Mt. Agung – Erupting?

 

It hasn’t happened again yet.  In 1963, however, the last time Mount Agung (Gunung Agung) erupted, approximately 1,500 people were killed and numerous villages destroyed.

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Back then, after about a month of rumbling and smoking and then an eruption that traveled 7 km over 20 days, the biggest eruption happened.   The March 17, 1963 eruption sent debris 8 to10 km into the air and caused massive pyroclastic flows (a fluid mass of turbulent gas and rock fragments),  which “can travel at up to 290 mph (466 Km/h), “so no – you can’t outrun something like this,” says Kim Patra in “Paradise . . . in sickness & in health, (Bali Advertiser, Oct. 2017, p. 31).  Resulting “lahars” – massive mud flows killed about 200 more people.  The 1963-1964  eruptions and flows lasted almost a year.

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Agung

Now – since September 19, 2017, Mt. Agung has been rumbling and registering 4  for most of that time – meaning immediate eruption.   An estimated 125,000 people in a radius of 12 miles (20 km) from the base of the volcano have been evacuated.

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The area experienced 844 volcanic earthquakes on September 25, and 300 to 400 earthquakes by midday on September 26. Seismologists have been alarmed at the force and frequency of the incidents as it has taken much less for similar volcanoes to erupt.[6][13]

In late October 2017, the activity of the volcano decreased significantly, leading to lowering of the highest status of emergency.”

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Agung

But Mt. Agung is very unpredictable.

 

Rio Helmi, photographer and humanitarian who has been covering the evacuation,  reports, “Mt Agung is what’s called a “closed system”; it doesn’t display its activity very clearly on the outside and is unpredictable. This last is further complicated by the fact that this is the first time it has gone active since it has been observed with instrumentation. Consequently the PVMBG [Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Beologi; English: Centre of Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation]  are being cautious about making any ‘predictions.’”  Mt. St. Helen was a “closed system” that too was unpredictable.  When it erupted, it blew out the side of the mountain.

Another reason the volcanologists are being cautious, says Helmi, is that Mt Agung has a very violent history. To put this into perspective, it is one of 58 volcanoes worldwide that has hit VEI 5 (Volcanic Explositivity Index). It is one of only 7 volcanoes worldwide that has hit VEI 5 consecutively, and fairly consistently, over the centuries. In the past, over the centuries, it has done a huge amount of damage.”

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Seismic activity at Mt. Agung

With a population of 4,225,000 and a land mass of 5,780 km, Bali  is one of the main Indonesian islands, the best known for tourism.  (In contrast, the Big Island of Hawaii has a land mass of 10,432 km and a population of 187,000 people). The eruption of Mt. Agung, the highest point on Bali, will have a huge impact on the many people who live in the East close to the volcano.

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Today, like many other tourists, Barry and I are in Ubud and so safe. Barry arrived in Ubud on September 21, right as the evacuation notices started for those who live near Mt. Agung.  Because of international news coverage, friends contacted me at home to see if Barry was okay.  He didn’t really know about the problem of the volcano.  Even now in Ubud, we have a hard time finding out what is happening on Mt. Agung.  In Ubud, we see posters of where to donate money or supplies like tarps to the evacuees, but this crisis doesn’t impact tourists – who can just leave.  And it isn’t one event.  Already Balinese have been out of their homes and away from their fields for over a month.

For those Balinese in the shadow of Mt. Agung, their lives are even more precarious than before.

Getting help to them will be an on-going challenge.  The Indonesian government has set up evacuation camps, and people and groups have donated supplies.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits a temporary shelter for people who live near Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level,  in Karangasem

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited shelters near Mount Agung and urged residents to follow evacuation procedures after reports that some people were reluctant to leave their homes.  Image from: <https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/evacuations-amid-fears-of-volanco-bali/86750&gt;.

But based on the local help that was already on-going for the Balinese subsistence farmers who now have even more challenges, I recommend sending support to two groups in particular that will know how best to help the Mt. Agung refugees:

  1. Pak Made (Kadek) Gunata, co-founder of the Bali Spirit group and Bali Regreen, https://www.facebook.com/BaliSpirit/ and
  2. Rotary Club Bali Ubud Sunset – FB contact <https://www.facebook.com/groups/129279773753349/&gt; & http://rotarybaliubudsunset.org/

A Rotary News article, “Water Water Everywhere, not a Drop to Drink!” by Renee Heaton, tells about the Ubud Rotary Club’s on-going work:

“[M]any people live in areas forgotten by governments and politicians because they are too hard to access.  No roads or infrastructure is built for them in any shape or form.  Where are these places?  They are the mountain areas which cover a vast area of Bali, and where tourist rarely go because for them there is “nothing to do there”!

“The east coast of Bali in the Amed area, in the regency of Karangasem, many many people live high up in the mountains! [in the current danger zone of Mt. Agung]. . . . The area is very dry as it is in the rain shadow of the great Gunung Agung, the Great Mountain.  The people who live there have virtually no access to schools, health clinics, doctors, or water!! They live in small huts usually  2 huts to a family with no washing facilities, no toilets, and no running water and some do not have electricity.  They depend on their water from springs, high up in the hills, or wells near the coastal roads.  So how do they get it?  By walking hours each way to get 1 bucket of water and carry it back on their heads, women’s work!  But the water is only for drinking and cooking.  They do try and catch it during the rainy season but if it comes off their roofs can you imagine what else is collected!!  So what happens when we do not get enough clean water to drink?  You get sick, children get diarrhea from infected water, kidney disease, and skin diseases.  No water=no sanitation, no toilets, no hands washed, practically no bathing!

Why do they not move?  No money and no education, plus it is where their ancestors were born and died.  Most are subsistence farmers; it is too dry to grow rice, only corn will grow and then only one crop a year; sometimes they plant pumpkin or cassava, but for all their other needs they have to barter!  They live on corn in one form or another, animals are are rarity, not often seen.

So what can we do??? (Bali Advertiser, Oct. 2017).  Heaton continues her article by sharing what the Rotary Club of Bali has been doing with the Bali Water Project:

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Funding  from Rotary Club Bali Ubud Sunset, other Rotary clubs in Bali, Colorado, Kansas, India, and The Rotary foundation has focused on the Bali water project.

Heaton reports, “Between 2007 and 2009, 6 water projects were completed helping more than 3,000 people, some of the very poorest of families living far, far from roads or water.  . . . Projects 7-15 followed. . . 2017 saw Rotary Club Bali Ubud Sunset complete a further project at Sombawong. . . . These projects have given so many people a much easier life; no more carry water for hours on end daily; given them pride in looking after the systems once hand over takes place; a sense of worth and of being NOT FORGOTTEN!  If you can help, consider donating to Rotary Club Bali Ubud, which has a record of making great use of donations.

The other group I recommend that has been helping the Mt. Agung farmers even before Mt. Agung started threatening eruption is the Bali Spirit group/Bali Regreen:

A report from “Ubud News” by Wayan Jen tells about “Mt. Agung’s Farmers”:

“Pak Made (Kadek) Gunata, co-founder of the Bali Spirit group, is working to ensure that the farmers have livelihoods to return to [after the threat of eruption is over].  In 2011, he helped found Bali Regreen on the not so rich soil side of Mt. Agung, to grow bamboo that will create an income for very poor locals and help replenish the soil.

Since the start of the evacuations, Pak Made and the Bali Regreen team have worked tirelessly to move the animals from those villages off Mt. Agung.  This is vital work.  Many farmers have been persuaded by profiteers to sell their cows worth up to 15 million rupiah for two million (that’s $1,500 versus $200), because they don’t have any money for basic supplies that they need for the evacuation camps.  But others have left their animals behind, or have no place to put them.

Pak Made’s team is fostering livestock on two hectares of land that’s been made available for use during the evacuation, but he says there are more than 800 cows, pigs and goats still in the danger area,”and I know there are more from other banjars [village groups] that need to be removed.’

While there seems to be enough land to keep the animals at the moment, they need funds for fodder and animal care.  By sheltering these cows, they are saving the future livelihood of these villagers, giving them the capacity to rebuild their lives when the immediate disaster is past. PM Made Gunata [Bali Spirit] directly on Facebook re donations.”

As of Oct. 30th the danger was downgraded from 4 to 3, but that certainly doesn’t mean that Mt. Agung is stable.

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Mt Agung still steaming away seen through “penjors” erected for Galungan celebrations, the Balinese Hindu holiday to mark the triumph of good over evil and when ancestral spirits visit the Earth.  Photo by Rio Helmi

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Raising the flag at the PVMBG Mt Agung observation post in Rendang.- Photo by Rio Helmi

The Ubud Rotary Club and Bali Regreen for Balinese farmers are two excellent ways your contribution will be put to its best use.

For first-hand updates on what is happening on Mt. Agung, see  Indonesian humanitarian and photographer Rio Helmi’s  “News from Under the Volcano” on www.ubudnowandthen.com 

Ibu Kat, Bali author and columnist, writes, “For most people reading this [in Bali], the eruption will be inconvenient.  For the tens of thousands of families whose only home and assets are on that mountain, it will be devastating.

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Bali evacuees

If Gunung Agung does blow, and it seems likely, the government and NGOs will be finding ways to help them survive and move forward over the next year or so.  We can all be part of this process” (from “Greenspeak” Bali Advertiser, Oct. 2017, p. 29).

Please help.   Aloha and sampai jumpa, Renée

 

Banner image: <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41382990&gt;.

 

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“Thank You For Waiting” by Simon Armitage

For travelers, for those who wait in lines and in traffic, for those wasting away in  doctors’ offices, you are likely to appreciate this reading by Simon Armitage,  Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

Go to:

https://www.simonarmitage.com/thank-you-for-waiting/

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Simon Armitage

Be patient – and enjoy.  Aloha, Renée

Photos:

Simon Armitage: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/560/media/images/50068000/jpg/_50068743_50068742.jpg

Waiting room:

http://www.bill-helf.us/101.%20Ontario,%20CA%20%20International%20Airport%20to%20Seattle,%20WA%20International%20Airport3001.jpg

Seen at http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/

 

Thought for the Day: Break Old Conditioning

“There are three ways,” says Deepak Chopra, “to break down old conditioning:

— reflection, contemplation, and meditation.  Their power increases in that order. . . .

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Reflection–taking a second look at old habits, beliefs, and assumptions.

Contemplation–focusing on a thought or image until it expands as far as it can.

Meditation–finding the level of the mind that isn’t conditioned.

From: Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, p. 59-60.

 

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Meditating can elevate us out of old, negative patterns.

Take the time.  Do it.

Aloha, Renée

ganeshaP-

Ganesha – Balinese Hindu – remover of obstacles.

Photos in Bali by RR

Thought for the Day: Adjust

“You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

From: The Bali Advertiser,  October 2017, p. 26.

Photo:  Lilikoi/passion fruit flowers in Bali – by RR

Thought for the Day: Success

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.”

From: The Bali Advertiser, October 2017, p. 24.

On the steps to Penestanan, Bali (at step 50 of 95 or 106 depending on where you are going) – photo by RR

“The Benefits of Trashing the Garden”

What’s an easy way to get nutrients to your plants? How can you avoid chemical fertilizers?

The Garden Doctor’s suggestions will help you get rid of yard and vegetable waste – and make your plants happy and healthy.

The Benefits of Trashing the Garden

‘Dear Garden Doctor,

I want to use natural fertiliser [sic] but don’t have the patience for a compost, do you have any ideas for other easy ways to give my plants a natural kick with organic fertiliser. I’ve heard that banana peels can be used in the garden from vegetable gardens to flowers, palm trees and even thrown in the tops of staghorn ferns. Do you have any other easy ideas for natural fertilisers that can be made from ordinary household scraps that would otherwise end up in the rubbish bin?

Rafa from Ubud’

Adding any sort of organic matter to the soil to will improve the nutritional content and vitality of the soil whilst also inviting worms and all sorts of other beneficial micro-organisms to move in. A living soil that is teeming with life will always show the results by producing a lush green garden.  The easiest place to start is to re-use waste that you find within the garden.

All of the leaves that fall, the pruned offcuts, and the flowers that you deadhead contain vital nutrients that have been drawn up from deep within the soil. That’s why composting is so beneficial, it’s all about recycling the nutrients back into the soil. If you don’t have the patience for composting, then do it nature’s way and cycle the nutrients directly back into the soil.

Leaves and Garden Waste

Raking up old leaves and spreading them around the garden as a layer of mulch is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get started. Leaf mould or decaying leaf material is so simple, yet extremely beneficial. It’s one of the most readily available amendments you can add directly into your soil to improve it.

The benefits are twofold, not only will the soil benefit from the slow release of nutrients, it also retains moisture within the soil or can prevent moisture loss from evaporation if layered on as a mulch. Alternatively, you can dig it into the soil, where it will aerate the soil and improve drainage in combination with the action of worms, insects and microbes working to break it down.

When tidying up the garden recycle the garden off-cuts, making sure that they’re pest and disease free. Old dry palm fronds can be cut up and reincorporated into the soil. If your off-cuts are green, leave them in a pile out in the sun for a few days so that they dry up, turn brown and then can easily be shredded and reincorporated into the soil. Dead or dried up flowers can be pruned and scattered around the garden beds. Dried grass clippings are also one of the best nitrogen boosts you can give to your garden. Collect all garden waste, and cycle it back into the garden, it is full of the nutrients that have been sucked up from deep within the soil.

Kitchen Scraps

 They are great for the compost, but can also be incorporated directly back into the soil, decomposing rapidly and releasing nutrients for your plants. Fruit peels such as banana peels, mango, papaya and avocado skins will decompose quickly when lightly dug into the soil, alternatively simply just throw them around the base of your plants and cover with a layer of soil and leaves. Peels will provide potassium, phosphorous and calcium as well as many other trace minerals which will promote root and flower development and overall plant health. If you are concerned about attracting pests or animals, dry the peels in the sun before adding them into the garden or liquefy the peels in a blender with water before pouring it on to your garden.

Coffee Grounds and Tea Leaves

Coffee grounds and tea leaves are a source of nitrogen for the garden. You can either scatter coffee grounds around the base of your plants or fork them into the soil. With the teabags I normally collect a few then tear the paper and throw them in a bucket with water and pour the onto the soil. Coffee grounds and used tea leaves will give nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. The same goes for herbal teas, the green tea, rosehips or whatever sort that you drink can be poured out onto the garden or around your pot plants.

Eggshells

They consist of over 90% calcium carbonate and contain small amounts of other trace elements that make them a beneficial fertiliser. Collect them, wash and crush them, and then sprinkle them around the garden. They will add a hit of calcium and other minerals to the soil. Spread them around pot plants, your vegetable garden and outdoor trees. If you are growing an edible garden crushed egg shells sprinkled around plants will discourage snails and slugs, as they won’t crawl across the sharp jagged shell grit. Not only are you providing a natural fertiliser but also protecting your plants from slimy pests as well.

If you like boiled eggs, save the water until it cools and pour it on the garden as it will contain calcium and other minerals. Eggshells can also be used as seedling planters. With a pin make a few drainage holes in the bottom of an empty eggshell, add soil and then put them back into the old egg carton. Sow the seeds and care for them as you would any other seedlings. When they are ready to transplant into the garden, squeeze the shell gently to crack it and then place it in the ground. The roots will push through the cracks in the shell which will eventually decompose naturally, the best bit is… no transplant shock!

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Start seedlings in egg shells

Starchy Rice Water and Other Sugars

When you wash your rice, instead of wasting the starchy water by pouring it down the sink, water it around your plants and flowers. Just make sure to pour it directly onto the soil and avoid getting it all over leaves and flowers. The starches will promote beneficial soil bacteria, whilst also adding nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and other trace elements to the soil. Empty or near empty drink containers can also be used to water to the garden. If I go to the fridge and find the last remains of a milk or fruit juice container I fill it up with water to dilute the contents and then pour it straight onto the garden. Milk diluted with water is a well known fertiliser for the garden. The same goes for any drinks that have passed their use-by.

Simply dilute old containers with water and pour the contents around the garden. Even old bottles of soda can be rinsed and poured onto the garden, the microbes and plants will love the sugar hit. The added benefit is that you will have clean rinsed containers, instead of smelly sticky ones filling up the rubbish bin.

On a final note, the napkins, paper towels etc used at meal time are also thrown into the compost along with the old newspapers – the worms absolutely love that stuff. Who would’ve thought that trash could be so useful in the garden!

Dr. Kris

Garden Doctor

Contact: dr.kris@ymail.com

Copyright © 2017 Dr. Kris

You can read all past articles of Garden Doctor at http://www.BaliAdvertiser.biz

 

Happy gardening – and getting rid of waste.

Aloha, Renée

Article from: Go to – https://baliadvertiser.biz/the-benefits-of-trashing-the-garden/

Images from: <http://www.17apart.com/2012/01/how-to-plant-seeds-using-eggshells.html&gt; and  the egg shell heads from:  The Bali Advertiser, p. 7.

“The Scary Truth about Childbirth”

If you are a mom, hope to be a mom, or love a mom, the information in “The Scary Truth about Childbirth” in the January/February 2017 issue of Mother Jones magazine is important.   Those who know problems can happen can take steps to avoid the worst.

Childbirth can be fatal.  At 37, my healthy mother died in labor  – in a hospital –  in the United States.  I was 9, my sister 7; we had our new brother – but no mom.  My mom’s doctor told my dad that she had hemorrhaged to death – “a very rare occurrence.”

Even today, maternal mortality in the U.S. is disgustingly high.  A 2016 article in Time notes“A  2015 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that the U.S. has a higher maternal mortality rate than Iran, Libya and Turkey. The WHO determined that half of the U.S. deaths were preventable [my emphasis.  No one in that hospital, for instance,  was paying attention to my mom as she bled to death] .  . .

The United Nations set a goal to reduce the global maternal mortality rate by 75% between 1990 and 2015, and while most nations succeeded in lowering that number, the U.S. has experienced an uptick in recent years. A report published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that from 2000 to 2014, the maternal mortality rate for 48 states and Washington, D.C. increased 27% from close to 19 deaths per 100,000 live births to close to 24 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Texas, the rate doubled between 2010 to 2012.”  [A likely reason for that upswing in deaths is that Texas has closed almost all its Planned Parenthood clinics – which give birth control, family planning information, treat medical issues, and do legal abortions; leaving few or no low-cost medical alternatives for the poor in Texas].

From: http://time.com/4508369/why-u-s-women-still-die-during-childbirth/

Even if the mom and child make it through the birth, “The Scary Truth About Childbirth”  highlights problems and injuries that happen during labor but are often not recognized.

Almost no one talks about the possibilities of incontinence or prolapse or severe pain or . . . (and this includes most doctors – who don’t check for possible injuries).  A woman may not know until 20, 30, 40, 50  years later that she has a problem.

For one  woman I know who had two children, her pelvis bones were broken each time because of the intense pressure during childbirth. What was wrong with her doctor to let her go through two labors like that?  Obviously the doctor  didn’t know what to do, and my friend has had many issues as a result. 😞  Perhaps if she had known (or her doctor was more aware and competent), my friend  could have long ago taken steps to improve her situation – or at least not had to repeat the ordeal during the birth of her second child. 

I also know three  women who have had the surgery for incontinence.  This is a condition that most women won’t talk about, and maybe the fact that I know of these three  (none in my opinion “successful” operations) reflects that people are more likely to complain when something goes wrong than to tell that they have had a successful procedure for an embarrassing condition.  It must work for some, but of those examples I know, one woman has had the operation three times (at a current cost of $28,000 each time, so you better be rich enough to have good medical insurance)! The second says she will never be able to have intercourse again because of the misplacement of the mesh insert, and the third, a Maui woman who was touted as having a “successful” operation and had been an avid hiker says that she will never again be able to hike Haleakala, our Maui volcano, a long and a bit challenging adventure.

Please read and share “The Scary Truth About Childbirth” by Kiera Butler, a well-researched and disturbing Mother Jones article – with your friends, your doctor, with every woman you know.  If you are  mom, find a doctor who takes these problems seriously.  If your gynecologist doesn’t check for these rather common issues, your future quality of life may very well be impacted.  Also do Pilates and yoga that will strengthen your pelvic floor. 

Be aware.  What you don’t know can hurt you.

Please read:  “The Scary Truth About Childbirth”

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/childbirth-injuries-prolapse-cesarean-section-natural-childbirth/

In a related posting several years ago, I shared the Atlantic Monthly article, “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/

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“How Long Can a Woman Wait to Have a Baby?” – image from The Atlantic Monthly

That article focuses on the faulty information that fertility rates drop dramatically after a woman is 35.  That idea, says the author, is based partially on a study of French women from the years 1670 through 1830 —  before electric lights, antibiotics, or fertility treatments.

Both articles have information we should know.   Be healthy; be informed; take good care of yourself.

And my friend Chris sent me the link to “After Texas Stopped Funding . . .” – an LA Times article:  http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-planned-parenthood-texas-births-20160203-story.html

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If you can’t afford birth control, you probably can’t afford a child.  If you don’t want to use birth control, don’t use it.  If you are against abortion, don’t have one.  Let others decide what’s best for themselves.  Pregnancy has serious consequences.

Wishing you and all you love health and happiness.  Aloha, Renée

“Letter from Pyongyang: On The Brink – Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into nuclear war?”

“On The Brink,” written by The New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos (9/18/17, p. 34-53) is the best piece I’ve found to explain the history and the dynamics of the situation in North Korean and the reasons for tensions with the U.S. now.

For the entire article, go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-risk-of-nuclear-war-with-north-korea

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Students at Pyongyang Orphans’ Secondary School.  In a class of ten- and eleven-year-olds, one boy asked, “Why is America trying to provoke a war with us.”

The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea

On the ground in Pyongyang: Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into a devastating confrontation?

“A military officer at the D.M.Z. This summer, the prospect of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the most hermetic power on the globe, entered a realm of psychological calculation reminiscent of the Cold War.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

1. The Madman Theory

The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there is no embassy in Washington, but for years the two countries have relied on the “New York channel,” an office inside North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, to handle the unavoidable parts of our nonexistent relationship. The office has, among other things, negotiated the release of prisoners and held informal talks about nuclear tensions. In April, I contacted the New York channel and requested permission to visit Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . . .

Americans are accustomed to eruptions of hostility with North Korea, but in the past six months the enmity has reached a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War, in 1953. The crisis has been hastened by fundamental changes in the leadership on both sides. In the six years since Kim Jong Un assumed power, at the age of twenty-seven, he has tested eighty-four missiles—more than double the number that his father and grandfather tested. Just before Donald Trump took office, in January, he expressed a willingness to wage a “preventive” war in North Korea, a prospect that previous Presidents dismissed because it would risk an enormous loss of life. Trump has said that in his one meeting with Barack Obama, during the transition, Obama predicted that North Korea, more than any other foreign-policy challenge, would test Trump. In private, Trump has told aides, “I will be judged by how I handle this.”

On the Fourth of July, North Korea passed a major threshold: it launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile powerful enough to reach the mainland United States. In response, on July 21st, authorities in Hawaii announced that they would revive a network of Cold War-era sirens, to alert the public in the event of a nuclear strike. Trump said that he hopes to boost spending on missile defense by “many billions of dollars.” On September 3rd, after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon far larger than any it had revealed before—seven times the size of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, warned that a threat to America or its allies would trigger a “massive military response.”

A few days after the July 4th missile test, Pak told me that I could book a flight to Pyongyang. I submitted a list of people I wanted to interview, including diplomats and Kim Jong Un himself. About the latter, Pak only laughed. (Kim has never given an interview.) After Pak stopped laughing, he said I could talk to other officials. I wanted to understand how North Koreans think about the kind of violence that their country so often threatens. Were the threats serious, or mere posturing? How did they imagine that a war would unfold? Before my arrival in North Korea, I spent time in Washington, Seoul, and Beijing; many people in those places, it turned out, are asking the same things about the United States.

About a week before my flight to Pyongyang, America’s dealings with North Korea deteriorated further. On August 5th, as punishment for the missile test, the U.N. Security Council adopted some of the strongest sanctions against any country in decades, blocking the sale of coal, iron, and other commodities, which represent a third of North Korea’s exports. President Trump, in impromptu remarks at his golf club in New Jersey, said that “any more threats to the United States” will be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” A few hours later, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the Pacific Ocean near the American territory of Guam, from which warplanes depart for flights over the Korean Peninsula. Trump replied, in a tweet, that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.”

Citizens over the age of sixteen are expected to wear a badge celebrating at least one member of the Kim family.

Photograph by Max Pinckers for The New Yorker

. . . .

Outside the Administration, the more people I talked to, the more I heard a strong case for some level of diplomatic contact. When Obama dispatched James Clapper to Pyongyang, in 2014, to negotiate the release of two prisoners, Clapper discovered that North Korea had misread the purpose of the trip. The government had presumed that he was coming in part to open a new phase in the relationship. “They were bitterly disappointed,” he said. Clapper’s visit convinced him that the absence of diplomatic contact is creating a dangerous gulf of misperception. “I was blown away by the siege mentality—the paranoia—that prevails among the leadership of North Korea. When we sabre-rattle, when we fly B-1s accompanied by jet escorts from the Republic of Korea and Japan, it makes us feel good, it reassures the allies, but what we don’t factor in is the impact on the North Koreans.”

Clapper went on, “I think that what we should do is consider seriously, in consultation with South Korea, establishing an interest section in Pyongyang much like we had in Havana for decades, to deal with a government that we didn’t recognize. If we had a permanent presence in Pyongyang, I wonder whether the outcome of the tragedy of Otto Warmbier might have been avoided. Secondly, it would provide on-scene insight into what is actually going on in North Korea—intelligence.”

It is a measure of how impoverished America’s contact with North Korea has become that one of the best-known conduits is Dennis Rodman, a.k.a. the Worm, the bad boy of the nineties-era Chicago Bulls. Rodman’s agent, Chris Volo, a hulking former mixed-martial-arts fighter, told me recently, “I’ve been there four times in four years. I’m in the Korean Sea, and I’m saying to myself, ‘No one would believe that I’m alone right now, riding Sea-Doos with Kim Jong Un.’ ” Rodman’s strange bond with Kim began in 2013, when Vice Media, aware of Kim’s love of the Bulls, offered to fly American basketball players to North Korea. Vice tried to contact Michael Jordan but got nowhere. Rodman, who was working the night-club autograph circuit, was happy to go. He joined three members of the Harlem Globetrotters for a game in Pyongyang. Kim made a surprise appearance, invited Rodman to dinner, and asked him to return to North Korea for a week at his private beach resort in Wonsan, which Rodman later described as “Hawaii or Ibiza, but he’s the only one that lives there.” . . .

Ultimately, the Trump Administration must decide if it can live with North Korea as a nuclear state. During the Cold War, the United States used deterrence, arms control, and diplomacy to coexist with a hostile, untrustworthy adversary. At its height, the Soviet Union had fifty-five thousand nuclear weapons. According to the RAND Corporation, the North Koreans are on track to have between fifty and a hundred by 2020; that would be less than half the size of Great Britain’s arsenal.

Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national-security adviser, argued, in a Times Op-Ed last month, that the U.S. can “rely on traditional deterrence” to blunt North Korea’s threat. But McMaster is skeptical that the Soviet model can be applied to Pyongyang. He told me, “There are reasons why this situation is different from the one we were in with the Soviets. The North Koreans have shown, through their words and actions, their intention to blackmail the United States into abandoning our South Korean ally, potentially clearing the path for a second Korean War.”

If the Administration were to choose a preventive war, one option is “decapitation,” an effort to kill senior leaders with a conventional or even a nuclear attack, though most analysts consider the risks unacceptable. Such a strike could rally the population around the regime and cause a surviving commander to respond with a nuclear weapon. Another option is akin to Israel’s 1981 stealth attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor, the linchpin of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons development, which set back Iraq’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by at least a decade. “That’s a textbook case of a preventive war,” the senior Administration official told me.

But the comparison between Osirak and North Korea is limited. In 1981, Iraq had yet to make a bomb, and it had just one major nuclear target, which was isolated in the desert and relatively easy to eliminate. North Korea already has dozens of usable nuclear warheads, distributed across an unknown number of facilities, many of them hidden underground. Even destroying their missiles on the launch pad has become much harder, because the North has developed mobile launchers and solid-fuel missiles, which can be rolled out and fired with far less advance notice than older liquid-fuel missiles.

The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.)

Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean military, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age.

In dozens of conversations this summer, in the United States and Asia, experts from across the political spectrum predicted that, despite the threats from Trump and McMaster, the U.S. most likely will accept the reality of North Korea as a nuclear state, and then try to convince Kim Jong Un that using—or selling—those weapons would bring about its annihilation. John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University, in Seoul, said, “If, one day, an American President comes along—maybe Trump—who understands the problem is the hostile relationship, and takes steps to improve it, then the slow train to denuclearization could leave the station.”

Managing a nuclear North Korea will not be cheap. It will require stronger missile defenses in South Korea, Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii, and more investment in intelligence to track the locations of North Korea’s weapons, to insure that we pose a credible threat of destroying them. Scott Snyder, of the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I think we’re going to end up in a situation where we live with a nuclear-capable North Korea, but it will be a situation that is incredibly dangerous. Because, at that point, any unexplained move that looks like it could involve preparations for a nuclear strike could precipitate an American preëmptive response.” Even that risk, by almost all accounts, is better than a war. . . .

IV. “We’re Not Going to Die Alone . . .

Jo wrapped up with a grand farewell. “I know that The New Yorker is very influential and I’ve received good feelings through our dialogue today,” the translator said. “I’d be grateful if you just write articles which are conducive to the improved bilateral relations between the D.P.R.K. and the U.S.”

. . .

I had wondered what it must be like to experience the United States through the fog of Twitter. It turned out that it wasn’t much different from Americans trying to make sense of North Korea through its propaganda.

After breakfast one morning, Mr. Pak drove me to a subway station in downtown Pyongyang, and announced, “This is for the nuclear war.”

By now, I was accustomed to his chipper declarations about an imminent cataclysm, but this one baffled me. He explained, “Everything here has a dual-use purpose.” He pointed to an underpass, beneath an intersection, which he said can serve as a shelter. In the back yards of apartment blocks, residents can take cover in storage cellars. Surrounded by commuters, we boarded an escalator, heading down to the station.

Built in the seventies, with Russian help, the Pyongyang Metro lies a hundred metres underground, nearly twice as far as the deepest platform in the New York City subway. Pyongyang stations are equipped with large blast doors. “During the Korean War, we were threatened by nukes,” Pak said. In 1950, President Truman raised the possibility of using the atomic bomb in Korea. “It touched our people’s minds,” he said, adding, “We don’t want that to happen again. And now we’ve got nukes and we can comfortably say, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

In the event of a nuclear war, American strategists assume that North Korea would first launch a nuclear or chemical weapon at an American military base in Japan or Guam, in the belief that the U.S. would then hold its fire, rather than risk a strike on its mainland. I mentioned that to Pak, but he countered with a different view. “The point of nuclear war is to give total destruction to another party,” he said. “There are no moves, no maneuvers. That’s a conventional war.”

When we reached the subway platform, we were treated to patriotic orchestral music playing on the loudspeaker. Broadsheet newspaper pages were hung behind glass for people to read while they waited for the train. The scene reminded me of thirty-year-old photos I’ve seen of Beijing. We rode the train awhile, and then got on the escalator for the long ascent to the surface.

I was glad to be back in the open air. We got in the Toyota, and Pak said, “If the U.S. puts sanctions and sanctions and sanctions and sanctions, if they drive us to the edge of the cliff, we will attack. That’s how the world wars have started.” He thought awhile and then said, “Don’t push us too hard, because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”

This was a familiar refrain. Some of the American officials in Washington who are immersed in the problem of North Korea frequently mention the old Korean saying “Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!” It means “You die, I die!” It’s the expression you hear in a barroom fight, or from an exasperated spouse—the notion that one party will go over the cliff if it will take the other down, too. Krys Lee, a Korean-American author and translator, said, “My mother also used it on me!” Lee finds that it’s hard for Americans and Koreans to gauge each other’s precise emotions, because Koreans tend to use “more abstract, dramatic, and sentimental language.” . . .

. . .

The mythology was no surprise, but one exhibit contained a stark implication for the current crisis. Beside the museum, we boarded the U.S.S. Pueblo, a Navy spy ship that was captured in January, 1968, long after the end of the Korean War. The seizure—during a surge of hostilities not unlike the present—was an audacious gamble on North Korea’s part. One American crew member was killed and eighty-two were detained. Lyndon Johnson considered retaliating with a naval blockade or even a nuclear strike. But he was consumed by the war in Vietnam, and, in the end, he did not retaliate. After eleven months, the U.S. apologized for spying and won the release of the prisoners.

The Pueblo incident nearly started a war, but Kim Il Sung drew a powerful, and potentially misleading, lesson from it. In a private conversation in 1971, Kim told Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian President, that the Pueblo and other standoffs had convinced him that Washington backs down. “The Americans don’t want to continue this fight,” he said, according to documents in Romania’s state archives. “They let us know it’s not their intention to fight the Koreans again.”

Van Jackson, a scholar of international relations who served in the Pentagon from 2009 to 2014, spent years analyzing the Kim family’s handling of crises, including the seizure of the Pueblo. The grandfather’s theory of victory still drives North Korea toward provocation, he said, but the regime also knows its limits; to survive, it chooses violence but avoids escalation. “When South Korea blares giant propaganda speakers at the North from the D.M.Z., North Korea fires warning shots nearby but doesn’t dare attack the speakers themselves,” he said. “When South Korean N.G.O.s send propaganda leaflets into North Korea using hot-air balloons—which really pisses them off—North Korea threatens to attack the N.G.O.s but instead just fires at the unmanned balloons.” In Jackson’s view, North Korea is not irrational, but it very much wants America to think that it is.

Jackson believes that the Trump Administration’s threat to launch a preventive war begins a new phase. “Trump may abandon the one thing that has prevented war in the past: U.S. restraint,” he told me. In embracing new rhetoric and rationale, the U.S. risks a spiral of hostility in which neither side intends to start a war but threats and intimidation lead to ever more aggressive behavior. Trump and Kim may goad each other into the very conflict that they are both trying to avoid.

In 1966, Thomas Schelling, the deterrence expert, wrote that brinkmanship hinges, above all, on “beliefs and expectations.” Our grasp of North Korea’s beliefs and expectations is not much better than its grasp of ours. To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other. In eighteen years of reporting, I’ve never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody—not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject—is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks. We simply don’t know how Kim Jong Un really regards the use of his country’s nuclear arsenal, or how much North Korea’s seclusion and mythology has distorted its understanding of American resolve. We don’t know whether Kim Jong Un is taking ever-greater risks because he is determined to fulfill his family’s dream of retaking South Korea, or because he is afraid of ending up like Qaddafi.

To some in the Trump Administration, the gaps in our knowledge of North Korea represent an argument against deterrence; they are unwilling to assume that Pyongyang will be constrained by the prospect of mutually assured destruction. But, if the alternative is a war with catastrophic costs, then gaps in our knowledge should make a different case. Iraq taught us the cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that we’re not making that mistake again. ♦

Reporting and photography for this piece was facilitated by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Thought for the Day: Grateful?

“If you are sitting here reading this,” says the literature at Soma Café in Ubud, Bali,  “you are amongst the most fortunate people in the world.”

But wherever you are, “Reminding ourselves daily of all the things that we are grateful for, large and small is a beautiful way to live.  The more grateful we are, the more blessings we are open to receiving.

As Dr. Masuru Emoto has scientifically proven through his book Messages in Water, water (and food containing water) carries the energy that is put into it.

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Ice crystals from the various energies – from Dr. Emoto’s book.

From:  <https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004V3WPUA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1&gt;

Similarly, you can feel the positive energies of some people while others emit negative feelings.  Even if you doubt Dr. Emoto’s findings, personal gratitude opens you to see more blessings.

 

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Grain in Ubud rice field – the rice farmer adds to our vitality.

The Soma Café says, “We invite you to try blessing your food, giving thanks to mother earth, all the people that were a part of growing and preparing it, asking that your body receives the ultimate nourishment and that the food fuels you to live your purpose and walk in peace.  Try eating slowly & mindfully, chewing completely & taking a moment to breathe between bites. . .”  Enjoy – and be grateful.

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A Soma Café delight

From: https://www.facebook.com/Soma-Cafe-Ubud-A-cafe-shop-community-gathering-space-in-Ubud-1122035555640

What are you grateful for today?

Aloha, Renée

 

War Outlawed? Is There Hope?

In this year when so much seems out of control – earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, a mass shooting by a lone gunman in the U.S., ethnic massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, refugees trapped on borders, two world leaders with nuclear arms goading each other, the world seems more dangerous and full of suffering than ever before.  Is there any cause for hope?

A recent newspaper article, an article about a book, and a book provide encouraging answers.

First, a friend pointed me to “Drop Your Weapons: What happens when you outlaw war” by Louis Menard in the September 18, 2017 edition of The New Yorker, pages 61-66.

Menard’s piece gives an overview of a recent Simon & Schuster book – The Internationalists, in which Oona A Hathaway and Scott J. Shipiro, two Yale Law School professors, argue that the Kellogg-Briand Pact [the 1928 agreement that by 1934, sixty-three countries – virtually every established nation on earth at the time had signed] effectively ended the use of war as an instrument of national policy.

The book asks and answers,

“Did a largely forgotten peace pact transform the world we live in?

 

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Image from The New Yorker

 

Please read this article, which is only five – very informative pages (and if possible, the book).  Go to: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/what-happens-when-war-is-outlawed 

The second piece I’ve seen recently that offers us hope for now is a book recommended by my friend Melinda who is very familiar with  peace activities in the world.  She lived in Japan for 18 years.  While she was there, she interviewed “Hibakusha” (被爆者).  In Japanese,  it is the word for those surviving the radiation fallout of 1945 atomic bombings  of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Last month, Melinda won the 2017 Kellogg-Briand a peace prize for her writing.   She lent me When the World Outlawed War:

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In this book, David Swanson tells the history of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the law that made war illegal – and offers us ideas what can be done to promote international peace.

Today few people know of the Kellogg-Briand Pact agreement, and the energies of some of our leaders seem to inflame the possibility of war.

Swanson writes:

“The Kellogg-Briand Pact, 1928

The Kellogg-Briand Pact was an agreement to outlaw war signed on August 27, 1928. Sometimes called the Pact of Paris for the city in which it was signed, the pact was one of many international efforts to prevent another World War, but it had little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II.

Photograph with representatives who signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact in the White House

U.S. Peace Advocates

In the wake of World War I, U.S. officials and private citizens made significant efforts to guarantee that the nation would not be drawn into another war. Some focused on disarmament, such as the series of naval conferences that began in Washington in 1921, and some focused on cooperation with the League of Nations and the newly formed World Court. Others initiated a movement to try to outlaw war outright. Peace advocates Nicholas Murray Butler and James T. Shotwell were part of this movement. Both men were affiliated with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an organization dedicated to promoting internationalism that was established in 1910 by leading American industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

French Involvement

With the influence and assistance of Shotwell and Butler, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Aristide Briand proposed a peace pact as a bilateral agreement between the United States and France to outlaw war between them. Particularly hard hit by World War I, France faced continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses. Briand published an open letter in April of 1927 containing the proposal. Though the suggestion had the enthusiastic support of some members of the American peace movement, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg were less eager than Briand to enter into a bilateral arrangement. They worried that the agreement against war could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened. To avoid this, they suggested that the two nations take the lead in inviting all nations to join them in outlawing war.

                                              Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg

The extension of the pact to include other nations was well-received internationally. After the severe losses of the First World War, the idea of declaring war to be illegal was immensely popular in international public opinion. Because the language of the pact established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact, many nations had no objections to signing it. If the pact served to limit conflicts, then everyone would benefit; if it did not, there were no legal consequences. In early 1928, negotiations over the agreement expanded to include all of the initial signatories. In the final version of the pact, they agreed upon two clauses: the first outlawed war as an instrument of national policy and the second called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means.

On August 27, 1928, fifteen nations signed the pact at Paris. Signatories included France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy and Japan. Later, . . . the pact was eventually signed by most of the established nations in the world. The U.S. Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 85–1, though it did so only after making reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.”

From: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/kellogg

 

Besides giving the history of the Pact, Swanson suggests, “We should learn to support multiple strategies (Outlawry, referendum power, disarmament, etc.) without framing each as the rival or enemy of the others.  Here are some [aimed mainly at the U.S. but many could apply to other countries too]:

  • Cut a half a trillion dollars out of the $1.2 trillion national security budget, putting half of it into tax cuts for non-billionaires, and half of it into useful spending on green energy, education, retraining for displaced military=industrial workers, etc.
  • Bring the National Guard home and de-federalize it.
  • Ban the redeployment of personnel currently suffering PTSD.
  • Ban no-bid uncompeted military contracts.
  • Restore constitutional war powers to the Congress.
  • Create a requirement for a public referendum prior to launching any war.
  • Close the foreign bases.
  • Ban weapons from space.
  • Ban extra-legal prisons.
  • Ban kangaroo military courts outside our ordinary court system.
  • Restore habeas corpus.
  • Ban the use of mercenaries.
  • Limit military spending to no more than twice that of the next highest spending nation on earth.
  • Ban secret budgets, secret agencies, and secret operations.
  • Ban the launching of drone strikes into foreign nations.
  • Forbid the transfer of students’ information to military recruiters without their permission.
  • Comply with the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
  • Reform or replace the United Nations.
  • Join the International Criminal Court and make it independent of the United Nations.
  • Disarm.

We should stop appealing purely to people’s selfishness with arguments about financial costs or U.S. casualties and appeal also to their goodness and decency. . . .”(166-167).

“One of General Douglas MacArthur’s last speeches . . . is still worth reading:

‘The great question is: Can global war now be outlawed from the world?  If so, it would mark the greatest advance in civilization since the Sermon on the Mount. It would lift at one stroke the darkest shadow which has engulfed mankind from the beginning.  It would not only remove fear and bring security — it would not only create new moral and spiritual values —

it would produce an economic wave of prosperity that would raise the world’s standard of living beyond anything ever dreamed of by man.  The hundreds of billions of dollars now spent in mutual preparedness [for war] could conceivably abolish poverty from the face of the earth.  It would accomplish even more than this; it would at one stroke reduce the international tensions that seem to be insurmountable now, to matters of more probable solution. . . . Many will tell you with mockery and ridicule that the abolition of war can be only a dream — that it is but the vague imagining of a visionary.  But we must go on or we will go under.[My emphasis].  And the great criticism that can be made is that the world lacks a plan that will enable us to go on.  We have suffered the blood and the sweat and the tears.  Now we seek the way and the truth and the light.  We are in a new era. The old methods and solutions for this vital problem no longer suffice.  We must have new thoughts, new ideas, new concepts . . . We must have sufficient imagination and courage to translate this universal wish for peace — which is rapidly becoming a universal necessity — into actuality'” [My emphasis](168-169).

From When the World Outlawed War by David Swanson.  www.barnesandnoble.com/p/when-the-world-outlawed-war-david-swanson/1106980382/2673297777290?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Marketplace+Shopping+greatbookprices_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP24104

The third piece I’ve seen recently is from the October 7, 2017 Honolulu Star-Advertiser,  “Nobel Peace Prize: Anti-Nuclear advocates earn honor,” by Rick Gladstone.

“In a year when the threat of nuclear warfare seemed to draw closer, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to a advocacy group behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.

The group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons [ican], a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists, was honored for its efforts to advance the negotiations that led to the treaty, which was reached in July at the United Nations.

‘The organization is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,’ the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement” (A3).

Despite all the news with cause for alarm, in some ways, some very important ways, the world is heading toward peace.

Let’s all be the change we hope to see:  support peace and sustainability for all.  In peace and light,

 

 

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Image from The New Yorker

Ideas do matter – and, of course, our actions.  Aloha, Renée

 

 

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