Saturday, November 7, 2015

Activism, the XL-Keystone Pipeline and Sociopathy

For the time being the Keystone Pipeline project is dead.
The reason stated is that the pipeline will not serve the interests of the United States of America and will contribute to the worsening of the environmental conditions around the planet. Environmentalists are pleased with the decision and know that to a great extent this decision was taken in part due to a huge political pressure created by activism. This phenomenon is been observed in other arenas of our political life, like the process in the selection of candidates for the US presidency currently in the way.

Activism is, has been, and should continue to be an honorable participation of the citizenry of any country. It is the only means citizens have to oppose the paramount force that multinational corporations have in the development, and progress of our society. We should hope that soon, through educating the leadership of these corporations, activism would not be necessary to oppose corporations as they will be directed by citizens and not, as most are today, by sociopaths. Sick of their minds these sociopaths are in charge of a corporate power that is working against the wellbeing of the common populace. Their decision making is based on an ill desire of wealth accumulation and not in the desire of benefiting the community. As with any illness, sociopathy has to be addressed by our society. The lack of proper education and mental medical attention has produced in our society a class of people (so called 1%) with a clear manifestation of an intense antisocial behavior. Worst than any other illness and disease, sociopathy is not recognized as an environmental disease. In fact those affected by it, do not recognize that they are sick. Intelligent as they are, they have found mechanisms for defense and are able to coverup their illness under a blanket of economic ideology.

You might not agree with me that these CEOs are sociopaths, but ask yourself:

Who would need more than 1 million dollars a month?

Why is the exaggerated income of these CEOs not challenged by those who can challenge it?

Finally, What are you going to do about it?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Comemmorating Chris

We were all shocked when Chris passed in such a sudden and unexpected way. Many of us who knew her immediately thought of ways to keep her in our thoughts and to keep her legacy going. Last Thursday (summoned by Dr. Dupriest) a small group of us gathered to brainstorm ideas about how to do it. Present in the meeting besides Dr. Dupriest were Dr. Martin, Prof. Dobrenen, Prof. Hartzell, and myself. Others who couldn't be there are also participating in this endeavor.
Among the ideas was one that everybody in the meeting thought was a great idea. Building a labyrinth in the Mt. Tabor campus of Warner Pacific College. The idea proposed by Prof. Hartzell has a history and is well argumented. The history goes back to when Prof. Hartzell and Chris during one of their doctoral classes at Concordia University had to read a book where the labyrinth was used as a metaphor for finding oneself. The 'life journey' that Chris was so much about.

St. Bertin labyrinth from
We have to do a lot to make this happen, if we (WPC) decide it is the right thing to do. From getting the proper authorization from WPC to getting the funds to do it, but I feel that this idea is worth pursuing. This is why I am blogging about it because we would like to have your feedback and support. 

Of course it goes without saying that whatever we decide to do is going to be good for the environment! It will be something that represents Chris' stewardship.

Can give us some feedback?  

Thursday, August 27, 2015


On the 17th of August (8 17 2015) I started writing this post by saying:
"It is a sad day today.
This morning I was notified that Chris had passed away.
So here in the blog that she started I want to pay tribute to her life and legacy.
Many years ago I met Chris as my student in the Adult Degree Program (ADP) of Warner Pacific College."

Then I stopped and couldn't continue.

Yesterday during our Community Meeting that is part of the celebration of the new academic year we remembered Christine Tokonitz, and heard about so many great ways in which Chris related to us, as a friend, colleague, and family. How she was a "go getter" " a doer" and she would inspire all to be the best. It was noted that she had a big heart, commitment to everybody specially her students and good humor in the face of adversity.
So there is not much I can add to what was has been said already, but one word that I didn't hear was: humble.

Chris was humble, even as she was making an extreme effort to excel, she would do it with a deep sense of humility. The reason I know this is because when I met her as my student in Environmental studies (Adult Degree Program, 2007) I learned that she would always ask for more, more from her peer students, and more from her teachers. So I was challenged! One day she asked me if there was a book "Stewardship for dummies" that she would like to read. Please note her humility (and sense of humor), she didn't ask for a book for experts even though she wanted the whole "tamale", she did not try to present herself as a "top" student even though she was. She wanted to learn as a "dummy."
As teachers do, I replied that I didn't know if there was a book called "Stewardship for Dummies" but we'll find out together during the break. When we found that there was not such a book I asked her: why you don't write it? She replied that she couldn't do it (again showing humility) so I replied saying "YES you can". Why you don't start writing a blog that would lead to the book. She didn't know how to do it so I showed her. We became co-bloggers and in March of that year she published it to the world!

To see her first blogs you can link here.

Life went on and she couldn't continue writing here (in fact she started another blog) so she asked me to continue it, and I did.

During yesterday's morning Community Meeting both of my dear colleagues Sylvia LaVoie and Roger Martin asked us to keep Chris' memory alive in our hearts, I will do that for sure but now I want you to help me keep her legacy going. Please add your thoughts about stewardship here. You can email me your contributions so I can post it.

For more information go to

Saturday, May 30, 2015

How Far Do You Live From a Superfund?

Once again oil is appearing on the coast of California. But this time near Los Angeles as globs of inexplicable oil that apparently nobody knows where they come. Not far from the Santa Barbara spill of a few days ago this spills is just another reminder that is it extremely difficult to make those responsible for these incidents to be accountable. If you want to read more about these mysterious globs of oil click here.

With all the environmental disasters that are in the news these days we are confronted again with the poignant question about who pays. Who is going to pay or is paying for these disasters? But the question is not only referred to accidents, there is an inherent cost with any economic activity where some kind of industrial production is involved as chemical damage to the environment inescapably happens.

In last December issue of the National Geographic magazine we find an article about "Superfunds." In this article a dynamic map (click here for the map) is shown where you can find how far you live from a superfund. It is interesting to see how even in 'remote' northwest coast places like Portland OR we live not far from a superfund in fact I found out that I live near 7 superfund sites in a 10 mile (16 km) radius. Not all superfund sites are of the same magnitude, of course, but even a 'small' superfund is huge as they have to be in order to be designated with the prefix 'super'.

From National Geographic December 2014

The history, development, and implementation of the superfund program are very interesting subjects and raise interesting questions like: why was funding for the superfund program terminated?
In 1980 Congress created it to have funding for cleaning up of industrial pollution much of which was produced by corporations no longer existing and thus unaccountable. The stockholders and beneficiaries of the profits obtained during the time that pollution was created were long-gone and enjoying the riches of their industry. No where to be found and no way to be made accountable. That is why the US Congress created the federal program to deal with a huge environmental problem of abandoned sites contaminated with hazardous waste. (To learn more visit the EPA website for the superfund program clicking here.) The fund was to be financed by taxes paid by corporations now active in similar business. The philosophy behind this proposal was that if one of these corporations would go out of business, say by bankruptcy, the fund would provide for the cleanup of the hazardous waste. Including in this fund were the sites that were already identified which were produced by corporations no longer in business. Few places like the Handford site in Richland, Washington or Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville NC were contaminated by military activity so they are responsibility of the federal government i.e. us the whole citizenry of the U.S.

When the superfund program was created in 1980 taxes to the oil and chemical industry but in 1995 the US Congress let those taxes expire so then since 1995 the superfund has been supported by the 'general fund' of the federal government, which means that we all are footing the bill!

If the California coast becomes another superfund site will require massive amounts of money.

Would it be sensible to make those responsible (mainly the oil corporations operating using the California coast) pay?

Would it be sensible re-establish the taxes that were in place until 1995 to finance superfund operations?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Climate Change and The Economy

How many times have we heard that measures to meliorate drastic changes of climate will have a negative impact on the economy? or, How will drastic changes in climate will have a negative impact on the economy?

I started drafting this blog a long time ago and it looks that the question keep current no matter what!

Look at what is happening now in the south of US, flooding after a long period of drought, flooding that will for the short term very damaging for the economy but I have no doubt that in the long term it might be an economic boom. To read more about the current situation click here. It seems to me that in this case the sentence: "it all depends" is strengthened by the individualistic, egoistic nature of some humans. Can we say to those under the threat of flooding, don't worry if your lose all you have now because in the long run is going to be good for the economy.

Don't worry even if you have not enough insurance because in the long run the economy will be good. Don't be jealous or envious of those (the 1%) who benefit when the economy prosper and when the economy sinks. It is only a matter of life, and there is nothing we can do about it. Because if we try to do something about it we'll be working against a system that values freedom and "Freedom and Liberty" are the most precious values in our culture and society. We are fighting against the most basic principle stated by Darwinist who know that the survival of the fittest is the key in evolution.

Forget about what the anarchist Kropotkin wrote in "Mutual Aid" in opposition to this view. Where he mention that the way of defining "the fittest" is based on the idea of survival through intelligent collaboration and community. If you want to find more about Kroportin click here. So, you may be wondering by now, what is this related to how are we supposed to react in the face of a changing climate?

Here is the deal. Are we individuals facing climate change? Or are we a community facing climate change? No brainer, you might say is both! How can you have community without individuals? How can you have an individual without a community?

This new perspective has to be included in the paradigm of our economic system. As in a natural community, the stronger is the one that foots the bill with more. If our society can be made as a natural community, which of course I think we can, then we have to find out who are the "strongest" in our community. Some would say we are talking about the 1% who own about 50% of the wealth of this country. They should foot the bill for the costs of climate change!

Why not?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ten Year Later and Still Leaking

It was during a storm in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004 that an accident happened in an oil installation of Taylor Energy. More that ten years after that accident it is found that the leak still continues.
For more about the accident and the aftermath click here.

This incident exemplifies the complexity related to oil production and the liabilities involved. How is responsible? And who is accountable in the case of an oil spill? For how long are these liabilities going to be maintained? What if the company involved disappears by going bankrupt? Are the assets of the owners (stockholders) at risk in case of the disappearance of the corporation?

In a few words: who should pay?

Well. one thing we know, we pay. Regardless of the monetary compensations or costs of cleanup that the oil corporations have to incur and the payment to those directly affected, we know that sooner or later we will all be affected. The damage to the environment is done as a whole as the environment is a unified, interrelated system. We as part of this environment will undoubtedly be affected. The question for me now becomes, so how much and how soon will I be affected? No doubt this is a tricky question, the answer of which is complex and, one would say, almost impossible to answer.

Some would then jump to the conclusion that because we don't know the extent of damage or the magnitude of the risk we should stop any and all exploration and exploitation of oil and gas. This is not possible due the need for these resources to satisfy our current needs for energy. But there is much more we can do to minimize risk and meliorate the impact caused by these accidents. We must remove the idea that the bottom line in these activities is 'profit'. We must make a concerted effort to satisfy our needs in a communal frame or reference. We must have the welfare of our society as the bottom line. This, as Naomi Klein claims: "changes everything". For more about Naomi Klein and her book :This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate" click here.

Our approach to the solutions must be holistic and optimistic. As Diane Ackerman guides us in her book :The Human Age. (Click here for Diane Ackerman's site.) We know we have changed our planet (at least the part where we inhabit) in every way. Humans have changed the conditions of our environment in such a way that can't be restituted to is 'original' state. For one reason alone: what is the 'original' state? We have changed (some would say messed) the environment in ways we are not aware, like the domestication of animals and the genetic modification of our crops. Even undomesticated species have changed due to human activities. Think for example about birds living in our cities that have learn how to sustain a living in the 'urban' ecosystem.

There is no way we can go back, so how would you think we should go forward?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What About the Common Good?

Once upon a time we (humans) worked and lived for the common good. At least it was understood that we should strive for it and that this common good would in some way or another be the framework for the wellbeing of us as individuals. There was no way we could be fine when our surrounding were not fine. But things have changed, we now have gated communities, exclusive clubs and societies where only members are allowed and a fake sense of security and wellbeing is nurtured, but is this situation sustainable?

For many years I lived in Mexico, in Mexico city in particular where about 20 million people (no body really knows how many) go about their daily lives. There over those many years I was able to witness a change in philosophy from a religious communal to an individualistic "pragmatic" and egotistic. Gated neighborhoods sprung all over the place and private policing and security became the norm. Even streets were closed to the 'public' and made in a way private to those living on it. In a way you could say this was a success for private enterprise and initiative, but the problem of insecurity was not resolved and in some way exacerbated as a more sophisticated delinquency developed and prevailed. Late news about 43 students that disappeared in the state of Guerrero is a clear indication that impunity is prevalent and insecurity is even greater now.

Not only personal security in terms of direct crime is a problem today in our society but a more tenuous, subterfuge, and deceptive face of environmental degradation. This environmental degraded situation goes beyond the physical arena of clean water, air, soil, and natural resources but includes our human society. We live in communities that are glued by policies based on ethical values and principles that are changing rapidly. These ethical values in many ways came to us through religions and in some cases from the "enlightenment" period in Europe (eastern and western.) That is how basic principles engraved in the United States of America's "Declaration of Independence" and "Constitution" relate to a "Common Good."

When considering environmental issues one thing is clear: all is connected. Some things are more complicated connected than others but the bottom line is that everything is connected. One can't thing of a single issue that can be resolved by itself. Thing for instance on 'transportation'. Once we set the issue we immediately see that you get into a complicated terrain as you try to define.

In his recent book "The (Un)Common Good", Jim Wallis explores in a wonderful, clear, and profound way how "The Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divide" exposing the realities that the pursuit of individual gain, of individual security, of individual wellbeing in general is completely blocked by the fact that there is not way that one can accomplish those without, as the Gospel indicate, being your brother's keeper.
Today is Tuesday March 24, 2015 and I am on my spring break. Catching up with preparing classes I am reading, taking notes, and thinking. Specially for our Earthkeeping course. This class brings human nature to the forefront of analysis and is a wonderful platform for exposing to our students the needs and challenges faced by our society. The class brings to the attention of students the connections and paradoxes within our society and outside with the rest of the world. We talk about connections and contradictions of our actions and our desires, we see how human nature is basically the context of our situation, our aspirations and of course our problems and their solutions.

Clearly, or maybe not, we must understand the paradoxical relationship between the "oneself" and the commune, between the individual needs and the needs of the commons. Great philosophers like Kierkegaard in his "Concluding Unscientific Postscript", and modern thinkers like Parker Palmer in his book "The Promise of Paradox" have articulated how the mere existence of the "oneself" is through and by the "other." One only is based on the relationship one has with others: the purpose of being is to be to others. As the paradoxical statement in the Gospel when Jesus said (Mathew 10:39): "Who ever find his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." What this means to me is that for the sake of Jesus is for the sake of the other. Being your brother's keeper then become the way to life.

Is there any other way?