Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

Category: Musings of Life

Chinese Coffee Mugs

Chinese Coffee Mugs

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

Yet how complex it truly is

 

I know nothing of its beginnings

 

How it was made

How it can be so smooth

Or how it got so white

 

And those beautiful designs placed on that same smooth white surface

What are all those colors made of

What gives them their majestic brilliance

 

What’s the substance of any of it and where did it come from anyway

 

It was simply placed in my hands

I never really have much choice

 

Only know that I’ve used it and many others like it

Never anything more…and never anything less

 

Nothing less complicated than a coffee mug

If I can’t understand that…well how can I possibly know the world

 

Someone whispers in my ear –

 

It was Made in China

 

Oh well that’s a start I say

What do we know about China and her people I ask

 

Someone whispers They drink a lot of tea

 

Oh I say I think somehow I knew that

 

Yes but they’re steadily switching over to coffee

 

Really I gasp and how do we know that

 

Because they’re making a lot of these mugs

 

Hmm I say tasting my coffee

Nothing’s as simple as all that I suppose

 

In the end the Chinese may turn out to be the coffee baron’s biggest customer

 

Amazing I say truly astounding

I continue to sip my coffee in my Chinese mug

 

Someone whispers I believe the stool you’re sitting on is Made in China too

All of a sudden I’m nervous and it’s not just the caffeine

 

Nothing more complicated than the Chinese I say

Feeling as though the only one astonished in the room is myself

 

Why do I know nothing of their beginnings

Or how they got so white

Or what gives them their majestic brilliance

 

Or how we became so Oriental in the first place

 

The stamp is on the bottom the voice whispers again

 

Hmm I say turning the smooth white mug upside down

The coffee spills all over the table but the stamp is indeed clearly visible

 

The voice chuckles as someone tosses me a rag

I make a grab for it but a yellow finger is pointing at a little snippet of white sewn to one corner

 

I choose not to read it

 

When we turn everything upside down there we’ll find the Chinese

 

I stare at the coffee mug and those colors still so vibrant

 

The voice whispers one last time

 

The coffee is also Chinese

 

(© 2005 All Rights Reserved)

A Case of Mistaken Identity

If I can think of this blog as a literary extension of myself and my thoughts, I can safely say that this little dot on the web is about to lose even more of what was supposed to be its foundational purpose,  because I am in the process of losing my own. I confessed some time ago that I had pulled back heavily from the all-consuming Big CC (Climate Change) for reasons that have become even more clear to me in the time that has passed since. To be honest, as I said somewhat unabashedly then, and even more so now, Humanity’s goose is most likely cooked, and there may be very little we can do about it.

(But it does make one wonder why the push to get us off this planet and over to Mars has taken on such an unrealistic sense of urgency, doesn’t it? And best of luck to all you misguided adventurers who are so willing to leave the only place I can think of that qualifies as Paradise for something that most assuredly qualifies as Hell on steroids. The place we are reaching out to is thoroughly incapable of supporting human life without some extremely serious and wholly unproven technologies; people, and probably many, will undoubtedly die in the effort).

I think for the vast majority of us, for psychological reasons that those who study such mental acrobatics have educated us about, Climate Change will forever remain little more than a distraction amongst the many others that occupy our everyday lives. The will to fix this monumental problem may be there, but the immediacy necessary to do so is not, nor will it be until things get even rougher, climatologically speaking, than they already are. By then, it will be even more “too late” than it already is.

The carbon we spewed into the atmosphere ten years back is only now manifesting itself fully on the applicable heat scale. What we spew into the sky this year won’t see itself manifested fully for another decade on. Our past sins catch up to us at some point in the future. It’s like looking through the lens of time in some surreal fashion, like a mental trick being played on us by Nature.

And anyway, even if the will and the immediacy were in place, we are too far down a road that allows no room for u-turns. If someone were to turn off the power tomorrow, utterly shutting down the heat engine we call civilization, in a cruel and twisted chain of ironic events that would ensue, we would bring about our demise even quicker than if we just continued on the same capitalistic bender we’ve been pursuing for centuries now. To put it bluntly, we are in a predicament, and, as Guy McPherson would tell us, predicaments don’t have solutions. Whatever resolve we might have for fixing things now, we can possibly categorize all of it as a well-intentioned lost cause.

In the meantime, in light of the news that should thoroughly debilitate the mind and the soul, I’m doing just fine, and I hope you are, too. After all, thinking of one’s own mortality is something that we’ve always been confronted with. To ponder that we all may have a bit less time in front of us than we otherwise thought we might can simply be a way of focusing one’s efforts, concentrating the enjoyment to be had in our individual and collective existences. I’m all for that.

What doesn’t make sense to me any longer, and brings no joy at any rate, is attempting to emphasize the consequences of our own careless actions where the planet is concerned (i.e. the effects of modern civilization on the blue orb we call home) and the solutions that might have been undertaken in order to reverse the course of this ship (my analogies are starting to grow stale, too). Because this proverbial ship is so intertwined with the element of water, in all its planetary manifestations, it was a foregone conclusion that I would cross paths with the dark underbelly of this beast, this thing that scrapes along, killing off the vitality and diversity that is so necessary for all things to thrive, wreaking havoc in all places, big and small, exposing everything in ways that are uncomfortable in the extreme, shedding light on things that prefer to skitter away into darkness.

What? Speak English, Gary. This dramatic gibberish isn’t making any sense at all, and you’re becoming quite annoying .  Sorry…I was thinking of that massive British ocean liner scraping along that coral reef a few months back, utterly destroying untold eco-systems, so fragile and irreplaceable, in the process (kiss the reefs goodbye as a whole, by the way…many experts say they are all but gone at this point, with next to nothing we can do to bring them back). I was thinking of the mass extinction taking place this very moment, with most of us nary blinking an eye, killing off diversity, obliterating vitality, as well as our own chances to thrive. I was thinking of ice sheets melting at unprecedented rates, and glaciers pulling back and back, and oceans warming and acidifying, and green stuff growing in Antarctica now. I was thinking of an atmosphere full of toxins and greenhouse gasses. I was thinking of the impenetrable mountain fortress in Norway that serves as a repository of the world’s seeds, recently compromised by, of all things, water, partially flooding the entryway that was supposed to be impervious to such elements (you’d think they would have planned for this possibility).

I was thinking of…well, anyway, guess that would all qualify as havoc being wreaked in all places. Hmm…maybe I wasn’t being so dramatic, after all.

So now that the blog is tired of proselytizing, and really just kind of weary of itself, in general, it’s decided to just have fun again. This time, it’s a bit of a free-for-all, I’m afraid, with no defined purpose, no set course of writing action. No agenda. No plan.

We can enjoy the experience of being slowly shoved toward the nearest exit door, letting go so that we won’t be dragged. I hope that I will simply shuffle stage left with the herd that I’m a part of, chewing my cud peacefully, doodling with my pen, writing with my keyboard, thinking about paths not taken with my head, and smiling all the while. If anyone is stuck on that question “Why me?” ask instead, “Why not me?” I do all the time, and it feels quite right to do so.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

 

Disconnected

This post is going to ramble a bit because I’m banging it out quick; because I’m not sure what I want to say; and mostly because I have mixed feelings about a whole lot of what I’m going to write about. I suppose it’s nothing more than the rantings of a concerned citizen living life in 21st-century America. All good reasons for a conscientious writer not to post…so here we go.

Today, my friend and I went to some outlet stores in a town just to the west of where I live in Northwest Florida. To put it mildly, I’m not in the same demographic as the residents there, nor probably as most of the tourists who arrive there from far and wide with thick wallets and high expectations of the merchandise that spills from every nook and cranny (I heard one saleslady say she was heading ‘off site’ to go get more stuff and she’d be right back…I imagine there was a large van with the brand name emblazoned on the side somehow involved). As for my friend and I, we were mostly just window-shopping.

The ‘end-of-season’ discounts were steep. In most stores, it was doubly delightful. As soon as we walked through the doors of…well let’s just say virtually every single going concern on the block…a salesperson sporting one of numerous levels of ‘chipper / dapper’ that we would encounter throughout the day would accost us upon our breach of the threshold, informing us that, on top of the 50% store-wide discount, we could also shave off an additional 30, sometimes 40% on top of that. I know, right? OMG! Deer in the headlights disbelief! Happy dance, etc. etc. I was obligated to think ‘Wow!’ as would any enthusiastic consumer looking for great deals. One lady sort of waited for the appropriate facial response to wash over me. I left her unfulfilled.

Such a reaction being absent in my middle-aged brain probably makes me about as un-hip, out-of-step, and downright un-American as I can get in the average consumer’s eyes. In other words—boring. I know this about myself and I accept it. I won’t apologize because it’s not something I do consciously. I don’t go out of my way to be ‘unamazed.’ It’s probably just a trait that came with my DNA, since I’ve sort of been this same apathetic personality when it comes to shopping all my life. I’m just not into it, and I think that makes me the odd man out. Damn.

Discounts, specials, coupons, BOGOs. Big yawn. I don’t think I’m totally alone in my boredom with the whole established institution of constant consumerism, but I do believe I’m in the vast minority. America loves to shop. The world loves to shop. If we ever find aliens, I’ll put good money down that the Universe in its entirety will be full of shoppers, too. Just imagine the untapped markets!

Here’s an interesting psychological study: venture to an outlet mall (as my friend and I did) full of perhaps, say, two hundred shop occupancy, sporting every popular brand name known to humankind. Don’t take the time to buy much of anything. Just breeze in and out of the front doors, allotting only enough time in each establishment to get a sense of the goods, the ambience, the sales staff, the experience being offered. After only ten shops or so, you realize rather quickly that it’s all the same stuff. No really, I’m serious…it’s all the same stuff. That’s it. The only discernible difference is a name. A brand. A person or a corporation who has poured millions of marketing dollars into the idea that, if you don’t own what they’re selling, how can you possibly hope to be one of the in-crowd.

But you still have 180 more experiences to go. Oh my…the exhaustion looming can overwhelm even the most ambitious. If you’re going to be cool, you have to pay a heavy price…figuratively…literally. (At least the husband now has his games and internet on his little smart cricket to pass the time while he parks his bottom on the bench just outside the entrance of the place where his significant other is spending the treasures he so diligently amassed for just such a purpose).

As a voluntary tour guide, I would offer the following: the music is just loud noise with a drumbeat and some man or woman moaning and groaning on and on about sensuality writ small. Uninspired, cookie cutter stuff that makes the mob bob its head without a care as to what genuine musical genius really sounds like. The web allows someone, anyone, who can carry a note and remember a lyric to become instant g’zillionaires. Bling bling. Too many celebrities now. If everyone’s a celebrity, no one’s a celebrity…I guess.

Each store’s staff is comprised of hipsters trying their hardest to keep up with the latest fads in eyewear, footwear, apparel, make-up, hair style and attitude. The merchandise–deeply discounted as already mentioned, only because it’s time for the big seasonal change over–just bursting with newness, freshness, youthfulness, exuberance, color, razzle dazzle. Talking heads plying their wares to the salivating masses. Happy Holidays! Everything is simply beyond incredible.

Except that it’s not. It’s all making the same rounds on the same carousel of fashion for the tenth time, the forty-seventh time, the hundred and fifteenth time. This is why I use the word Disconnected as the title of this post. I hope you understand why, because I can’t get too pedantic here. It’s just not trendy to do so.

On the drive over, my friend and I saw a whole lot of brand new construction. That big highway project I’ve mentioned in other posts was hot at it today. Massive yellow machinery buzzing about hither and yon. Big high rise condominiums thrusting ever skyward up and down the beach where one would imagine that such mammoth buildings simply would not, could not, and should not be squeezed in beside already impositioned neighbors struggling to maintain their fair share of elbow room. Yet, when you see it happening, right before your very eyes, how can you deny what you would otherwise find absolutely unfeasible from an available space perspective? New homes, new businesses, everything new. ‘What gives?’ I kept asking myself in the privacy of my own mind. We don’t seem to be lacking for a solitary thing.

At the same time, I also explained out loud to my friend (she isn’t a local) how everything she saw all around her had happened in the blink of a city planner’s eye, as if one morning we had all woken up and were now living in a brand new super-sized community, with nothing to suggest that things might slow down even just a little for the foreseeable future. Welcome to the eight lane expansion.

So, there’s my central theme. Everything is growing, everyone is spending, everything is humming along as it always has since the Industrial Revolution began. If it’s happening here in my hometown, why would I believe anything other than the idea that the whole world needs to expand in the same fashion if we are to support 7 billion of us in high style (well, maybe not everywhere in high style). What’s the problem, right? Maybe there isn’t one some would say. This is growth, this is jobs, this is economic success.

We are supposed to be cutting our carbon emissions drastically, according to the 2015 Paris Agreement, some would say even to the extent that we would essentially have to experience negative growth in order to really know that we’re going to hit our projected targets if the species is going to make it to the 22nd century. Do you believe this will happen? It’s a heavy question to pose, with happy, smiling faces all around as part of the answer probably not in the cards.

So we watched the whole world queueing up at the registers yesterday with the same ecstatic exuberance I have witnessed since the time I was a mere child. Everyone was jibber-jabbering on their smart phones while paying the nice and helpful people with their hard-earned money so they could hustle home (maybe home was across one of the big oceans) their bags and boxes full of magical wonder in tow. Made In China plastic synthetic crap that would surely bring them the hopes and joys and life contentment they always knew it would—until next ‘End of Season’ enticements began to lure everyone back to the fold and what they possessed now would all of the sudden feel so…last year.

As an aside, I want to share with you an amusing anecdote. In one of the stores we visited, where Coach handbags were touted as the most chic thing a woman can possess in her lifetime, it was not uncommon to see normal prices ranging in the $250-400 range.  On the way home, we stopped by a Goodwill store, just on the outskirts of the same town where people live in massive beach homes and drive the Lexus and Mercedes Benz brands. The same Coach bag (out of season, of course, but still looking quite the same as its cousin hanging off the rack in the posh place with the better lighting) was going for $20. My my my…how we are disconnected.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

We, the Intertwined

I’m thinking about Climate Change pretty much all the time now. “Oh, how tragic…” you say, “…he must be miserable with worry. Poor thing.” Ha, well I doubt that’s what you’d really say, but it would be very far from the truth, nevertheless (and if you are stopping by my blog frequently, maybe you need to check your own compulsions, as well…while you keep stopping by, of course).

No, I think about the big CC so much because it’s like I’ve returned to college and every course I’m taking is full of useful information that I can actually employ in my everyday life. I’m experiencing an addiction, but in a good way.

Lifelong Learning has always been a big draw for me, and this is the mother lode. I discover so many new and interesting things each day (not all of them encouraging, by any stretch), each one inspiring me to look further, peer deeper, ponder more and wonder. I’d like to think that this is what education could feel like for every kid in school. Maybe we should suggest a Climate Change curriculum. The kids’ minds would travel all around the world and then some, dipping into every nook and cranny imaginable. It would be so useful in countless numbers of ways, and the benefits would just roll on and on. (It would also be so bloated with political angst that it would never get off the ground).

Today, while I was walking around the parking lot where I work (I get my steps in whenever, and wherever), this is how my mind demonstrated to its owner that something has thrown the CC switch up there): I registered the notable differences in temperature based on relatively small differences in my surroundings (brain started thinking about feedback loops). Where I passed in the shade, I felt comfortable and refreshed, whereas exposure to the sun made me yearn for that shade again (brain started remembering an article about heat thresholds and the human body and how some places on the planet are bumping up against those thresholds in the summer). Where I was around vegetation, there was a cool freshness all about, whereas the parts where I was on the open blacktop made me yearn for both the shade and the vegetation (brain began thinking about how the plants transpire, taking in what we are using to slowly kill off our chances for continued habitation on the planet, breathing out what we need for our very next breath).

Given what I know now about Climate Change and how so many factors affect so many others, what I was most impressed by was the heat radiating off the wall of the building I would pass close to each time I rounded one particular corner. The color of the building isn’t particularly dark, so I decided that the stucco was partly to blame, as well. The warmth was fairly intense, with the accumulated heat from hours in direct sunlight blasting me strongly enough to remind me of mid-July temperatures. That threw open the gate for all kinds of wandering about in the gray matter.

I won’t even say that I made that many direct connections to the big picture based on what I experienced on a very local level. Just curiosities, musings, questions that I didn’t expect to answer but was still happy to pose, anyway. What I realized is that a genuine shift in the way I perceive everything around me now is occurring. What I think about most persistently from day to day and week to week, is how we are so intricately intertwined with what is happening on our planet. We’re not above it or beyond it just because we live in a house that feels very insulated from what is happening “out there.” I see a tree and I think of the rainforest. I look out at the water now and realize how much trouble the ocean’s corals are in. I see the highway being widened (not metaphorically, but literally, a project that’s been going on where I live for close to a decade I imagine) and I think of the massive amounts of carbon being put into the air to make that all happen…

  • Hundreds of piles of discarded trees, sometimes burning for days on end
  • Hundreds of big machines digging and leveling, usually for years on end if the new stretch of blacktop or concrete is substantial (this one is).
  • Those miles and miles of fresh asphalt, made from barrels and barrels of oil extracted from the ground, all so carefully prepared so that we can burn…
  • Millions and millions of barrels more as we roll blissfully down the highway of life. Sounds downright poetic were it not so inextricably symptomatic of this blog’s very purpose.

(Here’s a statistic from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to chew on…in 2015, the U.S. all by itself burned a whopping 9.16 million barrels of gasoline each day).

I used to think of a new highway as representing progress, jobs, infrastructure, stability, strength. Still do, I suppose, and I sure don’t begrudge the working man or woman their livelihoods. We all have to eat. I’m only saying that along with the economic side of the equation, I now see the toll we’re going to be asked to pay from here on out.

No, seriously, I’m not miserable, so please don’t perceive me in that light. I’m intrigued. I’m amazed. I’m stunned. Sometimes I’m amused by the absurdity of it all. But I’m not miserable. That is a mantle for somebody else to take on. For me, I’m one of the sinners, but trying to be a little less so every day. As a sinner, however, as a part of the problem, I’m asking myself now how I can become a bigger part of the solution, as well.

In the meantime, I can say without hesitation that, moving forward, I’m a changed person, now that I know what I do about the big CC. This is even bigger than the paradigm shift I went through when I read Rifkin’s Entropy nearly a quarter century ago. We’ll talk about that in the not so distant future, since it all neatly ties in, and almost too well.

Sincere Thanks for stopping by!

G2

Hope is the feeling that what is desired is possible of attainment. This book is about hope: the hope that comes from shattering false illusions and replacing them with new truths.

To a civilization nurtured on the modernist notion of a future without physical constraints and a world without material boundaries, the truths of the Entropy Law will at first appear sobering, even somber. That is because this law defines the ultimate physical boundaries within which we are constrained to act.

If we continue to ignore the truth of the Entropy Law and its role in defining the broad context in which our physical world unfolds, then we shall do so at the risk of our own extinction.”

Jeremy Rifkin (Entropy) – Sounding the alarm nearly 40 years ago.

A Spirited Challenge

I took a few days off from writing, only to come back and wonder how I’ll ever catch up. There are too many fascinating topics living under strange and massive umbrellas with the words Climate Change sewn ironically along their edges. More scrabble to take cover there all the time. So, I suppose it’s just me facing the challenge of organizing areas of interest, and challenging you to do nothing more but to read and think…think and read. I’ll promise to stay interesting if you’ll promise to stay interested.

I’ve read a lot of opinion regarding the Big CC, and it really runs across the entire spectrum, ranging from those who aren’t going to change their entrenched views, come Hell or High Water, to those who think the sky is falling tomorrow and there’s really nothing left to do at this point but to wallow in despair, then die. Both these personality archetypes leave me a little sad, and concerned.

I don’t fall into either camp, and I’ll bet you don’t either. I’m not stubborn enough to think that 97% of all scientists could possibly be wrong with the connection they’ve established between CC and human activities as the major contributor behind it. But I’m also never going to be convinced that there is no hope to be had. Maybe we are in for some rough waters, but perhaps with the growing change in people’s perceptions about the planet and our place on it and in it, things will ultimately work out for the best. I’m not being a Pollyanna, but I also refuse to be a Chicken Little.

The challenge I would pose to anyone, including myself, is to remain open-minded, to use your God-given faculties of mind, to weigh the hype against the facts, the politics against the logic, the possible against the probable. There is so much good information out there to be had, but you have to do a little digging, at times, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

If you’re like me, you don’t even know how you wound up so interested in all this Climate Change stuff, but here we are, and it’s not so bad. It’s an endless adventure, a journey that has no end, a bottomless treasure chest full of facts and figures and people and places. I’m learning so much, and having a great time doing it. I couldn’t think of a more intriguing topic to stimulate my gray brain if I tried.

Now what can I tell you about next?

G2

 

Time Capsules

So, I was going through my old Dell desktop computer the other day. I’m lookin’ at the loveable thing right now and just have to snicker. Gigantor was purchased around 2003, as I remember, and is still running faithfully and flawlessly on XP. I love this thing for its sturdiness. Oh the bulk, the mass, the sheer weight and substance. It’s heavy and imposing, claiming its own ridiculous amount of desk space without shame or hesitation. The tower, should I accidentally tip it over on myself, would probably crush me, shattering bones and bursting internal organs. Or leave a massive gaping wound where gravity hurled it down to the floor. I love that kind of heft. After holding the little puff ball “Smart” phone in my palm all day, or tapping on a laptop that’s about as substantial as a saltine cracker, it feels good to come home to really absurd amounts of hardware, outdated stuff that never connects to the outside world for security reasons, but works great as an uncomplaining word processor and graphics filter.

Anywho, as I was saying…I was going through my computer and, by sheer coincidence, came across numerous posts from a blog I half-heartedly tried my hand at close to a decade ago, and mostly just for my own personal enjoyment (weird?…maybe, unless, like me, you just love to write for the sheer joy of it all, an audience really a secondary consideration to the craft itself). I read through them, one by one, lovingly, nostalgically, and, while I liked what I saw, I also discovered within surprised moments that my interests and outlooks have changed pretty substantially, as, of course, they were bound to do. The years unwind, priorities change, and we tend to insist on focus more, becoming rather picky about what we let intrude into our precious remaining time (conversely, we might just let that little puff ball I mentioned rule our days, seamlessly surfing from one meaningless wave to the next).

Well, immediately the thought of reposting them here entered into my brain, and it was what I fully intended to do. Then a reality check set in, and I realized that the content of that blog is not the content of this one. Hence, my self-restraint has overruled my impulsiveness. As it turns out, you will not be able to see all of those submissions, after all…but you will still see some.

It is interesting to note that writing, more than any other means of expression I can think of, will reveal how we, evolving even on a daily basis, change so slightly, even though we cannot observe these changes without the luxury of time and remembrance. Just glance back over your shoulder and peer deeply into the photos and videos of yesteryear. My, how you’ve changed, right? I hope you’re going down the path you always hoped you might. But let’s not get too sappy–you’re all grown up now and should know how to drive your own life.

I will begin to post these walks down memory lane in the next few days. There aren’t too many of them, and their titles will all contain the words “Time Capsule.” Here’s hoping you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Thanks for stopping by!

G2

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