Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cousteau Calls Gulf Disaster "...a nightmare"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beyond Hope by Derrick Jensen

 From the always excellent and perceptively pertinent Orion Magazine. You really should subscribe - Print or Digital. Thanks to Alline at Dancing Rabbit and Ecovillage Musings for alerting me to this story.

Beyond Hope by Derrick Jensen 

"The most common words I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have—or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective—to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

…But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Clearcut Forest in Newfoundland. Photo Credit: boreal on Flickr

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

But it isn’t only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

…The more I understand hope, the more I realize that …it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn’t believe—or maybe you would—how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

Coho Salmon. Photo Credit: Peggy Collins on Flickr

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don’t like how they’re being treated—and who could blame them?—I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we’re in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free—truly free—to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

…I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I’ve learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction—the use of any excuse to justify inaction—reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn’t matter, he said, and it’s egotistical to think it does.

I told him I disagreed.

Doesn’t activism make you feel good? he asked.

Of course, I said, but that’s not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.


Because I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

Photo Credit: Si1very on Flickr

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. … The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase—not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.

When you give up on hope—when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive—you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.”

So do something. Take action. Stop hoping and become impassioned. Because it all starts with us. You. Me. All of us. Let's continue to work, and make change happen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bottled Water Bullsh*t

found at Dr. Joseph Mercola's site.
The next time someone offers you a bottle of water, take a stand and say something clever like, “No thank you, I don’t believe in it.” This simple move will open up a conversation about the massive swindle that is bottled water … and possibly persuade one more person to give it up entirely.
Please also make a point to see this fantastic new movie, "Tapped", which is playing in select theaters in the United States and is available on DVD.
Even beyond the issues of your health and the environment, bottled water represents a novel form of privatization, in which private corporations have succeeded, and quite successfully I might add, at making water a commodity.
I would say, and I suspect you would agree, that water is more a “right” than it is a commodity. And private corporations should have no more control over the selling of water than they do the selling of our air supplies. Well, this is already occurring to some extent as corporations make a profit selling water -- which at times even makes water less available to the people living in the area.
Even public water supplies are being increasingly taken over by private corporations, and in some areas of the world are up for grabs by the highest bidder.
This has been publicized in countries such as Bolivia, where residents battled police and the military to protect their water rights from the US-based Bechtel Corporation, but you should know water privatization initiatives are being pushed all over the world … including in the United States.
If you’re interested in learning more, an excellent, eye-opening film on this topic that I highly recommend is Thirst.
Getting back to bottled water, however, many, many Americans still drink it, believing it is somehow healthier than tap water.
In 2008, U.S. bottled water consumption reached nearly 9 billion gallons, raking in revenues of more than $11 billion.
Folks, this is for a “product” you can get virtually for free by turning on your kitchen tap!

Are You Paying 1,900 Times More for Unhealthy, Earth-Damaging Water?

If you drink bottled water, yes, you are!
Bottled water typically costs more than $1.50 per bottle, which is 1,900 times the price of tap water.
Yet, that very same bottled water that you’re paying a premium for is, in about 40 percent of cases, simply bottled tap water, which may or may not have received any additional treatment.
On top of that, most municipal tap water must actually adhere to more strict purity standards than the bottled water industry. Further, while the EPA requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants as often as several times a day, the FDA requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.
An independent test performed by the Environmental Working Group revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water, with each of the 10 tested brands containing an average of eight chemicals including disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected.
So what you are paying for is often no different, or even worse, than the water that comes out of your faucet.
When you factor in other elements, like the chemicals that can leach from the plastic bottle and its impact on the environment, bottled water becomes a losing proposition no matter how you look at it.

Drinking From Plastic Bottles is Not a Wise Health Move

When drinking bottled water you need to think not only about the water but also about the bottle itself. Plastic is not an inert substance as its manufacturers would like you to believe. It contains chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which mimic hormones in your body.
Even tiny concentrations can cause problems such as:
  • Structural damage to your brain
  • Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
  • Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
  • Altered immune function
  • Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
  • Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
  • Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
  • Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Anytime you drink from a plastic bottle you risk exposure, but if you leave your bottle of water in a hot car or reuse it, your exposure is magnified because heat and stress increase the amount of chemicals that leach out of the plastic.

Plastic is Hurting the Earth in a Major Way

About 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to manufacture water bottles each year around the world, and the processing itself releases toxic compounds like nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene. Further, according to the Sierra Club, the U.S. alone uses 1.5 million barrels of oil to make plastic water bottles, the majority of which then end up in landfills.
In fact, 1,500 water bottles are thrown away every second!
This massive waste is one reason why there is now a plastic “stew” twice the size of Texas swirling through the Pacific Ocean.
Also extremely harmful to the environment is the way corporations are pumping water from underground aquifers. These natural springs serve as water sources for nearby streams, wells and farms, but the aggressive pumping can easily dry them out prematurely.

A Simple Solution is at Your Disposal 

One you realize that many sources of bottled water is:
  • No safer than tap water
  • Extremely expensive
  • Often contaminated by plastics chemicals
  • Contributing to massive environmental harm
… the choice to stop using it becomes simple. Fortunately, the alternative to having pure water is also simple: filter your own at home.

Unfiltered Tap Water is NOT Better than Bottled Water!!

My favorite filter is a reverse/osmosis filter as it will remove virtually all of the pollutants, such as disinfection by products, fluoride, arsenic, lead, drugs in the water supply, rocket fuel, bacteria, viruses, you name, it removes it. Unfortunately the down side is that it also removes minerals that should be in there. Fortunately the solution is quite simply.  Add some high quality salt, like Himalayan salt, about 1/4 teaspoon for gallon.
I currently use a R/O system that is not yet commercially available. It is a tankless system in which I fill a glass container directly that is easy to clean. This eliminates the stagnant water in the holding tank and inevitable mold/slime contamination with using a R/O system with a holding tank.  We hope to bring this to system to market in the next year.
Additionally the filtering process damages the structure of the water. A simple way to restructure the water would be to create a vortex. You can do this by putting a large spoon in the container and swirling it around very fast for awhile. This will clearly start to restructure the water. Getting the water cold, down to about 4 degrees Centigrade or 39 degrees Fahrenheit will also work.  The best way to do that would be to store your bottle outdoors in the winter (when it doesn't go below 39 F) or put the bottle on your cement garage floor at night and the earth will remove much of the heat from the bottle. Store the water in a cool area.
You could cool the water in a refrigerator but that would impart negative EMF into the water so it is less than ideal. Similarly there are vortex machines you can purchase for about $500 but they will also impart these EMFs into the water.
This enables you to rely on your own well or municipal source for safe, clean water. If you need to take some with you on the road, store it in a glass jar or bottle.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

GMOs - Organ Damage, Infertility Problems, Increased Rates of Death - Eat Up!

Jeffrey Smith from reveals the dangers of GMO foods in this interview with Mike Adams the Health Ranger. See more videos at

Cooperative Competition?

...from Dmitry Orlov's Club Orlov blog.

Collapse Competitively

We are heading toward economic, political and social collapse, and every day that passes brings it closer. But we just don't know when to stop, do we? Which part of "the harder we try, the harder we fail" can't we understand? Why can't we understand that each additional dollar of debt will drive us into national bankruptcy faster, harder and deeper? Why can't we grasp the concept that each additional dollar of military spending further undermines our security? Is there some sort of cognitive impairment that prevents us from understanding that each additional dollar sunk into the medical industry will only make us sicker? Why can't we see that each incremental child we bear into this untenable situation will make life harder for all children? In short, what on earth is our problem?

Why can't we stop? We can blame evolution, which has produced in us instincts that compel us to gorge ourselves when food is abundant, to build up fat reserves for the lean months. These instincts are not helpful to us when there is an all-you-can-eat buffet nearby that's open year-round. These instincts are not even specifically ours: other animals don't know when to stop either. Butterflies will feast on fermented fruit until they are too drunk to fly. Pigs will eat acorns until they are too fat to stand up and have to resort to crawling about on their bellies in order to, yes of course, eat more acorns. Americans who are too fat to walk are considered disabled and the government issues them with little motorized scooters so that they don't have to suffer the indignity of crawling to the all-you-can-eat buffet on their bellies. This is considered progress.

Or we can blame our education, which puts mathematical reasoning ahead of our common sense. Mathematics uses induction—the idea that if 1 + 1 is 2 then 2 + 1 must be 3, and so on up to an arbitrarily large quantity. In the real world, if you are counting acorns, then 1 + 1 acorns is not the same as 1,000,000 + 1 acorns—not if there are squirrels running around, which there will be once they find out that you are the one who's been stealing their acorns. A million acorns is just too many for you to keep track of, and your concerted effort to keep adding one more to the pile while fighting off squirrels may cause small children to start calling you silly names. The bigger the pile grows, the more likely you are to have to take inventory, and in the process you are increasingly likely to make a mistake, so that it turns out that 1,000,000 + 1 is in fact 1,000,001 - δ, where δ is the number of acorns you have lost track of, somehow. Once δ > 0, you have achieved diminishing returns, and once  δ > 1, you have achieved negative returns. In the real world, the bigger you think a number should be, the smaller it actually turns out to be. At some point, trying to add one more to the pile becomes a particularly wasteful way of making the pile smaller. This result is not intellectually pleasing, and there is no theory to back it up, but it is observable anywhere you care to look. The fact that we are unable to adequately explain any given phenomenon by using our feeble primate brains does not make it any less real.

The concept of diminishing returns is quite simple for most people to understand and to observe, but notoriously difficult to detect for the person who is at the point of achieving them. The point of negative returns is even harder to detect, because by that point we tend to be too far gone to detect much of anything. If you already had N drinks, can you tell if you are at the point of diminishing returns yet? Will another drink make you happier and more sociable, or will it not make much of a difference? Or will it cause you to embarrass yourself and spend the next day nursing a debilitating hangover? Or will it send you to the emergency room to be treated for vomit inhalation? As a general rule, the more you imbibe, the more difficult it becomes for you to draw such fine distinctions. This rule does not seem to be limited to drinking, but applies to almost all behaviors that produce a feeling of euphoria rather than the simple satisfaction of needs. Most of us can stop ourselves from drinking too much water, or eating too much porridge, or stacking too many bales of hay. Where we do tend to run into trouble with self-control is when it comes to things that are particularly pleasurable or addictive, such as drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and rich and delicious food. And we tend to lose it completely when it comes to euphoria-inducing social semi-intangibles: satisfaction of greed, status-seeking, and power over others.

Is this the best we can do? Certainly not! Human culture is full of examples where people stood up and successfully opposed such primitive tendencies within themselves. The ancient Greeks made a virtue of moderation: the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription MHΔEN AΓAN—"Nothing in excess." Taoist philosophy focuses on the idea of balance between yin and yang (阴 阳)—seemingly contrary natural forces that in fact work together and must be kept in balance. Even in contemporary engineering culture one sometimes hears the motto "Better is the enemy of good enough." Sadly, though, engineers who are good enough to abide by it are something of a rarity. At the micro level of solving specific problems most engineers do strive to achieve the clever optimum rather then the stupid maximum, but at the macro level the surrounding business culture forces them to always go for the stupid maximum (maximum growth, revenue and profits) or the stupid minimum (minimum cost, product cycle time and maintainability). They are forced to do so by the influence of a truly pernicious concept that has insinuated itself into most aspects of our culture: the concept of competition.

The concept of competition seems to have first been elevated to cult status by games that were played as a form of sacrifice before gods, in cultures as different as ancient Greece and the Mayan civilization, where competitive events were held to please their various deities. I much prefer the Olympic version, where the object of the games was to express the ideal of human perfection in both form and function, rather than the Mayan version, where the outcome of the game was used to decide who would be sacrificed on the altar of some peculiar cultural archetype, but being open-minded I am ready to accept either as valid, because both are competitions in defense of principle. It was Aristotle who pointed out that pursuit of principle is the one area where moderation is not helpful, and who am I to refute Aristotle? But when moving from defending an ideal or a principle to performing mundane, practical, utilitarian functions it is the idea of competition itself that should be offered up as a nice, sizzling-fat burnt offering on the altar of our common sense.

If the goal is to achieve an adequate result with a minimum of effort, then why would two people want to compete to do the job of one? And if there is in fact work enough for two, then why wouldn't they want to cooperate instead of wasting their precious energies in competition? Well, they may have been brainwashed into thinking that they must compete in order to succeed, but that's beside the point. The point is that there is a major difference between competing for the sake of a principle—such as the perfection of divine creation—and competing for mere money. There is nothing divine about a big pile of money, and, just as with a big pile of acorns, the bigger the pile, the more "squirrels" it tends to attract. In fact, those who are sitting on some of the bigger piles of acorns often seem rather squirrely themselves. To mix metaphors, they also tend to be chicken-like, roosting on their acorns and expecting them to hatch into more acorns. But be they squirrels or be they chickens, or be they drug-addled mutant chicken-squirrels on steroids, they are certainly not gods, and their acorns are not worthy of our sacrifice.

Once we dispense with the idea that competition is in any sense necessary, or even desirable, new avenues of thought open up. How much is enough? Probably much less than we have now. How hard do we need to work for it? Probably a lot less hard than we are working now. What happens if we don't have enough? Well, perhaps then it's time to try working just a tiny bit harder, or, better yet, perhaps it is time to take a few acorns from those who still have too many. Since having too much is such hard work (mind the damn squirrels!) we'd only be helping them. We certainly don't want to keep up with them, because we know where they are headed—a quaint, exclusive little place called collapse. What we should probably be trying to do instead is to establish some sort of balance, where enough is, in fact, enough.

Why Americans Make Poor Activists?