Asking for a conversation with YOU

September 24, 2010

I am the Climate, We are Climate Change

I have insistent thoughts that are blocked, don’t move forward. Coming out of the deep need to keep on re-conceptualizing what is happening in the human-mediated natural world we inhabit, this planet… However we’ve been thinking about the climate, communicating the urgency to act and to change—well, our message hasn’t prevailed, is probably losing political ground even as Scary Events and Record Breakings are scarily breaking records.

So: Climate as Other. Climate as not us. Maybe these concepts are the problem, as in:
Climate Change will happen to us. Climate Chaos will destroy Human Civilization. Humans are destroying the climate. Other Humans (not me, not us) are destroying the Climate. I/we subject or object, Climate Change subject or object, but never occupying the same ground.

How do things shift if I see myself as Climate Change. I am Climate Change. This is where I get stuck. If we see ourselves as not subjects of the historical moment, or victims of the historical moment, but … the moment itself?

Help me think this through, tell me what comes up for you reading my semi-raw musings…

Another problematic

Climate porn. I’ve seen this phrase, and just googled it. It refers to the use of graphically scary images used to raise awareness, perhaps shake a little wildly into consciousness, the Ghost of Christmas Future that is, actually, Now. Floods, Fires, Ice Retreat, Storms.

I thought porn was something that riveted people’s attention, not caused them to look away. Oh, maybe they are shy! and that’s why they divert their eyes. So what images allow people to look? Erotica? What would Climate Erotica look like? If not fear and suffering, what would hold people’s attention? And make them believe, and feel, and want to be a part of The Change?

I like to look at joy.


jabbering in early january

January 4, 2010

Hello Readers of Blog.   I have so intended to reply about the Logo Board Game and got stuck there, so I’m going to move on and then maybe, maybe, someday, move back.  There is quite a bit I want to say about the idea of “brands” and children.

The 4th of January, 2010, and the kids have returned to school.  I have so many urgent things to do that I am paralyzed.  Mostly waiting for a phone call from the Loss Adjusters assigned by our insurance company  to see if there is damage to the structure of the house from the heating oil spill that happened just before Christmas.

This was pretty awful but could have been worse.  Examples: we could have left for my mother-in-law’s for Christmas, and not smelled the fumes that infiltrated the walls and rooms of our house and allowed us to take action (stop further leaking, new tank delivered, oil pumped into new tank, special fire-brigade cloths to collect any residual drips…)  The oil also, thankfully, somehow did not go down a nearby drain (I know this because I have a keen nose and have been sniffing around there regularly) because the lay of the land directed it towards the house.  We in our house-renovation have the intention to stop using heating oil, eventually replacing that system with one based on wood and wood pellets, and somehow we were not focusing on the tank itself, or we would have inspected for corrosion.   It was the delivery of new oil just before the holidays (it’s been SO cold) that created the strong pressure that sprung the leak (actually just a drip but drips do accumulate).

But there had been a fortuitous coincidence: I’d been sent an article about Mycellium Running and the work of Paul Stamets of mycoremeditation, basically, using mushrooms to clean up toxic sites as in oil spills in the sea.  Oyster mushrooms, for example, can use the hydrogen and carbon of petrochemicals in the same way they can use them in cellulose, or whatever substrate medium they grow in.  And somehow I made the connection in my mind, and thanks to ebay I’ve already ordered 350 grams of mushroom spawn as I will attempt to mycoremediate my own little patch.  A friend has just suggested I might need to wait until it gets a bit warmer, to 15C she thought, but I could still put down sawdust to absorb whatever residual oil is there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about resources and the vision of permaculture  and the ideal of no waste, or maybe it’s the idea that if you are doing everything right there just isn’t something called waste, or all things in that category are just minimal.  It’s quite amazing now that we have chickens to see how much food scrap we generate, but it all (mostly) goes to them, including egg shell. If I am going to grow mushrooms, there is going to be a call for coffee grounds, and love my compost pile as I do I don’t feel we are putting as much in as we used to.  I make a calculation with paper– scrap paper for the children, compost it, recycle it, start the fire with it….  And though i spend a lot of time sorting, it seems, it doesn’t feel like we throw out or even town-recycle very much these days (glossy stuff…). At the end of the week, or technically, in the middle, Wednesday mornings, be put out one black rubbish bag, and it’s rarely full, just has in it kid-crap, blister-pack whatnots and dried up magic markers, detritus from super-market packaging and … can’t even think what, I’m going to have to investigate!

One last thing: around here if you want a bag at a supermarket or convenience store, you now have to pay.  I think this is crap.  I think one effect of the campaign against plastic bags (I don’t LIKE plastics bags, mind you) is to give greenwash opportunity to the shops (look, we care!) when if you ever look at what they sell or the packaging they throw out from the factory is so much huger in volume to small, crushable, thin plastic bags that you can only laugh.

Meanwhile, my bag of “junk modeling” materials for the children is so voluptuously overflowing there is trash all over “my room,”– gotta start doing more art with them again. But when?

“The Logo Board Game”

November 9, 2009

Somewhere I read that children are able to recognize a huge number of logos even before they learn to read. They can not recognize varieties of wild plants or birds or clouds by name (unless we teach them) but they can distinguish between entertainment companies, fast-food restaurants, cars. Well, this just indicates a lot about our world, and how much we have ceded to the people selling us things, how much knowledge we are losing, what we’ve allowed our priorities to become– let alone how open, for better and for worse, the young human brain really is.

Someone brought a Sunday newspaper yesterday, and this morning I was sorting through it, putting the glossy stuff in recycling, the sports section in the fire-starting basket, and from the pile emerged a John Lewis Christmas catalog. For all my addiction to second-hand I have a kind of dark desire (unfulfilled year after year) for modern white tableware, and thought I’d have a look. And I did, and yes in some other reality I would love Santa to bring me a set of those clean, elegant, stackable bowls.

Flicked through to the children’s pages. Disgusted to find “The Logo Board Game.” “We’re surrounded by logos, ” the text reads. “TV, advertising, even t-shirts. How many logos can you remember? This game tests your knowldege with questions and picture clues. Age 12plus.” There is absolutely no reality in which I want Santa to bring this game into my household. It represents a kind of solopsistic nightmare– how brainwashed are people going to let themselves get??? Actually paying to be advertised to. It’s like inviting a virus to lodge in your brain. If you’ve googled this game, I hope you land on my blog and choose not to buy the thing!

Meanwhile… my daughter’s Y3 choir is rehearsing their Christmas repertoire. There’s a song they are doing celebrating Xmas shopping :

Come on everybody, there’s a whole lot of shopping going on
Gotta get a movin’. there’s a pickin’ and a choosin’ to be done
We’re going crazy! We can’t be lazy!
There’s only days we have left, the rush has begun…

I am just appalled (well, a little bit amused too). If I went and taught that group of kids a song about not shopping, I would be labelled an extremist, and a kill-joy. A friend suggests I complain– his recommendation was on the grounds of the credit crunch and how many pupils’ families can ill-afford holiday excess– but I’m always complaining– about the parking on the pedestrian path, about the junk food. Of course I’m sure there is a world of Christians who loathe the commercialism of it all. But I can’t argue from that place; my worries relate to how consumerism is going to be the death of us all. Yet I am tempted to let this one go, not to complain. Would you?

Consume, Reproduce, Obey

November 9, 2009

Consume, Reproduce, Obey. I used to have a little poster that said that, when I was a teenager. It came to mind but it’s not exactly what I am writing about… though not unrelated….

Seems like more and more people I know in the climate-aware world are taking the climate change future as a factor in the decision whether or not to have children.

For some it’s a matter of “footprint,” knowing that no matter how in the rich world we struggle to reduce it, our kids (especially because we can’t fully control them) are going to consume and grow up to consume and possibly reproduce… Part of the question is whether we have children for our own needs and vanity, and if so, then they are tagged onto our footprint…

Other friends are questioning what kind of world we would be bringing children to grow up into. Past generations have asked this as well, but somehow the future as we see it now seems magnified in its dire multiplications of what can go wrong.

At least four friends have expressed these dilemmas to me in various ways, and I wonder if it is out there at large as a personal question certain people are asking. Of course there’s still plenty of reproduction, including among friends, a surprising number of whom have had three children, which seems a true act of faith as it’s more than the replacement of parents in numbers (in the nuclear family context).

When friends ask I have no answers, only questions. I wouldn’t have any more kids but I don’t want any more– though I would open our family to other children if the situation were right somehow (but not just yet). I am trying to raise the kids I have relatively low-consumption but of course my daughter fantasizes about Primark and I know they will want to travel, want things life in the rich world brings…

It sends shivers down me when they talk, as ordinary children do, of growing up to be parents themselves, to have children, because it’s precisely that time frame, twenty years hence say, when the shit might really hit the fan. I don’t assume I will have grandchildren. I do assume the question of whether to have kids will be incredibly alive for my own children.

There’s a preciousness to babies and children, to new and young life and its innocence and purity and its lack of responsibility. One so wants everything beautiful and perfect for one’s children, for all children. And it’s just upsetting and dark, knowing they are not going to get that, or sure get a lot less of it than might have been…

PS — Am going to start a little, easy practice– copying down climate disaster headline on days when I blog. Yes, yes, I know, no single weather event can be attributed to the changing climate, and yes yes there have always been deadly floods, etc. But at some point (and SOON) we need to stop being cautious and start telling it like it is. If this were a war, casualty headlines would be heeded, and this does feel like a war, just one we just probably cannot win– “At least 124 now confirmed dead in floods in El Salvador.”

Something from Nothing East End Jewish Style

November 6, 2009

I work part time in an organic vegetable shop, which is run as a sort of community enterprise to ensure the availabliity of organics locally, and to be an outlet for the produce of local growers. Last week another clerk really made me laugh, labelling truly delicious satsuma with mottled, darkened rind: “Beauty is only skin-deep.” They were the sweetest I’d ever tasted.

Yesterday, a customer came in. Standing over a box of beetroot, he chatted about his mother, an old-timey East End of London Jewish lady, and how she made her borscht simply with boiled beetroot and citric acid, then beat in a raw egg and maybe some sour cream to make it pink.

A few months ago I did some experiments fermenting beetroot with carrots and garlic and a hunk of sourdough bread. An incredible tart sweet flavour and a kind of viscous texture for a cold soup. Heated would be lovely, thinned or with beef stock might have been traditional. I can’t imagine many people eat this way anymore.

Peter told me another incredible story. His grandmother would always ask the butcher for the head of the chicken. (Everyone it seems was happy for the feet, to scrape them down and use in stock, along with various of the gizzard bits.) But the head was useful for the neck, which would be stuffed with a mixture of flour and chicken fat, melded together with fingers like pastry dough. Then it would be cooked, in broth, and become like a sausage, an incredible delicious savory confection. Something from nothing, Peter said. All that love, preparing something for your family.

Somebody Misses Me! (But Not Someone Who Would Be Especially Interested in this Little Discourse on Meat Eating)

November 3, 2009

A friend wrote to me with concern that I might have stopped blogging. It felt nice to be missed. In fact, my computer charger was broken and my children have been with me 25 hours a day since half-term holiday. I liked being off-line, compelled as I ever am towards the internet. I was reminded that I could do different things with my down-time than facebook or idle www reading. For one I’ve rediscovered my love of making tarts, and for Halloween with the flesh from the squash George and Ned carved I made a really nice pie: a modified Martha Stewart recipe, with honey and cream and ginger, and really nice pastry with a new combination that was 1 part whole wheat spelt to four parts white flour– I am always trying to figure out really tasty ratios that are healthful but not overwhelmed or made leaden by whole-grainness. This one worked.

I also took out my Fuchsia Dunlop books, on Sichuan and Hunan cooking, to make a list of ingredients to ask some friends who are visiting from Oxford next weekend to bring. She is an inspiring cookery writer, and I have chosen her for my guide. I am determined to become a passable cook of yummy Chinese dishes with all our local produce and meat. Condiments and specialist ingredients to come from the kind of cavernous shops that fill me with ecstatic glee. The nearest good Chinese is Birmingham, and that’s too far for my terrible cravings.

(Oh yes, at the Fairtrade shop on Cornmarket in Oxford, they sell a really first rate bottle of pickled chillis from Eswatini Swazi Kitchen, would like to link but their server seems down, must remember to put this on the list for Helen…)

Meat: It’s so clear to me that livestock rearing in a big big problem and we as a family must eat lower on the foodchain. We try in so many ways, in fact most ways, to have our lifestyle meet our values, and in this way we could do better. My husband really likes his meat, and so does my daughter. My son and I have more of a cheese tooth, and dairy is a problem too, though perhaps not quite as much of one (something to investigate actually).

Eating meat– the animals command food resources, the issues that Diet for a Small Planet began to get at years ago… and skew the global market, and prices, and create hunger. And of course the belching digestive methane of ruminants, a potent and immediate warming gas. Let alone the unbearable cruelty of industrial animal rearing. I truly respect vegans, and could be one, but I don’t think my family would participate and as the primary cook and an inveterate nibbler and taster I don’t see how I could remain one. My determination is to cook better (meaning more with less), as below, and when outside the home and given a choice, to choose whatever is impact lowest (local, vegetable, NOT global soya, etc.)

But: it is possible to get extremely local, free range and often organic lamb and pork/bacon and chicken around here. It’s more expensive, obviously, but I’d rather barely eat meat at all and pay more than eat lower quality stuff more often. This kind of meat is truly delicious. Last spring I bought a cut of beef brisket from a farmer up the road and made a very memorable Vietnamese Pho (a noodle soup with warm spices) with the stock. Last night we had chicken wings and because they were from organically raised birds I saved and rendered the fat from the stock from the tips. I will use this fat somehow, not sure yet. But then at least from that purchase of the wings comes four uses: the grilled meat itself, the stock from the tips which I used to simmer some kasza, the chicken fat from that stock to sautee something sometime, and the stock from the bones of the wings…

There’s also the idea simply to bulk meat out, to extend the meat experience as in loaves and meatballs. I have made lamb meatballs (really local meat, minced) verily expanded with leftover bread or rice, onions, cinnamon, baked, then put in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, bay, cinnamon, ginger– tastes uncannily eerily similar to Swanson’s TV dinner Meatloaf Meal that was a true excitement of my American youth.

I think as I start to cook more Chinese I’ll also find more ways to be resourceful (ie resource careful) with meat… I also think of Asian cuisines as using meat as a condiment rather than a focus– the scent of bacon or shrimp, a moment not an hour… Seems like for meat eaters learning to make these shifts would go a long way towards improving things…

One last food thought: with the leftover kasza (tasty buckwheat groats) I’d like to sautee (hey! in the chicken fat!) a chopped leek and some nice mushrooms, maybe some parsley from the pot on the windowsill and roll in a nice crepe made from buckwheat flour and wheat and the eggs from my friend Michelle’s chickens. This is the kind of cooking that is really inspired by Rebecca Wood’s The Splendid Grain, another book I am loving these days.

Nicola my dear, if you would happen upon my doorstep in time for this Ladies Luncheon I’d make you a vegetarian version with the Fairtrade Extra Virgin Palestinian Olive Oil for sale in our local cooperative organic veg shop! LOL!

(But, OMG, there’s an incredible story to why a jar of those Palestinian black olives have to cost over £5– so much travail, turmoil, suffering and sadness in that one small jar. Someday I will write up the story. It’s a horrendous tale.)

Holding Hands

October 23, 2009

Once George spoke to a group and did an experiment. I was not there, I saw a video and even from that remove I got chills and goosebumps. My inspiring husband.

This was maybe five years ago, in London. He said, Everyone in this room, hold hands, Hold hands and feel the communion with other people in this room, all of whom believe in climate change and the urgency of our situation. You will go outside and feel everyone else going around business as usual, in dangerous denial. In here, we are a community of people who understand. Feel this as we hold hands, and hold on to this feeling when you go outside this room again.

That was more or less it.

As we get closer to the next Copenhagen meeting, as the evidence and the science has gotten worse (even as the level of non-belief has risen)–maybe there are more of us holding hands in the understanding of what we are all facing– simply: a planetary context that will be very different from the one in which humanity grew up, with a lot more human beings in it. Challenging indeed.

I want my kids to have the memory of being in groups, standing up, standing together for radical change in the way we go about our business and our lives. No more business as usual. As I write there are apparently 4641 groups around the world getting ready for actions/events for October 24th International Day of Action encouraged and organised by I love this group, not least because it calls for not just moving ahead slower but moving backward, retrenching to the place we have to go. Which is the only way to move forward.

I understand that this kind of international movement can shift the dialogue, though I don’t know in this case how far that is going to go in time for Copenhagen. I do think if any “leader” is capable of miracles it’s Obama.

But I do know that it’s really important to have moments sharing commonality of belief, as religious people have in their places of worship, and that’s one function and solace of community. And that’s what I am hoping for, for myself, for my children, for my friends, and for the people who I hope will show up tomorrow– an event I’ve planned in our town to coincide with a fair celebrating renewable technologies and good solutions…. International Day of Action.

Be in touch if you want to come!

A Surprising Thought, To Me at Least

October 21, 2009

Among the articles I read, some from quite a left and often an ideologically anarchist perspective, there is the view that we have nothing to hope from Copenhagen because, simply, there’s too much collusion between capitalism and the fossil fuel dominated growth economy which is our ruin. Truly, our ruin.

There’s so much truth to this that it’s appealing to take the position that all is lost, the climate scenarios just too grim, state-based governments can’t last many decades longer, and what we need to do is reskill ourselves for The Descent.

I agree that reskilling, gardening, cooking with forage, building, sewing, coppicing, healing, cooperating, music-playing, — all of this, of DIY culture, is good and necessary. And that we need to keep creating the world we want to live in, even as the planet becomes more inhospitable and certainly less predictable. We need to not count on governments and corporations, because we cannot count on them.

But I am feeling like milktoast and hyprocritical and forktongued as they are, speaking simultaneously for the “environment” and for polluting, ransacking business, for the children of the future and for consumers of the present, I can’t give up on them, or on the idea of them.

I’m not actually that interested in political science or discussions about the relationship between individuals and the state. What I am trying to get at is a hope for Copenhagen because I think that without governments we now, given the state of play for how depleted all our “natural” systems are, wouldn’t stand a chance at all. There’s a dark spectre of fascism in the depleted future that scares me more than our current liberal democracies, however unfair and beholden.

Sometimes I actually believe, surprising myself, and maybe it’s some kind of mad wishfulness, that it will be a corporate business probably supported by the state , that will deliver a solution, a miracle, the technofix that i am praying for. I dunno…. How desperate have I become?

Of course, it would have to be a government that was also severely willing to curtail business and its activities as well as initiate and require social change.

(It’s not going to be in the form of carbon trading or metal shavings in the sea…. maybe it will be some kind of carbon sequestration or…. I don’t know what is in the works but we sure as hell need something.)

I am speaking nonsense, I have no idea what point I am making. Are you allowed to do this in a blog?

I [Want to] Believe in Miracles

October 19, 2009

I am considering whether to post some links to scientific news. It’s all so direly, upsettingly bad, but I think that because I read these things, I am aware, and I wonder if people who are not upset are not aware.  That’s the positivist approach– that education leads to knowledge leads to action leads to change.   (Hasn’t happened so far!)

But, in the meantime, I am really going to start believing in miracles and hoping for technofixes.   I just can’t let my imagination go down the route of the realities being suggested by the meteorological studies, and of course the terrible implications for millions and millions of human beings.  It is so worst-case science fiction, fucking unbelievable!  And those who don’t see the potential for all this, either unaware or in some insidious denial.

Oh it’s just disturbing enough to think of the climate disruption we are in the “pipeline” to experience, based on what as already been released in our atmosphere, let alone what we continue to burn, everyday, power station by power station, airplane by airplane, data processing centre by data processing centre…

So, I might as well be on a street-corner with a placard.  (Well, this blog is a virtual version of this.)

Instead, as I wrote last time, every day I am going to devote a small amount of time to positive actions, and I am going to see if I can imagine what MIRACLES are possible.

And consider what modes of spirituality/religiousness are most appropriate to the coming times–  we are going to need a powerful sense of local community, and global community.  We are going to need a lot of internal calm to deal with the terror of unknown “natural” forces.  And praying to which God, and chanting which sutras are going to help. I don’t know what is going to happen to the idea of God-is-Good.

Yesterday I listened on the internet to Jim Garrison speak at Bioneers about a goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2020 and I found this figure totally inspiring. Impossible? Yes. But we have to make it possible, and that’s one place to imagine a miracle. 10% in 2010 is a place to start…

Something Small Every Day/ Up the Ante

October 17, 2009

I am going to do at least one act for the climate each day.  This might be: an act to reduce my emissions; to express my concern politically; to spread the word about the urgency of the matter; to help other individuals/institutions do the same.  This act might be about trying to slow the rate of change, or it might be about some thought of planning for the “mitigation” of future effects…  It will take place in my self, in my home, in my community, in my virtual community, in the shop where I sometimes work, and in whatever other realms might emerge as possible for me.

Today, at the Eistedffod in our town, I cornered our MP and asked whether he’d be happy to commit to joining 10:10, and to be quite vocal about this committment.  He asked, what is 10:10 and I was able to say, well, I’ve written you  a letter about that. He said, could I write him another letter to remind him, which I agreed to do, and he said he’d be happy to commit to this figure, and that he’d already begun quite a number of energy efficient renovations in his home. When I write that reminder notice, I am going to ask him if he could also work to up the ante, to encourage his constituency, his office, anyone and everyone in his pervue, to participate as well.  Now, I don’t think 10% is much but it’s something and the 10:10 campaign is working really hard and it exists with a national profile.   I am personally committed and I am trying to get others and one of my workplaces to join in.

Meanwhile, Climate Campers are putting their hearts and souls into shutting down an EON coal fired power plant near Nottingham, and they are doing this believing that the extraordinary nature and danger of climate change requires us to act in ways that might up the ante.  I have never done civil disobedience but I truly deeply admire people who put their bodies on the line.  I think as my passion and concern grows there will be a time in the future when I join them.  There is a higher law than the right of a utility company to burn its coal.

The 24th of October is going to be an International Day of Action for   I’m not sure if local friends have anything in mind for this, but tomorrow’s task is going to be to find out. And if nothing’s going on, to arrange something, however small. It’s easy enough to plug in to larger-scale events that other people have worked hard to organise.

All of us with concern for the climate matter and we must be out there to whatever extent we can working from the bottom up to make our individual lives less damaging, to influence the top to create institutional, policy, and infrastructural change, to create culture change and social change.  So every day, I am going to do something small.  And then try to figure out what is the way that I could up the ante on the effectiveness of that small action.

This is the personal pledge that arose out of a sleepless night.

If you are reading this, please comment with some  of the small things you are doing…  Might give me some ideas on the days when i feel less hopeful or inspired.  Am working on getting our local school more bike and walker friendly.  Am talking with a friend about beginning a project to campaign for reform of rules that inhibit eco-renovation of listed (historical) properties.  Various other stuff am trying to fit into life.  If I don’t feel like I’m doing stuff, the sorrow and the horror sets in…   “Keep Calm and Carry On”– ever my motto!

PS Watch this: “For you it’s a matter of lifestyle, for us it’s a matter of life and death.:


(I had a migraine this morning so if there are weird spellings and diction in here, please forgive.  And… I will figure out how to make all the links live when my brain comes back to me a bit….)