Tuesday, June 26, 2012


As my I wrap up my first summer session and our reading of Carl Safina's The View from Lazy Point, (about which see several Safina-related posts on this blog), I had the good fortune of hearing Neal Conan's discussion of many of Safina's themes on yesterday's Talk of the Nation. I was confused for a moment, because although TotN is a very eclectic show, in-depth environmental discussions are usually reserved for its Science Friday section, and this was -- I was pretty certain -- only Monday. Once I confirmed that it was a Monday and that I would therefore be seeing my students on Tuesday, I decided that listening to Conan's visit to the Aspen Institute would be a good way to reprise many of Safina's themes.
During the program, Conan interviews participants in the annual forum that brings together some of the leading thinkers about the relationships between humans and the environment on which we depend. They focus on first-hand observations of climate change, with much of the conversation centered on the same Arctic regions visited by Safina.

Conan also invites listeners to share their direct observations about how the environment is changing. As with most NPR call-in programs, this one attracts a better-informed caller than most AM radio.

The conversation illustrates both the unprecedented speed of climate change and its geographic variability. This reminds me of a talk I heard earlier this year (and about which I posted at the time) in which Dr. Mary Robinson of Climate Justice discussed the many ways in which climate "winners" and "losers" parallel already-familiar disparities in wealth and opportunity.

Discussions of this kind risk turning into gloomy "we're going to Hell in a hand-basket" hand-wringing, which is not my intent, nor is it that of Safina, McKibben, Robinson, or the many others who are sounding climate alarms. The bleakness of the big picture makes our attention to our own daily experience all the more important. Those who are motivated to act may find Bill McKibben's 350.org the most useful way to connect to others who are concerned.

By way of a very small example, while listening to this program, I am sharing some EcoLogic Agua de Vida coffee with my students. In addition to being grown and marketed under organic and fair-trade certifications, sale of this coffee supports clean-water projects in the Honduran communties in which the coffee is produced.

Those who missed the opportunity to participate in the Aspen Institute directly should consider attending one of the Bioneers conferences in October. I have attended -- and presented -- a couple of times at the Massachusetts satellite conference, and found it richly rewarding.

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