Sunday, September 19, 2021

Spirituality And Religion

                                                                                                            written 12 Sep 2021

                                                                                                        published 19 Sep 2021



            Spirituality can be understood as an individual's quest for the experience of our divine birthright and religion can be understood as an organization that grows up around a particular spiritual orientation.

            In unity perspective, everything expresses from the same interconnected whole, which is aware, potent, and wise.  The foundation of evil is any denial of this unity.  Once some portion of unity is defined as "other", all forms of violence can enter.  That is why variations of the Golden Rule are so globally universal, directing us to love the other as a way of honoring the divine unity.  

            As humans, our waking awareness of self generates a tendency toward division, which distracts from the experience of our deeper unity.  Yet the yearning is always there, because it is from the unity level that personal meaning and context arise.  The history of human civilization can be viewed as an evolution of spiritual experience.

            Despite whatever limitations our karma, culture, and family overlay on us, we are always expressions of the divine, with constant opportunity to explore that connection.  This is an inherently personal journey.  Since each person is unique, their exploration will be unique as well.  However, we have unity in common, and can benefit by sharing our experiences, helping each other as we struggle.  Everyone has something valid to contribute, despite different levels of experience.  In this way a spiritual community forms for mutual growth.

            Religions arise when the human tendency toward division and structure is overlaid on a spiritual community.  The religious organization can intrude on the personal experience of the divine, inserting interpretation and judgement.  A fundamentally personal experience becomes codified and regulated, with structure imposed "for the spiritual good of the community".  Sharing of spiritual experience becomes a top-down conversation.

            Over time, such organizations can accumulate secular wealth, political power, and social dominance, attracting leaders desiring personal power and wealth out of balance with the rest of the community.  In extreme cases, a religion will sacrifice its members to preserve the business of the religion.  It takes inspired intention to avoid such excesses, but there are successful examples in the larger world, such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Unity Churches.

            The Catholic Church is the oldest religious organization in the western world.  Without casting aspersions on their faithful parishioners, it began as a spiritual community of political outcasts, but became the official religion of the Roman Empire over 1600 years ago.  Despite an Old Testament commandment not to kill, and New Testament direction to love one another, the Church waged Holy war against Islam and the Eastern Orthodox branch, instituted the Inquisition against heretics, directed explorers to "convert or kill" heathens around the world, and began killing other Christians after the Protestant Reformation.  More recently, the Church killed residents at Indian boarding schools, just now coming to light.  

            Whatever the spiritual rational behind these actions, accumulation of wealth, property, and power were a consequence.  The Church exercises political power to this day, currently distorting the US Supreme Court, prioritizing the business of the Church over the spirituality at its core.  The ongoing cover up of the persistent pedophile priest problem prioritizes protection of the corporate brand over practitioner's welfare.  

            But to be fair, the Catholic Church is not the only example of a contrast between a religion and its spiritual roots of unity love.  Protestant intolerance in Europe drove much of the early settlement in the New World.  The Methodist Church is currently breaking apart over gays, and the Baptist Church is coming apart over women.  In New Mexico, evangelicals hold rallies with armed gunmen shouting "death to Democrats".  

            Islam, which also reveres the teachings in the Bible, has been in lethal internal conflict between branches of the Prophet Muhammad's family ever since his death 1400 years ago, creating the Shite/Sunni split.  The Muslim/Hindu conflict tore apart the Indian subcontinent last century, and Buddhist fundamentalists slaughtered Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar a few years ago.

            A 2020 poll showed less than half of Americans now associate with any organized religion, but a strong majority are spiritual.  Since religions tend to accentuate divisions, and the core of spirituality is unity, I consider this a hopeful trend.  When you look around, all our dysfunctions come from believing the illusion of separation within a profoundly unified reality.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Smell That Change In The Air

                                                                                                              written 5 Sep 2021

                                                                                                       published 12 Sep 2021


            Uniformitarianism expects tomorrow will be much like yesterday, assuming a linear, slowly changing world, where small movements produce small outcomes.  Because it is easy to understand and makes future planning simple, it is seductive.  However, such planning has little bearing on complex non-linear systems, where small movements can create abrupt outcomes.  Climate is a massive, non-linear, complex system, currently experiencing rapid global changes, demanding more nuanced planning.    

            One example of this is how floods are classified.  Historical and geologic records are used to determine how often an area has been inundated, then flood zones are designated by the probability of repeat flooding.  A 100-year flood zone has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year, assuming climactic forces are stable over time.

            In 1992, a friend bought a vineyard in Minnesota which had just experienced a 500-year flood.  Over the next 14 years, they had two 100-year floods, and just after she sold it, they had a 1000-year flood.  In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought a 500-year flood to the Houston area, which had been preceded by 500-year floods on Memorial Day in both 2015 and 2016.  Climate is clearly no longer stable.

            In the 20,000 years between the last ice age and the beginning of fossil fuel usage, atmospheric carbon increased 55 percent.  In the 200 years since then, humanity has added another 50 percent, 13 percent in the last 20 years.  This increase is so rapid that the Earth's temperature has yet to reflect the full extent of the impact.  Since warmer air holds more moisture, the current 1°C warming supports a 7 percent increase in atmospheric water vapor.  Consequently, the frequency and intensity of extreme flooding events is increasing.  

            NOAA reported in 2018, that from 2010 to 2017 the US experienced 25 separate 500-year flooding events, nationwide.  Last month the national Weather Service reported 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County, Tennessee, in less than 24 hours, shattering the state record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches.

            Two days before hurricane Ida made US landfall, it was a category 2, but then it traveled over unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.  By the time it destroyed the Gulf Coast it had grown to category 4, with wind speeds of 150 mph, and a diameter of 400 miles.  A few days later, the remains of Ida dumped 6"-10" in the New Jersey and New York area.  Central Park in Manhattan recorded 3" of rain in one hour, drenching streets and flooding subways.  

            While the Midwest and the East are getting flooded, the West is experiencing drought and fires.  In the last five years, California has experienced 6 of the 20 deadliest fires (by people killed), 10 of the 20 largest fires (by area burned), and 13 of the 20 most destructive fires (by structures destroyed), since the State began keeping records.           Here in Ukiah, we have been fortunate this summer, so far.  The fires are far enough from us that we aren't under direct threat, and the air quality is only moderate, as opposed to the hazardous air of last year.  Yet we aren't escaping the impact.   

            Water shortage on the coast has stunted essential local tourism, already affected by the ongoing pandemic.  Overall tourism in the State is affected by air quality and roads closures due to fires, and all the National Parks are closed.  At least two more California towns have been burned to the ground (Greenville and Grizzly Flats), and South Lake Tahoe is being threatened as I write this, further depressing summer travel.

            Real estate transactions are finding more fire insurance problems, even for coastal sales.  The wine industry is dealing with smoke taint contamination, described as "tasting like a used ash tray", which degrades the value of the wine.  The heavy smoke last year cut the value of the crop by 2/3. 

            We are in a new, rapidly changing climate reality, and we ignore that at the risk to our life and our economy.  However, some people are still planning as if tomorrow will be like it used to be.  The Ukiah Planning Commission recently voted 4-1 to approve residential development in the Western Hills based on "historic patterns of development". The longer we deny reality, the shorter the odds of avoiding catastrophe.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

A Worthwhile Effort, part 4

                                                                                                           written 29 Aug 2021

                                                                                                          published 5 Sep 2021



            The climate crisis is already here and growing.  To avoid economic collapse within a few decades, we must begin with a 50% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.  This is the fourth part of a description of what that might look like in Mendocino county.  In addition to installing distributed renewable energy production and storage, and beginning the shift to electric vehicle (EV) transportation, there are two other important elements required to actually reduce emissions: a green hydrogen economy and a trained labor force.

            Batteries are adequate for storing energy on a daily basis, and EV's work for most short distance transportation needs.  But saving summer sun for winter use, long distance transportation, commercial heating, and heavy industry all require another form of energy storage.  The emerging candidate is green hydrogen, which uses non-carbon energy sources to split water.  The released hydrogen can then be stored as compressed gas, cooled to a liquid, combined as a chemical hydride, or converted to a Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carrier (LOHC), such as ammonia (NH3).  Each method has an energy and infrastructure cost, but all provide shippable long term energy storage.  Quick refueling times make hydrogen attractive for long distance road transportation and industries needing around the clock operations, without EV charging downtime.  Hydrogen can also power the shipping, railroad, and airline industries.  

            The transformation has already begun.  Around the world, trillions are being committed to infrastructure construction.  UPS, FEDEX, and Amazon warehouses are investigating moving to hydrogen, attracted by quick refueling times.  Ten automotive corporations are currently developing hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles, including Toyota, GM, BMW, Daimler, Mazda, and Hyundai.  A hydrogen powered ferry has begun operating in the Puget Sound.  A residential backup power system using hydrogen storage is now on the market, in competition with the Tesla Powerwall battery.  Demonstration projects using hydrogen for residential heating are ongoing in Scotland, Japan, and Sweden.  The heavy industries of cement and steel can't operate on electric heat, but hydrogen will work, and Sweden has just shipped the first batch of steel produced by hydrogen.  Several bus lines now have arrays to produce their power, which run hydrogen electrolysers supplying fuel cell busses. 

            A possible Ukiah hydrogen economy could start with MTA as a first customer.  Hydrogen would be produced using excess array production in the summer and lower cost overnight grid power.  Once hydrogen is available, the MTA bus fleet could begin transitioning to fuel cell busses.  In addition, having hydrogen available along the 101 corridor would aid the expansion of all types of fuel cell powered transportation.  A local fuel supplier could begin retail residential deliveries as homes begin shifting away from propane.  Local businesses that have commercial heating needs could install arrays and electrolysers at their locations.

            The other required element is a large trained labor force.  If we are to succeed, this will be a war time like mobilization.  To increase annual renewable installations by a factor of four, build an entire hydrogen economy, and convert every home and business away from carbon-based power will require a pool of skilled labor far beyond what exists today.  Mendocino College, in combination with the local high schools and all the various local contractors, should develop a training program to accomplish this worthwhile effort.  Shifting the country away from fossil fuels will take decades, so we are talking about creating long term employment in meaningful work: creating a habitable planet for our grandchildren.  This is the kind of commitment that allowed cathedrals to be built over centuries, giving meaning to the lives of the people doing the work. 

            Such a massive infrastructure shift requires significant and prolonged investments.  But doing nothing risks complete economic collapse, with the added possibility of human extinction.  There are people who still doubt this, and require certainty before they act.  However, certainty is an illusion, and making large social change is slow.  Waiting for certainty increases our risk of failure.

            One of the biggest barriers to accomplishing this is the investments of the fossil fuel industry.  Given how they have convinced people to invest in the bankrupt fracking industry, we see that only compete economic collapse, like Enron, will get their attention, like an addict in denial hitting low-low.  But the entire planet is at risk to their addiction and we really can't wait.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Worthwhile Effort, part 3

                                                                                                           written 22 Aug 2021

                                                                                                       published 29 Aug 2021


            In "A Worthwhile Effort, part 2", I estimated that a 50% reduction in carbon emissions within Mendocino County requires increasing renewable production about 450 megawatts (MW) by 2030, averaging 60MW per year.  Locating this additional production within the county would avoid expensive grid upgrades to transport the expanded load, and increase local power resiliency.  The latest IPCC report suggests decreasing grid reliability as the climate emergency grows.  Fires this summer have already caused wide spread Public Safety Power Shutdowns across northern California, although most of Mendocino County has been unaffected so far.

            Grid scale arrays take 2-3 acres per megawatt, so we need about 150 acres each year.  Experience shows that grazing and many crops thrive in the shade of arrays, so some agricultural land can serve dual purposes.  Within urban areas with little open land, arrays have been placed on closed landfills, floated on sewer plant and water reclamation ponds, placed on roof tops, and on canopies over parking areas.  The Ukiah Unified School District recently put canopy arrays on parking lots at three of their sites outside the City.  Within Ukiah City limits there are more than 75 acres of parking lots and 25 acres of large roof tops.  The 37 acres of sewer percolation ponds must be exempted as an important waterfowl flyway resource, but the 25 acres of water reclamation ponds should be considered.  Ukiah is in the process of annexing 640 acres of land in the western hills, some of which might have solar potential.  

            All Ukiah City, and Mendocino County, land and facilities should be inventoried for potential solar installation, supporting not only normal operations, but with an eye toward emergency power preparedness.  For example, the Mendocino County complex at Low Gap Road, with about 8 acres of roof top and parking lots, has several critical functions (administration, sheriff, motor pool, jail, and juvenal detention) which would make this a good candidate for an emergency micro-grid.   

            Increasing distributed storage is also important.  Every MW of array should have about 4 megawatt hours (MWhr) of storage, requiring adding 240 MWhr a year for the next 8 years.  This requires about 4 acres per year, since a 1MWhr battery fits in a single 40' container.  Storage should be located at every array to smooth out the load on the grid.  In addition, storage should be installed at every substation within the county, allowing power to be prepositioned, avoiding grid congestion during periods of high demand, increasing grid efficiency and power resiliency for the local distribution systems serviced by that substation.  The best design would also have a large array near each substation, further increasing local power resilience.

            Since the power in Mendocino county is already mostly carbon free, adding more renewable power production is only a first step toward real emission reductions, because it is the heating and transportation portion of our emissions that requires the most extensive transformation.  

            In the last few years, the global automotive industry has begun a massive retooling to produce electric vehicles (EVs), with ranges increasing and prices dropping.  Many automotive companies have announced an end to internal combustion production in the near future, and financial institutions are divesting from further fossil fuel development projects.  However, the charging infrastructure needs rapid expansion for EVs to become a significant portion of our transportation economy. 

            Even though charging times are getting shorter, long-distance driving is still difficult.  But most driver's needs can be met by charging overnight at home, which should be promoted.  Locating multiple EV charging stations at City and County motor pool locations would power expanded County and City EV fleets, in addition to offering multiple stations for staff and daily customers.  All the school bus fleets should be electric, and charged overnight at their central bus barns.   

            Given our partisan polarities, this massive transformation may seem foolishly naive.  Some believe that it is already too late, or that Earth would be better with no humans.  However, I believe humanity is more than we have so far manifested: that we can transcend the Us/Them illusion, and nurture all life on Earth.  But we are now at the "do or die" phase for this species: the middle ground is gone.  Without immediate massive effort, we have little chance of having a functioning economy by the end of a 30-year mortgage.  



Sunday, August 22, 2021

Vote NO On Recall

                                                                                                           written 16 Aug 2021

                                                                                                       published 22 Aug 2021



            For decades, Republicans have been promoting the idea that government is always the problem, and private enterprise will save us all.  To drive the point home, whenever Republicans have control, they govern for the benefit of corporations and the very wealthy, and refuse to help anyone else: defunding social systems and trying to privatize them.  

            Public health is one of the most critical functions of government, and poorly suited to private profit.  The recent Covid pandemic has brought this reality front and center.  To protect people from infectious disease, everyone needs to be treated, without regard to income, because being surrounded by sick people is not healthy for a robust economy.  But it is impossible to make a profit from poor people.  The US has such a dysfunctional health care system because it is provided mostly through the profit driven insurance model. 

            Trump denied the reality of Covid, and, in typical Republican fashion, refused to mobilize the national government for a response.  We saw Republican governors suggesting that people should be willing to sacrifice their grandparents to keep the economy going.  Now that the vaccine has become widespread, the Republican mantra has shifted: people should be willing to sacrifice their children to keep the economy going.  While it is somewhat traditional for the elders to give way for the future, it is culturally suicidal to sacrifice the children.  But that is what passes for Republican leadership these days.

            Another fundamental role for government is protecting the commons.  This includes maintaining quality of our air, food, and water, by regulating the excessive greed baked into the corporate structure.  Republicans brand such regulation as "job killers": prioritizing exclusive profits over general quality of life.  These days the most extreme issue of this nature is the growing climate emergency, a consequence of accumulated pollution from fossil fuel combustion, another reality that Republicans deny.

            The most recent IPCC report stated the climate we grew up with is effectively gone forever.  The extremes in weather of the last few years are the new normal, with increasing economic costs.  But without concerted human effort, even these disasters will rapidly become the "good old days".  We must radically reduce emissions to have a chance for a functional economy in the near term, and a habitable planet for our children in the long term.  This will require inspired leadership at every level of government.

            So of course, Republicans are trying to recall the governor of California.  Ballots mailed out starting August 16th., and everyone should have received one by now.  We Californians are fortunate to have this convenient voting option.  Republicans are doing their best to eliminate it within the states they control. 

            A recall in California can be launched with just 12% of the voting population.  The recall ballot has two parts: the first asks if Governor Newsom should be recalled, and the second is a vote for his replacement.  If a simple majority votes to recall, the replacement is the person receiving the most votes in the second part.  With 46 Republicans running, Newsom's replacement could take office with the support of less than 2% of the voters.  Only 24% of voters in California are registered Republican, so this recall format is the only way they can create minority rule.  

            Newsom is not a perfect person, or even a particularly consistent politician.  However, the Democratic party is more aligned with reality than anything the Republicans have supported for many decades.  And now is a time when we need leaders who can at least look at the real problems, giving us a chance to actually solve them, which is why it is very important that everyone vote in this election.

            I believe that most Californians are not insane, or deluded by the Cult of Trump, or the even more deranged QAnon psychosis.  I believe that most Californian voters care about the health of their family, and the health of the world we inhabit.  I believe that most voters have co-workers, friends, or family members who are of a different race or sexual preference.  I believe that most Californians are good people.  This Republican assault on our state governance can be easily squelched if we all vote NO on recall, and return our ballots.  While rank and file Republicans may not be insane, their leadership currently is.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

A Worthwhile Effort, part 2

                                                                                                             written 8 Aug 2021

                                                                                                       published 15 Aug 2021


            I recently suggested that listening to people who tell you to drink bleach, or avoid a vaccination, or pretend that climate change is a debatable matter, is suicidally foolish.  

            Last week another California town burned to the ground.  The wind shifted the smoke from the 6 biggest fires in the west, tinting our sunlight orange, adding that "campfire" aroma to the air.  Drought is radically impacting tourism on the Mendocino coast.  Parts of the Amazon Basin are emitting carbon rather than sequestering it: dying rather than growing.  The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, of which the Gulf Stream is a part, is driven by sinking, cold, salty water coming out of the Arctic, but is slowing alarmingly due to the massive freshwater infusion as Greenland melts.  The climate emergency is already here, and we have little time to change things, assuming that is even possible. The emerging goal is 50% emissions reduction by 2030, 100 months from now.

            On August 3rd, the Mendocino Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to allocate funds to help decarbonize county facilities, for which they should be congratulated.  However, the $2 million committed must be understood to be a token, a modest commitment, in the face of what is required.  The rest of this article begins an exploration of what it will take to achieve the 50% goal. 

            Electricity, transportation, and heating, the three largest portions of the energy sector, are roughly equal in size.  Ukiah, about 1/5 of the county population, consumes an average of 300 megawatt hours (MWhrs) of electricity every day.  We can guesstimate that the rest of the county, serviced mostly by Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), consumes about 1200MWhr/day.  SCP advertises their power is 93% non-carbon sourced, leaving 7% brown power, and Ukiah has 26% brown power in our production portfolio.  To make our county electricity completely emission free, we need another 165MWhr/day of renewable power.  

            Because our electricity sector is close to being emission free, accomplishing a 50% emissions reduction will require significant changes in the transportation and heating portions of our energy usage.  To power that shift, we will need another 1600MWhr/day of renewable energy, in addition to the above 165MWhr/day, for a project total of about 1800MWhr/day.  Furthermore, we will need an equal amount of storage to spread the power throughout the day.  While some of this new power production can be located out of the county, the current grid is already hitting limits carrying the load we now consume.  To avoid very expensive, and time consuming, grid upgrades, it will be advantageous to have most of the new power production located within Mendocino county.

           Assuming each watt of array produces an average of 4 watts per day, installation costs of $3/watt for the arrays, and storage costs of $0.50/Whr, the total comes to about $2B, or $250M per year for 8 years.

            That is a lot of money!  The good news is this level of investment does not have to come from within the county, just as we did not pay for the installation of the existing grid.  The financial world has begun to recognize that extreme weather events are economically devastating, and avoiding them is a prudent investment.  The beauty of renewable energy is the hardware is a fixed expense, while the energy is completely free, making renewables a good, solid, long term investment. 

            America currently pays $1T per year for fossil fuels, and our share in Mendocino county is about $250M per year, which will be reduced by 50% over the 8 years.  In addition, the estimated total fiscal wealth of America is at least $250T, with the Mendocino county share coming to about $60B.  That is what is at risk financially, let alone the value we place on our people and all the other living beings with whom we share this lovely planet. 

            What is missing is the social and political will to make this fundamental change in our economy.  The people who are making good profit off the existing structure have tried to stall this change.  But the change is inevitable, because fossil fuels are finite, and the disruption of the ecosystem has now reached a tipping point in public awareness.  We have a simple choice: make the effort to change, or watch our entire society collapse under increasing climate disruption.



Sunday, August 8, 2021

A Worthwhile Effort, part 1

                                                                                                             written 1 Aug 2021

                                                                                                         published 8 Aug 2021


            The Republican party has abandoned all pretext of actual governance, focusing instead on denying reality and vigorously pushing increasingly absurd lies.  For the last few months, they denied Trump lost, pushing the lie about voter fraud to justify destroying democracy with sweeping voter suppression laws.  For more than a year they denied the reality of Covid, lying that it is a hoax and that vaccination is a fascist ploy, resulting in a new surge that is preferentially sickening and killing their own unvaccinated supporters.  For decades they denied climate change, lying that it is a hoax promulgated by greedy scientist for financial gain, delaying action to avoid the increasingly apparent climate crisis making weekly headlines around the world.

            But reality doesn't care what we believe.  Trump did lose.  Covid is real and surging with a significantly more infectious variant.  Climate change is already here, costing the US almost half a trillion dollars last year alone.  The core of insanity is being in conflict with reality.  The Republican leadership has chosen to go insane, and is willing to destroy their supporters, our country, and the entire planet, to maintain their illusion of power. 

            However, a majority of American aren't willing to sacrifice themselves and their families for such narrow Republican goals.  Covid vaccination rates in red areas are slowly increasing as the Delta variant overwhelms hospitals once again.  Recent polls show that climate change is now the second highest public concern, behind affordable health care.  Even the financial world has realized that extreme weather, let alone a dead planet, is bad for business, and begun to address the climate emergency: changing rules of corporate governance and making massive investments in renewable energy.

            Unfortunately, climate scientists have pulled their punches for years.  Because of the complexity of the problem, unrelenting political pressures from toxic climate deniers, and the need to issue only consensus reports, all the estimates of what will happen, and when, have been very cautious, trying not to scare the public or feed the denial trolls.  The climate is changing faster than the worst-case scenarios, with events happening today that weren't projected to occur for decades yet.  Consequently, to be effective at this late date, real climate response will have to be massive and rapid: a 50% reduction in carbon emissions within 100 months, with extensive carbon sequestration and complete decarbonization of the global economy, as soon as possible.  This may seem like a foolishly ambitious goal, but the alternative is years of accelerating economic misery and increasing infrastructure destruction, leading inevitably to total economic collapse.   

            Completely independent of the growing climate crisis, the remaining fossil fuel resources will be exhausted in four or five decades at current consumption rates, necessitating a complete change to our energy economy.  There is dark debate as to which will take out the economy first, resource depletion or toasting the planet.  

            Massive mobilization occurred in response to World War 2 and the Covid epidemic, as a result of public will, and political leadership.  The good news in all this is that we have technological alternatives which did not exist until relatively recently.  Instead of burning finite, polluting, stored energy, we can begin to live on the abundant energy flux from the sun.

            There are valid reasons to despair this can come to pass, as the solution will require an unprecedented global effort on a planet rife with greed and nationalistic competition.  We can't support our current level of wasteful energy usage, so energy efficiency and local resilience will be necessary parts of the project.  This must benefit everyone on the planet, including all the other life forms, so our patterns of exclusive gain must evolve.  We have been sold the bill of goods that "stuff" will make us free and happy, yet it has never worked, and we have depleted the world attempting to fill a spiritual void with material things.  Quality of life is not the same thing as quantity of things.

            The climate crisis is both a challenge and an opportunity for humanity to grow up and really manifest "peace on Earth".  Even if we fail in our attempt to make this energy transition, the goal is worth the effort, providing the possibility of full employment in meaningful work, creating the possibility of a viable future for our great grandchildren.



Sunday, August 1, 2021

Wetiko: A Mind Virus

                                                                                                           written 25 July 2021

                                                                                                        published 1 Aug 2021


            Every disaster we are confronting results from an error of perspective: believing the illusion of separation within the unity of reality.  

            I recently encountered the concept of "Wetiko", from "Columbus and Other Cannibals", by Jack D. Forbes.  “For several thousands of years human beings have suffered from a plague.  The Algonquin and other Indigenous First Nations identified the mental illness of the white man, upon his arrival to their native homelands, as “Wetiko,” literally translating as cannibalism: the consuming of another’s life for one’s own private purpose or profit.  Brutality knows no boundaries.  Greed knows no limits.  Perversion knows no borders.  This is the disease of the consuming of other creatures’ lives and possessions.  This disease is the greatest epidemic sickness known to man” Forbes concludes.

            Buddhist Paul Levy writes: "Wetiko is a virus of the mind that cultivates and feeds on fear and separation.  A psycho-spiritual illness, it is a psychosis, a sickness of the spirit.  It is a form of mind-blindness that renders us blind to our blindness (i.e., we don’t realize we are blind, but fancy ourselves as clear-seeing).  Becoming aware of wetiko simultaneously dispels its power over us while empowering ourselves.  This is why healing the “cancer of mind blindness", and seeing wetiko, is of such importance."

            "Wetiko is at the very root of every crisis we face: climate change, the threat of nuclear war, social injustice, political malfeasance, financial corruption, endless war etc.  Called by many different names throughout history, the spirit of wetiko renders every other issue secondary, for wetiko is the over-arching umbrella that contains, subsumes, informs and underlies every form of self-and-other destruction that our species is acting out, seemingly uncontrollably, in our world today on every scale.  The less wetiko is recognized, however, the more seemingly powerful, and dangerous it becomes."

            This is what wetiko looks like in America.  

            Jeff Bezos, worth more than $200B, spent millions successfully preventing his employees from unionizing for a living wage, but paid $100M for his recent 11-minute space jaunt.  

            The Supreme Court strengthened rules allowing zombie corporations to buy elections, while making it harder for real people to vote. 

            A majority of Americans want affordable single payer health care, like every other advanced nation, but Republican leadership zealously opposes this, protecting the profits of the health insurance industry. 

            It is another record hot summer.  Massive water shortage threatens the western states. Smoke for western fires darkens the skies along the east coast.  The northeast cleans up from devastating floods.  Climate change is now the second highest concern with the public.  But Republicans in the Senate held firm to remove every dime proposed to mitigate climate change.  

            Covid cases have increased by a factor of five in the last month, entirely within the unvaccinated population, who's refusal puts them and their family at greatest risk.  Fox News demands their employees carry a Fox Clear Pass (a vaccine passport) to be employed, even as it rails against mandatory vaccine passports as "Nazi intrusion". 

            Lack of empathy is a key component for cannibalism, but when a person starts eating their own body, it passing into true insanity.  We are all infected, but we can each start to heal by beginning to notice wetiko operating within ourselves.

            In spring 2020, peace researcher Martin Winiecki wrote: "Wetiko propagates the deep-seated illusion of seeing oneself desperately confined to the cage of a separated ego.  From this perspective of isolation, others appear either as competitors or as prey.  In a worldview in which fear is the basic condition, fight and exploitation seem rational, empathy ridiculous and sentimental.  We accept an economic system celebrating the biggest-possible devastation of the natural world as “success” due to our own infection with the virus.  Wetiko has numbed our hearts, blurring our ability to perceive both the sacredness and the pain of life, both outside and inside ourselves.  Innumerable beings are perishing due to this chronic inability to feel empathy."

            "But if we begin to see Wetiko playing out within ourselves, it loses its grip on us.  Compassion opens our eyes to understanding that which we previously could only fear, judge or hate.  Compassion and trust are the ultimate anti-viruses of Wetiko.  To awaken from Wetiko is to awaken to the interdependent web of Life, and experience the unambiguous truth that all life is sacred." 



Sunday, July 25, 2021

Visons Of A Warmer Earth

                                                                                                            written 18 July 2021

                                                                                                        published 25 July 2021


            Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an organization not given to hysteria, reported in 2017 that "business as usual" presented a 1:20 chance of raising Earth's temperature 5°C above preindustrial levels within thirty years, with odds increasing to 1:4 twenty years later.  This article examines descriptions of a hotter Earth. 


            From Green Facts: as Earth warms to 4°C


            Oceanic Impact:  Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration not only warms the oceans but increases the acidity of the water.  The combination of thermally induced bleaching events, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise threatens coral reefs, which provide coastal flood protection, as well as nursery grounds and habitat for many fish species.  Coral reefs are already starting to bleach and dissolve.

            Temperatures:  The largest warming will occur over land.  Summer months will be warmer than the most extreme heatwaves presently experienced.  Increases of more than 6°C (11°F) in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, tropical South America, central Africa, and all tropical islands in the Pacific, which would regularly experience heat waves of lethal magnitude and duration. 

            Water Issues:  With increasing heat, drought is projected to increase, exacerbating existing water scarcity in northern and eastern Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, southern Europe, large parts of North America and South America, and southern Australia.  While wetter conditions are projected for northern North America, northern Europe, and Siberia, and some monsoon regions, such as the Ganges and Nile.

            Biodiversity:  Large-scale loss of biodiversity is likely as rapid warming drives Earth´s ecosystems into a state unknown in human experience, with more frequent extreme weather events, such as forest loss due to droughts and wildfire, exacerbated by changes in land use and agricultural expansion, likely leading to increased mortality and species extinction, dramatically reducing ecosystem services on which society depends.

            Food Availability:  New research suggests a rising risk of crop yield reductions as the world rapidly warms. Large negative effects have been observed at high and extreme temperatures in several regions including India, Africa, the United States, and Australia, with reduction in both yields and nutrition.  


            From Big Think: commentary on a map showing a 4°C warmer world. 


            The following areas are uninhabitable due to floods, drought or extreme weather: the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., all of Mexico and Central America, the middle third of South America, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan, Indochina, and most of Indonesia.  The last inhabitants of the Southwest U.S. are migrating north.  The Colorado river is a mere trickle.  Deglaciation means Peru is dry and uninhabitable.  Bangladesh is largely abandoned, as is South India. 

            Most of the U.S., the rest of South America, almost all of Africa and the southern halves of Europe and Asia, become barren deserts.  

            Some land, where populations are currently concentrated, is lost to 2 meters of sea level rise.  In the U.S. for instance, counties directly on the shoreline constitute less than 10% of the total land area but account for 40% of the total population.  


            From Job One for Humanity:


            There are three degrees and definitions for climate destabilization.

            Catastrophic Climate Destabilization: associated with a measurement of carbon above 400ppm. We are currently at 420ppm, and already in the beginning stages of catastrophic climate destabilization.  Last year, global warming-caused storms, floods, seasonal disruption, wildfires, and droughts cost the US almost $450 billion.

            Irreversible Climate Destabilization: associated with a measurement of carbon above 425 ppm.  Earth will have moved away from the relatively stable temperatures experienced during the previous hundreds of thousands of years.  Earth will most likely not recover for hundreds or even thousands of years, costing the nations of the world hundreds of trillions of dollars.

            Extinction-Level Climate Destabilization: associated with atmospheric carbon greater than 600 ppm. The temperature range associated with extinction-level climate destabilization is 5°C and above, producing the eventual extinction of more than half of the species on earth and most, if not all, of humanity.  


            Take a moment.  Look around at this wonderful world.  We risk losing it all.  A half century of self-serving corporate disinformation and Republican intransigence means there are no graceful solutions left.  To avoid disaster, we must reduce carbon emissions by 50% in the next 100 months!  But this requires a degree of social cohesion sadly lacking these days.  Are we really too selfish to survive?  


Sunday, July 18, 2021

July Covid Update

                                                                                                            written 11 July 2021

                                                                                                        published 18 July 2021


            Any horror movie aficionado knows the story doesn't end when the "monster" is vanquished the first time.  It rises again, either a few minutes later, when everyone is relaxed and celebrating, or in the sequel to the movie, when everyone has completely forgotten about the danger. 

            The flu pandemic of 1917 started small and exploded across the world, helped by the massive movement of troops during World War I.  A second wave, more lethal than the first, hit the next year.  The virus had mutated, becoming more infectious.  Once a person was infected, the virus quickly spread throughout their body.  It was particularly lethal for healthy young people with strong immune systems.  Their body's immune response was so massive, it tore their body apart hunting the virus. 

            Over the last 18 months, the Covid virus has infected almost 200M people worldwide, which is probably an undercount.  As it spreads, it mutates, and hundreds of variations have been discovered.  Fortunately, most are minor changes, without much affect, but several are significant.  Right now, the "Delta" variant is of most concern.  It is twice as infectious as the original strain, makes people sicker sooner, and displaces other variants.  In England, Delta makes up more than 90 percent of new cases, and in the US, it is 50 percent of new cases, up from 20 percent just three weeks ago. 

            In order to infect a human cell, Covid must first attach to the cell surface, using specific proteins at the tips of spikes on the surface of the virus.  Delta has many more of these spikes.  Recent reporting indicates that an infected person has about 1,000 time more virus in their throat than with the original strain, increasing the viral load that can be shed into the environment and infect other people.

            Even with effective vaccines, and better therapeutic treatments for the infected, the last 18 months have revealed that in addition to those who die (still less than 2 percent of those infected), many survivors experience serious health effects from Covid.  "Long Covid", affecting about 1 in 4, describes damage that can last for months, even in a person who was never sick enough to be hospitalized.  The virus can reduce functioning in every part of the body.  Recent studies show measurable reduction in brain mass in about 1/2 the Covid cases studied.  This disease should be avoided if possible!

            In the US, the vaccination program initially focused on the elderly population, because they were dying in disproportionate numbers, but as vaccine availability increased, all adults were included.  Consequently, US case rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates have fallen dramatically in the last six months. 

            With millions of people vaccinated, the data shows that, so far, the various vaccines provide very good protection against all the variants, including Delta, reducing the chance of getting infected, and almost eliminating the need for hospitalization.  However, even though the US is one of the countries with the highest percentage vaccinated, 150M Americans have not had even one dose, which is a very large pool of vulnerable folks.  

            While the case numbers have declined, Covid still killed 1500 Americans last week.  As the Delta variant expands across the country, case rates have jumped 75 percent in the last two weeks, with the highest percentage of cases in the 18 to 36 year old population.  As cases increase, deaths will soon increase as well.  99 percent of the people dying are unvaccinated.  

            There are many reasons a person might not get vaccinated, and some are based on reasonable health concerns.  However, a graph of counties plotting vaccination percentages against the magnitude of Trump support shows the redder counties tend to have lower vaccination rates, no matter the overall state average.  

            Making public health a partisan issue should qualify for the Darwin Awards.  That is an annual award given to people who have done such profoundly stupid things that they die, removing themselves from the gene pool, thus strengthening the species.  With effective vaccines freely available, the unvaccinated are primarily putting themselves and their own families at risk.  For a political party to risk killing their own supporters as a test of loyalty is callous, and politically foolish, no matter the short-term PR gain.   

            Covid isn't over, it is just preparing for the blockbuster sequel this fall.



Sunday, July 11, 2021

Embracing Reality

                                                                                                            written 4 July 2021

                                                                                                      published 11 July 2021


             Embracing unity reality is hard!  It demands transcending the traditional limitations and stereotypes that have historically defined our culture and individual lives.  But, in the long run, trying to ignore it is futile, since it is the deeper reality.  Suffering is being at war with a fact.  

            In unity reality, everything arises from the same source, so if anything is exceptional, everything must be.  Consequently, the assertion of "white male Christian exceptionalism", a current tenant of the Republican party, is a foolish, self-destructive fantasy, attempting to justify exclusive gain of a few at the expense of the larger whole.  Such self-proclaimed religiosity is even contrary to the core teachings of Christ.  

            The propositions of "American exceptionalism", which denies our globally interdependent economy, and "human exceptionalism", which denies our interdependence with the biosphere, are similar long-standing fallacies of exclusive gain, now being tested by the inclusivity of the reality we all inhabit. 

            The collapsed 12-story apartment building in the Miami area is a perfect metaphor.  The fundamental design, which benefited a few at the expense of everything else, was flawed, then degraded further by self-serving corruption during construction, additionally compromised by short sighted, cost saving, lack of maintenance, culminating with an abrupt collapse and massive loss of life and value, due to unacknowledged changes in the underlying physical structure.  How many other buildings are in the same situation?  How secure do their occupants feel?  What will be the long-term impact on the Florida economy?

            The same week that building fell, temperatures in the Pacific northwest broke multiple records.  Portland, OR, was 35°F above their normal for this time of year.  The town of Lytton, BC, recorded a new high for Canada, 121°F, halfway to boiling, and then completely burned to the ground a couple of days later, as high winds drove lightning ignited fires through the narrow canyon.  

            In addition to increased fire risk, the heat wave rapidly thawed permafrost across the region, creating landslides, killing forests, accelerating soil erosion, choking rivers, causing flooding, and released more methane, which will further enhance warming.  Arctic researchers are concerned that much of the remaining multi-year ice, the last refuge for many Arctic animals, so thick it was expected to last into the next century, has been melting rapidly, to the point that regular ship traffic in the area is increasing.   

            The east coast is preparing for arrival of tropical storm Elsa, which formed unusually early this year.  Extreme flooding in the upper mid-west has disrupted farming.  At what point do these interrelated disasters affect the economy?  How many Lytton, BC, or Paradise, CA, disasters will it take for the insurance and real estate markets to be affected?

            The warning signs have been apparent for decades, and the alarms are ringing.  Yet, under lobbying by Exxon-Mobil and the Chamber of Commerce, putting profits over people, the climate change provisions were stripped out of the "bi-partisan" infrastructure bill.  A sting video with an Exxon lobbyist revealed which Senators were on the Exxon payroll to make sure the government does nothing about the climate, despite massive public support. 

            But the Republican party, with no policy beside remaining in power, is not committed to democracy.  In 2010, Republicans on the Supreme Court removed limitations on campaign contributions, allowing corporate dark money to explode.  In 2013, they removed protections against State voter suppression in the Voting Rights Act.  Last week, the Court, further strengthened the rights of corporations, which are legal fictions, to buy an election, while expanding State voter suppression of actual citizens, and made it harder to challenge the rules.  The party of exclusive gain believes this will allow their minority rule to endure a while longer.  

            However, if democracy is subverted, if corruption replaces the rule of law, if the economy collapses due to the changing climate, what exactly will they rule?  Their tactics are crude, and their lies supporting inaction are becoming more ludicrous and obvious every day.  The climate crisis is already here, and the quantity of people being affected is large, so public concern, especially among the young, is growing, demanding real action on voting rights to preserve our democracy, and on climate change to preserve a planet hospitable to humans.  

            I have faith in Americans, and believe we will embrace reality, and the real promise of democracy, which accepts everyone as valid.