What am I doing here?

“I’ve decided to try my hand at blogging, that being the Thing To Do these days. Who knows; Something Good may even come of it.”

That’s how I started blogging, on February 6, 2005, close enough to a decade of blogging to celebrate here with an anniversary+ post.

I started out on Blogger, because it was easy and that’s about all there was at the time. I had been writing on chat groups and listserves since 1985, before “blogging” became part of the Internet lexicon. I’d authored my own web sites, joined in conversation on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, The Well, which is still active, though it is no longer free. I  was  involved in a decade long conversation about Ed Abbey on the Abbeyweb, an early web site/discussion list about the author of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Desert Solitaire.

After ten years of blogging, and 671 posts as Hayduke Blogs, under the influence of the aforementioned Ed Abbey, I felt it was time for a change. On November 21, 2015, I shifted my blog to WordPress, and renamed it Words Arranged to encompass my other writing efforts.

Things are changing these days in the world of environmental activism. The word “environmentalist” seems to have tarnished a bit among the millennials, discredited by Big Green compromises to gain political power and influence, not to mention money. The concepts of bioregionalism and reinhabitory strategies have disappeared down the memory hole, “Global Warming” (sic) has taken over and subsumed all else as the be-all and end-all of “environmental” focus.

Over the past few months I’ve been reviewing the literature of the 60s and 70s, written by Peter Berg, Raymond Dassman, Aldo Leopold, Jerry Mander, Kirkpatrick Sale, Ernest Callenbach, David Brower, Ed Abbey, Dave Foreman, Howie Wolke, Murray Bookchin, and many others. I’ve found that everything necessary to understand conservation, ecology, bioregionalism and environmentalism was written by 1990, and after that, very little additional work on these subjects was published.

The confluence of Big Greens and “Global Warming” hysteria undoubtedly have much to do with the demise of environmentalism, in all its forms, in popular consciousness. Now with Johnny-Come-Latelies such as Michael Shellenberger and the “Breakthrough (sic) Institute” pimping for nukes and coal in the name of environmentalism, the concepts are further obfuscated.

What am I doing here? Why Words Arranged into sentences, paragraphs, blogs, comments and web sites?

In the past few years I’ve become increasingly disturbed with the human propensity to lay waste to the neighborhood, including the neighbors, human and non-. My orientation as an anthropologist, albeit an archaeologist, has heretofore proffered up excuses for human foibles, but lately historical analogies have paled in comparison to the very real and immediate idiocies foisted on the natural world by human growth and development.

As time grinds on, I’m feeling a greater urge to sing the song of the ultimate necessity for defense of the natural world, its habitats and resident species. There’s not many of us left to carry the tune. David Brower is dead. Aldo Leopold is dead.  John Muir and Ed Abbey are dead. And lately I haven’t been feeling so well myself. (Apologies to Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

I realize I have fewer and fewer decisions left in my life and the pressure to make them count for something increases with each Natal Day. With book publishing thoroughly mired in the corporate feeding frenzy, the chances of publishing  a physical book read by anyone other than my own family are slim to none. Blogging seems to be the only outlet capable of preserving the ideas and concepts I hold dear and presenting them to tender readers in a wider audience.

The Internet is a many-edged sword, fraught with meaningless distractions, rampant trivia, misinformation and outright lies. Nevertheless, it can be a singular avenue between my rapidly fossilizing brain and the much more impressionable cranial organs on the other side of this computer screen.

Environmentalism may not be what it used to be, but it will have to do until something better comes along.

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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

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

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Merry Christmas, Pigs!
By Edward Abbey, from Abbey’s Road

 

 

 

Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, “Not much.” Easy to avoid it our here in the rocks.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist. Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative. And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York–she called me a creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can’t please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.

The pig I’m talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to zoologists, but a good approximation–a close relation. Close enough for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a “wild pig-like animal,” is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that’s another issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.

Back to my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry, snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it’s a problematic situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk of a saguaro cactus. That’s the story I’ve been told by old-timers around here.

In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O’Ryan [sic] chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.

The herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is unpredictable. These couldn’t make up their minds whether to run or stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome; they hoped I wouldn’t stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their vigorous jaws at work–a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of prickly pear. In all nature there’s no sound more pleasing than a hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.

Down by Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody out shopping for supper.

There was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell (at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble. Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights, raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.

Now and then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. One minute they’re on the point of exploding in all directions, pig fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.

Then what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I’ll admit I have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe that’s the main difference between a serious literary artist like me and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the newspaper. But I don’t want to make any harsh judgments here; this is supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports columnists too. And wild pigs.

As my hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug then we’re obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes, scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That’s the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we call Christmas.

As for the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas, I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I’ve charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.

If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I’d roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God’s creatures in order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That’s when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn’t it farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Sermons aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish Department? Without a Sportsmen’s Association? Hard to say. I wonder. But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all. Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like California, not fit for man or his dog.

Happy Christmas, brothers and sisters.
Long live the weeds and the wilderness.
Merry New Year, pigs!

The Ideology of the Cancer Cell

growthAnother unwritten assumption that lies beneath the headlines is the belief that continuing economic growth is essential for a healthy economy. This is the basic assumption of every economist on the planet, with the exception of Herman Daly and his followers at the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

But as Brent Blackwelder points:

“There are physical limits to growth on a finite planet.”

Source: Time to Stop Worshipping Economic Growth « Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

What’s the big secret?

I don’t understand why this is so difficult to understand, but then, I didn’t go to economics school. I chose the hard sciences. You know, science based on evidence and data, hypothesis testing and verification. Science about the hard physical world, not the mushy, social science that changes on a whim as each new economic fad sweeps through your bank account.

All one has to do is look at every other form of life on the planet to understand that unlimited growth is impossible. Even dinosaurs were limited in size and number, until they evolved into birds and flew away. Rabbits, lemmings, starlings and wildebeest sweeping across the Serengeti are all limited in growth by natural cycles of resource availability, subject to population booms and busts that affect not only their own numbers but those of their prey species as well.

The Great Escape

For some reason, humans expect to escape this fate of the lowly animals. It has something to do with faith in human innovation, invention and adaptation, and, truth be told, these mental attributes have served man well for the short time he’s hung around this twirling blue marble. It doesn’t, however, promise eternal escape from the the long spiraling slide down the porcelain parkway of evolution into the sewage lagoon of extinction. Homo sapiens, too, can follow the dodo, and if present trends continue, it won’t be long before the last specimen of our species will be mounted in the remains of the Chicago Field Museum next to the last passenger pigeon.

Enforcing the Rules

This planet we perch upon is a pretty old place and its natural cycles and periodic fluctuations have had a long time in which to build up evolutionary inertia. No upstart species can muscle in over a few measly million years, rough up the neighbors and set up a protection racket among the remaining species without attracting the attention of the ecology constabulary. They’re already starting to gather, tapping their nightsticks and What’s all thissing, as they reach for their climate change handcuffs and their read ’em their rights resource depletion cards.

The fate for species that violate the ecological rules is not a slap on the paw, or a brief stretch in the clinker, it’s solitary confinement, in the hole for the rest of whatever, throw away the key, gone away for to stay, never to be seen or heard from again. Extinction ain’t for sissies. Mother Nature means business.

The only other organism that tries to get way with eternal growth is the cancer cell, and look what it does: suffers attacks of toxic chemicals, radiation and surgical excision, then it kills its host and dies along with it.

No wonder Ed Abbey told us:

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

 

 

The Murmer Beneath the Headlines

Recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere were shocking and awesome. The dissonance of the images of war in peaceful downtown gay Paris were particularly troublesome.

There are some, however, who are troubled for an entirely different reason:

The Paris terrorist attacks and political instability in Europe are making companies more reluctant to invest, the chief executive of Siemens has warned.Joe Kaeser told the Financial Times: “Investment is about believing, about the future, and [when] events like that happen, people will wait.”

Source: Terror attacks threaten investment: Siemens chief – BBC News

Sounds like George W. Bush’s infamous call to keep shopping after September 11, 2001:

Remarks by the President to Airline Employees
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Chicago, Illinois
September 27, 2001

Excerpt:

When they struck, they wanted to create an atmosphere of fear.  And one of the great goals of this nation’s war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry.  It’s to tell the traveling public:  Get on board. Do your business around the country.  Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots.  Get down to Disney World in Florida.  Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.?

Read the complete speech at this direct link to the Whitehouse website.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010927-1.html

Are economists really so callous that they believe that investments trump people’s lives and welfare? Do Presidents, at least of the United States, really believe that going to Disney World will show those nasty terrorists that we’re no one to mess with? That’ll learn em!

Economics is one of those “fantastic doctrines” that Ed Abbey warned us about, especially “global” economics, which is all about keeping the rabble in line so the elite 1% can enjoy their billions, piling them in heaps and heaping them in piles.

Somehow, it must sink in that the “global economy” is the problem, not the solution.