The fate of the earth may be in *your hands!
Could this be one of the most important websites you ever see? Read it with an open mind and decide for yourself.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
– Margaret Mead
We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
– Albert Einstein
That the situation is hopeless, should not prevent us from doing our best. — Aldo Leopold
Welcome to my website!
This website was created primarily to supplement my ads, in which I am seeking philanthropic backing, so that I can quit my day job, hire assistants, and begin the process of immersing myself, lifelong, in my pursuit to “save the planet” (see first link below!).
Disclaimer: any contribution, or bequest, will be treated as a gift to Mr. Paul A. Reinicke, to be used entirely at his own discretion (with no strings attached). See also the Read this first! page.
[PLEASE NOTE: I have made editorial notations, throughout, to make it easier to read wherever there are formating problems that I couldn’t correct. For example, whenever a bullet point contains multiple paragraphs, only the first paragraph is properly aligned.]
I am devoting my life to “saving the planet,” but I need your help: Read this first!
Some of the problems we face: Problems
Eco-consciousness: Nowhere on our radar
You’ll find this interesting: Underlying causes
A self-portrait, with words: About me
Designing tomorrow’s world, today: Solutions
A collection of … Quotations
This is a two-part section: Philanthropy
In conclusion … Afterword
If you are a philanthropist, and would like to help (or if you think you can help in some other capacity): Contact
Some helpful search suggestions and … Links
Above, is what I sometimes refer to as the website’s “Table of Contents.” Below, is what I like to think of as a “Virtual Bulletin Board,” on which to pass along any additional information or commentary (yeah, I guess you can call it a Blog). I suggest you check back here about once a month or so, for new postings. Content may be edited or deleted after the posting date (WordPress makes this virtually effortless).
(5/2/2016) Once again, I am caught short of time, but I would like to quickly write about something I wanted to include in the previous post. I have asked several scientists and individuals the following question:
“In short, do you know of any studies at all that attempt to measure what is the actual percentage of the total population that genuinely possesses a high degree or very high degree of eco-consciousness?”
But in each instance, I’ve come up empty. No one knows of any such studies. They agree it’s a good question; but don’t know of any studies. So if anyone out there is aware of any such study or studies, please let me know. Thanks!
Since I’ve now brought up this topic, though, let me say a few more things relating to this. I would speculate that the actual percent of the population that possesses a high or very high degree of eco-consciousness is extremely low. Just how low, that is the crux of the question. The mere fact that such studies apparently aren’t even being done, not only shows how far off the radar eco-consciousness is, but demonstrates how germane the question is, considering the extent of the damage we are ecologically wreaking on this planet and leaving in our everyday wake.
This is the kind of meaningful and useful study, by the way, that I wouldn’t mind having a hand in helping to put together. Don’t think for a second it would be easy to design such a study. Determining what constitutes “a high or very high level of eco-consciousness,” for example, could depend heavily on who is designing the study; and determining what questions to ask, and how to ask those questions, can also be crucial. If having a very high level of eco-consciousness is as rare a trait as I believe it is, finding qualified people to even design such a study wouldn’t be easy. But I believe this type of research is vital.
One study worth noting is a March 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It didn’t attempt to measure the extent to which a high level of eco-consciousness exists within society, but it did examine “the life goals, concern for others and civic orientation of three young generations — baby boomers, Generation X and Millennials” — according to an article published online for The Washington Post (Martha Irvine, “Young Americans less interested in the environment than previous generations” [There is also an Associated Press byline.] Mar. 15, 2012). And in so doing, as stated in the article, these researchers “found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Generation X members — and 21 percent of Millennials” — shared this sentiment. The article quotes one of the study’s authors, San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge, as stating “I was shocked. We have the perception that we’re getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we’re not.” Yes, it does seem that the battle to save the planet is always an uphill one. But that is precisely why redesigning how we live on this planet is so important.
To conclude, let me provide two quotations from two individuals I can unequivocally conclude possessed a very high degree of eco-consciousness:
One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise. — Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
We don’t say that every living being has the same value as a human, but that it has an intrinsic value which is not quantifiable. It is not equal or unequal. It has a right to live and blossom. I may kill a mosquito if it is on the face of my baby but I will never say I have a higher right to life than a mosquito. — Arne Naess
Naess is credited with coining the term “deep ecology.” But personally, I prefer using the term “deep eco-consciousness.” Neither of these terms is currently in common usage (among the general population), but I think the latter holds more promise in this regard, since it would seem to fit more naturally in everyday conversation.
(4/22/2016) As it now states at the end of the “Harriet Tubman” Wikipedia article, “On April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced plans to add Tubman to the front of the twenty-dollar bill, moving President Andrew Jackson to the rear of the bill.” But I very much would have preferred seeing another woman chosen instead — a woman that as far as I know was never even under consideration — and that woman is … Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson is often credited with helping to spark the global environmental movement. Lew wanted to choose a woman whose work contributed to expanding or promoting democracy. But I would argue that you can’t have democracy (in the future), if we don’t save the planet (today). Just as Henry David Thoreau memorably stated “What’s the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?,” we could ask “What’s the use of democracy, if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” Or in the words of the late David Orton, “Social justice is only possible in a context of ecological justice.” Orton also pointed out that “There is no justice on a dead planet.” True. There would be no human life at all on a dead planet. I find the fact that Rachel Carson was never seriously considered for this honor, just one more illustration of how eco-consciousness is hardly ever in our thoughts. It’s also all the more telling, the fact that this was announced just days before April 22nd. And I wouldn’t even necessarily be surprised if more people are aware that April 27th is Administrative Professionals Day, than are aware that April 22nd is Earth Day.
I’m going to share with you something that you might not believe, but it’s true, so I’ll share it anyway. Less than a year ago, I chanced upon someone who had dropped someone off for a scheduled interview, and was basically killing time. I asked him what kind of work he did, and when he said he worked for the Department of Environmental Conservation, in another state, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to ask him something I sometimes ask people: “Who would you say are your three most favorite environmentalists (living or dead)?” (The fact that many people struggle to name even one, further demonstrates how much the odds are stacked against us.) He was stuck, so to help him along, I suggested: “Someone like Rachel Carson, for example.” His eyes lit up. I could see this sparked something inside him; and I thought “Great!” But, as it turned out, … not so great.
The reason his eyes lit up when he heard the name “Rachel Carson” is because he works in a building called “The Rachel Carson Building,” but, he added, he wasn’t aware that Rachel Carson had been an actual person. (Perhaps he comes from a country where buildings are sometimes named after fictional characters?) In short, I explained to him who Rachel Carson was, he still couldn’t name any other environmentalists, and we eventually went our separate ways. When I got home, I googled “The Rachel Carson Building” out of curiosity and discovered that such a building, housing a Department of Environmental Conservation, does indeed exist, and in the state and city in which he said he worked. It is a fourteen-story building, with a webcam pointed at a hawk’s nest, resting on one of its floors. True story. Scary, but true. [4/25/2016: Wondering whether I recalled this correctly, and thinking it might have been an eagle, not a hawk, I fact-checked this to refresh my memory, but guess what? Wrong on both counts. It is a peregrine falcon that has its nest on the building; also, it evidently has seventeen floors, not fourteen. Sorry about the inaccuracy.]
Here’s something else I’ll share with you. Whenever I encounter people soliciting for a cause or raising money for something, when they ask if I would like to contribute, here’s what I generally say: “To tell you the truth, on principle [I emphasize this], I only support one cause.” I pause to let this sink in, before continuing: “Would you like three hints?”
These are the three hints:  “It’s the most important cause there is — by far.  It’s almost always overlooked. And  it’s the hardest — by far — to actually address (resolve).”
Usually, any guesses that follow, at this point, are way off.
So I’ll ask: “Do you want one more clue?” This final clue often elicits the correct response, or what I deem close enough. The final clue is this: “And it’s keeping you alive right now. And … every second that you’re alive.”
One young girl, going door to door, raising money for her school, guessed: “Church?” Someone else, at this point, responded: “God keeps me alive!”
But many respond by saying “Air?” or “Oxygen?”
Either of which, I’ll accept: “That’s right,” I’ll say, “the environment! The biosphere, the ozone shield, oxygen (photosynthesis), biodiversity, rain forests, the oceans, the food we eat, aquifers that supply the water we can’t live without … We’re trashing this planet. It’s all disappearing. There’s so much pollution and deforestation and overpopulation and consumerism. And we’re doing virtually nothing about these problems.” I usually don’t even feel the need to mention global warming or climate change, since those issues are the ones most frequently brought up whenever environmental issues are given some attention in the media.
Since my encounter with that Department of Environmental Conservation employee, I have started asking people who solicit money (it’s never for an environmental cause, by the way) this question: “I’m curious, let me ask you, are you familiar with Rachel Carson?” And I’m shocked at how many people (these are mostly young, college-age individuals that I pose this question to) don’t know who she was. I find it frightening.
Anyway, there are a few more things I wanted to add to this post, but I plumb ran out of time. So, to be continued …
(4/12/2016) On the cover of The New York Times this past Sunday, there was an article (Michelle Innis, “Climate-Related Death of Coral Around World Alarms Scientists” Apr. 10, 2016) that describes how damage to the earth’s coral reefs has gotten considerably worse these past couple of years. According to the article, “scientists say the global bleaching is the result of an unusual confluence of events, each of which raised water temperatures already elevated by climate change.” This planet could now be experiencing the longest and worst mass bleaching event ever observed.
Why are coral reefs important? Well, for many reasons. But as the article points out, “coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem,” they provide “food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species,” and they also help maintain “fish stocks that feed more than one billion people.”
The article mentions several specific areas throughout the world, in particular, where coral reefs have been hard hit, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — about which, the article states: “In a survey of 520 individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef’s northern section, scientists … found only four with no signs of bleaching.” Coral reefs do possess some capacity to recover, if not over-stressed, but C. Mark Eakin, the Coral Reef Watch coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Maryland, predicts “we are going to lose a lot of the world’s reefs during this event.”
I’ll end this short post with this. Justin Marshall, the director of CoralWatch at Australia’s University of Queensland, is quoted in the article as stating that “this is a huge, looming planetary crisis, and we are sticking our heads in the sand about it.” True. But unfortunately, there are so many serious ecological crises all around the world about which we are sticking our heads in the sand. And more and more, crises such as this one are going to be bubbling up to the surface, to our consternation, because we continually drag our feet and do nothing. Substantive paradigm shift in the direction of ecocentrism is our only hope. But I never even see us really considering that as an option. This brings to mind a local all-news station’s tag line: “All news, all the time.” Except, for us (the human race), our tag-line would go something like this: “All anthropocentrism, all the time.”
(3/17/2016) This past Sunday in The New York Times, there appeared an opinion piece written by the renown biologist Edward O. Wilson, titled “The Global Solution to Extinction” (Mar. 13, 2016, Sunday Review section). He writes about the extinction crisis that is wiping out the web of life that stretches across this planet, and then gives his proposed solution for saving most of what’s left. First, this is how he frames the problem:
Civilization is at last turning green, albeit only pale green. Our attention remains focused on the physical environment — on pollution, the shortage of fresh water, the shrinkage of arable land and, of course, the great, wrathful demon that threatens all our lives, human-forced climate change. But Earth’s living environment, including all its species and all the ecosystems they compose, has continued to receive relatively little attention. This is a huge strategic mistake. If we save the living environment of Earth, we will also save the physical, nonliving environment, because each depends on the other. But if we work to save only the physical environment, as we seem bent on doing, we will lose them both.
He is absolutely correct that loss of biodiversity — which is occurring at a rapid pace, all around the globe — perpetually gets such little attention; but I think that all issues related to what we are doing to the planet, comparatively and substantively speaking, get very little attention. Further on in the piece, he writes:
The global conservation movement is like a surgeon in an emergency room treating an accident victim: He has slowed the bleeding by half. Congratulations, we might say — even though the patient will be dead by morning.
Unless we wish to pauperize the natural world drastically and permanently … we, the current inheritors of this beautiful world, must take more serious action to preserve the rest of life.
What is his solution? (Actually, I’ve read the same or similar-enough ideas as this, proposed in the past; and we’ll likely see more and more of a push for this sort of remedy in the future.) Here is what he says we must do:
The only way to save upward of 90 percent of the rest of life is to vastly increase the area of refuges, from their current 15 percent of the land and 3 percent of the sea to half of the land and half of the sea. That amount, as I and others have shown, can be put together from large and small fragments around the world to remain relatively natural, without removing people living there or changing property rights.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree that we should aim towards going about doing this without addressing population (carrying capacity for these regions) or the issue of property “rights.” On this last issue, I am reminded of a sentiment (purportedly, it’s been misattributed to the American Indian, Chief Seattle) expressed that (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) “In our culture, the concept is alien to us. We no more believe that an individual can ‘own’ the land, than believe an individual can ‘own’ the sky, or the wind, or the air that we all breathe.”
But since we need to act posthaste on this, I wouldn’t, of course, be against implementation of this (Wilson’s proposed solution) as an interim step, even as I would simultaneously continue to push for a more solid, substantive solution.
One more thing. I would advocate for the insertion of a single word: the word over. Rather than “increase the areas of refuges … to half of the land and half of the sea,” I would strongly urge that we set the mark at “over half of the land and over half of the sea.” That might seemingly accomplish nothing, since, mathematically speaking, “51 percent” would satisfy that directive. However, what it accomplishes is it leaves the door open for future discussion on what that specific percentage we need to aim for should be.
[Edward O. Wilson’s 32nd book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, is now available in bookstores.]
(3/9/2016) Several days ago, while in the kitchen making something to eat, I had the radio on and caught an interesting show. Here is the link: (So-Called) Life [produced by RadioLab]; and this is how RadioLab.org describes this particular show: “The uneasy marriage of biology and engineering raises big questions about the nature of life.”
The last ten minutes of the broadcast I found particularly pertinent. It is there that we hear J. Craig Venter being quoted (from a talk he gave at a New York City venue). Venter is quoted as stating “We’re messing our nests, something terrible.” I can’t disagree with that part, at all. But Venter is also quoted as stating that “bioengineering is our last hope.” And, we hear him state that bioengineering is “probably our one major chance of having our species survive on this planet.”
Our last hope? Really? That kind of thinking could also pave the way for it becoming humankind’s greatest nightmare. We’re already on a trajectory where in the rudderless direction in which we are heading, something like CRISPR, will, in due time, comparatively speaking, look as primitive as a slingshot. But I would also hasten to add that at some future point, the level of scientific understanding that is today married to the use of such technology, will someday likely be viewed (in hindsight) as being just as primitive.
Reading through some of the posted comments on the RadioLab website that pertain to their “(So-Called) Life” broadcast, I’m somewhat relieved that at least some people really do get it. Like “Patricia Shifrin from New York,” for example, whose comment was posted March 8, 2016: “I can’t believe you ended this program by throwing up your hands and saying ‘oh oh, what to do, what to do?’ while reinforcing the false assumption that ‘we can’t stop science.’ We CAN stop science. We do it often. Science made nuclear bombs but we’ve agreed not to use them. Science made nuclear reactors but we’ve agreed that their operation is risky and have slowed their proliferation. The notion that we can’t control science is absurd. Many bioengineers and geneticists are begging for the development of ethical guidelines to help them move their research into areas that help humanity, rather than endanger it. Do a show about that! …” Indeed.
I have many ideas related to how to go about addressing these concerns; and I crave having the wherewithal someday to finally be able to write about and disseminate some of these ideas. But that’s just one specific objective I have; in terms of what I’m aiming to achieve, overall. That’s not the big picture, by any means; that’s just one small portion of the big picture (in terms of what we need to be doing, if we are ever to get on course towards saving the planet).
(2/23/2016) What a strange presidential race we’re witnessing. Though in one sense, I’m kind of loving it. For so many years now, I’ve been chomping at the bit to have my website up, while a presidential race was under way; and now, that day is finally here. This — 2016 — marks the first presidential race where my website has been up and running. Why have I for so many years yearned to have my website up while a presidential race was underway? Because how better to underscore my main points than by letting others do that work for me? Each and every time one of them opens their mouth, they demonstrate all the things I keep saying, about how far off course we are, and about how we keep going in the wrong direction, entirely. Do they ever talk about environmental issues (in a substantive way)? No; never. You never hear serious, meaningful, substantive discussion about how to address the fact that, for example, in a very short span of time, mankind will have wiped out more than half the ecosystems on this planet (and will be well on course towards wiping out the remainder, in similarly short order).
While on the subject of this 2016 presidential race, let me give my thoughts on how things are currently shaping up so far. First, I don’t like any of the candidates. At all!. That should go without saying; but it nevertheless needs to be stated. In fact, as I often say, if I had a magic wand and could put anyone in the Oval Office, I don’t know of anyone (alive today), who comes remotely close to being someone I would feel good about putting in that position. Doesn’t that one simple fact speak volumes as to how far off course we are and how bleak our prospects look?
That said, and while I’m definitively not a fan of any of them, let me say this about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. Since, in the media, he is constantly written off as not really being a viable candidate, because, well, he is, after all, a “socialist,” I wish he would simply state the following, every time this issue comes up: “Do you know who was also a socialist? [Pause.] Albert Einstein!” Most people don’t know this. Being made aware of this could help create a window of opportunity for getting people to begin to be able to think somewhat objectively about socialism. It would also give his message more resonance and believability. Because any time someone attacks him, in that regard, it could be pointed out that they are, in effect, also attacking Einstein (and who wouldn’t want to have Einstein in their corner, as their virtual debate team partner?).
You can learn more about Einstein’s favorable views concerning socialism, by reading the Wikipedia article “Political views of Albert Einstein,” but here below you can read what Einstein said, in his own words (I’ve made bold, the portion that I most wish to emphasize):
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. — Albert Einstein
But let me make another point here as well (as this is also something that many people are still unaware of). While Sen. Sanders generally identifies himself as being a “democratic socialist,” there is a night and day difference between “socialist” and “democratic socialist.” Here’s how Jonathan Cohn describes the difference between the two, in a piece he wrote for The Huffington Post (“Bernie Sanders Is A Socialist And That’s Not As Crazy As It Sounds,” published online, April 30, 2015):
Democratic socialism, as generally conceived in the U.S., is a milder, more aspirational form of the ideology. Democratic socialists might not recoil at the thought of government running large industries, but they don’t actively pursue that goal. Instead, they focus on decidedly less radical objectives — like making the welfare state more generous, giving workers more power, limiting the influence of money on politics and policing the practices of business more closely.
Again, I’m not a Bernie Sanders fan. At best, I suppose he might be the least worst candidate of those that are actually running this election cycle. He’s clearly not a solid environmentalist, in my view. He’s a very single-issue focused candidate; and whenever I see or hear the phrase “income inequality,” I might as well be seeing or hearing this: “Low and lower-income citizens ought to have the same ability to destroy this planet as high and higher-income citizens.” That might be far from what he and others who talk about “income inequality” are trying to accomplish, but basically, that’s what it amounts to — it’s not so much about “income equality,” as much as it’s about “ecological destructiveness equality,” in effect. Think about it. I’ve never heard him talk about how we all, collectively, need to thoroughly reduce the size of our ecological footprint.
Here’s something else I’ll throw into the mix of things to think about while this strange election cycle runs its course. Back in 2006, in The New York Times Book Review, Nick Gilespie reviewed John W. Dean’s The Hard Right (“Conservatives Without Conscience,” July 30, 2006); and, here below, in Gilespie’s own words, is something he stated in that review:
The book draws heavily on the work of the social psychologist Bob Altemeyer, the creator of a scale for measuring “right-wing authoritarian (R.W.A.) tendencies. Dean writes that Altemeyer is “not given to hyperbole in his scholarly work,” yet quotes him as saying that many “High R.W.A..’s” would “attack France, Massachusettes or the moon if the president said it was necessary ‘for freedom.'” Altemeyer says it’s “a scientifically established fact” that political, religious and economic conservatives are High R.W.A.’s, and Dean concludes that our government “is run by an array of authoritarian personalities” who are “dominating, opposed to equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating … vengeful, pitiless, exploitative, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, meanspirited, militant, nationalistic and two-faced.” The estimated 20 to 25 percent of High R.W.A.’s among us, he warns, “will take American democracy where no freedom-loving person would want it to go.”
Which candidate does this most remind you of? The one who’s leading in the polls? The one I actually felt sorry for, when he announced his candidacy, because, based upon some of the things he was saying, I concluded he must be suffering from some malady of the mind that was effecting his judgement?
Let me conclude with this humorous aside. When I first heard the phrase “anchor babies,” I thought it was a reference to people like Trump. I thought it meant “babies born on yachts” (an alternative for the “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” cliche). My oops, on both counts. He’s not losing his mind. And he’s not an “anchor baby.” But we are living in interesting times, aren’t we?
(1/29/2016) Did you see this in the news recently? According to a recent study, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans (pound for pound) than fish. That report was released by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. You can do a Google search and read all about it. The Huffingtonpost.com piece about this opens by stating “In case you need further evidence that mankind is doing a remarkable job of destroying the planet, consider this …” (Chris D’Angelo, “The Oceans Will Contain More Plastic Than Fish By 2050 / Yes, you read that correctly.” 1/19/16); and the article published on the Washington Post website (Sarah Kaplan, “By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, study says”1/20/16) points out that on the same day that this study was published, the journal Nature Communications published a study asserting that the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization is “drastically underestimating the overfishing of the oceans” (by 50 percent or more; for the period between 1950 and 2010).
But what I mainly wanted to write about today stems from something that’s also been reported on recently, and that is this: according to the international, anti-poverty, nonprofit organization Oxfam, sixty-two individuals today have the same amount of wealth as half of the population of the planet, combined (the wealth of 62 people = the wealth of the world’s poorest 3,600,000,000).
Two of those sixty-two individuals would have to include the Koch brothers (specifically, Charles and David). Forbes magazine has the brothers tied as the sixth richest people in the world (in 2015). Combined, their wealth would even surpass that of Bill Gates, who’s at number one on the list of the world’s wealthiest individuals. I remember reading, I think it was roughly a year or so ago (if I’m not mistaken), that the Koch brothers plan to raise close to $900 million to influence the 2016 races (David even ran once for president, himself, in 1980). Why do I bring this up? Well, one of the reasons why I thought this might be worth mentioning is because in a review of Jane Mayer’s recently published book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right — which appeared in this past Sunday’s edition of The New York Times Book Review (“Rightward Bound,” by Alan Ehrenhalt [a companion review, by Adrian Wooldridge, reviews a different book]) — the reviewer writes “Mayer reports that an E.P.A. database identified Koch Industries in 2012 as the single biggest producer of toxic waste in the United States.”
Also worth mentioning is something that has long since stood out in my mind as a perfect example of just how frighteningly out of sync with environmentalism and eco-consciousness, a free-market absolutist philosophy is. This comes from Joel Bakan’s book The Corporation (page 114). It is just a single word. One word. But, in context, it says so much. This is the passage to which I’m referring: “And Michael Walker, an economist who heads the Fraser Institute, Cato’s Canadian partner, responded with an enthusiastic “Absolutely!” when asked whether he believed every square inch of the planet should be under private control.” The Fraser Institute, it should be worth noting, receives funding — either directly or indirectly (according to the Wikipedia article about the Fraser Institute) — from the Koch brothers.
Another perfect example of the chilling and flippant disregard many so-called “conservatives” have for the environment can be found in a review of Peter Huber’s 2000 book Hard Green: Saving the Environment From the Environmentalists: A Conservative Manifesto. (Mark Hertsgaard reviewed both Peter Huber’s Hard Green and Philip Shabecoff’s Earth Rising: American Environmentalism in the 21st Century, in his May 7, 2000 New York Times Book Review, “Greener Than Thou / Two books offer disparate plans for the environmental movement.”) Hertsgaard writes that Huber remarkably both dismisses the importance of global warming, and simultaneously concedes that “Miami might end up underwater,” as a result. Sarcastically, or perhaps simply mirroring Huber’s apparent belief system, Hertsgaard writes “But then humans don’t really need functioning ecosystems anyway,” because, and now he quotes directly from Huber’s book: “Cut down the last redwood for chopsticks, harpoon the last blue whale for sushi, and the additional mouths fed will nourish additional human brains, which will soon invent ways to replace blubber with olestra and pine with plastic. Humanity can survive just fine in a planet-covered crypt of concrete and computers.”
Every time I read that, I can’t believe there can be people who think that way; and yet, at the same time, I know that there are so many people who think that way (more or less). Contrast what Huber wrote, above, with the following sentiment expressed by American naturalist George Schaller — as published in an article that appeared in Parade Magazine (Michael Ryan, “We Have To Protect What We Have” Feb. 2, 1997) — “As an ecologist, you walk around the world and see the wounds and the scars, and your spirit just cries.” Elsewhere in the article he was quoted as stating that “the problems are the same all over the world. There’s been too much greed, too much consumption. We have to focus on saving some portion of nature for the next millennium.” This was a nice little article. At one point he even describes an experience where a female panda just came walking through the bamboo and plopped down right next to him and fell asleep. “That kind of acceptance by an animal,” he states, “is a wonderful feeling.”
(12/15/2015) Just a quick post about the recent climate change conference agreement about which there is so much celebration. Don’t uncork the champagne just yet! Sorry to splash a bucket of cold reality onto all of this, but the truth is there are so many problems with this “great achievement,” not the least of which is the simple fact that even if it were followed to the letter (which seems very unlikely), it won’t do much to stop global warming and climate change from reaching a tipping point beyond which the climate change situation may be catastrophically irreversible.
On the cover of The New York Times, Sunday, December 13, 2015, accompanying the article about the international agreement that was reached in Paris, there is also a “news analysis” piece by Justin Gillis (“Healing Step, If Not a Cure”), which makes some important points. For example, concerning the agreement, it states:
Countries have offered no plans that would come remotely close to achieving either goal [the higher target goal, or the lower target goal], and, given the current state of technology, it is difficult to see how they could be achieved. That led some scientists on Saturday to dismiss the tighter temperature targets as feel-good measures with no real meaning.
That sums it up rather nicely. [I added the bold print, for emphasis, and the parenthetical info.]
Is the agreement that was reached in Paris better than nothing? Of course it’s better than if no agreement at all had been reached. But does the agreement represent an adequate response to the ecological problems we are causing in every corner of the globe? Not even close!
As the years roll by, it becomes increasingly evident to me that one of the greatest threats we face, is our species’s general lack of a deep sense of eco-consciousness (if that’s the right way to phrase it). That explains why, for example, there are so many people who genuinely feel very good about this agreement and applaud it (or who don’t even care at all, either way; or don’t believe in global warming in the first place). And so very few who — realizing how deeply alarming the situation is — rightly hold their applause for something much more substantial and much more deserving of applause.
(11/29/2015) It seems like it’s been about half a year since my last post; so I’m pleasantly surprised to see it’s only been about two and a half months. Since there’s been so much I’ve been wanting to post about, and it’s all been piling up, maybe that’s why it seems like it’s been so much longer. But before I get to what I had planned to write about today, as a brief aside, let me first go in another direction entirely.
As I’ve stated on the Solutions page, some of my really big ideas (concerning solutions), I intend to share only with like-minded, potential backers (and therefore, have refrained from disclosing any details about them on this website). For a variety of reasons, I think that’s best. And while it’s not very often that I think of new additional material that I feel rises to the level of being worthy of being included in what I have labeled my “talking points” folders (containing those ideas I wish to share with potential backers), recently, I came up with two more really big ideas that I feel super charged-up about. One has to do with a brilliantly simple way to transform our government, in a very big way, while keeping the entire infrastructure completely intact and not changing a thing in that respect. It’s a very interesting idea and a very fertile topic for a book (bestseller? [with the right author(s)], possibly!). While it’s a very exhilarating idea and one that I feel holds tremendous promise, I would also be the first to admit that there are some significant caveats that would need to be taken into consideration as well.
But the other idea, I’m maybe even more excited about. There is enormous potential concerning what it can accomplish (in the long run), it can be implemented almost immediately (relatively speaking), and it is something that can be duplicated all across the country (and the world). It will absolutely require philanthropic backing to get this off the ground; but I love this idea, I really do!
But wait, there’s more. Fast on the heels of those two big ideas, I’ve also added (to my “talking points” folders) two more. One concerns a great idea for a book (very simple concept, very important topic), which wouldn’t take long to write — I completed the rough draft outline in about two or three hours, and I believe I can probably write the book in as little as two months. What’s more, I can’t recall ever seeing anything quite like it before (being put in book form). But the idea I’m far more interested in seeing come to fruition, of these two, is the other idea. That one is much more complex, will take quite a bit of work, and funding, but I see it as something very important and something we’re going to need to be doing a lot more of, in the future. Anyhow, without further ado, let me get to what I actually wanted to write about today …
The New York Times, last week, had an article in its main news section, about an aspect of the severe drought situation in California (Ian Lovett, “Stingy Users Fined in Drought, While the Rich Soak / Uneven Enforcement Angers Californians” Nov. 22, 2015, p. 22). While not getting into the specificity of what the title of the piece refers to, I’ll mention some of the facts that are uncovered in the story. The article reports that “The top 10 residential water users [households] in Los Angeles collectively used more than 80 million gallons of water in the year that ended April 1.” The piece mentions one home has 12 bathrooms and two pools, and another home that is in the construction phase, has been issued permits for five pools. In the San Francisco area, the story reports, a retired Chevron executive had been averaging 12,578 gallons a day. But here’s the point I wanted to make. The piece quotes one Bel Air resident as stating “Someone has to say, ‘You can’t have five pools — you can have one pool.'” After reading that sentence, I circled it and wrote in the margin “Why should someone be permitted to have even one pool on their property?”
Consider, for example, what Marilyn vos Savant points out in her May 3rd, 2015, “Ask Marilyn” column, in Parade magazine (Parade is distributed in more than 700 newspapers, throughout the United States), in answer to a question sent in by a reader from Emmaus, Pennsylvania. The submitted question states that for the past century “humans have been pumping water from the underground water table,” and then asks “How much has this contributed to the rising oceans?” Vos Savant states that a “team of researchers has reported that the increasing human population and its demands for drinking water, irrigation of crops, etc., could account for as much as 42 percent of the rise, surprising even experts. Much of this water evaporates or runs off into rivers and winds up in the oceans. Also, when water gets warmer, it expands. About half the rise is due to warmer oceans simply occupying more space.” And keep in mind, too, that we are currently adding an additional 1,000,000 people to the planet, every 110 hours.
Lawns, are another big way in which we waste a lot of water, unnecessarily. In fact, in a special section included in the Sunday, September 26, 2010, edition of The New York Times — titled “Op-ed at 40 / Four Decades of Argument and Illustration” — the Times reprinted a piece by author Michael Pollan (“Lawn Care”), which they had first published on May 5, 1991. Michael Pollan had a brilliant suggestion back then, and it is just as relevant today. He starts by pointing out that “three years after George Bush told us he wanted to be remembered as the ‘environmental president,’ he has done little to earn that distinction …” Then, further along, he states “Still, I’m inclined to take the president at his word when he voices his concern for the planet. So I want to offer him a suggestion — a simple, constructive step that would save the Treasury money. I propose that President Bush issue an executive order to the Park Service to rip out the White House lawn.”
In the next and last paragraph in the piece, Pollan explains: “I imagine that, at first blush, most Americans will be as disturbed by this idea as I was. We are great lovers of lawn. But the lawn is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with our relationship to the land. Lawns require pampering because we ask them to thrive where they do not belong.”
I wasn’t “disturbed” by this idea at all. Far from it. In fact, I can even envision how this might be accomplished in such a way that the White House lawn would be transformed into something nothing less than breathtaking.
From time to time, people have voiced concerns about how it is so unhealthy (to us, the planet, and future generations), to treat our property in the ways that we do. Back in July of 2007, in a letter published in Consumer Reports magazine, a Paul Cadman, of Northborough, MA, shared some thoughts about “Your Greatest Lawn,” an article published in the magazine’s May issue. Right off, Cadman takes issue with the term “Great,” when used in reference to our lawns, stating that it’s not a good idea to “promote the American obsession with lawn care as an ideal,” or to suggest “that somehow these chemically fed, expensive and expansive, resource-reducing” portions of our property, “equate with ‘greatness.'”
He continues: “One can easily argue that in today’s climate of fragile ecosystems, dwindling resources, and health concerns, the ‘new’ ideal should be to reduce lawn size or replace lawns with low-maintenance and attractive native species or to simply do as nature intended: Keep it wild.” Those are great suggestions, but I am also perturbed by the fact that so many of us will have gone from cradle to grave, without ever having grown so much as a single calorie’s worth of the food that we will have consumed, while we were alive. Not only is what we are doing often so wasteful in terms of how we are using the land, it is wasteful, also, in terms of how we aren’t.
As I sometimes say, on the one hand, the problems (concerning what we are doing to the planet), in aggregate, rated on a scale of 1-10, we can rate a hundred, but concerning what we are effectively doing about these problems — similarly, rated on a scale of 1-10 — can we really rate that at even a one? If, for example, in terms of solutions, on a scale of 1-10, transforming the White House lawn into something sensible and ecologically sustainable, isn’t even a one (in terms of what it actually accomplishes, in real terms, considering the size of that real estate), and yet we’re not even willing to do that, then what does that say about our prospects for saving the planet?
(9/7/2015) You could be the first!
During my lunch break at work, a few days ago, I had the chance to look through my August 22, 2015 issue of Science News. In it, on the page devoted to new books that have just been published, one book, in particular, grabbed my attention — two of its three authors are none other than Anne H. Ehrlich and Paul R. Ehrlich (the other author is Gerardo Ceballos). The book is The Annihilation of Nature. There is only this one-sentence description: “With the aid of photos and stories of animals at risk of extinction, three biologists make an impassioned plea for conservation.”
I’ve since checked Amazon.com for reviews of this book; but there are none. So you can be the first!
From what little I did happen to see online about this book (books.google.com displays some actual text, from the book), it looks pretty good.
(4/22/15) This Earth Day, let’s remember exactly what’s at stake: everything.
As Peter Singer and Collin O’Rourke wrote in an op-ed, published in the Daily News over four years ago (“Decade of distraction” / “Over the past 10 years, as the news has gotten bleaker, Americans have only twiddled their thumbs harder” Dec. 5, 2010, p. 28-29):
[It is] … entirely possible that we will soon pass a tipping point after which the temperatures will spiral upwards, totally out of our control. Feedback loops such as the release of methane from the frozen Siberian tundra may cause more warming and more methane release until large parts of the planet become uninhabitable.
The recklessness with which we put at risk the stability of our planet’s ecosystem and the lives of billions of people is simply breathtaking. …
To conclude this op-ed, here is what they wrote as their finishing paragraph:
We have rightly rejected discrimination on grounds of race or sex. We are still discriminating on grounds of time of birth. Before it is too late, we need to develop an intergenerational conception of equality that extends beyond the interests of those alive today, and gives equal weight to the interests of future generations.
I agree, but I think it’s less a matter of not caring about future generations, and more a matter of not caring about nature, in general. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Most, it would seem to me, do not care for nature and would sell their share.” Still, there is definitely much to be said about how we are so focused on our lifetimes — and I talk about this on the Underlying Causes page of this website. Indeed, the problem extends even into our lexicon. For example, while we have a word for “concern for others” (altruism), we don’t have a word for “concern for others of future generations“; and though we have a word for “having no regard for justice or for others’ feelings, rights, or safety” (wanton), we don’t have a word for “having no regard for justice, or for posterity’s feelings, rights or safety.” The way we treat this planet can also be regarded as somewhat analogous to slavery. Just as slavery was a horrific way to treat other people, how we’re treating this planet demonstrates a thoroughly callous disregard for future generations.
We are mistreating this planet in so many ways. One of those ways is through the widespread release of so many different chemicals into the environment. Regarding just one consumer product, cellphones, here is what Oladele A. Ogunseitan — an environmental-health scientist at the University of California, Irvine — had to say (as quoted in a New York Times Magazine article by Jon Mooallem [“The Afterlife of Cellphones” / “A growing international trade in discarded mobile phones is helping the world’s poor. But will it poison the earth?” Jan. 13, 2008]):
In a phone that you can hold in the palm of your hand, you now have more than 200 chemical compounds. To try to separate them out and study what health effects may be associated with burning it or sinking it in water — that’s a lifetime of work for a toxicologist.
Studying the health effects from those cellphones being discarded might be a lifetime of work for a toxicologist, but from what I read in a cover story that appeared in The New York Times [Hiroko Tabuchi, “Fad-Loving Japan May Derail a Sony Smartphone” June 27, 2013], many Japanese consumers are ditching their cellphones after just three or four months, so they can trade up for the ones with the latest features.
One old article that I’m holding in my hand — (Bill Richards, “Computer-Chip Plants Aren’t as Safe and Clean As Billed, Some Say” The Wall Street Journal, Oct 5, 1998) — mentions that both the older and newer computer chip plants “typically use about 500 to 1,000 chemicals.” Another article talks about how ubiquitous polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs (chemical flame retardants) are (Deborah Blum, “A Spreading Health Worry” The New York Times, July 8, 2014). An opinion piece by Diane Lewis (“The Toxic Brew in Our Yards” May 11, 2014), published in The New York Times, states that “A study by the United States Geological Survey released in 1999 found at least one pesticide, and often more than one, in almost every stream and fish sample tested, and in about half of the samples drawn from wells throughout the country.” And I have so many more examples of these sorts of articles. It goes on and on and on. Chemical pollution is everywhere.
One article talks about the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA and how it “has been detected in nearly all human bodies tested in the United States” (The by-line mentions that this article was published in The Los Angeles Times, but the copy I have was published in Newsday [“Plastics chemical may pose risks” Apr. 15, 2005]). The article references a report published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, by scientists Frederick vom Saal [reproductive biologist, University of Missouri, Columbia] and Claude Hughes [executive director of the polycarbonate business unit of the American Plastics Council]. Here is how the article concludes:
“The chemical industry’s position that this is a weak chemical has been proven totally false. This is a phenomenally potent chemical as a sex hormone,” vom Saal said. He and Hughes found that 100 percent of the 11 studies funded by chemical companies found no risk, while 90 percent of the 104 government-funded, non-industry studies found harm.
This also raises another issue. How scientifically valid are studies, when they have been funded by companies with a vested interest in the outcome?
In concluding, let me just mention three more chemicals. While methane and CO2 get most of the press coverage when it comes to discussion about the causes of global warming and climate change, there are other contributing factors as well. For example, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), according to the Wikipedia article on this inorganic compound, “is a greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential (GWP) 17,200 times greater than that of CO2 … and has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of 740 years.” It is used in the manufacture of such consumer goods as CPUs, laptops, video game consoles, cellphones, digital cameras, and thin-film solar cells.
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), is described by Wikipedia as having a global warming potential (GWP) of 23,900 times that of carbon dioxide, and an estimated lifetime of 800-3,200 years. The Wikipedia article states that “more than 10,000 tons are produced each year.”
Tetrafluoromethane, also known as carbon tetrafluoride (CF4), according to what I’ve read, has a heat trapping potential roughly 11,200 times that of CO2, and according to the Wikipedia entry, “has an atmospheric lifetime of 50,000 years.”
So even if we stopped using this one particular chemical (CF4), today, the molecules of it that we’ve already produced, and that have found their way into the atmosphere, will have the ability to remain there, until another 50,000 years/Earth Days from today!
(12/01/14) Every year around this time, the following sentiment — eloquently expressed by Irish author Dervla Murphy — comes to mind:
The multiple threats to the Earth are so complex that in most cases they seem beyond the reach of an average citizen’s influence. Yet we can all launch a personal campaign to reduce consumption — though perhaps only after a change of mind-set, to overcome the fear of seeming poor, parsimonious or eccentric. This does not mean being deprived or uncomfortable. It simply means stopping to think, before each purchase, ‘Do I really need this?’ For years a small minority has been living and thinking thus. If a large majority did likewise — if frugality and shabbiness could become trendy — then the Earth, though not saved, would be measurably less endangered. — Dervla Murphy, Irish author
I’ve long felt this would make a great alternative Christmas card, especially for someone who wanted to share their reasons for opting out of the practice of gift-giving. I no longer buy gifts or send cards, but sometimes, if I do receive a gift, I share this quotation as a means for explaining why I feel the way that I do.
One of the things I don’t like about holidays is that they take us out of just appreciating the moment that we’re in and being satisfied with what we already have. Personally, I try my best to live by the following credo: If I did without it yesterday, I can do without it today.
One of the most frightening things about our predicament is the fact that one of the best things we can do for the planet, would be to simply stop buying stuff (and this time of the year really brings home the point that so much of what we buy we can so easily do without), and yet, if we did just that, the consequences would be catastrophic (soaring unemployment, bankruptcies, homelessness, hunger … there would be a full-scale global economic collapse). As I point out on this website, that is truly one of the biggest quandaries humanity must grapple with: how best to resolve that diametrically opposed conflict (and quickly!); because that is definitely the road we must take, whether or not we can all agree on the best way to proceed.
Back in 1999, I remember reading a sentiment expressed by William Eichbaum, a vice president at the World Wildlife Federation in Washington. This is what he said: “We have to learn to live off the interest of the Earth, not the principal.” Don’t you just love it when something so deep can be expressed so simply and so succinctly. Those are words we must learn to live by. I can think of myriads of examples to illustrate how we have been living off the principal, and not the interest. I’ll give a few examples below.
In the September 28, 2014 edition of The New York Times, in a question and answer column in the Travel section (“In Transit” / “Travel News, Deals and Tips”) Emily Brennan asks Hilary Bradt some questions (“Hilary Bradt on the changes in Madagascar”). Bradt, a “British guidebook publisher and tour operator” with extensive experience traveling to Madagascar throughout the years, describes the changes she has personally witnessed since her first trip there in 1976. Here is her response to the question “What has changed in the years since?”:
A lot. Deforestation gets a lot of publicity, quite rightly. I remember taking a train from the capital to the coast and almost being able to pick the flowers from the window — the rain forest was towering over the railway. Now, it’s almost all cleared, almost all savanna …
Incidentally, I occasionally read (as is the case here) opinions expressed that speak laudably about the positive effect tourism is having in some areas throughout the world, but I am nevertheless not an advocate for such tourism and am of the opinion that while the monetary support is good, biologists, investigative journalists and private investigators can best determine whether the funding is having its intended effect.
Here is another perfect illustration of how we’re spending the principal of this planet, not the interest. In an article published in The New York Times, written by Larry Rohter (“Loggers, Scorning the Law, Ravage the Amazon Jungle” Oct. 16, 2005), we get a glimpse of the extent of some of the devastation being wreaked upon the Amazon rain forest:
With large parts of the eastern and southern flanks of the Amazon already devastated, the principal target of loggers and sawmill owners these days is the so-called Terra do Meio, or Midlands, between the Xingu and Iriri Rivers. In fact, the area north of here, between the Trans-Amazon Highway and the Amazon River, is so active that local people have begun calling it Iraq. “Because the loggers are bombing the life out of it,” Mr. [Milton Fernandes] Coutinho of the farmworkers’ association explained.
In the accompanying photo appearing on the same page as the article, the area shown doesn’t even remotely resemble a rain forest. A long road, a long row of telephone poles, no standing trees, a flatbed truck is in full view and filled with sawed-down trees. Milton Fernandes Coutinho, president of the local farmworkers’ association, which represents peasant settlers living along the roads used by the loggers is further quoted in the article as stating that “It goes on all night long, with the traffic so intense some nights, 30 or 40 trucks thundering through, that people can’t even sleep.”
Finally, just one more example of how all around the globe we can see examples of how we are living off the principal of this planet and not the interest. This comes from an opinion piece written by the novelist Sheng Keyi [it was translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz, from Chinese] and published in The New York Times, on April 6, 2014 (“China’s Poisonous Waterways”). Keyi describes the dire situation she has witnessed in her home country and in her home village, one of China’s hundreds of so-called “cancer villages,” which she defines as areas “blanketed with factories where cancer rates have risen far above the national average.” She talks about the deaths of people she knew well, some “only in their 30s or 40s.” Here is the part where I believe Keyi best illustrates the point I’ve been making:
More than 50 percent of China’s rivers have disappeared altogether, and few of the surviving waterways are not completely polluted. Some 280 million Chinese people drink unsafe water, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Nearly half of the country’s rivers and lakes carry water that is unfit even for human contact.
I can go on and on and on giving example after example of this same sort of thing going on all around the globe but these were the examples I wanted to use to illustrate how we are spending the principal of the Earth, not the interest.
(11/09/14) In my last posting, I included mention of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Today, in the pages of The New York Times Book Review, Rob Nixon reviews the book (“Force of Nature” / “The status quo is no longer an option, Naomi Klein warns in this analysis of the climate crisis.”). In the review, Nixon states that This Changes Everything “is a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable.” But he does review it; and at the finish of his review he calls it “The most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.” Got your attention? “There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming,” Naomi Klein writes in her book, “but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which is surely the best argument there has ever been for changing those rules.” Further into the review, Nixon again quotes from the book: “Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews. Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.” Incidentally, I would also add that religions are basically worldviews, and some of those worldviews compromise our chances for saving the planet.
That’s all I’ll say for now concerning This Changes Everything, but sticking with the topic of climate change, let me cite an informative Nicholas Kristof column that appeared in The New York Times (“‘Neglected Topic’ Winner: Climate Change,” January 19, 2014). Kristof asked his readers back at the beginning of the year for their suggestions concerning “neglected topics” that those “in the news business should cover more aggressively in 2014.” Among the some 1,300 responses Kristof received, he states that “many made a particularly compelling case for climate change.” Here is how he began his column:
Here’s a scary fact about America: We’re much more likely to believe that there are signs that aliens have visited Earth (77 percent) than that humans are causing climate change (44 percent).
And if that’s not bad enough, wait, it gets worse. Despite the fact that, as Kristof points out, “The [Nobel-Prize winning] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in September  raised its confidence that human activity is the main cause of warming from 90 percent probability to 95 percent or higher,” only “66 percent of Democrats say human activity is the main cause of global warming; [and only] 24 percent of Republicans say so.” Want to hear the scariest part of all? November 4th was Election Day; and Republicans, having won big, are soon going to be in control of both houses of Congress. Oh, my God! Consider these facts regarding just one Republican Senator (Sen. James M. Inhofe, of Oklahoma), which in fact-checking I found on the website desmogblog.com (“Clearing the PR Pollution That Clouds Climate Science”):
In 2003, the Natural Resources Defense Council noted that Inhofe “scored zero with the League of Conservation Voters since 1997, was the only senator to oppose Everglades restoration, and once compared the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo.”
He is also one of the biggest climate change deniers that you are ever likely to find. For example, here is what this U. S. senator, with a B. A. in Economics from the University of Tulsa, thinks of global warming: “With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.” To support his contention that global warming is a hoax, he quotes from the Bible (Genesis 8:22).
There is one silver lining in the dark cloud that was Election Day 2014. While I in no way would have wished for the results that we ended up with, I think it will undoubtedly make my quest for gift capital that much more attainable. It is going to be that much easier now to convince people that our future is in jeopardy and that we are going in entirely the wrong direction. It’s going to be a very bad next couple of years (at least), for the flora, the fauna, and the entire biosphere of this planet. In all seriousness — and I’m not exaggerating one bit — if I had been given a magic wand before Election Day, and the ability to chose between one of these two wishes: (a) Republicans win both houses of Congress, and I get $1 million dollars, or (b) Republicans don’t win both houses of Congress, and I don’t get $1 million dollars, I unhesitatingly would have chosen the latter (!). I’m not a Democrat; but I can even more emphatically say I am not a Republican (especially where environmentalism is concerned).
If I might cite just one more article pertaining to climate change … Here is an article that I suggest you take a look at. It is chock full of evidence for why I would now predict an extremely bleak next two years (at least), as far as environmentalism (for lack of a better word) is concerned. This article was written by John M. Broder and was published in the New York Times a little over four years ago (“Skepticism on Climate Change Is Article of Faith for Tea Party,” October 21, 2010). The article points out that during that year’s election cycle, “of the 20 Republican Senate candidates in contested races, 19 question the science of global warming, and oppose any comprehensive legislation to deal with it,” according to a National Journal survey. The article also points out that “oil, coal and utility industries have collectively spent $500 million just since the beginning of 2009 [to October 2010] to lobby against legislation to address climate change and to defeat candidates” who support such legislation (the source for this information is stated to be the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning advocacy group in Washington). The article also quotes from two citizens active in the Tea Party movement, both of whom rely upon Scripture as a means for completely discounting any argument in support of the validity of climate change. Here is what one of them had to say: “It’s a flat-out lie. I read my Bible. He made this earth for us to utilize.”
(10/13/14) About a week and a half ago, the World Wildlife Fund released its Living Planet Index 2014 report, and according to their calculations, for the period between 1970 and 2010, human activity has been responsible for the loss of 52 percent of the planet’s non-human vertebrate animal population. Human activity-related causes include habitat loss, pollution (e.g. algae blooms), fishing and hunting.
Just to clarify, this does not mean 52 percent of all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, all across the globe, have been driven into extinction. No, it means that in terms of their sheer numbers, there are that many fewer of them. Still, it highlights the reality that extinction could indeed be on the horizon for many vertebrate species.
It is ironic that I did not see reportage of this news story prominently featured in any of the newspapers I saw that day (one had it on page 34, the “Health & Science” page. “If half the animals died in London Zoo next week,” as Ken Norris, the Zoological Society of London’s director of science, points out in an article published in the British national daily The Guardian (Damian Carrington, “Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF” Sept. 29, 2014), “it would be front page news.” [The Institute of Zoology, the research division of the Zoological Society of London, worked collaboratively with the WWF in putting together the Living Planet Index 2014 report.] Think about that! If half the animals die in a zoo, that’s front page news. But if we kill off over half the [non-human] vertebrates on the planet, that’s not front page news.
This current assessment concerning vertebrates on the planet reminds me of a phrase that has long since stuck in my mind. It comes from David Quammen’s review of Dale Peterson’s book Eating Apes, published in The New York Times Book Review (“Almost Cannibalism / The chances of keeping Africans from eating all their apes don’t look good” June 15, 2003), in which he states that “African forests are being emptied of wildlife even faster than they’re being cut for timber.” He speaks of the “more than five million tons of antelope, elephant, buffalo, bush pig, porcupine, rodent, monkey and other native animals” being killed there every year. One big contributing factor, as Quammen points out, is this: “The problem of bushmeat in central Africa is entangled with industrial logging, which brings roads, trucks, hungry workers and their families and guns into forest areas once far less accessible.”
(10/6/14) On Sunday, September 21st, I attended the Climate Change March in New York City. I found it very heartwarming and uplifting. While I don’t think it will lead to any substantive change, I did get the chance to see and meet some really wonderful people. And that easily made it all worthwhile.
I had only found out about it a couple days beforehand, but decided to attend, since I saw it as a perfect opportunity to get the word out about this website. I brought along about 700 or more “business” cards [they only provide the website domain name, and this: “Could this be one of the most important websites you will ever see? Read it with an open mind and decide for yourself.”], and planned to hand out as many of them as I could. That was my plan, anyway. Instead, I was in sponge-mode, absorbing everything. I only spoke with about half a dozen people; and only gave out about half a dozen cards. The level of participation was indeed quite large. I left an hour after it was scheduled to have ended, but it was still going and going and going.
While I didn’t give out many cards, I did manage to find a way to publicize this website simply by being there. How? I got the bright idea the night before (as soon as I got into bed), to safety-pin lots of cards [I have conventional, rectangular cards, as well as circular ones] all over my T-shirt. And that is precisely what I did. I brought along an extra T-shirt and pinned them on while taking the train in (and then switched T-shirts when I got there). One consideration I forgot to take into account, however, is that New York City is one of those rare places on earth where you can have three dozen cards pinned to your T-shirt and people hardly even notice. Oh, well.
Now, back to the deeper, more germane reality concerning what is happening to the earth, even as you read this sentence. On the very same day as the march, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Robert N. Stavins (“Climate Realities,” Sept. 21, 2014), in which he states that “The world is now on track to more than double current greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by the end of the century. This would push up average global temperatures by three to eight degrees Celsius.” China, for instance, as Stavins points out, “is expected to add the equivalent of a new 500-megawatt coal-fired electric plant every 10 days for the next decade.”
One of the factors which makes this climate change issue one that is so difficult to rectify, is the fact that we don’t necessarily see it as its happening. As Stavins puts it, “climate change is unobservable by the public. On a daily basis, we observe the weather, not the climate. This makes it less likely that public opinion will force action.” Incidentally, this reminds me of a sentiment expressed by Tony Federer, in his self-published book Ecoshift: The Movement That Is Transforming the Relation of Humanity to Earth (which is accessible from his website, www.ecoshift.net [the following comes from the chapter titled “Ecopsychology: Human Need for Nature”]): “I wonder how things would be different if all the CO2 we produce by driving, heating, and air conditioning were purple instead of transparent.”
Two days after the march, The New York Times made its Tuesday ScienceTimes section a special issue. It focuses on climate change and opens with the heading “Nature in the Balance.” In this issue, an article by Nathaniel Rich (“Books: Feeling Our Rising Temperature,” Sept. 23, 2014), describes three new books that are out now. Pertaining to one of them — journalist Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything (Simon & Schuster, 576 pages) — here is what Rich writes: “Drawing on an impressive volume of research, Ms. Klein savages the idea that we will be saved by new technologies or by an incremental shift away from fossil fuels: Both approaches, she argues, are forms of denial. It will not surprise those familiar with her previous books … that her solution requires a radical reconfiguration of our economic system.”
Without having read the book, I can say this: Just as it would be wrongheaded to think that we can “be saved by new technologies or by an incremental shift away from fossil fuels,” it would be equally wrongheaded to think that “a radical reconfiguration of our economic system” can do the trick. Surely, that is one piece of the puzzle (radically reconfiguring our economic system, not necessarily Klein’s perception of what that should entail), but it’s not the whole of it. There’s much more to it than that. Not just concerning the climate change issue, but all of the other issues concerning how we are harming the biosphere, as well. Solutionistically speaking, we must think holistically. We must think in terms of attacking all of the problems, simultaneously. But we don’t, we never approach it from that perspective, with that basic logic in tow, and with an intense laser-like focus; and worst of all, time is running out.
This reminds me of how I once read that veteran broadcast journalist Daniel Schorr, in describing our nation’s capital, proclaimed that it tends to be a “one-thing-at-a-time type of town,” because politicians have difficulty managing multiple problems all at once. But dealing with a whole array of multiple problems — innately complex and intractable problems — all at once, is exactly what we must do. There is no way around it. And we must wrap our minds around the fact that we need to think in terms of finding real solutions to these problems. Focusing so much of the time, as we do, on the singular issue of climate change, necessarily leaves out all of the other issues that we need to be dealing with. Climate change may indeed be the biggest issue; but even if that were the case, it is only one of the issues that we need to be grappling with.
(8/5/14) For quite some time now I’ve been wanting to add some things to enhance the website (most particularly concerning the Quotations and Links pages); but I just haven’t had the time. That, coupled also with the fact that I haven’t posted any new messages here in several weeks, got me to thinking “Hey, why not share some of those quotations here, right now.” So here, below, are a few of the quotations I would like to have the time to eventually add to the Quotations page:
Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement, but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought. — Ludwig von Mises
The man who follows the crowd will get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has been before.
Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing of being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right they’ll say it was obvious all along. You have two choices in life. You can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different, and you must strive to be what no one else but you can be. — Alan Ashley-Pitt (pseudonym for Francis Phillip Wernig)
I always tell students, “Go ahead and write directly to the person you want to study with; you just never know.” That’s what I did, and I’m always surprised to hear how seldom it happens. I met the Nobel laureate Torsten Wiesel, and went up to him and said, “Gee, you must get people writing to you all the time, wanting to work with you.” He says “Nope, hasn’t happened.” — Michael S. Gazzaniga (from when he was interviewed by Benedict Carey)
We’ve devastated the natural resources of this country, for no particular reason except to make money and buy houses and send our kids to college. — Bob Dylan
Let me conclude with one that I have decided not to include on my Quotations page. I have decided not to include it for the very simple reason that while I don’t have reason to doubt its authenticity — and I don’t doubt its authenticity — I was unable to substantiate it to my satisfaction. Despite that, it really is a terrific, touching quotation, and therefore, I’ll happily include it here. It came to my attention while reading an article written by Sam Howe Verhovek, which was published in The New York Times (“The Void Without the ‘Great Beyond,'” Feb. 18, 2001). Here is the paragraph, from the article, that contains the quotation:
Terry Tempest Williams, the nature essayist, says she heard it best put 24 years ago, at a Congressional hearing on Alaska lands. A man in his 20’s, a blind piano tuner from Texas, stood up. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I may never get up to the Arctic and I certainly will never see Wild Alaska, but in those days when my own world seems dark and small, just to know such places exist will fill my soul with hope.”
(6/24/14) Several years ago, I read an interesting review of Julianne Lutz Newton’s Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey, a book about Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac. The review was written by Verlyn Klinkenborg, and published in The New York Times Book Review (“Land Man” / “A guide to the life of Aldo Leopold, author of ‘A Sand County Almanac.'” Nov. 5, 2006, p. 30). One could easily conclude, based on that review, that Leopold was a man who understood the seriousness of the ecological crisis man is up against, and the degree to which we must change our ways and chart a different course. “That the situation is hopeless,” Leopold wrote in a letter in 1946, “should not prevent us from doing our best.” The review also brings out the fact that in the early 1940’s, Leopold observed that “It is increasingly clear that there is a basic antagonism between the philosophy of the industrial age and the philosophy of the conservationist.” But here is the part that I find most worth mentioning: “In 1944 [he died of a heart attack in 1948] he confessed to a friend that he had come to a disarming realization — that nothing could be done about conservation ‘without creating a new kind of people.'”
That sentiment reminds me of something else I once read; and for this, we must fast forward 63 years after Leopold made that confession. This comes from a book ad, which appeared in The New York Times Book Review (July 1, 2007, page 22). The book being advertised in the ad, is Notes from a Dying Planet, 2004-2006: One Scientist’s Search for Solutions, by Paul Brown. It is a small ad, less than a quarter of a page. For me, one sentence particularly stands out. It is this one: “He [Paul Brown] concludes that our only hope for survival will be an evolutionary leap in human behavior.” I couldn’t agree more.
(5/21/14) The Science section of yesterday’s New York Times included a letter to the editor, written by an Irene Muschel, of New York, who wrote in response to an article (Justin Gillis, “Looks Like Rain Again. And Again.” May 13) that was part of the New York Times’s “By Degrees” series dealing with the issue of global warming. The letter starts out by asserting that articles dealing with the issue of global warming usually fail to mention the significant relationship between livestock and climate change. “Animal agriculture causes more global warming,” the letter states, “than all forms of transportation combined.” The letter then points out that most people, including, ironically, the climate scientists who warn us about the dire consequences of not addressing climate change, continue making food choices (eating “meat, dairy and eggs”) that are most likely to exacerbate global warming. She ends the letter with this [my italics]: “What is the point of knowledge if it does not lead to personal change?”
That simple yet thought-provoking question could equally apply to so many things in life (whole books can be written on the fertile topic of knowledge not leading to personal change). It could also extend beyond diet to include so many other things we could be doing to reduce the size and effect of our carbon footprint. And that issue is not new. We’ve known about global warming for quite some time (decades!). But why hasn’t that knowledge led us towards making substantive personal changes in how we live? That is one of the important questions we need to examine. [Please be sure to read the Underlying Causes page, for information pertaining to this.]
Returning again to the topic of diet, it is interesting to note that Albert Einstein once stated “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” I had decided long ago not to include that quotation on my Quotations page, because while I agree that switching to a vegetarian diet would probably benefit mankind greatly, I regard it as being too reductivist in the sense that it’s bad enough that there are already so many people believing “I’m doing my part,” simply because they recycle some of their garbage, or because they’ve gone out and bought a hybrid (automobile), or because they once in a while are willing to reconsider some of their purchasing decisions. I don’t want to contribute to that prevailing minimalistic thinking. There is no hope for saving the planet if we don’t expand our thinking in much broader ways and go way beyond those limited ways of thinking. We can’t save the planet simply by aiming towards being better consumers, while leaving the whole capitalistic, consummeristic, industrial infrastructure and paradigm wholly intact. An improved-upon re-wording of that quotation/sentiment might go something like this: Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution towards a holistic approach towards saving the planet.
To corroborate some of the claims the letter-writer is making, an article published in The New York Times, in 2008 (Mark Bittman, “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler” 27 Jan., p. 1 & 4 Week in Review section), states that “an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.” In addition to also pointing out some of the other ecological ills caused by our overreliance upon a meat-based diet, the article states that in 2007, the world’s total meat supply “was estimated to be 284 million tons.”
(4/22/14) Today is Earth Day. I am not a big fan of Earth Day. Why? Because while there are 8,760 hours every year that the earth keeps us alive and makes all life on this planet possible, Earth Day comes just once a year and lasts just twenty-four hours. As I say on the About me page, “Saving the planet requires making that goal a daily habit, not deceiving ourselves into believing that infrequent acts of planetary goodwill can do the trick.” In short, Earth Day should be every day. Many people say “I’m doing my part. I recycle.” But recycling doesn’t exculpate. There is so much more we need to be doing.
As an article that appeared in Newsday a couple of years ago (Bettina Boxall [Los Angeles Times] “Damaging changes to Earth, group says,” June 10, 2012, p. A30) stated, “human influence on the planet has become so pervasive that some scientists have argued in recent years that Earth has entered a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene.” That same article provided information about a paper that was published in the June 8, 2012 edition of the journal Nature, in which researchers from a variety of fields paint a not-so-pretty picture concerning what man is doing to the planet. Here is something it’s lead author, Anthony Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, stated in an interview (according to the article):
The net effects of what we’re causing could actually be equivalent to an asteroid striking the Earth in a worst-case scenario. I don’t want to sound like Armageddon. I think the point to be made is that if we just ignore all the warning signs of how we’re changing the Earth, the scenario of losses of biodiversity — 75 percent or more — is not an outlandish scenario at all.”
The article also states that by the middle of this century, we “could have altered more than half the world’s land surface.” Mikael Fortelius, a professor of evolutionary paleontology at the University of Helsinki in Finland and one of the paper’s authors, states that he is not “particularly optimistic,” and says “I think we had to speak up. We have to say what we see. Whether it will have any impact, I really don’t know.”
(4/3/14) This is something I just can’t resist sharing. I fortuitously stumbled upon this, about six months ago. This video is only about a minute and a half long, but it will stay with you for a very long time. In the Google search box, enter the following search info: 5 Encounters with Giant Beasts. I am referencing the clip about the leopard seal, specifically (I haven’t watched the other four). Sam Mallery is the name given in the byline.
(3/9/14) I’ve been going through a huge stack of old articles and notes and came across an op-ed written by Al Gore and published in The New York Times (“Moving Beyond Kyoto,” Jul. 1, 2007). It focuses on the issue of global warming and states that mankind is dumping “70 million tons of CO2 every 24 hours into the Earth’s atmosphere.” [Currently, in 2014, it’s getting very close to 100 million tons per day; as a link on my Links page illustrates.]
On the Read this first! page, I explain why I use the phrase “saving the planet” as my all-encompassing mission statement; and I also explain what is imperfect about that phrasing (the planet itself is not in jeopardy, it will continue orbiting the sun whether we render it incapable of further supporting human life or not). Gore makes this point himself in the op-ed: “Our home — Earth — is in danger. What is at risk of being destroyed is not the planet itself, but the conditions that have made it hospitable for human beings.” He states that we should heed the warning of many scientists “that we are moving closer to several ‘tipping points’ that could — within 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.”
Incidentally, while I do think that Gore is far ahead of many people (in certain respects) regarding “saving the planet,” I do see his particular vision as falling far short of where we need to be going in terms of getting us on the right path and moving in the right direction.
(2/21/14) The same day as my last posting, The New York Times Book Review ran a review of Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. This review was written by Al Gore (“Without a Trace,” Feb. 16, 2014), and it is well worth reading. In it, Gore states that up to half (“20-50 percent”) of all species on earth could disappear within this century! He states that oceans have become “more acidic than they have been in millions of years.” And he points out that “Everywhere the intricate interconnections crucial to sustaining life are increasingly being pulled apart.” Concerning an esteemed scientist who previously worked at NASA, this is what he writes:
According to a conservative and unchallenged calculation by the climatologist James Hansen, the man-made pollution already in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every 24 hours as would be released by the explosion of 400,000 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs.
But will this wake humanity up and get us questioning our tremendously tunnel vision-like, anthropocentric mindset? I doubt it. It’s been half a century since Rachel Carson passed away, and we are no closer towards saving the planet.
(2/16/14) Just to illustrate how serious the ecological crisis we are in, actually is, let me paraphrase something I wrote, which you can find near the beginning of the bullet list, on the Solutions page:
It is imperative that our worldview shift from one that is highly anthropocentric, to one that is highly ecocentric. Two simple facts bear this out: Dinosaurs lasted on this planet for over 150,000,000 years (and might still be around today, if it weren’t for an asteroid colliding with the Earth). Modern man is on course towards wiping out all (or virtually all) species on the planet, within the next 1,000 years.
In this respect, modern man can be likened to an approaching asteroid.
*What you can do:
(1) You can read this website.
(2) If you are a multi-millionaire or billionaire, especially, please read this website!
(3) If you are not a multi-millionaire or billionaire, see the green message at the bottom of this page.
(4) There are oceans of information out there just waiting to be discovered or re-discovered. Read! Do independent research! Think! Use your imagination! Make a real difference in the world; and become a change agent for substantive, meaningful change. And remember: when it comes to saving the planet, don’t think small, think BIG!
(5) If you have constructive suggestions for how to improve this website, or on where to advertise (keep in mind, my budget is very tight), that you wish to share, please do so. And thanks!