Peddling Over the Cliff

George Monbiot in  his blog “The Great  Unmentionable” once again  powerfully articulates the insanity of consumerism -the relentless drive by  governments, media and corporates to encourage us all  to not only maintain  our spending on  foolish things, but to increase it.

Monbiot points out that it is not  heating lighting and transport which  are the predominant carbon  emission culprits-it is the “stuff’  we buy – which  increasingly is produced for “us’  Westerners by  ‘those’ people over there.

In its quest  for economic   growth  and more wealth  for the wealthy, corporates attempt to  even commodify nature; where would we be for instance without our little sticky labels on  our fruit and veges, not knowing  which  international  conglomerate had marketed that piece of produce?

But by far the most insidious aspect  of consumption of  “stuff” is the central part it plays in the relentless destruction of  the natural world- the loss of natural habitat, the annihilation of species after species, for  more pieces of short-lived pieces of ‘stuff ‘ that no human will want in  a  year  or so.

The environment may be able to be resurrected  after the factories have been pulled down, as some artificial and dumbed-down version of true nature -but without the ever-growing list  of  extinct  species that  can never return to us.

SAM_2053
Maple Trees in Autumn

 

As our species becomes more and more urbanised, we lose our  awareness of our indelible link  with nature; our capacity to just  watch  and listen  and wonder at  the glorious  real world around us ;  our heads  down  watching  ‘smartphone” screens or  plugged in  to our latest preference for noise on our mp3 player. We become  immune to the beauty  and randomness and unexpectedness of nature of which  we are an integral  member-and  have blinded ourselves to that reality.

Instead of being open  and alive to  new and unexpected events and situations, we increasingly self-select our perception of the world from  an ever-narrowing mechanical IT menu driven by  our past experience.

We lose our connectedness to  the world around us-our inherent knowledge that we are transient fragile beings like all  other sentient things on this planet: that  we are different-but no better-  than all  the other species we live with.

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Postscript:

A great little article on  international  debt and how it fuels the crazy  cycle of “growth”  by Dinyar Godrej at the New Internationalist

Debt – a global scam

The standard response to the current financial crisis has been to punish the presumed debtors. Are the creditors blameless, then? asks Dinyar Godrej.

It’s almost a reflex. Think about debt and we think first about something owed. Then come secondary considerations of whether it ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ be paid back, how this should happen, and whether possible.

Large outstanding personal debts – say a mortgage taken out during a housing bubble – can turn even the stoutest of us into ‘quivering insomniac jellies of hopeless indebtedness’ (as Margaret Atwood so accurately puts it). Debt is, we feel, whatever the rights or wrongs, ‘our own fault’.

We can’t help it, we are socialized to take such a moral view of debt.

 

“Not with a Bang” or “Peak Capitalism”

T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men alludes to the end of the world coming “not with a bang, but with a whimper..” However the end of capitalism  will not be the end of the world; far from it.  It will be a glorious new beginning for humans and the other species on this planet.

In  a  blink  of evolution’s eye, capitalism  has done more damage to  the planet we co-habitate, than any meteorite strike or cataclysmic galactic event. The destruction of species is occurring at  phenomenal  speed, the  changes to  our climate through  gaseous emissions, the poisoning  of much  of our planet for millenium… and for what?- a bank balance with lots of numbers?, some pretty things that  self-destruct in  your hands after a year or two?, the capacity to  tell  your friends about  all the places you have seen?; merely “Dust in the Wind”  as the band Kansas would say..

To change the direction of  this juggernaut of self-destruction requires more than political  will,  a mass movement or  a United Nations declaration; we are all of on board this juggernaut -whether we are up there in  the driving seat, or hanging on for dear  life on the roof desperately  trying  to  claw our way inside to the easy seats while it hurtles towards oblivion.  We all  have an investment in  ensuring  that this insane model  of “progress” continues;  we are “locked in”  for the ride. .. (the university degree that  you  spent all  those  years sweating over  so you could get the job of your dreams,  the expensive house you spent years slaving away  at a  horrible job to afford, or simply the years you spent at the factory so  your kids could get  an education…)

However some have a greater investment in it than others.

John Peterson from the Arlington Institute  argues it this way:

It’s almost as though there is a “coefficient of adaptation” associated with human societies that varies with the relative level of “development” (whatever that means) which describes the amount of change that a social system can effectively assimilate without becoming unstable. It’s not just quantitative, but also qualitative, having clear hot-button issues (often related to women and the role of government) that, if pushed too hard, accelerate the movement toward state change.

What also happens, of course, is that the powers that be, regardless of the particular discipline or sector, see the abrupt change as a threat and, like white corpuscles rushing to staunch a wound, leap forward in defense of the status quo – regardless of the relative merit of the new proposal. This is where I get hung up. It’s as though the “system” embraces the status quo, even though things are clearly not working very well and treats thoughtful new proposals as mortal threats, even as people die and suffer because of the present policies. And it’s not just that they defend the status quo, but that they leap to attack the new ideas in very non-rational and sometimes inhumane terms

Does all  this imply we should all be living as medieval peasants in  some country idyll?

Kelp
Kelp seaweed

 

No ,  but we can, if we have time,  start to turn the wheel, take the foot off the accelerator and truly experience the scenery-instead of watching it whipping past in  a blur. Imagine if the money  and hype that is now put into selling this or that useless product,  was instead put into showing you how to  work alongside your neighbour,  how to create living spaces around us instead of neat  and tidy  ones, how to co-exist with the other species we live alongside, how to avoid conflict  and promote peace, how to  stop and just  enjoy these brief moments we all have in  this life.

Yes, we surely need good sanitation,  clean water, cheap healthy  food and good shelter. There is plenty to  go  around  for all  the billions of humans on  this planet right now. Yes we  will need to  learn how to  consume less and enjoy more; there are plenty of tools out there to do that right now if one cares to look.

We cannot afford to have  people  control  this world and its resources whose only interest is the production of power and money  for themselves and to hell  with everything and everyone else. Those fools are dragging us  to oblivion , the point at  which literally this planet  becomes a hell-hole. Poisoning  the world and its living things, paving over the  living earth, killing our  fellow species, for a few cheap  baubles -that is truly insane. Sadly we are all  “locked-in”: -we cannot see the madness.

But, there is a saving grace to this. While Lovelock has reneged on   his  view of the Earth  as a living entity “Gaia”- this planet has not!  We are rapidly reaching the point as humans where we are opening our eyes to  the damage we have caused;  where the cost  of “improving’  or maintaining our standard of living becomes too great-we have reached “peak  capitalism”.

And just  as with “peak oil”,  the point of optimum utilization of a particular process  is invisible to the onlooker;  the  forces change and adapt. The price of oil rises inexorably year by year  but we only notice the ebbs and falls; the capacity to  pump  oil crude out of the ground wanes, but production stays with demand  as we develop  more costly and more environmentally damaging  processes  like shale oil… and  consequently economies begin  their progressive  wilt under  the ongoing pressure….

The fundamental flaws in  the capitalist  system become ever-widening abysses into the unknown; and we have the opportunity now to create something wonderful for ourselves as human beings and for  our fellow species on  this planet.

That opportunity is neither capitalism or communism  or any other “ism” created to  capture or -redistribute the “wealth” of this planet. It is an understanding that we are not the guardians of this planet, (we have made the most appalling job of trying to do that!);  we are simply co-habitators whose guidance will  come from listening and valuing everything around us.

 

 

Valueing Sentient Beings

In recent days we have seen vast Western media publicity on the Boston Marathon bombings: the dead, the wounded and the  likely perpetrators. At the same time, more than 140 people have been killed in multiple bombings in  Iraq with almost no  Western publicity.  And no  doubt,   many more “invisible” killings in  other countries have occurred  over that period, including at  least  5 people killed by  US drone attacks,  ‘collateral damage’  killings  in  Afghanistan,  not to mention  the mercenary wars going on in Mali  and other regions in  Africa, and  the Burmese civil  wars.

In my world view, every being killed is worthy  of equal  respect  and value as another. I  believe it is important if we are to be  truly compassionate human beings; (and is it not compassion that marks us as  being fully human?), that  we pay our  respects to those who have been  killed and wounded  in Boston, but that  we also  also  pay our  respects to all  those who  have died  elsewhere. I will also mourn all  those multitudes of beings from other species who  we as humans have killed in  our war  against our own environment; whether it be  through   our “need’  to  eat other fellow mammals or fish, or simply the collateral damage from  agri-business, mining,  logging, chemical spills, or our relentless need to seal the ground over for roads, carparks and buildings…..

Why  are we so  selective in  our valuing some humans over other humans,  and why  are humans so highly prized over other species on  this planet?

In my understanding, we value those who  are most like us, and de-value those who  are not like us-the other”.  That  “otherness” is encompassed in  our judgements about everything about our world; from people with other skin  colours not our own,  to  living beings who are not ‘cuddly’ and warm (and furry?) like us mammals. In  addition, from birth we are fed a diet of  reminders of what  a savage world it is outside , and only “we”, the familial clan,  can protect  you.  Upbringing, fear, ignorance and  a small  smattering of genes, all combine to give us permission to  brutalize all  those who  are “other”.

Without these selective filters on our senses, we would be able to see that  “we”  are no better  than “them” , we are fundamentally and unequivocally equal ;  we co-habit this little blue ball  together, and for own  collective wellbeing we must  nourish  and protect our fellow travellers on  this journey through the universe.

Are we really that simpleminded and judgemental  and superficial to do otherwise?- it would sadly appear so.

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Postscript:

Harmony – the ultimate goal between humans and nature by  Yuan Tze

 

 

THE BEES BAD KNEES

In  the last few years, New Zealand has seen  a massive decline in  honey bees. In my little garden  in  summer a few years ago, when all the flowers would be at  their peak, there would be many more honey bees than bumblebees and german wasps; but no longer. This year  the number of honey bees I sighted all summer, I could  count on  two hands.

“Uncontaminated ” research- ie not funded by  chemical  companies, has established clear correlations between  CCD  (Colony Collapse Disorder) and  pesticides  called neonicotinoids; chemically similar to  nicotine . The most common of these is a pesticide called imidacloprid. Two others are clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

However the correlations are not precise;  it appears to  require  cumulative poisoning over months and perhaps years for the effects of the neonicotinoids to  wreak  their havoc on bees. And as with other poisoning effects ,  the impacts on  the bees may lead to   a lack  of resistance to other diseases which  can not be directly attributable to the neonicotinoids. The EU has recommended a two year ban  on  the use of neonicotinoids in  specific circumstances, but that may go nowhere to  identify or address the issues of CCD. Nature is by  definition messy  and complex,  while man’s actions are linear and relatively unsophisticated. We may not be absolutely sure of the correlations-yet the results are very very clear and disastrous for us all.

As Jill  Richardson, in her How We Could Prevent Massive Bee Deaths and Save Our Food article notes at  Alternet, Although there’s little private citizens can do, beyond submitting comments to the EPA about these pesticides, contacting your representatives, and perhaps even getting your own beehive, you might be surprised to find out that these toxic pesticides are widely available for home use. Bayer sells imidacloprid in products sold for use on roses, flowers, shrubs, trees (even fruit and nut trees!), and lawns. Even the flea treatment Advantage sold for your pet contains it!

Once again  we see the power of corporates to distort  research, government  agency decision-making,  and the  truth; even while knowing that the results of their actions are environmentally disastrous for us all.

 

Cicada
cicada

 

Repeatedly, throughout the 20th  and 21st  centuries, we have seen the power of money over-ride the  intrinsic  value and beauty of this world’s environment,.  our co-habiting species and even homo sapiens’  wellbeing.  Like the cumulative   destructive power of neonicotinoids,  we are seeing the cumulative destruction of our planet  for corporate greed beginning to descend on us at ever-increasing speed.

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Postscript:

Read a further article on Activist Post by Heather Callaghan entitled, ‘Noid Rage & Angry Birds: EPA Sued over Declining Bees, Called on to Stop Bird Deaths

 

A coalition of interest groups, activists and beekeepers took the issue into their own hands on Thursday to slash the use of bee-killing pesticides in an effort to protect them and the future of food. Pesticide Action Network (PAN), Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and four beekeepers are among the team who want bees safe from the chemicals that include clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Even if it takes suing the government. How are they able to bring a case against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for this problem?

Postscript:

A further article on  this issue by  By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC World Service entitled Neonicotinoid pesticides ‘damage brains of bees’  or http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21958547 ,which beautifully articulates the hypocrisy and deliberate attempts to obfuscate by  the chemical sellers.

5 Astonishing Facts About Bee-killing Systemic Pesticides