My Favorite Time of Year

Leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, the light has changed, the veil thins. Everything feels liminal… I love it! And there’s lots going on in the next two weeks: the 1st year anniversary of the dedication of Loki’s Lokabrenna Tiny Temple on the 28th–an observance which also represents with a deeper spirtual bond with my “most trusted one”; a witchy ceremony and “Dumb Supper” at my house on the 30th; Halloween/part of Samhain and a good friend’s birthday on the 31st; the second part of Samhain and my birthday on Nov. 1st; and another good friend’s birthday on the 4th!

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Left hand path. Copyright Amy Marsh 2018

These are some of the joys of a life lived on the left-hand path, though the term itself means many things to many people. I first encountered it in neo-tantra circles but of course it is used widely elsewhere. I associate it with witchery, tantra and sex magic, and other spiritual processes. I also imagine my last years as a creatively crafted life–something along the lines of the Addams Family meets Downton Abbey meets War for the Oaks, but with a punk rock /Helium Vola/ Hawaiian music soundtrack and a Leather Family next door. I suppose this is a topic for a whole other blog. Meanwhile, I collect too many glass jars and lids. (I’m either planning jar spells or storing food against the next zombie power outage apolcalypse.)

Reflecting on this last year’s events and accomplishments, this blog is one. Though the blog has consumed much of the writing energy that should have gone to my two novels, I needed to do it. But never fear, NaNoWriMo starts on my birthday and that should propel me right back into The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

Other events and accomplishments include doing the “30 Days for Loki” observances in July; doing with the layout and assisting with the editing of Loki’s Torch; putting together an online Loki Fest conference; doing some writer/allyship in support of the Kia’i of Mauna Kea; my spectrosexuality survey; appearing on Australian TV; updating my 150-hour course on Hypnosis for Sexual Concerns; and acquiring three more cats. (That’s IT, I swear. Seven is more than enough!) I also acquired a roommate and that’s worked out fine.

Oh, and I gave away some books.

The mundane aspect of turning 65 next month has also brought the transition to Medicare. I have already fried more a few brain cells trying to figure out the unweildy assortment of supplemental plans.

I also, like most people in Northern CA, endured the PG&E power outage for three days (some endured it longer). But at least there has not been a fire this year to force me to evacuate my home. There’s a reason I make friends with fire deities and offer them cookies!

What comes after Samhain is going to involve another constellation of challenges. I intend go to “a place quite northwards, it seems”* in the next 6-8 months, to a place that is less isolated and more culturally active than where I live now. I’ve been well-sheltered by this house for the last two years, and have enjoyed my daily view of the lake and the mountain, but Lake County is not right for me. It seems I’m more suited to urban-ish environments than rural life and I need to find a better place to age, to spend the last decades of my life. A medium-sized college town, progressive and arty, will do me just fine. I know a place. I have friends there.

So this time of year involves reflection, liminal awareness, and a deeper opportunity to connect with my deities, guides, and ancestors. I am asking for their help in the coming year, of course, and Loki, my restless guide, is determined to not let me vegetate.

Hail Loki and all love to Freyr, Freya, Gerda, Bast, and Brigit as well! Love to the ancestors.

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*A phrase from Pride and Prejudice.

Why It’s Really Hawaiian Science vs. Pro-TMT Culture

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Disclaimer: Of course the importance of Mauna Kea is “really” about so much more than this small slice of the issue. However, this tedious TMT PR trope of asking “can science and culture coexist on the mountain” is making me slightly insane. Here’s another angle–the way we should “really” be asking this question. But first, a public service announcement.

Today, October 5th, is the worldwide celebration of Aloha ʻĀina Unity Marches, with events taking place on most or all of the Hawaiian Islands and in other places besides. (Aloha ʻĀina means “love the land.”)


The controversy over the construction of a massive, ecologically destructive, 18-story building on stolen lands in a fragile “conservation district” zone–a district located on Mauna Kea, one of the most sacred mountains in the Pacific–is often presented as “Science” (white, western, mostly based on materialistic consumption) vs. “Culture” (native, oceanic, mostly based in spiritual traditions).

I am not anywhere near one of today’s marches. Instead, I will write. But in order to write about this particular aspect of the Mauna Kea struggle, I must acknowledge a mid-August phone conversation with Makana Cameron, musician and activist (hear his song, “See You on the Mauna,” featuring Lanakila). In that conversation, Makana spoke of the science community’s “weaponization of knowledge” and how the narrative of the TMT controversy was really about “Western Science dogma operating as Religion” vs. Native Science (which we understand to be informed by spiritual connection and a responsible understanding of how to get along with the natural world). I took a lot of notes during that convseration but unfortunately did not get verbatim quotes. E kala mai! (Sorry!) His eloquence exceeds my own and I hope I can do justice to the gist of the conversation while also adding further thoughts of my own. 

I’ve been letting the conversation with Makana root and grow, not sure if I was the right person to address this topic, collaboratively or otherwise. Meanwhile, just the other day, members of the astronomy community who support construction of the 18-story Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), staged a pro-TMT panel discussion at the Hawai’i “state” capitol in Honolulu. Here’s the first sentence from the Oct. 4th Hawai’i News Now article: “Thirty Meter Telescope supporters gathered at the state Capitol Friday arguing that culture and science can coexist on Mauna Kea.”

Not that “coexistence” thing again! Frankly, my stomache churned, reading this. Fuggit, those folks are shameless. It’s past time for that question, and its underlying assumptions, to be flipped.

Let’s talk about what kind of culture and what kind of science would be most likely to productively and respectfully “co-exist” on the mountain.

And let’s be clear about two things:

(1) That mode of inquiry enshrined by the general term “science” is not a pure, unbiased endeavor. It never has been. It often serves the power elite at the expense of others. And science which originates from a (mostly white) western , intrinsically colonial mindset and which is privileged over the rights and wishes of native peoples IS NOT CULTURE-FREE! The pro-TMT camp is notoriously ignorant and/or duplicitous about the impact of Western Science Culture, what it embodies and represents. Since this ignorance is whopping Moore Foundation grants (if not exactly bliss), the pro-TMT camp grants itself “the right” to do whatever the heck it wants on the mountain, regardless of the wishes, beliefs, and legal rights of native Hawaiians. In fact, their insistent “manifest astronomical destiny” to build TMT takes precedence over all other concerns, almost bordering on dogmatic religious fervor. “To the stars!” they cry, aspiring to imagined scientific heroics without realizing that they are in fact the gullible representatives of an evil empire.

(2) Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) are not and have never been “science free.” As a brilliant people with exceptional resource management skills (e.g. the ahupua’a system), they developed sophisticated capacities for observation, inquiry, and practical applications in navigation, aquaculture, agriculture, botany,  weather observation (just to name a few) and yes…even astronomy. I hesitate to name that last one because the pro-TMT camp has so often conflated its own star-gazing with that of the Hawaiians, as a justification for its own invasive and quite illegal claims on the mountain. This is a particularly noxious form of cultural appropriation.

As just one example of advanced observational abilities, I go to a book on my shelf, Hanau Ka Ua–Hawaiian Rain Names, by Collette Leimomi Akana with Kiele Gonzalez. There are hundreds of distinct names and descriptions of different rains, such as “Kiawe’ula… Rain that streams down gracefully with a faint streak of red, as of a rainbow” (p. 80) and the “Wa’ahila rain” which “brings life to the harbour of Kou” (p. 273). So the different rains are not just described, but in some cases their importance to ecosystems is also noted.

Or how about an example from literature, when the goddess Pele recites the names and describes all the winds of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau in a chant which takes up pages 13-25 of The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele, as told by Ho’oulumahiehie, translated by M. Puakea Nogelmeier?

Can you imagine San Francisco urbanites taking the time to closely watch the winds and rains that visit their city? Do they intimately observe the details, direction, and timing of the “Bus Interrupting Rain” or the “Branch Scattering Wind of Golden Gate Park?” Do we know their seasons, their times of arrival, how they may spur or inhibit the growth of plants or fisheries (not to mention their effect on mass transit)? The heart of science is observation. And practical use of such observations can bring plenty or hardship to a people. Kanaka Maoli (and other native peoples) were and are adept. They had to be.

I might also mention that what we might call “social sciences” are also key to survival. You can bet that native peoples have focused their finely tuned observational capacities on the people who colonize or occupy their lands, as a matter of survival. Without presuming to speak for the Mauna Kea protectors, I would venture to guess that many know the precise nature and character of their opponents far better than the opponents know themselves.

That said, let’s get back to the idea of a “culture” that could successfully and respectfully co-exist with the kind of science and common sense stewardship of natural resources that’s embedded in native Hawaiian traditions. What kind of culture does the TMT convey and represent?

Systemic racism and personal prejudice. Here is just one example, in a quote from a Hawai’i NPR story concerning an event which happened April, 2015:

“Professor Alexei Filippenko, of the University of California Berkeley, sent out a link to a petition in support of the TMT. It included a note from Professor Sandra Faber at UC Santa Cruz and it landed in the inboxes of all the astrophysics students and faculty.

Faber wrote in part of the email that “the Thirty-Meter Telescope is in trouble, attacked by a horde of native Hawaiians who are lying about the impact of the project on the mountain and who are threatening the safety of TMT personnel.”

I lived in the San Francisco East Bay at the time. As an ally, I attended the meeting at CAL Berkeley where astronomy students confronted faculty with their anger and concerns about this incident. That the meeting was “tense” is an understatement.

Here is an excellent commentary by Janet D. Stemwedel about the ethical challenges of the TMT and the (largely white) American scientific community as a whole.

Incidently, in July 2019, hundreds of astronomers and other scientists signed a petition supporting the protectors of Mauna Kea and opposing the construction of the TMT.

Predatory philanthropy. See Mauna Kea and the Moore Foundation’s Hypocrisy for a larger version of the funding charts below. The strategy of the Moore Foundation’s grants to TMT, University of Hawai’i, and the Nature Conservancy was and is designed to influence decision-making about Mauna Kea. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.

Corruption of public agencies and processes. See What Price Mauna Kea? for more details about the relationships between the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, University of Hawai’i, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and Bureau of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) and the possible skewing of the approval process in favor of the TMT. All information taken from websites accessible to the public.

You might also want to look at an interesting paper trail included in an article by Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz and Sherri Kane: Gov. Ige TMT Bribery Scandal. Ige’s office denied the allegation. I don’t know if there is any follow-up investigation.

Rev. Relationships GBMF:etc

Entitlement and duplicity. Gosh. Where to start? From the beginning of the theft of the Hawaiian Kingdom to the present moment, representatives of the occupying power have felt entitled to “dole” out (pun intended) duplicity to the Kanaka Maoli as a matter of course. All telescope development on Mauna Kea since 1968 is the result of entitled land grabs and lies. Today, TMT public relations communications routinely spin falsehoods and half-truths.

Violence. In 2015, at least one Mauna Kea activist was nearly run over by a car heading up the access road toward the telescopes. Sacred structures have been vandalized for years. In July 2019, police arrested 38 peaceful protectors of the mountain, most of them elderly people. A community classroom at Pu’uhonua o Pu’uhuluhulu was recently destroyed by authorities, who also ripped through and desecrated a Hawaiian flag. The protectors gathered at Pu’u Huluhulu have been harrassed with parking tickets as well as threatened with potentially lethal force in future police actions. Here is a video of some of the Kia’i making a statement about police harrassment and misconduct.

Paul Neves, a longtime Mauna Kea activist who is a renowned kumu hula (hula teacher) and a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, reported a recent encounter with a gun-wielding man on a street near his home in Hilo. Kumu Neves has asked for his post to be shared widely so I have copied and pasted his post here.


Please share this with everyone…

On the morning of Saturday September 28th between 6:30 and 7:00 AM, beachside across the street from Seaside Restaurant in Keaukaha, my life was threatened while walking my dog. A gun was aimed methodically and purposefully right at me, within 8 feet of my face. At that very moment, I thought I would be shot and killed. I remember his face, the barrel of the gun and his dead eyes. I will never forget.

Those of you who know me, know that I have been outspoken on political, cultural and spiritual issues all my life, and especially in Hawai’i. You also know that I am not afraid to die for what I believe in and that I will not be threatened or intimidated. I will continue to follow the call of Ke Akua and that is my refuge, purpose and mission in life.

The shooter left after my yelling and screaming back at him. After a long five seconds his car fled the scene. The police were timely and I am following up with them. I have shared this terrible incident with my ohana and close friends. I also am seeking professional help to deal with it.

I share it with you because it is healing for me and to make you aware of a danger that does exists in our community. I am asking you to pray (PULE) for me and other innocent people who have been traumatized or threatened in their lives.

Never leave your home or loved ones without saying to them, “I Love You”. I have learned that valuable lesson! I got this my friends.
God bless you…See You On The Mauna… Kumu Paul Neves


Cultural assumptions about Hawai’i and Hawaiians. From the above mentioned “angry hordes” of Sandy Farber’s imagination to the frequent characterization of Kanaka Maoli as somehow less rational and more superstitious (given their devotion to their own culture and the sacredness of their mountain), negative and insulting assumptions (often racialized) inform TMT-related policies and actions of duplicity and entitlement. To discredit Mauna Kea’s protectors, Governor Ige and other authority figures have portrayed the sacred “place of refuge” at Pu’uhuluhulu as unsafe, unsanitary, violent, drug-ridden, criminal, etc. However, there is no evidence of this at and far more evidence of a well-run, loving, safe community established to prevent desecration of Mauna Kea. Pu’uhuluhulu is informed by the principal of Kapu Aloha–a nonviolent and spirit-filled commitment to stand in dignity and peace, as appropriate to the cause and the sacredness of the place.

Superstition. By assuming (1) the mantle of a privileged intellectual elite (which must never be challenged) and (2) the values of short-sighted, profit-driven rampant consumerism (capitalism), Western Science Culture has helped to create an almost superstitious mindset among the general public. This is a mindset that looks to the Great Gods of Science to provide tech fixes to our most dire, life destroying predicaments: those of climate catastrophe, ubiquitous pollution, and rapid species extinction, a domino effect of almost total Earth ecosystem collapse. No matter that most of these predicaments are the result of science in the service of industry–creating nuclear bombs, toxic petrochemicals, plastic microbeads that fill the bellies of ocean animals, ad infinitum. Why we should expect the same mindset that created these problems to also provide solutions is beyond me. It seems to be a superstition of the most tragic and pernicious kind.

Therefore, when I “compare and contrast” the features of the TMT’s Imperial Western Science culture–and its lack of ethics and penchant for all manner of poor behavior–I do not believe that the TMT’s culture is at all compatible with the rational science and spiritual stewardship demonstrated by the Mauna Kea Kia’i, who are protecting a precious cultural and natural resource in a world imperiled by the same kind of entitlement and reckless disregard of natural balance and human rights that are at the heart of the efforts to build the TMT.

I conclude that the TMT and its proponents should not have any say at all in what happens on Mauna Kea.

Finally, here is a cogent statement from one of the leaders in the fight to preserve Mauna Kea, Kealoha Pisciotta’s discussion of a Mauna Kea “management plan” produced by the Kanaka Maoli lahui (community) some time ago. This sixteen-minute video is well worth watching, especially if you’ve been confused by this issue.

Ku Kia’i Mauna!

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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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