Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

Four long reads worth your time. This week we begin with a discussion on being Asian American by Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This is followed by a long essay on politics, nature, and the coronavirus. The next two uncover climate change issues in Ethiopia and Southwest United States. And we conclude with a short opinion piece on the relationship between climate change and dismantling white supremacy.

Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All by Viet Thanh Nguyen in Time

Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants and their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Black people and white people to choose sides in the Black-white racial divide, and we have far too often chosen the white side. And yet there have been vocal Asian Americans who have called for solidarity with Black people and other people of color, from the activist Yuri Kochiyama, who cradled a dying Malcolm X, to the activist Grace Lee Boggs, who settled in Detroit and engaged in serious, radical organizing and theorizing with her Black husband James Boggs.

From The Anthropocene To The Microbiocene by Tobias Rees in Noema

If you read only the first few paragraphs, you will be treated to a story of the pangolin. And then, “A key feature of nature according to the virus is interconnectedness: All organisms are inseparably interwoven with one another — and with the biosphere.” And lastly, “looked at from the perspective opened up by COVID-19, it appears that modern politics has been a tool invented to defend the illusion of the free-standing human as such. Essentially, modern politics has been a differentiation machine.”

Inside Ethiopia’s Endangered Wild-Coffee Forests by Jeff Koehler in Atlas Obscura

Solid story and beautiful pictures. “Today, wild Arabica’s greatest threat is climate change. Highly sensitive, it can only survive within a narrow band of conditions. Aaron Davis, a senior research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the world’s foremost authority of coffee and climate change, has forecasted that the places where wild coffee can grow will decrease by 65 percent by 2080. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case showed a 99.7 percent reduction, with wild Arabica tree populations dropping by 40 to 99 percent.”

‘Megadrought’ and ‘Aridification’ — Understanding the New Language of a Warming World by Tara Lohan in The Revelator

“New research reveals a creeping, permanent dryness expanding across the United States. It’s much more than “drought,” and researchers hope more accurate descriptions will spur critical action. The current megadrought in the Southwest is defined not so much by declining precipitation — although that did have an effect too — but by increasing temperatures from climate change. That’s going to continue to climb as long as we keep burning greenhouse gases.”

If you care about the planet, you must dismantle white supremacy By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin in Grist

This one is a short read. “The reality is that the communities being battered by both the coronavirus and climate are also epicenters of over-policing, incarceration, and state-sanctioned violence. In every aspect of our lives, starting in our mothers’ wombs, we are systematically devalued. Black communities face the long-term effects of environmental racism, intentionally zoned into neighborhoods surrounded by factories, highways, pipelines, and compressor stations.”

Freshly picked coffee (the beans are inside these fruits) in the Mankira Forest, Kafa. Photo sourced from Atlas Obscura
Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

This week the articles focus is environmental justice, racism, capitalism and surveillance. And these are often connected.

What Did Cedric Robinson Mean by Racial Capitalism? By Robin D.G. Kelley in the Boston Review

It’s a few years old, but remains extremely relevant to our conversation today. “So what did Robinson mean by “racial capitalism”? Building on the work of another forgotten black radical intellectual, sociologist Oliver Cox, Robinson challenged the Marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary negation of feudalism. Instead capitalism emerged within the feudal order and flowered in the cultural soil of a Western civilization already thoroughly infused with racialism.”

Rising up against white revenge by Max Haiven in Roar Magazine

“The courts and laws, which we have been told exist to forestall and prevent society from descending into the hell of revenge, have in so many ways revealed themselves to be institutions to defend, perpetuate and mystify the systemic, structural and institutional forms of racial capitalist vengeance that make so many racialized people, especially Black people, disposable and, indeed, make a gruesome spectacle of that disposability.”

In the Midst of the Coronavirus, California Weighs Diesel Regulations by Julia Kane in Inside Climate News

Reyes sees the push to pause regulations as “a form of environmental discrimination,” she said. Diesel exhaust disproportionately affects minority communities with fewer resources. “We are the people who can’t leave this place. We can’t move away,” she said. Now California’s freight and oil industries are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to try to delay two proposed regulations that would limit diesel exhaust throughout the state, sparking outrage from clean air advocates.

Beyond a climate of comfortable ignorance by Kevin Anderson Isak Stoddard in Ecologist

“For thirty years we’ve swallowed the delusion offered by the blue pill, nonsense models of utopian tech and cheery tales of green growth. But in 2020, even the blue pill dealers are having their doubts. Perhaps now is the time to embrace the unpalatable reality revealed by the red pill?”

Trump Is Using the Pandemic to Undo Environmental Rules. It’s Hurting Black Americans by Rebecca Leber in Mother Jones

“These rollbacks do not affect everyone equally—they’re particularly devastating for people of color. And the pandemic has intensified the burden that vulnerable neighborhoods already carry.”

Our Infrastructure Is Being Built for a Climate That’s Already Gone by Shayla Love in Vice News

“The solution is to develop infrastructure that is agile, flexible, and ultimately adaptable, rather than sturdy, unchanging, and permanent.”

Smart Cities, Surveilled Citizens By Tom Westgarth in Tribune

“‘Smart cities’ technologies have grown in popularity during the coronavirus crisis, and are now being touted as tools of economic recovery – but they will also deepen the power of surveillance over our lives.”

Worker Surveillance Is on the Rise, and Has Its Roots in Centuries of Racism by Esperanza Fonseca in Truthout

High-tech corporate monitoring of workers today stems from the legacy of tracking enslaved workers in the 18th century.

SURJ’s Call to White People by Hilary Moore in Medium

“Defund the Police” is a response to decades of divestment from public health infrastructure, education systems, and good housing. This deliberate gutting of social institutions is directly related to the ballooning of police budgets and proliferation of prisons. Punishment and control have become the State’s automatic response to its failure in meeting basic needs.”

Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

This week we begin with two stories about vigilante groups – the first from post-Katrina New Orleans and the second on the rising Boogaloo Movement today.

Post-Katrina, White Vigilantes Shot African-Americans With Impunity by A.C. Thompson published in ProPublica

“So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins — in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans.”

The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think by Robert Evans and Jason Wilson published in bellingcat

“In recent weeks, the term “Boogaloo” has gone mainstream after months of growing popularity in online far-right communities. Nationwide anti-lockdown protests have provided an opportunity for right-wing militias to rally, armed, in public.”

Technology

Mr Zuckerberg, Tear Down My Wall By Rebecca Liu published in Another Gaze

“It’s often hard to differentiate potentially powerful critiques of the industry from ostensibly critical stories that further entrench its hold. What might it mean, then, to acknowledge the omnipotence of technology without further reproducing the narratives that make it so powerful?” A critical look at Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim’s The Great Hack (2019) and Zhu Shengze’s Present.Perfect

Environment

‘Zombie fires’ are erupting in Alaska and likely Siberia, signaling severe Arctic fire season may lie ahead by Andrew Freedman published in The Washington Post

“On May 22, the Siberian town of Khatanga, located well north of the Arctic Circle, recorded a temperature of 78 degrees, about 46 degrees above normal. The typical maximum temperature for that day at that location is 32 degrees.”

People of Colour Experience Climate Grief More Deeply Than White People by Nylah Burton published in Vice

“Heglar says that too often, the white-led climate community leans on the idea of hope, which can lead to inaction. Hope is “such a white concept,” Heglar said. “You’re supposed to have the courage first, then you have the action, then you have the hope. But white people put hope at the front. Their insistence on hope for all of these years has led to exactly where? Nowhere.”

Being White

White Witness and the Contemporary Lynching by Zoé Samudzi published in The New Republic

“Central to the white argument for watching these videos is the idea that viewership begets justice or somehow emphasizes the notion that black life does matter and that black life is grievable (never mind that black people have long been in a near-constant state of grief and mourning over the violent negations of the lives of our kin).”

How to Subvert the Capitalist White-Supremacist University by Debarati Biswas published in Public Books

Blackademic life is a long history of survival in a space that is committed to the denial of black excellence. A look at three books: Lavelle Porter’s The Blackademic Life: Academic Fiction, Higher Education, and the Black Intellectual and Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study and Samuel Delany’s novel The Mad Man.

Keep America Christian (and White): Christian Nationalism, Fear of Ethnoracial Outsiders, and Intention to Vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election by Joseph O Baker, Samuel L Perry, Andrew L Whitehead published in Sociology of Religion

“Our findings affirm the continued importance of Christian nationalism, but with some important changes. Notably, we find that, beyond partisanship, xenophobia is the most important key to understanding continued support for Trump just prior to his 2020 reelection campaign. Further, [ ] xenophobia and Islamophobia explain a larger amount of the covariance between Christian nationalism and Trump voting. Some Christian nationalists are and will remain solidly behind Trump. Though we empirically affirm that Christian nationalism is not interchangeable with xenophobia or Islamophobia, the three are clearly symbiotic.”

NOTE: This is an academic journal article and is behind a paywall. Check your library to see if you can get a copy. Or touch base with me if your really interested.

Categories
Buddhism Environment Library Reading

Sunday Reads

I often seek inspiration from people or communities that step out and stand for something. Actually doing something meaningful. The Wet’suwet’en Nation is one such community. In the effort to protect the environment, we need communities like this to be heard. No Surrender: Inside the Wet’suwet’en Protest Camp That Refused to Cede Land for a Pipeline, from The Intercept, looks in detail at their efforts.

Speaking of stepping out. My colleague Meredith Farkas did just that by opening writing about mental health within the library community. Check out LISMentalHealth: That time my brain and job tried to kill me from Information Wants To Be Free. I know the feelings expressed here all to well.

As a Buddhist practitioner, I was very much appreciated this next piece by Kritee published in Lions Roar. We too can and should take action. Why Bodhisattvas Need to Disrupt the Status Quo.

Aldous Huxley argued that all religions in the world were underpinned by universal beliefs and experiences. Was he right? What can we learn from Perennial Philosophy? Are we seeing more spiritual convergence?

And now for something completely different, and yet, still right up my alley. This one is a tech piece. Is Apple an illegal monopoly? For those who know me, I’m definitely an Apple guy and strongly situated in their camp. So, I found this article interesting. Apple’s Secret Monopoly.

Happy reading!

Categories
Environment Justice

Gratitude for Trees

The living creatures of the Earth – trees, shrubs, flowers, water, rock, soil, insects, and bugs – they came before us and will likely be here long after we have departed. Today as I practiced walking meditation in my yard, there was an abundance of Butterflies. The lifecycle of these beautiful creatures is wonderful to observe. As the Caterpillar’s crawl around the yard and on the fence, they find a place to cocoon before allowing the Butterfly to spring forth. They then nurture the plants and bushes. They bring joy to those who observe. Their playful flight, to-and-fro, without seemingly needing anywhere to go or anything to do. Such a delight! And for 56 million years they have been practicing this dance.

Native Plants and Butterfly
© Kenley Neufeld

As a young teen, I delivered the local newspaper in the early mornings. I lived in a place with dense fog on many winter mornings. This being caused by a relationship between the earth and the sky. They touch each other and interact together. These early mornings brought dew to the Sycamore trees lining the streets. The density of the quiet. Each drop could be heard as it moved from the fog, to the tree, and then to the dry leaves upon the ground. This sound. This feeling. It still penetrates into my consciousness 40-years later. There is a sadness for me that the current generation of young people have not experienced this fog. The newspaper is now delivered by adults in cars. The land has heated and dried up so there is not so much winter rain to soak the ground that brings forth the fog. I do hope for its return. Fortunately, the Sycamore remains standing today. But it disappeared from Europe; will it suffer the same fate in North America? 

Source: maxpixel.net

Today I saw an Oak tree with one limb torn from its trunk. It was a 20-foot tear from this lovely creature. These majestic trees can live over 100 years and few saplings are produced. The California landscape is still blessed with these trees despite harsh summers and dry winters. The shifting climate will cause these trees to suffer as new trees are slow to take root and old trees fall or lose limbs. They are a part of the shifting landscape that isn’t only about the Oak, but also the bugs, insects, soil, and Chaparral that rely on the Oak for protection and food.

In the last month, I read The Overstory, by Richard Powers and Braiding Sweetgrassby Robin Wall Kimmerer. The first being a novel and the latter exploring indigenous wisdom alongside scientific inquiry. Both books look toward nature and plants as a source of wisdom, a source of inquiry, and a source for us to take a bold step forward. Kimmerer writes,

If we use a plant respectfully it will stay with us and flourish. If we ignore it, it will go away. If you don’t give it respect it will leave us.

It is from these books I draw inspiration for writing and shifting my attitude and actions. 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. That is where we can begin our healing with the Earth. To see, to recognize, to give thanks for the offering. The trees that bring us life. Air to breathe. The Bees that pollinate so that we might eat the fruit. Like the tree is connected to the soil, we are connected to the tree and subsequently the Bee. As we begin each day and arrive in each moment, look to your surroundings and cultivate a sense of gratitude. That floor you walk upon was once a tree, cut by a person and delivered to your community by a vehicle. Can you see the tree within the floor? Within the walls? Were these created with respect and thanksgiving? What respect for nature can you bring forth today? Just saying thank you and offering to do better may be enough in the moment. 

Then gaze from your window. Do you see something alive in the world? Wonder about it. The rocks are no less important than the soil, or the insect, or the tree. We may all have the opportunity to see the sky, that which keeps us grounded to the earth and is part of the lifecycle of water, wind, and air. Each of us can do this! 

If you are one whom capitalist economics have destroyed your environment, your home, and your community then you too can begin with this practice of gratitude. Let your awareness of the damage be a catalyst to rise up in voice and action. We all need to hear your voice. I hear your voice. I see your suffering. It calls for justice! 

To be an environmentalist is to allow yourself this exercise of gratitude. To see and love nature, even when it has been destroyed. It is a place from which we can advocate for those creatures without voices – trees, shrubs, flowers, water, rock, soil, insects, and bugs. Then coming from a place of love and compassion, we can extend this love and compassion to our advocacy for environmental justice.  

One Bowl and One Spoon

The “One Bowl and One Spoon” metaphor, written about in Braiding Sweetgrass, speaks to my heart. If we can see all the Earth provides is contained within one bowl and is served with only one spoon, then perhaps we can take the step toward greater ecological compassion. Stewardship. Reciprocity. Reparations. We can take care of her and learn to share all the wealth the Earth offers, for she remains abundant. In doing so she can begin to heal. And from this healing we can live better in relationship to her and all the creatures of the land. To recover the inequities brought forth over the centuries so we can embody the Earth’s life-giving offerings more equally.

Categories
Environment Ojai Photography

Pictures from a Commute – After a Fire

As many of you know, the Ojai Valley and areas toward Ventura and Santa Barbara experienced the largest wild fire (The Thomas Fire) in California history during December, 2017. For those who didn’t lose everything, life has mostly returned to normal and we are the lucky ones. Although things feel more normal, I am reminded on a daily basis of the fire thanks to my commute from Ojai to Santa Barbara. More recently, with just the one rainfall in January, some green and plant-life has returned. Nature is certainly a wonder! I offer this pictures as a reminder to everyone and to show a little snapshot into what I see on my way to/from work. We begin with a short time-lapse followed by stills. All photos taken along Highway 150 between Ojai and Carpinteria near Lake Casitas. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by Kenley Neufeld.

Categories
Environment

Love Letter to the Earth

nasa-earth-wallpaper-1920x1080_731987765Dear Mother Earth,

I feel you under my feet. The gravity holding me close to you. You are alive with the energy of soil, water, and minerals. I see your children all around – the birds, the snails, the flies, the hens, the coyote, the rat, the orange blossom, the trees, and the mountains. Dear Mother Earth, you are a true wonder. When I look up to the sky, there is the atmosphere protecting us from the dark vastness of space from which you originally came. How is it that you came to be the most beautiful planet in our solar system? The intimacy of our relationship to the atmosphere and the mighty sun is beyond belief. There would be no life here without the atmosphere and the sun.

I recognize that you came from stardust all those billions of years ago and that every single cell and atom arose from you and that one day all will return to you and continue. There is no birth and no death. Even the scientist can see this. There is an interconnection to everything on this planet that goes well beyond any religious belief, political boundary, economic status, or race and gender.

Dear Mother Earth, you have lived so many millions of years without the human, the animal, and the tree. Your cycles do not rely on my being here in this form and that you’re strength and solidity will continue long after I am gone. This body of mine will join with you. And so, we are one body and today in this age we rely upon each other. Interbeing! I am you, dear Mother Earth. The connection has a deep and long history from the beginningless time. There is little difference between your well being and my well being. Taking care of you dear Mother Earth is taking care of me.

Dear Mother Earth, I have not always been so skillful. I have been careless with our resources believing that I will always have everything I need. There are times when I don’t see our deep interconnection, out of ease and convenience, and that to take care of you is to take care of me. Please help me to see beyond my microcosm of the world into the richness of this country, this continent, this hemisphere, this planet. Help me also to see into the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds so that I might take better care of you dear Mother Earth.

Beyond the sun and atmosphere, water is one of our most precious gifts. Water sustains our lives – animal, plant, and mineral. And it is truly a miracle when I turn on the tap in my house and the water flows. This water comes from deep inside you Mother Earth and arrives to help sustain life. The water we have is good and necessarily. Please help me to see this miracle every day. I vow to take care of this precious gift.

Thank you dear Mother Earth.

I love you.