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Every Day 25/05/2016

Posted by zoidion in Hellenistic.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Amid the profusion of the season’s grand eruption of green growth, there are wonders to behold.

Bundles of hops shoots twist around each other as they reach for the sky. Hardy kiwi vines, male and female alike, show flowers, despite the presence of some black and crispy leaves, singed by a light frost that hit them a week after average last frost. The vines from the groundnut tubers — more patient, awaiting a steady sixty-degree soil temperature — are now bursting out of the ground and seeking something to climb on.

The elderberry bushes show many hefty green shoots two feet long already — and the first tiny flowers forming.

The lilac blooms have come and gone, and now it is the peonies’ turn.

And amid such biological marvels has been the majesty of astrometeorology. The one day with a temperature exceeding ninety was the sixth of May: the day of a New Moon that fell on the western horizon of the season chart. The late frosts came as the Moon crossed the upper meridian of said chart. The following week was clear, dry, gradually warming: a most pleasant stretch. The temperature reached a warm eighty coincident with the Full Moon conjunct Mars, and following the Moon’s crossing of the place of Saturn in the zodiac the weather pattern has turned appropriately stormy. (I forecast as much to a small group of local astrologers gathered for a livecast presentation by Adam Elenbass.)

What heat we had up til now was dry. Now the air has a summery feel, with downpours to match.

Every day doth a fresh outrage display.

This day’s outrage: the news, three weeks stale, that the Colorado Supreme Court has decided that, in effect, frackers’ right to frack trumps communities’ right to clean drinking water. What the frack??!!

It’s hard to comprehend the seemingly suicidal mentality that underpins the standard practices of industrial civilization, day after day, decade after decade, across the world. It certainly seems that an environmental awareness — the consciousness that each person, each living thing, is utterly dependent upon the environment that surrounds (s)he/it —  is bafflingly lacking as a civilizational orientation. And it seems obvious that seldom is any potentially destructive project halted by anything less than the lack of the wherewithal for accomplishing it: The entire Earth is a sacrifice zone.

And yet Kurt Cobb’s recent piece about the blindsidedness of the modernist mentality comes very close to spelling it out.

Cobb summarizes four main tenets of the modern outlook — what might also be described as the creed of Progress:

1. Humans are in one category and nature is in another.

2. Scale doesn’t matter.

3. History can be safely ignored since modern society has seen through the delusions of the past.

4. Science is a unified, coherent field that explains the rational principles by which we can manage the physical world.

Embraced together, as a materialist theology, they amount to a disregard of risk, a vow that the costs of Progress are someone else’s — even some other generation’s — problem. And the disregard stems from denial of the complexity of the life support system — Gaia — that all inhabit.

The failure to recognize complexity might be termed the Midgley Effect. Honored by his profession, Thomas Midgley was a prominent mad scientist of the twentieth century: the heyday of Progress. It was Midgley who in the 1920s led a team that came up with the notion of adding lead to gasoline to reduce or eliminate the “knocking” within car engines. This despite centuries’ worth of lead’s association with serious debilitation. Midgley and others involved in promoting the tetra-ethyl-lead additive chose to conceal the presence of lead by referring to it as “ethyl.”

Midgley went much further: On 30 October 1924 — just before, note, the annual thinning of the veil between life and death known as All Hallows Eve — he held a press conference and demonstration of its “safety”  by pouring the additive over his hands and inhaling the vapors for one minute. Shortly thereafter, he sailed for Europe, seeking treatment for lead poisoning. But the additive continued in  use for decades.

Midgley had more mischief to do: He was the lead chemist in developing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 1930. These stable compounds were effective refrigeration and propellent agents, and came to be used in vast quantities. But they were used blithely, without considering their effects upon the world at large, after ruptures or use in aerosols.

Author Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything, wrote that Midgley had “an instinct for the regrettable that was almost uncanny.”

It was James Lovelock — the scientist / inventor to whom the Gaia awareness (Earth as a wholistic, self-regulating system) came in 1965 — who began observing CFCs in the atmosphere of Earth’s polar regions. Further research led to discovery of a hole in the life-preserving ozone layer of the atmosphere.

An open-minded official of the Atomic Energy Commission then invited atmospheric chemist Sherwood Rowland to attend a presentation of Lovelock’s observations in January 1972.

Rowland, the offspring of parents and an Ohio small town that valued a broad education emphasizing investigation and discussion, went on to combine rigorous research with the implications of simple question: Where do chlorofluorocarbons go after they are released into the environment?

He and his collaborators found that one CFC molecule could destroy millions of ozone molecules before being neutralized. Their findings, published in 1974, shocked the world, instigating an ugly fight with the lucrative CFC industry: Rowland was accused by industry defenders of being a Soviet KGB agent whose mission was to undermine the capitalist system. A chemical company executive insulted him in person as “an environmental do-gooder,” and in the 1980s then-president Reagan’s Environmental Protection Agency’s chief officer referred to his work as a scare tactic. But the findings were confirmed by scientists worldwide, especially the British Antarctic Survey in 1986 — leading to the Montreal Protocol in 1987: the sort of international agreement that is nearly inconceivable now in reference to runaway climate chaos.

Rowland and collaborator Mario Molina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.

There’s no reason to assume, however, that the CFC problem is solved: The damage is done. Ozone depletion is still at a crucial level: a forty percent drop in Arctic ozone as of the winter of 2010-11, and many of us remain hyper-vigilant about exposure to solar radiation.

Hence J. R. McNeill’s comment that Midgley had “more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.” (Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World)

Thus, it’s understandable how the objective, rational Rowland could be so emotionally affected by the implications of his discovery as to remark: “The work is going well, but it looks like it might be the end of the world.” (Life Stories: World-Renowned Scientists Reflect on Their Lives and the Future of Life on Earth, Newbold, ed., 2000)

Thomas Midgley was a product of the glory days of science and invention: He was born 19 May 1889 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. In fact, he came into the world one lunar month after another madman: Adolf Hitler. As Hitler’s life and plans were unraveling, so were Midgley’s: He contracted poliomyelitis in 1940, but, continuing his inventive ways, he devised an elaborate system of cords and pulleys to help others lift him from his bed. On 2 November 1944, however, he became entangled in and strangled by his own system.

Hitler’s Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn — both bodies debilitated within that zoidion — functioned through the third place (house) in the horoscope: manifesting as spellbinding, deranged oratory and attachment to yes-men.

Midgley’s Moon and Jupiter in Capricorn likely functioned through the sixth place of illness: speculation in the absence of any published record that might include a time of birth.

Saturn in Leo — also debilitated in the traditional system of planetary dignity — would thus occupy the first place, reflecting Midgley’s misplaced self-confidence which caused grievous physical harm. But his confidence bought him prominence, as represented by the Sun — lord of Leo — in the tenth place within this scheme.

(Jupiter and Saturn have special significance and potency in his speculative diurnal chart.)

Mercury’s dignity in Gemini in the eleventh place reflects the high regard of his professional peers for his intellectual capacities. (His team’s research was supported by household name Charles Kettering.)

Midgley’s solar return for 1924 featured another Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Sagittarius, Jupiter’s domicile — representing a carte blanche sense of expansionism. (The same combination was in the sky on the day of his infamous demonstration.) Also in the solar return pattern for the year: Mars in exact opposition to natal Saturn: trouble near at hand. And the profection — an orderly cycle of one place (house) after another — for that year (age thirty-five) featured the twelfth place, correlating with situations of isolation and self-undoing: not a time for recklessness.

On that late October day, the Sun was configured closely with Saturn and Mercury on either side, both planets enveloped in the Sun’s glare: no precautionary principle in operation.


For the far more sensible Sherwood Rowland, never one for sensational stunts, there is less record of events on which to base a speculative birthchart. The date — 28 June 1927: the date of a total solar eclipse — is sure, as is the place: Delaware, Ohio.

The standout planetary combination on his birthdate is an exact one involving Jupiter (in Aries) and Saturn (in Sagittarius), with Uranus added by close conjunction with Jupiter. The zoidia are of the fire element, indicating a capability or opportunity for activities of a comprehensive yet pioneering nature, with a strong element of caution and level-headedness.

Rowland’s long and fortunate marriage to a woman who became an active participant in his research occurred at age twenty-four, a seventh-place profection year marked by a Jupiter return. This strongly suggests Jupiter in the seventh place of his natal chart.

Age forty-four was a turning point, guiding him toward his most notable work, and ultimately world recognition. Age forty-four is a ninth-place profection year, with mentally curious Gemini in the ninth place of this speculative chart. Looking to Gemini’s planetary lord, Mercury, it is found in the last degree of Cancer in the tenth place, the place of vocation and recognition: a fitting link.

A description of Rowland’s character as “gracious and dignified” would be in keeping with a speculative Libra ascendant, with lord (lady) Venus placed in Leo and the eleventh place. This would accord with his successful negotiation of his professional group (Leo’s lord, the Sun, being in the tenth place).

The Moon — being the lady holding sway over the zoidion of Rowland’s Sun — placed in the very last degree of the preceding zoidion, is an apt representation of the extremity of his subject of renown: whether one of the products of the industrial system could provoke the conditions for its annihilation.

Saturn in the third place would accord with the systematic, conscientious and evidence-based characteristics necessary to the profession to which he was drawn since youth. He could be an exemplar of the scientific mind: sober and methodical, yet open-minded.


Two more disparate characters within one professional area could scarcely be imagined: one discrediting, the other upholding the principles of honest inquiry.

One is quoted as saying: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”

Leave it to the reader to surmise which one.


Planets and Civilizations 30/04/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, History, Mundane, Photography.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Much of the garden is in the ground — at least in the form of seeds — even though the average last-frost date is still a week away. Even at sunup (yay!) yesterday, as I set out to explore and photograph along the Mississippi, there was visible frost on some roofs and an invisible slick coating on our deck.


(Can you spot the fourth-quarter Moon? Hint: The tree leaning right is pointing to it.)

And in the past week the weather has at last met expectations for the season: overall cool and wet. 

Yes, I am well aware of reports of ongoing global warming trends, but that doesn’t mean warmer weather everywhere all the time. That’s why I abhor the term “global warming,” preferring instead “climate disruption.” (Here’s a state-by-state summary of preparedness for its effects.)  

The backyard precipitation gauge this past week recorded very nearly three inches of rain over a five-day siege. I watched the soil temperature gauge drop by almost ten degrees during that spell.

There has been enough intermittent warmth to bring out many blossoms on the cherry and one of the pear trees, and a few on the lilac bush. Ah, spring.

Among the good news: A second water barrel with a hose to distribute the overflow is now in place. It used to be in what used to be the community garden: the small triangle of land, formerly county-owned, that was bought last fall by the owner of the adjacent storage building. The couple who contributed it didn’t want it back; in fact, he made a strange comment to me, that around here we don’t need to be concerned about having enough rainfall. Short memory, I guess.

I also put in some serious labor, digging out a lot of creeping charlie (alias ground ivy, alias gill-over-the-ground, alias field balm; Glecoma hederacea). It got well established in the area occupied by the big elm tree, until 2012. But it’s time for something else: nitrogen-fixing white clover.

Putting onion sets (young onion plants) into the soil brought to mind a mystery — eventually solved — that occurred a few years ago about this time. The period had been about as wet as this week has been. Near the beginning of that wet spell, I’d put the onions in the ground, only to find, next morning, many of the plants flat on the ground — though with no evidence of having been chewed. I put them back in their places, only to find many back on the ground again . . . and again. What the . . . ? 

At last the idea came to stand watch at dusk, flashlight in hand. Before long, a peculiar squishy sound was coming from that area. The flashlight’s beam revealed a veritable convention of earthworms writhing (mating??), and it was evident that many had reached the surface by following the holes in which the onions were sitting: It seemed the worms were in effect pushing the onions out of the ground. Weird.

An occasional area of climate research — volcanic events — has led to a couple of particularly vivid books: Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, David Keys,1999; and Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World, Alexandra Witze & Jeff Kanipe, 2014.

And they lead of course into intriguing astrological investigations, and questions of prospects for any such events in the foreseeable future.

The first details historical evidence of civilizational collapses — including the Roman and Chinese empires — that followed a vast explosion that the author has narrowed down to February 535 and probably to the region between the islands of Sumatra and Java (modern Indonesia). The major planetary configuration of that year was the rare opposition of Saturn and Uranus to Neptune — the three biggest planets in our solar system after Jupiter. In addition, the Full Moon of that month was closely aligned with all three planets.

That was a lot of gravitational force, a great tug of war. No wonder Earth exploded.

Bandung eruption 535

Mr. Keys summarizes the fallout:

Key aspects of change, while ultimately triggered by a force of nature, were finally delivered through a plethora of consequent ecological, political, epidemiological, economic, religious, demographic and other mechanisms that interacted with each other for up to a hundred event-filled years before producing final, irreversible change.

Whew! It seems fortunate that such events (and overlapping indicative if not causative planetary cycles) are rare.

The event detailed in Witze and Kanipe’s book — the eruption of Laki in Iceland in 1783 — produced great misery on the island and across much of Europe, but not worldwide. Even so, the effects likely contributed to notable political instability, most famously the French Revolution. Again, the Saturn-Uranus cycle was “active”: the opposition phase, thus with Earth in between. But Jupiter (the largest planet) was only twenty-one degrees away from Saturn when the eruption started. Again, an unusual amount of planetary gravitational force.

Laki eruption 1783

While a much more extensive investigation of major volcanic events would be useful, a likely pattern is opposition involving at least two of the large outer planets. Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately for devotees of the idea of imminent human extinction — such a configuration is more than a few years away: 2030-31, when Jupiter will oppose Saturn and Uranus.

Something to look forward to.


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