When Cultures Collapse.

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For the 350th anniversary of my town’s founding in 1661, I was asked to draw the ten items that the Sinoway (An Algonquian-speaking people of the Wappinger Federation) traded for their coastal lands. The concept of actually owning land was as foreign to Native-Americans as the concept of money.

This is a mural that graces a wall in our town’s library titled: The Purchase of Mamaroneck from the Siwanoys, 1661. It was painted with the auspices of the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) in 1936 by Warren Chase Merritt d.1968.

This is a mural that graces a wall in our town’s library titled: The Purchase of Mamaroneck from the Siwanoys, 1661. It was painted with the auspices of the W.P.A. (Works Project Administration) in 1936 by Warren Chase Merritt d.1968.

Drawing the traded items gave me a few days to contemplate what we value when civilizations collapse. It was a nice detachment from time but rooted in place. (A couple of 24-6 days off the grid to just consider history and draw).

These are the trade items I drew.

2 Firelockes, 12 Bars of Lead, 20 Coats, 20 Hands of Powder, 15 Hatchets, 15 Hoes, 3 Kettles, 12 Shirts, 1- Pair of Stockings, 100 Fathom of Wampum

Items for the purchase of Mamaroneck in 1661; 2 Firelockes, 12 Bars of Lead, 20 Coats, 20 Hands of Powder, 15 Hatchets, 15 Hoes, 3 Kettles, 12 Shirts, 10 Pair of Stockings, 100 Fathom of Wampum

Wampum, “white man’s money”, had more to do with agreements and treaties than currency before European contact.

As you can see, when these descendents of a thousands year old culture dispersed, what refugees needed was just enough to get the hell out, find some safer place, move in with distant relatives — assimilation if possible or exodus.

Sound familiar?

 

The Apocalypse is Having a Real Moment.

With films, novels, journalists and Grammy award songs capitalizing on our angst The Apocalypse is having a resurgent moment. Even climate denial can make hay from our apocalyptic neuroses.

Exactly what you might expect to see today when society loses cohesion.

In an interview of Oren Lyons by Barry Lopez for Orion Magazine, Oren relates exactly what democratic leadership entails. He is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan among the Onondaga people and sits on the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. He speaks to the inspiration his ancestors provided in forming our early American democracy – the one we still aspire to. It’s a matter of survival for a thriving culture.

America’s leadership goes beyond trade and power or a willingness to squander blood and treasure. It rests on the promise that we prize equality and freedom over exploitation and despoliation.

Surely with our wild streak of independence it’s naïve to think compromise will restore our faith in government or if we compromise enough it will lead to sustaining civilization. Our destiny demands a special accommodation for generations to follow.

The least we can do is be informed and to vote. Always vote.

In the end we only do as well as other people do, and we get the government we deserve.

— Steve Mitsch

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Running Meditation

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Running. It was boring, exhausting, and repetitive and didn’t do much to make a person look all that good.

Discovered by complete accident, I was once told, “To burn body fat it’s not how fast you run but how long you run”. So I started going further.

What makes jogging a 24-6 pastime is that it requires no fossil-fuel energy, starts a day off the grid and you’re in the elements. You don’t need new-age trainers, gyms, treadmills or anybody’s permission (check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program though mine would be skeptical).

Of late, I tell myself that I feel like running and then, to just keep on running. At times it seems to help put the past behind and free my thoughts.

Believe it or not there are many people who run all day.
They’re called Ultra Runners and though that sounds like the province of elite athletes or exceptional humans – perhaps not always.

To spare you the long story here’s all you need to know.
Slow down a little and stay on the ball of your foot.

But the long story is a great one. And the anthropological record suggests that humans are evolved as a running species.

The book that explains a lot of this is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen written by Christopher McDougall. The main character, Michael Randolf Hickman, a.k.a Micah True or Caballo Blanco was beautiful. He believed what he did was “running meditation” and his motto was ”Run free”. This I know against all expectations to be true. Even though I am a terrible athlete and way past my prime.

(I resist attaching links because 24-6 is s’posed to be your “Exit Ramp of the Information HighwaySM” but here it is). https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6289283-born-to-run?ac=1

Exercise for mind and body should seem obvious but perhaps not as much to a western mind. Remarkably, there is a quality of experience when you realize you are your body.

Running at a modest comfortable pace becomes easy to maintain.

Your breathing becomes regular.

Your thoughts range as in sitting or walking meditation and you, by necessity, return to your breath.

Silly of me to suggest this is a spiritual equivalent of other ancient practices or the current vogue of “mindfulness” but damn if it doesn’t have some merit to it. There is a crossing over of ordinary consciousness and perceived physical limits. To “run free” is not the cliché theory of runners’ high but our more evolutionary human state.

Who knew, or did we forget?

Steven Mitsch

Fracking Comes Home

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My apartment complex has been rigging an elaborate looking connection to the town gas line over the last several months. It’s an optional fuel source for heat and hot water.

What’s interesting, besides the economic reprieve from higher heating costs, is the Rube Goldberg contraption. I remarked to the utility inspector that the thing looks like a wellhead and he chimed, “That’s right where it’s coming from”.

When I pass them I can hear the reassuring hiss of fuel delivering us the warmth inside, or conversely I hear a relentless mocking telling me “Of courssse you want thisss.

Ordinarily these essays are about what we do when taking a weekly day off the grid but thought it worth mentioning. Besides, I’ve been working from home for a while and walk a ’lot. (That really does save a lot of running around).

Energy workers have a point when they tell us; if we like to cook they need to drill. The director of Gasland, Josh Fox, said those of us opposed to unconventional energy, including fracking, cannot just be against something – we have to be for something. What we ought to be fighting for is an all-out speedy transition to safe renewable energy and all the prosperity that will generate – forever!

Why aren’t oil and gas companies transitioning to sustainable energy companies? The oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, placed an enormous bet on wind energy and lost a fortune. He argues that American oil and gas companies are the best at what they do and I guess in a way that’s supposed to be reassuring. But that’s the problem if it’s unbridled capitalism – bottom line it’s simply best at one thing only – profiting.

Originally, Congress assigned rights of incorporation requiring they not exceed their authority or cause public harm. It was at our nation’s discretion they were allowed to serve!

The lauded former industry titan/climate change skeptic, Jack Welsh, presided at General Electric during the deregulation era of the 1980’s. I got a sense of his zeal for Darwinian Capitalism working on computer services advertising for the company – the same year our ad agency helped launch the Apple Macintosh computer.

In the intervening years the stocks of both companies would have made you comfortable (if you could have owned them). Point is, not long after, Steve Jobs needed to leave his own company until the world caught up to his vision, and he and Apple earned largest valuation of every company on the planet, blah, blah, blah.

It’s as good a lesson to take away with regard to the fossil fuel industry. If Jack Welsh supports the conviction that giving consumers the environmentally friendly goods they seek, his reasons seem unapologetically cynical or a damming truth that business responds to consumer demand.

“There’s an enormous opportunity…whether you believe in global warming or not…If you’re in a company, you’d better be pushing those (green) products because the world wants these products.

– Jack Welsh, Fresh Dialogues Interview Series with Alison van Diggelen, May 12, 2009

A delightful GE commercial several years back had creatures in the jungle dancing to Singing in the Rain and stated “Water that’s more pure.”­ – this after spending years and several-hundred-million dollars fighting the EPA requirement to remove their factory’s toxic waste in New York’s Hudson River. Translation; We can make money even when we help cause the problem.

Businesses must protect stockholders and profits until the time comes their actions become unprofitable.

Corporate missions need people to guide their immediate and long range decisions. And the campaign to divest investments in the fossil fuel industry will lead them into the future.

Especially if we, each carbon-based human, reduce our carbon-based energy consumption and help them get their heads out of the ground!

Incredible things happen when we used our boycotts and purchases to dissent. They help mitigate racism, human suffering and destruction of our environment.

The goal of practicing 24-6 is to slow this corrupting process. Everyone take a day off the grid. Earn your own “carbon credits”.

Surely there will be unintended consequences if we all start doing this. Lower energy costs seem to increase usage for one. That makes alternatives costly. But it is something each of us can actually do for ourselves and our childrens’ children.