The city filled with flags proclaims
its puffed-up patriotism
the billowed colors clamoring
for adoration, for awe.
The crest of a cardinal catches
my eye instead, my loyalty pledged
to saving it, to a future of
scarlet feathers brightening trees.
A constellation of white wood
anemones on the creek’s bank
garners my allegiance, my hope
for beauty in the years to come.
The first blueberries of the year
bring with them a taste of wonder
and a wish for a republic
filled with enough fruit for all.
Tomatoes, roses, rainbow stripe,
great whales, clean snow, and polar bears,
blue morpho butterflies, clear skies –
all things for which I take a stand.
-Ida Bettis Fogle, 2018
I’m sure I will still wear my red, white and blue as I usually do on July 4th. I will not miss my city’s fireworks display. And I still find things to celebrate about our country.
But I wrote this poem because I feel that patriotism lately is being overtaken by nationalism, and that too many people — especially those who are positioned to really do something about the environment — are more interested in immediate personal gain, while not looking at the big picture.
Last evening, I had the privilege of attending a free talk by Bill McKibben, a leading experts on climate change. He authored one of the first books on the topic to be written for a lay audience. The End of Nature was published in 1989. McKibben is also one of the founders of 350.org. Click the link to see what they’re about.
I want to share my take-aways from what I heard last night.
- Time is short. Our window of opportunity to act is closing. We have to make big changes as quickly as possible.
- The silver lining to the above point is that scientists have figured out what we need to do. (Mostly, stop using fossil fuels.) It’s a matter of actually doing it.
- Oil companies knew about climate change and how bad it would be back in the 1970s and 80s, but they kept it quiet while redesigning all of their offshore rigs to withstand changes in sea level and sea chemistry. (Steam is still coming out my ears.)
- McKibben believes we need to focus more on policy change than on personal lifestyle changes. If you can’t influence the federal government, then work on your state or city government. Urge universities and retirement funds to divest from oil companies. I get his point that the changes we need to make are so large and the time so short that we can’t reach our goal with only personal lifestyle changes done one person at a time. But I believe he downplayed the importance of it a little too much. One person can influence others and show them it’s possible to live differently, to help overcome resistance to change. One example — many folks in my neighborhood have planted milkweed in the past few years and I saw many more monarchs this summer than I have in recent years.
- Organize! McKibben gave many examples of average citizens from many countries, races and economic strata joining together to stop environmental destruction. He showed us a photo of a group of kayakers preventing an oil tanker from leaving dock, as one example.
- Older people should take risks to save the future for the next generations. If you’ve already got a successful career behind you, be the one willing to go to jail instead of a younger person who has more to lose by it. He practices what he preaches, by the way, having been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
- Don’t spend too much time and energy arguing with climate change skeptics. “Don’t ruin Thanksgiving dinner” because some folks are resistant to information and will never change their minds. McKibben said he has two standard responses to climate change skeptics. “I hope you’re right” or “You may not believe in climate change, but it believes in you.”
- 70% of people do believe in climate change and the need to reverse it. Focus your energies on spurring the believers to action.
I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so thinking about what else I can do. I decided my next step will be adding my name to those calling for our local university to divest from fossil fuel companies. Let’s hurry and save the world, y’all!
I didn’t get to attend our city’s Earth Day celebration today because I was working. However, I have managed not to use a car all day. I walked to work. It’s not far, so I don’t save a lot of driving miles in one round-trip. On the other hand, I walk almost every time I go to work and I’ve had the same employer for nine years. It does add up. I figure at least 1,600 car miles displaced in that amount of time.
I’m continuing my effort to live a more environmentally friendly life by making one change at a time. Here are the steps I’ve taken since last Earth Day:
Reusable coffee filter. One of those things that pays for itself eventually. No more paper filters.
Reusable coffee filter in action.
LED light bulbs. They’re much more energy-efficient than compact fluorescents, and contain no heavy metals. Also, they’re supposed to last longer – the package advertises 18 years. We’ll see. They’re still pretty expensive, so we’re replacing bulbs gradually, as they burn out.
Our new lighting.
Mesh produce bags.
I’ve been using canvas grocery bags for quite a while. But I was still tearing off the plastic bags from the rolls in the produce aisles at the grocery store when I wanted to buy a bunch of spinach or several apples. Now I have these. They weigh next to nothing, so they’re not running up the price on fruit and vegetables by the pound.
Mesh produce bag
No single one of these things is a huge change. But I hope, as with the walking, over the years it will add up enough to make a significant positive difference.
Next goal – a rain barrel or two.