WHEN YOU ARE WARNED, YOU MUST LISTEN

A line from the 1983 surreal Dutch movie  The 4th Man (De vierde man) has remained in my head over the years, and it comes to mind repeatedly now when I read or watch the daily news.  The line is this:

When you are warned, you must listen.

In the movie, the lead character keeps encountering ominous portents of something terrible to come.  And here are just a few samples from recent news:

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say…”  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/18/warning-of-ecological-armageddon-after-dramatic-plunge-in-insect-numbers

“Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues

Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said…”  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

“Thawing Alaska permafrost alarms scientists

“US scientists contradict Trump’s climate claims

As President Donald Trump touts new oil pipelines and pledges to revive the nation’s struggling Coal mines, federal scientists are warning that burning fossil fuels is already driving a steep increase in the United States of heat waves, droughts and floods.”  https://phys.org/news/2017-08-scientists-contradict-trump-climate.html#jCp

“The world is facing a ‘biological annihilation’ of species, researchers warn

‘Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume’

The world is experiencing a “biological annihilation” of its animal species because of humans’ effect on the Earth, a new study has found.Researchers mapped 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles — nearly half of known terrestrial vertebrate species — and concluded the planet’s sixth mass extinction even was much worse than previously thought.

They found the number of individual animals that once lived alongside humans had now fallen by as much as 50 per cent…”  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/world-facing-annihilation-species-extinction-animal-population-proceedings-of-the-national-academy-a7834531.html

Our great misfortune at this time is to have a government — and not the only one — that does not listen.  My own view of the matter is that any world leader who refuses to listen to the countless daily warnings of impending ecological disaster should be legally removed from office for gross negligence of duty by endangering the country and the planet.

There are many factors contributing to why people do not listen.  Schools that do not teach students how to think critically and examine evidence.  Religions that prefer fundamentalistic self-deception to factual evidence.  The greed of corporations and individuals for lifestyles that require the rape and destruction of the environment.

Just consider one factor — the effects of people who insist on eating meat when a perfectly healthy (more healthy, in fact) diet can be had without it:

Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.  Nowhere is this impact more apparent than climate change – livestock farming  contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport put together.”  https://phys.org/news/2017-04-ways-meat-plate-planet.html

Perhaps you are wondering why I am talking about this on a site usually devoted to hokku and other forms of verse.  As I have mentioned before, hokku is a rather unique form of verse because it has as its subject matter Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature, set in the context of the seasons.  That means it is critically connected to the environment.  And no one who pays attention to Nature and the seasons can fail to see the danger signs all around us every day now.   And as the line in The 4th Man cautions,
When you are warned, you must listen.

 

David

 

THE COLOR PURPLE: AN ENVIRONMENTAL WARNING

justinianravenna

Anyone familiar with English literature and with history will know the term “Tyrian purple.”  This purple color was once the prerogative of royalty, thus the expression “to the purple born,” which we can trace back to the Byzantine Greek expression porphyrogennetos.

We find a variant of that word — Porphyrogene — in Edgar Alan Poe’s rather creepy poem The Haunted Palace:

Wanderers in that happy valley,
   Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
   To a lute’s well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
   (Porphyrogene!)
In state his glory well-befitting,
   The ruler of the realm was seen.

Emily Dickinson, who was fond of the color purple, mentions

An altered look about the hills —
A Tyrian light the village fills —

Reference to ancient royal purple — Tyrian purple — pops up in innumerable books and contexts.  Tyrian purple has been a part of our history since ancient times.  In fact our English word “purple” itself comes originally from the Greek porphyra, the name for the pigment we call Tyrian purple (as well as the mussel from which it was made).

All of this is just a preface to telling you that yesterday I was saddened to read in The Guardian that the shellfish used in ancient times to make the dye Tyrian purple (so called from the ancient city of Tyre) has disappeared from the eastern Mediterranean due to the rise of sea temperature caused by climate change.  It is just one worrisome sign among a multitude of troubling evidence that the world has entered precarious and dangerous times environmentally and climatically.

Here is the link to the article:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/05/ancient-shellfish-red-mouthed-rock-shell-purple-dye-vanishes-eastern-med

 

David

 

 

THE YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

smokestacks

As one who has taught and advocated hokku and other Nature-based verse for decades, I feel that in view of the recent U.S. presidential election, we should all pay very close attention to this warning from the Wilderness Society:

“Donald Trump’s victory ushers in a new era of serious threats to American conservation. When the president-elect has previously weighed in on the issues that matter to us, his words have often run contrary to core American values about protecting our land and water. Pledges to deregulate and drill our way to prosperity without regard for the science and consequences of climate change ought to alarm every person who cares about our country (and planet).”*

On the  day Trump was elected, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2011 to 2015 were the hottest years on record.  And the New York Times has reported that 2016 is likely to go on record as even hotter.

In The Guardian, an article by Oliver Milman had this to say:

A Trump presidency might be game over for the climate,” said Michael Mann, a prominent climate researcher. “It might make it impossible to stabilize planetary warming below dangerous levels.”

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, added: “This is an unmitigated disaster for the planet.”*

Of course the changing climate and the increasingly-damaged environment are only two of the many very serious concerns a Trump presidency brings to our country and our planet — but our climate, our air, our water and our earth are of paramount importance.  We should all be looking into ways we can work to minimize the potential damage to our planet and our lives during the coming four years under a Trump administration.

David

*https://wilderness.org/we-will-defend-our-wild-threats-likely-coming-during-trump-administration

*https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/11/trump-presidency-a-disaster-for-the-planet-climate-change

WITHOUT NATURE IN BALANCE THERE IS NO HOKKU (OR PEOPLE)

Earth from Space

I do not like to talk about politics here unless they affect the environment or free speech or freedom of and from religion.  But I listened to the Romney speech last night and was appalled to hear no mention of concern for the endangered world environment, but also appalled to hear this backward-facing part of the “Romney Plan”:

First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.

We can see where the emphasis comes in that and what it means:  a planned huge expansion of the extraction and use of the fossil fuels (with consequent huge amounts in the coffers of the oil, coal, and gas companies) that are already destroying huge tracts of land, polluting our air, and damaging and poisoning the water table.  And of course there is nuclear energy with its deadly radiation lasting thousands of years, a toxin which humans do not have either the infallibility or the life span to keep under control; and, as we saw from the Fukushima disaster, humans can be expected to make mistakes — disastrous mistakes — and the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy as quickly as possible, given what is happening to the worldwide climate.

The second appalling thing I heard was this:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise . . . is to help you and your family.”

What Romney fails to recognize is that slowing the rise of the oceans and healing the planet are critical to the future of all humanity — to all families — and we see with each passing year the great danger into which global warming due to excessive use of fossil fuels, etc., has thrust us (and certainly we have not heard nearly enough on that topic from the present administration, let alone the necessary practical actions).    It threatens not only our food sources due to drastic climate and weather changes, but it also has the potential to alter ocean currents and dry glacier-fed rivers, with disastrous results for massive numbers of humans.

In this election campaign so far, I have heard almost nothing of real substance from either side about global warming, the coming water crisis, or increasing pollution of our air, soil, and waters.  And of course that pollution is not coming from the U.S. alone.  I do not think one can find a river in the western part of the United States that is not polluted with traces of air-borne mercury from the burning of low-grade coal in China.

Where is any talk in either party, this election season, of cutting down on driving and use of gas?  Where is any talk about increasing the use of bicycles and yes, walking?  Where is serious talk about the urgency of taking practical action on climate change before it reaches the point where nothing can be done at all to modify the severity of the coming changes?

Quite honestly, I am disgusted with both parties.  I grant that the Democrats may at present be the (slightly) lesser of two evils, but on the whole the American people, in modern election campaigns, are astonishingly subject to the most foolish and often dishonest propaganda, and have let politicians get away with sound bites and spin and avoiding dealing with facts and the truth for so long that it has become the nature of American politics.  It is a rare TV journalist who will doggedly insist that a politician answer the question asked, rather than allowing him to veer off into prepared, irrelevant verbiage that has as its only purpose the evasion of answering a question directly.

The writing of hokku is based on Nature and the place of humans within and as a part of Nature.  If there is no concern for Nature — no realistic view of it, no genuine love for it, no seeing it as the fountain and enabler of life, no desire to protect it, then not only will hokku die out completely, but the prospects for continuing human civilization do not look much better.  There have been previous great extinctions of life.  Given that Americans seem to want to use the last drop of oil rather than changing their lifestyles, the prospect for another mass extinction is looking more and more possible.

POETS OF THE DEAD WORLD

It is difficult to write hokku while living in a big city.  The reason is that to build a city, natural life is removed — trees and grasses, bushes and weeds, soil and streams and all the creatures that live in them.  Cities tend to be the Dead World — the world of asphalt and concrete and plastic and metal and glass.

Hokku, however, are about the Living World — forests and pools, meadows and hillsides, leaves and flowers.

One of the most significant differences between hokku and modern haiku is that modern haiku (speaking in general terms, for it has many divisions) allows one to write verses about such things as toasters and TV sets, sports stadiums and skyscrapers.  These are parts of the Dead World.  Hokku does not do that, because hokku reminds us that we are not apart from Nature, though cities may give us the unhealthy illusion that we are.

I recently saw a program in which American school children were asked to identify some of the most common vegetables — things like tomatoes and potatoes and broccoli.  They could not do so.  I was shocked that people were being brought up so removed from reality.  I remember the son of a friend who could not tell if a potato grew on a tree or a bush or in the ground.  People are growing up today knowing only that vegetables — if they even see them whole at all — come from shelves in a supermarket.

I frequently mention the movie The Emerald Forest, which aptly speaks of the people of modern civilization as the Termite People, because they eat away the forest and the living things, gradually turning them into the Dead World.  We see that has already happened and is still happening to forests all over the world.  People are the cause of the present extinction of many forms of natural life.

That is why hokku never abandons its focus on Nature and humans within and as a part of Nature.  Hokku is a voice of reason and sense in a world that thinks it is all right to drill ocean wells and chance polluting the seas and coastlines, because it is important to the endless consumption of goods that is daily urged on modern humans, or to create nuclear waste toxic for millennia to generate electricity for all the wasted energy used by cities.

One of the most unpleasant aspects of living in a big city is the glare of artificial light all night long, glare that covers the land seen from space and blots out the stars in the night sky.

Focusing on the Dead World, writing verses about the Dead World, is like that — it covers over and makes people forget the Living World out of which humans grew, and which they are still in the process of destroying.  There is a point at which what used to be called progress simply becomes wanton destruction.  There is abundant evidence that point has been reached.  And one of the worst signs of the times is the number of people who are willing to despoil the natural world for a luxurious lifestyle, not thinking what will become of things in a generation, or two, or eight — the world that will be left to generations unborn.

Hokku is a small thing, and certainly will not save the world.  But it does turn our thoughts and our concerns in the right direction.

David