme anecdotes abound, since parts of the country are experiencing “the worst drought on record.”  Even cacti are reportedly wilting and some towns are running out of water (as they are across the border in drought-stricken Texas).  And worst of all, the Mexican drought is expected to intensify in the months to come.

And who can doubt that in Europe, experiencing an extreme cold spell the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades — even Rome had a rare snowfall and Venice’s canals were reported to be freezing over — there are another set of all-too-extreme anecdotes.  After all, in places like Ukraine, scores of the homeless are freezing to death, pipes are bursting, power cuts are growing, and maybe even an instant energy crisis is underway (at a moment when the European Union is getting ready to cut itself off from Iranian oil).

That’s just to begin a list.  And yet here’s the strange thing.  At least in this country, you can read the “freaky” weather reports or listen to the breathless TV accounts of unexpected tornadoes striking the South in January and rarely catch a mention of the phrase “climate change.”  Given the circumstances, the relative silence on the subject is little short of eerie, even if worries about climate change lurk just below the surface.  Which is why it’s good to have TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, take a clear-eyed look at American denialism and just what it is we prefer not to take in. Tom

The Great Carbon Bubble
Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard

By Bill McKibben

If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet — as we shall see — it’s unfortunately largely invisible to us.

In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology.  Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image [see below, Ed] shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds.

It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years. As Jeff Masters, the web’s most widely read meteorologist, explains, “The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s.”

In fact, it’s likely that the week that photo was taken will prove “the driest first week in recorded U.S. history.” Indeed, it followed on 2011, which showed the greatest weather extremes in our history — 56% of the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since “climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier.” Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters each causing $1 billion or more in damage last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: “Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”

In the face of such data — statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet — you’d think we’d already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we’re witnessing an all-out effort to… deny there’s a problem.

Our GOP presidential candidates are working hard to make sure no one thinks they’d appease chemistry and physics. At the last Republican debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted that he should be the nominee because he’d caught on earlier than Newt or Mitt to the global warming “hoax.”

Most of the media pays remarkably little attention to what’s happening. Coverage of global warming has dipped 40% over the last two years. When, say, there’s a rare outbreak of January tornadoes, TV anchors politely discuss “extreme weather,” but climate change is the disaster that dare not speak its name.

And when they do break their silence, some of our elite organs are happy to indulge in outright denial. Last month, for instance, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by “16 scientists and engineers” headlined “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The article was easily debunked. It was nothing but a mash-up of long-since-disproved arguments by people who turned out mostly not to be climate scientists at all, quoting other scientists who immediately said their actual work showed just the opposite.

It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.)Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.

Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

When I talked about a carbon bubble at the beginning of this essay, this is what I meant. Here are some of the relevant numbers, courtesy of the Capital Institute: we’re already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with.

If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we’ll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons — five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.

Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).

If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality. So instead, we simply charge ahead.  To take just one example, last month the boss of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, called for burning all the country’s newly discovered coal, gas, and oil — believed to be 1,800 gigatons worth of carbon from our nation alone.

What he and the rest of the energy-industrial elite are denying, in other words, is that the business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry. The carbon bubble that looms over our world needs to be deflated soon. As with our fiscal crisis, failure to do so will cause enormous pain — pain, in fact, almost beyond imagining. After all, if you think banks are too big to fail, consider the climate as a whole and imagine the nature of the bailout that would face us when that bubble finally bursts.

Unfortunately, it won’t burst by itself — not in time, anyway. The fossil-fuel companies, with their heavily funded denialism and their record campaign contributions, have been able to keep at bay even the tamest efforts at reining in carbon emissions. With each passing day, they’re leveraging us deeper into an unpayable carbon debt — and with each passing day, they’re raking in unimaginable returns. ExxonMobil last week reported its 2011 profits at $41 billion, the second highest of all time. Do you wonder who owns the record? That would be ExxonMobil in 2008 at $45 billion.

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game. And it’s why that view from the satellites, however beautiful from a distance, is likely to become ever harder to recognize as our home planet.

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Bill McKibben

This photo was taken on January 4, 2012.

Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth – Blue Marble 2012

January 25, 2012

*Updated February 2, 2012: According to Flickr, “The western hemisphere Blue Marble 2012 image has rocketed up to over 3.1 million views making it one of the all time most viewed images on the site after only one week.”

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.

To read more about NASA’s Suomi NPP go to: www.nasa.gov/npp

Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

Will the New Year be a profound ‘wake-up’ call?

2013 may be the year that ends any uncertainty about what we are doing to our planet.

Introduction

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will be familiar with the occasional posts that are presented here, courtesy of Tom Engelhardt of Tom Dispatch.  I am so grateful to Tom’s blanket permission to republish essays from a Tom Dispatch author.  So it is that today sees the republishing of a recent essay on Tom Dispatch by Rebecca Solnit.  It articulates beautifully what 2013 might represent.  So without further ado, here’s Rebecca’s essay prefaced by Tom’s introduction.

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Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, 2013 as Year Zero for Us — and Our Planet

[Note for TomDispatch Readers:  It’s that time again.  Another year-ending moment for this website, which began as a no-name listserv in October 2001 and went online as TomDispatch in December 2002, thanks to Ham Fish of the Nation Institute.  It’s been plugging away ever since as a “regular antidote to the mainstream media,” doing its best to connect the unconnected dots in our world.  (Click here to check out a little piece I wrote for the Moyers & Company website this week about what I call “isolation journalism” in the mainstream media where connections are seldom made.) 

With today’s post, we’re closing down for 2012, but expect us back on January 3rd renewed and ready for a new year full of surprises.  In the meantime, profuse thanks are due to the stalwart crew who keep TD going: Managing Editor Nick Turse, who will continue to follow the U.S. military as it garrisons the planet in 2013 and will have a remarkable new book on the Vietnam War published as well; Associate Editor Andy Kroll, who will again be on the economic beat for us; Dimitri Siavelis and Joe Duax, who keep the site miraculously shipshape and ready to roll; Christopher Holmes, proofer-extraordinaire who holds error eternally at bay (or at least to a surprising minimum) in our dispatches; and Erika Eichelberger, our maestro of social media, who has brought TD Facebook page and Twitter feed alive this year.  (Check us out there if you haven’t yet!)  Special thanks are due as well to Andy Breslau, Taya Kitman, and the rest of the staff of the Nation Institute, who continue to stick with us through thick and thin, and finally to Lannan Foundation, which may be last in this list but is certainly first in what it’s done for TomDispatch.  Surrounded by such a crowd, life couldn’t be better. 

Finally, of course, my deepest thanks to TomDispatch readers all over this country and around the world, whose readership and support make all the difference. Your emails to this site offer tips, catch errors, offer criticism, and reveal unknown worlds to me.  They are always read (even when, hard as I try, I’m too busy to answer).  What more could I ask? Have a good holiday. See you all in 2013! Tom]

In weather terms, 2012 in New York City began for me with crocuses.  On an early February day in a week in which the temperature hit 60 degrees, I spotted their green shoots pushing up through the bare ground of a local park on a morning walk — just as if it were spring.  The year was ending last weekend as I wandered with a friend past a communal garden in the same park and noticed that, in a December week in which the temperatures were in the mid-50s, the last few roses were still in bloom.

In between, in that park on a dark night in late October I watched a white-capped Hudson River roiling like some enraged beast, preparing for a storm surge that would flood lower Manhattan, plunging it into darkness and so turning it into “little North Korea,” briefly making true islanders out of New Yorkers and flooding out whole communities.  That, of course, was Hurricane Sandy, the Frankenstorm surprise of New York’s year (though anything but a worst case scenario).  And then, there was the American 2012 in which heat eternally set records and we experienced something close to an “endless summer.”

If climate change had a personality in this year of so many grim records — wildfiresdroughtheatcarbon dioxide emissions — it would definitely be saying: “I’m not the thing your grandchildren will have to deal with, I’m yours!”

In such a new world of upheaval, tradition matters.  And there is one inviolable tradition at TomDispatch: Rebecca Solnit has the last word — as she has for years, peering into the future, sizing up the past, weighing alternatives to what is, and last year considering a season of being Occupied.  Now, for the first time in a long while, weather and climate change are a growing American preoccupation.  Of course, climate change is an area long occupied by the giant energy companies whose compassion extends no further than their bottom lines (which, like the heat, continue to set historical records).  Solnit in her year-ending, TomDispatch-closing piece suggests that it’s time for us to occupy the topic ourselves, and do our best to ensure that this planet, 2013 and beyond, remains a habitable place for us, our children, and our grandchildren.  There could be no more powerful New Year’s wish. Tom

The Sky’s the Limit 
The Demanding Gifts of 2012
By Rebecca Solnit

As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise — but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.

Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger.  This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms.

For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us — the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small — to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species.

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to. This means we are losing crucial aspects of our most irreplaceable, sublime gift, and some of us are suffering the loss now — from sea snails whose shells are dissolving in acidified oceans to Hurricane Sandy survivors facing black mold and bad bureaucracy to horses starving nationwide because a devastating drought has pushed the cost of hay so high to Bolivian farmers failing because the glaciers that watered their valleys have largely melted.

This is not just an issue for environmentalists who love rare species and remote places: if you care about childrenhealthpovertyfarmersfoodhunger, or the economy, you really have no choice but to care about climate change.

The reasons for acting may be somber, but the fight is a gift and an honor. What it will give you in return is meaning, purpose, hope, your best self, some really good company, and the satisfaction of being part of victories also to come.  But what victory means needs to be imagined on a whole new scale as the news worsens.

Unwrapping the Victories

“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero,” Galileo famously says in Bertold Brecht’s play about that renegade scientist, but at least, the hero has the possibility of doing something about that unhappiness, as, for instance, the Sierra Club has. It’s led the fight against big coal, helping prevent 168 coal-powered plants from opening and retiring 125 dirty coal plants.  The aim of its Beyond Coal campaign is to retire all 522 such plants in the United States, which would be a colossal triumph.

Its’ victories also capture what a lot of our greenest gifts look like: nothing. The regions that weren’t fracked, the coal plants that didn’t open, the mountaintops that weren’t blasted by mining corporations, the children who didn’t get asthma or mercury poisoning from coal emissions, the carbon that stayed in the Earth and never made it into the atmosphere.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline bringing the dirtiest of dirty energy from Canada to the Gulf Coast might have already opened without the activists who ringed the White House and committed themselves across the continent.

In eastern Texas, for instance, extraordinary acts of civil disobedience have been going on continuously since August, including three blockaders who this month crawled inside a length of the three-foot-in-diameter pipeline and refused to leave. People have been using their bodies, getting in the way of heavy equipment, and going to jail in an effort to prevent the pipeline from being built. A lot of them are the same kind of robust young people who kept the Occupy encampments going earlier in 2012, but great-grandmothers, old men, and middle-aged people like me have been crucial players, too.

Meanwhile in British Columbia, where pipeline profiteers were looking into alternate routes to transport their climate-destroying products abroad, members of the Wet’suwet’en nation evicted surveyors and politely declared war on them. In Ohio and New York, the fight against fracking is going strong. Across the Atlantic, France has banned fracking, while Germany has made astounding progress toward using carbon-neutral energy sources. If solar works there, we have no excuse. And as Ellen Cantarow wrote at TomDispatch of the anti-fracking movement in New York State, “Caroline, a small hamlet in Tompkins County (population 3,282), is the second town in the state to get 100% of its electricity through wind power and one of the most recent to pass a fracking ban.”

Everywhere people are at work to build a better world in which we — and some of the beauty of this world — will be guaranteed to survive. Everywhere they are at war with the forces threatening us and the planet. I usually avoid war metaphors, but this time it’s barely a metaphor. Our side isn’t violent, but it is engaged in a battle, and people are putting their bodies on the line and their lives behind the cause. The other side is intent on maximizing its profit at the cost of nearly everything.

My father, a high-school student during the Second World War, followed the campaigns closely with pins on a wall map to represent troops and battles. You could map North America that way now and see, when you added up the struggles against drilling in the Arctic, fracking, mountaintop removal, and the various other depredations of big coal and big oil, that remarkable things are already being done. In this war, resistance has been going on for a long time, so overlooked by the mainstream media it might as well be as underground as the French Resistance back then.

A lot of it is on a small scale, but if you connect the pieces you get a big picture of the possible, the hopeful, and the powerful. Think of each of those small acts of defending the Earth as a gift to you. And think of your own power, a gift always latent within you that demands you give back.

If you’re reading this, you’re already in the conversation. No matter who you are, or where, there is something for you to do: educate yourself and others, write letters, organize or join local groups, participate in blockades and demonstrations, work on divestment from oil corporations (if you’re connected to a university), and make this issue central to the conversations and politics of our time.

I’ve started working directly on various projects with 350.org, whose global impact and reinvention of activist tactics I’ve long admired.  Its creator Bill McKibben has evolved from a merely great writer to a pivotal climate organizer and a gift to all of us.

The world you live in is not a given; much of what is best in it has been built through the struggles of passionate activists over the last centuries.  They won us many freedoms and protected many beauties. Count those gifts among your growing heap.

Drawing the Line

Here’s another gift you’ve already received: the lines in the battle to come are being ever more clearly drawn. Clarity is a huge asset. It helps when you know where you stand, who stands with you — and who against you.

We have returned to class war in conflicts around the world — including the Chicago Teacher’s Strike of 2012 and the Walmart protests in this country (which led to 1,197 actions nationwide in support of that company’s underpaid workers on Black Friday), as well as the great student uprisings in Quebec and Mexico City.

There has, of course, been a war against working people and the poor for decades, only we didn’t call it “class war” when just the rich were fighting hard. We called it corporate globalization, the race to the bottom, tax cuts and social-service cuts, privatization, neoliberalism, and a hundred other things.  Now that the poor are fighting back, we can call it by its old name. Perhaps what the conservatives have forgotten is that if you return us to the grim divides and dire poverty of the nineteenth century, you might also be returning us to the revolutionary spirit of that century.

This time, though, it’s not only about work and money.  The twenty-first century class war is engulfing the natural world on which everything rests. We can see how clearly the great environmental battle of our time is about money, about who benefits from climate destruction (the very few) and who loses (everyone else for all time to come and nearly every living thing). This year, Hurricane Sandy and a crop-destroying, Mississippi-River-withering drought that had more than 60% of the nation in its grip made it clear that climate change is here and it’s now and it hurts.

In 2012, many have come to see that climate change is an economic issue, and that economics is a moral and ecological issue.  Why so little has been done about the state of the climate in the past three decades has everything to do with who profits. Not long ago, too many Americans were on the fence, swayed by the oil company propaganda war about whether climate change even exists.

However, this month, according to the Associated Press, “Four out of every five Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it.” That widespread belief suggests that potentially broad support now exists and may be growing for a movement that makes climate change — the broiling of the Earth — central, urgent, and everybody’s business.

Ten years ago too, many people thought the issue could be addressed, if at all, through renunciatory personal virtue in private life: buying Priuses, compact fluorescents, and the like. Now most people who care at all know that the necessary changes won’t happen through consumer choice alone.  What’s required are pitched battles against the most powerful (and profitable) entities on Earth, the oil and energy companies and the politicians who serve them instead of us.

That clarity matters and those conflicts are already underway but need to grow.  That’s our world right now, clear as a cold winter day, sharp as broken glass.

Putting Aside Paradise

When I remember the world I grew up in, I see the parts of it that were Paradise — and I also see all the little hells. I was a kid in California when it had the best public education system in the world and universities were nearly free and the economy was not so hard on people and the rich paid a lot of taxes. The weather was predictable and we weren’t thinking about it changing any time before the next ice age.

That was, however, the same California where domestic violence was not something the law took an interest in, where gays and lesbians were openly discriminated against, where almost all elected officials were white men, where people hadn’t even learned to ask questions about exclusion and racism.

Which is to say, paradises are always partial and, when you look backward, it’s worth trying to see the whole picture. The rights gained over the past 35 years were fought for, hard, while so much of what was neglected — including public education, tuition, wages, banking regulation, corporate power, and working hours — slid into hell.

When you fight, you sometimes win; when you don’t, you always lose.

Here’s another gift we have right now: the young. There are quite a lot of heroes among them, including the Dreamers or Dream Act activists standing up for immigrants; the occupiers who challenged Wall Street in its home and elsewhere around the country, became the unofficial first responders who aided the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and have camped out on the doorstep of Goldman Sachs’s CEO these last few months; the young who blockaded that tar-sands pipeline, supplied the tremendous vitality of 350.org globally, and have just begun to organize to pressure universities to divest from fossil fuel companies on 192 campuses across the country.

In 2012, they rose up from Egypt and Russia to Canada and Chile. They are fighting for themselves and their future, but for us, too. They have remarkably few delusions about how little our world is prepared to offer most of them. They know that the only gifts they’ll get are the ones they can wrestle free from the powers that be.

Paradise is overrated. We dream of the cessation of misery, but who really wants a world without difficulty? We learn through mistakes and suffering. These are the minerals that harden our bones and the milestones on the roads we travel. And we are made to travel, not to sit still.

Take pleasure in the route. There is terrible suffering of many kinds in many places, but solidarity consists of doing something about it, not being miserable. In this heroic age, survival is also going to require seeing what fragments of paradise are still around us, what still blooms, what’s still unimaginably beautiful about rivers, oceans, and evening skies, what exhilaration there is in witnessing the stubbornness of small children and their discovery of a world we think we know. All these are gifts as well.

Ice Breaking Up

As you gear up for 2013, don’t forget that 2012 has been an extraordinary year. Who ever thought we’d see Aung San Suu Kyi elected to office in her native Burma and free to travel after so many years of house arrest? Who expected that the United Nations would suddenly vote to give Palestine observer state status? Who foresaw that the silly misinterpretations of Mayan prophesy would be overtaken by the Mayan Zapatistas, who rose once again last Friday? (Meanwhile, Canada’s Native people started a dynamic movement around indigenous rights and the environment that has led to everything from flash-mob dances in an Edmonton Mall to demonstrations in Ottawa.)

Who thought that Occupy Wall Street, roundly dismissed by the mainstream on its one-year anniversary, would spawn two superhero projects, Occupy Sandy and Strike Debt? (Who among the police officers clubbing and tear-gassing the young Occupiers in 2011 thought that a year later these would be the people with the power and the generosity to come to their aid when a climate-fed storm wrecked their homes?) Keep it in mind: the future is not predictable.  Sometimes, the world changes suddenly and in profound ways. Sometimes we make it do so.

Steven Spielberg’s new film Lincoln is a reminder about what it means to fight for what matters most. Permanently freeing five million slaves and abolishing slavery forever meant renouncing a cheap power source in use for more than 200 years. Doing so was initially inconceivable and then a matter of indifference except to the slaves themselves and small groups of abolitionists.  Next, it was daringly radical, then partisan, with the whole nation taking sides, the fuel for a terrible war.  Finally, it was the law of the land. Today, we need to give up on, or at least radically reduce our reliance on, another set of power sources: oil, coal, and natural gas.

This is, among other things, a war of the imagination: the carbon profiteers and their politicians are hoping you don’t connect the dots, or imagine the various futures we could make or they could destroy, or grasp the remarkably beautiful and complex ways the natural world has worked to our benefit and is now being sabotaged, or discover your conscience and voice, or ever picture how different it could all be, how different it will need to be.

They are already at war against the wellbeing of our Earth. Their greed has no limits, their imagination nothing but limits. Fight back. You have the power. It’s one of your gifts.

Rebecca Solnit has seen salmon migrate and polar bears nap, and she’s seen blockaders defend foreclosed homes and shut down oil refineries: all of it was beautiful. She is the author of A Paradise Built in Hell, among many other works. She has been writing TomDispatch’s year-end essays since 2004 and she hopes to see you in the streets in 2013 and at the White House on February 17th.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

oooOOOooo

A fascinating look at the coming New Year.  What interesting times we live in.

The creek did rise!

Connections!

Our good friend back in Payson, John Hurlburt, is often heard to close a conversation in response to a “Best wishes” with the saying “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

Well for us the creek did rise last week-end!

creekrise

So when I rang John a couple of days ago and asked him where the expression came from, he was quick to explain that it was a familiar ‘sign-off’ by Red Barber, a former sports broadcaster.

Red Barber
Red Barber

As Wikipedia explains:

Walter Lanier “Red” Barber (February 17, 1908 – October 22, 1992) was an American sportscaster.

Barber, nicknamed “The Ol’ Redhead”, was primarily identified with radio broadcasts of Major League Baseball, calling play-by-play across four decades with the Cincinnati Reds (1934–38), Brooklyn Dodgers (1939–1953), and New York Yankees (1954–1966).

Like his fellow sports pioneer Mel Allen, Barber also gained a niche calling college and professional football in his primary market of New York City.

OK, that’s all for now – off to the shops to get in 10 days of supplies before the bridge is repaired, as reported here!

Sandy’s legacy perhaps?

Will history show in a few years that Hurricane Sandy was a turning point?

Not available to watch in the USA, there’s been a programme on BBC TV under the heading of Sandy: Analysis of a Hurricane.  I am told by those who have watched it that it is chilling in a very frightening way.  It shows the power, both literally and metaphorically, of the effects of much warmer seas off the US eastern seaboard.

Yesterday was the concluding part of Ellen Cantarow’s essay.  If you missed it and want to read it, Part One is here and Part Two here.  In that second part, I included a video showing graphically, in a very creative way, the effect of New York City addeding 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) to the atmosphere in 2010.  I saw that video in a recent post by Christine of 350orbust fame.

Christine has very kindly given me written permission to republish that post.  I have left out the video as that was included on Learning from Dogs yesterday, as just mentioned.

Our Carbon Pollution: Is It Different From Raw Sewage?

In a very short time – years or at most decades – humans will look back at our spewing of carbon pollution into the atmosphere with the same disgust and disbelief that we now look back on people in the middle ages in Europe who dumped their raw sewage into the streets. Here’s a recent video that makes tangible the carbon emissions that New York City spews out every day.

The good news is that Hurricane Sandy may have started a new discussion in the U.S. on climate change in general, and pricing carbon pollution in particular (sadly, in Canada we are lagging far behind. Our current federal government is intent on dragging us back into the 20th Century):

  • Speaking to Bloomberg News, oil and gas giant Exxon reiterated its support for a carbon tax yesterday. A spokeswoman for the company said that the tool could “play a significant role in addressing the challenge of rising emissions.” Click here to read full article.
  • The right wing American Enterprise Institute recently held a day-long conference on pricing carbon: Yesterday, the American Enterprise Institute hosted a conference to talk about anything and everything related to the economics of carbon taxes.  Normally, a full-day conference with more than a dozen speakers on a tax issue in DC will be lucky to get more than a few dozen attendees, even with a free lunch.  Carbon taxes, though, are different.  The enthusiasm for this issue is such that there were over 200 attendees, many of whom stood for half the day.

What makes carbon taxes different? Simply put, people across the political spectrum now know that putting a price on carbon is an indispensable tool for dealing with our climate and budget problems, and that a carbon tax is the most politically viable path forward.  This dynamic has created an exciting amount of momentum that now needs to be turned into policy. Read more on ThinkProgress.

  • This week, in an open letter, a coalition of the world’s largest investors (responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets) called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies. They said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally.
  • The World Bank – now headed by a scientist, for the first time ever – released a report this week calling for urgent action on climate change. “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.
  • On the good news front – the Tesla Model S won the 2013 Car of The Year award, the first electric car to win in the 60 year history of the award! Read more. Also under the heading of  “good news”, Harvard Students have voted to support their university’s divestment from the fossil fuel industry (read more).

It feels like we’re on the edge of a paradigm shift. What do you think?

For all our sakes, I do hope Christine is correct in her judgment.

Postscript to the result

Will we see the renewed President Obama take notice of what we are doing to the planet?

But don’t hold your breath! The BBC reported that President Obama in his victory speech had “pledged to work with Republican leaders in Congress to reduce the government’s budget deficit, fix the tax code and reform the immigration system.”  All well and dandy but, perhaps, missing the big one – climate change.

OK, on to the meat of this post.

“Frankenstorm”

I first came across this reflection on Hurricane Sandy in Christine’s great blog 350 or bust.  It’s an essay written by Colin Beavan, aka “No Impact Man“, who lives in New York City and wrote a response after experiencing Hurricane Sandy last week.  I then asked Colin if I could republish his essay on Learning from Dogs and promptly received his approval.

What to do if Hurricane Sandy scared you

Dear friends,

I don’t say this often but I am scared. Not scared to the point of paralysis. Not scared enough to run away. Not scared enough to stop trying to help. Not scared enough to think we’re doomed. Just scared enough to feel worried for myself, my family, my friends, my community, my country, and my world.

I was lucky when Hurricane Sandy hit. My daughter Bella and I put on our waterproofs in the early hours and ran around Brooklyn’s Fort Greene park in the wind and rain with Frankie–our dog–and our Occupy Wall Street activist friend/hero Monica Hunken.

That night, the lights flickered a couple of times. I lost my internet for three hours. Frankie the dog hid in the upstairs bathroom bathtub. That was the extent of it.

But when I woke up, lower Manhattan was flooded and without power. All the coastal parts of Brooklyn and Queens from Red Hook to Coney Island through the Rockaways and Hamilton Beach were hammered. The wind had driven a fire through Queens that destroyed so many houses. And the world’s most amazing subway system was brought to its knees. To say nothing of poor Staten Island and coastal New Jersey.

We in the Tri-State Area didn’t get Katrina. But we got a taste of her.

Yes, there are some good parts. New Yorkers have been showing up some of the emergency shelters in such numbers that they have been turned away. There are donation drives and volunteer efforts. And about a gazillion New Yorkers have taken to cycling.

But there is a lot of suffering. And a lot of fear not of what Sandy brought. But of what next year’s storm will bring. And the year after that. And after that. First Irene, now Sandy, for how many years in a row can New York City withstand a “once in a century” storm, people are asking?

I hung up the phone with a friend just a few minutes ago. She said, “In some ways, this is way more scarey than 9/11, because you get the feeling that it could happen again and again and again.”

In a coffee shop this afternoon, everyone at every table was talking about climate change. People are talking about where they will go next time. To an aunt’s in New Hampshire. A friend with three cottages in Maine. People are talking about their escape plan for when New York stops functioning.

Katrina, Irene, Sandy, droughts all summer, busted corn crops, water shortages in the southwest: it’s hard to believe we aren’t seeing what the climate scientists predicted. But sooner. Way sooner than they said.

It feels ironic and sad. That the war in Iraq sparked by 9/11 may have got us what we wanted–control over more oil. But that burning that self-same oil has brought us another mini-9/11. Except that this one we are kind of doing to ourselves.

Fracking–the drilling for natural gas by injecting poisonous chemicals into the same rock formations that our drinking comes from. Fighting in the Middle East. Drilling in the arctic. Mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Mining the Canadian tar sands. Building the pipelines. This is bonkers.

Especially when the sun shines everywhere. The wind blows everywhere. The rivers run everywhere. We can generate our power in better, cheaper, safer ways.

Of course, there are reasons for resistance. Our economy is based on fossil fuels. Changing it would be a gargantuan effort. There would be a cost to a transition. But the costs of not making the transition will be much higher. Ask the NY Mass Transit Authority, which is still pumping out the tunnels. Or ask the citizens of New Orleans.

But this isn’t a bitch fest. It’s an appeal.

Years ago, when I did the No Impact Man experiment, I went on the Good Morning America show and I said it wasn’t important that all Americans did as much as I did. “We must each just do something,” I said.

I was mistaken. We must each do a lot.

We all–including me–have a tendency to think that shaking our fist at the TV news or leaving an angry comment on a blog or “clictivism” is some sort of an expression. We need to do more. Not just more at home, but more in our civic engagement, more in the citizen guiding of how our society moves forward.

In fact, I’d argue that we–all of us–need to find a way to dedicate at least some part of our lives to solving our problems. Climate change we need to fix, yes. But also we need to accept that the economic system we live in is driving that climate change. Consumption, as the basis for economy, has become like a winter coat that needs to be shed. It no longer serves us.

Now, I’m not going to claim that I know what each of us should do, how each of us should help to bring about the Great Transformation. I don’t think anyone exactly knows. This, by the way, was the great criticism of Occupy Wall Street, back in the day. That they didn’t say exactly what we should do. They didn’t make their demands clear, the press kept saying.

That was Occupy’s strength in my view. The willingness to bring attention to problems we don’t quite know the solutions for. Occupy didn’t have concrete demands because none of us quite know what we should be demanding quite yet. Occupy was saying “stop ignoring problems just because we don’t know the solution!!!!!!”

You may disagree with me. You may say, we know the solution, it’s renewable energy. But where is the political will to bring that change about when the fossil fuel industry has spent $150 million in this election cycle?

You may say, the solution is getting corporate money out of politics. But how do we do that when the politicians we need to vote for such a thing are the beneficiaries of that self-same corporate money?

You may say, the solution lies in measuring Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product. But how do we get that done?

We have lots of ideas about what would fix things, but we have no idea how to actually get those ideas instituted. That’s kind of where we are at a loss. How do we actually bring about the change?

It’s not to say we can’t bring it about. But it is to say that a lot more of us are going to have to join the search for the solutions and the effort to institute them.

In a way, what I am saying is the same as what Occupy said: “Stop pretending that you can’t help just because you don’t know exactly how to help!!!!!!”

We all have to start dedicating some of our lives to these problems. Not just voting for the right people. Not just leaving comments on blogs. Not just having intense conversations over coffee.

So what then?

Here’s a thought. Decide to dedicate five to ten hours a week to helping figure out what to do. Then use those five to ten hours to bring your personal gifts to the search for societal solutions and the means of implementing them.

If you are political then, whatever side of the aisle you are on, start going to your party’s meetings and insist that they address themselves to the major, new-world problems we are facing instead of grumbling over the same stuff they have for 50 years. Get them to try to be leaders instead of winners.

If you are an artist or musician or writer, use your talents to bring more and more attention to our problems and the quest for the solution. Be a constant reminder of the peril our society and world faces.

If you are a therapist or life coach, find a way to introduce to your clients the idea that the problems they face are the same problems all of us are facing. Financial insecurity, for example, is something we can fix together better than any one of us can fix alone.

If you are a banker, bring your personal values and your heart and soul to work with you. The expression “it’s only business” has to be jettisoned. This idea that the free market will fix things so we can ignore the dictates of our conscience needs to be fixed.

If you have a spare bedroom, find an activist who can’t drag themselves away from the work they are doing for all of us long enough to earn themselves some rent. Home and safety for those on the front line of social change is a wonderful service.

If you have two feet, march with my friends at 350.org whenever you have a chance.

All of us have our own ways to help.

One thing is clear, whatever our individual contribution, every one of us needs to be moving back into the political system and the democracy. We are all so disgusted by it that our instinct is to abandon it. In this case, our instinct is wrong. We totally need to Occupy our democracy. We need to flood it with people, with us.

Overall, though, my point here is that all of us have a role to play in our cultural healing. There is no leader who can tell us how to contribute. Each of us has to look around us and use our own minds and souls to see what needs doing and how we are best suited to do it. Each of us must contribute in our own way.

I began this piece by saying that I’m scared. Because I am. But my fear is just a sign that I need to do something. There is really only one thing I know how to do–to write. And so I’m doing it. I don’t know if if will help. But it is the one thing I know how to do.

What is the one thing you know how to do? What is the one thing you can dedicate a slice of your life to?

We can’t leave it to the politicians or the designers or the Occupiers or the activists. It’s up to each of us.

Because–and I’ve said and written this many times–the question is not whether each of us is the type of person who can make a difference. The question is whether we are the type of people who want to try to make a difference. And Sandy has told us we all need each other to try.

Love,
Colin

Nothing much to argue about that! Thanks Colin for letting me republish your essay.

Eric Clapton and change.

A powerful example of grief and repair.

Normally my week-end posts are lighthearted.  But I do hope you will forgive the departure for today.

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will recall that on the 2nd August I published a piece under the title of Changing the person: Me.  It offered several examples of how personal change or transition is tough but that the rewards that come from understanding the personal and emotional consequences of big life changes are immense.  As I wrote then,

The most important thing to note, and this is why so many ‘change’ ambitions fail, is that change is deeply unsettling at first.  When change happens for the majority of us, often ‘forced’ on us as a result of unplanned life events, we are left deeply unsettled; a strong feeling of being lost, of being in unfamiliar surroundings.  Think divorce or, worse, the death of a partner or child, reflect on how many sign up for bereavement counselling in such circumstances.  Big-time change is big-time tough (apologies for the grammar!).

Then I came across the story of how Eric Clapton coped when his four-year-old son fell from the window of the 53rd-floor window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment.  Here’s an extract from the WikiPedia entry:

The years following 1990 were extremely turbulent for Clapton. In August 1990, his manager and two of his roadies (along with fellow musician Stevie Ray Vaughan) were killed in a helicopter accident. Seven months later, on March 20, 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son Conor died after falling from the 53rd-floor window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four-story building.  After isolating himself for a period, Clapton began working again, writing music for a movie about drug addiction called Rush. Clapton dealt with the grief of his son’s death by co-writing “Tears in Heaven” with Will Jennings.

Here’s Tears in Heaven.  Please stop whatever you are doing now and play this video.  In under 5 minutes it demonstrates the power of the saying from Henry David Thoreau, the American author and poet – “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves”.

And going back to that WikiPedia entry

In an interview with Daphne Barak, Clapton stated, “I almost subconsciously used music for myself as a healing agent, and lo and behold, it worked… I have got a great deal of happiness and a great deal of healing from music“.

Eric Clapton

Let me close with another saying, this time from George Moore, the novelist, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

Food and health

The good, bad and the ugly.

Four days ago, there was a post on Learning from Dogs under the heading of We are what we eat!  As is often the way, subsequently after writing that article (back on the 8th), there was a flurry of other associated items that I wanted to bring to your attention today.

The first was on the website of The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.  It was a very inspiring two-part article written by Anthea Hudson under the title of Preparing Our Children For a Resilient Future.

Part One was all about recycling and our role as facilitators.  Here’s a little challenge for you, lifted from that first part,

Landfill — Our Dirty Legacy

Let’s begin by understanding a bit about how long the things we send to landfill last, before they break down.

Have a look at the list below and see if you can guess the order these items should be placed in, from the things that break down quickest, to those that take the longest. Then have a guess as to how long you think each one will take to break down.

  • paper bag
  • plastic jug
  • cigarette butt
  • glass bottle or jar
  • banana
  • aluminium can (soft drink can)
  • leather boot or shoe
  • plastic 6-pack rings
  • Styrofoam cup
  • cotton pillowcase
  • rubber sole of the leather boot (above)
  • wool sock or scarf
  • tin can (e.g. baked beans or soup can)

Don’t cheat by looking at the answers below, until you have made your own list.

Think you have worked it out?  Now go here and check your answers!  You may be suprised.

Part One is very comprehensive and Part Two even more so.  Indeed, it serves as a wonderful check-list of all the reasons why and how we can be more responsible for what goes into our stomachs.  It really is a most comprehensive review, nay tutorial, on how to grow your own.  It includes such gems as this,

This video was created by the 2009 spring plant physiology class at Plymouth State University.

Next to the bad and ugly stuff.

Anyone who was shocked by the revelation of the harm being done to bees highlighted in my recent Post (the full article is on Food Freedom News) and to us humans,

A recent study showed that every human tested had the world’s best-selling pesticide, Roundup, detectable in their urine at concentrations between five and twenty times the level considered safe for drinking water.

will be further shocked, alarmed and (fill in your words) by this two-hour film introduced by Gary Null. We all need to watch it and yet I’m bound to say it will ruin your day!  Jean and I have watched it in full and to all my readers, especially American ones, I say this – do watch this video, Please!

Progressive Radio Network presents
A Gary Null Production
WAR ON HEALTH: The FDA’s Cult of Tyranny
Introduced by the director (from his speech at the world premiere in New York City, June 15, 2012)

In the near future, American medical practice may change dramatically for the worse. No longer will maximal dose natural supplements—vitamins, natural compounds, and scientifically proven medicinal herbs—be available over the counter in local health and grocery stores. Holistic practice, which relies upon non-prescription natural treatments instead of Big Pharma drugs prescribed life-long, will diminish. American healthcare will be imprisoned, patients will be forced to abide by a single medical paradigm defined by corporate drug and food executives and dictated by a government enforcement agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the bleak scenario if the FDA succeeds in limiting Americans’ options to prevent and treat diseases.

‘War on Health’ is the first documentary detailing and challenging the FDA agenda and its allegiance with the international Codex Alimentarius, which hopes to establish a monolithic food and health regime. Betraying its founding mandate to assure drug, food and chemical safety in the interests of public health, the FDA today is a repressive bureaucracy serving pharmaceutical and agricultural greed and profits. Vaccines, medical devices, prescription drugs are fast tracked at alarming rates through the FDA at the expense of scientific oversight to assure their efficacy and safety. The
result is hundreds of thousands premature deaths annually from pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines and medical devices and an epidemic of medical incompetence and fraud sanctioned by federal health officials.

Featuring many pioneering American and European attorneys, physicians, medical researchers and advocates of health freedom, War on Health lifts the veil on FDA’s militaristic operations against organic food providers and alternative physicians. The film’s conclusion is perfectly clear: the FDA is a tyrannical cult founded upon the denial of sound medical science with little intention to improve the nation’s health and prevent disease.

Written and Directed by Gary Null
Produced by Valerie Van Cleve
Associate Producer: Richard Gale
Editor: Richie Williamson
Offline Editing: Valerie Van Cleve, L.A. Jones
Camera Operators: Marcello Coppuchino, Peter Bonilla, David Grier, L.A. Jones
Gregory Jason Russ, Jake Hammer Mesmire, Edson Tanakae, Valerie Van Cleve, Richie Williamson

As my dear friend of many, many years, Richard M., has a habit of saying, “Must go now, need to get back to Planet Earth!

TomDispatch and Ernest Callenbach

A remarkable insight into our present world and hopes for the future.

As many of you dear readers will know, I am incredibly fond of the essays that Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch fame publishes on a regular basis.  Indeed, it was just a week ago that I published a Tomgram from Bill McKibben.  Had it not been for Tom querying if I had read his Ernest Callenbach last-words piece I might have missed what, for me, has been one of the most profound ‘mind-stretching’ reads for a very long time.

I pondered for most of a morning as to whether to publish Tom’s essay in one piece, as Tom presented it, or to break it down into two.  Our much shorter attention-spans as a result of the world we now live in worked against it being two parts.  But I also wanted to include other materials that give an insight into the late Ernest Callenbach so, in the end, this TomDispatch is republished as two pieces.  I trust that works for you.

So without further ado, here is Tom’s introduction to the last words of Ernest Callenbach.

Tomgram: Ernest Callenbach, Last Words to an America in Decline

Thirty-five years later, it was still on my bookshelf in a little section on utopias (as well it should have been, being a modern classic).  A friend had written his name inside the cover and even dated it: August 1976, the month I returned to New York City from years of R&R on the West Coast.  Whether I borrowed it and never returned it or he gave it to me neither of us now remembers, but Ecotopia, the visionary novel 25 publishers rejected before Ernest Callenbach published it himself in 1975, was still there ready to be read again a lifetime later.

Callenbach once called that book “my bet with the future,” and in publishing terms it would prove a pure winner.  To date it has sold nearly a million copies and been translated into many languages.  On second look, it proved to be a book not only ahead of its time but (sadly) of ours as well.  For me, it was a unique rereading experience, in part because every page of that original edition came off in my hands as I turned it.  How appropriate to finish Ecotopia with a loose-leaf pile of paper in a New York City where paper can now be recycled and so returned to the elements.

Callenbach would have appreciated that.  After all, his novel, about how Washington, Oregon, and Northern California seceded from the union in 1979 in the midst of a terrible economic crisis, creating an environmentally sound, stable-state, eco-sustainable country, hasn’t stumbled at all.  It’s we who have stumbled.  His vision of a land that banned the internal combustion engine and the car culture that went with it, turned in oil for solar power (and other inventive forms of alternative energy), recycled everything, grew its food locally and cleanly, and in the process created clean skies, rivers, and forests (as well as a host of new relationships, political, social, and sexual) remains amazingly lively, and somehow almost imaginable — an approximation, that is, of the country we don’t have but should or even could have.

Callenbach’s imagination was prodigious.  Back in 1975, he conjured up something like C-SPAN and something like the cell phone, among many ingenious inventions on the page.  Ecotopia remains a thoroughly winning book and a remarkable feat of the imagination, even if, in the present American context, the author also dreamed of certain things that do now seem painfully utopian, like a society with relative income equality.

“Chick” — as he was known, thanks, it turns out, to the chickens his father raised in Appalachian central Pennsylvania in his childhood — was, like me, an editor all his life.  He founded the prestigious magazine Film Quarterly in 1958.  In the late 1970s, I worked with him and his wife, Christine Leefeldt, on a book of theirs, The Art of Friendship.  He also wrote a successor volume to Ecotopia (even if billed as a prequel), Ecotopia Emerging.  And as he points out in his last piece, today’s [tomorrow’s, Ed.] TomDispatch post, he, too, has now been recycled.  He died of cancer on April 16th at the age of 83.

Just days later, his long-time literary agent Richard Kahlenberg wrote me that Chick had left a final document on his computer, something he had been preparing in the months before he knew he would die, and asked if TomDispatch would run it.  Indeed, we would.  It’s not often that you hear words almost literally from beyond the grave — and eloquent ones at that, calling on all Ecotopians, converted or prospective, to consider the dark times ahead.  Losing Chick’s voice and his presence is saddening.  His words remain, however, as do his books, as does the possibility of some version of the better world he once imagined for us all. Tom

Let’s find out a bit more about ‘Chick’ ahead of his words tomorrow.

This is the Wikipedia entry from which I quote:

Born April 3, 1929 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was drawn into the then ‘new wave’ of serious attention to film as an art form. After six months in Paris at the Sorbonne, watching four films a day, he returned to Chicago and earned a Master’s degree in English and Communications.

Callenbach then moved to California. From 1955 to 1991, he was on the staff of the University of California Press (Berkeley). A general copywriter for a number of years, he edited the Press’s Film Quarterly from 1958 until 1991. He also occasionally taught film courses at U.C. and at San Francisco State University.

For many years Callenbach edited the Natural History Guides at the U.C. Press. He began to take environmental issues and their connections to human value systems, social patterns, and lifestyles just as seriously as he had taken film. He was heavily influenced by Edward Abbey. He is therefore known as an author of green books, namely as author of the ecological utopias Ecotopia (1975) and Ecotopia Emerging (1981). (While his novel popularized the term “ecotopia,” it was actually coined by the ethnographer E. L. Anderson.)

In terms of concepts of human involvement with the ecology, as well as some of the economic and social concepts, the Ecotopia books are related to what is known as the sustainability movement. Callenbach’s Ecotopian concept is not “Luddite” — he does not reject high technology, but rather his fictional society shows a conscious selectivity about technology. As an example, with its emphasis on personal rather than impersonal interaction, Callenbach’s Ecotopian society anticipates the development and liberal usage of videoconferencing.

Indeed, for all his involvement with print publications, Callenbach remained quite interested in visual media. Aspects of his book Ecotopia in some ways anticipated “reality TV” — which emerged into recognition, and was given a label as a genre, 20 or more years later — because in the story the daily life of the legislature and some of that of the judicial courts is televised in this fictional society, and televised debates (including technical debates concerning ecological problems) met a need and desire among citizens.

Callenbach has been a part of the circle of West Coast technologists, architects, social thinkers, and scientists which has included such luminaries as Ursula K. Le GuinStarhawk (Miriam Simos), Sim Van der RynPeter CalthorpeStewart BrandKevin KellyJ. Baldwin, and John Todd. As with a number of these others, he has been a speaker, discussion panellist, and essayist.

Here is Chick’s website which is worth a careful peruse including his biographical details and some of his talks.

Finally, there are a number of good videos featuring Ernest Callenbach’s visionary ideas and one of his longer ones will be included tomorrow.

To close today’s Post let me leave you with this.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MOTHER EARTH
by Ernest Callenbach

I. Thou shall love and honor the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.
II. Thou shall keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of its seasons.
III. Thou shall not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.
IV. Thou shall give thanks for thy food, to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.
V. Thou shall educate thy offspring for multitudes of people are a blessing unto the Earth when we live in harmony.
VI. Thou shall not kill, nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.
VII. Thou shall not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore its damaged majesty.
VIII. Thou shall not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.
IX. Thou shall not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.
X. Thou shall consume material goods in moderation so all may share the Earth’s bounty.

Music: Marcome, “All Alone”
http://www.marcome.com

Climate and truth, footnote.

So many vested opinions!

Regular readers will know that I published recently, in two parts, a post with the heading of Climate, truth and integrity, the first part being here and the second part here.

To me the arguments supporting the premise that mankind is engaged in the process of destroying our very being are powerful and convincing.  But if there is any serious scientific doubt, then I am reminded of that saying in aviation circles about a risk to the safety of an aircraft, “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”  Surely, that’s the stance the climate change skeptics should be taking!  Because when the evidence of global warming, pollution, natural resource depletion, species extinctions, and habitat destruction is drawn together and there are no skeptics left, then will the last person left alive please switch the lights off!

Anyway, I’m going to republish, with permission, a recent Post that appeared on Tom Engelhardt‘s powerful blogsite, Tom Dispatch.  It was written by Bill McKibben of 350.org fame.  Here it is,

Tomgram: Bill McKibben, Why the Energy-Industrial Elite Has It In for the Planet

Posted by Bill McKibben at 9:39am, February 7, 2012.

Introduction

Two Saturdays ago, I was walking with a friend in a park here in New York City.  It was late January, but I was dressed in a light sweater and a thin fall jacket, which I had just taken off and tied around my waist.  We were passing a strip of bare ground when suddenly we both did a double-take.  He looked at me and said, “Crocuses!”  Dumbfounded, I replied, “Yes, I see them.”  And there they were, a few clumps of telltale green shoots poking up from the all-brown ground as if it were spring.  Such a common, comforting sight, but it sent a chill through me that noticeably wasn’t in the air.  Even the flowers, I thought, are confused by our new version of weather.

Later that same week, as temperatures in the Big Apple crested 60 degrees, I was chatting on the phone with a friend in Northampton, Massachusetts.  I was telling him about the crocuses, when he suddenly said, “I’m looking out my window right now and for the first time in my memory of January, there’s not a trace of snow!”

Of course, our tales couldn’t be more minor or anecdotal, even if the temperatures that week did feel like we were on another planet.  Here’s the thing, though: after a while, even anecdotes add up — maybe we should start calling them “extreme anecdotes” — and right now there are so many of them being recounted across the planet.  How could there not be in a winter, now sometimes referred to as “Junuary,” in which, in the United States, 2,890 daily high temperature records have either been broken or tied at last count, with the numbers still rising?  Meanwhile, just to the south of us, in Mexico, extreme anecdotes abound, since parts of the country are experiencing “the worst drought on record.”  Even cacti are reportedly wilting and some towns are running out of water (as they are across the border in drought-stricken Texas).  And worst of all, the Mexican drought is expected to intensify in the months to come.

And who can doubt that in Europe, experiencing an extreme cold spell the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades — even Rome had a rare snowfall and Venice’s canals were reported to be freezing over — there are another set of all-too-extreme anecdotes.  After all, in places like Ukraine, scores of the homeless are freezing to death, pipes are bursting, power cuts are growing, and maybe even an instant energy crisis is underway (at a moment when the European Union is getting ready to cut itself off from Iranian oil).

That’s just to begin a list.  And yet here’s the strange thing.  At least in this country, you can read the “freaky” weather reports or listen to the breathless TV accounts of unexpected tornadoes striking the South in January and rarely catch a mention of the phrase “climate change.”  Given the circumstances, the relative silence on the subject is little short of eerie, even if worries about climate change lurk just below the surface.  Which is why it’s good to have TomDispatch regular Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, take a clear-eyed look at American denialism and just what it is we prefer not to take in. Tom

The Great Carbon Bubble
Why the Fossil Fuel Industry Fights So Hard

By Bill McKibben

If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet — as we shall see — it’s unfortunately largely invisible to us.

In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology.  Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image [see below, Ed] shows a picture of the Americas on January 4th, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds.

It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years. As Jeff Masters, the web’s most widely read meteorologist, explains, “The U.S. and Canada are virtually snow-free and cloud-free, which is extremely rare for a January day. The lack of snow in the mountains of the Western U.S. is particularly unusual. I doubt one could find a January day this cloud-free with so little snow on the ground throughout the entire satellite record, going back to the early 1960s.”

In fact, it’s likely that the week that photo was taken will prove “the driest first week in recorded U.S. history.” Indeed, it followed on 2011, which showed the greatest weather extremes in our history — 56% of the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since “climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier.” Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters each causing $1 billion or more in damage last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: “Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”

In the face of such data — statistics that you can duplicate for almost every region of the planet — you’d think we’d already be in an all-out effort to do something about climate change. Instead, we’re witnessing an all-out effort to… deny there’s a problem.

Our GOP presidential candidates are working hard to make sure no one thinks they’d appease chemistry and physics. At the last Republican debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted that he should be the nominee because he’d caught on earlier than Newt or Mitt to the global warming “hoax.”

Most of the media pays remarkably little attention to what’s happening. Coverage of global warming has dipped 40% over the last two years. When, say, there’s a rare outbreak of January tornadoes, TV anchors politely discuss “extreme weather,” but climate change is the disaster that dare not speak its name.

And when they do break their silence, some of our elite organs are happy to indulge in outright denial. Last month, for instance, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by “16 scientists and engineers” headlined “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The article was easily debunked. It was nothing but a mash-up of long-since-disproved arguments by people who turned out mostly not to be climate scientists at all, quoting other scientists who immediately said their actual work showed just the opposite.

It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.)Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.

Why doesn’t it fold the way the tobacco industry eventually did? Why doesn’t it invest its riches in things like solar panels and so profit handsomely from the next generation of energy? As it happens, the answer is more interesting than you might think.

Part of it’s simple enough: the giant energy companies are making so much money right now that they can’t stop gorging themselves. ExxonMobil, year after year, pulls in more money than any company in history. Chevron’s not far behind. Everyone in the business is swimming in money.

Still, they could theoretically invest all that cash in new clean technology or research and development for the same. As it happens, though, they’ve got a deeper problem, one that’s become clear only in the last few years. Put briefly: their value is largely based on fossil-fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we ever take global warming seriously.

When I talked about a carbon bubble at the beginning of this essay, this is what I meant. Here are some of the relevant numbers, courtesy of the Capital Institute: we’re already seeing widespread climate disruption, but if we want to avoid utter, civilization-shaking disaster, many scientists have pointed to a two-degree rise in global temperatures as the most we could possibly deal with.

If we spew 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere, we’ll quite possibly go right past that reddest of red lines. But the oil companies, private and state-owned, have current reserves on the books equivalent to 2,795 gigatons — five times more than we can ever safely burn. It has to stay in the ground.

Put another way, in ecological terms it would be extremely prudent to write off $20 trillion worth of those reserves. In economic terms, of course, it would be a disaster, first and foremost for shareholders and executives of companies like ExxonMobil (and people in places like Venezuela).

If you run an oil company, this sort of write-off is the disastrous future staring you in the face as soon as climate change is taken as seriously as it should be, and that’s far scarier than drought and flood. It’s why you’ll do anything — including fund an endless campaigns of lies — to avoid coming to terms with its reality. So instead, we simply charge ahead.  To take just one example, last month the boss of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue, called for burning all the country’s newly discovered coal, gas, and oil — believed to be 1,800 gigatons worth of carbon from our nation alone.

What he and the rest of the energy-industrial elite are denying, in other words, is that the business models at the center of our economy are in the deepest possible conflict with physics and chemistry. The carbon bubble that looms over our world needs to be deflated soon. As with our fiscal crisis, failure to do so will cause enormous pain — pain, in fact, almost beyond imagining. After all, if you think banks are too big to fail, consider the climate as a whole and imagine the nature of the bailout that would face us when that bubble finally bursts.

Unfortunately, it won’t burst by itself — not in time, anyway. The fossil-fuel companies, with their heavily funded denialism and their record campaign contributions, have been able to keep at bay even the tamest efforts at reining in carbon emissions. With each passing day, they’re leveraging us deeper into an unpayable carbon debt — and with each passing day, they’re raking in unimaginable returns. ExxonMobil last week reported its 2011 profits at $41 billion, the second highest of all time. Do you wonder who owns the record? That would be ExxonMobil in 2008 at $45 billion.

Telling the truth about climate change would require pulling away the biggest punchbowl in history, right when the party is in full swing. That’s why the fight is so pitched. That’s why those of us battling for the future need to raise our game. And it’s why that view from the satellites, however beautiful from a distance, is likely to become ever harder to recognize as our home planet.

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the global climate campaign 350.org, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Bill McKibben

This photo was taken on January 4, 2012.

Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth – Blue Marble 2012

January 25, 2012

*Updated February 2, 2012: According to Flickr, “The western hemisphere Blue Marble 2012 image has rocketed up to over 3.1 million views making it one of the all time most viewed images on the site after only one week.”

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.

To read more about NASA’s Suomi NPP go to: www.nasa.gov/npp

Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring