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.
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.
Last night, I was poking around the Transition Lab‘s website (because yes, I still have fantasies about doing it, even though I probably won’t for a whole bunch of reasons), and I noticed an announcement about two new work-exchange scholarships they’re offering:
At Transition Lab, we face an irony: While building a new economy, we still need to charge tuition in order to pay our bills in the old economy. Yet, the students who would benefit the most from our program don’t have a lot of money, because the traditional economy isn’t working out for them. It’s a double bind that is preventing the new economy to take off.
So we are going to take an innovative leap to break this cycle: We are offering the two remaining slots in our 2014 Co-Creator Program as gifts in exchange for the gifts that students can offer our program. That’s right- full tuition to two students in exchange for what they can gift us in return. Really? Yep. Gifts for Gifts.
It’s great that the people at Transition Lab recognize this double bind and are working to make their program more accessible.
But it reminded me how easily money can serve as a substitute for time and energy. People who can afford TL’s tuition can just go, no strings attached; those who can’t have to come up with a skill that’s useful to others, and then spend their time and energy practicing it throughout the program.
It’s similar to all the festivals and events that offer volunteer slots in return for free or reduced admission. Those who can afford tickets have the luxury of spending their time however they want; those who can’t, don’t. Volunteering isn’t necessarily bad–it can be fun if you do it with a group of friends. It can be a good way to practice your skills and learn new ones. But it can also be exhausting. Sometimes you just want to relax and enjoy yourself without having to work.
And that’s not even getting into the many, many people who work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, who wouldn’t have the time to go to festivals or events if they wanted to.
I want a different world: a world in which free time isn’t a luxury, but a right. A world in which people have the time and energy to explore who they are and what they want to do.
Speaking of which, Alyssa Battistoni’s recent essay in Jacobin Magazine, Alive in the Sunshine, is a must-read. She argues that reducing the workweek and instituting a basic minimum income is necessary to achieve both economic justice and environmental sustainability–and would also give people the time to build communities and enjoy life.
Her analysis reminds me of my favorite book, Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, condensed into a form that’s both more succinct and more specific about policy goals. It also reminds me of this great video about visualizing a plentitude economy, made by Juliet Schor (whom Battistoni quotes) and the Center for a New American Dream:
This is the world I want to build.
(Note: just to be clear, I think Transition Lab is going great work toward building that world, and I’m not disagreeing with or attacking their decisions at all. I’m just using them as an example to illustrate my train of thought about the ways in which, in our current system, people with less money often end up with less free time and less control over how they spend their time.)
Not in the traditional anti-abortion sense (ugh), but in the sense of putting human lives first, and profit second. And since our lives are inextricably tied to the health of our planet, we need to prioritize that too.
We need jobs. Green jobs, well-paid jobs, jobs with benefits (or government systems to provide those benefits).
We need an end to the ideology of infinite growth–which, in a world of finite resources, is quite literally unsustainable–and a focus on human health and happiness.
We need an end to the casual cruelty of corporate capitalism–the callous profit-seeking that allowed an adjunct professor to die penniless, near-homeless, and uninsured while the university’s president received a $700,000 salary.
Alongside the exhilaration of the flattening earth celebrated by Thomas Friedman, the planet (and our country) in fact contains increasing numbers of flattened people, flattened by the very forces that are making a few others wildly rich.
His observation is even more true now than when he first made it, back in the less-shitty days before the Great Financial Crisis.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy. This is because McKibben so clearly articulates a vision for a future that is livable, community-based, and joyous–a future that will destroy neither the planet nor the lives of its inhabitants. His book is both practical and visionary: both a blueprint for creating a healthier society and an exploration of what that means.
And so, when I recently attended Cupcake Camp Boston, I couldn’t help but see it as one delicious example of a deep economy: a tiny, tasty model of a society built around community connection rather than profit.
Cupcake Camp promotes both local businesses and community togetherness, with a good helping of buttercream frosting. The basic idea is that you pay a small fee to sample a certain number of cupcakes from local bakeries. (Ironically enough, I didn’t end up eating a single cupcake! By the time I arrived, tickets were sold out, so I just wandered around. A few of the booths gave me cupcakes despite my lack of a ticket, but I was too full from breakfast to eat them, so I was planning to save them for later…until they started getting all melty, so I gave them away instead.)
In addition to the cupcakes themselves–which are both a great deal for the consumers, and great publicity for the bakers–there were all sorts of fun, free activities, including a cupcake relay race and a cupcake eating contest!
I apologize for the lateness of this week’s links! But it was totally worth it–yesterday I had an epic day celebrating the birthday of one of my close friends, involving: laser tag, arcade games, pooling together our arcade tickets so that the birthday girl could win a crayon-shaped lava lamp, dinner and drinks at an Irish pub, and then hanging out and playing board games while wearing fancy dresses in a room at a historic downtown Boston hotel.
It was all-around awesome. I have amazing friends, and sometimes having all-day adventures with them, and getting away from screens and thinking too much, is exactly what I need.