Author Archive

Gotta get Mine

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security, Natural Disasters, Nuclear Apocalypse, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear, War on April 8, 2010 by Taylor Manuel

Through exploring the connections between war and the environment, there seems to be an  overwhelming voice speaking to an escalation of conflict in the interest of securing increasingly diminishing  resources. I think that in carrying on discussion in this area it is important to note that though there seems to be an increase in such conflict, securing environmental resources and conversely using them in war has been an aspect of conflict from the very beginning of war itself. Though technology certainly magnifies the impact and feasibility of environment both as weapon and reason for war.

Geo-political interest in foreign occupation has become just as permanent as the basses we have established.

If securing oil and gas resources is the major motivation for military occupation and national security, why do we put boots on the ground in the name of “Democracy and womens rights”? I suppose the answer is an obvious one, but is securing access to dwindling resources not just? As selfish as it may seem. Not to mention, profitable!

Unrelated to this theme, its interesting to think of Natural disaster being used as a covert weapon. Both in  cause and or response.

Gordan J. F. Macdonald was a visionary professor in Geophysics. In 1968, he wrote a book entitled, “Unless Peace Comes: How to Wreck the Environment.” He writes:

Man already possesses highly effective tools for destruction. Eventually, however, means other than open warfare may be used to secure national advantage. As economic competition among many advanced nations heightens, it may be to a country’s advantage to ensure a peaceful natural environment for itself and a disturbed environment for its competitors. Operations producing such conditions might be carried out covertly, since nature’s great irregularity permits storms, floods, droughts, earthquakes and tidal waves to be viewed as unusual but not unexpected. Such a ‘secret war’ need never be declared or even known by the affected populations. It could go on for years with only the security forces involved being aware of it. The years of drought and storm would be attributed to unkindly nature and only after a nation were thoroughly drained would an armed take-over be attempted.

This strategy of covert war, coupled with the securing of resources and invasive population control presents an interesting dynamism…

A Society Preoccupied with Risk and an Economy Unable to Think Past the Length of its _____….

Posted in Environmental Security, Popular Culture, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 11, 2010 by Taylor Manuel

It’s becomes a difficult dichotomy when the same risks that emerge in society are fed to us by mega-corporations in a globalized economy. As Beck and Buell point out, the knowledge of risk is available only with the tools of education and income, as well as the ability to avoid some of those risks. How are we to know what is safe to eat, drink, wear, and use when we put our faith in the companies that make them, to make sure they are, and they aren’t? Even when we have federal organizations like the FDA who are suppose to filter things like this. Its scary to think that even corporations whom we think to be healthier and more environmentally”friendly” are sued for human harm i.e. Odwalla. Who are behind these companies which we think to be from local farmers and on another level then the other products on the shelf? Well in the case of Odwalla its Coca-Cola, the Nike of the beverage market! Or what about Monsanto and the rBGH in Milk? ” Does a Body Good.”

Sadly the list goes on. Mega-corporations are taking over both production and advertisement, essentially controlling consumption. There are but a handful of organizations that own the media and their monopolizing grip continues to tighten.

We are a nation of democracy, but few of our powerful structures are such. The structure of military and of these corporations are not conducive to democracy, they are hierarchical structures in which he have no say.  Mega- corporations don’t respond to the voices of the polis, nor do they respond to the voices of government. These corporations more often then not would rather pay the fines they are issued in order to continue serving their short term interest rather then change their ways. It was recently estimated that the world’s top firms are responsible for $2.2 Trillion in environmental damage, but can you really put a price on that? And do consumers know the externalities of their purchases when they go to buy a T-shirt, or a cup of coffee? Let alone the the impact of public policy and goods: water and waste.

We can’t help but live in a risk-society, it is and will be a part of our daily lives forever. But how do we live as safely as possible in the face of giants? Risks are folded into every purchase we make by the companies that make them and we rarely will know what those are. We demand alternatives yet even those become corporatized, or are not as safe or environmentally friendly as we assume. Someone may become a vegetarian thinking that it is a safer and healthier and or environmentally responsible diet, but where does the soy you eat come from? What was done to the land to make room for those soy bean fields, and what do you think happens when animals start grazing on them? They shoot them, or they die from the toxicity of herbicides : )

Illegal deforestation to make room for soy field in Brazil

So what are we to do? I don’t know I just know things are messed up, and information and knowledge about the companies behind the labels we buy, is the first step to any form of change, though acquiring that knowledge is becoming more and more difficult, with companies attempting to skew their brand logos images and company mission statement more favorably i.e. Green-washing

If you care to laugh in the face of this… %^$%#

What Have “WE” Learned?

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Security, Natural Disasters, Popular Culture, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Taylor Manuel

The Dust Bowl era, and the suggestions which the coined term perpetuate, has become a forgotten blemish in the annals of American history. The effects of which began with the undertaken challenge to farm on a land with little forethought on the climate of the region and its compatibility with producing non-native plants. It goes back even further however, to the very ideal that America was founded on, to the notion of America as the new Eden, plush and plentiful in resources available for appropriation.

This ideal allowed for the acquisition of wealth in every meaning of the word, it is the foundation of our cultural identity and monetary economy. Since the depression and the failed agriculture of the Midwest, the government was determined to “re-build” to place into effect numerous federal programs as a safety net both for banks, corporations, farming industry, and lastly individuals. FDR’s alphabetic remedies, in an attempt to both stimulate the economy and safeguard it from another failure have had long lasting effects on the system in which our Capitalist economy operates today. And, arguably would not be standing on the “crutches” it is without his action.

However, what are those effects of  the depression and jointly the Dust Bowl today? Is it safe to say we recovered? That we managed to safeguard not only our economy but the success of the agricultural (nowadays) industry? Or have we but prolonged the future “Black Monday” and the future “Dust Bowl”?  Interesting questions, and ones which I do not have the knowledge or understanding to answer, and arguably I don’t know if anyone could. Hindsight is 20/20, but the present is never the past, and at what point is the past no longer a part of the present? Today government management, or “support” of the agricultural system helps to monitor the economic and environmental intricacies of American agriculture. Implementing, “farm price support” which provides subsidies to corporate farms which are already producing an oversupply of crops.

We don’t practice bio-regionalism in which we only grow and appropriate from resources that are native, and sustainable to particular regions and ecosystems. For example, if we were to practice bio-regionalism here in Alaska we would not eat fruit (besides naturally grown berries). This is a very abbreviated definition. In full practice, bio-regionalism would take into account watershed boundaries as well as soil and terrain boundaries.

Instead, what has occurred in the history of American agriculture, and capitalism is the anthropocentric view that in altering landscape and resources we can appropriate whatever we want. Using technology we can alter entire ecosystems to our liking, and essentially grow (non-native) crops on unsuitable land.  The solution to the “natural disaster” of the Dust Bowl, was water, and to this day it is what sustains agriculture which otherwise would be impossible. The effects of which are beginning to be revealed, but have yet to fully “flower”. The Ogallala Aquifer for example, was eventually tapped with advanced technology and has irrigated the Dust Bowl region, and much of the nations agricultural regions ever since. What happens when it runs out? California’s San Joaquin, Owens and San Fernando Valleys are yet other examples. Aquafornia

With water projects beginning on the same time-line as those that faced the Dust Bowl, FDR’s programs helped  construct California’s water supply infrastructure. An endeavor that was deeply buried in bribery and monopolization, and popularized in the Hollywood film, Chinatown in 1974. California is said to be “the most hydrologically altered landmass on the planet”.

So where does this leave us? According to the government we overcame the challenges that “confronted US” in American agriculture of the 1930’s, but have we really learned a lesson? Much of our economy relies on the corn, and wheat grown in the Midwest, and the fruit, vegetables and dairy  produced in California, but how long can we maintain this “Eden”? Today, we are faced with similar economic struggles as those of the 1920’s and 30’s. Only today, our producers are no longer family farmers but corporate entities, who have the money and political power to postpone and perpetuate practices that are neither sustainable to the environment nor possible in the long term.

As a suggestion to the problems that we continue to face, one need not look far. Organic, farming has become a popularized and sought out resource, bringing agriculture back to smaller companies, but in the shadow of larger corporation. Green has become the new Black, but prices are high and availability low, increasingly so in the face of growing economic burden. I encourage you to look at this piece regarding organic farming in Nevada, yet another region not well supported for agriculture. Patagonia’s FB note on Organic Farming in Nevada.

What has changed and what have we learned from the Dust Bowl Era? I hope this spawns some interesting topics of discussion.

Religious Cults Birthed from the Fear of Apocalypse

Posted in Religious Roots, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear with tags , on February 11, 2010 by Taylor Manuel

Cults or religious sects have existed throughout time, some formed into the popular religions of today. Though, very often they can be manipulative, immoral and dangerous to themselves and others. Often they are formed, or include in their belief a fear, (or welcoming) of imminent Apocalypse. Some people have prophesied the End down to a specific date and time, only to change it to a later date when the prophecy fails to fulfill itself. Cults have committed mass suicides in escape or release from the disaster they believed approached. Some have barricaded themselves in maximum security compounds with stashes of food and supplies awaiting the End, and some have even withdrew to underground tunnels and bunkers.

In the Parable of the Sower, the Earthseed Religion is formed not due to the approach of the end, but in the wake of it. What does not change is human coercion and manipulation that can exist within any institution. It does not appear that her beliefs are used in any such way, but the possibility still exists in the expectancy of a leader as can be seen here:

When apparent stability disintegrates,

As it must-

God is Change-

People tend to give in

To fear and depression,

When no influence is strong enough

To unify people

They divide

They struggle,

One against one,

Group against group,

For survival, position, power.

They remember old hates and generate new ones,

They create chaos and nurture it.

They kill and kill and kill,

Until they are exhausted and destroyed,

Until they are conquered by outside forces,

Or until one of them becomes

A leader

Most will follow,

Or a tyrant

Most fear.

I’m not arguing that the Earthseed religion resembles the traits of a cult at all. More, I am simply pointing out the implications of not just environmental rhetoric, but religious rhetoric, which can be the most convincingly dangerous.

Apocalypse is not simply a belief but a tool utilized by individuals to manipulate and control the wills of others. In the case of religious Cults it is often used as a way to control the souls of many. To some, the end is an attractive idea. With it comes an end to the present toil and struggles that people face. To others, it can be a natural selector, and only those who follow the true faith will be saved. Its use is one to be wary of, not for fear of being assimilated into a cult, but rather the way it slowly seeps into our own notions of life.