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With Your Help. (An annual update!)
In the guise of my annual report on our nifty online community I’m going to show you my vacation pictures! Lucky you!
It’s possible I’m just feeling guilty because I took a couple of days off in this Summer To End All Summers. But Sunday and Monday, while Hillary was introducing southern Californians below the age of 85 to the concept of ‘tropical storm,’ I went on a wander with an old friend through the middle of the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, a splendidly remote chunk of land that I’ve lived on the edge of, off and on, for much of my life, and which I never tire of exploring. This wilderness area is about 125,000 acres, or nine times the size of Manhattan, and it’s just one of thirteen big chunks of wild land in the Adirondacks, the greatest wilderness complex in the American east by far. (The Adirondacks are bigger than Glacier, Grand Canyone, Yellowstone, and Yosemite—combined). There’s nobody living in that 125,000 acres—unless you count the moose, bear, loons, hawks, whitetail deer and gnats we kept encountering. And of course the beavers.
We’re deep in the Crucial Years now, which makes me very thankful for those who volunteer to pay the modest subscription fee. If you can do so without great financial strain, it means everyone else can read this for free.
I admire beavers because…they keep at it. One big reason this wild countryside is so beautiful is because beavers find themselves a stream, and cut down a bunch of trees to dam it, and thereby create a wetland for a few decades; they help themselves (the pond protects their lodge) but they help everything else far more: there’s an explosion of life in those beaver meadows, as the sun pours in the opening and a million creatures large and small find the pond.
My work on this newsletter—and the community we’re building here together—sometimes feels a little bit that way to me; one of my jobs is to open up the tangle of politics and technology and economics and science that surrounds the climate crisis and let the sun shine in, beaming on the things that matter the most.
Usually that requires just steadily beavering away. But in a moment as dangerous and dynamic as this one, we’re not actually going to win this fight the slow and steady way; we also need some dramatic change. This year has been high drama almost without cease—I started highlighting for you back in January the fear that we were going to see a truly horrific summer. Even I didn’t quite guess its extent—the hottest weather on our planet in at least 125,000 years, with all the chaos that implies.
But I did understand its potential implications—above all, that it gives us a new opening to potentially make big change. If the last year has been about a phase change in our planet’s climate, the next year has to be about a phase change in our planet’s politics. I have some ideas about how that might happen, and I’m hard at work with my colleagues at Third Act and with movement leaders young and old around the world—stay tuned for details.
But also stay tuned for the remarkable insights that your fellow readers of this newsletter are providing. I’ve been learning a lot from the comments and replies to my updates, almost all of which have been constructive and clever. (There have been exceptions—last week I had to take down replies from someone who insisted on posting excerpts from that anti-Semitic fraud the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. If this is your thing, please head for Elon Musk’s ever-uglier realm). I’m committed to keeping this community a community, if for no other reason than community has never seemed more important to me. It’s as crucial to our future as solar panels or wind turbines; if we’re going to get through this, we will do it together.
Which is why I wanted to take the chance to say thanks to the relatively small fraction of you who pay the modest and entirely voluntary subscription fee to make sure this resource is available free to everyone. You are, in one sense, suckers: you get nothing extra, not even a t-shirt. But in a working community, people who can help with projects without causing themselves financial anguish get some real satisfaction from that role. I trust that’s true of you, and I thank you for it. And if you can’t afford that, do not worry about it for a second; you bring other things to our joint work.
I don’t feel any compulsion to provide ‘hope’ in this venture, just honesty. But when I stumble across hope I’m happy to share it. My Adirondack trip was a bushwhack—walking without a trail, which is a wonderful way to stumble across things. (Also to stumble, period, but that’s part of the game). Anyway, at some point on Sunday I found a big, beautiful beech tree, covered with claw marks where generations of bears had scrambled up it in search of beechnuts. This was a remarkable joy, because in the northeast almost all the beech trees are blighted now, victim of an infestation that has turned their trunks into acned and blistered poles; the smooth and unblemished skin of the beech, grey like the hide of an elephant, is now a glory of the past.
Or almost. Sometimes you find a survivor, deep enough in the woods that the blight hasn’t found it out. And there’s always the chance that, eventually, it will provide the seeds to let resistant trees spread back out in the world; if nothing else, it was pure joy to stand under that single tree and see the world working as it did for so long. It was the highlight of my few days’ trek, and I think it justified the time away from work, even in this summer of agony.
We will carry on together, as best we can. Many many thanks for being a part of it all.
If you want to help support this effort, and you can do so without causing yourself financial harm, you could pay the modest and voluntary subscription fee. Thank you!