"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.