About the Amazon

When people say that climate change is what you get when your starting points are capitalism, exploitation, colonization and genocide, the burning of the Amazon is the kind of thing they’re talking about. This is the destruction of a world. It could mean the destruction of all the worlds we know.

If you have never been driven from your home by violence or disaster, I ask you to imagine the fire–fire set by human hands–taking not just your dwelling, but all your landmarks, your houses of worship, your sources of food and of meaning, driving you and your relatives apart, flattening and poisoning everything that made you who you are.

People are doing this to other people, right now, in what used to be the forest, in order to punish them for existing and to profit from that punishment. If you are neither the destroyers nor the people they’re trying to destroy, what can you do?

Climate and culture writer Nylah Burton has laid out a well-sourced and compassionate explanation of why boycotting beef is a worthwhile response to this murder and desecration if enough people do it. Remember that the purpose of a boycott is to starve an industry or a practice of profit–clearing your conscience is a side effect. (That thread includes a few actions and choices beyond your own eating habits as well.)

Europe and Asia are presently the main markets for Brazilian beef and soy, so if you don’t live in those places but know people there, please strongly and lovingly recommend this to them. People living in EU countries can also write to or call the office of your MEP (UK residents can do it here) and demand that they block the Mercosur trade deal if it includes no protections for the Amazon (a little background).

Improving tree and plant cover and soil health where you live is not enough to counter the wholesale destruction, but is good practice and may offer some relief, especially if it becomes more widespread. If you use Twitter, @BuildSoil is a good person to follow for suggestions and instructions on how to do this. Local conservation, restoration, permaculture, and food sovereignty/food justice initiatives already often have a body of expertise and effort that you can add your weight to–if you’re not already involved with them, use those terms to search for some near you.

Here is an alternate history about the end of resource extraction. Here’s another one about the Amazon and transforming grief into action and healing. Let’s open our imaginations, recognize our connections, and let both of those inform our choices and actions: it’s true that destruction or life in the Amazon can destroy life elsewhere, just as what happens there when the fires aren’t burning can nourish life elsewhere. It’s also true that what we do on the ground we’re on, in the web of life we’re in, reverberates in places we will never touch or see.

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Some things about leaves

Walked to vote on a raw Novemberish day in Providence. When the weather is seasonable, I feel better, even though I know it has no long-term meaning. The leaves are starting to come down in earnest finally and pile up a little.

leaves 1

To pay attention to some things, we have to neglect other things. Let them just pile up on the sidewalk, break down as best they can, let the dogs shit in them, let their own tenants of fungus and bacteria emerge, unsanitary, let them spread a layer of humus slowly over the sidewalk, let people walk and wheel in the street, let dropped seeds take root. How quiet it will be. Sour smell of the smashed locust pods rotting, sparrows having to make different decisions.

leaves 2

Streets paved with gold, in the short term: let them learn again to maintain themselves, let the seedlings teach the concrete to crack. Think about who is with you now.  When you step off the street itself to let an ambulance through, you are taking a walk in the forest.

 

Out of the Woods On Climate/Borders/Survival/Care/Struggle

This conversation with Out of the Woods, a collective investigating capitalism and climate change, gets at the heart of a lot of what I’ve been trying to do with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth, the alternate histories, and the Interdependence Day gatherings (now on hold, but these writings may help us reinvent them).

“To say ‘yes’ to what we want,” they say, “and what is already created in cramped spaces – necessitates saying ‘no’ to the world that dominates save for those cracks or openings.”

I knew about Out of the Woods, but hadn’t spent a lot of time with their ideas and questions. I’m going to do so now.

Alternate History: Refusal 5

The next day, truckers spoke over the radios, recalculating their routes, passing the word along. Air traffic controllers refused to let planes land. No one who drove a truck or flew a plane or ran container shipping in the Gulf would bring any concrete or rebar or wire or cable or steel or cement or construction equipment or surveillance electronics to anywhere at all in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

Companies in these states that made or used or sold these materials and tools made haste to sell their products, at a discount, to people and companies building anywhere else–other states, overseas. Ann Arbor and Vladivostok both took big deliveries of cranes, for some reason, and a lot of materials went to Haiti and Georgia.

People who worked large-scale construction in those states knew that the government would probably bring in prison labor anyway, but just in case, they went to visit relatives in other states if they could, or picked up work far from home. The unions passed the word along.

On the border, men with guns and men in suits stood with no power to move or build anything more than a handful of dirt.

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Rhode Islanders can see if Dorcas International needs volunteer help. Anyone can call their city’s or town’s mayor and ask what they are going to do to protect and accommodate their immigrant and refugee neighbors.

This refusal is for everyone who was murdered trying to make the crossing, and for my students, who are still alive.

 

Alternate History: Refusal 3

The next day, everyone who worked at the Alyeska Pipeline Operations Control Center in Anchorage locked the doors, typed in the codes that would stop the flow of oil at every pump station within four minutes, and sat on their hands.

That’s not entirely accurate. Someone had brought a Sudoku book with only half the puzzles done. They played the game of who could ignore the most phone calls, emails, texts. They’d laid in a stock of food and bottled water, but someone also found it necessary to microwave a box of stale Peeps left over from last Easter. Someone had brought a carving he was working on. They sat and waited for–who would come? There was a betting pool: riot police? Hostage negotiators? Tanks? Most of them had left a letter, just in case.

About half of them had rifles, because they hunted on the weekends, and one person had brought her compound bow because she thought it would be funny, no matter how many times someone else told her that none of this was funny. “Sure it is,” she said.

*

Share what you can spare with the water protectors fighting the Sabal Trail Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Trans Pecos Pipeline.

This refusal is dedicated to all of them, past, present and future.

Alternate Histories: Refusal 2

The next day, everyone who could walk, walked in the street, and everyone who could roll, rolled in the street. At first, they would do it until someone yelled at them, and then when that person was gone they’d get back in the street. In later days, when there were more of them, they just kept walking and rolling.

When drivers or police asked them where the fuck they were going, at first they said, “Work,” or “The store,” or “My girl’s house,” or “School.” Later, sometimes, they said, “Boston,” or “The ocean,” or “The future.”

They got where they were going whenever they happened to get there. So they made other refusals possible: their supervisors had a choice as to whether to mark them late, cops had a choice of whether to harass and threaten and hit them, drivers had a choice whether to honk or keep quiet. People on either side of a desk or checkout counter–social worker and client, checkout clerk and customer–got where they were going at the same time, just later. The number of cars abandoned by the side of the road increased, incrementally.

Sometimes there were just a few people, strung like beads in ones and twos along a road in a small town. Sometimes hundreds, thousands of people were walking and rolling, all the mobile people in a city.

Over at the feedlots, the stockmen opened the gates and turned off the electricity and the cows stumbled out to walk among the humans and eat the bitter grass by the side of the road.

*

In honor of this refusal, please write to the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, especially the transportation committee, and tell them that House Bill 1203–which would allow drivers to hit protesters with their cars with impunity–is disgusting and inhumane. If you, too, get on a roll, there are similar bills proposed in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington State.

This refusal is in memory of Mark Baumer.

Alternate Histories: Refusal 1

The next day, every medical and dental practice that treated a member of Congress removed their annual checkups and their colonoscopies and their root canals and their physiotherapy appointments from their schedules.

From that day forward, every medical receptionist looked blank when a congressperson came in. The dermatologists and urologists said they were so sorry, but they weren’t taking new patients. Pharmacists shrugged and said they’d never received that prescription. Chiropractors and podiatrists and acupuncturists, even the few psychotherapists–all  doors were closed, all voices smooth and regretful.

At the urgent care clinic, congresspeople watched old people in compression hose, little kids with cold sores, a pregnant woman in her early 40s, a blue-haired person in a wheelchair go in ahead of them to see a doctor. We’re sorry, they said at the desk, we’re sorry, we can’t help you.

*

This refusal is accompanied by an invitation to call elected officials about the Affordable Care Act, today, if you live in Providence and are free between 12 and 3; by a second invitation to pay attention to Fight4Medicare and see what you can do for them in the coming days.

This refusal is in memory of Esmin Green.

Alternate History: A Just Transition

This alternate history, whose task is to show our current choices as contingent rather than natural and to imagine a world that works better for more people, owes a great debt to the ongoing work and words of Mariame Kaba.

7/8/16

That day we recognized that police officers were like coal miners or offshore riggers, maintainers of imbalance, people distorted and damaged by the work some of us were asking them to do, and that they were in need of a just transition away from dirty, dangerous, dehumanizing work. They needed true and possible paths that would allow them to recognize themselves and others without damage.

We did all the usual things, to start. We made cordons with our bodies around entire neighborhoods, three and four people deep. Similar cordons formed around the Public Safety Complex, around the parking garage, around at least some cops’ houses. The moments when one threw their gun or taser on the ground, out of reach, and came to stand beside us were precious to us; this didn’t happen very often. More often, we said to armed men and a few armed women: this line can open to you. There’s a place for you beyond this line. But you can’t force it open. You have to tell us what you’re going to do. And it can’t be anything like what you did before. We said: you can’t stay on that side of the line alone, forever.

They didn’t hit us, didn’t shoot or gas us. They knew, we think now–and some of them have even said, since then–that the time for that was over. That was the beginning of their part in the change, but not the end.

It’s a struggle every moment to unschool yourself as a bully, but it was part of their reparations to the rest of us: when they asked us what we wanted, what would satisfy us, after the days of blocking their paths everywhere they went, we said that we couldn’t undo the past but that we needed to undo a future of violence, starting now. We said, you have to be the ones to do it; our job will be to make a place for you as you get better at it.

A person who doesn’t know that they are desperate is dangerous, and a person who doesn’t know that what they’re doing is a decision is equally dangerous. We stood in front of them. We said, we’re desperate; this is what desperation looks like. We said, this is our choice; this is what a choice looks like. Do you want to see who you could be on the other side of the line? What you could have? What you could leave behind?

People who weren’t cops stopped calling the cops. More and more cops quit. Like everyone now, they were guaranteed a living whether they worked or not, but they told the rest of us that that wouldn’t be enough. They needed something else to attach their ideas of themselves to, like the mussels that cling to the rocks; they needed to do work, and they needed to learn how to feel fear without doing harm. Well, so did we.

The world we were making was full of necessary daily work, both grim and joyful; the need for extreme heroics, sea rescues, fire control, resuscitations and transfusions; plenty of dead bodies to tend, despite everything we could do. There was a lot of that kind of work for them, in addition to the slow, grinding, stammering labor of breaking survival away from entitlement, identity away from blame. Most of them were very bad at this at first, no matter how willing they were: it always had to be someone else’s fault. But there was no one else’s fault for it to be.

The men’s houses were helpful for some of the ones who were men. (Free access to hormones, and confidence of their welcome as women–though not necessarily as former cops–in all places, was helpful for some of the ones who were in fact women.) The anger shrines on street corners, with their punching surfaces and screaming chambers, saw a lot of use, too. Some of the ex-cops spent time tending horses, as veterans also did, forming a new understanding of risk, fragility, care and trust. We were using horses more for certain tasks by then, even in the city–hauling things that weren’t in a hurry to get there, supplying manure for our farms–and occasionally for fast city-to-city transportation, since the solar shuttles were still in prototype.

More people were living more of their lives in public, too, by this point–houses were fuller, streets and waterways more active, privacy more a matter of courtesy than of soundproof walls and locked doors. It was harder to hide cruelty, and there was less to steal. The night watch made it harder for people who wished to stab and twist and violate to do so under cover of darkness. We used Build the Block and Creative Interventions as models for emergency response. We mostly didn’t allow the ex-cops to do these things with the rest of us: it was too close to the wound of what they had been for us to be safe with them, and sometimes, in spite of all that work, they were the people we needed to stop.

We sunk the guns in the last of the concrete–it was the easiest, most permanent thing to do with them.

 

Direct Action Opportunity with Fuerza Laboral: POSTPONED

THIS ACTION HAS BEEN POSTPONED. I will update if it is rescheduled, or you can email the organizer below.

Why is Climate Anxiety Counseling posting about a direct labor action with Fuerza Laboral? Because both are about bringing the world we want out of the world we have.

Here’s their statement:

“DIRECT ACTION OPPORTUNITY WITH FUERZA LABORAL: Labor Abuses and Wage Withholding

The owner of a cleaning company  employed a group of 8 people to clean student apartments in North Providence. The workers worked 40+ hours, but after the work was done he claimed that the job wasn’t done right and that they took too long to clean the disgusting apartments after the students went on summer break. The apartments were so dirty that the workers had to be on their hands and knees scrubbing the floors, bathrooms, walls etc.. He owes them over $3,000, so we are going to his very fancy home in the suburbs of Johnston. This is not his first offense: he has done it before to other workers, and Fuerza Laboral has already done an action against his company in 2008. The action will be on Thursday  7/7, starting at 5:15 am in Johnston.”
You can email the organizer for details/location: organizer AT fuerza-laboral.org.

Alternate Histories: Oblong Books & Music, 6/2/16

I gave a reading at Oblong Books and Music, the bookstore I went to and bought books at when I was growing up, and I invited the audience to write alternate histories for each other’s climate anxieties. These are what they shared with each other and with me.

As with the climate anxieties people share at the booth, I want to make it clear that I don’t endorse these, necessarily: rather, they’re expressions of what people are able to imagine for each other, part of the picture of how people are thinking, and what they think change and responsibility and possibility are.

 

CLIMATE ANXIETY: Less rain, water will become more and more scarce, more droughts, harder to garden, grow food and bathe.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: I read an article in the Times that some MIT student resorted to Kickstarter to get funding for his Rainmaker. No conventional grant givers were interested, since they don’t believe in global warming. But on his own, he made it rain on the farms in California last month, and he’s on a path to everywhere. He tested it first in his own garden. It does not require clouds, or even sky. Sometimes where there is a quirky smart guy, there is a way.

 

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear that in the next 50 years, 100s of millions of people will die because of climate change–what will happen to compassion?

ALTERNATE HISTORY: In the process of losing everything, people will suddenly awaken to their true nature as children, and will make their first priority to go outside each morning, kiss the ground and then bring something yummy to their neighbor. All extras will be brought together and shared as needed.

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CLIMATE ANXIETY: Losing my inherent instinctual connection to nature because of habitat and/or species loss such that when looking at my cat one day we both realize something crucially important is gone even as this loss bridges a potentially powerful and unknown connection between us.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: Knowing the love and connection you have to nature, do not dismay. Mother Nature thrives and survives, is deeper and more regenerative than our comprehension. The ecosystems which may be dwindling now create an environment for an evolved version of its ancestor.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: My child is too gentle, kind and anxious to survive in this harsh, harsh world

ALTERNATE HISTORY: “Global” anxiety may be at an all-time high, with resultant aggressive and defensive emotions and behaviors by [adults? illegible] in difficult situations around the world. The only saving grace for society, some will realize, belatedly, is to foster a new tenderness and gentleness in children. Your child will be an ideal person to help others in pain and denial. The talents of your child/growing adult will be more and more valued with each year that passes. A child of peace grows into an adult of mercy, compassion, love and health. It is only from such souls that the cosmos continues. NB: A delicate perennial may appear too vulnerable to possibly survive the predatory vicious freeze of an intense northern winter, but survive it does–and can re-emerge next spring even more lush and powerfully beautiful than before.

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CLIMATE ANXIETY: Political corruption is everywhere. Politicians working to better themselves and not the common people are everywhere. We can’t do much about this.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: 3 children in a desert devise a mind-altering “helmet” that is so beautiful, everyone needs to put it on. It tells the wearer to share, not thinking about rewards. Soon, everyone has all they need. All feel compelled to uplift, educate, feed, heal, comfort … la dee dah.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I fear the powerful corporations that produce much of our food because so much of it contains things like sugar that bring on diabetes; individually people suffer and require medical care.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: There have always been toxins (although we have not always been aware of them). Life did go on–perhaps in forms yet unknown to us–but it survived–and we will–but we might not recognize now what it will be then. I only wish I could visit then to see now what will be–

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY:

– Werewolves in the White House

– Death camps for dissenters

– Disappearance of hedgehogs

ALTERNATE HISTORY: In the same way that smoking in public places went from being desirable to nearly gone, those who have the sensitivity for compassion will overcome their fears and provide safety and kindness.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: I’m worried that we don’t teach our children enough self-love and compassion, and that we let magic and imagination not take enough importance.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: In this world you cannot succeed. You are not helped to jump over the wall–you are helped to laugh at the wall or sing to it. You never want to win or get it or manage it. You never think it is now compared to then. Everything is liquid and inviting and sweet and amusing.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: In a world of resource abundance, I feel hopeless that some take so much without caring [for] those who need.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: People will share what they have. New resources will replace old resources, no longer needed.

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CLIMATE ANXIETY: My anxiety is that people will never stop thinking that time is what they think it is. My anxiety is that everyone will forever be imprisoned–trapped–by the idea that it is now.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: One day, the sun rose and every single person rose to greet it. People woke up and breathed in peace and felt peace. And exuded peace to each other and all of life on the planet. And every single living thing sang the song it was born to sing.

*

CLIMATE ANXIETY: My fear is that we will run out of drinkable water in the foreseeable future.

ALTERNATE HISTORY: Drinking water is being synthesized from the rising sea–billions of gallons of fresh water pours from international spigots. Everyone bathes three times a day and drinks all they want.