black and white

the moth alights in front me. i later learn it is the eight-spotted forester, but that’s just the name the English-speaking humans give to it. i don’t speak eight-spotted forester, so i do not know to what name the moth would actually answer. it speaks no language i understand. i don’t know its ways. it lives a life beyond my comprehension. but there it is, comfortably paused just there where i can’t help noticing its stark splendor. i reach out and touch the very tip of its wing. it does not move but spreads its wings out for me to see. this moth is part of my world, both ordinary and exotic, living its own life its own way while i live mine – and it is easy to see how beautiful and perfect that is.

a mystery to me

In the midst of the myriad urgent issues facing our nation and world, we lately learn the Trump administration is taking time to broaden rules regarding the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska. They are revising public land rules to allow the hunting of bears and their cubs in their dens. Oh, and wolves and their pups as well. The new rules also allow for shooting caribou from motorboats and for the baiting of bears.

 I find these rules depraved on every level, but, hey, it makes for great sport, huh?

I am still having trouble getting my head around this. Who, exactly, really wants this? What constituency is pushing for such barbaric rules? And should we not perhaps be concerned about them? 

The National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service maintain that the broadening of the federal rules to accommodate such outright cruelty more closely aligns with state law. 

Hunters and tribal groups reportedly support the changes. For hunters, I question what exactly is sporting about killing animals and their babies in their homes. Tribal arguments about subsistence hunting wear thin as well. Subsistence concerns might be better aimed at simply securing the planet we live on before searching out bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens to slaughter.

Of course this is just a drop in the ocean of maneuvers the administration has made to ensure that we are able to pillage every last thread of life on this earth, but it is especially disturbing in its utter savagery.

What kind of people are we? What kind of animals are we?

interdependence

the naturalist approaches, his hand splayed out in front of us showing four distinct pieces of a porcupine’s scat. he urges us to keep an eye on the trees. we all scan the forest as if the porcupine is right there waiting. the forest looks back at us. later, the naturalist points to the cocoon of a gypsy moth. with a low hum of concern, the group presses close, muttering we’ll know what to look for then. we stop again when the naturalist finds the rotting corpse of a porcupine overhung with thin naked branches, the black and dirty white of its quills stark against the leavings of winter. the group moves on but I stay and look. a man stays, too, silent. finally, he leans down and reaches in. he plucks a quill from the dead porcupine and puts it in his pocket. he looks at me and says, do you want one, too?

time for a new party

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It was only early March when the Super Tuesday coup saw Joe Biden, the candidate who hardly bothered to campaign, magically sweep up rival candidates, votes, and endorsements. Then, suddenly we were all caught up in the pandemic vortex, and a month later Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign.

The pandemic commanded our full attention, also raising a lot of questions about leadership, policies, healthcare, economics, rights, freedom.

In that context, we still gather a simmering steam towards November.

We have had ample opportunity to watch Trump and his cohorts at the helm. We’ve seen the Dems in action, too, repeatedly turning their backs on the working populace they supposedly champion. We even occasionally get glimpses of the presumptive nominee, Biden, giving a shout-out from his basement.

This is the man the establishment Dems somehow expect people to line up for? Who puts up a candidate for whom there is zero energy in the electorate? A candidate clearly coping with cognitive decline. A candidate with a predilection for hair sniffing. A candidate who must carry around the baggage of his own track record and lies even before the contest really begins.

The Trump campaign lately put up a website sadly featuring Biden’s difficulties in parody. Truth Over Facts derives its name from a Biden quote. And it is laugh out loud stuff. It was inevitable. But if you’re going to point the ‘for shame’ finger at anyone, point it at the Dems who have foisted this man onto the presidential stage.

One can’t help but wonder if the deliberate intent of the Super Tuesday coup was specifically to get Trump re-elected. They swept the popular agenda and grass roots candidate off the table and installed an unfit candidate with a dysfunctional neoliberal agenda – to the extent that he has one at all.

One cannot even bother to blame Bernie Sanders’ voters for the next Trump win — the Dems engineered this situation with brute force. Lesser-of-two-evilism notwithstanding, there’s a percentage of those voters that have DemExited for good now that they’ve been pushed over the cliff.

I don’t think the Dems will lose any sleep over it though. As we have seen with their pandemic priorities, the Dems are perfectly fine with their Republican agenda. They don’t even bother playing Good Cop Bad Cop anymore. In fact, at this point, it’s not so much that we have Red and Blue factions. Nope, we just have one party, may as well be Purple.

We deserve better than this. The planet deserves better than this.

It’s time for a new party to come to the forefront. One that doesn’t just give lip service to the working and broader populace while doing the bidding of the one percent. The Movement for a People’s Party launched in the wake of the 2016 election, and it is gaining momentum. Maybe the Green Party will be part of the ultimate equation. It’s a wave that looks surfable.

If we don’t have a revolution first, I think we’ll see a People’s Party take center stage for 2024. Then, we might really have something worth voting for. Sadly, it’s not really clear we can afford to wait that long.

if we truly care about health

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If we are so full of fear about health that we can be easily compelled to wear masks of dubious efficacy and to submit to severe restrictions of our freedoms — how is it then, that we fail to take the truly meaningful steps toward health?

If we truly care about health, we would change how we eat.

We would walk away from animal agriculture. We would say no to animal foods laced with antibiotics and unhealthy fats. We would not tolerate a system of slaughterhouses staffed with suffering, at-risk workers surrounded by suffering, doomed animals. We would walk away from dairy and processed foods, and head straight for the fruits and vegetables.

But, hey, we have masks.

If we truly care about health, we would seek fresh air and sunlight.

We would be outside every day, soaking up the vitamin D and oxygen, and moving our bodies. We would connect with nature instead of staring at screens as we huddle in our homes.

If we truly care about health, we would demand a healthy environment.

We would recognize that pollutants both on our earth and in the air we breathe are factors in the conditions that predispose a person to succumb to illness. We would recognize the terrible contributions of animal agriculture and other industry to the degradation of our environment and its impacts on health. We would refuse to support the practices, corporations, and government leadership that kill the planet upon which we depend. We would demand new leadership, and find new ways. We would stop walking around our yards spraying weed killers, too. Got your mask?

If we truly care about health, we would question our medical system.

We would insist that health care be readily available to all, not just to some. We would take the profit motive out of health care. We would insist that health care for all issues not be delayed or neglected while providers are busy flattening the curve or idled or laid off. We would look at the implications of the many drugs and treatments our system prescribes in both the current crisis and beyond. We would seek multiple perspectives from a diverse group of medical professionals. We would recognize that a system that promotes extended lockdowns by fiat across society is turning a blind eye to a host of serious health problems. We would denounce blatant propaganda and censorship attempts to thwart access to full information. We would question the mad rush to a vaccine, with all the risks and unknowns that entails, being prioritized over actually working to improve health.

If we truly care about health, we would insist on supportive community and government.

We would be intelligently going about the business of life, which involves other people. We would admit that forsaking actual community for virtual ones – or often, none at all – does not support health, but, in fact, compromises it. Going without employment, social commitments and relationships impacts our very ability to live at all, cutting off both economic means and derivation of purpose and satisfaction. We would demand a responsible, independent media. We would reject any form of censorship. We would not pick sides and vilify the others, rather we would join together to solve our problems – with new leadership that actually works for the people. We would reject any form of surveillance knowing that no thinking adult human being watched and tracked thrives under such treatment. We would insist on education that supports critical thinking. We would recognize that health does not derive in extreme authoritarian overreach that subverts the very foundations of a free society.

If we truly care about our health, there are so many things we could and should actively be doing — not just for the current moment but for the future. This business of corporate control of health, food, media, and government systems; extensive authoritarian lockdowns; economic devastation and instability; censorship; surveillance; pervasive fear, distrust, division, anonymity — this is not it.

If we care so much about health, our own and our neighbors’ and our loved ones’, we need to let go of our cowering fear. We need to own our responsibility in this — and that means far more than wearing a mask.

earth and me

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I keep a wary eye on the darkening clouds as I head out for my run. I know it can’t be too long before the weather unleashes, but, damn, I need to run. So, off I go.

At first, it’s just a few drops of spattered rain. Big deal. Maybe the whole thing will just skirt past. I’ve got my phone in a baggie.

I keep going until all of a sudden the wind whips up, and there’s a rush of rain, a clap of thunder. I duck into the high school baseball team dugout as the weather moves through, just a few minutes. We’re right on the edge of it.

When I step out of the dugout, and onto the asphalt trail, I notice the bright green sprig that’s fallen there. The wind whips it, but it remains in place. It looks so fresh and so beautiful, so alive against the asphalt.

I pick up my pace because I can see the clouds amassing, not thinning. They are angrily piling up and darkening, and I head homeward, disappointed that I won’t get more miles in.

I’m not all that far from home when the skies break loose, exploding with a sudden violence.  Wind, rain, lightening. I dash toward a school building. There’s an awning reaching out from the entrance doors. I head there and find just a little shelter. The wind is driving rain everywhere.

I feel so exposed, so defenseless as nature lets go. All I can do is stand and watch as lightening strikes and thunder claps, over and over.  The wind pushes the rain into unexpected places. There is nothing to do but watch, and be amazed.

It’s bigger than me. And yet, I feel connected right through my feet as the thunder rolls. I am soaked with the rains. I am awed and humbled, scared and honored.

When the fury subsides, I trot home, thankful, taking nothing for granted. 

of animals and ecosystems

veru3_9_19Wolves were airlifted into the US from Canada at the end of February to bolster the wolf population in Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. The purpose is to help control the moose population there.

This week, though, we heard that US wildlife officials are planning to lift protections on grey wolves in the lower 48 states, allowing them to be hunted.

Wolves have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1975, when there was something like 1,000 of the animals left in the entire lower 48.

The reintroduction of grey wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 tells an amazing story about the trophic cascade that occurred there – impacting the ecosystem in surprising and extensive ways. Sustainable Human offers a short, lovely video about it here.

Let’s leave the wolves alone and let them do the magic for which they were designed.

We are losing species at an alarming rate. Let us stop willfully refusing to connect the dots.

We have learned that there is a delicate, precious balance in our ecosystems. Humans are part of the ecosystems, not the CEO’s.  

contemplating the Green New Deal

veru2_10_19I care immensely about the earth, the people on it, and our beautifully interdependent relationship. 

So it is with some hope that I saw the Green New Deal become a topic of discussion in recent months. Last week, of course, it burst onto the floor of the House of Representatives in the form of House Resolution 109.

Then, I saw a steady stream of headlines from one extreme to another. Either the Green New Deal solves all of our problems, or it destroys our freedoms, bans air travel, and provides support for those shameless enough to be ‘unwilling to work.’

So I read the actual contents of HR 109 for myself. It is not, in fact, even a lengthy read.

Let me clarify first that air travel is not banned by HR 109, nor are those ‘unwilling to work’ called out for special consideration. There is no degree of such specificity in the document. 

It is a broad, vague piece of legislation, mainly serving to give focus to the issue of climate change. It implements a ”growth” approach to the environment problem, with a heavy emphasis on economic development and economic justice.

I am not convinced, however, that depending on a massive ramping up of technology and business provides a holistic response to climate change.

I noticed, too, that certain very important sectors in such a discussion are completely absent. If you want to talk about protecting the earth, and somehow manage to leave out any mention of the US military and their various endeavors, well, there’s a gaping hole in the argument right at the get-go.

I am wary that such legislation once again promotes business solutions and interests in answer to a peoples’ problem on the survival scale. These would be the same institutions that got us into this mess in the first place.

HR 109’s “10-year national mobilization” seeks, among other things, to:

  • build resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • repair and upgrade infrastructure
  • meet 100 percent of the US power demand through dramatically expanded and upgraded clean, renewable, zero-emission power sources and new capacity
  • build or upgrade appropriate power grids,
  • spur massive growth in clean manufacturing and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emission as much as is technologically feasible,
  • work to remove pollution and emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible
  • overhaul transportation systems
  • mitigate and manage effects of pollution and climate change
  • remove greenhouse gases and reduce pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions
  • restore and protect ecosystems
  • clean up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites, “ensuring economic development and sustainability”
  • identify other emission and solution sources and create solutions

Along the way, we generate high-quality jobs, with livable wages and healthcare, and support unions in the process. Everything is liberally sprinkled with mentions of investment, leverage, funding, because, obviously, this all costs money.

These efforts culminate with the usual objective of “promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action….” There ya go.

None of this sounds bad, it’s just that I see a potentially counter-productive frenzy of business and industry, technology, finance, and marketing in this ‘solution.’ It could be fun for a while.

I am not one who supposes that we will save our environment simply by turning off lights in empty rooms or religiously remembering our cloth shopping bags. Neither do I suppose that the captains of technology, finance, and manufacturing can be trusted to shape a responsible answer to the predicament they created through their demonstrated allegiance to their own pockets.

In short, I think we have to look at the system itself, and be brave enough to tackle that, creatively.  That would be before the system, or the earth, simply implodes.