Friday, September 23, 2011

Pawns and Not -So-Pawns

As a long-time hiker, I am pleased to see that Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal,the American hikers held prisoner by Iran are now free. Two years in any prison is a difficult ordeal, especially when all you wanted to do was get out and see the countryside. Now free, Bauer, Fattal and Sarah Shourd can get on with their lives as best they can. No doubt Iran will always be part of those lives.

So that's over. Meanwhile, another group of Americans are in southwest Asia--Afghanistan, to be exact. These Americans, Doug and Jody Mackey of Olympia and Larry Kershner from nearby Centralia, are in Afghanistan teaching low-technology water purification and sanitation. Their mission is one of both sharing knowledge and understanding--two-way direct communication between cultures that are now linked by events.

Unlike the American hikers whom I don't believe were ever at risk of death, Jody, Doug and Larry are in an active war zone. They are the same nationality of the foreign occupiers. And they bring ideas and knowledge that some in Afghanistan fear. Knowing the risks, that Larry, Jody and Doug chose to go there shows their essential humanity and courage. Not a surprise to those of us who know them.

Like the American hikers, I wish these three a safe return to family and friends.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011


An article about energy competition and exploitation in the South China Sea tells me that the world will do no better in making the conversion to a sustainable economy than I do in making difficult major life decisions. Difficult decisions are easily postponed because there is still time. Yet one day there is no more time. The shit happens and you deal with it as best you can, knowing all along you could have done something to prevent it. It's happened to me.

In my experience American society and the world seem about the same, only on a much larger scale. We know that an exploitative economy based on growth is not a sustainable option on a finite planet, the only planet we have. It will end. Putting some thought into how it will end and how we will leave a living planet to future generations would be a gift to those who will inherit the aftermath of our capitalism.

But we don't because that would involve confronting contradictions and making hard decisions. We continue to consume and rely upon fossil fuels that are not only limited, but they are also costly (dollars and soldiers). The resulting carbon emissions bid fair to change the planetary climate in adverse ways. We have all these reasons that we should be seeking viable alternatives and yet we do not.

And it's not a new issue. Americans have been talking about "energy independence" since the 1973 Oil Embargo and sustainability has been part of the discussion since the 90's. But we've not moved away from fossil fuel dependence in all that time; real change was never cost-effective. That's genuine procrastination.

Still, change will come and the decisions will make themselves. Real change will be not only cost-effective but also absolutely necessary. Our species will learn to adapt. Or not. It's that simple. Mother Nature truly bats last.

In the meantime nations are rushing to claim, control and exploit fossil fuels, building up military forces and harassing competitors. Same old. Same old. And no real solution at all. Only temporary advantage.

post script

The original title for this post was "I'm No Better" reflecting that like the world, I avoid difficult decisions. But after writing the last paragraph, I realized that I am not "rushing to claim, control and exploit fossil fuels, building up military forces and harassing competitors". I am better in that respect.

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