Thursday, 21 February 2019

Hubris, continued

It is hubris that gives men belief that they are in control. It causes them to subjugate other men, other animals, and to lay claim to land and resources.

Hubris makes men invent religions that elevate them above other living beings. Their faith is misplaced.

In a very short time historically, hubris has enabled humanity to radically alter the Earth's climate and ecology with catastrophic effect on its own chances of survival as a species.

Hubris has caused humanity to commit ecocide on plants and animals, land and oceans, life-forms central to planetary health.

Only on recognizing this fatal flaw of hubris can humanity reverse the course towards calamity. Species diversity, ecosystem health, resource wealth must be protected from further deterioration.

Like the human body, the Earth is a living system, a complex web of inter-related organs, cells, networks, molecules, bacteria, flows, nodes, pressure-points. Like a cancerous disease, hubris has facilitated a sustained and terminal attack on the foundations of overall planetary health. Unless checked, it will continue to cause the depletion and shutdown of life support systems.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The State of Britain

Journalist Fintan O' Toole calls it the unravelling of an imagined community.

He writes in the Guardian:

"Brexit plays out a conflict between Them and Us, but it is surely obvious after this week that the problem is not with Them on the continent. It’s with the British Us, the unravelling of an imagined community. The visible collapse of the Westminster polity this week may be a result of Brexit, but Brexit itself is the result of the invisible subsidence of the political order over recent decades...

It may seem strange to call this slow collapse invisible since so much of it is obvious: the deep uncertainties about the union after the Good Friday agreement of 1998 and the establishment of the Scottish parliament the following year; the consequent rise of English nationalism; the profound regional inequalities within England itself; the generational divergence of values and aspirations; the undermining of the welfare state and its promise of shared citizenship; the contempt for the poor and vulnerable expressed through austerity; the rise of a sensationally self-indulgent and clownish ruling class. But the collective effects of these interrelated developments do seem to have been barely visible within the political mainstream until David Cameron accidentally took the lid off by calling a referendum and asking people to endorse the status quo...

It is time to move on from the pretence that the problem with British democracy is the EU and to recognise that it is with itself. After Brextinction there must be a whole new political ecosystem."

In England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, there has always been regional disparity and internecine sniping. Born of insular thinking, a ttribal culture has pitted the Church of England against Rome, Roundheads against Cavaliers, England against Scotland, Lancashire against Yorkshire, Manchester against Liverpool, North against South, Britain against Germany, and latterly UK against the invented bogeyman: Europe. All in good sport?

Tracing Britain's tortuous, tribal history back over seven hundred years:

1297 - William Wallace leads the Scotts in their defeat of the English. He is defeated a year later at the Battle of Falkirk.

1337 - The Hundred Years' War with France begins. It will last until 1453.

1455 - The War of the Roses begins between the families of the Plantagenets and the Lancastrians for the right to rule England.

1536 - England and Wales are joined by the Act of Union.

1588 - The English fleet led by Sir Francis Drake defeat the Spanish Armada.

The English Reformation is a series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England breaks away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

The break with Rome is effected by a series of acts of Parliament passed between 1532 and 1534, among them the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which declares that Henry is the "Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England".

1707 - England and Scotland are united as one country called Great Britain.

1776 - The American colonies declare their independence from Britain.

1801 - The British and Irish parliaments are joined by the Act of Union to create the United Kingdom.

1805 - The British fleet defeats Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar.

1854 - The Crimean War is fought against Russia.

At its peak in the 19th century, the British Empire covers over one-fourth of the surface of the earth.

1914 - 1918 World War I "The Great War". The United Kingdom fights with Allies against the Central Powers led by Germany.

1921 - Ireland is granted independence.

1939 - 1945 World War II. The United Kingdom joins the Allies to battle the Axis Powers. Under the leadership of Winston Churchill, the United Kingdom is the last western European nation to oppose Germany in World War II and plays a major role in defeating Hitler. 1940 - The United Kingdom is bombed by the Germans for months during the Battle of Britain but fends off land invasion.

1973 - "Brentry". The United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) joins the Common Market , or European Economic Community, with continued membership endorsed by a referendum in 1975. Upon the formation of the European Union in 1993, the EEC is incorporated and renamed as the European Community.

2016 - Brexit, a portmanteau of "British" and "exit", is the proposed withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). It follows the referendum in which 51.9 per cent of those who vote support withdrawal. The years of full membership in the continent-wide union from Brentry to the presently-proposed Brexit mark a fraction (less than five percent ) of the time-frame in this potted history.

Britain claims to have once "ruled the waves." One would have thought that the diminishment brought by the end of Empire would have tempered the ambition to stand steadfast in isolation, or apart, from established allies. Yet, with such a convoluted history and radically-altered identity dynamic, fierce rivalries, disputes and deep-rooted concerns (local, regional, national, and transnational) persist and fester in this age of blocs, unions, alliances, pacts, and global competition. The country risks being left behind as a quaint anachronism, nostalgic for an evanescent glorious past.

Now we witness the petty shambles that is governance; the pathetic posturing and manouvering in Parliament; the fervid spouting of the myopic mainstream media; the squabbling amongst friends and neighbours; the growing exasperation of a collective shrug of stunned resignation. Direct confrontation usurps the politics of consensus. When you ask of a whole diverse populace this blunt question via referendum: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?", you are opening a can of worms whose contents are unknown, contentious, and subject to fudging and fabricating.

On the London School of Economics and Political Science blog, Thomas Colignatus writes:

"The question assumes a binary choice — Remain or Leave the EU — while voting theory warns that allowing only two options can easily be a misleading representation of the real choice. When the true situation is more complex, and especially if it is one that arouses strong passions, then reducing the question to a binary one might suggest a political motivation. As a result of the present process, we actually don’t know how people would have voted when they had been offered the true options.... 

In the case of Brexit, the hidden complexity concerned:

— Leave, and adopt an EFTA or WTO framework?

— Leave, while the UK remains intact or while it splits up?

— Remain, in what manner?....

When there are only two options then everyone knows about the possibility of a stalemate. This means a collective indifference."

Now that grievances have been aired and issues discussed ad infinitum, perhaps a second Yes/No referendum presents the best and last chance to avoid the country being driven over the cliff. The question is bound to further expose deep splits in the fabric of national unity. What was then Prime Minister Cameron thinking in betting the nation? Parliament should never abdicate its responsibility to govern. Who will have the vision to heal the wide-open rifts and clear up this mess? I would bet on it taking time, with no easy fixes in sight. The leaders and a highly disenchanted electorate are apparently not up to the necessary task of reconciliation. History staggers on regardless.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Love and Grit

Bob Marley
Douglas Tompkins

A poem in response to an article written by Charles Eisenstein and featured at The title of his piece is:

"Why the Climate Change Message Isn't Working

Love and grit,
courage and wit.
It's not either, or,
it's so much more.
We need to call on
wherewithals gone dormant, 
to summon up the will,
grist for the common mill.
It won't at all suffice
to be just kind and 'nice';
we need all our smarts,
and our craftiest arts
to face up to the fact:
There is no way back.
We're moving forward with drive
as we resiliently strive
for a world that is green,
not wicked and mean,
for a world that is fair,
with clean water, fresh air,
for all to partake in
whatever their stake in
the future that is now,
which ever ways we find how.

The stakes are high. As people, we have been manipulated and suppressed for too long by top-down elitist governments, institutions, corporations, powerful lobbies, and vested interests. As a consequence, we face a concomitant ecological, societal, systemic and climate crisis which threatens our very existence.

We need to come together and pool our common proud resources of respect, peaceability, mutual understanding, conflict-resolution, resilience, renewal, thereby transitioning to a more sustainable way of living and sharing this finite planet we all call home. We need to do this now, with increased vigour and urgency at all levels - in our homes, our communities, our tribes, towns, cities, states, regions, nations and biosphere - before this crisis reaches the tipping point of becoming irreversible. Let's get at it, from grassroots to mountain tops.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Making A Living


How many times have I heard - during my years as a self- employed entrepreneur - "Can you actually make a living doing that?"

As a small business owner publishing and marketing maps, I often heard the question: " Are you still doing those... er ... maps?" as if the poser were flabbergasted that there was, indeed, any possibility of ongoing income from one's chosen business model. When I moved into the even more ethereal sphere of organic farming, I was seen as even more ripe for the picking. " Can you actually make a living at that?",  "Do you do that full-time?", " How do compete with conventional methods?" came the derisory dismissals. Aware that I was expected to fail at ay time, how many times have I wanted to scream: "Sure. How about you as a banker? Are you proud of your living"? "Do you exercise any principles or follow any morals in making *your* living?"

As an independent organic farmer, I receive zero government support, no disability or sickness benefits. If I get injured or ill or break a leg, take time off, I receive no compensation for down-time. I receive no subsidies for stewarding the land, preserving the health of the soil, or growing nutrient-dense food. On the contrary, I have to pay, as a organic farm, to verify - annually - that my farm passes all tests for organic practice, environmental stewardship. In eighteen years this has cost around $15,000. All the while, unverified claims see farms passing themselves off, scot-free, as "organic", whilst big industrial "conventional" farms are grossly subsidized by the government to grow herbicibe- and pesticide-laden corn, soybeans, and wheat, largely to feed their industrial antibiotic-addled livestock under the guise of "Farmers Feeding Cities".

What are the morals of those "making a living" or simply earning their pay from corporate monolihs like banks, law firms, mining companies,  pharmaceutical companies, the military, Big Agriculture, the Government? Is money, a steady income sacrosanct, all-consuming? Where is their conscience? How does their organization promote well-being? How do they view the future? Do they care about the future of the planet?

May the *campesinos* of the world be left alone to tend the land, grow nourishing food, and sustain families and communities, all the while making a "healthy" living.

Happy Labour Day, all.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Map Room

On a visit to a close friend the other evening, I was pleased to see the gift of a satellite image of The Great Lakes, weather-worn and time-faded, still being used as a coffee table top. I imagine it doubles as decoration and travel-planning tool. It brought back memories of the time in my life when I was publishing and marketing maps as Map Appeal with my then business partner Arlene. 

For twenty five years prior to converting to organic farming in mid-life, I was swept up as a cartographer in the world of maps, the map trade, annual shows at the Frankfurt Book Fair and other shows, notably in Dublin Castle, in Heidelberg, Denver and Seattle. Those days saw frequent trips to Santa Monica to negotiate rights to satellite image data and source new material. Acting on a lead sent me by my dear Mum, I hopped on an Alaskan Air plane from Toronto to Los Angeles and returned home with publishing rights for Map Appeal to the first ever composite view of the whole Earth from Space. Tom Van Sant was the gracious and effervescent author using satellite data from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Rights were for Canada, oh, and Europe too.

Months later, the first print run of 30,000 had to be added to, thanks to the astonishing response to a multi-page article on the GeoSphere image, The Earth From Space which appeared as cover story of the London Sunday Times on the day the first Gulf War broke out. Michael Marten of Science Photo Library and owned media rights "was sitting in the bath and had this idea...": a poster offer tagged on to the end of the story. Owning the publishing rights, our tiny company set about the logistics of printing, shipping, warehousing, fulfilling and delivering 23,000 poster orders. Versions in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, even Greek followed, thanks to similar offers in other news magazines.

So, a warm fuzzy glow resulted from renewing my passion for this Great lakes image print. It remains a favourite, reminding me of the special part of the world we call home. My map room downstairs is still filled with poster prints, among them The Great Lakes, Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, even Northumberland County! 

All views of our Earth from Space are humbling and act as snapshots revealing the accentuated fragility of our planet and all its eco-systems and environments as climate change tightens its stranglehold. For a brief moment in history, the first views of the Earth from Space, seen naked and exposed without borders, filled us with wonder. A few decades later, it is time to wake up from our daydream and seriously get to grips with preserving what we have, under mortal threat as it is. We must switch over fully to clean, renewable resources like the sun, the wind, waters and geo-thermal energy allied to state-of-the-art technology and quit our fatal addiction to fossil fuels. We must speed up the transition exponentially, to 100% by 2050. 

For inspiration, just take another look at this wondrous home Planet.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Thai Cave Rescue

 (Photo: Linh Pham, Getty Images)

Wonderful to hear news of the successful rescue of all twelve Thai boys and their coach after being stranded in the flooded Tham Luang cave for eighteen days. If only we could show the same empathy and caring for the forgotten ones - the countless children who are casualties of war (in Gaza, in Yemen); casualties of drowning as refugees fleeing war; casualties of trafficking for sex and money; casualties of physical and mental abuse at the hand of brutal "adults", including those currently mandating and operating detention camps in the United States that separate chidren from their parents and nurturers and take them away to destinations undisclosed. Barbaric abuse and killing of children should be met with not only empathy but outrage.