Field notes from Little Walden

April 15, 2007 by barbara

by perhansa

"How can I tell what I think 'til I see what I say?"- E.M. Forster
"How can I tell who I am 'til I see what I do?"- Per Hansa
"How can I think with this racket?"- Shuttup Puhleez

A year or so ago, I read Elizabeth Kolbert's book about global warming titled Field Notes from a Catastrophe. It scared the s*** out of me. Then I bought half a dozen copies and gave them to family members to read. My 78 year-old father said I convinced him that climate change is real. One of my daughters said it scared her, too. I've continued reading and talking about it since. Climate change is an issue that "turns my crank," as they say. Read on.

Today, the Sierra Club sponsored a nation-wide event, "Step It Up: Cut Carbon by 80% by 2050." The goal is to galvanize political support at the grass roots level for action on climate change. The largest Minnesota event was on the lawn at the State Capitol, which I attended. I got to talk with Amy Klobuchar briefly and heard her and Keith Ellison address the group. On the Capitol steps was a counter-rally by an anti-tax gang. Michele Bachmann and John Kline were addressing the group while I was there. Somehow, the experience of the day wasn't what I anticipated. But first, some background.

Not My Plan
Mrs. Perhansa and I live on a five acre plot of land in one of the northern Minneapolis suburbs (MB country, ugh). It is mostly wetland and about an acre of native prairie grasses and forbs (non-woody plants) we've planted and tended. We call it "Little Walden" (LW) after our mentor Thoreau. We have a home office where we work together in a small training business teaching leadership and management skills. I am a regional artist and have my studio here. I am also a major introvert'"off the scale on Myers-Briggs. I would rarely leave LW if I didn't have to make a living teaching (a major challenge to an introvert). So, I don't push myself on others and I like to be left alone.

Getting involved in protest and civil disobedience takes a lot. My lovely wife, who isn't afraid to call a spade a spade or a hypocrite a hypocrite, even when it's me, was a big catalyst in getting me to walk out of the woods and into the city to get involved. Her observations about my "talk without walk" and our mutual recognition of the immoral behavior of our current administration left me no choice but to act.

Long story short, that's the indirect route that led me to the Clothesline. I never intended to be doing this. I still feel uneasy every time I write, thinking I should be doing something more action-oriented, like suing somebody or walking around in sack cloth and ashes, carrying a sign reading: "Humans Wrecked the Planet'"Burn in Your Hummer, Sucker."

I'm also uncomfortable with the subtle changes going on inside my head and heart. I was raised Presbyterian'"emotion shouldn't get the best of you. Be stoic lad, stoic. I comfort myself with the belief that Thoreau probably had a hard time, too. After venturing to his mom's for cookies, he probably wished he could just stay at Walden and watch the raccoons eat the ripening blueberries. Unfortunately for HD and me, we are both afflicted with what E.O Wilson called biophilia'"the natural love of other living critters and plants and stuff. So, when we get pushed too far, we have to put down the Schopenhauer, shove aside the nature journal, put on the town clothes, and go-a-meetin'.

Step It Up, Congress
Well, Amy was grand'"much smaller in person than I expected. Keith was exuberant, more like a preacher callin' folks to Jesus (or Allah). Michelle didn't hide behind any bushes far as I know and no one mentioned a Protection-of-Straight-People-Can't-Screw-Unless-It's-to-Procreate-and-They-Have- Parts-Opposite-Yours-Marriage Amendment. That would take tax dollars to enforce!! Ha ha! There were lots of booths with good information, lots of friendly, healthy looking people, very little make-up, lots of unshaved female armpits and grey-haired, pony-tailed guys. Pretty much what you'd expect at a green rally. The anti-tax gang all carried placards and American flags 'cause they're the patriots, you know. I didn't ask if their flags were made in the USA. Their group looked bigger and meaner than ours.

Together, Amy and Keith said what I thought was right on'"I'd been slowly feeling it myself during the day. Keith said, "We have the science, now we need the organization." Amy said, "We need leadership in Washington." Unfortunately the only effort and leadership seems to be at the grass roots level. Leadership is nonexistent, AWOL in Washington.

Bill McKibben said that Washington has, for the past 20 years, carried out a completely bipartisan effort to do nothing about climate change; and they have been very successful. I think any change will have to start at the grassroots, influencing corporations, cities, states and individuals, and then the states will have to lead up to the national level (bass-ackward). Then there's the tiny problem of the rest of the world and the guardians of the status quo propagating incorrect and misleading information to protect their dudes in the energy industry. Time, however, is of the essence'"we only have about ten years to turn this around.

Carl Sagan once condensed the history of the universe into a calendar year. Our galaxy didn't form until early September, the earth in late September. Humans don't appear until 10:30 p.m. on December 31, and recorded history is the last ten seconds of the year. In less than one second of that condensed year, we've put ourselves and up to a third of the existing species in danger of extinction. It don't look good folks.

I didn't come away filled with optimism and hope. But I did see a lot of passionate, caring, energetic people trying really hard to do something helpful and I loved every dang one of them, armpit and ponytail hair and all. But Elvis seems to have left the building. There isn't any master organization. They're all working in little pockets. Working backward may not get us to where we need to be when we need to be there.

We need organization in a bad way, leadership even more. This is one COMPLEX problem. I wish I could tell you the day was a huge success. In some minds, perhaps it was. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, where's my copy of Schopenhauer? Maybe I should check out the Rapture Index.

Posted in


Anonymous (not verified) | April 15, 2007 - 8:19am

Perhansa, have cheered for you responses on the clothesline blog. Glad you have come out of your hut...(evidently Thoreau spent weekends in town drinking and talking with Emerson and other pals.
Understandable. )We all have to do more than get different light bulbs. Thanks for the push.


Poet (not verified) | April 15, 2007 - 9:29am

Solitude's Dilemma

Everybody's talking at me.
I don't hear a word they're saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
People stopping staring,
I can't see their faces,
Only the shadows of their eyes.

The seductive problem with solitude is that sometimes you need it to stay sane but the longer you stay ther the more isolated you become from the most essential human need--connection. We are a tribal species and it is more than a more efficient management method for providing the big three (food, shelter, clothing). It is the essential connection for the flouishing of humanity.

We (humanity) are a deck of cards split and distributed all over the place. together there is no "game" we cannot play. Apart we are just so many irrelevent curiosities. Most importantly nobody holds all the cards so to speak (translate "nobody" as race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion,--all the indices used by our focus group, marketing gurus to divide our tribes and keep them seperate).

The diabolical genius of the consumption for consumption's sake crowd is that they have pursuaded us to do this and pay them for the privilige of greasing the skids to our own destruction. They are just as much victims as we are and they are surely perishing just as much as we are, but they hate everything and have a death wish (even for themselves!) and as the saying goes "misery loves company".

They will just as gladly consign you to Little Walden as they will black inner-city kids to being plugged into the angry rap of alienation and sexual and violent exploitation, as they will surburban upper middle class types to their gated community barracks condominiums.

It does not really matter whether your solitary confinement is in a padded room at the "funny farm", a bare, unheated no water flat in the ghetto, a solitary concrete cell at Gitmo, or a wooded setting. The gloves come off when you stop buying (literally and figuratively)AND start joining together to seek common ground.

I commend you on taking this wonderful step and hope you will continue to reach out to others and not demand of them mirror image conformity to yourself.

No man is an island
No man stands alone,
Each man's joy is joy to me,
each man's grief is my own.

We need one another
So I will defend.
Each man as my brother,
Each man is my friend


Barbara aka Babs (not verified) | April 15, 2007 - 12:18pm

Poet, I was with you up to the last line, pre-poem. I have no sense that Perhansa expects or even seeks mirror image. Something in him is willow-like, I think. And really, isn't that what keeps us all alive, i.e., our individual and collective ability to be buffeted and bend without breaking? The big wind that is the Bush administration has huffed and puffed but has not yet fully succeeded in blowing the house (or the senate) down. We are a resilient people, but sometimes I do wish we'd go rigid for a moment, draw a great metaphorical line in the sand, and proclaim (whilst meaning it), "This is as far as we go. Not one more step. Not one more dishonest act. Not one more lost email. Not one more Wolfowitz. Not one more wasted kilowatt." I have said for some time that it's time to take to the streets, and with every passing day, I am more convinced of it. Which is bold talk for an armchair critic such as I.

Thank you, Poet and Perhansa and unidentified others, for caring so much. That's the ticket, you know. Ambivalence is deadly, that it is.


Poet (not verified) | April 15, 2007 - 1:50pm

Babs wrote:

Poet, I was with you up to the last line, pre-poem. I have no sense that Perhansa expects or even seeks mirror image. Something in him is willow-like, I think. And really, isn't that what keeps us all alive, i.e., our individual and collective ability to be buffeted and bend without breaking?


I agree with you (and Perhensa if that is his feeling too) that first and foremost must come our survival as sane beings capable of discernment. What I was trying to address is the need to not merely survive but thrive. This is not possible in prolonged isolation but needs contact (even occasional abrasive and uncomfortable contact if need be) with others of not similar mind.

I envy you your African-American-Muslim congressman. Most of the griping criticism of Ellison that I have seen can be boiled down to the one phrase "he's not like us". Bravo to the voters in a district that is not majority African-American or Muslim (don't you think that has the blind bat marketing gurus of the fascist corporatocracy grinding thier teeth--tee hee hee) for electing someone who is.

Now if we could get some smart and charismatic transexuals, HIndus, and Goths (the guys and gals who are in love with black everything) we might have something that looks more like the United States instead of what we now have. 8o))


Perhansa (not verified) | April 15, 2007 - 7:20pm

Thanks for all your encouragement & support Clothsline-ites.

I not only don't hope for mirror responses or commitments, but hope for a diversity of responses--that is the key to survival and to better solutions. Hell, even Bjorn Lomborg probably has something meaningful to say about the economics of climate change (just not the science)--sorry I bashed him in a letter to the editor at the Strib yesterday evening. George Will, too.

I've had opportunity through work and personal interest to travel a lot in US and abroad (Indonesia, Brasil, Europe, Australia to name a few). Though I joke about never leaving Walden, meeting people from other cultures with other viewpoints, other lives, and the same need for survival and communion/community as me has had a huge, huge impact on my life and thought. I would not be the person I am today without it. We are the same and unique at the same time; many subspecies within the one big species; strands within the tender web of gaia, jewels within the glittering net of Indira.

I like the willow analogy Barbara. Works for me. I am also feeling like the willow needs to whip back in a vicious counter punch. Sometimes I think I should go park my arse in front of the White House or Congress and scream until I'm hoarse for days on end--"What part of Catastrophe don't you understand!" What Part of the Ethics and Morals Did You Fall Asleep In?!" Morals isn't just about who screws whom and with what plumbing (that's Capitalism). It's time to start taking down names. When we the people take to the streets we'll know who to drag into the thoroughfare and castigate first. Who is with us and who is standing up against us. No more abstractions--it's real people who make these terrible messes. It's real people who have to solve them. BE STOIC, lad, STOIC. Shit.O.Deer.

Sorry, I'll go eat my cookies now it's almost time for the racoons to come out on Little Walden. I love all your caring souls. I hope some of you have ponytails and unshaved armpits. And no, I don't have any tattoos (nor a pickup or gun rack). But I do drive a Prius!