Tag Archives: mass extinction

Self Destruction Writ Large

Polar bear on dwindling Arctic ice sheet  PA     Recently, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the most conservative, scientific/political organizations, issued its most dire report to date.  It warned that climate change will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” in coming decades.  It goes on to say that “the risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”   Unknown to most of the public is that this panel is very conservative and years behind reality in its assessments.  Their reports are also subject to being watered down for geopolitical and economic reasons.  As a UN body, the IPCC responds to its masters.  And, like the World Bank, they follow the dictates of neoliberal capitalism.  The common definition of neoliberalism, the dominant geopolitical force of our age,  refers to “economic liberalization, privatization, free trade, open markets, deregulation, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.”

Popular Resistance

Economic neoliberalism attaches a monetary value to everything that exists and, in doing so, catastrophically demeans that value, transforming it into something that is easily disposable.  It commodifies the very building blocks of life.  It dismantles the commons by enforcing private ownership.  It replaces citizenship with consumerism.  It hustles us toward extinction and ecocide with a jingle in our heads and a shopping bag in our hand.  It endorses endless war, endless distraction and the rape of the natural world, because these are the only things that will sustain its existence.  It is self destruction, writ large.

Dying forests in the Northern Rockies  NRDC

The malignant tide that brought us to this place is rising fast.  Centuries of plunder and exploitation are rendering the oceans and the planet barren and fallow.  Soon it will be impossible for any human being to traverse this landscape unsullied, where the snares of a beleaguered ecosystem are ubiquitous, the currency of the state is violence, and the native tongue of its leaders is cruelty.  In fact, the established plutocratic class is getting nervous.  They do not have a plan outside of maintaining their current campaigns of plunder, distracting the public, and constructing a police state to insure their power and wealth remain intact.  So it is a fair assumption that their well deserved paranoia will spark even more heavy handed repression and violence.

Protest in Chile  Roar Magazine

But more people are beginning to shake off the shackles of endless fear mongering and war drumming imposed on them from the powers that be.  More are beginning to tire of the vapid celebrity worship, the car-wrecks of cruel humiliation that pass as entertainment, and the empty promises of fulfillment and wholeness that feckless cupidity and consumerism offer.  More are beginning to see through the lies.

Vigil in Bangalore

 It is unclear if our species will weather the coming storms, droughts, social unrest, police state violence, corporate plunder and threat of nuclear war.   Indeed our right to go on is questionable given our long history of horrific treatment of the most vulnerable among us, and the countless species with whom we share this planet.  But one thing is certain; no one will be able to take this journey unmolested.  Even as it is being decimated, we are all inextricably connected to this marvelous world.  And perhaps, with that in mind, we can turn away from the self-indulgent madness of our time and appreciate what is left and realize just how good we had it.

Kenn Orphan  2014

The Earth and Her Raging Fever

Alberta Tar Sands were once pristine boreal forests      From a months worth of rain falling in a matter of hours, to wildfires devouring the lush rainforests and the icy Arctic tundra, we are witnessing records being broken one after another with each passing day.  One does not need to be a scientist to see a shocking increase of extreme weather events.  Yet, still, denialism persists.  “We must grow the economy!”  “Drill, baby drill!”  It is madness on an epic scale.

The earth doesn’t care about our economy.  She has no use for our political protestations either.  She responds only to our folly.  And she is groaning from the injuries we have inflicted on her.  She has a fever; and if she does not treat it soon the results will prove dire for her future.

Tar Sands at night  Photographer Garth LenzNo greater visual exists to demonstrate her malady than the Alberta Tar Sands.  It is a blight that covers an area the size of Florida and can be seen from space.  It is a cancerous tumor, a melanoma on the skin of the earth that continues to grow and metastasize, spewing its noxious breath into the atmosphere while being fueled by the fallacious myth of infinite growth on a finite planet.

The West continues to be mired in a corporate fantasy world, drowning as we toast our good fortune. All the while the real world, that every species relies on for sustenance and survival, is withering and suffocating before our eyes. Those who call attention to the ecocide are often maligned and marginalized, living as exiles from the Kingdom of Eternal Optimism.  The oceans are acidifying, intractable drought threatens our food and water supply, floods threaten our cities.  We are facing extinction; not just of countless other species but of our own.  Yet there is little to no alarm or pause from the mass media and popular culture.

Pristine Alberta boreal forest  National GeographicWe may be alone in this universe, but it is unlikely.  Perhaps it is filled with other species who made it as far as we did and survived or even thrived.  Or perhaps it is littered with the bones of long dead societies who had similar aspirations.  We may never know.  What we do know is this, the planet that we live on is rapidly changing before our eyes.  The earth, our only home, has a raging fever.  And she will not wait for our over indulgent deliberations.  Her prognosis is good though.  She is going to survive her disease.  For humanity, however, it isn’t looking so good.

Kenn Orphan   2014

Photo Credits:

Alberta Tar Sands, once pristine boreal forest. Photographer Peter Essick

Alberta Tar Sands at night.  Photographer Garth Lenz

Pristine Alberta boreal forest before destruction/National Geographic

Miltarism: an Ideology of Death

Guernica by Pablo Picasso 1937

“Militarism has been by far the commonest cause of the breakdown of civilizations. The single art of war makes progress at the expense of all the arts of peace.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica depicts the tragic results of militarism. In this epic painting he captured the horror suffered by the residents of a small village in the Basque countryside, bombed mercilessly into ruins. It is a powerful display of the reality of war in that it shows the victims are disproportionately civilians, animals and the earth itself.

Since World War II more civilians have been killed in armed conflict, despite having protection under international law. Americans have largely been shielded from the atrocity that is war. We do not see the bodies of children blown apart by US drone strikes or the humiliation and terror that comes from being occupied by a foreign army. It is because of this ignorance that militarism has flourished.

Militarism is the aggressive reply to every social problem. It is extremely profitable and therefore a perfect partner of capitalism. Its merchants have been successful in convincing the public over and over to believe the insane contradiction of war bringing peace, bombs bringing democracy and occupation bringing justice. They are masters at massaging our innate fears, those fears that produce the most visceral responses to manufactured illusions of imminent danger.

The powerful pull out the most primitive emotional reactions in us, responses we developed in ancient fields when we needed to escape the very real predators that lurked around us throughout the long history of our evolutionary heritage. They stoke primal paranoia of the other and encourage scapegoating as a means of alleviating the anxiety associated with the unknown and the responsibility of ethical conscience. They distract us from their malfeasance. They provoke rage at imaginary threats against the homeland, the religion, the tribe. In essence, they manufacture the belief that militarism is inevitable, even desirable.

The boogieman needed to maintain militarism changes faces, but they are almost always two-dimensional figures whose evil is absolute. Whether they be communists or Islamists, the pretext is always the same; they are cast as an immediate threat to western civilization and must be dealt with in the most violent way possible. Unsurprisingly, this ideology has wreaked havoc around the world.

Decades of neoliberal economic policies, arms deals, military coups, toppling of democratically elected governments, and the support of practically every despotic and corrupt regime the world has ever known has created a 21st century map of the world that contains more human caused catastrophes than it does countries. This long and bloody history of exploitation has enabled fanatical or extremist movements, loosely based on religion, to sweep entire regions. It has deftly created them with each new massacre and atrocity borne as a gruesome trophy to its fury.

But the mayhem abroad inevitably returns home. Militaristic societies create a machine that eventually consumes them from the inside. They lurch towards self-destruction because they feed on the pillars that support them. The arts, humanities, and science all become casualties of their rapacious appetite for growth. Jingoism replaces critical thinking. Infrastructure crumbles and the social safety net is dismantled. The well being of their citizens is reduced to a hollow promise of protection against an imaginary enemy, while the real needs and dangers are ignored. Civil rights and liberties become nuisances that get in the way of the machine, and are therefore crushed.

Militarism is the religion of America. It is the cornerstone of our culture and the currency with which the state interacts with its citizens as well as its neighbors. It is the language mass media uses in its denigration of the poor, the immigrant and the downtrodden. It is the method used to address all forms of crime. It is the very core of our economic system, based upon the rape of the natural world and the exploitation of the weakest among us. And it is the wall that prevents us from achieving lasting peace and true justice.

Picasso’s Guernica serves not only as a warning, but also as a prediction. His painting underscores the tragic futility of militarism and how it always targets the most vulnerable. It is an ideology of death that builds nothing and takes everything. It is a monster that feeds off fear and, sadly at the beginning of the 21st century, shows no sign of slowing down.

Kenn Orphan  2014

Massacre in Korea (1951) 60 x 115 cm / 23.6 x 45.3in $340 $220 Orig size 109 x 209 cm / 42.91 x 82.3in.

 

The World Bank’s Plan for Water

nestle water

     The World Bank, perhaps the best example of a “front man” for today’s corporate, capitalistic, economic policies, eagerly promotes and defends the gospel of neoliberal capitalism, which Wikipedia defines as: “privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.”   But however it is spun, it is essentially organized crime with an official seal. It takes poor nations, previously colonized, exploited, and enslaved, and says “here, take this impossible loan to pull yourselves out of the impoverishment we imposed on you for centuries, and in return we will allow multinational corporations to take your resources and enslave your people in low wage, sweat shops.”

And water is its next project.

Echoing mission statements of multi-national, mega-corporations, it recently declared that water should be privatized.  In other words: owned.   Shelter, food, air and water are essential to life.   Shelter and food have already been privatized around the planet.  Air is still out of reach although they are polluting it as fast as the other three.   But water is what they are eying now.

Coca Cola in India
(Coca Cola extracts huge quantities of water in India, often robbing poor communities of their only access.  Photo credit: Oxfam)

Water sources around the world are being consumed and polluted by industry at a staggering rate, and communities that suffer from this exploitation seldom have any legal recourse against the offending companies.  From Michigan to India to Africa, huge corporations like Coca~Cola and Nestle have bought up aquifers, wells and springs, and have sold back the water they extract in huge quantities to already impoverished communities at a highly inflated rate.

South Sudan Photo by Geoff Pugh Oxfam

(Boys transport water jugs in South Sudan.  Photo credit: Geoff Pugh/Oxfam)

The impact of water, or the lack of it, often spawns or exacerbate conflicts.  Syria has suffered for years with an intractable drought; and many attribute the civil war that has claimed thousands of lives to this crisis. If water continues to be privatized we will undoubtedly see this tragedy repeated the world over as poor or disenfranchised populations are forced to relocate to urban areas or neighboring countries.  Add to this the other dire ramifications of climate change, and the dust bowl conditions it induces, and the privatization of water becomes just one more banal cruelty inflicted on the poor.

IRAQI FARMER SITS BESIDE A NEARLY DRY RIVER.
(an Iraqi farmer sits by a trickling stream in Dayala province.  Photo:Reuters)

Recent events in Detroit attest to the reality that this battle for human life and dignity is not merely a “third world problem.”  Water rights are being assaulted everywhere.  In this once thriving American city, it has become a tool of social control.  The city has “shut-off” water to thousands of residents due to their inability to afford the exorbitant cost.  It has effectively informed the public that it’s “right to life” is only viable insofar as their ability to pay for it.  The part that racism plays in all of this is troubling too, as most of the communities targeted are disproportionately people of color.  This is all unfolding in the richest nation on the planet; yet the situation has deteriorated so much that the United Nations has been called in to investigate.

The world over, ruthless profiteers have been trying to convince the public that it is natural to attach a dollar sign to everything, including water. For example the former CEO and now-Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, of Nestle was quoted as saying “access to water is not a public right.”  Under their scheme, they aim to own all rights to it, and only the wealthiest will be able to pay the extortionate cost assigned to it.

Detroit protestor
(A protestor in Detroit, Michigan.  Photo credit: Occupy.com)

Whether it is Detroit, Michigan or Nagpur, India, access to clean water should be understood as a fundamental human right. But, like so many other rights, it is being systematically stripped away from us by corporations, industry and their henchmen at the World Bank. All things considered there is one certainty, this issue is destined to become a defining feature of the 21st century, and, perhaps, the most important struggle against this new age of tyranny.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photo at top: Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestle. Credit: AP)