The kind you’re born with, the kind you choose, the kind that teach Catholic school
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“One Nation, Indivisible” features excerpts from The Sun’s archives that speak to the current political moment.
The Sun: Many of us are waiting until our lives feel less busy before we jump into activism.
Kathleen Dean Moore: Yes, we are busy. Probably too busy to avert a planetary disaster that will have the effect of an asteroid impact: killing off species, altering the climate, acidifying the oceans. Why are we so busy? Those who would prefer we not think about climate change and other injustices would like very much for us to stay busy. If we have to work two jobs to make a living, we’re not going to be out in the streets protesting. If we are preoccupied with other parts of our lives, our attention is drawn away from the practices that are destroying the foundation of those lives.
I used to think it was enough for all of us simply to live our lives imaginatively and constructively. I don’t think that anymore. I think we have to find the time to be politically active. I don’t want to cut anybody any slack on that. Are we going to let it all slip away — all those billions of years it took to evolve the song in a frog’s throat or the stripe in a lily — because we’re too busy?
“If Your House Is on Fire,” Kathleen Dean Moore, interviewed by Mary DeMocker, December 2012
We have to stop pumping carbon into the air, not because we’re running out of carbon-based fuels, but because carbon will kill us. And it makes us political hostages to bloodthirsty maniacs. It’s destroying our economy. . . .
The environmentalists like to talk about “win-win” scenarios. You know: corporations can make money by going green. What a crock of shit. Forget it. If they could do that, they would’ve done it already. Environmentalist Amory Lovins, who’s made millions of dollars working for big corporations, goes around saying, “Everyone wins.” Well, if everyone wins, then how come the skies are black and people in China are dying of arsenic poisoning? It’s bullshit. The only way we can get anything done is by limiting consumption by law and through a national commitment to use less carbon-based fuel. Let’s stop goosing around and clean up the planet.
“Forget What They Told You,” Greg Palast, interviewed by Arnie Cooper, May 2007
This isn’t about “paper or plastic” or some vision of self-congratulatory parsimony. It’s about replacing material gratifications with spiritual ones. I don’t know how much carbon I’m offsetting with my choices. I just prefer to be a good animal rather than one that fouls its nest. Also, and maybe most importantly, if I can learn to live happily with less, I feel more entitled to vote and agitate for legislation that would require everyone — even CEOs — to do the same.
“The Moral Universe,” Barbara Kingsolver, interviewed by Jeanne Supin, March 2014
The idea that progress is inevitable doesn’t go that far back. It’s mostly a European notion that got its start three or four hundred years ago. Certainly we’ve seen a pattern of more and spiffier technologies with each passing year since then, most of them now fossil-fuel driven.
The process of invention is not going to go away, of course, but we’re going to have to apply our ingenuity in a different direction. The advertising industry has trained us to equate progress with having more and better possessions. If the public-relations techniques currently devoted to persuading us that we need more possessions could be used instead to convince us that we have to change direction, we could see real progress. We basically need a World War II–level effort. During World War II, U.S. citizens were persuaded to participate in rationing of fuel, nylon stockings, automobile tires, and other things, because they knew that their survival was at stake. The government, the advertising industry, and the motion-picture industry all cooperated to support this pattern of behavior. That’s what we need now.
“Peak Experience,” Richard Heinberg, interviewed by Arnie Cooper, July 2006
“So,” I began, grinding my teeth, “you don’t honestly think global warming is a hoax, do you?”
It got ugly quick.
When arguing with my parents, what I lack in facts I make up for with opinions delivered at increasing volume. Like a boxer getting the shit kicked out of him, I lumbered around the rhetorical ring with my mother, that nimble welterweight, taking bigger, sloppier, dizzier swings while she landed blow after stinging blow. For every “fact” I produced about melting ice caps and homeless polar bears (things I know nothing about), she asked for references, opening her laptop and patiently waiting to Google them. She did this jovially, without a trace of attitude and with the frightening certainty of a woman fortified by a year of daily lectures at Glenn Beck’s blackboard. . . .
I concluded that, because she had long ago subjugated her mothering nature to my father’s will, she was now projecting this onto the environment with her belief that Mother Nature was subservient to — and protected by — God the Father. Sure, carbon-dioxide emissions were a problem, she said, but not a lethal one. Nature would always bounce back because “God made it that way.” . . .
“Let me get this right,” I began. “You think the earth has some kind of eternally regenerative essence? That it’ll just magically go on forever?”
“As long as we need it to, yes,” my mother replied. She was in her kitchen, pretending to be busy elbow-greasing away invisible counter stains.
“And you think that you are going to go on forever?”
“I believe in an eternal soul, yes.”
“Because you believe in God, the super-duper being in the sky?”
“If I didn’t, life would be unbearable.”
“A Zen Zealot Comes Home,” Shozan Jack Haubner, September 2011
“Ecological concern,” as we define it, may be a value, but it’s not a strongly held one.
A value that is much more powerful is shared achievement. How do we do something great together? The United States is a culture of aspiration. Winning the gold at the Olympics, putting a man on the moon, freeing our country from dependence on foreign oil — they’re all more motivating than “Let’s keep the planet the way it’s been for thousands of years.” That goal actually tends to work against us. It’s not a progressive goal, in either the literal or the metaphorical sense of the term.
“Can the Left Get It Right?” Michael Shellenberger, interviewed by Marc Polonsky, February 2005
The problems just keep getting bigger, don’t they? When I was a young man, it was civil rights; it was an immoral war being fought in a jungle ten thousand miles away. But even then, unbeknownst to us, the planet was getting hotter. Those hundreds of thousands of people who drove to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech or, a few years later, to march in antiwar demonstrations — how much did they contribute to global warming? How about those 20 million people who showed up for the first Earth Day celebrations in 1970? Talk about a carbon footprint! Now that we better understand the scope of the problem, however, what sacrifices am I willing to make? Shall I vow that I won’t eat anything I haven’t grown myself or bought from a local farmer; that I’ll bicycle everywhere instead of driving a car; that, if I absolutely must fly, I’ll climb on the roof and start vigorously flapping my arms? . . . But I don’t want to complain about global warming this morning. Instead I want to thank the sun for shining brightly during some very dark years. I want to thank the earth for how kindly she’s welcomed us. Believe me, we didn’t know it would turn out this way.
“Sy Safransky’s Notebook,” August 2010
When the crash comes, there’s going to be a panic. What we’re doing now in the local movement is building the infrastructure before the panic, whether it’s caused by the collapse of our economy or by global warming.
Most crises push people to find security in community. There’s a “we’re all in this together” spirit during hard times, and the instinct is to shore up the home base and seek control over basic needs. . . . Industrialization has led us far from community self-reliance, but I think we have enough sense left to embrace the concept in the face of adversity. When times get tough, some people will panic and compete and hoard resources, but hopefully the crisis will bring out the better angels in most, and we’ll recognize that our survival depends on cooperation.
“Table for Six Billion, Please,” Judy Wicks, interviewed by David Kupfer, August 2008
The level of cynicism that we have been indulging in is a luxury that we cannot afford. It is indulgent to live in the richest, most advanced technological society in history and say, “We cannot do it.” We have the best shot of anyone at solving the big problems. We have technologies that thirty years ago people couldn’t have imagined: the Internet, laptop computers, cell phones. You and I have better computers on our person than the U.S. government had when it landed a man on the moon. Everyone you know is a walking technological superpower by the standards of thirty years ago. To be playing helpless and throwing up our hands when we haven’t even tried to solve these problems is totally unacceptable to me.
There was a speech that Winston Churchill gave in the early days of World War II, before the U.S. entered the war. British citizens felt they were living in darker days. “Do not let us speak of darker days,” he said. “Let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days.”
That is how I feel. These are difficult times, but these are great times.
“Bridging the Green Divide,” Van Jones, interviewed by David Kupfer, March 2008