Tag Archives: climate emergency

Time to Focus on Lifeboats

We launch this twelfth DP navigation with the most consequential graphic visualization of our prevailing crisis, vividly depicting increases in global surface temp between the years of 1880 and 2021.

 

TIME TO THINK ABOUT LIFEBOATS

The notion of a “desperado philosophy” descends from the plight of Melville’s imagined Pequod, in the midst of its own environmental catastrophe, an experience recorded by sole survivor Ishmael, saved by the “life buoy” of Queequeg’s handcrafted coffin. Queequeg, whose inscribed body was itself a kind of novel, recording the distant past and destiny of his own people.

The practice of desperado philosophy, or some may call it a vocation, requires that we remain calm even in the midst of the most violent riptides. Yes, the ship may be foundering on the rocks of our own past navigational errors; yet we know that panic will only make the situation worse.

Switching metaphors, though we agree with Greta Thunberg that we must act like our house (or ship) is on fire; that does not mean we should trample each other to death on the way to the exits, or scratch & claw over lifejackets.

As climate emergency deepens, whether expressed through the slow violence of drought and famine or through more dramatic phenomena such as bomb cyclones and wildfires, let’s stop focussing on the sinking Titanic and focus on the vibrant creativity required for the design, construction and sustenance of viable lifeboats, by which we mean community-scaled projects with a focus on resilience, skill-building, local self-reliance and climate adaptation.

To those who object that a focus on lifeboats sounds like doom & gloom, we respond: no, doom & gloom is NO lifeboats. 

This year, we will be posting less frequently, likely closer to a monthly rather than weekly rhythm. Each post will feature a “lifeboat” that we believe is worthy of close consideration for DP reader support and even replication. Given the scale of the challenges, there is no limit on how many lifeboats we will need.

In the end, some may work better than others, yet there is no way to make that evaluation in advance.

Some lifeboats may be eminently practical; others may focus on psychological preparation or spiritual resilience. All will play their part in years to come, above all for younger generations whose lifetimes will unfold and evolve within the context of environmental crisis and the unparalleled creative opportunity of conceiving new ways to live in harmony with the whole of life on our miraculous planet.

As always, we rely upon you, our DP community of readers, to guide this voyage. If you know of lifeboats in your own communities worthy of consideration and support, please send links.

We need to communicate, collaborate and co-create now more than ever before. Cheers to all for the year ahead; it promises to be another wild one.

 

 

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Ground Zero

This week, we listen once again to strong, uncompromising truth-speaking from Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee and a relentless advocate for her home ground.

In September 2021, Bernadette won the Sierra Club’s Changemaker Award. They wrote, “The Gwich’in Steering Committee is largely responsible for convincing every major US Bank to pledge not to fund projects that drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Refuge, making this a day-one issue for President Biden.”

Yet challenges in the region remain acute, as the climate crisis deepens and accelerates. Excerpts from a recent dialogue below, with images added by DP. 

 

 

 

 

 

DP verdict on COP27: an echo of COP26.

Blah, blah, blah. 

 

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All Hands On Deck

Now comes Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the novel Ministry for the Future, which has been making the rounds here at DP while the climate emergency becomes ever more acute, with increasingly dangerous consequences, not just for human communities, but for the whole of life on mother earth.

Below, a brief excerpt from a recent interview on the Bioneers website; the image, also relayed from Bioneers, links to Robinson’s excellent 2015 keynote address, even more relevant today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Conference of the Polluters

Now comes indigenous climate activist Tom Goldtooth with a few cogent observations following the opening days of COP26, as relayed from a recent interview. Images added by DP.

 

 

 

 

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Black Summer

Thanks to all who responded with such sacred rage and support for last week’s post, in which we amplified the voice of Amazonian indigenous leader Nemonte Nenquimo; this week we bend an ear to another voice that echoes Nenquimo in its urgency, yet from a different location in the Global South: Australia, following the horrific 2019-2020 burn season, known as “Black Summer”.

Now comes Joëlle Gergis, writing from the front lines of the deepening Climate Emergency in a recent essay, excerpted below. Images are relayed from the site of artist Giuseppe Licari, documenting an installation dating from 2016, titled Contrappunto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About his work, Licari writes:

My work explores the socio-economical, cultural and political practices that intervene on, and alter the form of contemporary natural landscapes around us. Subject both of science and art, the landscape functions both as a mirror and as a lens: in it we see the space we occupy and ourselves as we occupy it. With my work I abstract and re-interpret landscapes engaging in an open-ended investigation of transferring the physical experience of a territory away from the locus of its original existence via discrete or bold interventions.

My aim is to confront the public with nature’s omnipresence, creating new spaces of sensorial and social experiences. Intending to provide the audience with an active role in my work I use a variety of techniques and media, such as installations, performances, workshops and public art, to better address the needs of each idea. The heterotopic landscapes I create constitute places of memories in which the emotions of single individuals become inevitably part of a collective experience.

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Art Into Life

As wildfires continue their hungry devastation across California and Oregon, we have been re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a spare yet powerful novel that we have always thought of as an anticipatory documentary narrative, describing a near future now in the process of presenting itself.

A favorite passage:

 

 

NOTHING TO SEE

 

And the closing passage:

 

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The Wood Demon

Now comes faithful DP correspondent Jon Swan with a few Chekhovian thoughts on life in the pyrocene. Captions to widely circulating images added by DP.

 

TINY HOUSE FOR WOOD DEMONS

 

 

POOF

 

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Welcome to the Pyrocene

California wildfires once again remind us that the Climate Emergency is not something that happens in 2030 or 2050: the Climate Emergency is happening right now, and we are in the midst of its varied modes of contagion.

We turn to fire historian Stephen Pyne whose recently updated Fire: A Brief History is highly recommended to those who wish to understand how we arrived into an era he suggests we name the “pyrocene”.

Excerpts from an essay published during last year’s Season of Fire Siege below; images are from news accounts, with captions added by DP.

 

 

LITHIC LANDSCAPE AT FLASH POINT

 

 

CONTAGION UNMASKED WITHIN THE PYROCENE

 

 

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Because They Were Here

Now comes Charles Homans with perceptive comments about the ever-expanding archive of online wildfire videos. The entire essay is worth close consideration. Brief excerpts below, with images from the remarkable video at the heart of his observations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Pliny’s second letter to Tacitus, we read:

“Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood.’Let us leave the road while we can still see,’I said,’or we shall be knocked down and trampled underfoot in the dark by the crowd behind.’We had scarcely sat down to rest when darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.

You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.

There were people, too, who added to the real perils by inventing fictitious dangers: some reported that part of Misenum had collapsed or another part was on fire, and though their tales were false they found others to believe them. A gleam of light returned, but we took this to be a warning of the approaching flames rather than daylight. However, the flames remained some distance off; then darkness came on once more and ashes began to fall again, this time in heavy showers. We rose from time to time and shook them off, otherwise we should have been buried and crushed beneath their weight. I could boast that not a groan or cry of fear escaped me in these perils, but I admit that I derived some poor consolation in my mortal lot from the belief that the whole world was dying with me and I with it.”

 

WE DID NOT LIVE TO TELL THE TALE