Archive for March, 2012

Iron John

March 25, 2012

            This morning a small USA Today news article caught my eye. It has been making the rounds under many guises. It originates as a Columbus Dispatch article from March 25, 2012 by Spencer Hunt entitled ‘Fracking’ Is Thirsty Work But Groundwater Isn’t Plentiful In Eastern Ohio. In a nutshell, the process of hydraulic fracturing for those seemly deposits of gas and oil over a mile underground requires a considerable amount of water. Water that is pretty much “consumed” in the process though the industry likes to spin its “recycling” of this “material” at the plethora of “informational/educational” public meetings that have been sprouting like mushrooms before the season has even begun. They claim it is only good business practice to recycle (reuse) this material (water) back into the next well since it is a rather expensive “commodity”. As the article points out, the water is beginning to be purchased (for consumption) from the very folks promoting this economy, the state. Back in the 1930’s, as part of the programs meant to generate employment, stimulate the economy and improve living conditions, various creeks, streams, rivers and flood prone areas that ultimately fed into the Muskingum River were damned, forming a set of lakes in eastern Ohio under what is now the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. This large project contributed socially through the stabilization of the unpredictable effects of too much/too little water, by assuring an even distribution of this resource throughout under whatever conditions. In addition to the flood control, it also established new leisure time resources for sportsmen, boaters, campers, etc. and contributed to a literal “cottage” industry where previously there had been none. Many state parks are located within this district. Now this very trust is “studying” the amount of water it will be able to sell in addition to the legal jurisdictions that already are engaged in this practice. The ultimate irony, or sadness, of this is the twisted relationship of the state (legal jurisdictions et al) in bed with the gas and oil industry (why the long legged woman spokesperson seductively purrs how good it will be on the TV promo spots). Just in the last 2 years, the USDA Hydrological Experimental Station in Coshocton County Ohio (just about the heart of the Watershed Conservancy District area) found itself terminated by having its federal funding cut through congress’s budgeting. The work done there has an incredible history of contributing to agricultural and landscaping practices that rely on water resources, both ground as well as meteorologically produced, and its effect on various soils through absorptions, run off, and erosion rates. Now the county has reasserted its ownership over the federally leased land that the lab sat on and is in the process of leasing it again, only this time to those wanting to access the Utica shale that lies below. The MWCD is within the purview of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Any “studies” used to determine feasibility/availability of water to be sold (“tapped”) will now be determined by the same folks who did the studies on the soundness/sustainability of the damns, dikes, and channels of New Orleans and Missouri. Visions of the long legged spokesperson telling us how good it will be!

            All this brings to mind the Aral Sea. Roughly during the same time period as the inception of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, the central planning economy of the Soviet Union believed it would benefit the state (and the people) by diverting the feeder waters of the Aral Sea into irrigation channels to open up vast areas of undeveloped land to cotton farming. This appeared to be a win/win since the area around the lake was not agriculturally productive, and the Soviet Union would become “cotton” independent, with the textile sector providing jobs and product. Eventually, not only did the Soviet Union go bust but the entire cotton farming in this area went belly up. The wound on the land left from all of this economic “planning and development” is that the Aral Sea has just about disappeared, and a totally inhospitable desert now “flowers” where once was a huge lake and thriving fishing industry.

            There certainly is a hand in the water of Ohio, but it is not the one of fairy tale legend.

 

Advertisements

Observation, Fact And Opinion

March 20, 2012

Over the weekend there was a “Going Commercial” beekeeping class/workshop held in Medina Ohio, put on by the Medina Country Beekeepers. It wasn’t hands-on in the bee yard but lectures, slides and discussion. It featured Dr. Larry Connor covering spring management and expansion through various queen/split strategies, Dr. Dewey Caron on pathology and prevention, mostly varoa, and Kim Flottum on winter management and marketing. That same weekend I happened on one of those panel discussions moderated by Gwen Ifill featuring a NY Times reporter, corporate media attorneys, etc. It concerned itself with the Citizens United ruling, freedom of speech and the role of money in all this. Surprisingly, the two events spoke to each other, informed each other and were quite complimentary. They were even located in adjacent cities; Ifill’s having been televised in Cleveland, right next door to Medina.

One of the remarkable insights/conclusions coming out of the Medina event (well, remarkable from the point of view of someone trying to post a blog essay every week) was the “wholistic” approach to Varoa management, prevention and control. It was noted clearly that the immediate “scientific” remediation after the 1987 infestation bought time for study but solved nothing. It was even described as counter productive. The chemical, etc. miticide treatments are still employed today (25 years later) though statistically yearly losses keep increasing. This is recognized as not sustainable. The situation is mirrored in the present day quandary re: antibiotics, with antibiotic resistant diseases appearing, like TB. To stretch the reflection out even further, analogous scenarios could be had with regard to nuclear development since 1950. At its inception, atomic “power” was to be the end all be all solution for mankind’s ills, from supplying light and heat in cities, to powering ships, to curing every form of illness, to preserving foods indefinitely and sending man to the stars. As Steve Kurtz once pointed out in a lecture at Vermont College, the framework, the paradigm, the approach of science is shifting from the classical modernistic cause/effect model based on facts and experimentation to one of observation, imagination and the quirkiness of the entirety, the system, the whole. At the conference, Q&A usually ended up with statements of “don’t have the data to say anything about that”,  “that was an astute observation” or “in my opinion”.

Amazingly enough, the Citizens United panel discussion travelled down a parallel set of tracks. The pros and cons of money involvement in free speech came out through the person of the panelists, from the basic utilitarian need of requiring money to produce any kind of widely disseminated text, to the shrinking resources of journalistic outlets to “cover the news”. What previously had been the very marketable journalism of some facts and a reporter’s observations (which implicates opinion) has gravitated, for economic reasons, to fact finding/data mining and little observation, even less opinion. One reason given is the preponderance of opinion through the easy access and availability of blogs. The irony (not noted by the moderator or panel) is that the same economics that dictates the fact based journalism (news outlets need to market their products and generate revenue) likewise precludes the dissemination of any observations that may be politically or economically discomfiting. That is, speech can likewise be suppressed by the Citizens United ruling since fewer and fewer “media” of dissemination become available (prioritizing what’s good for business and not for journalism). The value of observation, once the mainstay of traditional journalism and so necessary in current science, is undermined and devalued for purely capitalistic determinations. These implications are much more far reaching than merely who can run for political office. It is more about how we see the world; full of the quick fixes that can be purchased over the counter, or sustainable and life enhancing over generations?

And then there is blogging. Is it merely opinion? Does being able to distinguish fact from opinion give market journalism its “professional” credibility? Lacking the resources to mine data, does that leave everything else to being “opinion”? If we were all fact checkers, then none of us could or would be philosophers. And philosophy, good philosophy, is definitely NOT opinion. Observations are made, whether re: societies of bees or people. Observations are worthwhile, not only for the reasons given by Bakhtin (each of us has something we are blind to requiring others to see for us) but because it is all we have to begin deciphering the mystery of our world and our lives.

Theodicy

March 11, 2012

            It has always puzzled me how the very secular history of the 20th century has resulted in the incredibly sacred conflicts of the 21st. The ism’s of ideology (capitalism, communism, colonialism, imperialism) have morphed into the honorifics of identity (Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist). Sometime ago Rick Santorum gave a speech concerning “Satan’s influence” on America. A couple of weeks ago Louis Farrakhan gave a speech concerning “Satan’s influence” on America. And today the news is of young people being hunted down and stoned to death for allegedly being under “Satan’s influence” in Iraq. The preference for fundamental religious historiography has resulted in the obsolescence of sophisticated and convoluted ideology much as cell phone demand has done in land lines. The political economic tomes of a Jameson or a Negri pale before what is touted as driving today’s conflicts. Little mention is given of the mega rich (the thousand plus some billionaire’s listed by Forbes) and those totally reliant on their own labors for support. Could it be because the Murdoch’s et al own most of the media necessary to report such a perspective? The different “Gods” and “Satans” of today’s news headlines make the political economy epics of the late 20th century read like the Futuristic manifestoes from the early part of that century. Is it because the various honorific identities escape the economic language of franchise? That eventually all the crusades, jihads and “God’s Army” cataclysms will only justify and advance pure business practices and unregulated markets as a relief and a blessing?

            “But in fact if you look at what we do under our pleas of economy, you see that no merely practical motives could inspire these labors.

            Political economy is the modern form of theodicy, and our labors are our religious mysteries.”    (Stanley Cavell [Captivity and Despair] pg. 402, Walden and Resistance to Civil Government, Henry D. Thoreau, edited by William Rossi, Norton 1992)

Pedagogy

March 4, 2012

“The whole of my winters, as well as most of my summers, I had free and clear for study. I have thoroughly tried school-keeping, and found that my expenses were in proportion, or rather out of proportion, to my income, for I was obliged to dress and train, not to say think and believe, accordingly, and I lost my time into the bargain. As I did not teach for the good of my fellow-men, but simply for a livelihood, this was a failure.”   Walden and Resistance to Civil Government    Henry D. Thoreau, edited by William Rossi 1992 pg. 47

            “In this case, that constraint had taken the form of the command Jacotot had given. And it resulted in an important consequence, no longer for the student but for the master. The students had learned without a master explicator, but not, for all that, without a master. They didn’t know how before, and now they knew how. Therefore, Jacotot had taught them something. And yet he had communicated nothing to them of his science. So it wasn’t the master’s science that the student learned. His mastery lay in the command that had enclosed the students in a closed circle from which they alone could break out. By leaving his intelligence out of the picture, he had allowed their intelligence to grapple with that of the book. Thus, the two functions that link the practice of the master explicator, that of the savant and that of the master had been dissociated.  The two faculties in play during the act of learning, namely intelligence and will, had therefore also been separated, liberated from each other. A pure relationship of will to will had been established between master and student: a relationship wherein the master’s domination resulted in an entirely liberated relationship between the intelligence of the student and that of the book –the intelligence of the book that was also the thing in common, the egalitarian intellectual link between master and student. This device allowed the jumbled categories of the pedagogical act to be sorted out, and explicative stultification to be precisely defined. There is stultification whenever one intelligence is subordinated to another. A person –and a child in particular –may need a master when his own will is not strong enough to set him on track and keep him there. But that subjection is purely one of will over will. It becomes stultification when it links an intelligence to another intelligence. In the act of teaching and learning there are two wills and two intelligences. We will call their coincidence stultification. In the experimental situation Jacotot created, the student was linked to a will, Jacotot’s, and to an intelligence, the book’s –the two entirely distinct. We will call the known and maintained difference of the two relations –the act of an intelligence obeying only itself even while the will obeys another will –emancipation.”  The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation   Jacques Ranciere 1991 pg. 12-13

 

“We’ve been home schooling for a year and a half now, and, believe me, I’m no expert. I do not have a handle on all the methods, philosophies and curriculum choices out there, but what I have discovered is that I need to know why we are home schooling… I present to you five important reasons the Sagar family is home schooling…

Reason No. 2: Home schooling allows our children to develop a worldview based on truth…. Education, worldview and character are wrapped up together. The Bible says to teach your children “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Reason No. 3: Home schooling gives us as parents greater control over what our kids learn, and when.”  We Wouldn’t Trade Home Schooling For Anything   Rebekah Sagar Guest Columnist Editorial Newark Advocate March 4, 2012