I find myself these days vacillating between a state of quite blissful equanimity (a very new thing in my life) and a state of almost existential dread. As with most humans, I suspect, this is largely affected by immediate personal circumstances — in my case, the latest trajectory of my health and/or finances. In other respects (work stress, relationships, etc) my life is pretty stable.
My state of mind seems now much less affected by my perceptions about the state of the world. Partly this is due to the realization that there is nothing much that can be done about ecological or economic collapse, about the threats of war and nuclear escalation, about the political upheavals in the increasingly unstable nation to the south, about pandemics or natural disasters, or any of the other risks we now face, day-to-day. We can learn and practice new skills, and hope they will help us navigate collapse a bit better. But the world will go on, with or without us, so I now figure I might as well just enjoy the ride, and the opportunity to witness this remarkable time in this remarkable place.
Somehow, in spite of everything, it seems to be getting easier to do so.
image from a new study published in Science magazine. The loss of ice, sea ice, permafrost, reefs, glaciers, boreal and tropical forests, the release of underground and undersea methane, and the disruption of air and ocean currents, all exacerbate climate collapse caused by human carbon emissions into the atmosphere
Teetering on the edge: We are currently sitting right on the edge of passing many tipping points that will plunge the globe into runaway climate change.
Civilization’s suicide: Chris Hedges explains how our civilization’s collapse will be similar in its nature and style to past collapses, but vastly greater in scale. The earth, he says, will soon not be able to support more than a billion humans. Thanks to John Whiting for the link, and the three that follow.
52 meter sea level rise?: New research suggests the vast East Antarctic ice sheet is much more vulnerable to climate change than thought — even half of it melting would submerge two billion people’s homes in the ocean.
The impact of “limited” nuclear war: A landmark study of the impact of a small-scale nuclear war between India and Pakistan reveals that it would produce enough global cooling and agricultural collapse to cause as much as half the world’s population to die of starvation, even in countries half a world away from the conflict.
Death by fire, death by water: Climate change is simultaneously causing the greatest droughts in recorded history across the globe, and some of the greatest and most destructive flooding.
Or death by salt: Human activity is accelerating salt pollution around the globe, far more than desalination plants can compensate for. The consequences for the health of humans and other life forms are known, but nothing is being done to address the problem. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
What is humanly possible: Hank Green describes the massive, relentless and perilous effort of thousands that went into the recent surprise climate agreement approved in the US. It’s good news, but it’s just a tiny start, and achieving anything more at any scale will be even more difficult and more unlikely.
cartoon by the extraordinary Michael Leunig
Our deadly western diet: Our nutrition-poor diets are, by a mile, the largest contributor to death and disease in the western world. Finally, some nations are seriously looking at a national strategy to address this massive problem.
…and how entrepreneurs can help: I’m delighted that friends of mine at 100km Foods in Ontario have won yet another award for their business connecting producers and consumers of healthy foods.
Letting midwives provide abortion services: A midwife explains how letting their profession do abortions would save time and money and make the service safer and more accessible.
Improving primary care: By their focus on just-in-time walk-in clinics and tele-health, many jurisdictions in Canada are missing the opportunity to help our citizens get more holistic health care grounded in a more thorough knowledge of each person’s health and history — something only our currently understaffed and underfunded primary care services can properly provide.
Jeremy Corbyn calls for peace in Ukraine; and we almost had it: Seeking peace, with its commensurate compromises, is the only answer, Jeremy Corbyn urged, and it’s needed now. A peace agreement was nearly signed in April, before asshat Boris Johnson sabotaged it. Johnson insisted to Zelenskyy that there not be any peace negotiations with Russia.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
cartoon of the world’s richest corporate welfare bum by Barry Blitt in the New Yorker
American democracy wasn’t designed to be democratic: “The partisan redistricting tactics of cracking and packing aren’t merely flaws in the system—they are the system“, writes the New Yorker’s Louis Menand. And Chris Hedges chimes in: “A functioning democracy could easily dispatch Donald Trump and his doppelgängers. A failed democracy and bankrupt liberalism assures their ascendancy.”
The invisible empire: White Empire, controlled by the US political-military-industrial establishment, is the most pervasive and one of the most destructive empires the world has ever seen, but we have been carefully conditioned not to use the E-word, explains Indrajit Samarajiva, so we have rendered it invisible in our media and discourse. And thanks to our caste system similarly rendered invisible, we don’t notice that White Empire is substantially secured and maintained by BIPOC people.
The oppressive power of debt: Riffing off David Graeber’s brilliant book, Rhyd Wildermuth explains how debt is used as a tool of oppression — medical debt, credit card debt, student debt, underwater mortgages, and the closing off of bankruptcy options for individuals oppressed by them. Meanwhile, bankruptcy remains a simple and profitable way for corporations to skip out of paying for failed property and business ventures. Individuals therefore become slaves to the system, forced to work harder and harder, obediently, to try hopelessly to pay down these impossible debts, just like indentured servants.
Canada’s Green Party dies a slow death: The ghastly demise of Canada’s Green Party continues. The execrable Elizabeth May, having driven a huge wedge into the party by purging those demanding the party take a stand against Israeli Apartheid (which the vast majority of members supported), has now driven a stake into its coffin by calling for the expulsion of those opposed to Canada’s supplying military aid to Ukraine, and by threatening to quit (again) if the bankrupt party delays its leadership convention (which she is contending) or closes its Ottawa office to save money. She and her right-wing supporters like Andrew Weaver have wrecked the party beyond repair, so even David Suzuki has abandoned them in disgust. The party’s president has likewise quit, fed up with the infighting, interference, and lack of accountability to its members.
Corpocracy, imperialism & fascism: Short takes:
- US/NATO warmongering in Ukraine is even scaring Henry Kissinger
- The US occupying force in Syria continues to slaughter civilians
- The Atlantic celebrates the conversion of the anti-war left to pro-war advocates in Ukraine
- Top Biden advisor says if it were 40 years ago the US would have overthrown the newly-elected leftist leader in Colombia
- Murder of Antifa protester by known right-wing militia member denied and covered up by police in Portland (thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link)
- Instead of regulating corporations, the US government now subsidizes them, and the clean-up of their messes (thanks to John Whiting for the link and the 3 that follow)
- The right-wing UK government is destroying the NHS to privatize it to their friends. A backlog of seven million people has already forced 10% of the population to pay for private health service because they can’t afford to wait years for treatments.
- Food and oil cartels are making a fortune off war- and embargo-created shortages
- Charging Trump with espionage would merely embolden military intelligence’s prosecution of whistle-blowers about its misdeeds
- How warmongers have charged up anti-Chinese sentiment in the US (thanks to Paul Heft for the link)
- The Bandera “death list” of enemies of Ukraine’s right-wing government includes a lot of journalists
Propaganda, censorship, misinformation, disinformation: Short takes:
- If you insist on saying the invasion of Ukraine was “unprovoked” you’re pandering to CIA/Pentagon propaganda. It’s perfectly acceptable to believe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was abhorrent, and also believe wealthy and powerful vested western interests are doing all they can to provoke, extend, escalate and misrepresent the war.
- And if you think there’s systematic forced labour of Uyghur Moslems in Xinjiang province in China, you should read these reports. You are being played. And, again, it’s perfectly acceptable to deplore China’s past human rights record and also believe western interests are exploiting and misrepresenting the situation in Xinjiang to foment xenophobic anti-Chinese sentiment and support for military action against China.
- Daniel Dumbrill, a Canadian who is living in China, interviews an Aussie who dared question a spokesperson for ASPI, the Aussie right-wing “think tank” funded by the US defence industry, on false claims about China. (For a sense of life in China’s countryside, check out Daniel’s visit to a Tibetan trailer park.)
- Chris Hedges summarizes the propaganda war in the US and censorship of any unapproved and critical reporters who challenge America’s “permanent war”.
CoVid-19 becomes the pandemic we all pretend is over: Short takes:
- A terrific article on the complex challenge of identifying and treating the diverse face of Long CoVid. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
- The Director of the US CDC, rather than resigning, blames others and “shakes up” her department for the organization’s staggering incompetence, that has contributed greatly to loss of confidence in public health leaders during the pandemic.
- BC’s provincial health officer succumbs to political pressure and abandons support for mask mandates for preventing CoVid-19.
- Death rates from CoVid-19 remain flat, at the same level they were at a year ago and two years ago before the fall/winter upsurge. The advice of competent health experts remains absolutely unchanged: Wear a mask indoors except at home, and in any crowded locations and near vulnerable people. Get all the vaccines you qualify for. Test, trace and isolate when you or loved ones get symptoms. This is not onerous or complicated, folks.
The economics of imperialism: Short takes:
- Looks like 2008 all over again, except this time it’s energy utilities and energy corporations that will require trillions of dollars in bailouts to prevent bankruptcy from reckless energy derivatives gambles gone bad.
- A great global economy primer: Who produces what, who trades with whom, what sanctions are in place and how they’re working, and what political and trade alliances are in place. Thorough, and scary. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
- Michael Hudson on the multiple economic crises we face: His analysis runs from class war and “the problem of debt” to the causes of inflation, supply chain problems, the rentier economy, the politics of austerity, the new giveaway of Ukrainian resources to western interests, and the emergence of a multipolar world.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
cartoon by Liana Finck in the New Yorker
Another perception of life in Iran: If you got a kick out of Daniel’s visit to the Tibetan trailer park (link above), check out a day in Tehran with polyglot Zoë.
With and without you: Halsey’s song and video Without You created quite a stir. If you liked the original check out the Kompa remix by Haitian musician Chemdrumz — gives the song a very different feel. Some amazing art happens at intersections!
Beaverton (Canadian “the Onion”) headlines of the month:
- “Columnist just going to re-run his ‘Nobody Wants To Work Anymore!’ editorial from last month to save the effort”
- “Canada loses Conservative leadership race”
- “1,392 Shoppers Drug Mart locations tie for ‘worst’ “
- “Pope takes over empty apology duties from exhausted Trudeau”
Can we choose not to hate?: I recently wrote a blog post about our unique human proclivity to hate. Rhyd Wildermuth also wrote about hate recently, but he thinks we have a choice not to hate. Given that he and I agree on so much, I was intrigued by this difference.
On word puzzles and roses and feminism: A lovely rambling blog post by Lyz at Men Yell at Me. Just gorgeous writing. Thanks to PS Pirro for the link.
The right way to fight for your life: Also from Lyz, the harrowing story of 15-year-old Pieper Lewis, who spent two years in prison for stabbing her rapist, and had to pay the assailant’s family $150,000 in reparations. Contrast that with Kyle Rittenhouse, the right-wing vigilante who killed two men just because they were protesting, got off scott free, and became a hero on Fox News. Something is very rotten in the state of America.
Ugly Swedish lawns: Sweden is conserving water by rewarding the ugliest unwatered died-off lawn in a contest. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
words to convey inexpressible feelings, from John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
At the Pond, by Mary Oliver
I went every morning
to the edge of a pond where
a huddle of just-hatched geese
would paddle to me
up the marshy slope
and over my body,
peeping and staring—
such sweetness every day
which the grown ones watched,
for whatever reason,
Not there, however, but here
is where the story begins.
Nature has many mysteries,
some of them severe.
Five of the young geese grew
heavy of chest and
bold of wing
while the sixth waited and waited
in its gauze-feathers, its body
that would not grow.
And then it was fall.
And this is what I think
everything is all about:
I was glad
for those five and two
that flew away,
and the way I hold in my heart the wingless one
that had to stay.