Tag Archives: science

What to believe, Oh, what to Believe?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  ]

What to believe, oh, what to believe!? On one side sits my common sense and years of dedicated observation of man on this world. On that side, I smile, even laugh – but in hiding: it wouldn’t do to upset the believers in their fearfully self-righteous anger.

On the other side is the herd, man himself, with his accumulated force combined into a patriarchal civilization that has taken over everything and used it’s overwhelming power to rape, plunder and kill at will while running amok disgorging unsustainable numbers.

Now comes a crossroads, whether real or fake, and “man” the forceful (bad) predator, rapist and mass murderer demonstrates his innate fear of unknowns and his disgusting cowardliness in the face of an arisen “power” he does not know how to conquer and exploit.

A virus: imagine that! Something he can’t rape or plunder; something only the few know how to profit from.

How did this thing come about? Ah well, one could listen to man’s endless or contradictory explanations but they are just more excuses to hide superstitious ignorance and exposing the fact that “the great conqueror of nature” never did “conquer” his raped and tortured world; the fact that this world’s nature only went deeper underground to mutate and hide its lethal come-backs.

Are these “come-backs” surfacing in brute anger now? No, not yet, not yet. Earth’s revenge is a dish she does intend to savour cold and it’s not near cold enough yet. This is but a small test of one of nature’s many and deadlier weapons of mass destruction.

I am not concerned about this virus fear-demic. The programmed fear is just one more of man’s (read: Matrix) invented means to create chaos and additional control for the powerful over the less so, the proverbial storm in the teacup. There will be deaths during this period of panic, but it is already so obvious that most of those deaths ascribed to the “new and improved” virus primarily result from pre-existing pathologies. Ascribing these to a corona virus to create a global pandemic is a political gambit with serious long term goals.

Of course that is not what the hoi polloi want to hear. They have invested belief, feelings and tsunamis of emotions in this folly and they won’t be easily robbed of their new game. Suddenly they have become mindful of their corrupt, lying leadership. Suddenly they need to believe, even in blatant institutional lies. Suddenly the media’s non-stop talking heads are spewing the very wisdom of the gods. Suddenly we are existing under a new law called “The Six Foot Rule” or “The Two Meter Rule” (but not to worry, the virus knows both standard and metric systems.)  

There is something afoot the sheeple do not understand because they have no imagination, no personal power and no self-respect. They do not trust their own intuition or understanding, having sold that to the “group” – whatever the “group” be called – a long time ago when they chose their fantastic civilization over the rules of nature.

Suddenly they are faced with an instrument of comeuppance they know enough to fear but not enough to understand. Now they must turn to their “gods,” the promoters of civilization, for protection from the deadly monster. Suddenly they need to believe to survive the crisis of the moment, waiting for the morning when the great leadership declares business as usual.

Then the sheep will stop looking up, bleat a sigh of relief, drop their masks, gloves and “social distancing” and some of their newly-manufactured fears (but not all of them, the needed quota will remain). They will stop some of their war against each other and begin the rebuilding of the castles for their lords and masters. They will return to their happy fornicating and mindless defecating on the face of the planet.

Isn’t that how it’s always been in the world of civilizations?

On that glorious morning however this civilization will have taken one giant step closer to its final demise.  

Oh, and in case you are interested, there is one natural weapon of mass destruction that your civilization knows about. It’s even mentioned in some rule books of scientific magic. It’s called entropy. That’s the four horses of the Apocalypse riding over the face of civilization as one. On the final day of that ride, as the book says, people will hide in caves. They will crawl under rocks and cry to be covered over but nothing learned or known will avail. Nature will have the very last word… on that day. 

 

 

Are You Game?

*re-blogging a comment*

The following is a comment received on  ~burning woman~  from Hyperion (Daniel) https://returnofdragons.wordpress.com/ as a reply to my post, “We Improve but we do not Progress” https://ixiocali.com/2020/03/15/we-improve-but-we-do-not-progress/

This isn’t saying that I agree with the basic premise here, but I’m saying it’s well worth considering. Is this our “Third Option” if we are to avoid a man-made “6th extinction? When I speak of “Third Option” I’m referring to the Abrahamic/Christian covenant (an apocalypse, then a new heaven and a new earth) as option #1 or inevitable scientific/technological progress as option #2. Option #3 is the individual self empowerment of all Earthians irremediably changing the nature of the species.  If option #1 is increasingly rejected and option #2 is encountering growing distrust, how do we achieve option #3? This WordPress blogger/contributor/writer dares put some thoughts down.

 Are You Game?
(from Hyperion)

I too am a student of history but I don’t subscribe to the thought we shouldn’t repeat history. We definitely should repeat history because the entire universe to include earth is based on cyclic events. For instance, the seasons of every year since the dawn of humans has repeated as well as night and day. The cyclic nature of humans also means that as we go forward in time we recycle our past. I will admit that these cycles don’t remain stationary but more like a wheel going down the road. Every time a specific spot on the wheel touches the road it is further down the path and a certain amount of time has transpired but it is the same wheel and it will stay in its original purpose until it is worn out and replaced by a new wheel.

What rarely changes is human nature and so, that human nature passed on to every generation will follow it’s nature tho the world has changed, the environment has changed, but human nature remains the same, we simply adapt to our living conditions whether that be environmental or technological or both.

We will go to war with new weapons and the same tactics used for 1000 years. It’s just my belief that progress and improvement of the species has not occurred because our nature has not changed.

I would argue we are so biologically polluted we are devolving instead of evolving. Go there to those helix coils and break the chains of no longer needed human traits of emotion, survival, companionship, and breeding. Break the need for self actualization and search for meaning in a meaningless existence. Burn out the desire for adventure, discovery, and growth of personal wealth by any means. It’s all possible. It could be done today. We have the means to turn ourselves into passive sheep where we can walk past hubris and suffering unaffected. We will feel no need to bind together. Life and death will occur without meaning or consequence. Our numbers will shrink until humans are a rarity on the planet and the earth can slowly heal itself of the horrendous scars and memory of our footprint on the planet. We can do this today or starting tomorrow at 8:00am at hundreds of labs across the world. We don’t now because that solution frightens even the most courageous heart. (That reminds me of Brave New World – comment by Sha’Tara.)

Without that courage to take control we are doomed in every imaginable way and in some ways unimaginable. If we look to the distant past at those species on the planet that five times were wiped out and what preceded (followed?) next, can we reasonably believe that a mass extinction, which is currently in full swing as I write this, isn’t going to affect the human population? Extinctions are historical cycles. Why do we think they won’t repeat even as the evidence shows it is happening now?

 The first thing that must change is how the human mind can not grasp reality that is pure and unadulterated. Our minds are drugs that make up the most far fetched realities and that Is what we believe is true and real. That is why we are doomed. That is why our only hope is to go to those helix coils and change them. We know how. If we do that we will change history and the next cycles will be far different. Are you game?

The Language of Nature?

[thoughts on mathematics, by   ~burning woman~ ]

It has been said, it’s probably being said, it’s probably seriously believed, that mathematics is the universal language, hence nature’s language. I’ve never been able to believe that. I’d say that mathematics is the language of control. Numbers are the tools of the State, science, finance, the military and the corporation and anyone who has read the Bible will also know that numbers are really big with God. There’s even a book in there titled “Numbers.”

The bumble bee didn’t have to spend $75,000 to study Aristotle and Archimedes and learn classical mechanics to figure out how to fly, so why do we, who consider ourselves so much more advanced than a mere insect, have to do it… and still remain unable to fly without some sort of mechanical exoskeleton? A machine that is extremely polluting, extremely noisy and often used to destroy cities and annihilate people?  

I admit that I never was a fan of mathematics.  I was fine with basic arithmetic. I could add, subtract and divide along with the rest.  If asked what 99 and 98 added up to I would say 200, give or take. If you want to make an issue of the rounding, make it minus 3 which makes it 197. Simplify the picture.  When the numbers got a bit cumbersome I would pull up my slide rule… in grade nine and ten that got the math teacher’s eyebrows to rise. He’d come over to my desk and watch me slide my cursor, find a close approximate answer then arrive at the final answer using common sense. That of course was before the hand-held electronic calculators had made their appearance. For a while there, my slide rule beat Texas Instruments. It could tackle much larger numbers and render them intelligible, though why anyone would need to play with billions, trillions, quadrillions and quadzillions remains beyond me. KISS: keep it simple, stupid. However much fun zeroes are to play with, zero is zero, it’s not a magic number.

Certainly man, or some men, can calculate aspects of nature using their mathematics. Nothing too surprising there, they used to use pebbles, shells and sticks, the length of their forearm, fingers, feet, maybe even their dicks, some to their glory (Ah, that famous horn!) and some to their shame. They kept pushing the boundaries of both, the macro and the micro and they invented numbers to match their needs and count their seeds.  Those numbers were made up by men (for the most part, some women were reluctantly allowed to participate in the games in these latter years, at least in some countries. That’s another topic.)

Mathematics weren’t designed to probe infinity, they were invented to contain nature into a man-made box. By imposing math upon natural “stuff” it was possible to calculate what it was worth, how much of it could be extracted, pumped, grown or harvested and how profitable such and such a venture would be, and of course, what could be done without. We have convinced ourselves that burning the Amazon forests is totally legit: our numbers say so. If serious climate upset results, the numbers scream: ‘All the better, solutions to pollution reap more profits!’ 

Mathematics is the bible of statisticians, actuaries or risk assessors, or bean counters and bankers, of the entire sordid world where man’s numbers become the servants of sharks. Outside of the financial world mathematics is the tool man’s science uses to dissect nature; to put it in a box in order to observe it piecemeal and to waste resources polluting space while on their planet millions die of preventable causes because they’re too busy playing to notice or too busy getting rich off the death toll. May as well say it while I’m here: profits depend on numbers. Profits equal death. Death equals more profits. It’s statistically measurable as long as the hamster wheel provides the power for the computers.  

Mathematics is shackles and scalpels in various financial prisons and scientific experimental laboratories. But we can’t call the process what it is, or what it is used for, so we give it a quasi-holy title: the universal language which translates as the language of nature. Then everybody is expected to buy the line, toe the line, fall in line; i.e., to believe by getting indebted to those who “own” the numbers.

If nature has a language it isn’t complicated. I doesn’t require a great knowledge of advanced mathematics to translate it.  I learned it while running free and wild as a child on my parents’ homestead and beyond.  It contained only one word: “Be!”

I can imagine that my little rant would not sit comfortable at the Round Table surrounded by the dour-faced knights of Religion, Government, Finance, Science and Technology. My comments are probably borderline heresy in today’s world. But before I go to the stake and one of the Knights of Progress proudly lights the fire in defense of his mathematically-constructed God, let me ask this: take a look at your world and consider how much of the damage made by math-driven technology could have been avoided had those numbers been left sealed in Pandora’s box until the species developed an intelligence at least able to keep up with its mostly useless gadget driven lifestyle.  

Thanks to mathematics we’ve become globally addicted to an artificial world of planet and life destroying gadgetry. Before we plunge into developing something “cool,” something “new and improved,” shouldn’t we be counting the costs we’re imposing on the future? We don’t need mathematics to assess those costs, we just need to observe results and do some very simple projection.

But who has time to question anything these days when the big top is permanently up and the circus never leaves town? Who dares question when forced to punch a time clock “in” three times a day so as not to end up on the street? Who can argue when that finely tuned time clock says you’re 2 minutes and 4 seconds late for your shift?

The Higher Mind

I’ve been too occupied to give blogging much attention lately but I’ll say this: menial work has one great advantage in that it frees the mind to “wander at will” while the hands are busy. So here I was trudging through mud and brambles, clearing fence lines through blackberries and vine maple and red osier dogwood, all very romantic when seen from a novel, not so when in the field wearing heavy winter boots, thick gloves and equally heavy rain gear and it’s pouring, and pouring, and pouring… 

But back to that thinking bit. I thought, as a follow up to some mind-expanding reading I was doing, that I’d practice thinking in higher mind mode.  I wasn’t sure what that would entail except it would encompass bits and pieces of much thinking practice I’d done since I can remember. I thought, well, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts so this should be interesting.

It was.

What keeps the “lesser mind” occupied? Stuff such as love, romance, job, money (gotten, lost or lacking), food, shopping, relationships, family, relatives, house or home, taxes, a political hope, a new car purchase or the current vehicle’s maintenance costs, a party, a vacation, Netflix(!), Facebook(!), Tweeting(!), texting, a dreaded or hoped-for medical procedure, a new drug, all mostly to do with a body’s pleasure, comfort, discomfort and temporary escape from an ever-present underlying fear arising from a sense of threat or dread which refuses to elicit a solid clue as to its source.

The higher mind, at least the one that has been given the language to express itself relatively freely, doesn’t much care about most of those things, some just listed, that interest, confront and combine to enslave the lesser mind. This is where it truly becomes interesting because one would think that in higher mind mode the physical body’s needs and desires would be denigrated in favour of the kind of thinking that once was called “heavenly minded” or “spiritual.”

Once again I saw how the programming; the propaganda of the marketplace had lied. The higher mind doesn’t disparage or cast aspersions on the body but the opposite. It removes the conditions of enslavement to small deleterious though patterns and frees it to enjoy “life” without worries. The body ruled by the higher mind will drop its worries one by one as each is examined in the light of reality and common sense. Why engage things that present no resolve? Why make fists at the clouds, or the sun?

What makes higher mind thinking so different? It doesn’t care about stuff, and by stuff I mean every single thought that makes one aware of life in its detailing process. The higher mind sees itself as a legitimate member of all that is, with nothing it needs to be subservient to, nor needs to rule over. It sees itself as an observer, first of all, then as a servant of Life however the need for such servanthood manifests. The higher mind shares itself but never appropriates. Whatever energy it needs to function it already possesses by virtue of being who and where it is.

The higher mind may inhabit a body – a common state in this universe – and therefore that body becomes the recipient of the mind’s desire to serve. Unlike the lesser mind however, it will not cater to the body/brain unit functioning in the negativity of servitude to desires, lusts, fears and unfounded hopes which are the things that cause sickness and death. The higher mind has zero tolerance for *“sin” or what is so often described as “the lesser of evils” when the Matrix forces programmed beings to choose one form of evil over another, as in political elections for a prime example.

Living in the higher state of mind does not equate perfection or living in some utopia. Conflicts abound here also, but they are the kind that call for resolve, not the ones chasing each other in the hamster wheel of the Matrix or if you prefer, the System, the Status Quo. It’s more like expressing one’s beingness within an ever expanding *Fibonacci sequence or golden ratio. To my way of thinking the golden ratio perfectly defines the higher mind.

*Sin, as defined by the Teacher El Issa to me: “Sin is any thought, word or deed that harms another in some way which the “sinner” uses to benefit him/herself, spiritually, mentally or materially. The worst sin isn’t murder, it’s slander and lies. Slander and lies (self-aggrandizement) always precede murder.

*Explanation of the Fibonacci sequence or golden mean ratio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

 

 

 

Converting Information into Knowledge

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara]

Converting Information into (useful) Knowledge

I’ve been rather “quiet” on the blog lately, not because I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to share but mainly because I’ve been absorbing information from a wide range of bloggers about a wide array of current topics. We talk about “informed opinion” and it is a “brute” fact that without information one cannot have informed opinions. The thing to be aware of is that information is neutral so the source of it is quite irrelevant. What matters is what happens when the information hits home: when the mind identifies it, translates it, sorts it, accepts, rejects. On a 100% scale, gathering information shouldn’t take more than a 10% slice of awareness. The 90% slice is converting it into knowledge.

I’ll make a simple comparison. A swimming pool does not equate swimming. I you can’t swim it won’t do you any good. You will stand at the edge, stare in it, then turn away, or you can jump in and drown. You need to learn how to swim to enjoy the pool. Once you’ve got that you can go to something more challenging, like a lake, a river, the ocean, and learn how to swim all over again. Sure, you’ll have the basics on how to stay afloat for a while, but what about current? Undercurrents? Waves? Underwater snags or those submerged reeds that grab the feet and tighten on the legs as you try to pull away? As a life-long canoeist, kayaker, river and sea lover I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn how to interact with various types of water bodies, of “information” to stay afloat in, to learn from and of course to enjoy. Desire, determination and drive to overcome the initial reticence of the land creature to interact with water. Then, training, training, training, with risk and daring.

That’s my analogy and I think it is fitting because children in this modern day are not taught how to go from wishing to accomplishing. As information is forced upon young minds, wishes, dreams and desires are awakened and stirred but that’s just sitting on the edge of the pool stirring the water with one’s feet. That’s not swimming. Modern education is failing abjectly because it is inculcating, stuffing information but without simultaneous observation and experience nothing of value is learned.  In fact such inculcation is easily surpassed by even low level AI application. Once upon a time learning that 2+2=4 was a big deal. Now the same kid can find out the square root of pi while at the same time being told irrational numbers cannot be squared. Does the kid understand the implication? No but more “searches” will give other “answers” and the little brain will feel like it really knows “something” about “something” when in fact a half hour down the road it will have forgotten. After all, why bother with memorizing when it’s all at one’s fingertips?

Before anyone objects furiously that “there are some really smart kids out there” let me remind the reader that I speak of the majority, not the exceptions and also remind s/he that exceptions prove the rule – a truism. If there was no rule, there could be no exceptions so when someone brings up an exception they are proving the rule. I need to repeat that as with information most people have never bothered to understand that correlation. 

So we have access to more information than ever before, at least that we can know based on our short span of questionable history.  I could list so many examples of beliefs (information) that once formed the basis of education. Flat earth. It is a waste of time and money to educate girls because women can’t learn “stuff.” Two of my favourites. Currently we are just as stuck in beliefs used, not to improve conditions on the planet but to bolster/counter old beliefs or feed some collective hubris. Darwinian evolution theory – raised eyebrow? I can do better: moon landings as false flags. Stop reading now? 9/11 and the burning of Notre Dame – inside jobs – am I certifiable yet?

How to we know if we can neither observe nor experience “it”? How can we be so sure? How did we come to accept that the earth was some sort of sphere? When it was no longer a matter of belief but overwhelming evidence (even though we may still be quite wrong about that “certainty” and future generations in for a bigger surprise without going back to the flat earth belief). To learn something we need to work through it from many different angles, to observe and experience it differently. I think, for example, that experience has demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that women are at least as intelligent as men and all they needed was a chance to demonstrate their intelligence and dexterity side by side with men. Yet there are still large pockets of resistance to this (which bothers me a lot), as there are still sincere flat earthers (which doesn’t bother me in the least).

The problem with belief is, it is not founded on knowledge – it relies on supportive belief and rejects evidence. That leads to the perpetuation of the vilest types of abuse on this world such as misogyny, racism, zealotry, bigotry, the economic and sexual exploitation of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.  These are results of information not converted to knowledge.

Now the tough part: how do we convert our information into knowledge if we cannot observe first hand, or experience, the information? Is there a back door that can be used to let us escape the trap of being informed without being educated?

Though still not entirely satisfactory to me, I did devise a mental tool whereby I could determine the ‘value’ of certain information and the danger of other. I don’t know if my ‘tool’ has a name so I have to describe how it works instead.

I’ll take one of my favourite conspiracy theories: moon landings as false flags. (If you find yourself reacting strongly to such an accusation it’s time to look inside and ask, ‘why am I reacting negatively to such a statement? What’s in it for me? Am I afraid to realize I was taken in by the System so many years ago and spent my life believing a monstrous lie? Am I a patriot who feels obligated to defend “my country right or wrong”? Why is believing in the moon landings so important to me particularly?”) Already, that is the beginning of converting information into knowledge. But that’s not nearly enough. Let’s take the story all the way down – and yes, even if there is an American flag on the moon, and there are booted human footprints in its regolith.

Assume for a moment that I am a reasonably intelligent human being, not only well informed on what matters, but able to analyze that information and make use of it. Continuing with the “space program” (check this link for example about the reality of costs in space exploration and its purpose:  https://www.forbes.com/2009/07/16/apollo-moon-landing-anniversary-opinions-contributors-cost-money.html#2e1736181d04

Although it has been scientifically proven that getting live human beings to the moon – and back (that’s the big one) alive was impossible in 1969, as much as it is impossible today, with insurmountable problems of Van Allen belts radiation + solar radiation; weight of lander and impossibility of blasting free of even low lunar gravity based on available power, to little stupid details like camera and light angles, non-matching shadows and yes, numbers on rocks (staged!), that is not the issue for someone converting information into knowledge. Here’s what should matter: did these extremely expensive maneuvers “make America great again”?  Is the world in general in better shape socially, economically and environmentally today than it was in 1969? Yes, the “Evil Empire” (Soviet Union) imploded in 1991 but can we credit the moon landings for that? Even if we could, was that the end of the Cold War or did it just morph into another series of imperial endless wars mostly driven by America’s desperate need to control all major resources of the planet in order to maintain its military/corporate global empire?

I make this point, and I only need one, to demonstrate how the moon landings, real or false, were nothing more than a massive propaganda effort to bolster the military industrial complex and turn the US and subsequently the entire world into a controlled “security state” a la George Orwell’s “1984.”

Honestly, the whole world got worse. Credit (blame) whom you will for that but I “blame” the sheeple for believing without evidence; for accepting without reasoning, testing, experiencing.

“The world of spirits is unpredictable Mrs. Santiago. Are you a believer, Mrs Santiago?”
“Si, si, I believe, I believe. I pay more… I believe!” (paraphrase from the movie “Ghost”)

Biological Annihilation-a Planet in Loss Mode

 How to introduce such an article? I copied it verbatim from TomDispatch (http://www.tomdispatch.com/) and although I am certainly aware of the devastations being caused by “climate change” I am most certainly not ascribing most of it to climate change.  Rather it is obvious that our standing on the cusp of  an “extinction protocol” has mostly to do with Earthians consistently refusing to consider changing their lifestyles, their obsolete traditions and their belief systems – all of which are guaranteeing the end of civilization.  I therefore must introduce it with these hated words: How about “you” taking responsibility for the state of the world? You will say, “How?” and I can tell you that there is an endless list of effective “hows” by which you can make a difference. But not one of these efforts will mean anything if you don’t become the change you wish to engender.  That’s right: the only way to make change is to become the change.  It begins by caring as if your life and the lives of your loved ones, depended on it.  *By the way, it does*

Obvious question here: How long can we condemn all other sentient life on this planet to massive dieback and not bring it upon ourselves? When does the “bad predator” realize that the prey he killed off was essential to his own survival?   ~burning woman~

Biological Annihilation
A Planet in Loss Mode
By Subhankar Banerjee

If you’ve been paying attention to what’s happening to the nonhuman life forms with which we share this planet, you’ve likely heard the term “the Sixth Extinction.” If not, look it up.  After all, a superb environmental reporter, Elizabeth Kolbert, has already gotten a Pulitzer Prize for writing a book with that title.

Whether the sixth mass species extinction of Earth’s history is already (or not quite yet) underway may still be debatable, but it’s clear enough that something’s going on, something that may prove even more devastating than a mass of species extinctions: the full-scale winnowing of vast populations of the planet’s invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants.  Think of it, to introduce an even broader term, as a wave of “biological annihilation” that includes possible species extinctions on a mass scale, but also massive species die-offs and various kinds of massacres.

Someday, such a planetary winnowing may prove to be the most tragic of all the grim stories of human history now playing out on this planet, even if to date it’s gotten far less attention than the dangers of climate change.  In the end, it may prove more difficult to mitigate than global warming.  Decarbonizing the global economy, however hard, won’t be harder or more improbable than the kind of wholesale restructuring of modern life and institutions that would prevent species annihilation from continuing.   

With that in mind, come along with me on a topsy-turvy journey through the animal and plant kingdoms to learn a bit more about the most consequential global challenge of our time.

Insects Are Vanishing

When most of us think of animals that should be saved from annihilation, near the top of any list are likely to be the stars of the animal world: tigers and polar bears, orcas and orangutans, elephants and rhinos, and other similarly charismatic creatures.

Few express similar concern or are likely to be willing to offer financial support to “save” insects. The few that are in our visible space and cause us nuisance, we regularly swat, squash, crush, or take out en masse with Roundup.

As it happens, though, of the nearly two million known species on this planet about 70% of them are insects. And many of them are as foundational to the food chain for land animals as plankton are for marine life. Harvard entomologist (and ant specialist) E.O. Wilson once observed that “if insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

In fact, insects are vanishing.

Almost exactly a year ago, the first long-term study of the decline of insect populations was reported, sparking concern (though only in professional circles) about a possible “ecological Armageddon.” Based on data collected by dozens of amateur entomologists in 63 nature reserves across Germany, a team of scientists concluded that the flying insect population had dropped by a staggering 76% over a 27-year period. At the same time, other studies began to highlight dramatic plunges across Europe in the populations of individual species of bugs, bees, and moths.

What could be contributing to such a collapse? It certainly is human-caused, but the factors involved are many and hard to sort out, including habitat degradation and loss, the use of pesticides in farming, industrial agriculture, pollution, climate change, and even, insidiously enough, “light pollution that leads nocturnal insects astray and interrupts their mating.”

This past October, yet more troubling news arrived.

When American entomologist Bradford Lister first visited El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico in 1976, little did he know that a long-term study he was about to embark on would, 40 years later, reveal a “hyperalarming” new reality. In those decades, populations of arthropods, including insects and creepy crawlies like spiders and centipedes, had plunged by an almost unimaginable 98% in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest within the U.S. National Forest System. Unsurprisingly, insectivores (populations of animals that feed on insects), including birds, lizards, and toads, had experienced similarly dramatic plunges, with some species vanishing entirely from that rainforest. And all of that happened before Hurricane Maria battered El Yunque in the fall of 2017.

What had caused such devastation? After eliminating habitat degradation or loss — after all, it was a protected national forest — and pesticide use (which, in Puerto Rico, had fallen by more than 80% since 1969), Lister and his Mexican colleague Andres Garcia came to believe that climate change was the culprit, in part because the average maximum temperature in that rainforest has increased by four degrees Fahrenheit over those same four decades.

Even though both scientific studies and anecdotal stories about what might be thought of as a kind of insectocide have, at this point, come only from Europe and North America, many entomologists are convinced that the collapse of insect populations is a worldwide phenomenon.

As extreme weather events — fires, floods, hurricanes — begin to occur more frequently globally, “connecting the dots” across the planet has become a staple of climate-change communication to “help the public understand how individual events are part of a larger trend.”

Now, such thinking has to be transferred to the world of the living so, as in the case of plummeting insect populations and the creatures that feed on them, biological annihilation sinks in. At the same time, what’s driving such death spirals in any given place — from pesticides to climate change to habitat loss — may differ, making biological annihilation an even more complex phenomenon than climate change.

The Edge of the Sea

The animal kingdom is composed of two groups: invertebrates, or animals without backbones, and vertebrates, which have them. Insects are invertebrates, as are starfish, anemones, corals, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, and many more species. In fact, invertebrates make up 97% of the known animal kingdom.

In 1955, environmentalist Rachel Carson’s book The Edge of the Sea was published, bringing attention for the first time to the extraordinary diversity and density of the invertebrate life that occupies the intertidal zone.  Even now, more than half a century later, you’ve probably never considered that environment — which might be thought of as the edge of the sea (or actually the ocean) — as a forest. And neither did I, not until I read nature writer Tim McNulty’s book Olympic National Park: A Natural History some years ago. As he pointed out: “The plant associations of the low tide zone are commonly arranged in multistoried communities, not unlike the layers of an old-growth forest.” And in that old-growth forest, the starfish (or sea star) rules as the top predator of the nearshore.

In 2013, a starfish die-off — from a “sea-star wasting disease” caused by a virus — was first observed in Washington’s Olympic National Park, though it was hardly confined to that nature preserve. By the end of 2014, as Lynda Mapes reported in the Seattle Times, “more than 20 species of starfish from Alaska to Mexico” had been devastated. At the time, I was living on the Olympic Peninsula and so started writing about and, as a photographer, documenting that die-off (a painful experience after having read Carson’s exuberant account of that beautiful creature).

The following summer, though, something magical happened. I suddenly saw baby starfish everywhere. Their abundance sparked hope among park employees I spoke with that, if they survived, most of the species would bounce back. Unfortunately, that did not happen. “While younger sea stars took longer to show symptoms, once they did, they died right away,” Mapes reported. That die-off was so widespread along the Pacific coast (in many sites, more than 99% of them) that scientists considered it “unprecedented in geographic scale.”
Baby Starfish, Olympic National Park. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2015.

The cause? Consider it the starfish version of a one-two punch: the climate-change-induced warming of the Pacific Ocean put stress on the animals while it made the virus that attacked them more virulent.  Think of it as a perfect storm for unleashing such a die-off.

It will take years to figure out the true scope of the aftermath, since starfish occupy the top of the food chain at the edge of the ocean and their disappearance will undoubtedly have cascading impacts, not unlike the vanishing of the insects that form the base of the food chain on land.

Concurrent with the disappearance of the starfish, another “unprecedented” die-off was happening at the edge of the same waters, along the Pacific coast of the U.S. and Canada.  It seemed to be “one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded,” Craig Welch wrote in National Geographic in 2015. And many more have been dying ever since, including Cassin’s auklets, thick-billed murres, common murres, fork-tailed petrels, short-tailed shearwaters, black-legged kittiwakes, and northern fulmars. That tragedy is still ongoing and its nature is caught in the title of a September article in Audubon magazine: “In Alaska, Starving Seabirds and Empty Colonies Signal a Broken Ecosystem.”

To fully understand all of this, the dots will again have to be connected across places and species, as well as over time, but the great starfish die-off is an indication that biological annihilation is now an essential part of life at the edge of the sea.

The Annihilation of Vertebrates

The remaining 3% of the kingdom Animalia is made up of vertebrates. The 62,839 known vertebrate species include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

The term “biological annihilation” was introduced in 2017 in a seminal paper by scientists Geraldo Ceballos, Paul Ehrlich, and Rodolpho Dirzo, whose research focused on the population declines, as well as extinctions, of vertebrate species. “Our data,” they wrote then, “indicate that beyond global species extinctions Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations.”

If anything, the 148-page Living Planet Report published this October by the World Wildlife Fund International and the Zoological Society of London only intensified the sense of urgency in their paper. As a comprehensive survey of the health of our planet and the impact of human activity on other species, its key message was grim indeed: between 1970 and 2014, it found, monitored populations of vertebrates had declined in abundance by an average of 60% globally, with particularly pronounced losses in the tropics and in freshwater systems. South and Central America suffered a dramatic loss of 89% of such vertebrates, while freshwater populations of vertebrates declined by a lesser but still staggering 83% worldwide. The results were based on 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species, which meant that the study was not claiming a comprehensive census of all vertebrate populations.  It should instead be treated as a barometer of trends in monitored populations of them.

What could be driving such an annihilatory wave to almost unimaginable levels? The report states that the main causes are “overexploitation of species, agriculture, and land conversion — all driven by runaway human consumption.” It does, however, acknowledge that climate change, too, is a “growing threat.”

When it comes to North America, the report shows that the decline is only 23%. Not so bad, right? Such a statistic could mislead the public into thinking that the U.S. and Canada are in little trouble and yet, in reality, insects and other animals, as well as plants, are dying across North America in surprisingly large numbers.

From My Doorstep to the World Across Time

My own involvement with biological annihilation started at my doorstep. In March 2006, a couple of days after moving into a rented house in northern New Mexico, I found a dead male house finch, a small songbird, on the porch. It had smashed into one of the building’s large glass windows and died. At the same time, I began to note startling numbers of dead piñon, New Mexico’s state tree, everywhere in the area. Finding that dead bird and noting those dead trees sparked a desire in me to know what was happening in this new landscape of mine.

When you think of an old-growth forest — and here I don’t mean the underwater version of one but the real thing — what comes to your mind? Certainly not the desert southwest, right? The trees here don’t even grow tall enough for that.  An 800-year-old piñon may reach a height of 24 feet, not the 240-feet of a giant Sitka spruce of similar age in the Pacific Northwest. In the last decade, however, scientists have begun to see the piñon-juniper woodlands here as exactly that.

I first learned this from a book, Ancient Piñon-Juniper Woodlands: A Natural History of Mesa Verde Country. It turns out that this low-canopy, sparsely vegetated woodland ecosystem supports an incredible diversity of wildlife. In fact, as a state, New Mexico has among the greatest diversity of species in the country.  It’s second in diversity of native mammals, third in birds, and fourth in overall biodiversity. Take birds.  Trailing only California and Arizona, the state harbors 544 species, nearly half of the 1,114 species in the U.S. And consider this not praise for my adopted home, but a preface to a tragedy.

Before I could even develop a full appreciation of the piñon-juniper woodland, I came to realize that most of the mature piñon in northern New Mexico had already died. Between 2001 and 2005, a tiny bark beetle known by the name of Ips confusus had killed more than 50 million of them, about 90% of the mature ones in northern New Mexico. This happened thanks to a combination of severe drought and rapid warming, which stressed the trees, while providing a superb environment for beetle populations to explode.
Dead finch on my porch. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2006.

And this, it turned out, wasn’t in any way an isolated event. Multiple species of bark beetles were by then ravaging forests across the North American West. The black spruce, the white spruce, the ponderosa pine, the lodgepole pine, the whitebark pine, and the piñon were all dying.

In fact, trees are dying all over the world. In 2010, scientists from a number of countries published a study in Forest Ecology and Management that highlights global climate-change-induced forest mortality with data recorded since 1970. In countries ranging from Argentina and Australia to Switzerland and Zimbabwe, Canada and China to South Korea and Sri Lanka, the damage to trees has been significant.

In 2010, trying to absorb the larger ecological loss, I wrote: “Hundreds of millions of trees have recently died and many more hundreds of millions will soon be dying. Now think of all the other lives, including birds and animals, that depended on those trees. What happened to them and how do we talk about that which we can’t see and will never know?”

In fact, in New Mexico, we are finally beginning to find out something about the size and nature of that larger loss.

Earlier this year, Los Alamos National Laboratory ornithologist Jeanne Fair and her colleagues released the results of a 10-year bird study on the Pajarito Plateau of New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, where some of the worst piñon die-offs have occurred. The study shows that, between 2003 and 2013, the diversity of birds declined by 45% and bird populations, on average, decreased by a staggering 73%. Consider the irony of that on a plateau whose Spanish name, Pajarito, means “little bird.”

The piñon die-off that led to the die-off of birds is an example of connecting the dots across species and over time in one place. It’s also an example of what writer Rob Nixon calls “slow violence.” That “slowness” (even if it’s speedy indeed on the grand calendar of biological time) and the need to grasp the annihilatory dangers in our world will mean staying engaged way beyond any normal set of news cycles.  It will involve what I think of as long environmentalism.

Let’s return, then, to that dead finch on my porch. A study published in 2014 pointed out that as many as 988 million birds die each year in the U.S. by crashing into glass windows. Even worse, domestic and feral cats kill up to 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion small mammals annually in this country. In Australia and Canada, two other places where such feline slaughters of birds have been studied, the estimated numbers are 365 million and 200 million respectively — another case of connecting the dots across places and species when it comes to the various forms of biological annihilation underway on this planet.
Dead piñon where birds gather in autumn, northern New Mexico. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2009.

Those avian massacres, one the result of modern architecture and our desire to see the outside from the inside, the other stemming from our urge for non-human companionship, indicate that climate change is but one cause of a planet-wide trend toward biological annihilation.  And this is hardly a contemporary story.  It has a long history, including for instance the mass killing of Arctic whales in the seventeenth century, which generated so much wealth that it helped make the Netherlands into one of the richest nations of that time. In other words, Arctic whaling proved to be an enabler of the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, the era when Rembrandt and Vermeer made paintings still appreciated today.

The large-scale massacre and near extinction of the American bison (or buffalo) in the nineteenth century, to offer a more modern example, paved the way for white settler colonial expansion into the American West, while destroying Native American food security and a way of life. As a U.S. Army colonel put it then, “Kill every buffalo you can! Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”

Today, such examples have not only multiplied drastically but are increasingly woven into human life and life on this planet in ways we still hardly notice.  These, in turn, are being exacerbated by climate change, the human-induced warming of the world. To mitigate the crisis, to save life itself, would require not merely the replacement of carbon-dirty fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy, but a genuine reevaluation of modern life and its institutions. In other words, to save the starfish, the piñon, the birds, and the insects, and us in the process, has become the most challenging and significant ethical obligation of our increasingly precarious time.

Subhankar Banerjee, a TomDispatch regular, is an activist, artist, and public scholar. A professor of art and ecology, he holds the Lannan Chair at the University of New Mexico. He is currently writing a book on biological annihilation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Subhankar Banerjee

 

After listening to Lakme, the Flower Duet

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

I like beautiful music and although I prefer music over song, either can be from any era, just as long as it is beautiful to my ears and it moves me. So I was listening to Lakme, part I, The Flower Duet (in this case performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca – See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf42IP__ipw)

…And I was thinking, again, about Earth and about “Man” as Earth’s current lord and master. I was thinking of a line by Carl Sagan in “Contact”: ‘You are capable of such beauty, and such horror.” (Quoting from memory but the gist is here)

Whenever I engage myself, mind-wise, on Earthian matters, I get confused as to how I should approach it. Is it “you” and me as the cosmic observer, or should I include myself in among the observed? How do I decide this? First, I must be sure it isn’t a matter of hubris; that if my observation runs into negative judgment, that if I remove myself it isn’t in any way because I think I’m superior to the rest of Earthianity, but because I no longer think, speak or act as most of “you” do. This process, this judgment, must be impeccable on my part.

I believe it is, therefore I am going to be the observer and use the “you” though certainly in the generic sense. I do not know “you” as individuals, therefore it will be according to your conscience whether you “fit in” or can truthfully remain outside the picture. For you, today, I will once again take up the role of the Trojan prophetess Cassandra and say things you will not find acceptable.

You are capable of great beauty… certainly, and the piece of music I mention above proves it even by itself. You don’t have to be able to write, play or sing such, you just have to be able to listen to it and have the capacity to let it enter you and fill you and for the three or four minutes it takes, let it displace all other thoughts, feelings and emotions. Simple, really.

The problem however is that too often it seems impossible to let go. The “immediate” presses upon the mind and demands full attention. That immediate could be anything from the most pleasurable to the greatest pain or loss. The mind-heart refuses to let go of its current obsession driven by anticipation or the immediacy of physical or mental pain.

Earth is not a place conducive to an overall sense of peace, comfort and wholesome satisfaction. Even in the most remote corners, surrounded by nothing but nature, unless one is blind, the reality of the turmoil taking place in the skies, the seas, the trees, the soil, impinges on one’s awareness: predators, everywhere. You see, your world’s natural motive force is based on predatorship or perhaps I should coin a word here: predatorism, because in fact that is the concept that rules Earth. Some are born to kill, many, many more are born to be killed, eaten or absorbed into the natural fabric, their lives cut down long before they can complete their natural cycle. Even your great mountains are worn away by waters and passing winds.

I realize that most of you do not engage your world this way. You do not sense this, though you may be vaguely aware of it, and you generally shrug it off, or use it as an excuse for indulging in what Sagan called, “great horror.” You call it the food chain, and that’s that, as if somehow that explains it away. As if that same nature you want to wax poetic about can also be the brutal barbaric entity that supports your convenient food chain. As if there is no unacceptable dichotomy here, no problem.

That’s the problem, you see, the fact that you don’t see a problem with how nature works. You don’t see a problem because you don’t realize the direct relationship with your own social failures: your wars, genocides, social injustices of every possible kind juxtaposed with those of the world you happen to be temporarily using as a base because… you have no choice: you can’t get away, and if you could, you would have no clue where to go. Some of you feel that your species is a failure, but how many see your world’s “procession” as an equally and connected abysmal failure?

I feel both, the horror that is the working natural system of this world, and the greater horror that is an intelligent, sentient, self aware (ISSA) species calling itself “mankind” that refuses to question the modus operandi of its natural world; refuses to question its own modus operandi; refuses the simple expedient of connecting the dots in order to realize why things are as they are and why no lasting (real) solution to man’s social problems has ever come forth. The only times some significant change has ever happened was through the exercise of violence. That true statement should make any rational being stop and take note: why must it require violence to make significant change within the social structure, and why is it that any and all such changes have failed and are in the process of failing right now?

To me that would be the “why?” question of all the “why?” questions. Why do you always fail? Look, even now, while shooting off on all kinds of tangents based on IT and AI, you are helplessly realizing that this technology is quite likely going to supplant you, perhaps destroy you as ISSA beings. Barely has the technology begun that already you know without a doubt that some way or another it is going to bite you in the ass, and that severely so.

You see? There is no win-win here, not under the current hegemony; the current “force” or “power” that operates this planet. You, people of earth, are not that force or that power, but its slave species. There, I’ve said it, and but for rare exceptions, that is not something you will find acceptable, therefore you will find it necessary to reject the thought outright. If you did not, guess what? You would be forced to look into this in depth and who knows where that would lead? To confront your real nemesis?

No. I can easily tell you where it would lead: back to organized religion. Without self empowerment; without the power to cancel out all input and replace it all with your own thoughts, your own self-made ISSA reasoning, the forces or powers I speak of, will seem to smile in your brain. They will prod you along, with fine words or goads, down the chute into a ready-made religion that will, of course, explain it all. You will then accept the “new” ideas this “new” religion programs into your mind and who knows? It could explain how the AI is a divine power, or it could just as easily make you believe that the time has come to launch a “revolution” against science and technology and you will go off to destroy all vestiges of science and technology, mindlessly following the dictates of a few madmen who will tell you they are “making the Earth great again.”

Either way, you see, you’re not your own person: you are an actor, a puppet, a robot because you are not in control of your own mind. So you will go along (or you will be of those who will violently oppose the barbarians) and indulge in much, much more horror and under your feet, in the seas, in the trees and in the air, predators will continue to kill and eat, and billions of lifeforms will die premature deaths in attempts to sate the hunger of an insatiable system – as Costello would say, “Same as you!”

Quote: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty- five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt)