Paris

The Hotel de Ville

A Tricolore thread winds through the weave of my life, and on the periphery of my awareness hangs Paris, a once possible alternate reality. Living there permanently was the dream I couldn’t quite pull off, but I’ve returned to visit time and time again. During the past few weeks however, Paris has held a different place in my mind and heart. This time, it’s not due to my familiarity with the city or that it still holds me under its spell. This time, since the November 13 bombings, Paris has held my attention with a special urgency.

I sat down to write tonight not to share stories and images recently collected while wandering through the Marais or in the Luxembourg gardens but because I have a burning concern and words that I’m not hearing spoken by the world’s most powerful leaders and I want to know why. It seems like simple logic to me.

I want to know why Obama isn’t saying, “There is no other issue but Climate Change. If we don’t take dramatic and urgent measures to address runaway CO2 emissions, nothing else matters. Nothing… period.” I want to hear him say, “If you care about immigration, refugees, guns, food, agriculture, health, gender and/or race issues, look deeper at climate change. Its all tied together in a big fat mess and we will never untangle it without addressing the climate.”

You will say, “He can’t say that. He has to be careful with his language. He has to be diplomatic. There are allies and coalitions of power that he’s working on subtly, out of our view.” I get it… He’s making deals. But what I also get is that there’s still only one issue. Climate Change trumps everything else, including the antics of the caricature pseudo-politician who goes by that name.

I also want to know why everyone who loves this big beautiful earth and all of its creatures isn’t having a fit right now. If you follow me elsewhere on social media, you might be tired of my fit, tired of me going on about the climate, tired of my posting petitions and begging you to sign them. I’m not going to pipe down about it. This is a big deal. I want you to join me. I want you to make a big deal out of it too. I want you to do whatever you think is your part to do so that we can enjoy this incredible place called earth a little longer.

I understand that it doesn’t seem like you can do anything about it, just you, personally. This thing is too big and too scary and there’s too little leadership. But that thinking only leads one way, to inaction.

We can change the direction of this runaway train. Each one of us can do something every day. At the very least we can lend our support, the very real and very powerful things we each have called attention and intention to the movement. We can start by asking ourselves every day, “Can I do this differently? Do I really need to fire up my car? Do I need to go on that business trip? Can we have this meeting via Skype?” If not, “is that because I can’t change the situation or because I don’t know how… yet?” But we can’t change it if walk around with our heads in the clouds because its too hard, or unpleasant or inconvenient to change our lives. We want someone else to lead. Well its too late. This is our planet and its changing so fast that within our lifetimes, and I’m 54, we won’t recognize it as the same place.

This week, record rainfall fell outside my window, again. This summer, it was record draught. The maritime Pacific Northwest is traditionally known for its green landscapes and gray skies, by relatively high precipitation, long, cool summers and somewhat mild winters. In places where high temperatures and draught already hold sway, and where flooding already threatens, exaggeration of these native conditions means unlivable conditions. Here in the PNW, we have no idea what that might be like. For us, climate change is causing inconveniences like no ski season last winter, and we can still pretend. But this week was different in Beijing, Norway and Cumbria. In Beijing, even breathing the air is dangerous. How is that even living? In Brazil, women in certain areas are being warned not to have babies because of the insect borne zika virus, which causes microcephaly (a neurological disorder that stunts the growth of the baby’s cranium) in developing fetuses. Warmer temperatures and frequent downpours speed up the breeding cycles of the insects, so during the summer months, they’re simply advising women not to conceive.

I’m writing tonight because I’m disturbed and I want to disturb your peace of mind too. I want to shake you up a bit. I want my friends and neighbors to get a little bit upset about this, because I am and I think you should be too.

Quai du Seine and Notre Dame

Its almost morning in Paris. If they haven’t been working all night, the delegates from hundreds of countries will soon reconvene for the last time. The talks end tomorrow and tomorrow is almost here. The agreement won’t be enough to turn back the tide, but it might be enough to gain a little time. Whatever the governments of the world decide, it will be up to each one us to hold them to it. What kind of a world do we want for our children and grandchildren and what are we willing to do for it?

The climate movement is gifted with talented artists from every discipline. They are poets and musicians and painters and performers. They are protestors and climate activists and they’re making art and making a ruckus in the streets of Paris. They’ve staged impromptu concerts and performances and built massive installations. Every day, I’m awed by the ingenuity and camaraderie I see via my screen. One might almost think its a festival, but the urgency and tension in the faces and air belie the seriousness of their endeavor. We all have something to offer this movement.

After dinner walk

As Paris awakens, I’m off to bed, but I hope that tomorrow I’ll awaken to a world united behind a common goal. Please join me.

 

Memorial Day

Flags

This morning I noticed that I felt a bit cranky while scrolling through Facebook posts about Memorial Day. I realized that I feel conflicted and struggle to come to terms with what this day and Veteran’s Day represent today. While I believe in honoring those who have died serving the cause of freedom in America, I have issues with continuing to glorify the culture of war proffered by the US Military and the Military-Industrial complex that surrounds both of these holidays.

As the daughter of a US Naval pilot, I grew up hearing stories about flying off of a carrier in the Pacific, both the mishaps and the triumphs. I was proud of my dad’s efforts, proud of his service in the Korean War and his continued service in the reserves. When he put on his uniform to go to Sand Point for monthly inspections, he had a glow about him that the four of us, his children, recognized. We wanted to be part of that glory. He let us help him shine his shoes and polish the patent leather brim of his hat. Finally, he stood at attention for our inspection before leaving. We took our jobs as the pre-inspection team seriously and noted specks of dust or an uneven shine on a shoe even if it was imaginary. When I was very young, it was with pride that I announced to my playmates, “My dad is away flying his airplane for the Navy.”

After he died, it turned out that I was the only one of his four adult children who fit his flight jacket. It hangs in my closet and I still wear it from time to time. I have no problem explaining the patches to boys and sometimes men who ask me about them. It’s a contradiction of which I’m well aware. I know that his time in the Navy was almost sacred. It was where he grew up and where he made his best friends. The Navy paid his way through college. All of this is part of my history, but I believe the time has come for humanity to stop glorifying war, to recognize that while we can hold our history sacred, we can no longer afford to use it as a model for the future.

How do we honor those who have died in the service of freedom while recognizing that their way of serving is no longer effective or even viable?

Personally, I no longer think that the military is an effective way to protect and defend our democracy. Personally, I think that the activists of our era are warriors; those who demonstrate in the streets carrying signs that say, “Black Lives Matter”, “Stop Keystone XL”, “Stop the TPP”, and “ShellNo”, those that demand the removal of big corporate money from politics, the kayaktivists and those who join hands with hundreds of others in and around Elliott Bay in Seattle to protest against Royal Dutch Shell (An Anglo–Dutch multinational oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom) and its plan to drill in the American Arctic with our president’s blessing; these are our warriors for freedom today.

In order for our American Military to reclaim the glory of the past, I believe that it needs to become part of a different narrative: the narrative of serving freedom for humanity as a whole. I think that the glory days, when American servicemen and women abroad were seen as liberators and heroes could be reclaimed if we were to choose to redeploy the bulk of our fighting forces in a different role in areas of the world where they can make a difference fast. What if they were instead the “first responders” in the event of disaster?

The Israeli army and young Nepali survivors were effective relief operators in the early days after the recent earthquakes in Nepal. What if we turned our vast military resources toward the service of humanity? Its impossible for me to know or even imagine the impact that could have, but hard to deny that the special training and resources at the disposal of the US Armed Forces, if given the go ahead to make disaster zones top priority, couldn’t turn the tide of despair before it strikes.

We are all one human family on this threatened planet. On this Memorial Day, I don’t want to perpetuate the glorification of war but honor the value of service in the cause of freedom and look toward a future where this doesn’t mean war but honor and respect for differences in our fellow humans and respect and honor for the earth.