Conservation ain’t what it used to be (WE NEED TO BE BIGGER)

Posted by on April 21st, 2013

Avengers #3 (2013)

Attention Conservation Notice: long quotes designed to break open your Green mind

Developers can build on nature reserves – if they ‘offset’ the damage elsewhere, says Government review:

A “priority recommendation” from the Government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force is for a new “biodiversity offset system” to let large developers would be given a right to build on one nature reserve or protected area, if they build one somewhere else.

The taskforce’s Government report said this was not “a license to trash nature” – although campaigners have warned that that is exactly what it is.

It said: “We need a system in which unavoidable net impacts on biodiversity of new development are more than compensated by restored and created habitats elsewhere through an efficient market.”

It is about better regulation, developing a well-defined market which delivers ‘net gain’ for nature which the current planning system has generally failed to do.”

In April 2012, six two year pilot projects were launched in Devon, Doncaster, Essex, Norwich, Nottinghamshire, and Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull.

The review said that it would “revolutionise conservation in England by delivering restoration, creation and long-term management of in excess of 300,000 hectares of habitat over 20 years” and “incentivise location of development at sites of lower nature value”.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson suggested that he would decide on whether to expand the scheme when the trials’ results come back next year.

He said: “We shouldn’t to choose between either improving the environment or growing the economy. We should aim to have both which is why I’m keen to see the results of these trials.”

But Neil Sinden, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said offsetting failed “to recognise the complex way in which wildlife systems are sustained and thrive”.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “You can’t wipe out wildlife habitats and expect to be able to create on that can achieve the richness and diversity of wildlife sites that have evolved over decades and centuries.

Now, our well-cultivated, knee-jerk Green reaction is to immediately cry “NATURE IS NOT A SUBSET OF ECONOMICS”.

The thing is, it’s actually far, far worse than that, as we forcibly free ourselves from the gravity of the Green Mythology.

In his looooong read Quarterly Essay Tim Flannery takes aim at the failings of “conservation”…:

Such is the depth of public ignorance about Australia’s extinction crisis that most people are unaware that is is occurring, while those who do know of it commonly believe that our national parks and reserves are safe places for threatened species. In fact the second extinction wave is now in full swing, and it’s emptying our national parks and wildlife reserves as ruthlessly as other landscapes. This is disturbing: national parks exist explicitly to conserve biodiversity, and their failure to do so is a failure both of government policy and of our collective will to protect our natural heritage. Paradoxically, biodiversity is sometimes flourishing more vibrantly on private land than in national parks, despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent annually by our governments on reserved lands.

The problem lies not with the parks’ staff, who are often dedicated and skilled at their work. Nor does it lie solely with budgets, although more funding rather than more cuts would always be welcome. Instead, the difficulties are at least threefold. First and foremost, the problem stems from the delusion that the simple act of proclaiming a national park or nature reserve will result in the protection of biodiversity. Parks must be proclaimed and effectively managed if biodiversity is to be protected. Secondly, the various government agencies responsible for biodiversity protection have allowed their scientific capacity to erode to the point where it’s hard to be sure how many individuals of most endangered species survive; and thirdly, the attempt to save endangered species involves risks that bureaucracies are increasingly unwilling to take. The first duty of the bureaucrat these days seems to be to protect their minister from criticism: thus it often seems preferable to let a species die out quietly, seemingly a victim of natural change, than to institute a recovery program that carries a risk of failure, however small.

 

I’m increasingly resistant to the notion of Sustainability… because what are we sustaining but the slow motion death of the life on Earth that has supported us? WE NEED TO ACCELERATE FORWARDS INTO THE FUTURE, DRAGGING ALL OF HISTORY AND ITS LESSONS WITH US.

Okay, that’s a tad hyperbolic… but there are a lot of legacy civilizational myths that need to be exploded. For starters, the crux of the Environmental Mythology, that the Amazon is some untouched Gaian Paradise, when the evidence points to it being a pre-Columbian garden that’s since ReWilded:

Unlike Europeans, who planted mainly annual crops, the Indians, he says, centered their agriculture on the Amazon’s unbelievably diverse assortment of trees: fruits, nuts, and palms. “It’s tremendously difficult to clear fields with stone tools,” Clement says. “If you can plant trees, you get twenty years of productivity out of your work instead of two or three.”

Planting their orchards, the first Amazonians transformed large swaths of the river basin into something more pleasing to human beings. In a widely cited article from 1989, William Balée, the Tulane anthropologist, cautiously estimated that about 12 percent of the nonflooded Amazon forest was of anthropogenic origin—directly or indirectly created by human beings. In some circles this is now seen as a conservative position. “I basically think it’s all human-created,” Clement told me in Brazil. He argues that Indians changed the assortment and density of species throughout the region. So does Clark Erickson, the University of Pennsylvania archaeologist, who told me in Bolivia that the lowland tropical forests of South America are among the finest works of art on the planet. “Some of my colleagues would say that’s pretty radical,” he said, smiling mischievously. According to Peter Stahl, an anthropologist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, “lots” of botanists believe that “what the eco-imagery would like to picture as a pristine, untouched Urwelt [primeval world] in fact has been managed by people for millennia.” The phrase “built environment,” Erickson says, “applies to most, if not all, Neotropical landscapes.”

“Landscape” in this case is meant exactly—Amazonian Indians literally created the ground beneath their feet. According to William I. Woods, a soil geographer at Southern Illinois University, ecologists’ claims about terrible Amazonian land were based on very little data. In the late 1990s Woods and others began careful measurements in the lower Amazon. They indeed found lots of inhospitable terrain. But they also discovered swaths of terra preta—rich, fertile “black earth” that anthropologists increasingly believe was created by human beings.

Terra preta, Woods guesses, covers at least 10 percent of Amazonia, an area the size of France. It has amazing properties, he says. Tropical rain doesn’t leach nutrients from terra preta fields; instead the soil, so to speak, fights back. Not far from Painted Rock Cave is a 300-acre area with a two-foot layer of terra preta quarried by locals for potting soil. The bottom third of the layer is never removed, workers there explain, because over time it will re-create the original soil layer in its initial thickness. The reason, scientists suspect, is that terra preta is generated by a special suite of microorganisms that resists depletion. “Apparently,” Woods and the Wisconsin geographer Joseph M. McCann argued in a presentation last summer, “at some threshold level … dark earth attains the capacity to perpetuate—even regenerate itself—thus behaving more like a living ‘super’-organism than an inert material.”

In as yet unpublished research the archaeologists Eduardo Neves, of the University of São Paulo; Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida; and their colleagues examined terra preta in the upper Xingu, a huge southern tributary of the Amazon. Not all Xingu cultures left behind this living earth, they discovered. But the ones that did generated it rapidly—suggesting to Woods that terra preta was created deliberately. In a process reminiscent of dropping microorganism-rich starter into plain dough to create sourdough bread, Amazonian peoples, he believes, inoculated bad soil with a transforming bacterial charge. Not every group of Indians there did this, but quite a few did, and over an extended period of time.

When Woods told me this, I was so amazed that I almost dropped the phone. I ceased to be articulate for a moment and said things like “wow” and “gosh.” Woods chuckled at my reaction, probably because he understood what was passing through my mind. Faced with an ecological problem, I was thinking, the Indians fixed it. They were in the process of terraforming the Amazon when Columbus showed up and ruined everything.

A clue lies inside Bruce Sterling’s book Distraction:

“We could integrate the natural world right into the substance of our cities. If we knew how to use our power properly, we could guide herds of American bison right through our own streets. We could live in an Eden at peace with packs of wolves. All it would take is enough sense and vision to know who we are, and what we want.” “That sounds wonderful, Senator. Why don’t you do it?” “Because we’re a pack of thieves! We went straight from wilder-ness to decadence, without ever creating an authentic American civilization.”

 

This shit is complicated and hard, and an app isn’t going to solve it, let alone any other form of Solutionism by itself.

Instead, we need to grow the fuck up. WE NEED TO BE BIGGER. To acknowledge what is broken, take stock and rebuild… towards rebirth.

Hands up who wants to construct a reality worth being near-immortal in?

– Comments intentionally disabled, trackbacks will work. Give unto the blogosphere your considered thoughts.


Ontological Rescue Squad Training Manual #1: Know Thyself

Posted by on September 15th, 2012

Listen to Imhotep

– from S.H.I.E.L.D issue#1

Critical Thinking is Critical.

In this post I will go through several long and educational, instructional LongReads… These will serve as an introduction, a basis to build from.

As I’ve said before, “the first grind is the mind”, and that video at the other end of that link is well worth (re)visiting.

We are in the midst of a Reality War, where the meaning of words such as Theory are weapons.

Where in the US the Romney/Ryan campaign is, rather generously, described at Post-Truth. Where earlier this year the Texas GOP declared war on Critical Thinking. Yes, really. And the shocking thing is… we aren’t shocked by this.

But there is still hope. Take this tale of a man who broke out of the prison of his mind; The Political Awakening of a Republican:

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

I might still have stuck it out as a frustrated liberal Republican, knowing that the wealthy business core of the party still pulled a few strings and people like Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe remained in the Senate — if only because the idea of voting for Democrats by choice made me feel uncomfortable.  (It would have been so… gauche.)  Then came Hurricane Katrina.  In New Orleans, I learned that it wasn’t just the Bush administration that was flawed but my worldview itself.

The enormity of the advantages I had always enjoyed started to truly sink in.  Everyone begins life thinking that his or her normal is the normal.  For the first time, I found myself paying attention to broken eggs rather than making omelets.  Up until then, I hadn’t really seen most Americans as living, breathing, thinking, feeling, hoping, loving, dreaming, hurting people.  My values shifted — from an individualistic celebration of success (that involved dividing the world into the morally deserving and the undeserving) to an interest in people as people.

In order to learn more — and to secure my membership in what Karl Rove sneeringly called the “reality-based community ” — I joined a social science research institute.  There I was slowly disabused of layer after layer of myth and received wisdom, and it hurt.  Perhaps nothing hurt more than to see just how far my patriotic, Republican conception of U.S. martial power — what it’s for, how it’s used — diverged from the reality of our wars.

An old saw has it that no one profits from talking about politics or religion.  I think I finally understand what it means.  We see different realities, different worlds.  If you and I take in different slices of reality, chances are that we aren’t talking about the same things.  I think this explains much of modern American political dialogue.

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “ creat[ing] our own reality ,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “ be dictated by fact-checkers ” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows — examples herehere, and here– that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful.  I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned.  I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

My transition has significantly strained my relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues.  It is deeply upsetting to walk on thin ice where there used to be solid, common ground.  I wish they, too, would come to see a fuller spectrum of reality, but I know from experience how hard that can be when your worldview won’t let you.

Another term to throw around at this point is: Reality Tunnel, “a subconscious set of mental “filters” formed from… beliefs and experiences”.

The first step is to understand that this exists. Only then can you attempt to take control of it and progress.

In this Harper’s Magazine piece from 1997, the recently passed Earl Shorris relays his own journey in Understanding, thanks to a meeting with a remarkable female prison inmate:

She didn’t speak of jobs or money. In that, she was like the others I had listened to. No one had spoken of jobs or money. But how could the “moral life of downtown” lead anyone out from the surround of force? How could a museum push poverty away? Who can dress in statues or eat the past? And what of the political life? Had Niecie skipped a step or failed to take a step? The way out of poverty was politics, not the “moral life of downtown.” But to enter the public world, to practice the political life, the poor had first to learn to reflect. That was what Niecie meant by the “moral life of downtown.” She did not make the error of divorcing ethics from politics. Niecie had simply said, in a kind of shorthand, that no one could step out of the panicking circumstance of poverty directly into the public world.

Although she did not say so, I was sure that when she spoke of the “moral life of downtown” she meant something that had happened to her. With no job and no money, a prisoner, she had undergone a radical transformation. She had followed the same path that led to the invention of politics in ancient Greece. She had learned to reflect. In further conversation it became clear that when she spoke of “the moral life of downtown” she meant the humanities, the study of human constructs and concerns, which has been the source of reflection for the secular world since the Greeks first stepped back from nature to experience wonder at what they beheld. If the political life was the way out of poverty, the humanities provided an entrance to reflection and the political life. The poor did not need anyone to release them; an escape route existed. But to open this avenue to reflection and politics a major distinction between the preparation for the life of the rich and the life of the poor had to be eliminated.

“You’ve been cheated,” I said. “Rich people learn the humanities; you didn’t. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you. I think the humanities are one of the ways to become political, and I don’t mean political in the sense of voting in an election but in the broad sense.” I told them Thucydides’ definition of politics.

“Rich people know politics in that sense. They know how to negotiate instead of using force. They know how to use politics to get along, to get power. It doesn’t mean that rich people are good and poor people are bad. It simply means that rich people know a more effective method for living in this society.

“Do all rich people, or people who are in the middle, know the humanities? Not a chance. But some do. And it helps. It helps to live better and enjoy life more. Will the humanities make you rich? Yes. Absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life.

“Rich people learn the humanities in private schools and expensive universities. And that’s one of the ways in which they learn the political life. I think that is the real difference between the haves and have-nots in this country. If you want real power, legitimate power, the kind that comes from the people and belongs to the people, you must understand politics. The humanities will help.

“My T-cell count is down. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell me about the course, Earl. What are you going to teach?”

“Moral philosophy.”

“And what does that include?”

She had turned the visit into an interrogation. I didn’t mind. At the end of the conversation I would be going out into “the free world”; if she wanted our meeting to be an interrogation, I was not about to argue. I said, “We’ll begin with Plato: the Apology, a little of the Crito, a few pages of the Phaedo so that they’ll know what happened to Socrates. Then we’ll read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I also want them to read Thucydides, particularly Pericles’ Funeral Oration in order to make the connection between ethics and politics, to lead them in the direction I hope the course will take them. Then we’ll end with Antigone, but read as moral and political philosophy as well as drama.”

“There’s something missing,” she said, leaning back in her chair, taking on an air of superiority.

The drive had been long, the day was hot, the air in the room was dead and damp. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “and what’s that?”

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. How can you teach philosophy to poor people without the Allegory of the Cave? The ghetto is the cave. Education is the light. Poor people can understand that.

The question then becomes: what do we do with our new knowledge? Our post-awakened existence?!

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~ Rumi

This epic, three hour interview with Chris Hedges wherein he recounts his own personal evolution, a progression towards the twin asymptotes of self-knowledge and worldly-understanding, was revelatory for me as both a path to follow and a better life to lead:

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Liberalism is Domesticated Protest.

Now here’s an elderly Situationist with some news about Utopia to temper the notion that Humanism might save us all:

 Utopianism? From now on, that’s the hell of the past.
(((There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still fire in the furnace.))) We
have always been constrained to live in a place that is everywhere but,
in that place, we are nowhere. That’s the reality of our exile. It has
been imposed on us for thousands of years by an economy founded on the
exploitation of man by man. Humanist ideology has made us believe that
we are human while we remain, for the most part, reduced to the state of
beasts whose predatory instincts are satisfied by the will to power and
appropriation.

Our “vale of tears” was considered the best possible
world. Could we have invented a way of living that is more
phantasmagorical and absurd than the all-powerful cruelty of the gods,
the caste of priests and princes ruling enslaved peoples, the obligation
to work that is supposed to guarantee joy and substantiate the Stalinist
paradise, the millenarianist Third Reich, the Maoist Cultural
Revolution, the society of well-being (the Welfare state[4]), the
totalitarianism of money beyond which there is neither individual nor
social safety, [and] finally the idea that survival is everything and
life is nothing? (((Take note, philosophy students: this is how one
asks a “rhetorical question.”)))

Against that utopia, which passes for reality, is
opposed the only reality that matters: what we try to live by assuring
our happiness and that of everyone else. Thenceforth, we no longer are
in a utopia, but at the heart of a mutation, a change of civilization
that takes shape under our eyes and that many people, blinded by the
dominant obscurantism, are incapable of discerning. Because the quest
for profit makes men into predatory, insensitive and stupid brutes.

Eschatological signs and portents may abide, we may succeed in lifting the veil ourselves and see things as they truly are, we may learn that the secret of the universe is All in the Eye of the Beholder…  but one thing is certain: this is not how the world ends!

Questions/Comments/Queries?


Nils Gilman on Deviant Globalization (LongNow video)

Posted by on April 1st, 2012

Watch. This. (But fast-fwd through the prologue if you need to)

Nils Gilman: Deviant Globalization from The Long Now Foundation on FORA.tv

Update: damn Fora.tv and their shitty embed code, just click this instead then.


Debtocracy

Posted by on March 25th, 2012

Your (other) weekend longwatch, how Greece’s economy collapsed:

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Inside Job (How they stole your future)

Posted by on May 26th, 2011
http://www.vimeo.com/21829282

Inside Job is an award winning documentary about the origins and actors in the ongoing Global Financial Crisis. If I had paid attention to the Oscars this year I might have heard of it sooner, it won the award for Best Documentary Feature. Instead, it was by lurking on #spanishrevolution that I found out about this, and you’ll note this video has Spanish subtitles. But the film is in English; narrated by Matt Damon, even.

This is the story of financial deregulation and the eventual resultant crisis. Begun by Reagan, but it’s important to note, allowed to become ‘too big to fail’ under the Clinton administration. And in no way reformed by the Obama administration.

How the new Global Elite‘s ranks have become swollen with the wealthy executives of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros and so on. This film, unsurprisingly, reveals these people to be morally bankrupt, completely divorced from reality. Having no care for society, while the western governments, purely for ideological reasons, abandoned their duty to watch over the interests of their citizens.

Preserving the status quo has come at the expense of employment.. especially for the world’s youth. This is why ‘First World’ infrastructure is in such poor repair. The same ideology adopted by politicians instructing them to pay for only bare minimum maintenance; a culture of short-term gain, ignorant of long-term consequence.

This is how one of the systems of the world was broken and a better future stolen. Observe these people and the faults in, and the corruption of, governance that allowed this to occur, that we might never have (another) a repeat of it. Dare to dream that one day soon they might all be called to account for it too.


China To Create Mega-City With Population of 42 Million

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

City planners in south China have laid out an ambitious plan to merge together the nine cities that lie around the Pearl River Delta. The “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London, or twice the size of Wales.

The new mega-city will cover a large part of China’s manufacturing heartland, stretching from Guangzhou to Shenzhen and including Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing. Together, they account for nearly a tenth of the Chinese economy.

Over the next six years, around 150 major infrastructure projects will mesh the transport, energy, water and telecommunications networks of the nine cities together, at a cost of some 2 trillion yuan (£190 billion). An express rail line will also connect the hub with nearby Hong Kong.

“The idea is that when the cities are integrated, the residents can travel around freely and use the health care and other facilities in the different areas,” said Ma Xiangming, the chief planner at the Guangdong Rural and Urban Planning Institute and a senior consultant on the project.

Via disinfo.


PSFK’s Future of Mobile Tagging

Posted by on January 21st, 2011

Via core77:

Whether you use QR codes or not, its undeniable that mobile tagging has become an integrated part of the marketing landscape. Popping up in print advertising and corporate-sponsored event/experiences, there still seems to be a lot of confusion about the application and usage of mobile tagging in delivering a more comprehensive marketing and retail message. PSFK just released a great “Future Of” report exploring some key trends in the field and interviews with experts an innovators in the field.


The Future of Money (infographic)

Posted by on December 27th, 2010

future of money infoviz

(Click through for high resolution)

From Emergence Collective.