I left early this morning for a coffeehouse counter top where I like to write in the mornings. Dose on McGavock in Riverside Village in East Nashville has good coffee and a pretty elaborate cafe menu. If I’m hungry for something more than black coffee I usually just get a plain bagel with butter and jam. They make their own preserves and you should try the strawberry/orange spread they’re serving now that we’re getting into berry season. Anyway I was listening to Democracy Now and Amy Goodman was talking about a new very dire report about climate change and species extinction. It reminded me of this article I found this weekend. It talks about how the stories we tell ourselves about climate change increasingly cast eco-terrorists as sympathetic protagonists…
But that’s not the role that environmental radicals play in First Reformed, or in Richard Powers’ recent Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Overstory. The novel stretches over an array of characters, many of whom will eventually converge as activists fighting to save ancient forests in California in the 1990s — and engage in strategic acts of arson against a logging company, one of which results in a death. They are students and artists, veterans and engineers, pried out of regular society by loss, and set loose to make their way high up into the branches of a threatened redwood. In these stories, it’s the ecoterrorists who are at the center, and if it doesn’t feel quite right to describe them as the heroes, they’re certainly not the antagonists.
They are, instead, people grappling with the conviction that they are standing in the middle of a room, screaming about how the building is on fire, while everyone else goes about their business by weaving around the flames. These are not narratives for the world we used to live in, in which a crisis will be narrowly averted and the day saved. They’re narratives for a reality in which climate change has already started to disrupt the way we live, and in which acceptance of and anxiety about climate change has reached record highs. They’re narratives for a reality in which we may have already gone past the point of no return.
Here’s a great interview with actor Paul Bettany talking about playing Ted Kaczynski in the excellent series Manhunt: Unabomber…
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