08/22/13

Dreams of Inheritances and Lotteries

While reading the daily rags a few weeks ago, on scan and bee-lining for the crossword, a smidgeon of information passed my way and halted my progress. At first I feigned surprise, recent surveys show that nearly half of Canadians are relying on either receiving an inheritance or winning a lottery for their retirement, with similar numbers showing up in other developed countries as well. My surprise died when I realized holy shit, I am one of those people. And then, as I happen to be currently reading up on social contracts, I wondered in a most dedicated and peculiar way, are lotteries and inheritances becoming but another interpretation of unrealistic hope subsidizing the con of what has become familiarly known as the “American dream”?

The seeds of the dream could be traced back to the concept of Res Communes (common things), from the Roman Justinian Code, issued in 535 AD. Res Communes were all the things owned by no one and subject to use by all. “By law of nature these things are common to mankind – the air, running fresh water, the sea, and its shores.” It would become known as the Public Trust Doctrine, where “a state serves as a trustee for such things on behalf of the present and future generations.” Today, International law recognizes all those things that lay outside of the political reach of any one nation state, but belongs to all people, as the global commons; the high seas, the atmosphere, Antarctica and Outer Space. To ask how this particular human contract is going we’d have to stand in front of a mirror before we answer, and then lie to our own face.

A thousand years after Res Communes, the contract had an amendment attached to it. During the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries when birth was given to humanism, there came a new way of thinking about humans and their place in the universe, that people’s actions were not directed by God, but instead, people are responsible for their own lives.

In Europe, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Renaissance would evolve into the Age of Enlightenment, where philosophers, artists, and scientists discussed the theory of a social contract, made up of unwritten constitutions of nature and society. Such a social contract was theorized to be the blueprint for modern society, where individuals are suggested to surrender certain definitive freedoms and submit to the authority of a ruler, in exchange for protection of their remaining assumed rights. Consent is given to be ruled by an executive power, though consent to be a part of society is not necessarily consent to such an executive. As Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, a social contract should be “a mutual exchange of benefits necessary to the formation of a valid contract.”

The deal would become where the ruling state would provide a neutral authority to act to protect the lives, freedoms and property of its citizens, and that justice was to be for all. The citizens on the other hand would promise to avoid doing harm to others, to not interfere with each other, and would be recognized to possess natural unalienable rights. The problem with this concept was that there was no shaking of the hands to seal the deal because it is a theory, and the authority of the state had nothing above it to control it. And most importantly Res Communes began to become privatized. Democracy was the promised placebo to deal with such lack of accountability, but alas it has failed. And though hundreds of millions of law-abiding citizens over the centuries have sacrificed their lives, and even more than that, in fulfilling their duties and their part of the deal to their state and country, the state hasn’t had to sacrifice anything. If such a social contract was indeed co-operative, changes would then  have been different than the present, and once again, collapsing of the middle class and the ever widening problem of distribution of wealth.

As to the planet, according to the international sustainability think tank, Global Footprints, August 12, 2013 marks the day when humanity has used up all the natural resources and waste absorption that the earth can provide in a year. Our human consumption and waste for the remaining four and a half months will be borrowed from future generations. This day has arrived three days earlier each year since 2011. Global Footprints have calculated that if everyone in the world consumed the same as the United States; it would take four Earths to sustain the global population.

The social contract theorized during the Enlightenment would eventually arise in the American Constitution, and would expand out globally and became everyone’s dream. Though it wasn’t until 1931, and historian James Truslow Adams’s book “Epic of America”, that the American dream became popular with the masses in North America and Western Europe. He felt the American dream, was the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement….. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position…. The American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.”

The dream was then interrupted by the Great Depression, which brought a deep understanding of deprivation. Soon after, World War II and its untold hardships and death on a massive scale erupted. After the horror and madness, those who survived returned and reunited, after sometimes years of separation, with their loves and families, all the while held intact through simple monthly letters. With many of the men, and no doubt much of the populations in many countries, suffering post traumatic shock. Never being able to tell their stories of what they had seen and done. They dreamed of a calmer life, where they felt safe, could toil in meaningful work, and aspire to educate themselves, get married, buy a house and raise kids in it. For decades on end working long full days, putting each of their children through school, and who after graduating, would themselves take on the responsibilities and accountability of being an adult, and stand on their own two feet. One’s dream in life was to be achieved based on individual talent, energy, perseverance, audacity, and a little bit of good luck once in awhile. But the reality of life dictated such a dream could not be for everyone, though generations have tried.

The dream would supposedly continue until the day came to retire and then life would become days of gardening, reading, playing crib, and knitting, baking, and puttering around aimlessly. Maybe obsessing over a lawn, or practising a craft, and if blessed, seeing the grandkids from time to time. Golfing, playing bingo, meeting with friends once a week, and every year going on a little vacation, by plane, train or automobile, to visit family, with the rest of the time spent watching a lot of television. This was not so much how people thought and hoped for; it was what was taught to us, rather advertised to us. Today, the end game of retirement isn’t something people necessarily look forward to at all; instead, for far too many individuals it has become a very, very scary thing. In Canada, 32% of 45 to 64 year olds are expecting lotteries to support them in their retirement, while only 34% of those who do retire have either relied on their savings and investments, or had a pension to achieve it. So for about six out of ten Canadians, retirement is not becoming an option.

Over the past forty years the one dream has morphed into four dreams and has laid waste through our societies at an ever accelerating rate. Writer and Professor of history, Ted Ownby, identifies the four dreams as, Abundance; of material goods, The Democracy of Goods; access to the same products for everybody, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, Freedom of Choice; where everyone can fashion their own lifestyle, and Novelty; of ever changing models and products and “expanding the consumer experience and fine tuning people’s purchasing skills and awareness of the market.”

Our societies have become top down structures of capitalistic enterprises, with no one above them to curtail their greed and ego. They have skillfully revised the social contract into being all about maximizing corporate profit at the expense of the citizenry. For all intents and purposes the social contract is now null and void, and we’ve allowed it to happen, for we have been sufficiently distracted enough from reality that we continue to buy into the con, that we can have anything we want, be anybody we want to be, and be able to fulfill all our desires, whether self-indulgent, degenerate or with the best of intentions. Any changes to the contract have not been co-operative in any way, shape or form, and instead have been dictated to us.

Thus, inheritances and lotteries have become a part of the dream, subtly replacing jobs and opportunities. Where all we’ve got to do is buy a ticket and dream, while cruising through the nicer areas of town, doing the slow looki-loo drive by, ogling all the homes and finely kept lawns. Dreaming of what it would be like sitting inside that house, with an even bigger screen TV, an even more expensive couch, and a big truck, Sea-doo, Ski-doo and a ride-a-mower parked in the garage. Dreaming of the opportunity to live in a luxurious way, by not dedicating oneself to education and working hard and having the discipline to do so, but instead simply by winning the lottery, or with about the same odds, becoming a sports hero or celebrity. So wrapped up in technology and upgrading it every few months that we’ve become Star Trek’s, the Borg.

Many think that when they win, which they actually believe will happen, eventually, they will be able to expand their material wealth and instantly retire and do nothing in particular. Bigger house, a few vehicles, and month long travel vacations, with the destinations prone to be places one can shop. Some also believe they will, perhaps, maybe, probably win, but are thinking of the freedom it would bring. To finally go buy a guitar, get that easel you’ve always wanted and spend a couple of hours in an art supply store picking out tubes of oil paints, writing a book, or perhaps even going back to school or finally getting your teeth fixed, making a difference in one’s community, or finally being able to help out a friend or family member. Paying it forward in meaningful ways to people who truly deserve it, all the while not even carrying a phone, but for most of us this is all but a dream.

While in the reality of our daily lives we, and those who are supposed to lead us, have together accumulated debt on a massive scale, which has overshadowed and distracted us from seeking and finding true abundance, which is good health, education, family, friends, a healthy natural world and meaningful work. Instead we are searching for meaning and acceptance through what we consume. It’s like people actually seem to believe if you are rich you are automatically accepted as being successful, smart, honorable, and someone who should be looked up to. Even if what you do to make a living goes against all that is moral and right. It seems we have become simply paychecks, and are defined and accepted as such. If indeed this is the case, then of course inheritances and lotteries are important dreams for many people. They have become key to any long term financial security, especially considering that getting or winning such a windfall saves us from having to work for it in a job that isn’t there anymore. People feel they will gain importance and be more than who they are, but don’t understand its nothing but window dressing for what’s really inside. We have reached the point where we have become so successful at being consumers we haven’t the wherewithal to even retire, unless of course, as mentioned, we win this week’s lottery or someone close to us dies and leaves us the money to do so.

Inheritances

Of all the Canadians who have received an inheritance, nearly half preferred not to divulge how much. Of the rest, 47% said they received an average $57,000, one in five said they received $100,000 or more, while one in four received less than $5,000. Higher up the ladder, 36% of the wealthiest families have received an average of $136,000 inheritance, with this figure predicted to swell to about $300,000 in cash, real estate and other valuables, but then assuming and knowing can be the defining difference between fantasy and reality. It’s like the reports today concerned with climate change, worried that when the earth’s ecosystems collapse it’ll cost us tens of trillions of dollars. With the question instantly coming to mind, who’ll and how many will be left to pick up the tab? And who’ll care?

In a perfect world where all goes well, the economists and soothsayers estimate that Canadian seniors and boomers will leave nearly a trillion dollars to their offspring. On the other hand this estimate is in constant flux, as much of the bulk of inheritances is tied up in homes and property. Those lucky enough to have bought their house in the seventies, and stuck it out, now find the place’s worth has risen 300%. But there’s that second, perhaps third, mortgage that was taken out a decade ago for the $60,000 update on the kitchen. Before that the roof had to be replaced, then the trip to Europe, the loan to your kid so he or she could purchase their first home, a 550 square foot “condo”, the new car loan, thankfully now able to be amortized over 84 months, so that some money is left over monthly for buying other stuff, like food, and every year Christmas is finally being paid off in April. Over the past ten years, such home equity lines of credit have risen 170%. This is why today, about 68% of home owners have, on average, only about 34% in equity in their home.

In 1980 the average home was about $100,000, with an average household debt to income ratio of 66%. Meaning for every $1000 a homeowner earned, $660 went to the bills; mortgage, household expenses, food and such, while $330 was left over for savings and frivolous spending. Today the average house in Canada is about $353,000, over 11 times the median family income, with an average household debt to income ratio of 161%. In other words, the average Canadian household debt, as of 2013, is about $1650 for every $1000 of disposable income. Even crazier, more than one in eight homeowners’ debt to income ratio was 250%, meaning two and a half times their annual income went to mortgages, credit cards and other forms of debt, creating -you guessed it- more debt. It’s a similar system to how many governments work their books.

Canadian house prices today have doubled since 2002, and over 13% since 2008, but seem to now be bogging down; you can just about hear the balloon stretching if you’re quiet and turn the TV down. The only reason the Canadian housing today has stayed fairly steady is because we are buoyed up somewhat by the continuing global economic crisis. Meanwhile the most expensive homes, condos and properties in the major cities are being gobbled up by foreign buyers. The average house value in BC today is $498,000. In Vancouver it’s $684,000. Ontario’s average is $369,000, but $479,000 in Toronto, with Alberta’s average house value at $363,000, $420,000 in Calgary.

It is estimated that over the next ten years, house prices will rise perhaps 2%, barely keeping up with inflation, and while current debt and housing levels are ever more unsustainable, when the lending rates rise, and they will, they’re be hell to pay for many. Economists suggest that with only a half of one percentage point increase in the lending rate there would be an immediate drop of about 10% in house sales and over a 3% decrease in prices. A mere 1% increase in borrowing rates would drop house sales over 15% and decrease the price of the home by more than 7%. For many Canadians, they will not be able to  afford to live in the homes they own.

But over 80% of Canadians aged 18 to 29 years, still continue to expect an inheritance, especially those who attended post-secondary school, are savvy to the real estate market and the value of their parent’s home, and who are graduating with an average of $28,000 in student loans into a world where there will never be enough jobs or opportunities. While only 48% of the 45 to 64 year old baby boomers are expecting an inheritance of some sort, because they understand the fact that people are living longer and spending more in retirement, and are seeing firsthand how tough it’s going to be as we age. Boomers in particular are becoming more concerned with debt reduction than retirement and leaving an inheritance, and it’s highly likely we may well be one of the last generations to inherit anything. As to how much wealth is transferred to the next generation, it’s changing all the time, because of the high costs of living in one’s final years, especially if you want to live with a better than average standard of living. The reality will be mostly determined by the actions of the real estate market. As it is, forty-five percent of those 60 or older are going to need their savings to fund their retirement, with only one in four willing to make personal sacrifices to ensure an inheritance for their family. At the same time, only four in ten Canadians actually have a will.

Baby-boomers’ parents were unique, in that they grew up with a very deep understanding of deprivation, untold hardships and World War Two. When and if able to leave an inheritance, they feel compelled to provide financial assistance to their family. Boomers on the other hand have grown up in a relatively peaceful and affluent time, and a life of abundance. They are compelled more to treat any monies or property that they leave to certain people or charity and non-profit organizations, as a bonus, instead of a requirement. Of course that’s only if there is anything left after keeping us in diapers and well medicated in our final years.

Another generational difference is that no longer do the majority believe in a life after death, instead it’s now all about holding on to this one, even to the point of sculpting and altering one’s body to give the impression “age doesn’t mean anything”. Holding onto all we have, and getting as much of it as we can. Never going airborne to look down and see how massive our herd has become and how so alike we look.

At one time we used to inherit the best of family legacies, traditions and values. Perhaps an old watch or chiming clock, an antique dining room table with ornate chairs, perhaps a cache of recipes or a set of dishes and a tea set, or maybe some small plot of land and/or the family home, which was built to raise a family in and not just another investment. Or more importantly such things as honour, the level-headedness of one’s grandmother, the reason people respected your grandfather, having a good work ethic,  being taught etiquette, things like poise and reservation, or how to respect each other even if you don’t like each other. There are also other traditions and values that have been passed on which humanity could do without, such as out-dated social and religious values. But nothing lasts anymore, so there is less to be passed on. Even antiques will soon be no more, and more expensive, for I highly doubt an IKEA bookshelf or Wal-Mart writing desk will be around for auction in seventy years. Our legacies will be plastic effigies of ourselves.

Unfortunately, much of the best of past legacies, traditions and values have been replaced with economic inheritance. Which itself is based on the soft and shaky ground called real estate speculation, a global economic crisis, diminishing ecosystems, and a declining number of people who have planned for retirement, in non-existent or non-sufficient savings, tax, and insurance plans. As for stocks and bonds being a part of one’s inheritance, about 90% of all stock, including bonds, is owned by the top 15% wealthiest individuals. I know, made me cry too.

A few final thoughts on inheritances and why they are diminishing, debt is rising, and the ever widening gap between those with and those without continues. Between 1976 and 2010, Canada’s middle class saw their income grow only 7% when adjusted for inflation, which is about 0.2% per year. The top 20% of earners saw their incomes rise more than 40%, while those in the top 5% saw their incomes rise by that much annually.

Then there is the makeup of the average Canadian family today, where it’s not simply the married for forty years parents passing away and leaving their wealth for their two children and three grandchildren. Today if there is a pot left behind to be pissed in, it might well have to be divided between two or three unmarried and/or sometimes remarried spouses, children from the various relationships, siblings, next of kin, and of course creditors. This issue also appears when someone wins a lottery, and the relatives and friends start appearing out of the woodwork for their cut, whether entitled or not.

Most sadly, where grandparents were once very important within the family makeup, experience and values, especially to their grandchildren; far too often the thread of this legacy is rare or non-existent today. At the same time more and more parents and grandparents are dipping into their savings and retirement funds to financially help their struggling adult children who are finding it difficult to get jobs or meaningful work. But then, for three generations now, around the globe, television and mainstream media have far too often been the parents minding the children.

Reality is, for the majority in the present world, people need to keep for themselves what they would have left as an inheritance to finance their senior years, and/or need to keep working past the American dream’s unnatural sixty-five years old deadline. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that such a deadline is perhaps the reason for the rapid growth of people today developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Preventing mental decline is all about keeping physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged; while drooling over daytime television sitting in a lazy-boy rocker, in a small apartment, taking your meds, smoking your reefer, or drinking enough so that you may sleep that night, does not. People should be able to work as long as they physically and mentally can. Today most have to, before having to spend their final years, often in decrepit, unsafe, and vulnerable situations, or having to rely on Government assistance and eating cold soup out of the can over the kitchen sink. All the while the body and mind deteriorate and one becomes ever more alone and frightened. Many thank God for bringing contemplation, forgiveness and erasure of sin before going to heaven, others now thank god for lotteries, for all the same reasons.

Lotteries

Once upon a time, when we began to jam ourselves into villages, then towns and cities, we slowly stopped believing in ourselves, we also stopped using both sides of our brain at the same time. But we had to believe in something to get through our daily lives, doing those things we usually didn’t want to do, so we came up with the concept of religion. Today we have lotteries.

Any local convenience store clerk will tell you they can actually see the physical and mental reaction a person goes through when coming in to check their tickets. Some people are either cheery, feeling that positive vibes will help their chances, or glum and quiet, hoping and praying under their breath. The “sorry not a winner” from the clerk, is followed by the customer exhaling all their air, shrugging and slumping their shoulders, dropping their heads, and feeling beaten down again. But then the moment they decide to spend the last toonie to their name on a “scratch and win”, voila, hope is restored. The ticket will be taken home or to a place where the aura will make the scratching almost ritualistic and holy. Or by using “reverse psychology’, they scratch the ticket immediately, like they don’t care if it’s a winner or not, and then nonchalantly wading it up and dumping it in the trash bin. The hope, loss and recovery are quickly experienced, as they then continue to go on about their day. For most, even a free ticket win nearly brings out the choir. The dreams a major lottery creates, believing if you don’t play you’ll never win, could put a spring into one’s step for a whole week. People will spend hundreds on Keno or pull-tabs, drinking coffees or beer specials for hours, chatting within their like-minded group, and win fifty bucks and feel like a million dollars. The altar is no longer in a church, it’s in a casino.

Meanwhile, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack in North America are about 1 in 20 million, while travelling abroad these odds drop to 1 in 650,000. In Canada, we have the lowest risk of dying from terrorism out of all the Western economies in the world, about  1 in 14 million, about the same odds of winning the national Lotto 6/49, which odds can be, on average, anywhere from 1 in 14 million to 1 in 28 million. In the States, the chances of winning one of their Powerball or mega-millions state lotteries is about 1 in 175.7 million. A typical, two dollar, thousand dollar prize scratch and win, where the odds of winning a thousand dollars is about 1 in 960,000 is similar to the odds (1 in 1 million) of being killed by flesh-eating disease. So getting beheaded in a terrorist attack, and winning a major lottery have about the same chance of happening in one’s life – interesting. Yet in Canada, we’ll drive at least 16 km (10 miles) to get our lottery ticket, consuming gas worth more than the ticket, and its 3 to 20 times more likely for us to be killed in a car accident than winning a lottery or being car bombed.

The odds of being killed by a bee sting or a snake bite are about 1 in 100,000. Dying in a plane crash 1 in 360,000, becoming a pro athlete 1 in 22,000, getting a hole in one in golf, 1 in 5,000, the same odds for getting injured or dying sometime over the next year. Then raw reality lays bare the odds of getting cancer – at least once in our lives – 1 in 2.

As to the Canadian lottery, Lotto 6/49, if you spend two dollars a week on one set of numbers you’re likely to win $10 at least once every 13 months. Another study found that spending $25 per week for 20 years on lottery tickets, you could make over a third back, occasionally winning in increments of either $10 or the 4th place range of $75 The odds of winning a free ticket are 1 in 8; winning ten to twenty dollars, 1 in 77. The average Canadian spends $257 per year on lottery tickets. British Columbians spend the least at $240, while 45 to 64 year old men spend the most at $880 per year.

One of the largest lottery jackpots won in the world was in March 2012, in the States, where three tickets shared in a $640 million cash payout. After taxes each of the winners shared $474 million. In the US, the federal individual income tax rate is 35-39.6% on taxable income above $400,000 for a single and $450,000 for a couple, plus state and municipal taxes. The highest combined federal, state and city tax rate paid by someone winning the lottery is in New York State at 48.5%. In Canada there are no taxes on lottery winnings, but there are on interest earned from them.

One of the highest lottery prizes in Canada was in April 2013, where there were four winning tickets sharing $63 million. Which was $15.8 million per ticket, but one of the winners had two winning numbers, because eccentrically, for 30 years he always purchased two identical sets of the same numbers, doubling down each time, thus he was able to pocket $31.6 million.

The good thing about the lottery is it’s like the left-brain right-brain thing. It gives hope, some solace during the week perhaps, where one walks a bit straighter, and a humbled confidence could even enter their realm. And in most cases it only cost two bucks. Then there’s the view of where does the money go, won or lost. The winners more often than not are broke within five years, while the money pooled by the lottery corporations, surprisingly, is often money well spent or at least it’s what we are led to believe.

Lotteries in North America are a fairly recent addition, and unfortunately governments have become enamoured with lotteries and casinos, because instead of some of the escalating revenues going to actually help communities, as has been the case, the monies they receive now are put into general spending, most often to cover their, but really our, growing debt. One can also say that lotteries give false hope, a release valve for the population, so that there is less pressure on political leaders, to remedy the growing inequality of modern society. But then these negative aspects of a lottery have been used for thousands of years, and as mentioned, have only been recently accepted, when governments wanted a piece of the action once controlled solely by the underworld and despots.

Evidence suggests lotteries began in China over four thousand years ago, with the first recorded signs of a lottery during the Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. It’s believed lotteries were created to finance government works, such as the Great Wall of China. Gambling has gone on as long with the Egyptians, who became notorious dice players three thousand years ago. The first known European lotteries were during the Roman Empire. By 1400, many communities of Europeans would hold lotteries for needed public works.

Gambling, lotteries and sweepstakes were illegal in many countries, including Canada, the US and most of Europe well into the early 20th century. Gambling Mecca’s were always elsewhere, Havana, Beirut, Monte Carlo…. It wasn’t until the sixties that casinos and lotteries began to push for amendments in both Canada and the US.

In Canada, it wasn’t until 1969, when the Criminal Code was amended, that the federal government and the Provinces were allowed to operate such “lottery schemes.” BC offered Canada’s first lottery in 1974, with everyone else soon following. There are five lottery corporations in Canada today, covering all the provinces and territories; Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western Canada and BC. Combined they bring in $8.5 billion in revenue annually. In the US there are forty-four States or Territories which offer government operated lotteries.

In 1985, selling under the umbrella of the Western Canada Lottery Foundation, BC opened its own lottery, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which today is the largest net income generating commercial Crown Corporation in BC. But like the BC Transit Corporation, it is placed outside of direct government oversight. In 2011/12, over 5,000 community and charitable organizations received a combined $134 million in Community Gaming Grants for arts and culture, youth and disabled sports, public safety, environmental groups, animal welfare agencies, fairs, festivals, museums and for people in need. A further $100 million went to local governments that host casinos and community gaming centers and local economic development projects. With 900 employees, its revenues for 2012-13, by operating 2.5 lottery machines per 1000 people in BC, were $2.76 billion. While $624.5 million was paid out in winnings (39%),  total expenses were $910 million. Net income was $1.2 billion, of which $100 million in taxes goes to the BC government, hopefully going where it’s supposed to go, which is support for health care services and research, and a consolidated revenue fund to support other health care and education programs. Of the remaining monies, $128 million goes to debt; $116 million goes to Capital expenditures and finally the federal government gets its $9.1 million share. Millions also are allocated to gambling addictions. The bottom line is that, for every one dollar gambled in BC, eighty-seven cents goes back into BC. Funny enough, so do most of the prize payouts.

Twenty-five per cent of Canadians consistently play the lottery, while it’s estimated that more than 60% of Canadians will plunk down at least two dollars on any lottery which prize has grown to mega-million size. And like all big business the push is always on. Previously noted, subsidizing a government’s lack of fiscal restraint means the revenues from gambling are paying for the services the government can no longer afford to provide, and of course the push has reached mainstream radio stations, where the evolvement of never ending contests has reached a place where if you win, you will receive $100 to play Lotto, plus have an on-line account set up for you, so that “you never have to worry you don’t have a ticket ever again”, and as a special bonus you will receive an e-mail notification when you win, oh yes, when you win! So all that is needed is to sit in front of the television, mouth agape, watching regular programming, drooling in front of the computer, or playing video games until three am, and simply waiting for the phone to magically ring, and will change your life.

Nine out of ten winners of $100,000 or less spend all their winnings in five years or less. Researchers have offered a few theories as to why so many winners blow it all rather quickly. Theories abound that most lottery players have below-average incomes and education and are highly likely to be financially illiterate and that winners might also engage in something behavioral economists call “mental accounting”, where a person treats their winnings less cautiously than they would their earnings, because the winnings are something they didn’t have before. And of course some people simply develop a taste for luxury goods that outlasts their money. Just like any other addiction.

According to a study by the Statistic Brain, compiled from 34 national lottery winners (8 male, 26 female, with an average age of 46), and who averaged $175,000 in winnings, suggests that 55% were of course much happier after winning, because of improved financial security, 65% were less worried, could purchase anything they wanted, and that 23% felt their life became easier, while 43% of the winners felt no effect on their happiness. Other studies suggest that such happiness, on average, ebbs over time. Interesting effects from this study include, 58% of winners’ families claimed to be happier, 40% increased their contributions to charity, 38% have moved since winning, 48% were in a career job before and are still there, 15% started a new job, 30% started their own business, and 32% have gained weight. The average number of friends that male winners gave money to – three; the average number of friends female winners gave money to – one; while 44% would spend their winnings within five years, and the probability that any such new wealth will be gone by the third generation (grandchildren), is 90%. Of course, all these numbers are dependent on the amount of money won and who the people were.

As for multi-million dollar winners, at least those who have a head on their shoulders, who are happy with who they are, thus, are well grounded, American Brad Duke of Star, Idaho, could be used as an example. When he realized he had won the $220 million Powerball jackpot in 2005, he kept it to himself and went about his daily routine. The breakdown of what he finally did with the loot, when he finally went public; $45 million invested in safe, low-risk investments such as municipal bonds, $35 million in more aggressive investments such as oil, gas, and real estate (personally, real estate for sure, oil and gas, not even if my life depended on it, which it does. I’d go solar and wind alternatives), a $1.3 million family foundation, $63,000 spent on a trip to Tahiti with 17 friends, he paid off the $125,000 mortgage on his 1,400 square-foot house, paid off his outstanding student loan of $18,000. As a mountain bike enthusiast he spent $65,000 on new bicycles, bought a used black VW Jetta for $14,500 and now gives an annual $12,000 gift to each family member.

But it’s all relative, depending on the winner’s sense of well-being, which doesn’t fundamentally change, and their current situation which will most certainly exaggerate. If you are unhappy, can’t manage money and you’re surrounded by people you do not trust, winning millions of dollars will probably make your problems worse. If you are happy with your life, it fulfills you, you are careful with your money and you have strong relationships in your life, a lottery win is likely to build on those strengths. We are who we are.

The downside of it all is that many people’s lives have become nearly entirely economic, and lacking any depth whatsoever. We believe we have very healthy relationships with our stuff, while our human relationships become ever more dysfunctional. And is perhaps why dog ownership is growing in leaps and bounds; people seeking unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness. This gets us back to the idea of the American dream, discussed earlier, and how it has evolved into simply being the best consumer you can be, all the while, it is clearly warping our senses and human values. It has become the way of the world, for it keeps the global economy going. The 1% who run the world, control us by constantly reminding that if we buy, use, discard, then buy some more, all is well. If we do not, the economy will die. Meanwhile fossil fuel limits, environmental limits and debt limits are all being reached, and no heed is taken, and if it is, its then quickly squashed. It seems the only dying that’s going on here is us and all the other species that live on this rock.

In the US, it’s becoming blatantly obvious such a way of living is not working. A recent report out of Oxford University, estimates 80% of Americans (four out of five adults) will suffer the hardship of joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives by 2030. In 2012, 33 million American adults, 15% of the population, and only two million fewer people than Canada’s entire population, who were responsible for a family of four, saw their annual income fall below the poverty line of $23,021.

So if after eking through life and getting cancer, a hip replacement, suffering depression, getting hit by lightening, having a parasitic worm gnaw its way through your body, getting into a traffic accident where somebody died, becoming a superstar, writing a novel and fourteen million other things, you actually do win a lottery or receive an inheritance, be cool, chill for awhile, take your time and keep it to yourself. Yes, this will be very difficult, but so is life, and if indeed you won and if you play your cards right, it could get better.

Put one or two steps between you and your ability to spend the principle. Surround yourself with people you trust, whether a lawyer, financial advisor or even a committee of three of those closest to you. Meet with estate lawyers, accountants and financial advisors, and when you meet them do not let on you have fourteen or so million sitting in your savings account. See if they will show you respect thinking you’re just regular folk. Provide for your children with savings accounts; hold off on giving money to anybody else until you have a financial plan in order. Set aside a small amount as crazy money, but set a very small limit, do not dwell on it, and don’t hurt anyone.

Winning a lottery is much more than just money and managing it though. It is also very much about managing one’s behaviour. A real bitch or prick filled with self-indulgence, hate, greed and zero empathy living in a hovel, will no doubt be of the same character and possess the same attitude, if living in a castle. For as they say, doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a sign of utter madness.

As for the American dream, many citizens today the world over, are realizing that such a dream is becoming unattainable, and perhaps it never was, as George Carlin eloquently deadpanned, thirty years ago, “It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

No matter if one wins a lottery or has an inheritance thrown into one’s lap, or not; making a difference in your life has got nothing to do with money. Money simply gives one the freedom to do more. Our stuff does not define us. We are who we are. And we don’t change as much as we think we do.

Though I have no pension, nor substantial savings, and will never be able to retire, I don’t care. I’m a writer and though I don’t make money doing it, I wish it was all I had to do. But I continue to work, have a roof over my head, be fed and I’m blessed with family, trusted friends and acquaintances. I accept and deal with the dark days as they periodically appear, and enjoy the good ones, one at a time. So yes, I will still saunter over to the corner grocery store once a week, grab some chocolate milk and eggs, smell the smells, sample some freshly made pakora’s, gratefully take a small container of chutney, chat with the merchant and his family, smile at people there and back, perhaps shove my face into a blooming Lilac bush, and spend five dollars on BC/49. Because you never know, and no matter the truths written above, if five dollars is what it takes, in this economic world of ours to inject some confidence in looking forward to the future, and the freedom it would bring, and be able to dream of things outside our boxes and daily routines, without harming ourselves or others, I figure it’s money well spent.

 

 

10/2/12

CAMA? Say it isn’t so Stevie Harper.

Why does the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper hate science so much? I pondered.

Over the past year I’ve written many articles of my opinion or rather confoundedness, over the decisions made by the Harper government of Canada. Besides the ever quickening pace of trying to sell and export our limited natural resources as fast as possible, our government is also picking up the pace as to selling the companies that extract said resources, mostly to China. The government openly panders to the energy corporations, yet hinders working Canadians, all the while chiseling away at our basic human rights and civil liberties, especially women’s and children’s, and specifically dismantling most environmental protections and controls. At the same time our government gets rid of the jobs, shuts down the work and tapes shut the mouths of a world renowned, respected science community, especially in natural resources and environmental science and technologies. From constant barrages of omnibus bills to funding cuts to nearly every government agency that deals with the environment and people or the safety and care of both.

We pull out of the Kyoto agreement yet have no national plan to battle climate change and carbon pollution. Local environmentalists and First Nations are branded foreign radicals, with Greenpeace called a “Multi-issue extremist group.” The charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the governments environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels are threatened to be revoked, while journalists follow the lead of their corporate controlled employers by way of the Prime Minister’s office. Anything to do with safeguarding our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans has been gutted or dismantled, such as the Navigable Waters protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.

The incredulous concepts that are entering government policy making should be scaring the bejesus out of you, it does me. Each new decision the federal government makes gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has all seemed so confusing. But if you know history it is yet another remake of the chapter we’ve all seen before and which I will name at the end of this article.

We are already degrading our land and creating ever more inequality amongst people, what’s suddenly the big rush? What is taking prestige over reason? Why the desperate maddening pace and disregard for the earth? Why has reform become a dirty word to politicians? Why is the Harper government so adverse to science and rational debate?

But then a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had heard of CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, no I answered, having no clue. “Check it out”, he replied. And so I did. And the confusion I once felt is gone, now I’m seriously afraid.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, was formed in 1887 by the Canadian evangelical pastor Albert Benjamin Simpson. Simpson, born on Prince Edward Island in 1843, was raised in a strict Calvinistic Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition, though later he converted to Evangelicalism and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Canada and the United States and by 1880 arrived at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, in New York City, where he began to put together doctrine which emphasized global evangelism. Moving to what is known as the New York Tabernacle he began to preach his word and eventually his and others words would transform over the decades to become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. CAMA is based out of New York with a strong base of operations in Alberta. There are about 500,000 members in the States, mostly all Republicans and about 130,000 in Canada, mostly all Conservatives and mostly all living in Alberta. They have about three million members worldwide.

The tenets of CAMA’s gospel are; Jesus our savior, sanctifier, healer and coming king, as well as the “pursuit and promotion of the Higher Christian Life.” Their commitment is to promote a biblically-based world view centered on Jesus Christ.

Their values  include developing their pastoral and lay leadership; where women are strictly not allowed, nurturing the pastoral staff and their families, belief in Biblical conflict resolution, encouraging creativity and innovation in submission of spirit, empowering churches and strategic building of churches in all communities of the world. They also have an Environmental Transformational Plan, which describes their “life zones” or spiritual realities, but the plan has taken ecology completely out of context.

CAMA’s Church Planting Life Zone for instance believes in an environment perpetually growing, where “church planters and church congregations pregnant with new church planting ideas would be welcomed, encouraged and assisted in giving birth”, which means building a new church and finding new members is encouraged and would be supported by CAMA, and of course, “sources of funding would be accessed in order to provide a steady stream of resources for church planting opportunities.”  Further, in each Church Planting Zone, “multiplication-minded leaders are motivated and encouraged by catalytic events designed to expand their thinking and accelerate their passion.” Other life zones include the Global Seamless-Link Life Zone, Leadership Life Zone and Pastoral Health Life Zone, all placing much importance upon the church, its executive and the Second Coming of Christ.

Their core values begin with the authority of the bible, literately every word of it as it is written, and leadership, where they state that they intentionally identify and train “godly” leaders. They uphold biblical justice, minister to the poor and oppressed of only their communities, and encourage and strengthen marriages and families. Divorce is frowned upon and if caught as an adulterer one loses their right to ever remarry.

As far as stewardship of the earth they view “all our resources and possessions as God-owned and we use them with integrity, accountability and maximum effectiveness.” The world was created for them to use as they will, that God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage.

As to prayer they believe, “We do nothing until we pray”. The Canadian members pray for Canada and its government and that “Godly agendas are required through minority rule.” They pray for those “utterly unreached people group-those under the domination of Islam, closed Hindu and Buddhist nations, etc.” All non-believers of their doctrine are considered the “lost people’. They also pray for their church leaders, pastors and executive to receive the spirit of their God in “remarkable new ways” and for them to be “strategic in service.”

CAMA members truly believe the Second Coming is “imminent and will be personal and visible”. Much like the evangelical Jehovah Witnesses have believed that every year is going to be the last one, since 1870; where Jesus Christ will physically appear on earth and will reign for one thousand years and then there will be the Final Judgment. After which time, the universe, including the microscopic parts of heaven and earth, will be renewed to become a new and fresh heaven and earth. They also believe the world to be only 6,000 years old.

To survive the second coming they pray that their churches have the “budgets, decisions and staffing that reflect their kingdoms values.”  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be born again and “justified, sanctified and granted the gift of eternal life as adopted children of God.”

Fields of flowers, blue clear skies, cold crystal clean water and natural resources will be renewed and the chosen one’s will live on, to use the world to their will and a vicious cycle would seemingly begin anew. I know the Bible well, and unfortunately nowhere does one find a story about a Third Coming.

Other  beliefs of CAMA include that the free market is divinely inspired, with libertarian economics being God’s will and that God is opposed to government regulation or taxation for he created government for limited purposes only and whom should never intervene in the workings of a free market economy. They also oddly enough, though I am sure Charles Darwin isn’t their kind of scientist, seem to believe in the new social Darwinism, where the adage has been changed to the survival of the richest, not the fittest, will somehow benefit society and everyone else are simply lacking the motivation and ambition to help themselves.

Besides not having any regard for the environment and not putting any belief in science, they have utter contempt for homosexual relationships, abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia and the use of marijuana. They demand the complete loyalty of their members to their organization, possess extreme disdain for mainstream media, but then don’t we all in its current state, and believe wholeheartedly in the Dominion Theory, where humans were made to subdue and rule over all of creation. Because when it all collapses, no worries, God will fix it.

Because the Christian and Missionary Alliance do not put any faith in the notion of climate change due to human contribution and don’t think much of science in general, they are closely affiliated to another appendage of themselves in the Cornwall Alliance, a right wing coalition of scholars, evangelicals and economists, many who are Christian Alliance members, and formed in 2000 with the introduction of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. Their motto is Dominion, Stewardship and Conservation; they “aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.” Their main threats are science and anything to do with monitoring the environment.  They indeed have a very evangelical biblical view of the planet, but then as do so many other faiths and organizations. It’s why they all despise each other so much, would like very much to rid each other off the planet and to be just left alone, to be the only one left when human endeavor drives off the edge of the cliff. While extremists at both ends of the spectrum seem to have no qualms on creating an Armageddon themselves if they have to, just to prove their points.

Within the Cornwall Declaration are statements that were surreal to read, seemingly out of this world, time and place. I kept looking around, thinking someone was playing a joke on me or perhaps I was even being punk’d. The statements within the declaration include that policies to combat climate change would and are, destroying jobs. Besides, they say the trillions of dollars it would take to combat our affect on the planet would bring “no net benefits.” They also assert that any impediment on economic development such as raising energy prices, would take away the ability of the worlds poor to rise out of poverty, thus “so condemn millions to premature death.” They believe one of the worst things to do would be to continue trying to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, because it will only increase the price of energy and harm the world’s economies. In fact they flat out deny that carbon dioxide is harmful to the planet because it is “essential to all plant growth.” Believing the energy from their God’s planet must be abundant and affordable until the day he soon arrives, they feel fossil and nuclear fuels as being the perfect sources for this. Policies to control global warming they deem, “fruitless and harmful”, because the earth is “self  regulating and self correcting” and besides the earth was made to be used, so that humanity may flourish and display God’s glory.

As far as alternative and renewable forms of energy, they believe that such things as wind and solar power will only be good enough for either “poor or rural peoples.” Going further into the declaration; they do not feel that humanity is only consumers and polluters but instead we are producers and stewards. One of their main goals is to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of both, the earth’s resources and corporations, and if there is to be any collective action it must be taken at the most local level possible. They also wish everyone would just recognize their proper place in their God’s created order.

I began this article asking a few questions about the madness that seems to be enveloping Canada. The denying of science’s role in environmental and social decisions; cutbacks to fading social programs such as unemployment, pensions, health and welfare; the attempt to become a militaristic badass in the world;  the ongoing destruction of our basic human rights; the death of our will to vote; and the insane and desperate need for the status quo to continue.

The outcome of the last federal election, where 39% of those who voted elected a majority Conservative government, brought forth once again, the Harper government. It would seem we Canadians have a democracy problem. According to the Harper government’s agenda and policies, especially at the quickened pace as of late one can only surmise what’s behind such asinine decisions. Well surmise no more.

Yes, kept behind Oz’s curtain, glimpsed at only briefly, with nearly no one knowing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for nearly twenty years. He has always been questioned of perhaps having a hidden agenda. He does and it could very well be his God’s agenda, heaven forbid.

Other notable members of CAMA include many TV pastors and healing evangelists such as F.F. Bosworth and Clement Humbard; Billy Graham’s first African-American evangelist, Preston Manning; founder and former leader of the Reform party of Canada, and the now deceased, American Evangelist Billy Graham, who became a member of CAMA in 1933 but who was actually a Democrat and not completely on the religious right, once saying that Jesus did not have a political party.

Another long standing CAMA member is former Canadian Conservative cabinet minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Chuck Strahl, who in June 2012 was proudly given the chairman’s position of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the lone watchdog which oversees Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), by his close friend Stephen Harper. The sounds you should be hearing are the goose bumps bubbling out of your skin.

Is the Prime Minister of Canada really basing his decisions on what Canadians need and want today and tomorrow or instead on what was written by many and then translated dozens of times, two thousand years ago? His positions on research, statistics, protestors, journalists, First Nation’s people, women, children, pipeline opponents and climate change cannot but make one wonder what is exactly going on here. Though with his buddy Strahl now in charge of Canada’s Secret Service we may never know. Heck I could even disappear or be tagged as a radical dissident after this article is posted.

I am not anti-religious, I do believe in spirituality; the spark of energy every living thing on the planet possesses and that we all share. Most organised religions have made a lot of money and gained much power over the millennia trying to control that spark. Usually by making that spark of energy negative and flawed as it were born and the only way to bring light back into it is by sacrifice, devotion and fear of either one god or many gods. On the flip side, whatever belief system a person has to keep them feeling centered, their lives rewarding, fulfilled and honest is right for them, for the Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of religion, but it also protects our rights of freedom from religion. This is one of the reasons Canada is such a diverse place, where no matter one’s personal religion or race, its live and let live.

But if a Republican evangelical belief system enters the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, we Canadians should know about it, and seriously consider “the virtues of democracy over theocracy.” Remember, everyone not within the republican evangelical tribe are the “lost people” or “the others”, especially if you happen to be disabled, elderly, poor or a veteran.

More frequently, the Harper government’s policies are going against most Canadian’s values, with the words irresponsible, unethical, blatant and arrogant being bandied about more than usual. Any programs for promotion of renewable energy and home-energy efficiency have been thrown to the wayside. Yet in reality, investing in renewable energy will create more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could and the investment would be highly likely to pay off, it has to, for survival’s sake. Unfortunately the Harper government is continuing to rely on our economics to grow their way out of the problem of climate change and  haven’t realized yet that it will be too little too late and will not work. The earth does not care about economics. Instead of dealing with the causes of climate change it seems the world’s leaders would rather “watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”

The English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was often referred to as the “prince of paradox” for his prolific and diverse published works. He was a true radical, meaning he sought the root or origin of an issue, any issue and eventually became a Catholic to boot. Over seventy years ago he would write, “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” He felt government was going to operate in a way where, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”, quite astute that Gilbert, I do say.

Meanwhile we Canadians have another three years with PM Stephen Harper as our country’s leader. The question of where does his ideas come from, whether from fellow Canadians or from God, needs to be asked. Is policy, especially towards the environment, really being motivated by religious faith over reason? But then whether religion is a factor in government policies or just plain old greed, they are both of the same cloth. It is being proven daily that the diffusion of aggressive social conservatism based on evangelical beliefs is impossible to keep out of politics here or in the States. The difference is in the States they are oblivious to how ignorant they are to their ignorance and in Canada we just don’t hear about it and simply don’t ask. As far as the media and Stephen Harper’s religious affiliation goes it’s been mum’s the word.

The vision of a conservative society, where the privileged few would rule but understand the responsibility that came with such power, of being accountable to all citizens, whether they be poor or not, and who would act only for the common good, was held by many great leaders over the past century. Since killing off some of these great leaders in the late 60’s, the new religion that has become termed “conservatism” has arose, widening even further the inequality of our society, ignorant to any responsibility to the people or the public good, and is ego maniacal, quasi-psychopathic and greedy.

What will our environment and society look like in three years? Will we have sold off most of our resources by then and continue to ignore extreme weather and a ravaged oil soaked land and sea, as our infrastructure crumbles around us, with too high food prices, more starvation and ill health?  Will most social programs once supplied by the government be gone and communities will be more on their own and somehow funding themselves instead? Will homosexuality once again become stigmatized, forbidden and eventually against the law like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and protest of any kind could very well be?  Will a new private prison corporation build more prisons to house people who were either caught or even suspected of smoking a joint? Perhaps more fines, impoundments, licence removal and in many cases, jobs lost, because there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with the limit point oh oh. How far shall I go here? Switch over and start reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all over again to verify how much truth and foresight both authors spoke? Especially Orwell’s notion of “doublethink”, which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, which could be the Harper government’s problem believing in greed and God at the same time.

The Conservative right, on both sides of the border, may have abandoned truth and fact but we must not. The facts are the obligations to the things that matter in our lives, such as our health, meaningful work, family and our environment. One of the reasons our cultures are fracturing apart and decaying is because of our use of disengagement and distraction as an excuse for our ignorance; it is eating away at our souls. We continue to buy what corporate governments sell and lose value in the simple truth. While empathy, which has been taught over the past few decades as being “soft” and which is nearly extinct in many places, is actually as powerful as intelligence and knowing the facts in being a force with which to act. But we have been disengaged for so long we’ve forgotten how to drive standard.

First gear definitely has to be asking if indeed our future is being planned by ourselves and those who represent us or being dictated upon corporate ideology and make believe. Switching gears should be easier after that especially when more and more people realize that they are not alone. There are so many good things being done to better the planet and our lives, by many people, companies and yes, even a few corporations, the world over. Unfortunately the richest corporation’s ravenous quickening pace is leaving a diseased, spoiled wasteland behind.

I’d love to ask Stephen Harper; What if we destroy the ecosystems and non-human species of the planet, change the climate, melt the polar ice caps, acidify the oceans and rivers, use up all the earth’s resources and Jesus Christ does not arrive? No sign at all, no phone call, nothing, what then?

Ending this article as if I had included a drawing I did of Muhammad, I ask what of humanity in the scenario above? Would the laws that would have been put in place by then, which is not so far off as many think, be similar to the laws that became the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, released in Germany in 1935, by the degenerate psychopathic Adolf Hitler? The first law of this doctrine is similar to many documents worldwide, though in this case “kindred blood” sort of curls one’s nose hairs. But say the word “Reich”, was replaced with the Harper Conservatives of Canada, if indeed influenced by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the word “German” perhaps replaced with Evangelical. This could be the new Charter of Rights they desperately seek. The Republicans in the States would fit the bill as well and we know what carrot they are blindly following.

“A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who through his behaviour, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.”

And so it began. More laws were to be added, starting with the simple banning of homosexuals, Jews and most all religions, foreigners, undesirables, the homeless and poor and elderly, writers, dissidents, thinkers, artists and many other “lost people”, whether man, woman or child. The banning would then become incarceration in work camps, with the final step being the Jewish issue, which was taken care of a few years later when Hitler attached another law, a Conservative Harper, omnibus type bill, which was called the “Final Solution” and after the smoke cleared, more than14 million people, 6 million of them Jews, had faced their Final Judgment and would die, because they were not members of his tribe.

Do we not bring up such past evils and horror; so that we can make sure they never happen again? This time though, the earth will soon be incapable of handling the human drama of our egos, the way we live, think and treat each other and it. We must not continue on being dismissive any longer or go “quietly into the night”. The Second Coming is nearing, but it’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with us and our actions as a species today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Further reading;

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/religions-fair-game-if-it-motivates-politics/article4450326/

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20060220_121848_121848

 

04/10/12

Greed and the Climate

Through the first couple of weeks of March 2012, the weather over the east coasts of Canada and the United States was not it’s usual self. But then the weather is out of whack all over the planet. From March 12th to the 20th, over seven thousand, daytime high temperatures and overnight low temperatures, records were set or tied in the United States alone. The first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest on record, on all continents. This past year had the highest level of tropical activity on record, while flooding is becoming the most frequent natural extreme event. The mainstream media reports such things of course but they become simple sound bites alongside other news stories such as “human interest stories”; saving puppies, an individual doing a good deed, some sort of grief or sadness that brings tears to your eyes and another instance of injustice and crime, which most often happens in the board room and in the offices of public officials than in the street.

As to the odd weather in March, the senior climatologist of Environment Canada, Dave Phillips stated the reason as being because Canada and the United States have just had their warmest winters on record, the air was not refrigerated or chilled and that it is “blowing back in the same temperature it left.” The weather is headlined as being “weird.” Mr Phillips goes on to explain that, “It’s like a greenhouse that’s not letting warm air leave.” Wow, that is weird, if one was bent over and had just pulled their head out of the sand. The preceding page of the above article covers other interesting stories such as the University of British Columbia being cleared of cruelty in the death of four monkeys used in the research of Parkinson’s disease and a tragic barn fire in which 18,000 chickens died horrible deaths.

Scientific consensus, talking to an elderly farmer, the feeling in the air or simply looking out your window confirms the fact that human activity is warming the planet and therefore creating climate change. But oh my, how perceptions change. In 2007 a Harris poll found that over 70% of Canadians and Americans believed fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. In 2009 it was down to 51%. By June 2011 it had dropped to 44%. Why? The fossil fuel industries and big business have been able to shift our thinking over a very short time and are winning, accelerating in their drive to gain as much as they can before it all runs out. As Bruce Springsteen sang in 1974’s Born to Run, “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.”

We are so fixated on becoming consumers that breathing clean air, eating good food and drinking clean water have become an irritable need, both time-wise and having to pay for them, while our personal world view’s scope, with the speed of new technology, is overwhelming us.

Our personal world views are actually quite small though. They are the people we come into contact with, either daily or weekly, including friends and coworkers; On average about 35-40 people, the size of a small tribe. Our world view is also the community we live in and what one must do during a day to have a roof to sleep under, accessibility to clean water and nutritious food to eat. And how much is needed to pay for these basics has brought forth the concept where we pay our bills by accumulating debt. Now that is weird. We feel our daily routines allow us to keep some sort of sanity, but then it is easier for people to deny reality than to watch their world view being disturbed. And that is why too many of us do not really concern ourselves with the new elephant in the room – climate change, because we have been programmed to be always, too gosh darn busy. It scares the hell out of people, not because current Western consumption habits are not sustainable but because to combat climate change, to adjust to its effects, to allow the earth to heal and to save ourselves and our children and all the other living creatures, changes would have to be made now.

Both the free market and capitalism would have to cease to exist, which is not going to happen, because billions of people around the world want the same things, which many in the West and elsewhere have had and become over the past fifty years; a flat screen TV, excess consumption of all things, a fancy car and the ability to become fat. On the other side of the coin, state socialism was just as destructive to the environment as capitalism is.

The ruling elite’s privileges and wealth that the current capitalistic system gives them is made from corporations that are often doing the most ecological damage. Corporations who are the conspirators of the growing number of ecological accidents, have been doing the best since the economic collapse of 2008 and more often than not are paid subsidies by their home nation. While their corporate media controls us.

Reality is that most of the money being made today globally, goes to the very few. Their record levels of surplus cash goes to financial institutions and corporations. Their private fortunes are not devoted to serving society as a whole, saving the planet or their children and do not produce anything other than more money. Greed and profit have taken precedence over the world’s social needs. And the elite will defend such a system with all they have, including destroying the world. For climate change will not wait for anybody.

Naomi Klein’s article “Capitalism vs Climate” lists quite accurately the steps that would have to be taken to act now and also how difficult it would be to respond to climate change. The list includes the concepts of ; immediately reducing our emissions on a mass scale. Subways, streetcars and light rail built everywhere and affordable to anyone, with energy efficient, affordable housing along all transit lines ; having an active long range plan for each community and rebuild community spheres ; rein in corporations by regulation and taxation. Maybe even nationalize some. Have elections publically funded, strip corporations of their status as “people” under the law, reform patent laws and recognize our debts ; bring back localized production because international free trade is simply killing us. It has brought about an ever increasing amount of bigger cargo ships, bigger jets, heavier trucks and lost jobs ; actually tax the filthy rich ; and finally end the cult of shopping and materialism. Which will be a hard nut to crack considering that in ever expanding places around the globe and more than any other activity we do in our daily lives, we think shopping defines us. What you wear and what you drive. Cars, clothes and trucks are purchased, believing them to upgrade one’s status and personality. We seek our identities in stores and online, trying to fulfill our dreams by whatever manufacturers decides those dreams to be. Our desires are being created by others instead of from within.

We have been forced to worry so much about the current financial crisis and its recovery we have forgotten about the recovery needed of the ecosystems of the earth. We have always been controlled through fear, whether it is the fear of communism, drugs or terrorists. Now though, control is being accomplished by simply distracting us, making us blinded consumers. Keeping us preoccupied with achieving sustained recovery of sales growth and as Noam Chomsky put so well over twenty years ago, ” financial manipulations and our consumption binge creates little in the way of productive investment, instead it creates much in the way of debt, whether government, corporate and household debt or the incalculable debt of social needs that go ignored. We continue to periodically select representatives of the business world to manage our domestic and international affairs. All these policies are not rules of nature and the processes and institutions that create them could be and must be changed, but changing cultural, social and institutional processes will not be allowed to happen.” Those who hold wealth and privilege will not allow it.

The problems due to climate change will be supremely difficult to stop within our current system of how we operate, beginning with the ludicrous fantasy that it would be possible to get the nearly two hundred countries in the world to agree on anything let alone reforming and rethinking the global energy system. Many have been affected by the current global economic crisis, unsure and in debt, yet we remain addicted to oil, coal and gas. Nuclear power safety and costs are still very uncertain with many countries, including Germany and Japan, shutting down reactors. Hydroelectric power is geography limited and as it is, the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra, Colorado and Amu Darya water basins will not keep up with demand from their ever growing populations. Energy efficiency is still taking a back seat to limited but more profitable cheap fossil fuels. Case in point; in 2010, subsidies to the oil and gas industry in Canada, owned by some of the world’s most profitable industries, totaled $1.4 billion. Worldwide the fossil fuel industry received handouts and subsidies to the tune of $409 billion, while only $66 billion went to clean renewable energy. What is really scary about all these figures I’ve been throwing about is that of the top ten wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires of 2012, only a couple have anything to do with mining or oil, the rest have made their billions on either technological, communications and/or our vanity.

The richest man in the world right now is Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications mogul whose net worth is $69 billion, which is more than the world pays towards clean renewable energy. The rest of the top ten are into computers, diversified investments, luxury goods, fashion and Aldi, the discount supermarket corporation. The combined worth of the top ten richest is more than $395 billion. There are one thousand two hundred twenty six billionaires in the world, whose average fortune is $3.7 billion. United States has the most billionaires with four hundred and twenty five; number two is Russia with 96, then China with 95. Of cities, Moscow led with 78 billionaires, because that’s what you get with a corrupt dictatorship, followed by New York at 58 and London at 39. And how is the battle going against climate change in those countries and how are the citizens doing, with all that money lying around?

In Canada, the only action being taken on protecting the environment is at the local and provincial level. This is where we must start to create positive change. “We must pressure and discuss with our local governments to do the necessary research and display the necessary political will to make responsible decisions on behalf of citizens for the common good.” We have got to stop worrying about elsewhere, though the media will continue to keep us distracted. We must begin to focus more on our own nests and backyards. Clean up our own mess, within ourselves and our communities than fretting about something that happened, which we cannot control, halfway around the world. We must become more radical, not the bastardized definition that the ruling elites and the media have invented, putting it into the pile of words such as terrorist and anarchist, but the original definition, where one does not seek hyper-individualism, dominance or hierarchy but instead interdependence, reciprocity and cooperation. Radical is trying to understand the root of something, favoring fundamental and basic change in a social or economic structure. In mathematics a radical has to do with the root or roots of a number or quantity. In chemistry a radical is a group of two or more atoms that acts as a single atom and goes through a reaction unchanged, or is replaced by a single atom; normally a radical is incapable of separate existence. Modern society has also defined radical as “thinking outside the box”.

Che Guevara believed that a radical is nothing less than someone who tries to see and understand the roots of things, who will aid in their fellow man’s security and happiness and who shows empathy to others. If you are none of these things you are not a radical, but simply a consumer. A radical today is someone who bicycles to work and his or her family uses transit, owns a rarely-used fuel-efficient car, buys locally-grown organic food, avoids chemical-filled, factory-farmed meat and “processed” food, recycles, and engages in ecological research and activism.

University of B.C. community planning professor Bill Rees explains “If we’re going to be sustainable, we can’t do it through economic growth.” Adds Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun, “The commitment to conservation is both moral and it actually could make us more content. Decades of studies suggest that once a person reaches a certain basic level of financial security, there is very little correlation between a person’s financial wealth and greater happiness.”

As a society we must start being aware of our surroundings and the people within it. To seek out the truth and face up to our problems would be a good first step, instead of just letting others make our decisions’ for us and not being accountable for our actions because it’s deemed always someone else’s fault. As to the technology behind what we call social media, we are embarrassing ourselves in our flirting, preening and purchasing. In fact much of technology is making people anti-social. We have become a needy and wanting lot.

Another challenge is the need to instill in the population the truth in that scientific evidence of climate change is not a myth or joke or a problem that will just go away. Those who are in high school and college right now are called, as a group, millennials, and though we are leaving them an exhausted, depleted and dying environment they are the ones that can begin to make a difference. Unfortunately polling is suggesting that only about 20% of millennials believe it is important to be concerned and involved in cleaning up the environment. This is either because bling-bling and self-entitlement is more important or because most at that age are so well informed today that the task seems overwhelming and that there is no hope for revival. Some probably do not even believe climate change is real, while others would love to act and take on a leadership role. But who would be their mentors and role models?

Being smart is not just someone who can play on a computer, converse through texting and having the latest I-phone, thus being a mere cocoon, even when out and in public. It is being aware and cognizant of how society is and where it is going. It is the need and obligation to care for the environment. It is seeking out the truth, picking through the filtered information and preoccupation of being a consumer, and finding our preferred vision of a good society. Then standing up and making it so.

There is no difference between squatting in a cave, watching your children gasp for air, malnourished and starving from thirst than sitting in front of an 80 inch flat screen TV in a three thousand square foot house, having no gas for the Beemer or Ram-tough truck and watching your children coughing, malnourished or obese and starving for clean, fresh water.

 

 

Weird weather heats East, cools West, Postmedia News, Times Colonist newspaper, Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Douglas Todd, Is the future really so bleak? Vancouver Sun newspaper, Saturday, February 17,2007
Alisa Gordaneer, Shop till you drop, Monday Magazine, June 9-15, 2005.
Misty Harris, Environment takes back seat for today’s youth, Postmedia News, Times Colonist newspaper, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.
Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York, 1988.
Noam Chomsky, How the World Works, Collection of Essays – 1986-2011, Soft Skull Press, USA, 2011
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/03/24-2
http://www.thenation.com/article/164497/capitalism-vs-climate?page=0,0
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/02/29-4

 

 

10/6/11

Grand Deluges (2010)

Having spent considerable time staring out a wheelhouse window, where the only thing before you is sky and water, with no land or creature in sight, I could very well imagine what it would be like if the earth were to be engulfed in water. Once being a skipper of large vessels, I often wondered how I could have fit every creature on the planet on board, and of course what would happen when the fuel and food ran out, or in Noah’s case, when the wind died down. The smell and noise would be unbearable.

Considering the fact that 70% of the earth’s surface is water, it is of no wonder that most all creation myths contain a story of a great flood that, in most cases, erases all life from the planet. Though millennia ago, the earth was not yet known as a planet and nearly everyone had rarely ventured much farther than ten or so miles in any direction from where they lived. This is true even today. So if that area were to flood, to them, their whole world indeed was flooded. For even if a particular flood was on a global scale, there would be no way for the earliest peoples to know this. Indeed only a few hundred years ago we still believed the world to be flat, with the earth at its centre. Though any flood, at any point in time, most often devastated the known world of the people who lived there. Even today, a rise of only half a metre in the sea level would be devastating to many areas on the planet.

Reality is that the earth is a couple of a billion years old. Hominoids have been around for a million years, while anatomically modern humans, who evolved from an Archaic Homo Sapiens, have been around for only 200,000 years. Suffice to say, there has been flooding of the earth since, like forever. In truth, floods have only really affected humans to a large extent, since we stopped our endless wandering, hunting and gathering way of life. When our wandering began to intrude on other wanderer’s, when we had hunted, many to extinction, most of the larger animals residing with us on the planet and when our populations rose enough to never have enough food for everyone, the climate began to change as the last ice age slowly ended. It had changed enough by 12,000 years ago that we eventually figured out how to grow our own food.

Some might look at the number, twelve thousand years, and think, wow that’s a lot of years. While in reality it is but a blink of an eye compared to the lifespan of the planet earth. One needs perspective to appreciate the time it really represents. Imagine if you will a true tome of a book, one thousand pages long and titled, The Story of the Earth. Near the end of the book, as you begin to read page 998 you’ll read about how the continental drift of the African land mass bumped into the European land mass and began to form the Alps. At the top of page 1000 you’d read about the first Hominids to appear. The last line on this final page would be about the Neanderthal, with the last eight letters representing the beginnings of the first great civilizations that we know of, Sumer and Egypt. The final two letters would describe the Roman Empire and the period at the end of the last page, of this 1000 page book would barely represent the last 100 years. This would conclude that, as far as flooding goes, it’s been happening for much longer than how it has affected us as a species and in truth is far more natural to the planet than we think we are.

Before 12,000 years ago much of humanity lived along the shorelines, as we still do today, though at that time the shorelines were on the edges of the earth’s continental shelves. In some areas of the earth, these shelves lay dozens, even hundreds of miles off of our present day shorelines. So it only makes sense that as the ice age ended and the water rose, humanity would be affected by flooding. Only after 12,000 years ago would floods and other natural events of the earth begin to have a more profound effect on us as humans as we began to evolve from being simple nomadic bands into sedentary farmers. We were basically large family groups who wandered about hunting game, scavenging and gathering wild foods such as fruit, berries, seeds, grubs and roots, into stay at home farmers who began to grow our own food.. And of course the most fertile ground was nearest the water. In truth we had always lived near water, as do most all flora and fauna, because all life needs water to survive. Whether in river valleys or alongside their banks, within their deltas or along lake and sea shores, most all living things are dependent on their proximity to water. The earliest humans, who existed only by hunting and gathering, would move their encampments every few weeks, and would set up each new camp near a water source, but were able to move on more quickly after any flooding, for any materials they had they could carry and in most cases were very aware of what nature was doing around them, and were probably more proactive with nature than we are today. With the development of agriculture, flood and famine would begin to affect the human race more severely and on a larger scale; though the truth of the matter is flooding has always affected all that has lived upon the earth. The Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, and Native Americans all thought that the earth had been covered in water many times, and of course their regions were affected by flooding. Many of these stories of catastrophes and upheavals were not all just simply great flood stories brought about by an angry divine being. There were and are many reasons why they happened.

Many of the ancient flood stories share similarities such as the sky turning red, earth tremors, and torrents of muddy rain, thunder and lightning. This seems to suggest that most of these floods were caused by the upheaval of the earth. Nearly each and every story also tells that after such days of darkness and chaos, some humans survived and continued on, persevering against all odds, which must have been uplifting to the people, who would later hear these tales. The ancient peoples led sometimes hard and punishing lives, and to hear stories of people surviving the most terrible things that nature could bring upon them, no doubt brought hope to their daily lives.

Natural flooding provides water resources to areas in arid or semi arid regions. It recharges ground water tables and makes soil more fertile by providing needed nutrients. Freshwater flooding is very important because it maintains eco-systems along rivers for flood plain diversity. The nutrients are so very important to everything that lives in the water, especially when it comes to spawning. Indeed periodic flooding was essential to the growth and well being of ancient communities along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Nile, Indus, and Yellow Rivers, among others.

The earth has been changing and evolving for millions of years, with each geological era lasting millions of years, each ending nearly every time from the effects of an impact from a large celestial object on the earth. These impacts could even have been the source of putting water on the planet in the first place, when it was still believed to be still just a big rock covered in lava, billions of years ago. Meteorites and asteroids slamming into the planet, over millions of years could have brought billions of tons of water vapour and carbon dioxide with them. This vaporization in the atmosphere from the impacts could have covered the earth with seas. The theory is the condensation in the atmosphere accumulated over about 20,000 years or so, and delivered enough water to cover the planet at least one inch deep. Then over millions of years a greenhouse effect would have made the earth warm and wet enough in which life could grow.

Since that time, truly great flooding has been caused by either the process of expansion, which is the movement of the earth’s crusts, the impact of celestial objects, the melting of glaciers, or deluges of monsoon proportions. Flooding would become the natural actions of water runoff from substantial rainfall and/or rapid snow melt and caused by monsoons, hurricanes, tropical depressions, thunderstorms, cyclones, or earthquake generated tsunamis. All these also cause sea tidal and storm surges. Most great floods today, and for the last many millennia, have occurred locally or regionally, not globally. There are two reasons for this, earth has not been hit by a very large celestial body for many millennia and though most of the planet is covered with water, there is simply not enough volume to completely cover the earth. But when something very large slams into the earth everything changes.

About 60 million years ago a giant comet, asteroid or meteor, slammed into the earth where the Gulf of Mexico is today. Estimated to have been about 10 kilometres wide, it hit the earth with the force of at least one thousand times the power of all nuclear devices on the planet today. The initial crater was more than 300 kilometres across. The cloud plume of the impact would have pushed through the atmosphere. Its fireball radius would have expanded outwards for thousands of kilometres with three hundred mile an hour wind sweeping around the globe. It would have completely dried out much of the flora, including most trees. Two thousand degree rock vapour would disperse into the atmosphere, and then fall as white-hot grains, starting fires worldwide. It filled the atmosphere with dust so thick that for years the sunlight was completely cut off. Temperatures dropped to near freezing, worldwide. In a fairly short time 50 per cent of all plant and animal life, including the dinosaurs, became extinct. Mass extinctions like this happen on the earth about every 26 million years, and of all the creatures to have ever lived upon the earth, 99 per cent of them, are extinct.

When an object of size arrives from space and slams into the earth, it is travelling at about one hundred and sixty thousand kilometres per hour. It is one of the fastest things in the universe. When comets are shooting around in space, their tails alone can stretch a hundred million kilometres behind them. Large impacts are cataclysmic to the climate and to the earth itself. Even passing by too closely would prove fatal to earth. Millions of years ago the earth was hit with asteroids, several hundred kilometres across. Some so large that the meteorite’s tail-end did not feel the impact, or be near the atmosphere until the front was buried 20 kilometres deep into the earth.

As recently as thirty-five thousand years ago, a meteorite about 50 metres in diameter and travelling about 11 kilometres per second crashed into present day Arizona, its crater, the Barrington Crater, is 200 metres deep and 1.2 kilometres wide. The earth is covered with many impact footprints. Comet and asteroid impacts are actually happening all the time, fortunately the majority of the earth is water and desert, and most explode at high altitudes when they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Fireballs are recorded fairly regularly all over the globe. The 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia was an airburst of an asteroid about five miles above the earth, levelling an area of uninhabitable forest of more than two thousand square kilometres. On average, a large meteorite, weighing upwards of 50,000 tonnes or about the size of a cruise ship hits the earth once every 100,000 years.

Besides asteroid hits, the earth is constantly in turmoil, undergoing dramatic change from within its depths and from the movements of its crust. There is nothing that happens in nature that is by chance. Some of the changes are slow to happen, while others happen very abruptly, often without warning. Even today more than six-hundred active volcanoes spew sulphurous smoke and fire into the earth’s atmosphere, with more than a million earthquakes recorded annually. Japan alone registers up to one-thousand tremors a day. Ninety per cent of the three thousand earthquakes of various intensities recorded every day worldwide occur around the Pacific Rim, with most others in a band running from Spain, through the northern Mediterranean to the Himalayas and Indonesia. Imagine all this natural activity happening over millions of years. And then, very recently, frail and minuscule, Homo sapiens appear.

At the peak of the last Ice Age the sea level in most areas was about 120 metres lower than it is today. This suggests that there could be evidence of earlier peoples we have not found yet, as the remains possibly lie under water. Consider the continental shelves, mentioned earlier, which at one time were the shoreline. It would have been easier to travel along its shorelines than inland and over valleys, swamps, deserts and mountains.

The greatest sheet of ice at the peak of the last ice age was an unbroken land mass that ran from deep in Siberia, across the Bering Shelf and 640 to 800 kilometres into North America. Many scientists call this ice sheet, Beringia. Covering much of North America were two huge ice sheets, the Laurentide and the Cordilleran. About 18,000 years ago the ice slowly began to melt. At the peak of the last ice ages, many of the glaciers that had crept southward from the Arctic, and to a lesser extent northwards from the Antarctic, were upwards of three kilometres in height. Their weight alone is hard to comprehend. Roughly 12,000 years ago the melting accelerated, and the glaciers began slowly retreating, leaving behind a gouged out and compressed landscape, covered by tundra. When Beringia eventually separated the earth into two huge land masses, Eurasia-Africa and the Americas, it also separated two groups of humans, who would each further develop, for the most part, unaware of each other’s existence. In North America, the retreating glaciers were leaving behind massive lakes. One of these has since been named Lake Bonneville, and was centred on the present day states of Utah, Idaho and Nevada, in the United States. One of the lake’s remnants is the Great Salt Lake. It was at least 350 metres deep and covered more than 51,000 square kilometres. It was formed about 32,000 years ago and 14,500 years ago it broke out and through a natural mountain pass called the Red Rock Pass. Breaching Red Rock Pass, the flood crest was perhaps 120 metres high and travelled about 110 kilometres per hour. The flood scoured out the present day, 180 metre deep, Snake River Canyon, with the waters eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean, via the Columbia River; causing sea levels to rise about 9 inches, in many parts of the world.

Around 12,000 years ago the earth seemed to have gone through another series of great upheaval. Many different events all over the world were happening. The earth seemed to be in a fight for its life. According to D.S.Allan and J.B.Delair in their book, “When the Earth nearly Died – Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe of 9500BC”, they suggested that some cosmic body, whether a giant meteor or a fragment of an exploding nova, was thrown through our solar system. Though not actually hitting the earth, it was close enough that as it sped by, it left a trail of wreckage in its wake. They surmised that it tilted Uranus on its side, tore away a moon that went spinning off into space to become the planet Pluto, and created a field of asteroids. As it passed earth, it increased the tilt of the earth’s axis, causing the earth’s crust to shift.

Egyptian writings based on oral histories, tell of a great shaking of the earth around this time, and that a flood had nearly destroyed the earth. Some have suggested this is related to the Egyptian word that calls this time, Zep Tepi (the Beginning). Another nearly identical tremor and flood story could perhaps be associated with the Haida Gwaii, off the west coast of Canada, who say that their forefathers had once lived in a global community, but then there had been chaos in the world, the earth shook and the earth was flooded. The myth tells how the Haida survivors escaped in large canoes and made their way to safety, landing on a mountain top that had risen out of the water.

In “The Cradle of Man” by Arthur Posnansky, it is asserted that this is the time the Andes rose up as well, where the area of Tiahuanaco in the Andes was destroyed and rose more than a kilometre above sea level and is present day Lake Titicaca. At the same time in North America, at least 25 animal species, including the mastodon and sabre tooth tigers were wiped out in a few short years, though this could also be attributed to early man and his evolving hunting prowess and technology. As well as the fact that in the earliest times large animals were not afraid of humans, as we were simply a smaller and weaker species and could get up close. Other theories suggest North America was hit by an asteroid that had broken up as it passed through the atmosphere and slammed into the continent like a shotgun blast; the fragments spreading out like pellets.

At the same time the ice sheets of the last ice age began to melt and the sea level began to rise. The introduction of farming around 8000 BC began to change many aspects of a human’s life. Not everyone had to go out every day to forage and hunt. Populations began to rise. Life expectancy rose. Agriculture was becoming more and more relied upon to feed everyone, just as more and more people had less to do. By about 6500 BC, farming had nearly become global. Even today we still survive on the same four basic foods that these early farmers grew and survived on, potatoes, rice, wheat and corn. Though today, the largest crop in the world, by far, is sugar cane.

Nearly all of the earliest civilizations had a constant struggle against nature and the flooding of its arable lands. Myths and stories began to develop through oral history. Many of these great flood stories could have been inspired by ancient observations of seashell and fish fossils found inland and upon mountain tops. This hypothesis by Adrienne Mayor, in her work, “The First Fossil Hunters” makes sense when one considers that before the last ice-age much of the land that was above sea level, at its height, had at one time been beneath the water.

As elsewhere, Europe was also experiencing continual change. Many millions of years ago a severe earthquake dropped the surface of the Mediterranean more than 1500 metres below its present level, then over the millennia and through the process of expansion Africa was and still is, slowly moving northwards. About seven million years ago Africa bumped up against the European land mass, trapping the Mediterranean Sea by closing off the Strait of Gibraltar. Because not enough rivers ran into it at the time, the basin dried up to form a group of three to four lakes, each separate from the other, much like the great lakes of North America. The Nile and Rhone rivers have deep gorges in solid rock under them, suggesting these rivers once poured great torrents of steeply, dropping water into the Mediterranean basin. Then about five and a half million years ago the Atlantic started to break though again at the Strait of Gibraltar. Caused by continental drift, it was perhaps the greatest waterfall in history, and maybe fifty times higher than Niagara Falls in North America. But had maybe more than one thousand times the greater volume of water pouring through to fill the Mediterranean basin, though it would take about a thousand years. The Mediterranean basin is as much as 4800 metres deep in places, however by 18,000 BC the sea level had risen to a height that was still at least 120 metres lower than it is today.

Much of Europe at this time was still very near to the retreating glaciers and would have been a harsh environment; while most of Africa was a semi desert. Comparatively the Mediterranean would have been a temperate, if not warm, climate for much of the year, and it was fairly well populated with early peoples, especially the area known as the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture would soon begin.

A thousand or so year go by, and in about 7545 BC, another great flood happens, caused by the impact of not just one comet or asteroid, but according to the theory put forth by geologist Alexander Tollmann and his wife Edith, by at least seven hits. They surmise that one great celestial object broke up into seven chunks as it passed through the earth’s atmosphere. It is recorded in many myths and oral histories that around this time seven Stars fell to the earth. “The Book of Enoch” speaks of seven burning mountains hitting the earth. In other accounts the earth was attacked by seven burning suns. The Tollmanns’ suggest the impact sites included the south-western tip of South America, west of Panama in the Pacific Ocean, the mid-Atlantic, the North Sea, the Indian Ocean area, Southeast Asia, and south of Australia. These impacts would have been truly devastating and would have caused huge tidal waves around the globe, with much flooding. The sky would have been darkened for years by the dust and there would have been extreme climate change, including drought. The land bridge that had once existed and nearly connected Asia and Australia is thought to have been submerged by the rising waters caused by these strikes.

Another thousand years go by and then perhaps one of the greatest floods of all time occurs. This flood caused a series of events that would greatly impact the human populations of the Mediterranean, Eurasia, North America, the Middle East and various other places around the globe. All of these people would include some of the aspects of these events in their creation myths and religious beliefs, which were soon to be created.

The cause of this particular flood was a great prehistoric lake of ice located in northeast North America, now named Lake Agassiz. At its greatest extent, 13,000 years ago, it covered Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Western Ontario in Canada and Northern Minnesota and Eastern Dakota in the United States, perhaps covering as much as 1.5 million square kilometres with a volume equal to at least fifteen Lake Superiors. It was formed from glacial melt-water. As the ice sheets which lay atop Lake Agassiz melted the water drained north into the Arctic Ocean, adding much to the rising sea levels worldwide. By about 9900 BC Lake Agassiz had refilled, but then in 8400 BC it drained completely. The deluge initially broke through at Hudson’s Bay in Canada, and eventually also surged down the Mississippi River valley to the Gulf of Mexico, into the Atlantic by way of the St. Lawrence and Hudson River valleys, and north into the North Atlantic.

Since the peak of the last Ice Age, the sea had risen in surges, and after nearly 10,000 years the sea level was now a couple hundred metres higher than what it was at its peak. But so great was the Lake Agassiz flood that the sea levels in many areas rose possibly 6-10 metres, with the global sea level rising at least 2-3 metres in the first couple of months alone, and then eventually raising the sea levels to their present levels.

The Yaghan people, who have inhabited the islands of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of South America, for at least eight thousand years, have an interesting creation story. “Lexuwakipa, who was very moody, felt offended by the people. In revenge she let it snow so much that an enormous mass of ice came to cover the entire Earth. When it eventually began to melt, there was so much water that the Earth became completely flooded.”

Lake Agassiz’ final outburst occurred beneath the massive glacier called the Laurentide ice Sheet, which was under so much pressure from the gushing lake water that is was lifted by the outflow and moved northwards across Hudson’s Bay. It poured forth millions of tons of freezing water into the seas. Soon other parts of the great Canadian ice sheet followed, and in a couple of years the glacial Lake Ojibway, centred over the present day Great Lakes area, overflowed into the Atlantic and added perhaps over a metre of water to the rising sea levels.

The effects of this great flood would be felt for hundreds of years. Indeed the retreating glaciers and subsequent floods of these humongous volumes of fresh water had cleared a path for the first peoples to enter North America’s prairie regions. The lakes of freezing water took at least a year to drain with many theories suggesting that this caused, what is now known as the 8.2 Kiloyear event. The freezing waters caused a sudden decrease in global temperatures causing worldwide cooling which affected the planet for at least 400 years. The flood’s waters entered the Mediterranean Sea with such force that the island of Malta, which sits east of the narrow Sicilian Channel, sustained incredible damage. Temples and stone block walls collapsed, with some of the larger temple stones thrown distances up to eight metres. Most of the destruction was primarily on the western side of the island, the direction from which this deluge arrived from.

When the flooding mass of water reached the eastern end of the Mediterranean the surge raced through the narrow channel of the Dardanelles and confronted the natural dam at Bosporus, in present day Turkey. It is now about 5800 BC and the Black Sea was an inland lake with its sea level at least 100 metres lower than what it is today and was fairly well populated. For at least two years the sea level of the Mediterranean rose and eventually caused the waters to breach at the Bosporus gap. At first, it no doubt started as a trickle and within a year the flow was twice as strong. Finally the barrier began to crumble causing the water level of the inland lake to rise about half a metre a day. The torrent’s current poured in at about 100 kilometres per hour. The waterfall itself was at least 110 metres in height. The peoples that lived there would have had to move northward at the rate of a mile per day just to keep ahead of the flood. Eventually the entire area was transformed into a giant sea, but oddly enough, it would become a sea where the water would not circulate, and would be called the Black Sea.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, the rising waters flooded the Nile Valley with the seawater reaching as far as Aswan, 900 kilometres inland. There is proof this flooding of the Nile reached nearly four metres above today’s highest flood line.

By 4800 BC groups of people were on the move. Many made their way to Mesopotamia plain, and with the people that had already been there, settled along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and formed communities. Some of these people could have been survivors of the great Black Sea flood, bringing with them their myths, beliefs and oral history.

The Mesopotamia plain was an environment of levees and marshland, with much of the travelling having to be done using canoes. The arable land they found was rich and fertile. Farming a couple square kilometres of good soil brought them the ability to support a farming village of more than one hundred people, with the people mostly living in fragile reed huts. Lacking metal and stone, their tools and utensils were made from fired clay. Their society was egalitarian, with little distinction between class and rank. The plain they lived on was extremely flat, only rising a few metres over hundreds of kilometres. At the time one of their first cities to be built, Ur, was located about 160 kilometres inland from the sea. Today its location lies 240 kilometres inland, and even at this distance the plain is only about four to five metres above sea level. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flowed within levees and banks that were higher than the surrounding land. Though these rivers would flood annually, their deluge was usually withstood by the channels, small canals, and crude reservoirs that even the very first settlers had learned to construct.

These people advanced and grew to become one of the first civilizations of man, the beginning of the Sumerian dynasty. By 4000 BC they had already devised ways to keep track of inventory, using tokens and beads and soon were well on their way to inventing written script. Born from administrative needs, the more organized they became, the greater the need for record keeping. The first written records were mostly bookkeepers’ records, including transactions or listings of commodities and would eventually evolve to include stories and poems. Over the generations, one of the first legendary stories of the Sumerian, and then Akkadian age, would become known as the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” which was derived from songs that minstrels had sung for hundreds of years. First written down in about 2000 BC, it was a story based on the trials and tribulations of the great and adventurous Gilgamesh Ruler of Sumer, King of Uruk (2500-2450 BC). One of his adventures was the story of a great flood. It tells that sometime after man, plants, and animals had been created; kingships are established in five special cities all along the shores of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Because of the disobedience of the people that lived in these five cities, the gods decided to bring a flood and destroy mankind. Some of the gods didn’t necessarily agree with the extreme severity of this decree. One of them, Enki (Ea), told the mortal human Ziusudra (Utnapishtim), who was known for his humility and reverence, that he should build a large boat to ride out the coming flood; “To save himself, his family, the seed of all living creatures, the game of the fields and all the craftsmen.” And a flood then swept the land, “raining for seven days and seven nights.” After surviving the flood, Ziusudra kneeled before, An and Enlil, two of the leading gods. They were so pleased with his god-fearing humility that they gave him the “Life of God” and “Breath Eternal,” and carried him off to the paradise-like island, Mount Dilmun, “the place where the sun rises.”

Similarity the flood as described in the Bible, was about a man called Noah, a man of virtue, a good man. While praying one day a voice carried on the wind spoke to him and told of a coming deluge. The voice said it would rain for forty days and forty nights and that he should build a boat. Specifications were even given as to its size; three hundred cubits long (138 metres) and 50 cubits wide (23 metres). It took Noah and his sons eighteen months to build the large reed, bitumen covered ship. All the animals were to be saved and somehow taken on board, all 1.8 million species of them, in pairs. If they were unclean animals, such as crawling creatures, eagles, owls, tortoise, swine, snails, and ravens then it was a pair and seven of every clean animal such as cattle, goats and sheep. According to the book of Genesis, before the flood a human’s lifespan was about 900 years. By the time of Abraham, this would drop down to 175 years. The flood wiped out the human race but after the waters had receded, Noah, his wife, and three sons were able to begin repopulating the earth.

The Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah bear many similarities, and what no doubt ties them together, is Abraham, who will be discussed later in the text. In each story after the deluge, birds were sent out to find land and there appeared a symbol of divine remorse to signal the end of the flood. According to the book of Genesis, it took 150 days for the flood to subside. It is generally believed that the flood of Gilgamesh could also have been a memory of the earlier Black Sea flood, the story which had been passed down orally over the generations. Though for the most part, it was describing the flood that devastated the Mesopotamia plain around 3100 BC, with the story of Noah, based on the earlier flood of Gilgamesh. For around 3100 BC, the earth once again goes through catastrophic turmoil.

Though there is still some debate over the actual cause, about 3119 BC, the world would become engulfed in chaos. Immanuel Velikovsky, in his book, “Worlds in Collision,” theorizes that at that time a giant planet, he named Jupiter as the culprit, underwent an explosion that hurled large pieces of itself into space. One planet-sized chunk was thrown down a long orbit toward the sun. This new, blazing red-hot planet would become Venus and as it passed the earth he surmises that it would have caused devastating damage.

Minoans, Chinese and Mayan all record some sort of celestial change at that time, in fact the Mayans start date of the present Mayan earth cycle is 3114 BC. They then declared that the planet Venus was “born,” but it could also have meant that some passing meteor caused Venus to start revolving in the opposite direction. A Mayan earth cycle is some 5,200 years and the present cycle is due to end in 2012 AD. The Mayans also record 3114 BC as the start of the “sun cycle,” which they calculate to happen every 18,139 years.

What we do know, is that many scholars and scientists of today agree that in about 3119 BC, the earth did indeed go through much upheaval, starting with a massive eruption in the Aleutian Islands, which would prove to have worldwide effects. Millions of tons of ash and sulphuric acid were thrown up into the atmosphere. For years people worldwide endured extreme change in temperatures, which affected the crops and brought famine and events that were worse than death itself. The world would become a continuously deep grey, cloudy existence on the verge of becoming total darkness.

In Mesopotamia, the build-up of snow and ice in the Zagros and Taurus mountains did not melt that spring and summer, so the next year’s spring flood waters did not arrive. The land began to dry up and crack. Famine became more severe with each passing failed harvest. According to the Sumerian epic, Atrahasis, “When the second year arrived, the people had depleted the store houses. When the third year arrived, the people’s looks were changed by starvation. When the sixth year arrived, they served up their daughters for a meal then served up a son for food.” Tales of these hard and trying times are recorded by many people all over the globe.

After six years the sun started to penetrate the dark, grey clouds, which were saturated with sulphuric acid crystals, and soon the air in the highlands began to warm and the ice and snow that had built up upon them began to melt. By the seventh year, the rivers and the seas were rising and the sudden heating up of the atmosphere triggered great electrical storms, while great winds would ravage the land. The rising water levels, caused by the melting ice from the mountains and the torrents of acid rain from the skies, soon poured over the flat Mesopotamia plain. Globally, the world became a very violent place to be, if one was a human. Nature acted in a nearly uncontrollable frenzy of destruction. If there were gods, they had gone mad, and had completely lost it.

The flooding of all the habitable land on the Tigris and Euphrates delta, surrounded by mountains and desert, covered more than 128,000 square kilometres. To these early Sumerians it would truly seem to be that the whole world had flooded.

For the survivors of the flood, life was to be very tough and unforgiving. They had lived through seven years of incredible depravation, starvation and death, but these early Sumerians had seemed to have found a new resolve for stronger and more resilient communities. They became galvanized to somehow, someway, better protect themselves from nature, which to them, were represented by gods. In places all over the globe early peoples began to form civilizations and build temples and pyramids. The original cities of Sumer were rebuilt on a much grander scale, with much of their traditions now being recorded as before-flood and after-flood. Their great temples (ziggurats) were rebuilt on enormous mud-brick platforms. Civilization slowly began to reassert itself. And the myths and stories that arose from the previous years of utter chaos began to develop and become oral history that was passed on through the generations until writing came into being hundreds of years later and they were finally recorded.

The Sumerians especially, were convinced that they were alive for one reason only, and that was to serve the gods by paying regular tribute, through praise, worship and sacrifices. The Sumerians believed they had originally been made from clay by the gods, to serve only them, and believed that humans were helpless in the force of their divine wrath. And like most of the people the world over, it was believed that a human’s life was to be beset with uncertainty and insecurity. The people were not troubled at all, unlike modern man, with the question of “free will.” They were peoples convinced that they were created to be slaves and servants of their many gods. They were a meek and timid people, accepting all divine decisions of their priests and shamans, unjustified or not.

One of the tribes within this ever expanding population included the descendants of Noah, and in about 1900 BC with the Sumer dynasty experiencing its final days, an Amorite of the Sumer city of Ur and descendant of Shem, son of Noah, Abram (Abraham), took up the calling of the tribal god El (god of the moon) and began shepherding his people toward their promised home in Palestine. Migrating across the Syrian plain, he brought with him the knowledge of his peoples’ history, including the popular epic story, of Gilgamesh. And a thousand years later this tale of a great flood would be recorded by Israelite scribes as the story of Abraham’s ancestor Noah.

One of the final, ancient, great floods to occur happened at about the same time that a Hebrew named Moses led his people out of Egypt. When considering what the world was about to go through, it was probably a decision made on the basis of survival and not the word of any God.

The year is now about 1400 BC and in its wake there would rise stories such as the Greek epic, the Story of Deucalion. About a man who is told to build a boat and then survives a deluge that destroys the known world. This could also be when and where the story of Atlantis arose. What is interesting about this catastrophe, other than the same global problems of extreme climate change afterward with the sunlight blocked by clouds of ash, cooler temperatures and crop failures, was that at the exact time, major civilizations began to go into decline, such as the Egyptian, Sumerian/Akkadian and the Harappa kingdom of the Indus valley. One civilization, the Minoans, disappeared completely.

One area that continued to undergo change was the region of eastern Turkey and western Greece. It is an area of full scale collision between the African and Arabian land masses driving north upon their plates of the earth’s crust and colliding with Eurasia. Proof of these collisions is the Alps in Europe, but also a swath that runs from Spain eastward to the Himalayan Mountains. In the past two thousand years alone, this area has experienced more than 600 earthquakes greater than 7.5 magnitude.

Seventy miles north of the island of Crete, in the Aegean Sea was an island named Santorini (Thera). It was a part of an area called the Kikladhes (Cyclades), which today is a chain of islands that includes Milos, Paros, and Naxos. The island of Crete was the center of the brilliant Minoan civilization, with a population of about one million people. They developed a sophisticated form of writing, enjoyed sports such as boxing and wrestling, used an early concept of the flushing toilet, channelled winds to air-condition their homes, as well as produced superb vases, ornaments, and art. Minoan ambassadors and merchant fleets roamed the oceans of the ancient world. Then they vanished, the entire Minoan race and culture just seemed to disappear. The reason was an island called Santorini.

At the center of Santorini rose a 1500 metre mountain, which in about 1400 BC, literally exploded. The volcanic eruption had to have been, pure unimaginable violence. Its force was perhaps 90 times that of the Mt. St. Helens eruption in the United States, thirty-five hundred years later. The aerial energy released by Santorini was equivalent to the simultaneous explosion of several hundred hydrogen bombs. As it began to collapse upon itself, seawater began to enter its vent, causing another explosion of magma and gases. The amount of steam that blew off then exploded as well, making the blast, what’s called ultra-explosive, simply hell itself.

In comparison, the Krakatoa eruption in the East Indies in 1883, blew a column of dust over 450 metres across, well over 50 kilometres into the air. It hurled huge parts of itself 80 kilometres away. Its dust cloud circled the globe. When the eruption had spent its force, the empty shell of the volcano collapsed into a 200 metre crater in the sea. This caused tidal waves that destroyed nearly 300 towns and drowned 36,000 people. A ship was hurled three kilometres inland. The roar of the blast shook houses 760 kilometres away and could be heard some 3200 kilometres away. Krakatoa deposited nearly half a metre of ash over thousands of square kilometres worldwide.

What remained after the Santorini blast was buried beneath over 30 metres of burning ash and because the wind was blowing from the north, most of it spread over a 128,000 square kilometre area to the south and west. This caused Greece, just to the north, to escape a lot of the volcanic fallout but was almost wiped clean by the blast and the waves that soon followed. Even today, southern Greece is mostly bare rock.

After it had emptied itself, the central portion of Santorini dropped into a deep gaping hole 360 metres below sea level. The sides of the now hollowed out mountain continued to collapse into this hole creating tidal waves and surges which lasted for weeks or even months. The initial tidal wave is estimated to have been at least half of a kilometre high at the vortex, roaring away at about 320 kilometres per hour. It very quickly smashed into Crete with successive walls of water more than 30 metres in high. Less than three hours later it engulfed the Egyptian delta, 720 kilometres away, and still had enough force to drown cities in Syria, 1000 kilometres away. Egyptian documents from the time of Moses’ “Exodus” described “The land is perished, and the sun veiled and shines not. Darkness covers the land for three days.” It tells of tidal waves surging up the Nile for weeks afterwards and in one instance, “the army is drowned beneath the waters.”

There have been and always will be disasters related to the natural changes in the earth and the universe. As far as earthquakes go, they are so devastating because we have always lived near fault lines. Indeed, today ten of the largest cities on the planet are situated near or on a fault-line, because this is where the cracks of the earth are and where the resources important to us; such as minerals, metals and water are brought up from the earth’s core. We have always needed to live near a water source. In the ancient world they did not think of them as natural so much as the wrath of the god, who brought forth disasters upon the people who thought they had done something wrong or inflammatory to the gods. By 3000 BC, cultures around the planet, simultaneously and independent of each other, became fixated on being able to forecast and keep time. The purpose was to mark seasonal changes for the growing and harvesting of crops, and more importantly to keep track of rituals and to keep their gods happy. To do this, temples, pyramids and ziggurats sprouted up everywhere on the planet. They became instruments by which to study the skies and were used as places of worship for the people and a place to communicate with the gods to hopefully cease the assault of such disasters upon the world.

In summary, considering that the modern era we currently dwell in is only a few hundred years old, and that millions of years of changes have happened to the earth and are still to happen, the belief we have of our newly discovered technologies and progress has made us think we are much more in control of our world, than say the Sumerians, or even Neanderthal man. Natural disasters today are thought of as inconveniences that nature has untimely brought upon us. “How dare that hurricane destroy my car and house” or “Damn it! I had things to do today.” Today we have replaced the temples and pyramids with malls and sports arenas.

Drought, famine, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods still happen every single day. But unlike the situation a millennium ago, we humans are in greater numbers and are using up the earth’s resources much, much faster. At the height of the Roman Empire in 200 AD, the world’s population was estimated to be about 200 million people. The addition of the next 200 million took over fifteen generations, while the last 200 million were added to the planet in the past three years. The world presently has a population of well over six billion people, with more than 75 million added every year. One million children are being born every four days. The rate of growth is staggering. Consider that the 54 million lives lost during World War II were replaced by the natural occurring process of the surplus of births over deaths in only ten short months. The latest estimates (2009) put the world’s future population at about nine and a half billion by the year 2050, with most of this increase happening in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The scary thing is that most of this growing population will be concentrated in the countries that will be the least able to feed themselves, and will represent almost 45 per cent of the global population growth by 2050. Consider that currently two-thirds of the most malnourished people on earth live in seven countries. Over the next few generations there is going to be about one billion people born in these seven countries. The acceleration of the rising world population is currently putting incredible strain on our planet; let alone what would happen in a couple of decades from now. China alone is adding a city the size of Chicago, Illinois to its region every three months. This rise in population will be the world’s next greatest deluge, a flood of humanity.

No matter our advancement in technology or our attempt to ignore the natural occurrences of the planet through regular delusional routine, if we open our eyes and actually look around, we will see how vulnerable we humans are to the forces of our environment; much like the people of ancient times.

What is most concerning about floods is that the flooding is usually salt water which is of no relief to crops and makes rivers, streams, and lakes of fresh water undrinkable to humans, animals, in addition to the crops. Floods have always proven to be very good at not only damaging crops and soil, which affects the ability of the planet’s inhabitants to feed themselves, but also very adept at killing humans and animals with equal abandonment. What usually goes hand in hand with flooding is its opposite, drought, which is just as devastating because once again, it affects the planet’s food supply and available fresh water.

Estimates by numerous international institutes state that by 2010 around 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone, nearly a third of their population, will suffer from malnutrition because of intensifying drought. The United Nations Environment Program reports that 450 million people in twenty-nine countries currently suffer from water shortages, and by 2025 an estimated 2.8 billion people will be living in areas that will have increasingly scarce water supplies. Even today, 20 per cent of the world’s population lacks access to safe drinking water. The Peruvian Andes have lost at least 22 per cent of their glacier area in the last 30 years alone, with two-thirds of Peru’s 27 million people living on the coast, where only 2 per cent of the country’s water supply is found.

Along with drought and the growing lack of fresh water, floods still happen, but now because of the increasing population, the majority of which live along rivers, lakes and coastlines, each one can be more lethal and have farther reaching effects.

In the last five hundred years, floods in China alone have killed more than four million people. The 1931 flood of the Huang He (Yellow), Yangtzee, and Huai Rivers killed more than three million alone and it is estimated that 200,000 drowned in their sleep. The Yangtzee river valley had just over half a metre of rain fall in less than a month. At Hankou, the river rose 16 metres above normal, flooding more than 87,000 square kilometres. In northern China, in 1969 -71 famines caused by flooding, killed about 20 million people. More recently, in 1998 the Yangtzee flooded and left 14 million homeless.

Paris, France in 1910 saw three months of heavy rain and snowfall causing the river Seine to rise more than eight metres above normal. An estimated four billion cubic metres of water contaminated with sediments and municipal sewage flooded nearly 25 square kilometres. There were 150,000 casualties, and more than 20,000 buildings affected.

The 21st century has brought some of the worst floods in recorded history. The cost to humanity in deaths from natural disasters in 2010 alone is more than 260,000 souls and will probably be much greater when Haiti’s final death toll is included. In fact 2010 has been the deadliest year since 1976, with more than twice as many people dead from natural disasters than from global terrorism in the same time frame.

The 2007 African floods have been quoted by the U.N. as being one of the worst floods in recorded history. On Sept.14th, 2007, it began to rain and eventually flooded more than 14 countries; through the middle of Africa from Senegal on the west coast, through Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. More than 2.5 million people were affected. They were hit again with similar flooding in 2009, which caused more than $152 million in damages.

The worst natural disaster to occur in Europe in nearly 200 years began with heavy rainfall in May 2010. Two months of rain came down in one 24 hr. period. In what would be called the Central European Floods, most crops, especially wheat, would be destroyed. Hardest hit was Poland, but Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, and the Ukraine were also affected. At the same time the Cumberland River in the United States, would gorge on torrential rains and crest at a height of nearly 16 metres in Nashville, Tennessee.. The end of 2010 saw three-quarters of the state of Queensland, Australia, engulfed with surges from a cyclone. The flooded disaster zone covered more than 70 towns, with more than 200,000 people affected and $30 billion in damages.

Besides loss of life, natural disasters now come with huge price tags. The 1987-89 drought in the United States, covered 36 per cent of the country, which was less than 70 per cent of the area affected in the 1934-40 Dust Bowl, but at an estimated cost of $39 billion makes it one of the most expensive natural disasters in American history. In comparison the damage associated with 2005’s hurricane Katrina has, as of 2008, cost $81 billion and continues to rise. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake killed more than 250,000 people in eleven countries. The tsunami’s waves were as high as 30 metres. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. With a magnitude of 9.2, it was the largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. It lasted about nine minutes and caused the entire planet to vibrate, which triggered earthquakes all over the world. Humanitarian aid to date has been more than $7 billion. The energy released by this earthquake, on the planet’s surface alone, is estimated at 26.3 megatons of TNT, more than fifteen hundred times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, by the Americans in 1945. Humanitarian aid to date has been more than $7 billion.

Since our first ancient civilizations developed, we as a species have advanced considerably. As the gods of our man-made organized religions instructed us so long ago; go forth and multiply and subdue the earth and all upon it. Well we have. Our current unrestrained exponential growth began five hundred years ago in Europe, which at the time had a population of perhaps sixty million people. At the time, European society was heading down the toilet, the stench of despair and misery were everywhere. Both in substance and spirit, the people were lost. They had no belief in anything other than to survive another day and hopefully stave off ever present disease and hunger. They had no values to rely on, nor governments to lead the way. Everyday life was simply survival, filled with violence, starvation and plague. Many felt the world was truly dying and that the end was near. But then a fellow who strongly believed the inevitable end decided to head out into the ocean and seek salvation or wealth, whichever came to him first. This is where our Modern Age began and our current deluge started, over five hundred years ago.

In his lecture, The Columbian Legacy and the Ecosterian Response, Kirkpatrick Sale details four essential components by which the Europeans spread across the globe and dominated not only other peoples but other species as well. Such exploitation would bring us to our present day crisis where once again people are lost, in spirit and substance, with the world seemingly headed for the abyss. The difference today is that far too many people aren’t willing to recognize this reality because they have drunk the cool-aid, living within an illusion.

The four characteristics Sale outlines which would get the current age started are, firstly, the rise of humanism; “The declaration and celebration of the human species as the most important species of all.” This brought forth the God-given right to have dominion over other species, the elements and the resources of the earth. Secondly, the rise of rationalism, which through reductionism, would spawn science and would become our way of asserting control over nature. The third component is materialism. Things of the world would become corporate and everything had a measure of value, which led to accumulation and possession, with the only consideration being to not let anything interfere with the always and immediate goal of profit with the exchange of goods. This would become our new belief-system. The final component is nationalism, where various “royal families” would create institutions which would become nation-states, which would eventually lead to the central institutions in our daily lives. Deposing churches, associations for mutual aid, the promotion of common interests, city-states and community and the individual would become acceptable. To sustain these nation-states, standing armies became the norm and the philosophy of militarism. The crest of this wave grew with each passing century and is now upon us. What we must realize today is that these characteristics of the modern world are not natural, inevitable or eternal conditions; they are constructs, inventions of a particular time, place and people.

These characteristics of our societies and our present day technologies have indeed changed much of our lives and the planet, but the changes we have made in our environment and to our planet are not necessarily in our best interest. The industry of living on this planet, using up its resources for an ever growing population, is warming the atmosphere globally. This causes climate change. Some places will become wetter, other places drought stricken. Some areas will become much colder in the winter and then much warmer than usual in the summer. It is becoming all about extremes. Temperature changes in the Polar Regions, north and south, are resulting in continuing glacier and ice-sheet melting, sea ice retreat, coastal erosion, rising sea levels and extinction of species of birds, animals, and marine life. Deforestation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification, soil erosion and other aspects, all related to our present climate crisis, will only intensify. With the warming by only a couple of degrees, the Greenland Ice sheet would be in danger of disappearing thereby raising the sea level perhaps as much as four to five metres. As of the summer of 2007, the Polar Ice sheet shrank to its lowest extent in recorded history. Further melting of the earth’s ice sheets would submerge the lowest lying countries and all it will take, is for the earth’s temperature to rise by only a few degrees for flooding to change the world as we know it.

If the present sea-level rises one metre, or even say the length of your arm, the cities of Miami, Venice, and New York, among hundreds of others, will have to be hidden and protected by dikes to survive. In New York, if it was not for subway crews and 753 electric pumps, within a half an hour the subway system would fill up with water and reach a level where subway trains would be unable to travel. Within 36 hours everything beneath New York’s streets would be filled with water, and overflowing into the streets themselves. The eastern shoreline of the United States sea level has risen one foot in the last one hundred years. Adding another foot of water, the high-water line in Florida will move inland over 300 metres, in Louisiana it will be several kilometres. Let alone sea levels rising, present levels of coastal erosion projected over the next couple of decades on the same shoreline, will take out all homes located up to 150 metres inland. Low Countries everywhere will be devastated with places like Bangladesh completely under water. Consider the $21 billion English Channel tunnel, the Chunnel. The Coquelles, France terminal, on the Calais Plain, is only about five metres above sea level.

In the past, most all natural disasters were happening naturally, something we of course had no control over, and even to this day we never really plan and prepare for them at all. The difference now however is that rather than say an asteroid hitting the planet, or a great flood happening, or the earth’s plates violently shifting, or thinking it to be the wrath of a god, today, many of the natural disasters, we the people, cause. We are the ones polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans, and filling our atmosphere and ourselves with toxins. Over 70% of commercial fish stocks are depleted, over-fished, and exploited beyond maximum yield sustain-ability. Today one in every three fish eaten by humans is farm raised. Soon the oceans will be left with the smallest fish and plankton and with the continuing acidification and oxygen depletion of many parts of our oceans; these too will disappear. By then the remaining sustainable areas of the oceans will probably be overpopulated with jellyfish, which are immortal. Consider the tiny sea creature, the Turritopsis Nutricula. It is a jellyfish-like hydrozoan, about five millimetres in length. While most all jellyfish die after they produce their young, this hydrozoan switches back to its juvenile form once it reproduces through a process called transdifferentiation.

We continue to clear-cut our forests, erasing entire species of animals off the planet. Knowing how silly and ignorant we have become could fill volumes, but then that would take up a lot of trees. Yet nearly three billion, or half the world’s population, still use wood as their primary source of energy. And 85% of the energy the world’s commercial industry uses is from fossil fuels. In fact, the root of most socioeconomic problems in many developing countries is land degradation. Included in our thirst for wood, over 1.8 million board metres of temperate and tropical hardwoods of mahogany, walnut, and teak are cut down every year just to make coffins, which are then buried back underground. How crazy is that?

I find our biggest challenge is to just admit that as a society we have been fooled and deceived since the 1970’s into believing global warming and climate change was a debate, where in actual fact the earth is in crisis. We seem to have an inability to face up to the fact that the environmental crisis of this planet is human induced. Any policy to do something about it gets postponed, ignored or defeated. Humanity’s efforts so far remain inadequate. The earth has always gone through cycles of global warming and cooling, the difference now is that it is not just a natural cycle the earth is going through but a cycle we have brought on ourselves. And we’ve got to stop denying the fact. If we continue to deny the effects of global warming, we will reach a point where it will be too late to reverse it. We will have gone from denial right into the arms of despair. If we continue on this path we are walking, we will run out of fresh water to drink and will be unable to grow enough food to feed everyone, and then when that happens, it will become a very, very scary world. As it is, more than nine million people starve to death each year.

But looking back over the ages, there is one thing we must remember and that is, after each natural catastrophe humans have dusted themselves off and adapted. We are now at the point where, because of the sheer number of people on the planet, we must not settle for any short term responses or remedies. Instead we must get past our ignorance and provide massive intervention on an international and long term scale. Climate change is a planetary issue. We cannot continue to think of only the drought problems in our own backyards or in our own countries. Drought is a global problem. We are all interconnected and until we start believing we are not and never have been masters of the natural world, we are surely doomed as a species.

An indicative article, The Deepening Crisis, written by Jeffery D. Sachs seems to explain quite well our dysfunction toward the earth’s growing climate crisis. The risks cited in the article, about sustaining our cultures globally, have developed rather quickly over the past two generations. The problems are scientifically complex and involve many uncertainties, which both public opinion and certain sciences must address. The problems are global and unfortunately politics is local and nationalistic. This does not bode well for timely, coordinated, international action. Many governments are in power for four years or less and more often than not, decisions and reforms are based on the next election, while instead much of the earth’s problems are unfolding over decades. While corporate interests control the media, they have the dissemination of propaganda and deliberate misinformation, down to an art form.

We must stop forcing our own agenda upon nature. Many of us must also stop thinking that the end of time will be taken care of by a god. Believing in the “rapture,” is a cop-out and as the bumper sticker correctly implies, is simply not an acceptable exit strategy. Many millions of people are actually looking forward to the end-times and put no effort whatsoever into fending off such catastrophic events; although we humans, will be the cause. Many fundamentalist Christians and extremist Muslims are quite happy in fact, that things are getting worse rather than better. These believers are not concerned with the planet at all, instead only their own individual salvation. They believe a time will come where all the unrighteous and nonbelievers will die horrible deaths. But they also believe the dead will be resurrected, though they continue to disagree about who is righteous or not and to what sort of planet they will be returning to.

Buddhism and Hinduism on the other hand believe that everything will start over from scratch. But science does not offer such principles, beliefs, or criteria. We must begin to control our appetites and our rising population, and to gain the courage and the wisdom to make, sometimes agonizing and disturbing decisions. As draconian as it may be, limiting every human female on the planet to bearing only one child, no matter the sex, would be a huge step in the right direction. As it is, the poorest countries in the world have the highest birth rates. If the status quo continues to dictate that we stay on this course of unsustainably and with our reluctance to change course, the end-game may very well be where it’s simply not allowed to have children, at least not allowed to have children because of egotistical and careless thinking, that copies of ourselves will make the world a better place.

We must become partners with the natural world once again, to show it the respect it deserves and to show each other more respect, and become an ecologically sustainable culture. We need to get reconnected to the earth’s ecosystem and prepare for natural events, before they occur, instead of being shocked when they do. We have got to put our heads together and develop a way of life that meets our present needs without threatening the environmental legacy of future generations. We already have the technology, but it is being used in other materialistic endeavours, such as war. We must not overlook or forget one of our greatest assets which are opportunism and the ability to adapt.

Perhaps our optimistic nature is what causes us to be inflexible and persistent in our unwillingness to accept that the worst may actually occur. A human’s survival instincts have always included optimism, but also denial, defiance, and ignorance to such portents. We are afraid of the changes that could occur and of the fright that would be inevitable. But if we allow these traits of ours to fool us into waiting until it is too late, then we have lost. Instead, the fear of such portents should fortify our resolve, and propel us into action. Even if one does not believe the earth is in trouble that should not take away the fact that we must change the way we use the earth’s dwindling resources. Even the Catholic Church recognizes that the present ecological destruction of the planet is a moral problem. The current Pope has stated that, “there is and always has been a covenant between human beings and the environment.”

But before we can be optimistic we must be realistic. Environmental crises have been driven mainly from the consumptive habits of the richest 15% of humanity with economic growth driving up our energy use. Our societies have created too many elitists, who all demand the best of everything, to excess. We must learn to control our ravenous appetites, which for many will be very difficult, for most of us are ego-driven, which can never be satisfied. But no one wants or is willing to slow down the world’s economies. Capitalism moves ever forward, so very flawed, in that it is based on infinite growth operating in a finite system. We must seek an economic alternative. Because the issue is not to make sure everyone on the planet has equal opportunity in owning a house, a car, a big-screen TV, but it’s whether they will be able to feed themselves, breath the air, and have enough fresh water to live on, no matter their material wealth. Much like the often quoted adage, insanity is doing the same thing we have always done, while hoping for a different result. The reality is our environment is the economy, and we must start living within our ecological means, instead of arguing over the spoils of its industrial wealth. For what is behind the threats of habitat destruction, loss of wetlands, unnatural flooding, urban sprawl and pollution is capitalism and the fact that 40% of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution and with the rising growth in world population, rapidly increasing human diseases. We are killing ourselves and the planet for economic prosperity. But we are not moving fast enough in making changes to our environmentally destructive mind-sets because of the constructs that shape our daily lives, such as religion, politics, the economy, current and past ideologies, marketing and the media, and our consumption patterns. We think technology and science will save us from ourselves and our exploitive nature, our unchecked population growth and deem everything on the planet as a resource. Though there are many scientists working on ways to use technology for the betterment of the planet, no one technology can do it. They must combine their discoveries and work together. The challenge is that all the technologies that could slow or cease carbon emissions, everything from geo-thermal technology to solar panels are still extremely expensive. Once we put enough effort into making them cheaper, only then will we begin to make a difference. Many technologies, such as wind power are very effective but unfortunately no one wants it in their backyard.

Sadly though, human society oversees the planetary controls. The sheer size of the human population, our perceived affluence, our consumptive habits and our technology, which we only use to meet our perceived needs are driving global disintegration and destructive changes. We have come to dominate the planet without taking the responsibility of managing it, including the balancing act of maintaining populations of all species and ecosystems on one side, and maintaining the flow of goods and services that provides for humanity on the other. Unfortunately, far too many of us cannot even manage ourselves. Even if all growth in population and economic activity were to cease right now, this very moment, just continuing on exactly how we do today would still bring about serious molestation and destruction of the earth’s habitat and its resources. The price of our economic success extends beyond environmental deterioration. For it includes widespread loss of livelihoods, social tensions and conflict and staggering economic costs. To save our planet we have to realistically and morally change the way we think. It’s not so much, are we responding properly to environmental threats, which we aren’t, what we should be worried about and should be asking ourselves is why are we not responding.

James Gustave Speth, who wrote the book in “Red Sky at Morning,” believes that we used to have some slack with Mother Nature, but that is now gone and we are currently playing out the end game with our traditional, historical relationship with the natural world. Any aware person, opening their eyes and really taking a good look around would surely have to agree. For most of us the real and only concern of our daily lives is our next meal and pay check; not worrying about the destruction of the planet or that half of the people living in the developing world, who get by on $2 a day. It is estimated that 57% of the global population is malnourished. As to the environment, many don’t care because they believe it probably will not be at the 11th hour until after they are dead and gone. Others, especially the very wealthy, think they will be able to buy their way out and that their wealth will insulate them from the earth changing. How unrealistic is that?

We can’t just run and hide anymore, cloaked within routine, ignorant to the environment. We seem to be playing the delayed reaction game. We think about preparedness and only take action after a catastrophe has happened. And when enough time passes we ignore it until the next natural disaster happens, where we are once again shocked and unprepared for the disruption in our daily routine. As our world continues to change so must we, but what is most important, this time we are going to have to be much quicker, and decisive about it. We simply cannot wait any longer or it will be too late. We must all start working together for the good of the earth, and we who live upon her. Simply start to treat our environment with more respect, and just as importantly, for each other, because we are all in this together.

As humans we tend to be overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and feel alone when faced with such large scale problems. Thinking we cannot make a difference or that we have to change immediately and completely. This “all or nothing” mentality creates pressure and is the best way to fail at changing. This type of attitude also takes away the impetus to change. It would be better to break issues down to a more local level and stop trying to jump four stairs at a time. Just take one step at a time. Some people will have a sense that they must do something as unwillingness to act is simply not acceptable to their strong moral code. This is where discomfort in an individual comes from and we scramble to bury it. This is the stage where one’s character takes over; to have the courage to seriously look at their discomfort and ask why. This is where the beginning of hope dwells. To be brave when being asked to make changes is really asking, what it is do we believe about ourselves. Change doesn’t have to be a great act. It is being the change you seek.

Our best tools are information, human adaptability and strong leadership. Though what we use instead is disinformation, denial, and allowing a lack of leadership. Over the last decade there has been a groundswell of support and agreement among people trying to create change. Many on the planet are trying to make a difference, for our consciousness is evolving. Nationalism effects the need to change as well because one country can strive to be responsible for the welfare of the environment, while another can continue to soil the nest they live in. Reality is, we all live on the same planet.

So what can one do about it? The answer; there’s lots we can do, but the importance lies in the fact we must do something now. Stephen Hume of the Vancouver Province newspaper and Rex Weyler, one of the founders of Greenpeace, both argue for getting the right information; to get out there and do your homework, research national science academies and organizations. Get educated on how society and nature work. Be engaged citizens and not simply consumers. Most importantly, don’t be intimidated by the consequences of having a conscience. Practise self-reflection, for our greatest failures are most often ego driven. Possess the “quiet courage of decent people doing the right things.”

Among the many who are concerned, the consensus is that we must all start thinking globally but acting locally. One can’t force another country to act, but one could lead by example. Hume, as well as many others, has the most excellent idea to shift certain redundant taxes to provide incentives for good behaviour, while discouraging bad behaviour. This should be implemented on many levels of our societies. Many on the planet, the most fortunate anyway, are supposedly living in democracies. Well then, speak out. Let all levels of government know empty rhetoric will not be tolerated, regardless of their “party.” Many people have completely tuned out politics, simply not interested. Some people, especially the young, believe there is nothing they can do individually by voting, that it would not make a difference in the result, with most people merely concerned with just trying to make a living. It’s sad that in totalitarian states people will risk their lives for the right to vote while in democratic states the majority of people don’t even bother to vote.

We must rebuild community ethics and attack urban sprawl. There should be incentives for people who develop under-used urban space. Underdeveloped property should have high tax rates, while high density developments, lower tax rates. Public transit must be convenient, efficient and inexpensive, because it can, but refuses to be.

Make it so anyone who removes a tree has to replace it with six, and then plant them everywhere. Harvest forests in 300 year cycles. Rethink work schedules, because most businesses today are working hours based on 19th century factory models. If one has to attend a work-site on a regular basis, make public transit a benefit. Continue to invest in wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, and hydrogen power, in fuel cells, carbon sequestration, electric and magnetic rail technologies, electric car grids, desalinization technologies and most important, more efficient air, land, and sea transportation.

Begin to hold one’s own self accountable. Drive less, walk more, ride a bike or take the bus. If you eat meat nearly every day, cut it back to a couple of days a week. Don’t flush every time you take a leak. Grow a garden. Mandate recycling and then recycle everything. Shop second hand. Turn off the television. Above all else, believe in your abilities to change.

We are facing an expanding population deluge, which will affect everyone equally no matter where you live. The most important way to control such a flood is we’ve got to start controlling our behaviour. We continue to try to control human behaviour with laws, fines and treaties. Punishment is always after the deed is done. We abuse the planet or each other and after the damage is done we pay money or we are jailed. What if instead we start to focus on changing the physical conditions most responsible for wrong behaviour in our communities, such as poverty, malnutrition and homelessness? To be concerned that far too many of our children lack direction or interests because they have very few good role models to emulate. They are bombarded with violence in the media and in sports, dealing with stresses in their daily lives and dwindling family life. Society has become impatient and arrogant. We define success in money and not character, thus women have it harder because instead of character they continue to be judged by their sexuality. There is unfortunately no positive vision for many communities to work toward. This is our fault, each and every one of us. But we can create change.

As far as unnatural flooding and as to what we can do about it, reality is we can’t do much about it. But we can prepare for the inevitability of it happening and apply common sense in where and how we live. Climate change has altered the way the planet earth operates; it has and will continue to affect its natural cycles and rhythms. And what must be stressed is that the pace of the earth’s deterioration is quickening. We are hugely affected by unnatural flooding and drought. Besides loss of property and lives, it jeopardizes our food supply, which of course affects everyone. The two largest wheat producers in the world, Canada and Russia, lost much of their 2010 crops because of unnatural flooding. We also should not worry so much about a global, grand deluge happening, for any river in any country, alone can kill millions all by simply overflowing its banks. What is needed most is a deluge of consciousness, to rid ourselves of and dispel the grand deluge of illusion that our materialistic and capitalistic societies have thrust upon us. History has proven that when humanity acts, it extinguishes the feeling of hopelessness and that daily actions by individuals can make large-scale changes possible.

In spite of the changing climate, doom or die world economics, rising seas levels and quickening of the size of the earth’s population, there is now more than enough food and material goods on earth to take care of everyone’s needs. But resources need to be managed properly and not strictly controlled to gain wealth as they have become today. There is enough for everyone to have a decent standard of living, as long as we use technology intelligently so that it’s not harmful to people or the planet and which doesn’t waste time and energy. We must start managing our resources, just like we have to start managing ourselves. The corporate and economic models we are operating have seriously misjudged the importance of the earth’s environment and the impacts of industrialization. It is now time to change. We are seeing the effects now. The real worry should be for children and their children and their children, who will be faced with what we have left of the planet after we are gone. This is the most important aspect; indeed, it is what drives environmentalism and the only reason we should care about saving the planet. For heaven or hell is a condition not a place. We are racing for the edge of the abyss and we’re all fighting over who should steer, or at least who gets to sit up front. Not realizing that if we do drive off into the abyss, we might be taking nearly every other species of plant and animal, and most of the earth’s ecosystems along with us. Today there are about 1.8 million species of living creatures known to science, including us. Nearly 40% of these organisms are currently endangered and soon to be extinct. The bottom line is that it is time to get our priorities straight and, in the language we can all relate to, we have got to seriously get our shit together people.

“Making a stand for a principle sharpens our own ideas and induces others to sharpen their ideas. When one person stands up, others are inspired to stand up.” Rex Weyler.

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Confucius

Photo : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cafrine/4956791360/