Life Goes On

Fall                                                                          Harvest Moon


When the September issue of High Country News came, the poem below was in the Letters to the Editor section. As a result of reading Calvert’s article in the July HCN, I found the dark ecology movement, focused on how to survive the ecocide. I found something liberating in its grim acceptance of a future ready to come for us no matter what some of us believe. (see the post Ecocide)

Then I read this letter, this poem. It’s been on my mind since then. Specifically, I find Vedovi-Rinker’s perspective challenging: “deep thinkers…make laments…And the world goes on.”

Lost-WaysShe’s right, of course. Here’s another and I think similar response at its root, from the website Lost Ways:


is what folks 150 years ago called daily life:

…no electrical power, no refrigerators, no Internet, no computers, no TV, no hyperactive law enforcement, and no Safeway or Walmart. 
They got things done or else we wouldn’t be here





On a similar vein, perhaps probing deeper into the collective psyche, Costco announced today a one-year survival food pack for $999.00 called Thrive. Only $3,999.00 for a family of four! I say probing deeper because Costco seems to be moving survivalist prep into the regular commercial sector.

I sense a movement in the force, a darkening of our view toward the future, even toward hope. What would change, if we followed Vedovi-Rinker’s advice? What if, to paraphrase her: We got in touch with our planet. Listened deep. Were silent. What then?

from HCN September 4th, 2017

A Response to Brian Calvert’s article  “Down the Dark Mountain” (HCN, 7/24/17):

Yes, all these famous men
these deep thinkers
we revere
make laments
in beautiful words
while the world goes on.

While women give birth, nurse babies
care for sick and dying parents.
While nuns shelter the poor,
teach in ghettos, visit death row prisoners,
quietly, without fanfare
loving castaways.

And the world goes on.

Our Gaia soul, our planet,
what we are made of,
cannot be killed.

The feminine
in men and women
gives birth
takes care of life
no matter what.

My advice to these despairing men
is to get in touch
with our planet.
listen deep. Be silent.

Then and only then,
do what you can.


Onorina Vedovi-Rinker
Colorado Springs, Colorado



Lughnasa                                                            Eclipse Moon

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

Fire. Wind and rain. Earth shaking. All under the Eclipse Moon, just after totality. Could this be the havoc wreaked by the black sun? As inferences go, it may show correlation, not causation, true, but in the long history of humanity this inference has been noted many times. “We’re all gonna die!” something like that.

Well, maybe not all of us, but a surprisingly large number have succumbed to natural disasters just here in North America over this lunar month. And, the month’s not over yet. Not to mention the billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, roadways, other public infrastructure.

n263470Climate change doesn’t affect earthquakes. But, it does turbocharge wildfire seasons, heat up ocean water and increase the amount of available moisture in the atmosphere. These changes are happening at a level of climate change still considered very modest and not at all as severe as the level already “baked in” by both increased carbon emissions, now above the problematic 400 threshold, and the trapped heat in the world’s oceans.

We’ll learn, eventually, to live with the most dire of these changes through adaptation. Moving cities further inland, developing better fire management regimes, moving crops as the seasons change.

Without drastic carbon emissions reduction though, to near 100% by 2100, these impacts will be looked back on wistfully as the good old days. It’s no wonder that the Kingsnorth’s of the world have come up with dark ecology, how to brace for the ecocide. The odds against dramatic alterations to the climate have gone down as resistance to necessary changes has gone up.

The month of the Eclipse Moon is a harbinger. What will our world be like in 2024 when the next total eclipse crosses U.S. soil? Comparing those two months may lead to more inference like this month’s.



Lughnasa                                                            Kate’s Moon

86Dark ecology. I discovered it when reading this article, How to Survive the Ecocide, by Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief of High Country News. It led me to this article in Orion, the thinking person’s environmental magazine, Dark Ecology, by Paul Kingsnorth and this website, The Dark Mountain Project

Dark ecology looks the worsening climate change reality in the face and says, “We’re not going to change our ways fast enough.” Thus, ecocide. Driven by an aesthetic need to be honest, to say what is, not what we wish could be, dark ecology takes us away from the politics of fear-mongering toward a grim acceptance.

Politics is driven by hope, even when also motivated by fear. The situation is this-expensive health insurance, crumbling roads, a tyrannical regime (yes, I’m talking about D.C. and Pyongyang)-and we want to do something about it. Just raising this possibility means our hope, our expectation, is that we can effect real change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceThus, to eschew hope is to cut the political nerve, to mute its messages. Losing hope, attacking hope runs against the human spirit, yet it is built in to our finitude. None of us escape death. In that sense, bracket all the hoohah about life after death, life is hopeless. Yet. Acknowledging this ultimate element of hopelessness vivifies life, gives our lives color, piquancy, drive. Of course, yes, it can also lead to despair, a sense of futility. Which attitude colors our days depends on how we absorb the reality of death into our life.

My suspicion is that Dark Ecology is the planetary equivalent of acknowledging our own death. There is no question about the fate of the earth as a planet. It will die in the fusion driven expansion of our very source of life, the sun. Yes, it’s billions of years away, but this end is no less certain than our individual deaths. So the planet will not be saved, anymore than anyone of us will be saved. Note that this is not a moral issue, death itself is neither bad nor good, like life itself, it just is.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetClimate change itself may bring about the demise of the human species, along with thousands, millions of other species, but the planet itself will survive our folly. For a while. Facing the possible death of the human race might vivify us, might inspire us in the same way our own death can. Or, it might drive us to despair and futility, as our own death can.

My sense today is that I will follow the dark ecology path, owning the probability of our capitalist driven lemming like behavior resulting in our extinction. The question, then, is what comes next? Read the articles. They have some ideas. Not sure any of them are for me, right now anyhow. Gotta come up with my own. A later project.



Bring the Heat

Spring                                                         Hare Moon

Spring and I met up this year in Seminole, Texas, Gaines County: #1 in Cotton, #1 in oil and #1 in peanuts.  When we began our Intensive Journal workshop here in Tucson, the leader noted that it was the beginning of spring, a time of birth and rebirth.  Yes.

Today, for the first time since I left Minnesota, I’m not pressed by travel and can reflect on the new season.  This is the culmination of Imbolc, those lambs in the belly (imbolc) now gambol on the green.  Or on the snow covered fields in the case of Minnesota.

And that’s a good thing to note.  Spring comes astronomically when the sun’s center lines up with the earth’s equator.  It come meteorologically with a nuance determined by your latitude.  At Minnesota’s 45th latitude, half-way from that equator to the north pole, meteorological spring comes when the bloodroot blooms. (at least one naturalist I asked defined the coming of spring that way.)  That could be well into April some years.

On the other hand, here in Tucson 32 degrees of latitude from the equator spring announces the upcoming dry season, aggravated this year by a persistent drought that has many southwestern parts of the U.S. facing another season of extreme wildfire danger.

In Manta, Ecuador which Kate and I visited in October of 2011 the equinox means the sun stares straight at you.  It was hot when we were there, only a couple of weeks after the spring equinox (which comes in September in the southern hemisphere).

At Artemis Hives and Gardens it arrived with a couple of feet or so of snow on the ground.  That means the activities of working the soil, planting the early crops will not come until well into April.  But the shift in the earth’s relationship to the sun does mean that the solar gain per square meter of ground has taken strong purchase and will one day warm even the soil.

That’s the true promise of spring. It brings heat.  Where the temperatures are moderate, this is a boon for agriculture.  Where temperatures are already hot, spring can exacerbate them.

As the heat begins to change the weather, I look forward to seeing more and more of our land.


On Further Thought

Imbolc                                                                  Hare Moon

OK.  Maybe I went overboard here a bit.  When I immerse myself in a subject, it 3090722405_c5a1750432becomes a temporary obsession, refracting all the light that comes toward me.  Now, I’m not saying that creating a sustainable place for humans on the home planet is a temporary obsession, or, for that matter, an obsession.  No, it’s an ongoing work to which I am committed.

I’m going to give the whole idea of transforming this website into a Minnesota focused climate mitigation and adaptation site a good going over while I’m on the road.

The climate change course ends this Tuesday. I need to integrate what I’ve learned, let it settle before striking off in a particular direction.  Besides, I’ve got that America Votes volunteer work that fits into the climate change slot.

Our changes to the climate system will poison the earth for human habitation if we don’t act decisively.  And though that’s true, I admit that from an existential perspective it doesn’t matter. Human habitation of earth will end, whether it be by fire or be by ice.

But, if we care about our neighbor (Mr. Rogers) and our self (Mr. Jung), then we will be good to each other.  And if you care about your mother, the one who brought you into this world and supported you all along, you’ll treat her well so she won’t have to put all the kids into a mini-van and drive it into a swollen ocean.

The Ballet of Earth and The Heavens

Imbolc                                                                 Hare Moon

On the day we got 11 inches of snow I looked out the kitchen window into the orchard. The fruit trees had snow lining their branches, the hay bales and the wheelbarrow cum garden sculpture had disappeared and the snow climbed halfway up the tree trunks.  The tall cottonwoods and cedars, beyond the orchard to the west, also had snow outlining their canopies.

Behind them the sky was a bright blue, a happy color, celebrating the freshening of the landscape.

Then, from behind the cottonwood flew a murder of crows.  Blue, black, white.  Sky, crows, snow.  A moment in time, ephemeral like music.  Dancing the ballet of earth and the heavens were the dark birds.

The Long Game

Imbolc                                                                Valentine Moon

In case you read Great Wheel and wonder where the postings are, here’s a short one. I march hare  levon hackensawplan a post on March, that is the month name and its history.  In between I’m digesting the considerable material from the Climate Change course, pushing out here what seems immediately relevant, but also what might be the shape of a blog (either this one or a third) focused on Minnesota and climate change.

(March Hare, Levon Hackensaw)

I’ve also begun a new period of my relationship with the Sierra Club as I’ve mentioned, representing the Northstar Chapter at the America Votes table.  This will skew my thinking about climate change toward the political, the policy development process, so there may be more writing on those matters, too.

There is a long game here.  As climate change begins to press upon us with greater and greater obviousness to the average citizen, demand for policy development and action humorwill grow along with it.  So our continued presence in those places where progressive voices debate retail politics will only grow in importance.  Our presence there and our thoughts on all this now will dramatically inform that inevitable future moment.

Great Wheel (or a third blog) will try to insert itself right into that moment though it may be 5-10 years off.

How About That Winter of 1874-75?

Imbolc                                                                  Valentine Moon

Meteorological winter runs from December 1st to March 1st, statistically the three coldest months of the year.  Here’s where this one stands against other winters through February 19th.  from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

Coldest Winters in Twin Cities History: 1873-2014cherry snow

The winter of 2013-14 has been the coldest in years. So far the average temperature of Meteorological Winter (December-February 19) is 10.0 degrees. If cold weather returns for the rest of February, the winter of 2013-14 would  finish in the top ten coldest winters on record.

1981-2010 Normal: 16.9 degrees F

Winter     Avg Temp (F) Rank
1874-1875	4.0	1
1886-1887	5.7	2
1935-1936	7.3	3
1872-1873	7.9	4
1903-1904	8.4	5
1916-1917	8.5	6
1882-1883	9.2	7
1978-1979	9.4	8
1887-1888	10.0	9
2013-2014       10.0*   9
1884-1885	10.1	11
1917-1918	10.4	12
1977-1978	10.5	13
1962-1963	11.2	14
1961-1962	11.3	15

*as of February 19

This Land.

Imbolc                                                                 Valentine Moon

Taken by Landsat 8, a brand new satellite.  Made me think of Woody Guthrie’s, “This land is our land.”*  Also made me think of that “our”.  This land did not belong to the so-called native americans who were here when the Spanish and English and Vikings arrived. They occupied it as wanderers just as we do now.  It was not theirs and it’s not ours, except in an important, but very restricted sense.  We’re responsible for what we do to it.

Stewardship works for me.  I can’t own a tree in my woods, except to destroy it. Otherwise, it grows along with me.  We can only destroy or enhance this land, we neither own it nor possess it.  Rather, as will become increasingly evident as climate change increases, we are possessed by it and subject to its changes.

Also, think what this photograph shows about vulnerabilities to climate change.



Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, human influence on the climate system is clear IPCC AR5

Imbolc                                                        Valentine Moon

The most recent IPCC report is coming out in stages, AR5.  The IPCC, AR5Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a UN organization based in the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization. Climate Change 2013, says this:

GENEVA, 30 January – Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, human influence on the climate system is clear, and limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is the baldest statement of this international group that assesses current climate science, reports robust conclusions and issues narratives approved by both scientists and member governments.  It does not make policy recommendations, but states clearly what the most current science identifies as happening now and likely to happen in the future. Furthermore they do that with a global reach and regional specificity.

Here’s a sample of information bearing on the Midwest.

(graphic from skeptical science article: Understanding the pre-IPCC Anti-Climate Science Misinformation Blitz)

Annual mean air temperature, on the whole, increased in North America for the misinformationBlitz_1024w_medperiod 1955 to 2005, with the greatest warming in Alaska and north-western Canada, substantial warming in the continental interior and modest warming in the south-eastern U.S. and eastern Canada (Figure 14.1). Spring and winter show the greatest changes in temperature (Karl et al., 1996; Hengeveld et al., 2005) and daily minimum (night-time) temperatures have warmed more than daily maximum (daytime) temperatures (Karl et al., 2005; Vincent and Mekis, 2006). The length of the vegetation growing season has increased an average of 2 days/decade since 1950 in Canada and the conterminous U.S., with most of the increase resulting from earlier spring warming (Bonsal et al., 2001; Easterling, 2002; Bonsal and Prowse, 2003; Feng and Hu, 2004).


Global daily satellite data, available since 1981, indicate earlier onset of spring ‘greenness’ by 10-14 days over 19 years, particularly across temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere (Myneni et al., 2001; Lucht et al., 2002). Field studies confirm these satellite observations. Many species are expanding leaves or flowering earlier (e.g., earlier flowering in lilac – 1.8 days/decade, 1959 to 1993, 800 sites across North America (Schwartz and Reiter, 2000), honeysuckle – 3.8 days/decade, western U.S. (Cayan et al., 2001), and leaf expansion in apple and grape – 2 days/decade, 72 sites in north-eastern U.S. (Wolfe et al., 2005), trembling aspen – 2.6 days/decade since 1900, Edmonton (Beaubien and Freeland, 2000)) (Figure 14.1b).

Wildfire-burned area in the North American boreal region increased from 6,500 km2/yr in the 1960s to 29,700 km2/yr in the 1990s (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006). Human vulnerability to wildfires has also increased, with a rising population in the wildland-urban interface.

A warming climate encourages wildfires through a longer summer period that dries fuels, promoting easier ignition and faster spread (Running, 2006). Westerling et al. (2006) found that in the last three decades the wildfire season in the western U.S. has increased by 78 days, and burn durations of fires >1000 ha in area have increased from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87°C. Earlier spring snowmelt has led to longer growing seasons and drought…

Warmer springs have led to earlier nesting for 28 migrating bird species on the east coast of the U.S. (Butler, 2003) and to earlier egg laying for Mexican jays (Brown et al., 1999) and tree swallows (Dunn and Winkler, 1999). In northern Canada, red squirrels are breeding 18 days earlier than 10 years ago (Reale et al., 2003). Several frog species now initiate breeding calls 10 to 13 days earlier than a century ago (Gibbs and Breisch, 2001).