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

Reflection of the day: on car culture and change

Sometimes I look at people who are incredibly knowledgeable about cars, like my dad, and think: if the US ever manages a shift away from car culture and sprawl toward high-density building, public transit, and walkable/bikable towns, we will be losing so much knowledge and culture.

It reminds me that with any social shift, even positive and necessary ones, we always lose something.

Quote of the day: YES YES YES YES

Do you ever read something that makes you want to jump up and down with excitement because the writer has nailed something you felt but couldn’t articulate SO WELL?

That’s how I feel about this essay on the Science and Environmental Health Network blog, Moral Injuries and the Environment: Healing the Soul Wounds of the Body Politic.

Here’s a quote from it, but I highly recommend going over there to read the whole thing.

The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. We know that we are causing irreparable damage. We are both individually and collectively responsible. But we are individually unable to make systemic changes that actually matter. The moral injury isn’t so much a matter of the individual psyche, but a matter of the body politic. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them.  The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental soul wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations but a steady, grinding erosion, a slow-motion relentless sorrow.

Yup. Slow-motion relentless sorrow is just about it.

It’s exactly what I’ve been struggling and struggling and struggling with but failed to put in such perfect words.

I am so glad I’m not alone.

Quote of the day

“Riding bikes everywhere? Using recyclable diapers? Carpooling? We’ve been doing that in Eritrea for decades. Where’s our reward for saving the Earth? Why aren’t we plastered all over Time magazine? If we lived in the same disgusting, gluttonous fashion that Americans lived, this planet would no longer be able to sustain the human race. But yet, they blame the world’s environmental ills on ‘overpopulation’ (code: poor brown people existing) and then usurp our lifestyle habits, trademark it as their own and pat themselves on the back for doing the bare minimum.

How convenient of such a narcissistic nation.”

The uncle of blogger African Goon

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.