POEM: Ounce of Prevention

An ounce of prevention
Is worth a pound of cure
Unfortunately, stuff is sold
By the pound and dollar

Virtually everyone knows that prevention is preferable to cure.  As Ben Franklin put it, “A stitch in time saves nine.”  Much of prevention takes relatively little knowledge but a good dose of long-term thinking and patience/persistence.  So why is prevention often poorly practiced?  First, as this short poem says, “stuff is sold,” meaning that tangible goods and more-easily defined services are easier to sell than intangible goods and complex, difficult-to-define services.  For example, in health-related fields, it is easier to sell a pill or distinct procedure than a whole lifestyle that offers healthy eating, regular physical activity, lower stress and adequate sleep.  Such healthy lifestyles are not achievable with a small number of simple, easy-to-define products or services.  Moreover, overall, the desire in Western civilization to monetize everything possible plays into our more base instincts that favor the concrete, the simple, and the immediate.  This profoundly affects what we make and do in our careers.  Those vocations which may advance human progress but are not easily monetized are at-risk for atrophying in modern, capitalistic culture.  Human creativity is relegated to a too-narrow focus to come up with solutions adequate for our problems.  We end up focusing on solutions that create as many or more problems.  If Western civilization where a pharmaceutical cure being advertised, the list of side-effects would literally take us to our death beds!  If we cannot together create a culture where the organizing principle is more than buying and selling, then our lives will continue to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, down to the last pound of flesh.  May we live our lives in such a way that we treasure and guard our ounces of prevention as it reigns pounds of easy cures and silver bullets; and may the fruit of our labor enrich us all.

POEM: By No Means Necessary

By No Means Necessary

When the strident are
Up in arms
Staking their claims
By any means necessary
May such a battlefield
Arouse patience strewn
A bout
Of faith
Inciting our most gratuitous hopes
By any kinds possible
The prison door of necessity
Leaving us
Unhinged
Taking liberties
Only in dependence
On open hearts
In tact
In our chest
No longer hoard
Soles in a circle unbroken
Vaulting us
To claims unstaked
In arms above
Scaling untrodden heights
With such generous helping
Hands down
The best
Giving rise
By no means necessary

This poem is about hope and the possibilities that kindness open up to create a new and better reality.  Claiming a need to reach an end “by any means necessary” is precarious moral ground.  In common political parlance, the phrase might be “we are leaving all options open.”  At best this is a casual amorality, at worst a cruel compulsion or “necessary” evil.  I’m not big on “necessary” evil.  Militancy focuses on a “you forced me to” mentality, fixating on our most base needs and instincts alone.  No doubt, certain actions lead to likely reactions.  Nonetheless, we can do better.  Acting in hope with open hearts is an invitation to escape from closed-sum thinking and hurt feelings, and join together in something greater than the sum of its parts.  Hope is a vulnerable invitation in that it may be rejected.  If rejected, in retrospect, it may appear to have been better to have not made an invitation.  I think that this is why humans have learned a certain reactionary approach in life.  This makes sense, but such a reactionary approach does not represent all that is possible, or even all that is probable.  Leaders make invitations.  Leaders offer hope.  Leaders make themselves vulnerable and put some actual skin in the game, in order to walk the walk not just talk the talk.  We can make excuses by saying, “He made me do it,” but this denies our most basic freedom, to do something differently, that is our greatest asset in human progress.   Not surprisingly, hope is by its very nature a community project.  Only by joining together, with mutual invitations and mutual aid, can our highest hopes become real.  And the highest hope is a circle unbroken, everyone in and nobody out.  The cynical acts of confederates to “get ours” at the expense of others is ultimately self-defeating, degrading the vitality of human community of which we are inescapably a part.  Of course, the hope that springs from the faith that humanity is ultimately one is like all other faith: something not fully realized but believed to be present.  Such faith and hope cannot become fully realized “by any means necessary,” being by no means necessary; still it may be realized “by any kinds possible.”  Do not rise to every occasion in kind, rather, in kindness rise to every occasion.

POEM: Hard on the Poor

Hard on the Poor

Our moral compass
Goes south
Skewering
Those below
Under lyin’
Poverty abashed
Without abjections
Needle US
Too say
Pricks
Hand shakers
And grand standers
Razing just for fund
He’ll freeze over
Before changing any position
Undertaking another bleak poll
Never about-facing mistakes
Fueled by deft ears
As the eaves drop on the homeless
Given props by spooks
Out of focus groups
Like miss diagnosing
The mortified
A rhino virus
In the middle of the living
Room for a growing boy
Like a Pinocchio knows
Running up bills
Virulent peckers
A fecund plague
Deifying gravitas
With hearts sow cold
Bringing them to their sneeze
A wretched climax
Eyes watering
When seize it
Progress
And congress
Members stiff
The public
Relations privatizing
A press corpse
Unable to issue a retraction
Interminable hacks
That even in their coffin
They are still
Convinced that they are
Looking up
Mean wile
Enjoin bye
The least of these
Has been
All ready
Spinning
In their gravy
Known as
Underground resistance
Ever more
Digging their new haunts
Offering no quarter
Giving berth
To just deserts
Best served
Cold
As south is south
And north is north
Encompassing awe
Probity

This poem offers a bevy of mixed metaphors and social commentary.  I wrote this poem before the latest Republican government shutdown, but its themes are eternal in politics.  The rich get richer and the poor get the shaft.  Republicans moralize to others and then epitomize sleaziness themselves.  Politics is governed more by money than the needs of the people.  Proselytizing politicians paint themselves into a corner driving their internal contradictions into explosive stupidity matched only by their intransigence.

Still, reality gives feedback.  Karma wends its way into the path of even the morally blind.  With wisdom, the subtle nuances of life’s ways can be discerned from a distance, and it’s gentle signs guide us in harmony.  With increasing foolishness, a dulled capacity to read wisdom’s kindly signs, ever-increasingly blunt warnings of impending danger will be offered.  If we insist on continuing down ever-increasingly perilous paths, mere red flags will turn to violence — sometimes physical violence, sometimes emotional violence, sometimes political violence.  Violence is the province of fools, whose understanding ends at blunt instruments.  May we keep our eye on wisdom’s gentle signs guiding us to harmony amidst giant oafs clumsily swinging their blunt instruments.

POEM: Traveling North Still

I was traveling on a journey
And it was definitely not south
I watched the mile markers grow in number
Until I found myself in a different state
Noticing that
The mile markers restarted
And lo, it was different
Though northern still
Through and through

No matter what direction you are journeying, something will change.  What a joy to travel on a journey that is good (“definitely not south”) for a long enough time to see the proverbial mile markers rack up!  Nonetheless, at some point, things will transition to another state.  In this new state, the markers of progress along your journey will change.  This typically requires a recalibration of our thinking, a new start.  While most of us hope and pray for new starts, at least somewhere along the journey, new starts, even those viewed positively, require effort and some re-orientation to new conditions.  This poem addresses the issue of integrating new states and experiences into a coherent and positive larger journey, such is our life.  Faced with constant change, we can still keep our eye on the prize.  There are things in life that can be counted on.  Natural laws can be uncovered through science and meditation on the existential realities of humanity’s place in the world (that is, through physics and metaphysics).  There is a true north that transcends any human timeframe or temporal set of conditions (“states”).  Regardless, of if or how we think of true north it is still.  Perhaps most comforting, it can provide reliable beacons in which to frame and map our life in a coherent way, “through and through.”  Seeing our various journeys as a coherent AND positive story is somewhat trickier.  Given that most of reality is outside our control, that is, we can’t change it, can we view this “helplessness” as a positive thing?  I, for one, regard a persistent order to the world as a magnificently beneficial state of affairs.  On the other hand, that persistently elusive free will and subjectivity at the center of our being carves out a space as delicious as it is bewildering in which we get to reign ourselves into this world.  This is that space that is irreducibly ours.  We are free to act within it and act out into the world.  We have soul responsibility for these free acts, that is, that of which we have control, namely, ourselves (or at least that “part” of ourselves).  Since, this freedom seems to define what it means to be humans, many focus most of their attention to this aspect of our being.  These are the “way existential” people.  Many others just have a way overblown sense of what they are in control of!  Unfortunately, if one does not balance out their focus on freedom with an adequate understanding of the larger part of the universe, then their freedom will be running blindly, ignorantly into the rest of reality (that which we cannot change) with painful results.  By simply making note of those thing which stay the same regardless of what we do, we can avoid a lot of hurt.  Of course, teasing out the sometimes subtle differences between what we can change and what we cannot change is the stuff of wisdom.  This all rather succinctly captured in the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

May you have the wisdom to make a difference, in your own life, and in the world around you.

POEM: Own Worst Enemy

One day I realized that I am my own worst enemy
And as it turns out, I am a formidable foe

Self-awareness seems to key to one’s own progress.  This short poem offers a backhanded compliment to oneself as a formidable foe, a worthy opponent.  To be true to oneself, one has to know thyself.  Self-awareness and self-knowledge are essential to overcoming self-defeating patterns that limit one’s progress.  May you continue to discover yourself and find a great friend!

BP Tar Sands Refinery Expansion – PEOPLE’S HEARING Testimony

Below is my testimony at the PEOPLE’S HEARING to respond to the Ohio EPA’s sham public hearing on BP-Husky’ Draft Air Pollution Permit as part of their Oregon Ohio refinery re-tooling to process oil tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet.  This People’s Hearing was sponsored by the Toledo Coalition for Safe Energy.  I was speaking on behalf of Occupy Toledo and planetary citizens everywhere:

Welcome to Oregon, Ohio — now with 50% less stench!

My name is Dan Rutt.  I am a long-time resident of Toledo, a citizen of Ohio and these United States of America.  However, I have an over-arching allegiance; that allegiance is to our planet, which sustains our life and the life of all living beings from all nations and ecosystems.  I am a planetary citizen.  I am calling on all planetary citizens to rise above lesser allegiances and protect our planet from British Petroleum and other transnational corporations who stand against the interests of humanity and life on our planet.

I am standing outside the formal EPA hearing, so we the people can have our own hearing, a people’s hearing, that is not limited to narrow, technical matters, while BP and others are literally mining our planet in order to burn it.  BP wants to re-tool their refining to process tar sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet, the bottom of the barrel.  This is exactly the wrong direction we should be headed.  Spending billions on an infrastructure to process the most polluting, least economically viable and least sustainable fossil fuel will only lock us onto the wrong path for years — years that we and our planet cannot afford.  We need to switch to safe and renewable energy NOW — not next year, not next decade, not next generation, but TODAY, June 5th, 2013!

How about investing billions of dollars to switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy?  Where is your plan for that BP?

Unfortunately, the Ohio EPA is powerless to stop BP from destroying Mother Earth.  The EPA may be able to regulate the lethal injection of Mother Earth while BP euthanizes her.  But I am here to say, that that is not good enough!  Merely deciding how we are going to destroy the planet is insanity of the highest order.  We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels or we will become fossils ourselves.  BP is a pusher, profiting from this deadly addiction, and should be treated as such. 

Real people suffer environmental destruction while corporate persons like BP are insulated from their crimes.   Three years ago, BP caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.  This was not an “accident.”  It was a criminal act.  Now, they want us to entrust Mother Earth to them, again.  As the U.S. Department of Justice put it, “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence.”  BP has pled guilty of felony manslaughter, environmental crimes, and obstruction of Congress.  While no BP executives have gone to jail, planetary citizens resist their criminal behavior and fuelish business practices and these planetary citizens go to jail.

Inside, there will be a parade of people on the payroll of British Petroleum, some literally on the payroll, some just hoping to get some of the economic scraps from refining our planet into money.  This is on the heels of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, which in 2010 cited Oregon’s BP-Husky refinery for 62 safety violations and fined the company nearly $3 million for “exposing workers to a variety of hazards.”  Then, this year, on March 10th, the BP-Husky refinery malfunctioned and released extremely dangerous hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide pollution into the air.

Should we trust BP?  Is BP a good corporate citizen?  In the years leading up to the BP gulf oil spill, on about an annual basis, BP pled guilty to criminal acts, each time saying that they were going to change their ways.  Mother Earth is a battered women, BP is a batterer, and it’s time to end the cycle of criminal abuse.  Buying her flowers and offering her gushing words have not stopped BP’s gushing oil in the past.  We don’t want your sweet talk.  We want you to stop raping the earth!

The only real question here today is whether or not we can avoid the Native American prophecy that “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

BP will you fundamentally change your fossilized business practices and switch to clean, safe, renewable, and sustainable energy? 

I have in my hands 38 pages of documents from Ohio EPA regarding the draft Air Pollution Permit-to-Install for BP-Husky Refining, Limited Liability Corporation, with an accent on the “Limited Liability”!  I have a Bachelor’s Degree in biology, a Master’s Degree in Public Health; I’ve even had a graduate level course in environmental genetic toxicology.  I’ve spent years working in and with government bureaucracies.  How can one adequately address the issues raised in a few minutes?  What I conclude from this draft permit and tonight’s so-called public hearing is that they are a smokescreen.  Buried in this smokescreen of technocratic minutiae is our planet being buried; or perhaps more accurately: unburied and burned — literally, the cremation of our planet.  This Ohio EPA sham hearing today is lethal to democracy, thwarting the larger will of the people, as it stands by, impotent to protect our environment, the very environment it is sworn to protect.  Meanwhile, BP and others are destroying our planet.

Anybody who lives or passes through Oregon, Ohio, knows that BP doesn’t pass the stink test.  You don’t need a doctoral degree to know that our fossil fuels addiction threatens our planet and the life it sustains.  We can’t depend on British Petroleum or other fossilized corporations to protect our planet.  We can’t depend on politicians or bureaucrats to protect our planet.  If the planet is to be saved, then it depends on you and me, we the people.  Thank you for coming out to this people’s hearing.  Thank you for listening.

I will now conclude by reading a poem, entitled, O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth

NOTE: There were an estimate 18 to 18,000 people at the People’s Hearing.  THANKS to all who showed up!

Here is the testimony of Kristina Moazed, Chair, Western Lake Erie Sierra Club:

The proposal that BP has revealed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and to us, the public, has been improperly piecemealed and made to appear as if it will be just fine for this refinery to accept tar sands.
We must begin at the very source of these oil bearing sands. Canada’s government, and the province of Alberta are massively destroying Alberta’s pristine, northern ancient forests, poisoning the water sources of their native wildlife, and natives and other Albertans for one generation’s profit and greed. The desecration of this form of extraction is seriously forever.

   >  This permitting decision is being made in ignorance of recognized scientific principles that do predict increasingly worse consequences of global warming.

   >  The decision to go forward with tar sands as a source of petroleum rejects the scientifically-grounded conclusion that to even begin to slow down the global warming and that our over-use of fossil fuels has put into motion, we must keep as much of the remaining carbon fuels as possible in the ground: they must never be extracted and burned!

   >  There is no consideration in this decision process of public health effects on human populations in our Toledo-Oregon-Lake Erie shore region as a consequence of the higher volumes of known carcinogenic and other pollutants which will be emitted!

    >  There is no consideration given to otheralternate mitigation activities, such as the building and promotion of mass transit, which would consume less petroleum, create far more permanent jobs, and cause much less pollution than perpetuating North America’s one-car, one-driver folly.

    >  There is no certainty that high volumes of petroleum coke will actually be generated by the proposed altered refinement process.   And if it is, that coke will not be sheltered from the elements and will accumulate less than a mile from Lake Erie and one of its estuaries.
Have any emergency plans been put in place in case of explosion or fire while processing these dirty bitumen fuels so close to our source of drinking water?
Have possible impacts to tourism and the maritime and fishing industries been considered?
I’m sure if we contact the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, the birding crowd will have plenty of objections to the increased pollution in and desecration of the surrounding habitat!

Just one example of tar sands refining immediately to our north, in Detroit will give us an example of what happens. Emissions of sulfur dioxide did decrease, but emissions of hydrogen sulfide increased as they do everywhere bitumen is refined. Hydrogen sulfide is known for its rotten egg odor and is potentially fatal in sufficient concentrations. Residents near this Marathon Refinery in Detroit participated in Air Sampling which was overseen by Global Community Monitor, an environmental group based in California. In 2010 they found high levels of benzene, a carcinogen, and hydrogen sulfide near the refinery. IN one case, more than 20 chemicals, including benzene were detected in a resident’s basement. An EPA investigation traced the contamination to Marathon’s dumping of wastewater into the city sewer system! “We were shocked to learn they did not have their own discharge pipe into a body of water like, I believe, every other refinery in the United States ,” said Denny Larson, Global Community Monitor’s executive director. How convenient that the BP Refinery is right on the shore of Lake Erie! I think we will need to watch their discharges very carefully!

   >  These production changes are being undertaken by a global corporation which has seriously poisoned the Gulf of Mexico through crass, careless and dangerous negligence and deliberately ignoring safety regulations causing the oil spill in 2010, and its still incomplete remediation.
Now that we know BP has gamed the regulators and the public into bring tar sands cracking here to Oregon, Ohio, exactly what basis is there for any trust that consideration of public health and avoidance of environmental destruction hold any priority for BP?

We must promote green, renewable and sustainable energy! We must conserve and become more efficient our usage!

THANKS Kristina!

POEM: O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

This poem has emanated from my musings about the oil tar sands in Canada.  The extraction of these oil tar sands, in some of the most pristine parts of North America, is the largest single scarring of Mother Earth ever undertaken by human-unkind.  It seems that our oil addiction has us scraping the last drops of oil from the planet, squandering nature’s wealth — our children’s children’s inheritance — and polluting Mother Earth which sustains our very life.  Greed is the most dangerous enemy of sharing a planet together.  I hope that people from locales all over the earth rise up and protect Mother Earth from the many assaults on her.  As for my Toledo friends, you can check out and join Occupy Toledo’s resistance to oil tar sands being processed here at the BP refinery.  Think globally, act locally — that’s local, not loco!

O Children of Mother Earth, Arise!

Listen, O children of Mother Earth!
Hear, those who have ears
Hear the streams of clean water, our tributaries of life
Hear the streams of cars and trucks dirtying the air we breathe
See, O children of Mother Earth!
See, those who have eyes
See the beauty of fields and forests, mountains and meadows
See the scars of strip mines and cesspools of toxins
Smell, O children of Mother Earth!
Smell, those who have noses
Smell the fragrance of wildflowers and gardens
Smell the stench of oil and coal combustion, and chemical cocktails concocted
Reach out and touch, O children of Mother Earth!
Reach out and touch, those who have hands
Reach out and touch the soil and sun which fuels nature’s bounty
Reach out and touch the concrete and landfills, the Alpha and Omega of so-called “progress”
Taste, O children of Mother Earth!
Taste, those who have mouths
Taste the fruits of her plenty, enough for all
Taste the bitterness of her children’s petty scarcity, robbing brother and sister
Feel, O children of Mother Earth!
Feel, those who have hearts
Feel the call of nature
Feel the greed of those who would of nature relieve themselves
Speak, O children of Mother Earth!
Speak, those who have tongues
Speak of the splendor of a Mother’s care
Speak of the horror of an orphaned race
Arise, every living creature, O children of Mother Earth!
Return to her lap, and breast, and arms
Turn away from her desecration
Take your rightful place, to neither rule from above nor rule from below
Work side by side
Play together
Live neighborly
For we share the same fate
Whether we share or not
O children of Mother Earth