How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We Occupy Earth – For anybody who is still wondering what the movement is all about, here is a brief explanation.

I have been abhorrently negligent by not posting anything about Occupy Wall Street, which is probably the single-most significant political movement since the Vietnam protests. I apologize. The demands of my continuing education at Harvard are considerable. I wish I had a photographic memory, speed reading skills or some other super-human abilities to help me with the mountain of reading and the crunch of exams and papers that seem to be endlessly due. Alas, I, unlike many of my peers at that fine institution, am a mere mortal of only moderate intelligence. So I plod and manage to keep my head above water, but the time constraints keep me from many of the simple pleasures I usually enjoy like blogging and cleaning my humble abode.

I feel bad for my neglect, yet I also notice that few of our elected “representatives” have much to say on the topic either. Perhaps they are trying to find a way to reconcile the profound conflict of interest they are caught up in, in which they must appease the people who actually vote for them, while at the same time trying to do the same with the corporations who own them. What a conundrum. For a while, this seeming paradox was tempered by some fine propaganda that convinced many members of the voting public that corporate interests also behooved the individual. The poor deluded saps were led to believe that if we let the corporations suck the earth clean of all its wealth they might actually share a few pennies with the rest of us. That one had the corporate masters laughing all the way to their Wall Street banks for decades.

While they pissed on 99% of us, they managed to secure almost all of earth’s resources for themselves via privatization and buy out all three branches of government too. What a coup. But then the shit hit the fan. In nature, unchecked greed and exponential growth only leads to disaster. Because we are such an arrogant organism, we have managed to fool ourselves into believing that we exist outside the laws of nature and that we can bend those laws to our will. Sorry folks. We are just an organism like all the rest, and like all those who exceed the natural carrying capacity of their habitat, we are bound for a rude awakening.

The beginning of that awakening began when the greedy assholes on Wall Street became so enthralled with enriching their own pockets they forgot to care that the crap they were peddling was more worthless than the paper it was printed on. When the world realized that the market's emperors had no clothes, the whole illusion collapsed in on its own empty shell.

It wouldn’t have been too bad, if the corrupt Wall Street bankers and greedy corporate pigs hadn’t decided that their loss was going to be our loss instead. So we bailed them out, following the same stupid logic we had succumbed to in the past, that financing their greed would let a few pennies trickle down on the rest of us. But then something happened. The corporations and bankers almost immediately started recording record profits again, but this time, they didn’t even try to pretend they were going to share any of it with the rest of us. The promised jobs never materialized, and the 99% realized they had been royally screwed.

The corporate media has been trying very hard to make this now global movement seem like the fantasy of a few, disorganized fringe lefties who have no idea what their message is or what they are doing. This is business as usual for Disney-owned ABC, GE-owned NBC, etc. Are we surprised? Do we really expect these corporate mouthpieces to sympathize with a movement that explicitly intends to undermine their hegemony? Of course not. If there is anybody out there still wondering what the Occupy movement is about, I am going to summarize it below in one sentence. Please feel free to share this sentence with anybody who is still wrapped up in the confusion the corporate masters are deliberately spinning.

The earth and all her resources belong to every human and non-human, and we are no longer going to stand for 1% of the humans stealing and ruining it for the rest of us.

Clear enough?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nut, Squirrel, Hawk

The anticipation in the air is palpable. The fall colors are in full bloom, and I am harvesting the last straggly tomatoes and sweet potatoes from the garden. This past spring, a pair of Cooper’s hawks raised a nest of young in an old pine snag near the pond. Now they are fledged. Their seemingly endless bouts of circling and calling, calling and circling fill me with a feeling of foreboding. When I wake up, their call is the first thing I hear outside my window. They are up with the autumn dawn exerting their dominance over the radius of their powerful view.

The dandelions have all melted back into the earth, and the groundhogs are packing their cheeks with the last few remnants they can scavenge from the salad bowl of the pasture and lawn. It won’t be long until they disappear into their burrows for the winter. I love seeing them munching on the green grass in the sunshine. When they emerge in the spring, they most likely will be toting several baby groundhogs in tow. So there is that to look forward to.
A photo my son Duncan took of a red-tailed hawk at Emory

A doe and her fawn got a late start this year. He was still sporting his baby spots into the late summer. They pass out of the woods almost every day for a drink at the pond and to browse the carpet of wildflower and rye under the black walnut trees on the hill. The fawn seems too small still to face the winter ahead. If he survives the cold, he will have the hunting season to contend with in the spring. I hope they stay here, on this land that they and I belong to, where they will be safe.

Then there are the busy squirrels. The mother lode of walnuts has just tumbled down to the earth, but within a few weeks, they will have all been carted off and buried in remembered and forgotten places. The squirrels never rest. Even in the winter they will take the mild days to review their inventory of nuts. It is for them that the hawks circle.

Nuts, squirrels, hawks, grass, groundhog and doe, and so it goes. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus and the Great American Delusion

“We live our lives as characters in the grand narrative into which we have been socialized as children and conform as adults.  That narrative is the story told to itself by the dominant society of which we are a part.  We internalize narrative as ideology.  Ideology is a story told by people in power…By rewriting the story, we can challenge the structures of power.  All stories can and should be challenged.” – Carolyn Merchant

Today is a National Holiday. Banks and public offices are closed to commemorate the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. We celebrate this event in the Western world as the beginning of a new age, and in our collective societal brainwashed state, few question whether or not the event was truly a cause for celebration.
Cultures have myths about themselves that they pass on to succeeding generations. The United States is no exception. Elementary school history books sing with the bravery of the Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, crossing the ocean, befriending the indigenous people of the Americas, and living happily ever after.  Reality’s more complicated blend of details does include bravery, sacrifice and good deeds, but also a fair share of atrocity and morally reprehensible behavior.
The American mythos echoes with shadows of truth and the harsh light of reality. The United States of America is a great nation, established based on unparalleled ideals, but these principles are not etched in stone like a monument that cannot be toppled, nor were they strictly adhered to at the time of the nation’s founding.  Ideals are simply goals that may never be achieved but must be constantly and diligently pursued. 
As President of a fledgling United States, Thomas Jefferson, a gentleman from Virginia to who are attributed the words “all men are created equal,” personally sanctioned the removal of the Creek and Cherokee peoples from the state of Georgia. While few acknowledged it at the time, “removal” was just a whitewashed term for genocide. Native Americans were forced from their lands under the guise of “civilizing” them, and those who refused to leave were eliminated permanently.
Jefferson advocated, “two measures are deemed explicit. First to encourage them (the Indians) to abandon hunting. Secondly to multiply trading houses among them…leading them thus to agriculture, to manufactures, and civilization .” In other words, Native Americans should only be allowed to stay in the habitat they had maintained for millennia only if they consented to completely abandon their culture and their way of life. For many, death was preferable to living under the new reality of the white man.
Jefferson also infamously owned and had sexual relations with slaves, like many of his “gentlemen” compatriots.
On July 4, 1776, the 56 white men who declared that “all men are created equal” uttered a profound truth, which they did not put into practice during their lifetimes.  For the Founding Fathers, equality did not extend to women or to men not of the Caucasian race, and rights were certainly not afforded to nature. The liberty and freedom they coveted intensely enough to spark revolution, they nevertheless had every intention of denying to the vast majority of other humans and all non-humans. The same men who spoke of inalienable rights expanded their own empires on the backs of slaves while simultaneously exterminating entire cultures from the North American landscape. The conditional nature of the values of these men; however, does not diminish the veracity of their words or ideals. Human actions are often in conflict with stated ideals. The challenge is to unite them.
            On Columbus Day, we can reflect on what is hailed as achievement in Western American civilization, but we should reflect on what has been lost. Thousands of rich cultures in this hemisphere have been annihilated, and a vast, unspoiled landscape has been pillaged for the benefit of a few white men. The casualties: Crow, Mohawk, Cherokee, Creek, passenger pigeon, old-growth forest, native prairie… The list is millions of lives long, yet the delusion continues.
 “The life of white men is slavery. They are prisoners in towns or farms. The life my people want is a life of freedom. I have seen nothing that a white man has, houses or railways or clothing or food that is as good as the right to move in the open country, and live in our own fashion.” – Sitting Bull

 “No European who has tasted Savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies (Benjamin Franklin).” 

Unfortunately, on a global scale, we no longer have the option of "savage" life, thanks in large part to the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

Recommended Reading
Carolyn Merchant - Earthcare
Howard Zinn - A People's History of the United States

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Life is Good, and it goes on...

I had an incredible opportunity this past week, one which I am profoundly grateful for, and will continue to be, although it did not pan out. A fairly substantial publishing company contacted me regarding the possibility of publishing killing Mother (the book). I was asked to submit a couple of chapters to their editorial committee for consideration for publication in the fall of 2012. I swallowed deeply and submitted a couple of rough chapters.

Today I got a response, “There are many strengths in the work you submitted, but the consensus was that while you eloquently describe the problems we are facing, the balance of material was somewhat more weighted towards describing and deconstructing those problems than to providing the concrete antidotes and strategies needed to move beyond them.” After a sharp jolt to the stomach (I had been trying to avoid getting my hopes up, but they were up nevertheless), I reflected. The acquisitions editor and her editorial board are absolutely correct in their impressions.

Knowing this particular publisher is primarily “solutions based,” I was frankly surprised when they contacted me in the first place. I have worked out pages upon pages of sustainable solutions for our world in crisis, but when I read them back to myself, they always sound shallow and na├»ve because I personally don’t believe them. Being the scientist and avid student of human behavior that I am, in reality, sadly, I do not hold out much hope for our species in the long run. Sure, we have solutions, but we lack the cultural and universal will that will be required to enact them. My authentic self just can’t buy into the rainbows and sunshine and happily ever after.

I do have a bright vision for the future of nature. It is one that involves a Planet Earth with many, many fewer people on it (2 billion maximum), limited technology and cultures that value all life, not just human life, equally. This vision is a solution, but getting there is not going to be pretty. When one looks objectively at the numbers and the science, suggesting a painless and pretty solution is just not authentic.

The timing of my literary rejection was fortuitous nonetheless. The email arrived at 5:45 pm, and at 6, I was off to yoga with the incomparable David Bowen (Turks and Caicos). The class was so phenomenal that I actually did forget about my disappointment completely. By the time class was over, I realized that all had transpired as it should. killing Mother’s message is not intended to be one of false hope. We are probably doomed as a species because of our own arrogant stupidity.

But nevertheless, the sun shines. I went home after yoga with my still-sexy husband of 22 years, devoured him and some black beans and rice that had been simmering in the crock pot all day and read a great and funny book before bedtime. Tomorrow I will go for a walk on the glorious beach of Providenciales before heading north again just in time for the fall colors of the Southern Appalachians.  Life is good, and it goes on. This is the message I know is true.