Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Joy and peace

“A disaster that no one could foresee” is what Chris Christie said on Jon Stewart last night, about Hurricane Sandy. Really, Chris? Really, when environmental activists have been telling us that this is exactly the sort of disaster we could foresee if we continue to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

It's like Chicken Little running around saying the sky is falling, and then everyone acting surprised when the sky falls. Except Chicken Little in this case is the best science we have, the cutting edge of all scientific and technological progress over the last two thousand years. We just don't like what the scientists have to say. We cease liking science when it tells us that we have to use technology to adapt to ecological limits instead of using it to bypass them.

Science is telling us we are destroying our world. And we're not listening.

Everyone should stop what they're doing right now and go read this interview, "If Your House Is on Fire," with the naturalist and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Riverwalking. Some quotes:

“Toxins in the water, radioactive waste in leaking tanks, acid in the oceans, and climate chaos. And we’re too busy to protest because we have to buy the kids the right kind of shoes for the soccer tournament? What kind of love is that?”

“There’s a disconnect in our culture separating what people do from what they really care about. I love my children and my grandchildren more than anything else. I care about their future. I love this world with a passion. The thought that we might be losing songbirds, trading them for something I don’t care about at all, like running shoes, makes me angry. And still I drive to the store and buy running shoes.”

“The worst offenders are happy to implicate and entangle us in every possible way and make us blame ourselves for climate change. We have to do our best to shake loose of that entanglement and never turn our rage against ourselves or allow self-criticism to dissipate our anger toward the real culprits. Of course each of us should be using less oil. But when I hear people piously say, 'We have met the enemy, and he is us,' I say, bulls***. I didn’t cut corners and cause an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I didn’t do my best to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and every other agency that might have limited fracking. I’m not lobbying Congress to open oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. I didn’t cut funding for alternative energy sources. Big Oil is pouring billions of dollars into shaping government policies and consumer preferences. And what do we say? 'Oh, I should be a more mindful consumer.'”

Interviewer: Does having a discourse in moral reasoning mean we need to listen to climate-change deniers?

Moore: No. Perhaps a scientific discourse would engage deniers in a debate about the facts, but a moral discourse isn’t about science. It’s about right and wrong.

Debates about the causes of climate change have become distractions. If your house is burning down, you don’t stand around arguing about whether the fire was caused by human or natural forces. You do what you can to put out the damn fire. You throw everything at it, and then you hold your breath, because there are people inside that house....

Moral arguments are trump cards, whereas economic arguments can always be overridden by matters of principle. Yes, you might profit from keeping slaves, but it’s wrong. Yes, you can profit from ruining children’s futures, but it’s wrong.

This final quote is the one that kills me:
“Many of us wake up in the morning and eat a breakfast of food we don’t believe in and then drive a car we don’t believe in to a job we don’t believe in. We do things that we know are wrong, day after day, just because that’s the way the system is set up, and we think we have no choice. It’s soul-devouring.”

So many people are asking questions about Connecticut, about these horrifying acts of terror coming from inside of ourselves. We want to believe that if we ban the gun he used, if we lock all of our elementary schools up tight, this kind of horror can't happen. Instead, I believe our society is a snake eating its tail, and things like that will continue to happen as long as our souls are being devoured from the inside. I used to live a life like that, the one above, and every day I had to stuff down the horror I felt at living, stuff it down with our cultural addiction of choice, an addiction to cheap consumer goods, cheap food, distraction.

The Appalachian Trail saved me from that life, led me to a life of story; story in all things. Being honest with each other, telling each other stories—these words here, included—is what will save us.

Moore absolves us of our guilt, as Christ did before. Can we all remember that at Christmas? Our guilt is washed clean. Clean as snow, as white as a white Christmas.

All we need is to take action, together. Believe. We can join together and make a difference. Inspired and unified human action brought down slavery, brought down colonialism, brought down segregation, brought down the Vietnam War, brought down apartheid, brought down the Berlin Wall, brought down, most recently, an Egyptian dictator supported by the United States.

We can unite, too.

I'm making a proposal. Our enemies are transnational petrochemical industries. The only way we can fight them is with money. Yes, I'm complicit, as are most of you. I'm culpable. I own petrochemical stock, through my mutual fund, my meager retirement savings. But there are ways to take a stand even there. We can bond together and ask our financial power-brokers to divest themselves of petrochemical stock. To invest in trains, local agriculture, education, science, and alternative energy. If we speak with one voice, eventually they'll listen.

For additional inspiration, a list, from McSweeney's 40. Egyptian students studied the Serbian youth movement called Otpor! that overthrew Milosevic and From Dictatorship to Democracy, a handbook for activism written by a UMass Dartmouth professor. The handbook lists 198 possible nonviolent actions, and McSweeney's published their favorites:

        1. Public speeches

        6. Group or mass petitions

        7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols

        8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications

        9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and bookshelves

        12. Skywriting and earthwriting

        17. Mock elections

        19. Wearing of symbols

        20. Prayer and worship

        24. Symbolic lights

        25. Displays of portraits

        26. Paint as protest

        28. Symbolic sounds

        30. Rude gestures

        33. Fraternization

        34. Vigils

        38. Marches

        46. Homage at burial places

        51. Walkouts

        52. Silence

        54. Turning one's back

        62. Student strike

        69. Collective disappearance

        71. Consumers' boycott

        117. General strike

        119. Economic shutdown

        141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

        148. Mutiny

        153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition

        158. Self-exposure to the elements

        162. Sit-in

        163. Stand-in

        164. Ride-in

        165. Wade-in

        166. Mill-in

        167. Pray-in

        179. Alternative social institutions

See? We have power, too.

2 comments:

windycityvegan said...

Yes, yes to ALL of it! Thank you for helping me keep things in perspective, for reminding me that I'm not the only one in this frame of mind.

Melissa said...

Maybe the Mayans were right, because I'm sensing change, yo.