Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paddling into the Apocalypse

Gessner Big
Start reading a few environmental essays or books and it’s not hard to get caught up in the doom and gloom. We’re killing the planet. We’re ruining the atmosphere. We’re all going to die. If the apocalypse doesn’t arrive tomorrow, wait till the day after. Soon every consumptive act, driving in our cars, eating a steak, is easily seen as a nail in the coffin of a sustainable future, and soon we drive ourselves crazy. How to live with ourselves

Start by reading David Gessner. I found him when I was looking for environmental essays when somebody starts off  I am sick of nature. Sick of trees, sick of birds, sick of the ocean, you know you have to keep reading.
Here he paddles down our beloved Charles River with the Apocalypse on his mind. In 1955, the Charles was described by Bernard DeVoto in Harper’s Magazine as “foul and noisome, polluted by offal and industrious wastes, scummy with oil, unlikely to be mistaken for water,” hardly the place you want to paddle or sail today.

            Paddling, he finds, is a way to take a break from the onslaught of bad environmental news, shut our mind up and listen to what’s around us. And he uses it to wrestle with living with the problems of the world. While you’re checking out his fine essay (he strikes me as a writer who shows up to the cafe still in his bathrobe and slippers), check out this great promo for his Green manifesto.

Rumi once wrote Start a big foolish project. Gessner's manifesto is easily summarized (though better heard in his words above): 1. fall in love with a place. 2. fight for that place. 3. launch a larger project about the self in the world.

The Charles River didn't recover by itself. People had to love it enough to restore it. The wild is in our backyard. We just have to look for it.  

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