Flooded Planet

Exploring the World to the Very Last Drop

Page 3 of 7

The Last Extinction

I promised myself that I would make a point to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and I’m happy to say that I did. Coming off the final chapter, the perceptions I’m left with are mixed. I’m not  sure why I find myself unsatisfied. It’s rather like the anticipation one has upon entering a posh restaurant in hopes of that one great meal, then wondering why the bill is so high for what was actually served up.

I’m certainly not trained to present a critique of a truly remarkable book that was well received by the readership, written by someone who can run circles around my own pen with her little finger (that’s not supposed to make sense). It’s probably best to say that the book was unable to fulfill my expectations and leave it at that. It’s not the professional writer’s problem to figure out why the amateur reader feels let down. You can’t please all of us bookworms all the time.

I can say that I found mostly everything I thought I would within the voluminous pages; but the way in which the facts are arranged and presented are perhaps too sweeping for a nosy mind that only wants to know what’s in one or two garbage heaps at a time, not the whole landfill.  I can only focus on one or two aspects of the local environment at any given time. With Kolbert’s panoramas too grand and vast in number, and with no chance for me to really chew on any one aspect of Climate Change, I might rightfully count myself as among those who perhaps feel just a bit overwhelmed.

In short, it was too much too fast for me, and probably because I’m not a casual reader when it comes to the Big CC. Needing to know a lot about every little component of our current grand mess means that I might have done better with less historical fact. Kolbert provides volumes about an awful lot in a colorful fashion that suggests a story incessantly unfolding. To quench my thirst, I was being offered a drink from a fire hose, and really no way to turn the damned thing off. To learn about Natural History, I was being shown the Smithsonian, but only if I was willing to run through all the hallways without stopping, unable to study the intricate textures of any one exhibit slowly, carefully, earnestly.

This was an effort I dove into at first, then found myself paddling back to shallower waters, time and again. The book took me close to a month to get through. I’ve digested books twice as thick in half the time. Something was wrong…reading about a planet that’s being overrun by a homicidal maniac, i.e., me…well it gets somewhat tedious, no matter how good the writing.

By the time Kolbert was finished with me, I found myself having forgotten much of what she told me. Being whisked away to other places and times, and with numerous personalities also becoming part of any given narrative, I was hoping toward the closing chapters for the voyage to simply end. I wanted to catch an earlier flight home from my vacation destination. Eventually I finished the book, of course, and the conclusions I had to draw, inevitably, is that we have decisively entered truly terrible and frightening territory (having read plenty above and beyond Kolbert’s book, I can also safely conclude that we haven’t a clue as to where our ship is heading next).

The Sixth Extinction could almost have been written as a work of fiction, with prose that is beautiful and flowing, bringing the dire news that these homo sapien characters are bringing about so much awful consequence to their own home, they’re threatening to set ablaze the only house they have. The message is palatable, though still a bitter feast, and with a longing from the reader that Kolbert might bring just a bit more moral indignation to her pen.

But the dark news is delivered without any trace of judgment or outrage, as though to say that this is how things are, this is how we got here, and there’s no good reason for passing sentence on any person, place, or thing. There’s plenty of blame to go around, yes, just no equitable way to dole out the punishment, so why even try. I suppose I have to agree.

All I could do was breathe as I sat through the very disagreeable chapter in which she describes how humanity systematically burned and bludgeoned and brought to extinction the Great Auk, a bird that probably numbered in the millions before we learned how easy the feathered lumbering beast was to exploit. Somehow, all these years, the fact that this large predecessor of the modern day penguin coexisted side by side with us for centuries before we managed to completely drive it off the planet had thoroughly escaped my knowledge.

But there is a point to be made in this post other than the ones I’m stating about one book among countless others conveying in delicate language what can only be characterized as devastating to the nth degree. Some say our goose might very well be cooked already (Guy McPherson certainly thinks so, and he’s got a pretty large and well-informed brain, too). The point to be made is that I don’t find purpose in what I’m doing on this blog, anymore. My own approach must now change. I’m recently married, I’m in between homes, I’m commuting too many miles and eating up too much of the precious time I have left to me doing things I truly don’t care to do any longer.

So, the blog is changing, and this will be self-evident as the next posts unfold. In the meantime, I thank Kolbert for the gift of enlightenment with regard to an event of which I think most of the general populace is entirely unaware—the first, and last, mass extinction event we’ll ever witness as a species is happening right now under our very noses, with most of us blind to both the destruction, and the cause—us.

“Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy. The Sixth Extinction will continue to determine the course of life long after everything people have written and painted and built has been ground into dust and giant rats have—or have not—inherited the earth.”

Elizabeth Kolbert

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Views on Zoos

I went to the local zoo with my daughter and some family members a few days ago. It’s the same place we’ve been frequenting for years, and not much changes from one visit to the next, or so it seems to my rather distracted eye. I think I may be as guilty as the next person in not giving the zoo a second thought until, for whatever reason, a kid related activity, like a birthday party, results in thoughts of going to look at animals in enclosures while eating pizza and cake and drinking soda. Maybe that’s why the place doesn’t seem to change much. Lack of dollars results in lack of change. Lions eat a lot of raw meat.

On this particular visit, I admit that I did see a bunch of new lumber coming in, many areas that were roped off for expansion projects, and a man, promising big changes coming soon, was even part of the backdrop. He seemed excited, and I wanted to be excited too. But our particular zoo is hemmed in solidly on all four sides, with little room for any kind of growth that would feel like real change. For instance, on the backside, there is an RV park, with units backed in a foot and a half from the pen where they keep two young giraffes. My brother-in-law mused as to whether the campers had to pay extra for those spots. They could literally crawl up on top of their rigs and have a bird’s eye view of their necky neighbors for free.

Amusing, I suppose, but a little sad at the same time. Those giraffes are never going to know what it’s like to run at breakneck speed across a savannah. Two or three long strides here and it would be time to hit the brakes. That’s why I have mixed views on zoos. They may be the only places my dear daughter may ever get a chance to see some of these animals. And because a zoo is, well…a zoo, some of it takes a bit of blind eye turning to avoid the bittersweet tragedy of it all. Like seeing the lone bear doing an eternal dance in his bare dirt space, back and forth, each paw placed habitually in the exact same worn away spot, maybe several hundred times a day if the pace I witnessed was any indication of his daily routine.

I suppose the most difficult part of a trip to the zoo is the sight of so many placards. Placed everywhere, and a part of virtually every animal display, they are dim and dismal reminders of how imperiled our natural world truly is. You won’t read anything anywhere that says “Plentiful and Thriving,” or “Abundant and Happily Multiplying,” or “Copious and Copulating Capriciously.” No no…not in the zoo. You will see, however, over and over again, words like “threatened,” “endangered,” or “on the verge of extinction.”

It angers me that my sweet daughter’s favorite big cat, the magnificent Cheetah, is down to just over 5000 animals in the wild. That’s nothing. That’s a few ticks away from extinction. This number should be alarming to all of Humanity. It’s heartbreaking. It’s pitiful. It’s unforgiveable. It saddens me beyond words. But it’s the truth, and I doubt those numbers are going to climb north. No, it’s been a steady race to the bottom for the last forty plus years.

The animals are shot by herdsmen. The cubs are sold as pets. The very prey they rely on is even diminished to such small numbers in some cases that the cat’s next meal is becoming more of a question all the time, as well. The pelts are sold for their beauty.

A pelt on a wall or a floor is more beautiful than the animal itself? Streaking across the landscape as the world’s fastest of the fast? How? How could the dry, desiccated, lifeless skin mean more to anyone than the beautiful thing stretching its lovely, lanky body in a full out sprint for dinner?

There was this moment, however, that makes me second guess any conclusions I might draw about my “local zoo,” right, wrong, or indifferent. The giraffes, a boy and a girl, three years old (according to the lettuce distribution lady), were coming in close for their midday snacks. The same lady said they were about fifteen feet tall and could grow several more beyond that. The girl, the one with the beautiful long eyelashes, the remarkably sweet face, the long purple tongue she could use to clean out her own nostrils (how endearing), cast a shadow above me to let me know she was waiting.

I held out her lettuce and she leaned down slowly, gently, carefully, gingerly taking the offering from my outstretched hand. I looked at her intently, feeling her amazing presence just inches away from me. I felt lucky, honored, touched. The moment was so special and I got a hitch in my throat. I’m feeling one now as I write, since I know how deep the trouble runs for giraffes in the wild too.

I wonder what it takes for a species to hang its head down in humility. No, not the hungry giraffe…us. We should all weep for what we are throwing away. An ashtray made from a gorilla’s hand, and the gorilla is soon lost forever. Rhino tusks snorted like cocaine at parties for the rich and elite, and now the rhino disappears into the past. A pelt of a gorgeous, one-in-a-million cat slung up on a wall, and then the Cheetah runs away into the dust, and the dust is gone forever.

I don’t think my lovely little daughter will ever hear the news that her Cheetahs are happy and thriving. Which of your child’s favorite wild animals are losing precious ground, too? I grieve for them all.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Silent Tipping Points

Another late and unfocused post, and I apologize for the rambling. The last few days have been a little rough with regard to new knowledge gained about various aspects of Climate Change. The big CC is shifty and wily, crafty and unpredictable. We already knew all that. But to what degree continues to open our eyes wider and wider. The news seems to be a constant reflection of that, and it seems to be coming in at a more brisk pace. I think the newly elected president may have something to do with these copious amounts of climate-related copy.

The information that particularly caught my attention over the last few days involved what the climatologists call tipping points, and how CC might just blow on past one, or two, or more without blatantly broadcasting the event in some fashion to those among the species incredibly interested in understanding what may have just happened. This, especially given the idea that the thing that just happened perhaps also just put us past yet one more “point of no return.”

One analogy that made me chuckle a bit was brought up by some big name professor type working at a university whose name I didn’t register. He made reference to the idea of trying to balance chairs on just two legs and how the tipping point, forward or backward, was razor thin. This reminded me of a pastime I indulged in frequently as a teenager in my mom’s own kitchen. I’d balance each chair around our big white table on just its two hind legs. I don’t know why I was always so impressed with myself whenever I accomplished this feat, but there was nobody else in my family who even attempted it, which made the visual aspect doubly pleasing in my mind.

The idea that I could grab the same chair, delicately, in the same exact place, using the same exact grip, the same finesse, the same muscles, the same everything (or so I would think), only to discover that there was only one combination…only one…of all those variables in tandem, that would make that darn chair balance itself beautifully on just two of its four legs. It might take 25 tries. It might take a hundred. But eventually the thing would respond, awarding me with a defiance of physics (or an affirmation of it, I would think). It was like me and that chair shared something fleeting and special between us, and I suppose it was, if only in the most trivial sort of way. It would stay in that same elegant pose as long as nobody stomped a foot, or came through the doorway too fast, or turned around too close. That’s all it would take to lose that moment that was only gained by trying again…and again, to make it just so.

I wonder if Mother Earth tried to make herself “just so” for us human creatures. And I also wonder if we’ve come through the doorway too fast. Before we happened onto the planet, the earth was in an elegant pose already, or at least I think we can safely assume so. She still is, although, to our eyes, some of the postures she strikes now are alarming, threatening to do us grave harm, and, if we personify her enough, we could almost conclude that she’s trying to shake herself free of us, her most annoying and disruptive little fleas. Our existence on this planet, after all, has been precarious from those very first days in the cave, and then beyond it.

Most of us have little scientific grounding to inform us of this most tenuous of situations, not to mention the fuel we have added to the fire with our ceaseless heat-inducing activities. Civilization is costly. We were supposed to maintain symbiosis. For a while now, we’ve only been parasitic.

We have convinced ourselves that we are somehow residing outside of, or above, or beyond, the natural world around us, as though what we do or don’t do has no real effect on the activities and on the biological activities that take place beyond the borders of our techno-cities.

Climatologists have a different take on this perspective, of course, warning us again and again about the dangers involved as we continue down the same reckless path we always have, believing that our oceans and our atmosphere are endless open sewers for all the entropy we care to dump into them. They are so convenient, one has to admit.

Country folk who have lived in the woods for generations use the back tree line to dispose of their household garbage. I worked at a garbage company many years ago. We were setting up county-wide disposal services for some very rural areas. It was the first time these folks were being told they would have to pay to get rid of their household garbage. They called our company by the hundreds, informing us customer service types in rather undignified language that we’d better not send a bill, because they weren’t going to pay. “…and don’t set no toter cart by my house, neither, ‘cause we didn’t ask for it, and we aint gonna use it.” And so it went. Some of them threatened bodily harm if the garbage man came around trying to dump their cart. More than a few actually took the provided cart and used it for personal use, like a repository for used antifreeze or motor oil.

Same mindset still abounds. Same types of scenarios play out thousands and thousands of times on the planet each day, on local, regional, and global scales. Somebody’s dumping something somewhere they’re not supposed to right this very minute. It’s quite likely they won’t get caught. But the planet notices. It always notices.

For these reasons, I don’t drink the water that comes from my well. Ground water isn’t safe. Neither is the water anywhere in the world without some type of filtration system imposed on it. And I can safely assume that, even though the FDA has deemed the food I eat as safe, there’s a whole helluva lot of stuff I’m ingesting that nobody’s going to monitor for me, nor the ill effects I’ve no doubt it has on my own little biome. We, the people, the businesses, the cities, the nations, the heat engine that sustains homo sapiens in this comfortable little bubble we call civilization have now racked up enough entropy that it’s having a severe impact on the very environment we depend on to keep us alive.

But it’s 2017, and it feels terribly similar to 2016, and 2015, and 2014. I think it’s pretty much just more of the same. We’re trying hard, just not hard enough. Look who we just elected into office. Look who he’s filling his cabinet with. Mama Earth must think we simply don’t care enough. That’s why she’s letting those tipping points slip on past, not telling a soul about them, especially not her fleas.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Nothing New Under the Sun

I caught wind today of Brazil’s actual and planned hydroelectric dam building frenzy involving the Amazon and her many tributaries. It’s a given, as I’ve come to learn rather quickly, that there’s never a consensus where reported quantities appearing in the media are concerned, be they numbers by the dozens, or counted in the thousands. As such, my posts continue to take on an air of increasing generalities while still whittling down any particular message I want to convey to just the bare bones. Nothing is based on numbers. Everything is based on common sense. This one is about the natives getting screwed…again.

Whether it’s a few enormous dams getting put in the spotlight, or a bunch of the smaller “run of the river” variety, as they’re called, feeding into the bigger mama dams, we can probably peer into our crystal balls, individually, or collectively, and arrive at outcomes that differ little from one another, some tweaking of actual numbers, either up or down, essentially the only difference. In other words, we’ll inevitably get where the narrative is going to take us, whether we are dealing with deforestation in a dozen small instances, or the same on a massive scale in two or three spots. Who cares, really, if the result is essentially the same? Same old carbon getting dumped up in the atmosphere, and really nothing new under the sun.

Floating Planet

The country’s tribes are getting uprooted and displaced again. Resettled? What a term. “We’re kicking you off your land and out of your homes, but here’s a crappy new place we hope might make you feel better.” It’s that same old dance that History never gets tired of repeating. We did it to our own Native Americans, so we’re familiar with the games rules, since there really aren’t any. Government and business interests come in and take what they think is theirs to need and want, with the displaced receiving a pittance compared to what they are really owed. Like it or lump it…it’s all the same to us.

Here’s how the thing plays out: the tribal elders who make their homes alongside numerous Brazilian rivers are raising a ruckus, for the little good it will do (although I’m certainly not suggesting they shouldn’t, and I sure as hell would, too). Litigation ensues (at least they have that option now…once upon a time the results of Protest might end in spilled blood and funeral pyres, and such outcomes still happen often enough, as well). Offers and counteroffers are made. Appeals, and appeals of the appeals, take place. Some watered down environmental impact statements. Things get bogged down, then move forward, then slog along at a sloth’s pace, etc. All the while, we’re pretty assured in knowing what the outcome is going to be, whether anyone officially acknowledges it or not. It’s just a waiting game, motivated to move along as quickly as possible by nothing more exotic than Greed.

The smaller, weaker, more technologically challenged, less well-financed party is going to lose…i.e., the simple, humble, pure of heart tribespeople. You can bet good money on it. They have always lost (at least on a global scale, if not always a local one), and they always will. He with the deepest pockets or the biggest guns always wins. That’s just the way it goes.

Without citing examples of this same tired scenario played out endlessly over the span of time, we already know how things will develop—are developing—down in Brazil. Dams will be built. Dams are being built everywhere around the world. Why should Brazil be any different? We aren’t building dams domestically much anymore because we’ve come to learn that the stakes involved are way too high. Yet, for all that the lessons learned are worth, many say the hydro-electric dam equates to clean energy, even though it’s been proven quite extensively that a dam is anything but. No, there is plenty of filth surrounding it, environmentally, politically, and otherwise.

The land is heavily impacted, along with the people who have made their livings on and around the waters for generations, along with the wildlife whose habitat will now be something largely unrecognizable to them. Everyone will be starting over somewhere else. In the meantime, the additions of carbon and heat to the atmosphere as a result of deforestation, the flooding of other forests by the impacted waters that will result, the ecological balances that will be thrown entirely off the rails, none of this matter in the end, because it’s that damn dam that matters most, isn’t it? Groundwater contamination? Who cares. The power supplier gets paid. The water supplier who ships it in from somewhere else now gets paid. The job supplier for the influx of vast migrant populations into every country with waterways that must be bridged, blocked and bulldozed gets paid. The tribespeople get screwed. Nothing new under the sun.

Eighteen and a half billion U.S. dollars to build a single dam. To ensure “energy security.” Who here has lost their ever-loving minds? People step down or are forced out over political pressure to get the dam’s approval pushed through. The idea of the possible “extinction of hundreds of species” is pushed aside by aggressive business interests. The cultural heart of the forest and the country plays second fiddle to the parties that drive what we are still convinced is progress. Fossil fuels are to be avoided like the plague we are told, and we shouldn’t dispute the truth of that statement, but to think that shifting to the mass production of hundreds and hundreds of dams around the world as the viable alternative is all but insane. Reading the statistics regarding methane emissions that will result from the Belo Monte dam alone boggles the mind. Remember the potency of methane as a greenhouse gas? It’s bad…very, very bad. Did I say somewhere else that We Probably Aint Gonna Fix It? I stand by that statement with ease.

As an aside…Larsen C will probably be calving off any week now. An iceberg some 2000 square miles in size! I can’t even fathom it. What piece of Antarctica falls off next is anybody’s guess, but I’m pretty sure things aren’t going to reverse themselves any time soon, so stay tuned. Climate Change is the new spectator sport, and it’s about as tragic of a pastime as I can think of.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

We Probably Can’t Fix It

Falling Electricity

Clueless Farmers

When I walk out the front door of my workplace, I am greeted, both to the left and the right, with fresh-growing edibles being nurtured by a small enclave of clueless farmers. This small tightly knit group of numbskulls is comprised of staff members who apparently had the bright idea last spring to start gardening right at the entryway to the business. They trucked in railroad timbers and lots of good soil, then went to work creating the large square spaces that would be necessary to pull off such an uninformed stunt.

A little bit of sporadic watering, some blazing good Florida sunshine, and next thing we knew, the craziest thing was happening: with what seemed like very little effort or experience on the part of anyone involved in the effort, everything began growing like gangbusters, bursting forth in what seemed like only a week or two. Peppers and tomatoes, and several other things I can’t quite remember, all began providing produce on a scale that was a bit unexpected. We couldn’t give the stuff away (actually, that’s all we did, there just weren’t many takers, since most of my coworkers, the majority younger than myself, knew nothing about stuff that doesn’t start out in life as something in a package arranged prettily on a shelf.

The half-baked greenery looked absolutely fabulous, adding color and a wild, untamed element to an otherwise rather non-descript building. We decided to keep up our good work. Now, we have our winter garden well underway and it’s time to start harvesting again. The comical part of this story is that, nobody quite seems to know what we’re actually growing. Not to say that we don’t have a fairly good idea, just that we’re not entirely sure. Something got lost in translation.

I should say that by ‘we,’ I actually mean ‘them,’ since I’ve had no part in this venture, whatsoever, other than eating what gets grown ‘out there.’ The main characters, however, are worth taking a look at. For instance, one of the jokers in this comedy of errors is a wonderful young man who doesn’t know a thing about gardening. I never know what answers he’s going to offer regarding my questions and his green plot, and I can probably classify him as an ‘unreliable source of growing information.’ In no fashion does he fit the farmer M.O., and it’s quite interesting to note that he has no intentions of eating any of the vegetables, himself.

“I’d rather sell it all at a roadside stand,” he said, “so I can go get some greasy fast food.” He wasn’t kidding. Still, I watched him on several occasions during the hot summer months, diligently working ‘midst the jungle-like growth, coming away with handfuls of peppers and tomatoes that would find their way to the community dining area in the kitchen. Since he did not partake, his labor was truly selfless. It was kind of adorable.

I pointed to one of the plants that was really taking off and asked him what it was (I really didn’t know). He said it was a Reuben. Again, he wasn’t kidding. I repeated his answer back to him, squinting hard as I did so, and then he scratched his scraggly head (I envy his mop greatly), no longer quite certain. I offered that I thought a Reuben was a sandwich and he affirmed that he thought so, too. Then I asked if maybe he had meant Rhubarb. He was delighted in the idea that I had pronounced correctly what he had intended to say. The conversation continued in that vein for a while, with less clarity, not more, the result. It wasn’t Baby Boomer vs Millenial miscommunication. It was two humans conversing about a topic in which neither had much expertise.

Another member of the enclave was a mother hen type, and she was a reliable old hand when it came to gardening wisdom. She maintained that no rhubarb had been planted in our garden. A third member, a guy who wears his hair very long and reminds me of John Lennon a little bit, says he couldn’t remember if there had been any rhubarb planted or not. The reason the question had come up in the first place is because I had been staring at something that looked very much like the plant my grandpa used to grow when I was kid, and grandma would then use it to make rhubarb pie. Turns out the thing living in our garden was possibly Swiss chard (I think I have that right).

“The stalks are poisonous, right?” someone inquired. Somebody else, another staffer who had put herself in charge of watering duties during her afternoon smoke breaks, said she thought it was the leaves and not the stalks. Nobody was 100 percent on this, so the Unreliable Source Googled it and, although we determined which part of rhubarb would kill us, we still weren’t certain what was growing in the garden, either willing to commit a crime, or trying desperately to clear itself of any guilt by association.

There was another plant that was also being left unidentified, and much speculation as to its heritage was also put out there by these certifiable amateurs. They hadn’t understood the importance of placing those little plastic mini-stakes next to the efforts of one’s fruit. “I think it’s a turnip,” I said, convinced that I must be right simply because of the resemblance of the thing to what I hadn’t eaten many times before. It was growing right next to what most of us thought was probably cabbage, or broccoli. Smoking Girl thought the leaves were the wrong color. “The blue leaves are the kale,” the Unreliable Source said.

We ventured back inside to talk to yet another elder (I was the same age, just without the same wisdom). She trekked out to the South Forty (about twenty steps from her desk, in truth) and informed us all that she believed it to be a Rutabaga. I hadn’t heard that word in years, and none of us were sure if the leaves could be cooked down and eaten in the same way as a turnip. Again we conferred with the Google Oracle, who whispered knowingly through the cyber ether that indeed the leaves were delicious. I was exhausted.

What I found most telling in this mini mound of misinformation was how knowledge of the land and the things that sprout from it had very noticeably diminished, tied directly to the age of the person conveying the information. The most senior among us knew the most, while the youngest did not know anything about the plants he was tending, nor was even willing to eat any of it.

While on the surface, the situational dialog that had occurred was certainly worth a good laugh, the realization that valuable knowledge had slipped away with the generations (almost three involved here, I would say, with an age range from early 60s to early 20s), was no laughing matter. The fact that the urban garden existed at all, had come into existence through the efforts of a younger, willing generation, and that all wanted to participate in its success in some way or another, all gave me hope. If the spark to live independently could forever remain, maybe the dead canned goods in the supermarket might forever have to remain on their toes.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Blow by Blow

With my time invested in this blog growing, I’m realizing increasingly that my entire approach to the writing is changing, post by post, topic by topic. Certainly the most evident effect of such changes is the content that I choose to include, versus that which I decide to move to a back burner. As more and more data comes into my domain of interest, the need to prioritize becomes more than a bit overwhelming.

The perspectives I want to share with the reader now are not those I set out to impart nearly six months ago when I ventured into blogging with zest and zeal. To put it bluntly, I thought I was going to have fun, with no strings attached. Writing for the sheer joy of it all. What I experience now is still gratifying, of course, or I wouldn’t do it, but it’s no longer a pursuit I can characterize merely as fun. Climate Change is fascinating and horrifying; challenging and compelling; entirely riveting on every level imaginable. I’m just not sure one can write about this very heavy and unwieldy topic with mere whimsical flair. The knowledge I’ve gained carries a psychological price. What my ‘pen’ chooses to write is a reflection of that cost.

Reading with an interest and a depth that I don’t think I’ve ever quite experienced before, I realize that the big CC is plastered all over the place. We simply refuse to see it, and it’s an easy pastime in which to wallow. I know I’ve certainly been guilty of the very same up until now. Climate Change has always been a story I have kept at bay, not out of concern for what I might find, but more for reasons of what I would not. It felt like an alarm that had sounded too long, and with seemingly little consequence as a result of inaction. Rather like a house that someone announces has caught fire, but all we see pouring out the windows, hour after hour, is just a little bit of smoke.

Now that I’m focused on CC, however, and hopelessly so, I see how it was just hiding there, in plain sight, right before me, day in and day out, and just dripping with reasons for concern for all to see. And yet it’s one of the most overlooked stories I can possibly imagine to exist…still.

It’s the elephant in the living room leaving shat all over the carpet while people sit around sipping solace and eating efficacy. It’s the gorilla swinging from the chandelier in the dining room, daring us to deny that it’s only a matter of time before the ceiling comes crashing down on the distracted guests. It’s the crocodile waiting quietly right at the edge of the pretty pond out back, unnoticed, and only labeled a clear and present danger when something’s head is about to be severed from its body.

Perhaps it’s just the nature of the beast not to call attention to itself until it’s pretty damned close to too late to do anything about it. Unfortunately, many climate scientists are saying that very thing. There’s so much havoc already cooked into the system, the most we’re going to accomplish now is mitigation.

For someone who sees writing opportunities at every turn, the topics reach out to me with skeletal pendulous fingers, no matter which way I contort away from the distressing headlines, wishing I could write, instead, about food fads, or sports teams, or Hollywood scandal. But I’m all in, and there’s no escaping it now. For those who are still apathetic to the entire CC concern, however, one could tell them that the dam is breaking precisely at 3 pm tomorrow and if they’re still in the valley by then, there’s not a single thing they can do at that point but clutch one another and wait for the wave. Even so, I think something with less gravity, more diversion, might actually keep the luggage from getting loaded into the car. As they washed down the river, their glazed over expressions of surprise and wonder would reveal the question last on their mind before the raging waters came bursting forth: Why didn’t anybody warn them that this knockout punch was coming. Climatologists might simply shake their heads and sigh.

I think I can describe finally paying attention to having someone pry my eyelids open, taping them to my forehead so that I am forced to see what it is that the school master’s been scratching on the board for decades now, trying to instill a sense of urgency in a student who simply refused to learn. Now that I have seen the importance of the subject matter, I feel compelled to pass along what I’m absolutely convinced to be a pressing, if not downright critical matter to address, and right now. It feels like something very close to a compulsion, a passion, a responsibility to friends and loved ones.

So, this is a confession that the few stories I researched and wrote about early on here, and with whimsical flair, quickly became part of a dying breed once Climate Change took aholt of me and I took aholt of it back, as well.

Now we are locked in this terrible, mangled and menacing dance, unsure of what’s to come of the relationship, or who’s going home with whom. The Big CC is stepping all over my toes and I don’t like the pain one bit, but my new dance partner refuses to turn me loose, no matter how hard I try to break it off.

So we’ll continue to embrace, CC and I, in something that feels more like a boxing match, less like a tango, blow by blow consuming one another, a breathless fight to the death, with everyone watching, exhaling CO2, floating around in an energy-packed atmosphere, and measured with the most precision and the upmost care, rising in parts per million.

Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Falling Waters

The opening of 2017 was a warm winter day (70s) where I live, complete with fast rolling clouds that happily unleashed sporadic sprinkles at regular intervals. It was on the spur of the moment that I decided to take my daughter and my friend to Falling Waters State Park, a place I’m quite familiar with, as it is only a 20 minute drive from where I live. The magnanimous park ranger who greeted us at the entrance gate informed us that we were in for a treat, since the heavy rains from the previous day meant that the centerpiece of the park, Florida’s tallest waterfall, was just gushing with excitement to greet her visitors. Such news put a smile on all of our faces.

I don’t know what it is about water that so draws the human species to her bosom, but there absolutely is something simply magical about her qualities that can’t quite be explained. When the three of us trekked down the steep stairs to pay tribute to the loveliness of this sweet little waterfall, there truly was some quality in the air that eluded description. The cold updrafts we all felt rising up from where the water crashes into the bottom of a spectacular 73 foot sinkhole were meant to be savored. A dad with his young family was tossing out dry leaves that caught the currents, flowing upward toward the trees, defying physics, at least for a moment or two. The children squealed with clueless delight.

The spray that wrapped all around everyone with a refreshing fine mist was enough to make us all want to linger a bit longer…and a bit longer. And the air, itself, so delicious in the lungs, filled with the natural aromas of the forest all around…quite beyond description and something to be experienced first-hand to appreciate its full impact on the soul.

An intimate moment. An opportunity to commune with one another. A time to walk slowly, hand-in-hand, without hurry, stopping often to take in the sights and sounds that only Nature can offer. Do we do this as much as we could…or should? No. Squeeze Nature in when and where we can is, I think, our M.O. as the dominant tenant on the block, with less and less allotment for the primal untamed world from which we sprang only seconds ago on the geological time scale.

I noticed that much of the trail a visitor is usually able to enjoy not only remained in the same disrepair I found it in more than a full year ago, but was now under complete quarantine. The portion of the park that normally offered placards to the uninformed, identifying the same various flora the Spaniards would have encountered upon their arrival to La Florida 400 years ago, was now entirely off limits. Rather sad in my estimation, and just a bit irresponsible. To my eye, it seemed to smack of budgetary gaps. A five dollar entry fee for vehicles that trickle in slowly I would imagine probably leaves much to be desired in the way of mandatory and ongoing park repair and maintenance. Maybe I was conjuring the whole thing up and the causes were something else entirely. Probably not.

I love Nature. My daughter loves Nature. I capitalize the word out of the reverence I feel for the something, the wonderful fresh green something that’s disappearing so fast from view, and all that comes along with it.

Go visit a state park with your family. They will love you for it. At least I hope 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

Entropecology

A few posts back, I made reference to a book I read nearly a quarter century ago. Entropy by author Jeremy Rifkin. Not sure of the exact date of my reading, and it only matters in light of the fact that he kind of stood my world view on its head (as I’m sure he would be delighted to hear me confess) and has influenced the way I have perceived the world ever since.

The title of the book is a term used to describe what the second law of thermodynamics is all about. No wait, come back, I didn’t mean to scare you off. We’re not going to get all technical here, and I wouldn’t be able to even if I tried. I’m a writer, not a scientist. I just want to wrap some basic ideas up in a nice neat package for you, that’s all, and maybe change the way you see the world, as well, once you understand what’s in the box.

Let’s begin.

So…energy. You can’t create it, and you can’t destroy it. But you can change it from one form into another. We’re masters at these processes of transformation, and have been performing our magic show with Nature’s raw materials for centuries now. We’ve gotten better and better at it over time. Now, we’re to the point where we can continually dig up and pump out of the earth massive amounts of energy, then change that energy into other more useful forms, like bobbles and trinkets, souvenirs and gadgets made out of bright, bendy plastic. Gizmos that add meaning and dimension to our lives, that give us happiness and joy, even if they fill up our landfills at an ever-increasing pace. “Big deal,” we say, tossing aside the old faded whatchamacallits with a nonchalant flair so we can go out and buy newer, more wonderful thing-a-ma-jigs that promise even deeper joy, and more profound delight. We are a species that loves to surround ourselves with stuff and nobody’s gonna stop us.

The transformation gig started off with wood as the energy source that could readily be changed into heat. Then we got our hands on some coal and realized that we wouldn’t be bothering with wood much longer. It’s inefficient compared to the black gold. Coal didn’t give us heat quite as readily as wood, but close enough, and we were quite thrilled with the new option. Then somebody set some oil on the back doorstep with a pack of matches beside it–daring us to light the thing off–and the future just exploded. Oil was way trickier than coal or wood, but boy did it pack a punch. Way bigger returns, even if it needed more prep work. Whole new industries sprang up overnight. We were rollin’ rollin’ rollin’.

In a very short time, we switched from the most convenient energy source to the most inconvenient in terms of what we have to go through to get what we want out of it. Heck, we can even split an atom apart if that’s all that’s separating us from our energy. We’ll do it. When you think about all that we’ve accomplished in a very short span of time, it kind of boggles the mind. We sure are smart.

Nothing I’ve written so far sounds all that ominous, but of course you know that this little tale of technological wonder must, by necessity, now take a downward turn. To do this, let’s use a very simple illustration to get the point across. It’s built on a few obvious premises: 1) for all intents and purposes, our planet is a closed system. In other words, we are, in very large part, self-contained. We don’t have a constant conveyor belt of mineral-laden raw materials streaming down from the heavens like manna to processing centers over in Baja; 2) Because of premise 1, we can safely say that, from day one all the way up to this present moment, we have had all the basic stuff that Earth is ever going to give us; 3) (this is a biggie) Once we use a raw material of any sort, at any time, and for any purpose, we can never ever again get as big a bang for our buck from that same material as we did the first go around (if you’re thinking that recycling is the answer, please realize that it’s a very small step we take, only leading to a much watered-down redemption… don’t stop doing it if you are recycling, just know that it’s a very small part of the solution). Okay…

A barrel of oil is extracted from the ground. It took a lot of energy to get it out. A lot! And it’s also going to take a lot more to turn it into just one of the myriad products that oil provides us with, such as plastics, fertilizers, consumer goods beyond our wildest dreams, and, oh yes…fuel for our cars.

At every step along the way of this transforming process I mentioned earlier, work is performed, and a sizable amount of that work gets lost, in terms of efficiency, in the form of heat (this is thermodynamics at its finest). The bigger the transformation from raw-material-straight-out-of-the-ground to shiny-finished-product-in-the-big-retail-store, the more losses we should expect in terms of that ever present bug-a-boo by-product…heat.

Our barrel of oil, in this example, has been transformed into that beautiful amber liquid we all crave, every day of the week, guzzling it down like a large soda pop propped on the dash, brimming with crushed ice on a hot day in the middle of summer…oh…yeah: gasoline.

Here’s the question…once that gasoline gets pumped into the fuel tank of your car, then ignited inside the pistons, so the cool wheels can propel you down the highway of life, or at least around the block to the kids’ school, the J-O-B, the bank, the fast food restaurant, the shopping mall, the tanning salon or the hardware store, and then down the highway of life if you live out in the suburbs…where does the gas go from there?

The easy answer, and the one we’re going to use, is-the atmosphere. Let’s say we don’t necessarily care about that too much for right now. What we care about more is whether or not we can ever use that same gallon of gasoline again. Can we? The answer is an emphatic No, and the reason for this is Entropy, which we will now more conveniently just call Pollution.

That barrel of oil was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-repeat-performances resource that will only serve us on a single pass through, then never again. There are no repeat performances (oh, and there you go again with the recycling, but No, you are probably…definitely…way off base). All of the energy that went into the clearing of land, the building of oil rigs, the transport of the discovered oil to the refineries, the refining process, itself, the transport of the refined products to their intermediate or final destinations, the usage of those products, and their ultimate disposal into the landfill grave, that energy is gone…forever.

But didn’t I just contradict myself by saying that the energy is gone? Yes I did. What I should say is that it is virtually gone. As in it might as well be gone, or that it’s as good as gone, or that we can kiss it goodbye gone. Every time energy in a concentrated form (such as oil) is used in another form to perform work (such as gasoline to move a car down the road), the end products are still other forms of energy. Now, however, these final, more uh…transformed forms are of much less use to us, and cannot be put back, so to speak, to perform that same work again. Like I said, it’s a one way trip. Would you disagree with me if I categorized Entropy, from a layman’s perspective, as nothing more than what it truly is–Pollution? That’s a neat package.

Here’s another package that can be laid right next to the first one and that wraps up just as neatly: Entropy is one of the most pervasive, persistent, and all-encompassing laws known to physics. Einstein said it reigns supreme and will never be unseated. It’s a law, but it’s also the stuff that’s piling up all around us, and there’s no way we can ever stop it. The more we try to shove it back in its box, the more it oozes out the sides.

The most energy we ever had to exploit was the day we invented fire. Since then, we’ve been steadily depleting our stockpile, and will, by necessity, always continue to do so. We confuse technology with energy, however, and they are certainly not one and the same. Technology, for us, has mostly been put in place so that we can deplete our storerooms ever more quickly, though no politician is ever going to admit that. He’ll call it other things, like ‘job growth,’ and ‘efficiency’ and ‘progress.’ In truth, all it really means is that we are burning through our supplies at an ever-increasing rate.

Any noble attempt to slow this train down would be a pursuit with virtue written all over it, and would be a huge component of our overall Climate Change solution, whatever else we might try, as well. But we’re never going to do that voluntarily. Faster and faster is how we always want to go. Mother Nature will have to teach us how to breathe deep again, how to be happy with less again. I sure hope She lets us have another go at it.

But now, revisiting the question of where the gas goes once it’s burned, let’s switch back to caring deeply about the fact that it’s all up in the air-literally.

The atmosphere is packed to the gills with this discarded energy. It’s so full of heat now, that we are experiencing the results in all the ways that Climate Change can show us the error of our ways. That barrel of oil we pumped out of the ground months ago is still very much with us. It’s just hovering around in the air up there as water vapor, methane, CO2, and other gasses that make up this mess we have created for ourselves. In fact, it will be up there for years and years to come.

Lest you believe any of these far-fetched notions of simply sucking the stuff back out of the atmosphere to solve all of our worries and woes, I hope I’ve just shown you that there is no such thing as a free lunch in physics. In the same way we have pumped the carbon into the air as a result of energy transformation, we would also have to be pump it back out of the air again, necessitating quite a lot of additional energy transformation in the process. The energy that would be (I won’t say ‘will be’ because I truly believe this is a non-starter) required to pull off such a stunt is prohibitive, at best, and contributive, at worst.

This, then, is Entropecology, and we couldn’t have devised a less desirable ecology for ourselves and our vulnerable habitat if we’d tried. We are dug in deep.

(Awkward moment when writer doesn’t know how to present a strong closing sentence. Probably because the situation he’s writing about is awkward and without a strong closing solution. But this is our circus, and these are our clowns. Where do we go from here? Maybe slap some solar panels on the big top?)

Check out these related posts and Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

We Probably Can’t Fix It

 

 

Hectic Eclectic

Well, I’ll be…China seems to be admitting that its claimed territories in the South China Sea may, after all, be intended to serve the country well from a military defense stance. Recent satellite imagery sure seems to confirm that some of the structures clearly visible on all seven of its artificial islands strongly suggest a military purpose. Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS…pronounced like “Sea Whiz”) seem to be present there, according to analysts.

These Chinese are whizzes at sea, too, persistently building their golly-gee-whiz-and-it’s-none-of-our-biz ‘artificial’ airbases with purpose and intent, all the while reassuring us that militarizing the area was the furthest thing from their minds. Nothing will seem artificial about it once the fighter jets sortie in and anchor there on a continuous basis. Now with the requisite artillery fully installed, one might surmise that defensive countermeasures had always been in the cards. Those darned Chinese, perpetually daring the West and its weaker Asian neighbors to blink. Obama seems to have been blinking hard for about eight years now.

But who can blame the People’s Republic? You build a little sand castle and nobody kicks your shovel and bucket over, you keep going. You dig and level and expand a little more and nobody does much else but yell and scream and holler. Big deal. You’re always going to get away with everything you can, I guess. Actually, the better question is Who’s willing to go up against them now? Taiwan? Forget about it. The Philippines? Noooo (Duterte loves China way more than he loves the U.S. now. He’s kicking us out so China has more room where we once leased. We’re giving up all the strategic spots, like Subic Bay, for instance, so the Chinese can park their stuff there). Brunei? Vietnam? You’re kidding, right? Big guns threatening to blow you out of the water you’re floating on have a way of quieting down the clamor over China claiming territory that was going to be theirs, anyway. Maybe everybody knew that and just pretended to be outraged. I mean, it’s not like the Chinese are going to walk away from their investments now.

Anyway, President Xi Jinping reassured us last year that there’s nothing to worry about with all this hoopla over the disputed territories. All that rhetoric came out one side of his mouth while progress progressed. Now, with all the emplacements…er, in place, his Asian political entourage can simply say (I’ll be paraphrasing here), “Well, what’s done is done. Nobody stopped us when they could have, so let’s everybody just play nice and roll with it.” Our military ships passing ever closer to what the Chinese now say is theirs is anything but “play nice” and should send a shiver up everybody’s spine.

Nobody needs to be reminded how much ocean-traversing commerce takes place in that area of the world, right? Here’s a crazy thought…what if the Chinese were planning on tightening control of the shipping lanes in the area? Surely I can’t be the first person to suggest such monkey business? It’s not totally “out there,” is it?

Just look at their engineering prowess with regard to those artificial fortifications (I think we can safely use that terminology now, yes? and if you aren’t impressed by the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, you are truly a tough sell). All that would be necessary now is the political will of the party to pull it off. Everybody seems willing to give China one stern warning after another regarding their bullying and aggressive tactics to stake out their claims. Yet look at how the Chinese have reacted. They blow us off, and they get away with it. They are clearly a big kid on the block now, and the world seems increasingly reticent about taking them on. And what do all big kids want to become? The biggest kid on the block. I dare say they’re getting closer to striking distance every day.

To build on that crazy thought just above, it’s probably not a well-known fact to most readers that the Chinese ‘virtually’ own the Panama Canal. Yes, the physical structure sits within the sovereign boundaries of Panama, and its daily operations are orchestrated by the Panamanians, but…

Well, here’s a really old name to throw out there-Chinese owned Hutchison  Whampoa Ltd., a previous subsidiary of the Panama Ports Company, controlling ports at both ends of the canal. You probably heard this rumor for the first time several years ago like I did, but didn’t run it down to confirm it. Well, it’s true, and boy what a dirty deal it was. Li-Ka Shing, the billionaire owner of Hutchison Whampoa, is happy to do China’s bidding, and is doing so very well. In fact, you might be a little shocked when you discover just how many ports around the world are, in fact, Chinese-owned. The buying frenzy continues unabated. Here’s one of the later developments.

Even though China’s bid wasn’t nearly the most favorable, losing out to both American and Japanese bidders, something ran amuck during the tail end of the process, and (Surprise!) the Chinese unexpectedly emerged as the Victor. There were the predictable calls for investigations over allegations of corruption and bribery, but, well as we can see, the Chinese are running the show pretty smoothly down there, and will be for quite some time to come. Panama Law No. 5 mandates it. Are the Panamanian children still being mandated to learn Mandarin in school?

The story grows much more horrific and sordid from there, and the U.S. has said from the beginning that this development was a serious security concern that should not stand. I don’t know what we call it now, however, since the situation seems to be entrenched and intractable at the same time. It’s interesting to note how we vigorously applauded the canal’s success when we owned it, and when we were also in the country, militarily. Now, with Rodman and other installations long since shuttered and turned back over to Panama, the gravy days are done and over with.

The canal’s success is nothing to us, economically, or at least not from the same perspective. Stateside, we’re trying to increase our own competitiveness against the canal with our own beefed up ports, interstate, and rail systems (and probably especially so in response to the Chinese presence always looming down there).

We’ll turn a corner and put a quick third leg on this tripod of speculation (and that’s all this is, which makes for fun reading). The Chinese are investing multiple billions of dollars in and around the operating areas of the Suez Canal in a bilateral agreement between their own country and that of Egypt, citing economic and military benefits for all concerned. Note that this does not necessarily mean that China is ‘all in’ (always preferring to keep its options open), only that it stands to reap glorious rewards through investment in expansion and infrastructure projects. No no…China, ever the opportunist, already has its eye on the Northwest Passage, as do many others, lower shipping costs associated with a traverse through the ‘bergs all too tantalizing.

Trump is a wildcard in all of this, as he must naturally be, even on his best days (is it just me, or does it feel like we have already had four years of him and are just begging for another chance at the polls?) In the meantime, tensions in the South China Sea continue to grow, especially in light of this newly confirmed situation involving anti-missile, anti-aircraft capabilities in the Spratly / Paracel Islands, with quaint little names for the reefs like Fiery Cross and Mischief (the Chinese have different monikers, to be sure).

Here are some really obvious questions: Doesn’t a runway look pretty obvious, even from way up in the sky? And a hangar? It’s got a distinctive physical outline, too, doesn’t it? These structures are big enough to accommodate refueling and transport aircraft, the biggest of the big, not to mention virtually any type of fighter plane the Chinese have in their arsenal. We’ve seen this progress shaping up across a very long timeline now, yet nobody has done anything, and the military aircraft are all but landing soon.

In my humble opinion, everybody’s blinking…and the Chinese want to be the new Biggest Kid on the block. The reason Trump will be running DC is because he too does not pull any punches. So, what happens when a Trump White House (sorry, I mean a Trump Tower) and the PRC square off? Maybe Climate Change and Water Scarcity will be the least of our worries.

Check out these related posts, and Sincere thanks for stopping by!

G2

Troubling Times

South China Tea

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