Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We're Gonna Win

The report from day six of landscaping is that there are a lot of weeds out there. They grow around the ornamental flowers, in the cracks of the sidewalks, up through the bark mulch. Insidious, a pain in the ass, unsightly, unplanned, and more successful than any other planting.

Life, like the truth will out, it seems. The weeds are set up to thrive, biologically, hurling their seedlings everywhere and growing crazy, snarled, impossible to eradicate roots. By and large, the beautiful annuals that are set in these decorative gardens are not capable of reproduction. Ergo, the humble would seem like the winners, the flowers the also rans.

That is the life. Here is the truth: we’re gonna win. Scratch that: we’re winning. We, the people who think that there is a better life possible than the socially isolating and climatically destructive model largely foisted off on us by mass-marketed ideals of cultural norm. You know, we, us, the “alternative,” Blue State, liberal hippy nerds.

I’d be among the first to agree that we’re not doing enough, that the world is more dangerously close everyday to a complete and utter meltdown. The increasing temperature of the ocean is now melting Antarctica from below, leading me to believe that rather than pick fire or ice as the end of the world, we may just get both. Additionally, this country’s government seems to be increasingly corrupt and asinine and unpleasant every day, and hell-bent on making a country full of rancorous, paranoid citizens who can have access to crazy guns, but perhaps less access to education and healthcare and the privacy of a telephone call, and who are managed like cattle on a strict diet of fossil fuels.

So, yes, I agree that there are some problems with the world. Often, I get so overwhelmed by the weight of all the troubles I see the world as having that I can’t figure out how or why to get out of bed, or, once up, what in the name of all that is holy, I should do with my day, with my life, in terms of mitigating the rather daunting ills of it all. Days like that, it seems that the news cycle is taunting the good people of the world that we’re all going to lose, that there is no point in going on, that the game is rigged, over, and we should just tuck in, move to higher ground, and prepare to ride out the Apocalypse.

I don’t believe that. In pockets and corners of communities, I’m finding increasing signs of life, of evidence that we are winning, that the handbasket to hell is being actively unwoven. It’s not that we’ve won, it’s that we’re moving in the right direction. I thought of this while walking from my parents’ house to the local ice cream store. Twenty years ago, the property was an active dairy. Then the farmers decided to stop farming (I hear it’s exhausting). The land was put into conservation protection, and now the ice cream store, nature trails, a corn maze, petting zoo of farm animals, a CSA, an independent middle school, and a community meeting space all share the turf, along with a few cows still browsing around the fields. This is an amazing step in the right direction!

One of the problems with the current environmental/social “Save the World” movement is that we don’t celebrate our successes well. Admittedly, the task before us is Sisyphian, and it seems bad luck and premature to throw a party for every few inches we nudge that rock upslope. It’ll be better if we can, though. This is a movement of passion, of joy, of wanting to save places and traditions and things we love in our lives. I think using that as a starting point may be a better rallying cry and battle song than fear and doom and destruction.

I attended a letter writing party last night, put on by the Massachusetts branch of  ( As a small group, clustered in the corner of a basketball court on the third floor of a Baptist church, we wrote letters to State legislators, begging them to support divestment. In inviting friends to come along, I had an interesting exchange with one friend. He asked, if—as he believes—investments by outsiders is the smallest third of the fossil fuel companies, then what was the purpose or expected success of pressuring schools and towns and churches and any institution that can to divest from fossil fuel interests.

This was my answer:
“I like that the Fossil Fuel divestment plan stems from the Anti-Apartheid movement. It's high time for social and environmental movements to merge, and that modeling this strategy on something that worked, rather than on continuing to have the Sierra Club lobby against Exxon in Congress is likely a better solution. Or at least, a better path towards a solution. 
And here is the other piece: it's easy to grasp, it's easy to target, and so, it's easy to get people involved. We're, most of us I think, wandering around feeling lonely and frustrated and scared and unsure about what we can each do, what tiny drop in the bucket will one individual's actions make. I see divestment as a way to both get some money out of fossil fuels, and to rally the fuck out of the base. I don't know what solutions and changes will come out of all this rallying, all this sharing of ideas and the partial erasure of loneliness, but I trust, very much, that something will. 
If we can use the new, climatically empowered communities built around divesting and then start to knock out shit like government subsidies and increase fuel and energy efficiency and advocate for better public transportation and community design and all the rest that we need, then that seems like a good enough start to get behind. For me, at least. I'm feeling very Churchillian about this: Divestment is not the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning. But! There is so much worth sticking out a long battle FOR!!!!!”

I used to have a scrap of paper over my desk that read “What would you do if the world were saved?” I lost it, but have absorbed the idea into my litany of personal pep talks when the boulder gets heavy and the mountain steep and I become frustrated and heartbroken and terrified by what still needs to be done. We spend a lot of time hunkering down, trying to both prevent and prepare for the worst. In doing so, it seems like we’re admitting defeat, which I fear may beget defeat. But, in some ways, we’re already doing so well! It's important that we take note of that, absorb and feed off our successes. I think of the weeds, unstopped by pavement or transplanting or crowding out by showier species. So, let’s start acting like we CAN win this. And then, let’s.

(Video is from A League of Their Own, obviously.)

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