Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mad As Hell!

Peter Finch as newsreader Howard Beale in the movie Network, for which he won a posthumous Best Actor Oscar

Like many of my gender, I used to be an angry young man. In my more mellow middle years, I am generally not an angry man anymore. I find contentment and fulfillment in my personal life, my relationship with family and community, my readings, musings, listenings and explorings, my doings growing and selling organic food.

However, when I read of the increasing corporate and government control of things dear to me – food, liberty, nature, health, peace and quiet, income, due process, human rights – it becomes easy to slip back into a bewildered quiet rage and shake my head at the folly and meanness of those that lead so many into fear, depression, anxiety, panic, resignation, complicity. On the food front alone, our leaders turn a blind eye to enormous threats to our welfare: GMOs whose effects on human health have not been independently assessed receive easy approval of infiltration into the foodchain; wild salmon populations are jeopardized by lack of monitoring and regulation of fish farms; confined factory farming continues unchecked; corporations like Monsanto are granted immunity from prosecution; bees continue to be killed off by neonicotinoids and other pesticides; glyphosate and other chemicals, toxins and heavy metals continue to work their way into the water supply creating severe health hazards for humans, amphibians, birds, wildlife…

It becomes easy to sympathize with the television newscaster Howard Beale in the film Network, played by my namesake Peter Finch as he loses it:

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won’t say anything.” Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being. God Dammit, my life has value.” So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change my friends. You’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Icestorm renders us powerless

Nature can pack a pretty wild punch in her weather delivery systems. Friday’s icestorm here was a case in point. The soft fizz of freezing rain falling and collecting on the damp vegetation was relentless all day. It was an eerily beautiful, somewhat surreal, sight. The forecasted rise in temperature that was meant to melt the ice accretion did not materialize, and the ice steadily thickened on trees, branches, twigs, and grasses. Many of each collapsed under the weight and pressure, sometimes like the firing of a gun as a huge limb snapped off and the ice cascaded to the ground. Budding branches at the apex were most exposed as treetops took a radical haircut. 

The dull grey of the day contrasted with the sharpness and clarity of the ice. With electric power cut off, contact with the outside world was over the airwaves of the car radio, so we took to the road, gasping at the widespread devastation. By no means universal, certain trees were particularly badly affected – wispy poplars, willows and silver birch which snapped into unruly pieces; and soft pine and cedar which often lay prone or uprooted. Power lines were coated in ice an inch or more thick. Icicles dangled from them in a sagging ribbon. Stunned residents scratched their heads at the sight of shattered old maples and spread-eagled shrubbery. Chainsaws cleared roads and paths, and the loud whine of generators filled the still air. Hydro reported that power would be out for a day or more. The outage for us lasted in fact three days, with power restored over candlelit dinner entertaining friends. In the meantime, no flushing of toilets, no showering, no refrigeration, no music or news. However, we could crank up telephone land line, woodstove heat, buckets of water from our full dug well, cooking on the gas-stove, boiling of water for tea and coffee, lots of strategically-placed beeswax candles, flashlights….
By the third day, we recognize our fragility and dependency on the power grid and wish for self-sufficiency from the type of residential-scale wind and solar-generated power that dinner guests Kevin and Jack enjoy. Extreme weather events such as this are a stark reminder that we are all live just a few days away from extreme discomfort and deprivation. Ah well, back to our smug complacency with restored power as today brings sunshine and temperatures in the mid-teens Celsius (mid-twenties in the balmy hoophouses where green shoots take on a growth spurt, oblivious to the commotion outside). My tractor has shed its icy mantle and will soon be called in to action. Spring is surely on its way now.