Friday, October 30, 2009

Unreconstructed Krauthammer

I shouldn't be surprised by the unaccountability of right-wing blowhards for the positions they took on a host of issues during the Bush years. But given the demise of the Republican Party leadership as signified by the rise within the GOP of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk as serious spokesmen and not just media puppeteers, it behooves sober-minded individuals to pay close attention to the rants of fascistas of the airwaves such as Charles Krauthammer. I read his interview in Der Spiegel today on-line and was struck by the clear-minded, yet lunatic espousal of two relics of Bush era dogma, namely the requirement for unilateral exertion of imperial power in order to bring peace to the world, and the scientific uncertainty surrounding and therefore as-yet unclear need to do anything about global warming. Along with these was the underlying, rabid need to belittle any Obama administration leverage on reforming the country. Krauthammer cannot bear to concede the transformative effects of an Obama presidency so far and insists it's all about celebrity hype. Yes, he does foresee some sort of health care reform going forward, but that's the work of an "average" president. The big Maginot line, apparently, in the Republican psyche, is now the global warming crisis, where Obama's efforts to bring US carbon emissions down to acceptable levels must be doomed to failure. I hate to tell him, the writing is on the wall there as well. Cap and trade, baby, bring it on. There is an unfortunate bunch of chatter about geo-engineering from uninformed sources, and the right-wing continues to love the Dr. Strangelove allure of nuclear power, but the simple fact remains that the hard work of avoiding catastrophic climate change involves switching the global industrial economy onto the twin tracks of energy efficiency and renewables.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Global Protest Puts Science at the Fore -- Sheep Don't Care

This Saturday, activists staged protests and actions in over 4,000 cities around the world designed to highlight the need to bring carbon emissions way below present levels in the atmosphere in order to safeguard a habitable planet beyond the end of this century. The movement behind the protests is spearheaded by New England environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, but the science that inspired McKibben is the mainstream view that carbon levels beyond 350 parts per million in the atmosphere will push global average warming beyond the two degree rise from pre-industrial levels that is considered safe for civilization. At the moment our levels stand at about 383 parts per million. Leaders meeting in Copenhagen late this year are expected to hammer out a treaty aimed at reducing present carbon levels, but many fear that politics as usual, even with the United States on board for the first time in the history of climate negotiations, will cloud long-term thinking. Hence the need for giving leaders a shove in the language of international street theater. The results were inspiring. See for a slide show of the day.
Here in New Hampshire, a warm Indian summer following the heavy rain Saturday brought out out the Asian lady bugs from their burrows to hover on the tree trunks of our young apple trees. Nature tries to find a balance with the insects leading the way. On my drive to work I still love to see the strings of Canada geese forming vees in the sky westward and southward. A family of skunks, attracted by a neighbor's bird feeder, has attempted to set up winter residence, and our sheep, in protective mode, have been hit, one of the young ewes right in the face. Sunday I spent a good few hours shearing the thistle burrs out of their fleeces. I put them on the winter pasture and thought I'd mowed down the thistles, but enough of them, their royal purple blooms long gone, were still standing like petrified sentinels in the deeper grass around the old paddock, and of course that's straight where the sheep went, getting thoroughly covered on their faces and flanks with the brown little velcro life bombs that get so embedded they ruin the fleece if left to overwinter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eve Turns Eight

"Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman's swing. They feared some child would fall off. But no child ever did. Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will."
Charlote's Web
by E.B. White

The middle child, Eve holds the magnetic center - the Higgs Boson particle of the family - imparting mass and gravitational attraction. She does it unwittingly, as if by naming her we let in some archetypal grain to her nature; she seems to have a deeper understanding of things, not as quick to come to a conclusion, measuring and sifting for the level beyond the appearance of things. Although what do I know about an eight year old girl's mind? Maybe I'm just romanticizing. What does anyone know? But there is an impetus now to protect our girls, a recognition that the forces out there are toxifying their childhoods beyond recognition.
She wanted her ears pierced, at the threshold of some kind of discovery about herself. She held a teddy bear at the Piercing Pagoda at the Concord Mall lent to her by the girl behind the counter just opening on a late Sunday morning. The girl was heavy set, blond, and she marked her ears and swabbed the earlobes with an antiseptic wipe, stepping back and asking me for my opinion. Did the markings look level. Don't want to get this wrong. I looked and squinted and nodded affirmatively. Eve looked serious, as if about to set off on a journey into herself, into her own destiny apart from her brother and sister and I. Then at the party she played on the trampoline with her friends Molly and Cody, swinging the styrofoam tubes at each other like swords.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stacking Wood

We began the stack of wood last weekend, the kids and Susan and I. A yearly ritual, it is not joyful, but dutiful. We haven't learned the art of making beauty out of our necessity, but it's hard when there are so many other things we could and probably should be doing. We throw the wood in the trailer and then I drive in reverse, back to the house and there we try to make a neat stack, one of the five cords we will put in by the time we are done. We make a relay, from me to Susan and the two girls and Michael, and in this way it goes pretty quickly. When we are done, it will be satisfying to see the wood and know we will be okay.

But we aren't simple people yet, informed by the work we do. Instead we are distracted, and this is just one of the many aspects of the busyness that defines us. In October, the trees are at the height of their splendor, this year better than most. But I drive down the road, lost in the petty thoughts of the morning commute, little notice paid to the migrating geese overhead or the expressive palette in the birch, beech and sugar maples. This is wrong, I know; it's killing me without a doubt. Certainly and with impeccable timing, a moment arrives in the fall when I am ticking over and little else. Cooked.

It's called survival, keeping a head above water. I just listened to a podcast about the disappearance of languages, part of the massive extinction of surviving native cultures around the world. When a language dies, a way of looking, thinking and remembering goes down also. The ways of our impoverishment will be a mystery to us. But we can't drown in sorrow. In a way, this may be a kind of joy, this survival, with the grain of sorrow in it.