It’s Earth Day. I have thoughts (and a bunch of links).

woman wearing hot pink shirt climbing out of tree roots in the woods

The Laura in her natural habitat, in the Berkshires about a year ago. I just noticed that the rock in the upper left corner of the picture looks like a heart!

I’m trying to catch up on all the Earth Day-related news and essays around the internet, and there are a lot–you should see how many tabs I have open right now. To start, I’ll point you to the Nation, which has devoted all of its content today to climate change (!!). So far, I recommend these:
The change within: the obstacles we face are not just external.
“Jobs vs. the environment”: how to counter this divisive big lie.

In Keystone XL-related news, Obama has delayed his decision on the pipeline…again. On one hand, it’s kind of annoying that he keeps putting it off; but at the same time, it’s a sign of progress. As Bill McKibben puts it, “[W]ithout a broad and brave movement, DC would have permitted this dumb pipeline in 2011. So on we go.”

Today is the start of the Reject and Protect protest against KXL, which is hosted by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance (yes, that’s really what they call their group of farmers, ranchers, and Native American tribal leaders). There will be a big rally on Sunday, and many of my fellow Bostonians will be there. I don’t have the travel-energy for it, after two trips to Philadelphia in the past few weeks to see my grandmother, but I will be there in spirit.

A protest I might actually be able to attend is the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 20-21. Finally, a major climate action within a few hours of Boston! And I love NYC, so I appreciate any excuse to go there.

Now, on to the thoughts–which are about one particular article. To be fair, I didn’t read the whole thing, just a post about it, so take my reactions with a grain of salt; but I didn’t have the brain-space to read the whole thing when even a few quotes pissed me off so much. The article is a New York Times Magazine profile of Paul Kingsnorth, a former environmental activist who publicly gave up on climate change and retreated to the woods to found a literary journal and hold Burning Man-like parties.

As Heather Smith at Grist points out, his group “sounds less like an enduring movement with relevance to the environmental movement as a whole than a midlife crisis.” 

And then she really nails it: “In declaring the largest problem of our era unfixable, Kingsnorth gave himself — and a few other earnest, idealistic types – the perfect excuse to put on a badger mask and go party in the woods.”

My take on all this: it takes a metric fuckton of privilege to give up on the world.

It’s easy to be fatalistic when it’s not your life, your health, your community at stake. It’s easy to say, “Oh well, we’re doomed–let’s party!” when you’re not living with the daily destruction, disease, poverty, and racism that front-line communities have been dealing with for decades; when your country isn’t drowning under rising waters or being torn apart by environmentally-driven wars; when your home isn’t already being hit by catastrophic floods, fires, or hurricanes.

It’s harder, so much harder, to realize how fucked we are, and to keep going anyway: because we owe it to each other. Because we’re all in this together. Because we’re not going to stand by while fossil fuel companies systematically destroy the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable: people of color and indigenous people, women, citizens of the Global South. Because even if some amount of death and destruction is inevitable (and it probably is, thanks to the many environmental tipping points we barely understand), we can still keep it from becoming worse. We can still build a better, fairer, more just world. We can still work toward safer, sounder ways of living with the Earth.

So, my message to Kingsnorth is this: Go party in the woods, go write about how hopeless it all is, go do whatever your white middle-class male mid-life crisis demands. We don’t need you.

We–students, farmers, ranchers, indigenous tribes, young people, old people, grandmothers, people of color from front-line communities, women, queer people, economic and racial justice activists, people who love the land, people who love each other–are already fighting. We’re already making a difference in a million ways, from the fossil fuel divestment movement to the fight against Keystone XL to the push for green jobs.

Talk all you want about how saving the world is hopeless. We’re already doing it.

3 thoughts on “It’s Earth Day. I have thoughts (and a bunch of links).

  1. I love this. That Kingsnorth article made me furious, and you articulated exactly why. Thank you for pushing back on that self-indulgent nonsense!!

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