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Guest Post - Chellis Glendinning, Stephanie Mills and Kirkpatrick Sale

by: Heather on 06/02/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in - a conversation between three "elder critics" of technological civilization reflecting on the anti-technology movement of the 1970s-‘90s and offering perspective to new generations growing up in a cyberworld.

Chellis Glendinning is the author of My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chiva, and Off the Map; Stephanie Mills wrote Whatever Happened to Ecology? and Turning Away from Technology and Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of Human Scale. (The following article originally appeared on CounterPunch Mag and is reprinted with permission of the authors.)

 

Three Luddites Talking ... on a computer!

Stephanie Mills: The latest technological onslaught is proving to be more complete and brutal than we could ever have imagined - you think?.

Chellis Glendinning: I find it hard to conjure words to even speak of it.

SM: I'd say this recent rampage is a function of the exponential growth of populations and economies. It has to do with globalization and the steady increase in computational power. It's what Jacques Ellul called technique, which is intrinsically hegemonic. This onslaught is the accelerating momentum of technologies and instrumental mentalities that are exterminating spontaneity, undermining love and common decency. It's a thief of time and includes all the palpable and subtle violations of body, mind, and spirit done in the name of science, government, enterprise, progress, and profit. It's the ugliness of mass production and consumerism, the banality of advertising. Although it claims to do just the opposite, it's predicated on disempowering and effacing persons.

And it means we're all stuck on the downside of The Golden Age.

CG: I confess I've long held a secret longing for that Golden Age. It's curious how one can yen for not just the ancient days of land-based living and communalism - but, good Lord, for the year 1969! 2000! But I also mean longing for some Golden Age in my own psyche - before initiation into the dominant civilization.

Kirkpatrick Sale: How so?

CG: I see this onslaught as the final shattering and scattering of the Whole. It's that wrench between human and nature that occurred, as you Kirk propose in your book After Eden, due to a violent planetary event some 70,000 years ago that instantaneously skewed climate. The volcano that turned skies black and chased temperatures down unfurled an icy world in which humans were forced to become more aggressive and dominating just to eat and stay warm.

And as goes the outer, so goes the inner. The psyche that, by all accounts, had been a worthy reflection of the unity of seasons, wind and waters, soil and rock, stars, plant and animal life was shattered and scattered too. I see this breakage as the traumatic response - the splitting and sending into unconsciousness those experiences the organism is not designed to process, the seat-of-the-pants clawing for function and meaning in what is left of the conscious mind. And so the onslaught that appears to us as the unending march of harsher forms of technological systems, the grasping for control by global corporations, the splitting of community into those who have it all and those who have nothing -- this is reflected in a parallel inner onslaught that manifests as the march of abuse, a grasping for rationalization, and the splitting of psyche into denial and numbing on one side and unspeakable suffering on the other.

As I've been able to heal the breakage from some of these onslaughts in my personal history, I've found my longing for a Golden Age actually receding; arising in its place is mindfulness of What Is. What Is is a sad and broken world barely hanging on after millennia of onslaught.

KS: Thanks, Chellis. And the subtitle of After Eden is The Evolution of Human Domination -- domination over the entire globe and almost all its species. That is the onslaught. It has been going on a long time, I argue, but in the 20th century humans have certainly perfected it, extending domination to every single corner of the earth and our Homo sapiens population to more than 6 billion -- until no place is untouched by despoliation.

In the 21st century we will reap the whirlwind of that "perfection." Within the next ten years and certainly in the next 20, human domination will produce catastrophes that will put the future of human societies, and probably that of most other surface species, in doubt. I need not list them out for you, you already know them. And you probably know that Edward Wilson quote that sums it up: "The appropriation of productive land -- the ecological footprint -- is already too large for the planet to sustain and has likely stressed the earth beyond its ability to regenerate."

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Guest Post - Zoe Weil

by: Heather on 05/01/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in from Zoe Weil, author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education, Above All Be Kind, and So You Love Animals. (This entry was originally posted on Zoe Weil's blog and is reprinted with permission.)

That's the Funny Thing About Judgments and Assumptions...

This past weekend I led a MOGO (Most Good) Workshop at Bard College. My car had …

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Guest Post - Jerry Yudelson

by: Heather on 01/15/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in from Jerry Yudelson, author of Choosing Green: The Home Buyer's Guide to Good Green Homes and Green Building A to Z: Understanding the Language of Green Building. Thanks Jerry!

Green Building To Rocket in 2009! Top Ten Trends

  1. Green building will continue to grow more than 60 percent in 2009, on a cumulative basis. We've seen …
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Guest Post - Dmitry Orlov

by: Heather on 01/12/2009
Posted in: Guest Posts

This just in from Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse: Soviet Example and American Prospects. In his characteristic deadpan style, Dmitry offers up a meditation on the sinking cruise ship of the United States, arriving at the somewhat surprising conclusion that the bastion of US socialism (and possibly the best hope for a pool of organized labour to help build a vastly different economy on the ashes of the old) is none other than the American military. (This entry was originally posted on Club Orlov and is reprinted with permission.)

 

That Bastion of American Socialism

Over the past few months the American mainstream chatter has experienced a sudden spike in the gratuitous use of the term "Socialist." It was prompted by the attempts of the federal government to resuscitate insolvent financial institutions. These attempts included offers of guarantees to their clients, injections of large sums of borrowed public money, and granting them access to almost-free credit that was magically summoned ex nihilo by the Federal Reserve. To some observers, these attempts looked like an emergency nationalization of the finance sector was underway, prompting them to cry "Socialism!" Their cries were not as strident as one would expect, bereft of the usual disdain that normally accompanies the use of this term. Rather, it was proffered with a wan smile, because the commentators could find nothing better to say - nothing that would actually make sense of the situation.

Not a single comment on this matter could be heard from any of the numerous socialist parties, either opposition or government, from around the globe, who correctly surmised that this had nothing to do with their political discipline, because in the US "socialism" is commonly used as a pejorative term, with willful ignorance and breathtaking inaccuracy, to foolishly dismiss any number of alternative notions of how society might be organized. What this new, untraditional use of the term lacks in venom, it more than makes up for in malapropism, for there is nothing remotely socialist to Henry Paulson's "no banker left behind" bail-out strategy, or to Ben Bernanke's "buy one - get one free" deal on the US Dollar (offered only to well-connected friends) or to any of the other measures, either attempted or considered, to slow the collapse of the US economy.

A nationalization of the private sector can indeed be called socialist, but only when it is carried out by a socialist government. In absence of this key ingredient, a perfect melding of government and private business is, in fact, the gold standard of fascism. But nobody is crying "Fascism!" over what has been happening in the US. Not only would this seem ridiculously theatrical, but, the trouble is, we here in the US have traditionally liked fascists. We had liked Mussolini well enough, until he allied with Hitler, whom we only eventually grew to dislike once he started hindering transatlantic trade. We liked Spain's Franco well enough too. We liked Chile's Pinochet after having a hand in bumping off his Socialist predecessor Allende (on September 11, 1973; on the same date some years later, I was very briefly seized with the odd notion that the Chileans had finally exacted their revenge). In general, a business-friendly fascist generalissimo or president-for-life with no ties to Hitler is someone we could almost always work with. So much for political honesty.

As a practical matter, failing at capitalism does not automatically make you socialist, no more than failing at marriage automatically make you gay. Even if desperation makes you randy for anything that is warm-blooded and doesn't bite, the happily gay lifestyle is not automatically there for the taking. There are the matters of grooming, and manners, and interior decoration to consider, and these take work, just like anything else. Speaking of work, building socialism certainly takes a great deal of work, a lot of which tends to be unpaid, voluntary labor, and so desperation certainly helps to inspire the effort, but it cannot be the only ingredient. It also takes intelligence, because, as Douglas Adams once astutely observed, "people are a problem." In due course, they will learn to thwart any system, no matter how well-designed it might be, be it capitalist, socialist, anarchist, Ayn Randian, or one based on a strictly literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation. However, here a distinction can be drawn: systems that attempt to do good seem far more corruptible than ones that have no such pretensions. Thus, a socialist system, inspired by the noblest of impulses to help one's fellow man, quickly develops social inequalities that it was designed to eradicate, breeding cynicism, while a capitalist system, inspired by the impulse to help oneself through greed and fear, starts out from the position of perfect cynicism, and is therefore immune to such effects, making it more robust, as long as it does not become resource-constrained. It seems to be a superior system if your goal is to keep the planet burning brightly, but when the fuel starts to run low, it is quickly torn apart by the very impulses that motivated its previous successes: greed turns to profiteering, draining the life blood out of the economy, while fear causes capital to seek safe havens, causing the wheels of commerce to grind to a halt. It could be said that an intelligently designed, well-regulated capitalist system could be made to avoid such pitfalls and persevere in the face of resource constraints, but the US seems laughably far from achieving this goal.

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Vermiculite May Pose Asbestos Hazard

by: Heather on 12/19/2008
Posted in: Guest Posts

The following post was submitted by James O'Shea, a reader concerned about potential soil contamination from vermiculite. Vermiculite is widely used in gardening for moisture retention. If you buy plant starts or potted plants from the garden center, the little whitish bits that you often find mixed in with the soil are vermiculite.

Vermiculite May …

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