Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “nature”

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite, 2013 – Tom Rossi

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Life on the Rocks

Life on the Rocks

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - San Francisco's Water Supply

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – San Francisco’s Water Supply

Yes, the car stopped.

Yes, the car stopped.

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Lembert Dome

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Lake Mono

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-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Elves, Dwarves and Political Activists

“You can’t be serious!” she exclaimed, wrinkling her nose as though I had just made a pass at her, or uttered a politically incorrect sentiment. “You write about elves and dwarves running from one end of the world to another killing each other and making long speeches? I thought you were a serious writer.”

In honesty, she had not seen me for a few years, and even then, knew me in the context of my more political work environment. To her credit, she recovered and apologized, and I was able to refrain from pouring my drink into her lap. It was, after all, a good scotch.

images-2-1Friend or not, intentional or not, it still hurt. I thought I had passed this stage, smoothly presenting myself as ‘an author who writes in two genres’. I have practiced my opening line and it is now delivered with confidence.

I am involved in social justice causes. Even in my short eight years living in the US, I have built a fair resume of involvement. I have taken students almost every year to New Orleans, not only to help rebuild a community, physically and emotionally, but to bear witness so that the millennials will not make the mistakes my generation did. I have been involved in various campaigns here and abroad.  I know my local food bank well. Hey, you never had a black President before I came to the US! 

But yes, I love to lose myself in Middle Earth, Alaegasia, Westeros and, dare I add it to the list: Odessiya. It’s a nice break from the intensive campus environment to deal with stubborn dwarves and idealistic elves. While closeted in an urban concrete jungle, I can escape on a horse and gallop through ancient forests, over great ice plains, and to quaff an ale or puff a pipe (without the health risks) with good friends, all from a computer screen or ebook reader.

hobbits-in-pub The San Francisco Bay Area is intensely populated by a variety of the human species often identified by salt-and-pepper haired, wrinkled, colorful attire, and provocative bumper stickers. These aging ideologues have rich resumes of demonstrating against wars, civil rights. Watergate, and more recently, more wars, gay rights, and gun control.

While there are many who have fallen by the wayside, succumbing to burnout, those who have maintained their energy to keep demonstrating and fighting for what is right, all seem to have a secret place they go to recharge, relax, and to return energized to help create a better world to live in. It might be literature, meditation, family, friends, food, nature … it doesn’t matter. As a friend once said: Fixing the world is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Yeah, I write about elves and dwarves doing brave acts and striving for justice and honor. Sure I write about battles and loves, about friendships and magic, about the power of nature and good fighting evil.

It energizes me and often provides clarity and vision. And if I do occasionally wonder what Seanchai or Shayth might do about gun control or why some people are denied the rights and opportunities their neighbors have, well that’s because fantasy is not quite as far-fetched and detached from reality as my shocked friend might think.

God created the world in six days and on the seventh s/he rested…and may well have deservedly read Lord of the Rings.

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Here’s to whatever it takes for each of us to continue the journey we’ve chosen!

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. In celebration of the upcoming launch of Ashbar, the third in the Wycaan Master series, Tourmaline Books are offering for August only,  the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth – for 99 cents (kindle only).

Art Exhibition on Thursday – A Special Artist

Some shameless promotion for my friend, Hagit Cohen, who will be exhibiting new material at the China Brotsky Gallery in The Presidio tomorrow in the early evening. See details below for the exhibition.

“I am constantly seeking to capture moments of beauty, moments that are filled with magic, that connect me to a place of spirit while in nature.”

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Seeking the magic in nature is a spiritual journey, whether using paints, words, wood or any other medium, is a spiritual quest, and nature serves as a temple for all who seek such magic. I experience Hagit’s magic in her friendship, her mannerisms and the way she conducts herself. Her work exemplifies her own nature and her own spiritual path.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

Nature’s Fate? Or Ours?

It’s been over a week since I returned from my most recent trip to Yosemite National Park, and I’m still benefitting from its effects on me. As I enter the park boundary, or escape the world of concrete in one of many other natural areas, I feel my blood pressure drop, as well as my shoulders. My eyes stop aching. The anxiety drifts away. The stench of the anthropogenic world is replaced in my nostrils by the cooling, calming, yet invigorating scents of the forest or the desert. I am home.

 

No, I wasn’t born in the jungle and raised by wolves. But I do feel the pull of the habitat of our long-lost ancestors.

 

In my studies, I have made it my goal to ignore aesthetics and any kind of “warm and fuzzy” values. I want to get to the bottom line in black and white. I often say I want to convince the Dick Cheneys of the world that nature has real value – economic value that can be seen on a balance sheet – and that that value is enormous.

 

I’m certainly right about all that. Lots of great scientists and economists have laid the groundwork for the inevitable and inescapable conclusion that we must manage The Earth and its resources more sustainably, lest we degrade its value and the value of its material and process gifts to us beyond the point of no return.

 

The Earth provides us with literally everything (except the light and energy that come from the sun) we need for life. It also provides raw materials with which we may “improve” our lives and our surroundings. I’m not actually sure the improvements really always work, but nature provides us with the options. And whether God, or Mother Nature, or some stochastic process have led to this world doesn’t matter. It’s here. It’s wonderful. And we must, for so many reasons, take good care of it.

 

The Earth also provides a miraculous process, akin to the flushing of a giant toilet, in the form of waste processing. We can put a lot of junk into our air and even our water and it gets filtered, digested, diluted, or incorporated into something else.

 

These sources and sinks, as they are known to geeky scientists and policy wonks like me, are themselves the source of an infinite amount of wonderful numbers, facts, and figures. I could put you right to sleep with all of it, I’m sure.

 

But I don’t really want to forget about the sights, the sounds, the smells, nor the feelings that I experience when I leave the concrete jungle behind, if only for a weekend. It’s true that I can make cold, hard, black and white arguments for nature and sustainability. But I have to admit that it depresses me that I have to.

 

I always feel, deep down inside, that all a person needs to do is open his or her eyes and he or she will see the path. We came from The Earth. We partner with The Earth. And if we so choose, this relationship can last far into the future… to our benefit and enjoyment.

 

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Yosemite and Ron Kauk – Tom Rossi

Last week, some members of my family and I visited that most beautiful of American landmarks, Yosemite National Park. I’ve been there well over ten times, but I never get tired of the rivers, streams, trees, birds, and of course… the three-thousand foot, sheer rock cliffs.

During my trips to Yosemite, I mostly stay outdoors. In fact, I don’t want to listen to the radio, watch TV, or even drive. But this time I saw that a movie about rock-climbing icon Ron Kauk was playing at the Yosemite Conservancy Theater. It was called, “Return to Balance: A Climber’s Journey,” and I had seen a small part of it before, somewhere, so I knew it was really good.

A buddy and I went to the movie and, lo and behold, there was Ron Kauk himself. I hadn’t realized that he would be presenting the movie himself and doing a little talk, as well.

The movie features fantastic cinematography of Kauk climbing and of Yosemite, itself. Kauk’s ascents of (evidently) well-practiced routes were like a ballet – smooth, artful, and graceful. It was enough to make quite an impression on my friend, who had never done any rock climbing.

The beauty of this movie (the first 5 minutes can be seen by clicking here) is certainly reason enough to see it. But Kauk didn’t stop there. In his soft-spoken, humble way, he told us, both within the movie and in the talk, about the way he relates to the natural world.

Kauk sees himself as a part of nature, not an external force, bending nature to his will. He appreciates everything around him when he’s out in the wilderness. He realizes that he has been extremely lucky to be able to spend his life out on the rocks in Yosemite (mostly). He also said he can’t walk past a cigarette butt without picking it up and throwing it away.

The movie shows Kauk in various, Yosemite settings – sometimes climbing, and sometimes just taking in and enjoying his surroundings. His climbing and his quiet times at the top of some huge rock have become quite meditative.

Several years ago, when I was climbing (badly), my climbing partners and I would find ourselves behaving in a similar way to what I think most climbers do. When we reached the top of a rock or sometimes a mountain, we would just sit, without speaking much, and survey the world from our new perch. There is a feeling of accomplishment, to be sure, after completing a challenge. But it was much more than that. The reward for the climb was a new viewpoint and a new perspective on the surrounding area and all that was in it.

Years ago, Kauk was actually on what some would consider the wrong side of an argument about altering rocks with protection bolts and similar gear. The argument was with another legendary climber (and purist), John Bachar. I don’t really know the result of this conflict, but listening to Kauk today, it seems that he has evolved from someone who just pushes the limits of climbing to someone who places great value in the canvas on which he creates his art.

This is a controversy only within the climbing community as the metal bolts in question would probably only be noticed by climbers and maybe photographers. I wish I had known about this in time to ask Kauk how he had been affected.

I did ask Kauk if, as he got older, he would turn more to advocacy for protecting nature. He said yes and explained a few ways he already does a lot like taking foster kids out on trips and so forth. So Kauk’s advocacy might not take the form of Washington lobbying, but I’m sure it will accomplish a lot.

If you’ve never been to Yosemite, you owe it to yourself to go. Just don’t go on Memorial Day or anything – too crowded. Of course, there are many other incredible National Parks. Pick one! Make it a priority to visit. Your spirit will benefit much more that it will from almost any other vacation.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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A Zoroastrian Revival

Let’s talk truth. When it comes to the environment, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have failed miserably. These monotheistic religions are not overtly hostile toward the environment but they place humanity in an elitist position, thereby relegating all else to servitude.

Prior to the rise of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, mankind worshipped many gods with a significant portion dedicated to mother earth. The so-called pagan religions respected nature and, in turn, help protect the environment. Then along comes the big three monotheistic religions—endorsing man’s entitlement over all things earthly—and the entire ecosystem begins to progressively deteriorate.

Man has forgotten how to work with nature and now pushes against her, consuming a lot of energy in the process. We are so out of control that we use 10 fossil fuel calories to produce one calorie of food. These fossil fuels—in the form of pesticides, fertilizers and desiel—have turned the soil barren and the skies brown. Take a shovel to any industrialized farm and turn over the dirt. You will not find anything living; no worms, no ladybugs and no beneficial bacteria. It’s all dead. Plants will only grow with more fertilizer and more pesticide—death breeds death.

It’s odd that these three faiths would have such little respect for all creatures and earthly elements when one considers their origin. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all derivatives of Zoroastrianism. Yes, that’s right, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic—one god—religion dating back to 2000 BCE or 4000 years ago.

The three prevailing “one almightly god” religions are fundamentally the same and, for all practical purposes, just copy-cats of Zoroastrianism. However, Zoroastrianism has one major difference. From its inception, it preached ecology and care of the environment with respect and reverence for nature. Zoroastrians must protect the sky, water, earth, plant, animal and fire. At the end of times, when “all things” are harmonious, mankind must give the world back to God in its original perfect form.

The eco-friendly beliefs of Zoroastrians are in stark contrast to the trivial considerations Judaism, Christianity and Islam gives to nature. Imagine what the world would be like today if these three religions also copied the environmental aspects of the original “one god” religion.

Perhaps we need a Zoroastrian revival.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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