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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Department of Book Reports: In which the nice book lady cusses

We've been living without a car since Rocky blew up our Cavalier last Thanksgiving. We had bought bikes for fun when we first moved out here, and those became our main mode of transportation for the last 10 months. Sure, it was unpleasant a few times this past winter, biking to the post office to ship out book packages. We were soaked to the bone and had to pedal against 45 mph winds. But we got home, dried off and had some soup to warm up. In more pleasant weather, biking has been a joy, you can stop at anytime to chat with folks walking their dog or stop by the river and watch herons and otters fish for their lunch. We would have missed all that in a car, even at our town's 30mph speed limit. And, I found it even easier and more urgent to talk to folks about getting out of their cars. Overwhelmingly, I'm told "but we have to drive here where I live! You can't get by without a car here!" Well, I'm calling Bullshit today. You can. Not only that, you must. I'm sorry that you're forced into a job that is 40 miles from your house. I'm sorry the nearest grocery is 5 miles away. We may not be able change that right away, but we can change how you get there.

When we hear of Greenland's ice floes breaking up, Russia's unrelenting wildfires, Mountain top removal "enhances the landscape" and that not even completely melted polar caps would convince the deniers, don't even try to tell me the ludicrous lie that the god-damned oil is all gone. 2015 is recognized as the tipping point, and that's less than 4 1/2 years away. Are we going to wait until then to do anything?

Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth (Macmillan, $24.00 ) is a hero of mine.
I wrote the first book for a general audience on global warming back in 1989, and I’ve spent the subsequent 21 years working on the issue. I’m a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday School teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: this is fucked up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy.

And if he says it's fucked up, it is. But I find hope in the end there: Get Mad, then Get Busy. He has formed a global coalition, 350 (350 being the parts per million CO2 with which we can survive on this planet)
...Those demonstrations were just a start (one we should have made long ago). We’re following up in October -- on 10-10-10 -- with a Global Work Party. All around the country and the world people will be putting up solar panels and digging community gardens and laying out bike paths. Not because we can stop climate change one bike path at a time, but because we need to make a sharp political point to our leaders: we’re getting to work, what about you?

Oct 10, 2010. Will you join up? Sign in and add your name? Write letters? If you need help with crafting a letter, may I introduce you to Warren Senders, who has vowed to write an environmental letter every day, and asks you to steal his stuff and then reword it personally so you can contact your congress critters and senators. Warren reviewed Eaarth far better than I could:
While McKibben is constitutionally optimistic, he gives us some pretty strong medicine: use underestimating the depth of change we'll need to deal with, especially since there's no end point in sight. As we lose the climatic stability that's marked all of human civilization, it's not as if we're going to land on some other firm plateau. The changes to our lives will be ongoing and large and will require uncommon nimbleness, physically and psychologically. Our focus will have to shift. As a culture and an economy, we've had the margin to afford a lot of abstractions. Abstractions in the supermarket aisle: Lunchables, and Cheetos, and the four thousand other incarnations of high fructose corn syrup. Abstractions in our relations with the rest of the planet : "the free world." Abstraction will grow harder; increasingly, we're going to have to focus on essentials: on actual food and on energy that comes from the wind and sun in our neck of the woods, not from that abstraction called "The Middle East."

"eaarth," p. 147-148

I've been inspired by the on-going series eKos over on

Get the eKos widget embed code!

One stop shopping for information and links in one handy place.

Last week, my cousin Larry gave us a car. A nice little '97 Saturn that will be fairly thrifty. Hoooo-ray!! right? Not really. I find myself kinda guilty and torn about being a car owner again. We have decided we will not become daily car drivers ever again. We are staying on the bikes. But, we will be able to drive to Oly or Seattle to join in the political things we've had to skip this past year. We'll be able to attend local events and meetings that run until after dark. And just maybe, the weather will be bad enough that we'll drive to the post office. But I can gaurantee it won't be very often.

I'll leave you with someone who always gives me hope: Pete Seeger.

Eaarth is available from Jackson Street Books and other fine Independent bookstores.As always, books ordered here will have a freebie publishers Advance Reading Copy included as a thank you to our blogosphere friends.


  1. Lord, I love Pete What a fine song!....may he live another 67 years in his marriage.

  2. Okay -- I'm in. The bike and helmet that makes me look like Marvin the Martian come out of storage this weekend. A basket for groceries and some kind of safety light are purchases this weekend, as well.

    Cross your fingers I don't crash and break a front tooth like my little sister did when we were kids.

  3. Outside our living room window is a rose bush--it had begun to wither in early spring with some kind of pestilence affecting the leaves and the buds. We sprayed it, not with poison but with a mixture of soap and water--we did this once about eight weeks ago, and today the flowers are so numerous it looks like a floral version of Argus. If I only watched TV and read gardening ads I'd think I had to spray the yard with mustard gas or be devoured by weeds.

    What I'm continuing to learn is that we don't have to live in the ways we have lived, we don't have to poison the world to save our lawns and shrubs, or get in the car without thinking about the ramifications--my wife and I got the bikes out today. The tires need air and the dust needs brushing off, but we'll be on the road soon enough.
    Thanks for the post--Pete Seeger's decency and kindness put me at ease, and his inner fire puts me on notice.


  4. Yay! I'm so happy this inspired you both to get out your bikes :)

    We were quite wobbly at first, and didn't have much range, but it's amazing how quickly your muscles build up and you get your confidence back. I can make it all the way up and over the "big bridge" now.

    mjs, another thing that works on roses is a mix of Baking Soda & water, sprayed on the leaves it can take care of the dreaded Black Spot.

  5. I ride my bicycle to work every day I'm rostered, which is no great stretch since it's only 10 flat blocks away. Now in San Francisco, THAT was a challenge, because we lived on top of Twin Peaks and the hospital was in the flats at the tip of Golden Gate Park near Haight Street. Great ride downhill TO work, but killer uphill elevation change after a long shift.

    I have given up on trying to change things on a big scale the way McKibben envisions. I'm with Jim Kunstler on "The Long Emergency" (which I bought from you two as a present for my daughter, and she still hasn't read it, even though I remind her that it's a book that will show her the story of her life going forward.) It's too late. People are too wedded to doing things just as they've been doing them. They'll keep on at it until it crashes.

    My focus is on preparing how to save myself (and my kid) plus alerting people who will listen. However, this civilzation is going down. So will at least 50% of the humans currently alive now; more likely 2/3 of them. Not everybody will die, though, and those who have prepared mentally as well as materially will have a better chance.

    You two would seem to be in a great location to keep a semblance of a tolerable life when the collapse comes. We drove and ferried down to visit a blogfriend this week who lives near Kingston, in the middle of the Sound. He's got a great place for a "doomstead" with two small ponds, a couple home-built greenhouses, lots of fruit trees he planted, a horse barn. He's not a gun-nut survivalist, just someone who's intent on self-sufficiency. I've got it better than him financially, but I envy that guy because he's got his own turf.

    Look at it this way -- by having a rough time economically, you are now swimming in the waters where most of America will be tossed. You have a head start. It will not be as much of a shock to your system. You can make local friends and learn how to build a lifeboat. It ain't perfect, but soon people will envy you, too. Or they would if they knew what you had. Or if they weren't dying of hunger, cold and burning wounds...

  6. good links, Bukko. I think I like the second one better. I need to keep a bit of happy sunshine or go kill myself now.

  7. Thanks for the tip about the baking soda (something interesting about a product that will help remove cat urine stains and kills weeds).

    The flowers say hello...


  8. Tammy, Orlov was the guy who wrote the "Collapse Gap" essay that got some notice a few years back. He posited that the people of the Soviet Union were better able to survive the implosion of their country's systems than the richer, more sophisticated Americans. That's because the Sovoks were more accustomed to scraping through hard times. Don't you just hate it when the Russkies are ahead of the Yanks when it comes to surviving the End of Everything?

    I read a lot of doomer blogs like Orlov's. They make me happy. That's because I expect to live just long enough to watch the deaths of everyone I despise. If only I can do that, whatever happens to me afterward is all right by me.

  9. You absolutely can bike in this area - I do it with kiddos to boot and groceries and sometimes even my little mom's dog stashed in the cargo bike when we're dog-sitting. I write about local biking at my blog.

    I wonder if we've passed one another? I'll wave to everyone I see from hear on out.

  10. Great song! Pete Seeger has always made me proud to be human!

  11. Nice to meet ya, Toemail. Maybe I'll send you a pic on my bike pedal :)

  12. That would be great! We don't have a bike shot yet! lol.


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.