Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What Alternatives Beyond Alternatives? Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:26:25 +0000 Morning pages inspired by  this article, which I highly recommend. Abundant Clean Renewables? Think Again!]

I confess I was not paying sufficient attention in the one snooze-worthy economics class I took as an undergrad elective. Spreadsheets are so cold and lifeless to a young tree-hugger.

Now, after a half century of hugging, I realize the absolute importance of economics to those trees. Nature: it’s the economy, stupid! There is complete overlap–not complete separation–between the circle of our life-needs and the circle of the physical, natural world out of which those needs are met. We ARE the environment.

My boomer-cohorts and I should be able to see with greater clarity over the edge of the precipice, past the rim of the horizon, from so much closer to the edge of it in our sixties than from where we stood in THE sixties. With age should come vision.

And yet, even today’s white-haired “wise ones” I fear too often have a vision for the future in which we’ll have fixed things–living then with a little less carbon, a little more recycling, some wind and solar and electric cars. But in that future we imagine that our stumbling economy can pick up where it left off at the end of the Carbon Era–whose precipice we quickly approach.

We know there must be alternatives to natural gas, to fracking, to tar sands and pipelines, to deep sea drilling, to coal. We applaud the inroads being made (not with the most success in this country) towards national replacement of carbon with non-carbon stocks for energy. Well and good.

But if all we do is swap twenty trillion mega-joules of carbon energy with as many mega-joules of wind and sun and soil-and-water-based biofuel energy on the other side of the current “gap”, we do very little to the rate of disorder created in the “environment” of the future. We trade a shovel for a pickaxe. The planet will not notice the difference.

So what are the alternatives to and beyond alternatives? Who is looking that far ahead and asking this hard question today–and who is willing to change their lives now to line up with that future?

To those who can clearly articulate and act on that vision is where I’ll send my grown children to know how to guide their young children, our grandchildren. Those visionaries are the people I’d recommend following. Voting for? Probably not. They are more likely to be farmers and social workers than corporate executives and congressmen.

And so I am encouraged by the wisdom of triple-bottom-line eco-economists. I take hope in those who understand the urgency of using the full power of our collective understanding to take action now to avoid altering living biomes past tipping points, even if it means doing without or with much less stuff today.

I’m encouraged to know that there are steady-state economists who believe we can truly progress without cancerous growth that takes more than it gives back. I’m hopeful in that there are entire nations recognizing that General Happiness Index is a better measure of our well-being together than Gross Domestic Product.

The Greek word for household is “oikos.” We have borrowed it to create both the word economy and the term ecology. We have become confused about the relationship between them. We have allowed ourselves, willingly and for more than a century, to think that the household of our families, of our state or our nation can stand if the household of nature is regarded as an inorganic warehouse of parts of which we are not a part.

We ARE the environment. The environment is the air we breathe. It is the water of the sea within us that comes from the rock below us and the air above. We are the minerals from the vanishing soil that makes wood and leaf of forests and fish as surely as it makes bones and brains of poets.

On the far side of alternative fuels of today must be a species (my great-great-greats) that can live contentedly within the limits of this only home planet nurtured to provide an acceptably healthy and just and ongoing level of well-being.

Some non-carbon fuel then will give light and heat for far fewer of us. Each of us will know from grade school the limits beyond which we cannot spend, cannot despoil, cannot take, cannot succumb to self–because we clearly see that the “personal ecology” of each of us leaves tracks that will reach the future.

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Gone to the Dog. And When She Says GO Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:28:53 +0000 Now wait a minute. Those of you who once snarked that Fragments had become “all Gandy all the time” have no paws to stand on. It’s been a while. And over the intervening years since Tsuga passed three years ago December 5, my dog lover-readers have wandered off to Facebook anyway.

Meanwhile, Gandy of Goose Creek (Gandy, ostensibly the female counterpart of gander) has become the Dog of the House, her eyes ever-watching from her throne–the loveseat where Tsuga could go with permission, and now, where we might rest–with permission. The dog and I make a great napping pair, when she grants me access.

In the early months of Gandy’s tenure here I wrote often about our doubts about her long-term residence with us. We discussed giving her back to the Humane Society more than once. Needless to say, we are glad we didn’t.

She is high-maintenance, although she can endure hours of snoring from a sunny patch on the sofa. But at some point, she says ENOUGH! and begins bumping my elbows, sending my hands flying into the computer keyboard.

When the persistent barking begins, I know I might as well relent and go. And she’s right to remind me that two of my age-peer friends have suffered pulmonary emboli. (She’s a very bright and articulate animal. I told you!)

Too much sitting is bad for Gandy’s health. Too much Gandy is not great for mine, mentally –until I relent and get up and get gone with the dog.

She turned 3 the middle of October. She joined us December 18, 2012.

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Overstuffed Thanksgetting Wed, 19 Nov 2014 12:32:24 +0000
“The world is too much with us, late and soon. Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we see in nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away…” Wordsworth

If the Earth was a conscious being capable of feeling pain and loss, Black Friday would be the one day of the year it would dread the most. And the “holiday season” that stretches from November (increasingly starting the day after Halloween) through January 1 of the following year would be a dreaded time of general dysfunction and malaise that would every year leave the patient increasingly diminished, disordered and dis-eased.

If there is a poster child for the “old economy”, it is this one period of intentional over-spending, over-eating and general commercial gluttony. There was Black Friday. Now, there’s Black Thursday. What a waste to have people in their homes content with what they have when they could be scrumming behind the gated doors of Target before first light to buy STUFF! America, get STUFFING! After all, it’s ThanksGetting! Then GIFTmas!

Two Dozen Retailers Won’t Open on Thanksgiving–And They’re Shaming the Ones That Will |

Pope Francis is spot-on.

“Throughout the world, the G20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists. In addition, there are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.”

Anti-consumption Pope would rather you knit him something for Christmas | Grist

We are chewing up order and spitting out chaos from the planet’s energy stores, topsoil, rare earths, marine fisheries, temperate and tropical forests and living diversity. We do this mindlessly, for the sake of coming home with shopping trophies that were CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP! We think we’re feathering our nest for today, while we’re really, in total impact of our getting, taking from the stock of forests and soils that our survivors will rely on to, er, survive.

This is the OLD economy and it is most certainly dying, even as it gives us the illusion it is making us rich. If you follow very many of today’s tragedies, they trace back to our attempts to push the machinery harder in hopes that a little more will make us a little happier and make the world a safer, healthier and more resilient place. It is not working.

There will have to be a new way of doing things. It will not allow us to operate under the illusion that we can take without giving back. It will not pretend that growth, efficiency and profit are legitimate measures of well-being. It will have to be a progressive zero-growth steady state household of man-with-planet. There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, Marshall McLuhan has said. We are all crew. There is only so much oxygen and we have a long way to travel.

Is there such a thing as Prosperity Without Growth? There had better be.

Center for the Advancement of the Steady State

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Every Step You Take Tue, 18 Nov 2014 11:02:18 +0000 Google’s watching you.

Go to while logged into any google app like g-mail. Turn back the calendar and follow your tracks anywhere your phone went on any given day.

You can also turn on timestamps for any given time after you left home with your phone turned on and Google maps active.

And you think Google doesn’t use this information, or that they wouldn’t give your geographic data points up in a heartbeat with the right kind of ‘national security’ claims?

This map shows our travels one day while in Mississippi last month.

Is this something the average user would ever find useful? Maybe. If you have teenagers, send them out with YOUR phone, then check where they went and when. Creepy.

You can turn this off. Thought you’d want to know.

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Chasing a Livable Future in Floyd Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:25:07 +0000 Someone in last night’s audience for the 16th SustainFloyd Movie Series event–the presentation of the movie, Chasing Ice–suggested that perhaps things would go differently in our actions towards personal change in the light of climate chaos if all politicians were required to come face to face with the 75 minutes of documented facts in this movie: the undeniable retreat of glaciers in Iceland, Greenland and Alaska over the period of just a few recent years.

Nah. There are sadly too many people whose power depends on denial, inaction and keeping the people misinformed and off-balance but diverted into  a sense of control by demonizing “the environment” and those who attempt to speak on the planet’s behalf. James Balog, videographer, has certainly spoken truth to power with this exceptional undertaking and personal expense that culminated in this movie.

Discussion afterward, as often happens when this audience (the “choir”) gathers in this place, the discussion turned to where the rubber of the message of this documentary meets the road on the ground in Floyd County. How do we translate the realities in the message into the lives of our communities and families, and over the coming “transition” to the economy that must replace the broken one that lies at root of almost all of the “environmental” videos and discussions that go on seated there on the Country Store dance floor?

Points of discussion included: Continued and improved relocalization of the food economy; building better communications (skill-sharing) and neighborhood support networks; alternative energy solutions (including cleaner-burning wood stoves);  and taking advantages of the scale and pace of Floyd County to work to our advantage. We are a population whose “enough” is more compatible with sustainability, but “going green” can be a class issue, as alternatives like solar are not widely within the budget of many of those who might be most supportive of the technology. Conservation and lower resource footprints–not increased efficiency–is the key.

Well, I had a “so what” to all this and would bring in some links about “appropriate technology” with regard to wood heat and burning plastic waste cleanly. A few may still be reading so I’ll just pop in a link I found interesting.

This Cook Stove Cleanly Burns Plastic Bags and Generates Enough Electricity to Charge a Phone | TakePart

Back to the movie: the melting of the glaciers is perhaps the single most visually undeniable evidence of the accelerating rate and present extent of atmospheric warming–whose impact is particularly meteorologically relevant at the poles which are warming far faster than the mid-latitudes where most politicians live contentedly in climate-controlled blissful indifference.

Also if you’re still here, a parallel video worth watching (start after the 7 minute mark) is mostly about the METHANE component that may quickly and catastrophically eclipse the CO2 role in atmospheric warming:

Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb – YouTube

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Lenses, Filters and Apps! Oh My! Sat, 15 Nov 2014 13:51:34 +0000 IMG_3566leaf480

Another day, another distraction–a good one, mind you, if you have Iphone images to tweak while waiting for the dentist. Or a shopping wife.

Aviary was bought by Adobe last year. Their IOS image editing app–for the rest of November–offers LOTS of free filters, overlays and other add-ons costing (if not worth) $200.

Introducing the New Photo Editor by Aviary,  Now Part of the Adobe Family — Aviary Blog

November on Goose Creek is incomplete without the illusory leaf-caught-in-mid-fall image. Thank you, parachute spiders, for the random silk from a tree branch that inevitably snares a leaf before it hits the ground, and long enough to grab a shot so that the photographer seems really, really quick on the draw with the shutter button. This one is tricked up via Aviary with the circular overlay.


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James Inhofe: The Greatest Hoax Fri, 14 Nov 2014 11:49:04 +0000 I’m reminded of the well-known cartoon showing the primordial ooze evolving ever upward. It becomes a salamander that becomes an ape that becomes a caveman who becomes a modern man in the age of science.

As of the last election, we can now take humanity’s first step back down the ladder of disorder as the sapient man of science devolves into Senator James Inhofe.

Science was okay in its day but it has outlived its useful lifetime.  The Not-a-Scientists will take it from here.

And just to be clear: The book,  The Greatest Hoax by Inhofe is NOT an autobiography. Let there be no confusion that the book is clearly science eating its own tail to disprove the science of climate change.  Confused? It doesn’t matter! You’re NOT a scientist!

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Ineffable. But Effing Anyway. Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:27:17 +0000 radians_480

I will consult my physics buddy to help explain in scientific terms this not-uncommonly observed way that light through pine needles displays as radians along concentric circles of light.  On the other hand,  understanding the chemistry of the paint doesn’t add to our appreciation of a masterful work of art.

I see this display often,  but a photograph that captures this phenomenon is rare in my archives, other than memory.

Rarer still–a once in a lifetime experience for me, and the window is closing–is the view of radians, that quite by accident, I observed this week in thin air. Thin, except for literally hundreds of waving webs of floating, or “ballooning” spiders.

I’ve written about the “gossamer spiders” before, observing a dozen or two within a few minutes during very dry, clear windows fall days over the decades. That spectacle alone makes goose bumps.

But on this occasion that I struggle unsuccessfully to adequately describe so that the hair on your arms bristle, too, there were so many distant overlapping and shining strands that, for just a few seconds, I saw this circle-of-light pattern in a tapestry of organic fiber-optic floating life-lines.

Each filament lofted a hopeful tiny spider, borne on a waft of wind that had just brushed gently across the north ridge. With this signal, an entire neighborhood of spiders let go at once, and I happened to see them as the passed overhead, backlit by a brilliant sun.

I had chanced to look up as I began climbing the ladder to clean gutters.

One never knows when they might be overcome by the ineffable. Does one?

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The Fragrance of Fall Tue, 11 Nov 2014 13:31:16 +0000 “At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne

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Phenom Mon, 10 Nov 2014 12:35:45 +0000 Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 5.43.29 PMI tried to imagine what the ancients must have made of a perihelion. It is one of the strangest celestial “omens” you might witness in the daytime sky.

I took a picture, but not this one. Mine just shows an upside-down rainbow faintly overhead, and only pieces of this full feature-set of sky lights.

We saw only the circumferential arc, the faint Parry supralateral and very faintly,  the upper tangent. The sun was below the local horizon, and at 2pm, the background brightness of the sky diminished the visibility of these odd rainbows.

And yes there is an explanation other than that the Gods are angry. Has to do with size and distribution of ice crystals aloft.

This is not the kind of thing that meteorologists can predict. It is not a common phenomenon–maybe even a once in a lifetime event. So I was pleased (but not surprised) to ask a friend if he had seen it. He had. But then he is also an astronomy teacher and a cloud freak, and looks up more than most.

So you can easily find all the geeky details about perihelia. But you might live a long life and never see one. And that’s a sure thing you never will  if you stay indoors or go out and never look up, expectantly.


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