White Supremacy and COVID-19 – some thoughts, and an excellent video from Mexie

The United States of America is approaching its third week of mass protests against police brutality, white supremacy, and at least some aspects of capitalism. These protests came after a much, much smaller wave of armed protests against the measures taken to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic, and the decision by some states to “re-open”, and largely end pandemic-related restrictions on business and leisure activities. While many at anti-racism protests have been wearing masks, passing out hand sanitizer, and trying to mitigate the spread of the disease, there’s still some fear that the protests infect more people. Similar fears exist for the customers and workers at the various businesses that are resuming their operations.

The Republican push to return to business as usual seems to be a mix of valuing life less than profit in general, and of valuing minority lives least of all. The pandemic has been disproportionately affecting Black, Latino, and Native American communities, and under a scenario closer to “business as usual”, those communities are going to be far less likely to work from home. The government could, in the name of public health, pay people to stay at home, or pay businesses to rehire those they’ve laid off, and give those people paid time off. Many other countries around the world are doing this, and a number of politicians – particularly in the left wing of the Democratic Party – have been calling for this.

The Republicans control the Senate and the Presidency, however, and have a dogmatic ideological opposition to any form of government aid. For the Republican states that are ending their lockdown restrictions, one of the big drivers seems to be finding a way to avoid increasing unemployment insurance payouts. Their stubbornness will have predictable results. Places like hair salons and restaurants will struggle to attract enough customers to pay their bills, millions will continue having trouble finding work, and even when they do, they will be forced to risk their lives for what are virtually guaranteed to be inadequate paychecks. The current trajectory, for the United States, seems to be towards at least doubling the death toll by the year’s end, along with a massive economic collapse. None of this will cause any real problems for the wealthy people making these decisions, and for many, it will be an opportunity to increase their hoards by “buying low” while mass death, joblessness, and homelessness hammers every sector of the economy.

It seems they feel that their “rational self-interest” is best served by catastrophe, coupled with their ever-expanding efforts to make it harder for people who object to actually do anything about it through the electoral system.

There’s more to be said about this than I could possibly put into one post right now. The last few months have shown a constant stream of examples of how white supremacy hurts our society, how it is still at the core of capital and power in the United States, the double standards that exist in what actions are and are not allowed based on race and political cause, and the lengths to which some people will go to maintain, celebrate, and actively promote white supremacy.

I think there’s a case to be made that capitalists in the United States and the United Kingdom are using, or planning to use, this pandemic to increase their wealth and power using the “Shock Doctrine”. A key element to resisting that, to repairing that damage, and to working toward a more just society, is understanding the role played by things like white supremacy.

As usual, Mexie has done an excellent job in discussing how white supremacy plays a central role in the American economy, and in the way this plague has been playing out. Just as climate change is a systemic issue that affects every level of society, the same can be said of white supremacy and systemic racism. It is everywhere, and affects every aspect of people’s lives.

Check out her video, and if you can, support her work.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

 

How racism and injustice interfere with climate action

I’ve cared about environmental problems for my entire life. One of the things that led to my stunningly successful early social life was yelling at other kids for “hurting trees” by breaking sticks of them when I was in kindergarten. Predictably, as a white guy, I didn’t really think about race or racism much growing up. It wasn’t that I wasn’t taught about those issues at all, just that they generally seemed like something in the past. When I started to really focus on climate change, I fell into the trap of feeling like issues such as racism and sexism needed to take a “back seat” to the climate issue, because that affects literally everyone on the planet. With the future of humanity at stake, it sucks that some people have to deal with discrimination and offensive language, but they should just get over it until we’ve got this environmental stuff under control.

I wish it didn’t need saying, but it does – I was wrong. I had that entirely backwards.

There are three major reasons for why that was wrong. The first is that as with so many other excuses that lead to “we’ll deal with bigotry when this more important stuff has been solved”, there’s no end point. There are always going to be ways in which we can improve our interactions with the rest of the biosphere. Ending the use of fossil fuels will solve some problems, leave other problems untouched, and create new ones. Switching to nuclear power means dealing with a vast increase in both the generation of nuclear waste, and the amount of uranium and thorium mining. Increasing reliance on solar power is already causing problems through the sand mining industry. There will never be a point at which our environmental problems are “solved”, so telling people that their struggle for justice should wait until that’s “dealt with” is actually telling them to never expect justice for themselves or their descendants. That’s a non-starter, and frankly it seems like a great way to convince people to not give a shit about the cause that YOU say is “for everyone”.

The second – and probably more important – reason is that people need justice. Chronic injustice poisons societies. It creates justified resentment and anger, it creates division, and it provides opportunities for bad (and pretty much always wealthy) actors to use propaganda to further divide society for their own benefit. It also makes it far easier for “well-meaning” people to push problems onto others, rather than actually solving them. Many of the “solutions” to the environmental crises of the 20th century involved things like moving the biggest sources of pollution to places like China, and having the people there deal with horrific air quality, or shipping vast quantities of trash to other parts of the world. Here in the US it meant that poorer people – disproportionately black and Native American – have been literally poisoned. They’ve had to live nearer to sources of pollution like pipelines, factories, power plants, and highways, and suffer the myriad health consequences of that, while middle and upper-class white folks got to enjoy an increasingly clean and green world, and feel that the environmental problems were being solved. I should also mention that poor white people have also been at the receiving end of this.

And that meant that most of those problems did not get solved. The injustice continued, got worse in some ways, and the environmental problems simply got relocated.

The third reason is what that message says about the goals of those spreading it. It says that the purpose of environmentalism isn’t for everyone to be able to live a good life and allow their descendants to do the same, but rather for one subset to have that good life, at the expense of everyone else if that’s what it takes. If we’re not in this to lift everyone up, then we’re not just being shitty to the people we’re pretending to help,  we’re also obstructing the very goals we claim to care about.

On this blog’s original WordPress home, I have a quote under the blog’s title:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint Exupéry

If we tell people their struggle for justice must wait until all the other big problems in the world are solved, we’re not just telling them to give up on finding justice for themselves. We’re assigning them to tasks and work, while telling them that they will never get to go on that boat, or if they do, they’ll be locked in the hold without the ability to witness the sea, or have a say in where the boat is going. And if something happens, they’ll be the first to drown. With an offer like that, how could they possibly refuse? It’s basically the same deal Black Americans have always been forced to take – to work their entire lives for the benefit of people who tell them they’re bad for even wanting things to improve for themselves.

It’s not just unjust and immoral, it’s also staggeringly unrealistic. It’s a complete fantasy to expect that people will just live, for generation after generation, without any real hope for the freedom to actually pursue happiness for themselves, or even for their children.

People have a need for freedom, justice, and self-determination. The drive for that has existed throughout human history, all around the planet. And just as endless justifications and systems of persuasion and propaganda have been devised to convince people to accept less than that, so have those systems and justifications always failed. People always rise up. People always demand the right to control their own lives. The time, effort, and resources spent on opposing calls for justice and freedom take away from all those causes that are, at one time or another, put forward as reasons why the fight for justice must be put on hold.

And that is what hurts all of us. If we’re working to “save the future”, then we need to work for a future that’s worth saving. Dealing with climate change, and our other environmental problems, is something that requires the cooperation of our entire species, and that means that we need that “better future” to be better for everyone. Justice, freedom, and self-determination are prerequisites.

Because when people demand those things, and those in power fight to maintain injustice and inequality, other things must be put on hold. From the Washington Post: 

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, policy advisor, and Brooklyn native. She is founder and CEO of the consultancy Ocean Collectiv, founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology “All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis.”

Here is an incomplete list of things I left unfinished last week because America’s boiling racism and militarization are deadly for black people: a policy memo to members of Congress on accelerating offshore wind energy development in U.S. waters; the introduction to my book on climate solutions; a presentation for a powerful corporation on how technology can advance ocean-climate solutions; a grant proposal to fund a network of women climate leaders; a fact check of a big-budget film script about ocean-climate themes, planting vegetables with my mother in our climate victory garden.

Toni Morrison said it best, in a 1975 speech: “The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another.

The sheer magnitude of transforming our energy, transportation, buildings and food systems within a decade, while striving to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions shortly thereafter, is already overwhelming. And black Americans are disproportionately more likely than whites to be concerned about — and affected by — the climate crisis. But the many manifestations of structural racism, mass incarceration and state violence mean environmental issues are only a few lines on a long tally of threats. How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streetsin our communities, and even within our own homes? How can people of color effectively lead their communities on climate solutions when faced with pervasive and life-shortening racism?

Even at its most benign, racism is incredibly time consuming. Black people don’t want to be protesting for our basic rights to live and breathe. We don’t want to constantly justify our existence. Racism, injustice and police brutality are awful on their own, but are additionally pernicious because of the brain power and creative hours they steal from us. I think of one black friend of mine who wanted to be an astronomer, but gave up that dream because organizing for social justice was more pressing. Consider the discoveries not made, the books not written, the ecosystems not protected, the art not created, the gardens not tended.

It’s hearing police sirens and helicopters in my Brooklyn neighborhood and knowing those who sound them do not always aim to protect and serve. It’s walking the back roads near my mom’s home Upstate New York and being more scared of the local white kids in the pickup truck with the Confederate flag on the bumper — in a state that was never part of the Confederacy — than I am of the local black bears. It’s spending my weekend writing these words.

Here’s the rub: If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because, black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than white people (57 percent vs. 49 percent), and Latinx people are even more concerned (70 percent). To put that in perspective, it means that more than 23 million black Americans already care deeply about the environment and could make a huge contribution to the massive amount of climate work that needs doing.

I did get tiny tasks done last week — emails, (virtual) meetings. Because we are taught the show must go on, I mustered the composure to conduct an interview about the importance of planting trees. But none of the deeper work got done, none of the work that could be a significant contribution to how we think about climate solutions and how fast we implement them. Instead of working, I was checking in on my people, staying informed, doom-scrolling.

Now I’m totally spent. Not from the day, but from the week, the month, the year, this presidential administration, this country that keeps breaking my heart. We are resilient, but we are not robots.

People of color disproportionately bear climate impacts, from storms to heat waves to pollution. Fossil-fueled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in black neighborhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus. Such issues are finally being covered in the news media more fully.

But this other intersection of race and climate doesn’t get talked about nearly enough: Black Americans who are already committed to working on climate solutions still have to live in America, brutalized by institutions of the state, constantly pummeled with images, words and actions showing just us how many of our fellow citizens do not, in fact, believe that black lives matter. Climate work is hard and heartbreaking as it is. Many people don’t feel the urgency, or balk at the initial cost of transitioning our energy infrastructure, without considering the cost of inaction. Many fail to grasp how dependent humanity is on intact ecosystems. When you throw racism and bigotry in the mix, it becomes something near impossible.

Look, I would love to ignore racism and focus all my attention on climate. But I can’t. Because I am human. And I’m black. And ignoring racism won’t make it go away.

So, to white people who care about maintaining a habitable planet, I need you to become actively anti-racist. I need you to understand that our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis. If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither. I need you to step up. Please. Because I am exhausted.

For more from Dr. Ayana Elizabeth, check out her website at https://www.ayanaelizabeth.com

If we return to the metaphor of building a ship, we need one that works for everyone. Bigotry and authoritarianism lead to conflict and righteous mutiny, and even in those times where the powerful manage to crush dissent, their efforts make it harder for everyone do the work of sailing, or catching fish, or performing repairs. Bigotry hurts us all, and we’ve got important shit to deal with, so bigots need to get over themselves, and get out of the way so we can do the work that needs doing.

What kind of world? Global warming, extreme heat, and the shape of society

A new study indicates that one billion people could be forced to either live with “insufferable heat”, or to move to avoid it within 50 years. That’s with an increase in global temperature of just one additional degree Celsius. Because it’s a global problem, we often talk about global trends in temperature, weather, and so on. That makes a lot of sense, but it also makes it hard to gauge exactly what we should expect as the planet continues to warm.

Most people regularly experience shifts in temperature that can cover 10°C or more in a single day, so it’s easy to feel that a global change in temperature of less than 2°C is no biggie. If we use “common sense”, there are far bigger problems to deal with than adding a couple degrees to the top end of a daily temperature swing, right?

Unfortunately, while averages are useful in many ways, they can also mislead when talking about an area the size of Earth’s surface. One example I really like is sea level. As with average global temperature, there’s a lot of discussion of average sea level rise as the planet warms, and that has led to a fair amount of confusion. Most people’s interaction with water levels happens at a small enough scale that gravity’s effects aren’t perceptible. You raise the level of water in a bathtub, and you can measure that change pretty evenly, accounting for a bit of sloshing. That doesn’t really apply to a “container” like the Earth, however, because despite a bit of weird controversy, the earth is not flat, and water isn’t “held in” by the sides of the oceans the way it is by the sides of a tub. This video from Minute Physics gives a good intro to the factors that go into the rather irregular “level” of the oceans around the planet:

Sea level is further complicated by things like the melting ice cap on Greenland, with is causing a dramatic loss of mass on top of that island. That means that the Earth’s crust is rising up as the weight on top if it is reduced. It also means that the gravitational pull from the ice mass is declining relative to other centers of gravity acting on the water, so the ocean is receding away from it in response. Both of these mean that sea level rise will be higher in other places, like the UK, not just because of melting land ice and thermal expansion, but also because the shape of the sea floor, and the gravitational pull on the water are also changing.

Simply calculating the global average sea level rise won’t give you an accurate picture of what that will look like in any one location.

The same can be said of average temperature. The tilt of Earth’s axis relative to the sun means that as we orbit our star, we get seasonal shifts in temperature. Those changes get more dramatic as you get closer to the poles, as the North or South of the planet get more or less direct sunlight, depending on the angle at which it reaches us.

Except that it’s not really that simple. I grew up in New England, for example. For those who don’t know, that’s a cluster of small states in the Northeastern corner of the U.S. – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. I lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, mostly, and regularly visited relatives in Maine. As such, I experienced weather that got above 100°F (37.8°C) in the summer, and as low or lower than -10°F (-23.3°C) in the winter. That range in temperature also came with dramatic thunderstorms, the occasional tornado (which I was lucky enough to not experience directly), and also blizzards, ice storms, and frozen pipes.

If you were to only look at the average annual high and low temperatures for Boston, Massachusetts, you’d be expecting a range, over the course of the year, between a low of 44°F (6.7°C), and a high of 59°F(15°C), and you would be woefully unprepared for the heat of the summer, or the cold of the winter. You would not be expecting much in the way of snow or ice.

My current location, Glasgow, is much, much farther north. I’m at about the same latitude as Moscow, Russia, and north of most major cities in Canada. Despite that, it’s uncommon to see a full day below 32°F(0°C) here, even with winters that are much longer/darker than I’m used to, and I doubt I’ll see many days that pass 80°F(26.7°C) this summer. It’s a much milder climate all around, despite being so far north, because of the heat being constantly delivered to Western Europe by the Gulf Stream. The one place I’ve ever been to that has been historically cold enough year-round to have glaciers was the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, made that cold by elevation despite being just barely south of the Equator.

There are a lot of factors that influence the temperature all over the planet, and those extremes mean that as the average temperature of the planet continues to increase, not only will the extremes change, but the physics driving those differences are also likely to change. Wind and water move a great deal of heat around the planet, powered by those very temperature differences, as well as the way the planet spins. That constant motion means that the global increase in temperature will continue to be uneven. The average will rise, as it has been doing, but some places will barely notice a temperature change, while others will see such massive increases that life may become difficult, or even impossible: 

The human cost of the climate crisis will hit harder, wider and sooner than previously believed, according to a study that shows a billion people will either be displaced or forced to endure insufferable heat for every additional 1C rise in the global temperature.

In a worst-case scenario of accelerating emissions, areas currently home to a third of the world’s population will be as hot as the hottest parts of the Sahara within 50 years, the paper warns. Even in the most optimistic outlook, 1.2 billion people will fall outside the comfortable “climate niche” in which humans have thrived for at least 6,000 years.

The authors of the study said they were “floored” and “blown away” by the findings because they had not expected our species to be so vulnerable.

“The numbers are flabbergasting. I literally did a double take when I first saw them, ” Tim Lenton, of Exeter University, said. “I’ve previously studied climate tipping points, which are usually considered apocalyptic. But this hit home harder. This puts the threat in very human terms.”

Instead of looking at climate change as a problem of physics or economics, the paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines how it affects the human habitat.

The vast majority of humanity has always lived in regions where the average annual temperatures are around 6C (43F) to 28C (82F), which is ideal for human health and food production. But this sweet spot is shifting and shrinking as a result of manmade global heating, which drops more people into what the authors describe as “near unliveable” extremes.

Humanity is particularly sensitive because we are concentrated on land – which is warming faster than the oceans – and because most future population growth will be in already hot regions of Africa and Asia. As a result of these demographic factors, the average human will experience a temperature increase of 7.5C when global temperatures reach 3C, which is forecast towards the end of this century.

At that level, about 30% of the world’s population would live in extreme heat – defined as an average temperature of 29C (84F). These conditions are extremely rare outside the most scorched parts of the Sahara, but with global heating of 3C they are projected to envelop 1.2 billion people in India, 485 million in Nigeria and more than 100 million in each of Pakistan, Indonesia and Sudan.

This kind of looming danger is why I believe that our efforts to deal with climate change have to go beyond merely crunching the numbers on energy demand, emissions, and so on. That’s important work to do, but it must come along with massive changes in how we distribute resources, design cities, and decide who lives where and under what conditions. If we don’t move away from valuing property and profit over the requirements for human life and wellbeing, then the human death and suffering of this century will be beyond anything in human history.

It’s been pointed out many times that we technically grow more food than is needed to feed everyone on this planet. Despite that, there are people all over the world who either starve to death, or are chronically malnourished. The biggest reason for this is that distributing the food based on need is not profitable for the rich and powerful, and the global economy treats the wealth and power of the “elites” as more important than bare survival.

Over the last few decades, every crisis has come with a chorus of rich people pushing for general austerity and talking about how everyone must “tighten their belts”. At the same time, the planet’s richest have grown ever more wealthy, and action on climate change is constantly opposed because of the cost.

Millions will die from global warming this century because of that greed. It may be that that can be avoided, but it seems increasingly unlikely. Without moving away from the current global capitalist model, those deaths will be numbered in the billions. Extreme heat comes with a whole host of problems ranging from the colossal wildfires we’ve seen in Australia, to more volatile, deadly air pollution, to drought, flooding, and associated crop failures. Dealing with any of this will require that resources be distributed based not on misguided, capitalist notions of ownership and property, but on what is actually required to allow people to live, and to mitigate the damage done to the ecosystems on which we depend.

Harder times are coming, and we cannot afford to indulge an entire class of spoiled, greedy sociopaths who think they deserve to decide who lives and who dies.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

An honest government ad from Down Under

This ad is aimed at Australia, but I would say that it has relevance in many other places around the world.

There is, indeed, a great deal of shitfuckery being cooked up in the halls of power.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Fiction: The Pumphouse

Steve tapped the panel next to him and the wheel’s speaker started playing music with a steady beat, a little faster than he was running. He sped up to match it, and Horace started the timer.
“Starting.”
There was a soft click as the drive mechanism shifted gears, pulling a little more power for the pump’s drive shaft. Horace walked around the wheel, stared through the clear casing of the gearbox for a moment, and crossed it off his list. He’d never seen anything wrong in a gearbox before, but following procedures to the letter was comforting. That aspect of the job was part of why he liked working there.
The Pumphouses stood fifteen stories above sea level, and brought water from the canals of New York City to a filtration system on the roof.
This is an excerpt from a short story for my patrons. If you want to read the whole thing, along with other exclusive content, you can sign up to fund my work at patreon.com/oceanoxia!

Twitter thread: police violence

CW: Police violence

There’s a tendency, among people who claim there’s no problem with police use of violence, and with race-based injustice in the United States, to pretend that any given example of mistreatment is an isolated incident, and no matter how many such incidents occur, they’re never part of a pattern. People who are protesting now, and people who support these protests are those who are willing and able to connect the rather obvious dots, and see the pattern.

I’ve been involved in political activism, in one form or another, since I was a teenager. I was never one of the people “in the thick of it” when things got violent, I have never been arrested, gassed, pepper-sprayed, or otherwise assaulted by police. I have, however, paid attention to those incidents. I’ve watched the footage, talked to people who were targeted by police, and listened to what they have to say. Deaths, injuries, and maimings are not new in America, but as far as I know this is beyond anything that has happened in the United States in my lifetime. I’ve never seen this many people being permanently blinded in one eye, because police are aiming to destroy eyeballs. I’ve never seen this many people with head wounds from “rubber” bullets. I’ve never seen the police being this open about assaulting peaceful crowds, assaulting journalists, and arresting people, on video, who were engaged in nothing more than talking.

This is an effort to criminalize dissent, and it’s coming in coordination with the GOP government using the “antifa” bogeyman to try to criminalize organized action. To me, this looks like a big step in a very bad direction.

Below is a sample from the linked thread. Click through to Twitter if you want to see more.

If this ends without real, systemic change, far beyond just arresting a handful of “bad cops”, then it’s going to happen again, and it’s going to get worse.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

A useful video on riots

As the video says, riots are a predictable sociological phenomenon. We know the conditions that almost always create riots, and we have for a long time. Riots are not “strategy”, and they are also not inevitable. They’re the result of policy and actions by humans, and that means that the conditions that create most of them can be avoided, primarily by improving people’s control over their own lives, improving their economic conditions, and by just governance. The problem, as always, is that those changes would mean less obscene wealth and power for the people who benefit from the current system.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

 

And Lo, I beheld a mighty hunter…

Now that Scotland has entered phase 1 of its re-opening, Tegan and I ventured out into the Glaswegian Wilds to meet up with comrades, not seen since before The Great Isolation. At the Grove of Kelvin did we meet, and sup among the daisy-strewn grass, on blankets spaced just over two meters apart. The pigeons cooed, the crows cawed, and I’m fairly certain I heard a raven or two croak.

On our return journey, we spotted a thrilling – yet terrifying – sight! A vicious feliform predator was prowling the wasteland outside his lair, accompanied by the poor souls who shared his home, left alive in exchange for their servitude.

 

The image shows Banjo the kitten being held up by one of his humans. He's 8 weeks old, with fluffy white fur, and curious blue eyes. The human's shirt has horizontal black and white stripes. There are stone buildings in the background, with mulched yards in front, hemmed in by iron fencing.

Like many of his kind, Banjo has trained his simian servants to raise him up, that he might survey the land. Scholars are uncertain whether they achieve this through learned body language, or some more sinister, psychic communication

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. The picture also shows brown leather shoes on the pavement outside the yard (mine), and the sandaled feet of another person within the yard, behind the cat.

On the ground once more, Banjo comes to the border of his domain, intent on an inspection of the tip of my umbrella. Fearful of his ire, I allowed him to examine it at his leisure.

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

The mighty hunter pounced! His paws, both velvety-soft and frighteningly armed both hurtled toward the umbrella as it moved up the chicken wire. Truly, I survived only because of the merciful presence of that sturdy fence!

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

As the umbrella continued up the fence, unaffected by his first pounce, his piercing blue eyes followed it, waiting for the next opportunity to strike.

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

Foolishly, I shifted, and drew the gaze of the beast. he thought about eating my legs, but decided, instead, to continue patrolling his territory. I am certain that, had the poor souls sheltering in his lair not brought him offerings of food, I would not have survived to tell this tale.

After he tired of investigating my umbrella, he returned to practicing his hunting skills, the better to consume some future prey less fortunate than us. If you listen carefully, you can hear the terrified Glaswegians telling us of the tribulations of attempting to sleep with so mighty a predator moving about after the sun sets. They were using the bright pink thing in an attempt to tire him out, in a vague hope that he would sleep through the night, and allow them to do the same.

All in all, it was a lovely day, with lovely people, and it was nice to meet Banjo, and the folks who kindly gave me permission to share my encounter with you all.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Guest post: Activism, ability, fear, and guilt

By Grace Taverna
If you can, please donate to Charleston Shield or to one of the bail funds working to help the folks on the ground

I’m genuinely worried about the reality of the second Covid wave being ushered forth by current events. I fully support the protests (obviously). Our country is a racist disgrace and always has been, and fascist police and right wing neo-nazi’s are taking full advantage to turn demonstrations violent and harm the exact communities that are speaking up against the brutality under the guise of being them.

Pigs have always used the same tactics of subterfuge in crowds to turn just demonstrations into violent riots but there is now an aspect of biological warfare that has never overlapped before with times of great civil disobedience. I do not put it beneath them to intentionally expose and infect the people they arrest as simply we are not real people to them.

It also changes the parameters for “able bodied enough to take action” especially as police and those of ulterior motives turn these demonstrations increasingly violent. People who might have turned out to support the demonstrations but can’t in these circumstances.

Covid aside, if you get harmed protest or no protest you’re already spinning the wheel of our bastardized medical system. Now our odds are even worse. It was always the most oppressed peoples who have been susceptible to Covid, as a direct result of institutionalized racism and poverty, look at the death statistics, we know the deaths from Covid and the long term impacts of it target mainly POC and those in poor areas. Look at my home in Chelsea, in a state [Massachusetts] that is still under even some precautions but is the poster child for high infection rates. These are the exact people who are impacted most by the sick farce that is our possession of civil rights. Everyone’s being faced with an impossible choice to fight for something that should be the world’s most obvious answer (for dummies that is: prejudice = BAD).

At the same time, there is a mentality of “Covid might as well kill me because eventually the police are going to.” Or “I’m going to have to take my chances getting sick because the state’s forcing me back to work, so it’s not like I’m going to be given the option to keep myself healthy anyway.” The sick reality is that these thoughts are both 100% correct. The country at the macro and the state at the micro DON’T care, they couldn’t give the foggiest fuck about keeping us safe and healthy. They want us back on the capitalism production mill pronto. We know this. For many the risk is really just “I’d rather die/become ill fighting for my rights then dying for their profit.” There’s a lot of argument back and forth, but in reality, it’s never a *good* time for a civil rights movement, civil rights movements aren’t a good time. They are not fun, they are a necessity. No one *wants* to have to fight to be allowed to exist, no one *wants* it to be needed, no one *wants* the reality of the genocidal infrastructure this country is built on. (With the obvious exception of our supremacist wealthy ruling class)

When this was just a global pandemic (Fuck the absurdity of that statement), I know I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. Now we’re past the dawn and in the day of the next needed wave of what has always been the continued fight for civil liberties. It hasn’t restarted, it never ended. Not for Natives, POC, the Queer, Women, the Poor with even interlocking layered internalized oppression between oppressed groups. The racist queer people, homophobic POCs, every shade of otherized white persons and our inherent privilege, TERFs, all trying to pull themselves one rung higher on the system’s ladder as to not find themselves on the bottom at one point or another deluding themselves into thinking the fight ever ended because they were no longer last place. All while bargaining for temporary perceived social clout of “wokeness” as an introspective social currency to designate themselves as fundamentally good. With or without putting in the prerequisite man hours. While conversely there is a guilt into action of oppressed persons who feel like they haven’t done enough or been pure enough of constitution and thought. No one has to fight for their rights to be deserving of them, but someone has to fight or no one will have them.

We never stood a chance. Embedded in all this media of protests and Covid the stripping away of health care hasn’t even slowed. It’s become more vocal about keeping anyone who isn’t WWM (white wealthy and male) at risk and away from what resources we do have. For that even we’re lucky to live in MA where we at least have some chance at receiving testing/aid. Ironically medical workers themselves fall overwhelmingly and overlapping into these oppressed groups. The slow down of cases we have experienced was inherently positive. Any progress is progress in the face of a health pandemic in the exact same way that any progress is not enough progress in the face of the pandemic of systemic oppression. Our gains in Covid are not even a hair closer to making it safe to reopen or rid ourselves of it, and we’re being forced by stages back to “normalcy” anyway, for the sake of making money. Simultaneously in other states victims of police violence are poised to take the spots for hospital care, not that I’m optimistic they’ll receive it, that we can’t even confidently say are needed. I think about that every time I see someone tear gassed getting doused with milk or the welts and bruises on those hit with rubber bullets and gas canisters in the circulating footage.

Am I healthy enough to contribute? To protest? Is my contribution going to be meaningful and necessary? Am I myself an at risk person, even if I’ve avoided it to this point? Am I actually a vector and going to endanger the people I want to assist? Will I get hurt? Will the hurt I get make a difference or will it just further put me at risk? Am I so privileged that I can turn a blind eye? Am I so disenfranchised that a knock down of injury or illness will end what I’ve struggled for? Can my lungs hold up to Covid? Can my lungs hold up to tear gas? To what degree is this my fight, and am I undeserving for questioning it? Where in the complex web of privilege and disadvantage do I actually sit? Is there any way to know for sure?

In 25 years will I feel sick with myself because I wasted the isolation, that I’m uncharacteristically lucky enough to have, dealing with my own feelings of depression, sorrow and loneliness, instead of taking advantage of time not otherwise afforded to my class? Will I feel that the very short time I spent making PPE will have been enough of a contribution to warrant self merit?

In 25 years will I hate myself for not going out and demonstrating, because I’m afraid of getting sick or because I lightly sprained my ankle in a pleasure activity meant to distract myself from said isolation? Or will I just remember fondly learning a skill that I’ve wanted since youth but never had the time or athleticism to attempt until now? Was being able to finally distract myself for a few hours for the first time in days worth impeding my ability to contribute when it mattered?

Should I just keep to myself and attempt to eek out serotonin and joy for my tired body and hurt brain, and continue to take this time for self recovery?

At what point do my privileges make self care selfishness? Or will the state of my mind never allow me to see a difference? At what point is the push to self sacrifice self harm? What is the self in the face of the whole?

What will I continue to think and believe in the face of ever changing events, science, structures and philosophy? Am I a nihilist or an optimist? Did I ever have hope or belief in people or was I just able to forget about it for a short while?

What is my depression and life experiences – both good and bad – in the face of the larger universal battle for balance?


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Tips for protesters/activists. Copy and share without attribution

For folks who are new to social justice actions:

1. Water makes pepper spray worse. Use milk or liquid antacid and water. Don’t wear contacts.

2. If you get tear gassed, when you get home, put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag for later decontamination and shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.

3. Come with friends and don’t get separated.

Avoid leaving the crowd and watch out for police snatch squads.

4. Beware undercovers, but beware snitch jacketing and collaborator ‘peace police’ even more.

5. The far right is very good at combing through pictures and doxxing people. Mask up.

6. Write any necessary phone numbers you may need directly on your skin in sharpie.

7. Have an offsite plan for emergencies if you have not been heard from by X time coordinated with someone offsite.

8. Make sure all mobile devices are charged!!

9. If you plan on going to jail, plan it: bail, lawyer, time off from work, witnesses i.e.: a cadre. Don’t just go to jail without training.

10. Beware folks inciting violence. Most of them are police feds. Watch out for hook ups for the same reason. Get to know the crowd. They will set you up.

***Please don’t share this status. Copy paste it without attribution. ***