Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frack 'em

I have always thought that happiness, or at least contentment, is based on the perception of fairness and expectations.  In other words, it's not based on the actual amount of creature comfort, but rather the relationship between what you think you should have, compared to what you really do have.  Remember the series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?  When I was young, I read them over and over again, entranced.  By today's standards, that family was living quite primitively, in conditions that would be considered much worse deprivation than the lowest class of contemporary America's consumer society.  But they didn't know it at the time, and they were not just content, but genuinely happy, despite their hardships.  Of course, they were living in a natural abundance which has since been decimated.

Still, in contrast, by any objective measure, I should be thrilled to be living at the degree of comfort I enjoy.  I can have a hot shower whenever I want, using perfumed shampoo.  I can eat oysters, or steak or cauliflower or raspberries.  I have machines to wash my laundry and dishes.  I can hop in a car, train or plane to be transported with incredible power  and speed, anywhere on earth (at least, I could before I became one of the poors!).  I should be just ecstatic...but I'm not.
At the most fundamental level I'm miserable, it's fair to say, because I had believed all this magical capability and security should be passed on to my children for their lifetimes, and then to their children...and now I know, it won't be.  Far from it - how converging catastrophes will unfold in the future is unpredictable, but the Great Convulsion is certain to be cataclysmic.  Here's a comment I left this morning on an article warning of food shortages due to drought, at Climate Progress, that explains why I anticipate irreversible decline for industrial civilization and indeed, the human species itself:

Scientific research and reports from government agencies such as NASA, the US Dept. of Ag., and EPA also tell us that in addition to increasingly vicious droughts and floods from climate change, crop yield and quality is reduced from exposure to air pollution. Since the background level of tropospheric ozone is persistant and inexorably rising, this is a global problem for critical crops such as wheat, soy, rice and corn, and in fact for every annual crop. There isn’t going to be any relief to be had for regions that are impacted by extreme weather.
Even worse, atmospheric pollution is at such a level that trees are now dying all over the world. Weakened by ozone, they fall prey to rampant insects, disease and fungus. We are going to lose not only nuts, fruit, lumber and shade…the entire terrestrial ecosystem is collapsing.
All anyone needs to do to verify this for themselves (believe me, the government won’t tell you, for fear of panic, and neither will the scientists, for fear of ridicule) is take a walk outside and really look at some actual trees.
Their bark is cracking and splitting, holes are oozing sap, cankers like lethal tumors are growing on trunks, branches are snapping off, you can’t find a pine that you can’t see through because so many needles have fallen off. And there are so many that are already completely dead.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s because of insects, disease, and fungus. That’s like blaming a smoker’s lung cancer on eating too many potato chips.
We should make drastic cuts in burning fuel, and ration its use for only the most essential purposes, before there is widespread famine, and riots in the empty grocery stores.

See why I am not exactly happy?  And so, as often as I can, I try to annoy, if not impede, the 1% who have ruthlessly engineered this debacle for the simple stupid reason that they are profiting handsomely - obscenely - if only temporarily, in doing so.  The latest foray into New York was yesterday, where I once again learned the hard way that even green activists can be obtuse, self-absorbed tin-pot dictators.

I, and my fellow occupiers via our intertube listserve, had been invited to support an anti-fracking protest directed towards Governor Corbett of PA and his wealthy backers who were to be assembled and dining in lavish style at the Waldorf-Astoria.  We were encouraged to be creative.  Ah hah, I thought - a little street theatre...I can never resist.  I sent the anti-frackers this picture from my last cupcake impersonation, which got me evicted from the climate denialpalooza conference in Washington DC last July, and even forwarded my blogpost from that incident so they could read the flyer I hand out, titled - Climate Science is Baked in the Cake!
Everything seemed copacetic as we emailed back and forth, so I dutifully showed under the big clock in the main concourse of Grand Central Station at 5 PM to meet my fellow demonstrators, and thence to march to the hotel.  I was counting on them to lead the way because without my real glasses I'm not quite blind, but I have no idea where I am or where I'm going.  And I was really hoping the police weren't going to nab me because I would have felt conspicuously idiotic spending the night in jail looking like this:
But the police were distracted by the drunken revelries of boisterous swarming multitudes of Santacon participants, an annual event of which I had never heard before.  It's quite depressing how many people can find the time to dress like Santas and elves to cavort and frolic all over mid-town Manhattan, and how few can be bothered to join an effort to save clean water...Anyway, once we had all collected in the hubbub, the organizers handed out signs, stickers and the words to be sung to a familiar Christmas Carol.  Here they are:

Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way...
Oh what fun
It is to run
When the water is on fire...

Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Jingle all the way...
Oh Gov Corbett
What will be the obit
When all P_A_ is dead?

I kid you not.  Practice though we might, nobody could actually sing it without mangling the lyrics, and there obviously wasn't a prayer in hell anybody hearing it would have the slightest clue what we meant to impart!  It was too late to come up with a replacement so I suggested, why don't we just say, "Whose Water? Our Water!"  That caught on for a bit as we marched around the hotel, but then we were back to:  "Governor Corbett, Come and Drink it!"  Not exactly rousing either.

I have to say having become something of a veteren of marches and chanting, it's really important to have some rhythm and rhyme to keep up the enthusiasm for mindless repetition.  So for a while I got them to say a rather satisfying:  "Fracking is a Corporate Crime!" but never found any enthusiasm for "This is What Democracy Looks Like" let alone "Occupy the Delaware" or anything radical like that.

Nevertheless, most everybody seemed to enjoy the cake message, lots of people wanted their picture taken with me, then they asked what my signs meant (the other one says, "Where's my cake?), one person thanked me for coming, and some guy said "There's our cupcake!" approvingly as our circular parade passed by.  As usual little children adored the costume.  Eventually though, the woman who was clearly the lead organizer came over to me and said, "Maybe since you've got so much stuff (pointing at my little wheeled bag which held my computer and cameras) you'd like to stand at the end of the block, on the corner, and hand out fliers.

"Well," I said somewhat dubious, "then I wouldn't be able to hold the signs I brought.

"You could lean them on your bag," she said helpfully.

"I didn't know we could stand in one place and hand out fliers," I said.  "I heard the police said we had to keep moving".

"It's okay at the corner," she assured me.

" that case I have my own I would like to hand out," I said.

"Are they about this?" [meaning fracking] she asked.

"Um...they're about environmental pollution," I responded.

"Oh..WELL...we want to have a unified message," she informed me frostily.

I resisted the temptation to tell her that she didn't own the fucking sidewalk.  I resisted the temptation to ask...WHY???  It's all connected!  Why invite occupiers if you want to restrict the message to fracking?
After that I headed back to Penn Station, totally disgusted with this typical activist crap.  It costs over $30 just for tickets to New York from Wit's End, and requires three transfers, lugging the bag up and down several stories of stairs - what was I thinking!?  In the end though, it was redeemed, because the train home was really crowded and a lively conversation ensued.  I was one of the first to arrive, so I took a seat by the door where there were outlets to recharge all my electronic equipment, expecting to read on my laptop during the long ride.  When the car was was getting close to filled I moved all my squiggly cords and offered the seat they had been covering to the next passenger coming aboard, who happened to be a big black guy.  He was a bit confused about whether he was on the right train.  Once we got that straightened out with the help of a nice suburban mom sitting across the aisle with her two teenage daughters, she asked me if I go in to the city regularly.  I said, well, I have been lately because I've been occupying Wall Street.  The teenagers lit up with excitement, and the guy next to me stuck out his hand to shake mine.  I showed them my signs.

Then he told us that he had been an administrative assistant at Deutsche Bank for sixteen years, devotedly worked insane hours ("I gave them my whole life"), until he was summarily dismissed last June.  He said, his facial expression a heart-breaking mixture of anger, sadness, and resignation, "I'm 53.  Who's going to give me a job now?"  I thought for a second about asking if I could interview him on video.  It was that tragic.  But I didn't want to impose on his grief and worry, he actually looked close to tears while he described the futile efforts he had been making to obtain even temporary work.  We all talked about the disaster this country has become, the terrible disappointment we felt in Obama, and the grim prospects for any economic recovery.  It was an amazing moment of solidarity with strangers.


  1. On the topic of fairness and expectations, the sudden breakdown of the denialist vision en masse will be a scary one. Those who understand and acknowledge the reality of climate change early are likely to react in rational, constructive, nonviolent ways. Those who are in denial will react to their own worsening plight irrationally, non-constructively, and violently. The longer and more strongly one remains in denial, the more extreme their their reaction will be once they are personally confronted with the consequences of climate change.

  2. On the topics of fracking for gas and oil and dying trees, I predict those issues will become subtly, but undeniably, linked within our lifetimes.

    With fracking and deep(er) water drilling, the cost of oil production is rapidly rising -- $80-$95/barrel today. At the same time, the ability of people to afford fuel at that price is declining, as economies remain stagnant and joblessness persists. As the demand for increasingly expensive oil declines, the oil producers will have an increasingly difficult time recovering their costs on a declining volume of sales. Oil production is a capital intensive process that requires a high volume of sales to spread out the capital costs. Where will people get their energy?

    Trees are dying, and burning in forest fires, around the world. Anybody with an axe or saw can cut a tree, bring it home, and burn it for heat.

    I predict fossil fuels will decline in popularity as a heat while wood increases. By 2020, I expect more Americans will be burning wood for heat than burning gas or oil.

  3. Wonhyo, perhaps your prediction explains this:

  4. Yup. I saw that, too.

    Gun rights advocacy, like right wing causes in general, is paranoid to the extreme, even as they have been making steady progress in advancing their cause for decades. The most concrete evidence that gun rights are expanding is the number of states that allow concealed carry. This was a relatively small number in the 1980s, but now the numbers have flipped.

    What concerns me is that the demographic that is most adamant about gun rights almost perfectly overlaps the demographic that is most adamantly in denial about climate change. When they discuss the justification for owning guns, they talk in code like, when the SHTF (sh** hits the fan), or when we're WROL (without rule of law), or "when the zombies attack". This kind of talk is meant to defuse the seriousness of wanting to own guns, but what does it really mean?

    The reality is, climate change is the S hitting the F. We're not going to stop this by buying more guns. Buying guns is an extremely cynical, counterproductive way to deal with the climate change zombie.

  5. Time to move to Canada or New Zealand? Americans are insane and the S hasn't even hit the F yet.


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