Tuesday, February 4, 2014

the game goes on

I'm sure I've written about him before, but Andy Goldsworthy's artwork in nature is something that calms me when I've read too much about the environmental destruction that continues to be wrought upon the planet.

The most recent, and unnecessary, example I've read about recently is the decision made by the Australian government to allow millions of tonnes of sludge to be dumped inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in order that they may build a port to export more coal. This is despite the written pleas of several hundred scientists who stated in part of a letter, "Sediment from dredging can smother corals and seagrasses and expose them to poisons." It's not that there aren't other ways to deal with creating a larger port, but the Australian government has decided to go for the cheap, fast and dirty one.

What's most aggravating about the huge projects developed around extracting the fuels required to keep our modern industrial machines running, is that the people who allow them and profit from them, never consider the damage done to the environment. It's not that they don't know, it's that they prefer not being told. Another piece of news reported yesterday is that scientists have determined the amount of harmful pollutants released in the process of recovering oil from the tar sands of western Canada is far higher than corporate interests say it is.

Some time ago there was a phrase 'Think globally, act locally' that prompted many people to enter the environmental movement. A new book written by historian Joachim Radkau called 'The Age of Ecology' that will be published this spring is on my list for purchase:

The environmental movement, notes the author, has demystified the myth of technological progress for good. At the same time, however, a nature conservation movement that has now gone on the offensive harbours a design for the re-enchantment of the world. And this occurs mainly through what takes place locally. The practical use of environmental history, the retrospective of past decades, consists in seeing how, behind the jumble of environmental regulations, the simple concerns and basic motives, such as the need for and the right to clean water, clean air, peace and quiet and healthy nourishment, were again recognised and pursued at the local level.

From the reviews I've read the core of his history is the rise of environmental activism in the past half century, charting how this movement has been tightly linked to the fate of biological life (including us, but not just us in particular I would presume) on the planet. He seems to see a great flowering of ecological awareness developing despite the current conflict with capital interests.

What the governments and corporations are telling us by their actions is that we live in a world of endless resources that can be used for unending production. This is patently untrue for the many of us who witness the destruction and waste that surrounds us. The one thing they never want to face is our need for conservation of resources - a subject that must be addressed. What use are the products of great wealth on a planet ravaged by drought, famine, sea level rise, dead and dying oceans, and a polluted stormy sky?

Meanwhile, a sample of a documentary called 'Rivers and Tides':

As Crow says (although he may not have originated it), 'Where there's life, there's hope. I got my Green Party membership card in the mail this morning.


marja-leena said...

Oh, I love 'Rivers and Tides' and Andy Goldsworthy! I too despair the destruction of this earth. Why must we use up all our resources as fast as possible and not save any for the next generations?!

I'm also a Green Party member. But for the party to have any clout we need more MPs which means we need to change the current electoral system away from first-past-the-post. Hope is just not enough, sigh.

Sean Jeating said...

I think I do share your ideals, your hope. However, if your Greens within the next 30 years develop like the German Greens did . . .
I remember an 88-year-old woman quoting her grandmother: "The troughs keep being the same; only the pigs change."

Life As I Know It Now said...

We have to work together to change things. We cannot act alone and expect to accomplish much. Therefore, I think it is a good thing that you have found a group that promotes your values. Our Earth is a valuable resource that is being misused and squandered.

MRMacrum said...

You turned me onto Goldsworthy I think a couple of years ago. He is well, amazing comes to mind. Anyone who believed the company lines when Fracking was explained back a few years, well, I guess they have more faith in corporation honesty than I do.

susan said...

His pieces are very spiritually uplifting and the extreme opposite of decorating the landscape with loose plastic shopping bags.

I agree that hope is far from enough. Unfortunately, the first past the post system in effect in Canada at present does appear to favour a two party system; proportional representation would be much more fair. Meanwhile, we have what we have and in order to defeat the Harper government I'll decide when the time comes whether to vote for the NDP or Liberal candidate. We're not likely to have a Green representative running in the next federal election.

susan said...

For one thing I doubt I'll be around to vote in 30 years, but considering the Canadian Parliament only just got their second Green Party member I don't think I have to worry. Joining the Party is more my way of offering support to their current ideals than any real belief they can defeat the current leadership.

I'm quite sure we share similar ideals, Sean. The quote is a good one.

susan said...

Generally speaking, I'm not much of a joiner, nor really much of a believer that Canada's Green Party can accomplish their goals - never mind defeat the evil Harper regime currently in power. However, I am willing to provide them with what little financial support I can manage as well as moral support. Our Earth is a closed system and as such cannot support infinite resource extraction for the purpose of manufacturing useless and destructive consumer goods.

What's really interesting, Lib, is that more people everywhere feel the way we do. Every little bit of progressive action helps.

susan said...

I knew I'd posted about Andy Goldsworthy previously but wasn't sure when. I'm glad to know it was me who brought him to your attention. His work truly is breathtaking.

You might enjoy reading an article published by the Archdruid last summer called 'Well and Truly Fracked'. I've been reading his posts faithfully every Thursday morning for the past few years.

Tom said...

I think the current use and over-exploitation of resources is symptomatic of the attitude that profit is more important than principle. I have no objection to the use of resources, for example to develop more efficient, cleaner means of producing energy. I am also aware that people need employment to pay for food, and in the US to pay for medical care. One of the problems, as I see it, is that during the process of developing technologies for mankind's betterment, there are rich opportunities for making excessive profits, to the detriment of the projects and the environment in which they are worked through.

As used in my response to your post, profit does not only apply to big and powerful corporations, but also to the general public. Pushed a little further, two or three holidays a year might be considered as profitable when compared with one holiday. The need to fly off somewhere to "chill out" for a weekend*, after flying here, there and everywhere for a week, might seem to some (like me) to be excessive profit taking. Consumerism is for the consumer as much a part of the profit making system as is the accumulation of wealth by the rich and powerful. And this operates on a national and global scale.

One thing I do fear, and have seen it happen, is that although there is much to be admired about Green Policies, sometimes there is a lack of real understanding, too much pie-in-the-sky ignorance, and sometimes a lack of honesty. How much of the protest against "fracking" in the UK for instance, is not about environmental issues but about "not-in-my-back-yard". If we could deal with greed, perhaps the rest would sort itself out. (You will have observed that I have been as considered and polite as possible, and have therefore desisted from talking about the proposed Australian east coast coal port!!!!)

* The expressed need to fly off and "chill out" was expressed by a young woman executive on UK television some months ago. I could hardly believe my ears. It was a case of 'I can have therefore I must have, and I must have it now!'

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,

Of far greater concern for the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is the resurgence of attacks from the crown-of-thorns-starfish, which, despite multi millions spent on research over 30 years, remains a threat without any effective mean of control.
Past outbreaks followed increases in drought-breaking floods with heightened nutrient levels (phytoplankton) providing increased food for the starfish’s larvae, to form juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish to feed on the coral. As numbers get out of control they decimate the reef which can take a decade to recover should numbers move back into balance.

Hence Scientists worry the Reef is on the cusp of being hit by the most damaging crown of thorns starfish outbreak ever on record, whilst sections between Cooktown and Cairns are already in the grip of an outbreak, the 4th since the 1960s. Other issues are the quality of the water, fishing , too much commercial development and climate change.

Best wishes

Rob-bear said...

Whenever there is an environmental disaster, I think of it as a public health disaster. That helps my mind sort things out.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

Ol'Buzzard said...

Crow knows: Humans are a threat to all living things.
the Ol'Buzzard

susan said...

You've reminded me of a book I've owned copies of almost since it was first published in the early 70s : "Small Is Beautiful: A Study Of Economics As If People Mattered". Ernst Schumacher was a German émigré to the UK and the US who, after a long and auspicious career as an academic, economist and advisor to numerous institutions, including the National Coal Board, found himself increasingly troubled by the short-comings of western economics and the implications of the continued adoption of the edict that dictates that increased profit, expansion and consumption was the only way forward for the human species.

The book is nothing less than this extraordinary man's attempt to analyse the state of affairs as it was then (and is now), redress the balance and to offer several alternative propositions to the school of economic thinking which dictates that "increased profit is best" and that "more is better".

Schumacher's contention was essentially that the planet Earth is a closed system and that infinite expansion within a closed system is an impossibility. Accordingly, he quite sensibly saw the continued exploitation of Earth's irreplaceable natural resources for economic purposes as a suicidal proposition. As a Christian and an economist, Schumacher felt that economics as a discipline had, like a tumour, metastasised and expanded far outside of what should have been it's legitimate area of concern; a development which he saw as detrimental to the environment, human dignity, and the continued existence of the human species.

The networks of transportation and communication left to us by the collective decisions of the recent past demand a great deal of energy input, and social habits evolved during the heyday of cheap energy amplify that, making long-distance trips a practical necessity for many and habitual for others.

I don't expect miracles of the Green Party, but since they are against some of the most egregious examples of purely extractive policies, I don't have a problem with giving them some support. Fracking shouldn't be going on in anybody's back yard.

In the long run you're absolutely correct that it's human greed that's continuing to cause so many problems. I could go on and on, but this is probably more than enough for now. Back to the meditation cushion.

susan said...

Your information about the crown-of-thorns starfish is certainly an equally frightening prospect for the health of the Great Barrier Reef. I know too there is much concern about the threat of even more physical damage to the coral from the extra ships that would enter and leave the ports. It would be nice to think there are some areas in the world that are so valuable they would be left pristine, but that doesn't seem to be the case anywhere.

Best wishes to you too.

susan said...

If only environmental disasters were treated with the same level of attention as public health disasters are in the west things might improve.

Hope your weather eases soon.

susan said...

Has Crow ever told you about his favorite human organization?
It's the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

Lydia said...

It is indeed time for a revolution. Long overdue.
Is your Green Party in Canada the same as the U.S.? I realize that sounds like a ridiculous question but I wonder if they are two arms of the same body, or are singular parties.

I will now view the video and hope I can sleep tonight as a result of seeing something beautiful. I am so depressed about this news about Australia.

susan said...

I'm pretty sure the Canadian Green Party is part of the international Green movement. That said, it also seems true that as a group of left wing semi-radicals that each and every one of them has their own opinion. Leftists, as you know, hardly ever agree with each other about anything.

I hope you enjoyed Andy Goldsworthy's work. He's amazing.