Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving labor

I think one way to look at our experience of climate change, is that it is a thriller. Will we survive? Very few people who are carefully tracking what we've done to our planet are still talking about sustainability. We speak of resilience. What we mean is that we have surrendered the idea that we can sustainably keep things we know. Now we just want to see what might survive the anthropocene with resilience.

It is early Sunday morning and I am thinking about different kinds of work on a weekend when most of us take some time off. As I complete my dissertation writing and move forward with Fish Story, I can't help wondering how things will play out for my own life and everyone else. What I mean by play out, is how will we manage our resources in a changing world? Will we succeed in saving fish from all the ways we are transforming their waters? What about other familiar ingredients of our lives, like cranberries grown in wetlands for Thanksgiving?

I have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) since 1990, a mysterious immune system disorder which makes those of us who have it, very, very tired. Much more tired than most people can ever imagine. It seems to predispose us to cancer and among other symptoms, causes sleep disturbances, which is one reason I've been awake today since 3: AM thinking about work and sustainable systems. Lately, about that too, I find myself wondering how much resilience I can sustain. CFS has been an instructive illness because it means I have a built in template for how to live sustainably and accept the limits of my resilience. When I go past my limits, I collapse and whole swathes of my life fall apart. Applying the template is about what may happen to the earth as we go past our limits. For example, what may happen to the wetlands where we grow cranberries, if they become inundated with sea water from sea level rise with global warming? Speaking for myself and my built in template, my personal question is what part of the aspects of life I value, such as having all the right ingredients (cranberries, honey, etc) for making my cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving will be resilient?

Simmering down Porto for cranberry sauce
Last Thursday, I went to my sister, Ilana's house in Armonk, to make cranberry sauce for a family dinner at my nephew's house in Thornwood. My recipe takes about two hours and starts with Ruby's Dow Porto, which gets cooked down (never boiled) from two bottles with the juice of about nine oranges and their zest, light honey, maple and brown rice syrups and spices to a thick enuf consistency to make the texture, fragrance and taste divine. This is old-fashioned cooking. Will the ingredients, such as light honey made by honeybees still be here through out my lifetime?

I put my colleague and friend, Juliette Yuan, the New Media curator to work helping and she cheerfully grated the zest off the nine oranges before squeezing the juice out for the sauce.

New Media curator Juliette Yuan grating zest with my brother-in-law as audience on Thanksgiving Day.
On the way home, I encountered a musician in the subway who had gathered a crowd and was exhorting them to get moving in response to his labor. Will we still have subways under Manhattan?

Times Square musician

I got home before midnight and woke the next day to complete most of the second chapter of my dissertation. My dissertation was inspired by the acupuncture treatments I take for CFS. I thought, if we can leverage small catalyst systems in the human body, can we do the same for the planet? I push myself now to complete writing up my research, because I want to think that some insight I may share will help the fish, the cranberries, myself find a measure of resilience.

Yesterday, I began writing my third chapter, about how Geographic Information Systems (GIS) science may take a point of landscape nucleation and extrapolate a useful analysis. I studied GIS at Lehman College for two years but I am not very good at it. GIS makes beautiful maps of complex relationships between systems, seductive blend of science and art. Perhaps, because it requires a high level of resilient physical stamina to sit at the computer and concentrate that is not very sustainable for me with CFS, I find it a very difficult media. So now I need to decide how far I will go to present my premises with this tool. Answering that question is a search for the right balance between personal resilience and understanding and communicating planetary resilience. In my last "Gulf to Gulf," webcast with Dr. Jim White, we spoke about sustaining the tension of that balance for climate change scientists: what are the personal limits for those who have been the messengers of global warming as they encounter a culture determined to silence truth?

I wrote on FB:
I have recovered most of the dissertation chapter I lost Tuesday night, reduced my word count from 18 009 to 10 695 and am almost done with my conclusion for this chapter, which begins with, "Scientists agree that problems of novel ecosystems, loss of water quality and quantity and trophic cascades are among the consequences of habitat degradation, encroachment and fragmentation, all caused by human agency serving anthropocentric attitudes. This chapter considered nucleation practices as part of a focus on how and when environmental restoration practice can shift a point of view, to conserve bioregional clean water and the role of animals in that process." And a good night to you all.
  • And then yesterday, in reply to a link from Ann Rosenthal, I added that: 
  • One of my points, about nucleation, is about how critical animals are to the health of the entire ecosystem that protects water. Each species distributes seeds, etc in specific patterns. Ie, bats & birds have very diff patterns. I have to focus on marine (littoral zones) in my research but there's a ton of fascinating data about forests, most of which I had to cut down to stay in the word limit. Of course, it all works a bit differently in the ocean, where tiny organisms, like detritovores carry out functions large carnivores fulfill on land, with tidal patterns functioning as wind does. Some of my third chapter is about mapping those relationships.

Today, in the NYTimes, there was an article about how much of New York City may end up underwater, possibly within our lifetimes.

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