Writing Exercises and Trees

fall-trees-1

Writing is a constant work in process.  Last night my girlfriend insisted that I try some writing exercises.  I don’t intend to share all or even most of them, but I wanted to share one, as I think doing exercises like this are helpful in pushing oneself to be a better writer, even if the actual thing you write is not that great.  The following was written stream of conscious.  That is kind of the point, to push the mind in different places and to write about things you normally might not write about.  The question for the writing exercise asked me to describe the trees of my childhood.  I’m not claiming that the following is anything to be proud of, but I hope that some of you that like to write, and the world needs good writers, will push yourself to try new ways to approach writing.

I used to climb trees on a regular basis.  I had a giant maple tree in my front yard.  I would swing from the branches like a monkey while my friends and I discussed the things that young boys discussed.  The tree was a friend and a place of comfort.  Sometimes I would go out to the tree alone and feel as if I was in the company of another.  

In the summer the trees leaves were a deep beautiful green. In the Fall they became almost psychedelic as they turned vibrant shades of red and orange.  In the winter the tree empty of foliage, but the it still looked alive, like a patient in an induced coma that was going to be woken up once their malady had been cured.  
Later on the tree actually did get a malady and had to have some of its branches reduced.  My family thought the tree might have to be completely cut down, but it was stronger than we knew.  It was great to see this friend overcome it’s hardship.  
It did lose the branch that allowed one to access the higher ones.  By this time I was no longer light enough for the branches to support my weight anyway.  Life changes all.  The tree and I were different, but we still had a secret code where I knew we understood each other.  In our struggles we had grown strong together.  I loved the tree with not just the innocent love of a child, but also with the cold hard respect of an adult.  
When people cut down old growth forests I wonder how they can do this.  They have no respect for nature.  They are cutting down something wiser and stronger than them.  They are proving themselves to be nothing but fools.  What they do not know is that sooner or later nature will cut them down, and seeds will sprout up in place of the old trees, long after civilization has been dusted off the planet.  

The End of Climate Change Denialism?

Is this the beginning of the end of climate change denialism? http://www.salon.com/2014/09/20/if_climate_deniers_don%e2%80%99t_believe_science_listen_to_the_birds_partner/ via @Salon

I can only hope that this article has some truth to it.  If you look at most issues slowly but surely the human race becomes more just.  However what threatens to stop this slow climb to justice is the environmental issues that we face.  We can slowly fight for human rights, gay equality, peqce, etc.  However, eventually we will run out of time on environmental problems.  We don’t have the benefit of taking the long slow road to environmental justice.  If we don’t wake up soon, we will wake up in a world we wished we hadn’t.  

David Vitter: The Life of a Douchebag

David Vitter: Cancer prevention, wildlife nonprofits are “bogus propaganda disguised as science” http://www.salon.com/2014/08/10/senator_vitter_cancer_prevention_wildlife_nonprofits_are_bogus_propaganda_disguised_as_science_partner/ via @Salon

Other than my title what more is there to say?  The above article is about how Vitter is trying to destroy environmental regulations while he has a spot on the Environment and Public Works Committee. 

The Time of the Dinosaurs

giant-bugs-eaten-by-dinosaur-birds_54382_600x450

I just took my dog outside to unbearable humidity and large insects flying in packs.  I felt as if I just walked out into the Time of the Dinosaurs.  This is summer in Texas, and today is not even that bad compared to some, as there were moments of a semi-cool breeze.  

Look if you are not interested in climate change as a justice issue, if you don’t care about what it is doing to animal and plant life, about what it is doing to our oceans, or any other previously made argument, trust me, you don’t want to live in a world that is just plain hotter than it already is.  It is so muggy and hot out you would feel like stabbing someone for walking too close to you.  Trust me, you don’t want to live in the Time of the Dinosaurs.  

Reader Response

I got the following reply from a reader over my F@$% Fairness blog post.  I will post a link to my original blog at the bottom.  I actually encourage any of you that have intelligent arguments to make about what I have written to make them.  One of the models for this blog is Andrew Sullivan’s.  I like that he doesn’t have comments on his blog, which usually just lead to partisan bickering and name calling.  But what he does do is post the most intelligent reader comments that are in disagreement with him as the “dissent of the day.”  I do allow comments here
, but I must approve them before I post them, not to stifle debate, but to prevent the kind of ignorance that I believe actually is counterproductive to real debate.  Anyway here is the readers comment:

Jeff, There’s something overlooked in your comments, at least what’s expressed here. Trust funds, stocks/bonds, bank accounts, etc, are different than ranches. The death tax has destroyed more natural resources than all the bulldozers ever built. Those who inherit farms and ranches are forced to sell because, unless they’ve won the lottery, the only way they can pay the death tax is to sell their farm/ranch to a developer. So open space, and all its benefits provided to society … aquifer infiltration, riparian areas, wetlands, wildlife habitat, carbon sinks, oxygen production, aesthetics, rainfall runoff reduction and its cleaning, food, fiber, shelter, recreation, etc, etc, etc … are soon eliminated by becoming covered by asphalt and rooftops. And those who say that “proper planning” can escape this tax are, under certain market timings, swings and changes, full of shit. So if you want to help the environment, help keep open spaces open. There are ways to accomplish this, via carefully constructed and regulated conservation easements, etc, etc, but our “leadership” in BOTH parties won’t listen and/or are too dumb to understand, or has not so far. Finally, always remember there are two kinds of landowners: those who take from the land, and those who give to the land. Penalize the former. But, the latter should be encouraged via more appropriate policies than exist today. There’s much more to this discussion that is too complicated for my email skills, but happy to discuss any time.

I think this is a completely valid point, and one that I overlooked.  However, the only thing that I would like to add is that my original blog was more about the hypocrisy of people that are against the Estate Tax so that their children benefit from wealth, and also against social welfare of any kind for other children, and not necessarily a response to the Estate Tax itself.  If this was not made clear, I apologize.  One always realizes when one writes that, unless one would write till the end of time, given all the nuances and shades of gray of each subject, there are going to be small holes in every argument.  Here is a link to my original blog:

https://windupwire.com/2014/07/20/f-fairness/

My Dad is in the New York Times!

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/opinion/public-attitudes-about-climate-change.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1

My Dad got a letter published in the New York Times today!  I am very proud of him.  His name is Donald A. Brown.  He has long spoken about the ethical problems concerning our response to climate change.  My Dad was an environmental lawyer most of his life.  After that he taught at Penn State.  He now is a professor of sustainability ethics and law at Widener University School of Law.

Democracy for Sale

Last night was spent revising a paper that will appear as a chapter in an environmental book.  I wrote the paper with my girlfriend Abby, who is an Environmental Science and Policy graduate.  I have also been taking classes at St. Edward’s University in Environmental Science and Policy, though I have taken this semester off as my gig schedule has gotten too hectic.  The paper and the chapter are called Oceans for Sale.  It is about the ties between ocean acidification and the group the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is also known as ALEC.  The paper was based on a speech that Abby and I gave at an environmental conference in Costa Rica last summer.  She handled the complex scientific issues and I handled the politics. 

I want to lay down a little about ALEC, although I don’t want to give too much of the paper away as other people have invested a lot of time making this book happen.  ALEC is a group that tries to influence politicians, mostly at the state level, with a corporatist right wing agenda.  They are not a lobbyist group.  We will see why they are able to do away with the traditional notion of lobbyists in a moment.  They claim that they are into education and therefore are tax exempt. 

ALEC creates model legislation that legislators at the state level can use to base real legislation on once they go back to their respective statehouses.  ALEC holds conferences and flies legislators out to these conferences, which are often at nice hotels in nice places.  ALEC even goes as far as flying the legislators’ family out and provides them with daycare so a couple can have fun while they are visiting one of these conferences.  At these conferences they write this model legislation where the heads of corporations and the politicians have the same level of influence into what goes into them.  When the legislators go back to their respective statehouses the legislation they introduce often includes verbatim language from this model legislation.  Again this model legislation is written in part by corporations.  These corporations want bills that favor their economic interests. 

The reason why ALEC is not a lobbyist group is simple.  They don’t need lobbyists in the traditional sense.  The legislators become the lobbyists when they go back to their statehouses.  They are called Super Lobbyists.  These are people that are part of our government carrying out the work of corporations. 

The paper I wrote focuses on ALEC’s dubious environmental legislation.  Often when there is legislation favoring the fossil fuel industry and legislation that tries to stifle renewable energy, ALEC has a hand in it.  The fossil fuel industry is a big supporter of ALEC.  However, energy policy isn’t the only thing that ALEC has its hands in.  It helps past legislation on a whole host of issues that pertain to a corporate right wing agenda.  The Stand Your Ground law in Florida, made famous in the Trayvon Martin case, was based on ALEC model legislation.  Yep, the gun industry is also a big supporter of ALEC.  Anti-union and education legislation has also been influenced by ALEC.  I could go on and on. 

What this represents is the selling of our democracy.  Even if you are a Republican, you should be able to see how these practices are unethical, if not illegal.  They subvert the will of the people and give power to those who have the most money.  Whether you are a Republican or Democrat I would hope that you would want people in government that are passing legislation that is in the best interest of their constituents and not the corporations. 

Corporations at their worst will pillage the land and destroy the rights of workers.  They will align themselves with religion so long as religion suits their end goals.  However, as soon as they have everything that they want, when there is no more resources to mine, no more markets to exploit, when they can find cheaper labor elsewhere, they will move on.  We need legislators which, while not stifling the creativity of the market, protect us from its greatest excesses.