Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lurching From Bedlam to Oblivion

This row of saplings runs along the border of a bank parking lot in Clinton, New Jersey.  Already when this photo was taken, on July 4, the leaves were turning color.  Among professionals this peculiar pattern is known as "early maturation"...or "premature senescence".  They don't like to say why, but studies have proven that tropospheric ozone from fuel emission precursors will cause such transformation.
Another way of describing the process is death, but American foresters in particular usually shun that word, especially in connection with environmental stressors - like toxic volatile organic compounds pouring out from engines and power plants.  They are prone to refer, delicately, to tree "decline".  Standing dead trees, like the one below, are known as snags.  Landscapers like to say they die because they are too old.
The following pictures were taken in the Great Swamp, a huge wetlands preserve a bit further east, in Basking Ridge, about a week ago.  The colonial farmhouse has been converted to a visitor's center.  The surrounding trees - perhaps as old as the Revolutionary-era house - are dying, even though (absent human intervention) hardwoods should live, on average, for 400 years.
 Anyway, these young replacements are dying, too.
There's really no explanation for trees in all age ranges, of all varieties (oaks, maples, ash, hickory, sycamore, spruce, hemlock - almost a never ending list), in all sorts of disparate locations to die - even when they are well-watered and planted in enriched soil - other than the composition of the atmosphere...unpopular as that may be.  No species-specific insect, disease or fungus can account for a universal deterioration in the absence of an extraordinary drought.  Besides, foliage and needles exhibit unmistakable symptoms of exposure to intolerable levels of tropospheric ozone - an impairment in the ability to produce chlorophyll, causing a loss of normal color, plus mottling, singeing and wilting.
In the scientific journals, there is constantly emerging research indicating that earth's climate is destabilizing, and ecosystems are careening toward collapse.  Both are transpiring far more quickly than was anticipated by experts until very recently - now only the most stubborn observer can ignore obvious signs of accelerating mass extinctions, like the disappearance of coral reefs, which happen to constitute the foundation of life in the ocean.  Equally alarming to me is the disappearance of dynamic forests, as illustrated by this venerable row of oaks along the gravel road that meanders through the parkland.
There are countless online resources (some of my favorites are in the blogroll at the very bottom) that keep track of the advance of scientific knowledge, for anyone who is genuinely interested in unflinching reality and not just reality teevee.  As they are far more sophisticated and comprehensive than Wit's End could ever be, I try to stick to trees, which I love, and whose endangerment taught me about all the other existential threats we face.
But following the indications of converging, ubiquitous disasters makes me often wonder whether there is any point in figuring out how to save trees - because even if we did, the approaching onslaught of capricious, menacing weather constitutes an ominous rumbling that will lead us staggering to a turbulent  transition from relative stability to utter chaos.  For many places on earth, it is already the case that there is nothing gradual or linear about the descent.  For trees who have bare branches like these, barring a drastic and immediate reversal in the production of invisible but suffocating smog that envelops them, there is no hope.
Some people say, the climate is always changing, and weather is unpredictable, and there have always been floods and droughts and wildfires and tornadoes and hail from time immemorial.

To them I say, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
Take this report, for one, that indicates common models make underlying assumptions that the climate is much more inherently stable that is empirically indicated by a study of the past.  It is alleged that such models underestimate the capacity for abrupt change and cannot predict it accurately - or in time to prepare.  The study reports that models "...have not proved their ability to simulate abrupt change when a critical threshold is crossed.", and in examining four documented past episodes of abrupt climate change, in the first two, "...the models did not adequately capture the basic climate configuration before abrupt change ensued, and in the remaining two examples, to initiate abrupt change the models needed external nudging that is up to ten times stronger than reconstructed."

Do you suppose that forests dying - releasing CO2...and subsequently often burning, releasing nitrous oxide (three hundred times more potent as a greenhouse gas!)... could constitute "external nudging"?  But don't look to climate modelers to factor that in!

Or consider this research, which demonstrates that removing the top predator from a food chain (as humans have been doing in hunting and fishing since prehistory) has effects that cascade downward, upsetting the delicate balance that evolved and endured for eons before human interference, to the detriment of just about every component plant and animal?
Even more unsettling to me than ice melting insanely fast is the notion that global dimming has been particularly accentuated by the unprecedented surge in air pollution from China just these past few years.  While it had already been reasonably well established that warming has been partially masked by pollution that reflects radiation back to space, this newest study reiterates that concept and makes it frighteningly clear that absent aerosol and particulate pollution, the average temperature is likely to heat up incredibly, unbearably quickly.  I won't embed it again, but recommend the movie posted on Insidious Soup - and remind anyone who is unfamiliar with what air pollution does to trees to take a look at those in the photo that accompanied the news article:
When I went sailing a week or so ago I had a conversation with a fellow passenger, a woman about my age who is as staunch a right-wing "conservative" as you will find.  When I started to subject her to my usual compulsive litany of impending woe, from resource depletion and climate change to refugees from sea level rise, I was surprised that she agreed with me that all this and worse lies in our future.  But she insisted upon the important caveat that none of it will begin to occur with any significance for at least many decades.  Perhaps she, like many deniers and even otherwise smart scientists, believes magic technology springing from free market economics will spare at a minimum the developed nations.

At any rate, she seemed to have no intention of curtailing even marginally her luxuriously high-consumptive lifestyle, even if that meant leaving her grandchildren to fend with the resulting catastrophes of famine and war - while I by contrast am wracked with guilt and confusion about how to protect future generations, or at least make amends (neither of which is possible, of course).  Furthermore, and perhaps most critically, I expect the prognosis to lurch from imminent bedlam to near total oblivion far, far sooner - certainly within my children's lifetime, if not my own.  That's because to me it's beyond obvious the trees (and bees, and tigers...) are dying out, right now - and we will rapidly follow them.

With all this weighing upon me I went to Boston Monday night, ostensibly for a lecture by a Harvard Forest ecologist, held at the Arnold Arboretum on Tuesday.
From the last subway stop on the Orange Line, I followed a steaming paved drive where traffic is now banned, a long sweeping loop through the park - how peculiar to be unable to find shade along the road of an arboretum!  It was sweltering, too hot even before noon to think of applying lipstick - so I took only this one photo along the journey, of a stunning array of fabulous smoke bush in bloom.  Afterwards, I walked across Boston Commons in fading light with friends Roger and Susan, fellow climate change activists and commenters from ClimateProgress, where we stopped to admire this towering elm survivor.  It had bore holes in regular intervals around the trunk from treatment for the fungus that has already killed thousands upon thousands.  The leaves of the crown are sparse, but it remains a magnificent preserved specimen with massive, gnarly branches.  The lecture adhered to the agenda as copied below - no mention at all of climate change or pollution until questions were taken.
Dr. Orwig will present information that details ongoing tree decline resulting from a variety of stressors including native and exotic pests and pathogens. Conifer species will be highlighted, but ongoing hardwood tree problems will be included as well. An emphasis will be given to identification of the problem, the mode of tree decline, and appropriate treatment options when applicable. Discussion will include pests such as hemlock woolly adelgid, elongate hemlock scale, red pine scale, Sirex wood wasp, spruce diseases, emerald ash borer, Asian long-horned beetle, and oak decline on Martha’s Vineyard.
It's a rare and special treat to spend time with actual live companions (as opposed to my precious, virtual, internet correspondants) who are equally and unabashedly pessimistic about the prospects for survival. (How many people list The Road among their favorite depictions of our looming apocalypse? - although The Book of Eli is right up there for scenery of total annihilation in my opinion).  We had dinner together in the icy heaven of a trendy Newbury Street restaurant, and what follows are some residual thoughts from our conversation, loosely reconstructed.  (As usual, I apologize for any grammatical mistakes, boring repetitions, and blogger's penchant to mangle fonts and formats!)
The next day I made a solitary pilgrimage to my hometown on Cape Ann, Ipswich, where I was determined to have some of the famous fried clams, and then visit a favorite haunt, Crane's Beach.  Since we would be foolish NOT to expect abrupt change, who knows how many opportunities to do so remain?
Here is my delectable pile of fried clams, scallops and onion rings, the most sublime on earth.  Their chowder is damn good too.  In high summer season, the Clam Box almost always has a line of customers waiting outside the door.  On a hot day people can picnic on tables in the parking lot under dense cool shade...oops, surprise!...I didn't need to look any further for a dead tree.  The last time I was at the Clam Box was in 2007, and all the trees looked unremarkably intact...meaning in four years that huge hulk in the corner of the wooden deck has gone from just fine to roundly rotted - and those remaining have severely pruned amputated branches.
Roger introduced me to a notion that is gaining currency, which is "acceptable risk" - those losses we as a society are willing to incur to continue releasing greenhouse gases - although to my mind, that is yet another euphemism.  Fuel emissions entail pollution well beyond risk in terms of human health, which is more accurately described as assured collateral damage.  And then we talked about the intractable obstruction to progress based on scientific fact which is posed by religion.

The very essence of religion is always based on human belief in a higher power - a deity or deities.  This is enough all by itself to almost always preclude the concept that humans are capable of destroying our paradisiacal sanctuary on earth - that profusion of natural abundance which the god(s) supposedly created for us, in our superior carnal incarnation of their immortality, to enjoy.

The biggest impediment (even more than the selfishness, greed and genetically determined shortsightedness usually blamed by perplexed psychologists) to convincing people that the entire life-sustaining ecosystem is endangered by human activity is the nearly universal faith in omnipotent god(s) that is brainwashed into most children in virtually every tribe or town from an early age.

People indoctrinated in a conviction that some higher power is the guardian of nature are not likely to assume responsibility for permanently and irretrievably despoiling it.  But that unpalatable contention - along with overpopulation and our relentless and irreversible march towards ecocide - is another thorny concept that climate and environmental activists prefer to pussy-foot around.
Ipswich has more intact 17th century houses than any town in the US (thanks to long-standing poverty which precluded "development") - and as you would expect, there are many very old, enormous trees lining the narrow streets.  Like this one, bare branches protrude outside the leafy zone, a sure symptom of interior damage.  That's about the best that can be found - others are in far worse condition.  These examples are just a few from the drive back into town from the Clam Box.
I have been following a long email thread primarily concerned with different aspects regarding over-population, and one of the participants reminded us that many ideologues are persuaded by this passage, which bears repeating:

God Himself gives His explicit assurance that the Earth will be generous as long as the human race exists: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:28, KJV) 
If you want another route into the minds of intractable deniers, check out SmashTheWatermelons - for a laugh, because why not?  While I was rummaging in my suitcase, I found buried in a pocket a promotional green pen with a red cap, embossed with that address.  It was a leftover souvenir from the Heartland Institute SICCC, where there seemed to be general agreement that environmentalists and climate change activists are "green on the outside but red on the inside" - subversive communists in disguise - and all their protestations about clean water and air, methane clathrates and melting permafrost, are merely a front for their political ambitions.  In the context of the deniers' transparently anti-regulatory, pro-industry profit-driven agenda, it is quite the trip through the looking glass.
Susan and I exchanged dismal gardening notes, both of us having noticed that the usual volunteer blossoms of cleome or cosmos never reseeded this spring.  Usually they are as prolific as weeds around Wit's End.  What has this to do with a story that wildflowers are disappearing?  Well, I'd say that some of it can be blamed on climate change, some of it on ozone inhibiting the lifespan of pollen and the yield and viability of seeds; then again, perhaps the disappearance of butterflies is, like bees and bats, a warning that pollinators aren't able to fulfill their designated role.
On a whim while heading to the beach I detoured past the house where I grew up, which my parents sold over ten years ago.  The new owner was puttering around the porch and invited me in.  He has kept it up meticulously, and added an historical marker.
He was very kind to let me roam around the property, down to the dock at the brackish river, which was at low tide.
I spent countless halcyon hours in the summertime, winding through channels in the salt marsh to fish in the tranquil bay with my dad, my sisters and later, my daughters when they were little.  These are views are from the mooring - across the water, looking upstream and down.
People everywhere are gradually noticing that trees are dying - and are reaching for reasons.  So in addition to the usual roster of insects, disease and fungus, you can find blame apportioned to natural gas leaks, road salt, local power plants, precipitation swings from climate change, chemtrails, and the corexit used as dispersant in the Gulf oil spill.  It's virtually impossible to convince anyone that the problem is much more widespread than such localized sources, because people simply do not want to comprehend that our profligate use of fuel and comfortable modern lifestyle is the primary, underlying cause.  The unavoidable conclusion is that we would have to make enormous sacrifices to ameliorate the outcome, and hardly anybody wants to even think, let alone recommend, fundamental cultural paradigm shifts as a solution.
The New York Times had one of several versions of the allegation that a new herbicide sold by DuPont this year is killing trees.  This could be a case where it is possible that the herbicide (though I've no fondness for them of course) is being blamed for trees that were dying BEFORE the herbicide was used.  Plus - as I post on this blog week in and week out - innumerable trees are dying that are no where near applications - in different states and countries and continents.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out eventually, because there is quite a bit of money involved, with losses on the part of homeowners, landscapers, and insurance companies, plus potential liability for DuPont.
Because I write about the trees, I still hear not infrequently from readers about chemtrails, even though I invariably disappoint them because I tend to think the whole thing is nonsense.  First, it would have to be such a HUGE number of individuals involved - many performing tangential and poorly paid labor - which would require them all to be lying their heads off...and not ONE has come forward, ever, even as an anonymous whistle-blower.  And second, even given how evil our corporate masters are, why would they drop poison out of the sky that will contaminate the lungs and skin of their own children.  When the offspring of the corporate and military masters supposedly orchestrating this geoengineering attack are walking around wearing gas masks and hazmat suits (instead of Gucci sunglasses, Prada shoes and Chanel perfume) I'll believe they are engaged in deliberate chemtrail spraying.

Secondly, Occam's razor is applicable.  We don't need a government conspiracy to explain dying trees, stunted ornamentals and reduced crop production.  All we need to do is look in the mirror.  Unless you're living in a tent, never go anywhere and grow your own food, you must be spilling toxic gases into the atmosphere every time you turn on a light or open the tap or travel to work or shop.  Those identical toxic gases are proven from decades of scientific research (check the links of publications in the Basic Premise page, at the top of the blog!) to adversely affect the growth of plants (and human health).  The amazing thing would be if trees weren't dying, frankly.

A flurry of panic ensued after the oil spill in the Gulf.  There were dozens of you-tubes of speckled tomato leaves and discussion boards about how corexit was damaging backyard vegetable gardens, even in the Western US and Europe!  I told them all the same thing - you don't need to blame one oil spill for something that was happening before the spill, and was occurring in places far beyond the range of impact.  I don't think I convinced a single one, for the same very simple reason you can't talk people out of the chemtrail theory:

Once people realize trees are dying (and that observation becomes reinforced constantly once the unmistakeable symptoms are recognized) most of the illuminated are far more comfortable blaming a malevolent government cabal or a negligent oil company for environmental damage than their own actions and way of life.
To get to the beach, I had to pass the 1638 Whipple House, which has long been a museum.  I  used to volunteer as a guide, and developed an abiding love for the artifacts of a past when life seemed to be fulfilling and rich, even though (or perhaps because) it was lacking machinery.  Ipswich had a thriving hand-made lace industry, and there are pillows, paper patterns, pins, bobbins and thread displayed inside.
Scattered through the crown of this tree are yellowing leaves.
The 1795 Heard House, directly across the street, is another museum, a repository of splendid treasures from the original owner's trade with China.  Back when I worked there it was way before the day that antiques were preserved in controlled humidity, and much of the collection was stored helter skelter in cupboards and drawers.  When there was a break between tourists, we guides were allowed to try on fancy embroidered ballgowns, fans, gloves, hats and shoes from two centuries ago, articles that were casually stuffed in closets and the attics...much to our delight!
Honestly it was heartbreaking to see the trees on the grounds.
The copper beech is barely a remnant of its former glory.
Even shrubs, exposed like trees to season after season of poisonous gases, accumulate physiological damage internally that becomes visibly noticeable only after little hope for recovery remains.
Just like at home in New Jersey, opportunistic fungus moves in and disposes the tree to monstrous cankers - like cancerous, lethal turmors swelling on trunks and branches.
Because trees and other vegetation are dying, among many impacts it is only to be expected that wildfires will increase in number and intensity.  Thus a footnote following many stories of alarm about the fire that threatened the nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos was nothing if not ironic:

"Forestry investigators have also revealed they have discovered what caused the huge blaze, saying it was triggered by an aspen tree falling on to power lines in the Santa Fe National Forest some 12 miles from Los Alamos.

The tree caught fire, then the flames spread throughout the surrounding vegetation, spurred on by bone-dry conditions and strong winds."
No explanation as to why the aspen fell - perhaps it is a victim of SAD - sudden aspen decline - for which nobody has a cause, since bark beetles can't be blamed?  It seems that not a single kind of tree is not afflicted with some sort of sudden decline.
Just for the record, here's a youtube about the pecan orchards in Texas, which began deteriorating long before the current drought.  I tried in vain to interest the growers and their attorneys in the identical trend in trees not in close downwind proximity to coal stacks, but they are determined to sue a local power plant.
I left the trees in town with relief, looking forward to Crane's beach, which is a uniquely pristine part of an enormous wooded estate, long since entrusted to a trust for public use.  The cottage at the entrance is now a small, romantic Inn.
On the ascent up the long, circuitous drive that wends up to the summit where the Castle is perched, I passed not one but two wild turkeys!  I have seen them there before - perhaps because there is no hunting they are bolder than you might predict.
On the thread about over-population I mentioned previously (which probably will not be the decisive end of homos sapiens sapiens because at the rate we are reproducing, nature will take care of our excess before we do) it was interesting to see passages quoted from Norman Borlaug that corroborate what I was told last summer by a Rutgers professor - that the Nobel recipient regretted his role as the father of the "green revolution".  (There's a funny phone exchange recounted in a post about my letter to our NJ Governor, Chris Christie.)
Included was the ending of his speech in 1970, when he was awarded the Peace Prize:
Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the "Population Monster". In the beginning there were but two, Adam and Eve. When they appeared on this earth is still questionable. By the time of Christ, world population had probably reached 250 million. But between then and now, population has grown to 3.5 billion. Growth has been especially fast since the advent of modern medicine. If it continues to increase at the estimated present rate of two percent a year, the world population will reach 6.5 billion by the year 2000. Currently, with each second, or tick of the clock, about 2.2 additional people are added to the world population. The rhythm of increase will accelerate to 2.7, 3.3, and 4.0 for each tick of the clock by 1980, 1990, and 2000, respectively, unless man becomes more realistic and preoccupied about this impending doom. The ticktock of the clock will continually grow louder and more menacing each decade. Where will it all end?
Malthus signaled the danger a century and a half ago. But he emphasized principally the danger that population would increase faster than food supplies. In his time he could not foresee the tremendous increase in man's food production potential. Nor could he have foreseen the disturbing and destructive physical and mental consequences of the grotesque concentration of human beings into the poisoned and clangorous environment of pathologically hypertrophied megalopoles. Can human beings endure the strain? Abnormal stresses and strains tend to accentuate man's animal instincts and provoke irrational and socially disruptive behavior among the less stable individuals in the maddening crowd.
We must recognize the fact that adequate food is only the first requisite for life. For a decent and humane life we must also provide an opportunity for good education, remunerative employment, comfortable housing, good clothing, and effective and compassionate medical care. Unless we can do this, man may degenerate sooner from environmental diseases than from hunger."
Already at the top of the hill it was evident that the trees on Castle Hill are not immune to the same die-off afflicting lower elevations.
When I was growing up, before the property had been rehabilitated and access restricted, I liked to ride my bike there and prowl around, easily eluding the one caretaker who patrolled the huge preserve.  Back then the entire treeline was so high you wouldn't have even known the ocean lay far beyond...and now, but for the odd remaining tree jutting above, it has been greatly reduced, and no longer masks the horizon.
The conifers are turning a lurid purply brown and losing needles and branches.
This was a modest, summer vacation retreat for the Crane family.
According to our guide during a tour of the interior, terrific winter storms are becoming more virulent every passing year, and last March winds knocked down - literally - hundreds of trees.
No photos of the inside were permitted but I was allowed to shoot from a bedroom window this vista of the beach far below.  That huge sandspit is newly created, part of the legacy of the tidal storm surge that covered the parking lot and dredged the dunes out into the harbor.
A $2million project is replanting the rolling slopes of the grand allée, where a narrow glimpse of the sea was once the only vantage through which it could be seen beyond the woods.  A symmetrical row of classical statues promenades on either side, while beneath the balustrade that traverses the lawn is the site of what was once an elegant salt-water pool, with colonnaded, mirrored dressing rooms on either side.
Originally the grounds were meticulously landscaped and full of high-maintenance formal gardens, a bowling green and delightful maze of boxwood hedge.
This path leads down to the ruins of an outdoor amphitheater and another crumbling folly beyond its gated arena.
The leaves of the perennial flowers and groundcovers exhibit scarring from injured stomates.
It is so sad to see such decimation that I question, if we are pre-ordained to self-destruct through ecocide, like the proverbial gluttonous bacteria in a petri dish, why bother to document it?  And yet, what frustrates me is I think if we hadn't been so stupid, so swayed decades ago by the myriad smorgasbord of earthly delights there for easy plucking, we might have pulled it off.
Instead we chose Reagan's false promise, "mourning in America", the Republican siren call of drill baby drill, borrow and spend.  (When I finally finish this post I promised myself, I'm going to find a quiet shaded spot outside and read Naomi Oreskes' "Merchants of Doubt", the chronicle of deception practiced by the same scientists who prostituted everything from the despicable Star Wars program to denial of harm - from tobacco to acid rain to the ozone hole, to global warming).  We could have listened to Jimmy Carter's admonishments, presented on April 18, 1977 when, during a televised speech he outlined ten principles (and they are highlighted in between pictures of the garden ruins and the trees dying around them).  It made perfect sense to me when I first heard it, and now it is so poignantly prescient and long since superseded by America's blind stupidity, it just makes me want to weep.

The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.
The second principle is that healthy economic growth must continue. Only by saving energy can we maintain our standard of living and keep our people at work. An effective conservation program will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The third principle is that we must protect the environment. Our energy problems have the same cause as our environmental problems -- wasteful use of resources. Conservation helps us solve both at once.
The fourth principle is that we must reduce our vulnerability to potentially devastating embargoes. We can protect ourselves from uncertain supplies by reducing our demand for oil, making the most of our abundant resources such as coal, and developing a strategic petroleum reserve.
The fifth principle is that we must be fair. Our solutions must ask equal sacrifices from every region, every class of people, every interest group. Industry will have to do its part to conserve, just as the consumers will. The energy producers deserve fair treatment, but we will not let the oil companies profiteer.
The sixth principle, and the cornerstone of our policy, is to reduce the demand through conservation. Our emphasis on conservation is a clear difference between this plan and others which merely encouraged crash production efforts. Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy. Conservation is the only way we can buy a barrel of oil for a few dollars. It costs about $13 to waste it.
The seventh principle is that prices should generally reflect the true replacement costs of energy. We are only cheating ourselves if we make energy artificially cheap and use more than we can really afford.
The eighth principle is that government policies must be predictable and certain. Both consumers and producers need policies they can count on so they can plan ahead. This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace more than 50 different agencies that now have some control over energy.
The ninth principle is that we must conserve the fuels that are scarcest and make the most of those that are more plentiful. We can't continue to use oil and gas for 75 percent of our consumption when they make up seven percent of our domestic reserves. We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.
The tenth principle is that we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.
Here's what he warned of:

We will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more offshore wells than we will need if we begin to conserve now. Inflation will soar, production will go down, people will lose their jobs. Intense competition will build up among nations and among the different regions within our own country.
If we fail to act soon, we will face an economic, social and political crisis that will threaten our free institutions.
But we still have another choice. We can begin to prepare right now. We can decide to act while there is time.
Of course, they did have wicked winds in the March storm, but that cannot be why these two new replacements are doing so poorly.
As I approached the beach the dead trees in the salt marsh and the dunes fade into the background, but they outnumber the living.
Once I returned home to New Jersey, the heat broke and we have had a few enchanting days of what I remember summer used to be - warm, sunny, breezy and balmy...with evenings when the air flowing through the screened window is so cool that a light cover is required to sleep at night.
Meanwhile, the south and midwest of our country are gasping in dry searing temperatures without respite.
We are dodging bullets and meanwhile there is no clear direction as to the most moral - or effective - course to take.  According to some models of global dimming, the drought in Africa could be a repercussion of wind currents and precipitation altered by the pollution from developed nations.  It is only dumb luck that it has hit the hapless victims least responsible...but the southern US is not far behind.  Why are people so apathetic, so in denial?
The castle would be far to the left in this northerly view, with the contour of the allée, obscured by trees, coming to an end at the precipice of Steep Hill.  Zooming in, blurry brown patches mar the green cover.
I read an analysis that deconstructs the "14 propaganda Techniques" FOX uses to brainwash Americans, but I suspect it goes far beyond one filthy station.  The assumption of a free and open press is just one more weapon that has been co-opted by the incipient corporatism which is rapidly coming to dominate the political system - globally, not just in America.  The manipulators have cleverly, using the best brains graduated from an Ivy League education indoctrination, figured out how to greenwash everything from GMO food to counterculture music.

It is essential to understand that the main stream media is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporations - and the only purpose for it is to provide distraction from reality, and lull the captive audience into accepting illegal wars, widening gaps in wealth, government corruption, and poisoned food, water and air.  Period.  There is no news, there are only lies...and lies by omission.

The "other" media - the blogs, the websites of a fragmented and ineffectual opposition - unwittingly serve our corporate masters as far.

The reason our corporate overlords allow the bloggers (like me) to foment is that so far we are only a pesky opponent that they secretly view as beneficial to them.  Blathering on the internet and obscure, unimportant alternative magazines has kept us from actually doing anything.  We think we are accomplishing something but we are accomplishing nothing.  It's ridiculous how many blogs and youtube videos there that are anti-corporate, that warn of over-consumption and resource depletion, of dangerous extremes from climate change, and the plundering by the ultra-wealthy...or, like Wit's End, ecosystem collapse.
How many different organizations, conservation groups, and government agencies exist to protect the environment, save endangered species, and promote clean energy?  I bet there are hundreds at least, maybe tens of thousands.  All frustrated authors and activists who in the day of the Bastille would have to have physically gone out into the street to communicate with each other - let alone the unenlightened.  Now we make a donation, and exchange electronic pulses...and are invisible except to each other.

Well!  I for one am grateful for the opportunity has arisen to fulfill my New Year's Resolution, which is to get arrested.   I prefer to do it with a group demonstration where it is organized and predictable and hopefully safe, so even though it isn't specifically a protest about trees dying - and is restricted in terms of individual protests - I signed up for the August/September Tar Sands Action, which is designed to demand that Obama not approve a pipeline from Canada across the midsection of the US.

It will be a pity to fulfill the pledge to be dignified and wear business clothes (grrr).  But, it's sponsored by Jim Hansen, Naomi Klein, and David Suzuki among others whom I respect unreservedly, so I promise to NOT dress up like a cupcake, either.  Roger says one of their appeals is for old people like me, who should be more willing to have an arrest on their record than young people concerned about their future job prospects (not that it will matter, but okay, let them imagine it will)...
Of course I DO think this "Black Swan" ballet protest against BP's investment in the tar sands, which took place in Trafalgar Square just prior to their corporate-sponsored Royal Opera House "Summer Screens" performance, looks like a lot more fun.
One of the dancers depicted a white swan being smeared by oil, and she described their purpose as follows:  “Most people have never heard of tar sands, and BP would be happy to keep it that way. We used classical dance – an unusual campaigning medium – to introduce the issue to a new audience. The performance was meant to be enjoyed, but also to shock, with a visible struggle between a vulnerable creature and a powerful oil giant." and the article said:

"Canadian tar sands are the world’s largest and dirtiest industrial project: exacerbating global warming through deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, causing rare forms of cancer amongst First Nations communities, destroying vast tracts of forest habitat and threatening wildlife to extinction."

They quoted James Hansen, who wrote of the tar sands, America's number one source of oil:

"The tar sands of Canada constitute one of our planet's greatest threats."
This photo is from a coordinated and stealthy fresh air flash mob called "Climate Rush", also in London, where bicyclists and pedestrians staged a "die-in" to dramatise the public health emergency that is a consequence of breathing air pollution from motorized transport.
Unfortunately I guess this participant wouldn't qualify as dignified enough for the protest in Washington:
Oh well, there will be another intriguing venue for protest here in the US - although again it is not specifically related to climate or trees - but is inextricably intertwined to garner my endorsement.  Here's the official call from Adbusters:

On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.


Thus I may be camping out in Manhattan - depending on how much violence appears possible.
These days it is safer to contemplate nature either from a great blurry distance, or in very closely cropped detail, precluding any assessment of the overall trajectory.
A poem, found at this odd and wonderful blog, describes with sweetly succinct brevity the state of breathless paralysis that marks my fascination with our ponderous train, trundling implacably on its way to the site of total wreckage:

Part of Eve's Discussion

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

- by Marie Howe from The Good Thief


  1. Many people have come forward talking about chemtrails, including retired FBI official Ted Gunderson.

  2. I do not trust retired CIA or FBI. Once they are that, they are always that......and that is FASCIST TOTALITARIAN SCUM. Ted Gunderson is ,in all likelihood, a honeypot meant to attract and uncover "extremist" elements, or a purposeful disinformationist meant to distort, distract and ultimately misdirect and diffuse any true inquiry. Think of Cayenne Pepper and Hound Dogs.

  3. Dear Gail,

    Wit's End continues to be a very special, treasured, wonderful addition to the blogosphere!

    Thank you for all of your stark photographs, your links, your research, your writing, and your ACTIONS to get things done. Most of all, thank you for your kind friendship. We miss you already.

    Keep up the great work. We'll look forward to seeing you along the road--and at journey's end.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Thanks WitsEnd...

    I hope that we are around to remember Jimmy Carter's words. What a wise man.

  5. I think this is one of your best essays.

    1. Jeez thanks I think! I guess I coulda quit writing 5 years ago, haha!


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