Thursday, October 22, 2009

Acting Out (Peacefully) Against the Culture of Competition

Shizuishan Industrial district in Ningxia. Residents cover themselves against the falling dust when going outside.
April 22, 2006

This Saturday, October 24th, I'll join a mob of peaceful activists and march across the Brooklyn Bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn, in hopes of further raising public awareness about the reality of climate change and the need for a comprehensive international climate treaty. The march is associated with's Day of Action.
" is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis--the solutions that science and justice demand. Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet. Our focus is on the number 350--as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. But 350 is more than a number--it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet. [...] This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn't meet the severity of the climate crisis—it doesn't pass the 350 test. In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we're harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action on October 24, 2009. We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world - from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community - and clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis." was founded by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben and, although some legitimate philosophical criticisms of the project have been raised, I feel strongly that the organization's mission is vital.

Due to long-term consumption of water contaminated by industrial waste, 50 people have cancer and cerebral thrombosis in Kang village of Linfen City, Shanxi Province..
64-year-old Wang Baosheng has fester wounds all over his body, and must sleep sitting, face down on the edge of the bed each day.
July 10, 2005

Should you doubt the urgent need for an international climate treaty that demands accountability and systemic change, or should you remain skeptical of the human influence on atmospheric carbon levels, I encourage you to take a look at the distressing pictures that ChinaHush recently published. Photographer Lu Guang's series "Pollution in China" is a testament to the cruel realities of the international, industrial market.

In his book-length essay Life Is A Miracle, the author, poet, essayist, and critic Wendell Berry describes the global, capitalist world view as,
"one culture of division and dislocation, opposition and competition, which is to say the culture of colonialism and industrialism. This culture has steadily increased the dependence of individuals, regions, and nations upon larger and larger collective economies at the same time that is has thrown individuals, regions, and nations into a competitiveness with one another that is limitlessly destructive and demeaning."
The "collateral damage" caused by this monstrous steam engine is not limited to elevated carbon levels, and its poisons don't just affect the dispossessed or the politically and economically powerless.

Nicholas Kristoff reminds us, in a recent New York Times OpEd piece, that the staggering number of "deformed frogs and intersex fish [found in or near United States' waters] — not to mention the growing number of deformities in newborn boys — should jolt us."
"In the Potomac watershed near Washington, male smallmouth bass have rapidly transformed into 'intersex fish' that display female characteristics. This was discovered only in 2003, but the latest survey found that more than 80 percent of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac are producing eggs. Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. [...] Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants."
Herpetologists have been sounding the alarm for years, but the policy makers are warm in the pockets of the immoral corporations and the populace, by and large, prefers to escape in celebrity pregnancy updates and corporate-owned sporting events. Amphibians were the ignored canary in the coal mine. Now many animal families (ours included) are paying a terrible price, one that we can not yet fully appreciate.

Henan Anyang iron and steel plant’s sewage flowed into Anyang River. March 25, 2008

Still, it's not too late to stand up to the "culture of colonialism and industrialism." Visit Find out how to get involved in the effort. If global warming isn't appealing to your still, small voice, get involved with political activism, volunteer at your local homeless shelter, pledge financial support to non-profit activist organizations working for causes that you feel strongly about; it doesn't matter what you do, but it does matter that you do something. Turn off the television, put down the tabloid. I beg this of you.

Breathing large amounts of dust into their lungs, people become sick after working here for 1-2 years. Most of these migrant workers come from area of poverty.
April 10, 2005

Photo credits: all photographs, Lu Guang; ripped from ChinaHush

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