Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Revolving House" by Paul Klee
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Global Days for Darfur

The situation in Darfur continues to be dire. And confusing--as optimistic headlines are quickly followed by contradictory ones. There still has been no effective protection for either the population or aid workers. While the US is bogged down with many thousands of troops in the fruitless quagmire of Iraq, it's been said that as few as 2500 US troops in Sudan could make all the difference.

Half a million people have been killed and millions displaced in the violence in Darfur. A UN report warns that an entire generation of children is at risk. The Bush government has given the latest in a series of warnings to the government of Sudan, which is responsible for enabling the violence in the Darfur region, but the US continues to delay doing anything, even in terms of economic pressure.

April 23 to 30 are the Global Days for Darfur--some 332 events in 246 U.S. cities are planned so far. (Check here to see what's happening in your neighborhood.)

A form of protest that proved effective in changing the future of South Africa is being applied to this genocidal crisis: divestment. Eight states in the U.S. (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont)are beginning that process by withdrawing state pension funds from any companies doing business with Sudan. Colorado just became the ninth. Dozens of US universities have also divested.

Another form of economic pressure is withdrawing businesses. Rolls-Royce is the latest international company to leave Sudan in protest. (Known here for its classic cars, the company is the second largest manufacturer of aircraft in the world, and the largest British based industry to leave Sudan.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that a possible alliance between Arab and non-Arab rebels against the Sudanese government could change the nature of the conflict.

Did the current Court get this memo?
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The latest in the Trekalog series, considering the film Star Trek: Generations is available for reading at Soul of Star Trek.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Trillium grows in Arcata. BK photo.
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein
Designing a Better World

Earth Day brings out the optimism, so as it gets closer let's focus on some positive ideas. The World Changing site is doing a series of Earth Day statements and interviews, and two of the first were with designers/architects with the kind of expertise and vision to actually build the constituents of the future.

One is William McDonough, a vital visionary who isn't nearly well enough known. He may turn out to be the Buckminster Fuller of the Climate Crisis era, with actual designs that arguably are more practical. His "cradle to cradle" concept accentuates the positive, in more ways that one:

We can envision and design, for example, buildings that purify air and water and produce more energy than they use. Design can eliminate the concept of waste, producing perpetual assets rather than perpetual liabilities. An architecture of abundance would create objects and energies that are socially, economically, and ecologically delightful.

His World Changing statement is here, and his website is here (it's also in the Climate Crisis Links column to the left.)

John Thackara is another designer and visionary of the practical/physical world. His statement begins:

William Gibson's take on the subject has become a classic modern aphorism: "The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed." Most elements of a sustainable world exist. Some of those elements are technological solutions. Some are to be found in the natural world, thanks to millions of years of natural evolution. The majority, I suspect, are social practices - some of them very old ones - learned by other societies and in other times.

Thackara can also be found at Doors of Perception. I recommend his book, In the Bubble, as well. I reviewed it for the San Francisco Chronicle, together with a couple of others.

Environmentalists are often their own worst enemies, either losing themselves in bureaucratic envirospeak or getting lost in the ozone layer of their worst stereotypes. And architect/ designers have their own problems with relevance and direct language--but I'm forgetting this is an optimistic Earth Day post. Let's try and extract the really good practical ideas and the really healthy and inspiring visions. We've got a few days left.

Monday, April 16, 2007

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"I met the author Dick Francis at the Kentucky Derby years ago. I knew he had been a champion rider in steeplechases. I said he was a bigger man than I had expected. He replied that it took a big man to 'hold a horse together' in a steeplechase. This image of his remained in the forefront of my memory so long, I think, because life itself can seem a lot like that: a matter of holding one's self-respect together, instead of a horse, as one's self-respect is expected to hurdle fences and hedges and water."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


The Weekly Babble

Eye on the Ball/Prize/Future

I actually watched the NCAA Women's Final between Tennessee and Rutgers. It was a better game than most of the men's Final Four. Those two teams were fast and skilled, and played a fast-paced, exciting game. Rutgers held their own for much of the first half, but Tennessee wore them down with experience and a deeper bench. If I'm remembering correctly, the announcers said that most of the Rutgers starting players were freshman. Tennessee is a big time sports school, while Rutgers emphasizes academics, and hasn't played for the championship of anything for a very long time.

The furor that unwound all week over Imus' remarks about the Rutgers women was remarkable. It came to be about race and gender, about children, about the media and its diversity, and lack thereof. It was also about our basic standard these days of accepting whatever leads to making a lot of money or getting a lot of power.

Thanks in part to Congress being out of session, and the Administration and presidential candidates saying or doing nothing very new, it completely dominated the airwaves all week and all weekend. Now Congress is coming back, and the Justice Department and White House are going to be back on the hot seat. And so is Iraq, where the violence continues and grows.

Here's why there was nothing in this space last week about any of this: apart from weariness of the repetitive nature of these events and controversies, and as important as they are, they will pass, and we'll still be facing the future, and in particular the Climate Crisis.

For instance, Iraq. It can end the future for people there, for people who go there. But there is nothing new about it essentially, and from now on there probably won't be anything new. The talking heads on TV are saying pretty much the same things they were saying a year ago. And nothing really new is going to happen. Now it's just a matter of watching this sickening spectacle play out. By 2009, it will pretty much be over, and it probably won't be over much before that.

That's how it was with Vietnam. By 1971 everything had been said and done, and it was just a matter of how badly the war would end, and when. It's the same with Bush and Cheney. It is very likely they are criminals by statute as well as international law, and Constitutionally they are begging to be impeached. Those wheels are not yet turning and they probably won't because there isn't enough time. It could happen, it should happen, but it probably won't. But it's going to be ugly from here on out, with more outrages to come. And then in two years they'll be gone.

But the Climate Crisis will not be gone. It's clearly here--as the East Coast is currently learning--and it's going to get worse. There are always going to be outrages and crises and controversies over race, politics and American Idol. If all we do is devote saturation coverage and total obsessive attention to each of them as they burn through cyberspace and cable TV, we'll certainly lose the future, which is currently a scary background to the present, but will eventually fill up the present like a flood. And then it may be too late to talk about what to do.

I don't mean people shouldn't be interested or concerned about these matters, or that they shouldn't protest or take political action. It's just that there ought to be some people who keep their eye on what in the present is likely to have the greatest effect on the longer term future, if any. And these days, it feels like one of them would be me.

I've got another blog (Scorched Mirth) which I can use for snark and venting on these daily nightmares. These days however I find that the need or even the desire to do so doesn't last long, and I seldom devote the energy to it. All that news is old news, really, even before it happens. Saving the future is the story worth the focus.