Archive for March, 2013

Not Depressed Enough Yet

March 29, 2013

Sonny Klimczyk is a musician, singer, songwriter in Zanesville Ohio, and a good one. Some folks find his songs a bit on the down side which makes him laugh. He feels that’s when he composes some of his best music. Recently, when he was performing, I asked if he had created any new ones. “No. I guess I haven’t been depressed enough yet.”
This week package bees arrived and folks were picking them up. The lady at the order confirmation table was shivering so bad she could barely write legibly. For those in the know, the bees needed to be hived under winter time conditions since it was cold and windy with occasional snow squalls. Writing to a friend about the experience I found myself saying “It all starts again, only without the sense of end. That also seems to make all the difference in the world.” The news that continues to come in regarding bees has not at all been very hopeful.
Vandana Shiva describes three economies – the business economy of “the market” and capital, nature’s economy of ecology, and the people’s economy of sustenance. The economy of ecology is described as nature’s economy – the cycle of water to clouds to rain, or of water filtering through the earth in order to be clean and sweet to drink, the composting process of dead and waste becoming nutrient for what lives, sheds waste and eventually dies, etc. This economy has no end but is continuous on account of its connectivity. This time of year people with a spiritual orientation, self-described as “religious”, celebrate the paradox of end and beginning. Philosophers would call this “making a cut”; to elaborate a break in order to give meaning to what is otherwise continuous, indescribable, without apparent start or stop. I guess the difference comes in when you take “the cut” literally, actually claiming and believing that what is in perpetual process without dependence on human agency begins or, just as well, has an end. To not be able to identify such a beginning or end is depressing for many of these folks. They would consider such an outlook of not being able to point at a beginning or end to be an expression of negativity or despair, neither of which is embraced by those with a religious partiality. The ecological economy has no end. It will continue whether there is a specifically human witness or not. The business economy is driven by and comprised of an end. It is not without human agency. To depreciate the business economy in order to appreciate the ecological economy would be depressing to a lot of folks. Right now, the scientific evidence seems to be mounting up overwhelmingly that the economy of business is drastically altering the economy of nature. I guess we’re just not “depressed enough yet” to compose a new outlook. To do that would require making a “cut”, admitting an end in order for there to be a new beginning; something that many are not exactly ready to celebrate this time of year.

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Birds Do It, Bees Do It….

March 19, 2013

Two in one day! What does it take? Charlie Dunmore, writing for Reuters, reports that the European Commission is looking to ban neonicotinoids (3-15-13 EU Could Impose Pesticide Ban To Protect Bees). “Syngeta and Bayer, leading global producers of neonicotinoids, say the harmful effects on bees is unproven and that a ban would cost the EU economy billions.” Later in the online news: Bird Group Calls For Halt To Widely Applied Insecticide by Chuck Raasch for USA Today (3-18-13). “The [American] Bird Conservancy, one of the nation’s most active bird-conservation groups, released a 97-page report Monday that says that independent studies of the damage to birds and aquatic ecosystems they depend upon for food raise “significant environmental concerns” and that the Environmental Protection Agency has been too lenient in allowing the use of this class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids.” Later in the article this appears: “Manufacturers say the American Bird Conservancy report depends on suspect science, and a ban would be destructive to global agricultural production. Defenders say that neonicotinoids were created as safer alternatives to the pesticide class they replaced about 20 years ago. Neonicotinoids have been in use for about two decades. The insecticides are sprayed or used to coat seeds, such as corn, to protect crops and control insects around the globe.” Beginning to see a pattern here? (No, not that the reporters’ first names are the same)
There’s an even larger recurrence taking place. Our friend the atom was touted as the savior of progress back in the 50’s. Able to power ships, cure diseases and give light to entire cities. It was safe and concerns to the contrary were unsubstantiated. DDT was likewise promoted to famers and public health officials. Reports began filtering in on these matters, on their residuals and “unintended” exposures, uses, etc. and the same was said. Another spotlight appeared on cigarette smoking, then on exposure to second hand smoke. Lead paint was shown to be disabling growing children because it was inadvertently being ingested or its dust inhaled. The same dust likewise produced by the lead in gasoline. Why, it was all “suspect science”, “unproven”, and would cost the economy billions to rectify. Later, in Raasch’s article: “An industry scientist disagreed, arguing that the EPA constantly monitors the effects and that extensive studies by Bayer and other major producers of the insecticide do not show adverse effects on birds. “Field studies have shown that birds rarely, if ever, are affected when fed a diet with a high content of treated seed,” said Mike Leggett, senior director of environmental policy for CropLife America, the association that represents pesticide makers.” Of course, it is not in Bayer’s or Syngeta’s interest to do studies on the residuals, the 20 years of accumulation of their product within the soils where it was utilized. Given the task to pour a 50lb bag of pesticide from one container to another, not a single one of their technicians would refrain from using a dust mask while performing the task. Some scientist are showing that these toxins are now appearing within growing organisms, such as plants, much as minute traces of Teflon exist within human blood from long term ingestion of accumulated residue. Yet there’s Mike Leggett, lobbyist with CropLife America, confidently proclaiming “that birds rarely, if ever, are affected when fed a diet with a high content of treated seed,” But what about the dust that comes from what did not stick to the seed in the perfect control required for laboratory testing? That rubs off in fifty pounds of seed grinding against each other within the bag and during the mechanized handling in planters and drills? It escapes into the air like the dust of two old fashioned chalk erasers clapped together. Multiply that over 20 years and uncounted square miles. Like the residuals from nuclear processes and waste, from smoking cigarettes, from leaded paints and gas, it drifts into the air, coating everything over time. Indeed we are told that Bermuda was formed over time from airborne Saharan sand. The same folks who would sue if they discovered the wind had carried their GM canola’s pollen onto your non GM field (and have won in court over exactly that) disinherit the wind when it comes to detrimental outcomes. For these giants battling with each other over “market share” the birds and bees have become collateral damage in their campaign for “global agricultural production.”

2013 Must Reads

March 15, 2013

The 2013 MIT Press New book catalog arrived today. A little later than Burpee Seedy’s but just as necessary for a rich and diverse cultivation of the mind. Let’s look at some of these great titles waiting to be tenderly nurtured:
Page one headlines with Adhocism by Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver [a propitious way to start things off wouldn’t you say?], there’s The Art School by Steven Henry Madoff [maybe we’ll learn something], 101 Things To Learn In Art School by Kit White [missed that one], and The Last Art College by Garry Neil Kennedy [better hurry I’m running low, besides, I need to go in the worst way]. Brand new is What Was Contemporary Art by Richard Meyer [can’t remember], Forgetting The Art World by Pamela M. Lee [now it’s all coming back], Darby English’s How To See A Work Of Art In Total Darkness [much clearer now] and The Absence Of Work by Rachel Haidu [beginning to sense a theme here?]. There are, of course, Words To Be Looked At by Liz Kotz and When Marina Abramovic Dies by James Westcott [certain to be the performance of a lifetime!]. Rosalind E. Krauss proffers Under Blue Cup with Milk And Melancholy by Kenneth Hayes along with I Am A Beautiful Monster by Francis Picabia [a very early GaGa afficionado]. All of which may find one with DaDa In Paris by Michel Sanouillet, DaDa East by Tom Sandqvist and Women In DaDa edited by Naomi Savelson-Gorse [DaDa sure knew how to get around!]. Such strenuous study probably will leave one with Body Sweats by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and longing to know Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus. We could finish off with A Little-Known Story About A Movement, A Magazine, And The Computer’s Arrival In Art edited by Margit Rosen [and we all need a good movement, every day!] leaving us at the end with nothing but a History Of Shit by Dominique Laporte.

Humpty Dumpty

March 15, 2013

Overnight Ohio’s other senator came out. Either senator could be “Ohio’s other senator” since both intentionally position themselves on opposite ends of our political polarity, asserting the wonderfulness of “our” policies in opposition to the “other’s”. Rob Portman, who voted for the defense of marriage act, is now in favor of extending those rights and privileges to same sex commitments. Rob’s reasons for doing so are spelled out by him. In the past, I would have considered this just a variation of “Little League” parenting. When your kid is in Little League, by gosh it is the greatest thing in the world. Years later, when your kids are grown, etc. “Little League? Oh yeah, my kids were in that.” A remote variant of this could also be what are called “Sunday Christians”, during the week they are unrecognizable from the infidels, but come Sunday, at church, they are the model of propriety. But I’m wrong. I think this touches more on what could only be described as “the order of things’ (not to be confused with Foucault). Recently, I received an email from someone close. Within it the person said “I don’t know if I’ve told you this but…” What came after the “but” was something we had many times discussed in person as well as emails. Old age? Absent mindedness? Onset of dementia? No, I don’t think so. This is a very adept person, a professional within public administration and dealing with others. The “I don’t know if I told you this but” revealed something about the hold that occupation maintains. Like Rob Portman, when it comes to the job, the “dealing with others”, a long time professional begins to fly on auto pilot. Correct and appropriate forms of speech and writing, appropriate decisions made at the correct time and correct way, the defense of marriage act approved, all because that is the way to “deal with others”. Then there are those we are close with, “our” friends and intimates. The professional divide, like the Berlin Wall, separates out these folks from the “dealing with others” ones, for these are “our” people. How many times have we heard someone exiting a high profile, dealing-with-the-public position claim it is so they can “spend more time with their family”? The Wall crashes down when we can’t help but confront the actual, the Real; that “our” people merge with the “other” people and are one and the same. Hierarchical culture produces hierarchical outlooks. When the interconnectedness, the necessity and integrity of all is experienced, it is very difficult to put things back together again and restore the order of things.

Off The Radar

March 10, 2013

March 9, 2013, CBS evening news aired an interview with the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Jill Schlesinger, MoneyWatch Editor-at-Large, spoke with Lloyd Blankfein. Throughout the interview Blankfein reiterated Goldman Sachs’ interest in and commitment to diversity. As Mr. Alessio Rastani so eloquently put it “Governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.” Blankfein’s comments, as the ruler of Goldman Sachs, are disturbing. These are not his “personal opinions” or commitments. Many will take them as such because he uttered them. These are his pronouncements as the head of an entity that “exists only in contemplation of the law”. It is a given that current late term global capitalism operates unopposed, without alternative. It is also a given that said capitalism appropriates anything and everything; opposition or rebellion, counter culture manifestations, indigenous cultures or societies, all become gripped by the “invisible hand” of the market. Biodiversity is being driven out by self-same global market, along with the diverse and unique cultures that it sustained. Read Blankfein for what he is saying as ruler of the world, not what is presented within the smoke screen of “this is his own opinion or personal epiphany.” Within this corporate position, diversity is no longer self-defining. The dollar now determines what is diverse, and what is not. As an example of this the Goldman Sachs CEO spoke of an unnamed client that withdrew their patronage because of this position. Blankfein said he could well understand their position, and would still like to manage their money. The distribution of sense only extends to what makes for money. What lies outside of that– real value, actual diversity– does not appear on the radar of what makes sense, what has meaning. When it does, it will likewise be appropriated and assigned a dollar value so that it can be traded, sold and speculated on.

Speed Dating Pandora And Charon

March 3, 2013

Like Charon, the beekeeper starts this new season by ferrying home all the hives that did not survive the winter. And this year the boat is overcrowded. Adding to this dirge, the news coming in from out west does not anticipate much joy. Accounts indicate a record low number of available hives for almond tree pollination. This marks the start of the annual migration to pollinate the nation’s food crops, everything from cranberries and blueberries to pumpkins and pickles. A tipping point has been reached with no one daring to venture an educated guess as to why. The likely culprit is the 40+ years of no till, chemically dependent farming practices; a situation only growing more intense as food is now being converted to fuel. The hesitancy to assign specific blame or cause echoes the years of denial by the tobacco industry; that their merchandise was safe and no definitive link could be made between the use of their products and any disease or illness (a strategy now equally embraced by the nuclear industry, as well as pharmaceutical industry in terms of opiate addiction, etc.). Here in Ohio, the first large beekeepers’ workshop/conference has taken place. Others are scheduled to follow. Like Pandora, they are the epitome of grace and correctness when it comes to discussions, lectures and classes on natural beekeeping, specific hive pest management, urban beekeeping, recipes, salve making demo’s, etc. But will we ever look into the box?
Currently the writings of Vandana Shiva and her colleagues have entered the horizon of consideration in terms of the bees and their eventual demise. Shiva writes of the monoculture promoted by farming practices based on GM methodology (not only cultivar but field preparation necessitating herbicide/insecticide application). Reading this, one quickly realizes that bioengineering diminishes and negates the importance and place of pollination which results in cultivars that are self-pollinating (not requiring an outside pollinator). Most of what Shiva writes and speaks of in her interviews focuses on India and the impact of the imposition of such global agricultural practices on local economies and farmers. “But wait!” is the knee jerk response of a first world listener or reader. “This is not what we are experiencing.” The critical reader recalls the years of “post-colonial” studies and descriptions of “Imperialism”. The lid of Pandora’s box begins to slowly open when one realizes that “this is not what we are experiencing” means we have already been properly indoctrinated and conditioned to accept all these practices as the status quo, the “distributed sense”. It would be absurd to consider farming like the Amish who are outside this distribution of sense. To perceive danger, disease and toxicity where only happy meals are served by positive and forward looking, job creating corporations is to transform oneself into a kind of 21st century Charon; a bearer of bad news, one that ferries us from a present complacency into an unsettling future.