Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dawn of a World Economy not so Far Beyond Belief

Last week I was part of an audience to the best, most complete-sounding plan imaginable for steering the global economy freer and freer from those toxic fundamentals, oil, gas and coal. As a person who gets back and forth across the middle of North America by gasoline car I mostly draw a blank on what reduced reliance on my own time-tested car would look like. Eric Enberg of Citizens Climate Lobby, who spoke to the Duluth, MN chapter of the Izaak Walton League on January 6th, may not have furnished a specific plan to those of us long-distance drivers wondering how else we'd get to all our sites and marketplaces, but he certainly, with a brisk and smiling verve, delivered a sweeping proposal that even a non-logical mind could track, a win/win that would serve everybody but people stubbornly invested in fossil fuels.

The Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal is explained here at Citizens Climate Lobby's website. Essays about large-scale risk to the balance of nature including our atmosphere have used the term externalities for the  too-obvious environmental costs of business that conventional economic systems have failed to account for. The Carbon Fee and Dividend would build those costs in, as a central principle fostering what would seem to be the whole subsequent economic order.

The carbon fee would apply to all sources of atmospheric carbon at the source--oil wellhead, coal mine, shipping port--would increase over time, and would be subject to adjustment at international borders so industry would be discouraged from dodging it by moving abroad. As a fee, not a tax, its revenues would be distributed to households directly, a subsidy and stimulus that everyone would welcome, compounding the benefits of local and federal tax refunds. According to Mr. Enberg, the greatest personal impact each of us has on the climate comes about not through what we drive, considerable though that may be, but through what we buy--all kinds of goods and services. Adopting a fee and dividends would recognize that. The carbon fee would force business, both manufacturing and service, to review and overhaul all their processes, including raw materials, in a way that would trim out more and more fossil-fuel-related costs, since prices in all sectors would rise in consequence of the fee assessed early on for anything brought to us by gasoline, petroleum derivative or coal. Renewable energies and non-petroleum principle materials would filter into place as affordable substitutes with the passage of time, steadily lowering carbon emissions while easing countries into the parameters endorsed by the Paris Agreement last fall.

Gaps between how economic policy is written, how it's administered under differing bodies of law and how it's put into practice by all the relevant businesses never-the-less are all too likely if we implement rules, from one national or regional governing body to the next, based on this paradigm. There have always been self-serving personalities as well as desperate ones with talents for bending rules, supplying under-the-table markets and using diversionary tactics. Cynical schemes of fee avoidance and manipulation will doubtless come to our attention, as well as price wars plus out-and-out physical competition for superior raw materials, whatever they might be, known to be in limited supply, and for water and for real estate. Conflicts and mismanagement must increasingly remind societies that everything we need proves finite if we insist on perpetually growing consumer demand, out of a fanciful belief in ever-expanding prosperity for a customer base as vast as the expanding universe.

In a trust that enough of us know we have to make way for future generations in another age, innovating by using the laws of mechanics, by alchemies now little understood and by our own insertion in the flows of earth's own ancient forces, I recall this 1999 watercolor that shows a coexistence briefly traced on a brown, distantly-peopled beach, with snow flurries like a kind of yearly omen.

                        Snow Buntings on a Wintry Beach   - original watercolor 12 x 8.25" unframed,  $95.00

I had seen the snow buntings, whose arrival from the Arctic seems to demarcate early winter from late fall, and remembered episodes of biking in wide-open air. Whose might be the wheels that made the tire marks, and what blends of musculature, mechanics--even electronics--might drive them there in a habitat for brown bird survivors? There always deserve to be earthly enchantments and the soft tracks of our passage following where the other creatures go.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I Met a Legend in the Dark

Skiing mainly for exercise in the last low glow of a fair Saturday, river running open on my left, firs and oaks and ashes and aspen interwoven not so awfully high overhead, I heard a snap, not so much like the sound of dry wood as of live sapling, and stared to my right in search of the animal. I try and try to revitalize a memory of something, right away not deer-like, bounding probably a lot the way a deer does when spooked, then running southward, opposite my own bearing, on legs that were low and stocky--not deer, though as quick, and even quieter than deer, I thought right away. I knew to watch for a tail, a defining thing, since all image at that stage of late day was silhouette. And I must have seen a tail, intent as I was not to miss one and so make an ID, and then I must have really seen a long thin tail. The impression in memory is the tail, a moment's wink of added-on silhouette, shaped like a C in the way it was carried. I think I said, "oh!" before veering off the trace of path in a faint degree of shock.

Having cougar on my mind since viewing a neighbor's photo shots of cougar tracks the day before, I wanted for this fleeing animal to be that cougar or kin to it, whose face and coloring it was too dark to see. But what other kind of animal could that form have been in unfenced private forest in Minnesota, given the tracks and the momentary galloping outline, an animal at least as big as me or bigger, scared off by my passage on cross-country skis? But it was a silhouette, not a full and living subject. I had just missed a real sighting of another American wild animal I have never met anywhere before in the wild. Earlier in the same day I had, alongside Lake Superior, viewed a new species of gull so close up I thought I recognized expression in its face--what are you all staring at?? Really!--and watched it from angle after different angle in full flattering sun. This bird looked like a marble bust or an art-quality color photo brought to life.Then I had headed over to Pineapple Art Center to exhibit and talk about an art proposal making use of pencil silhouettes. This continuum of images--live and moving, to flat monochromatic and representational, to live but silhouetted against a night-dark forest--seems noteworthy now, full of room to talk of the impacts of the different kinds of image that smack our eyes.

For the first couple of nights as I lay awake after that startling encounter--in the urgings of many people, dangerous owing to the nature of that kind of beast--I troubled myself with the question: did I really see a long thin tail, held however it was held, like a C or uncurling into another shape--or did the power of suggestion, the desire for this spectre to really prove to be a cougar, add an imagined tail to the back end of the bounding-away form? Looking hard, I think, was probably its own reward: I really saw, however fleetingly, what there was to see. But the other part of the conviction I had had in those seconds as I stood on my skis came back to me--no bobbing white rump and tail of a deer, nor any other obvious tail of the bushy sort a wolf would carry. The animal sprang away like a cat, or panther, or mountain lion, all of these, because it was a cat, of magnificent size.

What is a silhouette when compared with a fully-formed image? I think it takes its place as the image of all of its kind, while a three-dimensional photo or illustration is of a specimen. Just below is decorative, contemplative artwork I have taken on as an assignment, hinting of types of human, suggestions of personality, categories of motion. I plan on doing another sheet not of human figures but our four-legged, hands-free relatives like the cougar or deer on the run. If I should be so lucky as to pass another mountain lion, or panther, or cougar in broad-enough daylight I wonder what I'll have to report beyond color pattern or perfectly supple, enviable powers of motion--attitude, say, of an animal in the way that we each saw the other and drew our conclusions. A different type of story and artwork must develop in those circumstances.