Climate: A New Story – Book Review

Open your mind, or not.

This may sound strange but if you are weary of reading books about climate change, Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein could be just the book for you.

At the beginning of January, I was definitely not interested in reading yet another book about climate change, when I spotted an article in the Yes! Media newsletter that arrives in my email inbox on Friday afternoons.

“Threats of global catastrophe won’t move people to action. Only the heart can inspire zeal.”

That text just below the article entitled, Why the Climate Change Message Isn’t Working caught my attention. I thought, “Yes, I totally agree.” The article contained an excerpt from Climate: A New Story.

My Copy of Climate A New Story Bristling with Sticky Flags

I was intrigued so I bought the book. It is now bristling with colored sticky flags (I reuse them), signaling that I found many interesting and thought-provoking passages worth marking for review and discussion.

Book Review

Reading Climate: A New Story requires a little bit of preparation. First, make sure you have some sticky flags, scraps of paper, or a highlighter on hand because trust me; there will be passages you will want to return to later. Second, to get the most out of your reading experience I recommend leaving your personal climate change baggage behind and approaching the book with an open mind.

The book contains twelve main chapters with titles like “A Crisis of Being,” “Beyond Climate Fundamentalism,” “A Bargain with the Devil,” “An Affair of the Heart,” and “Bridge to a Living World.”

I was riveted from the first chapter. Here is a taste of what you will be reading.

Chapter 1 – A Crisis of Being

This chapter is worth reading twice because it forms the basis for the balance of the book. For me, concepts like the story of separation and interbeing were new, the concept of they was not. Although I laughed when Eisenstein described the possible concerns of a fracking executive, he makes a good point that they are people, too.

Environmentalists may not like the part where Eisenstein asks us, meaning everyone on the planet, to give up fighting. After all, fighting, stopping, and banning things are major components of the current environmental movement. I know because I have been a willing participant.

“We call arguments “rational” when they appeal to self-interest. This book will argue that rational reasons are not enough; that the ecological crisis is asking for a revolution of love.”

Chapter 2 – Beyond Climate Fundamentalism

The first page of this chapter contains a hilarious, but probably sadly true, hypothetical exchange between Eisenstein and a prominent environmentalist proselytizing that addressing climate change is the only thing that matters.

“While this book is focused on the realm of ecological healing, it disengages from the rhetoric of “Nothing else is important compared to this. That’s the rhetoric that has alienated so many working-class people and minorities from environmentalism because it carries a patronizing message of “We know better than you do what you should be caring about.”

He goes on to explain why he believes that social healing and ecological healing are the same work and that neither can succeed without the other.

Chapter 3 – The Climate Spectrum and Beyond.

This chapter is all about framing the so-called climate debate and provides a new term “climate derangement,” which I think is much more descriptive than climate change or global warming.

I will leave you here with my favorite quote from “Chapter 8 – A Bargain with Devil”.

“By appealing to self-interest and fear we strengthen the habits of self-interest and fear, which, let’s face it, usually conspire to destroy the planet not save it. We will never increase the amount of care in the world by appealing to self-interest.

The Bottom Line

After graduating from Yale University with a degree in mathematics and philosophy, Charles Eisenstein moved to Taiwan, learned a new language, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-English translator. This experience and others influenced the later direction of his life. Now, he is a writer, a speaker, and a podcaster focusing on civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution.

While I was reading Climate: A New Story, I often found myself wanting to jump up and go tell someone in my family about what I had just read. I showed some restraint by saving up tidbits and sharing them at the dinner table.

Generally, I thought that Climate: A New Story was a readable book but occasionally Eisenstein drifted off using language that seemed like he was more interested in hearing his own voice than making his ideas accessible to the reader. When that happened, I either read those parts again or skipped over them.

Climate: A New Story is about way more than climate. Everyone should read this book. Readers will come away with their own thoughts but I doubt anyone will be unmoved. I especially recommend this book to my fellow environmentalists because we need to broaden our horizons.

“Not-in-my-backyard thinking, when universalized to an empowered citizenry, becomes not-in-anyone’s-backyard.

Featured Image at Top: A majestic sunrise over the mountains – photo credit iStock/Alex Sava.

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Global Strike for Future – San Luis Obispo

Young climate activists rock!

Last Friday, I stood near the back of a crowd of students at a Global Strike for Future rally in San Luis Obispo, CA holding a sign that said, “I’m with them.”

My spouse and I arrived late so we naturally ended up at the back of the group. Rather than politely weave in and out of the crowd to get closer to the speaker as I would normally do, I hung back.

This event was not for me (an adult many years out of school). It was for the young people who were striking from school to protest inaction on climate change by the adults that are currently in charge.

I was not even sure if I should be there at all. However, I wanted to show support for the school strikers and you can never have too many people at a rally.

Global Strike for Future Rally in San Luis Obispo, CA on March 15, 2019
Part of the crowd near the end of the Global Strike for Future rally in San Luis Obispo, CA on March 15, 2019. My spouse is holding my sign in the back under the tree while I take photos.

So why were kids striking on a school day?

Fridays for Future Movement

On Monday, August 20, 2018, instead of showing up at school, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg decided to skip school to stand outside the Swedish parliament building holding a sign saying “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate). She did this every school day until the Swedish general election on September 9, 2018.

After the election, she continued to strike on Fridays protesting the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing and why she was doing it on social media and it went viral. This was the beginning of the #FridaysForFuture movement.

During her 3 ½-minute December 2018 speech at COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change) in Katowice, Poland Greta Thunberg put world leaders on notice.

“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Young people all over the world have joined the #FridaysForFuture movement.

The day before the Global Strike for Future Greta Thunberg received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Global Strike for Future

The Global Strike for Future was a worldwide event with student actions occurring on Friday, March 15, 2019, in thousands of cities in over a hundred countries.

From reading news accounts and social media feeds it appears that hundreds of thousands and maybe even more than a million kids took time off from school to demand that world leaders live up to the Paris Climate Agreement and take action to keep global warming below 1.5° (C).

Sure, these kids could hold rallies and marches after school or on weekends but it would not be nearly as impactful. I think the civil disobedience aspect of skipping school as well as the sheer number of kids doing it is what is making the world take notice.

San Luis Obispo Rally

I first heard about the San Luis Obispo Global Strike for Future events when Brandon O’Rourke showed up at the March 7 SLO Climate Coalition meeting. He told us that students at several schools would be striking and that a student rally was going to be held outside the courthouse.

By the next day, Brandon O’Rourke, Tara Hale, Carmen Bouquin, Noel Clark, Erika Wilson had posted an event page on social media with more specifics. They posted updates during the week. That is how I knew when and where to show up for the rally.

The organizers held a sign-making party for students and had signs available at the rally. I recycled my Women’s March sign with materials I printed from the FridaysForFuture website.

During the rally, there were speakers, chants, and singing. The crowd was mostly young people with a few older people like me sprinkled here and there.

Luke Dunn at Global Strike for Future in San Luis Obispo, CA

Luke Dunn took the microphone for a couple of minutes and invited participants to join the SLO Climate Coalition, which is a community group working to create a carbon-free San Luis Obispo city and county.

As the rally was wrapping up, I took the opportunity to talk with a few people and take photos. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the note in my smartphone with their names (sigh).

A follow-up session was scheduled for Sunday at a local park to give the students an opportunity to debrief and talk about the next actions.

What Can You Do?

I was heartened to see local young people taking an interest in keeping Earth habitable for themselves and everyone else. We are all in this together, now.

School protests related to climate change may be a relatively new phenomenon but students have been making their voices heard on and off campus for decades.

For instance, the 1970 Earth Day teach-ins held at thousands of schools across the United States energized the environmental movement and led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency and far-reaching legislation like the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.

People in the streets demanding action get things done. That includes kids.

Having kids participate in school strikes can present challenges like ensuring everyone’s safety, making up for missed classes, and respecting kids that do not want to strike. This is an opportunity for older people to help the younger generation become active members of society.

Let’s engage our kids and work with them to enable them to make their voices heard, be safe, and get their homework done. Here are a few thought starters.

  • Support actions kids want to take.
  • Help kids and schools with logistics.
  • Provide transportation.
  • Give financial support.
  • Be a mentor.
  • Host a sign making party.
  • Rent or loan audio/visual equipment.
  • Provide a meeting place.
  • Offer your expertise.
  • Spread the word.

I am looking forward to what these young climate activists do next.

Featured Image at Top: Global Strike for Future Logo.

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