Blessed Samhain…With Electricity

It’s blessed Samhain, as of this evening, and this pagan holiday runs right into my birthday until sundown Nov. 1st. I am feeling unusually cheery, in spite of postponing a birthday gathering with my friends and children, as the lights are on at last. Big_black_cats_howl_as_naked_witches_ascend_into_the_night_o_Wellcome_V0011894

I can heat my house and the electric hot water heater is once again on the job. In just a few minutes, I’ll make good use of it. Last night my part of Lake County was “re-energized” (PG&E’s quaint phrase) at approximately 4:30 PM. My four and a half days without power were not as dangerous or as costly as many people here in Lake County, and yet I was made all too aware of the vulnerability of being a “crone alone” in a rural county, 15-20 miles away from medical help, with only a few two-lane highways to get us in and out of our lake valley. Plus, I have to throw out some food.

Meanwhile the Kincade Fire, which has destroyed 76,825 acres and 282 structures, is at 60% containment but a friend of mine in Middletown, close to the Sonoma County line, is still on evac notice, as are the people of Cobb Mountain. The location of this fire meant that highways 53, 29, 128, and 175 would be poor choices as evacuation routes for people living around the lake (should we need them), as these highways would have taken the unwary too close to–or into–the fire (which at times also closed portions of the major freeway 101, in both directions). And then the Burris Fire broke out along highway 20, the way I usually leave this county, closing half of it for several hours. That left only highway 20 east to south interstate 5 as a potential escape route for me and my seven cats. With fires breaking out all over the place (again) I was really living in some fear. As were we all here in Lake County. We’re officially a disaster zone, an impoverished county already just barely scraping by, scarred by fires and floods in the last few years.

No internet. No cellphone. Only a land-line and a battery operated radio kept me linked to the outwide world. (But some people’s AT&T landlines were going down and the community radio stations were running on generators, with limited programming). Though I usually spend my days in silence, I was hungry for news and kept the radio on all day long. Along with call-in complaints and local news–who was open, who did acts of kindness, who had their generator stolen, what stations had gas–there was an overall esprit de corps and generosity of spirit that makes my eyes teary even as I write.

And so last night, before the electricity came back, a few of us gathered in my home for a Samhain celebration and a “Dumb Supper” (a silent meal shared with our beloved dead). I spent the day preparing, moving furniture, and cooking (yes, I have a gas stove and could cook indoors–I was lucky!). The imperishables and the food about to perish in my warming freezer determined the human menu: a soup of frozen corn, canned milk, eggs, and onions; chorizo; polenta; and applesauce. The dead were offered foods colored black or white: squares of chocolate, feta cheese, olives, small chunks of canned pears. We drank a toast to them from empty cups. And we all remembered people we love who are no longer embodied.

Funny thing though, the lights came on just as we were about to eat our own meal and cast our circle. We’d been prepared to carry on by candlelight, but now we didn’t have to. And as our priestess was calling in the North, the land-line rang with what I later learned was PG&E’s redunant announcement that the power was now on. (Of course I didn’t answer it at the time.)

That was three power outages this month. A lot of food had to be tossed. I am just now taking stock of what I have to replace, at the end of the month when funds are low. Every single person in this county who isn’t lucky or wealthy enough to own a generator, is in this same predicament.

For me, this year’s liminal season–which encompasses the founding of Lokabrenna, Samhain, and my birthday (as well as the birthdays of cherished friends)–has taught me precariousness and the need for redundant systems (including those which are low tech). It has also taught me (once again) the value of friendship and community, seen and unseen.

Power of another sort informed our ritual last night. The dark and the liminal are allies we cultivate. Our ancestors and our dead are with us as we suffer and celebrate. The firefighters are blessed allies of another kind. Everyone who made a kind gesture this last week has my gratitude and my awe.

Blessed be. And Hail to Loki, my fultrui and future psychopomp.

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The Huge Climate Change Impact of Volatile Chemical Products

Hey everyone! Thanks for everything you’re already doing AND here’s something else to put on your agenda! It’s the petrochemical “elephant in the room.” You need to know this. You’ll thank me–I promise.

I am hoping you will share information about the following two studies and findings with other climate change activists as well as policy-makers.

Almost 40% of Urban Air Pollution Caused by Personal Care Products and Other Volatile Chemical Products (VCPs)

Though the focus of 350.org and other organizations has to do with fuel and energy, an overlooked component of air pollution and climate change involves the production and use of Volatile Chemical Products (VCPs). It turns out that VCPs, including personal care products, comprise 4% of the mass but have 38% of the impact on urban air quality–almost equal to gasoline and diesel emissions! NOAA and air quality researchers at UC Davis. PDF of the study here: 

The study was a collaboration of NOAA and air quality researchers at UC Davis: Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, published in Science, Feb. 2018. (See PDF of study here.) Here is the first paragraph:

[“A gap in emission inventories of urban volatile organic compound (VOC) sources, which contribute to regional ozone and aerosol burdens, has increased as transportation emissions in the United States and Europe have declined rapidly. A detailed mass balance demonstrates that the use of volatile chemical products (VCPs)—including pesticides, coatings, printing inks, adhesives, cleaning agents, and personal care products—now constitutes half of fossil fuel VOC emissions in industrialized cities. The high fraction of VCP emissions is consistent with observed urban outdoor and indoor air measurements. We show that human exposure to carbonaceous aerosols of fossil origin is transitioning away from transportation-related sources and toward VCPs. Existing U.S. regulations on VCPs emphasize mitigating ozone and air toxics, but they currently exempt many chemicals that lead to secondary organic aerosols.”]

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From MacDonald et. all, Science, Feb. 2018.

So, with this kind of impact on outdoor air in cities, what do you think the impact of such products may be in buildings and indoor events? And in public transportation, which we are all asked to use in order to cut down on fossil fuel use? What happens when proposed solutions like public transportation ignore a substantial population of people who cannot access them?

A substantial population? Really?

Yes, actually. Another 2018 study, National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities by Anne Steinemann, PhD (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, March 2018) estimates that one in four Americans now has some form of environmentally caused illness. Here is where you can find a PDF of her study.

So… if we connect the dots…our current rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, plus environmental illnesses, are caused and exacerbated by VCPs as well as VOCs (petrochemicals all). And part of our climate catastrophe could be mitigated substantially by including public awareness of the huge impact of VCPs on climate and health (remember, this 4% mass of VCPs causes 38% of the effects on urban air quality–and presumably also a correspondingly large impact on human health). Such products must be boycotted wherever possible, and their use in public spaces, health care settings, workplaces, schools, and transportation should be regulated and/or prohibited, much like the use of tobacco smoke. Also, less toxic and non-toxic products already exist and should be promoted as alternatives.

Climate Justice is Intersectional

Recognition of the enormous but unacknowledged impact of VCPs can lead climate activists and others to a fruitful intersection of public health concerns, disability accommodation, changes in consumer buying habits, and rather substantial decrease in degraded air quality (both outdoor and indoor).

Why not listen, finally, to those of us–people with environmental illnesses–who have been “Canaries in the Coal Mine” for so many years? (I’ve been calling us “Cassandras in the Coal Mine” since no one listens to us…) We have deep, hard-won knowledge of the impacts of chemicals on human and environmental health. And now the NOAA/UC Davis study shows how what’s been hurting us is also an enormous factor in air pollution and climate change.

So why not welcome us into your activist meetings and spaces (by making them “fragrance-free” for a start) and why not include the above scientifically significant findings in your strategies and platforms? (350.org, Drawdown, are you listening?)

Let us help you create the education and messages necessary for public understanding and action on this point, thus adding substantially to the array of solutions to our current predicament. Seek out people involved with environmental health organizations and Facebook groups of people with chemical sensitivities.

Partner with the Canaries. Our “songs” are more helpful than you know. Here is the one I’m “singing” now…

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From NOAA and the Air Quality Research Center at U.C. Davis: Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, B.C. McDonald et. al. Science, Feb. 16, 2018.

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Mauna Kea Signal Boosting #2

Dear Readers, Here are important recent statements from Kia’i (Protectors) of Mauna Kea. 

• Sept. 18th statement from representatives of Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu regarding police “counter intelligence” efforts to undermine Kia’i.

 

• Professor Kaleikoa Ka’eo testimony to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Sept. 19, 2019.

 

• Kaho’okahi Kanuha testimony to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), Sept. 19, 2019.

 

• Edward Halealoha Ayau testimony on the actual ownership of Mauna Kea access road (hint: it’s not Dept. of Transportation).

More to come.

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Design by Laulani Teale.

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In My Heart Today: Two Movements

Today’s Global Climate Strike and the ongoing Aloha ‘Aina (“love of the land”) movement to protect Sacred Mauna Kea in Hawai’i are both part of the larger upswelling of urgency to save our planet and its natural places and living creatures from the impacts of human-caused climate catastrophe and rapacious human greed.

Vist the Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu website for more information about the Aloha ‘Aina movement to protect the mountain. You can also check out my blog links.

I’ll be participating in a strike action later today. I’ve opted to not drive 300 miles round trip to San Francisco’s demonstration because I’d use a lot of fossil fuel getting there, so I’ll participate in a smaller action closer to home.

Leaving David Bowie’s Five Years right here…

 

To the 1% and Their Enablers

Fractal_fireDear multi-millionaires and billionaires, dear politicians and policy-makers, dear CEOs and shareholders:

Time to wake up. All of this that you hold so dearly–luxury goods and first class seats, designer clothing and “the best of everything,” the food, the wines, top schools and the servants…(most of all THE POWER!)–and the human lives you hold so cheaply…climate catastrophe is going to tear it from your grasp. All of it. There will be no “growth economy,” no capitalism, no more food when there are no pollinators, no colonies on Mars when the corridors of aerospace factories are strewn with bodies.

You might hold out a little longer than the rest of us, in your 4 bdrm./3 bath underground bunkers complete with hot tub and wide screen TV. You’ll be stocked for what, a year? And then what? Your doctors are dead, your servants have fled, and what happened to the power anyway? Too bad you didn’t invest in solar when you had the chance. Maybe that AOC had something after all, with her “Green New Deal.”

You’ve watched so many Hollywood dystopia movies, the kind where a plucky ensemble cast succeeds against all odds (usually the plucky cast is mostly white, with a person or two of color added as an afterthought, and the hottest babe has the best martial arts skills). The bodies strewn across those cinema landscapes have no odor. Yeah, they’re visually gross but someone would have come along to bury them eventually, wouldn’t they? (They’ve all got SAG cards, anyhow.)

In the past, you could watch one of those movies, enjoy the adrenaline, and then walk back out into your perfectly manicured world. No longer. You’re preening in private now. Go ahead, apply one more coat of nail polish. Slip on those vintage Ivanka heels one last time. Straighten that tie. Fondle the golf clubs. Break open a final bottle of champagne and toast the good life you had at the expense of so many others. The dinosaurs are calling. It’s time to let go.

What? You don’t want to?

Meanwhile, the rest of us–we’re either dying a slow death from the heat or starving or eating each other. We’ve got pre-ice age microbes stalking the earth once more, smaller than Godzilla but a lot more deadly. Our cats, our dogs…our children…are begging us for water but the water is filled with plastic microbeads, fragrance chemicals, agricultural run-off, Lemon Fresh Joy, and thousands of other petro-chemicals. Cyanobacteria bloom and fish are floating to the surface. Dead bees are everywhere. Even the roaches and the rats curse our memory.

The few humans who manage to survive will be the ones with excellent communication skills, a lifetime of working together in a community, and the fundamental knowledge of our ancestors: how to make fire, how to fish, how to hunt, how to grow, how to listen to plants, how to create twine and fabrics, how to manage a fever, how to work metal and chop wood, how to midwife. The good news: a lot of people still have this fundamental knowledge, but most of them are not living in the so-called developed world.

You folks in your bunkers, you folks barricaded in penthouse suites watching the carnage below, you had your chance. You could have acted in your own self-interest, preserved a semblance of the world and wealth that you hold so dear, and used just a fraction of your power and money to help pull the entire planet back from the brink of climate catastrophe. You could have influenced the policy-makers, greased their palms (as you have so many times before), and venture-capitaled some of those high tech gizmos you thought might save us.

It’s come to this. Your children, your grandchildren, are urging you to wake up and do something before it’s too late. And will you listen? We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, the rest of us are organizing for Climate Justice and are learning  to cooperate humbly with what’s left of the rest of creation.

And we’ll learn how to rub two sticks together. Just in case.


Global Climate Strike Sept. 20-27

Drawdown – Solutions

NY Times Opinion Piece: Sliding Down the Climate Slope

Dockrill, Peter. We’re headed for ‘climate apartheid,’ in which the poor will suffer while the rich save themselves, warns a chilling UN report, BusinessInsider, June 26, 2019.

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Global Climate Strike

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I watched the testimony today as climate change activists Greta Thunberg, Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett and Benji Backer testified before the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. I love Greta, but she is so well-known that I want to focus for a moment on the other activists, particularly Jamie Margolin and Vic Barrett.

Barrett, particularly, was given less chance to answer questions from the congressional committee members, who seemed more interested in talking with Benji Backer (conservative political views, committed capitalist, nice suit, tie, cleanshaven, white). I am sorry to say it, but it was so glaringly obvious that certain voices were being privileged to the detriment of others. I was also disgusted by the condescension and “mainsplaining” directed at the young people, particularly Greta.

And all that talk about cell phones as a shining example of the benefits of capitalism? What was up with that? Did those particular politicans think that this was how to get youth to listen to them, by mentioning cell phones? Many cell phones are or have been made with conflict minerals from Africa and thus hardly serve as a shining example of progressive capitalism. Read Blood on Your Cellphones, written by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy for Slate in 2013 ). (FYI: I own an iPhone and a Mac. Here is Apple’s 2018 update on conflict minerals. Apparently the company has taken measures to avoid conflict minerals and smelters since about 2014.)

• Vic Barrett is a fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education. I want to quote his bio from ACE:

<<As a Fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education, Vic traveled to Paris to attend and speak at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change, and joined as a plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by Our Children’s Trust against the United States government for failing to act to protect our climate for future generations. After marching in solidarity with more than 400,000 people at the Peoples Climate March in New York City, he organized his peers in local frontline climate campaigns. Through his activism, he has met with the Minister of Environment and Energy for the Maldives, and met with former U.S. astronaut, Kathryn D. Sullivan, who now serves as the Administrator for NOAA, and had the honor of representing young people as a speaker at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Vic is now an undergraduate student at UW-Madison. He currently sits on the diversity committee for the Nelson Institute to help advise and involve students of color in environmental activism, including action at the local level. Vic cares deeply about climate change, justice, and human rights, especially regarding the ways climate change affects young people like him.>>


• Jamie Margolin is the founder of This Zero Hour. You can find the group’s platforms and statements here. The homepage reads:

<<The Zero Hour movement started with our founder, 16-year-old Jamie Margolin. Frustrated by the inaction of elected officials and the fact that youth voices were almost always ignored in the conversation around climate change and the profound impact that it would have on young people, Jamie started gathering several of her friends in the summer of 2017 to start organizing something big, something hard to ignore! Nadia Nazar, Madelaine Tew, and Zanagee Artis joined her in her efforts.

Jamie realized that a national day of mass action, led by youth, would be an ideal platform to ensure that young voices were not only centered in this conversation, but that elected officials and adults would hear their voices loud and clear!

By the end of the summer, young activists from across the country, from diverse backgrounds, had joined the team and the Zero Hour movement had started taking shape.>>


Thunberg, Margolin, and Barrett seem genuine in their lack of self-interest and commitment to doing everything they can to stave off climate catastrophe. In fact, today Thunberg said (paraphrase) “I don’t want you to listen to me. Listen to the science.”

Such quotes as these from this article confirm my impression:

<<Thunberg chastised members of the Senate Climate Change Task Force on Tuesday for inaction.

“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” Thunberg said. “Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.”>>

<<Jamie Margolin, a 17-year-old climate change activist from Seattle, also scolded committee members on Wednesday for empty praise.

“You’re promising me lies,” Margolin said. “Everyone who will walk up to me after this testimony saying I have such a bright future ahead of me will be lying to my face. It doesn’t matter how talented we are, how much work we put in, how many dreams we have. The reality is, my generation has been committed to a planet that is collapsing.”>>

I found myself less sure of Benji Backer’s agenda. At times he seemed to undermine the messages of the other three and to set himself up as “the realist” (e.g. conservative, capitalist) of the group. Some of the conservative politicians were practically fawning over him. Possibly they were already imagining him as a “fresh young face” for some duplicitous co-option of the youth movement to forestall climate catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the September 20th #ClimateStrike is on the horizon.

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This. Now.

Want to do something about climate catastrophe and pollution? This 2018 study puts consumer buying habits in the crosshairs. Turns out the shampoos, fragrances, and other toxic consumer products we buy and use so blithely emit enough volatile organic compounds to contribute a whopping 38% to the urban air pollution. This is almost as much as gas and diesel fumes, and much more than industrial sources. But these toxic consumer products comprise only 4% of the mass. This means your Axe body spray is probably doing more immediate and lasting harm to the air than a gallon of gasoline left uncapped. And that’s outdoors! Think about the effects of these chemicals on indoor air.

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From NOAA and the Air Quality Research Center at U.C. Davis: Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, B.C. McDonald et. al. Science, Feb. 16, 2018.

Article about this study: Consumer, Industrial Products Overtake Transportation as Source of Urban Air Pollution. Download PDF of study here.


I’m ecstatic to hear of these findings, but as a person who is exquisitely attuned to symptoms of poisoning upon contact with thousands of consumer products, I could have told you this many years ago. I knew intuitively that consumer products made with volatile organic compounds (including fragrances and scented personal care products) were playing a much larger role in climate catastrophe–as well as dangers to public health–than most people would want to admit. And that what’s happening on our planet with pollution and climate change isn’t just due to the greed of corporations and governments (aka “those guys over there”), but also due to the gullibility and thoughtlessness of the average consumer. Every single freakin’ one of us.

But hey, I’m a “Cassandra in the Coal Mine” (people believe canaries and run for their lives–they don’t listen to human “canaries” at all). We were all talking about this 30, 20, 10, 5 years ago, and just yesterday too. You all don’t listen, at your peril.

Stop Buying That Shit

Think of the difference we could make if we all just stopped buying that stuff? We may not be able to do much about arson in the Amazon, but we COULD make a huge difference to our forests by not buying palm oil unless we’re sure it’s sustainably sourced.

In the same way, we have it in our power to substantially cut back on pollutants in our air, water, and soil (thus diminishing the chemicals which lodge in the bodies of your kids and all those cute forest animals and water mammals). Forget that bottle of fake strawberry body rub or “Juicy Lucy Mango-Citrus shampoo.” Save your cash instead for a nice evening out, perhaps at a restaurant with a “fragrance-free” policy so you can actually taste your food instead of another diner’s heavily applied “designer fragrance.” Or put it a college fund so your children won’t have to become indentured serfs at a One Percenter’s golf course or franchised BDSM dungeon in order to pay for their college education. (Not that I have anything against BDSM–it’s just that I don’t think sex workers are going to have many rights under such circumstances.)

Happy and Fierce

Thanks to this post in Linda Sepp’s excellent blog, Seriously Sensitive to Pollution, I made two happy discoveries yesterday. One was to Health Justice Commons, and through them, a link to the study above. Health Justice Commons also wrote THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND THOUGHTFUL statement of support for people with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses EVER.  I’ve become an instant fan of the organization.

And…because I’m now in the midst of my own thirty-year anniversary of multiple chemical sensitivity, which began during my pregnancy with my first child, I’ve finally simply had it. Up to here, in fact. I’m already socially isolated AF, with a declining career, and since my beautiful Trickster God is quite happy to support me in going all “Lokasenna” over this issue, I’m putting the rest of my sadly limited but bizarrely interesting life on the line. For this issue and a few others.

Someone just please take care of my cats when I’ve finally bit the dust after throwing myself repeatedly at windmills.

Hail Loki! Eco-Lokeans Unite!