As humans race with track-hoes to pretend they can keep doing what they’ve always done… And the world floods and burns and withers from drought.
As engines beep in movement all around me, building a pipeline for the dirtiest of crude – Tar Sands… it’s hard to pretend we have any notion of saving ourselves.
As we cut down the very beings that provide us oxygen to breathe.
As many grow excited for schools to open… ready to go back to a “normal” economy… [Normal? Are we psychopaths? Apparently so.] … we see the numbers in cases and infections beginning to surge again.
We watch millions focus on dollars and economics… giving not a thought to the water, trees, plants, and bees that make everyday life possible. Will we soon realize how dependent we have become on systems that do not support life but instead bring death?
The fossil fuel industry is taking itself out… as the climate chaos we saw in Texas – and throughout the middle of the country – was a result of the burning we’ve done for centuries now.
And for decades now – longer for those selling the fossil fuels – while we knew exactly what they were delivering… we did nearly nothing? Simply burning fossil fuels faster and faster?
How will our children forgive us? Or rather, will they?
In addition to the fuels and plastics, the oil industry brings death and extinction for life of all kinds. And now – are we realizing… that “life” is ours?
As loads of freight remain in place, unmovable with no electricity to fill tanks with gas, ratios of loads to drivers go to astronomical figures… Indy shoots from 7 loads per driver to 37… while in Cincy reefer trucks, normally around the mid-30s, report their status as not available… with over 200 loads and zero drivers to move them. Watch those store shelves as we “catch up” from the backlog caused by the polar vortex we created?
Or will we get to watch as production lines slow… because there is no shipment of already done freight… and before you can make more, you need to move out what you have?
And will we again have loads of milks and potatoes dumped and buried as we have no way to move food in the massive system we’ve created… so un-localized and heavily reliant on fuels?
Can many of us foresee how much worse 2021 will be in comparison to 2020? Even with the vaccinations… and the talk of environmental justice… and green paths going forward… from the all-hands-on-deck portrayed administration that is calming and encouraging so many?
The new managers don’t calm us. Not those of us who’ve seen that already [!!!] we’re headed for 5-6° warming… with 1.5° being a dream scenario that we lost in decades past.
As we watch a Tar Sands pipeline project proceed across the state of Minnesota… just outside the living room window.
As if we can all just… Go back to “normal”.
The worst of the 1918 Spanish Flu were the deaths in the Spring of 1920. Does this still await?
While some caw about vaccines, we also watch as these quick-whip cures kill with cytokine storm jump starts via injection. I see why some aren’t ready… even if they aren’t on the list… of those who can get the magic elixers.
Every day, we watch… as it seems we lose ground… sacrificing the trees and wetlands of Northern Minnesota… to a Canadian corporation treating this place like it’s their colony.
Bought and paid for agencies beholden to their regulatory captors got us into this mess. Will they have the courage to save us? If not, will the courts?
If not, we will simply keep trudging toward extinction… like the elephants seeking water in African deserts… or polar bears seeking another ice island on which to take a breather?
Or will we be running from the flood as it wipes our house away?
Something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot of late is how we’re all dealing with the current state of our planet. [In case you haven’t noticed, ever since the IPCC report came out in October, 2018, the world news has filled with daily reports of climate catastrophe, civil disobedience speaking out against governments that are not acting with enough urgency, and studies on various aspects of weather, insect population, and causes of conflict.]
Stress is felt by everyone in the mix. People are finding themselves overwhelmed by the power of nature: flood and drought; a lack of pollinators and changing pests in garden and field; rising sea levels; unexpected tornados and storms; temperatures that confuse; and resulting psychological unrest, including societal collapse. Animals to insects are feeling the pressures of habitat destruction and ecosystem modifications that change food and shelter availability, temperatures that confuse and kill, and climate that conflicts with expectations. Plants, water, and air too are overwhelmed with pollution and changes to temperature, humidity, and pressures that make unclear how their ecosystems will continue to change.
I’ve been wondering if all the stress being felt in nature isn’t bleeding into what we’re feeling as humans. Everything is interconnected so why wouldn’t the energy of chaos and change in nature result in stress for humans? Of course, as we cannot isolate humans from nature in controlled experiments, we’ll likely never know. But whether we realize it or not, I do believe we’re all feeling repercussions of the stresses being felt in nature and in the other creatures and humans all around us.
Dan and I were recently talking about this and there is much being written on the topic , whether from the perspective of accepting the emerging reality of climate catastrophe or dealing with its aftermath. I get concerned when I see him seeming despondent or sleeping longer in a way that feels like avoidance of life in general. He said to me the other day, “It’s not depression. It’s more like…” “Apathy?” I suggested. While he agreed that sounded better, it took another day for someone else to suggest a better word. Resigned.
The changing environment is a legitimate source of distress already affecting many people, the report emphasized, and it has the potential to be psychologically destabilizing. “To compound the issue, the psychological responses to climate change, such as conflict avoidance, fatalism, fear, helplessness, and resignation are growing,” the APA wrote at the time. “These responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate, and from building and supporting psychological resiliency.”
There is a level of resignation as we realize that there is so little over which we have control and so much that is becoming chaotic and unfamiliar in the world around us. But for most of us, we’re oblivious to even this. There has been a lot more talk about climate change in the last 420 and some days since the IPCC report was issued. Here’s some interesting tidbits.
A large and growing empirical literature is exploring what drives denial. Personality is a factor: people are more likely to deny climate change if they’re inclined toward hierarchy and against changes to the status quo.
Demographic factors also show an effect. Internationally, people who are less educated, older and more religious tend to discount climate change, with sex and income having a smaller effect.
But the strongest predictor is one’s politics. An international synthesis of existing studies found that values, ideologies and political allegiances overshadowed other factors.
“…climate anxiety – like climate depression or climate rage – isn’t a pathology. It’s a reasonable and healthy response to an existential threat.”
One reason we can remain so oblivious to the pending existential crisis is that our minds cannot comprehend our own pending extinction – there is a mechanism in the brain that prevents it.
“the disintegrated nature of the human mind… now prevents virtually everyone from thinking, feeling, planning and behaving functionally in response to the multifaceted threats to humanity and the biosphere. …various parts of the human mind are no longer capable of working as an integrated unit. That is, each part of the mind – such as memory, thoughts, feelings, sensing capacities (sight, hearing…), ‘truth register’, conscience – function largely independently of each other, rather than as an integrated whole. The immediate outcome of this dysfunction is that human behavior lacks consideration, conviction, courage, and strategy, and is simply driven compulsively by the predominant fear in each context. … I observed individuals (ranging from people I knew, to politicians) behaving in ways that seemed outrageous but it was also immediately apparent that the individual was completely unaware of the outrageous nature of their behavior. On the contrary, it seemed perfectly appropriate to them. With the passage of time, however, I have observed this dysfunctionality in an enormously wide variety of more subtle and common forms, making me realize just how widespread it is even if it goes largely unrecognized.”
While we are often unable to discern the dangers to humanity because of this mental disintegration and cognitive dissonance, there is also a new occurrence I’m noticing in my life and I found a term for it recently:
Blissonanceis the state when a blissful experience in nature is concurrently recognized as a sign of impending doom.
It is my recognition of the cognitive dissonance of our climate catastrophe reality where a spectrum of perspectives arises. Some can see the beautiful 70-degree sunny day in mid-winter Minnesota as a blessed opportunity for some vitamin-D. So they get the gas-burning machines out and ride around in them to “enjoy nature”. [Yep. I’ve done that.] Some can see the beautiful rays of sunshine and bask in their warmth and simply enjoy the moment that is. [Done that too…] But many of us enjoy the loveliness but cringe at the realization that this is a new world that is no longer familiar.
I had this realization as I was outside peeing and looking at the grass peeking from the snow and feeling the warm day. It was lovely, yes. But I realized it was an early winter day that felt like spring. You could almost hear all the trees yawning as if this short nap had been winter and now spring was coming. It should be colder and snowier by this time of year, based on the last couple winters. But the weather is so wacky some days it’s hard to know what time of year it is. And the intensity of our weather is getting scary: 2”+ rainfalls, 70 MPH winds, 50-degree+ temperature swings in a single day. It’s almost as if Gaia IS INDEED kicking us to the curb. The environment is rapidly changing to the point that we may not be able to evolve to live within the changing parameters.
And mankind will work to change or mitigate – at least for the wealthy few. We make fertilizers at plants in poor neighborhoods so rich people’s lawn’s can be coaxed to a lush green. We extract in poor areas – or are areas poor because we extract there? – and then leave behind the polluted mess once all the resources have been stripped. We care little for those who live in these extractive economy areas. Or we must because so little is done to change our ways of being with each other. And we care little for those neighborhoods where we site our refineries, bringing a legacy of health concerns and cancers to the air, land and water nearby. And we grow food for all these people in pesticide and herbicide drenched fields – so sure the poisons on the fields won’t have an impact on the poor souls who survive on the produce. Meanwhile the wealthy shop at Whole Foods and Costco and Trader Joe’s to obtain health-inducing foods.
Because we live in a closed system, we’re generating waste and carcinogens in a closed-loop system in which we live. What we do to our environment, we do to ourselves. And we can think we’re doing it in neighborhoods far, far away but the ecosystem is all connected. Sooner or later we all will pay the piper for the impacts.
Humans have become like a cancerous growth on the face of the planet. We consume and extract at rates that are not sustainable as we careen toward our doom. Many are already experiencing the doom, some have been for quite some time. But now that white colonizer world is feeling the stings… perhaps we’ll see some real action.
I look around and feel little hope for it. Most of us are too comfortable living our air-conditioned lives, driving here and there, flying around the world, eating food from across the continent. We cannot be bothered to engage any change that might bring discomfort to our status quo, no matter how happy it might make us if we do…
Some argue that we’ll find refuge in space. But even if we go to space, we will still be living in closed loop systems. And in space, all of it will be man-made. Perhaps a few will find a way but most of us are resigned to remaining here on our home planet, our Mother Earth.
The wonderful thing about Earth is that She and humans have co-evolved and thus we have the power to exist quite cooperatively. But mankind has removed himself so much from nature that today many children have no notion of the source of their food. They do not see carrots as growing in the garden but instead as coming in a plastic bag from the grocery store. They do not comprehend that macadamia nuts come from so far away (for us here in the Midwest, anyway) or that the meat we eat requires a whole system of slaughter and preparation. They have no connection to the lives that give them life. Some are horrified as the lion captures the gazelle on TV but how different is that from our own eating? Our methods may differ but it is still a life taking a life whether carrots or cattle. We just tend to use a lot more middlemen.
Everything is interconnected. Here at the Harn, we try to work within the system for simplicity and synergy. We are FAR from sustainable and still rely on the outside world food system for much of our food. But we work each year to increase the amount we can produce for ourselves. This past few weeks we’ve spent several days processing deer (and one goat). We’ve helped our friends and we’ve secured some new meat for our larder. In addition to feeling responsible and accountable for our food, we have the added benefit to know exactly WHAT our food is. We don’t have to eat the thousand cow hamburger. And that is a step toward saner eating.
And all this is a big circle back to being more in touch with the land upon which you live. This circle is like so much of life in that it can bring bigger and bigger returns. Nature doesn’t need all the tilling and fertilizers to grow food – why don’t we learn from Her? We are doing that at the Harn and finding that solutions beget solutions, we see better and more circular systems that feed each other. I think maybe we’re learning to live like Nature. When we have abundance, we share. When we need, we ask, and others share with us. More often than not, we don’t even have to ask! I’m learning to walk in some new way where life leads me a bit more than the other way around (although I do plenty of that too). And I am learning to trust. This discovery that each solution brings others and this realization gives some level of hope.
I heard someone say they are longing for the collapse of industry as it will bring a new green future when we are forced to stop our current ways. A friend who loves word play (actually I love that she plays in ALL aspects of life) who shared this with me today:
A-pa-collapse, our-ma-get-in (the end of the world as we know it)
I’ve begun to live quite a bit more daily of late and am finding it brings an interesting peace and abundance. I am finding the most magical of paths as I move through each day, gifts of fellowship and storytelling, music and food, happiness and peace. I find new ideas, hugs, smiles, songs, friends, and new friends!! And this joy and beauty makes the hopelessness of the planetary situation a bit more palatable.
If we’re in the end game, perhaps we can at least enjoy each other’s company while we have time. And share joy and abundance wherever and whenever we can. I’m personally finding that the best thing I can do is provide kindness to all my fellow travelers. I hope you find some kindness today. Sharing some will surely bring it your way.
Well it really has been such a roller coaster the last six months or so of the Line 3 fight. From gearing up excitedly last October when the Valve Turners came for trial to little Bagley, Minnesota to having a bittersweet acquittal. In that same week seeing the IPCC 4th Report on Climate Change and realizing how desperately forked we are because if THEY say we have twelve years to change, that probably really means we have six. And then a torrent of devastating global climate disasters from fires in California to hurricane Michael in Florida to extreme heat in Australia to an abnormally cold and wet Minnesota winter. The stories are daily and never-ending. Here’s some recent footage from flooding in Nebraska along the proposed Keystone XL route. Pretty disturbing. We’re even having to come up with new words to describe the madness unfolding before our very eyes. A friend of mine, Chelsea, posted this crazy event with the following: “Fire tornado, atmospheric river, polar votex, bomb cyclone—we have to invent new vocabulary for the extreme weather events we’re facing as our climate continues to destabilize.”
And if it’s not a climate event, it’s another scientific report confirming the true mess that is unfolding. The latest UN report says we’re now locked in for 3-5 degrees Celsius temperature rise in the Arctic, even IF we hit the agreements in the Paris Accord. A government report showed that Trump’s budget is cutting funds for climate research and renewable energy. And locally it’s reported that Southwest Minnesota lakes are too polluted for swimming or fishing.
How does the board support a project with the environmentally destructive equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants while backing a carbon-free plan? It raises the question: On what date should we start the weaning process? If you don’t subscribe to the selective science mind-set, the climate science community has laid out a painfully short timeline response: Be carbon-neutral by 2050 or suffer. Suffer a lot. Yet the Editorial Board bases its Line 3 support on a safety issue. Interesting.
Jerry Striegel, LTE 3/17/19 StarTribune
My favorite line in the reader response may be from Rami Jubara, “The fact is, suggesting the creation of new fossil-fuel infrastructure that will help put us on track toward making food shortages, floods, heat waves and polar vortices the norm can be called many things, but an argument for safety is not one of them.” But there was also James Doyle’s “But the fourth and best option was not seriously considered: shut down the existing pipeline, don’t build a new one, and don’t allow rail shipment of carbon intensive tar sands oil across our state.”
But THIS is the blog I’d have written if I was smarter. It’s a wonderful summary of the current state on Line 3. While there is some to celebrate, like the lawsuits still fighting all aspects of the Line 3 approval, there is much to give concern as well:
Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, introduced SF 1757 to defund the Department of Commerce’s lawsuit. (It passed out of one Senate committee and is now in the Senate Finance Committee.)
Healing Minnesota Stories 3/14/19 blog
This blog notes that Canada can’t even get a pipeline built in their own country. And comments: “In Minnesota, sales of finished petroleum products (gas, diesel, fuel oil, etc.) has been declining since 2004. We don’t need the extra crude oil here. There is no reason Minnesota should take on huge risks this pipeline poses for little if any benefit.”
Thank you, Minnesota Healing Stories, for your continued excellent coverage of not just the Line 3 issue but also the many stories on history and current events that highlight Indigenous Peoples.
I truly hoped to send hand-written letters but I find that the electronic communications offers so much more opportunity to share links to data which I feel are crucial in this issue of deciding whether or not to allow Enbridge, a foreign corporation, to install a new Line 3 pipeline to carry risky Tar Sands through our precious watersheds so they can sell it offshore.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been giving me hope ever since the first DEIS hearing on Line 3 in Rice Lake. It was there that I met two MPCA folks and I wish I’d kept better notes to tell you their names but I believe Willis Mattison was one contact. It was made clear to me that the New Line 3 would have to receive permits from the MPCA in order to be approved for build. As we spoke of the dangers of Tar Sands and the importance of the Mississippi River watershed, I got the impression that the MPCA could very well find reason to not approve a pipeline crossing under the Mississippi River or traversing through wetlands, the most dangerous places for a Tar Sands pipeline regardless of what the fossil fuel industry says. This MPCA permitting process has been giving me hope during the 18 months since that June day.
The DEIS meeting was an enlightening experience. I was horrified with the lack of concern given to Indigenous rights that was presented by the DOC. Jamie MacAlister herself explained to me that Tribal Resources were NOT being given priority consideration in this DEIS. The fact that a people’s way of life – the very people who gave us rights to this land nonetheless – was of no more importance than a Canadian corporation’s desire to make mere money was beyond my comprehension. I was sickened by the thought of all those Tar Sands coming through along a new 220′ wide and hundreds of mile long corridor of destruction through our state. I have since learned of some of the destruction done to the land even before they begin putting pipe into the ground – the trees that are turned into sawdust and ground into the dirt, the beings quietly hibernating whose lives are cut short by these preparations. [Watch the Press Conference video link below to hear Doug Rasch’s eloquent but ominous description of the pipeline construction process, one he watched on his property when the Koch brothers line was constructed.] But I was inspired to hope that day by the PCA reps in attendance. I can’t recall now if I wrote thank you notes to them, as I’ve since done with Bill Grant and the DOC more recently. I am hopeful that you have their names so you can give them a pat on the back for their representation there. I believe they were also present at the DEIS in Park Rapids the next day.
But more importantly I fear for the very viability of our planet that a new Line 3 would threaten. It is clear if you watch the news in the last 60 days that information on the rapidly (much more rapidly than even predicted) deteriorating planet we inhabit. From the loss of insect life and annihilation of wildlife to the shifting climate zones and the overwhelming costs of drought, fire, flood, and storms, it is clear we are running out of time to act. Rather than add NEW fossil fuel infrastructure, we need to be dialing back on the use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The IPCC says we have about a decade to save ourselves.
The MPCA has the ability to scientifically show that a new Tar Sands pipeline has no place in Minnesota, especially considering the Next Generation Energy Act and Renewable Energy Standard that was signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2007 and is helping drive Minnesota as one of the most progressive in this transition time away from fossil fuels. This is why I moved from Indiana to Minnesota in 2014 – to live in a place where it seemed progress based on science and morals was happening. A place where education was important because critical thinking matters. A place where the environment was not a resource for exploitation but an interconnected part of human life, critical for not only sustenance but also for solace.
I write now to strongly encourage you to DENY the 401 permit needed by Enbridge to continue its assault on the planet. Together we can stop Line 3 from being built in our fair state and we can help prevent the extraction of Tar Sands which must remain in the ground for planetary viability. The majority of citizens oppose the new Line 3. We are not paid by Enbridge to support the pipeline like many of those are who shout for Line 3 approval, all wearing their matching green t-shirts. We are scientists, engineers, parents, educators, and others who are voluntarily giving our time and energy to oppose Line 3.
I am hopeful that your work will include transparency to the public, including a chance for public notification of your findings and a place and time for public feedback on your conclusions. I understand this will bring a possibility for pro-pipeline opinions but I am confident in the science to prove their economic arguments carry no weight when compared to the devastation Tar Sands are already causing for our planet. I am hopeful that, as scientists, you will give due consideration to the evidence, rather than deferring to Enbridge’s statements which basically request that we trust them without skepticism, even if their data is vague, unproven, and/or untrue. Please consider giving full transparency to the public on this vital decision. As many comprehend, economic opportunities mean little if we don’t have a safe place to live.
Bill McKibben makes it plain in this 4 minute video, which notes that in less than 15 years – ten now as this video was from 2013 [and this figure was recently confirmed by the IPCC report] we will have used ALL the gigatons of C that will take us past 2 degrees Celsius for the planet’s warming. We must leave the Tar Sands in the ground if we hope to have a planet that is livable for our grandchildren. And his more recent article explains this situation from a current perspective.
We need scientists, using critical thinking, and being unmotivated by dollars from industry, to assure that we are making the best decisions for our state. Please do all you can to STOP Line 3 from becoming a reality. Your recent posting about the We Are Water MN exhibit in Bemidji indicates you understand the importance of protecting water. I am counting on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to help prevent a disastrous Tar Sands Pipeline and the chemicals it would contain from bringing devastation to our state. From the perspective of Treaty Rights, the rights of our Youth for a livable planet, and the health and safety of our people, our animals, plants, land, air and water, a new, bigger Line 3 makes no sense.
Many are breathing a sigh of relief that the Climate Talks in Paris have resulted in a global agreement. But this is no time for resting on our laurels.
What did Paris give us?
Recognition of the risks associated with climate change. An understanding that if we don’t act now, doing as much as we can as soon as we can, there will be drastic and catastrophic consequences to us all.
Global agreement between giant nations and little island nations to reduce emissions as much as we can with a set max of 2°C target (above pre-industrial levels) for warming and an aim of 1.5°C.
Guaranteed monies to developing countries to go green and adapt to the changing climate. There is a commitment to provide $100B annually, starting in 2020, with negotiations for upping that figure in the future.
What does this mean?
Countries have to set goals to reduce emissions. They will revisit this agreement every five years starting in 2023 (8 years from now so they can hopefully get a jump on making some headway). And all countries have to report their progress on a planet-wide accounting system.
There are NO details on HOW this will be done. No mention of a carbon tax which many agree would be our best hope for quickly reducing greenhouse gases. There is no current technology to remove CO2 from fuel and the atmosphere, though many keep blind faith in a breakthrough that will save us all. Forests can absorb carbon, as can good farming practices, and much is being done to implement these methods. But in the face of a constant call to increase GDP and growth, along with our ever-increasing human populations, how do we keep forests from being culled to build new infrastructure?
There are no punitive consequences to not adhering to the agreement. No enforcement and compliance provisions. The hope is that the transparency provisions will be enough, though these are still being developed. The idea in this agreement is that, every few years, we can talk more about this to negotiate the target down in the future. And, because they are not legally binding, the agreements can reportedly be done with only presidential authority, removing the do-nothing Congress from blocking this work.
2°C is NOT ENOUGH. We already are seeing catastrophic consequences around the world with drought, floods, earthquakes, fires and more.
Many of us knew whatever happened at Paris would not be enough. We know there is a lot of work to make the needed changes to get us where we need to be and this conference was mainly going to show if we could COMMIT to making the changes as a planet. So that was accomplished.
Paris has given us an understanding that WE ALL MUST take action to prevent environmental catastrophe by reducing the carbon and methane in our atmosphere. To prevent exceeding the 2°C max, we MUST leave 80% of the fossil fuels remaining in the ground and develop new means of powering our lives. It is not enough to hope and pray for a technological breakthrough to miraculously save us.
The challenge now is for all of us to do our part. The most important first thing we each can do is reduce personal use of fossil fuels. The gluttonous and thoughtless burning of these precious commodities has to end. You can:
Drive a car with high MPG and consolidate trips and errands to reduce driving. Walk or bike when possible.
Turn off unneeded lights and keep the thermostat under 70° this winter.
Buy local. Local foods have less fuel miles making them fresher and better tasting. Local goods provide for a more sustainable community and keep money in our neighborhood.
Then, encourage your Representatives to support Carbon Fee and Dividend which will provide not only the most rapid way to reducing greenhouse gases (short of mandatory draconian regulations), but will also give all Americans a cash dividend. The fossil fuel companies have long been subsidized with our tax dollars while they rake in billions in profits without bearing responsibility for the costs to our environment. It’s time they started paying their fair share… to us!