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

Friday links 11/1/13

This jack-o-lantern partied a bit too hard.

Happy day-after-Halloween! I hope you all had a good time.  I spent the evening watching Cabin in the Woods with a group of friends, and although I don’t usually like horror movies, I loved it! It’s pretty much impossible for Joss Whedon to make anything bad, and it didn’t hurt that the cast was full of great actors.

I also had a Halloween party last weekend, where I dressed up as a steampunk Pikachu (in reference to this comic). I will post pictures soon! Now, on to the linky goodness…

Fa(t)shion
-I don’t mean to turn my blog into a complete advertisement for Domino Dollhouse, but their new skull-print babydoll dress and leggings are too awesome not to post about.
-This photo shoot of five fat babes is fabulous.
-The Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, a collective workspace focused on sustainable production, will be opening in 2014.
-John Scalzi writes about why he dresses the way he does, and how, as a middle-class white man, he faces less appearance-based judgment than most people.
-Jille Edge’s Flickr has plenty of old-school Delia*s nostalgia.
Politicizing plus size fashion with blogger Brooklyn Boobala.

Fat Acceptance
-There will be a Fat Justice Workshop here in Boston next weekend.
-This fat bellydance DVD looks great.
-Abigail Saguy talks about the history of the “obesity epidemic.”
Fat people need candy too.

Climate and Sustainability
-A must-read from Naomi Klein: how science is telling us all to revolt.
-The Transition Lab, which trains ordinary people to create a resilient future, sounds amazing. If any of my fellow Bostonians want to learn more, check out the presentations they will be giving in Cambridge next week.
-A great overview of what a post-growth economy means, and why we need one.

Continue reading

The post-employment economy and its discontents

First, a blog note: My Friday Links post will probably be late this week (again). It’s been an exhausting week, and I have a busy weekend planned–so I’ll get to it as soon as I can, but I’m not sure when that will be.

With that out of the way, here are some reflections I’ve been having on the issues I started exploring in my post about millenials and the terrible economy we’ve inherited: one that I’ve best heard described by writer Sarah Kendzior as a post-employment economy.

On a message board discussing both my post and the millenial-bashing one to which I was responding, I read a comment (which unfortunately I can no longer find)  that said, basically, money doesn’t buy happiness–that it’s possible to be happy and have a good life without making much money.

On one hand, there’s a lot of truth to that. On the other hand, in our society, money can buy a lot of things it shouldn’t.

Like the ability to follow a career path that interests you.

To a certain extent, money has always been able to purchase opportunity; but as Alexandra Kimball discovered, it’s a lot more extreme now than it was for our parents and grandparents. Entire professions are closed off to all but the wealthy, as she experienced firsthand: after years of trying to start a career in journalism, she was able to break into the field only after receiving a surprise inheritance.

Or, say, compassion.

Take this incident that Adam Weistein relates in his response to the original piece.

Last weekend my baby had a fever, and we contemplated taking him to the ER, and my first thought was – had to be – “Oh God, that could wipe out our bank account! Maybe he can just ride it out?” Our status in this Big Financial Game had sucked my basic humanity towards my child away for a minute. If I wish for something better, is that me simply being entitled and delusional?

Or kindness. As Molly Crabapple points out in her brilliant, beautifully written, must-read piece about the relationship between art and money:

So much of the difference between the experiences of rich and poor comes down to kindness. Kindness is scarce. Kindness must be bought.

If you have money, you can pay to live in a bubble of politesse. Excellent wine choice, sir. Here’s your gift bag, madam. Often, you don’t have to pay for it. The mere promise that you might will keep you sipping prosecco and deserving of servile attentions. Soon, you think this treatment is earned.

Meanwhile, we treat the poor with casual cruelty. Single moms on welfare have their homes searched by police to make sure they’re not hiding a man in the closet. But it’s too much to ask bankers to justify the bonuses they sucked off the public teat. The poor get stop-and-frisk, drug tests, and constant distrust.

In our current system, money doesn’t just buy things. It buys the right to be treated like a human being.

Continue reading