Whizzakers. Woke up today on HOLIDAY! In a few hours I shall be on an olive farm in Italy, most likely without an internet connection [ …must…have…conn..ect.…iv.…ityyyyyyyy.…]. Back in a week.
Monthly Archives: April 2006
Alex Steffen over at WorldChanging has written a fabulous, comment-provoking essay on individual choice versus large-scale actions to save the enviornment. Much to latch on to here, but one of his more controversial points is that making our individual lifestyle choices is all well and good, but it’s not furthering the macro-agenda: seizing the ballot box, seizing the markets, eliminating fossil fuels. It’s an articulate and passionate cry:
We need to admit that we’re at war over the definition of the future. There are a lot of powerful interests spending a lot of money to keep people ignorant, make them uncertain, postpone action, encourage cynicism and apathy, and lock them in the mental prison of thinking that no better future is possible. To the extent they are successful, nothing we advocate can happen. We need to fight back. We need to speak clearly, intelligently, and, if possible, with humor and passion. We need to label our opponents (from climate denialists to apologists for the status quo) what they are — enemies of the future. We need to make the nature of our times crystal-clear for all to see. We need to hew to the demanding standards our actual real situation imposes on us — that we achieve measurable sustainability, honest-to-goodness one-planet living, for everyone, within our lifetimes — and scorn the mental tyranny of small goals. We need to break through the meaningless chatter around environmental and social issues, and point to genuine alternatives, hold real conversations, and create a culture that speaks to the soul of our times. Continue reading
Nice one from Greenpeace USA attacking the Ted Kennedy opposition to the Cape Wind project. (Sorry, this page has an auto-load flash — adjust your speakers if like me you’re annoyed by a sound blast when loading a page).
Ted has a mansion on Cape Cod and has sided with the brainless position that the mills will mar the view.
Since when is a windmill ugly? I’ve never understood this — to me they are graceful symbols of planetary custodianship. I sail in the Ijsomeer here in Holland, where they dot the landscape (or the lakescape, I guess), and they make me proud.
What also makes me proud is to see Greenpeace USA going after an A-list Democrat for an environmentally unsound position. Trolling through Earth Day stuff I was remembering how insistent we were in the 80s about Greenpeace being politically neutral. Today everything in the US is so polarized around liberal/conservative Democrat/Republican issue splits, but the planet can’t afford that squabble, and it shouldn’t be Greenpeace’s fight.
That windfarm will provide home grown American energy and Ted Kennedy opposes it. Come on, conservatives, this ought to be YOUR cause.
I looked at a lot of Earth Day stuff this weekend. This is the image that drilled into my brain the most:
The post that got to me emotionally, though, was Lisa Vickers’ letter to her unborn child.
The piece I wrote for the Greenpeace.org site was an opportunity to get Alex Tingle’s Google Maps of sea level rise up there on the GP site, a recommendation that came from a comment on this blog from Lamna Nasus and which I took to heart.
I also threw the trailer to Al Gore’s True Horror film, An Inconvenient Truth, into the mix. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. If the film lives up to its promotion, it could raise up the climate chaos issue in the States the way “The Day After” did for the nuclear disarmament issue back in the 80s. Fingers crossed.
I HATE Google Earth. I really get lost in it. Seeing places you’ve been from a heavenly perspective just shouldn’t be this addicting, but it is.
They’ve recently upgraded their maps of my adopted home, Amsterdam, and golly, I can actually see the blue tarp roof of my son Doon’s fort in the postage-stamp garden in back of our house!
I’ve been working for a while to make a kind of travelogue of places I’ve been. It’s still way incomplete, but so much fun.
(That link will only work if you have Google Earth installed. It’s out for Mac as well now. Get it here: earth.google.com)
There’s the water tower I climbed as a kid. There’s the place I learned that after a long time at sea, land smells like babyfood. There’s “Loyoloa Beach” the roof of my college dorm where we used to sunbathe. And there, in all their scary moonscapery, are the craters in the Nevada Desert where the US and UK used to test nuclear weapons above ground. Have a look at that and then decide if you think it’s a good idea to Nuke Iran.
Did you know that the Netherlands is a nuclear power, and the conservative government here might join the US in a nuclear strike on Iran?
Absurd as this seems, the fact is that the US plans for a nuclear strike on Iran, revealed in Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker piece, would rely on US nukes stationed in Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the UK, Belgium, and Turkey.
And under the terms of these weapons placements, the US could do it without asking any of those countries if they’d mind terribly enabling that attack, being complicit in the deaths of up to 3 million people, and bringing down the inevitable reprisals and possibly a global jihad down on their own heads.
Regardless of how things go in Iran, it’s time to get those missiles out of Europe. They’re a cold war legacy, a danger to people who have no say in the election of the guy who decides if they’re used, potential terror targets, and (as if it mattered) completely illegal under international law. (The NonProliferation Treaty, which the US loves and hates selectively did declare that no land-based nukes are to be stationed outside a country’s own territory.)
It’s time that those of us who believe in Peace made our own pre-emptive strike. Let’s get those NATO nukes out of the equation. Demand an assurance from the Defence Ministers of the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Turkey that they won’t play at the game of nuking Iran. And tell them to wise up: US Nukes out of NATO.
OK, this video of a grafitti artist taggin Air Force One is a fake. Marc Ecko’s speech about “Why I Tagged Air Force One” is pedantic and boring. And instead of using the opportunity for message, he uses it for marketing.
But what a great idea, and what a challenge for some enterprising young tagger or political activist out there.
And don’t talk to me about security. Back in my days of Breaking and Entering for a Good Cause, I learned a variation on that old Godfather saw: “If history teaches us anything, it’s that you can always get around security.”
Roof of the Canadian Embassy in Boston? Fire escape could be pulled to ground level with a simple hook and rope.
Nuclear Test Site in Nevada? They relied on nothing but desert to protect that in 1983. Four of us walked over salt lakes and abandoned mining trails and we were in for a four –day camping trip. “A security guard out here would make the Maytag Repairman look like an overachiever” jested Jon Hinck.
Statue of Liberty? The guard watched TV in his trailer and made his walk around the base on the hour like clockwork. We landed zodiacs at quarter past the hour and put a Hiroshima anniversary message up.
The US Capitol building? We distracted security with a decoy and scaled some scaffolding to put an anti-nuclear message on the dome.
Others in Greenpeace have gotten into UK missile bases, nuclear power plants, and put banners on the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Pyramid of Ghiza, the statue of Christ overlooking Rio… you name it, Greenpeace has bannered it.
Monumental Banners are Free Speech Crimes: not unlike the art crime of grafitti.
So let’s consider. If we could tag Air Force One with any message, what would it be???
Weapon of Mass Deception
No Nukes (except for mine)
Osama was here
If you can read this, you still live in a free country
I brake for nothing. Iraq body count: 35,000
Terrorist on board
Best I can do on one cup of coffee. Help me out here!
P.S. When news of my involvement in the bannering of the Statue of Liberty in 85 reached my mother, she told a friend that I did it “to prove how easily terrorists could get to the statue.” I still haven’t had the conversation with her that begins “Ummmm, actually, Mom.…”
Many moons ago, when I worked with then-Greenpeace Board Chair David McTaggart, “Greenpeace co-founder” Patrick Moore was on the board. He was a likeable enough guy if you could get past the ego (but hey, after hanging out with McTaggart and his pals for a while, you get used to big egos), quick witted, good with a sound bite, personable.
We had one of our board meetings in Vancouver some time after he’d resigned/got booted, and we went to visit him at his home, where he was showing off his brand new, fire-engine red TR-7 sports car, purchased with the gains from his … fish farm.
And we were supposed to be impressed?
Patrick was raising salmon for profit, not fish for food. As a young idealist, I’d really looked up to Patrick. But I changed my mind that day.
As a scientist, he knew exactly the ecosystem compromises he made to amass the little pot of gold that bought him that car. As an environmentalist he knew exactly how much “green spirit” he was showing off tooling around town in a fire-breathing vampire of pretoleum. And as a role model, he damn well should have known better than to try to impress any of us who had looked up to him in any way, shape, or form. (The salmon farm, appropriately enough, failed, as most monocultures do, when a single invasive infection wiped out his entire stock.)
Well, Patrick has lived up to and surpassed that disappointment in the years since. As a paid apologist for the forest industry, he changed his motto from “A flower is your brother” to “A clearcut is just a temporary meadow,” and inspired the “Patrick Moore is a big fat liar” website as he battled against protection of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Patrick lost the “war in the woods” when less extremist (and unpaid for) views prevailed and protected the most important parts of North America’s last temperate rainforest. He was wrong about the Great Bear forest. He was wrong about his fish farm. And he was wrong when the French government bombed the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior to think (and SAY, to a New Zealand journalist) that it was an assasination attempt against him personally and “that bomb was meant for me.“
Now he’s getting a piece of the multi-million-dollar PR offensive the Nuclear Industry is putting out there to say Nukes are the Answer to Climate Change in the Washington Post.
Worse, he’s a smart enough cookie to KNOW he’s wrong. Appropriate that his piece in the Washington Post appeared on Easter. He’s been termed an Eco-Judas before, and it looks like he’s found a new source for his 30 pieces of silver.
Here’s a suggestion, Patrick:
Damn. Snapshot turns into a piece of art. This is a new experience for me — putting a creative work out into a social environment in which the crowd can shape it.
And this post is coming to you via Flickr’s “Blog It” function, a spiffy little gimmick that writes image and post into WordPress right from the Flickr interface. Except I ended up with a bunch of CSS in the post that I had to clean up, which takes a bit away from the automaticality of the whole shebang.
Jeepers, things at the Greenpeace office have been in non-stop high gear for a while now, and I’m in that horrible place where my to-do list is expanding out beyond the boundaries of available time. And that’s INCLUDING the twice a week in the office until midnight routine, which ain’t gonna happen this week.
Between the (somewhat) unexpected Seymour Hersh revelations about US nuclear attack plans for Iran that kicked our Nukes-out-of-NATO campaign into high gear, the McDonald’s Monkey-Murdering-McNuggets story, a new site build for our Disarmament campaign, ongoing Oceans work and more than the usual number of trains to be kept running for more than the usual number of people, the competition for the front page of the Greenpeace website has been fierce, the deadlines have been rolling in one on top of another, and things (and your humble diarist) get a bit tetchy when the pace starts exceeding the speed limit — and that’s an Autobahn-generous number at the best of times.
I’m soooooooooooooo ready for a holiday. Easter, bring it on!!!
But today is a big day for my eldest sprout, Doon, who will be going on his first canvassing expedition. Those damn World Wildlife Fund people have infiltrated his school with an outstanding kid’s campaign to save the sharks (jealous of their website, moi?) and we figured a prime location for him to pick up his quota of fifteen 3 euro donations would be the Greenpeace Office.
I gave a talk yesterday to 14 US university students who were here with the Greenpeace activist training programme. Brought them down into the basement to set the scene for what a Greenpeace office looked like in the early 80s, and talked about canvassing, and what great activist training that is. You have two minutes, max, to state your objective and win your audience over before that door closes on you. (An eternity, now that I think about it, compared to the grab window on the web.)
It was great to see signs of intelligent life, and active radicalism, among American University students, and one of them came up to me afterwords and said it was the first time he’d had a “passing the torch” speech and that he’d found that inspiring — so many of the “older people” (ouch) that he knew who had been active in their youth were now bitter and dismissive of those efforts. The latter is hard to hear, but the former warmed the cockles.
It’s so hard in this job to keep the long view — remembering that the activism that is happening now, the action that needs to be out the door, the messaging that needs to be relevant to a particular audience, also has a role in the future of activism as a whole. And that when we forget to speak to youth, and to kids, we’re doing a disservice to those who will follow.
WWF (or World Nature Fund, as they are known here in Holland) REALLY knows how to organize kids. I’ve always loved their Panda Passport system, and I’m thoroughly impressed with this shark campaign. Seems like every kid at Doon’s school knows the sharks are in danger and the range of games and easy learning materials at their site is very cool. I’m glad they’re thinking about that stuff.
Seems a Ferry boat in Japan suffered damage and 93 people were hurt when a whale collided with the high-speed craft.
This prompts a local wag at the Greenpeace office to remark “Nobody was killed. Must have been non-lethal research.”
33, dead of cancer. Lale was such a spark of love. Sharp as a tack, funny and warm, she just walked into our lives one day as a colleague, walked a while as a friend, and walked out the next.
All day this has been haunting me. I worked until almost midnight at the office, throwing myself into a GoogleEarth map of Iranian targets that the BushHawks are probably considering for tactical nuclear strikes, and how many casualties that will mean (3 million, by the reckoning of the Physicians for Social Responsibility) and here was this single human death of someone I knew and loved and was inspired by, snuffed out. Hovering. Someplace in a corner of my mind where I couldn’t give it space, had to keep it at bay.
I managed to grab a moment in one of the quiet rooms in our open-plan office. Just a moment, long enough to let some emotion through but not enough to let the weight of it come down. I was at work.
I was looking out at the sky and there was a single small smudge of cloud against a blue sky. And I saw Lale. And a gull flew across my vision. And I saw Lale. And I said a small goodbye, and I saw her smile in my mind’s eye.
And I went back to work.
Thought-provoking, disturbing article in the New Yorker argues the Dutch “pillar” system of cultural tolerance is a failure, as evidenced by the presence of radical islamicism within its borders. The modern implementation of the “pillar” system is the product of Ruud Lubbers and the liberal left in this country, by which cultural sub-groups have been allowed to (and in some cases encouraged to) maintain their languages and identities and value systems rather than integrating into those of mainstream Dutch society. Jane Kramer, who wrote the piece, slams this policy and (in my reading) the left’s failure to confine the right in making this their issue — a bit of the same “why does the left miss populist opportunities that the Right capitalizes on” analysis that the Democrats in the US have been worrying over ever since the fundamentalist Christian right discovered the fax machine.
I don’t want McCivilization — a single homogenous mass. But I also found myself struggling to find a position against some of the arguments in this piece: that there is simply no means by which one culture which permits wife-beating can live with another culture which forbids it. That aggressive intolerance of homosexuality can’t be defended as a religious right. In an American context, this is a fight in which the line is between the fundamentalist Christian right and the liberal left.
Here in Holland, the left has created an environment of cultural tolerance which has meant not just a tacit allowance, but an active defense of the right to those fundamentalist values.
And if you want to talk about failure to integrate, I realized midway through the article that I learned more about the politics and culture of the Baarsjes, a neighborhood two blocks away from me, from a magazine published in Manhattan than I’d learned in ten years of living here. I don’t necessarily want Dutch society to insist that I learn to love Edam Cheese, but I certainly could have used a push to learn Dutch well enough to eavesdrop on the tram. So I’m supporting the position of the conservatives, who have introduced mandatory integration and language courses for immigrants?? You see my predicament here.
Amazon being cleared to grow soy which goes into the chicken mcnuggets that go into Unhappy meals in Europe.
I keep telling my son, Doon, that clown is evil.
And if you blog this one, tag it “McAmazon,” wouldja? I have a feeling this one is going to have some legs, and it would be nice to be able to track it down.
I’m still trying to get Movable Type to accept a Blog Claim tag from Technorati, and if I can’t get around a mod_security issue I’m having with my host, I may just have to make the leap to WordPress.
Of course, that’ll probably bring on a whole new heap of humdingers.
Boing Boing is featuring a great audience-funded piece of feature journalism here from Josh Ellis:
He asked folks to pay for his trip to Alamagordo on one of the two days a year that they open the site to the public.
As a former visitor to another nuclear weapons test site (though univited!) I can relate to the totally weird vibe these places attract. In 1983 four of us drove and hiked across 50 miles of desert to get to Yucca Flat at the Nevada Test Site — the first incursion by activists into the nuclear test zone. It was a cratered moonscape of apocalyptic weirdness in itself. But to get there, we had to pass by Area 51 — beloved of UFOlogists the world over. And damned if we didn’t in fact see something strange there…
We’d chosen a route to the test site that would keep us well clear, (we had no idea what kind of security to expect out there) but we crossed one high ridge that gave us a view. There was something on the runway that none of us could make heads or tails of. A casual mention of this fact in a bar after we’d been arrested ended up finding its way into the UFO circles as “Greenpeace spotted an alien craft at Area 51.”
Well, we hadn’t. A few years later when pictures of the first Stealth Bombers were declassified, I recognised it immediately as the shape we’d seen down there at Area 51. And with the help of a UFO researcher who was a thorough fact-finder, we determined that in fact the early prototypes were being transferred from research duty at Area 51 to operational training at Nellis Air Force Base precisely during the month we were out there stopping a nuclear test.
I guess when you think about the meta-threats to human existence, UFOs and Nuclear weapons share some territory. And anything like the end of the world which the imagination can’t really grapple rationally probably ends up in that place where there are no boundries on the possible, a place I call… The Elvis Zone.