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This is what a victory looks like!

17 Nov

I have been an environmentalist for my whole life, but I’ve only become an activist this year. Bill McKibben and Gus Speth inspired me to dive headfirst into the Tar Sands Action movement to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, from getting arrested during my first week living in D.C. to attending State Department hearings to helping encircle the White House six bodies deep. It seemed like a really long shot at first, and then like it would be a slow progress, and all the while pipeline approval seemed more inevitable than anything else…until one week ago, when all of a sudden it wasn’t so inevitable anymore. The State Department announced it will be re-reviewingTransCanada’s environmental impact statement for the convenient period of at least a year, bringing the final approval to a time just after the next presidential election.

As Bill McKibben said, “um…we won.”

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“Arresting Fear With Hope” Published in SAGE Magazine!

14 Oct

SAGE Magazine, a student publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies with a new and bold online presence, published a version of my essay today.   Here’s the link: Arresting Fear with Hope: Protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.  If you’ve read my essay published earlier on this blog you won’t notice many differences, but check out the wonderful SAGE and its great mix of literature, policy, art, and ideas.

Arresting Fear with Hope

2 Sep

My mother says I was never afraid of anything as a child.  I would run laughing into huge waves on the beach and climb trees so tall it made my brother dizzy to try and follow.  I am fortunate enough to have a family and personal safety net that means I do not fear the lack of food or a roof over my head.

And yet I live every day with fear, a deeply personal and also political kind of fear that is at the same time a bit laughable in the light of day and devastatingly realistic.  Climate change threatens my future and the people and places I love, and the physics of the atmosphere mean that there is no way to undo the damage we have already caused–all we can do is wait to see what the effects will be.  I find this terrifying, and even more so that our country has been so helpless (and in denial, and backwards, and corrupted) in response to the threat.

I usually deal with this diffuse sense of fear and helplessness in self-consciously quirky ways, like practicing survival skills and learning first aid, navigation, and other useful post-apocalyptic strategies.  I also try not to think about it too much if I don’t have to.  Last night, however, I did think about it, and I talked about my fear.

Aerial photo of open pit bitumen (tar sands) mining in Alberta, Canada, by photographer Louis Helbig.

At Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, over one hundred people gathered for a four-hour peaceful action training to prepare for a demonstration the next day.  We had come from all over the nation: California, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, West Virginia, even Alaska.  Some were from DC, of course, but it was astonishing how many had come from so far away.  They had come for one purpose: to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and the increased tar sands mining and burning it will facilitate.

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Climate change: do not, I repeat, do not be alarmed

15 Jun

A recent post on Grist  highlights the writings of a guy who really thinks hard about nexus and connections, Bill McKibben of 350.org.  His May Washington Post op-ed was turned into a video mashup (below) by Stephen Thompson of Plomomedia, and it is must-see.  I was going to comment further about the connections between climate change and extreme weather events, but well, you should just watch the video or read the op-ed and see for yourself.

One point, though: it is not pessimistic or apocalyptic to point out the reality of what is going on right now.  We need to adapt to climate change as it is and as it will be on the ground, and there’s plenty of tough adjustment to be done without scaring one another about far-off probabilities.  This video uses current news footage to show what’s happening now.  It’s frightening because it’s a wake-up call, but we can deal with it if we get to work now.