Last night my friend John invited me to go hear two authors speak as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. I had not read anything by either of them. Their names were Rick Bass and Terry Tempest Williams. They write a lot about the environment, among other things. I was glad we sat in the second row. Their facial expressions conveyed almost as much as their words.
Mr Bass read a story about "blue boy", a kind of envirnmental prophet who is ignored by people engaging in gluttony. I realized how the "have-nots" in our country want to be like the "haves"; they want to have the power to possess something, so they are driven to consume cheap plastic junk, because at least they are consuming. They "have" someTHING. So this perpetuates a "trickle down" to people who have even less and work so all of us can have something. Anything. To consume. At the expense of our earth, our environment. His story was as much about environmental tragedy as it was about the greed that leads to that tragedy. It was a captivating story and a very painful story. Today I've been trying to come to terms with It. But I feel so tired. On the verge of tears.
Then Terry Tempest Williams rose to speak. She talked about how in parts of Utah, there is a growing monster of oil and natural gas towers. The water table is dropping so fast that people will have to leave that area because there's not enough water. The harm to the earth leads to harm to the humans (and all living things). She spoke of the epidemic of meth addiction in this part of the west.
She told a story of a recent experience. She got pulled over for speeding. Unbeknownst to her, she was driving on an expired license. She was handcuffed and taken to the county jail. For a variety of reasons, she decided to spend a night in the jail with the other women inmates. Virtually all of them were addicted to meth, had husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, etc working on the oil and gas rigs. Life was so out of balance that they were taking speed to try to get by in a world in which they were barely surviving. Some of the women were there with 2, 4 and 8 year sentences. They were overflow from the state prison (can't remember which state this was, sorry). Williams said they rarely are allowed visitors, get no drug addiction counseling or medical help to get off the meth. Damage to the earth brings damage to the inhabitants. Blowback. More trickle down. From secret prisons in Romania, to Guantanamo to the county jail. Humans no longer treated as humans.
When the two were done talking. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. Only a few questions. Mercifully. I felt like I needed to go mourn. Something is dying and some thing has died. One woman asked the big question: What can we do about this, each one of us?
Mr Bass replied that he was hopeful that now that there was a Democratic majority in Congress, things were changing. I was as repulsed by his naivette as I was moved by his story.
Ms Williams said several things. She said we have to realize, as more and more folks are, that this environmental crisis is not a bi-partisan issue. She urged people to put aside their differences because this is much bigger than those differences. She shared how a coalition of diverse groups: environmentalists, ranchers, and yes, even the NRA had lobbied the governor to change some horrible environmental plans. Her other comment was to eat local.
I recalled that one of the introductory speakers (there were three..........which I found a bit trying) was Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, whose boss has been talking of selling water to some of the parched western states. I don't know if she stayed to listen to the speakers, but I know some of Aldo Leopold's family were there and you felt his influence in the room. Palpable.
I feel so sad today. But a strange vision keeps popping into my head. The Lorax, which is the Dr Seuss environmental book. Blue boy in Mr Bass's story reminds me of the Lorax. I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.