Taking stock of the 2008 St. Louis Roundtable.

Author:Morris, Jane Anne
Position:Eight Panels, A Thousand Reflections


The subject of "odd birds" came up more than once at the recent "Surviving Climate Change" Roundtable in St. Louis--and I'm not talking about participants. Someone explained that the length of daylight informs birds' decisions to migrate, while temperature tells insect larvae (bird food) when to hatch. Today's ragged overlap of those distinct ecological "triggers," and subsequent spotting of seemingly out-of-place birds, was attributed to climate change. We were left imagining flocks of famished migrators wondering "Where da bugs?" while earlier (or later) masses of larvae wondered, "Where da birds?"

A similar disconnect permeated Roundtable discussions. Class divisions are still rife and ripe, and we need to remember that there is so much "restoration" of all kinds to be done--on both people and prairies--that none can be relegated to second rank.

Meanwhile, undesirable behaviors--from use of nuclear power-generated electricity, to dependence on cars, to eating low-quality, unhealthful, processed "food" from distant sources--are subsidized at both the individual and societal level. So it is the wealthy, should they so choose, who are most able to pay "extra" for such things as photovoltaic decentralized energy, or local organic food. This sets up a situation where "green" approaches appear elitist and classist, exacerbating the disconnect.

Determining a strategy that dissolves the disconnect, while promoting a green future, is our task as I see it.

Our gang: diversity

How excited should we be that biodegradable paintballs are now widely available? If you take it as a sign that eco-ideas are making their way into the "mainstream," then you would have found fellow travelers at the St. Louis event. (Maybe soon NASCAR drivers will be wearing helmets made of recycled plastic water bottles, and fueling their cars with hemp biofuel. Yay.)

On the other hand, if you're a Doom-and-Gloomer, planning for or even looking forward to Grid-Crash, and think the world is already vastly overpopulated with all-too-fertile human beings, then you, too, would have found yourself in good company at the Roundtable.

We heard that industrial infrastructures are incompatible with a sustainable good life and social justice; we were urged to appreciate the merits of (toxic) fly ash as a "green" building material for affordable housing. We heard calls for massive civil disobedience; we heard pleas that confrontation or "getting arrested" would turn people off.

Ideas dropped like coins, most with two (at least) distinct sides.

We should encourage our kids to walk to school. But, there are way too many of them (kids). Our cars should be efficient, and maybe electric and/or biofueled. But, there are way too many of them (cars), and where will that electricity come from? Factories should be powered by photovoltaic cells...

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