Archive for October, 2009

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 350.org. 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…. 350.org International Day of Action.

Be in touch if you want to come!

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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. http://www.1010uk.org/

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 350.org.   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.:

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(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….)

People Get Ready, There’s a Train a-Comin’

October 14, 2009

OK, I confess.
When Al Green is about love, I am about love.
When Al Green is about God, I am about God.
Whenever he sings, I am moved.

Tomorrow is Blog Action Day on the theme of Climate Change and, having started two incoherent and depressing pieces, I’ve decided to ditch them.

Instead, I just invite you, having happened upon this page, to close your eyes and open your heart to this performance and imagine it applies to how we human beings are going to respond to the big big problems we’ve created.

This is what I have to offer for tomorrow. Just the wish that we can bring the hugeness of our love along with us on this journey into the pretty frightening unknown.

Halloween

October 13, 2009

My children’s fondest wish: to have a new, store-bought, commercial just-like-everyone-else’s Halloween costume. Elsa wants “to be” a witch; Ned wants “to be” a vampire.  In other words, they want “to be” normal as normal is defined on the day in the calendar year when many things go topsy-turvy.  On a special display in our local supermarket, you can buy an identity for a day, a wicked ghoulishness made of plastic and foil that gets rewarded with individually-wrapped chocolates and sweets made from glucose and e-numbers.   They don’t want one of my homemade costumes (admittedly not very good as I am a lazy, ill-skilled seamstress), they don’t want something second-hand (I am however a highly adept aquirer of pre-loved goods at cheap prices via car boot sales, second hand shops and ebay).  They are willing to borrow certain items from friends– this is because as children they desperately covet what other children have, and borrowing seems a way to gain that thing, if only temporarily.

I am really torn about what to do.  I appreciate the appeal of packaging and newness and the thrill (that comes but quickly goes) of purchasing, the retail gratification.  The truth is, we can afford the £14 to buy the outfits they want.  (My husband grunts at this thought.)  (And I see really clearly that other families might not be able to afford this, or, alternately, might not be able to afford the time to make a costume, and buying things feels like the better option.)  So I have to decide– there are lots of factors.

One factor: Halloween as a holiday in the retail calendar in Britain seems like a hideous import from the USA. Of course there are the Celtic traditions of Samhain and various festivals that in this part of autumn revel in the thin veil between the living and the dead.  It’s a seasonal time of brown leaves and dying straw, days getting shorter and darker, wind getting chiller and howling.  It’s a beautiful time.  And there are old-time ways to celebrate, that feel magical and fun and deliciously, autumnally scary.  Games with apples.  Carving swedes. Processions of children. Walks in the darkness listening to twigs cracking and leaves rustling.  And then by the 5th of November it’s Bonfire Night, where pyromaniacs and pyrotechnocrats smoke out the cities and freak out the dogs all across this windy island.  Here in our lovely town in mid-Wales they burn beautiful towers of shipping pallets and waste wood from trees; where we lived in Oxford it was mattresses and assundry building supplies that are too costly to take to the tip.  People with asthma stay in their houses.

The pumpkins everywhere feel artificial in the British context.  George can’t stand them, because he likes cultural celebrations to belong to where they belong, and Halloween, though with a long history in Britain and Ireland, is now a globalized commercial date.  I am a little torn because I always want to give my kids a little taste of my American childhood.  I particularly remember the little orange money  boxes and our chanting as we knocked door to door: “Trick or treat for UNICEF/ and candy while you’re at it!”  I am planning a little party for children– maybe we will light a fire in the garden, roast bread dough and tell ghost stories.  A commercial holiday in which everything is SOLD to kids puts images in their heads– tells them what ghosts and witches look like,  and I guess my resolution is to take out that which degrades the luminous mystery — I want them to feel cold out there in the twilight and wonder, was that a ghost they saw from the corner of their eye, is that blackbird flying there really a witch… On the other hand, kitsch is silly and fun and a little licorice bat never really rotted anyone’s teeth…

Yet I am ever aware that to participate in the world of plastic throw-away tat is to condone it.  I have been able, because we live in a rich society, to buy probably 85% of my children’s junk second-hand.  They have as much crap as any kids do in Britain or the US, but I’ve somehow justified it to myself that we haven’t spent a lot of money on it and we haven’t supported the industries that manufacture this throwaway stuff.  If it didn’t exist so plentifully at large, we wouldn’t be able to have it this way, and that would be fine.

But last night thinking about how much STUFF exists just as ephemera began to bother me.   I watched a short documentary about manufacturing in Shenzhen in ChinaLink…   and it reminded me the toll on human lives, and on local environments and on global futures that the proliferation of cheap stuff takes. Things we don’t need, things that are destined to become rubbish.  Annie Leonard makes these connections so excellently in The Story of Stuff, but somehow despite its being animated it felt above the heads of my 5 and 8 year olds. (I might need to revisit that opinion.)  I think I could show them this film, as an introduction to our conversation.  Elsa can now read subtitles– maybe she would enjoy that.  I’ll tell them they’ll get extra “screen-time.”

So much global manufacture has been transferred to China (which also receives an ever growing amount of our refuse for oh-so-toxic “recycling”).  So much of the rise of China’s global greenhouse contribution has to do with this manufacture — more than half their emissions are in export industries .  But we buy the shit, the blister-packed holiday-themed junk that our children beg us for.  Those Dracula fangs, those jack-o-lantern baskets, that polystyrene pitchfork.  The life-sized glow-in-the-dark skeleton that I myself desire to own. We are jeopardizing the safety of humanity for these?

7:00am Saturday Morning

October 10, 2009

We are sleeping peacefully when our little boy slides into bed, wrapping his legs around mine. Ten minutes later, our daughter comes in, rarin’ to go but needing that little cuddle. There we are as every morning, grown-ups desperately hoping for another quiet five minutes, children wanting to begin the bounce and verve of the day. 

They are pulling the duvet and poking each other and laughing, squealing, and shrieking, and out of the blue Elsa exclaims:

“What do we do, the world is collapsing and stuff?”

“What do you mean collapsing?” I ask.

“You know, all the fish are dying, the plankton, climate change is starting, the polar bears are dying.”  I don’t know quite what her information source is.

I am bleary and really wanting that additional snooze.

“It’s great.  You are lucky,” I somehow stutter, “Your generation gets a chance to be heroes.”

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“Everything’s dying and in danger, you get a chance to try to save things.”

“YaY!!!!!” she shouts, jumping on the bed, laughing, pillow-fighting with little Ned.

Hold It Like a Baby

October 9, 2009

My lovely friend Clare is visiting.  Last night I was worrying to her that in writing this blog about climate change from my particular point of view, I am putting out negativity.  Her response was something like: whatever it is you have to say, HOLD IT LIKE A BABY.  She said, if you fight to be positive there is a violence  and judgement  in suppressing “negative” feelings.  She is a practioner of Zen. Whatever is on your mind, whatever it is that you want to say, she told me, hold it gently and warmly, carefully and deliberately.  Hold it like you would a baby.

Today is cold which feels right.  George made a fire in our wood burner for the first time in many months, and we are baking these huge potatoes– earth apples– for our dinner.

A Letter from the Headmistress

October 7, 2009

Dear  …

Thank you for your letter. I am putting a reminder about parking on and obstructing paths in my next letter to parents.

With regard to the cycle shelters, I think this is an excellent idea. I would also be happy to talk to [the traffic warden] if you could ask him to contact me.

Thank you for your offer of help. Perhaps we could meet to discuss the way forward?

Best Regards,

 …

Hooray!  That felt easy.  Now to proceed to Step 2.

A Positive Attitude

October 6, 2009

I’VE GOT ONE!

WATCH THIS SPACE!