An Update on my Fast

I have a lot going on in my life right now so I have decided to postpone my fast to a later date.  Probably sometime this summer.  I apologize for not following through but I fear my mental health is at risk if I were add two days of not eating on top of everything else.  I will try to update my blog later this week for I need to write for my own well-being.  I will also update the dates of my fast when I have scheduled it.


A Primer on Climate Change

Starting at midnight on Earth Day April 22nd, I will be fasting for forty-eight hours to bring attention to climate change and the need for personal sacrifice within the environmental movement.  The Facebook event is here.  I thought I would provide a brief primer on climate change and then point you to some resources if you are interested in delving further.

The first thing I would like to describe is the difference between the terms weather and climate.  Weather is the day to day temperature, precipitation, etc.  Climate is the long term trend in weather conditions.  For example, it seventy degrees two days in a row in Boston in February, which is significantly above the average temperature for February of thirty-nine degrees.  Weather can vary dramatically from day to day, week to week, and even year to year but the long term trend describes the climate.

The second thing I would like to describe is the difference between global warming and climate change.  Global warming is the rise in globally average temperature.  That is when you take into account the entire planet’s average temperature, the trend has been and is expected to continue to be a rise in the temperature.  For example I live in Boston.  It may be a colder than average April here but Boston’s temperature isn’t the planet’s temperature.

Climate change is the change in the long term trend of a locality’s temperature, precipitation, etc.  For example some areas of the United States are expected to see a decrease in yearly average precipitation in the coming decades.  Once again that does not mean any particular year will be drier than the twentieth century average; the trend will be for drier conditions.

Specifically in relationship to global warming, climate change is the consequence of global warming.  Too many people argue about whether we should use global warming or climate change but they are both valid terms that describe different aspects of what is going on.

The last term I would like to describe is greenhouse gas.  A greenhouse gas absorbs infrared radiation which is a form of light radiation that is released from the surface of the earth after it is heated by light radiation from the sun.  Thus greenhouse gasses keep the earth warmer than it would otherwise be.  This was and is a good thing in the development of life on earth.  The problem is we are increasing carbon dioxide (see picture above) at an incredible pace and carbon dioxide is an incredibly important greenhouse gas.  By increasing carbon dioxide from industry, electricity production, and cars we are causing global warming, which has climate change as its consequence.

Anyway, I hope that was helpful but I will provide links below so you can investigate further:

The Discovery of Global Warming by the American Institute of Physics

The NASA climate website

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program at Columbia University

Photo Credit: Photo obtained here.

2 Day Fast for Climate Change

Starting on Earth Day, April 22, I will begin a two day fast.  I am doing this for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that I want to bring attention to the issue of climate change, which is the most pressing issue of our time.  As we get closer to Earth Day I will articulate further my views on climate change as well as a primer of the basic science of climate change.  I will also provide links to more rigorous resources.  For now you can start here and here to get an overview of my perspectives on the environment.

The second reason is that I want to show that personal sacrifice is a part of the environmental movement.  It is going to take a global concerted effort to prevent the most dire consequences of climate change.  This effort is going to require a reexamination of all of our lives which is likely going to include personal sacrifice on everyone’s part.  Fasting for two days may seem extreme to some, especially in the west, but one of the possible consequences of climate change is a collapse of the global food supply which would result in famine. Hunger may become a way of life if we don’t act on climate change.

I encourage anyone healthy enough to join me in this fast but most importantly to spread the word.  I have created a Facebook event for the occasion and plan to blog here about my experience.

Photo obtained here.

An Update

It has been longer than I like since my last blog post so I thought I would do a quick update.  I had gone on kind of a blog binge, nearly posting everyday for a while.  It is probably natural that I backed off for a while and I will try to get back in the habit of posting once a week.  I also have been trying to work on my thesis with some success but I think the lack of blogging has hindered my motivation and my ability to express myself.  I just need to keep the amount of blogging in check so I don’t take away time from working on my thesis.

As far as my mental health goes, I have been struggling a bit.  I have been sleeping too much again and my depression has ticked up a notch.  I also didn’t have a counseling appointment this week which didn’t help matters.  Usually my counseling sessions are productive but, if nothing much gets accomplished, I at least leave feeling more grounded.  Feeling more grounded is something I could have used this week.

I also listened to the audio book Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen which didn’t give me that much optimism about my environmental views.  I did try to counter the despondency with action.  I created a Facebook event for Earth Day in which I will fast for forty-eight hours to raise awareness for climate change.  If anyone is interested in following the event or joining it, the link is here.  Anyway I hope to reengage the blogging community and blog more frequently, for I need and miss it.  Best wishes everyone!

Can Civilization Be Made Sustainable?

All the mainstream solutions to the environmental crisis seem to assume we can make civilization compatible with a thriving biosphere. I admit I am not knowledgeable enough to say they are making that assumption but I am knowledgeable enough to say they are making assumptions. One always has to make simplifying assumptions when dealing with systems this complex.

Based on what reading I have done, the most detailed solutions seem to compartmentalize the different environmental crises.  For climate change we must limit carbon emissions to some amount per year.  To prevent a mass extinction we must limit human land use and ocean use to some percentage.  To eliminate ocean dead zones caused primarily by agriculture runoff we must cut use of fertilizers to a certain amount.

But can we do these things and all the other things we need to do to take the environmental crises at the same time?  I have never heard a mainstream critique that takes the question “is industrial civilization compatible with a thriving biosphere?” head on.  I welcome any comments, especially links to such critiques.

Credit: Photo info here

Ten of my Favorite Quotations

  1. “We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.” -Carl Sagan
  2. “We need to overcome the idea, so prevalent in both academic and bureaucratic circles, that the only work worth taking seriously is highly detailed research in a specialty. We need to celebrate the equally vital contribution of those who dare to take what I call “a crude look at the whole.”” -Murray Gell-Mann
  3. “Simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau
  4. “Anarchism, a social philosophy which aims at the emancipation, economic, social, political, and spiritual of the human race.” -Emma Goldman
  5. “To me anarchism was not a mere theory for a distant future; it was a living influence to free us from inhibitions, internal no less than external, and from the destructive barriers that separate man from man.” -Emma Goldman
  6. “The aim (of education) must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, see in the service to the community their highest life achievement” -Albert Einstein
  7. “The best moments in writing are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” The character Hector in Alan Bennett’s “The History Boys”
  8. “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” (Unclear)
  9. “If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.” -Ludwig Wittgenstein
  10. “Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.” -John von Neumann

Photo Credit: For information click here

An Attempt to Articulate my View on Guns

My view on guns is complicated and not easily categorized.  However, I am going to try and articulate it because I think there is much missing in the conversation right now.  At the risk of pissing everybody off, here I go.

Lets start with a quote from the anarchist rapper Sole “Gun control is nothing but a simple solution to killing the conversation about what’s wrong with this so called nation.” I don’t entirely agree with the quote but I think it gets to the heart of an issue I often have with the pro gun control lobby.  Other so called industrialized countries have guns but the frequency of school shootings of this type seem to be uniquely American.  I can’t say for sure what the difference is, but I have some conjecture, conjecture that I think should at least be considered in the conversation.

I hypothesize that social isolation and lack of community have a lot to do with the mass shooting phenomena but before you jump down my throat, hear me out.  The narrative after a lot of these school shootings seems to be the student was bullied, an outcast, or a loner.  These descriptors often have in common a feeling of not being heard and a lack of integration to a larger community.  This, of course, does not justify a mass shooting but if I’m right it identifies some commonalities and I think that is progress.   Now in a community where every member is valued and heard, I suspect a decrease, but not elimination, mass shootings would occur.  However, even if I am wrong we should be considering more than just gun control.

Now to piss off the pro gun side of the debate.  I think the sentiments expressed in the quote above apply to the other side of the debate.  Saying that more guns will solve all our ills is a simple solution to killing the conversation and more should be considered than simply arming teachers who may or may not want to be armed.  Also, where is the line that demarcates what civilians should have, (somewhere before nuclear weapons I hope)? Not that anybody or any country should have nuclear weapons.

So where do I actually stand on gun control?  Perhaps surprisingly toward the political right of this issue, though I do think some gun control is fine.  For example, I am not opposed to cooling off periods.  I am also not necessarily opposed to background checks, especially for rapid fire weapons.  However,  I do think that disarming the public centralizes the fire power in the hands of the few, namely the police and the military.  I would be all for radical gun control if it applied universally, which would include all police and all militaries.

Now to continue pissing off everybody…gun control works.  It has been shown to reduce violent deaths in other industrialized countries.  My problem is that in the long term governments/civilizations fail and if all that fire power is in the hands of the few, where does that leave the average citizen?  I do think that the long term needs to be considered even if it is harder to quantify that the short term success stories of gun control.

One last statement: the right needs to stop demonizing the mentally ill.  Mental illness includes a lot of variety and I would be as opposed to a mental health registry as I would a gun registry.

Photo credit: Photo information here.

A Call to Action

Last Month’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the metaphorical doomsday clock to two minutes to midnight.  In their statement they discuss the reasons for their decision.  Ultimately their various concerns are rooted in our technological choices as a society.  Here are four things I would like to remind myself, and hopefully inspire you, to consider doing.

  1. Don’t be Silent!  This is the future of humanity.  I can’t think of a more meaningful time to speak your mind.
  2. Vote for those willing to engage these concerns.  Voting alone isn’t enough to create change but not voting can lead to the erosion of fights already won.
  3. Educate yourself.  These threats exist in part because the knowledge needed to make good decisions is controlled by very few people and those people are often not in positions of power.
  4. Make small changes in your life to better align your life with your ethics and again tell people about them.  This may not seem like much but cultures change all the time.  Why not try to influence that change?

American Privilege-A First Draft

This is another post that is not mental health related.  I thought I would share the first draft of a poem I have been writing off and on for some time.  I like the idea of unmasking the process that is gone through and not just presenting the finished product.  Perhaps in the future I will give even more rudimentary stages of my creative process.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

American Privilege

Privilege an American Heritage
Empire from European Parentage
Exploitable borders our inheritance
Plundering resources our pestilence

The Wendigos of Europe forgot their relatives
Fur, feathers, and philistines were called primitives
In need of metal, wood, and fire
Europe became the world’s occupier
Consuming resources with increasing virulence
Other’s resistance came to be seen as petulance

But America was sired through its sedition
And napoleon increased her occupations
Then in the shadows of genocide through attrition
And the cementing of race and subjugation
America purports great ideas on liberty
But things only got worse when America entered puberty

Privilege an American Heritage
Empire from European Parentage
Exploitable borders our inheritance
Plundering resources our pestilence

With the slavery debate centered on Kansas
Lincoln gets elected and enforces oneness
Chattel slavery gone? Jim Crow in its place
And Wage slavery aggrandizes the rat race
Expansionism brings a brush fire of settlers
Wildness gets tamed by buyers and sellers

A continent conquered, America brandished
An anarchist bullet opened up the outlandish
Teddy plays disciplinarian in the Caribbean
And reclaims the rivers as a utilitarian
But consequences of his actions were missed
And empire is now pushed in earnest

Privilege an American Heritage
Empire from European Parentage
Exploitable borders our inheritance
Plundering resources our pestilence

After the world wars come down the pike
America’s fascination turns to the turnpike
Her privilege increases with existential risk
And continues to pull countries aside to frisk
With an energy crisis a choice is presented
Reaganism and greed are implemented

The outspent Russians take down the curtain
America’s domination is nigh certain
Leads the world forward with capitalist abandon
Into the atmosphere her reach expands in
And species mass extinction within her purview
Privilege causes all sense to be eschewed

Privilege an American Heritage
Empire from European Parentage
Exploitable borders our inheritance
Plundering resources our pestilence
Denying Malthusianism our Arrogance
Ecosystem collapse, our malignance

Photo Credit: See photo information here.