Existential whiplash: on the beaches of Boston, the future of Miami, and the terror of rising seas

Yesterday,  I came home from an idyllic day at the beach on Boston’s North Shore and read this article arguing that Miami is doomed to drown under rising tides caused by climate change.

I don’t know how to reconcile the beauty of the ocean that I saw and felt and smelled firsthand with the threat lurking in the waves. I know the nature is powerful and not always pretty. I know that nature has a dark side, unexpected swells of anger, storms that beat water violently against rocks. But this is something different.

This is something human-caused, unprecedented, potentially future-destroying–and something that too many Americans, and far too many of our lawmakers, refuse to believe is happening.

And so, I am trying to make sense of the fact that the same water that I love, fed by melting glaciers and icecaps, is coming for us. That the beach, where land meets water meets sky, is our next battlefield.

The beach, more than almost anywhere else, feels like home. At the beach, I am the happiest version of myself.

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Beyond recycling: ten things you can do to fight climate change

I recently read Joe Solomon’s piece In Defense of a Fearless Summer, in which he calls for a summer of action:

I believe by couching this Summer as a “Fearless Summer”, we can speak to the truth-telling neighbor in a fracked community who is being bullied to keep quiet, to the climate activist grandmother who stays up late at night afraid for the future of her grandchildren, and to the fresh-faced college student who is ready to take a bolder stand. As well as to the thousands upon thousands of progressives who still haven’t entered this fight–afraid that it’s a lost cause, or of what lies beyond recycling. We must all face our fears together.

When I posted it on Facebook, one of my friends raised a good point: what does lie beyond recycling? She pointed out that reducing her carbon footprint by composting, reducing her public transit use, etc. was not currently feasible for her.

This is a really common misconception, based on the environmental messaging we’ve been getting since childhood: that the way to save the planet is through individual actions like recycling, using less water, buying more energy-efficient lightbulbs.

Don’t get me wrong–these things are still a good idea. But they alone are not going to prevent global temperatures from rising to an unlivable level.

What can? Political action. Action aimed at changing our very broken economic system, and building a new, sustainable one.

Here are a few places to start. Not all of them apply to everyone, but maybe you’ll find one or two or three things you can do. And, as overwhelming as it all may feel–and believe me, I get as overwhelmed and scared as anyone–any action is better than nothing.

Ten Small Steps You Can Take to Fight Climate Change

1.) Take the Climate Pledge of Resistance. If you’re not in a position to risk arrest, you can pledge to support those who are.

2.) Attend a local meeting of 350.org.

3.) If you can’t make the regular meetings, check out the calendar of your local 350 chapter and see if you can go to another event. For example, here in Massachusetts, we have weekly letter-writing parties, and there’s a dance performance benefit coming up. Get on your chapter’s mailing list to stay informed about future events.

4.) If your school, church, or town has a fossil fuel divestment campaign, sign their petition.

5.) Call out climate deniers in Congress via Twitter. If you don’t have Twitter, email works too.

6.) Contact the big environmental groups that haven’t divested from fossil fuels, and ask them why.

7.) Invest directly in solar energy through a site like Mosaic.

8.) Contribute to the campaign to build a climate justice hub in Boston, or see if there’s a similar campaign in your area.

9.) Donate to an organization that fights climate change, such as 350.org, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Better Future Project, Tar Sands Blockade, or the Climate Reality Project.

10.) Spread the word and signal-boost. Talk about why climate justice matters to you. Pass along important articles like these. Bring friends to meetings and events. If you can’t make it to an event, or if you want to support a campaign but can’t afford to donate, pass along the information on your social networks.

OOTD: Fighting climate change in style

So, I’m usually wary of the whole activism-as-fashion-statement thing. But I make an exception for building outfits around my hot pink 350.org shirt, because it’s just that awesome.

And I know it’s not just a pretty shirt–I’ve been involved with 350 and other climate justice work in real life.

Speaking of which, fellow Bostonians, this Friday there will be a Singing for the Planet benefit concert. If you at all enjoy music and/or living on this planet, and have $20 to give toward the latter, you should check it out.

Top: 350 store, skirt: Deb, leggings: American Apparel, sneakers: Sugar Shoes via eBay a million years ago, cardigan: Old Navy, cupcake hairclip: Sick for Cute, pink bow hairclip: Stone Flower, rose bangle: H&M, pink bangle: Deb, pink rose ring: Kelsea Echo, silver rose ring: Claire’s?, pearl necklace: So Good, earrings: Artifaktori, socks: probably Target, tote bag: Border’s (sigh)

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Why climate justice matters to me

A fossil fuel divestment rally at a college where I’ve worked. You can see me on the right. Photo by James Ennis.

So, you may have noticed that I’ve been blogging more and more about climate change/climate justice.

I’m not going to stop writing about fatshion, fat acceptance, and pretty things–in fact, I’ve got several outfit posts in the works, and lots of interesting stuff about sustainable fashion. (I just need to sit down and put it together!) But climate justice….well, it’s where my heart is right now.

I’ve been aware of global warming for as long as I can remember–I learned about greenhouses gases in elementary school. And I’ve known for years that things are pretty bad, and only getting worse. But there are so many terrible things in the world–sometimes, you have to push some of them to the back of your mind to stay sane.

So I pushed what’s happening to our planet to the back of my mind, mostly.

But lately I’ve found I can’t do that anymore.

I’ve been tip-toeing the fine line between recognizing the urgency of the problem and getting overwhelmed: vacillating between hope and hopelessness, action and inaction. Doing my best to push through it all, and just act.

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Desertification: not as much fun as dessertification

Mmmm, dessert.

But seriously, if you watch any video today, watch this one. It’s amazing, and has huge implications for how we can stop climate change.

If you can’t watch the video, a short summary: scarily large amounts of the world are turning into deserts, speeding up global warming and causing drought, famine, and conflict. There is a simple, low-tech solution to turn deserts back into grasslands: moving large herds of livestock across the area in patterns that mimic nature (i.e., the way large herds of wild animals used to roam). You can learn more at the Savory Institute’s website.

A must-read: Bill McKibben on fossil fuel divestment

The case for fossil fuel divestment: on the road with the new generation of college activists fighting for the environment.

This gives me hope, and makes me so freaking proud of all the students who are working tirelessly to, quite literally, save the world.

If you’re a college student or an alum, and your school has a divestment campaign, I urge you to support them. Write letters, threaten not to donate any money to your alma mater until they divest from fossil fuel, do whatever else you can.

The logic of divestment couldn’t be simpler: if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. The fossil fuel industry, as I showed in Rolling Stone last summer, has five times as much carbon in its reserves as even the most conservative governments on earth say is safe to burn – but on the current course, it will be burned, tanking the planet. The hope is that divestment is one way to weaken those companies – financially, but even more politically. If institutions like colleges and churches turn them into pariahs, their two-decade old chokehold on politics in DC and other capitals will start to slip. Think about, for instance, the waning influence of the tobacco lobby – or the fact that the firm making Bushmaster rifles shut down within days of the Newtown massacre, after the California Teachers Pension Fund demanded the change. “Many of America’s leading institutions are dozing on the issue of climate,” says Robert Massie, head of the New Economics Institute. “The fossil fuel divestment campaign must become the early morning trumpet call that summons us all to our feet.”

Quote of the day

“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”
― Martin KeoghHope Beneath Our Feet: Restoring Our Place in the Natural World (source: Goodreads)

Want to read something really terrifying about climate change?

Read this, and then try not to run around screaming…

We are 37 years away from the end. That means climate change isn’t a problem for our children or grandchildren, it’s a problem for us. It’s you and I that are going to have our natural lives cut short, you and I that will bear witness to the collapse of human civilization. Fighting climate change isn’t so the hippies can save the polar bears, or so the scientists can save the Arctic ice. It’s a battle for all of humanity to save itself.

I don’t really know what to say. I’m still working on figuring out how to make a difference. This stuff is paralyzingly scary, but…there’s got to be some hope, right?

Travel and the environment: can we see the world without killing the planet?

Watkins Glen State Park, New York. Taken on a family vacation in 2006.

Two things I’ve been thinking and reading* a lot about lately are climate change–and how we can mitigate this already-occurring disaster by developing more sustainable ways to live–and travel. I’m having trouble reconciling my feelings about them.

On the personal level, my brightest-burning desire right now is to see the world. I’ve been outside the Northeastern US only a few times in my life, and I really want to see more of both my own country and other countries. I love New England–in fact, I’m pretty sure my veins run with maple syrup–and I know I want to settle down here eventually. This is my home, my community. The land I feel in my bones. I know that’s a gift: to be so connected to a place in this age of disconnection and displacement.

But I know I can’t settle down without experiencing at least a few of the natural beauties, and the cultures, of other places. I’m still working out the practicalities, but it’s definitely something I want to do.

And yet. I know that traveling, especially by airplane, has a huge carbon footprint.**

There’s just no way that regular international or even intra-national travel is sustainable–even at current levels, let alone if everyone in the US started doing it.

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