Live Dangerously -10 Easy Steps

SUBHEAD: Every time a person sticks a clothespin on a pair of undies, he or she is saying, “I want a better world. And I’m willing to do what it takes.”

By Shannon Hayes on 28 June 2010 in Yes Magazine -

Image above: Detail of painting "Wash Day Bavaria" (1885) by John Ottis Adams. From (  

When I first released Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, I was advised to make a list of “easy steps for becoming a radical homemaker” as part of my publicity outreach materials. My shoulders slumped at the very thought: Three years of research about the social, economic, and ecological significance of homemaking, and I had to reduce it to 10 easy tips? I didn’t see a to-do list as a viable route to a dramatic shift in thinking, beliefs, and behaviors. But since the objective of such a list was smoother discussion and communication of Radical Homemaking ideas with the public, I did it.

I came up with the simplest things I could imagine—like committing to hanging laundry out to dry, dedicating a portion of the lawn to a vegetable garden, making an effort to get to know neighbors to enable greater cooperation and reduce resource consumption. I would perfunctorily refer back to them when radio dialogues flagged, when interviews seemed to be getting off track, or to distract myself when an occasional wave of personal sarcasm (I do have them on occasion) threatened to jeopardize an otherwise polite discourse about the book. After about 40 media interviews, I was pretty good at rattling them off, and I began to see their power and significance beyond helping me to be polite.

Take hanging out the laundry as an example. At the outset, it is deceptively simple: It saves money and resources, and it’s easy. As I spoke about line-drying laundry more, however, the suggestion took on more meaning. Of course everyone would like to hang out the laundry. But many people don’t do it. They’re too busy. Thus, the commitment to hanging out the laundry represents a commitment to slowing down—it means starting to align one’s daily household activity with the rhythms of nature.

In my mind, hanging out the laundry moved from being a simple chore to being an act of meditation and reflection on a deeper, more profound commitment that a person wanted to make. Thus, draping shirts and socks on a clothesline wasn’t just about getting a chore done; it represented the new, sane world so many of us are working to create. Every time a person sticks a clothespin on a pair of undies, he or she is saying, “I want a better world. And I’m willing to do what it takes.” Laundry may be a simple first step, but it ultimately leads to something bigger.

Laundry became the central theme of a talk I gave recently in an affluent community, where golf course-quality lawns are ready at a moment’s notice as the backdrop for the season’s latest fad: large screen outdoor television sets. I was speaking at a community eco-festival, where volunteers were teaching residents about the importance of composting, solar panels, buying locally, and changing light bulbs. In my session, I talked about the power of living by one’s values, the misery of excessive consumption, the importance of social change, the deep fulfillment and happiness that results from living with less and having more.

To help me drive my point home, my husband Bob armed me with a seemingly endless collection of images of fellow radical homemaker’s lives: pictures of happy kids showing off their homemade toys, families gathering for feasts, piles of tomatoes on a kitchen counter following an early fall harvest, a sink full of grapes ready for juicing, friends in their backyard gardens, smiling bike riders.

At the end of my talk, I was presented with a single question from a man wearing an expensive watch: “Americans fall on a spectrum with money,” he explained, holding his hands about a foot apart from each other. “Most of the people you’re talking about fall on this end,” he said, waving one hand. “And what you’re talking about may work for them. But what about those of us on this end?” With that, he waved his other hand. “What are we supposed to do to be able to live like that?”

There were a number of snarky remarks on the end of my tongue. But this man’s eyes were earnest. Perhaps he saw something in those slides that his affluence could not buy. Nevertheless, my sarcasm propensity meter was no longer registering on the dial. It was time to switch to the safety zone and draw from my 10 easy tips: “Grow some vegetables in your backyard. Try learning how to can,” I chirped at him. Once I re-gained my bearings, I talked about changing the world by moving toward what we love, not running away from what we fear. I talked about the power of small changes to result in a deep personal shift. I suggested he hang out the laundry.

There were no further questions. People politely thanked me for my time and left the room. One other man, who sat in the back corner, lingered. A longtime activist, he expressed his despair at the lifestyles of his neighbors. The social pressure to have a perfect lawn is huge, he explained. For years, he’d been doing programs to encourage residents to allow parts of their lawn to go wild for habitat—an even simpler step than gardening. The majority of his efforts were unsuccessful.

There was too much shame. “It’s so much easier for you,” he lamented. “You can hang out the laundry.” I gave him a quizzical look. He went on to explain local zoning codes. By law, people in his community weren’t allowed to hang clothes outside. It was trashy. It would diminish property values.

But what about home values? I felt deeply sad for his neighbors. They’d devoted their life energy in pursuit of the material affluence required to live in this particular community. At the same time, the number of people in attendance at this eco-festival suggested they truly wanted to play a role in healing the planet. Ironically, the very laws of their community—both social and written—compelled them to turn their backs on their personal values.

Henry David Thoreau’s observations about the imprisonment of wealth were spot on: “The opportunities for living are diminished in proportion as what are called the ‘means’ are increased,” he wrote. That day, I saw people who cared about the Earth, who wanted a better world. But their power to act according to these concerns was limited to their purchases alone—to buying solar panels, buy local campaigns, buying new light bulbs. They could try to buy some of their beliefs. But they couldn’t live them.

I suppose that is the deepest wealth in the radical homemaking lifestyle. By needing less, we are free to live our beliefs. To us, this seems ordinary. To someone else, a values-driven lifestyle might seem an extraordinary act of bravery.

We need that bravery. Now. Worrying about our planet while adhering to local zoning codes or social norms forbidding ecologically sensible behavior is a recipe for disaster. Such laws require citizens to commit an ecological injustice by using a disproportionate share of our Earth’s resources. They scream out for civil disobedience. As Thoreau reminds us, “break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.” Go on and live dangerously. Hang out the wash.

For those who might be curious:

10 Easy Steps for Becoming a Radical Homemaker
    1. Commit to hanging your laundry out to dry.
    2. Dedicate a portion of your lawn to a vegetable garden.
    3. Get to know your neighbors. Cooperate to save money and resources.
    4. Go to your local farmers' market each week before you head to the grocery store.
    5. Do some spring cleaning to identify everything in your home that you absolutely don’t need. Donate to help others save money and resources.
    6. Make a commitment to start carrying your own reusable bags and use them on all your shopping trips.
    7. Choose one local food item to learn how to preserve for yourself for the winter.
    8. Get your family to spend more evenings at home, preferably with the TV off.
    9. Cook for your family.
    10. Focus on enjoying what you have and who are with. Stop fixating on what you think you may need, or how things could be better "if only."

      BP Disaster as Reality TV

      SUBHEAD: Apocalypse Watch - in terms of entertainment this scraping the barrel. Millions of them from the Gulf of Mexico.

      By Matthew Wild on 30 June 2010 in Peak Generation -  

      Image above: Detail of collage of logos of several Reality TV show. From (  

      If French intellectual Jean Baudrillard were still alive to deconstruct the unfurling Gulf oil disaster, I’m sure he’d marvel at the hyperreality of it all. Me, lacking the vocabulary, I’m going to call it reality TV.

      True to the genre a dysfunctional cast – Tony Hayward, Barack Obama and Martin Feldman – must coexist in an unlikely situation, promoting themselves while being constantly upstaged by video footage from robots 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below sea level. Watch as they try to cope with reality, each other, and their investment portfolios! Squirm as they star in their own tragedy!

      Gasp as Hayward, left, reassures you that there’s nothing toxic about the dispersal chemicals! Want drama? The Gulf of Mexico is becoming toxic, poisoned by both the crude oil surging out of BP’s ruptured well and the million-plus gallons of chemical dispersant, Corexit 9500, being dumped on the slick. Oil is making landfall along the area – if whipped up by a hurricane, it would likely be sprayed over communities along that seaboard – and, it is claimed, a mixture of oil and Corexit seems to be raining throughout the region causing widespread crop damage.

      People helping clear the oil are coming down with a range of symptoms that suggest poisoning, just as they did after the Exxon Valdex cleanup. How about some tension? The oil is still gushing out, and the poison is still being sprayed. The blowout preventer is widely believed to be on the verge of collapse, and relief wells might be facing an impossible task, depending on what is left of BP’s wellbore – we don’t know much about this, because no-one will tell us.

      But then, that’s reality TV for you. But viewers, I’m jumping ahead of myself – let’s go back to the start of this sorry mess. BP had problems with its Macondo well long before the Gulf disaster, according to documents and emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. As Bloomberg reported, cracks in the well date “as far back as February”:
      On Feb. 13, BP told the minerals service it was trying to seal cracks in the well about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast, drilling documents obtained by Bloomberg show. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the fissures played a role in the disaster. The company attempted a “cement squeeze,” which involves pumping cement to seal the fissures, according to a well activity report. Over the following week the company made repeated attempts to plug cracks that were draining expensive drilling fluid, known as “mud,” into the surrounding rocks.
      The problems continued. Rumours from industry professionals writing on The Oil Drum have suggested that BP experienced numerous blowouts over this period. Again from Bloomberg:
      On March 10, BP executive Scherie Douglas e-mailed Frank Patton, the mineral service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, telling him: “We’re in the midst of a well control situation.”
      [We let the scene on the Deepwater Horizon fade out, and cut to Hayward. We see him putting in a vital telephone call in mid-March – to his stockbroker.] According to the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper, in an item headlined BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill:
      The chief executive of BP sold £1.4 million of his shares in the fuel giant weeks before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused its value to collapse. Tony Hayward cashed in about a third of his holding in the company one month before a well on the Deepwater Horizon rig burst, causing an environmental disaster. Mr Hayward, whose pay package is £4 million a year, then paid off the mortgage on his family’s mansion in Kent, which is estimated to be valued at more than £1.2 million.
      This alleges Hayward “disposed of 223,288 shares on March 17.” It clearly states he did nothing legally wrong. They were his shares to sell. Then the showstopper: The April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, killing 11, and sending tens-of-thousands of barrels of crude oil surging into the Gulf every day.

      The next cast member featured is Obama, who addressed the nation on June 14, and, by default the rest of the globe: his take on the world’s worst environmental disaster was of interest to billions. His 18-minute address contained more military metaphors than the average sport report – his government’s "battle" against the "siege" in the Gulf of Mexico (we will fight it on the beaches, we will fight on the fields and in the streets, we will fight in the hills. . .) – but no real content.

      He had the opportunity to mention peak oil – the reality behind the need to drill in 5,000 feet of ocean, around the depth of the Titanic’s resting place. But, of course, Wall Street would never allow Obama to do that. He did enough to let a knowledgeable audience know he’s no fool, but he worded it in terms that would not alarm Joe Sixpack. From the transcript:
      After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. And that's part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water. For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.
      This was wrapped up in notions of energy security, fears of foreigners (“Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil”) digs at political adversaries (“. . . the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor”) and good old pork barrel hoopla that “the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs.” (Which it has, in theory, although transition should not be presented as something to do in addition to plasma TVs and SUVs; it’s a willful downsizing of the supposedly non-negotiable way of life.) Just another politician’s speech – but it got the ratings – watched by 32 million US viewers. Next in our production, some intrigue. . . The man who, to most of the media is Mr. Peak Oil, Matthew Simmons lurches to centre stage.

      With a rumpled shirt and flushed face, he tells how insiders have told him that massive amounts of oil are pouring through BP’s fractured well and coming up at various points on the ocean floor, and that the chances of capping the gusher are so slim Obama may as well nuke it. The allegations make more impact online, going viral. Simmons, putting his money where his mouth is, seizes the opportunity to short some 8,000 BP shares. At this point in the broadcast, we need some glamour if we want to get the ratings back up, and what beats a yacht race to bring together the rich and the beautiful?

      A quick edit will switch the scene to Hayward’s June 20 yacht jaunt around the Isle of Wight. After all, the waters, around the Isle of Wight, were clear of oil. What a great day out on the ocean; what a great photo op for our gaffe-prone star. . . He’s in the role of a charming, lovable rogue. What this reality TV show needs is a villain.

      Enter the activist judge. Obama wanted a six-month freeze on deepwater drilling, presumably along the lines that this is how long it will take the news media to go on to a new topic, allowing him to safely hand the drilling permit rubber stamps back to the industry. But that’s not how Judge Martin Feldman sees it. Part arbiter of justice, part energy investor, Justice Feldman acted deftly to sell his oil stock and overturn Obama’s drilling moratorium – all in the same morning. According to Associated Press:
      A statement released by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman's chambers in New Orleans says the judge instructed his broker to sell his stock in Exxon and a subsidiary as soon as the market opened June 22. That was the day after the hearing. Feldman says his broker told him his stock was sold several hours before he struck down the Obama administration's drilling moratorium. The judge also said he didn't know if he made a profit or loss on the sale. Exxon isn't a party in the case, but the company had one of the 33 existing exploratory rigs shut down by the moratorium imposed because of the Gulf spill.
      No-one is accusing the judge of letting his energy investments colour his judgment – he is a judge, after all – but if nothing else, it’s normally considered good manners to declare an interest.

      Memo to Feldman: suggesting that you might have made a loss on the deal is not the same thing. Meanwhile, viewers, the blowout preventer deathwatch continues. . . how far is it leaning today? How much of BP’s compromised wellbore will it take with it when it collapses? Can the relief wells get in place before the whole thing goes?

      Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow, folks. [Fades out on shots of Obama looking like he wants a cigarette, Hayward on his yacht, and Feldman standing up for the poor downtrodden oil execs.] In terms of entertainment, is this scraping the barrel?

      Actually, yes. Millions of them, all told, from the beaches, wetlands and waters of the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 35,0000 to 60,000 barrels have been gushing out every day since April 20, according to the government – and many more according to Simmons – but the current containment system can only handle up to 28,000 barrels per day. .

      Merlin & Gandalf's Time

      SUBHEAD: The soon-to-be-deindustrializing world will be in need of 'green wizards' with the skills of the old appropriate tech movement.

      By John Michael Greer on 30 June 2010 in The Archdruid Report - ( 

      Image above: Still frame of Ian McClellan as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. From (  

      Perhaps the most interesting responses to the discussion of mass movements here on The Archdruid Report have been those that insisted that the only alternative, either to a mass movement in the abstract or to some specific movement, was defeat and despair.

      That’s an odd sort of logic, since mass movements are hardly the only tool in the drawer; I suspect that part of what drives the insistence is the herd-mindedness of our species – we are, after all, social mammals with most of the same inborn habits of collective behavior you’ll find in any of the less solitary vertebrates. Still, the pressure toward some such movement has another potent force driving it: the awkward fact that the vast majority of people today simply do not want to hear how difficult their future is going to be. It doesn’t matter how good your evidence is or how well you make your case, most of your listeners will simply look uncomfortable and change the subject.

      Why this should be the case is an interesting question; I suspect that much of the blame lies with the cult of positive thinking Barbara Ehrenreich anatomized in a recent book, though I’m quite willing to hear alternative explanations.

      Still, for whatever reason, an extraordinary blindness to the downside has become crazy-glued in place straight across contemporary culture. From economists who insist that the bubble du jour (right now, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s government debt) can keep on inflating forever, through technology fans who believe devoutly that their favorite piece of drawing-board vaporware will necessarily solve the world’s problems without side effects and with spare change left over, to millions of ordinary people who can’t or won’t imagine a future without the material abundance of recent decades, we seem to have lost the collective capacity to recognize that things can and do go very, very wrong.

       It’s not merely a matter of blindness to the “black swan” events Nassim Nicholas Taleb made famous, either; we’re just as bad at seeing white swans coming, even when they’ve been predicted for decades and the sky is so thick with them that it’s hard to see anything else. It’s an appalling predicament: how can a community prepare for a troubled future if most people tune out even the slightest suggestion that it might be troubled? It’s for this reason, seemingly, that many people in the Peak Oil scene have chosen to downplay the difficulties and insist that we can have a bright, happy, abundant future if we just pursue whatever baby steps toward sustainability we all find congenial.

      I’ve been assured by some of the people making such claims that they’re perfectly aware that the situation is far more difficult and dangerous than that, but that the need to get as people involved in some kind of movement toward sustainability is so great, they say, that waffling on that point is as justified as it is necessary. As it happens, I think they’re making a hideous mistake. I’ve discussed the reasons for that perception at length in several recent posts, and won’t rehash them here.

      The question that remains is whether there are any viable alternatives, and that’s the question I want to address in today’s post. To explain the option I have in mind, though, it may be useful to borrow a metaphor from history. I don’t know how many of my readers know this, but my most recent publication is a translation of a very strange book from the Middle Ages. Its title is Picatrix, and it is one of the sole surviving examples of that absolute rarity of medieval literature, a textbook for apprentice wizards.

      Those of my readers who grew up on stories about Merlin, Gandalf et al. take note: Those characters, legendary or fictional as they are, were modeled on an actual profession that flourished in the early Middle Ages, and remained relatively active until the bottom fell out of the market at the end of the Renaissance.

       By "wizard" here I don’t mean your common or garden variety fortune teller or ritual practitioner; we have those in abundance today. The wizard of the early Middle Ages in Europe and the Muslim world, rather, was a freelance intellectual whose main stock in trade was good advice, though admittedly that came well frosted with incantation and prophecy as needed. He had a good working knowledge of astrology, which filled roughly the same role in medieval thought that theoretical physics does today, and an equally solid knowledge of ritual magic, but his training did not begin or end there.

      According to Picatrix, the compleat wizard in training needed to get a thorough education in agriculture; navigation; political science; military science; grammar, languages, and rhetoric; commerce, all the mathematics known at the time, including arithmetic, geometry, music theory, and astronomy; logic; medicine, including a good knowledge of herbal pharmaceuticals; the natural sciences, including meteorology, mineralogy, botany, and zoology; and Aristotle’s metaphysics: in effect, the sum total of the scientific learning that had survived from the classical world.

      Now it may have occurred to my readers that this doesn’t sound like the sort of education you’d get at Hogwarts, and that’s exactly the point. Whether you believe that the movements of the planets foretell events on Earth, as almost everyone did in the Middle Ages, or whether you think astrology is simply a clever anticipation of game theory that gets its results by inserting random factors into strategic decisions to make them unpredictable, you’ll likely recognize that a soothsayer with the sort of background I’ve just sketched out would be well prepared to offer sound advice on most of the questions that might perplex a medieval peasant, merchant, baron or king.

       Nor, of course, would someone so trained be restricted in his choice of active measures to incantations alone.

      This is arguably why so many medieval kings and barons had professional sorcerers and soothsayers on staff, despite the fulminations of all the dominant religions of the age, and why wizards less adept at social climbing found a bumper crop of customers lower down the social ladder. The origins of this profession are, if anything, even more interesting.

      Pierre Riché’s useful study Education and Culture in the Barbarian West showed in detail how the educational institutions of the late Roman world imploded as their economic and social support systems crumpled beneath them. In Europe – matters were a little more complex in the Muslim world – they were replaced by a monastic system of education that, in its early days, fixated almost entirely on scriptural and theological studies, and by methods of training young aristocrats that fixated even more tightly on the skills of warfare and government.

      Only among families with a tradition of classical letters did some semblance of the old curriculum stay in use, and Riché notes that while that custom continued, those who learned philosophy, one of the core studies in that curriculum, were widely suspected of dabbling in magic. It’s not too hard to connect the dots and see how a subculture of freelance intellectuals, equipped with unusual knowledge and a willingness to stray well outside the boundaries set by the culture of their time, would have emerged from that context.

      All this may seem worlds away from the issues raised earlier in this essay, but there’s a direct connection.

      The wizards of the early Middle Ages were individuals who recognized the value of certain branches of knowledge and certain attitudes toward the world that were profoundly unpopular in their time, and took it on themselves to preserve the knowledge, cultivate the attitudes, and make connections with those who shared the same sense of values, or at least were interested in making practical use of the skills that the knowledge and attitudes made possible.

      There was no mass movement to support the survival of classical science in the sixth and seventh centuries CE, and no hope of starting one; the mass movements of the time – when they weren’t simply stampeding mobs trying to get out of the way of the latest round of barbarian invasions – embraced the opposite opinion.

      How much of a role wizards might have played in the transmission of classical learning to the future is anyone’s guess, since records of their activities are very sparse, but it’s clear that they were an intellectual resource much used during an age when few other resources of the kind were available. I’ve come to think that a strategy of the same kind, if a bit more tightly focused, might well be one of the best options just now for an age when very few people are willing to make meaningful preparations for a difficult future.

      Certain branches of practical knowledge, thoroughly learned and just as thoroughly practiced by a relatively modest number of people, could be deployed in a hurry to help mitigate the impact of the energy shortages, economic dislocations, and systems breakdowns that are tolerably certain to punctuate the years ahead of us.

      I’m sure my readers have their own ideas about the kind of knowledge that might be best suited to that context, but I have a particular suggestion to offer: The legacy of the appropriate technology movement of the 1970s. This was not simply a precursor of today’s sustainability projects, and the differences are important. The appropriate tech movement, with some exceptions, tended to avoid the kind of high-cost, high-profile eco-chic projects so common today.

      Much of it focused instead on simple technologies that could be put to work by ordinary people without six-figure incomes, doing the work themselves, using ordinary tools and readily available resources.

      Most of these technologies were evolved by basement-shop craftspeople and small nonprofits working on shoestring budgets, and ruthlessly field-tested by thousands of people who built their own versions in their backyards and wrote about the results in the letters column of Mother Earth News.

      The resulting toolkit was a remarkably well integrated, effective, and cost-effective set of approaches that individuals, families, and communities could use to sharply reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and the industrial system in general. It was not, I should probably point out, particularly aesthetic, unless you happen to like a lively fusion of down home funk, late twentieth century garage-workshop, and hand-dyed back-to-the-land hippie paisley; those of my readers who own houses and are still fretting about their resale value (and haven’t yet figured out that this figure will be denominated in imaginary numbers for the next several decades at least) will likely run screaming from it; those who were incautious enough to buy homes in suburban developments with restrictive covenants will have to step carefully, at least until their neighbors panic.

      Apartment dwellers will have to pick and choose a bit; on the other hand, those of my readers who will spend time living in tarpaper shacks before the Great Recession ends – and I suspect a fair number of people will have that experience, as a fair number of people did the last time the economy lost touch with reality and imploded the way it’s currently doing – will find that very nearly everything the appropriate tech people did will be well within their reach.

      What’s included in the package I’m discussing? Intensive organic gardening, for starters, with its support technologies of composting, green manure, season extenders, and low-tech food preservation and storage methods; small-scale chicken and rabbit raising, and home aquaculture of fish; simple attached solar greenhouses, which make the transition from food to energy by providing heat for homes as well as food for the table; other retrofitted passive solar heating technologies; solar water heating; a baker’s dozen or more methods for conserving hot or cool air with little or no energy input; and a good deal more.

      None of it will save the world, if that hackneyed phrase means maintaining business as usual on some supposedly sustainable basis; what it can do is make human life in a world suffering from serious energy shortages and economic troubles a good deal less traumatic and more livable.

      This is the suite of technologies I studied as a budding appropriate-tech geek during the late 1970s and 1980s, and it was central to the training program that earned me my Master Conserver certificate in 1985. One teaches what one knows, and I’m going to take the gamble of devoting much of the next year or so of Archdruid Report posts to the details.

      My hope is that I can encourage at least a few of my readers to follow the very old example mentioned earlier, and become the green wizards of the decades ahead of us. For that, I have come to think, is one of the things the soon-to-be-deindustrializing world most needs just now: green wizards.

      By this I mean individuals who are willing to take on the responsibility to learn, practice, and thoroughly master a set of unpopular but valuable skills – the skills of the old appropriate tech movement – and share them with their neighbors when the day comes that their neighbors are willing to learn.

      This is not a subject where armchair theorizing counts for much – as every wizard’s apprentice learns sooner rather than later, what you really know is measured by what you’ve actually done – and it’s probably not going to earn anyone a living any time soon, either, though it can help almost anyone make whatever living they earn go a great deal further than it might otherwise go.

      Nor, again, will it prevent the unraveling of the industrial age and the coming of a harsh new world; what it can do, if enough people seize the opportunity, is make the rough road to that new world more bearable than it will otherwise be. I also propose to have a certain amount of fun with the wizard archetype in the posts to come.

      Still, that’s an example of what the Renaissance alchemist Michael Maier called a lusus serius, a game played in earnest, a dead serious joke. The present time, as I’ve suggested here more than once, has plenty of features in common with the twilight years of classical civilization, the age that gave rise to the legends of Merlin and Arthur, and made it in retrospect a poetic necessity for the greatest of all legendary kings to be advised by the greatest of all legendary wizards.

      Thus there’s a certain lively irony in the fact that, back in the days when I was sanding blades for a homebuilt wind turbine and studying the laws of thermodynamics in Master Conserver classes in the meeting room of the old Seattle Public library, one of my favorite bits of music was Al Stewart’s Merlin’s Time:  

      Who would walk the stony roads of Merlin’s time, 
      And keep the watch along the borderline? 
      And who would hear the legends passed in song and rhyme 
      Upon the shepherd pipes of Merlin’s time? 

      In its own way, that’s the question that upcoming posts will pose to my readers; we’ll see what the answer turns out to be

      . .

      Dow's Toxic History

      SUBHEAD: Dow AgroScience brings horrific environmental record to Kauai's West Side fields.

      By Linda Pascatore on 30 June 2010 for Island Breath -

      Image above: Photograph titled "Better Living Through Chemistry" by Vincent. From (  

      Dow Agro Science has come to Kauai's west side to grow seed corn on Gay and Robinson's former cane fields. Dow AgroScience produces genetically modified corn, and the parent company makes chemicals and pesticides. Dow has a terrible environmental record. The following links are reprinted from The Truth about Dow ( and documents some of the worst incidents in the company's history:
      Issues and Campaigns 

      Bhopal, India
      The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy marked the world’s worst industrial disaster and was caused by Union Carbide. After acquiring Union Carbide and twenty years later, Dow still has not provided the means for Bhopalis to recuperate their lands, health or economic status. Environmental contamination still plagues the area causing waterborne and air illnesses that will affect the generations to come.

      Agent Orange and Vietnam
      Dow’s chemicals greatly affected both the Vietnamese vegetation and health of the population when the U.S. deployed its Agent Orange throughout South Vietnam. Full of dioxin, miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects plague the Vietnamese people exposed to the toxins in Agent Orange.

      DBCP, Nemagon and Central America
      Laboring long hours in the field, banana workers from Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines faced chronic exposure to the toxic pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP) pioneered by Dow Chemical in the 1950s. Although banned in the U.S., it continued to be exported to many countries causing banana workers to become sterilized, develop cancer or skin diseases and children being born with severe birth defects.

      Genetically Modified Foods
      Dow AgroSciences manufactures genetically engineered corn and cotton and promotes use of its technologies that alter crops, insects and seed production and use. Little concern is given for the human and environmental hazards and the negative socioeconomic impacts produced by GE crops. Higher cancer rates, allergens, dependence on herbicides and antibiotic resistance are all stemming from the production of chemically altered foods.

      Chemical Security and Environmental Justice
      Dow is a major shipper and receiver of chlorine and other ultra hazardous cargoes (especially “TIH”, poison gases Toxic by Inhalation). These toxic substances ride hundreds of miles before they reach their destination, passing through cities and in close proximity to residents. One railcar can produce a deadly cloud 15 miles long by 4 miles wide, killing 100,000 in ½ hour. If not in careful watch, these toxic gases and poisons can be released and contaminate our environment leading to health risks and fatalities.

      Bisphenol A
      Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, is a chemical product manufactured by Dow. It is commonly used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Exposure can lead to harmful health effects, including endocrine disruption, prostate cancer, altered brain development and behavior, and insulin resistance.

      Shareholder Activism

      Shareholders of Dow Chemical have been misled by managerial statements concerning the company’s potential environmental and personal injury liabilities. Inadequacies that are highly relevant to the financial interests of investors have been hidden for many years. Misleading statements include those regarding the 1984 Bhopal explosion, dioxin contamination in Midland, Michigan, and key omissions in company SEC filings regarding potential liabilities related to the company’s manufacture of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.

      Dow Chemical and its subsidiaries have produced some of the world’s most notorious pesticides, chemicals that have significant environmental health implications for communities worldwide. A number of these pesticides have been shown to cause serious harm; however, Dow continues to produce and market hazardous pesticides in the US and abroad.

      Dow’s global headquarters is located in Midland, Michigan, where it has been producing toxic chemicals since 1897. Higher levels of pollution and dioxins are found in the areas located in Midland and along the Tittabawassee River, affecting the health and lives of the residents nearby.

      See also:
      Ea O Ka Aina: Message from DOW GMO 6/29/10


      When Rigs Fall Apart

      SUBHEAD: Reporting from the Gulf, an offshore oil rig worker finds mundanity, a complacent obsession with safety, and the doom beneath it all.
      Local Nigerians attempt to clean up an oil spill with buckets in the Niger Delta, 2001: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
      By Jasper Collum on 29 June 2010 in POPSCI - (

      It's a recurring dream. I'm standing next to a machine, some giant warm Fritz-Lang-inspired monster. I live in it. I am a piece of it. But I know at any moment this machine could destroy itself and there won't be a thing I can do about it. What a mutinous thing when a machine, usually so faithful and repetitious, turns against us.

      I'm afraid of this dream, and every morning I wake up in the Gulf and go to work on an offshore drilling rig the dream gets worse. Though it shouldn't.

      It shouldn't despite the images that offshore workers email to each other with morbid curiosity, images of rig fires, helicopter crashes, accident reports of lost fingers, crushed limbs and occasional deaths from around the world. Despite even the recent events in the Gulf, I shouldn't be afraid of where I work. And that's part of the problem.

      Along with the North Sea, the Gulf is still among the most regulated fields for offshore oil drilling in the world. The men and woman are largely conscientious of the risks involved and hyper-vigilant of safety standards when compared to similar fields off the coast of Africa and elsewhere. But even in the face of all this, when things fall apart, woo boy! They fall apart fast.

      I started working offshore on oil rigs three years ago as a derrick and lifting gear inspector. I've worked in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Western Africa. I didn't grow up in a town near the Gulf or with family members employed either directly or indirectly by the industry--those families currently watching deep sea contractors move to other foreign fields because of the drilling moratorium. I didn't know a thing about the industry, and that was why I was drawn to it. But I did learn a lot from the first day. I learned it was a lot like the second. Offshore, a lot of days feel like that first day.

      Hurry up and wait. That was the first thing they taught me. Get to the heliport at 4:30 a.m. for check in at 5:00 a.m., despite the fact your flight leaves at 5:00 p.m. Drink a bottle of water then piss into a cup for your random drug screening. Wait. Listen. Wait. Watch Fox News in the waiting room. Watch a universal flight safety demonstration. Watch another, more specific flight safety demonstration for your particular model of helicopter. Put on your self-inflating life vest. Find out you watched the wrong video. Come back and watch the right video, which is suspiciously similar to the first video. Then put in your ear plugs and walk to the helicopter. Approach from the left, one man in at a time, buckle up for safety, don a pair of noise-canceling head cans. Wait. Fall asleep, because if something happens from here to the rig there is absolutely nothing you can do. If you can't make yourself sleep then repeat this fact in your head until the vibrations of the rotors do it for you.

      Because it could always be worse. Average survival time in the North Sea during winter in the event of total submersion: five minutes, with full water survival suit on. Here in the Gulf, a man can survive for a lot longer than five minutes with or without a survival suit. Think about a friend of yours who died and wonder briefly what it must have felt like crashing into the sea from 10,000 feet. The pilot's last words, “oh fuck.” Fall asleep. Wake up. Fall asleep. Wake up. Take pictures. (Despite your growing familiarity the rigs remain visually impressive from any angle. Especially from the air.) Wonder briefly if you look completely ridiculous taking this many pictures.

      Get off the helicopter. Find bags. Carry bags. Wait. Sign in. Wait. Meet medic. Wait. Find room. Wait. Go to induction meeting because this is your first time on this particular rig. While your more experienced friends head straight for their bunks, watch a universal safety video about the drilling industry in the Gulf. Watch a rig-specific safety video. Watch a safety video about this month's special safety focus (fire). Go on a tour of the rig. Find your lifeboat. Find the galley. Find the gym. Take a test on what you learned. Find your friends. Wait. Find the person in charge. Wait. Discuss job scope. Go eat. Wait. Go to gym. Shower. Try to fall asleep. Try for me, any how; some guys sleep like babies offshore. For me though it's all hurry up and wait, even for sleep.

      Was my recurring dream worse when I was aboard the Deepwater Horizon before the explosion? No. One of the first things you see when you walk into the living quarters of a rig are safety citations, best-in-fleet awards, plaques commemorating two years without any stop time incidents, and so on. The Deepwater Horizon had a lot of awards. As an inspector, I'm an interloper on these rigs. A third-party hand. I don't know the full story on any rig, but to a visitor like me those plaques and citations, however superficial, are comforting beyond measure.

      I didn't usually see many plaques in Africa. What I have seen are asbestos warning stickers applied to the ceiling and walls around your bunk. Three fire emergencies in one day--each one sending you scrambling to the lifeboats. In Africa, the dream is all-consuming.

      The most common response to an accident, near-miss or obvious error in the Gulf: a meeting with all involved personnel, all involved supervisors, the tool pusher, the superintendent, the Offshore Installation Manager (O.I.M), and the safety supervisor, and after that meeting, a safety alert issued to the entire fleet or industry with detailed analysis of the incident and suggestions to avoid similar incidents in the future. The most common response to an accident, near-miss, or obvious error in Africa: A shrug--"this is Africa.”

      This is Africa Where dilapidated, corroding equipment accounts for 50% of all spills in the Niger Delta because whatever cronyism and corruption in the American oil fields pales in comparison. With an infrastructure built largely between the 1960s and 1980s and minimal enforced inspections or maintenance, it's no wonder that some (likely conservative) estimates account for upwards of 1.5 million tons of oil spilled in the Niger Delta alone since drilling began more then 50 years ago. It's in Africa where companies can completely close facilities and yet allow them to continuously spill crude oil from abandoned wells and flow lines. It's in Africa where I saw a 40-year-old purpose-built land rig, that anywhere else in the world would have been scrap metal, sold and propped up on pontoons to become a shallow-water drill ship. Where a small corroded hole in the main deck of the rig I was working on was circled in red, marking the brittle end of a severely fatigued piece of sheet metal that was the only thing between us and the ocean 50 feet below.

      This is the oil industry that should throw us into a crazed frenzy of Greenpeace contributions, Prius ownerships and wind turbines for the roofs of our houses. Because what we see now in the Gulf, as sudden and shocking as it is, has been raging in Africa for half a century--without oversight, without government response teams, without emergency relief efforts, and without constant TV coverage and volunteer-administered toothbrush baths for the bewildered winged tarballs on our beaches.

      An oil field joke: "How many years since my last stop time incident? Oh, two...two and a half” (said while holding up the three remaining fingers on your left hand, the middle digit lopped off above the first knuckle). The ladies loves it.

      I don't know what happened on the Deepwater Horizon. A few years ago, I may have been tempted to blame the men I now work with. To blame some vaguely reckless stereotype of good ol' boy culture, hell bent on "gittin 'r' done" even if that "done" gets "got" with bailing wire and spit. Not to say that there aren't more then a few in the Gulf who would be proud to call themselves good ol' boys--this is and always has been a southern industry, with young Yankees like me a rarity. The stereotype, though, rarely matches up with reality. As for the men and woman who have been in these oil fields since they were 18 (as is often the case), whose homes in some cases face directly onto the beaches that are being besieged by oil plumes right now, it's hard to find a fault in the seriousness with which they approach their jobs, their place in an industry and their environment.

      But in many ways, something like Deepwater Horizon was inevitable. Prior to these events, the American offshore drilling environment had an incredible safety record. The kind of safety record that in pursuit of profits can sometimes blind us all to the risks involved. It's insidious: That slow erosion of any human system stemming from ease and repetition, despite the daily reminders meant to focus everyone to the inherent omnipresent risks in what we do.

      Despite the morning safety meetings, the pre-job meetings specific to your day's task or tasks, the daily permits to work signed by the O.I.M , the "Start Cards" that need to be written everyday recording any instance in which you observed proper work procedure or prevented a possible safety violation, the "it's everyones right to stop a job" reminders where the lowest on the totem pole can still tell the O.I.M to put on his gloves. Despite strangely obtuse signs reminding you "in the event of electrocution, please call an ambulance." Despite automated systems apparently smart enough to automatically override user error. And despite the older men around you with their missing fingers, some deep into their 50s and 60s (age is a difficult thing to judge on an oil rig) with their stories of when regulation and the culture of safety wasn't strangling the life out of the field.

      Those things are easy to quantify, to monitor and control and in the end, receive all the attention when things go wrong. But in an industry which is both comfortably in bed with its government regulators and driven by huge operating costs, where minutes can be measured in thousands of dollars, it's easy to see the motivation to rubber stamp some seemingly small engineering decisions, slowly degrading safety limitations, comfortable in the fact that success last time proved that a certain amount of redundancy is not always necessary. It was those small decisions, which are difficult to track and hard to monitor, that truly led to the disaster we're watching on our televisions now.

      But when this moratorium lifts and the 33 deepwater rigs return to the Gulf to resume drilling (they will as long as the oil is there), I do know that there will be even more “complacency is an enemy” speeches, reminders to check your safety gear, your tools, your surroundings, to work hard but to work safe, to hurry up and wait and to remember that at least for now you're not in Africa.


      Politics of "I want it all now!"

      SUBHEAD: So here it is, top of the ninth round, and Gaia is on the ropes with cuts over both eyes. Homo sapiens are moving in for the kill.

      By Joe Bageant on 28 June 2010 in Atlantic Free Press -

      Image above: One of our favorites. Alex Gray painting of "Gaia", 1989. From (
       Starting with the Homeland Security probe at Washington's Reagan Airport, arrival back in the United States resembles an alien abduction to a planet of bright lights, strange beings and incomprehensible behavior. The featureless mysophobic landscape of DC's Virginia suburbs seems to indicate that homogeneity and sterility are the native religions. Especially after spending eight months in Mexico's pungent atmosphere of funky, sensual open air markets, rotting vegetation, smoking street food grills, sweat, agave nectar and ghost orchids.

      The uniformity on Planet Norte is striking. Each person is a unit, installed in a life support box in the suburb or city. All are fed, clothed by the same closed-loop corporate industrial system.

      Everywhere you look, inhabitants are plugged in at the brainstem to screens downloading their state approved daily consciousness updates. Blackberries, iPods, notebook computers, monitors in cubicles, and the ubiquitous TV screens in lobbies, bars, waiting rooms (even in taxicabs) mentally knead the public's brain and condition its reactions to non-Americaness. Which may be defined as anything that does not come from of Washington, DC, Microsoft or Wal-Mart.

      For such a big country, the "American experience" is extremely narrow and provincial, leaving its people with approximately the same comprehension of the outside world as an oyster bed. Yet there is that relentless busyness of Nortenians. That sort of constant movement that indicates all parties are busy-busy-busy, but offers no clue as to just what they are busy at.

      We can be sure however, that it has to do with consuming. Everything in America has to do with consuming. So much so that we find not the slightest embarrassment in calling ourselves "the consumer society." Which is probably just as well, since calling ourselves something such as "the just society" might have been aiming a bit too high? Especially for a nation that never did find enough popular support to pass any of the 200 anti-lynching bills brought before its Congress (even Franklin Roosevelt refused to back them).

      On the other hand, there is no disputing that we do reduce all things to consumption. Or acquiring money for consumption. Or paying on the debt for past consumption. It keeps things simple, and stamps them as authentically American.

      For example, now faced with what may be the biggest ecological disaster in human history, I'm hearing average Americans up here talk of the Gulf oil "spill" (when they speak of it at all — TV gives the illusion those outside the Gulf region give a shit), in terms of its effect on: (A) the price of seafood; and (B) jobs in tourism and fishing. Only trolls stunted by generations of inbred American style capitalism could do such a thing: reduce a massive ocean dead zone to the cost of a shrimp cocktail or a car payment.

      Meanwhile, even as capitalism shows every sign of collapsing upon them under the weight of its sheer non-sustainability, Norteamericanos wait like patient, not-too-bright children for its "recovery." Recovery, of course, is that time when they can once again run through the malls and outlet stores, the car lots and the fried chicken palaces eating, grabbing and consuming. No doubt, something resembling a recovery will be staged for their benefit, thereby goosing their pocketbooks at least one more time before the rest of the world forecloses on the country.

       Let 'er rip! There's plenty more where that came from

      On Planet Norte nothing is finite. Not even money, which, under the flag of the consumer society, you can keep borrowing forever. Equally limitless is oil, infinite quantities of which are being hidden from us by a consortium of energy companies. Several people here in the States have told me that the size of the Gulf oil spill is proof that there is plenty of oil in still in the ground, and that this "peak oil stuff" is a scare tactic, an excuse to keep the price up. They were dead serious.

      Considering the inexhaustibility of Planet Norte, it's no surprise its inhabitants have never doubted the "American Dream," the promise that every generation of Americans can be fatter, richer and burn up more resources than the previous one, ad infinitum.

      All of which makes folks like me, and probably you too, want to run pulling out our hair and screaming, "What the fuck has happened to these people? From the start, it was clear that Americans were never going to win any prizes for insight. But this is ridiculous. Is it the hormones in the meat? Pollution? A brain eating fungus? How on God's (once) green earth can a nation so frigging 'out of it' manage to survive each day — much less constitute an ongoing threat to the rest of the world?"

      However, you must hand it to us that, so far, we have managed to sustain this culture of "I want it all, everything, the whole shebang, and I want it right now!" Except for the liberal and leftie websites and organizations, few seriously question it. When your designated role as a citizen is to live out a round-the-clock materialistic wet dream, why would anybody want to question it?

       Besides, seeing is believing. So reality is a titty tuck or a Dodge truck, and Ruby Tuesday delivering "falling off the bone tender" manna 24/7. Thank God It's Friday and go ahead, do it, put another trip to Cancun on the plastic. It's a limitless world, baby!

      In my little casita back in Mexico, limits are very real. Because price per unit escalates with increased usage, we have to pay serious attention to electricity. So does government. Our municipality is so conscious of every kilowatt that traffic lights have no green or orange phase — which saves on expensive bulbs too — and it seems to work out just fine.

      You get one streetlight per block. Water is available to our village's neighborhoods only every other day, so it has to be stored in rooftop tanks. Once in the tank, gravity eliminates the need for further electric pumps. Every single plastic bag, large or small, is used for household trash, then hung on the front gate to be collected. You accept limits every day in Mexico and live within them.

      But for that twenty percent or so of the planet living in the (over) developed western nations — thanks to colonial plundering for resources, and later, world banking scams — the limits of the natural world have never sunk in. Not really. Oh, ecological limits can be intellectually real to us, and we can have discussions about them. And being comparatively rich, we can build wind turbines and solar panels, and tell ourselves smug lies about "sustainable energy" and "green solutions."

      However, in our daily world, the affective one that governs our behavior, the one that tells us what we honestly need to deal with and what we do not, there are no apparent limits or potential end of anything. For example, if you wanted a glass of ice water right now, you could walk over to a refrigerator and get it. Most of the world cannot.

      We assume much. We assume that when we get up every morning the coffee maker will come on and the car will start. We assume that everything imaginable is available for a price, even if we cannot come up with that price. But we never really worry about having food or clothing, other than its style and type. Our biggest concerns turn on such things as who will win the World Cup or be eliminated from American Idol.

      The social and political environment assures us to believe we can afford to be consumed by these trivialities. The world of Americans has been like that for generations. So how could it possibly come to an end? Lest one have doubts, every voice of authority tells us that no matter how bad things may seem at times, they always "return to normal."

      This theme of engorgement and spectacle endures, thrives really, year after year, despite even the slowly unfolding world economic collapse. But it is Americans in particular who become stupider by any historical measure of intelligence. Millions pay money to visit Branson, Missouri. Or Holy Land Christian Theme Park, in Orlando, where you can have the improbable experience of "fun with the world's most popular Biblical characters" (Hmmmm, maybe Mary Magdalene) and watch Jesus get crucified daily.

      And just when you think you've seen every possible insult to the democratic process a degraded society can vomit up, some new one comes hurtling in your direction. Like those fat women in pink sweatpants leering from our TV screens, dangling teabags and vowing revenge for they know not what.

      For a thinking person, a low-grade depression settles in, alongside an unspoken fatalism about the future of the human race, particularly the American portion. That's the point I reached a year or so ago. I would probably be ashamed to admit it, if I did not receive hundreds of emails from readers who feel the same way.

      If nothing else though, in the process of building our own gilded rat cage, we have proven that old saw about democracy eventually leading to mediocrity to be true. Especially if you keep dumbing down all the rats. After all, Dan Quayle, Donald Trump and George W. Bush hold advanced degrees from top universities in law, finance and business.

      The head rats, our "leaders," (if it is even possible to lead anybody anywhere inside a cage), have proven to be as mediocre and clueless as anyone else. Which is sort of proof we are a democracy, if we want to look at it that way. While it is a myth that virtually anybody can grow up to be president, we have demonstrated that nitwits have more than a fighting chance. During my 40 years writing media ass-wipe for the public, I have interviewed many of "The best of my generation", and believe me; most of them were not much.

      Naturally, they believe they are far superior by virtue of having made it to an elevated point in the gilded cage, closer to the feed, water and sex. Because they believe it, and the media echoes their belief, hovering and quoting them, discussing their every brain fart, we tend to believe it too.

      Nothing shakes our belief, not even staring directly into the face of a congenital liar and nitwit like Sarah Palin, or a careening set of brainless balls like Donald Trump or a retarded jackal like George W. Bush. Americans are unable to explain why such people "rise to the top" in our country. We just accept that they do, and assume that America's process of natural selection — survival of the wealthiest — is at work. These people are rich; therefore, they should run the country. God said so

      It's a uniquely American principal of governance, which in itself, makes the case for our stupidity.

      If it's control you want
       Yet, despite such intellectual and moral torpor, some of the numbest bozos are beginning to suspect that the wheels are coming off their "have everything" society. One clue is that every time they check, they have less than before. "There's other signs too," concludes our bozo. "You gotcher radical Muslims blowing shit up, or plotting to. China holds the mortgage on our asses. Who wuudda ever thunk it? The bodies of our fallen heroes are being tossed out of the revered Arlington Cemetery into the landfill.

      You got yer freshwater fish with three eyes, obese high school kids droppin' dead of heart-attacks, meth epidemics out in the boondocks and wild coyotes moving into big cities. It's all just too godamned much!" And so, right in the middle of the morning commute, our bozo pulls over onto the roadside berm, puts his hands up against the windshield and screams. "AAAAAAAGH! Is anybody in control here, for Christ sake?"

      Control huh? Nothing could be easier to obtain. Just sit back allow those who want total control of the government to have it. The GOP is sure to come up a candidate willing to pistol whip this country into shape. And that solution looks more attractive by the day. As violent competition for survival increases and resources diminish, the public demands more government control.

      Control of borders, drug lords with entire armies of their own, pillaging by banks. Who else but the government is capable of beating all those sociopathic freaks out there into submission?
      No less a personage than Thomas Jefferson pointed out that, whether for good or evil, controlling the people is the main thing all governments do best. Both Jefferson and Stalin understood this. They also understood that government control is a one-way street — it never voluntarily contracts, never shrinks.

      Government grows incrementally in the best of times, and balloons exponentially during the worst. When the people are anxious or fearful, when the have-nots are coming out of the woodwork for their share and there is genuine risk of losing something, the citizens always demand more government control. Given enough time, all government control, regardless of type or stripe, metastasizes — whether it be into the religious control of a theocratic state, or the democratic totalitarianism of the United States.

      Although totalitarian democracy is well solidified in the U.S., it is difficult, if not impossible, for its citizens or the outside world to name the beast, due to the outward appearance of freedom. Petty liberties are left intact. The process of orderly elections is maintained, thus retaining the world's general respect as a free country. After all, the people do "exercise their will" by voting.

      Beyond that, the people have no further participation in, or effect upon the government's decision-making process regarding the public's will. From that point onward, an economic, political, and military élite interpret the general will as what best fits their own interests. A media elite then sells their decisions, such as war or destruction of the social safety net as the people's choice. Wars are packaged and marketed as "Operation Iraqi Freedom," fought by "our heroes."

      Policies kicking the slats from under the old, the poor and the weak are sold as "eliminating wasteful, unfair entitlements," such as elder care and child nutrition. Everybody knows that words such as entitlements, elder care and child nutrition are code words in capitalism speak. Elder care wastes money on worn-out old fuckers who can no longer work and pay their own way. Child nutrition is just a nigger/wetback feeding program that causes them to multiply even more, draining off valuable funds the already rich could have put to better use.

      Liberty nonetheless abounds in a totalitarian democracy. Open elections verify majority rule. The slaves are free to elect their masters, and that is enough to satisfy most folks in the land of the free. That, along with 100-plus cable channels to keep us entertained inside the cage. We know we are powerless, but better the devil you know than evil socialism, where you are not allowed to take out a second mortgage on your cage.

      What's a little totalitarian oppression, anyway?

      In the big picture however, the hardening of our totalitarian state is a piffle, compared to what drives the people to accept such a state. That driver is the escalating social pressures of six billion humans, and the ecocide caused by our disastrous hydrocarbon culture. Would that the state and its media allow the public enough information to make the connection between things like global warming, peak oil, desertification and the state's wars we pay for and die in.

      From the dawn of agriculture, human civilization has been a net subtraction from the environment on which we depend for life. Consider what once existed, and what little of it is left. Consider the burgeoning hordes everywhere burning, smelting, polluting, and generally devouring what remains. Where is that leading us?

      You don't need to call the Harvard's environmental science department for the answer (even though the profs and scientists there maintain the charade that we do, to protect their rackets). Despite the rule of scientism and the fashionable modern disdain for human intuition, common sense is still a viable option.

      Does common sense and experience tell you that all six billion of us are suddenly going to come to Jesus and save the planet? Suddenly be seized by the spirit of universal cooperation and pagan love for Gaia? Are those billions going to quit doing what our species has done for 15,000 years — attacking nature first with the stone axe, then the plow, and later with atomic energy?

      Call me a grim old fatalist, but I just do not see the human race turning things around. Not because humans are inherently evil (although pimping Gaia to death comes close), but because we are what we are. In any case, we are not going to stop eating, shitting, burning up stuff to stay warm, or following the genetic imperative to breed. How can we solve the problem when we are the problem, other than by self-extinction?

      So here it is, top of the ninth round, and Gaia is on the ropes with cuts over both eyes, and no referee on the mat. Homo sapiens are moving in for the killer punch. It's been an ugly fight. But the truth is that there will be no winner. Certainly not man, considering that his triumph results in the specter of human self-extinction, or die-off, or at least by massive die-back.

      Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
      Informed and globally conscious people are sickened, heartbroken by the spectral truth. But to use the same Neal Cassady quote for the second time this year: "To have seen a specter is not everything."

      In fact, it even has a good side. Transformation. Once you honestly accept what you have seen, you are changed, released from the previous stress and fear. Like so many feared experiences, it is its own psychodynamic, and is about "coming out the other side" of the experience. Accepting such a truth — especially for pathologically optimistic, cheer stressed Americans — shatters many painfully held illusions. The chief one is that we are the animating force behind all significant change, and that the massive damage we do is "progress"). In their place grows a new inner awareness.

      Although it does not conform to any popular definition as such, the easiest way to describe it is "spiritual," Who in these times, you may ask, believes in the spirit as an animating force of mankind? My answer is: Those who can be still enough to see that spirit moving.

      With it comes the awareness and acceptance of forces far more powerful than our puny anthropocentric illusions of planetary authority. We can arrive at this understanding by way of thinking, logic and reason.

      The mind is a cumbersome and inefficient way to go about escaping traps you build with your mind, but yes, it can be done. Most educated people in this science worshipping age prefer the convoluted path of logic and rational exercise, over calmly opening one's eyes and heart to the world before us, as wiser men have done for thousands of years.

      I can see why. Pay the money and put in enough university time, and it's relatively easy to end up certified, acceptable, and equipped with the professional jargon necessary to impress yourself and others that you are an expert of some sort. One of society's answer guys, the kind universities and corporations pay good money to own. But it's downright hard to be calm, to maintain inner stillness. Beyond that, inner stillness does not much impress or frighten others in the rat fight for a good spot at the feeder. Worse yet, it's free. No money it.

      But stillness of mind opens onto the fathomless void, where we are dwarfed into utter insignificance. It makes clear how little we comprehend — how much we do not know and never will, and that the greater the fire we build, the more darkness is revealed.

      Edwin Arnold reminds us that when it comes to sinking the string of thought into that fathomless void, "Who asks doth err, Who answers, errs more," because, as any searcher by way of mortal mind discovers:

      Veil after veil will lift — but there must be Veil upon veil behind.

      Either way, there never was any guarantee that we would like the universal truth. And the truth is that the universe is busy enough hurtling toward its destiny, and does not give a rat's ass what we do or do not like. Or whether a smear of biology on a speck of cosmic dust manages to poison itself to death.

      So stay strong. Transcend. Find reasons to love.

      Nobody ever gets out of this universe alive, anyway.


      Charlie Veitch at Toronto G20

      SUBHEAD: Charlie Veitch bullhorns the embarrassing truth in the fascist controlled streets of Toronto. Image above: Photograph of Charlie Veitch "performing" in the streets of Toronto during G20. From article. By Staff on 30 June 2010 for - (

      A man accused of impersonating a police officer has been released on $500 bail. Charlie Veitch, 29, lives in England but was in Toronto for the G20 summit. He's been described as an absurdist comedian - but police aren't laughing. “He was filming the fence area – again, these are allegations – he was filming the fence area and a security officer approached him and asked him for identification,” Const. Tony Vella said on Wednesday. “The allegations are that Mr. Veitch indicated to the security guard that he was an undercover police officer. Mr. Veitch taped the entire incident and posted it on social media. A copy was retrieved by the Toronto Police Service who conducted an investigation. “A warrant was issued for Mr. Veitch’s arrest for impersonating a police officer. He was arrested on Tuesday as he was boarding a plane to go back to England,” Vella said.

      “Anytime someone poses as a police officer, we take it very seriously,” he added.

      Veitch spoke to reporters when he was released on Wednesday.

      "Of my six days in Toronto, I've spend 48 hours in custody," he said.

      "I'm scared to say anything until I'm actually at home in Great Britain...I come from a country where you can actually hug police officers," Veitch added.

      Veitch will next appear in court on August 23. Video above: Part One. From ( Video above: Part Two. From ( .

      Kauai Beekeepers Meeting

      SUBHEAD: KBee meeting Thursday at 6:00pm on 7/1/10 at KCC Technology Building in Puhi. Image above: Beehive photograph from Kauai Beekeepers website. By Jimmy Trujillo on 28 June 2010 for KBee - ( WHAT: The Kauai Beekeeper's Association (KBee) invites the public to attend an informational meeting. WHEN: Thursday July 1, 2010 from 6:00pm - 7:30pm WHERE: In the Technology Building at Kauai Community College. MORE INFO: Jimmy Trujillo at (808) 346 7725 Erik Coopersmith at (808) 335 0710 WEBSITE: .

      Message from DOW GMO

      SUBHEAD: Dow Chemical's GMO division is here. And here's their newsletter 'Kaumakani Neighbor'.

      By Tom Scagnoli on 21 June 2010 for Dow AgroScience - 

      Image above: Painting of 'Industrial Landscape of Dow Chemical Germany' by Olge Eggers in 1986. From (  

      [IB Editor's note: Dow is the corporation that brought us Napalm and Agent Orange used to burn and deforest Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It the company that created the dioxin that turned the Love Canal neighborhood of New York into a ghost town. It's the company that bought out Union Carbide, the outfit that produced the Bohpal, India, chemical catastrophe. Dow is the company that's probably come to Kauai to produce pesticide resistant, genetically altered, patented seed corn. For more info on Dow, see The Truth about Dow]   

      The end of 2009 was an exciting time for Dow AgroSciences. We signed a lease agreement with Gay & Robinson to preserve 3,400 acres of former Sugarcane land for agricultural use; we hired our current employee workforce From the community; we started renovations on the former Gay & Robinson machine, shop to accommodate our seed processing equipment; and we brought in equipment to the site to help prepare the fields for planting.

      As we move into 2010, we have completed Phase 1 of the seed facility and have moved into Phase 2, which includes the erection of our production dryer. We are in the process of designing a new administration facility, which will include office and employee buildings, labs, and machine storage and maintenance shop.

      We hope to complete this facility in the first quarter of 2011, We have also successfully harvested our first crop. In this newsletter, you will meet our new leadership team. Beyond this group of supervisors, we have filled all full-time positions and hired a great team of temporary and seasonal employees to support our seed corn production on Kauai. Our current successes would not have been possible without file tremendous dedication, commitment and hard work of this amazing team. Thank you!

      As the newest members in the community we feel it is extremely important to update our neighbors of the exciting developments happening on our farm, We are committed to being good stewards of the land, promoting local jobs and being a long-term contributor to the island community. We look forward to working with all of you and thank you for making us feel welcome, we are proud to call Kauai home.  

      A New Neighbor in Town
      Hawaii's agricultural history is rich and deeply embedded within our local culture, from Native Hawaiian farming to the sugar plantations in the 1800s. More recently, the agricultural industry has experienced broad changes in Hawaii and abroad, with the effects of an ever-changing global marketplace.

      Companies like Dow AgroSciences LLC have made the long-term strategic decision to expand their business operations in Hawaii. In today's sluggish economy, agricultural expansion in Hawaii benefits the community through increased job opportunities and boosting the local economy. On April 28, 2009, Dow AgroSciences, locally known as its seed affiliate Mycogen Seeds on Molokai, announced that it signed an agreement with Gay & Robinson Inc. (G&R) to lease land for agricultural use on the west side of Kauai.

      A member of the state's seed community, Dow AgroSciences will play a growing role in the agricultural industry by contributing to the local economy through purchasing equipment and supplies from local businesses, such as American Machinery, Allied Machinery and Kauai Commercial Co. These partnerships provide a boost to the local economy while supporting the community as a whole.

      A contributor to Hawaii agricultural industry for more than 50 years through its products, Dow AgroSciences has been operating on Molokai since 2000, building a strong and lasting relationship with the Molokai community, The company contributes and participates in school fundraisers and community service projects and sponsors nonprofit activities, which will now also include the Kauai community, helping to make, Kauai a better place to live, work and play.

      Dow AgroSciences is committed to maintaining Kauai's iconic, undeveloped landscape, by keeping the land in agricultural use - all while supporting economic stability as a nontourism-based source of revenue. "We are committed to the Kauai community and will continue the good land stewardship that G&R has demonstrated over the past decades," says Tom Scagnoli, Kauai site leader.

       In addition, Dow AgroSciences will be training a skilled workforce for corn production. With the new seed corn operation on Kauai the company already has hired, 69 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees from the community, many of whom were former G&R employees. According to Hawaii's Agricultural Statistics Service, the Hawaii seed industry generates $167 million in economic activity annually, which translates to $53 million in annual labor income, providing for more than 2,000 jobs. Randy Francisco, president of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce has said: "As a Community we need to support businesses, such as Dow AgroSciences, for they will positively contribute to Kauai's economic and workforce development for many years to come."  

      Dow AgroSciences Connects with the Community
      In the past month, representatives from Dow AgroSciences took part in three community events right here on the Garden Isle. A leader in agricultural biotechnology, Dow AgroSciences' mission oil the islands is to be a good steward of the land (and to contribute to the, community.

      One way we, accomplish this goal is by supporting our youth's interest in science. Gen O/Alternative Crop Coordinator Mark Swanson recently served as a judge at the Kauai District Regional Science Olympiad. "The science Olympiad was a great experience and the science projects were amazing and very hard to judge," lie says. "It was also a lot of fun interacting with the juniors and seniors of the high schools of the island."

      "The biggest part of the science Olympiad is that our Kauai students get a chance to showcase their academic achievements," says Barbara Baker of the Kauai District Regional Science Olympiad, "An even bigger part is the additional learning they gain from the judges as experts in the scientific fields." Swanson and plant coordinator Keith Horton also attended the Kauai District Regional Science Olympiad. This opportunity allowed them to reinforce the importance of science to Kauai's youngsters.

       In addition to being a major sponsor of the science Olymipiad, Dow AgroSciences volunteers manned booths at the 331d Annual Waimea Town Celebration. The two-day festival is fun in the country with a paniolo challenge., ukulele competition, lei contest, and lots of delicious food.  

      Dow Chemical GMO Leadership Corner
      We would like to introduce the dynamic team behind tile Dow AgroSciences operation in Kaumakani. If you see any of these friendly faces around town be sure to greet them with a warm aloha.  

      Tom Scagnoli, Site Operations Loader
      With eight years in the seed corn industry working in Michigan, Iowa , and in Hawaii, Tom is responsible for overall management and leadership of the site field plant operations. Tom enjoys spending time with his wife, Jennifer, 21-month-old son, Cale, and newborn daughter Nalia. He loves the outdoors and sports, especially golf, baseball, swimming and basketball.  

      Robin Robinson, Farm Manager
      Farm manager Robin Robinson comes to Dow AgroSciences with more thin 25 years of experience in the agricultural industry. He oversees daily operations of the farm, including agronomic and equipment management, oversight of planting and harvest, and irrigation system development and site resourcing.  

      Randy Yokoyama, Field Coordinator (formerly of Monsanto Kauai)
      Bringing 15 years of valuable experience to the team, Randy is responsible for of parent seed crops and timely delivery of seed supplies to customers globally. The New Jersey native spends his free time with his wife, Suzie, and their kids, Braeden and Kona.  

      Keith Horton, Plant Coordinator
      Keith leads the Kauai farm in the management and oversight of file. production plant facilities. A true outdoorsman Keith loves OC-1 paddling, surfing, camping and hiking. In fact, lie hiked the Kalalau trail barefoot. Naturally, this North Carolina State, University graduate's favorite team is tire NCSU Wolfpack.

      Mark Swanson, Gen O/Alternative Crop Coordinator
      Mark leads alternative crop production for the site. He comes to us via Illinois, hence his favorite spoils teams hail from Chicago. He lived on Molokai for two years until joining the team in Kauai and, in his spare time, he enjoys driving his Camaro.  

      Jennifer Scagnoli, Field Research Biologist III
      Leading file research and development sector of the Kauai operations is Jennifer Scagnoli. As a field research biologist, Jennifer is responsible for diverse research projects on the farm. She and husband, site operations leader Torn Scagnoli, welcomed their second child in February.

       Darlene Hobbs, Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S)
      Specialist Darlene leads safety oversight for both Kauai and Molokai site operations, and is working to connect safety programs on both islands. A proud mother of three sons and grandmother to 4-year-old Brayden and 3-year-old Brielle, Darlene likes to spend her free time with family and friends, getting a workout at the gym and taking belly dancing.  

      Terri Matsuoka, Administrative Assistant
      Terri provides valuable support to the leadership team in the main office, working on a variety of projects. In her spare time, you can find her hanging out with her family and friends, and enjoying the sunset at Kukuiula Harbor.

       [IB Editor's note: We attempted to contact Dow's Kauai office (808-335-5081) listed in the phone book. There was no answer or message at the number. What we've learned from other GMO operations leads us to believe that Dow AgroScience will not do is help free food production from the petro-chemical industry we are addicted to. 

      They will not help feed the world or even feed Kauai. Kauai's sugarcane lands have been deforested and the topsoil has been destroyed and contaminated. We need to restore our soil, grasslands and forests. We need to produce ten times as much local food as we do today to survive here after petro-collapse. We do not want Dow on Kauai. Dow is a chemical company, not a food producer.] 

      See also: 
      Ea O Ka Aina: Dow's Toxic History 6/30/10