Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Humanimal

Please view this CLIP before reading on:

We exist in a big circus and don't seem to mind as long as we get our fix of entertainment. I was sleeping.

Coral Reefs are plundered for their exotic species everyday and wild Fish and Invertebrates end up in aquarium shops across the world. Rainforest Songbirds are lured into traps to then be sold in the same fashion, where they may sit on Tree branches in a storefront with a chain on their ankles or caged for public viewership. Iguanas and wild Reptiles are captured and placed in cages so we can feel a sense of companionship at home. I used to 'own' an iguana...we adopted Spike. I never met the person our family inherited him from--I wonder if he was a PetCo purchase or a product of the exotic trading market. Even though through owning Spike I learned the daily process of care-taking Animals at the age of 6, even though after school I would open his cage door to let him crawl around my room like a playground, even though when he died I shed tears on his rostral horns, despite all these things I would associate with love, the truth is Spike lived predominantly as an extension of my human needs.

Towards the end of high school, I decided to invest in setting up a 20 gallon saltwater Fish tank for my senior project. Because 'I loved animals', right?! (I'm almost certain sure the fish store I bought 'my' 'Nemo' Clownfish--I was basic af as a high schooler--from was involved in this trading.) Within 2 years, all of the organisms ended up dying from eating one another or dying from unstable water properties. Water temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate levels and much more all affect the life quality of these Marine Animals. When some of 'my' Fish went missing, I noticed the Hermit Crabs scavenging on their remains under the rocks. But I found no trace of Nemo...Nemo was a mystery. A year later, when I officially turned off the water pump, retired the aquarist dream, and gave the tank and its remaining organisms away (mostly 'live' rock covered in Red-Algae slime), slipped between the wall and the tank's stand I noticed a knuckle-sized, ovular, desiccated, orange, white, and black disc covered in dog hair. It was Nemo. For over a year, Nemo had been tucked away here, preserved through the saltwater curing process. SMH. Maybe Nemo got in a fight with 'my Dori' the Yellow-Tailed Damselfish and made a costly mistake? Maybe the Anemone I bought for Nemo was the wrong species and they (Clownfish are protandrous and gender non-conforming examples we can emulate) didn't like it at all? Maybe the water quality was so unbearable from their vantage point (it looked great from mine!) that they took that leap of faith to find a better future? I will never know the answer, but when I looked at the dried out, mouth-opened, hair-covered Nemo in my hand, I put myself in their shriveled scaly 'skin'...and really saw the entitled dumbassness within who I was. I imagined being placed in a container where my air quality was sub-par, where the air temperature was too unpredictable, and the oxygen levels were less than I needed. Then I imagined not being able to do anything to change that, let alone move to find a space more suitable to my comforts and needs. Damn. I was solely responsible for this outcome. If Nemo (and all of the other organisms) were Human, I should be locked up for negligence.

The reason we see more equatorial Fish species migrating into northern and southern waters, is because, as the sea temperatures warm globally, their biological range naturally is pushed poleward. Most of these species are ectothermic (cold-blooded), meaning the water temperature directly dictates their internal functioning. We all have an optimal range of temperatures to thrive. As global warming gets worse, we can expect to see these species free to move go beyond the traditional boundaries where we knew them to exist within.
But what happens to all these Animals we lock up? When unpredictable environmental disasters occur, like floods or extreme heat waves, these organisms that are confined are likely left to die. Last year during the Hurricane Matthew flood in North Carolina, at minimum 10,000 Hogs and 5 million Chickens and Turkeys were reportedly drowned in a two day time period. No one opened their cages...
As someone who genuinely loved Animals, I hit a point where I realized there was nothing loving about this cycle of pet ownership, pet exhibitionism, animals as commodities, animals as circus tokens under the banner of conservation, and any Animal Agricultural meat-eating system that I participated in. There were crucial moments while this was also a long-drawn process. Sure, I woke up and changed 'my pet's' water bowls and ensured they had food. I would speak to them like they were my friends. I cried when they died. But I had to ask myself, serious, what gives me the authority to own someBODY outside of myself? We like to pretend that slavery ended within our own human race, and we know it did not. It's been so difficult for me to bring up issues of racial equity within Humans and also insert a speciesm analysis given our current deplorable rate of non-human species genocide and enslavement. Are we separate from other Animals or are we not? Do we consider ourselves fundamentally biological beings? What denotes sentiency? Did Nemo kill themself to spite me? Maybe they was actually more intelligent than I.
This clip is just another example of the ways we have lost touch of our own Humanity in disrespecting the sacredness of Life and Beings' rights to be free. Because Dolphins are charismatic, mammalian, and intelligent from our perception, this clip hopefully has caused the non-sociopaths among us to shudder. Once in captivity, they are bred through an internal trading network and genetically selected for traits we find valuable (docility, trainability, etc). I remember reading about a captive Mother Dolphin who actually drowned her own newborn. She did not want her baby to be born into the world a slave. She could not bear to witness that. I think about Black Human Mothers who endured these very conditions only 150 years ago. How dare we/me/you/they? How dare we still?
I think about Nemo and their last respiration before leaping and dying between my wall and the tank stand. Their resistance was fatal. And I took note. Dolphins, air-breathing, marine animals, are gateway species of Water and Land. In their intelligence, some of us may think they are gateway species between Humans and Animals, though We are all sacred. Each breath a Dolphin takes is a conscious decision. So when a Dolphin in captivity takes its last breath and stop living, it has made a decision, and has made a point. Chattel slavery has never ended for non-human species across the world, in all of the ways. Please understand that we have to be the voices and bodies to call out injustice when we see it. Let Respect For Life be a barometer we can lean into and trust in.
I hope we will choose to fight for freedom across species, cities, villages, and environments. I am waking up.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Shots Fired


At this intersection, where gentrification meets deprivation, daytime construction is deaf to moonlit gunshots.

Bullet holes filled a young man’s body on the corner of St Bernard and Marais.

We all heard it, ducked down, lay flat on our backs, wished they were fireworks, listened for the trumpet of Second Lines to follow that lethal snare...

but the calculated rhythm of revenge brought no such joy on the block. 


The engine accelerates, flees the scene, leaving a vacuum of silence in its wake. Then sirens and paramedics and police and caution tape will take place. 

Well past midnight, a familiar glow of the disco-ball blue bounces off buildings, through my window, projecting on my ceiling. 

When the spectacle of death--the eager newscasters who feed off Black-on-Black violence (& the gossipers of exotic crime who live in the up-and-coming hood)--has left, in the leftovers we will hear a mother and his family mourn over their lost baby. 

'How did this all start?' we will ask. Do you know the Big Bang Theory? 

Those blue lights danced, ghosts of a Black-owned bar bidding adieu. Au revior.

Tomorrow, he will be buried. 


Tomorrow, on the corner of St Bernard and Marais, renovators will reap profits based off displacement. 

Tomorrow, newcomers will walk even more confidently passed the wake where he was shot, oblivious. All that will soon be forgotten. 

Forgotten that shots were fired. Peace lives in the quiet assassins. 


January 19th, 2017

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Conscious Choice > Convenience

It is no secret that we live in an era of convenience. Instacarts and Doordashes can provide us lunch with the touch of a button. Walk into any Starbucks and count the deluge of customers willing to pay $3.45 for a coffee rather than make one at home for less than 30 cents. If you're in this category, and we all are from time to time, allow yourself a moment to people watch while you sip in that comfy chair. Count those in line who had even slightly anticipated a daily caffeine craving and brought a refillable container with them. Then imagine everyone else, the overwhelming majority who depend on this take-&-toss lifestyle without second thought. The trash cans pile up. I decide to walk outside. 

I look on the ground and see an assortment of non-compostable, non-biodegradable waste. Much from the Starbucks and McDonald’s of the world. I see eclectic piles scattered under the overpass, tossed beside Walmart’s parking lot. Smirnoff cap. Doritos bag. Smoothie King cup. Soda lid there. Green straw. Mardi gras beads here. Mardi gras beads everywhere, really...
In the past year, I have tried to learn all I can about the profiteering industry that is Big Plastic, a subsidiary of Big Oil. Plastic is a petrochemical byproduct of the unusable oil forms that we extract out of the Gulf of Mexico. The same byproducts that are related to the BP oil spill and refinery plants that cause cancers in nearby low-income communities. 

Fleece, emergency water bottles, engines covers, wheel inflation caps, and computer casings are all examples of the wonderful uses of the synthetic creation. But every year, global manufacturers produce more than the human biomass of plastic combined, and the vast majority of it is unnecessary. Big Plastic’s swath of culpability over health, environmental, and social justice issues is why I combat its production with deliberate non-consumption in all forms. Consider me an anti-plasticist. My partner Kevin is a willing participant. 
The picture above hopefully explains why. Strolling through the produce section of Rouses left me exceptionally baffled. Almost all things natural, from cabbage to carrots, were covered with the familiar, clear gloss. Who makes all this stuff? I remember reading that every ounce of plastic that has ever been created still exists somewhere in the world today. In landfills, in streets, in parks, in oceans, in fish, in us. Did you know when exposed to heat, plastic becomes hormonally activated and can disrupt our endocrine systems?
Imagine our post-consumption version of these neatly organized shelves replicated across the 37 Rouses stores between Alabama and Louisiana. Then expand this across every grocery chain in the world. When you combine the typical household’s improper waste management with this plastic unanimity, we have a literal clutter$%*@. 
Escaping plastic purchase as a consumer requires strategy and commitment. To engage is to swim upstream through a toxic gauntlet of processed preservatives, soon-to-be-diabetic drinks, and tauntingly cheap alternatives. (When in doubt, choose glass.) I have failed many a time.

Bringing my own backpack or reusable bags to the store would not suffice. What continually irked me throughout this discovery process was the tyranny plastic held even over my staple diet of rice and beans. Things like Mahatma, Goya, La Canderita (corn tortillas), and Roman Meal (wheat bread). I could not leave the store without directly supporting landfill growth. Every week I carried plastic proof to show for it.  
Goya black bean packaging, post-consumption. 
My mind fixated on mason jars and our lack of them. Buying in bulk seemed like a distant reality. When I visited the Whole Foods' or Rouses' bulk sections, I noticed all the plastic bags provided to buy goods. Did this not defeat the entire purpose of buying in bulk? Fortunately, the Whole Foods' homie Trayshon told me if I bring in my own container, we can weigh it and write that on the label to tare it. “That's wassup!” I remember thinking. Except Whole Foods is notoriously expensive...

Tracking down bulk-buying containers was a challenge in and of itself. Our collection of Tupperwares and jars had dwindled between our 4 prior locations of residence across the city. A quick google search revealed the local Walmart sold 12-packs of brand new (glass!) mason jars for $8.99. These, too, were wrapped in plastic, so by principal I turned the temptation down. A bit more grit and perseverance brought new enlightening findings, which I share below:
  • To score some storage containers in a pinch, I highly recommend Freecycle.org (create a posting for mason jars wanted), Craigslist (free section), or Goodwill. Goodwill typically sells its reusable containers between 30 and 60 cents. I began collecting whatever I could...an old Couscous tub, a ziploc bag, a Bloody Mary jar from work, two Tupperwares, and a cereal storage bin that reminded me of the one in grandma’s kitchen. 
With my new acquisitions, my first thoughts were to bypass Whole Foods altogether. (Our budget simply did not allow for $20 quinoa purchases.) I walked into Rouses with a backpack full of containers, a bit nervous. As expected, the bulk section was filled with plastic bag dispensers. When I asked the customer service representative how I could use my own containers, he said, ‘You can’t. Just buy with our bags and then transfer it over when you leave.’ He walked off shaking his head, murmuring frustratedly under his breath. I wanted to smack him like, "Wake up!" Moments like these are what I refer to when I talk about swimming upstream. Our systems of consumerism are designed for folks to be inconvenienced when we voice to act sustainably. Someone is profiting off our unconscious use of plastic bags everyday. Meanwhile, our ocean life perishes. I left Rouses discouraged and empty-handed, feeling like me trying to do the 'right thing' was an annoyance to this young man trying to do his job. That was enough for the day.
Salvaged containers (and their weights) after visiting the Whole Foods cashier!
After two days of sulking, I collected more jars, rebuilt a resolve to cut ties from plastic, and biked to Whole Foods. When I asked if I could weigh my containers as Trayshon promised, the staff were extremely affirming and helpful. I felt naughtily counter-cultural rolling up to the cashier with a stash of mis-matched, empty receptacles. After every scale reading, I penned in the decimals with a growing optimism. I am one-step closer to aligning my beliefs and consumer practices. It was time to stroll over to the bulk section and stock up. The satisfaction of scooping from those once-elusive barrels of beans and grains was divine! I dropped a few chickpeas on the ground by mistake, felt their distinct texture between my thumb and forefinger, and recalled the slippery sensation of grabbing chickpea-filled plastic bags off the shelf. Never again.
So here they are: a salvaged couscous jar filled with brown rice, cereal bin of black beans, Bloody Mary glass of red lentils, Tupperware of chickpeas, and ziploc bag full of quinoa. My motley crew of containers held out! All of this I squeezed carefully into my backpack, after receiving a $2 discount for bringing in my own containers. Walking out of Whole Foods this day, the windiest cold-front would blow me off my bike before it could wipe the smile off my face. The total cost me less than 20 bucks, and even if I could get the same quantity from Winn Dixie for $15, it wouldn't be the same. After this experience, I know I can only buy bulk from hereon out. Rouses, your store manager better be ready next time. I'm calling you out. Stay up for more of my trials navigating the system sustainably. We can never let convenience substitute for our consciousness.

best,

C

'Bottled water companies are taking what's ours to begin with, packaging it in a lethal way, overcharging us for it, and asking us to pay for the recycling. All they're really doing is selling us this convenience, which is actually highly inconvenient.' 

-Jackson Browne, musician, from 'Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too', pg 87 by Beth Terry

Monday, January 11, 2016

COP21: Contaminants Seep in a World Unfree

Quote taken from documentary 'Heading for Higher Ground: Climate Crisis, Migration, and the Need for Justice and System Change'

It feels like Groundhog’s Day. Same system, same selfishness, same skintones. After temporarily breaking free from my group, I had the fortune to meet several members of the Global South who, unfortunately, have also been impacted by the insatiable, environmentally devastating routine of Global North’s capitalistic dominion. 

Ranatha and myself, after an engaging conversation on capitalism and displacement.
Here is Ranatha. She represents the Samaaka Maroons, a population of West African descendants who were shipped as slaves to Suriname (under Dutch occupation) during the 16 and 1700s. Only 250 years ago, they fought for and eventually received freedom, only to be released into the unfamiliar bush of Suriname wilderness, where they were received by indigenous tribes to live off the land. For centuries, the Samaaka Maroons have been ‘keepers of the forest,’ Ranatha explains. But in this day, these very lands in which they were freed, have been sanctioned for corporate abuse by the government to contaminate water and soil, and irreversibly wipe out forests at an increasing rate. 

Botanist Frits van Troon / PC: http://amazon.dead-city.org/northeast_gallery.html 
At COP21, Ranatha is speaking to me, frustrated. She’s frustrated that a conference about climate change still does not value indigenous people’s presence. ‘Who else is more impacted than us?’ she argues. The Samaaka Maroons currently have no voice aside from her cubicled presence at Le Bourget. In 2007, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights passed a bill stating the government of Suriname must recognize the land rights of the Samaaka Maroons...but to this day, nothing has happened. 
Suriname, like many areas of the Global South, is abundant with natural resources, including gold, exotic wood, aluminum ore, and oil. To remove gold, high pressure hoses saturate the ground beneath the surface. Soon after, lethal mercury of both liquid and gas form is administered to separate gold from the other minerals. Rivers where the Samaaka Maroons used to bathe are now tainted yellow with mercury runoff. 

Brazilian workers at large scale gold mine in Suriname / PC: http://www.heemskerk.sr.org/GoldMining/GoldMining.html
As more natives are poisoned out of the lands, they are simultaneously funneled into the proximate path out of poverty: this extractive mining economy. When earth-dependent communities face the environmental contamination of capitalistic creep, they often have no choice but to cave. Or perish. I try to connect the dots. I’ve seen a similar procession before. In South Louisiana, land loss from sea level rise, oil drilling and spillage displaces Houma and frontline natives. In the Bahamas, Biminites watch chain cruise line developers pillage their mangrove wetlands. In Mali, subsistence farmers migrate to cities as multinational agribusinesses force them off their ancestrally-inherited land. Earth bleeds. The virus is everywhere. I wonder if we have it in us to connect the dots. I wonder if we understand that when we destroy the last keepers of the forests, we will have destroyed our species' salvation. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Meatree Dish: Failed Experiment

VIEW VIDEO HERE

Together, misdirected. 
There is a wound. so deep and infected. 
Can we correct it?
Less than a thousand yrs ago we lived off the land with respect and
Were taught how plants like camomile protect us from indigestion.
So I’m going to ask you some questions:

When was the last time you strolled through the woods, 
and touched tree bark and the smelled the moist of the mud? 

Did you know we spend over 7 hours looking at a screen?
That’s in a day, and it’s increasing, which can’t be good.
When for one third we’re supposed to be sleepin.

She’s weeping. Earth, who raised us knowing right and wrong,
now sick but her children shipped her to a nursing home
too caught up in the system,
we forgot to visit, then forgot to support the clinic. 

planned obsolescence got us marching behind carrots
disconnected from our essence, 
respect for the sweat of parents parents
when the sage sits still, breathes and waits, 
watching branches sway in breeze as She rotates

And while I speak my truth, 
Earth, She slips away, 
Football fields of forest uprooted each day.
lands once cherished, 
now its parrots flee their cindered homes in disarray.
They say, 'If a tree falls down and no one hears it, did it fall?'
But if our greed trawls all the fish out the sea, can they respawn?

So I imagine Earth as a human being, 
beaten and mistreated, 
not quite defeated
but sees her cancer isn’t retreating. 
It’s in us. Can’t you see it. 
Metastatic scars of suburban sprawls, 
endless traffic, cars, cities with pall
An influx of industry, grown in excess. 
and abscesses 
diffuse 
into lakes til all beautiful bounties are abused

So Let me restate:
Football fields of forest toppled each day. 
Brazil seeks higher peaks. The US eats meat, so exchange the Amazon’s natural feats
to complete a cycle that makes Her weak. 
Football fields of forest plowed each day
feeding cows and pigs to gorge our son and daughters, 
so they can reach the protein quotas westered doctors ordered.  

What’s vested in our selection for slaughter? 
merciless we are, says the rest of biota. 

Football fields of forest mangled each day. 
While we praise touchdowns with burgers and hot dogs, the American way,
The issue isn’t sports, I’m all for it
but the culture that supports it, we gotta abort it,
Athletic bodies sculpted to media notions of perfection
the world we now live in, neo-natural selection 

in this American dream, I wake to see the land of debris, and home of the slaves. 
produce wrapped in plastic, 
package our harvest with war-causing byproducts. 
Oil. 
Not that salad dressing with beets and balsamic 
I’m talking black soot in beaches on par with atomic bomb havoc   
the pelicans can’t even vomit cuz it clogs their beaks and stomach
And yes. $300 billion in plastic profits last year. dirty money CEOs, gilded are their pockets, 
u best bet when Earth breaks to shake us they’ll be the first to jump ship on rockets.  

And where will you be?
Throwin the towel? or campaigning 
to end global warming while eating methanating bodies, I call hypocrisy?
You and I, we gotta see interconnections of our system. 
Because downstream from our purchase flows septic murder of the victims.

And we do the worst like they’re worthless,
a windowless warehouse serves its purpose,
to distance A from E so we just see slabs of cow muscle cut seductively

I’m telling you. This addiction, it’s sadistic,
propagandad feeding like turkeys plead for their own crucifixion
conceived for the sheer purpose of Thanksgiving, 
while companies monitor revenue off the corpses of the living. 
And we’re all guilty, but we can all make a difference. 
If our hearts open up, our world’s crying, can we listen? 

So when I think how we get out of this position. 

I try to answer the question: 
in what ways have I been conditioned?

Friday, October 9, 2015

air and earth

there are spaces amidst the sidewalks
in places both landlocked 
and seaside
that lack love, not within, but from short drives away
where numbness is prescribed from polished estates

 but here, the cement is cracked. 
between these uneven gaps
a strike slip fault line persists
3 strikes to a prison pipeline
and weeds growing between bricks
like weed growing to feed the kids.

there’s only X jobs in the system
that aren’t paying 7.25 for people in these credentials
and if they’re all taken, 
by my wisdom,
one can only reach his highest potential
if he lives off licit and illicit means to make rent...

now you tell me, 
if you were born here, in this transect of neglect,
and were given choice A to slave for pocket change dimes
or plan B but know freedom lies between friends' graves and crime time
i think between these cracks you’d see
that C is what he really needs, though it's none of the above.

he needs your love.

by C. Lang

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Greed of Seaweed

Seaweed.

A term used for an outsider who settles in Bimini. 
Seaweed comes, seaweed goes. Some stay to nourish the land (seaweed is a natural fertilizer), and others wash-up for moments before getting swept out to new destinations. 

Honestly, I can't blame the overt or subtle repulsion towards outsiders on the island. Tourists arrive with extravagance and dispose of US-brought goods as trash before thrusting their tri-engine boats--overstuffed with Bahamian harvested seafood--back home. 

"But we spend money! 

"Bimini needs us, otherwise they wouldn't be asking us to buy things from them." 

"I need a weekend getaway from Miami, but I don't want to lose the perks." 

As a fellow species of seaweed, I would like to be of the nourishing type that can be put to use. That vegan sushi roll type of seaweed. Seaweed will surely return, but for now it is gone with the currents.