Friday, April 18, 2014


                               Marquez on his 87th birthday earlier this year

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest writer who began publishing in my lifetime, died on Thursday. He was singular in his ability to delight readers of every class and country.  For years when anyone asked me to recommend a book to read, I gave them A Hundred Years of Solitude. It didn't matter if the reader was a PhD in Cambridge or a waitress in western Pennsylvania.  It never missed.

He wrote inimitable fiction and insisted on journalism as a literary form. His Nobel Prize lecture was mostly about Latin America rather than literature. It gives human and historical dimension to a book that appeared long after, The Shock Doctrine.  It ended:

"On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, "I decline to accept the end of man". I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth."

Yet at other times he talked wisely, compassionately and valiantly about literature and the work of writing. One of my favorites, from an interview:

"You write better with all your problems resolved. You write better in good health. You write better without preoccupations. You write better when you have love in your life. There is a romantic idea that suffering and adversity are very good, very useful for the writer. I don't agree at all."

But my favorite, that in some sense serves as an epitaph, is this:
"Some say the novel is dead. But it is not the novel. It is they who are dead."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Moving Climate

There was a lot of news  bearing on climate crisis matters in the past week or so. The second part of the UN report was issued, characterized every which way in media headlines. Climate Change Adjustments Must Be Fast And Major, U.N. Panel Says, according to NPR. IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable says the Guardian.  The points stressed in the latter are that clean energy conversion is pretty cheap, plus it has other benefits (ultimately economic) besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Another new thing on the climate block is a television series about the climate crisis, Years of Living Dangerously, which began on the Showtime pay cable channel Sunday but also is viewable for free here on the Internet.  It has Hollywood stars interviewing and investigating pertinent events and issues.  There's a kind of paid advertising blog on it at TPM, starting with this one.

 I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I will note that I proposed something like this in probably the first thing I wrote specifically for a web site more than a decade ago, and reposted at Kowincidence: "Use Hollywood faces and voices, send them places where something can be shown that indicates the effects of global heating. Send Julia Roberts to interview an Inuit elder on camera about the change in Arctic ice and weather patterns, and the effects on the animals and plants. Take an action hero to high altitudes, take Mariel Hemingway up to Mt. Kilimanjaro and measure the snow, and some swimsuit models to an island that will disappear under the water because of global heating."

A TV broadcast network--NBC News-- also reportedly did a decent special report.)

I also pleaded for making the climate crisis a moral issue, and another step was taken in this direction by one of my favorite writers writing, Rebecca Solnit, in  her Guardian piece "Call climate change what it is: violence."

That wasn't the only tell-it-like-it-is pronouncement.  A Boston Globe column came right out and said that climate crisis skeptics don't deserve a veto.  Probably one of the more positive moves this week in the media was the full-throated cry in what must be the definition of a middle American newspaper, USA Today: On climate change, expect the worst.

A very public gauntlet was thrown down by a U.S. Senator (Sheldon Whitehead) and prominent senior House member (Henry Waxman)--both Democrats--who made a very strong case that the Obama administration has all the facts it needs to deny the Keystone pipeline because of how much worse it could make the climate crisis.  And they made it in a very public place, on the CNN site. Update 4/18: The State Department postponed final decisions until after a Nebraska court case settles the route the pipeline can take, which affects environmental impact.

As the UN report notes and the Guardian emphasized, the economy of change is positive, and basically unreported progress is being rapidly made on efficiency and cost of clean energy. A big step was taken last week in legitimizing the business future of clean energy when IKEA made a big investment in an Illinois wind farm, its first in the U.S. and second in North America.

 But there's even a cheaper way to cut emissions, though it seldom gets mentioned: conservation and energy efficiency.  This Think Progress piece  uses the information that when Japan closed its nuclear power plants after the catastrophe of Fukushima, half of the energy those plants produced was saved in the next several years by conservation, mostly by ordinary people.  Energy efficiency helped maintain that savings over 3 years now.  Studies show that the U.S. could cut 20% of its energy use by these means.  It would take a deliberate commitment so that the savings wouldn't disappear with new uses, but it's not something that has been tried.

All of this happened as other scientists made their case that the previously mysterious First Extinction--the worst known--some 250 million years ago, was caused by microbes that over a very long time excreted enough methane into the atmosphere to heat the planet and change the climate. "I would say that the end-Permian extinction is the closest animal life has ever come to being totally wiped out, and it may have come pretty close," said Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Greg Fournier, one of the researchers.

What it took tens of thousands of years for these microbes to do, humans are well on the way to doing in a comparative split second.  In the first week of April 2014, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Earth hit the highest level in at least 800,000 years.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Dreaming Up Daily Weekly Quote

                 April White #1 by BK  click to see complete photo

"The only glimmer of hope is that their newly developing sciences are quickly proving...the interrelatedness of all life. If they can develop enough scientific evidence to bring their knowledge back up to the level of natural peoples, they may cease their war against the world. We must hope that one day they will realize that Indian beliefs are backed by thousands of years of close observation.”

Carter Camp (Ponca)

R.I.P. Amos Tripp

The North Coast and the California Indian community lost a valued leader in Amos Tripp, who died at the age of 70.  An obit is posted here at Lost Coast Outpost.  I worked with him when he was on the Humboldt Area Foundation Board of Directors, and I was writing the grant for what became the Native Cultures Fund.  He was warm and funny in conversation, and invited me to attend a particular ceremony that remains special in my memory.  We will all miss him.