The Oldspeak Journal “Environmental Melancholia”- Mourning The Changes That Surround Us: Readers Speak Out On Climate Calamity

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Footage from the Carlton Complex wildfire in north and central Washington State. The fire burned for more than 10 days before it could be quelled by firefighters and rain. (Photo: Wildfire via Shutterstock)

Oldspeak:”Are You as a human being aware of the total disorder and the degenerating process going on in the world around you and in yourself? Aware in the sense of observing what is actually taking place. Not imagining what is taking place, not making an idea of what is taking place, but the actual happening: the political, religious, the social, the moral degeneration of man. No institution, no guru, no higher principles are going to stop this degradation. It is happening the world over. Are we aware of that? –Jiddu Krishnamurti

People often conceptualize climate disruption in very theoretical terms – as if it is a phenomenon that will take place in the future. However….the impacts of planetary warming are very real – and they are happening now… Taken together, these readers’ observations offer a disconcerting look at the planet changing before our eyes. They also lead us to the inevitable task of dealing with the melancholy that is sure to arise from our paying attention to these dramatic planetary changes.” –Dahr Jamail

“The latest climate dispatch from Dahr Jamail, frames the ongoing calamity of mass extinction and global ecological collapse from the view of normal folk, courageous enough to bear witness to the horrific degeneration happening in our world . People share their feelings of mourning, melancholy, loss, exasperation, frustration and fear that are rarely discussed in polite company. This needs to happen more often. We are all living and coping maladaptively with a beyond human scale planetary traumatic stress disorder. No one is talking about it. We are still acting as though we are separate from our environment. The effects of this delusion on our collective psyche are ubiquitous and devastating whether we choose to recognize them as such or not.” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

In early July, I asked Truthout readers to share the weather anomalies they are witnessing on their home turf. Large numbers of readers responded with a range of harrowing observations, from vanishing snow, to shifts in seasons, to skyrocketing temperatures, to wildfires and floods. People often conceptualize climate disruption in very theoretical terms – as if it is a phenomenon that will take place in the future. However, as the Truthout community knows, the impacts of planetary warming are very real – and they are happening now.

Taken together, these readers’ observations offer a disconcerting look at the planet changing before our eyes. They also lead us to the inevitable task of dealing with the melancholy that is sure to arise from our paying attention to these dramatic planetary changes.

Vanishing Snowpack

“Here, from the center of town, we can see Mount Blanc, the highest peak in Europe at 4,008 meters,” Robert James Parsons, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, wrote Truthout recently. “It is surrounded by less high peaks. When my sisters and mother visited me in September 1993, they had a rare view of the surrounding peaks without snow. These are slate gray, and their contrast with the dark green on the lower mountains and the white on the Mount Blanc range is quite beautiful.”

Parsons explained that this was a rare view because, ordinarily, the snow around Mount Blanc never entirely disappeared. Usually, by the middle of each September, the fall rains had begun in the lower elevations, bringing fresh snows higher up, and that would put an end to the exposed gray rock until the end of the next year’s summer.

“But this year, the gray rock was visible already at the end of April,” Parsons concluded grimly.

While no single climatological event or phenomenon can be attributed solely to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), consistent shifts in weather patterns, along with increasing frequency and intensification of events or phenomena, are being tied directly to ACD.

For example, Parson’s story evidences the scientific fact that ACD is literally shifting the timing of the seasons.

Gordon Glick has lived in Bremerton, Washington, nearby the Olympic Mountains in Olympic National Park since 1978.

“Bremerton is due east of the Olympic range, particularly the mountains called ‘The Brothers,’ which are visible from several vantage points around town and environs,” he wrote.

“These days, the snow pack and the glaciers are almost gone by the middle of June.”

“I’m a born New York City boy, and have always marveled at my good fortune in winding up here in the Northwest. When I first arrived, I was thrilled to see that the upper reaches of the Olympics were snow-capped all year long. Yes, the glaciers and snowpack melted and receded, and by August, would be at about their minimum. In September, the weather would change up on the peaks, and before you knew it, the sunrise would reveal the eastern flanks covered with brilliant, glittering snow, while down here at sea level, it would still be sunny and warm, soon to turn the gray of a Northwest autumn and winter. On clear days one could look up and see the peaks mantled in white.”

But things have changed dramatically.

“These days, the snow pack and the glaciers are almost gone by the middle of June,” Glick continued. “By August, you can’t tell they were ever covered in snow and ice. The heat at sea level has become very oppressive, and without the inspiring view of the frozen summits, which seemed to offer respite for a thirsty and sweaty shipyard worker, it feels even hotter. Summer temperatures in the 90s have been common the past few years, and the haze obscures the peaks on some days.”

As I pen this piece, entire eastern flanks of the Olympic Peninsula remain, as they have for several days in a row now, shrouded thickly in smoke from hundreds of Canadian wildfires, as well as a burning rainforest in southeastern Olympic National Park.

A 2012 Stanford University study, “Northern Hemisphere Snowpack Likely to Shrink Faster,” speaks directly to the phenomenon Glick is witnessing. The study cites the fact that water supplies throughout the western United States will most certainly decline dramatically due to faster than expected changes in less annual snowfall amounts.

Molly Brown, who lives near Mount Shasta in California, wrote about how that mountain had almost no snowfall through this last winter – after multiple years of more than five feet of snow accumulations.

“A tomato I planted in late April is already turning red and it’s just the first week of July.”

“[This year] we didn’t have to lift one shovelful,” she said. “The previous winter had only one significant snow storm; this year, only two small storms. Then it was so warm that our peach trees blossomed too early for the pollinators to arrive, so almost no fruit set. And then of course a later freeze finished off any fruit that had managed to make.”

Mitch Clogg, who wrote from Mendocino, California, echoed Brown’s observations.

“I’ve had a place in Trinity Mountains since 2000 beneath Trinity Alps in northern California,” he wrote. “An older long-term neighbor was the first one to tell me the snowpack had been melting earlier and there used to be snow until end of June. This year it ended by end of May.”

He added, “Mount Shasta in mid-June looks like end of August. The northern and western sides are very bare.”

Clogg also wrote of his experience witnessing the mega-drought in his state, which has, via numerous studies, been linked directly to ACD. He wrote that, by the end of April, “It was the driest … I had ever seen the earth and trees. A lot of small cedar trees in [the] front and back of my place had died. The Trinity River is slightly above my ankle. There are no ripples; it is more like a lake. When I left Trinity Lake on June 14, it had already receded to [the] point where it was last fall.”

Shifting Seasons

In Portland, Oregon, Val Eisman wrote of how blueberries and zucchinis were ripening three weeks earlier than they normally would.

“A tomato I planted in late April is already turning red and it’s just the first week of July,” he wrote.

Patricia Sanders, writing from east central Arizona, said that at the farm where she used to live the apricots ripened six weeks early this year.

“Also, there are Eurasian collared doves in abundance – never seen before at the farm (the farmer’s been there 35 years),” she added.

Folks in Montana are seeing some big changes as well.

“Here in Missoula, we are having incredibly hot and dry weather very early in the year,” wrote Tamara Kittelson-Aldred. “For years, I have noticed that my garden is earlier developing and two years ago we were officially reclassified Zone 5 by the USDA, instead of Zone 4.” She is referring to US Department of Agriculture-designated “plant hardiness” zones, which essentially categorize locations by how well plants grow there. Large numbers of plant hardiness zones across the United States are now in the process of being redesignated.

“Conditions here feel about six weeks ahead of schedule … the rivers are really low – about seven feet or so below normal.”

Kittelson-Aldred is witnessing dramatic changes in Missoula: “This year, for the first time, my rain barrels never have filled up. We have had virtually no rain in April, May or June. At the same time, we have been in a Stage 1 fire danger alert since June. This never usually happens until late July or August. My Nanking cherries are all done as of two weeks ago and they used to ripen in July. And we have cherries and raspberries several weeks early. How can anyone say things are not changing?”

Over in Prescott, Arizona, Terry Wofford is also witnessing sharp changes in plant growth.

“I have lived in different parts of Arizona for the last 40 years,” she told Truthout. “All those years I have had thriving geraniums and other plants in pots, regardless of season or altitude. Now, for the last three years or so, there have been relentless caterpillar attacks virtually destroying them. Also, aphid infestations on all my deck plants, vegetables and even aspen tree, whereas in the past it was only roses affected and only for a short time.”

Stephen Rioux wrote from Ontario, Canada, where he lives on the shores of Georgian Bay. Although some people may assume that temperatures are increasing across the board this summer, Rioux points to the complexity of shifts in weather: In some places, this summer is unusually cool.

“It’s been interesting to see how the melting Arctic ice is changing our weather patterns, for as warm as it is where you are [Olympic Peninsula] and right up into Alaska, we are experiencing much cooler than normal temperatures here in Ontario,” Rioux wrote of the disruptions he is witnessing. “In fact, today (Canada Day, July 1) where I live, the high is only 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit), about 10 degrees Celsius below the average for this time of year. So we have these extremes occurring. Of course, all this cooler weather here has meant some of the lesser informed are saying how this proves ‘there is no such thing as ACD,’ never understanding that record warm temperatures are being recorded all over the planet or how ACD actually works. Fools!”

Colin Ball wrote from Clare Valley, Australia, where, he says, “signs of chaotic change abound.”

Record high temperatures, perhaps the most obvious sign of our climate-disrupted planet, have long been linked to ACD.

“Where I live, almond trees are amongst the first, along with some native acacias, to blossom,” Ball wrote. “This used to be in mid- to late August (winter here). I’ve watched over the past decade or so as this blossoming has occurred earlier in the season, from early August to late July, mid-July, early July, until this year 2015, I was astounded to see buds burst on my property on June 28!”

He added that by early July they experienced a prolonged warming period during which one day reached 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), despite that usually being, traditionally, the coldest part of the year there.

“This prolonged warm patch induced an apple tree to an early blossom with one particular blossom commencing to form an apple about the size of a grape,” Ball wrote. “When winter returned a week or so later, the blossoming stopped and the little apple desiccated but remained on the tree as a sad indictment of its misled promise. When frosts came due to rainless and cloudless skies in late July/August all the almond and apple blossoms died. The result – no fruit in summer.”

Shawn Taylor, the executive producer for “The Thom Hartmann Program,” wrote about her observations from Portland, Oregon:

I am not liking the hot summer we’ve been dealt in the Pacific Northwest this year. Portland has been too hot with higher than normal [temperatures] and humidity. We have no snow on our mountains either … Mt. Hood has a little on the highest peak and Mt. St. Helen’s had barely a dusting last weekend … it’s probably gone by now too … Conditions here feel about six weeks ahead of schedule … the rivers are really low – about seven feet or so below normal (I live on a floating home so that is always a little scary); fruit that usually isn’t ripe until August is just about ready to pick now and the pond near my house is drying up now vs. mid-August.

Taylor also mentioned that the heat in Portland had been relentless, and a large number of creeks were now completely dry. She described it as “really disturbing,” and said that the local government in her area had yet to place any restrictions on water use.

“I don’t think anyone wants to admit we’ve ‘suddenly’ become California,” she concluded.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists shifting seasons as an indicator of ACD. The world over, these shifts are taking an alarming cumulative toll on food and water availability and agricultural production (usually causing it to decline), and having negative impacts on insect and animal species.

Record Temperatures

Like Taylor, Jessica Sweeney lives in Portland, Oregon, which she describes as “a part of the country that is historically wet and mild throughout the majority of the year.” However, Sweeney said, “That started changing a decade or so ago. Right now, we are experiencing the craziest stretch of hot weather I have ever experienced (and I am a lifelong Oregonian).”

Val Eisman, also a Portland resident, described the city’s record temperatures: “We have had almost three weeks of 90s degree weather in Portland. Usually during our hot weather it gets down to the high 70s by 9 pm. Now it’s in the low 80s at 10 pm.”

Sweeney said temperatures in Portland had ranged from the high 80s to the low 100s “for so many days – without any signs of precipitation, not even a cloud in the sky – that I can’t recall when they started. It feels like desert heat, the kind you experience in central Oregon and California, and as far as I know has never happened in Portland before.”

Record high temperatures, perhaps the most obvious sign of our climate-disrupted planet, have long been linked to ACD.

Sweeney also mentioned how Pacific Northwest salmon are dying from the unusually warm river water.

Another observation from the Pacific Northwest came from Ian Cameron, in Camas, Washington. He too mentioned the incredible heat and lack of rainfall in the region, and said, “11 of the last 12 months have been warmer than average and six of those 11 months were heat records. But this June and July it has been unbelievable and actually sincerely concerning as our well already has a low flow/refill rate.”

Cameron went on to share his concerns about the future – a future in which the western United States is likely to continue growing hotter and drier.

“I’m no expert but I predict that in the near future (10-15 years) we are going to see private wells dry up across the West, maybe in the thousands or hundreds of thousands,” he wrote. “People won’t be able to live in (long term at least) or sell their homes resulting in massive debt, widespread economic disruption, migration to areas with water and the subsequent increased depletion rate of those water resources.”

David Kirsh, from Durham, North Carolina, wrote to share an experience he had in Jamaica. “I’m a lifelong shell collector and I’ve had the opportunity to vacation twice in the southwest corner of Jamaica called Treasure Beach (St. Elizabeth’s Parish), once in December 2013 and again this March,” he wrote.

Kirsh noticed that a place called “Great Pond” in Jamaica was only one-quarter to one-third full on his first trip, and he decided to explore the area for aquatic snails on his second trip.

“When we returned, I saw that it was completely dry,” he said. “The owner of the guesthouse where I stayed told me that it had been dry before but this is the longest time it’s been dry (perhaps eight months or more). Great Pond was the largest fresh body of water in Jamaica and was somewhat unique in its being so close to ocean water yet low salinity … It was a place where local Jamaicans used to fish and swim and boat (I don’t know how recently).”

Now, Kirsh wrote, the pond is a site of death. “I found the biggest single assemblage of shells I’ve ever seen in my lifetime at Great Pond – all dead,” he wrote. “Most of the shells I found on the surface of the dried mud are non-native and were introduced within the last 20 years, going by the records in a previous study. Admittedly without complete information, it seemed to me like a small habitat meant to be a canary in the coal mine.”

Another story about increasing temperatures came from Michael Gary, who wrote of his childhood home. It’s worth publishing in full:

In 1968, our family moved from Detroit, Michigan, to Westerville, Ohio, just north of Columbus.

In the winter months I would spend hours ice skating on Alumn Creek, along with hundreds of other members of our community. Year after year, without any interruption.

Decades went by before I found myself planning a trip back to that area and wanted to go ice skating again, as I had once enjoyed so much. In preparation I called the city office and inquired about how to learn about any planned activities. I was informed that the last time the creek had frozen was at least 20 years ago.

Global warming? I can’t say one way or another.

All I can say is that that creek froze year after year and I have seen photos of ice skating there dating back 100 years or so …

but it no longer does.

Ever.

Wildfires

Record wildfires abound, thanks to ACD. It is a scientific fact that there is now a greater frequency of wildfires, they are larger and hotter, and wildfire season is expanding dramatically, all due to ACD.

Thus far in 2015 alone, a staggering 3 million acres have burned in Alaska, and well over 5 million in Canada.

“It is the hottest and driest year in British Columbia that I have ever seen,” wrote Ellen Rainwalker, from Vancouver Island. “Sixty-four temperature records were broken in June. A lot of our rivers are fed from snowmelt but this year there was hardly any snow so the water in the rivers is very low. Lots of people’s wells have already run dry and it is only early July.”

She mentioned that while her area does sometimes have dry summers, this was the first time she was aware of that there have been such dramatic water shortages this early in the summer, “and I’ve lived here for a long time,” she said.

A recent local news report from her area underscored Rainwalker’s points, with a story on how the British Columbia government banned angling from over a dozen streams and rivers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands because of low stream flows and warming water temperatures. Her province has also increased the drought rating for both of those areas to its highest level, and imposed new restrictions to protect what is left in the aquifers.

Another Canadian, Richard Miller from Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, also wrote to me about the wildfires and heat there.

“Fire is a major concern on this treed island and evacuation plans are in place,” he said. “Our crops are about a month early and many people on the island have dry wells. The regional government has banned new developments that draw water from stressed sources.”

Miller also reported on another anomaly: “lots of sightings of large sea animals in places they usually don’t show themselves, perhaps as a result ocean temperature change.”

Rising Sea Levels

Another glaringly obvious sign are rising sea levels, which science long ago linked to ACD.

Everett Wohlers is a consultant who works in developing countries, and a few years ago worked on a job in the Marshall Islands, where he observed something that troubled him greatly.

“When the US moved the Bikini islanders off Bikini to use it as the site for the H-bomb tests in the 1950s, they were resettled on Majuro, the atoll where the capital is located,” Wohlers wrote. “As part of the compensation package, the US built a high-quality paved road around the atoll, including through the capital.”

According to Wohlers, at the time the road was built, it was safely dry as it was well above the high-tide mark, even in stormy weather.

But things have changed.

“Now, at high tide, water routinely flows across the road just outside the hotel in which I stayed in the capital, even on perfectly calm days,” Wohlers wrote. “If you are not familiar with the Marshalls and the next island country to it, Kiribati, the maximum natural elevation on those atolls is about six feet, so it is only a matter of time until they become uninhabitable and eventually disappear, as did one of the Maldives islands a couple of years ago.”

Environmental Melancholia

While some people who wrote to Truthout about their environmental observations have spoken overtly about their exasperation, frustration and even fear, there is an even deeper emotional current surrounding the issue of climate disruption – and it is affecting all of us, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Regan Rosburg is a professional artist who is finishing her master’s thesis that explores the connection between grief, symbolism, environmental melancholia and mania. I was already well acquainted with Rosburg’s work, but she contacted me after I put out the call to Truthout readers.

Her perspective on what each of us is witnessing as the planet degrades is thus: “These are the personal mini deaths that, to me, are an entrance point for people to experience their own grief regarding environmental melancholia.”

Her thesis, which will be completed and fully online this November, will serve as both artwork and resource for those of us struggling to cope emotionally with the climate crisis, delving into the issue of what planetary death is doing to our psyches.

Rosburg continued:

A mini death is a death that is part of the larger ecological collapse story, but is close enough for someone to experience directly (in a way that resembles healthy mourning). For example, someone might see bees disappear from his yard, or she might experience a drought-related forest fire, or flooding. The person is having a direct experience with this death. Furthermore, his processing of the grief for this death is proportional to how much she directly engages her feelings and awareness towards the loss.

Rosburg explained that in contrast, the major deaths we witness, like the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica collapsing, or Chris Jordan’s photographs of plastic-filled albatross who feed in the open ocean, or even California’s record-breaking megadrought, remain “more indirect, abstract and overlapping.”

Rosburg sees these “major” deaths as being “too massive for the human mind to fully comprehend,” on top of the fact that we are all already desensitized by “a constant stream of small television, radio and social media sound bites, which further depersonalize these stories of massive losses around the world.”

Thus, we are left with, according to Rosburg, “no time to grieve; no symbolic ritual [is] in place, and [there is] no body to bury.” In other words, there is no real precedent for carrying out this kind of mourning.

“Thus, these notions of collapse are abstracted; they cannot be personalized, nor properly mourned,” Rosburg said. “Instead, the recurrent state of un-mournable deaths gives way to environmental melancholia.”

A G. Hanlon wrote me from California, and shared several examples of collapsing natural systems around him, including the drought, wildfires and chronically higher temperatures. He ended his email by sharing a deeply personal experience that speaks directly to the concept of “environmental melancholia”:

Until I read your interview [“Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It“], I was very much aware of climate change, of threats it posed to living entities … etc … but I lacked a sense of its immediacy. After reading it, I looked at an image I had taken of a friend’s daughter (16 years of age) participating in a race on July 4 at Mt. Shasta. As she ran past me, she flashed a natural, fabulously beautiful smile. I thought of her future (and others) but hers was deeply personal. I wept uncontrollably for sometime afterwards (10-20 minutes). Shopping today I paid attention to all those unknown people of all ages and asked myself “how can we allow this (extinction) to happen? I lack the words beyond sadness, sorrow … to express my feelings about these passing. None of those people (and millions and billions like them) deserve a potential fate of a hell on earth in two to three decades and their horrid deaths that will follow.

Rosburg sees the solution, at least emotionally, as allowing ourselves to dive headfirst into the emotions that are elicited each time we witness a mini-death, so as to render ourselves more capable of fathoming the broader collapse that is taking place across the planet.

“If someone can acknowledge the pain and ambivalence that comes with a mini-death, then that person can extend that awareness to the larger ecological collapse,” Rosburg said.

Given that the numbers of both mini- and major-ecological deaths are mounting on a daily basis, we would all do well to heed Rosburg’s suggestion.

Meanwhile, I want to say thank you to the Truthout community for contributing to this piece with such enthusiasm and insight. The first step to wrestling with the calamity of climate disruption is to acknowledge it. Your observations mark a path forward, toward awareness – and, hopefully, healing.

 

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The Oldspeak Journal Ecological Crisis And The Tragedy Of The Commodity

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Oldspeak:”The ceaseless drive for accumulation inherent in capitalist commodity production speeds up the social metabolism. It results in a faster depletion of resources, stemming from increasing demands for materials and throughput, and the generation of ever-more waste. It degrades the conditions that support resilient ecosystems. The capitalist system creates numerous contradictions between nature and commodities; it progressively deepens and creates ecological rifts.”-Brett Clark and Richard York

“Yep. The above statement delineates the folly of market-based “green economy” responses to global warming and climate change. De-growth is not an option. Infinite growth and accumulation are immutable imperatives.This is the inherent and terminally destructive nature of the system of Global Industrial Capitalist Civilization which has played a major role in bringing about Earth’s 6th Mass extinction. Commodifying All has a price; and it is the end life on earth. It ends with a hopium-laced “sustainable” way forward, that artfully prescribes an end to capitalism, replacing it with an anacro-syndicalist, decentralized and democratized sociocultural system. Great idea. Far too late to matter as our proverbial goose is cooked.” -OSJ

Written By

We live in an era of ecological crisis, which is a direct result of human actions. Natural scientists have been debating whether the current historical epoch should be called the Anthropocene, in order to mark the period in which human activities became the primary driver of global ecological change.[1]

Initially, it was proposed that this new epoch, corresponding with the rise of modern capitalist and industrial development, began in the eighteenth century. The growth imperative of capitalism, as well as other sociocultural changes, is a primary factor generating major environmental problems that culminate in ecological crisis.[2]

It has become increasingly clear that humans face an existential crisis. The environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben explains:

Earth has changed in profound ways, ways that have already taken us out of the sweet spot where humans so long thrived…. The world hasn’t ended, but the world as we know it has—even if we don’t quite know it yet. We imagine we still live back on that old planet, that the disturbances we see around us are the old random and freakish kind. But they’re not. It’s a different place. A different planet…. This is one of those rare moments, the start of a change far larger and more thoroughgoing than anything we can read in the records of man, on a par with the biggest dangers we can read in the records of rock and ice.[3]

Many modern ecological problems are referred to as a tragedy of the commons, a concept developed by Garrett Hardin in the 1960s to describe the overexploitation or despoliation of natural resources.[4] We contend that they are actually associated with the tragedy of the commodity. While an obvious play on Hardin’s concept, this approach offers, we argue, a much more comprehensive and historically appropriate analysis of the drivers of ecological degradation.

The classic illustration of the tragedy of the commons used by Hardin involved the dynamic of herders and their livestock. He claimed that each herder will act primarily in his or her own interest by adding additional livestock to common grazing land when it served to increase individual benefits. Therefore, Hardin argued, each herder would attempt to acquire the benefits offered by the commons, while socializing the costs to all. For example, by adding an extra animal to the pasture the herder reaps all the benefit, but pays only a fraction of the environmental costs, such as depletion of the grazing land. Each actor, motivated by individual maximization of benefits, increasingly introduces grazing animals into a finite system of resources, leading to the tragic destruction of the land. With this Hardin concludes “freedom in commons brings ruin to all.”[5] For Hardin, and many others who have adopted this perspective, expanding private property is offered as a leading policy solution for avoiding ecological tragedies.[6]

The tragedy of the commons theory explains the behaviors of individual actors in given social circumstances. However, it does not address how historical conditions and the socioeconomic system influence individual actors. In other words, the social context is simply taken for granted. The existing social conditions and relations are regarded as ever-present, universal, and permanent. The model neglects to recognize that human interactions and exchanges with ecological systems change through time and are regulated by particular institutional conditions. Once examined from a sociological perspective, the tragedy of the commons theory is simplistic and one-sided in that it attempts to explain human social behavior, or human agency, without a thorough understanding of the historical social organization.[7] This simplification results in a mystification of the modern systems of production and consumption and the historically specific ecosystem effects.

In contrast, the tragedy of the commodity approach emphasizes the role of the growth imperative of capitalism and commodification in producing the institutional rules by which nature and, for example, the commons are governed and historically transformed. Ecological systems are never altogether free of social influences. Rather, they are shaped by social conditions including norms, traditions, economic rules, the organization of labor, politico-legal arrangements, etc.[8] The social actions that have emerged with capitalist development are dominated by what Adam Smith called “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange,” matched with a crude utilitarianism, where individuals follow pure self-interest without social constraint. Unfortunately, these actions are often incorrectly ascribed to innate human behavior.[9] Thus, what might appear to the casual observer to be a system governed by base greed and human instinct is in fact largely directed by the drive for capital accumulation and what Immanuel Wallerstein called the progressive “commodification of everything.”[10] Among other outcomes, the commodification process results in a social metabolic order—socio-ecological interchanges and interrelationships—that produces unsustainable social and ecological consequences.

In a society organized around the logic of capital, human activities tend to be directed toward the production of commodities. That is, capitalism can be understood in a broad sense as a system of generalized commodity production. The institutional arrangements result in particular social arrangements and generate distinct types of human social action. The commodity serves as a basic unit to understand the larger culture-nature relations and capitalism itself. It is a base element of capitalist market processes.

Nature is an essential source of use value, or the qualitative usefulness of things. For example, Earth’s biogeochemical systems provide the conditions and means that allow for the production of food. Karl Marx emphasized that under capitalist relations, nature was seen as a free gift; it was not considered as part of wealth.[11] He famously explained this in terms of a “general formula for capital”—whereby capital is understood as the “continuous transformation of capital-as-money into capital-as-commodities, followed by a retransformation of capital-as-commodities into capital-as-more-money.”[12] Even though use value expresses the useful properties of an item or service, it is exchange value, or market value, which knows only quantitative increase and drives capitalist economic activity.

Money is put into circulation in order to return money, a quantity for a quantity, “its driving and motivating force is therefore exchange-value.”[13] Thus, capital constantly expands into more capital, motivated by surplus value or profits, the generation of which is “the absolute law of this mode of production.”[14] Under this logic, money dominates the organization of social and natural relationships. Addressing the pervasiveness of this logic, Karl Polanyi explained, “All transactions are turned into money transactions.”[15] The emergence of an all-encompassing, self-regulating, market disembedded human practical activity from its foundation in the broader sociocultural and environmental conditions. Market activity directed by commodity production for the endless accumulation of capital acquired the irresistible impetus of a “process of nature.”[16] Accordingly, the organization of production and consumption activities is fundamentally transformed from the exchange of qualities into the exchange of quantities. Alienation from each other and nature increases, as qualitative relations of production and the universal metabolism of nature are subsumed under the quantitative growth imperative of capital and a culture of quantity.[17] This fundamental tension between the necessity of quantitative expansion to sustain the economic relations and the qualitatively unsustainable ecological consequences marks the defining characteristic of the modern ecological crisis and the tragedy of the commodity.

Capital tends to simplify natural processes and ecosystems, imposing a division of nature to increase economic efficiency. It directs the life cycles of plants and animals to the economic cycle of exchange. Qualitative social relations—such as subsistence use within an ecosystem—are not part of the capitalist accounting system and can suffer various forms of destruction as a result. Use values, as the qualitative means for meeting the needs of life, are limited given biophysical properties. In contrast, there are no limits to quantitative measures of wealth. In other words, growing returns on investment have no end, but real human needs are confined to definite and knowable material limits.

The ceaseless drive for accumulation inherent in capitalist commodity production speeds up the social metabolism. It results in a faster depletion of resources, stemming from increasing demands for materials and throughput, and the generation of ever-more waste. It degrades the conditions that support resilient ecosystems. The capitalist system creates numerous contradictions between nature and commodities; it progressively deepens and creates ecological rifts.[18]

The way forward, toward a more sustainable world, requires radical changes in the social conditions that have historically shaped the productive and consumption system of capitalism. Collective action must take back public commons and put them in control of the people who most closely interact with them and depend on them for community well-being. In order to be successful, these actions must (in effect) de-commodify nature. Commons must be decentralized and democratized, rather than, in the standard neoliberal view, privatized. Farmland and fisheries must be socially organized to advance nourishment and health. Forests must be valued as reserves of biodiversity, clean water, and culture. Economic activities must be embedded within society as a whole and the universal metabolism of the biophysical world, allowing for the continuation of reproductive processes, nutrient cycles, and energy flows that support all life. Human society must transcend the logic of capital, creating a new social metabolic order that increases the quality of life and enhances the potential for ecological flourishing and universal human freedom.

Recently, Pope Francis highlighted what we have been calling the tragedy of the commodity. In his highly publicized Encyclical on the environment, he mentions the “tragic effects of environmental degradation.” He goes on to say: “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.”[xix] He contends that a “cultural revolution” is required to address ecological crisis.

Interestingly, Pope Francis limited his suggested response to a cultural revolution when it is clear throughout the document that he is describing a political-economic problem. We agree that a revolutionary approach is necessary for addressing the ecological crisis. Nothing short will be adequate for challenging the tragedy of the commodity.

This essay is based on the new book The Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark, published by Rutgers University Press (2015).

Works Cited.

[1]. Paul J. Crutzen, “Geology of Mankind,” Nature 415, no. 6867 (2002): 23; Jan Zalasiewicz et al., “The New World of the Anthropocene,” Environmental Science & Technology 44, no. 7 (2010): 2228-31.

[2]. Will Steffen et al., “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369, no. 1938 (2011): 842–67.

[3]. Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Times Books, 2010), 2-3.

[4]. Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162, no. 3859 (1968):

1243–1248.

[5]. Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” 1244.

[6]. Theorists of the tragedy of the commons also acknowledge the potential for state action and management as alternative arrangements for promoting resource conservation. See Elinor Ostrom et al., The Drama of the Commons (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2002).

[7]. Bonnie J. McCay and Svein Jentoft, “Uncommon Ground: Critical Perspectives on Common Property” in Human Footprints on the Global Environment: Threats to Sustainability, ed. Eugene A. Rosa et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), 207.

[8]. Thomas Dietz et al., “The Struggle to Govern the Commons,” Science

302, no. 5652 (2003): 1907–1912; Elinor Ostrom et al., “Revisiting the Commons,” Science 284, no. 5412 (1999): 278–282.

[9]. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 Volumes (London: Methuen & Co., 1930); Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1976); Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).

[10]. Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization (London: Verso, 1983).

[11]. John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010).

[12]. Robert L. Heilbroner, The Nature and Logic of Capitalism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), 36.

[13]. Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, 250.

[14]. Ibid., 769.

[15]. Polanyi, The Great Transformation, 44.

[16]. Ibid., 132.

[17]. István Mészáros, Marx’s Theory of Alienation (London: Merlin Press, 1986), 35.

[18]. Brett Clark and Richard York, “Rifts and Shifts: Getting to the Roots of Environmental Crises,” Monthly Review 60, no. 6 (2008): 13–24.

[xix]. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home (Vatican Press, 2015), 12, 139.

via The Oldspeak Journal http://ift.tt/1I7sc7x

Digital Inspiration Technology Blog Evernote Drops Email-to-Note for Free Accounts, Alternative

Your Evernote account has a unique and secret email address. Any email messages forwarded to this address are automatically saved as notes in your Evernote notebook. The feature has been around for a while and is particularly handy for quickly archiving email messages and included file attachments into Evernote that can be retrieved later from any device.

Earlier this month, Evernote made a little change. The Email to Evernote feature still exists but only if you have a premium account. From the support page:

After July 15, 2015, you can continue saving up to five more emails into Evernote. After you send your fifth email, you won’t be able to save any additional emails into Evernote until you’ve upgraded to Evernote Plus or Premium.

In the meantime, Evernote has introduced a new Email Clipper for sending your Gmail messages to Evernote but it only works inside desktop browsers. How do you send email messages to Evernote from a mobile device?

A good alternative is IFTTT. Assuming that you have activated the Evernote and Gmail channels in your IFTTT account, here are the 2 recipes that will help you email notes into Evernote but without having to upgrade to premium.

  • Recipe 1 – Forward any email message to trigger@recipe.ifttt.com with #Evernote in the subject line and it will create a note in your default Evernote notebook.
  • Recipe 2 – Apply the label Evernote to any email message inside Gmail and it will magically appear in your Evernote notebook via IFTTT.

You will however miss the option to create reminder notes via email nor can your redirect notes to different Evernote notebook based on the subject line.

See more Evernote Tips & Tricks


The story, Evernote Drops Email-to-Note for Free Accounts, Alternative, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/07/2015 under Evernote, Internet.

Digital Inspiration Technology Blog Embedded Tweets can be Easily Faked

You can easily embed tweets in your website by adding a little HTML snippet to your site’s template. The embedded tweets are interactive in the sense that they’ve a follow button, they show live retweet counts, and you also use CSS to change the formatting of tweets.

Now CSS does help you control the tweet’s appearance but you may be surprised to know that it is also possible to change the other elements of an embedded tweet. For instance, you may modify the actual text of the tweet. The favorite & retweet counts can be altered as well. Let me illustrate that with an example:

This is the original tweet:

This is the same tweet, but altered with JavaScript:

twttr.ready(function() {
twttr.widgets.createTweet(‘459047195434819584’,
document.getElementById(“tweet”), {
conversation: ‘none’, // or all
cards: ‘hidden’, // hidden or visible
}).then(function(el) {
var e = el.contentDocument;
var html = e.querySelector(“.Tweet-text”);
html.innerHTML = “[How-to Guide] ” + html.innerHTML;
e.querySelector(“.FollowButton”).style.display = “none”;
e.querySelector(“.TweetAction–retweet .TweetAction-stat”).innerHTML = “123”;
e.querySelector(“.TweetAction–favorite .TweetAction-stat”).innerHTML = “999”;
e.querySelector(“.dt-updated”).innerHTML = “Contact the author of this tweet at amit@labnol.org”;
});
});

Notice any difference? Well, there are quite a few.

The altered tweet uses a different font family, there’s minimal Twitter branding, the favorite & retweet numbers are made up, some extra words were appended to the tweet itself and the date has been replaced with custom text. And it is not a fake screenshot.

Embed Tweet

Also see: Learn Coding Online

How to Alter an Embedded Tweet

Twitter allows you embed tweets with JavaScript and when you take this route, you not only gain control over how the tweets are rendered but also over what’s rendered inside the tweet.

Here’s the complete JavaScript snippet that allows use to modify most of the elements of an embedded tweet.

<div id="tweet"></div>

<script src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script>

<script>
  twttr.ready(function() {

    twttr.widgets.createTweet(
      
      // Replace this with the Tweet ID
      'TWEET ID', document.getElementById("tweet"))
      .then(function(el) {

        var e = el.contentDocument;

        // Change the tweet text
        var html = e.querySelector(".Tweet-text");
        html.innerHTML = "[How-to Guide] " + html.innerHTML;

        // Hide the Follow Button
        e.querySelector(".FollowButton").style.display = "none";

        // Change the retweet count
        e.querySelector(".TweetAction--retweet .TweetAction-stat").innerHTML = "123";

        // Change the favorites count
        e.querySelector(".TweetAction--favorite .TweetAction-stat").innerHTML = "999";

        // Replace the date with text
        e.querySelector(".dt-updated").innerHTML = "Contact the author of this tweet at amit@labnol.org";
      });
  });
</script>

You pass the tweet ID (line #11) and also specify the DIV element where the tweet will be rendered.

After the tweet is rendered, you can use standard DOM methods to change the various inner elements based on class names. For instance, you can change the innerHTML property of the element with the Tweet-text class to modify the tweet text. Similarly, if you set the display property of class FollowButton to none, the follow button is hidden.

Fake tweets are known to have crashed markets so the next time you come across an embedded tweet with unbelievable retweets or favorites, it may be a good idea to verify the numbers.


The story, Embedded Tweets can be Easily Faked, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 28/07/2015 under Embed, Twitter, Internet.