What’s cooking…

Next post I’ll tell you about some interesting developments in my writing life. But, for now, this hard winter has gotten me thinking, and I want to get those thoughts off my chest.

This winter has been a tough go, no matter where you live. I have found the harshness and extremes more than a little disconcerting, and nothing I read, see, or feel in my bones makes me think that this is simply a rough patch in the cycles and seasons of normal climatic variations. I am convinced that our hand is on the scale in this instance, and I worry for the children that we of the older generations are so obstinate, naive, and short sighted as to not act in their best interest by doing something about the contributory environmental factors that are under our control.

But we don’t. We dither, blather, pontificate and equivocate while our children grow up into a world that is more invested in invented sectarian divisions than in real dynamic action to save the earth that we all call home.

Call it befouling our nest; call it what you will. But when the snows are burying us and the cold is freezing us and the seas are surging beyond their normal bounds and the earth where things are supposed to be green is thirsty and brown — well, it is hard to just switch the channel and, as Leonard Cohen puts it, spend our time “getting lost in that hopeless little screen.”

I just got back from out west, where three days of deluge brought the Sierra snow pack from which California gets most of its water up to 17 percent of normal. I’m used to seeing the hills of northern California as green as the hills of Ireland. But this time I saw parched, arid hillsides so devoid of grasses that ranchers were keeping their cattle alive by feeding them hay from the back of pickup trucks.

And when I got back here to Minnesota people were wide-eyed and hysterical from the relentless and record-breaking cold. Just yesterday I was up in Duluth, a hauntingly tough and hardscrabble city on the edge of Lake Superior, and they had just hit their 61st consecutive day of below zero temperatures. For those of you who don’t know what that means, stick your hand in a bucket of ice water and hold it there for two months. You’ll start to get the picture.

I wonder what it is going to take to get our attention. Sure, we’ll all benefit if we each use low energy light bulbs and recycle our plastic bottles. But this is something that requires visionary, coordinated, action, both within and among governments. But we have become so wary of government meddling in our lives, and the center has been pushed so far toward the political right, that we no longer see this as even desirable, much less possible.

I just worry for the children, and just wish that we could point a path toward meaningful action that would call forth their visionary impulses rather than their cynicism or moral despair. But we’ve reduced them to just trying to survive, and focused their attention a new generation of hopeless little screens.

I don’t wish to become curmudgeonly, but neither do I wish to be blissfully naive. The paradigm has to shift. I keep doing what I can through my writing, and I’m sure you all do what you can in your own way. But the drumbeat keeps getting louder, and this winter has made it louder still.

It is time, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke puts it, that we must change our lives.

2 comments

  1. Tim Overdier says:

    Kent,
    Good to “hear” from you. I suspect like other addictions, we’ll collectively have to bottom out to get things moving in the right direction. It has been said that sooner or later the voting public will see the light.

    This is all real by me as well. I “retired” early two weeks ago to move back to the Midwest to be in a predicted normal precipitation zone over the coming decade, build soil (using a former Wisconsin PHD soil scientist, Elaine Ingham’s, prescription for monitoring and enabling soil microbes), and grow food that has flavor like food used to have.

    I offer this interview if you have not already heard it with sociologist Paul Ray who has identifed a subtle subculture he calls Cultural Creatives. This group is still increasing and is 35% of us worldwide. Our media does not perceive them yet. I was thrilled to learn about their presence.
    http://www.kindredcommunity.com/2013/09/same-planet-different-worlds-how-cultural-creatives-are-bringing-forward-the-practical-wisdom-of-conscious-living/

    Also, an interview called View From the Center of the Universe by Elizabeth Debold. The husband and wife team from Princeton, Primack and Abrams, describe humanity at a cosmic place of immense transition cosmically and therfore have a whole Universe involved in our transition if you will…
    http://viewfromthecenter.com/files/WIE-ViewFromtheCenter.pdf

    One more, the movie “Thrive; What on Earth Will It Take”, is also breathtaking and intense, but a credible description of how all is woven together in this time..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEV5AFFcZ-s

    Meanwhile, please shine on as one of our relatively few exemplary elders that you are in this country. We need more authentic communication and dialogue like this.

    Thank you for your incredible writing contributions!

    And thank heaven for the Internet!

    (Warm) Regards…

    Tim Overdier
    Pagosa Springs, CO

  2. Bob Kirk says:

    Mr. Nerburn,
    I agree with you completely. Thank you for your voice and encouragement to us all.
    I have read all your books and feel blessed to have them. You sir are a gift.
    My best to you, your Family and Friends.
    Bob Kirk

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