Read it here.
Read it here.
Read it here.
Read it here.
Thanks to Politics Friend for the opportunity.
I haven’t written anything for this blog in a little while, and it doesn’t look like that will change particularly soon: somehow the end of August ushered in a flurry of assignments and deadlines and events. Last evening, my kitchen table looked like this:
My desk isn’t much better, and you probably don’t want to see my computer. Anyways, I’ve also been doing some more work on the house and the yard and trying to figure out whether I should focus my attention on my fiction or non-fiction or both, and in the meantime trying to figure out what, exactly, you need to remove carpet glue from concrete steps.
So far I’ve tried the paint chipping method (several hours and it still looks like this), boiling water to loosen the glue (some success), and snarky remarks (a no-go).
Next week, though — I’ll be back! Soon.
It’s strange to watch the school year begin, with all the children lugging their backpacks onto yellow school buses. Many of my college friends are heading back to the place where I just graduated, their cars packed full of books and computers and furniture for their dorms. I watch this commotion with an unexpected sense of bewilderment: with “student” as an identity for so long, where am I to turn?
As I come to terms with being an alumnus, I’ve been thinking a lot about what consumed the last few months of my college career — the living wage campaign. The students back at St. Mary’s are preparing to tackle it again in full force, providing a few pending arrangements. I have the utmost faith in their ability to challenge our school’s administration, and I believe that it still needs to be done.
See, those last few months at St. Mary’s were when I lost almost all of my faith in the school’s capability to be what I once thought it was. Upperclassmen and alumni have always talked about St. Mary’s changing culture, their anecdotes tinged with nostalgia. But what I saw was not a shift in the way the school operated so much as an unveiling of its true colors. (Sorry Dorothy, there is no wizard. Only a shriveled old man, hiding behind the curtain, pretending to be something he’s not). I once thought that President Urgo genuinely wanted to connect with students and was making an effort to be as transparent as possible. And I once thought, naively, that if students took the time to speak with the administration and offered to help them, that the administration would do more than effectively dismiss their efforts.
While the current administration is in place, I will not donate to St. Mary’s. I will not condone this treatment of staff, this culture of fear that Urgo dismisses as “the way things are.” If President Urgo and Tom Botzman would have rejected their job offers at St. Mary’s because the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year they make were not big enough salaries if they were slightly lower and staff were paid better (because both Botzman and Urgo told me as much), what does that say?
St. Mary’s never was a place that embraced the status quo. And colleges aren’t supposed to be. Colleges are supposed to be where people try things to see if they’ll work out in the “real world,” where people work to establish community.
I’ll miss the school, and I’ll miss being naive enough to think that staff would receive fair pay. $24,500 a year is not enough when top-level administrators make $300,000, with special allowances on the side.
Should Los Angeles not take water from the Owens Valley? Should all the world’s gold have stayed in the ground?The world needs this oil, the realists say. Progress always causes pain to someone. In the struggle to extend the benefits of the modern world to the hungry billions in India and China, maybe Fort Chipewyan represents little more than the lament of the losers.
- John H. Richardson, “Keystone” in Esquire
I wrote my senior thesis on the Keystone pipeline, so when Philosopher Friend (hey friends — you’re all getting nicknames here) sent me a link to the article above, I read it as soon as I got the chance. It didn’t disappoint. Instead of demonizing the pipeline and its creators or making fun of the environmentalists working to stop it, the author asked the tough moral questions I and the rest of the environmental activist community have been waiting for reporters to take up. Richardson looked at both sides of the issue with a critical eye, admitted that the situation is impossibly complicated, and didn’t try to offer a preachy answer.
Right now, the world does need oil. And right now, oil is poisoning the world. It turns out that everyone Richardson talks to is both hero and villain in this tale; each person passes the responsibility for fixing the problem off to (a usually faceless and nameless) someone else. Throughout the piece, one person after another tells him, “I can only be responsible for myself.”
“Once again, the responsibility for saving the world seems to come down to everyone and no one. So you try out a suggestion Chief Adam made — how about slowing down the growth? How about waiting for some of these technological breakthroughs to arrive before we extract the oil?”
“Not going to happen, she says. “I think that the energy is the enabler for that better future.”"
Some are doing more than their share of the hurting, and Richardson does a good job of illuminating this without overtly pointing fingers. He just presents the facts. The oil company employees might have plenty of justification for their line of work, but it’s hard not to sympathize with the people of Fort Chipewyan, who have astronomically high rates of cancer and other autoimmune diseases.
A 2009 study done by the Alberta health department concluded that Fort Chipewyan has a cancer rate 30 percent higher than the rest of Alberta. Out of twelve hundred citizens, according to locals, Fort Chip has lost more than a hundred people to cancer and rare autoimmune deficiencies. Canada has given itself a few years to come up with an official response while continuing to green-light more production.
Living just outside of D.C., I’m so removed from the direct impacts of the pipeline that it’s hard to imagine what living in Alberta might feel like. But it’s not hard to imagine the right one out of several difficult choices: if it’s the apocalypse we’re facing, shouldn’t we – all of us, that’s what the word “we” means — do something now?
Calling any choice “right.” That’s the difficult part. Whom am I to tell others what to do? Ultimately, it comes down to this.
If the production of oil sands keeps on growing at the rate it is now growing, the temperature of the world could go up 11 degrees by the end of the century.
“I can only be responsible for myself,” they tell him, not understanding — or not accepting — that the world doesn’t work that way. A choice is not divisible from its impact on others; an action carries ramifications, even if they are unknown at the time. Who bears the responsibility for what? All of us, for everything. If there’s anything Richardson’s article argues, it’s that we all need to do what we can.
Richardson holds a cup of bitumen, the raw tar sands material.
You look down at the cup, a sludge the color of hot chocolate. Is this the way the world ends?
God, no, I hope. I know so many people sacrificing so much in hopes to make the world a better place. Then again, I scroll through the day’s news, and the hopeless part of me says yes.
Read my analysis of the Dem and Rep presidential candidates’ green politics here.
When Politico broke the story, ”New Obama ad hits Romney on coal ‘kills people’ remarks,” I clicked on the link expecting an article about the Obama campaign slamming Mitt Romney for telling lies. Instead, the link steered me to a piece that should have appeared in the Onion.
“I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people.”
|M.F.K. Fisher, circa ?|
I’ve been reading “the Art of Eating,” an anthology of works by M.F.K. Fisher. So far I’ve made it through “Serve it Forth,” which bowed me over with its beautiful prose, and “How to Cook a Wolf,” which I wish I had read before Tamar Adler’s “An Everlasting Meal” because Adler (as she confesses) so clearly borrow’s from Fisher’s structure, voice and tone. “Consider the Oyster” lost me and I abandoned it quickly, because I can’t see myself ever eating oysters.
Aside from the oysters (which I admit I did consider, albeit briefly. I imagine it would be a similar experience to scarfing down a garden slug), Fishers’ works remind me of how much I love eating and, hand in hand with that act of consumption, the production of food through cooking and gardening. These three — a holy trinity of a different sort? — are where I find my peace; in a bad day there can always be oatmeal in the morning dressed up with cinnamon and raisins and almonds and honey, so little of all the garnishes that it is inexpensive but still delicious, or warm bread fresh from the oven in time for lunch, or a handful of basil picked fresh from the garden just before the evening meal.
I rhapsodize, but it’s inspired by Fisher’s works. She casts a sort of spell over the reader: her prose is simple and straightforward but is packed with detail. When explaining economical cooking in “How to Cook a Wolf,” she writes, “…there is a basic thoughtfulness, a searching for the kernel in the nut, the bite in honest bread, the slow savor in a baked wished-for apple.” Honest bread. You see? There are all sorts of other ideas which, while written for those suffering food shortages during the first World War, are practical for anyone with a kitchen and a budget in this modern day. Pack your oven full, and you’ll save on the heating costs. The same with the top of the stove. Keep your salted water boiling, and cook your pasta and vegetables and other foods for the week all at once, fishing them out and at last turning the remaining water into vegetable stock or a simple, hearty soup.
Though “How to Cook a Wolf,” is almost without pretension, in “Serve it Forth,” Fisher is heavy handed with her derision, expressing contempt and pity for those who do not know how or do not care to enjoy good food. However, this post’s title, “the Social Status of a Vegetable,” is taken from the title of one of Fisher’s chapters that most intrigued me. In it she writes about one woman’s contempt for cabbage. Fisher is mystified by how anyone could feel contempt for such a humble vegetable, until she realizes that it’s not the vegetable that inspires contempt but what it symbolizes; the woman is afraid of poverty.
In “How to Cook a Wolf,” the chapter names — “How to Boil Water,” “How to Be a Wise Man” — are add to the book’s charm. And subtle humor and social commentary pop up in bits like this passage on minestrone.
“There are many variations of any recipe for a soup which includes chopped vegetables. They depend on the ingenuity of the cook and the size of the purse…not to mention a few other things like climate and war, and even political leanings. (I know several earnest thoughtful women who would rather see their children peaked than brew something with the foreign name minestrone, because in this year of 1942 the United States is at war with Italy. There is a fundamental if tiring truth about all this, and you and I can only hope that right will conquer over might before too long.) [In the 1950's some people feel helplessly antagonistic to borscht! Fortunately, I do not.]“
I’m not going to spoil any more. You’ll have to pick up the book for yourself, but I will invite you over to my house for dinner. I’m looking forward to creating a simple meal, with fresh, summer vegetables, maybe a loaf of fresh bread, and some kind of good cheese. We can pass around wine or beer and share stories. Or we can cook together, and try out Fisher’s tips: cake sliced thin with a glass of milk, myriad vegetables roasted just slightly and tossed into a salad, the juices saved for soup broth or for cooking pasta another day.