Reflections on Chicago

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline

LAKE MACBRIDE— After cleaning out my email inbox, catching up on LinkedIn, twitter and Facebook, and skimming the scum from a batch of dill pickles, I walked outside evaluate the garden. Weeds are taking over again. It is disheartening how quickly nature attempts to return gardens to the wild. I pulled a few weeds, realizing tomorrow will be more of the same to preserve the yield. No worries, it’s part of being a gardener.

There were half a dozen zucchini; a yellow squash; peppers ready to pick— two green bell peppers, Anaheim and jalapeno; and stems of broccoli, enough for a meal. Hard to believe I was gone only three days. The cucumber seedlings planted Monday had an 80 percent survival rate, and the remainders will fill in empty spaces. Already a work queue is forming. Before continuing August’s work, for a few brief moments in the garden and orchard, I considered my experience in Chicago with the Climate Reality Project.

Gate 26

Gate 26

I know cults and utopian movements, and the recent gathering was neither. After spending an evening with disciples of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Munich, with charismatic renewal congregations of the Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. and in Belgium, and with the Rev. Tommy Barnett and his Westside Assembly of God in my home town, there aren’t many religious similarities. People gathered around a key speaker, and that’s about it.

These were not Rappites, Icarians, Shakers, members of the Amana Society, or of the Blythedale Farm community. Nor was it like what one finds in science fiction— the technology laden tales of Doc Smith, Walter Miller Jr. or Robert Heinlein. Comparisons drawn from these genres of society fall flat.

10 Percent Ethanol

10 Percent Ethanol

A few so-called moles participated in the training, representatives of the oil and gas industry, deniers, and skeptics about global warming. Their reports about the conference have already begun to emerge. What these folks don’t seem to realize is they validate the fact that the Climate Reality Project poses a serious threat to the status quo of the hydrocarbon business. Their presence and criticisms make our group stronger, even if the hydrocarbon industry outspends the Climate Reality Project in its advocacy.

To resist arguments to act on climate change, the hydrocarbon industry has to understand them. Part of our participation includes an understanding that advocating for action about climate change does not occur in a vacuum. As is written in the Art of War, “it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” What better way to know our opponents than to have them with us at the conference?

59th Street Station

59th Street Station

That said, the Climate Reality Project is for the most part about Al Gore and his unique role in 21st century society. A number of attendees with whom I spoke pointed to Gore’s loss of the 2000 election as a reason for becoming involved with his movement. The slide show Gore produced, and is perpetually revising, is not a new story, but it is his story. His closing speech on day two of the conference was a compelling call to help prevent the Earth we know from slipping away from us. It was compelling because of who he is and who we might be.

Organizing for Action

Organizing for Action

Attendees agreed to perform ten acts of leadership related to the project during the coming year. Like many who were there, I’ll perform my share and more.

In the end, this movement is not about Al Gore. It is about living in a post-enlightenment society. It is a time when rational arguments have flown the coop, leaving the din of pundits and poobahs,  and a dirty environment as a result of not understanding the global consequences of CO2 pollution. We can do something about that, and should. An answer lies in placing a value on carbon, which was my takeaway from the conference. Now the work begins anew.

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