What the trees are saying

In recent decades it has become clear that trees communicate in a language of pheromones, and that the language crosses species lines through the forest.  In this passage from Richard Powers’s new novel, The Overstory, the trees are talking, the humans listen in.

The black spruces down the drumlin put it bluntly: warm is feeding on warm. The permafrost is belching. The cycle speeds up.

Farther south, broadleaves agree.  Noisy aspens and remnant birches, forests of cottonwoods and poplars take up the chorus: The world is turning into a new thing.  

The man rolls over onto his back, face to face with the morning sky.  The messages swarm him. Even here, homeless, he thinks: Nothing will be the same.  

The spruces answer:  Nothing has ever been the same.
___We’re all doomed,
the man thinks.
We have always all been doomed.
____But things are different this time.
Yes, you are here.

He’ll strike camp tomorrow, or the day after.  But this minute, this morning, he watches the spruces writing and thinks, I wouldn’t need to be very different for sun to seem to be about sun, for green to be about green.  For joy and boredom and anguish and terror and death to all be themselves without any need for killing clarity, and then this—THIS, the growing rings of light and water and stone—would take up all of me and be all the words I need.img_4475

Citizen-funded Ocean Cleanup

Scientists are preparing to launch the world’s first machine to clean up the planet’s largest mass of ocean plastic.

The system, originally dreamed up by a teenager, will be shipped out this summer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California, and which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.

It will be the first ever attempt to tackle the patch since it was discovered in 1997.

The experts believe the machine should be able to collect half of the detritus in the patch – about 40,000 metric tons – within five years.

Read more at The Independent




Reason alone cannot offer us safe passage across the most challenging waters that we are called upon to navigate. We need faith, and cannot allow our faith to be hijacked by the religious or political institutions that will only degrade it.

Faith is not an unthinking assent to unmeaning verbiage about confessedly insoluble difficulties; rather it is the prescience that forecasts the future beyond what is rigorously justified by the data as yet given.  Faith is the pillar of flame that points out the path of the soul beyond the limits of unaided sight.
— F.C.S. Schiller, from Riddles of the Sphinx


Collective Bargaining

The logic is perfectly simple, obscured only by 150 years of obfuscation.

Large companies can do without any one worker.  If they negotiate with one worker at a time, they hold all the cards, and have no motivation to listen, only to dictate.  But they can’t do without a labor force.  If their workers come to them with one united front, then management has to negotiate on an equal footing.

Management has seen this reality, and has done everything legal and illegal to squelch labor organizations.  Peaceful protests have been broken up with police horses and nightsticks, the Haymarket massacre of 1886.  Workers were locked into a burning building, the Triangle Factory in 1911.  Labor leader Eugene Debs was jailed for holding strikes that were inconvenient for the employer.  Joe Hill was murdered for writing songs that were too effective for inspiring collective action.  (Listen!)  Lately, the whole idea that labor should be free to organize is tainted with innuendos about foreign influence and associations with communism and Stalin’s atrocities.

Since Ronald Reagan, labor unions have lost influence in America, and America — all of us, workers and capitalists and teachers and artists — all of us are suffering because the middle class is collapsing.

Organized labor was once the soul of the Democratic Party, which has now slipped comfortably into the pocket of Wall St.

Organized labor means so much more than union rules and higher wages.  It means living in a society where ordinary people have freedom and dignity.  Without organized labor, democracy may not survive.  International Workers of the World, unite!