LET IT BE – Marilyn Armstrong

As did many others, I thought a few people might develop a conscience and a spine and not put Kavanagh on the Court. We thought someone might use their head for something other than a hat rack and realize jailing children was immoral. We thought they might hear the kids who had not been shot at their own school, hear their voices.

They didn’t do any of these things.

So we have an immoral drunkard Supreme Court Justice, babies in jail, lots of dead kids, and jailed babies many of whom may never find a home.

It didn’t happen. No spines, no consciences.

There’s only one thing left. Vote.

Please vote. Make sure all the people you know who can vote and have their heads outside their asses vote too. Drive people who need a lift to the voting place.

To put it simply, this is it. We’re out of time. The world has a dozen year to repair itself before we can’t stop the descent of Earth into…? I don’t even know what we will be if we can’t stop the planet’s destruction, but sometimes, being old has some advantages. I won’t live to see the end.

Pogo – Walt Kelly – 1971w

We can’t fix everything, but we can give it our best shot. We can do our best to try to talk to people who are still able to listen — and there aren’t many of them left. Everyone is dug into position. I don’t think there are a lot of minds we can change. If nothing else, these past two years have ossified the minds of everybody. We all need to unfreeze our minds. A lot of things need changing — fast — and we have to forget there is a box and think in new and different ways.

To all my younger friends, everyone does the best they can with the world they inherit. No generation gets a map showing you how to fix things. For each of us, the world is a different place with unique issues. What worked for us probably wouldn’t work today. Moreover, even when you get it right, your “right” isn’t permanent.  You can pass the “right” laws and un-pass them before your not-yet-born kid makes it to kindergarten. There is no forever.

Governments and countries are not forever. There is no Roman Empire, though it lasted a long time. FYI, the Roman Empire began with the crowning of Gaius Octavian Thurinus in 31 B.C. and fell to the German Goths in A.D. 476, for a total of 507 years. The Byzantine Empire, Rome’s eastern half, did not fall until the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453.

What happened to the Assyrians and the Babylonians? How about the Philistines or the Greeks? Or, for that matter, the British? Empires and governments come and go and this country is very young. If we were to end right now, we wouldn’t even make the historical timeline. We haven’t been around long enough.

Nothing is permanent. Not governments,  politics, religion, or morality. Not culture or society. We reinvent ourselves over and over. Good times, bad times. That’s just how it goes.

My generation can’t fix it. I’ll vote as I have always voted: liberal and democratic. But after that, it’s up to other people. If they don’t vote, we will lose. History happens. Each of us is part of it, like it or not. Be a good part of history. Do the right thing. Vote. We have a planet to fix.

And don’t forget to think before you vote!

I’ve been waiting to find intelligent life on earth. I’m still waiting.

WHEN ALL THE WORLD WAS EMPTY OF HUMANKIND … Marilyn Armstrong

When the world is empty, there is a Bone #writephoto


We got the word in 2018. Twelve years to fix the world.

It had taken hundreds of years to screw it up. Hundred of years of burning coal, pouring poisons into the streams and rivers and it all flowed into the oceans. And all that while, we were doing it to improve the quality of our lives. Not only our lives but the lives of all the children and grandchildren who would come after us.

They would have the machinery to do what used to be done by hand. The world was gigantic and somewhere, there was an enormous hole into which all the trash could be put. It was an endless hole, so we’d never run out of space and would never need to worry about how much junk we were creating.

Then came the realization that it was cheaper to replace stuff and people forgot how to fix things. Gradually, the gigantic endless hole was not endless and the oceans were full of bottles and straws and floating trash.

The garbage began to spread over the land. It was a slow process, but it was as sure as the earth turning. Most of the world’s cities were full of trash. At first, it was just a little bit, as if a trash bin had been tipped and a tiny bit had spilled on the street.

Then there was more. Eventually, long after the aforementioned twelve years had come and gone, you couldn’t walk through a city or town without wading through garbage. Not just rubbish either. Real putrid garbage.

The land grew gradually poisonous. Just … a little bit. Then, a little bit more. Animals began to die. No sudden collapse. They faded, failed to thrive and ultimately … ceased.

First, the birds vanished. The songbirds and raptors. The long-legged tall birds — herons, cranes, storks, egrets. After that, the big beasts vanished. Many had gone before, but now it was the working beasts — buffalo, yak, wildebeest. Shortly thereafter, cows and sheep and goats declined as well, though no one knew for sure the reason. It just happened.

Eventually — by then no one was surprised — weird epidemics of unknown origins killed turkeys, chickens, and ducks. No more eggs. No matter which came first, all were gone.

The hogs lasted longest. Humans bred them as fast as they could, then hunted the wild ones to extinction. Soon the bees went from many to few and crops could not grow. Ultimately, all that was left was a single white skull on a burned plain where once the long grass had grown across thousands of acres.


It would be a mere hundred years until the world repaired itself. The hidden animals crept from their secret places. The woods returned and oak forests grew tall and dark and deep. A new world without people emerged, but it was a good world.

Someday, another intelligence would come and make it home. Not too soon. Not yet. First, let the ocean and air come clean.

CHANGING THE SEASONS OF THE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I haven’t read the official report, but I’ve read a lot of summaries and I wasn’t at all surprised by any of it. Twelve years left and then we can’t “save the earth.”

I consider it highly unlikely we’ll make that deadline.

I was one of the enthusiastic founders of the original Earth Day. Over the years, as we have cleaned up a lot of the inland waterways — the Blackstone and Hudson Rivers are two notable successes — and cleaned up the air around New York and on the west coast — I knew we weren’t making progress fast enough, but at least I could believe we were trying to head in the right direction.

Now with the big orange dictator setting up the world for extensive additional pollution, I wonder how quickly we will bring about our own doom?

People are the problem.

Our misuse of the earth, our pollution of the waters, our coughing up of coal dust into the air? People. Human beings. We did it, are doing it, and are unlikely to stop.

No other animal has polluted anything. Just people.


And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

— English Standard Version, Old Testament (Torah)


I’m not religious, or at least not in any traditional sense. Moreover, I don’t think the seven books of the Old Testament — the Torah — are close to the whole story. I have a lot of backup for this belief. It is widely believed there were hundreds of biblical books, most of which were destroyed during the first burning of the Great Temple. And then again, whatever was left were burnt in Alexandria. Even the memories of what was remembered died with the old Rabbis between the Crusades and the Holocaust.

A pack of gray wolves passes by a remote camera within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The landscape surrounding the failed nuclear reactor now supports a large population of wolves due to the limited human activity.

Hundreds of other books that were equally as holy as the seven we currently revere were burned, buried, destroyed. Do you think maybe they had something to say to us? Maybe this bit of text was not intended to tell us to exploit and despoil every inch of earth and every animal on the planet?

We have dominion over the earth, but we have not ruled the earth so much as destroyed it and now, it’s on the edge of fighting back.

I read a report recently about how well the area around Chernobyl has revived. Without human habitation, it has blossomed and wildlife has returned in plenitude. It’s not that the radioactivity has vanished, but that somehow, the world finds a way to move forward, radioactivity and all.

It turns out the earth can handle nuclear devastation. The only thing that it can’t manage is us.

Bee-eater in flight

This report does not offer us a lot of turnaround time — a mere dozen years. Perhaps you can take comfort in that although the earth may well become untenable as a place for human habitation, once it extracts us, it will be beautiful again as it was when we lived in the Garden of Eden, right below the mountains bordering Syria.

I have, by the way, been there. It’s an incredibly beautiful place where the underground waters that feed the Jordan river fountain up from the earth and wild bee-eaters take flight.


There are two signs on the path to the place.
In Hebrew, the words are “גן עדןmeaning “garden of Eden.”
The other sign says, in English, “Paradise.”

I felt, being there, that indeed if there was an Eden, this could be it. 

You might also take a look at Gordon Stewart’s “Climate Change in the Golden House.”

APPROACHING EARTH DAY WITH THE SWANS – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, when I publish pictures of swans, I clean up the water, but these are the originals … the way the photographs looked before clearing out the rubbish.


As we again approach America’s “Earth Day,” I find myself ready to go on the “lecture tour.” I grew up in a country setting. Technically, it was part of New York, but really, it was a strange little farming community that got surrounded by a city, but never became a part of it.

I grew up with people who raised plants. Wheat and corn. Who raised horses and burros and geese. Who nursed sick birds. Who cared for the trees.

Along the shore – where all the garbage lives

We were surrounded by woods and trees. We learned how to find rare plants and we played in the woods … and apparently children don’t notice mosquitoes as do their elders because we must have been chewed to pieces. But we never seemed to care.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

That didn’t make me “ecology” conscious, of course. What made me conscious of the ecology was — you guessed it — my mother. She grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That was where most new immigrants grew up, especially Jewish and Italian immigrants.

As a result, my mother believed all trees were sacred — and her personal crusade.  She could not bear the idea of anyone cutting down a tree and that’s why we had so much land. When our neighbors decided to sell the woods next to our house, my mother told my father that he was going to borrow however much money it would cost him to get that parcel because someone else might build factory or an apartment house.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Those were her trees. Really, they were all her trees. From tiny little sprigs to the giant white oaks that towered over the house, they were hers.

Every year, she called the city’s tree specialists to check out the condition of the white oaks on our property. They were the last remaining white oaks in the five Burroughs, all the rest having been cut down to use as masts on sailing ships. How they missed that little corner of New York? Just luck.

I still hate the idea of cutting down trees, even when its obvious the tree needs cutting. We had to take down some trees that were too close to the chimney and we had a cutter come and cut down about two dozen more oaks because they were growing so close together, it was unhealthy. Also, we had no light in the house at all. But it hurt me to see the trees being felled, even though it was necessary, safe, and would in the end, improve the forest.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I grew up hating trash. I grew up believing littering was a crime. That hurting any living creature was cruel and even though I never made it to vegetarian, I feel guilty eating meat. I don’t believe that vegan is a healthier way to eat, but I dislike knowing something died so I could eat. I don’t think it will ever stop bothering me.

I learned early that breakwaters damaged the sea-shore. That sandy beaches can disappear during a hurricane. Several local beaches did exactly that while I was growing up on Long Island. That dune buggies destroy the dunes, the nests, the birds, the baby birds.

Dirty water swan

And my loathing of people who throw trash into the woods or the river grows with every passing year. Every time we go down to the river to take pictures of the swans, I see them swimming through trash and wonder how they can eat whatever is growing in the grungy water that’s full of filth.

It wasn’t hard to make me ecologically conscious and six years working at the University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory taught me much more than I wanted to know. I saw the plumes of pollution pouring out of the rivers into the Mediterranean. I saw the reports of what was in those plumes.

I understood also that just because a microbe is in the water does not mean you will necessarily catch it because not all microbes are absorbed the same way … but after seeing those pictures, I could never bring myself to swim in the Mediterranean again.

At this point, I don’t even like swimming pools. All I see are tubs of microbes.

NOT ONLY CLIMATE CHANGE

Sometimes, being human depresses me. There’s so much that needs fixing. Not just climate change. Not just animal extinction. No single thing. It’s many things and mainly …

It’s us. People. 

Small canal along a mill on the Mumford.
Mumford River

We’ve poisoned the oceans and many of our rivers. Here in New England, the very first massively polluted river was our own Blackstone. From Worcester to Slatersville, Rhode Island, we built mills. Cotton and wool. Dye and weaving. Tanneries. We built dams and behind those dams were — and still are — tons and tons of hazardous waste. If you think pollution is a 20th century problem, it isn’t.

Dust bowl storm
The huge Black Sunday storm – the worst storm of the decade-long Dust Bowl in the southern Plains – as it approaches Ulysses, Kansas, April 14, 1935. Daylight turned to total blackness in mid-afternoon.

We’ve been poisoning our planet for hundreds of years and we aren’t done yet. It’s the reason we can’t remove many of the dams on the Blackstone. Removing dams would release massive amounts of poisoned earth into the rivers, effectively undoing decades of effort put into cleaning the river.

Egret and garbage in waterCalifornia has mudslides and perhaps has always had them … but I’m pretty sure all the building on the cliffs has weakened many areas. Trees and grass hold the earth and when you remove the trees and the grasses, the earth falls apart. There’s nothing to hold it.

We have built houses practically in the water. Destroyed the dunes where the birds nested. We drive dune buggies through fragile shoreline. It kills the birds, their nests, and adds more pollution.

Water trash MexicoThe ocean is full of floating plastic garbage and worse.

If climate change were our only problem, that would probably be an improvement. But we are still drilling and creating trash as if there’s a giant hole where we can put all of our garbage. With President Shithead in power, there will be more drilling, more exploding oil rigs. More tons of oil pouring into what were healthy waters full of fish and plants. Not all that long ago, George’s Banks was the breeding ground for north Atlantic fish … and now, it has been fished out. It will be years — if left in peace — before the fish begin breeding again.

Roaring Dam

Fishermen were warned repeatedly. You can’t fish forever and without giving the fish a chance to breed and grow to full size. But they all said they couldn’t afford to not fish there … and now, no one can fish there. Smart, right?

The Sahara is a manmade desert. We managed to do this in prehistoric times , long years before modern times.

Not every change in the earth is the result of climate change. A lot of what is wrong with the world is us. Humans. Digging and drilling and killing. Plowing grassland until it becomes a dust-bowl.

mudslide California January 2018

So don’t fear that climate change is the only terrible thing occurring in our world. We are capable of far more destruction than that. We’ve got lots more garbage and filth to spread around.

Before we’re done, we can totally trash the planet. I have faith in us.

THE WOODSTOVE – A BIT OF ECOLOGICAL FICTION

The woodstove had been in the family a long time. No one really knew how long, but a few of generations for sure. It had heated the family home for years.

Now the house had real central heating, so the woodstove had been relegated to a corner in the basement for a dozen years or more. It was unclear exactly when it was originally consigned to that odd dusty corner where unused but valued things end up.  The goodfers. Too good to throw away but maybe someday they’d have a new purpose.

For a while the family figured they’d put the stove in the parlor. Or maybe they’d get around to finishing the basement. It turned out the woodstove was too efficient to use like a fireplace. The amount of heat it pushed out its fat little belly was impressive. Log by log, it turned anything but a very large, open area into a sauna. It was much more efficient than oil heat and cheaper too, but oil heat was easy. No one had to split endless piles of logs, stack them in the woodshed, haul them into the house to feed the stove. It cost more money to heat with oil, but no one’s back got broken to keep the house warm.MaineCabinTXT

The woodshed still contained some wood. Enough to enjoy bright fires on cold evenings and keep the wood chopping skills of the men in the family up to snuff. But they didn’t need dozens of cords. It had taken a lot of wood to keep a family cozy through the long, bitter winter of northern Maine.

The year that Hank built the cabin, the woodstove found a new home and a purpose.

Hank built the cabin entirely by hand. It was to be a retreat, a place to get away from everything modern, from televisions and alarm clocks. Hank didn’t own the land, but the lumber company that owned it was willing to lease plots to families who wanted to build cabins by the lake. After the trees grew to maturity, the lumber companies would come and cut the trees, but it would be years before the trees were ready for harvesting.

The cabin was intended to be a warm weather retreat, just for the summer. It turned out to be so pleasant, despite it having no electricity or running water, family members and their friends liked going to it from early spring into the late autumn, sometimes even after the first snows had fallen.

The woodstove was ready and willing to keep the cabin toasty. It gave more than heat. The smell of the woodstove was friendly, familiar. The tang of smoke in the air reminded everyone how their houses used to smell of wood smoke. They recalled choosing wood for its scent. Apple, maple, sassafras, oak, even pine … each had special qualities.

It turned out you could cook on the stove too, though the technique of cooking on a woodstove was sufficiently different that each person who used it had to reinvent the process.

Over many years, many springs, summers and autumns spent by the lake, listening to the loons calling across the water, the woodstove came to symbolize a simple and peaceful life. It was the heart of a cabin deep in the woods, far from a paved road. Drinking water came directly from the lake, along with a goodly number of fresh water bass and trout, caught from the canoe and consumed with corn harvested from local farms, blueberries picked on nearby burns.

Even in cool weather, you could bathe in the lake, then warm your chilled body by the stove. It was where you hung your clothes to dry them after washing. The same place around which everyone gathered in the evening to tell stories. Once upon a special time, a quiet time, telling stories and laughing around a fire or an old woodstove was enough entertainment for any man or woman. Rowing on a crystal lake was fine. No one needed a speed boat. Friends were enough.

As the years rolled on, many people with cabins on the lake bought generators so they could have electricity. They installed washing machines. The lake water was no longer safe to drink. They brought televisions and at night, you couldn’t hear the calling loons. There were telephones, water pumps and plumbing.

It wasn’t the same and after a while, no one came to the little cabin. Hank passed away, the kids moved away. The cabin began to collapse.  Finally, it was gone, its contents including the woodstove, junk, rotting and rusting in the woods. It was as if it had never been.

It didn’t matter anyway, because enough years had passed. The trees were mature. The lumber companies came and clear-cut the woods. The rubble from the cutting washed into the lake and the fish died.  With the fish gone, the loons  didn’t have enough to eat and they flew off to nest on other lakes.

That world went away. Memories linger. I have pictures.

GEOENGINEERING AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS – J. R. LINCE- HOPKINS

Rex Tillerson clearly stated his views of climate change during remarks in 2012 at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“And as human beings as a — as a — as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don’t — the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.”

earthwrenchGeoengineering now seems to have become the de facto climate policy of the Trump White House and the GOP as they, on the one hand, deny the apparent fact of climate change, and on the other hand, prepare to fight it by employing poorly tested technology with unknown long-term effects!

In Conservative circles, seductive but superficial reasoning exists for geoengineering being so popular.  One is that on a large-scale, it can make several corporations and individuals very rich.  Another is that the effects of carbon based fuels can be downplayed by government and industry now.  After all, any atmospheric heating caused by burning fossil fuels and a buildup of carbon dioxide can be minimized by employing geoengineering technologies.  In short, the current state of Conservative thinking, Jobs, jobs, jobs translates into burn, burn, burn.

Globally, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level reached 403 ppm this year (it held between 180 ppm and 290 ppm for the previous 800,000 years).  Even so, fossil fuels still reign supreme as the power source of world economies.  With no end in sight for the abatement of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or the employment of alternative/renewable power sources, carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise.  Planet cooling by geoengineering will just mask the warming effects of elevated carbon dioxide levels.  At some point, as yet undetermined, Earth will depend upon geoengineering to remain within livable limits.  It is apparent that once we are hooked on geoengineering in a world with high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, any cessation of geoengineering efforts will be accompanied by rapid and severe global climate changes to unacceptable levels.

Obviously, clear thinking is in short supply.  At best, geoengineering is the environmental equivalent of the opioid crisis and at its worst it is applied asininity, if not a downright “Faustian Bargain” of epic proportions.

If you want deeper insight into geoengineering and the climate emergency, please read the following:

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/11/09/new-computer-modeling-helps-scientist-analyze-effects-geoengineering

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article183547911.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/02/561608576/massive-government-report-says-climate-is-warming-and-humans-are-the-cause

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/11/08/pruitt-says-alarming-climate-report-not-deter-replacement-clean-power-plan/839857001

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/06/how-indias-battle-with-climate-change-could-determine-all-of-our-fates

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/08/seven-megatrends-that-could-beat-global-warming-climate-change

https://qz.com/index/1116160/for-800000-years-carbon-dioxide-levels-moved-between-180-ppm-and-290-ppm-last-year-they-got-to-403-ppm/

Please address comments to the original publishing blog at: https://gordoncstewart.com/2017/11/13/geoengineering-and-the-climate-crisis/