Tag Archives: essay

Zombie environment

A pretty African sunset

Can we talk about the end of the world for just one post? The UN global report has been released and it’s pretty grim. Grimmer than zombies (but arguably beneficial for zombies). Ultra grim.  

Here’s National Geographic’s story on the story.

Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post’s story. “The U.N. report ‘means that nature is collapsing around us, and it’s a real wake-up call to humanity,’ said Andrew Wetzler, managing director of the nature program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a conservation group.”

I disagree. We’ve been ignoring wake-up calls for a long time and we’ll ignore this one. Wake-up calls are bad for business, and let’s discredit anyone involved in this UN report. In 1962, Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, documenting the damage from pesticides. So what happens? By 1972, the US bans DDT in the US, but its use continued throughout the world, and is still used. You can use your personal internet web searching prowess to read all about DDT and the environment. No place on earth is untouched by DDT.

If you’re old enough, you remember nights raucous with the sounds of insects, frogs, and other critters. You remember how a short drive on a suburban road would leave your windshield smattered with bug splats, and porch lights surrounded by a cloud of moths and mosquitos and other insects. Last year, articles like this one appeared.

My children don’t know these sounds and have never had to squeegee a few hours accumulation of bug carcasses off their windshields. They haven’t seen a sky criss-crossed with massive flocks of migrating birds, so they don’t look up and wonder what’s wrong. They do have phones that can show them pictures of what the world looked like and can see Imax films documenting the once stunning diversity of the natural world.

It’s not up to us, the consumers of the world. We’re kind of sheepish. Take common lawn and garden chemicals. Tell us that spraying a little something will kill dandelions and we’ll buy it because we’ve been convinced that a uniform grass lawn is very important. We don’t think about the fresh water that lawns consume, nor the half-life of the chemicals we apply. We don’t know to ask about active ingredients and inert ingredients. You (and you know who you are) don’t want us to think about that, so we don’t. Good job by your marketing and PR departments, and kudos to your lobbying, I might add! So it’s up to you. This wake-up call’s for you. Because we’ll keep buying the stuff you tell us to and we’ll believe whatever you want us to believe.

I want to say something about soft drinks, which I admit I know little about. But, when I stopped using them, the quality of my life did not decline. I talked about this with a friend and we agreed, these products might have no real benefit. Anyhoo, here’s a question for the asking, “what percentage of the world’s fresh water is used to produce and consume bottled beverages? How much plastic gets into the enviroment because of all these drinks? Who wants to think about that every time you twist off a cap to enjoy a cold one! That would be grim.

To sum up, everything’s fine. Earnings are up. Keep doing what you’re doing. At least you don’t have to clean the windshield very often.

Next time: 17 simple things you can do for the environment

Day the 4th

Before diving into today’s post, a reminder that International Turn Signal Observance Day is fast approaching. As you know, the US has pulled out of the ITSO agreement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and use your turn signals anyway.

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Uplifting image of people on a California Beach, December, 2015

Now, where I live, there are alleys behind the houses, only here they call them lanes. The other day, I overheard several of my neighbors chatting about landscaping, and other neighborhood matters like the regrettable incident during Halloween.

When suddenly from the west a loud bang, followed moments later by a cold wind.

“What was that?” neighbor one confuddled?

“Could have been a nuke,” neighbor two suggested.

“No, too far west. It would be more to the south, right, where DC is?” a passerby walking a charming Newfie mix said.

“Besides, that cold gust would have been a hot wind that melts the skin right off the bone,” neighbor one concluded, a note of cheeriness in her voice.

Then it started raining and all said in unison, “Thunder! It was thunder! Of course.”

Then, and this was beautiful – and to be honest, I started to feel particularly bad about squatting and hiding behind a bush observing all this – they put their arms around each other and began singing folk songs in what sounded like ancient Gaelic.

Now stop worrying and get out there and use those turn signals!

No News is Still News, Day 2

Day 2 came and went, and still, news crept into my life. This time, the old fashioned way, by word of mouth.

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Utah, September, 2017, near or in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Half of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, they say, is to be sold off to the highest bidder. This most recent September, a guide led us through that strange, parched, changing landscape for 10 hours, from high perches above dry river beds, through a slot canyon, and past centuries-old petroglyphs. During that time, we went four hours without seeing another person. As we entered the slot canyon, we came across someone lost, and later, a party of four trekking the other way.

My good friend Alfonse sent me a sound remedy, to soften the silence. WXPN, a university radio station in Philadelphia, PA, US of A, is playing the songs of the seventies from A to Z. For your enjoyment, I place here the link.  After nine days, they’re up to the letter M.

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Viewing the Petroglyphs from a distance. To the right is the entrance to a slot canyon.

It’s a disappearing natural world and if you pay too much attention, you’ll draw some grim conclusions. I subscribe to a daily email from ScienceDaily which gets me the latest science news. Sometimes it’s sparks the day’s writing, and sometimes…

  • “Dahl’s toad-headed turtle threatened by fragmented habitat, shrinking forests.”
  • “Tigers cling to survival in Sumatra’s increasingly fragmented forests.”
  • “Fish exposed to treated wastewater have altered behavior.”

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Petroglyph up close.

Finished Broadchurch! Thirteen stars. Highly recommended.

 

Pre-Apocalypse, Day 1

Technically, the numbering should be backwards, but that’s incalculable. After a TV-free day, fell asleep and slept the night through. I would have slept later, but, per usual, the dog woke me as soon as the first light of day crept through the curtains.

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Row homes on Greenmount Ave., Baltimore, Maryland, USA. 2017.

As you know or don’t know, I haven’t been sleeping well for months, wondering if we are experiencing something like what Europeans did in the 1930s, a rising anxiety as a dark veil descends upon our civilization.

Since the start of the year, I’d scaled back my media intake, mostly news, and that worked for awhile. But it wasn’t enough. So yesterday, after determining that sleeping was more important than being well-informed, I began not watching TV (except an episode from series 3 of Broadchurch which is unavoidable). I gave up my morning NPR fix while scrambling the eggs. I ran from the room when my soulmate turned on cable news. I even skipped my daily dose of sportscenter.

No TV. No NPR. No evening news. No Facebook or Twitter feed. I turned off all the notifications my phone gets except actual phone calls. Now before me lies the daunting task of getting accustomed to the sound of thoughts that are my own.

One other thing, all media intake at this point must be by intent, not by beep, ding, flash, or habit, and must serve the purpose of reminding me that people can work together, expand knowledge, and solve problems. So last night, before episode six of series 3, Broadchurch – have I mentioned that it’s excellent – watched the documentary, The Farthest: Voyager in Space. It did the job. For now.

 

The source of your writing power

 

It’s all about appearances; the writing life has its demands. These include, explaining at parties what you’re working on when you yourself are clueless. You explain how you’re cranking out a few thousands words each and every morning and that you’re sure that once each word has been organized, catalogued, edited, and rewritten, the story disguised within will rise. Like a fucking phoenix.

Look, one minute it’s a dystopian mystery, the next it’s sci-fi existential flibnar set in pre-Victorian Ecuador.

Maybe you have a blog. Or 9 blogs. Few read them, but you have them anyway and you tweet your posts but let’s face it, you don’t want anyone you know in the real world to know what you’re doing online so you only sometimes tweet and maybe that’s under a pseudonym; ahem, that’s nom du plume to you. You need to be institutionalized.

You have to look like someone who is up to the business of wordification. How you dress defines how you write. That’s just common sense and is as important to the process as which pen nib you use, which typewriter you pound upon, whether you write on legal or A4, on a PC or a tablet, and whether you write in coffee shops or perched upon an I-beam at a construction site, which really gets the blood flowing.

At some point, you’re going to realize you haven’t done whatever grooming you still bother to do, so you shave. And you need a haircut, so you go to get a haircut. Then you’re in the chair with that thing they drape on you to keep the hair crumbs out of your clothes when you realize, crap, maybe your hair is the source of your writing powers and you should never let your hair be cut again. Lest you never write again, and the people, starved of your words, whither and perish…intellectually, that is. Otherwise they’re fine.

The point is, writing power springs from uncut hair, and that’s your tip of the day. Don’t believe me? Don’t cut your hair for two years and see your productivity soar. If I’m wrong, go ahead, get a haircut. Take the money you saved on haircuts and treat yourself to a night out or a Maserati. You deserve it.