New Audio Edition of On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder-A Must Listen

Today a new audio version of Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, originally published in 2017, is available on Audible . In this version of the book, Dr. Snyder speaks directly to the threat of Trump, his actions that spread misinformation and manipulate groups which are features of authoritarian leaders.

**At the end of reading the new version, Snyder continues to explain Ukrainian and Russian history to give readers in the U.S. a broader framework to understand why the Ukrainian fight for freedom is so important. He illustrates how the lessons in On Tyranny play out in the actions of Ukrainians. He goes further to gives vital lessons on Ukrainian and Russian history – his academic focus at Yale. Dr. Snyder is a distinguished historian at Yale University. Many of his public lectures on the roots of authoritarianism are on YouTube. This one is at Prose and Politics bookstore on the release of On Tyranny. Just search on YouTube and dozens of lectures will be available to you.

Get On Tyranny. It is a small (5″ by 5″), short exposition on 20 Lessons on Tyranny from the 20th century for all Americans to consider what we can do to strengthen democracy here in the U.S.A.

Together with a pocket constitution we will gain greater discernment of the complex political and social forces that swirl about us and act.

Photo by Susan Feathers

The Lorax, Collective Bargaining, and What’s the Economy For? – John Barry

One of my regular podcasts is The Best of Belfast. I love the Irish viewpoint which I suppose evolved from the lived experience of living under colonial rule for centuries. Today’s interview with John Barry, Professor at Queen’s University and Director of the Centre for Sustainability, Equality, and Climate Action at Queen’s.

This is a wise analysis of the climate emergency in the light of economic systems asking the key question, “What is the Economy For?” From there he explains the climate emergency as a moral issue.

It’s a ranging discussion with humor, books, and an Irish cultural immersion.

Here is the link to the interview:https://bestofbelfast.org/stories/john-barry-climate-activist

Link to book mentioned in the interview:

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy by Kelton, Stephanie

How to replace natural gas with renewable heat: Volts Podcast

After yesterday’s warning from the IPCC’s Climate Change Mitigation Assessment Report, here is a brilliant solution from Volts Podcast.

Updated April 13: Volts podcast with Pauline Jaramillo discusses the IPCC report. She is a “professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, co-director of its Green Design Institute.” (Volts Podcast). 

Here is the Policymaker Executive Summary of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Mitigation Report.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

Lions, Tigers and Bears – Oh, My!

A story from the Coconino National Forest in Arizona

When Dorothy set off to find the Wizard of Oz, she and her companions encountered a lion in the dark wood just as they had feared, but, the cowardly beast only drew their disdain, for what good is a spineless lion?

Therein lies the dichotomy between our visceral fear of carnivores and our psychological need for them to be wild, fierce and free—a varmint or an icon. One gets them killed, the other immortalized, but neither will help them survive.

Neither perception tells us why lions, tigers and bears are important. A wolf takes the weakest of the herd, controlling not only numbers but removing the least adaptive genes from the population’s gene pool. A dynamic balance results between wolves, deer, and vegetation and myriad lives each dependent on the other.

That we do not understand the importance of these relationships was memorably recorded by Aldo Leopold. He wrote about an experience shooting wolves one afternoon, a common practice among Forest Service rangers in 1949. Leopold watched a “fierce green fire” flicker out in a mother wolf’s eyes. 

Dawning on his consciousness was the realization of a bigger death̶, a death of wild things and something greater still: the very foundation of a healthy ecosystem. The wild, beautiful landscapes that inspired Leopold were created over centuries among myriad species until a dynamic stage was reached with an elaborate set of checks and balances.  The wolf Leopold killed was one of the checks in a living community.

Until that moment Leopold lacked the understanding that he later identified as something only a mountain possesses. Mountains have the long view, he wrote, whereas humans are newcomers. A mountain has no fear of wolves, only deer, because too many deer will devour vegetation and the rains will wash away soil causing all kinds of havoc on the mountain.

The rancher who compares the life of a wolf against the current market price of his cow misses the much greater value of leaving the wolf wild and free. That “home on the range” where cattle roam depends on a natural community to sustain it – a community that evolved over thousands of years.

Leopold was writing about this phenomenon in 1949. Six decades later we are still acquiring that wisdom. We witnessed an ecological rebirth in Yellowstone National Park following the return of the wolf. Riparian willows and cottonwoods returned because elk spent less time eating them and more time hiding lest it become wolf scat. Other species like beavers returned in the rebounding willows and cottonwoods and their activities created habitat for insects and birds, and so on.

Further Reflections: The Elk Problem

One summer I attended a public meeting in Arizona in the Coconino National Forest convened to address the “elk problem.” Present were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Commission, White Mountain Apache biologists and tribal officials, ranchers, tourist industry reps, a hunters’ association, local residents, and curious campers like me.

It soon became apparent that a  showdown was imminent.

The problem stemmed from an exponential increase in the elk population. A rancher testified that elk herds of 600 to 1,000-head could be found every morning on her land, leaving a swath of denuded range in their path . She was passionate and demanded that Game and Fish raise the limits for hunters to help bring the population of elk under control.

A rancher – tanned from a life in the sun and a silver mane pulled back in a thick pony – made her plea. She gestured toward the Apache contingent, and complained that the White Mountain Apache reservation, which bordered the national park, was serving as a nightly refuge for the elk who had discovered safety within its boundaries (1.67 million acres) of forest.

I imagined a tide of elk ebbing into the ranchland to graze by day then flowing back at night into the forested reservation. The rancher wanted the Apache Nation to help kill elk and bring the herds under control.

They would not, a tribal spokesman asserted in reply. The Apache would not do so based on ethical principles and the belief that restoring the natural ecosystem would be the only true answer to controlling the population.

I think I caught a twinkle in one tribal elder’s eye as this statement was made. “We take elk when we need meat for our people,” he said and sat down.

Tourist agencies pleaded their case for the presence of elk.  Seen from the roads and campsites, thousands of families enjoyed watching wildlife. Tourism brings $16 million in revenues to Arizona each year, they reminded the crowd.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) deferred to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission which is charged with maintaining populations of wildlife. The FWS rep made a statement about the traditional range of the Mexican gray wolf—a keystone species of the disrupted ecosystem.

Sheer mention of the gray wolf acted like a match on tinder. The packed meeting room erupted in arguments from ranchers and tourism folks alike who didn’t welcome wolves in the woods.

Then a rancher with the look of one who had spent his life in the sun gained the floor. “We are victims of our own schemes – me included. First, we saw the wolf as our enemy and we systematically exterminated it. We saw it killing too many elk, too many cattle. We feared for our own lives. Once it was gone, we saw elk and deer populations explode. Well, maybe it’s time we examine our own nature to see if maybe we can control that!”

As I walked back to my cabin at Deer Springs Inn, I considered that I’d just witnessed a complete reenactment of the opening and closing of the West with all the historical parties represented as on a stage.

The sun was setting behind the dense Ponderosa pine forest. At Deer Springs Inn, families gathered around a campfire. I happily joined my family, spearing marshmallows. Wine flowed. Stars clustered overhead. A breeze fanned the flames setting our faces aglow. An owl hooted. The fire popped and sizzled as we settled down for stories and laughter.

Back at the end of the Yellow Brick Road Dorothy got her wish to go home, the tin man a heart, and the lion, his courage. Maybe the wolf will be restored at a time when our wizardry returns us to the natural order of things.

Deer Springs Inn

Growing and securing world food supplies during war and climate change …

Most of us do not pay much attention to the geography or politics of food production, trade, and distribution. In western countries in general, we go to shop and the food is simply there on the shelves.

Today, steady and abundant food supplies are not a given for anyone. We’ve already experienced a sharp rise in food prices in the U.S. caused by the rising price of gas and other inflationary conditions such as interruptions in global and national supply chains.

Famine is present in war-torn countries (Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia) and it may become more generally present in countries where dependence on imports of grain can be disrupted by conflicts.

Climate change threatens food supplies much more than war as it is changing the ecosystem functions of land and sea. We do not pay attention to this in our fractious human community, beset by troubles which hold our attention from the fact that food is becoming less obtainable for more and more people.

Read a New York Times Article by Michael J. Puma and Megan Konar where this is discussed as well as actions that governments must make to stabilize prices and availability of food. Not least of these is ending the war in Ukraine, which produces a lion’s share of the grain many nations depend upon.

“Ending Conflict” is a Misnomer

Of the approximate 200 countries in the world, about 150 countries have peace processes to end conflict or disagreements. However, Dr. Christine Bell points out that on average, it takes about 36 further agreements to reach the place where the parties in conflict have learned to live peacefully while still carrying their differences. [See a previous post about Dr. Bell’s research.}

The language that Dr. Bell engages to discuss peace and reconciliation, as well as human rights, is also important. She describes the peace making process as agreeing to carry disagreements in a peaceful manner, i.e. the idea of a final peace is misleading. It is an ongoing process and there is an art to it. Language is central.

Dr. Bell speaks about carrying our disagreements together but peacefully and making small agreements along the way of the process. This requires commitment from both sides to just agree to disagree and keep talking. We see this going on now writ large between Ukraine and Russia, and between Russia and NATO nations.

Dr. Christine Bell has much to offer all of us who are following the many conflicts that our own countries are involved in or those of us interested in harmony among nations in general. I am including several ways to follow Dr. Bell’s research and leadership in peace negotiations and human rights.

Corrymeela Podcast with Padraig O’Tuama

You Tube Lecture at University of Edinburgh.

Christine Bell at University of Edinburgh Website

Peace Processes and Their Agreements

Photo by Susan Feathers

Remember the Wonder at Age 8

One of my favorite podcasts, moderated by Krista Tippett, is OnBeing.org. In its guiding questions – what does it mean to be human and how do we want to live? – OnBeing.org invites soulful people whose contributions to answering those questions have inspired me and millions of listeners.

This week’s interview is illustrative: Kate DiCamillo, the great children’s author and award-winning storyteller, asks us to recapture how we were as an 8-year-old. The themes Kate explores with Krista are relevant to all that is simmering among us right now. How can we be honest with children about a world in which so much threatens our lives and lives of all sentient beings on Earth? I am especially thinking of Ukrainian children and their parents, but more so for all of us, and thinking, too, about youth who face an uncertain future as the planet herself is failing from destructive human activities. Kate DiCamillo reminds us of what is true and lasting.

Onbeing.org Podcast Be sure to listen to the end. You won’t regret it!

Kate DiCamillo’s First Book and Newberry Honor Winner

Creativity Is Required: Ukraine and Democracy

Last night I listened to this interview including Timothy Snyder, historian and expert on Ukraine and Russia.

In particular, I was interested in Snyder’s explanation of Ukraine’s inspiring resistance to the Russian invasion. Snyder points out that democracy requires and spawns creativity in thinking and response to autocratic forces. I highly recommend his comments to you, the reader, because his insights into the ossification American’s notions about democracy and the state of American democracy demonstrate how we have lost that quality of citizenship: creativity in opposing the forces that would tear us apart. This is fresh and offers us new ways to think about the present moment. Start at 42:43.