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  • Politics in the Anthropocene: Yes Virginia, All Politics Will Still Be Local in the Future, but the Definition of “Local” is Going to Change

    2024 is shaping up to be a year of destiny for Planet Earth. Elections will be held in 64 countries plus the European Union. 49% of the world’s population will have the opportunity to cast ballots. None will be more important to the future than America’s where one candidate for the Presidency has declared that he intends to suspend the Constitution of the United States and declare himself dictator, but “only for one day.” Here’s a long sentence: Given the pressing reality of climate change and the ever-deepening awareness of so much that technology is providing Earthlings with regarding the vastness and the multi-dimensional nature of our universal context and the infinite depth of our own individual and collective psyches, what happens in the 2024 elections would seem to be definitional regarding humanity’s ability to create an inquisitive future or a decision to cling to a reactionary past that will lead to ethnic tribalism and war. 50 years ago the famous American politician, Tip O’Neill (at right), asserted that “all politics are local,” and that remains true. Every neighborhood has its own character, culture and issues. Every home and every neighborhood is nestled within the context of many Matryoshka dolls. Increasingly, that set of dolls is extending into an endless variety of contexts. The more information one is exposed to and the better the tools for the management of information one’s education provides, the more one realizes that the local is shaped by the distant and the distant can be shaped by the local. The character of localism both exists in the way that O’Neill described and is changing into something much bigger. At a minimum, anyone thinking locally must also see that global conditions impinge upon every street-level reality. Earth is a unitary system. It has no boundaries between external phenomena or internal ones either. Unfortunately, pollution, such as that from microplastics and the carbon emissions that are ruining the atmosphere, are all part of the emerging global-localism. Ψ Of course, all this is quite maddening, because what can one not pay attention to and how can one proceed if one needs to and tries to pay attention to everything. Obviously, an expansion in consciousness is necessary. An expansion in consciousness is not the same as learning something new. It’s knowing something new, something bigger than what one knew before. The Imperfections of this Essay This paper is a review of a process that was largely written in two settings, two weeks apart from each other. There are some ways in which this process produces redundancies. Here I lay out a system called the Hot Button Action Team (HBAT) by which anyone at any location can dig into local conditions within the context of an understanding of the general. Its objective is how to increase voter turnout in hotly contested districts in the United States, but it probably could be adapted to any democratic society. It’s very much a work in progress, and it’s clearly incomplete as a theory for action in some spots, as well as needing much more data than is presented to be a thorough test of the ideas. This is an emergent learning project that is presently incomplete. For example, my primary focus is on helping an on-the-ground team identify useful conversations to have and how to listen to the people they meet and interact with in various ways. This has not yet happened in a robust way. So, the map is incomplete and the territory is not yet extensively explored. However, the HBAT experiment does suggest a long term strategy to move from building an understanding of the general to taking action at the local level. It focuses specifically on promoting precinct level activism in US Congressional districts where doing so might advance a variety of outcomes positive for Anthropocean citizenship and education in particular. It differs from the work of political parties, which also focus intently on the precinct level. The HBAT focus is pro-democracy. This is not a time to be partisan. According to polls, “75% of all Americans agree that democracy is the best system of government.” No political party polls at this level. HBAT is about finding out what community leaders in poor performing precincts within closely contested political arenas experience, want, and need. The best way to find out is to learn from them. It’s a product of work I’ve been doing with Elders for Sound Democracy. It hopes to be a guide to doing a particular kind of political fieldwork. Hot Button Action Team How To Manual Pt I Michael Sales, Ed.D. Elders for Sound Democracy © January 2024 Introduction The purpose of ESD’s Hot Button Action Teams (HBAT) is to: Increase voter turnout in Congressional districts where the margin of victory by the winning candidate was within 2% in the 2022 elections. The strategy for accomplishing this goal is to: Determine what concerns arouse significant or deep passions in smaller subdivisions of that district. These are the ”Hot Buttons” that move voting. Identify specific precincts in the district where an improvement in civic engagement and voter turnout could have an impact locally and statewide. Build a committed team of 8-12 analysts on the ground in the district in question. However, the initial steps can be done by a smaller team via Internet research and group discussion. Find and study a wide range of information sources to pinpoint driving issues at the local level, locate particular precincts where concerted action could have the highest payoff, and build relationships and networks with and among sound democracy advocates engaged in those topics on the ground. Discover specific individuals and groups in the precincts being analyzed with whom the Hot Button team could and will interact to find discrete ways for ESD to be supportive, e.g., by suggesting strategies, foci, and tactics that activists on the ground could experiment with Move to joint action with local activists when HBAT members or the team as a whole believe that it is appropriate to do so. This preliminary review of HBAT activity focuses on Arizona Congressional District 6. 349K votes were cast in the district in 2022, with a MAGA Republican winning by a margin of 5,300 votes or 1.4% of the total. He was opposed by a Democrat who practices environmental law and worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. Action Research Action research is an iterative process weaving research action and reflection together into an ongoing loop of learning. HBAT’s initial step is to specify issues that arouse local passions in these areas under study and discover sound democracy activists who have a palpable stake in the outcomes of the elections there. The team begins the process by discussing the initial impressions that people have of the region and question and considering the sources of information by which they would gain more clarity on the degree to which a topic is a hot button. It is important that these discussions – and all of those which follow –  be conducted in a respectful fashion. There are many people of goodwill supporting sound democracy who hold differing perspectives on what issues, social policies and behavioral norms are most important for the district in question. Questions to ask in the initial meeting: What do you think are the key drivers of the district’s social and political activity? (For example, immigration, gun violence, crime, economic inequality, water, regional planning, indigenous rights, education, economic development, housing, climate and environments, etc.) Who are the thought leaders in the district? Academics, political figures, journalists, social media influencers, business leaders, wise elders, etc. are all examples of thought leaders who may have insight into what’s what in a district. What information sources could/should the team monitor with, e.g., standard newspapers, television and radio stations, blogs, social media sites, etc. Arizona’s 6th Congressional District is the arena to which this methodology is being applied in this discussion. Approximately 350,000 votes were cast in this district, which was won by a Republican, Juan Ciscomani, who has refused to state that Biden is the legitimate president of the United States. Ciscomani voted twice to elect Jim Jordan, an explicit 2020 election denier to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ciscomani’s opponent, Kirsten Engel, is an environmental lawyer who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. 5,300 votes or 1.5% of the electorate constituted his margin of victory. Several domains were discussed as possible foci during the first conversation among the members of the Arizona 6 team: how groundwater depletion was affecting the present and the future in the district, the importance of 2nd Amendment rights in the district, immigration policy and border pressures urban/rural tensions the role of white supremacy in the district over-development Commitments were made by team members to review local news sources to test the degree to which these are hot buttons. Subscriptions were either shared or paid for. Digging into the data to find the hot button After one team member supplied a list of all of the newspaper sources covering the district, team members showed up at the next and subsequent meetings with data based on their data reviews and conversations that deepened their understanding of the topics that had been identified. For example: Preliminary analyses of each of AZ-6’s five counties indicated that one relatively populous county, Pinal, was fairly closely contested, while two rural ones, Greenlee and Graham, seemed to be places where political views were relatively fixed and vote totals were not large. Another somewhat rural county, Cochise, was identified as being of interest because there are a lot of votes there and two of its commissioners with MAGA ties were recently indicted for being unwilling to certify the results of the 2022 election by the statutory deadline. The most populous county, Pima, votes strongly Democratic. The role of agribusiness, especially that of huge farms owned by Saudi-Arabian interests in depleting groundwater supplies was explored further via data presented by one team member. Smaller farmers’ livelihoods are being threatened as large firms drill wells up to 800 feet deep to tap aquifers that long-time local farmers cannot afford to get at. Specifics regarding how Arizona manages (or doesn’t) its groundwater. Information regarding the roles played by particular long-standing legislators in resisting the regulation of water usage was presented and explored. Data regarding the power of the local sheriff in Cochise County, and the role of  “Reconstructionist” or “Dominionist” Christianity in Cochise County in particular was explored. Possible connections between attacks on teenagers (including one murder) by organized gangs that may be tied to Turning Points USA, a rapidly growing “conservative” organization at work in high schools and colleges in the district and across America attracted attention. One team member has been having extensive interactions with a community leader in Cochise County, exploring the impact of border tensions on the County and the District as a whole, including the fact that immigrants seeking asylum are, apparently, dumped in local communities without a clue of what to do next. A set of databases naming eldercare facilities throughout the state and in the district is under review as a prospective way to make sure that all of these residents are registered to vote. While all this work has been excellent, the team has not yet identified one particular focus nor is it yet large enough or facile enough with data management to divide its attention between the several possible domains it finds of interest. Similarly, while many influencers and thought leaders have been mentioned, e.g., local journalists and academics, other than a couple of notable exceptions, more needs to be done to reach out to these sources of information and opinion leaders. Here’s a screenshot of the AZ-6 project’s Google Drive, which gives an indication of the topics under discussion. Each folder is composed of documents relevant to the subject headings. The number of subheadings and contents of the folders grows daily. (Learning how to use Google Drive and populating it with documents is likely to be an important training activity in and of itself.) Additionally, the team organizer has compiled an ever-growing list of webpage links related to the project in his search engine’s bookmarks. There are presently about 100 of these, and they are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Each of these links contains useful information regarding the conditions in the district, and its subdivisions and many prospective contacts with specific groups and individuals that the team could and may track down. Precinct Analysis I believe that it is the case that voting in every county in the US takes place in precincts. The results of precinct votes are aggregated into a county-wide report, which is formally certified by the branch of county government charged with monitoring elections. For larger counties, of course, these results can be voluminous. For example, there are 2,500+ pages of data in the "Official Canvas" of Pima County, where Tucson is located. Imagine the scope of this document for Cook County Illinois! Of course, I envy the political parties and organizations that study politics and political campaigns for a living and have sophisticated computerized systems to pile through the information at a rapid clip. That was not the case here, and it's likely not to be the case for the user of this manual either. Plus, the information is quite often in PDF form, from which it is not easy to extract data. Furthermore, the nature of these summaries varies greatly by County. Pinal county in AZ-6, for example, allows the user to choose to focus on particular races and propositions on the ballot, which simplifies the analysis greatly in comparison to the neighboring Pima County where there is page-after-page coverage of all elections by precincts. For the purposes of a HBAT's work, It's important to “live” in the middle of data like these in order to develop hypotheses regarding what precincts to focus on. There are 25 precincts in Pinal county. 10 of these were eliminated from the study because the victor's margin of victory was over 60%, indicating to this reviewer that the politics and power structure of the precinct are relatively fixed. Here’s an example of the kind of information that can be developed from these county reports: Without getting too far down into the weeds, a few things stand out: A total of approximately 13,000 registered voters did not do so Turnout was less than 45% in six precincts and, in one case, only 28%. There was a tight correlation between votes for candidate Engel, environmental lawyer, and votes against Proposition 309, a statewide ballot item that would have required further tightening of voter identification. This proposition was narrowly defeated statewide but carried Pinal County with a 57% margin. Engel opposed this proposition, which ESD would describe as a voter suppression effort. She either won or came very close to winning all of the precincts where Prop 309 was defeated. Most of the precincts where Prop 309 was turned back had turnout of less than 45%. 7,600 people who could've voted in those precincts did not. What is going on in those precincts? Putting it together Ideally, The HBAT team would compile both insights from the analysis of sources and a database of contacts with opinion leaders and activists to have a fairly good picture of what the hot button issues are in the precincts of interest. Virtually and through face-to-face meetings, members of the team would connect with influential individuals in the precinct to finetune their collective understanding of the dynamics in each of the precincts being focused on. Through those individual contacts, the team would determine how relevant the hot button thinking coming out of the first phase of research really is to a particular precinct. For example, it seems likely that opposition to voter suppression (Prop 309) was important to voters in these particular precincts, while it was much less of an issue in other parts of this county wheapre the proposal won by significant margins. Because the HBAT teams are part of the Elders Action Network (EAN) and Elders for Sound Democracy (ESD), there are a variety of support activities that it could offer to leaders in these precincts, for example: Broadcasting the needs of precinct activists throughout the ESD and EAN communities Doing research to support precinct activists Hosting  precinct activists at town halls with audiences drawn from the larger district and beyond that would be supportive of their work Alerting activists at the precinct level to the existence of  knowledgeable personnel across the ESD network and within the larger district of which the precinct is a part, who might advise them on strategy and tactics Listening closely and compassionately from a learning orientation to the obstacles activists face and opportunities they might not have noticed or fully appreciated. Becoming familiar with sound democracy advocates across the political spectrum in the Congressional district that might give precinct activists access to support networks with which they are unfamiliar Reflections on the Role of the Team Organizer The team organizer’s primary responsibilities are to demonstrate that team members can: Find a wealth of information about almost any topic that is of interest to them Organize that information into knowledge that points to action Get on the ground and form impressions of the nature of the precincts they are studying and Make person to person and face-to-face connections with key players in the precinct under study Ideally, the team organizer would live within close proximity of the district where key precincts I've been identified. However, this is not absolutely necessary. The team organizer needs to be fairly adept at doing Internet research and navigating social media. Before I started working on this project, I knew nothing about the AZ-6. However, at this juncture, having studied a fair amount of information about the district and holding a few meetings with the team, I would say that I have enough of a degree of awareness of the district to have a degree of familiarity with its hot buttons and some of the players driving its power dynamics. The more I keep at it, the more I learn. Combining discursive and Integrative thinking is a primary competence for the team organizer to possess and to develop. Here’s an example of what this means using Cochise County research as an illustration, we look for various kinds of information and then try to weave them together into a mix about the challenges faced by sound democracy advocates living in a polarized context: County commissioners who did not certify election results a sheriff with notably extreme points of view, an immigration policy that is not working, the presence of major foreign money that demonstrates no visible concerns about local water management ambitious development plans that display no ecological or climate concerns and powerful state level legislators, who use words like "socialist agenda," around freely this sort of connecting the dots in this cauldron or stew of a county that the team organizer needs to display and celebrate. The team organizer has to be particularly alert to highlighting integrative thinking like this by team members, who will do so regularly. Many people may not realize that they are engaged in the research they do nor integrative thinking they display in many domains of their lives. They may not be used to the idea that they can turn their insights into creative action that moves the needle in elections, but the team organizer needs to know and to tell them that they can and they do. Example 1: An energetic and skilled team member asked, “Michael, how do we use all this analysis to identify specific people in these precincts that we’re targeting?!” Good question! Although she already had a good handle on using the Internet’s search function and Facebook to find Information, I may have helped her hone the terms of her search to discover more about the politics in the precincts of interest. We discovered that the area containing the precincts in Pinal County where there was low voter turnout is coded as "moderately conservative" by Best Neighborhoods and that, unsurprisingly,  women tended to be more liberal than men. We then started digging further into women’s organizations and activities in the area. In the 3-5 minutes we had available to do this particular piece of research, we didn’t quite get to identifying specific women that she might be in touch with, but we came mighty close. A few more steps and a little more time, and we’ll get the job done! Example 2: I pointed a team member, who is already a regular Facebook user, toward a range of Facebook groups that are focused on Cochise County. This member has a strong background in the social sciences and activism and used his facility with Facebook to immediately make connections to sound democracy advocates who will inform him and the team’s work. Example 3: A team member without any particular research background has an interest in economics and has started to find articles in the newspaper serving Cochise County regarding employment in the construction trades. She’s underscoring the importance of speaking with business leaders in that field. I’m encouraging her to call some people up and report on the conversations, especially anyone that she might find who has a sustainability focus. Example 4: A team member has identified several substack resources that take us all deeper into the life of the district, including information about border tensions. All of these examples demonstrate independent initiative and understanding of how to find and act upon hot buttons. One of the team organizer’s key objectives must be to bring the team to the point where it can self-organize and self-regulate its activities. There's no guarantee that this will happen. The team needs to be adequately sized and possess a high enough level of commitment to achieve this degree of functionality. Hot Button Action Team How To Manual Pt II Repeating the Mission: Hot Button Action Teams seek to increase the turnout of Sound Democracy voters in hotly contested Congressional districts. Sound Democracy’s criteria include: - support for the expansion of an informed electorate - a commitment to civil debate and non-violence, and - the acceptance of formally certified election results The Pima County Database I searched the Pima County Voter Canvass as one of the steps in the process. That database accompanies this review as Appendix I. I looked at all of the precincts that voted in AZ-6. After studying and commenting on many/most of Pima County precincts, I decided to focus on those where less than 50% of the possible voters turned out. It was a fascinating exercise. * My objective was to categorize districts into high performing and low performing, each with subcategories. A high performing precinct was one in which 60% or more of registered voters cast ballots in the 2022 election. They are not color coded in the Google Sheets document. 55-59% turned out in a medium performing precinct, highlighted in yellow 50-54% turned out in a marginally performing precinct, highlighted in green. 40-49% turned out in a poorly performing precinct, highlighted in light red Less than 40% turned out in very poorly performing district, highlighted in red I’ve made comments reflecting quick assessments of what the voting behavior in each precinct might mean for more focused HBAT activities. My emphasis in the comments is on whether more voters in a precinct would likely support Sound Democracy propositions and candidates. Overall, I was impressed by AZ-6’s turnout in Pima County. I did not create an average rigorously, but, eyeballing the numbers, it seems to me that something like 60+% turned out on average across the precincts in the district as a whole. Quite a few precincts recorded well over 70% turnout, and many of those were in what I’d called the Sound Democracy category, i.e., they rejected Prop 309, a voter suppression effort, vigorously. † My rough estimate is that approximately 70,000 votes were “left on the table” across the 59 precincts I looked at in Pima County’s portion of AZ-6 Approximately 42,500 votes were left of the table in precincts where the turnout was less than 60% in the 129 precincts I was able to establish voting centers for Approximately 24,000 votes were left on the table for all precincts where less than 55% of the eligible voters turned out For the purposes of this discussion, the light reds and the reds are of particular interest. Approximately 19,000 eligible voters did not cast ballots in precincts where there was less than a 50% turnout Precincts 54 and 114 alone left 3,150 votes on the table. Only 20% of the eligible voters turned up in Precinct 114. I published a similar look at the Pinal County results in the HBAT Manual Part I. The AZ-6 HBAT team has also taken a less rigorous look at Cochise, Graham and Greenlee, all of which have precincts in which Sound Democracy voters turned out, even though the most vocal pro-democracy candidate was handily defeated. My recommendation to anyone looking at these statistics for any Hot Button District is to dig into the life, the culture and the people of the green, light red and red precincts. I’ve referred to the challenge of figuring out the geographic locations of Pima’s precincts. Therefore, the thinking that follows in the next two paragraphs is probably based on wrong assumptions about where the precincts are located. However, look at it as somewhat metaphorical. While the particulars of the neighborhoods may be inaccurate, the way of thinking about them may have some value. Assuming that the precinct locations in the Voter Canvass have some connection to the precinct name, here’s some of what I found about Tucson’s Precinct 114 where only 20% of the voters turned out, for example: Cienega High School is its polling place.‡ The high school seems like a very solid place with a heck of a football field. Its leadership team appears to be almost completely Caucasian. 1,900 kids attend. About 50% of them are proficient in literacy and numeracy.  A student was arrested for making terrorist threats there last year. The neighborhoods around the high school seem chopped up. It is difficult to tell how many of the specific areas (e.g., Rancho del Largo, Rincon Hills) are served by the high school’s polling place. To the best of my ability to understand the data in this cursory analysis, the surrounding area seems to be relatively low income, but that’s just a guess. Let’s contrast this precinct with 112, whose polling place is the Valencia Branch Public Library. 74% of eligible voters turned out. Unlike Cienega High School, the area surrounding the library seems to be relatively coherent geographically, with E. Valencia Rd and S. 12th Avenue as major thoroughfares. Barrio Nopal, which may be partially in the precinct,§ has a master plan and Congressman Raúl Grijalva is touting the $1.2 million he says he got earmarked to address the drainage that flows off of Tucson International Airport and into the neighborhoods across South Nogales Highway, called Barrio Nopal and Elvira. 2020 denialist and insurrectionist Rep. Paul Gosar is lamenting the allocation of earmarks like this, regardless of their purpose. Given my remoteness from the area under study and my lack of local knowledge, I’m not in the position at this moment to say much that’s useful about the distinctions between precincts 114 and 112 or the distinctiveness of the particular precincts themselves, but we all do know that individual neighborhoods have their own unique characters. HBATs job is to gain insight into: The nature/subculture of those neighborhoods How a Congressional district's general Hot Buttons are manifesting and Who is championing them in particular precincts or If they are even relevant to a precinct In my view, if the team has done its job of discussing a District’s overall dynamics to the point of having a big picture perspective, they’ll likely see linkages between local, District, State and even global themes. For example, many concerns can be tied back to climate anxieties, social and economic injustice, the rate of technological change, racial and ethnic divides, etc. AZ-6 examples, Exhausted Aquifers ⇔ Unplanned ⇔ Climate Realities Ignored Border Tensions ⇔ Stuck Immigration Policy ⇔ Racial Anxieties Lack of Initiative ⇔ Economic Problems ⇔ Limitations of the  Educational System Overwhelmed Families ⇔ Crime and Societal Consequences ⇔ Family Planning not Legitimated It is not that challenging to act locally and think globally. It is worth noting that public libraries, community centers and schools, and churches play a prominent role as polling places nationwide. Churches are not public institutions per se, because they aren’t funded with tax dollars, at least not directly. But the other three certainly are. Research by  Non Profit Vote demonstrates that libraries are particular repositories of local knowledge regarding and promoting Sound Democracy: Libraries are able to support voter engagement in many different ways because they are strongly rooted in their communities and have a strong network of partnerships with government agencies, community organizations, business groups, and elected officials. In their professional roles, librarians are nonpartisan, and they embed the professional ethics of equitable access to high-quality, accurate information into their civic engagement work. Partner groups recognize that, while it is valuable and necessary to have many places to register voters, one that engages with that voter long before and long after an election has a powerful role in strengthening our democratic systems. Of course, we should not be surprised that those who are attacking democracy are also assaulting the credibility of public libraries. There appear to be 27 public libraries in Tucson. Many of them will have intricate ties with the public (and private) schools in their extended neighborhoods. I don’t know how many of them are in AZ-6, but their reference librarians and other members of their staff are likely to be excellent sources of local knowledge and contacts. Further, the bulletin boards of libraries and community centers are frequently required by local and state statutes to allow postings of all sorts that conform to established community standards (e.g., non-partisanship), and could point us toward influencers. While the specific votes that we cast as voters are secret, individual voting records and voter rolls are also public. They don’t tell researchers how people voted, but they usually do show party affiliation, if any, and frequency of voting. One objective of voter roll research is to find “super voters.” Supervoters show up for every election. Their party affiliation (or lack of it) may indicate a Sound Democracy allegiance. Find a 70 year old woman who’s voted in every election for the last 50 years and writes an occasional letter to the editor of a local paper, and you’ll have discovered someone who knows a lot and has a lot to say! Further Team Leader Reflections (3/18/24) Welcome diversity of thought and action. But, make sure proposals are made within the context of building local political engagement and that  results are produced that can be evaluated. Will they lead to conclusions and/or further experimentation? For example, different team members will want to pursue dissimilar hot button issues. Although they might be related, a focus on water issues in AZ-6 is not obviously the same as a focus on the impact of religious nationalism. And, they are both hot buttons! These teams are voluntary units composed of retired elders. Many people in this demographic don't want to do and don't have to do things that don’t attract them. Plus, there are many other organizations, e.g., political parties or larger specialized entities that are doing similar things to the HBATs, that they might join. To me, the rationality of this sort of granular analysis that leads to the identification of specific groups and people within precincts to work with is obvious and exciting. That is not necessarily going to be convincing enough to others to put in the time and focus necessary to get connected to local activists in a way that helps them turn people sympathetic to their concerns out to the polls. The HBAT team members need to be willing to get past whatever reservations they might have in reaching out to people they don’t know to make these connections. Some may not feel comfortable in doing so. The team organizer can use roleplaying and scripting to help them get past those kinds of interactional challenges. Physical distances can also be challenging to address. AZ-6 is about half the size of Rhode Island. Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the Union, but it may not feel that way when you’re driving around in it. It can easily take an hour plus drive one way from AZ-6’s urban center, Tucson, to get on the ground and meet people in other towns and locales. It’s a commitment. AZ-6’s work is far from finished, and one might say that it has hardly begun. Monitoring of public resources was spotty The team never grew to adequate size Roles weren’t adopted Multiple actions that could have been taken weren’t We did not yet gain access to voter rolls, which would have enabled us to cross tab voter registration data with names identified through letters to the editor, social media postings, public information resources, academic research, etc. Irrespective of those limitations to the outcomes achieved, enough happened to provide a sense of how one might proceed using this framework. The framework is probably similar to that used by political parties, but its aim may be different: re-building America’s democracy is a long-term project and it may fail. Liz Cheney is just as committed to American democracy as Jamie Raskin. This is one man’s contribution to our democracy’s victory over the mob. Conclusion 2024 promises to be the most important election in American history since at least 1968 or maybe 1932 and probably since 1860. The future of democracy in our country and of the United States’ place in the world order is clearly at stake. Millions of people are polarized into vehement political tribes, and they are worried and scared about its outcome. Many are unhappy with the choices between the likely presidential candidates. While many people of good will want to address local and larger issues and problems, there is also an overriding tone of polarization present in many contexts, epitomized by the January 6th attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and the cross currents of reaction to that event. While this is all true, it is also probably more important that many millions more seem to be completely or largely disengaged from the contest. As David French reports in the New York Times: Only a minority of Americans are truly active in political debates, and they’re exhausting and alienating the rest of the country…The rest of Americans — the other two-thirds — constitute an “exhausted majority.” They’re deeply discontented with American politics, and many are also largely disengaged. The decision to unplug from the news is often quite rational and perhaps even prudent — compounding the problem. Disengagement is a reasonable response to the unreasonable vitriol that dominates our political conversations. Weighing in on politics online or even watching it passively is like voluntarily choosing to receive an electric shock. Voter turnout in hotly contested Congressional districts will be key to whatever path forward is coming for America both in 2024 and in any other elections that will (hopefully) follow.  The Hot Button Action Team approach is an experiment in the use of a particular kind of research process to make connections between sound democracy advocates anywhere and citizens everywhere who are concerned about specific driving issues in their locales where small changes in voting behavior can make a big difference. Over 80% of eligible Swedish voters turn out for their elections. If Americans exercised their franchise at a similar level, our consciousness as a society would be vastly expanded., West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Alabama all had turnout at below 50% in the last two general elections.  All five rank at or near the bottom in household income in the US. imagine how different they would be, and the country as a whole would be, if they voted like the Swedes! I think America would experience a breakthrough in discussing and understanding the whole system because we’d all be owners. We’d all be influenced by each other to find and see the interconnectedness of the All. That’s what is supposed to happen in a democracy. We could blow each other's (and our own) minds …in a good way. The HBATs can be like the trim tabs of a large sailing vessel, the small control attached to a rudder that sets a change of direction in motion or maintains a steady course. HBATs have the potential to be one of the many seemingly minute steps that need to be taken across America to preserve and strengthen our democracy. For further information or to inquire about setting up an Elders for Sound Democracy Hot Button Action Team in your district contact Michael Sales at Appendix I AZ-6 Precincts in Pima County First pass at analyzing with Particular Attention to Ones Where Fewer than 50% of the Eligible Voters Participated Appendix II Pima Precinct Pathway Guide This appendix presents a way to get to a detailed map of specific precincts in Pima County AZ. This could be useful to an on-the-ground team that wants to become familiar with a particular precinct by visiting library branches, coffee bars and cafes, juke joints, houses of worship, etc. Ψ Both of these pollutants are products of denying the urgent need to address climate change as a present day crisis. In general, the population of the Earth is not paying adequate attention to climate change. * It’s also worth looking at the front matter of the canvass to see how carefully the votes are counted! A number of election officers certify that the results are accurate and are accountable under Arizona statutory law, which is probably similar to the laws throughout the US. †  Proposition 309 would have required voters to write their birthdate, government issued identification number and signature on early ballots. It was defeated by a 0.8% margin among 2.42 million voters. ‡  For reasons I don’t understand, several of the polling places I included in the spreadsheet seem to have vanished! Dunno why?! Polling places that have addresses but no names are churches that may or may not be community centers for the precinct identified. Punch in the addresses and you’ll get the name of the church. Certainly, there is a high likelihood that interviewing the clergy at these locations will provide insight into their perspective of the surrounding area and its voters. § Although Appendix II gets close, the AZ-6 HBAT has not, as of yet, located an comprehensively detailed and easily accessible precinct maps for each of the counties in the District. I believe that these maps do exist for each precinct in the United States.

  • Appendix II: Politics in the Anthropocene

    Pima Precinct Pathway Guide This appendix presents a way to get to a detailed map of specific precincts in Pima County AZ. This could be useful to an on-the-ground team that wants to become familiar with a particular precinct by visiting library branches, coffee bars and cafes, juke joints, houses of worship, etc. Using this flow chart, one can get to the “Orthophoto Imagery” of particular precincts in Pima County’s AZ-6 territory. Be warned that the last step is frustrating. The graphic does not work at human speed, i.e., zooming in takes one too close and zooming out takes one too far and both happen very quickly. We are working on improving this step. These maps could also be cross-tabbed to voter rolls, social media, letters to the editor, etc. to identify streets and addresses where community activists of various sorts reside in an effort to make connections with people who influence the life of a precinct. Most, if not all, US counties provide some version of these precinct maps. Go to Click on Maps Click on Pima Maps — Main Click on Show Layer List on the left You’ll see a drop-down menu from what you want to make several choices Click on the + next to “Print Friendly Label Layers” Check both streets and street labels Continue scrolling down to districts Scroll to Districts on the drop-down menu where you found the print friendly labels choice left Click on the + Choose Congressional Districts District 6 precincts are orangish-brown Also choose “Voter Precincts” in the same drop down menu where Congressional districts appear Continuing My way scrolling down on that menu to the last set of choices under “Zoning“ Check Latest Orthophoto Imagery Zoom in to see specific precincts Click on one. It will have a blue boundary Under “I want to…” Select “Congressional Districts” drop down and select “Voter Precincts” Click on the “I want to…” icon and choose “Create a Printable Map” You’ll be instructed to “Select Layout” Leave the “Output Format” on Pdf Choose the “map scale” that shows the precinct or the part of a precinct at the level of precision you want You will then see a satellite view of the precinct, which can provide clues as to where the commercial areas are You can send this image of a precinct to whomever you want to

  • Appendix I: Politics in the Anthropocene

    AZ-6 Precincts in Pima County First pass at analyzing with Particular Attention to Ones Where Fewer than 50% of the Eligible Voters Participated

  • Vintage Books: Anthropocean de Jour!

    I’m a lover of books that literally bend to my will. The sooner I can fold the pages of a book back so that I’m holding the whole book in my hand while seeing only one half of a volume the better. Their tendency to break at the seams while I’m reading is one reason why I don’t buy or read that many hardbacks. And plenty of paperbacks resist my reading methodology for over half of the work and proceed to split into unintentional sections from too much of my pressure as well. While they aren’t completely supple, Knopf Press’ Vintage paperbacks are an exception to my complaint. Knopf was founded in 1915 and still in existence today as an arm of Bertelsmann, another publishing house founded in 1835. I’m presently reading Vintage’s version of P.D. Ouspensky’s The Fourth Way. Ouspensky was a Russian émigré, a spiritual teacher and philosopher during the 20th century.His school of thought emphasizes self-remembering as a pathway to higher consciousness and a focused life. Much of Ouspensky’s framework is based on the ideas and mystical school propagated by G.I. Gurdjieff. Both men continue to be influential. Applying my system of reading to the book, I thought: “Isn’t this good. This book is much easier to read my way than most! Bravo to the publisher. I wonder who it is?” So I turned to the back of it to discover that Knopf’s Vintage Books contains a number of titles I have read,  and many more that I wish to and should read. Polishing my apple, some of the ones that have influenced me are Wilhelm Reich’s Sex-Pol Essays from 1929-1934, several titles by Alan Watts and Christopher Lasch, Knots by R.D. Laing (a must!), etc. The list of compelling, critical and courageous titles (e.g. Ulysses) goes on and on, and this is from the back of a Ouspensky’s book that was published by Vintage in 1971! All of them may be banned by school districts across  America in 2025, and many of them probably already are. I choose Vintage Press to be the Anthropocean de Jour because it has made a great and lasting contribution to the understanding of the mind and the ability to apply it to planetary and local conditions. Simplistic approaches to complex issues seem to be the order of the day in this fear-filled era where both the political Right and Left are embracing  authoritarianism. This moment in the Anthropocene is one where clear, advanced, broad and sometimes contradictory thinking is an absolute necessity. Blanche Knopf co-founded Vintage Books with her husband, Alfred. She traveled the Western world in search of great writers, and she found them. As of this writing, 27 Knopf authors have won the Pulitzer Prize and 16 were awarded the Nobel Prize.

  • A Great Place to Be From

    I grew up in Louisville Kentucky in the 1950s and 60s. It was a strong and highly segregated culture. (Jefferson Davis was married there.) It was awash with musical crosscurrents. Harvey Fuqua, who founded The Moonglows was from there. PeeWee King, co-writer and performer of The Tennessee Waltz lived about a mile away from me. One set of Elvis' grandparents lived there. Kids tore up every blade of grass from their lawn the night before he performed at the Armory on November 25, 1956. Wilson Pickett is buried there. I saw the now-largely-unknown-outside-of-Louisville Sultans about 100 times from 1957 to 1965. The Symphony Orchestra had a national reputation for breaking avant-garde pieces, much to the delight of a particular component of the town's high society. You get the picture. Needless to say, Louisville probably best known as the birthplace, home, and resting place of Muhammed Ali. Mitch McConnell is a very distant second. Of course, the Kentucky Derby sort of epitomized a blue collar town that was best known for making great whiskey, cancer-producing cigarettes, and wanton gambling when I was there. I've always thought and wanted to write a song about this place where people worked all week, got really and truly drunk on Saturday, and repented with hosannahs and tears on Sunday. It is a good place to be from.

  • Ray Elman: Anthropocene de Jour!

    Anthropoceans are inquisitive. While rigid religiosity is doing everything it can to oversimplify our ever-unfolding multidimensionality of this era, Anthropoceans accept the excitement, confusion, and terror of a present with no center and a spacetime that is bent by light in many/all directions simultaneously. Ray Elman is a vessel of this kind of curiosity. Ray, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1967, is an accomplished artist, who founded ArtSpeak under the auspices of Florida International University’s Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media in 2015. His work is currently on exhibit through March 3d, 2024 at the Jewish Museum of Florida. In addition to its interviews with many brilliant and productive personalities across all aspects of literary, performing and visual arts, ArtSpeak also contains updates and reviews of activities designed to keep any Anthropocean current with Miami-Dade’s creative scene. Seventeen editions of ArtSpeak have been published since its inception. Each one contains a well-produced recorded interview/conversation that bursts with the energy, inspiration and insight of talented people. Each deepens the consciousness, sensitivity and vulnerability of the reader/viewer. Take for example, his extensive exploration of the life and work Al Jaffee, of his, which occurred when Al was 94. Al, probably best known for his work as a master cartoonist for MAD magazine for many years, who came to understand that his illustrations was a “visual language” that constituted an art form where the story is told with the pictures alone. His perception of his vocation foretold an understanding of the graphic novel as a “sequential art narratives that are the equivalent in form to prose novels.” Ray estimates that he has conducted at least 500 interviews with artists. His ability to go deep with people from many walks of life reflects a competency that is a corollary of curiosity: the use of inquiry. Like John Adams and other Enlightenment thinkers, Anthropoceans long to learn, to see beyond what they already know or think they know. Elman’s inquisitiveness is a relevant survival skill. It deepens us to be with someone else’s knowing. It keeps us flexible in the face of the future. By listening to others, we empty ourselves of our own biases and learn more about compassion. ArtSpeak was originally entitled Inspicio. Inspicio is a Latin work which means “I look into, I inspect. I investigate.” A key ingredient of Elman’s Antropocean character is his interest in the other. His openness to life’s rich spectrum puts him in the center of the stage he’s created. And from his focus of attention on others, he enjoys connecting the “remarkable” people he meets to one another in an extensive network of talent. Pollinators are investigators. Their inspicio makes them fascinated by “What is over there in that next mind?” That’s the kind of wonder that feeds life in the Anthropocene.

  • Music 'Cene

    Nature's Way by Spirit Brian Dobson’s comment on YouTube remains relevant: "I saw a Spirit concert right after this song came out. When they started playing this song people were screaming the usual way but once they heard the words and how unbelievable this song was all of a sudden nobody was making any noise. It was so powerful, I will never forget it. Listening to it still makes me tear up !!” Makes me want to tear something up too. The Earth is a delicate organism. It cannot and will not abide our excesses.

  • Anomalies, Threat, Nonconformity, and Change: Is a New Science Emerging?

    The Anthropocene is a shaky ride. Many belongings will shift during this wobbly flight. Are we on automatic pilot toward an, as yet unnamed destination? Are the conspiracists right that an elite, secret society will take over the planet?! [Spoiler Alert: No.] Does humanity have any shared concept of where we’re headed? Certainly, ideologues of every stripe from individuals shouting on street corners and dinner tables to global leaders followed by millions claim to know “the truth” and to have “the answers.” But humanity’s incessant conflicts demonstrate that few of these influencers align to a common purpose. Is our technological power about a zillion light years more powerful than the capacity of our educational system to inform the general populace about it? Unfortunately, yes. For example, many, perhaps most people use Newtonian physics as their guide, if they give any thought to the matter. Relativity, quantum mechanics, models of consciousness? Fugget About It! Hell, Americans don't even use60 the metric system! Like the warnings the Western world has been getting since 1000 AD that “the end of the world is nigh!” the fact that change is a constant in this era has been repeated so often that it’s become a boring cliché. The outer reaches of humanity’s knowledge is exposing us to the infinite, but the inner recesses of the general psyche is not prepared for the reality we occupy. Everything is in motion and in process without a particular end in sight, other than, perhaps The End! that we keep hearing about. An education that embraces the wobbly nature of the Anthropocene’s of Outer and Inner Space is needed. What are Wobbles? Wobbles are deviations from what expected outcomes. Anomalies is another word for them. An anomaly is a data point or a pattern in data that surprises and suggests that we asks, “Why does these nonconforming data exist?” An anomaly can be slight or extreme. An example of a small wobble: As part of my work with Elders for Sound Democracy, I’m studying civic engagement and voter turnout in Arizona’s 6th Congressional district. There are many intriguing stats. Among them are the facts that 14% of the population sees itself as having a German ethnicity and about 10% of the populations there is made up of veterans. The 14% figure is about 40% higher than the national average, and the 10% figure is about 66% higher. These results were anomalies, not huge, but maybe worthy of further research. Do the two data points interact, for example. But if you want to talk about Big Wobbles, how about… Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), referred to as UFOs in the vernacular, are a wholly different sort of anomaly! Sightings of these objects are largely ridiculed by mainstream science. For decades, research into this topic has been stigmatized by the keepers of scientific orthodoxy. That is also true of other fields like telepathy, future sight, dowsing, miraculous healings, Uri Geller bending spoons, etc. If only a few of these anomalies were repeatable in scientifically controlled environments or demonstrated in such a massive way as to be undeniable, the house that science would be rocked to its core. They are not supposed to exist. Mainstream Science’s Materialistic Bias Whether these widely reported phenomena are only allegations or are indeed factual, many/most of the “hard” social and physical sciences and scientists don’t accept them as existing in reality. Many critics of main stream science’s view of these reports believe that the discrediting of these anomalies occurs because the sciences have a materialistic bias. B. Alan Wallace calls this bias materialism’s “taboo against subjectivity that has curtailed scientific research into the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness.” When the experiences of thousands of people across the seas of time are routinely delegitimized by modern mainstream science as having no basis in fact, the door to populist hokum swings wide open. Many/most people aren’t educated to respect mainstream science and mainstream science isn’t adequately interested in reports of phenomena that lie outside the scope of its dominant paradigms. This polarization between a largely uneducated populace and a dismissive scientific establishment creates a hostility that is not helping us navigate the Anthropocene. Case in point: the crazy confusion surrounding Covid vaccines. Fortunately for us -- but unfortunately for many of them – the Anthropocene has seen a number of brave scientists of inner and outer space who have not and are not conforming to the mold of enmity the majority of their colleagues feel toward the anomalies and potential anomalies that frequently capture the imagination of the general populace. Brian O’Leary, Ph.D. was one of these a multi-dimensional scientists. Brian O’Leary’s bio from Wikipedia Brian Todd O'Leary (January 27, 1940 – July 28, 2011) was an American scientist, author, and NASA astronaut. He received a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. He was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975. From 1970–1976, he was the secretary of the American Geophysical Union's Planetology Section. He was team leader of NASA Ames Summer Study on Space Settlements. O'Leary was selected as an astronaut in conjunction with a possible NASA human mission to Mars. O'Leary was the only planetary scientist in the NASA Astronaut Corps during the Apollo program. Carl Sagan invited him to lecture at Cornell University in 1968, where he stayed until 1971. During the 1970–1971 academic year, O'Leary was deputy team leader of the Mariner 10 Venus-Mercury TV Science Team as a visiting researcher at the California Institute of Technology. He was a researcher and lecturer in physics at Princeton University 1976–1981. At Princeton, he was involved with the L5 Society's orbiting city plans. O'Leary wrote and edited books on astronomy and astronautics. In other words, Dr. O’Leary was no slouch as a mainstream scientist. O’Leary Discovers Inner Space O’Leary’s Discovering Inner and Outer Space: A Scientist’s Perspective on Personal and Planetary Transformation [Berkeley CA: North Atlantic Books, 1989] provides a detailed description of his disillusionment with the limitations of mainstream science. He explored many phenomena that “defy the known laws of physics.” His exploration began with a paranormal experience in a group context where a randomly selected partner gave him the name of a man, his age and where he lived and asked him to describe this man using “psychic powers” the workshop claimed that we all possess of which O'Leary had no knowledge. He went into a trance-like state and described the man, including his love for Hawaii and his use of meteorological maps, to the woman with a precision that she said fit her male friend virtually perfectly. As the group went of break, O’Leary remained in an altered state of consciousness and found himself immersed in a vivid memory of being six years old. His mind/heart was changed. He became a "psychonaut" who embarked on a fantastic voyage into human consciousness, a consciousness he came to understand as Part of a greater reality in (and perhaps beyond) time and space…an interconnectedness, a higher order in the universe that cannot be explained by known physical laws. It was a journey from which he never returned. Because he was a highly trained Astro scientist, O’Leary’s tour of inner and outer space included a breadth of understanding of the phenomena he was exposed to that surpasses those a garden variety mystics like me. O’Leary’s research and reflections cover a broad swath of wobbles! UFOs and the existence of “face” pyramid on Mars The Gaia hypothesis, which asserts that Earth is a living organism with Ley Lines connecting components of a sacred geography that afford entry points into cosmic consciousness The legitimacy of dowsing Wilhelm Reich and Orgone Energy Psychokinesis, i.e., the ability to move things at a distance Precognition Out of body experiences/Astral Projection Reincarnation And quite a few others! O’Leary returns to string theory and particle physics repeatedly, arguing that one of the reasons scientists can’t see widely reported phenomena is that those doing the observation are unwilling and unable to see beyond what they can already see. Thus, he postulates that “strange encounters throughout history … may be due to the manifestation of an intelligence that may not be conventionally extraterrestrial in the ordinary sense of the term, but able to move in and out of dimensions beyond space and time,” dimensions that are neither here nor there. O’Leary’s Death and the New Science O’Leary’s abandonment of the dominant mainstream science was unambivalent. It included his rejection of conventional medicine. Seemingly in support of his convictions, he survived and rebounded from several serious illnesses. For example He expressed no doubt that the use of Cansema, a widely discredited treatments healed a bad case of skin cancer He was convinced that he treated a knee injury that most would have addressed with surgery by: bathing the knee with ‘inner’ light … by closing my eyes, relaxing, breathing deeply, and imagining a healing white light passing through my knee. Within a month, he claimed he was healed completely, and was soon hiking again in the Colorado Rockies. He claimed that a chronic cough was cured by increased dilutions of a substance called “Sticta Pulmonaria” … based on the electrical properties of my skin measured by a machine called a dermatron”. And his embrace of thought and action outside the mainstream also led him to credit as fact fraudsters such as Philippine “psychic healers,” whose fraudulent activities are the stuff of legend, and not very good ones. O’Leary died at 71 of intestinal cancer in 2011 at his home in Vilcabamba, Peru, which many refer to as the Lost City of the Incas. Vilcabamba means "sacred plain" in Quechua, a sacred geography node. Highly respected people like Tom Stafford, a fellow astronaut and chief of the Astronaut Office from 1969-1971, rediculed O’Leary as an absurd “pseudo-hippie.”Ψ He was not alone. On the other hand, Steven Sherwood reminds us that, throughout recorded history, scientists who challenge existing paradigms upon which fortunes and fame rest are often met with vilification. It’s happening right now: The ugly nature of the current climate debate, with its increasingly frequent characterization of scientists as opportunists, totalitarians, or downright criminals is not new. Copernicus (posthumously) and his prominent followers through Isaac Newton were all accused of being heretics or atheists. Einstein was derided by his political opponents through the 1920s and 1930s as a Communist or simply as a fraud. When a group of American women tried to prevent him from entering the US because of his supposed Communism, he quipped, “Never before have I experienced from the fair sex such energetic rejection of all advances, or if I have, then certainly never from so many at once.” At one point Einstein stopped giving public lectures out of fear for his personal safety, also now a worry for some greenhouse warming proponents. Old counter-culture chestnuts like Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain and Morning of the Magicians remind us that O’Leary’s theorizing isn’t particularly revolutionary. However, the mainstream scientific heft that he brings to the discussion strikes me as being particularly worthy of attention. Across the span of its experience, humanity mystical and magical phenomena. It’s only recently that debunking these observances has become a kind of rationalistic scientific mantra. If everything that was magical is already debunked in a mind, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that such a mind cannot see the magical. O’Leary was a “New Scientist,” the scientist who looks at paranormal phenomena as indicative of a new frontier of study that will revolutionize thought, the scientist who isn’t afraid of the paradigm of reality and truth that is struggling to be born as the Anthropocene proceeds. A scientist who would invent a “physics” that transcends electromagnetic, gravitational, and nuclear forces. They would require a biology that goes beyond genetics and molecules. I think Thomas Kuhn, the scientific philosopher, would have enjoyed O’Leary. One wonders where he would place this non-pseudo, very honest anomaly hunter in his scientific revolutions framework. Education needs to show more interest in those who, like O'Leary, are personally trying to feel their way forward, our way forward toward a more comprehensive and expansive view of reality. Ψ One imagines O’Leary enjoying being called that. If he wasn’t a hippie, it would seem that no one would be entitled to such a designation!

  • Get Real. Be Rational.

    The people who recognize this t-shirt will say that it's mathematical But it’s really ideological Competing Ideologies contend that their opponents Have no idea how the world works They’re either irrational or unrealistic All ideologies make sense To the people who adhere to them

  • Ian Bremmer: Anthropocean de Jour!

    Ian Arthur Bremmer (born November 12, 1969) is an American internationalist trained in political science. He is the founder and president of Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm. Ian is a wunderkind who entered college at 15 after having grown up in housing projects in Chelsea MA. He is the author of 11 books, including the bestselling Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World and The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? Bremmer is a speaker in many contexts and a frequent guest on news programs. Examples of activities that make Ian a card carrying Anthropocean: Contending that the planet faces three fundamental threats: health emergencies, climate change, and technological revolution Asserting that we live in “G-Zero,” his term for a global power vacuum in which no country is willing and able to set the international agenda. Proposing the creation of a “World Data Organization” to unravel the pressing need for collaboration between governments, advanced industrial players, corporations, and a diverse spectrum of stakeholders in the Artificial Intelligence domain. Framing the power of international technology firms in our “technopolar world” where they are similar to states that possess “digital sovereignty over a rapidly expanding realm beyond the reach of regulators: digital space.” Describing his Eurasia Group as being “irreverent, authentic, fearless, creative…and endlessly curious about how the world works. and doesn't. Developing a plan to massively increase recycling through much better waste collection and sorting systems while also pushing technical boundaries to extend and decarbonize the processes employed. I established a Google Alert for Bremmer because I find his views of how the future is likely to unfold to be stimulating and based on strong evidence and logic. Here’s something he wrote on his Facebook feed that I agree with: mcconnell, feinstein, biden, trump are all too old for another term in office. we all know this. i’ll still vote for biden over trump presuming that’s the choice because trump is singularly unfit for office. but none of these people should be running. I wish Anthropoceans like Ian were on the ballot; he gets it (or at least he gets some of it!).

  • Who Is An Anthropocean?

    We Anthropoceans are pilgrims setting out on a non-linear, Escheresque highway. Anthropocene is the term used to describe the Age of Humanity, i.e., an era in which our species began to determine the future evolution of life on Earth. The Anthropocene’s start date hasn’t been fully determined. Some argue that the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere at the start of the Industrial age in 1750 ushered in the Anthropocene. More recently, geologists have asserted that the Age began in 1950, after which humanity’s overwhelming of the Earth’s systems to adapt to our behavior has become undeniably apparent. These effects “include everything from nuclear fallout to species-threatening pollution to steadily rising temperatures.” Every person presently alive or to be born in the future is or will be an Anthropocean. However, not everyone is a card-carrying member of the new era. The vast majority of people haven’t even heard of the term let alone used it in everyday practice. (The Barbie to Anthropocene search ratio on Google is probably 10,000:1, for example.) So, what are the characteristics of an Anthropocean, someone who knows that he/she/they are in a new dramatically new geological era? I don’t assert that my reflections here are based on any rigorous research. I’m using my own adventure in the Anthropocene as a case study; so, my findings are speculative, non-generalizable, a work in progress and will miss the mark entirely for some students of the age. With those limitations in mind, here are some observations: Anthropoceans know that they are living in a chaotic era. We have no expectation of a return to normalcy. We anticipate many if not everything to get increasingly weirder, but not necessarily worse. Anthropoceans tend to have an acute awareness of the fact that reality is a social construction.Δ Many/most non-Anthropoceans view reality as a stable state, something that is “a given” and that change to its fixed nature is frequently viewed with suspicion and concern. Anthropoceans know that the road ahead is likely to be very difficult, that massive change will occur and that such change might make them feel better or worse. Just as nature has demonstrated that it is ever more complex and amazing than we humans have imagined, so are the possibilities contained in alternative futures. Climate Change is top of mind with virtually all Anthropoceans. I disagree with Elon Musk on many/most matters, but there is no doubt that he is an Anthropocean, and we are both very concerned about climate change. Humanity is frying our Earth to a crisp. On the other hand, the desperately-needed transition to a green economy and society offers an inestimable opportunity for economic and psychological well-being. Anthropoceans know that the choice is humanity’s to make. We’re just disappointed that progress toward a more sustainable future continues to be very slow. Anthropoceans feel a sadness about its fragile state in the face of humanity’s ignorance and/or indifference to the Earth systems upon which it depends. An avid interest in technology, especially technology that might mitigate the impact of environmental degradation via climate change and pollution. The Singularity, a term used to characterize the emergence the moment in time when the computational power of technology will equal or exceed that of the human brain, is of particular interest to Anthropoceans. Whether the Singularity will generate an era of self-correcting superintelligence in which each individual or group might be able to create his/her/their preferred reality or one in which the technology our species has invented will bring about our extinction is a subject of great debate. An awareness of and fascination with both inner and outer cosmic consciousness. This needs to be unpacked a bit. Physical cosmic consciousness entails an awareness of and an excitement about the extension of human insight into the universal and the subatomic context within which we exist and have our physical being. Science is eager to put a period on this question mark in the universe by assuring us in the Western world that there is a perfectly logical explanation for this metaphoric image.Ⓧ Maybe it’s nothing more than two merging galaxies. I’m sure that this happens every day in someone’s version of normal, but I have a hunch that the Universe’s question mark is going to be around for a long time as far as humanity is concerned, and, at the rate our species isn’t paying attention to its ever-more present requiem scenario, this question mark could be around for all the time that we have left. The image below reminds us that, when it comes to widespread chaos combined with definable patterns of behavior, the subatomic level is about as messy as the overall universe. The track of subatomic particles cannot be predicted with precision; they can only be anticipated by the probabilities that are assigned to them. Bottom line, I think it’s safe to say that the sum of what we don’t know is much greater than what we do know. Although we know a lot, we’re likely to keep discovering that we don’t know all that much, and I anticipate that this may always be the case. And that’s where the inner nature of cosmic consciousness comes into play for some Anthropoceans. We are more likely to be convinced that there is something beyond the realm of rational consciousness and to spend a great deal of energy searching for it, as represented in the Medieval illustration on the cover of an edition of J.M. Bucke’s Cosmic Consciousness. The physical sciences have expanded our consciousness to a virtually infinite degree, but this enlargement of understanding may also point to the existence of a metaphysical realm that the thinking mind itself can never fully penetrate nor comprehend. Bucke's interest in cosmic consciousness was influenced by his own personal experiences. He described having a profound mystical experience in 1872 while walking the streets of London, Ontario. During this experience, he felt a sudden and intense sense of unity and interconnectedness with the entire universe. He felt a heightened awareness and a deep understanding of the oneness of all things. This experience had a profound impact on him and set him on a lifelong journey to understand and explain this state of consciousness. -- From Chat GPT Along with many others from time immemorial, I experienced a moment of unity that permanently change my point of view. Given the chaotic nature of the Anthropocene and the desire for a sense of safety and centeredness in the face of such dramatic change, it is not surprising that many Anthropoceans ingest psychotropics of various sorts to get above the pulsations of the moment in an effort to comprehend a larger context of which they might be a part, a domain that yields security and permanence in the presence of cyclonic change. As with the Question Mark galaxies (or whatever they may be), mainstream science wants to provide “a perfectly reasonable explanation” to experiences like Bucke's by referring to the "God spot"#, or describing it as a case of temporal lobe epilepsy. Given that many Anthropoceans may be more devoted to empiricism than they are to poetry, my certitude regarding the prospect of entering cosmic consciousness may be why I don’t get more invitations to highbrow cocktail parties. An awareness and acceptance of the fluidity of gender Probably beginning with Alfred Kinsey’s sexuality research in the late 40s, it’s been apparent that sex, like almost everything else, is not binary. The Anthropocene is blurry and so it is with an individual’s sexuality. Many folks, including Anthropoceans like Musk are still locked into the myth of binarianism, but anyone who listens to his/her/their own mind or keeps track of their dreams knows that there’s always a little bit of fuzz in desire and libido. It may not make one LGBTQ+, but it’ll sure give you a more tolerant attitude toward your local Drag Queen Story Hour. When I see a crowd of guys riding Harley-Davidsons with their women in the back rack, I see men in a life-style making a statement about what their freedom-loving life style looks like, a statement that is full of symbols full of sexual and social significance. A Semiotic* Treasure Trove Increasingly, Anthropoceans see sexuality through rainbow lenses. Considering what our species and our planet is up against in 2023, this sort of “Whatever.” attitude makes a lot of sense. As the deeply conservative Barry Goldwater once said of gays in the military: Anthropoceans Focus on the World System In spite of the fact that nationalism seems to be very much in the news, Anthropoceans hold a globalist perspective. Many of them travel extensively and find other cultures attractive and instructive. It’s not popular with the various chest-pounders from differing national and ethnic tribes, but it’s accurate to acknowledge that a planetary reality is a lot more than a platitude: We are all in this together, and it’s increasingly clear that (a) ours is a very small place in a very large cosmos and (b) we may not be as alone as we thought. The interconnectedness of the global system is an astonishing complexity to contemplate. Any element of it has been the topic of some thesis paper somewhere and many of these insights are now available for analysis via GPT Chat. Personally, I am strongly wedded to democracy as a better system for being in the Anthropocene. Although there is much to criticize in all democracies, it’s a frame of reference that is designed to be a learning system. Organizational Science has developed many proofs of the enhancement of decision-making that comes through a respect for democratic processes. Chris Argyris For example, Chris Argyris and Don Schön’s theory of action perspective is one of many examples from the organizational behavior field that lays out of a methodology for increasing the functionality of democratic decision-making in organizations. So, perhaps like most people, I interact with the world system with a set of biases influenced by the time, place, and dynamics of the life I was born into. Furthermore, the structure of one’s primary (and, in my case, only) language constrains and directs my ability to think and express myself in many unconscious fashions. The US planted an American flag on the Moon, and it’s probably planted one in my psyche as well. I do see the “everything-is-everything” nature of the world system through glasses that have a red, white and blue tinge. Acknowledging the limitations of exploring the interconnectedness of the world system affected by the biases one brings to observation does not diminish the fact that the effects of weak signals from anywhere in the system may get magnified quickly into far-flung and widespread consequences. Whether Covid-19 started in a lab or at an outdoor market is irrelevant to the fact that the virus has officially killed about 7,000,000 people worldwide since being discovered in January 2020, and the actual number of fatalities is probably much higher. Covid will not only not be the last pandemic, but the next one is likely to come much sooner than we would want or than we are prepared for This attentiveness to the gyrations of the world system lead Anthropoceans to be avid consumers of information. The spectrum of sources drawn upon can vary from Anthropocean to Anthropocean, with some using old standbys like The New York Times, The Economist, The Scientific American, The Chinese Science Bulletin, etc. while others dive deep into X and the astonishing proliferation of on-line blogs and social media as their primary info resources. As the image above illustrates, keeping up with the Jones on the info front is a mighty challenging gig for any Anthropocean. GPTChat believes that “around 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 exabytes) of data were created every day in 2020.” That’s the equivalent of 5.25 million 400-page books being produced daily three years ago! The info glut hasn’t slowed up since then. The Security and Sustainability Guide is an example of an efforts to help people focusing on specific aspects of the glut to access the information of the greatest relevance to their own interests and objectives. The Guide’s operating principle is that there can be no security without sustainability and no sustainability without security. The Guide has identified thousands of organizations living in some way at the intersection of this axiom. Like a detailed tour book to any complicated destination, the Guide is an essential component of anyone adventuring into the Anthropocene. It helps Anthropoceans navigate their way through the complex maze of holistically thinking and acting organizations to discover and consider working with the specific ones that meet and address their own aspirations and concerns. A Fascination with the Arts, Music and Literature Anthropoceans don’t spend all their time with their heads in non-fiction books and the science and technology sections of periodicals and blogs. Many of us are avid consumers of artistic artifacts from every conceivable direction. We are as at home at the Uffizi As we are at the MOMA As we are listening to Pharoah Sanders To Woody Guthrie To Bach To The Zep To Billie Holiday To Linkin Park You get the picture. The Anthropocean sphere of interest is kaleidoscopic The more you bring a child’s sense of wonder and curiosity to the Anthropocene, the more fun you’re going to have in it. The Wheel Is Very Much Still in Spin A young friend of mine recently said, “I get it that you’re wrapped up in this Anthropocene deal, although I can’t really pronounce it. Why? What’s it all about?” I responded: “The Anthropocene started somewhere between 200 to 70 years ago when humanity’s release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere began to alter our atmosphere and our climate. Earth entered a new geological era as its fate has become significantly more determined by the values and behavior of our species than by the variations and the stability of our biosphere’s natural systems. The impact of human pollution has accelerated greatly since 1950. The reliance on fossil fuels since that time coincided with a prolonged period of relative peace and economic growth largely under the rubric of American consumer capitalism. Humanity’s acquisitive consciousness is nothing new and has resulted in quite a few disastrous overshoots in the course of recorded history. However, since the end of the Second World War, our species short term thinking and impulsive behavior has been powered by a fuel that is no longer viable as a source of energy. “Anthropoceans know our present pathway is unsustainable and that there are feasible and available pathways out of this crisis. Anthropoceans want humanity and life on Earth to survive. They realize that it is incumbent on them to do something about the situation they understand at the personal, social, organizational, and political levels of their live. “Not to do so puts them in the position of armchair philosophers who await the arrival of the barbarians.” Δ For a full discussion of this topic see Peter Bergman and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality. New York: Anchor Books, 1966. (Read it soon! If the book banners ever study it, they’ll want to burn it.) Ⓧ The Chinese version of the question mark: # “Scientists have speculated that the human brain features a "God spot," one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality. Now, researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences.” Science Daily, 4/19/12. *Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols and signification systems. When people say, “You’re your brand!,” they are using semiotics. Every time you have a reaction to something you see and connect to whatever “connotative” meaning a sign has for your, you’re engaging in semiotic analysis. Do you agree that this picture, for example, presents a great deal of majoritarian ideas about masculinity combined with a somewhat genderbending guy whose hair is intended to have wide appeal?

  • Who Cares What It Means?!

    Who here doesn't love "A Whiter Shade of Pale?!" Who here can tell me what it means?! Like "Louie Louie," it has been a song near and dear to the hearts of millions. Play it in a bar and everyone comes in with gusto on the very few lines or words that they know and sit somewhere between a spell-bound state and waiting for the next opportunity to belt out what they know they know. Four hundred years from now people will be singing Whiter Shade of Pale at the top of their lungs and having even less understanding of what people like me don't understand right now, even though I've heard the song 500 times. Let's call it timeless art. An Anthropocean Anthem!

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