Tag Archives: extinction

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 Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.

Cognitive Dissonance

CogDiss02
Unfortunately not a metaphor

At present, I am experiencing cognitive dissonance as I survey various internet sources after the weekend. As I have previously mentioned I am enrolled in a two-year program of contemplative practice, attempting to access a deeper wisdom on the nature of the universe — you could call it seeking God, but for me, it is seeking a worldview that allows me to be at peace. Not easy!

First, I’ve had a great weekend with a men’s group, each of us (at various levels of maturity) seeking that sense of purpose; it was part of the illuman.org program for those who might be interested. Then I come home to the escalating rhetoric between dangerous opponents. Then I note some good news on the climate front — not great news, but news that might give us a slight delay in the tipping points of climate catastrophe. But hurricanes are obviously not waiting for us to sort our differences. Finally a link of how powerful our technology is, in that we might be able to feed the world via biologic manipulation (if we can overcome our reticence — and our immaturity — to be Gods).

How to make sense of all this, and how to respond to it, is beyond me at present. My best case scenario is that mankind be removed from the equation asap — I don’t like this option, but I don’t foresee cultural maturity on the sounding board. What is needed is to take power over power for the greater good (and the resolution of what is the “greater good”).

My next post will likely be on the need to stage a coup.

North Korea accuses Trump of declaring war (20170925)

The escalation of rhetoric is a sad reflection of our immaturity as a species, and in that immaturity, the risk of irreversible consequences is high. My fear is that even if only one side believes their rhetoric, we are in grave danger.

New climate change calculations could buy the Earth some time — if they’re right (20170918)

Potentially good news (if correct), but so different from other models that it will require careful study to determine how well these calculations fit experience. The danger is that a) a more generous margin of safety may be used to justify additional delay, and b) the changing landscape will be used to discount the clarity of scientific consensus (especially as to the significance of man’s technology). Science is never able to prove anything; it can only test for the best and simplest explanation of experience.

This Is the Hurricane Season Scientists Tried to Warn Us About (20170921)

To quote: “Hurricanes are built to convert heat energy into wind energy, and seawater’s available energy rises exponentially as it warms.” This says it all — the more energy, the more damage when released.

Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal? (20170920)

If we persist in moving to 10 billion people, we need technology like this. The quality is improving markedly. Now the cost needs to go down, and the acceptance go up.

So Much Pain

Insanity2
Said by many in many ways.

In my readings this week, I have not found anything that I can really focus on as important and worth recommending, yet I am also aware of how much pain is being expressed, ranging from  apparent police violations of the right of individuals to the incredible destruction of Hurricane Harvey (and its significance to climate change) and anxiety regarding the development of Hurricane Irma.

There are also developments in the Trump-Russia story, but quite frankly I have lost interest in attempting to follow its complexity. Every little nuisance gets dissected, and speculated upon, such that it becomes (for me) impossible to sort what is factual from what is speculation. Sooner or later it will be resolved, especially in the slow but steady processing of Mueller.

But I would summarize the basic issue as that of our culture increasingly becoming a pressure cooker, and the pressure is rising. The temperature of the pot is rising, not just as global warming, but also as an indicator of our culture.

My biggest concern is the instability of the American political scene. If this instability is deliberate, as has been intimated earlier, it does not bode well for the survival of democracy, or even the planet in regards to global warming. Alternatively, if the instability truly represents the personal chaos of the President, the danger is two-fold: that of nuclear war versus what sustains the chaos.

Nuclear War

The nature of Kim Jong Un seems to be that of wanting to wave a big stick, but I doubt if he is really wanting nuclear war, especially one that would lead to total destruction of his country (even if he did manage to damage the USA). However, he is butting heads with someone whose ego is sensitive to confrontation, and who has essentially unlimited discretion to initiate agamemnon. Not a pretty scene.

Donald Trump asked whether he’d attack North Korea, says: ‘We’ll see’ (20170903)

Such posturing is frightening.

In latest test, North Korea detonates its most powerful nuclear device yet (20170903)

The rapidity of scientific development is impressive, even if the posturing is frightening.

Don’t be surprised by North Korea’s missiles. Kim Jong Un is doing what he said he would. (20170831)

Another link as to North Korea’s potential.

Kim Jong Un’s rockets are getting an important boost — from China (20170413)

Money talks, and unfortunately, is the face of power. Despite years of diplomacy and major sanctions imposed at the UN level, money still talks, and generates ways to by-pass sanctions.

Those Who Support Trump

The basic theme appears to be that Trump’s advocates can seletively find a piece (or peace) within the multiple messages generated. After all, Trump’s most important skill has been that of being a salesman.

Two top Trump advisers were asked why they don’t quit. Their answers speak volumes. (20170902)

They seem to think that they can work their own political agendas within the confusion, and some kind of blind acceptance of the authority of the “office of the President.”

Why most evangelicals don’t condemn Trump (20170901)

Trump lives into the belief systems that they value: conservatism, challenge to science, “a fellow sinner willing to fight the forces of the establishment on their behalf.”

On The Lighter Side

Humor: The Clown Chakra (20131217)

Amidst the insanity, I fall back on an important maxim:

There is extensive evidence that life is painful;

there is no evidence that it is serious.

As such, I remind myself frequently that I am powerless to impact the larger picture; I only have the power to influence myself, and that which I can touch. This may be enough (or not) — ripple effects can have immense influence.

Knowing Through Relationship

Relationship1The week has been busy — lots of little jobs, and also I have been having difficulty organizing a workshop I will be doing (in October) on relationship. I am taking an older workshop, one that I have never been fully satisfied with, and both reducing it in size (for a full weekend to 1½ days). Such a reduction is always difficult for me, and more so this time as I have been searching for how to focus the workshop in a way that satisfies me. What I have settled upon, and which satisfies me, is to emphasize the importance of intersubjectivity.

Intersubjectivity is a concept I learned from my research advisor Christian deQuincey when I was doing my PhD. To quote one of Christian’s books (Radical Knowing: Understanding Consciousness Through Relationship, 2005):

Intersubjectivity is “knowing through relationship” — a form of non-sensory, non-linguistic connection through presence and meaning, rather than through mechanism or exchanges of energy. (Kindle location 452)

Christian also distinguished three forms of intersubjectivity:

  1. Intersubjectivity-1, the exchange of linguistic tokens (words and other sounds),
  2. Intersubjectivity-2, where we influence each other with the meaning we promote, and
  3. Intersubjectivity-3, where we co-create each other into a meaningful experience by the wholeness of who we each are.

For me, when I experience it, intersubjectivity-3 is the richest form of dialogue of which I have experienced.

So the workshop is becoming a process whereby we (myself and the participants) explore how to have a really great relationship. In essence then, for a given relationship, to what extent are we willing

  • to be authentic with each other,
  • to support each other to be the person we each want to be (as opposed to who we should be for the other , or for society),
  • when difficulties arise in the relationship (inevitable), to explore the difficulty with total honesty.

Hard work, requiring that we love ourselves as well as our partner, and that we define the truths by which we each stand (or fall). The most important place for learning about life, provided we have ways to sort the complexity.

One component of this is what the Family Therapist Murray Bowen called self-differentiation — the consistent ability to be a self while in the presence of others. Amongst his other contributions, Bowen developed a scale for self-differentiation, ranging from 0 to 100. He believed most people scored around 40, and that no one ever scored above 70 — it is simply too difficult to stay separate from the influence of others (we are not designed to do so).

Anyway, the workshop is looking interesting.

Other issues of note for the week, both on climate issues:

The Planet Is Warming. And It’s Okay to Be Afraid (20170717)

Last week, I listed The Unhabitable Earth, an article that discussed the worst case scenario of what we face, indicating how close it comes to doom-mongering (worst case scenarios are usually very challenging). This link (The Planet Is Warming . . .) is an excellent response to the concern re doom-mongering in regards to global warming — unfortunately, if we are to respond effectively, we each need to deal with our despair. Not fun, but necessary.

A Brief History of the Straw (20141023)

Plastic straws suck (20170720)

Two interesting links to the impact of plastic straws, the first on our creativity, the second on our ecology. Apparently we discard 180,000,000,000 straws a year (1,400,000 kilograms a year, 500,000,000 a day) to landfill and other forms of discard. I deliberately changed the data from 180 billion to 180,000,000,000 to emphasize the impact. And that is just drinking straws!

The Usual Warnings

Warnings3Overall this week, I have been busy with the panpsychism issue, so not much to report. What has attracted my attention has all been related to climate issues, most of which are about the usual warnings and struggles. Given the cultural malaise, some days I wonder who is listening.

Of course, there has also been the many stories around the Trump issues, but of those, I only attend what I consider especially important (or clearly written) — otherwise I simply get tired of the nonsense.

Global Warming

A landmark climate lawsuit against Trump is scheduled for trial next year. Here’s what to expect. (20170705)

A clearly written description of the legal process involved in challenging the US federal government. If successful, the results for individual politicians would be such they might face significant consequences (removal from office to imprisonment). Clmate denial by the US government would likely have to stop, and appropriate actions taken. Perhaps such judgment would spill over to Canadian law also. Unfortunately, even if successful by the plaintiffs, the institution of resolutions may take so long that global warming will be irreversible by the time of their implimentations.

Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines (20170523)

Because of better sampling tools, it appears that most vertebrate species are in major difficulty. A total of 27600 species were examined, 177 in great detail; of the 177 species, more than 40% had species range loss (thus diminished population) of greater than 80%. Not good (by any stretch of the imagination)!

The Uninhabitable Earth (20170709)

A detailed article bordering on doom-mongering, but even if the details are inaccurate, the themes are not — they emphasize the types of outcomes that will occur if we do not respond effectively to global warming. The side articles, referenced in the main article, are also worth reading.

Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says? (20170710)

A much more moderate tone, responding to The Uninhabitable Earth (above), but also noting the importance of knowing the worst case scenarios. “If you don’t know where you are , you cannot get to where you say you want to be!”

Our Approach to Climate Change Isn’t Working. Let’s Try Something Else. (20170710)

A sensible article on what we need to do.

Massive iceberg breaks away from Antarctica (20170712)

An iceberg the volume of Lake Erie, the size of the state of Connecticut (5800 square kilometers). What can I say?

These animals can survive until the end of the Earth, astrophysicists say (20170714)

The good news is that life is likely to survive. Some contraversy as usual in the scientific research, but with multiple ecological niches, still a good chance that life will persist, and eventually flourish  (after a few million years).

Digression: Global Warming

The Dangers of Climate Change
The Dangers of Climate Change

A few days ago, I received two relatively recent articles that highlight for me the risks of global warming: Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer (2016 predictions on potential temperature rise) and Mass extinction forecast with 6°C temperature rise (2013 predictions of the impact on species).

I get a lot of information about global warming on a weekly basis; I’ve been doing so since sometime in 2009. I remember sitting in a lecture hall listening to a speaker talk about global warming when the speaker mentioned the impact on permafrost (permanently frozen ground in the Arctic regions). Recall that I have degrees in physics and biophysics (with a lot of maths and chemistry), and that I have worked in the Arctic — I know a little about permafrost! My PhD dissertation explores the relationships of acedia and global warming — I know how resistant we humans are to changing our patterns. At that moment, I got it! If we do not quickly manage global warming, we will go extinct. Not maybe — will! Simple physics; simple biology. I am not interested in “doom and gloom” — but I am very pragmatic when it comes to risk management.

Since that time I have been following the reports of the consequences of global warming, and the attempts to assess the risks. Every major report has said: “The previous report underestimated the risks. It is worse than we thought!” (The actual wording varied; the message was the same.)

First, the current CO2 level as of 2016 July 10 is 405.59 ppm, with the average June level of 406.81, both figures up ~4 ppm over the same dates of 2015, and overall ~125 ppm above pre-industrial levels of ~275 ppm. Even with maximal effort, the levels will still rise somewhat simply due to delays in the feedback systems. Notice where this puts us on the following chart (summarized from Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet): between 2°C and 3°C.

SixDegrees

All of this is bad news. Anything about 2°C risks uncertain run-away feedback mechanisms that could well destroy our civilization for thousands of years, if not simply that of human extinction. A very good summary is available as “A degree by degree explanation of what will happen when the earth warms.” It is not good news.

As I am sure people are aware, our international governments have struggled with reaching agreement on how to respond to global warming, and last fall in Paris finally reached a non-binding agreement to limit planetary warming to under 2°C (a commitment, but not a guarantee). And global warming is only one of the issues.

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond notes:

People often ask, “What is the single most important environmental-population problem facing the world today?” A flip answer would be, “The single most important problem is our misguided focus on identifying the single most important problem!” . . .  We have to solve them all.

          [B]ecause we are rapidly advancing along this non-sustaining course, the world’s environmental problems will get resolved, in one way or another, within the lifetimes of the children and young adults alive today. The only question is whether they will become resolved in pleasant ways of our own choice, or in unpleasant ways not of our choice, such as warfare, genocide, starvation, disease epidemics, and collapses of societies. (p. 498)

I don’t like these scenarios.