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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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!

 

 

 

Day 13: The Gods Have “Issues”

Thirteen days into July’s “Thirty Days of Devotion for Loki,” we ponder this topic: “what modern cultural issues are closest to this deity’s heart?”

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Artist: Koch. Public Domain.

A deity’s interest in modern cultural issues is assumed and/or communicated based on a devotee’s blend of  “personal gnosis” and knowledge of lore, as well as community conversations about a deity’s involvment in a cause. These perceptions and community conversations are valuable as they give clues to types of service that could be performed as an offering to a deity. Of course, devotees may also received direct messages about desired devotional work as well.

For what it’s worth, here’s my personal gnosis take on Loki’s interests.

Child Welfare and Rights

In yesterday’s Day 12 blog, I encouraged readers to attend one of the LightsforLiberty events protesting U.S. concentration camps for asylum-seekers. I claimed that “Loki loves children” and this claim was based on lore that he both fathered and mothered various progeny, appears to have been deeply fond of them all, and would presumably not want them or other children to suffer. And he doesn’t seem to be someone who would approve of caging them or separating them from their parents.

One example of Loki’s concern for a child’s safety comes from Loka Táttura story-ballad from the Faroe Islands in which Loki rescues a farmer’s son from a giant after Odin and Hœnir have failed to keep the kid safe. And many modern conversations about Ragnarok speculate about Loki’s desire for revenge on the Æsir after the torture, death, and banishment of many of his own children. (His own torture and banishment seems scarcely considered.)

I also have personal gnosis regarding Loki and his concern for the safety of children, and have seen many comments from other Lokeans who also share this feeling.

LGBTQIA+ Rights

This is another area with plenty of conversation and personal gnosis. While you won’t find sexual preference and gender-variance positivity reflected in the old Norse lore (quite the contrary), I think there is plenty of modern agreement that Loki is multi-gendered and queer, and has a special interest and protectiveness for human beings who are in the same boat.

Several years ago, the “Over-Enthusiastic PFLAG Mom” was a popular meme. Of course, she’s a redhead. I catch a whiff of “Loki-ness” in the spirit of these memes. (My favorite reads “Pansexual? Just don’t chip the good china.”) Could “Mr. LokiBot” do any better?

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This is one of the main reasons I love him.

Environmental Health and Justice

According to some parts of Norse lore, Loki has been tormented for eons by painful snake venom dripped onto his skin. I personally take this as a metaphor for the challenges of environmental illnesses. One of my first blogs was Loki: A God of Pleasure, Poisoned. I’ve expanded on this theme in My Gods are Fragrance-Free and Loki: Proving the Poison.  At times I identify as an “Eco-Lokean.”

(Sadly, when I went to the local Lights for Liberty demonstration in Lakeport, CA yesterday, I had to dodge at least two quite heavily-offgassing fragrance users while standing in the hot sun with other activists. Even protests are not accessible to people like me. And someone tell me why it is necessary to wear fragrance to a protest??? Bitch, please!)

Advocacy for People with Disabilities and Other Life Challenges

A number of people think and feel that Loki is very supportive of people who deal with physical and mental challenges, as well as those who have gone through rough times. He does seem to show up with a hand to hold and a swift kick to the patoosis, if you need it. Many say Loki brings some crazy-ass shit, but that they are better for it.

I would presume that any advocacy for people with disabilities, foster kids who have aged out, prisioners, poor people, homeless people, addicts, etc. would have Loki’s blessing.

Climate Change

Personal gnosis, as well as intellectual speculation, leads me to beleive that most deities and spirits of this planet, not to mention great heaping gobs of ancestors, are quite, quite concerned about accelerating climate change and species die-offs. However, those in charge of conservative Christian fundamentalists are anything but. They’re all like “inconceivable!” and “What–Me worry?” Will the real anti-Christ please stand up?

A Friend of Investigative Journalism?

I could also see Loki as a patron of investigative journalists and columnists who skewer hypocrisy and exposure wrong-doing in high places. He’d probably love Project Censored.  Perhaps I should start listening to their radio show again, and invite Loki to listen in. Check out “Rallying Over Balloting: The Origins of Activism of the Millennial Generation” which is also televised.

Fighting Facism, White Supremacy, and Neo-nazism

Now that The Troth has lifted the ban and welcomed Loki back into its Trothmoot ceremonies I think there is even greater potential for Loki to be seen and known for his/her/zir/their opposition to fascism and white supremacy. He can be a potent force for inclusivity. I made a case for this before. Here’s a list of anti-hate resources at the end of this blog from last year.

As for the juggernaut of facism, here’s an excellent article by Fintan O’Toole in Irish TimesTrial runs for fascism are in full flow. Babies in cages were no ‘mistake’ by Trump but test-marketing for barbarism. It was published last summer, 2018. It now forms an eery, prophetic restrospective.

Here’s another article worth noting, from the Southern Poverty Law Center: White Nationalist Threats Against Transgender People are Escalating. 

Ultimately, It’s Personal (And That’s My Personal Gnosis)

Generally, whatever kind of humanitarian or social justice activism we’re into, if we’re into Loki too, we will probably be asking him to support us in our efforts. And we’ll likely  to feel he will, partly because Loki hates hypocrisy and partly because he wants us to be effective change agents for our own lives and for the larger community. That’s a personal gnosis statement, of course, but I believe it’s in alignment with most if not all in the Lokean community. And it’s in alignment with how I’m communicating with my patron deity.

Hail Loki!

(This thirty-day devotional format is based on a list developed by someone named Arrin, known as “a Gaulish polytheist.” It can be used for any deity.)

Day 1 – Thirty Days of Devotion for Loki

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“Fractal Face of Beauty.” Author: Randomness, May 29, 2008. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

July: Thirty Days of Devotional Observances

Starting today, July 1st, taking on thirty questions and thirty days of devotional focus sounds about right! Last week I wrote about needing to “course correct” my daily devotional life. I’d been overwhelmed the last few months, missing a day here and there, making excuses, letting fatigue (and some sticky emotional situations) get the better of me. I find it odd that I can let this happen even though the daily ritual of candles and poetry and prayer (to all my deities) is so nourishing and takes so little time!

Why? Why avoid doing the very things that make life so meaningful? Perhaps these periods of composting and readjustment are necessary, but I don’t like feeling like a “slacker” while it’s happening. So, spurred by Kyaza’s example, as published today in A Polytheistic Life, I’ve decided to also do the “30 Days of Devotion” exercise created some years ago by a blogger and polytheist named Arrin. (Thank you, Ky!)

This is something that anyone can do, anytime, for any deity. In this case, my focus is Loki Laufeyjarson. Perfect timing! July 11th is the anniversary of my oathing to Loki, so bookending this important milestone with several days of devotions at each end feels right. And coming right after the first official Trothmoot hailing of Loki in ten years, this also feels timely. (Sadly, I wasn’t at Trothmoot. Maybe next year?)

Today’s Question or Task: Create “a basic introduction of the deity.”

This seems like a good “back to basics” place to start. How do I presume to describe or introduce this extraordinarily complex being?

Of course I’ve done a lot of blogging about various aspects and experiences with Loki over this last year, so I could just cheat and give links! But I won’t. Those curious can search through this blog and find them in the Loki and Lokean categories.

What I really want to express at the beginning is that Loki is a deity capable of making personal connections with human beings, and of inspiring, receiving, and giving love. The more obvious elements of Loki’s persona and story–the mischief-maker and iconoclastic trickster, the fire god, the sly puzzle-solver, and the tortured, suffering, “Promethean” outcast–can overshadow the realization that Loki devotees can experience mutuality rather easily. Tenderness, loyalty, and more–these feelings can be subtle. They can be overwhelming. Whatever the strength and volume of the incoming signal, it is often nuanced and always distinct.

Based on personal gnosis, I feel that Loki has a definite agenda (though I don’t know what it is), and that it’s quite complex (so I can’t really know it). Even with all the donut jokes and offerings of cinnamon-flavored whisky, and Marvel Loki trinkets which are either coveted or scorned, there is something deadly serious at Loki’s core and our relations with him.

It might be wishful thinking, but I can’t shake the feeling that Loki is one of the most appropriate and possibly most practical deities to ramp up activity during this time of brutally immediate climate change–the consequence of our collective stupidity, greed, and hypocrisy. Loki’s capacity for exposing hypocrisy is sorely needed. What I wouldn’t give for a sort of “Lokasenna” to happen at a hoity-toity gathering of oil executives, lobbyists, and politicians! However, no deity is going to come and save us–it’s up to us to do the calling out of harsh truths. To resist.

Loki is a deity seen as a major force in the apocalyptic narrative of Ragnarok, sometimes called the “twilight of the gods.” Now we are at threshold of the twilight of humanity. None of us are innocent, all of us are complicit, even if only as consumers. Loki, deity of the liminal spaces, may wonder if we’ll be ruthless enough to critique our own part in the disasters to come, and if enough of us, a tipping point’s worth, can self-correct in time.

So he’s both a personal god and a cosmic force. And as a deity of “creative chaos,” he’s so very fractal!

Hail Loki!

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Public Service: Climate Change Reversal Resources

As a public service, here are a few resources from your friendly neighborhood Eco-Lokean. Be sure to scroll down to the end for solar cooker info and “hay box” thermal cooker how-to links.

DRAWDOWN

Drawdown.org is a research-based initiative created in part by Paul Hawken. From the website, here is a definition: “Drawdown is the point at which levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and then steadily decline, ultimately reversing global warming.”

Here are the 100 research-determined solutions from the website. Each solution has a link to an in-depth explanation and a ranking. You can also access a PDF of the Summary of Solutions by Overall Rank.

List from DrawDown.org

You can also order the Drawdown, the book, via IndieBound, a community of local, independent bookstores.


FINNISH RENEWABLE ENERGY STUDY

Corbley, McKinley. April 22, 2019. Researchers Create ‘First-of-its-Kind’ Roadmap for Saving Earth From Climate Change Years Before 2050 Deadline. GoodNewsNetwork.com.

Below is the link to the report mentioned in the above article:

The authors dedicated this report:

“To Greta Thunberg and to the whole #FridaysForFuture movement, for your relentless courage for the preservation of our planet, and a better future for us all.”

Ram M., Bogdanov D., Aghahosseini A., Gulagi A., Oyewo A.S., Child M., Caldera U., Sadovskaia K., Farfan J., Barbosa LSNS., Fasihi M., Khalili S., Dalheimer B., Gruber G., Traber T., De Caluwe F., Fell H.-J., Breyer C. Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy – Power, Heat, Transport and Desalination Sectors. Study by Lappeenranta University of Technology and Energy Watch Group, Lappeenranta, Berlin, March 2019.
ISBN: 978-952-335-339-8
ISSN-L: 2243-3376
ISSN: 2243-3376
Lappeenranta University of Technology Research Reports 91. ISSN: 2243-3376 Lappeenranta 2019

From the Executive Summary: 

“A global transition to 100% renewable energy across all sectors – power, heat, transport and desalination before 2050 is feasible1. Existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, is capable of generating a secure energy supply at every hour throughout the year. The sustainable energy system is more efficient and cost effective than the existing system, which is based primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear. A global renewable transition is the only sustainable option for the energy sector, and is compatible with the internationally adopted Paris Agreement. The energy transition is not a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but one of political will.”

And:

“Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to zero by 2050, or sooner, across all energy sectors
• Annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the energy sector decline steadily through the transition from approximately 30 GtCO2eq in 2015 to zero by 2050 (see Figure KF-4). The remaining cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are approximately 422 GtCO2eq from 2018 to 2050. Energy-related GHG emissions account for more than 60% of total global GHG emissions in 2015.
• In contrast to popular claims, a deep decarbonisation of the power and heat sectors is possible by 2030. The transport sector will lag behind, with a massive decline of greenhouse gas emissions from 2030 to 2050 (see Figure KF-4).”


SOLAR COOKING

Developed to assist people in imporverished countries, I predict that home solar cooking will also become increasingly important in “developed” countries as a primary and emergency cooking and water purification technique.

From the Solar Cookers International website:

“One solar cooker preserves more than 1 ton of wood every year.

“Using no-emission solar energy to cook and make drinking water safe improves health, builds resilient families, breaks the cycle of poverty, boosts local economies, empowers women and children, and helps achieve all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”


“HAY BOX” AKA THERMAL COOKER

How to use much less energy for cooking. How to make one. The man who did this video also mentions his “rocket stove,” which he demonstrates in another video.

Here’s another thermal cooker “how to” video.


 

This

This blog takes a break from discussing the spectrosexuality survey to bring you an urgent public service announcement brought to you by Greta Thunberg.

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That Was Then, THIS is Now

When I was a child, caterpillars were a frequent sight. I played all day at tidepools at the Coronado, CA seashore and gently poked a lot of sea anenomes to make them close. I could catch (and release) small frogs at the pond on the local golf course–there were thousands. In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood even though my family was poor and my grandfather had died of a radiation-induced brain tumor after leaving the Navy, after witnessing the explosions at Bikini Atoll. Planes from North Island Naval Base flew over my tidepools several times a day, so I was never unaware of war.

But by the time I was twelve I’d become convinced that the planet had changed immensely since the last time I’d incarnated (yes, I really thought that way as a kid). I blamed television and radio rays, all modern things, and sensed a coming apocalypse. I thought it would happen by the time I was a legal “grup.” I was desperate to understand how to live my life on the earth in a healthy way. Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living on the Earth was one of my favorite books. (But I was also listening to the Velvet Underground’s first album so go figure.)

Soon teen hormones took over and I became interested in other things (including boys), such as feminism, working at a women’s clinic as a pregnancy counselor, and supporting La Huelga by leafletting for the grape boycott outside of supermarkets. Then life threw me several curve balls and I did not end up in a wooded hippie commune, as I’d planned.

I ended up…elsewhere.

In spite of my valid childhood concerns, I still don’t know how to make a fire or how to identify wild edible herbs in my area. I have no skills at all that would enable me to survive a day in the wilderness, let alone the rest of my life foraging in a semi-rural or urban landscape as an old woman living in a toxin-drenched, violent dystopia caused by the galloping climate disaster we are currently doing everything we can… to continue.

I’m more likely to end up on somebody’s plate, at that point. Waste not, want not.

So I could say to Greta Thunberg and all her generation, and to my children’s generation which preceeded hers, yes, I remember what it was like to be a young person who could see clearly that Western consumerism, pollution, and war were all features of an insane cancer that would doom us all, even the animals. And I didn’t understand why the grown-ups didn’t see what I could see. And yet, as an adult, I have not done enough.

Greta and her allies will probably not make the same mistake. They have much less time to waste on bullshit than I did and their analysis is more accurate.


Quote from Greta Thunberg’s address to the World Economic Forum last January:

“Some people say that that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”


I’m going to leave that right here for a moment. I’ll return to Greta later.

Ecology 101 in “The Pleasant Land of Counterpane”

I spent the last three days in bed, sick with a cold brought from the Eastern states by an air traveller. During that time I binge-watched Versailles and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and ignored the new Our Planet, even though my cats favor nature programs. (You see, as a mature citizen of the most unsustainable resource-guzzling nation on the planet, I still have that luxury, that privilege, of choosing entertainment over information.) But last night, “while I was sick and lay a-bed,” I watched the first episode. The lush photography of masses of penguins, sea birds, anchovies, and dolphins made me want to weep. The melting glaciers of Greenland, ditto. I knew what the message of the show would be and that’s partly why I didn’t want to watch it while ill.

Here’s an excerpt from a future episode, one about ants and fungi in the rain forest. It holds a cautionary lesson for human beings. In the beginning of the clip, ants farm fungi and keep it free of disease. And there’s a phrase thrown in about how the fungal crop may have benefits for human medical research. The the footage switches to a deranged ant climbing a tree, finally reaching the very end of one twig “high above the forest floor.” What happens next is an apt metaphor for how we human beings function in the face of our self-created planetary disaster. Of the pathetic ant and its fate, David Attenborough says:

“Something has taken control of its movements, like a puppeteer pulling at the strings of a marionette. There’s just one final act for which the ant has no choice. It must find a place to bite down, tethering it to the vegetation. With the ant in its death grip, a parasitic fungus, Cordyceps, erupts from its body… Finally the fruiting body of the fungus bursts from its head. From this bulbous container spores will be cast into the air currents where they will claim more ant victims…”

But other bugs also succumb to this parasite. The footage is horrifying. But Attenborough comments:

“The more numerous a species is, the more likely it is to fall victim to the killer fungus. Checks and balances like these means no one species can ever dominate, so protecting the jungle’s incredible diversity…”

Cordyceps is sometimes called a “zombie fungus” because it eventually controls the behavior, the motor movements of its host, forcing it to starve to death while the fruiting bodies mature enough to emerge from its body in order to release spores.

I have often wondered why human beings, collectively as a species, are so stupid and self-destructive? Why are we not organizing, rapidly and decisively? Even in a destructive context like capitalism, economic arguments support the wisdom of a “Green New Deal” and other initiatives. Why are we lurching, like mindless fungi-infected zombie ants, toward the very things which will doom us all? In spite of all, we humans clamp down our jaws, unable to speak out at the very edge of the precipice–a death grip of consumerism.

Even the ants have learned to recognize their infected colleagues and to remove them from the colony, as a means of survival. But we are not so wise. And our infections are both internal (habits, thoughts, ignorance, selfishness) and external (policies, power structures, faulty leadership, pollution, war). Our individual and collective inactions give Darwin the lie. We do not care about our own species survival. We only care about whatever feeds our greed.

Here’s another lesson, this one on indicator species and social ecology. This video of the late Michael Rossman was taken in front of the Berkeley Oak Tree Sit of a few years ago. In spite of the tree sit and protests, the oak grove–“a real forest” as Michael says–was destroyed to build a multi-million dollar student atheletic building right next to the CAL stadium, which sits on top of the Hayward Fault. Though it is on a smaller scale, it is another example of the kind of short-sighted, destructive policymaking that Greta Thunberg calls out so accurately. (And how Michael would have cheered for this young woman, had he lived to hear or read her words!)

Medicine for the Cordyceps Twins of Capitalism and Consumerism

Unlike the ants sick with Cordyceps, I do think we have some choices, still. Even now way  past the eleventh hour we can back away from our lemming rush off the edge of the precipice. We can choose individual change, systems change, and context change. The doctor is in and ze prescribes: Animism. The awareness that all matter is conscious, therefore humans are not the be-all and end-all and we don’t get to be nature bullies any longer.

Animism can be combined with the Precautionary Principle as a practical philosophy to infuse global and local policies and decision-making, as well as strategies to mitigate and reverse as many of the features of our climate catastrophe as possible (including species decline and extinction, fuel usage, etc.). When we can give and observe the rights of rivers, forests, etc. as “a legal person,” with the understanding that there really is a consciousness experienced by that thing or natural feature and that we are engaged in a communication with it on some level (whether we sense it or not), then we are on the way to correcting our destructive hubris.


Here’s a passage and quote from a good article about legal rights of natural features:

Contrary to popular misconceptions, legal rights are not the same as human rights, as corporations have enjoyed the rights of legal personhood for quite some time.

“I always find it interesting that people don’t seem to be challenged by the idea that a fictional thing like a corporation can have personhood, but that a natural resource, which is actually much more tangible, can’t,” Macpherson said. “I think that people are just used to what they’re used to, and over time as this becomes more common, and more people are pushing for it, the idea will start to seem less shocking.”


Artisanal Animist-Infused Threefold Social Order

And we could try this. Though Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a man of his time with serious flaws (dude was a racist), he had some interesting insights and did some good in this world (e.g. biodynamic farming and Waldorf Schools). His post-WWI Threefold Social Order is one of his more intriguing ideas. I am not sure that all aspects are reasonable or doable in the 21st century–a far more complicated era of multi-national corporations and our climate catastrophe–but I do like the idea of infusing animism into a simplied form of his reasoning, at least as a jumping off point for consideration.

Steiner was inspired by the slogan of the French Revolution, but he thought “liberté, egalité, fraternité” should be separately assigned to each of the three general realms of human life. He felt that the economic sphere should be based on brotherhood (and we need a more inclusive word for this, I know), that the legal realm should be based on equality, and the cultural realm should be based on freedom.

I can imagine combining a working philosophy of animism (consiousness of matter) with this idea in the following ways:

Infusing liberté (freedom) with animism in the cultural realm could result in a greater respect and engagement with animals, plants, waterways, landscapes, and other natural systems as culture-creating and culture-bearing in their own right. We could allow for and respect their cultures while purusing our own within that context.

Infusing egalité (equality) with animism in the legal sphere would inform decisions to grant legal personhood to more and more animals, rivers, habitats, mountains, etc.

Infusing fraternité (non-gendered familial comradery?) with animism in the economic realm could result in more considerate and less exploitive behavior with regard to other creatures and natural features, that they are recognized as fellow citizens of this planet as well as legal persons and that they have a stake in thriving in a sustainable natural economy. Humans would return to something more in harmony with the natural order of things and no longer see ourselves as completely entitled to everything we want, no matter what effect it has on anyone else. We would have to communicate with and treat with the other terrestrial intelligences on this planet.

So these are ideas to kick around as foundational as we pursue necessary practical strategies such as renewable energy, lowering our carbon footprint, ending military pollution, and so on.

Humans: Rouge Species or Lemmings and Zombie Ants?

Right now, it’s as if humanity acts on the rest of the Earth’s species just as the U.S. acts on the rest of the countries of the world: greedy, grabby, exploitive, entitled, endlessly destructive, and heedless of consequence. A rogue nation and a rogue species if ever there was one.

While everyone alive right now (especially in “developed” countries) must take individual actions to decrease complicity and perpetuation of climate change, the elders, thinkers, inventors of this world who are working on solutions to climate catastrophe (such as the folk who present at Bioneers conferences) need to quit patting themselves on the back as elite “thought leaders” (as so many do) and spend much more time in the trenches with young people such as Greta Thunberg. Pass on what you know. Get the kids access to conventions, forums, the United Nations, and executive board rooms. Use your own privilege to grant them as much access as possible to other thought-leaders, policy-makers, Use your platform to get their voices to the general public. (And make sure it’s not just white, cis kids either, okay?)

And in turn, each young person alive today could in turn represent a bee colony, a flower species, a forest, a mountain, or a stream, and as their representative give them a voice in conventions, forums, the United Nations…

Meanwhile, someone teach these kids how to make fire without a match, please. They may need this where we’re going.

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