Winter Solstice? WHAT Winter Solstice? All you need to know about YOUR Winter Solstice TODAY — thom prentice

sun and chariot

Sun God as charioteer

Roman disc in silver depicting Sol Invictus (from Pessinus in Phrygia, third century AD)- Wikipaedia

BULLETIN!!! EXCERPT: “Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century [when Constantine hijacked Christianity to serve the needs of empire power and glory and horror which continues TO THIS DAY] that the Emperor Constantine church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated.”

day and night Earth 2014 solstice

[Earth in sunlight and darkness for 20/21 December 2014. NOTE: The Northern Hemisphere-centric so-called “Winter Solstice” is the “Summer Solstice” for the Southern Hemisphere: Africa south of the Sahara, Oceania, Australia/New Zealand, South America.]

Winter Solstice 2014: 3 Things To Know About Pagan Yule Celebrations — international business times [a remarkably DECENT article for a business rag…]

By Zoe Mintz

The pagan holiday known as Yule falls on the winter solstice, which is Dec. 21 this year.

December may be marked by Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but for pagans it’s the time to celebrate Yule. The holiday marks the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (Sunday, Dec. 21, this year) and

celebrates the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known.

The winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year. The Earth’s axis tilts the furthest away from the sun at 23-and-a-half degrees, giving all locations north of the equator less than 12 hours of daylight. This moment has been marked by mankind for centuries [nay, millennia upon millenia].

In ancient Rome, the weeklong feast of Saturnalia honored the sun god Saturn. Celts believed the sun stood still for 12 days, making it necessary to light a log fire to conquer the darkness.

During the Iron Age, the Celts and other ancient Europeans welcomed the winter solstice by feasting, merrymaking and sacrificing animals. Today modern pagans celebrate the holiday by lighting candles, throwing bonfires, hosting feasts and decorating their homes.

Early Celebrations

Celebrating the rebirth of the sun can be seen in other cultures throughout history. While these typically took place during the coldest, darkest days of the year, winter solstice traditions were celebrations that gave people hope sunny days lay ahead.

Egyptians celebrated the return of Ra, god of the sun, on a daily basis. Ancient Greeks held a similar festival called Lenaea. The Roman Empire held Saturnalia celebrations. Scandinavia’s Norsemen called the holiday “Yule.” Families would light Yule logs where they would eat until the log burned out – which could take up to 12 days. Each spark was believed to represent a new pig or calf that would be born in the new year.

Germanic peoples would celebrate the winter festival by honoring the pagan god Odin. Many believed he would fly through the night sky (on a magical flying horse) and determine who would be blessed or cursed in the coming year. Many decided to stay indoors, fearing Odin’s wrath.

Relation to Christmas

BULLETIN!!!Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century [when Constantine hijacked Christianity to serve the needs of empire power and glory and horror which continues TO THIS DAY] that the church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated.

Since the Bible did not point to an exact date when Christ was born, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25. It’s commonly believed [accepted; I mean, why ELSE choose THAT day as Christian hordes were conquering and converting Northern Europe?!] that the church chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Saturnalia [AND ST. MITHRAS DAY] with the Christian holiday.

“As the Christmas celebration moved west,” Harry Yeide, a professor of religion at George Washington University told National Geographic. “The date that had traditionally been used to celebrate the winter solstice became sort of available [became SORT of available?] for conversion to the observance of Christmas. In the Western church, the December date became the date for Christmas.”

Besides the date, Christian leaders found ways to relate the pagan holiday to the Christian one.

“This gave rise to an interesting play on words,” Yeide said. “In several languages, not just in English, people have traditionally compared the rebirth of the sun with the birth of the son of God.” [How clever!]

Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can be traced back to [PAGAN!!!] winter solstice rituals.

For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant called “All Heal.” Priests would cut the plant from the tree, hold a feast and sacrifice animals underneath it. Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. Some people would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors. [Even French kissing, aka tongue wrestling.]

Ancient Romans would decorate their homes with holly during winter solstice. Holly wreaths were given as gifts and used as decoration in public areas and in homes to honor the sun god Saturn. Ancient Celts would have similar traditions. Many would plant holly in their homes as a form of protection since the plants was believed to hold magical powers for its ability to survive the winter months. [Holly in your front yard?]

Modern Festivities

For Wiccans and Druids, Yule is one of the eight solar holidays celebrated each year. Wiccans see Yule as a time to spend with friends and family, exchange gifts and honor the sun. Homes are decorated with red, green and white decorations – colors that hark back to Druidic traditions.

Some Wiccans welcome the new solar year with light. Rituals can include meditating in darkness with lit candles, singing pagan carols and lighting Yule logs (either in indoor fireplaces or outdoor bonfires).

Wiccan priestess Selena Fox suggests decorating an evergreen wreath with holiday herbs and mounting it on the front door to celebrate the continuity of life. Evergreen trees can be decorated as well with holiday decorations and pagan symbols. “Call it a Solstice tree,” Fox said in a blog post about winter solstice traditions.

Druids typically celebrate the holiday at Stonehenge in England. Last year 3,500 visitors

watched the sun rise and watched how it cast a line that directly connects the altar stone, the slaughter stone and heel stone. [Yes, all these pre-Sumerian, pre-writing cultures were really primitive, savage, non-scientific and stupid — according to modern scientific civilization.]

Similar celebrations take place at other ancient sites such as Newgrange in Ireland and the Cerro del Gentil pyramid in Peru.

In Peru is an ancient pyramid and dozens of stone lines, some of which form a remarkable alignment with the pyramid and the sunset at winter solstice. The 5-metre-tall, flat-topped pyramid, called Cerro del Gentil, was constructed sometime between 600 BC and 50 BC, likely by the Paracas culture. These ancient people apparently practiced the art of ‘skull binding’, which created strangely-shaped and sometimes alien-looking skulls. Yahoo News


Everything you need to know: December solstice 2014 EarthSky HERE

Winter Solstice 2014: Shortest Day Of The Year Marked By Pagan [Nature and Sun] Celebrations — HuffPo HERE

[RE the HuffPo use of the word “Pagan” in the headline: In Christianity, the term “Pagan” is an epithet, a pejorative, insulting word about non-believers in Christianity — who should probably be converted or killed, take your pick. Moreover, since Christianity vilifies the human body and Nature — indeed commands via Genesis that man “have dominion” over the Earth rather than live in Peace with the Earth, it would seem a more accurate “rebranding” of “Pagan” would be to use the term “Nature” and “Sun” and even “Universe”.

NEW MOON in Capricorn and SOLSTICE December 21st 2014 – Mystic Mamma HERE

Typically antiseptic, fake “scientific” objectivity and detachment, dry, banal and boring article from Wikipaedia on the Winter solstice HERE

Why We Need the solstice: “(20 December) is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. But few of us will turn off the lights long enough to notice. newyorktimes HERE

sunrise stonehenge solstice
Solstice sunrise at Stonehenge, England.

japanese sun goddenn emerging from cave
Japanese Sun goddess Amaterasu emerging from a cave.

green man and hunter
The Nature Gods of the Northern Hemisphere solstices. [OK so they are cute guys. And its not summer for the winter hunter guy. And not winter for the summer Green Nature guy. But they are cute. I couldn’t help myself. So there.]

Krishna and flute
Krishna was born around the Winter Solstice in some Hindu traditions; in others on the Summer Solstice.

ra god of sun
The Egyptian Sun God Ra: the head of a falcon and the sun resting on top.


Greed Is a Paywall Blocking Human Knowledge — TruthDig

[Academic journals should be wide-open and free for everybody to access.

I have long thought it appalling that the “publish or perish” academic journals were de facto restricted to academicians-only by the expensive subscriptions. Academicians had access to them through their university libraries which ORDINARY FOLK don’t have.

One reason for the APPALLING STUPIDITY in the US corporate media and inflicted on American humans is that academic journals have EXPENSIVE PAYWALLS which prevent access to KNOWLEDGES by ordinary folk. They can access only by becoming “beggars”. It is called “beggar access.” Please read on…]



By Thor Benson

One of the most widely read academic journals, Nature, just became accessible without a paid subscription. Macmillan, its publisher, announced Dec. 2 that it would be making 49 of its journals, including Nature, available to read on the PDF viewing service ReadCube.

That said, readers cannot simply go to ReadCube and view any journal they want; they have to get a link to the journal from an existing subscriber in order to read it for free.

This method is a way

of imitating open access without actually instating it.

Although being able to link directly to scientific documents in an online article is useful for letting a reader see the exact source of what the article is reporting, relying on direct links leaves behind the academics and the researchers who want to search for specific journals and may not have a subscription.

Those without a subscription will be relegated to “beggar access,” as Scientific American put it, where they can read something only if they ask subscribers to share it with them.

The issue with hiding academic articles behind paywalls is that the research featured in these kinds of journals is often paid for with government grants or through public university funding.

To ask the public to pay for a subscription is thus a kind of double tax, in that would-be readers

pay taxes that fund the studies that provide the basis for the journal articles and then pay again to read the finished product.

The authors of the research ***do not*** receive a payment from the journals when the article is accepted or when it is published, and the money from subscribers instead goes ***directly to the [corporate] publisher***.

“The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals,

is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations,” the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz wrote in 2008 in the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. He fought against the privatization of knowledge, becoming a warrior for the open access movement.

aaron swartz portrait

aaron swarz epitaph

aaron schwartz drawing and wuote

Of course, not all research is funded by the government or government-related entities, and it is the province of private foundations to actuate open access mandates. Organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are starting to guide the change. In November, the Gates Foundation announced that, starting in January 2017, it will be requiring all the research it funds be published in a format that is free for the public to read. [Mighty white of the Gateses to do so.]

The foundation will cover the fees the publisher chargs to make sure the material is free to read and share. Considering the Gates Foundation funds almost $1 billion in scientific research every year, that is a big gesture in favor of open access, and one that will hopefully set a standard others will follow.

In short, journals like Science and other paid subscription sources of its kind should make their content available to the public for free. If they can’t do so without losing money, then they should mimic other publicly funded sources of information—perhaps even borrowing from the model used by media organizations like NPR—and ask for donations now and then.

[Most] Researchers want their work to be seen by as many people as possible, and making the public pay to view it gets in the way of that goal.

Many of the works that open access supporters want to be able to use were published decades ago. The sponsoring journals may have already made back the money they initially spent publishing the studies,

and papers like American biochemist Oliver Lowry’s 1951 “Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent,” which was published by Nature, has been cited over 300,000 times. When a study has been cited that much, it should be available to the public because of its significance.

There is no reason, except for the pursuit of profit, to not make this type of content freely available so research into the topic can be available to any and all readers.

The corporations that ask for a toll to cross the information gap are ultimately thwarting the growth of knowledge. [And if not their primary intent — which is profit — it is a side effect which benefits them, not ordinary folk.]

Just as the idea of charging for “fast lanes” is the bane of net neutrality advocates, charging for access to research is the bane of those involved in the movement to make stored knowledge available to everyone online.

A kid living in the ghetto should have just as much opportunity to educate him- or herself as a kid in Beverly Hills, and open access to information can make that possible.

Force Big Government to Kill Big Carbon: The EPA and Public Lands as Climate Movement Weapons — CounterPunch

counterpunch logo

[This article by Christian Parenti is the single most profound article I have reposted here in three years on DemocracyWeb. Parenti basically proposes that the Climate Movement use the successful 1980s ACT-UP model of public protest against the FDA, Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health that succeeded in getting action on AIDS.

Federal action by the EPA and Interior Department — and military — could radically shut down CO2 emissions and ACT-UP provides environmentalists/ Climate Movement as the intense public protest model to use get intense and immediate action from the government on Climate Change NOW. NO CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL NEEDED. Radical public protest on the ACT-UP model can get real action on Climate rather than just lame marches that accomplish nothing beyond an attempt at temporary consciousness raising all but ignored by the corporate media.]

EXCERPT: “the Federal Government could, without any new laws, significantly restrict both the supply of, and demand for, fossil fuels. In other words, if the climate movement is serious about controlling Big Carbon it needs to get serious about Big Government.”

EXCERPT: “But, with the exception of a few small and midsized groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, most of the green groups did not demand that these new rules be science-based, i.e. much tighter than those on offer. And the effort has been strangely low profile; there is no robust campaign of popular education, mass mobilization, protest, or direct action aimed at the EPA.”

EXCERPT: “Translation: the federal government owns vast amounts of fossil fuels and if we are serious about not burning all existing hydrocarbon reserves, that is the most feasible place to start. Unlike Exxon Mobil the government is, at least in theory, a publicly accountable institution.”

EXCERPT: “Let’s be as radical as reality itself.”


The climate movement tends to talk about “theories of change” rather than “theories of power.”

But if you think about power – who has it, what are its mechanisms, how can it be used – then government looms large. Government is more than one third of the economy, its judicial and regulatory apparatus touches everything, the private sector depends almost entirely on the infrastructure of the public sector, and during times of crisis the state is private industry’s life-support system.

When pondering mechanisms that the climate movement might use to maximize its impact in the short time still available, consider this:

the Federal Government could, without any new laws, significantly restrict both the supply of, and demand for, fossil fuels.

In other words, if the climate movement is serious about controlling Big Carbon it needs to get serious about Big Government.

Only the state has the power to euthanize the fossil fuel industry.

Divestment and marching are good and important tactics; they demonstrate popular power

but that power needs to be brought to bear on mechanisms – like government regulation – that can directly control the fossil fuel industry.

The federal government could restrict demand for fossil fuel by making it expensive, and it could do that by implementing legally mandated, strict EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Polluters would have to pay heavy fines and that would raise the cost of dirty energy. As for supply, the government could start by taking its own fossil fuel reserves off the market.

The time is right to press on both mechanisms, but neither will happen unless green activists demand robust federal action. Good news: that’s starting to happen.

Obama may have even cracked opened a door that the movement can push further. He has said, “We’re not going to be able to burn it all.” And his mildly ambitious though inadequate emissions reduction agreement with China, will be implemented (if at all) through enforcement of existing laws, most importantly, the Clean Air Act as interpreted by the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v EPA.

If aggressively applied the Clean Air Act could severely restrict the demand for fossil fuels across the entire energy and transportation sectors.

Less discussed is government control of the fossil fuel reserves beneath public lands. Shockingly – if you consider the climate science –

federally owned coal, oil, and gas reserves account for more than one quarter of all fossil fuel production in the US.

(That is down from public property sourcing about a third of all production just prior to the fracking boom on private lands.)

Control of these massive reserves lies with the president – he could start pulling public fossil fuel reserves from the market now, without congressional approval.

Mass v EPA

How did the EPA get this climate specific power? The story goes back to 1997 when President Clinton signed the Kyoto protocol, an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but the Senate never ratified the treaty, and President Bush subsequently renounced it. In response, Massachusetts, several other states, and various green groups all sued the EPA in 2003. The plaintiffs argued that the federal government was obliged to use the Clean Air Act of 1970 to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007 the Supreme Court finally ruled. Yes, the EPA was legally bound to use the Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions. At the time it was estimated that the new regulations could achieve a 40 percent reduction of US Carbon emissions over 1990 levels by 2020. Then came years of deliberate inaction and foot-dragging by two administrations [REPUBLICAN ***AND*** VICHY DEMOCRATIC.

Now the Agency is finally starting to promulgate the specific GHG rules required by Mass v EPA. The two regulations issued thus far have been politically easy: a federal standard for passenger vehicles, which was largely redundant with already existing state regulations; and restrictions on new coal-fired plants which were not actually going to be built because of a glut of cheap fracked gas.

More importantly,

the EPA is currently crafting rules for existing power plants.

The Agency took comment all summer and fall and will issue the new rules in June 2015. A number of large green groups mobilized members to comment at EPA hearings, and an impressive 8 million public comments were logged.

But, with the exception of a few small and midsized groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, most of the green groups did not demand that these new rules be science-based, i.e. much tighter than those on offer.

And the effort has been strangely low profile; there is no robust campaign of popular education, mass mobilization, protest, or direct action aimed at the EPA.

There was very little, if any, mention of the Agency among the signs, chants, and media comments at the otherwise wonderful and massive Peoples Climate March. Alas, many of the youth and high-profile troublemakers in the movement too often write government off as “broken” and deliberately turn away from even trying to understand it. (I realize government is not “sexy” or simple, but to deliberately turn away from it courts disaster.)

Industry, on the other hand, takes government and the EPA very seriously.

Their fear of the Agency has been expressed in a fifteen years long crusade against it.

The offensive began in 1999 when the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association of Big Carbon, called an anti-EPA war council attended by players from: aluminum, petrochemicals, electric power, aerospace, airlines, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Chamber of Commerce. This mob has been fighting the EPA ever since.

As a result, the EPA is feeling much more pressure from industry than it is from the climate movement.

This is unfortunate. As shown by the successful defense of USDA organics standards a decade ago, the so-far-successful mobilization to defend net neutrality, and the fight against the as-yet-not approved Keystone XL pipeline, citizen campaigns can positively shape government regulations.

Other EPA rules that the climate movement should get ready to try and shape include those regulating oil refining, the cement industry, paper, chemical, and fertilizer production, air, rail, and shipping.

Government-Owned Fossil Fuels

Another important point of leverage is the federal government’s direct control over the supply of fossil fuels. According to the US Energy Information Agency

26.4 percent of total US fossil fuel production is sourced from federal and tribal lands.

That means about a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions originated as publicly owned fossil fuel reserves. According to Stratus Consulting,

these government owned fuels produce annual greenhouse gas emissions equal to 283 million passenger vehicles.

Since 1982, the federal government has, according to the Environmental Working Group,

“leased or offered for oil and gas drilling 229 million acres of public and private land in 12 western states.”

Worse yet, most of these reserves aren’t even sold at a decent price.

A report by Oil Change International estimates the US Government loses $2.2 billion a year due to low royalties on public reserves; that’s 10 percent of the $22 billion annual subsidy the US Government gives to the petroleum industry.

Translation: the federal government owns vast amounts of fossil fuels and if we are serious about not burning all existing hydrocarbon reserves, that is the most feasible place to start. Unlike Exxon Mobil the government is, at least in theory, a publicly accountable institution.

Even as a lame duck president – or especially so as he is not worried about re-election – Obama could be forced to use his power to severely limit the amount of fossil fuels produced on our public lands. Like EPA enforcement of the Clean Air Act, aggressive presidential action on this front does not require approval from Congress.

If pressured by a movement, Obama could do several things. First, he could direct the secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell, to issue a Secretarial Order

banning all further petroleum leasing until there is a federal energy strategy that takes into account the climate consequences of fossil fuel combustion.

Though the Interior Department is tasked with making public resources available for private exploration [WHICH SHOULD BE REVOKED AND REPEALED!] it also has the well-established power to pull lands from development

“in order to maintain other public values.” Protecting the climate would fit the definition of a “public value.”

Imagine putting a quarter, to one third, of all known US fossil fuel reserves beyond the reach of Big Carbon. The economic and ideological impact would be tremendous; among other things this would send an important message to the rest of the world.

Lest that sound impossible, the Obama administration has done this sort of thing already. The previous secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar,

withdrew one million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from possible uranium mining. The “other public values” he cited as justification included pollution risks to waterways and public health.

The Face of "Hope" and "Change You Can Believe In" and "Yes We Can" and "Forward"...

The Face of “Hope” and “Change You Can Believe In” and “Yes We Can” and “Forward”…

(Alas, Obama usually does the opposite. In 2013, the Administration, via the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management, offered up 5.7 million acres for lease to industry. The Interior Department also sped up the permitting process for drilling and opened an additional 59 million acres for oil and gas drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. And, the BLM approved more than 800,000 acres for extra-filthy tar sands and oil shale development in the Green River Formation, a vast stretch of terrain in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado that contains 2 to 7 times more energy and pollution than the Alberta Tar Sands. All very, very bad.)

How is that "Hope" and "Change you can believe in" and "Yes we can" and "Forward" doing for you lately?

How is that “Hope” and “Change you can believe in” and “Yes we can” and “Forward” doing for you lately?

A second, more difficult action would be to

cancel existing leases whenever there can be found sufficient technical, financial, or environmental problems.

Under the Mineral Leasing Act any non-producing lease can be cancelled automatically when the lessee violates the law, regulations, or lease terms. The Interior Department could be instructed to search for such violations and cancel leases accordingly.

The third thing Obama could do is go after producing leases, which can be cancelled for violations of law, regulation, or lease terms, but only after a judicial proceeding. That would be more difficult, but not impossible.

As Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity put it: “Averting the worst global warming means leaving most proved fossil fuel reserves in the ground. If the world is going to act, Obama will need to lead, and that leadership should start on U.S. public lands. He has the legal authority—does he have the political will?”

Obviously, he does not. But, like other presidents before him who have faced mass and disruptive protest, he could be forced to acquire it.

Landscape destruction from oil well pads and roads.

How to Attack

Clearly, the Obama administration will not use its control of public lands and the Clean Air Act

unless hounded, harassed, and humiliated into doing so.

How might activists intervene to shape these processes? That has to be worked out in practice. Thankfully we have examples.

Tim deChristopher struck directly at the misuse of public lands when he sabotaged a BLM petroleum lease auction. Ingeniously, deChristopher just joined the bidding, out-bid the companies, and then refused to pay. Valiantly, the price deChristopher paid for calling attention to the BLM’s disgusting, reckless, profligate, totally insane folly was two years in prison.

But, in proof that direct action gets the goods, then secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, soon canceled many of the worst Bush-era oil and gas leases – including the patch deChristopher bid on.

If there is one thing we know about Obama it is that

he is vain, wants to be loved by everyone, and absolutely hates criticism from the left.

obama smoking blunt

Perhaps that’s why he seems to respond to it. Consider the fact that he is all but publicly committed to vetoing the Keystone XL pipeline.

[Although Obama/Hillary ***APPROVED*** the SOUTHERN LEG of the Keystone THROUGH EAST TEXAS, THE APPROVAL IN SECRET, IN THE “MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT’ so NOONE would KNOW except the pipeline companies. All of a sudden people in East Texas were being bulldozed out of their homes and farms, enforced by militarized sheriffs and now the pipeline is fini9shed and ready for filthy, dirty tar sands oil.]

hillary looking stalinist

Clearly, the president did not like having Michael Brune, Bill McKibben, and scores of other high profile figures arrested at the end of his driveway anymore than he like tens of thousands of activists – many of them veterans of the 2008 Obama canvas – condemning him personally for selling out his daughters’ futures.

Nor does he like many young activists who use nonviolent direct action against Big Carbon’s extraction and transportation operations. One suspects the equally self-regarding Sally Jewell, current Secretary of the Interior and former REI executive, is similarly sensitive.

Government gets such a bad rap [FROM THE FASCIST RIGHT WING] that many on the Left overlook the good it does.

But history is full of examples of state power serving as a progressive force and crystallizing left victories.

It was not just the tenacity of CIO organizers against the bosses that led to the massive boom in union density during the 1930s and 1940s, the Wagner Act helped catalyze their power. Nor did the white power structure of the Jim Crow South ever relent, change its mind, say it was sorry, or in anyway not pursue it’s agenda of racist segregation. But it was eventually forced to restore the vote to southern African-Americans by way of Federal laws and troops, which were forced to intervene by the Civil Rights Movement.

When Act Up demanded AIDS research, they did not just target the medical industry, they also had a direct action campaign targeting the regulators of that industry, the USDA. [The ACT-UP model is a GREAT MODEL for us to use in demanding strong government action against polluters.]

From those efforts came an HIV treatment protocol. (For details check out the excellent documentary How to Survive a Plague.)

Or, more directly connected to the climate issue, recall the improbable origins of the EPA and the Clean Air Act, both signed into law by rightwing Richard Nixon; his hand forced by the massive protests of Earth Day, and all the other movements of that era. Today is different, but not entirely.

There are signs that the climate movement is thinking of creative ways to pressure government to lead on climate. Litigation by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity has blocked all new public lands lease sales in California for over two years, and Friends of the Earth just filed a lawsuit demanding a halt to all leasing of US Government owned coal. The Center is planning an advocacy and protest campaign around both the EPA and leasing on public lands to start early in 2015.

The climate science is very clear, we do not have many years left to avoid the worst of runaway climate change, the movement’s ultimate short to medium term goal must be closing the fossil fuel industry.

What force, what mechanisms, which institutions could actually do this? Does anyone really imagine that the fossil fuel industry can be convinced to change by way of smart arguments, or shamed out of existence, or tricked into believing there is a carbon bubble by way of spin and headlines, or even starved of investment capital?

energy from tar sands versus sun (2)New Geography of Violence (Nation Books, July 2011).

George Monbiot: Overgrowth / Every child should visit an abattoir. If you disagree, ask yourself why — Guardian

monbiot laughing

NEW TERM: reification “also known as concretism, hypostatization, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete, real event, or physical entity.[1][2] In other words, it is the error of treating as a concrete thing something which is not concrete, but merely an idea.” — Wikipaedia

EXCERPT: “Meat production? No, this is fat production.”

EXCERPT: “Meat for the rich means hunger for the poor.”

EXCERPT: “Rather than mindlessly consuming meat at every meal, we should think of it as an extraordinary gift: a privilege, not a right. We could reserve meat for a few special occasions, such as Christmas, and otherwise eat it no more than once a month.”

EXCERPT: “All children should be taken by their schools to visit a factory pig or chicken farm, and to an abattoir, where they should be able to witness every stage of slaughter and butchery. Does this suggestion outrage you? If so, ask yourself what you are objecting to: informed choice or what it reveals? If we cannot bear to see what we eat, it’s not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the eating.”

What can you say about a society whose food production must be hidden from public view? In which the factory farms and slaughterhouses supplying much of our diet must be guarded like arsenals to prevent us from seeing what happens there?

We conspire in this concealment: we don’t want to know.

We deceive ourselves so effectively that much of the time we scarcely notice that we are eating animals, even during what were once rare feasts, such as Christmas, which are now barely distinguished from the rest of the year.

It begins with the stories we tell.

Many of the books written for very young children are about farms; but these jolly places in which animals wander freely, as if they belong to the farmer’s family, bear no relationship to the realities of production. The petting farms to which we take our children are reifications of these fantasies. This is just one instance of the sanitisation of childhood, in which none of the three little pigs gets eaten and Jack makes peace with the giant, but in this case it has consequences.

Labelling reinforces the deception. As Philip Lymbery points out in his book Farmageddon(1), while the production method must be marked on egg boxes in the EU, there are no such conditions on meat and milk. Meaningless labels such as “natural” and “farm-fresh” and worthless symbols such as the little red tractor distract us from the realities of broiler units and intensive piggeries. Perhaps the most blatant diversion is “corn-fed”. Most chickens and turkeys eat corn, and it’s a bad thing, not a good one.

The growth rate of broiler chickens has quadrupled in 50 years: they are now killed at seven weeks(2). By then they are often crippled by their weight.

Animals selected for obesity cause obesity.

Bred to bulge, scarcely able to move, overfed, factory farmed chickens now contain almost three times as much fat as chickens did in 1970, and just two thirds of the protein(3). Stalled pigs and feedlot cattle have undergone a similar transformation. Meat production? No, this is fat production.

Sustaining unhealthy animals in crowded sheds requires lashings of antibiotics. These drugs also promote growth, a use that remains legal in the United States and widespread in the European Union, under the guise of disease control. In 1953, Lymbery notes, MPs warned in the House of Commons that this could cause the emergence of disease-resistant pathogens(4). They were drowned out by laughter. But they were right.

This system is also devastating to the land and the sea. Farm animals consume one third of global cereal production, 90% of soya meal and 30% of the fish caught.

Were the grain now used to fatten animals reserved instead for people, an extra 1.3 billion could be fed(5). Meat for the rich means hunger for the poor.

What comes out is as bad as what goes in. The manure from factory farms is spread ostensibly as fertiliser, but often in greater volumes than crops can absorb: arable land is used as a dump.

It sluices into rivers and the sea, creating dead zones sometimes hundreds of miles wide(6). Beaches in Brittany, Lymbery reports, where there are 14 million pigs, have been smothered by so much seaweed, whose growth is promoted by manure, that they have had to be closed as a lethal hazard: one worker scraping it off the shore died apparently of hydrogen sulphide poisoning, caused by the weed’s decay.[The dead zone off the Mississippi delta in the US is another example.]

It’s madness, and there is no anticipated end to it. The global demand for livestock is expected to rise 70% by 2050(7).

Four years ago, I softened my position on meat-eating(8) after reading Simon Fairlie’s book Meat: a benign extravagance(9). Fairlie pointed out that around half the current global meat supply causes no loss to human nutrition. In fact it delivers a net gain, as it comes from animals eating grass and crop residues that people can’t consume.

Since then, two things have persuaded me that I was wrong to have changed my mind. The first is that my article was used by factory farmers as a vindication of their monstrous practices.

The subtle distinctions Fairlie and I were trying to make turn out to be vulnerable to misrepresentation.

The second is that while researching my book Feral I came to see that our perception of free range meat has also been sanitised(10).

The hills of Britain have been sheepwrecked: stripped of their vegetation, emptied of wildlife, shorn of their capacity to hold water and carbon; all in the cause of minuscule productivity.

It is hard to think of any other industry, except scallop dredging, with a higher ratio of destruction to production. Wasteful and destructive as feeding grain to livestock is, ranching could be even worse. Meat is bad news, in almost all circumstances.

So why don’t we stop? Because we don’t know, and because we find it difficult, even if we do. A survey by the US Humane Research Council discovered that only 2% of Americans are vegetarians or vegans(11), and more than half give up within a year. Eventually, 84% lapse. One of the main reasons, the survey found, is that

people want to fit in.

We might know it’s wrong, but we block our ears and carry on.

I believe that one day artificial meat will become commercially viable(12), and that it will change social norms. When it becomes possible to eat meat without killing, keeping and slaughtering livestock for meat will soon be perceived as unacceptable. But this is a long way off. Until then perhaps the best strategy is to encourage people to eat as our ancestors did.

Rather than mindlessly consuming meat at every meal, we should think of it as an extraordinary gift: a privilege, not a right. We could reserve meat for a few special occasions, such as Christmas, and otherwise eat it no more than once a month.

All children should be taken by their schools to visit a factory pig or chicken farm, and to an abattoir, where they should be able to witness every stage of slaughter and butchery. Does this suggestion outrage you? If so, ask yourself what you are objecting to: informed choice or what it reveals? If we cannot bear to see what we eat, it’s not the seeing that’s wrong, it’s the eating.

The Seneca Curve: How Technological Progress can Generate a Faster Collapse — Resilience

atlantic fisheries collapse

The image above (from Wikipedia) shows the collapse of the North Atlantic cod stocks. The fishery disaster of the early 1990s was the result of a combination of greed, incompetence, and government support for both.Unfortunately, it is just one of the many examples of how human beings tend to worsen the problems they try to solve.

The philosopher Lucius Anneus Seneca had understood this problem already some 2000 years ago, when he said,“It would be some consolation for the feebleness of our selves and our works if all things should perish as slowly as they come into being; but as it is, increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”

The collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery industry gives us a good example of the abrupt collapse in the production of resources – even resources which are theoretically renewable.

The shape of the production curve landings shows some similarity with the “Seneca curve”, a general term that I proposed to apply to all cases in which we observe a rapid decline of the production of a non renewable, or slowly renewable, resource. Here is the typical shape of the Seneca Curve:

seneca cliff

The similarity with the cod landings curve is only approximate, but clearly, in both cases we have a very rapid decline after a slow growth that, for the cod fishery, had lasted for more than a century. What caused this behavior?

The Seneca curve is a special case of the “Hubbert Curve” which describes the exploitation of a non renewable (or slowly renewable) resource in a free market environment. The Hubbert curve is “bell shaped” and symmetric (and it is the origin of the well known concept of “peak oil). The Seneca curve is similar, but it is skewed forward.

In general, the forward skewness can be explained in terms of the attempt of producers to keep producing at all costs a disappearing resource.

There are several mechanisms which can affect the curve. In my first note on this subject, I noted how the Seneca behavior could be generated by growing pollution and, later on, how it could be the result of the application of more capital resources to production as a consequence of increasing market prices.

However, in the case of the cod fishery, neither factor seems to be fundamental. Pollution in the form of climate change may have played a role, but it doesn’t explain the upward spike of the 1960s in fish landings. Also, we have no evidence of cod prices increasing sharply during this phase of the production cycle. Instead, there is clear evidence that the spike and the subsequent collapse was generated by technological improvements.

The effect of new and better fishing technologies is clearly described by Hamilton et al. (2003)

Fishing changed as new technology for catching cod and shrimp developed, and boats became larger. A handful of fishermen shifted to trawling or “dragger” gear. The federal government played a decisive role introducing new technology and providing financial resources to fishermen who were willing to take the risk of investing in new gear and larger boats.

Fishermen in open boats and some long-liners continued to fish cod, lobster and seal inshore. Meanwhile draggers and other long-liners moved onto the open ocean, pursuing cod and shrimp nearly year round. At the height of the boom,dragger captains made $350,000–600,000 a year from cod alone. … The federal government helped finance boat improvements, providing grants covering 30–40% of their cost.
By the late 1980s, some fishermen recognized signs of decline. Open boats and long-liners could rarely reach their quotas. To find the remaining cod, fishermen traveled farther north, deployed more gear and intensified their efforts. A few began shifting to alternative species such as crab. Cheating fisheries regulation—by selling unreported catches at night, lining nets with small mesh and dumping bycatch at sea—was said to be commonplace. Large illegal catches on top of too-high legal quotas drew down the resource. Some say they saw trouble coming, but felt powerless to halt it.

So, we don’t really need complicated models (but see below) to understand how human greed and incompetence – and help from the government – generated the cod disaster.

Cods were killed faster than they could reproduce and the result was their destruction.

Note also that in the case of whaling in the 19th century, the collapse of the fishery was not so abrupt as it was for cods, most likely because, in the 19th century, fishing technology could not “progress” — could not be so radical as it was in the 20th century.

The Seneca collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery is just one of the many cases in which humans “push the levers in the wrong directions”, directly generating the problem they try to avoid. If there is some hope that, someday, the cod fishery may recover, the situation is even clearer with fully non-renewable resources, such as oil and most minerals. Also here, technological progress is touted as the way to solve the depletion problems. Nobody seems to worry about the fact that the faster you extract it, the faster you deplete it: that’s the whole concept of the Seneca curve.

So take care: there is a Seneca cliff ahead also for oil!

For more on fossil fuels and the Seneca curve see Ugo’s recent post Fossil Fuels: Are we on the Edge of the Seneca Cliff?.

Public Health’s Response to Decline: Loyalty to the 1% — Resilience

resilience no trust in government

American institutions are in decline and rife with corruption brought on by a combination of

hitting the limits to growth

while under the control of neoliberal capitalism[i].

To the extent one deviates from the appearance and demeanor of staid [boring] white middle or upper class norms, an encounter with the police in many localities[ii],[iii],[iv] can be dangerous to one’s person and pocket[v]. [I can verify this — and I am just a white guy with long hair and a truth-telling, journalistic, teaching, anti-war and anti-fascist, pro-authentic democracy and pro- (d)emocratic socialism dissident past, present and future.]

The government’s reaction to the “the most destructive epidemics of elite financial frauds in history”[vi] has been to further enrich[vii] –rather than jail- financiers,[viii] and protection of the banks continues to harm and ruin the lives of millions of citizens. [This means that OBAMA/HILLARY are part of the BUSH/CHENEY problem in EVERY SINGLE RESPECT.]

Higher education is embroiled in several scandals, from encouraging students to take out usurious loans few will able to retire, to the exploitation of adjunct professors, to covering up campus rape cabals.

Many Americans are trapped in debt with virtually no possibility of paying it off.

Trust in government and corporations[ix] is at all time lows, and in fashions too lugubrious to list the federal

government – and the two major political parties – do not promote the public interest,[x] preferring instead to serve political/economic elites.[xi],[xii]

[My observations, experience, analysis and immersion in decrepit Amerikan US empire society for six decades confirms all of this as well as the indictment which follows about public health.

The waiting rooms at Parkland Hospital in Dallas — yes, where President Kennedy died — are filled with poor people. PACKED with poor people — injured, sick, the area filled with the human cries, human sighs and human gasps of humans in need of critical medical care rationed by instititutions intentionally starved of tax dollars by the tax-avoidant rich who rather build roads and suburbs and shopping mauls for the affluent wannabes. The sighs and cries and moans of sick and injured people fill this public hospital — people who wait HOURS to be seen at Parkland. This DESPITE Obamacare.

Parkland and the rest are is clear signs of the Dictatorship of the One Per Centiat — the Plutocratiat — of a country, and empire which is nevertheless heading reltentlessly into decline and collapse — if not outright rEVOLution — sooner rather than later.

***RESLIENCE*** help show the way to a livable, sufficient, authentically sustainable future for humans, animals, plants and other living things. Humans do NOT need new technologies; rather humans need to rely on tried-and-true technologies such as shovels, hoes, hammers, pocket knives, hatchets, tipis, nails, pottery, cans and can openers, wigwams, kilns, whittling, carving, carving, longhouses, raising chickens, goats and a cow, lamps, books, pencils, pens and paper, rewilding Nature; and Fire.

Creating human communities and self-sufficient local economies: which don’t rely on — are not ADDICTED TO — US Navy-escorted trans-oceanic container ship trading of stuff manufactured by faraway slave labor- and resource-rich predatory nations.

Creating human communities and self-sufficient local economies means being HUMAN with each other, building human-based local actual “social networks” which are truly “social” and “authentic” networks based on trust, compassion, conversation, story, writing and empathy. As Pope Francis has said, economies should be based on humans and human needs, not greedy profit and greedy profiteers.