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Syrious Situation 25/11/2015

Posted by zoidion in agriculture, Climate, History, Long Emergency, Mundane.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Last week’s rains (nearly two inches) and the hard freeze that followed brought the year’s organic growth to a halt. The blue-star-flowered borage plants which had weathered several light frosts finally collapsed. The leaves of the transplanted Good King Henry and lovage withered and disintegrated, along with the juicy and stringy leaves of comfrey.

The rich, dark color of the beet leaves remained, though they had gone sadly floppy. It was time, yesterday, to dig them and the carrots out of the ground; time, too, to take the last of the broccoli florets off their stems.

It was a most remarkable growing season: a relatively cool summer and warm fall, with rains coming as and when needed, with many pleasant days and few incidents of violent weather. Local meteorologists have been calling this a rare and wonderful weather year.

Before the final digging, it seemed appropriate to visit Indian Mounds Park. There, the bones of ancient ancestors, within the mounds behind the camera, watch over a recent memorial as the cyclical waters of the Mississippi River flow along a great arc past the city of St. Paul.


It’s hard to imagine how or when the situation in Syria could improve, as years of unrelenting woe grind that nation to dust.

The first generally noticed hints of trouble were the mass protests that came in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. (The Syrian Day of Rage was 15 March 2011.) By April a peaceful demonstration by tens of thousands was met with bullets. By mid-May the U.S. was applying economic sanctions. By mid-August, security forces herded thousands into a stadium in the port city of Latakia and confiscated their identity cards and cell phones.

The situation deteriorated so severely that by mid-summer 2012 the International Committee of the Red Cross declared that a state of civil war existed.

The next severity clue was reports of a chemical weapons attack (using the nerve agent sarin) on a civilian sector of Damascus on 21 August 2013: two months after the official start of U.S. arms shipments to rebel groups. By then, the war had claimed over 100,000 lives.

In recent weeks, Russia has entered the fray, only to see a planeload of its citizens crash in flames: destroyed by an onboard bomb. And France’s involvement has been repaid with well-planned attacks in the heart of Paris.

And the refugees: They had only spilled over into neighboring country. Now, four-and-a-half years since the eruption, just about everyone knows about the flood of Syrian refugees overflowing western Europe and generating domestic U.S. political controversy.

But what actually triggered such a tragedy? For months now, more and more reports are pointing to drought–beginning in 2006 but particularly severe in 2007-08–as a major factor. Crops failed and farm families abandoned the countryside, adding their dire needs to the already-crowded cities. And the country would need to buy much more food abroad.

Plus there’s the oil factor. Oil? you say — in Syria? Well, yes. Syria was never more than a minor producer for the world market, but the revenues formed a large portion of the national budget: 25% in 2010, fifteen years after peak production.

More crucially, as Ugo Bardi points out in his article, “What Crude Oil Gives, Crude Oil Will Take Away”

“Around 2011, the internal consumption curve crossed the production curve and that transformed the country from an oil exporter to an oil importer. The cross-over point corresponded to the start of the civil war.”

The path has been downhill ever since, as financial / material / social resources have been diverted from the life of the country to uses conjuring only more chaos.

Astrologically, the turning is strongly represented in a comparison of the 1 January 1944 chart for the Syrian state with the solar return chart of 31 December 2009. In a general sense, the 1944 chart shows many buried or deferred issues — stemming from military occupation and the artificial boundaries imposed on the region by the Western colonial powers Britain and France several decades earlier — symbolized by five planets (Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus) in retrograde motion.

That a crisis was at hand as 2009 turned to 2010 was readily apparent: The solar return took place on the date of a lunar eclipse, just weeks after the world’s top political figures met in Copenhagen and decided to do nothing about the deepening climate crisis.


That it would become a military crisis for Syria is aptly represented in the solar return (not shown) at the end of 2010: The Sun (symbolizing the state and its head) was besieged by Mars (war) and Pluto (utter destruction / transformation).

The underlying economic troubles at that point were symbolized by Venus’ conjunction (along with the Moon) with Venus’ place in the 1944 chart. (Both Moon and Venus are “debilitated” in the sign of Scorpio, but there’s no need for a lengthy discussion of astro-philosophy here.) With transiting Neptune in the mix, triggering 1944 Venus and Jupiter, the unraveling of an already precarious economic situation was in the cards.

The religious schism within Islam, yet another factor in the Syrian situation, stems from the murder of the caliph Ali, nephew and son-in-law of Mohammed, in January 661. (Ali’s followers came to be called Shiites, from the Arabic shi’at Ali, or “taking the part of Ali.”) The chart (below) for the sighting of the crescent Moon following that event represents a most potent persistence. The Sun with Uranus indicates the division itself, while Saturn (with Neptune) opposing Jupiter and Pluto indicates the intractable religiously-based political power blocs — a very rare overlapping of long cycles. Mars, in “domicile” in Aries, shows the force of war unleashed.

Sunni - Shiite schism

It is grimly fitting that the major configuration of the year 661 drops like a puzzle piece into the 1944 Syria chart: the part correlating with the precarious economy.

It serves as a reminder that the limits to growth cannot be denied, that when a society’s energy requirements fall short, historic cultural forces overwhelm the polity.



Hard Rains 09/11/2015

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, Long Emergency, permaculture, Photography, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: It was yet another gloriously sunny, mild day–well-suited to starting the process of finding my roots again. After just a few hours sleep, some mysterious internal switch flicked on with a message: time to get outside in the first light, while the sliver of waning Moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter (lowest to highest) could afford a celestial greeting.

And so I got to work, hauling, two at a time, about fifteen tall brown-paper bags stuffed with dry leaves  from a few doors down the alley. No sense in letting them disappear when I can use them for compost and winter insulation on garden beds.

There was no hurry in the cool but far from frosty air. It was good, helpful even, to look around at the silhouettes of trees, their forms bared by the winds and shorter days of my week away. It was necessary to let thoughts, recollections, images from my sojourn float through consciousness.

Some were of natural wonder from the gardens of the Smithsonian:


Others were of the nutritional wisdom contained in the three sisters (maize, beans and squash) growing outside the National Museum of the American Indian:


Some were of the ongoing overlording presence of national governments over the affairs of indigenous affairs, represented in the Capitol dome shrouded in scaffolding:


Some were of the marvels of aquatic gardens, viewed from dry land:



But it was difficult to shake off remembrance of more disturbing images, mostly from the Newseum. The section of the Berlin Wall and the reconstructed watchtower topped with searchlight: all white, for contrast with any would-be escapee from the East, the easier for gunning down. The rooms on the U.S. civil rights struggle, its vicious side and, yes, its decency and courage. The 9/11 area, with its twisted section of broadcast antenna from one of the World Trade Towers, and the wrecked cameras of the photographer who ran toward trouble that terrible morning. In another area, the tall wall nearly covered with photographs of journalists whose dedication has cost them their lives. The room with walls covered with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, nearly all of them of tragedies: of accidents, firefights, executions.

Where’s the good news? And where are any latter-day stories about the compromises, the coverups, the failures of fat-cat corporate news? Not at the Newseum. It’s all yesterdays’ sorrows and sacrifices. There wasn’t the slightest hint of anything as truly ugly as the story within the documentary “Truth.”

The motto there is: There’s more to every story. 

Indeed there is.

More and more, in this new age of climate chaos, there’s literal meaning in Bob Dylan’s timeless phrase: “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” And more and more, displaced people are on the move: from submerging islands, from Bangladesh, soon from Florida (if not already).

On top of drought and war effects in the Middle East, strange rains are hitting as well.

Two tropical cyclones within a week — unprecedented — affected Yemen and islands offshore. And rare heavy rainstorms inundated parts of Iraq, where water supplies, sanitation and availability of electricity have been undermined by decades of war and economic sanctions. And where millennia of deforestation have fundamentally altered the landscape and its ability to absorb, contain and ultimately use rare excess moisture.

(These are prime candidates for permaculture practices, at small scale, in some pockets apart from the surges of war and streams of refugees. See “The Greening of the Desert.”)

(Both these weather stories popped up on Rice Farmer’s blog.)

These are freak events, but certainly some freakish events could be anticipated by any reasonably competent astro-meteorologist noting the relevant seasonal and lunation charts for the region of the Arabian peninsula.

The potential — the likelihood at some point — is rather obvious: The water sign Pisces on the crucial lower meridian, along with Neptune therein: oceanic Neptune associated especially with flooding.


The core indication simply needed a cosmic trigger: October’s Full Moon. That was the period when the Venus-Mars-Jupiter cluster (in opposition to Neptune) was tightest: within only three degrees of longitude. Crossing the upper meridian of the season chart. And upon the horizon at Full Moon.



“Iraq was hit by multiple days of heavy rain that, when combined with the country’s aging infrastructure, caused major flooding in Baghdad and other areas, resulting in deaths and health problems. In areas of Baghdad where infrastructure is decrepit, streets and houses were flooded with rainwater and sewage. Some areas are still flooded despite days of clear weather following the rains.” – International Business Times

Alas, the ecological and social fabrics were already shredded. And once either or both are allowed to fray, collapse is what follows. Increasingly under weather events. (Watch what happens with South Carolina.)

Hard rains indeed.


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