Saturday, December 29, 2018
written 23 December 2018
published 29 December 2018
In early December, Cal-Fire and the Mendocino Fire-Safe Council presented a seminar at the Mendocino College, sharing the following information.
A fire front can pass over a building in 15 minutes leaving it intact, but it is still vulnerable to four different paths of ignition. Burning material can land on the roof, igniting flammable roofing. Flames from trees, shrubs or adjacent buildings, can make contact with flammable house siding. Prolonged exposure to radiant heat from burning material will ignite flammable material, even without direct flame contact. The most widespread impact is from burning embers, small pieces of flaming material lofted into the air, spreading fire far in advance of the actual fire front, which can swirl into nooks and crevices in any building they encounter.
Exposure to these four fire paths can be reduced by selecting proper construction materials and preparing the area around the house. A Class A roof is the most fire-resistant rating, and defines materials that are not flammable, such as concrete or clay roof tiles, fire rated fiberglass asphalt shingles, and metal roofing. These same kinds of materials can be used for siding. Consideration of radiant heat exposure is necessary, as metal and concrete can transmit heat, igniting the underlying structure, even though the siding will not burn.
Thermopane windows are more fire resistant than single pane. Open windows or skylights provides a path for fire to enter the house. Close windows and remove sheer curtains during a fire, but heavier drapes can reduce radiant heat transfer into the room.
Protection against embers is probably the cheapest change to make, but requires extensive consideration. High winds can drive a fire, and the fires can then generate more winds. The resulting turbulence blows embers around, before, during, and after the front of the fire has passed. One of the most vulnerable places on a house are the attic vents, which allow embers access to combustible insulation and very dry framing material. Most vents have 1/4" mesh, if any, but new fire rules require 1/8" mesh. This simple replacement can save your house.
However, embers can also blow into cracks between rafter tails and the roof decking, between exposed ends of roof tiles, or into the leaf debris in the roof gutters. Proper design, caulking, and regular gutter cleaning is worth the effort.
A wooden fence attached to the house is another ignition point. Dry debris collecting at the base of the fence can be ignited by blowing embers, which then ignites the fence and then the house siding. Combustible material such as firewood or construction lumber should not be stored under a deck.
Landscape modification of eliminating trees and shrubs within 10' of the house can reduce flame contact and radiant heat exposure. Removing lower tree branches can prevent ground fires from moving into the upper part of the trees. Remove any limbs extending over the house.
The Cal Fire defensible space suggestions of 30' clearance around the house and 100' brush reduction, don't apply in suburban settings, where the fence line might be 10' from the house, and the neighbor's house is another 10' beyond that. Small changes in landscape and construction can make a difference, but a community scale level of defense is required as well.
In 2004, a shaded fuel break was created along part of the western edge of the Ukiah city limits. This area is 100'-200' wide, with ground brush and litter removed, trees thinned to prevent crown to crown fire transmission, and the lower limbs of the remaining trees removed to prevent fire from spreading up from the ground. This park like environment allows access for fire equipment, and the reduction of fuel makes defending the area easier. The break has not been maintained, but this year the City and County have committed to restoring this break, widening it in places, and extending it from the Boonville road to Hensley Creek. In the recent Paradise fire, an existing shaded break made it possible to prevent the fire from expanding north.
Preparation can increase the odds of saving our homes in the kinds of fires we are now experiencing.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
written 15 December 2018
published 22 December 2018
When you stop and think about it, time is mostly an idea. The past has already happened, now only stories in memory. Being less than what actually happened, they are mere shadows of events that we hold as ideas. The future is idea even less rooted in reality, based on limited projections of current events, influenced by stories from the past.
This isn't to say that the past and future aren't "real" in some manner. Comparing my face in the mirror to my high school graduation picture is proof that something has changed, supporting the sense of time passing. But the only part of time I can ever experience in now, this moment. Even when I am remembering past stories, I am in this moment, this now. Likewise, as I plan for a future construction project or an upcoming event, the planning and thinking is happening now, this moment.
Quantum mechanics tells us that we can only "know" what we observe in the moment. Between observations, we can't say anything definite, as an unobserved object has a probability of being anywhere in the universe. Reality happens only in the now. Special relativity tells us that as objects accelerate toward the speed of light, their experience of time slows down. Photons, which travel only at the speed of light, experience no time at all, remaining in a constant now. In our frame of reference, a photon takes over 8 minutes to travel from the sun to our eye, but for the photon, the trip is instantaneous, no time, no distance. The photon doesn't really "exist" between its formation in the sun and its extinction at our eye, yet we experience an energy transfer.
A movie is a series of individual frames projected one after another, and even though each individual frame is seen for a short interval, we experience the film as showing "moving pictures". Our awareness can only handle a limited rate of change in perception, and the refresh rate on a video screen or in a film is faster than our perception, so the motion seems continuous. Life is like that, a series of "now" moments that appears continuous.
When we experience an event in this moment, our stories from the past immediately arise to provide an interpretation. If we aren't careful with our attention, we accept these interpretations as an accurate perception of the moment, and act in response to the past story rather than the actual event. The future becomes a consequence of the past and the present is not considered at all, thus our life becomes conditioned. By eliminating clear awareness of the present moment, we are left unable to respond to the only reality we ever truly experience.
Our culture trains us to validate these stories as descriptions of reality. However, by practicing mindfulness meditation, we can learn to notice when the stories are running and shift awareness to the actual moment, the eternal now, freed from the narration from the past. Each moment then becomes an opportunity for change. All action happens in the present, so we begin to evolve an ability to respond to current events and to be response-able, rather than automatically repeating the past. Our future shifts from being determined by the past, to being shaped by choices in the present moment.
The more we practice being in the aware present, the easier it becomes, like anything we practice. Our everyday encounters change as we are less triggered by past stories and patterns. As we live more in the present, everyone we encounter is affected as well, by energetic resonance. Communication becomes clearer as we move away from our preconceived responses and are able to listen to what is actually being said in the moment. When we tune in to each present moment, we notice that, for the most part, we are not in distress, or dire need. We become calmer, not anxious about past or future concerns. Stress is a killer, so being at peace in each moment improves our health.
Since "now" is eternal, it is always available, and we have all the time we need.
Saturday, December 15, 2018
written 8 December 2018
published 15 December 2018
The power industry has not changed much in the last 140 years ago. Large central plants generate electricity, which is shipped over vast grids, to supply power to their customers on demand. In my opinion, electricity is the most versatile energy form to come from the industrial revolution. Any future civilization should include widespread access to electricity, but we need a new model for a 21st century power system which would address four powerful factors.
First, distributed power production and storage is now economically viable. Second, our growth economy is crashing into the reality of a finite planet, requiring that we learn to thrive while consuming less power. Third, the global money system is a bloated debt bomb and most human values cannot be reduced to fiscal solutions. Fourth, most importantly, the climate is becoming more extreme and hostile to our current way of life due to our addiction to fossil fuels.
The myth that privatization is always best is colliding with this rapidly changing reality. The last two fire seasons have shown the limits of capitalism for providing essential social industries such as electricity. A corporation's first priority, no matter what the product, is maximum shareholder profit. This is contrary to society's need for low-cost electric power delivered by a safe infrastructure. PG&E's corporate profit model has shown it is incapable of handling this, and is facing liabilities for fire damages that exceed their insurance, threatening to bankrupt the company. Typically, they are asking their ratepayers and the State to cover the loss.
There is a place for socialism, as we see in other basic social needs such as street, water, and sewer systems. Most major cities in California already have publically owned power. As an alternative to bankruptcy or bailout, the State should take a controlling equity stake in PG&E as the price for covering the company's insurance liabilities.
As fire seasons become more extreme, fire insurance problems will continue to grow. Merced Property and Casualty was made insolvent by the Camp fire. As other companies decide to leave, or rates become unaffordable, California may need to cover fire insurance to keep the housing market from crashing. The Federal government covers flood insurance for the same reason. State control of both insurance and the power system, would incentivize rebuilding the system for fire resilience.
Undergrounding power lines costs up to $3M per mile, and California has over 200,000 miles of distribution lines. To put this in perspective, the insurance liability for just the last two fire seasons exceeds $30B, the cost to place 10,000 miles of distribution lines underground.
In this new model, power would be routinely shut down whenever weather condition dictate. Since electricity is a necessity, the system would invest in onsite renewable power systems and battery storage, starting with areas where shut-downs are expected. Houses would be rewired so basic necessities remain powered during shut-downs. Having a modest amount of power in an emergency is very different than having none. The weather extremes we have created can no longer accommodate unlimited 24/7 power.
Over time, customers outside problem areas would receive these distributed systems as well, moving the state toward 100% renewable power production. The function of the grid would shift away from one-way distribution from a central plant to the customer, and become a load-sharing system, shipping excess production and filling distributed storage as needed. Regional and neighborhood micro-grids would increase system resilience and be coordinated into the statewide system.
Eventually, the world will awaken to the collective threat of extreme climate change and the need for equitable investment to make the transition to a zero-carbon power system. This type of household scale unit would be of use all over the world, creating a huge export opportunity. Distributed production and storage can be scaled from household-size up through village-size. The basic systems can be added in parallel, allowing for expansion in small, affordable increments as funding and need increase. If we think in terms of what could power a third-world village, and begin producing that for ourselves, as well as for export, we might just avoid climate suicide, and give our children a chance to thrive.
Saturday, December 8, 2018
written 1 December 2018
published 8 December 2018
American oil production doubled in the last decade, exceeding 10 million barrels a day in 2017 for the first time since 1970. The US became the largest oil producer on the planet in 2018, spurring fantasies we are oil independent and masters of our energy future. The miracle behind this is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking involves sophisticated drilling of deep wells with extensive horizontal laterals to access dispersed pockets of oil within shale rock. A chemical brew containing sand is injected by high pressure pumps, fracturing the rock, allowing oil and gas to flow, while the sand keeps the cracks open. As conventional oil fields have depleted and discovery of new fields has declined, fracking allows extraction of the remaining unconventional deposits, but costs more money and energy.
Oil is essential for our current economy. However, if the price is high enough for high cost production to profit, the economy can stagnate, contributing to recession as in 2007. If the price of oil is low, the economy thrives, but these same oil producers lose money. As the economy has slowly recovered from the last economic crash, the US oil industry had to shift to fracking, losing over $250 billion while expanding production.
Even though fracking loses money on every barrel, the hope of increasing economic growth and future profitability, keeps investors on the hook. Many fracking companies are little more than Ponzi schemes, where new investors are required to keep everything from imploding. But the economy stalled this year, due to the Trump trade war and the ballooning US debt needed to fund the tax cut, so investors are becoming concerned that fracking is just another financial bubble.
Part of what makes fracking so expensive is that production in these wells declines within a few years, compared to decades of production from conventional wells. This means new wells must be drilled continuously to maintain even the same production level. Most American fracking production comes from just three fields, but the "sweet spots", or most profitable areas, are already drilled. Further development will be even less lucrative.
Fracking requires vast quantities of chemicals, water, and sand. From the beginning, there was concern about water contamination by the toxic brew of drilling fluids. Much of the fracking is taking place in areas with limited water. Not all sand is suitable for fracking, so demand has created shortages, raising prices. Most rock has natural radioactivity. The drilling fluids are recycled through filters, which then become a hazardous radioactive waste. If these issues are adequately dealt with, they cost the producer, and if they aren't, they cost the community.
Increased costs in dollars can be gamed by further debt, but energy costs are real. Energy sources can be evaluated as a ratio of how much energy is expended to deliver surplus energy in a form useful to the larger community, the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI). Energy sources with higher ratios can support a more technologically based civilization. Agricultural societies run on grain and animal power with an EROEI of 2.5:1. Wood fueled economies, and the civilizations they support, have an EROEI of 7:1. Conventional oil is very energy dense, which means that there is far more energy in the oil than it takes to produce it. The earliest oil fields had an EROEI of greater than 60:1. This vast energy return built the world we know today, with current global consumption of 100 million barrels a day, an energy intensive way of life requiring an EROEI of at least 20:1. The high energy expended in fracking gives it an EROEI of about 5:1, more versatile than burning wood, but less energy efficient.
Fracked oil is light weight oil, suitable for refining into gasoline, but must be mixed with heavier conventional oil to create diesel fuel. The slowing economy and high fracking production volume have caused gas prices to drop in recent months, benefiting the consumer, but diesel prices are still very high, hurting the economy.
Last, but certainly not least, burning fracked oil increases the risk of climate suicide in the near future. The hundreds of billions spent on fracking would be more prudently invested in building a carbon free economy.
Saturday, December 1, 2018
written 24 November 2018
published 1 December 2018
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the Golden Rule. This philosophy of reciprocity is found in all ethical systems. From a unity perspective, where I and the other are one, this is a no-brainer, similar to the suggestion that I not saw off the tree limb upon which I am sitting.
Global connection through the Internet and social media amplifies all the issues on the planet. This material manifestation of the fundamental unity found in quantum mechanics and all spiritual traditions allows people the world over to find information and fellowship with others of like mind. The down side of the tech connectivity is the disruption of tradition economic models and the flourishing of the worst aspects of humanity.
The Golden Rule assumes that I think kindly of myself, and feel worthy of being treated well. If poor family dynamics, poverty, traumatic emotional experiences, or a punitive religious upbringing cause me to feel unworthy, then I will expect abusive behavior and, by the Golden Rule, be hateful to others. How we treat others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. The other becomes a mirror, and fear of the other is like a young kitten posturing against the rival seen in the mirror.
With empathy, we experience our connection with the other and fear and hatred dissipate. Lack of empathy is a symptom of serious psychological disorders, such as psychopaths, sociopaths, extreme narcissists and autistics. These disorders, present in 1% of the general population, appear in 3% of top corporate and political leaders, which explains why human values are sacrificed for profit.
Since Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook 14 years ago, it has grown to dominate the world with over 2 billion users. More than 45% of Americans get most of their news from Facebook, giving the platform massive influence in our society. Chief stockholder Zuckerberg appears to be empathically challenged. His company reflects this, claiming it is just a tech platform, not a media company, and takes no responsibility for editing content.
When cell service expanded in Myanmar eight years ago, Facebook bundled their product from the ground up so the country's news service is dominated by Facebook. Buddhist hate speech sites began using Facebook to inflame sentiment with false news against the minority Rohingya Muslims. Facebook ignored requests from concerned citizens asking that it take down the sites that were destabilizing the country. Facebook had instructions for tagging hate sites, but the Burmese translation was inaccurate, and only two Burmese speakers were employed to process complaints in a country of 51 million. The result was genocide of almost 7,000, and 700,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.
Facebook profitability depends on collecting detailed information on their users, and then customizes the delivery of advertising and news to each viewer using sophisticated algorithms. With stolen customer data, these same algorithms were used in 2016 by Republican and Russian operatives to push fake news in support of Trump. When this came to light, Facebook denied it and actively funded attacks against its accusers. Only when the stock crashed did they begin to address the issue.
Data is not information. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Our social media saturated culture is overwhelmed with data, and seriously lacking in wisdom. Facebook is really only a symptom, amplifying pre-existing human weaknesses. That hate can be preached by Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims indicates that many self-identified religious people have completely missed the core of their spiritual traditions. Local philosopher Ricardo Stocker says, "we are not bodies with a soul, but souls with a body." Self-loathing is a consequence of being disconnected from the experience of our soul, our interconnection with the universe. People must call out the haters in their own religions and political parties.
The hard work of our times is restructuring our internal landscape, cultivating and expanding our individual connection with our soul, which is always present, but can be obscured by external distractions. One path is meditation. If you don't yet meditate, start today. If you already have a meditation practice, recommit and expand your practice. Social connection is a fact of life, our challenge is to improve the quality of the conversation.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
written 19 November 2018
published24 November 2018
"Fooled By Randomness", by Nassim Taleb, describes his experience as a mathematician and stock trader. He suggests we ignore low-probability, high-risk events, at our peril. For example, is it worth playing a game that, 999 times out of 1,000, pays you one dollar, but sometimes costs you $10,000? On each play, the mathematical expectation of winning is 999/1000 x $1 = $0.999, and the expectation of losing is 1/1000 x $10,000 = $10. Added together, the expectation of each play is a loss of $9.001. The low-probability, but high-consequence event, also known as a black swan, skews the entire game.
We are fooled by the randomness of black swans, and think the luck we have experienced so far will continue into the future, leaving us unprepared. This applies when investing in the stock market, or just living in the 21st century California. The market crash of 2007 was an unexpected black swan which destroyed the net worth of millions of people because they had not taken any precautions against such an unlikely event as a collapse of the housing industry. Destruction by fire is a similar risk, but climate change, development expansion, and outmoded forestry practices, have changed the odds, and new black swans appear every year.
A friend who used to live in Paradise, arrived by bus this week, carrying everything she owns. The previous Thursday morning, a small fire started east of town. Her first warning was a call from her daughter at 6:30 am, but there was no official news or alert. An hour later the power went out and cell service ended. She started packing things for a possible evacuation, but still thought the fire was small and would be contained. A few hours later, she left town in a neighbor's car, traveling through fire on both sides of the four-lane freeway. As I write this, the Camp fire continues to burn and has destroyed 11,713 residences and killed at least 77 people, setting state records in both categories.
The hills west of Ukiah last burned in 1959. The Western Hills Fire Safe Council, part of a larger county effort, is working to organize neighborhoods to become more fire aware and resilient by improving community and personal infrastructure, emergency communications, and personal preparedness.
The community bulldozed ridge-crest firebreaks two years ago, which are being refurbished and expanded. A shaded fire break was created thirteen years ago along the western edge of the city limits, running from the south end of town to Low Gap road. This break is 100' wide, with undergrowth cleared and trees thinned and limbs removed up 10', reducing fuel and allowing access for fire equipment. Work is underway to widen the break and extend it south to the Boonville road and north to Orr Springs.
Individual homeowners can prepare their properties by removing brush and trees close to their houses, removing lower limbs on trees, and investing in fire resilience roofing and siding materials.
While these preparations will help in a slower moving fire, the fire storms we have seen in the last few years will sweep through unhindered, so evacuation preparedness is important. While life and property are not being threatened, create a detailed list of material goods, including photo or video documentation of everything. Plan what you would take if you had time for an orderly evacuation. Don't forget supplies for an extended time, including support for your pets. Make copies or digital files of your important documents, including insurance, automobile pink slips, bank accounts, and address books. However, fires can move rapidly, so create a "grab and go" kit, in case you have only minutes to evacuate.
Another component of preparedness is communication. The Redwood fire showed the necessity of local alert networks, as there was little official notification in that fast-moving fire. Personal communications between families and friends saved lives that night. The county now has two notification systems in effect, MendoAlert and Nixle. You can sign up for alerts on several devices at:https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/executive-office/office-of-emergency-services/emergency-notifications-and-alerts.
For more information about the county Fire Safe Councils, or to get involved in your own neighborhood, go to: https://firesafemendocino.org. As the saying goes, the life you save could be your own.
Saturday, November 17, 2018
written 10 November 2018
published 17 November 2018
Most election results are in, and the analysis has begun. The Republican gridlock on thinking has been broken for the moment, and consideration of real issues can begin. For me, the largest issue is climate change, which has been denied, and made worse, by our anti-science president and his followers.
A recent scientific study found evidence that ocean warming over the past few decades is 60% greater than previously estimated. This explains some of the rapid calving of ice off of Antarctica, and the very warm temperatures in the Arctic Ocean. This year the Arctic sea ice minimum was the fourth lowest on record, and the onset of refreezing has been delayed by almost a month, a new record. Massive fires in the west and deluges in the east are causing people to see that climate change is happening right now, which helped to shift the House to the Democrats. As I write this, the dark smoke cloud coming from the Camp fire in Butte county caused our street light to come on.
But the fossil fuel industry, desiring to keep its lucrative status quo, used political donations to resist change, defeating a Colorado proposal for 2500' setbacks from houses for new fracking wells, and Arizona and Nevada efforts to set renewable energy targets for their states. Only Florida was successful in limiting oil expansion, passing a ban on near shore oil wells.
A more direct legislative effort to avoid climate suicide was Washington State initiative 1631, which proposed a tax on carbon emissions at their source. The tax rate would increase each year, creating a market based incentive to shift to de-carbonized energy systems. The funds would have been invested in renewable energy systems. The oil industry spent over $30M to successfully defeat this initiative, advertising that the tax would increase costs for the poorest of our community. While this argument is self-serving for the corporations, it raised valid economic concerns.
A better alternative, called Carbon Tax and Dividend, is proposed by the Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL). The carbon tax would start at $15/ton of carbon, or greenhouse gas carbon equivalent, levied at the point of production. An import duty based on carbon energy content, would be applied to every product imported into the country, if it hadn't already been taxed in its country of origin. This would eliminate shifting pollution overseas, and provide an incentive for other countries to enact a carbon tax, as climate change requires global effort. This tax would increase every year at a fixed rate of $10/ton/year, giving producers a known incentive to invest in alternatives.
The difference between this plan and the Washington initiative is what happens to the tax funds. Rather than an appointed committee controlling investment, 100% of the tax revenue would be distributed to the people, without regard to income or carbon footprint. This is similar to the oil dividends distributed to every Alaskan to compensate for the adverse impact of that industry on their state. The return of the tax proceeds as a dividend makes this plan revenue neutral.
The distributed dividend would address the concern raised in the Washington campaign. CCL estimates that a family of four would receive an annual dividend of $540 the first year, rising to $2,640 within five years, increasing from there. This would offset the increased costs of high carbon energy, and allow people to investment in low carbon alternatives. As the production tax increases and companies invest in low carbon alternatives, millions of new jobs would be created, while reducing carbon emissions. Find more details of this plan at citizensclimatelobby.org.
Some Republican conservatives are promoting a similar plan called the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan. Go to www.afcd.org/the-solution for more details. The tax and revenue neutral dividend functions are identical to the CCL plan, but with an additional gift to corporations. The Baker-Shultz plan would eliminate EPA regulatory jurisdiction over carbon, repeal the Clean Energy Plan, and, most significantly, indemnify fossil fuel companies from liability for historic emissions, continued funding of climate denial, and misleading investors.
Even when faced with human extinction, Republicans try to game the system for exclusive corporate economic gain. However, there is bi-partisan support for a carbon tax, so humans might endure.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
written 1 November 2018
published 10 November 2018
I am writing this before the midterm elections, and you are reading it after, so by now we know how it turned out. Did the blue wave flip the House, and maybe the Senate? Did Republican voter purges and hacked voting machines save them in Georgia and Texas? Did hundreds of millions in dark money rescue Republicans from mobs of angry women? Were the elections even held, or were they cancelled by martial law, or foreign hacker influence? These are edge-of-your-seat times in America.
No matter the election outcome, we humans are facing serious issues. The global debt bubble may be collapsing. Our national debt ballooned to pay for Trump's tax gift to the elite, and the resulting rise in interest rates, combined with the trade war with China, are beginning to affect the economy. Last month the Dow lost everything gained in 2018. Depletion rate of existing oil fields are a fraction of new discoveries. America's fracking boom, scraping the bottom of the barrel, lost $250B in 10 years. The energy return on the energy invested in fracking is similar to a firewood fueled economy, but produces quantities of toxic and radioactive wastes and accelerates climate change. The latest climate report gives little more than a decade to make changes to avoid human extinction, and that may be optimistic. Where does one turn for hope?
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly — Richard Bach
It is my opinion that humanity is experiencing an evolution of consciousness, from duality to unity, from humans to humanity, which has been building for millennia. The old order is naturally collapsing because it is fundamentally bankrupt and out of harmony with nature. I offer these words from the Arcturian Group, found at www.onenessofall.com.
"Many of you have become concerned, confused, and even despondent about conditions in today's world, but keep in mind that you are witnessing the demise of an obsolete belief system that up to now has provided richly for those who benefit from conditions of anger, fear, and war. They fear and resist any changes to the expressions of duality and separation, intensifying their efforts to maintain the status quo. Having chosen to cut themselves off from higher dimensional energies, they promote and then utilize the energy created from the fear and suffering of others."
"You who are awake are creating the changes the world has been longing for. You are on earth at this time to assist with the birthing of a new and higher collective consciousness on earth. Only the people of earth themselves can bring about the changes they hope and pray for. You are the creators, formed of creator energy individualized."
"The false ideology of most organized religions is based on the premise that an intermediary (saint, ascended master, guru, priest, shaman, ancestor, or even the local priest or pastor) is necessary in order for you, who are a lowly sinner, to access God in any meaningful way: a God separate from you."
"The business of "soul saving" is a money maker for churches, keeping them alive and necessary in the minds of those who do not yet realize that God is fully present within them and not in a building, organization, or "holy" person. The idea of needing to be "saved" is nothing more than the promotion of false beliefs in separation."
"Everything needed to access God already exists within each and every individual because a person can never be separate from what they are, regardless of whether they know it or not. Evolution is the process of awakening into higher levels of reality globally and individually. The time has arrived in which all who intellectually know truth must begin to practice, embrace, and allow it to birth into a living state of consciousness rather than continuing to hold truth as interesting intellectual knowledge to be debated and discussed. The Divine Self that is YOU is complete and whole in every way and as this realization fully integrates and becomes your consciousness, IT will express IT-Self in every facet of ordinary daily living."
We are the change we have been waiting for. Our mission is to live it.
Saturday, November 3, 2018
written 27 October 2018
published 3 November 2018
The third myth-perception described in "Spontaneous Evolution", by Lipton and Bhaerman, is that our genes determine everything in our body and we are fated from birth. This materialist understanding of biology was established in 1953, when James Watson and Francis Crick published their Nobel Prize winning ideas based on research showing that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) consists of a string of four nucleotide bases, adenine paired with thymine, and guanine paired with cytosine (A and T, G and C), to create reciprocal strands of DNA, forming a double helix.
The bases A, T, G, and C, in sets of three, code for one of 20 amino acids that comprise the building blocks of proteins in the body. A gene is the sequence of the DNA coding for a particular protein. A molecule of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) "reads" the gene code by making a mirror image of the gene. The mRNA moves from the nucleus into the cell body, becoming a template for assembling the amino acids in proper sequence to form the protein.
In this description, information flows from DNA, by mRNA, to the protein. But proteins encounter the environment and DNA does not, thus preventing the organism learning from experience, and evolution can only happen when a mistake occurs in the transcription by the mRNA, or the replication of the DNA during cell division. For half a century, this material determinism has dominated western medicine and pharmacology, despite research to the contrary.
In the late 1960s, geneticist Howard Temin, working with viruses containing only RNA, found the DNA of an infected a cell could be modified by the virus RNA, indicating a two-way flow of genetic information. Temin was called a heretic, but later vindicated, sharing a Nobel prize for his work in 1975.
In 1988, English biologist John Cairns demonstrated that simple bacteria could modify their DNA in response to their environment. Cairns was also vilified, but subsequent duplication of his results led to acceptance of this new understanding.
By 1990, biologist Fredrick Nijhout, emphasized that genes are a code, like a blueprint, and determination of which genes are "read", and when, is controlled by factors other than the genes themselves, introducing the concept of epigenetics: above genetics. Gene activity and cellular expression are regulated from external fields of influence, rather than the internal DNA.
The first few cells of a new embryo are virtually identical, but differentiate to vastly different forms in the mature animal. If one of the early cells is destroyed, another one takes over that development path. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake, in "A New Science of Life", suggested that morphogenetic fields, existing in higher dimensions, direct that reformation.
The materialist paradigm was further challenged in 2003, with the conclusion of the Human Genome Project. This massive effort began in 1990 with the goal of sequencing the entire human DNA. Assuming a one-to-one correlation between genes and proteins, it was expected that complex organisms would have more genes than simpler life forms. Beginning small, they successfully mapped the 3,000-5,000 genes of bacteria, and the 23,000 genes of a microscopic round worm, which seemed to support their early assumptions. However, the more complex fruit fly was found to have only 18,000 genes, and human DNA contains 23,000 genes, about the same as the round worm, even though the human body contains between 50K and 2M proteins. This was a big surprise, and caused a crash in several bioengineering companies that had hoped to patent DNA sequences as proprietary information.
Current thinking is that each gene can express as many as 100 variations of a family of proteins. There is ongoing discussion about how this works, and what controls the process, but signals from the external environment are clearly important. For a human cell, those external signals come not only from the physical environment, but also from the state of mind of the person. This is why stress can adversely affect the physical cells, and why the reduction of stress is so important to good health. Our body materially reflect how we think, and what we believe about the world. To that extent, we are the co-creators of our fate, with our genes.
Saturday, October 27, 2018
written 20 October 2018
published 27 October 2018
Since the Kavanaugh hearings, a new fear story is spreading. "Mobs of angry women" are making it dangerous for young men today. Women ARE angry, and the spread of the #MeToo movement has created a shift in the social fabric of what is acceptable behavior. For thousands of years, male dominance and misogyny was HisStory, taken as natural law. But humanity is evolving, and the disempowerment of half the population is slowly eroding. Since 1873, women in the United States can own and control property, drive cars since 1900, and vote since 1920. But women still earn 20% less for the same work, and are adversely affected by the entitlement and fantasies of men.
Gender violence researcher Dr. Jackson Katz, in a 2013 Ted Talk, points out how our culture frames these issues to focus on the woman. A statement describing the action that "John beats Mary", becomes the passive statement "Mary is a battered woman", and John's behavior is not part of the discussion. This passive voice gets applied to general statistics. How many women were raped last year, never how many men raped women? How many girls are harassed, rather than how many boys harass girls? These things "happen" to women. Men aren't mentioned, and the dominant culture accepts the situation.
Since it isn't an issue, men have no need to examine assumptions or change behavior, and are therefore mostly unaware of what is going on. This is not the case for women. Dr. Katz uses the following exercise to illuminate the disparity. He asks the men in the audience what they do on a daily basis to prevent being sexually assaulted. The general response is dead silence or nervous laughter, as most never think about the subject.
When he asks the women the same question, they immediately share a multitude of specific daily practices: hold keys as a weapon, look in the back seat before entering the car, don't jog at night, always watch my drink even as it is poured, have an unlisted phone number, don't use parking garages, park in well-lit areas, don't get on an elevator with men, vary the route to work, don't have a first-floor apartment, go out in groups, own a firearm, and don't make eye contact with men on the street. The men in the audience are generally stunned.
This ubiquitous oppression of women stunts men as well, locking us into a rigid definition that a man must be powerful, dominant, rationally controlled, unemotional, and Viagra hard at all times. The qualities of compassion, empathy, and cooperation are belittled and projected onto women, when in reality all humans can have all these traits. Women have begun to claim their power and voice, challenging the status quo, which disturbs men. A man speaking out is considered an assertive leader, but a woman doing the same is called a bossy bitch with an attitude.
The male power structure is under assault, as it should be. Girls and women have been afraid all their lives as a survival strategy, so for boys to feel afraid is actually the start of the conversation. No one should have to carry this kind of fear in a healthy society. Real leaders, particularly men, need to stand up and say misogyny is not a family value. We must support women, not only to honor our mothers, sisters and daughters, but for the sake of our boys, to show them what it means to be a healthy man, allowed to feel compassion and cooperation.
Unfortunately, leadership of this kind is totally lacking at the national level, which seems to revel in the most regressive forms of sexual oppression. This is a global issue, and all power structures suffer the same problem of gender oppression. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the imminent threat of dire climate impact is directly related to our cultural misogyny. Toxic patriarchy's domination of women has also been inflicted on Mother Earth, leading to possible near-term human extinction. The effort to mature our gender relationships will also improve our relationship with the planet, allowing humanity a future.
To view Dr. Katz's Ted Talk, go to: https://www.ted.com/talks, and search for Jackson Katz.
Saturday, October 20, 2018
written 13 October 2018
published 20 October 2018
By the narrowest margin in 140 years, the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, creating a conservative majority: the conclusion of 40 years effort by the Federalist Society to establish corporate dominance. Since few voters support this oppression, they use extremist Catholic views on abortion as a moral rallying cry, ignoring the corruption caused by such constipated sexual attitudes.
Being a man, I naturally have an opinion. Abortion is the killing of a potential human: that is the point. "Killing" and "potential human" lead to further consideration. "Thou shall not kill" is one of the Ten Commandments, but humans can't live without killing something to eat. When Ram Dass was asked why it was okay to kill a carrot and not a cow, he said the carrot didn't scream as loud.
Even though we value humans more than other lifeforms, society kills people all the time. Sometimes using judicial process and the death penalty, sometimes a cop goes into the wrong apartment and shoots the owner by mistake. In some states, if a person feels threatened, the law allows them to kill in "self-defense". The lucrative, taxpayer supported, American weapons industry, the largest in the world, creates products designed to kill people. Exported to the rest of the planet, people, even children, are killed indiscriminately. The justification for these killings is rarely discussed, and are sometimes only financial.
The youngest premature baby to survive was five months in the womb. Until then, the mother is essential for survival, and therefore has a unique stake in the process, independent of any human law. At puberty, a woman has about 300,000 eggs, of which only 0.1% may actually ovulate, and a man will produce as many as one billion sperm in one ejaculation. Most of these potential humans are destined to die unfulfilled. Fertilization is not achieved by the first sperm to arrive. The egg is involved in selecting which sperm is accepted, because life is pro-choice. Once fertilized, less than 50% come to term.
Consequently, I consider a fetus a "potential human". Christian zealots attribute personhood to the single cell at the moment of conception, with rights separate from the mother. Following that reasoning, any assault on the developing fetus must be prosecuted. Any company manufacturing and distributing teratogenic (fetus harming) chemicals in the air, food, or water, should be tried for assault and possibly murder. Anyone causing undue stress to the fetus, including poor lifestyle choices by the mother, should be tried for assault. This would create a large, intrusive, and expensive social program.
Our culture expects that a pregnant woman is responsible for safely bringing a child to term and paying to support and raise it. If a woman decides she can't, or won't, take on that obligation, she should have the option to choose, as the quality of life of the child is at stake. If society decides to eliminate that choice, then the taxpayers are obliged to take responsibility for the child.
The self-proclaimed "pro-life" movement considers only the quantity of life, not the quality. This isn't pro-life, it's pro-birth, and they should properly be called "birthers". Birthers insist every child be born, without taking any responsibility for the quality of life that child will endure, a misogynistic urge to punish women for having sex.
Quality of life for mother and child is one of the main reasons a woman considers having an abortion, a personal moral issue between herself and her God. In my lifetime, the world population tripled. Choosing smaller families increases the quality of life for the individual family and helps the entire planet. Educating women improves the quality of life for the whole society, so women need to be able to defer childbirth, and plan for parenthood.
A healthy society would insure that every child be wanted and loved. Birth control is superior to abortion as a method to achieve this, but the same birthers who are opposed to legal abortion also fight against affordable access to birth control and prenatal care. They prefer unplanned parenthood, treating pregnancy as a punishment. Ironically, the Federalist Society judges who self-righteously destroy quality of life for real humans, religiously defend the legality of fake corporate personhood.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
written 6 October 2018
published 13 October 2018
The second myth-perception discussed in "Spontaneous Evolution", by Lipton and Bhaerman, is "survival of the fittest".
Unlike religious dogma, scientific dogma changes as new experiments and observations bring greater understanding, but cultural limits and individual egos, slow that process. There is a joke that the eminence of a scientist is measured by how long they hold up progress in their field.
Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species" in 1859, a theory of biological evolution through slow, random mutation and natural selection. This became known as "survival of the fittest". Charles Lyell, a distinguished geologist of the time, whose book "Principles of Geology" established the entire field, was an influential supporter of Darwin. "Uniformitarianism" was one of Lyell's assumptions, positing that all geologic changes are gradual: tomorrow will be very much like yesterday. Influenced by the prestige of the older scientist, Darwin included this linear assumption in his theory of biological evolution, assuming slow, gradual changes.
Alfred Russel Wallace was another scientist studying biological evolution at the same time as Darwin. The two shared ideas and information, but Wallace's theory differed slightly. First, he didn't insist that changes were entirely random, but suggested they were guided by an intention toward survival. Second, while Darwin focused on the survival of the fittest, Wallace focused on the failure of the least fit.
Imagine a herd of gazelles running from a cheetah. While the fastest one does survive, so do most of the rest. Wallace pointed out that it is the slowest that gets eaten. Instead of looking at just the quality of the best, Wallace looked at the qualities and strengths of the entire herd. In Darwin's world, we struggle to become the "best", while in Wallace's world, we cooperate to improve the entire species.
Darwin is well known, but most people have never heard of Wallace. Darwin was upper-class with rich supporters, as science was a rich man's game at the time. Wallace was lower class with no important advocates. "The Origin of Species" was rushed into print after decades of procrastination, just before Wallace could fund publication of his own research, thus insuring Darwin's place in history.
The subtitle of Darwin's book was "The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life". Capitalists of the time embraced this idea to justify their belief the rich should rule, and Darwin's "survival of the fittest" was recast as "survival of the strongest", in eternal lethal competition. Herbert Springer created the concept of social Darwinism, emphasizing the harsher implications of Darwin's theory, and encouraged the notion the elite must purifying the race through purge of inferiors. The extreme of this became the social program of Nazi Germany.
As time moved on, biologists learned that "survival of the fittest" was more complicated than just running the fastest. "Fittest" became understood as the best relationship with the larger environment, where each species has a niche, within which they thrive. Rather than fight within themselves, they adapt and evolve, sometimes abruptly, to modify and better fit their particular environment, thus surviving the changes of life. At first, the fittest was seen as the species that captured the most energy and resources from the environment, relative to other species. That turns out to describe an immature ecosystem, or a very young species. We now know that in a mature, or climax ecosystem, those species that cooperate with the most other species to gather and share energy and resources survive the best. Cooperation is a sign of maturity and superior "fittingness" within the larger environment.
These two visions, one of lethal competition, and the other of shared cooperation, are now playing out within humanity. Trump's narrow vision of America First, and his withdrawal and disdain for global organizations, plays well with his base, but is bankrupt economically, sociologically, and environmentally. The non-dual perspective recognizes the world is massively connected, and only cooperation will have a chance of addressing the global issues confronting us today. We are now experiencing an evolutionary challenge to evolve, similar to the jump from competitive one celled to cooperative multi-celled organisms. As Lipton and Bhaerman conclude, we are being called to mature from humans to humanity.