Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I stumbled across an interview of the author David Edwards, published way back in the year 2000. He had some fascinating and prescient observations that have left me abashed and humbled, given that it was ten years ago that he was entirely cognizant of what I have only so recently and painfully become aware - it is well worth reading the entire article (written by Derrick Jensen) and perusing his ongoing expose, Medialens. I'm going to select some of my favorite passages (in italics) with photos I took, yesterday and today, of various sorts of leaves. They are all stippled, some of them astonishingly so - exactly as are those described by the Nashville TV station, only right here in New Jersey. I'm posting them because, having investigated the cause and sent some samples to a lab for testing, their report is due for imminent release (I have it on good authority!). *anticipation* *suspense*
Snow On The Mountain has several interesting symptoms of ozone exposure - bronzing, stippling, and turning the opposite color of what it should be - a variegated green and white - to all green (with holes).

Jensen: You've said that there are five things everyone ought to know. What are they?

Edwards: The first is that the planet is dying. One way to chart the damage is to look at insurance figures. Between 1980 and 1989, the insurance industry paid out, on average, less than $2 billion a year for weather-related property damage. From 1990 to 1995, however, hurricanes, cyclones, and floods in Europe, Asia, and North America cost the industry an average of more than $30 billion a year. The Red Cross is warning that climate change is about to precipitate a century of natural disasters. We have already seen a number of "superdisasters" in Honduras, India, Venezuela, and Mozambique, all "clearly tainted by human actions," according to climatologists.

Global warming affects more than the weather. Last year, marine biologists estimated that between 70 and 90 percent of the coral reefs in the Indian Ocean have died due to global warming. Coral-reef ecosystems are home to one-fourth of all fish species. And they're just the first major victims of global warming. Others will soon follow. Scientists now predict that the polar bear will be extinct in the wild within twenty years.
The leaves of Lily of the Valley, are burnt with holes and streaked with brown, dead tissue.

Now, many environmentally conscious people would argue that the scale of the environmental crises threatening us is being communicated. After all, most newspapers these days have environmental correspondents. But the level of coverage in no way matches the severity of the threat. Think for a moment about the media response to the supposed threat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War: Hollywood churned out pro-America films; novelists wrote thrillers pitting the "free world" against the "godless communists"; headlines decried the dangers of communism; and so on. By comparison, there's next to nothing being said or written about the threat of global warming.

A favorite ground cover has the prominent veins associated with the inability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll, leading to thin foliage.

Jensen: I know what you mean. I like baseball, but it breaks my heart to see ten pages in the newspaper every day on sports and maybe three column inches a month devoted to the biodiversity crisis.

Edwards: This leads to the second thing that everyone should know, which is that huge numbers of intelligent, motivated people are working all-out to prevent action that could save the planet. No matter how clear the evidence or how stern the scientific warnings, time and again, effective action is obstructed. The Global Climate Coalition, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers are all vigorously opposing even the trivial cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions proposed by the Kyoto Climate Treaty. The irresponsibility is breathtaking.

It surrounds the base of this delightful granite Japanese garden lantern (acquired at huge carbon cost, pre-enlightenment)

The so-called debate on global warming is a war between the biggest enterprise in human history-the worldwide coal-and-oil industry-and the planet's ability to sustain life. And our hearts and minds are battlefields in that war. The corporate press and corporate-financed politicians keep talking about global warming as if there's significant doubt about it, yet the "debate" pits perhaps half a dozen high-profile skeptics bankrolled by this trillion-dollar industry against the consensus of twenty-five hundred of the world's most qualified climatologists working as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. How is it that the opinions of these six-whose arguments are often shot full of illogical and absurd statements-carry the same weight as all that scientific evidence?
and has come to envelope the porch at Wit's End. The degree of stippling is amazing!

This brings us to the third thing I believe everyone should know, which is that the death of the planet is symptomatic of a deeper, institutionalized subordination of all life-including human life-to profit. Algeria is a typical example. It's been ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962. Elections were held in 1991, but the government scrapped them when it became clear a militant Islamic party would win, and since that time some eighty thousand people have died. In some cases, armed attackers have descended on defenseless villages at night to cut the throats of women and children. The violence has been characterized by psychotic frenzy, including the dismemberment of infants. It's not exactly clear who is doing all of it, although the government is heavily implicated. But one thing is for sure: the world has done nothing about it.
I just noticed it last night, looking out the kitchen window with the sunset lighting up the leaves.

Jensen: Why not?

Edwards: I can answer that question with one word: oil. Algeria has gas and oil deposits worth billions and supplies the gas for Madrid, Rome, and many other European cities. It has a $2.8 billion contract with British Petroleum. Because of this, no Western government wants to make trouble with Algeria. John Sweeney-just about the only British journalist who has written anything about it-called the eighty thousand deaths "Europe's gas bill." Instead of demanding an end to the slaughter, the European Union is giving Algerian generals $125 million for "restructuring and democratization."
So this morning I went out to take pictures, and also ventured around to the other side of the wrap-around porch, where the Concord grape is languishing.

This story, of course, has been repeated any number of times: Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Indonesia, East Timor, Iraq, Vietnam-anywhere there are profits to be made. Yet few people in the media want to talk about this pattern in which the economic interests of the U.S. and Britain are synonymous with the systematic exploitation and impoverishment of Third World populations. It's the same with the environment. Although the planet is being demolished before our eyes, the media remain content to artificially isolate each new disaster, leaving us to try to complete the jigsaw puzzle.
Not only are the leaves pockmarked and yellowing, but the fruit is shriveled.

The absence of discourse about these patterns leads us to the fourth point, which is that the economic and political forces that profit from destruction and atrocity also profit from the suppression of truth. It's the job of the corporate media and the politicians to prevent us from digging beneath the surface and uncovering the truth.

Dicentra is spectacularly blackened.

It's important to be clear, however, that our delusions are not just the result of some conspiracy on the part of a few business moguls. The real problem is much more structural and psychological. Modern thought control is primarily dependent not on crude, conscious planning, but on the human capacity for self-deception. One of the biggest obstacles to social change is the propaganda system working undetected inside our own heads-mine included.
This comes back around to the last of the five things everyone should know, which is that, if the planet is being killed by institutionalized greed and the sacrifice of life for profit, then the solution is to undermine the illusion that greed is "normal" and even desirable. And one way to do this is through compassion. When we reinforce our capacity for compassion and love and concentrate on other people's needs, rather than on our own, we begin to weaken the psychological system that powers the selective inattention and self-deception we were talking about.

Delphinium hasn't even set buds yet but already the leaves are badly damaged. motivated person can actually accomplish a disproportionately large amount of good. Selfish illusions are just lies based on nothing, and even one moment of honesty arising from the desire to relieve suffering can destroy vast numbers of illusions. If the first rule of a dysfunctional system is "Don't talk about it," then our primary goal should be to tell the truth, to be as honest as we can manage to be.
This basil, which was planted in soil about a month ago, has the identical spots.

When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, "Fantastic-I wasn't mad or alone in thinking that, after all!" So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this external and internal propaganda system. At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift. In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness.
I am trying to find something lovely wherever I can manage.

The large farm down the road from Wit's End has quite a view...I still don't know why the distant trees are so bare.
Today I was contacted by the organizer of the Hands Across the Sands event on Saturday. Here is one of the photographs she has posted on facebook of the group that assembled in Spring Lake to protest offshore drilling and promote clean energy. I am so delighted to see young people brave enough to face the future with activism!

Second Coyote Attack

Headline in the Huffington Post, and this time, "no indication the animals are rabid and no explanation for the recent attacks":


my comment (having predicted more attacks just last Sunday):

They are attacking because they are hungry! The ecosystem is in free-fall collapse. The plants and trees are dying from ozone exposure; there is a lack of nuts, berries, grains, and seeds; the little animals that eat mast from vegetation are disappearing; the large predators have less to eat. stop leaving out the link, moderator! People need to know what is happening to our environment if we are going to have any hope of rescuing it before it is too late!!


rainbow and trannon windfarm
I followed a comment at Climate Progress to the website of a wonderful photographer in Wales, John Mason, whose work can be seen here. I love his pictures because often they are spectacular images of clouds and landscapes that have very little to do with people or plants or life of any sort, and mostly depict the movement of air and water. It makes me happy to find beauty in those interactions of the atmosphere, water vapor, the landscape and the sea - because at the rate we're destroying life on our planet, that will be principally what we leave behind. Who would have suspected that Wales has such wild scenes? Of course, with violent weather events increasing in frequency and severity - as climate change makes warmer atmospheres hold and dump greater quantities of precipitation - Mr. Mason will have ever more material!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Robert Byrd and Basil

Last night when I went out to collect the chicken eggs, I detoured into the woods to photograph the wild lily that blooms there every summer.
While I was there the peacock felt compelled to defend his territory.
I had been listening to eulogies on the radio about Senator Robert Byrd, who has died. That makes him one of the luckiest bastards ever to have lived on earth.
Anyone who has been able to enjoy the supreme peak of civilization's comforts and bow out before having the crushing, horrendous knowledge that said civilization has managed in its greed and hubris to destroy the ecosystem and indeed even a habitable climate for his children, never mind grandchildren, is lucky.
How I envy them for escaping not just the fetid end of the world as we have known it, but even just the knowledge that it is to be the fate of our species - forget the great great great grandchildren - they won't exist...

The lily leaves looked normal last year, but this year, they share the symptoms of exposure to toxic ozone that afflict every other leaf.
As it happens, the irreplaceable RPauli sent me this link from an NPR broadcast, in which Dr. Margaret McGrath from Cornell infers that a "potentially fatal" fungus is killing basil in gardens from New York to Florida. Maybe there is such a fungus. However, the leaf damage of stippling and chlorosis described is identical to the symptoms of ozone exposure that every other plant, not just basil, currently exhibits.
And so, even though I've been avoiding nurseries (the whole notion that crops are failing has me feeling uneasy, to say the least), upon reading the transcript I promptly visited my local farmstand, to examine the plants, and take photographs of them. Sure enough, the basil for sale, which had only been potted up 3 weeks ago, is in the early stages of chlorosis - discoloration from an inability to photosynthesize and produce chlorophyll - and stunted, curling foliage.
But then, by an amazing coincidence, so did every other herb have its own version of Dr. McGrath's "fungus"! For anyone who isn't already familiar with the impacts of ozone on vegetation, Basic Premise is a good place to start, and this post has pertinent excerpts from the EPA website's compilation of research.
But back to our farm stand, where mint leaves had spots, and curly parsley was lacking chlorophyll,
just like the flat Italian parsley. Not very appetizing! Last time I bought dill to put in gazpacho, it had all the flavor of grass.
Thyme leaves were yellowing.
A cantaloupe vine with leaves as weak as these is not going to produce much by way of melons.
And this pepper plant will not be producing many peppers later in the season when leaves are already so discolored in June.
And then too, the ornamentals were similarly damaged.
Not only were their leaves rumpled, shriveled, yellow and singed,
but their flowers were lacking their normal bright hues - and their veins stand out prominently against the thin tissue of their petals. All well-known symptoms of ozone poisoning and, allow me to point out, these are all plants in pots, in presumably enriched soil - not impacted by acid rain or drought.
The Rose of Sharon flowers are emerging limp and at least a month too early.

The iris leaves are in far worse shape than last year.
But then, so is everything else. It is astonishing to me, even though I predicted it!

I wake up early whether I need to or not, when the sky is just starting to lighten, and the quiet of the hollowing world is punctuated by a few songs from lonely birds.
The first thought in my mind every morning now is that we have destroyed the Earth, and every time, I contemplate that notion with fresh shock.
There used to be mornings when I woke up with a mind busy with all sorts of plans,
what to make for breakfast for the kids, or what to plant in the garden, or how in love I was, or how upset I was about something that never really mattered much, and now matters not at all.
But now I think about how, decades ago, we set upon an irreversible course of climate change,
and I reflect how odd it is that very few people seem to know and accept this simple truth.
Even many - I would say most - of the scientific experts from whom I have learned about tipping points and amplifying feedbacks, still seem to retain some hope we can avert total catastrophe - even though there is no factual basis to have any.
Some think that we are so clever that we cannot possibly sow the seeds of our own destruction - it just seems inconceivable, impossible...ridiculous!

Others understand that there is runaway heating already in the pipeline, that has only been masked thus far by sinks like the ocean and forests, which are failing. The true heating effect from over a century of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will soon (perhaps this summer) be unleashed - but they cling to the hope that we will discover some clever mechanism to slow and eventually halt and reverse the trend.
Deus ex machina anyone?
I found this Wendell Berry poem from "Leavings" in a comment left at Climate Progress by a member of an irrepressibly but highly commendable hopeful project:
"Let hopelessness
Shrink us to our proper size.
Without it we are half as large
And the world
Is twice as large. My small
Place grows immense as I walk
Upon it without hope."
And looking for a reference on the web I came across more of this Kentucky farmer's poetry - and now of course I shall have to obtain his whole oeuvre, and confess I feel quite ignorant not having known about it before.
"The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself
Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains overturned.
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
of what it is that no other place is, this
place that you belong to though it is not yours,
for it was from the beginning and will be to the end."
I used to be passionate about politics and first thing I would tune in to the early radio show Morning Edition.
But now I hardly pay any attention to debates about health care policy, the latest military adventure, or conflict in the MidEast.
It is all useless to contemplate when wars over scarce food and water loom.
There will be wars between nations, and wars between neighbors, and none of them will produce any more water or food. There will be no victors.
The real war has already been lost, and we will all be refugees without resources, reserves, or recourse.
There isn't going to be any Ellis Island to flee to.
SFGate blogger Yobie Benjamin links to the story about crop damage in Tennessee, speculating it results from the oil spill, and/or the use of corexit, the dispersant used by BP in the Gulf.

Of course I had to leave a comment:

Mr. Benjamin, you stated:

"There is no other explanation for the crop damage."

This is actually incorrect. There is another more likely explanation, which is the toxic ozone created every day when fossil and biofuels are burned, releasing volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere every day. In fact the inevitably, inexorably rising levels of tropospheric ozone are killing trees which have had decades of exposure. Just because ozone is invisible, unlike the oil in the Gulf, it is pure, lethal poison causing cancer, emphysema, and asthma, as well as crop damage, from California to Maine which predates the Gulf spill.

This information has been demonstrated by voluminous publications of scientific research but is practically a taboo subject, since the only way to stop the ecosystem from crashing is to stop burning fuels which should be rationed & reserved for essential purposes only while we transition to clean energy sources.

I started this blog because I wanted people to learn that our activities are killing trees. Since then the carnage is rapidly spreading to include essential crops, and birds are disappearing as their sources of food evaporate.
On the way home last night, I saw this lone wild turkey in a field. It should be in a flock.
This is the sort of thing I think when I wake up...that, and how very few people are willing to face the inevitable. It is like lunching in a lovely, elegant floating barge, at the top of Niagara Falls, being the only diner who knows where we are headed, while everyone else is enjoying the party.
Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party

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