contemplating the Green New Deal

veru2_10_19I care immensely about the earth, the people on it, and our beautifully interdependent relationship. 

So it is with some hope that I saw the Green New Deal become a topic of discussion in recent months. Last week, of course, it burst onto the floor of the House of Representatives in the form of House Resolution 109.

Then, I saw a steady stream of headlines from one extreme to another. Either the Green New Deal solves all of our problems, or it destroys our freedoms, bans air travel, and provides support for those shameless enough to be ‘unwilling to work.’

So I read the actual contents of HR 109 for myself. It is not, in fact, even a lengthy read.

Let me clarify first that air travel is not banned by HR 109, nor are those ‘unwilling to work’ called out for special consideration. There is no degree of such specificity in the document. 

It is a broad, vague piece of legislation, mainly serving to give focus to the issue of climate change. It implements a ”growth” approach to the environment problem, with a heavy emphasis on economic development and economic justice.

I am not convinced, however, that depending on a massive ramping up of technology and business provides a holistic response to climate change.

I noticed, too, that certain very important sectors in such a discussion are completely absent. If you want to talk about protecting the earth, and somehow manage to leave out any mention of the US military and their various endeavors, well, there’s a gaping hole in the argument right at the get-go.

I am wary that such legislation once again promotes business solutions and interests in answer to a peoples’ problem on the survival scale. These would be the same institutions that got us into this mess in the first place.

HR 109’s “10-year national mobilization” seeks, among other things, to:

  • build resiliency against climate change-related disasters
  • repair and upgrade infrastructure
  • meet 100 percent of the US power demand through dramatically expanded and upgraded clean, renewable, zero-emission power sources and new capacity
  • build or upgrade appropriate power grids,
  • spur massive growth in clean manufacturing and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emission as much as is technologically feasible,
  • work to remove pollution and emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible
  • overhaul transportation systems
  • mitigate and manage effects of pollution and climate change
  • remove greenhouse gases and reduce pollution by restoring natural ecosystems through proven low-tech solutions
  • restore and protect ecosystems
  • clean up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites, “ensuring economic development and sustainability”
  • identify other emission and solution sources and create solutions

Along the way, we generate high-quality jobs, with livable wages and healthcare, and support unions in the process. Everything is liberally sprinkled with mentions of investment, leverage, funding, because, obviously, this all costs money.

These efforts culminate with the usual objective of “promoting the international exchange of technology, expertise, products, funding, and services, with the aim of making the United States the international leader on climate action….” There ya go.

None of this sounds bad, it’s just that I see a potentially counter-productive frenzy of business and industry, technology, finance, and marketing in this ‘solution.’ It could be fun for a while.

I am not one who supposes that we will save our environment simply by turning off lights in empty rooms or religiously remembering our cloth shopping bags. Neither do I suppose that the captains of technology, finance, and manufacturing can be trusted to shape a responsible answer to the predicament they created through their demonstrated allegiance to their own pockets.

In short, I think we have to look at the system itself, and be brave enough to tackle that, creatively.  That would be before the system, or the earth, simply implodes.

be amazed

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I know dogs get all the credit, and I don’t begrudge them that, but when it comes to unconditional love, this dude right here is all over it. Honest to Pete, he’s an angel and a teacher with love from the tips of his ears to the point of his tail. His eyes sparkle with love when he looks into mine. So grateful for this little fella. Just wow.

Hey, happy Winter Solstice all! Be amazed!

kindred spirits

veru11_30_18I enjoyed a happy moment yesterday with the discovery of a kindred vegan spirit.

Chance threw us together. We were making friendly small talk. As time passed, we discovered more and more shared likes and experiences.

Finally, as the conversation somehow turned toward food, he quietly started a sentence, “ I’m a vegan, so…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You’re vegan?”

“Yes,” he replied with a tentative nod. He was probably bracing for the inevitable well-how-do-you-get-your-protein question.

Instead, what he heard was a very delighted, “So am I!”

With a look of happy surprise, up came the hands for a high five.

Gotta admit, despite the fact the vegan population is definitely on the rise, coming across vegans in the wild is a pretty rare experience for me. Wandering as a vegan through the heart of meat and potatoes country can be a rather lonely and sometimes alienating experience.

The alienation has its roots in the defensive posturing that some people feel compelled to launch once they discover you’re vegan. Sadly, it’s also the case that sometimes you fly quietly under the radar just to avoid to the predictable, tiring challenges that you are occasionally forced to gently work through with insecure, heels-dug-in meat-and-dairy eaters.

So when you chance upon a kindred soul, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Then, you can happily chat about fave dishes and books and apps and oh, just all the other doors this shared choice opens up. Because the choice to be vegan is not fundamentally about food. It is a very deliberate, practical choice toward exercising compassion. It is an ethical stance about animals, people, and planet.

All the healthy side effects of such a choice are icing on the cake, so to speak.

Online, I see that there are more and more folks on the vegan bandwagon all the time. In the stores, it is clear that corporations are working to tap into this growing market as more vegan processed options keep popping up. Restaurants, too, seem to have a budding awareness with more of them including a vegan, or at least vegetarian, option on their menus.

Estimates in the United States indicate that the vegan population might be roughly three percent. Who knows, though? I think some other countries are definitely ahead of us in this lifestyle.

The numbers are still scant. Working through those uncomfortable conversations is worth the effort when you have the energy for it, since you might touch another soul in a way that winds up mattering some day.

But when you actually discover a fellow traveler out there, there’s just a little moment of heart sparkle. You find both recognition and connection, and, even better, inspiration.

storm warnings

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After our balmy weekend temperatures in the 40’s, the snow had all but disappeared.

Mother Nature has taken care of that overnight, laying a blanket of snow on everything. Still, as I peer out into the early morning darkness, it doesn’t quite amount to what I would call a full-blown winter storm – at least not right where I am.

I thought about that yesterday, when I started noticing all the warnings about the impending weather. I wondered if there would really be any snow at all in my neck of the woods. Experience has shown there’s a heckuva lot of hand-wringing hype when it comes to weather. 

Same thing used to happen when I was in Florida – all the ballyhoo around the developing storms out in the Atlantic and all their various possible tracks, and, oh my, what they might become and do.

All the fearful advance reporting treats weather as a mythic, angry god before whom we cower and fight.

Weather is certainly important, much to be respected, and requires response, but the type of hype to which we are subjected mainly works to maintain the stress, worry, and fear that is so characteristic of our society.

It’s not as if people for thousands of years did not manage without weather reports ad infinitum.

I’m guessing the ancients were better about weather than we are. They would have been much more tuned into Nature, and would have noticed subtle signs and changes, and respected them. They would have planned ahead for winter based on experience, and without benefit of plows or snow blowers.

And they weren’t exactly pillaging the planet, either.

Even with all of our technology and science and advance warnings, we still have power outages, blocked roads, closings, flight delays, and plenty of destruction whether it’s snow or hurricanes, floods or fires. In fact, there’s more and more of them all the time.

And despite the avalanche of advance warnings, we basically do nothing anyway to take the steps we can to, say, ease climate change.

Just in the last few days, the US government released its Fourth National Climate Assessment. Now, there’s a storm warning! Among its dire findings, it reached this rather understated conclusion:

While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

Hmm. Substantial damages. 

There is another approach. Maybe we could try trust and respect when it comes to earth and its atmosphere. Maybe we could be amazed by Nature, amazed by our interdependence – and try working with that. Maybe instead of wringing our hands, we could finally join hands with our planet. Maybe instead of hype, we could take heart.

And somehow weather the storm.

a different path

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After some pretty frigid temps, there’s been a nice respite in the weather. It felt good to get out on the city park trails which wind along next to the river. Didn’t even wear a hat.

In the summer, the trails are pretty busy, but right now they’re basically deserted. It’s a little eerie.

Still, I was able to hear birds singing, and see them flitting among the brush. Spotted two squirrels practically cuddled up on a branch together. Ducks were cavorting in the river, splashing, and riding the current.

At one spot, the train tracks run across the trail. What do you know, a train came. I stood there close enough to feel the rumble under my feet.

As I crossed through the abandoned park expanse, I saw a man approaching. As he got nearer, I could see that he was carrying something in one hand, but kind of shielding it from view. It made me uncomfortable. As we passed, I looked back. I could clearly see that what he was carrying was a large wooden club.

veru11_25_18bI wondered if the city trails are more dangerous than I know. Or if this is just a man who is a little paranoid. Either way, I think carrying something like that actually does make the city trails more dangerous, and it serves to make one a little paranoid, too. Certainly bothered me.

That brief, uneventful encounter alters things. Regardless of my intentions, I realize I already feel less inclined to return to the trails for a run, despite the fact that I truly love the access to nature there. It makes me mad that on a perfectly pleasant day, people feel compelled to arm themselves to be out in it. 

I am sad for our loss of community, for the distrust and fear with which everyone lives now. It is time to find our way back – to find connection and purpose and joy in our shared experience on this earth instead of the manufactured violence and separation that greedy capitalism fuels.

I believe it is possible, too, but it takes vision, intention, and personal effort to move to recover true and functional community. It won’t come from the top. It takes each one of us to make it happen. It takes courage, too, at the very least, to choose a different path than the one we’re shown and herded along.

The birds and the squirrels and the ducks – they’re on to something. Beautiful, peaceful coexistence within nature. Why wouldn’t we?

rebels for Life

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Hey, I am impressed. On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets in the United Kingdom. They closed down five bridges in London, thoroughly making the point that they’ve got something to say.

This was a movement of the people not content with the do-next-to-nothing approach to our planet problem. The Rebels for Life have sprung into action. The Extinction Rebellion is underway.

The rebels are employing civil disobedience to force the hand of government. They say that:

Our political establishment has failed to protect its people from pollution, prevent further mass extinction of species on earth and prevent the possibility of human extinction in the near future.

They demand their government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency and reverse inconsistent policies. They seek legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. They also seek the establishment of a national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes.

There is a lot of energy around the Extinction Rebellion (XR for short). This is regular folks who are worried about the world, especially for their children and their children’s children. You can bring your kids up thoughtfully and carefully, feed them all the right foods, get the best education – but what good is all of it if the planet is uninhabitable?

Meanwhile, here in the United States, it’s as if there’s no tomorrow. The current administration has diligently been undoing what protections there were, promoting further plunder and destruction of the earth rather than reining it in. ‘Leadership’ across the board had steadfastly ignored the issue, even as California burns and hurricane devastation gets swept under the rug. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. There’s pockets to line, don’t you know.

Here’s hoping the Extinction Rebellion gets more traction, migrates, and results in real action to compassionately safeguard our planet to the extent that we humans can. This is everyone’s problem. We can all be rebels for Life.

hibernation

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There’s a lovely darkness surrounding me right now. It’s still moon and stars time as I sit comfortably and cozy, this Saturday morning needing to get ready to go nowhere in the cold and snowy world outside my windows.

I love this kind of time. It’s a time to appreciate the warmth of my home space, the other being in it, and the simple things that sustain us.

There’s something to that whole hibernation thing some of our fellow animals have going. We’re supposed to be the ones with all that brain power, but sometimes you have to wonder.

Just the other day, as I headed homeward about quarter to six, I marveled at the icy conditions and helter-skelter “rush hour” traffic. Cars were creeping and sliding along on the dangerous roadways in what was already fully night.

It occurred to me just how nuts it is. Rather than coordinate with and respect the very real difficulties of winter conditions, we just go full bore on our capitalist economy driven schedules – even to the point of imperiling life and limb. No one gives it a second thought.

Oh sure, the time will come when there is simply too much snow on the roads, and things will close down for maybe a day. For the most part, however, everyone just continues the daily grind for all the dark months of winter come hell or high water.

There is something to respect in that, I suppose: a sort of gritty determination that teaches people to have battery cables in their trunks, and decent wipers on their windshields. People adjust to simply coping with the conditions, bundling themselves up, shoveling, salting.

Almost all of those activities happen literally in darkness for so many working people, too. In order to get to work on time, they’ll get up early to do all the work of clearing their steps, sidewalks, driveways, cars. They leave extra time to make a slow drive in treacherous conditions.

The daylight hours then are spent at the toil of jobs that may or may not be meaningful for workers. As darkness falls, the exercise of combatting the elements resumes.

What if we approached the season a little differently, say, cutting back working hours during winter – acknowledging the realities of all the extra prep time for the commute and the very real dangers often experienced? What if winter working shifts were more like, I dunno, six hours, instead of eight? Imagine if corporations raised pay or offered premiums during winter to accommodate all the expense, difficulty, and danger of just showing up.

Just a thought, and I don’t really know where it goes. I know it’s crazy in our current context, but I maintain the context is not immutable.

I just can’t help wondering what a world that sought less to combat nature and more to be in sync with it would look like. I imagine that up here in the north, at any rate, during the winter that would involve slowing down, staying home more, and spending more time with family and home activities – a little hibernation, if you will.

a dark season

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Opening day.

The excitement is in the air. Everyone has been planning for this for weeks. By yesterday, the atmosphere was thick with it. Many have arranged for time off from work. And today’s the day.

Deer season.

Yes, the guns have been cleaned. There’s plenty of ammo. And don’t forget the beer.

This is a time of year to which I have never grown accustomed. The sight of deer carcasses slung across cars, casually driving around town, really bothers me. Or how about the car dealership that has some kind of contest, where there will be a long line of carcasses hanging from a pole, easily visible from the street.

No, although many eagerly look forward to this time, it is not a season I have ever enjoyed. I do not understand the drive that makes a regular person want to get out to shoot and kill deer or any other animals. I have yet to meet a person who does it because they actually need to kill deer to survive. And venison is clearly an acquired taste.

The frenzy over the hunt pervades the entire community. I am clearly in the minority in my distaste for it. It’s more than distaste, though. It disturbs me how people get wound up and passionate about this activity of killing. I know I am the odd one in this feeling.

For me, I much prefer those magical moments of spotting a deer and simply savoring its beauty – of honoring our kinship as beings sharing this earth. I see deer as members of families, parents and children, struggling to survive on this changing earth. I am delighted even to simply come across deer tracks in the snow, wondering about the mystery of their lives.

Spare me the arguments about the need to control the deer population. I think there is a lot at work here in the social psyche that creates this strange holiday and the way people behave related to it. For all the gung ho, festive, all-American patina to it, this sacred ritual strikes me as a dark season.

I’d just like the shooting to stop.

earth on edge

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I love nature. I love the ever-changing skies, both night and day. I love this amazing earth upon which we live – the trees, the plants, the animals, the entire amazing array of diverse, mystical life that grows here. I love the waters of the earth – the soul-rushing oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks.

I love people. I love the profound mystery that each one of us is. I love recognizing the us in us – that we are connected, that we necessarily and purposefully share this space and the very experience of life. I love our unique capacities for imagination, creativity, understanding, discovery, embrace, cooperation. I love the power of love.

And so I’m worried.

Last week, there was yet another major report out about the state of our planet. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2018 advised us of a “60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians” during the period between 1970 and 2014.

That’s life on earth – disappearing.

Even in the small samples of our planet that I personally experience, I have noticed things changing in my lifetime. The numbers and diversity of birds, bugs, and other animals has demonstrably changed – even in my own small experience.

The destruction and pollution of habitat is also all too easily observed, whether that’s the vast tracts of monoculture farmed lands, the Superfund site in the vicinity, or the knowledge of PFAs in the water.

This does not bode well for us.

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We need to stop destroying our planet and the life on it. 

There are things we each can do. Yes, ultimately, we need to hold corporations and governments to account, but corporations and governments depend on us. They depend on us – and so far, we’ve pretty much been delivering status quo.

When we alter our behaviors on a big scale, change will eventually ensue. Couple that with persistent, coordinated, non-violent demands, and change will definitely ensue.

A logical first impactful step is to move toward a plant-based diet.

Industrial animal agriculture is one of the things at the heart of destruction on our planet. Deforestation, pesticides, herbicides, the depletion of our soils and pollution of our waters keep happening because of what we choose to eat and the corporations that are intent on delivering it at the best possible profit.

While easing the pressure on our earth by changing our diets, this step will also help to end the suffering of animals and improve individual health.

Of course, there are other steps to take as well, but this is one practical, doable thing you can do today.

When one thoughtfully changes their diet this way, and gets educated, it necessarily changes perspective on political, social, and economic issues. The whole world looks different. It is a powerful and empowering move towards peace, justice, and equality.

It’s one thing you can do.

Do it for nature. Do it for people.