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inspirations for change

caleb.eckert's picture

I’m somewhat in the same boat as both Maddie and Elizabeth Kolbert: it’s good to hear that more people are catching on to the crux of our situation, but what then? When we stop talking about things and praising the good work of others, can we so quickly remind ourselves that we're all implicated, go home, and turn on the television?

Kolbert wants Klein to detail more about how we might disengage in the current fossil fuel-run systems long embedded in national and global societies. Kolbert is quite frustrated with Klein’s lack of a play-by-play, how she “avoids looking at all closely at what [reducing carbon emissions] would entail.” Evidently, this has also been the kind of language put out by other environmental groups: if you just turn off your lights and recycle more, we’d all be okay. I’m curious about what kind of figures we might look to for inspiration for radical change (or “conservative” change in the conservation sense, as Terry Tempest Williams writes it), and what kinds of massive shifts will we first need to undertake? It seems, for both the system and individual, that we need a big reawakening to what, centrally, makes life worth living. There are other ways of being in this world. Rather than plodding along and trying to stop our eroding islands—filled with too much stuff, too much stress, too little time, and too little authenticity—I think it’s time we—I—risked everything and trusted in the gift of letting go. Letting go of material wealth, competition, popularity, the appearance of busyness—these ever-pervasive infections of so-called "progress." I think about how I might restructure my life around others, mutual exchange, and living communally (especially in college—I have high hopes for the Bricolage). Because these values are central to how we interact with and value life itself. So—who shall we look to? What kind of life is worth living?

It’s no three-step plan for saving the world, nor do I think there is one. That’s too neat and tidy. Calling into question the entire way we relate, judge, value, and live never should be simple. Aren’t we supposed to be aware, observant, and uncompromising for what we feel and know to be wrong? Klein writes, “[W]e will not win the battle for a stable climate by trying to beat the bean counters at their own game… We will win by asserting that such calculations are morally monstrous, since they imply that there is an acceptable price for allowing entire countries to disappear, for leaving untold millions to die on parched land, for depriving today’s children of their right to live in a world teeming with the wonders and beauties of creation” (p. 464).

On another note: I appreciated Kolbert’s mentioning of Klein’s “regeneration” (though she seemed to quickly disparage it). This regeneration sounds similar to Eli Clare’s notion of restoration—rather than an a problematic “cure,” we ask to restore independence, interdependence, relationships, a “right” and meaningful way of being. Could climate change be a sort of restoration? If so, what might we be restoring/regenerating ourselves into?