Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"In ancient savannas we slowly teased them out of their chauvinism. In our plumage we gave them aesthetics. In our courtships we tutored them in dance. In the gestures of antlered heads we showed them ceremony and the power of the mask. In our running hooves we revealed the secret of grain. As meat we courted them from within."

Paul Shepard: A Letter from the Others, Delivered by a Bear

Bears R Us

"Dancing Bear" by P. Salia at
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War on Terra: Lonely on the Planet

For decades now we have been living through the most massive species extinction since the dinosaur era. Update: The World Conservation Union annual Red List came out this morning: "the extinction crisis had escalated in the last year with 16,306 species now at the highest levels of extinction threat, equivalent to almost 40% of all species in the survey. A quarter of all mammals, a third of all amphibians and one in eight birds on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy." Some 180 species have been added in just the past year.

Until now the species that have disappeared were mostly those we'd scarcely noticed, if at all. But that's changing. Even the apparent disappearance of an obscure species of freshwater dolphin-- the first dolphin species to be eradicated as a result of human activity--is likely to be but a preview. Next to go could be the largest of the sea turtles.

But perhaps the most disturbing news is the study this week that confirms that up to two-thirds of all the polar bears in the world will likely be gone by 2050, due to the rapidly melting ice and warming in the Arctic. Photos and videos of polar bears are appealing, but it's more than cuddly imagery. The relationship between humans and bears goes back to our beginnings, and has been among the most important we've had. Bears are the creatures that look the most like us, apart from the highly endangered great apes. Unlike the apes, bears were once just about everywhere human beings were. They were important to our cultures and religions, and to our languages. As Paul Shepard points out, we get our bearings from bears; they're related to such words as "brightness" and perhaps even "dance." The plight of the polar bear may touch something deep and profound, and not merely sentimental.

The new study was related to the consideration of declaring polar bears an endangered species, and so some scientists spoke of hope. "The grim news about polar bears and sea ice decline is horrifying, but it is a call to action, not despair," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Our hope lies in a rapid response, including both deep and immediate carbon dioxide reductions and a full-court press on other greenhouse pollutants." But that's not going to happen without a profound committment that transcends this one problem. Especially since actually declaring polar bears endangered would then require efforts to save them, which would mean halting greenhouse gases to a meaningful extent--which the U.S. government and its corporate sponsors, and indeed pretty much all governments, have resisted.

One of the first iconic creatures to awaken the world's awareness and inspire concern were the whales. The "Save the Whales" campaign beginning in the 1970s has now become a default position--something everyone believes in. But efforts to halt international whaling, never complete and recently breached, was an easy but incomplete answer. Today as in the 1970s the Blue Whale is still very much endangered, there aren't that many more Humpback whales, and the apparent success story, the gray whale comeback, may have been wishful thinking.

Perhaps most directly threatening are the bees, without whom even we are unlikely to survive for long. They pollinate plants that are responsible for more than a third of our food, but that's just the most direct link in the chain. Beyond the headlines about specific diseases affecting or not affecting certain bee populations, there's this recent blanket
statement from an international expert: " I think that today the likelihood of a significant decline in bee populations, even the complete disappearance of certain species, is real." There appear to be many factors involved, including warmer winters, but many of the possibilities point to human causes.

Human impact on the planet has become massive, and life on earth as we know it cannot sustain this, and therefore it cannot sustain us. That's what the loss of our fellow creatures, including those closest to us in profound ways, is telling us. We may find ourselves lonely on this planet...but not for long. To truly stand for life will take an understanding, a consciousness and a renewal of heart that at the moment we can only imagine. Yet we must imagine it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We should not be mistaken about our terms. It is not technology or materialism that is the problem.The love of materials and the physical world and the extraordinary craftsmanship in its use have made us human. By catastrophes of industrial greed I refer to the corporate organization of the economy, with its destruction of the human community, its blindness to place, its obscene disregard for scale, its garbage, its rapacity, and its excessive desire for 'products.'"

Paul Shepard: The Only World We've Got

R.I.P. Anita Roddick

Dame Anita

I first became aware of Anita Roddick when she was featured in the PBS series, Millennium, about the relationship of Indigenous peoples to the environment and to our social evolution. She was the inspirational founder of the Body Shop in England, combining entrepreneurial skill with ecological and global social commitment. She tried to do it through her products as well as with her money, and not just products with an ecological style but made with the ecology, sustainability and health as important considerations. Further, she tried to involve disenfranchised cultures and people in making products she would then sell. It didn't always work out, but sometimes it did.

Then her Body Shop shops began showing up in U.S. cities and airports, and I started getting the catalogues. They sold a great blue corn wash for awhile, made by an Indigenous concern in the American southwest, and a nice coconut shampoo. I still have the last dregs of a tube of 'face protector' in their Mostly Men line, which they haven't made for years. Then, when they dropped most of their men's (or even gender-neutral) products in favor of a hard emphasis on marketing to women, I lost interest.

But Anita Roddick continued to do good work, like financing a publication by and for the homeless, and setting up Children on the Edge, a charity for young victims of violence, disabilities and HIV/AIDs in eastern Europe and Asia. She was a voice and a force for good.

Dame Anita was the daughter of Italian immigrants. She was much honored in the UK and around the world. She died shortly after a sudden brain hemorrhage. She was 64. Rest in peace.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"It has taken four thousand years of struggle to 'lift' man 'above' nature. In the course of that struggle language and thought and behavior in the West have lapsed into a too-simple framework of discontinuity and opposition: spirit and body, mind and matter, earth and heaven, man and nature, good and evil. It is not an insoluble dilemma, but it is far more dangerous than we permit ourselves to know."

Paul Shepard: Man in the Landscape

...But It's Getting There

Sham and Shame

We're in for days of it now, as we go on being racked by Iraq and never told the truth: it's a for-profit war that the profiteers are going to keep in business as long as they can, by any means necessary, including fear-mongering, posturing, lies, half-truths and the kind of p.r. spin on selected bits of pseudo-information that got us into the war in the first place.

Maybe this time the Democrats will stand up to this, but in the end it's hard to see how it will matter---one of them will get stuck with the mess and probably the blame. Bush will soon announce that some troops are coming home, a very small number but enough to fool those who aren't listening. On the war itself the American people aren't fooled--several polls (including one from Bushcorps) affirm this--although they may listen to general betrayus, since they still believe in military leaders. Meanwhile, the suffering in Iraqnam hell continues, as does the shame of what our country and our tax dollars are doing--something like $2 billion a week. The longer this goes on, while ignoring the real needs of our people and our economy, will only make the pain of getting out of this war economy worse.

What all this does, besides poisoning the political air we breathe, is drive out even any recollection of the things we need to be thinking about, and focusing on, actively, for the future.

So while this awful, tragic, shameful sham goes on this week, I'm going to stick with quotations for the future, many of them from Paul Shepard. It's not exactly a cure for heartsickness, but it helps the hope for sanity---mine anyway.