Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's About OUR Personal Consumption and the Energy Behind It... REALLY!!

I've been preaching for some time now - some would say "preaching to the choir" except the choir isn't getting religion either - that the absolute and ultimate bottom line of our current environmental, climate, and global warming problem is the personal energy consumption IN TOTAL of EACH & EVERY ONE OF US. YES - Particularly Americans!! That means EVERYTHING we do on a daily basis - WHERE does the energy for that come from? EVERYTHING!!

The further back from YOU that you have to go to find the source and the more energy that is expended between the source and you, the worse the problem is. Water? Pumped from your own well? Food? Grown on your own property or traded with other growers? Seeds? Saved from your own produce, traded with another grower, or bought from a catalog? Your clothing? Made from fiber grown, harvested, spun, and woven locally? Or ??? Where did your toilet paper come from??

The following article, reposted here (just in case problems with reaching anything from NPR emerge in the Trump maligned future) speaks to the difficulties of trying to return to a life of personal responsibility for ALL energy expended for one's own benefit on a daily basis -

Food For Thought

By Returning To Farming's Roots, He Found His American Dream

(all photographic credits to Dan Charles/NPR) 



Eighteen years ago, on New Year's Eve, David Fisher visited an old farm in western Massachusetts, near the small town of Conway. No one was farming there at the time, and that's what had drawn Fisher to the place. He was scouting for farmland.

"I remember walking out [to the fallow fields] at some point," Fisher recalls. "And in the moonlight – it was all snowy – it was like a blank canvas."

On that blank canvas, Fisher's mind painted a picture of what could be there alongside the South River. He could see horses tilling the land – no tractors, no big machineryand vegetable fields, and children running around.

This is David Fisher's American Dream. It may not be the conventional American Dream of upward economic mobility. But dreams like his have a long tradition in this country. Think of the Puritans and the Shakers and the Amish. These American dreams are the uncompromising pursuit of a difficult ideal.

The scene that David Fisher imagined, on the New Year's Eve almost two decades ago, has turned into reality. It's called Natural Roots Farm.

 

To get to the farm, you have to leave the motorized world behind. Cross the South River on a swinging footbridge, and there in front of you are seven acres of growing vegetables, neatly laid out in rows.

It's early in the fall, on this day; the hillside beyond the fields is glowing with red and yellow leaves. It's idyllic, almost magical.

Anna Maclay is out checking on the fields.

"I came originally as an apprentice in 2002," she tells me. "Totally fell in love with the land. I just thought, 'I want to live here!"


Her wish came true in a way she hadn't expected. She and David Fisher fell in love and got married. They now have two school-age children: Leora and Gabriel.

It's a harvest day on the farm and David and Anna have some help. They're joined by Emmet Van Driesche, who lives nearby on his own farm, and two apprentices, Kyle Farr and Calixta Killander, who are living and working on the farm for a year. Together, they'll need to fill a wagon with spinach, beets, broccoli and a host of other vegetables and herbs.

About two hundred customers have bought shares in the farm's harvest. Among them is Maggie Potter. She arrives with her children to pick up her produce. "It's not only having the vegetables – the nourishment for our own bodies. It's creating community, making friends along the way," she says.

 
If this all sounds like a vision of peace and contentment, take a closer look. Watch David Fisher at work. While the apprentices stick together in the fields, chatting as they work, Fisher works by himself, cutting greens off just above the soil, hacking out heads of broccoli. He moves quickly, with purpose in every step, almost never stopping, from daybreak until dusk. And when you talk with him, it becomes even clearer: He's a very driven man. He's driven, in fact, by a kind of desperation. And to understand it, you need to know his life story.

David Fisher grew up in the suburbs north of New York City, in the village of Pleasantville, in Westchester County. He spent summers at a rustic camp in the Adirondacks. "You could only get there by boat, you couldn't drive there," Fisher says. "No electricity, bathe in the lake, live all summer in a tent."

Then, at the end of every summer, he'd get on a train back to Grand Central Station and it would hit him. "Noise, steel and concrete and lights everywhere," he recalls. It was an overwhelming sensory experience, and for young David, it wasn't a pleasant one.

When he was 15, that end-of-summer paradigm shift was more than he could take. He was overtaken by despair over the environmental fate of the earth. "I was like - this is craziness. The whole thing. Civilization as I'm seeing it is absurd. The way that humans are living on, consuming, destroying the earth is absurd," he says. "The only thing I could see to do was pack up and flee."

He determined to drop out of high school; his parents forced him to get a diploma, graduating early. Then, Fisher got as far as he possibly could from houses and highways and smokestacks. He hung out in the west, skiing and backpacking, immersing himself in nature to "soothe his soul," as he puts it. He loved it, but he still knew, in the back of his mind, that it was just an escape. It wasn't an enduring path out of his despair about the world.

One day, when Fisher was 20 years old, he was back on the East Coast, visiting a friend at Hampshire College, here in western Massachusetts, and he wandered into the college's small organic farm. It was another overwhelming sensory experience, but the opposite of Grand Central Station: "Autumn leaves raining down, and the lush fields of vegetables and cover crops. Open the barn door, and the tables are lined with this abundance of earthy, healthy, vital produce. And I was like, 'Wow!'"

He felt like he was seeing, for the first time, a way to live immersed in the natural world, and also be productive. To make a living.



He started learning to farm, from other farmers. And then he found this land near the town of Conway.

You can call this farm utopian, if utopia is the kind of place where you work extra hard and live very frugally so that you can grow food in a way that's more in harmony with nature.

For instance: Half of the land on this farm is always devoted to "cover crops" that don't produce any food that customers will buy. The purpose of these crops is simply to protect and nourish the soil.

His most defining choice, though, is to rely on horses as the primary source of power on the farm.



Two of them, Pat and Lady, pull a wagon full of vegetables from the fields across the river and up a hill to a small barn beside the road where families come to pick up their produce. Kyle Farr, one of the apprentices, holds the reins and directs the horses with cryptic words and sucking sounds.

David Fisher is committed to horses partly because it makes the farm more self-sufficient. "It's so direct," he says. He doesn't have to rely on fossil fuels. "The fuel is there in the grass. The power is right there, in the form of these live animals." Also, he says, horses force you to work at a more natural rhythm.

But there's a cost, in the form of time. Horses need care and feeding every day, whether they're pulling a wagon that day or not.

Fisher learned this past year that two former apprentices at Natural Roots Farm who had learned to work with horses here and then adopted this method on their own farms, recently went back to farming with tractors.



It bothers him. But he's not giving up. Because for him, working with horses is one small answer to the despair that led him here. "The environmental crisis is heavy. It's a heavy, heavy situation. And to find any hope of effecting some sort of change, or examples [of change] is critical to my emotional, psychological well-being," he says.

Over breakfast that day, I ask David, "Are you a perfectionist?" He starts to deny it, but Anna cuts in. "Yes!" she says.

He and Anna both tell me that David's driving ambition to build a better farm — constantly working, always starting some new project — has led to conflict between them. "This is the long-standing disagreement," Anna says softly. "I always think that we need to take on less, you know?"



They've managed to keep this farm afloat for almost two decades now, but "it's still a serious struggle to make the economics of it work out," David says. And apart from worries about money, they have to manage the logistics of a complicated life — 200 families depending on a steady supply of produce from their farm, children in school and playing soccer, and their car parked on the other side of the river, a quarter-mile walk from their rustic home.

"There's not a lot that's easy about living this way," she says. "But most of it feels pretty right. And I guess that's turned out to be more important, for me."

Those are the words they often use, talking about their choices. This small, alternative American Dream, for them, just feels right.
 
( http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/31/505729436/by-returning-to-farmings-roots-he-found-his-american-dream - retrieved Jan 10, 2017)

SO....
This is where we need to be heading... again! Back To The Future! If we are to feed ourselves and make our lives sustainable, then the basic requirement is taking personal responsibility for the expenditure of ALL energy that is used for our comfort and well being - it's THAT simple! If more of us were doing this as community, it wouldn't be so hard for those few who do now. Many hands make light work.

If you need a model to think about very much akin to what David & Anna have done here then look to the Amish. They still do the large bulk of their farming with a heavy dependence upon animal labor, and relatively minor use of anything derived from fossil hydro-carbons. They don't make use of any exotic electronics or electricity and they rely on family labor first, community labor second before thinking beyond that scale - which means they usually don't get beyond that scale.

IT'S A CHANGE, people, no getting around it. But that scenario IS where we each can take responsibility for our use of energy - our own, our animal friends, or human neighbors - on a daily basis, for our own well being. That IS sustainability! Think back - it wasn't that long ago when much of the country was sustainable, meaning that we truly didn't make our world or the environment any worse than we found it and, with extra effort, we left it a little better. It's not the ONLY scenario that works but it's right in the middle of ALL scenarios that DO work, so we need to embrace the reality and join David & Anna making the world functional for human habitation again. It's well and truly up to us!

Meanwhile, while your wrapping your tender 21st century sensibilities around these concepts - take your money out of any bank that's invested in anti-environmental projects (like DAPL) and put it in a local credit union. Get off of that white sugar, white flour dependence.  Buy local. Farmer's markets are MUCH more fun! Make your own environmentally friendly clothes washing soap (it's actually quite easy). Remember the goal isn't home buyer-ship, but home ownership. You don't have to mortgage your soul for a decent home. Think about getting rid of the heavy lift vehicle and getting a Volt... or a horse!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Thanks for being there and being you,

The Smokemaster

Thursday, September 29, 2016

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs

Normally I post my own thoughts in this space, but I have come across a fundamental explanation of the stratification of people that really connects the dots and I want to share it with those who read my blog without having them click of to somewhere else, or worse, not find it at the end of an outdated or discontinued link, so here it is - By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing".

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always,even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?" - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the U.S. Naval Academy November 24, 1997

"One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:

"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.

Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in "Fear Less", his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling."

Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself...
"Baa."

This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth"

Reading this was truly an epiphany for me. It explained my life, my attitude, my very "way of being" in ways I had never "grocked" before. As you might have guessed, I'm a sheepdog. Full on, always ready. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've almost compulsively moved INTO "the action" instead of away from it in my life, both as a civilian and in the service of the nation with two branches of the military.  When the "ugly duckling", the outsider, the misfit turns out to be a sheepdog - well, I wouldn't have it any other way! Now you know too. :-)

Thanks for being there and being you :-)

The Smokemaster

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On "Common Sense" Gun Regulations - Let's use some actual common sense!

I just posted this on Facebook, but wanted it to be more referable for the consuming public over time, so here it is -

I posted this comment with it -
I am a proud gun owner and user. I believe in the Second Amendment AS WRITTEN, not as freely interpreted by the gun nut lobby aka the NRA. I do NOT belong to the NRA because they don't represent or support common sense gun laws in this country and by not doing so they make every mass shooting a more divisive issue than the one before.

Here's the real BEEF!!! - The willingness of lawmakers to jump on any buzzword that comes down the hall and HAIL IT as the immediate gratification solution! Example - BAN ASSAULT RIFLES! What utter bullshit! I have an AR-15 platform rifle - the so called "assault weapon" - of general focus. I also have a British Enfield .303 cal. Mark 1 Mod III bolt action rifle made in 1916 - other than the US Springfield, probably the longest serving and most commonly deployed military weapon throughout the British empire for over 100 years. Probably EVERY rancher in Australia has a British Enfield as their "goto" gun. REports from the battle front in several wars state that "A well trained British infrantryman can lay down so much fire so quickly with the bolt-action Enfield that there have been occasions that someone though a .30 cal machine gun had been deployed. Been used in more actual assaults than almost any other weapon on earth, but NOBODY thinks of it as an assault weapon. So lets get real about what constitutes the REAL problem, and deal with that part of the bigger picture, not just label a whole class of guns or type of technology and then demonize it with absolutely no justification.

The problem is PEOPLE who want to come into a SOCIAL VENUE, and shoot a bunch of people rapidly. That requires that people who aren't stable being able to get a firearm easily and quickly - the current background check system would detect only the most egregious repeat offender across a range of public space... and by the way, the national military security system doesn't do a very good job of detecting potential traitors either. It requires that the future perpetrator be able to get as much ammunition as they can carry of afford, which ever is the limiting factor. That's a no brainer. The only limit in most cases is age. It requires that they be able to feed that ammunition to the receiver of the gun as quickly as possible - which means semi-automatic weapons with large capacity clips are optimum, but by NO MEANS, the only way to do this! As previously noted, a good bolt action handled by someone with reasonable skill can do the same thing BUT you have to have available ammunition, so clips matter - ANY CLIP SIZE MATTERS. Why? Because it's more than a single shot and changing clips doesn't slow down the activity that much. Sure, I have to haul around three ten shot clips for every 30 round clip but the 30 round clip is bigger and heavier too.

If we can drop 6 store security people on an alleged shoplifter in 10 second or less, because they walked through the ubiquitous RFID detector at the door, why in God's name can't we put an RFID on every gun, new or old, as part of a national gun registration process, and detect not only the presence of a gun, but, in milli-seconds, the type of gun, and have public venue security all over it, the same way every major retail outlet in the nation protects the integrity of it's profits, all day every day - think WalMart . There was a policeman on site at Orlando who returned fire. Imagine the benefit to him, and many others, if he'd known within two second of the guy approaching the place that he was armed, and with what. He could have taken away the element of surprise. Just imagine! That's what holding the perpetrator responsible means. That's COMMON SENSE GUN REGULATION. If we put saving lives and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions on an equal footing with preventing theft and protecting profits, we could have this problem solved yesterday and put the argument to rest that the government is trying to take everyone's guns away. They aren't or it would be done already.

Thanks for being there and being you.

The Smokemaster

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Examination of "The Good Life"

Possibly the MOST contentious or dynamic (and subject to constant change) aspect of human culture is the definition of "the good life" and what makes a life "good", no matter the situation.

Unfortunately, over time, many definitions of "the good life" (TGL) have become closely associated with a life of ease or comfort. The reason that this is unfortunate is that life, for the most part is not easy or, for that matter, comfortable (with a nod to The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck). It would seem to make more sense to define TGL in terms of reality and the likelihood of certain things happening, rather than things that are unlikely or even rare. 

So… maybe we need to take a close look at what "good" means… or should mean.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of good (see APPENDIX A below - yes go look at it! This essay originally included it here, but it seriously detracted from the reading flow of the essay, none the less you NEED a sense of it if not a detailed understanding of it, so go look at it and come back here) provides an exhaustive and effective sense of this very useful and flexible word. The dictionary provides 3a - pleasant, pleasing, or enjoyable as one of a number of choices, and then provides a clue in "see also good life".

For the "Good Life" the dictionary provides us with -

GOOD LIFE (noun)
Learner's definition of GOOD LIFE

1  US : the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have
She grew up poor, but now she's living the good life.
His idea of the good life includes owning several luxury cars.
2 : a happy and enjoyable life
She gave up a good job in the city to move to the country in search of the good life.

which explicitly moves us in what can only be seen as a bad direction, if we have any sense of what is sustainable in our world, and what is not, based on the simple notion that its "the kind of life that people with a lot of money are able to have". Given our well understood distribution of wealth in the U.S. as depicted for 2015 in this Washington Post graphic -
that would mean that only the top 5% have any realistic actuality of TGL. However, this also implies that there MUST be more to this or it would be seen as "beyond the pale" or unachievable for the masses, and people keep thinking that TGL is achievable, so...  The U.S. Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (WikiPedia) which provides us with three specific instances of "inalienable rights" endowed by "man's Creator" that it is the intrinsic role of government to protect and enable, as well as a high altitude sense of TGL in the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This, in other words, means to be alive, to have the freedom to live as one chooses, and to pursue whatever makes one happy.

With this in mind, it immediately becomes a subjective determination for each and every person alive on the planet, relative to their education, their perspectives, their personality, their maturity, their ethical sensibilities, their intrinsic and developed values, and their general state of balance as a human on a finite planet, in a very large cosmos.
 Therein lies the rub…

For humanity to share a common sense of TGL, then, would require that everyone have a credible and roughly equivalent education and life experience, as well as a common understanding and perspective about how life works on a finite planet, which one would hope would lead to a common set of values, ethics, and beliefs. This may be the original "hopium" because, for the most part, they (humanity) do not. There is a substantial probability of being able to identify large generalized groupings of common perspective and belief and thus common sense of TGL, but there would be MANY such groups within any culture or other human organizational framework, which might or might not align with other groups of similar culture but alternative geography.

That said, there are generally understood expressions of TGL such as the term "the American Dream" generally defined as "a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (Democracy, Rights, Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers." In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth." (WikiPedia)

These views would be specifically 20th century views held primarily by Americans and yet the very same America is much closer to meeting, and supporting, the definition of "good life" presented in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (see above). There are, obviously, inherent linkages to a way of life that was perhaps most strongly developed in America - what started as industrial capitalism, morphed into predatory industrial capitalism, and has finally ended up taking the ultimately fatal form of parasitic industrial capitalism. It serves the oligarchy well to have the majority of the population actually think they can achieve the "good life" based on lots of money, because that's the only thing that the oligarchy can give them is money - never a lot, just "enough".

Those who use excesses of hopium are the ones who continue the fiction that "we can beat this addiction by just changing 'what's wrong' " or who say "What addiction?" without being willing to acknowledge that there is one, and that the entire human ecology is based on "wrong" that sustains that addiction. It is not desparium to recognize the nature and scope of the problem and to try to get others to do so as well. As is well known in addiction treatment circles, you can't solve the problem if you fail to understand and acknowledge that there is one.

This IS an addiction problem. Wealth addiction for the few, energy addiction for the many. Until we all take personal responsibility for our own energy use and consumption every day in every way, then you better believe in "desparium" stories, because you're in one. So as not to support either side of what I see as extremes, I think there will be (or maybe not, in which case we die) opportunities to do better than "walk and scratch out a living with your fingers" in this troubled and possibly deeply challenged future, although that's a rather extreme view of a perfectly normal condition for half of the world's current population.

This points up that fully half of the "problem" aka the lack, or insufficiency, of TGL opportunities, is rapid over-population - but we will NOT be able to continue "parasitic industrial capitalism" like we have been for over 200 years. Thus much of what has been defined as "the good life" is based on a dream of a human ecology that is essentially rooted in, and utterly dependent upon, endless and egregious exploitation, consumption, and excess, driven by exponential growth. That means that, when closely examined, The Good Life in the developed world is based on a rather wretched life for many others in the developing or undeveloped world. This is, quite obviously, the very epitome of unsustainable. We're going to need a new definition of The Good Life... for all of us.

The people on this earth who are best adapted to what's coming (as a result of centuries of our over-indulgence) are not our luxuriant, entitled, self-indulgent Global North attitudes in any case. It's the Australian aboriginal cultures and the Kalahari bushman culture, among others who haven't lost (though damn near) the ways of surviving extreme climate change and inhospitable conditions - which does seem to be, despite so many "developed world" people's utter abhorrence of the idea, predominantly "walk and scratch out a living with your fingers". I prefer to think of it as taking personal responsibility for your daily energy generation and resource consumption, whatever form that has to take for you. There is a good life to be had by taking that responsibility and working with one's own hands to create what is needed. Before the current tribulations are over we may need to see "the good life" as ANY life at all, where humanity is concerned, given the conditions we face.

APPENDIX A
Merriam -Webster Online

Definition of

GOOD

1 a (1) :  of a favorable character or tendency (2) :  bountiful, fertile (3) :  handsome, attractive
b (1) :  suitable, fit (2) :  free from injury or disease (3) :  not depreciated (4) :  commercially sound (5) :  that can be relied on (6) :  profitable, advantageous  
c (1) :  agreeable, pleasant (2) :  salutary, wholesome (3) :  amusing, clever  
d (1) :  of a noticeably large size or quantity :  considerable (2) :  full (3) —used as an intensive  
e (1) :  well-founded, cogent (2) :  true (3) :  deserving of respect :  honorable (4) :  legally valid or effectual
f (1) :  adequate, satisfactory —often used in faint praise (2) :  conforming to a standard (3) :  choice, discriminating (4) :  containing less fat and being less tender than higher grades —used of meat and especially of beef

2 a (1) :  virtuous, right, commendable (2) :  kind, benevolent  
b :  upper-class  
c :  competent, skillful  
d (1) :  loyal (2) :  close e :  free from infirmity or sorrow
 

goodish play \ˈgu̇-dish\ adjective
as good as
:  in effect :  virtually as good as gold
1 :  of the highest worth or reliability
2 :  well-behaved
:  very, entirely

GOOD (for learners of English)
1 good /ˈgʊd/ adjective   in the context of better /ˈbɛtɚ/ ; best /ˈbɛst/

1 a  : of high quality
The food was good. = It was good food.
You'll need better tools for this job.
The car is in good condition/shape.
[+] more examples
b  : of somewhat high but not excellent quality
The food was good but not great.
He has done good but not outstanding work.

2 : correct or proper
good manners
good grammar
She speaks very good English. [=she uses correct pronunciation, grammar, etc.]

3 a  : pleasant, pleasing, or enjoyable
Did you have a good time at the party?
We're expecting good weather for the weekend.
The soup tastes/smells good.
[+] more examples
— see also good life, good-looking
b  : not having, marked by, or relating to problems, troubles, etc.
good and bad news
They've been together in good times and bad.
I had a good feeling about the meeting.
[+] more examples
— see also good luck at 1luck
c  : adequate or suitable
It's a good day for a sail.
We need to have a meeting. Is tomorrow good [=convenient] for you?
He's a good person to contact if you're ever in trouble.
[+] more examples
d  : sensible or reasonable
She has a very good reason for being angry.
He showed good judgment in buying a small car.
She gave us some good advice.
[+] more examples
e  : producing or likely to produce a pleasant or favorable result
a good deal/plan
a good risk/investment
a lot of good marketing ideas
[+] more examples
f  : having a desired quality
We paid a good price [=a low price] for the tickets.
The painting should fetch/bring a good price [=a high price] when it's sold.
Did you get good [=high] grades in school?
[+] more examples
g  : expressing approval or praise
a movie that has been getting good reviews
I've heard a lot of good things about you.
h  — used in speech as a response
“I'm ready to go when you are.” “Good. Let's get going.”
“I passed the exam!” “(Very) Good!”
“I passed the exam!” “Good for you!” = (chiefly Australia) “Good on you!” [=well done]

4 a  : not marked or affected by injury or disease : healthy
I went home early because I wasn't feeling too/very good. [=I wasn't feeling well; I was feeling sick]
Her health is pretty good. = She's in pretty good health.
The patient was reported to be in good condition following surgery.
[+] more examples
b  : not causing harm or trouble : causing something desired
a good [=healthy, healthful] diet
good nutrition
You've been a good influence on the kids.
[+] more examples
— often + for
Regular exercise is good for you. [=regular exercise makes you healthier]
Hot soup is good for a cold. [=hot soup makes you feel better when you have a cold]
Being with friends is especially good for him right now.

5 a  : not morally bad or wrong : morally proper or correct
a good person
good conduct/behavior
a woman/man of good character
[+] more examples
— see also good life
b  : kind or helpful
You've always been so good to me.
It was good of you to answer my request so quickly.
— sometimes used to formally make a request
Would you be good enough to show me the way? = Would you be so good as to show me the way? [=would you please show me the way?]
c  : behaving properly : not causing trouble
a good dog
The children were very good today.

6 a  : having or showing talent or skill : doing or able to do something well
She's a very good golfer.
a good musician/doctor/cook
He was really good in his last movie. [=he acted very well]
[+] more examples
— often + at
She's very good at (playing) golf.
He's not very/any good at expressing his feelings. = He's no good at expressing his feelings.
— sometimes used in a joking way
I'm very/really good at saying the wrong thing. [=I often say things that make people uncomfortable, unhappy, etc.]
— see also no good, not any good at 2good
b  : able to use something or to deal with something or someone well — + with
He's very good with his hands. [=he can easily make/do things with his hands]
She's good with children. [=she manages and interacts with children well; children like her and behave well when they are with her]
c  : having a tendency to do something — + about
He's good about writing everything down. [=he usually writes everything down]
I'm trying to be better about exercising. [=I'm trying to exercise more often]

7 a  : happy or pleased
I feel good about what happened. [=I'm pleased by what happened]
She felt good that she had remembered his birthday. = She felt good about remembering his birthday.
Helping other people makes me feel good.
She didn't feel good about having to fire her secretary.
b  : cheerful or calm
She's in a good mood. [=a happy mood]
He has a good temper. [=he is good-tempered; he doesn't become angry easily]
Everyone was in good spirits.

8 not used before a noun
a  — used to say how long something will continue or be valid
This offer is good only until the end of the month.
This offer is good for the remainder of the month.
Our old car should be good for a few more years. [=it should last a few more years; it should continue to operate for a few more years]
b  : still suitable to eat or drink : not spoiled
Is the milk still good or has it gone bad?

9 — used in phrases like good heavens and good God to express surprise or anger or to make a statement or question more forceful
Good heavens! You startled me!
“Do you agree with him?” “Good God, no!”
(somewhat old-fashioned) Good gracious, I completely forgot!
— see also good grief at grief

10 : causing laughter : funny
I heard a good joke the other day.
“He says he's never met her.” “That's a good one. [=that's amusing because it isn't true] I saw them together last week.”
She's always good for a laugh. [=she is always funny]

11 a  : large in size, amount, or quantity
The store has a good selection of products.
She won the election by a good [=considerable] margin.
He makes good money as a lawyer. = He makes a good living as a lawyer. [=he earns a lot of money]
[+] more examples
b  : not less or fewer than a particular amount : at least — used in the phrase a good
He weighs a good 200 pounds.
We waited a good hour. [=we waited at least an hour]
There are a good 80 people here.

12  always used before a noun : forceful or thorough
If you give the machine a good kick, it might start working again.
Give the bottle a good shake before you open it.
Take a good look at this.
[+] more examples

13 : having a high social position or status
He comes from a good family.
She thinks her son is too good for me.
It's a good neighborhood.

14 always used before a noun
a  — used to describe people who know each other well and care about each other very much
She's a good [=close] friend of mine. = She and I are good friends.
my good friend/pal/buddy Joe
b  : showing true and constant support for someone
He's been a good friend to me.
I'm trying to be a better sister.
c  : belonging to and having loyalty to a group or organization
a good party member
a good Catholic

15 not used before a noun - sports
a  of a serve or shot : landing in the proper area of the court in tennis and similar games
I thought the ball/serve was good but my opponent said it was out.
b  of a shot or kick : successfully done
(basketball) The first foul shot was good, but he missed the second one.
(American football) The field goal was good.
(American football) The field goal was no good. [=the field goal was missed]

16 not used before a noun, informal : not wanting or needing anything more
“Would you like more coffee?” “No, thanks. I'm good.”
“Here's the money I owed you. So we're good now, right?” “Yeah, we're good.” [=we have settled our business; there is no longer any problem between us]
all in good time
— see
1time
all well and good
— see
2well
as good as
: almost or nearly
The plan is as good as dead.
Those people as good as ruined the school with their foolish ideas!
(as) good as gold
— see
1 gold
as good as it gets
informal
1 — used to say that nothing better is possible or available
It's not a great restaurant, but in this part of the city, it's as good as it gets.
2 — used to say that something is very good and cannot be improved
There's nothing I enjoy more than spending time at home with my family. That's as good as it gets.
as good as new
— see 1new
fight the good fight
— see 1fight
for good measure
— see 1measure
give as good as you get
— see 1give
good and
chiefly US, informal /ˌgʊdn̩/

1 : very
I hit him good and hard.
He was good and angry.
I like my coffee good and hot.

2 : completely or entirely
We'll leave when I'm good and ready.
good egg
— see 1 egg
good for
somewhat informal
: able to provide or produce (something)
I'm good for a hundred dollars if you need a loan.
— see also 1good 4b, 8a (above)
good for it
informal
: able to pay back a loan
Why won't you lend me the money? You know I'm good for it. [=you can trust me to pay it back]
good graces
— see 1 grace
good old
informal
— used before a noun to describe a familiar person or thing with affection or approval
Good old John: you can always count on him to help.
I don't need fancy shoes. I prefer good old sneakers.
They were talking about the good old days. [=happy times in the past]
— see also good old boy
good riddance
— see riddance
good to go
US, informal
: ready to leave or to start doing something
We have all the tools and supplies we need, so we're good to go.
good word
— see 1word
have it good
: to be in a favorable position or situation
There's no reason for her to be so unhappy. She really has it (pretty) good.
He's never had it so good. [=he has never been in such a favorable situation]
have the good grace
— see 1grace
hold good
: to be true
The advice she gave us 10 years ago still holds good [=(more commonly) holds true] today.
if you know what's good for you
: if you want to avoid trouble, problems, etc.
You'll take my advice if you know what's good for you.
She'll forget about the whole thing if she knows what's good for her.
in good company
— see company
in good part
— see 1part
make good

1 : to become successful
It's a story about a kid from a small town trying to make good in the big city.
◊ If you make good your escape, you escape successfully.
The prisoners dug a tunnel under the fence and made good their escape.

2 : to do something that you have promised or threatened to do
He made good his promise.
— usually + on in U.S. English
He made good on his promise.
They made good on their threat and forced the company to go out of business.

3 a  : to pay for (something) — usually + on
The insurance company was required to make good on the loss.
b  chiefly British : to repair (something)
The contract obliges you to make good any damaged windows.
so far, so good
— see 1far
too good to be true
— used to say that something cannot be as good as it seems to be
The price of the car is too good to be true. There must be something wrong with it.
If it looks/seems too good to be true, it probably is. [=there is probably some cost or bad part you do not know about]
very good
formal
— used as a response to say you will do something that you have been told or asked to do
“Show the ambassador in.” “Very good, sir.”
what's good for the goose is good for the gander
— see 1goose
with (a) good grace
— see 1grace
2 good /ˈgʊd/ noun
plural goods

Learner's definition of GOOD

1 a  [noncount] : morally good forces or influences
the battle of good versus evil
Teachers can be a strong force for good.
the difference between good and bad
b  [count] : something that is right or good
They had to sacrifice lesser goods for greater ones.
What is life's highest/greatest good?

2 the good
a  [singular] : the pleasant things that happen to people
You have to take the good with the bad. [=you have to accept both the good things and the bad things that happen to you]
b  [singular] : things that are morally proper or correct
Parents must teach their children the difference between the good and the bad.
c  [plural] : morally good people
She believes that the good go to heaven when they die and the bad go to hell.
Only the good die young.

3 [noncount] : the part of someone that is kind, honest, generous, helpful, etc.
They cherished the good [=goodness] in him, overlooking the bad.
She believes there is some good in everyone.

4 [noncount]
a  : something that helps someone or something to be better, stronger, etc.
She did it for the good of the community. [=to help the community]
citizens working together for the common/public good [=to help or benefit everyone]
I know you don't want to do this, but it's for your own good. [=it will make you stronger, better, etc.]
They talk too much for their own good. [=they hurt themselves by talking too much]
b  : a useful or favorable result
What good can possibly come of that?
No good came of our efforts. = Our efforts came to no good. [=our efforts did not produce a good or useful result]
— see also no good (below)

5 goods [plural]
a  : products that are made or grown in order to be sold : things for sale
The store sells a variety of goods.
baked/canned goods
leather/paper goods
[+] more examples
— see also damaged goods, dry goods, durable goods, white goods
b  : things that are owned by a person
He sold all of his worldly goods. [=all of his possessions]
c  British : products carried by trains, trucks, etc. : freight — used before another noun
a goods lorry
— see also goods train
be any good
: to be useful or helpful
Would an apology be any good? [=any use]
deliver the goods
informal or chiefly British come up with the goods
: to produce the desired or promised results : to do what is wanted or expected
We knew we could count on him to deliver the goods. [=get the job done]
do good
1 : to do kind or helpful things : to do things that help other people
She tried to make the community better by doing good.
She has done a lot of good in the community.
— see also do-gooder

2 a  : to be useful or helpful — used with any, much, some, etc.
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it didn't do any good. [=I was unable to convince him]
He's been exercising more and it seems to be doing some good.
You can try, but it probably won't do much good.
It might do a little good.
b  : to be useful to or helpful for someone or something
You should exercise more. It might do you (some) good.
Weeding regularly will do your garden good. [=will improve your garden]
The visit with her grandchildren did her a world/lot of good. = (Brit) The visit with her grandchildren did her a power of good. [=it was very good for her; it made her feel much better and happier]
◊ If you do not think that something is helpful, useful, or worth doing, you can ask What good does it do?, What good is it?, What's the good of it?, etc.
What good does it to do to bring an umbrella along [=why bring an umbrella along] if you are only going to leave it in the car?
What good is a college education when you can't get a job after you graduate?
What's the good of working hard if your boss doesn't give you any credit for it?
I could try talking to him, but what good would that do/be? He has already made up his mind.
for good
also for good and all
: forever
“When is she coming back?” “She's not coming back. She's gone for good.”
have/get the goods on
informal
◊ To have/get the goods on someone is to have/get evidence showing that someone has done something wrong.
We can't arrest her until we get the goods on her.
in good with
US, informal
: in a favored position with (someone)
She's in good with the boss. [=the boss likes her]
it's an ill wind that blows no good
— see 1ill
no good
or not any good
: not effective or useful
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it was no good, he wouldn't listen to me.
It's no good [=no use] talking to him. = It isn't any good talking to him.
— see also be any good (above)
not much good
: not very effective or useful
I tried to convince him to change his mind, but it wasn't much good.
to the good
1
— used to say that a particular result or effect is good or would be good — usually used after all
If the new policy requires the government to keep more accurate records, that's all to the good. [=that's a good thing; that's desirable]
2
— used to indicate an amount of gain or profit
In the end, we were $100 to the good. [=we gained $100]
up to no good
informal
: doing bad things or planning to do bad things
If you ask me, that woman's up to no good.
3 good /ˈgʊd/ adverb


Learner's definition of GOOD
informal
1  chiefly US : 1well 1
Things have been going good lately.
The team is doing good this year.
“How did you hit the ball today?” “Good.”
◊ The use of good to mean “well” is considered wrong by many people. It occurs mainly in very informal speech.
2  chiefly US : completely and thoroughly
The other team whipped us good.
That was a funny joke you played on him. You really got him good. [=he was completely fooled by the joke]
“They sure soaked you with that bucket of water.” “Yeah, they really got me good.” [=I got completely soaked with water]
(Brit) Clean it up good and proper.
3 — used for emphasis before words like long and many
I haven't seen her for a good long time. [=a very long time]
There were a good many people [=a lot of people] at the meeting.
(chiefly Brit) Not all our students go on to university, but a good few [=quite a few] of them do.

Thanks for being there and being you,

The Smokemaster

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The REAL Zombie Apocalypse - Playing Out In Neighborhoods All Around You!

As was predicted in The Limits To Growth (1972) and reaffirmed in the recent paper from a Melbourne University study of Limits To Growth (http://sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/sites/default/files/docs/MSSI-ResearchPaper-4_Turner_2014.pdf), regarding our actively moving toward an imminent societal and civilizational collapse, there is not time to waste in turning the proverbial ship of state i.e. human civilization around… and yet it's not happening. The best that can be said is that the global community is now talking with relatively one voice about the problem.  Even at that the nature of the discussion is so utterly ridiculous as to be grand comedy… damning with feint realism the future of much of the Global South by stating that we should focus on limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.

This, when 2 degrees C is a farce by any realistic measure of assessment, because the actions and functions already in play from the previous 40 years of egregious climate change denial (that show no sign of slowing any time soon) quite realistically (and conservatively) commit us to 4-6 degrees C rise. Further, this is without considering the as-yet-unquantified, but horrific, potential influence of Arctic methane. In other words, in this grand comedy of our "new" awareness, WE are the butt of the joke. "An hour late and a dollar short" would be an extremely positive statement of the situation.

The absolute and whole root of the problem traces back irrevocably to our human behaviors, specifically excessive and egregious consumption, and all of the extraction, exploitation, commoditization, and waste that accompany excessive consumption. Sure, there are exacerbating factors like global over-population as a result of excess means of sustenance, over-extraction, and over-productionas a function of the mad pursuit of wealth. The deliberate development of this excessive consumption as a function of market economy gone mad in the late 1800's and early 1900's, influenced by the "wisdom" of such social engineering capitalists as Edward Bernays (the generally acclaimed father of Public Relations) is another story worthy of review. Suffice it to say that there is no consideration of the fundamental limits of a finite physical system anywhere in the prevailing social or "mainstream" thinking.

As such, the Zombie Apocalypse is already happening all around you, in the form of your neighbors, your fellow citizens, even your friends, certainly most of the population of the developed world - unable to let go of the "security" of the chattel pittance they are begrudgingly allowed, their "retained value" for the lifetime of work expended under the parasitic industrial capitalist system. Mind you they only get THIS concession because, as the old joke goes, "Somebody has to buy retail!" Combine this with the inability to let go of the "provided" comforts of a progressively less benevolent society, run by a progressively more arrogant and greedy oligarchy, and you have a population of very real zombies, waiting to be "activated". When the system upon which they are utterly dependent collapses they will come for you, and whatever little you may have done to prepare.

They are the natural end product of over 150 years of deliberate social engineering and human domestication. Never doubt that they will unhesitatingly come after you, or anyone who is self-sufficient or self-reliant, when the "owners" stop being interested in the industrial domestication of humanity. Why zombies? Because they have no coherent thought beyond the material world upon which they utterly depend. Like locusts, and to some extent pigs, they simply consume, defecate, move, and rest, all the while over-running any available resources. Like all parasites, eventually they die… when they have consumed everything consumable…or been killed.

So… to bend a line from Capt. Barbosa, of "Pirate of the Caribbean" fame, "You better believe in zombie stories, Missy…Because You're In One!" Until we, as a society, can step away from the smorgasbord of egregious consumption and take responsibility, on a personal level, for the generation and use of energy and resources we need for daily survival… we have met the zombies… and they are US!

Thanks for reading, keep the candles lit, and keep your powder dry

The Smokemaster

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Moving Forward Against The Inertia and Cognitive Disonance of Old Paradigm

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The state of affairs post-COP-21 could be considered bleak if it weren’t so dire. The occupants of Earth are faced with a set of circumstances within which there are more whens than ifs, and the real question is which one will trigger cascading disaster first. Even some of what would generally be called main-stream climate change reporting (as opposed to Guy McPherson type end of times) are finally openly embracing the concept that 1) we have a profoundly industrial base for our developed world civilization, 2) that profoundly industrial base is entirely and utterly dependent upon fossil hydro-carbon chemistry and energy, and 3) the end of what has been treated as an unending supply of those hydrocarbons is in sight, which will mean 4) the end of our industrial civilization as we know it.

Nothing about the outcome of COP-21 in any way presents a different scenario. If anything, it can be said that for the first time in 21 years of holding these meetings, the majority of the attendees agreed that global warming is the root problem in climate change, and that global warming is largely due to anthropocentric activity. The good news ends there. By way of offering a meaningless fig leaf to developing nations, it was agreed that the gathered body would focus on limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C – which is as ludicrous as it is commendable – primarily because of the 40 year lag in GHG effect which means that what we are experiencing now is the cumulative effect of what has not been done to change the course of human activity over the last 40 years. 

If we stopped emitting tomorrow, we would have 40 more years of aggregated effect to deal with, not to mention the nominal loss of the minor reflective effect that comes from particulate in the air cause by some sources of GHG emissions. Given what we are now experiencing and the realistic observation that the situation has picked up both speed and scope in recent years and months, it is quite realistic to think that we have at least another 5 degrees C already committed by actions that are “in the can” so to speak, and can’t be undone by any current means. This is taking into account what we can realistically project  of aggregate effects from what we know full well has been done by humanity over the last 40 years. Given that we are neither positioned to accomplish, nor seemingly desirous of, such a cessation, it is likely that the aggregating effect will continue to be the name of the game for some time to come. Further, there is no accounting for release of the immense stores of methane in the Arctic. Welcome to the Anthropocene!

There are those who are quick to say that the failure of industrial civilization will result in the extinction of homo sapiens. I disagree. While there are good reasons to suspect that the temperature rise previously mentioned will imperil the large majority of processes and methods that the majority of homo sapiens use to maintain a comfortable life style today, that does not effectively argue that humanity is unable to survive without those “creature comforts.” I would hasten to remind the reader that Australian aborigines and Kalahari bushmen have lived and thrived on some of the hottest, driest places on Earth, through periods that has encompassed a number of major climate changes that quite likely equal or exceed conditions predicted for this situation, with almost superhuman tenacity, for well over 40,000 years.  The fact that you are not a member of one of those groups does present your survival odds poorly, but is not an instant death sentence.

On the larger scale, across the spread of humanity as we now know it, it could be reasonably said that the people least prepared for the rough ride ahead are the citizens of the so called “developed world”. Why? Because, for the most part, they have become fat, dumb, and dubiously happy occupants of a social structure and a civilization that does not stress or value personal resilience or self-reliance, but does everything that it can to eradicate those two in the name of increased market dependence, the very foundational essence of market economies that drive our over-industrialized state. To the extent that developing countries have “bought into” the same mythology of egregious materialism and excess resource extraction that has powered the developed world to it’s detriment, they too, will suffer.

Which humans can best be said to be effectively prepared, by nature of having retained or maintained their intrinsic functions of regional knowledge, resilience, and self-reliance? As a broad generality, indigenous peoples fit this description. Indigenous people can be described as having a local & regional understanding of the ways of the natural world, with a perspective of themselves as fitting into that world, rather than being apart or different from it, and intrinsically knowing how to live effectively and sustainably within that environment. This type of knowledge, passed on as a function of culture (the accumulated knowledge and behaviors over time, of any group of humans, who deliberately pass on the knowledge, skills, and behaviors as a function of their social structure) creates a much more balanced and functional sense of values and ethics, related to self, place, and community, that is resilient, resourceful, and sustainable over time. It happens that Australian aborigines and Kalahari bushmen are among the most effective of those who have retained and practice these values and traditions into the modern day.

So… the question that I find myself trying to answer is “How can I contribute to improving the survival and resilience odds for my fellow citizens of the developed world?  This objective has some serious problems, given that there are simply too many of people in the first place, as a result of egregious over-population, to support expanding market economies that are unsustainable on a finite planet.  There are huge numbers who are simply sleep-walking into the unfolding environmental disaster and extinction event, unable to comprehend or accept that their way of life is so profoundly unsustainable that it, and they (as currently disposed) cannot survive another century. There will be a thinning of the proverbial herd. That said, there are opportunities to spread a more coherent and understandable message of the imperative; provide mechanisms for re-learning, re-indigenization, and re-engagement with the natural world; development of resilience and preparedness strategies and skill sets; and develop or refine appropriate technologies with an eye toward benefiting all impacted constituencies, improving life sustaining functions, and perhaps most important, doing no harm.

If we are to re-discover or re-create the critical body of knowledge that is associated with being “indigenous” or with re-indigenization, we must regenerate a sense of both environmental culture and environmental ethic, as well as the individual skills and behaviors that sustain the two. We are perilously close to having lost these understandings and skills across a broad sweep of our society, because of a rapid move into artificially sustained life-styles that are dependent upon fossil fuels and industrial production. The result is that we have come very close to an indigenous cultural sustainability threshold, signified by the steady loss of land ethic and indigenous culture (as previously defined) in the common discourse, such that, if a community drops below a certain level, there is effectively no indigenous understanding in the common discourse at all.

In the current situation, that threshold has been crossed in many areas, is just short of it (resulting in scattered pockets of indigeneity remaining intact) in others, and is relatively whole, albeit not intact, in others. This means that the opportunity exists to recreate and render whole the base of knowledge, skills, and behaviors required for indigenous continuity in many land and waterscapes, while extending that wisdom to others with the additional due diligence required of a nominally different land or waterscape.

With that in mind, I have identified a piece of land west of Athens, Ohio that presents an excellent opportunity to establish an Academy of Applied Sustainability & Neo-Indigenous Studies.  Here the functional realities of operational indigeneity, practical agro-ecology, principles of sustainability, emergency preparedness and disaster recovery, as well as personal and group resilience can be explored, refined, taught, and expanded, enhanced by effective identification and engagement of appropriate technologies.  This enterprise will function as a Center of Excellence where best practices for various processes and techniques of sustainability, resilience, and preparedness are identified and taught, where ongoing research into improved ways and means for the above are conducted, and where ultimately an intentional community will take shape to carry these principles and learnings forward as a new paradigm for human life in natural community, with an associated cultural progression.

Much of the functional knowledge required to proceed into the future with a confident degree of personal resilience and self-reliance, based on essential principles of global sustainability as we now understand them, exists in the present or is emergent. There is also reason to believe that a good bit of highly valuable and sustainable wisdom exists in many of the old ways and methods for doing things that slightly predate the availability of externally powered machines to do the work. Any number of skills and disciplines still incorporate elements of this learning, and various “placer deposits” of wisdom exist in various compilations such as the Foxfire book series, published by the young people of Rabun Gap, Georgia, as well as the broad reach of publications and studies conducted relative to previous indigenous cultures, as well as the living models presented by Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite communities of today. In short there is an abundance of material already available, although generally not in a “comprehensively aggregated, organized, and coordinated for instruction and learning” practicum. Our function would be to deliberately be an aggregation point for this knowledge to collect, organize, operationalize, and, ultimately, convey it to others, with the ultimate goal of an onsite intentional community to function as an exemplar of the teachings in practice.

I would like to see the activities as closely integrated into current conventional community life as possible as well as providing a mechanism for creation or development of new communities of practice based on the aggregate body of principles and best practices, with the ultimate goal being to achieve neo-indigeneity for any person entering or engaged with the program, and resilience, preparedness, and sustainability for related communities. I would be focused on providing on site learning opportunities of varying lengths, as well as taking the knowledge to other appropriate locations (high schools, community centers, community colleges, Ohio University, etc.), facilitating “community conversations” about our times and our potential issues and responses, providing a working library of related materials, and provide opportunities for the development and growth of community (physical and virtual) around this working body of knowledge.

Thanks for being there and being you... and reading this blog!
The Smokemaster

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What is "water"? Isn't THAT the prize?

A good friend and climate warrior on the front lines of voicing the unvoicable about imminent disaster and abrupt climate change recently posted a commentary on the upcoming Paris climate change summit, officially referred to as COP21, @ http://www.boomerwarrior.org/2015/11/lets-keep-our-eyes-on-the-climate-ball/. In the opening thoughts he points out the similarities of climate change and ISIS, but he also refers to Paris as a "celebration" (really??) and admonishes us to keep our "eye on the ball". While he makes some good points that I completely agree with, he has recently taken to soft pedaling the level and scope of our prevailing disconnect with the reality of our situation as regards the actions of the "movement" and the leadership. Needless to say, I don't agree with that.

My response is "You forgot the one thing that really unites the two great blots on our future - they are both a direct result of our own failure to function intelligently as a society... and therein lies the rub! Our own egregious insults to our home world have not only manifested as a massively degraded environment, but a massively degraded society & civilization, which is the dystopian womb from which springs Abrupt Climate Change & ISIS. While you point out the obvious tragedy of 130 dead in Paris, you then shift to the millions that will be affected by climate change. What about the thousands who are dying in their attempts to escape the brutality of ISIS or Syria's government, or other dystopian futures unfolding right now?... every month! The millions who are displaced by the natural nexus of an environment and a civilization in upheaval? We have no good answers that fit the desired formula, which is to maintain and preserve the status quo.

As your countrywoman, Naomi Klein, so aptly noted recently "There are no non-radical solutions to our problem."  We have blithely overlooked a commonly used phrase to explain why certain animals and plants are threatened by, or have suffered, extinction - loss of habitat. Baby birds instinctively know not to shit in their own nests, so as not to suffer an early and untimely "loss of habitat". Fish flopping in a farmer's fields after a short term flood event are experiencing a rather rapid "loss of habitat" which they weren't instinctively primed to avoid. 

Our continued intransigence, our overwhelmingly prevalent ignorance (as a population), our acceptance of the scarcity based philosophy of existence put forward by the oligarchy for over 100 years, aka the "societal owners", all are contributing to our rapid loss of habitat - because habitat isn't just your house, it's your basic capacity to live in a place on any sustained basis. As I drive through the Ohio countryside and look at the indicators of life around me, I realize that 90% or better of the people here don't spend ANY significant time on ANY given day thinking about the imminent "loss of habitat". They are no brighter than the fish in that field, who may at best be thinking "Oh, look! Some some new food has been uncovered!" They don't even know what "water" is, because it's what they live in and they take it for granted.... until it goes away. (For a great take on this principle see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI)

Paris is on track to be a gathering of fish who can see that it's bad to be in the field when the water goes down, and want an orderly movement of all fish back to deep water. They have no functional mechanism for delivering this outcome... and even if they did, it wouldn't stop the water from continuing to go down, after the field is high and dry.  The 1% don't care - they are waiting on the edge of the field to harvest the stranded fish and fish scrambling to get back to deep water when the level drops, with no clear sense that THEIR habitat is also going away. The schools and shoals of fish in the field? They're just sucking up that new food and thinking how good life is. They may fight with other fish for the pickings in some select spots (ala Black Friday) but in general they don't really think about the future... ever. For those who didn't bother to watch the video above, the point of the "what's water?" story is merely that the most obvious important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.... and out time, like that of the speech presenter above (who subsequently took his own life) draws short. So, when we gather in Paris, maybe we should first get clear on "What is water?" followed closely by "Shall we talk about the water??"

For all you do, this one's for you. Thanks for reading!

The Smokemaster