Ecology


Ecology and Psychology28 May 2018 11:40 am

We are born sentient beings. While some senses like eyesight improve over the first few months, others such as smell begin fully developed. General states of well being, as well as sensorial sensations dominate the first year or so of life. Our internal sensations of comfort and discomfort and our sensorial experiences of pain and pleasure guide and direct our responses, reactions, movements and activities.

Our early lives are very similar to other mobile organisms with complex nervous systems and brains (such as mammals). We are processing information, making choices and having feelings based on our perceptual sensorial world. We adapt and thrive in our environment by learning from our experiences in mostly a trial and error methodology. 

The bulk of our time is spent in the actual and only over time do our perceptual images of our environment allow us to proactively plan and allow us to live in the possible. The journey to becoming a self-conscious autonomous person is a long, slow process. Growth in our ability to turn images into tools of imagination which we use to secure memories and project a future are vital to the emergence of self-consciousness and sense of personal history. Slowly we go from an actor responding to events, feelings and situations into a self-aware author of our own personal story.

The acquisition of language quickly turns the story into an ongoing internal narrative. We begin to tell our story to ourselves as well as others, and begin to see and hear that our story is often different from others with whom we speak. Developmental psychologists generally agree that most children demonstrate the ability to see and refer to themselves as a separate individual at around eighteen months. Yet, many research psychologists state that a firm and consistent sense of self may not fully form until the age of four. 

While the body is a thing, the mind is a process. Sentient experience is always a combination of body and mind, whether that be in humans, animals or birds. Yet, the majority of sentient life is not self-conscious with an internal narrative or worded thought. As we described above, humans too, are not born self-conscious but only become so through language, a growing ability of imagination to project a future and remember a past, and an emerging ability to be aware of their own feelings and emotions.

Since the process of the emergence of self-consciousness from mere sentience occurs so smoothly and quickly in modern humans its importance is often minimized or completely overlooked. Add to this the fact that once we attain self-consciousness it dominates our experience and in fact becomes the very definition of our identify, it is easy to see why we ignore and forget that we were born sentient and not self-conscious.

It would appear that self-consciousness is itself a stage of development dependent on the interplay of the sensorial body, and autonomic and central nervous systems. Self-conscious awareness does indeed seem to be secreted by the body as an advanced and sophisticated means of improving our ability to both survive and thrive. With this in mind, it is not difficult to imagine humans existing without being self-conscious and easy for us to see this reality reflected in all sentient life and not just in apes and other highly sentient life forms.

So while a child only takes a couple of years of their life to become self-conscious the transformation of sentience becoming self-consciousness is even more pronounced and obvious on an evolutionary level. Currently life scientist estimate that multicellular organisms made their appearance around 700 million year ago. Around the same time they developed non-centralized nervous systems allowing their body of cells to communicate with each other. Nervous systems make their appearance in organic life approximately 500 million years ago along with a centralized primitive brain. The brain went through a number of stages and at around 320 million years ago the cerebral cortex seems to have emerged. While the exact date of the emergence of sentience is still not known it would seem logical to deduce that organisms with a cerebral cortex would be sentient.

Yet, the neocortex which seems to be the strongest candidate to herald the birth of self-consciousness as opposed to just sentience is placed as emerging only about 200,000 years ago. Therefore, you can see the incredible expanse between the emergence of sentience and the eventual emergence of self-consciousness.

While we have already discussed the important role language plays in self-consciousness we still do not know exactly when humans acquired language. We are fairly certain that language existed 70,000 years ago, but we do not know if came into existence at the same time as the neocortex or for how long the neocortex predates the birth of language.

Yet, even if later research cases significant changes in the above timeline, one thing seems rather certain and that is nervous systems producing sentience preceded self-conscious by hundreds of millions of years. We know that sentient beings used their perceptual abilities to not only survive but to flourish. Internal and external mechanisms such as comfort/discomfort and pleasure/pain guided organic life in its successful journey towards surviving and thriving. 

Through natural selection organic life became more adept and adaptable and its developing nervous systems and brains increased its survival skills and mobility allowing territorial expansion and finding more suitable living conditions. As pointed out earlier in this article, the shift from sentience to self-consciousness in many ways was a shift from living and responding to the actual to being able to live in the possible and fictitious. 

So, for hundreds of millions of years our evolutionary path was grounded in our ability to survive and thrive in real and in-the-moment events. While very advanced sentient beings can anticipate and plan based on a history of past events, as evidenced by the behavior of both predators and prey, only self-conscious beings can truly invent and create. 

While being able to think, plan and act in the possible increases our abilities to thrive and survive, it also untethers us from the real and actual. Natural selection is a process that ensures that what is life affirming survives and succeeds and that which is not adaptive and generative dies out. Mechanisms such as pain and pleasure could impel us towards the life affirming and away from the life threatening. Through millions of years these built in attributes of natural selection fostered our developing into increasingly sophisticated and complex organisms with growing survival talents and skills.

To date, self-consciousness is the most advanced skill and talent generated by natural selection with unprecedented potential to have us thrive and be life affirming for not only ourselves but almost all of organic life. Yet, while living in the possible provides perspectives and knowledge increasing our ability to advance the cause of natural selection it also allows us to ignore and abandon the very laws that have guided the proliferation of organic life over literally billions of years.

In the previous article entitled Killing the Host we explored some of the potential harms and catastrophes that our self-consciousness could inflict on our fragile and lush planet. I would suggest you read that article now, and use it to help you better ponder the incredible opportunity and danger that natural selection has released through the emergence of self-conscious life.

It would seem prudent and wise for self-conscious beings to ponder well the road that natural selection has placed us upon and how it has assisted us, and organic life in general, in both surviving and thriving.  Our current tendency to want to transform and transcend natural selection and to demean or reject all of our past is quite risky and extremely arrogant. While the debate between nature and nurture is vital to our understanding of who we are and where we are going, it seems foolish for us to denounce all our old ways of life and being in the world as arbitrary, archaic or as obstacles to our freedom and development. 

Impulsive and reactionary behavior done from a level of self-consciousness does not have a great track record of being life affirming and furthering the cause of natural selection. Such tendencies of human nature have been grossly exploited to foster and justify war, prejudice and hatred. It is likely that further growth and development in the area of being life affirming and improving the quality of all organic life will be more an extension of the processes that have dominated the last few billion years than a rejection or dramatic transformation of its methods, mechanisms and strategies.

 

Jim Guido

Ecology and Philosophy and Social Issues13 May 2018 01:11 pm

I, on numerous occasion throughout the years,  have included in my posts the observation that the Industrial Capitalists have taken liberally from Big Tobacco’s play book of how to defeat scientific and populist concerns about their behavior and policies. When science and citizens began complaining about the unhealthy effects of tobacco and smoking, Big Tobacco shifted the debate from health to whether or not cigarettes “caused”cancer. 

This debate, as you well know, went on for decades as proving something causes cancer is all but impossible. So instead of having to admit the obvious and highly documented negative health impacts of tobacco including the incredible number of toxins and poisons in the cigarettes, they were able to fend off such realities with a conceptual debate on causes of cancer or there even being a possible way to ascertain absolute cause of any multivariable health issue.

The science of the early ecological and environmental science movement is the late 60’s and 70’s had no trouble showing and documenting the unhealthy aspects of dumping tons of toxins and poisons into our land, water and air. And like big tobacco, the industrialized corporate community could tie up litigations in courts for years. Yet, like big tobacco they reveled at the opportunity to switch the debate from easily documentable health implications into a theoretical debate as to whether the poisonous assault on our environment is/was causing global warming.

During the great cancer debate smoking enthusiasts (nicotine addicts) were able to cite personal or anecdotal testimonials of people who had smoked two or three packs a day for decades and never got cancer. Likewise the capitalist industrialist (greed and wealth addict) is able to cite numerous examples of how their practices have in some way improved the environment and quality of life while finding many isolated and cherry picked studies which draw into the question the whole reality of the cause of global warming or its very existence.

While the term ecology was coined in the late 1860’s it took almost a full century before ecological science had popularized concerns that the very survival of much of the life of the planet was being threatened by human generated pollution and industry. In the mid 1960’s Buckminster Fuller began to popularize the idea that the earth was in essence a self-contained spaceship hurdling through the universe. He maintained that while the earth had evolved over billons of years to become a lush and flourishing home to an amazing array of organic life it was also a vulnerable and fragile enclosed biosphere that could be destroyed by the careless actions of humanity.

The more we learn about the planet and all of its organic life the more we see how intertwined and interlaced it all is. While it is true that the fight for survival gets played out in so many arenas of organic life, it is equally obvious that there is an even stronger dynamic of things working and functioning together. Life on planet earth does not just survive, but thrives and flourishes. In general, life uses the dead and dying life as fuel as a means of getting rid of waste and having the greater organism (earth) grow, thrive and flourish. The more we learn, viewing the earth’s biosphere as a living organism is more literal than figurative. 

When one acknowledges that the earth is one huge spaceship one can easily see how foolish, dangerous and destructive pollution and war are to the long term survival of much of organic life, including humans. The Starship Enterprise, the famous spaceship from the TV series Star Trek was supposed to be half mile long and home to a couple of thousand people. Imagine how quickly it would have become a mass grave if it would have been home to endless wars amongst its crew members or would have been generating poisons and toxins inside the spaceship and becoming part of its circulated air and water supply.

While space ship earth is far larger it is still silly to think we and most of organic life can continue to survive and flourish when under constant assault through the propagation of poisons and toxins into our living environment. The earth took some 3 billion or so years to become stable and suitable enough to allow organic life to survive. All of organic life has a relatively narrow band of temperature, chemical composition, etc. in which they can survive. While it is true that the adaptable survive, it is also true that adaptation takes time and acceptable changes move at a snails pace in which hundreds of our generations aren’t even a recognizable blip on the screen.  

The above discussion now has advanced to the point where we can talk about its title, Killing the Host. The earth is the host of all of life, and as a planet it is itself a living biosphere teeming with life. The earth as biosphere is alive and is filled with life in the very same manor that each human being is alive and their body and viscera is teeming with life.

Our activities are killing the host, that being earth, in much the same way that microbes, bacteria, germs, etc. can  threaten, make ill and even kill the body. While the fight for survival is usually dominated by a need to kill or eat the dead, dying or disabled to acquire fuel the killing the host method is quite rare and inefficient. In general organic life does not eat or kill something into extinction for a predator is dependent on the survival and flourishing of its prey for its continued survival and flourishing.

The vast majority of organisms that kill the host do so only during a relatively short adjustment period (especially considering the organic life time line which spans hundreds of millions or even billions of years). Once mutual adaptation occurs, if not becoming a mutually beneficial “teem/team” member, the once lethal organism either adapts to being a parasite or becomes  an agent causing temporary dis-ease.

Shortly after developing microscopes strong enough to see bacteria we recognized the role they can play in deadly inflections, diseases and plagues. Soon the general populace began to view all germs (bacterium) as predatory and lethal, beginning a decades long, and in many cases still existing, war against the germ. 

Recent dissemination to the public of the essential and beneficial role bacteria play in digestion as well as many other functions of our organs and central nervous system has still not removed the evil status of germs. Even when acknowledging their necessary role in both our surviving and flourishing we still feel it necessary to talk of good and bad bacterial cultures such as in the talk on probiotics. 

When a microorganism is in its lethal stage, for its own survival, it must find a new host to inhabit before its old host expires. One of the more common ways in which lethal organisms jump from one host to another is when it becomes “air born” through sneezing or coughing. 

When one frames the current status of mankind as a lethal germ whose activities are endangering and killing the host (various biomes and the earth’s biosphere in total) we can equate our desire to seek survival through space travel and “colonizing” other planets as our truly “exploring” ways to find another host to infect and kill. We are totally capable of adapting and becoming as life affirming and promoting as any other organic organism on planet earth, but our current course is one of killing the host.

Please look for and read my next post entitled “Does the Body Secrete Self-Consciousness?” which poses how we got where we are at, and what are some potential alternative courses of action. We can in deed become one of the most beneficial organisms in natures progression in having organic life continue to thrive and flourish in an ever increasing efficient and life affirming manner.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Government and Philosophy and Politics and Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues13 Jun 2017 06:43 pm

The KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) is said to have been originated in the early sixties by the navy and referred to the importance and benefit of simple design. Albert Einstein was a big proponent of the idea and felt that any good theory must be simple and elegant, and that complicated formulas and solutions are both inefficient and unusable.

Here is a Wikipedia’s article on the KISS principle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

I have stated on numerous occasions that people generally make life far more complicated that it has to be. Experiences such as joy, happiness, peace and harmony are not that complicated, let alone idealistic. The majority of people conduct the vast majority of their social interactions in a peaceful and harmonious manner. In a world of indoor plumbing, potable water, electricity, etc. we are now in a position for most societies, if not the entire globe, to live increasingly comfortable and rewarding lives.

Yet, the greedy and power hungry minority spawn fear and hatred as a means of making the good life the possession of the few by complicating life and convincing the masses that life’s simple pleasures are idealistic and unattainable. Destroying the elegance and simplicity of cooperation by presenting the easiest conflict as unresolvable and flatly stating that all realistic options and acts of diplomacy have been exhausted when nary a one has been explored.

When breaking down a rewarding life into its simplest terms I come up with a few observations. First I yearn for intimacy. I don’t just mean having an intimate relationship with other people, but an intimate relationship with myself, nature and life in general. Intimacy is just the natural process of becoming closer and more familiar with something. One can be intimate with almost any object, idea or activity. I explored this in depth in my book Exploring Intimacy which can be read here:

http://guidoworld.com/words/exploring-intimacy

The second major category is to better enjoy the integration of all aspects of our/my experience. This would mean that I enjoy the sensorial, emotional and mental aspects of my life. In other words I learn how to maximize my experience by enjoying and savoring my being a thinking and feeling sentient person which exists in a body and lives in a world. The third element is my feeling connected to the world and act in a way which improves and maintains not only my quality of life but that of all of organic life.

Applying these ideas to our shared social world we come up with the following. We can keep things simple if we focus on the following. First we should not only tolerate but encourage all to find and cultivate intimacy in their lives. Second we can protect the quality of people’s lives and experiences by not destroying the environment and endangering people’s health through dumping toxins and poisons into our air, land and water.

The third guiding principle is that the major goal and concern of all personal and social behavior is to be life affirming. Being life affirming not only has us move away from poisoning our land, water and air, but also dictates that we make peace and harmony the goal and focus of all our decisions. In a life affirming society any action which harms others or the environment would be attended to and not be allowed to become entrenched or a habit of government. No action which caused harm or impaired the quality of life would be considered an act of progress or even tolerated. Only actions which enhanced or maintained the quality of life of the majority would be considered progress.

Einstein pointed out that one needs to be as simple as one can be without becoming too simple. While intimacy and integrated experience are relatively straight forward, the concept of being life affirming will always be a work in progress. In many situations it will be easy to determine what is life affirming, yet in many areas assessing what is the most life affirming option both near and far term will be challenging.

The fact that social utopias do not exist should not be alarming nor discouraging. The fact that life is an endless process of improvement and development only adds to its preciousness, and is inherent in the concept of intimacy. Yet, do let the greedy and power hungry convince you that life’s lack of perfection means everything is too complicated and joy, peace and harmony are idealistic fictions. Joy, intimacy and harmony are real experiences and not ideals. Real experience is never perfect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be simple or elegant.

One does not have to deny the reality of pain and suffering to appreciate the reality of joy, love, intimacy and harmony.

Jim Guido

 

 

 

Ecology and Education and Social Issues25 Apr 2017 12:08 pm

 

The data supporting the fact that air pollution negatively impacts one’s health and in many cases shortens one’s life span are profuse. Car exhaust in particular has been identified as a major factor in many realms from asthma, to heart disease to cancer.

Cutting emissions could prevent nearly 300,000 US air pollution deaths

It is generally accepted that the health of children in particular is negatively impacted by air pollution and once again car exhaust. A child’s smaller lungs and developing immune system make them more susceptible than an adult to the harmful effects to fumes.

I live in a smaller city in which the populace is generally very concerned about health issues such as diet, exercise and pollution. Parents are very active and vocal regarding advocating for their children to make sure that the community is respectful and proactive regarding taking measures which help insure child safety and health.

Yet, it is perplexing to me how many of these same individuals spend each day during the school year in long lines of cars preparing to drop their child off and pick them up from school. Despite having ample school bus service, they choose to create traffic jams twice a day in which hundreds of idle cars wait often with their engines running in front if the school. Even the rare parent who does turn off their car, has to keep turning it on and off to keep the flow of traffic moving as they follow the long queue.

 

Health effects from car exhaust exposure can last a lifetime


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Ecology and Philosophy and Social Issues20 Apr 2016 09:28 am

Here are a few themes from early philosophy, science and religion which continue to influence our beliefs, attitudes and assumptions regarding truth, meaning and the nature of human existence.

Early philosophers such as Plato desired to anchor knowledge and meaning in the impermeable and eternal. While human experience was transitory and unstable ideas and concepts were true, fixed and universally valid. According to this view point ideas are real and valid while tangible objects are imperfect and relatively insignificant copies of reality.

The superiority of form and essence over the world of sensations and subjective perception was also found in the pure science of mathematics. Perfection, precision and universal law were revealed in the pure form of number and geometry. Certainty, truth, natural/universal law, and objective knowledge were attainable not through sensorial human experience but in revealing the underlying immutable form obtained through math.

All hard sciences from astronomy, to physics to medicine acquired objective knowledge and certainty in the realms of math and universal law which lay outside the subjective realms of sensation and perception. Truth, certainty and immutable fact were the sole property of pure form and essences garnered though math and objective experimentation, while human experience was deceptive at best if not entirely illusionary.

The belief that all human sensorial, emotional and perceptual experience was an illusion was fundamental to most spiritual practices such as Buddhism as well as a core tenet of the major salvation religions. All truth and certainty existed in the sacred and ideal space which lay underneath or beyond human experience. Pure knowledge, truth, certainty and universal law were acquired in the esoteric sacred worlds carved out by religion, philosophy and science.

Enlightenment, salvation and eternal life were attainable to only those brave, disciplined and clever enough to not become attached or deceived by the transitory sensorial world of mundane experience. The world of human experience was deemed an empty illusion bound to be dominated by physical and emotional pain and suffering haunted by the inevitability of death.
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Ecology and Economics and Social Issues01 Jun 2011 05:47 pm

Most living things need air, water and food in order to survive. This is definitely the case for human beings. Yet, if you look at how we live and the decisions we make as a planet you would be hard pressed to conclude that life’s basic essentials are a high priority.

In the US the wealthiest, most powerful and advanced society the world has ever known a significant percent of drinkable water is wasted, polluted, used inefficiently or unnecessarily reprocessed. Much of the infrastructure of the US is in a severe state of decay. This is surely the case with the American water system and its aging water lines.

Over 17% of the treated water in the US is lost by leaks in the system, in some cities the estimates are as high as 50% of the water entering the water lines is lost through leakage. Instead of using tax payer money to update and improve the water system and make it efficient, citizens end up paying for water that is lost in the system through their water bills.

In essence we are treating and purifying water for human consumption and than allowing between and 1/5 and a 1/6 of it to be lost in faulty water lines. Yet, this lost water does not include the other ways in which we undervalue and abuse this essential ingredient of human life.

Many reports over the last decade show that Americans eat out an average of four to five times a week. In most US eateries it is a primary duty of waiters and waitresses to keep your cup or glass of water, tea, soda, coffee or any other water based beverage full at all times. What this means is that most people end their meal with a full or partially filled beverage cup which, of course is wasted water.

The list of ways in which we waste water and use it inefficiently would include lawn care, livestock, ornamental water devices and gardening just to mention a few. This is not to say a portion of this is not necessary and beneficial but only to point out that we aren’t actually being frugal with probably the most precious and valuable resource for human existence.

Water we are told is essential for life, and the essence or life. When you consider that any planet without water is considered incapable of sustaining life, it seems odd that we take such a cavalier attitude towards its usage. When you consider that the major portion of our planet’s water is not fit for human consumption it seems unfathomable that we would degrade, pollute and contaminate such a high percentage of our “fresh water” that remains which is suitable for consumption for the billions of people around the globe.

The situation regarding food is just as appalling. Each year the amount of land suitable efor farming is decreasing due to drought, urbanization, industrial expansion and practices to acquire other resources such as wood, coal, oil and various minerals. Yet, despite this, globally we produce around 8.7 trillion pounds of edible foodstuffs. Despite this ample amount of food we live in a world in which 925 million people suffer from hunger.

It is often said that when it comes to food we do not have a supply problem, but one of distribution. Yet, the problem isn’t only about distribution, it is also about waste and lifestyle. Like water, we often do not treat food with the respect it deserves, we do not treat food as an essential aspect of human existence.

According to the UN an astounding 1/3 of all food around the globe is wasted, spoiled or never used. In underdeveloped nations the problem is often of storage, distribution and political conflict. Yet, in the industrialized nations it is mostly a matter of wasteful habits, market practices and economic forces (profit considerations).

According to the report published in early May of this year in industrialized countries, the issue is more about “retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash.” The report found that in Europe and North America consumers wasted between 95 and 115 kilograms (209 and 253 pounds) of food every year.
The report found that in the retail industry there was an “over-emphasis on appearance”. “Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need,” it said, giving as an example oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry and fixed-price buffets in restaurants.

The waste habits and practices of the industrialized west cause food prices to rise all over the globe. This often makes the prices of staples and basic food stuffs unaffordable to a growing number of people. The recent food riots in numerous countries around the globe have been the public reaction to the strain of food prices on a growing percentage or the populace.

A vast amount of edible food is thrown out of restaurants and grocery stores on a daily basis. Waste and destruction of food is significant in almost every phase of the restaurant businesses. At the preparation phase any food that is not visually pleasing is discarded even if it is perfectly edible. Likewise many perishables are discarded if they are not ordered by customers in a timely basis.

Oftentimes meals contain edible foods which are used more for presentation than consumption with the result being they are left unconsumed and thrown away. It is rare that patrons of restaurants eat all on their plate, or take all leftovers home for later consumption. Restaurants are embarrassed when they run out of anything offered on their menu. This results in owners preventing this occurring by over stocking on a daily basis and ending each day with unused food needing to be tossed.
Grocery stores often toss perishables rather than sell them at reduced prices as they near spoiling to protect their profit margins. Waste and reduced prices are all part of the profit equation, and it is often more profitable to throw food away than sell it at lower prices.

Along with food and water man needs to breathe. A man not breathing is a man not living. Though it seems we can breathe air that is far from perfect or even fresh, the truth of the matter is that our survival depends on a relatively narrow band of air quality. Yet, like water, we have adopted many practices which degrade, degrade and contaminate the air we breathe.

The statement that we need air, water and food is simple and basic. It is a statement of fact, that few if any would contest. Yet, our behavior seems to suggest that either we have other priorities we deem more important than existence, or that in the long run, we really don’t care about being alive or the quality of our life.

I personally have a difficulty considering any human society advanced or civilized which does not make basic survival a high priority. It would appear to me that providing all with food, water and healthy air is job one. This is not about politics, ethics or morality, it just about making sense and acting in a sensible way.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Social Issues05 Jun 2010 04:56 pm

Probably the most prolific predator in the history of our planet is also the most ignored. This predator is even more amazing in the diversity of what it kills than in its quantity of kill.

This predator kills insects, birds, and many varieties of animal. The list of its prey is almost endless. It kills both crawling and flying insects including worms, caterpillars, crickets, mosquitoes, butterflies, lightning bugs and beetles. Its diet includes snakes, frogs, turtles and lizards. Songbirds and crows can be counted amongst its prey. Rabbits, possum, raccoons, squirrel and even cats and dogs are common. Not to mention fox, deer, moose, groundhogs and even bear which are part of their quarry.

Even other major predators become prey for this able killing machine. Bobcat, cougar, panthers and wolves are not uncommon victims. In the US an astounding 40,000 humans a year are killed by this great predator. The list of victims to this predator could fill volumes.

I guess by now many of you have guessed this incredibly gifted predator, yes it is the motorized vehicle best represented in the car, van and truck. Each day thousands of animals and untold numbers of insects and birds are felled by its endless murderous excursions.

What is most deplorable of this predator is that it doesn’t even eat its prey. While sometimes it kills in order to help its occupants go to work to survive, it often kills in totally unnecessary journeys in its territory or to foreign parts. Many of these excursions are just joy rides, or a desire just to get out and about. The majority of these kills are executed without the slightest bit of remorse by the drivers, or at least little effort is made to reduce the number and distance of these murderous journeys.

Ironically many of the drivers of these vicious vehicles are horrified when they find out that some their friends hunt or fish. Many are incensed when they see someone wearing a fur coat or snake skin boots. Somehow they either totally ignore the majority of the murders they execute while behind the wheel, or they view all there motorized excursions as being necessary.

The destruction to wildlife caused by cars isn’t restricted to its actual time on the roads, but the disturbance caused by preparing roads to be paved is extremely invasive and destructive. The pavement itself alters the ecosystem causing permanent dislocation and death to numerous insects and earth worms. The non-porous pavement causes suffocation and drowning to various life ill-adapted to a concrete covered terrain. The toxic properties of asphalt present their own death warrants for plant and animal life.

Though this predator has only been on the scene for a century its numbers are now in the hundreds of millions if not billions. It is amazing the number of environments and ecosystems that have adapted to the motorized vehicle. The number of natural predators has decreased as the the populace of their prey has been decimated and managed by the burgeoning car population.

At this point in time the total removal of cars and trucks from the globe would have potentially dire consequences. The uncountable number of animals, insects, reptiles and birds spared their execution by a lack of cars would create an unstable environment. The number of remaining natural predators would be insufficient to meet the proliferation of prey. This could result in disease, pestilence, plague etc. as the predator population takes time to raise its numbers sufficient enough to control the population of a number of species throughout the animal kingdom.

So, though it would be nice for us to curtail our murderous ways by reducing our dependency on the automobile, we should do so in a thoughtful manner.

Yet, in the meantime I think it is terribly misguided to view ourselves and our role on the planet as being moral or humane. There is no way to avoid the obvious fact that we are the most reckless and selfish murderers on the planet. The only way to salvage our dignity and humanity is to admit our savageness and quickly find and implement ways for us to be more respectful of life. Hiding behind the “fight for survival” is a callous joke, we neither need to point fingers at nature nor make excuses for our heinous ways.

The choice isn’t between reality and utopia, the reality is we have many options and choices to live life in a more humane and respectful manner.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Economics29 May 2010 07:30 pm

When considering penalties which could be imposed on those found to be guilty in the Gulf oil spill I have a few recommendations. I want to preface the following by saying that I have spent over 30 years working with delinquent youth and their families. During these years I have witnessed and implemented many consequences for illegal and asocial behaviors which have been effective and even more that have been ineffective. It is with the knowledge gained from experience in these matters that I offer the following suggestions.

Corporations and commercial entities have rights under the law and in many ways are treated and protected as individuals. Yet, with rights usually comes responsibilities. One of the reasons that the people at the top of businesses make the money that they do is because they are ultimately responsible for the actions and decisions made by the organization they head. At the facilities I have worked at the supervisors, clinicians and administration are held responsible for what happens to the clients in their care. Those with credentials and position often are mandated to have liability insurance to help them weather any law suits due to negligence or bad judgment in the course of the execution of services provided by them or by those under their supervision.

With this in mind I’d like to apply these principles to the BP oil spill.

Monetary fines levied against BP does seem reasonable at this point, but would such fines, even if extensive, be effective consequences? First, I’ve read the monetary limits on law suits on corporations currently stands at 75 million. Now, even if this number is wrong, and fines and penalties were to rise into the billions of dollars I doubt if they would truly be effective as a punishment or a future deterrent.

First the fines would not even be equal to one years profit for a giant such as BP. This has one wonder if multinational corporations are too big to punish. Second, the fines would be absorbed by the corporation in general not directly affecting the wealth and comfort of the heads and decision makers of the corporation. Even if a corporation were somehow injured by the fines, those at the top would most likely be able to find similar employment at other major corporations.

My suggestion would be for the fines and punishments to be levied on individuals rather than the general corporation. The fines should have a direct effect on the wealth of the individuals in charge, such punishments would definitely send a message to business heads of all corporations that they need to act responsibly and act as an effective deterrent.

The fines and punishments should be levied to anyone who with decision making power in the realms of importance regarding the oil rigs. Anyone who is involved with the safety policies of the rigs and pipe lines should be evaluated on their level of culpability. Likewise, those who developed the insufficient back up plans and over all solutions to such a leak need to be held accountable. This would include the governmental agencies that license, supervise and monitor these endeavors.

In addition to fines I believe those found to be at fault should be ordered to give restitution for the damages their negligence and incompetence produced. I have a feeling that if they such individuals were mandated to work off the damage they inflicted on the entire gulf region they would change their ways and their cohorts would begin to act responsibly throughout all related industries.

Imagine how effective it would be if corporate heads were made to spend the next several years of their lives cleaning oil off shores and rocks. Imagine them doing the menial labor that will be needed to remove the oil, restore the local ecologies and ocean life. If these individuals are allowed to have the corporations they work for pay their fines and allowed to hire people to do the years of hard labor of cleaning up after their incompetence than nothing will change.

Will such measures solve the problem? Probably not, but my years of experience working with problem youth has taught me that effective consequences can make a substantial difference in people’s lives.

Many of my posts have dealt with my conviction that our society is in need of substantial structural changes. Our society has a tendency to promote and reward too many base aspects of human nature. Our society can only become as good as the system it functions under. This is not to imply that our society and its structure are evil or even bad, it is only to state that in order for us to move forward in any meaningful way, we need to build a better social structure.

If your goal is increased standard of living and quality of life for an increasing percentage of people across the globe our current economic and governmental structures are the wrong tool for the job. Therefore, though I have learned that incentives and success are always better tools than consequences and punishment, in our current structure I see the above punishments as the proper response to the current situation in the gulf.

When I’ve worked with kids and families I have been successful at helping them build healthy structures and habits in their lives where punishments are rare if ever needed. Yet, when healthy and effective structures are not in place, harsh consequences are often needed. Sad to say, that seems to be the current need of our society at this point in time.

The problem with harsh consequences is they are often delivered in anger and anger begets more anger. Only when a parent is able to deliver a consequence as a learning experience and not in anger to punish then a child’s education can begin, and qualities such as empathy and responsibility can be fostered and adopted.

Maybe many of you out there think I’m a dreamer, or too idealistic. Yet, all I can say is that I have witnessed many kids and families make amazing changes and improvements and though not perfect, have developed ways of being in the world that produce happy and productive people.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Social Issues20 May 2010 09:26 pm

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a stock market radio program being hosted by two people who live on the gulf coast in Alabama. The discussion on the market turned into a general update on the national and local economy. This led them to highlight the potential impact of the oil spill in the gulf. I listened intently as I had not followed the story at all and wanted to be educated on the topic.

After outlining the backdrop of a poor real estate market and a slumping tourist industry they talked of how fragile and weak the local economic environment was. The spill was talked about as a potential fatal blow to the struggling economy as the devastation to the fishing industry might prove to be quite lengthy.

One of the men said that he was getting emails from people in Alaska who said the initial reports out of the gulf sounded eerily familiar to what happened up there during the Valdez spill. He said they expected the reports to become more and more devastating as time went on, for their early reports on the Valdez spill were rather tame and vague.

Well as time passes on these words have turned quite prophetic as each day new information surfaces which paints quite a bleak and dire picture of the spill. Estimates of damage cited by BP seem to be significantly undervalued and scientific calculations of oil flow are several times that given by oil industry spokesmen.

During times like this articles are released which at other times are ignored or buried. One article I read stated that the term “accident” is very misleading in that it gives the impression that spillage is a rare event. The article went on to quote sources which discussed the common everyday occurrence of minor spills which occur regularly in the drilling and loading of oil barges. According to the article day-to-day spillage of just business as usual operations does add up. In which every five years the amount of oil lost in our oceans is equal to the Valdez spill.

Even if that figure is inflated it does beg the question of exactly how much oil is dispensed into international waters each and every year. What is the damage to our sea life and our dwindling fresh water supply? Where can we find accurate information regarding water pollution, long term effects of pollution on the safety and quality of our seafood, and the long term prospects on the overall health of our oceans?

Shortly after 9/11 we were deceived and lied to regarding the air quality near the twin tower cites. Will the same thing happen regarding the safety of seafood in the gulf?

The current situation seems surreal to me.

Maybe I’m wrong, but when you see the videos of the broken pipe, and you read between the lines on the well orchestrated press releases regarding the spill it all seems so dire. Oil plumes the size of states and potential water flow patterns are scary for anyone brave enough to try and imagine their short term and long term impact.

The damage and harm done by this spill could rival almost any disaster we have faced for centuries. The Valdez spill, three mile island, Chernobyl, maybe even the ecological damage caused by our use of atomic bombs may be eclipsed by the death of a major waterway.

Given the length and intensity of this ongoing crisis, is the thought of the death of at least a portion of the gulf really that extreme or over reactionary?

I guess it is, for I don’t feel or hear anyone’s panic or even deep concern regarding this possibility. What am I missing?

Could someone explain to me how the gulf can shake this off and heal itself when the area of the Valdez spill is still hampered some two decades after the event?

Jim Guido


Ecology and Politics and Social Issues10 Jan 2010 10:58 am

I’m always amazed and fascinated at how efficient US propagandists are in creating a debate which draws people away from the real issue.  At other times they simply find a way to change the focus of a movement which suits their purposes.

The women’s movement which started out as a quality of life issue, got morphed into a rather narrow personal rights and monetary issue. This subtle shift in the national discussion allowed our government and corporate structure to capitalize on the women’s movement and slowly have two pay checks equal the purchasing power and standard of living of one pay check a few decades back.

The women’s movement quickly dropped its emphasis on intimacy and personal development and traded it in for consumption and jobs which men were finding oppressive and unrewarding. Instead of freeing men and woman from oppressive roles and serfdom the women’s movement was seduced into joining men in their prison with such deceptive slogans as “you’ve come a long way baby” in a series of commercial celebrating the fact that woman could now use their new found economic life to get cancer like their workaholic husbands they felt so alienated from.

Likewise the propagandists artfully steered the American public away from their fervent opposition to our many wars treating other nations as US property, to a demand that we “support the troops”. Any words spoken against the war(s) were both a source of motivation and “support to our enemies” while undermining the “courageous” efforts of our young men and women in battle. Never mind the fact that the reasons for war were fictitious at best and more than likely morally indefensible.

When the Soviet Union fell the US became the undisputed world superpower. Despite this, the US’s involvement in military conflicts and police actions continued to escalate. Public anger with our government’s international actions and policies grew along with a reluctance to encourage our children to get involved in such military actions.

Then voila we suddenly found (created) an enemy worthy of our fear and hatred. This, of course, is terrorism and the war on terrorism. Terrorists exist no where in particular, but can and as the propagandists say, do exist everywhere.  Terrorists are  as hard to identify as they are to define.

Since terrorists sole goal is to destroy us and our way of life, it is “imperative” that we act aggressively and savagely to extinguish them before they proliferate. The propagandists have used this logic to defend our use of torture, banned substances, and unilateral and unsanctioned military action. The war on terror gives the US reason and the duty to invade any country at any time with or without that country’s permission.

So, now let’s take a look at how the “debate on global warming” is just another example of how good our government and corporate propagandists are at diverting the public’s attention away from the obvious.

The battle between environmentalists and corporate spin doctors and propagandists has been lengthy. At every turn spin doctors have found a way to change the dialogue or find a way to make the most profit out of a situation.

The ecological movement which began in the early seventies suffered a huge set back in the late seventies when an OPEC driven energy crisis and stagflation were used to outweigh all concerns regarding pollution caused by fossil fuels. Public relations departments trumpeted their new “concern for your total environment” putting fisheries next to energy plants while the smoke stack industry tried to make their toxic discharges look more environmentally friendly.

Neatly tailored industrial parks, and beach renovations were used to paint lip stick on the environmental pigs. Nuclear power plants which were not as profitable as coal based plants were phased out as a sign of corporate concern for the public health. Newer plants were able to have the toxic releases of coal plants be less visually obvious, and through the efforts of spin doctors and narrow and highly funded scientific studies industries were able to convince the public that their environment was becoming cleaner and healthier.

The debate over ecological concerns regarding the efficient and frugal use of natural resources would slowly resurface in the early eighties as the economy recovered. It was at this time that a lot of the discussion focused on the deterioration of the ozone layer and its effects on people and wildlife.

Once again corporate spin doctors did an excellent job of posing themselves as well intentioned victims of fanatics and potentially harmful idealists. They fended off attacks by environmentalists concerns regarding species extinction by forming and funding fraudulent and extreme conservation groups who were given ample TV and radio air time as they tried to halt progress in order to save a single bird (like the spotted owl).  Soon the bulk of the American public viewed ecologists and ecological activists as being goofy reactionaries disconnected from the real world.

Likewise, environmental health concerns regarding lead paint, asbestos, PCB’s etc. were posed as extreme measures tending to minor problems. Public sympathy was swayed by the expense, tediousness and inconvenience of the governments (EPA’s) clean up programs and interventions.  Once again the environmental and health concerns of ecological activists were successfully posed as being unnecessary and economically unrealistic and harmful.

The changes and concessions made by corporate America were, like always, done in a manner which increased their profits while at the same time fostering public support and sympathy. Concerns regarding the effects of ozone depletion gave rise to skin and sun screen products as well as more profitable delivery systems than the aerosol can. Highly profitable green industries began to sprout up everywhere from organic food stores to recycling industries and businesses.

The current debate on global warming is just the latest manifestation of how corporate and government spin doctors divert and win public opinion and support. The science regarding the effects of industrial pollution and practices on the environment is still in its infancy. Though much compelling information exists, its models and long term predictions are still crude. The number of variables are vast making it difficult to make any reasonable forecast for the foreseeable future.

The complexity of the situation and science makes it so easy for the spin doctors to make the global warming crowd fit the standard role of naive reactionaries who pose a threat to our economic progress and stability. By forcing scientists and activists to prove their viewpoint through specific predictions over short time frames, they are demanding the impossible, and setting up the ecologists to fail and look ridiculous.

Let’s say when psychologists first talked of the harms caused by physical abuse and torture they were scoffed at and demanded to prove their case. Early psychologists would likely say that abused children would develop many psychosocial problems including depression, increase aggression and violence, low self-esteem and inabilities to establish and maintain relationships. Those who have endured long term or severe torture would have similar social deficits and personal handicaps.

Let’s go on to say that the psychologists were demanded to give specific time frames for the manifestation of these problems to arise. They would say many things, but some psychologists would point out that the onset of many of these problems could be almost immediate.

Therefore, any spin doctor opposed to the psychologists viewpoint could easily distort and destroy the psychologists assertion. One could easily find children and even adults who have been physically abused and tortured who function and appear to be happy and productive people. By writing a few articles stating psychological theories and well documented probabilities as predictions of fact, one could sway the reading public to view the psychologists as reactionary and wrong about their assumptions and predictions of the effects of violence on human beings.

This is what is happening in the global warming debate where spin doctors are now popularizing specific dire concerns and possible scenarios of the effects of industrial pollution as specific predictions. If we do not flood in five years, or all polar bears drown than global warming doesn’t exist or at least does not pose any immanent danger.

Think how easy it would be to form some bogus ecological body and pay them to make outrageous statements or popularize data which negates specific claims. Talk about your low hanging fruit. Think of how many pilot studies and papers are written each day. What if I were paid handsomely to find dubious studies or to find ways to interpret studies to give the impression that if such and such doesn’t happen this winter or this year than the global warming perspective is wrong.

Even though I find much of the current evidence regarding global warming somewhat compelling, to me it isn’t the point. Even if global warming isn’t happening, or at least not to the point to usher in a global disaster or ice age, it doesn’t mean that ecological concerns are myths or needless fear mongering.

The point is that dumping tons of toxic waste into our air and water on a daily basis is most likely not a good thing. It’s hard to prove that abuse is destructive to the human spirit, but its harms are well documented. Just as we could never prove smoking caused cancer, it was obvious it had a terrible track record in terms of personal health.

The debate over global warming is a spin doctors dream. It is diverting the attention  away from the obvious harms of toxic pollution and onto a debate which cannot be decided or proven. Those opposed to global warming do not have to prove that global warming isn’t happening, they only have to show the ways in which any global warming model of their choosing is wrong or inaccurate.

Jim Guido

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