Earth scientists are trying to get our attention. Well, that's an understatement – they are apoplectic, waving their arms in the windows of the super mall that our culture has become. Yes, we don't notice them because we're shopping, with iPhones glowing in our faces and white wires in our ears.
The King of the Slow Motion Shoppers is Barack Obama. He's doing the tai chi of total hesitation. He puts off the pipeline. He puts it off until after the apocalypse. In so doing, he encourages all citizens to enter the gradualism of shopping where basic change, structural way-of-life change, is impossible. Shoppers are morphed into Obama-like ditherers, lost in a cloud of alternatives, the product, the packaging, competing prices, warranties, credit, resale value, prestige value, sex life value, status value. Shopping forces upon us its false complexity.
In the last year study after study has been published by a world of natural scientists. The IPCC report from the United Nations is the most famous, but there are many others. These groups of conservation biologists, paleontologists, climatologists, – across the spectrum of disciplines within the natural sciences, add up to an unprecedented gathering of scientists around a single issue, which you might call "Life on Earth."
Each of these learned researchers is reporting the mass death on the island of life that they are studying. Each professor's specialty is dying before her eyes. Thousands of scientists are shouting to us from their coral reefs, wetlands, glaciers, cloud forests and mountain streams, from every conceivable eco-system. They all conclude their reports with the same thundering pronouncements, like a secularized Book of Revelation. "Super storms that will overwhelm economies..." "Migrations from the coastal cities and global south..." "Methane levels like the Permia Extinction of 250 million years ago..."
Our response? As the fires, droughts, floods and storms increase, we are less and less interested. At least in the United States, this is what the pollsters tell us. The climate catastrophe isn't a product that is meeting sales projections. Consumers seem to suffer an attention deficit when it comes to self-induced mortality. It doesn't get the best placement in Walmart's aisle.
And yet, it's strange how in this era of the Sixth Great Extinction, the most popular movie is in the saving-the-world genre. Now it's Captain America. All those Marvel films. A super-hero with fantastic powers saves us from a super villain, the film's stand-in for climate change. Maybe this is the problem.
The apocalypse with the five stars on Amazon isn't the real one. The End-Times with 600 special effects engineers catches our eye, and the actual one with the oceans crushing cities – that's just another disaster in the tabloids.
We shop for our super heroes, but we don't believe that we can be that hero ourselves. Heroes don't suffer from gradualism. We do.
Even the threat of a world that will cut short our childrens' lives isn't enough to motivate us. Something about how we are living has taken our fight or flight mechanism and disabled it.
How do we put the move in the movement? There is no Earth Movement without millions of us moving. How can we possibly estimate what it will take? Let's just say: Millions of heroes will have to be pretty damn heroic. We must move to change how we personally live, and simultaneously challenge institutional power. We'll have to help each other repair those fight or flight evolutionary tools. To get our instruction manuals and repair kits, we'll have to leave our computers and malls and walk back toward the eco-systems where the naturalists are stranded. We'll need to learn some old things from scratch.
Each of us will be called upon to be radical in our own way. A fossil fuel extraction site appears in your kitchen window and you up and chain yourself to a bulldozer. People are doing such things, every day, around the world. Local eco-warriors are being murdered at the rate of two a week. The movement is beginning.
Our leader is the Earth itself. You know how not-gradual a tornado can be when it goes shopping in a big box store full of sweatshop-made CO2-emitting tchotchkes? The Earth is our teacher. The Earth will train us to shout like Typhoon Haiyan. We need to move the ground and make people jump. We must to keep the pressure on with the thoroughness of Lake Cameron in Somerset or implacability of the tourist-killing Tasmanian heat.
Where are the super-heroes for the Earth? That's a trick question. They aren't in the past, or on the silver screen. The heroes aren't "over there." They are here. They are you and I. We're here and are we ready? Of course we are, because we want to live. We're ready to launch an Arctic 30 in every ocean, a Chelsea Manning in every regiment, a Sea Shepherd in every whale hunt, a Wangari Maathi in every clear-cut, a Pussy Riot in every church, a Vandana Shiva on every farm.
I can hear Sam Cooke singing "A Change Is Gonna Come!"
That a man of his stature would offer his moral authority to those fighting the fossil fuel industry - this is an important moment in the history of this struggle. Tutu's role in defeat of apartheid is a moral battle within memory, like ACT UP and like the Civil Rights Movement, and so it is instructive for us. A generous gift to us. Then again, we are in a new and different struggle now. The degree to which the government of the African National Congress turned South Africa over to the colonialism of Wall Street - is helpful in another way, as a negative model. And this also informs our Earth Movement.
The Bishop's adoption of the approach of boycott and divestment is as far as he can go in the context of a 700 word Guardian comment piece. It is very important to stop the pipeline. Hurting corporations in the marketplace might work, as far as it goes. But an adjustment in investments won't change our culture - and we have 800 interwoven way-of-life habits that need a tsunami. Ethical shopping, even on the larger scale of sanctions by colleges and churches - it's not enough. Not nearly enough. Without culture change there is no stopping climate change.
We choose to begin our political strategies from the Earth, starting with the survival of species in their habitat. And now we are learning from the Honey Bee. We also have found that social change must start from where we live, in our neighborhoods, with our families. Are prison and immigration reform for the poor, with climate change the college-educated whites' issue? No - climate change kills the poor every day. The Earth Movement must be of, by and for those living on the Earth.
With all due respect to Bishop Tutu, and much respect is due this man, if we're looking for a religious leader who is directly involved with the eco-systems and communities impacted by the pipeline, and who brings all these issue into one whole, we would seek a native mother from Idle No More. Earthalujah!
This morning it is dawn again, Spring again. The students of the Earth say that the sun will keep rising. But Spring will bloom very differently. Lena will live in seasons shifting each year. The silencing of the forests and coral reefs and the roaring of unbelievable storms.
Lena will fall in love. Meet a boy or a girl. Then she will enjoy her personal springtime, the birds singing in her blood. Her love will grow like the life of the Earth as it was for so long. It makes me so happy to imagine it, her heart beating with love like the Earth laughing.
Lena - whatever happens to us - we always whisper to you: "Of all things - Lena your love matters the most. It has the power of the sun coming up. It overwhelms all the shadowy institutions, the poisons and war. May your love have the springtime that the Earth prepared for you.
Our lawyers want to use the Necessity Defense for Nehemiah and myself and our trial for the "Golden Toad Invasion" of the Chase Bank last fall. The Necessity Defense says that we are innocent because we had to commit a small crime to prevent a much greater and deadly crime. The Necessity Defense implies that no government or presiding authority is doing anything about the deadly crime of climate change, and that citizens must of necessity defend themselves. JPMorgan Chase is investing in industrial projects that cause climate disruption and ecosystem mortality. Climate change kills millions of people annually. The extinction is accelerating to hundreds of species of life, each week. So we will argue that singing a song about extinction in the lobby of a New York City Chase Bank is a necessity.
The metaphor often used to explain the Necessity Defense is - forcibly taking a gun from a person who is aiming at someone. But love is the better demonstration. I love you because a greater thing is possible, not because a greater thing must be prevented - and yet when love overwhelms hate - it is prevention, it makes peace. I love you because it will grow into peace, touch, music and more love. By loving, I am preventing violence. The outcome is the same as a skillful theft of a killer's gun. But love is the form of violence prevention that is no longer thought of a practical. World leaders don't talk about it without a sentimental grin on their faces. Love is not necessary.
Aleppo, Syria - the barrel bombs and the 500,000 refugees. The maimed children. The nightmare of it. Where was love when we needed it? When was it necessary? Years ago? And what if we felt it now? Is that suicidally naive? But the inability to imagine the possibly of loving these murderers, loving them until they cannot hate, is leaving the murderer to his murder. This absurd violence goes on and on. We watch this slaughter of innocents and call it "Sectarian violence" or some other lie. It is lovelessness. It is like a vacuum that bursts into flames. The children are engulfed in the flames of lovelessness...
I was on the phone with a Huffpo writer named Kathleen Kiley who wanted to ask about our relationship to Jerry - the news vendor of Astor Place, a 27 year veteran of this 5 street intersection. The instinctive politics of our singers is that a healthy neighborhood needs lots of different people, who mingle with their rhythms, fashions, language, hips and hair.
Astor Place was such a place, at the center of the East and West Villages in downtown New York, but then fell on monocultural times as yuppies and logos proliferated. The small shops, flea market and all and any neighborhood eccentrics were pushed into shelters, hospitals or jail. Just as the young college kids that are everywhere now are smoothed and simplified down into the corporate choices of status, youth, power and money. Those are the garments of much of the Astor Place traffic nowadays, except the humble Greek-American Jerry at the news kiosk, the last person that is allowed to stand on the sidewalk and converse in an unhurried way with passersby.
Jerry is a throwback to the old days of immigrants in the street down in the village, and in his ordinariness he's become a controversy. Jerry has a pace, vantage on life, and his own wisdom. He is like a highly evolved species, a life form, holding forth in a forest that was leveled for cars and careers.
As Astor became homogeneous, there was no human comedy left to talk serious politics. Am I making sense? And it suddenly dawns on us: the more monocultural we get, the more difficult it is to know instinctively how diversity is also crucial in the natural world.
The honey bee hive is more like a neighborhood, but to Monsanto the bees are pests, free, uncontrolled, making crazy spiraling designs in the air, in constant communication - they need to be replaced by pesticides and fertilizer, to maintain that single monoculture, that industrial crop, one plant, row upon row, as far as the eye can see.
Astor Place will die without diversity. Without diversity, that larger intersection, the Earth, will hold silent extinction on its rocks.
Our Golden Toads will keep hopping in memory. But we're ready to follow Monsanto's money back to Vanguard, Blackrock and the other reservoirs of cash for industrial ag, cash for GMO seeds and the poisons that surround them, killing every ecosystem downwind. Down in New Orleans resting last week, I researched the Bee-killing Neonicotinoids Nazi past... The Bayer Company must be cast into the LAKE OF HELLFIRE! The Honey Bee's Devils have some fresh blood on their hands. Last year's extinction-creating Jamie Dimon from Chase Bank is a charming sort of Al Capone, you can see him across a room at the Met, smiley smiley quipy quipy about his $20 Billion in penalties and not a cent comes to us for the cost of fossil fuel billions. But the Monsanto and the Bayer people or killing right now as I type, bees and people both. They are faceless and brutal, although Monsanto place a VP (is the name Michael Taylor?) in the White House next to Obama's ear - maybe his face will become better known, god help us. I envision some renewable/sustainable earth-friendly JUSTICE for this man, from the African people who will throw off his deadly "green revolution." It's the Year of the Honey Bee, and thank you to... OH! A MIRACLE HAS TAKEN PLACE! - we genuflect before the Earth in hearing that our friend Jerry Delakas of 40 year old Astor Place newstand, our favorite singing spot, walked right up to the new mayor and asked for a stay on his eviction and got it. Jerry will persevere, we sense it. We'll pray hard at the kiosk after the Public show on Sunday, the show's at 2:30 we'll be on the street by 3:45 and we'll make that little box levitate over the Village. Amen.
They tell the judge that by examining the surveillance tapes they determined that our action of Sept 12 did not constitute "Riot" and "Menace" and "Unlawful Assembly" but rather a "Musical Presentation," and so the penalty they request for the plaintiffs Nehemiah and myself zooms from one year in jail down to a single day raking leaves in front of City Hall. Goes from 2nd and 3rd degree misdemeanors and criminal record down to a couple violations and community service. So, I'm sitting in a local cafe with Savi feeling much relief. We presented the 13,500 petitions to the judge and refused to accept even the much reduced charges. It was over in ten minutes. We thank our community of singing anti-consumerists and we are very grateful to our supporters from far and wide, and our neighbors and fellow activists here in NY, and also the press people who rallied to our cause. Something obviously happened in the last several weeks over at the District Attorney's office. At a minimum - the surveillance tapes the prosecutors looked at (finally) don't have us hopping on desks, don't record us threatening people. The riot and the menace didn't show up there. Who knows, maybe earth-lovers in the DA's office, people with kids who know that the banks have to stop the fossil fuel investments... maybe they hummed along with our toad-song. Earthalujah!
RE: THE 15 MINUTES OF SAVE-THE-EARTH PERFORMANCE, WITH DANCING EXTINCT FROGS AND AN ELVIS IMPERSONATOR PREACHER THAT GOT US A YEAR IN JAIL.... It is fashionable to say that Social Justice and Earth Justice must be one and the same thing. However that is easier to shout than to persuasively explain. I've heard it said - from my own mouth - that when the day comes that we all inhale our last breath, then all issues become one: Life! That's the moment that - no doubt about it - all the 700 issues in our email archives become one incandescent issue: Life. Life-a-lujah. And when a company is making profits that bring death to beings are living things in the biosphere, humans among them. This is the point we were trying to make which the District Attorney's office called a "criminal stunt." We arrived at the bank in the guise of extinct Golden Toads, killed by climate change 30 years ago, and we were hopping into the wealth management part of an uptown Manhattan JPMorgan Chase. At the moment that we interrupted the conversations of the bankers and their rich clients, we protested (and slowed down, at least) the deadly results of fossil fuel investments - which Chase specializes in and leads the world's banks in. The bank that bundles fraudulent mortgages, helps Bernie Madoff, scams students with debts (holding kids and their parents hostage by using the American dream of advancement thru eduction as a weapon..) - all these social crimes, while also putting billions into tar sands, mountaintop removal, fracking & drilling... and putting the physical life of the earth in danger - and isn't that the ultimate social injustice, when we die because we've killed everything else? Oh life-a-lujah! Let us be life serving life. Let us do what evolution directs us to do, which is not to be predators, but to be lovers...
And by Earth Radical I mean simply the kind of person who might do something radical enough to make a difference in this apocalyptic crisis we all face. The Earth Radical is a person who senses that the climate is not OVER THERE. This is a person who knows that the extinction wave is not OVER THERE. Now we Americans founded our country on the notion that the Promised Land was OVER THERE, and we fought in the nonsensical First World War a century ago and we sang that "We'll be over, we're coming over, And we won't come back till it's over OVER THERE." We disrespect - have a low regard - for the IN HERE. We project our desires onto the screen of a distant place. That's why we Americans never met a horizon we didn't love to crawl under, fly over, stop and wall in. OVER THERE is never safe with us. But we Americans have met our match. God Bless America - OVER THERE. But Earth Bless America IN HERE. The Earth Radical knows that the climate crisis is IN HERE. The 150 mile an hour wind, the tornado and derecho and tsunami and earthquake, the drought and floods - none of this is OVER THERE. The climate is here in our bodies. The drought and floods are here in our blood and breath. Earth Radicals sense the eco-system in their human body, and so they are impatient with policies, lawsuits, petitions... the eventual things of the professional. An Earth Radical is Radical Earth. The climate is IN HERE.
SURFING ON WARM, RISING OCEAN WAVES WITH THE UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT. This morning I'm up at 3:30, listening to the BBC talk about the Australian fires, then turn that off. Prefer this silence. The loudest thing is the ringing in my ears, from my day in the city. After the climate report's release two weeks ago, overwhelmed by the twerking of John Boehner, there is an ominous silence settling over things. Sometimes the lack of leadership in the world - ABOUT the world - makes me do a slow double take. Really? Are we really set adrift? Are you politicians really in the pay of the fossil cartel and the banks? Is it really that simple? And all the thousands of earth scientists saying how bad things are in unison, like a big international choir with towering harmonies - that unprecedented message and years of taking the Earth's pulse - is it lost in the din of discussion about Miley Cyrus' ass? The report could have been drowned out by any kind of white noise. We won't let the Earth speak to us unless we are terrified by fire bursting from the sky or from the ground beneath us. And though that happens more and more, somehow we capture these disasters, as the BBC did just now in my kitchen, in sentimental tones of a farce. The news reduces extreme weather events to a kind of twerking, just as the politicians reduce it all to wonkish policy. Then we end up sitting in the pre-dawn silence. How can we possibly re-up this report to families, to communities, to culture-makers? Our little group - we will go back into a New York bank on Thursday, probably Chase, with our Golden Toad masks, worn like strange big hats by our singing activists. Hand out the information about the banks investments in coal, gas and oil. Engage the bank workers personally if we can. It is this kind of micro-gesture that we have to believe in now, this hand to hand cultural combat. Earthalujah!