Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Sense of Being Stared At

So, here we have another book from Rupert Sheldrake, recounting his years of research into mind phenomenon like telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, and the sense of being stared  at.  Sheldrake comes to this inquiry as a Cambridge trained biologist.  His work is based on solid science, but it does not support the 'materialistic' explanation for reality that remains the foundation for modern science.


Here are a couple of facts that one cannot get around when considering things like consciousness, memories, information processing, and individual creativity.

Fact#1 - As hard as scientists have tried, they have never found any physical structures in the brain that can account for consciousness. The nature of human awareness remains a mystery

Fact#2 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for storage of memories.

Fact#3 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for thinking.

Fact#4 - There are no structures in the brain that can account for creativity.

The actual existence of these human capabilities is not in dispute. We are conscious. We do have memories. We do think, and at least some of us are pretty damned creative. But there is nothing in the physical brain that can account for any of it.  Traditional science ignores that reality and simply assumes that these abilities are there in the physical brain in some mysterious, yet undiscovered way.

Sheldrake offers another view. He believes that a person's consciousness mind, memories, thought process, and creativity exist separate from the physical body, in another dimensional form that remains elusive and beyond direct perception.  

In this book, Sheldrake focuses on the unexplained capabilities that some people have for connecting with the past, the future,  and with people, even at great distances.  He reviews the scientific literature and shows that statistically, there is compelling evidence that these seemingly bizarre mental capabilities that some human beings have do exist.

I am big fan of Sheldrake. I think he is on to something very profound about life and how we humans  happen to conscious, and how we are able to think, and to have memories, and to show amazing flashes of creativity. 

Here is a link to Sheldrake's webpage...

The Zorthian Ranch

A few years ago, I wrote  a blog entry about two remarkable people,  Jirayr Zorthian and his wonderful wife, Dabney.  Zorthian was a well-known artist and a free-spirit. He and Dabney enjoyed a great life on their 40 plus acre ranch in the hills above Altadena, California. Jerry passed away in 2004 at age 92. Dabney left us a few years later. I miss them both.

Just the other day, our friends, Jane Morrison and Michael Tobias, who originally introduced us to the Zorthians, sent me a link to an article that just appeared on the webpage of KCET, the PBS TV station in Los Angeles.  It recounts the Zorthian story and provides some insight into what has happened to their ranch since their passing.

Here is the link...

Monday, October 13, 2014

My name is Earthmanpdx

I was looking for a handle for my twitter account. A number of ideas came to mind. The one that I liked the best was Earthmanpdx.  It is an audacious way to identify one’s self.  But, when I discovered that no one else was using it, I figured, ‘why not me?’

What does Earthmanpdx stand for?   It means I am a citizen of the Earth first and foremost, and I happen to live in pdx,  which is code for Portland, Oregon, USA.   Yes, I have a USA passport, and I grew up pledging allegiance. I do identify as an American citizen, but even more so, I see myself as a citizen of the Earth. My first obligation is to nurture and preserve the Earth and its living biosphere. That, to me, is the principle responsibility of every human; protect the integrity of our planet’s living fabric. Job one for every human should be to do no harm. 

For the longest time, humans have taken for granted the rich living bounty of our planet. Up until a few decades ago,   the planet’s  biosphere was resilient despite the ravages of human exploitation.  When I was born, the planet’s population was about 2.5 billion human beings. Now, in 2014, in just the past sixty-some years, the number of humans on Earth has nearly tripled to 7.3 billion,  and demographers believe by the end of this century we could have nearly 11 billion, all needing food, water, and shelter at a minimum.  The biosphere we all depend on, the only one we have, is suffocating.   Human demand is outstripping  the planet’s ability to provide.   An unbiased examination of the facts leaves no room for any other conclusion.

I recently read that since 1970, less than fifty years ago, the number of non-human life forms on the Earth has dropped by 52%.  In the same time frame, the human population on Earth doubled. The correlation couldn’t be more obvious.   

We dump millions of tons of our cultural waste into our oceans. We have stripped the sea’s fish stocks to the point  of collapse.  We are using up the planet’s aquifers and fresh water resources.  We have cut down vast areas of forestland. We have replaced our biologically resilient landscapes with industrial monocultures.  We are consuming massive qualities of coal and oil, fossil forms of energy that have choked the atmosphere with pollutants that are directly linked to an unprecedented planetary warming.

People are the problem. We are taking too much of the planet’s rapidly dwindling resources.  Mindless exploitation is no longer an option.  We must mend our ways. It’s either that, or doom future generations to a vastly diminished quality of life.

 Many millions of people around the world recognize that humanity is in severe need of a course correction. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the earth’s population continue, business as usual. They still don’t get it.  That must change.  Reaching a tipping point in global human awareness has to be the primary focus.  

When I chose to identify myself as Earthmanpdx, it is because I want to be a change agent fully engaged in the process of charting a worthy future for humanity.  I am looking for ways to draw people to a life-affirming worldview that respects nature and is sustainable over the long term. 

The good news is there are worthy answers to nearly all of the major global challenges we face.  Human induced atmospheric warming, and the sea level rise, weather extremes,  and other global scale consequences that go with burning fossil fuels,  can dramatically be curbed by choosing a rapid transition to inexhaustible forms of clean energy like solar and wind.   We have the ability to provide reproductive choice to every person, thus slowing the growth of the human population. We can create a regulatory framework for restoring our water, forest, and ocean resources.  We can create a human culture on Earth that assigns proper value to nature and focuses on building a future that can be sustained for generations to come.  To some extent, it is already happening, but not fast enough.  The impediments to progress are much less technical than they are political.  

In America, the Constitution says that government is supposed to be ‘of, by, and for the people’.   In fact, it no longer works that way.  Democracy has been replaced by a plutocracy, in which a handful of very rich bankers, billionaires, and multi-national corporations use their money and influence to buy politicians and shape the public policy they want.

For any chance at a better, more sustainable future for all life on Earth,  the first order of business must be to push back against the stagnation and corruption that has taken over our economic and political system.

Achieving the level of transformation that is sorely needed will be no easy task.  A handful of big money manipulators have amassed an incredible amount of political power.  They will not go away quietly. 

So, what is the prescription for renewal recommended by Earthmanpdx?

An initiative called Move to Amend is growing across America. It’s agenda is simple and straightforward. Move to Amend is entirely about  building a grassroots movement that calls for a Constitutional Amendment that would strip corporations and the rich of their ability to unduly influence our economy and our political process.  A proposed 28th Constitutional Amendment  would say that 'Corporations are not People' and ‘Money is property, not Speech’.   

There has never been a law that said ‘corporations are people’.   They are in fact, state chartered legal fictions that are supposed to be accountable to the people.   Likewise, the idea of ‘money being speech’ has never been codified in law, instead, it is a corrosive idea that gained legitimacy through legal precedence created by a series of corrupt, high court decisions.

I believe that Move to Amend is focused on the critical struggle of our time. Blunting corporate power.  An amendment that ends corporate personhood and defines money as property, not speech must become a  national calling.  No matter where one’s activism is focused – social justice, economic fairness, environmental protection - the common thread that offers the best hope for achieving positive change is a 28th Constitutional Amendment as presented by Move to Amend.
My best years are behind me.  In the  time that I have remaining, I intend to be Earthmanpdx, serving as a change agent for a better future by championing Move to Amend’s Constitutional agenda.  I urge every person to think about who they are, consider the reality that we all face, then join with Move to Amend to achieve a constitutional amendment that says ‘Corporations are not People’ and ‘Money is not Speech’.   

Here is a link to Move to Amend's website...


Monday, October 6, 2014

Naomi Klein and Move to Amend

Naomi Klein is a journalist and author with a global following. When I heard about her new book, This Changes Everything, I pretty much knew that her progressive worldview would be supportive of Move to Amend, the national initiative on which I am now focusing much of my attention.

Naomi Klein

I purchased This Changes Everything the day after it hit the bookstores in late September of this year. The book makes the case that climate change is the monster, earth scale issue that will either bring us all together to force an energy transition away from polluting, fossil forms of energy like coal and oil, or it will be the undoing of human civilization as we know it.  Making the change away from dirty energy to clean renewable forms like wind and solar requires that society push aside the big energy players that have dominated our political system for so long. Naomi Klein says as much in This Changes Everything.

Just after buying the book, I happened to look at the website for This Change Everything.   I discovered that Naomi was scheduled to appear for a book signing at Powell's Bookstore in Beaverton, Oregon, about two miles from my home, on October 1, 2014.  

Of course, I wanted to get my copies of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything signed while Naomi was here.  Then, it occurred to me that something much more could be accomplished.  I have been producing outreach videos  for Move to Amend since early this year. Why not try to get Naomi Klein on the record in support of Move to Amend's  initiative for a 28th Constitutional Amendment that says 'Corporations are not People' and 'Money is not Speech'.   

Having read Naomi's books, I believed that she would support Move to Amend, even though I could not find any public statement to that effect in a search of the net.  Anyway,  I tracked down her publicist in New York. I sent an email requesting the opportunity interview Naomi during her Portland book tour stopover.

Two days before the scheduled visit, I heard from Naomi's publicist.  We were given ten minutes for an interview with her just before the start of her appearance at Powell's Bookstore.

With the assistance of my colleagues Ryan Rittenhouse and Roger Bates, we got it done.

The following video is the result..


Sunday, October 5, 2014

This Changes Everything

About two weeks ago, best-selling author, Naomi Klein's new book, This Change Everything was released by Simon and Schuster.  It debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I've been a fan of Naomi Klein for a long time. I read her first book, No Logo, when it came out about 20 years ago.  Then, her book The Shock Doctrine was released in 2007.  In a nutshell, it focused on the predatory, morally bankrupt nature of neoconservative economics; the brand of capitalism that's dominated since the days of Ronald Reagan.   I wrote a review of that book about two years ago. The link is  

I just finished reading This Changes Everything.  In it, Naomi Klein makes a powerful case that we are at the end of our rope with climate change.  If we continue, business as usual, running our world on oil, coal, and natural gas, the catastrophic consequences will be unprecedented in all of human history.

Klein shows that big coal and oil and the banks that underwrite them are the most lucrative businesses in all of history. Moreover, the billions in profits these corporate giants generate have allowed them to control the media  and manipulate our political system to get the tax and regulatory policy they want, no matter the consequences.

The primary cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels    That pollution has caused a warming of the Earth's atmosphere that is already driving profound changes to our environment, including the melting of Earth's icecaps and glaciers, rising sea levels, and a large increase in highly destructive weather extremes.  In order to achieve anything close to a soft landing for humanity, scientists say that atmospheric temperature rise must be limited to two degrees Celsius. To do that,  we need to limit the additional carbon air pollution to 500 gigatons.  The problem is, as Klein points out,  fossil energy producers claim to have nearly 3,000 gigatons of  carbon in found, yet to be extracted, reserves of coal, oil, and gas.  That amounts to trillions of dollars in potential profits to energy companies that are only interested in generating income for their stakeholders. As Klein puts it, "...they're determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet's atmosphere can begin to absorb.'

Here's another very unsettling nugget from Klein..."In 2013, in the United States alone, the oil and gas industry spent just under $400,000 a day lobbying Congress and government officials."

So, it's clear, big fossil energy is not about to back down and forgo trillions in profit. It's also clear, if they are allowed to have their way and burn all the dirty energy they claim to have, waiting and ready to dig up, the consequences for life on Earth will be disastrous to the extreme.

As Klein points out, we have the technologies to end our dependence on fossil forms of energy and revitalize human society with a transition to a whole range of proven, clean energy technologies. To some extent,  it's already happening.  

Wall Street and the big energy players are not about to let their largess of carbon to become stranded assets. They are using their money and influence to aggressively resist any threat to their political dominance and their obscene profits.

Blunting the power of corporations requires a fundamental change to our economic system, and to do that we must first remake our political system to remove the undue money and influence.  That's a tall order.  Klein believes only an unprecedented grassroots effort can prevail.  She presents ample evidence that just such an effort is possible, though the window for massive action is closing.

Naomi Klein's worldview is entirely compatible with my own. I think she is one of the most important voices for reason and positive change in public life.

I bought This Changes Everything at Powell's Bookstore in Beaverton the day after it was released. I then learned that on Wednesday, October 1st,  Naomi Klein was scheduled to appear at that same bookstore.   Of course, I was determined to get my copies of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine signed.  Then, I had an inspiration and what happened subsequently was much more than just getting the author's autograph.  Stayed tuned, for my follow-up blog entry on Naomi Klein and This Changes Everything.

Oh, and for the record, This Changes Everything gets my highest recommendation. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

John Cleese talks Fox News

Here is a wonderful short video of Monty Python alum, John Cleese eviscerating Fox News.  Cleese's theory is that in order to recognize that you are stupid, you have to be at least intelligent enough to be aware of your stupidity. 

John Cleese

Cleese thinks the Fox news people aren't even smart enough to recognize that the things they broadcast are very often lies, deception, or  drivel.  I think Cleese is partially right.  But it's more than that. The odor coming from Fox News is at least as much about sociopathy, intellectual dishonesty,   and a profound lack of compassion.

Anyway, here is John Cleese applying his whimsical logic to Fox News...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wild Animal Populations Collapsing Worldwide

Alarming could not be more of an understatement.  A 52 percent decline in wildlife populations in just the last 40 years.  That is the conclusion of an intense study of animal numbers by the World Wildlife Fund.   Why? A look in the mirror will give you the answer.  Human numbers have doubled to 7.3 billion in the same period, and demographers are now saying there is a 70% chance that the growth of the human population will hit nearly 11 billion before it stops.  That is an astonishing number.  It's no wonder the populations of other animal species are collapsing.

We humans are mindlessly shredding the fabric of our biosphere.  We are behaving like parasites... the kind of parasite that ultimately kills its host. 


Taken from the Huffington Post   9/30/14

GENEVA (AP) — About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups.

The study Tuesday from the Swiss-based WWF largely blamed human threats to nature for a 52 percent decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2010.
It says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28-percent decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012.

Most of the new losses were found in tropical regions, particularly Latin America.

WWF describes the study it has carried out every two years since 1998 as a barometer of the state of the planet.

"There is no room for complacency," said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, calling for a greater focus on sustainable solutions to the impact people are inflicting on nature, particularly through the release of greenhouse gases.

The latest "Living Planet" study analyzed data from about 10,000 populations of 3,038 vertebrate species from a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. It is meant to provide a representative sampling of the overall wildlife population in the world, said WWF's Richard McLellan, editor-in-chief of the study.

It reflects populations since 1970, the first year the London-based society had comprehensive data. Each study is based on data from at least four years earlier.

Much of the world's wildlife has disappeared in what have been called five mass extinctions, which were often associated with giant meteor strikes. About 90 percent of the world's species were wiped out around 252 million years ago. One such extinction about 66 million years ago killed off the dinosaurs and three out of four species on Earth.

In the new WWF study, hunting and fishing along with continued losses and deterioration of natural habitats are identified as the chief threats to wildlife populations around the world. Other primary factors are global warming, invasive species, pollution and disease.

"This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live," said Ken Norris, science director at the London society. "There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry."