Just a few days ago I was searching for a video with a story that persists from generation to generation for its universal truths. I had just reviewed a children’s book for a fellow writer in which I compared it to a children’s book written by Leo Tolstoy for school children (The Bear). It got me thinking about a time in my life when Tolstoy’s War and Peaceled me to read many of his stories, essays and children’s books.
War and Peace, I like the 1956 film version, is a story anchored in the Napoleonic war in Russia. I watched it again this weekend on Amazon Prime. It was gorgeous, expansive, and thrilling even after all these years. I “heard” Tolstoy’s voice, powerful and clear, as he shows the truth about war, love and the meaning of life through his wonderful yet flawed characters.
The shadow of nationalism passed over Europe and Russia; war looms as once shared values diverge. Dialogue fails. Conflict looms. Tolstoy describes the battles outside and inside each character along the arc of their personal discoveries.
Coincidentally, I scanned C-Span Books today for an interesting book review. The first book presented was a 2014 review with Andrew Kaufman’s book Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times. It took place at the Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C. Dr. Kaufman delivers an engaging rationale for why Tolstoy’s classic story is perfect for our time.
For decades I have traced the connection between capitalist organization of society and denial of the living universe as possessing rights equal to a small segment of human society that dominates the Earth and us.
Giving voice to “inanimate” beings such as mountains, rivers, forests, and the non-human life that keeps us alive and healthy is the work of storytellers: artists such as writers, poets, musicians, and the myriad creative visionaries among us. Add birds and every living creature that vocalizes or lays a chemical language on leaves and on trails on any part of the creation.
As humans we must tell the truth of the moment: a destructive way of thinking and operating a society has caused climate change. Extractive technologies are a good example of how a way of thinking about the living Earth as inanimate, a “resource,” allows and even promotes the destruction of the living pith that keep us alive. It is hacking away at the very ground on which our lives depend.
I can think of no other magazine and group of visionaries than Emergence Magazine that is bringing essential truths and astute visionaries to these discussions. Here listen to an interview with Amitav Ghosh, scholar and writer which explores the ways in which capitalism creates an ecological crisis. For people living in countries dependent upon capitalist economies, i.e. the developed world, this is a clear, fresh voice for the unseen and unheard. He discusses his new book: The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis.
David Abrams describes his journey to understanding that everything is alive, and remembering this is a fundamental step toward addressing climate change. Listen on Emergence Magazine Podcast. Abrams sees our times as imbued with great possibility for fundamental change in how we live by recognizing how everything we perceive, everyone and everything – the “others” – are part of us.
To celebrate the life and work of Barry Lopez, Emergence Magazine presents this tribute to his life and works. Make sure you turn off all media and work and give it your full attention. I guarantee it will reward you.
UPDATE January 20, 2021: The Interfaith Power and Light movement has developed a climate action week educational kit that you can use to support youth climate actions that are challenging our culture through legal means. Click here to learn more.
Young people acting for a safe climate and their futures are growing. Our Children’s Trust is an example. This youth movement utilizes the law to seek justice for a right to a safe climate. Youth Climate Finance Alliance approaches climate injustice by focusing on the rapid devolution of the fossil fuel industry to achieve climate decarbonization.
The Sunrise Movement takes a direct approach by helping elect “green” candidates working for faster adaptation and mitigation of climate change. They provide political action structures such as phone calling banks, and regular demonstrations on issues that takes place at legislators offices to draw attention to elected officials who are accepting support from the fossil fuel industry.
SustainUS is a youth coalition that works across borders to unite youth to transform the colonialist policies (especially extractive industries) that continue to exacerbate postive action on climate and human rights. Here is a quote from the website that illustrates the razor-sharp understanding of the social and political roots of the climate crisis:
The pandemic is an extreme symptom of the climate crisis. Our collective response must also address the inequities at the root of the climate crisis, which include our health as a sacrifice zone. Just solutions to the pandemic go hand in hand with just climate solutions. Now, it is abundantly clear that the coronavirus has decimated communities across the globe, unearthing the complex and harsh circumstances of the most marginalized. The same migrant farmworkers, Indigenous communities, and low-income people without access to the internet or the privilege to stay at home are impacted first and worst by the climate crisis. Even worse, we know that the damage we continue to make on this planet will pave the way for worse pandemics to happen down the line.