Fair Use Notice
  Axis Mission
 About us
  Letters/Articles to Editor
Article Submissions
RSS Feed

Altered Landscapes Printer friendly page Print This
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) , Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014

Altered Landscapes


            The Red Wheelbarrow

         so much depends



         a red wheel



         glazed with rain



         beside the white


                      - William Carlos Williams


To paraphrase the poet and pediatrician/general practitioner, so much depends upon whether you think-feel what’s happening with the world today is really a survival-level crisis, or not.


Climate change... climate crash... arctic melt... droughts and floods... erratic weather patterns... Three-card Monte economic pillaging... The Shift... The Great Turning... The Great Sweat. However you label it, something has changed and something is happening. But what?


Depending on which endangered species, refugee, or climate-controlled oligarch you ask, the answers will differ.


Riffing on Bush Jr.’s infamous quote could it really be as simple as: you're either for Mother Earth, or against Her? You are either for helping preserve something, or blowing it to profit smithereens? (as coal companies have done to mountains, as Empire has done to Iraq, ad nauseam).


And is it all as black-and-white as: you’re either saving the world, or you’re just kicking back with a latte or a six-pack? Perhaps you can make room for saving the world while having a latte, or at least recycling the cup/lid/sleeve and finding out if the coffee is fair-trade, i.e. the workers/farmers are treated fairly.


A haiku by Paul Reps:



         a bowl of green tea

         I stopped the war


And maybe the world is not to be saved (with all that word’s religious and colonialism connotations), rather worked with, aligned, balanced, tuned-in to, harmonized...


Welcome to the Hotel Mirage

What is it that gets some people to not just build but transform the landscape far beyond what’s feng-shui user-friendly? Exhibit A... tourista facsimiles in cities out of nowhere. Phoenix, the city (not the bird) rises out of the desert... Las Vegas, with its fabricated spectacles, rising from the desert... the high-rises of Dubai, you guessed it, rising out of a desert. Do some men have no liking for deserts?


A websearch revealed that Vegas actually has a Mirage Hotel (at least they're honest) whose conceptual buffet is worth quoting: “The Mirage is a 3,044 room Polynesian-themed hotel and casino resort located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada, United States.” And just in case the thrill of climate change isn't enough for ya, “The Mirage's front attraction, the Volcano, erupts regularly at night.”1


Sad long-standing fact is that many such cities get their cheap electricity and water at the expense of other people. As example:

“On the sprawling Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation it surrounds, Peabody Western Coal Company routinely uproots families, locals say, in order to extract – by strip mining – 7.8 million tons of coal a year, coal that provides cheap electricity for much of the residential and business development in the Southwest. On Navajo and Hopi lands, however, thousands of poor families live without power or running water.”2

How can we as a species have more respect for what is, rather than trying to force it into what it is not?


One of my favorite stories about the creative process may be applicable to landscapes and thus to living in harmony with Mother Earth, rather than continuing to presumptuously both rape for resources then force-feed Her with man-made architecture.


An Inuit carver, while holding a piece of walrus ivory, would begin to carve, asking “What is it?”... still not knowing what he was carving he would continue the mantra... “What is it?... What is it?...” until... “O! It’s a polar bear!”


When it comes to the world at large, before carving and instead of super-imposing our precious selves upon a situation or a landscape or fellow human beings... what if we asked beforehand?


Survey Says

To get some other perspectives on the current human family feud, a sampling of opinions:


Professor and linguist Noam Chomsky often highlights two main areas of concern:

“As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history. There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war.”3

Paul Craig Roberts, columnist and chairman of The Institute for Political Economy, when writing about geo-political events, such as Ukraine/Russia/Crimea, has mentioned the threat of war and more specifically nuclear war.


In his recent article “The Arctic: A Woozy Canary,” freelance writer and environmental journalist Robert Hunziker writes:

“The major issues of the world include the recovery of economies from the Great Recession and regional wars for control of territories, like Iraq. Whereas, first and foremost, the leaders of the world should really be focused like a laser on the attendant risks of a complete meltdown of the Arctic, which is the canary in the mineshaft for the entire planet.”4

In 2001, according to Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations:

“In our Prophecies it is told that we are now at the Crossroads: Either unite Spiritually as a Global Nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives eyes.”5

(In this case “relatives” does not just mean us two-leggeds).


From journalist and author Chris Hedges:

“The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the Earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up.”6

According to a recent report about the Climate Justice Movement:

“In our time, humanity again must choose, this time to save our planet from shortsightedness, greed, and apathy to avoid catastrophic climate change.” In preparation for the UN summit which convenes on September 23, “a broad coalition of grassroots and social justice advocacy organizations is organizing what they've dubbed the 'People's Climate March' for the weekend preceding the UN summit.”7

And some say the fate of much of the planet is riding on the well-being of the bees:

“Unless halted, the use of these pesticides threatens not only the very survival of our pollinators, but the fate of whole ecosystems,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive Director of Center for Food Safety.8

Coming Around the Turn of Energy

Not only is electric-energy ‘shipped in’ to various desert cities, but various exotic seasonal fruits and such like are shipped worldwide at any time of the year. While some may appreciate being able to eat modern transport delicacies, I am leery of the Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. 


In this the Asian Year of the Horse, jockeying for position are two basic trends: fossil fuels/shale gas/fracking/nuclear/etc. and renewable/sustainable energy systems. According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance 2030 Market Outlook9, we are at a “watershed moment in the world’s energy mix.” As the charts in the Market Outlook indicate, China and India reflect the nature of the horse race with both using a large percentage of fossil fuels as well as renewables. The question begs: do we have time to race around hedging our energy bets? And could a tipping point, for example, really cheap solar energy technology, suddenly transform both the world grid and the way we do business?


Before you get stuck on yet another either/or, consider the words of artist and activist John Trudell: “Our intelligence is alternative energy.”


Trudell’s statement reminds us that all the answers may not come from ‘out there.’


The other altered landscapes are the often inexplicable ones within.


Writing about Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese revolutionary leader who defeated both the French and the U.S., Eduardo Galeano notes:

“His name was Ho Chi Minh and they called him Uncle Ho. Uncle Ho wasn’t at all like other revolutionary leaders. An activist returning from a village once reported that there was no way to organize those people. ‘They’re a bunch of Buddhist yahoos. They spend all day meditating.’ ‘Go back there and meditate,’ Uncle Ho ordered.”10


While we try to throw our best physical solutions at the problems of the world, it can’t hurt and may be our best bet to remember that inventors and those working on problems have been known to literally dream inventions and answers, those dreams providing the blueprints for the manifestations of physical solutions.


Some years ago I watched a video where someone asked the Dalai Lama for his tips on maintaining good health. Expecting a technical answer from the annals of Tibetan wisdom, it was amusing to hear His Holiness reply, with a smile: ‘A good night’s sleep.’ He went on to explain that after traveling a long distance he would feel depleted of energy; then, in the morning, refreshed!


While some more practical folk may scoff at the idea of meditation, prayer, creative thinking, brainstorming, empathy-based action, intuition, or a good night’s sleep solving world problems, when it comes to the following quote about Fukushima by William Magwood of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it may be our last resort (and I'm not talking about The Mirage):


“I think people have to be realistic how difficult this is, how long it’s going to take. During my visit to Japan this week, people have asked me from time to time, ‘Are there technologies in the US that can help solve this problem?’ The reality is there is no technology that exists anywhere to solve this problem.”11



Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. His newest haiku chapbook is “so many people go hungry.” He also hosts an audio show "Between the Lines: listening to literature online." You can contact him via his literary website.




1.The Mirage

2. “Coal Mining On Navajo Nation In Arizona Takes Heavy Toll

3. “America's Real Foreign Policy: Global Corporatization by Force

4. “The Arctic: A Woozy Canary

5. “We Are at the Crossroads!” 

6. “Will We Adjust to Life on a Finite Planet or Continue Devouring Our Future?

7. “Climate Justice Movement: Moment Is Now to 'Change Everything'

8. California Charged with 'Rubber-Stamping' Pesticides Linked to Bee Deaths” 

9. “BNEF: Renewable Energy’s About To Dominate Global Power Investments

10. Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History by Eduardo Galeano, Nation Books, 2013, p. 141.

11 . “Nuclear Watch: US View on Fukushima Daiichi” (video) 

& “Top U.S. Official: ‘The reality is, no technology exists anywhere to solve problem’ of Fukushima’s melted fuel

© Copyright 2014 by

This material is available for republication as long as reprints include verbatim copy of the article in its entirety, respecting its integrity. Reprints must cite the author and Axis of Logic as the original source including a "live link" to the article. Thank you!


Printer friendly page Print This
If you appreciated this article, please consider making a donation to Axis of Logic. We do not use commercial advertising or corporate funding. We depend solely upon you, the reader, to continue providing quality news and opinion on world affairs.Donate here

World News© 2003-2015
Fair Use Notice  |   Axis Mission  |  About us  |   Letters/Articles to Editor  | Article Submissions |   Subscribe to Ezine   | RSS Feed  |