Thursday, November 08, 2007

Taking Flight

From Houston, we broke out of the clouds west of Austin, over Mason, I think it was, and the wildly curving Llano River canyon. Then, notably, hundreds of rather empty miles west, El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak, the most recognizable mountain and the highest mountain in Texas, respectively. Safford, Arizona, the Superstition Mountains west of Globe and Superior, then the phenomenal sprawl of Phoenix. The always awesome Colorado River south of Havasu City and London Bridge meant we were soaring over California, and then clouds hid the ground again.

When there was a break in the clouds, I literally gave a gasp to see the deep green turquoise ocean and the rugged, vertical Big Sur coast, just south of Carmel. Out over the Pacific and then inland again right over Monterey and Monterey Bay, headed north to circle fog-enshrouded San Francisco Bay a few times before being allowed to dip under into the mist to land along the exotic and lovely and so vividly lively edge of America where I'd left some of my heart time and time again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

From Pakistan to Finland, Wussup?

NOT that the world, at large, is ever a settled place. If you admit a wish or even a desire for "world peace" these days outside the confines of a Christmas card, you get a smirk, a rolling of the eyes, a glazed turning away to the next tipsy loon.

But the past week or so has certainly been rattling Atlas' chains.

From calls for riots and revolution "at all costs" in Pakistan to an American-styled school shooting in Finland, of all places, to the boiling rancor of the Middle East, angry heart of the world, this is not one of our better seasons.

This time has been fermenting for decades, of course, since China started sending out its imperial dragons, since the Turks started riding the fence between Europe and Asia, since Palestine unwittingly helped give birth to Israel, since India and Pakistan starting sticking swords into their turf wars, since the United States starting policing every seedy hotbed of ethnic and imperial strife -- and every land it could pilfer for natural (and unnatural) resources. There has been, as they, "a large sucking sound..."

But this week, it seems to me, it is coming home. Some of us have been saying these things for decades (and a prescient few for centuries): the world will not END. It will still be here. Many of US will still be here. But the times ahead may make these seem like the good ol' days, the days when indeed, by comparison, the world did seem like a "settled" place.

Maybe, give or take a few ill-wrought wars, a few genocides, a few ethnic cleansings, a few hundred million people killed, and the worst-yet plundering of the planet, maybe, just maybe what we had between 1945 and 2001 was world peace.

Maybe that was as close as we can get, cold, hot, in between and nothing quite right but about as right as it ever could be, at least in our recent memories (the last few generations) and in the prospects for our future in the decades ahead.

Americans have become bipolar about money. Many may not see the scenario apparently at hand, where the U.S. dollar sinks even lower and is dumped, where the debts are called, where the military and consumer debt bankrupt the country. "We're rich, and the rich get richer: somebody will lend us money. They won't let us sink. They need us to buy their things (and to protect them)." Would you lend money to Paris Hilton?

Would you willingly fork over your taxes to George Bush? To G. M.? To corn subsidies? To B-52s over Vietnam? To a nuclear arsenal most likely to be used because of the "Holy Lands?"

Oil, at $100 a barrel, and the coming of $5 and $6 and $8 gallons of gasoline might not be a bad thing for global warming. But think of the strife; we are bludgeoning our way into the waning days of the status quo. Civilization is not looking so good right now. Wars (or more wars) will be fought for $150 and $200 barrels of oil. The Nobel Prize committee was right to associate climate change (and really an assessment of our own greed and lifestyles and waste) with world peace. The times they are unsettling, meaning they will become less settled, and this may seem, in hindsight, like peace.

I am hoping for something better -- and for leaders who will lead us there. There, I said it, and weeks before the Christmas cards start fluttering down from the sky.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Election Day a YEAR Away

Ouch! A YEAR to go. A YEAR.

So let's see where we stand.

Among the donkey jockeys, John Edwards and Barack Obama are the only two candidates making headlines besides you-know-who. And most of the gents' headlines concern how they are taking swings at the steadfast front-runtress.

Among the pack of pachyderms, heck, the two most INTERESTING candidates are clearly... Mike and Ron. Messrs Huckabee and Paul have got it going on. They're even beating Kucinich at his own game, making some really big bales of hay from the wings. These three are the Posse of Passionate Interests (and my gosh, Dennis and Mike even have cute senses of humor.) Then there's Paul with a true Patriot's gumption.

Cut their nonsensical goals of abolishing a major federal program here and there (heads up, Education), and these guys make some serious sense. They've cut through the smoke and mirrors to grow rabid followings, fringe folks who are actually starting to cough up some cash.

But a YEAR to go, a YEAR.

Can you imagine waking up every morning for the next year and hitting the floor running? A few -- or just two -- people will be doing just that 365/24/7.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Step It Up 2 'Morrow

I'm on the e-mail lists of a bunch of organizations which would prefer we didn't cook the planet.

This week, besides my daily cute-but-often-petty "Green Tip" from the Sierra Club, it's been reminders from Bill McKibben and Al Gore and the movers and shakers at Step It Up ( that Step It Up 2 is happening 2'morrow. There are dozens, scores, hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS!!! of events large and small happening all over the country to get us jazzed and inspired and moving about global warming. Some will be coffee clutches in suburbia. Some will be university-hosted, like the event closest to me on the lovely campus of Trinity University in San Antonio, 68 miles away.

Maybe it's time to step up the calls to our elected officials and do less driving to rallies. What more do we really need to know? Frankly, most of us who have ever attended a "green" rally of any sort know enough already to act. What are we going to do? Drive 68 miles and hit the big stores and a movie, too, to say it was a worthwhile 150 mile day? To show how "practical" we are?

And therein lies the rub. Sooner or later, we're going to have to stop gathering and really get going on global warming, which of course means GOING LESS. The best thing to do for global warming is to stay home (or very close to home) and take a walk or a bike ride. And not drive for a day or even a weekend, yep, a whole weekend. It's not so much that Americans are great travelers; our epic treks are few and far between. We are not often on the DIQ, the Deep Immersion Quest. But we sure do like to keep moving. We are "get there" kind of people, get there home bodies, really. Piddle at home, run the house ragged in fact, then jump in the car for the slightest thing. I've done this plenty myself. Sometimes, I've got cabin fever so badly it seems it could be fatal. At home, I can pace like a leopard in a cage at the zoo. I start to glaze over. There is a big world out there. But do we tend to go grab on to the Big World? No, we often settle for going to some other cage, like a big box store, to wander the aisles in a daze not too dissimilar from the daze we left at home. We make the stores our homes away from home. We prowl the neighborhood, meaning the SALES. That's the territory for most Americans.

Well, that all adds up to a cooked planet. I don't think it is reasonable to think (make that "believe") that we will be able to keep this up AND have a healthy planet. So-called "green" goods will never be the whole answer, not even close. Less really does mean more: less stuff means more health, often for ourselves but definitely for the planet. Just think of the horrible pollution China is churning out to make stuff as fast as they can for us to buy as fast as we can. And their Pacific Ocean is our Pacific Ocean. Their air is our air. We buy the legacy of (and often ingest) the pollution along with the products.

And so maybe the best thing to do for Step It Up 2 Day is to do some real treading lightly. Fix a fresh salad and read a book. Or ride a bike.