IS OPTIMISM POSSIBLE?

Is optimism possible in a time when democracy seems fragile; seems on the verge of being overthrown by neofascist, overt racist Trump clones? Is it possible in a time when we see legit headlines like, The world needs to cut its emissions seven times as fast to hit climate goals, U.N. report finds and Thousands of dead sea creatures are washing up on English beaches and so on…

Yes it’s possible. It requires far-seeing, and it requires the labor of comprehending complexity. But, admittedly--optimism, now, is hard work.

As for one *realistic* avenue to optimism, try THIS.

An off-the-cuff review of the new DUNE adaptation

We saw it on HBO Max, so perhaps there was cinematic power we were missing out on. But it seemed towering enough. The visual design of it seemed influenced by the old John Schoenherr covers. And that’s a good thing. He really had the heft and feel of Dune. It had the scope of Dune. Clearly it was “part one” but it worked very well for me–far better than the creative but hubris-choked movie, any cut, by David Lynch. This is Dune as I remembered it. When I open a copy nowadays, I find the dialogue to be…oh, much of it egregiously pompous and expository and just too much. But still the novel was a great science fiction conception, a wonderful vision, a classic of interplanetary dramas. I think it was influenced by The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence.  AKA Lawrence of Arabia, of course. Note that the movie Lawrence of Arabia came out before the publication of Dune. But it’s quite possible that Herbert read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom too. The novel came out before Star Wars and one is reminded of what Lucas swiped from Frank Herbert (as well as Lucas having ripped off from Jack Kirby comics and other sources) …I think Game of Thrones is also influenced by Dune…And Dune…was influenced by magic mushrooms. Psilocybin. So Frank Herbert told me when he was my teacher at Clarion.

I saw the first three episodes of the Foundation adaptation, based on the Asimov novels, and thought they were trying to be something like this…and the Foundation opening episodes of the series have their fine moments…but ultimately the adaptation of Foundation implodes, corroded by Hollywood hack plotting.

The David Lynch movie was really about David Lynch’s obsessions. This new Dune movie gives us Frank Herbert’s vision.

The Big Question of Our Age

Regarding the problem with the Big Lie spread by Trump. The problem with the Big Lie spread by anti-vaxxers. The problem with the Big Lies spread by racists. The problem with the countless lies spread by Qanon. Here’s the question:

How do we persuade someone they’re being lied to about the facts, when they believe the lie that we are liars?

Big Oil Decides It Will Live and You Will Die

“Mr Jist? You’re the scientific consultant on climate change?” the young woman asked.

“Yes.”

“The Committee will see you now. Right through that door.”

Entering the penthouse conference room, Jist was unnerved, meeting with these powerful industry leaders, since he had nothing but bad news for them. The dozen people around the big mahogany table were mostly men; there were a few women, all wearing immaculately tailored office fashions. He was suddenly self-conscious of his off-the-rack suit. And he noticed that no one asked him to sit. They looked blithely up at him with only a little more interest than if he were delivering their lunches.

They hailed from all the major obsolete-energy companies–oil, coal, fracking concerns; come together for a pan-industry strategy meeting. He was a bit surprised to see several United States Senators sitting with them, including Joe Manchin. The Senator from West Virginia was on his cell phone, half-turned to look at the monument-strewn panorama of Washington DC below. “Well now, Susan, you tell Donald I don’t have time to meet with him right now–we’ll see how things pan out in 2022.”

“Joe!” said a botoxed woman with shiny-blond hair. “You might want to end that little chat right now.” The others chuckled at that.

Manchin ended the call, then turned Jist a heavy-lidded look of vague disapproval. “Who do you work for?” he asked, emanating suspicion.

Jist blinked. “Uh–I work for this committee! I was hired to oversee the assessment. The committee asked for a frank assessment and that’s what I’ve got for you all. I’m a scientist. I have a degree from Harvard, another from MIT, and another from the Sorbonne. I won a Nobel Prize for–“

“Enough of all that eyewash,” Manchin interrupted, waving a hand dismissively.

A man Jist recognized as Lyman Frinks, the chairman of the committee, cleared his throat and said, “Let us have the summary–the short version, Mr. Jist.” Frinks had a face that looked as if it were slowly sliding into the collar of his hand made exquisitely tailored four thousand dollar silk shirt. His Texas accent was strong. “We have the report you sent over but we haven’t had time to really assess it.” He was not officially the head of a company, but he owned vast shares across the oil and gas industry, and was closely connected to Republican-controlled media sources.

Jist took a deep breath and said, “In sum, while the worst effects of climate change can be curtailed, saving perhaps a billion lives, if we act in concert right now, the greenhouse effect has only gotten more dramatic. No significant efforts to reduce carbon emissions, nor methane, and the like, have been made and many of the worst effects are now, in 2021, happening sooner than some climate scientists expected. We are seeing the melting of the permafrost with the subsequent massive release of methane. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and forest land generally, in uncontrolled exploitation and the climate-change-generated wildfires, along with the concatenation of effects in the oceans, all this accelerates the negative effects of climate change. The result is that extreme storms are becoming the norm, and they will only get worse. Infrastructure will be repeatedly interrupted by flooding and hurricane damage, in places that never saw it before. Droughts will be the norm-and they too will only get worse. The damage to arable land will limit food production, and there will be egregious and routine famines across the world, including in the United States, and with roads and other forms of transport under constant threat, food delivery will be harshly reduced. Supermarkets will have very little on the shelves. The price of food will skyrocket. There will be an increase of pandemics due to the northern movement of tropical mosquitoes and other–“

“A famine in the USA?” Botoxed woman interrupted. Her face was essentially frozen so he couldn’t read her expression precisely but he took it she was startled.

“Yes ma’am. Starvation will be widespread in this country, and every other country. And of course billions of people will be uprooted by unlivable conditions and will become a great mass of refugees which will radically undermine social order, leading to wars, which in turn–“

“You sure this is the short version, boy?” Manchin broke in, rolling his eyes.

“Oh yes sir. I could go on for a couple hours. Basically, global catastrophe is unavoidable now–we could have limited it a great deal if we’d started reducing carbon and methane emissions dramatically decades ago, when we were first made aware of the problem, but–“

“What a lot of hogwash!” Manchin laughed.

“Joe?” Frinks said, toying with an unlit cigar. “It’s not hogwash. He’s just confirming what our internal research has shown us. Last thirty years we’ve been aware this would happen. But we wanted to make our own plans at this meeting, across industry– but of course, sub rosa, on the quiet.”

“It’s true, what he’s saying?” Manchin said, who looked like he had heard the ineffable.

“Yes it is, Joe. So–shut up!”

Manchin sniffed. But he nodded. “Yes sir.”

Lindsay Graham chuckled but said nothing.

“But–what we going to do about it?” asked Mitch McConnell. “You going to…to…” He licked his lips. He had difficult saying it. “Reduce emissions? Go into energy, ah, alternatives?”

“Hell no!” Frinks said.

Everyone laughed at that, except Jist.

“Nope, it’s too late to do much good and anyway, it won’t matter. We’ve got our luxury bunkers, our mountaintop homes–“

Botoxed Woman looked nervously at Jist. “We shouldn’t be talking about those places here.”

“Don’t you worry about it,” said Frinks. “As I was sayin’, we’ve located the zones least likely to be damaged by climate change and most of us are building our homes under the domes and we’ve got the greenhouses–now there’s an irony–and the private high rise hydroponics and the food synthesizing 3D printers and the private distilleries. Hell, we’ll be fine! We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing! Folks are going to die, but folks die anyway. Except me, maybe–I’m getting that new rejuvenation treatment–“

“There’s a rejuvenation treatment?” Jist blurted.

“Oh yes, we kept it secret, of course. Yep I’ll be around in a hundred years lookin’ young as you!”

“But…if it’s secret…” Why are they telling me? Jist wondered. He had refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. How are they planning to keep me quiet?

He started edging toward the door.

Frinks touched a tab the table. “Hon, send in Duke and Bubba.”

The door opened behind Jist and he turned to see two big, square-jawed men– enormous steroid-pumped masses of muscle in golf shirts and tan slacks. They both had guns holstered on their hips.

“Yes, Mr Frinks?” said the one on the left.

“Duke, I like to do things expediently. You know me–ol’ Mister Get It Done. Now, take Mr. Jist here to the roof. You know that construction site next door?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well I own that and it’s shut down today. Big fences around it. Toss him off the roof so he falls in that site, and we’ll cover him in concrete, okay?”

“You got it, sir.”

“Wait, what–?” Jist began.

“Sir,” said Bubba, “what if someone sees him fall?”

“Well if they report it,” Frinks said, admiring his cigar, “go get ’em and toss them off the roof there too. And of course we own the police in this town anyhow.”

The committee nodded thoughtfully at that.

Jist turned to run but the big men grabbed him. He was not a big man himself, and he was not strong, and they had no difficulty dragging him out.

When they’d gone, Frinks stuck the cigar in his mouth.

Botoxed Woman frowned. “You’re not going to light that in here are you?”

“No, no, wouldn’t do that, hon,” he said. “Why that’d be polluting the air!”

He got the laugh, all around, that he wanted.


THE PRESS IS PRETTY MUCH FUCKED BY THE INTERNET

The press is one of the many aspects of contemporary human life that was severely damaged by the internet. The current emphasis is on internet news, and it’s subjected to less scrutiny now. Because news gets out so fast thanks to the web, wire services are almost meaningless and the result is a general hastiness and sensationalism and commercialism of internet news sites, even the “legit” ones, the whole culture of internet short sightedness and haste and short attention span has weakened news gathering. There was this woman who claimed to have saved a bunch of young Afghan women from the Taliban, and she was touting her great accomplishment on Today.com and New York Post.com and CNN and Wall Street Journal.com and tv cable news. And they didn’t check her out. It turned out she made up 99% of it. So now they’re all, uh, That story about that woman was not true,s orry…because no one did due journalistic diligence…They’re also obviously selling puff pieces about products, sometimes in special sections with euphemistic titles meaning someone paid them to write an article or “review” but sometimes not, sometimes it’s right there in the news stream, as in a recent Washington Post puff piece endorsing, and linking to, a company selling fruity soda-pop like alcoholic drinks to college age kids…

“Virtually all emperor penguin colonies doomed for extinction by 2100 as climate change looms, study finds”

My blog title is a headline from another Washington Post article. We’re destroying one species after another. In Alternet we learn: A report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that overall population sizes of “mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish” have dropped by 68 percent since 1970, indicating that the planet “is being destroyed by us at a rate unprecedented in history.” .. The study also says, “Radical changes in ecosystem functioning, in turn, may have severe implications on ecosystem services for humanity, such as food provision, disease resistance or economic benefits…Thus, if we continue to lose species at the fast pace our analysis suggests, we will continue to impair ecosystem services to our own disadvantage.”

It was a beautiful world abounding with marvelous, delightful, magnificent, fascinating animal species. 68% already gone. Thanks to our blind, selfish narcissism. Thanks to greed. Thanks to not caring about the big picture. Thanks to just not caring.

Anyone who loves nature is more than feeling merely threatened–they’re feeling like their best friends are being mass-murdered.

The species that deserves to go extinct, Homo Sapiens, probably won’t. Maybe HG Wells was not so far off, envisioning the Morlocks. Some version of us will go on.

We don’t deserve it.

I’m just about ready to tell my sons the truth about what we’ve done to the world.

Scientists have long been worried about what many call “the methane bomb” — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost. But now a study by three geologists says that a heat wave in 2020 has revealed a surge in methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from a different source: thawing rock formations in the Arctic permafrost.‘ – The Washington Post

My sons are adults but still relatively young. They are going to lean toward denial because anything else is unbearable. But I’m going to have to tell them the truth, if they’re willing to hear it:

“The world is about to change for the worse. The steady incursion of climate change’s extreme weather is about to increase exponentially. We had a window to stop the fall of these dominoes but we can’t do it now, it’s too late. It won’t be the end of humanity but it’ll be the end of civilization as we know it. Our food supplies are going to truncate down to very, very small amounts. Unbelievable famines are coming to places that never had them before. Most of our farming land will turn to dustbowls in short order. There will be no fish in the sea, only in fish farms. Most wild animals are going to go away. Your chances of survival are going to be  much slimmer too. It used to be your chances of survival to sixty years old, say, were pretty good. Now, not so good. I’d say you have a twenty per cent chance of living that long. In fact, if you don’t deal with the coming catastrophe in a pro-active way, your chances of living forty are very slim…So if you want to survive, you have to make a plan. You have to try to work out what parts of the world are going to be safest, and find a way to get there; and you have to figure out how to survive there. I’m sorry. This is the fault of the generations that came before yours, including mine.”

Borrowed from the Poetry Foundation, this poem by Maggie Smith (not the actress) that says it all for me
Good Bones By Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

STUFF THAT IS BUGGING ME, July 16

Too many people who adopted pets during the pandemic are returning them, now that they think (mistakenly) the pandemic is over. They’ve been returning these dogs and cats; or they take them to the pound. They wanted the pets to keep them company, to give them something to focus on–often, basically, as playthings. And it’s creating a sudden huge overload of dogs and cats suddenly being returned to these rescue agencies, or just dumped on others. Some of these heartless creeps are probably just abandoning the dogs somewhere, on the sidewalk many miles from home.

These are dogs and cats who have bonded with their adopters–because that’s the canine and feline way–and now they’re being thrown away like old, boring toys. Like video games you don’t want to play anymore. And anyway, shockingly, these animal “toys” had to poop and someone had to clean up after them and they required food and veterinary attention. And…just attention. But the selfish non-empathetic shit-heads who abandon the animals they’d pretended to adopt, have to get back to their lives of narcissism. Animals feel emotional pain. They have minds and feelings. They develop attachments. They have loyalty–even if you don’t.

These people remind me of those who got dogs and cats as accessories, even before the pandemic–often they’re over-inbred dogs who Just Look Cool, like French Bull Dogs. Never mind that they’re more likely to die young from cancer if they’re inbred. OR “purebred,” which is just another way to say inbred, usually.

I’m reminded especially of people who get “toy” dogs, a real category, or “teacup” dogs. Dogs bred to be toys, really. Rife with health problems. Miserable, frightened, trembling creatures. We should not be breeding pets to be toys, to be playthings alone. They should be companions. But the narcissists who adopt don’t understand that. They support vile, in-breeding puppy mills. They got their dogs or cats as part of a fad. Then they abandon them. Maybe, the way some do with goldfish, they flush the teacup pets they don’t like down the toilet…