He shut his eyes. “Gone. Gone. Tear my books, burn my books, cleanse, rip, clean away. Unearth the coffins, incinerate, do away with. Kill us, oh, kill us, for we are bleak castles on midnight mornings, we are blowing wind webs and scuttling spiders, and we are doors that swing unoiled and banging shutters banging, and we are darknesses so vast that ten million nights of darkness are held in one braincell. We are buried hearts in murdered bedrooms, hearts glowing under floorboards. We are clanking chains and gossamer veils, and vapors of enchanted and long dead and lovely ladies on grand castle stairs, float, afloat, windy and whispering and wailing. We are the Monkey’s Paw, and the catacomb and the gurgling Amontillado bottle and the mortared brick, and the three wishes. We are the caped figure, the glass eye, the bloodied mouth, the sharp fang, the veined wing, the autumn leaf in the cold black sky, the wolf shining its white rimed morning pelt, we are the old days that come not again upon the earth, we are the red wild eye and the sudden instrument of knife or gun. We are all things violent and black. We are winds that keen and sad snows falling. We are October, burning down the lands into fused ruin, all aflame, all blue and melancholy smoke. We are deep frozen winter. We are monumented mound yard, we are the chiseled marble name and the birth and death years. We are the tapping away coffin and we are the scream in the night.”
"Yes, yes," whispered the official.
"Carry me away, burn me up, let flames take me. Put me in a catacomb of books, brick me in with books, mortar me up with books and burn the whole of us together.""
There remains only to mention a prediction that my Fire Chief, Beatty, made in 1953, halfway through my book. It had to do with books being burned without matches or fire. Because you don’t have to burn books, do you, if the world fills up with nonreaders, nonlearners, nonknowers? If the world wide-screen-basketballs and -footballs itself to drown in MTV, no Beattys are needed to ignite the kerosene or hunt the reader. If the primary grades suffer meltdown and vanish through the cracks and ventilators of the schoolroom, who, after a while, will know or care?
All is not lost, of course. There is still time if we judge teachers, students, and parents, hold them accountable on the same scale, if we truly test teachers, students, and parents, if we make everyone responsible for quality, if we insure that by the end of its sixth year every child in every country can live in libraries to learn almost by osmosis, the our drug, street-gang, rape, and murder scores will suffer themselves near zero. But the Fire Chief, in mid-novel, says it all, predicting the one-minute TV commercial with three images per second and no respite from the bombardment. Listen to him, know what he says, then go sit with your child, open a book, and turn the page."
A recent study in Science reported that some of the world’s oldest trees—most between 100 to 300 years old—are dying rapidly, in part because of climate change. This infographic (from 2010, but still relevant) shows the location of trees that are even older, and now at risk.
One of them was Ariella Patterson, a self-possessed and level-headed woman, the mother of two boys, one almost six years old and the other nine, who had become homeless when the house where they were living had gone up in fire after an explosion in the boiler room. She had two sisters, but both of them had families of their own and could not take her into their apartments. Her mother was an alcoholic and could be of no assistance to her.
Like others in her situation, Ariella was obliged to look to the city’s welfare system and its homeless agency for shelter and to navigate a series of perplexing rules and regulations that had been established as deterrence strategies to discourage homeless people like herself from requesting shelter in the first place.
The keystone of the system of deterrence was an institution — there were two of them in those days, called Emergency Assistance Units — in which a homeless family was allowed to stay initially, sleeping on the floor, or else on chairs or tables, in an undivided space with other homeless families until it was determined if they qualified for placement in one of the hotels.
The EAUs, as they were known, were horrendous places. Homeless people, including women in their final months of pregnancy, would sometimes have to stay for weeks. Some went into labor while they waited there. Visitors were generally not allowed to enter — an even more restrictive policy than the one that was in place at most of the hotels. I got into both of them with the help of Steven Banks, the Legal Aid attorney, who, in one instance, brought me through the entryway and walked me past the guards himself. Once I was admitted, I was pretty much ignored and was able to remain within those buildings very late at night, watching mothers placing coats or other clothing on the tables or the floor for their kids to sleep on, and talking with those mothers who were too upset or scared to go to sleep at all.
One of the city’s motives in requiring these periods of temporary insecurity for newly homeless people was, according to the Legal Aid attorney, to “test” these families in order to discern whether they were genuinely desperate in their need for shelter. If they left an EAU before the city came to a decision, this would indicate that they were not “truly homeless” and were not deserving of any additional assistance.
After this experience, people were unlikely to reject an opportunity to move into any place the city chose to put them where they would have a room of their own and beds they kids could sleep on. Thus it was that Ariella now began a long progression from one of the city’s shelters to another. “Some of them,” she said, “were not as bad as the others. One of them was a Travelodge where the city put some homeless people, which was reasonably decent, but we only got to stay there for three weeks.” Another one, not so decent, was a place where rooms were rented out to prostitutes, but in which a number of rooms or sometimes an entire floor, were set aside for homeless people and their children.
Her longest stay was at the Martinique Hotel. To this day, she still recalls a child at the Martinique, “a little girl nine years old,” whose mother hadn’t been there long and wasn’t yet familiar with the dangers that the building held. She sent her down the hallway to throw away the garbage in one of those barrels that were placed at every landing. “She was raped next to the garbage bins,” Ariella told me.
"Another mother, a lady with two babies who lived a couple doors from me — people called her ‘Cookie,’ very young and very shy and frightened of the building….She started sleeping with the guards because they promised her protection."
It was, she said, “a cesspool, the worst place in the world that you could be with children.” People today, she added, ask her “whether it was ‘traumatizing’ to be living there. I tell them, No. ‘Traumatizing’ is too nice and too genteel. It was a nightmare. It was hell on earth.”
— Jonathan Kozol, Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America
As our numbers increase, so space for other animals and plants decreases. Our skills and technological ingenuity seem to know no bounds. Having ventured to every corner of our planet, we are now beginning to look beyond it. We are conducting experiments to find out how to grow food to sustain ourselves should we manage to extend the territory of our species to Mars.
Men impressed their footprints on the moon a mere three and a half million years after the first of them to walk upright left theirs across a field of volcanic ash in Africa. This is a mere blink in the eye of evolution. In that short time we, alone among all animals, have discovered how to exploit our environment to produce more and more food to sustain our unparalleled numbers. In so doing we have denied the earth to other species to such an extent that many have been driven into extinction and many more are now trembling on the brink.
Perhaps the time has come, when we should put our aspirations into reverse. Perhaps now, instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of our population, we should find ways of controlling our population to ensure the survival of our gravely threatened environment."
Kuroshio Sea - Second Largest Aquarium Tank in the World (x)
there have been five periods when the diversity of life on earth has undergone a spasm so swift and intense that more than three-quarters of all species have gone extinct within a window of time considered geologically brief — usually less than two million years. Although extinct has, throughout the planet’s history, been the norm — of some four billion species thought to have existed, 99 percent are also thought to have perished — there usually exists a balance whereby species that become unfit and disappear are gradually replaced by new ones better adapted to survive. A mass-extinction event, however, is indiscriminate; it causes the natural, or “background” extinction rate to spike and claims species regardless of fitness. The result is a biological slate wiped clean.
Many biologists believe that a sixth mass extinction is now underway. Anthony Barnosky, a paleontologist at the University of California in Berkeley, decided to see if he could confirm this. In a paper published last year in the journal Nature, he compared the current extinction rate with those underscoring the “Big Five.” What Barnosky found is that we haven’t yet entered a new mass extinction event, but that we’re teetering on the cusp. Using the most-conservative estimates, Barnosky determined that extinctions are happening between three and 12 times faster than what is considered a natural rate. This may not sound like much, but it is as fast or faster than any rate that caused the “Big Five.” Furthermore, if we are to lose only those species on today’s critically endangered list within the next 100 years and the current rate were to continue unabated, we would be well within a sixth mass-extinction event — with more than 75% of species disappearing — in less than 2,500 years. On the geological timescale, this amounts to a heartbeat.
But unlike the massive volcanic eruptions or asteroid collision that caused previous extinction events, the remarkable thing about this possible sixth traumatic event is that we would cause it. Through excessive hunting and poaching, the destruction of habitat to clear land for agriculture and development, the spread of pathogens and invasive species, and the burning of fossil fuels, humans are on a trajectory to have as great an impact on the planet’s biodiversity as the most dramatic natural disasters of the past 540 million years.
— Amanda Martinez, Battle at the End of Eden