Saturday, October 18, 2008

Of Fires and Freeloaders

Spongers and the Fire Tablet

By John Taylor; 2008 Oct 17, 1 'Ilm 165 BE


Lazistry Spongers


A Nobel prizewinning chemist and prescient climatologist, Svante Arrhenius, is arguing that we are well beyond the tipping point with carbon dioxide levels. Reporting on this, Michael D. Lemonick reports on Scientific American's environmental blog a paper by Arrhenius stating that,


"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [parts per million] to at most 350 ppm. The situation is much more sensitive than we had implicitly been assuming."


That means net carbon reduction, which means eliminating carbon emissions completely as soon as possible, followed by some sort of megaproject to scrub carbon from the air. Which means -- you never hear this mentioned, though it is obvious -- that we will have to form a strong, resolute world government, and soon. Nothing but a democratically elected body on a planetary level can exert the sort of universal authority that such a strong measure as decarbonization and electrification of the world economy would require. Nothing smaller than that dare stand up to the wealthy and their trans-national corporations, whose interests do not conduce to survival of the human race.


Recent columns by my favourite justice campaigner, George Monbiot, focus on debt and corporate spongers. Monbiot points out that there is a direct link between environmental damage -- our "debt" to nature -- and the present financial meltdown.


"Ecology and economy are both derived from the Greek word oikos - a house or dwelling. Our survival depends upon the rational management of this home: the space in which life can be sustained. The rules are the same in both cases. If you extract resources at a rate beyond the level of replenishment, your stock will collapse." (


We are prone to losing touch with reality, indulging in "magical thinking whose results have just come crashing home. The financial crisis shows what happens when we try to make the facts fit our desires. Now we must learn to live in the real world." Any crisis in one "household" will feed crisis in the other. Economy and ecology are in a constant dance with one another. Success or failure in one household feeds crisis in another. In good times leaders compete with one another in extravagant projects that degrade resources; in hard times, pressured by debt, they rush to exploit forests and fisheries before it is too late. But Monbiot is no blind pessimist.


"But one of the benefits of modernity is our ability to spot trends and predict results. If fish in a depleted ecosystem grow by 5% a year and the catch expands by 10% a year, the fishery will collapse. If the global economy keeps growing at 3% a year (or 1700% a century) it too will hit the wall."


Another column deals with the automobile industry, which is more than usually out of touch with reality. Rather than make better cars, these venal companies learned that it is easier just to pull the strings of government. These freeloading corporate welfare bums care nothing for really producing -- instead of industry the car industry should be called a "lazistry." He points out that,


"In the US, manufacturers have still not reached the standard (an average of 27.5 miles per gallon) that they were supposed to have met, under the Energy Policy Conservation Act, by 1985. The average car sold in the States today is less efficient than the 1908 Model T Ford."  ()


Amazing how far the automobile has come in a century. Instead of driving people around car companies drive the governments that rule over people. They not only get around rules and regulations, they actually wheedle governments into paying for innovations that they have no intention of implementing. Pretty neat trick.


"But subsidies are what governments pay when regulation does not happen. If you do not have the guts to force companies to do something, you must bribe them instead. It is a fair guess that European car makers will still fail to meet their environmental targets, even if they get the money they are demanding. The greenest thing governments could do is to allow these foot-dragging, planet-eating spongers to go under." ()




Segue to the Fire Tablet


Here is what I did yesterday.


I spent the morning working over my notes without coming up with much until, at the last minute, a few words about the nature of the Baha'i Covenant. (This morning I worked out several errors in it; the latest draft is on the Badi' Blog) My body urgently wanted to nap all morning but I fought it off. After lunch I went for a walk to Sally Ann's, the library and then home, arriving about 4 PM with slight head pain. I could fight the nap no longer and slept an hour, waking with a worse headache, as well as poor cerebration. Words slurred and mixed up, silly errors, the usual. Marie had gone to work and I had to tear the kids away from the computer screens and get them into the car to go to our Feast in Caledonia.


The headache got worse and I was about to cancel. I know enough not to drive with a migraine. Then I took a whiff of the air outside. Coal smoke. During the nap the sooty air had settled in thicker than before. I realized that it had been there during my walk outside, just below the level where my nose could detect it. If I had known, I would have shut all the windows. As it was, I was exposed all during my nap.


That meant that I was not suffering from a grand mal attack, which progresses like a steamroller and is dangerous in every way. No, it was "just" a cluster headache caused by exposure to toxins. This slams shut higher regions of the brain, and in thicker doses causes intense, knife like stabs to the head. Painful but not progressive like a Grand Mal attack. It responded quickly to my big guns, my last resort of a cup of coffee and an ASA. That meant I could drive so we rushed off, picked up some pizza pieces on the way, and attended Feast. On the way back the countryside was dotted with thick clouds of coal smoke, thanks to the Nanticoke Generating Station, which is about forty clicks to the south of us. I ran from the car to the house, but that short exposure caused stabbing pain for half an hour.


On the way, as the kids tore apart the back seat, I heard on CBC details about the situation in Peace River Country where I lived as a child. Two gas lines were sabotaged by, the RCMP believe, eco-terrorists. It was pristine wilderness when I was there but now there are gas wells going up everywhere. An expert explained that the gas there is "sour," filled with chemicals that reduce visual acuity and cause other forms of brain damage to anybody living downwind of a gas well. Locals who suffer harm protest the environmental damage, but in vain. Cash-strapped governments concede to companies paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in taxes. It seems that at least one victim has decided to lash out at the filthy Plutocrats.


The CBC interview said, "Of course, nothing justifies violence." The expert responded, "You are absolutely right, nothing can justify retaliation of that nature." Hmm. Here am I, kept by air pollution a prisoner in my own house, and there are the Peace River Dwellers, their brains addled and eyes dimmed by gas wells, but nothing justifies lashing back. No. In my case, it is a government agency, Ontario Hydro, that is sticking knives into my aching brain. This morning I came across these words of Baha'u'llah addressed to the persecuted Baha'is in Iran,


"... Ye should not, however, by reason of the tyrannical acts of some heedless souls, transgress the limits of God's commandments by contending with anyone." (Fire and Light, p. 10)


No, a Baha'i is not even allowed to contend, much less retaliate, against a malevolent foe. For the real enemy is retaliation itself. The only thing we have to contend against is contention itself...


No, a believer in God is concerned to end the underlying cause of the pollution, and that cause is above all spiritual. And besides, if I did not have this pain to fight, I would not feel the need to turn as often to the Beloved of the world for consolation. I owe the polluters that. Without them I would feel the need to be reading words of wisdom like this:


"If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God's all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one's cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets. They should strictly avoid sedition, and refrain from treading the path of dissension and strife. They should champion their One True God, exalted be He, through the hosts of forbearance, of submission, of an upright character, of goodly deeds, and of the choicest and most refined words." (Fire and Light, p. 10)


Having been so grievously impaired during the day, I could not do my obligatory prayer. In fact, I longed for the dark and silence of midnight. I took an hour and went through the long oblig and several other of the most powerful prayers of Baha'u'llah, including the Fire Tablet. In this case, like cures like. Coal plumes, the effluent of coal fires, effectively consume my outward existence but the spiritual fires of this prayer stoke the flames of my soul. The words of Baha'u'llah, this Tablet promises at the end, will set the world on fire. The Word of God become the Most Great Renewable.


What set me on to the Fire Tablet was an anecdote I heard from a Baha'i psychotherapist lately. She had a client, the most drop dead gorgeous woman she had ever met; the woman is dead now, so she was free to tell some of her story. The client's beauty, instead of a blessing, was a terrible affliction. Her father committed incest on her when she was young, then when her first boyfriend began to suspect, he committed suicide. Her car broke down and a truck driver stopped and raped her. She went into a bar near a military base and ended up getting gang raped. On and on, raped, abused, endlessly. The woman came to the Baha'i shrink and asked:


"Why have I had to go through this? Why did God give me this awful gift?"


The Baha'i could think of nothing to tell her other than:


"I feel moved to say this prayer with you."


Not the standard therapy recommend by the medical licensing organization. They read the Fire Tablet together and the woman was visibly moved. She said to her,


"The person who wrote this prayer, he was the One, wasn't he?"


"The One?"


"You know, the One. The promised One."


No Baha'i could deny it when the question is put so directly, no matter how professional a face she needs to put on. So long story short the client soon became a believer. Watch your movie listings because somebody is going to make a film about that woman someday. Anyway, I feel her afflictions, and those of Baha'u'llah, when I read that prayer. A great comfort to share it, misery loves company and all that. Take advantage of the Fire Tablet and slowly burn away, burn like a phoenix in the suffering of the One...

John Taylor



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