Swans Commentary » swans.com January 26, 2009  



The Bell Tolls


by Martin Murie





(Swans - January 26, 2009)   I feel like Chicken Little. "The Sky is Falling!!!"

Actually, the sky is falling, with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse acids falling into the oceans. Coral reefs, habitats for numerous species of fish and other creatures, are disintegrating. What as-yet-untold oceanic disasters lie ahead of us? Why is Obama so obstinately abstract in his statements on the environment? Why did every move of the Shrub administration target immediate, short-run profit to the tiny minority who control our country? Can those administrators, lobbyists, and CEOs actually believe that global climate change is a chimera, that it does not accelerate each day from our own output of chemicals? Do they assume that the atmosphere, the sky, can absorb unlimited amounts of these outputs without affecting land and waters of this planet?

I took a quick browse through an unread book I just discovered in the moving-to-Ohio process. It's called The Law Of Nature And The End Of The World, by Shierry W. Nicholsen (MIT Press, 2003). Its subject is repression by most of us, concerning those we love, or the horrors we have experienced or the love we might feel for nature. I skipped quickly to the concluding pages where an attitude is promoted that I will call "fence-sitting." Yes, there are uncertainties in action, and thinking and expressing deep thought can be a form of action. I agree that thinking and speaking and writing can be forms of action. However, we do know some things that lead us to ask, "What can we do?"

It takes outrage to move us to act even as we know the future is unpredictable, but we dare to use what we have of practical observation -- melting sea ice, acidification of oceans, acid rain, contents of coal-fired fumaroles, fundamental short-run defects in the techno-fixes our government and corporations promote, huge gaps between ordinary citizens and the rulers, and supporting genocide in Gaza.

Thinking back to the fountains of romantic nonsense expressed by people who visit nature, rather than work in it, I don't think we can be accused of hiding intimate thoughts. Rather the opposite; our written and spoken words so very often reveal acute narcissism behind emotional outpouring. This is, of course, a form of moderation, of standing aloof.

I saw a brief clip on TV of a few citizens, all wearing white masks, walking to a solemn drumbeat in Washington, D. C., reminding us of the dead, the unnecessary killings in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in past wars where artillery and bombing from the air are and were tragic acts of mindless destruction and maiming of human beings. The media, as it was obsessed with the preparations for the inauguration, including speculation about what Obama's first act would be, focused very little reportage on this march.

Obama has already signaled his first act: Bailout, and he has, on the campaign trail, signaled his intention to "redeploy" troops from Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan where guerrilla resistance rules, as in Yugoslavia, where Tito's partisans beat the Nazis and the jungles of Vietnam, where our invasion was defeated in spite of the killings of unarmed people and the unrestricted use of Agent Orange.

Obama and his team are deeply embedded in moderation: the Clintonesque tactic that did nothing for the earth failed to take bold steps toward single-payer health care, punished labor by feeble moves in the chessboard jungle of Washington, retreated on all fronts under the shield of bi-partisanship.

To hell with bipartisanship. The earth and the oceans have their own rules and polar bears can't do a thing to save their hides from wealthy gunmen from the U.S, and they are completely helpless in the face of melting ice, soggy tundra. Penguins in Antarctica, wolves and jaguars in our southwest, whales and dugongs in oceanic waters -- all are helpless. They can't save the earth and the oceans. That job is up to us.

The sky is falling. We can't build huge movements to bring people power to bear if we sit on the fence. That's a forlorn hope, waiting for a good leader. M. L. King was a good leader, but he was backed by massive people power, a power that was determined that their time had come.


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About the Author

Martin Murie on Swans (with bio).



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This Edition's Internal Links

Blips #78 - From the Martian Desk - Gilles d'Aymery

The Legacy Of W. - Cartoon by Jan Baughman

Bush's Last Hurrah - Humor by Femi Akomolafe

When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder - Michael Barker

Learning From Latvia - Joel S. Hirschhorn

The Clever Child - Michael Doliner

Michael Walzer's Sense Of Proportionality - Aleksandar Jokic

The Jewish Role In History Re-evaluated - Isidor Saslav

Congo Round And Round - Book Review by Peter Byrne

Remembering Paul Scofield - Charles Marowitz

War n.1: Walking On Thin Ice - Poem by Guido Monte

The Journey - Poem by R. Scott Porter

The Poverty Of Slumdog Millionaire - Film Review by Jeff Meyerhoff

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published January 26, 2009