ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Politics and The Environment

We have reached a point in the political life, in nearly all nations on Earth, that the young are waking up to the depth of lies that they have been raised on. Even staunch believers in "free market" and capital being used as a gauge of wealth are beginning to understand that some things surpass currency in value and perhaps most of the gold that exists is in the relationships between our selves, our soul purpose and our communities as well as the environment. there is a healing that takes place amongst the trees that is cellular in nature, spiritual in its effects and one kind of emotional salve for wounds sustained in the nearly constant barrage of offenses that we face in modern society.

The "kindness" that is conveyed by lying to one another in as simple an exchange as "How 'ya doin'?",
"Fine."belies the depth of disease that we suffer daily. Packed into the exchange is the implicit fact that the questioner is not really as interested as the words imply and the response is predicated on the assumption the fact is the same. Why we do not care is our own responsibility, so beware of putting the ramifications of failed communication on the "other". He is us, we are one, in our non-communicative exchanges, we allow passing of objects rather than meeting of subjects. Instead of allowing one another as simple a thing as an identity, we find ourselves and those we meet as co-sufferers in this suspension of person-hood.

The ebb and flow of relations worldwide has been degraded through politics. The personal estrangement that strangles conversation on most topics tells us a fable. It is the lone wolf, or pioneer epic. Stark and raw with man versus nature pathos, the ethos is also good versus evil, like a good medieval novel. We strew the landscape of political rhetoric with patriotic slogans and post conflict revisionism, rather than telling history from documented fact. more soldiers are dying from suicide in the USA, and on the battlefields of the world than the enemy is killing. This should tell us something.

Youth has truth, and numbers on their side. There have never been as many people on Earth, and never so many under twenty. They are seeing their inheritance and birthright squandered. The key to survival is making everyone's life better, while using less resources and adequately distributing what resources we have. The power brokers and recipients of the lion's share of government subsidy are never going to willingly give that up. I pay an extra half of one percent tax on my "non-food" purchases where I live to keep the lights on and the landscaping maintenance at Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers football team  plays eleven games each year. This direct subsidization of one of the most profitable companies in our county is not only imprudent, but a blatant attack on the citizens of our county. Here's an idea, "Use some of your millions to keep your own lights on!"

I post this on the ECO-Tours site because our environment includes coal-burning electric generating stations, that have not only health, and premature death costs, why do we bless the burning of more fuel for a company that is enormously profitable? The economic, social and militaristic culture that we live in is also part of our environment. We need to be facile in our use of important information, organizing principles that enhance the inclusion of wider audiences, we may just find that most of the old hippies were onto something. They may not have had a very good language for what they were saying and many were either agents provocateur or posers. The Yoda-like ones would speak of auras and getting good vibes from good people. There has always been the recognition of old souls in colloquial terms, "Still water runs deep." Later generations have called their little hippies, "Star Children" or diagnosed them with ADHD . My favorite term has always been "strong willed".

We are all products of our environment and as more and more people become adults, they each have every right to survive on the environment that they face daily. Health, safety and security can be had by all. what we have here is not only a failure to communicate,  even more, a failure of distribution. One fact that can no longer be hidden from public knowledge is that from now on, every gallon of crude oil we squeeze from the Earth's crust will cost more to get at than ever before. Aging infrastructure assures that even as we have to move more fuel further, the greater use of older pipelines will have more leaks. Another thing that the natural gas lovers tout is fracking. Another resource "management" tool, but it takes twice as much energy to get the same amount of fuel each year that the extraction field is exploited. Can we come to a consensus that pouring more energy into energy production is senseless? What we need is to implement mandatory efficiency requirements. there are much more efficient electric motors, but the US Government has made the patents for them a matter of "national security". In our humble opinion here at ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. we understand the need for efficiency to be such a strong matter of national security that they be released into the marketplace to increase the efficiency of wind generation and much lighter electric cars that will also have increased range.

We have passed the tipping point, emptied our cities, developed massive suburbs that now lie empty and simultaneously de-mineralized our soils across huge areas. It may take generations to begin to reclaim these places, but there are signs of hope. Madison, Wisconsin, Boulder, Colorado, Portland, Oregon & Austin, Texas are showing routes to transition as are the gypsy camps that have always sprung up on abandoned land. One of the most politically active not-for-profits is Will Allen's Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Growing Power feeds people in food deserts by converting abandoned industrial areas into thriving gardens. Will says, "We make all our own dirt." This is one way to eliminate the threat from dangerous chemicals that are often the bane of brownfields. (This is another term that I hate. Toxic Soil Areas is a better term for them. True patriots are finding ways to make our cities more liveable and they are the ones who should be getting the subsidization!

Monday, July 30, 2012

We Are Working...

We are working to develop a longer term view of our role here on Earth. There has never been a time or place that humans have existed that they did not manage the environment. We are living in uncertain times because the depth and breadth of our heavy and often unthinking hands upon the living systems that sustain us. I am often reminded of the out of balance perspective that we have inherited by the simplest of events. Just one will help shed light on a vast array of simplistic approaches to complex problems. Bear with me a moment, because this story is to be understood as a model or schematic for other bad ideas and although it is worthy of our ire, I'm sure that it pales in comparison to other more far reaching decisions that are made in the name of expediency rather than merit.

Here in Wisconsin, when a utility company is wanting to raise the rates for consumers, they must apply to the State for permission. the process is long and complex, results in public hearings and studies to find whether or not the rate increase is necessary and prudent because the utilities that "serve" the public have been notorious for lying, cheating and stealing from customers in the past and the idea is that if we make it hard for agencies that supply us with power, water and other necessary "goods", that they will be less likely to gouge the general public and specifically those of us who have a harder time paying, like families, the elderly and small businesses. Our local water company wanted to raise the rates. Costs were rising and the infrastructure is aging, and by their calculations, they could not wait for the process to take place in time to keep from seeing red in their account books. The recent financial crisis has led to many more shutoffs and much higher rates of people just not paying their bills. To float their boat, literally, they needed to sell more water to get more cash, or raise their rates. But that would have taken too long.

Instead, they found an engineering solution. they raised the pressure on the entire system just a few pounds per square inch. that way, each and every time a customer opened the tap, more water would rush through the system and in turn allow more water to be sold, leading to the increased revenue that they needed. This amounts to a tax on all for the benefit of the select few who make their living providing us all with water. By using this solution, the requirement for applying to the state for a price increase was bypassed, the protection of the poor and those unable to afford to pay more was eliminated and most insidiously, those with marginal plumbing or leaks had to pay the greatest share of the price. this is in direct violation of the principles that led to the regulations in the first place! If your leaks were in the realm of a few dozen gallons per month, maybe they went up 10%, but multiply this by thousands of individual rate payers and you are talking serious money.

The folks who advocate for Servoglobe, a Disney-like world of technological solutions to each and every problem have obviously never had to design a boat or fix a car. When you attain a more realistic view of what is and is not possible through engineering, you will realize that we can design for fast, but it will always be more expensive, or we can be satisfied with slow, but it will only save money if we don't have to go too far. We can make it reliable, but that has other costs. We can carry an ever-increasing load, but then we cannot have fast or cheap and if we want all these characteristics, we are just not going to get them. At best we can pick one or possibly two parameters to maximize and then we have to sacrifice the others. Fast, good and cheap, pick two, is what led to the solution that I mentioned the water department used. It was fast, it was cheap, but where is the good when the least able to afford water have to pay the highest price for it?

So too, we have a recent attempt to run automobiles on moonshine. Tax dollars flowed unabated into the corn ethanol boondoggle, hiking food prices and destabilizing world grain markets. When a liquid such as alcohol has about 80% of the fuel value per gallon of gasoline, and 'shine runs about twenty dollars per quart, who ever thought it would be a good idea? I'll tell you who, the folks getting the government subsidies, the massive loans and financing, that's who. When we begin to consider what is best instead of what makes the most money, or "solves" the problem the quickest, we begin to get a sense that virtually every step we have taken thus far has been either on the wrong foot, or the wrong path.

At some point in childhood, I think I was about seven years old, my mother took me to see the last train that left Green Bay, headed for Milwaukee and then Chicago. Since that time, the only way to get there was by car or bus. It is very safe to say that there have been millions of trips through the corridor connecting these towns, each one funneling money into the pockets of giant corporations who have no interest in how well we are doing as a nation. They only worry about their own corporation and the bottom line of that one institution. millions of dollars have flooded away from our towns and hundreds of jobs have evaporated because most of us cannot afford to ever go to those towns and cities that used to be eight dollars away. Heck, the last time I went to Chicago, parking alone was twenty dollars per day and that money probably didn't even stay in this country!

I'm sure that the folks making the decision to discontinue train service to the Fox Valley never had to worry about how they would get there themselves, but the vast majority of the population was not only not served by the decision, but their quality of life suffers to this day. Their children and their grand-children through the generations will continue to suffer as long as we shut off their access to the wider world that surrounds them. Sure, they can look up Chicago on their favorite search engine, but they may never be able to walk the streets, or check out the museums. Similarly, Milwaukee has become a much more expensive trip as well. Again, awesome museums, art and culture are there, conveniently locked away from the vast majority by economic forces that result from one bad decision two generations ago.

ECO-Tours is here to speak truth to power, to expose some of the hidden costs associated with expedient decisions, conventional "wisdom" (read:lies) and business as usual operations in both the private sector and in government. we realize that some feel overwhelmed by the dystopia that we have created over the many generations, but we also realize and have faith in the species. there has never been a time when communication, worldwide communication was so easy. we have never has this sort of chance to study and inspire across ages, disciplines and across the planet. The art of communicating ideas just got the greatest shot in the arm that has ever existed and what we have lacked in common sense may be offset by making sense a little more common through sharing our ideas with others. Blessed Be and Namaste'.

If you would like us to craft a custom made ECO-Tour just for you, let us know. We are always happy to meet you where you are, (not necessarily geographically) delve into subjects of your choosing just a little deeper than you may be ready for, and in the process take time to learn a better way forward. please donate what you can to our cause because even if you do not take a tour, it allows others to continue to learn and grow toward sustainability through our programs. To get some idea of how effective we are, it costs us about ten dollars for each tree we plant. That includes buying or digging a seedling, potting it up, caring for it until it goes in the ground and to protect it as best we can while it is young. Some of the trees we have planted are large enough to sit under and enjoy their shade.  From the moment they are planted they begin a process of making the world a better place and for that we thank all of those who have donated in the past. Living to serve has unleashed great reserves of wealth and power, they are just not yet understood by those who would ignore or exploit others for their own reward. We pray daily for their enlightenment and hope that one day their deep suffering will be alleviated.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Vanishing Present

For all intents and purposes, the origin of the word present is usually not an issue, but when we look into the back story of this particular word, it is ironic that it conveys a bit of a mystery. Pre-sent, reeks of fate and the benevolence of either a Creator or a mediator between the cornucopia of life and our hand. In the days of fealty, it was required that each and every servant knew whose house they were under. The divine right of kings was unquestionable above all else. The mediators, between the hand of "god" and man not only had the best maps, but the legions of society stacked in their favor. Might made right and elements who still believe in this medieval anachronism have been taking us to the cleaners ever since. The popular uprising that they confront today is many-fold more educated, many-fold more cohesive and many-fold more disparate than they have ever countered in the past.
the continuous din of naysayers seems to stretch to the horizon, but the sea change of public discourse is crumbling the foundational beliefs in the ancient farce.

The internet, combined with rigorous study and basic common sense has created a situation where most people born today will know more by age ten than many ever learned in their lives. Of course there are those who have for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks, but those who desire knowledge are finding less and less hurdles between ourselves and information. as is depicted in the classic Monty Python scene, "How do you know it was the King?"
"He ain't got crap on him." seems to be turning itself on it's head. The "kings" of our day are getting dirtier and dirtier and their illegal maneuvers are leaving traces across the web, throughout worldwide financial systems and ultimately our pocketbooks. It seems the the characters in the movie Office Space have been eclipsed by those who seek to fry much bigger fish.

I, for one, am happy that their reign is nearing the end. The revolution that is not being televised is unfolding so quickly as to dwarf social changes brought about by The Pill, LSD and The Summer of Love combined. Tune in, turn on, drop out  may have been the rallying cry of the second to the last generation, the Gen X-ers may have had John Mayer's Waiting for the World to Change as their anthem, but today, five generations are rising up to say no to continued exploitation by the lords of capital. "Take this job and shove it" is given real meaning when six or thirty million people walk away from the job market disillusioned and longing to share their skills for a fair wage. The extreme measures being undertaken by the super rich of the world are disgraceful. At once they claim to have discovered the genie in the bottle that can save our way of life, if we all just polish it a little harder, or longer. The theory of austerity rests on the idea that if we let the ultra-wealthy keep just a bit more of their hard earned wealth, they will let more crumbs fall to us.

The severe cuts worldwide into scientific study leave us with a massive black hole where data should be to help us make better decisions about the best course forward. Instead, funding has gone away and the public is saddled with having to try to make up for lacking information as best they can. Just try to find satellite imagery from the North Pacific since Fukushima and you will find the lengths that officials will go to to disappear salient scientific data. We, as a people deserve more than the single data point of an occasional soccer ball or trawler that has made or threatened landfall thousands of miles from "home". Letting folks know that the entire ocean is now contaminated with radiation only begs the question, "Who is in charge of what we know and what is their interest in keeping us stupid?" The United States of America is looking into the teeth of the most severe drought in half a century. Without another bail out, the food industry and people themselves will need to cut back or go broke. We have continued to follow the lead of folks who had us saddled up during the dust bowl.

Those who have paid attention seem to be doing so at greater and greater peril. Forces, often unseen are working to cinch our belts a little tighter that they might greedily sop up our vital fluids. We hemorrhage funds into the dark and gaping wounds of modern society and yet are left without health care, paying much higher prices for food than their crap and paying more each year for the "luxury" of an education that is supposed to be a way up from poverty. this week I saw confirmation that in the U.S. our chances of rising our of poverty, even as high as the middle class, if we are born to it are less than if we were British. Nothing against English chaps, but we always think of you as very protective of your higher classes. To be less able to make a name for ourselves than our brethren across the pond is antithetical to the myth that we cut our teeth on, that anyone with hard work and perseverance could become whatever they set out to be. The same puppet masters who fed us that line are more than happy to tell us that our teachers are now the enemy, the wars were necessary and noble and that our sacrifice will make the world better, eventually.

Saladin, my ancestor, asked rural peasants about the folks that they paid for protection. How long does it take for them to respond when you call for help? How much do you pay in taxes? then he would offer to be there quicker for half the price and allow them to worship however they felt fit. That, my friends is how you win against a superior force. go to your neighbors, find out what they want, make sure you get it for them at half the price and soon you will see the end of the age of exploitation that the current rulers want us to subsist under. If we live for today, rather than trying to exploit one another, learn to live in harmony with both creator and creation, perhaps we can turn the tables on those who seek to poison our world, our relationships, our financial markets and political systems with their greed and deception. We only have now, share it with those you care most about and miraculous things tend to happen. spend carefully, you wouldn't want any dollars spilling into the wrong hands.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Those Were The Days

As we experience the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, why wouldn't we harken back to Halcion days, lazy childhoods, when our families could afford to drive across this great big country of ours in our land boats, often pulling along campers to sleep in when we were out in "our wilderness". It seems that the reflecting on memories has a certain patina in our minds. What the true dawning is about, however is releasing past and future for now. When I first became aware of the vanishing present, the current problems were far less understood by many in the scientific community. The very term "greenhouse effect" was pejorative and far enough off the mark as to have handicapped our understanding since the phrase was coined. Some of us knew, as far back as the first Earthday, that the true issue was climate change. There are some rudimentary physical interactions that do in fact have effects similar to a "greenhouse", however, there are far more interactions, pressure differentials, created by massive energy use for instance, humidification and de-humidification, addition of hydrocarbons, sulpher, fly ash and dioxin to name just a small number of the over four hundred toxic components routinely discharged into the atmosphere. literally tons of this crap is injected, wafted or vented to our atmosphere daily.  Living in the now demands that we forgive past practice, resolve to stop this senseless behavior in the now and at least allow future generations the chance to have their own now.

One of my favorite places to have started an ECO-Tour in my own home is to look into the Environmental Working Group's information on personal care products. Long, long ago, those who wanted to get clean were faced with making their own soap, or paying high prices for it to be imported. Today, the wonders of science and technology have distorted both price and the ingredient lists of most soaps, lotions, deodorants and make up of all kinds. non-hazardous products are available and the database that EWG keeps is invaluable. I enjoy talking up other groups that share our ideals and commitment to showing the way to a healthier home and planet!

Many of the most difficult bonds to sever are the ones to the lies that we were brought up on. Perhaps this is why so many are claiming the "moral high ground" on the excuse that we are a "Puritan Nation". Somehow, the values of the founders of our nation should influence a return to "good old days". i have seen just the opposite need in our culture and at this crucial time in human existence. that is why ECO-Tours was founded in the first place. We need to bring to bear awareness that prior generations could only guess about. We have now seen a picture of Earth from space, not just had to imagine what it must look like, looking at a spherical map. We can instantly communicate world wide in an instant through miniscule tubes filled alternately with light and darkness, we have overcome both time and space almost without realizing it. We began to teach a new awareness of place, process, diversity and respect long before it was expressed this way. See, in the good old days, we didn't always have the words we do today. People are talking, people are looking around themselves and asking the simplest of questions..."How can I be of use?" "What is truly important?", "When will there be positive change?"

Some, succumb to the cynical beliefs that de-evolution is inevitable, like the film Idiocracy, they see around us, the huge number of stupid people pumping out babies like there is no tomorrow, and the educated waiting, waiting and waiting, to have one, or two. The math is not hard to do. Just remember, that has been going on since the good old days as well. The truth may turn out not to be so dismal, ours is to live as much as possible in the now.  Wasting time on what might be is forever fruitless, even the perfectly planned pregnancy, may never bear fruit. Living in the moment requires ultimate responsibility but yields infinite freedom as well. what Eco-tours can deliver is a way of being that increases both our feelings of connectedness with our surroundings and our relationship with the planet that yields a unique satisfaction in knowing that you are a living solution to many of the ills perpetrated upon the earth and her creatures (people included).

Over the ages, perhaps we have been slobs, spewing our waste around the planet. It has only been the last fifty to one-hundred years that we have had exponentially increasing numbers of hazardous chemicals to spray, rub, inject and infuse our bodies with and that also get released into the air and water that we depend on for our sustenance. We continue to offer information, practices and attitudes which leave behind a cleaner footprint, leave less of an impact of dis-integration and more of a cohesive and sustainable wake as we travel through our lives. The momentary happiness that we might feel at a pleasant memory of times gone by can be compounded many fold by living in the moment with intention and awareness of our place in the web of life.

Hundred dollar memberships include my writings about my bicycle ride around all five Great Lakes in 1987. This eighty day culmination of over two years' work led me to speak cogently to over seven million people about, what later became known as sustainability, over the course of two and a half months and 4,200 miles (6,888Km). This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the trip and when I wrote about my experiences in the past, I always tried to include not only the youthful vigor of the young man that i was, but the perspectives of both my own father and grandfather as well. Recently, I learned that there is a word for people like me. a researcher on sustainability issues called me a bioneer.  as far back as 1984, I set up a system of fish tank, compost facility and garden that "ran" on about 35watts of power, but that produced significant amounts of food and excess fertilizer that continues to have lasting positive affects on the environment today. With nearly thirty years of practice, I'm sure that what I am doing more effectively and efficiently today will increase the beneficial results exponentially. I wish everyone the best on their path and may the items we address on your personalized ECO-Tour be as enriching to you as we are sure it will be for us. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Another Long Hot Summer

Here, along the shore of Lake Michigan, we have been experiencing some extreme heat. Our climate is changed, whether we want to accept it or not. Since the first of the year, we have averaged 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the "average" temperature for Green Bay, Wisconsin. Records go back about 150 years and in addition to breaking records for all time high temperatures, we have set a trend line far beyond that of any single year since we began to keep records. Instead of having a heat wave, which ebbs and flows over relatively short periods of time, ours has been a withering and sustained heat with precious few and inconceivably brief interludes that approach "normal". Just this week, I heard that our summer cooling bills will outstrip our winter heating bills for the first time ever and there is another round of record setting temps setting up to arrive in the coming few days.

What few realize about climate, is that it has remained relatively stable for thousands of years.Just in the last hundred, we have seen most areas lose over 90% of their native forest cover. Additionally,  over 90% of wetlands have been either drained or filled. Add to this the growing portion of the Earth covered with impermeable surfaces and the destabilization of the atmosphere and one can see that the solutions to these recent problems are intimately tied to one another and the way human beings make their way in the world. When many parts of the planet were inhabited by tribal groups, the objects and artifacts that humans produced were biodegradable, well-designed and artistically crafted to reflect the spirit of their creators. Today, we render the landscape as well as most of the territory we inhabit toxic, cluttered and devoid of life. Many have commented that even our art seems to have no soul.

Why the schism? Why can't we seem to recapture the humanity of our "primitive" ancestors? Perhaps we spend too much time in our cages, or driving too fast to see the changes that we leave in our wake. Perhaps we have become too busy chasing our tails to find time to relate to our children, sit back and enjoy the place we call home or to even share our deepest dreams with our waking selves. It is ironic that as we develop new tools for "knowing", we often lose the wisdom of the ancients. As we find new distractions, we forget to take time to enjoy life's simple pleasures. Is it any wonder that more and more people are feeling depressed, isolated and alone. For Pete's sake, what did we expect? People are dying from the heat and simultaneously, we chill retail outlets and gas stations to the point that workers there need to go outside to warm up. Is anyone keeping an eye on the trends? Or are we all waiting to see who the next star on American Idol might be?

My favorite ECO-Tour to take is a slow walk around my property. I used to do this even when I was a renter. Take an hour, just sit still and see what goes on in your back yard, or look carefully at what is going on outside your front door. We have a thousand pressing reasons to ignore the space around us, but break this habit just once and you will begin to see things that you never knew existed. Seeing for many is just a first step. Soon you may ask a question, or wonder at what you are seeing and then the insight has a chance to grow inside you. There are several places around my tiny city lot that are favorites of ants. These creatures not only thrive on energetic hot spots on the land, but by their very existence create a massive energetic signature by their activity and metabolism. If you can sensitize yourself to the messages they have about your local environment, you will soon find yourself looking at the landscape differently. Take the time to do a casual inventory of the "weeds", or the birds, or the pockets where cottonwood fluff collects in the Spring, or where dry leaves cluster in the fall.Ypou will soon find eddies and vortecies, or the evidence of them and this in turn leads to "hearing" what the wind has to say about your place.

We had a day last week where the grass turned from mostly green with some light beige patches to mostly blanched beige with a few remaining sprigs of green scattered around in tiny patches. Whether the remaining green is from low spots in the yard, an afternoon shadow cast by trees across the street or slightly richer soil can only be known from time consuming observation or thoughtful observation and research. sadly, none of these are financially rewarding, however, they are infinitely edifying to those who care to pay attention. To put the 7.2 degrees warmer than average into perspective, it as if our area, just south of the forty-fifth parallel had been moved to central Illinois, nearly four-hundred miles to our south! One of the least understood aspects of climate change is that there are dozens of feedback loops that have operated in relative balance over extremely long periods and that the disruptions act like a sort of domino effect influencing other aspects of climate that in turn set off chain reactions that we don't understand very well. Many high temperature records were set during the dust bowl days, when millions of tons of soil that had taken ten thousand years to develop blew away. we are still suffering from the effects of that tragic loss.

Who knew that when we busted the sod, that had developed over thousands of years, and turned our prairies to monocrop production, that the results would be so devastating? Today we are embarking on a much more dangerous and sustained assault on Mother earth and we need to only look outside our windows to see the changes that have been brewing over the last few decades. less days of winter snow cover have led to more of the Sun's energy being captured by the soil. Warmer water and less run off translate to less ice cover, more evaporation and higher winter-time humidity. This, in turn, allows more heat energy to be held in the moist air. Just these few interactions can push temperature up and these are all results of human activity. It is ironic too that the same people who seek power and control over their environment and who claim to know how others should behave are often the quickest to claim that driving their truck couldn't possibly have world-wide ecological implications.

A wise man once said that the world would not end with a bang, but a whimper. I moved away from Springfield, Illinois because the climate was not what I wanted to live with for the rest of my life. it has found me again, and instead of the snowy and cold winters, that I loved in my youth, we have icy drizzle and last year, spinach grew unprotected outside for the first time in my experience. The long hot summers lead to shorter and warmer winters as well and the actions that we take today may have implications for years and decades to come. Finding ways to increase diversity can only increase our chances for survival. Just remember, issues that were in the making for over one hundred years cannot be offset in a single lifetime. There may not be any financial reward for paying attention, or studying these things carefully, but the possibility of creating a better world for the next generations should be enough reason to put our minds to stopping the forces that seek to beat nature into submission.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heat Wave

Anyone who has dropped a teaspoon into a cup of hot liquid knows that heat tends to run away, through the path of least resistance. My mother will occasionally put three or four spoons into a cup, just to cool it more quickly. Take the spoons and heat them to red-hot and then dip them in the same tea and rather than cooling it, they will in fact impart some of their heat into the tea. Hot invades, and dissipates to cold whenever it has the chance and cannot be stopped without serious insulation, it usually does so fairly quickly. Without the Sun to warm us, the earth would turn to a cold icy stone in a matter of days. The life that has sprung up over millennea has acted as a great storage battery, shielding us from the Sun, fixing some of the energy that flows from it into more inert and harmless forms. The fossil fuels have taken many hundreds of thousands of years to harness the excess warmth from our star, integrating it into the crust of the earth and sequestering it in harmless forms that have remained in storage since before the dawn of humankind.

Virtually all life depends on the cyclical nature of the sunrises and sunsets. The relative heat of the day is alternately offset by the cooler dark hours during which many organisms rest, recoup and prepare for the next flood of photons, heat and radiation brought to us courtesy of el Sol.We have a serious problem now that we have tipped the balance of nature so far off center. Feedback loops have been refashioned, local conditions have been perturbed to such an extent and "normal" has been pushed so far as to be considered by many to be "new". We now have billions of BTUs being expended just to keep the lights on in most major cities. All night long, we waste energy, heating up the night so that when the Sun comes over the horizon, it is already as warm as it would normally get by ten in the morning. This is akin to putting a hot spoon in your tea and hoping for it to cool your drink. We often get whole cities to turn on the air conditioning in preparation for tomorrow's hot weather or to turn the furnace on just because the weatherman says that tomorrow will be the coldest night of the year so far. The air conditioners must be fed electrons and the way we most often try to do that is through coal burning. Many billions of BTUs are expended just to keep our cool, adding another hot spoon to the collective tea which we will eventually have to drink.

We drive to cooling centers with the car's AC on and burn even more kilocalories. Tonight there will be hundreds of thousands of BTUs shot up into the air. Spectacular as it will be, this mindless war glorification will put even more heat and fire into the air. Hundreds of thousands of folks will ooh and ahh at the explosions yet most will also be sweltering under the hottest night skies of the summer. We humans have it easier than most of the creatures that we share the planet with. We can insulate our homes, add an air conditioner, pay higher energy bills, or hop in the car and drive to the lake, a waterpark, ice cream store or the local mall and enjoy the cool fruits of our technology. The birds and bees are not so lucky. This summer I have seen countless birds panting like dogs. I have seen dozens of rabbits disoriented by the heat and drought. I have watched peas and beans as well as other normally hardy plants shrivel in the face of the extended hot periods, given little if any relief from the heat after the Sun goes down. I have carried water to trees, to plants, to other organisms, but even with the extra care and effort, it feels like I am losing the battle. I had reason to turn over soil for both the garden and for tree planting in the last few weeks and found nothing but dry powder as far as two feet below the surface. The bit of rain from time to time cannot even penetrate past the first inch or two of soil. It is just too dry.

It has been hard to keep my spirits up the last few days. As far back as the Seventies, environmental activists have been telling us about the harmful aspects of "modern" life. I labeled all of my mother's aerosol cans with ecological warnings as far back as 1974. Even as far back as 1969 I saw the far reaching negative results of human interaction with the biosphere. How many ways do we have to say the same thing before we are heard? How long will we allow the monied interests to hide behind rhetoric designed to cover their asses while keeping us enslaved to old way thinking? Technocrats always promise that the next big step "forward" will yield a utopian society in which all of our needs will be met without the persnickety intrusion of having to work for a living. in fact, as we "develop" modern cities across the planet, it requires juggling more and more resources and in final analysis, we all seem to be working harder than ever just to keep our heads above water. The learning curve that we must master to find a path top sustainability requires un-learning many of the myths which have been shoved down our throats by the prevailing ruling classes. They have never been benevolent. They never wanted to serve anyone and they do not have our best interest in mind. We cannot continue to allow the richest and most powerful to believe that they are too big to fail. Collectively, we have to take time to re-think the context within which each lie is told. The lies of omission need to be pointed out at every opportunity and the truth, though scary must be told.

The generation gap that got so much attention in the Sixties and Seventies was created by the older generation expecting the young ones to accept the continued rape of the planet and the wanton destruction of both nature and human lives that allowed corporations to run off with the lion's share of the economic treasure while despoiling the planet that the youth would eventually inherit. Things have really never changed. The only difference is that the old hippies are now the elders. They have traded in their blue jeans and tie dyed shirts for business suits, 401Ks and the biggest posers have re-created themselves as investment bankers and corporate shills. The burning off of 26 square miles of forest in Colorado is tragic, but not unexpected. Continued drought and extreme weather have been proven facts, resulting from human caused climate change. asking the public to deny this truth is tantamount to treason. It is proving to be a longer and hotter Summer than we have ever experienced and I, for one, am pissed. quick, let's get all the world leaders to fly to a remote part of the planet and agree to disagree as to what we should do about the threat to humanity that is posed by the continued warming of the planet. better yet, let's not do a thing about it! Really, our leaders have let us down once too often. The only thing that would make less sense is to pray to God for an end to the vicious cycle.