“On episode #42 of the Green Root Podcast, host and ex-farmhand, Josh Schlossberg, gets his hands dirty with writer, podcaster, and organic farmer, Kollibri terre Sonnenblume, to unearth the roots of the agricultural revolution, the ecological and societal impacts of industrial ag, and how humanity might find a balance between growing food and preserving nature.”
On Friday, January 15th, two activists drove eight hours from Eugene, Oregon, to a remote corner of public land in Nevada, where they pitched a tent in below-freezing temperatures and unfurled a banner declaring: “Protect Thacker Pass.” You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the place—it’s seriously in the boonies—but these activists, Will Falk and Max Wilbert, hope to make it into a household name.
2020, with its pandemic and its protests, was many things to many people: a hardship for those who lost homes, livelihoods and people they loved to COVID and insufficient government support; an inspiration for activists who have been working for years to call attention to police brutality; and an imposition to those who resent anything that makes them take other people into account (like demands for racial justice or requests to follow public health protocol).
What 2020 should have been for everyone was a wake-up call that the system is not as solid as it might have seemed, and further, that that isn’t all bad.
Something remarkable is happening in the US in 2020 in terms of public awareness of race.
The George Floyd uprising, two months in duration so far, has brought formerly fringe ideas into the mainstream, shifting the entire frame of discourse to the left. The breakthroughs we are experiencing this summer might feel sudden, but they follow decades of activism, with all its labor, learning and dedication. People have been pushing for awhile. The murder of George Floyd was a “last straw” event.
One notable change is that the street actions in Minneapolis and other cities have been made up of diverse crowds that are led by people of color, with whites taking the backseat. This change in centering has been very welcome.
In the last couple weeks, a new element was added to the mix when Trump sent federal law enforcement officers to Portland, Oregon, to attack protesters. Nightly demonstrations in that city, which—though continuous since May—had dwindled to a hundred or so participants, then exploded into the thousands when these officers began nabbing people off the street and packing them into unmarked vehicles. This is the stuff the fascist regimes are made of, and people have been rightly alarmed.
It’s time to normalize the word, “collapse,” to describe the ongoing conditions in the US.
Some would counter it’s well past time—and I won’t argue with that—but I’d say we can no longer credibly claim that it’s too early to make this call.
“Decline” has been happening for decades at this point, as manifested in trends such as increasing class inequality, decreasing wages (as relative to inflation), higher infant mortality, lower life expectancy, a disintegrating social safety net, explosive growth of the prison-industrial complex, deteriorating educational system, etc. More and more people have been feeling the squeeze in their efforts to get by, even if establishment voices make claims to the contrary about “recovery.”
But “collapse” is more than “decline.” It’s when the system has lost enough integrity that it’s gone beyond the point of no return. With the multiple levels of disruption that have accompanied the COVID pandemic, we have passed that point.
On June 9th and 12th, I interviewed Lupine, a tree-sitter who is currently participating in a Redwood Forest Defense campaign to stop logging at a site in Humboldt County, California. We spoke on the phone, and though we were disconnected several times by a weak signal, we were able to have a great conversation. Tree-sitters have always been heroes to me, and I really appreciated the chance to connect with someone from the newest generation to be out there fighting the good fight.
What follows is a partial transcript, edited for clarity. You can listen to the entire interview here.
Kollibri: So where did I reach you? Are you up in the tree today?”
Kollibri: What’s the view like from up there?
Lupine: The tree I‘m in is kind of in the middle of the grove of trees that are still standing. So, it’s nice. There’s Redwoods on one side and a grove of Red Alders on the other side. The clearcut is a little bit down the hill. It’s like 50 or 60 feet away and I can see it. And I can see the ocean from here. If I climb to the top of the tree, I can see pretty far south. I think I’m seeing Arcata Bay.
Kollibri: Wow, that’s a beautiful view. I mean, except for the clearcut.
Lupine: Totally. Yeah, the clearcut is a trip. It means we have really good sunsets here because there’s a really open view, but it also amplifies the freeway noise, and it itself is really horrible to witness.
Kollibri: So you’ve had the tree-sit up since about April 1, I believe?
Lupine: Yeah, that’s right. It’s not a joke. It’s been 70 days today.
On June 2nd, I interviewed Amy Harwood of Lobos of the Southwest about her organization’s advocacy for the Mexican Gray Wolf, and particularly for its reintroduction into the wild. You can listen to the full interview here.
Amy: My name is Amy Harwood and I’m currently the coordinator for Lobos of the Southwest, which is a joint outreach and education initiative of several different environmental organizations and individuals who live in the southwest US. The idea is to be working collectively to elevate the advocacy of Mexican Gray Wolves in the effort to recover them, and also to elevate the idea that wolves belong here, because of the reality that they were removed so fully from this area. There’s an interest to make sure that, along with our legal tools and angles, and along with political pressure, [we’re] doing a lot of basic outreach and education about wolves in the area, so hopefully by the next generation, it’s more of an accepted thing that wolves exist in the southwest US.
I’ve worked in environmental organizing for a long time and have been spending time in Arizona for a number of years and took on this role almost two years ago now. I’ve been a longtime fan of wolves. Like a lot of advocates, I find myself constantly pulled back to the species because they are so remarkable. Also, politically, it’s a very compelling species to work on for a number of reasons. They have a pretty compelling parallel to a lot of other points in our social evolution as the United States and as the Southwest. You can really see how, when something happens around acceptance or rejection of wolves in the wild, it’s often pretty tied to a lot of other social things that are evolving or happening. So in terms of species and wildlife protection, wolves always bring a very important story…
The term “native plant” has become a common one, and many people probably assume that the definition is clear cut. However, like many other seemingly simple designations, that’s not the case.
Whether a given plant is considered “native” where it is found growing is dependent on the interpretation of the interrelation of three factors: time, place and human involvement.
So, in the United States, a plant is generally considered native only if it grew here before European colonization. On the East Coast, that’s the 1500s and in California, that’s 1769. Plants introduced since then, whether deliberately or by accident, are labeled “non-native,” “introduced,” “exotic,” or in some cases, “invasive.”
In the UK, some would set the date for ~8000 years ago, when rising sea levels made those landmasses islands.
Gilbert Mercier is a is a French journalist, photojournalist and filmmaker. He founded the News Junkie Post in 2009 and is its Co-Editor-in-Chief. Over the years, he has been a guest analyst on television and radio programs for RT, BBC World News, the Progressive Radio Network, Sputnik, Al Hurra TV, CounterPunch Radio, and Radio Islam. Mercier’s articles have been republished by Alternet, Truthout, CounterPunch, Z Communications, Signs of the Times, Popular Resistance, and others. He authored the book, “The Orwellian Empire.” He is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Art Directors Guild of America.
Gilbert and I spoke on May 5th, and covered a variety of political and environmental topics, many of them in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. What follows is an excerpt.
Listen to complete interview here:
Or watch on Youtube here
Kollibri: We’re at a point now with this pandemic where Capitalism is facing a crisis, perhaps an existential crisis.
Gilbert: To me, this is excellent and it’s an opportunity for people like you and I and a bunch of other people worldwide to raise the consciousness level of the population…
Back in February, on the day I knew the full moon would be rising, I sat down outside facing east, a few minutes before sunset, to watch the show. Here in southwestern New Mexico, the afternoon had been sunny and dry with a high in the low 70s, so the temperature, though cooling down, was still very pleasant.
I was in a shallow valley, and though the sun set on me when it dipped below the low ridge to my west, it was still in the sky for the most of the landscape in my view. As I watched, the shadow of the ridge behind me moved out across the irrigated pastures and crept up to the bottom of the hills around the rim of the valley. As it climbed the slopes, the colors of the peaks deepened to amber and then rose. Their rounded tops stood out in the last light like islands before slowly being swallowed up.
I sat staring, spellbound by the beauty. Just at the moment when I guessed that the sun was fully set behind the western horizon, a bright light stabbed out in the crook between two of the peaks. My first impression was of sunlight reflecting off a rooftop but I’ve gazed upon those peaks innumerable times and I knew there were no structures up there, in the national forest.
But the emanation grew brighter, and I caught my breath as I realized with a start that I was watching was the moon rising. Within a moment, what had been a point showed the curve of a disk, and within another moment, it was clearly round. The sky and the hills, which had been steadily darkening with the sinking of the sun, seemed in this moment to grow brighter. I don’t remember that affect from before, but that doesn’t mean I’d never seen it—just that I hadn’t noticed it.