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This Changes Everything

February 29th, 2016

My review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein.

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Around two-thirds of it I found to be an exhaustive litany of depressing information with which I was already familiar. Capitalism is a bankrupt mythology no more rational than an organized religion and with even more inertia and power. Capitalism is the force that puts fingers in the ears of politicians regarding the obvious and immanent threat of extracting and burning any more fossil fuels than we’ve already extracted and burned. Corporate greenwashing is a hell of a pervasive thing. Oil companies are fucking evil. International climate initiatives have been toothless windbaggery for more than thirty years. International environmentalist organizations, by virtue of their size and need for funding, end up in the pockets of those same corporations, helping with the greenwashing, in some cases even helping with the fossil fuel extraction and burning. Geoengineering is a reckless, shortsighted, stupid idea. The technology to save us (solar) already exists, but the fingers-in-ears, hands-over-eyes capitalist mindset that controls all the money will continue to cock-block its implementation right up until it doesn’t matter anymore.

The depth and focus with which she runs through this litany is impressive and not without value in itself. Reading it I found myself looking back on my past environmentalist actions (solar panels, electric car, permaculture, LCRW 33) and deeming them pathetically inadequate. I found myself looking back at those environmentalist projects I’d left hanging (convincing my family to divest from fossil fuels, starting a nano-nonprofit) and feeling newly motivated to take them up again.

I was a little disappointed to find the book had been written in 2014 and not this instant, now. It indicts the Kyoto protocols, but doesn’t cover the Paris climate agreement. There’s a chapter called No Messiahs: The Green Billionaires Won’t Save Us, but it devotes itself to the ways in which Richard Branson has failed to live up to the promise he made in 2006 to be our Climate Savior™ rather than speculating about whether Elon Musk will fail equally spectacularly at same (luckily, I have the internet for that).

The real value of the book, though, I found in that remaining third, where Klein starts talking about WHAT IS TO BE DONE. The glib answer is revolution. The harder, unavoidable answer is widespread, individual, overwhelming personal commitment, fighting the hard legislative and activist fight, town by town, street by street, taking hard losses every step of the way but gritting through it because it’s that fucking important. The people on whose shoulders the solution squarely rests, unfair though it undeniably is, are the people who are being most hurt. Indigenous peoples whose livelihood is tied to the land. People whose drinking water has been fracked into flammability or poisoned by austerity corner-cutting. People who have to wear masks to go outside. Citizens of low-lying island nations about to disappear. Ranchers and farmers along the paths of pipelines. People who look out their windows every day and see and acknowledge the incredible, beautiful natural resources that will be destroyed if capitalism is allowed to keep on as it has. I count myself among that latter group. And I daresay if you’ve read this far, you do too.

And that’s the thing about Klein’s book, as it turns out: it’s not trying to convince anybody of anything they didn’t already believe. I doubt anybody not on the environmentalist bandwagon could even manage to get through it. What it’s trying to do is galvanize those of us who do believe, to show us the facts, in exhaustive detail, and point to the painfully obvious conclusion some of us (yes, even me) are still shying away from: that it’s time to go all-in. Foot-dragging is not getting it done. Switching to reusable grocery bags is not getting it done. Giving money once a year to the NRDF is not getting it done. Waiting and hoping for the market to correct itself is sure as hell not getting it done.

We have maybe 35 years to get off fossil fuels completely or it isn’t going to matter anymore.

In the past, when something has gotten me this worked up about it, I have exhorted people to DO SOMETHING. I realize that’s no good anymore. It’s time to DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN.

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   Angry, Environmentalism, Reading | No Comments »

In the Woods Today: Will-o-Wisp

February 3rd, 2016

This one was too long for a tweet.

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Windy and warm in the woods today. Not like yesterday, when the wind shifted and died and came to life again and gusted in such a way that everywhere around me trees creaked and branches clattered and I could tell thereby that I wasn’t actually surrounded by distantly laughing children, barking dogs and shouting men even though that’s just what it sounded like. Not so today: a west wind, strong and steady. I biked out to this peninsula I like that sticks out into lake and swamp and hosts a half dozen huge old red oaks. Last year it suffered a brushfire, but the oaks survived. Aspens rise from the marshy ground to the west. I climbed my favorite oak. I heard a voice. Loud, not quite clear, but almost: “not my lake”, I thought I heard the first few times. No–the first few times I thought it was a pine tree creaking.

No kidding it’s not your lake, I thought, it’s everybody’s. Fuck off.

Then, maybe the tenth time, I heard “Caught my leg”, and then for the next twenty or so repetitions, clearer all the time. I stared across pond and marsh. It wouldn’t have done any good to yell–the wind was right in my face. I couldn’t see anyone. I scrambled down out of the tree and started into the marsh. Ice, that slickly clouded ice you only get when it’s been below freezing for weeks and then suddenly well above for three days straight. Twenty paces, no sign of anybody, I realize I am doing exactly what the will-o-wisp would want. His leg is stuck? What’s going to happen to me? So, temperately, but with a twinge that I’m abandoning some poor guy, I turn back. The shouts keep coming as I walk the quarter mile back to my bike. Keep yelling, I thought furiously at him, or I’m never going to find you, as I slogged through thick mud onto the west trail, a mile and a half clockwise around the marsh until I was on the far side of where I thought I’d heard him. I left my bike and plunged into thick brush. Now I was windward of him, so I started yelling. I followed deer trails, meandering all along the shore and out onto another little marshy peninsula I hadn’t known was there, then further out among the ice. I climbed another tree. I kept yelling, kept looking. I clung there in the tree, listening.

Nothing. Wind.

Rarely have I gotten so thorn-scratched and covered in muck for so little. Stupid will-o-wisp.

   Winter | No Comments »

My ConFusion 2016 Schedule: Political SF; Bespoke Libations

January 22nd, 2016

Tomorrow at 10 AM, I’ll be participating in this panel discussion at ConFusion:

Anthologies as Advocacy

All fiction is in some way political and science fiction and fantasy have a healthy tradition of anthologies that seek to open up space for new voices and new conversations. To what extent do an anthology’s political goals interact with other editorial considerations? And how are such books received and reviewed by the field — both politically, and aesthetically?

Michael J. DeLuca, Yanni Kuznia, Mari Brighe, Kelley Armstrong (M), Michael Damian Thomas

Doubtless I will mention this:

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And maybe this:

And lots of other things, for which I have a bunch of notes. Come on by, it’ll be great.

Then, later, 8 PM that very night, I will be doing this:

Beer Lovers Meet Up

Bring a bottle of your favorite or unusual brew to share with fellow beer lovers in this casual meetup in the consuite.

Joel Zakem, Michael J. DeLuca, Scott H. Andrews, Jim Mann

And boy will there ever be unusual and favorite brew. I just packed the cooler; it contains such magics as Guatemalan chocolate smoked hot pepper stout, orange blossom cyser, two different vintages of spruce beer, two different vintages of mead, a wormwood old ale. And those are just the libations I made myself. Please come help us sample; I doubt we can drink it all ourselves.

Cheers!

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   Beer, Environmentalism, News, Science Fiction | No Comments »

Antlers

January 15th, 2016

Today drops the inaugural issue of Orthogonal SF: The War at Home, which features my story of technopagan populist revolution, “#Anon and the Antlers”. Yes, that’s a hashtag in the title. Yes, I did take leave of my senses a little. Not a little. That hashtag is the tip of the iceberg.

There’s not much I like more than a cautionary tale. This one starts with mad ambition, as I suppose cautionary tales tend to do.

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   Environmentalism, Realities, Writings | No Comments »

The Erl-King

January 6th, 2016

His eyes are quite green, as if from too much looking at the wood.

––Angela Carter, “The Erl-King”

   Quotes | No Comments »

Maize God’s Journey

December 21st, 2015


On a balmy, wet winter solstice necessitating raingear and waterproof clodhopping boots, Maize God prepares himself for a journey into the wilderness seeking his allies, the forest spirits.


Fox meets him at the standing stone; in memory of the ancestors, she offers wintergreen. Maize God has brought citrus.


They seek out Owl in the crooked tree by the marsh. “And what exactly do you expect this to accomplish?” she asks.


“We know it’s the humans who are really the problem. Nothing we do here is going to make a lick of difference until they quit mucking everything up. But Owl, we must still come together and mark the time like we always do.”


“Change is in the air, in the soil and the water, but isn’t it always? So let’s feast tonight and sing! How else can we be ready for the dawn when it comes?”


“Fair enough.”


At the sacred place under the ring of pines, Maize God prepares the offering fire. The three sit in contemplation, awaiting the appointed hour.

   Visions, Winter | No Comments »

The Fortean Forest

December 2nd, 2015

Freetown State Forest in Bristol County, MA: apparently it is full of weirdness. It’s in the middle of the Bridgewater Triangle, the Hockamock Swamp abuts it, the Dighton Rock museum is just across I95 on the Taunton River estuary. I’m not especially one for touring the apocryphal weirdness; there’s just so much actual, true weirdness to be had. But with exactly one afternoon available to me amid Thanksgiving to drag a few semi-unwilling members of my family out to some wilderness within range of SW Boston suburbs to celebrate not supporting the capitalist establishment on Black Friday, the Fortean forest was it.

Profile Rock

Profile Rock, Assonet, MA. I’m pretty sure that 1902 postcard on the Wikipedia page is completely wrong.

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Delightful incidental art on Joshua’s Mountain.

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Both of these appear on the same forked beech.

From Profile Rock, looking towards Dighton.

Not pictured: flooded, 350 year old foundations along Payne Rd; ugly, locked concrete building in the shape of a pair of octogonal spectacles which now encloses Dighton Rock; vast fields of solar farms; marina; deer; donkey; Wampanoag ghosts, bigfoot, pterodactyls.

   Fall, Visions | No Comments »

Fox Shapeshifter Dream

November 3rd, 2015

It started with me bugging out again, assembling supplies as I made my careful escape from civilization in the process of collapse.

Having escaped, I was sitting in the woods taking a breather and I saw a fox. It saw me. It was curious, it came over and turned out to be a Mayan kid in a leopard mask (not a jaguar mask) and then his whole family was with him and they all wanted to be friends and I was stumbling to remember my Spanish as they spoke to me in English.

   Dreams, Guatemala | No Comments »

About Those Solar Panels Now

November 2nd, 2015

Remember those solar panels I was all excited about back in January?

Remember those solar panels I was all excited about back in January?

I’ve had them up on my roof putting out clean energy for almost a year now. Eleven months ago today, I generated my first watt, and I’ve been meaning to post about it ever since. The trouble is, for the entirety of those eleven months, until this very morning, I was locked in bureaucratic battle with the electric company to get them inspected, signed off on and correctly wired into the billing system so I could actually benefit by them. That was frustrating. It was Kafkaesque. And it didn’t seem worth posting about until I actually had something to celebrate.

My first day's worth of power - Dec. 30, 2014

My first day’s worth of power – Dec. 30, 2014

Now, finally, I do. Here, then, is a bit of a roundup. This is the laughably short version. More to come, maybe, if you’re interested in the nitty gritty.

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   Angry, Environmentalism, Technomancy | No Comments »

The LCRW 33 Interviews: D. K. McCutchen: Star Stuff & Worm Meat

September 2nd, 2015

D. K. McCutchen is a Senior Lecturer for the UMass College of Natural Sciences. Lack of poetic DNA led to tale of low adventure & high science titled The Whale Road (Random House, NZ; Blake, UK), which earned a Pushcart nomination & a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book award. In a literary attempt to save the world, she’s now writing mostly scientifically accurate, sometimes erotic, gender-bender-post-apocalyptic speculative-fiction. The series begins with Jellyfish Dreaming—finalist for a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship. She lives on the Deerfield River with two brilliant daughters and a Kiwi, who isn’t green, but is fuzzy.

“Jellyfish Dreaming”, an excerpt from the above-mentioned novel of the same name, vies with Giselle Leeb’s “Ape Songs” for the weirdest dystopian future depicted in LCRW 33— a world of deserts and acidic oceans where humans and jellyfish are among the only things left alive, humans live off the jellyfish and are starting to become jellyfish themselves–it is also, disturbingly, the most plausible. For that reason I think this makes an excellent capstone in my series of contributor interviews (read them all here)

Settle in, friends. This one’s good.

Artwork © Tim Paulson

Artwork © Tim Paulson

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   Environmentalism, LCRW 33 | No Comments »