Even Abraham Maslow missed the most important human point. When that renowned American psychologist, studied by virtually every social sciences student ever since he published his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, listed his pyramid of human needs he stated that at its base the edifice was founded upon the physiological. Every single one of us requires air, food, water, sleep, clothing and shelter. All the other attributes or desires that we seek to collect in order to fulfil our individual definitions of a happy life, everything from friendship to self-transcendence, are impossible if we’re gasping, starving or at extreme thirst. The factor that Maslow missed is that a pyramid sits on a something, a something that holds air and water while sustaining the flora and fauna needed for nourishment. Until such time as we develop massive spacecraft in the Star Trek style, the first thing we need is a planet.
Don’t feel too badly if you, like Maslow, did not think of this planet Earth. [It would require a certain genius of insight that is well beyond our simple observations to explain just why it is that] We humans consistently [and very nearly invariably] overlook the good we have until [and unless] we are faced with its loss. We do it all the time you know, and I apologize for reminding you of that, much as Marcel Proust did a century ago, much more eloquently, in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.
This title has always been slightly mistranslated into English as A Remembrance of Things Past. “Perdu” is not the same as “passé”. The latter is past, the former is lost. The past always holds out the possibility of revival, whether that is in architecture, bell bottomed jeans, New Orleans jazz, or the sweet strains of a love that should have lasted. Loss however is finite, terminal, as gone to ghost as one’s eightieth ancestor; permanent.
Samuel Johnson remarked upon hearing of the death penalty, ‘When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.’ And so it is. We never so much relish [and hold close] the vibrant vigour of good health as when we are diagnosed with [emphysema or] cancer; [the taste of a carefully sautéed fish with butter vegetables until poverty leaves us limited to boiled pasta with the thinnest of watery Bolognese;] or [that sad fountain from which has flowed a million poems,] feel the deepest desire, except for that one who left, [and left] without leaving a note. We always assume that now is forever, until life as always tells us now will soon enough evolve into a later ‘then’.
Welcome to the crisis of our planet.
In a violent metaphor, we do not resist the hand of doom until it grasps our very throats in a grip impossible to loosen. Instead, especially in terms of the changes to our environment, the mass of We hide behind the Three Great Fallacies:
- Maybe it’s not true.
- If it is true, maybe someone else will solve it.
- I can ignore it, or pretend I’m doing something about it.
Well, to paraphrase a famous cartoon in The New Yorker, I say it’s bullshit and I say the hell with it.
Feeling the Earth:
This series of articles on Earth’s crumbling geostructure will be utterly meaningless unless it motivates you to action. (Already you are thinking, ‘Oh God, take me to a cartoon or a Kardashian.’ Hang in there!) Over the following nine weeks we will discuss, examine, and suggest the ways and means of combatting the threats and false solutions [over the coming weeks]. However, in light of the above, admittedly rueful – and shared, for I am no better than you – knowledge of the flaws of human nature, if there is one thing I know as well as my home address it is this: Nothing will happen unless you feel it first. [Problems of pure intelligence are much too easy to ignore; readers in the United States need only look at who their current President is, and not everyone who voted for Donald J. Trump is as blithely ignorant as a withered and squeezed tea bag. Rather, they felt something in their writhing viscera and it is to that gurgling, bubbling, twitching and living nest of emotional cellular mass to which we must appeal.] To simply know intellectually is to ignore, whereas truly to feel, is a reason to act.
Therefore, I present to you two stories from two authors, in the hope and massive desire you might add to with your own in order to form a sort of anthology of environmental experiences.
For me, it happens every afternoon. You see, I have a little dog, a Border Collie named Stella. When the tide is low on the Irish Sea, I take Stella down to the shore some fifty paces or so from my front door. While she bounces at the sea birds, wanting them to settle in a proper order, I sit on a great uneven grey block of boulder to watch her play and also to look beyond. I see a horizon of sea in a perfect hemline betwixt the rippling or white-capped sea and a slightly bluer sky directly at eye level, as horizons tend to sit when they are unobstructed by islands, wharfs or other constructs. And from there, I turn [my body and neck back around] to look at the village behind. What do I see, in the now? I see more rocks and boulders in a ragged climb to the coastal road, the same costal road that closes every storm when the waves of the Irish Sea reach beyond their furthest reach, or their furthest reach as measured a century or three ago. And I see houses at eye level too, a few shops, cars and pedestrians, indications of human life. And it is then, every afternoon while a little dog plays on the shore, I have the exact same thought, ‘Within less time than I have lived, cast into the future, everything below my level sightline, drowns.’ That thought, repeated every afternoon, no matter how sun blessed, no matter how cold, made me feel the Earth. It makes me care.
Story Number Two. My life has been a forehead blessed by many sacred waters of friendship. Journalism may not pay much, but dear God you get to know a Midas vault of wonderful people. One of them is Dr Naomi Wolf, author of eight bestselling works beginning with The Beauty Myth and onwards through subjects from sexuality to public policy, and including the rise of public fascism while we weren’t looking. As a close friend of mine describes her, Dr Wolf is a Warrior Goddess. More simply, I just state that her existence is proof that unlike the old Pink Floyd lyric, not all my heroes are ghosts. Wolf’s most recent environmental activism began with two observations. One, about six months ago, the skies above her Manhattan home started to look dramatically different from those she had become accustomed to. On otherwise clear days, often, jet emissions with unusual qualities such as serrations, would not disperse as they did in the past, but would instead persist, spread out across the sky and eventually turn into a de facto man-made cloud cover that would in turn block the sun by afternoon.
Second, she noticed that on such days, people around her often felt ill. Allergies and asthma were worse, some even felt burning lungs and watery eyes. People also reported irritability and a sense of, to use a generalised term, ‘Brain Fog’. Naomi Wolf looked at the sky just as I looked at the sea, and she saw change.
As a reporter, she wondered: What were these serrated emissions that left a cover of silvery mist or haze? Being a brilliant and well-connected journalist who believes in the collected wisdom of the world’s citizens (Her company, DAILYCLOUT.IO, was launched to give people better tools to engage with democracy, with one part of its mission the training of Citizen Journalists, a method that has often broken stories with a public impact unaddressed by mainstream media) she asked her community via social media, ‘Have OTHERS noticed this?’
Affirmative answers along with video and photographed documentation poured in: from across the US, twenty states in all; and then citizens in the UK also spoke up with their own photographs and video. People in Brussels, The Netherlands and Germany sent in their own pictures, then people across Asia added theirs. The long and the short of it was a body of data was compiling that seemed to confirm that these emissions were widespread. They were different from the contrails of the past, with a common result: spreading across the sky on otherwise cloudless days, the sun being blocked, and the same reports of illness and irritability on the ground.
Something was changing, something had changed, so who was behind it and what were they up to? Something as ephemeral as a cloud made Naomi Wolf care. She had felt the Earth.
What her research has uncovered is that a dramatic new set of technologies were no longer of the realm of science fiction but indeed being deployed in our skies in the name of experiments and possibly affecting microclimates. The catchall name for these technologies is Geoengineering. There is a current PR push from the stakeholders – many of them private individuals and companies – to promote Geoengineering. Indeed, there is a roll-out underway so that citizens will accept, even welcome with gratitude and relief, these technologies as inevitable in the face of global warming. However, they come with serious consequences as Dr Wolf has learned, and as she expressed to me in conversation, she feels that the world’s citizens deserve transparency and full disclosure regarding the fact that many of these Geoengineering technologies are already underway.
These are not mere experimental hypothetical investigations, contrary to some stakeholders’ public assurances. Naomi Wolf believes that such consequential technologies deployed in our skies, affecting our land, air and water, demand public debate and affirmative consent from those over whose heads these dispersals of chemicals (notably sulphates and heavy metals) are conducted. The technologies she has researched and confirmed are being widely deployed, include the misleadingly named ‘Cloud Seeding’, in which aircraft, whether planes of drones, ‘attack’ clouds (the industry’s own terminology) by blasting silver nitrate or silver iodide into them; or else send flares into clouds from land-based generators.
There are other experiments afoot. For instance, ‘Solar Radiation Management’, in which scientists such as a team from Harvard funded by Bill Gates, a former Google executive, and a group of hedge fund managers (what could possibly go wrong?) are sending a craft into the troposphere over Tucson, Arizona to release sulphates and/or alumina into tropospheric winds in the hopes of creating a solar shield; the hope being that this strategy will artificially cool the planet. Such a solar shield, or sunshade if you will, would be made permanent should Earth continue to dramatically overheat. This experiment is described by the Geoengineering industry as having, ‘unknown environmental effects’. Ah.
Finally, there are the more familiar biofuels, as used by the aviation industry since 2016. Biofuels is a benign enough sounding name, yet it represents a fuel made from palm oil, animal fats, agricultural waste and other substances one might not wish to breathe in. This fuel, attractive to airlines as it is (by some measurements) less costly than conventional jet fuel, has had little long term testing done with regards to its effects on the skies, humans, or animals. ‘Let’s toss this up and see what comes down’ is a fine old metaphorical phrase when it comes to random ideas; perhaps less so when one literally does just that.
Just to complete the ruining of your day, added to all of this spewing of newly intensified chemicals, metals and by-products (oh, and not five minutes ago as I was typing this came a report that someone somewhere is producing band CFC chemicals again) there is the indisputable fact that regulation of our air has been weakened in certain countries. Donald J. Trump, and you just sort of knew that a report on a crisis would get around to mentioning him, gutted the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 at the behest of private industry. Even in the UK, Defra, our Environment ministry, has become increasingly and worryingly resistant to Freedom of Information requests since 2014. Geoengineering experiments were banned here in that same year after public insistence. Are they back?, is a legitimate question to ask.
What IS Going On?
Clouds have scientific and poetic importance; they matter both for our planet and for our souls. If clouds are being assaulted, harvested and sprayed with chemicals, it matters for reasons both practical and emotional. Clouds make us consider many things, whether as vague and whimsical as the generalised shape of a doggy or a pony, or as the blanket-clutching Linus of Peanuts fame stated, the trials of King Nebuchadnezzar.
There are thirty new cloud shapes that have been entered recently into the official Cloud Atlas. People around the world are reporting emissions from planes and/or perhaps drones that consistently block blue skies. Perhaps all of this means nothing, or perhaps all of this means a great, great deal of something. Indeed, questions must be asked and answered.
There are questions ahead of us that we have a right to ask and while I may hope for definitive answers, neither am I to be cast as the Fool]. What is going on with our atmosphere?
All but fools know that Earth’s geostructure and climate are changing. But is there a possibly significant new set of factors in that overall change that has not been accounted for? Do we not need to know with some urgency whether or not technologies under design are helpful, harmful or benign?
Whether we care about this issue on the most tangible surface of cognition or whether we choose to bury it behind far, far less important distractions born by the idle winds of news and social media, we not only have a right to know, we have an absolute need to know – What the hell is going on out there?
Dr Wolf has been incredibly generous in sharing DailyCout’s research as well as her personal insight with me. And so I shall proceed; not so much in the pursuit of definitive answers, for those with secrets are not ripe for the telling. Instead, we shall seek to narrow the field of questions and in so doing define those precise areas where the portion of humanity that has looked out to the sea or upwards to the sky and felt within their souls that something must be done … We will suggest what can be done. And trust that the journey will be one well worth the taking, despite our natural desire to hide ourselves away. Because after all, it’s all about blue skies.
Over the coming weeks we shall examine this issue, in depth, with testimony from governments, lay observers and scientists alike. For we might argue about trade, electoral or socio-economic policies – any of those can be ‘got wrong’ without truly lasting damage. But in the case of the planet itself, we get one shot, and it had best be right.
Be seeing you.
(With true gratitude I express my personal thanks to Naomi Wolf for taking her time to discuss these issues via social media, Skype and a raft of emails. I encourage you to lend your support to DailyClout.io – Hubert O’Hearn)