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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Facing the Future

Last Saturday some local businesses and advocacy organizations got together for an Earth Day-related "Isthmus Green Day" at Madison's Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace. With over eighty exhibitors, a keynote speaker, and eighteen other presenters, the event had something for everyone interested in living in harmony with the environment.

There was something for everyone, including free samples of products, drawings to enter, and even free chair massages. Given the increased urgency of climate change and related environmental problems, and the location in Madison, Wisconsin, one would think that that thousands would attend.

It was more like hundreds. Or A hundred.  Though most exhibitors put on a cheerful exterior, I detected a sense of unease. It could have been from the low turnout, but a question I asked of the keynote speaker, Shalini Kantayya, led me to believe otherwise. She showed her movie A Drop of Life, then talked with what seemed to be forced enthusiasm about water issues and prospects for the future. At the end of her talk she asked if there were any questions, and I asked her if she believed economic growth could continue indefinitely, and if she thought the projections of population growth she mentioned were an unchangeable given.

Almost everyone I have asked these questions has dodged them, and Shalini Kantayya was no exception. She answered the question about economic growth by saying that it could continue with green products. This was after misinterpreting what I was asking and even trying to change the question. I repeated the questions with greater emphasis on the word growth so there would be no misunderstanding.

Her reply to the question about population growth was basically a non-answer, that growth projections are accurate. I suppose it's beyond the bounds of thinkable thought that some event or circumstance could interfere with mankind's zeal for populating the Earth.

But there is something that will interfere with both growth of output and growth of population: climate change. As its effects become more serious the Earth will become less habitable. Less habitable means it will be harder for the planet to support human life. That means fewer people. It is too late to stop this encroaching reality. Growth of population will cease, and indeed will likely go in reverse.

The same goes for economic growth. In an increasingly uninhabitable planet unending growth in economic output will be a thing of the past. A steady state will be the best we can hope for. Few want to consider this, for various reasons, mostly having to do with how vastly different such a system would be. It's so unthinkable, let's not think about it.

We'll be thinking about it soon enough. When climate change really kicks in, we will have no choice but to think about how we will organize our economic activity. We will see some hints in the coming days. Tornado season has started, soon to be followed by flood, drought, forest fire and hurricane seasons, then next winter. It is likely to be more serious this year than last, followed by a more serious round the next year.

Our political and corporate overstructure will attempt to avoid dealing with this reality for as long as possible. Drunk on power and money, they eventually will have to hit a bottom, just like drunks of another kind. They will try everything they can to keep drinking from the trough of power and money. The day will come, one way or another, where all the king's horses and all the king's men will not be able to keep Humpty Dumpty together. Change is on the way. We can speed up the process by our actions. Don't give power and don't give money to those whose interest is in their own power and money.

I get calls from the "Democratic" party every month, rain or shine, asking for money. I don't give them any. I get appeals from the "Democratic" candidate for governor, and just got a repeat mailing from "Ready for Hillary." No money for them either. Some recorded voice calls me every other day, saying "If this is James, please press 2." I hang up, not being "James," but would hang up even if I were "James."

Decorporatizing my buying habits is a little more difficult, but I've been at it for decades. I get my food through a food coop, local farmers' markets, a Community Supported Agriculture farmer, and a small amount through a regional grocery chain. I don't eat meat. I ride a bicycle most of the time, and go to free events around town, including yoga and meditation classes. I don't subscribe to cable or dish, finding plenty of TV to watch with a converter box. I have never owned a cell phone or texting device. I built almost all my furniture. For movies I go to the cheapie theater when they are about a month or two old. Sometimes I check out a DVD from the public library.  I get my health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Instead of a bank, I use a credit union.

With all the money-saving and non-corporate buying habits I have practiced, I still live at a higher level than about 99% or more of the people on this planet. It's a struggle for almost anyone to make ends meet, but it's easier with simple needs. In regard to the rich and powerful, I have never started a war, never killed anyone, haven't ordered a drone strike on ordinary civilians, haven't dumped oil in the ocean, contaminated a water supply, caused cancer, or used greed to make myself rich while others got poor. It's been an imperfect life, but a simple life. It's what we'll all be doing very soon.

It might be time to stop observing Earth Day. Here's why.

Here's some IZ.

This Moody Blues album is worth a listen or two.

I heard Doris Day say in a recent interview that she hates this song. Maybe the future IS ours to see.

Leonard Cohen has a vision of the future. He also makes this prediction.

Here's a song for our wealthy 1%.

If you're wondering where to lend a hand, here's a bit of advice on what to avoid.

Here's some futuristic music.

I almost forgot about this Neil Young song. Then of course there's this, a foreboding from long ago.

R.I.P. Jesse Winchester. He did a brave thing long ago, something I sometimes wish I had done. I only knew this song as done by Brewer and Shipley, but Jesse Winchester wrote it. Allen Toussaint performed a tribute to him last fall. Here's a nice song.

Here's a not-so-encouraging update about wildfire season.

Here's an update about the supposed negative view of the future. This link takes you to the New York Times article referred to. And, of course, this song.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please tell me this is not your first hearing of the Moody's "Days"; but if so, know it epitomized 1967 as the Summit of the Century (and the millennia, for that matter!). If only its Spirit HAD PREVAILED.

4/29/2014 6:50 AM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

The first time I heard it was in 1968 at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, where I was studying the manly art of projector repair. One of the guys in my barracks had it.

I bought it a year-or-so later at a PX in Germany, yuk, yuk, for $2.50. I sold most of my record collection, including this, to a used record store in Ann Arbor in 1980, also sold my guitar there. I thought I was making a clean break. I was making a break, but it wasn't so clean.

Anyway, the album came to mind last night as I was finishing this post. It has nothing but fond memories, one of the best I ever owned.

4/29/2014 6:05 PM  

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