Such a fascinating week, with many reflections. I mentioned last post a number of books I am currently reading. They tend to be rather heavy, and periodically I need something lighter. On this occasion, I found Stories and Legends by Leo Tolstoy. Apparently Tolstoy, after he had written his major novels (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, et cetera), started writing short stories — as a master of literary skill, his style is delightful (clear, concise, sensory-based), well worth reading.
The Failing State of the World
Most notably for this week, my reflections have been on the failing state of the world. Jack Kornfield sums it up for me in his blog Living Mindfully in Modern Society (2017), which I assume is recent but he does not give a specific date.
The world is spending its wealth in the trillion-dollar arms market, yet only 10 percent of what’s spent annually could feed all our children—every hungry person on earth. We have seen that our growing groundwater pollution affects every one of us. Indeed, with care and attention we recognize that some of the riches we enjoy in modern Western society come at great costs, which include the exploitation of other cultures, the economic colonization of much of the world, the ecological devastation of habitats and species. Every time we drive, we contribute to worldwide pollution and global warming. Every time we fly, our jet fuel is secured through the politics of power in the Middle East. Our desire to eat imported food as inexpensively as possible can have terrible consequences for the environment as well. Human and natural realms are not separate. Whether in contemplating the responsibility of our lifestyle for global warming or the pollution of our rivers or in considering the sources of our food, our eyes must open to this interdependence.
In particular, I was astounded by an Oxfam report I found from 2016: Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world’s population, says Oxfam (20160118); at the annual World Economic Forum, Oxfam called for action to reverse the trend in inequality, but said “words had not been translated into action.” It also reminded me of a recent TED talk (2017, viewed live, not yet available for the internet) indicating that likely the most effective way to irradicate the complexity of poverty would simply be a guaranteed income for everyone. My belief is that people want authentic work, and in today’s high tech world, it would be possible to do so; meanwhile a guaranteed income would eliminate much of the education and health care issues that also sustain poverty. This economic discrepancy is not only sad; it is criminal.
Normally I do not pay a lot of attention to the media buzz around American politics, but this week in particular has been astonishing, what with the firing of James Comey as FBI Director. I find it very difficult to sort out the details of what is happening, but regard it as very important, possibly the beginning of a process that may lead to the impeachment of Trump as President. The following stand out for me as useful:
- The Long, Twisted, and Bizarre History of the Trump-Russia Scandal (20170324, updated regularly). This site attempts to track the details for those interested — it is updated regularly with the twists and turns.
- Why Trump’s Firing of Comey Should Be Investigated (20170510). “Trump does have the right to fire Comey. But if this was done to smother an investigation, Trump may have violated the law, defending himself and not the Constitution.”
Two comments on global warming indicate the complexity of what is happening:
- ‘We all knew this was coming’: Alaska’s thawing soils are now pouring carbon dioxide into the air (20170508). The IPCC reports of the past few years, as bad as they have been, apparently do not include the impact of feedback loops such as the melting of the permafrost. Such tipping points spell disaster.
- Trump’s staff reportedly feeding him Internet hoaxes on climate (20170515), Joe Romm. I normally would not pay attention to this kind of report, but I have had some direct contact with Joe Romm, and know him to be a very reliable reporter. To accept that the most powerful man in the world is receiving, and acting on, fake reports is horrifying.
Two other reports feed into this concern of the deterioration in appropriate investigation:
- Millions of Americans Are Drinking Contaminated Water—and Don’t Even Know It (20170503), This is likely due to failure of the EPA process because of budget cuts.
- Trump’s EPA Greenlights a Nasty Chemical. A Month Later, It Poisons a Bunch of Farmworkers. (20170515), Tom Philpott. Another reliable reporter.
Finally, women’s reproductive rights, in particular, are a disaster in the states. Check out To Understand the Cost of the War on Women, Look to Mississippi (20170505). I know many mature men and I know many more mature women. I truly believe that the next century belongs to women — if we ever actually do something about our failing civilization.
Such an interesting world, interesting in the sense of the Chinese curse.
 Tolstoy, L. (1943) Stories and legends. Trans. L & A.Maude, New York, NY: Pantheon.