Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Paradise Becomes a Nightmare

It's wonderful to see that ever more people are waking up to the dangers of pollution, and taking personal risks to stop it that would have seemed outlandish just a year ago - such as this gallant grandma in Oklahoma, who used a bikelock around her neck earlier today to halt excavation for the Keystone XL pipeline.  But while the article on the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance website talks about the health effects in neighborhoods in the path of pipelines, from spills and emissions and chemicals, not once does it mention climate change - let alone the global trend of forest dieback from rising levels of tropospheric ozone pollution (oh but hey Ozonists are used to that, heh).  I love the way she brought a pillow to sit on!
Back in July, after writing an article for Grist about an action to shut down a mountaintop removal mine site in West Virginia, I earned the opprobrium of parties on every side, in part for articulating a schism that most prefer to sweep under the rug.  Apparently I wasn't supposed to delineate the uneasy alliance between outsiders with a broader climate agenda, and many of the Appalachian residents.  Most of the latter are up in arms because of habitat destruction and toxic contamination from the extractive processes that cause cancer and other diseases.  It was evident however that many of them have no objection to the emissions of burning coal, and no quibble with indulgences that are part of an industrial consumer society.  It's evidently okay with them when somebody somewhere ELSE is losing their clean land, water, and air.

After years of shunning any association with hippy "environmental" issues, the big, serious, sciency climate activist organizations are being eclipsed by the suddenly galvanized, genuinely grassroots groups who are rising up to fight the onslaught of corporate Goliaths.  In rejecting ecology for so long, the climate movement has relinquished the narrative and the result is that these burgeoning groups, newly formed particularly as the fracking menace spreads nationwide, are often oblivious or indifferent to the larger issues of climate chaos and ecosystem collapse (which happen to be rather more crucial to the survival of the biosphere, including us).

Does it matter?  Maybe through the process of engagement over local pollution issues, the participants will become educated about the truly existential threats that cross international borders.  It's likely that arrests and corporate control of spill sites will lead some to become radicalized about government and law enforcement and media collusion...but whether they will become enlightened about what my friend Steve Horn describes in TruthOut as "green illusions" is not so clear, since so far the promoters of "green solutions", if the hostile comments there are any indication, still haven't figured it out.

This video makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it...see if you can figure out why.  (hint: it starts at 1:50 minutes in, and the dialogue only gets funnier after that.)


Yep!  You guessed right!!


  1. 12 reasons why...


  2. Oh, yeah, right, the methane is from an old coal seam, not the gas drilling. How can anyone live with themselves after telling such lies?

  3. Gail you really need to see this video, you'll probably get as much of a laugh out of it as I did. "How to identify a Red Alder" Of course, the trees they are identifying are almost dead! Videos like this make me convinced that unless a tree literally as ZERO leaves, people think they are fine.


  4. Anon, I'm afraid you are so right. I have heard that very phrase used countless times when I have pointed out that a tree is abnormally thin - But it still has leaves!

    That video is a riot, and the narrator is such an automaton it bizarre - but then so is this girl in a companion piece about an equally sick-looking tupelo (blackgum):


    I actually did some posts about tupelo a while ago, because it should be one of the most brilliant red in autumn. Its loss is a terrible thing:


  5. Ahh yes, the finest in quiet and fresh air that only ATVs can provide. Last year when we got practically no snow everyone around here was mourning their loss of access to the peace and quiet and lovely country air that was provided to them by their snowmobiles. It's a particular brand of cognitive dissonance that has made me sigh and then ruefully chuckle since I was a wee one. I actually used to drop stuff on my neighbors riding their 4-wheelers when I was reading way up in trees as a kid for interrupting my reverie with their loud smelly machines.

    Oh, also this: http://news.yahoo.com/idaho-family-sues-usfs-1m-180507334.html

  6. Gail read your Grist article for the first. Sorry I missed it back in July. If you have not read Theodore J. Kaczynski's "Industrial Society and its Future" you should. In his so-called Unabomber Manifesto kaczynski does accurately describe the behavior and motivation of such left-wing activist you were mixed-up with in West Virginia. These sorry souls are primary interested in experiencing something Kaczynski calls "the power process". I think Kaczynski is right, going through the power process is an essential human need. A need that industrial society only allows us to experience in a distorted fashion. Scientist and technologists experience it primarily through their work -- that is why they will never stop destroying the planet. Leftists experience it primarily through their activism and their attempts to impose their utopian visions on others. Their visions are fundamentally at odds with human nature and thus ironically can an only be achieved through technological manipulation of humans and their environment. I sure you would find a great deal to disagree with in the manifesto but Kaczynski is a revolutionist and dare I say an American folk-hero.

  7. Applause, Amanda!! I have often been tempted to string a wire across the trees out in the woods. And, isn't it amazing how there is always a way to make money out of disaster. NYC pays out quite a bit of money to settle tree accident lawsuits, too. The problem is, in order to eliminate the risk, they would have to cut down every single tree.

    Lucas thank you for your very provocative comment. I only read the Manifesto a few years ago, until then I had no idea what Kaczynski was all about. I will have to delve some more into his writing, what an interestng observation. Since I have been soundly rebuffed by activists and doomers of all stripes, I have come to the conclusion, sort of along the same lines I imagine, that what motivates people more than anything is status seeking. How else to explain the total lack of cooperation among ecologists, overpopulation activists, peak oilers, climate scientists, leftists of all stripes, etc., even though it means our doom.

  8. Puts NIMBYism in a whole new context, doesn't it.

    Thank you, Gail, for the article in Grist (I too had missed it). New activists like to say the "old environmentalists" are/were too fearful, but in this issue the fear is as if not more rampant. I work in Transition and for some there it is anathema to "antagonize" others by speaking the dark truths, etc. etc. It gets me very down sometimes/often. Yes, the world is complex, and there are sides to everything. But the way it's going, there will be only side left, and none of us will be on it.

    But, you're right: "don’t go down without a fight."

  9. You are doing all the right things Kaat! We may not be able to change the outcome, and most people will be oblivious to the bitter end although more and more are waking up and they will need someone like you to turn to. Hope your bees are doing okay.

  10. "..the climate movement has relinquished the narrative and the result is that these burgeoning groups, newly formed particularly as the fracking menace spreads nationwide, are often oblivious or indifferent to the larger issues of climate chaos and ecosystem collapse"

    Ok so let me get this straight, you're saying the big rich climate groups like WWF, Greenpeace, Al Gore etc have lost their green credibility, and small green organizations full of old school environmentalists are springing up all over the place. The green movement has split, well it's about time. I hate to say this since I am a denialist nut but I used to be an old school environmentalist who used to protest big mega-projects like hydro dams and corporate pollution. Old school greenies wanted clean air, land and water. New school greenies aren’t interested in that anymore. They want to save the planet through control of global population, control humanity by rationing their carbon consumption, create huge carbon commodity trading markets, destroy large areas of forest for renewable hydro and wind projects, and in the process create a global government. So when you talk about fighting pollution, that kind of thinking is passe, it's old school. I do not recognize modern environmentalism, it has become a big money corporate behemoth. I've been waiting along time to see old school greenies stand up again. This is a welcome development.


  11. You might want to read articles in Wrong Kind of Green, which has posted many deep critiques of the big enviro/climate groups, for instance this one, but there are many others:


    I think they have been coopted and muzzled, but I couldn't disagree with you more about what needs to be done (not that it will be - it won't). But if we, say, wanted our children to have a habitable planet, we would have to stop burning fuel like, 20 years ago at least, stop having so many babies, reduce our consumption levels in the developed nations - DRASTICALLY - and make and enforce global agreements. We won't do any of that, of course, and so whether there is a focus on peak oil, peak resources, climate change, or traditional conservation and anti-pollution emphasis, we are failing miserably in dealing with any of them, and any one of them is plenty all by itself to take civilization down the fast side of the Seneca cliff.


  12. I have come to the conclusion, sort of along the same lines I imagine, that what motivates people more than anything is status seeking. How else to explain the total lack of cooperation among ecologists, overpopulation activists, peak oilers, climate scientists, leftists of all stripes, etc., even though it means our doom.

    I believe it's simply a case of too much information: it's simply not possible for any one person to grasp it all. We each latch onto the part(s) we do understand, and make our own judgements about what is most important based on our incomplete understanding. The end result is that the status quo trundles on, because there is never a united front against it (as you rightly point out).

    As for 'Unabomber' Ted Kaczynski, his story is a tragedy. The man is a genius and a hero, and should be acclaimed as such. Instead, our society chucks him in jail and throws away the key.

    I'm guessing you've seen the film If a Tree Falls: a story of the Earth Liberation Front, which tells the tale of Daniel McGowan (stupid question: you probably recommended it to me...).

  13. Too much information:

    that too! I get boggled by it. There are so many, many people working on trees, for example. Every government, every university, countless NGO's and arboretums and professional nurseries. And yet they all miss it! ARG.


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