Saturday, September 21, 2019

The American President Hosts a State Dinner for the Australian Prime Minister in the Rose Garden, 2019

White-tailed Cockatoo Adjustment Villanelle

The prime minister of Australia crawls on hands and knees
to the president of the United States of America,
and the white-tailed black cockatoos weep for lost nesting trees.

A ‘pure titanium’ lump-of-coal-in-the-hand-lackey,
the prime minister is serenaded along with mining billionaire fossickers,
the prime minister of Australia crawls on hands and knees.

With a Gulf war looming into coalitional collateral territory
the prime minister extends his oily tongue — his own red carpet botanica —
and the white-tailed black cockatoos weep for lost nesting trees.

It’s the shop of Australia open for business bankrupting futurity
signed with the tail feather of a cockatoo searching for a hollow,
the prime minister of Australia crawls on hands and knees.

Here in the far away but scramjet-satellite-closeness of another ‘land of the free’,
the black cockatoos circle the valley and try to adjust to the slaughter,
and the white-tailed black cockatoos weep for lost nesting trees.

Balance of trade is balance of flight is the feeding frenzy
where food is wing and a prayer and the faith of an arms trader;
the prime minister of Australia crawls on hands and knees
and the white-tailed black cockatoos weep for lost nesting trees.

            John Kinsella

Friday, September 13, 2019

Extinction Rebellion is Too Much About Image and Not Enough About Its Own Impacts

I was deeply disturbed to see this in the press. The 'greening' of the Limmat River in Zurich as an 'event', as an act of protest, is obscene. No more dangerous than table salt, they claim? Let's look at some of the background to uranine, the substance used to colour the river in 'protest'.

Uranine has a complex chemistry and a complex history. Sodium fluorescein has made appearances as part of St Patrick Day Celebrations in Chicago, and had coloured the Danube in the 1870s. It is used to trace leaks in water tanks and pipes, but with a strong warning that it is not suitable as a 'food dye'. The materials used to make the dye are from inevitably dangerous extractive industries.

Its apparent 'non-toxicity' means it is used in some surgery, but in undiluted large doses it can prove fatal. It turns up in a report for Project Shad — a series of tests conducted to see what vulnerabilities US warships presented to biological and chemical agents. The report is telling in its implications of industry and application, in the journey a chemical product makes to its eventual usages.

Unless Extinction Rebellion collectively start to comprehend cause and effect, the sources of the materials they use, the extended metaphors (their conceits) and symbolism in the world as a whole they enact, then they are performing and enacting their own (collective and individual) need to be doing something, rather than changing anything.

Phones are their devices, and phones are at the core of much mass extinction. These devices are manufactured. The irony of table salt — no more dangerous than... — is figurative and literal. The salt industry in itself is worth scrutiny, and salt on the human body... well, hardening of the arteries is more than a symbol. Collapsing symbols. This photo op of people floating on the greenness of wish-fulfilment contributes to planetary dissolution; it does not help prevent it. Let the phones you use now (and, indeed, this computer), be the last you purchase. If they are 'de-teched' out of existence, so be it.

Stop buying the crap with horrific environmental consequences and the city will become far more aware than it would from you impressing your friends on social media. Sorry, you disappoint me and many others. Now is the time to act — you/we have the will, but also need to think about how.

Not super strong glues (horrific chemistry and horrific side effects to people and the environment); not dyes (synthetic at that! seeing is also perceiving), no phones... people stopping the consumerist new-tech new colonialism. That way we might make a difference.

I once worked with these dyes in a lab as a teenager. As 'harmless' (!?) as the mineral sands industry the lab was ultimately serving. Not all the leaks were caught, either.

Extinction Rebellion needs to stop being a showpiece and start being a rejection of all tech consumerism. They need to understand that the 'non-toxic' dye down its chain of being encounters origins in naphthalene (hydrocarbon), sulphuric acid etc etc. (consider how we get phthalic acid anhydride, how we get resorcinol... how the reaction takes places etc etc!). Need to dig deeper, think deeper, and act less for performance's sake.

Protest is being there, and we are all here, in the moment. We don't need to see you, we need to see the changes brought by your (and our) non-consuming and non-self-privileging of access to goods. Altering the 'mere' look of a river is nonetheless altering the river. Leave it alone and stop pouring shit — any shit — into it.

Villanelle of a Green Limmat River: with great sadness

The disconnect between cause and effect
as Uranine is poured into sharp contrast like snow melt,
the damaged river through the city is made bereft.

Temporary... as chemical warfare?... temporary as the best
laid plans floating in the bright emulsification of death — a test —
the disconnect between cause and effect.

Social media traces through screen memory through distinct
moments of play in the horror of on and on it goes left right left,
the damaged river through the city flows bereft.

Rebellion that feeds the extinction that synthesises and treats
‘world’ as playground to announce the leaks — halt!
the disconnect between cause and effect.

This landlocked calenture this old city called to order this cost
of confronting like a green algal bloom swallowing each breath,
the damaged river through the city is made bereft.

‘As toxic as table salt’ — sum of the parts — investigate the collect
& refining of salt, the world’s hardening arteries, the logo the crest —
via this disconnect between cause and effect
the damaged river through the city flows bereft.

            John Kinsella