We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Baked In

Lughnasa                                                                      Kate’s Moon

earth first“Earth rapidly is approaching the point where the amount of warming locked in by human pollution exceeds the limits nations set last year at the international climate meeting in Paris, according to government-backed research unveiled Monday.

The planet faces “committed warming” by 2.7 degrees before 2100 if fossil fuels are burned at current rates for another 15 years, the scientists based in Colorado and Germany determined.”   Denver Post 7/31/2017

When I took a serious Climate Change MOOC three years ago, the scientists who taught in the course referred to this committed warming as baked in. It was clear three years ago that the attempt to limit warming to 2 degrees would fail for two reasons. One, that amount is baked in by the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere. Second, the rate of emissions continues to grow overall, not stabilize or decline.*

dark ecologySo there is not only the Donald to wreak havoc with the future, but the already emitted carbon dioxide and other gases like methane.

Yes, we need to make clear to any who will listen that these are the facts, not the fake news of our current government or self-interested fossil fuel barons. And, yes, we need to work toward as much mitigation of emissions and their effects as we can. But. We also need to face the coming changes as they will be and, even, as they probably will be, worse than we imagine.

This means taking a doubled view into the world with us. The first view sees what we can do now as necessary, as critical, yet realizes the messiness of global politics is not going to push over the line to sensible policy. The second view absorbs the first and sees the future clearly rather than through solar powered/wind energized eyes. It’s going to be bad, probably not too bad for those of us with less than thirty years to go in our remaining lifespan, but for our children and their children? Bad, trending to worse.

beltane2017gorbachevHow can we work now to help them be resilient, proactive in their adaptive strategies? How can we work now to help them develop psychological/spiritual tools for coping with the cultural stresses that are inevitable? We cannot brush away the bad effects by magical thinking. Oh, the world will catch on and act in time. No, it won’t and it hasn’t. We need sober work on how to live with changed weather, increased heat, moving targets for animals and crops in terms of altered seasons, the disruptions of sea level rise, spread of insect borne diseases and the like.

This doubled view, pragmatic when looking at the long run, yet hopeful enough to maintain action in the short term, is critical so that we do what we can now, yet plan realistically for our next generation’s life.

*“The annual growth rate has increased since record keeping began in 1960 from just under 1 ppm in the 1960s to more than 2.4 ppm through the first half of the 2010s. The past two years have set a record for the fastest annual growth rate on record.”  Climate Central.org

Base Instincts

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

2000_Year_Temperature_ComparisonI wish I thought it was cynicism, the gratuitous act of a calculating politician, this latest, perhaps species’ ending decision. “I’m deciding for the citizens of Pittsburgh, not the citizens of Paris.” I wish I didn’t think it was a faulty mind at work, but I do. By faulty in this case I mean stupid. Trump may not be I.Q. stupid, though I don’t imagine he’s top of the class, but he’s unlearned, uninquisitive and lacks critical thinking skills. This is the functional equivalent of stupidity.

He seems to have base instincts (a political pun, intended) which he marries to advice from people who have ideological blinders he doesn’t understand. He clearly loves being the decider so he takes in certain streams of information, then chooses what he believes will Make America Great. What will put America First. In this case, as in so many others, he doesn’t seem to understand that the U.S.A. is no longer, if it ever was, separate from the world as a whole.

GOP-Oil-Above-AllClimate change does not care about boundaries. It does not care if you’re a resident of Paris, Pittsburgh, Timbuktu or Katmandu. The rain, as the proverb goes, falls on the just and the unjust. So with a ratcheting up of the earth’s temperature. Trump thinks he’s putting Pittsburgh ahead of Paris when what he’s really doing is pitting this generation against the next, saying that this one deserves more attention than the next. There is no hint, none at all, of seven generations thinking in his choices. Today is all that matters. Right here in the U.S.A. is all that matters. Right here in the U.S.A. all that matters is the effect on my base. (which he badly misreads, by the way)

He sees the fate of the white working class and the fate of America’s energy corporations tied together, a grim marriage and one doomed to fail and in its failure to scour humanity from the planet. So much for a sustainable future.

Outer, Inner

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

rumiOur next Sierra Club meeting will be on June 19th, one day before the summer solstice. Sierra Club work is paganism stripped bare of its mythic content. There is passion for sure, but not the poetry, no ritual, no inner work. It’s all outer work: hike, lobby, analyze, network, persuade. We may, for example, show the next Al Gore movie, Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. See trailer below.*

The work is good, necessary. It is even, as Thomas Berry said, the great work of our generation, but it often feels mechanical to me. Pull this lever. Have this meeting. Create this sign. Monitor Polymet. Call the governor. Write your Senator. Hike this trail. In its mechanistic form this does not feel like my love for our home, this earth, this planet, third rock from the sun.

tree_of_lifeSomehow I need to find a way for my inner work to imbue my outer work. Todd, a long-time member of the Mt. Evan’s local group to which I belong, talked about a hike he took yesterday in Reynold’s Park. He named a particular orchid that he found and his face lit up. “A bullsnake, too.” It may be that these folks, tied to the very local region encompassed by our borders, find their inner work in being on the trail, hiking Mt. Bierstadt, taking the Mt. Evan’s road, helping clear trail.

The hike I took at Flying J Ranch (see posts below) was shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Perhaps that’s a way to combine the inner work with the outer work. Or, perhaps I could follow the mussar notion of outer work affecting the inner work. Not sure. But, there is a need for me to more closely match my spiritual journey with this work. Maybe the mountain art notion will fit here, too. More to come.





Beltane                                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

Upper Maxwell Falls

Upper Maxwell Falls

I’ve found the Colorado equivalent of Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA’s). Here they’re called Colorado Designated Natural Areas. “Designated Natural Areas contain a wide representation of Colorado’s ra​re plants and animals, unique plant communities, rich fossil locations, and geological features.” I enjoyed visiting these areas in Minnesota. Sounds like they’re a little more diverse here. Road trip!

CNS and Social Change

Spring                                                                   New (Rushing Waters) Moon

book-coverToday I’m making chicken noodle soup and Kate’s making Vietnamese pho. We’ll serve this at a Beth Evergreen leadership dinner for Rabbi David Jaffe, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out, a Jewish Approach to Social Change. Along with our friend Marilyn Saltzman, chair of the adult education committee, who is making a vegetarian squash soup, we’ll provide the soups for a soup and salad meal. I really like this low key involvement. It feels manageable.

Although. I am hoping that Rabbi Jaffe’s time here at Beth Evergreen, tomorrow through Saturday as a visiting scholar, will spur the creation of an activist group focused on some form of response to the Trump/oligarch era. In that instance I’m willing to move into a more upfront role, though I would prefer to remain a follower.

Then, there’s the Sierra Club. I wrote here about my excitement with Organizing for Action, Conifer. That was back in January, I think. Lots of people, lots of energy. Good analysis. I thought, wow. Here’s my group. Then, I never heard from them again, my e-mails went unanswered. Weird, but true. Weird and disqualifying for a group that’s organizing political work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I renewed my effort to connect with the Mt. Evans’ local group of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. Colorado seems to work more through these regional clusters than as a whole. There are nine of them, covering the entire state. The Mt. Evans’ group includes our part of Jefferson County, Clear Creek County and a northern portion of Park County. It’s titular feature, Mt. Evans, is a fourteener (over fourteen thousand feet high) which has the highest paved road in North America leading to its summit. According to locals here it’s also the weathermaker for our part of Conifer.

I finally made it to a meeting a couple of weeks ago. When I came back, Kate said, “You seem energized.” I did. And, I hadn’t noticed. Something about that small group plugged me back into my reigning political passion of the last six or seven years: climate change. Oh, yeah. With OFA I’d tried to head back toward economic justice, my long standing motivation for political work, dating back to the UAW influences I picked up as a teenager in Alexandria. Guess the universe understood me better than I understood myself. Not much of a surprise there.

buy this here

buy this here

My mind began ticking over, running through organizing scenarios, figuring out how we could (note the we) raise the visibility of the Mt. Evans group, gain more members, influence local policy. This is my brain on politics. I might be willing to play a more upfront role here, too, though I want to explore other ways of being helpful first.

Anyhow, between these two, I’m sure I’ll get my political mojo working in some way. And that feels good. Want some soup?



Magnum opus

Imbolc                                                                            Valentine Moon

great workDon’t know why it took me so long, but I know how to make America great again. It will not require red baseball hats or xenophobic bluster. No, it only requires listening to the ideas of a Passionate priest, Thomas Berry. Berry wrote a small book, The Great Work. It influenced a turn in my political activity from economic justice to environmental concerns.

This 258 page book is a quick read and it introduces The Great Work. Civilizations, according to Berry, have a quintessential role that only they can perform. The one he identifies for our civilization is this: Creating a sustainable existence for humans on this earth. That is our Great Work. It is the way to make America Great again.

guestsThe phrase, the Great Work, comes from medieval alchemy. The primary, original material of the universe, the prima materia, in the alchemist’s lab can create the philosopher’s stone. The philosopher’s stone could turn base metals into gold or silver and extend the alchemist’s life.

We can take the prima materia of the U.S., its citizens and its land, put them in the alembic created by our need for survival and our need for economic  justice, and turn up the heat until we have our philosopher’s stone. When we have it, we can use it to heal the earth and create good-paying jobs for all.

Then, then America will be great. Not only again, but still and not only still but into the future as well. May it be so.


Varoom or Whoosh?

Fall                                                                               New (Hunter) Moon   also, a black moon

Not everyone will like this. But I know Bill and Tom will.


Samhain                                                                             Moon of the First Snow

Keystone rejected. Booyah! Bill McKibben wrote a while back that the amount of oil slated to pass through the Keystone pipeline would be enough to push us well over the 2 degree centigrade warming some folks still see as the maximum allowable. (My understanding is that 2 degrees is baked in and the key moves now are to keep us from going very far over that mark.)

Jeff Mirkley (D-Or) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) have introduced Keep It In the Ground legislation. I like the phrase. It’s short and to the point. Fossil fuels not mined or fracked or pumped cannot add to the carbon load of our beleaguered atmosphere.

Momentum seems to be shifting, at least so it seems to me. Big coal is on the defensive. Keep It In the Ground shifts the conversation. 350.org has organized a new mass movement for climate change. The Great Work has begun to capture more and more attention. The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline signals, I hope, a willingness to challenge big energy in specific instances, not just in rhetoric.

On the homefront Kate and I shifted our money out of energy stocks earlier this year. We’re installing solar panels.  If each of us align our lives as we can, to the Great Work-creating a sustainable human presence on earth, then those larger societal trends will have a strong base of political support. No action by any one of us will stop global warming; but, no action by all of us will cook our grandchildren.

Too, individual actions like owning an electric car, supporting President Obama’s climate initiatives, adding solar panels, taking money away from big oil and big coal, can have a ripple effect. As others know what you’ve done, they will consider what they might do. And, even if they do nothing more than change a vote, support candidates with strong environmental policies, then you’ve begun to create the kind of math that can change things.

When did this happen?

Fall                                                                                     Falling Leaves Moon

Cultural immersion today at Spyhouse Coffee at the intersection of Broadway and Central in Minneapolis. I suggested it for a meeting because it was a coffee house. Quiet, right? Farthest thing from. Every table and most of the nooks and crannies were filled with twenty and thirty somethings, laptops up, heads over keyboards or deep in conversation with someone, hands gripping smartphones. Loud rock played from the timbered rafters. The password code for today, jackiebrown, scrawled on a chalkboard by the register.

This was today, Friday, at 11:00 a.m. When Michelle came in, I was a bit sheepish, “I didn’t realize this place was so. Popular.” She laughed. “It’s fine.” And it was. We got down to work. And, guess what. Michelle had her laptop open and we gazed at its screen. Occasionally I would check some material on my cell phone.

Full disclosure. I didn’t bring my laptop only because I couldn’t remember the password. Which I could reset it said. But only if I was on the internet. Which was where? Behind my password. Which I couldn’t remember. Ouroboros.

Love it or leave it

Lughnasa                                                                          College Moon

Cool nights. I’m enjoying these. A great advantage of mountain living is that most nights are cool nights. Looking forward to that. Also, realized that after we move Coming Down the Mountain will take on a new meaning in our life.

The push this week is getting things ready to make efficient use of the SortTossPack folks. A major emphasis will be sorting art, objet d’arts, souvenirs, all that stuff that hangs around because it got set down long ago and never moved. This is the love it or leave it sort.

Which reminds me of a conversation with Tom Crane at the War Memorial during the Woolly Meeting last week.  Pondering the weirdness around patriotism, the notion that the only patriots were veterans and flag wavers. I said, yes, and recalled the 60’s when the love it or leave it bumper stickers pretended to sort out the patriotic, worthy of citizenship folks from those of us with long hair and in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Love of country does not equate to love of government and pride in all its decisions. Nor does it equate to love of the economic system that sorts folks into the 1% and the 99%. Love of country has many roots and more than one flower.

With a son in the military I appreciate the dedication and sacrifice those who serve in the armed forces make, even in peace time. That some in the country want to remember and honor those who serve seems like a natural impulse to me. Most nations have needed warriors over the millennia and they are often the difference between freedom and servitude.

But, the warriors in our country serve at the discretion and for the policies of our elected officials. This means that the work they do passes through the sausage works of politics before it comes to marching orders. Not all wars (most wars?) are just. Thus, it is not reasonable to conflate opposition to war, or to a particular war, with opposition to the military per se.

The love I feel for my nation has three main sources: the people as a collective, the nobility of our experiment and the vast diversity of the land itself. Though we become separated by distance, by values, by history, by future potential each person in our nation is my fellow citizen, a person whose rights and responsibilities I respect.

This great experiment, whether a people with roots in other lands can flourish as one country, is a noble one because it represents in microcosm the world. The fact that our history has many regional, ethnic, even religious conflicts does not take away from the experiment, rather it underwrites it. Can we live with and grow together in spite of the depth of our differences? That a nation can persist, can become great under such circumstances is hopeful.

Finally, this land that is our land. The oceans and their shores. The rivers and lakes. Old mountains like the Appalachians and young vibrant mountains like the Rockies. Vast areas of level fertile soil in a humid climate. Even vaster areas of thin, rocky soil in arid climates. The forests and the wildlife, the farms and the ranches. The wild places and the domesticated. It is a wonder and a full lifetime, even two full lifetimes would not be enough to explore it.

It is this combination of people, political purpose and powerful geography that makes me love where I was born and where I will die. The good old U.S.A.


January 2018
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