Loss and Growth: Part One

Our story begins with a string of events that borders on the surreal. It was the beginning of 2016, and I had a feeling it was going to be an unforgettable year of my life. I was 29 years old, still full of the energy of youth, when the doctor told me I had to have open heart surgery, or I wouldn’t survive another 5 years. I had a condition called mitral valve prolapse, and needed mitral valve repair. The news was shocking to say the least. I somehow got the surgery scheduled with one of the best cardiothoracic surgeons in the world, the man who pioneered the technology that saved my life.

IMG_2083

I’m not rich, or even very well off, just a regular guy with an ordinary day job. I knew how incredibly lucky I was to receive the best medical care in the world. My surgery date was exactly one week before my 30th birthday on April 28th, and I spent my birthday lying in bed at home, recovering and grateful to be alive. I only spent two days in the hospital, and two weeks out of work recovering from the surgery. The marvels of modern medicine had made that possible. Only a few years earlier, and I would have been looking at a six month recovery, and a much more riskier surgery, because they would have had to split my sternum open to perform the operation.

About a month after the surgery, on a rainy day in May, my wife and I started looking at houses online. It was just for fun, we thought. We didn’t think we had any real prospects of buying a house that year. We had no money saved, and I had just spent our entire savings (over a thousand dollars) getting through the heart surgery. But we wanted to see what was out there, and find out where we stood. We found a little trailer sitting on ten acres of land in Waleska, GA. At the time we thought we wanted to find something in the mountains. Well, we decided to go for it. Ashley talked me into filling out the loan application. I had nothing to lose. I was shocked when they got back to me and told me I was approved! But there was a catch, they approved me for the loan, but told me that the trailer we had found wasn’t going to work out, because it wasn’t sitting on a foundation. So with a fresh loan approval, we started the long house hunt that eventually led us into our dream home.

We went out every weekend looking at listings we had found online. We were very aggressive about it; we even drove up a mountain to look at a little modular home sitting on 5 acres. But we soon realized that the mountain homes weren’t right for us. We wanted to start a mini-farm, that was our main priority in determining what would work for us. All of the homes with acreage in the mountains, the ones that fell within our price range anyways, were situated on the side of a mountain. The land they came with was totally unusable. We were back to the drawing board, and we decided to move our search west of Atlanta, into the farmlands of NW GA, and we took on an agent to help us. We looked at several places before we decided on an old 4 bedroom fixer-upper sitting on 3 acres in Buchanan, GA.

After going to look at it, we thought it was the one. It had some problems, but it had a lot of potential. There was a barn and stable in the back in decent condition (and Ashley wanted to have a horse one day), an inground pool that may or may not have worked, and plenty of room for all of us. I had my reservations though. The place was being renovated by a do it yourselfer who clearly didn’t know what he was doing. There were outlets installed upside down. Flooring with chunks missing where he had made the wrong cuts. All kinds of problems. But we were still interested in the place because all of the issues looked to be cosmetic, and I knew I could handle the repairs that were needed. We hired a home inspector to get a better feel for things, and that’s when I realized that it wasn’t going to work. He found a number of very serious issues, so many in fact, that I remember laughing out loud at the table when he was going over it all. We made a final offer on the place, and waited a couple of days for the owner to get back to us, but it was clear that the owner had no interest in working with us on our terms, and I finally told our agent to withdraw our offer and terminate the contract.

We were back to the drawing board, 300 dollars poorer for covering the home inspector fee, and the prospects were looking very grim. There was nothing out there. It was a seller’s market, and whenever a good deal did go up on the market, there were a hundred buyers lined up to fight for it. We were feeling very discouraged at that point. We knew we didn’t have a lot of buying power, and we couldn’t compete with any other buyers if it came down to that. We had no money saved at all for the down payment or the closing costs. We were hoping to find a place that we could pursue with a USDA loan, which doesn’t require a down payment; and to work out a deal with the seller to cover the closing costs.

The weekend that I terminated our offer on the fixer-upper, after hours of scouring the internet looking at hundreds of listing, we came across our dream house. We didn’t think it could possibly be an option at first, because the asking price was only 100 dollars less than the total amount the mortgage company had told me I could borrow. But after talking to the mortgage people and getting the ok, we decided to put an offer on it without even having looked at it yet. The seller got back to us that same night and accepted our offer. We had offered her the full asking price, with the caveat that she covered all the closing costs, and a home warranty. We felt strangely hopeful about this one, even though we knew it was the biggest long shot ever. We had no idea we were about to go through one of the most stressful periods of our lives. It took us four months of endless fighting through legal quagmires, from the time we put in our offer, to our closing day. It was by the grace of the seller, whose patience never wore out, that we were able to finally secure the financing. But we did it, we achieved the impossible. We moved into our dream home in late September, 2016. It was a 4 bedroom farmhouse sitting on 3 ¼ acres of flat, arable land. But to us, it was more than a house and a piece of land. It was our homestead. A place where we could build a future together; where we could raise our four beautiful children, and learn how to farm.

IMG_3418

On a cold day in early February, 2017, I went out into my backyard and started tilling the soil with my next-door neighbor’s tiller. We had bought a truckload of topsoil to help get us started, and I was spreading it over the garden bed with a shovel. I didn’t realize then what I was getting into. I assumed the whole project would take a few weeks to accomplish, and I wasn’t worried about the time constraints of getting things planted on time.

IMG_3560

We had already started our seedlings under lights in the house. I had talked my wife Ashley into getting one of those big grow lights that the hydroponic people use, and she had somehow managed to hang it from the ceiling by herself in our sun room. So before long we had hundreds of healthy plants growing in little seed flats, and I began to realize that we were going to need a very sizable garden to plant them all. I didn’t have any real farming experience, but I was no stranger to hard work, so I set myself to the task with enthusiasm.

We started by prepping our cold crop rows. At first we talked about building a hoop house, which is a custom greenhouse made out of PVC and lumber, but after researching a lot of different building plans online, and getting an estimate on the cost of materials, we decided not to go that route. It was going to cost at least $700, and I had never built anything like that before. Furthermore, we had already ordered ten ducklings, which were going to arrive the next month on March 8th, and I still had to build their duck pen. After weighing all our options, we decided to build hoop rows over the crops to keep them covered until after the last frost date. This allowed us to plant things a full two months early, and ensured a strong spring harvest. We found the design for low tunnel hoop rows on the extensions websites online. It’s a very simple construction. The hoops are constructed with 10 foot sections of half inch PVC pipe anchored with 2 foot sections of rebar in the ground, and a 50 foot roll of ag-fabric is spread over the hoops and weighed down at the base of the tunnel with large stones or bricks.

IMG_3630

IMG_3740

It was simple, but it still took a lot of prep-work, and getting the hoops flush with each other was a challenge. I still recall the joy we felt when we got our first row successfully constructed, and planted it with onions, garlic, and carrots. We were mounding the soil in our rows, and thoroughly clearing them of all debris before we planted them. It was incredibly slow, painstaking work that we had to do by hand with the pick axe and garden spades. I didn’t realize then that we were making a mistake trying to get every trace of the grass out. It was a battle we could never possibly win, and it cost us a lot of unnecessary labor.

I recall that we also had trouble with ants and some kind of flies that were breeding inside of the hoop rows. The ants moved into the first row mound we had completed, and started turning our carrot bed into a giant ant colony. Everything under the row cover was thriving, so we were devastated by the ants. We bought a propane torch to help us fight them off, and we dumped boiling water into their colonies. We lost half our carrots in the effort, but we eventually drove them out.

We could have bought some kind of “garden-safe” poison to do the job for us, but we decided from the start that we were going to stick with organic pesticides, and permaculture techniques for pest control. We didn’t see the point in having a garden if we used conventional pesticides, because the produce we grew would be no better quality than the cheapo crap at Walmart.

We finally got the ants under control after they returned to haunt us a few more times, and we set up fly tape to help keep the flies under control. But we had one other major pest issue, the onions and garlic were covered up in little white worms, and we were starting to lose our crop. We decided to try a method called biological control. Ashley learned about it on one of the extensions websites. There were three types of nematodes you could introduce into the soil that would help control pests like the white worms that were killing the garlic and onions off. They helped with a host of other pests as well.

The way it worked is the nematodes were parasitic organisms that would invade the host insect and lay their eggs, which would hatch and eat the insect from inside out. We bought the nematodes online, and mixed them into a watering pail, and watered them into the rows. A couple of weeks later the worms were gone, and most of the onions and garlic survived. We were off to a good start, but we ran out of time to get everything we wanted planted. I wanted to get a fourth row up, but we had to make do with three, and we had another big problem that we didn’t know how to fix yet: the garden was being shaded by a cluster of pine trees, and wasn’t getting nearly enough sunlight every day.

I didn’t know what to do about the pine trees. I told Ashley that we just had to hope for the best this year. And I had to focus on another major project now; we had ordered ten Golden 300 hybrid ducklings, and they had finally arrived on the morning of March 8th. They shipped all the way from a large hatchery in California. They were packed into a crate the day after they hatched, and arrived at our local post office a couple of days later. Ashley picked them up and brought them home while I was at work. It was an exciting day for all of us. I came home to ten adorable little squeakers, the cutest things I’d ever seen. They required a lot of special care and attention the first couple of weeks. We had to wake up in the middle of the night to feed them, change out their water, and check on them. We had to keep the light on over them 24/7 to keep them warm, and I always worried about the fire risk in the back of my mind. But I had a much bigger worry, I needed to get their pen constructed by the time they were ready to move out of the house in 4 weeks, and I hadn’t even gotten started yet.

IMG_3771IMG_3774IMG_3724

Liberal America: Learn to Play Chess

It occurs to me that rather than offending Donald Trump, all of these people writing “Fuck Trump” everywhere are probably giving him a boner. He gets off on the attention, and the liberal masses are playing right into his hand as usual. Seriously people, come up with a better rallying cry. I can’t even be a part of this fake resistance because I honestly think it’s totally stupid and childish.
 
I despise our government, but I see things plainly for what they are. Liberals empowered the Republican party by not demanding major reforms to the Democratic party a long time ago. The Bernie Sander’s movement should have happened in the 70s. Last year was a little too late to the party. It’s time to accept the facts. We live in a highly corrupt society run by corporations and wealthy government officials who serve the interests of their wealthy peers above all else. You can pitch a fit about it, you can shake your signs, and write Fuck Trump all over the place, but at the end of the day those people are still in charge, and you still have jack shit in the way of real power. Maybe it’s time to grow up, grow a pair, and figure out why this all happened in the first place.
 
You can start by learning the real history of America. The devil is in the details. Donald Trump promised to “Make America great again.” But were we ever great to begin with? I suppose that depends on your definition of greatness. We have always been great at oppressing the weak, and establishing our dominance over the nations of the world. That’s never changed. We were the global super power under Obama, and we are still the global super power on the morning after Trump was sworn into office.
 
Every other nation on this planet understands this, and adheres to the rules of the playbook the American government wrote. Whenever a country gets out of line we come after them, either through military force, international sanctions, or covert missions to overthrow their government and establish an American-friendly government in its place. The reach of our empire is absolute. North Korea is the only nation I can think of that has successfully defied our will, and they’ve been completely backed into a corner for doing so. How much longer can they hold out? I have a feeling that they will eventually be defeated, perhaps under the current administration, which has shown a great enthusiasm for war.
 
The American government has reached the point in its evolution that traditional forms of protest are powerless to stop it. You can call me a coward or a pessimist for saying that, but I am actually full of hope and I’m not afraid to speak what I firmly believe is the truth. I think we should all form a united resistance, but it needs to be an intelligent resistance. We have to stop playing by the enemies’ rules, and giving them what they want. Otherwise we’re getting exactly what we deserve.
 
One thing I noticed about the Bernie Sander’s movement is that the American people are capable of funding and powering a massive organization on their own. But when Bernie lost the primary, and subsequently backed Hillary to her inevitable defeat, it felt like all of that money we sacrificed was in vain. It was demoralizing, humiliating, and now a lot of us are acting like pissed off teenagers who didn’t get their way. But we are forgetting the single most valuable lesson from that movement: we almost won, and we did it without any help from the wealthy. Imagine if we could pull our resources together again behind a scientific organization tasked with the development of technologies to mitigate climate change and develop green energy. That’s a movement I would gladly support, and one that could effect real change. Right now the movement has splintered, and devolved into angry protesting, and pessimistic rambling, but we have seen what we can accomplish when we stand united. We didn’t win control of our government, but we still have control of our destinies. And I know we can find a way ahead that challenges the machinations of the state, while addressing the single greatest threat to humanity, the transformation of our world through climate change. We have no more time to waste.

What are we waiting for?

This is a very unique election year, unlike any I’ve witnessed in the past. It speaks to the burning dissatisfaction of the American people that we have such a diversity of candidates running for president. I’m not going to talk about the candidates here, who’s running against who isn’t important. It’s what they stand for (or stand against) that’s important.

The truth is everyone has a stake in this. This election is happening at a pivotal time in our civilization’s history. The leader we elect in November is going to face the realities of climate change whether they choose to believe in it or not.

This is a time for Americans to start digging deep and examining the root causes of the major issues in the world. We need to find the courage to face the facts, and to stop nesting in the comfort of the status quo.

The wealthy elite would love nothing more than for us to elect another President that will consistently vote in favor of their interests. We have a real opportunity to tell them no more, to demand accountability for their past transgressions against the people, and to ensure that our country is restored to a position of global leadership on social issues and environmental concerns.

What are we waiting for? What are we so afraid of? Change is inevitable, regardless of how we choose to run our lives or our country. Nature exists outside of politics and it’s not going to wait on us to get our shit together. We have to change our politics to address the concerns of nature, or our civilization will have an expiration date. Those are the hard facts that the scientific community is telling us.

There are many powerful people in America that would have us believe that things will be okay as long as we keep making small reforms, and heading in the general right direction. But that’s another way of protecting the status quo, and ignoring the real problems. We have to realize that all of the issues are ultimately economic issues. The way that our government manages and regulates the economy determines the outcomes of climate change, pollution, violent crime, and poverty.

One of the ways that the wealthy elite distracts us from this truth is to focus on the symptoms instead of the disease. They talk about banning guns as a solution to violent crime, instead of addressing that most violent crime stems from poverty. They talk about banning abortion, but are willing to do nothing to address the underlying causes of it. If we ensured every citizen of this country could get a college education, and guaranteed paid family leave at their jobs once they went into the workforce, I suspect abortions would fall to record lows. The problem is a lack of education, and lack of personal resources.

As I said before, all of our issues are economic issues. The root problem is a rigged economic and political system that keeps people under control. It’s essentially a caste system, where the majority of all new wealth is concentrated within the top one percent of earners. The system insulates itself against any movement that is organized to change it. In the past, societies dominated by brute force. Now they do it through social engineering, and psychological manipulation. The mass media is the culmination of decades of carefully crafted misinformation and propaganda. They are so good at what they do that most people don’t even realize they’re being fooled.

If we’re going to change society, we have to change the way we consume information first. We have to unplug ourselves from the mass media, and learn to think for ourselves. We have to reject the notion that the political and the corporate elite are separate entities with separate goals. The corporate control of our government is no longer deniable. The idea that we can challenge corporate rule without taking our government back is inherently flawed. How are every day people with very limited resources and free time supposed to overcome the will of the most powerful people in this country?

We need a government that fights for the best interests of the people. We need fair and transparent elections. We need to abolish the system of lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions that has completely undermined our democratic republic. The way forward requires us all to take a stand. We have to be fearless.

We have to start by taking back our minds and bodies. We are the only ones who decide what we consume. I believe in peaceful resistance, and intelligent cooperation. I believe we are capable of creating a movement at the local level in every city and town in America that could begin to rebuild our country through community gardening, bartering, and charity. We need to take full advantage of the liberties we still possess. Self-sustainability is the goal. The more self-sustainable we become, the more the corporations lose their powerhold over our lives. We can challenge the status quo by opting out of it. This is the revolution I support. Organic fruit and vegetables on every street. Make the planet a greener, tastier place, and the bastards have already lost.

I Always Wanted to be Saved by a Robot

I Always Wanted to be Saved by a Robot

 

A true story
By Joshua Monk

I’m going to tell my story while it is still fresh in my memory, but I have to start at the beginning. Don’t worry, we’re not going back to the very beginning. This isn’t my whole life story. We’re going to fast-forward a little bit to the good parts. It was January of 2015, and I was living alone in an apartment with my two cats, Floki and Lelu. We lived a solitary life just like any other old hobbit who had seen enough of the world to know how cruel it could be.

I had spent much of my two and a half years there reading, playing guitar (when I wasn’t playing video games), and exploring various intellectual pursuits. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total hermit. I loved spending a lot of my free-time in nature, but usually by myself. Okay. So I guess was more of loner than a hermit. I had a few people I thought of as friends (more like acquaintances really), but I kept my life very simple. I worked at the warehouse full-time, and that kept me out of trouble, and slowly moving forward in life. I felt like I had everything under control, and my existence was pretty stress-free.

The only thing missing was my soul-mate. I knew she was out there somewhere, but I didn’t know where to look. I had given up trying. It was a strange twist of fate that brought her knocking on my door one night. We hadn’t spoken in years, up until a few days before she came to see me. She had found me on Facebook, and we texted back and forth for a while on there. I sent her a couple of the short stories I’d written by email, and she actually read them and liked them, which meant the world to me. She sent me her poetry, which I thought was equally amazing.

She was no stranger to me. Our love story truly began over a decade ago, when we briefly dated as teenagers. Things didn’t work out back then, and we were both to blame for that. We weren’t ready. Now everything had changed. She had three kids with a man who had never treated her right. I had to grapple with the reality of becoming a father with no experience, but I knew with all my heart that it was the right decision. I knew we were meant to be, the moment I laid eyes on her in that little apartment from a galaxy far, far away. And a few days later, when I met her daughter Amalie Rose for the first time, I knew that this love was deeper and more profound than I could imagine.

 

Trials and Blessings

We didn’t sneak around behind her ex’s back. Ashley let him know up front that she was leaving him for good (she had already left him emotionally long before I showed up), and we moved in together about a month after we got together. That was when my life began. The trials we faced were too numerous to recount here, but our love saw us through them all.

We were living in a small ranch-style home in Rockmart at the time, and our financial situation was very shaky. Shortly after we got together, Ashley’s transmission died in her car. That was the first major trial. She had to fix it right away because she was using her car to drive her sons Jaiden and CJ to school in Kennesaw every day. She didn’t want to transfer them to Rockmart, and I didn’t blame her. They had already been uprooted from almost everything they knew, and we couldn’t do that to them.

To complicate matters even more, she was also busy finishing up her BS in Psychology at KSU. Somehow we managed to stay afloat, and she got her degree. But it was a hard-won piece of paper. Not only was she spending two and a half hours on the road every day to get the kids to and from their elementary school in Kennesaw, but she was also several months pregnant with our son, and experiencing the worst morning sickness that a woman can possibly go through. A lot of people may have read this far and thought that we were out of our minds, having a baby when we had just gotten together, and our lives were in total upheaval. But we have no regrets whatsoever. We made Huxley Alexander in love, and that is all that matters. Furthermore, we knew what we were doing.

The next great trial of our lives was moving out of the place in Rockmart. We had very little money saved up, and very little options to choose from in Kennesaw. I had just begun to build my credit and my credit score was about 585 at the time, which further limited our options, because I was the main income earner on any lease we would sign. Ashley worked part time from home, but she could only do so much with the limited time she had every day. She had been driving the kids to school in Kennesaw for a good six months now, with a two month break for the summer, and we knew that she couldn’t keep doing it after Huxley was born. It would have made her life unmanageable, and severely endangered our son’s development.

The first blessing was getting out of the lease early in Rockmart. We were renting from a shady property management company, and so I contacted the landlord directly and pleaded our case. He showed us a genuine kindness in letting us terminate the lease with no penalty, even allowing us keep the security deposit, and I don’t think we could have possibly moved to Kennesaw otherwise.

The second blessing was getting approved for new credit lines. I got a 1,000-dollar credit card through my credit union, and Ashley got a 500-dollar Barclay card. This happened very close to the week we moved out, and we didn’t have even close to enough money to make it happen without it. We ended up maxing out all of our credit cards, and spending every last penny to get moved.

But none of that would have mattered if we hadn’t gotten approved. We had been denied for one place already, and it cost us $80 every time we applied for a new one, so we were limited by the money we had left as well as our limited options. Anyone who’s searched for a rental home before knows how difficult a task that can be. It’s even harder when you’re looking in Kennesaw, one of the most highly sought-after areas in GA. There was almost nothing for rent at all besides trailers in the trailer park, and we felt like that would have been a move backwards for a family of six. We would have done it if we had to, we didn’t think it was beneath us, but we wanted something we could all grow into.

We had one week left before we had to move out when we got approved for our new place in Kennesaw. It’s hard to capture in words how big of a deal this was for us. Not only was it the house we really wanted, in the city we wanted to live in, but the kids didn’t even have to change their school district. The bus pulled up right to the front of our driveway! What a drastic change for the better, and we made it all happen on our own. Ashley’s step dad helped us move (which we greatly appreciate), but we didn’t get any other help from anyone, and that made it feel all the better. It’s the best home we’ve ever lived in, in a peaceful, safe, and decent neighborhood. What more could we ask for? Everything changed for the better over night. And the kids were just as thrilled as we were.

Before we could even finish unpacking, our lives were transformed again. About a month after we moved in, little Huxley Alexander was born, on November 24th, 2015. This was the greatest event of my life. I stood by Ashley’s side every step of the way. I was with her for the entire ten-hour labor and delivery. I wrapped my hand around Huxley’s little shoulder when it was time, and pulled him out of the womb. They call it “catching the baby”, but it felt more like he caught me. I was the first person to hold him, and that was an honor that I will cherish forever. He was so beautiful and serene. You could tell he was happy to be alive.

He was smiling at us a couple of hours after he was born. We got to spend the first few hours of his life with him, totally uninterrupted by the outside world. The delivery team at Cartersville Medical Center was to thank for this. They did an outstanding job, and Ashley did an amazing job managing everything to ensure the best possible outcome.

She was concerned about hemorrhaging the way she had when she gave birth to Amalie in her previous pregnancy. She had come very close to dying then, and she knew that she had to make very careful decisions this time to prevent that from happening again. We were both scared, and I had to be strong for her, and help her keep her spirits high. Positive thinking creates positive outcomes.

But you have to be more than just optimistic. You have to be willing to fight to protect you and your unborn child. You have to be the one in control of your medical care. You have to educate yourself, and trust your instincts simultaneously. You can’t just blindly go along with whatever the doctors, nurses, or midwives are recommending, and expect the best outcome. Every one has unique biological factors to consider.

 

New Beginnings

Watching Ashley fight to bring our son safely into the world changed my perspective forever. I believe that my experiences with her in childbirth helped set me on the path to solving my own health crisis. The first year of my life with Ashley and the kids was amazing, terrifying, and more stressful than any year I lived before it. I knew I was having problems with my heart by the spring of 2015, but I had no idea what was really going on.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spare when we were living in Rockmart, and I was averse to going to the doctor based on past bad experiences, so I had decided I was going to manage things on my own and hope for the best. I cut my caffeine intake down, and tried my best to relax on the weekends, but it wasn’t enough. I wound up heading to the emergency room one day in September of 2015 (thank you, Joe Melton, for driving me there), because my pulse was racing while I was sitting around watching movies one morning, and I had only had one cup of coffee.

In the past, whenever I had experienced tachycardia, I could pinpoint the underlying issues that had led to it, but I knew that what I was experiencing that morning was totally outside of the normal realm of experience. Something was wrong. The ER doctor at Cartersville Medical Center listened to my heart and told me I had a significant murmur, but he couldn’t say what was wrong. He said I needed to see a cardiologist and have an echocardiogram performed.

It pains me to admit this, but I put off his recommendation for several more months. Nobody wants to assume the worst about their health, especially not a new father. Things got better for a while after we finished settling into the new place in Kennesaw. We really loved the area, and we started going out and hiking all the time. My stress levels went down drastically, especially after Huxley was born. He was the most peaceful presence I had ever known, and I slept a lot better with him in the bed with us. But I was still having strange arrhythmias in my heart occasionally, and it was always looming in the back of my mind.

The only thing that delayed me from getting it checked out right away was my back problems. I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to function at my job for very much longer if things continued getting worse. I had a strong suspicion about what was going on with me, and I wanted to find out for sure. This is when my lady love made the decision that ultimately led me down the path that saved my life.

She did some research on spine doctors, and referred me to Dr. Plas James at St. Joseph’s Emory in Atlanta. He was a very well renowned spinal surgeon, who had spent much of his career treating the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Hawks. Dr. James took one look at my x-rays and confirmed what I had suspected for years. I had Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative auto-immune disease very similar to arthritis. I had inherited the condition from my father, which is how I knew what was going on all along. This is what had been causing all my back problems at work the past seven years. Luckily, it was in the beginning stages still, and the damage wasn’t permanent yet. I still had time to correct the issues with my posture, but it was going to require a dedicated lifestyle of yoga, and proper exercise and diet. I could deal with that.

Dr. James referred me to a rheumatologist at a separate hospital to confirm his diagnosis. I needed to get a lot of blood work done. The rheumatologist there listened to my heart as part of her normal procedures, and told me that I needed to see a cardiologist right away. Her face was full of concern, and I knew I couldn’t ignore my heart any longer.

When I went back to my follow-up appointment with Dr. James the next day, I told him that I wanted to see a cardiologist, and asked for a referral. He referred me to Dr. Guest at the same hospital, who much like Dr. James, only needed one look at me to make a positive diagnosis. He listened to my heart for a few minutes and told me that I had a leaky heart valve, and that I was going to have to come back a couple of weeks later for some tests. At the time I was a little bit in shock, but he assured me that people can live normal lives with a leaky heart valve, without ever requiring open heart surgery.

 

The Light at the End of the Robotic Arm

Those two weeks before my next appointment seemed to stretch on forever. And once I did all the tests, it was still another week before I saw Dr. Guest again and he dropped the bomb on me. I did have a leaky heart valve. The echocardiogram and stress test had confirmed his initial diagnosis. But it was much worse than he had initially thought. My mitral valve wasn’t functioning correctly at all. Thirty percent of my blood wasn’t circulating properly every day, because the valve wasn’t holding it in. The technical term for this is mitral valve prolapse. There was good news though; there was no heart disease, and nothing to prevent me from getting the mitral valve repair. However, he told me that if I had waited one more year to get this looked at, it would have been too late. I would have died of congestive heart failure within the next ten years. He recommended I get the surgical repair without delay, and that was a piece of advice I had no intention of ignoring.

He referred me to Dr. Douglas Murphy at the same hospital, and somehow I got an appointment lined up with him within one week of getting diagnosed. I couldn’t believe it. I had done a little research on Dr. Murphy before I called, and I knew he was a rock-star. He was the leading cardiothoracic surgeon in the world with the method he had pioneered. He didn’t perform the surgery the way most doctors did, by median sternotomy (splitting the sternum open). This required a long, excruciatingly painful recovery, and there was a much greater risk of infection and other complications.

He uses a robot to assist him called the da Vinci Surgical System. It essentially acts as an extension of his own hands. He controls the robot while looking through an eye-piece that gives him 3-D hi-def images of everything he’s doing. It allows him total precision in a way that isn’t possible with a scalpel in his hands.

After meeting Dr. Murphy for the first time, I felt better about everything. He didn’t carry himself like I thought he would. He was very laid-back. That was my first impression. After he finished listening to my heart, he sat down on a chair in the corner of the room below me, while I was sitting up on the bed, and we had a heart-to-heart (no pun intended). Most men in powerful positions tend to stand and tower over you when they’re talking to you. It’s a subconscious way to assert their authority. But here was this world famous doctor, who was roughly 6’3”, sitting down in the seat below me to level with me. He clearly didn’t think he was better than me. And even more importantly, I could tell he actually cared. He asked me about my family and my personal life. He said he wanted to meet my son, and my soul-mate before the surgery. And before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I was in good hands, and everything was going to be okay. I believed him.

Before I left, he scheduled my surgery for a month later. Everything was moving much faster than I expected. I had to come back to the hospital for a CT scan in two weeks, but after that I was counting down the days until the big one. I had a lot to figure out, and I had already made some major moves in life that would soon unfold. When I initially found out that I was going to need open heart surgery, one of the first things I did was talk to my boss and ask him for a promotion. I knew I had a little bit of leverage, because I was going to have to miss at least three weeks of work, and there was nobody there who could handle my job for that long while I was gone. I needed to be replaced, and I had my eye on a better position running a printing press. I had asked them to promote me to the press a couple of years ago, and they had told me it would eventually happen, but they didn’t have an opening until just recently. Fate was on my side.

I had been training my replacement for the past month, and they moved me to the press three weeks before the surgery. I was already under a lot of stress, and learning the press wasn’t easy, but I gave it everything I had. I wanted them to know how grateful I was for everything. And I will keep giving it my all when I come back. But I’m skipping ahead here. The surgery, the inevitable day was fast approaching.

I took the day before the surgery off, so I could get my license and registration renewed, and spend time with my family. (Life doesn’t stop just because you’re getting ready to do something huge.) It was a beautiful day. We laid in bed and talked that night, and everything felt remarkably normal. I wasn’t anxious or distracted. I was in the moment. When I woke the morning of the surgery, I felt excited and happy. I knew it was the beginning of a new chapter of my life.

Ashley drove me to the hospital, and when we got there I got to spend a little time with our son, holding him in my arms. He was in good spirits. We were all laughing and smiling. That’s what I remember. When they called my name in the main lobby, I leaned over to kiss Ashley and say goodbye. I didn’t know that she would be accompanying me up to the point before they rolled me away to the operating room. I felt a little embarrassed, and she jokingly told me that I couldn’t ditch her that easily.

We met an older couple in the surgery waiting room, and they talked to us for a little while. The husband said nice things about Huxley, and he told us a little bit about his own past experiences with his kids. He was going in to get a biopsy done on a cancerous growth in his throat. I will never know what happened to him, but I was grateful for the connection he made. I was so scared, but I knew I couldn’t let myself be consumed with fear. I had too much to live for. Everything was going to be okay. That was the only possibility I would consider.

They walked us to a room where I was prepped for surgery. My spirits were high still. Ashley and I kept talking to pass the time. An old woman came in and shaved me. And then we waited. And waited. It was another thirty minutes or longer before I met the anesthesiologists. And I remember feeling grateful for that. I had more time to spend with my beautiful wife and son before the surgery. Well, I was calling her my wife anyways (one day she will be, if she’ll have me.) And it felt good every time it came out of my mouth.

The last thing I remember is them explaining the anesthesia, the tubes, and IV’s, etc. I didn’t really care much about the details. I kind of let it all slide over my mind. All I cared about was Ashley and Huxley. Waking up to their loving faces. Ashley told me later that she saw them roll me away to the operating room, and the last thing I said to her was “I love you. See you soon.” I was already under the effects of the general anesthesia when I said that, so I have no memory of it.

Five and a half hours later I opened my eyes and saw her, and I said, “You’re so beautiful.” I remember that as clear as day. I fell back asleep briefly a few more times, but I knew I had made it. I was alive, and Ashley and Huxley were there. I heard her talking to the nurse, and I butted in and said something funny to amuse them. It had only been thirty minutes since the surgery had ended, and I was already awake and cracking jokes.

I got to spend the next six hours with Ashley and Huxley in the private ICU room Dr. Murphy had given me. Most patients have to share an ICU room with several other patients, and they’re only allowed 15-minute visitation with 2-hour breaks in-between. I didn’t do anything to deserve a private room. But it was a kindness that went a long way to aid my recovery that first critical day.

The time I spent with them was the healing salve I needed to get me through the dark night ahead. I don’t remember everything that we talked about, but I remember that conversation came easily. I was so happy to be alive. I kept making jokes about morphine and ice chips. I wanted big buckets of them. And the nurse kept indulging me. Until I started puking everything up that sat on my stomach for more than a few seconds. After that it was just the morphine and saline drip.

I was hooked up to over a dozen different tubes and IV’s. But the one that hurt the worst was the catheter. When I saw Dr. Murphy later that day before Ashley and Huxley had left, I asked him if it could be removed, and he showed me another kindness by letting them do that. That was a horrific moment that I thought would stretch on forever, and I didn’t realize then that it would be the first of many to come. I was so grateful to have Ashley by my side through that. It was so hard to watch her leave that evening, but we both knew she had to go home. She stayed as long as she could.

The night was filled with nightmares and visions. The morphine had fully taken up residence in my shell-shocked psyche. And I was having a serious problem. I couldn’t pee. My urethral sphincter had swollen from the catheter, and the morphine wasn’t helping. Neither was the fact that I couldn’t stand up on my own, and I was a little bit shy about doing my business under those circumstances. I tried and I tried, but eventually I ran out of time. The nurse had to “straight cath” me.

I can’t write this story without being totally honest, and including the darkest details. This was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I felt totally crushed. But somehow the nurse brought me back from that. She kept telling me how proud she was of me, what a great job I was doing with everything. She told me that I should talk to other young men before they go in for surgeries like this one, to help prepare them for it all. She said that most people my age completely fall apart the first night. But I was holding it together. What I never told her is that I couldn’t have held it together without her. She was kind and wise, and knew exactly what to say to a man in my circumstances. Eventually I slept, and I woke the following day.

The morning was slow, but I was still happy to be alive. I was still riding that high. They took me off the morphine, and switched me over to Lortab. I still couldn’t pee. Another drama was beginning to unfold. I really didn’t want them to have to catheterize me again. Especially not in the light of day. They called a meeting outside my room to discuss their options. I overheard them talking about me, and I butted in and told them that it was just bad nerves keeping me from doing it. They drew the curtain, and let me in on the discussion. There were six people standing in a semi-circle at my door. One of them was a doctor. I told them that I could do it if they could take all the tubes out first. We struck a tentative agreement. They asked Dr. Murphy to approve removing the tubes, and he granted it.

It was another two hours before the nurses got started. Ashley was on the way to visit me again. The tube in my chest was horribly painful. It went all the way into my right lung. There were two other tubes that went all the way down into my heart. And there was an IV in my neck that needed to go. It was actually a huge relief to have them all out, and it didn’t bother me to watch that whole process unfold. Once I was free, the nurses left to give me some privacy to pee. And it took me about five minutes to get the pipes flowing again, but I did it. I didn’t have to face the evil catheter again.
Ashley showed up just as I was wrapping things up. She later told me that she overheard them discussing the possibility of having to catheterize me soon. But the curtain was drawn, and I proudly displayed my pitcher of piss on the table. Victory, at last! A short while later they moved me up to my private room in the recovery wing. My stay in the ICU was officially over. I felt rough. I was still in a whole lot of pain, and I couldn’t talk very much because I was so short of breath. Ashley didn’t stay very long, but I was grateful that she had come.

I started to feel a lot better after she left, but that was only going to last for a little while. There were many more hardships to come. I was walking to the bathroom on my own from the moment they had left me in the recovery room. That was the beginning of me taking back control of my life. I must have dozed off several times that day, because when I think back on my experiences, I recall having spent multiple nights in the recovery room, but I know that I only spent one night there, and the following day I left.

I was having paranoid delusions and hallucinations from the pain medication. I’m glad I didn’t tell them about the latter, or they may have moved me over to the psychiatric wing. I remember going to the bathroom at one point, and my left leg went totally numb. I called the nurse in, and I told her what was going on. She had me walk on it around the room, and then my whole body went numb, and my heart started racing. I told her to call the doctor immediately, and she did what I asked. Dr. Murphy’s Physician’s Assistant came and saw me. She got me to push on her hand with my hands and my feet. And she told me I wasn’t having a stroke, that I was actually feeling the effects of a stunned nerve. She said that 98 percent of people fully recover from this, and the 2 percent who don’t learn to live with it with very little complications. I broke down into tears of gratitude at this point. I told her that my problems were so small compared to so many others there. And I was so grateful to be alive, and in good health.

After she left I couldn’t stop crying. I kept overhearing the nurses and the doctors outside of my room, talking about patients who were facing unimaginable problems. And here I was, with a fully functioning heart, and right on track to a fast recovery. I took my pain meds, and I wept. And I tried my best to ignore the numbness in the left side of my body.

Later that night I walked around my room a little bit to find my phone charger and plug my phone in. It wasn’t a whole lot of effort, but it was enough to steal my breath. I laid in bed for the next hour, fighting against my urge to fall asleep. Forcing my eyes back open when they fell shut. I was afraid I would stop breathing if I fell asleep this way. I started to hallucinate. The drugs were taking me to a dark place. But I finally got a grip on it all. My breathing steadied, and I fell asleep in peace around 10:30 P.M.

I didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time that night. There was a nurse tech, a young black guy with a good sense of humor, who kept me tethered to reality. I remember telling him that I was afraid of permanent nerve damage, of waking up paralyzed, because my left side was still numb. He said I shouldn’t worry about shit like that, that I should just take it easy, and watch a movie to take my mind off things. I never turned the TV on my whole stay there, but I did finally start to relax.

Then they gave me a new medication to lower my blood pressure, and my blood pressure dropped down to 80 / 40. I woke up in a daze. I wanted to say something, to express my concern, but I was too sleepy to let myself succumb to the fear again. I went back to sleep telling myself that everything was going to be okay, that I was in good hands with Dr. Murphy. I woke up again later that night and my blood pressure had jumped up to 156 / something. I only remember the top number. I was shocked. I said, “Wow, I’m all over the place tonight.” But the next time they took it I was normal, and they didn’t give me that medicine again.

The following morning, I woke up feeling a lot better. I scrubbed myself clean as best as I could in the sink, and walked around my room a little bit. I used the mouthwash I didn’t know I had in my bags. I did a bunch of tests that morning, and I got to leave my room for an x-ray. The nurse rolled me up to the top floor after the x-ray and let me look out the window at the view of Atlanta, and Stone Mountain in the distance. I was grateful for that. When she brought me back, I did my first walk around the nurse’s station. My gown wasn’t tied properly in the back, and I think I mooned the whole hospital before a nurse came and helped me tie it up. After I made it back to my room I was determined to leave the hospital that day. I got myself fully dressed without help. My board said, “Leaving Sunday / Monday”. I said, “Fuck that, I’m leaving today.”

I went for another walk after I was dressed. This time I made it two laps without help. And then I rested for a while, sitting down in my chair in my room, texting Ashley back and forth. Then I did two more laps. Rinse and repeat. During one of the walks, one of the nurses said, “You’re trying to walk you’re way out of here, aren’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, I think I’m breaking out of this joint today.”

All of my tests came back normal, and the doctor approved my release. They asked me if I wanted to leave that day, and I told them, “As long as it’s medically safe for me to leave, then, yeah, I’d like to leave.” I was certainly scared to leave, after everything I’d been through, but I didn’t want to waste precious hospital resources if I didn’t need to.

I kept doing laps every thirty minutes, even after I signed the release papers. I couldn’t walk very fast. I was still in a lot of pain. But I was mobile. I could do things for myself. And that felt great. The drive home was stressful and exciting at the same time. Ashley asked me if I was nervous, and I told her, “Yes.” Of course I was. I had been through hell and back. But I knew that everything was going to be okay.

The first night I spent in my own bed was restorative. The hallucinations were gone. The opioid demons were silent. I woke up in fine spirits. But then I had to take the beta blocker that they prescribed me when I was released. It made me feel horrible, utterly horrible. My right hand and foot went partially numb, and stayed that way for as long as I was on it. I was dizzy and light-headed, and short of breath all day. I started taking frequent naps. And then the fevers started hitting me. My temperature shot up to 101 the first day I was back, and I fought to get it back down by keeping a cold wet towel over my head while I shivered miserably. I made Ashley call the hospital, but they said I shouldn’t worry about coming in unless it got over 101.5 and stayed there. I was on my own, in other words.

The first three days after I came home were the hardest. But we survived it, and we did more than survive it. The whole experience changed us forever. It’s made me stronger, humbler, and more in touch with the people around me. It’s brought Ashley and I even closer. It’s shown me the power of love, and the kindness of strangers. It’s given me hope, and restored my faith in humanity at a time when I felt more than a little cynical about the world.

I saw Dr. Murphy for the follow-up appointment a few days ago, and he took me off the beta-blocker. He told me I could eat whatever I wanted, and do whatever I wanted. He said I was doing great. I shook his hand and told him thank you. Those word will forever fall short, but I want to say them once again in writing. Thank you for giving me a second chance at life. You said I had a lot to live for, and you were right. Thank you for everything, Dr. Murphy. I always wanted to be saved by a robot, and I couldn’t have picked a better man to control it.

For the Poisoned

I have always felt that something was deeply, innately wrong with the culture I grew up in. I never fit in well after I started public school in 5th grade. I didn’t know the whole picture then (and I hope I never do), but I could sense a pattern of conformity and social manipulation that had everyone (all of the adults included) in its clutches. This only became more apparent as I got older.

I’m 29 years old now and I’ve been researching the great crises of the 21st century for the better part of the last decade. What I’ve come to realize is that my earliest suspicions were right. But it’s much worse than I could have ever imagined, and it’s been going on for a lot longer than I’ve been alive.

If you’re one of the lucky few who was born in America or another wealthy, industrialized nation, then you know how it feels to be constantly bombarded with advertisements and the pressures of social conformity. This glittering, ubiquitous machine of hyper-consumerism has reshaped the entire surface of the planet.

It’s everywhere you look, every sound you hear. Never ending commercials, endless billboards, signs, and posters; 24/7 Walmart, gas stations on every corner well-stocked with all of our favorite government-approved poisons. All of this vying for our attention, begging us to open up our wallets and make a decision, but is the decision ever really ours? Do we have a choice in this endless parade of choices?

Do we get to decide any of the things that really matter, like where our food comes from, or the amount of toxins that are dumped into our local waterways? We get to choose between a Big Mac or a Whopper, a Coke or a Diet Coke, but we can’t choose whether to be poisoned or not. Society has made that decision for us without our consent. It’s done this by protecting and subsidizing a system of agriculture, food supply companies, and grocery store chains that stock and sell an endless variety of junk food and food-like products which by some measures are just as toxic to our health as cigarettes.

As I pointed out earlier, this has been going on for a lot longer than I’ve been alive to witness it. I can honestly say that I’m glad I wasn’t around when cars were still using leaded gasoline. For five decades there was a conspiracy of silence on one of the greatest public health crises in American history. The big oil companies were putting lead into our gasoline to increase profit margins, even though they knew it was killing us. And now it appears that history is repeating itself. We are still allowing lead into our drinking water, among other toxic chemicals, despite our modern knowledge on water quality issues.

What happened in Flint, Michigan was unacceptable. But it should serve as a wake-up call for the American people. Our public elected officials don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. Big surprise, I know. What concerns me the most is that more people haven’t made the connection between the water quality of our rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers and the drinking water from our taps. It’s all connected. What we do to our natural fresh water sources has a direct impact on our drinking water supply. The chemical pollutants and trash we allow to be dumped into our rivers and lakes will eventually wind up in our taps at some concentration. The water treatment plants can’t filter everything out. And there is now a wealth of compelling scientific evidence of the dangers of fracking to underground aquifers, air, and soil.

Why is it that some well-educated people in this country can accept most or even all of these threats, but disregard the threat of carbon pollution from industry and car exhaust? A Swedish scientist by the name of Svante Arrhenius discovered that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas over a hundred years ago. The scientific community has since amassed a veritable mountain of evidence to support his theory, and all of it has been painstakingly analyzed and corroborated.

There is now very little doubt and almost unanimous consensus among climatologists about man-made climate change. So why are people so offended by this research? Why do they choose to believe in the ridiculous notion that all scientists all over the world are part of a grand conspiracy to mislead the public about climate change? I think that the simplest answer is they don’t want to admit that they’re partially personally responsible for the destruction of the planet. Nobody wants to admit that, but that’s exactly why we’re in such a terrible mess.

A World Worth Protecting

I’ve given a lot of thought to this blog and the reasons why I have to write it. I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, and everyone who chooses to read this. My life has lead me down many paths, and each of them has left its mark on me. I was raised a Christian conservative in a typical white American middle class household. I went to church, supported the war in Afghanistan, and President Bush.

I used to see the world in black and white, good versus evil, and I unquestioningly believed that we were the good guys. I had very traditional economic viewpoints. I thought that unbridled capitalism was the best way to reward those who were disciplined and brilliant. It was all very uncomplicated to me.

I wasn’t aware of even half the issues our world faces, and I didn’t want to learn about them. I knew that people were suffering, and that things were pretty messed up in most of the world, but I blamed human ignorance and irresponsibility for these problems.

To understand my point of view, I have to point out that the Christian conservative worldview I once embraced was never my own. I wasn’t born that way, it was imprinted upon me by the trusted adults in my life. All children are born free of religion and ideology.

It wasn’t until my late teens and early twenties that I started seeing things in a new light. But in reality I was simply returning to my roots, to the way I saw things from the beginning, through the clear lens of curiosity. From the time I could walk, I spent a lot of time outdoors and had a deep appreciation for nature. I wanted to learn everything about the plants and animals in my environment, and the world around me. My true nature was always that of a scientist.

I was home schooled from K through 4th grade, so I had more free time than the average kid. I became an obsessive reader, constantly moving from topic to topic, and story to story. I grew up on Jules Verne and Little House on the Prarie. By the time I was ten I had a voracious appetite for Dean Koontz. I wanted to be a writer just like him.

It wasn’t until my late teens that my interest in the study of science started to fully bloom. It started with watching episodes of The Universe with my little brother and pontificating on the great cosmic mysteries together. Before long I was reading books by Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku, and devouring endless articles from the scientific community.

By the time I moved out on my own I was a new man, independent, free-thinking, and rebellious. The more I learned, the more I wanted to make an impact, to change things for the better. But all I knew how to do was write, and so I started writing my thoughts on various issues and sharing them on Facebook. This went  on for years, and some great discussions were had in the past. But more often than not I noticed that the issues I brought up were mostly ignored in favor of idle conversation, or some other trifling distraction.

I finally had to accept that Facebook isn’t a very useful platform for activism, and that feeling is what eventually culminated in the creation of this website. My goal is to build writervism into a beacon of knowledge and ideas that can’t easily be ignored. I want people to know who I am and what I stand for because I believe in something greater than myself. I’m not writing this for personal gain. I will never personally host an ad on this website or ask for donations. This isn’t about me, it’s about the message the scientific community is trying to share with the world.

That message is loud and clear. To sum it up in a single statement, our world is dying, and the human race is killing it. We’re doing this in a number of different ways, and if we don’t fundamentally change the way we do things, then our future generations will never know the beautiful world we take for granted. If that’s not a sobering thought, then you haven’t been paying attention the past twenty years. You haven’t taken a close look at the Gulf oil spill,or the Fukushima disaster. You haven’t done the research on anthropogenic climate change. You haven’t considered the worldwide crisis of water pollution that threatens to destroy our most precious resource.

These issues are misunderstood because it requires careful research and study to understand them. If you make up your mind on these issues without thoroughly researching them, you’ve done yourself a major intellectual disservice. You’ve essentially decided that you’re going to accept whatever you’re told to believe without even examining the evidence to the contrary. That is the opposite of a scientific viewpoint. Science is based wholly on evidence and it follows the evidence wherever it leads, even if the evidence contradicts the most widely accepted scientific truth.

Science challenges our beliefs and demands that we question everything, especially our personal biases and convictions. Without the most rigorous skepticism, how can we ever know the truth, with so many people claiming so many opposing ideas to be true? In a world without skepticism there is no truth, only myths.

That is why civilization as a whole cannot exist without science. There has to be a framework of knowledge and understanding to support the pillars of civilization: medicine, technology, architecture, agriculture, and education. None of these would exist without the scientific method. I don’t think anyone can argue that.

People tend to embrace the products of science, while condemning the study of it. This is the height of arrogance, and the kind of attitude that powerful people have always preyed upon in the past, and continue to prey upon today. There is a very real movement in our world to discredit certain scientific studies through misinformation and misrepresentation of the facts. To be specific, it is in the best interests of big energy corporations and other major industries that the majority of the population doesn’t research the realities of climate change or pollution for themselves. There are powerful political forces behind this movement, whose aim is to protect a system of energy production, agriculture, and medicine that is making people sick and killing them, and polluting our planet to the extent that no species is safe from extinction.

This is the message from the scientific community, we are at the beginning of the sixth great extinction event in our planet’s history, and the dawn of a new geological era, the Anthropocene. These developments are the product of human interaction with the world. Just as we hunted the woolly mammoth and the saber toothed tiger to extinction ten thousand years ago, now we are over-hunting and polluting most of the remaining species of this planet to extinction. Even more disturbing than that, perhaps, is the fact that we’re permanently changing the geological makeup of the planet itself.

What people have to understand is that our economy and our way of life directly depends on nature. Our food comes primarily from plants and animals that depend on thriving ecosystems for their survival. Our houses and furniture and so many other items we depend on are made out of wood from the remaining forests of the world, while climate change and deforestation by industry threaten to push the trees to the brink of extinction. We’re doing the same thing to the oceans through mass pollution, and destructive fishing practices like dragging massive nets across the bottom of the ocean to catch entire schools of fish. We’re also destroying the remaining natural coral reefs of the world through overfishing, chemical run-off, climate change, and other unintended human interactions.

Our entire technological approach needs to change, or one day Mother Nature is going to change it for us. One day the oil and gasoline that powers your cars and the coal that powers your homes is all going to run out. And what’s our back up plan for that? We have built our entire civilization upon the extraction of non-renewable resources, and the extraction and utilization of these resources has created the biggest problem we face in the 21st century: anthropogenic climate change.

There is another way of powering our civilization that we’ve known about for over a hundred years. I’m talking about sustainable, renewable resources that will never run out: sunlight, wind energy, geothermal forces, and tidal forces. The powerful elite have historically suppressed renewable energy technology, and protected non-renewable energy because that’s the only way they could keep a price tag on it and keep people under control. When people are energy independent there is nothing they can’t accomplish for themselves, and they no longer need to depend on the system for their survival.

It is my sincere hope that our government will one day be reformed to protect the freedoms and natural rights of human beings, rather than the interests of international corporations that exist to control us, and ultimately to destroy us. I am not an anarchist, or a libertarian. I don’t believe that the world would be better off without government. Every time governments have collapsed in history, it’s created a power vacuum that was always filled by some other governing force. It is the natural inclination of human beings to organize around an idea with the hope of collective prosperity.

A simple analogy is effective to underline this truth. Anyone who lives in a house with children can attest to the necessity of rules and boundaries. Without them, you have total chaos and an environment where the children will have a poor chance of survival. But with effective rules and boundaries, the family thrives and prospers. It’s the same for societies; we need an effective government that protects and nurtures the people. We need rules and boundaries that apply equally to everyone. We need the right kinds of laws, and the right kind of government to enforce them.

This has never been more apparent than in our modern age of corporate supremacy and mass pollution. We cannot expect to live freely in a safe society where corporations are allowed to run and regulate themselves without government oversight or intervention. Why would any of these corporations consider our best interests over the best interests of their shareholders? The dollar is the bottom line in a capitalist society. The potential for profit will always override all other concerns, except when strict laws are put in place that incentivize the protection of the planet and its people.

People have always acted on incentives, it’s basic human nature. If the only incentive is profit, people will almost always act to their own benefit with few exceptions, and for the wealthiest people on this planet that means making decisions that endanger millions of others. But if there’s a stronger incentive than profit, such as the possibility of going to prison and facing huge fines and other legal complications, then the power is shifted back into the people’s hands.

Effective governance is the only way to counter-balance the power vacuum that corporations have filled and utilized to strip the world of its resources and commoditize our most basic needs such as food, water, and medicine. Right now we live in a country where the government has been systematically infiltrated and overtaken by the interests of the most powerful people. They have insulated themselves against the destruction they’ve wreaked. They live in their perfectly maintained mansions, or at the tops of their skyscrapers with air conditioning and room service, and all the comforts and luxuries of modern society. They have access to the best healthcare and the finest education, and they can freely travel the world at their leisure. In many ways they are the only class of people in this world to enjoy absolute freedom, but it comes with a terrible price.

I hope that we will one day see the wisdom in sacrificing some of our freedoms to protect the best interests of the human race as a whole. This is the sacrifice we have to make in order to protect not only ourselves, but the economy as well. Our economy directly depends on a thriving biosphere, where ecosystems are left to flourish with as little human intervention as possible. The environmentalist approach is the best economic approach, and the only sane approach to governing civilization. Our freedom to pollute and destroy ecosystems, and to strip-mine the last drop of resources out of the earth is the sacrifice we have to make for a lasting civilization that will live to see the next millennium and beyond.

We need to remember the power of the people, the power that’s surged through our society in the past and energized our greatest social revolutions. The challenges we face now are far greater than the challenges our parents and our grandparents faced. We have the fate of the world in our hands, and it comes down to how we choose to live. We have to fundamentally change, not for ourselves, but for our children’s sake. I’m writing this because I want my son to grow up in a world where dolphins, whales, polar bears, and elephants are alive and thriving. I want him to grow up in a society that protects the world, and puts the environment first in all its decision making. This isn’t about me, it’s about my son, Huxley Alexander, and all the other babies that are born each day. We can’t afford to fail them; this world is our only home, and it’s a world worth protecting.

 

Welcome to Writervism

This website, and the blog that it hosts, has a very simple premise, that words and the ideas they represent have the power to change the world. We are privileged to exist during the most exciting and terrifying epoch of human history. Our knowledge of the universe continues to advance at a rapid rate, and has produced a kind of technological utopia, but we’ve paid a terrible price for it. This beautiful blue orb we call Earth, our only home in the universe, is slowly becoming inhospitable to life.

The oceans are acidifying from the excess carbon in the atmosphere, while nuclear radiation from atomic testing and the Fukushima disaster, billions of metric tons of plastic pollution, chemical run-off from unregulated agriculture and factory operations, and over-fishing threaten to collapse and destroy most of the oceanic ecosystems by 2050. The oceans and the land masses on our planet form a symbiotic circle of life. One cannot thrive without the other. If the ecosystems in the ocean go extinct, then so shall the ecosystems on the surface. We are a part of these ecosystems, and if we can’t find a way to repair the damage we’ve done to this delicate web of life, then we will probably suffer the same fate as every other species we share this world with.

We are not unique or special, or beyond the forces of nature. We have to learn how to live in harmony with nature, or nature will find a way to live in harmony without us. Extinction events are a natural cycle of life on this planet. We wouldn’t be here if the extinction of the dinosaurs had never occurred. The only difference this time is human beings have unwittingly become the architects of their own extinction.

I have immense faith in the power of human will and innovation. I have unflinching faith in humanity. We have accomplished amazing feats, we’ve walked on the moon and landed robotic rovers on Mars. We have already invented the technology we need to save ourselves, and so many of the species whose survival depends on our ability to change and adapt. We still have time to change the course of events, to steer our world down the path of sustainability.

This website exists to aid in the effort of sharing the knowledge of these issues, and to help people develop a scientific understanding of the world. It’s a place for curious, free thinking individuals, skeptics, and writervists to gather, and share their thoughts and ideas and their dreams for the future. It’s a place for open discussion and rigorous debate, where ignorance will be challenged and scientific theories will be examined and explained.

Above all else, this is going to be an online refuge for ordinary people to participate in a cause much greater than themselves. I believe that everyone can make a difference every single day. That’s what writervism is about, it’s the humble belief that our words can make a real difference in a world that desperately needs us. Thank you for being a part of this cause, and for believing in a better future. Apathy is the easiest thing in the world, but caring, truly caring about our future, is the greatest challenge of our time.