The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/article/179460/change-within-obstacles-we-face-are-not-just-external#

The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking.

Naomi Klein
April 21, 2014

This is a story about bad timing.

One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.

The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, threatening a number of health and fertility impacts. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.

Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing—us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.

This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement. But it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/article/179460/change-within-obstacles-we-face-are-not-just-external#

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html?ref=magazine&_r=1

Late one night last August, on the chalk downlands of southern England, Paul Kingsnorth stood in a field beside an old-growth forest, two yurts and a composting toilet. Kingsnorth is 41, tall, slim and energetic, with sweeping brown hair and a sparse beard. He wears rimless glasses and a silver stud in his ear, and he talks with great ardor, often apologizing for having said too much or for having said it too strongly.

On this occasion, Kingsnorth was silent. It was the final night of Uncivilization, an outdoor festival run by the Dark Mountain Project, a loose network of ecologically minded artists and writers, and he was standing with several dozen others waiting for the festival’s midnight ritual to begin. Kingsnorth, a founder of the group, had already taken part in several sessions that day, including one on contemporary nature writing; a panel about the iniquities of mainstream psychiatric care; and a reading from his most recent book, “The Wake,” a novel set in the 11th century and written in a “shadow language” — a mash-up of Old and modern English. He had also helped his two young children assemble a train set while trying to encapsulate his views on climate change and environmental degradation in what Kingsnorth describes as an era of global disruption. The “human machine,” as he sometimes puts it, has grown to such a size that breakdown is inevitable. What, then, do we do?

In the clearing, above a pyre, someone had erected a tall wicker sculpture in the shape of a tree, with dense gnarls and hanging hoops. Four men in masks knelt at the sculpture’s base, at cardinal compass points. When midnight struck, a fifth man, his head shaved smooth and wearing a kimono, began to walk slowly around them. As he passed the masked figures, each ignited a yellow flare, until finally, his circuit complete, the bald man set the sculpture on fire. For a couple of minutes, it was quiet. Then as the wicker blazed, a soft chant passed through the crowd, the words only gradually becoming clear: “We are gathered. We are gathered. We are gathered.”

After that came disorder. A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: “Come! Let’s play!” The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood.

The next morning over breakfast, Dougie Strang, a Scottish artist and performer who is on Dark Mountain’s steering committee, asked if I’d been there. When he left, at 3 a.m., he said, people were writhing in the mud and singing, in harmony, the children’s song “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” (“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.”) “Wasn’t it amazing?” he said, grinning. “It really went mental. I think we actually achieved uncivilization.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html?ref=magazine&_r=1

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No More Petitions, They are a Waste of Time

There are things we are conditioned to do that give us the illusion of actually having done something.

Signing petitions is one of those things.

Has signing an on line petition from Care2 or Change.org ever actually changed anything? Ever?

Signing petitions is an act of masturbation.  It feels good but accomplishes nothing else.

Last week a bunch of people who should know better formed a mob to attack Andrea James and Calpernia Addams.

What the fuck was that all about?

Who cares other than the marketing firms that buy copies of these petitions to send begging letters or sell products?

We face an extremely grim near future between the rise of the oligarchs, end stage capitalism and eco collapse.

The time for meaningless gestures is long past.  The time for thinking those meaningless gestures create change is over, dead, no longer relevant.

Now is the time of existential moral crisis. To be or not to be? To slip into total nihilism or to take up arms and continue to struggle in the face of hopelessness.

I’m glad I am old.  Age is the great leveler.  Knowing I have lived many more years than the number I have yet to live is liberating.

 

 

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Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/22/carbon-dioxide-climate-change_n_5187844.html

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Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Tell me again why we should let assholes like Bloomberg convince us to confiscate people’s guns.  I love the totalitarian state the oligarchs have created.  One where they dangle puppets and divisive issues to distract us from our ever increasing enslavement.

All the talking heads, who are paid shills out to convince us to be at each others throats over bullshit “issues” while they transfer all the wealth and property to their control.

From Talking Points Memo:  http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/princeton-experts-say-us-no-longer-democracy

Brendan James
April 18, 2014

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

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Michael Lewis: ‘Wall Street has gone insane’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/apr/16/michael-lewis-flash-boys-wall-street-insane
Flash Boys, an exposé of the murky world of ‘rigged’ high-frequency trading, has sold 130,000 copies in its first week and is already being turned into a film. Its author, Michael Lewis, explains why the story is so compelling – and why our brightest minds make the most dangerous bankers


The Guardian, Wednesday 16 April 2014

On a sliding scale of difficulty, writing a general-interest book about high-frequency trading is slightly harder than making baseball statistics interesting, but easier than animating the role played by quantitative analysis in the 2007 financial collapse. “Collateralised debt obligations,” says Michael Lewis, who has written about all three, “are impossible to describe. There’s nothing harder. However, trying to show a reader how a market moves? How stock prices move? You can already see them tuning out.”

That was the concern when he wrote Flash Boys, an investigation into what he calls the “rigged” underbelly of Wall Street trading. In the event, the book has sold a staggering 130,000 copies in the US in its first week of publication. (By comparison, The Big Short, his biggest seller to date, sold 60,000 in its first week.)

Lewis has been on every talk show and financial news panel in the land, arguing with, among others, Bill O’Brien, the president of the Bats Global Markets stock exchange, about whether or not he and his cohorts are ripping off their customers. If the 53-year-old started off angry, opposition to the book has sharpened his stance into a moral crusade. “I find this story really upsetting,” he says over lunch in LA, where his publicity tour just ended. “The idea that the smartest, richest elites of society find this an acceptable activity. This predatory activity.”

If it’s emotional for Lewis, then the responses have been emotional too, given how unequivocal his accusations are. The cornerstone of Flash Boys is a discovery made by an obscure Canadian banker, Brad Katsuyama, who noticed that whenever he tried to execute a trade, the stock price moved before the order went through. A long and tortured investigation revealed that the variable speeds at which trading information travels down fibre-optic cables to the exchanges was being exploited by brokers and high-frequency traders – so-called for the volume of trades they make – to jump the queue, buy the stocks in question and sell them back at a higher price to the person who expressed the original interest.

“Someone out there was using the fact that stock market orders arrived at different times at different exchanges to front-run [orders],” writes Lewis. It was a side-effect of automated trading and a tough thing for bankers to wrap their heads around, let alone laypeople. In plain English, as a colleague of Katsuyama’s put it: “My role was to walk around and say to clients, ‘Don’t you understand you’re being fucked?'”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/apr/16/michael-lewis-flash-boys-wall-street-insane

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Paul Krugman: We live in the most unequal society ever, and it’s only getting worse

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/paul-krugman-we-live-in-the-most-unequal-society-ever-and-its-only-getting-worse/

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Americans may be living in the most unequal society that has ever existed, said economist Paul Krugman.

The New York Times columnist and Princeton University professor said Thursday there is zero evidence to suggest extreme inequality is good for economic growth but plenty to suggest it’s not.

“Nobody wants us to become Cuba (but) the question is, do we have to have levels of inequality that are getting close to being the highest levels anywhere, ever,” Krugman told Bloomberg News. “We’re really starting to set new records here. Is that a good thing for anybody?”

The Nobel Prize winner said this troubling trend began around 1980, when President Ronald Reagan was elected and began implementing supply-side economic policies that promised more wealth for everyone if tax burdens were lifted for the rich.

“The fact of the matter is, since inequality began soaring, around 1980, the bottom half of America has pretty much been left behind,” Krugman said. “There has not been a rising tide that raised all boats.”

But he said American political leadership had throughout history set corrective paths whenever wealth became too unbalanced.

“If we could have modern politicians speaking forthrightly about the danger of high concentration of wealth, as Teddy Roosevelt did in 1910, we would be a long toward a good solution for this,” Krugman said, “and I guess I believe that America has a tremendous redemptive capacity and ability to take a look and say, ‘OK, in the end, what are our ideals? What do we want our society to look like?’”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/04/17/paul-krugman-we-live-in-the-most-unequal-society-ever-and-its-only-getting-worse/

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