Monday, August 14, 2007

The Mexican Trigger

I am back in my hammock under a palm thatch roof on an island triangulated between three potential hurricanes' current positions. The closest of these storms is less than 90 miles away, and we are getting some rain here, but at this moment, none of them seem on a collision track with my location. I am setting aside the mariner's Rule of Threes. This palm-wood house perches only a meter above the sea, its foundations entirely sand. It is a Tibetian Sand Mandala.

Puerto Morelos 2050Image: Tacoria in Puerto Morelos, photoshop effect by author.

I have stopped here to watch the whale sharks and listen to experts trade stories about them after a gig at Hotel Caracol in Puerto Morelos, where I ran out some of the themes I have been exploring on this page these past few months. (By the way, if you are ever in Puerto Morelos, I cannot say enough good things about La Petita, a sand-floor restaurant one block back from the beach, except to say thank you to the proprietors for opening it up to tourists -- it used to just be for the local fishermen).

I began with images of the Chicxalub asteriod flying through space, the impact sequence, the dust clouds, the extinction event at the P-K boundary, the shrimper, Rudesino Cantarell, whose nets gummed up with oil in 1976, and the rapid exploitation and depletion of the second largest oil field ever discovered, followed by the Tortilla Rebellion, to cut to the chase. It was delightfully synchonous to discover only today, in one of the island's three internet cafes, that my friend Sharon Astyk has been exploring some of these same ideas at Casaubon's Book (Final Frontier Part I).

Here at the Shark Conference I am taking a break and thinking about what more I can say when I hit the road again this Fall. In September and October I have an ambitious schedule of workshops, seminars, and speaking events which will variously find me in Dublin, Cloughjordan, Cork, Kinsale, Aughnacloy, Kirtland, Ohio (birthplace of the Mormon faith), and then, in a sprint ...
Tues Oct 2 - New Haven CT
Wed Oct 3 - Cooperstown NY
Thurs Oct 4 - Manhattan
Fri Oct 5 - SUNY Community College Loch Sheldrake
Sat Oct 6 - Binghamton NY
Sun Oct 7 - Milford NY
Mon Oct 8 - Philadelphia - White Dog Cafe
Tues Oct 9 - NYC -- All day gig
Wed Oct 9-10 - Omega Inst., Rhinebeck NY
Fri Oct 12-14 - Southern Festival of Books, Nashville
Wed Oct 17-18 - ASPO USA Houston
Fri Oct 19-25 - Natural Building Colloquium, Kerrville Texas
Friday Oct 26-31 - Natural Building Course at The Farm, followed by Gaia University, Permaculture and Shiitake Mushroom workshops into November.

I am skipping both the Fourth National Conference on Peak Oil in Yellow Springs and the World Energy Conference in Rome because I just can't manage it, and besides, I was in Italy only last month. With luck, the Survival Guide will be out in italian by Christmas.

As I meditate on what I should be saying when I tour, I keep coming back to why I am even doing this. Glibly I wisecrack that I share a birthday with Paul Revere. That barely seems adequate. Someone I respect told me I am doing it to feed my own ego. I thought a lot about that but ultimately rejected it as facile psychology. I am deeply aware that this whole effort is caught in the dance of causing karma, and that ceasing that dance is perhaps as high a calling as continuing to work out the steps. Knowing that nothing need be done is where I begin to move from. "In the fires that destroy the universe at the end of the kalpa, what survives?" is my koan.

Image: Tiberon Ballena, photo by author.

Gary Snyder wrote in 1969, "Man is but a part of the fabric of life -- dependent of course on the whole fabric for his very existence, and also responsible to it. As the most highly developed tool-using animal, he must recognize that the evolutionary destinies (unknown) of other life forms are to be respected, and act as gentle steward of the earth's community of being." I think if you ask Gary today, he might backtrack on some of those adjectives, like "most highly developed" but the sentiment is still overarching. We have an obligation to use our gifts for good ends. The Chinese poet, Tu Fu, said, "The ideas of a poet should be noble and simple."

Gary Snyder went on to say, "It seems evident that there are throughout the world certain social and religious forces that have worked throughout history toward an ecologically/culturally enlightened state of affairs. Let these be encouraged: Alchemists, hip Marxists, Anarchists, Third Worlds, Teilhard and cryptoGnostic Catholics, Druids, Witches, Taoists, Biologists, Yogins, Quakers, Tibetans, Zens, Shamans, Sufis, Amish and Mennonite, American Indians, Polynesians - all primitive cultures, all communal and ashram movements of all persuasions, etc. The list is long. Since it doesn't seem practical or even desirable to think that direct bloody force will achieve anything, it would be best to consider this a continuing 'revolution of consciousness' which will be won not by guns but by siezing the key images, myths, archetypes, eschatologies, and ecstasies ...." (Whole Earth Catalog Supplement, September, 1969.)

My Fall show is beginning to take on a cohesion around this rather nebulous Snyderian construct. Show (as briefly but persuasively as possible) our dilemma vis. peak everything and climate change, especially the pretty dire conclusions coming from Cox, Crutzen and others, as chronicled and synthesized by Lynas, Lovelock and Pearce, and knock down the oft-bandied myths of technology, ten-years, and ecovillage lifeboats, and bring the audience around to appreciating, hopefully through a humorous and self-effacing catharsis, that we screwed the pooch, possibly before any of us were born, and it is now Bedtime for Bonzo. And having gotten to that low point of the evening, absolutely essential as a reality check on my bone-fides as a prognosticator, the challenge is then to raise hope and provide something real to do: a way for our Hero to escape the trap in the Third Act. And I fully appreciate that there may in fact not be a prestige for this trick, apart from reincarnating on Mars as the fungal offspring of spores carried aboard Pathfinder spacecraft, but I nonetheless have to give it my best shot. So let's go ahead, change our light bulbs. Grow a garden. Plant trees. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes' speech at Harvard commencement in 1895 (which Teddy Roosevelt liked so much he put Ollie on the Supreme Court):

"Who of us could endure a world... without the divine folly of honor, without the senseless passion for knowledge outreaching the flaming bounds of the possible, without ideals the essense of which is that they can never be achieved?"

How about this for synchronicity: Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius discovered in 1895 that adding carbon dioxide, methane and other insulating gases to the Earth's atmosphere will cause the planet to warm. Arrhenius correctly determined that a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels, for instance, would result in a 5-degree rise in the average temperature of the world. Analogizing this phenomenon to "greenhouse" warming was first suggested by John Mercer at Ohio State University c. 1960. Present thinking is that doubling pre-industrial CO2 will result in a 5 to 21 degree temperature change. We should reach the doubling mark by 2020-2050 at present rates of consumption. We could delay the inevitable by hard discipline taken in the next ten years, which I consider unlikely. We might even reverse the process, but it would take a level of organization of the caliber only possessed by those who have fully appreciated their likely fate if they fail to act, have banded together, and are prepared to take heroic, sacrificial action.

And that is my message and mission, sweetened with local, organic recipes and a sense of humor.

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