Wednesday, February 29, 2012

703. Yoga and Sex

The truth about Tantra (234) 542-6570 - 30
A Tantric pose

By William J. Broad, The New York Times, February 29, 2012

The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”

In retreat John Friend's sexual indiscretions upset many devotees of Anusara yoga, which he founded.
Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his “penchant for women” and his love of “partying and fun.”

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers.

“Those folks are devastated,” Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post. “They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly” and “lied to so many.”

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.
Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy — a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as “thinking off.”

The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain — what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.

Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results. In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards.

“We wrote the code,” Judith Lasater, the group’s president, told a reporter, “because there were so many violations going on.”

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus — often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.

The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga’s revitalizing powers. A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s.

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favored dark glasses and gaudy robes.

At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees — including movie stars and political celebrities — and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.

In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure.
Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality.

“I was both thrilled and confused,” she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. “He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.”
To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion. So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counseling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back.

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.
“How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?”

Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its longtime guru — a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity — confessed to multiple affairs.

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding. So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make “a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation.”

The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable. “I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community,” Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.

But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

702. Couple Help Salamanders Cross the Road Safely So They Can Mate

By Kim Severson, The New York Times, February 21, 2012 

Tom Mann holds a spotted salamander that he was
helping to cross a road. Photo: James Patterson, NYT
Salamander people are special people. Consider Tom and Debora Mann, biologists in their early 60s who live in a little town near Jackson, Miss.

Mr. Mann looked for salamanders along the road and shoulder of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

When it rains hard at night, they rush to a dark stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway and start scooping salamanders into quart-size freezer containers.
Then (and this is not the premise for a joke), they help them cross the road.
Most rainy nights during the late winter and early spring, dozens — sometimes even hundreds — of salamanders, generally three to nine inches long, try to get from their burrows on one side of the road to seasonal ponds on the other to mate. The salamanders, some of which can live up to 30 years, procreate only once a year. The compulsion to get across that road is unyielding.

Unfortunately, so is the traffic. So the Manns, along with a handful of volunteers, have made it their scientific and personal mission to help. They are out there for hours in the rain at night, cajoling the slimy-skinned amphibians across the wet pavement. The nocturnal animals need moisture to travel and spend most of their days safely tucked in their forest habitat.

The dream is that the National Park Service, which maintains the Natchez Trace, which winds through 444 miles of historical sites from Natchez, Miss., to Nashville, would shut down a two-mile stretch during salamander mating season.
But the volunteers are realists. They know that not everyone cares as deeply as they do about what Mr. Mann, a zoologist at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, describes as helping “ameliorate vehicular take of a non-listed amphibian species.”

In other words, it is hard to generate a lot of interest in preventing salamanders, only a few species of which have been legally declared endangered, from becoming roadkill.

So they have settled for two lights that flash when it is dark and rainy, notifying drivers to slow down to 35 miles per hour from 50. A ticket for breaking that speed limit costs $80 to $500.

It is too soon to tell how well the signs are working. On a recent Tuesday night, the bucket brigade helped at least 120 salamanders make it. But field notes reflected a grim reality. Twenty were found dead.

“You hate it, but what’s even worse is when they are mortally injured. That’s really bad,” said Dr. Mann, a biology professor who met her husband years ago on a college field trip to observe alligators in the Everglades. Mr. Mann was the only one who did not slather on bug spray. He worried it would get into the water and harm the fish. She fell in love.

The Manns do not know of any other national road in the South with designated salamander speed-reduction zones, although there are other salamander-saving efforts. Last month, Homewood, Ala., held its annual salamander festival. People who help salamanders cross the road in that area gathered, but the celebration was muted. A couple of weeks earlier, 41 salamanders had been found dead on a nearby road.

The nation’s herpers — those people engaged in the act of searching out amphibians or reptiles — have long helped salamanders cross rainy roads, protesting development and other environmental threats to the species.
Salamander-saving projects can be found from California’s wine country to the cold, wet roads of Vermont. North America’s first salamander underpass system, basically a culvert built under a road, was constructed in Amherst, Mass., in the 1980s.

In some communities, the salamander, like the spotted owl before it, has become a flash point between conservationists and those who think stopping development or dedicating government money to save salamanders reflects poorly ranked priorities.

When the speed-reduction signs first went up in Mississippi, they were mocked.
“The salamanders will squash just as dead at 35 as they will at 50,” wrote one fisherman on an online forum dedicated to Gulf Coast fishing and hunting.
To be sure, the public is more sensitive to hitting larger creatures, like deer or bears, according to the Federal Highway Administration and wildlife experts.
“You hear the term ‘sexy mega fauna’ thrown around,” said James Andrews, an adjunct professor of herpetology at the University of Vermont. “Something cute and furry, like an otter or a bobcat, gets people’s attention.”

In a report to Congress, highway administration officials said that about 300,000 collisions between animals and cars are reported each year, but the actual number of collisions is much higher. The insurance industry estimates that the annual cost is $200 million.

Still, park rangers who work the salamander-rich section of the Trace parkway say visitors are responding well to the new campaign.

“People come into the information center and say, ‘What are we slowing down for? Deer?’ I say, ‘No, salamanders.’ So word is getting out,” said Sandra Kavanaugh, a park ranger.

The park service has also developed a salamander education kit for elementary school students that includes two spotted salamander models and the book “Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein.

Out on the rainy parkway, the Manns and their crews have encountered some less-than-friendly motorists but more often they get offers to help.
Recently, two young women stopped while Mr. Mann was scooping salamanders. He explained his mission.
“You’re doing the Lord’s work,” they told him, before driving off, barely missing a salamander.

“Too bad they missed the take-home lesson and failed to more closely scrutinize the road,” Mr. Mann said.

701. Pacific Sea Otter in Peril: Scientists Look for the Causes But Neglect the Agency

By Ingfei Chen, The New York Times, February 27, 2012

MONTEREY, Calif. — On a fog-shrouded morning in Monterey Bay, wildlife researchers are out to capture a southern sea otter named Blanca — part of a three-year project to learn why her species, hunted to near extinction a century ago, is still in trouble here despite decades of efforts to bring it back.

Blanca is not cooperating.

Because wild sea otters bolt at the whiff of human presence, the only way to catch one is when it is asleep. Blanca is tagged with a radio transmitter, and scientists onshore are tracking her by telemetry and telescope.

About 8:30 a.m., she begins diving for crabs in a kelp bed off Cannery Row. In a skiff on the bay, three otter biologists — Tim Tinker, Brian Hatfield and Joe Tomoleoni — wait for her to stop feeding and take a nap.

And wait. And wait. When Blanca finally dozes, five hours after the tracking began, Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Tomoleoni slip into the water 270 yards away, with scuba gear and underwater scooters rigged with nets. Long minutes pass.

Then Dr. Tinker, watching with binoculars from the boat, sees her awaken and plunge beneath the surface. “She just saw you,” he tells his companions by radio. “Target is gone. It’s over.”

For the wildlife biologists, a clear explanation for the sea otters’ failure to thrive is proving just as elusive. Almost wiped out by fur traders, the species rebounded after an international ban on commercial otter hunting in 1911. But today, the otter population in California is just 2,700, in a mosaic of small, separate colonies off the coast, down from perhaps as many as 16,000 in the past.

Multiple factors are stalling the recovery. One popular view, supported by veterinary pathologists who study dead otters, primarily blames coastal pollution — in the form of parasites, bacteria, toxins and chemicals.

But Dr. Tinker and other biologists say that, at least in the areas where the sea otter population is highest, off Monterey and nearby Big Sur, the underlying problem is simply that the otters are running out of food.

While they are not starving to death, they are depleting their favorite prey, sea urchins and abalone, and having to spend more time hunting. Poor nutrition is compromising their fitness to survive diseases or other threats, said Dr. Tinker, who runs the United States Geological Survey’s otter research program. “They’re not getting enough food to make it through.” Reports from Dr. Tinker’s team also suggest that otters are particularly vulnerable to sharks.

Bridging the two scientific camps, Dr. Tinker is working closely with veterinary experts and biologists at the California Department of Fish and Game, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the University of California and elsewhere. The wildlife sleuths have been tracking diet, behavior, diseases, births and deaths among 90 radio-tagged sea otters that live off urban Monterey or pristine Big Sur. The sites differ mainly in that Monterey Bay receives more polluted runoff.

Last fall, the team was recapturing the otters to take more blood samples, pluck whiskers and retrieve a small, implanted, pen-shaped instrument (all with anesthesia) from each. The instrument recorded a trove of data on body temperature and the time and depth of every dive an otter had made in the past year.

By telescope, the scientists observed what the otters ate in more than 20,000 foraging dives. More information is coming from a novel test analyzing the chemical composition of the otter whiskers (based on the principle “you are what you eat,“ said Seth D. Newsome, a research collaborator from the University of Wyoming).

And a new genetic technique detects whether pollutants and pathogens are impairing the otters’ immunological health, even before they get sick. The new blood test screens activity in 14 key genes, said Lizabeth Bowen, a geneticist at the Geological Survey who developed the test with Jeffrey Stott of the University of California, Davis.

The genetic signatures can reveal whether an animal is experiencing subtle physiological stress, inflammation or infection by bacteria or parasites, Dr. Bowen said — or reacting to exposure to pollutants like PCBs. The testing cannot as yet tell precisely which contaminant may be stressing the otters.

The Big Sur-Monterey study is part of a larger, multiagency effort called the Pacific Nearshore Project, which is comparing nine distinct sea otter populations and the health of their coastal habitats in the northern Pacific.

The broader project is investigating why some colonies in southeastern Alaska, British Columbia and Washington that were growing rapidly two decades ago — by 20 percent a year — have seen that rate slowed by half, said its leader, James L. Bodkin of the Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center. The California otters’ growth rate is even more lackluster: usually less than 5 percent a year and, lately, near zero.

Sea otters are remarkably voracious: To survive frigid waters, they must fuel a high metabolism by consuming 25 to 30 percent of their body weight every day. Veterinary scientists, who tend to favor the coastal-pollution explanation, note that the otters dine on many types of shellfish and invertebrates that are prone to accumulating contaminants.

As a result, the animals “are getting hit with so many things,” said Melissa A. Miller, a veterinary pathologist at the California Fish and Game Department who autopsies stranded otters. “I picture it sometimes almost like otters are sitting there right at that land-sea interface with their mouths open.”

In 2010, Dr. Miller and her associates reported evidence that microcystin, a toxin from blue-green algae that live only in freshwater lakes and streams, had killed at least 21 sea otters. Another toxin, domoic acid, is also deadly to the animals. Such poisons are generated by harmful growths of algae that can be fed by fertilizers in agricultural runoff.

Dr. David Jessup, a veterinarian retired from the state wildlife agency, says other leading killers include disease-causing parasites transmitted in feces from cats and opossums; infections by bacteria in human or animal feces; and industrial pollutants, which may subtly affect otter immune defenses. These factors all “have some connection to human activities,” he said.

But to ecologists, emerging evidence instead strongly suggests that elevated rates of infectious diseases are mostly a symptom of a larger problem — insufficient food resources and malnutrition.

“When animals reach a point of extreme nutritional stress,” Dr. Tinker said, “they will succumb to whatever particular stressor they encounter first” — whether a parasite or toxin, a boat strike or a shark attack that a well-fed otter might otherwise fend off or evade.

Even without harmful pathogens from land, “I think they would be dying from something else,” said James Estes, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

While these ecologists do not minimize the importance of cleaning up coastal pollution, they doubt it would lead to a major rebound in the sea otter population off Big Sur and Monterey.

Dr. Tinker says these areas probably cannot sustain any more otters, given the available supplies of sea urchins, abalone and other shellfish.

“Their rate of food acquisition has declined to a point where they’re pretty much spending as much time feeding as they can,” he said — 40 to 50 percent of each day. They are scrawny compared with the “big, round happy otters” at San Nicolas Island in Southern California, where their prey abounds and the otters forage only 25 percent of the time.

The results from the current comparison study, due this spring, may help resolve some of the debate by answering whether otters fare better in the cleaner waters at Big Sur.

Preliminary genetic tests indicate higher stress, inflammation and exposure to pathogens and pollutants in the Monterey group, Dr. Tinker said. But survival data have not been analyzed.

For now, the research partners agree to disagree. No single answer can explain the California sea otter mystery. For instance, food is abundant elsewhere in the otter range, so why aren’t animals rapidly multiplying there and moving into unoccupied territories?

No one knows. The reason may be a high rate of shark attacks in some places, or a land-based pathogen in others, Dr. Tinker said. And, because those low-density otter colonies still have much growth potential, he said, combating pollution might still be the best long-term answer to the sea otters’ plight.

Monday, February 27, 2012

700. A Word With the Reader: Participatory Democracy and Ecological Socialism

By Kamran Nayeri, February 27, 2012
Assistant Editor, Sunny, joined the staff in January. She
enjoys spending time behind the philosophy books on the
library shelves.

The Arab Spring of 2011, resistance to capitalist austerity in Europe, and the Occupy Movement in the U.S. have all underscored the need for development and institutionalization of mass participation in charting an entirely new course for humanity.   While the perspective and strategy and tactics of the movement are debated, activists generally agree that participatory democracy is necessary to figure out these and other key questions they face.

History shows us that institutions of participatory democracy arise in any revolutionary situation and that radical social change will not advance unless initial institutional forms of participatory democracy are improved, extended and continually strengthened.

The idea of democracy is tied to the idea of participation.  In class societies, democracy has typically meant the participation of ruling classes in running the affairs of the state, society and economy while vast sections of the population are excluded outright (Athens city-state) or denied effective participation (United States).  

The fact that American working people continue to harbor illusions in “representative democracy” is due to a long period of prosperity that has benefited large sections of the U.S. working class (labor aristocracy and bureaucracy) as well a sizable “new middle class” of professionals.  Together, these groups think of themselves as the “middle class” and help sustain the illusion of a “classless” society and "one person, one vote" democracy.  

Some recent events serve as examples of how American representative democracy functions as a form of capitalist class rule.

Whose representatives? 

Bourgeois politicians (in the U.S. they are organized in the Democratic and Republican parties) emerge from the rank of citizens who are dedicated to the capitalist system, trained by a permanent cadre of the capitalist parties, and selected to run for office through a process dominated by financial contributions from members of the capitalist class. Once in office, these “elected representatives” are ideology and materially part of the capitalist system and will serve its interest.  At the same time, they serve as the proxy for various capitalist factions pursuing their own sectional interests.  These constitute the really effective subset of what in the U.S. is called “interest groups.”  An example of such “interest group” is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

On February 12, the editors of the New York Times complained that in 2011 ALEC was instrumental in the passage of many state laws that are “making it harder for minorities and other groups that support Democrats to vote, obstructing health care reform, weakening environmental regulations and breaking the spines of public- and private-sector unions.”

Founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich, ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.
Let the Times' editors explain how ALEC functions:
 “ALEC has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states. A recent study of the group’s impact in Virginia showed that more than 50 of its bills were introduced there, many practically word for word. The study, by the liberal group ProgressVA, found that ALEC had been involved in writing bills that would:
“¶Prohibit penalizing residents for failing to obtain health insurance, undermining the individual mandate in the reform law. The bill, which ALEC says has been introduced in 38 states, was signed into law and became the basis for Virginia’s legal challenge to heath care reform.
ҦRequire voters to show a form of identification. Versions of this bill passed both chambers this month.
“¶Encourage school districts to contract with private virtual-education companies. (One such company was the corporate co-chair of ALEC’s education committee.) The bill was signed into law.
ҦCall for a federal constitutional amendment to permit the repeal of any federal law on a two-thirds vote of state legislatures. The bill failed.
“¶Legalize use of deadly force in defending one’s home. Bills to this effect, which recently passed both houses, have been backed by the National Rifle Association, a longtime member of ALEC.
“ALEC’s influence in the Virginia statehouse is pervasive, the study showed. The House of Delegates speaker, William Howell, has been on the board since 2003 and was national chairman in 2009. He has sponsored or pushed many of the group’s bills, including several benefiting specific companies that support ALEC financially, like one that would reduce a single company’s asbestos liability. At least 115 other state legislators have ties to the group, including paying membership dues, attending meetings and sponsoring bills. The state has spent more than $230,000 sending lawmakers to ALEC conferences since 2001.
“Similar efforts have gone on in many other states. The group has been particularly active in weakening environmental regulations and fighting the Environmental Protection Agency. ALEC’s publication, “E.P.A.’s Regulatory Train Wreck,” outlines steps lawmakers can take, including curtailing the power of state regulators.”

The editors of the Times assure their readers that this systemic vote buying process is fully legal and ethical. Their objection is to the rightist nature of ALEC’s conduct and that the liberals have fallen behind in such vote buying schemes. The esteemed editors’ concern is part of a factional struggle within the  U.S. capitalist class in an election year. It has nothing to do with participatory democracy that will fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 promise of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Let us recall the recent Supreme Court ruling that affirms corporations "constitutionally guaranteed right" to make unlimited campaign contributions. This has resulted in formation of Super Political Action Committees (Super PACs) for the candidates of both parties in the 2012 election campaigning underway.  The vote of the working people of the United States count as long as it is for the candidates selected by the rich and powerful!

Disinformation campaign to undermine action on climate change.

Last week, Peter Gleick, a climate scientist and activist, disclosed documents throwing light on the activities of the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization funded by corporations (like Exxon Mobil) and individual capitalists (like Charles G. Koch) to discredit the science of climate change.  The documents show that several million dollars—much of it coming from a single individual referred to as “the Anonymous Donor” has been used in the past 5 years for such disinformation campaign.  
The New York Times reports that “The documents say that over four years ending in 2013, the group expects to have spent some $1.6 million on financing the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an entity that publishes periodic reports attacking climate science and holds lavish annual conferences. (Environmental groups refer to the conferences as ‘Denialpalooza.’)
“Heartland’s latest idea, the documents say, is a plan to create a curriculum for public schools intended to cast doubt on mainstream climate science and budgeted at $200,000 this year. The curriculum would claim, for instance, that ‘whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.’”

The documents also show that Heartland has been involved in anti-union and other rightist activities.

Again, what the Heartland Institute has been doing is consider legal.  While there are some indications that some of the money spent by Heartland may have violation its non-profit status, it is worth considering that the media’s attention is focused on ethical status of Peter Gleik’s disclosure of these documents. (Gleick has issued a statement admitting errors of judgment in how he handled the disclosure of these documents. He has lost a number of his professional positions because of these errors of judgment).

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Heartland Foundation will discontinue its misinformation campaign about climate change and its more general anti-working people’s agenda.  The example shows how in the United States public policy is influenced by monied interest.  Propaganda is used to influence voters behavior. 

Green Capitalism

In early February, Corporate Crime Reporter and the Time magazine Ecocentric Blog  disclosed that Sierra Club had secretly accepted $26 million from individuals linked to the natural gas industry.  In particular, the gift from Chesapeake Energy, a leader in fracking technology, has raised popular outrage;  some environmentalists have labeled it as “sleeping with the enemy.”

However, having a cozy relationship with corporations and the government is nothing new in the U.S. environmentalist establishment. What caused some stir was the secrecy surrounding Sierra Club’s cozy relations with the gas industry (see, for example, Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, response to the  New York Times).  

For over two decades the U.S. environmentalist movement has followed the so-called “partnership model.” The idea of collaboration with the capitalist class and governemtn is essentially similar to the reformist course of Social Democratic and Stalinist parties.  In case of the environmental establishment this collaboration is based on a similar view of nature as resource for exploitation.  The environmental establishment preaches "sustainable use." 

In this view the planetary ecological and environmental crisis caused most immediately by the capitalist system is divided into a number of “problem areas” and each environmentalist group focuses on particular problem area and hopes to find common ground with the capitalist class regarding "resource management."

This point of view and political strategy is a matter of concern for participatory democracy because of how it channels the energy and good will of millions of people into supporting capitalist "solutions" to environmental and ecological crisis.  In a sense, the environmental establishment follows a liberal version of how the rightist Heartland Institute functions--by fostering false consciousness among the working people concerned with the environment.

Those concerned with the twin crises of nature and society would do well to defend forms of participatory democracy that empowers the working people.  This will require presenting facts about society and nature and their crises.  It also requires a philosophy of nature and society that respects the intrinsic value of the former while acknowledging the class character of the latter.  This is the promise of the ecological socialist movement.

At times of crisis, democratic and civil rights won by us come under attack.  Rightists and incipient fascist movements emerge as they have in Europe and the United States to take these back.  Confronting these attacks is part and parcel of building a national and international ecological socialist movement.  
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There have been 99 posts since my last communication (nos. 601 to 699 inclusive).  As usual, a focus has been ecology, environment and ecocide (18 posts) and global warming and climate change (11 posts).  There has been 8 posts on science/method and three posts on evolution.  Ten posts dealt with various species and 4 posts address animal welfare and animal liberation. Agroecology had 5 posts and agriculture 3 posts. Four posts deal specifically with the theory and practice of ecological socialism.

Eighteen posts addressed issues regarding the Cuban revolution; three posts dealt with the Occupy Movement.

Other topics covered include energy, population, political economy, imperialism and repression.  There has been a few book and film reviews. 

I like to thanks readers who sent materials to include in Our Place in the World. Their recommendations help to improve the quality of the posts. 

I like to restate a standard journalistic policy: all signed articles represent the views of their author(s).  They are posted here because they relate to a subject of our interest and some from mass media can even represent current bourgeois thought.  Only unsigned articles are the points of view of Our Place in the World.

A list of hotlinks to the last 99 posts follow:

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