Tag: climate change

For the Love of Books

I have been rethinking how to sell books for a few years now. Like any sell-able product, books too can clash with environmentalism. Thinking of the latest space trip with former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company doesn’t pay taxes, and whose motto seems to 

Bird Song: A Novella

Due to our move to Halifax, which will push me offline and off the computer here and there in the next 2-3 months, and currently spending 10 hours a weekday outside of home for my “day job,” I am pushing my two novels: The Stolen 

Labels

I remember when I began high school and felt the enormous weight upon my shoulders to be an individual, a person of free reign. I wanted to belong but not belong. As most people of that age feel, I wanted to do something great with my life. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid stereotypes and labels, preferring a wide perspective of who I was. I didn’t want to be wrangled into a label, a categorization. In high school I did not use jargon, dress fashionably, style my hair to the generation, or anything. I always liked simplicity. As much as we all strive to do something wonderful in our lives, my thing has never been “look at me” and therefore I didn’t identify with clothing styles, haircuts, tattoos, or too much makeup or jewelry. By the way, I really want a tattoo now, but that’s a different story. I didn’t feel, I guess, that appearances should define or label me. But I was also young and not sure where I’d end up.

I haven’t really changed throughout the years. While classification has its place as far as defining and explaining what makes things different, I have been far more the type to try to understand also what makes things similar. I want to look beneath the skin and see what’s there. That’s why with literary genres, for instance, I tend to blur them and find subject matter that can cross genres. I look beneath labels and find words that move me. I guess for marketing reasons, it can be important to classify things, but I’m not a marketer and I’m not a librarian (well I kind of am, but while I like to organize things to make sense, I live to free my mind when it comes to actual stories). I think of writing more as a thing of art than a commodity. It is both, and I cannot deny that. But the first thought that crosses my mind when I read something terribly moving is not “Oh, this is <insert marketing genre> here.” It’s more like, “Holy fuck, that was awesome!”

I’m finding labels in this modern era often suffocating. Take “OK Boomer” as one such label or meme. Yes, as a liberal voter in North America, I get it that many folks from the baby boomer generation, those of them still alive anyway, statistically haven’t really adapted to social change very progressively. But, also, many have. I find it a demeaning stereotype to be ageist in an age that calls for not stereotyping people based upon their skin color, faith, gender, and, yes, age. Can we just break through all the jargon? Yes, I really loathe the politics of older white conservative Christians who think Trump is the second coming. I vote, speak, and fight against this. But also I believe that many older white people in our world hate Trump and are social progressives. I know too many who are. What is the purpose of lumping them with others in a derogatory manner?

With all this said, though, there are still some strong progressive language and liberties that we cannot ignore–people who’ve been oppressed who have had to come out to actively define themselves and be proud of it. I was absolutely stunned today, for instance, that Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan climate activist, was actually cropped out of a photo of otherwise white climate young people. I was seriously like WTF. I said that out loud. At work. How in the world does the Associate Press do that? What I see in today’s world is a preconceived notion (still!) that white people are like saviors. It is just so obvious it hurts.

I think I’ve simply grown weary of icons. I absolutely adore Great Thunberg, don’t get me wrong. I saw her speak in Vancouver and marched with her and thousands of others that day in the cold and wind. She’s a factual and powerful speaker, and what she is doing has made a huge difference in our world. But I can admire her while also being equally (if not more) wowed over by people like Vanessa. They are all doing great things, and some are born into more dangerous situations that makes them more courageous for speaking out. Other youth from other countries are not the Gretas of their countries. They are their own selves in their own countries. It behooves us to get to know such positive forces from everywhere in the world. Young and old!

When I first began a site that explores eco-fiction, I naively featured mostly North American and Europeans. Part of it was because of the media I could find. I was new to exploring novels on this subject, and read articles I could find online to find what was happening. It wasn’t really until a couple years into the site that I realized if I looked harder and quit reading what was beginning to feel like regurgitated articles about authors writing about climate change (for years, even now, the same mostly white authors–the same novels), for instance, I could find people all over the world raising their voices, as writers, when imagining climate change and other ecological events through fiction. I needed to break out of what media was trying to sell me and make my own literary path and statements. From the beginning, the site included authors from all over the world, but eventually I was like…”Why are the majority of these authors in media reports white? Why are so many of the stories set in locales that are highly privileged?” It was really just the media I was basing my findings on. And media in North America, as we can see by what happened with Vanessa Nakate, still tells stories of white people saving the planet. And if there are people of color featured, a lot of times it is from white perspective (i.e. American Dirt rings a bell). And those are the feeds I was getting at home. You search for “nature writing” and most of it comes from the UK or North America. You search for “climate change novel” and there’s a listing of white folks writing stories about it. I couldn’t help but believe that due to ignorance somewhere, the Vanessas have been cropped out of the literary picture too. It became a strong necessity of mine to change that. There’s literary language like Afrofuturism that people have outright ignored, even people I’ve spoken with about trying to advance ecologically based novels and ideas into a more worldly vernacular. It’s like it doesn’t stick. Why is that?

I do see the perspective in some media widening, particularly in the last couple years, but it’s not changing enough or fast enough.

I recently read an article from UC Berkely’s alumni association about author Aya de León, who said: “I think for many people of color it feels like the environmental movement is white people worrying about animals and bodies of water.” I’m thrilled I can spotlight her in a future column here, and she’s absolutely right. It makes me look closely at narratives I grew up with, and while my own family was always inclusive, the communities and world around me have not been. While I know it takes people of all colors to care about Mother Earth and become active in speaking up for our planet, it’s ridiculous to cut out people who are part of this movement based upon their skin color…or anything else. We need to give voice to all. To recognize all. To quit iconing only certain white people. To quit with the white superhero wearing a suit or a cape. On many levels, this is why Black Panther just worked so well as a movie. It opened a closed-minded perspective that’s been entrenched into the white world history. I’m a white person, but I am sick of it.

And guess who gave me these perspectives? I guess you’d call them baby boomers–my parents–who taught me things beyond the scope of the societal labels and memes I was born into. I have found beauty in difference and in similarities.

The featured image is by Andreaambia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0. The Maasai people of Kenya (top) inspired about 80% of the design of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female special forces in Black Panther.

The Winds of Winter

This morning I took transit to work since it has been super cold and somewhat snowy and there are still icy patches here and there on the roads. At one point the train passed a forest, and it was just in an instance my mind 

The Deep Autumn

So many things have been happening lately that it is hard to stop and get my bearings. Our move to Halifax has been approved and will happen in the spring in late April or May. The sheer amount of things to do before then is 

I’m 15 for a Moment

Today’s post is inspired by my recent marches at Vancouver’s climate strikes and getting to see factual and powerful speeches by Musqueam, Tsliel-Waututh & Squamish speakers as well as Tiny House Warriors, along with Greta Thunberg and Severn Cullis Suzuki.

I’ve been fortunate to get two Fridays off now in September and October to listen, to march, to stand up, to sing, to chant. I have to look inward to my own truth, to my own reality, when figuring out why I’m doing this or where I might fit in. It goes back to the 1970s when I was a kid and learned about the environmental lessons of the day, such as overpopulation and electricity usage. I became an environmentalist as a kid. And have been since.

But, psychologically, when I try to figure out why I, like many other children back then were turned onto it, stayed with it. I like to credit this song for somewhat explaining it:

Five for Fighting – 100 Years

I know it’s a love song. Well, my love song is for this Earth. And maybe I will have 100 years to fight for it.

Love was a big part of the call for the movement in these marches, and it’s much better than the divisive and hateful calls from the oil fields and people with short-sightedness and greed. I remember 15. It is not so long ago. There is continuity here, from where I stood at 15 to now, to where I hope I will be at 100. I hope this will be a love-song for today’s youth. Do not give up.

The point is: don’t lose your heart, your youth, your soul. I am sure I feel the same as I did at 15. I know I won’t lose it. It gives me great pleasure to march, to sing out loud, to chant, to be resolute about the most important issues we have these days: to love our children and subsequent generations and actually fucking show it with action not just words. And when I go to these climate strikes, I feel that same pulse with everyone else, no matter who they are or where they are from or how different society might mark us. We are all different voices singing for the same thing. It feels good.

Ecocity 2019

It was with pleasure that I participated in the Ecocity Summit in Vancouver yesterday. From the site: The Ecocity World Summit is the longest-standing international Summit that addresses building cities in balance with nature. It is a biennial event involving over 1,000 delegates from around 

Autumn is Here

These days are filled with wonder. We either have torrential downpours felling the leaves of the mighty oaks, maples, birch, elms, and other deciduous trees–or days of sun and warmth, along with the reds, golds, browns, and yellows swirling around us like costumed fairies. It 

My Plate Is Full

And I love it.

I’m back at work again and was so surprised yesterday to have a great talk with the dean in our school and one of the ops managers, who are supporting my academic presentations in early October for the World Summit Ecocity. This event happens every two years in a city around the world, and this year it’s being sponsored partially where I work and is, of course, happening in Vancouver. I worked hard earlier in the spring on applications to present a writer’s workshop and a paper. I was approved for both, and the program committee and dean approved my funding, so it was all solidified yesterday. I can’t relay how good it feels to have that kind of support. My workshop is here, but my paper presentation is conflicted time-wise so is being rescheduled. I’m pretty excited by it, really, because I only get a chance maybe once a year to speak in public and I like it and love meeting new people that way.

For all the crap I’ve experienced this year and last with medical things, which do seem to be clearing up now, this was really a welcome surprise. I explore and share ecofiction on my own time. I don’t get paid for it. I don’t want to get paid for it. It’s a passion, and I think some things in life just have to be free. I often feel like an underdog, which is good; it keeps me from being arrogant and snobby. But when people do have my back, I feel humbled and am grateful forever.

P.S. I am not knocking actual authors because we need their words. I mean, my dream is to write novels for a living–maybe someday. Stories are all we have.

Anyway, today, I worked on job things and later created an almost polished 19-page PowerPoint presentation for the summit. It gave me a chance to really plan out the workshop, though my abstract already had an outline, and it will help in finishing a 22-page thesis type of paper to accompany the academic presentation–which itself is only fifteen minutes long. I will be sure, in the end, to share my paper and presentation at the main Dragonfly.eco site! I’m also running a survey on social impacts of environmental fiction but will not use the data in my October report, because I want minimally 200 responses. If you are reading this, please consider helping. What it really comes down to, as far as cultural impact of fiction, is psychological–and these tests have already been done and are continually being offered. But I think I’m one of the few, if not first, to look specifically at readers’ thoughts related to all kinds of ecologically oriented fiction. I’ve had a few dozen responses so far but do want a better sample. A lot of the responses have come from older academics, mostly who are professors–which is great!–but I also really want to reach out to younger students, which is my goal for term start.

Between now and September 3, when the 22-page paper is due, I have a lot of things to do. Maybe just sitting down and writing it out will keep me focused.

  • This Saturday we’re doing a southern BBQ, and I am so freaking excited by the apricot-bourbon drink I’m making, which went over really well before.
  • Meanwhile, I am reorganizing Moon Willow Press because submissions are permanently closed and I’m transitioning things over to this site (so excuse the mess).
  • Also, I have a new spotlight coming up at Dragonfly.eco, which I hope to have up pretty soon. I’ve already gotten a lot of content for it. It’s just a matter of putting it together.
  • I have major stuff at work to do to get ready for students; it’s one of the busiest times of the year, but it’s also exciting with new faces and seeing new degree students come in.
  • The weekend after this, we get ready for my mother-in-law, two of her friends, and my husband’s cousin and one or two of his friends to come visit.
  • I have the whole week of August 6th off, and we’re all heading over to Salt Spring Island to tent-camp for three nights and four days. It’s just a quick ride to the ferry that heads to Salt Spring, and not too far for the camp site from there.
  • The following weekend, my mother-in-law and her sister and maybe one other will be here to watch one of her nephews in an ice-skating competition.
  • Back to work the week after, and I have two weeks to get ready for one of the registrations we have. During this time I’ll have to finish that paper!
  • Also, though, Classic Wow starts on August 26th. I am definitely working that day but am trying to get the rest of the week off so I can get ahead a little in game, but right now it is not a high priority after all. I’m excited for it. It’s a way to have fun and some downtime.
  • Then, autumn. Beautiful, beautiful autumn! Or it may be super hot then, who knows.
  • From then to the end of year: I have the summit on October 8, we’re leaving directly afterward for a long weekend of camping near Lake Mead with my daughter and her boyfriend, and then I am also taking a long weekend near American Thanksgiving for the usual big dinner I do for everyone.
  • We usually don’t do a lot around Christmas. We do a dinner with some friends everywhere; we are all Christmas “adoptees” since our families are so far away.
  • Sometime soon I also have to finish up my novel Up the River!

The featured image is just of some guy on horseback we saw when we went on a rafting-grizzly bear tour on the Atnarko River a few years ago.

Parts Unknown

I’ve been avidly watching Anthony Bordain’s Parts Unknown over the summer. It’s on Canada’s Netflix, at least the first eight seasons. I like the show because it really goes into the diverse cultures of places around the world, many of which I’ve never been. It