Category: History

Climate Change AdaptationEcological ethicsEcologyEnergyHistory

Podcast 10. Guy McPherson – Aristotle, Belize, and Acceptance

Guy McPherson 28.12.17.JPG

Guy McPherson – New York City 28.12.17

Sentient Seas has reached number ten of its podcast series and this episode is an interview with the American scientist and cultural critic Guy McPherson.

McPherson is an Emeritus Professor of  natural resources and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona but left the Academy eight years ago to pursue other things after coming to grips on a personal and epistemological basis with what he believes the data on climate change represents. His thesis of near term extinction for the human species because of runaway climate change, is as one would imagine, hardly a topic that is embraced by many people, let alone mainstream media fixated on its normal gentile output of political soap opera, and the ever important coverage of vacuous panem et circenses. 

After becoming part of a permaculture inspired community in New Mexico in 2009 McPherson left it around 18 months ago to spend time in Belize between his lecturing commitments that take him around the world. His message is a very difficult one to face yet for me, as both a concerned citizen and practicing Ecologist, it makes sense as I have witnessed the rapid decline in only a few decades of habitat, and so many groups of animals and plants in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The sheer speed of ecological degradation that is going on is sickening to behold, as is the mostly incomprehensibly backward responses and policies trotted out by most governments in the world in regards to terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. Their innately anthropocentric responses are the problem, and not even on the map of what is required.

Personally, I would prefer it that none of the shameful desecration and assault on the natural world is happening because of the actions of Homo sapiens but it is, and we need to take stock of what is going on, and behave in more compassionate and sensible forms. A reassessment of what an economy is actually for, and how it relates to our relationship with the natural world is long overdue.

This interview assumes that the reader is familiar with the dynamics of rapid climate change, and McPherson’s work in the first place. If you don’t then I would recommend looking at his analysis here, which features a plethora of linked data… https://guymcpherson.com/climate-chaos/climate-change-summary-and-update/

Our discussion covered many things and included: Pursuing Aristotle’s idea of friendship; E.O. Wilson’s book ‘Consilience’; The epistemological baggage of reductionism and its black and white material world; Dominant narratives that run over everything and the ‘fingers in the ears’ culture; Civilisation as a heat engine; Why did the circular economy not happen 40 years ago?; The UN being upbeat on the challenge of climate change; Living and working in Belize; And McPherson’s ideas about the pursuit of excellence while understanding the depth of the hydro-ecological issues that face us.

There are two musical breaks in this podcast and they are firstly the Mesmer Disciples  with ‘Real Loud,’ and secondly Pea Green Boat with ‘Glitch.’ If you like what you hear go and support the artists by checking them out at their respective links… https://www.facebook.com/MesmerDisciples and http://www.sonic360.com/peagreenboat/

Thanks to GM for providing the picture. The upper embedded image of the beach was taken by the editor on a beach on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand. If you like what Sentient Seas is doing and would like to support it in then please donate via the PayPal button  on this page. It would be much appreciated.

Ecological ethicsEcologyHistoryMusicPhilosophy

Podcast 9. Jordan Reyne – From the edge of the Tasman Sea to the plains of Poland

JR - WaterfallWelcome to podcast 9. This interview is with the New Zealand artist, writer, and musician Jordan Reyne who from 1997 to 2017 has produced a prolific body of musical  work with numerous solo releases and others in collaborations with other artists.

Her work is a unique blend of guitar, vocals, electronica, and percussion with textured and harmonised parts set against sparse or dense backdrops and propelled with mysterious and beautiful loops which invoke both the 21st century and the ancient past. It is innately powerful music with, among other thematics, an engaging metaphysical critique of human experience i.e. the impact of anthropocentrism and the alienation and ecological degradation induced by our ever degrading socio-economic system.

Our conversation covers – her early life, her experiences growing up within the wild landscapes of the distant and isolated West Coast of New Zealand, the influence of her music teachers, her journey as an artist through her education and eventual translocation to Europe, the themes of her work and geo-political and socio-ecological realities, to her recent move in walking away from music for the time being into a new creative venture in script writing for the gaming industry.

http://www.jordanreyne.com                               https://jordanreyne.bandcamp.com

JR - Bermuda (ii)

PhilosophyHistoryThe History of Religion

Karen Armstrong – The Clash of Civilizations

It has been a while since Sentient Seas has published anything. The main reason being that I have been very busy with other publishing projects so I hope you enjoy this piece – the first since 1.1.17. It is an address by the scholar and author Karen Armstrong given to a packed Leeds Town Hall for the 2007 Schumacher North Lectures. I recorded this for a film and very much enjoyed her delivery.

Karen ArmstrongArmstrong is internationally recognised as an authority on the history of religion, particularly Islam, and has written extensively on the problems of inter-religious understanding and fundamentalism. Her work points towards the possibility of a new inclusive, post-modern spirituality that could help to heal the tragic divisions and misunderstandings that are apparent today.

As it happens of late, on occasion, I have sadly been witness to incidences of anti-Muslim prejudice. This disturbs me profoundly as those uttering such, aside from such conduct being extremely disrespectful, generally have not the slightest understanding,  on any level – of what they are seeking to denigrate with such utterances. I feel also that there is an axiom of prejudice that has been exascerbated by certain media outlets over nearly the last two decades or so that has sought to deliberately demonise Islam and its believers.

As it happens almost all Muslim folk that I have met over my life have been sincere, hard-working, warm, and generous people – and it pains me to hear of an entire faith group being bullied and scorned to suit various nefarious and misguided agendas. So pulling this out of the archives has been a reaction to that.

This piece is published on the 11th of September 2017, the 16th anniversary of the horrendous attack on New York City in 2001. An event, which in some ways helped define an atmosphere for the early part of the 21st Century, and proceeded the hideous wars and conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in more recent time.

CosmologyEcological ethicsEsotericismHistoryPhilosophy

Podcast 6. Dr Sean Kelly – Coming Home: The Birth & Transformation of The Planetary Era.

Sean KellyEpisode 6 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is an interview conducted with the Canadian philosopher and author Dr Sean Kelly. Sean Kelly is a Professor in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco in the USA. Along with his abiding interest in the work of Jung, Hegel, and Morin, his current research areas include the evolution of consciousness, integral ecologies, and transpersonal and integral theory.

I was turned onto his 2010 book ‘Coming Home: The Birth and Transformation of the Planetary Era’ via the Carolyn Baker Lifeboat Hour in recent time. [her podcast page can be found here… https://carolynbaker.net/podcasts/]

‘Coming Home’ is an elegantly written big picture study of the evolution of consciousness and cosmology, and the fractal patterns that Dr Kelly has found in terms of cluster periods of transformation over recorded history – beginning with the axial period (as per Jaspers of 800 BCE – 200 BCE). After reading it I just had to go sit on a beach in Wales for a spell and just think about it and absorb the ideas. Needless to say I loved it. It is a wonderful book and one of the best things I’ve read in years. It is a cosmology, consciousness, and historical epistemological masterclass series in a 200 page book.

The following comes from the book sleeve: “With the threat of global climate change, a looming mass extinction of species, and increasingly complex and volatile geopolitical relations, the entire Earth community has entered a most critical phase of what the author describes as the ‘Planetary Era’. This era began some five hundred years ago with the conquest of the Americas and the Copernican revolution in cosmology, but it is only now becoming a defining feature of human consciousness on a global scale.”

I approached Sean to do an interview about ‘Coming Home’ and the issues it touches on, and he graciously accepted and this podcast is the result of our discussion. Our conversation includes discussion on: his original ideas for his book which originally had the title ‘The Prodigal Soul’; fractal patterns in the arc of history; Hegel and wholeness; the triphasic structure; clusters of transformation i.e. the new enlightenment of 1880 – 1900; complexio oppositorum – the mystery of the absolute; dealing with the shadow – and conceiving of it as a practical and ethical responsibility; self remembrance and its benefits; a new narrative from a growing global network of critical consciousness; current power structures, momentum, and resource sequestering; the innate and largely unexamined problem of instrumentalism; the challenging of the private ownership of the commons; miracles – big and small; the organic expansion of the great turning versus the great unravelling; possible visions of 2100 AD; transition and big ecological issues to sort out to avoid massive overshoot; facing the deepening shadow as a priority; the immaturity of contemporary western culture; transcendence through reaching to historical roots, a revival of western rites of initiation; and David Bohm and the notion of the implicate order.

For further information on Sean Kelly’s work go to http://ciis.academia.edu/SeanKelly

The music on the podcast is a tune called ‘Avignon’ by Mass Spectrometer and can be found here, https://massspectrometer.bandcamp.com/track/avignon. If you dig it please buy it and help support the artists who made it.

 

 

 

EnergyHistoryScience

Alice Friedemann – When Trucks Stop Running

Editor: Charles A.S. Hall; Springer Briefs in Energy, Springer 2016

21st June 2016  

A book review by Michael Canning

Friedemann AJ - When trucks stop running

In chapter 20 Friedemann quotes the late Randy Udall, a co-founder of ASPO-USA: “We have been living like gods. Our task now is to learn how to live like humans. Our descent
will not be easy”. A key component to that descent will be a renewed understanding of transport, which underpins industrialised existence. America’s economy runs on the grace of some 10 million trucks that run on fossil fuel to keep the every-day movement of fossil fuel engrained goods and food happening. Oil to industrialized countries is like water to fish; we’re so embedded within it, and its touch in everything we do and depend on, its invisible – until the supply stutters. We have become acculturated to enormous and continual energy use, quite unlike any culture before us.

Sadly though, and perhaps because of its existential nature, which prompts deeper questioning of the socioeconomic structures and policies that reign at present, the notion of the finitude of fossil fuel depletion is a troublesome political hot potato; just like population growth, climate change, and biodiversity loss. To enable further denial of the depth of these interlinked problems and biophysical realities would be an appalling cultural immaturity, and we would be effectively shortchanging and disrespecting our descendants. As Friedemann notes, “few people appreciate how limited the options will be once our premium abundant fossil fuels are gone – just when we need them to build very energy-intensive replacements”.

Energy education on a societal basis needs a major kick up the backside and so it is with pleasure that I commend Springer and editor Charles Hall for bringing about their Briefs in Energy series and specifically this publication. This concise 132-page book is a highly welcome addition to the critical thinking on the enormous issues and choices involved in transportation and its relationship to fossil fuels and climatic disruption. While its focus is mostly on the choices facing the different modes of transportation in the USA its intent and scenario exploration is just as relevant to non-American audiences and it includes various fascinating facts on European infrastructure i.e. the failed Spanish state investment model for photo-voltaic energy generation.

The chapters feature snappy titles like ‘Why you should Love Trains’, ‘Hydrogen, the Homeopathic Energy Crisis Remedy’, and ‘The Electric Blues: Energy Storage for Calm and Cloudy Days’ and presents lucid explanations of the key issues and difficulties facing the USA. Important subjects covered include: energy return over energy invested (EROI) models and their applications; the socio-ecological linkages of food and populations; peak oil and peak coal; the enormous cost of new forms of new energy infrastructure installation; the oil wars of the last 25 years; the lack of investment into rail systems; the problem of the storage of energy from alternative sources i.e. intermittency of wind; the problems of batteries and in improving them; the aged electrical and engineered infrastructure; the current and future bogey of nuclear power; and the issues within trying to accommodate alternative energy sources into the grid and for vehicles ; the need to ditch air freight; and the urgent need to reassess quickly port infrastructure and the role of ships.

The book is well researched and the incorporation of numerous snippets of fascinating historical information about the growth and changes of transportation modes since the 19th century were one of the highlights of the book for me. Friedemann used to be a systems analyst in the shipping sector, so her time into the world of commercial transport has enabled strong and thoughtful insights. She has a lively and concise writing style in a topic area that can be somewhat dry, and another reason I like this book is its gentle sense of humour, which is often absent in technical books. And given the scale of the existential problems that the book outlines – this is a welcome additive.

There were only a few minor things that detracted from making this an excellent text. Firstly while it has a good contents section it doesn’t have an index, which makes returning to certain pertinent points a somewhat lengthy searching process. In addition there has been a slight lack of attention given to some of the coloured diagrams, which in some instances have not reproduced well from their original sources and could have done with being tidied up a bit more.

I believe this book should be required reading for all relevant national and local government employees i.e. those involved in planning, transport, and economic policy, as well as transport consultants. In my experience the latter worlds do not exhibit anywhere near the critical knowledge that is required around energy per se, let alone fossil fuel depletion, and the amount of energy illiteracy in society is something that cannot continue. Friedemann makes the important point in her conclusions that, notwithstanding the issues on boundaries, that utilizing EROI analysis “makes it possible for society and policy makers to investigate our options and make the best energy choices”.

To pretend that the fossil fueled economy and infinite economic growth will continue ad infinitum into the 21st Century and to continue with national and local planning frameworks that have the latter as their pretext is delusional, and intellectually dishonest. The innate linkages between our energy use and its wider impact on societal and hydro-ecological stability cannot be fudged anymore either. Its high time we as a species stop pretending we’re the masters of the universe, and further evolve our thinking about everything, especially energy as the fundament to existence, its use and its effects. Indeed, as Friedemann writes, “we should go into the future with our eyes wide open. We have no choices but to assess how much energy goes into all of the things we take for granted. That includes our food, our vehicles, and how we go about moving goods around the planet like gods”.

 

HistoryMusic

Podcast 4. David Wolfenden. From the Pistols to beyond the Iron Curtain (part 2)

by Michael Canning

RLYL - DSC_0567 8.15

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 29.8.15. Wolfie on the left, Chris Reed in the centre and Ding on the right. (Pic. MC)

Episode 4 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is part 2 of an interview conducted with the Leeds based musician David Wolfenden aka ‘Wolfie’. Our conversation in this episode covers writing in the Lorries, the difference between playing in England and elsewhere, getting to New Zealand with the Mission, bumping into Alan Vega at the Danceteria in NYC 1985, Yugoslavia pre the collapse of the Iron Curtain, life in the cold war, the English press, favourite Lorries tune, the reality of life and artistic themes, psych-rock delights, the craft of the song and the economics of the playing within Tamla Motown.

 

HistoryMusic

Podcast 3. David Wolfenden – From the Pistols to beyond the Iron Curtain (part 1)

RLYL - DSC_0596 8.15

Wolfie performing with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 29.8.15 (Pic: MC)

by Michael Canning

Episode 3 of the Sentient Seas podcast series is part 1 of an interview conducted with the Leeds based musician David Wolfenden aka ‘Wolfie’. Wolfie began playing publically in 1978 with the Expelaires, then joined Red Lorry Yellow Lorry in 1983, and later played guitar for the Mission. Our conversation covers his background and first encounters with music, seeing the Sex Pistols at Leeds Polytechnic in late 1976 on the Anarchy tour, the Leeds music scene of the late 70’s, the path of the Expelaires, music as a language, top 5 artists, the MC5, and joining Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Part 2 of this interview is in episode 4.