Today, step out and make yourself heard. Don’t let anyone take the right to access the World Wide Web away from Americans and citizens of the world. Fight to keep Net Neutrality and don’t allow the Federal Communications Commission or anyone to hand the Internet to media and cable companies to act as gate keepers.
A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No
I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my dutifully celebrated goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them like spam, and as requests intensified by the end of the year, December being the apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched their insistence by shredding it all without even opening.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes loaded with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PROFIT?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.
WOULD THAT BE CASH OR CARD?
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs,(more)
* Trick or Truce
* Sleight of News
Attention Seven-Sea Travelers:
Plastic Will Be Your Global Host
Here’s something else that gets aggravated with climate change and the rising seas: plastic pollution. From landfills to coastlines, deserted islands to the poles, our insatiable thirst for bottles and straws are choking marine life and killing Earth’s biggest food source. Maybe because we treat it that way.
Ok, so you’ve heard all about this before, but now isn’t the best time to think about it, for you’re taking off on vacation. Fine, but here’s a spoiler alert: masses of stray plastic are likely to greet you at every destination you may land, no matter how remote or exotic.
Granted, there’s a level of undisguised jealously in bringing this up, just in time some lucky few are planning a deserving time off. The way it goes, though, it may get even worse by the time the other 95% finally have their turn by the beach under the sun.
In the end, we all pay for this waste one way or another. That is, us, who trade the future for a little comfort. For much of what’s happening out there in the open sea got started at our own oh so cozy homes.
That’s not blaming, only a much needed accountability for dead turtles and sea birds, guts busted open with spilled containers and utensils, whose pictures are all over the Internet. Still, we insist on having that extra plastic bag, or iPhone case, at our local retailer.
WHAT TO DO? LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE
What follows debunks naggers’ excuses. There are things one can do, and they are a lot. A number of sites list hundreds of steps anyone can take to gradually eliminate plastic from their lives. Not all of it, for sure, but most of it.
Besides consulting them and checking how much effort you need to put in order to accomplish something towards ocean plastic pollution – and you do need to put on an effort -, you may also use your common sense and take a good look around your place.
Do you have a million plastic bags, for garbage and shopping? A bunch of tupperware containers under the sink? Do you store food and beverages in plastic bottles in your fridge? A load of broken pens and useless things laying around? There you go. Start by these; you’d be surprised (maybe), at how far it all gets.
WHAT NOT TO RELY UPON? RECYCLING
We know you’re diligent separating your recyclables; we spied on you through the camera of your plastic-clad laptop (just kidding). You even know that, apart from sorting your rejects out, you also make sure you drop each pile in different bins.
Good for you. Just don’t dump it and forget it. Have you seen those spilled garbage bags on the streets, that fell out of sanitation trucks? Don’t blame the underpaid guys and relax, no one will ask you to pick them up or after anybody else.
But do not expect your city recycling companies to have it all covered. Yes, they’re for profit enterprises, but by far much more important than some industries you patronize. So be sure them, and your elected representatives, know you do care about and value their work.
WHAT DON’T YOU KNOW? IT’S OUT OF CONTROL
You may have heard that there are now a number of patches of garbage, like the Texas-sized Great Pacific Gyre, floating far from any land. But what about Henderson Island, which certainly may have a least one plastic item you’ve disposed sometime last year. Like it, there are also many others.
You may’ve also heard of the battle to force Coca-Cola to pitch in the collection of millions of water bottles that are dumped in the Grand Canyon every year, right? Well, if no one talks about it, it’s because Coke weaseled it out of its responsibilities. So, the bottles are still there.
Now, the same is happening in the high seas, and plastic (more)
* Last Drops
* Faux Jellyfish
* Beneath the Waves
Eating Animals May
Be Coming To a Boil
The short-comings of public campaigns about bad health habits are well known. One the best selling foods ever is not even food – cheerios. But despite knowing that full well, those who eat it, eat it. Period.
That may illustrate without explaining why chastising people only makes them double down on their ways. Rightly so. After all, healthy eaters don’t necessarily preach about it. They just, well, eat.
A week ago, Brazil got embroiled in a stinky scandal of rotten meat, which was already packaged to be shipped to schools, and exported to its trading partners. Major plants were raided and low management was paraded like criminals straight to jail.
The affair is particularly putrid because involves government corruption, and wouldn’t you know it?, and because it exposes once again a multibillion industry which consistently cares little about public health.
But, like the billions spent shaming people about cigarette smoking, with little impact on global tobacco sales, scandals don’t usually dismantle a malodorous industry. Education and awareness do.
Graphic depictions of terminal diseases caused by some nasty habit, tough rhetoric, and draconian laws restricting its practice, do little to curb social habits. A turnaround in public sentiment is all it takes.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE, SAYS THE FOX
In Brazil, social networks reacted to the ‘Carne Fraca’ (weak flesh, as the scandal was called, for some reason) in typical fashion: blame meat eaters. Meat eaters replied in kind. Nastiness ensued, trolls jubilated.
Meanwhile, the pseud0-president went to a churrascaria to show buyers of Brazilian steak, that all was fine, and would’ve gotten away with it, if he wasn’t dumb enough to eat meat imported from Argentina.
Trade partners pressured on, and prices of the commodity collapsed, which is the least that should happen. But will the crisis lead to tighten regulations and stiffen penalties and jail terms and, shock, the closing of some plants? No likely, of course.
No one was cast out from society for smoking; they just had to take their business to the curb and open air. And restaurant and service workers thanked it all, very much; finally their underwear stopped smelling like an ashtray at the end of the night.
But in major economies, the tobacco industry did take a hit when smoked was stripped of its glamour, and the price tag of the public health damage it causes came finally into light. That happened only after stricter laws went into effect and were dutifully enforced.
Government officials and politicians who lied and hid they were sponsored by big tobacco, were also exposed and put out of business. As for smokers, it’s their business what they take a drag on. No one else needs to follow suit, or berate them.
At the end of the day, scary tactics notwithstanding, to quit smoking remains a deeply personal decision, akin of choosing a particular diet regime, or becoming a vegetarian.
ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THAT?
Which brings us to the age-old discussion over whether we should or are we even supposed to have the flesh of dead animals as so central a staple of our food consumption.
Growing criticism of the meat industry has reached strident levels. Beyond the usual health-minded professionals, the anti-meat activist movement, and the slow build-up of awareness about animal rights, the industry now is facing a new, formidable foe: climate change.
Scientists are already compiling comprehensive lists of all other contributing factors to climate change, besides our still all-too-encompassing reliance on carbon fuels for energy.
Topping such lists is usually the cycle of raising cattle for human consumption. All over the planet, millions of herds (more)
* The Beef Of Going Meatless
* Meatless Time
Storm-Bred Magic Mushrooms
Can Improve Your Personality
Unlike what almost 100% of politicians, celebrities, and people way more famous than you may believe, there is a living organism that’s much bigger than them all: it’s a 2.4 miles across mushroom and it resides in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.
But maybe because it’s over 2,600 years old, and despite being called honey fungus, there’s nothing sweet or mushy about this creature. It’s still expanding, killing every plant on its path, and it’s covered by the carcasses of hundreds of dead trees.
Then again, it’s a mushroom. You know, that very peculiar life form that can feed you, get you high, or poison you to death, and whose multitude of varieties are freaky enough to sprout from soil (or a cow’s pie), or grow on the very flesh (or nail surface) of your body.
But not that humongous creature, which tests showed that it’s a single individual, and that seems happy to preside over a national park in Oregon. Maybe being simply the earth’s largest living being is enough, thank you very much.
But as a plant species, fungi are not always so scarily dominant, and research is being conducted about the ability of some varieties to break down heavy pollutants, and even clean up dirty diapers, no matter how powerful the digestive track of your absolutely adorable baby may be.
In fact, they’ve been adapted for use in almost as wide a range of applications as there are species, from a Mushroom Death Suit, suitable to usher the body decaying process at burial, to a compost for packaging and furniture that could one day replace plastic and other non-degradable materials, to future uses in the auto industry.
Thus, it was almost inevitable to learn about two relatively surprising properties these at times beautiful organisms may have in store for all of us, free for the taking and all related to that special kind, so dear to so many, the magic mushrooms: they are abundant after storms and they may be actually good for you.
FRESH AFTER THE HURRICANE
As it turns out, then, hurricanes like to leave something else on their wake, besides mayhem and destruction: plenty of psychedelic mushrooms. Of course, to many people, that particular kind of hongos is exactly what the definition of mayhem and destruction is meant to be. Perhaps.
Or it’s just a freakish way of nature to compensate those living in high-risk areas: to give them a break in the form of a trip to their own mind. As long as they can come back sane and sound, they most likely would appreciate the gift, if given a taste. Philosophically speaking, maybe.
The phenomenon was first observed after Hurricane Irene‘s passage in the New York metropolitan area, in 2011. What was then a rare and mildly intense storm – not nearly as lethal and devastating as the following year’s Hurricane Sandy – did seem to have made some folks wide-eyed happy afterwards, according to unconfirmed reports.
It gets better. As it goes, the magic kind also improves your general well being, according to research conducted (more)
* Mushroom Car
* Nothing’s Wasted
Things Teenagers May Excel at,
Despite What Their Parents Say
It’s a brand new, wild world out there. But some things have hardly changed. Parent complaints, for instance, about how their teens are wasting their lives and may wind up in the gutter.
Not so fast, though. Yes, the air is lethal out there, and happy campers will be crushed. But it’s all so new that jobs that weren’t even around in the 1990s, are already minting millionaires.
For millions of baby boomers, who did waste their youths telling their elders that they could outsell The Beatles, or live off the land, or become a yoga master, the end result was not so pretty.
But it’s not fair for them to now bitterly preach platitudes they never believed in the first place, and that may actually wind up breaking the hell out of their kids’ spirit.
Time to stop barking lessons, and focus on what’s at stake here: how to dislodge that gym-trained body holding a dream-soaked mind, from the cocoon of their room out to the real world.
No, we’re not about to dispense advice, but we did do the ‘finger’ work for you, to uncover some of those things that actually occupy their hearts and minds, when you think they’re doing their homework.
It’s a short list, because we too have boring jobs and unfulfilling lives, and no longer get excited about the latest and the shiniest to capture the attention of immature minds. Just something to get you going.
HACKING INTERNET STARDOM
It’s clear what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not about to digress in the wonders of those utterly annoying Web kids, who command audiences of millions, and have hardly anything to say.
But if your teen spends a lot of time on the Web, messaging friends and, well let’s not go there, he or she may be ready to dole out videos about any kind of expertise he may have.
It’s a good gig but let them try on their own; you would never understand any of that anyway. But it may offer him a path, a window? to their destiny. Or not. Just don’t waste money on it.
COOK SOME ACTIVIST BUG
Let’s face it: there’s just one Malala Yousafzai. Or Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. But all over the world, there’s a huge demand for compassion and helping hands. And the causes in need are vast.
Your kid may show a penchant to help out others, if at the end of the stick there’s a possibility of travel a million miles away from you. Your masterful skills will be required to put it all together.
But, heaven forbid, always make it look as if it’s their own idea. (more)
* Dime a Dozen
* Half-Past Child
* Feral Children
October & the City Link
the Walrus & the Raven
Edgar Allan Poe (d. Oct. 7, 1849, Boston) and John Lennon (b. Oct.9, 1940, Liverpool) would’ve likely enjoyed each other’s company. One could even picture them sharing a coffee in Greenwich Village, just a few blocks from where they both lived briefly in New York.
Sharing a certain sensibility, they’ve twisted rules and noses with their talent and non-conformism. While Poe’s genius was acknowledged mostly after death, Lennon’s was still shaping his own times when life was brutally taken away from him. Despite their enormous sway over our era, they’ve both died at 40.
Their status as two of the world’s most recognized pop icons often obscures the depth of their art and endurance of their legacy. And maybe their irresistible appeal owes more to a contemporary deficit of revolutionary artists than to their particular take on human expression.
Or it may be that we’re so desperate to find paradigms upon which to pile our frustration about the world, that a walking wound such as Poe, or a talking head like Lennon, may offer the conduit we seek to connect and placate our own shortcomings. Just like it ever was.
They couldn’t help it but being such tragic heroes, either, with terrible upbringings and disturbing deaths to boot. But that’s when shallow similarities between the two begin to falter, and no longer serve us to rescue their relevance out of the amber it’s been encased.
THE MESMERIC & THE MAUDIT
Poe, who lived in three separate places in Greenwich Village, New York City, before moving to a farmhouse uptown where he wrote The Raven at age 36, is the only American writer routinely mentioned along the French poètes maudits.
The Paul Verlaine-concocted term encapsulated the romantic ideal of the artist as a tragic hero, not suited to this world, who inevitably self-immolates. We won’t get into how flawed and self-indulgent it is such notion, but the literature the group produced transcended it all.
Perhaps the best known among those poets was Charles Baudelaire, who championed, translated and wrote essays about Poe, (more)
* Murder & Unkindness
* Hallowed Ground