- PLANET OVERWATCH -

 VERSION FRANCOPHONE        

 

SUMMARY OF LEARNER       INTRO & VOCAB 

 

 Per Al Gore, we are facing several emergent phenomena.

 

·         Global Mind: a planetary, cognitive, computer-based network;

·         Earth, Inc.: national-capitalism taken to its pathocratic extremes.

·         We might add Peak Ecology: the exhaustion of key Earth resources like  healthy soil, breathable air, good water salt and fresh, climatic stability, biota, hydrocarbons and ores.

·         Next, note that we must organize Learners to sort out this train wreck and reassemble it into something more sustainable.

 

In the meantime, environmental desecration has taken root in the politics of disinformation. Paradoxically, it has become a fixation of “conservative” doctrine. Reactionaries cause as much harm to foreigners, to children and to the natural world as they can get away with; the same way bull sea lions trample cubs that get in their way, silverback gorillas trash the undergrowth when something pisses them off, and other primates cast their dung at passers-by.

This nonstop environmental desecration brings with it unprecedented meteorological disasters—and perhaps tectonic upheaval. Massive reforestation could soak continental surfaces with a little more water, which might buffer some of these cataclysms.

Civilizations of the past sealed their fate by denuding bottomlands and forests nearby. Bad weather and famine followed inexorably.

The Chinese have an expression for abusers of this kind who lack empathy and fail to perform propitious rituals, which shortcomings bring on environmental disaster; even for others wise enough to avoid them. The latter retained the “Mandate of Heaven” but the former lost it. Like Rousseau’s “general will” in the West, this mandate became the only valid endorsement for an government in the Orient. Those without it automatically became illegitimate. Revolution was not only inevitable in that case, but mandatory to end the abuse and its environmental fallout.

 

Redundant, on-site monitoring groups and volunteer public inspection teams will augment governmental and administrative overwatch agencies for high-risk projects.

We should draw an important distinction here. People invoke environmental regulations like the Superfund, to clean up hazardous waste sites. Yet these efforts are incredibly crude. Most remediation projects use high-pressure water, superheated steam, dredges, bulldozers and toxic chemicals to scrape everything away—the good, the bad and the ugly. They’ve accomplished little more than this, for eventual disposal in leaky dumps, out to sea or in poorer countries.

There is no proven way to dismantle a worn-out nuclear reactor―much less the 500-odd commercial ones and who knows how many more scientific, military and/or covert?

Much of the multi-billion dollar Exxon Valdez cleanup was either value-neutral or injurious. It was ordered anyhow for its propaganda value, per Jeff Wheelwright’s Degrees of Disaster – Prince William Sound: How Nature Reels and Rebounds, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994. Here we are, a decade later, and ExxonMobil has yet to pay its fines in full for this pollution event, while the environment continues to bear its scars. “How best to remedy environmental disaster? Hire more lawyers… and judges!”

Not to mention the Gulf of Mexico, or Fukushima, or planetary disasters to follow, evermore dreadful, agonizing and frequent.

 

Eight complementary remediation paths suggest themselves, (the last one perhaps the most important).

 

·         Eliminate lifestyles, technologies and corporations that generate the worst pollution. Among the worst, military technologies (see http://www.uwec.edu/grossmzc/schrinrj.html) as well as those making private automobiles, motorboats and their fossil fuels, plus agroindustries based on the current malpractice of trial-and-error genetic engineering;

·         Shut down the worst point-source (factory-type) polluters preemptively. Subsidize less crappy technologies.

·         Regulate potential polluters to minimize their negative impact. Mandate dependably closed systems that recycle industrial toxins and lock them in impermeable membranes.

·         Stock sufficient emergency containment and clean-up equipment on-site at all times. This would include double-hulled and bunker-hulled oil tankers, inspected tugs with certified crews at every tanker landfall, and containment buoy systems in every port.

·         Research alternate energy sources and substitute as appropriate. Learners who share this topic of passion should focus on every scale of energy management from top-to-bottom: botanical, biological, ecological and social as well as deader sciences that run on nothing but algebra.

·         Stop disrupting natural recovery. Beyond isolating and collecting clearly specified layers of pollution, accelerate post-disaster recovery only when and if it is feasible and safe.

·         Determine if biochar, agrichar and terra preta can be engineered on an industrial scale to produce high-carbon soil supplements by the millions of tons while drawing the most carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122030.htm

·         Unforeseen new technologies?

 

The supertanker Exxon Valdez lacked an alert bridge crew and wary watch officers; its corporate bosses lied about their state of peparedness long before and during the disaster. The ExxonMobil Corporation (among others, such as Mitsubishi, giant agro-combines and precious metal extraction companies) have spearheaded the most destructive environmental policies that their Masters of Business Administration could dream up. May they and their ravenous horde of investors recognize the insane trade-offs they’ve made between their short-term profit and the sorry fate of their children in the long run. May they experience a massive change of heart and make amends.

 

In the future, bridge-mounted video cameras will scan the instruments, crews and surroundings of supertankers and other vulnerable machines and machine assemblies. Distant hobbyists will oversee them, the equivalents of today’s ham radio operators. Professional, on-site crews and home-based amateurs will share the chore of monitoring control centers across many signal frequencies, telltale and control panels currently developed as “glass cockpit” aircraft controls. These Virtual Monitors will access complete on-line Operations & Maintenance Manuals, pre-filed contingency plans and e-published Emergency Guides. Randomly schedules inspections of on-site monitoring equipment will ensure against malicious tampering. The primary goal here will not be to guarantee procedural minutia, but to instantly detect gross institutional negligence in the long run, and, in the short, head off multiple simultaneous system failures that had never been foreseen.

The minute an alarm went off or was disabled, word would go out on the Overwatch Network: “Something interesting is happening at YYY address.” Scrutiny would then intensify as more monitors checked in. Like good journalists, these international hobbyists would make it a point of honor that no incident went unreported within their purview until it became a disaster. Alerted locals would gather to witness on-site incident response in person.

Spy satellites will serve as periscopes for these future hobbyists. Some observers will specialize in a certain type of structure or industry (for example, nuclear power); others will become regional specialists. Through obsessive observation, they will memorize every detail of their chosen specialty and notice anything out of the ordinary with microscopic precision.

Learners will survey PeaceWorld a thousand times more minutely, with the intent to sustain it, than the CIA and its international strategic equivalents did survey WeaponWorld with the intent to deceive and not be deceived. Nowadays, we are mostly ignorant about the nature of this planet (more familiar with the surface of Mars than of the deep ocean floor, and more so with it than with human microbial ecology). In the future, we will do much better.

This said, merely because modern means can pry into personal privacy much more nakedly, that does not mean we must submit being stripped of privacy. On the contrary, new, very detailed laws will be provide consumer protection groups and each individual with the means to detect and reort those corporate and governmental entities or private individuals who intrude into personal privacy without personal authorization, and sue them easily and lavishly for their misdeed. Legal precedent has already been established for unauthorized photo portraits and medical records leaks; the rest of the private sphere remains to be similarly protected.  Merely a question of more fastidious attention to detail, as with every future Learner’s topic of passion.

Virtual monitors will register their topics of passion in a public register intended to reveal those who might misuse this kind of information, listing in detail points of focus and the time they’ve spent on each of them. These records would lead investigators to whoever plotted harm. A majority of honest monitors will make it a point of honor to identify and isolate those disloyal to their topic of passion.

Finally, many Learner investigators will specialize in the preventative study of “worst case scenarios,” those which financial interests make a habit of ignoring to avoid costly preventative measures (as with Fukushima, the Titanic, etc., etc.). If Learner conclusions are confirmed by a majority of study peers, they will take priority over deficient plans already established.

 

Globally, dozens of commando brigades are on standby in their barracks to be dispatched with their high-tech weaponry almost anywhere on Earth within days. Why are so few professionals assigned to respond to ecological disaster? Are good government, pure air and clean water so bound together that no written guarantee is called for? Fat chance. No one can afford to waive rock-bottom guarantees of personal protection. The future world constitution should list them in black and white. Dedicated, independent overwatch officials – mandated to exert the full force of the law without favor or prejudice – will back these guarantees. Anyone who would give up such protections should expect nothing more than to be crapped on as often as they are lied to, and beaten without redress meanwhile.

Throughout history, those who controlled the water supply ran everything else. China, Egypt, Babylon and other hydraulic civilizations flourished by regulating the course of waters. Entire civilizations collapsed when ecologically unsound policies, profitable in the short term, induced too many unintended consequences in the long. Multi-year famines resulted, then plague, wars and all too often annihilation soon thereafter.

Such errors will decrease under Laocracy. Laocracy will require absolute private equity, personal emancipation, elaborate safeguards against exploitation internal and external to the nation, and lots more free time to philosophize. It would require that we raise rare and beloved children into healthy adulthood and that an enlightened public heed ethical warnings in order to ward off unintended consequences. Finally, a massive majority must prize Learning above all.

Laocracy may have first evolved among subsistence hunter-gatherers. It must have flourished afterwards in the irrigated fields of prehistory, despite the Plant Trap’s sentence of hard labor. Egalitarian societies arose spontaneously among subsistence hunter-gatherers. Insofar labor-intensive agriculture permitted they remained in force among farmer/warriors.

No matter how backbreaking the daily routine, everyone sought a fair share of freedom and justice. As among earlier wolf packs, tyranny unchecked invited collapse. Gravity-fed irrigation systems were surprisingly delicate structures that required a lot of hard work from all hands. In a single night of furious payback, a few disgruntled farmers could wash out the most elaborate irrigation layout. No one could be denied an equal part in the allocation of water and other privileges without jeopardizing the whole.

All too often, futile taunts of torture and whole family execution may have been invoked and carried out. This abuse never silenced the perpetual demand for justice, at least not for long.

In ancient Vietnam, the best leaders adhered to the following dictate. The king had to maintain the lightest control over his districts; the district chief, over his villages; the village headman, over his households; and the senior householder, over the members of his family. The saying went: “The Emperor’s law stops at the village gate.” Plain common sense: an iron rule of social cohesion.

 

 

There is a strong bond between liberty and clean water. When clean water becomes so scarce it must be metered or sterilized before it can be drunk safely, liberty is in danger.

For the first time in history, we face the same problem with clean air. Weapon managers look forward to turning all the air that’s fit to breathe into a marketable commodity. That would just add another coil to the chains that bind us.

Face it: oxygen is a 100% lethal addictive drug. Going cold turkey from Oxygen makes withdrawal from a heroin addiction seem like running out of bubble gum. What’s more, our bodies turn oxygen molecules into free radicals that rust out human cells in a cumulative demolition derby we call aging.

Of course, once enough Learners come to this conclusion, that will put an end to the Prohibition of recreational drugs and reveal the serial stupidity and self-serving interests of this Prohibition’s fat-cat hierarchy.

This Second Prohibition makes me think of the Roman persecution of Christians.

Both lacked a valid precedent, good motive and just purpose; both promoted grand and petty crime, elite hypocrisy and contempt for government; both contradicted fundamental liberties and jeopardized global peace. Both would prove to be the playground of sadists, brutes and tyrants; wasteful of innocent people, their productive effort and good reputation; at odds with vital institutions, corruptive of elites and eventually unenforceable when confronted by the spontaneous passive resistance of the masses.

Corporate hirelings haven’t figured out how to turn free air into a controlled narcotic and how to inflate the expense and legal risk of breathing it, because they haven’t yet monopolized its supply. Give them another generation of private automobiles and suicidal over-industrialization to make natural air unbreathable, and then watch them turn the trick. The hyper-disastrous finale of Fukushima might do the deed under a global rain of radioactivity. I can already hear them bellow: “We must protect the children from this insidious danger” by locking them up by the million and throwing away the key.

These days, we face an ever-worsening resource base. Almost any drink is better than what flows from the tap at growing expense. Go to it and take a sip. Chances are, it is at least slightly toxic and tastes awful. Middle-aged prostates give up in despair and fertility indices collapse. Children’s test scores mark this decline as youngsters’ brains suffer cumulative damage from over-chlorinated wastewater and dissolved lead, as well as airborne contaminants that only a massive forest could purify.

That is something big forests do: they attract and soak up torrential downpours that wash all the ash, dust and smoke from the air. They metabolize useful components and let the rest flow calmly out to the sea.

Industrialists gloat over the average person’s preference for their expensive soda pops, powder mix beverages and bottled water, over tap water. One TV ad crowed that its over-sweetened, fizzy brown pap was to America what water was to ancient civilization. That attitude is an abomination.

No stream, lake, aquifer or catchment basin is safe. Rain falls as a vile, increasingly radioactive corrosive. Snow bears its own toxic burden, even on remote mountainsides where sparkling streams harbor fecal contamination from wildlife suffering from their own pandemics.

Washington State’s Puget Sound was once a sylvan nursery for gray whales and matchless marine life. It has become their graveyard. Gray whales swim into the Puget Sound and die of liver rot. Yet this region has one of the most stringent quality standards for a body of water of its size. Even Lake Baikal, the sacred Eye of God that once held the purest water on Earth, has been pumped deep with toxic effluents for decades, thanks to Soviet industrialists staring down Stalin’s firing squads.

Despite cleanup efforts or perhaps because of them, our urban waterways are open sewers. Across the globe, marine mammals crowd the shore to commit suicide, crazed by inflamed sinuses. Ask a congested diver or a high-flying airline passenger how much this hurts. Their immune systems (and ours) are compromised by tons of dioxins, PCBs and other toxic chemicals that lace our air and water. Plus three times as much background radiation (five times, now; more?) as the Earth has experienced in millions of years.

 

Once-fertile farmlands undergo two destructive processes. Real estate developers acquire the best bottomland, pull up its native growth and pave it over with buildings, parking lots and roadways. What agricultural land remains is soaked with industrial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, the soil’s organic balance has been shattered; once-fertile soils have been turned into antibiotic clay into which plant nutrients must be added synthetically. Lacking organic binding, loose soil erodes at irreplaceable rates. It slimes our waterways with oxygen-depleting muck saturated with artificial fertilizer, and chokes the life out of rivers and seas through microbial overgrowth and its lethal die-off.

 

We have been conditioned to prefer greasy, over-processed foods over “healthier” raw vegetables. This bias is neither thoughtless nor accidental. Our digestive disorders worsen when we consume dangerously contaminated raw foods. Modern pesticides, antibiotics and radioactive toxins (and worst of all, genetic tampering) withstand ordinary food decontamination techniques. The human digestive system took millions of years to adapt our bodies to natural foods. It would take another million to adapt ourselves to the novel contaminants in our over-processed foods.

Agro-corporations encourage this bias. They carefully sterilize over-processed foods and allow greater and greater toxin loads in raw foodstuffs. Their ultimate objective? Turn high-priced, irradiated, pre-processed foods into life necessities for everyone three times a day. Public health officials ignore this trend, even though food irradiation and genetic engineering schemes threaten us with insidious medical disasters.

Fresh food bestows life; food long dead imparts nothing but obesity, diabetes and gastritis. Irradiated and long shelf-life foods should be minor consumer items reserved for emergencies. Otherwise, most foods should be bought fresh, lightly cooked and chewed slowly and hungrily (hunger being the best sauce) on the same day. This nutritional habit is a peace requirement, practicable at current scales of consumption only under pure peace parameters.

For example, the baker’s insane ambition to square good bread in the circle of bread that won’t go stale in day. Good bread lasts one day and then it goes stale, at which point it can be turned into “French toast.” Trying to extract from it a longer shelf life merely induces the American epidemic of gastritis currently branded “gluten intolerance.” Might as well call it “idiocy tolerance.” Not to mention adding sulfites and God knows what other pollutants to wine – on orders from fat beer lobbyists, no doubt. Overpaid idiots…

Not satisfied with strip-mining the Earth of its mineral wealth, corporations have strip-mined our health, talent and dreams; our bodies of their healthy appetite; the air and water of its purity; the soil of its fertility; and culture of its good sense and empathy. Very little has been left to embezzle, short of our lives.

In addition, we rely on “factory farming” for cheap meat. Livestock is trapped in cages so small it can’t move, or in mass pens intended for far fewer beasts. Their brief existence is spent buried alive – sickly bodies fattened on powdered animal flesh, antibiotics, hormones and other noxious additives in criminal quantities – before mass slaughter cuts short their nightmare.

Road rage and spillover criminality may result from eating meat salted with such unsavory compounds. Surely a God of Irony would reincarnate consumers of such grisly foods into a “factory farmed” animal existence for the next few life cycles, as a lesson in manners. And any corporate CEO who drove his indentured farmers out of business unless they farmed in this manner, merits an even more worse fate as part of his Karmic lesson plan.

The worst outcome you can arrange for someone you despise: his misery, the fading of his children and his terrible death: those are the outcomes you are destined to reincarnate into. A simple rule of Karma.

Perched as we are at the top of the food chain, our immune systems are overwhelmed by a cumulative load of toxins. We suffer from an internist’s nightmare of allergies, nausea, runs and constipation, vertigo, gray-outs, panic attacks, headaches, chronic fatigue, lupus, respiratory ailments, diabetes, infertility, cancer, fetal and neonate mortality. Public health officials blame all this sickliness on smoking, overeating, failing to exercise and hating ourselves in particular. This is how they can deftly subtract their insignificant efforts at remediation from the cause/effect equation of improved hygiene, good nutrition and public health.

We are left with our minds numbed, our nerves irritated, our wills eroded and bodies exhausted. In the absence of superb public health, mental decay, violence, denial and neglect must intensify; apathy, inertia and fantasy dominate our thinking. Constitutional protections lapse as the commonwealth decays.

As you read these lines, the ozone layer is unraveling. The sun itself bears a lethal frown. Once-healthy outdoor lifestyles offer nothing more than skin cancer and early blindness. Please get your kids to wear sunglasses, long sleeves and a shaded hat when they go outdoors! Slather their skin with a good sunscreen at every opportunity. They will thank you later, for your annoying interference, when their colleagues come down with lethal skin tumors by middle age or go prematurely blind.

We face many grave problems: institutional inertia, laughable education, criminal rampage and pandemic disease ... If clean air, rich soil, vigorous forests and pure water were freely available, and if we benefited from them without regard to weapon requirements, a surprising number of these problems would shrink to mere irritants.

At Mt. St. Helens and elsewhere, nature has demonstrated her remarkable resiliency. After major pollution sources are shut down, faltering ecosystems recover spontaneously. Some of the more delicate environments cannot re-establish themselves without our assistance. Don’t count on natural regeneration, however, until we shut down most toxic outputs or until nature shuts us down and takes a hard-earned vacation from our spoiled child tantrums; wipes the slate clean and starts over from scratch: bacteria and such. Do we really want to reincarnate into bacteria another few billion trillion times?

 

Clean air, soil and water will become Learner priorities. Dedicated environmental agencies will arise under a supranational World Court alongside enthusiastic local Administrations. These will:

 

·         census air, soil, water and bodily contaminations impartially;

·         shut down persistent offenders; and

·         enforce new environmental regulations.

 

Deliberate polluters will be bankrupted by withdrawn subsidies, public boycott and punitive taxation, the proceeds of which will buy effective controls for less sloppy industries. A convicted polluter will have to occupy his toxic site until it is certified safe. Whatever the cost, we must shut down runaway pollution; tear out and rebuild obsolete transport, garbage and water systems; flush out and repurify aquifers, rivers and lakes.

Halfway, feel-good measures are no better than doing nothing at all. False economies here are as worthless as starving to death to save on the grocery bill.

Massive reforestation is essential in every territory that once hosted large forests. Vast stretches of Yellowstone, America’s premier National Park, burned down recently, like some slum-corner convenience store. What more warning do we need? We were told this disaster was only natural; the fifty years or so it will take to grow back are “acceptable.” Assuming, of course, the rest of the Park doesn’t burn down in the meantime, leaving us a cinder desert where our greatest park once stood.

Actually, Yellowstone is a giant volcanic caldera that threatens to blow its smoke of ground volcanic glass across the entire country. We are talking about a thousand Mt. St. Helens exploding at once, with yard-thick ash falls a thousand miles downwind, plus nuclear winter whatever the season. Could this be the natural end of an overgrown species? My hunch: a thickening veneer of climax forest across the globe might be the only living thing that could hold in check this type of catastrophe.

Every river and coastal region should be edenized. Climate shifts for the worst have coincided with biohabitat simplification along coastlines, river lines and edge zones of latitude and altitude.

Perhaps another priority should “pre-seed” our effort to become civilized: becoming ecologized. World edenization might moderate the worst effects of our pollution and its climatic extremes.

 

The cleanup of urban areas will include the following tasks, but not necessarily those alone.

 

·         Break up built-up surfaces pointillistically in urban zones. In other words, perforate hard urban surfaces with topsoil plugs and replace entire avenues and city squares with soil-bound parks and greenbelts. Economies of scale would dictate that entire arterials and ranks and files of city blocks be devoted to this project, not just median strips, sidewalks and roadsides. Isolated urban plantings – like a line of trees along a sidewalk – have a harder time surviving than mixed stands of vegetation assembled in a park. This does not mean we should stop planting roadside trees. On the contrary, a single row of one variety should be interspersed with other species.

·         As transportation costs go up and the quality of the air improves, urban agriculture and rooftop gardening will become attractive business propositions. Urban roofscapes will go under glass in northern latitudes and turn green with plant cover everywhere. Cities will whitewash their rooftops and streets and turn into bright daytime stars as seen from above. Shadier greenbelts and greenswards will slash across urban areas. Highways will skirt urban areas entirely or dig themselves underground where automotive exhausts can be sucked up and filtered. Indeed, following Seattle’s lead from the century before last, cities may pave over the entire ground level downtown. In so doing, they could insulate pedestrian traffic and amenities from automotive congestion, accidents and pollution.

·         An interim solution might be lightweight elevated walkways that would stretch the length and breadth of downtown, threading above or below urban arteries and spanning busy intersections. Heavier, stronger highways might accommodate bicycles, rickshaws and other lightweight conveyances.

·         In addition, seedbeds might be planted where concrete foundations exist today. From these beds, re-architected bamboo structures might be grown, equivalent in tensile strength to the steel currently on-site. By bamboo, I mean whatever vegetation might best adapt itself to local engineering demands.

 

 

Ground cover will be planted along eroding mountain slopes, hillsides and watersheds. Plant varieties will be systematically propagated in every biohabitat. Diversified softwood plantations will be replanted along devastated fringes between hardwood and softwood habitats. Climax ecologies will be restored and protected wherever possible.

Specially tailored oleophage (oil-eating) bacteria will attack every oil slick from driveway sheens to industrial and maritime spills. Special trees, shrubs and micro-organic communities will soak up runoff water and persistent toxins for subsequent harvest and recycling. Almost every watershed, wetland and beach on Earth can be restored to a pristine state.

Thanks to Mr. Harrison Ford and the most perceptive of his rich friends, development-free belts are being set aside between major wildlife habitats and the nearer pole. These set-asides will permit forests and their animal populations to migrate towards more temperate latitudes as global warming cooks forest-edges nearer to the equator. Once these forests have grown back, they will require fewer and fewer protections and artificial supplements. Until then, these should be multiplied.

Climax ecosystems are enormous natural pumps that collect water and inject it into the atmosphere as purified rain. In part, our task will be to ensure that these organic sprinkler systems work as nature intended them to. We mustn’t allow them to dry out and heat up much longer, or allow the seas to cool off too much as a result of glacier melt … and perhaps spin us into Weather Chaos if we fail.

Solar power is another peace technology that weapon managers loathe because of its decentralized, anarchic and anti-combat nature. On a battlefield, it is unreasonable to expect to draw energy directly from the sun. After all, any energy-collecting machine caught out in the open would get bombed to bits, not to mention bringing its consumers to the attention of the enemy.

Besides, solar power is a one-shot deal. You buy the panels, set them up and you’re in the energy business for yourself. It doesn’t require massive, stinking and/or radioactive power plants, proprietary mineral rights and obsolete refineries whose owners may impose spiraling service fees on the rest of us.

 

Terra preta technologies may reduce carbon dioxide on an industrial scale and slow global warming before we allow it to cooks us off this planet. In addition and perhaps more significantly, the carbon it locks away can be reused to renew exhausted soils. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100810122030.htm

 

Trees capture carbon as they grow. Large tree plantations absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and thus hold back greenhouse warming. As old growth biomass collects more water and carbon on land, the oceans might recede, warm up and salinate. Massive reforestation projects may counter the effects of industrial greenhouse gasses that seem to generate glacial melt, marine cooling and desalination. This cooling may interrupt vast deep-sea currents that rearrange temperature variations and moderate the climate.

A lot of the CO2 of human origin is sucked into the seas, making them too acidic to sustain marine life unless we put a stop to that ASAP. Long-term effects demand more study, but deeper studies must not delay obvious and immediate interventions.

In the meantime, the good news is that the nickel in sea urchins shells is a cheap and long-lasting catalyst that can turn carbon dioxide into chemically inert calcium carbonate chalk as readily in the sea as in the chimneys of our power plants. Salps are another potential CO2 collector on a massive scale.

 

We may need to reforest Texas-, Europe-, Australia-sized land masses. This project may show little impact until we have buried mature trees in checkerboard acres and immediately replanted that ground with tree seedlings. That might not be the wisest policy because it might cause regional imbalances: too much effort here and not enough there.

A better plan might look something like this. Children should go out into the countryside with their parents on birthdays and other holidays to plant trees and shrubs as part of their religious ceremony. Similar projects would proliferate among wise Learners. Get planting!

 

As I write this text, my own hypocrisy upsets me. We cut down two wild cherry trees on our small plot of land. A year earlier, we had planted new fruit trees pruned much smaller. Afterwards, to ensure against trees falling, we cut down almost all of them on our lot—which act I will regret the rest of my life.

The Emerald City Seattle has less and less tree cover every year. Biomass, clean air and shade suffer in proportion. Urban arborists replace big, old trees with dwarf ones that won’t impinge on overhead power and telephone lines. This bureaucratic compromise contradicts their fondest inclination. Why don’t you plant big trees and bury the damned power lines instead? We urbanites have lost our soul to concrete and asphalt … when all our cities could be gardens!

There’s massive irony here, if you think about it. The easiest, cheapest way to cool down a house in summertime, or a city for that matter, is to plant shade trees along its sunny flanks. Deciduous shade trees are ideal: they drop their leaves quite suitably during winter and allow the sun to shine through when it’s coldest out.

 

Even though we may not be sure what exactly to do next, we could start back step-by-step along the right path. Gaia should see to the rest—and perhaps to our long-term survival.

If, in any case, humanity must engineer its own disappearance, we should leave behind compelling evidence of heroic attempts to correct our worst errors, just as the vanished Minoans left us the moving testimony of their magnificent artwork, just as I leave you my humble draft of Learner.

Over thirty long years, I have struggled to polish this text to the sheen of fine lacquer and the smoothness of a crystal skull, compared to the obstinate wad of incoherence I started out with. I certainly spent so much time on it because this planet’s elite of killer primates has rejected it from the beginning, leaving me no choice but to keep picking up the pieces they spat in my face and put them back together again. Perhaps I needed so much time because I had to decode a message relayed to me from Beyond in a subliminal idiom utterly alien to English and French. I can’t tell any longer.

 

Whether or not we kludge along in habitual mediocrity must be a matter of indifference to the universe. It is more important that we unite in peace, act heroically and leave behind a brilliant record of our finest achievements, no matter how fleeting or everlasting.

If ancient peoples thought about such things, I suppose they believed they belonged to the Land, (Vietnamese Xa), the way nature does. Later on, we entangled ourselves in various phantasms (simulated or truly sacred? Who can honestly tell?)—God(s), chains of ancestors, sovereign states, ideologies, bureaucracies, Freudian or holy trinities, deconstructionist simplifications, simplifying nihilisms, etc.

Of late, we don’t belong to anything. On the contrary, everything and everyone belongs to the most fear-driven among us, who may say and do as they please without regard to consequences. The more harebrained and vicious their ventures, the worst the disaster that unfolds from their idiocy without follow-up correction, the stronger they think that makes them because they got away with it. They make me think of ten-year-olds who’ve gotten hold of the car keys: gasping their way panic-stricken through a horrifying series of collisions because the car hasn’t stalled yet.

It is time we recovered our sense of belonging, the way a lost little child might be restored to parental arms. Time we regained gentle wisdom and competence, rather than our panic-driven denial of creativity while we feverishly play Russian roulette with the world.

Global reforestation may help to restore our sullied habitat to its primal purity, soothe disastrous weather patterns and promote edenic diversity. Who knows? Edenization might moderate tectonic disasters and help heal the ozone layer. This may be our last chance to make up for our long history of environmental abuse. At the same time, we could bind up each other’s social, physical and psychic wounds instead of aggravating them!

Uruk, Babylon, Rome, Love Canal, your hometown: this list of ecocides can stretch out real long real fast.

 

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