This article over at Salon is worth reading. It not only holds the Republicans accountable for their denial of science, but points out the Democrats timidity in dealing with the issue. It gives a brief and vivid overview of the problems we are already facing and are likely to face if we do nothing.
The footage above is incredible, as a humpback whale breaches at the Bay of Fundy. It was shot last Friday. I’ve long been fascinated by whales, but reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea has only increased this interest. I usually only post things I feel I can add some original insight into, but I think this footage speaks for itself. An article over at Huffington Post has slightly more detail about this amazing footage.
Even as science unlocks more and more of nature’s mysteries, I am still left awestruck by the natural world. I have been hiking several times in the last month and each time I find myself reflecting on what a strange dreamscape of a world we inhabit.
In reading about whaling in the book In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick, a great example is made of what happens when human beings destroy nature for economic pursuit. I’m not talking about the whaleship Essex being sunk by a sperm whale, which is what the book is largely about, the true story that Moby Dick was based on. I’m talking about how Nantucketers, in their ever increasing greed for more whale oil and their stubbornness in following tradition, built an entire economy that was doomed to eventually collapse. The real story, which if you are interested in you should read the book, is more complex, but basically Nantucketers over-hunted whales and had to keep going further and further to find them. Also, because they had such a closed off culture, when it did become apparent to others to seek even new hunting grounds, the Nantucketers could not adapt fast enough.
This is a story that has been seen again and again. The fur-trade wore itself out from overhunting of beavers. Almost any American school child knows about how the Buffalo almost became extinct from overhunting. On a different note, with something like mountaintop removal in places like West Virginia one can see how whole economies rise and fall around something environmentally destructive, leaving a populace with nothing left to show for something other than a small few making a lasting fortune.
I don’t see how one can look at something like the oil industry and climate change and not expect the same to happen on a much larger scale. This time it will be more than a single species almost driven to extinction, a single region driven through a boom and bust cycle. While it is true that those species mentioned did manage to rebound somewhat, the ways of life they were based on never did.
As the old quote goes, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Humans, now more technologically advanced than ever, also have greater destructive powers than ever before. The game we are playing is much bigger now, but the story is old. Are we, as a species, truly capable of learning from our past? Or is the past merely a series of small prophecies of what is to come of our future?
More Posts On the Environment Include: Entertainment Shows Growing Environmental Concerns
While watching DVD’s of the show Deadwood, and the special commentary featuring creator David Milch, a show that takes place in an illegal mining town, I came to understand how humans use certain kinds of language to psychologically justify certain orders of business which result in the destruction of nature. This can be found either through the use of vulgarity, to get themselves psyched up to do something which is not natural, or through euphemisms that hide the nature of what they are going to do. Often you will see a combination of this.
Over the last two days, on tour, I have been reading the brilliant Nathaniel Philbrick book In the Heart of the Sea. This book is a historical account that tells the story of the waleship Essex, which is the ship that inspired Moby Dick, due to the fact that it was sunk by a sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean. At the time, the sinking of the ship was said to be as widely known as the sinking of the Titanic. Melville, who had once been on a whaling vessel himself, used the story of the Essex as the basis for his book.
Most people now, even those that are tried and true hunters, view the killing of whales as nothing other than outright savagery, due to what we now know about whales. However, even during the time of the Essex, the early 1800’s, those that witnessed the killing of a whale for the first time were often troubled by it.
In order to get the men ready to kill whales the captains and first mates of the ship would use a language, while rowing towards the whales, “that evoked the savagery, excitement, and the almost erotic bloodlust associated with pursuing one of the largest mammals on the planet.” Here is the passage that the book uses that was spoken by a Nantucket mate (All the more interesting because those from Nantucket were Quakers, who are known in regular life for their pacifism. A pacifism that would disappear when whales were their quarry.):
Do for heaven’s sake spring. The boat don’t move. You’re all asleep; see, see! There she lies; skote, skote! I love you, my dear fellows, yes, yes, I do; I’ll do anything for you, I’ll give you my heart’s blood to drink; only take me up to this whale only this time, for this once, pull. Oh, St. Peter, St. Jerome, St. Stephen, St. James, St. John, the devil on two sticks; carry me up; O, let me tickle him, let me feel of his ribs. There, there, go on; O, O, O, most on, most on. Stand up, Starbuck [harpooner]. Don’t hold your iron that way; put one hand over the end of the pole. Now, now, look out. Dart, dart.
When the book talks about the killing of the whale, it is truly horrific. I am not one that is squeamish about violence, especially violence, no matter how real at the time of the event, that is taking place only in my imagination. But I found the following passage, especially if you are to read the full account in the book, very troubling:
When the final lance found its mark its mark, the whale would begin to choke on its own blood, its spout transformed into a fifteen-to twenty-foot geyser of gore that prompted the mate to shout, “Chimney’s afire!” As the blood rained down on them, the men took up the oars and backed furiously away, then paused to watch as the whale went into what was known as its flurry. Beating the water with its tail, snapping at the air with its jaws – even as it regurgitated large chunks of fish and squid – the creature began to swim in an ever tightening circle. Then, just as abruptly as the attack had begun with the first thrust of the harpoon, it ended. The whale fell motionless and silent, a giant black corpse floating fin-up in a slick of its own blood and vomit.
I highlighted “Chimney’s afire” because it is another use of language to make peace with a horrible act. This time, unlike the first passage that was especially vulgar for its time, it is a euphemism. Is the use of “Chimney’s afire” not a ridiculous euphemism for the act at hand?
When we perform mountaintop removal, when we steer the world towards destruction while ignoring climate change, when we kill off endangered species, what are the euphemisms that we use? How do we justify these acts to ourself so that we can carry them out?
I also just finished the book The Consolations of Philosophy, which examines that in order to be happy, to not be crushed by life’s disappointments, we must have a realistic view of the world. In the book, the author is referring on how your outlook leads to how you respond to tragedy and setbacks. If you have a rosy view of what is going on, you might not be able to handle a setback or tragedy, because you have an unrealistic viewpoint of what the world is like. Something shocking is even more shocking if you never thought of it in the first place. If you understand the harsh realities of life, you will still suffer and be sad at these times, but you will at least have the consolation of understanding that you are not suffering alone. (This is an extreme simplification of what the book says, but bear with me while I make a point.) I think also, that while one can certainly be active and fight 0r speak outagainst injustice in the world, it is extremely helpful to know exactly what is going on out there. To solve a problem, I think it helps to know the full ramifications of what one is up against. It might not always be necessary, but more times than not, especially in the political realm, a sharp view of reality will only aid one in their fight against injustice.
The reason I chose the Public Image Ltd. song above is that it constantly repeats the phrase, “This is What You Want, This is What You Get.” This is what you wish the world was like, but this is how it really is.
I think this glimpse into whaling and the language used around it can help one identify the modern equivalence of it. Again, what language are those that destroy the environment using? What horrible acts are they concealing behind the facade of language?
Posts for Public Image Ltd. Check Out: Careering
Posts for Deadwood: Deadwood and United Fruit
Posts for The Consolations of Philosophy: Socrates, Philosophy, and Why What is Popular is Not Always Right
I think the above video is worth watching. Bernie Sanders does a really great job at simply stating the facts about climate change. What takes this video to a special place is the fact that Sanders acknowledges that Jim Inhofe is a complete shill for the energy companies. Inhofe is not a serious person. He isn’t interested in a serious debate. He is simply trying to muddy the waters, spread misinformation, and do anything possible to confuse people over the facts of climate change. He has actually quoted the Bible in disputing climate science. Look at where his donations come from to get an idea of why he takes positions that are in no way backed up by science.
For Father’s Day I thought the best thing I could do would be to share some of my Dad’s writings. He was an environmental lawyer for most of his career, has worked at the United Nations among other places, and now teaches at Widener Law School. Although he is also a published author, he now also runs a blog that deals with the ethical issues surrounding climate change. Above is a link to his blog. So thanks Dad for, among so many other things, fighting the good fight.
Major spoiler warning for the movie There Will Be Blood
When I think of Corporate Conservatism I often think of the last scene of the movie There Will Be Blood. In the scene an oil baron, played by Daniel Day Lewis, beats a preacher to death after he no longer has need of him. Money will use anything it can to get power. Once it has what it needs it will consume and destroy what no longer serves its purpose.
It should come as no surprise that those that for long have called for less government, for state’s rights, are now actually overturning local governmental decisions. In a sense they are enforcing environmental regulations, but against the environment. Years of conservative philosophy are being pissed on to serve the energy industry. This is fun stuff, as conservative philosophy was already extremely in debt to the energy industry. Now all guise of sanity is thrown out the window. But this is their truest intentions laid bare. Although this behavior by Texas is stupid, arrogant, and morally reprehensible, I think this is misstep by those that seek to destroy the environment over greed. They can’t claim that these actions serve any principles other than the enrichment of a corrupt few.
It looks like climate deniers in our government are responsible for cutting the upcoming NASA budget, as NASA, like all of the major scientific institutions, is pointing out the change that is happening due to man-made climate change. NASA helped the United States be the first country to the moon. Now they are being dictated to by a bunch ideologues who don’t know the first thing about science. These are sad times.
The Republican controlled Senate voted 50-49 that climate change is not caused by humans. These people are the modern day version of those that persecuted Galileo for saying that the earth went around the sun. Unfortunately for us, these climate deniers’ folly is going to doom a lot of people around the globe. Their ignorance will destroy lives. It is easy to look back at history in disbelief at people believing that the sun revolved around the earth. But that same kind of mindset is with us now. It is created by the same thing: Power that does not want to be challenged. The church didn’t want their authoritarian power being challenged. Today it is the fossil fuel companies who don’t want their power to make money to be challenged. The politicians that voted that climate change was not caused by humans derive their power from the fossil fuel companies. They are bought and paid for. Every major scientific institution has made the case for human caused climate change. The facts are not up in the air, they are just inconvenient to some of those that have a great deal of power. One day they will look as foolish as the church of Galileo’s time does now. Hopefully there will be a civilization around that can afford to laugh at them.
Bloomberg has an interesting article that claims that in the long term there is no doubt that fossil fuels will lose the race with renewable energy. A sample:
The price of wind and solar power continues to plummet, and is now on par or cheaper than grid electricity in many areas of the world. Solar, the newest major source of energy in the mix, makes up less than 1 percent of the electricity market today but will be the world’s biggest single source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.
The problem seems to not be if, but when. Can we transition fast enough to avoid the worst problems associated with climate change.
Still, this is good news. I’ll take it where I can get it…