Social Justice

A Geezer Crosses the Bar


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 14, 2020

“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.”

 ― Alfred, Lord Tennyson  


"Crossing the bar" is a nautical metaphor Tennyson uses to compare death with crossing the "sandbar" between the river of life and the ocean beyond (death), the "boundless deep", to which we return. My friend Joe has crossed the bar.

When you retire, lunch is one of the few ways an old man has any chance for a social life. Thus it was with a small circle of my local friends. Every 4 to 6 weeks, several of us would gather for a "geezers' lunch." My friend Joe would generally facilitate the gathering, making the phone calls and wrangling the troops. He was the straw that stirred the drink. 

We geriatrics would toddle into some local pissoir for seafood, a couple of beers and some spirited conversation. Attendance would vary, but centered around four people: Al, a writer, poet and local gadfly, and publisher of a journal of working-class poetry with a small but fervent national following; Angelo, a painter and entrepreneur, who was successful at business without any real love for it, and who was far more interested in art and his own lines of independent thought; your obedient servant; and of course Joe. All of had met during Occupy in 2011, when old gathered with young on the streets to protest repression and economic injustice. Joe was a Renaissance man, by turns boat builder, contractor, student, teacher, gardener, actor, and especially raconteur.

And now Joe is gone.

Joe's devoted wife called me with the news and asked me to spread the word. The news hit me like a building falling. He had just been part of a gathering at my home the previous Friday, where we brought our own lunch, socially distanced on the back deck in heartfelt conversation while sucking down a twelve-pack of Modelos. I still don't believe it.

Joe was immensely intellectually curious, and was always delving into historical or nautical subjects. At lunch that Friday he had three books on 9/11 In hand. This was completely typical Joe; his appetite for knowledge and his intellectual curiosity was restless and unquenchable.


According to Joe, he once attended St. John Vianney seminary in Goochland, Virginia. At the end of that year he received a letter from the bishop, cordially inviting him not to pursue further studies for the priesthood. Joe attended Old Dominion College (at that time a branch of William and Mary) in the late sixties before embarking on a career in construction. From Joe's unofficial bio:

There was a satisfaction that I found in working with a pile lumber in the morning and walking away at the end of the day with a structure in back of me. Residential construction led to commercial construction of restaurants, hotels, motels, banks and apartments. As my woodworking skills developed I found occasional work for piratical friends who were restoring large wooden sailboats. I fell in love with wooden sailboats and wooden boat building.

From there, Joe worked for a year or so at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in their small boat shop but did not enjoy daily exposure to clouds of fiberglass dust and polystyrene vapors. He took over the management of a utility/ general-purpose carpentry shop for the Navy Exchange, then applied for a teaching position with the brand new Norfolk School of Boat Building opening on the downtown Norfolk waterfront. A direction was set for ship building and ship repair, and acting(!). Even though he left college without graduating, he maintained a lifelong interest in American and European history, as evidenced by his voracious reading habits.

During the mid-1970s he worked in the U.S. Merchant Marines. Sailing on small and medium sized tugboats while controlling tugs and barges of vast tonnage gave him a fundamental understanding of how ships handled under challenging sea and weather conditions. His practical experience, coupled with a respect for traditional building skills enabled him to teach woodworking and boat construction at the Norfolk School of Boatbuilding. This school was (as far as I know) the first official, permanent boat-building institution in one of the nation's earliest ports. It closed in 1991.

In 1980 Joe had already left, to work with the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Corporation as a rigger, eventually working his way into production engineering management.  In 1985, Joe started his own company, Decking Design, Inc., a shipboard marine flooring and decking firm serving naval and commercial shipping on the East Coast. He became a federal contractor and laid teak decks on warships. With that company, he ran work with 35 full-time tradesmen through 1993.

Since then, Joe continued work as an independent boatbuilder, artisan, craftsman and instructor.  He also worked with the historical department at the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA as an interpreter and historical character actor. He portrayed, "the old sea captain", for audiences from all over the world. It gave Joe the opportunity to commit some of the works of Tennyson, Conrad and E.B. White to memory. His work as a character actor led to his being hired to portray a wealthy New York banker in the two episode historical documentary, "Clear the Way", based on a life of the Irish-American Civil War General Thomas Francis Meagher. The film was set during the 1863 draft riots, and produced by an Irish production company. The documentary film was shot in and around Hagerstown, Maryland in conjunction with the Smithsonian and National Geographic.

Following "Clear the Way", Joe continued to work in film and theater projects. He has appeared in, "A Witch in Time", and "Bon Voyage" produced by John Graves Warner, another personal friend. Joe's gift for voices and a beard straight out of the 19th century, led Stephen Spielberg to cast him in "Lincoln" as a "Republican Senator." He's in a number of scenes.

Joe also loved to perform and would memorize long seafaring stories and poems, from authors like Tennyson, Conrad, Villiers, Masefield, A.H.Clark, C.Fox Smith and E.B White, then perform them in public. He would commit many pages to memory, with the accuracy and precision of an Islamic adept memorizing the Koran.

In his later days, Joe served on the board of directors for Nautical Adventures, Inc., a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged youth in Hampton Roads.  His last love was the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop. Aside from his wife, "Miss Patricia" in Joe-speak, the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop may have been his greatest love.


Of all the many things Joe did, perhaps the Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop was his finest hour.

Joe's partner there was retired Marine Col. Tom Brandl, who shared his enthusiasms. The Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop is a program that teaches young people life skills through boat building. Every meeting with Joe was an opportunity to be regaled with stories of young people having breakthrough "aha" moments as the learned the relationships between math, design, and problem solving. Joe's phone was always loaded with photos of the students and their workshop projects, and he beamed with pride and he shared those photos and the stories behind them  One of Joe's greatest pleasures was knowing that he was helping to shape lives, as the realization dawned upon his students that they could solve problems they heretofore had no idea they could even address. By learning concepts, how to use tools, and how to apply effort wth their own minds and hands and heart. This was Joe's greatest gift.

We geezers and broken-down former Occupiers recognized Joe as a wordslinger of the first order, a tireless fighter for causes of social justice, fairness, and equity under the law. Joe had empathy out the ass for anyone getting the short end of the stick or dealt a bad hand, an attitude which infused his latter day boatbuilding teaching and evangelism. He was always aware that those folk were his folk, working folk, and always felt a tie to the weaker-thans and the forgotten. He was an honorable man.

And now he has crossed the bar.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. 

Doctors & Scientists for Sustainability & Social Justice

Off the keyboard of Dr. Geoffrey Chia

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 20, 2015

Doctor-Scientists2

Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

The Diner welcomes Dr. Geoffrey Chia  as a Guest Author, writing on Sustainability issues from the perspective of a Cardiologist-Physician in Brisbane, Australia.Geoff has published numerous articles in the past on Nature Bats Last, and in addition ran the discussion group D3SJ.org from 2006-2013.First up here, an Open Letter to the former members of D3SJ.org, followed by his article Advice for Sustainability Activists in 2015.  It’s another take on concepts we explore on the Diner, and Tom Lewis explores on the Daily Impact.  Not enough voices saying this yet though, and I will publish every last one of them that has the gist of this correct, which Dr. Chia does.We hope to hear more from him on the Diner as well, but this one is a good introduction to a voice that has been crying in the wilderness for a long time, before I even woke up to this shitstorm.  He is worth listening to.RE

Dear former D3SJers,

Below is my article “advice for sustainability activists in 2015”. Feel free to forward this email to everyone ad infinitum. After writing my article, I discovered this interview with Thomas Lewis, a journalist with many decades experience investigating and reporting environmental issues, who came to the same conclusion:
https://soundcloud.com/doomstead-diner/collapse-cafe-thomas-lewis

Here is a podcast by financial guru Richard Martin http://thewakeupcall.podbean.com/e/spreading-fear-or-providing-information-122214/

He sounds the alarm about the fraudulent and precarious nature of the global financial system. In particular he explains the bogus nature of the shale oil derivatives and associated junk bonds (collapse of which may well trigger the next, more catastrophic GFC). He is an expert in financial matters but unfortunately does not understand peak oil.

You may need to read the following a few times to fully comprehend the various machinations taking place today:

Current low oil prices are a result of demand destruction (slowing of growth in China + recession/depression everywhere else in the world), combined with the Saudis insanely continuing to pump their oil at full throttle (they are well down the slope past peak oil, but they still have the largest reserves in the world). Such Saudi behaviour defies logic in a rational market, but the political motives are clear (which the Saudis devised in conjunction with John Kerry in September last year) http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/16/the-oil-coup/

Predatory low oil pricing is now decimating the Iranian and Russian economies* and could even cause them to crash, an outcome greatly desired by the US who so far have been singularly impotent in forcing either regime to toe the US line. As for the Sunni Saudis, they regard Shia Iran as their heretical enemy and Russia as a godless Satan. This strategy, if drawn out, will also cause collateral damage to the US shale oil industry, however that was doomed anyway from the start. http://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2014/nov/09/us-iran-russia-oil-prices-shale In the short term, Bakken/Eagle Ford will continue pumping like crazy, even if no profit is made, as they are riding on the momentum from old investments (which will never see a long term return**). They need to maintain the illusion of ongoing viability, despite their lousy EROEI, to prop up their share prices and recruit more suckers investors. Furthermore Obama, as directed by his masters (the usual wunch of bankers) has now removed legal protection of public savings from oil derivative fraud (akin to the US government previously repealing Glass-Steagall) which means that if the oil derivatives collapse, the “too big to fail” banks will once again be bailed out by public funds obtained from taxes on the dying middle class and more quantitative easing (AKA printing funny money). Savings accounts will not be safe. Anyone else, everywhere else, who has been stupid enough to invest in the US sharemarket (perhaps your superannuation fund managers?) can kiss their investments goodbye.

What would you do if you were Russian or Iranian? Grit your teeth and ride things out till the oil price inevitably rises again and you can once more make a profit, then trade your oil in currency other than the US dollar (or use barter arrangements eg X barrels of oil for Y number of Chinese solar PV panels). Elimination of the greenback petrodollar is guaranteed to cause the collapse of the US economy. If Iran and Russia are however blocked in their attempts to recover from their own economic collapse and escape the petrodollar, they can always resort to the “continuation of policy by other means” to paraphrase von Clausewitz. If my country is imploding and the Saudis are to blame, I may as well lob a missile into Riyadh, as I have nothing to lose. And so the great game continues.

Meanwhile the dumb sheeple are blissfully pumping cheap oil at the bowsers to fill their monstrous SUVs but have no clue as to what is going on. What was Mr T’s famous catchphrase again?

Brand New Year, same old dirty tricks. Hope you have a happy one anyway.

Regards

Geoff Chia

*Iranian and Russian breakeven oil production costs are substantially higher than Saudi costs. Low oil prices cause the Iran and Russia economies to bleed money. Saudis can even price their oil below Saudi production costs for a while, due to their huge financial reserves.

**big players such as Shell and Sumitomo were well aware of the bogus accounting of shale oil returns, which is why they pulled out. Other players were captured by hubris and irrational exuberance akin to tulip mania. Money flooded into shale oil junk bonds as a result of the US Reserve Bank’s ZIRP, but the chickens will be coming to home to roost soon.

ADVICE FOR SUSTAINABILITY ACTIVISTS IN 2015

RATIONALE

  1. First and foremost, it is essential to understand and accept that the massive die-off of the majority of humanity (indeed, the majority of all species) is guaranteed and inevitable over the next few decades, no matter what you or anyone else does, even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were to cease immediately. Get over it. Stop wasting your precious time and energy trying to influence National1 or International policies. Even if you succeed in turning society around right now, we are well past the point that it will make any difference whatsoever. Runaway destruction of our ecosystems has spiralled out of control and we have already fallen off the cliff. In 2012, I myself abandoned the conceit and delusion that I could “save the world”, when the scientific evidence for the irreversible decompensation of our global ecosphere became overwhelming and indisputable. The mainstream media paint a false picture to the sheeple to keep them subdued and distracted, to avoid provoking mass panic. This article is meant for intelligent people capable of objective, reality-based thinking. The only thing you can do now that will make any difference, is that which lies within your own individual control. It is to determine your own personal fate.

  2. A small proportion of the population will be able to survive, even thrive, during and after the coming collapse. Who will they be? Those who prepare now and plan ahead will have the best chance. You must therefore seize your opportunity while there is still time, before the complete meltdown of this fraudulently propped-up global financial scam wipes out your bank balance, before economic collapse triggers the eruption of extremists in your neighbourhood (just as the Great Depression led to Nazism, the Greek implosion to Golden Dawn and the Syrian collapse to ISIS) and before all your options are lost. It is imperative you discuss with and advise people about the measures needed now, so that the tiny handful who are receptive to this message can mitigate against future hardships and horrors. If you fail to take action now and remain inert and paralysed like a stunned mullet, you are passively submitting to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and will very likely die horribly.

  3. It is not selfish to try to save yourself and your loved ones, while the rest of humanity perish. There is nothing noble about you going down in flames alongside the clueless sheeple and those denialists who reviled you in the past for being “alarmist”. Indeed it will be stupid and pointless for you to join them. They had their chance, refused to listen and will reap what they sowed. The people we should mourn are those who have historically contributed little to this global catastrophe, but who will suffer the most eg subsistence farmers in Bangladesh or Africa.

  4. The actions you must take to survive the great unraveling of industrial civilisation actually correspond exactly with the ethical actions you should take anyway to set a good example to others. The best way to convince others is not by words, but by deeds. To serve as a role model, to practice what you preach. There is no point campaigning to shut down coal fired power stations unless you first show others how they can live well without using coal fired power. Your actions will consist of drastically reducing your ecological footprint, liberating yourself from a corrupt, rapacious and destructive capitalist system and pursuing a meaningful and joyful life in a cooperative community. Talk less and do more.

  5. Do not get bogged down by the proponents of near term human extinction. They are a nihilistic cult with nothing to offer but inertia, hopelessness, misery and despair, despite their attempts to put a positive spin on suicide. Even if NTHE ultimately does occur, it still remains eminently worthwhile at this time for you to aim for the best quality, longest duration lifespan you can possibly achieve. For the patient with terminal cancer, the ethical physician must endeavour to minimise their suffering and maximise the quality and duration of their remaining life. As long as you are not in excruciating pain or in unremitting distress, your survival instinct will dictate that you keep on keeping on. Humanity’s best strategy to avoid extinction is not by attempting to preserve the cities nor prolong industrial civilisation (which is precisely what is destroying our living planet) but by establishing a multitude of self sufficient off-grid communities all around the world. All it takes to avoid NTHE is for just one community to succeed in the long term. By saving yourself you could well be saving humanity as a species.

ACTIONS YOU NEED TO TAKE NOW (IF NOT YESTERDAY) :

  1. Try to expand your social network. Seek out like minded individuals you can trust, who are interested in pursuing an ethical sustainable lifestyle.
  2. Withdraw your money from the Ponzi scheme known as the Sharemarket. Get rid of debt. Convert your cyberwealth into assets of real world value. Lack of finances is not necessarily an impediment to escaping the corrupt mainstream establishment. Practical knowledge, experience and abilities (carpentry, metalwork, plumbing, electrical, agricultural skills etc) will be in great demand, however simply possessing good common sense, physical health and a willingness to learn and contribute are the most important assets, which you can offer to homestead planners who will be keen to snap you up. The most precious commodities of the future will not be gold, silver or diamonds (which the wise will regard with disdain) but the qualities of trustworthiness, reliability and diligence. These are the riches of the future which will bind individuals and communities together.

  3. Purchase suitable land in a remote2 location with reliable fresh water supplies, as little affected by the future projections of climate change as possible, on which to establish your permaculture homestead.

  4. Construct one or more large lockup sheds (with attached large rainwater tanks), in which you can store agricultural tools, fertiliser, water purifying equipment, emergency food supplies and other essential startup items. One or more containers placed there will also be useful, if you can arrange that. When you ultimately empty out your large shed of its contents, it can be used as multipurpose building eg workshop, community hall etc.

  5. It may be necessary to erect a permaculture enclosure to protect your crops from being consumed by the local wildlife.
  6. Participants must construct their dwellings. These must be designed to be off-grid ie. completely independent of centrally controlled electrical, water and sewage utilities. Time, money and ethical considerations may preclude the construction of conventional concrete and steel buildings. Restrictive and backward codes of the local council may prevent you from building cheap, innovative dwellings such as Earthships (which are labour intensive and take a long time to build anyway). One way to bypass these obstacles is to construct tiny houses on wheels3. They cost less than 20% of a standard house, can be built to passive solar principles (and incorporate the essential wood stove/heater) and can provide all your usual creature comforts and amenities (even a home movie theatre) albeit in a smaller space. Furthermore they can be custom built by you right now, right where you live, then towed to your homestead later. Timing of the move is crucial and must obviously be done before the collapse of the current infrastructure leads to fuel scarcity and blockade of the highways. If time becomes very short, you can purchase a standard caravan immediately, although they are generally designed to be plugged into the grid and will not be ideal to live in long term (although much better than a tent).

  7. Security issues for your community may be the most fraught and difficult to work out. In the USA where guns proliferate, paranoia leads to the accumulation of weapons and fearful continuous surveillance. My advice to Americans is to move to Alaska, Washington State or Oregon. Even better if you can, is to emigrate to NZ, Canada or southern Chile (the latter only if you are a fluent Spanish speaker) which probably has the best long term prospects of all. In Oz, I personally favour remoteness, obscurity and good relations with your neighbours as the best means of protection4. Dogs on your property may help, but avoid aggressive breeds which may be a danger to children.

  8. The above steps will not guarantee you a good outcome (nothing can) but will dramatically increase your chances of achieving a good outcome. At the very least, engaging in hopeful activity in the company of other good people will shield you from despair. Even if things don’t ultimately work out, at least you will go down fighting and in control of your own destiny, rather than be a passive lamb to the slaughter. Apart from good planning, the main factors which will determine whether your community succeeds or fails in the long term will be the quality of your participants5, your framework of governance6 and a good deal of luck.

Geoffrey Chia, January 2015

Footnotes:

  1. Unless you live in NZ, which may be the only country in the world with any hope of saving the majority of its population. This is based on its favourable location and soils, low population density, high level of renewable energy infrastructure including electric railways and my belief (although I could be mistaken) that the majority of Kiwis are not certifiably insane (unlike the rest of the world where the inmates have taken over the asylum).

  2. Well away from large cities which will be the “killing fields of the future”. Small towns in agricultural areas may potentially be viable.
  3. Lara Nobel, a graduate architect now completing a building qualification, will be presenting this topic at the Queensland Skeptics meeting in Brisbane in March 2015. There is a wealth of information about tiny houses on the web.

  4. In the future time of petroleum scarcity, the “marauding hordes” will not be able to invade you en masse if your homestead is more than one fuel tank away from a major city and they do not know your location. Good neighbours can provide advance notice if random dodgy strangers are seen making their way on foot through the countryside. As survivors, they will be resourceful. If they also turn out to be decent and hardworking, let them share in your homestead chores with a view to eventually joining up.

  5. Every member must contribute. Psychopaths must be expelled. People steeped in non-evidence based bullshit (eg belief in homeopathy or that the MMR vaccine causes autism) must be excluded, because their forcefully held nonsensical and harmful ideologies will obstruct sensible decision making initiatives. People steeped in superstition eg belief in God, gods or ghosts must be excluded, because their delusions will distort rational thinking of impressionable young people and may pose a future risk of turning your community into a cult. The reason why this global human experiment is failing is because of idiocracy, ie. rule by idiots, who must be excluded from your community. The only hope for humanity is for sapient people to survive and populate future generations.

  6. The basic principle being that decisions must be made on the basis of evidence, reason and fairness to confer the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people in your community on a long term basis.

Geoffrey Chia is a Cardiologist/Physician based in Brisbane, Australia, who convened the group “Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice” from 2006 to 2013

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Globally, subtropical circulation in the lower troposphere is characterized by anticyclones over the [...]

Numerical models are being used for the simulation of recent climate conditions as well as future pr [...]

This study aims to provide improved knowledge and evidence on current (1986–2015) climate vari [...]

In many countries, urban heat island (UHI) effects come along with urbanization in metropolitan area [...]