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Sep09

In Conversation @ PhillyCam

Green Justice Philly's portrait.

Deep Green Philly recently joined with other environmental organizations for a thought provoking conversation during the People Power Lunch Hour at PhillyCam. We covered a wide range of topics, and it was very interesting hearing the different perspectives and possible solutions to the environmental crisis. Check out the video below!

Jul30

‘Wild’ @ the PMA: A Review

 

Award winning photographer Michael Nichols’ exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art appears to be the culmination of a very distinguished career. Over the past thirty years he has documented the wonders, struggles, and challenges of the wilderness and has been a strong advocate for the preservation of wild spaces. This exhibition could not be more timely and relevant.

The scale of environmental destruction and the precariousness of our continued existence on this planet is slowly beginning to dawn even on those committed to willful ignorance. This article will explore why things like the ‘Wild’ exhibit are valuable and necessary; we’ll also explore what must be done to move the concept of wilderness from its position as a far off abstraction to one that has a very real and immediate relevance for our collective survival. Spoiler: if the wilderness dies, we die. It’s pretty much that simple.

Let’s first define what is meant here by “the wilderness.” The wilderness is generally any area that is not under the direct or indirect control of human beings. These places are in a relatively pristine state and non-humans are the majority. When most people think of the wild they might conjure up an image of the tropical rain forest or of African grasslands, yet the ice caps of Antarctica and the North Pole are also wild places as are most of the oceans. And when we consider ice caps and their role in making human society possible, we can understand that protecting the wilderness is also a form of self preservation.

Read more here, on DGP’s Medium page.

Jun02

Decolonizing Native Solidarity

Ana Oian Amets's portrait.

 

Pleased to share with you all the audio from ‘Beyond Standing Rock: Indigenous Solidarity & Decolonization’ with Ana Oian Amets.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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Part 4

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Decolonizing Native Solidarity 1.mp3
Decolonizing Native Solidarity 2.mp3
Decolonizing Native Solidarity 3.mp3
Decolonizing Native Solidarity 4.mp3

Event description (from the facebook event page)

Presented by the Lakota Strong Heart Warrior Society and
Philadelphia Be the Change Circle of the Pachamama Alliance

As inspiring as the NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock have been to many, a more aware understanding of Indigenous independence and decolonization is being requested by front-line warriors and groups. Growing this awareness enables allies and activists to provide solidarity that honors the critical relationship between defending Grandmother Earth *and* prioritizing the need to support the grassroots Indigenous people who preserve language and culture necessary for authentic Indigenous independence to renew itself.

Join us Wednesday April 26th to explore real decolonization and Indigenous independence, as well as ways that activists and allies can support these vital movements for Indigenous nationhood beyond the U.S. tribal government system. We will start with a keen and clear analysis of colonization and decolonization, and then grow understanding of current Indigenous independence struggles. Along the way, we will look at unsettling white settler supremacy and how to honor our varied stories while creating relationships of integrity with this continent’s Indigenous peoples and life forms.

Ana Oian Amets (Aquitanian Iladurrak) is a member through customary kinship of the Lakota Strong Heart Warrior Society and the Independent Lakota Nation. She trains extensively on decolonization, independence, Indigenous solidarity, and ancestral recovery for euro-american people. Visit cantetenza.wordpress.com and awakeningthehorse.wordpress.com.

Be sure to check out the Lakota solidarity Project website for more information on how you can support the Lakota people and their grassroots initiatives. If you appreciated Ana’s presentation and would like to support her work, please consider making a donation.

Apr21

Earth Day™ is Bullshit

During my years as a grassroots environmental activist I’ve become increasingly amused as “Earth Day” rolls around. There are a few exceptions, but generally, if you want to find out what this culture does not value, take a look at what they’ve tossed a bone towards in the form of some symbolic holiday. Veterans Day brings the patriotic/jingoistic hoopla while many veterans are lying homeless on the streets, unable to find employment or adequate healthcare. Black people have been given an entire month (!!!) to celebrate our history while being locked up in veritable concentration camps, gunned down by the police, forced to drink poison, and suffering under horrible economic conditions. Women’s Day is a nice gesture as meanwhile women are treated like dirt the world over. Here in the U.S. a woman is raped every two minutes, the wage gap persists, and there’s still a lack of maternity care. Notice how there’s no “Money Day,” “European History Month,” “Sports Day,” or “Capitalism Day” – it’s taken for granted that these things are important and worth focusing on all the time.

The planet we depend on for life itself is given similar treatment as the groups mentioned above. Earth Day gives the false impression that certain issues are being addressed while in fact the earth is being destroyed faster than ever; nothing substantial is being done to put the brakes on the ravages of industrial capitalism. Species are going extinct at record rates; global warming is reaching exponential levels; CO2 emissions are increasing not decreasing; the permafrost is melting, threatening to release vast quantities of heat trapping methane into the atmosphere… And on and on the list of woes could go.

What makes the situation even more farcical is that there are quite a few non-profits and “environmental justice” organizations floating around, many checks being cashed in the name of saving the environment, and much lip service being paid towards saving the earth and those poor helpless animals. They’ve been at it for decades, yet…the destruction continues unabated and is even intensifying on some fronts. Why? Mostly because very few are willing to risk their privileges in an attempt to seriously challenge the status quo.

“Why don’t you focus on the good things, on our victories,” some might ask. Yes, tell someone who’s being viciously attacked to focus on the fact that the sun is out and the birds are chirping around him. Honestly, some of the retorts I’ve heard to practical questions about what the hell we’re actually going to do amount to people wanting to live in a fairy tale world where things somehow always work themselves out. Ask the people of Iraq or Syria about things somehow working themselves out. Ask those who lived through apartheid or the Holocaust. No, things don’t usually magically work themselves out, and positive thinking or “looking on the bright side” won’t save us. If we want to survive we must face facts and act accordingly.

This is going to be a fairly short post because I’m not going to waste time going over the same old tired reasons for why things are they way they are. We already know, or should know, that capitalism, out of control industrialization, white supremacy, human supremacy, patriarchy, inequality, etc, have built the foundations of the haunted house we find ourselves trapped in. Many people have  already perished at the hands of this despicable system and many more are under threat and suffering today while the privileged gatekeepers spew their lofty sounding platitudes and self help slogans. “Create your own reality” they say, and other such malarkey.

Sure, so let’s assume that we can create our own reality. What would it take for us to salvage some livable future for future generations? What’s the best way to create a reality where industrial capitalism doesn’t get a chance to completely wreck the biosphere we and others depend on for survival? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Discard strict adherence to non-violence as a viable strategy for protecting the earth and the oppressed. While non-violence is a useful tactic, it must be deployed strategically. If they know you won’t fight back, they have you right where they want you. 
  2. Stop supporting companies and businesses that are engaged in practices that harm our environment. No, really. Stop supporting Apple, stop supporting fast food joints, stop feeding the consumer culture that’s literally killing the planet and harming our health.
  3. Instead of automatically buying new consumer goods, make an attempt to find a good used version of what you need (clothes, electronics, cars, and appliances, etc).
  4. Stop telling people to “look on the bright side” or to refrain from “negativity” or “fear mongering”. Climate change and the related environmental crises pose an existential threat to humanity. At this point people should be very alarmed and driven to action, not placated with fairy tales and soothing phrases. Sure, it might not make people feel good to hear we might be fucked, but would you prefer your doctor avoid giving you the bad news, or would you rather he give it to you straight so you can at least have a chance to resolve the problem?
  5. Support indigenous and POC led environmental groups with your time, money, and whatever resources you have to give. White dominated environmental organizations aren’t doing much of anything anyway and they’ve had their turn for the past 40 or so years, so now let’s try something else.
  6. Commit to anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer/trans friendly organizational frameworks and organizing praxis. The systems of domination that got us into this mess sure as hell won’t help us get out of it. 
  7. Stop accepting the subordination of environmental issues to every other random thing that’s going on. Yes, intersectionality is important, but we can no longer allow environmental issues to be sidelined and given a backseat in the name of intersectionality, especially when poor people of color stand to lose the most from climate change and environmental degradation. 
  8. Create grassroots networks to financially support those who want to engage in eco-defense and environmental justice projects. People shouldn’t have to choose between eating/paying rent or fighting for a livable future. 
  9. Dismantle and shut down destructive infrastructure that harms our health and environment. Stop thinking about doing it and just do it.
  10. Understand and internalize the fact that we’re at war. Millions of people, thousands of other species, and vast ecosystems have already been killed or are in the process of being destroyed by this horrible system.  
  11. Understand and internalize that changing our system and wrenching control of it from the greedy psychopaths will not be easy, pleasant, or fun.
  12. Understand and internalize that we won’t be able to hold onto our current standard of living and save the planet at the same time. If sacrifices aren’t made now (today) there won’t be much of a future for the next generation.  

Earth Day might have been a good idea 47 years ago when it was first introduced, but it’s turned into a sham display of concern, a salve on the conscience of an ecocidal society. If we really want to save the earth we must commit to saving it from our own destructive culture. This requires engaging in some introspection and making some hard choices; this means truly and wholeheartedly making every single day earth day, honoring the gifts nature has given us and no longer taking them for granted.

Happy Earth Day™! Now enjoy these delightful Captain Planet and Fern Gully gifs!

Image result for captain planet gifImage result for ferngully gifImage result for captain planet gifRelated image

Apr14

Understanding the Syrian Crisis

Tima Kurdi, the aunt of Alan Kurdi, gave a very moving and thought provoking talk at an event sponsored by Temple Students for Justice in Palestine. Her nephew, Alan Kurdi, was the toddler we saw laying dead on a Turkish beach in the now iconic photograph that shows the human tragedy of the Syrian war in one of its most purest and visceral forms. She was part of a panel whose purpose was to deepen our understanding of the complexities of the Syrian conflict and its effects on the Syrian people.

Click here for video of the entire panel including the Q&A session.

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Tima Kurdi.mp3

Mar02

Jitish Kallat & Sonia Sanchez

Audio of Jitish Kallat and Sonia Sanchez in conversation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (moderated by Amanda Sroka). Kallat’s contemporary art exhibit, ‘Covering Letter‘, was the spring board for a wider conversation on the role of the artist in today’s world and the relevance of Gandhi’s ideologies during these times of turmoil, uncertainty, inequality, and violence. Gandhi’s letter to Hitler was brought to life by Kallat in a riveting fashion utilizing words projected onto a screen of fog.

The world we are living in and the challenges we face in some ways mirror the world on the eve of WWII when Gandhi decided to reach out to Hitler and appeal to his (nonexistent) better nature. Sonia Sanchez used poetry and her own sharp insights to orient us and guide the conversation towards an exploration of the sometimes contradictory themes at work in both ‘Covering Letter’ and in our own lives.

Introduction

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Sonia Sanchez Poetry Reading

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Moderated Conversation

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Q&A

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Kallat & Sanchez intro.mp3
Sonia Sanchez Reading.mp3
Kallat & Sanchez convo.mp3
Kallat & Sanchez Q&A.mp3

Feb03

Socialism or Barbarism

Christmas Day Tragedy Reveals Necessity of Adequate Social Service Programs

Originally posted by DGP on Medium, January 5th, 2017

Tricia McCauley, a well known D.C. area stage performer, was attacked and murdered by a homeless, mentally ill man on Christmas day in our nation’s capital. The circumstances of her death were very tragic but not, as has been claimed, senseless or unforeseeable as we will explore later on.

As we work to make sure this never happens again, we must reject the simplistic and reductionist notion that the solution to crime is more police, more jails, and an expansion of an already deeply flawed and inequitable justice system.

Many of us know people like Tricia McCauley. Her outgoing personality endeared her to almost everyone she met. A theater colleague describes her:

While we in the theatre community initially knew her as a brilliant performer, often with her creative family at Washington Stage Guild, Tricia was also a teacher, a health coach, and an urban farmer. In her valedictorian speech at her herbal medicine graduate ceremony, she referred to herself as a “plant translator. My deepest joy is introducing plants to people.” Whether it was a recommendation of a detox juice recipe or a list of edible flowers, Tricia made it her personal mission to develop relationships among her friends — human ones and floral ones…

[Content warning: physical violence resulting in death, sexual assault.]

Tricia McCauley spent most of Christmas Day preparing food for an annual holiday party, and in the early evening she departed for the party with her signature dishes in tow. At some point along the way she was accosted by Adrian Duane Johnson, a 29 year old homeless man with a history of mental illness and arrests for petty thefts and misdemeanors. McCauley’s battered body was discovered several days later stuffed into the rear section of her Toyota Scion, her legs bound, her body exhibiting signs of blunt force and sexual trauma. She had been strangled. Johnson’s statements to law enforcement after being arrested were bizarre and unhinged. He claimed the 115 lbs, 5’4 McCauley, a woman traveling alone at night, offered him a ride. He also insisted they engaged in consensual sex after which she became “emotional” and hung herself in the car, but not before telling him that he could have all of her belongings.

Violence against women is epidemic in our society and across the world, and it was the main factor in this situation. Yet we must also acknowledge the equally important role policy makers have played in setting the stage for this particular chain of events and similar tragedies. Tricia McCauley was murdered in the capital city of the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, a country that prides itself on being the “land of opportunity,” — and yet many people living in the capital languish in poverty. In nearby towns and cities like Baltimore the situation is even more desperate. The affluent and the dispossessed exist side by side in almost Dickensian fashion with D.C. enduring a homelessness rate that is twice the national average.

No one likes poverty, no one likes seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets, and yet it seems that many are resigned to the status quo because they believe they will never be directly affected. Tricia McCauley was a victim of this status quo, and one way of honoring her memory is to work much harder towards ending the disparities that inevitably lead to social pathology.

Her facebook page reveals her to be someone who leaned strongly to the left end of the political spectrum. Several of her public posts show she was a strong believer in racial and economic justice, a fact that makes the circumstances of her death especially tragic. She was also conscious of her position as a white person living in the gentrifying majority Black Bloomingdale neighborhood of north-central Washington D.C.

Considering the type of person she was, we can be fairly sure she would not have wanted her tragic death to be used as an excuse for more intensive dismemberment and policing of Black communities, more jails, and more oppression.

In light of the fact that her attacker was homeless let us examine some statistics. A recent study concluded that providing shelter for those enduring homelessness is cheaper than leaving them to languish on the streets. According to the study, providing housing did more than save the city money:

The tenants also spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, with a 78 percent drop in arrests. The reduction is largely due to a decrease in crimes related to homelessness, such as trespassing, loitering, public urination, begging and public consumption of alcohol, according to Caroline Chambre, director of the Urban Ministry Center’s HousingWorks, the main force behind Moore Place.

The connection between stability and low crime can no longer be overlooked. According to Prison Legal News, affordable housing reduces crime and improves public safety:

Despite the strong correlation between increased spending on supportive housing and reduced correctional spending, “jurisdictions continue to spend more on corrections than on housing” by a wide margin. “An increase in spending on housing is associated with a decrease in violent crime at the national level and a decrease in incarceration rates at the state level,” according to JPI. “An increase in spending on housing and community development paired with a decrease in spending on corrections is associated with both lower crime rates and lower prison incarceration rates.”

As countries like Finland and India explore and prepare to implement basic income programs to ensure their citizens can meet essential needs, here in the U.S. we face the prospect of more draconian cuts to social services with one of the most right-wing Congressional and Presidential administrations in decades. For the most part the millionaires on Capitol Hill are insulated from the effects of their slash and burn policies; they live in gated communities with security men; they are chauffeured, provided with carefully crafted itineraries, insulated from the consequences of their cruelty. Unlike Tricia McCauley, the upper echelon decision makers are usually sheltered from all but the most carefully managed of interactions with the dispossessed and the downtrodden who, like the Morlocks in H. G. Well’s The Time Machine, occasionally emerge from the murky depths of their oppression.

One of the rare exceptions to the above mentioned dynamic occurred in 1981 when a young man suffering from schizophrenia shot newly elected president Ronald Reagan in an attempt to impress actress Jodi Foster. It was an extremely ironic turn of events considering Reagan’s track record of shutting down state services, institutions and programs for the mentally ill while governor of California. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey connects the dots between Reagan’s policies and on the ground events in his 2013 article ‘Ronald Reagan’s shameful legacy: Violence, the homeless, mental illness’:

California was the first state to witness not only an increase in homelessness associated with deinstitutionalization but also an increase in incarceration and episodes of violence. Of all the omens of deinstitutionalization’s failure on exhibit in 1970s California, the most frightening were homicides and other episodes of violence committed by mentally ill individuals who were not being treated.

– 1970: John Frazier, responding to the voice of God, killed a prominent surgeon and his wife, two young sons, and secretary. Frazier’s mother and wife had sought unsuccessfully to have him hospitalized.
– 1972: Herbert Mullin, responding to auditory hallucinations, killed 13 people over 3 months. He had been hospitalized three times but released without further treatment.
– 1973: Charles Soper killed his wife, three children, and himself 2 weeks after having been discharged from a state hospital.
– 1973: Edmund Kemper killed his mother and her friend and was charged with killing six others. Eight years earlier, he had killed his grandparents because “he tired of their company,” but at age 21 years had been released from the state hospital without further treatment.
– 1977: Edward Allaway, believing that people were trying to hurt him, killed seven people at Cal State Fullerton. Five years earlier, he had been hospitalized for paranoid schizophrenia but released without further treatment.

According to Dr. Torrey’s article (which includes excerpts from his book ‘American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System’), there is a direct chain of causation between Reagan’s decisions and the violence and mayhem that was later unleashed on society. He also notes that sentiments linking psychiatry to Communism likely influenced Reagan’s decisions both as governor and later as president.

Whether we’re considering homelessness, mental health treatment, or mitigating poverty, we must understand that the resources to solve these problems exist. The problem is with a system that will absolutely not allow a sustainable and equitable distribution of resources for the betterment of the entire community. Instead, many people are left to fend for themselves; many wallow in misery, madness and resentment.

The phrase “socialism or barbarism” made popular by Polish-German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg is more relevant today than ever before. She herself was also a victim of violence, shot in the head and dumped in a river by her political enemies. She wrote:

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” . . . Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. . . . Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war.

The war she speaks of is not only the war that imperialist countries wage against their victims overseas. The social war is in full effect and has been for quite some time, and many of us are losing. Some of the first victims of this war were the indigenous people of this continent and the enslaved Africans brought here in chains. Tricia McCauley is one of the latest casualties of this ongoing war, though an unintended one to be sure.

How many wonderful and talented people have we lost to the insanity of our current system? If the status quo continues there will be many more Tricia McCauley’s, many more Tamir Rice’s, many more Sandra Bland’s. As we see literal white supremacists taking up residence in the White House it bears asking what will it take for people to overthrow this system and demand something better.

If we learn to live side by side with oppression and inequality then what we’re saying is that we are OK with occasionally losing good people. The best way to honor Tricia McCauley’s memory is to work towards abolishing a cruel system that creates an endless cycle of perpetrators and victims. Revolution and socialism now!

                                    Tricia McCauley