Saturday, October 9, 2010

World Equestrian Games

Lovely middle daughter Sophie, who is studying to be a veterinarian at UPenn, went to the World Games which are being held this year in Kentucky.  Here's what she had to say in an email:  "..the horse park looks like crap all the trees are dying there too."  And she directed me towards a video, which requires (free) registration to view, so instead I have uploaded a series of screen shots.

The video shows two people who are "walking the course" for the cross-country competition.
They are so focused on their strategy for the various jumps that they seem completely oblivious to the fact that the trees around them are in a ghastly state of decline.  I'm going to intersperse the pictures with passages from this excellent review of a book titled, "The Death of Grass."  It's a brilliant essay on its own and especially pertinent in the context of the recent appalling incident in Tennessee, where firefighters allowed a house and the pets inside to burn...because the owners had neglected to pay a $75 annual fee.  What follows was authored by Micah White:
"In John Christopher’s apocalyptic novel The Death of Grass, an agricultural virus wipes out the world’s grain. The loss of wheat, rice and barley sets off a chain reaction. Livestock die, mass starvation ensues and civilization collapses. Like most novels in the dystopian genre, Christopher’s story follows a tribe of humans as they struggle to survive."
"The central conceit of the novel is that the protagonist’s brother owns a farm in an easily defensible valley. The farm is a metaphor for eden: an ecological utopia with a surplus of fertile land and a bumper crop of potatoes ready for harvest. Unfortunately, civilization collapses more swiftly than anyone expects and the protagonist and his family must fight their way several hundred miles to get back to the farm. Along the way, others join their party including a gunsmith whose sniper rifle becomes the tribe’s main tool of survival."
"As the novel progresses, the murderous acts they commit steadily increase. They kill for food, for revenge and, finally, for control of the farm. And in the end, an explicitly patriarchal despotism develops. Tyranny conquers utopia.  Here is Micah White's review and pictures of dying trees in Kentucky."
"The reason to read The Death of Grass today is that invites us to ponder what would happen if society collapsed tomorrow. The answer Christopher offers is that we would fall back upon the same individualist, survival mentality that ushered in collapse."
"He argues that we would repeat the mistakes of the past, brutally installing a dictatorship and ruthlessly killing others to save ourselves. Christopher does not pretend that goodwill and solidarity will exist the day after catastrophe unless they existed the day before."
"The moral of The Death of Grass is that tyranny is the necessary result of ecological catastrophe if collapse comes before a spiritual and moral revolution." 
"This is a message that we ought to take to heart because, like in the novel, the warning signs of environmental collapse haunt us."
"Although we try to repress our awareness of the looming zero point, the death rattle of nature is growing louder."
"In light of the death of nature, I believe that we have only three options."
"The first option is to do nothing: ignore the warning signs and continue on the path of reckless consumerism. Under this model, we simply keep living our lives, building our careers and believing that everything will be fine. We place our faith in the corporations and the American way of life."
"The second option is largely the same as the first but it appeals to liberal-minded environmentalists. This is the so-called “green capitalism” option whereby we keep consuming but we make ourselves feel better by purchasing “green” products."
"Ultimately, this path only appeals to the very rich who can afford to shop organic, buy hybrids, use bamboo flooring and follow the latest corporate endorsed trends."

"In the end, these two options are basically the same. They refuse to accept the need for a dramatic reduction in First World standards of living. As such, they are not options at all because they merely ensure the extinction of nature."
"These two options guarantee that when the collapse happens it will bring an ecological dictatorship. Both “green capitalism” and consumerism, in their refusal to endorse a spiritual turn-around, lay the foundations for eco-tyranny."
"The third option is to immediately take the threat of ecological collapse seriously and to re-organize society around confronting that threat."
"This requires a fundamental change in the goals of society: an end to economic development, to the acquisition of things, to the desecration of the earth. And it requires an essential shift in the nature of humanity: a moral and spiritual uprising against the soul poisoning of advertising."
"This option is the only viable alternative to eco-tyranny. It asks the most of us, but it is also the only way to prevent an authoritarian post-apocalyptic society."
"Some believe that averting ecological catastrophe may no longer be possible. Regardless of whether this is true–after all, how could we know?–the best strategy may be to assume that the tipping point has already occurred and that preventative measures are no longer sufficient."
"Instead, what is needed now is a frank discussion about what will happen the day after. If all we can imagine is that it will be a terrible dictatorship of violence, then we must immediately begin the process of initiating a spiritual revolution, an inner-insurrection that lays the foundation for an egalitarian post-consumerist society."
"Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about the future of activism. "

That is quite enough to ponder but I have some pictures from around Wit's End, of trees with branches bare of leaves, odd fungal growths, and mostly of the bark that is peeling and popping off tree trunks with ever increasing frequency, accompanied by thickening layers of the nitrogen-loving the excruciating sight of venerable, ancient trees bleeding sap.  These photos are interspersed with excerpts from another fine link, to new research predicting (NO!) the collapse of industrial society:
"New research warns that oil-based industrial civilization will not survive the 21st century, and calls for a 'post-carbon industrial revolution'."
"In the first peer-reviewed study of its kind, a new report by the Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) in London warns that abrupt climate change, energy shortages, food scarcities and economic turmoil could plunge industrial societies into chaos after 2020."
"The study, A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (Pluto Press/Macmillan, 2010), predicts that converging crises may trigger resource short-falls leading to political and economic failure in the West, while accelerating international conflict including "intercommunal' warfare in less developed countries."
"Authored by international security analyst Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed Executive Director of the IPRD and Associate Tutor at the University of Sussex School of Global Studies the study is the first systematic review of data, evidence and theory across physical and social sciences, including academic research and industry reports, assessing the connections between different global crises including the danger of violent conflict."
"The study predicts the "terminal depletion' of the world's traditional mineral energy reserves oil, gas, coal, and uranium within the first quarter of the 21st century, and warns of "catastrophic convergence' between energy, food and water shortages due to abrupt global warming as early as 2018. Developed economies could consequently experience a "collapse' in public services, while large states such as the US, Russia and China would struggle to maintain territorial integrity, potentially becoming embroiled in geopolitical conflict for land and resources."
"The study also shows that public anxieties about global crises are already fuelling the break-down of community cohesion. Author Dr. Ahmed, an expert on the systemic causes of mass violence who predicted the global banking crisis in August 2006, said: "Crisis convergence will magnify the probability of civil wars and cross-border conflicts. The chaos would be ideal breeding ground for Islamist, far-right, and other forms of extremism. We could even see a resurgence of conflict between major powers, including the spectre of genocidal violence'."
"The report warns that without drastic change akin to "a post-carbon industrial revolution' industrial civilization cannot survive by the end of this century."
"But it also demonstrates the viability of such a transition based on cutting-edge social structures and technologies including new ways of organizing production in "green growth' economies; exciting models of participatory politics; proven models of distributed renewable energy networks; and high productivity of organic, low-pesticide, small-scale forms of farming."
"'The real question is, what will the post-carbon world look like?' said Dr. Ahmed. "It could be extremely negative and regressive, but equally, it could be far more equitable, just and ecologically-sound than any social form we've had in the past. This century is a pivotal one for the human race, and indeed the planet. It's up to us whether we take this opportunity to re-organize our societies for the better, or lose it.'"
"As stated by Richard Levins, John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health, 'Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed confronts the whole.' Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute Richard Heinberg said, 'If you want to understand why the world is coming apart at the seams and what we can do to lay the foundations for a sane, peaceful, and sustainable society, read this book.'"
The pieces of bark that are falling off this pine tree are collected on the ground beneath.
The New York Times has a typically misleading headline:  Scientists and Soldiers Solve A Bee Mystery

Just as with the trees, whose demise most scientists and foresters attribute to incidental and opportunistic secondary causes while refusing to acknowledge the primary causative role of ozone pollution, these researchers are blaming a virus and a fungus for colony collapse disorder.  Except, a really interesting part slips through, that the location of infection is in the bee intestines:

"...suggesting that insect nutrition is somehow compromised."

Exactly!  Insect nutrition IS pesticides, herbicides, air pollution and genetically modified crop monoculture...Oh but just as with the trees, lets blame bugs and disease instead...anything but US, and filth we exude!

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