Category Archives: Power and Domination

12 Years, Much Less Actually

Uphill1We are running out of time. The 2018 IPCC report, for example, indicates we have until about 2030 (12 years, not 11) before we exhaust out climate budget for staying below 1..5°C, our best chance of avoiding major tipping points. Many believe that to be an optimistic assessment, such that we have perhaps much less time. Even then, the need of political action (not talk!) will take significant time,, such that we likely need to make major changes within the next 18 months (especially with the coming US elections being a major player here).

Even if we are able to do so, we still face the immense task of dismantling our entire capitalist based civilization to create processes of equity, together with all the other consequences of our over-population and how we have mismanaged our world. A lot of work, yet necessary.

Recent links that I recommend.

Greta Thunberg speech in Assemblée Nationale (20190723)

An excellent talk by Greta Thunberg! Complete honesty, brevity, and a very good command of the relevant facts from the IPCC report, 2018.

Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months (20190724)

Another recognition that we only have a very limited time to establish the appropriate polity for safety of our species and many others.

Deniers deflated as climate reality hits home (20190807)

Progress is slow and the world is gradually coming to recover from the disinformation issues. In time? Who knows?

In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. (20190814)

A detailed and disturbing account of how the brutality of modern (American) capitalism is a direct outcome of the processes that began with the accounting systems of slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sad. Essential reading, very disturbing. What narrative will allow us to value ecology over economics; what narrative will allow us to value the intrinsic richness of what God (by any name) offers. I have no idea!

From dumpster to diesel: How a pilot project in Whitby is turning plastic waste into fuel (20190813)

On the lighter side, more positive. An interesting use of plastic waste by converting it to diesel fuel and gasoline. The article also names that the reduction of plastic usage and/or the complete conversion to recyclable plastics is essential to our future. Certainly something needs to be done with the incredible accumulation of plastics. I have two major reservations with the current process: first, how much energy (i.e., other fossil fuels) is used in the conversion, and second, usage of the newly converted fuel simply goes into the environment as any other fossil fuel usage. A more ecologically appropriate means of plastic usage is needed.

A Strange Culture

Acedia3My news sources have recently been dominated by American politics related either to a) what to do about the Mueller report or  b) speculation about presidential promises of the hopeful. For the most part, I have lost interest in both of these as I have no way of discerning important information from speculation. Canada is also gearing up for election so Canadian news also has lots of promises. However a small number of articles have attracted my attention, so I offer a potpourri on this occasion — we live in a strange culture of fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness.

Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Emergency Climate Movement (201905)

A well-written statement of what needs to happen for our civilization to survive the coming apocalypse. As evidenced by the Extinction Rebellion success in the UK and the increasing number of cities throughout the world who are at least espousing a climate emergency, we are gradually moving in this direction.

Scared About City Chemicals? Don’t Be. She Did Every Test in the Book. (20190528)

An excellent article on the complexity of our exposure to toxic chemicals within our environment. The title unfortunately belies the seriousness of the issue; in particular, the article names our cultural ignorance of a) at what level do we consider chemicals to be toxic as well as b) our even greater ignorance of synergistic interaction between toxins.

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich (20190523)

A fascinating description of how much money is hidden, and how it is hidden, by the world’s wealthy. As of 2016, the top 0.1% hold 20% of American wealth and the top 1% hold 39%, surging (more than doubling) after the economic decisions of the 1980s. For me, these are staggering figures, and an indictment of the ills of capitalism.

What Will It Take?

acedia1For the most part, I have given up reading about the political gyrations of politics — for the most part, they are simply a distraction that hides the larger picture that faces our species. This post looks a few of these larger issues, unfortunately with a degree of pessimism, of what will it take for us to mature as a species,.

My current mantras remain:

High intention; low attachment.

Be at peace; come back tomorrow.

Nature is in its worst shape in human history, UN report says (20190506)

We are in the middle of the sixth great extinction crisis, but we don’t call it this because we are not yet at the level of 75% species loss. What insanity!

We must reverse biodiversity loss to save ourselves (20190515)

The title speaks for itself — I totally agree with its conceptualization. Nature is an incredibly complex interrelated whole such that our attention to saving individual species is not likely to be effective. I am reminded of a book I read a few years ago questioning “of the many issues we need to address, which is most important, most urgent?” The fundamental answer: “All of them!”

What Will It Take? (20190509)

Dave Pollard’s blog post of 20190509 to how to save the world, this time on Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) is one with which I strongly agree — it is not at all likely that the dominator powers of our world will stop until massive NVDA resistance occurs, such that “the economic viability of the destructive activity falls apart.” Yet it is also very likely that the final outcome will not change. And the falling apart of the economic models of capitalism and neoliberalism will not be pretty. Sad! I hope otherwise, and I act into the possibility of significant maturation of our species.

A Plague (20190525)

Another of Dave’s posts is intriguing as it draws parallels between the occurrence of plagues (“a destructively numerous influx or multiplication of a noxious animal; an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality”) and the activities of the human species. Although I do not subscribe to Dave’s pessimism, I find he writes thoughtfully and well.

 

More Climate Truth

Problems2This post is a series of articles I have found recently that illustrate for me the complexity of what we must deal with as a culture. I shake my head in wonder, and sometimes struggle to stay out of despair. Even in despair, I choose to be function in contemplative action.

A Look at Past and Future Climate Change in Less Than a Minute (20190218)

Two graphics that illustrate the changes in average temperature over the 20th and 21st centuries. Simple, impressive.

re: Generation (20190218)

An excellent article regarding our failure as a generation to respond to the existential crisis of climate disruption — we need now to support our youth as they stand up to our acedia. Hopefully they will manage better than we have done.

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse (20190304)

The second in a series (the first is also online). Both express the vulnerability needed to come to terms with the possibility of our collapse as a species.

The strongmen strike back (20190314)

An excellent article on the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world. I am currently in a small group exploring issues of Power & Privilege; what I recognize from this article is that I am currently only exploring the tip of the iceberg.

The Gentrification of Payments (20190317)

The complexity of the issues whereby power infiltrates systems astounds me.

Here’s Why America Is Dumping Its Trash in Poorer Countries (20190309)

I assume it is also likely true of Canada. The denial of garbage is another illustration of the complexity we must overcome if we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species.

Deep Earth: A Subterranean Galapagos Expands The Tree Of Life (20190203)

An amazing description of life existing in places where I would not have thought possible. The resiliency of life astounds me such that I imagine that even if we destroy ourselves, life will persist. Who knows — maybe in another billion years archeologists will wonder who we were.

How Then Shall We Live?

CogDiss01In my reading today I encountered a truly outstanding description of how one man chooses to live with Climate Change, something that will affect all our lives. Dahr Jamail’s commentary As the Climate Collapses, We Ask: “How Then Shall We Live? (20190204, the first of a series) touches me deeply, both for his honesty and for his depth of knowledge and understanding. He is one of a small group of journalists in whom I have a deep sense of trust as to his integrity. (Joe Rohm is another source that I trust for his knowledge and his integrity.)

Jamail writes for TruthOut on climate issues and I recommend all his writings. I have recently ordered his book The End Of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (20190122). I will undoubtedly be reporting on this in a later blog.

As I write these words, I also have a moment of profound cognitive dissonance. I am slowly reading Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken, a very well-researched description of 100 substantive solutions to reverse global warming. I also think of the DVD Tomorrow (2015) that I watched a few weeks ago, a video that deeply impressed me with its hopeful message of creative responses to climate issues.

Thus I simultaneously hold the honest searching and sadness of what we have done and do to our planet together with the incredible creativity that is available. All this with the recognition of how powerless we are to deal with the insanity of capitalism and neoliberalism, the power dynamics that run our system.

It truly reminds me to be humble of the limited yet important ways in which I can contribute.

Other articles worth reading:

Jamail writes a regular series of articles for TruthOut, many of which can be found under Climate Disruption Dispatches or his website http://www.dahrjamail.net/.

The most dangerous climate feedback loop is speeding up (Joe Rohm, 20190117)

And on the flip side:

Opinion: Our house is on fire, and many Albertans want more lighters (20181229)

A very clear presentation of the options for Albertans. What I find fascinating is the number of ad hominin attacks in the Commentary section, an indication of the amount of toxic discourse (as noted in the past few posts).

I’m Right!

How we polarize!

The past three blog posts have been fueled by James Hoggan’s book I’m Right, And You’re An Idiot[1]. In conversation with Hoggan, David Suzuki (Canada’s leading environmentalist) asked: Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues? To address this question, Hoggan set out to interview a large number of some of the world’s leading thinkers, specifically individuals who study human communication, to gain their perspective on this failure.

As mentioned in Ways To Contribute, I am involved with the Suzuki Elders in exploring how to use this information in the management of difficult conversations. In Finding Common Ground and How Conflict Escalates, I proposed a simple (perhaps difficult?) methodology for this. Yet I also want to give credit to Hoggan for the immense amount of exploration he undertook.

The following are some of the major points with which Hoggan grappled. Most are from his Epilogue, and all are direct quotes, with the interviewee named (JH denotes Hoggan’s commentary). [Square brackets are minor changes I have added, hopefully without changing the meaning.]

  • Few of us are truly evil — and good people sometimes [strongly disagree] for good reasons. (JH, p. 215)
  • Democracy works only if reasoned debate in the public sphere is possible. (Jason Stanley, p. 98)
    • While contention lies at the heart of democracy, it must be constructive contention. (Marshall Ganz, p. 115)
    • [People] don’t need not agree on the solution or on the problem. They don’t need to understand each other, trust each other or even like each other. But they do have to recognize that the only way to move forward is together. (Adam Kahane, p. 123)
  • It is through narratives . . . that people learn to access the moral and emotional resources we need to act with agency in the face of danger, challenge, and threat. . . . [This] is one of the most important lessons set out in I’m Right. (Marshall Ganz and JH, p. 174)
    • At its most basic level, I’m Right is about how we tell stories and how we treat each other. (JH, p. 115)
    • To create powerful persuasive narratives, our starting point must be rooted in an attitude of empathy, respect, and compassion. (The Dalai Lama, p. 211).
  • People don’t start out mired in hostility. The situation evolves. . . . Our defense mechanisms kick in . . . and this provokes . . . eventual gridlock. (JH, pp. 214-215)
    • It is hard to know who and what to trust. (JH, p. 216)
    • An important key is to hold our beliefs lightly [so that we are open to new possibility]. (JH, p. 215)
  • Facts and reason are fundamental to healthy public discourse, but in our overheated adversarial public square, facts are not enough. (JH, p. 217)
    • The initial strategy . . . must be inquiry, . . . [exploring] what truly matters to people [the emotional energy]. (JH, p. 218)
    • We must appeal to people’s values and speak from a moral position, . . . encouraging debate about matters of concern. (JH, pp. 217-218)
  • A well-crafted . . . narrative helps tear down barriers of propaganda and polarization. This theme of emotional communication is grounded in the Golden Rule of treating others the way we want to be treated. (p. 219-220)
    • If we seek change, we should learn to use speech for its highest purpose — moral discourse. (JH, p. 222)

I propose that the methodology I suggested in earlier posts satisfies what Hoggan has identified, especially in providing narrative and compassion, and provides constructive contention.


[1] Hoggan, J. (2016).  I’m right, and you’re an idiot: The toxic state of public discourse and how to clean it up. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Ways To Contribute

Contribution6I have my finger in a lot of pots these days, all in an attempt to find ways to contribute my skill set to the issues of global warming. Currently I strive to be a background resource to others as I generally exhaust myself when I over-commit myself. I generally function best as a devil’s advocate, gently challenging others to stretch into their own skill set; I don’t function well in groups unless I have designated tasks to complete (or can function as devil’s advocate).

It has been a while since I have done a post, and periodically I have thought to get back to same. Mainly I have been sorting how best for me to respond to issues, as noted above, above all seeking a way to be at peace with the stresses of modernity.

I do a lot. Amongst other ways to contribute, I do a Listening Ministry at one of the church missions of the Downtown EastSide of Vancouver, the major district of homelessness and drug crime. I’m also part of the Social Justice committee of the same mission where we are current advocates for drug decriminalization. I am engaged in an international men’s organization (Illuman.org) and promote a variety of virtual men’s groups orientated to vulnerability and spirituality. I facilitate a Soul Matters group at the local Unitarian Church, exploring a variety of issues such as Awe, Vision, and Mystery. And I contribute to a Suzuki Elder Salon development of how to engage in difficult conversations. I used to also provide low grade security in Vancouver via the Peace Bearers organization — usually for crowd scenes orientated to demonstrations regarding global warming (my low back pain unfortunately led to limitations here).

I do all this because I am deeply aware of how precarious is the nature of human survival in this super-wicked difficulty of climate change and ecological threat. I actually have little hope we will survive as a species, and no hope our civilization will survive.

But I do not function from hope — I function from intention.

High intention; low expectation

This is the only way I have found to stay out of despair as to what we are doing on this planet. I have said many times to myself and to others that, as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.

From my perspective, we need ways to shift this human dynamic at a species level. I have basically spent the second half of my life (from 40 to 65) as therapist learning to do so at the individual level, and in retirement wanted to tackle the societal level — wherein I came much more aware of my own limitations in contribution. But it did not mean that I would give up contributing.

I contribute because authenticity in relationship with others has become my best way to function with this insanity, and perhaps the only way in which we will find a path through the next hundred years. It is my wish that others find a way through their own despair and acedia so that we come to common ground in how we deal with the coming years.

The following links speak to these thoughts of mine.

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet (20181126)

An excellent report by Bill McKibben (350.org) regarding the current state of global warming as well as the complexity of human relations over the past 60 years.

Finding Hope in Hopelessness (20181123)

Margaret Wheatley reflects on loss of hope, and yet finding her own stance to contribute within hopelessness.

I’d rather die than feel this. (20180608, reprinted from 2014)

An excellent article on why some choose suicide as a resolution of their pain. It reminds me of the spate of celebrity suicides (Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain as examples) as well as the numerous deaths within the Fentanyl crisis.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Legacy Museum

I’ve currently finished a brief workshop on White Supremacy Culture, part of a presentation within the Unitarian Church I attend. I hate the term White Supremacy and yet I recognize that the destructiveness of the immense power and privilege issues that have dominated European culture (and thus world culture) for the past 500 years (or more, perhaps as long ago as the origin of what we call civilization). Somehow we need to do much more in the nature of multi-cultural restoration.

The Fortune-Teller (20181105)

“how to save the world” is a blog written by a local BC resident, often regarding his chronicle of civilization’s collapse. Overall I find it well-written with interesting reflections (although from the perspective of a staunch materialist — not my preferred ontology). I especially like his present comment: “Lemonade is everywhere. Wisdom is scarce.”

The Role Harassment Plays in Climate Change Denial (20181102)

We are becoming more and more divisive as a culture, especially in the United States but also Canada. I assume it is simply a harbinger of the stresses of our current world, but it does not bode well for resolution of issues. I have long maintained that cultural anger is the canary in the coalmine of our demise.

Is Civility A Sham? (201810 TED Salon)

Why It’s Worth Listening To People We Disagree With (201804 TED2018)

How To Have Better Political Conversations (201609 TEDx Marin)

Three brief videos that look at the difficulty of conversation in divisive areas. They stress the need for basic civility and meeting the other in their worldview, all important points in coming to common ground. They all seem to operate from the presupposition that if the other person/people feel respected and acknowledged, then the other will want to find common ground — likely true in many cases.

What is missing for me is what to do when the other has no interest in finding common ground — this is the central breakdown point for me, especially when the other has powerful influence on the outcome (corporations, the fossil fuel industry, et cetera). Our culture usually operates from the seeking of consensus — and the weakness of consensus is that terrorists are not interested in consensus.

In this regard, I am currently reading Deep Green Resistance, a book which delimits the need for resistance beyond the attempt to achieve consensus. It is quite a dense read, and likely I will eventually describe it in greater detail in this blog. For now, I recommend it as an important study in the complexity of change.

The Power Of Doubt

Doubt1

I have gotten into a bit of a funk since a recent David Suzuki article: Caribou science denial cripples conservation efforts (20180628). It underlines the power of doubt for me. The story links to a research article From Climate to Caribou: How Manufactured Uncertainty is Impacting Wildlife Management and discusses the many agencies (well beyond wildlife management, starting with tobacco and psycho-pharmaceuticals) that “employ a ‘multi-pronged strategy of denial’: deny the problem exists, deny its key causes, and claim that resolving the problem is too costly.”

What it raises for me is: Whom do I trust? And what is the nature of Doubt?

In the last couple of posts, I’ve discussed the nature and limitations of meaning, noting in particular that information is not the same as meaning and that too much information interferes with meaning. And as indicated earlier, one of the major ways we deal with this is to seek corroboration from a trusted group (the TIC process).

Another way we deal with meaning is by doubt, critically assessing the information as to whether or not it is consistent with what we already accept. Skepticism (specifically methodological skepticism) is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out truth from falsehood. In many respects, getting uncomfortable and willing to be uncertain, to not know, to ask questions, to err and to fail, is the best and only way to learn, and move forward. It is so much easier to be certain, and for some, being uncertain is a major source of anxiety — the underlying issue of fundamentalism of any kind.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes “Doubt is often defined as a state of indecision or hesitancy with respect to accepting or rejecting a given proposition. Thus, doubt is opposed to belief. But doubt is also contrasted with certainty.” Both aspects, belief and certainty, are fundamental to my concern. Doubt has been a basic structural component of the major ways by which we as a species have valued knowledge, especially in the past 400 years, that of reason (philosophical study) and expiricism (scientific investigation). Doubt was also a major vehicle whereby Socrates sought wisdom, and thus doubt as a useful process has extended throughout our recorded history.

The major difficulty however is that doubt require honesty! The essential problem of dishonesty is that it grossly exaggerates doubt, and thus the deliberate creation of doubt can become a weapon of discouragement. In our current Age of Information (and Duplicity), doubt fails us when our premises are distorted by dishonesty. We become overwhelmed by too much information, at the very least by the inconsistencies inherent in the processing of dishonest information.

I know of no way through this dilemma. I have also found it incredibly difficult to encapsulate this blog — an expression of how doubt impacts.

doubt2

I will fall back on two people:

  • Voltaire: Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd!
  • Christian de Quincey, especially his book Radical Knowing where he talks of other ways of knowing beyond rationalism (the way of philosophy) and experientialism (the way of science): that of participatory feeling and direct mystical experience.
    • Both of these other ways are disparaged in our culture of scientific materialism, yet for me, both offer a way of knowing beyond doubt and certainty.
    • I highly recommend the writings of Christian, a philosopher of great integrity and wisdom, and like those who step out of the box, not well recognized.

Enough.

The Sustainability Of Injustice

Acedia3

In this post I reflect on the sustainability of injustice, especially our inability to resolve the many issues that are destroying our species and our Gaian world. All of the links that follow represent our failure to come to terms with the consequences of global warming.

As I have previously suggested (especially in my book Acedia, The Darkness Within, and the darkness of Climate Change), I believe this is due to the huge cultural issue of acedia (especially our laziness and fearfulness) and the smaller issue of evil (especially the augmentation of our cultural self-righteousness). And I hate harping on the issues, part of my own acedia. Yet I am committed to raising awareness in whatever way I can.

A comment from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations of yesterday (20180412) is especially pertinent for me. His concern in this particular meditation is the issue of racial discrimination, but it applies the whole of our civilization, a civilization based on power dynamics. As usual, Richard formulates it in a Christian framework, yet I suggest the message is independent of culture.

[quoting from Holmes, Joy Unspeakable, 2017] One cannot help but wonder why the same battles for justice must be fought by every generation? Certainly, there were enough sacrifices, martyrs, and legislation during the ’60s to ensure justice for all. Yet . . . “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities and the rulers of darkness in high places” [Ephesians 6:12]. The powers or systems do everything they can to resist change. In response to the demand for justice, systems morph and adjust while maintaining the status quo.

So public hangings end and the murders of unarmed black folk rise. Slavery ends, but the mass incarceration of minority populations increases. Jim Crow practices are no longer openly discriminatory; they reappear as educational and economic disparities, voter suppression, and aggressive police actions against people of color.

[Richard’s commentary] Power never surrenders without a fight. If your response to today’s meditation is to retort, “All lives matter!” I invite you to take a closer look at your own fears and biases. Of course, all lives matter! Yet until black and brown lives matter, no lives truly matter. Jesus spoke into specific lives, into particular circumstances of oppression, saying, “You, an outcast Samaritan woman, you matter. You, a leper rejected by society, you matter.”

Until we choose to have power over power and live into true justice, it is likely that our time on this planet is severely limited. We will move to extinction — the end-points indicated by Malthus[1] (starvation, plague, and war) are on the horizon.

Significant Links

Lessons from Cape Town’s water crisis (20180315)

Cape Town is the harbinger of what may happen to many modern cities, the issues being “related to climate change, population growth, waste and mismanagement. Depleted supply is only one result” (see also What You Need to Know About the World’s Water Wars)

We’re drowning in seas of plastic (20180329)

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be sixteen times larger than previously assessed.

The Great Lakes Are Filling Up With Giant Green Blobs (20180403)

Harmful algae blooms occur mainly because of nutrient run-off from land usage (fertilizer), resulting in toxic water as well as high methane production (a major greenhouse gas).

Can the Paris Agreement save us from a climate catastrophe? (201804)

An editorial in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet does not say much, but the title in itself is significant of questioning what we are doing as a culture.

Audit exposes Canadian climate failures (20180405)

As someone living in the British Columbia Lower Mainland, I am very aware of the duplicity of the Canadian government, especially in its support of the tar sands and the Kinder-Morgan expansion.

The oceans’ circulation hasn’t been this sluggish in 1,000 years. That’s bad news. (20180411)

A good article on the nature of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) and its possible implications.

Reports emphasize urgent need to reverse biodiversity decline (20180412)

Yet more warning of how serious the issues are!

[1] Malthus, T. (1798). An essay on the principle of population. London, England: J. Johnson, in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

An Economy That Works

Economy1I mentioned last post that I am no longer posting. However, every once and a while I come across a link that I think is so important that I believe it needs to be acknowledged (and disseminated) — this one is: an economy that works.

We are badly in need of a way to understand the nature of modern economy such that we develop a maturing of our culture. I think this is: it explains the impact of neoliberalism and the changing nature of our economy, especially the rise of gross dissatisfaction in how we live our lives. It also strongly advocates, amongst other suggestions, the need for a guaranteed basic income, a concept and process that is gradually being shown to markedly improve living conditions, despite the fears that it will encourage people to become lazy.

Having researched laziness as part of my PhD, I strongly believe that people are not naturally lazy, that they only move in this direction when they become overwhelmed with their lives and give up, conditions that are being augmented in major ways by our current economy. What is suggested here is actually a prescription to reduce laziness while improving human lives in many ways, perhaps ending the insane ways in which we create poverty and dissatisfaction in our lives, even reducing global warming via an effective stance to our culture.

Guy Standing on an Economy that Works for Everyone (20161126)

It is a long article, and well worth reading.