From “Dream On” to Climate Action

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When I’m working through something complex I gravitate towards certain songs. I play them over and over as if the cadence can help me weave or unweave the threads of an idea. I find myself in this mode right now. The three songs I currently have on repeat are “Dream On” by Aerosmith, “Indomitable” By DJ Shub and the North Cree Singers, and “You Can Never Go Home” By Ganstagrass.

What’s interesting is that I had to look up who sings “Dream On” because even though I knew it was one of Aerosmith’s earliest hits it doesn’t sound like the Steven Tyler were used to hearing. I looked up the Wikipedia page on the song. It references an authorized biography of the band called Walk This Way By Stephen Davis. In it Steven Tyler describes how he liked to lay under his father’s piano while he father played when he was a small child and something in that experience prompted the first catalyst for the song.

As a child, I too loved to lay under my Grandmother’s baby grand piano while she played! What a funny thing to have in common with a Rockstar! Both Steven Tyler’s father and my Grandmother were classically trained pianists. The final elements of the song came together when he was 14. In the biography he says the song is sung in his “real voice” which he was insecure about on how it sounded on tape. This is also interesting to me. I always try to get under or around “the Public face” that we all tend to wear when we’re out and about in society. Authenticity has always been important to me. I find it easier to bond with people when we’re both being “real” with each other. So now I know why this song appeals to me so much.

The next song I’ve been playing a lot is called “Indomitable” By DJ Shub and the North Cree Singers. This attraction feels natural to me. Growing up some of my very closest friends are Indigenous Americans and our friendship continues to this day. As an Ally, I care deeply about Indigenous issues like the Murder and Missing Indigenous Women whose cases don’t get the same attention as Gabby Petito. Once again mainstream media deserves to be called out for its own systemic habits of “missing white woman syndrome.” If my best friend goes missing you better damn well give her case the attention it deserves! By choosing which stories get the most national attention, the media signals what our collective values are supposed to be. Indigenous people are still here! Many live in cities, not on reservations, and yet the broader collective consciousness of our nation sidelines their voices to historical archetypes or reservation/tribal “issues” as if what happens there doesn’t have relevance to influence the rest of the country, but it does. Who took bold action against the XL Keystone pipeline project? The Standing Rock Sioux tribe! That’s who! This is one of many examples of how environmental and social justice issues are woven together.

Finally, we have the last song I’ve been listening to a lot by a band called “Ganstagrass.” The name and band is a combination of Gangster Rap (urban music) and Bluegrass (rural music.) I really like one of the comments someone named Patrick Riot made, “When the hood and the woods unite, we’re unstoppable.” That’s what I believe too! I’m frustrated and disheartened by the current US political climate and animosity in the public sphere, but I have to believe that we can still bring people of different backgrounds together. Our democracy is at risk and what are we without our democracy? I’m trying to think of a framework for a new path forward that is relevant to people’s lives where they can feel heard and push through the politically divisive rhetoric. Can it be done? I don’t know, but I’m willing to try.

I’m ready for action! I’m now obsessed with the idea of creating a “regenerative society” as a path forward. This prompts the questions: How can we create a “Regenerative society?” and What would a “Regenerative Society” look like?

Call it serendipity or stream of consciousness, but of course I’m not the only one to pull these two words together. My short working definition is – a society that works towards restoring the basic needs of the people and the environment; Food, clean water, shelter, access to healthcare, sanitation, education, and a sense of community.

I feel that a regenerative society would have equality and social justice as intrinsic values built into its DNA. Education for all. Period. Not just the rich, not just the men, not just the people in the cities…etcetera, etcetera,.. everybody! Educated people doing meaningful work on behalf of themselves and their communities. Working with purpose and being valued for your place in the world because of it! By “educated” I mean a society where everyone has a basic primary education (reading, writing, and basic math skills) with opportunities to do advanced academics, trade schools or apprenticeships to find your social-environmental niche. Any society can work towards being a regenerative society. Several countries are already ahead of the U.S. on that. The area where I grew up was poisoned by a government project but we, the people, are expected to pay out of pocket for the health consequences of it until the day we die. More on that in a future post.

I was debating with a friend who argued greed was good because it motivated people to competitively innovate and take risks. My point was, why should greed be the motivator though? I’m motivated to innovate and take risks to make life better for me, my family, my human community, my wildlife community, my plant community, and my soil community. She told me I was being delusional. I told her she was being lazy if greed was her only motivation for existing. We laughed and left it at that.

What would a Regenerative Society look like to you?

Please share your thoughts below or email me.


Here are the songs mentioned via links to YouTube:

Dream On – Aerosmith:

DJ Shub and the Northern Cree Singers – Indomitable:

Ganstagrass – You can Never Go Home:

Additional Links:

Dream On (Aerosmith song) – Wikipedia

Home | MMIW USA (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Official Website)

FBI missing persons cases list: 43 unsolved cases that need leads (usatoday.com)

How to Save Our Asses in Short Order: Activism, Hacktivism and Activist Investors

Last week was a dark week despite the continual blasting of heat from the sun and bright blue skies, but that’s part of the problem isn’t? If you’re not frying like an egg in one part of the planet, you might be wondering if you have the aptitude for boat building. I couldn’t find any positive environmental-related news last week. Instead, it ended up a long session of what kids these days call “Doom Scrolling.”

Each article making me more angry, sad and frustrated. I’ve always operated in a morally gray area. If you take a psychology class chances are you’ve encountered “the Trolley Problem.” In short, you’re standing at the track switch and you see an out of control trolley going towards five people who are tied up and can’t move. If you flip the switch you can save them, but you’ll kill one person on the other track.

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

I’ve always been trained to do the most amount of good with the least amount of damage. I would flip the switch, but I’d also make a run of that one person. We don’t have details on how fast the trolley is going or how far you are, but I’d try to make a run for it anyways. If nothing else, I would serve as a distraction, maybe that helps? Maybe I do get to the person in time and get them completely or mostly off the track. If they lose their leg(s), but keep their life I’d still call that a win. Honestly, this question could have many more variable factors in it, I suggest you not think about it too long unless you’re aiming for a truly depressive state of mind. So why am I bringing it up?

Because maybe if we maintained the flippin’ trolley in the first place we wouldn’t be put in such a moral dilemma! The trolley is our planet. We are already standing at the switch and the track is the degree to which we let human-caused emissions raise the global temperature. We do not all have an equal amount of leverage though. Developed Nations have more leverage, Corporations have more leverage and the Ultra-Rich have more leverage.

We are all beholden to them on if they choose to act on climate change, how they choose to act on climate change and when and how fast they do it. I don’t like them having so much leverage. Do you? I feel that some of these people are so incompetent they’d have such an uncontrolled, oversized trolley taking out all six people and a couple of puppies and kittens to boot!

WHAT CAN WE DO!

We need to pull out our wrenches and chocks (wedges used to prevent vehicles from moving) and get to work. We need to change the system, disrupt the system. Peacefully and strategically. The Ultra-Rich think they can buy up mansions in places like New Zealand and other believed-to-be “climate Havens”, we need to give them some smelling salt to wake the fluff up! There is no safe place from a seriously angry planet.

Money talks, that’s why the Ultra-Rich and everyone else is so keen to hold onto it. So, it was a brilliant maneuver when the activist hedge fund, Engine No.1, secured three seats on Exxon Mobil’s board of directors. First, they had to have enough capital and stakeholder assets to be qualified to make the board. This required convincing a few key stakeholders to back them up, BlackRock and the California State Teacher’s Retirement System. While holding three seats on the board doesn’t give them majority rule on what the oil giant does, they do have an opportunity to present proposals and lean into the idea of working towards renewable energy services.

It’s unfathomable how many opportunities we’ve missed to improve the energy and technology sectors over the decades due to gross misuse of anti-competitive practices within these and other key industries. Certain companies have been buying up patents and smaller “asset companies” for years only to bury them deep in the dark recesses of filing cabinets. Why? Because the patent or intellectual property of that company threatened the profitability of a mega corporation that wasn’t interested in changing its business practices. I can’t give you names or evidence here, because this kind of information gets carefully scrubbed from search engines and this humble web keeper doesn’t have the resources to go picking fights with C Corps right now. 404 – Files not Found.

Karnataka Protest Poster, Karnataka Water Rights Coalition, Bengaluru (Bangalore) 2004, Melanie Reynolds

Activism  How do you define Activism? Holding up a sign in protest is only one form of activism. Other ways include using your purchasing power to support companies and organizations that make a commitment to the things you believe in. It can be writing to a company to tell them you like and support their sustainability issues and that you, as a customer, are taking notice. You can also write to companies you won’t support and tell them, why you don’t support them (ie wasteful packaging, high CO2 output.)

Hacktivism You’ve heard of computer hackers and life hacks. Hacking in itself isn’t a bad thing. There used to be a distinction between “Hackers” and “Crackers.” Crackers are typically “the black hats” that want to steal your money or information for takedowns and sabotage. Hackers are testers, they want to find out how things works or test their skills. A “White hat” hacker will find exploits and notifies the appropriate person so it can be fixed. Anyone at any age can be a hacker. Don’t let Hollywood fool you into thinking its just lonely, acne-infested, teenage boys. My Grandma would have been a great hacker! So what’s hacktivism? The “Trolley problem” above as an example: The cracker steals the wheels of the trolley. The Hacker figures out how the trolley works. The White hat Hacker figures out how the trolley works, see that the brake is broken and notify the appropriate authorities. If the hacker also like knots, maybe they could go down and untie those people on the tracks while they’re at it!

Spy vs Spy, MAD Magazine comic strip By Antonio Prohias

Activist Investors Let your money do the talking. Move your assets into ESG (Environmental, Social Governmental) funds or active Sustainability funds. You choose whether to be an active or passive investor. There are a lot of online resources and most of the biggest investment firms now have some sort of ESG portfolio to varying degrees.

I just bought a book fresh of the press that has me really excited about doing this. I’m only in the first chapter so far. Let me know in the comments if you want a book review when I’ve completed it. It’s called “Activate Your Money: Invest to Grow Your Wealth And Build A Better World By Janine Firpo”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Links:

How the Economy Has to Radically Transform to End Fossil Fuels in 20 Years (vice.com) or

The U.N. IPCC climate change report is bleak but hopeful. (slate.com)

Trolley problem – Wikipedia

Exxon Mobil Defeated by Activist Investor Engine No. 1 – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s “Big, Beautiful Tax Cut” — ProPublica

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Climate Haven’ – Bloomberg

Yes, the ultra-rich are still buying NZ$80m homes (in case you were wondering) | Stuff.co.nz (May 8,2020)

Silicon Valley Moguls Buying $8 Million Doomsday Bunkers in New Zealand (businessinsider.com) (Sep 6, 2018)

Anti-competitive practices – Wikipedia

How Google Search Results Are Being Manipulated By Shady Online Reputation Consultants (buzzfeednews.com)

https://blog.malwarebytes.com/101/2021/06/white-hat-black-hat-grey-hat-hackers-whats-the-difference/

Firestorm, 1991

When I was sixteen my father and I nearly died in a wildfire.

When I was four, he bought twenty-seven acres outside of town. At night, in a field among the forests, it felt like space could devour you. Very few lights dotted the landscape back then. Now when I go back there are so many lights I can hardly see the stars.

We started in a used single wide trailer. Two years later the concrete was poured and the first timbers went up. My dad worked long hours at a meat packing plant with a 45-mintue commute. I lived in the city with my mom during the week. On the weekends, I was a wild child out at my dad’s house. He bartered and traded for goods and services to get the house built. Family and friends came out to help with whatever skills they could bring to the effort. It created a festive atmosphere having so many people around. My grandpa, my great grandpa, my grandmother, my great aunt and uncle, some family friends and occasionally my childhood friend and her parents too. I loved growing up “under construction.” When the scaffolding went up three stories high, I turned into a monkey. When my grandma would give me food I would stuff it in my pockets or have a sandwich hanging out of my mouth as I scurried up to the highest scaffolding board to eat. I also liked throwing carrot chunks at my older brother, because he was too afraid to climb so high.

One of my favorite family friends was a survivor of Auschwitz. He lost his whole family including a wife. He remarried a fellow survivor after they were freed. That’s all I know of his story. He was a kind, soft-spoken man, and an excellent master bricklayer, just like my great grandfather. Every time I see the bricks in “soldier pattern” (standing vertical) over the main doorway, I think of him. The rest of the house was built of wood.

The house grew and now it’s very large. You might consider it a mansion, one that took nearly forty years to build. Wildfires have come and gone over the years, but they never come close enough for us to really worry, until 1991. What would become locally known as, “Firestorm 1991.” It’s a lot like what the Bootleg fire in Oregon appears to be becoming now, multiple fires driven by high winds.

We got blocked on three sides, one of them curving like a half moon that eventually cutoff our escape route. My Stepmom, Stepsister, and Stepbrother got out in time. My stepsiblings were just little kids at the time. My stepsister cried, begging us to come too. I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t without my dad. I thought if I stayed with him, he would see reason. I thought I could get him to go, for me. By the time I felt I had convinced him it; it was too late to leave. The firefighters had come. They told us to evacuate. They themselves were pulling out and right after they left trees fell as if closing a door behind them.

I filled the bathtub with water, so I felt like I had a choice between burning or drowning. I was angry and sad that we hadn’t left with the rest of the family, but I understood too. I knew how much the house means to my dad. How much it means to me. Many beloved hands shaped the walls, drove the nails, and mudded the cracks in the sheetrock. When I visit, I run my hands along the walls. Hierth, you can never go home.

The night was long. The glow of the fire was so bright when you closed your eyes, you still saw the fire through your eyelids. There was nowhere to hide. We paced around like angry cats. We patrolled the windows as they started turning black with soot. The hose and buckets positioned by the doors. Our water was drawn by a well and the closest fire was nearly upon the pump house. Then the fire turned and battled the other for fuel. They consumed each other before us. There was not enough tinder between the both of them and they burned each other out. I would have cried if I’d had enough moisture left for tears. I thought I might cry table salt instead; my eyes were so crusty.

We survived. The house still stands today. The wood exterior has been covered with stone. The roof has been replaced with tiles. I still can’t help but think of it as a giant brick oven though. I can’t live out there no more. Every year I worry about my dad. Every year I track the fires. I live roughly five hours away, but if I move like a low flying aircraft and I don’t stop to pee, I can make it in three.

I don’t just follow “our fires,” I track everyone’s fires. My own version of Nihilism perhaps, but I also think Fire Science is interesting. Sometimes, I cry tears for others I couldn’t cry for myself. I know their pain. Most recently it was for the people of Lytton, BC.

The problem isn’t just one thing, it’s a multitude of things. Yes, it’s more people moving out to rural areas. Yes, it’s years of suppressing natural fires. It’s over regulated in some ways and under regulated in other ways. It’s bad planning. It’s greed. It’s global warming.

We could be more strategic in how we manage fires and how we plan our communities. The Camp Fire in California in 2018 showed just how dangerous one of our most popular housing development layouts can be. It’s typically a selling feature to live on a dead end street, until you can’t escape in an emergency due to you and your neighbors trying to flee at once creating a chokehold. We have to rebalance and recalibrate, the natural environment with the built environment. We can save ourselves, save the trees, and animal lives with lower intensity fires. Fire isn’t always bad. Regenerative fires help create lower intensity fires and healthier forests and fields for future generations.

Additional Links:

Firestorm 1991 – Aug. 21, 2015 | The Spokesman-Review

‘Most homes’ in Lytton, B.C., destroyed by catastrophic fire, minister says | CBC News (This link includes a video of a guy who describes just how hard it is to make the decision whether to leave or stay during a wildfire. This fire occurred earlier this month at the beginning of July 2021.)

Have you ever been affected by wildfire?