Posts Tagged ‘overpopulation’

Carrying On

Monday, January 16th, 2017

And the dog walked, walked… site

And the dog walked, walked… painting by Nolan Winkler

“Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” William Stafford

We are feeling pampered and special because the power went back on after a two-day outage. We know there will probably be another outage when the next storm hits, but for now we’re on Easy Street. No more cooking on the woodstove. No more boiling water in the old kettle to wash dishes. No more writing by candlelight. Our computers work again. We can take showers. Luxury!

The first article to pop up on my computer when I ignited the machine after the outage was about Professor Guy McPherson who says, “There’s no point trying to fight climate change. We’ll all be dead in the next decade and there is nothing we can do to stop it.”

The second article was entitled “Why getting farmers to switch from tobacco crops is a struggle.”

Email brought an announcement from my niece, a yoga teacher, informing us that her Yoga and Art and Cooking retreat in Italy is sold out ten months in advance.

My sister called and told me of her summer plans to go camping in the environs of Mount Rainier. She is a biologist and knows well of the forces threatening the biosphere, but she carries on with her life as if we will all not be dead in the next decade. She catches her rainwater for watering her drought-resistant garden, walks to work most days, and looks forward to her children eventually producing a grandchild or two.

Speaking of grandchildren, since Marcia and I do not have children and grandchildren of our own, we enjoy availing ourselves of the offspring of our friends. For this holiday season we had several fun visits with Nick and Clare Bokulich and their nineteen-month-old son Vito. I was especially pleased to introduce Vito to the music of Ray Charles, Vito and I played some stirring blues on the piano, Vito ate many bananas and apples, and we had nothing but fun.

During the storm and accompanying power outage, a few large branches fell from our surrounding redwoods and narrowly missed the house. Then the pump in our well gave up the ghost, and despite the torrential downpour, the savants at Mendocino Coast Water Works rushed to our aid, removed the old pump and pipes, and installed a new and improved super duper pump and water transport system that will last for many years longer than Professor MacPherson says we have to live.

Marcia and I took advantage of not being connected to the outer world via computers to clean our offices and get a start on this year’s income tax. And I discovered the domain name of my web site Under the Table Books was about to expire. So I called the domain site people and spent a pleasant ten minutes talking to a nice young man who convinced me to re-up for another three years. He was pleased to find my piano tunes available for listening on YouTube and my novels downloadable to his Kindle.

Yes, our phones worked throughout the storm, though we had no electricity. We do not have smart phones or cell phones, and even if we did, there is no service for such here in the redwoods, but we do have good old land lines that for some reason almost never go down in these storms that routinely take out our electricity.

Hearing from friends about the latest sculpting of Big River Beach by high tides and a fantastic outflow of rainwater in the river, we trekked down to Big River to walk along the banks of the huge muddy torrent. Several dogs and their owners were out on the pristine sands, enjoying the sun and all that room to run. The formerly No Dogs Off Leash beach is now a prime destination for dog owners wishing to let their dogs off leash.

Fortunately, the dogs we encountered were all friendly or disinterested in humans, and one dog in particular, a magnificent roseate Malamute, ignited my dog-owning fantasies. But then I recalled the enormous dog I used to take care of in Berkeley when his owners were out of town, and how that delightful mutt ate more in a day than I did in a week, so I let my doggy fantasies go.

Home again, I got the fire going and found myself thinking about life in the context of everyone being dead within ten years—virtually all living things on earth extinguished by super heat and lack of oxygen; and I became immobile with grief.

When I was in my twenties and thirties and forties, I persistently lobbied my friends and politicians and the Sierra Club and local, state, and national government to take action to address the problems of overpopulation and our earth-destroying dependency on cars and gasoline. My proposals were received by nearly everyone in those days as the ravings of a nutcase, and I eventually stopped trying to convince anyone of anything. I came to realize that people, for the most part, believe what they want to believe, despite evidence to the contrary.

Now that my ravings, which were based on the work of many farseeing scientists, are shared by millions of people, and there is still little being done to address the processes that have brought us to this frightening phase of human and planetary life, I realize that whether Guy MacPherson is correct or not in saying we will all be dead in ten years, what is true is that Nature, not humans, will take the lead in saving the biosphere.

Perhaps some humans will survive the coming environmental crises, perhaps not. In the meantime, the sun is shining, the first plum blossoms have appeared in Mendocino, the ebullient teenagers swarm down from the high school to buy lunch at Harvest Market where gigantic pickup trucks crowd the parking lot and a hardworking fellow assiduously cleans the market windows.

Water

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

FLOW

Flow photo by Todd

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser April 2015)

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Sylvia Earle

As I was getting off his table today, my acupuncturist said, “Remember. Water is your friend. Be sure to drink lots today.”

Checking my email when I got home, someone had sent me a link to an article about Governor Brown announcing a mandatory reduction in water use by California residents and businesses. There was a little video with the article, so I watched Jerry speak to the people of California as if we are idiots, which, collectively, we are. Jerry was performing on a meadow in the Sierras where, for the first time in the seventy-five years they’ve been measuring snow on that meadow, there is no snow on April Fools Day. Zero white stuff that makes water when it melts.

Jerry bragged that his executive order will prohibit watering ornamental grass on public street medians, require new homes to use drip irrigation systems for landscaping, direct urban water agencies to establish new (higher) prices for water to maximize conservation, and require urban water and agricultural agencies to report more water usage information to the state (so the state can, like, think about those numbers and, you know, figure stuff out.)

He did not order ending water usage by oil extraction companies (fracking corporations) or impose limits on water usage by corporate farms, despite this being the worst drought in California in at least one hundred and twenty years. In other words, he imposed restrictions on people and towns and cities and businesses that combine to use about ten per cent of California’s water, yet he did nothing to reign in the profligate use of ninety per cent of the state’s water by corporate monsters, many of those monsters subsidized by our state and federal governments. Way to go Jerry!

Here is the speech I wish Jerry had made. “Well, as you can see by the absence of snow in this meadow, California is in dire straits when it comes to water. The Sierra snow pack is less than ten percent of normal, and we have no way of knowing when this drought will end, if ever. Most of our state’s precious water is being used for extracting oil we shouldn’t be extracting and for growing things like almonds and rice that should not be grown here in the absence of ample water. So as of today, I am declaring a seventy-five percent mandatory reduction of water used for fracking and growing almonds and rice and anything else that uses too much water. And that’s just the beginning.”

Maybe he’ll make that speech next year after another year of drought when the corporate monsters have entirely depleted the ancient aquifer under the Central Valley and there isn’t enough water for people to take thirty-second showers.

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” W.H. Auden

In the comment section below the article and video of Jerry Brown speaking to us as if we are idiots, one brave person made the suggestion that maybe there were too many people in California, and maybe that has something to do with the water problem. She pointed out that one in every nine Americans now lives in California. Wow, did that brave person ever get jumped on for suggesting such an un-American thing as limiting the population of a state, let alone a planet.

One person wrote, “The problem is not too many people. The problem is America spent so many trillions of dollars on war that we don’t have enough money left for building pipelines to bring water to California from Canada and the Mississippi.” Okay! There’s a solution for you. Get that to Jerry Brown. Forget the peripheral canal stealing most of northern California’s water for Los Angeles and the giant corporate farms, let’s just get the water from Canada and the Mississippi. How hard could that be?

“Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” Friedrich Nietzsche

In related news, the talented young actress Keira Knightley wants to know, “Where are the female stories? Where are they? Where are the female directors, where are the female writers? It’s imbalanced.”

How is this related to California’s water crisis? The way my mind works, the water crisis and the absence of women in positions of creative power in the entertainment industry are parts of the same larger crisis. Human society is out of balance with nature, and the impetus for that imbalance is a power imbalance between men and women. Feminist balderdash you say?

Maybe so, but if one assesses the movies made and released to large audiences in America over the last thirty years, you will find that the solution to almost any problem confronting a person or people in movies today, is to assemble muscle and weaponry, and if possible some super heroes, and perhaps a token kick-ass woman, and kick the shit out of the problem. Kill it. Complex, non-violent, cooperative, generous, caring solutions are so rarely modeled in our movies, one could almost use the word never.

Do I really think what we see in movies influences how we act in the rest of our lives? Without a doubt. Do I think our movies might have modeled ways of living and solving problems and relating to each other that would have resulted in a different approach to the state and national and global crises facing us today? Absolutely.

I also think we would have taken ameliorative action to combat global climate change, environmental pollution and degradation, nuclear power, overfishing, and the elephant in the room known as overpopulation, long ago if our movies and books and plays and music and education reflected a balance of male and female energy instead of what they reflect today and have reflected for most of my life—domination of the world and human society by men stuck in adolescent wet dreams, and when I say wet, I don’t mean water.

Zero Population Growth

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser October 2012)

“The chief cause for the impending collapse of the world—the cause sufficient in and by itself—is the enormous growth of the human population: the human flood. The worst enemy of life is too much life: the excess of human life.” Pentti Linkola

Decades ago I joined an organization called Zero Population Growth, a group founded by Paul Ehrlich dedicated to educating people and elected officials about the dire need to take political and educational action to combat overpopulation in America and around the world. I liked the name of the organization because it said clearly what we wanted to do: intentionally reduce the human birth rate so human population would begin to decline and the earth might be saved. However, some years ago during a time when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House, funding grew scarce for organizations espousing such radical ideas as limiting population growth, and in order to survive, Zero Population Growth changed its name to Population Connection.

Did the name change help? Apparently so, because the organization lives on and continues to do valuable work. The Reporter, the magazine of Population Connection, dedicates one issue per year to an extensive Congressional Report Card wherein the battle lines are clearly drawn and readers are shown a Congress very much under the sway of ignorant morons who routinely vote against any legislation to fund or enhance family planning or birth control both here and abroad. Ignorant morons doesn’t quite do these particular hominids justice. Evil malicious poopheads would be more accurate; and it is both fascinating and sad to see that the vast majority of these EMP’s are from the South and Midwest; which is not to say that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny and the rest of the country is enlightened, but to suggest that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny.

Say what I will about there being little difference between the Presidential candidates on most matters of importance, Population Connection sees a huge difference between the candidates regarding freedom of choice and access to family planning, safe and legal abortion, and birth control. As stated in the most recent issue of The Reporter:

“There’s really no such thing as a low-stakes election, but it’s clear that for family planning and women’s health advocates, this one is going to be especially pivotal.”

“Over the next four years we could see as many as three new Supreme Court appointments, which could decisively settle the direction of the court for the next twenty to thirty years.”

“As high as the stakes are for women and families in this country (USA), they’re even higher for the 222 million women in the developing world who have an urgent need for contraception. The current House of Representatives has already made numerous attempts to ban U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund and reinstate the Global Gag Rule.”

What is the Global Gag Rule? The Global Gag Rule, created by alpha evil malicious poopheads during the reign of Ronald Reagan, ordains that nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. government assistance cannot use that funding or funding from other sources to inform the public or educate their governments on the need to make safe abortion available, provide legal abortion services, or provide advice on where to get an abortion. Obama repealed the Global Gag Rule on January 23, 2009.

“A crowded society is a restrictive society; an overcrowded society becomes an authoritarian, repressive and murderous society.” Edward Abbey

Speaking of population, today is my birthday. I was born in San Francisco at 6:33 AM on October 17, 1949 at St. Luke’s Hospital. In that same year, my parents bought a steep hillside lot in Mill Valley and hired some out-of-work artists to build the little house where I spent the first four years of my life with my two older sisters, my parents, and a cat. The lot and house cost my parents seven thousand dollars, which they borrowed from my mother’s parents. My father commuted to San Francisco by bus and my mother walked with her little kids to and from the grocery store in the village. In those days, Mill Valley was not yet the domain of the super wealthy, but rather a haven for artists and those who wanted to live a rural life on the edge of civilization. Goodness me, how population growth has changed all that.

My parents were both born in California in 1922 when the entire population of southern California (everything from San Luis Obispo south, including Los Angeles and San Diego) was less than 150,000 people. Today there are roughly twenty-five million people in southern California. When I was a boy, the Santa Clara Valley, now known as Silicon Valley, was sparsely populated and given over entirely to farms and orchards, the rich topsoil there over fifty feet deep. Today there are several million people living in Silicon Valley and most of that miraculous topsoil is covered with pavement and buildings.

I was the third of four children and I am fairly certain that if my parents had been born in 1952, rather than 1922, and been the same people, they would have considered it their moral responsibility to give birth to no more than two children. I am very glad they had four children so that I and my siblings got to be alive and experience the miracles of life, but that does not make me any less a believer in the need for men and women, for the good of the world, to limit the number of children they have to two or less.

A front-page article in today’s news proclaims that Romney surged ahead of Obama in the latest national polls, with huge gains among women voters; and I thought to myself, That can’t possibly be true. How could even one woman in America vote for Romney, let alone a majority of women voters? And then I remembered that Romney is a Mormon, and that devout Mormons believe it is every Mormon’s duty to have as many children as he or she can because each new Mormon he or she creates helps him or her accrue credits toward winning a place in a sector of heaven closer to God than if he or she only creates a couple of Mormons or none at all. No wonder Romney wants to keep women ignorant and disenfranchised and vulnerable to stupid violent men—his policies precisely reflect his religious and moral beliefs.

But the big question is: why would any woman vote for a man and a political party dedicated to destroying the earth and systematically mistreating women? The only answer that makes any sense to me is that women who would vote for their oppressors are deeply confused and psychologically damaged. But just because that’s the only answer that makes any sense to me doesn’t necessarily make it the right answer.

Long ago, when I still thought I might one day beget a child or two, I dated a delightful woman I will call Tina. Smart, funny, thoughtful, sexy, and very much in love with me, Tina and I shared a fabulous few weeks of getting to know each other; and I found myself thinking Maybe Tina and I will get married and spend the rest of our lives together.

Then one night, in the afterglow of groovalicious lovemaking, Tina said, “So listen…I’m totally madly in love with you and want to marry you and hope you feel the same way about me, but I have to tell you I want at least five kids and I can’t invest any more time in you if you’re not up for that.”

“Five kids?” I said, hoping she was joking but fairly certain she wasn’t. “Why five kids?”

“I just have to. It’s what I was born to do and I’ve always known that. Have lots of babies and be a mom.”

“Right, but…how about having one or two children and adopting three or four?”

“No, they have to be ours.”

“But…why?”

“If you don’t know,” she said sadly, “I can’t tell you.”

That was the end of my relationship with Tina, though we stayed distant friends and every year at Christmas for many years she sent me a card containing a brief update on her life. When she was in her late twenties and fed up with being a swinging single in Manhattan, Tina met and married a wealthy fundamentalist Christian stockbroker, and thereafter her Christmas cards contained photographs of her growing family. The last photograph I received from Tina shows her eight children, ages eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, and four, having a snowball fight in front of an enormous mansion—a gang of healthy happy looking young people.

For my part, I did not beget any children, but have been lucky to be a helpful uncle and friend to several children who are now of an age to start having children of their own. They are all wonderful people and deeply concerned about the state of the world, and as far as I know, they are each consciously determined to have two children or less should they have any.