Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 65

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

OUR MANY ANCESTORS

And imagine the many non-human ancestors going much further back… to the first one-celled organisms. Our earliest ancestors are the ancestors of all of us alive today of all different species. We are all intimately connected.

PRIDE MONTH

June was Pride Month, and there were lots of rainbow flags outside of stores, government buildings, and homes.

I overheard a conversation where they said things along the line of: “It’s a bit too much”, “Why make such a big deal about it”, and so on. It was not directly queer-phobic, but obviously disapproving of pride month and the limited way it’s been marked in Norway.

To them, as heterosexuals in Norway, it seems like it’s too much. It shouldn’t be such a big deal.

To me, it looks very different. Historically, queer people have been oppressed and even killed, so having pride month is the least we can do to show that they now are included and accepted. Around the world, queer people are still oppressed and killed in many places.

From a sheltered Norwegian perspective, perhaps it seems a little much. But from a historical and global view, it’s the least we can do.

I love living in a country that’s inclusive and accepting in this way, and I love Pride Month and people putting up rainbow flags.

JULY 5, 2023

CONQUER A MOUNTAIN?

I saw someone talking about “conquering a mountain”, which seems oddly outdated. Climbing a mountain doesn’t mean you “conquered” it. It just means that nature allowed you to briefly visit, and you somehow survived.

Fortunately, not many use that kind of language anymore. It comes from a worldview of humans over or versus nature, which is a view that led to many of our most serious problems, and arguably our current ecological crisis.

We are part of nature. We are embedded in the larger ecological systems and Earth as a whole.

We are an expression of these systems, as anything else is.

That’s realism. That’s the view needed for our survival as a civilization and species.

JULY 8, 2023

WHY ORGANIC?

Since my mid-teens, I have eaten organic food whenever possible. It was difficult to find in Norway at the time, but I ate mostly or all organic when I lived in the US. I ate food from local farmers and mostly with the seasons.

Why? There are two obvious (to me) reasons.

Mainly, pesticides are meant to kill living beings. And they are used on a large scale in modern agriculture. That’s obviously not good for anyone. It kills insects and the pesticides go into the soil, water, and food chain. It unravels the ecosystems we are part of and depend on for our own life.

Also, eating food with pesticides in it seems like a bad idea. We already take in way too many chemicals and poisons in daily life, so why add to it by eating food with pesticides in it?

I want to support farmers who don’t use pesticides, and I want to live in a world where food is grown without pesticides, so I vote with my money. I give my money to (support) the world I want to live in.

GARDENS

I am in Norway and I am reminded of how gardens reflect our culture, mindset, and worldview.

These days, it seems very popular with an overly manicured monoculture garden. A garden with a manicured hedge and manicured grass, and not much else. This is a lifeless desert. And it requires maintenance with often noisy machines. (Right now, a neighbor is using a noisy machine to clean up the edges of the garden to remove even the tiniest suggestion of wildness.)

When I was little, there was a lot more diversity in the gardens. There were a lot more flowers, wild edges, fruit trees, bushes, and so on. They were more natural and less manicured, even if also well maintained.

Personally, I much prefer a wild and natural garden. One that’s overflowing with life – a mix of wildflowers, bushes, berries, fruit trees, taller trees, and so on. It may require a little more work to put in place, and after that, it mostly maintains itself.

Why do I have a preference for wild and natural gardens? Mainly, because it feels better. I feel better in that type of surroundings. It’s full of life. It provides delicious fruits and berries. It provides habitat and a refuge for beings that desperately need it these days. It’s good for all of us.

COLOR PREFERENCE AND CULTURE?

A long time ago, I heard that when asked about their favorite color, people from the US will respond with a color, and Europeans will say “for what?”.

That makes sense to me. I am European, and to me, the question doesn’t make sense. I like different colors for different things and in different contexts. For instance, if I feel a bit off, I tend to prefer wearing “neutral” colors like grey or blue. If it’s a sunny day, and I feel good, I’ll often wear bright colors. I like red or orange for toothbrushes, since they offer a spark of color. I like green velvet couches. I like bright socks, again for the small spark of color. And so on.

I am not sure if the story is generally accurate or based in an actual study. But I have seen people from the US more often ask about “favorite color” or favorite anything, and Europeans seem more attuned to context and appreciate that things change with context.

LOOKING AT THINGS FROM MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed exploring things from multiple perspectives.

I was reminded of it when I saw this one and noticed what immediately went through my mind:

It’s funny because we don’t save much time by writing “u” instead of “you”.

It’s slightly amusing since it makes fun of our tendency to want to shorten language, especially when texting. (I am boring and write conventionally no matter what.)

At a meta-level, this meme is a reminder of small-minded people who don’t like it when language inevitably changes. It’s somewhat amusing that they criticize people who are at the forefront of language changes today while they themselves use a language that’s the product of innumerable changes throughout human history.

And that, in turn, is a reminder of small-minded people who criticize others for being small-minded. My mind sometimes falls into that category.

If I posted it, it would be mainly for the last couple of reasons, while I also know that not many would pick that up.

JULY 10, 2023

ATTRACTION TO SYMMETRY

We tend to be attracted to a symmetrical body and face, and that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.

A symmetrical body and face is more likely to indicate a healthy body and mind, or – at least – not a very and obviously unhealthy one. And that’s good for procreation and our survival.

For instance, chronic psychological tension tends to shape our body. Over time, it tends to create assymetry in the body and face. That tension and assymetry indicates unresolved issues. And unresolved issues, especially a lot of it, is not good for childrearing. So the ones attracted to assymetry, or OK with assymtery, are less likely to have offspring that themselves have offspring.

IDIOT TOURISTS

Many Norwegians go to southern Europe for summer vacation. To me, that seems bizarre considering that those areas have heat waves and record heat nearly annually. Why go to a place where you know it will likely be close to or over 40-degree heat?

And why do so many choose to retire there when they know this will continue and only get worse?

Are they doing it just because there is a tradition for Norwegians to go there? Are they unable to adapt to a new reality?

It’s one of the many things in the world that’s baffling to me.

JULY 14, 2023

ONE OF THE COOLEST SUMMERS FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES

Yes, it’s hot. But this could be one of the coolest summers of the rest of your life.

– Dr. Maria Neira, Environmental Scientist

JULY 18, 2023

CHEMICALS AND CANCER

One of the many baffling things for me is our collective relationship with chemicals and cancer.

About half (?) of adults will get cancer at some point, and it’s obviously a huge collective issue.

At the same time, we allow and use a huge amount of chemicals in daily life that we know contribute to the risk of cancer. We grow food with chemicals and poisons meant to kill living beings. We eat food grown with chemicals and poisons. We eat processed foods full of chemicals. We use frying pans coated in carcinogens. We use poison on our lawn. We use harmful chemicals in our detergents, soaps, and hair products. We use harmful chemicals in our clothes and in our houses. The list goes on and on.

Of course, many of us are aware of this. I eat organic whenever possible. I don’t use any kind of poisons in or around the house or anywhere else. I use simple, natural, and organic soap. I use organic cotton clothes whenever possible, and avoid clothes impregnated with chemicals. I vote for political parties aware of this and that try to do something about it.

And it’s also not completely baffling to me. I know about the chemical industrial revolution which seemed so promising and did give us a lot of what we wanted. I know the role of big money in this. I know the ability of us to collectively turn a blind eye to obvious problems and not do much if anything about it.

SCIENCE AND THE BIGGER PICTURE

Science is a little bit like a blind person exploring a landscape. They discover small parts and connections and, to them, these small parts become everything.

And yet, the bigger picture is much bigger.

That’s why I am not so into fads in health and psychology, even when it’s based on science. I know about it and take it into account. And I also know that what they find are just very small pieces of the puzzle. It will be outdated in five or ten or a hundred years.

For me, the bigger picture is more interesting.

Yes, everything is connected. For instance, our gut health impacts everything about us. It impacts our brain, heart, emotions, cognition, mood, and so on. It cannot be any other way.

And it makes sense to take our cues from our ancestors when it comes to our food and life. Eat mostly low on the food chain, whole and natural foods, local food in season, drink lots of water, and so on. And stay active in daily life, and build activity into your daily life. For instance, live in a place where you naturally move and stay active, and walk or bike to the store and work.

AI AND GETTING SUCKED IN BY THE MARKETING

It’s of course important to have a collective discourse on our path forward, the possible upsides and downsides of new technology, and so on.

When I see the public discourse on AI, I find some of it grounded and informed. For instance, it’s good to look at how it will change some industries and jobs, and what new jobs will be generated and needed because of it. It’s good to look at its uses, benefits, and limitations. (It’s based on a kind of statistical average of human input and will, for instance, never replace good human artists.) And much of the discourse seems misinformed and caught up in myths around AI.

I suspect some of that comes from the label itself. Artificial Intelligence is a misnomer, and I suspect someone came up with it largely for marketing purposes. It’s catchy, intriguing, a bit shocking, and even scary to some.

Calling it predictive text – or predictive image generation and predictive music generation – is more boring, less sexy, and far more accurate. It has everything to do with statistics and predictions of what tends to go with what, and very little to do with intelligence.

JULY 20, 2023

VACATIONING IN COOL PLACES

The Norwegian mentality has been to vacation in warm or hot places. (Which I have always found a bit odd and amusing.) That’s a view that has to change since most Norwegians go on their long vacation in the middle of summer and the traditional destinations now are scorching hot (40-50 Celsius) during that time of year.

From now on, I assume we’ll see a general global trend to vacation in cool and cold places. As the world heats up, cooler places are where people will want to be, if only for periods of the year.

JULY 25, 2023

WHY DO (SOME) CONSERVATIVES DENY CLIMATE CHANGE?

It seems that a certain type of conservative tends to deny climate change. They used to deny that it was happening. Now, they deny it’s human-created or that it’s something we need to take seriously.

This too is a bit baffling to me. (As so much in society.)

You would think that conservatives would take climate change seriously.

After all, they seem to generally like logic, science, and expertise. Just about all climate scientists agree that (a) it’s happening, (b) it’s created by human activity, and (c) it’s serious and will likely have a catastrophic impact on our society and civilization. (The ones who disagree are typically not climate scientists or it’s public knowledge that they are paid by the oil industry.)

It hugely impacts what conservatives tend to prioritize: the economy, business, family, and traditions. Making changes now will be far less costly – in terms of human lives, money, and disruption to society – than waiting to make the necessary changes. We have to change no matter what, so it’s better to do it now.

The precautionary principle also seems to fit in with a conservative mindset. If its impact is serious (which is very likely), and there is even a small chance that changes we make can minimize its effect, then we have to act. That’s common sense.

So why don’t they? Why do they deny it? Why don’t they listen to the scientists? Why don’t they follow the precautionary principle? Why don’t they care about the impact on what they cherish the most? Why don’t they seem to care about the lives of the children and grandchildren?

I assume there may be a few different answers.

Taking action may (in their mind) imply a fault of previous generations and the ones they admire. They don’t want to admit that we have done things in a damaging way.

Taking action means change. It means that the petroleum industry is diminished. It means that we have to change transportation, production, and energy. Strong forces don’t want that. (Although if they were smart, they would just switch their focus and expertise to the future instead of trying to hold onto the past.)

Taking action means that liberals and progressives were right. It goes against their identity.

JULY 31, 2023

UFO REVELATIONS & HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF

There are new UFO / UAP revelations these days, including a former US intelligence officer saying that the US government has crashed UFOs and alien bodies. (There is also another congressional hearing on UAPs. See this The Guardian article on both.)

That’s not new. It’s routine. It’s happened many times before. And always, it’s someone who has seen something, or heard someone else say they have seen or heard something.

It’s the same old anectotal story not backed up by any solid evidence.

It would not hold up in court.

It’s history repeating itself.

So why do some people get caught up in it? Is it because they don’t know history? Is it because they don’t understand the difference between anectotal stories and solid data? Is it because they want and it fulfills some need for them? Or all of those?

And why is it important? To me, it’s important in that it shows the importance of (a) taking a sober view on life, (b) have some familiarity with history and how it repeats itself, and (c) look at what would hold up in a court of law.

In this case, it’s clear that it would not hold up in a court of law. It’s just one person saying something, and there is nothing else to back it up.

MYOPIA IN NORWAY

When I am in Norway, I notice some tend to see things in a small context. They see things from their own wishes and desires and in the context of their own life and Norway.

For instance, they think they are not wealthy while they have a house or apartment and anything they need. Or they call rain and cool weather for “bad” weather. Or they complain about pride month and say it’s a bit much and not neccesary.

From a global and historical perspective, which I tend to take, it looks quite different.

Even if I may be poor in a Norwegian context, I see myself as wealthy. I have a place to live, I have food and clothing, I have amazing health care. That makes me wealthy. Of everyone who has lived or currently live, few people are that lucky and have so much.

In an era of catastrophic global warming and climate crisis, moderate rain and cool weather is a blessing. It’s a million times better than scorching heat and drought. To me, it’s amazing weather.

Queer people have been marginalized, oppressed, and even killed for who they are in many cultures and eras throughout history, and they still are in many places around the world. Pride month is amazing. It shows an amazing inclusivity, and I want to live in a society that is inclusive. (Also because it means that my own oddities are more likely to be approved of an included. And it mirrors the inclusivity I wish to have for my inner community.) Far from being too much, it’s the least we can do.

CLIMATE CHANGE

There is a very simple common-sense approach to climate change:

(a) These are changes we need to make no matter what. Human-created climate change or not, we need to shift our civilization into being ecologically sustainable. We need to take ecological realities into account in every aspect of how we collectively live.

We use nearly two Earths’ worth of resources at any moment, which means all of the resources will eventually be depleted unless we make drastic changes. We use more resources than Earth has the capacity to regenerate, and we depend on those resources for our life and survival.

The discussion about climate change has little to no practical relevance in this context. It’s a distraction and a side track. Although I will pretend it does mean something in the following points.

(b) We need to follow the precautionary principle. If something has potentially serious consequences, we need to take it seriously. We need to prepare for it. We need to act as if it’s going to happen. That’s what we do in other areas of life, so why not with something as potentially disastrous as climate change?

(c) Experts in the field all agree: (i) We are in the middle of climate change. (ii) It’s created by human activities. And (iii) it likely has severe consequences for our civilization. In other areas of life, we listen to and generally trust experts, especially when they all say the same. So why not also here?

(d) The ones disagreeing are typically not experts in the field, they are amateurs. Many are on the payroll of the oil companies. And we know that the oil companies have had an intentional disinformation campaign going for decades. So why trust what they say?

(e) The changes in climate we currently see fits closely the predictions from climate change models from the ’70s. They fit what we expect to see if (i) there is climate change, (ii) it’s human-created, and (iii) we don’t do much to change it. It does not fit natural cycles explained by solar activity etc.

(f) Although the climate is immensely complex, the basic principles of climate change are simple. Even a child can understand and observe it. Just like glass traps heat, gasses do the same. Sunlight is converted to heat, and short waves (light) become longer waves (heat). And just like a greenhouse heats up because of the glass, our atmosphere heats up because of greenhouse gasses.

This is not a new or uncommon way to look at it. I have seen it that way since my teens in the ’80s.

At the same time, there is a lot of denial around this. In the past, some denied it was happening but that’s not possible anymore. These days, some like to deny it’s related to human activity. And even if most of us agree it’s happening and it’s serious, we collectively don’t do much to change it. We deny its seriousness and that we need a profound transformation in our collective and individual lives.

Why do some deny that it’s human-created? I suspect it has partly to do with identity. Climate change has, for whatever reason, become the cause of liberals and progressives, and some don’t want to be associated with that. They may also not want the change that comes with taking it seriously and acting on it, so it’s more comfortable – in the short run – to pretend it’s not happening.

Why don’t we collectively do enough to change it? There are many reasons for this. (i) Systems inherently try to maintain themselves. Systems are slow in changing until they reach a tipping point, and denial is an expression of the system trying to maintain its current (outdated) state. (ii) The political cycles are typically four years, and this requires planning over decades and centuries. If politicians do something now, we won’t see the effects until decades later, and the effects are that things get a little less worse. (iii) We think someone else will take care of it. (iv) We think the crisis will happen in the future, so we push the problem onto future generations. (Even if we are right in the middle of it already.) (v) We have enough with our own day-to-day life and challenges, collectively and individually. We may end up using most of our resources to deal with our immediate climate crisis situations, and find it difficult to make the real and deep changes required.

NOBODY DIED?

I saw a YT video where someone mentioned a natural disaster where millions of birds and animals died. After sharing that, and in the next sentence, he mentioned that “nobody died”.

He obviously meant that no humans died, but it’s still quite telling.

How can you say that nobody died when millions of beings died? If you are no human you are a nobody? I guess that’s how some see it, and how our culture has trained us to see it.

And that’s a huge part of why we are in our current ecological crisis.

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