Facing Down Year Zero on Climate Action

| 12/26/2012 4:10:47 PM

Tags: Climate Change, Activism, Occupy Sandy, 350.org, Do the Math, Fracking, Divestment, TomDispatch, Rebecca Solnit.,

Rebecca Solnit As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about 350.org’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Rebecca Solnit is the author of 15 books, including two due out next year, and a regular contributor to TomDispatch.com. She lives in San Francisco, is from kindergarten to graduate school a product of the once-robust California public educational system, and her book A Paradise Built in Hell is the One City/One Book choice of the San Francisco Public Library this fall. She was named an Utne Visionary in 2010  

As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise -- but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair. 

Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger. This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms. 

For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us -- the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small -- to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species. 

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to. This means we are losing crucial aspects of our most irreplaceable, sublime gift, and some of us are suffering the loss now -- from sea snails whose shells are dissolving in acidified oceans to Hurricane Sandy survivors facing black mold and bad bureaucracy to horses starving nationwide because a devastating drought has pushed the cost of hay so high to Bolivian farmers failing because the glaciers that watered their valleys have largely melted. 

This is not just an issue for environmentalists who love rare species and remote places: if you care about children, health, poverty, farmers, food, hunger, or the economy, you really have no choice but to care about climate change.  

1/11/2013 6:21:23 PM

Why doesn`t the author bring up the subject of human over population? Seems to me we can not keep ignoring that issue. If you connect the dots as she says we ought to then addressing human over population in connection with climate action, must be on the table. I found her article rambling and she could have edited out about 1/2 of it with the same message coming across.

santussika bhikkhuni
1/2/2013 9:30:25 PM

Dear Rebecca, For all the reasons you've mentioned, I'm committed to joining 350.org and the Sierra Club in the demonstration in D.C. to stop the Keystone XLP on Feb 17, 2013. It sounds like something you might be interested in doing, too. As a Buddhist nun, traveling from the SF Bay Area, I cannot go alone. Maybe you would like to go together. It might offer you a perspective that you haven't fully experienced as yet. -- You can contact me through the following website: www.compassionmonastery.weebly.com

gary shapiro
12/31/2012 9:48:10 PM

I feel no need to question your political skepticism. But shrinking our fossil fuel footprint is not a technological problem, it's a people-power problem. Countries other than USA have made progress that can show us at least part of the way. Look at what Germany has done and is doing, for example, and their solar exposure is way less than the USA's.

garald robbins
12/31/2012 3:58:11 PM

No action is possible on such complex issues as global warming, even from a willing administration, without incredible pressure from the masses; read YOU and ME, plus everyone else we can enlist to help with positive national action. We ALL must be the ones who demand meaningful action to stop the destruction of our environment. All of the world’s nations have agreed that a 2°C increase in temperature is the maximum we can permit, without devastatingly negative effects on our environment, and the future potential for human life on this planet. We’re already approaching this limit. We, the people, MUST push for, and demand, meaningful action at the national level. Check out the incredible article that appeared in the July 19, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, written by 350.org founder, Bill McKibben. (www.rollingstone.com/globalwarmingsterrifying new math) In the article, Bill laid out the simple math: “we can burn less than 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.” Check for details on the 350.org web site for a national march on the White house, on February 17th, to push for positive action on the environmental front in general, more specifically, opposing the addition of unacceptable levels of CO₂ to the atmosphere, and very specifically the refusal to allow the Keystone XL pipeline construction which, if constructed, would carry some of the dirtiest (most polluting) oil on the planet. PLEASE TAKE SOME POSITIVE ACTION RIGHT NOW, AND JOIN US ON FEBRUARY 17TH, IN WASHINGTON, DC, then continue to participate in a movement that will make very positive differences for our own future, and for generations to come.

12/31/2012 3:37:22 PM

Your comment contains nothing but fear inducing rhetoric. Did you have a constructive suggestion or comment, or should the community disregard you as nothing more that a dissentive troll?

michael murray
12/31/2012 3:06:30 PM

What a simplistic fool you are. Oh, the "Arab Spring" has certainly worked out well alright. HEARD OF Benghazi? How about Egypt... where the Muslim Brotherhood now has F-16's and M-1 tanks? Lincoln "the great emancipator" also (like FDR) ignored the constitution. He suspended habeas corpus, arrested legislators, newspapermen, and citizens and held them without trial. He confiscated private property without due process (as is done regularly by this government). "Today, we need to give up on, or at least radically reduce our reliance on, another set of power sources: oil, coal, and natural gas." Really? TODAY? Where will you get the electricity to power your laptop? How many will die when the lights and the farm equipment shuts down? We might do fine with wind power if we could harness the hot air from people like you.There are so many more examples of pie-in-the-sky crap in your article I will not even waste my time to mention them.