Too Many People, or Too Much Greed?

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Too Many People, or Too Much Greed?

During the dark early morning hours of a September 27 a few years after the Second World War, a passenger ship cruising calm South Atlantic waters struck a drifting forgotten mine, was violently breached, and quickly sank before any distress signal could be broadcast. Daylight found 26 survivors massed in, or floating in the sea around, a small lifeboat built for 12. This is the opening scenario to the 1957 British film Abandon Ship! (also called Seven Waves Away, or Seven Days From Now); and is succinctly presented in this brief clip (https://youtu.be/xVm2dbMdXRs).

The weight of those on board along with the weight of the survivors in the water clinging to the sides lowered the boat in the water and put it in grave danger of swamping and capsizing with any wave action, and certainly in the event of a storm. There were only small stores of food and fresh water in the boat, scant medical supplies, no communications gear, no sailing tackle, and only oars. Many of the survivors were injured, weak, frail and old. What were they to do?

They could sit tight and drift to conserve their strength and minimize food consumption, and hope for a chance meeting with a rescue ship before succumbing to their wounds and infections, exposure, thirst and starvation. However, with the first increase of wind and wave action, and any turn in the weather, they would surely all be dumped into the sea and soon drowned.

They could try rowing to the nearest shore, Africa 1,500 miles away, but the bodily energy reserves of the hardy people who would have to provide the propulsion by rowing would be drained away long before reaching land, because of the drag of the total weight of humanity massed about the boat. Also, the boat would still be at risk of swamping should the weather turn for the worse.

The only remaining alternative was to abandon those people least able to contribute to propulsion, so a smaller number of the fittest people would have the water and food stores to themselves, and amount to a lower weight to be transported with a boat that was higher in the water and much more stably seaworthy. But, how many and who would be cast adrift, and who would make those choices?

The officer in charge, Alec Holmes, reluctantly comes to accept the logic of the third alternative. He ensures that he and the seamen under his command are in possession of the sole firearm on board, and sequentially set the weakest among them adrift as their voyage proceeds, as the sick and injured worsen, and as their supplies dwindle. One woman reflects on the cruelty of the powerful in their sacrificing of the weak by saying: “Why are the wicked always so strong?,” and that “an atomic scientist, a brilliant playwright, and a famous former opera singer have been sacrificed to save two ‘apemen’, a racketeer, and a devout coward.”

We could think of this lifeboat as a microcosm of our Planet Earth, and its overcrowding with desperate survivors as representative of a world population explosion facing the combined biological and geophysical catastrophe of collapsing habitability brought on by the global warming climate emergency, and a rapidly shriveling biodiversity.

It took over 200,000 years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion; world population was estimated to be at 7.7 billion by April 2019.

 

World population estimates from 1800 to 2100, based on “high”, “medium” and “low” United Nations projections in 2015 and UN historical estimates for pre-1950 data.

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population#/media/File:World_population_v3.svg]

World population is estimated to have reached one billion for the first time in 1804. It was another 123 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to reach three billion in 1960. The global population reached four billion in 1974 (14 years later), five billion in 1987 (13 years later), six billion in 1999 (12 years later), and seven billion in October 2011 (12 years later), according to the United Nations, or in March 2012 (13 years later), according to the United States Census Bureau.

I have heard from several of my critics that Earth “needs to” be quickly depopulated down to, say, its 1974 population size of 4 billion, in order to preserve its “carrying capacity” by leaving half of Earth’s area “wild” to both solve our global warming and biodiversity depletion problems, and thus maintain our prosperous nations’ current styles of inequitable capitalist societies within the larger context of a continuing human civilization. Just how this depopulation is to be carried out, and by who, is not mentioned by these critics, hence this essay.

Many factors affect population growth and the magnitude of the Earth’s carrying capacity over time, among them is a positive feedback loop between demographic growth and technological development. Human knowledge (e.g., science) and technological development (e.g., machines, drugs) improve over time and boost human survival, which helps accelerate population growth. Talented individuals, who can devise intellectual and technological improvements, are statistically more likely to arise from and survive to maturity in larger populations living at more advanced levels of development. The intellectual and technological innovations of inventive individuals make it possible to amplify the Earth’s carrying capacity as the population grows, for example by tamping down the incidence and virulence of diseases, and by increasing agricultural yields. However, there is no guarantee that such a positive feedback can cycle forever, and current trends would seem to indicate that this feedback loop is losing its momentum.

What are humanity’s options for forestalling its own extinction at least into the next century? Given human nature, and our many many tribal rivalries, ideologies, fears, superstitions, bigotries, and diversities of moral courage and of moral weakness, what are likely to be the dominant choices for collective actions for societal survival?

We homo sapiens could as a species choose to cooperate globally to simultaneously raise the living standards of the most impoverished — and majority — of Earth’s people, and reformulate our civilization’s manner of energy generation and economic operation, from its highly inequitable feudal capitalism to a highly equalized world eco-socialism: to halt the poisoning of our global environment with waste heat and carbon dioxide from combustion; waste methane from industrialized meat consumption and a melting degradation of the biosphere; and waste chemicals and plastics from industrialized farming and the detritus of industrialized consumerism. In other words, we could unite to share out the Earth equitably while also maximizing the efficiency of the global use of natural resources by quickly reforming our civilization — our methods of finding, extracting and using energy, and the forms and purposes of our economics — so as to be in sustainable balance with natural processes and cycles, all for the purpose of allowing Lifeboat Earth to row or drift for as long as possible with a minimal sacrifice of human decency and human life.

Such a course would obviously include fully subsidized healthcare for everybody, with every form of contraception including abortion on demand, and with all forms of maternity care; also subsidized and universal quality education from preschool through trade schools and university, guaranteed minimum livable income, and fully subsidized elder care and for end-of-life choices. It would be a crime to be a billionaire in such a society, and the capitalism of today — the factional and privatized exploitation of the public — would be extinct since the essence of this society would be the overlapping of relationships of mutual help and consideration on many scales. Capitalism is the ideology of parasites. The people of such an idealized world eco-socialist society would be morally committed individuals who would take it as a given that if human extinction were imminent and unavoidable, they would all share the same fate in solidarity: honor till the end, whenever that would be whether sooner or later.

Human history up to the present suggests that this “all in till the end” type of world socialism is a very unlikely future for us globally, though small isolated pockets of it might develop within the much larger drama of human civilization. While there is always a real chance that a ship at sea would happen upon a lifeboat and rescue its shipwrecked survivors, there is no chance for a rescue of humanity drifting toward extinction aboard Lifeboat Earth, through a massive intervention by fantastically powerful Space Aliens. Our salvation like our damnation is up to us and only us.

So, we can reasonably suppose that the management of Lifeboat Earth will proceed as the wickedness of the powerful in sacrificing the weak to lonesome and fatal abandonment so that the capitalistically fittest can maximize their span of prosperous and even luxuriant survival. Such management of Lifeboat Earth would be (and is) very fractious because greed as a fundamental motivation intrinsically creates dissension, disunity and conflict. Many scales of exclusion would be evident: the impoverishment of a national public and its exclusion from political decision-making by a wealthy and narrowing oligarchy; the oppression by a dominant racial or ethnic population of the weaker ethnic populations and minority-type people it has dominion over; and the exploitation of weaker countries and less-developed economies by strong, advanced and domineering nations. We need only mention the white supremacy domestic policy, and militaristic economic and foreign policy of the United States, the Han supremacy policy being applied by the ruling Chinese on the Uyghurs and in Tibet, the pitiless grinding down of the Palestinians by Zionist Israel, and the migrant streams erupting out of Central America and Africa to escape from starvation and death squads, to stimulate the recollection of numerous other examples of the wickedness of the strong in the management of other regional compartments of Lifeboat Earth. We might even live to see American and European navies shelling refugee ships at sea, and troops of their militarized police summarily executing undocumented aliens breaching their borders, to thwart the arrival of waves of destitute and desperate migrants. Such atrocities would be manifestations of extreme “them or us” end-times panic by the power-clinging wicked.

What can the concerned, morally oriented, largely disorganized and politically marginalized citizens of the world do to help Lifeboat Earth complete its journey — however long or short that may be — in a more humane manner than is occurring today, and certainly than might be its most horrible dénouement? My best and least presumptuous answer is: care enough about the situation to become aware of it, and then do whatever you are willing to do, and have the opportunity to do, to inject greater degrees of awareness, decency and compassion into the small cells of world society that sense your presence. The details of this — whether political, economic, social, intellectual, action-oriented or artistic — depend on the individual, it’s not for me to prescribe.

It is entirely possible that the all-inclusive utopian world of eco-socialist solidarity would have a shorter lifespan than a wicked world for just a few wealthy minorities who pitilessly exclude large segments of humanity, which they disfavor with racial, ethnic and materialistic (anti-poverty) bigotries. If the geophysical gear-train of climate alteration has now been irrevocably set to destroy habitability for humans (and who really knows?), then the eco-socialist world will ultimately fail despite its best efforts. But, it would have been the most enlightened and honorable of possible human civilizations during its lifetime. The wicked world of exclusionary wealthy minorities could extend its lifetime under the same geophysical conditions by culling the human population through combinations of cruel neglect and malicious assault — with no human solidarity and no honor. The partisans for the wicked world of exclusionary wealth justify themselves by claiming “there are too many people,” while the partisans for eco-socialist world solidarity justify themselves by declaring “there is too much greed.” I recognize that the population explosion is a fundamental driver of our combined climate, biodiversity and carrying capacity emergency, and I also agree with the eco-socialists: Earth has too many greedy people.

Today, our Lifeboat Earth is drifting toward becoming a more wicked world of exclusionary survival for exclusionary wealth, but this drift is being resisted by many forms of spirited, morally-based and eco-socially oriented activism. That activism is where the soul and the honor of humanity are to be found.

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The Melting of the Fortress of Solitude

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The Melting of the Fortress of Solitude

The American dream is the eternal one: wealth by luck, power by wealth, and freedom from responsibility by power. The American nightmare is our most democratized experience: impoverishment by design, powerlessness by impoverishment, and the shackling of the powerless to responsibility for the crimes of wealth.

We live in a mediocracy, the mark of failure is success. To be fully human is to fail at being a successfully commodified robot.

The orgy of gun violence we live with daily is the product of a complete failure to craft and make universally available systems of genuine education. It is because minds are depreciated and discarded en masse to facilitate the obsession for accumulation that our mass consumption and massive violence are so pervasively mindless. We are drowning in the blood of our own unacknowledged denial, our own decapitated awareness of responsibility.

Genius for social uplift and human enlightenment are quarantined as diseased, as deadly infectious threats to the barbaric insanity of our approved nationalist ideology — as they rightly are. Ours is a society of blithe mad mediocrity, which is only confused by the continuing urge of the excluded to resist their impoverishment and disappearance. The ploughing under from public visibility of the exploited disfavored and the powerless meritorious is our greatest and most assiduously censored tragedy; but the coincident creeping destruction of a species that lusts for its viral affliction to sociopathic degeneracy, and its own ultimate extinction, is not. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Character is fate.

Some would say it has always been so throughout human history, and others would say that today’s American societal rot is of recent origin: since Trump?, since Bush?, since Reagan?, since Nixon?, since the defeat of Henry Wallace?, since the end of World War I and the death of Eugene V. Debs?, since the betrayal of Lincoln’s last hopes by the tawdry Grant administration and in the fatal corruption of Reconstruction after the Civil War? Regardless, it is our tolerance for that rot today and our obliviousness to history before yesterday that is our fundamental civic sin. The scrawny weed poking through the cracks in that blanketing obliviousness is hope.

Hope is a delusion that makes it possible to get through life day by day, and so it is immensely valuable. Perhaps by the unpredictable quantum fluctuations of the physical universe, and the unknowable future emergent variants of genetic succession, hope will percolate through the obstacles of our times to decisively kill off the obdurate fearful bigotries that collectively imprison us, and to miraculously deliver us — more likely our descendants, should we have any — into a humane form of advanced civilization.

And while the despairingly idealistic and fearfully materialistic will mock the popular yearnings for liberation as stupid millennialist naïveté, those yearnings will persist as long as they are denied realization, whether that end-of-history is the improbable and transcendent enlightenment of our species, or the implacable iron socialism of extinction brought about by Nature’s indifferent abandonment of us all.

Our compulsions are willed, not pre-ordained. Our particular isolations are the triumph of mediocrity over the potential of humanity. It is our coldness of heart that is melting our finest dreams.

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Lorca, Balada de la placeta, Español-English

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Balada de la placeta, a poem by Federico García Lorca (5 June 1898 – 19 August 1936), appears three times here:

1, the original Spanish
(as found on one internet site, https://mir-es.com/redis.php?g=lorca&link=774)

2, the above with a line-by-line literal translation

3, my attempt at a “poetic” English translation/paraphrase (with many compromises).

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Español:

Balada de la placeta
(Federico García Lorca)

Cantan los niños
en la noche quieta;
¡arroyo claro,
fuente serena!

Los niños

¿Qué tiene tu divino
corazón en fiesta?

Yo

Un doblar de campanas
perdidas en la niebla.

Los niños

Ya nos dejas cantando
en la plazuela.
¡Arroyo claro,
fuente serena!

¿Qué tienes en tus manos
de primavera?

Yo

Una rosa de sangre
y una azucena.

Los niños

Mójalas en el agua
de la canción añeja.
¡Arroyo claro,
fuente serena!

¿Qué sientes en tu boca
roja y sedienta?

Yo

El sabor de los huesos
de mi gran calavera.

Los niños

Bebe el agua tranquila
de la canción añeja.
¡Arroyo claro,
fuente serena!

¿Por qué te vas tan lejos
de la plazuela?

Yo

¡Voy en busca de magos
y de princesas!

Los niños

¿Quién te enseñó el camino
de los poetas?

Yo

La fuente y el arroyo
de la canción añeja.

Los niños

¿Te vas lejos, muy lejos
del mar y de la tierra?

Yo

Se ha llenado de luces
mi corazón de seda,
de campanas perdidas,
de lirios y de abejas,
y yo me iré muy lejos,
más allá de esas sierras,
más allá de los mares,
cerca de las estrellas,
para pedirle a Cristo
Señor que me devuelva
mi alma antigua de niño,
madura de leyendas,
con el gorro de plumas
y el sable de madera.

Los niños

Ya nos dejas cantando
en la plazuela,
¡arroyo claro,
fuente serena!

Las pupilas enormes
de las frondas resecas
heridas por el viento,
lloran las hojas muertas.

1919

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Literal translation:

Balada de la placeta
[ballad of the little square/plaza]
(Federico García Lorca)

Cantan los niños
[the children sing]
en la noche quieta;
[in the quiet night]
¡arroyo claro,
[clear stream!]
fuente serena!
[serene spring/fountain!]

Los niños
[the children]

¿Qué tiene tu divino
[what has your divine]
corazón en fiesta?
[heart so festive?]

Yo
[me]

Un doblar de campanas
[a doublet/pair of bells]
perdidas en la niebla.
[lost in the fog/mist.]

Los niños
[the children]

Ya nos dejas cantando
[you/it already leaves/has us singing]
en la plazuela.
[in the little square]
¡Arroyo claro,
[clear stream!]
fuente serena!
[serene spring!]

¿Qué tienes en tus manos
[what do you have in your hands]
de primavera?
[of springtime?]

Yo
[me]

Una rosa de sangre
[a rose of blood / a blood rose]
y una azucena.
[and a lily.]

Los niños
[the children]

Mójalas en el agua
[wet them in the water]
de la canción añeja.
[of the aged/old song.]
¡Arroyo claro,
[clear stream!]
fuente serena!
[serene spring!]

¿Qué sientes en tu boca
[what do you feel in your mouth]
roja y sedienta?
[red and thirsty?]

Yo
[me]

El sabor de los huesos
[the flavor of the bones]
de mi gran calavera.
[of my great skull.]

Los niños
[the children]

Bebe el agua tranquila
[drink the tranquil water]
de la canción añeja.
[of the aged song.]
¡Arroyo claro,
[clear stream!]
fuente serena!
[serene spring!]

¿Por qué te vas tan lejos
[why do you go so far]
de la plazuela?
[from the little plaza?]

Yo
[me]

¡Voy en busca de magos
[I go in search of magicians]
y de princesas!
[and of princesses!]

Los niños
[the children]

¿Quién te enseñó el camino
[who showed you the way/path]
de los poetas?
[of the poets?]

Yo
[me]

La fuente y el arroyo
[the spring and the stream]
de la canción añeja.
[of the aged/old song.]

Los niños
[the children]

¿Te vas lejos, muy lejos
[are you going far, very far]
del mar y de la tierra?
[from the sea and from the earth?]

Yo
[me]

Se ha llenado de luces
[it has filled with lights]
mi corazón de seda,
[my heart of silk,]
de campanas perdidas,
[of lost bells]
de lirios y de abejas,
[of lilies and bees,]
y yo me iré muy lejos,
[and I will go very far,]
más allá de esas sierras,
[further than those mountains,]
más allá de los mares,
[further than the seas,]
cerca de las estrellas,
[close to the stars,]
para pedirle a Cristo
[to ask Christ]
Señor que me devuelva
[please God give me back]
mi alma antigua de niño,
[my ancient childhood heart,]
madura de leyendas,
[ripe with legends]
con el gorro de plumas
[with a plumed/feathered hat]
y el sable de madera.
[and the wooden saber.]

Los niños
[the children]

Ya nos dejas cantando
[already you/it leaves/has us singing]
en la plazuela,
[in the little square,]
¡arroyo claro,
[clear stream!]
fuente serena!
[serene spring!]

Las pupilas enormes
[the enormous (eye)pupils]
de las frondas resecas
[of the dried fronds]
heridas por el viento,
[wounded by the wind,]
lloran las hojas muertas.
[cry/crying the dead leaves.]

1919

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English “poetic” translation/paraphrase

Ballad of the little plaza
(Federico García Lorca)

Children are singing
in the night so still,
with clarity streaming
and serenity fills.

The children:

Why is your heart, so divine,
so festive at this time?

Me:

A duet of bells is peeling clear
lost in mists to sight, not ear

The children:

Already, you have us singing
in this little square,
with clarity streaming
and serenity fills.

What is it you are holding
in your springtime hands?

Me:

A blood rose so lovely,
and so white just one lily

The children:

Dip them in the waters that moisten
from the aged song to freshen,
with clarity streaming
and serenity fills.

What is your mouth now feeling
to be so red and thirsty?

Me:

The taste of these my bones
from off my skull’s great dome.

The children:

Drink of the tranquil water
that is this old song’s patter,
with clarity streaming
and serenity fills.

Why go away so far
from this our little square?

Me:

I go to find magicians,
and also princesses.

The children:

Who has shown you the pathway
that leads to poetry?

Me:

The springing source, the flowing stream
of that song as old as dreams

The children:

Are you going far, so far
beyond sea and land, so far?

Me:

A glow of lights has filled my heart
made of silk and now not dark,
it’s also filled with lost bell sounds,
with bees and lily bundles bound.
For I will go away so far
past where you see those mountains are
even further than the seas,
to climb up to the stars at night
and give my plea to Jesus Christ
God, won’t You please return to me
my childhood heart that used to be,
with legends richly ripened then,
and plume my hat to once again
my wooden sword in hand extend!

The children:

Already, you have us singing
in this little square,
with clarity streaming
and serenity fills.

The enormous pupils of the eyes
of those dried and withered fronds
that were wounded by the winds
are crying tears of now dead leaves.

1919

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Mister Yes-Know and Mistress No-No

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Mister Yes-Know and Mistress No-No

People live, people die
People laugh, people cry
People love, people lie
People lose, people fly.

Don’t say what I don’t want to hear
Don’t do what I don’t want to see
Don’t think what I don’t want to know
Don’t feel what I don’t want to be.

Mister passive-aggressive co-dependent
Mistress obsessive-compulsive unrepentant
Acute anticipatory anxiety ascendant,
A mystery inevitably uncomprehended.

Sometimes my art is of quality high
Sometimes my art is of quality low
However it crosses the public eye
I’m always delighted, I love it so.

31 March 2019

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One Soul Saved

 

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One Soul Saved

To believe that climate change can be averted is to believe that humanity can rapidly improve itself morally. Maybe it will, I can’t say. For me, it is better to believe in an ennobling vision and pursue it for a lifetime, even if it fails, than to submit to a tawdry comfortable slavery, which is the cause of that massively popular failure. Aspiring to better humanity is lonely work easily inundated by oceanic inattention and unconscious ingratitude. All that you may gain could only be the bracing realization that you at least kept faith with the honorable in nature during your brief twinkle of living consciousness: one soul saved.

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Navarro Beach Surf

Eleven photographs of the surf at Navarro Beach, Mendocino County, California on 11 March 2019 follow. I was fascinated by the endless variability of the waves, the foam, the lighting, the glinting of the sun on the surface of the water; as well as the feel of the sun’s warmth, the wind’s coolness, the crisp feel of the sand and grit underfoot, and being enveloped by the unconcerned majestic wildness of nature in this one secluded spot. The taking of the photographs was merely a way of occupying my human body while my mind and spirit were absorbed into this greater reality.

To see any of the images in full size, and to be able to explore it in detail, click on it to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mendocino County, 2019

I just came back from a visit to Mendocino County, California, and here are 20 of my pictures from that trip. I’ve chosen to present these photos at a “large” size (not “full”) and “high” resolution (not “maximum). I hope you enjoy them.

We stayed in this house, designed to collect solar heat with its high row of windows facing south, and its full length solarium. The large vegetable and fruit garden is being prepared once again for the coming spring.

 

A meditative spot by the house is the Koi Pond.

 

Daffodils have started to carpet the green fields of the old cemetery for the town of Manchester.

 

Navarro Beach, where the Navarro River meets the Pacific Ocean, south of the hamlets of Albion and Little River.

 

I can never take too many pictures of the beach and surf.

 

The “isness” of nature is so beautiful, it takes you out of yourself and into the universal and primordial.

 

Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937) was an American fine arts painter. She made this self portrait in oil, in 1881, when she was a 16 year old art student in San Francisco. This photo is only of a portion of the full painting.

 

Grace Hudson spent most of her life in the small city of Ukiah (inland Mendocino County), where today many of her art works are displayed at the Grace Hudson Museum.

 

Grace Hudson focused her artistry on the portraiture of the Pomo Indians, who live (still) in the Ukiah and Potter valleys (of inland Mendocino County). She painted real people in the natural settings of the region. This particular painting is about “the birth of song.”

 

A young Pomo girl with her pet fox.

 

A young Pomo girl with an orange, and attitude.

 

Grace Hudson made many paintings of Pomo children and babies. This is a detail of one of her best known “baby pictures.”

 

Grace Hudson sketched this amazingly subtle and detailed portrait of an expert Pomo basket weaver, and friend, with bitumen (which I think of as a coal/tar crayon).

 

Nit’s Cafe is a small, wonderful Thai-themed restaurant in Fort Bragg.

 

This view shows over 90% of the dining area of Nit’s Cafe. Note the potted orchids and colored lights. The food is phenomenal; the seafood is exquisite.

 

Menus at Nit’s Cafe.

 

Here is the chef of this one-woman enterprise, Nit herself: an accomplished gourmet chef who combines refined French culinary technique with Thai sensibility, and a passion for fine cooking. A lively and lovely person. Nit’s is at 322 CA Hwy 1 (the main street through Fort Bragg, in the center of town).

 

Point Navarro, north of Navarro Beach and south of Albion and Little River; looking west toward the setting sun, from near the edge of the high cliff (rocky surf below, and a very windy day).

 

The ceaseless surf at Navarro Point.

 

Looking north from the same cliff-edge spot at Navarro Point.