A New Direction

The previous title of this blog, Words Arranged, was adopted from my writer’s web site of the same name. It hasn’t set well with me as the title for this blog, as it doesn’t say anything about the contents deposited herein.

Mourning the Broken Balance is from a poem by Robinson Jeffers that aptly reflects my feelings about the Homo sapiens experiment, and its ultimate failure. I’m neither pessimistic nor morbid, mind you. I’m quite optimistic about the future of life on this beleaguered planet. As Jean often reminds me, a thousand years from now, everything will be OK. I look forward to that eventuality.

From: The Broken Balance

by Robinson Jeffers


Mourning the broken balance, the hopeless prostration of the earth
Under men’s hands and their minds,
The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city,
The spreading fungus, the slime-threads
And spores; my own coast’s obscene future: I remember the farther
Future, and the last man dying
Without succession under the confident eyes of the stars.
It was only a moment’s accident,
The race that plagued us; the world resumes the old lonely immortal
Splendor; from here I can even
Perceive that that snuffed candle had something . . . a fantastic virtue,
A faint and unshapely pathos . . .
So death will flatter them at last: what, even the bald ape’s by-shot
Was moderately admirable?

Click HERE for the rest of the poem.

Are Both Trump and Sanders Falling for a Dirty Trick from Clinton? Washington’s Blog


Source: Are Both Trump and Sanders Falling for a Dirty Trick from Clinton? Washington’s Blog

I must admit the whole Trump phenomenon is a puzzlement.

I’ve come to think of bizarre political activity as the norm in these days of changing times, but this year is beyond the pale. I’m appalled that such an elitist blowhard such as Donald Trump would attract such a following, and now the piling on of violent protests and anti-protesters at Trump rallies adds even more inexplicability to the continuing political circus.

I’ve been reading through the series of books produced by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward about the Watergate break-in and subsequent revelations of political dirty tricks in the Nixon re-election campaign and others. Yes, I was aware of the events leading up to Nixon’s resignation, as they happened, but reading the sordid details has been quite a revelation. It also gives me a perspective on the political scene today.

It was interesting to learn in this Washington’s Blog post that Roger Stone, a principal in Nixon’s dirty tricks machine, was instrumental in Trump’s campaign, at least until August of 2015, at which time he left the Trump organization for parts unknown.

Or did he?

One of the characteristics of political dirty tricks, or “rat-fucking” as Donald Segretti called it, is things are never what they seem. It may be true that Roger Stone “resigned” from Trump’s campaign, but that does not mean that he is no longer active in manipulating it. For Trump, Hillary or Bernie. Stone has demonstrated that he has no loyalties or compunctions when it comes to political machination. All is grist for the political mill. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It’s not the player, it’s the results that count.

So what is the result? Hillary is a size 12 shoe-in. Bernie is out in the cold. Trump is left to contemplate a spoiler role.

Cui bono?

Is Donald Trump Running a False Flag Campaign to Help Hillary Clinton?

“Donald Trump, the 69-year-old New York real estate mogul and unrepentant bigot, continues to dominate the Republican presidential primary polls. Trump’s sudden ascendance, accelerated by his willingness to insult virtually any ostensible ally within the conservative movement, has left GOP leaders dumbfounded. Within this vacuum of understanding, an almost-believable conspiracy theory has obtained currency: Donald Trump is in fact a false flag candidate whose actual mission is electing Hillary Clinton as President.

Source: Is Donald Trump Running a False Flag Campaign to Help Hillary Clinton?

Well, who can tell? Politics is a baffling circus at the best of times. It’s hard to understand what motivates much of the activity we optimistically call democracy.

In this case, it’s a matter of appearances and outcome. What would a Trump campaign look like if it really were a false flag aimed at scaring Democrats into supporting Hillary over Bernie Sanders? How would it be different? How would the outcome be different?

“In politics nothing happens ‘by chance.’ If something happens, then you can bet that it was planned that way.”
-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Happy Birthday, Ed!

Ed Abbey sunset

Today is the 89th anniversary of the natal day of Edward Paul Abbey, author, curmudgeon, social critic, lover of women and other wild living things.

He bared his soul in Black Sun, Fire on the Mountain, Desert Solitaire, and Fool’s Progress, set many of us on the path to defense of natural habitat and wilderness, confrontations with overbearing authorities, monkey wrenching, tree-spiking, survey stake pulling and other forms of socially and environmentally responsible activities.

If Ed were alive now, he’d be glad he died while there was still something left of the wild.

Soar high, Ed!

“There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”
Edward Abbey

The “Control” of Nature and Other Myths

John McPhee wrote a book called The Control of Nature, published in 1989, about human attempts to control Nature, the Mississippi River, Iceland volcanoes and the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. It’s a good read about human folly in the face of a variable Nature and the impossibility of controlling it.

Harbor beach small
Photo by Jean Brocklebank

It seems that some folks in Santa Cruz, California haven’t read their McPhee, or if they did, they’ve forgotten the lessons the author so well explained.

In 1964, City fathers decided to build a small craft harbor in Woods Lagoon, a natural estuary fed by Arana Creek flowing down from the mountains in the north, on the borderline between the City of Santa Cruz and the unincorporated Santa Cruz County. The harbor was initially dredged with monies provided by the Army Corps of Engineers, and expanded in 1973 to its current 800 slip capacity, soon filled with fishing boats and pleasure craft.

Either the Corps of Engineers (Beaver Corps) didn’t know what they were doing, or they forgot to mention to equally eager City Fathers that the lagoons along this stretch of coastal California are maintained in their lagooness by the eastward longshore drift of sand from rivers and streams emptying out into Monterey Bay, rivers such as the San Lorenzo just west of what once was Woods Lagoon.

The scene above illustrates what happens when humans attempt to interrupt the natural process of longshore drift with piles of rocks “protecting” an artificial channel where a lagoon used to collect sediment from upstream and upshore.

The beach seen on both sides of the channel results primarily from sand washing in from the San Lorenzo River, deposited in the channel at the south end of the harbor creating a sand bar that closes off the harbor during stormy winter months.

The Santa Cruz Port District, the quasi-governmental entity that manages the Santa Cruz Harbor, spends about a million dollars a year dredging the harbor channel from the north end where Arana Creek flows into the harbor to the south end. It does this every year, almost continuously, and it must keep this up forever. As we can clearly see in the picture above, even a momentary lapse in dredging would result in the mouth of harbor being closed to boat traffic entirely. To that end, the Port District is purchasing a brand new five million dollar dredge to replace the 30 year old machinery now in operation.

This epic effort to artificially maintain a harbor for pleasure craft and a few fishing boats in a waterway that wants to be a lagoon again is not the result of incompetence or malfeasance on the part of Port District personnel. This is merely one more example of human aspirations and desires blown out of scale beyond the capability of the local environment to support.

The harbor was conceived of and designed by developers looking to make money for themselves and the City of Santa Cruz (mostly for themselves) with no thought of the consequences to the local environment that ultimately would pay the price of this massive restructuring and attempt to control Nature. No studies were attempted to understand the natural systems and processes of the tidal lagoon they tried to destroy. No one studied longshore drift to find out where all that sand on the beaches came from, and what would happen if an impediment was built out to sea to interrupt that flow.

The developers and City politicians assumed, as always, that humans could change the Earth any way that suited them and that they could ultimately control those natural processes that they so drastically modified.

Now the bill has arrived, and its a whopper. In order to attempt to control Woods Lagoon and keep it from returning to its former self, they must find a way keep the dredge operation going indefinitely into the future, an operation dependent on thousands of gallons of diesel fuel to keep the dredge running and removing sand from the harbor mouth. Can’t do it on solar and wind energy. This takes Big Energy to build the massive dredge barge to begin with, and to horse it around the harbor, suck up the accumulating sediment and pump it back out to the ocean downshore.

This is just one example of human society reaching the limits of its ability to grow and to modify the natural world in its own image. Clean water, clean air and energy that doesn’t pollute either of them are in increasingly short supply. Santa Cruz has discovered there’s not enough potable water available for continued economic and population growth. The Port District is discovering they can’t charge enough slip fees to pay for the increasing cost of keeping the harbor open for slip renters to operate their boats year round. The City and the County are discovering that the faster they grow the behinder their budget gets.

As with all things living, there is an optimum limit in size and complexity for human societies, a limit that has been surpassed. The more humans try to control the natural world for our benefit, the more energy and resources we must expend to simply maintain what we already have built.

We cannot control the natural world, we can only learn to cooperate with it.


Climate Consensus or Climate Variation?

Although I am frequently accused of being a “denier” of various stripes, I don’t deny climate, climate change or Global Warming. I don’t even deny the so-called “consensus” of scientists/climate scientists and/or others who hold that climate change is real. On the other hand, while the consensus may be real, the conclusions drawn may not be an accurate reflection of reality.

As an archaeologist and dendroclimatologist, it is my experience and professional conclusion that human beings do not “cause” observed climate variation, but instead, humans may influence natural climate variation in various ways. Furthermore, climate variation is not uni-directional, unilinear nor predictable on greater than annual time frames and local geographic scales. Therefore, it is impossible to predict the effects both of human contributions to natural climate variation, and, perhaps more importantly, the effects of reducing or removing human influences on natural climate variation.

I’ve read a lot of the on-going literature on both sides of the climate change argument, popular and scientific, regarding the debate on the causes and effects of climate variation. In the following article,  Philip Jenkins artfully echos my experience and my informed opinion on the nature and reality of climate variation and the human relationship to the future of our climates.

History and the Limits of the Climate Consensus

Source: History and the Limits of the Climate Consensus | The American Conservative