July 28, 2010: What Have We Done?

I live in a densely populated, 79% paved-over city that, in the past, had been sneeringly referred to as “Scummerville” or “Slummerville.” (These days, that Somerville is so hip has pretty much quashed those taunts—but not entirely.) Whenever my husband and I venture outside our fair city and see some lovely countryside or acres of trees destroyed by McMansions or a strip mall or another highway, we sigh. But then we tell ourselves,” You know, sometimes it’s less painful to live in Somerville where the rape and destruction of the land and its rivers happened three-hundred years ago!”

As I’ve noted in many of these blogs, I have been drawn to the Transition Town movement and its fundamental, resilient message that, given climate change and the eventual end of the Cheap Oil Era, the ONLY way we’ll survive these huge and scary changes is collectively. So from time to time I hang out with Somervillians who are into weatherization or the Buy Local movement or community gardens or extending the bike path. Wonderful initiatives. Wonderful people.

Marla Marcum of “Climate Summer”* said something recently that really shook me. A climate change activist and deeply spiritual person, Marla noted that there’s something deeply shameful about what our species has done to this planet.

More and more I am feeling that, perhaps, my role in Somerville’s ongoing initiatives re the huge upheavals we’re facing ** is to somehow engage in community-wide conversations about that shame. And, oh yeah, about our overwhelming feelings of helplessness and terror.


* “Climate Summer”  has been about a group of college students biking throughout New England to talk about climate change. Marla was one of the chief organizers.

** I use the present tense because Somerville, like so many communities around the world, has already suffered 3 times this year from dramatic, destructive weather—in Somerville’s case, 3 devastating rain storms.

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