Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If They Hold A Rally, And There's Nobody To Report It, Did It Really Happen?


Thousands of us showed up for Portland's Climate Action rally downtown, but, buried as I was in the middle of it, I couldn't get a feel for the size of the throng. Fifty years ago, when all my peers were busy having a growth spurt, I was still working on my coloring book and missed the whole thing. Consequently, when I'm in a crowd, it's all tits and armpits to me. I let my husband report to me like my own personal periscope and raised my camera as high as I could to get a better angle on the congregation.

Those of us in attendance are united in believing we need to keep what remains of our fossil fuel supply in the ground, or risk catastrophic climate change; and that the time to switch over to a sustainable economy was probably about thirty years ago, but now would be immeasurably better than later. Brutal arithmetic informs us. And in our little corner of the nation, we are among the custodians of the spigot, and we want it cranked shut. It is our hope that if we refuse to let the coal terminals get built, and refuse the passage of oil trains, and shut down pipelines, and otherwise turn off the spigots, we can help shut this monstrous folly down. It's naive as hell, but movements start somewhere. Thirty years ago, I never thought I'd see people hiding their cigarettes or walking around with baggies of dog shit, either.

The local newspaper thinks we're adorable to have such concerns, but Daddy's got everything under control, and although there might be a few problems down the line, there will be plenty of time to work on them after he's run through all the oil. And in the meantime, we should turn up the AC and watch TV, and let Daddy read the paper in peace.

If he does read the paper, and it's the Oregonian, and he gets all the way to page nine, he'll see a small captioned photo of the 400,000 (or, as they put it, 100,000) marchers in the People's Climate March in New York City. He won't see anything at all about our march, even though it stretched for blocks, and the governor showed up to speak. Our paper's editors are solidly on the side of the grownups, and they patiently explain, as often as they can, that transitioning from fossil fuels will cause a severe economic disruption.

Which it will. There's a disruption coming any way you look at it.

Look, they say. Yes, there's a wildfire approaching the house, but it might just blow the other way--you never know--and we got you a sandbox, so play in that and put the hose down before you ruin the carpeting.


It's those who consider themselves grown up who say we need to let the free market work. And that might well be a functional system, as long as all the costs are figured in. But they never are; not even close. The price of a two-by-four does not include the cost to the atmosphere of the loss of a carbon sink, or the irreversible loss of the topsoil, or even the cost to the taxpayers of bulldozing the landslide off the highway. You sell gasoline for a piddly four bucks a gallon, you're making someone else pay the real price. Not only those in the sacrifice zones, in Alberta, in Appalachia, in the Amazon, whose lands have been skinned and blown up and tossed aside, whose water has been poisoned; and not only our grandchildren (of course, our grandchildren), but our own children, a decade or two from now, who will say you knew about this--how could you? Disease and contagion are on the rise, we're engineering a major extinction event, we're squandering our fresh water, and we're all paying for it, and will pay much, much more later. And we're fine with that as long as we don't have to shell out for it at the pump right now.

All across this country are people who are flailing in the sandbox with their tiny buckets, people who believe that squiggly light bulbs are an assault on their personal freedom, and that their worst problem is the price of a tank of gas. They've been laid low by a paper economy whose rules were written by people much more powerful than they are. They're squashed so flat they can't see over their own scrawny wallets. There's no view at all down there. It's all tits and armpits.

42 comments:

  1. The "grown-ups" think that it is their god-given right to use as much oil as possible until it runs out. I see SUVs proliferating and mutating into even bigger vehicles. Just last evening, coming back from dinner, I witnessed a truck that was taking off from a red light in front of a small car belch out a load of black smoke at the car. "That was rude," I commented to my husband. I had thought that maybe he had an oil leak or something. But no. The Hubs informed me that there is a certain thing you can do if you have a diesel engine to belch out black smoke onto the car in back of you, and that some people driving these behemoths will cut in front of a Prius just to do this, because people driving hybrids are obviously anti-American. *headdesks*

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    1. Right. It's called "Rollin' Coal" and they call their trucks Prius Repellants. We are doomed.

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  2. Things are only going to go in one direction, get worse, it's human nature.

    "it's all tits and armpits to me" Hahahaha

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    1. Funny to you. I never get to see ANYTHING. I have a chihuahua's-eye view of the party.

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  3. And you, my dear, are the periscope in this case. I just wish more people were exposed to your writing.

    In what I cautiously feel is good news, our province is moving to ban onshore fracking indefinitely. I really did not expect this result, but it's happening. Of course, it's under a Liberal government, opposed by the Conservatives. And can be reversed in future, given legislative debate. If (when) leadership changes, as it does every decade or so, I fear for our water.

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    1. Marvelous! I assume you don't mean Alberta (sigh). Oh, and feel free to share my writing with anyone you want. That goes without saying, right? Right?

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    2. Not Alberta. (key word: onshore) That is a very small c and large C conservative province. Although that probably doesn't apply to the farmers there whose water supply has already been contaminated by fracking.

      And, "Right" is right!

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    3. Uh, not to mention the damnable tar sands debacle. Sheesh.

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  4. Wonder if I can post a picture of the Portland Climate March that gives an idea of how many folks participated. Let's see... https://www.facebook.com/PCMinPDX/photos/a.802647219787318.1073741831.784299991622041/802649296453777/?type=1

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    1. Answer: nope, I can't post the pic.

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    2. Here you go, Pat, I just put it in for you, up in the blog post. Thanks for the link!

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  5. Patricia, no you can't post a picture in a comment box but you CAN MAKE A PROPER LINK.

    Nan posted a link to this post on her blog but I think it is foolish to worry about the planet after they buy an old motor home with a big 460 gas gussying engine in it.that only gets five to six mpg.

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    1. Good job, BBC! And, of course, most of us drive, at least a little--that's how this world is set up. This particular problem is beyond anything individuals can do on their own. But if we can get organized and get our local governments to sign on to sensible legislation, we might have a shot. Might. I doubt anything meaningful will be done on a federal or international level. I think if we're going to get anywhere with this, we're going to have to lead from behind.

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    2. So, OK - I've got myself a Prius c (for "compact") and I couldn't be happier with it. It's a hybrid, so I do fill up on gas every couple of WEEKS (the tank holds all of 9 gallons) and what with getting 60 mpg, you could say I was paying at least half-price, compared to most other vehicles out there. I suppose it helps that I'm also in the "tits & armpits" height range. I FEEL like I'm leading from behind, driving this car - and hey - if lots and lots of people had them, we could (literally?) WEAN ourselves off that oil company tit, and drag ourselves out of the Armpit of Despair.
      I'm also happy to report that (so far) I haven't encountered any "Rollin' Coal"... (yay)

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    3. You can only do what you can do, the way it's set up. So good for you! I don't fill up that often, but that's because I'm retired and I have time to walk everywhere, and I'm living in an enlightened city where you CAN walk anywhere to get your stuff.

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  6. Since moving to Port Angeles in 1998 I've tried to make a very small carbon footprint and seldom go very far but I am going to Texas soon to meet some cool blog friends.

    But I'm making a small minimalist camper for the trip, it is just five feet wide and eight feet long, big enough to sleep in and do a little cooking in. I'm hoping to get 18 mpg with my mid size Dodge Dakota.

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    1. You're going to meet blog friends! That IS cool! I've done that, and not been disappointed. By the way, blogs are passe. I didn't get the memo, either.

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  7. They're squashed so flat they can't see over their own scrawny wallets. There's no view at all down there. It's all tits and armpits. Nearly right Murr. I think the view is all butts. Without a butt-flap.
    Sigh. And our grown-ups are just like yours. And my heart hurts.

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    1. I know. Sounds like you're just a little shorter than I am.

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    2. "The view is all butts"? Perhaps you are a lot taller than you give yourself credit for. You're really looking at their faces!

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  8. Brilliant, Murr. Makes me glad I'm old and with any luck will get off the planet before the whole thing turns to shit. Yet another reason I'm glad I never had children.

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    1. If I live as long as I'd like to, I'm definitely going to see some major shit. But I know what you mean. You know what? My mom told me once that if she were my age (at the time, I was 22 or so), she wouldn't want to have children, because she feared for their future. I'm not sure what the fear was then. Nuclear war, probably. This is worse.

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  9. The middle-aged whinging definitely is proportionate to the fear over children already in being. But 2014 has been extraordinary: climate-change publicly-discussed almost over day. The drumbeat is inescapable. Ignore (justifiably) fear-ridden middle-agers: hit the young. Be truthful. I showed Chasing Ice to 100 low-income kids over the Summer. Tell kids that they can't live in the western part of the U.S., or Florida, or the eastern seaboard. What can they do: change the world. Murr: as always, sing it, sister.

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    1. I agree with you: the young will get it. And they need to mobilize, fast. I'd like to see as much impact as we old hippies had on a mere war.

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    2. Chasing Ice is startling and startlingly beautiful. With a song sung by Scarlett Johanssen, which was nominated for an Oscar.

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  10. Other commenters have well-covered all the serious points.
    I've got a couple pics that include me in a protest in Portland, but they are black and white, from 1971.
    As to height impairment, I've been hearing Randy Newman singing in my head since reading this...something about "....got nobody to love..." Dunno, I'll google it.

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    1. That was our wedding song! For real!

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    2. Okay, that just makes me smile and smile. I check in at just under five feet tall and I so wish we'd been able to work that in to our wedding.

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    3. On our first anniversary, we saw Randy Newman perform live. He sang Wedding at Cherokee County for us!

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    4. Do you guys all have little eyes and walk around tellin' great big lies?

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    5. I do have a little tiny car goes beep beep beep.

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  11. I agree with everything you've said there, most importantly, "now would be immeasurably better than later."
    The trouble is, no one wants to have to go through the inconveniences such changes would bring. Let 'them' sort it out sometime in the future, is their thinking. And when that future arrives? People may still be thinking the same way, it's not our problem, let 'them' sort it out in the future.
    Too much of that and there will be no future.

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    1. Every day that goes by makes things exponentially harder to fix.

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  12. Around here (ATL,GA) there's no talk about fixing it in the future because there is NO PROBLEM. Bringing up climate change just gets sneers. And the occasional mention of "it's cyclical." Sure, but were humans on the planet during the last ice age or extreme heat? I think not.

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    1. In the nineties, the oil industry put a plan in place to sow seeds of doubt about climate change. They were wildly successful. Wish I believed in Hell.

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    2. We can certainly believe in Hell-Dimensions. Big Oil is like the old Bell System: a tentacular force of corruption at every level, the envy of cancer. I also have thinking Atlantans, and they are forever on the verge of apoplexy.

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  13. I agree with you, Murr. "you knew about this--how could you?"

    Doesn't anyone remember the crying Indian? How can we not care about what we've done/are doing?

    Pearl

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