“If we ruin the earth, there is no place else to go.
The world need not resemble Venus very closely for it to become barren and lifeless. It may not take much to destabilize the earth’s climate, to convert this heaven, our only home in the cosmos, into a kind of hell.”
– Carl Sagan, Cosmos, PBS series, 1990
Skip to about 50 minutes in to hear about climate change.
In the late seventies, when the Cosmos series first appeared on PBS, I loved listening to Carl Sagan speak. I was disheartened and feeling helpless after watching the episode, “Heaven and Hell.” I wished Dr. Sagan would shut up about the climate and just talk about the stars. But the end of the series, I understood that he was talking to me.
President Obama speaks on climate change.
In the early eighties, I took several semesters of earth science college classes. I also worked at the United States Geological Survey as a technician for paleontologist Bonnie Murchey, who has since worked on teams studying climate change. I called her a perhaps a year ago. I asked her what scares her most, societies running out of fossil fuel and collapsing, or humans polluting the earth and making it unlivable. She answered, “climate change.” She said that once the climate is gone, our ability to produce food is gone. Sadly, she told me, her papers were rewritten by Republican appointees during those administrations.
No one wants to go to Jail. Least of all me.
Today, writing this, It feels as though the climate disaster is now hopeless. It feels as though the point of no return has long since flown past us. However, there may be outcomes that I cannot fathom. So, I am doing everything that I can to become an advocate for our earth. The earth will survive humankind whether or not we survive ourselves.
The president made a speech earlier this month. He spoke of programs that he plans to put into place to prepare for rising seas. Unfortunately, climate change will impact economically disenfranchised people and third world nations first. But don’t be naive. No one will escape its effects. The next time you see someone under fifteen years old, look at that person and realize that by the time he or she is my age, there will be no ice caps, and that Grand Lake area, the lovely district where I live, will either be under water or behind man made sea walls.
One of the ways to help the earth is to eat locally produced food. I pulled up the ornamental succulents growing in front of my apartment. I now grow zucchini, collards, herbs, potatoes and cantaloupe. If you pull up your lawn and grow food, as a growing number of people in Oakland are doing, you will be doing a small but significant part to lower your carbon footprint. This will also make you more resilient to the effects of climate change and the economic instability that climate change and fuel shortages cause. By the time that young person you imagined is my age, it is possible that they will not be able to grow vegetables in their yard in Oakland, because Oakland’s climate will be unable to support a climate hospitable to cantaloupes. The down side is if you are the first person in your community to do this, your neighbors will think you are odd.
I don’t want ecological disaster to be true now any more than I wanted it to be true when I was a young person hearing this for the first time. I don’t want to go to protests and be arrested. No one does. I am not doing any of this lightly or frivolously, or because I have nothing else better to do. My actions are the result my knowing that Carl Sagan was talking to me when I was only wanting to hear about the stars, and the culmination many things that I have learned since then.
I do want to do everything possible to save our future, the future that lies beyond my lifetime. If we destroy ourselves and our society, the earth will repair itself, as it has millions of years on its side. I suppose I am fighting because I believe that our species is worth fighting for. I’m toying with the notion that we have yet to evolve into a species worth saving, worth living out its time as it is meant to be lived. Maybe I want to know that underneath our many failings, that beneath our capacity for indifference, apathy, hatred and greed, we have yet to realize that we are spiritual beings on a journey to discover that we are here in the name of something higher, something within us that we have yet to imagine.
Grace Lee Boggs and Bill Moyers on Non-violence
Join me on August 3rd at the Richmond BART station. At 9:30 Idle No More, a group of Native Americans, will bless the day of protests. I will read one of my poems at BART between 10 and 10:30 am. The protesters will march to the Richmond oil refinery. Bill McKibben will be there. I plan on getting arrested in an act of non-violent civil disobedience.
I have the 350.org movie called “Do The Math,” that I may show sometime in the next few weeks. It explains the current crisis. Contact me or leave a reply if you are interested. You can also find a local screening by clicking here.
Tim DeChristopher, climate activist, and Bill Moyers
The organizers of the protests have made accommodations for children. I urge you to bring them. They have an easier chance of waking up. Peace. Out.