I Woke Up As A Wall

10676273_10152350256335974_3860291121167662144_n.jpgI woke up this morning only to find that I had turned into an old wall, overlooking a civic lawn or a field perhaps. My partner Savitri was nowhere to be seen but towering over the bed, and towering of me as a wall, was our daughter Lena, who had apparently designed this landscape while I was asleep. Now any movement by me to get off the bed was met with an astonished scream. "You're the wall! Walls don't move!" 

Lena was, this morning in her Hawking-Minelli mode; that is, she has the authority that comes from a working knowledge of the origin of the universe, as does Stephen Hawking, and on the other hand she is never far from a blow-out song and dance routine, in the manner of Liza Minelli. I could only ask Lena questions about the town she created, in which every little bunched up bit of blanket a bodega, every pillow the slope of a park. 

In fact I had to pee, but it was pointed out by Hawking-Minelli that WALLS DON'T PEE! Walls hold water back, Lena said. They don't pee they hold rivers back. Oh so I had a field on one side and a river on the other... Blinking out from my predicament while she was constructing her city, I wondered suddenly whether walls do witness the world around them. The world of last night's dreams had just enough proximity to Hawking-Minelli for me to ask the question, "Are the walls watching us?"

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A Call for Re-Wilded Citizens

1012268_10152339804295974_2088976537242628212_n.jpgThe old environmental movement evolves into something new. We are ready for the miracles of wild bravery. 

In a social movement that changes society. there needs to be a scary time, a Halloween, a time of beatniks, hippies, punks and gangstas. That is the way it has been in the United States. From the abolitionists to the Dreamers in the immigrants' jails, when someone started to become effective, they were urged to slow down and be polite. People told Dr. King "This isn't the right time!" and then they told Malcolm X "You're offending people..." We need that now, the polite self-effacing era of Bill McKibben needs to give way to the young black radicals of Ferguson, Missouri and the Pennsylvania grandmothers chaining themselves to fracking equipment.

The old issues are necessary talking points, but we're talking too much. "Environmentalism" can no longer exists as a stand alone movement. When we met at the New School this summer in the planning stages of the Peoples Climate March we had a rousing rally in the big hall, and then broke into our "issues" in different university classrooms with labels on the doors like "food safety," and "transportation," and "energy." There were about thirty such issue rooms. I went to food safety, hoping to meet some beekeepers. My class was twenty-two white people and an African American woman from Oxfam. And my classmates were very polite.

The activist wildness must come from a vision of all the issues being one demand. That is why Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have more to do with climate activism than the Wildlife Conservancy. The only issue is that life itself is in peril. That changes everything. Our climate march sessions didn't have a room for "Peace." Or "Children." Or "Consumerism" None of the issues embraced the whole thing the way the Earth embraces us with its super storms. So the climate march got off to a polite start, the emergency muted into a permitted de-politicized parade. The absolute opposite of the climate parade would be the children at the Texas border - and those children are where the Earth Revolution waits to be born.

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Home Life Takes Over Politics

10659396_10152335386015974_7593989940943388114_n.jpgWe are determined to leave our children with a healthy life on this Earth. The intertwined three "C's" - Consumerism, Capitalism and Church, must be wrestled apart, interrupted, and confronted with common sense hardass eco-love. The three C's must not return from the upheaval of compost until they utterly morph. A miracle! 

We do not have dominion over the wilderness or even the robin in the window. We cannot hate the "Big Other. " We do not love a "Big God" or "Big Money" or "Big Oil" because they subdue the beings that we fear. And another big thing: Monsanto is the Devil.

As far as I can tell, Lena's love for Savi must rule American foreign policy, the Halloween 2 Day Sale at Macy's, and all the cops hooked on adrenaline and John Wayne movies. Wars must be reduced to bad moods and then thrown on the forest floor to meet the ecstasy of a million one-celled dancers with big mouths. Amen!

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Occupy Lives

10616209_10152332506030974_5458668313937000273_n.jpgThe choreography of Consumerism can so easily take us into the dance of standing in line, sitting in class, waiting for jets, movies, clubs. And then the Earth calls us, flooding down from the space between dead skyscrapers, alive with lightning and thunder, birds and gusts of wind in the trees... How do we rise to harmonize with the wilderness that desperately comes to us out of the suffering of extinction, the climate apocalypse?

Tonight two Occupy Wall Street young radicals came to our home. The only idealism that can we can possibly do, all we can try to do... it was there in our eyes as we drank wine, as our children climbed on us and the thunder competed with the sound of jets in our windows.

Occupy Wall Street was 2600 tent cities in the centers of towns and then it was methodically taken down by paranoid police working for propertied rich. But can such a thing just vanish? As the Hong Kong young rise up, and before that Gezi Park and before that a thousand grandmothers standing up to fracking and before that mountaintop removal and tar sands and pipelines all the struggles - we know that in the souls of these people the super storms are stirring. 

Occupy Wall Street is right and existing power is wrong. Ordinary people will live together in their commons, and that is all OWS was, and all it ever needs to be. This is the only imaginable future. Living together by sharing people is the death of the neo-liberal elites, and the return of the life of the Earth. Floods and fire, drought and disease are violent, and revolutions are too, but justice is Peace.

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Language of Silence

1779233_10152328726830974_8769817661986376821_n.jpgSavitri and I woke up this morning knowing that today was supposed to be our day of direct action. After last night's performance with 23 wonderful acitvists-who-sing in the Stop Shopping Choir, we were just a few miles from a Monsanto office building in Cambridge Massachusetts, with all these courageous friends - what's the problem? The problem was that we were exhausted completely. We had no idea of what to do. We felt like Wily Coyote off the edge of the cliff. We realized that we were already falling.

Since about August 1st, we have not stopped. Jails and jets and stages and long drives and jails and stages. In Europe for the Edinburgh festival and Belfast, then California and Burning Man, then New Mexico, then a tour of the farmer's markets of New York, then the People's Climate March weekend, then jail for defending a beloved tree, then four new songs, the Ferguson and jail and The Hug, and now Boston and we are falling off the edge. We love our life but -- too much!

So the choir took over, circled up and ordered me out of my polyesters and collar. We listened to their decision-making, which came to down to stillness. We would not be our usual aggro selves at Monsanto. We would be meditative. Start over in our opposition to the invisible toxins of this monstrous company. We drove to the place and stood there in front of it and didn't move. Savitri handled the official reaction, but no one could move us. A doorway to a new kind of dramatic action opened for us. A language of silence. People around us gradually lost it. We kept thinking about what this company does. We visualized years of revolt against it. We saw an America returned to its original Earth.

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The Hug

safe_image.jpgThe United States is deeply militarized. They call it security but it is official fear on a grand scale. Paranoia is formally budgeted at unprecedented levels. The small town Mayberry RFD-like police force may have high-tech tanks, night-vision goggles, automatic weapons. For what? Your neighbor across the street? Is ISIS seducing our daughters? 

Sister Dragonfly hugged a grandfatherly cop in Ferguson and six million people have witnessed the image of that hug in a rainstorm in Missouri. Dragonfly is a San Antonio and Detroit native who suffered racism traumatically. This was not a sentimental moment for her, it was heart-wrenching. She was sobbing after the encounter. But now a week later, it is clear that her famous hug with the Ferguson riot cop, one Sergeant Wood, is precisely the sort of leap out of the comfort zone that each of us must discover.

We know that this kind of flight into risky human contact is the only way to make change. The power institutions have dictated our alienation from each other. To love across the divide is an act that is discouraged by society at this point. To love is to break the rules. We feel like fools, acting alone. And so today's required courage is completely embarrassing. We are called upon to be fools for love. 

In our church shows, we always tell the audience, as we did yesterday in Boston - "Each one of us will be called upon to take our personal direct action. We will move beyond ourselves, to create something new." Dragonfly and officer Wood did that, and now each of us must do it, in duets and in symphonies of surprise love.

 

 

 

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Rick Piltz

10407255_10152325153175974_5553530182214429328_n.jpgRICK PILTZ passed suddenly in Washington this morning, but Rick lives on in the fight of the climate movement. Once the science officer in the Bush White House, the reluctant hero blew the whistle on a practice of lying about climate science at the highest levels. Rick was the one who found that science reports about global warming were edited by an employee of the petroleum industry, adding phrases like "warrants further study" when the original summary would say "warrants urgent response." Thus the American people were kept in the dark about the seriousness of the Earth's crisis by Big Oil's infiltration of government.

After communicating the redactions to the New York Times's Andrew Revkin, the story appeared on page 1, June 8, 2005. Rick quit before he was fired, and had the foresight to protect himself through contact with Government Accountability Office. Thereafter he concentrated his efforts at the organization Climate Science Watch. Through the darkest days of domination of the debate by Fox commentators and the media practice of promoting climate science deniers to achieve a fair balance of views, Rick Piltz was the Earth's talking head. Time and time again he appeared opposite those in the pay of the same fossil fuel front groups that he had originally exposed.

He did this for years and years, waiting for the rest of us to catch up. And if some of us have mixed feelings about the Peoples Climate March, I am glad that Rick Piltz, the always-ready journey-man waiting in the wings to testify for the Earth, witnessed the outpouring of humanity that marched that day to demand action from the governments that were so intractable during his service. Maybe they still are, but Rick's life gives us a fighting chance. Now the Earth has called him back. Oh Rick, when I'm back at Blue Mountain at the lake, listening to the loons cry their echoes against the Adirondacks, I'll see you in the canoe, gazing out, listening.

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Reflections

14908641634_f9ed486b6c_z.jpgWe hope that Dragonfly's bravery (and the sergeant's too - I don't think hugging is in his riot protocol) is a help to everyone in this struggle. It is humbling that 4 million folks have seen the pic. Judging from the 7,000 comments, there are passionate calls for no more Michael Brown or Eric Garner tragedies. There are calls for the kind of Peace that the iconic hug helps us imagine.

Can we go all the way to reconciliation, to the forgiveness exampled to us in South Africa? A lot of us would say, "Now is not the time, now is the time for structural change." When we were there with the world's clergy on Oct 13th - "Moral Monday" - there was confession, forgiveness and redemption in the air. The ministers, nuns and rabbis were definitely militant, too, but theirs is a softer revolution than some would like. My own feeling is that we have to be disarming to emotions as well as guns.

There is a trick here that we would need to discuss with Dr. King... Presenting in the media a grandfatherly cop who undoubtedly has a family that fears for his safety, risks humanizing a white supremacist structure that can't be tolerated or cooperated with. Although it seems possible that in conversation in a trusting setting that this officer might even be, in some sense, "on our side." He looks to be close to retirement age, and who knows what's going through his mind here? He did a brave thing, with the wisdom of being older and unafraid, apparently, of official reprimand. 

You can see in some of the photos, a much younger cop, in his 30's staring at him with surprise. Let us hope that the 25 or 30 years this younger man will be on the force that he will remember this hug and be less afraid of the black majority of his town. (And have African-american police standing with him who help him become, truly, a "Peace Officer.") Did he learn something when Dragonfly physically contacted the "skirmish line" and the older man responded like an old friend? The struggle continues.

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I'd Rather Hug You Than Hate You

10644257_10152318469240974_2681708337121433161_o.jpgWe hope that Dragonfly's bravery (and the sergeant's too - I don't think hugging is in his riot protocol) is a help to everyone in this struggle. It is humbling that 4 million folks have seen the pic. Judging from the 7,000 comments, there are passionate calls for no more Michael Brown or Eric Garner tragedies. There are calls for the kind of Peace that the iconic hug helps us imagine.

Can we go all the way to reconciliation, to the forgiveness exampled to us in South Africa? A lot of us would say, "Now is not the time, now is the time for structural change." When we were there with the world's clergy on Oct 13th - "Moral Monday" - there was confession, forgiveness and redemption in the air. The ministers, nuns and rabbis were definitely militant, too, but theirs is a softer revolution than some would like. My own feeling is that we have to be disarming to emotions as well as guns.

There is a trick here that we would need to discuss with Dr. King... Presenting in the media a grandfatherly cop who undoubtedly has a family that fears for his safety, risks humanizing a white supremacist structure that can't be tolerated or cooperated with. Although it seems possible that in conversation in a trusting setting that this officer might even be, in some sense, "on our side." He looks to be close to retirement age, and who knows what's going through his mind here? He did a brave thing, with the wisdom of being older and unafraid, apparently, of official reprimand. 

You can see in some of the photos, a much younger cop, in his 30's staring at him with surprise. Let us hope that the 25 or 30 years this younger man will be on the force that he will remember this hug and be less afraid of the black majority of his town. (And have African-american police standing with him who help him become, truly, a "Peace Officer.") Did he learn something when Dragonfly physically contacted the "skirmish line" and the older man responded like an old friend? The struggle continues.

 

 

 

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The Climate Movement Needs the Ferguson Revolution

10698589_10152320183020974_4418978345319682358_n.jpgThe Goldman Sachs-friendly “cap and trade” scam. How does that look now? The phantasmagoria of benign billionaires. Where is Richard Branson’s veggie-powered jet? Then there are green jobs, green shopping, green malls, green war…. years of this... the Big Green Stall. And then came the Peoples’ Climate March last month. 

I’m typing this on the F Train coming into Manhattan from Brooklyn, and I remember a sign from the PCM that graced these blurring walls. It said “What puts bankers and hipsters in the same march?” Bankers and hipsters? It is language like this –- denying that there is any opposition at all –- which makes me afraid that the march was part of the Big Green Stall. (I hope not! We sure had a good time! It was like carnavale with honey bees!)

I read some of Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” in The Nation. I felt like she could title it: “The Climate Revolution for Dummies.” She left me feeling that I’ve been avoiding the great fact of the Earth’s crisis. There is something huge that we all know but can’t say out loud. 

Here it is: An elite that holds economic power must have its money and power taken from it. Period. That is what leaving oil reserves underground means. That is what cutting emissions means. The Climate cannot be stabilized without seizing the assets of the fossil fuel industrial complex, which will send waves of disinvestment out through Wall Street and beyond.

And that is what is happening in Ferguson. I’m writing this on the 76th day after Michael Brown was murdered in cold blood by a Ferguson cop. The struggle in Ferguson is for power. White governments and white police forces are having power taken from them. They cannot institute a three year phase-in of “Diversity” and “Community Sensitivity Training.” The city must relinquish power to the community now. Economic, legal, political power has killed their youth, and the demand is not just to stop the killing, but for the mayor and sheriff to step down, the local college to stop, traffic to stop when it gets in the way, the churches to open their doors to people…

Over 76 days the black youth of St. Louis have kept this issue alive before the world: the killing must stop. The power that creates these murders as a part of its idea of governing is now turning that power over. Meanwhile, while as the clock ticks down, a parallel and competing society insists on governing itself.

I’m not doing Ferguson justice, because I came to know something visceral about taking power when I was in Ferguson and saw a second government created before my eyes in a torrential downpour surrounded by day-glow militarized riot-ready police smacking their night sticks on their shields. The new government was made by dances, speeches, prayers, silence, and the rhythmic recitation of names of the dead with the numbers of their young ages. 

A reader migt think that this is not a real government. Incantations, public confessions, sobbing in the rain and raising a fist in not governing. Let me say “You had to be there.” Or no, “You ARE there.” You are there if you are ending the power of the oppressor that seeks to control you. Imagine what this sergeant is going through, embraced by Dragonfly from our church. He may feel that the power is shifting in a basic way, from unconditional and implacably political love. His life is turning in a new direction. 

The Climate Revolution won't be a parade with permits. Bankers and hipsters alike will by hugged by visionaries with that mix forgiveness with demands are not negotiable.

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