Tag Archives: Human Supremacism

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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Beauty and Sustainability

Now comes Sandra Lubarsky, Chair of the Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University, with an essay first published in Tikkun magazine in 2011, and excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Gail Boyajian, whose work unabashedly sustains and celebrates the life-affirming exuberance of beauty.

DAWN REFLECTIONS

DUSK REFLECTIONS

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Professor Lubarsky expands on these ideas in a conference lecture that includes a critique of human supremacist aesthetic relativism that results in mindless celebrations of ugliness, as exemplified by the obscene Sugartop condo development excreted by shameless developers upon a once-beautiful Appalachian ridgeline.

EGO DUMP ON DISTANT RIDGE

Returning once more to the words of Sandra Lubarsky:


Toxic Dominion

We are indebted to a faithful DP correspondent for steering us to an excellent 2014 lecture presented by Eileen Crist, in which she articulates a concise overview of what she calls the Human Supremacy Complex, or toxic anthropocentrism.

Professor Crist begins with a reference to an October, 2013 article published in The Economist reporting on a clot of jellyfish inside cooling pipes at a Swedish nuclear reactor, a report that swiftly mutates into an infomercial for a new technology named with the perverse acronym JEROS: Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm. According to its creator, JEROS will chew through even the most exhuberant clot of jellies, and thus keep our nuclear reactors humming.

The entire lecture is linked below, followed by a montage of her slides that convey a useful summary of core questions and arguments. The final image is taken from The Herd, an installation project by Tasha Lewis, whose studio we shall revisit in future posts.

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THE HERD

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If we refuse to learn how to live responsibly within this “community of unique and exquisite  beings”, clinging to the delusion that no matter what ruinous consequence we inflict upon the natural world, our clever technologies will always save us: we shall be obliterated.

Though JEROS robochops jellyfish into mush, it will take more than robot swarms to chew through the lethal clot of our own hubris and arrogance, such that we might embrace the “abundant and ravishing” planet, “inhabited with respect.”