The BeZine, June 2017, Environmental Justice/Climate Change: Farming and Access to Water

June 15, 2017

The environmental  challenges are complex, an understatement I know.

  • Big Ag pollutes our waterways and groundwater, air and soil. Some wetlands, rivers and their tributaries can no longer sustain life. Much pastureland is befouled with pesticides, animal waste, phosphates and nitrates and other toxic residue from unsustainable farming practices.
  • Sudan Relief Fund, World Food Program, Oxfam, Catholic Relief Fund, Buddhist Global Relief, the World Food Program and many other organizations are working to mitigate widespread  hunger, which is a problem of economic injustice as well as environmental degradation and environmental injustice.
  • Drought and resulting famine are devastating the Sudan, the West Upper Nile and Yemen.
  • In many areas of the world, access to potable water is sorely lacking.
  • Lack of access to clean water is exacerbated by a want of toilets for some 4.2 billion people, which has a  huge impact on public health.  The result of poor hygiene and sanitation is Dysentery, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A and death-dealing Diarrhea. More people die of diarrhea in Third World counties than of AIDs.

Our problems are pressing and complex and are made the more difficult as we struggle under a cloud of skepticism and division and the discouraging weight of a Doomsday Clock that was moved forward in January to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in response to Trump’s election.  That’s the closest we’ve been to midnight since 1953.

Access to potable water may be the most pressing of our challenges.

“The world runs on water. Clean, reliable water supplies are vital for industry, agriculture, and energy production. Every community and ecosystem on Earth depends on water for sanitation, hygiene, and daily survival.

“Yet the world’s water systems face formidable threats. More than a billion people currently live in water-scarce regions, and as many as 3.5 billion could experience water scarcity by 2025. Increasing pollution degrades freshwater and coastal aquatic ecosystems. And climate change is poised to shift precipitation patterns and speed glacial melt, altering water supplies and intensifying floods and drought.”  World Resources Institute

The good news is that there are many working conscientiously to raise awareness and funds. Some of our readers and contributors are among them. There are good people offering time and expertise, sometimes putting their own lives and livelihoods  in danger.

This month our core team and guest writers have chosen to focus largely on water, but they also address the need to respect science (Naomi Baltuck) and the need to acknowledge that war is a danger to the environment in general as well as a cause of human hunger. (Michael Dickel). If the Syrian Civil War were to stop right this second, one wonders how long – how many years, perhaps decades – it would take to make that country’s land farmable again.

Michael Watson, Carolyn O’Connell and Joe Hesch touch their experiences of farms before industrial farming.  Priscilla Galasso, John Anstie, Paul Brooks, Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen speak to us of water.  Corina Ravenscraft and Sonja Benskin Mesher remind us of the element of greed – as does John – and Sonja points to gratitude.  Enough is truly enough.  Charlie Martin’s poems are poignant, making us think about how sad it would be if we lost it all.  Liliana Negoi brings a quiet and practical appreciation of nature.  Phillip Stevens paints the earth in all her delicacy and need for tender husbandry.

Thanks to our core team members for stellar, thoughtful work as always: John Anstie, Michael Watson and Michael Dickel, Priscilla Galasso and Corina Ravenscraft, Charles Martin, Liliana Negoi, Naomi Baltuck and Joe Hesch.

Welcome back to Paul Brooks, Phillip Stephens and Sonja Benskin Mesher and a warm welcome to Marieta Maglas and Rob Cullen, new to our pages.

We hope this issue will give you pleasure even as it provokes you. Leave your likes and comments behind. As readers you are as import to the The BeZine project, values and goals as are our contributors. Your commentary is welcome and encourages our writers. As always, we offer the work of emerging, mid-career and polished pros, all talented and all with ideas and ideals worth reading and thinking about.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor



How to read this issue of THE BEZINE:

  • Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling (now includes this Intro), or
  • You can read each piece individually by clicking the links below.
  • To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.


Children call on world leaders to save the ocean, World Oceans Day


Walking With Water, Rob Cullen
Water Wishes, Priscilla Galasso
Our Albatross Is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet, Corina Ravenscraft
Close to My Heart, Michael Watson


Let the Rains Fall, John Anstie

The Value of Water, Paul Brookes
WET KILL, Paul Brookes
What Use Poetry When It Floods, Paul Brookes

Hybrid: Warm Hunger, Michael Dickel

Water, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t Blink, Joseph Hesch

The Desert, Marieta Maglas

Postponed Awareness, Charles W. Martin
off course evolution, Charles W. Martin
death by committee, Charles W. Martin

#what more do you expect, Sonja Benskin Mesher

prints, Liliana Negoi
growth, Liliana Negoi
what remains after the tree, Liliana Negoi

Remember the Farm, Carolyn O’Connell

Guerilla Gardening, Phillip Stephens
Resurrection Restoration, Phillip Stephens


That Was Then, This Is Now, Naomi Baltuck


For My Children, Rob Cullen

Except where otherwise noted,
ALL works in The BeZine ©2017 by the author / creator


Daily Spiritual Practice: Beguine Again, a community of Like-Minded People

Facebook, The Bardo Group Beguines

Twitter, The Bardo Group Beguines

Children call on world leaders to save the ocean, launch #My Ocean Pledge campaign at World Oceans Day event

Clouds over the Atlantic courtesy of Tiago Fioreze under CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

On 8 June 2017 HSH Prince Albert of Monaco II was the first to sign The Ocean Pledge launched by youth from UNESCO World Heritage Marine sites at the United Nations. He was joined by, Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO as well as Adrian Grenier United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Environment.

The pledge, which reads ‘I pledge to protect the ocean for future generations’ was also signed by a representative from the government of Australia among other dignitaries.
Children from more than 10 UNESCO marine World Heritage sites including Papahānaumokuākea (USA), Lord Howe Island Group (Australia) and Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles), presented the pledge on stage inside the General Assembly Hall and called upon world leaders to sign their commitment. People from across the globe are invited to sign the pledge digitally on the website of UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme,

The children travelled from some of the remotest places on Earth to highlight the global nature of the threats posed to the ocean, and the need for collective action. Decisions made today will have a ripple effect for generations to come. Each child lives in a UNESCO marine World Heritage site, an area recognized for its Outstanding Universal Value, and protected for humanity under the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The international community has committed to care for our natural wonders. Like the rest of the world’s ocean, World Heritage marine sites are suffering from the impact of climate change, including warming waters, more powerful storms, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification.

Video pledges have been posted from across the planet including sites such as the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Wadden Sea in Netherlands/Germany/Denmark, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati to name a few.

“The world’s ocean is at a tipping point,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.”

“Climate change is already affecting several World Heritage marine sites, and no place on earth is immune to this global threat. But there is hope and we still have a chance to save our ocean treasures, if we act now and work together. Future generations will inherit the consequences of our actions – or inaction.”

View of the Earth where all five oceans are visible. Public domain illustration

This initiative is made possible by the generous support of the Government of Flanders, the Explorers Club, Stefan & Irina Hearst and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.
For more information and to sign the pledge visit: UNESCO #myoceanpledge.

This feature is courtesy of UNESCO #myoceanpledge


Walking with Water

When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies.
It was the only way God could see everything
God was everywhere his proximity was frightening
I walked the mountains searching endlessly
I know I wasn’t alone in these beliefs
I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say
without knowing whether my words are listened to
so I walk these mountains listening to your words
I walk old pathways following mountain trails
I sing my words I sing my song to silence.


Jacques Benveniste

believed water retains
on a molecular level
a memory
that triggers antibodies.
His hypothesis remains unproven
but his conviction stayed firm
until his end came.


I reflect on our indifference
to the way we walk on water
we float on strata of sandstone
once beaches and layered memory
water filters and holds
breaching the surface
springs and dark pools.
And I walk endlessly
on the draining land
beneath my feet
examining the new
examining the past
walking with water
walking with love.


Erw Beddau
has been desicrated
a place of burial
long forgotten by men
it was still there
when I was a child
amongst the panorama
of the plateaus uplands.
From those heights today
I cast an eye to the valley slopes
and see in the distance
where Errw Beddau had once lain.
The spring, the well,
it’s clooty tree remain.
It was said of the well
which stood
in that funerary landscape
of twenty five burial mounds
its spring water cured
ailments of the eye.
In this age of blindness
I sense an irony here.


If I could only see it now
I tasted its spring water
many times long ago
when I was young
walking winding trails
in the steepness of the day
Erw Beddau
the acre of untouched graves
remained a story hidden.
And I crossed the silence
of the high slopes
parish roads and bridle paths
and when these ended
the intricate web of trails
of hefted sheep
mapping out
the lands contour.
Do we mould the landscape?
Or has it formed us?
Walking with water.
Walking with love.


When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies
I walked the mountains searching endlessly
I wasn’t alone in those beliefs
I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say
without knowing whether my words have been listened to
so I walk these mountains still listening to your words
words and teachings no longer listened to
I walk mountain trails following old pathways
I sing my words I sing my song to silence
Walking with water.
Walking with love.

Dedicated to my daughter Beth Cullen who walks with water, walks with love – who achieved so much in Ethiopia with the Karrayyuu pastoralist community and our shared love of past essential knowledge!

© 2017, Rob Cullen

Our Albatross Is Greed, But We’re Not Sunk Yet

June’s theme at The BeZine is “Environmental Justice/Climate Change: Farming and Access to Water”. It’s a good time to think about water as we are easing into summer here in North America. I know there are many, like me, who wonder if this summer will continue the trend of breaking record heat indexes, or how bad the drought will be this year?

It’s easy to take fresh water for granted when you have unlimited access to it. It’s easy not to think about people thousands of miles away who walk as much as six hours or 5 miles a day, just for clean water. Out of sight, out of mind, perhaps? What we take for granted here in the West, millions of others struggle every day to reach.

I could write a book about all the things which contribute and are causing the shortages of fresh water in the world, or how these shortages are leading to more wars and will continue to get worse as the climate changes. But I decided to write a poem instead, and borrowed a technique from another writer whom I greatly admire, Michael Dickel. I’ve inserted links inside the poem with the hopes that you’ll follow them and learn more about the water crisis that imperils the planet. Maybe it will motivate you to look at fresh, clean water with a different perspective, and even inspire you to take action(s). As always, thanks for taking the time to read. 🙂


Image borrowed from

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink…”
Prophetic words, which won’t be heard?
We’re already pushing at the brink.

We give our water to corporations,
So that we can buy it back again!
Poisoned taps, like third-world nations,
But here, in towns like Flint, Michigan.

Runoff pollution kills rivers and streams,
Water tables poisoned by mining and fracking,
Droughts and hurricanes, climate extremes,
Children die each day, from clean water’s lacking.

Sands slip through Humanity’s hourglasses,
But the future’s not fully carved in stone.
Technology may save Man’s collective, dumb asses,
Or buy us more time to correct what we’ve done.

Check out clean water that comes in a book!
Or an edible, bio-degradable sphere.
A billboard makes water from air — take a look!
A sieve that makes seawater drinkable! *Cheer!*

One man is walking 3,200 miles,
Another invented these portable stations.
Can you imagine the millions of smiles,
Saved, by clean water for all the world’s nations?

It starts and ends with each one of us,
Individual actions have ripple effects.
Water is life: without it, we’re dust.
Water is life. And all life connects.

~ © 2017 CLR

© 2017, Corina Ravenscraft

Close to My Heart

It’s June and in our small part of the world, Vermont, the landscape is rich in blossom. Everywhere one looks there is color and shape, great burstings of early summer passion, a vast flood of liquiod desire. Beyond the blooms lies an infinity of green, grass growing by the hour, bushes shaking in their leafing, the forest almost impenetrable in a vastness of viridian.

The garden has risen from its winter brown, some beds literally covered in green; the cress in the lettuce bed fills every free cranny with sweetness. There will be more planting I am sure as some seeds have perished in the cool dampness of the prolonged spring.

Rain has fallen for weeks. Even now the sky seems to hold back a torrent, although there are thinnesses in the cloud, places where there is less threat of storm. Even as we good naturedly complain we know the rain enables the blossoms and the green; without it there would be nothing.

We, too, are blossoms, requiring water, although we may last for years rather than days. These eyes are water, and the brains behind them. When we kiss someone we exchange water, and the taste of the beloved comes through a mist of mouth. Even the minerals in our bones are carried into place by water; when our blooming has ended water will slowly erode the bone, turning it  into water borne mineral to nourish more blossoms.

In our passion hardness inevitably dissipates into soft wetness and intimacy. As we explore we learn that sometimes hardness allows closeness of the most profound kind, and that very hardness is filled with water.  When we make children our very cells swim toward one another through the damp and wet we cherish.

On the family farm, in summer, growing up, there was a creek running through the back pasture and a pond in the apple orchard. Both held fish and sometimes yielded dinner, or on a slow day, lunch. I often wonder how often my cousins and their beloveds made love by the pond, not far from the kitchen window, swimming together in summer sweat, ignoring the chiggers and mosquitoes.

We seldom needed to water the farm’s large kitchen garden. Living a few miles from the Ohio river summer meant frequent storms and live giving rain. Drought was the exception; we worried more that hail would shred the tobacco leaves that in autumn provided more income than all the rest of the farm together. Break a tobacco leaf and water oozed out; fracture a membrane and the fragility of structures made of water became clear even to those who had their doubts water might support the world.

Life depends on water here, on this tiny planet, circling an insignificant sun in a far corner of one galaxy among hundreds of millions of galaxies. Water is quite simply life, and is, therefore, inherently sacred, and what we do with water is inevitably spiritual and moral. I am confident that when we return to spirit the Grandmothers will ask us what we did with our precious lives, and with the water that makes them possible. May we say we stood with many courageous persons to honor and protect the sacred water.

Nearly forty years ago my girlfriend at the time, Janice, and I lived on, and ran, a small ranch in the mountains of northeastern New Mexico. The last year we were there, the summer I graduated from graduate school, was dry, even by New Mexico standards. When the monsoon came the almost daily torrential downpours struggled to make up the deficit.

Our ranch was at the top of the watershed, meaning even in the worst of the drought we had water to feed the two large ponds in which we raised trout, the one crop that made money. Unfortunately, in dry weather the ponds evaporated nearly as much water as the river brought in. The ranches below us also took their share of water, so by the time the river arrived in the village a few miles downstream the mountain torrent was reduced to a trickle that was insufficient for drinking, let alone irrigating the village gardens and fields. It was, as is so often the case in the arid southwest, a matter of water rights versus cultural survival.

The weather was so dry for most of that summer that the cattle could not find adequate pasture; they kept breaking through the barbed wire fences that usually held them in place, making much work for us as they did so. The man who owned the ranch did not want to bring in additional feed for the cattle, although he did supplement the horses’ feed. He also did not seem to care much that folks down river were hurting. His lack of empathy and concern resulted in my girlfriend and I catching parasites from our drinking water, and very nearly lead to an all out water war with live ammunition.

That summer, when I was in my mid-twenties and exploring the intersection between art and ecology, taught me that we humans, like all biological beings, are water. Every day I was viscerally reminded that how we farm, ranch, and share water really does matter. That summer I discovered that winter snow and summer rain are indeed the sacred, shared source of all life, something my friends at the Taos Pueblo reminded us the katchinas have known all along, and a lesson I now hold close to my heart.

© 2017, Michael Watson


Let the Rains Fall

“Water, water, every where
… Nor any drop to drink.”

If I should have enough to weep
some tears before we sink
into the deep … then

let the rains fall everywhere

where land is parched
where lips are cracked
where leaves are starched
and odds are stacked
agin those least able

to feel the rain fall on their face

and cleanse decaying life
of toxic overload
and feed the food that’s rife
and rich as any lode
but for strife … and greed

that let the acid rain fall foul

… and cost us dear.


© 2017 John Anstie
All rights reserved.

[The first two lines are taken from “The Rime of The Ancient Mariner”, the most epic of his lyric ballads, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.]

This Value of Water

as I wet my Nanna’s mouth
with a tiny bud of wool

she lies half in this world
half in another unseen.

My hand fetches water from the well
of the cup, every time my eyes

notice cracks appear in softness,
dry earthquakes open soil

like her trowel levers earth open
for the receipt of a seed or flower.

© 2017, Paul Brookes


Keep all dry. Quality of life
is in dryness. Any drink is poison.

Swimming is murder. Rainfall
is death. Protect yourselves.

Shelter your children. Ensure
their suits are watertight.

Physical relations with others
must be kept dry. Swapping liquids

means death for you both. Love
is dry. It is cracked and dust.

© 2017, Paul Brookes, excerpt from A World Where chapbook

What Use Poetry When It Floods

As waters rise above your threshold,
dampen what work achieved,

washes away efforts of days.
All possessions beyond repair,

family photographs curl, float away,
only memories in your head,

only effort in sinew and bone,
beat of heart to help a neighbour

into a rescue boat. Hard to count blessings,
as if someone has died, anger at authority

who fail to see it, resignation at losses,
adamant determination shall not be beaten,

by sodding weather.

© 2017, Paul Brookes


The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Excerpt from Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950/editors W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson)

Don’t Blink

Rolling through the valley,
I passed the canal and mill towns,
the farms that string like
an antique necklace all the way
to Albany.
Near Dolgeville, I saw
a once-was farmhouse and barn,
empty of family and stock.
The barn’s roof rested
on the milking floor,
empty birds’ nests in
its beams and joists.

Yet the house still stood,
though canted toward the Mohawk.
It looked to be held up
by one window, which stood
almost plumb and middling strong
for the time being, staring
as it always did,
out at the path where
the cows once rumbled in
and lowed for their milking.

“Don’t blink” I said to myself
as I rushed by,
“because someday this
will all be gone.”
“Don’t blink,” I begged the house,
whose sad swirled-glass eye
looked out on one more hollow bead
in the necklace leading
all the way to Albany.

© 2017, Joseph Hesch

The Desert

There’s something

to teach in the desert- holy words,

not simple words.

‘Tis about some thirst.

‘Tis about one huge desert,

which is always peopled by

a lot of walkers,

those moribund walkers with small, leaden eyes,

eyes like lost objects

and really not useful

at night.

At night,

many, tiny, miscellaneous stars start to shine

in that unique, leaden sky,

but even so,

it is hard to see around.

Those ancient stars become golden leaders

for those losers walking

and singing heavy songs,

but searching for new pools –

wherever they are elsewhere.

The teacher said, and he said once,

‘I’ll turn the desert into a pool of water.’

It is not only about the thirst.

Those dying people

still have a will, but maybe

they all will not lose

all their hope.

At least, they cannot die twice

and they think that they will lose everything


there is nothing left to save.

© 2017, Marieta Maglas

postponed awareness . . .

when the sun
forgets to rise
will men open
their closed eyes
just in time to see
their demise

© 2017, Charles W. Martin

off course evolution

the great zimbabwe

© 2017, Charles W. Martin

death by committee

the end
prolonged climate change dialogues
with rehearsed government denials
as earth dies

© 2017, Charles W. Martin



put your palm on the ground,
press it
until you feel the dirt filling
the space between your fingers,
your striations,
even your pores.
now take it away,
look at that print
and leave.
that print, filled with your gaze,
will have been,
in its (no matter how short) existence,
no less precious or important
than any random word
thrown to a random stranger
on a random day.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi


it used to be simple.

filiform roots spread gingerly,
conquering soil with a tender patience
and smoothing away the dust
grain by grain
in search for water veins.

earth breathed around them,
the odor of the jungle flowing thickly
through the vegetal fragility raking it –
bold filaments
meant to sagely braid themselves
into future wooden snakes
crossing the undergrounds of the forest.

above them eyes blinked,
growing faces and legs,
growing mouths,
hungry mouths and teeth,
perfect fangs,
to which foliage was but a place to lurch,
a momentary den.

sometimes, roots tasted blood,
earth became spongy and red
and satiated beasts catnapped on the bed of stained herbs –
but roots didn’t mind.

lately though,
what water carries with it
is the acid mind of the clay,
burning its path through fangs and eyes and roots
and coagulating life in its very amnios.

it’s not simple anymore.

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

what remains after a tree

and yet, what remains after a tree?
sometimes a root
sometimes a snag
sometimes the sorrow of the grass deprived of shade
sometimes more sky but less blue
sometimes more flight and less rest
sometimes just emptiness

© 2017, Liliana Negoi

Remembering the Farm

I remember a farm where grasses grew
wild flowers scattered over their jewels
enriching the meadows where cattle grazed
and every August with horses we made hay.

The land was productive and the cattle thrived
and gentle the rain that watered the soil:
the summers were long and the children swam
in the waves lapping beaches of silvered sand,

for the cattle provided pure milk by the gallon
that was milked every morning and collected
in churns, it tasted so sweet fresh from the udder.

The grasses provided sweet hay for both horse cattle.
I remember the haymaking, pitching grass on the fork;
the haycocks rising their mounds on the fields
to dry in the long days of summer’s sure sun,

but that was before the farms turned to spreading
chemicals promising ever increasing production
the flowers vanished together with the bees and
the meadows no longer held cattle and horses,
for the cattle are housed in great lines of production

and their milk is pumped into vats for pasteurisation.
Its delivered in plastic that needs recycling or lands
in the sea we once swam in so freely but now is awash
with fish that are dying and fishermen’s catches grow

ever smaller as the boats that caught mackerel no longer
tie-up at the jetty we walked to on Sundays, to buy mackerel
for dinner – they’re gone with the summer and the pure spring
water we drank by the bucket from the clear mountain stream.

© 2017, Carolyn O’Connell

Guerilla Gardening

Consider the earth
a garden waiting for
sunlight and rain to
sustain it or
buried under debris
like a corpse
abandoned to decay.
Do we plow through debris?
Scatter seeds and
fertilize soil?
Or pour more asphalt,
suffocate the life
beneath until it
crumbles to dust?
Earth is a fragile flower,
frozen in winter,
parched in summer,
strangled by weeds,
uprooted by the dogs of
development, swept away
in waves of commerce that
pummel farm, field and
orchard into submission.
No remission.
Subvert subdivisions
with sweet alyssum.
uproot corporate towers
with cornflowers.
Plant prairie clover
to prune back pavement,
and salvia to salve
strip-mined hills
and landfills.
Earth is an oyster
nurturing a pearl inside.
While the pearl remains
it grows more precious.
Most of us pry out the pearl,
discard the oyster,
never realize our treasure
is a dead thing
unable to grow.
© 2017, Phillip T. Stephens

Resurrection Restoration

In Paradise we spend our mornings
straining toxins from the rivers,
our shirts in the currents to
catch a thousand years of plastic,
solvents, pesticides, debris.
Our bodies glisten with sweat as
we wring out the filth of industry to
incinerate with holy fire,
transmogrifying the corrupted past
into a radiance brighter than
our long dead sun.

We chose this work.
We clean these rivers singing
songs of praise and revelry.
We pitch camp around a fire,
share spiced wine and tales of
civilizations hidden under asphalt
we’ll break apart and melt down
to the oil men forged it from.
God joins us to break bread.
He shares wine and reminisces
the day he rose the Rockies,
painted purple hues of sunset to
inspire generations that followed.
He thanks us for the centuries
spent reclaiming strip-mine scars,
and planting grain for the
children of paradise.

He finishes his wine, wanders off
to visit other friends.
The flame dies and cicadas
climb the branches to sing.
We follow God into the forest to
plant rosewoods, oaks, conifers, corn,
bending our backs to
earth’s incline and bending
our wills to the wind.

© 2017, Phillip T. Stephens

That Was Then, This Is Now

When traveling in Italy, we took the kids to the Florence Museum of Science, now the Museo Galileo.  It housed a collection of early scientific instruments, old maps, and, of course, the history of Galileo Galilei.

Galileo was the genius who invented, among other things, the forerunner of the thermometer and an improved military compass.  He discovered The Galilean Moons of Jupiter.  His theory, known as The Galilean Invariance, provided a jumping off point for two other scientific geniuses, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, to form their revolutionary theories regarding motion and relativity.  Galileo is regarded as the father of observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of the scientific method, and he even made it onto the list of the top ten people in history who changed the world.  But he’s probably best known for proving the Copernican theory of heliocentricity, which states that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than the other way around.

And that was his inconvenient truth.

The highlight of the Museo Galileo–at least for our kids–was the mummified finger of Galileo, resting in a fancy glass jar like a holy relic.  I suppose it’s appropriate for the revered patron saint of science.  Galileo was a pious Catholic and a martyr.  Ironically, it was the Church that made a martyr of him for Science.

In 1633, Galileo was summoned to Rome and brought to trial by the Roman Inquisition on the charge of heresy.  His crime was contradicting the Bible, which states that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

When the Inquisition threatened to extract a confession through torture, Galileo recanted, was found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment.  His sentence was commuted, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. He continued to write, although the Church slapped a gag order on him, banned his books and censored his writings for another 200 years, when even the Pope could no longer hold back the tide of scientific advancement.  When Galileo died in 1642, they weren’t even going to allow him a burial in consecrated ground.  It was thirty years before they inscribed his name on his burial place.  But in 1737, ninety-five years after his death, they brought his body out of the bad boy crypt and reburied him in a fancy marble tomb in St. Croce in Florence, across from Michelangelo’s tomb, because it was believed that Michelangelo’s spirit leapt into Galileo’s body between the former’s death and the latter’s birth.  Then, in 1992, Pope John Paul II did sort of apologize for wrongfully persecuting Galileo.

The wealthy have always had a place at the table, between religion and science, as patrons, enthusiasts, or opponents, but now Big Business sits at its head.  Big Business has bought and paid for a president that doesn’t believe in anything but the Almighty Dollar.  The Republicans sold their souls to secure their power, dropping any pretense of morality or family values, and they bought their majority by pandering to the far right, that thirty percent of America that interprets the bible as literally they might an instruction manual to the dashboard of a new car.  Science has suffered for it on both counts.

Texas is producing textbooks that not only disclaim evolution and pitch Creationism as its own brand of science, but it has cut out any reference to Climate Change.  Even the conservative Fordham Institute calls it a “politicized distortion of history.”  Texas is spoon-feeding its children claims that Moses was a Founding Father of America.  There’s a lot of money to be made in the textbook business, and the privatization of schools, not to mention the prisons.  If politics and religion, power and money are twisted into a huge tangled knot, Big Business still knows which strings to pull to get what it wants.

Civil Rights, equality, justice, education, and immigration are hot topics, but Climate Change is the new subject of denial by the Powers That Be.  A few years ago I’d have said the advancement of earth science was moving at a glacial pace, but that’s not so apt an analogy any more, because glaciers are melting at an alarming rate.  98 percent of the global scientific community now recognize climate change as real and caused by human activity, but the Republican party is in complete denial.  They stick their fingers in their ears and sing loudly to avoid hearing what they know is true.  Again, it’s all about money.  Environmental protection means restrictions, restrictions mean less profit for Big Business, and Big business gives politicians huge payoffs to deny Climate Change.  This has been an ongoing struggle for more than fifty years. The damage might already be irreversible.  A rapidly warming Arctic could loose a methane climate bomb resulting in widespread extinction in as little as nine years.

 You may be sure that history will judge them, just as it has judged the perpetrators of the Galileo affair.

But there is one huge difference in this particular power struggle.  It took 200 years for the popular tide to become too strong to resist, at which time the Church bowed to reality and accepted Galileo’s proof of a heliocentric Earth.  But in the case of Climate Change, we don’t have 200 years.  We don’t have ten years.  We can’t wait for the next Newton or Einstein to show up, and we don’t need them to.  Our climate scientists have already done the math, and it might already be too late.

And that is our inconvenient truth.

Copyright 2016 Naomi Baltuck.

Photos of Galileo courtesy of Wikipedia.



For my children.

For we are kings
and walk the land
with our long handled spades.
We are kings
and look at the day
with our eyes open.

For we are kings
and look to others
as they are the same.

We look at the day
with open eyes
and our heads held high.
we see all things
and walk the land
with our long handled spades.

And when people try
to demean us
and speak ill of us
we know the words of the psalm
we know the words of the king
who spoke to his God in despair.

“Blessed is he that considereth the poor
And he shall be blessed upon this earth.
And thou will not deliver him unto his enemies.
The Lord will preserve him alive,
And he shall be blessed upon the earth.
And thou will not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.”

Psalm 41.

© 2017, Rob Cullen