Eco Mots

Obama and the Alaskan Nut-job governor… how to decide?… let’s see, Obama is FOR “clean” coal (an oxymoron of the first degree) and “safe” nuclear power (another one)… the Alaskan will be off her rocker FOR drilling, warring, babymaking, suppressing dissent (oops, wait, Obama will probably be for suppressing dissent too, but he won’t have to do much because the broad American pwogwessive (non)movement will paralyze itself waiting for Him to fix everything)… would we prefer a blowhard corporate shill with an unknown but vociferous female ideologue of the crazy right, or… an articulate proponent of American power, elected to restore legitimacy to a highly illegitimate and dysfunctional political and economic system? (with an old windbag egomaniac, Senator “Chemicals & Credit Cards,” as his sidekick)… Dontcha just love American presidential politics?

I would prefer to hear the hesitant and calibrated rationalizations of Obama, I admit, but only because it’s more interesting to see how that wing of Capital tries to manage the unfolding crises, NOT because I think he’ll be “good” for anyone or anything that I care about… “less bad” maybe, but only maybe… And that energy policy based on coal and nuclear? That’s a serious nightmare and will require very substantial mobilization to resist its insane implementation, so start your (anti)engines…

Yah, let’s just jump in the pool and fuggedaboudit… (I really hated this billboard campaign, and find this an appropriately cynical riposte.) But I’ve been living in my usual ecologically compromised-but-thinking-about-it way… Here’s a photo I just took from the top of Twin Peaks yesterday, with a water bottle I got when I volunteered on the Victory Garden at Slow Food Nation (open today at Civic Center and Fort Mason):

There’s a nice booth at the Slow Food Nation pavilion in Civic Center to “Reclaim The Tap” decorated with dozens of discarded plastic water bottles. I’m very enthusiastic about San Francisco tap water, and public water supplies in general. It’s one of the great stealth privatizations of our era, the creeping paranoia that has infected so many people to make them think that clean, drinking water from the tap is somehow suspect and unhealthy… thus they buy ridiculous quantities of small containers that hold… tap water (most of the time!)…

I’ve done the same for many years, justifying it with my enjoyment of bubbly water. Never much liked soda or even juices that much, but bubbly water! Now that I’d buy in large quantities, by the case even… so I did, for many years, and always felt kinda stupid and hypocritical, since I know perfectly well that shipping bubbling water from the southern Alps to San Francisco is worse than ridiculous. But I finally changed my behavior by being a “good” consumer… I bought from the Soda Club a small plastic device, some bottles that fit it, and two canisters of CO2, and now I’ll make my own bubbly water from SF’s delicious Hetch Hetchy tap water, and no more shipping, waste glass or plastic, or any of that… still have to buy metal canisters of carbon dioxide once or twice a year, but from a solid waste point of view, a major reduction has been achieved… a small improvement, to be sure, but I’m digging it, I admit!

I eat a lot of fish too, and sometimes while I’m shopping at Trader Joe’s or somewhere like that, I wonder how much longer there’ll be fish in the market. Clearly fish populations are in catastrophic decline in many parts of the world’s oceans, and the few areas that aren’t in decline are being voraciously exploited by the big industrial fishing fleets… along came a copy of Smithsonian magazine in which a marine biologist had the good idea to examine tourist photos from fishing resorts to see how fish populations have literally shrunk through overfishing (the article and image is not online for some reason).

These three photos more or less parallel my own time on the planet:

Sports fisherfolks are now showing off their catch, a catch that was discarded only a generation ago as insignificant… ominous sign, buried in an unlikely place, for the health of the oceans… good to note that after four years of WWI, Atlantic fish catches were huge, since the fish had been left alone for a while… we may have gone too far by now, but nature is pretty darn resilient, as we noted during a recent visit to Pt. Reyes.

Adriana and I went up to Pt. Reyes for a couple of days get-away last week, and took some walks through parts of the amazing park that I’ve never visited before. The Sky Trail seemed like a good bet to get us through the areas that burned really badly in the late 1990s… after I got home I dug out an 2005 copy of Bay Nature magazine that had a special section on the Pt. Reyes fire, 10 years later. Here’s the map of where it burned:

We hiked in the lower right hand part of this map, and here are some photos… first we found ourselves on the high ridge trail in the fog, on muddy paths among ferns and moss-covered trees that felt like we were in deep rainforest.

Considering how dry it has been around here for the past few months, it was surprising how wet and lush it was… later we broke out (along with sunshine) into more open terrain that had once been densely forested and is going through steady regeneration now.

Eventually we made it down to the coast itself, but here I am still above, agog at the beauty of this incredible public treasure:

The day before we had the good luck of making it out to the Pt. Reyes lighthouse when it was in sunshine and not too windy (it gets closed quickly when winds gust over 25 mph, which is really common at the northwestern tip of this ecological marvel)…

It’s always curiously reassuring to visit a place that was burned to the ground and see how resilient nature is. In fact, the ecology of Pt. Reyes, like much of the west coast, is quite compatible with fire, and fire was used as a basic landscape management tool for millennia by the humans who preceded Europeans here.

Back in San Francisco, in the dogged summer fog, I went to the top of Grand View Peak, which has not much view in the fog of course, but has its own charm even in that strange microclimate:

And then yesterday, the end of summer heat finally pushing the fog away and beginning to bake us, I made my periodic trek to the top of Twin Peaks in time to take this photo of the grass fire burning on Yerba Buena Island right under the Bay Bridge… a view that must have been quite common long before urbanization…

Lastly, a couple of shots of the Victory Garden in its full glory:

You gotta love how Rigo’s TRUTH mural is always looming over the view from the front of City Hall…

I’m off on another mini-tour next week, visiting Toronto, NYC, New Brunswick NJ and Troy NY… details here.

8 comments to Eco Mots

  • ellen

    Absolutely agree with your election analysis. I was thinking today, in my life (I’m 61), has there been a national (or local for that matter) election where I thought, “Gee, if my person wins, the world will be a better place, or on its way to being a better place.”?
    I agree with the poster above also, who says elections are a distraction. And I am disappointed not in the MSM (main stream media) but in the “left-wing” media which continues to talk about Obama, and what to do to get him elected, etc.

    Yes, if my one vote decided the election I would vote for Obama. Yes I hope he wins. And I want us (progressives, liberal etc) to stop being distracted. Look how long this has been going on. And it goes on every 4 years. And are we closer to having the world we want?

    I wish we could all talk about how to bring about the world we want. because what we are doing, and have been doing, just ain’t doing it.

  • cc

    thanks everyone for commenting! I don’t get so many, so it’s very gratifying when I hear from people near and far, friends and strangers alike… A quick answer to Martin: Adbusters: don’t much like it… falls into the obvious trap of always focusing on guilt-tripping people over consumption instead of inviting a conversation about abundance adn how it might be shared among everyone… Chris Floyd: don’t read him much, but when I have I’ve like him… (; Steroids in sports: don’t care, it’s just the latest in a long line of performance-enhancing developments, leaving a legacy of ill-health in their wake… much more to come with genetic modification, crazy training regimens, diet, etc. All of a piece… I still like baseball and basketball and soccer!

  • Rocco

    This election, more than any other I think, is a distraction. By design, “they” want Americans to get all into the manufactured drama of it all… to feel like we are making some historically important and vital choice in our “democracy.” If we fall into the Obama hype or get up in arms about the possibility of “four more years of Bush,” we take our eye off of the ball.

    No matter who “wins” we have already lost. The system is broke and like Chris said, Obama’s pledge to fix it is a hollow one. It needs to be changed.

    I suggest reading the Last Campaign by Thurston Clarke… the story of RFK is depressing and inspiring all at once… the last legitimate mainstream American politician…(except for Dennis, who is like part time mainstream) at least based on how he ran the ’68 campaign. He makes Obama look like the hack he is. No comparison.

    Sorry for the blathering…

  • rotafixa

    hi cc, glad to hear news from you from sf and usa.

    about obama/mccain: thats are the same questions we posed in italy in the past elections: why give credit to one who is, anyway, a hero of “free market”?
    so we, the left wing/looking forward a new economy/new lifestyles just disappeared from official scene.

    you know the final result of our noble thinking: a small man, a carpet wholesaler, is ruling as he want, trampling on basic civil rights. and hardcore right wing feel themselves legitimate to do what they want and show her without any shame, by the way (just saturday night a dozen of them knifed a guy among three, part of people from “acrobax” you knew in ciemmona days&nights here in rome).

    from italy we see obama (yes, a market man as mccain is) as a hope of changing the way we see each other: a black man, whom father was born in africa, with a strange name, can sit on the top of the hill. and what american voters do is relevant for all this small planet, today.

    just this.

  • Todd Tyrtle

    I know what you mean about the election. While I really don’t want to see McCain win, there is the other part of me that remembers what Malcolm X said about the ’64 election (as I recall). Something to the effect that if JFK won activists would cool down while if Nixon won they would redouble their efforts against a common enemy. With the nation in the state that it is in and the risk of a war with Iran, though, I still think I will take Obama.

  • Martin White

    I heard your great talk through the Unwelcome Guests podcast, and have ordered “Nowtopia.” I came across the Processed World anthology, and am delighting in it as I hold back the last precious moments before heading back to “work.” I will be certain to give you a critique if you wish, after reading the book, but I will probably not be the communitarian you valorize – I ran screaming from growing up in Amherst, and see little in the way that will stop the depradations of the supersystem. Still, I enjoy immensely what you write, and liked your Derrick Jensen slaparound. On that level of instantaneous reaction, what do you think of 1) Adbusters 2)Chris Floyd 3)steroids in sports? If unacquainted, feel free to ignore.

  • cc

    Hi Bernard,
    no, I haven’t seen any substantive reviews yet. This one is very friendly, but as you note, it’s mostly an account of what’s in the book, focusing on the projects and practices with nary a mention of the three+ chapters that lay out a more complicated historical context, one that I hope actually gives the whole analysis a lot more juice!… well, somebody is bound to write an intelligent and deep critique eventually… I hope!

  • Good to see you up and about Chris.

    The review of Nowtopian at:

    Presents your book favorably as a travelogue of small-scale (and marginal) projects that, I assume the reviewer intends (well he explicitly states this!), reflect larger meaning….BUT nowhere does he even mention your theoretical context!

    Any reviews that “get into” your major themes? Or are we confined to ongoing, suppressed anti-intellectualism?


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