Thursday, June 27, 2013

Letter to my County Legislator, Peter Harckham

I just read a letter from my county legislator, Peter Harckham, a dear friend and excellent public servant.   In it he lambasted our  Westchester county executive Rob Astorino for not doing his job. You can read it Here.

Here is my reply to Peter:

Hi Peter,
hope you're doing well!
Sorry I won't be able to make your fundraiser, but I'm sending my best to you with my good friend Lisa Silver.

I read your Astorino critique in the local paper and I must agree with you 1000%.
The man is an outrage. 
And the people who swallow his fear mongering swill, function out of fear and ignorance.  

Affordable housing is for our adult children, our senior parents, our first responders, our teachers, and if he and his swillers can't see that, then it's up to you (sorry) to make that evident to the folks of Westchester, perhaps the most expensive county to live in,  in the USA. 
My ex and I subsidize our two adult children's living arrangements!  It's not fair to any of us!  At their age, my husband and I owned our own first home and were starting a small family.  They won't have that opportunity  for years to come! 

Here's the sad catch, however.  It won't matter if there are 700 units of 7000 affordable housing units if, as you  mention, we don't address waste water, land use, and energy. (Not to mention foreclosure rates!)

As long as we insist on building ANY new homes or apartments with outdated systems (like any house being built right now, for instance) and methods, and not Grey water systems, composting toilets and solar water heaters and pumps,  then we are just digging ourselves deeper into the mess of predicaments we are already  embedded in. 

If we are to make any kind of dent in our collective carbon footprints, and get on the path to some kind 
of sustainability (whatever that means anymore) it must come with any new construction. 
ALL new construction should be required at the very LEAST, to have grey water systems,
composting toilets, permaculture based grounds and gardens, and solar water heaters and pumps.
Not to mention construction materials should be sustainable and durable to last longer than a decade, and be cold and heat insulating, water resistant and hurricane resistant.  
It's just a no-brainer.   And I haven't heard PEEP about that from anyone! Not even the greenies!  
NWEAC and SWEAC barely give lip service to these types of improvements. Everyone seems fixated on solar panels and renewable energy, talk a lot about hydrofracking,  but have forgotten our basic bodily functions. 
We are perpetual waste machines.  It's as simple as that and we need to address that reality… Now. 

But that's only if we want to get to the next decade without going extinct… 
(We are in the 6th great extinction & it's far more accelerated than the one the Dinosaurs experienced which took 30,000-80,000 years to complete…Some scientists expect ours to take a few hundred years or less!...)

It's that critical!  And you know it and I know it. 

And anyway, it's probably too late regardless of what we do, but it's worth a try to save SOMETHING of the planet for our girls.  Naturally, closing Indian Point before energy collapse happens, is a priority for many of us.  It takes energy to run the darn thing.  Anything could knock it out.  Anything!
EMP, solar flare, earthquake, hurricane, nut jobs, a boring old power outage, etc.  What happens when that power grid goes off?   Poof.  Tens of millions of people and their property gone. 
And Entergy owners living far away get to shake their heads at us sadly, "It was inconceivable that could happen!"  
Riiiiight.  Meanwhile, we subsidize their greed with our lives and our land.   Outrageous arrangement. 

But I digress..

The climate predictions are dire and the food system is in serious jeopardy. Which is why I say ANY new housing needs to incorporate a permaculture food system.  Fruit trees, not ornamental trees.
Berry bushes and diverse evergreen ground covers, not a monoculture of grass, though it should be included. 
Zoning to allow for chickens, bees, miniature goats and the like; rather than raking nice people like me over the coals for keeping four pathetic chickens on nearly half an acre.  
 (Seriously.   That was annoying.  And I'm still angry and hurt and I won't forget or forgive...)
 Perennial plantings that are edible super foods, like  Asparagus, Rhubarb, Elderberry,Honey berry, Hardy Kiwi, etc. etc. etc.  
And offering people the training to care for their new  living arrangements,  a truly sustainable living arrangement that bonds them to their community, to their homes and to the land. Actually being LOCAL, and not just tossing the words around. Like so many do.  

 The old outdated thinking that sees lawns as a sign of prestige, potable water good to waste on human waste,  septic tanks as practical, water as coming only from a tap (on site ponds and rain water barrels are alternate sources) &  fluoridated and chlorinated,  or garbage as something to be disappeared rather than composted, needs to be eviscerated from our minds and from our midst.   We need a new fresh start!  

But again, only if we want to make it to the next decade… Or maybe even the next year…

I noticed this spring a dearth of squirrels and no chipmunks in Katonah.  I saw my first two squirrels finally last week. 
Still no chipmunks however and I'm outside a lot. These are the small signs of bigger problems closing in. 
The canaries in the coal mine are dropping like flies… 

The West is about to hit the hottest temps in history and that won't be good for food crops that
we depend on as a nation. Last year farmers were feeding their cattle candy because they had NO corn or feed.  Many slaughtered their cattle prematurely so they would have enough feed for the surviving cattle. 
We are in a ten year drought cycle.   I remind you that the Dust Bowl drought was only seven years long… 
 Once the food prices spike, we won't be able to get anything done. 
No affordable housing, no composting toilets, no solar panels, no Hilltop Hanover Farm, no parks, no sewers, no deer maintenance, no highway funding, no nothing. 

And you know what will happen when oil spikes again…   
Great Recession?  Ha!  
You think we can bear another Great Depression on top of the one we are still in? Regardless of the claims that we have been out of it for a few years, my friends, family and I are just not seeing it.  Our many diverse attempts at devising new sources of income can attest to what we're actually seeing, compared to what we are being TOLD  we are seeing.   You can't fool all of the people all of the time. And I don't mean YOU, personally, I mean the Obama administration. 

I have just about run out of hope for our species and need something to hope for.   
Peter, my friend, how can we who are connected to the land and to our communities and practicing actual sustainable living methods and local economics help you?

Please let me know, because I can see you guys and gals "running" things need a heck of a lot of help right now… 

If nothing else, some need a whack on the back of the head.  I'm ready, willing and able for that job. 
I am a mom, after all, we get lots of practice whacking kids across the back of heads. Lovingly, of course. 

With warm regards

Pauline Schneider

The video embedded features Dr Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of University of Arizona giving a lecture on climate change and Near Term Human Extinction predicted to occur in the next decade or two. You read that right... You can find out more at his blog, Nature Bats Last

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Exeunt Stage Left, or 400 Reasons to Cry

Dr Guy R.McPherson and the author at
the Age of Limits Conference in May, 2013
May 2013, has moved me like no other month has ever in my life.
There was that day when I felt an ominous sense of grief overcome me, a deep sinking feeling for no reason at all and I stopped what I was doing to analyze it. I knew in the core of my soul that something was wrong, terribly wrong in the world and that soon the news would inform me of it. I mentioned this to a couple friends so they would remember later.
Barely a day went by when I heard that we had reached a global 400ppm CO2 level and it was then that I knew why my body had reacted with such instinctive sorrow.  We were doomed.
I'd had a similar reaction during the morning of 9/11 when the first tower fell.
I was in a Yoga class an hour away from the city and we knew that a plane had crashed into the towers, but we didn't know what kind of plane and we thought it was an accident so we decided to continue our class.  However at one point I felt my heart break and I gasped and told everyone in the room that I felt as though something terrible had just happened. It was my Obi Wan Kenobi moment.  Everyone stared at me as though I were nuts but when we left the class and turned our car radios on we heard the horrifying news.

I can't explain how I intuitively felt these two terrible events in the core of my being, except perhaps through the spiritual writing of John O'Donohue, in his book Anam Cara where he describes humans as the Earth that has sprouted legs, ears, eyes and arms to walk around and look back at herself and be a witness.  If we are Earth, and molecularly we are the Earth the Moon and the Stars, then perhaps there is some deep, emotional or unconscious connection to each other and to our planet and to all its living beings.  People wonder why there is so much depression, grief and suicide these days, however, one could ask the opposite, how come there isn't more? When faced with the geopolitical chaos, the climate chaos, the corporate fascist chaos, and the alarming rate of species extinction, one wonders why anyone sticks around for the final act.  Ironically, when people do take note of this chaos everywhere, they are often poo poohed and hushed as being nuts, told everything is going to work out,  told to be thankful for how lucky they are not to live in Darfur, Bangladesh, Rwanda, China, told there's not enough evidence (despite droughts, fires, floods, hurricanes, etc), and to go check out the ballgame. It's enough to drive a woman (or man) to drink.

If 400ppm CO2 wasn't enough to rock my world, new information I was going to get would be even more interesting; a la Chinese curse, as in, may you live in interesting times.

Just days after our planet got hotter at 400ppm CO2 (the least level it will remain at for 1000 years), I learned a new phrase, Near Term Extinction (NTE), and that we have as little as five (5), maybe ten, or even,  optimistically, 20 years of life left on Earth. Complete extinction for all life on Earth is not only a possibility, but more than likely to occur and that any humans left on Earth beyond 2030 would be hard to imagine. I heard this from Dr Guy R. McPherson, Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology who sacrificed his career and a family to tell the truth that no one else will.  He's kind of the Jesus of Climate Chaos and often just as crucified for simply offering information that's not even from his own research. Don't shoot the messenger!
Here is a brief talk he gave in Westchester.

These next years will be harsh years, to put it mildly, filled with famine, climate chaos, disease and war,  most likely over water; not an ideal place to bring up a kid, or to drop off your enemy, no less. You can hear the full presentation Dr McPherson gave at the Age of Limits conference in PA here: Guy McPherson at Age of Limits   For such a serious and soul wrenching topic, he delivers it with wit, humor and compassion.  A climate scientist in the audience joins in to agree that NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION, certainly not the media.

Dr McPherson pointed out that the three ways of exiting this chaos will be; Predation, starvation, or suicide.  I would add going down swinging, but maybe that's included in the predation part...  None of these grand exits are what we expected for our children, or ourselves all those years ago when we were planning our lives, families, futures, retirements (better cash out that 401K).  The Dr. planned ahead more wisely and made a conscious decision to not have children.  However, as a college professor he probably had more children than the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe, and he thinks of those students every day.

 My heart broke at this information, my head spun and I felt like nothing really mattered anymore, at least not anything inconsequential. Who cares if a glass breaks, or kids come over without telling me, or what some idiot on TV said.  The only thing that mattered were my kids. So I wrote about that, and my new friend, Dr Guy R. McPherson posted it on his blog.  Here it is:  When Faced with Apocalypse, What's a Mother to Do?

I now spend a part of my day crying, a part of it paralyzed and rooted to the ground where I stand wondering what to do next, and a part trying to function normally (remember to smile and shake hands).  Having a normal conversation with someone who doesn't know about NTE almost makes me want to scream; Because I can't really tell them about it unless they've had the years of ecological knowledge scaffolding to prep them. Most don't have that scaffolding, so don't get it.   I've tried. It's like trying to explain Nuclear fusion(fission?) to me.  I'm certainly not telling my kids about it, teenager or adult aged.  The worst part is talking to a beloved friend and feeling tears well up while chatting about the mundane.  They just are so beautiful, these people, to imagine them gone is heart-wrenching.

I found that music, dance and laughter is healing, and I take a break from the harsh reality to release the sorrow and the stress with some great music, dancing around the room, or hearing a comedian (all sources are welcome). I keep wondering if I should be running away somewhere? Fight or flight?  All my Peak Oil Collapse preparations seem childish and futile, and I find myself apologizing to the trees around my home, to the birds in them, to the flowers blooming at my feet. "I'm so, so sorry," I say, like Dr Who says to someone he cannot save...  Dr Who Saying Sorry     I am responsible for my species' bad behavior, and I am really damn sorry.

Many of us in my community are reeling at this information, wondering what to do next, why bother doing anything? Some even denying it, or rejecting the information certain of a techno-rescue of some sort. Some of us are plotting an escape, a clever way around Near Term Extinction. We are wading our ways through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief, but there is an addendum to this path of grief that never existed before;  When we are gone this time, there will be no one to remember us, to grieve us, to sing songs about how hard we fought and how bravely we tried to save the planet.  We will just be ashes on the bone of space, with only the stars, our creators, to stare coldly back at us.   That's quite a pill to swallow.
It takes a strong draught of malt to get it down...

So what the hell should we do?
I think each of us will have to wrestle with this personal question: How do we choose to exit?

Exeunt is a latin term for a theater direction indicating a group of actors to leave the stage in a particular direction, as in Exeunt Stage Left.
As we watch the trees dying, the oceans acidifying, hydrofracking, deep oil drilling, mountain top removal, and no leadership anywhere on the planet to put a stop to any of this destruction, our options are slim to none and it seems evident that we who accept the science and the horrifying scenario of NTE will need to make some personal plans.  We will need to write the final act of our lives, even while still fighting for it with every fibre of our beings.  Crafting this final act must include an exeunt at the end, and how that looks will be different for all of us.  Maybe thankfully it's highly likely that the planet will get the last direction for us and put us all to a gentle sleep as methane and CO2 levels spike above Oxygen levels.  I can think of a worse death.

In the meantime we also need to craft the scenes that get us to this grand exeunt: We can travel, visit friends and family, take an art lesson, make that movie you always wanted to make, go sky diving or bungee jumping, find a lost lover, make peace with your family, etc.

Guy McPherson always mentions at the end of his talk that the Boss, Bruce Springsteen, got it right when he said "What you don't let go of, the world strips away." Guy says to let go of our assumptions we've held onto and to live, as Nietzsche says, as though the day were here.  It's the only advice Guy gives and perhaps the only advice we need.  It's good advice even if it weren't the end of the world.
Oh, he also encourages resistance, saying "resistance is fertile" and directs people to support groups like Deep Green Resistance, but to give a wide berth to the hopium of, which perpetrates a lie that we can somehow lower global CO2 levels back to 350ppm in our lifetime.  I fell for that hopium.

As for escaping this dying planet?  Guy movingly says to that:  "I want to live on this planet, it's astonishing!"
He also says "Here we are standing on the shores of doom, at the Last Chance Saloon.  Brace for impact."
Which reminds me of this last scene from On The Beach which could easily be our last scene. Last Scene 

Let us hold our kids, our lovers, our friends close, for they are the most precious treasure now and let's make these last few years mean something like they never did before. We can Exeunt the stage with grace and love and compassion, whether there are gods or not watching us in the audience.
The stars will always be there.
And should a miracle happen that we are somehow saved, we will feel really good about ourselves.

For more reading:
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Joanna Macy
Guy McPherson's Latest Climate Update
Oliver Tickell,0,7196126.story

Friday, June 7, 2013

Great Links to Fascinating Discussions and Ideas