Standing in Solidarity with Standing Rock to Protest the Dakota Access Pipeline

Thousands of Native Americans, veterans, and environmentalists create an encampment in rural North Dakota to protest the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

 

Perhaps you live far from the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but there are still actions we can take to protest the building of $3.7 billion infrastructure project. Most of us live near a bank that is funding the building of this pipeline. Bill McKibben for YES! Magazine writes,

Maybe there’s a Citibank branch in your neighborhood. Or Wells Fargo or Bank of America or HSBC. Maybe you even keep your money in one—if so, you inadvertently helped pay for the guard dogs that attacked Native Americans as they tried to keep bulldozers from mowing down ancestral grave sites.

Maybe you have a retirement plan invested with Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley—if so, you helped buy the pepper spray that the company used to clear the way for its crews as they cleared the right of way straight to the Missouri River.

Perhaps you bank overseas. Credit Agricole? Deutsche Bank? Sumitomo? Royal Bank of Scotland? Barclays? Yeah, them too.

In fact, virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota pipeline project.

If you have money invested in one of 38 banks funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, I entreat you to withdraw your funds until the banks agree to divest from this endeavor, which will only serve accelerate climate change, pollute our drinking water, and take away more land from indigenous populations.

Wondering what to say to a bank executive?
“As a customer of your financial institution, I reject the notion of my money helping to support your investment in the Dakota Access pipeline, an inherently dangerous and unjust oil pipeline that threatens air and water quality in many states, and violates sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. I urge you to give up your financial stake in the Dakota Access pipeline immediately.”

Sustained public pressure will make a world of difference. Don’t underestimate the power of civil disobedience. The amazing activists at Standing Rock already forced the federal government pause construction earlier this month. Their nonviolent leadership should inspire all of us to do anything we can to support this cause.

The following are names of CEOs and other bank executives involved in funding the pipeline—along with their phone numbers and email addresses. The first 17 banks (*) are directly funding the Dakota Access pipeline. The rest of these banks are offering credit lines to its parent companies.

Wells Fargo*

CEO Timothy J. Sloan
timothy.j.sloan@wellsfargo.com
BoardCommunications@wellsfargo.com
866-249-3302

Corporate Office:
Wells Fargo
420 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94104

BNP Paribas*

CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafe
jean-laurent.bonnafe@bnpparibas.com

Corporate Office:
3 rue d’Antin
75002 Paris, France
00-33-157-082-200

U.S. Office:
787 Seventh Avenue – The Equitable Tower
New York, NY 10019
212-841-3000

SunTrust*

CEO William H. Rodgers Jr.

Corporate Office:
303 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
800-786-8787

Chief Communications Officer:
Sue Mallino
404-813-0463
sue.mallino@suntrust.com

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ*

Chairman Nobuyuki Hirano

CEO and President Takashi Oyamada

Corporate Office:
2-7-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan
81-3-3240-8111

U.S. Office:
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020-1104
212-782-4000

Mizuho Bank*

President and CEO Nobuhide Hayashi

Corporate Office:
Otemachi Tower
1-5-5, Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8176, Japan
81-3-3214-1111

U.S. Office:
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
212-282-3000

Citibank (CitiGroup)*

CEO Michael Corbat
Michael.L.Corbat@citi.com
212-793-1201

Corporate Office:
388 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 800-285-3000 and 212-793-0710

TD Securities*

Chairman, CEO, and President Bob Dorrance

Corporate Office:
P.O. Box 1, TD Bank Tower
66 Wellington Street W
Toronto, Ontario
M5K 1A2

Investment Banking: 416-307-8500
Equity Research: 416-307-9360
Trading Floor Enquiries: 416-944-6978

U.S. Office:
31 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019-6101
212-827-7000

Credit Agricole*

CEO Jean-Paul Chifflet

Office:
12, Place des Etats-Unis
Montrouge, France 92545
33-1-43-23-52-02

U.S. Office:
1301 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10019
infoamericas@ca-cib.com

Intesa SanPaolo*

CEO Carlo Messina

Corporate Office:
Piazza San Carlo, 156
10121 Torino, Italy
39-011-555-1

Corporate Social Responsibility Unit:
39-02-8796-3435
CSR@intesasanpaolo.com
sostenibilita.ambientale@intesasanpaolo.com

ING Bank*

CEO and Executive Board Chairman Ralph A.J.G Hamers

Wholesale Banking, Operations & IT, Sustainability, Corporate Governance:
Carolien van der Giessen
carolien.van.der.giessen@ing.com
31-20-576-63-86

Head of Media Relations:
Raymond Vermuelen
raymond.vermeulen@ing.com
31-20-576-63-69

Corporate Office:
Amsterdamse Poort
Bijlmerplein 888
1102 MG Amsterdam
The Netherlands
31-20-5639111

Mailing Address:
ING Bank N.V.
P.O. Box 1800
1000 BV Amsterdam
The Netherlands

U.S. Office:
ING Financial Holdings LLC
1325 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
646-424-6000

Natixis*

CEO Pierre Servant

Corporate Office:
Natixis Global Asset Management, S.A.
21 quai d’Austerlitz
75634 Paris Cedex 13, France
33-1-78-40-90-00

U.S. Office:
Natixis Global Asset Management, L.P.
399 Boylston Street
Boston, MA
617-449-2100

BayernLB*

CEO Johannes-Jorg Riegler

Head of Communications:
Matthias Priwitzer
Matthias.Priwitzer@bayernlb.de
49-89-2171-21255

Corporate Office:
Brienner Straße 18
80333 Munich
49-89-2171-27176

U.S. Office:
560 Lexington Avenue
New York City, NY 10022
212-310-9800

BBVA Securities*

CEO Carlos Torres Villa

Executive Chairman Francisco Gonzalez Rodriguez

Corporate Office:
Calle Azul, 4
28050 Madrid, Spain

34-902-22-44-66

DNB Capital*

U.S. office:
200 Park Avenue, 31st Floor New York, N.Y. 10166-0396
212-681-3800

ICBC London*

CEO and Managing Director Jin Chen

Corporate Office:
20 Gresham Street
London EC2V 7JE, United Kingdom
44-203-145-5000

U.S. Office:
520 Madison Avenue 28th Floor
New York, NY 10022
212-407-5000

SMBC Nikko Securities*

President and CEO Yoshihiko Shimizu

Corporate Office:
3-1, Marunouchi 3-chome, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8325, Japan
81-3-5644-3111

Societe General*

CEO Frederic Oudea
https://www.linkedin.com/in/fredericoudea

Email: frederic.oudea@socgen.com

Phone: 33-1-41-45-9825 (Paris number)

Chiarman of the Board Lorenzo Bini Smaghi

Email: lorenzo.binismaghi@socgen.com

Phone: 33-14-21-30941 (Paris number)

Corporate Office:
29 boulevard Haussmann 75009
Paris, France
2.0@societegenerale
33-1-42-14-20-00

U.S. Office:
245 Park Avenue
New York City, NY 10167
212-278-6000
The following banks are involved in funding for the entire Bakken pipeline:

Royal Bank of Scotland

CEO Ross McEwan
ross.mcewan@rbs.co.uk

Director of Media Relations:
Chris Turner
44-20-7672-4515

Corporate Office:
Gogarburn
175 Glasgow Road
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
44-131-626-3263

U.S. Office:
600 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT 06901
203-897-2700

ABN Amro Capital

Chairman of the Board Gerrit Zalm

Corporate Office:
ABN AMRO Bank N.V.
Gustav Mahlerlaan 10
1082 PP Amsterdam
The Netherlands
31-10-241-17-23

U.S. Office:
100 Park Avenue, 17th floor
New York, NY 10017
917-284-6800

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank)

CEO and President Brian J. Porter

Corporate Office:
Scotia Plaza
44 King Street W
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5H 1H1
416-866-6161
email@scotiabank.com

U.S. Office:
250 Vesey Street,
23rd and 24th floors
New York, NY 10281
212-225-5000

Scotia Howard Weil (“Energy Investment Boutique”):
Energy Centre
1100 Poydras Street Suite 3500
New Orleans, LA 70163
504-582-2500 and 800-322-3005
howardweil@howardweil.com

Citizens Bank

Chairman and CEO Bruce Van Saun

Head of Media Relations:
Peter Lucht
Peter.Lucht@citizensbank.com
781-655-2289

Consumer Lending, Business Banking, Wealth Management, Corporate:
Lauren DiGeronimo
Lauren.Digeronimo@citizensbank.com
781-471-1454

Corporate Office:
1 Citizens Plaza
Providence, RI 02903
401-456-7000

Comerica Bank

Chairman and CEO Ralph W. Babb Jr.

Investor Relations:
214-462-6831

Corporate Contacts:
Wendy Bridges
wwbridges@comerica.com
214-462-4443

Wayne Mielke
wjmielke@comerica.com
214-462-4463

Corporate Office:
Comerica Bank Tower
1717 Main Street
Dallas, TX 75201
800-521-1190

U.S. Bank

Chairman and CEO Richard K. Davis
richard.davis@usbank.com

Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Dana Ripley
dana.ripley@usbank.com
612-303-3167

Brand, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sponsorships:
Susan Beatty
susan.beatty@usbank.com
612-303-9229

Corporate Office:
U.S. Bancorp Center
800 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
800-685-5065 and 651-466-3000

PNC Bank

Chairman, President, and CEO William S. Demchak

Media Relations:
Fred Solomon
corporate.communications@pnc.com
412-762-4550

Investor Relations:
Bryan K. Gill
investor.relations@pnc.com
412-768-4143

Corporate Office:
300 Fifth Avenue
The Tower at PNC Plaza
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
412-762-2000

Barclays

Chairman John McFarlane
john.mcfarlane@barclays.com
CEO Jes Staley

Corporate Office:
Barclays Bank PLC
1 Churchill Place
London E14 5HP, United Kingdom
44-20-7116-1000

U.S. Office:
Barclays
745 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
212-526-7000

Press Office:
212-526-7000
CorporateCommunicationsAmericas@barclays.com

JPMorgan Chase

Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon
jamie.dimon@jpmchase.com
212-270-1111

Corporate Contacts:
Andrew Gray
andrew.s.gray@jpmchase.com

Jennifer Lavoie
jennifer.h.lavoie@jpmchase.com

Brian Marchiony
brian.j.marchiony@jpmorgan.com

Corporate Office:
270 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-2014

Bank of America

President, CEO, and Chairman Brian Moynihan

brian.t.moynihan@bankofamerica.com

Executive Relations, Office of the CEO:
Matthew Task
813-805-4873

Corporate Office:
100 N Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28255

Deutsche Bank

CEO John Cryan

Corporate Contact:
Renee Calabro
renee.calabro@db.com
212-250-5525

Corporate Address:
Deutsche Bank AG
Taunusanlage 12
60325 Frankfurt Am Main (for letters and postcards: 60262)
Germany
49-69-910-00

U.S. Office:
Deutsche Bank AG
60 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005
212-250-7171

Compass Bank

Chairman and CEO Manolo Sanchez

Director of External Communications:
Christina Anderson
christina.anderson@bbva.com

Communications:
Al Ortiz
al.ortiz@bbva.com
281-433-5640

Corporate Office:
15 S 20th Street
Birmingham, AL 35233
205-297-1986

Credit Suisse

CEO Tidjane Thiam

Board Chairman Urs Rohner

Suisse Banking Ombudsman:
Bahnhofplatz 9
P.O. Box 1818
CH 8021 Zurich, Switzerland
41-43-266-14-14

Corporate Office:
Uetlibergstrasse 231
P.O. Box 700
CH 8070 Zurich, Switzerland
41-44-333-11-11

U.S. Office:
650 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: 415-249-2100

DNB Capital/ASA

CEO Rune Bjerke
https://www.linkedin.com/in/rune-bjerke-04714639

Chairwoman of the Board Anne Carine Tanum
47-915-04800

Executive Vice President Communications Even Westerveld
47-400-16-744

Corporate Address:
Dronning Eufemias Gate 30
0191 Oslo, Norway

Sumitomo Mitsui Bank

President and CEO Takeshi Kunibe

Corporate Office:
1-1-2, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan
81-3-3282-8111

U.S. Office:
277 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10172
212-224-4000

Royal Bank of Canada

CEO David I. McKay

CEO and Board Communications:
Paul French
paul.french@rbc.com
416-974-3718

Corporate Media Relations:
Catherine Hudon
catherine.hudon@rbc.com
416-974-5506

Corporate Address:
200 Bay Street P.O. Box 1
Royal Bank Plaza
Toronto, Canada
416-974-5151 and 416-842-2000

UBS

CEO Sergio Ermotti

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sergiopermotti

Head Group External Communications:
Mark Hengel
mark.hengel@ubs.com
Phone: 41-44-234-32-21

Chief Communication Officer-Americas:
Marsha Askins
marsha.askins@ubs.com
212-713-6151 office and 917-226-4743 cell

Corporate Office:
Bahnhofstrasse 45, CH-8098
8001 Zurich, Switzerland
41-44-234-11-11

U.S. Office:
1285 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
212-713-2000

Goldman Sachs

Chairman and CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein
lloyd.blankfein@gs.com
917-743-0939 and 212-902-0593

Media Contacts Americas:
212-902-5400

Corporate Address:
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
200 West Street
New York, NY 10282
212-902-1000

Morgan Stanley

CEO James P. Gorman
jgorman@morganstanley.com
212-761-4000

Corporate Office:
Morgan Stanley
1585 Broadway
New York, NY 10036
212-761-4000

Origin Bank (formerly Community Trust)

Chairman, President, and CEO Drake Mills
https://www.linkedin.com/in/drake-mills-554a3a20
http://www.ctbonline.com
318-768-3048

Corporate Office:
3921 Elm St.
Choudrant, LA 71227

HSBC Bank

Chairman Douglas Flint

Group Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver
managingdirectoruk@hsbc.com

Corporate Address:
8 Canada Square
London E14 5HQ, United Kingdom
44-20-7991-8888

U.S. Office:
HSBC Headquarters
425 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
212-525-5600

Head of Media Relations, HSBC USA:
Rob Sherman
212-525-6901

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Raising Funds for Medical Treatment

Dear readers,

Please consider helping us if you can. For the past sixteen months, I have been in a vegetative state due to a doctor’s prescription medication error. We are struggling to afford medical treatment and would appreciate your help. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed and for your consideration. Wishing all good health and happiness.

https://www.plumfund.com/medical-fund/medical-fund-for-nita

Best wishes,

A fellow blogger

Ode to a Dreamer of Dreams

Dear Dr. Sacks,

Like the late Carl Sagan, you have a gentle way of magnifying everything into brilliant resolution and reminding us of our place in the universe. I always look forward to reading your books and opinion pieces, as you put which things matter into perspective. Last month, I was quite delighted to read of your love for the physical sciences, also beautifully described in Frank Wilczek’s A Beautiful Question. Beauty can truly be found in any field or context and Wilczek’s coverage of the concept reminds me of that Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Pied Beauty,” in which the author pronounces, “Glory be to God for dappled things.” As Adam Frank puts it, “Science — under all its theories, equations, experiments and data — is really trying to teach us to see the sacred in the mundane and the profound in the prosaic.”

Indeed, few experiences prove as humbling as observing the heavens. The night sky brings to mind the opening lines of a personal favorite: “Let us go then, you and I/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table.” Meanwhile, consciousness continues to prove an elusive idea, as you mentioned. Is it a purely biological phenomenon or does it extend into the philosophical and spiritual realms? I think the most beautiful aspect of our universe is the sense of infinite mystery surrounding it; as Anaïs Nin explains it, “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

From your stories of patient case studies to your descriptions on the benefits of musical therapy, your words offered comfort and solace amidst adversity and uncertainty. When I was struggling with my own medical challenges (though nothing as serious as your struggles), I found works such as William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” and Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” to be particularly uplifting and encouraging, and perhaps you will, too. I think the practice of medicine allows one to grow closer to his fellow brethren and fulfill the insightful words of Countee Cullen: “Your grief and mine/Must intertwine/Like sea and river/Be fused and mingle/Diverse yet single/Forever and forever.” I only hope I will fulfill my role with the same patience, compassion, dignity, and grace that you exemplify in your daily life. As one chapter closes and another begins, I wish you laughter and joy in the company of friends and family, exchanges of love among kindred spirits, courage as you confront your final battles, and peace and contentment in the knowledge that you have touched more lives than you know. From the deepest parts of my being, I thank you. Stay gold, dear Captain, our Captain.

Warm regards,

Nita Jain

Top Ten Favorite Scientists

I was recently asked to make a list of my top ten favorite scientists, and after some deliberation, these are the people I chose:

Feynman

  1. Richard Feynman: While Feynman made outstanding contributions to our understanding of quantum physics and to the Manhattan project, he is perhaps most remembered for his teaching as evidenced by the still-beloved Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman even rejected a job offer from the Institute for Advanced Study, a research center whose staff boasted luminaries like Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel, because there were no students there to teach.
  2. Marie Curie: Curie conducted pioneering experiments into the nature of radioactivity and also discovered radium and polonium, receiving Nobel Prizes in both chemistry and physics for her efforts. Upon observing radium’s destructive effects on her own healthy tissue, she reasoned that radium could also be used to destroy infected tissue, giving birth to the idea of radiation therapy.
  3. Isaac Newton: From his work on optics to his laws of motion and universal gravitation, Newton was a central figure in the scientific revolution. He developed the reflecting telescope as well as differential and integral calculus to explain the elliptical orbits of celestial bodies all before his 26th birthday.
  4. Rosalind Franklin: Franklin’s X-ray diffraction data was arguably the most important puzzle piece in the discovery of DNA’s double helical structure. She also contributed to our molecular knowledge of viruses, including tobacco mosaic virus and the poliovirus.
  5. Nikola Tesla: While Tesla is perhaps best known for developing the alternating current motor, the Serbian-American innovator also experimented with X-rays, performed short-range demonstrations of radio communication two years before Marconi, and invented the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla coil.
  6. Clair Patterson: Not only did geochemist Clair Patterson calculate an extremely accurate estimate for the age of the Earth using lead dating, but he also served as an activist after discovering the toxic effects of lead on human health. His persistent campaigning eventually led to a ban on the use of lead in consumer products.
  7. Linus Pauling: Pauling made incredible insights into the nature of the chemical bond, including the prediction of secondary structures such as the alpha helix and the beta sheet. Pauling also developed the concepts of electronegativity and orbital hybridization and remains the only person to have received two unshared Nobel Prizes – for Chemistry in 1954 and for Peace in 1962.
  8. Michael Faraday: It has often been said that Michael Faraday was the greatest discovery of eminent chemist Humphry Davy. Faraday established the principle of electromagnetic induction, created the first electrical generator, and even initiated the first Christmas Lectures series in 1825 to teach science to children.
  9. Louis Pasteur: Best known for his namesake process to prevent bacterial contamination, Pasteur was instrumental in disproving the idea of spontaneous generation. His work on the germ theory of disease also led him to create vaccines for anthrax and rabies.
  10. Craig Venter: When the Human Genome Project began in 1990, progress initially got off to a very slow start. In 1998, Craig Venter dramatically sped up the process using a technique known as whole genome shotgun sequencing. As we now enter the era of genomic medicine, the variable uses of the sequenced human genome are steadily unfolding.

If I were to make a longer list, I would probably include a lot more notable physicists, including Albert Einstein, James Clerk Maxwell, Max Planck, and Alan Guth. Copernicus, Galileo, Cecilia Payne, Annie Jump Cannon, and Henrietta Swan Leavitt all helped advance our understanding of the cosmos. I would also have liked to acknowledge the many scientists who were involved in atomic theory, such as Democritus, James Dalton, Niels Bohr, Ernest Rutherford, and J.J. Thomson. Mendeleev classified the elements periodically, and Carl Woese classified life on Earth. Gregor Mendel founded the field of genetics, and Meselson and Stahl performed an experiment that supported the hypothesis of semiconservative DNA replication. Along with Pasteur, both Robert Koch and Ferdinand Koch helped found bacteriology and establish the credibility of the germ theory of disease. Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered the first antibiotic in the form of penicillin, and Jonas Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine. On the computer science front, Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, and Tim Berners-Lee made significant contributions, the latter of whom is responsible for having developed the algorithms on which the World Wide Web depends. Polymaths Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin advanced our knowledge of the sciences as well as other diverse fields.

This list is just one person’s opinion, so I invite you to share yours. Who would you include in your top ten favorite scientists? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Why Medical Research?

More than a body of knowledge, science is a way of thinking based on empirical observation. William Lawrence Bragg once said, “The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” Science makes use of that wonderful blend of curiosity, skepticism, and imagination to create and innovate. In practice, medical investigators combine innovation and efficiency, and this dualistic aspect of medical research is what draws me most to the field. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry & molecular biology, I plan to pursue an MD-PhD program in order to train in both clinical medicine and research methodology.

If I had to describe the focus of medical research in one word, I would say communication: the internal dialogue within a patient’s body. Almost all pathology can be traced back to a failure to communicate. Cells can go deaf and fail to respond to certain chemicals such as insulin, as is the case in type 2 diabetes or they can go mute and fail to release insulin at all, as is the case in type 1 diabetes. Cells may misinterpret messages, send incorrect signals, or act at inappropriate times, all of which have pathogenic potential. As a research assistant, I investigated specific cancerous interactions between scaffolding proteins and cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), which is involved in many cellular processes from neurotransmitter metabolism to gene transcription, illustrating the interconnectedness inherent in the human body. This interconnectedness poses both opportunities and challenges in the field of medicine, for the targeting of a common substrate can offer therapeutic solutions for several related conditions but may also result in wide-ranging biological responses, underlying the need for treatment that addresses the source of the problem without causing too many additional side effects. The development of new therapeutics warrants an equally multifaceted approach, requiring collaboration between researchers and clinicians. For this reason, I intend to continue my education in translational and clinical research to help move novel drugs from the bench to the bedside.

Through research, I realized my love of discovery and innovation. My work in the laboratory has given me the skills to solve problems, optimize processes, and develop more efficient tools. Research has also given me an appreciation for the meticulousness that should characterize both experimental design and data interpretation in order to ensure the most accurate and precise results possible. Most importantly, research has taught me to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and identify existing areas where improvements can be made. Scientific research thrives on criticism, debate, and the application of new ideas. Of course, medicine still has many unknowns: cause and effect relationships are often unclear and diagnoses of exclusion are sometimes difficult to treat. While medicine still has its limitations, remarkable progress has been made in the past few decades, and I hope to take my place as an agent of that continual innovation.

Late Night Thoughts on Lewis Thomas

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the works of Lewis Thomas. In The Fragile Species, he shared ideas evocative of the late Carl Sagan:

Never mind our embarrassed indignation when we were first told, last century, that we came from a family of apes and had chimps as near cousins. That was relatively easy to accommodate, having at least the distant look of a set of relatives. But this new connection, already fixed by recent science beyond any hope of disowning the parentage, is something else again. At first encounter, the news must come as a kind of humiliation. Humble origins, indeed.

Similarly, Sagan in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space poeticized:

Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout the Solar System and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the Universe come from Earth. They will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will love it no less for its obscurity and fragility. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.

Message in a Bottle
Thomas’ appreciation for music was almost as great as his lifelong love affair with science. In an essay from The Lives of a Cell, Thomas offered a suggestion concerning the prospect of interstellar communication: “I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space, over and over again. We would be bragging of course but it is surely excusable to put the best possible face on at the beginning of such an acquaintance. We can tell the harder truths later.” This wish of his, at least, came to fruition in the form of the Golden Record, the contents of which were chosen by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan and included aboard both Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. The sounds and images on the phonograph records were selected to illustrate the diversity of life and culture on Earth, intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life to decipher. [Interestingly, in a Big Bang Theory episode named “The Communication Deterioration,” Koothrappali is selected to help work on an Earth message design and delivery proposal for NASA’s Discovery missions and asks his friends for advice. Wolowitz stresses the need for a device capable of transmitting information across a wide range of perceptual modalities. Sheldon argues that any intelligent life form would at the very least have the ability to locate the position of objects in space, making the ideal lingua franca haptic, i.e. relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception.] Making sense of the Golden Record’s contents would require extraterrestrial life to possess the senses of sight, sound, and touch.

Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One Glorious Symphony

The need to make music, and to listen to it, is universally expressed by human beings. I cannot imagine, even in our most primitive times, the emergence of talented painters to make cave paintings without there having been, near at hand, equally creative people making song. It is, like speech, a dominant aspect of human biology.

The individual parts played by other instrumentalists — crickets or earthworms, for instance — may not have the sound of music by themselves, but we hear them out of context. If we could listen to them all at once, fully orchestrated, in their immense ensemble, we might become aware of the counterpoint, the balance of tones and timbres and harmonics, the sonorities. The recorded songs of the humpback whale, filled with tensions and resolutions, ambiguities and allusions, incomplete, can be listened to as a part of music, like an isolated section of an orchestra. If we had better hearing, and could discern the descants of sea birds, the rhythmic timpani of schools of mollusks, or even the distant harmonics of midges hanging over meadows in the sun, the combined sound might lift us off our feet.

The Lives of a Cell

Reading these words reminded me quite a bit of a song my classmates and I used to perform in elementary school choir called “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.” The chorus and first verse read:

All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws or anything they got now

Listen to the bass, it’s the one on the bottom
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-do,
And old cow just goes ‘moo!’

Well the dogs and the cats they take up the middle
The honeybee hums and the cricket fiddles
The donkey brays and the pony neighs
And the old coyote howls

The song was originally written by Bill Staines, an American folk musician and singer-songwriter from New England. Various versions of the song have been performed by groups ranging from Peter, Paul, and Mary to Celtic Thunder.

In Memoriam: Remembering Our Fallen

Frank Glick took this photo of an eagle on a gravestone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Frank Glick took this photo of an eagle on a gravestone at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

On this day, a sacred event in the consciousness of American citizens, as we remember those who lost their lives fighting for our freedoms, we are reminded that most of us cannot truly understand the sacrifice of those who serve in the all-volunteer armed forces. I have always believed that the greatest grief that can befall a human being is the loss of a son or daughter, and many Gold Star families live with this loss on a daily basis. Today marks the first time in 14 years that the United States observes Memorial Day while not engaged in a major ground war, but enlistment in the armed forces still involves a pledge of service and of sacrifice. Two poignant remarks from the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, one delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the other by President Barack Obama, really resonated with me. On the aftermath of loss, Carter offered a message of hope and resilience, often embodied by the image of the phoenix rising up from the ashes:

“Reflect, for a moment, on the way our nation’s flag is flown on Memorial Day. First it is hoisted briskly to the top, with the same clarity of purpose we see in all those who step forward to join our all-volunteer force. Then it is solemnly, soberly lowered to half-staff, a tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But it doesn’t stay there. At noon, it is raised back toward the sky – signaling our will to recover after tragedy, and symbolizing the great strength and resilience that characterizes not only our nation, but also those who defend it, and their families.”

And the second by our Commander in Chief on the mutual sense of family shared by Americans everywhere:

“These sons and daughters, these brothers and sisters who lay down their lives for us – they belong to us all. They’re our children, too. We benefit from their light, their positive influence on the world.”

We do not exist as nation of separate, individual families; rather, we form a collective quilt in the American fabric, beautiful in its diversity and wholeness. May we never forget the legacies of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and may we strive to be worthy of their unfailing devotion. May God bless our fallen heroes and families, and may He bless the United States of America.