Peter Brannen Is Kind Of An Amazing Man

Date: December 1st, 2017

Other Title: My Interview With The Amazing Peter Brannen

Look how adorable he is!

Book cover: 

Peter Brannen is kind of an amazing man. Tis true, tis true. He is the author of The Ends Of The World, a book you must read now if you haven’t already. Here’s a link to buy it: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062364807/the-ends-of-the-world

The Ends Of The World is about the five major extinctions our planet has endured. It is highly scientific, but for me at least, it reads like a novel – rightly emotional, fun, sweet, dark at times, and uplifting in the end. I loved the book so much that I annotated it. For fun. I got a pen and sat wherever I was reading it at any given time and expressed my feelings about the book, in the book. No teacher told me to. Peter sure didn’t.

The man’s Twitter feed is miraculous (some are missing their pictures or context, click each for full tweet):

I had the great honor of interviewing him, and here it is for your reading pleasure:

1. On Twitter, in reposting this post (https://twitter.com/Paleocreations/status/928695855439376384), you said “Earth has been many different planets over its lifetime.” This is sort of a two parter…Of all the “planets” Earth has been, which one is your favorite? And where is your favorite place to be on Current Earth?

 This is a very difficult question for me to answer, because it tends to change based on which period I’m researching at that moment. Some worlds, like the Cambrian world (illustrated in that link), I just love because of how alien they are. It’s difficult to believe that that world and our own both shared this same little plot of real estate in the solar system, even if we are separated by hundreds of millions of years. Of the periods I highlight in the book, there is the same sort of alien appeal for me in the Ordovician: the continents were nearly as desolate as Mars, but underwater, in places like tropical Ohio, it was just this explosion of sea life, and almost all of it was invertebrate–bug, squid, starfish-like etc.—and our ancestors, the fish, we’re all but irrelevant. It’s just a totally bizarre planet. And although it’s more recent, the Permian-Triassic planet is similarly alien to me. I’m fascinated by this version of planet earth in a sort of macabre way. It just gets so unbelievably hot and desolate. In fact, in these huge lifeless expanses of Pangaea there’s evidence that at one point earlier in the Permian it got as hot as 163 degrees Fahrenheit!

My favorite place to be on earth today is in front of any new rock outcrop with a geologist who can tell me what I’m looking at, and there’s good rocks everywhere. Geology has made the whole world more interesting to me.

2. What is your favorite fictional kingdom? 

I was struggling with this question, when I suddenly remembered a series of books I had when I was younger called Dinotopia. I just google image searched it and the illustrations are as incredible as I remembered. That is a fictional kingdom I would like to visit.

3. Who was the kindest scientist you met on your journey of writing The Ends Of The World? And who was the most eccentric? (I think I might be able to guess your answer for most eccentric, but I’m gonna let you say it.) 

All of the scientists were exceptionally kind in letting me barge into their offices and accompany them on trips to the field, and for not rolling their eyes when I asked a dumb question, so I’m going to be diplomatic and not single anyone out. “Eccentric” might have a slightly negative connotation in this context so I’ll just say that Gerta Keller certainly has the most interesting back story. As you know from the book, she basically ran away from home as a child, traveled the world, was later shot in a bank robbery, and today is easily the most divisive figure in the mass extinction community because of her iconoclastic interpretation of what killed all the non-bird dinosaurs 66 million years ago (not an asteroid, she says). As a group of people who spend their lives traveling to extremely locations to piece together answers to the big questions about the history of the planet, geologists and paleontologists are, as a rule, interesting people. But even among them Keller stands out.

4. What is your favorite element on the periodic table? Why?

I was tempted to say something crazy like astatine because of this xkcd piece https://englishatlc.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/randall-munroe-periodic-wall-of-elements.pdf. But I will be less exciting and say carbon. We’ve all heard before that we’re carbon-based life forms, and that carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas, but I think we fail to appreciate just how central this element is to the whole crazy project of life on this strangely habitable planet. Through volcanoes it moves from the rocks to the air, from there it gets incorporated into our bodies, and, if we’re shell-building organisms, or we get turned into oil or something, it goes back into the rocks again. It keeps the planet warm enough to survive, and when it gets too warm it naturally subsides in the atmosphere. Only in extremely strange and rare episodes, like during the continental flood basalt eruptions associated with ancient mass extinctions, and in our own current effort to liberate as much of carbon from old rocks as possible by burning coal, oil and gas in power plants does it get wildly out of balance and threaten the stability of our biosphere.

5. What (who?) is your favorite prehistoric animal? 

Another impossible question. But I think I tend to gravitate towards either creatures that are underratedly terrifying, like Dunkleosteus which, as you know from the book, is this heavily-armored sea monster with a guillotine for a mouth, or animals that are truly bizarre. In this second category the Tully Monster comes to mind. I invite you to google it—the artists’ impressions of it are too strange to even describe. Others in the extremely strange camp that I love (to name just a few) are: Anomalocaris, one of the bewildering creatures that shows up at the dawn of animal life, and Tanystropheus, a marine reptile with a neck so incredibly long that it seems like the reconstructions must be wrong (they’re not). And like most people who enjoy visiting natural history museums I’m also drawn towards the extreme outliers in size, whether it’s Indricotherium, a hornless rhinoceros that was several stories tall, Leedsicthys, just this impossibly large, dumb-looking fish that lived in the Jurassic, or Quetzacoatlus, a pterosaur the size of a giraffe with a wingspan that rivals some small aircraft. Sorry to be so long-winded with these answers, there’s just too much from earth history to choose from.

6. During the researching and writing of the book, did you learn about something that particularly excited or scared you?

 I’m both excited and scared, in this perfect mix, by the vastness of deep time. I don’t think I fully appreciated it before. I think astronomy gets a lot of credit for being mind-blowing but I think geology does the trick just as well. For instance, I’m on the east coast (in Maine at the moment) and if I went for a walk with each step representing a century, I would be done with the history of human civilization by the end of the driveway. But I could walk across the entire country to Los Angeles without even getting back to the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. And even then I would have covered less than 10% of earth’s history! Now that I’ve fallen in love with geology I am constantly having that same mind-blowing experience every time I look at a rock.

7. In The Ends Of The World, on page 130, you say: “Though climate science was long an esoteric field, today a familiarity with the basics should constitute a core part of any responsible civic education for citizens of planet Earth.” Yes. Absolutely. Who or what inspired you to become so interested in climate science and extinctions? 

I’ve always been interested in the natural world, and I think my interest in climate science grew out of that. Like a lot of people my age I read Jurassic Park as a kid and was obsessed with dinosaurs. And then when I grew up I was a reporter writing about the ocean and all the modern changes we’re seeing to its temperature and chemistry. When I found out there was this deep connection between the subjects of earth history and climate change, that our experiment today with the climate has analogs throughout the history of life that we can look to for a glimpse of our possible future, it felt like a subject tailor-made to my interests.

8. In your opinion, is the problem with humans and global warming that we are capable of stopping it but generally apathetic, or that we are not capable of stopping it at all? 

I think we are physically capable of stopping human-caused climate change but I have strong doubts about the political will to do so. The most realistic path to reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting ourselves to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 requires the entire planet to completely stop using fossil fuels well before 2050, and then to somehow start sucking an incredible amount of CO2 out of the air every year after that with technology that (for all practical purposes) doesn’t exist yet. That is quite the tall order. At this point I think it’s a question of what degree of climate change we are willing to live with. At the lesser extreme we could get our act together and live in a slightly warmer world that—though it certainly will have more extreme storms, and droughts, and heat waves, and things like that—might be manageable for us to adapt to as a civilization (though there will still be losers, especially in tropical, poorer countries). And at the other extreme is the unthinkable: that we just keep burning carbon buried by ancient life, like coal and oil, and catapult ourselves into an alien greenhouse climate from tens of millions of years ago.

I don’t have the words to describe how catastrophic the second option would be, but I don’t think there’s any reason we would ever have to get to that point. It would require another century or two of burning everything we can find in the ground, and even in the current toxic political environment there are reasons to be encouraged, especially by younger people, that voters are beginning to take the need to transform our energy system seriously. That said, in the very long run, over thousands of years, even the small changes we make to the climate will have dramatic effects. A recent study showed that the entire ice sheet of Greenland could melt with as little as 0.8 degrees of warming. We’ve already warmed the planet 0.8 degrees and will likely warm it by much more. The good thing is that to completely melt the whole thing takes thousands to tens of thousands of years (the bad thing is you don’t have to melt all of Greenland to raise sea level a lot). As for ocean acidification (what happens when CO2 reacts with seawater) it will take something like 150,000 years for nature to restore the changes we’re causing to ocean chemistry today.

9. Do you think we, citizens of the U.S, will ever have a “scientist President”? Or even a “historian President?” Someone who understands and is interested in science and history and enjoys learning? Someone who is kind but who also tries to be somewhat logical? (If you think you could ever run for President, you would definitely have my vote.) 

Haha, that’s very kind of you. I sincerely hope we have a scientist president, and soon. So many of the problems we face today, and in the decades to come, will be scientific ones. And given the polling on questions like “How old is the earth?”, and an obvious dearth of critical thinking skills in the country in the age of “fake news”, it’s obvious that we’re massively underinvested in education. If I were president I would invest (probably to a slightly psychotic degree) on education and basic research. The National Science Foundation and NASA would do quite well in my administration. That said–and this is something of a digression–not all policy questions can be decided by science. There will always be a role for philosophy and ethics to play, along with a whole bunch of other subjects that I think too many scientists are too quick to sneer at as squishy.

For instance, Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently proposed a utopian society where every policy question is decided by data and scientific research alone https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/reflections-on-rationalia/10154399608556613/. I think there’s a lot to recommend this vision of society, especially when you compare it to our current scientifically illiterate one. But there would be major limitations to it as well, some of which would quickly become ghastly. Take Tyson’s example on how we should decide whether to have the death penalty, which he says should depend on the data on whether it’s effective at deterring crime. But this data is useless without some prior system of ethics. For instance, there would likely be a strong deterrent effect on the crime of shoplifting if we made it punishable by death, but I don’t think that this would inform us whatsoever on whether it’s the wise or just path for a society to take. There will always be these moral questions for us to decide.

10. In your opinion, what was the worst mass extinction so far? 

The End-Permian mass extinction is the worst mass extinction in the history of life and there’s not really a close second. Enough lava erupted in Siberia 252 million years ago to cover the lower 48 United States a kilometer deep, and the volcanoes injected so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it caused temperatures to spike something like 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Up to 96% of life in the oceans died. Trees all but disappear in the fossil record for 10 million years after the mass extinction. Coral reefs are replaced with piles of bacterial slime. The planet basically had to reboot after the catastrophe, and it took millions of painful years to do so. It was the worst moment in the history of the earth. And yet, the earth recovered. And it did more than just recover. From the ashes of the End-Permian mass extinction blossomed the age of dinosaurs and, after that, the age of mammals, and everything we see living in our world today. Life is incredibly resilient and even after the worst disaster in its history the earth enjoyed its greatest flourishing. I think there are some lessons we can learn from our wonderful planet.

. . .

Peter Brannen is a huge nerd and a problem solver (and he referenced two of my other favorite people, Randall and Neil!). Like he says on page 130, I believe it is important to see the planet not as your world or my world, but as a planet. Operating on geological time, functioning as a whole. Seems obvious. Isn’t. I guess I love Peter so much because he is rare. He sees the planet as the whole that it is. He is both kind and smart, something you don’t often see. He recognizes the importance of the ocean, penis worms, and you and I.

And this is to remind you what he looks like.

 I ended up searching Dinotopia on Google Images. My favorite fictional kingdom is Britain as it appears in the Harry Potter series, but Dinotopia looks very cool. I might like to visit there if I could.

 

Mini Blog Post: Godlike

This is a reactionary opinion piece. The only reason I’m posting this is because it’s too long for an Instagram caption.

Date: July 27th, 2017

This is the thing I’m reacting to: “Scientists are pushing wild climate hacking scenarios to save the planet” via ScienceAlert

They call it climate hacking, I call it owning up to the godlike power we have. Humans are pretty cool. We’ve built deep into this planet with our sewers and our mines and our pipelines, learned how to fly and refrigerate food and drink, and mapped planets we haven’t set our own feet on. These are things we take for granted, of course. But those who say – and I paraphrase many a famous quote here – that humans are an atom’s way of studying atoms are correct. We’ve been somehow blessed to be able to learn. And the more we know, the more we can manipulate. REMINDERS ABOUT “CLIMATE HACKING”: ⚔️ 1. This is not a one time thing. Gods have to work hard, especially if it turns out they’re actually human and “unforeseen consequences” are a thing. The more we manipulate, the more good – or bad – we can do for ourselves and for the planet. But the more we do…certain things will create domino effects. Once we take responsibility for the earth as the superpowered parasites-turned-engineers we are, we can’t ever “take a break.” You will have to deal with a problem, and then you will have to deal with a problem caused by your solution. Which is not to say all we will ever cause is problems. But we need to communicate and accept in preparation for this huge undertaking. God may be dead, but if he ever lived, he never stopped being God. ? 2. Humans are animals. We are apart of nature. We happen to be the part of nature that can “detach” from it for most of our lifetimes, but we all must return sometimes. (I choose nature documentaries and traveling a lot as some sort of salve.) In taking responsibility for this planet, we must realize that the rest of the animals (and plants and stuff) are just as important as we are. I’m not even talking going vegetarian. (Shmeat is a thing meat lovers can turn to in a few years. It’ll take a while to go commercial. And don’t diss shmeat. It ain’t plant-based, and it ain’t fake. It’s the same thing. Just way less cruel. Look it up.) Right now, animals’ intelligences are compared to ours, and most animals are judged by how well they respond to our cues and directions. We must learn, one day we will (hopefully), that all animals are equal. We must learn that animals are worth more than the money we spend trying to keep them out of our cities. When we become gods, it’s the animals who will guide us. ❄️ 3. If we are to do this, we have to do this right. We can manipulate without micromanaging. We can love without breeding dependence.

I Am With You, France, No Matter Where I Choose To Live

Date: June 5th, 2017

Emmanuel Macron put this on his Facebook four days ago:

In pulling the U.S out of the Paris Accord, Trump quickly went from douchebag to dangerous. This is not a series of jokes. This is a series of hard blows against our integrity, safety, and capacity for compassion. And this is a big deal. A big, scary deal. Let yourself get scared by this. You are afraid because you are aware, and because you aware, you have the power to fix these problems, however daunting they are.

But the funny thing is, the worse it gets, the better my outlook is.

These are just the first few results I got from Googling “companies and mayors paris agreement:”

1. Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord

2. PressTV-US cities, states, companies commit to Paris accord

3. US states and businesses will still meet Paris targets | Environment | The Guardian

4. Which Cities Have Pledged To Follow The Paris Agreement? Over 150 Mayors Have Agreed

(Please actually look at these links. I try to write about some good stuff, but I don’t know everything, so I cite people who know more than little old me. It’s educational, guys.)

This is happening, guys, gals, and non-binary pals.

Trump screwed up, and now, maybe because it falls on us no matter whether we accept it or not, we are taking charge. And then there’s my man Macron. He knows that the current President of the United States only represents a small but loud group whose headquarters lies in Trump’s hairy, wrinkly, orange armpit. He knows most U.S citizens share something powerful with most French citizens…and most Indian citizens, and most Chinese citizens, and most Japanese citizens, and most German citizens. There are going to be bad, sucky, horrendous people everywhere. No country is perfect. Not even Sweden. (However, Sweden is willing to admit it.) But there are also going to be good and great, innovative, kind people everywhere. Macron’s favorite type of person. Everywhere. Regardless of age, race, culture, sex and sexual orientation. It is all fine and nice to be patriotic, and it is wonderful to let the borders dissolve when we need to. Countries can be countries. We don’t have to try and build a world government (that would be disastrous). But countries and nations can and should work together without spite, because it is not the government or reputation that matters, it is the people. Every country holds people worthy of love within it. Not one country is better than another, not in that way.

The French spirit is the Brazilian spirit and the Morrocan spirit and the American spirit and the Bulgarian spirit and the Kenyan spirit and the British spirit. Because the best people share it no matter where they are. We are not our worst: The KKK, ISIL, Boko Haram, the Nazis – nope. And we are not our dictators. Saudi Arabia, the U.S, Russia…we pride ourselves on our best because we are forced to. We are not who is in charge.

Which brings me to Macron’s offer.

He asks the scientists, engineers, and designers of the U.S, the innovators fighting climate change in a sea of bullshit and hate, to come to work and live in France.

My point isn’t that I am not going to go to France ever. My point is that I am probably not going to France anytime soon.

I am a writer and designer, and I hope to own a bed-and-breakfast when I am older, so I may write and design when I want to as opposed to on a deadline. With that in mind, I can be relocated nearly anywhere, as long its pretty enough to support a cutesy bed-and-breakfast. And it is not as though I do not like France. I have never been there, but I have learned about the country from my French language class and – *sighs* – Google. It is very aesthetically pleasing, the schools are – generally – better, and they are prepared to deal with global warming. “As in the UK, France has adopted a series of carbon budgets with the first three running 2015-2018, 2019-2023 and 2024-2028. To meet its 2050 target the country needs to cut 9-10 megatonnes of carbon dioxide every year says the report, and cut energy emissions 96% by mid century.” From France delivers 2050 climate plan to UN.

But even though I can easily be picked up and plopped down somewhere else, there are still things I cannot control that keep me here. My parents need to be in Los Angeles for their work. Not only that. My school is here. And while the French education system might be better, this particular school I go to is one I’d miss. It is not traditional, very open, relaxed, and filled to the brim with use and value. How do you take a school with you on a plane? One of my favorite teachers just retired, but there are the students too, and my remaining wonderful teachers. My best friend moved away to Napa, and the other’s always busy – but Napa’s easier to visit than France! (Unless I kidnapped her and took her with me.) Then there’s my other friends, slowly becoming besties. I can’t make anybody move just because I want to. I suppose this is decision making, weighing the things in your life to help you decide what to do. But the decision isn’t only mine. As I may have mentioned, I have two parents I can’t get rid of until at least college. Each with their own lives, friends they won’t want to move away from, careers. Not too mention – we like our house. My house is a good one.

And then there’s the whole guilt/anger factor to moving away to “escape Trump.” Read: Movers And Shakers.

There is much to think about.

But if you do move, France is a great place to move to!

Maybe my family and I will move to France in a year. Two and a half years. Four years, after Trump is out of office anyways. Maybe we’ll move to Singapore, or Barcelona, or a part of Croatia. Maybe we’ll stay in the U.S.

But wherever we are, we will stand with France.

It is not one President we are fighting. It is a lack of progress. So whether you fight in the U.S or overseas, you are fighting with peace and love, and that is what matters.

I will stand with you, France. Stand with me?

#makeourplanetgreatagain

#vivelarevolutionforearth

Good luck, everybody.

Public Parks, On Private Land!

Date: May 9th, 2017

There are those who say that if we, as the species of engineers we are, do not strip something from the land, whether it be an animal for food, or a tree for a lumber, or a mineral for mining, then we are missing out on valuable resources. But public lands, lands that exist for the people and other species that roam this Earth rather than for companies or development, are some of the most valuable resources we have. There is a quote by Theodore Roethke: “Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light.” Famous, slightly vague quotes can have a slightly different meaning for everybody. I won’t tell you my understanding, I’ll just let his words sink in. Ever since humans started thinking, we’ve found joy and peace in nature. Using it as a remedy for depression isn’t a waste of your time. Obviously, medicine created to combat depression works directly and chemically. But this doesn’t disprove that there is an inherent “light” in nature. Speaking from my own experience, I use nature as a solvent for negativity. In the future (hopefully this behavior will start sometime soon), nature will be looked at as a necessity, not just for recreation, within and outside of all our cities. It is just as much of a needed thing as electricity, copper, or a citrus farm is.

The fact that there is an entire branch of federal government devoted to our emotional wealth is a fact that I love to think about. The federal government has a lot of problems – but this is one of the upsides to having a nagging mother, always present, that is obsessed with red tape.

There’s just one problem.

What if mother goes back on her promise to uphold one of the only purely good things she does for us?

Normally, when a particularly rich person owns a swath of land, it is for them and them alone. There is a gate around the entire thing, with a sign at the entrance reading “Private” or some variation of that word. But what if the sign said “Part of the Private Lands Conservation group. Please park around corner after entering through gate. Two dollars for parking. Enjoy”? (The Private Lands Conservation group is real thing, I’m positively ecstatic to admit that this is not my original idea: https://www.nature.org/about-us/private-lands-conservation/index.htm – I’m just writing about it!)

What if mother doesn’t want to hurt us, but is being forced into going back on her promise by a giant orange crayon?

As Elizabeth Warren reminded me when I went to see her speak, the government is not evil. You are not immediately mean and sour if you work for the government, and you are not weak if you rely on the government. The government does indeed have many dangerous flaws, but ones we can fix over time if we work together and diversify. Examples? Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Yates, the Obamas, Hillary Clinton (she ain’t perfect but she works hard and tries to be there for us, which we need right now), Bernie Sanders, and the thousands of relatively – sadly – unknown people working to undo damage and prop us up. Most of them are just in the wrong positions (Elizabeth Warren for President!)…or maybe the exactly right positions. Most things can take time.

Global warming and conservation can’t. Which is why I say we rip our “valuable resources” out of the orange crayon’s hands as soon and as painfully as possible. And no, it’s not just the orange crayon! It’s just that people like me have to keep mentioning him when something comes up because he’s the Big Loud Orange Megaphone for everyone we’d mention if he wasn’t sitting right smack dab in the middle of the Oval Office! Where was I? Ah yes. Hit him where it hurts and save the world at the same time.

As some of you may know, I plan to own and operate a bed-and-breakfast (small hotel) as my base career to earn enough money to write and design when I want as opposed to on a deadline.

The bed-and-breakfast will be in an area populated enough that I earn money from it, but secluded enough that I can make the area around the bed-and-breakfast a giant public garden, roughly the size of the smaller state parks.

Ambitious? Hell yes. A bit daunting? Maybe. But for those looking out for me, this is a good investment: Conservation should not only be in the hands of the government, a thing which noticeably changes every four years, even after Mr. Orange Crayon leaves office. If we truly want to save this world from environmental catastrophe, the right type – a philanthropic, environmentally sound type – of private ownership should be more common.

This “privablic” land would be private in the sense that there is a person, family, or even corporation who owns it, but public in the sense that anyone can come and enjoy it. How do we further incentivize this already existing approach? Larger tax deductions for private owners who donate their land for public use would be helpful. Also, some cities require that for large developments, per a certain amount of private space developed, a portion of it must be allotted to public access. All cities and states should require the same.

I enjoy being hospitable and taking care of people (as well as meeting strange folks from across the country and world), and I’ve also started a financial plan earlier than most people my age (emphasis on most), concentrated on saving money and remaining stable throughout my adult life. I have a strong belief that the bed-and-breakfast will work out for me, that way I can do odd jobs when I want without losing money.

I do not doubt that the public garden will work just as well, but just in case I can’t pay for it with the money I make, I hope the Nature Conservancy will have my back.

#goprivablic

Movers And Shakers

Date: April 26th, 2017

During the campaign period for the 2016 election, I heard the usual: “I’ll move if Trump wins.” Once he did – still sometimes sadly incomprehensible to me, that he won – those types of comments were seen as jokes. Often a plain case of “Oh, I changed my mind.”

Why? Why would so many people change their minds on such a pivotal thing without giving it much thought?

If they saw his victory as urgently, terrifyingly negative then (enough to move!), why do they not now? More has come out, if anything, he should be seen as worse!

There were about only 9 people, who actually moved out of the country, that have been mentioned by a major news source. (The BBC wrote this.) At least 20 people have moved in general. At least 20. As the BBC writes, one woman “is ‘totally heartbroken’ and had always thought she would raise her two daughters in the US.” These people, who moved, all have one thing in common – fear. Fear can be a good thing, or a bad thing. These people were heartbroken and afraid enough to move. When I say afraid enough to move…you’ll notice that this post is tagged with many tags, including the word “complacency.” I tag my posts with it quite a lot. It is a fantastic vocabulary word.

Definition by Merriam-Webster.

 

 

 

 

 

Complacency is a funny little state of being. And it is “the public” of any country or nation in one word. The truth is, with the United States of America in particular (it is where I – currently – live, after all), enough has been unearthed about the government and our societal practices that there should have been a full-scale rebellion a few years ago. We are lulled to sleep. For example, look up the phrase “will the Hunger Games ever happen” or some variant on your preferred search engine. Most articles that answer this question end with “Probably not.” The common explanation is that as a species, which has many societal gains to back up our inborn humanity, we simply wouldn’t let it happen. But the people of the Capitol are just as emotional and sentimental as we are. They’re just more tolerant. Every good or bad idea will be opposed at first. But depending on who they idea panders to, soon, it will gain traction. ISIS (ISIL, DAIISH, etc) is doing a more modern and therefore more aggressive version of what the Christians did back in the old days to become a major religion. Unless we deal with it now (and in the correct way! It is an ideology, not an army), it will morph into common culture. There are always going to be people who will resist the public processes and ideas, but in today’s culture, they are conspiracists and harmless rebels who hide themselves in their run down house, hoarding newspapers and food. Once the snowball gets to a certain size, it will get bigger and bigger without encouragement from the person who started the roll down the hill. Sneak the snowball in without people knowing, and the people will except the snowball as one of their own. Eventually, everything becomes accepted.

Heartbreak and fear are two good ways to break out of the cycle of complacency.

So it appears that most of us are not sufficiently heartbroken and afraid.

Why the hell not?

LISTEN. 

Poverty is rampant. It has been normalized, and yet the impoverished people themselves have been alienated, to the point where you are taught to ignore and avoid, ignore and avoid. Homeless people are scary, and yet simultaneously, dirty and broken little humanoid sacks of meat bent on destroying your nice white picket fence. We think of them as bad pieces of furniture. They ruin our views. Even those who sympathize with them stay away from them. I sure do. And sure, mentally unstable people are dangerous to be around, but we act as if every homeless person is dangerous. We do nothing. When they ask, we act as if we have nothing.

We already lived in a dystopia before Drumpf was elected.

People with darker skin or the “wrong” facial features face humiliation and a higher chance of dying every day.

We noticed it. We pretended to cry over the fallen.

It is seen as bad to be a woman. By default. Without evidence to suggest that this is correct.

And yet we do nothing.  

Gender has become two neat little boxes we’re all supposed to fit in. To the point of abuse.

We are awARE WE?

Wake up.

Wake up now.

The revolution. I am not the stereotypical rebel. I am blonde, hazel-eyed, already 5’1 and I use a wheelchair. Adorable. Short. Smart. I’ve got glasses. And I’m a pacifist. I can never remind you people enough. To clarify, I am not a passive person. I made a promise once to never kill, and to never let anyone die.

The revolution is now.  

Moving…is not the right move. You’ll hear of a few celebrities who weren’t “kidding” about moving out of the country, but had decided to stay and fight.

The revolution has become a trend, of 15-second fame.

TRY TO FIGHT BUT FAIL. TRY TO RISE BUT SLEEP. BE LULLED TO SLEEP.  

If you are one of those who decided to stay and fight…FIGHT. Maybe not physically. But don’t just post on your favorite website. Don’t just use that hashtag. I don’t encourage you to damage the personal property of the innocent, but have an affect!

You may be thinking, as a close friend or Facebook user my mom knows, how dare I accuse you of being complacent? How dare I preach?

Well…I apologize.

We are all complacent. And it is time to break down the wall. Not just poke small dents into it.

BREAK IT DOWN.

You’re going to drive down your lane in your car listening to your music doing your business…having done nothing to solve the problems that need it most.

The GGPC: “SparkNotes” Version

Date: April 1st, 2017

This is sort of a mini-post. It’s not that long, and not that important. I just thought I’d sneak it in here…

It’s a quick, not-at-all comprehensive, look at the GGPC as it exists now – as an idea:

GGPC RECIPE:

1. Purpose: The purpose of the GGPC is to prevent genocide, via a perpetual screening, which exists to watch out for, and avoid, certain traits, while at the same time watching out for, and supporting, certain traits.

2. Members:

a) An absolutely equal number of people from each political party – eg. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, etc.

b) An equal, unbiased playing field in terms of gender/race/age.

c) At least three of each: diplomats focused on the overall wellbeing of the country/nation as well as the relations of the country/nation with other countries, humanists focused on the wellbeing of a previously or currently oppressed group as well as any group who is urgently and negatively affected by prejudice, environmentalists focused on maintaining a healthy and stable environment as well as removing dangers caused by environmental disasters/contamination, and finally, intellectuals focused on the overall effects of each Presidency as well as upholding the dignity and reputation of a country or nation.

3. Screening – Basic Guidelines:

a) They would screen based on their own qualities: diplomatic and critical thinking, kindness, intelligence and scientific thinking, and logical thinking would need to be obviously and strongly present in a candidate for them to even be considered, and the opposites of those qualities would need to be largely absent.

b) The screening would continue into the candidate’s Presidency, if elected. The GGPC would stay behind the scenes, they wouldn’t run the country, they would simply take a page from the UN’s book, and make any effort possible to remove a leader showing signs of the negative qualities.

Link to GGPC blog category (will connect you to other GGPC posts): http://www.earthcompromise.com/?cat=97

If History Is Going To Repeat Itself, Then History Has To Repeat Itself…

Date: March 18, 2017

Am I a huge nerd, being heavily influenced by my history class? Yeah.

Trump is driving us backwards. Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing doesn’t matter. It’s…literally…just…true. He’s going to erase years of hard work. I have this theory that true genius doesn’t really exist. In my opinion, even “smart” is just a label. There are people, just people, and then there are good ideas. “Smart” is simply what happens when a person has more good ideas at a higher rate. One man – who does not have many good ideas – is prepared to destroy all that the good idea people have done.

How do we respond?

By taking a page from the book of those good idea people who came before us.

If Trump wants to take away women’s rights, we have to remind ourselves, those behind the women’s suffrage movement had it worse, fought harder, and came out on top. Susan B. Anthony was raised as a Quaker, and was an abolitionist as well as a feminist. Trump wants to go back to the days when Boss Tweed and his ring went unchecked. (Ironically, I doubt he’s read any history books.) Well, after a closer look at this little ring, with help from Thomas Nast, they ended up arresting Tweed (who was a very interesting man, by the way). John Laurens, years and years and years before the Civil War even started, was a white man in Carolina, critical of slavery. (You may know him from Hamilton.) Theodore Roosevelt is on my list of “Presidents that deserve to be given a third and fourth (etc) term and/or brought back to life,” that also includes Lincoln, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Obamas. Teddy did the most for conservation out of all the Presidents (he once went camping with John Muir), and once said this: “The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency.” The anti-Trump. We need another Teddy. Or Eleanor. Or FDR. #makeamericarooseyagain The thing is, a lot of the earlier Presidents were great. Ahead of their time. It’s just that generally, the culture of white men hadn’t quite gotten there yet.

If they’re moving backwards, we will too.

If the bad parts of history are going to repeat themselves, then the good parts of history have to repeat themselves as well.

Do your history homework.

Take a lesson from the past.

And do good.

A Letter From The U.S. To Her Citizens

Featuring original art.

Date: March 6th, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear – it’s only appropriate that I call you all this – Lovely Children Of Mine,

Being a single mother does not excuse what I’ve done, it does not excuse how bad of a mother I’ve been.

I am white. I am straight. I am cis. I am a woman. I am able-bodied. So many of my children have it worse – in way, yes, it is worse – than I do because of me.

I was born out of an angry three-way Spain had with England and France. I was very dysfunctional as an infant. I had difficulty understanding empathy.

I have been sexist.

I have been homophobic, and transphobic, and even, in my earlier years, Irish-phobic.

I have been racist.

I have been cruel.

And there is some sort of illness I have, similar to lycanthropy or alcoholism, where sometimes – most of the time in some places, almost never in others – I still am this way. This relapse happens often. But do I let it define me? Do I let it define us?

That is the philosophical argument I wake up every morning with.

The other countries hate me. I understand where they’re coming from. I’ve considered killing myself, ripping myself apart from the inside out, to save you, my children. The reason I don’t may be as simple as cowardice, but I like to think I have some future…out there…somewhere.

There’s no justification for all I’ve done. And I know that being aware of all that I’ve done doesn’t make it any better. I have to be cured of this.

There’s no way I can’t be defined as sexist, racist, cruel…broken. And this, my children, is why I wake up wondering if it’s worth it to try and make a new name for myself. Can I truly get better? With Dopleed Nurmp as President? With anybody as President? Can any President be a true cure? No one person can change me, even surrounded by good people who try their hardest, I’m still…like this. But I think, it’s because they’re not really trying their hardest to help me, and I’m not really trying my hardest to change. Even the Obamas, who worked their butts off (they actually gave me hope for the future!), couldn’t accomplish as much as if…everyone cared more. Cared enough to not just repost on social media. Cared enough to actually protest against, well, me, whenever I relapse. Cared enough to break the cycle of complacency. My children, you see my problems, my flaws, the truly bad ones, and you say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll deal with her.” And I do not blame you at all, the fact is, I blame myself, but don’t you need me intact? Don’t you feel you should assist me in my rehabilitation? I cannot express how truly sorry I am, but I cannot function alone, I cannot feel sorry – I cannot feel anything – if I am not in a safe, welcoming space.

Oh, but here I go again, finding some excuse, someone other than I to blame, finding some reason to give me a “safe, welcoming space.” I was heartless – I still am! I do not deserve such a space! I need to do some growing up!

Children, I must ask that you lead the way. I do not suffice. You have to be a citizen of the world, not just of me. You have to love, and love more, and love even more. You have to think rationally and hopefully and intelligently and honestly. You must get better, so I can follow. You have to be architects and poets and activists and you have to disregard and go around the stupid white people, all the while enlisting the smart ones for help. You have to believe in yourself and care about yourself and be yourself and no one else.

Please.

I can’t fall apart more than I already have. I can’t lose you more than I already have.

And here we walk into the dark chaos ahead of us, fully aware of the danger…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sincerely,

The U.S.A

. . .

A note from ZMKF (who really wrote that letter): One of the best ways I express myself is through music. I am an expert playlist-maker. Here is my Trump coping playlist: Fuckface Von Clownstick. And here is the U.S.A’s “The U.S. Is Sorry/Strong” playlist: The U.S Is Sorry/Strong.

The Futuristic World: There Are Two Options Left For Us, As Far As I Can Tell

Date: February 21th, 2017

The Futuristic World: The world of the future will be a complex one, regardless of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Technology – a big pixelated hand of man created to do what man wants, evolving before our very eyes – and nature – the elements of the universe, or multiverse, the never-blank slate we were born into and have been toying with ever since, the illusion of a God, the methodology of being born to run and made to work – must find a perfect equilibrium for Homo sapiens (and the other species born on Earth, as they are no less important) to survive. We must help that process.    

According to http://ridesharechoices.scripts.mit.edu, “carpooling first became prominent in the United States as a rationing tactic during World War II. It returned in the mid-1970s due to the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis. At that time the first employee vanpools were organized at Chrysler and 3M.” (Exact phrasing of the information presented taken from the Wikipedia page “Carpool.”)

Carpool lanes, as a concept, were accepted world-wide for two reasons.

1. Everybody hates traffic.

2. To cut carbon emissions.

The latter is kind of a big deal, because everyone has carpool lanes in their cities, even in the South of the United States.

Carpool lanes do help cut carbon emissions, not by much, but it’s the little things that count, and we’ve packaged them as something that everybody can enjoy, even those who don’t believe global warming is a real problem! Everybody hates traffic. Emphasis on everybody. The pill in the peanut butter is a tactic my mom uses to feed my dog her medicine. My dog needs the medicine, but she sure as hell doesn’t like it. This is how we fix the world. Think about Republicans, conservatives – people who stereotypically deny the truth. (This isn’t a behavior all Republicans have in common.) Democrats and liberals do it too, except it is more insidious, because they’re supposed to be “correct.” Ask an average Southerner if they’re willing to do anything about global warming, racism, or gun control, and you are sure to get a “Expletive no, you expletive expletive.” People like this are so stuck in their ways that the only way to get them to help – and with the bigger problems, we need everybody working to solve them – is to trick them.

We are in dire need of solutions.

The Doomsday Clock is a scientifically accepted method for predicting when the world will end.

This is the timeline: Doomsday Clock Timeline.

Yep – two minutes (two and a half minutes, actually) left. (It would do you some good to research this “clock” extensively, it’s very educational, and surprisingly hopeful, in the sense that they believe taking action would help at all.) The factors the clock counts include nuclear weaponry, climate change, and bio-security. “Two minutes” left on this clock isn’t literally 120 seconds, but it’s still plenty worrisome, as it was 17 minutes to midnight in only 1995 – this clock doesn’t necessarily rely on time. Instead, it calculates risk. The closer to midnight, the bigger chance of disaster striking at any moment. (See the Doomsday Dashboard for the main information the clock uses for its calculations.) The clock isn’t always accurate, but almost nothing is, and this is one of the most reliable sources in the world, created by top scientists, some of whom worked on the Manhattan project.

This clock shouldn’t paralyze you with fear.

It is the inaction of being paralyzed, by any feeling – fear, sadness, rage, embarrassment – that is the true danger. If these problems deter you emotionally, you should work even harder to solve them, rather than retiring into nonintervention.

We’ve got two main options left, if we want to re-wind the clock:

1. A “City Of Ember” (written by Jeanne DuPrau) thing. Move underground. Destroy the aboveground power plants, dams, and cities, and leave the Earth to the animals, plants, and weather patterns for at least 200 years. Come back out when the time is right, and begin again.

2. A massive change to the way people think. Less procrastination. Less complacency. More thinking, more doing. Kindness and intelligence being priorities. Weird ideas – attaching microbes to fish teeth so fish can eat materials found in trash, maglev trains, apps meant to maximize philosophical thinking – that are so “far out” they just might work.

REWIND THE CLOCK.

Native Americans*: We Screwed Up Big Time And I For One Apologize Sincerely

* And Descendants Of Said People

Date: January 23rd, 2017

The United States has so much potential to do good. We’re growing, slowly, getting better, even slower. I wouldn’t want to bomb this country into oblivion. And I don’t want to “leave the country if you don’t like it!”

But I’m white. And yes, I’m agender and female (gender and sex are different), asexual-panromantic, and a wheelchair user – don’t ask, that’s for another blog post, but the fact is, I have white privilege. “My people” hold the highest positions in nearly everything, and society praises them as superior. Even a homeless man looks more “pleasant” if he’s white, as opposed to black, brown, or frickin purple. “Your people” are scattered throughout the country, viewed as powerless although I know that is not true, made to live like illegal immigrants when really it was us who came in unwanted.

So maybe, I only think things are going well is because of my whiteness. Maybe I’m biased because I’m not treated like crap every day. I’ve got a great life, when I think about it. Great school. Really great family and friends. Great social situation. I’m…great. I’m so great that I’ve used the word great six – no, seven – times in this paragraph. Great. (Eight.)

When you guys first got here, you crossed the Bering Strait – maybe as early as 22,000 years ago – which disappeared after the Ice Age ended, leaving you to adapt to each environment you encountered. (You even learned how to hunt woolly mammoth – a pre-historic elephant-like creature with too much hair, and an attitude.)

You went from north to south, and developed into the American Tribes, as well as the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca. You lived on cliff sides and in canyon bottoms, and you had a multi-story buildings, and underground ceremonial chambers. You had complex governments, empires spanning thousands of miles, and I’m not even surprised about any of this. Of course, you’re just people, no one culture gets everything right, but you were fantastic. Better than we were. The more I read about you guys, the more “Sh*****t, we f*cked up!” is uttered from my mouth. I even made a playlist to express how sorry I am: I’m SO Sorry – from, Whitey. But I know my awareness doesn’t excuse anything.

So what can I do? To make it up to you, or, if it’s unforgivable, to prove that I would to make it up to you if that were possible?

It’s plain and simple that my ancestors were not involved. We came later, from Germany and Greece. But I still feel partly responsible. Is that weird?

Let’s have a thoughtful discussion about this.

This isn’t so I can feel better about myself. This is so I can make the world a better place.

What can I do?

I’m not willing to “fight” hard, but I am willing to write hard. I’m a writer. I wasn’t at the marches last Saturday because I was busy thinking up how to write this effectively. And writing, drawing, painting, works.

Now.

How may I be of service to the great number of communities we utterly destroyed?