"Diary of an Interesting Year" (Helen Simpson)
Just finished reading I’m With The Bears, a collection of short stories from writers that include Margaret Atwood, T. C. Boyle, and Wu Ming 1. The premise is simple: telling stories that can “bring a human reality” to the extent to which our planet and collective psyche are damaged - and how much worse it might get. Overall, I found it quite a hit-and-miss collection, probably because it was curated based on the unity of subject rather than writing styles, but that also means that it’s worth picking up: there’s definitely something for everyone, and there’s no saying you won’t find something you never thought you could like before.
As much as I love Margaret Atwood’s writing in general, her story didn’t do that much for me; what struck me most was Helen Simpson’s “Diary of an Interesting Year”. (Ironically, the style and simplicity reminded me a little bit of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In a good way, though.) Nathaniel Rich’s “Hermie”, about a reunion between a man and a hermit crab he used to play with as a child, was far more light-hearted and jolly good fun by turns, but no less poignant. :(
An extract from “Diary of an Interesting Year”:
August 1st. Somewhere in Shropshire, or possibly Cheshire. We’re staying off the beaten track. Heavy rain. This notebook’s pages have gone all wavy. At least Biro doesn’t run. I’m lying inside the tent now. G. is out foraging. We got away in the middle of the night. G. slung our two rucksacks across the bike. We took turns wheeling it, then on the fourth morning we woke up and looked outside the tent flap and it was gone, even though we’d covered it with leaves the night before.
“Could be worse,” G. said. “We could have had our throats cut while we slept.”
“Oh, shut up,” I said.
August 3rd. Rivers and streams all toxic—fertilizers, typhoid, etc. So we’re following G.’s D.I.Y. system. Dip billycan into stream or river. Add three drops of bleach. Boil up on camping stove with T-shirt stretched over billycan. Only moisture squeezed from the T-shirt is safe to drink; nothing else. “You’re joking,” I said, when G. first showed me how to do this. But no.
August 9th. Radio news in muddy sleeping bags—skeleton government obviously struggling, they keep playing the “Enigma Variations.” Last night they announced the end of fuel for civilian use and the compulsory disabling of all remaining civilian cars. From now on we must all stay at home, they said, and not travel without permission. There’s talk of martial law. We’re going cross-country as much as possible—less chance of being arrested or mugged—trying to cover ten miles a day, but the weather slows us down. Torrential rain, often horizontal in gusting winds.
can’t wait to share photos and just write, hiked 8 hours on friday, 9 on saturday, did a 45 min walk to some awesome waterfalls and back today, 5 hour trip back to dijon, then get home, get on the internet, and find the #noxl success around the white house! got the same chills as when i first saw the sf moving planet aerial photo, even though i haven’t directly contributed to the tar sands action i have so much pride in 350.org, greenpeace, sierra club and all those who were there today. this sounds corny, but they are my people. i know i only interned for 2 months, but i consider 350.org a place that i’m comfortable at. yes, i was hiking instead of doing environmental activism, but i know the fight doesn’t end today. i commend all those there today, and wish i were there. had i been in school or at exeter, i would’ve definitely found a way to go. sometimes it’s not just about fulfilling a desire, being rational, to some extent, is necessary, too. or so i tell myself.
350.org's DO THE MATH TOUR, LOS ANGELES
Last night I attended the 350.org Do The Math Tour in Los Angeles. I am pretty intimidated by anything that requires me to do math (because I am a creative by nature) but the message of the evening was a no brainer: We are burning too many fossil fuels, the planet is warming and as a result and we need to band together and do something about it…err… quickly.
Our earth has already warmed 1 degree. To the lay person this doesn’t sound like too much until you realize it is agreed that if the planet were to warm 2 degrees the consequences will be catastrophic (and by everyone, I mean, governments, respected climate scientists, etc). The bad news is, because we haven’t changed our ways, our earth continues to get warmer and warmer and warmer… and we are inching our way toward a catastrophe. Yikes.
THE BAD GUYS:
The target of the evening was the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel industry is a rogue industry. Shell, Exxon, BP et al, are a big bunch of irresponsible cheaters who are allowed to pour the most dangerous waste into the world for free all while inflating their wallets. In fact, the top 5 oil companies profited 137 Billion dollars last year (If you are interested here are some more obscene oil company profit numbers)
If these oil companies are to burn everything they currently have in their reserves, the earth would warm 5x beyond the two degrees and WAY beyond the point of no return. At the 350.org event they likened our earth’s projected oil consumption to a person drinking a few cases of beer and never ever recovering from the hangover.
Nevertheless, Exxon continues to spend $100 million a day looking for more oil and gas to pump into the ecosystem. Problem is, as Naomi Klein put it, ”the truth of climate change and global warming challenges the fossil fuel industry’s economic paradigm.” This is best portrayed in the graphic used by the do the math tour:
** did you know there is fracking going on in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles?
DIVESTMENT: a.k.a. fight money with money. Encourage schools, universities, pension funds, individuals and churches to secure a better future by demanding the sale of fossil fuel stocks and greening their investment portfolios. GoFossilFree.org is a great website to help, encourage and promote divestment from the fossil fuel industry. By the way, divestment was a tactic used to help overcome apartheid in South Africa.
Unity and Hampshire College is the first school to divest their endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry. Here is a Harvard divestment campaign.
BAND TOGETHER AND FIGHT: get out and protest, march, make your voice heard, don’t worry too much about getting arrested (ha! it’s a joke… kind of….) and don’t let this issue sit on the back burner. Join together and speak out.
INSPIRING QUOTES FROM THE EVENT:
- Together we have a shot at this but only together
- Because your actions affect me
A FEW GREAT PEOPLE HIGHLIGHTED AT THE EVENT:
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
LOTS OF COMPANIES do rotten things in the course of their business—pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops—and we pressure them to change those practices… But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.
Hansen’s TED talk on Climate change.
The deceit behind the attempts to discredit evidence of climate change reveals matters of importance. This deceit has a clear purpose: to confuse the public about the status of knowledge of global climate change, thus delaying effective action to mitigate climate change.
…this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet , and they’re planning to use it. -
Activist and Filmmaker of Gasland
With the 2005 energy bill… [the exemption] was one page out of a 1,000-page bill, so not everyone even really knew what they were dealing with.” The Halliburton loophole, as it became known, provided exemptions to oil and gas companies from several environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act. “So in 2005, you see this whole upswing in drilling… the number of rigs doubled and tripled and quadrupled all over the United States,” resulting in the “the largest and most extensive domestic gas drilling campaign in history.”
IMPORTANT LOCAL LOS ANGELES ORGANIZATIONS: