Tag Archives: exploitation

Loss of Loess and How to Heal

Watch this. At one point it was “the most eroded place on Earth” and had been the “Green Wall of China.”

Loess soil covers only about 10% of the land but is a vector for enormous amounts of all agricultural history, as well as forest development before that. When it erodes down into waterways, we’re screwed! Can it be fixed?

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Meat Ladder to Mars Audio Preview

Hey hey, if you’re considering downloading or buying a real life copy of MEAT LADDER TO MARS, here’s an audio preview of me reading it.


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Ebook of my new novel is FREE until Thursday!

My Gentri-Fi novel Meat Ladder to Mars is free until Thursday! If you hate it, or if you love it, drop a review on Amazon if you please. Enjoy, jolines!

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New Black and Green Review

The new Black and Green Review is out! Don’t miss an issue! Buy a few copies so they take slightly longer to go balls up!

Here’s an essential article on climate refugees, reprinted here. The active bibliography is available at BAGR’s website above, and yes, those footnotes are active.

Losing Ground: Syria’s Climate Refugees
Evan Cestari, Black and Green Review #2, Fall 2015

The climate wars have already begun. In the parlance of the State, climate change has proven to be a “threat multiplier” that has become typified by, among other conflicts, a war in Syria that to date has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced over 9 million.[1] With people throughout the Middle East escaping the ongoing resource wars and desperate for some semblance of stability, Europe now faces its greatest refugee influx since World War II and fears over a reactionary fascist backlash loom in the background.
All this when we’ve only just scratched the surface of climate change. With a 0.85°C increase in global average temperature over since the Industrial Revolution, the United Nations estimates that 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes.[2] Meanwhile, as global average temperature is widely expected to climb past a catastrophic 2°C limit, analysts predict that number to more than double to 150 million in the next 35 years. Ten times that figure, or nearly 10 percent of the world’s population, are at direct risk of displacement due to climate change.[3] What an increasingly probable 6°C or higher global temperature increase may bring becomes a frightening proposition.

The Syria-Climate Connection

The haunting image of a refugee Syrian toddler’s corpse washed up on a Turkish beach is now weaved into our nightmarish cultural subconscious. But sadly, such a tragedy had been long predicted in a part of the world where water was scarce, populations growing, and pressures to develop advanced agricultural economies reached new levels. At least since the 1970s, Syria, Iraq and Turkey were locked in tense standoffs, and even “undeclared wars” over access to the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates.[4] By 1999, Turkey, a NATO member and European Union candidate nation, succeeded in quelling Kurdish resistance and wasted little time in advancing a series of dams and irrigation projects that left Syrian farmers with a trickle of their former flows. Meanwhile, population growth surged in all three countries at a rate that would double the number of inhabitants in mere decades. As analyst Michael T. Klare stated in 2001, “The stage is being set for a series of recurring crises over water supplies in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.”[5]
Enter the threat multiplier, climate change. From 2006 to 2010, as moist Mediterranean winds weakened and surface temperatures spiked to new highs, an epic drought plagued the region. It was reputed to be the worst in Syria’s recorded history and at least two to three times more likely to occur due to climate change. In an area already short on water, 1.5 million starving villagers fled to overcrowded city centers. With a crippled domestic agricultural industry also came a catastrophic loss of imports as Russia, a main supplier of grain, halted all exports in 2010 after a “once in a century” heatwave triggered wildfires, destroyed crops and claimed the lives of over 50,000 Russian people. Food riots erupted throughout the Middle East, eventually cascading into the Arab Spring. The Bashar al-Assad regime reacted swiftly and violently to the desperate migrants while brutal ISIS gangs, dependent on an economy of pillaging and slavery, stepped in to fill the void. As the conflict escalated throughout both the cities and countryside, both sides didn’t hesitate to deploy chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and other indiscriminate weapons causing the casualty figure to surpass 250,000. Determined to escape what can only be called a living hell, 3 million Syrians sought refuge abroad, including 150,000 who treked to parts of Europe by the Autumn of 2015. It is currently uncertain exactly how welcoming the European nations will be. Some states, such as Germany, have pledged to take in tens of thousands; others, such as Hungary, have actively resisted the influx.
Syrian economist Samir Aita notes the historical irony of the disaster’s location: “State and government was invented in this part of the world, in ancient Mesopotamia, precisely to manage irrigation and crop growing,” said Aita, “and Assad failed in that basic task.”[6] However, considering the rising climate pressures, it is doubtful that any political leader, democratic or authoritarian, could have ever succeed. Despite attempts to obfuscate the crisis as the result of mismanagement, the truth is that it is more structurally rooted in a globalized industrial economy that is both perpetrator and victim of its own catastrophe.

Climate Migrations in Past Collapses

Like every other symptom and driver of a collapsing civilization, what is new here is the global scale rather than the crises themselves. Mass migrations due to climate change have been repeatedly pointed out as a culprit in the sequence of events leading to the collapse of complex societies. In his sweeping history of the role of climate change as a “serial killer” of civilizations, Eugene Linden convincingly portrays the Mongolian barbarian intruders that overwhelmed the Roman Empire in the 6th century as exiles of a conflict catalyzed by sudden global cooling around 536 A.D.[7] Ethnic Avar horsemen, who increasingly lost economic and political influence to their rival Turkic herders after a severe drought decimated their primary equine resources, moved west gathering other disaffected groups on the edges of the Empire. Few historians point to barbarian invasions as the sole cause for the collapse of the Roman Empire, yet combined with other factors including food shortages, disease, and population overshoot, Rome became progressively overburdened by a series of related and ruinous catastrophes.
Jared Diamond illustrates another example of such a process in his book Collapse while discussing the last stages of Greenland Norse society shortly after the start of the Little Ice Age between 1400 and 1800. While Greenland’s Western settlements experienced the worst effects and became unable to grow hay for livestock, the Gardar settlement in the East was located in a more resilient area that could still support cows, the preferred source of protein among the settlers. Diamond suggests how the final breakdown unfolded:

[A]t the end, Gardar was like an overcrowded lifeboat. When hay production was failing and the livestock had all died or been eaten at the poorer farms of Eastern Settlement, their settlers would have tried to push their way onto the best farms that still had some animals: Brattahlid, Hvalsey, Herjolfsnes, and last of all Gardar. The authority of the church officials at Gardar Cathedral, or of the landowning chief there, would have been acknowledged as long as they and the power of God were visibly protecting their parishioners and followers. But famine and associated disease would have caused a breakdown of respect for authority, much as the Greek historian Thucydides described in his terrifying account of the plague of Athens 2,000 years earlier. Starving people would have poured into Gardar, and the outnumbered chiefs and church officials could no longer prevent them from slaughtering the last cattle and sheep.[8]

In both Linden’s and Diamond’s accounts, developed states over time became overpowered by hungry people. And in both cases, climate change fueled that hunger.

Migration and the Collapse Forecast

What remains clear, even to those in power, is that the Syrian situation is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the displacement that is in store. Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly called Europe’s refugee crisis a “small indication of what the world will be like” adding that the tens of millions of refugees today will increase exponentially. Indeed, all this was forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its very first report on climate change in 1990 which foretold “millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and severe drought.”[9] As the effects of climate change continue to be felt more directly in the First World, we become more and more likely to see conflict. John Gray wrote in his 2003 book Al Qaeda and What it Means to Be Modern that “global warming may well overtake scarcity in energy supplies as a source of geopolitical conflict.”[10] Gray foresaw major disruptions in food production leading to mass migrations that would eventually be blocked by both autocratic and democratic regimes.

     Echoing such a proscription, in 2008 journalist Mark Lynas painted a dismal prognosis in his book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet:

With structural famine gripping much of the subtropics, hundreds of millions of people will have only one choice left other than death for themselves and their families: They will have to pack up their belongings and leave. The resulting population transfers could dwarf those that have historically taken place owing to wars or crop failures.

…Conflicts will inevitably erupt as these numerous climate refugees spill into already densely populated areas….Tens of millions more will flee north from Africa towards Europe, where a warm welcome is unlikely to await them; new fascist parties may make sweeping electoral gains by promising to keep the starving African hordes out. Undaunted, many of these new climate refugees will make the journey on foot, carrying what they can, with children and old people trailing behind. Many of them will die by the wayside. Uprooted, stateless, and without hope, these will be the first generation of a new type of people; climate nomads, constantly moving in search of food, their varied cultures forgotten, ancestral ties to ancient lands cut forever. But these people may not be content to remain passive victims, for they will surely know that the world they inherit is not one that they have created. The resentment felt by Muslims towards Westerners will be tame by comparison. As social collapse accelerates, new political philosophies may emerge, philosophies that seek to lay blame where it truly belongs- on the rich countries that lit the fire that has now begun to consume the world.[11]

Today, Lynas seems incorrect only in terms of exactly who would be the first to experience such climate change induced famine. Certainly, it is not difficult to find parallels between the ideology Lynas describes and the bloodthirsty quest for revenge espoused by ISIS.
Of course, the blame of the rich nations that Lynas describes only scratches the surface; anarcho-primitivism digs deeper to lay the finger on domestication and civilization itself. As Tim Garrett, professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah explains, civilization is fundamentally a “heat engine” programmed for climate change as it “consumes energy and does ‘work’ in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy.”[12] The task facing anarcho-primitivists then becomes engaging the crisis and the “climate nomads” in ways that expose the underlying culprit while resisting emerging fascist and xenophobic tendencies. Simultaneously, we can lead attempts to reconnect with wild places that may be on the margins for agriculture, but which may allow a more flexible resource base through foraging. The solutions to foraging in dry environments will undoubtedly vary from area to area, but any attempts to do so can draw hope from contemporary foragers. As !Kung elder Moloreng states in James Workman’s important book Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought; “The old…They know how to live without the water.”[13]
Perhaps the most hopeful vision we can draw upon is that of the Greenland Inuit during the course of the Norse civilization’s decline. While not immune to the effects of climatic variations in an already marginal environment, with large fluctuations in the populations of prey species meaning sporadic community starvations, Inuit culture as a whole was able to draw upon a wider variety of food resources to adapt through the Little Ice Age that starved out the Western Settlements and eventually even the rich Gardar. Amidst social collapse the Norse were unable to overcome their ingrained contempt for Inuit culture and could therefore not seek assistance from those who most knew how to persist. It is now our duty to not repeat their mistake.

Sneak Peek 1 of Magnetic Water and Worms

Anyone wants to see what I’ve been slaving away at instead of drawing comics the last year, here’s a peek. Like it? Check out the other stuff I’ve written.

Fragment of c.22 “The oldest trick in the valley” from Magnetic Water and Worms

Ronny Dossantos blamed herself. She could’ve run the Congregation’s whole water supply if she’d been braver. She could’ve organized Yolanda, for all she knew. Was the student Jerry losing interest in her while she paced and plotted all day? Had he ever been interested in her? A stone’s throw, just one of their obscene nightlights knocked out and waiting for repairs, would’ve afforded her enough darkness to carry out a one-woman night raid. Let Dana pursue her projects.

Now it was too late. Her parents were putting up with the religious bullshit and letting their town fall apart while the water situation got worse and worse. She snapped the lapels of her jacket.

Now was the time to breathe, to stop obsessing. San Juan road was not illuminated at night, and its overflow of strawberries had brought her old volunteer friend Dudu back to town. Ronny didn’t want to discourage Jerry, so she went to talk to him without Dudu. She circled the house and found Jerry in the backyard shucking and sorting beans.

–You still workin, Jerry?

–Well, there’s a lot to do. For some time now he’d almost constantly been thirsty for her kisses, but no matter, for his education had given him no game. She could tell all these things without words. –Your brother just brought a ton of water by, so I figure I should finish with these beans before we have to help cook or clean something.

–We should just give the water to miss Zoe. Do you know if she’s here?

Jerry nodded. –She’s okay. She needs to drink lotsa water.

–Tonight we’re gonna do something really special. That got his attention. –What?

–The oldest trick in the valley. You got any money?

–Well, no … he protested with shame in his almost-black eyes.

–Me neither. That’s why we gotta do it.

–The oldest trick in the valley.

–Yeah. You up to it?

–Are we gonna get hurt?

–Why would I let you get hurt? We needa get you some black clothes.

Night came and Ronny and Jerry silently enjoyed each other’s company on the saddles of two stationary bikes, one powering the water cooker and one spinning the clothes washer. Ester sighed as she went about her chores, too close to being truly, undramatically, irreligiously, disloyally, simply out of water. There was living on the thin grassblade that wore the fabric of her community, and then there was bathing once a month while dying of thirst. She decided to use Alfie’s mysterious water donation for washing before Jerry Dass from cool idle Hanuman City took them for a tribe of ragamuffins.

They ate and cleaned up. Dossantos now spoke to Jerry like a family member, like a son, while Alfie inscrutably observed. Jerry tried not to be greedy or out of station, but he couldn’t contain his happiness at being part of a family.

Wats glowed red in the distance ahead of them as they walked briskly in the silent night down the road to the edge of highway 152. Ronny withdrew a small solar flashlight from her pocket and turned it on, shining it slightly left down the road. Immediately a car rumbled heavily

over the gravel, no headlamps, and as it approached the night’s slumber was broken by the car’s horn. At two hundred years old, it was the one antique mechanical device in the valley that had no value in an antiques store, and it was the one mechanical device in the valley that couldn’t decay with age. When the driver beat the horn, a series of stops and tubes played the first four bars of La Cucaracha. Ronny led Jerry to the car as it stopped and they got in.

The driver turned the dome light on and looked back at them from the front seat. –Fuckin finally, ey! I been waiting here like a half hour!

–I said when the moon was in the south!

–Yeah well, he adjusted the straight brim on his ballcap and turned the dome light off just as Jerry noticed the word RAZA tattooed politely in cursive behind his ear, –you needa get a clock and learn that that means fuckin ten thirty, or whatever. This your friend?

–This is Jerry, he’s cool.

–Oh he’s cool, but I hope he’s fast. What’s up, Jerry. Dudu.

–Dudu? Nice to meet you.

–Jerry, Ronny murmured, –you’re cutting off my circulation. What’s wrong?

–Oh, nothing. I’ve only ever rode in a bus once.

–Ha ha ha! Slow down, he’s from Hanuman.

–Hey, I love Hare Krishna and all that shit. Dudu stopped at a sign and then peeled out of the turn, spinning the tires in the gravel, headlamps still off. He reached over into the passenger seat and tossed two big plastic bags at Jerry. He caught one and looked inside, finding it full of green plastic berry baskets. The night air came in the open windows cool and scented with fruit.

–So what’s the oldest trick in the valley?

–What’s what? the driver piped.

Ronny patted Jerry’s knee. –It’s like this. Dudu’s gonna drop us off in the strawberry field right up there. We’re gonna pick as many as we can. He’ll have the hood up like there’s somethin wrong with the car,

–There’s a light under the hood, added Dudu. –Right. When the light goes out and then comes back on, we duck in the nearest ditch. That means a car’s come out on the road. If the car passes, we keep picking our way back to the car. If the car stops, it could be a cop or a farmer or a damn good Samaritan.

–So I’ll have the headlights on then, too, Dudu explained, –if I turn them down to the parking lights, that means fuckin run. Run the way the car came, so you get behind him and you can cross the road when he leaves, cause it’s a fuckin cop. Got it?

–Got it, Jerry raised his voice over the noise of the road.

–Like I said, Ronny, we still split fifty-fifty. You guys gotta figure out how you share your half. So what, you’re married?

–No! sniffed Ronny.

–Don’t get married, Jerry!

They cruised down San Juan road toward Wats, still four kilometers or so out. –Roads’re weird, when you think about it, mused Jerry.

–They suck! Ronny agreed, –once everyone has a car and the whole world’s covered in roads, that basically means anyone who doesn’t drive doesn’t have any rights. You can’t just walk where you need to, cause you might get hit by a car! It’s just a way to box us in.

–Yeah. And it cuts people off from their connection to nature.

–You said it, man, drawled Dudu, –we’re in a hurry tonight, and it’s not natural.

–So … are you from Blackbird, too? Jerry asked the driver, who laughed.

–We’re old friends, said Ronny. –His family worked in Blackbird my whole life. They’d come in with the farming volunteers, but my parents paid them with serious food, not like the volunteers.

–Then they made my brothers and me go to high school and we all got kicked out! Alright, shut up. Yup. This’s all Griscoll’s, homie. Here’s the spot.

Dudu pulled over into the driveway of a small home in the middle of the great dark fields, turned on his headlamps as he circled, and then reentered the road, a show of normalcy for any nearby car. They drove another kilometer back the way they came, and the car came to rest pointing back toward Blackbird, toward the hills and safety.

Ronny and Jerry put their hoods on and raced out into the field. They followed the tractor road with deep ditches on either side of it, then stepped over into the rows. This time of year they were nice and dry, and as usual hadn’t been irrigated since broad daylight.

–How do we know they’re good?

–You just hafta sorta pinch and pull. If it doesn’t come, it’s probably not ready. Just do your best. Okay, you do that row and I’ll do this one.

They stooped and picked as fast as they could. As any strawberry picker can tell, after about two minutes of hurrying their backs began to feel like a single sheet of bone violently bending in half. They went southward toward where the ditch ended and the road broke into their field, as to be nearer the next ditch beyond it. Ronny remembered to raise her head just in time to see the star hanging above Dudu’s headlights blink heavily. –Go! She called at Jerry in the wide-open night. They ran and huddled into the ditch, watched the car appear, pass and disappear, and leapt out just as the stagnant water and chemicals drove them to either rise or fall. They pinched and pulled more. Ronny’s baskets got full first. She gave her bag to Jerry and they pinched and pulled together until their bags were both judged full enough to put the berries in danger of squishing. Less than ten minutes had elapsed. Exhilirated, they ran back toward the road.

The hood lamp blinked again. Jerry and Ronny saw the headlights coming. They were a hundred meters from the car, six hundred from the nearest ditch that didn’t show its face or length to the road. It was too dark to judge the best darkness. Where could they go? Ronny led them against the headlights, away from the car, hoping to find another ditch behind another tractor road like they’d found on the opposite end of the field. Jerry looked behind him as he leapt between the rows, crushed deep footprints into their sides and tangled his moccasins in berry stems.

The highbeam headlamps blinked out for a second, replaced by the lowbeams. He and Ronny hit the ground and let the car pass them as it stopped behind Dudu. It was a big fuel-burning truck with a lift kit and huge tires, photographic and radar equipment on top beneath the siren lamps, and a great violent cow catcher on the front. As it stopped Ronny could read the badge along its fender in the vehicle’s own light. It was the eagle with a key in one talon and an assault rifle in the other, the Corrections Corporation bird.

The private cop climbed out of his truck, wrist resting on his weapon, and approached dark diminutive Dudu. –Everything okay?

–I got a weird noise and a smell, said Dudu carefully, –just stopped to check it out. I wanna see if it’s serious before I get on the road to Los Baños.

–See any leaks? Turn it on.

–I wanna look at the belts,

–Turn it on, the private cop ordered him. Dudu leaned into the open driver’s doorway and pressed the starter button, and the car came to life.

–Why don’t you turn on your Omniserve and send a ping for help?

–I got the car used!

–You can buy a new Omniserve subscription. Dudu threw up his hands. –I’m Mex!

Ronny started to crawl over the strawberry mounds and Jerry followed. There were twenty, maybe fifteen left before the far ditch.

–Look, the beefy round-headed red-faced crewcut cop coughed, –I’m not authorized to give any help on this road, so I can’t call this in for you. But I can’t just leave a suspicious site like this either, cause I already logged the stop. So you gotta leave or call for help.

–It’s good, I’ll leave.

–You have anyone with you?

–No.

–No big family to bring with to Los Baños?

–I’m gonna be workin.

The cop looked around himself, stepped over to the roadside ditch and looked in. His flashlight came on, facing downward, and Ronny saw it just as she slid into the far slimy ditch, dragging Jerry with, safe into darkness. The flashlight beam traced up the roadside ditch and then went dark. –Alright. Move along.

The cop waited for Dudu to take off, so they had to wait until he was down the road, then wait for the cop, then wait out another car, until they started walking down the road. They slunk silently past isolated houses on the north side of the road, along maíz stalks and coyote brush, and ran desperately through the open parts. Finally a pair of parking lamps came toward them and the Cucaracha sounded.

–Shit, that was close, uh? laughed Dudu. –My whole fuckin family worked, legit worked, that field. My fuckin grampa couldn’t get any medical coverage for his lung damage workin those fuckin fields. Fuckin choked in his sleep, whatta you call it, suffocated from that shit.

–I knew you’d come back, Ronny assured him, –here’s your half.

–Alright then. No sellin them at the car dealerships, that’s my turf.

–We’re gonna sell them at our market, dummy.

–They’re not biologic.

–Seems like people stopped caring this season.

–Huh.

The submarine black road was clear around the invisible car, and behind them Wats glowed like an electrified strawberry. Jerry was nearly hyperventilating in the back seat. Rami had referred to this as direct action. Had he relieved her when he said he wasn’t planning on it?

–The cop is like, I’m not authorized to help people on this road, yknow, just other roads. Like, why’d you stop then? Asshole. Probly onnis way out to the labor camp to get some.

–Get some? Jerry asked. He couldn’t tell if Dudu were angry or funny, and it made him a little uneasy. –Yeah, replied Ronny reluctantly.

Dudu explained as he pulled left onto Casserly road toward Blackbird: –When you live in those camps you’re just an animal. My whole family worked for Griscoll’s. They come whenever they want, bring whoever they want with, and just say time to fuck. They give you heroin so you can’t do nothing, and they get what they want. Everyone, Jerry! The foremen, the bosses, the truck drivers. And if you try to stoppem, they can just beat the shit outta you. Cause they know there’s a million just like you comin up from down there for a chance to work for two bucks an hour. What’s a house in Wats cost now? Two million? Two bucks an hour. That’s why we stick together. We should steal all their shit. Alright, you’re home.

Ronny opened the door and they got out of the incognito car onto the plaza of home. –Next time, Dudu. They walked past Jim and Jenny’s dome, where the basement light was still on, through a carefully-tended field now flattened, finished for the year, until Dossantos’ house was near. –I’m gonna put these in my room, wait for me at the tree.

His head full of the images, smells and sensations of that fast, violent adventure, Jerry somehow found himself sitting on the smooth bark of the oak, facing the south and the waxing gibbous moon that hung just out of Virgo’s reach. He waited eagerly for Ronny to come. It occurred to him that this special time together, just the two of them, may be like what in the lurid novels of the twentieth century, in desperate exaltation of the individual, was termed a date.

Ronny appeared with a large afghan folded in half. She hopped up on the bough, wrapped them both in the thick heavy grass-smelling fabric, and snuggled up with him. –Wasn’t that fun?

Look at the moon! We were barely gone an hour.

–I don’t think I’ll ever get used to riding in a car.