Category Archives: climate change

Ecopsychology: Addiction Recovery for a People (pt. 1 of 5)

What if we stopped talking about the “oil addiction” as a metaphor and actually started treating it like an addiction?

Addiction has many characteristics: I will leave it to better social-service specialists than I to lay it all out.

What I want to talk about today is recovery.

The way I see it, the principal problem we face in our dependency on oil (and factory slaves, and industrial agriculture, and so on) is there really aren’t alternatives.

Our civilization is kinda like a wino stranded in a city where the only choices for calories are beer, whiskey, or wine.  He may be able to supplement with the odd free-range pigeon; but no matter how desperately the alcoholic wants out, or how deep his self-disgust every time he drinks, his odds of quitting aren’t good.

It offends, I think, many peoples’ sensibilities to genuinely see themselves as coerced by outside forces into choosing from a few poor or mediocre choices.  We’re a-MARE-kins, dadgummit, and we’re the captains of our souls.  We know that if we’re not living 100% (or at least 90%) in accord with our environmentalist convictions, it’s just because we lack the blistering zeal that we should have.  You know, the blistering zeal that would enable us to finally admit out loud that Yes, we’ve known all along that CFLs and cloth shopping bags doesn’t really do that much in the big picture, and push us over that final hump to drop out of society and go live lightly on the land where we’ll turn our kids’ education over to the birds and the trees.

Hold it right there!  Shouldn’t it be clear that if your best option for an environmentally sound life is to drop out of society, then the real problem is a lot bigger than you?  This is not a problem of you being a faulty individual with insufficient chutzpah to live your convictions.  It is a very real lack of choices.  We don’t dare train our kids up to be like the birds and the trees, because we’ve seen what happens to the birds and the trees.


Santorum’s Theology Three-Ring Circus

Presidential politics is always messy.  I’ve been shaking my head about this year’s Republican primary for months now.  As a non-Republican, I know better than to talk politics with my family.   But that means I know it is crazy when my conservative LDS family has volunteered in my presence the existence of a bunch of crazies in the early race.

Still, I thought we had finally reached the end of the extreme crazies, but apparently not.  This week’s lead-up to the Michigan primary has been a three-ring circus when you consider religion and environment.

Ring #1 Santorum claimed late last week that Obama believes in “some phony theology.  Not a theology based on the Bible.  A different theology.”  Even though he was speaking in context of the environment, it opens the door for all the crazies suggesting Obama is a Muslim rather than Christian.  The alternative (which Santorum actually implicitly provoked in later comments) is Obama adheres to a radical form of Christianity (Rev. Wright resurrected if you will).  I can’t believe we are still having these tired arguments how many years later???

Ring #2: When asked to clarify the remark on Face the Nation last Sunday, Santorum said Obama has “a world view that elevates the earth above man and says we can’t take those resources because we’re going to harm the earth” and continues to go onto say that those harms “frankly are just not scientifically proven.”  Beyond the fact that Santorum should be more careful to use theology and ideology in their proper contexts (no, the words are not synonyms although sacrament meeting sometimes makes me wonder if most Mormons also believe that to be the case), the craziness of questioning the existence of climate change makes me shake my head every time.  I also start to wonder if I missed the magic trick where Obama was a radical environmentalist putting the ‘environment before Man.’  Did I blink?  Because I’m not seeing it.

Ring #3:  Of course, any time one of these candidates bring up theology and presidential politics, talking heads end up musing about whether Mormonism is Christian.  (For those of you wondering, Mormons do consider themselves Christian and following Christ is a central tenant of their theology.)  A reworking of the ‘anyone but a Mormon’ anti-Romney theme yet again if you would.

Obviously I’m disappointed that we are still arguing the basic facts that resource extraction harms the earth, that climate change exists, or even the basic facts of pollution and pressure on the earth from humans’ lifestyle.  Does it have to involve religion too?  Even more disappointing is to see that if environmentalism is rhetorically linked to religion,  it is apparently fair game to question Romney’s Christianity but not obvious to question the assumption that Mormons’ are not committed to environmentalism.

Those of us who are Mormon and care about the environment have a lot of work to do.


Tonight (Sunday, August 21) I’m hosting a dinner party in Salt Lake City.  We are asking participants to bring donations for Sister Somalia, an organization that assists victims of gender-based violence in Somalia.  I wish I’d thought to post it on this blog before because now it is late notice, but if by chance any readers are interested in coming, just send me an email at and I’ll give you the address.  You can also read more about the dinner party itself on the Utah for Congo blog.

It feels ironic to host a dinner party to raise money for people who are experiencing the effects of famine.  I thought long and hard about this.  Sometimes famines are viewed as being “an act of God,” which is our way of saying that we take no responsibility for them.  But famine is not an act of God and this one, in particular, is manmade.

There is a horrible, horrible drought in the Horn of Africa.  I am thinking of previous posts about climate change on this blog, and about the idea that those who bear the least responsibility for climate change are those who suffer from it the most.  The Somali people aren’t known for being big polluters, and yet the extreme weather is upending traditional growing seasons and creating mass food shortages.

Of course, there is a drought in the southwestern United States right now, and people aren’t starving.  (Although animals are, including farm-raised cattle, and I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to this.)  So obviously the famine is not just about the weather and the drought.  It is also about Somalia’s lack of a functioning government, and about the widespread insecurity and fighting.  It is about armed rebels who hijack supplies of food aid and rape women. 

I also keep reading articles about the “rising food prices” in Africa and other parts of the world,  and I’ve been trying to understand this “high food prices” thing, because somebody is raising food prices in the middle of a famine I’m in the mood to name names. But my internet search isn’t helping much, because all the articles I find just report “high food prices” in such a matter-of-fact tone, with no analysis as to the real causes and actors involved.  So I can’t tell you whose fault it is.  I wish I could.

And there are also land use issues at play when famine rears its ugly head.  Drought means that agricultural land in Africa can be purchased even more cheaply by multinational corporations and American hedge funds. I’ve been reading about these “land grabs” where the land is purchased extremely cheaply and used to cultivate products for export, like monoculture crops and biofuels. Then contracts are signed which ensure that even during times of famine, the companies owning the land can STILL export figures like 80 percent of the product produced on the land. 

So at tonight’s dinner party, we will be eating vegetables and fruit from Salt Lake’s own BUG Farms, and from my mom’s vegetable garden, and from the farmers market.  Industrial agriculture is not invited to dine with us, because it is guilty.  We will eat local organic food–not in celebratory gratitude for what we have, because I just can’t stomach that kind of a feeling right now–but as a symbol.  We will be eating because we need to, and eating to say: We are on to you, global food system.  And we are not with you.

It’s Time

Tomorrow, Tim DeChristopher will be sentenced by a Bush-appointed federal judge for interrupting an oil and gas auction to fight climate change.

I recently blogged about what it would take to really stop climate change and fight peak oil and the destruction of the planet. There were many answers. Mine was this: We need to follow Tim’s lead and engage in massive civil disobedience against the fossil fuel industry in all its forms. We need to break the laws that protect the plunderers and punish the innocent. And that means fighting tar sands, mountaintop removal, Rio Tinto, Massey Energy, Exxon, Chevron, and BP. It means seeing ourselves as citizens, as a political mass movement capable of creativity and courage and change.

On July 26th, we will demonstrate our outrage at the persecution of our friend and ally, and our commitment to the fight for a livable future. We will demand that the real criminals—the carbon crooks destroying our natural world and attacking our climate—be prosecuted, not peaceful activists.

You can start your fight tomorrow. If you live in Utah, come to the solidarity action in front of the courthouse (350 S. Main) from 12-4 pm. From 12-2 we will use Theater of the Oppressed techniques to get our community to decide what actions it wants to take to stop climate change. At 2, we will head to the courtroom to support Tim as he is sentenced. And then we will act.

If you don’t live in in Utah, check out our solidarity action map to see if something is happening near you.

Watch this video to learn more about Tim and why he did what he did.

Be there.

Garden Friday – Drought in East Africa

While I try to keep this space for weekly garden tips, I’ve been haunted by the images from east Africa as I worked in my garden this week.  As tenuous as our water situation is in many parts of the southern US is right now, the situation in Africa is much, much worse.

Many villages in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia have seen about 10% of normal rainfall over the past 2 years.  Crops, even with irrigation efforts, were terrible last year and are expected to yield less than 50% this year.  Wells have dried up, food prices for staples have shot through the roof, and livestock markets – the only source of income for most people – have collapsed.  Up to 11 million people are affected by this severe drought and thousands of people are fleeing their rural villages and walking 4 to 10 days to camps in hopes of finding food and water.  Somali children, in particular, are showing high levels of malnutrition as they have also been innocent victims of ongoing civil conflict which, until the past week or two, did not allow for humanitarian food aid within the country.

Humanitarian efforts are overwhelmed with demand and expecting things to get much worse before they get better.  I’ve already checked LDS Humanitarian efforts and, sadly, they do not seem to have a specific program in place.  Please consider donating through other well known charities who are already on the ground providing food and water to these people.  Even $10 can make an enormous difference.

Snippet from RS 4th Sunday Lesson

Topic: Eyring’s Opportunities to do Good

Teacher:  How do you feel when you see all these natural disasters on TV?


<Since I know she is looking for desire to serve, I’m trying to show self-control by sensoring ‘how the !^&# have we screwed up our climate system or energy generation system this much?’ >

Answer from the class: I know I need to do more to do the right things <pause> like genealogy.

….AND everybody nods and agrees; nobody really says anything to help keep the lesson on track.  Because I teach another Sunday and know this can be a tough crowd, I eventually lend the teacher  – new to our ward – a hand by commenting on human suffering and the lesson continues on its merry way.


Ok, I know this example might say more about a singular older lady’s response and Mormons’ extreme aversion to conflict as demonstrated by nobody suggesting that it is an outrageous response, but seriously?!?

Needless to say, this exchange has bothered me for the last few days.  Last night, while I was watching the evening news coverage of the Joplin tornado, it became clear why I found this particular answer so maddening.  I’m convinced doctrine does not ask us to care about genealogy if it prevents us from relieving current suffering or caring about the earth.  But what is it about Mormon culture that privileges past generations over generations to come?  And, at times, even over people living on this earth RIGHT NOW?

Up tornado alley

The first time I heard a tornado siren was during the first summer I spent in Indiana. Sitting alone in a computer room at first I ignored the wail in the background. Then a janitor came in and informed me the sound I was hearing was a tornado siren and I needed to get out of the building. Leaving the building didn’t sound like anything I really wanted to do (and in hindsight I think I misinterpreted–probably the janitor meant I should go to the tornado shelter, which was accessed by leaving the building) so I asked the first group of people I came across–a group of meteorology grad students–what I should do.

Instead of directing me to the safety of the basement or the tornado shelter, they took me to the roof observatory, where we watched the storm rage around us, hoping to glimpse a tornado but never spotting one.

I tell this story to make a couple of points: one, there are people who are crazy enough to actually want to see a tornado, and two, weather is a big deal in the midwest.

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