HOW TO RESIST CLIMATE DENIERS

by Nancy Adair

On the very first Earth Day, April 20, 1970, I joined hundreds of earth-lovers on Dunn Meadow, the wide lawn in front of our Student Union, for an event that was part march, part celebration.

Warm weather came early that year. We walked barefoot through the grass and dipped our toes into the crisp, clear Jordan River. We raised our faces to the glowing sun and let its glorious rays nourish our flower-children bodies all the way down to the chlorophyll. All was well with the earth.

Or was it? Speakers on soapboxes created a storm of controversy. They hurled thunderbolts of information us. Human folly was spoiling the earth.

Fossil fuels. Guilty!

Plastics. Guilty!

Aerosol. Guilty!

Students booed louder with each new charge.

The skeptical me stepped back, twisted a finger around a long strand of brown hair, and pondered the noise. Was this a hippie whim that would pass with time or a sinister plot by Tricky Nixon to distract us from Vietnam? I hate to be tricked by anyone, so here began my long quest for answers.

Which I need today more than ever.

Our new Environmental Protection Agency Director—former Attorney General from Oklahoma—is censoring the EPA, including its own website and Facebook page as well as new reports and findings. Research grants are frozen, even to scientists finishing Ph.D.s. Our new government policy is: The public must not be informed on environmental impact issues, not by the EPA nor by NOAA, our important weather center.

Ever debate a climate denier? They’re locked and loaded with fake news.

“Unprovable theories,” they sneer, “by liberals wanting regulations that will ruin our economy and employment.”

“Are you kidding me?” I reply. “Those theories you mention now pour out torrents of facts and evidence. Look at the changes since 1970: the winds in Bellingham, the earthquakes in Oklahoma, the violent hurricanes back east.”

The Climate Denier opens his umbrella and replies, “Climate comes in trends,” while his umbrella blows inside out.

“That’s half true,” I say, knowing half-truths can be more dangerous than lies.

Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, a right-thinking President and father of our National Park Service, I can now argue the full truth of climate trends.

From the 2016 Centennial until last week, I have visited over fifty National Parks, including fossil beds and painted deserts, which are more than just pretty hills. They tell the story of climate trends. Each band of color represents an era of history in our land. From these bands, scientists discover evidence of climate change. The wider the band—sometimes representing millions of years—the slower the trend. Today, we have a rapid, man-made climate trend that is changing fast it will be represented by a narrow sliver of a band.

“Petrified Forest. Note hiker for perspective.”

What does this mean? A long, slow climate transition gives plants and animals time to change and adapt. In a rapid transition, species are shocked by change and go extinct.

Here in Washington State, the warming trend is elevating bacteria levels in our water, making our food fish toxic. It’s driving bugs further north, and humans don’t have time to adapt to their diseases. I never thought about mosquitos or deer ticks when I moved to Washington twenty years ago. Now I do. When the cockroaches show up, I’m outta here.

Last week in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, I learned how rapid climate change harms cultures. For 5,000 years the Navaho have lived in that Canyon. Our warming climate now spreads fires that burn their trees, crops, and homes, as well as their history, recorded as petroglyphs on sandstone. The decrease in snow and increase in rain creates flash floods that wash away river banks and expose or destroy precious artifacts.

Yet, while all these rapid changes take place, the climate deniers  in Washington, D.C. are gutting important agencies and making science political. Go to the Facebook page, Save EPA,   if you want to see the damage already done.

The March for Science on April 22 and The People’s Climate March on April 29  will show Washington that we resist policies which “threaten the future of our planet, the safety of our communities, and the health of our families.”

We don’t have time to wait until the new administration figures out climate change is real. Our situation is urgent.

It has been 47 years since I pledged my allegiance to our earth, and it’s time to renew that pledge. It’s time to march again.

Author’s Bio: In the 1980’s Nancy Adair left the U.S. with her diplomat husband, two babies, and a typewriter. After twenty-five years overseas, she now resides in Bellingham, where she turns her life experience into novels, blogs, and memoir. Her stories have recently won first-place awards with the Chanticleer Reviews and the Write Practice.

Resist! A Premonition

by Carol McMillan

Do you remember what you felt the week before the 2016 presidential election? As an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, I still nursed some anger at the Democratic National Committee and the media, feeling they hadn’t given him the coverage they’d given Hillary Clinton, but, still, we were about to elect the first woman president. An historic moment! A glass ceiling hung poised above us all, waiting to be massively shattered. I remember watching the CBS pundits, running their predictive pointers across a red, blue, and purple map of the country, explaining all the possibilities that might be foreseen if this state went red or another went blue. His final words had been “Only a miracle could turn enough states red for a Republican victory.” Hillary’s landslide was assured; even the most unfavorable polls said so.

I joined my friends in planning parties to celebrate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s election as the first woman president of the United States of America. Three of us had even reserved a cabin on Orcas Island for our women’s victory weekend. Champagne, chocolate, beach walks, and companionship beckoned from our future.

I just want to take this moment to apologize for what happened next. It was my fault. Yes, honestly, it was all my fault! Let me explain.

On the night of November 5th, three days before the presidential election, I went to sleep in a familiar universe. I turned the heat down to sixty-two, took my evening vitamins, flossed my teeth, puffed my pillows, and snuggled down under my comforter. The cat jumped onto my bed as I turned out the light, curling his body into its usual position against my legs. Sleep came easily.

Three hours later I awoke from a soul-freezing nightmare. In my detailed and vivid dream, I sat at a long utilitarian table in an institutional green room. A group of us were awaiting the first deliveries of ballots that we could begin counting. A friend came rushing in from outside, visibly upset. “More Republican ballots are coming in than Democratic!”

Not believing her for a minute, I hurried out to the loading docks where ballots were arriving in large, flat white bags of heavy plastic, sorted by party. My stomach suddenly filled with icy lead, freezing me in place, as I realized that she was correct: more Republican votes were pouring into that small-town vote-counting place than Democratic.

The terror I felt jolted me into instant consciousness. The dream made no sense; everyone knew Hillary would win, but the vivid dream felt precognitively real. I feared that it foretold an unforeseen slip into an alternative universe, previously unknown and somehow malevolent.

For the next three days, I did everything possible to dispel the outcome predicted by that dream. How could I re-route the Universe, steer it away from that terrifying course? The man who originally seemed only to be a bad campaign joke, could not possibly take over the governance of my country! Everyone else seemed to continue as usual, confident of Hillary’s victory, unaware of the bifurcation of universes that I feared lay just ahead.

On the afternoon of the election, I felt even more certain that my dream had been an inexplicable premonition. Frantically, I pulled up every irrational superstition I could think of in an attempt to derail an unimaginable future.

If I wear different shoes this won’t come true.

If I don’t go to Leah’s to watch the returns this won’t come true.

If I don’t bring the bottle of my favorite port to her house this won’t come true.

History may record that the Earth changed course because

I did wear the shoes and

I did go to Leah’s and

I did bring the port.

Undoubtedly, the election of the forty-fifth president was entirely my fault: I had been warned. Megalomania has not been one of my usual faults but it continues to lurk here just below my consciousness.

This morning, as my first waking sensation, an inky sense of wrongness creeps into my consciousness. Reaching to snuggle my cat, I seek to retreat. If something so malevolent lurks in the waking world I will choose sleep. But my efforts defy me; consciousness is sending out a tentacle, ensnaring my thoughts, sucking them out into dawn. The man who ran a campaign based on anger and bigotry, despite everyone’s predictions to the contrary, has been elected president, and it is my fault.

So, I write this as an apology. My only sustaining consolation is that my friends have fallen into this alternative universe with me. If you are willing to forgive me, we will lock arms and wrestle this cosmic alligator back onto an appropriate track. Anyone know where to find a wormhole we might use to reboot reality?

Author’s Bio: CAROL MCMILLAN, until the past few years, had mostly published in academic journals. But moving to Bellingham has brought her poetry and memoir writing out of the closet; she has now been published in several anthologies. Carol is the author of one book, White Water, Red Walls, chronicling in poetry, photographs, and paintings her rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. She is currently working on a memoir of her experiences during the 1960’s in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Truth

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.

—George Orwell, 1984

One slim silver lining in the dark, towering cloud of recent events is a new respect for truth. People – even liberals – have in the past tended to be rather cavalier about this notion. Now, in light of lies and errors writ large on the world stage, we realized that truth matters.

I ask my philosophy students to define truth by filling in the following open sentence.

A statement (or belief) is true if and only if ….

They give answers that boil down to the following.

(1) ….if and only if I believe it.

(2) … everyone (or most people) believe it.

(3) …it can be proved.

(4) …it matches reality. (Only one or two in each class come up with this.)

And then we go through these and discover (with only the smallest prodding from me) that (1) (2) and (3) are incorrect. Obviously there are tons of things that I once believed that I now know are false – e.g., Santa Claus exists. Same for you. So, (1) is incorrect. There was a time (long time) when everyone who thought about it believed that the earth was stationary. They were wrong. The earth didn’t chug into motion in the fifteenth century. So, (2) is incorrect. There are pairs of statements: e.g. “Julius Caesar had type A+ blood.” And “Julius Caesar did not have type A+ blood” neither of which can be proven, but one of which must be true. Also perhaps more interestingly “God exists” and “God does not exist.” So, (3) is incorrect.

How about (4)? Well, I kinda like (4) although I would express it slightly differently:

A statement is true if and only if things are the way the statement says they are (were, will be – for past and future tense statements). It’s hard to find a counterexample to that one.

My students sometimes complain: “But (4) is circular.”

No, it’s not. It would be circular if it used the word “true” to define truth but it doesn’t do that. It uses words which mean the same as truth but that’s not circular. If you define a square as a figure with four equal sides and a right angle, your definition is not circular.

“But (4) is useless.”

Well, not exactly. It gives some pretty simple advice. If you want to know whether your statement is true, go look at the world – look at the things you are talking about – go see if ships fall off the edge of the horizon, go explore the heavens to find out whether the earth moves, go look for miracles and religious experiences and good theistic arguments if you want to know whether God exists.

“But in many cases we can’t find out whether (4) applies.”

Absolutely. But that’s because we are small, imperfect creatures. Why should we expect to know all the truths? Why should we expect a definition of truth to give us an algorithm for telling in each case whether a statement is true? That would be a miracle in itself and worth a lot to someone playing the stock market.

There are complications of course. Some statements are ambiguous. In some cases there may well be no matching reality. (Some people think moral claims are like this.) But that doesn’t refute my (and Aristotle’s) favorite definition. It just means that we have to clarify what we mean and recognize that some statements are false and their denials are false too.

The main complaint my students have about (4) is that it is boring. They were hoping for something sexier. Well, so be it. It’s better to be boring than wrong.

But I find something appealing about it. Truth is what really happened. Exactly how many people were on that mall. Exactly what he was thinking when he claimed that his victory was the biggest. Exactly what will happen when we repeal the ACA. Even if truth sometimes eludes our investigative powers, it is worth pursuing.

Author’s bio: Frances Howard-Snyder teaches philosophy at Western Washington University. She has published short stories at Cirque,Everyday Fiction, Wordhaus, Oxford Magazine, and Short Fiction Break (first place contest winner). When not writing philosophy or fiction, she enjoys spending time with her husband and twin teenage sons, walking, reading, playing chess and watching Shakespeare. Find her work here: https://franceshowardsnyder.wordpress.com/fiction/

AN OPEN LETTER TO BETSY DEVOS

By Linda Morrow 

Dear Ms. DeVos,

Of all the appointments your President – not mine – made to his cabinet, yours was the one I resisted and feared the most. He-who-shall-not-be-named recently said, “Who knew health insurance could be so complicated?” As a retired public school educator, with a thirty-five year career as a middle school classroom teacher, building principal and school librarian, I would submit that providing ALL children with a free, quality education is equally complex.

My first teaching experience took place in an inner city elementary school in Syracuse, NY where 99% of the students were African-American, and most of their teachers, like myself, were Caucasian. In 1963 Syracuse Public Schools did not provide a lunch program. Have you ever tried to teach kids who arrive at school every morning hungry and then go home to a lunch which often consisted of soda and potato chips? I have.

In the early 1990’s I became the Associate Principal of a K-8 school in Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom,” historically the most impoverished section of the Green Mountain State. Our school population hovered close to 800 students and we offered both breakfast and lunch to our children. But filling empty stomachs doesn’t solve all problems. Have you ever made a home visit to inquire why two sisters were missing so much school, and found them living in an unheated shed with their single mother, sleeping on mattresses on a concrete floor? I have.

As a school librarian in an interstate high school, part of a district that was established in 2000 to serve students from four small towns in Vermont and New Hampshire, I quickly discovered that students did not come to the library just to look for books. No, I had my “lunch-time regulars.” Teens who could not bear one more day of sitting alone in the cafeteria. Teens who sought the comforting refuge of a couch in the library. Have you ever purchased a book such as Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff and then placed it in the hands of a depressed seventeen-year-old girl, in hopes that the groundbreaking novel would help her find a way out of a dysfunctional family situation? I have.

But all the experiences I had as a public school educator pale in comparison to those I faced as the mother of my first-born child born with Down syndrome in 1966. Imagine my dismay when my son Steven turned five and I discovered that the local public school could and did refuse to enroll him in their Kindergarten program. For the next several years Steve rode the “short bus” to his segregated Special Education classroom, away from from his younger brothers, away from the neighborhood kids with whom he played, away from his hometown. Only the passage of PL94-142 in 1975 guaranteed Steve and other children with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate education including placement in an educational environment that allowed the maximum possible opportunity to interact with typical students. By the way Ms. DeVos, PL94-142 served as the forerunner to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) passed in 1990. IDEA is the Federal legislation you initially said in your confirmation hearing would be “…best left to the states.”

Our public school educational system is not perfect, and probably never will be. But public schools remain the best chance many children have to realize their full potential. As a parent I fought to ensure that all three of my sons received the education to which they were entitled. As an educator I know that many children cannot count on their parents to advocate for their needs. Author Paul Daugherty states in his book An Uncomplicated Life, that parents need to “expect, not accept.” I could not agree more. Since you yourself have no experience with public school education, how do you intend to provide continuous improvement and growth for these institutions, who in the fall of 2016 enrolled over 50 million students? You can be certain I will continue to carefully monitor all action coming out of the office of the Department of Education. I won’t accept decisions which I feel will weaken our public schools. I will expect you to educate yourself and appreciate the complexities of a system which serves all children regardless of income, parental involvement, race, immigration status, disability, gender or sexual orientation. For the sake of these children, I WILL PERSIST.

Author’s Bio: Linda Morrow moved to the big city of Bellingham after living for twenty-five years on a dirt road in Vermont’s rural “northeast Kingdom.” She is grateful for the warm welcome she has received the area’s writing community. A special shout-out to the Talespinners whose unflinching support has carried her though the long process of her still-in-revision memoir about raising her oldest son, born with Down syndrome in 1966.

Resist: Ignorance 

By Laura Rink

Heartsick over the presidential election, heartsick for all the Americans who feel targeted by a president who doesn’t see humanity in all people, who sees Others who are Less Than, I needed to take some sort of immediate action. I felt a gap between myself and the people who have more reasons to be fearful of this new administration than I. To understand my fellow Americans better, I posted a note to my larger writing group and sent an email to some reader friends: I need book recommendations, fiction or non-fiction, about other people’s experiences living in America. By other, I mean other than me (white, straight, middle class) in any combination. The more recently published the better. Nothing 20th century unless the book is so good you must recommend it. Thank you.

In a perfect world, we would go out into our communities and engage with other people to learn about their experiences and concerns living in America. We would travel around the country or attend a diverse college or at least take classes that exposed us to a variety of people and ideas. I’m an introvert—seeking out strangers to converse with is not going to happen. But instead of doing nothing, I’m reading books. The best written books make you feel like you are in a room with the author or the main characters, in their minds, in their skin, sharing their experiences.

Everyone, thanks to the public library system, has access to books. Read to begin, or to deepen, your understanding of others, to create empathy, to see connections. America is diverse and that will not be changing. Knowing each other better will create respect and harmony in our neighborhoods, in our towns, and in our country.

Books read so far:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a novel about a Nigerian woman, set in Nigeria, and America where she writes a blog: Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black.

Inside Out and Back Again, a free verse novel by Thanhha Lai, inspired by her childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama. The publisher recommends this book for eight- to twelve-year olds, but based on the book’s ability to distill another’s life experience, it should be required reading for everyone, young and old.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, a memoir about a white family and the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, the first of her seven autobiographies recounts her life from age three to seventeen in the South and in San Francisco. Among many memorable parts of the book is the scene where her brother describes seeing a white man, grinning, standing over a dead black man, and her brother asks, “Why do they hate us so much?” Their uncle replied, “They don’t really hate us. They don’t know us. How can they hate us? They mostly scared.”

On my to-read list:

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, a novel by Mohja Kahf, about a Syrian girl transplanted to the American Midwest in the 1970s.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

Five Thousand Brothers-in-law: Love in Angola Prison, a memoir by Shannon Hager, about a largely ignored population in Amerika.

Juliet Takes a Breath, young adult fiction by Gaby Rivera, dealing with queer, latinx and social justice themes.

An Uncomplicated Life: A Father’s Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter, Paul Daugherty’s love letter to his daughter who has Down syndrome.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

There are gaps in my reading list, and the diversity of human beings will always make that true. But help me lessen those gaps: in the comments below please give me your book suggestions.


Author’s Bio: 

Laura Rink writes most days—short stories, essays, journal entries, sentences. She is currently working on a memoir, writing with authentic curiosity to find out how who she was has influenced who she has become. Her website LauraRink.com features an occasional blog and a picture of her calico cat.