Last December, just before the holidays, Alma Hromic sent a touching and beautiful essay. It was slated for publication on January 8. We had sent the piece to Michael Stowell and asked him whether he would consider writing a piece to augment Hromic's. He graciously obliged. Then out of nowhere came Geoff Berne. The transcript of his speech in Madison, WI, was quite timely. So we delayed the publication of both essays. Then again, Aleksandra Priestfield sent another very timely essay and we built the January 22 Swans rendition around Priestfield's piece on Depleted Uranium, thus once more postponing Hromic's and Stowell's essays. Talk about a friendly publisher! But meantime, we received a couple of other pieces, one from Milo Clark, the other from Joe Kresse. Both, by chance or destiny, were treating the same subject. So, finally, this week, amidst a series of other issues that clouded our time and energies, we are proud to present to you this Swans rendition that focuses on the environment.
The environment, a buzz word that brings people up in arms at a moment's notice, especially in the opulent white world of the northwestern hemisphere (where environmental matters mostly reside). Is there anything to add on the subject that has not been said 100 times? Well, you'll be the judge. First, Hromic sets the stage with her piece, Letter to my Unborn Child. Then Michael Stowell examines Nature Governance and the notion of Biocracy (do a search on Google; you won't find many or any articles that tackle the term). Milo Clark explains the history and the nature of our resource-based societies. Kresse brings a reformist view of what he hopes will become positive changes, believing like Jeffrey E. Garten, the former under secretary for international trade in the Clinton administration and dean of the Yale School of Management, that Business has a unique opportunity to lead the world to a better future. We also found a highly commendable source of statistical information about population and the environment. And finally, I look at the environmental "movement" in a way that certainly will not help me make new friends!
As usual, please read this rendition and then form your own opinion.
In the poetry corner, a British poet, Cecil Day Lewis, collaborator of W. H. Auden in the 1930s. His poem, Consider These, for We Have Condemned Them, somehow sums up this rendition.
Alma A. Hromic: Letter to my Unborn Child
There are so many things in this world that you will never know, my darling. Some of them I would have shielded you from, a mother's duty; there would always be time enough to learn about cruelty and savagery and greed. The human race is always all too ready to display those qualities whenever they believe themselves or the things which they covet are being threatened by other human beings, whom they perceive as the enemy and therefore fit only for slaughter. There has always been this, and there will probably always be. But that which is wantonly destroyed by our actions, directly or indirectly, has been termed "collateral damage," and it is often seen as somehow forgivable if it is incurred in the pursuit of the "larger goal." More...
Alma Hromic is a novelist and a poet who was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. She is the co-author with R. A. Deckert of Letters from the Fire
Michael W. Stowell: Biocracy
It is unfortunate for humanity and the rest of the biosphere that many people refuse to fully acknowledge their place in nature. Although we may be capable of destroying all life on earth, we are not capable of managing the natural realm. When humans strive for virtual governance, they choose to ignore and unsuccessfully attempt to usurp the actual governance that belongs to nature. More...
Michael W. Stowell is chairperson of the City of Arcata Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission, Humboldt County, CA.
Milo Clark: The Resource Base
World economics, hence world society and world civilization is based in resources. The polymorphous abstractions and convoluted multipliers of contemporary economic/social interactions serve to obscure that simple actuality.
The histories of humankind on this planet are histories of resource conversion. The only sustainable economics, hence societies, are based in another simple actuality: local resources converted by local people primarily for local uses in ways which foster community and create economic surpluses for local reinvestment. More...
Milo Clark is a Swans' founding member, advisor and columnist.
A Statistical Compilation by Michael G. Hanauer: Conservation Is Not Enough
The United States creates approximately 80% of the world's waste.
To provide for expanding population (.8%), 5.6m kilowatts at $18b needed per year.
A US child consumes 30-40 times the natural resources of a child in the developing world.
"Despite 20 years of federally mandated auto-emission controls, tailpipe pollution has continued to rise because there are more cars and thus more traffic on the road."
Per capita consumption is up 45%, quality of life index is down by 51% over 20 years.
1990 per capita garbage = 4.1 pounds/day; 1960 = 1.6 pounds less with 100m fewer people.
Even if industrial nations cut CO2 emissions by 65%, in 30 years increasing population will create a net increase of 300%. More...
Michael G. Hanauer works at Harvard University
Imagine that you've come from the center of the Galaxy to look at planet Earth. You haven't been here for a thousand years so you're going to go back and report on its condition. You'd see some positive things such as the communications revolution that enables humans to talk across the planet in ways they never could before, and lots of other new technologies.
But what would be most obvious would be the huge negative impact on the planet humans have had: loss of biodiversity, loss of topsoil, loss of rain forest, less clean air and water, global warming, acid rain, the ozone hole, chemicals showing up in everything.
Not a very reassuring report. More...
Joe Kresse, a former partner with Arthur Andersen, works tiredlessly to conceptualize a possible future.
Gilles d'Aymery: The Imperial Conservation Crusade
Environmentalism has been with us for almost 30 years. It began in the early seventies with the scare of oil shortages. Flawed pseudo-scientific studies (remember the Club of Roma?) or computer models predicted that the world oil reserves would be depleted early in the twenty-first century. Green politics was born in the wake of the long lines at the gas stations. People were scared. Not just any people, not all people; people in the northwestern world. Environmentalism is essentially a western movement, a rich people movement and a white people movement. The only significant result it has achieved over three decades is the creation of yet another profitable business. From the three R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) promoted by Hewlett Packard to the emerging three E's (Equity, Ecology, Economy) and the three P's (People, Planet, Profits) endorsed and supported by the same interests; that is, business and cultural interests of our so-called "civilization." More...
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
Gilles d'Aymery: Do as I say...
In "Gardening With Beijing" (New York Times, Op-Ed, April 17, 1996) Thomas L. Friedman relates a conversation President Clinton had with China's President, Jiang Zemin, a few months ago. According to Mr. Friedman, President Clinton said to his Chinese peer that "the greatest threat to our [US] security that you present is that all of your people will want to get rich in exactly the same way we got rich. And unless we try to triple the automobile mileage and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if you all get rich in that way we won't be breathing very well. There are just so many more of you than there are of us, and if you behave exactly the same way we do, you will do irrevocable damage to the global environment. And it will be partly our fault, because we got there first and we should be able to figure out how to help you solve this problem." And, in an afterthought, Mr. Clinton tells Mr. Friedman, "I could tell he hadn't thought about it just like that before." Before moving on to his bucolic metaphors Mr. Friedman concurs that, "if China's 1.2 billion people all trade in their bicycles for cars it will alter our air and weather." More...
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor. This article was written and first posted in May 1996.
C. Day Lewis: Consider These, for We Have Condemned Them
Consider these, for we have condemned them;
Leaders to no sure land, guides their bearings lost
Or in league with robbers have reversed the signposts,
Disrespectful to ancestors, irresponsible to heirs,
Born barren , a freak growth, root in rubble,
Fruitlessly blossoming, whose foliage suffocates,
Their sap is sluggish, they reject the sun. More...
Cecil Day Lewis [1904-1972], British poet, worked on modernizing and redefining British poetry in the 1930s.