As the World Turns… and burns

The West Coast is on fire… after suffering through a “heat dome.” Lake Mead — which supplies water to multiple states — is drying up. What’s going to happen when places like Phoenix are uninhabitable? Where will the people go when there’s no water left?

We thought The Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun” was just a fever dream… but it’s coming true.

The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries—they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival.

Rod Serling’s intro to the episode

We thought Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Aqueduct” was merely science fiction. But when people are desperate for water, bloodshed could follow.

We take our daily conveniences for granted – cranking up the AC, taking long showers, watering the lawn. But the clock is ticking, and the world is burning.

Rocking the Vote Boat

Take a gander at the map for Ohio US District 1:

An example of gerrymandering at its finest. Courtesy of the Republican party. Because if you can’t win fair and square, you have to try to win unfair and trapezoid… or rhombus… or whatever shape will give you the edge. But sometimes gerrymandering isn’t enough, and you have to resort to voter suppression.

Source: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-may-2021

This paragraph from an editorial in — of all places — a music magazine, really sums it up nicely:

Having lost the Presidency, the House, and the Senate over four years by margins so wide that Democrats were able to overcome the structural bias, Republicans have not responded as Democrats did, by trying to expand the elctorate, or convincing the existing one that their own policies and platforms merit a change. The entire story of 2021 so far has been Biden and his party trying to govern, at least trying to tackle dire emergencies it inherited , largely from four year of Republican inaction, incompetence, or inadequate response — a pandemic, economic devastation, worsening inequality, alarming climate change, decayed bureaucracy, etc., etc. — while the Republican party has spent all its time tackling the problem of… too many people voting.

The Big Takeover, Issue #88

The best response is to A. fight these voter suppression laws and B. vote, no matter the extra hurdles. (Easier said than done, I realize, when you are elderly and/or handicapped and the only mail ballot drop box is miles away. )

Here’s more from The Big Takeover editorial (bold emphasis mine):

But the ultimate effects of all this suppression and a fresh round of gerrymandering this spring won’t be seen until the next round of elections. Over the next two years, Democrats and others who believe in democracy had better stay vigilant, instead of making the classic midterm mistake that all is OK if their side won and is now in office. Memories fade, and the Capitol riot will too, especially if half of us insist upon it. But the effort to defend democracy against a party that has largely lost faith in it, will be as much the most important long-term effort we engage in alongside climate change mitigation and getting out of the pandemic alive. A responsible, accountable right of center party is crucial to our politics. But until the G.O.P. pays a steep enough electoral price for its big lies and continual partisan sabotage, it will never reform itself from within.

Take Me to the River

I’ve done quite a bit of reading over the past 16 months (thanks pandemic!), but no book has moved me more than this one:

I’m late to the game. The book came out in 2019. Brian Doyle died of brain cancer in 2017, at the age of 60. But better late than never, right?

One Long River of Song is a collection of essays – some happy, some heartbreaking… and all with a spiritual sense of wonder about the world we inhabit.

“Brian Doyle lived the pleasure of bearing daily witness to the glories hidden in people, places and creatures of little or no size or renown, and brought inimitably playful or soaring or aching or heartfelt language to his tellings.”

David James Duncan in the introduction to One Long River of Song

Some books are enjoyable on a surface level but soon forgotten. This one soaks into your skin and burrows into your heart and soul. Simple gorgeous prose.

Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter put this book on my radar. If you haven’t already read it, do so now and thank me (and Austin) later.

The Border Crisis is really a Climate Crisis

There are many reasons why folks from Central America are trying to migrate to the U.S. Some are fleeing violence and/or persecution in their home country. But an overarching reason that thousands make the arduous and perilous trek from their homes is poverty.

“I want a better future for my kids. Like our parents wanted a better future for us. That’s why we’re forced to take steps and leave our own country and risk our lives here, because necessity forces us.”

Honduras migrant Irmana Morado, as quoted in this ABC News story

And an underlying cause for that poverty is climate change. Check out this excerpt from a March 31st piece in The New Yorker, written by Bill McKibben:

To give an example: owing in part to climate change, there was a record hurricane season last year, with the last two storms, Eta and Iota, striking Central America. As Nicole Narea explained in a recent article in Vox, the Northern Triangle countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—have been afflicted by climate-induced drought for a decade, leaving 3.5 million people facing food insecurity, but the floods from those two storms produced even more savage damage. Twelve hundred schools were damaged or destroyed; forty per cent of corn crops and sixty-five per cent of the bean harvest were lost. As a percentage of G.D.P., the damage is greater than that done by the worst storms ever to hit the United States, yet the people of these countries did comparatively little to cause the climate crisis—whereas the four per cent of us who live in this country have produced more greenhouse gases than the population of almost any other nation. So there’s really no way to pretend that migrants arriving at our southern border have no claim on America. Honduras could have built the biggest, most beautiful wall on its northern border, and our CO2 would still have sailed right across it.

Interesting, ain’t it? So if we want to help alleviate the border crisis, we should worry less about building walls, and focus more on reducing our oversized carbon footprint. The rising tide of border crossers is caused by the rising tide of the oceans. Illegal immigration is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is spreading rapidly.

And it’s not as if this is an isolated case. As early as 2017, according to the organizers at climate-refugees.org, sixty per cent of displaced people around the world were on the move because of “natural” disasters, not civil conflict. In the past six months, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, about eighty per cent of displacements have been the result of disasters, “most of which are triggered by climate and weather extremes.” As Axios reported last week, using a projection model created by the Times, ProPublica, and the Pulitzer Center, “migration from Central America will rise every year regardless of climate change,” but, “in the most extreme warming scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the next 30 years.”

From the same March 31st Bill McKibben’s piece in The New Yorker cited above

VP Kamala Harris can say “do not come, do not come” all she wants. But let’s pretend the shoe is on the other foot for a second (ignoring the fact that shoes might be considered a luxury in the tiny villages of Central America). If your schools were destroyed, your food sources were wiped out and your livelihood was lost, you’d still come. No matter the cost, no matter the odds.

you only leave home when home won’t let you stay

From the achingly beautiful poem “Home” by Warsan Shire… Hat tip to Rickey Dobbs of Hitting the Trifecta for bringing it to my attention in his great post about immigration during the Trump era.

“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, at a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei

If we want to help our friends to the south find hope at home, we also have to change how we treat the planet. And that starts in our home.

Hey, hey, come on, I need you more than ever
Hey hey, come on, we’re running for our lives
Hey, hey, come on, there’s refuge in your heartbeat
They’re closing in
They’re closing in

from the song “Footsteps in the Shadows” by Alejandro Escovedo, from his brilliant album The Crossing.

[HT to my friend Phil for leading me to The Climate Crisis email newsletter from The New Yorker. It’s written by Bill McKibben, and you can sign up here. ]

Out with the New

This was my horoscope a couple of weeks ago:

Capricorn = I truly am the GOAT!

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all new-agey on you. I just happened to see this horoscope while I was working on the sudoku next to it in the newspaper. I’m not into astrology. I’m more into Astro from The Jetsons.

But that horoscope is all wrong. I don’t want new friends. I just want to see my old friends more often. To share a laugh or three… and perhaps a beer or three. To swap stories of happiness… mixed the occasional tale of woe.

I don’t really think there’s such a thing as “new friends.” When they’re new to you, they’re just acquaintances. They haven’t earned their friendship stripes yet.

The bonds of true friendship can only be forged over time. Through thick and thin. Old friends know where you got your scars, and they know how to keep a secret. They’ve learned to accept your foibles and flaws… or at least overlook them. They reach out. They show up when you need them most.

With old friends, you can go months, even years, without seeing them, and still not miss a beat when you finally do catch up. Now that the pandemic is finally – blessedly – subsiding (masks off, but fingers crossed), I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some old friends.

Every Day should be Earth Day

We are called to assist the Earth to heal…indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

Wangari Maathai

How much better would our coronavirus response have been if we approached it as part of a larger family of life? How many wars over borders wouldn’t happen if we realized that we are all brothers and sisters? How many species would’ve been saved from extinction?

We can make the earth a better place… accent on the “We.”

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