Tag Archives: Human Supremacism

Small Talk of Swallows

During times when the lethal addiction of human supremacism becomes ever more acute, we turn to the regrettably departed (2018) philosopher Mary Midgley with her response to the question, “What does it mean to be human?” Her title: On Not Needing To Be Omnipotent.

Images are from the studio of Olive Ayhens, with prophetic visions of New York City that date from the 1990s.

 

 

THE STREAMS RETURN (1997)

 

 

EDGE CITY (1997)

 

 

AESTHETICS OF POLLUTION (1996)

 

In closing, a poem by Ursula Le Guin within which we found this week’s title phrase:

 

 

With or without us, there will be the silence…

 

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An Exuberant Multiplicity

A rate of extinction estimated at “up to 100 times higher than the background rate” should provide adequate motivation to reconsider the deep ruts of human supremacism.

A DP correspondent steered us to an excellent online resource curated by the Center For Humans and Nature, including essays from a wide range of writers and thinkers invited in response to a series of key questions such as “What does it mean to be human?”

David Abram begins his response with a quote from Robinson Jeffers: “I have fallen in love outward.” Further excerpts below, with images from an Art & Extinction series by the Irish artist Diarmuid Delargy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a Postscript, Abram adds:

 

 

What ails us can also obliterate us; extinction events slowly but surely work themselves up the food chain to the alpha predators. In this progression, our connection to and dependence on the whole of life will become painfully evident.

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The Jeffers poem also spins these lines forth from the mind of Cassandra, o force of the earth rising:

Plant the earth with javelins? It made laws for all men, it dissolved like a cloud.
I have also stood watching a storm of wild swans
Rise from one river-mouth . . . O force of the earth rising,
O fallings of the earth: forever no rest, not forever
From the wave and the trough, from the stream and the slack,
from growth and decay: O vulture-
Pinioned, my spirit, one flight yet, last, longest, unguided,
Try into the gulf,
Over Greece, over Rome, you have space O my spirit for the years 

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Nothing Goes One Way

Slightly over a year ago, Ursula Le Guin returned her vibrational richness to the universe. Below, a transcript of remarks delivered as the keynote for a 2014 conference, with a video link as well. Her words and her voice, raised on behalf of the whole of life, resonate more strongly and urgently with each passing day.

 

 

 

 

Our brutal reign as Lords of Creation is swiftly coming to an end; let us seek fresh connections to the whole of life.

 


On Behalf of the Crushed

During a week when the most mindless power struggles distract attention from fresh evidence of a climate breakdown endgame for which few are prepared, we turn to a lucid essay by Costica Bradatan, author of Dying For Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of Philosophers. The essay is worthy of close reading in its entirety; excerpts below, with images from the studio of Richard Kurtz, whose sublime visions are on display this weekend at the NYC Outsider Art Fair.

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

INVULNERABLE

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

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The next sentence in the cited text from Simone Weil strikes us as even more important:

“Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

Among the oppressed, we would include the countless non-human species of life that disappear each day from the biosphere. Do we really think that we are exempt from the rhythm of erasure, incarnate within the Sixth Extinction?

 

Let us place ourselves

on the side of all life forms facing elimination

as a result of toxic human supremacism. 

Only then will we be able to navigate

with deepest humility

into a viable future.

 

 

 


Last Holiday

Now comes a guest essay by our roaming poet-correspondent Jon Swan, with images added by DP:

An ancient film – it came out in 1950 – called Last Holiday and featuring Alec Guinness, tells the story of a modest farm-equipment salesman who, diagnosed as having a fatal form of cancer, withdraws his life’s savings, buys a set of handsome second-hand clothes and a car, and drives off to spend his last holiday at a posh resort, where he meets and charms influential people, falls in love, and encounters a cancer specialist who assures him that he has been misdiagnosed and has years to live. Overjoyed, our hero hurries back home to prepare for his new life and, swerving to avoid a dog lying in the middle of the road, crashes, and is killed.

Now, here we are – nearly three quarters of a century later and it seems that all those who can afford to travel are hurrying off to spend one last, or next to last, or just one more holiday – in Amsterdam, for example, which was visited by 18 million people in 2016 (a million more than the total population of the Netherlands); or Barcelona (population: 1.7 million), which last year attracted more than 32 million tourists; or the sinking city of Venice (permanent population: 55,000), which annually attracts 20 million milling tourists; and so on. These massive visitations substantiate the observation of German novelist and poet Hans-Magnus Enzensberger: “Tourists destroy what they are looking for by finding it.”

 

WE FOUND THE CANAL!

 

It’s not only the presence of so many people in such little space that creates havoc with local customs and prices, as well as the costly problem of collecting and disposing of waste; it’s the way the hordes are arriving, especially those disgorged by cruise ships.In a recent report, NABU, Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, pointed out that, while cruise ship companies try to make cruising appear an environmentally friendly tourism sector, “one cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as millions of cars.” The press release explained: “This is because sea-going vessels use heavy fuel oil for their engines, a fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Heavy fuel oil can contain up to 3,500 times more sulphur than diesel that is used for land traffic vehicles.”

Furthermore, NABU reported,cruise ships lack the kind of exhaust- abatement technologies that are standard in trucks or passenger cars, and the stuff they spew from their snow-white chimneys – black carbon, in particular — contributes “massively” to global warming. “Almost 50 percent of the warming of the Arctic is attributed to black carbon,” the report points out. Coincidentally, an August 29 Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell noted: “The Arctic has been heating up faster than any other place on the planet. Last winter, temperatures in the Arctic were 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.” The article bore the headline: “The Melting Arctic Is a Real-Time Horror Story — Why Doesn’t Anyone Care?”

 

CRYSTAL SERENITY ON ICE

 

While the cruise ships befoul the air at one level, the airplanes that ferry the well-to-do to their vacationland dreams are laying down layers of global-warming C02 in the skies above. In July 2017 The New York Times published an article by Tatiana Schlossberg that bore the headline Flying is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better and that starts off by stating:  “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.” According to some estimates, Schlossberg notes, “about 20,000 planes are in use around the world, serving three billion passengers annually. By 2040, more than 50,000 planes could be in service.” Meanwhile, perversely if not irrationally, to encourage “brand loyalty,” airlines reward frequent fliers with so-called free miles.

On July 5 of this year Medium, an on-line platform, published an article by Douglas Rushkoff, a highly regarded media theorist, which bore the headline Survival of the Richest, with the subhead stating The Wealthy Are Planning to Leave Us Behind. It was promptly picked up by The Guardian, which ran the piece under the headline How Tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse. The article describes the author’s surprise at being invited, for a hefty fee, not to give a talk but to take part in a series of one-on-one meetings with hedge-fund millionaires anxious to know, for instance, which region will be safest during the coming climate crisis, or how do I maintain authority over my security force after The Event – this being their euphemism for environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, and so on.  Aware that they would need armed guards to protect their compounds, they wanted to know how would they pay the guards once money was worthless.

They were, Rushkoff writes, “preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with … insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.”

 

SURVIVAL SUPPOSITORY

 

Both those wealthy enough to cruise or fly in pursuit of happiness and the super-rich are, in all likelihood, not unaware of the diagnosis for our survival as a species on planet Earth – doomed unless we radically alter our priorities, including reducing our dependence on fossil fuels — but appear unable to break the habits that have become symbolic of affluence and proof of our standing in society, or are just part of doing business as usual. We have been everywhere, and now look where we are – our foot on the pedal, going faster and faster, unable – unwilling — to swerve in time to avoid the smash-up of our civilization, not to mention the demise of our reckless species.

 

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Something Deeper

During a week that has starkly exposed the ethical and spiritual crisis of our times, and as we continue to consider the implications of fresh data confirming the accelerating death spiral of anthropogenic climate breakdown, let us bend our ears to the soulful voice of Terry Tempest Williams, presently Writer in Residence at the Harvard Divinity School.

Below, excerpts from a recent interview, with images from Bear Ears country.

 

 

 

 

 

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DP commends Harvard Divinity School for taking the lead on forthrightly and compassionately engaging with the deep ethical and spiritual crisis that threatens to envelop us, as human supremacism comes up against its own inherent limits, and as toxic neoliberalism begins to cannibalize itself, having exsanguinated, commodified, consumed and evacuated everything else.

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It Don’t Mean A Thing

 

If it ain’t got that swing……

 

DOO WAH DOO WAH DOO WAH DOO WAH

 

Wait……. what???


On the Brink

Having been within twenty feet of a North Atlantic right whale while sea kayaking, we can attest to the magnificence of this severely stressed and endangered creature. From the website of Whale and Dolphin Conservation:

 

 

North American WDC executive director Regina Aasmutis-Silvia expanded on the crisis in a recent Living On Earth interview, excerpted below:

 

 

 

 

 

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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has developed an “on call” buoy that would at least mitigate the problem of fixed-line entanglements:

 

Partan and Ball call their new device an “on-call” buoy. It looks like a giant spool of bright orange thread. On land, the 3.5-foot-high spool with 2,000 feet of line wound around it weighs 340 pounds, but in water, it’s buoyant and floats near the bottom attached to the lobster traps. With a timer or an acoustic signal, the device can be activated to unspool its line and float up to the surface for retrieval.

“Our system is to try to store the vertical line on the seafloor—keeping the lines out of the way of large swimming animals—until the fishing vessel crew releases it and is on site and ready to haul it in,” Partan said.

 

 

The technology is listed as “patent pending”. Will it be too little, too late? Unfortunately, we will know the answer to that question within the next few years.


In A World Thus Diminished

While politicians obey their corporate masters and cheat future generations through the sale of oil, mining and other rights within public lands and national monuments, we turn to Eileen Crist and her brilliant illumination of the heavy price we pay when we think of the natural world as a “resource” to be used by humans, excerpted from a longer essay.

Images are from the exquisite portfolio “Endangered”, by master photographer Tim Flach.

LICHEN

 

PolarBearTracks

POLAR BEAR TRACKS


Where Life Begins

As an increasingly extreme administration attempts to sneak a toxic “revenue” provision that would open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling for fossil fuels into an equally toxic tax bill, we relay the voice of Qwich’in Nation leader Bernadette Demientieff:

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Second, an open letter organized by Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Chair and Professor of Art and Ecology, University of New Mexico:

CARIBOU MIGRATING IN THE MIDST OF THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

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