Another Weird Year Inches Toward a Finale…

I guess I could write that about pretty much every year of my life. 😀

As you probably know, wildfires burned houses in a part of Colorado yesterday, so far 500+ houses. These fires were/are a 5 – 6 hour drive from me, across a couple of passes and on the other side of Denver.

Last night the power company shut down power in the most populated counties in the San Luis Valley. After the fact they let us know what was going on. OK. The idea was to reduce natural gas consumption. Their explanation was probably reasonable and made sense to them. It was only out 3 – 4 hours but it’s scary when suddenly your whole town goes black at 7 pm. For me it’s PTSD time because that was the first thing that happened before I was evacuated ahead of a wildfire in San Diego County in 2003. I was grateful to have my new phone and 5G. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known what was going on.


Once I knew what was happening, I ate my almost-fully-cooked dinner by candlelight. Electronics are good. I was able to watch a movie via my old DVD player and run my white noise machine all night via the USB on my old laptop. I also took the “opportunity” to stick a couple of battery operated motion sensor lights to my kitchen and laundry room walls. Who knew I’d end up with a safer house? The finale to the power outage arrived 3 hours later. I could understand the “method in their madness.” People were going to bed. Power consumption would go down anyway. I expect the same to happen tonight so I’m making sure everything is charged.

My little neighborhood checked in with everyone to be sure we were all fine.

The area that burned was — back when I lived up there which was nearly 50 years ago — open country. It’s always been dry, but now it’s even drier after 3 years of drought. Last night, reading the descriptions of what burned, was like reading about a foreign country. Louisville — one of the towns that took the most damage — was once a town along the lines of Monte Vista, a one street town with a few streets branching off. It was famous for the Italian restaurants the leftovers of the Italians who had come to mine coal in the area back in the day. I can’t even remember Superior — the other town in harm’s way — it was so minuscule. It’s now on the list of “Best places to live in Colorado.”

Grass fires are very dangerous and scary. They move fast and spark like crazy. The wind carries the sparks all over the place — lighting (in this case) literal dumpster fires. Worst of all, raking them doesn’t help (ha ha).

I’m resisting my urge to launch into a sermon about the way we live now, but seriously. A culture based on consumption, that uses marketing to turn everything into commodities, can’t survive. Anyway, that said, I realize I’m going to have to acquire the tools I had in California to get through these things, so it looks like I’m about to buy stuff. 😦

In other news — I took down my show at the museum yesterday and learned that Louise has resigned her position as museum director which is too bad, but totally understandable. So who knows if there will be another holiday show where I can sell stuff (ha ha) to people who want to consume it? I get the paradox there (paradox is a kind way to say hypocrisy). As I drove home (in the wind) I thought about what a lovely holiday season I had. I’d say it was topped off last night in my dark town when I went out to my front yard to look at the magnificent sky, shimmering diamonds in the darkness, the Milky Way, Orion dazzling bright, the Pleiades — all seemed within reach. Next time that happens, I’ll put on a coat before I head out the front door!

Finally, as 2021 comes to an end, in words of Philip K. Dick via Bladerunner — I hope in 2022 everyone will…

“Have a better one!”

Calvin and Hobbes

Another Long Blog Post about Climate Change, Social Movements Led by Children, Situational Deafness and a Changing World

Throughout history there have been several social movements led by children. The two that come to my mind are the Children’s Crusade of the early 13th century, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution0s of the mid 196, both of which were disasters for the very children involved.

Having forgotten the details of the Children’s Crusade, I had to look it up. Wikipedia has the most succinct explanation; The variants of the long-standing story of the Children’s Crusade have similar themes. A boy begins to preach in either France or Germany, claims that he had been visited by Jesus, who instructed him to lead a Crusade in order to peacefully convert Muslims to Christianity. Through a series of portents and miracles he gains a following of up to 30,000 children. He leads his followers south towards the Mediterranean Sea, in the belief that the sea would part on their arrival, which would allow him and his followers to walk to Jerusalem. This does not happen. The children are sold to two merchants (Hugh the Iron and William of Posqueres), who give free passage on boats to as many of the children as are willing. The pilgrims are then either taken to Tunisia, where they are sold into slavery by the merchants or else die in a shipwreck on San Pietro Island off Sardinia during a gale.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of educated Chinese (no one knows the exact number). Essentially, it was a movement led by Chairman Mao (ostensibly started by Chinese youth). It’s main goal was the overthrowing of the “four olds” — Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas.

Being led by children hasn’t worked out that well in history, though I understand the frustration that has led to children marching against climate change. I feel it too, all the time, every day. I’ve seen the effects in real life, the change in the climate in Southern California while I lived there, most pronounced during the time I lived in the Cuyamaca Mountains. When I moved there, September, 2003, the fields across from me were waist high green grass in which cows could hide. The field was filled with healthy oaks. That very year the second largest fire (the largest happened last year) came sweeping through those mountains. The field in subsequent years (though not destroyed by the fire) became incrementally dryer and dryer until the grass was green for only one or two months in a rainy winter. All the trees died. It was an observable shift in normal.

The temperatures rose, too, over that period. When I moved into my house, the hottest temperature during the hottest season of the year was 90 F/32 C. By the time I moved away in September of 2014, it was often 110 F/43 C by 10 am during the summer. That year there were new fires every day, most small and remote, but they were happening. All the rakes in the world won’t stop fires in those conditions.

So why does the marching of children yelling at us that “we” destroyed “their” world have such an impact? I really don’t know. No one listened to me when I yelled about this. Well, that’s not true. I was kind of a curiosity; a girl succeeding in a competitive speech event in which boys usually won. I got to give my speech to lots of civic groups in Colorado Springs.

I was 17 when I wrote this speech. That was 1969. The big issues in the world were the Viet Nam War and The Bomb. Those were not, to me, the biggest issues, but they were the most gruesome, the most scary (in the short term) the most accessible to most people, the most easily sensationalized by the news. Of course, I mistrusted the adults, too. After all, hadn’t they “allowed” all this to happen?

I was doing competitive speaking in an effort to overcome my terror of speaking in front of people (never completely succeeded in that but I never stopped trying). This speech (and my delivery of it) took second place in the state of Colorado. I lost to a speech about the Viet Nam war.

The speech begins with a little dialogue between a teacher and a student. A student has found an aster growing in a crack in the pavement and brought it to class. The teacher has an allergic reaction and doesn’t know what the flower is. (Youth is truth). Then…filled with youthful cynicism (faux sophistication):

Then, having gotten my audience’ attention, I got real (for 17)…

“The human race, that’s you, for one, and Americans in particular, are racing toward total annihilation with, at last, no exceptions made as to race, creed, gender or nationality. Man abuses the air he needs to breathe, the water he needs for sustaining his life, and he is brilliantly (as usual) devising technological advanced ways to destroy the delicate food cycle of which he is the ultimate beneficiary.

Adlai Stevenson compared Earth, our plant, to the several satellites that have, at certain intervals, circled our world. In these words he explains the necessity for preserving Earth the Beautiful (I got over love of country early):

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only but the care, the work, and the love we give our fragile craft. (Stevenson was born in 1900)

At that time, the population of the earth was beginning to be a concern. Paul Erlich was writing articles on this topic and they would soon appear in a book, The Population Bomb. I was very affected by his argument and it entered my speech, too. It’s still a problem, but…

“As any American will agree, empty space is wasted space. With the population of the world doubling every 5 years it is illogical that even the most radical conservationist would want to you a river for anything except a source of power or would want a hunk of forest to just sit there making trees. The words of the Scottish essayist, Thomas Carlyle, bring this idea close to home:

“You won’t have any trouble in your country as long as you have few people and much land, but when you have many people and little land your trials will begin. Thomas Carlyle (Carlyle was born in 1795)

So how did I end this bit of juvenile satire on the subject that has been closest to my heart since I was eight? With a call to action that was based on individual personal responsibility.

Back in 1969 many, many of our current problems had not come into existence. Soda was sold in bottles (cans were only starting to show up) that came in cardboard cartons. Until the early 80s, food came home in paper bags. Detergent came in a cardboard box. There was no recycling partly because there wasn’t a lot to recycle. In the 1950s (and before) we had backyard incinerators. Burning in the backyard was banned and that ended (though now we have fire pits???) leading to more trash going to landfills…

But there were gravely serious problems such as Lake Erie being dead and unbreathable — and dangerous — “air” in LA, NYC and Denver. A good article about the environmental crisis in the US at the late sixties is here.

Throughout my lifetime technological development has moved faster than our understanding of the consequences. The Dead Kennedy’s masterful album, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death (1987) is well titled and descriptive of our lives.

So, should we be led by these children? Why not? We haven’t listened to anyone else so far.

From the musical, Hair, 1967
I gave it to my junior year English teacher, Roenna Cohen, to read — then the yearbook adviser. Her comments, my response.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/24/rdp-tuesday-error/

Clean Up Your Room, Dammit!

I woke up early this morning with a throbbing migraine that I didn’t anticipate. Usually my migraines are the visual kind and might make me a little nauseous but nothing awful. And tired. They make me tired, but this was more than that.

The air is worse today. I can only imagine how it is for people in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, Washington… 😦

When I walked the dogs last evening at sunset, the sun was a ball of red. Smoke from the thousands of  fires to the north and west had obscured the views of the mountains on both sides of the valley all day. Clouds traveling in front of the sun broke the light into what my ex-husband called “Bible beams” which, in the normally clear, clear, clear air of the San Luis Valley, I seldom see.

My first thought when I finally really got up, the migraine having retreated, leaving only a numb feeling and a mildly upset stomach, is that we did this.

When I was a kid there were no fires like these. Sometimes there was a forest fire. We know this from Bambi and Smokey the Bear, but they were never EPIC in proportion. There were hurricanes, but they did not register on seismographs (for the love of God). It snowed a LOT more than it does now in all the usual places that get snow.

When I was 5, 1957, my parents, my brother and I were traveling in the South where my dad was to be giving papers and teaching seminars in Florida. As we went through Mississippi and Alabama, heading toward the Gulf Coast, we were in a hurricane. It was a lot of wind, a lot of water, sandbags and waiting. It was NOT like Houston and sure as hell not like the hurricane approaching the Bahamas looks like it will be. I remember when we went out for breakfast and the waitress said, “It’s just that time of year. What do y’all want to drink?” I got cocoa.

I don’t think it even TAKES a scientist to say, “Whoa, this is WAY TOO FAST for changes like these in the climate of the Earth.” I’m not a scientist, but if this has happened in a mere 60 years, Houston, we have a problem.

When I was in high school I was determined to overcome my terrible fear of speaking in public. First I joined theater, then my theater teacher told me to join speech club. I did. I traveled around Colorado doing competitive speaking and did surprisingly well. My first year I won prizes for Humorous Interpretation of Oratory. The next year — my senior year — I won second place in the state of Colorado for Original Oratory. My speech was political, but it was not about the Vietnam War. It was about the thing I cared most about.

The speech is mostly written in a tone of bitter irony, the kind 18 year olds love, along with lots of big words, but even then, even in 1970, I was worried about what was happening to the one thing I could depend on in my life to love me. I wrote:

The human race is racing toward total annihilation, with, at last, no exceptions made as to race, creed, gender or nationality. Man abuses the air he needs to breathe, the water he needs for sustaining his life, and he is brilliantly devising technologically advanced ways to destroy the delicate food cycle of which he is the ultimate beneficiary.

The Environmental Protection Agency was founded the same year I won my award for this speech. It immediately set about finding ways to slow down the rate at which pollutants were being thrown into the air and the water. It did a good job; it has done a good job. Maybe it has written many irksome regulations. Maybe it’s required mitigation when land is developed. Maybe the regulations are long and hard to read. Maybe what it requires is expensive, but dammit. Lake Michigan is no longer dead in places and LA (when the mountains aren’t on fire) has a clear sky and breathable air.

But… It’s possible to ignore regulations; it’s possible to fake compilance; it’s possible to put greed and momentary financial interest ahead of simple good sense. Houston was built on a flood plain. And the plain flooded.

The Harvey-wrought devastation is just the latest example of the consequences of Houston’s gung-ho approach to development. The city, the largest in the US with no zoning laws, is a case study in limiting government regulations and favoring growth—often at the expense of the environment. As water swamps many of its neighborhoods, it’s now also a cautionary tale of sidelining science and plain common sense. Given the Trump administration’s assault on environmental protections, it’s one that Americans elsewhere should pay attention to.

Nature knows what it’s doing. I walk with my dogs frequently along the Rio Grande in a wetlands area. It’s a little annoying in summer because of the bugs — this year in particular because it has been a wet summer — but I’ve seen the slough at work. The high river of spring had channels into which it could drain and from which farmers could draw water for irrigation. It was almost as if the river said, “Here, dude. For your potatoes.” It works great and nature built it for herself (and us; we’re nature, too).

Climate change denyers can deny all they want, but it doesn’t change reality. It doesn’t change the fact that 60 years (the time between my hurricane experience in Mobile and now) is a very short time for what has happened to our climate to have happened. Yes; climate cycles happen to the Earth, but sixty years?

Lamont and Dude know that from their many incarnations, including Coelecanth and Woolly Mammoth, but they would probably be the first to agree that — with the exception of the meteorite which made things happen rather quickly, ending their time as velociraptors — the changes were eons in the making. Lamont’s belief is that humans have acted on the climate of the earth in much the way the meteorite did.

I love nature. In my whole life when things in my life have been too sad or too glorious,  I’ve gone to trees, open spaces, the sky, water (if it’s there). I’ve never been unwelcome, misunderstood, or even lost. In nature is ALWAYS an answer to the question, “Where am I?” Thousands of times it’s pulled me up and out of whatever catastrophe has been my life in those moments (and sometimes it was really a catastrophe, such as my dad dying, or my brother dying, my house under threat of foreclosure…) and shown me something. Last night on my simple, short walk with the dogs,  it was the call of a Coopers Hawk from a cottonwood tree. There is always something.

Beyond nature’s personally redemptive powers, it provides everything we need for life. Seriously. As I watched some very fucking stupid people yammering on TV in Houston I thought, “They have no idea.” I get it that they’re worried about where they’re going to live, how they’re going to live, where their children are going to live, how they’re going to eat — all of that. I’ve been through a natural disaster; I know it’s terrifying and the ordinary details of life are suddenly NOT to be taken for granted, but they think in terms of their landlord not calling them back (not that their landlord might be in his own shitstorm and unable to call them back).

But it’s a good metaphor. Extrapolate from that to REAL LIFE. Earth is our apartment building. Nature is our landlord. Without it we have no place to live, nothing to eat, no where to raise children. We do not even exist.

In my high school speech is a quotation from Adlai Stevenson. He compares Earth to the satellites that were orbiting our planet.

We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable rserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and the love with give our fragile craft.

 

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/anticipate/