Reminder: the People’s Climate March is coming up next month

I know I haven’t been blogging about climate change much lately because my mind has been on other things (and because I only have the energy to think, act, and write about so many issues at once). But I haven’t forgotten.

The People’s Climate March, which will take place in New York on September 21st, will be the single largest climate event to date.

This is going to be huge, and it’s important.

As Bill McKibben says in his call to action:

You can watch the endgame of the fossil-fuel era with a certain amount of hope. The pieces are in place for real, swift, sudden change, not just slow and grinding linear shifts: If Germany on a sunny day can generate half its power from solar panels, and Texas makes a third of its electricity from wind, then you know technology isn’t an impossible obstacle anymore. The pieces are in place, but the pieces won’t move themselves. That’s where movements come in. They’re not subtle; they can’t manage all the details of this transition. But they can build up pressure on the system, enough, with luck, to blow out those bags of money that are blocking progress with the force of Typhoon Haiyan on a Filipino hut. Because if our resistance fails, there will be ever-stronger typhoons. The moment to salvage something of the Holocene is passing fast. But it hasn’t passed yet, which is why September is so important.

I’m going to be there, and I hope you’ll join me.

You can check out the event’s transportation page to see if there are buses going from your area to the march. Many local 350.org chapters are also holding art builds before the event–there will be six here in Massachusetts alone–so even if you can’t attend the march itself, there are still ways to get involved.

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Past the point of no return: not just a Phantom of the Opera song

tidal pool and sandbar on beach

Dammit. I’m going to miss you, Crane Beach.

The other day, I read that the West Antartic ice sheet is now in irreversible collapse, which means there will likely be a 10 to 15-foot rise in global sea level over the next few centuries. Or, as the Mother Jones headline puts it, “This is what a holy shit moment for global warming looks like.”

On one hand, this doesn’t come as a big surprise; people have been warning for years that this was likely to happen. On the other hand, there’s an enormous difference between “probably” and “definitely.” Especially when that “definitely” involves the certainty that  places you love will be swallowed up by the sea (if on a timetable that no one knows yet, and probably not within your own lifetime).

Sometimes I wonder how I’m supposed to read news like this and then go about my day like everything’s fine. How am I supposed to do anything other than run around screaming?

I know that running around screaming isn’t exactly an effective form of activism. But sometimes it feels like the only sane response to news like this.

Climate activism, carousels, and cherry blossoms: a day in the city

fossil fuel divestment rally in front of massachusetts state house

I’m starting a new temp job next week, so yesterday I took advantage of my free time and the gorgeous weather to spend the entire afternoon taking in the beauty of Boston in the spring.

I went into the city to rally for fossil fuel divestment at the Massachusetts State House. We sung “Sing for the Climate,” lined up on the steps like a choir, and then people split up to deliver flowers to the representatives who support the divestment bill and clocks (message: time is running out) to those who don’t.

There’s nothing quite like protesting in the spring, when anything feels possible. Especially when, not only have two Massachusetts towns divested from fossil fuels in the past week, but so has the first major university. I’m starting to have hope that the tide is finally–if excruciatingly slowly–turning. That we really will build a better world.

giant earth surrounded by black balloons representing carbon dioxide at fossil fuel divestment rally

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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. Continue reading

We deserve better.

I keep coming across disheartening reminders that having a successful career rarely translates into financial stability.

s.e. smith, a writer whose work I’ve followed for years on XOJane and elsewhere on the social justice internets, recently posted a list of tips for freelancers. In the introduction, ou* admitted:

Alas, the fact of the matter is that while I have been freelancing for seven years now, I still don’t have what I would call a wildly stable or successful career, and it’s highly likely that will never realistically happen. The same is true of many freelancers, especially in an economy where intellectual labour is valued less and less, which translates into lower fees for your work or dreaded offers of ‘exposure’ in offer for your free work.

The same day, I came across Susie Cagle’s post Eight years of solitude: on freelance labor, journalism, and survival. And it’s just depressing:

More newspapers and magazines want to profile me and the strange work I do than hire me to actually do it. Other writers and illustrators chastise, how can you complain about getting that kind of promotion? The year I got the most TV and radio spots and magazine write-ups, I made about $17,000.

Even though freelance writing doesn’t appeal to me for a number of reasons–I do best with external structure and routine, I need to be around people, and I just enjoy writing more when my rent doesn’t depend on it–it hurts to see how little our economy values people with skills and interests similar to mine. It’s incredibly frustrating to see so many people doing such good work but barely making enough to live on.

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A realization

dark storm clouds looming over path in the arboretum

Sometimes I think, my generation is fucked.

And then I realize, in ten or twenty years, we’re going to be even more fucked: when many of us are raising children and caring for aging parents at the same time. So much shit is going to hit so many fans–and that’s not even counting the havoc climate change will be wreaking on the world. Or the civilizational collapse that’s hanging over our heads.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to feel hopeful about the future–my own or the world’s.

The only thing that helps is enjoying the present moment: laughing with my friends, singing along to every song in Frozen, celebrating Pi Day with an apartment full of friends and pie, feeling my feet firmly rooted into the ground in warrior pose, petting my various furry neighbors, getting completely absorbed in a book, wearing pretty twirly dresses, taking in the silence that blankets the world when it snows.

Right now, that has to be enough.

Climate disaster is not a white, middle-class issue: on narratives and the need to build bridges

I’m somewhere in here. (source: 350MA Facebook page)

Last night, I attended a last-minute vigil protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, inspired by the State Department’s release of a report that green-lighted it.

It was heartening to be part of such a large crowd assembled at such short notice–there were over 200 people gathered in Harvard Square alone, and it was one of multiple events in the Boston area. It felt good to sing and chant and hold signs, to make our unequivocal “NO!” to climate destruction heard. It was heartening to feel the warmth of community, of spirited resistance, on a snowy day.

And yet. I looked around at all the white, middle-class, crunchy/hippie/folkie faces and thought, “We’re never going to succeed if we can only appeal to people like ourselves.”

We can only save the world if we can build bridges, if we can build a movement that resonates with people from all walks of life.  Climate disaster is not an issue that affects only canvas-bag-toting, organic-food-eating, voluntary-simplicity-loving liberals–we’re all in this together, and we need to face it together.

(A few caveats: I’m aware that Boston doesn’t represent the international climate movement, so what I’m saying may or may not apply on a larger scale. Also, I’m aware that it’s somewhat hypocritical of me to criticize the whiteness of local climate activism when the fat-positive events I’ve held have also been mostly white. I know it’s a problem, and I am working to change it.) Continue reading