Friday, May 24, 2019

Thomas Merton, Jacob Boehme, Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddha, and Dalai Lama

On the Road with Thomas Merton from Emergence Magazine on Vimeo. Used with permission.

"When we think of it with this knowledge, we see that we have been locked up, and led blindfold, and it is the wise of this world who have shut and locked us up in their art and their rationality, so that we have had to see with their eyes." -- Jacob Boehme quoted by Robert Bly in The Light Around the Body

According to Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Buddha said, 'This is like this, because that is like that. This is because that is.'"  In other words, climate crisis is what it is because men in power are who they are.

According to the Dalai Lama, "Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. [. . . .] [. . .] we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside those communities [. . .] [. . . .]  in our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess [. . . .] Responsibility does not only lie with the leaders of our countries or with those who have been appointed or elected to do a particular job. It lies with each one of us individually. [. . . .] What is important is that we each make a sincere effort to take our responsibility for each other and for the natural environment we live in seriously."

Here is his prayer at the end of a Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1989:

For as long as space endures,
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Dahr Jamail on Recent Climate Data, and Pit River Tribe's Legend of Mis Misa (Spirit in Mt. Shasta)

To complement what Jamail says about the IPCC, you may want to see this link. A May 21, 2019, CNN article on sea level rise also fits the pattern of too-conservative predictions noting there is a "5%" chance "by 2100, sea levels could rise by more than two meters (6.6 feet) in the same period -- double the upper limit outlined by the UN climate science panel's last major report."

Friday, May 17, 2019

Bad News, Good News, However . . .

Bad News
The Washington Post reported three days ago "It was 84 degrees near the Arctic Ocean this weekend as carbon dioxide hit its highest level in human history" and Democracy Now! noted "temperatures near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia [have] high temperatures [. . . in a place] normally 30 degrees cooler this time of year" and "Over the weekend, meteorologists measured carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere at over 415 parts per million — the highest level in human history, and a concentration that’s not been seen on Earth in over 3 million years."  For the past 420 million years, according to Nature, when carbon rises, Earth's overall temperature rises.

Good News
Grist reported "Dr. Leslie Field [. . . . of] Silicon Valley nonprofit Ice 911 [. . . . invented] reflective sheets [. . . .of] silica microbeads [. . .] safe for animals, aquatic life, and ecosystems [and able to restore vanishing Arctic ice]." The article continues "Ice treated with silica microbeads grows thicker and more reflective with each application. Ice 911 modeling suggests that spreading the beads in only a few strategic areas, like the Beaufort Gyre or the Fram Strait, could reverse melting across the Arctic."

Clive Hamilton, as I noted in a previous post, wrote in a March 10, 2015 Scientific American about aerial sulfate spraying "Yet every [National Research Council] scientist, including the council authors, is convinced that if albedo modification is implemented and not followed by a program of global emission reductions, then we are almost certainly finished. Sulfate spraying without a change in the political system would make the situation worse."

I think Field's silica microbeads, also enhancing "albedo modification" in limited strategic areas, sound much better than aerial sulfate spraying, and must not be used by oil companies to continue business as usual fossil fuel burning.

This is important because as President Niinist√∂ of Finland said in a joint press conference with President Trump, August 28, 2017, “If we lose the Arctic, we lose the globe.”

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Epic of Gilgamesh and Climate Change

I recall reading an October 7, 2015 article at "Iraqi Museum Discovers Missing Lines From the Epic of Gilgamesh":

“The previously available text made it clear that [Gilgamesh] and Enkidu knew, even before they killed Humbaba, that what they were doing would anger the cosmic forces that governed the world, chiefly the god Enlil. Their reaction after the event is now tinged with a hint of guilty conscience, when Enkidu remarks ruefully that … ‘we have reduced the forest [to] a wasteland.’" -- Marissa Fessenden

Even here in "one of the world's oldest written stories" from about "2150 - 1400 BCE" there is a record of humans grieving loss of trees, and this was made public after 2011 as the Smithsonian article reported it was "part of a collection purchased from a smuggler." So that means about 4,161 years after the "missing fragment" was written, it reappeared as the global human community is waking up to how modern humans have, in ever-expanding areas, "reduced the forest [and coral reefs] [to] a wasteland." For example, I recall reading at "Half of the [1,400 mile] Great Barrier Reef has been bleached to death since 2016." The New York Times noted "The scientist [Terry P. Hughes and his students] cried when [they] saw the evidence.”

I also recall a Buddhist teacher said something like "Mindfulness is always one person at a time.  It is the most difficult way, but it is the only way." It is unknown if orcas and humans will go extinct from climate change.  Each species that can be saved, each human that can be saved, matters. The Guardian reported "The Lummi Nation is dropping live salmon into the sea in a last-ditch rescue effort" to save starving orcas. In Australia's "record-breaking heat" and Arizona, also breaking heat records, wild horses are dying in droughts which are expected to get hotter and longer in coming years.

I imagine our Milky Way Galaxy home, with about 100 billion stars, has some planets that survive to mature death, and many that don't, like herring chased by salmon, salmon chased by orcas, orcas chased by human ignorance. Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, wrote "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

Regarding these ideas, I respect rare clarity in the YouTube The battle against climate change by Paul Kingsnorth.

Speaking of orcas, I greatly enjoyed the new anthology FOR LOVE OF ORCAS, and I'm grateful to have a poem in it along with fine poems by Craig Santos Perez, Paul E. Nelson, Robert Sund, Kim Stafford, Sam Hamill, Ira Sukrungruang, Martha Silano, Rena Priest, Christopher Howell, Derek Sheffield, Brenda Miller, James Bertolino, Priscilla Long, David M. Laws, and many other fine poets.  This is an anthology to savor, and to share -- the deeper news of our shared reality you seldom hear in mainstream news. Anthology editors Andrew Shattuck McBride and Jill McCabe Johnson noted "proceeds from sales of the book will benefit the SeaDoc Society's efforts to restore the Southern Resident orcas and their extended ecosystem."

This Dammed to Extinction Trailer, about a minute long, shows the best way to help orcas, as Dr. Deborah Giles says, "is to breach the lower four Snake River dams."

My poem in the anthology is below along with some of my favorites used with authors' permission.


“In a 100 years wild salmon runs south of Canada will be reduced to remnant runs.”
—Bob Lackey, Professor of Fisheries at Oregon State University

Future children will hear the story of when
a stranger wandered into town armed with harp,
got food, lodging, women, disappeared
and became a legend.

“Years passed, and someone found a blood-stained
knife under moss beside harp, strings gone
but ghost music still playing in alders and firs.”

The truth will become
the stranger, which was salmon,
changed into man, river a harp,
when real story of losing salmon and orcas
grew too sad to tell.

-- Scott T. Starbuck

Ode to an Orca

You fling your dolphin body

skyward, breach toward sun
to take a look--sleek, black
and white, aglitter with seawater.
You fluke-wave, roll and flip, sleep
with half a mind, travel miles,
team-hunt, herd chinook, slap
and play. You feed each other.
Your old mother leads the pod,
aids daughter, tends son.
We call you killer whale,
we who kill you with PCBs,
who warm your cold world.
You bond with your pod for life.
You are starving. We dream
of saving what we are killing:
your brainy, love-struck life,
your terrible wild beauty. 
-- Priscilla Long 


            Honolulu, Hawai'i

My wife nurses our newborn,
while I feed our toddler.
On the news, we watch you balance

your dead calf on your rostrum.
They numbered you because
there are so few left in your pod.

They named you native
because your kind is vanishing.
My family, too, comes from the sea,

and the fish our ancestors
depended on are also endangered.
Days pass. We drive our eldest

to preschool, the youngest
to her vaccinations. You carry
your decomposing daughter 

a thousand nautical miles until
every wave becomes an elegy,
until our planet becomes an open

casket. What is mourning
but our shared echolocation?
Today, you let go. Today, you let

fall. We wish we could honi you,
breathe in your breath, offer
small comfort. How do you say,

"sorry," in your dialect of sonar,
calls, and whistles? Nights pass.
You keep swimming across

the Salish Sea. We carry our girls
into the Pacific. They kick and laugh
when embraced by salt water. We

wish they could see you breach
and dive so they can grow
in the wake of your resilience. 

We promise to tell them your story
so they'll remember that love
is a wild, oceanic instinct.
-- Craig Santos Perez

Words of Encouragement

            "One must always pretend something 
            Among the dying" -- W. S. Merwin

When writing poems about extinction
it's important that you make the poems
deep, but uplifting.

Nobody wants to read a bummer poem
about endangered orcas and their dead babies.
Keep it light. Keep it motivational. Encouraging.

It's important to accommodate your gentle reader.
Don't say anything about how "If you won't
swim in it, why should they have to live in it?"

Don't say that. Honesty is offensive
in this day and age. It's always been offensive.
How else do you suppose we got here?

Maybe, instead of saying something like,
"The orcas and salmon are going extinct
because of ordinary greed and apathy,"

instead, say something like, "The noble creature
with his power and grace, shall journey away
forever, through the portals of time."

Good taste, omits mention of ~
(baby orcas, abducted to be theme park clowns --
decades in chlorinated cages, taking their eyes --

how during the capture, so many died.)
Don't forget, to forget what you know
about human cruelty --

how the baby orcas that didn't survive
had their bellies slit and filled with stones,
then were sewn closed

and dumped into the sea,
to sink into a silence so dark and so deep
public outrage couldn't reach --

a depth unfathomable as a mother's grief --
too heavy to carry for one day, much less 17.
Among the dying, shall we pretend

that in the end, we too, shall not be listed
among the dead? Yes. Let's pretend,
when writing poems about extinction.
-- Rena Priest

Earth Totem

Dorsal cedar dressed in moss where the village stood.
Crest carved fresh and proud, the clan not yet defeated.
White on black the color of starlight, high and old.
Glittering where the sea's back breaks open. In the strait,
their formation ancestors could use to teach children
the ways of courage, certainty, persistence.

Thriving where King Salmon thrive, the throng
charging in their own endemic wave through waves,
splitting the eternal, binding what flows, braiding
salt to salt in a shape the old ones carved in stone,
up from the hidden, forth through the hungry,
diving secret, swallowed by the sea.

Who will lead us into the future if not these?
Who will teach us high respect, if not
the whales that prey on whales? Who
among us can dance like that, in storm
or cold, driving through shoals of silver
where all the little lives glitter in beautiful fear?

Hold honor of ancestors in our keeping, destiny of children,
eel and clam, eagle and heron, bear and frog, all the woven
hungers nourishing us by their vigor, their abundant life.
How can we meet our children's eager, brimming gaze
if we let the orca essence falter, barren, hungry, gaunt, if
our pod of treasures dive, never to return?
-- Kim Stafford


It was all somehow accounted for
in the ledgers of those who served

the kings and commissars of an orderly
distribution and control

that everything was theirs, even the crushed
knuckles of the stones, even the stiff

facsimiles of our brethren who had vanished
before us into that green flash

above the sundown sea. The whales, the dodo,
the great apes, all irrelevant as beauty, disappeared

like beauty, leaving only their names scratched
next to our own in the halls of unopening books.

We might have prayed for God
to come, or Noah, and deliver us

two by two again, drowning our terrible machines.
Now the oceans rise to take us

all. The stars go out. The angels, weary of extinctions,
Shake their heads. But what were we to do, force

the powerful to change?
-- Christopher Howell


In the mountain's
white expanse

beyond the tree line,
we learned

Buddhist holy men
come again as Orca

whales. The greater their
mastery, the further

back in time. 
-- James Bertolino 

We Could Have Saved the Orcas

We could have saved the orcas
but we were so in love with plastic:
straws, beer can holders, and parts for everything,
just so convenient, except when it’s time
to be rid of it, just toss it in the ocean,
out of sight, out of mind, and if you need it,
you can sail out to the place in the Pacific
with the floating trash pile, I’m sure
it will be in there somewhere.

We could have saved the orcas
but we work so hard, we deserve
a little fun now and then, so let’s fly
to Cabo or Machu Picchu, or at least
let’s drive to the Grand Canyon,
buy a giant motorhome and save
a ton on motels and meals,
seven miles to the gallon.

We could have saved the orcas
but they eat those Chinook salmon
that taste so good with a little lemon,
so delicious with some corn-on-the-cob
and a nice arugula salad, tofu-dill dressing,
or fresh off the grill, and how much fun
it is to go out on the boat and fish,
pulling in those big ones to gut
and stick in the freezer.

We could have saved the orcas . . .
-- David M. Laws

Self-portrait as Southern Resident Orca

For everybody I’m speechless Damn it I gotta go get my camera!
For this must be the happiest pod.
For you can hear them saying there she goes again. Big one! Wow!
For you can hear them clapping, laughing.

For I am made of the research proving there is no difference
in the lifespan of an orca born at SeaWorld
and an orca born in the wild.

For behind me 700,000 years of genetic distinction.
For behind me 700,000 years of a distinct dialect evolving.

For I was misnamed whale killer by Spanish explorers.
For I am a dolphin.

For each year I ingest some of the seven million quarts of motor oil
that washes into the Salish Sea. 

For PCBs were banned in 1979, but each day I push
through 1.5 billion pounds of them.

For in my fat stores I carry your legacy of coal mining,
electrical appliance dependence, your attempts at insect eradication.

For because of you I brush up against carcinogenic furans.

For I am a mother carrying her dead newborn.

For I have been carrying her for days.

For thanks to my contaminated milk, she is even more toxic than I.

For you might call this behavior a tour of grief, but I’ve been driving her to the surface so she can take a breath.

For my solitude grows scarce.

For the noise of passing ships interferes
with my clicks, my whistles, my pulses.
With finding salmon—species, speed, size.

For the sea and I are both wide.

For the water I glide through is poisoned with 

viscosity index improvers;
for the lapping is laced with alkaline additives and sealants;
for if you read more closely, you will learn PCBs were not banned
but permitted in lower concentrations.

For I can certainly experience intense emotion.

For Monsanto’s CEO makes 19 million a year
but the Chemical Action Plan lacks funding.

For there is no government strong enough to save me.

For behold my spyhopping!

For who can resist my one-syllabled, Darth Vader-like exhale? 

For Google biomagnification.

For the rainbowed road is my demise.

For the highway’s yellow line, I die.

For I am corralled not by my mistakes but yours.

For the doors of my duration are closing.

-- Martha Silano