The Yoga of Reconnection

This is the transcript of my second interview with Wolfgang Werminghausen, for his podcast Faster Than Expected, episode 20, which has been published last night. Smaller corrections have been made to clarify the core message and to give a more pleasant reading.
Originally, the conversation was supposed to happen as part of the 19th FTE podcast with Kevin Hester co-hosting but was postponed due to technical problems.
FTE: I want to talk with Jürgen about living with animals. Since some years Jürgen is living in India in the small town Auroville. There he is working as a farmer and librarian. We had a talk in the 16th episode of the Faster Than Expected podcast.
How does working as a farmer and living with goats and other animals change your life?
Me: Hi Wolfgang, thanks for the opportunity to throw a few words into the conversation. I really appreciate that.
I’d like to add that it’s an organic farm within a spiritual commune, which is not at all comparable to industrial agriculture. I think that organic farming and industrial agriculture are actually two very different activities that only can be seen on the same level if you think both of them are about keeping animals or planting food crops. Apart from that, they got nothing in common. Our animals are part of the family, which means we have a symbiotic relationship, not the kind of exploit-then-throw away situation of a typical cowcentration camp.
On a physical level my work is of course completely different from anything I ever did within my life as a wage slave or as a self-employed retailer. It sort of reconnected me with the realm of true life, basic needs, eye-to-eye interaction and so on; these elements in our lives have been largely lost. I can say that because I am currently going through the experience of regaining them, finding them again in my life, and finding a place for them in my life.
The work takes some discipline, the kind I expect Kevin to know closely, because as much as you sometimes would like to leave the boat – to jump ship – you can’t. Kevin has physical barriers in the way; there is a vast ocean all around, and I have emotional barriers which I cannot cross.
FTE: Like a lifeboat.
Me: Yes. You got to be there, day by day, event by event, whatever happens. It’s three o’clock in the night and I hear some of the animals shouting in some sort of distress, eg. there is a predator in the cage or someone stepped on their toe. Whatever it is, I go there and look. I can’t say, “It’s night time, I want to sleep and my working hours are long past.”
And it’s a very direct thing: There is no space for electronic gadgets, or complex ideas. Another element that is also important from that perspective is: We use to throw money at a problem, like, something is missing and you go into the shop to buy what we need. That’s not possible in this case. You can’t throw money at a problem an animal has, or at a problem you have with an animal, and make the animal behave as you want it to. Meeting their needs, that’stheir currency, and to become aware of what the need of the moment might be I have to be with them, meaning, I have to be with them very often, repeatedly, and also mentally I have to be prepared to be present with them to understand what’s up. By that practice I learn their expressions, the signing, the body language, and communicate with them. Though it’s not like the twitch of one eye means the word so-and-so, and the blinking of the other eye means, I’m hungry. It’s not as direct as human language, rather some intuitive kind of communication. It’s not coherently the same all the time. The same sign may mean something different in a different context. Understanding is a matter of intuition, I think. By being together with the animals they learn what I am up to. Do I understand them? Am I ready to meet their need? Or am I rejecting it?
I am entering into a mutual relationship with them which means, I acknowledge them as people, as characters, as unique personalities. It’s not all that complicated and you could compare it to instances when people understand each other without words. Everybody has them. You have a friend, a partner… you don’t need to speak but you know what the other person is thinking or what they want to do. Like in a good rock band, the guitarist and the drummer know exactly their timing. We like to refer to this as „magic moments“, but that’s really just because spoken and written language has so removed us from our original state of consciousness and from the things that truly matter. Ok, in a way it’s “magic” because it’s not rational, but it’s not special in the sense of being a rare thing. You could have it every day.
So I highly recommend people to consciously enter into close relationships with someone whose psyche is not fucked up by civilized thinking and by thinking in linguistic terms. We find those very rarely. When are you able to get in contact with a wild person – with a tribal human? It’s hard to find them anywhere. So the only people left that are sort of unspoilt are animals who are available to us for that purpose.
If you let yourself – just for a minute – feel the sorrows of another being you get an understanding of the heaviness of the burden that’s hanging from the world’s neck, this civilized madness which is to me a mental disorder, a derangement even. I don’t know how else to get rid of this. It’s something no shrink can ever heal. To me, the way out of this madness is to reconnect through beings that are less impaired by it.
The fate of the biosphere is depending on us because we are the dominant species – or rather, the dominant culture, because it’s not humans as such, it’s our culture, civilization, that’s fucking up the planet, and therefore we do have a responsibility for the wellbeing of everyone else: plants, animals, ourselves of course, for the pain, the suffering, and the survival of everyone else in this world, just like we do have a responsibility for our children and our pets, or to phrase it in another way, we have a responsibility for the captive children and the animals that we domesticate for civilized use; that’s what we do to our own species even.
FTE: Thank you very much for your touching and impressive words. In Western industrial agriculture animals are a product kind of thing. Is there a different way to view animals in India?
Blister beetle devouring an ocra flower
Me: Yes, certainly. There is this funny story told by Arnold Stadler, about a calves extermination program that an agricultural minister of the German Green party has set up to curb an outbreak of BSE. I think it happened in 2001, I’m not sure. 400 000 cow babies were to be culled, meaning, killed for health issues; potential health issues even, to stop an epidemic, and most of those cow babies were not actually sick. In India, there were people and organizations who thought about how to save those animals from their pointless death. Like there is civil war in some foreign country and we think about how we could help these people. The Indians were thinking about how to help these animals that we were mindlessly killing.
To understand the Indian way of seeing animals one may look into Karma. Karma means that the depth of your insights gained throughout your lifetime and the extent at which you are putting those into practice define the situation into which you are going to be reborn. For Indians, life does not end with death; it doesn’t start with birth either. It’s an endless cycle in which we come back again and again, and that can be as a demon, a god, an animal of some kind, or as a human.
That means that animals are regarded as relatives. It expresses in language, when, in Tamil, we call a young female animal ‘paapa’, younger sister and a young male animal ‘thambi’, younger brother.
Indian philosophy has it that physical pain is a normal, natural phenomenon. Our nerve endings help us sense the world, see the world, hear the world. The same nerve that can feel the texture of a book or a peace of clothing can also feel pain which is just an increase in intensity of the same impression. Pain happens to everyone and it cannot be avoided. So it does not matter much if we beat a cow or keep a calf from having its milk and make it feel hungry, because this pain is a natural thing. Our duty in our karma as living beings is to understand this and to surrender to the necessity of pain. To understand this necessity and surrender to it means that you do your yoga.
If we don’t do our yoga, if we don’t understand, we suffer psychologically. Suffering and pain are different. The suffering is in your own responsibility. You cannot avoid pain but you can avoid suffering by understanding the necessity of pain. And as long as we suffer we cannot leave the wheel of rebirth. We are caught in the world of pain.
But as all life is also yoga, ie. the search for the Divine, Ultimate Consciousness, God – however you want to call it – and therefore we must not interrupt this search by cutting a life short. Sure, you can do it anyway but it has an impact on your karma. That’s why people on one hand have no problem with heavily beating a cow while on the other hand making efforts to saving its life, no matter how miserable that life is.
[To repeat a story given in my last blog here:] Just a few days ago I came to the house of my Tamil sister where two hibiscus bushes are standing in front of the door which were a gift from one of our friends. The flowers were full of blister beetles which were eating the flowers. I said, “Look!” by just pointing at them. She replied: “What shall I do? They are hungry and they need to eat. We can’t just go around and kill everyone.” This illustrates their view on animals, encompassing both the domestic and the wild animals. This is of course going away the more India gets industrialized but it is still present within the countryfolk.
FTE: I see. We can learn very much from the Indian attitude towards animals and towards life. Thanks for your insightful words and the metaphors; now I imagine you with a goat rock band in a lifeboat[both chuckle]with your brothers and sisters. Thank you very much for this talk.

Me: Thank you for having me on the show!

P.S.
Karma is, of course, a way more complex topic than described here, and the ramifications of inflicting pain and causing sufferings on others must not be neglected, but killing weighs heavy on the karmic balance sheet.
With all the generalizations made here, I must amend that, for anything you may say about India, the exact opposite is true as well. Its culture is enormously rich and diverse; as a civilization, it is almost as old as the Western cultural lineage. Indians’ basic assumptions on the nature of existence and therefore on the proper way of treating the living planet, as fundamentally different as they are from Western views, are certainly not perfect but at least they keep the door open for each individual life to improve its situation. With the influx of Western ideas and technologies, though, this culture is developing into one of the most explosive population bombs the world has seen.
 
 Sheila Chandra: Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee

Cow days

I go to sleep at shortly after seven, no videos watched these days, no music heard, not even a book read. I haven’t read books in quite some time, which is hilarious, knowing how much of a book person – a librarian, a translator, a writer even – I, my ego personality, am… was… Or am I still? Things at the library have come to a halt with the mess-up of a programmer who didn’t deliver what he had promised, and I couldn’t care less. The book I currently translate starts to annoy me, and I can’t tell why. And the book I am about to write bores me before it really took off.
This, too, shall pass, I guess. I don’t mind these things too much. They tend to come and go in waves, though I suspect some of it is here to stay.

Me, I am here to stay in the farm. Before I sleep – and immediately after I wake up, and also all through the day – I listen to the birds and crickets, to the toads and the dog packs, the thunder and rain, the occasional firecrackers on somebody’s birthday or on one of the many festivals scattered all across the calendar like in medieval Europe. Just now it has been Diwali, also known als Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights. Not so many lights here in Tamil Nadu, rather aircrackers the size of bombshells. No kidding. Don’t go anywhere on Diwali. Children put the damn things in the middle of the road or in a hollow tree trunk by the side and light them just before you are passing by. If your Karma is tied to the tree both of you are going to pass. Just pass. Not by.

Bodhi the villain
Someone from the Farmers’ group has come to write a whitepaper, a collection of asset data. The group wants to make an assessment of the situation after an arbitration has torn the plot into tiny bits. It is to show to the Council what has come of their cronyistic decision, for all (nothing) it’s worth. The conflict has been announced ended because we have gone through all the motions that make it technically so. The fact remains that forced conflict resolution is a fine recipe for perpetuating the dispute into eternity. Speaking of Diwali, our lovely neighbours caught one of our cows trespassing into their untended plot which they call their farm. They took the poor thing and were about to throw it out the gate onto the main road where it would likely have been hit by a bus or otherwise lost. We caught the guy just in time to save the cow from getting sacrificed to their hate of us, and him from earning himself rebirth as a dung beetle. The cow alone is worth more Rupees than their veggies make in a whole year. The milk she’s giving within a year doubles that value. And by the way, she’s a family member, as far as I’m concerned. But I know what would have happened: the Council would have scolded us for making them do it, and the Farmers’ group would have scolded us for letting it happen. The Council calls this a commune of the good-willed, our neighbours call it holistic permaculture. Me, I have no words for it any longer. The civil and basic human rights situation is worse than you’d expect. The repressive democracies of the West at least keep a thin coat of legality. In this town “at the service of truth” there is no such thing. Those who shape the rules are also judges andappellate instance, and if you want to get anywhere you better make friends with them.
Events like these have me think there is no reason to believe there will ever come a time when people change their ways. Have I changed, since I woke up? Has my writing changed anybody or anything in thirteen years of pondering, ruminating, considering, pleading? Ain’t I just another Obama, a hypocrite, a talker, a make-believe?
There are two new maadu (cows) and their kutti (calves) in the farm. The one born on 10th August is a healthy red-furred male, 78cm chest circumference; the one born on 7th October had an infection of the navel which we cured with natural remedies; it is a sand-coloured girl and I call it Kuttiwutti, which is silly, of course, but that’s the way I feel when I’m near her. She takes the treatment like a man and then continues to chew on her thoughts – or dwells in meditation, whichever it is that keeps her as calm as she seems. The kutti stay with the aadu (goats) in their new, beautiful, airy thatched range. One of them, Marie – short for Marianne, because she was born on 14th of July, but the Tamils have trouble pronouncing that – thinks herself to be aadu. She likes to huddle with the goats during the cold nights and goes grazing with them into the forest during the hot days.
We’ve had twice as much rains since July than in ordinary years. The weather here on the twelth parallel north of the Equator felt almost Central European. Now that the Northeast monsoon is traditionally expected to fill the tanks and aquifers it becomes dryer again, though. Climate change? Aw, gimme a break.
It is two months since I… did what? Reduced internet time? Well, sort of. The new balance I was looking for, between browsing and farming, between dwelling in virtual reality and living real virtues, resulted in an almost complete withdrawal from the web. I sometimes look at facebook and skim through the headlines of the first few pages coming up; I find nothing new, just more of the same madness that runs the world these days, and the denial of it. Rarely do I feel the urge to comment, never does it inspire me to write an essay of my own. It’s not that I suddenly look down upon what seemed so interesting and important just a few weeks ago. The thing is rather, human communication has become increasingly void of meaning – not necessarily by its content, although I have to say that, in terms of real needs (i.e. survival), we communicate a lot of non-sense. The problem is on the side of the receiver. There is simply nobody there to communicate with. All brains are stuffed with concepts, words, ideas, plans; no way to get through to anyone, everyone is entangled in their own spider webs. It’s true for my closest friends, it’s true for combatants on the climate front, it’s true for everyone else. And this is not to complain about a fault that anybody were to blame for. Humans just do what they understand and they understand just as much as they already do. No help shoving words into their ears, or truths down their throats; though it sometimes makes me mad. Why cant they… why can’t we… ?!
Forget it. I don’t even know what I’m asking of them… us… the world… who?
just being unique
The mixed chickens we have bought to revive the poultry farm are developing fine. There are Australian chickens, Indian chickens, all kinds of crossbreeds, Guinea fowl, a turkey lady named Aïshe, black chickens – feathers, cockscomb, toes, eggshells and all – and some ducks. The ducks, who have recently laid their first egg, and one or two more every night since, roam the place together with the Guineas and Aïshe (whom I also call Schlachtschiff, i.e. German for battleship, for her size and gravity), eating dropped cow food, grass, herbs, frogs, insects, and invertebrates from the mud puddles around the cowshed. It makes for happy poultry; very visibly they are enormously alive. And the eggs taste phantastic, though not much different from chicken eggs. Three weeks ago we discovered the nest of a cetti kuruvi, a bush warbler, woven between the stalks of a cowgrass bush. Four tiny red eggs lay inside, each no more than one centimeter long. We didn’t fry them, although we wondered whether warblers like to eat the kambu millets that are growing in the field right next to its nest. Just a few days ago we went to see what’s become of the new bird family. Three hungry orange-coloured beaks gave deep insight into the interiors of warbler chicks. I’d never exchange views like this for the rupees in crop loss which might disappear into those beaks. None of us would. And yes, warblers are insectivore; they don’t eat millets, but parrots and other birds do. Certain insects do. The principle of do-no-harm remains. Pointing out some blister beetles on her hibiscus bush to my Tamil sister, she replied, Yes, I saw it, but what can I do? They are hungry, and we can’t just go around and kill everybody.
Watching the animals closely, repeatedly, and for extended amounts of time (of which I have plenty since I dropped out of the rat race) I notice that it’s true what Daniel Quinn said in one of his books, The Story of B. I didn’t notice it before he said it and I would likely have not believed it anyway, but each animal, from bacteria to mites to beetles and lions, is unique; not in the sense of the kind of separate individuals civilized humans think themselves to be, but in their body shapes, their movements, their general behaviour, their personality, and their preferences. No two of them are alike! None of them is disposable. They are also intelligent, no doubt. Our farm animals have the kind of skills you need to survive as a cow, a goat, a chicken, and they are streetwise. They are loving if you let them, and they make good use of their relationships, asking favours here and there: Scratch my forehead, say the cows by turning their head towards me; Scratch me between the horns, indicate the goats in the same way. Want fresh water, quack the ducks bobbing their heads; What’s that in your hand?, ask the chickens by their focussing on it, and Marie comes to greet me when I enter the goat place. She looks me straight in the eyes. I notice the beautiful lashes on hers, and the fine hair along the rim of her ears. It’s not like they have nothing to offer in return. Did I really sell bovine body parts to dog owners once? Yuck!
Humanimal communication usually works better for me than trying to meet my allegedly sapient conspecifics. It’s free of civilized ballast, therefore it’s rarely getting complicated, it’s usually straightforward in exchange of signing, and it speaks the language of stick and carrot. Part of the dialogue is deciding which one it will be. They are not always playing nice. I am not always in a patient mood. Like in all families there’s disagreements and excitement. Yet in the end we come together, no matter what. By living on the same land and feeding each other we have become the same flesh, the same blood; and by loving each other we became one soul.
Try that on facebook.

Apocalypting conservatively

I am aware that many of those who read my posts think that I overstate the severity of the global warming and that it doesn’t look all that bad. Let’s just pretend for one hour or so that you were right. Listen to the good professor in the embedded video who delivers a textbook speech on the ramifications of the IPCC / Paris Agreement scenario. There is no rogue mentality visible here, no revolutionary mind at work, no panic attack spilling over, yet the outlook, based on the – irresponsibly conservative – figures from the IPCC models, is devastating.
David S. Battisti’s Edinburgh lecture in short: The interior of the continents would heat up twice as much as the global average, leading to a 4°C rise in most grains-producing regions until mid-century.. This would result in massive losses in food production, 10% on average for every degree added. Due to plant physiology, higher temperature, and greater weather swings the mid-latitudes – the US and Europe, among others – would lose between 10% (in good years) and 100% of crops as compared to today. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere skyrockets, massive ocean acidification will impact the marine food web in unpredictable manners.
With population rising to 9+ billion heads by mid-century, the loss of 1% of arable lands per year due to erosion etc., and the loss of crops due to climate change agricultural production has to double within the next 35 years. This is obviously not going to happen because there is not that much suitable land and that much water available, and, after three decades of research, genetic engineering still cannot provide suitable seeds.
One of the outstanding features of this lecture is the non-issue of mass starvation, population collapse, and the social, economic, and political turmoil this scenario will inescapably bring about. I find it incredible how learned folks tend to isolate items of interest and completely neglect their consequences. What exactly is the use of going through the exercise of modeling future developments and not inquiring into what they mean for our lives?
Consequently the students attending the talk seem to take the message with good humour, and so may you do. But think of it: this is the ultra-conservative outlook on a future that you and I, and certainly our children, would see. Take into account that the temperature has risen by roughly 1.5°C since the beginning of industrialization, and how that already impacts our weather. With an open ear you will hear phrases like “faster than expected”, “worse than foreseen” and “with unprecedented speed” all over the place when it comes to climate change. Is it really a good idea to disregard the more alarming voices among scientists who have reason to believe an abrupt multi-degree temperature rise is probable in less than a decade?
See also:
  • 2°C to Midnight; an essay on the inaccuracy of the IPCC’s climate models and the futility of the 2015 Paris agreement.
  • Deep into the Spiral: an outlook on the near future, based on more accurate figures than the IPCC’s.

The limits to reason

How did humans get to the idea that they could domesticate plants and animals for food prdoduction? How did they do it, and what were the implications? What has changed over the millennia and how did this affect people, plants, animals and the land?
Many among us may think they know the story, but what we actually heard was the narration of the agricultural perpetrators. The picture they paint gives rationales and justifications for modern industrial agriculture, based on utilitarian materialistic notions of bottom lines and benefits. What is missing from their picture is the suffering caused by rapist practises that sprang from rapist minds. While this may sound like a harsh judgment, consider that the rapist is separating himself from his victim, and he objectifies it so he can use it for his own benefit. The victim’s “bottom line” does play no role in his calculations. In his mind, there is no soul, no heartache, no dignity, no connectedness, no oneness, no sacredness.
In various publications Daniel Quinn pointed out that this rapist totalitarian agriculture is but one way of growing food. Other ways are not about production in the first place; they help embed humans into the web of life. Experience from organic gardening and farming does support this notion, but the case may also be made historically and etymologically.
The morpheme agri- is derived from a Latin word and means “field”. -culture, again from the Latin, means “to till, to inhabit, to protect, to nurture, to worship, to honour.” The relationship expressed in the word Agriculture is therefore a close, nurturing, loving one, originally.
What we commonly understand, today by the word agriculture, because its practices have become so ubiquitous, is a subduing of the Earth, forcing our will upon soil, plants, and animals so they deliver what we demand of them. Totalitarian agriculture is the starting point and main driver of the physical destruction of the biosphere as well as the emotional and spiritual destruction of human beings.

TENDING OUR LAND. A new story. By M. G. Jackson & Nyla Coelho
By NASA Langley Research Center, public domain

Focussing on the history of Indian farming and agriculture practices since the dawn of civilization, Jackson and Coelho give a new account of the succession of ideas and notions around tending the land. This is at the same time a history of modern science and its failures to grasp what almost every culture on Earth understood: that humans are an integral part of the world, not separate from it, and that the way we relate to it has consequences on a material level; that in fact relationships are the actual substance of reality.

“17th century specialists assumed that they were impartial observers of the objects and events they study. Such findings are thus objective, free from personal bias, and thus reveal the true nature of the phenomena studied. This assumption is based on the concept of a duality of body and mind formulated by Rene Descartes.”(p73f)
But the duality between free mind and causally-determined matter makes no sense, says Whitehead (quoted after Tending our land):
“Western peoples exhibit … two attitudes [that] are really inconsistent … A scientific realism, based upon mechanism, is conjoined with an unwavering belief in the world of man and higher animals as being composed of self-determining organisms. The radical inconsistency at the base of modern thought accounts for much that is half-hearted and wavering in our civilization.” [A. N. Whitehead, Science and the modern world, 1925, p76]
Jackson and Coelho express that there is no clear separation between the observer and the observed, so,
“In view of this assumption about the process of observation — who observes, what is observed and how — it would only be prudent to doubt the entire edifice of 17th century science. It seems likely that the specialists, in fact, see what they expect to see based on their assumptions about the nature of the world. Since they are unaware of the assumptions they hold they think they are seeing ‘the’ world as it ‘really’ is.” (p73)
In other words, the world of clearly separate entities, entities which consist of lifeless inert mass, entities which can be used and manipulated as humans please, is basically a delusion. The case can be made for things the size of galaxies, as well as for atoms, and everything inbetween.
“Size, volume, shape, density, position and velocity are not attributes of the atoms themselves, but refer to the relationships among them […] abstracted from this reference frame, an atom cannot be described; it cannot even be said to exist.” (p69)
“Another way of describing the unreality of physical entities is to say that in the world we construct from our experiences there are no spatial boundaries. If there are no boundaries there cannot be any independently-existing entities”, (p70f)
because it requires a defined area or volume for them to exist.
And really, particle physicists have been unable to discover such entities. The same goes for the macroscopic level. Can soil exist or be seen without the organisms living in it, of it, and creating it? Can a human being exist without the myriads of microspecies living on our skin, off our hair, in our bowels? Can a planet exist in and of itself, without its gravity field and the gravity fields of its neighbouring celestial bodies? With everything so tightly interlinked as to be inseparable the scientific description of relational dynamics becomes utterly ridiculous.
by MLWatts, public domain

“It is not possible to describe the simultaneous interactions of three or more bodies in one equation; say for example, the sun, planet, and the planet’s moon, or the entire solar configuration, or a human body or a landscape” (p73)

Though we can point at “things” and though we canroughly or with relative precision predict those things’ near-term development, truly exact forecasts are simply impossible. But,
“If we assume that what we observe are relationships and not objects, the appropriate research protocol is to describe these relationships. It is a process of synthesis rather than of analysis.” (p72)
So if we described the world in terms of relationships like some Eastern, and almost all indigenous, cultures used to rather than in terms of forces and masses, the outcome might be quite different. It certainly makes a difference regarding our behaviour, and our relationship to the living planet. And that in turn might mean all the difference in view of the future course of the global crisis we are currently undergoing. If what happens, eg. to the climate, is the outcome of humanity’s impoverished, disrespecting and abusive relationship towards basically everything — and how could we deny that the uglification, the exploitation, the pollution etc of the planet are just that — then re-establishing a loving relationship with the universe might result in a ‘miraculous’ healing.
“Everything in the universe we [Indians] are told is not only living, but is also sacred. What does it mean to say that life is sacred? Sacredness is a feeling, not a concept. How, or from where, does it arise? We can only say: from a sense of mystery. It will not do to say that the ancients lacked our present particular knowledge and so fell back on superstitious belief. Rather we must admit, as they did, that there is a limit to human reason. Admitting this humbles us and gives rise to a sense of awe in the face of the universal mystery of manifestation; awe and reverence are the very essence of the sacred.” (p61f)
A miracle is not something we can hope for. Similarly, sacredness is not something we can work for. Both would arise from a change in our deepest understanding, therefore today’s science would be unable to explain it. From a rational point of view, reducing emissions or cleaning up pollution would have done the job (though we know already that it’s too late for this to have any significant effect), but what would have actually happened is the mending of broken ties through re-establishing the sacred dimension of things.
Our actions are the result of inner — mental, emotional, spiritual — states and processes. Whether physical actions are effective elements in a cause-and-effect mechanism, or if they are merely symptoms of inner processes is one of the great differences in worldview between East and West, and it might be the difference between a living and a dead planet.

See also:

Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510.
An essay made from excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016

The Empire Express, 12 May 2017

Editorial

 

A lot of the material presented here may seem unpleasant to the unprepared eye. If you think so, there are two points to keep in mind.
First of all, that something looks unpleasant doesn’t mean we should look the other way. It is just one facet of things as they are. Yet those are some facets mainsteam media chooses to avoid or to make them appear less serious than they are. To achieve a more accurate picture of the world at large, though, these aspects need to come to one’s awareness. Those who prefer to consume standard news from abundant corporate or government sources – be free to switch programs.
Secondly, you may ask yourself why I chose to focus on those unpleasant aspects of reality. The answer is, that I prefer truth over propaganda, and that, by having a more accurate picture of the situation, I may respond more aptly. When we view information as merely ‘interesting’, ‘entertaining’, or ‘thrilling’, it becomes meaningless. Every event carries a lesson. It has something to tell about how well our actions are aligned with what-is. When our path is littered with suffering, conflict, catastrophe, and other unpleasant debris, it suggests that something doesn’t work in the way we see and handle things. This has collective aspects to it, but also carries lessons for the individual. When it seems like we are just little cogs in a giant machine who cannot change much, that is true, regarding the machine, yes; at the same time it is not true regarding the impact we can have on the origins of suffering, both materially and spiritually.
Those links which lead to the less unpleasant stories may help with understanding how that works.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
Towards an ethics of permanenceNyla Coelho & Dr. M.G. Jackson, Ecologise, 20170510
The authors are “calling for a fundamental transformation of our perceptions of reality, and a befitting code of conduct to govern our relations with one another and with every other entity on earth.”
As we are today, we should consider ourselves to be ill; in dire need of healing. Our illness has been brought about by our many failures to act in accordance with the ethical imperatives of the core pattern of relationships underlying manifest phenomena. These failures are due to ignorance or inadvertence. Healing can occur if we endeavour to be mindful of the imperatives of the active causal agency that shapes and governs all beings and their activities, and act in accordance with it. This applies to our personal emotional and physical health, as well as to that of our families, our communities, our nations and the larger global community of which all these are parts. The cumulative effect of all our individual illnesses is an ailing planet.”
[The article is a collection of excerpts from the book Tending Our Land: A New Story, Earthcare books, Kolkata, 2016]

Science presents to us another positive feedback loop that drives global warming without human intervention:
Measurements of carbon dioxide levels taken from aircraft, satellites and on the ground show that the amount of CO2 emitted from Alaska’s frigid northern tundra increased by 70% between 1975 and 2015, in the period between October and December each year. […]

Whereas soils 40 years ago took about a month to completely freeze over, the process can now take three months or longer. In some places in the state, the soil is not freezing until January, particularly if there is a layer of insulating snow. The result is a huge and continuing expulsion of CO2 [not to talk of methane].

A lot of models were predicting this thawing would happen, but not for another 50 to 100 years.”

Big polluters are headed for Germany for UN climate talks – Nathalie Baptiste, Mother Jones, 20170504
How the latest United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) comes into existence. It’s ok to feel a little bit disgusted.
Stark warning on health of oceans – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170504
As the oceans heat up they take in more carbon dioxide, which means they become more acidic and less oxygenized – a threat to the marine food chain.
Crop failures in USA as a result of extreme weather events – Robin Westenra, Seemorerocks, 20170503
No one seems to be alarmed by the heat wave in India, not even the government of India. No one seems to be alarmed by the famines in Africa, except for the Africans. No one seems to be alarmed by crop failures in the US, except for the stock markets. It’s all just freakish events… yes?
The science of this article is based on the flawed IPCC/Paris figures (see my essay, 2°C to Midnight), but the message it carries is absolutely correct: “It’s a species-level emergency, but almost no one is actinglike it is.” And,“If we mean what we say, no more new fossil fuels, anywhere.”
Though that won’t be enough, as the already-developed resources carry us to 2,2°C (IPCC), or rather 6.5°C (Wasdell). Seriously.
The crazy scale of human carbon emission – Caleb A. Scharf, Scientific American, 20170426
Want some perspective on how much carbon dioxide human activity produces? Here it is.”
Careful, it’s getting graphic 😉
We can save life on Earth: study reveals how to stop mass extinction – Morgan Erickson-Davis, Truthout, 20170426
The deal is, to conserve around 50% of the planet’s land areas for proper functioning ecosystems – currently there are 15% under protection. ”Increasing protections and restoring degraded land would cost somewhere between $8 billion and $80 billion per year”, which is a joke compared to what is being spent on war. But then again, it is this greedy mindset of ours which drives us into war time and again that will keep us from doing it.
The deal reminds me a bit of historical divisions, say in Korea, where the opponents fear defeat and hastily agree to an armistice before it’s too late. Only that, this time, it might actually be so. It doesn’t ever work out, anyway. Look at Ethiopia/Eretria, or Israel/Palestine, or India/Pakistan, or Germany, or…
We will insist on fully transforming “our” part into the Anthroposphere, and we will have wars against the other part, for all the stupid reasons we have wars among human nations. First and foremost the capitalistic juggernaut is not going to stop the plundering of the world before it has felled and monetized the last tree on Earth. Meanwhile, experts are going to discuss which areas are worth protecting, or how this is going to effect the economy.
I don’t believe we see more than an ultra-shortterm result from such an endeavor. Humanity and nature are one. The insistence on a separation that has no reality anywhere else but in the mind can only lead to further crippling of both parts. Let’s overcome separation!
The upshot of the judges’ opinion? Monsanto has engaged in practices that have violated the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.
The judges also called on international lawmakers to hold corporations like Monsanto accountable, to place human rights above the rights of corporations, and to ‘clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide’.”
A conversation with Helena Norberg-Hodge – Charles Eisenstein, A new and ancient story, 20170417
The author of ‘Sacred Economics‘ and the author of ‘Distant Futures: Learning from Ladakh’ have a dialogue on the reductionist assumptions regarding climate change and how to “attack” it, on localization as a means of healing wounds of all kinds, and how huddling together in ever larger numbers is a main driver to the convergence of crises this civilization faces today. They talk about cities, their functioning and the ramifications of their growth. What impresses me time and again about Charles is his ability to connect dots from very different areas in order to show the larger picture.
In the present day, the biomass of the entire human race is approximately equal to 300 million tonnes. This is more than double that of all large terrestrial vertebrates that lived on Earth prior to human civilization, and an entire order of magnitude greater than that of all vertebrates currently living in the wild. At 30.11 trillion tonnes, the size of the technosphere is five orders of magnitude greater than even that. It is the equivalent of every single square metre of Earth’s surface being covered with nearly 50kg of matter.”
According to Aspen, the total Mass of carbon in the whole biosphere is about 1 to 4 trillion tons. The comparison to our own collective weight shows that humanity is literally eating up the living planet as it develops its realm and grows in numbers.
I disagree with every single point made in this video, as far as those points are meant to discredit the ability of self-acclaimed and alleged ‘doomers’ in general and a certain professor emeritus in special. With his kitchen psychoanalysis Paul, who has made himself a name as a climate system scientist and proponent of geo-engineering, falls into the same traps he believes others have become victims of. Rather than refuting point by point, however, may I emphasize that Paul touches on something that is of relevance to every activist: the danger of getting hysterical about the news, of overrating single events, and of identifying with a specific interpretation of the facts. We need to be aware of the larger picture, and we need to check our facts in the light of new information and different opinions. Because we might be wrong. In the end, all predictions of the future are inaccurate projections. So… pass on the popcorn and relax 🙂

Pearls Before Swine

A collection of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
The only way I can honor Earth Day is to grieve all that has been lost, and to refuse to participate in the ongoing destruction.”
8 widespread but deadly eco-myths – Michael Thomas, Exposing the Truth, 20140821
Nice to have all this pointed out in a tidy fashion. People, in their human bubble, too easily forget that money, science, or ingenuity cannot bring back lost lives.
Recommended article, both as an introduction into the madness of our culture, and as a call for resistance. Hedges shows how the story of Captain Ahab, the main character of Moby Dick, is emblematic of what our culture is doing to the planet today. “The novel is the chronicle of the last days of any civilization,”he writes, because “Complex civilizations have a bad habit of ultimately destroying themselves […]
The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed, hubris and idolatry.”
Ronald Wright once pointed out that our neolithic ancestors, as well, have been facing a fundamental change that required major changes in how people lived. Mankind, after having hunted every large species into extinction, parted into two directions; those who turned into tribal caretakers of the land, and those who continued as farmers and civilization founders; those who got the lesson and those who didn’t. It remains doubtful whether the latter will get it this time around, because “We believe, because we have externalized evil, that we can purify the earth. And we are blind to the evil within us.” Hedges.
On the positive side, he says, “we only need 1 to 5 percent of the population actively working for the overthrow of a system, history has shown, to bring down even the most ruthless totalitarian structures.”
Yet the stakes are high, especially for those bound to the machine who see clearer than others. In the face of a conflict of interest, “moral cowardice turns us into hostages.”
To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and rise up to resist the forces that are destroying us.”
AMEN!
Human extinction without a squeak? – Michael Thomas, Exposing the Truth, 20130407
The question why “no one” is taking the impending collapse of global ecosystems serious is being asked again and again. This article provides an answer from an emergency helper’s point of view.
The paper discusses the techniques of how alternate ways of acquiring knowledge are systematically getting eradicated through scientific discourse. See also my previous article, Cognitive Justice: Science and the Sacred.
A short history of progress – Ronald Wright, 2004
Wright argues that civilizations usually end up in a development trap. Technological items that seem beneficial in the beginning become staples before a society slips into addiction. What looks like a stairway to heaven is actually a highway to hell. The author describes the demise of some historical civilizations, analyzing which of their cornerstones gave way and made it collapse. For example,
We might think that in such a limited place [Easter Island], where, from the height of Terevaka, islanders could survey their whole world at a glance, steps would have been taken to halt the cutting, to protect the saplings, to replant. We might think that as trees became scarce, the erection of statues would have been curtailed, and timber reserved for essential purposes such as boatbuilding and roofing. But that is not what happened. The people who felled the last tree could see it was the last, could know with complete certainty that there would never be another. And they felled it anyway.”
There must be reasons why we do not react appropriately. One of them might be that,
We are running 21st-century software on hardware last upgraded 50,000 years ago or more. This may explain quite a lot of what we see in the news.”
Wright also describes the fall of Sumer and Rome, and briefly compares them to the cases of China, Greece, and Egypt. All this does of course have a meaning for our own situation in which we have reached the peak production of our main energy source at a time when environmental breakdown is well underway. When a civilization reaches the limits to growth it needs to acknowledge them or perish. It’s not like there were no precedences like the Maya, whom we can learn from. And what did the Maya do?
As the crisis gathered, the response of the [Maya] rulers was not to seek a new course, to cut back on royal and military expenditures, to put effort into land reclamation …, or to encourage birth control… No, they dug in their heels and carried on doing what they had always done, only more so. Their solution was higher pyramids, more power to the kings, harder work for the masses, more foreign wars … the Maya elite [was]squeezing the last drops of profit from nature and humanity.”
Doesn’t it sound awfully familiar to you? Does it make you feel like you want to smash the pathetic system and start all over again? Beware!
There is no going back without catastrophe. Those who don’t like civilization, and can’t wait for it to fall on its arrogant face, should keep in mind that there is no other way to support humanity in anything like our present numbers or estate.”
And maybe there is no other way left to go but to reduce the numbers and estate. Population and property were the main physical drivers of all civilizations – and their eventual unraveling. I know that our Empire, just like the Maya kings, is not willing to go slower, not to speak of decreasing its size. It should have taken steps four decades ago at latest. The end of the road has been reached. The current generation may experience the expected outcome of our civilization’s project of conquering the world.
The lesson I read in the past is this: that the health of land and water — and of woods, which are the keepers of water — can be the only lasting basis for any civilization’s survival and success.”
[The above link leads to a file containing the introduction to his 200p book.]

The train of civilization

“Are we going to arrive in time?” – “I think so. Emergency services are pretty quick these days.”

Famous Last Words

“Don’t worry. We can fix this.”

The Empire Express, 15 April 2017

Some of the more ‘interesting’ articles regarding systems in collapse, especially climate, global civilization, food & farming, human consciousness and ecology. I recommend them for either their illustrative information on the state of affairs, or their profound insight into what said information might mean.

Ongoing Assault

Recent news
A long catalogue of crimes committed against the ocean makes sure that the near-term collapse of Indian society due to food crises becomes inevitable.
Exiting the Anthropocene – Roger Boyd, Resilience.org, 20170410
Seems like the Anthropocene is over before it really started. The author writes up a realistic description of the factors that will bring the curtain down. Too bad we cannot read such essays on the front pages of our favourite newspapers and magazines, because,While the evidence that the door to the end of the Anthropocene is opening wide mounts, our society seems unable to grasp the scale and urgency of the danger.”
Is this the start of runaway global warming? – William P. Hall, PhD, Kororoit Inst., 2017,0408
“This essay focuses on observations of what appears to be the start of runaway warming in the Arctic that may have profound effects on global climates over the next few years;”
A fine introduction and comprehensive overview on the climate situation and the outlook for the near-term future.
The end of ice – Dahr Jamail in an interview with Jennifer Hynes, Extinction Radio, 20170405
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail talks about the research for his upcoming book on climate change. Both the state of affairs and his personal outlook on the future are discussed.
What’s scarier than the Permian Extinction? – Robert Scribbler, 20170405
Burn all the fossil fuels to find out…”
America’s farmers face uncertain future – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170405
Worldwide, scientists have repeatedly warned that climate change driven by human dependence on fossil fuels presents serious problems for farmers: many crops are vulnerable to extremes of heat, and climate change presents a hazard for harvests in Africa, Asia and Europe.
America in particular could face substantial losses, and, at the most basic level, the grasses – almost all the world’s staple foods are provided by the grass family – may not be able to adapt to rapidly changing climates.”
Not to forget Yemen and Nigeria, along with several countries that are standing at the edge. “Ethiopia has learned from previous droughts and took adequate precautions. Yet the scale of the current drought is too great for Ethiopia, and indeed the entire region, to cope with,” says German development minister Gerd Müller.
Extreme heat threat rises for megacities – Tim Radford, Climate News Network, 20170403
If global warming is contained at 1.5°C – the ideal target identified at the 2015 climate summit in Paris − the researchers say the number of megacities, with populations over 10 million, in the danger zone will double from today’s figure […] Other scientists had already established that if global temperatures rise by 4°C this century − in the notorious business-as-usual scenario in which humans go on burning fossil fuels and depositing ever more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere − then some parts of the globe could become intolerably hot for at least part of the day, and potentially uninhabitable.”
Vital groundwater depleted faster than ever – Alex Kirby, Climate News Network, 20170402
The study’s authors say excessive abstraction of groundwater for irrigation – part of the wider virtual water trade – is leading to rapid depletion of aquifers in key food-producing regions, including north-western India, the North China Plain, central US, and California.”
Despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people in the world were severely food insecure in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a new global report on food crises released in Brussels on 31 March 2017 […]

The dramatic increase reflects the trouble people have in producing and accessing food due to conflict, record-high food prices in local markets and extreme weather conditions such drought and erratic rainfall caused by El Niño.”

Pumped dry: India’s accelerating and invisible groundwater crisis – Asit K. Biswas et al., Ecologise, 20170326
India is now facing a water situation that is significantly worse than any that previous generations have had to face. All Indian water bodies within and near population centres are now grossly polluted with organic and hazardous pollutants. Interstate disputes over river waters are becoming increasingly intense and widespread. Not a single Indian city can provide clean water that can be consumed from the tap on a 24×7 basis. Surface water conditions are bad. However, the groundwater situation is even worse.”
This includes natural and anthropogenic pollution, sea-water intrusion, explosive growth of tube-wells, and farmers pumping like there is no tomorrow.
Nearly half of India’s jobs are now in the agricultural sector. If the current trends continue, by 2030 nearly 60% of Indian aquifers will be in a critical condition. This means that some 25% of the agriculture production will be at risk. This would aggravate India’s employment situation.”
Well, let’s not worry about jobs. As stated elsewhere, in 2030 there will likely be no one to get laid off. In the meantime, climate change is unfolding, developing from rapidly to abruptly, and the Indian subcontinent, together with the heart of Africa, might evolve into one of the first regions to become uninhabitable for humans.
The Russian-American writer on his new book about our physical and psychological dependence on global infrastructure and hi-tech for daily survival, and about needing to return to pre-fossil-fuel driven lifestyles and technologies. Both book and podcast

Pearls Before Swine

Discoveries of older articles that – obviously – didn’t change the world.
Seeing Wetiko: On capitalism, mind viruses, and antidotes for a world in transition – Alnoor Ladha & Martin Kirk, Kosmos, 20160511
This is not an anti-European rant. This is the description of a disease whose vector was determined by deep patterns of history,” it says in the essay. The Wetiko, or Wendigo, is a native American concept of an infectious and self-replicating mindset that acts like a virus. It is responsible for the Western culture’s hunger for more, its destructiveness and its denial of it all.  

“This approach of viewing the transmission of ideas as a key determinant of the emergent reality is increasingly validated by various branches of science, including evolutionary theory, quantum physics, cognitive linguistics, and epigenetics.” 

Highly recommended for reading.

False solutions? 3 ways to evaluate grand climate proposals – Jeremy Lent, Patterns of Meaning, 20160322
We need a way to distinguish authentic pathways to a sustainable civilization from false solutions. I suggest three ways to consider any proposal you might come across:
  1. Does it push political power up or down the pyramid?
  2. How does it treat the Earth?
  3. What are its cascading effects?”
‘Civilization’ and ‘sustainable’ in one sentence makes me cringe. Apart from that, when we are pursuing right action, these three questions might make sense. The text contains several good points like,
Geoengineering proposals are based on the notion of the earth as a massive piece of machinery to be engineered for human benefit. Not only are these approaches morally repugnant for anyone who sees Nature as having intrinsic worth, they are also fraught with massive risk, since the earth’s systems are in fact not machine-like, but the result of complex, nonlinear relationships that are inherently unpredictable.”
I elaborated on that, not so long ago, in my article Doom-dee-doom.
Only sixty years of farming left if soil degradation continues – Chris Arsenault, Scientific American, 20141205
58 years to go. Plenty of time to make some money and to think of how to create soil in industrial labs…

Cartoon

The train of civilization
“What if we used bio-char instead of coal?”

India without monsoon is like a fish without water

What climate change looks like on the ground in Southern India, in the federate states of Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. With crops failing catastrophically, and fisheries getting suffocated and depleted, what are people going to eat?


– “The situation is certainly going from bad to worse. At this rate, the water will last for only the next 90 days in most places. We are taking all possible measures, but irrigation is perhaps the last thing on our minds now as we need to save water for all other purposes […] The [Kerala] government decided to, for the first time ever, impose a water rationing system across households and industries.”

“Farmers in Mandya district, part of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam ayacut area [Karnataka], have failed to harvest even a single paddy crop this year.”

[In Tamil Nadu], “around 40 farmers protested outside the Trichy collector’s office, holding dead rats in their mouths, stating that over 47 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the last two months. [Chief minister] Panneerselvam declared all 32 districts drought-affected […] with the deficit [rainfall] ranging from 35% to 81%”

“The numbers in the three states have raised alarm bells everywhere, and what is even more worrying is what they indisputably portend — the coming water wars that will stem from Tamil Nadu’s dependence on its neighbours.”

This is just for starters. We didn’t have a Blue Ocean Event yet, and we have merely seen a 1.6°C rise in global average temperature. 

Beside seafood and grains, the third leg of human nutrition, veggies and fruits, is in decline as well, thanks to pollinator’s struggle for survival.

People need to be prepared, carefully, to expect this, and worse, to extend into the forseeable future, and to find ways to live on less. And not just in India — also in all other countries in the world, especially the industrialised regions. No one is going to deliver food into the cities when farmers are starving, themselves.

Will Permaculture save the World?

Let me begin with a couple of uncomfortable questions.
Are you aware of the fact that, every day, 200 species are disappearing from the face of the Earth?
Are you also aware of the fact that, since the beginning of industrialization, the worldwide population of vertebrates has dropped by more than 90%?
If not, why are you not aware? Is it because in our lives as civilized people we are so much immersed in human affairs, so far removed from the natural sphere that we hardly notice what is going on around us, even when it happens on a grand scale? TV bombards us with music, films, news and other forms of entertainment, yet what is most important – because it lies at the foundation of our very survival – is never mentioned. Most of what we think we know is not experienced by ourselves, it is mediated knowledge.
Now, what, do you think, causes such gross deterioration of the biosphere? It is human activity: resources extraction, settlement, food production, pollution, all of them on a global-industrial scale. Mankind is literally consuming the whole world and turning it into human biomass and facilities.
Agriculture’s contribution to the problem are the 7.5 billion people on the planet, a multiplication by seven since 1750, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It is for the food we eat that we do exist. This flesh around my bones is food, it is plants and animals consumed by me.
Our human population explosion has only been possible due to ruthless depletion of the soil, killing of currently 70 billion domestic animals and 170+ million tons of fish per year for meat, as well as growing expansion of fields at the expense of ecosystems. All of this is driven by petroleum products, from herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides to chemical fertilizer and plastic packaging and cool storage and long-distance transportation.
While the numbers are ever growing, we only have one finite planet at our disposal, and dispose of it we do. For there is no infinite growth possible in a limited system.
We know this for a long time already, so why don’t we stop this madness?
The thing that is in our way is called ‘Western world view’, Utilitarianism, to be precise, and it basically says that we are separate individuals competing for survival in an indifferent world of inert masses that have neither meaning nor intrinsic value. In other words, everything around us is just ‘our resources’ and we can use it as we please.
What Utilitarianism overlooks is that we do depend on the functioning of the planetary system for our lives. Like with a brick building, we may break holes here and there for creating space for human activities, but if we take out too many bricks the building will just collapse on us, and collapse suddenly.
Organic farming and small-footprint lifestyles, if everyone actually agreed upon applying them, would in fact reduce the damage added each day, but neither is civilization willing to reduce its greedy utilization of Earth’s bounties by the slightest amount, nor would it change the fact that increasing damage is done every day by an ever growing human population. Who are we to snortingly look down on the breeding habits of rabbits, goats and locusts?
I do work on an organic farm and I do live a low-impact lifestyle, yet those are not means of “saving the planet” or just “saving myself”. They are not means to soothe my conscience either; for I know that the normal healthy impact that I would have as a member of the global ant population, the elephant population or a stone age human tribe at the end of the Paleolithic, amplifies into horrific destruction in my current existence as a member of our blown-up global civilization. Nothing that we do can make a difference to our predicament – that humanity is likely to go extinct within a few years because we are inches away from a biosphere collapse we brought about by reckless extraction.
Permaculture farms, like gift economies and intentional communities, can be an expression of a deeper understanding rather than a means to achieve a goal. We don’t want to make a buck by helping an old lady across the street. It is not our intention to achieve world domination by feeding our children. We don’t seek to trade potato chips for the lemonade we bring to a barbecue. We do all these things for the joy of doing them, and the joy comes from the joy it brings to those who “benefit” from our actions. If “the World” is “saved” it is going to happen due to the understanding that existence is about more than this little me that wants to survive. A global awakening to this understanding may well trigger forces that curb or reverse the damage done, but to think of it this way is an attempt in instrumentalizing Awakening for the utilitarian exploitation of those Forces. Awakening then evades us while those Forces evaporate into a fog of wishful thinking. It just doesn’t work like this.
To take this current moment, to hold it precious, and to live it with a sense of excellence so that we do the right thing, according to this understanding and without expectation for a specific outcome – this is reward and redemption in itself. The World, it doesn’t need saving.

Deep into the spiral

Welcome to 2017, a year that is going to be different from what we are expecting for it. We all know that our hopes and fears rarely stand the test of time and that the future is a place unlike anything we have imagined. But what if the world was already a different place from what we perceive it to be? What if we are missing some vital information, like, there is a price tag attached to the way we live which we have overlooked – or rather blinked at – all the time? Won’t the creditor show up at some point to collect the debt we have piled up so recklessly? Is 2017 our last chance to save our face by stepping forward to mend our ways?
With all the busy-ness around the xmas season, have you had an eye on the news? What were the headlines in the past few days? Did you get the following one?

This could easily be the most alarming piece of information in all history of mankind so far.
Why?
Because the sun over the North Pole has set three months ago, yet temperatures are rising both in water and air and have locally been crossing the melting point of ice – for the second time in two months, and it is happening within the second consecutive winter.
Average air temperatures on higher latitudes, while still below freezing point, are way above any reasonable deviation from standard.
red line shows 2016’s average temperature north of 80° latitude;
green line shows 1958-2002 average temperature north of 80° latitude.
This is not just freakish weather. Last time the red line roughly followed average records was in 2004, so we are looking at a long-term heating trend here. 
–click to enlarge–
This means, instead of building up, winter sea ice is stagnating slightly above already-reduced summer extents and volumes. Thin, broken-up and slushy ice is going to be very vulnerable to the return of spring. The Blue-Ocean Event, an ice-free Arctic Ocean, becomes quite likely in 2017, and it would not be mistaken for a blue-lagoon event.
 [source: Polar Science Center/APL]
The Arctic ice shield is being battered since decades already, and its volume and extent reduced so much that scientists are talking about a death spiral.
–click to enlarge–
 [source: Polar Science Center/PIOMAS]
The loss of albedo along with reduced cooling of the surface water and its direct exposure to sunlight will rapidly heat the sea surface, and an increased mixing of surface and deep waters thanks to wind-driven movement subsequently allows for the heat to reach the methane clathrates in shallow places like the East Siberian shelf. It is to be noted that minimal increases in water temperature may allow for a burp of 50 gigatons of methane from that area alone, with thousands of gigatons more distributed all over the Arctic.

[interview with Russian Arctic researcher Natalia Shakhova]

Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas of which there are currently 5 Gt in the atmosphere. The amount likely to be released would increase atmospheric levels from currently 250% above pre-industrial standards to significantly higher levels, resulting in an increase of global average temperature by another 1.1°C or more within weeks. Thanks to about 70 self-reinforcing feedback loops that have already been kicked off, runaway heating as calculated by the next graph seems guaranteed.

–click to enlarge–
 [conservatively adding up a few sources of heating]

All of which affects our ability to grow food due to heat waves, water shortages, more severe storms, erratic weather patterns, and the outpacing of crop plants’, bees’, and soil micro organisms’ ability to adapt.
The consequences of impaired food production are all too obvious.
Wars over water, arable land, and other resources would destroy even more habitats and bring down civilization for sure. Once we enter the slippery slope of a downward population curve, through wars or through starvation alone, there is no turning back; humanity’s estimate lifetime from there on is numbered in months. 
The prolongation of our lives is depending on an exceptionally cold arctic spring and summer 2017 to allow for fresh ice to be built up which would postpone Blue Ocean for another year or two, but I wouldn’t bet a lousy penny on that one. It is not that I don’t like to live and see this planet thrive in turn, but industrial civilization has consumed Earth’s life forms to the point where our own demise has become due, and overdue, already. Climate change is just one of a myriad of destructive forces unleashed by our culture, from social disparity to plastic pollution to structural violence to frankenfood to endless wars to animals’ habitat loss; we cannot drive hundreds of species extinct each single day and expect our own survival to stay unquestioned. At one point it is going to be our own food chain that is collapsing.
Notwithstanding probable effects of a Blue Ocean Event, few people seem to know that the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to paleoclimatic records, already subsribes us to a 6°C rise in global average temperature.
They don’t know that current temperatures are the result of pollution from decades ago, and that, since then, we have significantly increased emissions again, the consequences of which are yet to manifest, and that’s unstoppable. 6°C. You cannot go back to undo it.

Carbon dioxide, followed by Methane, followed by Temperatures; graph covers last 420,000 years and establishes close link between greenhouse gases and global average temperatures
–click to enlarge–

The figures are public, their relation to real-life consequences established and in its first stages already visible as predicted — just way earlier than expected (haven’t you noticed how often this phrase pops up recently?). Yet we don’t hear about the polar situation on TV; they missed it three times in a row already. Nor are politicians setting out to doing something — and they never will, like they never did. As a matter of fact, the opposite is happening: economic growth (and therefore pollution) is being fostered and promoted while the climate debate is being trifled. Apart from very few counter examples, scientists are afraid to speak up, while IPCC and COP conferences are playing down the issue: outdated figures that are conservative to begin with are being fed into inadequate climate models which do not consider powerful feedback loops like methane and water vapor; those models therefore soften probable effects and postpone them into a distant future. On top of all that, draft reports have to pass through a lengthy consensus-making process including both scientists and politicians. This has consequences of its own:

First, the scientific goal of 1°C maximum temperature rise has been changed into the political goal of 2°C.
Then, pre-industrial baseline has been shifted from 1750 to 1880, a date when most of Europe and America were heavily industrialized already; this removed 0.3°C temperature rise from the IPCC’s calculation, yet the 2°C goal has not been corrected to 1.7°C.
Baseline has been shifted again, this time to the average of 1951-1980, and we can see already attempts to shift baseline yet another time, to the average of 1979-2000, from the date when satellites allowed for gapless observation of Earth’s surface. The upper limit for warming, 2°C, has once more not been adjusted accordingly for the temperature rise that has happened between 1750 and the new baseline dates. In other words, public debate is engaged in window dressing.
In truth, we are talking about an already-reached 1.6 (Carana) to 1.95°C (Mann/Beckwith) temperature rise since 1750, a good proportion of which has happened within the last three years (roughly 0.5°C in 2016 alone).

Neglecting the discussion about precise figures, it still remains a fact that, with the relatively small rise in temperature so far, we are experiencing a massively increased amount of droughts, wildfires, superstorms, floodings, temperature anomalies, monsoon failures, crop failures, algy blooms, ocean acidification, landslides, animal die-offs, ice-sheets melt-offs, methane releases from permafrost and see floor, etc. In such a situation, not the slightest temperature rise is desirable, yet it happens — and it happens quicker than expected.

graph shows a doubling in catastrophic events since ~2000, a quadrupling since 1980.
[Source: © 2016 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of July 2016]
–click to enlarge–

Following political and economic leaders, many ordinary people are in denial, though most are simply ignorant of the data and its meaning.

If you are one of them — that’s fine; Godspeed, and may you enjoy a long and happy life. Sorry I bothered you. Be free to proceed business as usual.
This summary of current events is based on the work of some of the foremost scientists and journalists, crosschecked with my personal observation of weather patterns as well as my understanding of the World, and it is meant as a warning to those who do have a basic understanding themselves; people like my mother of 65 who immediately got the point and who wanted to know more. She said she had guessed we were in trouble because she had sensed something was wrong with the World, and that the TV was feeding her lies instead of explanations on the disquieting things she had seen. “I’m not stupid!”, she grumbled.
Bottom line is, Time is short; it always was. Our lives have always been limited in extent, yet we are wasting so much time on fighting for peanuts. Extreme events, though, reveal extreme evil. If abrupt climate disruption, if collapse of civilization is a reality you share with me, it makes a lot of sense to prepare for near-term impact so that we get through the turbulence with as little violence and with as much dignity as possible. Each of us can, and should, work to direct public outrage into constructive channels, withdraw our support from war preparation and management, share knowledge and resources, and do our best to reduce suffering for others — humans as well as other beings. This requires us to stay calm ourselves. It can only get achieved through acceptance of our predicament. If, thus far, you haven’t grieved for the Earth and what humans have done to it, this is your place to start.


It have been those rare scientists who did speak up and preceded me in concluding that abrupt climate change leads to near-term human extinction who made this blog possible, first and foremost professor Guy McPherson, but also Sam Carana, Peter Wadhams, Paul Beckwith, and a host of great writers and speakers like Dahr Jamail, Carolyn Baker, Robin Westenra, Jennifer Hynes, Kevin Hester, Deb Ozarko, Derrick Jensen, and Mike Ruppert, as well as courageous news anchors like Thom Hartmann and Paul Henry.

The iceberg is sinking fast

I am currently translating a book on climate change, its consequences, and how do deal with it. One of the sources mentioned in there is a Report of The Environmental Pollution Panel by the President’s Science Advisor Committee, issued in November 1965 to advise US President Lyndon B. Johnson on the effects of pollution on the nation’s health and economy. The report’s title is, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment, which implies that said environment had already decreased to a significant amount in quality, and that this was acknowledged. In fact, the table of contents reads like from an eco warrior’s bible.
I would like to quote a few passages from it, to illuminate the extent to which the US government knew fifty (!) years ago where the train of industrial civilization is headed.
On “possible effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate”
“We may compute from his data [F. Möller, On the influences of changes in the CO2 concentration in air on the radiation balance of earth’s surface and on the climate; in Journal of Geophysical Research, 1963] that with a 25% increase in the atmospheric CO2, the average temperature near the Earth’s surface could increase between 0.6C and 4C” (p121)
and they go on to describe how water vapor plays a role in increasing the effect of atmospheric CO2, through a self-reinforcing feedback loop.
They also mention C. G. Callendar‘sgroundbreaking work in the late 30s and the 40s regarding temperature increase through carbon increase. (p122)
Atmospheric warming due to an increase in the CO2 content of the atmosphere may result in a catastrophically rapid melting of the Antarctic ice cap, with an accompanying rise in sea level. [The authors think, though, that] such melting must occur relatively slowly on a human scale.” (p123)
Well, we know about self-reinforcing feedback loops and we can witness first-hand how both Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting like snow in the sun, with record losses on both poles at the same time in October and November 2016, which is a first in human history. Imagine it’s winter on the North pole, it’s pitch dark and it’s supposed to be below -20C, but sea ice is melting.
Pronounced effect on the distribution of some fisheriesthrough warming of the oceans’ surface water counts among further ramifications of increased CO2levels. The authors note that“the amelioration of oceanic climate also resulted in a marked retreat of sea icearound the edges of the Arctic Ocean.”
The authors furthermore note that the burning of limestone for cementand other construction purposes contributes a significant amount of CO2to the atmosphere, that the growth of agricultural areahas reduced forests and grass lands and has triggered the oxidisation of ocean-based and soil-based carboninto CO2, which means they identified another self-reinforcing feedback loop (p123f)
The authors then conclude:
“Through his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment. Within a few generations he is burning fossil fuels that slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years. The CO2 produced by this combustion is injected into the atmosphere; about half of it remains there. The estimated recoverable reserves of fossil fuels are sufficient to produce nearly a 200% increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere.

By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 will be close to 25% [accurate!]. This may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate, and will almost certainly cause significant changes in the temperature and other properties of the stratosphere” (p126)

It’s 1965 and they are accurate again!

“The climatic changes that may be produced by the increased CO2 content could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.” (p127)
Ha! And not to mention from the point of view of failing ecosystems. The authors then go on to describe fantasy technology needed to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. This must be one of the first mentionings of geo-engineering.
“We can conclude that, at least during the recent past, fossil fuel combustion has been the only significant source of CO2 added to the ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system.” (p131)
So much for solar activity, cosmic rays, or natural climate cycles being responsible for Earth’s predicament.
Subsequent reports, like the research done by Exxon(temperatures are likely to rise by a catastrophic 5 degrees Celsius, with rises of 6, 7 or even more quite possible”), the briefing of the Alliance of Small Island States to the Copenhagen Climate Summit (“350ppm is a death sentence”), and a scenario created for the Pentagon, all underline the reality of the climatic threat and the necessity for action. The Pentagon report (An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for US National Security, by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, October 2003) is “imagining the unthinkable”. It states:
“There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. […] gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment”
“These [changes] could occur in several food producing regions around the world at the same time within the next 15-30 years, challenging the notion that society’s ability to adapt will make climate change manageable.”
I think we have read enough to understand that the governments of the world are well informed on what is really going on with the climate, but they don’t tell.
I also think we all have seen enough in our own environment or on the news to come to the conclusion that climate change is neither a hoax nor a pony farm experience we could wiggle our way out of easily.
Throughout all those years since 1965, something could have been done to stop, curb, or mitigate the development. Our boat didn’t have to hit the iceberg, yet it did so at full speed, and catastrophic damage is irreversibly done – only this time, the berg is sinking… first.
I therefore think that in today’s situation don’t ask, don’t tellis a non-appropriate policy – more than ever, for it never was. We should not only ask ourselves, but our governments, economic leaders and media enterprises why none of this makes the headlines of every single news show, similar to the financial crisis of 2008 when all frequencies bothered us with banks’ death screams for months on end. Why have they driven us into this – in broad daylight, in full sight, and the headlights on?
When you hear your government – be it the German, the Indian, the Chinese, the Russian, or the You-name-it government – when you hear your government claim that they are doing something about climate change, be aware that, in fifty years, they have done exactly nothing to curb the effects of industrial activities and the corresponding lifestyle; they have hidden the facts, as described above, from you and deliberately downplayed the ramifications of industrial pollution while economic growth has been maintained as the primary objective in decision-making. How likely is it that anything has changed in the meantime, given that major experts warn of near-term human extinction due to temperature increases way beyond 4C while your favorite politician, whoever it is, holds we could stop at the 2C we have already (!) reached? Think about it.
 
Dance of death to the music of the abrupt heating of the Earth has started. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and anyone who thinks you can drive 200 species a day into the abyss and have a planet that is empty except for eight billion humans is dreaming. At one point, it’s going to be us – not because we run out of ideas, but because our ability to grow food will have been destroyed utterly.
Maybe it’s time for you to take some time and think about how you would live if your time was short. What is truly, deepy important to you? What would you like to pursue?
Why are you not doing it right now?