Solar still renders salt water drinkable

Aha! So Robert Redford’s makeshift, make-do construction of a solar still for sea water in the white knuckle survival film “All is Lost” is based on reality! I wondered about that scene . . . 

Here’s a fancier version.

Via Mitch.


A Simple Solar Oven Makes Salt Water Drinkable

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This (interim) university president redistributes 25% of his salary to those at the bottom of the university hierarchy

What do you want to bet the trustees of Kentucky State university won’t want to hire Raymond Burse as their permanent replacement when his one year interim term ends. His idea of actually, personally, taking steps to pay it forward by lessening the gap between CEO and worker pay scales demonstrates a larger, more humane value system that will not be tolerated by increasingly corporatized universities with added layers of well-paid administrative positions and part-time faculty temps (adjuncts) replacing retiring tenured professors. 

On the other hand, what if the university were to offer Burse the presidency on a permanent basis, would he accept? Or would he return to corporate (high) life at GE, his largesse a mere gesture.

We await those in the upper echelons of society who actually do, on a regular basis, redistribute their extra profits to the poor as prelude to systematic economic transformation of this culture. After all, how much stuff or money does any one person or family really need? As even my very Republican late father used to say, in a stern, worried tone, “If rich people don’t start to share their wealth, there will be a revolution.” 

Kentucky State president to share his salary with school’s lowest-paid workers

August 5, 2014


Raymond Burse hasn’t held a minimum-wage job since his high school and college years, when he worked side jobs on golf courses and paving crews. Yet this summer, the interim president at Kentucky State University made a large gesture to his school’s lowest-paid employees. Burse announced that he would take a 25 percent salary cut to boost their wages.

The 24 school employees making less than $10.25 an hour, who mostly serve as custodial staff, groundskeepers and lower-end clerical workers, will see their pay rise to that new baseline. Some had been making as little as $7.25, the current federal minimum. Burse, who assumed the role of interim president in June, says he asked the school’s chief financial officer how much such an increase would cost. The amount: $90,125.

“I figured it was easier for me to forgo that amount, rather than adding an additional burden on the institution,” Burse says. “I had been thinking about it almost since the day they started talking to me about being interim president.”

Burse announced his decision to take the funds out of his salary in a board meeting at the end of July, and the school ratified his employment contract on the spot — decreasing it from $349,869 to $259,744. He has pledged to take further salary cuts any time new minimum-wage employees are hired on his watch, to bring their hourly rate to $10.25.

This isn’t Burse’s first time leading KSU. He served as president from 1982 to 1989, before joining a law firm in Louisville, Ken., and then becoming a vice president and general counsel at GE. He will hold the school’s interim leadership role for at least a year, or longer if they need more time to find a permanent replacement.

Burse describes himself as someone who believes in raising wages, and who also has high expectations and demands for his staff. “I thought that if I’m going to ask them to really be committed and give this institution their all, I should be doing something in return,” Burse says. “I thought it was important.”

Earlier this year, the Kentucky House passed a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by July  2016, but the bill failed to pass the state’s Senate. There have been a few recent instances of colleges boosting their minimum wage on campus, such as at Hampton University in Virginia, where the president made a personal donation to increase workers’ salaries. Yet at most organizations that have made news for their decisions to increase pay, like IKEA and GAP, the funding isn’t tied to deductions in leaders’ salaries.

“I didn’t have any examples of it having been done out there and I didn’t do it to be an example to anyone else,” Burse says. “I did it to do right by the employees here.”

Read also:

St. Mary’s College considers basing president’s salary off that of cleaning staff

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Five Oregon children decide to legally “claim the sky,” arguing that “nature is a public trust.”

Yes! It’s about time children, whose world this will soon be, claimed their stake in the future.

Hey! All you idealistic young ones who want to become lawyers! Here’s a way you can, by eliminating student debt, jump right away into serving the public trust. In five states you can, instead, apprentice yourself to a practicing attorney willing to “take your case.” (That, it turns out, can be the hard part.) 

Check it out:

How to become a lawyer without going to law school

Let’s hope this old-fashioned idea of apprenticeship learning spreads to other states and other professions. In one stroke, you eliminate punishing loans and, right away, present practical, on the job experience.


These Teens Are Taking their Climate Lawsuit All the Way to the Supreme Court

October 22, 2014

by Sam Bliss

Those feisty, litigious climate-hawk kids just won’t go away. Back in 2011, we wrote about a group of witty whippersnappers that filed a lawsuit against the federal government. The premise: The government must take action to protect the atmosphere for future generations.

On Oct. 3, those same five teenagers, represented by Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a legal lifeline to keep the case alive.

Let’s be clear: The petition is a crazy longshot. The Supreme Court grants about one percent of such petitions, leaving the decisions of lower courts to stand without review in the other 99 percent of cases. And in this case, the lower court ruled against the teens: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found in June of this year that there is no “federal constitutional foundation” for the suit — protecting natural resources is a matter of state law.

So, even while trying to push its federal case to the Supreme Court, Our Children’s Trust is also now pursuing similar legal action in every state of the union. And the basic idea behind the kids’ lawsuits — that the government must protect the atmosphere as it would other natural and cultural resources — has the potential to change how we think about ownership of nature and the climate crisis. Ecological economist Bob Costanza even coined a catchy name for it: “claim the sky.”


This all officially kicked off on May 4, 2011, when the youth-and-lawyer team sued the government for not looking after our atmosphere, employing a well-established legal principle called the public trust doctrine. Public trust law — the idea that governments must safeguard certain critical natural systems from significant harm, such that we and our descendents can continue to benefit from them — dates back to ancient Roman civil law and can be traced through the Magna Carta to today’s federally managed forests, parks, and waterways. Applying the principle to the climate, however, is a relatively new experiment, called atmospheric trust litigation.

When Our Children’s Trust first filed its federal suit, the plaintiffs were hopeful that the court might heed their request for immediate action to tackle an impending crisis that worsens with each day of inaction. Three litigious years later, the tortuous legal process has not obliged. But the plaintiffs believe previous rulings to throw out the case were erroneous; now they’re hoping for some justice from the highest court in the land.

Yet even if the justices do choose to take this case and rule that the federal government does in fact have to protect nature as a public trust, the litigation still won’t be resolved. The case would then return to the lower U.S. Court of Appeals to determine whether the atmosphere is included in that responsibility.

These kids may be bigger underdogs than native species in a changing climate or local booksellers in the age of Amazon, but don’t despair. The campaign to claim the sky is just getting started.


Our Children’s Trust has actually had some limited success in its state-level lawsuit in Oregon. An Oregon trial court initially tossed the suit out, but in June, the state’s Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, declaring that the trial court has to consider the case on its merits and determine whether safeguarding the climate is part of the state’s public trust obligation. The kids in the federal case can only hope that SCOTUS sees it like the Oregon judges. This case got some national publicity last month when one of the plaintiffs — an 18-year-old walking across the country as part of the Great March for Climate Action — appeared on Bill Moyer’s TV show.

In another state case brought by youth, a Texas judge found back in 2012 that the atmosphere and air are public trusts, but still hasn’t made the state’s environmental agency write new rules to defend these resources.

Andrea Rodgers, an attorney working on atmospheric trust litigation in Washington state, says progress is slow not only because the legal process is so convoluted. So far, judges don’t want to be the ones who decide how (or even if) a state must address climate change.

“Most of the courts … have ruled that the judiciary doesn’t have a role in the climate change debate,” she says. “They’ve ruled that it’s a political question.”

Rodgers adds, “Judges are very leery to step in and make sure that the state legislatures are fulfilling their responsibility.”


So, since we don’t have much time to dawdle when it comes to reducing emissions, it’s fair to ask: Is this drawn-out atmospheric trust thing even useful? A number of legal scholars and climate strategists think so.

Underneath all the legal muck, there’s a new framework for thinking about climate change. We all own the atmosphere, so stop treating it like a waste dump, dammit!

Costanza, a professor at the Australian National University, recently wrote that the “claim the sky” slogan represents more than just using the legal system. “Claim the sky” has the potential to become a rallying cry for climate advocacy, a new way for the public to pressure lawmakers. Sure, the courtroom battles are important, Costanza told me, “but you also need the civil society movement and activity like the climate march just to keep things moving. And you need the government involvement.”

Author-activist Naomi Klein, whose new book is all the rage in climate circles, recognizes the power in mass movements, even when it comes to affecting the judiciary. She contends that “the courts, too — however much they may claim to be above such influences — are inevitably shaped by the values of the societies in which they function.”

Rodgers points to the movements for civil rights and gay marriage as evidence that what the citizens deem to be just and unjust can shape how judges apply the law. And framing the legal question of who should be held accountable for fixing the climate around future generations — that is, the children — could just be the spark that the climate movement needs.

“In a way this is our next civil rights movement,” she says. “These are kids whose right to a healthy and livable future are being denied.”

And the legal action could go beyond suing governments to demand they implement climate recovery plans. The litigation plan described by legal scholar Mary Wood, who quite literally wrote the book (reviewed here) on protecting the environment through public trust law, also involves suing the heck out of fossil fuel companies. As Wood explains, “Corporations that pollute the ocean through accidental spills, for example, are held accountable for natural resource damages. The same principle can extend to the atmosphere.”

Some law aficionados got excited about climate change-related suits last year when a study published in the journal Climatic Change found that just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of human-caused emissions. But Grist’s own Ben Adler served up some real talk about the limits of such a strategy in the United States: Legal experts say citizens can’t sue companies over their greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. federal court, and even if they could, proving that one company’s emissions caused some particular harm would be impossible.

Yet law experts Andrew Gage and Michael Byers are hopeful that the tide might soon turn. They recently published a piece called “Why climate litigation could soon go global” in The Globe and Mail:

So far, the fossil fuel industry has successfully opposed litigation for climate damages, brought in the United States by victims of hurricanes and sea level rise. But new areas of litigation often fail at first; in the 1980s, tobacco companies were still boasting that they “have never lost a case to a consumer, have never settled, and do not expect that picture to change.” As the tobacco industry learned, changes to the interpretation and application of laws sometimes occur quite rapidly.

Granted, Gage and Byers are talking about holding the fossil fuel industry accountable, not governments. But, as climate chaos draws closer, atmospheric trust litigation could serve as added legal pressure to hold some entity accountable for climate change.

“There’s no silver bullet, but I think there’s a silver shotgun,” says Costanza. We’d prefer a less violent analogy, but “claim the sky” is certainly a handy shell for holding together our climate-action ammunition.

As Maya Angelou once wrote, “A free bird … dares to claim the sky.”

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Graham Hancock, on the efficacy of “good and evil”

Listened to this 20-minute video while lying in bed early this morning. Good. Provocative. Haven’t read either of his own books to which he refers. Probably don’t need to. I viscerally “get” both the banality and viciousness of evil, plus the function of duality for free will in this 3D universe that a friend of his calls the “uni-versity.” Exactly! Whenever I’ve just gone through a particularly excruciating exercise in the “wrong use of will,” * I view whatever that experience cost me (in money or other kinds of treasure) as “tuition.”

* For years I wrestled with the difficult and provocative message in the little series of books published in 1984 called “The Right Use of Will“)

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Mercury Retrograde, October 4-25, 2014: Here’s MY process, what’s yours?


Note: Mercury stops, and goes retrograde (moves backward) three times each year, for three weeks each time. Mercury went Rx on October 4 and will turn to go direct on October 25th. What follows is an example of the kind of thinking process that might go on within us as we turn back time, wrestle with old questions, or try to deepen our understanding.

I seem to have a number of questions rolling around in my psyche, the answer to each of which determines how I move into the future.

These questions are all centered on a long manuscript that I wrote in 1986, A Soul’s Journey: 1942-1972. I began to search for this manuscript in May, and finally unearthed it in August. For the miraculous recent herstory of that project, see this, this, and this, in that order).

Since that blessed day when, to my astonishment, my late husband Jeff unearthed the only copy of this manuscript (see this, again),  and furthermore, did so on his own birthday, August 22, I sent a copy of the manuscript to Barry S-C, an editor in Indianapolis, with whom I had held a brief recent conversation and who I sensed, would not just edit it for punctuation and sense, but would actually understand what it was about, its thrust.

He returned the manuscript to me about three weeks ago, saying, in writing, that he was “privileged” to be the person chosen to edit it. I thought maybe that’s standard language for him when he edits a manuscript. But maybe not. More on that below.

For the past ten days or so, during this Mercury retrograde period, I have been spending an hour or two with his edited copy, going through the manuscript line by line, and once again, am astonished by how unusual it is, and possibly, what an addition it might make to the world’s corpus of understanding the 20th and early 21st centurys’ thrust of western philosophy and culture. I know that’s a huge claim to make, and I don’t want to make it, however, half-way through the manuscript, I see Barry has pencilled in what amounts to a testimonial.  Here it is:

This section puts me especially in mind of two other contemporaneous expressions of the circa-1970 zeitgeist: Robert M. Pirsig’s struggles with defining and implementing an ideal of “quality” in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Alvin Toffler’s attempt to articulste the dislocation of social cohesion and continuity catalyzed by technological culture (Future Shock, 1970). To be sure, both are by white males of the “educated” class, and should be understood within that frame. Your account depicts (in part) the effects of that zeitgeist on a specifically female consciousness with high levels of autonomy as well as education, a story that the ’70s themselves were only beginning to see as possible. Although that story seems “ahead of its time,” I think the operant question is not so much when it emerged as whether (as you affirm) it was necessary: Clearly it was. — B C-H

Interesting that I would see this commentary that Barry offered now, today, only three days before Mercury turns to go Direct, and during the late late old Moon prior to tomorrow’s New Moon in Scorpio (conjunct Venus, sextile Mars) which, I contend (see this and this, in that order), heralds a revisioning of both Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine and their integration.

Interesting that I would see that commentary now when I am wrestling with questions as to just how to (finally) publish this manuscript. As an e-book? As a printed book? Self-publish? Find an agent and send to a publisher?

These questions remain unanswered, but the testimonial is interesting. I wonder what Barry will have to say by the end of his journey with it. I’d rush through his edited copy myself, to see if there is any more commentary, but I prefer to continue to read it line by line, this remarkable document of a young woman’s physical/emotional/intellectual/spiritual process of unearthing the assumptions of the western psyche in her own body/feelings/mind/spirit and how they have crippled her. Even more remarkable, how she moved on through to the other side, how she burst through the bubble of the matrix, we would say now, and never looked back.

So now I’m looking back. And is the person here, now, at 71, the same “me” as that young woman in her late 20s who was so impelled by massive unconscious forces to destroy her conditioning, to wake up? And to do so during the very years when she was completing her doctorate in philosophy, writing and presenting her dissertation for their “approval,” by asking them, as my major professor commented, “to certify you as one of us while kicking us in the shins!”!

Who was, who is this young woman? I so admire her courage and tenacity. Then I realize. My god and goddess, it IS me! The same woman who woke up is still awake, despite many sidetracks and setbacks since, and still growing, still being blessed by endless miracles.

I have a sense that when Mercury turns, decisions as to how to “treat” this herstorical and psychological, feminist, philosophical, spiritual treasure, this “A Soul’s Journey,” will begin to jell within me — and that by the time Mercury moves out of its retrograde shadow, November 10th, I will be able to articulate and act on these recognitions.

Here, once again, for your possible consideration:

A Soul’s Journey, 1942-1972: Preface and Initial Scene

BTW: How I answer my questions may also effect whether or not I continue with this blog. While it’s fascinating for me to spend three to five hours of my precious time each day presenting my evolving perspective on current events both personal and collective, this looking back further into the deep personal past may be what I’m specifically called to do as a soul. I know that lots of people think that we shouldn’t look back. The past is done and gone! Just move on! The NOW is all we’ve got! But we know it’s not. Not until we stop repeating ourselves. Not until we stop killing each other and our planetary home.

I do seem to be quite equipped for, one might say, the job of comprehending, in detail, multiple dimensions of my own herstory in ways that may help to reveal the, unfortunately, still largely unconscious Zeitgeist of this crux time in human history.

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Tiny Buddha’s tranquility infects Oakland neighborhood

Last year I took a two month trip to Thailand, with a three-week segue to India, where we followed the trail of the Buddha’s life: his place of birth, meditation under the Bodhi tree leading to enlightenment, first teaching, and death. Many temples, and hundreds of Buddha statues later, I can say that despite their cultural and historical variations, they all spread an enigmatic smile that holds the surrounding atmosphere in tranquility.

For many years, that half smile upon its wooden statue has also graced my own mantle. 

Where else might such small gestures as purchasing a two foot high stone Buddha statue from Ace Hardware to place on a median strip in a graffiti- and trash-strewn, drug-riddled corner in an Oakland neighborhood clean up the area and reduce crime by 82%? And it gets even better. Read on.

Buddha seems to bring tranquility to Oakland neighborhood

Image: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle.

Image: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle.



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October 23 Solar Eclipse and Divine Masculine and Feminine Rebalancing, Take 2: “Has the atmosphere on Mars changed?”

On my walk with puppy Shadow this morning, I realized that I needed to do a Take 2 on the upcoming October 23 Solar Eclipse.

For yesterday’s article (Take 1) see:

Does this October 23 Solar Eclipse ease the relationship between the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine?

I wrote that piece in a white heat, even more so than usual. On the other hand, I must confess that whatever I’m going to say in response to something I see on the internet or in the world is usually unknown! I just get a feeling — a sort of uncomfortable”knot” in gut and heart and awareness — that needs to unravel. I can’t help but allow it to do that, word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, without my knowing what the next word or string of words will be.  This kind of writing requires enormous trust, obviously! And when it comes in a white heat like yesterday, I sometimes wonder if I really am crazy. As usual, all I could do to maintain my center during that rushing river of words was opt for grace and balance while falling through the rapids. (BTW: It helps that I do Tai chi daily!)

That said, I realize that my style, and my consciousness, naturally inclines to sketching out big perspectives in broad strokes (“Like a cartoon,” one of my professors once commented, and then added: “But you’re largely right” But was he right?). Especially does this kind of inspired? infused? ignorant? writing come now, impulsed by whatever’s going on regarding transit Mars and the Galactic Center and my own natal Sun, all lined up at around 27° Sagittarius!

I mentioned late last week —where? When? Aaaah. It was in commentary to the Jessica Murray post on October 17th —

On strong, disturbing Mars transits to the U.S. chart now through mid-December

— that a once-in-a million-year comet — whooee! What’s the import of that?!— would whiz by Mars on Sunday, October 19. To me, this exceptionally rare Mars event adds extraordinary punch to the idea that not only our experience of Mars (male energy), but the physical planet Mars itself (after a million years?) is being slam-banged into a new configuration.

Here’s a post from today about Sunday’s event and WOW!

Sliding Spring Comet Causes Huge Explosion on Mars

Huge is an understatement. The flashing seems to cover at least 2/3 of the face of Mars. Note  the commentator’s question about the explosion: “Did it change the atmosphere”?

Yes, and did this physical explosion on the surface of Mars herald a change in the atmosphere of the way Mars energies work on Earth, inside human beings, a transformation of the way Masculine energy works, from unconscious to conscious? From the mind-controlled “soldier” who kills and destroys to the independent, self-aware “warrior” who protects and guards with his very life the Divine Feminine from whom new life is born and nurtured?

In yesterday’s white heat, I forgot to mention the connection between the Sun/Moon/Venus Solar Eclipse at 0° Scorpio with the fact that when Mercury turned to go Rx on October 4th, it was at 2° Scorpio, just barely past that same 0°. It retrograded over 0° Scorpio again on September 28-29, and kept going, back into late Libra. On October 25, only two days past the Solar Eclipse, it will turn to go direct at 16° Libra, and then retrace the same ground again until it reaches 0° Scorpio and on to 2° Scorpio, where it finally passes out of the “shadow” of the retrograde period.

I sense that this area of Scorpio, 0-2°, will be highly charged during that period, echoing both the solar eclipse with Venus sextiling Mars, and Mercury’s own backtracking period of coming to terms with what it knows.

Just today on facebook I saw where a sweet young woman, daughter of an old friend of mine, has finally decided, despite eight heart-wrenching months of couples counseling, that their partnership is at an end. She tells the world, and is admittedly very sad about this recognition. How many other relationships are coming to terms with the completion of their cycles — or their regeneration? Both are possible.

And how many of us are consciously reworking the alchemical relationship within ourselves of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine during this storied time?

And what will be the fallout collectively, over the years, and decades, and centuries, of these rebalancings, both internal and external?

And just to add one more punch to this idea, check out a new jhaines post today that also references the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine.

Bamboo Water: Enders Game, My Preliminary Thoughts



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