Sunday, August 26, 2007

GS(3) Intel Brief 8-27-06: Close Your Eyes, Listen, Feel the Planet, and then Live from Inside that Truth

Image: Yves Tanguy, The Dark Garden, Le Jardin sombre. 1928.

GS(3) Intel Brief 8-27-06: Close Your Eyes, Listen, Feel the Planet, and then Live from Inside that Truth

By Richard Power

Close your eyes, and imagine you were born blind, but that like Homer, the misfortune has expanded your mind, and like Helen Keller, it has also expanded your heart.

Imagine, further, that you are sitting upright in a high-back chair, with comfortable arm-rests. Next to you is a large topographical globe, which rests on its own stand. You lift your left arm and place your left hand upon the globe.

In the swirling luminescence that the sighted simply call "darkness," you feel the planet at the edge of your fingertips and in the palm of your hand, and you hear it inside of your mind.

You feel the beating heart of a new-born gorilla as your fingers pass over the Congo, that place of struggle between irrepressible life and seemingly uneradicable despair:

A mountain gorilla was born in the Democratic republic of Congo's Virunga park Tuesday, an important event for the endangered species' survival following the recent killings of five silverbacks. "The birth ... is seen as a key step toward the survival of this critically endangered species," the Wildlife Direct conservationist organisation said in a statement ... "Nine Mountain Gorillas have been killed since January in Congos gorilla sector, sparking one of the worst crises for this endangered species in over 35 years," it added. ... "Despite the slaughter of the gorillas in July that shocked the whole world, we can see that they are fighting to survive," said Norbert Mushenzi, head of southern Virunga for the Congolese Nature Conservation Institute (ICCN). "ICCN is collaborating with all conservation NGOs to intensify the protection of the gorillas with additional guards and reinforced patrols," he added in the statement. Agence France Press, 8-22-07

Moving your hand westward, you hear the muted footsteps of Ghana's economic refugees, and follow them northward on their long, desperate journey up through the Sahara to Libya and then across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy:

Before setting out across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy, the Ghanaian human traffickers who had hired Samuel and his two friends to captain the boat in exchange for their passage warned them not to sail with more than 90 immigrants aboard--nor to trust the Libyan police ... Experts suggest several causes for the fishing industry's plight. ... But central to the problem are the industrial trawlers subsidized by the European Union, primarily from Spain, which has acquired fishing rights off West African territorial waters. And industrial fishing greatly affects the catch closer to shore that the local communities rely on for survival.
European trawlers now fish off the coasts of nine West African countries--from Morocco in the north to Gabon in the south--a development criticized by the United Nations as well as environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, which question the sustainability of the practice. ...
In These Times, 8-10-07

Moving your hand upward, to the northwest, in the cool, pristine sky above the Norwegian fjords, you feel a grittiness, and rub the grains between your fingers:

Some dust from the deserts of the Sahara has been spotted in the air over an island off the northern part of Norway. ... Officials said it was "quite special" to see desert sand as far north as Norway. ... Such dust clouds rarely extend further north than Central Europe. ... the particles were probably whipped up by a major sandstorm in the Sahara earlier this month. Aftenposten, 8-14-07

Yes, the planet is a oneness. What befalls Africa, befalls us all -- one way or another, sooner or later.

Moving downward and diagonally across the Atlantic, the great rainforests and mountain ranges of South America brush your fingertips, and you feel renewed strength emanating from those sacred spaces, besieged as they are by people in the thrall of spiritual maladies (e.g., ignorance and greed):

Rainforest conservation policies are reducing the rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, but roads are unquestionably the drivers of change, new satellite data reveal. ... "Peru's forest reserves and conservation areas appear to be working well," said Greg Asner, director of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, at Stanford University in California. ... The study clearly shows that deforestation follows the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, which ultimately is directly connected with 23 percent of the total damage. "Roads are absolutely connected to deforestation," Asner said.
Loggers are chasing "red gold", the valuable wood of mahogany trees, which are still found in commercial quantities in the Peruvian Amazon, says David Hill, a campaigner for Survival International, a Britain-based non-governmental organisation supporting tribal peoples worldwide. ...
Stephen Leahy, Satellites Show Logging Decline in Peru's Amazon Region, Inter Press Service, 8-18-07

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon rainforest has dropped by nearly a third during the last year to its lowest rate in the last seven years, according to government figures. ... Marina Silva, the environment minister, told a news conference in the capital Brasilia: "It's a great achievement for Brazilian society. It reflects a new environmental governance." But environmentalists say deforestation has slowed largely because of the strengthening of Brazil's currency and a drop in the price of soybeans, which makes it less profitable to clear forest to grow the crop. Brazil's deforestation rate 'falls', Mercosur, 8-12-07

Following the sea horse spine of South America down to its southern edges, you turn your hand palm upward and feel the membrane of the atmosphere itself, blessing those that made certain the nations of the Earth delivered on the 1987 Montreal Protocol:

Tierramérica: When will we see the full restoration of the ozone layer over Antarctica and the southern region of South America? Last year the thinning of the layer, the hole, reached a record size of 27.5 million square kilometres.
Marco González [Executive Secretary of the Secretariat for the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer]: The studies by the Protocol's scientific groups establish that the concentrations of chlorine and bromide show a downward trend since 2000 and that the situation in the stratosphere is improving. As far as the ozone hole, it occurs seasonally and depends on the meteorological conditions in Antarctica. The colder the temperatures in the Antarctic, there occurs a freezing of the air that forms a sort of "vortex", which produces the conditions propitious for massive destruction of the ozone. Scientists agreed that the hole is going to stay with us in a similar situation to that of 2006 for at least the next decade.
Q&A: Global Fight to Protect the Ozone Layer Celebrates 20 Years
Interview with Montreal Protocol chief Marco González, Inter Press Service, 8-11-07

Moving northward along the Pacific coast of the Americas, from the rubble of Pisco to what Joni Mitchell has called "City of the Fallen Angels," you can feel the Ring of Fire, with all its unspeakable power to turn life upside down, and you can also feel the pressure building inside of it:

A devastating quake in California's Coachella Valley usually occurs every 150 years, but its been more than 300 years since a quake shook the region.
"There will be several thousand dead and billions of dollars in damage," said Lucy Jones, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the Los Angeles Times. ... Scientists consider a quake along the San Andreas Fault in the Coachella Valley "a near inevitability," the Palm Springs Desert Sun reports, noting that such a quake could be the "most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history."
Nick Juliano, Scientist says 300-year overdue earthquake could cause thousands of deaths, Raw Story, 8-10-07

Moving your hand downward again, it skims across the vast rolling blue vortex of the Pacific, until you come to the nation-continent of Australia:

Northern Australia contains the world's largest remaining savannas and is one of the last great pristine wilderness zones, covering an area larger than western Europe, Australian researchers said ... The country's tropics, stretching 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) across the continent, accounted for more than a quarter of the world's remaining savanna after the decline of grasslands that once spread over South America, Africa and Asia, they said. ... after satellite mapping 1.5 million square kilometres (580,000 square miles) of Australia's north, a team of scientists from the Wild Country Science Council said the area now ranked with Antarctica and South America's Amazon rainforests in environmental importance. Rob Taylor, Australia holds the world's last great savanna, Reuters, 8-14-07

As the harsh impact of climate change intensifies (Australia is already drought-ravaged), there will be a great drive to develop the savannas, this self-destructive urge must be resisted.

In circling the globe with your tactile prescience, you can also hear the deliberations of its governments and feel the visions of its leaders. You wince at the cacophony of coarseness and narrow-mindedness, but from within the discordant din, you can hear charming melodies and inspiring overtures:

Landlocked in the eastern Himalayas, the tiny country of Bhutan seems almost untouched by globalisation. ... Bhutan is one of the few countries to employ the concept of gross national happiness — that social and economic development should promote happiness as its primary value. Conservation of the environment and sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development are the two pillars of gross national happiness, which was declared more important than gross national product by Bhutan's then king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, in 1972.
But today, the country is facing change. Global warming is melting many of its glaciers, while its need for economic development and quest to export hydropower to neighbouring India may harm its fragile terrain. Bhutan is grappling with the dilemma of conservation versus development.
Bhutan's dilemma: Happiness vs. development, T. V. Padma, SciDev.Net, 8-16-07,

While oil prices are soaring, Quito is adopting the civil society initiative calling for the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil reserve, the country’s largest, to remain untapped. The ITT reserve is located in Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, in the Amazon region provinces of Pastaza and Napo. The slogans "Yasuní Belongs to Everyone" and "Yes to Life, No to ITT", painted on the walls in Quito and other Ecuadorean cities in the last few days, are a sign that something new is happening in this country. ... Quito has suspended oil drilling at ITT for one year, and has approached several foreign governments, international bodies and non-governmental organisations with the proposal that Ecuador be paid an indemnity in return for leaving the oil undisturbed, on the grounds that this would prevent environmental damages that would affect humanity as a whole. ... Ecuador is basing its proposal on four key arguments: the need to combat climate change, curb the destruction of biodiversity, protect the Huaorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous people, and transform the country’s economy by adopting a new development model. ... Kintto Lucas, ECUADOR: Support Grows for Letting Sleeping Amazon Oil Lie, Inter Press Service, 8-23-07

Just as an eruption (or a series of them) along Ring of Fire could disrupt life for much of the human race and the other species we share this planet with, so could a mistake or an act of madness concerning nuclear weapons. No greater threat of such a catastrophe exists than the one that confronts us in Pakistan.

[NOTE: Benazir Bhutto, 54, the former prime minister of Pakistan and leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has lived in exile for eight years. Now that President Pervez Musharraf's authority is weakened, her chances of returning to power are greater than they have been for some time.]
SPIEGEL: You have been living in exile for eight years. You could probably only return home after the charges of corruption leveled against you have been dropped. The regulation prohibiting a third term as prime minister would also have to be eliminated. What did Musharraf say about that?
Bhutto: We spoke about a fair starting basis for all parties and about strengthening the parliament.
SPIEGEL: Musharraf has been more unpopular than ever since the siege of the Red Mosque. Is this your chance?
Bhutto: It is extremely sad that he is not enforcing law and order in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan or taking measures to eradicate terrorism there. His policy of cease-fires and peace treaties has only kept the Taliban alive and expanded their zone of influence. I want to give my compatriots a clear choice. Either they support extremism or they reject it decisively.
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH BENAZIR BHUTTO, 'Pakistan Must Not Be Talibanized', Der Spiegel, 8-13-07

In the 21st Century, security, sustainability and spirit are interdependent.

You cannot deal with terrorism without dealing with religious extremism, and you cannot deal with either without dealing with extreme poverty and sustainability. You cannot deal with sustainability without dealing with energy security, you cannot deal with energy security without dealing with corporatism and militarism.

You cannot achieve security without sustainability, and you will not attain sustainability without drawing on the collective spiritual heritage of the human race.

Furthermore, national security, regional security and global security are synonymous, so are national security, environmental security and energy security.

You cannot establish any one without establishing the others.

Feeling the globe with your fingertips, while holding the planet itself within your heart, you know this. You see it.

Unfortunately, although we are twenty plus years into the Information Age, most business and government leaders do not even understand the security and risk imperatives of cyberspace, as two recent studies confirm:

Forty-four percent of mobile users questioned in a survey this spring said they open e-mails and attachments from unknown or even suspicious senders. The study also showed that one-third of mobile users access unauthorized wireless connections, whether they're hijacking a neighbors' wireless connection or using unsecured hotspots at a coffee shop or in a public park. The study was commissioned by Cisco Systems and the National Cyber Security Alliance. ... According to the study, 73% of mobile users said they are not always aware of security threats and best practices when working on the go. Although many said they are "sometimes" aware, another 28% admitted they "hardly ever" consider security risks and proper behavior. ... When questioned about why they're so lax about wireless security, the top answers included, "I'm busy and need to get work done," and "It's IT's job, not mine." InsightExpress surveyed 700 mobile workers in seven countries that have widely adopted wireless technologies -- the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, South Korea, and Singapore. Sharon Gaudin, Information Week, 8-21-07

Almost 40 per cent of UK organisations admit to protecting less than a quarter of their network traffic, according to the annual security survey conducted by SafeNet.
The report revealed that five per cent of UK organisations have no security measures at all to protect the data crossing their networks ... the survey also showed that overall levels of network protection are falling. Some 34 per cent of organisations encrypt only between one and 25 per cent of their data
Ian Williams, VNU, 8-21-07

Cyberspace, too, is a oneness.

Given this general state of cluelessness among leaders in business and government concerning the full spectrum of risks and threats, much of the most important work involved in saving the planet will have to be done in spite of them, and be imposed on them from below through democratic processes.

The forces of nature, history and human evolution are with you.

Close your eyes again, you can feel it.

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