Sunday, December 15, 2013

Against the Ruin of the World

A Camellia, in Charleston, South Carolina
Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense - the creative act.

~ Kenneth RexrothWorld Outside the Window
I found that quote in an essay written by Christy Rodgers which, thanks to the creative commons license, I am able to re-post (with deep gratitude) in its entirety, unmodified, other than to add some photographs.  But lets first start with an update of the last couple of weeks, since Ive been very busy and unable to post here at Wits End.  Does a road trip qualify as a creative act - performance art, perhaps?
First daughter has been bringing her horses to Florida in the winter because its impossible to keep them fit and trained in New Jersey, as she is rising in the competitive circles of dressage.  For that reason, she and her husband bought a home in Palm Beach (although it is modest by local standards, I now call it The Winter Palace)... a farm out in Loxahatchee for the horses, which has a barn with a dozen stalls, its stucco walls and high ceiling keeping them comfortably cool.
Since she had to bring the horses with the monster truck in the monster trailer, it fell upon me to deliver her car (much to my guilty delight!)  Upon arrival, I was tasked with various projects, chief among them to furnish the apartment on the farm property, and landscape along the fences.
Yes, you read that right...I am spending all my waking hours designing and arranging for the purchase and planting of dozens and dozens of trees which in my opinion, are going to die (actually, are already half dead) from air pollution.  These are the very first leaves I encountered, at the very first nursery I went to visit in Florida.  And they are far from unusual.
Does life get any more bizarre than that?
I always wanted to be a gypsy and I have discovered my inner vagabond - but even so, cognitive dissonance reigns supreme during this trip south.  I have found myself in turns dazzled, rattled, mesmerized and terrified by one thousand miles of graveyard landscapes hurtling past the car window.
I have come to think of the dismal rust and greys and browns, punctuated with slimy green water, as the new pallette of earth, acidified.
The Audubon Swamp garden outside of Charleston, in the rain:  I was there around fifteen years ago, and there were so many egrets you could hardly see the trees or the water, it was truly astounding.  It is hard to imagine a scene uglier than this.
Plus, here am I - a doomer with a goodly stash back home of freeze-dried food from Survival Acres, plus a reliable German weapon to deter the zombie hordes from stealing it - hurtling on my way to a mecca of rampant consumerism...well, the yachts and jewelry and plastic faces that characterize Palm Beach cant be considered merely excessive wealth, there must be another name for it.  LuxuryHyperOverindulgence?  This is the view from the end of the cul-de-sac.
Turn the corner and this trail follows the Intercoastal without any vehicular traffic.
Along the way I delivered my houseguest Craig Dilworth (author of Too Smart For Our Own Good:  The Ecological Predicament of Humankind) to Baltimore, where we stayed with his hosts in their lovely brick home.  He was visiting from Sweden, touring the US giving talks about his latest work of philosophy - Simplicity:  A Meta-Metaphysics.
Vrooooooom!!!  For the rest of the trip I meandered in no hurry to myriad points of interest, but even so I discovered, excruciatingly aware of the irony of course, the seductive feeling of invincibility and omnipotence that derives from screaming down a freeway at ferocious speeds in a sapphire Porsche, without even noticing the needle creeping up towards [redacted speed].  Other cars parted for me as though I were royalty.  OKAY, I admit I got a ticket - but it was a speed trap in Virginia and SO unfair.  83 in a 70 mph zone on route 95, is barely keeping up with the flow of traffic.

Here is a summary orientation of the journey starting from South Carolina, where I stopped to take pictures of this old relic:
This abandoned cottage is a brilliant metaphor for the accelerating decay of our world.
Around the back, a broken tree trunk.
Here and elsewhere, I took close up photos of leaves which are uniformly damaged from absorbing tropospheric ozone.
My main motivation for making the trip was to visit the Angel Oak, so named after the former owners of the land where it lives back in Colonial days.  Based on this photograph of it I found on the web, I rather expected to commune with its solitary splendor, alone in the woods.
As it happened, that was not to be - there were many signs placed beneath its branches warning against climbing and carving, and quite a few people.  It was a grey day too, so at first I was disappointed, but then I came to appreciate not just that so many others care enough to seek out this wondrous ancient tree, but that having people around gives a better sense of the incredible size of it.
I am so glad I finally had the chance to see this rarity, still miraculously alive.  I can only dream of what it would be like to be in a virgin forest where this is more common than I envy the first people to find such a place!
People tall and small pose for their picture taken next to the tree.
Others touch it reverently.
Despite all the visitors the expanse is so huge it was possible to get a picture without any signs or people.
There was even a wedding party which arrived for a photo op, leaving the stretch limousine looking out of place parked on the side of the dirt road.
That night I stayed in beautiful Charleston.
I wished I could have stayed a week and visited the many parks and historical sites.
Here, the Japanese maples are identical to those in New Jersey earlier this fall.
Instead of falling off, the leaves first shrivel up and turn brown while still attached to the branches.
I went to a landmark cemetery, always one of my favorite places, and had it all to myself.
It was a cornucopia of mournful statues with a backdrop of dying trees.
There are still some venerable mature trees, but they all have severe damage.
Others are completely dead, waiting for removal.
Just as in New Jersey by the end of last summer, here in the south there is rarely a leaf to be found that doesn’t exhibit the classic injury from air pollution.
These cannas are blooming, but the leaves are perfect examples for every other specis of plant.
Before I left, I decided to walk to the center of the city’s famous bridge.
This view below is looking backwards towards the onramp.  The twin chimneys on the horizon are part of a cigar factory that has been converted to condos, and is adjacent to the parking lot for bridge bikers and hikers, where I left the car.
It was a long walk, noisy with traffic, leading to ever more vertiginous heights. 
Nevertheless, it was quite exhilerating.
While I was in Charleston, a young lady suggested I stop in Savannah, which was excellent advice.  Savannah is absolutely charming.  Every other block is another delightful park in a checkerboard pattern, and I was so sorry I didn't have time to explore the town.  It is definitely a place I would love to go back to.  This is a typical corner:
I took a long, obscure detour to a wildlife sanctuary where the saltmarsh stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see, with tidal mudflats and brackish channels and shelters for birdwatchers.
It seemed like driving through a dense tunnel of leafy green shade, but actually, it must have been much more enchanting, not so long ago.
The larger trees are dying back the fastest.  I would have liked to seen this when it was still healthy, in its prime.
When I got to Cape Romain, I walked down the dock that leads through the saltmarsh to the channel.  
It was mudflats and marsh and water as far as the eye could see.
And yet, the only signs of life I saw were five seagulls and this heron - in a place that should be teeming with flocks of all sorts of birds.  Nature abhors a vaccum is a saying often thought of by gardeners as they fight weeds in empty spaces, and yet here the sky has become a vacuum.  Perhaps because all the shrimp are dying and the birds have nothing to eat?
As documented in two compilations for 2013 here and here, all sorts of wildlife is dying off at spectacular rates, all around the globe.  Overwhelming as these signs of collapse are, what is even more devastating is the simple, muted disappearance of birds and fish and animals...not to mention, of course, trees and wildflowers and other plants.  The sea grapes, a ubiquitous shrub on Palm Beach that can grow to be an imposing tree, is in appalling condition all over the island.
I felt rather special in my fancy car until I drove over the drawbridge into Palm Beach, where every driveway has a Bentley or a Maserati or what-have-you in it.
This fabulous banyan tree is just a couple of blocks down the intercoastal trail.
The roots look like lizards writhing on the ground, and they are enormous.
The mansions are hidden by massive hedges that are meticulously manicured, plus gates and walls that at first looked pretty to me, but after a week, it feels hostile and secretive.  Here is the house across the street, the first day I arrived, as the sun was setting behind it:
As first daughter remarked, it is all as fake as Disneyworld.  Every day, the narrow roads are full of landscaper workers frenetically pruning away the dead branches and leaves, and spraying for insects and fungus.
The driver of this rig, parked just outside one morning, told me that the whitefly population has become so virulent that homeowners are getting frantic.
Despite an all-out war against the bugs, the precious palms and sea grape and pines are dying off so fast there are piles of fronds and other detritus left for daily curbside pickup.  The problem is so acute that almost all the trunks of the palms are stained from injections of systemic insecticides, a last-ditch effort to save them undertaken in the past year or so, as treatment via the soil has failed.
Once again, climate change is blamed for insect epidemics, this time mites on bananas in Costa Rica.  This is so absurd, because most of the increase in temperature is concentrated at the poles, and least in the tropics.  Furthermore, the much-discussed “pause” in global warming has been going on for fifteen years - the same timeframe in which tree decline has, paradoxically, accelerated exponentially.  Not to mention, it was well known from the 1950’s that air pollution is what weakened the San Bernardino pines, causing the bark beetle population to decimate them.
Following is the wonderful essay by Christy Rodgers, with some more shots from my travels.  All the words are hers.  I especially like the last paragraph.
the bellwethers
~ Christie Rodgers

When I read the diagnosis, and fully believed it for the first time, I felt the emotional shock, as you do with cancer, that even as you look at yourself and nothing seems wrong, your mind is forced to realize that your body will die – a disease of which you see only the faintest initial signs at this moment is going to ravage and kill you in the future.
But that was just it – even though the numbers were there, and test after test had come back positive, I couldn’t see what they were talking about. Around me everything still worked as it always had. People worked and machines worked. Nothing I needed for my survival was lacking: air, water, food, shelter. What was happening to the earth’s climate and its multiplicity of species was a backdrop, the way foreign wars or famines (and they’d always been foreign, my whole life) were. I felt vaguely depressed at the idea that my habitat, the body in which my species lived, was facing a terminal illness, but this phenomenon was more abstract and less of a disturbance to my everyday life than a bus breaking down or my computer crashing.
Almost immediately I began to make those calculations, just like you do with cancer: with luck and some help from the latest technology, I was a good candidate to live out a normal lifespan, to die of something else before the habitat-sickness got me. I wasn’t living on a sinking island surrounded by a storm-whipped sea, or at the edge of an expanding desert. I wasn’t too young or too old. I wasn’t poor, and it was the poor who were always hit first and worst, in obscenely anonymous numbers, by any disaster, and sickened, died, or were uprooted and had to flee for their lives. I wasn’t a bellwether, an early victim, like those tragic men in the first years of the AIDS epidemic who wasted away while the world shunned or ignored them, and their friends went on partying like the guests in the castle in “The Masque of the Red Death.”
But at the same time, and more and more, I began to feel an odd sense of ghostliness, as if somehow, strangely, I had already died. Perhaps this was a consequence of the realization that I wasn’t at risk of losing something that I had ever truly possessed. I had never known what it was like to be connected to my natural environment to the extent that I sensed changes in its rhythms without being told. Nor had I ever had to wrest my food from my surroundings every day, and thus experience in my own body my success or failure at understanding what my habitat could provide. I had never felt for sunlight, air, water, and soil that immersive, wholly dependent love a child feels for its mother. What consciousness of nature I had possessed was almost entirely aesthetic. It was landscapes; it was “pleasing to the eye.” This was not a trivial feeling – but neither was it enough to give me a sense of vitality. A non-living object can also be intensely beautiful, and many were, to me.
But without any fundamental connection to an enveloping vitality, living in a technologically mediated world that didn’t require much intimate engagement even with other humans, I felt more and more like something that simply kept moving through space in isolation without any clear purpose except self-perpetuation. That is, like a ghost.
What can a ghost do? Ghosts, our legends tell us, are incapable of acting to alter the physical world. I looked around and realized that I was surrounded every day by legions of similarly ghostly beings, all moving through their lives with the same abstraction, floating above the natural world in layers and layers of artificiality that grew deeper as our technology grew more sophisticated. And only our clumsy, lumpy, defective bodies still tied us to the receding natural world, but more as a dog’s chain, not a life-giving umbilical cord. Those who had the money set about intervening in all sorts of ways to try to make their bodies more to their liking, to resist their imperfections, fight their decline. The rest mostly cursed, ignored, or feared them.
We had moved into a new phase in our collective experience of the world: for all of our previous history, the survival of the group had been paramount, but we were now surrounded by a culture of which the individual was said to be the highest expression. The ghosts kept speaking about our “freedom,” and what was freedom? The ability to pursue your dreams, they said. Just think about that phrase for a minute. What they really meant was a world where nothing was real but oneself, one’s fantasies, floating free of the body, tied as little as possible to the imperfect, hostile world.
Ghosts, vampires, zombies – our freedom meant a kind of permanent Halloween. I began to understand why a new crop of legends of the undead had such wild and extreme popularity. They were a fun-house mirror way of reflecting our fear, not of what we might become, but of what we had become.
On the opposite side of the mythic year, May Day, the celebration of the living world and of human labor, had dwindled to nothing. We didn’t base any blockbuster movies or television series on its figures and legends.
Still, even as we lurched to grab the means to free ourselves from them, our bodies were the bellwethers. What our minds refused to see, our bodies tried to tell us. Most of all they said that for all beings in nature death was inevitable – but collapse was not. You could live in ways that were healthy, and die as all living things did when the body had completed its cycle. Or you could live in a way that would bring about a total breakdown of your body – in its most violent and dramatic form, this was suicide.
If you could believe that bodies other than your own were as real as yours, and that yours did not exist in isolation but was part of larger systems that also functioned as bodies: society, species, ecosystem, planet – then perhaps you could begin to glimpse that what could happen to your personal body could unfold at these larger scales as well.
But no – our consciousnesses had not expanded but shrunk because of our ghostliness. I remember a radio announcer on a community station, a lonely voice in the wilderness, who used to say with an invisible wink: “when one is wrapped up in self, one makes a very small package,” but he was drowned out by thousands of voices telling us every day how great we were, how much power we had, we the ghosts. “A single person can change the world,” they lied. “Your first responsibility is to yourself.” “You can do anything you set your mind to,” they lied. “Anything you desire can be yours, if you want it enough.” And in the face of this constant clamor, how could we believe that we were subject even to our own body, much less the body politic, or the body of the nature?
Drifting in the world of ideas, while food and water still flowed easily into my body, the parks were green, the distant mountains snow-capped, and lilacs in the dooryards bloomed, I read about what causes civilizations to collapse: The negative feedback loop of destructive trends that, rather than mitigating or reducing, a given society escalates or reinforces until they completely override any positive capabilities that still exist.
I made a mental list: inequalities of wealth, power, and control of resources; repression, warfare; reductions of genetic, cultural, social, and economic systems diversity; consumption of non-renewable resources; commodification of life, speculation; reliance on complex technological intervention – all of these were escalating, some geometrically.
There might be more, but I stopped there. I knew that while I was completely convinced that these behaviors were fatally harmful, they were all presently described by influential people as being either regrettable but necessary to human progress, not actually harmful at all, or else bound to diminish at some future point if current operations were simply allowed to continue. And these conclusions were still accepted by most of the people who, like me, were not facing any imminent threat to their survival. What I believed was solid diagnosis, they denied as petty obstruction.
It seemed obvious that such lists would only become matters of consensus after the fact. And probably not even then – by definition, a civilization’s collapse wasn’t something that could be analyzed as it unfolded. Collapse usually entailed loss of the recordkeeping systems upon which the civilization had relied, so any future historians who emerged would always be speculating about its causes as well.
Obsessing about the exact characteristics of our civilization’s putative collapse, then, was another sign that one was subsumed in the ghost-life: It might be a pastime for those who thought they were too smart for zombie movies, but no more useful to forestalling any potential terminal decline than listing the ways a person might commit suicide would forestall the taking of one’s own life.
As Dorothy Parker, wit and suicide, had demonstrated:

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
And poisons cramp
Guns aren’t lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live
But what then should we do? Ghosts cannot come back to life, if they are truly ghosts. They are the condemned for whom there is no reprieve. But I was still a living organism. I would inevitably die, but I was not dead yet, and I still had some latitude within which I could act. Existentialism guided me as neither environmental nor social necessity could, given my situation. Existentialism told me that humans have breached all the sustaining walls, cognitive and physical, that kept us shielded from the absurdity of our condition, and yet there is still a way to live that is not a complete concession to absurdity. 
Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense- the creative act, says the poet. Neither “bad faith” (denial) nor despair offers us release from the ghost world. (Nor can we think ourselves out of it, however much those of us who love to think would like to believe that). But very specific things one does with one’s body, like physical activity for some life sustaining purpose, can, temporarily.

And that is how I began learning to grow a little bit of food, in small leftover spaces, and in ways that tried to mimic rather than manipulate natural processes. And to give my labor to a couple of equally small and contingent projects for building soil, creating habitat, and repairing broken land, in my own city. To watch and learn something of the birds and other creatures of the wild that still interpenetrated my over-built world. And also – don’t laugh – to sing.

These things have made up only a small portion of the hours of my life so far. I still live largely in the ghost world, but now I know it has edges.
And I found others there at the edges: bellwethers not of danger and sickness but of a fuller life. Not of future ill but present good. Not of freedom but responsibility.
We are in an odd position, acting from inside the half-life, not because we are compelled, nor because we believe our individual actions, even heaped one upon another, have the power to change large-scale outcomes or transform reality – which is still the reality of a progression towards death not just for us personally but at the largest earthly scale – but we act as we do because it is a way to be more fully alive, right now. And when you step into a world that is more fully alive, even briefly, you realize that only from that world can any human reality that is not absurd – which is to say, that is different from ours – be born.
Sometimes I stand at my back door in the twilight, with the noise of the television a senile murmur in the background, and wait, and listen. I know I am listening for the faint sound of a distant crash, a kind of final sound reverberating through layers of time, to tell me that a vast and seemingly monolithic absurdity, an old empire of illusion, has collapsed under its own weight and is crumbling back into life. And I know I will never hear it, because that isn’t the way it works, but still, for a little while as the day is ending, I listen, and I wait.

[For more essays from Christy Rodgers please visit her blog:  What If - a personal journal of radical possibilities]

To listen to an interview about trees that was recorded last fall, edited and recently posted at the Doomstead Diner, by Ibrahim Noor, click here.

Have a wonderful holiday, all!


  1. Thanks for this posting Gail.

    It's so serendipitously strange that I'm reading it while listening to the latest The Lifeboat Hour where Michael Ruppert just announced that someone sent him a document showing all the animal die-offs from the past few years and culminating in this year's stats. One can see the steady increase up to last year when there were some 500 events of animal and fish die-offs.

    This year, 2013, the number of events of die-offs is 35 pages long! And the year isn't over yet! Try to wrap your head around that.

    The collapse of our biosphere is accelerating.


  2. I don't get your point of bragging about your daughters million dollar palm beach home in florida, driving the Porsche and all the other high money oriented aspects of your blog. Are you desparetly trying to pretend that you wish your life was still filled with riches and that somehow you should escape the end because you are more worthy than the rest of us??? I continue to wonder about people who are high on their own hog while complaining about the demise of the earth. Don't you think you and your daughter should maybe come down to the level you proclaim everyone else has caused. Isn't your main beef that man has polluted the earth with his 8 piston cars while your simultaneously brag about your rich life and driving one of the most gas wasting and expensive cars on earth?????????? I think this may be called hipocrazy.... This is why nothing will ever change in the world because of the twisted minds like yours. Remember the phrase practice what you preach............. You will perish with the rest of us. I feel sorry for you because you lack truth and spirituality and you are not one with the earth as your post preaches.

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I remain mystified by your reaction to my post. How did you overlook the words that described my reaction to driving a carbon-guzzling sports car and then being plunged into a "mecca of LuxuryHyperoverindulgence"? - cognitive dissonance, guilt, irony, bizarre, and terror? What should I have written instead to convey my feelings - which YOU twist first into being envy of not being rich and next, in a head-spinning reversal, into bragging about BEING rich? (Neither of which is accurate.)

    Are you as ignorant of history as you apparently are of grammar and spelling that you missed the reference to the iconic symbol of the Bolshevik Revolution - the Winter Palace - which was stormed and all its fabled art and other treasures smashed and destroyed? What don't you get about the parable of the fate of the Tsarist aristocracy and what is looming for the wealthy residents of Palm Beach?

    Do you imagine I have some sort of control over my daughter, a grown woman…or her husband? Am I supposed to publicly air my private relationship with her?

    I don't think I need to do that to be truthful. You are correct however, I do lack spirituality. If spirituality means being as mean-spirited as you, I have no regrets.

    And don't bother posting another anonymous comment on my blog, I will delete it as soon as I see it. Anyone can easily find who I am and where I live. I wear my broken heart on my sleeve for all to see. I don't hide behind anonymity.

  4. Hi Gail. As bad as things are right now I do feel like we are lucky to actually have as much left as we do. I think if we could linearly extrapolate from 2008/09 when the major damage became readily apparent, then all trees should probably be 100% dead by now. So maybe rather than the tree decline falling off a cliff, we are looking at some plateaus along the way. I'm not saying things are getting better, far from it, but I think we are lucky we still have as much left as we do. I'm quite surprised it's not all gone by now.Back in 2008 did you not expect it would all be totally dead by now also? Thanks for the great post and pictures.

  5. I did expect it to fail faster than it has, although, in the grand scheme of things, it's going in the blink of an eye. I find it hard to feel lucky - it's more like, prolonging the agony. Look, this was released the year I graduated from high school:

  6. Hi Gail, Thanks for another informative article and trip description. Against a backdrop of what is happening in California it truly is horrifying to see the affects elsewhere. Here in LA where I have gardened in the same place for 14 years, vegetation and growth, especially herbaceous plants, deteriorated drastically in 2006-2007. Since the degredation occured a year or more earlier than what was experienced in the eastern U.S. I believe that all that dreadful air from Asia pushed us past the tipping point here a bit earlier than the east coast. Even here in central LA I could grow virtually anything until 7 years ago, now most everything that remains in my garden is in serious decline. As well, the native chapparal in the Hollywood Hills/Santa Monica Mountains is mostly dead. There are numerous eucalyptus trees adjacent to the Hollywood sign that are near death while hundreds of redwoods are dead and dying in the Griffith Park golf course. Having travelled extensively around the state over the last two years it appears that everything iconic in the way of California plantlife such as both redwoods, Joshua trees, madrone and many others are in rapid decline. The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County is now called by locals The Avenue of the Spike Tops, a logger reference to trees that are dying from the top down. Until recently there was no known dead coast redwoods unless lost by fire or wind EVER found so it appears that the name Sequoia Sempervirens (always green) does not apply anymore.

    I wonder if you have seen the video on Youtube: The Canary in the Coal Mine, Why the Stratosphere is Still Relevant? I believe the information therein offers some explanation as to reduced stratospheric ozone and its impact on tropospheric ozone. The video is being disseminated by the State Dept. and is a rather profound lecture by the atmospheric scientist Dr. D. Toohey. It appears that the Space Shuttle did much damage to the ozone layer and this may have a lot to do with vegetation loss.

    Thanks for your effort and keep up the good work.

  7. Thanks so much for your comment, Bill. I lived in the Bay area for several years in the late 1970's and having returned a few times since 2009 I am continually shocked at how it has gone from verdant and lust to brown and grey. I am even more shocked that hardly anyone sees anything amiss in this truly incredibly dramatic change. I will definitely check out the video you recommend. There is so much that, even with advanced monitoring, scientists to not seem to understand about the atmosphere. Did you see that new chemical just discovered to be the most potent greenhouse gas?

  8. Hi Gail
    I wandered over from DD after listening to your podcasts. While many people have their particular focuses on what is wrong with the world in where we are heading, I see environmental problems, the biosphere as the most pressing.For example I dont see the ultimate point in protesting the loss of jobs if it means at the end of the day people continue to run two big cars and airconditioning and heating and take trips in jets if they all keep their jobs and are not interested in environmental problems.

    It has ALWAYS been something I could not undertsand that almost all people do not give a thought to the fact that plantlife, especially trees provide the oxygen we breathe, and clearing trees constatntly, increasing population constantly, building constantly, and burning fuel constantly for cars, industry, electricity, and jet travel directly consumes that oxygen. it always amazes me that people give no thought to the long streams of barely moving traffic in every city, each car carrying one person in peak hour or that all the air travel in the world relies on jet engines that EACH engine suck through a squash court full of air every second in the air.

    I recently left the city in Perth, Western Australia, moving to remote Tasmania, to become fully offgrid and self suficient. The first thing I noticed when getting more familiar with the property was that most of the big trees, eucalypts were dead or dying, and being replaced by smaller wattyl and pines, though I found a couple of young ones of the variety of the big eucalypts.

    You mentioned that climate change is less extreme in the tropics, and I would like to add a couple of comments related to that. I grew up in the tropical north of Australia in the 80's and was planning to go back there but changed my mind after researching it. The weather 25-30 years ago was like you normally think of the tropics, hot and sticky in the monsoon but bearable with regular afternoon storms, and very pleasant dry seasons. That has now changed, the humidity in Darwin is unbearable and temps above 105F or 40C with close to 100% humidity are not uncommon. The rain which was as regular as clockwork is no longer. The people who were still there from when I was much younger told me that I had arrived during some pleasant weather and I found that just bearable. So what Im saying is, where temperatures are around or above your body temperature and humidity is in the 90% range small changes are very hard to live with and should not be underestimated.

    Anyway, good on you for raising awareness of this most imminent threat.
    Uncle Bob

  9. Yes, the Bay Area is suffering but the peripheral things that southern California has so much of is going first and fastest. Redwoods in LA and tropical avocados in San Diego along with massive amounts of imported suburban landscaping are in big trouble. Over 30 million people are dependent on dubious sources of water from afar while shifting climate zones, the jet stream and currents deliver who knows what from Asia. Add in the unknowns you mention, thousands of unregulated chemicals dumped with abandon into the biosphere, the legacy affects of our diabolical nuclear madness (Nuclear testing WMV -, it really is a wonder we are still here. There are an impossible number of synergies at work that humans will never understand and the human indifference you bemoan is pretty much the reason for it all. Frankly, I doubt most people in L.A. will notice anythings wrong until the Twinkies and Ho Hos stop showing up at 7-11 and Starbucks runs out of raspberry Lattes. Once those supply chains are broken, Watch Out and grab your gun. Let us hope that day is a long way off.

  10. Hey everyone: all the best to you (health, happiness, safety, good food, etc) over the holidays. We should cherish these precious moments because they'll be coming to an end in our lifetimes.

    Thanks Gail for this great blog and keep up the great work!


  11. Gail, who knows why I am here shortly after midnight on the first day of the year… I miss you and Kathy and Erin over at NBL, for one, and I needed to see what you were up to. I'm sorry I did, in a sense, because I wasn't ready to see what you have to show us.

    I went to a "tree stewards" conference this fall in VT. The keynote speaker was a guy who flies all over rescuing important trees. Most of his presentation had to do with some millionaires' resort in GA, Sea Island, maybe, was its name? And how he moved hundreds of ancient pines into captivating positions on these heinous golf courses. And how many of the trees died until he figured out a way to keep them alive (as far as it goes, since this is an ongoing project). I nearly wept at the pharaonic absurdity of the whole thing.

  12. Well, I pecked in a whole comment, but maybe it got lost. Wishing you a peaceful new year, Gail.

  13. Hey, take a look at this article regarding a couple of archeologists poking around at the site of Buddha's birth. At the bottom of the article it shows it to be at least partially about TREE WORSHIP!! Now that's some intelligent people!


    Lab tests confirmed the existence of roots within the void below the brick structure, suggesting it may have been a shrine where a tree once grew, possibly the hardwood sal tree under which many believe the Buddha was born.

    The discovery, revealed in November, sparked huge excitement, but some historians have urged caution, saying the ancient tree shrine could have been built by pre-Buddhist believers.

    "The worship of trees, often at simple altars, was a ubiquitous feature of ancient Indian religions," Julia Shaw, a lecturer in South Asian archaeology at University College London told National Geographic's online edition.

    "It is also possible that what is being described represents an older tree shrine quite disconnected from the worship of the historical Buddha," Shaw added.

    According to Coningham, however, if the Buddhists had appropriated the tree shrine from non-Buddhists, the site would not have survived relatively unscathed.

    "Also, the inscriptions at Bodhgaya (where the Buddha achieved enlightenment) reveal a thriving culture of tree worship, which suggests continuity," he added.

    Happy New Year, Gail. I'm looking forward to your continued factual posts.


  14. Thanks for that link Tom. I've actually been working (slowly!) ona post about tree worship,which is amazingly common so maybe this new example will inspire me to finish, heh. Happy new year to you as well. Can't remember if I told you but there are forums for NBL expats, on FB - the panic room and near term human extinction support group - also a google circle that Lidia just joined, any one of which your presence would be most welcome. Let me know

  15. Here's a good, short essay that noticed the same lack of color this fall that you documented, Gail.

    [notice the second comment below the short piece]

    all the best


    1. Oh thanks, Tom. Mr. Lewis did send me a heads up that he was reposting my blog. I was really grateful for his endorsement!


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