Friday, July 27, 2018

Water Cutoff, So We Get Out Of Town

There was a green card hanging from our door the other day that said the water would be shut off between 9am and 3pm on Thursday.  I checked on line and found this:
[UPDATE Aug 21, 2018 - I've corrected the formatting for this project and I've posted an update]

AWWU Construction Projects

  • Project Manager
    • James Armstrong
  • Phone Number    
    • 907 564 2776
  • Public Description
    • Work will consist of the Contractor to furnish and install approximately 2,000 linear feet of 16-inch PVC pipe, three (3) double pumper fire hydrant assembly, and eight (8) 16-inch gate valves and valve boxes, three (3) 8-inch gate valves and valve boxes, and one (1) 6-inch gate valve and valve box.

So we decided it would be a good day to be out in the woods.  The shut off the water by 11am just before we took off.

And the street was blocked off.   We drove straight down to Portage Glacier.  I'd been there a couple of weeks ago with the little kids and I really wanted to go see Byron Glacier and spend some time relaxing in the van at Black Bear campground.  It was raining too much last time to take the kids to  Byron Glacier, and since there was a rare iceberg floating by the visitor's center it didn't seem necessary.  We stopped at the visitor center first.  It was raining some, but with the fierce wind of last time, and the iceberg was gone.

The white in the middle is the glacier.  It used to wrap around and over the hill and sit in the water of Portage Lake.  And there used to be icebergs all the time.  The ranger said the berg had lasted about two weeks, melting and breaking up fairly quickly.

Then off to Byron Glacier not far away.  (I"ve been debating whether this should be in chronological order or if I should just put up pics from the day.  General chronological order won by one vote.)

Here's a ripe salmon berry we passed on the way.

And here's what's left of Byron Glacier.  I remember first seeing it when the whole mountain side was solid glacier.  Now the lower part is pretty pitiful.  When you talk to people in Anchorage about climate change - the long time residents just point to Portage and the nearby glaciers as how they know it's real.  These changes are really dramatic.  And in a short span that humans can notice.

Here's a decent sized chunk of glacier but it's really a tiny fraction of what used to be here.

This is looking up.  The clouds have lowered since I took the first Byron glacier picture above, but you can see the eerie blue ice often found in glaciers, especially on cloudy days.

Walking back we started talking to a couple from North Carolina.  They were originally from Calcutta and they were on a whirlwind tour of Alaska.  In a week they'd been to Denali, Anchorage, Seward, and were spending their last full day at Portage and then went to hike Winner Creek in Girdwood.

And in the car next to ours was a young Israeli who was touring Alaska.

This fern lined path is near Black Bear campground in the Portage Valley.  We'd stopped her last time and it was so beautiful that I wanted to explore the area a bit.  We had lunch, read, and snoozed.  I'm just starting Charles Eisenstein's The Ascent of Humanity. Someone told me about it when I was talking about how the Protestant Work Ethic doesn't work any more now that technology can do much of the work that people had to do.  That we need a knew way to think about the distribution of wealth - other than it being only paid-work connected.  (Here's one post I did on that thought.  Looking for it, I see I've started, but not finished a few others.)

Eisentein's message includes that thought, but in a much broader perspective of how many of our conceptions of the world are failing to accurately portray what's happening around us.
"In the face of an ecological, financial, social, and health crisis that isn't going away, our tools - political, technological, and cognitive - are revealing themselves as impotent.  As that happens, the belief systems that embed those tools lose the gloss we call 'reality.'  Our defining narratives are coming apart at the seems.
"This dissolution reaches to the deepest imaginable level.  Not only our social institutions, not only our ecosystems are collapsing, but along with them our answers to the basic questions of life: "Who am I?" "Why am I here?"  "Where did we come from and where are we going?" "What is the purpose of life?"

But he's also optimistic.  And in a way that might be reasonable.  He talks about how humankind's thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and technology have failed to make people happy.  How along with greater material wealth and better health for many, there is still genocide, hunger, massive destruction of the natural world.

"Something [is] so fundamentally wrong that centuries of our best and brightest efforts to create a better world have failed or even backfired.  As this realization sinks in, we respond with despair, cynicism, numbness, or detachment.  
OK, I know I promised more optimistic and that was the opposite.  Here it comes:
"Yet no matter how complete the despair, no matter how bitter the cynicism, a possibility beckons of a world more beautiful and a life more magnificent than what we know today.  Though we rationalize it, it is not rational.  We become aware of it in moments, gaps in the rush and press of modern life.  This moments come to uss lone in nature, to with a baby, making love, playing with children, caring for a dying person, making music for the sake of music or beauty for the sake of beauty.  At such times, a simple and easy joy shows us the futility of the vast, life-consuming program of management and control.  
Reading that yesterday in the van surrounded by trees and a glacial river nearby and about to go for another walk, I knew I would put these quotes into this post.
"We inuit that something similar is possible collectively.  Some of us may have experienced it when we find ourselves cooperating naturally and effortlessly, instruments of a purpose greater than ourselves that, paradoxically, makes us individually more and not less when we abandon ourselves to it.  It is what musicians are referring to when they say, "The music played the band."
"Another way of being is possible, and it is right in front of us, closer than close.  That much is transparently certain.  Yet it slips away so easily that we hardly believe it could be the foundation of life;  so we relate it to an afterlife and call it Heaven, or we relegate it to the future and call it Utopia.  (When nanotechnology solves all our problems . .  when we all learn to be nice to each other. . . when finally I'm not so busy . . .)Either way, we set it apart from this world and this life, and thereby deny its practicality and its reality in the heart and now  Yet the knowledge that life is more than Just This cannot be suppressed, not forever."

He goes on to take about the title - The Ascent of Humanity - as being an ironic take on Jacob Bronowski.'s The Ascent of Man. Ironic because he's arguing in the book that the idea of man's ascent to a better life through technology that takes us beyond nature, that has us conquering nature to improve human life, the idea of progress as we know it is false.  We've been 'improving' since the Stone Age and futurists keep telling us about new technologies that will solve our problems.  It's not going to happen he tells us.  We need to rethink our relationship to the world, to nature, and to each other.  That better life won't come from technology, but from knowing ourselves and our role in the natural world.

It's not a new message in some senses, but he's got 500 pages of back up for the argument.  I've only read the Introduction (where he outlines the arguments chapter by chapter) and the beginning of the first chapter - The Triumph of Technology - where he picks up the theme I've followed about how the promises of more leisure through technology have fallen flat.

OK, back to Portage Valley.  Despite how beautiful it was and the many pictures I took, I'm afraid these are just a pale facsimile.  You can't feel the mist drizzling on your face, or see these shots in their large context.  But I was feeling that 'more magnificent world' as I walked through this with a much lightened heart.

These are shelf fungi growing on the bottom of a cut tree.

I'm looking forward to reading all of Eisenstein's book.  I'm hoping it's as good as it seems to be in the fist 20 pages or so.

I do want to mention the idea of separation which is a key point he's making - and you can see it on the cover page (if you click on it and enlarge it).  I'm guess from the little I've read so far, this will be about many separations from what's real that humans have made.  Separation from nature.  How science has broken down into uncountable specialities so that few actually see the big picture and how everything is connected.  (Again, a big theme in The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf's book about Alexander von Humboldt.)  He's talking about how we have separated humans into different groups - by gender, by race, by ethnicity, by nationality, by religion.  And how humans have been separated from their true selves by the narratives of the societies they live in.

I think Esenstein would take hope from how the Trump administration is forcing so many people to rethink their conception of the United States.  The old world view has to die before the new one can be adopted.  It's not easy, but it's how things work.

And the water was back on when we got home.

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