“THE ARCTIC IS CARRYING THE DEEP WOUNDS OF THE WORLD,” asserts Gretel Ehrlich in her elegiac In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape [Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2010]. She continues: “Wounds that aren’t healing. Bands of ice and tundra that protected Inuit people for thousands of years, ensuring a continuity of language and lifeways and a meta-stable climate, have been assaulted from above and below, inside and out. Pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, the crushing demands of sovereignty and capitalism, war and religion have severed the strong embrace of ice.”

Her timely, highly recommended book clashes great beauty (“The poet Joseph Brodsky said that the purpose of evolution was beauty,” she notes amid myriad descriptions of awe-inspiring Arctic allure) with dispassionate science (“The paradise called the Holocene is ending, and a new epoch, tentatively named the Anthropocene, is beginning—an era when climate will be forced against its cyclical ‘instinct’ to become cold again”). It’s this clash, really a jarring shift, like ice shelves themselves colliding, then violently crumbling as they part, that infuses Ehrlich’s text with its vigorous and heartrending power.

In her telling observations, she is as unrelenting as the melting ice: “Perhaps the term climate change should be changed to climate care, since it is carelessness that is bringing so many changes to life as we know it and most likely will bring much of the life of humans and megafauna on this planet to what may be the end”; or try: “When we lose an ecosystem we are losing our thumbprint uniqueness, our way of knowing the world and our strategies of survival.”

As tocsinlike and grim as this may sound, and is, Ehrlich also celebrates native ingenuity, creativity—primarily as witnessed through storytelling, myth and art—and toughened spirit—the will to survive, to balance a hierarchy of needs and to bask rather contentedly in the determinate beauty of a (still) ice-locked natural world—a little of the noble savage perhaps, but I’d never for a moment confuse Ehrlich with Rousseau. Read More »

last_winter_movie_posterHAPPY HALLOWEEN! Can the threat of cataclysmic climate change due to global warming serve as compelling enough plot line to drive an independent horror film? In the case of Larry Fessenden’s Last Winter, the answer is an unequivocal YIKES!—I mean, YES! The disturbing-yet-entertaining film (the cinema of terror’s ideal mix)—originally released in 2007 and available on video from IFC Films—unfolds not at a haunted house but at a big-oil company camp in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), there thanks to a “historic vote” by Congress that opens up drilling. It doesn’t take long before strange goings are observed around camp, the permafrost begins to melt (and the worry, Is deadly hydrogen sulfide gas being released?) and the two “greenies” hired by big-oil North Industries to do an impact study know they are fighting a losing battle. “People just don’t want to deal with it,” green-cause journalist/scientist James Hoffman says in the film. “It’s tiring.” Not much later: “Something is being unleashed from the softening permafrost”—”This is the last winter. Total collapse. Hope dies.”

Hit the lights, pop the corn and buckle up: it’s time for some first-rate eco-horror, indeed! Read More »

stepbystep2WITHOUT TRYING TO SOUND ALL HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE OR DEEP-FRIED SOUTHERN GOTHIC, I’ve got to share the garish headline spiel I ran across on the back of an early-60s paperback I’m currently engrossed in: “step by step … deed by deed … they fashioned their own destruction.” It bejewels a musty, well-worn copy of Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away, but I was thinking—for Green Dynamind and with the International Day of Climate Action taking place tomorrow—that it’s an appropriate tag for where we’re heading if we keep on our current path of irresponsible and oblivious mega-consumption. And then the new issue of Scientific American arrived in the post, with its upbeat cover story, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future: How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030,” (more on this in a bit), and I thought, along with all the coordinated noise many will make across the globe tomorrow, maybe we can turn our spiel into “step by step … deed by deed … they fashioned their own salvation.” Now wouldn’t that be something to get excited about?! Read More »

Blog Action DaySPECIAL POST ALERT: In accordance with Blog Action Day, I’m posting a free-verse poem, “1,000,” focusing on climate change (be sure to read Mark Hertsgaard’s triple-espresso-blast wake-up call on the subject, which features some startling numbers of its own!). I’ll be back tomorrow with the regularly scheduled Green Dynamind post; this time a review of Wendell Berry’s superb new collection of essays, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food.

Copenhagen’s coming up—let’s make some noise for real climate change now! (You can also read my take on the recent UN and G-20 talks that dealt with climate change.)

Addendum: Blog Action Day has posted a recap. Read More »

Greenpeace bannerCOPENHAGEN ALREADY APPEARS GLOOMY—as it looms, somewhat nebulously, just down the road in December as host city for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. What, with the week we’ve had here in the United States: first in NYC with with the ultimately lackluster U.N. Summit on Climate Change; then in Pittsburgh with the contentious G-20 Summit meetings. Moonwalk-worthy back-peddlings, ramped-up ridiculous rhetoric, bogus posturings and protests, protests, protests! Can we—the world, with the United States and China taking point (one-two producers of more than 40 percent of worldwide carbon emissions)—seriously tackle global warming issues and produce meaningful results, i.e., action plans that will be truly implemented, in Copenhagen? Can the human spirit triumph? Go ahead and cue the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer soaring soundtrack! Drop in Robert Downey, Jr. amid an ominous smoggy maelstrom of CGI! Time is short, the clock is ticking, it’s GLOBAL GEHENNA!!! and we need an … an army of everyman-and-woman heroes to demand real action! Read More »