Idyllic Pastures or a Pathway to Mount Doom?
Meadows Farm, east of the hamlet of Rising Sun in Cecil County, Maryland,
beside State Highway 273 at about 4 o'clock in the evening of 21 August 2009
When I stopped along the highway to admire this scene during a road trip five years ago, issues of sustainability didn't register in my accounting of the Universe. On the hunt for wildflowers, rural ruins, and rustic landscapes, I wasn't attuned to environmental politics and prophecies of ecological doom. My political ruminations back then were directed toward heterodox economics and social justice activism. Traipsing the asphalt byways and backroads of New England, Appalachia, and the Midwest, I was looking for pretty pictures. You can hang an idea on a pretty picture, write about it.
Things change, this we know. Not terminally obsessive or stridently committed to any singular cause, I navigate my radicalism from one related issue to another along this slow stream toward The End. It nears midnight here in my heart. Things change in ways I've never known before. The paradoxes heighten, the mysteries come closer, the dividing lines between ideas diffuse and break down.
Moving to 3 Dog Acres three years ago changed everything. Able to escape the daily buzz of the city, liberated from the unrelenting grind of the marketplace,
granted the gift of solitude by my merciful Creator, I turned to nature to guide my experience out there, turned to philosophy and theology to guide my experience in here. If it were only that simple….
Our property, though enriched with a fine crop of deeply rooted perennial flowers and a little forest of mature trees, suffered from too many years of neglect. Eager to find another new sense of purpose, I wondered how I might alter the landscape in service of truth and beauty. Just make it look better 'round here. Pretty flowers. Young trees. Rock-lined beds, sculptures, and standing stones.
I've Come to Save the Planet.
But I'm straying from the notions that brought me here today. It [digression] happens when the editorial constraints are self-driven. I've come to save the planet! ∞ Just kidding. But others are clamoring to do so. They're standing on ramparts and dikes to sound an alarm: We live on a planet in dire need of some saving.
Do we? Who can know? Those cows strolling by the barn depicted at the top of this little block of words — are they walking founts of milk, future steaks and burgers, pretty forms on a pacific rural landscape, discrete economic units tightly wound into the societal food chain? Can you count them, devise an aggregate value? Can you claim without hyperbole that cows are alien devils whose artificial habitat wages war on sustainability? Isn't that just too extreme?
Cows first arrived in North America about four hundred years ago on wooden ships carrying hopeful and desperate European immigrants to a New World. What could
be wrong with bringing along familiar sources of milk, butter, meat, and leather? So what if cows need a special kind of habitat to thrive. Pastureland may not be native to America, but it's easy enough to carve pastures out of the woods and meadows. There's land aplenty for the takin'. So it seemed.
"How much can we change the landscape before participation becomes destruction?" Lierre Keith asks in The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. Watching my neighbors destroy native habitat to make lawns — dead and gone are way too many closeby acres of bluestem and tall sedge, goldenrod and butterfly weed, Queen Anne's Lace and milkweed, blazing star and fleabane — I acknowledge the dwindling number of bumblebees and butterflies here at 3 Dog Acres, and I answer: Not much.
"Do dairy cows belong in New England?" Lierre Keith asks. "In the here and now, as I make my personal and political decisions about breakfast, are cows on the side of good or do they need to be hauled up Mount Doom?" We arrive, then, at the last cattle drive to a fiery pit in Mordor. Poor cows.
Is the ecological impact of corporate dairy farming severe enough to demand its banishment from the food chain? Demand all we want — even if it were so, even if, to quote Lierre Keith, "these new animals" and "their divergences" are "destructive assailants on the land base," nothing substantial shall be done to change the ways big business feeds the cows and processes dairy products. There's too much stock-holder investment yet to be maximized, too much political capital owned by industry to be spent on protective legislation, too many riot squads armed and eager to serve the oligarchy. We as a People are powerless to change the system that rules us. We are left to write about change, talk about change, chatter together as we trudge the road to perdition.
"Perdition? You can't be serious," interjects the Guardian, resident of the Opposite Loft, diligent listener, eternal Observer. "Too much heated alarm shreds the tone of the discourse. Your world may be in trouble, but utter destruction? Try another warning."
This Changes Everything ! Naomi Klein shouts. The title of her newly released
book, cataloguing issues of climate change and other ecological woes, borrows a familiar expression to personalize global concerns related to the declining health of Earth. Though her voice is mainstreamed, stylized by jargon and convention, and adroitly packaged by corporate publishing interests to maximize sales, Ms. Klein did her homework and speaks with authority, telling a tale of ecological politics, economics, and science that's well worth the hearing. We humans are entering a "full-blown crisis," she writes, and we face a "terrible threat" sure to bring about a "grim future" unless we act to change everything. Lierre Keith, tying her theme to agriculture instead of climate change, said much the same five years earlier — and said it with the passion and clarity of a genuine radical thinker. Ms. Keith acknowledges a truth about organized acts of destruction, that it takes two sides to wage a war, but only one pervasive and dominant power to subdue the Earth and bridle the People.
Death on a Global Scale.
"Agriculture isn’t quite a war because the forests and wetlands and prairies, the rain, the soil, the air, can’t fight back," Lierre Keith writes. "Agriculture is really more like ethnic cleansing, wiping out the indigenous dwellers so the invaders can take the land. It’s biotic cleansing, biocide. It is not non-violent. It is not sustainable. And every bite of its food is laden with death." And again, same song, different refrain: "The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you."
Bottom line: [So many bottom lines I can barely see the top of anything.] Something's amiss in our fragile world. The raw power of wealth stands stout against definitive action to reform our mistakes. Carpe diem and status quo win the day, again and
again. We can't marshall a sufficient supply of old saws to carve the truth onto our fragmented psychic landscape. So we scribble temporal messages on screens — and live our life as best we can.
Don't you feel the perilous change a'comin'? I do. And I'm not alone.
Attuned to the out of doors these past three years of toil and reward at 3 Dog Acres, planting trees and raking leaves, chopping wood, tending the gardens and feeding the songbirds, pausing to watch the skies and study the winds, I sense that's something's just not right. Unsettling change is in the air, on the land, alongside and within the streams and seas — little events I observe here in the microcosm at home and great events I read about in the macrocosm out there — catastrophic storms racing o'er the land, waves of heat and seasons of drought inflicting fire and scarcity, vast islands of plastic sacks and toxic dead zones degrading the life force of salty oceans.
Can't ya see the capitalist beast, demon of the refinery and the pipeline, looming tall on every horizon, propelled by the flawed ideology of neo-liberalism and corporate globalism? The beast of consumption is too strong to overcome. We canna stop the cyclone and the hurricane, canna deny the frackers access to the tender bowels of the Earth, canna cap enough carbon emissions or dam enough rivers to ensure a sufficient flow of the water of life.
Birds Igniting in Midair
the bright lights from the solar rays attract insects who attract hungry birds who fly into the intensely hot reflected light and burn to death the workers call them 'streamers' the burning birds their smoke making streams of gray during the death plunge to the desert floor. 'One streamer every two minutes' the investigator said the deaths are 'alarming' the corporation spent two billion two hundred million U.S. dollars to build the solar plant in the Mojave Desert. BrightSource proposes another power-tower mirror field amid the dunes and Joshua trees where peregrine falcons and golden eagles fly from the snaky Colorado to the Salton Sea. The regulatory commission is expected to decide come autumn on the proposal it includes one million eight hundred grand to compensate for the bird deaths sure to follow.
Effort to Clean Chesapeake Bay
Dismal Failure —
Sewage Flows from the Susquehanna
eyes of human linked by algorithm to brain of rat. "This is a very Frankenstein type of project," Dr. Milford said.
Convenes Fracking Inquiry
he's on the side of radical environmentalists he'll stymie job growth strangle the economy the Sierra Club owns him Republican attack ad says
35 Thousand Walruses Gather on Beach
scientists cite 'unnatural behavior' to explain largest throng ever recorded in northwest Alaska say it's a sign of warming arctic seas. Satellite monitoring shows diminished sea ice habitat "the calves would be swimming around us crying we couldn't rescue them" the research team reported.
Stands before the microphone.
The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.
Someone needs to tell those pilots to quit flying their planes and helicopters so close to the herd. Can't they see the walruses are exhausted? They've hauled themselves to the shore because the ice is melting. They can't stand the engine noise. They'll stampede when the planes turn or fly low. The pups will be trampled to death.
It becomes like a giant pig pile. The little calves get squished.
It's always the boys at haul outs. It's not so odd to see 'em come ashore by the thousands. The other times there weren't mothers and pups. This one is different.
The gray whales used to swim up here. They're gone now. [Long Pause.] They ought to stop flying those planes so close to the walruses.
Walruses love clams. There aren't so many clams anymore. For animals, climate change sucks.
Pacific Walrus Sensationalism — Nothing New Under The Sun
Rising Sea Levels, Flooding, Epidemics, Mass Migration:
A Ridiculously Over-the-Top Green Alarmist Disconnect
M A I Z E
Campesinos Plant Sacred Icon.
Transnational GMOs Fight Back.
we are all children of corn the campesinos said on National Day of Maize in the Land of Maize in Mexico olé the seeds of life! Activist agroecologist Adelita San Vicente Tello tells the world give us seed sovereignty because without corn there is no country. Monsanto and Cargill their transnational apparatchik allies push ahead with plans to flood the market with genetically modified organisms let's open the floodgates to irrigate NAFTA's transgenic ethanol plantations the government and the courts stand with them. Small-holder campesinos sow native seeds depend on rainwater don'tcha know our genetic heritage is ingrained in those seeds traditional knowledge rooted in the soil the struggle for existence. The best way to preserve seeds is to plant 'em just be sure to call for the blessing … in these last days before you're dispossessed of your land … you'll find the seed exchanges in Veracruz Puebla Jalisco and Morelos.
Inuits Swallowed by the Chukchi Sea
rising ocean waters are submerging the Alaskan village 80 miles above the Circle the indigenous Inuits there'll be the first climate change refugees the defensive wall built along the beach in 2008 couldn't hold after a great storm the inhabitants are furious. 'The US government imposed this Western lifestyle on us gave us their burdens they expect us to pick everything up and move what kind of government does that?' council leader Colleen Swanm said 99.55 per cent of Kivalina are Native American by 2025 their home will be completely submerged by the Chukchi Sea.