Saturday, August 31, 2013

Standing with the Sacred Guardians

Edward Curtis - Elk Head and the sacred pipe bundle (1907)
Standing with the Sacred Guardians

By Richard Power

As I write this, a great fire threatens not only Yosemite's Giant Sequoias, sacred guardians that have stood for millennia, but also the water and energy supplies of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Even if this dual catastrophe is averted, as now seems to be the case, there will be another one to struggle against soon enough ...

Here are some recent remarks from Bill McKibben and Al Gore, both of whom have worked tirelessly over this last decade to avoid such circumstance.

I defer to them in this post, because, really, what I have to say is unprintable.
Bill McKibben on How to Save The Earth

Communities (and a movement is a community) will probably always have some kind of hierarchy, even if it’s an informal and shifting one. But the promise of this moment is a radically flattened version of hierarchy, with far more room for people to pop up and propose, encourage, support, drift for a while, then plunge back into the flow. That kind of trajectory catches what we’ll need in a time of increased climate stress -- communities that place a premium on resiliency and adaptability, dramatically decentralized but deeply linked. And it’s already happening ...And so our movement -- global, national, and most of all local. Released from a paddy wagon after the Richmond protest, standing in a long line of handcuffees waiting to be booked, I saw lots of elders, doubtless focused on different parts of the Chevron equation. Among them were Gopal Dayaneni, of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project, who dreams of frontline communities leading in the construction of a just new world, and Bay Area native activist Pennie Opal Plant, who has spent her whole life in Richmond and dreams, I suspect, of kids who can breathe more easily in far less polluted air. I continue to hope for local, national, and global action, and for things like a carbon tax-and-dividend scheme that would play a role in making just transitions easier. Such differing, overlapping dreams are anything but at odds. They all make up part of the same larger story, complementary and complimentary to it. These are people I trust and follow; we have visions that point in the same general direction; and we have exactly the same enemies who have no vision at all, save profiting from the suffering of the planet. I’m sure much of this thinking is old news to people who have been building movements for years. I haven’t. I found myself, or maybe stuck myself, at the front of a movement almost by happenstance, and these thoughts reflect that experience. What I do sense, however, is that it’s our job to rally a movement in the coming years big enough to stand up to all that money, to profits of a sort never before seen on this planet. Such a movement will need to stretch from California to Ecuador -- to, in fact, every place with a thermometer; it will need to engage not just Chevron but every other fossil fuel company; it will need to prevent pipelines from being built and encourage windmills to be built in their place; it needs to remake the world in record time. That won’t happen thanks to a paramount leader, or even dozens of them. It can only happen with a spread-out and yet thoroughly interconnected movement, a new kind of engaged citizenry. Rooftop by rooftop, we’re aiming for a different world, one that runs on the renewable power that people produce themselves in their communities in small but significant batches. The movement that will get us to such a new world must run on that kind of power too. Bill McKibben, A Movement for a New Planet,, 8-18-13

Al Gore on Why He is Optimistic

Ezra Klein, Washington Post: Give me the optimistic scenario on what happens next. If all goes well, what do the next few years look like on this issue? Al Gore: Well, I think the most important part of it is winning the conversation. I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South. I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don’t go for that anymore. The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement. The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition. A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them to shut up. We’re winning that conversation. The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. Something like Chris Hayes’s excellent documentary on climate change wouldn’t have made it on TV a few years ago. And as I said, many Republicans who’re still timid on the issue are now openly embarrassed about the extreme deniers. The deniers are being hit politically. They’re being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day. When that conversation is won, you’ll see more measures at the local and state level and less resistance to what the EPA is doing. And slowly it will become popular to propose steps that go further and politicians that take the bit in their teeth get rewarded. I remember when the tide turned on smoking in public places. People thought the late Frank Lautenburg was crazy for proposing a ban on smoking in airplanes, but he was rewarded politically and then politicians began falling all over themselves to do the same. That’s the optimistic scenario. And it’s not just a scenario! It’s happening now! Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re still increasing emissions. But we’re approaching this tipping point. Businesses are driving it. Grass roots are driving it. Policies and changes in law in places like india and China and Mexico and California and Ireland will proliferate and increase, and soon we’ll get to the point where national laws will evolve into global cooperation. Ezra Klein, Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming, Washington Post, 8-21-13

Stay tuned. In September, I will have some news on the future of both this blog, Words of Power, and my other blog, Primal Words of Power.

Meanwhile ...

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Richard Power is the author of eight books, including Humanifesto: A Guide to Primal Reality in an Era of Global Peril, Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. Power writes and speaks on spirituality, sustainability, human rights, and security. He blogs at Words of Power and Primal Words of Power, and is a member of the Truthout Board of Advisors. He also teaches yoga.