Just as the U.S. government helped create Al-Qaeda, the Israeli government helped Hamas

The United States has a long, horrific history of funding, training, and arming extremist groups – particularly right-wing ones – in the hopes that those groups will destabilize the regions in which they are active. This has led to countless atrocities all around the world, many of which have been used as excuses for our state of endless war.

As one of America’s closest allies, and the biggest recipient of American military aid, it probably shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Israeli government followed this strategy when it came to Hamas.

Remember this, when Hamas is used to justify murder and brutality committed against Palestinians, as part of the Israeli government’s effort to maintain apartheid conditions, and pursue a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem.

Israel has all the power in this situation. The Israeli government is capable of de-escalating things, and moving the region towards peace, but they have consistently chosen not to, maintaining and escalating the cycle of bloodshed.

Mitigating the harm of climate change, using changes in the climate

One thing that is fast becoming a central theme of my work is the notion that, in addition to decentralizing political power, and creating a more democratic economy than capitalism can provide, we also need view ourselves as a part of the “natural world”. That means moving away from the historical trend of using technology to separate ourselves from the rest of the biosphere, and instead more fully integrating human civilization with the ecosystems that surround us.

This includes a lot of the standard stuff from the solarpunk genre: urban agriculture and urban wildlife, waste management that minimizes or eliminates pollution, and an end to wasteful things like planned obsolescence. It also goes beyond that, to molding ourselves to better suit our ecosystems, and to reduce the amount of labor and energy required to survive in a sometimes hostile landscape.

As the climate warms, the trend in much of the world seems to be towards stable or increasing annual rainfall, but with all of that rain coming in a smaller number of more intense storms. The practical effect of that is a worsening cycle of drought, flooding, and erosion, as the majority of the year is too dry for most plant life, and the sudden, intense rainfall floods the landscape causing landslides, and washing away both plant life and topsoil.

This, in turn, is likely to worsen the next year’s drought, while doing little to provide actual relief, as the water all rushes out to sea, or evaporates quickly following the downpour. The result is a cycle that’s likely to affect a huge portion of currently inhabited land, starting with the areas already suffering from this, like California:

As climate change intensifies the severity and frequency of these extreme events, amplifying refill rates could help the state reach a more balanced groundwater budget. One practice, called water banking or managed aquifer recharge, involves augmenting surface infrastructure, such as reservoirs or pipelines, with underground infrastructure, such as aquifers and wells, to increase the transfer of floodwater for storage in groundwater basins.

A newer strategy for managing surface water, compared to more traditional methods like reservoirs and dams, water banking poses multiple benefits including flood risk reduction and improved ecosystem services. While groundwater basins offer a vast network for water safekeeping, pinpointing areas prime for replenishment, gauging infrastructure needed and the amount of water available remains key, especially in a warming and uncertain climate.

“Integrating managed aquifer recharge with floodwaters into already complex water management infrastructure offers many benefits, but requires careful consideration of uncertainties and constraints. Our growing understanding of climate change makes this an opportune time to examine the potential for these benefits,” said senior author David Freyberg, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford.

The researchers designed a framework to estimate future floodwater availability across the state. Developing a hybrid computer model using hydrologic and climate simulations and statistical tools, the team calculated water available for recharge under different climate change scenarios through 2090. They also identified areas where infrastructure investments should be prioritized to tap floodwater potential and increase recharge.

As things currently stand, flood waters tend to be dangerous. They sweep up badly stored chemicals, human and animal waste, and sediments carrying pollution from past eras, resulting in a mix of poisons and bacteria that can do a lot of harm. Building infrastructure to catch that water, clean it, and direct it into aquifers would be a huge investment, but one that I think would be well worth it, and have benefits lasting far into the future.

Similar to things like food forests and managed prairies, water conservation and banking practices can help us build up not only our own resilience, but also the resilience of surrounding ecosystems.

Image shows the flooded terraces of a Balinese rice farm, creating a sort of managed ecosystem of grasses, trees, and ponds climbing up mountainsides

“For most crops, irrigation simply provides water for the plant’s roots. But in a Balinese rice terrace, water is used to construct a complex, pulsed artificial ecosystem. Water temples manipulate the states of the system, at ascending levels in regional hierarchies.”

The industrial revolution, colonialism, and capitalism all worked to devastate the biosphere of this planet in ways we’re still working to fully understand. We must turn from being consumers of the world, to being stewards of it. In the past, rhetoric like this might have been used to push the idea that we should just “leave nature alone”, but I want to be clear that that’s not what I’m suggesting.

The ecological collapse we’ve created means that we have a responsibility to use our technology and understanding to help our ecosystems survive, for our own benefit. That’s likely to mean increased intervention in what remains of wild spaces, at least in some ways. I think it’s obvious we should work to end the conditions that drive practices like deforestation and over-fishing; but it may also mean things like using banked or desalinated water to irrigate drought-stricken “wilderness”, if we can find ways to do so.

This is a complex issue, and must be approached as such. The measures taken to help one region could prove devastating in another, and it’s almost certain that such efforts will only work if undertaken in a cooperative manner across the arbitrary borders that divide the world into “nations”. As I’ve said before, a better world is possible, but I believe it will require the creation and maintenance of global solidarity. We cannot continue to indulge exploitation and bigotry, if we want to survive.


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Renegade Cut: Why Riots Happen

America’s “protest season” has begun, and the government has continued its brutal response to any calls for systemic change. Because injustice has not been corrected, political unrest will not cease. As they saying goes, “No justice, no peace”. This video is a useful examination of riots, and how violence is defined, justified, or condemned within our society. Education alone will not save us, but it is a powerful tool in the struggle for a better world.

The video has been “age-restricted”, I suspect due to a mass-flagging campaign by those who object to any content critical of police, and of white supremacy. You’ll need to sign in to see it, but I think that’s worth doing.

 

A video, and some thoughts on the current state of U.S. fascism

As I’ve said before, I don’t think the threat of fascism will be leaving the United States any time soon. This video does a good job of outlining the ways in which the modern Republican Party has become either fascist, or part of a fascist movement. A lot of these elements were present prior to Trump’s entry into politics, and I think it’s fair to say that there was a growing fascist movement that brought Trump to power, and that was empowered in turn by his presidency.

That said, I think it’s also worth noting that if Biden doesn’t make good on the efforts to pitch him as a new FDR (a comparison that seems to be either wishful thinking, or a feeble effort to placate left-wing dissidents), then the threat will remain as strong as it has ever been. At this point in time, any efforts to blame America’s problems on outside forces will, in my opinion, feed America’s fascist movement. As long as the problems caused by neoliberalism remain, any efforts to fix things by focusing on an outward enemy will leave the public with two choices – one is to reject the efforts at scapegoating altogether, and to join in the effort to replace capitalism with something better.

The other is to conclude that if both parties are saying that China (or any other scapegoat) is the cause of our problems, maybe the people whose rhetoric on that issue is more aggressive will actually “do something about it”. I don’t know what the future holds, but climate jokes aside, the United States is on very thin ice right now. The momentum seems to be pushing in a very bad direction, and it’s going to take a lot of careful work to turn things around.

Guest post: Planning a pantry, chapter one of…?

Guest post by Tegan
Note: This is the beginning of our effort to build up advice on the kind of pro-social prepping mentioned in the direct action post

When thinking of creating a pantry, there are of course two immediate questions that need answering: (1) what is the pantry for? and (2) how do you utilize those foodstuffs to ensure that money spent on it isn’t wasted?

To me, building a pantry always seemed like the easy and logical step. My mother and grandmother both always had pantries filled with options for food. In regards to my grandmother’s pantry, which included her kitchen fridge and freezer, the downstairs full-sized freezer, the freezer in the building next door, and a root cellar, my grandmother seemed prepared for an apocalypse – or simply grandchildren visiting, as she would usually pull bags of potato chips and cookies out of the bedroom closet as well as the ice cream from the basement freezer. My mother, not having the space my grandmother did as well as having to move several times in her adult life, had fewer options. I grew up with only a single extra three-quarter size standalone freezer as well as the requisite amount of cupboard and pantry goods. This meant that when I was first developing my household management skills after I moved into my first of many apartments, I naturally knew that I had to buy food for pantries. This meant that my initial answer to the first question, asked implicitly almost two decades ago, was ‘the pantry is to have a pantry.’

In the intervening two decades I have moved households dozens of times. I have had any number of roommates with differing or similar approaches to food. I have learned to cook a wider variety of foods as well as learned a large number of general-use techniques in the kitchen. I have gone in and out of doomerism concerning peak oil and into concern about late-stage capitalism and climate change that Abe discusses so eloquently. I have moved internationally twice. And throughout most of this, I have been very poor. Answering that first question now, my response would be: ‘the pantry is to protect against lean times, to buy in bulk for savings if possible, to ensure that my household will always have something to eat even if it is boring.’

All well and good. We now have a more coherent and well thought out answer to the first question. The task gets harder as we move into the second question.

How to use the foodstuffs in your pantry to ensure that it isn’t wasted money and effort? My mother and grandmother have never fully known the answer to this question. For both of them, they use what they remember having in stock, and purchase duplicates of what they don’t remember. By the time I knew her, my grandmother was not in the habit of rotating through her stock and when she first entered a nursing home a few years ago, there was a great purge of old food. Meat expired over a decade previously. Frosting from the Clinton era. Home-canned vegetables that were both unlabeled and unrecognizable. My mother rotates her pantry semi-annually, but still has to throw out a fair amount of food. Usually vegetables that lurked in the back of the fridge, or the occasional item that was equally hidden in a freezer. Who actually gets to the back of their freezer often? Unless it is specifically a planned event, it can be difficult to remember to check the storage corners of the household. All this is to say that any ideas regarding pantry management I have, I have learned at the expense of good food gone to waste, and not from any training while growing up. Most of this advice can be summed up into one single sentence: Know What You Cook.

Almost every pantry article I have ever read – and I have read many! – has been written by a chef. Unsurprisingly, their ideas of what are kitchen Must-Have ingredients have been very different from my own. From lists stating that every household needs a quart of buttermilk at all times, to needing preserved lemons, or flatly stating that the author cannot live without at least three types of cheese in the house – these lists are each designed for one household in particular. And that’s ok! I don’t need a chef to put a stamp of approval on the type of cooking that my household does. We just need to eat the food that we buy as efficiently and effectively as possible. So what decisions do Abe and I make when purchasing food?

Firstly, we buy pasta. As cheap as we can find it, and several different kinds. Classic Italian pastas like spaghetti or rotini; the food of broke people everywhere, ramen; and if I wind up at an Asian grocer or the like I’ll buy rice pasta or egg noodle nests. But I want each purchase to at least offer me two packages per unit of currency, preferably three. Other households eat bread or rice or potatoes as the primary carb of their diet. We eat mostly pasta.

Secondly, we have lots of flavor options. Bouillon, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, sweet chili sauce, and hoisin sauce, when we have the resources. Even if you are eating the same food every single day, it won’t taste the same if you change up the flavor profile.

Thirdly, we always have the ability to bake. If I can’t figure out how to bake a cake with the ingredients that we have, we do not have enough food in the house. One of the first things I did after I arrived in Dublin was to bake a cake. I threw together canned coconut milk (we were out of milk), canned pumpkin, an egg, sugar, spices, and GF Halal flour intended for fasting meals (which was the only flour in the house). Was it the world’s best cake? No. But it filled that urge to have a warm sweet treat and did not require me to break quarantine.

Fourthly, we make sure that we have food other than carbs. Abe cares about vegetables so he ensures our freezer stays stocked with frozen veg. I care about protein so I make sure that we have eggs, and canned fish, and frozen meat, and deli meats that were on clearance that I also freeze.

Outside of these strong guidelines, we shop for deals. If something is cheap this week, we buy extra to have it in the house. We try to keep track of what we go through swiftly and adjust our shopping accordingly. But just as it’s important to know what to buy for yourself, it’s also important to track the failures. We don’t purchase a wide variety of grains. In the past we have done so, and we had a LOT of fancy or specialty grains to get rid of with the first international move. We don’t purchase a large amount of dried beans. We go through beans regularly enough, but not so swiftly as to require a significant portion of our storage space dedicated to them. We don’t buy items that we don’t know how to use. A friend had gifted me homemade pomegranate syrup. That stayed in my fridge through three moves and then it molded and I threw it out, unused. A package of boba survived ten years of moves before finally being eaten. In short, we don’t purchase food aspirationally.

So there it is! My two main tips for building a pantry can be summed up into two pithy and almost unhelpfully brief sentences: Know What You Cook, and Don’t Purchase Aspirationally.


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Fiction: A boring night is looking up

The zeppelin’s white skin glowed in the city’s lights as it approached the docking tower. Rivulets of water made it shimmer, drawing Tua’s eyes. She yawned, and squinted to re-focus her gaze on the cargo hold. Her mission brief was sparse on details, but the central question was clear: a handful of freight vessels had been dropping something while on approach for docking, beginning shortly after sunset. A few dock workers had seen whatever it was, and reported it to the Shipping Council, but there were no reports of anything falling from the sky, of damage, or of unexplained waste in the canals.

Something was being delivered by people who were willing to go to fairly extreme lengths to keep their business off of any books. Half the time, when Tua was called in to run an investigation, what she found was depressingly harmless. People operating in secret because they enjoyed the challenge, or starting up a strange new business venture that drew attention from “concerned citizens”.

Those didn’t tend to involve the clandestine use of one of the city’s major shipping routes. Freight zeppelins ran constantly around the country. They didn’t move particularly fast, but there was a never-ending stream of them drifting slowly around the continent. It was effectively a massive, airborne conveyor belt, and because it depended on lighter-than-air craft, weight was carefully monitored.

The zeppelin docked with a loud thunk, and Tua closed her eyes to rest them while the vessel was unloaded above her. Waiting was the worst part of this job.

Normally, smuggling investigations required very little effort. Most items that would get a smuggler in trouble were things that could poison the water or interfere with some of the city’s vital functions. Smuggling might allow someone to avoid paying access or import fees, but those were low enough that avoiding them often cost more, even if you didn’t get caught. That went doubly for smuggling anything by air. Tua had helped a gun-running operation in her teens, but that had gone along the canals. It turned out the guns were for an ill-conceived plan by a group to gain control over the city’s common housing system through a mixture of bribery, intimidation, and murder.

Tua didn’t understand it, but there always seemed to be those who wanted power over other people, and those willing to help them for one reason or another. She shifted carefully on her perch, and adjusted her goggle magnification. The next zeppelin was just visible on its approach.

I was one of those willing to help, she reminded herself. Her current gig as an investigator had started as community service after she was caught along with everyone else involved in the attempted takeover. She hadn’t known what goods she was moving, but neither had she asked. It had gotten her better food and housing, and more than enough money to access some of the more interesting clubs around town. It had also been more fun than she had had before or since.

A bell rang above her as the zeppelin finished offloading its cargo, and glided away into the rainy dusk. The next one approached, and Tua watched, her goggles recording everything in case she blinked at the wrong moment.

She didn’t.


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