Marble Falls Talking to Andrew Boyd on Wade’s World recently, he didn’t come right out and say that the problem with a lot of the climate change Cassandras is that their message is so Debbie Downer that too many people just tune out and turn away, but he came close to that by example. Unquestionably, any and all are right to sound the alarms because things need to be done, steps need to be taken, and this isn’t play or practice, but the real thing. At the same time, warnings without advice, coupled with steps we can take, can seem strident and hectoring and rather than triggering action and response, lead to passivity, resignation, and hopelessness. All of which is why Boyd embarked on a search to find ways to have a “better catastrophe” by marrying his own thoughts with down and deep interviews with a collection of folks offering reflections and advice in his new book, I Want a Better Catastrophe: Navigating the Climate Crisis with Grief, Hope, and Gallows Humor.
I should quickly add that this is no joke book. Boyd is the activist behind the Climate Clock. UN-affiliated scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently said we have about a decade to reverse the problem and get out of fossil fuels overheating the planet. Boyd’s clock says we only have a bit over half that time, maybe six years, before we’re in the stew. Honestly, that’s like tomorrow, isn’t it? You get Boyd’s point, right? It’s not cynical, but realistic. He has conceded that we’re going to have a catastrophe. Hanging with Pollyanna is over. If it’s going to be bad, how do we make it less bad, at least in the way we think about it and act with that knowledge.
In some ways, his arguments and interviews are a long dialogue about hope and how to find it in the midst of chaos. He interviews a bunch of folks trying to find the clues. The most interesting I found were Tim DeChristopher, the guy who single-handedly turned a federal oil and gas leasing auction in Utah topsy-turvy and did two years in the slammer and felt it was worth it; adrienne maree brown, the former director of the Ruckus Society, and an engagingly unique voice, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, the botanist professor, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and author of the beautiful and profound book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants.
It’s almost impossible to sum all of this up. He advises that we have to learn to “love our fate”. We have to remember that every battle has to be won not once but twice, the first one against the opposition, and the second against the counterattack. As Kimmerer recommends, we need to learn to “partner” with earth, rather than just being “takers.” We need to practice “reciprocity” and the “honorable harvest”. As brown argues, we not only need to create a post-capitalist society, but we have to learn how to be post-capitalist people.
There’s a lot of gold to be found in these hills. Hope is not a plan, but it is a program that we don’t want to abandon, no matter how many clouds are on the horizon.