Dude, where’s our car?

Apollo 17 LRV

Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle abandoned on the Moon

On December 19th, 1972 the dream of exploring the solar system came to a crash landing when the Apollo 17 Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and the Astronauts were recovered to the USS Ticonderoga.

Since December 14th, 1972, no human has set foot on any body other than the Earth.  For 47 years we have been busily engaged in making our planet uninhabitable to humans.  On that front we have done an excellent job.

Anybody who tells you this is a normal climate cycle needs their head examined.  This planet is dying and we need to act now.  Make 1 Change in your life today.  Make another tomorrow.  Put the squeeze on your politicians.  Make corporations responsible.  Invest your pension in ethical funds.

Here is Lake Chad in 1973 and the same lake today:

Lake Chad Might Be Shrinking, But It Has Nothing To Do ...

And here is the Aral Sea over a similar period:

Aral sea – This, Not That

And in Palestine here is the Dead Sea:

What are some strange facts about dead sea? - Quora

And how about the Arctic Ice Sheet – Summertime cover – shorter timeframe:

Natural Cycles – Water | What's New in Eco-Materials

Happy Birthday this guy

Image result for david attenborough

I am quite literally from another age, I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 year period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species we are today.

That stability allowed businesses to grow, nations to co-operate and people to share ideas. In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.” … David Attenborough

 

Human Habitat; by Alison Hawthorne Deming

Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer. Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential.
The actual is prior to substance.
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood.

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge.
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.
Now what. No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

ICE Age

 

H&J

Main Dublin to Cork Road in the 1960’s

 

 

ICE Age; by Donal Clancy

 

In Cork City at the Newspaper office

are three photos of Cork Docks.

Cork of the past

in the age of sail and steam

when the Bandon train on Albert Quay

met the Steamships and the Sail Ships

and carried their cargo south.

Cork of the present

where the bridges to the island

are congested with cars

which own the roads

ahead of pedestrians or cyclists.

Cork of the future

with soaring buildings

and efficient electric light rail

and an absence of the dinosaurs

the mammoths and the internal combustion engines

that progress made extinct.

Happy Birthday Wordsworth

williamwordsworth1

Wordsworth facepalm predates Picard

For any who hold to the power of nominative determinism William Wordsworth is a fine example.  Who can give more weight to words than a poet?  Born with the name Wordsworth it is a natural segue into poetry.

What Wordsworth is best known for is his love and appreciation of nature and especially of his native Cumbria.  Much of the popularity of the Lake District as a tourist destination can be attributed to the poet.

In these dark #Brexit days as the UK retrenches into insularity it is interesting to note that Wordsworth’s first publication was in “The European Magazine”.  He went on a walking tour of Europe.   He was an admirer of revolutionary France until the Reign of Terror separated him from his lover and his child.   Clearly a man who would vote to Remain.  Wordsworth suffered the negative impact of a hard border.

But if William Wordsworth remains relevant today it may be as a canary in the coalmine for the impact of mankind on nature.  Long before the landscape of England was ravaged by industrialisation Wordsworth was a Cassandra predicting how mankind would harm our world.  The advent of the anthropocene has made him even more relevant.

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, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
and are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
for this, for everything, we are out of tune,
it moves us not.– Great God! I’d rather be
a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
so might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

 

The Seed Potatoes of Leningrad

siege-of-leningrad-005

There are few stories so hear wrenching they will make me cry, but his is one of them.

I am not going to re-tell it, I will direct you to John Green’s excellent podcast here:

—–>Tetris and Seed Potatoes

During the winter of 1941/42 as many residents of Leningrad were dying EVERY MONTH as the total Americans who ever died in all wars ever.  Mostly they died of starvation.  Amongst this carnage a small and dedicated group of scientists protected a seedbank which has benefited humanity ever since.

In our world today do we find any sense of such self-sacrifice for the higher goals of humanity?

What can I do today to reverse the damage mankind has inflicted on the Earth?

 

Earthrise

Earthrise

The photo of the Earth taken by Major William A Anders from the Apollo 8 capsule slingshoting around the Moon is called “Earthrise”

It changed the way we look at the world.  Captured in the lens are the lives, loves, dreams, hopes and worries of all but 3 of the entire human race, on that day, Christmas Eve 1968.

To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold – brothers who know now they are truly brothers.” ….Archibald MacLeish

Seen in this way, a delicate ark of humanity, an oasis of life in the vastness of space really makes you think.

What is to be gained by man waging war on man?  We should be working shoulder to shoulder to reach out to the stars.

How can we exist on such a vulnerable sphere and allow it to be polluted, abused, over-expolited and poisoned by our own activities?

Why do short term greed, selfishness, personal ambition and crass materialism drive a society which should be planning for the long term survival of the human race?

If you need a resolution for 2019:  work in what small way you can to reduce the impacts of mankind on Planet Earth.  Badger your politicians.  Reject plastics and chemicals.  Eat less meat.  Opt for energy from renewable sources.  Invest your pension in ethical funds.

You, Andrew Marvell; by Archibald MacLeish

And here face down beneath the sun
and here upon earth’s noonward height
to feel the always coming on
the always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east
the earthy chill of dusk and slow
upon those under lands the vast
and ever climbing shadow grow

and strange at Ecbatan the trees
take leaf by leaf the evening strange
the flooding dark about their knees
the mountains over Persia change

and now at Kermanshah the gate
dark empty and the withered grass
and through the twilight now the late
few travelers in the westward pass

and Baghdad darken and the bridge
across the silent river gone
and through Arabia the edge
of evening widen and steal on

and deepen on Palmyra’s street
the wheel rut in the ruined stone
and Lebanon fade out and Crete
high through the clouds and overblown

and over Sicily the air
still flashing with the landward gulls
and loom and slowly disappear
the sails above the shadowy hulls

and Spain go under and the shore
of Africa the gilded sand
and evening vanish and no more
the low pale light across that land

nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun
to feel how swift how secretly
the shadow of the night comes on …

Growth and Death

Ferguson

Harry Ferguson was born on this day in 1884.  He was born into a world of horse powered agriculture.  Two great leaps forward occurred in agricultural practices during WW1 and then again in WW2.

Ferguson began his career in engineering with aircraft.  He was the first Irish man to build a plane and the first to fly a plane.  He moved from aircraft to tractors just before the outbreak of the Great War.  All through the war he was developing ideas for ways to attach a plough to the tractor.

In the early 1920s he presented his ideas on the three point linkage to that other great Irish engineer, Henry Ford.  Together they created the Fordson.  Ferguson went on to build his own tractors and incorporated his designs into David Browns and Massey Fergusons.

When the second great agricultural leap forward came during WW2 it was powered by tractors designed by Harry Ferguson.  His work revolutionised agricultural production and allowed for the radical improvements in output per acre that originated during WW2.  By the end of the war Britain was able to feed itself.

After the war these innovations were rolled out to the world and sparked the prosperity of the “Swinging Sixties”.

Harry Ferguson never saw the 1960’s.  He died at the beginning of the decade after years of legal battles with Henry Ford II over the illegal use of his patents.  The legal battles cost him half his fortune and all his health and was unsuccessful in restricting Fords use of his work.

If Ferguson represents an era of Growth we can see in the poem below that Williams has experienced an era of Death, Murder, Famine and Dictatorship.  Born in 1936, on this day, Charles Kenneth Williams lived through those swinging sixties.  But he saw the rise of tin pot dictator after dictator pillage country after country in Asia, Africa, South & Central America.  Much of it carried out under the cloak of U.S. Foreign Policy.

Today on the news we see thousands of troops sent to the US Mexican Border.  Donald Trump is addressing voters for the upcoming mid term elections.  He uses the language of the demagogue.  He sounds like another tin pot dictator.  He says his troops will shoot at any migrants who throw stones.  He says that the Democrats want to invite “Caravan after Caravan” of migrants over the border.  When Republicans speak about Democrats they describe them as Communists or Socialists.  From here in Europe the Democrats come over as far right liberals.  We would see them as right wing extremists.  It is hilarious to describe a club of multi-millionaire politicians as socialists.  It is, frankly, an insult to socialism.

The future of the planet lies in sustainability.  Humans must live within our means or we will become extinct.  Politicians who, like Donald Trump, deny climate change are doing so because they are trading personal greed against public good.  They know the world is full of short term thinking greedy people.

The failure of democratic American style politics to plan beyond the next election is the major barrier to long term sustainable planning.  When Harry Ferguson was designing his first tractors during WW1 American saw itself, and was, the saviour of the Western World.  Roll the clock forward 100 years and today, 2018 the USA is the worlds greatest problem.

 

Zebra; by Charles Kenneth Williams

Kids once carried tin soldiers in their pockets as charms
against being afraid, but how trust soldiers these days
not to load up, aim, blast the pants off your legs?

I have a key-chain zebra I bought at the Thanksgiving fair.
How do I know she won’t kick, or bite at my crotch?
Because she’s been murdered, machine-gunned: she’s dead.

Also, she’s a she: even so crudely carved, you can tell
by the sway of her belly a foal’s inside her.
Even murdered mothers don’t hurt people, do they?

And how know she’s murdered? Isn’t everything murdered?
Some dictator’s thugs, some rebels, some poachers;
some drought, world-drought, world-rot, pollution, extinction.

Everything’s murdered, but still, not good, a dead thing
in with your ID and change. I fling her away, but the death
of her clings, the death of her death, her murder, her slaughter.

The best part of Thanksgiving Day, though—the parade!
Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Kermit the Frog, enormous as clouds!
And the marching bands, majorettes, anthems and drums!

When the great bass stomped its galloping boom out
to the crowd, my heart swelled with valor and pride.
I remembered when we saluted, when we took off our hat.