Contre Temps (2013) — A super neat sci-fi animated short film
Dopplereffekt - Infophysix
FaltyDL. To London.
Excerpt from “How Shall I Live my Life” by Derrick Jensen. In this collection of interviews, Derrick Jensen discusses the destructive dominant culture with ten people who have devoted their lives to undermining it.
[…] Derrick Jensen: We always hear that international trade is good for “development” of the nonindustrialized nations. The only way they can “join us,” we’re told, is if we “liberalize” trade.
George Draffan: We hear over and over that development—or industrialization, what- ever you want to call it—and trade are good, but I see it as destruction. “Development” is a euphemism, much like the word “efficiency.” Efficiency within the current system is really about how fast you can turn forests and mountains into wastepaper and soda pop cans. Is that good? If the purpose of life is to consume and destroy, then international trade and industrial civilization are definitely proven ways to speed that up. International trade is the ultimate institutional and economic tool for leveraging our ability to consume, destroy, and work our will on the world. International trade and the whole corporate state are based on a set of delusions that have been institutionalizing and hemming us in for 6,000 years. We weren’t always so destructive. Maybe we started out as animals whose sense of self began to get reified. We began to see ourselves as sep- arate from the world. How you behave depends on how you see and feel your self. Once we see ourselves as separate from the rest of the world, we start to see every other being as a mere thing, and we begin to believe that we can get away with working our will on the world, that there wouldn’t be negative consequences for attempting to do so, for pretending we’re separate. But as you once wrote, Derrick, ignorance or denial of ecological law in no way exempts us from the consequences of our actions.
Our power to work our will upon the world has far outstripped our ability to distinguish what’s sustainable. The international trade system is clearly beyond our capacity to control or use in a sustainable or democratic way. Any economy that’s beyond the community level, where there’s immediate and face-to-face feedback about what you do, is going to cause problems. How can I still be a citizen yet be in an international economy? I can’t even know what injustice or ecological destruction the purchase of my computer has had. I had no contact with the women in Thailand who’ve gotten cancer from putting hard drives and computer chips together. Even if my intent is “good,” I can have only the slightest understanding of the impacts of my consumption. It is impossible to understand all the social and environmental impacts of a computer or a car made in a dozen different countries. That’s why consumers and industry are so enamored with the idea of certifying products so that the consumer can just walk into the store and buy the computer with a green star on the box. No thinking, no feeling, just confident consuming. “More of everything.”
DJ: You’ve said one of the problems is that our economy fragments us into many parts, two of which would be, for example, consumer and citizen, and these fragments are pitted against each other. It’s clearly in your best inter- est as a consumer…
GD: …to have my computer made by a woman who doesn’t get paid enough, and who isn’t protected by health and safety regulations. And who is thou- sands of miles away, and I will never meet. It’s nearly irresistible to me as a consumer to buy the cheapest products. Even as someone who spends the majority of his working life examining the impacts and trying to change the system, I still drive a car, and I still buy computers assembled by underpaid people in the South. No matter how clear my perception or how pure my intent, as a consumer in the global economy I’m still drawn into situations that as a human I find abhorrent. It’s an impossible situation. Look. I live a mile downwind from a Boeing airplane plant that produces toxic waste. The fact that I know about it, and that I have certain feelings and motivations around toxics, wasn’t a strong enough deterrent to keep me from living here. I can live with those contradictions, and I may well die from the cancer that results. Polls indicate that most of us consider ourselves environmentalists— yet we’re killing ourselves and destroying the ability of ecosystems to function. We’re eating ourselves to death. Is anybody home?
Our economic activities are out of scale. Nobody would argue you don’t need warmth to live. Some people would argue that electricity is not the most efficient way to produce that warmth. But even if you assume the need for electricity, how do you end up with nuclear power, with radioactive wastes that last for tens of thousands of years? It’s absurd, and hardly commensurate with the need for warmth. International trade is likewise completely out of proportion to the needs for food, clothing, and shelter. It’s not about survival. It’s about death.
I don’t want to focus too much on international trade, though. It’s a human tendency, I think, to want to pick out the problem. It’s too simplistic to say that if we could stop international trade then ecological sustainability would be possible, or if we could stop nuclear power then we wouldn’t get cancer. Nuclear power, the institution of the limited liability corporation, international trade and globalization, the World Bank: all these things are just tools. They are not the causes of the problem, any more than a hammer is a cause of a murder. A hammer could be the tool of a murder, but the motivation and the behavior come from something much deeper. You take a hammer or a gun away from a psychotic, because he’s not to be trusted with those tools. I would take international trade and nuclear power away from humans for the same reason. We’re apparently not capable of having a global economy. We’re not capable of controlling ourselves with that magnitude of a tool. Well-intentioned people say we need to have cultural ex- change and we need to feed people, and we need to have a global economy to do that, but the evidence is that the more global we get, the more dys- functional things get.
DJ: And the problem isn’t just computers or cars or other obviously destructive things. You and I once traced the origin of everything in a dinner we shared.
GD: I remember. It was at that great Vietnamese restaurant in Spokane. You had lemongrass chicken with chile, and I had stir-fried vegetables. If I recollect, here’s the scenario we concocted afterwards: the chicken was raised on a factory farm in Arkansas, owned by Tyson Foods, which supplies one-quarter of America’s chickens and sends them as far away as Japan. The chicken was fed corn from Nebraska and grain from Kansas, and was one of about 17 million chickens processed by Tyson that week. The bird was frozen and put onto a truck made by PACCAR. The truck was made from plastics manufactured in Texas, steel milled in Japan from ore mined in Australia and chromium from South Africa, and aluminum processed in the United States from bauxite mined in Jamaica. The parts were assembled in Mexico. As the truck brought the frozen chickens to Spokane, it burned fuel refined in Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Washington from oil originating beneath Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, Texas, and Alaska. All this, and you used to raise chickens yourself. I remember you always had baby chicks in your bathtub.
So far as my dish, the broccoli was grown in Mexico in a field fertilized with, among other things, ammonium nitrate from the United States, phosphorous mined and processed by Freeport McMoRan from deposits in Florida, and potassium from potash deposits in Saskatchewan. The potash was processed by one of the multinational mining, oil, and chemical com- panies Texasgulf, Swift, PPG Industries, RTZ, or Noranda. The pesticides we ingested were equally cosmopolitan. Another company associated with nearly every facet of that meal was AKZO, with 350 facilities in fifty countries. The meal utilized many of their 10,000 chemical products: chicken vaccines that allow Tyson to keep their operations relatively disease-free; automobile coatings; chemicals used in many steps of the agricultural and manufacturing processes, and so on.
The point is that within the global economy the simple pleasure of eat- ing a fine meal in a local restaurant depends upon thousands of underpaid people working in dangerous workplaces, and is tied just as inescapably to pernicious activities across the globe: monopoly and union busting, the cru- elty and debasement of factory farming, and water pollution in Arkansas; loss of topsoil and the depletion of the Oglala aquifer in Nebraska and Kansas; the immiseration and debasement of labor exploitation in Mexico; air pol- lution in Japan; toxic mining wastes in Australia, South Africa, and Jamaica; chemical pollution from refineries in four states, and degradation from oil exploration and extraction in four countries; soil toxification, the poisoning of ground water, more labor exploitation, and the poisoning of agricultural workers in Mexico; air, water, and ground pollution in the United States and Canada, and so on.
The same exercise could be performed for the clothes we wear (sweat shops run by Burma’s military dictatorship, cotton pesticides, polypropylene petrochemicals), the houses we live in (formaldehyde in plywood, deforestation, the extinction of fish and wildlife), other consumer products (40,000 American workers killed on the job each year), or any other activity that calls for participation in the global economy. The consumer products, the cruelty, the pollution, the exploitation, the debasement—all are tied to- gether in this convoluted web that is the modern economy.
DJ: Part of the problem seems that the global economy is a parody of Indra’s web.
GD: It’s not a parody. It is Indra’s web. Indra’s web is an ancient metaphor from India that’s been used by to illustrate the interdependence of the universe. A Buddhist teacher once created a model of Indra’s net for a Chinese emperor—a net with a jewel in each of the knots, set up such that in the sunlight each jewel reflected all the other jewels, and also such that if you touched one part of the web, the entire web shimmered. It illustrates that each person and thing in the universe is in relation to everything else: every- thing is completely interdependent, and everything is reflected in everything else. You can’t touch one part of the web without moving the whole thing. A simple idea intellectually, but it has enormous implications if you try to live as if everything you did mattered. No more denial—or at least no more excuses for it. Denial has consequences too.
I can keep flying in jets and buying computers and pretending that I’m not part of the global economy. But despite my denial, I’m smack in the middle of the web, and I’m going to get cancer from the toxics, and the laborers who put my consumer goods together are going to get cancer because I buy those products, and to believe otherwise is to fall into delusion. It’s a convenient belief for the corporations that profit, and it’s a convenient belief for me as a consumer, but it’s simply not true. If you think about it on a logical level, you can only go so far with it, be- cause your imagination is only so large. But if you start to jump levels with it, and consider that your imagination is one of the jewels that reflects everything else, and is completely dependent on everything else, you begin to get a sense of its vastness. It’s humbling, to realize that everything matters.
DJ: Let’s go a different direction for a moment. Can you talk about subsidies?
GD: Subsidy was originally defined as a public expenditure for a social good. But nowadays subsidies are usually an unfair advantage for a corporation or an industry, at someone else’s expense. Subsidies now are really about privatization and externalization—the two-sided foundation of the modern economy. The system is now based on corporations privatizing the commonwealth (the water, the forests, the labor) for profit, and externalizing as many of the costs as possible onto communities, workers, and other species.
Nuclear energy is a glaring example, but in fact the entire economy de- pends on externalizing the true costs. Total U.S. corporate profits are about five hundred billion dollars a year, but even Ralph Estes’ conservative ac- counting of the externalized costs of the American economy—pollution, health and safety, acid rain loss to buildings and crops, crime, and so on— comes to about $2.5 trillion a year. So profits are about a fifth of the costs. Clearly we’re mining the earth, mining the human resources, and foisting off huge costs onto the environment and onto future generations. We’re destroy- ing not only economic productivity, as it takes greater and greater subsidies to produce the goods and services to which we’re addicted. We are also destroying the functioning of the ecosystems on which we ultimately depend.
The economy as a whole is subsidized, and you can take any industry or any sector of the economy and see it operating. The public’s forests are being sold below cost to multinational corporations like Boise Cascade and Louisi- ana Pacific. Electricity is sold at a discount to the aluminum industry in the Pacific Northwest—electricity coming from dams built at public expense, dams which wiped out the salmon and destroyed native human cultures.
Manufacturers dump their toxic waste in the drinking water system, and pump it into the aquifers, and leave it to the taxpayer to clean up. There are thousands of “brownfields,” former manufacturing sites in cities across the country, abandoned, toxic, being cleaned up at public expense one by one.
Billions of dollars are spent taking care of people who’ve become sick because of automobile pollution. That’s a subsidy not only to the automobile industry, but to the automobile culture. We think a car costs $20,000, but it’s subsidized thousands of dollars each year by publicly-maintained streets and highways, health and disposal.
The military is a giant subsidy, both in terms of direct cash payments to Rockwell or Boeing, and in terms of the use of military and police enforcement of “favorable business climates.” As Secretary of Defense William Cohen said to a group of Fortune 500 leaders, “Business follows the flag… We provide the security. You provide the investment.” I’d say he’s being generous. The public provides the subsidy for the security, and the public generally provides the subsidy for the investment as well. Other subsidies include oil company tax breaks, below-cost grazing on public lands, giving the public airwaves to media corporations, giving away money for research and devel- opment. When a corporation dumps toxic waste, people not only subsidize the industry with their lives, but when the community sues, the corporation gets to deduct the cost of its legal defense from its taxes.
Our corporate culture has institutionalized these subsidies. We have created permanent or semi-permanent economic institutions called corpo-ations that pay certain taxes which are completely inadequate to mitigate their impacts. That’s only the direct subsidies. But the subsidies shimmer out across the web. Our whole political process has been warped until it serves institutions which are really nothing more than a legal and economic tool to facilitate externalizing costs and privatizing profits. The costs of lobbying, for example, where corporations act like citizens and influence the political process, are also tax deductible. So taxpayers actually subsidize corporate interference with their political processes. It’s completely counterproductive, except again for the few people at the top who benefit from the system. And we all operate under the delusion that we all benefit from it. I can get a car for $20,000, or a computer for $2000, so I think I’m getting away with something. We’re buying ourselves off.
Ever since the beginning of the agricultural age we’ve been funneling resources away from the ground and away from communities and toward an elite.
That’s the flip side of externalization, privatization. Obviously, at some point in the distant past everything was public. There was no private property. Then tribes began to mark off territory, had certain seasonal rights to salmon streams, certain rights to areas where wild plants grew. This really took off with the rise of civilization, as property no longer became even communal but individual, belonging to the rich, and defended by property law.
The philosopher Voltaire said “the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of the citizens to give to another.” The economist Adam Smith wrote that “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” The political economist John Locke wrote that “government has no other end but the preservation of property.” We’ve built our system on the ideas of these idiots. The basis of law today is property law, protecting one person’s rights to the other person’s fair share, and it’s so embedded in our culture that we see nothing wrong with it.
DJ: The word private comes from the same root as deprive, because wealthy Roman citizens walled off public spaces for private gardens, depriving the poor of their use.
GD: Wow. Language doesn’t lie. We just forget where it comes from. How convenient. The culmination of it is that today we have very little public property, and that which we have has been consciously set aside, usually at huge controversy, and is constantly being chipped away at. Almost every- thing is private, controlled by a person or a group of people with exclusive legal and physical rights.
DJ: Increasingly including the privatization of our own genetic material.
GD: Everything. Air, water, our own bodies. And depending on how you define privatization, the fact that half of the water in the United States is carcinogenic can be seen as privatization. Only rich people can afford pure water. We’ve externalized the toxics from the industrial processes that have primarily benefited the elite onto the poor people in the cities who drink carcinogenic tap water. You can look at this from the externalization point of view—poor people are having toxics externalized onto them—or you can look at it from the privatization point of view—wealthier people can move to the suburbs and drink clean water.
DJ: You mentioned tribes marking off hunting territory as a form of privatization. I don’t see the shift taking place there so much as with the rise of civilization. I mean, the Indians of the Northwest may have marked off the Hopi didn’t pave over Arizona is because they weren’t smart enough to build backhoes.
GD: No, although when you bring backhoes and whiskey and guns to indigenous peoples now, most of them adopt those tools readily. There seems to be no inherent resistance to taking on new tools once they’re offered…
DJ: That’s only after existing social structures have been destroyed. It’s as Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur noted in Letters From An American Farmer, “There must be in the Indians’ social bond something singularly captivating, and far superior to be boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those Aborigines having from choice become Europeans.” Benjamin Franklin was even more to the point: “No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”
What sound looks like … in GIFs: TEDx speaker Fabian Oefner visualizes sound
Above, GIFS from photographer (and TEDxWarwick speaker) Fabian Oefner’s talk at TEDGlobal 2013, “Psychedelic science.”
Says Fabian of his work:
Sound travels in waves, so if you have a speaker, a speaker actually does nothing else than taking the audio signal, transform it into a vibration, which is then transported through the air, is captured by our ear, and transformed into an audio signal again.
Now I was thinking, how can I make those sound waves visible? So I came up with the following setup. I took a speaker, I placed a thin foil of plastic on top of that speaker, and then I added tiny little crystals on top of that speaker. And now, if I would play a sound through that speaker, it would cause the crystals to move up and down. Now this happens very fast, in the blink of an eye, so, together with LG, we captured this motion with a camera that is able to capture more than 3,000 frames per second.
This is what that looks like. As Bill Nye says, "Science rules!"
Full Screen Mario
Fully playable in-browser Super Mario Bros game written in HTML5 which allows you to design and save your own custom levels (as well as generate random ones as well):
Full Screen Mario is a fully HTML5 remake of the original Super Mario Brothers. You can play the original levels, play through some of literally millions of possible random maps, or create your own using the level editor. This whole project is open source and free.
Try it out for yourself here (Chrome only)
These photos of star trails were taken by Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit on the International Space Station.
2001 Nights (1987) is a rather unusual and more scientific sci-fi manga series about exploration, colonization and space travel.
If you’ve got communications that absolutely cannot be intercepted—whether you’re a NSA whistleblower, the president of Mexico, or Coca-Cola—quantum cryptography is the way to go.
Samantha Bee talks to Andranik Migranyan, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation.