It is that time of the year again: garden book roundup for the New York Times. Each one of these is such a challenge--there is so much wonderful stuff for our bookshelves and nightstands. Art directors at the NYT Book Review always find terrific illustrators, too; above by Ping Zhu.
And, as you can tell by the ending, inspired by my wonderful teacher, Abbe Ciulla, I've picked up that yoga practice--the one I have down-dogged into and out of for at least forty years....Loving it, and needing it--why do we stop doing the things that makes us feel better, once we feel better? An eternal question.... Enjoy the books!
Yes, the big news of the spring is my first grandchild. I've written an essay about how over-the-top in love I am--and how crazy, too--for the New York Times. Please find it here. Now I finally understand what grandmothers the world over have said forever....there's nothing like it.
I’ve just published a new children’s book, with Maya Ajmera. The story
of how this project was born is one of those lovely kismet moments that
make life so interesting. I gave a talk about our work at Moms Clean Air
Force in Washington DC to a group of friends of friends. At some point,
I mentioned that I wanted to write a children’s book about air—as there
was nothing on the market to introduce our smallest citizens to
something so necessary and invisible.
Ajmera, the founder of the Global Fund for Children, was in the
audience. “I can make that happen!” she said. And how. Maya is the
author of more than twenty books for children—and a force of nature in
her own right. We went to work. Our marvelous creative director at Moms
Clean Air Force, Kate Caprari, rolled up her sleeves. We used
photographs to illustrate the book, as pictures are always fascinating
to young children. And Julianne Moore gave us a spirited foreword.
Every Breath We Take is the result. It is meant to be read to children ages 4
to 7—though it is a great starting point for teaching older children
about air, air pollution, and climate change. We hope you love this book
as much as we do. Breathe deep—and read!
I'm hopeful. Not by nature. But because I have no choice but to believe that eventually we will do what is right, and what is necessary, to save ourselves. I'm too old to give in to despair. And, I'm old enough to be welcoming my first grandchild into this world, next spring!
So of course I’m joyful about the climate plan coming out of
Paris. Compared to the disastrous finale of the last important climate meeting
in Copenhagen, in 2009, the Paris accord is a triumph. It is no small
achievement to have 195 countries decide to aim for a far more ambitious target
than anyone had in sight at the start: to keep global warming contained at 1.5
Here’s one of the biggest differences between 2009 and 2015:
concerned citizens—mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, sons and
daughters—millions raised their voices to demand action against climate change.
We are being heard.
The Paris accord is a
triumph—but most especially, it is a triumph of hope. And hope, in these precarious
times, is no small thing.
Among many historic achievements in the Paris accord:
Action on climate has been firmly reframed, we hope, as a moral imperative.
A scaffolding has been erected, what negotiators refer to as
a framework, one that will support, we
hope, a new global energy structure.
That scaffolding has been built with windows and doors in
place, so that, we hope, there will
be a way for reporters and reviewers to see past national walls, to know that
countries are actually making the cuts they pledge to make.
The degradation of the world’s tropical rainforests will, we hope, be given its due and
considerable weight in accounting for the degradation of our climate.
And, we hope,
significant funding will become available to help countries who have
contributed nothing to the pollution of our skies, but who are being
hit—hard—by new patterns of extreme weather.
We must only hope for all these things, because the Paris accord is not a binding
Which brings us back home, to reality, to the hard part.
Not a single wealthy (fossil-fuel dependent) country
submitted a plan, in Paris, that achieves deep enough carbon and methane cuts
to get the world anywhere near the target of a 1.5 degree temperature rise. That Paris scaffolding gives us only a ground floor.
That does not mean such plans can’t or won’t be crafted—and
met. But right now, globally, renewable energy, mostly hydroelectric power, accounts
for only 10 percent of total energy supply; solar and wind account for 1.6 percent of total energy. This is changing. Will it change fast enough? Certainly there are some staggering plans for renewables on the table, around the globe. How can we do the same here at home?
In order to stall global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (we
are approaching 1 degree C of warming right now), good estimates are that
the wealthiest countries, all of whose economies are fossil fuel dependent,
must essentially be carbon- and methane-emission free in the next decades.
My grandson will be a teenager.
Every single person who cares about the safety of the world we live in,
the world we leave for our children, has tough work ahead to meet the climate
As I write: 2015 draws to a close, as the hottest year in human-recorded history. Every day we are experiencing the extreme flooding, drought,
crop failures, ice melts and other dangers caused or worsened by climate
There is no hope that our planet will cool down, in our
lifetimes, or for generations.
Meanwhile, the oil
and gas industry is fighting tooth and nail against regulations—not only those
that control methane emissions but those that control carbon emissions, too—claiming the industry can and will voluntarily police itself.
The industry’s actions to date give us no hope that
voluntary measures work.
There is no hope that dirty coal is anywhere near dead.
President Obama could not have signed the U.S. into a binding treaty in Paris without
the consent of Congress—and there is absolutely no hope of this Congress doing
anything at all about climate change. Many Republicans and some Democrats are already trying to dismantle America's Clean Power Plan to regulate carbon emissions. The Republican candidates for president are largely climate deniers; they do not even “believe” in climate change, as if it
were an article of faith, rather than science.
There is, right now, no hope of bipartisan political agreement around
solutions to curbing carbon and methane emissions.
And still, I’m hopeful that we will win the race of our lives—that we will take action to stop greenhouse gas emissions
before it is too late, before our highly complex, interconnected climate system
simply spins out of control. The planet--which has been through huge climate changes in the deep past--will be fine. This is about saving human civilization. We have thrived during 10,000 years of climate stability. We have never endured anything like the climate changes of the past.
We now have unprecedented, historic Presidential leadership. And we see that American leadership is consequential. Momentum around solutions is building. There is growing awareness of the problem--and its urgency. We are becoming excited about huge opportunities ahead, in a new energy world. We're talking about winning.
Some energy companies are calling for carbon taxes. Some leaders in the oil and gas industry are supporting rules against carbon and methane emissions. Some corporations are switching to renewable energy. Some conservatives are discussing an end to billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks. Some towns across the country are changing antiquated laws so they can deploy clean energy. Who knows what other solutions will be engineered and invented?
Remember that big difference that got us to the Paris
accord? We raised our voices. We demanded change. We demanded protection. We
demanded divestment. We demanded investment.
We demanded hope.
We are highly complex, interconnected, creatures, we humans. I am hopeful about the path beyond Paris. And hope is often the only thing that keeps us going. That--and the most sustainable, renewable energy there is: love, like the love I already feel for my grandson, not yet born.
Never mind the frost. I'm putting chard in vases, and curling up with books. Here's my latest roundup review for the New York Times. This was a great season for picture books; I especially loved the Oxford University gardens, and the latest on the High Line is terrific. Tony Angell's House of Owls tops my list: I'll reread that a few more times in my life, I know. You'll want to give it to everyone you know who loves owls. And whoooo doesn't? (Sorry. Irresistible. One of those amuse yourself mornings...)
I've been gone from this blog, but writing elsewhere. And of course, Moms Clean Air Force has been consuming, but enormously thrilling. I've been having a conversation with friends for months about how liberated I feel from so many sources of angst, and finally sat down to write about it. My new personal mantra. Here it is in The New York Times. Enjoy...and let me know what you're too old for...if anything!
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