How do humans fit into the web of Life?

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Web of Life Quote from Chief Seattle

 

According to the tenets of Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Man is the crown of God’s creation, with dominion over all living species on the Earth (Genesis 1: 26-31). Thus empowered, Man has transformed Earth’s ecosystems with devastating effects on forests, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, and all the non-humans that live therein. With our factories belching carbon into the atmosphere, global warming has become our new reality. The course is set for an unknown state in human experience.

In 2000, the atmospheric chemist and Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen conceived the concept “Anthropocene” to denote a new geological time in which Man is a major geological force. But several geologists and environmentalists disagree with his word choice. Others believe we live in the age of capital, the “Capitalocene.”

Jason W. Moore, an environmental historian and historical geographer at Binghamton University, is one such social scientist. In his book, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (Kairos Books, 2016), he and six other contributors argue that Capitalocene is a much more appropriate alternative. Concepts matter, he reiterates in his “Introduction,” since we use them to make sense of our world.

“The kind of thinking that created today’s global turbulence is unlikely to help us solve it,” Moore notes.

In this article, the first of a series, I share the contribution “On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature” by Eileen Crist, a sociologist and professor at Virginia Tech.

Crist argues that the concept of the Anthropocene reinforces human dominion over Nature, “corralling the human mind into viewing our master identity as manifestly destined, quasi-natural, and sort of awesome.” We arrogantly perceive ourselves on par with the tremendous forces of Nature. Such mentality empowers “the human enterprise” to manage the planet for production of resources and, through technological engineering, to contain the risks and ecological disasters.

She observes that Man’s historical records do not record the non-human others who don’t speak and have no control over their destinies. The sixth mass extinction, resulting from destruction of their habitats for human expansion, becomes just a casualty of history. We accept as normal the humanization of Earth, at the expense of its non-human inhabitants.

“Where is the freedom of humanity to choose a different way of inhabiting Earth, to change our historical discourse,” Crist asks.

Crist calls for humankind to end our species-supremacist civilization and become integrated with the biosphere. This would require an end to viewing our planet as an assortment of “resources” or “natural capital,” “ecosystem services,” “working landscapes,” and the like. While she does not envisage an end to human technological innovation, the sociologist has no idea what such a world would look like. In deindustrializing our relationship with land, seas, and domestic animals, we-humans would have a better chance of reversing the takeover of Nature for our own needs and appetites.

“In making ourselves integral, and opening into our deepest gift of safeguarding the breadth of Life, the divine spirit of the human surfaces into the Light,” Crist concludes.

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“Theology of Junk” by Brazilian Poet Manoel de Barros

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Giant Water Lily - Victoria Amazonia - Pantanal - Mato Grosso do Sul - Brazil

Giant water lily, Victoria Amazonica – Pantanal – Mato Grosso do Sul – Center-West Brazil
Photo Credit: Andre Dib/WWF

 

My Poetry Corner February 2018 features the poem “Theology of Junk” (Teologia do Traste) by Brazilian poet, lawyer, and farmer Manoel de Barros (1916-2014). Born in Cuiába, Mato Grosso, he was a year old when his father decided to start a cattle ranch in Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland area, in Mato Grosso do Sul. The young Manoel grew up playing in the yard, between the pens and the “unimportant things” that would influence his poetry.

In “Manoel by Manoel,” he describes his childhood experience:

… I used to play pretending that stone
was lizard. That a can was a ship. That the sloth was a
little problematic creature and equal to a young grasshopper.
I grew up playing on the ground, among ants. Of a
childhood free and without comparisons. I had more
communion with things than with comparison.

When he moved to the city to go to school, Manoel found it a strange and complicated world. In the countryside, they had to make their own toys: small bone animals, sock balls, tin can cars. In “About Scrap Metal,” from his book Memories Invented for Children (2006), he observes:

I saw that everything that man makes becomes scrap metal: bicycle, plane, automobile. What doesn’t become scrap is only bird, tree, frog, stone. Even a spaceship becomes scrap metal. Now I think a white swamp heron is more beautiful than a spaceship. I beg your pardon for committing this truth.

Great uses for scrap metal
Photo Credit: Premier Metal Buyers

  Continue reading

Climate Crisis Descending Series: Pacific Nation Kiribati on the Brink of Disappearing — JoAnn Chateau

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Two weeks ago, we looked at the struggles the city of Venice endures as it slowly sinks into the surrounding waters. Today, we turn to the submerging Pacific Island nation of Kiribati. Without any mountains, low-lying Kiribati is sinking like the disastrous Titanic, under rising seal levels caused by global warming. Located exactly in the center…

via Climate Crisis Descending Series: Pacific Nation Kiribati on the Brink of Disappearing — JoAnn Chateau

Planet Earth: Our Home & Resting Place

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View of Earth from Space - NASA

View of Earth by the Apollo 17 Crew while traveling to the Moon on December 7, 1972
Photo Credit: NASA

 

Planet Earth
Mother Gaia to the Ancient Greeks
goddess and primordial power
to emerge after Chaos

Spinning and hurtling through space
at about 66,600 miles per hour
always in motion
trapped in orbit around the Sun

Earth your home and mine
no escape
gravity holds us all hostage
except for

Astronauts and cosmonauts
in their rocket ships
a privileged few
to view Earth from space
a tiny, fragile, blue ball of life
with a paper-thin shield
hanging in the void
exposed & vulnerable to

Solar flares and radiation
reflected and absorbed by a 300-mile-thick atmosphere
holding the life-giving air we breathe
a ticking time-bomb with rising carbon dioxide levels
as of January 25, 2018
the Doomsday Clock moved to two minutes to midnight
a notch closer to the end of humanity
from looming threats of climate change and nuclear war

Doomsday Clock updated to two minutes to midnight - 25 January 2018

Doomsday Clock updated to two minutes to midnight – January 25, 2018
Updated yearly by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since its creation in 1947
Photo Credit: Science Magazine

 

Spaceship Earth
one living, breathing organism
with one destiny
the “overview effect” causes
a cognitive shift of self-awareness
as part of the larger whole 

Mother Earth Gaia
our home and final resting place
if we the people of Earth don’t take care of her
if we don’t set aside our differences
and work together
who else will

Watch the Video: The Overview Effect

Climate Science Special Report

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Thomas Fire - Santa Barbara County - Southern California - 12 December 2017

Thomas Fire – Santa Barbara County – Southern California – December 12, 2017
Photo Credit: Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department

 

Here in California, after years of drought, ferocious wildfires have consumed the tinder and everything in their path. Ignited on December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire was not fully contained until January 12, 2018. Now ranked as the largest fire in California’s modern history, it burned about 281,900 acres, equivalent to the size of Dallas and Miami combined. It destroyed 1,063 structures and damaged another 280.

Torrential rainfall on January 9, a welcome respite for firefighters, brought more distress to residents in the area. Mudslides roared down fire scarred slopes, destroying and damaging hundreds of homes, as well as commercial property. Twenty people lost their lives; three are still missing.

A home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito

Home damaged by mudslides – Montecido – Santa Barbara County – Southern California
January 10, 2018
Photo Credit: Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News

 

Meanwhile, extreme winter weather on America’s East Coast provides vindication for climate change deniers. But, as world-renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains, this is “an example of precisely the sort of extreme winter weather we expect because of climate change.” What’s happening is the collision of increasingly warm Atlantic Ocean waters with cold Arctic air masses. To make matters worse, the warmer oceans also mean more moisture in the atmosphere to fuel the storm and produce larger snowfalls.

Woman walks down street in East Boston - Massachusetts - 4 January 2018

Woman walks down street in East Boston – Massachusetts – January 4, 2018
Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP

 

In November 2017, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its 477-page Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), in compliance with regulations issued by the Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The CSSR is “designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change, with a focus on the United States, to serve as the foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision making about responses.”

Continue reading

I come from a “shit-hole”

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Wahoo Bay Beach - Haiti
Wahoo Bay Beach – Haiti

 

It is so easy to disparage others when we are in a privileged position of wealth and power. In such positions, we can lose touch with our shared fragility as human beings. We can forget that the labor of millions of invisible human beings sustains our lives. Immersed in our comforts and luxuries, we can believe we belong to an invincible special breed.

In October 2017, I featured the work of the young immigrant Salvadoran poet, Javier Zamora, who holds a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) now up for review by our Congress. Following that post, another Salvadoran immigrant, who blogs under the name Koyote the Blind, started following my blog. Our president’s disparaging remarks about his country has struck a deep wound.

Ruins of Tazumal - El Salvador
Ruins of Tazumal – pre-Columbian Mayan archeological site in Chalchuapa – El Salvador

 

In his blog post, “I come from a shit-hole,” on Thursday, January 11, he wrote:

I am Salvadoran, even if the term was imposed by Spain. I am American, even if the US thinks they own the name. I am güanaco, even if you think it’s an insult.

I am not Mexican. Mexicans call me “cerote”–a piece of turd.

Today, Trump agreed with them. Today, he said he didn’t understand why liberals want to bring people from those shit-hole countries.

I am a piece of turd from a shit-hole country in the backyard of Ronald Reagan.

Yet, I am here. And I come from the Land of the Jewel, Cuzcatlan, the last bastion of resistance.

I am here to stay, and to change this land, this entire continent, into what it truly is: the mother land in the process of awakening.

You may see in me a turd from a shit-hole country, but I see in you and me and all the true silver light of the empty mind, the freedom from the past, the glory of the New Sun that heralds the coming of the True Human Being. I am here to share that future with you, my reader, without hatred in my heart, without resentment, and without any names to hurl back at you.

You can read his complete post here.

Whether we live on the African continent, El Salvador, Haiti, Norway, or the United States of America, we are all human beings with short life spans in the grand scheme of death and rebirth of interconnected cycles of life on Planet Earth. What makes our insignificant lives meaningful is not our material trappings, but rather the way in which we touch the lives of others we meet along our journey. The greater our influence and power, the greater our responsibility to do good in the world.

Our Gods of War

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Costs of War Project Map of USA Counterterror War Locations 2015-2017

Costs of War Project Map of USA Counterterror War Locations 2015-2017
Prepared by: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs – Brown University

 

In his article “Mapping a World From Hell,” published on January 4, Tom Engelhardt presents a unique map produced by Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. After more than 16 years since the United States embarked on its war on terror that has transformed entire countries into hell on Earth, we finally have a visual representation of the true extent of our never-ending wars.

After first targeting Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group back in October 2001, as retribution for the group’s 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, our nation is now militarily engaged in some form in 76 countries. That’s 39 percent of the world’s nations, as indicated in the captioned map.

In places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, U.S. drone or other air strikes are the norm and U.S. ground troops (often Special Operations forces) have been either directly or indirectly engaged in combat. In these and several other countries, American advisers are also training local militaries or militias in counterterror tactics.

The number of U.S. military bases and “lily pads” (small, cooperative security locations) is also impressive. In 2017 alone, the USA deployed American Special Operations forces to 149 countries. We have so many troops on so many bases in so many places worldwide that the Pentagon has trouble keeping track of all of them.

While our gods of war reap the profits and spoils of warmongering, we the American people must pay the bill. In a separate study, released in November 2017, the Costs of War Project estimated a price tag that had already reached $5.6 trillion. That’s more than enough money to put millions of Americans to work again in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

In the gods of war, we trust. In defense of our nation, we must rain down terror on our enemies. It matters not that our endless wars have created more terrorists and enemies. Next in line to suffer our fire and fury—North Korea. To follow: Iran, Russia, and China. World without end. Amen. 

Read more details at Mapping a World From Hell: 76 Countries Are Now Involved in Washington’s War on Terror

 

New Resource: “The 2018 Progressive Candidates & Ballot Initiatives — a Nationwide List” — JoAnn Chateau

For my progressive American readers who would like to support candidates in the coming primaries who have not been bought by corporations, I recommend that you check out JoAnn Chateau’s nationwide list for your state.

To help Progressives stay on top of all the unbought and unbossed” 2018 candidates, as well as some crazy, wild, wonderful ballot initiatives, I have devised an information resource that makes staying informed easier…

via New Resource: “The 2018 Progressive Candidates & Ballot Initiatives — a Nationwide List” — JoAnn Chateau

What is God?

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Seated statue of El
Seated statue of El from Megiddo (1400-1200 BCE)
Photo Credit: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

 

The final post of my three-part series covers “Part Three: What is God?” of Reza Aslan’s book, God: A Human History. The author traces the evolution of the nature of God from God is one, to God is three, and later to God is all.

The ancient Israelites worshiped the Canaanite god El as their chief god presiding over a pantheon of lesser gods. The very word Israel means “El perseveres.” The god who became known as Yahweh first appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush. Around 1050 BCE when they established the Kingdom of Israel, Yahweh became their patron God. In the capital, Jerusalem, they built a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant, Moses’s covenant with Yahweh: the highest and strongest god over all other gods.

Moses and the Burning Bush
Moses and the Burning Bush – Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

In 586 BCE, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II breached the walls of Jerusalem, plundered the capital, and burned the temple to the ground. Survivors suffered a humiliating exile in Babylonia. That the Babylonian god, Marduk, was more powerful than Yahweh caused an identity crisis. Rather than accept the possibility of a defeated god, Israelite religious leaders rationalized that Yahweh was the one and only god who created light and darkness, brought peace, and created evil.

Yahweh of Judaism became the singular, eternal, and indivisible God who exhibits both the good and bad of human emotions and qualities. Continue reading

A Savior is born to us

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Nativity Play, Sacred Heart RC Church, Georgetown, Guyana
Photo Credit: Facebook Photo Album Sacred Heart RC School in Georgetown

[This is a re-post of my Christmas message 2011, the year I started my blog.]

 

My parents were not church-goers. They never forced me and my four siblings, baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, to attend Sunday Mass. But they made sure we got a good Catholic education by sending us to schools run by the nuns.

As a result of my religious school education, the Christmas Season was much more than time for family get-togethers; Santa Claus; exchanging presents; Christmas trees and decorations; and our traditional Christmas dishes and black cake. Christmas Day was the celebration of the birth of Jesus – the Savior born to us.

The Christmas Novena was an essential part of preparing for the coming of our Savior. During nine days before Christmas Day (December 15-23), I had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to be sure to get a good seat at the five o’clock Novena Mass. A religious custom of the early Portuguese immigrants from Madeira, the Novena has become a part of Guyana’s Catholic tradition.

I recall walking through drizzle towards the rear entrance of our parish church. The raindrops, slanted by the wind, glistened in the light streaming from the large open doorway of the church. When I entered the church, the choir in the alcove overhead, was singing Bemdita Sejaes, the traditional Portuguese hymn to begin the Novena Mass. I did not know what the words of the hymn meant, but it filled my soul with joy.

Christmas Eve Night, at 11:00 p.m. before the Midnight Mass, was the time for the highlight of the Christmas Season: the live enactment of the Nativity of Jesus at Sacred Heart Church on Main Street. (The church, built and funded by the Portuguese immigrants in 1861, burned to the ground on 25 December 2004.)

The year of my first son’s birth, the parish priest at Sacred Heart Church invited me and my husband to play the roles of Mary and Joseph. Our two-month-old son played Baby Jesus. Lying in the manger, he slept through the entire performance. I was relieved. Even a young angel, as she cuddled him at the end of the pageant, did not succeed in waking him.

As recorded in the Gospel of Saint Luke, on the night that Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds guarding their sheep to tell them the good news. “Do not be afraid,” the angel told them. “Today…a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Our planet is in dire need of a Savior. Christ our Savior empowers me to keep up the struggle in the face of injustice, adversity, and hopelessness… and to triumph.

Christ our Savior empowers us with love. Regardless of our religion or non-religion, love runs deep in the heart of each one of us. Let us manifest love. Love conquers all.