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» HERE COMES THE OCEAN (and the Triumph of Slime)

by Brian Awehali

Climate change is causing the sea to rise far faster than scientists once expected, a meter or more by 2100. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so dire to you. Perhaps you read that sentence and think: “Pity; there go some beaches and beach-front real estate.” Maybe you think: “You know, I’ve always liked the ocean more than New York City anyway…” If so, you may not be getting the picture, because a rise of just one meter will literally drown cities and towns across the globe, displacing millions of people, creating food shortages, epic political conflicts and disease epidemics.

It is not just the amount of overall rise that is of concern. That may well be the least concerning aspect. Storm surges will increase dramatically in strength if baseline sea level is higher. Hurricanes and typhoons have already increased significantly in strength and duration, an effect scientists attribute to climate change, and this is expected to continue. More than 10,000 people have been killed in storm surges in the Bay of Bengal alone in the last 300 years, and such surges could increase exponentially in the coming years. This means that the watery ends of Miami, Tokyo, New York, Mumbai, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Dhaka are not just possible, but actually likely.

Their ends might come from the sea, something like this:

…or from the sky, like this:

(The already disappearing island of Kiribati is, of course, already f–ked.)

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» THE DEFINITION OF SCARY: China’s Cancer Villages (癌症村, Aizheng Cun)

by Brian Awehali

I woke up this morning and considered going outside. Lately, I have been avoiding the outdoors here in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, because I fear the industrial haze and the cough I seem to develop whenever I spend more than a few hours out and about. There are ominous smells here: acrid metallic clouds of gas with something like formaldehyde that have me breathing as shallowly as I possibly can when I pass through them.

Despite this, last night I was reconsidering my aversion to the Chinese outdoors, wondering if I was being paranoid. Sunlight is still moderately healthy. And after all, I drink heavily filtered water, wash any fresh vegetables I buy several times (they recommend using diluted bleach as well, but I refuse to trade one poison for another), and I live, sleep, run and work out in a heavily insulated building with industrial grade air filters going 24/7.

I also drink lots of coffee, which I seem to remember reading somewhere renders me all but impervious to cancer.

But then, after my coffee, any anticarcinogenic confidence I had evaporated when I sat down to check email and a friend of mine had forwarded on a ghastly article entitled “Made in China: Cancer Villages,” by Lee Liu, from Environment Magazine. The article goes into great depth about China’s unprecedented levels of cancer and the “grow first, clean up later” approach to industrial development driven largely by the forces of economic globalization.

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» HELD HOSTAGE TO HOPE: Derrick Jensen on Civilization & Its Discontents

“It’s not just false hope that’s the problem, it’s hope itself…’Hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency.’”

A free-ranging interview with the author of A Language Older Than Words, Welcome to the Machine, and The Culture of Make Believe about civilization, violence, activism, pacifism, reasons for optimism, and why hope is a bad thing.

A counterpoint interview about Malthusian economics and cults of catastrophism is also offered, with social historian Iain Boal, “We’re Not Doomed; That’s the Problem.”:

Many people believe, at least a little, that the end of human beings–whether by ecological disaster, the collapse of the oil economy, or nuclear extinction–is inevitable. For some, this projected collapse represents a just termination for a species they consider parasitic and pathologically unable to establish an equilibrium with the natural world and the creatures who  depend upon it. Others laments the tragedy of our fate.

But what role do faith and belief play in all of this? What if the capitalist realities of scarcity and collapse have been mistakenly interpreted as natural inevitabilities?  

>> READ THE FULL ARTICLE (PDF; 8 pages)

[From the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt.] 

» HUMANS ARE A VIRUS WITH SHOES

by Brian Awehali

People suck, and that’s my contention.
We’re a virus with shoes.

Bill Hicks

I quite like a lot of people, but there’s much to recommend Hicks’ notion that we are viruses with shoes. It’s a fact that well over 40% of the human DNA chain is viral in origin, as Michael Specter writes in a fascinating New Yorker article, “Darwin’s Surprise”:

Nothing—not even the Plague—has posed a more persistent threat to humanity than viral diseases: yellow fever, measles, and smallpox have been causing epidemics for thousands of years. At the end of the First World War, fifty million people died of the Spanish flu; smallpox may have killed half a billion during the twentieth century alone…

Scientists have long suspected that if a retrovirus happens to infect a human sperm cell or egg, which is rare, and if that embryo survives—which is rarer still—the retrovirus could take its place in the blueprint of our species, passed from mother to child, and from one generation to the next, much like a gene for eye color or asthma.

One scientist interviewed for the New Yorker article, Thierry Hiedmann, contends that the mapping of the human genome project and recent findings about “endogenous retroviruses” show that genes and viruses are not, in fact, distinct entities, and that the concept of virus and humanity as enemies or combatants, rather than as co-evolutionary forces, is in error. Heidmann and others have even suggested that without viral influence, mammals might never have developed a placenta, which protects the fetus and gives it time to mature and led to live birth. “These viruses made those changes possible, [and] It is quite possible that, without them, human beings would still be laying eggs.”

So the stuff of us, the meat of our matter, is partially viral in origin. What of our language, and our culture?

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» REDEFINING PROGRESS: An Indigenous View of Industrialization & Consumption in North America

by Winona LaDuke
(from the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow-The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt)

Rethink your geography a little bit, set aside your thinking, and try to think about North America from an indigenous perspective. In doing so, what I’d like to ask is that you think about it in terms of islands in a continent.

I live on one island, White Earth reservation. It’s thirty-six miles by thirty six miles. It’s a rather medium-sized reservation, as they go in North America. That’s one island. A little bit west of me is Pine Ridge, a slightly larger reservation. Rosebud. Blackfeet. Crow. Cheyenne. Navaho. Hopi. Some of the larger islands are further north. When you go north of the fiftieth parallel in Canada, which is somewhere a little north of Edmonton, you’ll find that the majority of the population is native. 85% of the people who live north of the fiftieth parallel in Canada are native people.

How that is perhaps best reflected is in a place called Nunavut. Northwest Territories, a couple of years ago, was split into two territories. One of those territories is now called Nunavut because the people who live there are Inuit. They are the people who are the political representatives. They are the administrators of the school boards. They are the firemen. They are the doctors, the physicians. They have a form of self-governance in Nunavut where the majority of decisions are made by Inuit people. That area, Nunavut, is, including land and water, five times the size of Texas. It is a large area of land. It is the size of the Indian sub-continent.

A Nunavut community

So perhaps for that reason alone, it is important to know something more about indigenous people…

Let me talk a little bit about indigenous thinking, because I believe that is fundamental for understanding the conflicts that exist in the world today. In the world today it is not a conflict so much between the left and right, or the communists and the capitalists, so much as it is the conflict between the indigenous and the industrial.

(This far-reaching, increasingly relevant speech Winona LaDuke gave to students at North Carolina State University in Raleigh appeared in LiP: Informed Revolt and was also included in the magazine’s anthology, Tipping the Sacred Cow, now available online in PDF form.)

Read the rest [PDF; 10 pages]

» THE RIVER VS. WATER, INC..: An interview with Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, activist, and author of hundreds of papers and articles and more than 15 books. She is the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in India. Her work runs the gamut from establishing community seed banks to defending farmers and everyone else who eats food from the dire socioeconomic, environmental, and health consequences of genetically modified crops; from writing and agitating about water privatization to writing and agitating about corporate thievery of natural knowledge. This interview by Antonia Juhasz, about the ongoing struggle over the privatization of common resources and the need for a “living democracy,”  originally appeared in LiP magazine.

“I really hope that living democracy, articulated as the broader democracy of all life, will help us transcend these polarizations and work to protect all species while defending every human right of every excluded community.”

[From the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt.] 

Read the rest [PDF; 10 pages]

» UNDER THE ETERNAL SKY: Mongolia’s Wilderness and People Threatened by Mining Boom

by Brian Awehali

An article I wrote based on my travels in Mongolia was published in Earth Island Journal, then subsequently picked up by the Guardian, and I cordially invite you, dear reader, to check it out.

Mongolia today is the least densely populated country in the world (Antarctica doesn’t count; it’s “just” a continent). It is home to a staggering array of largely untouched natural splendors, as well as some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on earth. It’s also home to the largest mining boom in history, and despite projections that the boom is expected to triple or quadruple the size of Mongolia’s economy in the next five years, times are tough for most Mongolians, and the relationship between the country’s great natural resources and the wealth of its people is still to be determined. What’s clear is that the actual land and 3 million people of Mongolia will never be the same.

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