Friday, December 25, 2009

Water and Civilization

"Civilization has been a permanent dialogue between human beings and water."--Paolo Lugari, Gaviotas Pg.64

"Everything is water and the world is full of gods." The Greek philosopher Thales wrote this in fl c. 580.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stories, Peak Oil, and Climate Change

This morning I spent some time reading posts over at the Archdruid Report.

This paragraph from this article jumped out at me:

"Still, I find myself wondering if Hagbard’s Law plays a much bigger role here than any deliberate plan. The global warming story, if you boil it down to its bones, is the kind of story our culture loves to tell – a narrative about human power. Look at us, it says, we’re so mighty we can destroy the world! The peak oil story, by contrast, is the kind of story we don’t like – a story about natural limits that apply, yes, even to us. From the standpoint of peak oil, our self-anointed status as evolution’s fair-haired child starts looking like the delusion it arguably is, and it becomes hard to avoid the thought that we may have to settle for the rather less flattering role of just another species that overshot the carrying capacity of its environment and experienced the usual consequences."

I've always wondered why the peak oil issue gets very little press.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Resistance Movement to save the Planet

If you're trying to imagine what the vision of a movement like this might be you might want to check out this article by Derrick Jensen. I'll post a quote below.

What I want is for us to think like members of a serious resistance movement.

What does that look like? Well, to start, it doesn’t have to mean handling guns. Even when the IRA was at its strongest, only 2 percent of its members ever picked up weapons. The same is true for the Underground Railroad; Harriet Tubman and others carried guns, but Quakers and other pacifists who ran safe houses were also crucial to that work. What they all held in common was a commitment to their cause, and a willingness to work together in the resistance.

A serious resistance movement also means a commitment to winning, which means figuring out what “winning” means to you. For me, winning means living in a world with more wild salmon every year than the year before, more migratory songbirds, more amphibians, more large fish in the oceans, and for that matter oceans not being murdered. It means less dioxin in every mother’s breast milk. It means living in a world where there are fewer dams each year than the year before. More native forests. More wild wetlands. It means living in a world not being ravaged by the industrial economy. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get there (and if, by the way, you believe that “whatever it takes” is code language for violence, you’re revealing nothing more than your own belief that nonviolence is ineffective).--Derrick Jensen

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obama and Politics

Ran Prieur has had some really insightful political posts on December 14th, 15th, and 17th. I especially like this part:

Obama's moral failure was running for president in the first place. He should have known he was not going to be able to keep his campaign promises, and knowing that, he should not have made them, and then there's no point in running. But you know who also runs for president? Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul. They are all feeding the lie, and they probably believe it themselves, that the Emperor rules the Empire, and not the other way around.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life After Ishmael

There have been a few times that I've wanted to rename this blog to Life After Ishmael. The book simply had a big impact on me. For example, when I'm reading a book by any author I find myself asking if what the author is saying has any relation to what Daniel Quinn had to say in Ishmael. This is happening quite often as I'm reading Karen Armstrong's The Case for God. Take this quote for instance.

"In his conversations Socrates sought not merely to inform but to form the minds of his interlocutors, producing within them a profound psychological change. Wisdom was about insight, not amassing information." Pg. 59

I had a "profound psychological change" after reading Ishmael. As it stands right now it's a mystery to me how it happened, but no doubt it happened.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Great Chain of Being

I'm still going through my notebooks. More on what Nature means to us.

"The Great Chain of Being concept is a product of the Middle Ages, but it wasn't left behind during the Renaissance. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz all wrote about it with complete seriousness. In fact, it's never been left behind, has it? Even people who don't believe in God or angels still perceive Man to be at the top of the chain of life on this planet. He stands apart and above all the rest--the rest being that which during the Age of Enlightenment came to be known as 'Nature.'"--Daniel Quinn, Pg. 81, If They Give you Lined Paper Write Sideways

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Phillip K. Dick on Reality

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away." --Phillip K. Dick

I've always liked this essay by him. It's titled: How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

Friday, December 11, 2009

Anxiety, Abram and Animism

I'm starting to understand why Daniel Quinn will not use the term nature in his work. In The Story of B he even titled a section Dynamiting Nature. In that section he talks about why using the term nature in any discussion can be decieving.

Anyway, back to another quote I dug up out of my notebook that speaks to my understanding.

"From an animistic perspective, the clearest source of all this disstress, both physical and psychological, lies in the aforementioned violence needlessly perpetrated by out civilization on the ecology of the planet, only by alleviating the latter will we be able to heal the former." --David Abram, Pg.22, The Spell of the Sensuous

Perhaps what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Stories and Calvin Luther Martin

In going through my notebooks I found these two quotes about story:

"....[The story]had a spirit, yua: the story itself was a living thing."-- Pg.2

"....the story may be thinking you rather than you thinking it."--Pg.3

Both of those quotes are out of Martin's book The Way of the Human Being.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Martian Anthropologist.

I've been going through my notebooks that are full of quotes from books that I've read in the past. Here is a quote out If They Give You Lined Paper Write Sideways:

"My frame of reference is that of a Martian anthropologist. I'm like someone who has traveled millions of miles to study a species of beings who, while supposedly bring rational, are destroying the very planet they live on."--Pg.5

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Backing Up a Bit

Yesterday I mentioned that I like the part in Diamond's quote about anthropologists searching for human possibilities. But I think before anyone becomes interested in human possibilities one must come to a place where they feel and think there is something wrong.

Did you know that Daniel Quinn had a different title in mind for Beyond Civilization? It was: The Manual of Change. In his words here is why:

"I thought of this because there's nothing the people of our culture want more than change. They desperately want to change themselves and the world around them. The reason isn't hard to find. They know something's wrong--wrong with themselves and wrong with the world."

Those words ring as true for me today as they did when I first read them ten years ago.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

What is an Anthropologist

Well, according to the anthropologist/poet Stanley Diamond:

"Of course anthropolgists are "spiritual" double agents. That is, they are marginal to the commercial-industrial society that created them, but they eagerly explore the areas opened up to them by colonialism. Anthropology is an academic discipline, but it also implies revolt, a search for human possibilities." --Pg. 89 In Search of the Primitive

I especially like the part about searching for human possibilities.

Monday, November 30, 2009


The voice of Lewis Mumford usually finds its way into my head when I'm writing in my journal.

"On the terms imposed by technocratic society, there is no hope for mankind except by 'going with' its plans for accelerated technological progress, even though man's vital organs will be cannibalized in order to prolong the megamachine's meaningless existence."--The Pentagon of Power

Agatha Christie then comes to save the day:

"'There is always a brave new world,' said Poirot, 'but only, you know, for very special people. The lucky ones. The ones who carry the making of that world within themselves.'"

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Article Worth The Read

If you have read Ishmael you will see what I'm talking about. Below a quote from the article:

"The trees, the animals, the rivers cannot cry out from their appointed courses, nor the oceans from their beds that, "Hey, we are not your resources. We are the only god damned shot you have at survival!"

I never expect to see politicians tell the people: "Quit buying. Quit using all that electrical stuff. Quit traveling all over the world. Quit driving. Just eat, be happy you are breathing and work to grow your mind and soul and let's see if we can come to understand this ruined world around us and how to heal it -- or at least do less damage. Let us change our entire idea about what constitutes governance, and work and happiness."

Neither do I, Joe

Friday, September 25, 2009

How Nothing Works

I've been reading Robert Bly's The Sibling Society and at the same time wondering why Ishmael had such an impact on me ten years ago. It always amazes how you can hold a question in your mind and answers to those questions pop out at you from all different kinds of sources. Take this quote out of TSS about breaking up tribal societies for instance:

"It's possible that American culture now exhibits many qualities we associate with a typical colonialist society. We now know from twentieth-century psychology, if from no other source, that, given the nature of human life, people and nations cannot practice destruction of tribal societies without having it come back on them.
When colonial administrators take over a tribal society, their first task is to prove to the indigenous people that nothing in their culture works. It is important also to prove that tribal ways, such as consensus, do not work, and the old ways of talking with the gods, the ways the shamans practice, do not work.
Ships, gunpowder, and armor overpowered the African tribes, and then Westerners, to secure the power, dismantled the elder system. Pg. 160

In Ishmael, and the rest of his work, Daniel Quinn simply pointed out ways that worked for human beings for hundreds of thousands of years. In other words, we dont have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding a better way to live, we have plenty of models to work off from.

That's one reason why I think Ishmael had such an impact on me at that time in my life. At 25 (Hell, at 7 or 8) I knew the world was messed up, and that's part of the reason I was feeling down all the time. Most of the advice and stories I was hearing from adults over the age of 50 wasn't wasn't enough for me, there were always a few missing pieces that I was looking for. Well, Quinn provided the missing pieces, atleast that's the way it looks so far.

Friday, September 18, 2009


After reading Erik's post about corporate personhood I had to post this quote out of Derrick Jensen's The Culture of Make Believe.

“Corporations are a legal device invented in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to deal with the myriad of limits exceeded by this culture’s social and economic system: the railroads and other early corporations were too big and too technological to be built or insured by the incorporator’s investments alone; when corporations failed or caused gross public damage, as they often did, the incorporators did not have the wealth to cover the damage for which they could be held liable. Because of limited liability, corporations have allowed several generations of owners to economically, psychologically, and legally ignore the limits of toxics, fisheries depletion, debt, and so on that have been transgressed by the workings of the economic system.

“By now we should have learned. To expect corporations to do differently than they do is to engage in magical thinking. We may as well expect a clock to cook, a car to give birth, or a gun to do other than that for which it was created. The specific and explicit function of for-profit corporations is to amass wealth. The function is not to guarantee that children are raised in environments free of toxic chemicals, nor to respect the autonomy or existence of indigenous peoples, nor to protect the vocational or personal integrity of workers, nor to design safe modes of transportation, nor to support life on this planet. Nor is the function to support communities. It never has been and never will be. To expect corporations to do other than to amass wealth at any (externalized) cost is to ignore the system of rewards that has been set up, to ignore everything we know about behavior modification: if you reward someone—those inventing in or running corporations, in this case—for doing something, you can expect them to do it again. To expect corporations to do other than they do is at the very least poor judgment, and the very worst delusional. Corporations are institutions created explicitly to separate humans from the effects of their actions, making them by definition inhuman and inhumane. To the degree that we desire to live in a human and humane world—and really, to the degree that we wish to survive—corporations need to be eliminated." pg. 441

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Twain on Recieved Wisdom

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other”--Mark Twain

Check out If They Give You Lined Paper Write Sideways if you want to examine the beliefs and convictions you've been given.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Machine Metaphors

I really like the machine metaphor. Here is a quote out of Derrick Jensen's What We Leave Behind that occasionally pops into my head.

"We live in a machine age. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines working, for when machines are functioning men can labor and earn wages. The good citizen does not repair the old; he buys anew. The shoes that crack are to be thrown away. Don't patch them. When the car gets crotchety, haul it to the town's dump. Give to the ashman's oblivion the leaky pot, the broken umbrella, the clock that doesn't tick. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines going."--Richardson Wright

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Question answered

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. Less than a week ago I received this article through email. The author used this quote by Anatole France: “The law, in its majestic quality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

After reading the article I remember asking what does France mean by this? I became busy with something else and didn't give the question much thought after that. Well, this morning, while paging through Derrick Jensen’s “Welcome to the Machine”, the question answered itself.

Jensen says, “Frances point was clear. The poor are not to be free or independent; the rich do not have to beg, as they control the levers of power, which are the privatization of profits and the externalization of costs, or the taking for themselves of whatever material benefits the machine provides, while forcing others (including especially the nonhuman world) to suffer the material consequences.” Pg. 134

I guess I’m on the right path.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health Care and The Post Office

I worked for the post office yesterday. While I was sorting mail a few of us got into a dicussion about universal health care. One of the guys said "but you realize we're going to have to pay for that." This takes me back to an excerpt out of a blog post I read before going to work.

"It is utterly ridiculous that any adult cannot figure out the obvious inequity of this nation and American capitalism, where an elite one percent of the people grab 45% of the national pie. Such a conditioned stupidity and powerlessness makes you want to cry for your country." Joe Bageant

The top 1% of the income bracket can pay for it.

When are we going to start talking about the wealth gap in America?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Letter to the Editor 7/20/09

I wrote a letter to our local newspaper's editor this week.


It was refreshing to read "Oil Prices Rising and as Supply Falls", by Dave Thomas from The Ashland Daily Press last week. It was especially refreshing to read this line at the end of his article: "As Oil prices climb higher, let's hope we find a third mode to address the challenges ahead. A good place to start would be to re-localize our food and energy production and scale down our community size to stay within local carrying capacity. It will happen anyway--through responsible planning, personal change, and careful transition, or through complaceny, panic, and crisis."

He's right, our civilization is collapsing. Of course, looking back at the history of civilizations in the past all of them eventually do. The question is: what are we going to do about it? Mr. Thomas's letter clearly and honestly states the issues that we have to address if we want this collapse to be less painful than others have been in the past. I'm glad he wrote it. I hope to see more like it printed in The Spooner Advocate.

If I could find the link to the article that I responded to I'd post it.

It was nice to see issues like: human overpopulation, carrying capacity, Peak Oil, local economies, and food production addressed in our local newspaper. Although I was hoping the author would've mentioned civilization. Those problems he talked about that need to be addressed are all symptoms of civilization, for the most part.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I'm interested in writing and writers. It all started with Daniel Quinn's Ishmael. Before reading Ishmael I could have cared less about writing and writers. I read one book before the age of 25, and that was Night, by Elie Wiesel.

The past year or so I've been following Micheal Perry. He's a writer from Wisconsin. Lives about 2 hours to the south of me in a little town called New Auburn. He's been writing for about 20 years now and has a few books published.

Every writer has a process. Micheal says his process is a lot like grunting. He just puts it all down and then organizes and edits and organizes and edits until it looks good.

I like that idea and that's what I've been doing lately. Not nearly enough of it though. It's probably a combination of thinking I don't have anything important to say, lack of grammatical and technical writing skills, and putting myself out there.

I enjoy it when I do it though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Just some notes here. Lately I've been reading various works by Vine Deloria. He's wise. Take this quote for example:

Now, every society needs educated people, but the primary responsibility of educated people must be to bring wisdom back into the community and make it available to others. Because of hierarchies, European thinkers have not performed their proper social function. Instead, science and philosophy have taken the path already taken by Western religion and mystified themselves. The people who occupy the top positions in science, religion, and politics have one thing in common: they are responsible for creating a technical language incomprehensible to the rest of us, so that we will cede to them our right and responsibility to think. They, in turn, formulate a set of beautiful lies that lull us to sleep and distract us from our troubles, eventually depriving us of all rights - including, increasingly, the right to a livable world.

This takes me back to this excerpt out the Story of B:

"Animism looks for truth in the universe, not in books, revelations, and authorities. Science is the same. Though animism and science read the universe in different ways, both have complete confidence in its truthfulness." Pg. 136

Daniel Quinn goes on to explain how animism finds truth in the universe in a language that most people can understand. He has brought "wisdom back into the community and made it available to others." I'm really glad that he took the time to do this. He is wise too.

How's that for simplicity?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

MP3 Recording of Jensen Interview

Someone on a message board that I belong to listened to the interview and recorded it. You can contact them at panopticsort[at]gmail[dot]com to receive a link where you can download the mp3 to it. Don't worry I asked them for permission to do this so they won't be surprised to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Good Interview

For those interested the interview on WOJB went well with Derrick. So well they are seriously considering having him on atleast once a month to continue the conversation.

I can't help but think about these words by Daniel Quinn when it comes to Derrick's work, "Derrick Jensen sees as clearly as I do the disastrous impact the Taker Thunderbolt is having on our planet."

In my community there is a lot of confusion when it comes to understanding the disastrous impact Takers are having on the planet. It's a relief to have Derrick on our local radio station helping us understand this. Now all that WOJB needs to do is set up a monthly conversation with Daniel Quinn and this community member will be a happy camper.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Derrick Jensen and WOJB

I'm excited. I recently found out that Derrick Jensen will be a guest on our local radio station. I've been waiting awhile. I first suggested they have him on about five years ago now. I'm glad there were others that did the same, usually it takes more than one person's suggestion (like the show host's good friend) to make something like this happen.

I talked to the show host for a few minutes this morning. He was excited about the interview. He mentioned that he's agreed with Derrick's premises privately for a couple of years now. He also mentioned the conversation that was going on over at Orion's website concerning Derrick's article titled World at Gunpoint in the magazine's May/June issue. He said it would be great to have that conversation continued on his show. He hopes to have many local and internet listeners calling in.

Here is the description of the show:

Monday, July 6
At 10:00AM CDST Derrick Jensen will talk about his book What We Leave Behind on WOJB-88.9FM Reserve, Wisconsin with the station's Public Affairs Director Eric Schubring. The live broadcast will be available to internet listeners at Listeners will be invited to join the conversation at 800-776-3689 or 715-634-2100.

WOJB-88.9FM broadcasts from the Lac Courte Orielles (pronounced La-Coo-Dah-Ray) Ojibwa Reservation in northwest Wisconsin. The 100-thousand watt radio station was established in 1982 and remains the only Native American owned and operated radio station east of the Mississippi. Beginning with its first broadcasts WOJB has been recognized as a source for information on peace, justice, environment and equity issues as well as an eclectic mix of music.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Poverty and The Post Office

So I'm at the post office the other day filling for the full-time mail carrier. While I was sorting mail the other carrier and I got to talking about how she and her group were raising money for a mission trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatamala. I mentioned that I've read a few books by a shaman from there. And he wrote that Lake Atitlan was one of the most beautiful places on earth. She wholeheartedly agreed and happily added the people were much happier than we in the United States are. Than all of a sudden the expression on her face changed and she got to telling me that how she couldn't believe how much poverty is there. Her reaction to the Guatamalan's poverty reminded me of what my grandmother use to look like when I would attempt to sit on her furniture with muddy pants.

I came to the conclusion to what their mission trip was about: fighting poverty in Guatamala. The next day I had half the notion to show her Marshall Sahlin's anthropological perspective on poverty:

"The world's most primitive people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization."

I left the book at home and let it pass.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Labor Saving Devices

"Men have become the tools of their tools."--Henry David Thoreau

"We spend more time working for our labor-saving devices than they do working for us."--Ed Abbey

"By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed." --Lewis Mumford

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Don't Look

This morning I'm thinking about passing through the door backwards, avoiding responsibility, telling lies to ourselves and each other, believing in fantasies, lifting ourselves up above the earth, denial, etc...

"Everyone is looking down, and it's obvious that the ground is rushing up toward you--and rushing up faster every year. Basic ecological and planetary systems are being impacted by the Taker Thunderbolt, and that impact increases in intensity every year. Basic, irreplaceable resources are being devoured every year--and they're being devoured more greedily every year. Whole species are disappearing as a result of your encroachment--and they're disappearing in greater numbers every year. Pessimists--or it may be that they're realists--look down and say, 'Well, the crash may be twenty years off or maybe as much as fifty years off. Actually it could happen anytime. There's no way to be sure.' But of course there are optimists as well, who say, 'We must have faith in our craft. After all, it has brought us this far in safety. What's ahead isn't doom, it's just a little hump that we can clear if we all just pedal a little harder. Then we'll soar into a glorious, endless future, and the Taker Thunderbolt will take us to the stars and we'll conquer the universe itself.' But your craft isn't going to save you. Quite the contrary, it's your craft that's carrying you toward catastrophe. Five billion of you pedaling away--or ten billion or twenty billion--can't make it fly. It's been in free fall from the beginning, and that fall is about to end." ISHMAEL (pages 105-110)

"The point is that in order to maintain these lies--that we are really flying, that we can exploit a landbase (or planet) and live on it, and so on--we must keep pushing away physical reality, and we must keep telling ourselves these lies again and again. The maintenance of these lies is incredibly expensive psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, physically, financially, morally, ecologically, and so on." Derrick Jensen in WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, pg. 209

Of course this leads to understanding what the basic laws of ecology are and what the law of life is.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Machine

I've been reading Derrick Jensen's What We Leave Behind and Welcome to the Machine.

"Machinery is the new Messiah,"--Henry Ford

We live in a machine age. To maintain prosperity we must keep the machines working, for when machines are functioning men can labor and earn wages. The good citizen does not repair the old; he buys anew. The shoes that crack are to be thrown away. Don't patch them. When the car gets crotchety, haul it to the town's dump. Give to the ashman's oblivion the leaky pot, the broken umbrella, the clock that doesn't tick. To maintain prosperity we must keep those machines going."--Richardson Wright

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


"You can never get enough of what you do not really want." - Huston Smith, scholar of religious studies

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Looking for Answers

Ever since I read Ishmael I've been looking for answers as to why the world is so messed up. Actually I have been wondering about this since I've been a child. It's funny, because when I read Ishmael I pretty much had the attitude that this is just the way things are, so deal with it and try to find some happiness in this life. Ishmael brought those important childhood questions back up to the surface again, and I'm happy for it.

One of the places I find myself looking for answers is Derrick Jensen's work. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself thumbing through his books looking for quotes. And this excerpt out of A Language Older Than Words has been on my mind lately. I said before I was going to write more on this blog, so I'm going to make myself do it, even if I am copying quotes.

Derrick asks: "Why is our behavior so predatory? What are the common factors among predatory cultures?"

"It's interesting," [Judith Hermann] responded. "The anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sunday looked at data from over a hundred cultures as to the prevalence of rape, and divided them into high or low-rape cultures. She found that high-rape cultures are highly militarized and sex-segregated. There is a lot of difference in status between men and women. The care of children is devalued and delegated to subordinate females. She also found that the creation myths of high-rape cultures recognize only a male deity rather than a female deity or a couple. When you think about it, that is rather bizarre. It would be an understandable mistake to think women make babies all by themselves, but it's preposterous to think men do that alone. So you've got to have a fairly elaborate and counterintuitive mythmaking machine in order to fabricate a creation myth that recognizes only a male deity."

The rest of the quote is what really interests me.

"There was another interesting finding, which is that high-rape cultures had recent experiences--meaning in the last few hundred years--of famine or migration. That is to say, they had not reached a stable adaptation to their ecological niche. Sadly enough, when you tally the risk factors, you realize you've pretty much described our culture." Pg. 350

This tells me that we all need to start paying attention to our relationships with nonhumans. That's if we want to stop the cycle of abuse in this culture.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Letter to the Editor

My letter to the editor was printed in this weeks edition of The Spooner Advocate. Looking at it now I don't know if I like it. This seems to happen with almost everything I write.

Lately my letters have been focused on laying out reasons why people resist this culture and why they are working for a better world to live in. People doing this work are criticized just for simply doing the work. It's crazy. Anyway, I'll post the letter below.

New Ideas

I have a few questions about this statement in last week’s article titled “Not so cool” by James Lewis “Man-made global warming is again presented as settled science…” When have scientists ever sat down and agreed on anything? Am I hearing you say that citizens and their governments should do nothing about global warming until science settles the matter?

When wondering about those questions one only needs to turn the famous German physicist Max Planck. He had this to say about new and important ideas in science: “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over its opponents…what does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.”

Mr. Lewis stated in his letter that 30,000 scientists at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine have all agreed “man-made global warming is speculative at best and flatly wrong at worst.” Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, there are many scientists that say the planet will continue to warm no matter what we do. We have exceeded the global warming tipping point, and in the near future we’ll be facing a sudden biological die off. Which of course means that we will suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs: extinction. The story of Homo sapien will be over. Time will tell which group of scientists hits closer to the mark.

I do know this though. If anyone would have written into this paper 60 years ago and said we might be facing extinction they most likely would have been laughed at. This isn’t the case nowadays. This alone is an indicator to me that not only scientists are starting to realize that we cannot continue to do what we are doing to this planet and not suffer the consequences, but so are common folk. So I don’t know if I would be so quick to label folks concerned about global warming as “alarmists”. I’d lean more towards viewing them sort of the way Planck viewed scientists with new ideas: a growing generation of people genuinely concerned about our future as a species on this planet. This new generation has been gaining steam since Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” back in 1962, and they’re using the tools that are available to them (legislation being one of them) to make sure future generations have a planet to live on.

Time will tell if we can legislate ourselves to sustainability. Personally, I think it’s going too take much more then that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I would like to think and write with more clarity. I've had the burning desire to do this for quite some time now, it's just that I never actually sit down and take the time to do it. I've got a lot going on: bills to pay, mouths to feed, cars to maintain, and so on. But it still feels like I need to do it. So I'm going to gradually start putting more effort into writing.

Besides the obligations that I listed above that stand in my way of spending more time writing, there is always the peristant thoughts that readers will dislike my writing or that I'm wasting their time. Awhile back I ran across a line in Zinsser's On Writing Well that speaks to this:

"You are writing for yourself, don't try and visualize the mass audience."

I'm going to take Zinsser's advice. I'm going to treat this as a process of self discovery and see where it takes me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

John Taylor Gatto and Wisconsin Public Radio

Yesterday, over the airwaves of Wisconsin Public Radio, I had the opportunity to ask John Taylor Gatto two questions: 1.What is the role of public schooling in keeping children and young adults off the job market? 2.What do you think about President Obama wanting to spend more money on education? You can hear his answers HERE.

After listening to John it's clear why compulsory schooling doesn't work for the majority of students.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Letters to Local Newspaper

This past month I have sent in two letters to our local newspaper. I'm beginning to think a lot of people in my community have forgotten that we exist in a class based power structure.

The Pyramid

In this system money is a stand-in for power. Corporations and individuals with a lot of money get to plan and dictate the political and economic policies of this country. I don't know of many people who would argue with this. And it's because of this simple fact that I'm always surprised to see people spending more time and energy on criticizing citizen groups like Washburn County First instead of corporations or individuals with a lot of wealth and power.

Corporations and individuals with power will not give up their power without a fight. Wal-Mart is one of the most powerful corporations in the world. So why are most of us are complaining about losing the opportunity to buy cheap products and work at a low wage job?

Perhaps the question we should be asking is what kind of system would allow a corporation like Wal-Mart to accumulate so much wealth and power. And isn't this what groups like Washburn County First are doing in their own way? What happened to the revolutionary spirit this country was founded on?

This takes me back to the spotted owl problem of the early nineties when I was a logger. People were complaining that since they were closing down spotted owl habitat to logging operations, loggers were losing jobs. Not once did I hear anyone complain how advances in logging technology cost loggers their jobs. Well, close to 20 years later I understand why.

High technology enables the centralization of power. In other words, a select few individuals and corporations accumulate a lot of money and power because it's cheaper for them to hire machines to do the work humans could do. Our system fulfills the needs of our machines, and therefore those in power, more effectively and efficiently than it fulfills the needs of human beings (unless of course your needs are the same as a machine). Systems that are designed this way are volatile and don't last long. Period. Why we let allow it to continue is beyond me.

We live in a pyramid shaped power structure. As the economy continues to collapse and the number of people at the bottom of the pyramid continues to grow daily it's time we start asking why there are so few with so much at the top of the pyramid and so many with so little at the bottom. After all, there are more of us than there are of them.



Last week, in his article titled "Philosophy: Forgotten in our schools?" Spooner High School student Nick Prete asked this question: So should our teachers focus more on introducing the hunger for learning into or students?
Teachers need to tell their students the truth about what students need to become successful outside the world of schooling. The answer is: power. And in our society money is a stand in for power. As Derrick Jensen (A philosopher and teacher himself) has stated in his amazing book "Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution":

"We hear, more or less constantly, that schools are failing in their mandate. Nothing could be more wrong. Schools are succeeding all too well, accomplishing precisely their purpose. And what is their primary purpose. To answer this, ask yourself first what society values most. We don't talk about it much, but the truth is that our society values money above all else, in part because, as is also true of power, it gives us the illusion that we can get what we want."

Of course we all pay dearly for this physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally (How many people do you know on anti-depressants?). As Jensen goes on to say "But one of the costs of following money is that in order to acquire it, we so often have to give ourselves away to whomever has money to give in return. Bosses, corporations, men with nice cars, women with power suits. Teachers. Not that teachers have money, but in the classroom they have what money elsewhere represents: power. We live in a culture that is based on the illusion—and schooling is central to the creation and perpetuation of this illusion--that happiness lies outside of us, and specifically in the hands of those who have power.

"Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss's bidding (as she does hers, and he is, all the way up the line), and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o'clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?" pg.5-6

It has been my experience that understanding this is all one needs to kindle the flames of learning.


No one responded to either of those.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dialogue From Facebook.

I've been involved in an interesting dialogue over on Facebook about issues surrounding our way of life that I'm moving over here. Below is the latest response:

Rob wrote: "This is a toughy. I appreciate the point regarding primitive tribes. I believe that one of "civilized man's" biggest mistakes has to be in the attempt to indoctrinate those they believe to be less than "civilized" into a culture they believe to be in fact "civilized." You have pointed out one of the tremendous flaws in the endeavor, that being that primitive tribes are essentially happy with the way they are and never did require "intervention," regardless of the intent. Evolution is not always pretty though. (As a side note, this is my primary issue with missionaries - and I generally wince at the term "primitive," though I understand the context here - English is extremely limited in it's allowance for variety in cultures)

"You've raised a number of issues, and I've just touched on one, and I want to get to the work issue, but I keep running out of room. Annie says you have a blog? Where is it?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sense of Urgency

I have felt a sense of urgency for quite some time now. Actually ever since I read "Ishmael", which has been close to ten years now. I ran across these words in "Pornography and Silence", by Susan Griffin that I think explains the mechanics behind this sense of urgency I feel every morning.

To make the heart retreat long enough so that the body, which perhaps has reached a fever pitch, can “release” sensation. And yet we must not be too quick to believe that this “urgency,” and this “release,” this fever pitch, this demandingness, belong to the body alone. For the separation between the body and mind is unnatural. The body speaks the language of the soul. In the body’s fevered longing is perhaps a deep desire for that part of the self which has been sacrificed, a desire for that self to come to consciousness, to be remembered. For an experience of the heart is also an experience of the mind. The body and heart cry out like a long neglected child, pleading, “Pay attention to me.” pg. 86