IMYS #19 - Climate on the Homefront

Today is the Global Climate Strike. I’ll be headed downtown here in a bit to join in. The global nature of this movement is important but paradoxically it has me thinking about home. Home is a loaded word. It can mean a building. It can mean a city. It can mean the place where particular people are. It can even mean a feeling that we get through some combination of factors we couldn’t possibly name.

My family and I are considering moving and so defining what home means for us is forcing us to think in more concrete terms. Maybe it’s getting older. Maybe it’s a reflex after years of being in different cities every few years. We find ourselves yearning to find a home where friends and family are close. But, in these modern times, our family is strewn across the country and our friends are globally distributed. What do we look for to define home in that circumstance?

Maybe it’s what there is to do? Maybe it’s whether it’s near an airport so we can visit all these far-flung places? Those are both luxuries. It feels more like the answer is a return to roots. To a place where we once felt comfortable and a part of a community. Perhaps that belonging is what home is really about.

Thanks for reading today.

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I Drink Your Milkshake

By Moni3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

We’ve all heard about the destruction that plastic is wreaking on our planet. Bottled water is the poster child for wasteful and destructive plastic use. However, harvesting the water that’s put in those bottles is an equally destructive force. It’s extractive capitalism as bad as oil or natural gas. It overburdens a precious resource and destroys local ecologies in favor of global profits. This New York Times article details some of the destruction that Nestlé is causing in Florida with their rapacious contracts to siphon off water from the Florida Aquifer, possibly the largest underwater aquifer on Earth. Keep in mind this quote from the former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe:

The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution. The other view says that water is a foodstuff like any other, and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value.

Read about water harvesting

Take Me To Church

You’ve almost certainly heard Brittney Howard’s powerful music in her role as the leader of the band Alabama Shakes. Today, she’s released a new album, “Jaime,” and it’s truly stunning piece of work. It’s full of great guitar work grounded in a mix of gospel, blues, soul, and occasional rock. It feels like a full expression of artistic vision that in many ways is quite separate from my experience yet still pulls me in. I highly recommend checking out the whole album.

Watch a live version of He Loves Me

Fear the Narrowed Perspective

By Ian Mack

Stephen Jenkinson is an author, teach, spiritual activist, farmer, and found of the Orphan Wisdom school. In a series of interviews, he lays out what he sees as the foundational problems of our North American society. Primarily, it’s a story of our shunning and denigrating the learnings of the previous thousands of years. Sure, we have access to unknowable amounts of information. I work daily on projects that provide this information to the entire globe. Yet, we’ve lost the understanding of which of these things is truly important and will lead us to an equitable and fulfilling future. Information is not knowledge and Stephen helps us search for the knowledge we may have lost. It involves finding the connections that stretch to the past in order to build paths to the future. It involves finding kinship through generations. It involves finding our place in the natural order. It’s hard work and we’ve become awfully lazy.

Watch the Birdhouse Interview Series

Time to Shine

By Galt Museum & Archives on The Commons, No restrictions

There are plenty of stories of coal miners losing their jobs. In recent weeks, I’ve poked at the coal industry as a symbolic but actually quite small industry and suggested that perhaps we should look away. In this mindset, I was surprised at the turns this article about women workers in coal country slowly changing the world they live in. As the article points out, women in these areas have long taken temporary work to keep the lights on between layoffs or work slowdowns in the mine. What’s happening now is a noticeable shift of women moving to skilled, full-time work mostly in the healthcare industry. That is giving these women new-found freedoms and broadening horizons many of them never before considered possible, desirable, or right. As expected, some men fight against this under the macho contract that they alone should be able to provide for their families. Others are begrudgingly encouraging this shift. It’s not lost on me that the work these women are taking on is providing care for the health problems that come from coal mining, intermittent poverty leading to poor nutrition, health effects of pollution, and the disease of addiction. It seems a sad cycle but this change might be part of breaking it.

Read about Women Workers in Coal Country

Walk On By

By Giuseppe Milo - Imported from 500px (archived version) by the Archive Team, CC BY 3.0

I hesitate to write about a book I haven’t finished but I can’t help myself. Chuck Wendig’s latest book, “WANDERERS,” is truly incredible. It tells the story of a mystery illness compelling some people to walk towards an unknown goal. They don’t eat. They don’t sleep. They don’t react. They simply move, inexorably, toward some unknown end. The book slithers between body horror, science fiction, personal loss, parental responsibilities, and government run amok. It feels both of our time but timeless in its concerns. The writing is visceral and clear. There’s a surprising amount of humor, most of it dark but still relieving of tension in just the right way. It’s a long book but reads like it’s half its length. I’ve seen hints of a delicious twist at the end. I’ve been staying up late for a week working my way toward.

Check out Wendig's WANDERERS

Strummer’s Mind

By Masao Nakagami, CC BY-SA 2.0

I think a lot about the art and challenge of curation. This newsletter is evidence of my desire to work through this task of finding what’s right, helpful, good, challenging, or just delightful. Whether you like the music of The Clash or not, Joe Strummer’s short-lived radio show is a master stroke of curation. He plays music from across the genre spectrum and the world. He has insights into what the music does for him that are compelling. More importantly, his energy and passion about what he’s playing is infectious. The way he feels about these songs makes me want to figure out how I feel about them. I don’t even have to like the songs but Strummer makes me feel like I should at least consider them or how they make me feel.

Listen to Joe Strummer's Radio Show

Of the People, By the People

By Sgerbic - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Bible is oft-said to be the most popular book in the world. My local bookstore has two 20 feet long rows of shelves 6 feet tall full of various versions, sizes, colors, and temperaments. It’s clearly a good seller. We could likely argue about how often it gets read. Still, the book has a history. It was written by people, most likely men, and those people had reasons for doing what they did. They had sources, goals, pressures, and probably no surfeit of creativity. John Barton has written a new book called “The History of the Bible” which I can’t recommend as I haven’t read it. However, based on Kirsty Jane Falconer’s review in the Times Literary Supplement, it seems to be quite a well-done work given the various pitfalls to which it could have fallen victim. I understand this literary-historical examination of The Bible runs counter to many people’s conception of the book as a divinely inspired, infallible document. Falconer makes it clear that Barton is working to dispel this notion. However, like most books, there’s always something to be gained from its study. It can be crucially important without being perfect.

Read Falconer's review

R.E.M. Song of the Week

This week, we are going back to what many people consider to be R.E.M.’s first album, “Chronic Town.” It’s just an EP and while it is recognized as the first recorded output, there may be a few 7” shared singles that got pressed but the validity of those is in question. So, let’s go with it. My favorite song off “Chronic Town” is “Wolves, Lower” which opens the album. It sets the tone for the band quite clearly: guitar-forward, but not powerful, more jangly and loose; rhythm section that propels the rest of the song instead of just backing it; mostly inscrutable lyrics; clear and important backing vocal from Mike Mills; a pervading sense of anxiety and concern. And then the chorus blows that all up with an almost 60s sounding, full-throated wail in harmony. It hooked me instantly. Sure, they better play “Gardening at Night” at my funeral but “Wolves, Lower” has a darkness that I like.

Listen to "Wolves, Lower"


Thanks for joining me this week. Get outside this weekend. Enjoy the life that circles around us largely unnoticed.

Your Guide,

Alex

By Alex Ezell, St. Barbara’s Cathedral, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic