Snoozy Cat to you all, and a happy New Year!

“The old year now away is fled, the New Year it is entered”.

In many ways, the turning of one year to the next doesn’t matter much. It’s a way to track time, but while that’s the axle on which the wheels of history turn, it’s not what determines where we go. The New Year is a social construct. The thing is, social constructs are real, material forces in the world, and like gods, flags, and philosophies, the New Year has meaning, at its root, because enough people want it to. At the end of the day, that kind of meaning may be the only kind we really have.

This has been an interesting year for me. Some combination of a supportive family, total control over my time, and a legal situation that convinced me writing was actually the most “productive” use of my time meant that I’ve been writing daily for a year, in a way I’m not sure I ever have. More than that, having this control over what I write, how I write it, and why I write it has made the work immeasurably more fulfilling. I don’t know why it took so long for all of this to click, but in some ways it’s been exhilarating, after so many years of trying to get my brain to cooperate. I still have problems, of course, and there’s the nagging dread that something small will change and I’ll sink back into the brain fog and dysfunction, but for now? Life feels strangely good, despite everything that’s going on in the world.

I think that’s a testament to the importance of ensuring that everyone has this freedom, and of staying connected to humanity as a whole, so as to avoid that trap of assuming one’s own experience is universal. I’m also somewhat grounded by the fact that my current situation has a time limit on it. It is, speaking of social constructs, a result of Tegan’s visa as a graduate student. It’s my hope that between this blog and the novel I’m working on, I can bring in enough money to make writing continue to be viable when our situation changes. It feels like the odds are against me on that, but in this moment, there’s nothing for it but to keep working.

This has also been an “interesting” year, for a certain definition of interesting, because I lost Raksha. She had been a huge part of my life starting the summer after I graduated from college in 2007, all the way until this past spring, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better dog. She was gentle, sociable, smart, and eager to please. She also rarely barked, which made her a surprisingly good apartment dog, for a Shepherd mix that weighed 50lbs. She was probably happiest during the couple years we were living at my parent’s place in the woods, where she’d hang out, chase squirrels, and bask in the sun.

It’s strange to have a creature be a constant presence for a decade and a half, and then just… be gone. It’s something you always know is coming, but there’s a limit to how much easier that makes it, when it’s clear that nobody really wants things to end. I’ll probably never stop missing her, but writing these two paragraphs is more than I was able to do a few months ago. One benefit of aging is that experience can remind us that while time may not remove the pain entirely, things do get easier.

The picture shows Raksha, lying under my desk. It’s an oak roll-top desk I got at a thrift store, so the space under it is pretty small. The dog’s head and shoulders are visible in the bottom center of the picture, with her white undercoat showing through the black fur of her shoulders. Her cheeks are white, fading to tan on the muzzle, with a black stripe down the center of her snout. She has brown eyes with a little dark fur around them, and off-white, expressive eyebrows. This was her safe spot, where she’d hide (if I was at the desk) when the fireworks started.

Thankfully, she wasn’t my only companion. I still have Tegan and His Holiness Saint Ray the Cat. Tegan shared my grief, of course, having lived with Raksha for almost nine of her fifteen years. His Holiness apparently didn’t care at all. He was there on the grass when the vet put her down, but he was far more interested in whether we were going to feed him. I think his main problem was that the landscape changed. Thankfully, as long as we keep feeding him and providing warmth and shelter, he will continue to be a loving stuffed animal of a housemate.

Honestly, I think the dog was more like a roommate that he had to put up with than someone he actually cared about. When Tegan’s gone for a long period of time, he gets fussy, and when she spends the day out of the house, he makes it his mission to prevent her from leaving again by sitting on her lap the second it becomes possible to do so. He’ll spend lots of time there when she’s home all day, too, but there’s less urgency to it. Tegan, you will be surprised to learn, is largely OK with this.

The other day, he took up residence while she watched a movie (I think it was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – I was working and didn’t feel like watching it), and he discovered that, when she wasn’t actively using it for work, her laptop made an excellent pillow!

His Holiness, a chunky British shorthair cat, is sleeping on Tegan’s lap, on top of a plaid comforter, using her laptop as a pillow. His fur looks golden-brown with black stripes, except for the plush, white fur on his muzzle, cheeks, neck, and paws. That particular spot on the laptop generates its own heat, and is therefor the cat’s One True Love.

Tegan sent me a couple pictures that seemed worth sharing with you all. He used to have a problem with comforters – the squishiness bothered him for some reason – but he has made his peace, and seems to appreciate them now, especially when they have the added benefit of being over a lap.

It’s true what you’ve heard – you really can have too much of a good thing! He got overheated, so he had to curl away from the laptop and plant his face in the comforter.

A few days before this, Tegan had been using her old sleeping bag to keep warm while she worked out in the living room, and His Holiness had apparently decided that that sleeping bag was the best thing ever created, and spent several entire days and nights mostly sleeping on it, regardless of where we were. He goes through phases like that with random spots in the house sometimes, like the box he was obsessed with a little while back.

Apparently he had reached the end of that phase, however, because when I came to bed, he decided to stick around, and found a little space above my pillow.

In this picture, you can see me using one side of the pillow, and His Holiness using the other. Neither of us appreciated the flash, but it does show how glossy the soft black fur on his head is.

I have never encountered a cat that was so fond of pillows – not as a thing to lie on but as, well, a social construct. It’s not always, but often he likes having his head propped up on something other than his sleeping surface. This means that he will often share a pillow with one of us, by curling up next to it, and putting his head on it. Maybe this is something they all do and I’m just noticing it with my cat, but it’s such a marked preference with him, it seems to stand out in a way that I feel I would have noticed.

Either way, it’s extremely cute, and I’m grateful to have him in my life.

2023 looks to be an interesting year, not just in the sense of the curse of “interesting times”, but also because it feels sort of like a next stage for my attempt to hold on to a lifestyle that I actually find fulfilling. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m not going to be posing anything for the first week in January. It’s not exactly a week “off”, but my biggest upcoming goal is to get a solid draft of my current novel finished by the end of Spring. I’m aiming for April, but I’m unsure of my ability to get there. Fiction’s harder for me than nonfiction in many ways. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in November, but I did make real progress, and I’ve made more over the past month. I think it’ll be a fun book, and a good, if somewhat sneaky beginning to what I hope will be a unique and captivating fantasy epic.

I’m still working on how I want to go about publishing it, but I’m leaning towards self-publication or something close to it. At some point this year, I’ll also start releasing bits and pieces as teasers, and probably a little more than that for my patrons (who have the option to name characters). It’s a sword-and-sorcery story that follows a young mage named Tad, who signs up to serve the empire in which he was born. In that regard, the setup is familiar, and in many ways this will be just another fantasy novel in a quasi-medieval setting. That said, I find I cannot be satisfied with a society that has rulers in fiction any more than in reality, and the ghosts of “past” injustice continue to haunt us in any world, until we do what is needed to appease them and mend the damage.

What potions require mushrooms, harvested from a swamp in the dark of the New Moon? What secrets are held within the red-streaked black marble of the Imperial palace? How much of the world around us is a lie? What waits at the bottom of a bottomless pit? How much can a friendship withstand?

In 2023, I mean to answer these questions and more. In time, of course, the answers will be available to all who buy my books, but readers of this blog may get early or inside information, and my patrons will play a role in shaping this world, should they want it.

And, of course, Oceanoxia will continue. Once my break is over, I plan on posting daily as I have been. Going forward, I’ll do my best do provide better written summaries and discussions of Youtube videos I post. I think it was The Great American Satan that pointed out that people likely to read a blog like this might be less interested in watching videos than in, well, reading. It’s a good point and one I’ll be trying to keep in mind. I had started using Youtube as a way to post content when I didn’t have anything better, and I’m sure I’ll still do that from time to time, but like I said – I’m trying to make a living out of this, and beyond periodically haranguing people for money, Oceanoxia needs to be something that people feel is worth supporting.

I’ve found it hard, recently, to feel hopeful about the start of a new year. There’s a lot of bad in the world right now, and a lot of power behind the effort to keep things that way. In terms of the world at large, well, it doesn’t feel like things are getting better soon. In terms of my own life? It’s hard to tell, but I have real hopes for my current projects, and for another year in which it feels like I’m actually making progress as a craftsman. In a lot of ways, that’s most of what I want out of my personal life, and I’m grateful for this opportunity, however long it lasts.

I hope you all have a good night, whatever your plans tonight, and I hope that 2023 is filled with pleasant surprises for all of us.

A new year, a new Brazilian president, and new hope for the Amazon

I’ve written before about the political situation in Brazil, where Jair Bolsonaro, a neofascist with ties to the old military dictatorship, ended up in power after a bogus corruption scandal and Bolsonaro’s soon-to-be Justice Minister put the most popular candidate in prison, so he was unable to run for office. Fortunately, that candidate, Lula da Silva was freed, and then won the next presidential election. While the man was in no way perfect, his previous time as president saw a great many people lifted from poverty, new rights and protections for Indigenous Brazilians, and for the Amazon Rainforest. There’s still very real concern about a coup attempt from Bolsonaro’s faction, but Lula will be sworn in as president this coming Sunday, and it looks like he intends to continue doing good things for Brazil, and for the world:

Environmentalists and rights advocates around the world are celebrating Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s selection of Marina Silva and Sônia Guajajara to serve as the nation’s environment and Indigenous ministers, respectively.


Several advocates throughout Brazil and beyond celebrated both appointments. Kenneth Roth, the former long-time executive director of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, proclaimed that “Lula’s win was a win for the Amazon.”

Jennifer Morgan—who earlier this year stepped down as Greenpeace International’s executive director to serve as special envoy for international climate action in the German Foreign Ministry—also congratulated and celebrated both women on Twitter.

“The world is fortunate to have you in this critical position at this key moment of history,” Morgan said of Silva. “Look forward working together to achieve your vision for a social, ecological transformation for the people and nature of Brazil.”

Morgan wrote of Guajajara: “Your courage and tenacity is an inspiration. Celebrating this historic day for you and Indigenous peoples around the world.”

As The Guardian detailed: “Guajajara was born in the Araribóia territory of the eastern Amazon and became one of the leading lights of Brazil’s flourishing Indigenous rights movement, as well as a prominent leftist politician. In 2018, Guajajara became the first Indigenous woman to run for Brazil’s vice presidency. She won a place in Brazil’s overwhelmingly white, male Congress in October’s election.”

While I’m far from knowledgable about this, both women seem to have strong records when it comes to the intertwined subjects of the environment, and Indigenous rights. From what I can tell, the political situation is still far more precarious than I’d like. There’s some evidence of FBI involvement in Bolsonaro’s rise to power, and there’s a long history of left-wing regimes being attacked by the United States and other imperial powers. Lula is no communist, but he’s a ways to the left of the United States, and he seems to mostly put people over profit, which seems to offend the sensibilities of capitalist “world leaders”. Unfortunately, I think it’ll be a long time before we can expect to see real movement to the left in the world without that movement drawing fire from the global capitalist war machine. The upside is that Biden has show support for Lula, and has some political reasons to maintain that support, given Bolsonaro’s closeness with Trump, and the Dems’ desire to stop there from being a pattern of this particular kind of coup attempt.

Sorry, had to fret at least a little about that. The reality is that this is good news, and there’s been so much bad news the last few years, that good things feel like a trick sometimes. This really is good news, though. I first started paying attention to Brazil back in 2006, when I met a man in Tanzania who had been at a renewable energy conference, and was excited to talk about all the advances Brazil had been making – it seemed like it was way ahead of the U.S.! That was right in the middle of Lula’s first stint as president, and while Bolsonaro has done his damnedest to sell the Amazon for lumber, there’s still a lot left to save, and Lula taking office is a great way to start 2023.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

A video and some thoughts on the recent power grid attacks

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about an attack on the power grid of Moore County, NC, apparently planned and carried out to shut down a drag show happening at a theater in the town of Southern Pines. Attacking the power grid is not a new tactic, either for right-wing extremists in the United States, or for paramilitary and revolutionary groups around the world. In the time since that post, there have been several more attacks around the country, not all associated with particular events the way the Moore County attack was, and it seems like that pattern is going to continue. This video from Beau of the Fifth Column goes into the thinking (and lack thereof) behind these attacks, why they won’t work for their probable intended purpose, and why they’re a problem anyway. It also goes into some tips for preparing for this to happen to your part of the grid.

Basically, there are three goals that attacks like this have historically had three goals, which don’t apply to the current situation. I’ll try to summarize below for those who can’t watch the video.

  1. To provoke a security clampdown. This is designed to anger the general public against the government forces clamping down. It has been successful, in some places, in getting more of the local populace to take up arms against an occupier. The U.S., however, is not being occupied by any outside force. The U.S. is also extremely good at controlling its populace, and because security clampdowns would be done by many different agencies (local police, state police, national guard, state and local governments, federal government), there’s no single target against whom to unify the people. The U.S. also pioneered understanding of this particular tactic, and so has literal instructions about avoiding the kind of clampdown in question.
  2. To blame the people in power for the grid failures, to turn the general public against them. The problem with this is that it requires the propaganda/political wing of the movement to repeatedly blame the people in power for what’s happening, but given that the “mainstream” right and the “extreme” right in the U.S. are so intertwined that moderation algorithms may not be able to tell the difference, so very few people will buy that the Democrats are to blame for these attacks. It’s more likely that the GOP will be seen as being on board with the attacks. Beau mentions that as with the first goal, this goal usually applies to occupied countries.
  3. To do a “reset” – knock everything out, and use the chaos to take control of the country by force. This would require them to have popular support, which they don’t. Absent that, they’d need the numbers, resources, and organization to occupy and control the entirety of the “lower 48”. Beau said he’s not sure that the U.S. army, which is the one force on the planet that might be able to pull that off, would be able to. The U.S. is simply too big. Maybe they’re hoping that the military would do it for them, but in my own opinion, there’s no way that happens without the GOP already having total control of the federal government, or something very close to it.

The bad news is that these attacks still cut off power to thousands of people. Beau compares this to January 6th – virtually zero chance of success, but still very destructive. Lost power can mean lost heat, spoiled food and medicine, shutdown of medical devices, shutdown of municipal water systems, and much more, depending on where it happens and how long the damage takes to repair. That means that to whatever degree you are able, you should probably prepare for power outages if you live in the U.S..

You know how I’ve written about the synergy between the threats we face, and the actions we need to take to prepare or remove those threats? You know how my direct action post couples the dangers of a warming planet and rising fascism? In both cases, I think it’s reasonable to expect more power outages, which means doing what you can to prepare for that. At the more expensive end, that means getting a generator (which should always be used outdoors, even if it means you have to crack a window for the cable. Please don’t gas yourself), or having a solar or wind setup with a battery, as well as something for purifying water. Again, at the high end that might be a powered purifier, and at the low end, we have stuff like iodine tablets or the filters lots of people use for camping. At the low end for power, there are cheap cell phone backup batteries, less cheap solar chargers, or you can look into the devices sold to jump-start cars, and get one that has a normal outlet as well as the car cables. Beau also mentions car inverters, that let you use your car as a generator. I’m not providing any links because I don’t want to recommend any particular products, but if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have the capacity to search the internet to see what’s out there.

Obviously, different people will have different needs, and in the U.S. it’s pretty common for those who need powered medical devices or refrigerated medicine, to also be short on resources to buy things like big backup batteries or generators. If you have the means to “overprepare”, you might want to consider doing so, expressly for the purpose of offering help to those around you who don’t have the means. If they’re open to it and you can, help others prepare. Also, in general, be on the lookout for random opportunities to help – it may well come down to luck and landscape. I have relatives who’ve been the only means of communication for their neighborhood, because their home just happened to be a bit more elevated, so the storm surge didn’t reach them.

It absolutely sucks that this is where we’re at, but in addition to extreme weather, we also need to prepare for the violent outbursts of a group of obnoxious people eager to fight to the death against largely imaginary enemies, in the name of the pettiest, most boring, and least stable fantasy of a utopia that bigoted cowards have ever devised. The danger is real, even if the effort is doomed to failure, and the overall threat of fascism is, in my opinion, still extremely high. The one silver lining, tissue-thin though it is, is that our course of action should be the same regardless. Build collective power. Organize, train, and prepare for disasters, both natural and man-made. It’s a very, very old formula, but it’s one that seems to be affective across the ages.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Community defense works

I generally try to maintain a balance, in my content, between confronting the grim realities of our world, and building hope for the future, and contributing to a map of how to get there. I honestly have a hard time telling how well I find that balance, but I feel like I tend to err on the side of being a bit too grim. I’ve talked some about the hate campaign being directed against LGBTQIA people in general, and trans people in particular, but I think it’s important to note that communities are not only rallying to defend themselves, they are doing so successfully:

Christo-fascists in Kansas City, MO gathered near the Midland Theater to protest “A Drag Queen Christmas.” The group “Conservative Moms of KC” organized a small gathering across the street from the Midland, where they attempted to harass incoming attendees to the show and film those going in. They were organized by Rachl Aguirre, a one-time candidate for District 8 of the Missouri State Senate. They kneeled on the concrete and tried to pray the gay away, screamed, “Repent!,” at those across the street and sent members to harass and film attendees. The local branch of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) was also in attendance. The TFP is a self-described “Counter-revolutionary” Catholic organization classified as a “virulently anti-LGBT group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Local leftists received intelligence of their upcoming protest roughly 24 hours before the show, and were able to organize a robust community defense team in less than a day. Local anti-fascists braved the cold to stand in solidarity with the performers and attendees, forming a defensive line outside the theater to deter harassment by the fascists and safeguard guests as they entered the venue. Representatives from the Kansas Trans Guard, People’s Spark and other organizations held the line against attempts by far-Right protesters to personally approach the venue and film attendees, blocking their line of sight and pushing them back as necessary.

The Kansas City Police Department was, as expected, completely useless in protecting the event and its attendees. Though officers had initially instructed “Conservative Moms of KC” to remain across the street, they refused to intervene when Rachel Aguirre and other protesters crossed the street to verbally harass incoming attendees and film them without their consent. KCPD actively tried to prevent the anti-fascist organizers from blocking her way, stating, “She has a right to walk on the sidewalk.” The defenders closed ranks and held the line, retorting with, “Well, we have a right to stand where we want. If she wants to walk, she’ll have to go around.” Malicious compliance prevailed, and the protesters eventually withdrew back to their side of the street. KCPD also allowed TFP to set up their protest line on the sidewalk immediately bordering the venue, where attendees were lining up to enter the show.

The outpouring of support from the event planners and attendees, however, more than made up for the cold and confrontation. Anti-fascist demonstrators worked in close coordination with event staff, helping to facilitate entry for incoming guests by keeping far-Right protesters back and guiding attendees around confrontations. Many attendees were quick to express their gratitude for helping keep the event safe. Their thanks, and the impotence, willful or otherwise, on the part of KCPD is a poignant reminder that we are the ones who keep us safe. Fascists will doubtlessly continue to protest drag shows and other LGBTQ+ spaces in the coming months. Yesterday is proof that deterrence goes a long way towards protecting those spaces, and ensuring that hate has no place in this, or any city.

Standing up to fascists isn’t guaranteed to work every time. They want violence, and they like starting fights, then playing the victim. The key is that they’re far less likely to start something if they think they’ll lose. As the article mentioned, cops are likely to help right-wing extremists than to protect anyone from them, but when a community stands together, it not only provides physical protection, it also provides much-needed moral support to the targets of this hate campaign.

If It’s Going Down isn’t on your list of news sources, it should be. It’s an anarchist publication with a mix of original content from various sources and anonymous submissions. It’s a place to find news and perspectives that are rarely seen in corporate media. A lot of the news there has to do with direct action like this, or like the work of land and water protectors.

I feel as though, when I’m writing about a successful effort to mitigate or prevent harm being done, it’s a gloomy sort of good news. There’s this outpouring of love and support, but it’s only happening because of an attempt to eliminate a group of people from society. It’s good that this went well, but it’s still awful that this action was necessary, you know?

There’s one other thing, though, that I believe turns this into better news than it might otherwise be. See, the “left” in the United States doesn’t have much political power. There are a number of factors at play here, but the primary one is the multigenerational effort, using both the power of the government and privately-funded propaganda, to crush the labor movement, and eliminate left-wing thought. What I see, in stories like this, is the same thing I see in the rise in unionization in the U.S., and the mutual aid groups taking care of people trafficked for political gain, is people realizing that they do actually have power, when they work together. It’s people doing things that the government ought to do, if it actually served the people. They say direct action gets satisfaction, and a growing number of people in the U.S. are finding that out for themselves.

These are dangerous times, no mistake, and direct action can itself be dangerous, especially when it’s standing up to fascists. Fortunately, as they also say, the union makes us strong. Our power, when we work together, is greater than the sum total of each of us as individuals, and the more people use that power, the more likely they are to be willing to consider a world with less and hierarchical systems. There are other ways to do things, and we can do them.

Video: We Need A Library Economy

I’ve heard it said many times that people have trouble imagining what a post-capitalist society might look like. After all, all we have to go on is what came before capitalism, plus the few attempts at something different that we’ve seen over the last century or so. It’s hard to imagine something that doesn’t exist yet, right? Even those parts of the world that operate differently within their own borders, do so within a world controlled by capitalism, and operating under those rules.

So what do we have to compare? Is there anything in existence now, that most people know about, that we could expand use as an example of how things could work differently? Honestly, there are probably a few examples, but one of the best, brought to us by Andrewism, is that of the library. His videos are always pretty chill, and I find this description of what a “library economy” might look like to be inspiring:

No wonder conservatives hate them.

In terms of human cost, Paris climate goals are likely insufficient.

Yesterday I wrote about the danger of assuming, as the CEO of Shell apparently does, that we’ll be able to cool down the planet in the second half of the century, even if we overshoot the targets set in the Paris agreement by 2050. For those who don’t want to read the post, it’s pretty straightforward: The warmer it gets, the better the odds of passing a “tipping point”, beyond which the planet would continue warming without our help, and possibly even in spite of our efforts to cool it. That’s a danger to all of us, obviously, but even within that risky bet that’s apparently being made with our lives, there are people whose lives have already been written off altogether.

Keep in mind, going forward, that “serious” people consider it reasonable to allow us to pass 1.5-2°C, because we’ll just bring the temperature down after. Their best-case scenario still involves a huge amount of ice melt, as the temperature continues to rise. That, in turn, means significantly more sea level rise, and devastation for those most at risk. The problem is that Antarctica, being an entire continent of ice, is a literally massive heat sink. Keep in mind that all of the greenhouse gasses we’ve added to the atmosphere are trapping an amount of heat equivalent the heat of four Hiroshima-sized atomic explosions per second. That’s as of 2013, so it’s probably at least a bit higher now, but the other thing they note is that most of that energy is going straight into the oceans and ice. That doesn’t just get absorbed, it causes changes. In the oceans, it causes thermal expansion, and in the ice, of course, it causes melting. Both of those increase sea level, but that doesn’t affect everyone the same.

This video from Minute Physics is a good primer, but basically gravity affects sea level, so big chunks of mass, like mountains, draw the oceans toward them, raising local sea level above what it would have been without mountains. The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are big chunks of mass, similar in scale to mountains, and as they melt, the gravitational force they exert on the oceans eases. This means that the ocean retreats from the melting ice, and “settles” towards a new center of gravity. The effect of this is that ice melting in Greenland is accelerating sea level rise in my old stomping grounds of New England (among other places), not just because it’s adding water to the oceans, but also because it’s effectively “tilting” the oceans by changing how gravity pulls at them.

That means that, as huge amounts of heat continue to be absorbed by ocean and by ice, sea level rise will continue accelerating, which will hit those areas in the gravitational “danger zones” the hardest. It’s something that, in theory, a nation like the U.S. can cope with easily, but when we move from Greenland south to Antarctica, the countries being put in danger have neither the land nor the wealth to survives casual attitudes about so-called “safe” amounts of warming:

While rising temperatures are having many deleterious effects on global ecosystems, economies and human wellbeing, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts emphasize that temperature alone is not a sufficient basis for climate policy. The team focused on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds the world’s largest store of freshwater—enough to raise the oceans by 58 meters, and which is melting at an accelerating pace. But the physics of the ice sheet itself also contribute to its liquification, which will continue for millennia, even if global carbon emissions are reigned in. And because melting ice can slow rising temperatures in the atmosphere, it is conceivable that the melting ice sheet could help maintain what is commonly considered a “safe” level of warming, 1.5 degrees, say, while actually allowing for devastating sea-level rise. Furthermore, all that Antarctic meltwater won’t cause the same amount of sea-level rise everywhere in the world. Some areas in the Caribbean Sea as well as the Indian and Pacific Oceans will experience a disproportionate share of the sea-level rise from Antarctic ice—up to 33% greater than the global average.

This gap between temperature and sea level has immediate repercussions for many places throughout the world, and especially for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), an organization of 39 island and coastal nations across the globe. Indeed, the paper’s authors show that, though AOSIS countries have emitted a negligible portion of the planet’s anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, they are bearing the brunt of the world’s rising waters.

“Temperature is not the only way to track global climate change,” says Shaina Sadai, the paper’s lead author, who completed this research as part of her doctoral studies in geosciences at UMass Amherst, “but it became the iconic metric in the Paris Agreement. Knowing that Antarctic melt can delay temperature rise while increasing sea levels, I wondered what it meant for climate justice. But climate science alone can’t answer that question of justice.”

I think that last point is worth dwelling on. It’s easy to forget that temperature isn’t the only metric to watch. Sea level rise is an important one as well, of course, but a huge portion of climate data, past and present, isn’t just from temperature measurements and a few physics equations. We know what’s likely to happen to the surface of our planet because we’ve been able to track what it’s already doing, and we can look at fossils from past warming events. Fossil pollen, for example, can give us an idea of past climates and climate change, by telling us about the plants that lived in a given area at the time. Likewise, things like the “insect apocalypse”, mass crab-death, reef bleaching, and a dozen other things can be a metric. Temperature tells us about energy buildup, but other data can tell us how that actually affects the complex systems of a planet’s biosphere.

One other such metric, arguably the most important to humans, is the degree to which climate change is affecting humanity. In that regard, I would say that we are actively failing, it’s guaranteed to get worse with the current crowd of crooks in charge. It really does seem as though they’ve just written off large portions of humanity (almost none of whom are white), and are betting that they can bullshit their way through hundreds of millions of deaths, and keep their power the whole time.

We have made progress in the right direction, but unless you have faith in The Invisible Hand of the Free Market, there’s no way it’s more than a baby step in the right direction, with a desperate hope that “nudging” the market will solve everything. We need to be doing more, and not as individuals – as a species. As I so often say, those to whom we’ve given most of the world’s wealth and power have already demonstrated that they value human life far, far less than maintaining the system that put them where they are. That does mean that it comes back to us doing more, but the “more” that we should be doing is less about power consumption, and more about our political power, as people who value both life, and freedom.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Scientists: It’s dangerous to assume we’ll be able to cool the planet later this century

A month or two ago, I heard some politician/executive type person saying that there wasn’t any real concern with the likelihood that we’ll overshoot our climate “goals”. His reasoning was that the goal was to be under two degrees warming by the end of the century, maybe that’ll mean that we overshoot, and spend 2060-2100 bringing the temperature back down through stuff like carbon capture. I don’t remember who it was, or where I heard it (Found it! It was Shell CEO Ben van Beurden talking to John Stewart (in this video)). I also have no idea whether he believed what he was saying, but I doubt that matters. The level of irresponsibility is honestly breathtaking, given that this dude is certainly not going to be around for the period in question. He’s just cheerfully declaring that his grandkids will deal with it. Clearly the dogma of “personal responsibility” has always been projection, just like all other conservative rhetoric.

Meanwhile, back in reality, we have research confirming what anyone who’d been paying attention already knew: passing the goals set by the Paris climate agreement is unlikely to be temporary

“To effectively prevent all tipping risks, the global mean temperature increase would need to be limited to no more than 1°C—we are currently already at about 1.2°C,” noted study co-author Jonathan Donges, co-lead of the FutureLab on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The latest IPCC report is showing that we’re most likely on a path to temporarily overshoot the 1.5°C temperature threshold.”

The researchers examined various scenarios with peak temperatures from 2°C to 4°C. As lead author and PIK scientist Nico Wunderling explained, they found that “the risk for some tipping events could increase very substantially under certain global warming overshoot scenarios.”

“Even if we would manage to limit global warming to 1.5°C after an overshoot of more than 2°C, this would not be enough as the risk of triggering one or more global tipping points would still be more than 50%,” Wunderling said. “With more warming in the long-term, the risks increase dramatically.”

I’ve long felt that we have already passed some tipping points, such that even if we eliminated most or all of our CO2 emissions, we’d keep warming, albeit more slowly. This is by no means a confirmation of that belief, but I think it does imply that whether or not I’m right, we should be acting with a great deal more urgency. That is also why I keep insisting that we should be planning for life in a hotter planet, and we should expect “too hot” to be the norm for at least a century, probably much longer. Barring a political or technological revolution on a scale that I find unlikely (though that won’t stop me from trying), we’re headed for rough times.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the more it warms, the more it’s likely to keep warming, which is why I think our preparations need to include dealing with our emissions. We have to do everything at once. I’m not kidding about the time frame, either. What we do over the next fifty years or so is likely to set the climate trajectory well into the future:

Study co-author Ricarda Winkelmann, co-lead of the FutureLab on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene at PIK, pointed out that “especially the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet are at risk of tipping even for small overshoots, underlining that they are among the most vulnerable tipping elements.”

“While it would take a long time for the ice loss to fully unfold, the temperature levels at which such changes are triggered could already be reached soon,” she said. “Our action in the coming years can thus decide the future trajectory of the ice sheets for centuries or even millennia to come.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire climate would be as “doomed” as the ice sheets – it may be that we could get to a point where the collapse of the ice sheets will continue even if cool back down significantly. Unfortunately, that kind of long-term risk isn’t limited to the ice – it threatens other systems like the Amazon rainforest, which could be turned into grassland even without continued clear-cutting. What’s possibly even more worrying is the risk to ocean currents:

An analysis of the Amazon released in September by scientists and Indigenous leaders in South America stated that “the tipping point is not a future scenario but rather a stage already present in some areas of the region,” meaning portions of the crucial rainforest may never recover—which could have “profound” consequences on a global scale.

study on the AMOC from last year, also published in Nature Climate Change, warned that the collapse of the system of currents that carries warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic “would have severe impacts on the global climate system,” from disrupting rains that billions of people need for food and increasing storms to further threatening the Amazon and ice sheets.

Donges stressed that “even though a temporary temperature overshoot would definitely be better than reaching a peak temperature and remaining there, some of the overshoot impacts may lead to irreversible damages in a high climate risk zone and this is why low-temperature overshoots are key here.”

Pointing to estimates that current policies could lead to an average global temperature of up to 3.6°C by 2100, Donges declared that “this is not enough.”

As Winkelmann put it: “Every tenth of a degree counts. We must do what we can to limit global warming as quickly as possible.”

Neither the actions that we have taken so far, nor the actions that have been promised, are not enough. “Better than nothing” is, you know, better than nothing, but we’ve got beyond the obscene callousness shown by rulers to their subjects, and entered an era where we can see a murderous scorn for the entirely of humanity, extending indefinitely into the future.

Or, you know, maybe they’re just deluding themselves, and they’re driving us to extinction out of ignorance. As far as I can tell, there’s no material difference for the rest of us. It’s clear that they cannot be talked into actually giving a shit about anything but themselves. Hell, we can barely get the media to even pay attention to the issue. Hell, a guy literally set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court to draw attention to the issue, and it felt like it barely made a ripple. I have an almost compulsive urge to find a way to end every post on a positive note, but sometimes it’s just hard to find a silver lining. I’m sure the darkness of the season isn’t helping my mood, but for all some progress was made in this last year, it’s progress on a scale that would have been more appropriate two or more decades ago.

Climate change has already killed millions of people, and we’re still getting what feels like less than half-measures, while those at the top are allowed to literally steal billions from workers, and legislators are concerned with their “right” to engage in insider trading. As far as I can tell, there is no line. There’s no “tipping point” at which those in charge will do the right thing. We have to do it ourselves. I’ll be updating my direct action post some time in early 2023, so if you have suggestions to improve it, feel free to let me know. We’ve got a lot to do, and it’s still hard to figure out how to go about doing it in a world so clearly shaped to make us spend all our energy enriching those at the top.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Pine Ridge Reservation needs your help

It’s important to remember, when we talk about the United States as an empire, that its war against the various Native American tribes never really ended, it just changed a little. When the rights and needs of Native communities come into conflict with the greed of capitalists, the government still responds with violence. The reservation system was not set up for the benefit of Native Americans, it was set up to contain them. Understanding that is key to understanding why conditions on those reservations tend to be so bad. And when conditions are bad as a matter of routine, disasters hit a lot harder. The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota has been hit hard by the latest distortion of the Polar Vortex, to the point where there are snow drifts as tall as houses, and people have had to burn clothes to stay warm:

Halverson, who represents the Pass Creek District on the Pine Ridge Reservation, described their harrowing situation to the Journal on Thursday.

“It’s been really tough,” she said. “We don’t have the proper equipment here to handle what’s been going on. We have drifts as high as some houses that stretch 60, 70 yards at a time.”

More than 10 days since the storm began, Diaz has moved on and the skies have started to clear, but the recovery process is just beginning. Halverson didn’t get dug out of her house until eight days after the storm. Others are still trapped, reachable only by snowmobile.

It seems like every time we open the road, the snow just drifts it back over,” she said.

It’s an incredibly scary situation, she explained, as many of those snowed-in are missing dialysis treatments or dealing with other medical emergencies. One family ran out of infant formula, and spent four days drifted in before attempting to leave, Halverson said.

“We even talked about using drone drops to get the baby some Enfamil, because the baby was starving,” she said.

But Mother Nature wasn’t done yet.

If being trapped by formidable walls of ice and snow wasn’t enough, subzero temperatures, brought down by an Arctic front, took an already struggling region by the neck. Temperatures dropped into the negative teens and 20s this week, and the unkind Midwest wind shredded those figures with wind chills in the negative 40s and negative 50s.

Cold like that is deadly, just another blow to a reservation already crippled by conditions, Halverson said.

“Most of our members use wood stoves,” she said. “We’re not able to get them with deliveries because of the roads. A lot of our members across the reservation have no propane, because the propane companies can’t reach their tanks to fill. Even right now in my district, we haven’t had anybody able to deliver out to these members that have no propane since the storm started.”

Oglala-based service organization Re-Member provides firewood to families on all corners of the reservation, but the drifts of snow have rendered their wood stockpile inaccessible still – and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future.

“Our wood pile remains inaccessible,” read a Facebook post on Dec. 20. “Our skid steer and plow are out-of-service. Given the conditions, it would be near impossible to operate our equipment and unsafe for our staff to work in the conditions we are facing. We appreciate the efforts being made by many to keep the Oyate safe during these challenging times.”


“I’ve seen across the reservation some members were burning clothes in their wood stove because they couldn’t get access to wood,” Halverson said.

I think it’s likely that this distortion in the polar vortex is caused by arctic warming. The basic theory is that lower ice cover allows more direct interaction between sea and air, which builds up atmospheric pressure, stretching the vortex southward, but there’s still debate about that. What matters at this moment is doing what we can to help. You’re welcome to hunt for your own ways to do so, but this looks like the best option to me:

   I sent them what we can spare. It’s not much, but as I like to say, crowdfunding requires a crowd. The National Guard has also been helping, but there’s no question that they need everything they can get. As I mentioned before, the fact that they were already living so close to the edge has made this disaster many times worse than it might have been. I think this quote from Halverson sums it up well:

“We don’t live on our reservation,” she said. “We survive on our reservation. We’re in serious need of some help.”

When you’re in a survival scenario, even something small going wrong can kill, and this storm is definitely not “something small”. We help as we can right now, but it’s important to remember that that living situation – surviving, not living – is the result of ongoing injustice. It’s good that the government is helping in this situation, but that same government is what stands in the way when Native Americans fight for more than mere survival. Support Land Back and other struggles for Indigenous liberation, and if you can spare a little money to help in the short term, it’s sorely needed. Even if you can just spare $1, that combines with what others give, and it’s our collective power that can save lives.

Video: Monopoly is Anti-Landlord Propaganda

As a kid, I think I probably played Monopoly once or twice per year, usually at my grandparents’ house in Maine. I think we ended up playing Parcheesi more, but they liked Monopoly enough to have a fancy wood and velvet game set with gold-plated hotels. I think I tended to remember those times when I won more often than the times when I lost, so I always wanted to play Monopoly, and was probably a nightmare to play with.

I don’t remember when, exactly, I learned about Monopoly’s history as an explicitly anti-capitalist game, but it certainly makes sense. It’s a great demonstration of how, even with everyone getting an actually equal start, the rules of the game inevitably result in one person getting everything, and everyone else getting ruined. As a microcosm, it does a decent job of replicating what we’re seeing around us right now, with a handful of unbelievably greedy assholes measuring their wealth in hundreds of billions of dollars, while still stealing from their already underpaid workers.

Even if you’re already familiar with the broad strokes, this video digs deeper into the political and economic theory surrounding the creation of the game, as well as the details of how the game went from criticism of capitalism to something that almost seems to glorify it. Whether you want to hear the story (and how it involves Quakers, of all people), or you want to learn more about 19th century economics and people like Henry George, you may enjoy this recounting of it by an enthusiastic British man:


Video: Thought Slime on “AI Art”

This whole “AI” art fad has always felt reminiscent of the crypto/NFT stuff, possibly because it seems to be pushed by the same or similar people. It’s a thing that could, in theory, be interesting and beneficial, but within our current system, all it ends up being vapid and harmful. It’s like automation – it’s framed as taking jobs away from people, but that’s only a problem because jobs are how people earn the right to exist, and the folks in charge are constantly trying to find new ways to not pay people.

What bothers me most, at this moment, is how these programs are allowing rich assholes to profit off of artistic work that I guarantee would be deemed worthless within our society. “You don’t deserve a living wage for doing that work because nobody wants to pay for it, now excuse me while I take it and use it to make money”. The problem isn’t the new thing that’s “taking jobs”, it’s the rules built around that new thing that ensures only a few people get the benefit.