I Heart “the Environment”

The phrase “the environment” makes me gag. Why?

Here’s a puppet example: “Let’s cover a million square miles of desert with solar panels! It’ll help the environment.” What’s wrong with this picture?

First, the picture frames “the environment” as optional. We can “help” it or not – we choose. And “helping” doesn’t involve radical rediscovery of who we are, or deep reassessment of how we live – it means (can mean) implementing yet another industrial megaproject that fits in with business (monetization of the commons) as usual. Continue reading


“Development” as Home-icide: Cover Your Eyes

I’ve been reading Derrick Jensen’s semi-memoir, A Language Older Than Words. In a chapter called “Seeking a Third Way,” he describes making a comment at a public meeting that breaks “the basic commandment of our culture: Thou shalt pretend there is nothing wrong.” Later, in “The Goal Is the Process,” he ponders what to name the people responsible for destroying the forest near his home, so they can build houses. His dictionary, he says, “defines develop as to cause to become gradually fuller, larger, better” – which is not what happens when a thriving – albeit non-human – community is replaced with a monocrop of petro-cement apartment blocks. I too have struggled with this question; when I dare, I replace “develop” with “monetize” – knowing I’m breaking the social consensus, yet loath to let the easier, falser word constrict my throat. Continue reading

It Takes a Village to Raise a Dictator

I am hearing fears of fascism, in relation to the election of Tronald Dump. (Don’t you love a good spoonerism? Me, too!) Some seem to believe that he can destroy (what’s left of) our liberty all by himself. But: Fascism requires foot soldiers. Like, lots of them. Where will they come from? Will President Dump hire Russian mercenaries? Start a cloning program (as the South does in The Fifth Sacred Thing) to produce androids without family or empathy? Not likely. Chances are, if he wants to assume dictatorial powers, he’ll need to rely on millions of reg’lar ’muricans. People just like – I mean, not at all like – you and me. Continue reading

The First Step Is Admitting Civilization Is the Problem

It’s Wednesday morning – our first in our new apartment. I’ve found the morning sunshine; it’s right where I’d been planning – am still planning – to put my desk. I am grateful for this sunshine. It is simple, it is sweet. It’s a thing I discount, when I stare at my screen and plot how I’ll make it in industrial civilization.

Reading liberal responses to Trump’s election, I keep feeling this visceral no. No, you’re not going deep enough. No, I won’t help you cling to your delusions. No, the carnage did not abate under Obama, and would proceed apace even if millions of petition signers were to get the electoral college to break rank for Hillary. Continue reading

A Killer Career

Last Thursday evening, I attended a Veterans’ Day event at the Harvard Club in New York City. It started with renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (for which I remained seated, heart racing, in defiance of the moderator’s request that we stand, figuring that now is as good a time as any to practice resisting repulsive commands), “’Tis the Gift to Be Simple” (did the singer know that Quakers are pacifists?), and “Someone to Watch Over Me” (whether you take it as a woman’s paean to her future husband, or a nation’s wish for a killer dictator, cf. some lyrics I wrote in the run-up to the 2008 election – “Life’s so much better here behind the wire/I didn’t mind riding in the cattle car/Food is cheap and gas is free/And you are watching over me” – this song is creepy); the main attraction was a speech by a brigadier general in the U.S. Army who’s done multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by a Q&A. Continue reading

It’s Our Party, We’ll Squawk If We Want To

I’m feeling a lump of opinion rise within me, in relation to the election. Yet I’m not sure if it’s really the election I want to write about. I believe that’s too narrow a frame.

What I want to write about is agency. And looking out, not up.

When I imagine people in relation to president, I see a brood of three hundred million hungry chicks, squawking up at mama-bird on a high branch – mama-bird who builds us shelter, brings us food. Each time we vote, we have the chance to join our squawks in a foghorn roar, too loud for mama-bird to ignore. Continue reading

Angry? Sad? Depressed? It’s Dandelion Time.

At about three-thirty this morning, my lamp toppled onto my bedstead and woke me. I was pissed. I could not go back to sleep. Also I wondered: Is this waking a gift?

About ten hours later, I’m saying it is. Why? Because I finished my paid writing work shortly after eight, which meant I was able to sit outside in the sun and drink maté with Gregg, while grumbling about Dollary Clump; then get my laundry done and hung on the line in time for it to dry by dusk (I hope); then return to my desk after five hours’ absence – the longer the break, the clearer the head. If not for the fallen lamp, I would not be writing this. Thank you, lamp. Continue reading