Author Archives: DP

Of Icebergs and Lifeboats



One hundred and ten years ago, at twenty minutes before midnight in the North Atlantic, an unsinkable dream machine named Titanic struck an iceberg and sank within three hours, with over 1500 lives lost. The iceberg carried on as before, true to its own implacable nature.

Here at DP, we have long interpreted the story of the Titanic as an early warning for what happens when arrogant hubris obliterates our collective ability to anticipate or even comprehend the consequences of our limitless capacity for technological invention, a condition that Günther Anders called “inverted utopia.”

With regards to the climate emergency, some in well-insulated positions of geographic or economic privilege still quibble over whether we have struck the iceberg quite yet, though surely nobody with a basic grasp of the data fails to see the ice cubes raining down on the foredeck. Many in the global south are already suffering severe consequences, slow violence that will become ever more deadly in years to come.

At least on the Titanic, Captain Edward Smith tried to avert collision, though the physics of speed and mass intervened in favor of the berg. He surely felt a magnified degree of urgency given his knowledge that there were nowhere near enough lifeboats for passengers and crew, and that the crew had received scant training in how to abandon the magnificent vessel on her maiden voyage. Why bother to think about lifeboats when you are unsinkable?

Today, when we are not pretending that the iceberg is a mirage, we try to convince ourselves that the iceberg can be averted by our own unsinkable dream machine: Net Zero before 2030; Carbon Neutral before 2050; the Green New Deal; blah blah blah. Alas, there are those same naggingly inescapable problems of speed, mass and momentum. The good ship USS Mammon, she’s a hard hulk to steer, aye.

We are also burdened by that same nagging problem of lifeboats: not enough of them, with unequal access to those few that exist; little or no training on how to manage the panic and chaos of countless numbers of people attempting to secure a severely limited number of chances to survive; inadequate supplies of food, medicine and rudimentary survival gear on board the lifeboats; and a pronounced paucity of skilled leaders for emergency evacuation and forward navigation.

Titanic survivors were brought on board the Carpathia, whose passengers included a gentleman named James Fenwick. Mr. Fenwick somehow came into possession of a lifeboat pilot biscuit; in 2015, that inedible survival biscuit was sold at auction for 15,000 British pounds. Inverted Utopians prefer not to discern lessons from our hubristic disasters; so much more fun to sell the memorabilia for whatever price the market will bear.

The lessons, inevitably, will thereby become ever more severe.




A File of Shame

Now comes the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, a man not known for wild histrionics nor rhetorical excess, in an unvarnished statement that accompanied the release of the third and final section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:


Scant media coverage of this remarkable frank statement appears to suggest that the unfolding environmental catastrophe no longer merits public attention; old news, best left out of sight and out of mind. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has released yet another chorus of drill, drill, drill in the name of independence from Russian oil & gas.




Pavane In Time of War

In the early years of DP, we celebrated the first day of April with a bit of foolishness. Yet in recent years, it has become impossible to distinguish even the most outrageous satire from just another day in Crazyland.

Thus this week, as the violence in Ukraine deepens and spreads, we post in a different mode, bending our ears to a recent missive from the highly esteemed Boston Camerata:





100 Seconds to Midnight




To which we append this excerpt from a cogent essay by Joseph Cirincione in the journal Responsible Statecraft:






Hubris Unto Ruination

Now comes Oberlin professor emeritus David Orr, with timely excerpts from his contribution to a recently published book edited by Vandana Shiva, reminding us that human brutality is not limited to that violence we inflict upon each other. Thus, from the Annals of Hubris and Delusion:








In closing, the exceptionally peaceful and harmonious VOCES8, giving voice to Frank Ticheli’s Earth Song:



Amen, and alleluia!



Lend Us Your Ear

This week, we serve as relay for an important update from water protector Janet Alkire, Chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.




Breathe and Create

Now comes the lucid voice of Carol Becker, via yet another in a long series of exceptional interviews regarding the history of violence, as convened by Brad Evans at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Excerpts below, with images relayed from the website of the Art Institute of Chicago.









Finally, regarding the war, we are indebted to Pelin Uran for steering us to this extraordinary embodiment of the sublime, that shall carry us through another day:


Mariana Sadovska, Widow’s Song


Embers of Dead Empires

In response to violence inflicted by autocratic Russia upon its imperfect yet legitimate neighboring democracy of Ukraine, we yield to the distinguished voice of the Honorable Martin Kimani, UN Representative from the Republic of Kenya.

Every sentence vibrates with the sort of intelligence, diplomatic balance and wisdom sorely lacking over the past six months as wounds along the Russian & Ukrainian border have inflamed and festered.




And the glorious Boston Camerata makes the following offering, that we echo in thought and song:

As a fratricidal war begins in Eastern Europe, we return once again to the story of David and Absalom. In this stark, powerful setting by Boston’s William Billings (1746-1800) the immediate point of reference is America’s War of Independence. Both Billings’ music and the Biblical text, however, speak to the current dark moment. A special thought to those of us in our American musical community – and there are several – with family/ancestral roots in Ukraine and/or Russia.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           






An Alliance of Needs

Returning to our 2022 emphasis on listening carefully to those with experience in the design and skippering of lifeboats, we turn this week to a fascinating essay from  Isabelle Fremeaux and Jay Jordan, based on experiences inside the justly renowned “zone of defense” (ZAD) at Notre Flamme des Landes, rooted in “reviving the commons.”

Images are relayed from a ZAD blog, with captions added by DP.










Entropies Ever Tangling

A core theme across a decade of DP has been, simply put, that the old paradigm of extractive, predatory and human supremacist capitalism has reached its terminal stage, with a new post-“ism” paradigm struggling to be born.

This year, we intend to place special focus on the countless local initiatives — new paradigm midwives — that are exploring more viable ways of being for human communities, living in harmony with nature and the land, free from toxic politics and strangling ideology.

This week, we visit Wild Altar Farmstead; excerpts from a recent newsletter, below.



On their website (farmstead store highly recommended!), Wild Altar founders Taylor and Jordan write:

Wild Altar Farmstead is nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Big Levels Conservation Area. We value our forest edge location which offers dynamic interaction between the wild and the cultivated.

We desire to understand and care for our landscape while harvesting its bounty to share with our community. Wild Altar emphasizes responsible and resilient practices such as no-till gardening, woodland restoration, and water conservation. We are growing into a deeper connection with place, and we deeply acknowledge the work of the indigenous stewards of this landscape. Their practices of interconnectedness inspire, motivate, and humble us.

We imagine a world where food guides us into a mutual relationship with place and community. Wild Altar is a dream of togetherness. We are working to build a physical space that facilitates vulnerability and openness to reconnect our rural area and to incubate a renewed understanding of rural-urban reliance.

To learn more about our current projects, including opportunities to share in the labor of the land, please get in touch. We offer design consultation to reinvigorate your yard or garden into an abundant system. Contact us for more information.