The Expectations Barrier
Upsets are unmet expectations. Expectations are premeditated upsets.
Al Gore has a standard line in his public talks about the daily climate headlines sounding like a walk through the Book of Revelations. Present weather phenomena reinforces that impression with each passing week.
Australia’s largest city is flooded up to its rooftops for the fourth time in 18 months. On a bad day, it gets more rain than London gets in an average year.
In Bangladesh, 5 million homes have been washed away.
Even Oman is having Biblical floods.
The falling water gauge of Lake Powell threatens to desertify Los Angeles as the American Southwest dries up and blows away.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ordered seven states to reduce water demand by 4 million acre-feet to stave off collapse in the Colorado River.
Heatwaves and droughts are pummeling China, Africa, Iraq and Pakistan. Kenya’s drought is the worst in 70 years, Japan’s since 1875.
Spain and Portugal are suffering their driest climate in 1,200 years.
Italy’s farmers report that seawater is now seeping inland to contaminate groundwater as the Po runs dry.
Those who are upset about the pace or direction of change are unsteady because newly presented realities do not match preconceived expectations. All upsets derive from unmet expectations. All expectations are premeditated upsets.
The Great Change is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
In 2018 France, the Yellow Vests (mouvement des gilets jaunes) rioted over higher fuel prices and retail taxes on petroleum. In 2022 Holland, farmers are protesting because the Dutch government took away their fertilizer. In Sri Lanka, they are rioting because the government’s bankruptcy took their gasoline. To get to Net Zero and beyond, we will all need higher fuel prices, less fertilizer, and gas fasts. All essential climate mitigation measures upset settled expectations. Thinking about going vegan? Good. Now think about euthanizing your pets. Everyone has their threshold for what’s upsetting.
Stare Decisis is for Suckers
A fetid slurry of end-of-term decisions by the US Supreme Court upset shitloads of expectations. Take, for example, the ruling against abortion, in which Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, advocated overturning the “legal fiction” of substantive due process, including the right to family planning (1965); contraception (1972); homosexual sex (2003); fornication outside marriage (2005); same-sex marriage and adoption (2015); and the equal rights of transgender persons (2020).
Thomas, now with the support of a supermajority of the Supremes, is inviting a generation of fresh litigants to bring cases challenging well-established precedents in order that they may return “settled” expectations back to the days when “aberrant” behavior was punishable by arrest, fines, imprisonment and death (as it remains today in many Islamic nations).
Ironically, this sweeping repeal would likely overturn Loving vs. Virginia (1967) which permitted Justice Thomas, a black man, to legally marry Trump superinfluencer and January 6 Insurrection organizer Gini Thomas, a white woman. Loving was one of the first cases to extend the 14th Amendment’s due process provision to the substantive due process doctrine Thomas is targeting.
I recommend reading Thomas’s concurring opinion in its entirety. It marks the present direction of the United States, where if an election were held today, President Biden would lose by a wide margin and Republicans would sweep both House and Senate and add many state legislatures and courts to their retrofuturist roster. We are seeing, as Ivan Illich warned, “the shadows our future throws.”
Precedents are for Punks
The Court has been telegraphing a shift to plutocratic minority rule for at least a decade, removing the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, allowing discrimination towards minorities through redistricting, inviting unbridled corporate donations as free speech, dropping separation of church and state from the First Amendment, and more. The larger picture is that this is all part of a longer game that came in response to the Warren Court upending settled expectations in the 1960s. As UMich Law Professor Leah Litman told Jon Stewart:
You know, there is this idea kind of floating around, that this decision in Dobbs just magically happened because Mitch McConnell blockaded President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland and Justice Ginsburg just happened to die. But what that overlooks is the conservative legal movement working over the last 40 years to build a network of power, to build a network of ideas, to exercise the maximum extent of political power they could, to obtain all of the political power that they could, and work for the long game to be ready for a world in which they could control the Supreme Court. That took four decades. That might be the time horizon that progressives are working with.
I recently welcomed my old friend, Murad AlKhufash, here to the Ecovillage Training Center for a week. We met in 1991 during the First Intifada when I was taken to his permaculture farm in the West Bank by the organizer of Green Kibbutz Movement, Jan Bang. During the Second Intifada in 2000-2005, I brought Murad to the US to teach for a season at the Ecovillage Training Center. He kept trying to convert me to Islam but I kept telling him I was not into stoning homosexuals and fornicators. Palestine is one of those places where homosexuality (between men) is still illegal. In 2017, the PA Attorney General moved to prosecute writer Abbad Yahya, and ban his novel Crime in Ramallah, for merely exploring LGBT themes in the Islamic context. In 2019, a trans woman, a gay man and their friend were brutally beaten, robbed and had their car damaged by a group of men as Palestinian police officers “stood idle.” In Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and 8 other countries, you can be put to death for homosexuality. At least 69 countries have national laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults and nine countries have national laws criminalizing forms of gender expression that target transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
Sex Assignment Homework
While attitudes are slowly changing, they are not keeping pace with science by an enlarging margin. Once upon a time, it was thought there might be a gay gene that might explain why Kinsey showed in the 1970s, to the astonishment and unsettled expectations of many, that at least 10 percent of the US population was gay. The breaker of the Enigma code that changed the course of World War II and the inventor of the modern computer, Alan Turing, committed suicide after being forced to choose between imprisonment and hormone therapy. A gay gene might dispel the controversy between nature and nurture, it was hoped, but alas, even CRISPR and the unpacking of the human genome failed to locate one.
That is likely a good thing, otherwise, a CRISPR lab in Wuhan might already be performing gender assignment modification on the genes of suspected gay fetuses.
The big breakthrough came in 2009, however, with the publication in Functional Neurology of Dick Swaab and Alicia Garcia-Falgueras,’ “Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation.” Swaab and Garcia-Falgueras determined that the process of sexual differentiation of the brain happens in two distinct phases. You can call the first “biological sex” but the term is misleading. It begins with the mating of sperm and egg and the choice of a sex-determining gene on the Y chromosome (SRY). Eventually, the presence or absence of androgens determines whether or not a penis, prostate and scrotum are formed or a vagina, womb and ovaries. These develop in the sixth week of pregnancy.
The second phase occurs in the developing brain cells of the fetus, beginning nearly five months into the pregnancy. During this period, gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender), sexual orientation, cognition, aggression, and other behaviors are programmed by a different set of hormones into the emerging brain cells. Ten to 15 percent of the time, these brain hormones do not match the androgens that programmed the formation of your genitalia. Swaab and Garcia-Falgueras concluded:
… [T]he degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. Our observations on reversed sex differences in the brains of transsexual people support the idea that transsexuality is based on an opposite sexual differentiation of (i) sexual organs during the first couple of months of pregnancy and (ii) the brain in the second half of pregnancy. There is no proof that the social environment after birth has an effect on the development of gender or sexual orientation, while the possible effects on sexual differentiation of the brain by endocrine disrupters in the environment and in medicines given to the pregnant mother should be investigated.
The two researchers further concluded that gender is not a binary distinction, but should be assigned along a spectrum, reporting that “the evidence shows that humans have a vast array of brain differences, related not only to gender but also to sexual orientation.”
These observations led to the “mosaic” hypothesis—the expectation of high variability in the degree of “maleness”/“femaleness” of different features within a single brain.
For those children—all 800 million of you—whose gender hormone assignments in the third trimester did not match the sex organ assignments in your first trimester, through no fault of your own, just a roll of the dice, your identity falls elsewhere in the mosaic of possibilities.
Incidentally, a schoolteacher who tries to explain this to children in Florida will now be fired, fined or imprisoned. Gender assignment—not caused by socialization or a “gay gene” and rather by a mistranscription in the third trimester, “normal” in that it occurs >10% of the time—of course, cannot be legislated. It can only be made irrationally illegal.
The US Supreme Court, having declared that the merging of church and state is now constitutional, is leaning strongly in the direction of dictating some sort of Christianized Sharia law for the United States. The Court’s supermajority is living in a century before we knew how the fetus gets its sexual programming.
In the West Virginia vs. EPA decision repealing greenhouse gas rulemaking, Justice Kagan summed it up with her dissent:
Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change. And let’s say the obvious: The stakes here are high. Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decision-maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.
The Mississippi abortion decision, the New York concealed weapon go-ahead, the West Virginia coal mining win, and the commingling of church and theocratic state are all turning the clock back to a simpler time.
To a time of more settled expectations.
Towns, villages and cities in the Ukraine are being bombed every day. As refugees pour out into the countryside, they must rest by day so they can travel by night. Ecovillages and permaculture farms have organized something like an underground railroad to shelter families fleeing the cities, either on a long-term basis or temporarily, as people wait for the best moments to cross the border to a safer place, or to return to their homes if that becomes possible. So far there are 62 sites in Ukraine and 265 around the region. They are calling their project “The Green Road.”
The Green Road also wants to address the ongoing food crisis at the local level by helping people grow their own food, and they are raising money to acquire farm machinery, seed, and to erect greenhouses. The opportunity, however, is larger than that. The majority of the migrants are children. This will be the first experience in ecovillage living for most. They will directly experience its wonders, skills, and safety. They may never want to go back. Those that do will carry the seeds within them of the better world they glimpsed through the eyes of a child.
Those wishing to make a tax-deductible gift can do so through Global Village Institute by going to http://PayPal.me/greenroad2022 or by directing donations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is more info on the Global Village Institute website at https://www.gvix.org/greenroad
The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing.
As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience.
Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger or Substack subscriptions are needed and welcomed. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.
“There are the good tipping points, the tipping points in public consciousness when it comes to addressing this crisis, and I think we are very close to that.”
— Climate Scientist Michael Mann, January 13, 2021.
Want to help make a difference while you shop in the Amazon app, at no extra cost to you? Simply follow the instructions below to select “Global Village Institute” as your charity and activate AmazonSmile in the app. They’ll donate a portion of your eligible purchases to us.
How it works:
1. Open the Amazon app on your phone
2. Select the main menu (=) & tap on “AmazonSmile” within Programs & Features
3. Select “Global Village Institute” as your charity
4. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate AmazonSmile in the mobile app
The Great Change is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.