I'm going to rant, and since my rant will likely fall only upon the ears of the ecologically-aware choir, I want everyone to at least tune themselves to a high c. This will go on for some time, and will be scatterbrained.
I stayed up late last night watching a large chunk of Al Gore's speech for / sponsored by / initiated by The Alliance for Cimate Protection and their We Campaign. Al Gore pissed me off. It's better to be pissed off than pissed on, but I feel pissed off in a good way.
Jack Turner, in his book The Abstract Wild, calls for a sacred rage toward environmental issues--he, in fact, borders on calling for outright anger manifested in physical ways that IMMEDIATELY stop torturing animals, ourselves, trees.... He lambastes our culture for being so damn apathetic. We are. He says the test of a true culture, a viable culture, is that when push comes to shove, our moral and ethical standards propel us to immense action. (Did you know that once upon a time in Germany, long long ago, if a person stripped bark from a tree his navel was cut out, nailed to the tree, and he would be forced to walk around it until his insides rapaired the tree's wound? Not that I'm saying such justice should again be exercised--oh, what the hell, I am. I'll go for it.)
Where is our anger? I'm tired of reading "green articles" and watching "green" reports on every national and local newscast. What a placebo those are. Petition this, petition that, contribute $10 so we can send out more stickers. Here a speech there a speech everywhere a speech speech. Screw it. The only hope I see is when my hands are in the soil, my nose to the filipendula rubra, and the whole rest of the world quietly sealed off in my head. Oh, gosh darn it, that's what American's do well!
Gore's speech called for 100% renewable sources of energy for the U.S. within 10 years. You know what? It's so freaking possible. What's happened to America? Look at us. A bunch of glossy-eyed slobs scratching ourselves living a Thoreauvian wet dream in our nostalgiac mind's eye.
I loved how Gore (yes, even though it's yet another speech) made connections between health, jobs, national security, and a gazillion other things we worry about ala public policy. Can you imagine if we actually did what Gore proposes? If somehow, like a divine wrath, someone washed away special interests in Washington and cleared the walls that separate politicans from we the people? How does that happen? Why did Rome fall?
The other day on the phone with my parents, all three of us lamenting our energy policy, the pure lunacy of Bush (who, could, if he wanted, actually leave some sort of a positive legacy equivalent to, oh, Lincoln), I said something like "this is how cultures die, how civilizations end." If we became innovators in technology, in upgrading our infrastucture to more efficiently transmit electicity from the wind turbines of the midwest to the coasts--and 50 other technologies ready to go--we'd save our country, literally. Then, we'd have China and maybe even Saudi Arabia calling us asking if they could give us a few billion dollars for what we've developed. Sure, we'd say, and in the interest of international goodwill and oneness, have a 10% discount, and have some technical advisors for a year as you implement these new technologies.
Oh GOD I'm angry. I can't do anything, really, stuck in this electronic box that's sucking on dirty dirty energy. I can't do anything BIG, really impacting, NOW. Not later, not through process, not careful patience--freaking now. Something that gets me put in jail, maybe.
Obama is a twit. He's a baby-hugging, smooth-talking, glazed-over-looking lollipop sucker. He's way too smooth, way too filled with air. McCain? Geeze. C'mon. Maybe a decade ago, I guess. No good options, really. Of course, why expect that a president can fix things? He can't. It has more to do with the fact that we don't respect ourselves, then by extention--or in direct one to one relation--we don't respect or deeply feel the pain of each other, animals, plants, anything, really. We've become homogenized, duped into thinking that being the same (and thus silent) is equal to free will and democracy (look, for example, at how the egalitarian suburbs have destroyed entire ecosystems with a monoculture of lawn and foreign barberries, how neighbors run from each other when they spot one another getting the mail--we think suburban in most everything we do).
I've read around 100 nature / environmental books in the last few years: heady philosophical and policy-making junk, and memoir / personal narratives of such deep placeness and passion. EVERYONE says that what our culture requires--in the way of all art mediums--is a sense of deep connection to the world, some moral center revolving around it, lives that reach deeply into where we are, the places we dwell. Great. Yup. That's true. How's that going to happen? You can read a book, watch a film, and be deeply moved, made aware, awakened to some cause or fact emotionally--but the resonance fades, doesn't it? How can we have that resonance almost daily? Does it start by being German, schooling our kindergartener kids in the forest for weeks at a time (going on right his minute)? Ah, a utopian dream. It sure does seem the Germans know how to do things, doesn't it? Ah, the irony.
I'm frustrated. I feel like by the time I die, hopefully living a long and fruitful life, our country will be on its last legs, and by 2100, only a disparate collection of shadows. The amount of money we send overseas for oil imports alone... my god. The amount of money we're wasting on Iraq (though we have to see this thing out now, in part, can't leave them on the lurch and watch the middle east spiral more easily into what it seems to always want to spiral in to).
Swear word. Swear word. Swear word. America can be a leader again, set the tone; instead we attend global summits, act like we'll play a part, then come home and say we'll do 1/10th of what we said we would, maybe sometime in the next few decades, sure, why not, sounds about right, something like that, hey is the game on tonight? You know, like, whatever.
This incoherent collection of crap was brought to you by other crap that so enrages me I feel simultaneously hopeful and hopeless--to live such a dichotomy daily, some religious thinkers would say (Thomas Merton for one), brings me closer to myself, the world, and divine intention. I say it makes me feel stagnant and unproductive. And yet Christian Wiman, o great editor of Poetry the magazine, says, "I consider not being able to write as a manifestation of grace; I think grace sometimes can be anguishing." If you equate writing with pretty much anything else we do or think, perhaps Wiman means that from our anguish comes hope, possibility, greater awareness. Perhaps it's what Turner talks about when he wants us to feel our ecological crisis--and connection to the world--painfully from the gut; that it truly truly matters so deeply, in so many ways, that to avoid doing anything, saying anything, living anything loudly and immediately, is to literally refuse goodness and embrace evil. We are living in a time of great evil. And yes, of great hope.
It's not so much about global warming as it is about America existing as a nation; or maybe it IS about global warming, that if we see the harm we're doing--feel the emotional and psychological crisis and death of ALL life--by extension we'll see the links to our lifestyle. I'm not so sure that convincing ourselves that we can keep living how we are while enjoying clean energy is the best way to go (as Al Gore seems to be saying), but maybe we have to go that route, say clean energy means more jobs, our own independence from foreign governments, and hey, as a side bonus, a healthier planet (at least in the air, anyway, maybe up in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, too). It seems to me that we must feel the agony of extinction--it's not about global warming, it's about murder. Genocide. Self mutilation, by extension, and finally literal and spiritual suicide. Emptiness and silence. What will it be like to wake up in the morning and not hear any birds? (1% of all bird species go functionally extinct in their ecosystems each year.)
How do we feel this? Do we have to join in the chorus of death? Really FEEL the air choking us, the water ripping our guts out, the soil starving us (this is already happening in some parts of the world)? Do we really have to have our backs to the wall? And yes, that's then too late, isn't it. Most days I am HAPPY the price of oil is going up. I'd like to see $200 a barrel by January. I know what that means when I say it--it means poverty, disease, bankruptcy, and so much more. But, I guess we need it. The choir may now exit. Amen.