Friday, July 3, 2015

#184 / An Excerpt

I get periodic mailings from Resilience to my email inbox. These mailings are free. Anyone can sign up

The last article I received from Resilience was titled, "The Delusion of Control." It begins with a reflection on the Pope's Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si'and moves on from there. It is a long article. It covers a number of topics. I recommend it.  

In view of what I was writing about yesterday, however, I couldn't resist highlighting the following excerpt: 

Some wag in the media pointed out a while back that the US went to war against an enemy 5,000 strong, we’ve killed 10,000 of them, and now there are only 20,000 left. That’s a good summary of the situation; the US drone campaign has been a total failure by every objective measure, having worked out consistently to the benefit of the Muslim extremist groups against which it’s aimed, and yet nobody in official Washington seems capable of noticing this fact.

I am patting myself on the back. I noticed! I hope you have noticed, too!

Image Credit:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#183 / War Zones

I read two articles in the June 25, 2015 edition of The New York Times. One article, about the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, appeared on the front page, and was headlined this way in the paper's print edition: "An Apology in Boston, and a Death Sentence." The second picture posted above shows the actual bombing in Boston. 

The other article I read, appearing on page 9 in the version of the paper that got dropped on my front walkway, was titled, "Documents Detail Workings Behind Drone Strikes." The picture at the top of this blog posting shows the results of a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan.

These articles appear, at first glance, to be unrelated. But maybe not!

In the article that reported on the sentencing hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was found guilty of carrying out the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the reporter told readers that Tsarnaev had apologized, and that Tsarnaev had explained that "the bombings were revenge for all the innocent Muslims killed in American-led wars." Neither the apology nor the explanation moved the judge or those victims who came to the sentencing hearing. One victim, speaking of a friend who was killed, said that "she was not the enemy ... They didn't even know her."

The article on U.S. drone strikes began with the revelation that the United States had deployed a drone to kill a doctor in Yemen. The doctor was killed because the U.S. government believed that he might, in the future, try to implant a bomb, surgically, into a suicide bomber, as a way to avoid airport security procedures. The article differentiated Britain's official policies on drone use from those policies that guide the drone killings carried out by the U.S. government. According to the article, "Britain has carried out drone strikes only in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya." 

Yemen is not a "war zone." Neither is Pakistan. Nonetheless, the official U.S. government policy is that the President has the right to kill people in those countries if he decides that they are a terrorist threat. In the case of the doctor, mere suspicion that the doctor "might" do something in the future was enough to sentence him to death (and to expose to possible death and injury any persons who might be in his immediate vicinity when the drone killed him). 

In Pakistan, U.S. drone strikes have killed more than 3,213 people. Only 2% of these were actually terrorist targets. That means that 3,149 of those killed were (likely) "innocent Muslims." Those deaths are what motivated the Boston Marathon bombings. 

The Boston Marathon bombings were horribly wrong, but I think it is fair to say that the model for these bombings is the past and continuing conduct of the United States government. 

If "war zones" are anywhere, and anyone can be killed without warning, as the United States' drone program suggests must be true, then no one should be surprised if Boston, or New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco (or name your home town) might seem to be an appropriate target for those who believe that U.S. drone killings are just as offensive and horribly wrong as the Marathon bomb deaths. 

Isn't it true that we can say this about thousands of the victims of the U.S. drone war?: "She was not the enemy ... They didn't even know her."

Image Credits: 
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#182 / Can You Picture That?

The following statement comes from Amory Lovins, cofounder, chief scientist, and chairman emeritus of the Rocky Mountain Institute, or RMI. In his article titled, "The Oil Price Roller Coaster," published in the Summer 2015 edition of RMI's Solutions Journal, Lovins says this: 

People burn 1.3 cubic miles of oil a year, or 93 million barrels a day (each barrel equal to 42 U.S. gallons or 159 liters). Scott Pugh, energy advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, visualizes those barrels, each 20 inches in diameter, laid end-to-end and joined to form a pipeline. It'd stretch 1.8 times around the earth. To traverse that pipeline in 24 hours, the oil must flow at 1,835 miles per hour - 2.44 times the speed of sound.

The pipeline image doesn't do much for me, but I can definitely picture a big, black cube 1.3 miles on each side, totally filled with oil. 

That's how much oil we're burning each year. Can you picture that, too? See above, with each side being 1.3 miles in length!

The great thing, reading the latest edition of Solutions Journal, is that we can organize our world so that we won't need to fill that 1.3 mile on a side cube with oil each year. Really! We could do it! And based on what Lovins is saying, price may even be on our side.

I am quite a fan of the Rocky Mountain Institute, as I have mentioned in my blog postings in the past. Last summer, for instance, I was writing about "grid defection," as that phenomenon was described in the 2014 edition of Solutions Journal. And grid defection is happening!

Sometimes, the best way to figure out what to do, affirmatively (and this works in almost any situation), is first to figure out what you will NOT do. That principle is related to the famous "First Rule of Holes." 

Let's consider NOT filling up that 1.3 mile on a side cube with oil each year. Let's consider NOT burning that oil. 

Consider joining the Rocky Mountain Institute, whose publications will tell you how we can NOT burn hydrocarbon fuels. 

Our planet thanks you!

Image Credit:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#181 / The Anti-Capitalist Pope

Leave it to the MarketWatch website to tell it like it is! Could that be right? I am not a frequent reader of, or actually familiar at all with, the MarketWatch website, but a brief perusal indicates to me that the website is a pretty unexceptional, business-oriented source of information for those who like to follow investment and finance news (most likely because they are hoping to parlay whatever money they've got into something a whole lot more). 

MarketWatch columnist Paul B. Farrell, whose publications include a book entitled The Millionaire Code, wrote an article on Laudato Si', Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter "On Care For Our Common Home." Farrell's column, as published on MarketWatch, advises readers: 

  • Capitalism is threatening the survival of human civilization
  • Capitalism is destroying nonrenewable resources for personal gain 
  • Capitalism has lost its ethical code, has no moral compass 
  • Capitalists worship the golden calf of a money god 
  • Capitalists pursuit of personal wealth destroys the common good 
  • Capitalism has no respect for Earth’s natural environment 
  • Capitalists only see the working class as consumers and machine tools 
  • Capitalism is killing our planet, our civilization and the people
Now, the statements quoted above are clearly Farrell telling his MarketWatch readers what the Pope contends. That can be seen as just honest reporting, but could it be that Farrell and MoneyWatch agree with what the Pope is saying?

It could be!

Here's is Farrell's concluding paragraph: 

Pope Francis’s 2015 war cry is to lead a global anticapitalist revolution, a revolution leading billions to take back their planet from a fossil-fuel industry that’s lost its moral compass to the “golden calf” and is destroying its own civilization on Planet Earth.

Let's hear it for MarketWatch and Paul B. Farrell!

Telling it like it is.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

#180 / Planetary Opportunities

I have previously indicated my profound skepticism about what is being called "ecomodernism." Click that link for a reference to An Ecomodernist Manifesto, and a refresher on my personal views. 

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus are ecomodernism boosters; at least, that is the way I read their recent posting on The Energy Collective website. That website, by the way, proclaims that it is the place to get thoughts from "the world's best thinkers on energy & climate." I assume that Shellenberger and Nordhaus must qualify, in the opinion of The Energy Collective. I am a bit more restrained in my enthusiasm. 

The focus of the Shellenberger and Nordhaus article is the "anthropocene," and they come down for the "good" anthropocene, citing to an academic paper on "Planetary Opportunities." They also mention, with what I take to be approval, the arguments of Mark Sagoff

If ecomodernism is to have a science and an economics it must also have a spirituality, argues environmental philosopher Mark Sagoff in “A Theology for Ecomodernism.” Sagoff argues that ecomodernists should reject the monotheistic view of nature that environmentalists borrow from Judeo-Christianity. Pre-Christian religions viewed nature as local and assigned gods and spirits to trees, the wind, the harvest, and the sun, Sagoff notes. But “when God became One, nature became one …. That nature expresses one God and is therefore unitary, singular, and at odds with man, who consumes and corrupts it, became a familiar trope of conservationism.” Sagoff concludes, “The theological hope of ecomodernism is that we can understand nature to be many, many places, each with its own guardian spirit. The hope is that human beings will become the guardian spirits of the natural world.”

Here is where I wonder if "hope" is getting a bit beyond its depth. I see no evidence that human beings will become "the guardian spirits of the natural world." Not when building their own world is seen as their primary project. 

World "primacy" is what is at issue here. Is the Natural World primary, with our human task defined as "guarding it," or is what we do, in our human-created world, primary, in which case the World of Nature is merely the raw material on which we operate?

So far, human history has made clear that human beings define "planetary opportunities" as our opportunity to plunder the planet to build a human civilization. 

That's not going to work, in the long run, and other than "hope" that we might reverse our thinking, and start acting as the "guardian spirits" of the natural world, I don't see "ecomodernism" as providing a new paradigm. As Shellenberger and Nordhaus say, "the ecomodernist manifesto affirms the traditional environmentalist view that human societies should shrink their impact to leave more of earth for nature, but rejects the idea that humans should attempt to harmonize with natural processes."

The way I read this, it's a matter of "primacy," and what the quotation above really says is that human activity is "primary" for the ecomodernists, since they don't admit that humans should "attempt to harmonize with natural processes."

Despite what the ecomodernists would have us believe, I think it's pretty clear that the opposite of what they say is the real truth. The World of Nature is "primary." That's the world upon which we, and all living things, ultimately depend.

Some say it as follows (and quite accurately in my opinion): "Nature bats last." If we don't change our way of thinking, we're going to be "out at home plate."

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

#179 / The Rule Of Seventy-Two

The Wall Street Journal is a business-oriented newspaper. No doubt about that. On its Opinion page last Monday, June 22nd, the Journal published an article by a couple of business school professors with this title: "How the U.S. Can Return to 4% Growth."

The methodology proposed in the article would "bring more people into the workforce;" or so claim the professors. It didn't seem to me that there was much focus in the article on paying working people more, or on redressing the outrageous income and wealth inequality that now typifies the United States economy. So, more economic growth presumably would mean more economic inequality, too. Given this, I think I have a few problems with the professors' prescription for new economic growth.

My comment today, though, is less with the content of the prescription than with the idea that increased economic growth is a good idea at all. 

Horrors! Could I really be suggesting that more economic growth isn't always and necessarily good? 

I could be suggesting that. 

In fact, I AM suggesting that. 

Einstein may or may not actually have spent his time time teaching students about the "Rule of 72," as the photo above purports to demonstrate. In the age of Photoshop, one never knows. But learning about the "Rule of 72" is a good idea for all of us. Click the link to get a non-Einsteinian but perfectly adequate explanation. In short, the "Rule of 72" allows an investor quickly and efficiently to answer two questions: (1) How long will it take me to double my money if I earn X%; and (2) What return must I earn if I wish to double my money in X years?

The "Rule" works for any calculation in which the effect of compound growth rates is at issue. To find out how quickly a number will double, if you know the annual growth rate percentage, you simply divide the growth rate percentage into the number 72, to establish the "doubling time."

If you apply the "Rule of 72" to a 4% annual economic growth rate, that means that economic activity (our GNP, or gross national product) would double in eighteen years. The GNP, as is often pointed out, includes all types of economic activity: more gun sales; more fast-food hamburgers; more toxic spills and toxic spill clean ups. 

If you buy the idea that an increased GNP (a measurement applicable within the human world that we create) requires a commensurate impact on the World of Nature (the world upon which we are utterly dependent, and which is limited in the resources it can contain), new "growth" in our world means more death and destruction in the World of Nature.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to the Pope!

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

#178 / Robin Hood Was Right

I really liked Robin Hood Was RightThere is a book by that title (not pictured above), first published in the year 2000. The general point of the book is that traditional charity can have the effect of maintaining the status quo, and can actually aggravate the dynamics of dependency and control. That would not be good! 

Robin Hood Was Right advocates a "progressive" ethic of giving, with the idea being that nonprofit work should be focused on addressing the root causes of societal problems. Getting more political power into the hands of those persons less advantaged (now officially recognized as the 99%) is certainly one good way to work towards that goal. 

Then there is the "Robin Hood Tax." Same idea! I heard about that proposal a couple of years ago, and that seemed pretty attractive, too. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor, the basic philosophy of Robin Hood, is practically the definition of "progressive" taxation. I am in favor of it!

Well, I lost track of the Robin Hood Tax as exemplified in H.R. 1579, the "Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013, introduced into the House of Representatives by Congress Member Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Then, just a few days ago, I became aware that the "Robin Hood Tax" was still alive. Senator Bernie Sanders, who happens to be running for President, has introduced the "Robin Hood Tax" into the United States Congress on the Senate side. It is one part of his bill called the "College For All Act," S. 1373. Ellison's bill, as it turns out, it still pending in the House.

So, check out this website devoted to the "Robin Hood Tax." The legislation, if enacted, would impose a very small tax on financial transactions, so those who buy and sell stocks and bonds would help finance needed infrastructure and services to benefit the rest of us. As proposed, the tax would raise something like $300 billion each year. And it wouldn't drive those rich guys into poverty either.

For my part, I like it. I continue to think that Robin Hood was right!

Image Credit:

Friday, June 26, 2015

#177 / A Sacred Presence In A Disenchanted World

I have mentioned Pendle Hill Pamphlets in earlier postings to this Two Worlds blog. Pendle Hill is a study, retreat, and conference center located in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and is operated by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Pendle Hill publishes a series of little "pamphlets" on various topics, and the most recent one is entitled, Recovering Sacred Presence in a Disenchanted World, by Mary Conrow Coelho. 

Coelho's little booklet is motivated by the following thought, as captured in a statement by Thomas Berry

The human community and the natural world will go into the future as a single sacred community or we will both perish in the desert.  

At least the way I read it, the suggestion here is that the "Two Worlds" I talk about in these blog postings will either be reconciled, somehow, and joined, or both the human world and the World of Nature will be irremediably damaged. 

That sounds right to me. 

Both Berry and Coelho are urging that a reconciliation of these Two Worlds occur in the realm of "the sacred." Berry was a Catholic priest. He was also a cultural historian, and he preferred to be called an “Earth scholar.” As a young woman, Coelho worked in a research physiology laboratory, so she is "scientific" in her her approach to religion and the sacred. What I found most interesting and valuable in her pamphlet, in fact, was the science part. 

Coelho is arguing that it has become our habit to consider the World of Nature through the lens of what she denominates as "reductive materialism," which makes it easy for us to "regard the Earth as nothing more than a source of resources and a sink for our pollution." This means, as long as we hold this view, that we will "value other species only in terms of what they can provide to  us," and that we will "continue to unpick the fabric of life."

Coelho identifies "science" as being fundamentally associated with the "materialism" that has come to dominate our view of the world, replacing the "sacred" understanding of the world that is prominent in the thinking of native and indigenous peoples. This is exactly what Jerry Mander says, too, as reported here earlier.

Again, this sounds right to me.

Coelho's contribution to my thinking about this topic was in her argument that "science," as we think we know it, is not naturally allied with "reductive materialism" at all. 

In a mini-chapter in her mini-book, Coelho discusses "New Understandings that Transform Our Assumptions," and the essence of these "new understandings" (scientific understandings, she means) is that the universe is not, actually, made up of "particles," but that the basis of the physical universe is "nonmaterial." If the basis of our physical reality is not "material," but the world is generated from "energy" and "empty space," there is an opportunity for a nonmaterial explanation for our origins, and our destiny.

I encourage people to read this little pamphlet. 

Hope is not a strategy, but (what Coelho says) entropy is not a law!

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

#176 / To Cure, Relieve And Comfort

When I visited my doctor last week, I had to wait. The doctor was running just a little bit late. I had a chance, therefore, because of that, to see just where my doctor's head is at. The picture, above, a sampler on her wall, is a pretty nice way for her to tell it all. She will try to cure me, if she can. Relieving pain and distress is part of the plan. But if none of that works, and well it might not, comforting words can do a lot.

The message from the sampler is not exactly the Hippocratic Oath, but it's close. It's in the same ballpark, anyway. It is comforting to know that these enumerated promises are ones to which my doctor is committed, and I appreciate the sentiments she has displayed for her patients. I appreciate, also, the basic commandment that all doctors are urged to keep: "first do no harm."

I particularly appreciated reading these sentiments on the sampler in my doctor's office since just before coming to her office I had finished reading an horrific article about modern medical practice in Belgium. That article, published in the June 22, 2015 edition of The New Yorker, was titled "The Death Treatment." The article discusses medical care in Belgium, which has a law promoting "dignified death as a human right."

I am not using the word "promote" casually. The story told in "The Death Treatment" is centered on one doctor's effort to promote euthanasia to patients facing various adversities. He will be glad to kill you, if you'd like. Read the article to see if you find the incidents described as offensive as I did. 

The law in Belgium is not like the Oregon "Death With Dignity Act," or like Senate Bill 128, the "End of Life Option Act," which is a legislative proposal being carried by State Senator Bill Monning, currently under consideration in the California State Legislature. Both these laws provide for "doctor-assisted suicide," and facilitate the ability of a person, under certain circumstances, to be able personally to end his or her life with dignity. 

In Belgium, the patient is killed by the doctor directly. It also appears, at least the way the article tells the story, that there is no prohibition on a doctor's active encouragement to a patient to sign up for the "death treatment."

It strikes me that a "Two Worlds" analysis might shed some light on why I have reacted so badly to the medical practices outlined in "The Death Treatment," and also why humans have historically felt that "suicide" is somehow fundamentally wrong. 

What we think of as our "lives" do, in fact, belong to us, and are properly under own own dominion, because the lives we live are the result of our own choices, and we are free, always, to change our choices and do something new. That is the essence of human freedom, and such freedom is at the foundation of our human world, since our exercise of our freedom is what, in fact, builds and maintains the human world in which we most immediately live. 

Our biological "life," though, is not something that we construct. It is a mysterious gift, and we find ourselves alive not because of anything we have done, or can do. Why we are alive remains a mystery. All the knowledge being accumulated in the biological and physical sciences has not been able to provide us with an answer to that question: "Why am I here?" Why, indeed, are any of us here?

Whether we count it as a blessing or a curse to be here (and I am sticking with the "blessing" option), we do not give life to ourselves,. Why we are alive remains a mystery. We are not in charge of deciding that we will live. 

A recognition that our biological life comes from some source other than ourselves (and that is in fact absolutely true) has always underlain, I think, the idea that since we did not give ourselves our biological life, we should not arrogate to ourselves the right to end it. 

The more we get confused about whether or not we are in charge of the Natural World, which has mysteriously created us as alive, the more it is likely that we will continue to "unpick the fabric of life," even including those threads that specifically sew us into the world into which we have been born, a world we have not made, and cannot make, ourselves. 

Image Credit:
Gary Patton Personal Photo

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#175 / Hope Is Not A Strategy

The picture above originally illustrated an article about the stock market in Thailand. At the time the article was written, at least according to the analyst who wrote the article, "the general attitude in Thailand [was] to hope that the problems will go away." 

The problems mentioned were political problems. A group called the "Red Shirts" was supporting a deposed prime minister, and in April and May of the previous year crowds of protesters had "occupied central Bangkok for several weeks, before the army forcibly broke up the protests. There were around 90 deaths."

The photo was from some rebuilding work going on at the Central World Mall in Bangkok, which had been partly burned down by protestors during the violence. "It’s part of a string of messages along the security fence," said the financial analyst, but he adds, "I can't say I found it reassuring. Hope is not a strategy."

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, also says that "hope is not a strategy." He wrote an article to that effect in the most recent edition of the Sierra Club magazine. The purpose of Brune's article was to provide some convincing evidence that it is possible to achieve a "radical transformation of the world's energy markets," helping to counteract global warming. 

(The purpose of the article on Thailand was to convince you not to invest your money there).

My purpose, in this posting on "hope," is to suggest that while hope is not a "strategy," it is an essential ingredient in any human effort to change the world. 

I often note (and it's absolutely true) that the human world we most immediately inhabit is a world that we create, and that there is no inevitability, whatsoever, that conditions or controls what is possible in that human world. Whatever we think, we can do. 

Of course, we need to do more than "think," if we want to make changes. "Thinking about it" is not a strategy, either. To change the world we need to act, but we are not going to act if we don't have some sense that by acting we can make things better. 

Without hope, in other words, we're goners!

That's what I believe!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#174 / I Believe!

The Book Of Mormon (the musical I mean, and not the holy writ, as originally presented to the world on "golden plates") is still playing on Broadway. It is playing in San Francisco, too, at the Orpheum Theatre. It won't be there much longer, but it appears that tickets may still be available for shows through June 27th. I saw the show on Saturday night, June 20th, with a seat on the aisle in the fourth row. An impressive theatre and an impressive performance. I recommend it!

The song that most captivated me was "I Believe." You can click this link to hear it performed by the original Broadway cast.

In keeping with the show's intention to make fun of the Mormons (and by extension to make fun of all religions), the "I Believe" lyrics make it pretty clear that to believe what the Mormons believe  (I guess they believe it) you'd have to be crazy. Or you would have had to find some way to suspend disbelief: 

I believe that God has a plan for all of us 
I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet 
And I believe that the current President of the Church, Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God 
I am a Mormon 
And dangit, a Mormon just believes

Perhaps most telling, at a time when the enduring and deep-dyed racism of the United States has once again been tragically revealed to us (this time in Charleston, South Carolina), the Mormon's late-breaking belief that people with black skins also have a soul, and could be saved, is poignantly presented. The Mormon missionaries who are the actors in the musical have been sent to Uganda to convert black people and bring them to the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter Day Saints). Here's why they are there:

I believe that Satan has ahold of you 
I believe that the Lord God has sent me here 
And I believe that in 1978 God changed His mind about black people 
You can be a Mormon 
A Mormon who just believes

Believing (whatever you believe)
Believing (for whatever reason you believe it)
Is not the main thing
You need to do

It is not the main thing we need to do.

To be there for each other
One for all
All for one
White for black
Black for white

That's what we need to do.

That's what I believe.

Image Credits: 
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(2) - Gary Patton personal photograph

Monday, June 22, 2015

#173 /Unpicking The Fabric Of Life

The picture above is from an article titled "Humanity is in the existential danger zone." I found the article, which was published in January of this year, on a website called The Conversation, which promotes itself as providing information with "academic rigor and journalistic flair."

Another article published on The Conversation, this one dated June 19, 2015, proclaims that "Earth's sixth mass extinction has begun." That article, discussing the alarming loss of biodiversity that scientists are ever more able to quantify, notes that we are "unpicking the fabric of life." 

If we regard the Earth as nothing more than a source of resources and a sink for our pollution, if we value other species only in terms of what they can provide to us, then we we will continue to unpick the fabric of life. Remove further rivets from spaceship earth. This not only increases the risk that it will cease to function in the ways that we and future generations will depend on, but can only reduce the complexity and beauty of our home in the cosmos.

In the human world that we create, human beings truly do have total dominion. The shape and character of everything that pertains to that world is up to us. Our choice!

Because we are so dominant in this human world, in which we most immediately live, we all too easily forget that the World of Nature is the world that ultimately sustains us. That world is not subject to our command. Ultimately, we are "creatures," within the Natural World. We are not its "creators."

If we "unpick the fabric of life," we weaken the strands that support our own lives, too. When we say farewell to the broad-faced potoroo, we are saying goodbye to our grandkids.

Image Credits:
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Sunday, June 21, 2015

#172 / Monument

There has been a great deal of effort expended in my home town of Santa Cruz, California, to persuade President Obama to designate the Coast Dairies land on the Santa Cruz County North Coast as a National Monument. The local effort was initiated by Sempervirens Fund, in cooperation with other conservation organizations. It began with a call to the President to establish a "Santa Cruz Redwoods" National Monument

There is a significant debate in the community whether or not the creation of a National Monument on the Coast Dairies property would really be of benefit, but that debate aside, it appears that a consensus is developing that if a National Monument is declared, the name should not include the word "Redwoods," just based on a commitment to "truth in advertising." 

There are relatively few acres of redwood trees among the 7,000 acres that comprise the Coast Dairies lands. I have been told, in fact, that a title recognizing the Native American (Ohlone) stewardship of the land might be proposed by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. That hasn't happened yet, of course, but given the legislation that permits the President to establish National Monuments, this recognition of the history of the land would seem an appropriate reason to select such a name.

Santa Cruz County is definitely not alone in seeking the designation of a National Monument. Efforts here appear to be consistent with such promotional efforts occurring lots of other places, too. "Monumental" ideas seem to be proliferating. There is, for instance, an active effort to persuade the President to name "Berryessa Snow Mountain" as a National Monument, and the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story on Friday, June 12th, that proposed a National Monument designation for the large scale sculpture called "City," pictured above. The top photograph is representative of the natural lands surrounding the sculpture, which is pictured below.

When National Monuments are established, that occurs through a Presidential Proclamation, issued pursuant to the American Antiquities Act of 1906. Here is the operative language: 

The President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected ... 

While, there is no doubt about the "historic" nature of the Coast Dairies proposal, and other efforts around the nation to recognize and protect the outstanding natural environments that have sustained and inspired our civilization, my own thought is that however powerful and effective "City" is, as a work of art, its claim to be an "historic landmark," or to be an "historic" or "prehistoric" structure, is not well justified.

I think, as readers of this Two Worlds blog know, that we can easily get confused about the Two Worlds we inhabit. Equating even our very best constructions to the features of the Natural World seems to me to be a "Two Worlds" mistake.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

#171 / Laudato Si' Speaks To California

The full text of Laudato Si', Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter "On Care For Our Common Home," is now available online. It begins like this: 

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs." 
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

In the headline on the print version of one of the two stories it published on Friday, June 19th, The New York Times called the Pope's encyclical a "radical vision." In its editorial on June 19th, The Times deplored the fact that it was unlikely that the United States Congress would heed the Pope's urgent call that governments immediately act to abate the burning of fossil fuels, which the Pope identified as the cause of an "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us."

The June 19, 2015 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle also had an article on Laudato Si'. The headline on that article, on inside Page 15 of the print edition I picked up off my front walkway on Friday morning, brought the Pope's message home to California: "Pope blasts state cap-and-trade system."

I must say I welcomed this statement from the Pope. He is right on target about California, just as he is about the overall global warming emergency that faces humankind, an emergency of our own creation.

California has been rather self-congratulatory about its response to the global warming crisis, and this self-congratulation is supported by one important toehold on the truth. Assembly Bill 32, "The Global Warming Solutions Act," enacted in 2006, was a truly important statement that committed California to reducing California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Our state should be properly proud of making that commitment. Political statements of intention, however, are different from actual performance.

The implementation of AB 32 has largely been tied to a so-called "Cap and Trade" program that permits those who want to continue emitting greenhouse gases to "buy" absolution, through the purchase of "allowances" that will let them continue to pollute, with the money paid by the polluters supposedly going to activities that will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

This is the system that the Pope denounced, and more than anything else in his Encyclical, this statement shows that the Pope is not simply trying to gesture towards the truth; he is evidently actually trying to influence human beings to do what we must do, if our human civilization is going to survive. 

In order for human civilization to survive, we must radically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases (mostly CO2) that we are emitting to the atmosphere. That generally means that we must radically reduce the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. Period.

The situation is grave, and temporization is death. This means, as a practical matter, that if it is "possible" to reduce or eliminate a source of greenhouse gas emissions, we need to take action to eliminate or reduce that source of emissions at the earliest time we feasibly can.

The "Cap and Trade" program allows those with the money to do so to defer reducing greenhouse gas emissions that we know could feasibly be reduced right now. "Let someone else do it" is the message of this program; we will even pay them to do it! 

No! If you can reduce emissions, you should do it. And you should do it NOW! That is true for EVERY source of such greenhouse gas emissions. "Trading around," to see who goes first, is a program that not only builds inequality into what must be a shared sacrifice (and not a sacrifice that the oil companies and big corporations can buy their way out of), it is also an admission that we really don't "get it." 

If our failure radically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is actually going to doom our human civilization, and that is the fact, then NOT doing something that can help, as soon as we can identify such a measure, is an admission that we are not really serious about attending to the problem. 

Pope Francis got it right! He got it right on the "big picture." And he got it right on the "details," too, and he specifically got it right about "Cap and Trade."

California's time for self-congratulation is over. 

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Friday, June 19, 2015

#170 / The Rule Of Law

This past Wednesday, June 17, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit announced a decision in the case of Turkmen v. Ashcroft. If you click the link, you can read the complete, 109-page opinion. If you want an explanation aimed at the informed layperson, click right here

The Center for Constitutional Rights explains the case this way, in their June 17, 2015 press statement: 

Today, in a case brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) thirteen years ago, in April 2002, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated claims against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI director Robert Mueller, and former INS Commissioner James Ziglar for their roles in the post-9/11 immigration detentions, abuse, and religious profiling of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men. It is exceedingly rare for a court to allow claims against such high-level officials to proceed. 
The case seeks to hold accountable high-level Bush administration officials, including former-Attorney General John Ashcroft and former-FBI Director Robert Mueller, for their role in ordering racial and religious profiling and abuse in detention, in violation of the detainees’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Plaintiffs were held in a specially-created Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit (ADMAX SHU), in solitary confinement. They were purposefully deprived of sleep, denied contact with the outside world, beaten and verbally abused, and denied the ability to practice their religion. The former-wardens and other Metropolitan Detention Center officials who oversaw this abuse have also been named in the case.

So far, nothing has actually happened to the government officials who (allegedly) stripped the plaintiffs of their Constitutional rights and subjected them to what amounts to torture.

The "revelation" here is that the court said that high-ranking federal officials can actually be held accountable for their behavior in a court of law. What a concept! You might think that if known government officials unfairly and with no basis in fact subjected you to torture and imprisoned you for crimes you didn't commit that there should be some sort of redress. Those responsible should in some way have to be held liable.

One might think so, but as the Center for Constitutional Rights so correctly states, "it is exceedingly rare for a court to allow claims against such high-level officials to proceed." What the decision of the court means is that the plaintiffs are now actually going to get their "day in court." 

It is amazing that this should be almost unprecedented, but so it is. Those who care about justice are celebrating, and what they really have to celebrate is the following statement by the court: 

If there is one guiding principle to our nation it is the rule of law. It protects the unpopular view, it restrains fear‐based responses in times of trouble, and it sanctifies individual liberty regardless of wealth, faith, or color. The Constitution defines the limits of the Defendants’ authority; detaining individuals as if they were terrorists, in the most restrictive conditions of confinement available, simply because these individuals were, or appeared to be, Arab or Muslim exceeds those limits. It might well be that national security concerns motivated the Defendants to take action, but that is of little solace to those who felt the brunt of that decision. The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy.

Since September 2001, the United States government has been acting like the terrorist attack that took place against the Twin Towers on September 11th of that year is a justification for anything that the government might want to do in the name of a "War on Terror," including simply killing people, without any trial, if the President has decided that such persons should be killed. 

Such claims on the part of government are fundamentally inconsistent with the Rule of Law, and if our nation discards the Rule of Law, as part of our response to terrorist acts, then we actually don't have much left to protect from the terrorists.

So, read what the court said one more time. Thanks to the decision in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, it looks like the Rule of Law still has a fighting chance.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

#169 / No Regrets

The World Resources Institute is advocating a "no regrets" policy towards climate change. But what if it's a big hoax?

Well, since extinction is forever, let's take a chance! That's what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, too.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#168 / Dark Age America

A bulletin from the Resilience website pops up occasionally in my email inbox. The most recent edition has a fairly lengthy report on "The Era of Dissolution." My headline phrase, "Dark Age America," comes from this discussion. For those who would like to feed a taste for apocalyptic thinking (just following up on my posting from yesterday!), this essay from someone who calls himself "The Archdruid" is certainly worth a review.

Here's an extract: 

The process that’s going on around us is the decline and fall of industrial civilization. Everything we think of as normal and natural, modern and progressive, solid and inescapable is going to melt away into nothingness in the years, decades, and centuries ahead, to be replaced first by the very different but predictable institutions of a dark age, and then by the new and wholly unfamiliar forms of the successor societies of the far future. There’s nothing inevitable about the way we do things in today’s industrial world; our political arrangements, our economic practices, our social institutions, our cultural habits, our sciences and our technologies all unfold from industrial civilization’s distinctive and profoundly idiosyncratic worldview. So does the central flaw in the entire baroque edifice, our lethally muddleheaded inability to understand our inescapable dependence on the biosphere that supports our lives. All that is going away in the time before us—but it won’t go away suddenly, or all at once.

If this is a fairly accurate prediction of where we are, emphasizing, of course, the fact that the predicted dissolution of industrial civilization isn't going to happen suddenly, or all at once, the next question is what, if anything, we might do. 

Whether we are talking about global warming and climate change, or other aspects of a civilization that is starting to come apart at the seams, we can begin looking around, individually and collectively, for what are often called our "no regrets" options

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#167 / Seal 6

On June 6, 2015, The New York Times published an article titled "Seal Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines." The writers credited in the byline are Mark Mazzetti, Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, Serge F. Kovaleski, Sean D. Naylor, and John Ismay. Matthew Rosenberg and Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed to the writing. Research was also contributed by Kitty Bennett, Alain Delaquérière, Susan Campbell Beachy and William M. Arkin.

The article, in other words, presents itself as truthful, well-researched, and scrupulously vetted!

Arkin, who apparently left The Times after contributing his research, but before the article was published, has written a followup piece, published online. From the title of Arkin's article ("What the Times doesn't tell you about Seal Team 6") it would seem that Arkin might have some major disagreement with The Times' story. I didn't find one! He provides more information on the bureaucratic maze in which Seal Team 6 operates, but he characterizes this military group as "just another sub-element of a ridiculous number of secret American armies." That pretty much sums up what is the gist of The Times' story, too. 

The United States of America is now fielding, worldwide, secret armies that are quietly killing pretty much whomever they decide to kill. As The Times put it, this is "America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants." 

In view of the fact that the nature of our government is claimed to be "democratic," all these killings are being carried out on behalf of all of us, and at our direction (accomplished, of course, through the mechanisms of our "representative" government). The decisions about who to kill, made by these secret armies, are being attributed to me. And to you!

That means that those who hate the kind of gratuitous killing of their families and friends documented by The Times are going to blame me. And you!

Don't be surprised when they blow up your grandkids' elementary school. 

I found The Times' story to be chilling, in just the same way I found Seymour Hersh's description of the killing of Osama Bin Laden chilling. 

I read it. Every word. And I read Arkin's followup. 

I started thinking about the Book of Revelation and those Seven Seals. 

Opening up that Seal 6 comes right near the end of the whole shebang!

Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood … And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

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Monday, June 15, 2015

#166 / Have I Got A Deal For You!

Pictured above is a lovely "coffee table book." It measures something like 12" wide x 17" high x 1" thick, with beautiful, glossy photographs. 

Let me be clear that the "beautiful" photographs aren't always of "beautiful" subjects. The book documents the overdevelopment and overpopulation of the natural world. Read through the book and you will likely agree that an "overshoot" is taking place. We are overshooting the ability of the Natural World to sustain the world that we create, the world of our human civilization. 

If you agree with the premise that every part of our human creation does, in the end, depend on the Natural World, this book is definitely issuing a warning.

Maybe we ought to being paying attention. 

Maybe this book will help draw our attention to the problems of overdevelopment and overpopulation. That's the idea. 

You can check out the campaign website of Global Population Speakout by clicking the link. The website will help you understand the kind of organizing efforts that are accompanying the release of the book.

You can also reference the book online, if you'd like to. Just click this link. You can also purchase the book, of course, but I am going to offer you another way to get a copy. 

Want a copy? Free? Have I got a deal for you!

If you would like to own a copy of this book, I have FIVE copies to give away free. A kind of contest is going to be involved, and the lucky winners must be able to pick up the book personally, in Santa Cruz, California. 

Here's how it's going to work:

  • One easy way to do that, of course, is through your social media contacts, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.
  • You should publicize the Global Population Speakout campaign between now and June 30th, and then email me some proof you did that. The proof should include the URL to your personal online reference to the campaign, and/or an indication of how you otherwise have attempted to "get the word out." 
  • I will keep track of those persons who do publicize the campaign, and who let me know they did, and then I will hold a "drawing" for the six books from among those who sent me a verification of their participation. I will give a free copy of the book to the five lucky drawing winners. 
  • If you'd like to follow up on this incredible free offer, please check out the Global Population Speakout campaign website, and then take action to alert others. When you have publicized the campaign, email me with some evidence of how you have done that. When you do, you'll be in the drawing!
  • Here is the correct email address to use when you email me: gapatton [at] 

I am making this offer to those who read this blog, and also to those who listen to the KUSP Land Use Report.

Thanks for helping to get the word out about Global Overdevelopment / Overpopulation / Overshoot!

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

#165 / What Works

The Wall Street Journal is now opining that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (pictured) is quite likely running for President (as a Democrat, most certainly)! A quasi-prediction to this effect has surfaced in a June 9, 2015 column titled "Hillary Clinton's Other Bill Problem."

William McGurn, whose column in The Journal is titled "Main Street," observes that "in all but name, Mr. de Blasio  is making his own run for the White House."

Who knows? McGurn may be right. It is certainly only fair to foster an ethos of "equal opportunity speculation" here in this Two Worlds blog. If you read my posting yesterday, you will remember that I have been doing my own opining about potential Democratic Party candidate alternatives to Hillary Clinton, suggesting that serious consideration might well be given to California Governor Jerry Brown

For me, though, what was most interesting in McGurn's column was not so much his speculation about the possibility that Mayor de Blasio might end up challenging what most see as an "inevitable" Hillary Clinton candidacy. I was most taken by McGurn's reflexive rejection of anything that might be deemed politically "progressive." Of course, in this approach McGurn definitely adheres to the party line of The Wall Street Journal.

McGurn defines "progressivism" as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be making a profit," and "Mr. de Blasio's real Achilles' heel," according to McGurn, "is progressivism itself. It just doesn't work."

Well, I think that a set of policies that makes sure that about 1% of the population makes "a profit" or what I think a fair-minded person might call an "obscene profit," while everyone else is driven to the brink of poverty, is not really "working," either.

Here's what does work, in my opinion: What works is a political, social, and economic system based on the idea that we are in this life "together," and are not simply a collection of unrelated individuals. What works is an approach to politics that always looks for community-based and collective approaches to the economic, political, and social issues we confront.

That's what works.

That's my definition of "progressivism," too.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

#164 / You Heard It Here First

Last Sunday, June 7th, I read three different articles about Hillary Clinton, and her bid to be President.

Frank Bruni, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, wrote an article titled, "Hillary The Tormentor." The column was headed by a graphic of a "retouched" placard:

The gist of the Bruni article was that Hillary Clinton (and her husband Bill) each have an amazing ability to evoke a profound and dedicated political allegiance, while they also inspire, at the very same time, a deep and disturbing feeling of repugnance in those who would actually like to support them.

This evaluation "speaks to my own condition," as the Quakers would say. Bruni concludes that Democrats are just going to have to suck it up, and overcome the (well-justified) repugnance they might feel towards Hillary, and get with the program. Bruni mentioned as an historical parallel the Republican Party's reluctant decision to nominate Richard Nixon as that party's presidential standard bearer.

Dana Milbank, a political writer for the Washington Post, had a column in my hometown newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Milbank called Hillary Clinton "inauthentic." Milbank's column pretty much followed up on the "Hillary makes me ill theme" rehearsed by Bruni.

Finally, and most to the point for this blog posting, The New York Times also ran a column by Ross Douthat. Douthat's column was titled, "Running Against Hillary." Douthat voiced an appreciation for Democratic Party candidates Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, and Lincoln Chafee. He noted that their campaigns were, almost certainly, hopeless, predicting (along with Bruni) that Clinton would prevail, and that Hillary would get the Democratic Party nomination despite her "discomfiting" ethics. Douthat further noted that Hillary's dubious ethics will be a weakness when Hillary squares off with the Republican nominee in the November 2016 election.

Thank goodness for these three stalwarts, says Douthat, for "they are stepping up where others quailed, laying their bodies on democracy's altar, saving their party's nominating contest from resembling a presidential re-election in Kazakhstan."

This sacrifice by candidates with no chance ultimately to win, Douthat says, at least has this benefit: "whatever happens in a Clinton presidency, her supporters won't be able to say that they weren't warned."

Assuming that you "buy" the analysis that says none of the alternative Democratic Party candidates have a chance to beat Hillary, and assuming that continuing revelations of Hillary Clinton's personal profiteering from her official positions will continue to fuel those feelings of repugnance about her ethics that even her supporters can't help but acknowledge, is Douthat's analysis accurate? Is Bruni's conclusion that the Democrats have no practical choice in fact a genuine "given?"

Well, I am told by past associates of California's own Governor, Jerry Brown (who has run for President before, you'll remember), that no less an authority than Mother Teresa (on her way to sainthood, certainly) told Jerry Brown when he worked with her in India that he was "destined to be President."

If it should happen that Jerry Brown ultimately turns out to be an "alternative" candidate to Hillary Clinton, you heard it here first!

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