The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Italian and Jewish immigrant women aged 14 to 23; of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was 43-year-old Providenza Panno, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and Rosaria “Sara” Maltese.
The factory was located on the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors
of the Asch Building, at 23–29 Washington Place in the Greenwich Village
neighborhood of Manhattan. The 1901 building still stands today and is known as
the Brown Building. It is part of and owned by New York University.
The last time I was in New York, I went to see that building
to pay my respects to those who died. I had first read about this tragedy in a
book on disasters my mother had gotten me as a present when I was about 12. It
included some seriously grisly photos I won’t get into here.
No one knows exactly how the fire started but the doors were
locked on the workers so they wouldn’t ‘steal’ from the owners and in any case,
the only opened inwards. The fire escapes and elevators were flimsy and many
people died trying to get out that way. The hallways to get there were only 33
inches wide. The fire hoses didn’t work.
Because the ‘shirtwaist,’ a blouse-y suit popularized by the
Gibson Girl of that day, was made of light cotton, the fabric on the 10th
floor lit up like dried kindling. In just minutes, the only way out was out the
windows. And since New York City fire ladders only reached to the 7th
floor, jumping meant death.
Fireman tried catching the women in canvas, but from that
height, most hit the sidewalk and died. Some crashed through the sidewalk into
the basement below.
As countless New Yorkers watched in horror, the women and
some of the men appeared at the windows, hung on against the flames for as long
as they could, and then jumped.
What does that have to do with this blog?
Legend persists to this day of the figure of a man, dressed
in tailored clothes, like a supervisor, who appeared at the window. He took the
panicked women by the hand, kissed some of them, and then let them go as they
jumped. It seemed to those watching below that the man’s demeanor had a
calming, almost tranquilizing effect on the women and helped them take the step
none of them wanted to.
Imagine the women at the Triangle Fire as the people I know
and people who read this blog, listen to the podcast and watch the You Tube
channel. When their future become uncertain, they will need someone to help
them over the pain of accepting their fate. I want to be that guy on the 10th
floor, real or not.
No matter how it goes down and when, it won’t be pleasant.
We all need to try and be the ‘hospice worker’ of the person on an Earth that
is in hospice, helping people cope as best they can.
And that is what this is all about.
Oh, by the way, in the aftermath of the fire, the factory owners were tried for murder. . .and acquitted. Capitalism must be protected, you know. But a shocked press and public demanded and got, safer, more human working conditions for garment workers. It sped the growth of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) whom you may have heard of.
Record heat in Europe The unseen damage of that heat that will reveal itself later July will be the hottest in history as records continue to fall Trump administration deletes climate science from .gov sites Continuing atrocity in the Amazon Comment from Tim Flannery to the BBC – climate deniers are threatening our children. Discussion on how hard it is for me to hold back Future of Extinction Rebellion in the US Climate Anxiety and how we may cope.
The loss of human life will probably reveal itself next week, when the weekly mortality figures are released. The loss of human potential will take a bit longer. Young children exposed to extreme heat suffer subtle brain damage that can be measured through reduced personal income at age 30. Children playing at a summer camp had to be hospitalized, because their brains reached temperatures of up to 42 degree. Compared to us humans, many other lifeforms are even more sensitive. Male insects exposed to extreme heat have their fertility damaged and insects exposed to consecutive heatwaves are practically sterilized. This is our second heatwave in a short period. Insects around the country have been decimated, by two consecutive droughts during the summer and now an extreme heatwave that is unprecedented in the historical record.
This is heady stuff, well written with care and concern. Yesterday’s record temps in Holland, as the author writes about, are not merely hot days to be endured, but have serious consequences in the long term that are not readily apparent.
What struck me the most about the author wrote was the need to understand that the beauty we see today as well as the animals and the insects, are not guaranteed to be there tomorrow so we must pay attention. We must, in order to appreciate what is leaving us, take mental pictures of what exists now. In other words – notice life around you.
The post ends on a wistful note, one that resonates with me. I know the insects are going away – so many less that what I remember from my youth. I thought it would be wonderful to be outside without the bugs. Now it just seems weird.
But it reminded me of one of my favorite songs that has been on my mind from time to time and always leaves me feeling sad.
Before the breathin’ air is gone Before the sun is just a bright spot in the night-time Out where the rivers like to run I stand alone and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’
As a person with mental illness, you would be correct to
wonder how I respond to all the increasingly dire climate news. After all,
although you wouldn’t know this, I’ve my periods of suicidal ideation.
I’ve found that I no longer have any periods of suicidal
How can that be?
To understand why that is, remember that each person with a
mental illness will see and react to things just a little bit differently that
someone who even has the same diagnosis.
Also remember, that the external motivations of those of us
so afflicted work in unexpected ways.
I no longer have suicidal ideation since the endgame of
abrupt climate change has placed an event horizon on my life anyway. I merely
have to give in to every sybaritic pleasure I’ve ever wanted to indulge in and
wait for the inevitable.
Having a 10-year (or less) event horizon on societal
collapse, renders quite a bit of the things that deeply worry me, well, moot.
In a way it’s like the tagline of my all-time favorite movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’
or, how I learned to stop worrying and
love the bomb.
The fuel that runs my conditions and all their attendant symptoms are the things
ordinary people worry about all the time but get blown out of proportion by
myself. Things like: worrying about keeping my job, whether everyone can be
made to like me, will I ever find my purpose in life, am I going to die of
cancer, whether I have enough to retire on, etc. etc.
The likelihood of social collapse due to global climate
change has freed me from all that.
The one thing I have learned is not to worry about things
that are out of my control and climate change and societal collapse are WAY out
of my control.
And to add something else that must be admitted: the
medications I am on make it very easy for me not to worry about things I can’t
control. The downside is that I’m unable to experience joy.
It’s a necessary tradeoff, unfortunately. Me unmedicated is
not good for myself or anyone else.
I’ve spent a lifetime vainly trying to find a mission.
Climate change and societal collapse has given me one: you’re reading it. And
my podcast as well.
Why do I do it?
Because I can and do feel terrible for the people mentioned
in this article because I used to worry as they do – to the point of being all
but dysfunctional. It’s not their fault – worrying about having your future cut
short is very legitimate.
Being something of an empath, I don’t have to personally
know the people in the article to image the pain they are in. Everything I do
now is an attempt, in some small way, to help them.
I believe we must not lie about what is coming. My greatest
fear, one I still possess, is being blindsided by bad news. Setting people up
to be blindsided by the sudden realization that climate change and its
attendant societal collapse was not a Socialist plot by evil scientists is
going to hit people very hard.
Not that people shouldn’t protest or do what they can on a
local level to help the earth, but we need to be realistic: for every tree we
plant, Brazil cuts down 30 and the industrialized nations pump untold millions
of cubic tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the threat of a giant
methane threat looms. And with Trump and Johnson in charge of the US and the
UK, things will just get worse.
Physically, most people can bear a surprising amount of pain
and stress. Mentally, things are a different story nowadays. Western societies,
especially the US, have given their people the expectations that each
succeeding generation will have it better than the one before, technology will
free us from our mundane existence and provide us with so many wonderful toys,
and human progress is measured in an ever-increasing GDP which will one day
make everyone rich.
The whole idea that everything in that preceding paragraph
set us up for this disaster is something people are not handling well. They
shouldn’t be expected to.
This is not license for people like me to run around
pointing at people and screaming ‘you’re all gonna die and you deserve it you
Most people simply believed what they were told. And why
would the government and corporations lie to us? In the absence of other
competing information, what were people to think? Surely a climate Armageddon
seems so far-fetched!
Although I consider myself an agnostic now, I was raised
Catholic. In Catholic school, while my eyes glazed over during most classes, it
seems that Catholic social teaching, derided as it was at the time by many of
my classmates, stuck. And the whole ethos of Catholic social teaching can be
summed up thusly: ‘we are made for service to care for all men.’
The masses of people are going to have a hard time imagining
their hopes, dreams and aspirations being cut cruelly short. They deserve our
care and sympathy, not derision. The denialists, well, OK, they deserve
derision, but ordinary people need care.
I’m 56 years of age. It’s easy for me to say I’ve had a good
run. But for my sons, for your children, for those embarking on their adult
lives, for lives of those being born now, this is a monstrous thing.
Even if we can hold civilization together for 10 years or
more, our children will remember these times of relative plenty as they live on
a globe radically different than the one they knew just a scant decade ago.
What will we tell them? How will we prepare people for this?
How do we ease the pain of knowing, of realizing? How can we nurse humankind
into their fate?
There’s an oft-quoted line from the movie Braveheart: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
And there’s another, just as important: “I’m so afraid. Give me the strength to die well.”
Regarding the first quote it is imperative that we assist
people, not to stand in frozen terror, but to go out and live as they have
never lived before; to try everything they’ve ever wanted to do; go everywhere
they’ve wanted to go. If you feel called to devote the remainder of your life
to the Earth through Extinction Rebellion or another group – great! Bucket
lists must be honored. Enemies must be forgiven. We must reconcile ourselves to
whatever spirituality we seek. For the love of all that’s holy – live with
reckless abandon. The future truly is now.
As to the second one, if what I have suggested people do in
the paragraph above is done well, then dying well, whenever and however it
comes, will come with satisfaction of a life, perhaps shorted than we envisioned,
but just as well lived as any longer.
When I was in Catholic elementary school, we had a nun who
taught math to the junior high grades. In our intentions said at the beginning
of class, she would make us all pray for a happy death.
As you can imagine, this was quite a shock to 13-year-olds.
But as she explained it, the concept was very important. In her mind, when the
time came, we should look with favor upon our lives as servants to God and God
would look favorably upon us and, thus, we had nothing to fear from death but
only the grand expectation of an eternal afterlife.
For those of us not Catholic or Christian, a ‘happy death’
can mean being reconciled to all that is good in your life, forgiving
yourselves and others of transgressions, and having a minimum of regrets to how
one has spent their time on Earth. Or it can mean whatever the bloody Hell you
want it to mean.
I know one day that I will face the fear that my medication
and psychology has buried. Until that time, I must do what I can to help people
with the transition.
So, I dedicate this to all of healers of the Earth, of humanity, the people in the helping professions, all those who believe they are their brothers’ keeper. We all have work to do.
We’ll go walking out While others shout of war’s disaster Oh, we won’t give in Let’s go living in the past
— Jethro Tull
Every now and then I get mugged by nostalgia.
What I mean by that is I get it into my head to look back
through the Internet to places or people I knew some time ago. When it happens,
I literally get transfixed and time loses all meaning. At the end of the spell,
I’m usually quite depressed.
Lately, I’ve been getting more mugged than usual.
Today for instance, I romanticized a mall in which I spent a
good portion of my youth. I was looking for photos of it back in the 70s and
80s. Instead I get pictures of the now abandoned Sears where my father used to
work and where all my new clothes for school were purchased. A few old photos
did crop up, a lot of memories were processed and at the end, I felt as shitty
as I usual do after these episodes, castigating myself: why the Hell do I keep
I find, perhaps, like many people anxious or resigned about
the future, that I am spending more of my time looking back and romanticizing
the past because, well, it was better then in many ways. When we are young,
there is hope for a better life and the world is spread out before you like a
candy store. At 56, facing a very uncertain future, it’s at first, comforting,
and then at last, agonizing to go back and emotionally re-live all of that.
My basement is a repository of much of the junk I’ve been
hauling around since I was a child. There’s the usual yearbooks and school
photos but also the signed football my dad got me in 1969, my employee name
badge from my first job at McDonalds, the coins I started collecting in 1970,
and all four student IDs from my high school years. Stuff like that.
Sometimes I just wander around the room and pick up an item
and the memories flood back. I move on to another. And it dawns on me that I’m
mourning a life that is past and grieving a future that will not be. But these
things, they . . . comfort me in some strange way.
Of course, nostalgia is like an addictive drug, I know that.
Regret is nostalgia’s alter ego and always travels along with it. The nostalgia
is the high, the regret, mostly that I raced through my life without
appreciating these times I would later mourn, is the crash.
I wonder, sometimes, when we get to the point where collapse
occurs or nuclear war or some other kind of finis
to the human condition, whether I will choose this room to die in? Why not,
after all? It comes with a humidor, a fully stocked bar and the pieces of my
life all neatly arranged around me. I might hope so.
I know many will say being lost in grieving both the past
and the future keeps one from fighting for something better, for working
against the tide. Perhaps I am too much of a doomer. I always have been
because, up until now, every prediction I have made about human nature’s influence
on events has come true, much to my dismay. And I believe we, as a species, are
programmed to destroy ourselves. It is bad, perhaps, but it is what it is, and
I have come to terms with it.
The best I can do is to help others live the best life they
can with the time we all have left. To do this for me, I will, of course, need
to venture out of my basement and take one big trip around.
Maybe I’ll see you out there. I will not be the one hang
But the preppers — the people who just buy their generator and their guns and store food for three months — I’m worried about them. In America where there’s so many guns, we’re going to shoot each other, and it’s very scary to me. It’s a very individualistic, survivalist approach, whereas the Dark Mountain project and Jem Bendell’s deep adaptation are actually doing some of the deep psychological and social work required to get to a different place.
— Susanne Moser, climate scientist and adviser to governments on climate issues. German by birth.
Societal collapse will look very different around the world. In Europe, it will look like the closing of a large department store. People will queue up in lines for the last merchandise and be given shovels and instructed how to dig – dugouts, crops, graves, whatever. It won’t be any fun and a lot of people will die but there’s a chance a new society, one far less complex than the old one, will emerge. That is, of course, unless the certain nuclear powers bring the curtain down on all of us.
With Boris Johnson now PM in the UK, and Brexit beckoning, all bets are off. But whatever happens in the UK or Europe or the rest of the world for that matter, nothing will come close to the apocalypse of the USA.
And it’s all about the guns. And the loss of the commons which breeds social isolation and distrust. And the racism. And the petty hatreds and insecurities fostered by our particular form of capitalism. In fact, one can say with a straight face that societal collapse is already happening in the US, with climate change playing a very small role – for now.
As opposed to the thousands that rallied in the UK and Europe, a few days ago a handful of Extinction Rebellion Americans glued themselves to the front doors of the Capitol and received zero mainstream media exposure. Reactions from legislators were pretty much the usual:
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., former vice chair of the House Subcommittee on Environment, mocked the group on Twitter, posting a video of himself appearing to duck under a protester’s arm to get through with the note, “…Supergluing yourself to a door is a very dumb way to protest.”
Recently a half million people in the American protectorate, Puerto Rico, took to the streets to demand the resignation of their President. They were successful.
Activists in the US bemoan these developments, asking ‘why can’t we do that here?’
You know why.
Here’s part of the reason:
Here’s the other:
First photo: the people who want to protest can’t risk being away from their jobs or arrested since most of them are in a precarious financial position. The system keeps you tied to your desk and dependent on whatever scraps you can get to eke out a living. They have neither the time, money or energy for protest.
Second photo: American cops can pretty much get away with anything nowadays and know it. A severe beating could send you to the hospital (good luck with the bill), to jail (good luck keeping your job) or the morgue.
But what if things get really bad and so many people have nothing to lose? Then the last system of social control comes in: psychological. This is the greatest country in the world – what the Hell are you protesting about? Also: protesters are probably a bunch of Communists and anti-American. If they get in the street, maybe we can run them over in our cars someday. We’re expected from childhood to be very obedient and do what we’re told. We see people losing their livelihoods and futures because of Trump’s policies and they’ll still come back and vote for him because: racism and: owning the libs.
We’re an interesting people, we Americans.
So who will we turn on? Ourselves, naturally.
So when collapse happens in the US, expect scenes right out of every dystopian movie you can think of from ‘The Road’ to ‘The Postman’ to ‘Soylent Green.’ Why do you think Hollywood is so good at making those kind of movies anyway?
No, we’re not talking about the Stevie Wonder album. . .
July is on track to become the hottest month in recorded history, climate scientists say, after heat waves blanketed North America and the Arctic saw warmer than usual temperatures. It’s the latest sign that the planet’s overall climate is warming, and that human activities are causing extreme events such as heat waves to become more likely and more intense, the scientists say.
NBC News/Denise Chow
Do the people who cling to denialism think this is some kind of a joke? Or perhaps, a grand illusion; a conspiracy in which nearly every scientist and meteorologist is, um, colluding to deceive the people so as to seize their cars, airplanes and charcoal grills and RAM SOCIALISM DOWN OUR THROATS?
I could recite all the statistics about the hottest years in history being recent ones, the hottest months being recent ones, etc., etc., but only the willfully obtuse don’t get the point.
I have no doubt that sometime this upcoming winter, it will snow and temperatures will drop to near zero Fahrenheit. This of course, will launch the usual smelly army of trolls out from under their slimy rocks to say ‘so where’s your precious global warming now, Socialists?’ I can almost hear Rush Limbaugh’s voice sputtering this.
The phrase is ‘overall climate,’ not isolated events which can actually be explained by global warming, but, you know, what the Hell? Why go on?
Looking at Donald Trump in America and now the feckless showman Boris Johnson in the United Kingston (h/t Ivanka Trump and it’s not a Jamaican football team although it could be), I’ve pretty much lost all hope that this issue will be no more than a punch line in the White House or Number 10. It also leave Macron backpedaling, Merkel looking severe as usual and Putin with that evil grin as his country continues to ratchet up their carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, reputable climate scientists, peddling hopium, still go on about how we could ‘avoid the worst’ if governments would just agree to wind down the current industrial and financial systems of the developed world in, oh, about a year.
Let’s be grown-ups about this. It’s not going to happen. Extinction Rebellion, a fine group of people, can chain themselves to bridges all over London and it won’t make any difference. If they try that in America, they’ll be treated no better than Black Lives Matter marchers. Making people late for work by blocking highways is a sin akin to child abuse in this country.