Sunday 2 October 2011

Ottawa Tar Sands Action on Parliament Hill 26/09/11

or What was that you said? Whither?
or Why the environmental movement is well and truely fucked.
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

¡Ya basta!Maybe 'fucked' is too strong a term? Do you think?

Well ... think again.

Eu faço a minha parte.(In my defence, gentle reader, let me say that I am spending the best part of several days writing this - not only to waste my time but in the faintest of hopes that it may somehow help to get us un-fucked.)

There were about 1,200 arrests in Washington recently - that tells us that 1 in 250,000 Americans really thought the issue was worth going to the wall for. As a percentage it doesn't even compute - too many zeroes. If there were another 1,200 who just absolutely couldn't get there, then consider that this was a pretty soft wall.

On Monday of last week about 200 Canadians went 'over the fence' on Parliament Hill - that tells us that 1 in 175,000 really thought ... &etc. ... low fence.

The American organizers are now planning to encircle the White House - à la Abbie Hoffman & the Yippies in '67, "gonna' levitate the Pentagon" - and this is a very good idea. I might just return to Washington on November 6 to participate (and to prove to the milquetoast Green Party mucky-mucks and David Suzuki and others that one can still cross the border even having been 'arrested' there previously).

(They are so well organized, these Americans, that - having listened to Chris Hedges at the very end of this post - I am now unclear on whether it is October 6th or November 6th, or both? I went and voted early so I would be free to go on October 6 ... was only a little chagrined to find it moved to November when I got home from voting ... but Chris Hedges thinks he is going there in October, and now I have difficulty believing a single word these people say! And they don't answer emails. I am sorry for being such a shit head.)

In lieu of analysis and planning, the Canadian organizers are now exhorting their devotees to write more letters to their MPs (and, to be fair, to the media and their friends). Doh!? But as my old friend Louis Lesosky says, "Let's see ... 42% of the people aren't voting and aren't paying attention to elections - we only have 58% more to convince that there's nothing happening here."

Meanwhile, Tim DeChristopher is sitting in an American penitentiary for having performed a thoughtful and thoroughly peaceful action at an auction that was itself later ruled illegal. And he will still be either sitting there or on probation when we pass the planetary best-before-date in 2015.

Here, listen to him speak at Power Shift in March of this year. And if you have seen this speech before then ... Watch it again!

Or read this article from the Toronto Sun prior to the Washington action: Do as we say, not as we do. The problem is not that Lorrie Goldstein is stupid or self-interested or any of that standard guff. The problem is that he has hit the nail right upon its shiny little head.

OK. There are two fundamental questions in this:

1. What is the sustainable carrying capacity of this planet? A population of 3 or 4 billion? A little more? A lot less? Short of cold fusion turning out not to be a hoax it is certainly nothing like the 7 billion we have now. The 8-10 billion estimated by the eminent bureaucrats at the UN is pure science fiction. And,


2. How long have we got? The easy answer is, "Nobody knows." But we do know that either we have already passed the major tipping points (permafrost methane & methane clathrates on the continental shelves), or we are about to pass them. No one seriously disputes it. You can't dispute it. Both sources of atmospheric methane are already bubbling in places - I have read the journals and reports and seen the photographs which prove it.

So, being an optimist, and having read everything that people like James Hansen and a host of other credible individuals have to say - my guess is that we have until about 2015 to turn CO2 and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions around or we are collectively cooked. That's to say that the Keeling Curve must, at the very least, level off. 350 ppm CO2e is the upper limit of the human comfort zone - we are now at 391. QED.

And if anyone thinks they can realistically walk around either of these two points I would sure like to hear about it.

Toxic k-k-Canada.Maybe you could spare me arguments from the likes of Ezra Levant and his trusty sidekick Alykhan Velshi ... or Joe Oliver or Peter Kent or wazizname ... Stephen Harper. Well ... okay ... I don't want to close any doors - use them if you have to, but be aware beforehand that their arguments are mostly made out of money and tissue paper (possibly a toilet roll thrown in there) and wishful thinking - these men are weasels and stoats and their arguments simply do not wash.

How can you develop a sustainable economy on a finite planet based on some notion of growth? Sooner or later it has to go bust.

The only hopeful sign is that the Globe used the A-word yesterday: Is this an economic apocalypse?. But this is about what the rich are doing with their money. When things get rough they will take as much cash and physical negotiables out as they are able to and hide somewhere - not many of them, not enough anyway, will suffer much.

Meanwhile, to the eminently reasonable people who say that we either have to take the oil out of the ground or freeze (in the Canadian idiom), I say, better to freeze now, gradually, and maybe survive, while we still have a functioning culture, than to freeze (and die) in the brutal every-person-for-themself aftermath of, say, a relentless and not-very-gradual collapse of world economies. And unless it happens quickly this collapse, it will be too late anyway - the major tipping points will have already kicked in. And 'survival' in that context takes on quite a different hue, even for the cached-away nobles and their families and friends.

(I know freezing is the wrong metaphor - but that's how Canadians think, they worry a bit about gas for their cars and so forth but what they are really concerned about is being warm in the wintertime.)

Please look carefully at these images of Mmekutmfon Essien (if you dare).

Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.These first ones were taken by herself as part of a group called 'The Amazon's New Clothes' - when she knew that she was dying;

Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.Mmekutmfon Essien.and these were taken by Barron Claiborne. There seems to be a progression, an order, in each set.

This is what despair looks like when it does not give up. She died in 2001 at the age of 34. But she left us these photographs as a testament, and especially (for me) the last one of each set: of her wound, her arm up and her hand still clenched in a fist; and then, holding a starfish in front of herself so delicately.

I believe this is the energy that is now required if we are to have any effect as an environmental movement. Naked, bereft, strong. The environment is gone; long live the environment.

Martin Buber is best known as a philosopher - but he initially set out in the direction of psychiatry, and this paragraph from his book, On psychology and psychotherapy, is unforgettable:
"The doctor who confronts the effects on the guilty man of an existential guilt must proceed in all seriousness from the situation in which the act of guilt has taken place. Existential guilt occurs when someone injures an order of the human world whose foundations he knows and recognizes as those of his own existence and of all common human existence. The doctor who confronts such a guilt in the living memory of his patient must enter into that situation; he must lay his hand in the wound of the other and learn: this concerns you. But then it may strike him that the orientation of the psychologist and the treatment of the therapist have changed unawares and that if he wishes to persist as a healer he must take upon himself a burden he had not expected to bear."
Here, read just the end of that one sentence again: ... he must lay his hand in the wound ... and learn: this concerns you.

A secular retelling of Donne's meditation, "... and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." (?) ... Perhaps, but Donne is talking specifically about death, and we are not quite talking about death ... yet ... or at least only abstractly, metaphorically.

Not so far away from Sylvia Plath's, "Taste it, dark red!" either, is it?

Aislin: Was it good for you?A few thoughts, in no particular order, about last Monday's action on Parliament Hill:

(I believe that device to the right is what's known as a 'phallocarp'.)

1. Greenpeace: The list of excellent Greenpeace actions is long - except that they are not generally 'mass' actions. (I put mass in quotes because 200 people climbing over a fence is hardly a mass.) When it comes to the logistics of occupying an earthmover in the Albian Hills tar sands or scaling & decorating the House of Commons in Ottawa they are brilliant. But I wonder if it needs a different set of skills & sensibilities to appeal to the person in the street and convince him or her to come together en masse to disobey a trespassing law?


2a. Internet Tools: We all talk about the 'power of the Internet' but I have yet to see anything which effectively addresses the real needs of groups trying to organize actions. There are dozens of packages out there - but each has serious drawbacks: either from too much emphasis by the developper wanting to sell more copies; or user interfaces that are clearly designed by relatively young nerds and adepts who never get around to using the interfaces they build; ... I could go on and on about this ...

"When you're up to your neck in alligators, it's easy to forget you came to drain the swamp," (or something). So, since you don't reach for the tool until you are already planning something - you never get around to building a proper one.

The tool used for the Ottawa action was poor; particularly in the failure of the Forums to get off the ground (people don't like having to register).


2b. Sysadmin: What you see of a tool depends upon a database which is generally not seen. But databases inevitably fill up with things that the designers and programmers never thought of - junk. Without some human person's constant attention the database quickly becomes useless - you absolutely must have a skilled, conscientious and committed Sysadmin.

If the tool is poor, weak, the only fallback is a team to keep things straight 'mandraulically', emails answered and so on. From my experience this did not happen in the Ottawa action.

As of today the Forum: 'The Action! Let us know what you thought of the action!' is empty. I tried to post something there but it never appeared. Everyone has apparently gone home.


3. Bureaucracy & Administration: Bureaucracy is one of the great evils of our age. People prefer to be treated as persons not database transactions or forms that are not properly filled out. Bureaucracies cannot be compassionate or caring. And movements depend upon association - you cannot have a movement unless people have first had conversations in small groups, and the strength of a movement depends exactly & precisely upon whatever strength is in the bonds between each and every associated person.

A lot of bureaucratic and administrative shortcomings were made up for in what I saw of the 'training' session.

Then on Monday I noticed that it took almost an hour to get assigned to a 'wave'. There was a tediously slow lineup. Did anyone look at the line and just decide to skip it? Did anyone join the line and then leave it again in frustration?


4. It's all about ME!: Two sides to this one.

Of course everyone, however humble, is interested in themself, wants to see her or his picture on the web or in the newspaper, wants to be praised, wants recognition (except maybe the FRB's - Fully Realized Beings - and Operating Thetan Level VII's). This is human nature. But that doesn't necessarily mean they put themselves first.

The other side, and when it comes to leadership, is subtler, murky - all I can do is give an example which you will either understand or not: it is the difference between either of, say, Gitz Crazyboy or Graham Saul, and Clayton Thomas-Muller.

My redneck friends look at it about the same way Lorrie Goldstein does and they use this sometimes false evaluation that people are acting out of self-interest or self-promotion to dismiss the whole shebang.


5. Post-game wrap-up: Since this was the first mass civil disobedience on the environmental front in k-k-Canada, or at least the only one I can remember, there had to be a post-mortem (mortem being unfortunately apt in my opinion) to fully get at what was done right, what was done wrong (or not as right as it might have been) and to begin to formulate plans for the next steps. If the Forums had been better they might have served as a location for that discussion. As it is ... the discussion is not happening as far as I can see - and this is a shame.

Just watch some of the Occupy Wall Street videos - THAT is what democracy looks like.


6. Inconvenient Comparisons: You can only tip-toe so far around the elephant in the room. Comparisons with civil rights actions in the 50's and 60's, and with the Vietnam protests are inevitable. And the kinds of hardships we endured last Monday and in Washington three weeks earlier show up pale and wan, even lame, in those comparisons. A-and even so, vanishingly few were ready to face them. (Oops!)


7. Preaching to the choir: This has got to stop. The choir is convinced. It is the mass of people who do not understand root-1 of the problem, who have to be reached, talked with, convinced, brought inside.


8. Comfort and Indifference: It might be time to have another look at Denys Arcand's 1981 documentary film Le confort et l'indifférence, with subtitles I suppose ...

If anyone cares to send me an email (the address is there in my Blogger profile), asking nicely, and including a mailing address, I will send them along a copy.

Following up on a few odds and ends:

Crashing Wall Street.Crashing Wall Street.The occupation of Wall Street is ongoing: Occupy Wall Street - We will not be moved. A report from the NYT on Friday, and this one from yesterday look slightly better than the early NYT response. And, you could say it started in Canada on July 13.
(Cartoon from Marc Roberts, Wednesday 28 September 2011, Crashing Wall Street.)

Tropical Storm Lee, September 9 in Bloomsburg Pennsylvania.Tropical Storm Nock-Ten, September 12 in Saraburi Thailand near Bangkok.What goes around comes around. That's what they say. I didn't set out to compare tropical storms with, say, hurricanes; but I ended up there - these photographs are showing the results of tropical storms Lee and Nock-ten.

A-and then I was following up on the news from Derek Mueller at Carleton that the Ellesmere Island ice shelves lost almost half of their area in 6 years ... 50% in SIX years! Oh fuck oh fuck!

Ellesmere Island Ice Shelves August 2005.Ellesmere Island Ice Shelves August 2005.
Ellesmere Island Ice Shelves August 2011.Ellesmere Island Ice Shelves August 2011.
(Images and text from Derek Mueller - Carleton University, labelling of the maps by myself.)

"In 1906, the Ellesmere Island ice shelves were an estimated 8,900 km2 and were reduced to 1,043 km2 over the last century. The total extent of Ellesmere ice shelves is now 563 km2 or 54 per cent of what it was prior to the loss of the Ayles Ice Shelf in August 2005."

Eventually (but very likely too late to do any good) even Stephen Harper & Peter Kent & Joe Oliver will see that they have painted themselves into a corner. Men of no character ... well ... I don't want to be sexist about it so I'll throw Rona Ambrose in there too and then I can say: "women and men of no character" (in the proper phraseology of correctitude).

What will they do when they finally figgure out they have boxed themselves I wonder? Almost anything I guess: Call out the Army! Pray to the Great Cloud Dragon!

Gordon McBean.Gordon McBean.Gordon McBean.Gordon McBean.Who is Gordon McBean? I had no idea but the title of this Globe article reads, "Top Canadian climate scientist to head international council."

You can see him there with his (I presume) grandchildren.

The list of recent publications on his page at UWO looks to be focussed towards mitigation & adaptation - a long view which seems to me irrelevant, but ok.

In these two videos discussing climate change generally: Part 1 & Part 2 (5 min. each); he is clear and factual, and though he doesn't say it, he seems to understand the ultimate nature of the stakes.

There is not much at Wikipedia on him, yet. A bit more in this CV (.pdf), taking him up to 2007 or 2008.

So. Just wanting to get to know a little about him is all. In the Globe we are told: "In a chat just before the vote, Mr. McBean said he wanted to make the ICSU less bureaucrat [sic] and raise its international profile." What can you say about the ICSU? Is another bureaucracy, however reduced, going to be useful?

I do admire his ability to relate the facts so calmly.

I have no idea how to wrap this up?

Either with the response to despair that retreats & withdraws? That would be easiest. Convenient. Prudent. Safe.

Or in some other way ... a 'way'. That's it! A Tao! (? oh my, how pretentious) ... And what would that look like? Dunno. Everything in here is so derivative - my head goes straight to that line in Tangled Up In Blue: "Keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew," and sticks there.

I was in a house in Duque de Caxias years ago and got handed a young fellow, Hugo, to mind while supper was being made. Someone snapped a picture on my camera ... only because of that maybe that I can remember the sweet happiness of him trusting and being delighted.

Angelique Deng.Angelique Deng.("I got a little lady, she lives upstairs, makes her livin' puttin' on airs.")

Now, where on earth did that tune pop into my ear from? Must be some kinna internalized Anima speakin' up there eh? My inner child is a woman? Is that it? Probably a black woman - that's comforting. Hard to believe that the Sudanese model pictured there, Ajak Deng, is only 22 years old.

Roger Scruton, the now disgraced (for taking money from tobacco companies to plant opinion pieces - £4,500 a month they say back in 2002, not shabby) right-wing philosopher, wrote a book on Sexual Desire in 1986. In it he describes the difficulties of lesbians making contact, and of knowing who is leading (in the dance, so to speak) and who is being led. I can't think how he would have very reliable opinions on the matter - but nevermind. He imagined them waiting ... and you know, it does take two to tango.

:-)That'll have to be it then. Waiting is okay I guess. No choice really.

Be well.

Victory Burlesque.Victory Burlesque.
The email from Dicionário inFormal just arrived - a bit late this week.

In it is the Brazilian expression for 'kick the bucket' - abotoar o paletó (abotoar - to button up, and paletó - jacket).

When we were kids going to high-school in the Toronto of the 50's and 60's, we wore jackets all year round - nerds and grownups wore coats. And, walking to and from school in those halcyon days before school busses, we never, ever zipped or buttoned them up.

But even in those days Toronto didn't get snow and cold like New Liskeard.

Chris Hedges: Here, listen to this: CBC: The Sunday Edition, first hour (starting about 8 min 30 sec. into it); and read this: The World As It Is: Dispatches on the myth of human progress, Chris Hedges, 2010.

It is now 3AM. I often wake like this, in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep. It's no good fighting it ... so here I am, up, making coffee, trying to move softly in this old building so the squeaky floors don't bother the neighbours in the other apartments.

I listened (on the earphones) to Chris Hedges again. Interesting to hear Michael Enright denying any pressure to conform, and Hedges' response.

He is a friend of Bill McKibben's apparently. And he quotes John Ralston-Saul - who makes me think of Adrienne Clarkson. None of these three are very high on my list anymore, nor Michael Enright either ... and towards the end of the interview I sense that Hedges might not like me very well either from up-close. Who knows? If I go back to Washington on October 6th, if the event is in fact happening then, I may meet him and find out.

My friend Keith used to say that it all comes down to temperament. I always thought 'truth will out' (and such like nonsense).

How can it be that I am so alone with this? I don't understand. I am lost in this nightThanks Dad. :-) - though some kind of genetic sense-of-humour or maybe just plain old stamina that I seem to have inherited from my father keeps me laffin'.


1. Arresting development: Suzuki, Klein, Barlow: Do as we say, not as we do, Lorrie Goldstein, Sunday June 26 2011.


2. Mfon Essien -- Photographer, 34, NYT Obituary, February 23 2001.

Arresting development: Suzuki, Klein, Barlow: Do as we say, not as we do, Lorrie Goldstein, Sunday June 26 2011.

Calling all Canadians willing to be arrested outside the White House this summer protesting a proposed pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to Texas.

If that’s your idea of fun, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Maude Barlow and a bunch of Americans you’ve probably never heard of, save for actor Danny Glover, want YOU.

And don’t worry, fellow Canucks.

Should you embark on this Gaia-saving mission, Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. will be 100% behind you, right up to the moment you get arrested in the protests planned for mid-August to Labour Day.

But after that? Not so much.

Here’s the clarion call to arms Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. have put their signatures to, urging people to sign up for mass protests at the White House:

“We will, each day through Labour Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass.”

But here’s the fine print, the escape clause, the old, bait-and-switch.

“Not all of us can actually get arrested — half the signatories to this letter live in Canada and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred.”

In other words, they’re urging others to cross a legal line, while they remain safely behind it.

So what we really have here is another example of the glaring hypocrisy of the warmist elites.

Led by their patron saint, Al Gore, who preaches that everyone else must take a vow of austerity, while he jet-sets around the world leaving a carbon footprint in his wake that could choke a horse. Plus, despite being a father of four, calling for everyone else to have fewer children.

It’s all arrogant, elitist, nonsense, born of an attitude of perpetual entitlement.

Beyond that, the stipulations Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. put on the type of protesters they want are unintentionally hilarious.

To wit:

(1) Political correctness stipulation: While protesting at the White House to call attention to President Barack Obama’s lack of action on stopping the pipeline, they simultaneously want you to indicate deep down you still support Obama — including wearing his 2008 presidential campaign button — if you have one.

(2) Age requirement: They don’t want college kids leading the protests. Instead, Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. want “elders” who’ve “spent their lives pouring carbon in the atmosphere” to agree to be arrested. (The fact they might even have better reasons for travelling to the U.S. than Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. isn’t addressed.)

(3) Dress code. Yep. Seriously. To wit: “Come dressed as if for a business meeting” in what Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. concede will be “the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer.” Why? Because “this is … serious business.” Yeah, sure.

(4) Deportment: Finally, something that makes sense: “One thing we don’t want is a smash-up: If you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.”

Protest ... and support

So, to sum up, we have Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. calling for well-behaved, middle-aged, well-dressed protesters to show up daily at the White House “in dignified fashion,” prepared to be arrested for trespassing, while simultaneously demonstrating against Obama and supporting him.


Which raises the question of arrested for what? Since no one can just walk up to the White House, it’s hard to understand what they’re going to be arrested for, if they follow these bizarre instructions to the letter.

Of course, if people want to be arrested there’s always a way, which brings us to what Suzuki, Klein, Barlow and Co. will be doing while others presumably get themselves arrested, at their urging.

These green elites “will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada.”

It’s unclear whether they want Canadians at those protests to be arrested. The only thing that seems clear is they don’t plan to be arrested themselves.

In other words: “Do as we say, not as we do.”

Isn’t it time we made that the official motto of the warmists?

Mfon Essien -- Photographer, 34, NYT Obituary, February 23 2001.

Mfon Essien, a Nigerian-born American photographer, died on Feb. 13 in New York. She was 34.

The cause was breast cancer, according to her publicist and friend, Tonya Miller.

Ms. Essien, whose full name is Mmekutmfon, was born in the village of Ikot Ekpene in Nigeria and came with her family to the United States when she was 2. She studied literature and art at Morgan State University in Baltimore, then moved to New York, where she worked as a fashion photographer.

Her first New York gallery appearance was at Rush Arts in Chelsea in 1996. Her last work, produced after she underwent a radical mastectomy, was a series of nude self-portraits titled ''The Amazon's New Clothes,'' two of which are in the exhibition ''Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers,'' now at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

She is survived by her mother, Adiaha Essien, and two brothers, Ebakuwa and Sema Essien, all of Baltimore.


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