Archive for September, 2009

The day after yesterday

September 30, 2009

I have not been sitting comfortably with my what I wrote yesterday.  I feel it reveals a harshness, an entrenched moralism in my character that I might like to work on.  And anyway, it’s not a productive vantage point, being angry and judgmental and then reviling oneself for that!

This morning, an article came to me that begins to explore how modern consumption feeds psychological hungers, and how this might relate to communication about climate change and behaviours.  Now, none of this is new to me.  My mother was a compulsive spender who died with loads of consumer debt– and I think a lot of my identity was self- consciously formed in contrast to the way she was in the world.  Her problem was particularly egregious and self-destructive, but its actually a mass phenomenon if we look on a social scale.

People are just trying to fill their holes, figure out and announce who they are, through shiny new things and experiences.  And of course there’s the numbing: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”  You drown out the noise of your own anxiety by turning on the telly.

(Having lived in Britain for a decade now, when I encounter snippets of  US tv on the internet, I’m really overcome by the hyper-activity of the voices, the graphics, the amount of simultaneous information and nonsense.)

Here I am, someone who has travelled, lots by air, less than some but more than many, and probably more “deeply” than many in that I’ve been in places and situations way out of my comfort zone.  

But somehow I am able to take a position of “giving up flying” (not absolutely, but pretty drastically)– hmmmm.  

Recently I had a bit of a conflict with someone who sought my approval; her daughter’s girl scout troop (10 year olds) was  saving money for a trip to Kenya to plant trees with a famous development activist.  Surely this would be a great, formative experience for the girls travelling this far (from east coast USA).  My problem was that I couldn’t stomach the do-good justification, that they girls were being taught that they were doing something for Kenya rather than for themselves. 

So the question formed in my mind what I would do if Elsa had an opportunity like this, and surely she would resent me if I said no.  (I often have a hard time saying no– a foible indeed as a parent.)

I began to think of the fabulous flying holidays her friends have– snorkeling in blue waters, running free in warm air under blue skies, possibilities to climb pyramids and acropolises, ride donkeys and camels and elephants and dolphins and eat baguettes and go on safari.   Wow! The tantalizing seductions of mind expansion…  experience… fun…  just being able to relax in climates other than this crap one here in Britain.  

Then I thought of another kind of amazing kid, of parents who are putting their energy into making experience, the revelatory cultural DIY that hippies and homeschoolers and hard knock eco-people celebrate.  Parents who bring their children to beautiful festivals. Children running wild in multi-age packs with other kids.  Kids living in communities.  Adults who create magical experiences, circuses, processions, Halloween parties…. Adults who help children to create their own magical experiences…  Adults who turn off the television….  People who camp and tramp with their kids.  Who use public transportation.   By necessity.  By choice.

This nagging feeling, that in taking a “stance” against flying I am “depriving” my children– I am giving them something else, something quite fortifying, and strong, and beautiful.  I’d like to believe this.  But I know it rubs against the cultural grain of my middle-class upbringing, and assumptions about “giving” to my kids.  These are modern assumptions, culturally, socially created.  Today somehow, having read that little piece on the web  and linked below, I can appreciate that this call is very loud to people very similar to me.  And loud to me!

But of course let’s not forget most of the kids in the world. the ones who really stand most to lose by the vagaries of this increasingly chaotic climate:  They ain’t flying nowhere.  Those kids might not even be eating.


Is it kind, true, necessary?

September 29, 2009

Put these words into a search engine and you are lead to discussions about “mindful speech,” which is just what I’m wondering about.

Or, more specifically, how NOT speaking, how not expressing one’s truth, becomes a collusion with the mass cultural denial of the dire emergency we are in. Therefore, not mindful either.

I think of myself as a nice person, a supportive person, a person who encourages people to find their own sense of self and of pleasure.

Yet I also feel judgemental of the habits of consumption I see in my friends and family, and I haven’t worked out how to express my convictions without people feeling this judgement.  This is mostly in reference to the holiday flying of some people, who do it constantly, and despite awareness of “environmentalism” don’t seem at all conflicted, or worried.

(Of course, there’s not much sting in a judgement from another if it doesn’t in any way ring true to one’s personal voice.)  

The fact is, I am judging, because this constant flying is one of the worst personal contributions to climate change and I accept the following statements:

  • Change has to come from the bottom and the top,  so personal lifestyle adjustment matters.
  • Our understanding and expectations of what life can give us have to be transformed.
  • Though personal contributions are minimal in the global scale, any kind of social justice based approach to the climate crisis recognizes individual consumption/ national consumption/global consumption (as in Contraction and Convergence) as crucial.

All our emissions now are a timebomb in the future, given the lag.  A timebomb.  There’s the word BOMB in there.  I am experiencing the oblivious consumption of my friends as a violence imposed upon safe futures of other people, including my children and their children. This brings out the mother tiger in me.   

 I am angry.  The intransigence of believing that there is no way out of a high-consuming therefore high-emitting lifestyle is  incredible arrogance.  

So, logically, if I am seeing this as a kind of delayed violence, I need to speak truth to power, in order to inhabit the word “necessary.’ To speak is necessary.  Even if it is “unkind.”

A beautiful friend, a practicing Buddhist, once spoke to me of mindfully not-judging, just focusing on one’s own beliefs and core.  Or as my husband George , so much less anxious than me,  might suggest, just “walking the walk” gives a centeredness, a sense of personal strength.

Holier-than thou moralism just alienates people, that seems to be a common sentiment.  

Hmmmm.  I don’t know.  There’s lots more working out of this in my head.

I would absolutely love to hear from people in similar places of questioning.  If you are a loved one and this blog entry pisses you off, I don’t quite know what to say.  I love you; it’s uncomfortable for me to piss you off; I’d much rather a reality in which it were possible for you and me to be hanging out together in some amazing cafe eating something delicious looking into eachother’s eyes not facebook pages…  What would I give for that reality? Possibly my life!

I should say that I am an American married and living in Britain and it is actually an unhappy  sacrifice I make because of my beliefs.  I would LOVE to go home more often, spend time with my loved ones, show my children my world.  And I would LOVE to travel widely on this globe, as I once did, before I quite understood the depth and breadth of this crisis…  

(more on this another time: HUGE travel fantasies. Getting so huge they are getting painful.)

The Anthropocene Era

September 28, 2009

The Anthropocene Era.

I am letting  this phrase wash over me.

The giant sweep of magisterial time, the eras of earth’s history so grand and huge they are not really imaginable, human history just a microscopic dot on a macrocosmic scale.   Epochal time.  Time beyond comprehension.

The Rift Valley, the Grand Canyon, mountains oceans land masses evolution fossils coal.


Wood, forests.  The Steam Engine.  Industry.  Modern War.  Oil.

The Anthropocene Era, now.  When the micro that is us impacts the macro that made us and now will make us again just one dot in that sweeping and unknowable history.  I always thought human beings were small in the seeming infinitude, and that was a beautiful, spiritual thing.  It’s all shaken up side down.

Is there a return to nonAnthropocene time after the Anthropocene Era?

The Anthropocene Era.  How do these words make YOU feel?  Let me know, please, I want to know.

“Four degrees Celcius by the middle of this century”

September 28, 2009

Thus spoke the radio voice telling of the Met Office’s new report.

George and I were riveted, appalled, stabbed in the gut by these words.   I was spreading the butter on bread for the children’s sandwiches.  Elsa was pouring herself some juice.   “Shhhhh, ” I said, “Shhhhh, let’s not discuss this where she might hear.”

I am so relaxed about cursing, about discussing sex, about everything really– I don’t have much of  a censor in me.  But I couldn’t let her have this information without it being pre-digested, considered, packaged, explained, sugar-coated.

There is no way to sugar-coat this information to a super-inquisitive eight-year-old.

How to tell the truth about the climate future and all its implications:  one of the major things I’d like to explore…

A Small Bit of Local Activism

September 24, 2009

One of the reasons I wanted to leave Oxford was an almost  constant feeling of being strangled by cars.  Twice my daughter was nearly hit– once on a pavement which a dotty old lady was traversing in order to park in her front space; another time, also on a pavement, when a driver just chose to ride up on it to park there.  I hated having to keep my children so close to me walking down city streets, having to suppress their desire to run, to skip, to explore on their own terms, to be free.

Pavements need to be safe!  Pavements are people-space.  We need to fight cars or they will win.

So finding myself getting angry dropping the kids at their small-town primary school, and picking them up, I’ve decided to be pro-active, and postive.  Here’s the letter I delivered  yesterday.  Stay tuned!

23 September 2009

Dear School Board of Governors

RE: Pedestrian path leading to the Primary School

I am writing with a concern that developed in the course of the last school year which I hope can be addressed early on in the coming one.

We are a family who walks, cycles and occasionally drives to school.

I have found that the pedestrian path through the gates on the right are often compromised in two ways: one, cars in the carpark on the right edging out into the path and two, cars parked on the double yellow lines on the left also edging/blocking/ limiting the path.  Often there is barely a clear walkway for the children.  Sometimes there is not one at all

This is not a safe situation, or a fair one, and I am afraid it is begging an accident. 

Indeed there may be shortage of parking space, but this fact should not compromise the safety of walkers and cyclists. 

Luckily, there is funding, advice, and help available to us through the  “Safe Ways to Communities” program!

I have been in touch with Powys Cycling Officer in xxxxxxx, XXXXXXXXX, and she is more than happy to help us develop and get funding for cycle shelters.  And Traffic Manager XXXXXXXXXX could help us develop a strategy to deal with breaches of the double yellow lines.  Sustrans is an organisation with loads of useful knowledge and resources as well.

I am happy to help work on all of this.

But I think a good place to start might simply be the school notifying parents through a letter that the pedestrian path mustn’t be breached—it’s our children walking there!

Our XXXXXXX school is an “Eco-school”—let’s make this designation meaningful in another way!

Thanks so much

The Dark of Night

September 18, 2009

I want to spend more time in the black of night, experiencing its beauty and my own ability to feel capable and unafraid in it.  I want to take my children out into this same darkness, and give it to them as a gift, and the lessons of self and universe it can offer.  ( I also want them to go to sleep early!!!!!!!! so I can have more time to get things done myself!)  Months back a friend and I had this exchange on Facebook, and I would like to share what he wrote.

Annie30 March at 09:02 
I agree about Earth Hour b.s. I love what you wrote about darkness. half of my mental energy goes to thinking how do we prepare our children for the future. Darkness, as you say. Also courage, creativity, resourcefulness, how to be moral beings but take care of themselves…. can you tell me a little about “seeing in the darkness”  tnx

Rumi Mohideen 30 March at 13:26
Seeing in darkness is the simplest thing. The back of your eye (Cornea I think) which receives light is made up of rods and cones which accept different types of light. The cones handle color vision, the rods handle light and shadow. 

There are more rods than cones. Cones are concentrated around the centre of the back of the eye and are primarily concerned with detail and color. Less cones are scattered throughout the rest of the back of the eye with rods. Rods are primarily concerned with differentiating between shade light and movement.  

In darkness vision is limited to black and white, definition is poor and so vision is primarily concerned with navigation. other instincts also come into play in this state, 3Fs (Fear, Fight or Flight) collectively known as panic. Very dangerous emotions which can cause injuries. Move slowly and methodically, look using your peripheral vision and look for movement.  

Why are the woods scary at night? Its a primevel fear of Bears and Wild Boar. But that woods are among the safest places at night – because most people are terrified of the woods at night.
Take care Annie

Why not write a blog?

September 18, 2009

Hello readers in the ether.  

Sound of the wind in the trees.  The onomotopoetic definition of HESHWESH, a word from the Maltese that I have carried with me since I was 21.  

Now at 45, I find myself listening to that same wind in different trees, and wondering about its speed, its strength, its power to lift, and its power to blow us down.  The wind as a force of change, climate change, the future, the world, the trees, the rains, the landscapes physical and social that my children, and maybe their children, are going to inherit.

I have been saying for several years that I would like to illustrate a book about climate change for children, a book that could sit with questions rather than answer them– because there are not answers now.  I have nothing to tell my kids that could reassure them really.   So the questions: that’s what I hope will surface if I write with words.  And from the questions, well, maybe then some reassurance, direction, or focus at least.

Hence, this blog, thanks to a friend Nicola Baird (her inspiring blog )  who suggested I write one as a way to get started.  She said, one thought a day, if that ‘s all there is.  I am going to try this.