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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

At first I could not comprehend that my mom was actually dying. None of us did. She was never sick before, always the strong one taking care of all of us. Some realities are too big to grasp. Once we did understand what was happening though, my father, my sisters, and I found inner reserves of strength, courage, creativity, and caring we did not know we possessed. We became her primary caregivers. It was difficult and painful, but also a great honor to do all that we could to help her when she needed us most.

From that time I learned lessons that I remembered six years later when our father was sick and dying. I recognized sooner this time the crisis that we faced, the seriousness of the situation, the reality that this illness might end in death. And sadly it did. I miss both my parents terribly everyday, but I feel grateful that my sisters and I were able to understand the diagnosis, and that we did not pretend. We accepted the reality that a great change was happening in our lives. Pretending everything will be fine or that it will just go away or that surely technology will fix it for us would have kept us aloof, unavailable, unengaged when our parents needed us to be most alert and active.

For the past year since my father’s death, I have been researching climate change and the rapid deterioration of the atmosphere and the oceans resulting in recurring severe weather events, drought, floods, the extinction and the threat of extinction to some animals and plants, and already the disruption of human lives and even loss of lives. These days I am drawing once again from those inner reserves I discovered during the times my parents were so ill. I have been looking at the diagnosis regarding the planet, and the prognosis is currently grim, not yet hopeless, but dire all the same.

Climate Change to me is very much like living with a seriously ill parent. The reality of a sick planet is almost too great to take in. The earth seems too big to fail. It’s easier to assume all will be okay and to escape into Facebook or the latest YouTube craze or Tweet my way to distraction. But right now I’m beginning to understand that my attention is required. While it is a difficult reality to grasp, I accept that the climate has already changed and will continue to change. As we face these facts, we will find the strength and the will to act. We will have the great honor to help when we are needed most.

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Recently I announced I grounded myself from all flights within North America where I do 90% of my work. On Tuesday I will take the bus from home to Harrisburg, PA (1 hour, $18 one-way) then spend the night with friends, so I can get my 5 AM train to Burlington, NC (11 hours with 90 minute layover in Philadelphia, $107 one-way)

What I look forward to on this particular journey.
1. Hanging out with friends in Harrisburg who I don’t get to see often. We will have a nice dinner and catch up

2. 11 hours in a train. This may seem awful to some, but I am reading an amazing memoir by Japanese poet, Mutsuo Takahashi, so look forward to long stretches of uninterrupted reading. Also, I have about 60 pages of my own memoir completed and need to do some edits. I expect to get through most of it by the time I pull into Burlington.

3. I purchased a fetching bento lunch box along with a set of travel cutlery and chopsticks. The bento box has little compartments for rice, vegetables, tofu, etc, stuff I like to eat but they surely do not serve in Amtrak’s Cafe Car (Although they do offer Annie’s Vegan Burgers–which they ALWAYS overcook in the microwave.

I most definitely will NOT miss going through airport security along with the car ride to the the airport, the two flights and then long car ride to my destination

Bento box arrives tomorrow. Yay.

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Over the last two months, I have made a drastic and dramatic decision. No, Glen and I are not adopting a human child; our cats, Wally & Emma, are more than we can handle at the moment. And, no, I am not coming out more, although there is always room for more coming out.

For those who do not know, I am a performance artist and queer Bible scholar who travels throughout North America presenting at universities, seminaries, conferences, theaters, and churches. I live in Central Pennsylvania, a gay Quaker in Amish Mennonite Country, and I communte to California and Tennessee and a bunch of other places to do my work. And within that context, I have made a drastic and dramatic decicion.

I have decided that for the next five years or more I will not travel by plane within North America. No more flights from Pennsylvania to San Francisco or Vancouver or Memphis or Mexico City for business or pleasure. Other than in the case of an emergency, I have officially grounded myself.

Why? Short answer: It’s because of Climate Change and the excessive individual role flying has in pumping CO2 and other Greenhouse forming gases into the atmosphere. I have already flown much more than the average earthling. My individual contribution to the climate change compared with most people is off the charts, even with over ten years of being a vegan and seven years living without a car. For me, I cannot ethically fly any longer.

I recognize that this choice in and of itself will not drastically change the world at large. Nations, lawmakers, institutions, and businesses will have the largest impact in addressing the current global climate crisis. I have little to no power over what they choose, but I exercise vast amounts of agency over my own choices.

And with a choice like this, well, the world becomes a different place for me. In fact, it opens up opportunities previous unknown to me. (More about that in a future post.)

Notice I stated I will no longer fly within North America. I said nothing about flights to Europe or the UK or South Africa. The grief at the thought of possibly never seeing some of the dearest people I know, people who happen to live in Sweden, Malta, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, South Africa, Spain, and Norway, seizes up my heart and brings a tight sob immediately to my throat. I do not know about that yet. I understand that longer flights oddly have less impact than multiple shorter ones (something to do with disproportionate amount of fuel needed in take off and landing.) I know that I could also look into purchasing carbon off-sets to help balance out the carbon I expend. Today I do not have to make those decisions.

Instead today I am looking into train schedules for trips to Greensboro, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Albuquerque, and I’m planning a bus ride to Nashville. The choice to ground myself limits me, and it opens doors.

I welcome your comments.

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