Archive for December, 2007

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GE Madness

December 18, 2007

Ran has a comment from me about the sheer ineptitude of the science of genetic engineering as it currently stands. It’s bordering on comical but it’s also quite insane. The prize for Monsanto et al.  is total control over world food production but the risks are phenomenal. Here’s a brief description of one example of the sort of scary and quite random side-effect that keeps happening when they conduct their ‘highly accurate’ experiments:

Klebsiella planticola, a common soil bacterium, was genetically engineered by a German research institute to make ethanol for industrial purposes. The inventors had planned a recycling system: farmers would give them agricultural slash, which would be used for the bacterial fermentation; the resulting ethanol would be separated out, and the sludge could be given back to the farmers to spread on their fields as fertilizer. It all sounded very good for the environment, but how much soil ecologists impinged on the planning is unclear.

Dr Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University and her graduate student M.T. Holmes discovered to their alarm that soils containing the engineered organism killed wheat seedlings, most likely through alcohol production in the root system, which kills roots at very low concentrations. Mycorrhizal fungi were also killed.

Had the engineered sludges been returned to farmers, it would have drastically degraded their soil, rendering them unable to grow many or all plants. Since K. planticola is a ubiquitous organism, found in the root systems of plants all over the world, the GM mutant could have spread and made ALL soil unable to support crops! Microorganisms are easily spread on surfaces of insects, on the feet of birds, on people’s feet, etc; this engineered bacterium could have spread world-wide quite rapidly. (source)

What the brief description doesn’t say is that the testing of organism in question was tested in sterile soil which is why they didn’t know there would be a problem. The institue in question took an awful lot of convincing before they would accept there was a problem too.

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Stay Human

December 15, 2007

Our task is to be human.

While that sentence may seem abusurdly obvious to some people, to me it feels like a reminder of something important that I forgot long, long ago.  I’m struggling with the old activist bash-people-over-the-head incarnation of myself and with some of the attitudes I met when I was in that environment. To be fair (and accurate) though coercive tactics is endemic thoughout our entire culture. But then maybe that’s the problem.

The reality of changing the world is that there are two ways to do it. We either attempt to use top down coercive measures, or we become someone who can get alongside people of all stripes and talk to them at an personal level. It’s only when we get that close to someone that we’re truly in a position to effect positive change in their life. The only thing is that if we do we’ll probably find ourselves helping them with a whole bunch of personal struggles before we can move on to convincing them to do some recycling. However, most people just prefer wacking each other over the head with their chosen ideology.

I am seriously questioning the usefulness of my intellectual nature at the moment. As far as I can see all it has done is to disconnect me from my emotions, thereby enabling me to do emotional, mental and spiritual damage to myself – and probably to those around me. The intellectual approach to life means we put ideology ahead of relationships. It’s not so long ago that I found it impossible to be friends with people who I had philosophical disagreements with. Most philosophy is a superficial irrelevancy, the important things in life are our relationships and being able to listen to our inner voice. I find that lots of women instinctively understand this but that most men don’t.

Essentially I burned myself out trying to advance my particular ideology – to what benefit I don’t know. To be fair, opposing the release of GE organisms has a lot to be recommended and putting out news that is more truthful than the mainstream version is not that bad an idea either. The problem is that burned out individuals aren’t a very good advertisement for any kind of cause. They’re not much use to their family and friends either. People often cite their children as a reason for joining any number of causes but the biggest difference we could make to our children is creating a life where we feel refreshed enough to want to spend time with them.

I’m really starting to have a real problem with all these attempts to wake us up – they bloody depress me. I’m pretty sure it’s not just me that has this problem with being told to wake up either. The urge to tell people to wake up reminds me of the ‘tough talk’ that our teachers and parents gave us as kids. It’s the sort of hard talk that usually makes the speaker feel good but never the listener. It’s the sort of thing we refer to as an ear-bashing in New Zealand.

People already feel pretty overwhelmed and trying to shock them into ‘waking up’ is probably just going to add to their feeling of powerlessness – hardly the energising effect actually needed. Dan showed me his copy of What a Way to Go recently. It’s got many of my favourite authors in it but I don’t feel like I can recommend it to anyone. I’m feeling much more receptive of positive visions at the moment

People don’t need more shock treatment, they need encouragement, and they need help with where they’re at. So do I.

Ran’s blog seems to be the best option around here for that at the moment but I’ve also spent some time with a group of people in party mode in the UK recently and somehow, after all the activism I’ve done I’m struggling to explain why I wouldn’t have been better off just fooling around for the last few years. What’s the point of fighting the good fight if we lose ourselves and what it means to be alive in the process. I mean isn’t that pretty much what They are trying to do to us anyway.

So here’s what I think; if we have to live in a hierarchy then I propose a new indicator of social status whereby the people having the most fun, or getting the most satisfaction out of life are at the top. The people at the bottom would be the poor souls who feel compelled to stick it out in jobs, causes and relationships that are bad for them.

This isn’t a-political either, a society full of people who were genuinely focused on enjoying their lives rather than running after more abstract goals would look a lot different to this one.

I have no idea what it would look like on a large scale but on the part of the planet where I can have a useful effect (family and maybe friends) I imagine that we would turn the focus of our lives to repairing relationships so that we are better able to rely on each other. I hope we would be better able to live with each other (not in the same house though, that would be a bit ambitious at this stage) and support each other. It’s much easier to do this when people are physically close. I’d love to see our siblings and parents helping us raise our kids and in a couple of years our kids will be in a position to help to raise their younger cousins. I’d love to be able to break out of my civilised shell a bit so I’m more fun to be around, although I have only a very vague idea of how that might happen, and I’d love to be able to just chill out a whole lot more.

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Don’t Panic

December 7, 2007

It’s funny, I was about to write a post saying that I have cut back on how much time I spend reading Cryptogon and I’ve just discovered that Kevin has put Villageblog on his list of links. Of course I’m pleased when people add me to their list but I’d better offer some background for any new readers who’ve linked from there.

As regular readers will know I have gained a lot from Kevin’s analysis – in particular his explanation of how dropping out of mainstream society is the most effective method of undermining the powers that be. That said I have found, since spending three weeks away from my computer that I’m better off if I spend less time at Cryptogon. I still like the site and what it has to offer but the regular diet of scary news that daily visits were giving me was starting to paralyse me.

Whilst visiting less I’m not actually reading less, I’m just making sure I don’t spend so much time in a paralysing headspace. I will continue to keep away from Life After the Oil Crash though – on the face of it LATOC really seems to have scaring the living daylights out of us as it’s primary mission.

It’s pretty odd because I usually don’t have trouble making decisions but I really was getting a bit incapacitated.  At the same time I was thinking this Ran wrote a comment based on the recent Archdruid post, Solvitur Ambulando – we’ll figure it out as we go.

It occurs to me that now that the crash has begun, my own writing about the crash is suddenly irrelevant. I was able to be helpful by studying and thinking about the crash more than other people, but now that we’re in it, experience trumps speculation, and I don’t have any more experience than you do.

If you’ve already been to Ran’s site you will have seen him refer to a comment I made that he still has a lot to offer in the way of helping to prevent panic.

In the email to him I also  said that there have been times where I have found a kind of calming reassurance from visiting his site and that I had occaisionally referred readers to some of his texts for the express purpose of giving them a calmer perspective.

Apart from Dmitry Orlov on occasion there really isn’t anyone else writing in the smash-crash-blogosphere who can write about the future and still impart a sense of hope.

I’m also starting to see the blissful benefits of ignorance. It’s all very well being clued up  but if I’m to spend the rest of my days paralysed by a paranoid expectance of doom I might as well end it all now. I don’t imagine for a minute that a lot of people will agree with me but I also don’t imagine that everyone is as bothered by what they read as I am – although Kevin does make regular reference to the volume of panicky emails he receives. Really I’m trying to avoid the survivalist mentality because I don’t just want to survive, I want to properly enjoy being alive.

The other benefit, which people will appreciate, is that I’m back to making sensible decisions and avoiding the trap of thinking that I have to both predict the future, which is impossible, and devise a detailed plan to deal with it, which will quickly become outdated as real life takes over my predictions.

Ultimately I want to live my life in an enjoyable state of mind irrespective of what is going on around me. That’s not to say I will be ignoring what is happening around me – only that I will endeavour to follow the excellent advice given on the front of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic.

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