To the Thawing Wind
by Robert Frost
Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out the door.
Image by ex-Bowen Islander Jason Wilde, Killarney Lake, Feb. 2019
CIVILIZATION’S ACCLERATING COLLAPSE
Since I last wrote about Kate’s model above, most of the orange areas of socio-economic scarcity and inequity have grown worse, and most of the orange areas of ecological excess and waste have grown worse. We seem determined to have the worst of both worlds — destroying the ecological balance upon which all life on earth depends, and so mis-distributing the “spoils” of our ecological despoiling that, instead of alleviating inequity, poverty, scarcity and suffering, we have ignored or aggravated them and allowed our social and economic systems to further stagnate and decay. The “doughnut” is getting much thinner, and time is running out.
I haven’t been writing a lot about civilization’s ongoing collapse, since there really isn’t much new to say. It is encouraging that groups like XR are starting to look at the broader collapse picture than just climate change, now using the acronym CEE — Climate and Ecological Emergency — to incorporate all 10 ecological crises shown in the outer circle on the chart above. But at the same time they are being pressured to incorporate the 12 socio-economic crises, shown in the inner circle of the chart. I would assert it’s now an impossible balance — aggressively addressing either emergency will almost surely exacerbate the other — and the tension is showing up in a rupture between progressive environmental activists and progressive “social justice” activists. How this tension will play out will be important, and fascinating to watch. Meanwhile, social and economic conservatives (who are also mostly climate change deniers) are still saying: “Wha, wha… what emergency?”
“Normal could well mean the end of global civilization as we know it”: Roy Scranton laments that in our exhaustion and desperation to return to “normal” we are presuming to resume the ecological devastation that is threatening to make much of the planet uninhabitable, and the rest merely awful:
Going back to normal now means returning to a course that will destabilize the conditions for all human life, everywhere on earth. Normal means more fires, more category 5 hurricanes, more flooding, more drought, millions upon millions more migrants fleeing famine and civil war, more crop failures, more storms, more extinctions, more record-breaking heat. Normal means the increasing likelihood of civil unrest and state collapse, of widespread agricultural failure and collapsing fisheries, of millions of people dying from thirst and hunger, of new diseases, old diseases spreading to new places and the havoc of war.
Cartoon in the New Yorker by Ngozi Ukazu
For the People Act, take two: Democrats have reintroduced their far-reaching 2019 act to stop gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement and discouragement, and reduce the influence of money on elections through campaign finance reform. The 2019 version was, interestingly, opposed by the ACLU. Who knows if this one will succeed. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.
Trump OKs buprenorphine for treatment of addiction: In one of the Trump administration’s final acts, it approved a guideline removing onerous certification requirements for prescribing buprenorphine, “the gold standard for treating individuals suffering from opioid use disorder“. It is also the gold standard for treating chronic pain without the commensurate risk of addiction. Unless it is blocked by Biden, this could be the most humane, progressive thing Trump accomplished in his entire term.
The joy of small, courageous things: A fellow Bowen Islander movingly explains why he is happy driving a school bus during the pandemic.
Canada’s Senate confronts Trudeau’s cowardice: Canada’s unelected Senate showed itself to be more progressive and less indulgent of right-wing right-to-life groups than the elected Commons, by approving an amendment to the new draft right to die with dignity act that would allow people who fear losing mental capacity to make an advance request for medically-assisted death when that happens. Now Trudeau has to take a stand, by approving or rejecting the amendment. I’m not optimistic, but if he won’t act, the courts will again rule the law unconstitutional, and we’ll be back to square one until the ditherer is replaced with someone with backbone.
Yes, we actually mean “abolish the police”: Toronto’s Rinaldo Walcott argues eloquently for the abolition of police, incarceration, and ultimately the legal concept of ‘property’, replaced by less caste-ist, more communitarian and equitable means of dealing with the endemic social problems of our modern society.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
From the New Yorker, by Barry Blitt
Hank Green on the media, attention, validation, and Gamestop: The Vlogbrother brilliantly explains why the media are now us: all about attention, influence, affirmation, and how that brings with it commensurate responsibility to the rest of the world. And why the power play between overpaid Wall Street market gamblers and mischievous small investors is not a dangerous ploy, but rather a finger pointed sharply at the Ponzi scheme that is the stock market and its shameful “hedge fund” exploiters.
The sickness of our food supply: Michael Pollan explains how fragile our oligopolistic, monoculture food supply is, and the incredible dangers that disruptions like the pandemic pose to it. Only a radically relocalized, resilient food system can prevent future crises that are even worse. And Sarah Taber explains that, just as an example, the massively-subsidized US corn industry exists solely “to turn rural land into a dependable & infinitely fungible financial asset”. Thanks to Peter Kaminski for the links.
We don’t care about “drug addicts”: Despite the simple solutions of making possession of drugs legal, opening up access to non-addictive alternatives like buprenorphine (see story above), and treating this as a true mental health and poverty crisis with appropriate social interventions, both the supposedly progressive BC Premier Horgan and the supposedly progressive Canadian PM Trudeau have done nothing, clearly conveying that, while they care about pandemic sufferers, they don’t care about people dying of toxic street drugs, which killed twice as many people in BC last year as CoVid-19. Horgan has even said that street drug use is a “choice”. Blame the victim. Disgusting.
Horgan deep-sixes UBI: The fake-socialist BC premier also, through the use of a carefully-stacked “panel” of conservatives, has used their report to cancel all plans to introduce a universal basic income in BC, and ramp up existing social programs instead. The trumped-up report, lauded by the clueless BC Green Party, was immediately criticized by the expert who has shown how effective UBI can be, Evelyn Forget, who said it in one sentence: “Those programs are designed to keep people dependent on the system instead of allowing their autonomy to flourish.”
Biden continues rogue ICE agency: Despite the superficial change in power, the deportations and mistreatment of immigrants continues unabated. Biden has also come out as an anti-Palestine zealot, condemning the minuscule BDS protests against Israel.
The cost of racism to Blacks: What is lost in the debate over “reparations” is that this is not guilt or atonement money, but an attempt to rectify the centuries-old systemic, entrenched racism and caste-ism that prevents descendants of oppressed minorities from ever being able to achieve a level of equity commensurate with that of privileged castes. It has been repeatedly shown that there is essentially no “upward mobility” path in western societies — the wealth and privilege you are born with, or not, is almost certainly your lifelong lot. Here’s a set of charts that illustrates how true this is. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.
cartoons from XKCD (Randall Munroe), of course
The reluctance to admit what we don’t know: In this age of instant experts, we have seen during CoVid-19 a terrible fear on the part of scientists to admit what we think is likely, but don’t know for sure. Zeynep Tüfekçi explains that his stems in part from fear of “you were wrong” accusations with the benefit of hindsight, but also stems from a tacit, unhealthy assumption, that until we know “for sure” we should just shut up and keep studying. In complex systems we never know anything for sure. We have to act on “the best currently available evidence”.
There is currently a controversy over whether vaccines prevent or blunt transmission. You won’t remember that one, soon, either, because the answer is that everything we know about how this disease spreads, and the preliminary data we have, indicates that they will, to some degree and likely substantially. But we’re waiting for more clarity on how much. So the current advice remains (as it should) that vaccinated people should keep wearing masks, especially around unvaccinated people—but there is little reason to constantly focus on this. If we are somehow surprised and transmission from vaccinated people remains high, we will know soon enough. If not, we will adjust. And then the controversy over this issue will be forgotten, too, after having further confused the public and damaged trust in institutions.
More current developments on the pandemic:
- Atul Gawande painstakingly explains how the extreme libertarian culture in the Dakotas (and many other places) has made it impossible to respond sensibly to the pandemic.
- How BC (and other places) could (still) get to CoVid-19 Zero. But we won’t.
- The unsolved mystery of India’s plummeting CoVid-19 cases and deaths.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
variations on a theme: top one appears British, original source not known; bottom one is American —
so which one best describes your community’s page?
The cognitive bias codex: An organized list of all the illogical things we think and feel. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
Breath-taking: An explanation of how, improbably, our lungs work.
Cellular landscape: A 3D rendering of a cross-section of a single cell, using nuclear resonance imaging.
The best Last Supper?: Plautilla Nelli’s massive 450-year-old masterpiece finally sees the light of day. Thanks to Natasha Chart for the link.
Should gay characters only be played by gay actors?: Jonathan Pie says this is PC gone mad. But does the same logic apply to the playing of men by women, and vice versa? And the playing of BIPOC people by whites?
How improv can make you a better parent: Why “yes, and…” is more effective than “but”. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link (and the one that follows).
A game designer’s take on QAnon: Or, how to get people to look for patterns when there really aren’t any.
Crazy ping pong tricks: Amazing, but of course we aren’t seeing the outtakes.
RADICAL NON-DUALITY STUFF (Godot Waiting Edition)
Some great non-duality talks:
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
cartoon by Sofia Warren in the New Yorker
From Caitlin Johnstone:
Americans: healthcare please
Government: Sorry did you say a new military base in northeastern Syria?
Americans: no, healthcare
Government: Alright you drive a hard bargain but here’s a new military base in northeastern Syria.
It’s self-evident that Silicon Valley oligarchs conspiring to censor conspiracy theories will not eliminate conspiracy theories; the only thing that can end conspiracy theorizing is for the government to become transparent and cease conspiring. So naturally we’re going with the censorship via Silicon Valley oligarchs thing.
At a time of great need the US government is letting its citizens freeze, go broke, get evicted, and die of preventable illnesses, so obviously it’s of paramount importance right now for Americans to rise up with one voice and direct their righteous anger at China.
I’m in an airport when suddenly I feel the chill in the air. What’s even the point? I’m about to fly to Milwaukee on a Tuesday afternoon, about to herd with other moderately intelligent apes into a tube that will spew a truly astonishing amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in order to transport us from one population center to a different one. Nothing that anyone has to do in Milwaukee really matters, because nothing really matters. There’s no point to the human endeavor in the largest sense. We will leave no permanent legacy in this impermanent universe, and our central lasting contribution to Earth will be that we were the first species to grow powerful enough to muck up the planet…
Your nine-year-old points out two squirrels racing up an immense American Sycamore tree, its white bark peeling in patches, its leaves bigger than dinner plates. You think, my God that’s a beautiful tree. It must be a hundred years old, maybe more. Later, you’ll go home and read up on sycamores and learn that there are sycamore trees alive today that date back more than three hundred years, trees that are older than your nation… But for now you’re just looking up at that tree, thinking about how it turned dirt and water and sunshine into wood and bark and leaves, how it turned nothing into a place where squirrels play, and you realize you are in the vast dark shade of this giant tree, and that’s the point.
From Lauren K Alleyne (also pre-CoVid-19):
Nothing to Declare
There is no name for what rises in you
as you enter the dim world of the taxi
and wheel through the night, escorted
by smooth jazz and a battalion of street-
lights. At the airport, you heave the bags
you have stuffed to the limits of carriage
and check them in. You have no trouble
knowing what to do with your empty
hands. At security, the usual stripping.
You surrender your body to the scan,
the searching sweep, as if what is dangerous
is not what cannot be so easily detected.
You comply. At the gate, grateful to be
early, you sit with your books, plug in
devices that tether you to this place
you’re meant to be leaving, that crowd
out thoughts of arrival and its bittersweet
complications. Yuh going home or just visiting,
someone will ask, and you never know
how you will answer. You know the bones
of your mother’s brown arms will wind
around you, her breath against your neck
will baptize you again in names you have
no one to call you in the other place
you belong to. You know the waiting
untended in you will surge toward her,
and you know something else will sink,
sulk itself into a familiar, necessary sleep.
You know yourself now only as the ocean
knows this island—always pulling away,
always, always, returning.