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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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» BIRDS ATTACK!: Navigation, Personality & Aggression in the Aviary Kingdom

by Brian Awehali

Dog and Crow Battle, Ocean Beach, San Francisco (c) Brian Awehali

Who’s attacking whom on Ocean Beach, SF? – photo (c) Brian Awehali

Birds, who once were dinosaurs, could take over the world (again) if they wanted to. And not just in the movies, a la Hitchcock’s 1963 terror, The Birds. (If you haven’t seen the movie, check out this well-edited one-and-a-half-minute version of it.) Not long ago, in Kagoshima, a city on the southern island of Kyushu, in Japan, a booming crow population went on the offensive: destroying power lines and fiber optic cable, being markedly more aggressive with people, and outwitting human “crow patrols” by building decoy nests. In recent years, crows have been filmed using tools in sequence and exhibiting complex reasoning as well.

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» DESIGNING OUR OWN DEMISE: An interview with robotics expert Hans Moravec

interview originally conducted for Britannica.com, by Brian Awehali

Hans Moravec is a leader in robotics research, founder of the robotics program at Carnegie Mellon University, and the author of several books, including Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind.

Moravec is in firm belief that machines will acquire human levels of intelligence by the year 2040, and that by the middle part of this century, they will be our intellectual superiors.

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» 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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» THE FURTHER EVOLUTION OF WAR

by Barbara Ehrenreich
An adapted excerpt from Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War
(part of the extended online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt)

Two months before a somewhat recent U.S. military invasion, I gave a presentation on war and warrior elites to a small group of sociologists. They were interested and supportive, but a bit pitying about my choice of a topic: War, they were eager to remind me, had run its course. The Cold War had ended; communism was over; there were no longer any “sides” to take. Too bad I had elected to work on a subject of only historical interest.

The conviction that war is passé, or soon to become so, has a venerable history of its own. The introduction of the gun, and after that, artillery, seemed to promise levels of destruction so costly that no state would want to risk them. After the gruesome bloodletting of the Napoleonic Wars, philosophers Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill prophesied that war would end as civilization turned, in relief, to the peaceful business of industrial production. World War I was, of course, the “war to end all wars”; a quarter-century later, the nuclear weapons developed and used in World War II seemed to doom war once and for all. Ghoulish wonks might play with scenarios for “limited nuclear war” and “flexible responses,” but anyone with sense could see that “war has been vanquished,” as Robert L. O’Connell has put it, defeated by its own weaponry.

* * *

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» SWEATSHOP-PRODUCED RAINBOW FLAGS & PARTICIPATORY PATRIARCHY: Why the Gay Rights Movement is a Sham

Newly available as part of the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt, edited by Brian Awehali (AK Press) [PDF]. From the “Constructively Negative” Sacred Cows issue.

As legends go, San Francisco is the place for sexual debauchery, gender transgression and political deviance (not to mention sexual deviance, gender debauchery and political transgression). The reality is that while San Francisco still shelters outsider queer cultures unimaginable in most other cities, these cultures of resistance have been ravaged by AIDS, drug addiction and gentrification. Direct on-the-street violence by rampaging straights remains rare in comparison to other queer destination cities like New York, Chicago or New Orleans, but a newer threat has emerged. San Francisco, more than any other US city, is the place where a privileged gay (and lesbian) elite has actually succeeded at its goal of becoming part of the power structure. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), members of the gaysbian elite use their newfound influence to oppress less privileged queers in order to secure their status within the status quo. This pattern occurs nationwide, but San Francisco is the place where the violence of this assimilation is most palpable.

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» IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD, NOTHING WOULD BE DIFFERENT

by Lisa Jervis

Newly available as part of the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt, edited by Brian Awehali (AK Press) [PDF]