Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Living in the Anthropocene

Posted in Ecology, Environment by helenofmarlowe on July 5, 2017

We’ve all heard the oft-quoted aphorism that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.

I’ve never subscribed to that stance.

But there is a parallel philosophy that is harder to dismiss.

If we decry the hunger of 1 million people on this planet, and the trashing of the oceans and the destruction of the rain forests, the extinction of species and the wasting of water – and yet we choose to participate in the causes, do we have the right to decry? Or must we say, Well, I sort of care, a little bit, but not much – not enough to give up some of the pleasures I’m accustomed to.

I have this on my mind because a friend sent me a link to a November 10 New York Times article,

Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene, by Roy Scranton.
A brief excerpt:

The biggest problem climate change poses isn’t how the Department of Defense should plan for resource wars, or how we should put up sea walls to protect Alphabet City, or when we should evacuate Hoboken. It won’t be addressed by buying a Prius, signing a treaty, or turning off the air-conditioning. The biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is  already dead.

Our leaders ignored the warnings while there was still time.

And still, most of us are choosing, not from necessity but because we like the taste of other animals, to continue unraveling the web of life on this planet that we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

We know that greenhouse gasses accumulate in the atmosphere and remain there for centuries as they are slowly absorbed by plants and oceans, and yet we continue the destruction of the rain forest, the lungs of the planet.

There is much information about the connections between eating meat and climate change, some of it published by the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office. Here is a 4-minute video that the UU UNO makes available on its website.

http://climate.uu-uno.org/topics/view/524759010cf264abcd860045/#resources

It’s  taken from this  slightly longer (12 minute) video.

Some of the points made in this video (video number 5 in the list of resources):

While we are being encouraged to change our lightbulbs and drive hybrid cars, the united nations found that raising animals for human food contributes more to global warming than all the planes, cars, and trucks on the planet combined. Forty % more.

You can leave your shower running for 24 hours a day every day of the year and you would still not waste as much water as when you include meat in your diet.

Many of us recycle paper because we want to save trees. But the number one reason for cutting down trees, including the destruction of the rain forest, is to clear land for grazing meat animals and growing corn to feed to animals that we will slaughter and eat.

40,000 people on this planet starve to death every day! This does not happen because there is not enough food for everyone – this happens because, while people are starving, we are wasting enormous amounts of food to feed cows, pigs, chickens and other animals so that we can satisfy our desire (not need) for meat.

Today, we look back on behaviors of humans in previous centuries and wonder how they could participate in some of the cruel practices common to the culture in early American history.

Now, we persistently put our frivolous desires above the indisputable needs and rights of many who go hungry while we support a meat industry that metes out to us vastly more of the world’s resources than is our just portion.

As we continue to eat animals even knowing that a vegetarian diet is healthier, and knowing that factory farming is the greatest contributor to water pollution and climate change, and knowing the pain and suffering inflicted on other sentient beings who want to live, I believe history will judge us harshly.

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Think it doesn’t matter who is president?

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Environment, Politics by helenofmarlowe on October 7, 2016

I have heard intelligent people in recent weeks say that it doesn’t matter who the president is. It troubles me. I want to say to them, imagine if Al Gore had actually taken the White House when he won at least the popular vote and maybe the electoral vote. Do you think the US would have gone to war in Iraq? Think about all the repercussions of that misguided decision to take our country to war.

And climate change: If Gore had taken his place in the White House, we would be much further down the path to dealing with climate change, which is surely the most urgent issue confronting our world.

One of our candidates has said that climate change is a Chinese hoax. He has said that he will get rid of the EPA. EPA doesn’t just invent regulations, it enforces laws passed by congress. (He has also said he’d tear up the Paris climate agreement. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that he can’t do that, but he can take our country out of it.)

As The Guardian says, “Scrapping the EPA … would cause an unravelling of basic protections of air and water. …Trump is demagoguing. It plays to the far-right base but it would have enormous consequences for people’s health.”

And, from The Washington Post,

But more prosaic powers also present grave dangers. U.S. prosecutors have enormous discretion to investigate, or not investigate, and Mr. Trump would appoint his attorney general and a raft of new U.S. attorneys. These have to be confirmed by the Senate; but if you take comfort in that, simply imagine a Gov. Chris “Bridgegate” Christie at the Justice Department, or a Newt Gingrich — who, in Mr. Trump’s thrall, has advocated expelling any American who believes in sharia law — as homeland security secretary.

If Mr. Trump wanted to wield the IRS against that Chicago family; if he tried to use U.S. diplomats to help his hotel business in Russia or Azerbaijan; if he barred disfavored reporters from the White House; if he ignored a judge who told him, say, that immigrants had to be given hearings before being deported — what recourse would Americans have?

We should take comfort in the polls which show Trump unlikely to win. But then,look at the surprising Brexit vote, and the surprising Colombian vote against the peace agreement. Polls can make very very wrong predictions.

Think it doesn’t matter who is president? I go back to Al Gore, and the reminder that we would not have had the war with Iraq, and we would be working seriously on climate change, if the candidate who won the people’s vote had taken his place in the White House.

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Major Moral Issue

Posted in "North Carolina", Environment, NC, Planet Care by helenofmarlowe on July 2, 2015

Wrong on many levels

Our local newspaper has recently published articles about industrial chicken farms around Pilot Mountain. These chicken farms are wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to focus on just one.

The Journal stories focus mainly on the financial cost to the nearby homeowners. Families who have lived there for decades, putting their life savings into their property, now have their homes made almost unlivable by “the unbearable stench of death,” putting them into the bind of being unable to enjoy their land and unable to sell it. Surely our legislators can protect taxpaying citizens from what amounts to a take-over of their property by industrial
chicken farms that pollute the land, air and water and destroy the value of area properties.

Even more important, I think, than the injustice done to these individuals is the damage to our children and grandchildren who will have to deal with the environmental devastation caused by CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). Since animal farms are the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, this is an issue we should all care about. Pollution from chicken farms kills fish and other wildlife and makes people sick.

And this does not even take into account the suffering of these sentient creatures who live their entire lives locked in cages so small they cannot spread their wings.

I believe history will show that the way humans treat other animals is the major moral issue of our times.

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The Pope is With Us

Posted in Environment, global warming by helenofmarlowe on June 18, 2015

This is great fun to watch.   It’s a two-minute video.

http://climatecrocks.com/2015/06/15/pope-goes-rope-a-dope-on-climate-villains/

I don’t know who created the video.

The Money Behind the Climate Debate

Posted in Environment by helenofmarlowe on June 30, 2014

In   Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming , James Hoggan reports and discusses dramatic stories of projects funded by the fossil fuel industry designed to confuse and mislead the public, to mislead reporters and newspaper editors, and to confuse and misinform our elected officials. The deniers want to confuse the public into thinking there is still scientific debate, when in fact, among scientists, there is no debate.  For years, this misinformation campaign has been largely funded by the oil and coal industries, often under the guise of industry front groups and fake grassroots groups.

A few of the cases Hoggan reported were so outrageous that I had to check them out for myself.  For example, there is The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which describes itself as a small research institute, but is in reality a farm shed. They circulate online a deceptive “scientists’ petition”  signed by 31,000 “scientists” who are either skeptics or deniers of global warming.  The Oregon Institute lists six faculty members, two of whom are dead, and two others who are the founder’s 20-something sons.   Although they identify their six members as “faculty” they have no classrooms and no students.

The  31,000 endorsers of The Oregon Petition give only names, with no contact information or institutional affiliation.  Some of the names are in fact the names of legitimate climate scientists, who, when contacted, had no idea their names were on this petition and demanded their names be removed.  But the petition still circulates with a claim of more than 31,000 scientists.   You can see it  here http://www.oism.org/project/    (I wonder why the few scientists with recognizable names don’t sue.  Maybe they have, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just too costly to challenge the legal staff of the oil and coal giants.)  The Oregon Institute’s news releases are treated by many newspapers as legitimate contributions to some ongoing debate.

At the bottom of their web page, you’ll see

Note: The Petition Project has no funding from energy industries or other parties with special financial interests in the “global warming” debate. Funding for the project comes entirely from private non-tax deductible donations by interested individuals.

In Climate Cover-Up, Hoggan says that the Petition Project was funded by  the Exxon-backed George C. Marshall Institute.  Much of the deliberate misinformation is promoted by Exxon. (See http://www.ExxonSecrets.org)

Other “scientific” papers published in editorial sections of small-town newspapers are authored by the climate deniers under different names. They instruct their people that, although they are not likely to get published in  major newspapers, if they can get their articles printed in enough small-town papers,  they can reach as many people as they  would in the Washington Post. And speaking of the Post, when George Will wrote a column incorrectly stating facts about global warming (such as, that sea ice is advancing, rather than retreating) critics called for a correction. The Post’s editor Fred Hiatt said that Will may be wrong – he’s not a scientist — but he has a right to voice his opinion. Critics responded that this is not a matter of opinion, it is a fact. But George Will didn’t offer corrections and the Post stood by him.

Hoggan tells stories of climate scientists whose reputations and careers have been damaged by fake “scientists” who not only challenge the climate research, but also defame the characters of the researchers, who often simply don’t have the time or financial resources to fight the legal battles funded by the oil industry. (See Siegfried Frederick Singer, but don’t question his integrity unless you have a bank account to match The Heartland Institute.)

One of the most outrageous of the stories Hoggan tells is the story of  Christopher Walter Monckton, the third Viscount of Brenchely, a British politician affiliated with the UK Independence Party. Though he has a degree in classics and a diploma in journalism, and no further qualifications, according to Hoggan, he is quoted by think tanks as an expert in the field of global warming.  In biographical information supplied to news media, he claims to have received a Nobel Peace Prize for correcting inaccurate information put out by IPCC (actually, it was the IPCC panelists who received the Nobel) and he says  “The right response to the non-problem of global warming is to have the courage to do nothing.”

At least as culpable as the fossil fuel industry in climate disruption is the livestock industry.  Methane from landfills and livestock, and the destruction of rain forest for cattle grazing are at least as much a cause of global warming as fossil fuels.  But Hogan doesn’t talk about the impact of the livestock industry on climate change, and I wonder why. Since we hear so little in “mainstream” media about the environmental damage of the meat industry, I wonder whether there is a similar funded cover-up.  If I had Hoggan’s ear, I would encourage him to discover and tell us why only those of us who care to do our own research are finding the facts on CAFOs and their substantial contribution to global warming.

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Faux Spring in NC

Posted in "North Carolina", Environment by helenofmarlowe on April 18, 2014

It’s winter again, or may as well be.

Mid March I began checking the 10-day weather report every day, even though I hate those cheesy amazing-awesome-you-won’t-believe-this video teasers that my pop-up blocker won’t block because they don’t pop up anyway, looking for a stretch of ten days with no freeze.

The warming came later than usual, just as I was thinking this long fierce winter would never end.  KitchenGarden
And maybe I was right.

Late March, I planted the cold-hardy spinach and chard and snow peas. A fortnight later, the crook-neck squash and banana peppers. I bought a huge but lightweight pot and created a kitchen garden beside the back steps. Here, take a look before the freeze kills it tonight.

And now, the third week of April in Carolina, we are bringing the potted plants back inside, the plants that grudgingly came indoors last October and spent the winter, as I did, longing for warm sunshine. Together we’ll bring in the large too-heavy-for-me Crown of Thorns that spends its summers beside the front door, and the agave plants that Kathy gave me  – plural, now, because the one she gave me maybe fifteen years ago has now been divided into three. We’ll bring in the aloe and orchids, the papyrus and the dozen or so avocado trees – well, the ones I don’t mention won’t mind. They won’t like coming back inside, but they would like being left outside even less. (My friend Gracia quickly corrected me on IRC when I carelessly spoke of bringing in the pot plants.)

At least we had several 80-degree days in early March. Maybe that was our summer this year.

Meanwhile, a wren has built a nest in a pot of pansies on the back porch. In spring, a songbird’s
thoughts will turn to nesting. I wish the wrens warmth.

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