Friday, October 28, 2016

Hollow Hearts in the Anthropocene Era

It must be every waking hour now that I get back to thinking of the resisters/protectors out to the west at Standing Rock in North Dakota, doing what a group of  local citizens can do to stave off deadly industrial development of their home land. Would I ever go out and join that effort or one closer to me? The thought of being captive, jailed or beaten up, is too much for me. And I'm alone, no partner to take up my projects and responsibilities...

Those tribal  people are our most immediate best hope for slowing, at last stopping the suicidal zig-zagging of pipelines across the United States. I heard the filmmaker Josh Fox yesterday, being interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now saying there are plans to build 300 new power plants to process fracked gas in this country, requiring thousands of miles of new pipeline which will be ill-received to say the least by most of the landowners whose acreage gets picked as a corridor. As weather and climate repercussions advance and convince more and more decision makers that we've got to 'leave it in the ground' then rounds of civil disobedience, not to mention things I don't want to mention, will be visible in more and more places. From climate researchers comes the report that in 2015 the atmospheric carbon load was averaging 400 ppm, as it continues to surpass the much publicized goal of no more than 350. And meanwhile the mid-continent highways still zoom with super-sized gas or diesel pickup trucks driven at 70 to 80 miles an hour, because little cars don't have enough power for those mighty drivers.

When will I give up driving a gasoline car--or any car?

At the start of October I circled Lake Superior again in my quirky little old hybrid car, tent-camping on a stack of air mattresses and folded comforter two nights along the way, heading from west to east. Beaches and roadways and dooryards were a-twitch with southbound migrant sparrows (white-crowned, song sparrow and fox sparrow) and the short scooting flights of American pipits, bound as normal from stony open northern Canada to wintering places deep into the United States. I was so glad to watch them and imagine the stages of their traditional year-to-year travel. I had this piece of mixed-media watercolor to finish, with its flying pipit, and so put in a lot of indoor time, window-lit, and shore and clifftop time, ultimately consolidating the piece from a greater width because of damage I had done to the paper. Evidently two coats of masking fluid were to blame, the lower layer when I scraped it away taking the surface and sizing of the paper right off with it. It's a mistake I'd like to remember never to make again. But I'm not sure that the earlier 12-inch wide version of this work would have conveyed any more exact aura of Lake Superior calm and a pipit than this miniature at 6 x 9.25 inches, ready to mat and frame. Small is beautiful all over the universe.

                                      Calm and a Pipit : Lake Superior 

Meanwhile I continue sifting among the layers and particles of my own climate-related depression.  It's not a paralyzing state of mind, but more of a pall over all my emotional resonance with the lands I look out upon. They appear much as always but are emptier, because fewer birds and other vertebrates hang on, their reproduction down and mortality up.  At least in the short term I cross miles of countryside each day; for me it forms a kind of inner landscape. There was a time when open vistas made my heart sing like a meadow of nesting songbirds of every family known to me. Now the song is musical theory for the most part, or chants I make, driving along, to quiet anxieties, the radio in the background. It's like owning the fact that you're old and facing death, though many around you are significantly older; your best memories are largely if not all made in other times, and the whole topic is best avoided to maintain an ideal level of functioning. Joyfully, there are still visions of splendor out in nature, best expressed in visual art.

Those of us who suffer from the melancholy of watching natural systems wither under pressure from all our uses, gaseous and liquid toxins and climate change as a consequence of these things have to console ourselves however we can. Reading on these topics can help, as experts' research findings bring insight. Walter Youngquist is one of the hosted writers with Negative Population Growth or NPG, working to reduce U.S. population growth especially from the standpoint of curbing immigration and births to immigrants, though also by lowering domestic birth rates. His essay 'The Singular Century' deals with energy sustainability given the world's inevitably shrinking output and reliance upon oil. He reminds us that these 300 or so years of increasing automation and affluence (the Industrial Revolution) look to be a moment in time, even as we move toward renewable energies, because no energy source of the past or the future is so dense, or packed with power, as oil and its derivatives like gasoline. Our growth and takeover of nature will be curbed by built-in limits (which techno-optimists still believe we will indefinitely overcome.) Nothing in nature--including ourselves--can extend its dominion forever; we would have to be gods, not mortals in physical bodies with physical needs. We need to take into account that an expanding population and raw resources on this finite earth are at odds with each other.

Older and sadder I have to learn to be a lamp lit from within if I can, by grace of what passes my windows. It's therapeutic to conjure moments in a desert day--the Badlands?- though I have scarcely been through a variety of deserts, since Creation on its own habitually tends toward beauty which the questing soul involuntarily drinks, even if born in another kind of region.

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