“Active Hope” by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

Active Hope

Book Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

from Spirituality and Practice, Resources for Spiritual Journeys

Active Hope
How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy
Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone
New World Library 03/12 Paperback $14.95
ISBN: 9781577319726

Joanna Macy, author and activist for peace and deep ecology, and Chris Johnstone, who trains and writes on resilience and positive change, know that we are living in hard and perilous times. They write about three stories that are afoot in our culture that address our situation. The first is “Business As Usual” with its emphasis on economic growth, consumption, getting ahead, and using nature as nothing more than a commodity. The second story is “The Great Unraveling” which focuses on economic decline, resource depletion, climate change, social division and war, and mass extinction of species. The third story is “The Great Turning” which involves campaigns in defense of the earth; a change in our perception, thinking, and values; and developing new economic and social structures.

To choose the third story is to live in active hope. This practice has three steps: taking a clear view of reality, seeing the direction we’d like things to move in, and taking concrete steps to change things. Macy and Johnstone envision gratitude as a practice that animates us to act for our world. They also believe that it serves as an antidote to consumerism.

The planetary emergency often promotes such a feeling of pain that we are immobilized or sidetracked to trivial pursuits. The authors present practices and exercises to help us honor our pain for the world. Active hope also provides us with a wider sense of self and the desire to connect with like-minded souls.

It is hard to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the face of so many global problems. But we can derive new strength by relying on a wider view of community, a larger view of time, catching an inspiring vision, and daring to believe it is possible. We can stem the tide of catastrophe by building support for ourselves, maintaining energy and enthusiasm, and accepting uncertainty (we really don’t know how things will turn out).

Active Hope is the right book for our time!

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Trilogy

Forty Signs of RainForty Days of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting

by Kim Stanley Robinson

From a wired.com interview with the author by Brandon Keim on 7/03/07:

WN: One of the main characters in the new trilogy is Frank Vanderwal, a scientist who leads a radical National Science Foundation initiative to respond, immediately and on a planetary scale, to climate change. Vanderwal becomes heavily influenced by Buddhist thought, and his own lifestyle becomes a form of Freganism — living without a single permanent home, communing in a deeply spiritual way with nature, accepting change and valorizing adaptability, living off the excess of our own over-producing society. Do you feel this to be the ideal mentality and lifestyle for a time of radical climate change?

Robinson: He’s a character in a comedy who takes things too far. A lot of scientists act on their beliefs and so do things that look crazy to the rest of us. He’s basically following the right line — but without going homeless or moving into a treehouse, all of us can look at the way we live and adjust accordingly. That’s what novels are for in the utopian sense: to suggest modes of thought so you can examine your own life and see what you can do.

read the rest here

“Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight BehaviorThe New York Times Sunday Book Review

The Butterfly Effect                                       ‘Flight Behavior,’                                              by Barbara Kingsolver                                     By DOMINIQUE BROWNING                   Published: November 9, 2012

Dellarobia Turnbow is about to fling herself into a love affair that will wreak havoc on her placid life, and she’s worried about what she’s wearing. She’s frantic with desire, frantic with passion, also frantic for a cigarette. Her boots, bought secondhand, “so beautiful she’d nearly cried when she found them,” are killing her. It’s the wettest fall on record in southern Appalachia, and she has to be hiking in pointed-toe calfskin on a steep, muddy trail to a deserted cabin for an illicit rendezvous.

All sorts of “crazy wanting,” both prosaic and earth-shattering, are shot through the intricate tapestry of Barbara Kingsolver’s majestic and brave new novel, “Flight Behavior.” Her subject is both intimate and enormous, centered on one woman, one family, one small town no one has ever heard of — until Dellarobia stumbles into a life-altering journey of conscience. How do we live, Kingsolver asks, and with what consequences, as we hurtle toward the abyss in these times of epic planetary transformation? And make no mistake about it, the stakes are that high. Postapocalyptic times, and their singular preoccupation with survival, look easy compared with this journey to the end game. Yet we must also deal with the pinching boots of everyday life.

read the rest here

What Role for Civil Disobedience?

Bidder 70 poster.387“The decision to actively, deliberately, and peacefully disobey specific laws or rules can play an important role in any social movement, just as other tactics such as lobbying, electoral work, and public education play important roles. Civil disobedience reflects core American values first articulated by Henry David Thoreau and used effectively by abolitionists, suffragists, and in the civil rights movement by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.” – Sierra Club’s President Allison Chin and Executive Director Michael Brune on the Sierra Club’s recent suspension of its 120 year old policy against civil disobedience. They were arrested along with 46 other environmental leaders at the White House on February 13, 2013 during an organized protest against inaction on climate change.

Tim DeChristopher’s story of civil disobedience and subsequent prison time is documented in a film released last year and coming to Court Square Theater (CST, tickets are $6 in advance or at the door) on Earth Day 2013:  Bidder 70.  “On December 19, 2008 Tim DeChristopher disrupted a highly disputed Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction, effectively safeguarding thousands of acres of pristine Utah land that were slated for oil and gas leases. Not content to merely protest outside, Tim entered the auction hall and registered as bidder #70. He outbid industry giants on land parcels (which, starting at $2 an acre, were adjacent to national treasures like Canyonlands National Park), winning 22,000 acres of land worth $1.7 million before the auction was halted.”

The April 22 CST showing is the day after Tim DeChristopher’s scheduled release from prison on April 21, 2013.  “After screening Bidder 70,… we will be part of a nationwide SKYPE Q&A with Tim from the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City.”

DeChristopher’s actions were an inspiration to over 1200 climate change activists who were arrested in August 2011 at the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. CAAV founder Cathy Strickler, her husband Charlie and CAAV members Laura and Bishop Dansby were among this dedicated group.

On March 21 “religiously and spiritually rooted Americans of all traditions … gather(ed) at the White House for a moral act of loving nonviolent civil disobedience,” as organized by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate. Valley resident and CAAV member April Moore writes about her experience of being among the 15 arrested at this event in Thoughts from a Climate Jailbird for fiftyoverfifty.org.

Fifty Over Fifty is a new effort by Lawrence MacDonald of Washington, D.C. who says his organization “is an appeal to a small number of boomers — members of the US baby boom generation — to engage in peaceful civil disobedience to push for sensible climate policies in the hope that this can help to avert catastrophe.  We call this effort 50 over 50 x 50 because we believe that members of our generation (over 50 years old)  have the means and the responsibility to act and that a few dozen of us in each of the 50 states (50 x 50) can tip public opinion in favor of action if  we are prepared to organize at the grassroots level, speak out, risk arrest and occasionally spend some time in jail.”

The need for action on climate change is seeing increasing use of civil disobedience to get attention. The upcoming Bidder 70 screening could be a perfect time for a community discussion on use of this controversial strategy. Courageous Leadership: Civil Disobedience and Climate Disruption has been planned by area groups to precede the showing of Bidder 70. This panel discussion will feature Sierra Club president Allison Chin.

Find the showing’s facebook event page here. Find the preceding forum’s facebook event page here.

The Ceres Report

Ceres reportCeres is a far reaching non-profit organization championing sustainable economies. They conducted a survey of the insurance industry in 2012 to determine how prepared it is for the changing climate. Their report on the survey findings came out in March 2013.

Ceres proposes recommendations to insurers and regulators to maintain insurability in a warming world.

2012 was the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states and the second most extreme weather year in United States history. Insurers are increasingly acknowledging that extreme weather has become the new normal, yet a new report from Ceres finds that many in the industry are only just beginning to think about how to address the effects climate change may have on their business – while a small group of companies is leading the way.

The Ceres report, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey: 2012 Findings & Recommendations, is based on 184 company disclosures in response to a climate risk survey developed by insurance regulators. Surveys were completed by insurers licensed to operate in three states – California, New York and Washington – that require climate risk disclosure. Collectively, these companies represent a significant majority of the American insurance market.

Ceres found only 23 companies in the property & casualty, life & annuity and health insurance sectors have comprehensive climate change strategies. Those companies provide a roadmap for the rest of the industry as it begins to wrestle with the issue.

The rest of this press release and links to the report are here.

GAO’s 2013 High-Risk Report

GAO report 2013The Government Accountability Office issues a High Risk report every other year. According to the GAO website:

“The federal government is the world’s largest and most complex entity, with about $3.5 trillion in outlays in fiscal year 2012 funding a broad array of programs and operations. GAO maintains a program to focus attention on government operations that it identifies as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or the need for transformation to address economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. Since 1990, more than one-third of the areas previously designated as high risk have been removed from the list because sufficient progress was made to address the problems identified.

This biennial update describes the status of high-risk areas listed in 2011 and identifies any new high-risk area needing attention by Congress and the executive branch. Solutions to high-risk problems offer the potential to save billions of dollars, improve service to the public, and strengthen the performance and accountability of the U.S. government.”

“This year, GAO has added two areas.

  • Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks. Climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters. The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.
  • Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data. Potential gaps in environmental satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings–including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods–will be less accurate and timely. A number of decisions are needed to ensure contingency and continuity plans can be implemented effectively.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island discusses the significance of the addition of climate change to the GAO 2013 High Risk report and implores Congress for action in this address to President Obama on February 27, 2013 :

Extreme weather: Who Plans, Who Pays?

April forum flyer.5
Everyone is invited to CAAV’s next FREE public forum!

On Thursday, April 11, at 6:00PM at the Massanutten Regional Library, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) invites the public to consider the necessity of regional planning for the increased likelihood of extreme weather brought on by climate disruption and the costs that result from both adaptation and inaction.

Over the past several years we’ve seen an increase in weather-related disasters, from named storms like Katrina and Sandy to widespread droughts, floods, and wildfires. While the direct connection to climate change can’t be proved in each instance, the trend toward more of the extreme weather events that climate scientists have predicted is being realized, along with a dramatic increase in claims on both private and federal insurance. In fact, the Government Accountability Office has for the first time included climate change in their annual High Risk Report, calling on Congress to limit the federal government’s fiscal exposure by better managing climate change risks.

The program will begin with a review of the GAO report by CAAV Chairman Les Grady and a short video illustrating the risks facing the Virginia coast from sea level rise and extreme storms. Following this, two experts representing local insurance and planning groups will address our increasing vulnerability to all the costs of severe weather and how we can all work together to create climate change resilience in the Valley.

Neal Menefee is President and CEO of the Rockingham Group of insurance companies whose predecessors have been insuring valley properties for over 150 years.
Rebecca Joyce is program administrator for Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission where cooperative solutions to problems are addressed through regional efforts and partnerships with local jurisdictions and other stakeholders.

There will be time for discussion and questions at the end.

Putting a Price on Carbon

Citizens Climate Lobby is eager to share this video on social media. Movie star Ian Somerhalder’s narration could create a large audience!

Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) provides an explanation of and opinion on carbon tax legislation here.

Among the resources available on this CCL site, you will find the full report prepared by Regional Economic Models, Inc.(REMI) explaining the positive economic aspects of the fee/tax and dividend program CCL is advocating. See a summary of this report here.


Energy committee

Waxman, Whitehouse, Blumenauer, and Schatz Release Carbon Price Discussion Draft | Committee on Energy and Commerce Democrats.

Mar 12, 2013

Today, Representative Henry A. Waxman, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Representative Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Brian Schatz released draft carbon-pricing legislation and solicited feedback on it from stakeholders and the public.  The legislation would establish the polluter pays principle for dangerous carbon pollution, requiring large emitters to pay for the pollution they emit.

The “discussion draft” released today contains a new and straightforward approach to putting a price on carbon pollution.  The nation’s largest polluters would have to pay a fee for each ton of pollution they release.  The legislation assigns responsibility for the assessment and collection of the carbon fees based upon the expertise that has already been developed by EPA and the Treasury Department.  Under the discussion draft, EPA’s database of reported emissions would determine the amount of pollution subject to the fee.  The Treasury Department would be responsible for the collection and handling of the fees.

“Putting a price on carbon could help solve two of the nation’s biggest challenges at once:  preventing climate change and reducing the budget deficit,” said Rep. Waxman of California. “There have been carbon tax proposals made by others.  What’s unique about this one is its novel design.  We are seeking to craft a system in which each agency does what they are good at and that minimizes compliance burdens and administrative costs.  Utilities, oil companies, and other major sources are already reporting their emissions to EPA.  We build off of this existing program.”

“Putting a price on carbon is the best way to reduce carbon pollution and slow the effects of climate change,” said Sen. Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  “For far too long, carbon polluters have pushed the true cost of their pollution onto the American people in the form of dirty air, acidified water, and a changing climate.  This framework is the beginning of a collaborative process to craft legislation that will reduce carbon pollution while also upholding an important principle:  that all of the revenue generated through this carbon fee will be returned to the American people.”

see here for more including supporting documents


E&E Publishing, LLC, February 12, 2014, It’s lonely in the trenches for a carbon tax, but a warrior digs in, by Evan Lehman about the Carbon Tax Center’s Charles Komanoff

NPR’s Listen to the Story, June 28, 2013: Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change, by David Kestenbaum


Watch this short, graphic video by Climate Reality on the importance of putting a price on carbon. “Carbon pollution is not only disrupting our lives, it’s hitting our wallets. Comedian and musician Reggie Watts shows how, laying out the billion-dollar connection between fossil-fuel energy and dirty weather events like Superstorm Sandy caused by carbon pollution.”


Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s Ted Glick offers a compilation of news and opinions about legislating carbon prices.

A Sustainability Coordinator for Harrisonburg!

sustainability coordinatorCity Eyes “Green” Keeper: Sustainability Position Would Help Track Carbon Footprint

February 10, 2014 Daily News-Record by Preston Knight

The Harrisonburg Rockingham Green Network’s request for the city to add a sustainability coordinator may be granted a year after the fact.

Read this article here: DNRonline _ City Eyes ‘Green’ Keeper.

The HR Green Network’s letter to City Council on April 30, 2013, supporting a “performance contracting” approach and “sustainability coordinator” position is here.

The city’s beginning thoughts about a job description are here. Please offer comments about what else should be in the job description or how it should change. This is their first effort; expect it to change because they have not done this before.


Harrisonburg has demonstrated the will and ability to grow smartly and care for limited resources in many ways. For example, a new bike-pedestrian plan has been approved, the school system is working on upgrading its energy efficiency, and the water plant is adopting measures to save energy and reduce costs. A sustainability coordinator could expedite and further these efforts to allow our area to stay happy and healthy long into the future.

Now is the time to plan for the future as we deal with a growing population, further development, raising energy costs, and environmental uncertainties.

The Harrisonburg Rockingham Green Network (HRGN) steering committee is proposing the addition of a dedicated Sustainability Coordinator position to the City of Harrisonburg’s government. This position would be answerable to the city manager.

Why: Streamline communication processes

Over the past few years issues of sustainability have been a major concern in our community.  Hundreds of people showed up for two different sustainability summits.  In each case hundreds of issues, concerns, ideas and opportunities for making our city more sustainable were introduced.  Issues such as backyard chickens, urban gardens, landscape regulations and bicycling and walking infrastructure have produced more public involvement in city council meetings than nearly any other issues.

Sustainability issues, such as these, are complex and require coordination among several different city departments, involve many different stakeholders, and require citizens to engage with innumerable city representatives. 

The City’s recent experience with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is instructive.  It took years of advocacy at city council meetings, meetings with city staff, and countless hours of organizing citizens just to get to the point where progress could be made.  Once the city identified a clear process for developing and updating the bicycle and pedestrian plan remarkable progress was made.  Creating a designated sustainability coordinator will streamline this process for future projects and opportunities.  

Citizens are frustrated by slow progress, and are confused about which city departments to talk to about their concerns, issues and ideas.  The process is inefficient and duplicative.  No doubt staff and city counsel could make better use of their time as well.   There is no reason for each and every one of these issues to come before city council several times.

What: Save money, and become a cleaner, healthier, safer city

More and more towns and cities are incorporating sustainability departments into their governments to coordinate and enhance resource conservation efforts, save money and maximize results. We can too!

Sustainability is the ability to meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This requires cooperation between sectors and long-term thinking.

Regardless of varying personal views on environmental issues, conserving resources and energy makes sense on a basic level: it saves money and positively impacts our health.  In many cities sustainability coordinators have been able to save cities money. 

How: What would a sustainability coordinator enable the city to do?

  • Coordinate the implementation of the city’s newly developed Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan
  • Identify opportunities for upgrading and implementing energy efficiency measures
  • Identify opportunities for conserving other natural resources—such as water,
  • Identify and pursue alternative funding streams for sustainability projects—there are ample opportunities for private foundation and government supported grant funding for sustainability  projects
  • Facilitate coordination among different city departments to develop ways to best implement sustainability projects like the bicycle/pedestrian plan
  • Provide community stakeholders with an access point for communicating concerns with the city.  The complexity of sustainability issues makes it difficult to engage with a variety of departments—this  will save staff time and city resources
  • Facilitate coordination with local businesses, community organizations, and universities to leverage knowledge, skills, resources, and develop plans that are cost effective, realistic and workable
  • Communicate and coordinate with a wide variety of local stakeholders to ensure that plans are cost effective, realistic and workable
  • Facilitate the development of a sustainable energy plan starting with an evaluation of our current inputs and outputs and needs for the future.
    •  Explore opportunities for conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
    • “The Virginia Energy Plan, released in September 2007, set a goal for the Commonwealth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025. The reduction in emissions will be partially achieved through energy conservation and renewable energy actions listed in the energy plan.” – sealevelrisevirginia.net  Governor Tim Kaines’s Commission on Climate Change’s Final Report: A Climate Change Action Plan from December 2008 is available here and offers a wealth of information that can be utilized at the local level.
  • Coordinate and enhance current efforts of resource management and pollution control in sectors such as:
    • Energy – from building efficiencies to vehicle use to facilitating development of community solar and wind energy projects
    • Transportation – through promotion of alternative transportation opportunities, mass transit, and bicycle/pedestrian plan
    • Waste management – enhance recycling efforts (downtown recycling bins!), evaluate emissions controls, facilitate development and implementation of storm water run-off infrastructure and management programs
  • Facilitate land use planning – through promotion of urban gardens, greenways, tree planting projects and sustainable agriculture
  • Facilitate water use management and conservation –through promotion of water conservation, public education about protecting water resources, and encouraging best management practices for  controlling run-off and protecting water quality 
  • Help prioritize needs and make assessments of costs and benefits of particular projects and initiatives –there are many grants available for this kind of work
  • Recommend policy initiatives by working with city departments to assess cost and benefits to further maximize sustainability efforts
  • Advertise available resources and funding sources for residents and small businesses to reduce their use energy and resource use … like through the Community Energy Conservation  Program, and the Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).
  • Take advantage of national programs and organizations that reach out to local governments … like The Georgetown Climate Center: Helping communities adapt to climate change and ICLEI- Local  Governments for Sustainability. The Obama administration is reaching out to local governments to facilitate sustainability adaptation. See Coral Davenport’s article.
  • Develop citizen input committees to leverage the talent and expertise in our community
  • Establish a Sustainability Award, as done in Boise and Roanoke, to generate creative thinking and motivation among businesses, organizations and individuals.
  • Promote, coordinate and leverage the considerable efforts already being made at JMU and EMU campuses and utilize the technical expertise available here
  • And more!

Harrisonburg council members need to hear from you!

Mayor Ted Byrd   Ted.Byrd@harrisonburgva.gov
Vice-Mayor Charles Chenault   
Richard Baugh  
Kai Degner  
Abe Shearer   

Dark Snow Project

The first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowdsource funding aims to answer the 'burning question':How much does wildfire and industrial soot darkenthe ice, increasing melt?
The first-ever Greenland expedition relying on crowd
source funding aims to answer the ‘burning question’:
How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken
the ice, increasing melt?

dark snow request