I grew up in rural Iowa in the 1970's. We read the Des Moines Register, and my dad watched nightly news - national and local. One one of the 3 stations available. There was only ABC, CBS, and NBC. PBS came later. Somehow I became aware of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and apartheid. I wonder if I saw a letter to the editor? Maybe a copy of Amnesty International's magazine at the local library (subversive!). Did one of my mom's younger brothers clue me in? Did it come up in youth group at church? This seems less likely for that particular congregation at that particular time, although a multi-church regional activity may have been the gateway for me.
Soon, I was subscribing to the Amnesty International newsletter and writing letters on behalf of Prisoners of Conscience. And there was increasing news about South Africa filtering through to my seemingly small world. I worked on small hunger and poverty projects since I was a child, through Lutheran World Relief and CROP walk. It seems my bleeding heart was already nurtured, in small-town rural Iowa.
By the time I went to college in the fall of 1984, everything was changing. There was divestment. There was protest. I found liberal Christians on campus. Zola Budd was the pariah of the Los Angeles Olympics. (She is 32 days older than me.) Gradually, awareness and pressure grew.
A lot of people did little things, and a few people did big things, and we won. Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and became President of South Africa. And today, South Africa has a perfectly messy democracy. No, it's not perfect. There is not true economic and social equality there, nor few other places in our world. Yet. But we won, and the whole world is better for it.
I was so excited to see that Salt Lake City was a stop on Bill McKibben's Do The Math tour. I begged Patriot Daily for the chance to do the interview. I cleared my kid's schedule for the day. I talked to them about what would happen, and helped them develop questions.
Many fine diaries were written about the Do The Math tour. Here is a bit about my experience, and my kids.
We arrived early, and sat in front (the better to keep the kids' attention on the stage). Daughter and I knitted, and my son wandered around a bit. Bill was running late, so we agreed to do the interview by email. Son was still wandering around, and I was SHOCKED to see how full the venue was when I turned around to look for him! Wow, Salt Lake City turned out for Do The Math!
The talk(s) were great - energizing, informative, interesting. Terry Tempest Williams and the 350.org staff were all wonderful. It was a lovely way to introduce my children to a local hero (Ms. Tempest Williams).
The above tweet, from today's congressional bill introduction, was a big take-away from the night for me. All of society is bearing the cost of fossil fuel's waste products. Who owns the sky if not all of us? And by that I mean the biggest possible "us" - the 6+billion people, and all the animals and plants and ecosystems. Not the boards of BP, Exxon, and Royal Dutch Shell.
Naturally, my daughter fell asleep even before her normal time, and had her head in my lap by 8:15p. My ADHD aspie son did a good job of hanging in there until the end. He was a bit sad to have missed his earlier photo op, so I gingerly sent him on stage at the end, when everyone else was gathering, for his chance too.
I didn't follow up on much of this, I admit. I've had 2.5 years of crazy in my life and had a new crazy/legal event right after that talk. I am so pleased to have this opportunity to catch up and return the favor of the interview. And a special thanks to the 350.org staff who tracked down the photo of my daughter and me with Bill.
The Email Interview
1. What kind of climate events do you see mostly in the places you've been?
we see the results of flooding, of wildfire, of drought, and of extreme storms--and more chronically, of the rapid spread of pests, and of the rise in food prices.
2. Why does this seem so complicated?
because we're very dependent at the moment on fossil fuels--and especally because the richest industry on earth would like to keep it that way
3. Why are people so interested in this?
because it's the biggest thing that's ever happened in human history, by a lot
4. What is the most important thing in climate change?
that we have to change very very fast
5. What is the least important thing in climate change?
that it will cost a lot of money to change. it will--but nowhere near as much as if we don't change and have to deal with the consequences
1. This seems overwhelming and scary. What can an 11yo like me do?
join together to help organize events at 350.org--lots and lots of folks your age are involved, and leading. look at the endless pictures in our flicker account http://www.flickr.com/photos/3... and you'll get some ideas
2. Did you see a lot of important stuff in the tour?
we saw thounsands and thousands and thousands of people eager to get involved in this fight--and that was the best sight in the world
3. Do you have children, and are they involved in climate change?
i have a 19-year-old daughter, sophie, and she helped organize our tour stop in Providence RI, where she's in college at Brown
4. How did you start in this?
I wrote the first book about it all, way back in 1989, when I was a young man. It's called The End of Nature.
5. When do you think climate change will stop?
When enough people decide to stand up to the fossil fuel companies and make them change their behavior
I was active in social issues before I had kids. This mom thing - it just made everything so much more personal.
Arches National Park, October 2012
Tar sands are coming to Utah. This company is going to extract this toxic sludge, at risk to Southern California's water supply. They are going to put it into HEATED trucks and travel on our PUBLIC roads through MY METRO AREA and refine it on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Because that will help Utah's air quality. /end rant
To stay focused, there is a bill being introduced in the Senate right this very minute. This is only in tweet form so far, and I will try to update with a link to the Sanders Boxer Climate Bill.
Divestment is gaining speed. And power.
There is so much we can do that will make a difference. All our actions make a difference to us, and some of our actions join other actions, and change small things. Small changes add up.
This you-tube clip is my all-time favorite scenes in favor of hope. In this longer version, we glimpse the overwhelming despair, the simple act of re-assurance, the declaration of hope, and the preparations for battle.
I believe this because I can't believe any other way. We will win. I believe this because I see we, together, have already won. And the arc of history . . .
Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.
That's on our side too.
"Forward On Climate" Rally - February 17, 2013, 12:00 pm, Washington, DC
Link - feel free to post on your Facebook pages.
crossposted in orange.