Shall We Nap?

Three years ago, in Switzerland, I read a book called Kill Anything That Moves, by Nick Turse, about civilian carnage in the Vietnam War. The author’s thesis is that Lieutenant Calley (infamous for his role in the Mai Lai massacre) was neither a renegade nor a “bad apple”; American military policy demanded, across the board, that its personnel kill as many Vietnamese as possible, whether those Vietnamese were involved in combat or not. Promotions – especially for generals and other higher ups – rode on body counts. So the more Vietnamese you killed, the more Vietnamese your men killed, the greater your chances of rising through the ranks. Continue reading

The Lottery, Writ Large

Engine Summer, by John Crowley, is one of those science fiction books that doesn’t read like science fiction. The world of the story is so real, so plausible, so tied to our current troubles, that it seems begotten not made.

Early in the tale, the protagonist, a boy named Rush That Speaks, leaves his cozy, low-tech enclave to go on an adventure with Seven Hands, his father. After walking for a while, the two gain a height from which Rush catches his first glimpse of Road. Disused for many years (decades, if not centuries), Road has cracked and crumbled, given way to trees and shrubs. No one has driven a motor vehicle in living memory; the technology needed to do so has been intentionally destroyed. Thanks to anthropogenic catastrophe, the Earth holds far fewer humans than it once did.

Staring down at this strange and wondrous ribbon, Rush asks Seven Hands, “What was it…for?” Continue reading

Deliver Us, Lord, from Cracks in Our Story

I’m inclined, when I hear the words “save the Earth,” to (roll my eyes and) replace “the Earth” with “our asses.” Why? Because, as the saying goes, “Mother Nature bats last.”

Yes, we’ve done plenty of harm to our source, and could do plenty more – but she will wipe us out, with fire and flood, drought and famine, long before we reach the point of threatening her existence. We need her to survive; without us, she’d do fine. Go ahead and recycle, eat local, ride a bike – but admit that what’s at stake is not the planet itself, but our precarious perch thereon. Continue reading

Waste Management = Corporate Welfare

Briefly, last summer, I had a gig requiring me to pick up litter, and sort trash from recycling, at a local park. One morning, as I was hunting detritus, a man in a car slowed to say, his mouth atwist, “People are slobs, right?” I half-smiled, didn’t reply. Once he’d driven off, I realized why agreement hadn’t leapt from my mouth: It’s not people who are slobs, it’s corp(se)orations. Continue reading

If Men Cleaned the World

The bathroom sink in the last Brooklyn apartment I lived in had a flat bottom. This meant that I received no help from gravity, when coaxing debris down the drain. The sink was designed to be sleek and sexy – it was not designed to be easy to clean. I’ve yet to encounter a home with this value built in.

I lay the blame on a gender divide: Most people who design homes – including furniture, appliances, and the like – are men; most people who clean said homes are women. Continue reading