Good Sunday Morning! And Happy New Year!
(and please keep reading to the PS because you have a surprise gift in store!)
In all our hearts, and at the tip of our tongues, is the thought-hope-belief that “2022 just has to be better than 2021!”
While lurking around the corner is the worry…what if it isn’t?
Pandemic news does not feel good. Omicron variant was, as Andrew Nikiforuk wrote December 22 in the Tyee, completely predictable and a result of policy failures.
As I overhear more and more people suggest “I guess we’ll all get it,” I am impatient and resonate to Nikiforuk, “Is viral defeatism Canada’s new political party?”
At this writing the events since the last pre-Christmas newsletter have been, as ever, wrapped in the two global crises of pandemic and climate breakdown.
Here in British Columbia, we have been hit with another round of extreme weather events in a deep chill (broken and burst pipes from Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley and interior through Metro Vancouver). Plumbers are beyond in demand. All of Western Canada has been in a record-breaking deep freeze.
While in Europe, the temperatures are unseasonably balmy. Over 15.7 degrees C (over 60 degrees F) in the UK, made New Years Day the warmest on record. To those who say how nice it is, George Monbiot retorted that people should realize they are cooking in a nice warm stew. Not as happy an image.
Meanwhile, our neighbours to the south in Colorado had closed the books on a year of extreme weather events. The stories of 2021 Top Colorado weather events had been filed and published. Colorado had a lot of extremes of heat, drought, rain in spring, heavy blizzards, mudslides, floods and tornados: https://www.denverpost.com/
Just in time for one last devastating event – a brush fire that destroyed over five hundred homes that hit December 30 – the day the year-end closer on extreme events of 2021 was published. Massive and rapid evacuations occurred through areas of suburban Boulder, Colorado making international news. By day’s end January 1, the same area was blanketed in snow. Homes threatened by fire 24 hours earlier now had burst pipes from freezing.
European news report a “winter heat dome,” while for Canada, we in British Columbia also got one last set of extreme events in the dying hours of 2021 thanks to the continuing reality of a collapsed/collapsing polar vortex.
Communicating the climate emergency is a tricky business. John and I are in the last few days before the deadline for submitting our re-write and update of the 2009 book “Global Warming for Dummies.” I was the co-author with Zoe Caron back then; now I am really enjoying writing with my husband. We are in a state of reflection and conversation about how to explain, without terrifying. And how to do it for “Dummies” – being a brand that is well-established to a formula.
Increasingly, John and I see the need to harness myth, legend and narrative. We need a new story. In that vein, I find the Netflix hit “Don’t Look Up” really interesting. The film is now number one on Netflix globally. It is a blockbuster with an all-star cast – Meryl Streep (essentially playing Donald Trump), Cate Blanchett as high powered tv news host (a lot like my experiences with Rosie Barton), Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as scientists constantly told they need media training, Mark Rylance as billionaire accorded the veneration other generations saved for mystics. Director Adam MacKay has prodigious talents and made the 2008 financial collapse compelling as story – The Big Short. Has he succeeded for climate science?
Is this the right new story? Allegory? Metaphor? Not climate science, but a comet hurtling to Earth?
The reactions of film critics versus those of climate scientists are very interesting. Critics for Rolling Stone, the New York Times and Roger Ebert panned the film, while climate scientists really love it.
This opinion piece from climate scientist Peter Kalmus is typical:
“The movie Don’t Look Up is satire. But speaking as a climate scientist doing everything I can to wake people up and avoid planetary destruction, it’s also the most accurate film about society’s terrifying non-response to climate breakdown I’ve seen.”
Not only climate scientists feel it rings true. Our hero of science to protect wild salmon from toxic aquaculture, Dr. Alexandra Morton, had a similar reaction. “It is not a comedy for me. It depicts the government insanity I encountered for decades.”
Without revealing any of the film’s plot, it raises some realities. Our news media wants to keep things light and in sound-bites. Long answers and – God forbid- math! – must be avoided. The role of billionaires in having special and unquestioned access to decision-makers is a thing. A dangerous thing.
The film brought to mind “Dr. Strangelove.” But maybe one reason critics have a hard time with it is that our daily reality is so absurd, can satire even work anymore? This is more or less what this writer in the Guardian offered by explanation.
Critics who found the film shrill or lacking in subtlety should read some IPCC reports – Code Red for Humanity – and consider whether subtlety works. Maybe we cannot make a threat to human civilization funny. Maybe some satire is really not comedic, but thought provoking. Even disturbing.
As 2022 opens and we hope for good news, maybe even a conversation about what works and what doesn’t work in “Don’t Look Up” is helpful.
And really good news could be around the corner if this look ahead from the Globe and Mail is accurate:
At long last, Dr. Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society may have achieved a fair settlement. Stay tuned.
And for the P.S., thanks to brilliant poet and dear friend Lorna Crozier for letting me share a recent, yet to be published seasonal work. It is like Lorna herself, a rare gift.
Love to all and less an exuberant shout, complete with a fireworks background, but more of a whisper, a wish, a prayer for a Happy New Year!
THE KINDLY HERDSMAN (written for my yoga friends and teacher, December 9, 2021)
He’s doing his best, you know,
this hearty man in red,
this list-keeper, this deliverer of dreams,
though what you really long for
never makes it down the chimney
to the tree.
He’s best with plastic, even metal,
a tin drum or a bike. You know better
than to ask for flesh, the lost husband, the child
the midwife swaddled in a linen cloth and took away,
the years in between melted like snow
tracked across old linoleum.
Even the dog you loved
more than anything in the world won’t be waiting
under the lowest branch, tail thumping
against the wrapped boxes.
But he’s doing his best, you know,
this chubby, born-old, ho-ho man
who never weeps,
who knows only the smallest
of your smallest sins,
and who loves, let’s say it,
more than his nameless wife,
the nine reindeer. He’s been pressured,
as you might have guessed,
to put them out to pasture,
to go robotic, to dump them for drones.
No matter what the tweets and twitter
threats, or how few the hours
till morning, he doesn’t push them
to go faster now—Dasher and Donner
and all the rest,
and if they’re tired and need a little treat,
high above the rooftops
he stops the sleigh to let them
lick the brightest stars for salt.
Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens