Showing posts with label pacifism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pacifism. Show all posts

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recharting Collapseniks

"Only a few are willing to risk arrest for the sake of an utopian outcome. Ted 'The Unabomber' Kaczynski obviously occupies the upper right corner. Starhawk, Bill McKibben and David Graeber are not lighting any fuses but at least have what they think are better plans, or maybe just better processes."

Our post of January 14 stirred the hornet’s nest and so we have found it necessary to revisit those star charts and try to probe their signs and portents with renewed care.

First, we have to acknowledge that our scatter chart has no basis in actual data. It is merely a mind map, and as such it has its uses and its limitations. The map is not the territory, as we know, so what is it? Mostly, it is a way to visualize complex relationships and hopefully gain insight that doesn’t just pop out from a photograph, the written word or columns of numbers.

In this case, we were attempting to depict where David Holmgren’s shift in strategy took him within the matrix of climate/peak oil prognosticators. We were using charts to illustrate that he had shifted from advocating passive transformation to urging proactive crash.

The feedback we received was, on the whole, good natured and valuable. Naturally there were many names that readers felt had been left out of the matrix — Dave Cohen, Dave Pollard, David Graeber, Ugo Bardi, Charles Eisenstein, Buckminster Fuller, Larry Korn, Caroline Baker, Sister Sage and Kathy MacMahon, to name a few absent without our readership’s leave.

Michael Ruppert said about this chart: "I am not a product of, or measurable by, Cartesian 3D tools."

Carolyn Baker said, "I'm not even ON the chart, thank God. I stand with Mike. Who needs more quantifying, categorizing, labeling, separating, binary, limiting, left-brain, Cartesian tools? This is precisely why we are living the current nightmare. This chart is only more of industrial civilization's three-dimensional drivel. I'm not on the chart because everything I stand for cannot be charted. In this instance, I love being marginalized!"

Some of the other people who were represented by dots on the map weighed in with their own thoughtful essays. Dmitry Orlov wrote:

If, like Holmgren says, 10% of the population boycotted global finance, and global finance crashed, Brown Tech would probably just shut down, because its activities are very capital-intensive. Now, since our voices—Holmgren's and mine and those of other people who may be consonant with Holmgren's message—are mainly projected through blogs, I can do some math and figure out how many me-equivalents it would take to bring about the required change in global sentiment.

This particular blog gets around 14k unique visitors a month. Let's assume a sky-high conversion rate of 50%, where half of my readers pledge to support Homgren's boycott. That's 7k people. Global population is 7 billion, 10% of that is 700 million. Dividing one into the other, we get our result: it would take on the order of 100,000 me-equivalent activists/bloggers to bring about the required change of consciousness. Next question: how many me-equivalent (give or take) bloggers are there out there?


***

[O]f the 22 activists/bloggers on Albert's chart, how many might go along with the plan? We already know that Rob Hopkins wants us to count him out. He wrote that Holmgren's Crash on Demand “isn't written for potential allies in local government, trades unions, for the potential broad coalitions of local organisations that Transition groups try to build, for the diversity of political viewpoints...” Yes, I can see why local govenments might take a dim view of a plan to zero out their budgets, and why the trade unions might not be enthused by a plan that would put their entire rank and file on the unemployment line. I guess Hopkins' “potential broad coalitions” will just have to wait for collapse rather than try to bring it about. Potentially, that is.
Not that any of that matters, of course, because, even if we assume that everyone will go along with Homgren's plan, dividing one into the other we still get a 99.98% shortfall in the required number of activists/bloggers. La-de-da. But don't let that stop you from trying because, regardless of results (if any) it's a good thing to be trying to do.

KMO, in his post entitled ‘Dirty Pool,’ dissected the controversy by looking closely at the differences between the positions of David Holmgren and Nicole Foss. “Notice that David and Nicole are advocating the same course of action,” he wrote. 

“They differ on what rationale to present in order to motivate people to divest themselves from the disempowering and dysfunctional system of Brown Tech control, but they both advocate withdrawing support for and engagement with the over-developed, larger-than-human scale systems of techno-industrial civilization and re-investing those energies and resources at the level of the family and the local community. The discussion here is how to frame the situation for the increasing number of people who are starting to realize that the industrial system will not make good on the promises and commitments it made to its subjects in the midst of its expansion.”

This really demonstated for us how delicate and nuanced the distinctions between the collapsenik community were. Moreover, to really represent the available rationales would require a more sophisticated mind map, such as used by Dave Pollard in his review of David Graeber’s book, The Democracy Project. 




Taking another crack at our chart, we decided to try relabeling the axes and shifting some of the positions.

One problem we have is that the lower left is overcrowded while the upper right (civil resistance ecotopians) has only a few willing to risk arrest for the sake of an utopian outcome. Ted “The Unabomber” Kaczynski obviously occupies the upper right corner. Starhawk, Bill McKibben and David Graeber are not lighting any fuses but at least have what they think are better plans, or maybe better processes. Joel Salatin makes it to that quadrant because he is ready to defy the FDA/USDA Gestapo on issues like raw milk and mobile beef harvesters.

Ray Kurzweil anchors the top left because he sees no need to confront authority — it will be carried away in the tsunami of change over which it has almost zero control. Elon Musk  has similar confidence albeit less utopian cultural zeal. More moderate transformers, Michael Shuman, for instance, with his Small-Mart concepts, or Woody Tasch, replacing monolithic banks with local lending circles, and Ellen Brown, making the case for state-owned currencies (and running for Treasurer of California now) are trying to reform, not subvert, which places them to West of illegal and North of collapse.

Another useful addition is Robert Constanza, who can stand in for a long list of new economists that see a potentially very rapid adoption path for a successor metric to GDP — giving the G8 and the Davos Forum a new set of tools that integrate current knowledge of how ecology, economics, psychology and sociology collectively contribute to establishing and measuring sustainable well-being.  We blogged about this in 2010, when we met Bhutan’s Minister of Happiness at the Cancun Climate Summit, and again from Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Reframing "violence" (that no one seeks) to "resistance" and making the middle line a division between active and passive (or legal and illegal) seems likely to satisfy many of the chart’s critics.

Some insights that the new chart may evoke: some reconstructionists of the top right regard collapseniks on the lower left as lazy while the doomers at bottom right likely consider the activities of the reformers on the upper left to be futile gestures.

Steven Morris suggested a dynamically updated map. The internet could be scanned for all the articles and conversations by our selected group of authors. Then using AI, their position on the map could be adjusted as what they write changes. Kind of like a tag cloud, only more elaborate.

Douglas Anarino suggested a simpler JavaScript app that scored each question on a left/right and up/down axis, moving the dot appropriately. This could also be made interactive to enable a reader to place themselves into the matrix.

Harold P Boushell said if you are going that far, how about allowing nth-points on a circle such as: Peaceful Transformation, Collapse, Singularity, Civil War 2, Space-Asteroids, Nuclear War, Electric-Grid-Failure, Methane-Eco-Collapse, and the Jetsons. This reminded us that we already did this in 2005, using familiar science fiction films.

Here are five slides lifted from slide shows we ran from 2006 and to around 2010. By 2009 we were getting so tired of it we were already making fun of ourselves, calling it “The Baterix.”





We divided up the future into quadrants, using something like the compass Holmgren adopted for his Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change (March 2009)




 





 
Into this grid we dropped the Jetsons and the Flintstones.



Then we suggested a few more apocalyptic films and urged the audience to think of their own favorites and where they might fit.




Finally, we brought that home into the realm of practical planning — what do you do to prepare, given how much or little weight you place on various scenarios?


Preparations, we pointed out, generally involve building local community, because the idea of going it alone is strictly the stuff of old time Westerns, and bears no connection to the real world. If you want to get a local community to come together, a great way to begin is over a nice homecooked meal. That is why our Post Petroleum Survival Guide was also a cookbook.

Which brings us to some advice Dmitry Orlov included in his Holmgren review. He wrote, “Can kitchen-gardening make a difference at a national scale? Yes it can. It has and it will again. There is just one problem: foodies. They don't want to merely survive by eating a balanced diet of potatoes, turnips, cabbage and rye periodically augmented with guinea pig stew; they want fresh, delicious produce and fancy recipes. I've often thought that a good trifecta for a collapse-related blog to hit would be to incorporate climate change, peak oil and delicious, healthy, organic, local food. There could be three tabs: near-term human extinction got you down? Click on another tab and look at some luscious, mouth-watering tomatoes. But if the foodies can be reigned in, then kitchen-gardening becomes something of survival value.”

Sigh. That trifecta was how we began this blog, and yes, we agree, we have somehow strayed. But its never too late! Herewith our winter recipe, borrowed from the pages of this morning’s The New York Times.

If you go to the Times and read the original piece by Melissa Clark, and watch the demo video of how she makes these cookies, please note the bubbly sound track as the cookie dough goes into the oven (at minute 2.15). Baby Boomers may be carried back to the soundtrack from My Little Margie or Father Knows Best. This, friends, is really New York City in the winter!



Courtesy Andrew Scrivani, The New York Times

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes 

Melissa Clark: “Forget all the bad, soggy oatmeal cookies you’ve ever had in your life. Picture instead a moist-centered, butterscotch-imbued, crisp-edged cookie flecked with nubby oats. Add to this the fragrant nuttiness of toasted coconut. Then subtract any chewy raisins that may have accidentally wandered into the picture, and substitute sweet, soft dates, guaranteed not to stick in your teeth. Now mentally sandwich two of these cookies with a mascarpone-cream cheese filling. And that’s what you’ll find here. An oatmeal cookie with a little something extra, a recipe made for keeping. You can bake the cookies a few days ahead, but they are best filled within a few hours of serving.”

Ingredients:
For the cookies
80 grams shredded sweetened coconut flakes (3/4 cup)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
330 grams packed dark brown sugar (1 3/4 cups)
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
190 grams all-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups)
7 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
3 grams baking powder (1 teaspoon)
8 grams ground cinnamon (4 teaspoons)
260 grams rolled oats (3 cups)
100 grams dates, pitted and chopped (1/2 cup)
65 grams granulated sugar (5 tablespoons)
For the filling
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons mascarpone
25 grams confectioner's sugar (3 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 

Preparation
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut flakes on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly colored and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Cool. Raise oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light. Beat in brown sugar and honey, then beat until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and 1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon. With the mixer set on low, beat flour mixture into butter mixture until combined. Beat in oats, dates and toasted coconut.
4. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir together granulated sugar and remaining 3 teaspoons (6 grams) cinnamon. Roll heaping tablespoonsful of dough into balls, then roll balls in cinnamon sugar; transfer to baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between dough balls. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. Make the filling: Using the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in mascarpone, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl. Sandwich about 1 tablespoon of filling between two cookies; repeat with the remaining filling and cookies.
 

YIELD: About 36 cookies, for 18 sandwiches  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Medicine Story's Berlin Meditation

"I think we are here to be helpful. We do need to help life in general, the environment to sustain life, but the biggest job seems to be helping each other. We are here to help each other. That’s it, as far as I can tell. That’s what it is all about, plain and simple. All of morality, religion, justice, law, education, arts and sciences, what’s behind everything human beings do, our most basic instruction, is helping each other."

Saturday our friend Manitonquat (Medicine Story) sent us this reflection that we’d like to share. Manitonquat, a former Farm resident and sometimes Christiania resident is a Wampanoag elder teaching in Green Mountain College and working with Native Peoples in and out of prison. He is now writing a book about childcare. We have trimmed the size of his post to better fit this space. The longer version will be available in his Talking Stick Newsletter and in his book. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012, 7:48 PM
Circle Way, Greenville, New Hampshire

Medicine Story, photo by Albert Bates,
The Farm News Service, 2009
This is a summary, as I recall it, of what I said at a small circle in Berlin two weeks ago. I would like to make it a circle with all of you, here in cyberspace so you can read it, take the stick and respond if you choose by email.

I would like to open this circle, as always, by giving thanks to our Mother the Earth, to all her family – our plant, animal and human relatives, to all the unknown relatives in the large family of the Universe, and to the Mystery that is responsible for all of that and for our own miraculous gift of life.

I am so grateful every morning when I waken from my generally intense and interesting dreams and rejoice in the amazing fact that I am alive again. 

I wanted to tell you all what I think we are doing here. In this life on Earth, I mean. This is a basic question that only human beings can ask, and it seems we have a need to do so and decide what our lives might be all about. What are we doing here? What is this incredible gift of life about anyway? What is its purpose? We all have to answer that question for ourselves, but I want to share with you what my answer to that is.

I think we are here to be helpful. We do need to help life in general, the environment to sustain life, but the biggest job seems to be helping each other. We are here to help each other. That’s it, as far as I can tell. That’s what it is all about, plain and simple. All of morality, religion, justice, law, education, arts and sciences, what’s behind everything human beings do, our most basic instruction, is helping each other. When we get away from that – in morality, religion, justice and so on, we start to mess it all up. When we forget that everything we do is to make life better for each other (which makes it better for us) we get away from the simple purpose of our lives. The purpose of all morality, religion, law and justice, of all institutions, politics and economics is supposed to be just to make life better for us, for people.
I see that human beings have an inherent need to be helpful. We are born that way. It comes through evolution, through a hundred thousand years of becoming human by being in circles to protect and support each other.

It comes because those circles had the job of caring for babies, and human babies take longer to grow to where they can care for themselves than any animal. Its part of what makes us human, helping babies grow and caring for them. For fifteen or twenty years we learn to love and care for and help them. The years of caring for children are at least that long and it affects us. It makes us concerned, compassionate, tender and loving. The babies teach that to us, because they have started to love right there in mama’s womb and they need us and love us and want to connect deeply with us. That’s where our “humanity” comes from. And it reaches out from the parent to the family to the clan to the whole circle, the community, the village or the tribe. So we are born wanting to be helpful, we are born cooperative and caring and compassionate. And when we stick together it grows. Fear, anxiety, separation, loneliness reduce our caring and our humanness, our human response to life. So that is part of what we have in our genes coming into the world.

A stranger falls in the street and we run to help. We hear a cry and look to see if someone needs help. The most hardened criminals in our circles all want to be helpful. When we hear stories of people who pass by and turn a deaf ear to cries for help, we all shake our heads. How could they? That is not human, we agree.

When I lived in New York City I was wakened by a woman;’ scream around in the morning. I leapt from bed without thought and started for the door, my wife screaming to put on pants, which I did, feeling foolish about it. I met the superintendent outside and together we raced upstairs in the net building where a woman was screaming that she had been attacked in bed by a man who had come in her open window. I went up the fire escape and he went up the stairs and we caught the man on the roof and held him for the police. I am not especially brave, I acted only without thinking. Someone desperately called for help, and I felt very good about my natural human reaction to that.


Morning Circle, UN Climate Conference Windows of Hope,
Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009
It is this inherent need and purpose of human beings to be helpful that informs the Original Instructions which our elders transmitted to us from their elders: respect for all Creation, for individual lives, and the supporting of those lives through the circle, and giving thanks which brings everyone joy.

There are consequences to be considered if it is indeed our basic human need and purpose to be helpful. One important consideration is connection: to get as close as we can to one another. To get as close to as many of us as we can manage. To communicate our needs, as Rosenberg says in his non-violent communication teachings, and to listen with care to everyone, to invoke our natural caring and compassion and see how we can help each other.

When I am not doing so well at that I usually realize it. I need sessions to discharge on what is getting in the way of my being completely close with others (and also to affirm that I am a good man who struggles with patterns like everyone and that I am doing the best I can at all times). Then I review for myself all the ways in which I am being helpful, the things I manage to accomplish that actually achieve some good in the world.

Another consideration is to notice how our patterns, born of fear, urge us to isolate ourselves from each other or to form cliques and in-groups and separate our group from others, creating bigotry, racism, chauvinism and all other oppressions.

And so the major thrust of my life is and has been to bring people together, to reach across the walls and boundaries to other people. … I am falling in love every day, with old friends, new friends, complete strangers, with my sons and their partners, with my wife. The closer I get to everyone, the more I listen to them and open myself, the more my heart expands and the more love I feel for them. There is joy in that feeling and also pain sometimes, but I have you to share it with so all is well. More than well. It is splendid.

So what is it with your circle? Is it hard to get everyone together there? Well, of course it’s a problem with all circles in our stressful unsupportive culture. It’s our patterns of isolation, discouragement, stress, confusion. Not our fault. Not your fault. I have a fine circle here, but I have to push myself to go sometimes. I feel overwhelmed with work, not enough time. But then I remind myself that being in the circle, listening and helping others with my caring and my perspective outside of their patterns, feeling the support and encouragement of others, all that will give me strength, focus my thoughts and my will and help my work. But most of all I will feel helpful, and that reminds me who I really am.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New Division of Subsistence Homesteads

Yesterday one of the talking heads on the financial crisis opined that the recession is now inevitable, and it will not be as brief as previous ones, but “could continue for a few years.” That is an understatement. If there is a silver lining to the crisis, it is that it will delay peak oil’s drop trajectory by a few years. But make no mistake; this is the start of what James Howard Kunstler has dubbed The Long Emergency.

This past Monday, Mr. Kunstler, who generates metaphors faster than a tennis practice machine pumps balls, came up with a humdinger. He said the financial crisis is hitting us the way a tsunami does. “The current disappearance of wealth in the form of debts repudiated, bets welshed on, contracts cancelled, and Lehman Brothers-style sob stories played out is like the withdrawal of the sea.” But in his rapid-fire metaphorization, there is an opportunity missed. Yes, the October Surprise financial crisis is the withdrawal of the sea, but the coming wave is not monetary inflation, as Kunstler would have it, but Peak Oil. Whether we get inflation, deflation, or both, what is coming is a tidal wave that will wash a long distance inshore, leaving nothing we would recognize as today’s city life in its wake.

Separately and simultaneously, Richard Heinberg compares the crisis to the Great Depression, and says that the government’s response should be informed by what worked then. Heinberg proposes a “New Green Deal.” Instead of propping up failing financial institutions, the new president must inject investment into the real economy by supporting wide-ranging but tightly coordinated projects to create far more renewable energy generation capacity, build railroads and public transport facilities, insulate millions of homes while providing alternative heat sources, and re-configure the national food system to dramatically reduce and soon eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

I’ll take that a step farther and remind readers that Franklin Roosevelt was also a little slow to adjust to what was required in the way of social programs, but, led by his wife, Eleanor, eventually did the right thing. In 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt started the Victory Garden movement and, by 1945, 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in this country. She did it over the strenuous objections of the Department of Agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture also opposed organic gardening for decades, until the oil crises of the 1970s, when, after its own scientists showed how competitive it could be and how it could get the US off imported oil, it became an advocate, sort of. The Reagan Revolution ended that. The Republicans killed it with a total purge of the Department and buried the evidence. USDA was even forbidden to use the word “organic” and had to come up with “Sustainable Agriculture” as a euphemism.

Today, in New York and Boston, there are allotment gardens for people without access to land. Those in New York City were started by Brad Will when he was working for the Sixth Street Community Center, before he went off to die in Oaxaca. As Michael Pollen observed recently, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling than merely asking people to shop green.

Another New Deal program that seems lost to history but could be revived is the Resettlement Administration, a U.S. federal agency that, between April 1935 and December 1936, relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned and built by the federal government.

The Resettlement Administration was originally under the United States Department of Agriculture as the Division of Subsistence Homesteads. It was folded into the Farm Security Administration from 1937 until 1942.

The Resettlement Administration worked with nearly 200 communities, each of several hundred homes, to help residents escape poverty; show that cooperative management can work, and as an experiment in cooperative ownership of the village, including the businesses, which experimented with microlending, peer management review, and other innovative practices. It was killed by the Republicans during the McCarthy witch hunt.

The intentional communities movement in the US began mostly after WWII by pacifists and war resisters who picked up where the Resettlement Administration left off. Today there are several hundred thriving intentional communities in the USA and many more in other parts of the world. From intentional communities sprang ecovillages, a movement that has more than a million residents worldwide today. These were the fruit of that brief experimental period of the 1930s, the sketchpad for the route to higher ground as the tsunami approaches.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer Reruns

‘tis the season of summer beaches and merriment, but I can’t resist submitting for your reading enjoyment this splendid post by George Washington.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
WTC 7 Solved: It Was Ivins!

Following is a leaked version of NIST's August 21st announcement as to the cause of the collapse of World Trade Center 7 on 9/11.

The government destroyed the steel from ground zero, because we believed it might not have been allowed as evidence at trial.

However, we did ship one steel beam to someone, who sold it to a junk yard in China for scrap metal, which melted it down to make Olympic trinkets, one of which was shipped back to us yesterday.

After testing that steel using very secret, super-advanced, but Incredibly Accurate new methods, we have determined that residue on the steel matches certain aspects of Ivins' desk in his lab at Fort Detrick (true, it also matches the desks from at least 16 different laboratories throughout the world, but our super-advanced testing has shown that we do not need to talk to anyone at those other labs).

While previously, experts said that no modern steel-frame high-rise had ever collapsed due to fire alone, that the fires in building 7 were not that hot or widespread, that building 7 collapsed at virtually free-fall speed, and that the building must have been brought down by controlled demolition, government scientists now say that isn't true.

Government scientists now know that one disturbed individual (especially if he likes sorority girls), acting alone, can weaken thick core columns, melt (and even partially evaporate) structural steel, and cause molten steel to continue boiling for months afterwards simply by having bad energy (especially if he looks geeky).

Government investigators have created a new timeline showing that between the time Ivins created super-advanced weaponized anthrax all by himself without advanced equipment and the time he returned for a routine meeting at Ft. Detrick later that day, he drove to Manhattan and glowered with evil intent at building 7.

This case is now solved, and we our closing down our investigation.

Anyone who doubts our conclusion is a conspiracy theorist who should go look for anthrax spores on a grassy knoll.
For more from George Washington, why the FBI admits it has no case against Ivins, how the anthrax went from brown sand-like quality to high-tech nanoparticles of polymerized glass over the course of multiple attacks (attacks, it should be mentioned, against those most likely to oppose passage of the Patriot Act) and odd coincidences between the anthrax attacks, the Iraq forgeries and 9-11 (not to mention the JFK assassination), visit George Washington's Blog. I have taken a good deal of pleasure in watching this unfold in the past month, in no small part buoyed by my recent viewing of the TNT 2000 made-for-cable movie, Nuremberg, now available for rental in DVD.

In Nuremberg, Alec Baldwin, as Robert H. Jackson, gives one of the best opening statements by a prosecutor in recorded history. Nothing is overstated or grandiloquent. He merely puts the court itself on trial, with civilization in the balance.
Under the clutch of the most intricate web of espionage and intrigue that any modern state has endured, and persecution and torture of a kind that has not been visited upon the world in man centuries, the elements of the German population which were both decent and courageous were annihilated. Those which were decent but weak were intimidated. Open resistance, which had never been more than feeble and irresolute, disappeared.

***

The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization. In all countries it is still a struggling and imperfect thing. It does not plead that the United States, or any other country, has been blameless of the conditions which made the German people easy victims to the blandishments and intimidations of the Nazi conspirators.

But it points to the dreadful sequence of aggressions and crimes I have recited, it points to the weariness of flesh, the exhaustion of resources and the destruction of all that was beautiful or useful in so much of the world, and to greater potentialities for destruction in the days to come. It is not necessary among the ruins of this ancient and beautiful city with untold members of its civilian habitants still buried in its rubble, to argue the proposition that to start or wage an aggressive war has the moral qualities of the worst of crimes. The refuge of the defendants can be only their hope that international law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law.

Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance. It does not expect that you can make war impossible. It does expect that your juridical action will put the forces of international law, its precepts, its prohibitions and, most of all, its sanctions, on the side of peace, so that men and women of good will, in all countries, may have "leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law."
We could have this kind of renewal of idealism again, if we want it now. With the anthrax attacks, Iraq forgeries and 9-11, all of the elements are in place. In Nuremberg in 1945, the defendants were indicted on four counts: conspiracy to wage an aggressive war (Committee for a New American Century, Cheney Energy Task Force, Italian Memo, 9-11, Iraq forgeries, UN Security Council perjured testimony, Valerie Wilson), waging an aggressive (pre-emptive) war, violating the rules of war (Geneva Convention, UN charter), and crimes against humanity (the UN Declaration of Human Rights, for instance, would prohibit extraordinary rendition, black sites, torture of non-combatants and children). I submit that a prima facie case has now been made on all four counts against 20 or more defendants in the present or recent Executive Branch, bolstered by their own admissions and tell-all bestsellers.

All that we lack is a Justice Robert Jackson, and the will to prosecute.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Doomers and Sowing the Seeds of Peace

There is an on-going theme in the Peak Oil and Climate Change communities — the difference of opinion between the doomers and the fixers. Increasingly, as the fixers realize the full scope of the challenge and watch in disbelief how little is being done, they eventually gravitate more towards the doomer position.

Hard-core doomers think in terms of die-off, and see the process as a violent struggle that will envelop the world in brutality. James Lovelock, for the climate doomers, believes humanity will devolve to a few struggling tribes in the very high latitudes. Matt Savinar, heir apparent to Mike Ruppert on the Peak Oil doomer side, sees wilderness bunkers stocked with food, water and ammo.

Soft-landers, such as myself, have a tough sell.

In an odd kind of way, Dmitry Orlov has helped me out with a new book, Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects. For those who have read Naomi Klein’s recent work, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, the collapse and aftermath of the Former Soviet Union will be familiar territory. Orlov came to the US as a teenager and traveled back to Russia during its special period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. He brings a wry, sardonic humor to his descriptions and predictions that helps the medicine go down.

Orlov wants to get us to ask fundamental questions of all aspects of our daily existence — food, housing, energy, transportation, communication, savings, medical — that betray an underlying sense of hope. His two central questions are “’Is it collapse-proof?’” and, if it is not, ‘What can I do to make it collapse-proof?’” He writes, “If, for a given thing, the answers turn out to be ‘No’ and ‘Nothing,’ then the very important follow-up question should be: ‘How can I live without it?’”

Learning to do without all “the stuff” opens the door to a much better life, whether we were to experience Peak Oil and Climate Change, or not (and who thinks “not” is very likely, now?)

Orlov scorns the archetype of the American Survivalist, holed up in the hills with a bomb shelter, tins of spam and an assortment of guns and ammo “with which to fight off neighbors from further downhill” in favor of a more pragmatic approach.

“It’s not a bad idea to own a few of everything you will need, but you should also invest in things you will be able to trade for things you will need. Think of consumer necessities that require high technology and have a long shelf life. Here are some suggestions to get you started: drugs (over-the-counter and prescription), razor blades, condoms. Toiletries, such as good soap, will be luxury items.”

To this short shopping list I would add seed. When the tractors run dry, we will once more become a world of small farmers. As everyone plows up their suburban yards and rushes to the store to buy seed for potatoes, onions, carrots and beans (a nice Irish stew, that), they may discover that the shelves have already been picked clean. That happened in Russia. So, put seed packets in a shoebox in your closet, and be sure to rotate through to keep them fresh. Although germination diminishes with time spent in storage, a few seeds always seem to get through. Oh, and something more mouse-proof than a shoebox might be a good idea.

There are many seed banks in the world today. Some are governmental or intergovernmental. Some are private or commercial. Seed Savers Exchange, started by Diane Ott and Kent Whealy in 1975, has gone viral. In 2008, the Global Crop Diversity Trust will spend $260 million to stock the backup’s backup, hoarding 4.5 million samples from other banks on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, in the Arctic Circle (78°13’ N, 15°33’ E). According to press accounts, there are only two reasons a seed would ever leave this vault: (1) to be replaced by a fresh sample or (2) to reseed a crop that’s been wiped off the earth. The Gates Foundation is the biggest donor, making a 2-to-1 grant with the Norwegian government.

Stored at the temperature of the earth on Spitsbergen, corn will store about 1125 years, wheat 1700, sorghum about 20,000.

Given what we now know about sudden astrophysical or geomorphic calamities that have ended epochs and begun new ones on our fragile planet, having a seed backup backup is a great idea. It would have been nice if we had a backup for the atmosphere or our energy future, but we didn’t, so what comes next will be very different, and unsettling.

It need not be brutal, however. As Robert Anson Wilson said, “the best antidote to stupidity is a strong counter-game.” We should be seeding peace, justice, pacifism, and non-violent conflict resolution the same way we plant a garden. This is not an impossible dream. Just in the way that Naomi Klein said the neo-con/neo-liberal think tanks (those who have the tanks do the thinking) laid their elaborate plans and natural or other disasters provided the opportunities, the peace and justice community has the ability to organize, inspire, and put forward its own plans when crisis strikes.

People get ready.



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