Things With Feathers: Bringing things back

Hello, dear readers.

So it’s been an intense few weeks! For me, personally, I had a series of deeply unpleasant emotional events, followed shortly by some truly wonderful (but also intense) new spiritual understandings, which collided quite spectacularly just a few days before the election. So that was fun timing. I also started taking an incredible permaculture course, which is full of brilliant people who want to improve the state of our cities and landscapes, and I cannot wait to see how that unfolds (I hope to share some of that here, too). So with all that, my head has hardly had time to stop spinning so that I can process everything. I’m really exhausted, excited to see how the things I’ve been learning will play out, and also terrified about the kind of world they will be playing out in.

I have also been heartened to see the way people are coming together, reaching out to one another, and speaking out against oppression, from my friends and family to state and city governments – and to keep reading news about progress that has already been made.

I don’t post these things to say “gosh don’t look at the bad things, don’t be so ~negative~” but as reminders that things are not all bad, that progress has been made and will be made, to remind myself (and you!) of a tiny sampling of things that are good in the world, that we are working to preserve and improve – and to provide a break from focusing on those things that are exhausting and terrible. It is so important to give yourself time to rest and enjoy something; our minds and emotions and bodies need breaks from stress. I do not want to lose any of you to despair at the immensity of the truly terrible things we are facing.

So! I’ve been filing away a bunch of positive stories to share.

But before I move on to those, here are links to two other essays I’ve written that seem appropriate to bring up again. One is “Life Support Systems,” about hope, joy, and love as forms of resistance and sources of resilience.

Joy is life affirming.

The other is “Why Hope?” – about the value not of “wishful thinking,” but the hope that comes from reminding ourselves of previous victories, and the serious necessity of doing that.

. . . Feeling problems are overwhelming and vast, and no solution has been come up with, creates despair and depression, states in which people feel like taking action is pointless; therefore, remembering similar efforts that have succeeded – and sharing those memories – is a vital antidote to that despair, which provides impetus (hope) to keep going and working towards the specific as-yet unachieved goals.

And now onward to the good news! Here are some things to celebrate, to find joy and new energy in.

From the “Even Walls Fall Down” department:

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow. I’ve written previously about the removal of the dams on the Elwha River in Washington; this is about the removal of two of three dams on the Penobscot River in Maine. First erected in the 1830s, they caused populations of migratory fish to nearly collapse. Two of those dams were removed in 2012 and 2013, and despite the massive loss of population and blockage of close to two centuries, the fish are returning in impressive numbers. Along with the fish, of course, come other species, including osprey, eagles, and many less noticeable species. Even wild systems that look severely degraded can turn out to be very resilient.

From the “Rebuilding it Better” department:

Kansas Town Decimated by Tornado Now Runs on 100% Renewable Energy, Should Be Model for Frack-Happy State. In 2007, the town of Greensburg, Kansas, population 1,500, was leveled by an E-5 tornado. Half its population left permanently, but the town has rebuilt itself – and rebuilt itself as a city fully powered by renewable energy sources (Kansas is very rich in wind, for one). Further, the city provides “curbside recycling and conserves water with low flow fixtures and collects rainwater for irrigation and grey water in toilets,” making them a model for other cities to follow.

And closing with two items from the “Cute Animals” department:

Resurrected From Dead, Oryx Returns to the Wild. Thirty years after being driven to extinction in the wild, a small herd of scimitar-horned oryx – the successful results of a captive breeding program – has been released to their native land in Chad. The people behind this program hope to release 500 oryx over the next five years, to create a self-sustaining wild population that will also help restore the ecosystem they live in.
A group of scimitar oryx at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, Great Britain
A group of scimitar oryx at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, Great Britain. From Wikipedia; photo by “The Land” CC BY-SA 3.0
Via birdhism on Facebook: The world’s fastest parrot lives in Australia, and is critically endangered. Habitat destruction was part of the problem, but then people learned the population was also being heavily decimated by a predator: the sugar glider. However, the swift parrot is now “having breeding success on Bruny Island where they are free from their introduced predator, the sugar glider.” A campaign to raise money to install nesting boxes for the birds, combined with arborists carving little hollows for them into trees, has helped the birds raise new families by providing ample nesting spaces in the predator-free forest (source).
Swift parrot baby, via birdhism's Facebook page
Swift parrot baby, via birdhism’s Facebook page
 May your days ahead be filled with similar successes.

Fjothr Lokakvan

fyothrFjothr is an environmentalist, Lokean, and bioregional animist living in Cascadia, with a great many Norse Giants present in her life. Her spiritual practices are focused on her relationship with her primary god and building relationships with the local Powers and place. She keeps houseplants, spends almost too much time on Tumblr, and is inordinately fond of birds. She also writes at Rebalancing Acts and is on the board of Gods&Radicals


We’d love to pay our writers, and we’re hoping you can help us do that!

Book Review: The Pagan Leadership Anthology

When I first heard about this book, The Pagan Leadership Anthology: An Exploration of Leadership and Community in Paganism and Polytheism, edited by Shauna Aura Knight and Taylor Ellwood, I immediately dismissed it as “not relevant to my interests” because I do not lead or organize any groups, events, etc., have any other leadership type role, or have a strong desire to be in one of those roles. However, it came up again, and this time, I thought I would give it a chance. I was, admittedly, a bit curious about its contents. I’ve only been pagan myself for about 4 years, and have not been deeply involved in pagan/polytheist communities, so I don’t have much sense at all about what people in the broader community think “leadership” is, or ought to be. I also thought that even though I’m not in a leadership role, it might end up having some interesting and useful things to say about working with people in groups. Well before I finished reading it, I thought it was valuable enough that I wanted to try and talk other people into reading it, too.

The book contains 36 essays organized into 8 sections: Personal Work; General Advice; Leadership Models and Processes; Group Structure, Agreements, and Bylaws; Delegation and Volunteers; Building the Long Term Infrastructure of the Pagan Community; Conflict Resolution and Dealing with Crisis in Groups; and Recognizing and Dealing with Burnout.

My chief disappointment with the book is that a couple of the sections felt a little thin in comparison to others. The section on long term infrastructure had only two essays, and the last section on burnout only 3, while the others had 4 to 6. I would have appreciated more writing specifically on those topics, though some of the essays in other sections also contained advice that is applicable to those topics (burnout, for example, was mentioned in more than just the 3 “Burnout” section essays).

I’ve absorbed advice about leadership in several different circumstances, both formal and through life experience, and as a whole, I thought the book did well at describing effective, healthy ways of working with people. One of my favorites was the essay by Diana Rajchel, “Pagan Volunteers: How to get 100 Pagan Volunteers to Show Up on Time and Leave Happy.” She starts off by addressing the problem of assuming that people cannot be organized, which sets yourself, and the volunteers you need, up for a less than awesome time:

“Here’s the main problem with the herding cats metaphor for Pagans: it’s a blame shifter. By labeling a group ‘impossible,’ it divorces the person that makes such a claim from responsibility for the ensuing chaos. It also ignores the problem that usually underpins the disasters often blamed on Pagans being Pagan. … The truth is that Pagans, as a group, are no more or less difficult than any other group. Pagans in general respond well to clear communication, and most need to commit to causes that make them feel valued.”

She then describes how, by being well-organized, communicating well with volunteers, and taking care of them (food, thank you notes, and more), she had record success in having volunteers show up for a particular event and get stuff done – and had even more success recruiting and retaining volunteers for the same event in subsequent years. The remainder (and majority) of the essay describes a bunch of specific organizational and communication techniques and tools to improve communication and organization and help people feel good about engaging in community-building work.

Another memorable lesson came in Shauna Aura Knight’s essay, “Three Leadership Tools and a Mystery,” in the section in which she describes the importance of being aware of the filters through which we view the world, as these filters contribute to a lot of conflict. This section of her piece describes a tool called “Four Levels of Reality and Conflict Resolution.”

“Physical Reality is what actually happened in the physical world. Mythical Reality is the store our brain instantly writes where we assign motivations to people’s actions. That Mythic Reality instantly generates an Emotional Reality, which is how we feel about that story. Beneath it all is Essential Reality, which is how we perceive the world.”

She elaborates on these levels of reality, how they play out in causing conflict, and how working through the Four Levels in a fraught situation can prevent it from becoming a major problem. It’s a discernment tool, one I believe that many, many people would benefit from learning and employing.

My favorite overall section was the one on Group Structure, Agreements, and Bylaws, which covered ways in which a group can create formal agreements for itself, and the values of doing so. This is really valuable information to consider for anyone involved in the creation of a new group, whether you’re in a leadership role or not. I’ve been involved in one largely-volunteer organization that had bylaws, and while there were, shall we say, “challenges” writing them, they were not only legally necessary (the organization was seeking nonprofit status), they were also vital in delineating how an organization with both paid staff and a major volunteer component would balance power between the different groups of people keeping the organization going. Regardless of a group’s legal status, bylaws or other agreed-to rules provide groundwork to come back to if/when conflict arises.

If I could pick only one theme from the book as the central point, it is that treating people respectfully – including yourself – is vital to good leadership, building community, and avoiding burnout. I really appreciated the attitude of the authors’ towards the importance of working WITH people, and making sure the needs of others in the group are being attended to, rather than taking a top-down approach.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in being involved in community, whether it is pagan or not, and whether you are or want to be in a leadership role. It has good advice for working with other people, understanding group dynamics, and many examples of challenges faced and how they might be solved while doing this kind of work.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I bought my copy from Syren Nagakyrie, who is a friend with an essay in the book and is also on the board of Gods&Radicals.)

Weekly Update: July 31

We are thrilled that A Beautiful Resistance #2, The Fire is Here, has been arriving in the hands of those who have already placed orders! If you are not one of those folks, you can still get a copy here. And here is a review of the issue (already!).

Coming to your web reader of choice this week, writing on G&R includes an interview by guest author William Hawes with Richard Oxman, a review of Pagan Leadership Anthology (from yours truly), a poem and essay about harvest and connection to the land from Linda Boeckhout, and an essay on how religion and politics intertwine from Yvonne Aburrow.

Various and Sundry

The second Many Gods West polytheist gathering in Olympia, Washington, is starting in less than a week; online pre-registration will end on Monday, August 1, but registration will still be taken at the door (for details see this Facebook post).

A spot of good news for watersheds, especially for those inhabiting areas immediately adjacent to large rivers: Popularity of Big Hydropower Projects Diminishes Around the World. Large dams are destructive to ecosystems and human communities, especially indigenous or poorer communities, and costly, often far exceeding their original budgets. Other forms of renewable energy (like solar and wind) are faster to build, less expensive, and less destructive to their locations. There are still big hydropower projects in process, but “the level of investment in big water-powered electricity projects has been flat for much of the last decade, and is now being overwhelmed by financing for renewable energy, led by wind and solar power.”

Moving to a much smaller scale, here is a short video and some text about the efforts being made on a 20-acre island in Illinois to restore the population of a species of plant that grows nowhere else. The Kankakee mallow is one of the rarest species of plants in the United States, and has had problems with invasive species crowding it out; the lack of wildfire in its habitat has contributed to the problem. The “READ MORE” link at the link goes into more history about the restoration of the plant, which – fortunately – has seed that can hang out in the soil for years, until the right conditions, including fire, are brought back.

Traditional approaches to work and relationships provide numerous benefits over new technologies. The “Cats at Work” program in the city of Chicago provides feral cats, considered “unadoptable,” with “work” in one of the most traditional cat professions there is: keeping rodents. In return, the cats are provided secure housing, food, and other care overseen by the shelter running the program. The program has been running for over a decade and, in addition to reducing ineffective methods of rat control (like poison), it provides beneficial emotional relationships for the humans hosting or living near their local “working cats.”

Lastly, if 2016 is getting you down too much, take a quick scroll through this list of positive things that have happened as a reminder that it isn’t all bad all the time – or maybe file it away to read a little bit at a time while we finish out the year.

Things With Feathers: Why hope?

Since it’s what came my way, I have something a little different this time. Instead of a collection of articles focused on specific positive things happening, I have two articles discussing the value of hope itself. I highly recommend reading them both in their entirety, both for their examples of victories, and for the more in-depth treatment the authors give their subjects.

One is “The Rise of Ocean Optimism,” by Elin Kelsey, which is written about the importance of sharing successes in ocean conservation – though the concepts are widely applicable. The other, Rebecca Solnit’s “Hope is an embrace of the unknown,” examines the world more broadly, and presents the concept of “hope” in a really interesting way, as a way of acting in times of uncertainty.

They share one major common point: Feeling problems are overwhelming and vast, and no solution has been come up with, creates despair and depression, states in which people feel like taking action is pointless; therefore, remembering similar efforts that have succeeded – and sharing those memories – is a vital antidote to that despair, which provides impetus (hope) to keep going and working towards the specific as-yet unachieved goals.

One of the points raised in “Ocean Optimism” is the importance of educating people about ways to improve bad situations – quite literally, sharing what has worked for people can help others solve their problems. There are many serious problems with the ocean, and scientists were spending more time publishing analyses of problems instead of sharing things that worked, so the field was perceived very strongly as pretty much “doom and gloom.” The problems aren’t imaginary, but too much focus on those without spending enough time on actual solutions, and places where harmed ecosystems are recovering, doesn’t help people keep going with further solutions:

     Those of us who work with marine issues are often reluctant to talk about the environment in hopeful terms, for fear it might be taken as saying it’s okay to continue the appalling degradation of the seas. “Don’t worry about PCBs, my friend. The ocean will heal itself!” That sort of thing. We worry that highlighting species recoveries will play into the hands of climate skeptics, or reduce political pressure for much-needed environmental reforms.

     But what we fail to take into account is the collateral damage of apocalyptic storytelling.

     Hopelessness undermines the very engagement with marine issues we seek to create. According to researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, there are limits to the amount of concerns we can deal with at one time. They call it the “finite pool of worry.” Overburdening people’s capacity for worry with too much doom and gloom leads to emotional numbing. When we believe our actions are too small to make a difference, we tend to behave in ways that create the conditions in which those expectations are realized. By bombarding people with bad news about the oceans at scales that feel too large to surmount, we cause them to downplay, tune out, or shut down. Hopelessness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. [emphasis added]

Kelsey also points out that another tactic often brought up – scaring people into doing the right thing – isn’t always appropriate, because “fearmongering isn’t the answer for broad, complex, emotion-laden, societal-level issues,” like environmentalism. Talking about what has been seen to work, showing places where there are solutions, is an alternative to that.

Solnit has this to say about focusing on victories and other memories of the past:

     Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. I have long been more afraid that people will give up and go home or never get started in the first place if they think no victory is possible or fail to recognise the victories already achieved. … A victory is a milestone on the road, evidence that sometimes we win and encouragement to keep going, not to stop.

     Most of us would say, if asked, that we live in a capitalist society, but vast amounts of how we live our everyday lives – our interactions with and commitments to family lives, friendships, avocations, membership in social, spiritual and political organisations – are in essence noncapitalist or even anticapitalist, made up of things we do for free, out of love and on principle.”

     …noncapitalist ways of doing things are much older than free-market economic arrangements. Activists often speak as though the solutions we need have not yet been launched or invented, as though we are starting from scratch, when often the real goal is to amplify the power and reach of existing options. What we dream of is already present in the world.”

     …though hope is about the future, grounds for hope lie in the records and recollections of the past. We can tell of a past that was nothing but defeats, cruelties and injustices, or of a past that was some lovely golden age now irretrievably lost, or we can tell a more complicated and accurate story, one that has room for the best and worst, for atrocities and liberations, for grief and jubilation. A memory commensurate to the complexity of the past and the whole cast of participants, a memory that includes our power, produces that forward-directed energy called hope.

She also spends several paragraphs discussing how what is remembered affects how we feel about things now. “Forgetting” the past can create despair and depression and inaction, because all recollections of victories are ignored, so there is only the (awful) “now,” and if this is how it has “always been,” how can things be different in the future?

     The status quo would like you to believe it is immutable, inevitable and invulnerable, and lack of memory of a dynamically changing world reinforces this view. In other words, when you don’t know how much things have changed, you don’t see that they are changing or that they can change.

One of the things I liked best was the way Solnit defined hope  – a way of acting in times of uncertainty.

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. When you recognise uncertainty, you recognise that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. — Rebecca Solnit

She mentions several historical examples of sudden change happening after a lot of groundwork had been laid. No one knew what specific trigger point would occur, or when, or that the actions that did occur would end up setting off much larger-scale reactions. And, had the efforts of so many people, and desires for change, not already been in place, the precipitating incidents could not have had the same results. What I take from this is that, even if no specific timeline can be predicted for work to pay off, it is vital to keep doing it, and to be connected with others, to spread the ideas and desires for change to happen, so that when that unpredictable but necessary catalytic moment comes and creates an opening, all that pent-up energy can move.

Another important made by Kelsey is that emotions are contagious – and hope spreads faster on social media than pessimism, which is what you get from news sources. None of this is a call to stop talking about the problems facing the world – if you don’t know something is causing harm, you not only can’t help stop it, you may end up inadvertently perpetuating it – but to not focus solely on the harms. By sharing our stories of past victories, and providing reminders that things have changed, they can change, and they will change, we support each other in working towards our next victories.

And the Bastard grant us . . . in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain’s peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word. In darkness, understanding. — Lois McMaster Bujold (in Paladin of Souls)

Weekly Update: 3 July

On the Schedule

Next week we will bring you writing from Rhyd Wildermuth, Dr. Bones on “The Magic of Crime,” more of the “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” from Sable Aradia, and an essay on Brexit and racism by Yvonne Aburrow.

beautifulfirefrontcoverThe Digital Edition of A Beautiful Resistance 2: The Fire Is Here is now available! Order your copy here. Those of you waiting for the print edition do not have much longer to wait…. it should begin shipping soon. Watch this space for updates.

News and Other Reading

Holocaust survivor, writer, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who was known for his lifelong stands against bigotry, denouncing genocide and repression in many countries, has died. In his Nobel acceptance speech, he said:

. . . I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget, because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

. . . We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

May his example be followed a thousand thousand times and more.

Manny Tejeda-Moreno writes at The Wild Hunt about recent horrible events, an extremely endangered amphibian, and a way to survive and thrive in uncertain, upsetting times inspired by that creature.

The Susitna River is the fourth longest dam-free river in the United States, and looks to remain that way after the proposed, and protested, Susitna dam project was cancelled by Alaska’s governor last week, due to budgetary concerns and a great deal of opposition by people concerned about the proposed dam’s impacts to the river, several salmon species, and other wildlife, as well human uses of the river (like tourism and fishing).

And, twelve years after it was first proposed (and objected to) Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would have carried tar sands oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, had its approval overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, which found that the government “failed to properly consult the First Nations affected by the pipeline.” Enbridge says it is still committed to the pipeline, but “At every turn you’re going, you are seeing nails in the coffin of the Enbridge project,” said Peter Lantin, president of the council of the Haida Nation, one of the parties that appealed. “I don’t think there’s enough room for another nail in the coffin.”

It’s up to you now, and we shall help you – that my past does not become your future. -Elie Wiesel, Speech at UN World Peace Day, September 21, 2006

Weekly Update: Solstice Edition

Well, here we are: at the end of a terribly rough week, nearly halfway through a year that has already seemed unusually bad. Part of what has helped me cope with it all has been the good company I’ve been in in my pagan circles, which includes the writing I find here.

On the schedule for the next week are posts from G&R regulars Rhyd Wildermuth, Sable Aradia, James Lindenschmidt, Linda Boeckhout, and Sophia Burns. Their topics will cover such things as finding gods “in the dumpster,” spiritual activism, capitalism, the commons, and the Orlando shooting.

Additionally, on Tuesday the 21st — in honor of the Solstice by all its names — we have Wayne Martin Mellinger with his first piece for Gods & Radicals: Nature Religions and Revolutionary Social Change: Advancing a Practical Theology for Spiritual Activism. This is a longer piece for us, but it’s worth the investment since it gives a nice topography of the spiritual-activism space and will be of value to our communities.

beautifulfirefrontcoverThe Digital Edition of A Beautiful Resistance 2: The Fire Is Here is now available! Order your copy here. Those of you waiting for the print edition do not have much longer to wait…. it should begin shipping soon. Watch this space for updates.

Other Things

From my collection of “things people who read this website might appreciate”:

We have put together a ritual to commemorate the dead of Orlando. We suggest that it be performed after the solstice but before the end of June. It can be performed alone or with your group. We have tried to make it adaptable to any Pagan or polytheist practice. Also available in Italian.

Editor Commentary

I didn’t understand that “bisexual” was an option when I was a teenager in a rural high school in the 90s. I only knew from how some of my classmates slandered others as “gay” or “lesbian” – and it was always, always meant as an insult – that there were dangerous ways to be. Very few of my friends were openly supportive of the idea of being queer, even if they also disliked some of the homophobic laws being proposed in my state. So I didn’t acknowledge my sexuality to myself until I was in my 20s, and felt for a long time I didn’t really belong in the queer community.

My social circles since my mid-20s have been matter-of-factly queer-friendly and included a lot of out folk. My pagan social circles, which are my social circles these days, seem to be majority LGBTQIA/MOGAI/QUILTBAG/queer/etc., and that has been fantastic. I can talk about my ex-girlfriend and talking to gods in the same conversation and no one bats an eye!

The last week has been so, so terrible; I’m simply heartbroken over the homophobic murders and attempted murders at Pulse. Learning more about who was actually there that night has just made it worse: It was Latinx Night; the headlining performers were trans; people of color are already victims of homophobic and transphobic violence more than white people. A lot of people were from other countries, and some are/were undocumented, and this makes it even harder for them and/or their families . . .

I’ve seen some very good thoughtful writing and some very powerful emotional writing about all of this, but I am kind of at a loss to add to that now.

Take care of yourselves, okay? Take care of each other. Keep on loving.

Weekly Update: June 5

We’re having a shockingly hot weekend in Oregon, to be followed by a much more normal week, with this great schedule of writing and podcast to enjoy along with the cooler temperatures:

  • From Rhyd Wildermuth, the short but powerful “Brighid in the Dumpster, Brân in the Bad Heroin.”
  • “Poverty, Worth and the Hovering Ghost of Calvin,” from Alley Valkyrie.
  • A review from Sable Aradia of the book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.
  • Yvonne Aburrow writes about metapolitics and religion in “With our thoughts we make the world.”
  • James Lindenschmidt brings us another podcast, “The Deeper Magic Of The Commons.”
  • And wrapping things up, an essay about petrochemicals from one of our newest writers, Gersande.

Additional Recommended Reading

At this link you can find a series of essays about one activist’s experience recognizing and starting to understand, and recover from, burnout.

More history for you: The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771

This one’s been making the social media rounds, but in case you missed it, Your Latte Isn’t Why You’re in Debt, and the People Who Say It Is Are Lying to You is worth a read, as it goes into just how the financial “advice” about how those few dollars a day was generated in the first place (spoiler: it involves really sketchy math).

Here is something lovely, for yourself and birds and invertebrates (and probably certain of the Neighbors, too), if you have outside space you can work with: How to Grow a Meadow.

Weekly Update: 22 May

We have a great lineup coming up next week, starting off with a guest post by Brian Johnson on “Revolutionary Spirits and Occult Strategies of Resistance.” We also have scheduled a review by Lorna Smithers and essays by Rhyd Wildermuth (on colonialism and decolonization), Dr. Bones (on the precariat), and Christopher Scott Thompson (on the history of anarchism).

Links and News

Last weekend wrapped up almost 2 dozen climate change protests held around the globe known as Break Free. The Wild Hunt has an article covering the involvement of two pagans in some of these events, Margaret Human and John Halstead. Halstead – one of Gods&Radicals’ writers – was one of about 40 people arrested during the protest in Whiting, Indiana, and also has a series of posts up at Patheos discussing his path to environmental activism.

A victory in the works since 1975: The Munduruku, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups, have achieved legal recognition of their traditional territory, which grants them the right to “free, prior, and informed consent before the government can use their land.” As a result, a mega-dam project that would have submerged their land has been halted.

Lastly, two articles on animism:

Quote for the Week

Here’s an interesting quote I found on Tumblr, from a book by Gastón  R. Gordillo: Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction:

Hollywood insists in presenting the image of a capitalist world in ruins as ominous and terrifying. But as Rebecca Solnit argues in A Paradise Built in Hell, the scholarship on disasters conclusively shows that it is the powerful who usually panic amid the rubble created by catastrophes. She shows that the Hobbesian Hollywood nightmare of hysterical masses panicking in wild stampedes and creating a war of “all against all” scenario is an elite fantasy. Most people are certainly shocked and disoriented at first but soon afterward generate forms of solidarity and cooperation and see the possibility of collective transformation and rebirth. In fact, the very fact that sites of power have been destroyed makes people less fearful of the powerful.

History is full of examples of fields of rubble that awakened emancipatory sentiments, even if this effervescence was eventually contained. After the burning of Moscow in 1812 by the Napoleonic armies, for instance, Tolstoy wrote that the rubble of the city opened “unique possibilities of moral regeneration”. In the case of Argentina, Healey shows that the rise to power of Perón in 1946 was inseparable from his role in the plans to reconstruct the city of San Juan, which had been reduced to rubble by an earthquake two years earlier. Perón turned the rubble of San Juan into a collective invitation to build a new, better, more inclusive Argentina. Henry Cobb noted in 1947 a similar enthusiasm for change amid the rubble of Warsaw, which made him realize, “in a strange way,” that “because of the destruction you could remake the world.” And this is at the core of the elite fear of rubble in moments of unrest: that the rubble, indeed, could be an invitation to remake the world differently

Things with Feathers: Fewer fossil fuel projects; more birds

In good news for climate and other environmental concerns, the fossil fuel industry has been having a tough time getting projects permitted:

Oregon LNG cancels plan for Warrenton terminal:

The company behind a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal at the mouth of the Columbia River has abandoned the project, marking the death of Oregon’s second such project in a matter of weeks.

…The news comes weeks after a city hearings officer rejected key permits for the project and after years of fervent opposition both locally and statewide. Concerns over the project’s potential to harm Warrenton’s fishing industry and environment had sparked protests at local meetings on the project and attracted attention from conservation groups.

…The project encountered another roadblock this spring, when a city hearings officer denied land use applications after finding the terminal could harm habitat for protected salmon and affect public fishing access.

The “second such project” referenced is the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, which had its plans rejected by federal regulators, who said “applicants had not demonstrated any need for the facility.”

Regulators said they were required to balance the need for any project against any adverse impacts it would have on landowners or the environment. The need for Jordan Cove was based entirely on demand for natural gas from customers in Asia, and with those markets in upheaval, Jordan Cove’s backers have yet to demonstrate that the demand exists.

…Meanwhile, the companies had been unable to negotiate easements with more than 90 percent of 630 landowners along the 232-mile pipeline route, and would have required the widespread use of eminent domain to secure the necessary rights of way. The commissioners noted the landowners’ concerns with land devaluation, loss of revenue and harm to business operations, including timber, agriculture and oyster harvesting.

This project has been opposed since 2004.

Very recently, up in Washington, the Cherry Point coal export terminal’s permit has been rejected by the US Army Corps of Engineers; this permit rejection probably means the end of the project entirely. The decision is noteworthy because it came not from an environmental impact assessment, but because of the terminal’s projected impact on the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights.

The Corps ruled the project would impact the treaty-protected fishing rights of Lummi Nation based on the fact that the proposed trestle and associated wharf would take up 144 acres over water.

“The Corps may not permit a project that abrogates treaty rights,” said Col. John Buck, commander of the Corps’ Seattle District.

This doesn’t fall under “permit denied,” but it’s too good to omit. Royal Dutch Shell has relinquished all its leases in the Chukchi Sea except one (for the site it drilled an exploratory well last year), and is reevaluating its leases in the Beaufort Sea.

After Shell announced it was suspending exploration, the Interior Department said it would not extend Shell leases when they expired in 2020. Shell initially said lease terms should be extended. By relinquishing the leases, the company avoids millions in annual payments.

A drilling opponent, Oceana, filed a freedom of information request and learned leases had been formally relinquished by Shell, ConocoPhillips, Eni and Iona Energy. The environmental group announced its findings Monday night and applauded the decision.

“Hopefully, today marks the end of the ecologically and economically risky push to drill in the Arctic Ocean,” said Mike LeVine, an attorney with the group.

Moving on to another hemisphere and topic, in cute bird news, the kakapo population in New Zealand had a particular good year in the baby department, with a 36 new babies surviving breeding season, bringing the total population of this critically endangered species up to 125, and providing some of the cutest parent-and-baby pictures on the internet.

“It’s the most successful breeding season since we started in 1995 and I think that’s cause for international celebration,” Conservation Minister Maggie Barry told AFP.

Kakapo parent and chick, from eartharchives.org
Kakapo parent and chick, from eartharchives.org