It’s The Bomb

Fall                                                             Joe and SeoAh Moon

fallout shelter
Robert Blakely died. At 95. He created this symbol of a period. Seeing it as a graphic icon from another era suggested to me that there is, in the geist at any one time, always a looming disaster. Duck and cover. Though, to be honest, I don’t remember ever participating in any of these drills. I do remember though the articles in Popular Mechanics about building your own fallout shelter. I even remember fantasizing (in a positive way, believe it or not) about spending a long time in one. There was lots of material about the bomb, about the Soviets and what they would rain down on us, nothing Purple but always radioactive.

climate change3Nuclear war got replaced by the too real Vietnam War. After it ended, Watergate. Somehow, in the period following the end of the Vietnam War and the end of a generation’s ride in the yellow submarine, government became the bogeyman, a grasping thieving monster coming for your money, your guns, your liberty. Of course, since 9/11, we’ve had a worldwide looming disaster, terrorism.

No wonder then that the overarching disaster, the one racing to meet us with rising sea levels, longer springs, hotter summers and dying winters, turbo-charged weather and mass extinction, just hasn’t gotten traction. Fear is a strange feeling; one fear can drive out another, make another fear too much to consider.

Maybe climate change needs a graphic, a compelling, simple design that captures the threat. Wonder what it would look like?

Weary

Fall                                                                    Harvest Moon

einstein-einstein-quotesWe’ve had a bit of snow today, lonely heavy flakes mixed in amongst cold rain. Still, for September 25th, it was, in fact, snow. The first snow of the season for us. Loveland Ski Area got four inches yesterday. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last three days and temperatures have hit the high 30′s.

Life at 8,800 feet in the arid west is different than sea level in the humid east. When rain comes like this, it’s unusual, noteworthy and downright helpful. Not ordinary or taken for granted. Thanks, sky.

Climate change has invaded the mountains, too, with more frost free days and hotter daytime temperatures in the summer. We do not, of course, face the sort of high profile danger hurricanes or tornadoes bring, though the fire threat is real and potentially as damaging. Drier summers, occasioned by shifting weather patterns, though not unusual here, are becoming more of a threat. Nowhere is safe when the atmosphere itself begins to heat up.

I admit to a certain weariness with climate change awareness, Trump watch fatigue, the increasing markers of social inequity like income gaps, degree gaps and gender gaps. Perhaps the next few months will find some surcease for me, not because these problems will attenuate, but because I’m taking a break. I’m glad not everyone is, but I need a rest from these matters right now.

A season or two with fires in the fireplace, a white mantle over the yard, some lights and holidays sound good to me.

 

Change

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

20150927_073243The fall change has quickened. More and more gold on the mountains, aspens along the road have gone yellow. The air is cool and the sunlight changed by its more acute angle. Elk, moose and mule deer bucks have scraped off the velvet and gone into battle to promote their genetics. As temperatures go down, bears know the time to gather calories before hibernation wanes.

Fall has a certain purity here. It doesn’t mix its colors, green and gold dominate, a bit of yellow here and there, but none of the splashy palette of the humid east’s deciduous forests. At first I missed it, the sudden brilliance of a Minnesota fall, now I find the more restrained colors have their own beauty. It’s a different aesthetic here, more abstract, less cluttered.

I can’t imagine a world without fall and winter. If climate change ushers in such a world, I hope I’ve left already. This feeds my soul. That would weaken it.

 

Lunacy

Lughnasa                                                            Eclipse Moon

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

alpine glow during totality, Tetonia, Id.

Fire. Wind and rain. Earth shaking. All under the Eclipse Moon, just after totality. Could this be the havoc wreaked by the black sun? As inferences go, it may show correlation, not causation, true, but in the long history of humanity this inference has been noted many times. “We’re all gonna die!” something like that.

Well, maybe not all of us, but a surprisingly large number have succumbed to natural disasters just here in North America over this lunar month. And, the month’s not over yet. Not to mention the billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, roadways, other public infrastructure.

n263470Climate change doesn’t affect earthquakes. But, it does turbocharge wildfire seasons, heat up ocean water and increase the amount of available moisture in the atmosphere. These changes are happening at a level of climate change still considered very modest and not at all as severe as the level already “baked in” by both increased carbon emissions, now above the problematic 400 threshold, and the trapped heat in the world’s oceans.

We’ll learn, eventually, to live with the most dire of these changes through adaptation. Moving cities further inland, developing better fire management regimes, moving crops as the seasons change.

Without drastic carbon emissions reduction though, to near 100% by 2100, these impacts will be looked back on wistfully as the good old days. It’s no wonder that the Kingsnorth’s of the world have come up with dark ecology, how to brace for the ecocide. The odds against dramatic alterations to the climate have gone down as resistance to necessary changes has gone up.

The month of the Eclipse Moon is a harbinger. What will our world be like in 2024 when the next total eclipse crosses U.S. soil? Comparing those two months may lead to more inference like this month’s.

 

Ecocide

Lughnasa                                                            Kate’s Moon

86Dark ecology. I discovered it when reading this article, How to Survive the Ecocide, by Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief of High Country News. It led me to this article in Orion, the thinking person’s environmental magazine, Dark Ecology, by Paul Kingsnorth and this website, The Dark Mountain Project

Dark ecology looks the worsening climate change reality in the face and says, “We’re not going to change our ways fast enough.” Thus, ecocide. Driven by an aesthetic need to be honest, to say what is, not what we wish could be, dark ecology takes us away from the politics of fear-mongering toward a grim acceptance.

Politics is driven by hope, even when also motivated by fear. The situation is this-expensive health insurance, crumbling roads, a tyrannical regime (yes, I’m talking about D.C. and Pyongyang)-and we want to do something about it. Just raising this possibility means our hope, our expectation, is that we can effect real change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceThus, to eschew hope is to cut the political nerve, to mute its messages. Losing hope, attacking hope runs against the human spirit, yet it is built in to our finitude. None of us escape death. In that sense, bracket all the hoohah about life after death, life is hopeless. Yet. Acknowledging this ultimate element of hopelessness vivifies life, gives our lives color, piquancy, drive. Of course, yes, it can also lead to despair, a sense of futility. Which attitude colors our days depends on how we absorb the reality of death into our life.

My suspicion is that Dark Ecology is the planetary equivalent of acknowledging our own death. There is no question about the fate of the earth as a planet. It will die in the fusion driven expansion of our very source of life, the sun. Yes, it’s billions of years away, but this end is no less certain than our individual deaths. So the planet will not be saved, anymore than anyone of us will be saved. Note that this is not a moral issue, death itself is neither bad nor good, like life itself, it just is.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetClimate change itself may bring about the demise of the human species, along with thousands, millions of other species, but the planet itself will survive our folly. For a while. Facing the possible death of the human race might vivify us, might inspire us in the same way our own death can. Or, it might drive us to despair and futility, as our own death can.

My sense today is that I will follow the dark ecology path, owning the probability of our capitalist driven lemming like behavior resulting in our extinction. The question, then, is what comes next? Read the articles. They have some ideas. Not sure any of them are for me, right now anyhow. Gotta come up with my own. A later project.

 

 

Kairos

Beltane                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

Linneaous   Flower Clock

Linneaous Flower Clock

I last posted here after a trip to Tucson, Arizona in 2014. In retrospect it’s not odd that it’s been so long since I came back to this blog. It was in April of that year, in a spirit of reflection occasioned by the long drive and the inner work of the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal retreat I’d attended, that Kate and I decided to move to Colorado. The move took over our life together and the move itself didn’t really terminate until well into 2015  when we had both adjusted to the oxygen scarcity at 8,800 feet.

A bout of prostate cancer, an increasingly painful arthritic left knee, Jon and Jen’s divorce, total knee replacement and Kate’s rough time since then has distracted me. But now I’ve returned. My passion remains creating a sustainable human presence on the earth, following Thomas Berry’s conviction that this task is the Great Work of our generation.

Chambered_Nautilus_ShellI’ve imagined that my primary contribution to this work would be political, a strategy I’ve embraced for many years. Now though I’m focused on something less political, a reimagining of faith that can constantly remind us of the reverence we owe to the earth, the sun, the mystery of life. Reimagining faith will occupy me until I’ve written a short book proposing a way to reenchant our daily life, a way to find wonder in the everyday, to locate the holy not far away or in some ritualized observance, but in the here and now.

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry scientist, wrote in a 1968 paper, ”In the end we will conserve only what we love…wiki  And so the question is how do we love the earth, the sun, the universe? They have conspired to bring us all to this moment when the survival of the human species may be in the balance. This is, after all, the critical reality: it is not the earth that is in danger, not the sun, not the vastness of our cosmos, but humanity. Our actions, unwitting until recently, have brought us to a moment of kairos: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action, the opportune and decisive moment, as Merriam-Webster defines it.

Seasonal-roundKairos in its Greek origin is a counterpoint to chronos, our familiar and assumed understanding of time as sequential and linear: where past present and future separate cleanly and finally, moment by moment. Kairos is a sort of time when matters crystallize, when events are ripe for change, important change. It takes no special genius to see that our time is such a moment, a moment filled with kairotic potential.

Even with the spiral understanding of time that I embrace, seasons turning, pushing forward, but always returning to the same phase of life’s regularity, moments of kairos can occur. This one, when our most powerful elected official turns his back on global solidarity, when the CO2 in the atmosphere has passed 400 parts per million, when hottest years and biggest storms get surpassed often, when scientists suggest we have only a few decades to slow climate change (not eliminate it, but slow it), we have reached a moment of kairos. And it is our moment.

 

 

land abuse cannot brighten the human prospect

Imbolc                                                       Hare Moon

The moist air, the rising warmth gave the house a summertime feel last night.  Our seed zigguratsaver’s order for seeds came in the mail yesterday and I just got an e-mail from Luke Lemmer of Highbrix gardens about nitrogen for the 2014 garden.  I also found this Wendell Berry essay, It All Turns on Affection, a couple of days ago.  This is the Jefferson lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

(ziggurat of ur)

That’s background for my thoughts which turned toward the city, spurred by Berry:

“Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far imagesahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies. The selfishness of the fossil fuel industries by nature is self-annihilating; but so, always, has been the selfishness of the agribusiness corporations. Land, as Wes Jackson has said, has thus been made as exhaustible as oil or coal.” op.cit.

In this thought the farms lay on level ground and as one moved from country village to town to exurb to outer ring suburb and inner ring suburb to the city itself, the ground would rise, like steps cut into the earth.  This would leave the city figuratively on a flat plateau lifted high above the farms far out in the distance and reachable only by climbing the steps upward.  It was this image that struck me because as I considered it, the word ziggurat came to mind.

The tower of Babel was a ziggurat, an artificial mountain created to take humans closer to the gods.  It was a place where the priest could intercede with the gods from a spot between heaven and earth.

All those millennia and still we climb up the ziggurat, separate ourselves from the land 330px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_editedand pray to the gods of technology and economics to save us.  Babel has become a long-standing meme for hubris.  Why?  Well, in part because the tower lifts humans up, gives them a transcendent feeling high above the earth.  In that separation, that isolation, and, yes, I would say, alienation from mother earth the essential bond between creature and nurturer grows intolerably thin.

(Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel)

Again, Berry:

“Corporate industrialism has tended to be, and as its technological and financial power has grown it has tended increasingly to be, indifferent to its sources in what Aldo aldo leopoldLeopold called “the land-community”: the land, all its features and “resources,” and all its members, human and nonhuman, including of course the humans who do, for better or worse, the work of land use.3  Industrialists and industrial economists have assumed, with permission from the rest of us, that land and people can be divorced without harm.”  op. cit.

Here’s the clincher in Berry’s lecture:  ”There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers.” op. cit.

I love cities.  I love almost everything about them.  The jangle of people, the compressing of ideas one right after the other, the neon lights, the colleges and universities, the neighborhoods, the politics, the music.  All of it.

And yet.  Up on that plateau, on top the artificial mountain, the land seems so far away.I-and-the-Village-by-font-b-Marc-b-font-font-b-Chagall-b-font-abstract  It’s as if the food appears by magic, not grown, but made in the trucks themselves or in the boxcars, showing up when we need it.  It is not so.

Berry makes what I think is an unintentionally theological argument:  ”When we give affection to things that are destructive, we are wrong.”  This is the same argument that H. Richard Niebuhr makes in his essay, “Radical Monotheism and Western Culture.”  He critiques our devotion to centers of value:  money, job, ambition, nation, sports team, even family and self.   It is Niebhur’s contention that the only center of value to which we can turn with complete devotion and not distort our own lives is the God of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

(I and the Village, Marc Chagall)

While I don’t agree with his identification of God as the solution, I do agree with Niebuhr’s diagnosis of the problem, which, like Berry’s, turns on our misplaced affections.  The question for both Berry and Niebuhr is:  ”To what can we offer ourselves that will not destroy us?”

There are, I think, two answers, wedded in the intimacy of their bond: each other and the Earth. We need each other and we need the Earth.  The other, both the thou of Buber and the less exalted you we know less well, must eat, as must I.  The link between our day-to-day survival (yes, we should underline survival for that is what it is at stake) and the others is what?  Yes, the Earth.

That this is not obvious to all, especially not obvious to policy makers who, like most of the powerful of the Earth, gather in cities, is a function I think not of malignity, or intentional disregard, but of the splendid isolation that comes from living high up on the ziggurat and under the mistake assumption that there they are closer to the gods.  No, what they are is further from the Earth.

On Further Thought

Imbolc                                                                  Hare Moon

OK.  Maybe I went overboard here a bit.  When I immerse myself in a subject, it 3090722405_c5a1750432becomes a temporary obsession, refracting all the light that comes toward me.  Now, I’m not saying that creating a sustainable place for humans on the home planet is a temporary obsession, or, for that matter, an obsession.  No, it’s an ongoing work to which I am committed.

I’m going to give the whole idea of transforming this website into a Minnesota focused climate mitigation and adaptation site a good going over while I’m on the road.

The climate change course ends this Tuesday. I need to integrate what I’ve learned, let it settle before striking off in a particular direction.  Besides, I’ve got that America Votes volunteer work that fits into the climate change slot.

Our changes to the climate system will poison the earth for human habitation if we don’t act decisively.  And though that’s true, I admit that from an existential perspective it doesn’t matter. Human habitation of earth will end, whether it be by fire or be by ice.

But, if we care about our neighbor (Mr. Rogers) and our self (Mr. Jung), then we will be good to each other.  And if you care about your mother, the one who brought you into this world and supported you all along, you’ll treat her well so she won’t have to put all the kids into a mini-van and drive it into a swollen ocean.

The Evolution of Great Wheel

Imbolc                                                     Hare Moon

If you’re reading this website, count yourself among a select few.  Over the course of March and April, perhaps May and most of June until June 21st, the summer solstice, Great Wheel will be undergoing a redevelopment.  It will still have the calendar/Great Wheel flavor to it, but its focus will be Minnesota.

Both the campaign to lower carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and a parallel but very different campaign to adapt to the amount of climate change already baked into the climate system will have distinctive Minnesota components.

Mitigation lies largely in the realm of government policy and regulation, so it has a strong political element, though hopefully it will not be partisan as climate warming and other changes progress.  Adaptation is regional and local, so adaptive strategies for the Arrowhead will be different than those for Marshall and southwestern Minnesota. Local means just that, as far down the local scale as individual homes and vehicles, but probably focusing on municipalities and counties.

I want to test with several of my environmental community friends and co-workers how a news and information resource might look.  What kind of resources will facilitate regional assessments? What will aid the application of those regional assessments to local policy?

I will be recruiting bloggers.  Someone will follow climate science as it applies to Minnesota. This may be local climate scientists working in the state or national scientists whose work includes Minnesota.  Others will focus on such matters as clarifying and publicizing state green house gas emission goals and and goals for energy transition.  We will monitor state progress on all issues related to climate change.  The metro area and its counties will need special attention though we’ll look in broad stroke at all regions in the state.

Their will also be a focus on energy efficiency in the home and on the road and at work. Someone else will write about the transition to a green energy economy.

I’ll want a book reviewer, someone to find relevant scientific literature and in particular I want someone who will help me develop a dashboard of indicators for state and local efforts.  There will be live camera feeds on areas affected most by climate change and an attempt to encourage true cost accounting.

 

So, there’s a lot to do.  I’ll also need to recruit a small board of directors.  All stuff I can do.

Look forward to hearing your ideas.

Earth Works

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

John Ackerman died recently. He was my last spiritual director. As I described to him earth workduring one session my growing passion for matters earthly and Celtic, he said, “Well, maybe you should be a Druid.”  John had a bit of a cynic’s edge to him and I was well outside the fold of our mutual Presbyterianism, but his offhand, perhaps sarcastic thought stuck with me.  That was 1986, 1987.

When Kate and I married and I left the ministry, I focused on Celtic thinking and history, especially finding the idea of the great wheel a powerful tool for organizing my life. As gardening/horticulture came to occupy more and more of my time, the merging of the Celtic work with the earth work called John’s quip to mind.

No, I didn’t want to be a Druid, but I did begin to understand my faith journey, my religious journey as more informed by the soil, by the plants than by the Bible or any other sacred text. The evolution of that realization has now had over 25 years to grow deeper and more clear.

See the newly added About material here for information about how Great Wheel will continue and, I hope, expand that work.

Earth Works