Of kale and concrete

I live within striking distance of the Bay Area, but I rarely spend much time in the city. This afternoon, however, I went up to Oakland to meet with my meditation teacher. I left his house and started down the sidewalk. Just as I had kicked into a good walking stride, I stopped. Amidst the concrete and the cars, someone was growing kale.

 

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Fall Colors

 

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From yesterday’s hike. I get to experience an August/September fall in Alaska. In a typical year, the leaves have all fallen and winter is ready to move in, by the time I leave AK in late September, early October. So I post my fall pics from AK then I return to California, where it’s still summer. Finally, on the cusps of Thanksgiving, we’re getting some good fall leaves.

Look, I ain’t complain’, just explainin’

It would all be a waste!

In honor of Trump’s recent recommitment to pulling out of the Paris Agreement (like most issues, he seems to go back and forth on it), I’m re-posting one of my favorite cartoons.

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To a pro-capitalist, it makes sense: building a sustainable world would massively slow the economy. But for a capitalist profit and making money are the highest value, more so than life and health and solidarity. The choice is real: money or a better world.

A better world is about life and wellness and flourishing. Money, on the other hand, is about death, it’s about converting the so-called “resources” (i.e. the living world) into money, as quickly as possible.

Taking a leak

McCarthy Alaska is the kind of place where pretty much no matter where you are at a given time, you can find a bush or tree to duck behind and take a leak. I generally don’t piss in town during the summer tourist season, simply for sake of preserving some small shred of professional dignity, what with my role as accountant and all. Even so, after Labor Day we start winding down, eventually bathrooms get closed down (pipes winterized), and I find myself enjoying the simple pleasure of peeing in the wild, even when I’m in town.

I’m not certain if it’s the pleasure of peeing outside or the joy in knowing that I’m remote enough to be able to do so, but either way it strikes me that this ability to pee outdoors may be something of a litmus test, some sort of (strange) criteria for me, in terms of picking a place to live. In short, the best places to be seem to be places where you can pee.

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Feeling a little crappy before a hike, but that’s cool

Of course hiking isn’t all mountain top experiences or epic Facebook photo-ops. If you hike regularly enough, much of it can start to feel pretty ordinary, actually, like my hike last weekend, where I woke up in an out-of-sorts mood. It was one of those moods where the trajectory of one’s life just feels off track, yet upon further examination there’s really no particular reason to feel that way.

In the past, this melancholic frame of mind might really throw me off, leading to a variety of interrogations: perhaps I’ve not got my shit together in life, or maybe I haven’t been meditating enough, or perhaps I’m in hte wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and on and on, trying to locate what’s wrong or what’s off.

I don’t really take my feelings very seriously anymore. Does that sound drastic? I don’t know, maybe it is, but the mind and the heart are a bit crazy and seem to me to be so very random so much of the time. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take it all too seriously these days.

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Alaskan high

For my most recent weekly hike, I went on my most usual route, which is up to the Bonanza Mine, but as I approached, I could see two figures silhouetted at the top. I kept hiking, but it was clear that they were making themselves comfortable, nesting up in the clouds. Not wanting to share the spot with anyone else — I’m fiercely protective of my personal space when out on a solo hike — I decided to try another ridge line, and, lucky me, it affords me some new views.

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Earth’s sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn | The Guardian

I’ve long said that climate change is important but that we’ve got even bigger problems, what researchers are now calling ‘biological annihilation’, a term from a recent study that reveals that we have lost billions of populations of animals in recent decades. It all boils down to human overconsumption.

Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich.”

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Burning Man just moved one step closer to becoming a religion

Yesterday (December 6) the festival’s co-founder Larry Harvey made clear that Burning Man is now closer to becoming a religion than ever before. In a blogpost, he announced that the 2017 theme would be “Radical Ritual,” writing that “beyond the dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical ideas of religion, there is immediate experience. It is from this primal world that living faith arises. In 2017, we will invite participants to create interactive rites, ritual processions, elaborate images, shrines, icons, temples, and visions.”

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What is wrong with white people?

Over the last few years, I’ve watched the revival of racial animosity in America, I’ve watched yet another incarnation of the KKK, and I’ve watched white Americans everywhere froth with xenophobia as they talk about taking their country back, and on reflection, I can’t help but wonder if it’s we white people that are the inferior race. I’d like to think that all races are equal, etc., and I’d like to believe in the whole color blind thing, but white people just seem really messed up……Then I saw this video by comedian Louis CK, and an interesting possibility emerges: maybe white people are really just aliens from another planet who don’t belong here. That would explain a lot.

Amidst the abuse of the protesters, it’s heartening to see veterns self-deploying to Standing Rock. As these events unfold, however, I am reminded that it takes a lot of violence to sustain our way of life. Usually the troops and police officers are fighting on the side of the wealthy and powerful, geared up to the teeth to beat back anyone who stands in the way of “progress.” Our ever-expanding economy must be sustained by heavy energy use. Few question whether or not we need the economy to continue to expand, so we just keep building pipelines that will leak, we keep drilling offshore, we keep pouring poisons into the ground to frack up the shale, and we keep blowing off the tops of the Appalachian Mountains to get at every last bit of coal, even when this means destroying our beautiful, green landscapes and leaching toxins into rivers and creeks. This is the price we all agree to pay, to live as we do, though we often do not acknowledge it. After all, most of us don’t have to live with a pipeline in our backyard.

http://abc13.com/news/veterans-stand-for-standing-rock/1625443/

Loaded Words: On writing and revolution

An article, Loaded Words, from a writer and activist who has been very influential to me, Derrick Jensen. One of Derrick’s most quoted and most controversial lines: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam.” (see Actions Speak Lounder than Words, 1998, and/or Derrick’s book, A Language Older than Words, a book very influential to me, personally) Read more

Smokey lake on a brisk Alaskan fall morning

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Coldest morning of our camping trip in the Kenai. The weather has been good to us, despite how late it is in the season. By Alaskan standards, snow can fly at any time in October, so we were pushing it to try to squeeze in one more week, but the weather has been fantastic. I’ve have been in McCarthy since March — not even so much as a trip to Glennallen (the closest town, four hours away) in the last seven months — so it’s been enriching to me to get out and explore! This pic is from a campsite in the Kenai Wildlife Preserve, Kelly Lake, where we were the only campers. Fog in the early morning makes the lake look smokey and mysterious.

Vanlife

Taking a few days to tour the Kenai Peninsula. The weather has been amazing, especially here in Homer, where the bright sunny beaches make me feel like I’m already back in California. This is the view from our campsite in Homer (out the back of our rented mini-van), where we can see the Pacific Ocean spread out before us in a campground we have all to ourselves.

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#vanlife

Well, this explains a lot…

Just started a fascinating nonfiction book, Sapeins: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a sweeping and epic tome, but it’s highly readable, even entertaining at times, if you have the kind of sense of humor that allows you to roll your eyes and chuckle at your own species.

Here’s a quote I thought was worth passing on:

Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being huned by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis, and only in the last 100,000 years — with the rise of Homo sapiens — that man jumped to the top of the food chain.
That spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump. (pages 11-12)