Bare Bones Biology 121 – Hollie

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Last week Father John Dear described the Peace march at Los Alamos on Hiroshima day, the third day of the Vision without Fission Conference. On the first day, in Santa Fe, I met Hollie Ambrose at the art exhibit and tried to photograph her with her art piece.

“(LL) At the Vision without Fission Art Exhibit. We were taking your picture, and I was interested in a more sad looking picture, and you were preferring to look a little more joyful.”

“Well, it’s hard for me not to laugh, I’ve gotten in a lot of trouble, but I really feel that even when subjects are very serious it’s important to experience joy in the moment, even if it’s maybe not the best thing to do. That’s part of who I am as a person. I’m sad about things that have happened; I wish some of them didn’t happen; I wish a lot of things didn’t happen. But at the same time, you’re photographing me, we’re trying to get me and my piece in the picture, and it’s kind of funny in a way. It has some irony to it.”

“(LL) You’re piece is pretty dark.”

“I do a lot of pieces that are macabre, and that’s because I experience those things in life, just like everyone does. Life isn’t just Disneyland. It has the ups and downs, it has suffering, and it has joy, and I think that these are things you never want to forget. Even if you know there are people in the world who are suffering, and there’s violence, and there’s bombing, at the same time it’s important for us to experience our lives with joy every single day, and not to let these things rob us of that joy.

“It’s just like when 9-1-1 happened, it really brought to life for a while the things that are important and brought people together in a different way. I wish that would have lasted forever. Americans are always really good when things are at their worst, but we have a short memory. I feel like if we let them take away our joy. I think it’s important to focus on the things that are happening, but I think the best way to have peace is to live a life in which you are experiencing joy every day and be creative in doing the things you want to do, because if you’re joyful, doing what’s important to you, you have the ability to respond to the things of the world that are –

“(LL) more effectively.”

“Yes, much more effectively if you’re a happy person. There has been psychological research that people who are happy are more generous, and more likely to help someone across the street –“

“(LL) and be thinking more clearly about the problems –“


“(LL) and discussing them, rather than bemoaning them.”

“Right, because if you just sit around and get depressed about them, you can’t do anything about them. You’re not able to respond to situations that need your help if you’re depressed. If you’re sad all the time about them. You can’t help people if you’re in that state, and think you don’t have the ability to call attention to the atrocities of war if you’re not celebrating life. The real difference is at the individual level. Peace starts with us, and every day that we’re having interactions with other human beings we have the opportunity to propagate peace instead of war, in terms of how we respond to people and how we think of them as individual human beings who have the same feelings that we do, and it’s just important to be conscious of that, moment to moment, as much as we can, and I think if you’re having a good life and not letting your life be stolen by these things, that you can respond to them a lot better.”

Hollie’s art is posted on my blog, but I decided not to post my picture of her, because my art was not up to the task of representing her art.

Recommended References:
Hollie has a beautiful blog, full of joy and life in Santa Fe:

Bare Bones Biology 114 – Great Aridness

Formula books, I have called them; I don’t read them. Sometimes I buy them, if I think the cause is worthy, and I skim through, or even give them to other people, but I do not sit down and read, like I would with a serious book, written well to illustrate factually and emotionally accurate truths.

Formula books may not lie, but they do not tell you the whole circle of truth, and of course that’s one reason they are so popular. Just like the rest of the corposystem, they tell you something that you want to hear, and try not to think about the parts you would rather believe don’t exist. For example there are formula books about organic farming that pretend we could save ourselves, very simply, if everyone would turn his or her hand to a backyard organic garden. Very simply, that is not true. And even though I believe strongly in organic gardening, and I do wish everyone would turn his or her hand and pocket book and political will to promoting organic gardening – I also think we need to hear the whole sorry truth about our human tragedy and our current biological dilemma. Otherwise, how can we deal with it?

The solutions are not simple, and even though the modern formula book may be meticulously honest and accurate, it cannot tell the true story if it is so closely focused on setting down facts in simple, precise, decisive, linear outline, in words of few syllables, that it fails to discuss background, repercussions, and long-term implications from the point of view both of human realities, comparative emotional perspectives, and of unchangeable facts. If I could do that – I can see it, but I can’t say it — but I don’t need to do it for this case study, nor could I do it as well as it has been done by William deBuys.

Recently I told you of a book that I have read cover to cover (or at least I will have by the time you read this. If all goes well.). A Great Aridness, by William deBuys.

Wm deBuys is an author and historian who addresses the reality of climate change without rancor, bias or hyperbole, as though it were just what it is, a complex story of human kind. A sad story of human compassion and frailty as well as heroism, dedication and responsibility. A story that has much to teach us. I heard his excellent talk at Upaya, and I thought: “This guy really gets it.” I mean both the human and the biological dilemmas.

And so, a few days later – I’m telling you a true story here — Bitsy and I really did climb into our old pickup to chug to the top of one of the highest occupied places in North America, and I really did take the above picture along the way, to interview Wm duBuys.

Following is an excerpt from our conversation. Someone else should interview this man, someone who has more than five minutes for talking. Oh, yes, fortunately Mrs. Green has done that, and the podcast is available. In Mrs. Green’s opinion:

“When you put (climate change) in the political arena I don’t understand why it polarizes people. It’s the one thing that could unite our country to focus on the planet and the health of the earth. There’s no down side to that, and it’s not political. Why are we fighting about this?” (www.MrsGreensWorld podcast 05-12-12_DuBuysMiraval.mp3)

I hope Alise will also catch Bill for an interview on Rethinking Green KEOS FM, 98.1 before he leaves the country to begin research on his next book. Here is Bare Bones Biology’s KEOS interview:

“(LL) The research in your book shows that there’s evidence of the impact of humans on the ecosystem for thousands of years in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. People have been influencing the climate for as long as we know about. So now we have a big deal about climate change. My question is, what’s the big deal?

“(WD) Well the big deal is that civilization has only known one climate, and that’s the climate that we’re losing now. The amount of temperature change predicted for this century is roughly equal to the temperature changes between the ice ages and the present. But when the transition from the ice ages took thousands of years to accomplish, we’re now embarking into a century that’s going to see the same amount of change in a tiny period of time. Basically, human civilization has only known the climate of the Holocene, the climate that has nourished earth for the past several thousand years. We’re on the verge of losing that bracket of conditions, and plunging into a new epoch which many geologists have termed the anthropocene because it is man shaped. So that’s a very, very scary prospect, if you value our way of life today, if you value the dependence of human society on existing agriculture and the systems that keep us going.

“(LL) Why is it scary?

“(WD) Well if you rachet up the heat, basically if people in Texas, say, didn’t feel that the intense heat wave and drought of last summer, if they didn’t feel that was a wakeup call, then they’re really not paying attention. What we’re talking about with climate change is moving into a period of time when that kind of heat wave, that kind of drought, becomes normal, and additional heat waves and additional droughts are superimposed on it. The drought in Texas and Oklahoma last summer was unprecedentedly severe. Climate scientists are now saying that drought, because it doesn’t have in its intensity, clear precedents in recent centuries, that drought was by all indications caused by anthropogenic climate change. So if you don’t mind living under those conditions, and watching what those conditions do to the landscape around you, climate change shouldn’t be scary for you, but if you didn’t like it that way, you should be concerned. The Texas Department of Forestry estimates that between 2% and 10% of all the trees in Texas died last summer. The range is pretty wide because the count is imprecise, but if dry conditions persist through this year, the cumulative effect of the drought will probably lead to an even greater die-off. So this is a very large portion of the ecosystem of the State of Texas that died off in one year.

“(LL) So what should be our take-away message if we want to react positively to this serious situation?

“(WD) Well, the take-away message is that we need to begin, with all the energy we can muster, to shift from a carbon based, fossil fuel economy. We probably need to have a carbon tax. Although that’s politically a very, very tall order, and we need to change how we structure the use of energy in our society. This will be a great transformation, and actually encompasses a lot of economic opportunities. It could be a positive thing. It would be a positive thing for the United States, and for the rest of the world.”

That’s the end of the transcript. Five minutes is so short, at least two questions remain to be explained. First, what has the carbon tax and the carbon-based economy got to do with climate change? If you want to understand why carbon is important, you will need to understand some basic biology that you might find in previous editions of Bare Bones Biology. You can read them by flipping back on this blog, or listen to them at The climate change series begins with Bare Bones Biology 093 and ends at Bare Bones Biology 100. Or for a small donation to cover costs I will send you a CD containing both the podcasts and the blog posts for each of these BBBs.

If you don’t want to do that, here’s the shortest possible version of the carbon message to all of life on earth. We can’t live without energy, because energy is the ability to do work. Work is basically anything that moves, and without that, of course, there would be no life and no us. On this earth, all of our energy for food and everything else that living things use to stay alive comes from burning organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and all those organic molecules found in foods. Organic molecules are made on a base of carbon atoms. The plants make them using energy from the sun, we can’t do this, so we eat plants to get the energy for life. The energy for life on earth comes from eating plants. Or something else that ate plants. Then we burn (metabolize) the organic molecules, and the organic molecules release their metabolic energy in a form our bodies can use — and so we stay alive. When we burn anything (including in our metabolism) the organic molecules are taken apart, the energy is released, and the carbon (and other atoms) are released as waste products of the burning process. The whole earth ecosystem is a living thing, and to stay alive it needs to stay balanced. So it recycles the waste products (carbon dioxide in this case) by using them as ingredients to make more carbon-based organic molecules. The plants can do this, we cannot. Life has been doing this for millenia – life is based on this cycle staying in balance – but today we have unbalanced the life of the whole earth by burning more organic molecules than it can recycle.

The living earth is trying to rebalance, but we are also reducing the plants it needs to do this, so the earth is unbalanced. There is too much carbon dioxide in the air (and other places). Everything in the ecosystem is connected, so this imbalance has some effect on the other processes of life. In this case the effect is to raise the temperature by changing the interaction between the sun and our earth atmosphere.

The result is that the more people are breathing out carbon dioxide and the more machines also are breathing out more carbon dioxide as a waste product of burning carbon-based fuel – the harder the living earth must work to try to stay in balance. Now, after all these centuries – it has come to the time that it can’t keep up.

That’s the basic link between climate change and carbon compounds. As is true of everything it is a lot more complicated than that, but I do think it’s important to understand that there is an unchangeable, life-giving link, so we don’t fall for corposystem propaganda to the contrary. Check my facts – please.

The second question is about people who do NOT care what the climate change does to the environment because they live in cities and they honestly believe that the corposystem is providing everything they need to stay cool, well fed and clothed. This is just too sad to be real, but I think it is real. These people do not know that everything we need to stay alive comes from the healthy ecosystem. The corposystem cannot make earth, air, water or food for us without destroying the energy cycle of the ecosystem. The miracle behind life on earth is that it CAN do this process. People cannot. Not without using more energy than they generate and throwing us more out of balance. And there is no other source for life in the whole universe so far as we know.

If God made this beautiful living earth ecosystem, then he made it here. Not on the moon or Mars or anyplace else that we can reach. And he expected us to fulfill our responsibilities to not trash His Creation.

But we are trashing it, and so the outlook does look very grim. Here’s what Wm deBuys has to say about that.

“The outlook may be grim but the sunrise is always beautiful, and if you think about this blessed planet that we’re on – – – it is heartbreakingly beautiful, and there is so much beauty in the planet itself and in its creatures, and among its creatures are human beings, and our fellow human beings, that there is always and there will always be beauty to protect and defend, and the defense of beauty is a very high calling, and it’s great work, and great work is inherently optimistic. And so as long as there is that work to do, I think we should all be inspired to do it and all derive a lot of meaning for our lives from the act of doing it.” Wm deBuys, spoken at Upaya. (Look under dharma talks dp642_debuys_great-aridness-perspectives-on-environment_may-2012_dt.mp3)

Please read the book. It’s a good read and interesting, and it helps to answer the most common questions about what we can do to help ourselves and the living earth. The most important thing that we can do is to learn more about how the ecosystem functions to stay alive — including all the interacting stories that make up “A Great Aridness” — so we can discuss solutions that make good sense, and so that we will not be fooled by self-serving money-making schemers, who always abound in every crisis.

Bare Bones Biology 114 – A Great Aridness
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
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Recommended References:
A Great Aridness, Wm. deBuys:
Upaya Zen Center:
Mrs. Green’s World: http://www.MrsGreensWorld podcast 05-12-12_DuBuysMiraval.mp3

We Bless this Food

“Earth, water, fire, air and space combine to make this food.
Numberless beings gave their lives and labor that we may eat.
May we be nourished that we may nourish life.”
(learned at Upaya)


Ladies, you need to expand your views beyond your own personal “human rights,” to include the real needs of starving and undernourished people around the world (including in the USA). The availability of family planning to the poor of the world was one of the first things that Obama restored when he took office. I think this effort to withdraw it again (see below I copied from must be the most important of any event to all of us if we care about starvation, immigration, economic and peace issues, and we need to say so. You know why this is happening. The corposystem uses uneducated people to push it’s agenda, because it benefits from all of the above, and so do the NGO’s that come to the rescue of the victims and have been incorporated into the corposystem. If this were not so, we would be concerned with helping people to a better life — not denying the necessary technology. It would conceivably be possible to use technologies to benefit the people rather than primarily to benefit the political/corporate domination of the people. And of course, the more desperate people there are in the world the more money is to be made off them in war, aid, propaganda and surveilance activities. If we would stop fighting among ourselves for a minute we would realized that we the people are being farmed like cattle, using our propaganda as a the management tool. We do not need more people-to-people hatred in this world. We do need to know that the corposystem is NOT A PERSON AND IS NOT OUR SPIRITUAL ADVISOR. It is an emergent entity of vast destruction to all human rights.

“We told you on Monday that the Republican majority in the House was poised to pass major restrictions on international family planning—including a cut of more than $200 million from current levels.
But now some members of the House want to eliminate that funding altogether. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) has proposed an amendment to the bill cut international family planning funding to zero. That’s right: the world Bob Latta envisions is one in which women and families in the developing world have no access to contraceptives to help them prevent unintended pregnancy. The extent of the misery and suffering resulting from such a cut is almost unimaginable. Today, thanks to U.S. support for family planning, more than 26 million women in the poorest countries in the world are able to delay or prevent pregnancy. Soon, if Bob Latta and his allies have their way, the clinics those women and their families rely on will close.
The Latta measure is not the only appalling amendment we expect to see. The Pence amendment, which bars all funding from Planned Parenthood, is expected to come to a vote as soon as tomorrow. Additionally, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) has filed an amendment to prevent the expansion family planning services covered by Medicaid—even though investing in family planning is one of the best ways to restrain health care costs. These amendments must not pass.
The far right must not be allowed use the rhetoric of fiscal discipline to pass their reactionary, irresponsible ideology. Please take a moment and send a message to your member of Congress: Defeat the anti-family planning agenda.”

The web link is on the right

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that human needs could be met if we were to acknowledge and respect the needs of the ecosystem. The basic need of the ecosystem is to maintain the balance between cycling materials, the flow of energy through the system, and the flow of information through the system with time. The basic human needs are to cycle materials (the molecules of life), to maintain the flow of energy through the system (food), and to exist within a compassionate community, doing meaningful work, preferably with a creative connection to the higher forces.

090903Bali_dsc3123SsThe conflict between the human and the ecosystem has primarily to do with how we interpret “meaningful work.” Because we are human, and not the omniscient God who understands the entirety of everything, therefore it is important that we do not try to evaluate the needs of the ecosystem only by our human needs and ethics.

Just as the cell in the toe of my foot does not understand my human need for meaningful work, so we as individuals or as the whole human species — only one species in the big toe of the ecosystem — can not fully understand what drives the largest unit of life on earth, the ecosystem. Therefore, we must make an effort to evaluate the relationship between what we do understand (the ecosystem requires above all balance) and what we believe to be meaningful work. The most meaningful thing that anyone can do for her community is to avoid throwing the ecosystem out of balance. No matter what else she may do.

And here we have a problem, because we get caught up in the idea that “everyone has a right to her own opinion.” Absolutely that is not true. The opinion of a person such as Bill Gates (if that opinion were wrong) could cause enormous harm, because he has enormous power to generate change. Therefore he, and every one of us who is driven to support our community welfare, has an obligation to very carefully evaluate what we do in our good works. Personal opinions and human ethics are not enough to help the ecosystem stay in balance. We must do our best to understand her needs, and that is where science can help because science is specifically designed to AVOID being swayed by personal opinions.

The function of science is NOT to make technologies that will defeat natural law. That would be impossible. If we defeated natural law, we would destroy the construct that created life and so we would destroy life itself. 090904Bali_dsc3257s The function of science is to supplement our gut feelings, emotions and opinions with measurable facts. Measurable facts are not opinions, they are not spiritual, they do not differ among cultures, and they do not rely upon our emotional state for their validity.

We can not change the laws of nature, but we can measure them, and in that way we can know when we are destroying the balance of nature. In this way we can balance the human ethic against the basic needs of the ecosystem. I believe it is the obligation of any person who wants to serve his community with meaningful work to spend serious effort evaluating that work. The needs of the community today must be evaluated against the factual, measurable survival (balance) needs of the ecosystem so that we can preserve human community for tomorrow.
(painting by Made, Ubud, Bali)

Fourth of July

090520TGT_dsc1170s 090704

Buttermilk Pie likes to run out the door when the sky pinks up in the morning and we both set back on the front porch to listen to the birds wake up.

After the fresh brewed Ethiopean Harrar coffee, I enjoy an early morning ride on Mahonia before the day starts to sizzle. Mahonia would rather eat, but we don’t work hard. Just a nice ride, and then breakfast for us both.090208_dsc8819LSs

On a July past, when I came home after a long, sad search for my lost American dream, I was ill in body and mind. Several Julys later, I am now well and happy, and on such a pink-sky morning I can sometimes believe that I should have looked inside myself for the Dream. That it might have been hiding there the whole time — unrecognized.

And so I sit with BP over the second cup of coffee, relaxed and refreshed from my morning ride, listening to the Mockingbird sing from the top of the cedar tree:
“It’s a wonderful life; it’s a wonderful life.”

And I could almost recapture the Dream. If I would just stay right here on my own paid off property and collect my well earned social security.

And then I remember who paid the bigger price for my security.
Other lives around the world,

Whose nightmares paid off

my American dream.

(Bottom photo by Zoriah)

That’s Not How it Works

Evolution is the process of change of the entire information content of the ecosystem — over time.

We all understand time, and the important thing here is that time does not go backwards, nor does it stop. I do not know why. Ask a physicist if you want to talk about that. What I know is — it’s one of the laws of our living ecosystem. Time stops for no living thing. If God created the ecosystem, then it is one of God’s laws.

So that takes care of time. We can not change what is already behind us. Furthermore, evolution does not happen in the future, or rather it WILL happen in the future, but it is what is happening in this very moment of time that affects what will happen in the next moment of time. The only thing that actually is changing is NOW.

The information content of the ecosystem is usually thought of as the “gene pool.” You could quibble about this and say that there are other forms of information, but I am talking about the primary source of information in the ecosystem that changes in response to whatever conditions exist at each moment in time. That information is all the genes that exist in this moment of time.

The ecosystem is the largest unit of life as we know it on earth. The information of life is the genes. The gene pool of a population is all the genes in that population, the gene pool of a species is all the genes in all the organisms of that species; the gene pool of the ecosystem is all the genes in the ecosystem. You have only two genes of each kind. So does everyone else. So forget the delusions of grandeur. The impact of any one person on the gene pool of the ecosystem is tinier than tiny. Even if you kill off all your enemies and even if you are more fit than Superman, your impact on the gene pool is still unmeasurably small. Survival of the Fittest is an excuse for people like Hitler. It doesn’t work that way.

The third word in the definition is CHANGE. Change in the gene pool over time IS evolution. What causes this change? No person knows, and unless you are a person who can understand all the genes in all the organisms in the ecosystem, and all the ways in which they interact to allow the ecosystem to be alive — then there is no way for you to know scientifically what causes evolution, beyond what we have already said. There is a change in the gene pool. That is, a change in the information content of the living ecosystem.

Now it gets complicated, because the gene pool (through it’s organisms) changes in response to the ecosystem environment. That sounds like a cycle, doesn’t it, with the environment on one side and the gene pool on the other. The gene pool is necessary for the environment and the environment is necessary for the gene pool, and this is true. But it is not a cycle because of the element of time. If the gene pool changes in response to the environment — then the gene pool is changed, and it can not go back in time to what it was before. Therefore, in the next moment of time (or more likely the next generation of organisms) the relationship between the gene pool and the environment is different, because the gene pool is different. And that makes the environment different. And the environment influences the gene pool in the next following generation. So it’s not a cycle, like the carbon cycle, that happens over and over again in the same way. It’s more like a figure 8 with infinite potential to continue, if it does not destroy its own environment. Or its own gene pool.

So to this guy on wall street who is puffing out his chest and gloating that he is contributing to survival of the fittest because his company has grown 100?


What that guy has done to us all is essentially the same as what Bernie Madoff did to his investors. Because the ecosystem does not honor Ponzi schemes, nor does it honor growth. The ecosystem survives on BALANCE.

Balance between the gene pool and the environment; balance in all the interactions between all the species in the gene pool of the ecosystem; balance of all the nutrients and other chemicals that cycle around so that we may have life; and balance between input and output. That economist who is going around claiming to be a boon to mankind — what he has done by growing 100% is to contribute to the UN-BALANCE of the ecosystem. He has taken out more resources than she can sustainably produce and destroyed species that are required for her balance, and even changed the weather for goodness sake, and he thinks he has done a good thing because he is a big fat macho “winner.”090624Dallas_dsc1997Ss

That guy who is richer and more important than any other person on wall street — measured according to the natural law that allows life to exist — is one of the most UNFIT people on earth. He and his friends have gone halfway to changing the ecosystem into a desert. He will be dead and gone; his legacy will be huger and thirst.

Because he chose to rally behind a silly slogan about survival of the fittest instead of finding out how it really does work.