Wednesday, November 03, 2021

DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

The joy of needing to use the facilities in Panama

by Gary Stamper, CPC. MSIP, DSPS




I learned very early to carry toilet paper with me whenever I left my apartment for more than a couple of hours. This is one of those "cultural things" nobody tells you about when you're researching living in a foreign country and I never thought to ask. No harm, lesson learned.

Having been in Bocas Del Toro 2 weeks shy of a year, I now know where there are available restrooms all over town. The okay ones are in some bars and restaurants, and the better ones are in some of the hotels. Forget stores and markets. Non-existent except for the largest store in town which is home to the first "public" restroom I found in town and where I learned about carrying my own toilet paper. Forget about washing your hands, there are no soap or paper towels there, either. Fortunately, there is hand sanitizer at the entrance.

Thanks to having to travel to Panama City from Bocas to complete my Permanent Panamanian Residency, I recently had the "pleasure" of making two 20-hour round trip bus rides across much of my new country of residence. 10 hours going, 10 hours back, and the buses were always full. Fortunately, these are modern-day "megabuses" with bathrooms... with a catch.



The bus conductor (driver) compartment area is cordoned off and locked to the passengers while the bus is moving and each bus has a "concierge" who occasionally comes back to announce stops or to unlock the bathroom for passenger use when requested, admonishing each user that there is no defecating allowed on the bus, only urinating. So buses, apparently at the whim of the driver, may make 1-2 food and restroom stops during the 10-hour journey. The only other stops the bus makes are for other passengers getting on and off the bus.



Now, these stops are in remote small towns, and the restrooms and the restrooms rarely show any evidence of being cleaned, toilet paper, paper towels, soap. and often have sinks with no running water. You're really on your own, here, and when you're done, you can order food, if you'd like. But I saw no evidence of any restaurants having separate washrooms for employees and the latex surgical gloves that many wore were of small comfort to me. 

One of the worst restrooms was owned by the bus company. While it did have toilet paper and a working sink, it did lack two things: hand towels and a light bulb. I had to use my phone flashlight to light my way.



So why did I use the bus? Why wouldn't I just fly to Panama City and back? At the time there was only one flight a day departing to Panama City and one flight a day arriving from Panama City. That would have meant flying in one day, taking care of my business the next day, and flying back out the following day. Cost? About $140 each way, three days shot and two nights in a Panama City hotel. With the bus, I could sleep most of the way, arrive, take care of my business, and be back for the night bus to Bocas, and sleep my way back. Cost? About $28 each way period.

Also, I spent two weeks in Panama City when I first arrived in Panama getting my initial residency legal work done, and I didn't really like the city. Panama City is very expensive and a mixture of elites and abject poverty. Panama City has been working on becoming the Shanghai of Latin America, and it's well on its way as it is the largest city in Latin America and a global financial hub.



That's fine, but it's not why I came to Panama.

I came for the Caribbean beaches of Bocas del Toro, the laid-back Jamaican vibe, and the people - ex-pats and native Panamanians - and the bus experience gave me valuable insight into Panama and I would never get that on a flight to and from Panama City.

For me, it's all about the experience.



Thursday, October 28, 2021

MY FIRST YEAR IN PANAMA: Collapsing Consciously in Panama Pt. 3

by Gary StamperCPC, MSIP, DSPS


At 76, this is the first year in my life as an elder that I've had
to concede that, "
Merde, I really am getting old."

Bocas Town's "Business and Party Center"

On November 3rd I will have been living in Panama for a full year, so it's time for me to do a "first-year" recap - a review, if you will, revisiting the good, the bad, and the ugly of my decision to uproot myself from the country I was born in and move to a foreign land.

We were all in the midst of our first pandemic - but probably not our last, thanks, largely due to Climate Change creating perfect Petri-Dish conditions for new future pandemics. A window of Panamanian COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted in mid-2019 October attributed to Panama's tough and successful stance with strict lockdowns, curfews, and closed airports basically saying "no one gets in, no one gets out."  During that time, there were only limited flights that could leave Panama and they consisted almost exclusively of embassy-provided emergency flights of ex-pats who did not want to stay in Panama during the lockdowns for various reasons.

After a short debate with myself about if I should take advantage of the newly available flights into Panama, I decided to go for it. Four weeks later I flew into a pretty much-deserted Tocumen airport in Panama City at 2am.

This is what Tocumen Airport in Panama City looks like at 2am

I didn't know a soul and spoke no Spanish, and didn't know if the country would close down again and whether or not I'd be facing more lockdowns. What was I thinking? I was thinking I'd rather be in pandemic lockdown on an island in the Caribbean than in a Houston, Texas suburb, where I had been spending some wonderful time visiting my oldest daughter. The latest good news came on Tuesday, October 25 when it was reported that new Covid cases continue to go down in Panama!  Out of the 4,500,000 people in Panama, there were 134 new cases yesterday. Most of those have mild cases and are able to quarantine at home. In all of Panama, there are currently 166 people in the hospital with Covid.


Why I chose Panama

This is the question I get asked the most - from old and new friends - and the easiest to answer, if you've followed my journey, you may remember that my first choice was Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca made sense initially because of the low cost of living, the cosmopolitan air of a larger city, and the mild climate. It didn't hurt, either, that my friends - Bonnie Willow and Gary - had paved the way as ex-pats and lived there and I had followed her blog through their journey from North Carolina to Ecuador. I also used the international website 
"Live and Invest Overseas" as my primary research tool. 

Ecuador would be a fine place to retire with many good locations , but something just didn't quite feel right to me, and that turned out to be that it was a mountain city at about 7,000 ft. elevation and that meant cold winters and no beach, so I began exploring the beaches of Ecuador. Beautiful as some were, I soon realized that I longed for the white-sand beaches of the Caribbean that I had loved so much during my travels and that eventually led me to Bocas Del Toro, Panama.


Bocas Del Toro - the archipelago islands, not the Province, or state - pretty much pushed all the right buttons for me, and the more I read and talked with people about it the more I found I liked about it. Not the cheapest place to live, but close. Bohemian to my liking, not too polished, but with great beaches and a favorite with the younger hiking and surfing tourism crowd. Add on hands-down the best "Pensionado" retirement option in the world on top of those white-sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, and lastly, Panama's economy is tied to the U.S. Dollar which is really convenient, and stick a fork in me, I was done! I began quietly planning my escape in the early fall of 2019 and by March 2020 I was ready to go when it became obvious that the virus had other plans for us all and I would have to postpone my departure until a later date. 

By the way: Panama's world-class Pensionado retirement program requires a minimum verifiable lifetime pension of $1,000/mo, and you might be able to do that in some areas like David (Da-veed) or Boquete (Bo-keh-tee) but as a single in the resort area of Bocas Del Toro, you'll need another $4-500/mo to live comfortably. Two people could probably live comfortably on $2,100/mo.



Fast Forward to Today

Is everything perfect? Not a chance. If you're looking for perfect, let me remind you that "perfect is the enemy of the good," and Bocas is Good with a capital "G." 

Yes, it's more humid than I like, and after living in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina for almost a decade, I knew I was not likely to get over my dislike of high humidity (I "glisten" a lot here). I knew the pace here was going to be slower than I like and that I'd need to hone my "patience quotient," but I'm still not quite over learning that "mañana" does not mean "tomorrow," but rather means "not today" and that you're on your own when it comes to tomorrow. "Mañana" is actually closer to "someday."

Also included in the "you're really testing my patience" category is Mail and shipping.

As for mail, there is none. Panama doesn't have mail service. Nor do they have a house addressing system. It's done by private companies and it's expensive, highly flawed, and inefficient. If I order something from Amazon or have my sister forward a piece of mail from the US to me, it can usually take anywhere from 2-4 weeks for it to arrive from my dropbox in Miami and to the dropbox here in Bolcas Town where I have to go to pick it up. Trust me when I say cherish your U.S. Mail system. Don't let anyone fuck that up for you. You don't miss your water 'til your well runs dry.

Of course, the world's Supply Chain/Shipping problems and Panama's unique issues are beginning to make things worse. 
I Just received 4 packages that have taken between 3 and 7 weeks to arrive from Mlami, and since we are on an island, I also expect to start seeing some worsening around food shortages of specific items getting worse soon. We're already in a situation where certain food items deliveries are sporadic partly because - being on an island - we're the last stop on the delivery chain.

Of course, “supply chain problems” are just early evidence of permanent economic collapse, and not just something we have to put up with for a while until the supply chains are magically “fixed”. This is what collapse looks like on one more broken system,

Air Conditioning. My water, garbage, and really bad internet are all included in what I have amusingly referred to as my "furnished" apt (which actually is about half of what it would cost in the US as is, but electricity to run the older mini-split that cools mi apartamento runs about $95/ month. It finally gave out a few days ago and was replaced yesterday, and I'm hoping my cooling costs go down thanks to greater efficiency. it's a must for me, even if I weren't melting and withering in the heat and humidity. Keeping humidity down is essential for my art and paintings so they don't develop mold and mildew. Also, pretty good and fairly reliable private hi-speed unlimited internet runs me $39/mo.  Mobile phone service with 5GB/mo data is $22/mo.

Food trucks arrive by ferry

There are foods I really miss, and Artichokes, Brussell Sprouts, and Raspberries are high among them, superfoods that are staples of my anti-inflammatory diet. I don't eat in many restaurants because what isn't fried here is likely a high-glycemic root vegetable that is inevitably fried, too, as is most fish. On the other hand, avocados, tomatoes, and occasionally sweet potatoes if you know where to look (I do), frozen broccoli, spinach, and riced cauliflower - and salads - make up my carefully curated anti-inflammatory and low-glycemic diet that also consists of frozen wild-caught Peruvian Pacific Salmon, some whitefish, chicken, and veggie-patties when I can find and stock up on them. Almost everything that needs to be fried is done so in my air fryer (salmon, chicken, baked potatoes...I didn't know I could do that!) unless I'm deep-frying seafood and veggie tempura in local coconut oil. 

I also have a wickedly good super-healthy banana pancake recipe that augments my veggie omelets, sweet potato greens/banana/organic hemp hearts protein/egg/p-nut butter smoothies (mmmm!), and organic hi-fiber Oat Bran hot cereal with mixed berries, walnuts, and Oat Milk. I pretty much only eat fermented dairy, except for butter! Different stores are always carrying some - but not all - of the foods I eat and I never know who's going to be carrying what which means I have to visit almost of the small markets that make up our local food supply'

You can't buy sardines here unless they're drenched in tomato sauce and the markets literally stock dozens of differently branded versions of tomato sauce sardines that come that way. Not a sardine to be found packed in oil, olive oil, or spring water to be found among dozens of shelves loaded with tomato sauce-based sardines. Panamanians must eat a LOT of tomato sauce-loaded sardines!

China Cheap Canned Sardines in Tomato Sauce ... no thanks!


I ship in "Sardines in 100% extra-virgin Olive Oil" (Superfood!) by the case from Amazon.  Up until now, it has taken about an average of 3-4 weeks to get them from Amazon. 

Banking:
The only way you can send money out of Panama, is by wire transfer (pretty much the only way you can bring it in, too, with a couple of fairly complicated exceptions). Panama has a "closed" banking system that you cannot marry with PayPal, and you can only use your Panama debit card within the country's borders. VERY complicated and I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about Panama's banking system


Would I Have Done Anything Differently?

Ah, hindsight!  If only this, if only that! I would have gotten here a lot earlier, while the tourists were still coming, long before the pandemic struck!


My Biggest Concerns About Being in Panama

The second most-asked question I hear is "is Panama safe?" That's a context question. Panama is one of the safest countries in Latin and South America and much safer than many places in the United States. I was often careful where I went in the United States and I'm careful where I go in Panama, keeping situational awareness in both places.

However, in the last couple of years when I'm asked that question, it's more about "is it safe in terms of climate change?" Are there hurricanes (no), atmospheric rivers (yes. everywhere now) and tornados (The South and Southeast US), fires and drought (the US West), droughts becoming more normal, flooding, sea-rise forecasts, extreme heat or cold, can you grow food there, what kind, and for how long? Are there mass migrations taking place and why?

How might climate change affect the spread of viruses?

My point here is that there are no longer safe places anywhere. Proven man-made extreme weather conditions are planet-wide and will continue to get worse as we continue to pass more and more irreversible tipping points. As for how safe is it in Panama - especially in the low-lying Bocas del Toro archipelago islands where I am,  we already get 134 inches of average rain a year (Seattle's average is 34"), and when the rains come we already have flooding from rains and tides and there will likely come a time when we'll have to move to higher ground but science says the equatorial waters will rise slower than other areas. 

A bigger issue for us may well be higher temperatures. Pick your poison. Migration remains an option. So is staying where you are.


Other Concerns

One of my developing concerns is my health and health care in Panama. At 76, this is the first year in my life as an elder that I've had to concede that, merde', I really am getting old. 

Before I came to Panama, I had knee and hip replacements, and while the knee is perfect, the hip seems not to have healed properly and walking has become more difficult. I am pretty much in constant mild pain and my US doctor thinks I have developed bursitis. In addition, I have had Chronic Prostatitis - a common problem in older men - for over 20 years which I have easily controlled through diet. My father died at 92 with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer, so I've been paying close attention to the importance of maintaining prostate health through lifestyle and diet. It's mostly been a mild irritant, and I occasionally have prostate-induced bladder infections that need to be treated with antibiotics. I know when it happens, and in Panama, I don't need a prescription for the antibiotic that works best for me. I have recently re-added a regimen of daily stretching and strengthening, and senior yoga three times a week courtesy of YouTube, as well as tightening down on how and what I'm eating on my anti-inflammatory diet.

Bocas Del Toro's Isla Colon Regional Hospital

Panama generally has very good healthcare at much lower prices than in the US and is considered to be a very good option for Medical Tourism... but not in Bocas Del Toro. We have a newer small local hospital that is more like a walk-in clinic, but if I need to speak to a specialist - like an orthopedic surgeon or a urologist - I'm going to have to travel over an hour to get to a larger small hospital in Changuinola on the mainland, or 4 hours by bus to David, where they have a large modern hospital. My out-of-pocket expenses for my last visit to the local hospital was $1.00

This is not an issue for me at this point, but I'm aware that it could be in the future, and could possibly prompt a move in the future. I bring this up because if you're considering a move to a foreign country, you'll want to pay very close attention to health care availability. 

But all in all, I am loving living in Bocas Del Toro and I'm getting more and more comfortable being and learning how to live here. My Spanish is improving (slowly) and I think I'm beginning to feel better by understanding how to live here more healthfully. I still need to make more friends but I'm working on that, too. 


An Even Bigger Concern

I've written profusely about collapse and sustainability - and the lack thereof - and continue to do so today. Many of you are reading this because you see my frequent posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter about climate change, population migrations, politics, empire, injustice, totalitarianism, fascism, impending economic collapse, and what I believe will be the ultimate end result of our collective inaction and not taking all of these combined and related problems seriously. Many of us remain largely in denial. I would be inauthentic if I didn't touch on this aspect of being and living here. I urge facing collapse, in whatever form it come to you, with more grace than we created it with and I think the best way to do that is to try to model it myself.

As someone who believes we've reached the point of no return with climate change, economic degradations, and the irreversible consequences of our actions as a species on multiple fronts, I also believe that we have an ethical, moral, and spiritual obligation to act as if we could turn it all around, and ease the pain and suffering that's coming wherever we can. M
y heart cries out for people who are in denial about collapse because it's not personal, yet, and the suffering of millions of people already starving, migrating, searching for a better life that will likely not come, and the billions who are likely to follow on the first slow and then fast arcs of collapse upon collapse, each making the next one inevitable and then very real like perfectly-placed dominoes.

Among other things, my move to Panama has been a way for me to stay true to myself by following my own advice to others over the last two decades: "Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush," and doing so on my own terms as much as possible in the only way I know. Panama's a far cry from where I initially applied the phrase to urge others interested in sustainability and collapse-avoidance to create small off-grid self-sustaining communities similar to what my partner and I were trying to create in North Carolina as a way to get through what was coming then and is now upon us. 

This is what collapse looks like.

From the unknown we have come and into the unknown shall we go, the unknown being the bookmarks that surround the magic of our lives.  We all die and the important thing is how we live our lives, in spite of, and even with, all of our mistakes.

Today I am fond of a quote mostly attributed to both Lakota and Cherokee indigenous Native American tribes. It is a reminder that most of us don't know when we will die, only that we will die, and it calls us to live each day as if it were our last, to treat each other with compassion, respect, and kindness. In an age when people are physically attacked and beaten for wearing a mask (as just one example), I don't hold out a lot of hope for that kindness and compassion. Ou
r time here is so short, as individuals, and now quite possibly as a species. Here's the reminding phrase:


yutta-hey - "It is a good day to die."
 

Thanks for reading. Try to stay safe and smart.

Gary

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

COLLAPSING CONSCIOUSLY in PANAMA - Pt 2

  by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS

For Me, Living Only With What I Truly Cherish
Encourages the Vibrant Essence of Life



In part one of this blog, I addressed some of the ways climate change impacts have obviously come to the forefront of our lives, playing out in multiple ways in the present as opposed to "theoretical" warnings of things to come.

These impacts include life-threatening heatwaves, drought, uncontrollable historic fires, flooding, increasing freshwater scarcity, famines, population migration, and more, and this is just the beginning of what is going to get much worse as a result of self-reinforcing tipping points.

I also discussed the fact that we - as a species - are not only not doing anything to mitigate the coming consequences we have been warned about in no uncertain terms, we don't even seem to be alarmed and are blindly allowing the causes to continue unabated.

Apparently, concern about global warming mostly only awakens when it gets personal.

In this second part, I'm going to address my own journey around "avoiding the rush" (if you hurry, you might get in on that), and we're going to take a look at why we're so complacent about our potential self-imposed demise (it's largely because of cognitive dissonance) and how we, as individuals and communities, can approach our impending demise in the most conscious way possible.

The title of this two-part series, Collapsing Consciously in Panama, is taken from my own personal experience of downsizing and moving from the U.S. to a small Panamanian island in the Caribbean, and before that, the massive and comprehensive website  - Collapsing Into Consciousness - I created a few years ago that I eventually shut down due to a lack of interest.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

My tagline for that website was "Collapse Now - Avoid the Rush," meaning there was much we could do to avoid the pain that's coming to us now by getting smaller, reducing our individual and global footprints so that we wouldn't have that far to fall when "the rush" started as it is now beginning to happen. 

After a year of investigation, I chose Panama's Bocas Del Toro as my "collapse" destination, keeping in mind my strengths and limitations and how I would fit them to that final destination. Bocas Del Toro is small and has a much lower cost of living than the U.S. I am easily able to be without a car (and insurance, gas, and repairs) for the first time in my adult life. A bike and walking are healthier. Rent's cheaper here than anywhere in the U.S. Health care is phenomenally less expensive: so much that I am easily able to pay for my own health costs and just carry catastrophic health insurance for under $100/month. A recent visit to the doctor was $1. There are some inconveniences here, but nothing I can't manage... and, there are cheaper places to live, but, OMG! the beaches!

And my ecological footprint has been greatly reduced.

Down Sizing

Over the past three and one-half years, I've moved from the 2300+ sq ft house I built on a ridge in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, to a rented 1300 sq ft house in Asheville, to an older 750 sq ft Mobile home I lovingly remodeled (and loved!) in an over-55 mobile home park, to my sister's spare bedroom in Napa, CA, to Houston and a too-small second bedroom in my daughter's RV for three months, and finally to Bocas Del Toro into a 400 sq ft one-bedroom apartment a block from the beach. This is small enough, thank you!

Aside from the fact that I loved being able to spend time at my sister's and my daughter's places before I came here, I am perfectly content in my BDT apartment. I shipped some things from the U.S. to Bocas that I truly cherish - about 20 pieces of my art, some sentimental "knick-knacks," books I wanted to keep, some kitchen items and appliances (who knew you could cook pretty much anything in an air fryer!), my high-end desktop and dual screens, and some shoes and clothing. There is freedom in no longer having what George Carlin called "stuff."

I am content, even in knowing Bocas Del Toro will not be spared from the consequences of global warming in the long run, but hopefully, there won't be as far to fall.

What can you do?

As we saw in part one, we can clearly see that the powers-that-be are not going to change in time to make a difference. Nor do we have sufficient numbers or even the political will to make them change. We're too complacent or in denial (the first of the Five Stages of Grief - See more on that later) and it's just not going to happen in time.

These are tough facts to face and it's going to get bad. Real bad. Will the human race survive? Maybe. It depends. This is clearly uncharted territory.

It is also an opportunity for growth. If you're someone who has been "doing your work", then you know what that means. When I teach the Spiral Dynamics values developmental model in my men's workshops, I emphasize how and why people change and it's not because they're happy. Happy people don't change. Why would they? People change because they have come up against a Cognitive Dissonance problem that their current level of development can't solve or answer for them. In short, cognitive dissonance can make people feel uneasy and uncomfortable, particularly if the disparity between their values, beliefs, and behaviors involves something that is central to their sense of self. read more here

The growth happens when we work through the cognitive dissonance - the pain - to reach a new and more complex level of understanding about the problem: A new awareness of the problem and a new way - and increased ability - of responding to it. In this case, the potential demise of the human race - the 6th Great Extinction - or a best-case scenario of billions of lives lost with pockets of humanity hopefully surviving. 

How does one find meaning in either of these potential scenarios that make what's happening a little more bearable?


I believe the answer lies in being in service to others. This is not a time to retreat or be alone on a mountain top like a monk. This is the time for spiritual warriors to ask, "How can I serve"?

One way I serve is to get my COVID vaccination. In this time and place, if I can play even a small role in alleviating someone else's suffering, even for a short time, I'm down.

I'm not concerned about being in Bocas Del Toro on the second floor of a 4-story apartment on land that is about 5 feet above sea level. There are no places to hide  - as we're seeing - as we pass the many tipping points that bring even more devastation and changes. There is only now or later. There is only mourning and grief, and eventually, acceptance.

It would be good if we are able to find our personal state of grace and acceptance, in order to help others. The 5th stage of the Kübler-Ross model of grieving is all about acceptance

Allow yourself to mourn and grieve this loss. Allow yourself to be angry. If you or someone you love are struggling as a result of the realization of this loss (and who isn't?), your emotions probably feel overwhelming and confusing.

Feeling this way is natural and even necessary. These emotions are forward steps in this momentous journey, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the moment, and if you’re having a particularly hard time with it, resources like counseling and support groups can help you cope. Better to do it now rather than later.

There is no right way to do this. We will never like this reality or make it okay, but eventually, we may accept it. Acceptance is more about how you acknowledge the losses you’re experiencing rather than "getting over it" - how you learn to live with those losses that just keep on coming, and how you readjust your life accordingly.

Last, if possible, savor any moments of joy. Allow yourself to laugh, to love, to cherish every good moment. Try to find meaning and purpose in your life and make it matter.

Because it does.

Love,

Gary


Recommended reading:

Friday, August 20, 2021

COLLAPSING CONSCIOUSLY IN PANAMA: AVOIDING THE RUSH

 by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


For Me, Living Only With What I Truly Cherish
Encourages the Vibrant Essence of Life



My friend Mike - a fabulously talented drummer that I had the honor of working with in the band S.O.U.P - lost his home to the monster Caldor fire east of Sacramento. He got a phone notice at 11pm on Monday the 16th to evacuate immediately and he escaped in his car with his two dogs and his laptop, and only the clothes he was wearing, leaving behind his drums, a recording studio, and everything else

I heard about it two days ago through the email band list that about 20 or so former band members stay in touch with each other after our 50-year reunion a couple of years ago. As I began writing this blog, I broke down with grief: Grief for my friend, grief for all I left behind coming to Panama, and grief for a world breaking down. 

Another member of the band has had to evacuate from his home in Pollock Pines, California,  which is also threatened by fire. He has no idea what he'll come home to.

A little over two years ago my sister, who lives in Napa at the north end of the SF Bay Area, spent almost two weeks with her car loaded with her most precious and important belongings, not knowing if the fires that threatened Napa at the time would turn and come over the hill toward her home. She was told to be prepared to move on a moment's notice.

Millions of climate refugees are already leaving, many being forced from their homes, seeking food and water, fleeing from war or devastating weather, flooding, drought, famine... and fires.

Just eleven days ago, the U.N. released its latest report on climate change, a "Code Red" warning stating that it's "too late to undo the damage we've done to our planet," a "blistering report that says some parts of climate change, such as warming oceans and rising sea levels, are "irreversible for centuries to millennia." It provides the strongest case yet for human-caused global warming, saying it's "unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land." Source

For the past 15 years I've been warning people to "Collapse Now, Avoid the Rush," and now it's too late. This is "the rush" and what we're seeing now are just the beginning of the consequences of our lack of action. Ultimately, the planet will be fine... We, on the other hand, are questionable.

Still doubt? Unfortunately, there's plenty of that going around, but it doesn't alter the fact that we're in deep shit, here.

At its core, the climate crisis is a product of bipartisan corruption and greed. Politicians bankrolled by oil and gas interests ignored scientists’ warnings and financed a fossil fuel economy knowing full well that it would destroy the ecosystem that supports all life on the planet.

Republicans were more explicit about their corruption, actively denying the scientific facts and resurrecting their own version of a Flat Earth Society that reassured voters that nothing has to change and everything will be fine. Democrats settled on a different, but similarly pernicious, form of climate denialism: They acknowledged the science and issued progressive sounding press releases about the environment, and they continue supporting fossil fuel development.

A day after the U.N. report was released, A new Morning Consult poll finds that the number of Americans who are "very concerned" about climate change has not increased significantly in recent months.

"The steps are clear: To reach net-zero emissions by 2050, fossil fuel use must be curtailed as promptly as possible, though removing carbon from the atmosphere will likely be necessary to mitigate the emissions that remain. A collective sense of urgency is key."

An 'unconcerned' public - you and me - is tantamount to giving the oligarchs permission to keep on doing what they've been doing and pretty much seals our fate, and we all get what we deserve.


One of the hardest facts to grasp about climate change is this: No matter what we do now, it's almost certain to get worse in the future.

• Why it matters: The time lag effect of climate change means that actions taken to reduce carbon emissions will only begin to noticeably bend the curve decades from now.

• That gives us the power to avert the worst-case scenario for warming, but we have to come to grips with a future that will feel as if it gets worse by the year.


The Ugly Truth

We're not going to do that, are we...?

The fires are going to get worse. The water is going to get deeper. The temperatures are going to get hotter. Oceans will shut down. Famines will increase along with biblical-style pestilence. Eco-systems will collapse. Greed and corruption will continue. Russia, China, and the U.S. aren't going to change. It's not just them... It's us.


And we're not going to do anything about it.


(Next: Now what?)





Thursday, August 12, 2021

Emotional Intelligence & Relationship

Before conscious, or integral, relationship can manifest in your life, there are certain conditions, or structure/stages, that have to be in place. Some of those personal structures are cognitive (empathy, and the ability to take multiple perspectives), spiritual (trans-personal, awareness that there's a bigger picture), moral (universal human ethics), compassion (transcended ego) , and emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence is a form of intelligence relating to the emotional side of life, such as the ability to recognize and manage one's own and others' emotions, to motivate oneself and restrain impulses, and to handle interpersonal relationships effectively.

I think there's good reason to think one's "EQ" is more important than "IQ." From Daniel Goleman:

"Emotionally intelligent have the ability to marshal their emotional impulses (or, at least, more so than those who are not emotionally intelligent); they have the self-awareness to know what they are feeling, and are able to think about and express those things; they have empathy for the feelings of others and insight into how others think; they can do things like delay gratification; they are optimistic and generally positive; they understand easily the dynamics of a given group, and, most important, where they fit inside that group."

 

Take an Emotional Intelligence test here.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

UPDATE 8/1/21: Miracle or Scam: A New Beginning for the GOP?

 by Gary Stamper CPC, MSIP, DSPS
 


UPDATE: 8/1/21

Scroll to the bottom after reading


So, Rene Descartes walks into a bar and orders a drink.

When he finishes his drink, the bartender asks him if he

would like another. Descartes replies, “No, I think not,”

and disappears in a puff of logic.


As I was pondering the recent astonishing turn-around of a group of Republicans who suddenly came out in favor of everyone getting vaccinated, I couldn't help but think of this old joke. I think these republicans all had the same instantaneous epiphany at the same time, suddenly and without warning, but it wasn't the realization that they had been wrong. 

Altruism? A sudden unexpected tug of compassion or empathy? Guilty consciences?  Wokeness?

In the words of Descartes, "I think not."

No, I think it was the realization that their unvaccinated constituents in Red States were dying at alarming rates from the new Delta Variant, and when they thought about how they would justify their position to their remaining constituents who had lost family and loved-ones to the new virus come election time, they realized they couldn't.

Adding to their gross miscalculation was the reality that their vaccinated blue neighbors' infection rates were at almost zero, and the anti-vaxxer deserters decided - in a amazing display of attempting to save their own asses - that they did not want die at that particular time on that particular political hill.

Was there an apology about their previous positions? Did they admit they were wrong or that they "changed" their minds? Not a chance. They came out and acted like that had always been their position.

This a desperate act of pure political cowardice delivered matter-of-factly, with little or no emotion, and yet I welcome it. I just have to call it out for what it is.

Don't get me wrong. Coming out in favor of getting the vaccine is better for almost everyone than not doing it and will ultimately save many lives (it's not so good for the hard-core right-wing cultists who haven't "changed" their minds), and those of us who actually care about our friends and neighbors should celebrate it as such.

You have to admit it's apparently already producing results. The Senate voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan infrastructure plan, a critical step toward Democrats passing their sweeping economic agenda with17 Republicans and all 50 Democrats voting yes. While voting to advance the bill is not passing the bill, even advancing it is something that likely would not have happened without the support of the Republicans who changed their minds about the jab.

Is this good news? it depends on your perspective. From my perspective,  it would certainly appear that way to Post-Progressives, although much more remains to be done. To those in charge of the middle-of-the-road corporate Dems, like Biden, most definitely, even though questions remain about their motives and end-game. For hard-core right-wing extremists, white nationalists, and Trump, not likely on the possibility of passing an infrastructure bill as it increases Biden's re-election chance should he decide to run again.

But for Republicans like the ones who did the turn-around on the vaccines, it will depend on whether their usual voters believe their bullshit or not.


UPDATE 8/1/21: 

Amidst all the hoopla (myself included) about GOP Senate members suddenly doing a 180º turnaround and urging their anti-vax constituents to get vaccinated (while a good thing) seems to indicate a softening of their hearts. A wise Facebook friend points out that "When the shit threatens to kill the majority of your support base, you try everything in your power to save them."

But why would anyone believe this "compassionate change of heart" is anything but a desperate attempt to keep a base? They've already proven by their past actions that they have no problem throwing their base under the wheels.

Equally abhorrent is what has become obvious around their sudden support of Biden's flagship campaign promise Infrastructure Plan. What is not being talked about in the mainstream media - or the corporate Dems - is that the sudden GOP support is a result of the administration's capitulation. In addition to cutting funding for the previously sweeping bill by 75%, federal spending on roads, bridges. and expanded broadband access will be paid for with unused Covid-19 aid funds - any chance we might need those? - and unspent jobless aid, among other sources.

Meanwhile, the GOP is quietly gloating as the modified bill benefits their constituents without cooperating on anything that threatens the party’s core constituencies.

What is it with Democratic non-existent negotiation and giving away the farm??

While Biden managed to at least win his bipartisan merit badge without betraying the Democratic base by bargaining away Social Security, the $550 billion infrastructure agreement is seriously deficient in many respects. 

Still, the president's campaign promise was that his deal-making prowess would enable the passage of bipartisan immigration, gun control, and health-care reforms - not a "mere" surface transportation bill. If the impending $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill does not pass, which is highly likely, then the bipartisan deal’s failure to prioritize progressive green investment will be gone, perhaps relegated to what continues to look like a very short set of future history books.

The infrastructure bill has not yet passed the Senate, let alone the House as DINO Dems Manchin and Sinema have both said they won't support it, and house progressives have said they won't support cuts to the plan. McConnell and 16 of his Republican colleagues only voted to “open debate” on the bill Wednesday. 


Stay tuned.




______________________________________________________________________

Gary Stamper CPC, MSIP, DSPP
www.garystamper.com


Sunday, July 25, 2021

To Vax or Not To Vax, That is The Question, and Delays in Bocas Del Toro Pfizer Vaccinations

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


With all of the virus misinformation (I'm being kind) from all quarters, and the extreme politicization and rampant conspiracy theories, I have been reluctant to get vaccinated.

I'm well aware that in the United States, a long list of diseases have been nearly eradicated by vaccines: diphtheria, polio, bacterial influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, and tetanus, among others. I'm definitely not an anti-vaxxer.

But...

I'm also aware that pharmacological companies are notoriously well known for corruption and greed, lying, knowingly harming people, placing profits above people, and that they bribe (okay, so bribing is legal thanks to Big Pharma lobbying... it's still bribery through campaign donations). A quick internet search will give you an idea of just how rampant the problem is, and it's by no means limited to the pharmacological Industry.

So, my acceptance of something like the Covid vaccines is situational. It depends. Too many people - on both sides of this issue are sheep and blindly take their cue from their chosen leaders on both sides of this issue without discernment, but rather based on what they want to hear. Both sides, but not everyone.

Very early on in the pandemic, I started researching ways to boost my immune system. As much as possible, I've eaten a primarily organic diet for almost 20 years and have not had a cold or flu for ten years or more. I realized early on how important diet was to our health. I tried to stick to specific foods for specific results. At 76, I'm still not on any prescription meds, and when I see new doctors they are amazed because apparently, that's very rare for men "of my age."

What I call my "COVID-19 Immunity Building Protocol" (read about it here) seems to have served me well and kept me safe as I 
have successfully navigated a 5-day cross-country road trip, a temporary move to Texas (sometimes known as the Covid Capital of the U.S.), and an international flight and relocation move to Panama during the height of the pandemic with absolutely no repercussions - that I'm aware of - from the virus.

I'll be the first to admit that, with all of the above, I have a certain amount of what I'm thinking of as "invulnerability syndrome" (my superpower?).


It apparently comes from growing up in the Boomer generation, and it was said that boomers thought they would never die. (disclaimer: Strictly speaking, I'm not a boomer, I was born just before WWII ended. Culturally, I'm definitely a boomer). Many of us know differently now, but ingrained cultural customs, habits, and beliefs die hard.

I imagine I may carry natural immunity, as many do. Not everyone gets sick. Not yet, anyway, but with new variants like Delta, it's possible that immunity to one variant does not guarantee immunity to the next variant, and in a world where warming guarantees new variants and viruses (possibly contributed to by intentional "gain of function" experimentation where Murphy's Law reigns), this, and more, as I've written before, is far from over.


To Vax or Not to Vax

My vaccination quandary was solved this week by two new developments, but there are others as well.

The first was a reversal by a lot of Republicans that formerly held anti-vax views, including red-state governors, GOP members of Congress, and even (gasp!) Fox News' official new stance encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Not all right-wing adherents agree, but one of the reasons the new position is taking hold is that the unvaccinated are now the primary source of new Delta variant infections mostly occurring in red states, the second reason my quandary has cleared.

In other words, their former position is now killing their constituents. 

 

As welcome as this turn-around in vaccine philosophy is, let's not forget that it's not out of their goodness of heart, but rather, knowing that it will be difficult to win elections as they're being blamed for the death of their constituents. How strong is this as a motivator? Alabama Governor Kay Ivy, who emphasized ten days ago on a visit to Birmingham that there's no need for an incentive plan to increase vaccination rates in Alabama, is now blaming the unvaccinated for the stunning increase in cases.

As Fox News hosts and anchors, GOP members of Congress, and other right-wing pundits were decrying the loss of freedom with vaccinations (they did the same thing with seatbelts, remember?), many were secretly being vaccinated, and even now refuse to disclose whether they've been vaccinated. It's not that they're saying "I haven't been vaccinated," it's that they have refused to answer when asked "have you been vaccinated?"

If the people who have spoken the loudest to discourage others to get vaccinated secretly got vaccinated (that's called hypocrisy), it's almost reason enough alone to get vaccinated. Right-wing anti-vaxxers, are you listening? Thinking?

Last, It's obvious that the vaccines are working. The case rate statistics prove it. New cases, even in Blue states where vaccination rates are higher, are increasing, but at a much lower rate than Red states where vax rates are significantly lower. And almost all of the new cases in both Blue and Red states are limited to the unvaccinated. 


Getting Vaccinated in Bocas Del Toro

I'll take my chances with the vaccine. We can now see that getting vaccinated are much better odds than going naked, or unvaccinated .


The upcoming Bocas Del Toro Pfizer vaccinations have been postponed, with no exact date set yet. Hopefully, it will be here in late August.

This is due to recent storms, as some of the buildings in Almirante and Changuinola that were going to be used as vaccination centers are currently flooded.

Over 5,000 homes and 26,000 people were affected by ongoing storms and flooding in Bocas Del Toro. Isla Colon and Bocas town where I live has largely been spared from flooding... so far.

I intend to get my first shot at that time. I'm also doing it to protect others, a benefit that has been revealed in the U.S. over the last few months in the face of the new Delta Variant.

It's not that the Pfizer vaccine prevents one from getting the virus. it doesn't. It apparently lessens the severity of the virus with some people experiencing lighter symptoms , and some no symptoms at all, and that lightens the death toll and helps ease the strain on healthcare and the economy although people who have been vaccinated can still be infectious and still spread the virus.

I still contend that we're an impatient species that requires everything "on-demand." and that includes completely opening up everything right now. We need to get over that. Mask up, distance, and be careful until we get this under control. so we can pay more attention to the other threats facing us. 

We are on the Hero's Journey, and we are on it together.


The hero's journey is a common narrative archetype, or story template, that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, learns a lesson, wins a victory with that newfound knowledge, and then returns home transformed.

It is imperative that we return transformed from the journey lest it be for naught, because of what we face as we "come home" to life after the pandemic. and the next hero's journey. 

The Pandemic (including the Delta Variant) is probably the most important issue facing us at the moment. Unless we get it under control - and soon - there will be no economic recovery, no next hero's journey. We must have as much economic stability as possible to prepare for the other issues that threaten us, each an existential threat by themselves, nevermind that they're all swoopping down on us at the same time.

We cannot do it divided, and it can't happen if we care selfishly more for ourselves than each other.

We must do this together.