[Editor's note: The following is a fictional account of the future in the region around Chautauqua Lake, New York, in the year 2021. This is part 1 & 2 of 3 parts (7,500 word). This series was developed from material originating with the Chautauqua Greens in 1991 in was an attempt to envision the future of our area thirty years forward. It is reproduced here in response to John Michael Greer's fiction challenge in (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2011/09/invasion-of-space-bats.html). This fiction predicted wifi communication with something much like an iPad, but is focused on de-industrialization and home food production.]
By Juan Wilson with Linda Pascatore, Rebecca Albaugh & Mark Fitzsimmons - (http://www.islandbreath.org/TheGobbler/Articles%20Published/01%20S%20Stories/09%20Imagining%20Chautauqua/s_ImagineChautauqua.html)
Image above: The Farm in North Harmony, New York in Chautauqua County where I imagined Sara and Rachel began their adventure. Photo of Linda Pascatore by Juan Wilson.
Rachel turned her head on the pillow and opened her eyes. She remembered she wasn't at home in Jamestown. "Rachel!" There was the voice again. She knew it wasn't part of her dream. In her dream it was a year later and she was already ten years old and lived on Grandma's farm. It was wonderful...
"It's after six, honey, and we need those berries for breakfast. Get up."
It wasn't a dream. the year was 2021 and she was still nine years old. Darn! "OK grandma! I'm getting up." The early June morning air pushed the curtains as Rachel pulled on her tee shirt. Looking out the window she could see the white fiberglass spire of the Baptist church down in Panama just poking its head above the trees. She could tell it was going to be beautiful today as she turned and ran down the stairs of the old farm house.
Grandma Sara handed Rachel the berry basket for their breakfast and headed for the door to the basement steps. Sara had just finished the first gallon of syrup from that spring's mapling. Her friend Norm, who ran the annual Sugar Shack Festival, had been generous and given her back five gallons produced from her own maples along the road, but now it was time to uncork another jug for the morning's raspberry pancakes.
Before she returned to the kitchen she checked the charge on the basement's array of wet cell batteries. With all the sun they'd had, the solar panels had nearly topped them off. As Sara looked through the window over the sink she could see that Rachel was afraid of the bees.
They buzzed among the old hollyhocks that stood near the raspberry bushes outside the kitchen. Sara looked out past the yard to the woods. Right after World War II, when she was born, those woods had been an alfalfa field. Next autumn her son would hunt deer there that would put venison on the table.
Bobby had told her of sighting black bear and even a wolf in those woods. This didn't frighten her...in fact it thrilled her in some way that was hard to explain. Even with a few taste tests Rachel soon had more than a cupful of beautiful berries. By the time she got inside her back was warm from the sun and the shady kitchen was filled with the aroma of coffee.
Grandma poured the berries into the batter and started the pancakes.
"Rachel, this morning there's a Panama class coming up with Mr. Edwards to see our goats. I'll need you to help me tend them. You won't be able to play with Bobby or the Wilson girls while they're here with their teacher. "Okay, Grandma."
"When does your lesson from Jamestown begin?"
"I've got to link up with my class on-line at 10:00, Grandma"
"You can use my computer to log into school after the chores. We still have the trip to Jamestown this afternoon, so it's going to be a busy day."
After breakfast Sara cleared the dishes and the two of them headed out to the barnyard. Toby barked and Rachel ran to greet him. She tussled Toby's ears and then turned to the pen full of goats. It had taken her grandparents all of her life to build the goat barn and build up the herd.
Then Grandpa had died. Now her dad was helping grandma finish the work. When it was done Dad said they could all live on the farm and the goats would support them. Rachel couldn't wait. She loved the dog and cat and goats, but she especially loved the baby goats... the kids. They were so smart and frisky.
"Grandma, when can I move here? Mom said we weren't ready yet. But I think we should move now"
Sara turned and looked up at the roof of the old farm house. When she was Rachel's age there had been a TV antenna. She had never gotten used to seeing the funny old TV antenna up there.
Long ago it had been replaced with a small satellite dish that was already streaking the house with a brown line of rust. Now a few photo-voltaic solar panels waited to be joined by others... as soon as they they had the money. Over the years the old house had been draped with wires from the power company, the phone company, and the cable company. Thank God they were all gone. They sure had spoiled the view of the valley.
"Sorry honey. It'll be soon. Soon as your dad can afford it. We need at least three times more PV panels, to run that new Ash milker and a larger cooler. Then we'll be free and clear." "But I don't want to wait, Grandma. I want to live here now!"
Rachel frowned a moment. Sara handed her the garden hose with the brass pistol grip nozzle. It was time to tend to the goats and Rachel would enjoy that. The hose was gravity fed from a wooden water tank on a tower that also housed the windmill that did the pumping. A mist of water sparkled in the sun forming a rainbow when Rachel squeezed the trigger. She smiled. The two Angora goats standing near the fence were startled.
The cream colored herd of the larger Sannen goats were not fazed as Rachel began changing their water and washing down the pen. Sara herded the goats into the barn for the first of their two milkings. While Rachel was changing the water she heard the Panama school children arriving. They had walked up from the Community Center.
"Grandma, they're here!"
When Grandma had been a little girl the Community Center was only a school. Rachel couldn't understand why they would have ever needed the biggest building in Harmony just for a school.
Grandma stood in the door of the barn and wiped her hands on her apron, as the class came around toward the barn. It was hard for Rachel not to run up to her friends, but she remembered Grandma's words. Mr. Edwards led the class. He was a childhood friend of Dad's. Grandma joined them, pointing to the barn, and to where Rachel stood in the pen. She and Mr. Edwards were explaining the dairy goat operation to the class of about twenty children. They ranged in age from eight to sixteen. These were the children who lived within walking distance to the farm. Rachel waved privately to Susan Wilson, who giggled and waved back. Sara caught Rachel's eye and motioned to her.
They all headed toward the barn. Sara turned to the class and cleared her throat for attention.
"Rachel will show us how we can milk six goats at a time using power from our solar panels."
She asked Rachel to explain the milking while she unplugged the charger and got up on seat of the John Deere flatbed electric cart. The cart had a bench seat in front with a roll bar over it. In back it had an eight foot long bed with side panels inserted into stake pockets on both sides. Sara had already strapped a milk can against the forward bulkhead.
Rachel was a little nervous about talking in front of everyone, but she knew the milking well and the routine was easy to explain. Sara then backed the cart up to the refrigerated stainless steel tank containing the raw goat milk. Rachel climbed up to the bed of the cart and she and Grandma showed the class how they transferred the raw milk to the cart before they took it to the dairy co-op down in Panama. The plan was that the students would help with the milking and feeding of the goats. After feeding oats to twenty five goats and playing with the newborn kids, the children were feeling hot.
Sara was in the kitchen preparing cold milk and goat fudge for everyone when Rachel came in.
"Grandma, it's almost time for my class."
She looked up at the key wound clock above the sideboard. The hands over the old Roman numerals pointed to 9:30.
"You've got enough time for a snack with the children before they leave."
Rachel shared chocolate fudge with the Panama kids under the shade of the big walnut in the front yard. Susy and her sister invited her to stay over the next time she came out from Jamestown. When it was all done Mr. Edwards called them together, counted noses and headed everyone out to the road for the walk back to Panama. Sara came out of the house with the palmtop computer and handed it to Rachel.
"Be careful with this if you're headed for the tree house."
"How did you know, Grandma?"
In a minute Rachel was high in the limbs of the walnut tree, sitting cross-legged on the platform her Dad had built. She carefully placed the 6"x9" palmtop in front of her. It was quite a machine. Black magnesium case built for outdoors and tough use. Rachel unlocked the case and flipped open the top. It began its startup routine with a little trill and the color LCD display came to life. She twisted it a little this way and that to catch the light just right. She pointed to a small icon of a phone on a desktop. The image of a small address book appeared on the screen with alphabetical tabs. Using her finger she pointed to the "J". The address book opened on the listing for "J" and she pointed to the entry "Jamestown Public Schools".
The computer's female dialog voice said; "Shall I dial 'Jamestown Public Schools' now?" Rachel directed her voice to the small microphone/camera slot above the screen, and spoke with clarity,
Sara could hear the string of tones as the cellular phone in the palmtop linked her to school. Once the connection was made the Jamestown Public Schools access requester window opened with a crimson
"GO RED RAIDERS!" and a voice-over of the school cheer.
At the bottom of the screen were some check boxes. Rachel pointed to "STUDENT" and "3RD GRADE" and finally typed in her password "TOBY". Soon the face of her teacher, Ms. Rodriguez, filled the screen. "Welcome to class, Rachel."
She picked up the palmtop and leaned back against the broad trunk. She looked out through the limbs of the old walnut, then back at the small bright screen. She smiled,
"Good morning, Ms. Rodriguez."
"Today I'd like to see your Chautauqua Lake Watershed assignments, and review your progress. Its due next Friday."
The lower half of her screen filled with an image that looked like a page from an old yearbook. Small color video portraits of her classmates were arrayed with their names. She could see a small portrait of herself with the texture of the walnut trunk behind her head.
Next to many of her classmate's images were project icons indicating they had already transmitted their Chautauqua Regional maps. She knew if she double-clicked one of them she could review that project in detail. Rachel pointed to an icon on her screen that was her own project folder and dragged it with her fingertip to the picture of the phone and let it go. The computer's female dialog voice said;
"Shall I transmit this to 'Jamestown Public Schools' now?"
This time Rachel merely nodded her head up and down. The motion sensor in the palmtop detected this vertical displacement and began sending her assignment to school. Sara was back in the kitchen. She stood before the open refrigerator-freezer. Like all her appliances, it ran on natural gas from the well out behind the woods. She unloaded the ricotta cheese and yogurt made the day before. She packed a wicker hamper for her trip to the market in Lakewood.
Her plan was to trade the goat milk products for Chautauqua Greenbacks that she could spend anywhere in the county. She took the loaded hamper out to the cart in the barn. The John-Deere had been expensive. Next fall they would get the foul weather canvas cab enclosure option. Her son Bob had insisted that the cart be one of their first investments after getting the solar panel and storage array. He had been right. Without it she could not easily get her raw milk processed in Panama or reach Stedman or Sherman.
Its range and performance was limited but certainly adequate for her needs. Heck, hardly anyone could afford a private automobile anymore. The last war in the Middle East had fixed that. When gasoline reached $10 a gallon a lot of folks quit driving. Now most people could hardly remember a time when there were as many cars as people.
Sara again checked the charge. She turned the key and stepped on the pedal. The John-Deere was silent and as easy to drive as a golf cart. She pulled out of the barn and touched the horn. By the time she reached the side of the house Rachel was running to meet her. Rachel was smiling as she hopped up on the bench seat. She slipped the palmtop into Grandma's handbag that rested between them and strapped herself in.
The trip down to Panama was always fun. The wind blew their hair as they passed Anderson's farm. He was working a small field with two draft horses. Mr. Anderson grew the oats that fed Grandma's goats. Rachel waved and Sara tooted the horn. When they passed the field the trees on either side closed over them, forming a tunnel. There had been almost a century of growth since the Great Depression, and what had once been marginal farmland had become a mature hardwood forest.
The Allegany Regional Authority had implemented a sustainable logging plan that seemed to be working. The furniture built from the area's maple and oak were prized everywhere. And forests certainly were more attractive now than when regulated by the old federal and state systems. In a few minutes they had passed the Community Center and Baptist Church and were coasting into downtown Panama. They rolled over the trolley tracks running down the center of Main Street.
At the center of town, North and South Street met Main Street. Things were busy there, as usual. Electric and horse drawn vehicles filled both sides of Main Street. There never seemed to be a spot available in front of Weise Hardware. At least as much had changed as had stayed the same. Sara still wasn't used to seeing the terraced three story office building where old Crouch's Garage and the Post Office had stood.
That, along with the tracks leading up to the trolley terminal at Panama Rocks, was the biggest change you could see, but there was much below the surface that had changed. What had been Scheller Brother's most of her life was now the Panama Trolley Station. And what had been the Whitney-Wood Ford agency when she was a girl had become Julia's Restaurant and Video Parlor when she was grown.
Now that she was older, it was Harmony Markets, the biggest green grocer in western Chautauqua County. It still surprised a few old timers that it was a black owned family business but it didn't keep them from shopping there. Sara and Rachel's first stop was the Dairy Co-Op on South Street next to the new Panama Grange building. Sara stopped and backed the flatbed up to the Co-Op loading dock.
Jeremy Eddy was on the dock. He used a hand signal to guide her right up to the dock's bumper.
"Howdy Sara. Who do you have with you, young Rachel? Hang on and I'll get you unloaded."
"Thanks, Jeremy. We're going into town today. Do you mind if I park over on the side for the afternoon?"
Sara and Rachel climbed off the cart. Rachel had a little money,
"Grandma, can I go over to the General Store?"
"Sure honey. Be careful. I'll pick you up there when I'm done here."
Rachel took off running. She turned the corner by grabbing the gaslight pole and swinging around it. Rachel loved the stores along the boardwalk under the covered sidewalk in Panama. The store windows all had colorful posters announcing upcoming summer events. The 30th Annual Blue Heron Music Festival was the headliner.
The neighboring town of Sherman had become home of more than a half dozen festival sites. In fact, festivals and craft fairs were now one of Sherman's biggest businesses. Panama would have its share of Chicken BBQ's and special events too. The Panama Rocks Festival was one of the largest, but Rachel was looking forward to the Big Apple Circus that was touring the Southern Tier and was coming to Panama in a month. The General Store was next to the Trolley Station. In the window was a circular green sticker that read
"We Accept Greenbacks."
It was a co-operative store and was an outlet for locally made dry goods. It had everything from ceramics to hard candy. They sold fabric, quilts, sweaters and other items that Grandma bought; but Rachel liked the section that had rag dolls, doll houses and doll house accessories. Those accessories were in a glass case on the second floor near a window. Rachel bent over the case. She loved the food the best. There were little pumpkin and apple pies filling painted metal bottle caps.
There was a turkey dinner so realistic and cleverly made she couldn't tell how it was done. She didn't have much money and was trying to make up her mind between getting the two pies or a chocolate cake covered in white icing with a slice cut from it, when Grandma startled her.
"It's almost time for the trolley, Rachel. Are you all done?"
"Yes, I'm going to buy these two pies for my tea set."
On their way out of the store Grandma picked up the heavy wicker hamper and between them she and Rachel carried it to the Trolley Station next to the Little Brokenstraw Creek.
Rachel ran over to the end of the bridge and looked down into the water. She was just in time to see two large painted turtles before they disappeared into a pool in the shade under the bridge. She was thinking about climbing down to the edge of the water when she heard the clicking of the tracks as the trolley came down the hill from the terminal up at Panama Rocks. She ran back to the Station to tell Grandma, who had been sitting on a bench in the shade, but Grandma was already getting up.
"When we get to Lakewood I want you to stay with me. We'll only be there about twenty minutes, and I want to catch the trolley going to town from Mayville. We'll just go to the market and get back to the station in time. If we miss it we'll have to wait an hour for the next train from Panama."
"But Grandma, I don't want to stop in Lakewood. It's too scary."
Now Rachel could hear the trolley speeding down the hill from Panama Rocks. Its brakes squealed as it approached Main Street. Just then Rachel saw its nose appear as it made the turn towards her and the station next to the Little Brokenstraw Creek. The Geographic Positioning System antenna and solar array that covered the trolley's roof glistened in the sunlight. On the station bench next to Rachel's grandma was an elderly man with a knapsack.
In a moment the trolley had come to a stop in front of the station. Its windows were open and in the cab were a few tourists from the Rock's Hotel, probably on a day trip to Chautauqua Lake or the Institute. As they did over a century ago, many tourists now loved the ride around the lake by trolley just to see the sights. Coordination of steamboat and trolley schedules were becoming common again as well. Grandma reached for her heavy wicker hamper loaded with yogurt and other goat milk products they were taking to market in Lakewood. Rachel joined her to take a handle but her elderly friend was already there to help. Sara leaned to her,
"You remember Mr. Whitney, don't you Rachel?"
Rachel nodded a greeting but didn't really remember. She was eager to get on the trolley. The three of them climbed the steps up to into the cab. The engineer winked at Rachel and then spoke into a small wireless mike headset.
"Next stop Goose Creek Village, then Blockville, Ashville and the Lake Line. Connections there to Chautauqua Institute and Mayville. This train will continue on to Lakewood, Celeron and Jamestown."
The engineer pushed forward on the controls, engaging the batteries that made up the bulk of the weight of the car. Smoothly they began their journey. As grandma took care of the fares, Rachel ran and got the bench seat at the back of the car.
The three large back windows were raised and Rachel got up on the cushioned bench seat on her knees and gripped the seat back with both hands. By the time Grandma and Mr. Whitney joined her the trolley had reached the Panama Union Cemetery and was starting the climb up the long hill out of town. Sara looked back at the town as it receded. The green bluff of Panama Rocks was lit in the sunshine. A turkey buzzard rode a thermal high over the ridge and then turned south towards Muzzy Hill.
The Panama Spur took twenty minutes to reach the main Lake Line. In a few minutes the trolley crested the hill at Eddy Road and began the long descent down and up and around to Randolph Road. It was the most exciting part of the trip, almost like a roller coaster. Rachel felt her heart rise in her chest as they bottomed out at the bottom of the first hill. On the way up the hill to Randolph Road they passed an Amish carriage and a couple wearing helmets and bright spandex on high performance bicycles. Rachel let go of the seat-back with her right hand and waved to them.
Mr. Whitney had been speaking with Grandma and Rachel noticed for the first time. She remembered now that he was a dairy farmer who was a member of the Co-Op and Grange in Panama. Grandma was saying,
"You'll be fine Ted. And you know the Grange will be there for you if you need it."
But he sounded worried.
"Sara, you've got the right idea. Keep it small and specialized. It's the only way dairies around here will survive. The regional authorities are putting plenty of pressure on the larger farms to convert to grain or bean for human consumption or get out of the way for those who will. It's not that easy, especially when you're losing money... Well, it's for my boys to decide now. I'm just glad Nancy and I got the land trust in place and can keep the farmhouse and out-buildings."
For a few minutes they passed a large field to the north planted with soybean and then another field with alternating rows of corn, squash and beans, in the classic Iroquois Three Sisters mix. Soon the trolley was slowing the stop at Swede Road...named Goose Creek Village.
Rachel looked South and could see the entrance to the new co-housing development that had been completed last autumn. She could see just a few roofs between the trees. While it was still under construction, she and her Dad had ridden bikes to the site. He had said it never would have been built if it weren't for the trolley service. She remembered how all the houses were connected through a long zig-zaggy basement.
They all shared a heated pool and gym her dad said would be covered by an inflated dome. Sara turned to look, too. A few young adults and a mother with two children stood in the shade of a partially enclosed trolley stop designed in rustic Adirondack style. The train engineer spoke into his tiny microphone,
"Goose Creek Village... Next stop Blockville... Ashville and the Lake Line..."
The trolley came to a stop at Goose Creek Village.
About forty families lived there now with more coming. Some worked down in the new office building in Panama, and a few commuted into Jamestown but most worked at home. Half of the first floor spaces were taken up by specialized shops and services. Sara's doctor had moved there from Jamestown. Goose Creek Village met the new regional planning criteria for clustered housing.
Over 75% of its 200 acre property was designated undevelopable woods, another 20% was earmarked for gardens or recreational use, while only 5%, or 10 acres, could be hard surfaced (roof or road). The taxable property was calculated on the 25% of the site that was occupied. It was a formula that was drawing people from what had been suburbs, without the sprawl associated with single family dwellings and universal automobile dependence. Soon the smooth acceleration of the trolley began again. A dog from the village tried to keep up with them, and Rachel laughed and called to him, but soon he was out of sight. Before they pulled into Blockville the trolley came upon a new chrome yellow Chrysler Photon that was going out toward Panama.
The Photon was a solar powered two-seater that was getting popular even in the Northeast. It must have been cruising at about 45 kph because Rachel gasped when it passed her window and disappeared within a few seconds. They passed Mill and Water Streets and the trolley's brakes squealed as they came into the four corners of Blockville. It was busy. There were at least three Amish style buggies at the blacksmith's and Stull's Grocery Store had no free parking spaces around it. Sara spoke to Ted again.
"When was the last time Blockville had a grocery store? 1955?"
"Well, Nagel's garage was there on the northwest corner as late as the 1960's. I think Bruce and Cecil Bush had the grocery across the street sometime into the fifties."
The stop in Blockville lasted only a minute, but it added several more passengers on their way towards the lake. Soon they were passing the new lumber yard just to the east of Blockville.
Others said it was because of the lumber mill, but Sara thought the growth and popularity of the Harmony Historical Society had put Blockville back on the map. Certainly their historical reenactments and restored farm and shops had contributed to the new sense of community. Rachel got up and went to the window looking south. Once past the tree nursery, as they approached Ashville, she would get a long view of the dam pond and the ducks and geese that populated its banks.
Whenever Rachel was in Ashville she would try and get over to the pond to feed them. It was a beautiful spot. Sara leaned to her a said softly,
"Sorry honey, not this time"
The trolley banked as they rounded the big curve by the cemetery. Sara leaned against the force of the curve and saw the tall stone obelisk memorial to "Hetfield" slide by. It had been a familiar marker all her life. Rachel gripped the window sill. It meant Ashville was coming up. They passed the dam with its small hydro-electric generator rolling past the center of town and over the bridge crossing Goose Creek.
The trolley stopped at the old renovated station across the street from Ashville General Store. Next to the station was the Trolley Simulator. It was a big building. Inside was a detailed working scale model of the entire Chautauqua Lake region trolley system. The model worked in real time and mimicked the movement of real trains. The model was kept up to date reflecting new buildings and actual stands of trees. Geo-positioning technology on each trolley forwarded its location and speed by satellite to the regional dispatcher and that information was shared with the Simulator. It was always fascinating to Rachel to think that a model train one inch long was pulling into a miniature station just as their real trolley arrived. Every school age child within a day's travel had spent a day in Ashville exploring the Trolley Simulator.
There were now plans with the Army Corps of Engineers for the Simulator to expand its functions to include certain Chautauqua Lake watershed activities. Already an office of the Allegheny Regional GIS Coordinator was housed within the building running detailed computer environmental simulations of the Chautauqua area. As passengers entered and left the train the engineer spoke into his mike headset.
"This stop Ashville. the next stop is Cottage Park with our connection to the Lake Line. Passengers going to Chautauqua Institute and Mayville should transfer there. This train will become an express and continue on to Lakewood, Celeron and Jamestown."
Trolley started again and pulled out of Ashville. After a curve it started down the long straightaway towards the lake. As they approached the lake, Rachel moved forward in the car. Even though the train was now full there was a spot behind the engineer where she could stand and see over his shoulder. They were passing through a flat wetland, managed by the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy.
There were no houses on either side of the roadway for almost a mile here and the area had become famous for its aquatic bird population. Rachel had walked on the raised boardwalks that wound through the marshes and seen egret and heron fishing in the clear shallow water before it reached the lake. As they neared the lake a vista opened up to reveal a broad view of Sherman's Bay.
The Strip had never reached this far up the old Fairmount Avenue, and consequently the view was unhindered. When the economic collapse hit the Strip much of the commercial property that was unrelated to recreation and water activities had been torn down as an improvement to lakeside amenities. On the left was Sherman's Bay Marina.
Beyond a row of new lakeside townhouses, known as Cottage Park, stretched towards Maple Point. As they got nearer Rachel could see dozens of colorful sails shining on the westerly breeze. They were not the sails of boats like her grandmother and Mr. Whitney had seen as children. These were KeelKites. Developed originally in the Finger Lake Region of what had been New York State, KeelKites had become the rage everywhere in just a few years. Already second and third generation designs were finding their way to the growing market.
A KeelKite consisted of a submersible keel about eight feet long that was attached to a kite-like sail by stainless steel cables. When in motion, the pilot hung below the sail in a harness, about twenty feet above the water. The keel ran about two feet under the water like a submarine. It had fins and a rudder that could be controlled by the pilot in the harness.
The keel provided the resistance to keep the sail from blowing away, while the sail captured the energy to pull the keel through the water. In effect the KeelKite was a sailboat without the boat. Due to low water resistance, KeelKites could sail significantly faster that comparably sized high performance catamarans.
The KeelKite depended on a small waterproof computer to assist the pilot in balancing the inherently unstable dynamics between wind and water. As in water skiing and hang gliding a successful launch was critical. The KeelKite needed a running start and the pilot needed to be in the air at launch. KeelKites could start off by being towed from a power boat, if one was available.
The Sherman's Bay Marina had two launch towers, thirty feet high, on a pier about a hundred and fifty feet from shore that used a spring to launch the keels like torpedoes. Apparently a regatta race was starting out from the Marina. More than a dozen pilots tacked back and forth getting into a starting formation for a race up the lake to Bemus. As she watched a bright pink sail blossomed with air as a pilot was launched from one of the towers, then the trolley man startled her,
"Cottage Park and Sherman's Bay. Connections with the Lake Line..."
Rachel turned and ran back to the rear of the car. Several passengers were already preparing to disembark. The trolley passed through a switch and swayed and rattled as it joined the easterly track of the main line. Just past Big Tree Road the train turned to parallel the embankment of the old Conrail right of way. They climbed to the top of the embankment and Rachel could see the houses near the lake above Summit Avenue.
In a minute they coasted into the Lakewood Station near Chautauqua Avenue. Rachel grabbed a pole as the train slowed to a stop. She swung around it and seated herself next to Grandma.
There were two stops in Lakewood. The first was Lakewood Center. It was the second stop, near Burtis Bay, that had given Rachel the spooks. People mostly called the place Striptown. "Don't worry honey, this is the just the Center." She looked into Rachel's worried eyes and added,
"Rachel, I can get a good price for our yogurt there. We should only be in Striptown about half an hour."
Mr. Whitney was going to get off at Striptown too. In his knapsack he carried two family heirlooms that were of cash value... accurate spring wound watches. Every week there was a open air flea market in a park near the lake on Fairdale Avenue.
Cash, alternative currencies and barter were exchanged for goods and services. At another time and place it would have been called a Black Market.
"Well Sara, I need the cash. At least my boys do. Once we can get past this year, things will be different"
Grandma turned to him and said only...
"It's too bad, Ted."
Soon they were moving again. As the landscape flattened out the train embankment rose. In a few blocks they were high enough to pass over the bridge that straddled Shadyside Road. The embankment had few other streets penetrating it and therefore sharply segregated the lake homes to the north from the remains of what had been the Strip along the old Fairmount Avenue. Rachel began to get nervous.
Looking south the light glared off the flat roof of industrial style buildings. What had originally been a marshy area had once been completely developed. Now it was in ruins. They passed close to the back of the old Quality Market. The back wall and much of the roof had collapsed in a forgotten snowstorm after the store failed. Rachel couldn't help but look into its looted bowels and shudder.
The Red Lobster next door had been built on top of a creek. When it burned to the ground the watershed authorities decided no one could rebuild on so sensitive a site. Now no one had the money to clean up these commercial carcasses. Marsh weeds grew through the old blacktop in their parking lots. Once past the Quality the passengers on the train had a wide view south to ruins of the Chautauqua Mall. There was no traffic. Most people tried to avoid the area. The only "patrons" appeared to be a few gulls sitting on the few rusted sodium lamps that were still upright.
Some years earlier there had been an effort to clear and pile up some of the useless acres of asphalt to return the site to its original state of wetland, but money had run out. Over the years the blacktop had been broken up by spring thaws and blistering summer heat.
From the trolley you could even see clumps of grasses and a few saplings growing on the mall roof. All that was visible of the hard surface of the parking lot was a lumpy green and brown field dotted with Indian Paintbrush, White Clover and other opportunistic wildflowers. In places small birch trees had grown through openings in the pavement. A few abandoned cars punctuated the scene and as Rachel watched, a pack of wild dogs ran from behind a burned out van. The leader held something in his mouth that the others raced to grab. Ted spoke,
"When I was young I took a train into New York City from Connecticut. We passed through the South Bronx. It was worse than this then. Bigger, scarier. I couldn't understand what I saw at the time. Now I know its just that people gave up on one way of doing things and began another."
Sara was aware of Rachel holding her arm tightly.
"But so much has gone to waste. When we can afford to, we are going to have to clean this up."
Rachel had turned to look away from the ruins of Fairmount Avenue. She still held Grandma's hand and she looked to the north as they approached the Striptown station at Fairdale Avenue. The trainman spoke again, "The next stop will be Fairdale Avenue...Striptown..." The train slowed again. Below them, to the north, Rachel could see the building that once housed the Chautauqua Lake Association.
Nearby was the ancient and still active Lakewood Rod and Gun Club. Burtis Bay no longer existed. What had been open water had become a meadow six feet deep in burr reed, cattails and other marshland grasses. In school she had learned that the decades of runoff from the commercial development around the lake had caused the silting in of its south eastern part near the outlet into the Chadakoin River.
The hundreds of new acres of marshland was a blessing for the flora and fauna of the lake. It acted as a buffer and filter for the toxic material that seeped from the abandoned commercial strip up on Fairmount Avenue. Many lakeside homes, marinas and recreational facilities between Lakewood and Celeron were now as far as a mile from open water. Needless to say, they had lost their value. In fact, they had become a slum and were for the most part abandoned.
The Chautauqua Watershed Authority was concentrating on plight of these properties first, before turning its attention to the strip area south of the tracks. Rachel could see the tents, booths and other temporary structures of the flea market as they slowed to a stop at Fairdale Avenue. This was the commercial hub of Striptown. Those with suburban homes up above the mall now came down to this area along the north of the tracks to shop for everything from fresh vegetables to illegal kerosene.
As they got off the train Grandma and Rachel stayed close together. Mr. Whitney had his knapsack on his shoulder and was again helping with the wicker basket. They worked their way slowly down the steps from the station that led toward the market.
There a variety of traffic on the road. An old diesel truck smoked as it waited for an oxcart carrying a heavy piece of farm equipment. Grandma led Rachel to a nearby area where horse drawn carts displayed local peas, lettuce, and leeks. Sara had an arrangement with a friend who operated a stall here to sell her goat milk products.
A teenage boy behind the counter explained that Sara's friend was away and would return shortly. Mr. Whitney put the wicker basket on the counter and said good-bye. Rachel watched him move off through the crowd to sell his watches. Grandma was busy unpacking her basket and Rachel turned to entertain herself with the market scene.
The ground was muddy, even though the sun was shining. She noticed a young chocolate Labrador sniffing around the food booths for anything interesting. It was just past being a puppy and seemed very friendly.
Rachel smiled and suddenly didn't feel so nervous about the place. She bent to stroke the Lab's head and then scratch behind his ears. Before she did, one of the vendors shouted at the dog and threw a stone at it. The young dog yelped and bolted from the curb. Under other circumstances the sound of a passing gas relic with no muffler would have alerted the dog. But the Labrador noticed too late. The dog was knocked to the muddy road by the front tire.
The next tire rolled over its rear leg. Rachel was only feet away and heard the bone snap and the dog scream. She had never heard anything like that in her life. The car didn't stop, it accelerated. Rachel's eyes flooded and she went to comfort the dog. Already the crowd was so thick around the accident that she couldn't see Grandma. The dog couldn't get up for a moment. As Rachel reached out she saw the panic in the Lab's eyes. It was up in a second and hopping south to the Fairdale Avenue underpass beneath the tracks. Rachel had to help. She followed, her heart pounding as she went through the underpass.
The dog was up on Fairmount Avenue and hobbling badly. Rachel followed further. She was sure she could catch up to the dog in a minute and get him some help. The young dog looked back at her and hurried on. She wasn't thinking of her own safety, even though the sight of the Strip frightened her. She was getting tired. Up ahead on the left was a place that looked open. Maybe she could get help there. It was an old building, from before the time of the Strip. It had a big painted sign that was peeling and faded, "Johnny's Lunch: Our 9th Decade of Service: Three Texas Hots Only $1.29". The dog spotted the teenagers before Rachel did.
There were five of them and they looked mean. The Lab crossed the road to avoid them. Rachel looked across the road at the wreckage of a Burger King and McDonalds that moldered in the glare of the afternoon sun. She crossed the five empty lanes of the big strip after the pup. She wasn't quite sure now if she were following the Lab, or was being followed herself by the teenagers. Rachel saw the wounded dog continue south up the hill between the wrecked burger outlets. She followed the dog up the access road that climbed to the big Wegman's shopping plaza. A faded sign read "Bio-Hazard Containment Area: Keep Out! Alleghaney Regional Authority".
The closed plaza loomed over the devastated strip below. There had once been 50 acres of parking here that funneled cars down to this ramp onto Fairmount Avenue. Rachel heard the sound of a bottle breaking on the pavement behind her, but she was too frightened to look back. Next to the access road was a depressed area the size of a large playing field. It was the catch basin for the site. For decades the oil, gas, antifreeze, transmission oil, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid and road salt worked their way to this basin to be mixed with the drippings of dumpsters and blowing litter. There were even several rusted out cars down there in the soup.
The dog passed through an opening in the old chain link fence and it headed down into the catch basin. The Lab lost its footing and yelped as it slid down the steep incline. It rolled the last yard or two before it splashed into an old truck tire locked in the muck. The dog cried and struggled in the slop.
Besides shopping carts and tires, there were unrecognizable shapes in the muck. Rachel thought she heard someone up on the access road behind her now, but she was already on her way down to reach the young Lab. She must get the dog out of here and to help. She got down to the bottom of the incline without falling and for the first time began to sense how much danger she was in.
The dog was looking past Rachel fearfully up the slope. She chilled inside as she realized that she and the pup were standing in the shadow of something coming down into the pit after them. Her heart was clenched as she turned to face whatever it was.
"Rachel, hold on! Let me get you two out of there!"
She could see the profile against the sun now. It was Mr. Whitney moving sideways down the slope.
By the time he reached her, she knew she was safe and that the puppy would get help.
For Part III see (http://www.islandbreath.org/TheGobbler/Articles%20Published/01%20S%20Stories/09%20Imagining%20Chautauqua/s_ImagineChautauqua3.html). .
Any time a major bank releases a report saying a given course of action is too costly, too prohibitive, too blonde, or simply too impossible, it is nearly guaranteed that that is precisely the course of action about to be undertaken. Which is why all non-euro skeptics are advised to shield their eyes and look away from the just released report by UBS (of surging 3 Month USD Libor rate fame) titled "Euro Break Up - The Consequences." UBS conveniently sets up the straw man as follows: "Under the current structure and with the current membership, the Euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change."
So far so good. Yet where it gets scary is when UBS quantifies the actual opportunity cost to one or more countries leaving the Euro. Notably Germany. "Were a stronger country such as Germany to leave the Euro, the consequences would include corporate default, recapitalisation of the banking system and collapse of international trade. If Germany were to leave, we believe the cost to be around EUR6,000 to EUR8,000 for every German adult and child in the first year, and a range of EUR3,500 to EUR4,500 per person per year thereafter. That is the equivalent of 20% to 25% of GDP in the first year. "
It also would mean the end of UBS, but we digress. Where it gets even more scary is when UBS, like many other banks to come, succumbs to the Mutual Assured Destruction trope made so popular by ole' Hank Paulson : "The economic cost is, in many ways, the least of the concerns investors should have about a break-up. Fragmentation of the Euro would incur political costs. Europe’s “soft power” influence internationally would cease (as the concept of “Europe” as an integrated polity becomes meaningless).
It is also worth observing that almost no modern fiat currency monetary unions have broken up without some form of authoritarian or military government, or civil war." So you see: save the euro for the children, so we can avoid all out war (and UBS can continue to exist). The scariest thing, however, by far, is that for this report to have been issued, it means that Germany is now actively considering dumping the euro.
Fiscal confederation, not break-up
Our base case with an overwhelming probability is that the Euro moves slowly (and painfully) towards some kind of fiscal integration. The risk case, of break-up, is considerably more costly and close to zero probability. Countries can not be expelled, but sovereign states could choose to secede. However, popular discussion of the break-up option considerably underestimates the consequences of such a move.
The economic cost (part 1)
The cost of a weak country leaving the Euro is significant. Consequences include sovereign default, corporate default, collapse of the banking system and collapse of international trade. There is little prospect of devaluation offering much assistance. We estimate that a weak Euro country leaving the Euro would incur a cost of around EUR9,500 to EUR11,500 per person in the exiting country during the first year. That cost would then probably amount to EUR3,000 to EUR4,000 per person per year over subsequent years. That equates to a range of 40% to 50% of GDP in the first year.
The economic cost (part 2)
Were a stronger country such as Germany to leave the Euro, the consequences would include corporate default, recapitalisation of the banking system and collapse of international trade. If Germany were to leave, we believe the cost to be around EUR6,000 to EUR8,000 for every German adult and child in the first year, and a range of EUR3,500 to EUR4,500 per person per year thereafter. That is the equivalent of 20% to 25% of GDP in the first year. In comparison, the cost of bailing out Greece, Ireland and Portugal entirely in the wake of the default of those countries would be a little over EUR1,000 per person, in a single hit.
The political cost
The economic cost is, in many ways, the least of the concerns investors should have about a break-up. Fragmentation of the Euro would incur political costs. Europe’s “soft power” influence internationally would cease (as the concept of “Europe” as an integrated polity becomes meaningless). It is also worth observing that almost no modern fiat currency monetary unions have broken up without some form of authoritarian or military government, or civil war.
A little more on that particularly troubling last point:
Do monetary unions break up without civil wars?
The break-up of a monetary union is a very rare event. Moreover the break-up of a monetary union with a fiat currency system (ie, paper currency) is extremely unusual. Fixed exchange rate schemes break up all the time. Monetary unions that relied on specie payments did fragment – the Latin Monetary Union of the 19th century fragmented several times – but should be thought of as more of a fixed exchange rate adjustment. Countries went on and off the gold or silver or bimetal standards, and in doing so made or broke ties with other countries’ currencies.
If we consider fiat currency monetary union fragmentation, it is fair to say that the economic circumstances that create a climate for a break-up and the economic consequences that follow from a break-up are very severe indeed. It takes enormous stress for a government to get to the point where it considers abandoning the lex monetae of a country. The disruption that would follow such a move is also going to be extreme. The costs are high – whether it is a strong or a weak country leaving – in purely monetary terms. When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences.
With this degree of social dislocation, the historical parallels are unappealing. Past instances of monetary union break-ups have tended to produce one of two results. Either there was a more authoritarian government response to contain or repress the social disorder (a scenario that tended to require a change from democratic to authoritarian or military government), or alternatively, the social disorder worked with existing fault lines in society to divide the country, spilling over into civil war. These are not inevitable conclusions, but indicate that monetary union break-up is not something that can be treated as a casual issue of exchange rate policy.
Even with a paucity of case studies, what evidence we have does lend credence to the political cost argument. Clearly, not all parts of a fracturing monetary union necessarily collapse into chaos. The point is not that everyone suffers, but that some part of the former monetary union is highly likely to suffer.
The fracturing of the Czech and Slovak monetary union in 1993 led to an immediate sealing of the border, capital controls and limits on bank withdrawals. This was not so much secession as destruction and substitution (the Czechoslovak currency ceased to exist entirely). Although the Czech Republic that emerged from the crisis was considered to be a free country (using the Freedom House definition), with political rights improving relative to Czechoslovakia (also considered to be a free country), Slovakia saw a deterioration in the assessment of its political rights and civil liberties, and was designated “partially free” (again, using Freedom House criteria).
Similarly the break-up of the Soviet Union saw authoritarian regimes in the resulting states. Of course, this was not a change from the previous status quo, but that is not the point. The question is not how a liberal democracy develops, but whether a liberal democracy could withstand the social turmoil that surrounds a monetary union fracturing. We lack evidence to support the idea that it could.
Even the US monetary union break-up in 1932-33 was accompanied by something close to authoritarianism. Roosevelt’s inauguration was described by a contemporary journalist as being conducted in “a beleaguered capital in wartime”, with machine guns covering the Mall. State militia were called out to deal with the reactions of local populations, unhappy at what had happened to the monetary union (and specifically their access to their banks).
Older examples are less helpful, as they tend to be more akin to fixed exchange rate regimes under a gold standard or some other international monetary arrangement. Nevertheless, the Irish separation from the UK, or the convulsions of the Latin Monetary Union in Europe (particularly around the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and its aftermath) saw monetary unions fragment with varying degrees of violence in some parts of the union.
Writing in 1997, the Harvard economist Martin Feldstein offered a view that seems to be somewhat chillingly precognitive. He said “Uniform monetary policy and inflexible exchange rates will create conflicts whenever cyclical conditions differ among the member countries... Although a sovereign country... could in principle withdraw from the EMU, the potential trade sanctions and other pressures on such a country are likely to make membership in the EMU irreversible unless there is widespread economic dislocation in Europe or, more generally, a collapse of the peaceful coexistence within Europe.” (emphasis added).
As for what happens if UBS, and the Euro Unionists lose the fight for the euro:
Our base case for the Euro is that the monetary union will hold together, with some kind of fiscal confederation (providing automatic stabilisers to economies, not transfers to governments). This is how the US monetary union was resurrected in the 1930s. It is how the UK monetary union, and indeed the German monetary union, have held together.
But what if the disaster scenario happens? How can investors invest if they believe in a break-up, however low the probability? The simple answer is that they cannot. Investing for a break-up scenario has not guaranteed winners within the Euro area. The growth consequences are awful in any break-up scenario. The risk of civil disorder questions the rule of law, and as such basic issues such as property rights. Even those countries that avoid internal strife and divisions will likely have to use administrative controls to avoid extreme positions in their markets.
The only way to hedge against a Euro break-up scenario is to own no Euro assets at all.
Alas, this will be the final outcome. Unfortunately trillions more in taxpayer capital will be lost before we get there.
In the meantime, enjoy as UBS just unwittingly announced the final countdown for the EUR..
By Joseph Stiglitz 1 September 2011 for Project Syndicate -
Image above: Screenshot from 2008 video game GTA4 with a NYPD SWAT team in action. From (http://games.softpedia.com/progScreenshots/GTA-IV-S-W-A-T--Mod-Screenshot-32248.html).
The September 11, 2001, terror attacks by Al Qaeda were meant to harm the United States, and they did, but in ways that Osama bin Laden probably never imagined. President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks compromised America’s basic principles, undermined its economy, and weakened its security.
By Yuba Gals on 2 September 2011 in the Energy Bulletin -
Image above: Derrick Jensen from a still of video interview below.
“Is the world a better place because you were born?” asks author Derrick Jensen. He contrasts sustainable indigenous cultures who enrich their habitat with the current “dominant culture destroying everything.” He explores how industrial civilization is inherently violent, turning people into objects and the earth into stuff. His books include A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, What We Leave Behind and Endgame. [www.derrickjensen.org]
Video above: Interview with Derrrick Jensen. From (http://youtu.be/6wcRKZyB76g).
TRANSCRIPT: Peak Moment episode 200 Recorded December 21, 2010
Derrick Jensen: I got an article yesterday that there's one coal factory, one coal electric generation station on the Great Lakes that kills 60 billion fish a year. And there's no population of anything but bacteria that can survive 60 billion casualties a year.
The fish in the oceans were so thick they'd slow down ships. Whales were an impediment to shipping. Sea turtles were so thick that people thought you could walk across the ocean on them. It's extraordinary, the fecundity.
[Introduction and title]
Janaia Donaldson: Hi, welcome to Peak Moment. I'm Janaia Donaldson. I'm in the northwest of California, in the redwoods with Derrick Jensen, the author and activist, of fifteen or sixteen books [including] A Language Older than Words, Endgame, What We Leave Behind, and more recently, Deep Green Resistance. Thank you for joining me.
Derrick Jensen: Thank you for having me.
Janaia: I really wanted to tape here in your Tolowa country that you speak of. There's a huge stump, a redwood stump here, throughout these woods, and also second growth. It seems to me a fitting image for what has been and what is, and taking a look at your critique of how humans are relating to the environment. Tell us about that.
Derrick: Well first, I would say that it's not "my" Tolowa land...
Janaia: You're right, I apologize.
Derrick: ...it's Tolowa land. The Tolowa Indians lived for 12,500 years if you believe the myths of science. And if you believe the myths of the Tolowa, they've lived here since the beginning of time. And in either case, it was for a really long time. And the dominant culture has been here for 180 years, and the place is pretty trashed. I mean, this looks beautiful here, but if you turned the camera around, you'd see traffic passing on [highway] 101.
The salmon runs used to be so thick that horses were afraid to get in the water. They used to be so thick that people were afraid to put their boats in the water for fear they'd capsize. You could hear them for miles before you could see them. And now, this is a better year for Chinook in the Smith [River] than there has been in a few years, but that doesn't alter the fact that the runs are tiny compared to what they used to be. "Decimate" means to kill nine out of ten, and they've been decimated many times over.
And so a question that I think would be good to ask is, How is it that the Tolowa could live here for 12,500 years at least, and the dominant culture destroys wherever it goes? And it wasn't because the Tolowa were too stupid to invent backhoes. There are huge and fundamental differences in the ways indigenous peoples have related to the land. And one of the fundamental differences — sometimes people say, the Indians affected the landscape too, and the fact that they affected the landscape makes it okay for Boise-Cascade to clearcut. But there's a big difference, many big differences. And one of the differences is that they were planning on living in place for the next 500 years. And if you're planning on living someplace for the next 500 years, your land use decisions are going to be really different than if you're not.
Janaia: It seems like our land use decisions, civilization itself, is just moving out, taking what it can take. Talk to us about the civilization we're in.
Derrick: They say that one of the signs of intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns. I'm going to lay out a pattern and let's see if we can recognize it in less than 6000 years. When you think of Iraq, is the first thing you think of is cedar forests so thick that the sunlight never touches the ground? One of the first written myths of this culture is the Myth of Gilgamesh deforestating the plains and hillsides of Iraq to make cities. The Saudi Arabian peninsula was an oak savannah. The Near East was heavily forested. We've all heard of the cedars of Lebanon. Greece was heavily forested. North Africa was heavily forested. If you want to know about the harmful effects of agriculture and of civilization, all we have to say was that the Sahara was once the breadbasket of Rome. Italy was heavily forested. A line I think I wrote many years ago is that "Forests precede us and deserts dog our heels." There used to be whales in the Mediterranean.
We can look at this in a bunch of different directions. One of these is that so many indigenous people have said to me that the fundamental difference between Western and indigenous ways of being is that even the most open-minded Westerners perceive listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to the way the world really works.
I will say often at talks or in books that I was walking down a path and a tree told me what I should write. If I get stuck, I take a walk, and a tree will speak to me. This is really crucial, this notion that perceiving the world as consisting of other beings to enter into relationship with, as opposed to perceiving the world as resources to be exploited. This is really crucial, because how you perceive the world affects how you behave in the world. There's a great line by a Canadian lumberman: "When I see trees, I see dollar bills." And if when you look at trees you see dollar bills, you'll treat them one way. If you look at trees as trees you treat them another way. If when I look at this particular tree and I see this particular tree, I will treat it in another way still. The same is true for women, all the way down the line.
Janaia: But you're saying something very different here. And that other level even — if you're taking a walk and talking to or listening to a tree, there's a relationship there. It's not just even an object, even if it's not for sale, even if it's the capitalistic view. That says to me you've got some kind of ... you experience a connection in the natural world that most of us in civilization probably don't have, or very few people do.
Derrick: I agree. And part of the reason is because it's systematically inculcated out of us. My book A Language Older Than Words was in part supposed to be a happy face. When I was first trying to find out how to write it, back in 1995-1996, it was supposed to be this happy face book about inter-species communication, and a compilation of all these experiences that people would have, of having a conversation with dogs or cats or coyotes or whomever. Because a lot of people I found were having these conversations in their lives but they weren't discussing these publicly for fear they'd be shamed.
I tried to write that book for a couple years and I couldn't do it. I finally figured out why. The reason is because, that to try to write yet another book that purports to show that non-humans can really think and can communicate, would be demeaning. And the reason it would be demeaning would be like trying to write a book showing that blonds can really think, or that Jews aren't really sub-human, in that it would still hold up human beings as the standard by which everyone else is judged.
But basically... there's a great line by this Portuguese explorer. He was talking about Africans and why it was okay to enslave them is because "when they speak, they fart with tongues in their mouths." So because they didn't speak Portuguese, they didn't speak - which made it okay to enslave them. So I didn't want to write a book that... I realized the \ I was more interested in writing was not, Can Non-humans Speak or Can They Not? but instead, Why is that Some of Us Listen and Some of Us Don't? Why is it that some of us are not able to hear? The problem runs all through the society on every level, whether it is the belief that only humans can have discourse.
The reason I'm hesitating is I'm thinking of something I read a couple of days ago, that rats laugh when they play or when they're tickled — little rats do. And (a) this shouldn't really surprise us, and (b), the person who did the experiment that found that out is a scientist who also vivisects rats. So even with that understanding, it doesn't alter his professional behavior. So I was thinking about that.
And I was also thinking about, there's a line by the scientific philosopher Richard Dawkins where he says that "science bases its claims to truth on its spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command." So that when you turn on a light, something happens.
It's an extraordinary statement, because it means that our very epistemology — epistemology is how we know what we know, and how we know what is — our very epistemology is based on domination. It's based on forcing others to jump through hoops on command. And it's absurd. Because I could pull out a gun and say, "Now you're going to do what I wish." What do you know? I've got a gun so you do what I wish. What does that say about truth? And what does that say about relationship? There's a way of knowing if something is true that I like better. Which is, if you can live in place with something for 12,500 years, I think that is a better definition of what is true.
So there's one level. In A Language Older Than Words I explored that question of "why is the dominant culture destroying everything?" from the perspective of ... I think this culture is so traumatizing that one of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder especially long-term PTSD, is that you can lose the ability to... Judith Herman wrote a book called Trauma and Recovery. And in there, she discussed not just regular PTSD but where, for example, if a woman is raped in a certain make and model of a car, if she sees that make and model of a car, it could give her flashbacks, could scare her. But Judith Herman asked another question, which is, what happens if someone is raised in captivity or if someone is held in captivity? What happens to political prisoners or regular prisoners who are held for decades? What happens in domestic violence situations, where you can be held essentially as a prisoner for decades? What she found is that there are some predictable effects. And one of the predictable effects is one can come to believe that all relationships are hierarchical. And one can come to believe that fully mutual relationships aren't possible. Because if you're a prisoner, and the only relationships you have are with a guard who can, with impunity, reward or punish you, you can come to believe — "believe" is too weak — you can come to know, you can come to experience, you can come to forget that there are other relationships possible.
Janaia: It may be that it becomes so dominant that it is your experience.
Derrick: It IS your experience.
Janaia: And anything is diminished otherwise.
Derrick: Exactly. I got an email from somebody the other day who said something about how, if humans go extinct, wouldn't some other creature just come to dominate all the planet? Who else would be at the apex of evolution? And it's very interesting, because evolution doesn't really have an apex. But there's this notion... I have a Dakota friend Waz [Waziyatawin] who sometimes get hassled a little bit by vegetarians. And her response is always "We don't project that Christian hierarchy on the world, of animals over plants. There is no hierarchy."
Janaia: They are "all these relations."
Derrick: All the relations, right. I don't like "top of the food chain." There is no top of the food chain. If you think about it for a second, there is none. Because yes, I eat a chicken or I eat a broccoli. But then I die, and worms and bacteria eat me. Actually the soil eats me. And then after the soil eats me, then the huckleberries eat me, and a bird eats the huckleberry, and some human eats the bird. It's a circle. And everybody that thinks about it knows this. But one of the problems is, how do we behave in our day-to-day behavior?
One of the things I say in a book I'm working on right now is that if you ask 10,000 scientists "Was the world created for human beings?" most of them would probably laugh at you and say "Of course not." All of the non-Christian ones would say of course it was not created for human beings. But if you judged their answer not by what they say but by what they do, as soon as they get done with the interview and they go back to work, well, they're working, for the most part, as if the world was made for humans. Because they're making matter and energy jump through hoops on command.
So that was one book. A Language Older Than Words was about how we've been so traumatized by this culture that many of us are no longer even able to conceptualize the possibility of non-hierarchical relationships, fully mutual relationships with non-human beings especially. Or between human beings — between men and women, for crying out loud.
The next book — we're not going to go through all the books here — Culture of Make Believe, was really about how the culture is unsustainable on a sociological level. By which I mean ... the book started off as an exploration of hate groups. It was going to be a five page introduction to an encyclopedia of hate groups. The book exploded when I asked the question, What's a hate group? The first thing I did is I went to a KKK [Ku Klux Klan] website. And the site said, we're not a hate group, we're a love group because we love whites. So either (a) you can't trust rhetoric, or (b) the KKK is not a hate group. Well, I'll go with you can't trust rhetoric. But if you can't trust rhetoric, what do you trust? Well, if you go just by the numbers, then the biggest racist, segregationist organization in the country is the U.S. judicial penal system. Because it has achieved segregation of African American males on a scale the KKK could only dream of. About 30% of African American males between the ages of 18-35 is under criminal justice supervision. In some cities like Baltimore it's over 50%. And that's the KKK wet dream.
So I started then asking, What does hate feel like? And what I evenutally came to is any hatred felt long enough no longer feels like hatred. It feels like religion. Or economics. Or the way things are.
Janaia: I can get that it feels like the way things are. It's what you experience. And if you're permeated by that, it's what you're swimming in, there isn't another reality then.
Derrick: Yeah. So the individual Nazis working at death camps weren't sort of red-faced and shouting — what we think of when we think of hate, we think of anger. In fact the whole thing was very bureaucratic. It's very interesting, because pornography is very destructive. I was talking to Gail Dines about this, who's an anti-porn activist. And she was saying when pornographers get together at their conventions they talk about money. I don't think that most loggers hate forests. I think they're doing it for a paycheck. But the manifestation — I talk about how this culture teaches us to hate the natural world. And one of the ways it does that is the hatred is felt so deeply that ...
In that book one of the things I come to, a couple things, is that I don't have a problem with hate. I think hate is a fine and righteous emotion. I can hate someone because of what he or she has done to me or to someone else. But what I have a bigger problem with is persistent objectification. So I can hate a particular African American lesbian because of what she has done to me, theoretically, a hypothetical example. On the other hand, if I hate her because she's an African American lesbian, I'm not even doing her the honor of hating her personally. Instead, I'm hating a cardboard cutout that I'm projecting onto the space where she would be if I actually perceived her.
Of course we all objectivify all the time. You can go around recognizing that everybody has hobbies and somebody's foot hurts...There have been people that walk by outside, we would existentially explode if we recognized. But the problem is, if you do nothing but objectify, which is what the economic system systematically causes us to do.
There was a great article in the paper last year I think when the crab season was just finishing. They were saying one of the reasons the crabbers work so hard is that every crab is worth $1.50. And the harbormaster said, can you imagine if there were all these envelopes on the ground, and each envelope was worth $1.50? Of course you're going to run around picking them up as fast as you can. But the thing is, a crab is not an envelope full of $1.50. A crab is a living being with a life just as precious to that crab as yours is to you and mine is to me. That is not to say we can never kill a crab or a crab-apple or a broccoli.
Janaia: Because eating and being eaten is the natural way things are.
Derrick: The price you pay for living is you are going to be eaten someday. It's all about reciprocity. There's a great line I just heard recently by Charlotte Perkins Gilmore, a great writer. One of the things she said was that The Buddha went out and saw that everyone is killing and eating each other, and that's evil. I went out and I changed one word. I went out and I saw them, and I saw that everyone is feeding each other, and it's all good. This gets right to it again.
So Culture of Make Believe was basically about how if you have a culture that is based on competition and based on perceiving others as lesser, then you are going to lead inevitably to atrocity. And then one last thing, Endgame was based on the notion that if you have a way of life that's based on the importation of resources, that also can never be sustainable. Because it means you've denuded the landscape of that particular resource, and as your city grows, you'll denude ever larger areas. One of the reasons the Tolowa could live here for 12,500 years is because they didn't take more than the land would give willingly. And if you take more than what the land gives willingly, you're going to harm your land base.
This is how deep the problems go — we're all taught that evolution is based on competition, is based on survival of the fittest. And that's just capitalism projected onto the natural world. And it's so stupid! I can show how that that's not true in just one sentence with a couple of semi-colons: The creatures who have survived in the long run have survived in the long run; you don't survive in the long run by hyper-exploiting your surroundings; you survive in the long run by actually improving your habitat.
That's what salmon do. They make the world a better place. They make the forest a better place because they were born and because they die. Because they lived and died.
Janaia: It seems than that's the maxim that we ought to be living by, and this civilization is doing just the opposite of that.
Derrick: Is the world a better place because you were born? That's the question. How do we think the world got to be so beautiful and fecund and resilient in the first place? It's by individuals living and dying. And by communities efflorescing. It's by salmon hatching, and going downstream, and bringing nutrients back up. Eating out in the ocean and bringing nutrients back up, and dying and then being eaten by the trees. That's how the forest became so spectacular in the first place. It's pretty straight-forward. And everybody has to know this. And if they don't, they don't survive.
In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins talks about how you could have natural selection based on cooperation, or you could have it based on competition. But the problem with cooperation, he says, is if you have a cheater, everything falls apart. Like Richard, look around. There's a cheater, and everything's falling apart. So the central point is that you cannot take more than what the land gives willingly.
Janaia: And that's back to where we are: the desertification from the beginning of agriculture.
Derrick: See one of the problems is that taking more than the land gives you willingly gives you a short-term competitive advantage over your neighbors. So for example, the forests of North Africa went down to make the Phoenician and Egyptian navies. If they were going to cut down forests and turn them into warships, they had a competitive advantage over their neighbors who didn't do that.
There's this great line by this guy Samuel Huntington who basically says, People in the West basically think the world has been won by the power of Western ideas. Instead, it's been won by the ability of the West to apply organized violence. Westerners always forget this; the colonized never do.
And that's really true. The reason the dominant culture has been able to succeed is because it's been tremendously successful at applying organized violence. Including to the natural world, of course. I mean, what do you call pesticides?
Janaia: And to all their neighbors. We're seeing wholesale results of that.
Derrick: There's no stream in the United States that is not contaminated with carcinogens. A study just came out a couple days ago, 35 out of 37 cities they studied or something like that, have pretty huge levels of carcinogens in the drinking water. I mean, who was it that came up with the idea...Pittsburgh, just recently, has passed a resolution outlawing fracking within the city limits. Fracking is using a bunch of nasty chemicals that pollute the groundwater. I mean, who could be so absurd and murderous as to poison the groundwater?
Janaia: Well, if it's not your drinking water — there's that objectification again. It's somebody else's, so what? Let's exploit it and take what we want, right? We have one minute left, so I want to make sure we wrap up here, and we may get to start again. Actually Derrick, what I want to do is take a pause, thank you, and then let's continue.
I'm with Derrick Jensen. This is part one of conversations about civilization, the natural world. Join us next time.
By Richard Sullivan on 14 August 2009 for Vimeo -
Image above: Still from video below on Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu looking northwest.
Sixty-five years ago my dad shot this film along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki capturing spontaneous celebrations that broke out upon first hearing news of the Japanese surrender. He used Kodachrome 16mm film: God Bless Kodachrome, right? I was able to find an outfit (mymovietransfer.com) to do a much superior scan of this footage to what I had previously posted, so I re-did this film and replaced the older version There are more still images from this amazing day, in color, at discoveringhawaii.com.
Image above: Still from video below on Kalakaua Avenue looking northeast towards Diamondhead. Note trolly tracks.
Video above: VJ Day, Honolulu Hawaii, August 14, 1945. From (http://vimeo.com/5645171)
Ea O Ka Aina: Kodachrome Fades Away 12/30/10
Ea O Ka Aina: A Century Ago in Color 5/19/10 .