Category Archives: rants

Carbon Crop

I recently discovered the website Information is Beautiful, run by David McCandless. As a person with interest and some experience in creating maps, I truly respect the work that has gone into these thoughtful, elegant representations of reality. Please click on the link, because the image you see above is cropped. The original graphic gives much more terrifying detail about the possible outcomes of 3 – 6 degrees of warming, which seems likely, including the flooding of coastal cities, reduction in crop yields, ocean acidification and attendant fishery collapses, droughts, severe hurricanes.

This is an excellent graphic – I already knew most of the information in it, but one thing that leaped out at me, which I hadn’t really grokked before. That is the fact that fossil fuel extraction companies already possess in their reserves enough oil and gas to push us into ecological catastrophe. And of course they are still proposing new pipelines, new wells in the Arctic and the Gulf, the Tar Sands, and that’s before you even leave North America.

I hope you click that link and take a look – the image you see above is a cropped version of the original.

I have to confess that I am pessimistic about the future of our civilization. I’m pretty sanguine about the ultimate survival of humans qua humans, but that’s cold comfort when I consider the fact that my sister’s grandchildren may only know about the internet from stories told by bitter old survivors.

Let’s think for a minute about a few of the things we would have to do in order to really get serious about climate change. According to the experts who provided the data behind the image from Information is Beautiful, we have about 10 – 13 years to get really serious about doing something to stop or slow greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Transportation: widespread replacement of fuel infrastructure for individual vehicles. Development of hydrogen or electric vehicles. Better yet, severe cutbacks in use of personal vehicles and large increase in public transportation and automobile alternatives such as bicycles
  • Food: complete redesign of food production and distribution systems so that fewer calories of oil are burned in the process of growing the good and the process of moving it to the market that needs it, and agricultural land is managed sustainably so that it requires fewer fossil fuel-based inputs
  • Housing: efficiency retrofits for all existing housing stock, stringent efficiency requirements for new construction, including possible the requirement of passive solar design and solar hot water heating
  • Energy: complete redesign of electrical grid so it can deal with decentralized power production as well as peaks of various types of energy production throughout the day
  • Consumer goods: entities that produce material goods for consumption should be responsible for entire life cycle of pollution generated by production, including greenhouse gases burned in transporting raw materials and finished goods from extraction to manufacture to market. “Recycle” would be a silly, redundant word, because it should be unthinkable to manufacture a product that can only be used once

These are all things which are completely doable – but they’re nearly impossible because our political system has been captured and subverted – and some of the same companies that are planning this irresponsible development of further fossil fuel extraction are the same that are causing the profound disconnect between what the constituents of our allegedly representative democracy want and need, and what their elected representatives are willing to do for them.

Take one example – in the housing category, one simple thing we could do is pass a law that all roof shingles and other roofing materials must be white or light-colored. This would increase the albedo, or average reflectivity of the land surface in the country, and that would slow the process of warming by sending more heat back out into space rather than keeping it here to get trapped by those greenhouse gases. And can you imagine the outcry from right wing Congressional representatives and the right wing media? How dare the government tell homeowners what color to paint their roofs! It’s unthinkable, at least for national legislation in the USA. Just that one tiny little thing.

So I’m pessimistic. Sad to say. I really hope I’m wrong, but I’m deadly scared that I’m right – and if I allow myself to contemplate the information, my heart starts to break and I can’t finish the work I was trying to do.

I do have suggestions for how we can achieve a change in our political system dramatic enough for us to make the drastic changes required to deal effectively with climate change, and I want to write about those too – but I doubt that 10 – 15 years is enough time to implement that change. I am still going to try, though.

EDIT: I have no idea why WordPress insists on transforming my hyperlinked text into text that is also HUGE.

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March 6, 2013 · 1:46 am

Lies Told By Anti-Feminists

If I had known that this particular malicious lie would hang on for well over a year, I would have gotten screen shots.

A bit of background – as a great deal of you already know, I’m a regular commenter at FreeThoughtBlogs (FTB). And FTB has a dedicated website for FTB haters, they call it the Slymepit. I call the people who post there slimers. Most of their hatred of FTB is grounded in their hatred of the concept of having to do something about social justice, rather than mouthing empty platitudes and feeling smug and superior because “we” don’t throw acid in “our” women’s faces, not like those brown barbarians in far-off lands. They’ve constructed a narrative that sexism is basically over in the Western industrialized world; therefore, since they assume that sexism is done, women in the USA or Britain or wherever who complain about sexism are lying hysterical bitches who are trying to smear some innocent man’s good name. Or something. And, since I’m a vocal feminist, and an active commenter at FTB, I sometimes attract the attention of the slimers. Here is the story of my notoriety among the anti-feminists, and why I’m totally capitalizing on the lies they tell about me to persuade you to donate a small amount to my travel fund for the American Atheists’ conference.

Once upon a time, during, or, actually, just after Thunderfoot’s brief misadventures as a blogger at FreeThoughtBlogs.com, I went over to Thunderfoot’s own website to speak my mind. Okay, so far so good. Thing is, while I was there, some anonymous poster threatened to “track you down and rape you.” All right, that sucks. I pointed it out, and emailed Thunderfoot at the email address listed on his site. No response. And pretty much immediately, some of the other commenters there began to claim that it was actually me. Like, I logged out as SallyStrange and then logged in as anonymous to post a rape threat against myself.

Right. As if dudes who hate feminists are ever shy about issuing rape threats on the internet. A couple of years ago, I helped organize my local SlutWalk, and accidentally let my real name get publicly associated with the SlutWalk Facebook page. For this, I got about a dozen Facebook messages from complete strangers, mostly degrading and sexualized comments, several of which were explicit rape threats. So getting a rape threat from an anti-feminist on Thunderfoot’s site wasn’t overly shocking. What was shocking was the utter lack of response from Thunderfoot on the subject. It’s ironic, since as I recall, part of his objection to anti-harassment policies at conferences stemmed from his claim that actual harassment (“legitimate” harassment?) is against the law, and thus any instances of harassment could be dealt with by law enforcement–no need for conference organizers to step in. Yet, when a blatantly illegal threat was made on his own site, he took zero action to counteract it. Not only that, but he’s the only one who has the information to determine whether it’s me or the slimers who are lying. As far as I know, he’s offered nothing one way or the other.

All I know is that it wasn’t me who posted that illegal threat on Thunderfoot’s website. But the lie that I had faked a rape threat against myself quickly gained traction among the Slimers. But that was a year ago, or maybe longer, and the rumor won’t die! Just yesterday, on a post by Ben Radford of the Center For Inquiry, a slimer showed up with the following comment:

Comment #17 by the Devil’s TowelBoy (link goes to my discussion about it on Pharyngula):

Same old faces as always. So who’s going to be first to post a threat to themselves and then demonise Ben for encouraging this “rape culture”? Sally, if it’s you, at least use another browser and wait half an hour between the posts.

So, the narrative goes, there is no rape culture, and it’s only lying bitches like me who talk about it, and naturally we have to make things up and lie about being harassed, getting rape threats, etc., because there is no rape culture. It’s only logical!

So now you see the kind of bullshit that women in the atheist/skeptic movement have to put up with.

Ben Radford’s self-centered and incoherent rant about how feminists are using numbers wrong and doing activism wrong is here, if you want to read the whole thing. Too bad he didn’t just stick to criticizing Eve Ensler’s use of statistics, then perhaps he wouldn’t have come off as either an anti-feminist or a person who’s so gullible that he thinks that anti-feminists don’t lie through their teeth whenever it suits them (as opposed to using outdated rape statistics, or lumping “homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse” into “raped and beaten” or “raped, beaten, or otherwise abused,” which is pretty much the only salient criticism he offers). Then there was that old chestnut, “Why are you dancing in the streets when you could be working in a battered women’s shelter?” No matter what form of activism we choose to bring our concerns to a wider audience, it will be criticized. Slutwalk was too confrontational; One Billion Rising is too pandering. SlutWalk alienated men with its in-your-face rejection of victim-blaming; One Billion Rising doesn’t do enough to point the finger at patriarchal values and toxic masculinity and what men can be doing to combat those problems. We can literally never win.

The thing is, from my experience of actually being out on the streets for a protest, a LOT of the people you meet there are already doing all kinds of activism behind the scenes, whether it’s organizing ESL classes or cooking for Occupy or tree-sitting (that should date me, and you too, if you know what the heck I’m talking about) or volunteering for a rape crisis hotline, they are the people on the streets. There’s a large contingent of people who only have time for the occasional protest too, and that’s fine–everybody has different time demands and finite amounts of energy. I listened to the critiques of SlutWalk, and the critiques of One Billion Rising, and some of them were spot on. The thing is, the critiques from people who actually supported women’s equality never framed their criticism as, “Well you ought to be doing this other thing instead of this fake activism.” Or “slacktivism,” as Radford cutely calls it. Getting people to come out into the streets IS activism, and it’s really fucking hard to do–I know because I’ve tried to do it, and failed, and also tried and succeeded. Getting people out into the streets is not slacktivism. “Slacktivism” applies much better to what Ben Radford was doing with that dumbass piece of his. Sitting at home, offering inaccurate critiques of activists and telling them that raising awareness isn’t real activism but activities that don’t involve getting media attention are–that’s slacktivism.

The Center For Inquiry need to get their house in order. First, they need to figure out if feminism and women’s equality are issues worth getting right–in which case they need to stop Ben Radford from writing on the subject any further. As I have said elsewhere, when it comes to scientific topics, there’s a healthy respect for expertise and the time it takes to become knowledgeable about a complex subject in the atheist/skeptic movement. But when it comes to topics having to do with sociology and the scientific study of human behavior and biases, suddenly the field is wide open and any schmuck with an opinion can spout off and expect to have his opinion treated seriously. Radford’s most telling moment was when he inveighed against feminists who think that all men are rapists. The genesis of this quote is in a 1977 novel by Marilyn French. The line is voiced by a fictional character. The fact that Radford repeats this false trope uncritically shows that he’s not bothering to do his due diligence as a public communicator and a representative of an organization that is supposed to promote critical thinking.

The only way this is going to change is if more women get involved in the movement. And for whatever fucked-up reason, I’m willing to do that. Despite the fuckheads and misogynists in the community, I’m still passionate about the benefits that skepticism, empiricism, and secular ethics can bring to the world. I’ve been developing my skills as a public communicator and community organizer and I think I have a lot to offer. Misogynists like the Devil’s Towel Boy act like they want to exclude me and people like me entirely from the movement. For a while I gave into the sense of intimidation and fatalism this inspired in me, but not anymore. And this is why you should donate a few bucks to the travel fund to get me to the American Atheist Convention in Austin, TX! Plus, it will really piss off the haters. If I raise more than necessary, I’ll donate the excess to more travel grants for people going to Women in Secularism–or maybe I’ll buy myself a new pair of shoes. 😉

Thanks for all the support I’ve already gotten. This community has some seriously awesome people in it. Which is why I’m still here.

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Filed under Anti-bigotry, Atheism, blogging, commenting, Feminism, internet culture, Personal, rants

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If you hate nested comments, I invite you to bellyache, kvetch, complain, whine, and vent about nested fucking comments. Right now I’m figuring out how to change those settings.

Really? This is the default? Really?

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