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
Start of a recurring feature here at Last Dance. I will not reprint these in full, as people have just had breakfast. What’s in the usual denier’s scribble is enough to make a statue weep. First, here’s one from the local paper:
Of greater concern is the left’s 1930s fascist censorship of conservative viewpoints by liberal tech companies. Since President Trump’s election, it seems they have been engineering the flow of information.
It took a little over 200 years to recover from the 500-year mini ice age. Trump is smart to tout our greatest resource, natural energy. Pennsylvania is No. 5 in the U.S. in oil and gas jobs, which pay $99,000 on average. Trump is the smart business choice.
What ‘liberal tech companies’ were there in the 1930s? Time Magazine? Anyway, next is the eminence gris of PJ Media, Roger Simon:
Any discussion of the subject at the debate will undoubtedly consist of how much money we should throw at the problem and how soon. Biden will be measured and try not to throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater, while Bernie and the ladies will attack him for being a climate weakling willing to incinerate humanity. Everyone else could well join in. Soon poor Joe will be nodding his head in agreement, begging AOC to forgive him and pledging to retrofit every picture window and storm door from San Diego to Sandusky himself. (Hey, he says he can beat Trump in push-ups.)
I’m waiting to see when climate scientists like Roget Simon find out about abrupt climate change and gleefully conclude that since the policies they promulgated have put humankind on a near term collision course with extinction, none of his precious tax money need be wasted on it. It can be skimmed to ‘fuel’ the last orgiastic spasm of mansion and bomb building.
I planted a tree last summer in the middle of the yard.
It’s a pine that was growing between the flowers near the fence by the Koi pond. The pond has no koi currently as I don’t seem to know how to keep these beautiful fish alive.
Anyway, the pine had planted itself and if I had left it alone, it would have grown through and uprooted the fence and looked odd amidst the shrubs. So, I dug it out and replanted it in the middle of the yard.
It took root and this year is looking like it’s growing.
It reminded me of Charlie Browns’s Christmas tree – just a little sprig. But there it is taking root in the shadows of two huge pine trees towering to around 100 feet tall.
I will never see this tree mature as a full pine. I know that. I could have thrown the sprig on the burn pile.
But I couldn’t do it. I had to plant it.
In a way, it makes no sense. If I believe in the way our climate is growing, like I said, I’ll never see it get taller than me.
But I must make a marker for the future. This little pine is a measure of defiance. Life will go on – until it doesn’t. But I want to give it a chance.