Horizon – Book Review

You are going on a journey.

Horizon by Barry Lopez will make you hit the pause button on your busy life to ponder what it means to be a human being living on amazing planet Earth.

I believe this is a good thing.

When you give yourself permission to step away from your overbooked calendar and endless to-do list, you give yourself a gift. You make space in your mind to wonder at the world, contemplate what and who is really important to you, and determine what you are willing to do to protect it and them.

That is what this book is about for me. You may find something else that resonates with you. I doubt anyone reading it will walk away untouched.

Book Review

Before you settle into a comfortable chair and crack open Horizon, you should be aware that you are about to become a time traveler. Proper clothing and a spirit of adventure are essential as you will be accompanying Lopez on excursions into the past at some of the most remote places on Earth.

Horizon is a memoir, travel diary, and a treatise on humanity. Bits of history and geography reside alongside commentary about the state of the world and the people who occupy it.

Even readers with a good grasp of vocabulary will probably find themselves looking up at least a few words.

At the beginning of Horizon, Lopez gives readers a brief overview of his personal history and explains why he wrote the book.

Then you will head off to the first of six destinations spanning the globe.

Horizon Book Cover
  • Cape Foulweather, Oregon
  • Skraeling Island, Canada
  • Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Islands, Eastern Equatorial Pacific
  • Jackal Camp, Kenya, Eastern Equatorial Africa
  • Port Arthur to Botany Bay, Australia
  • Graves Nunataks, Antarctica to Port Famine Road, Chile

Lopez uses these locations as backdrops for recounting his own explorations as well as those of famous and not famous people of the past and present. His descriptions of these places are breathtaking making you feel as if you are there. Underlying the geography, flora, fauna, weather, and history of these regions is a running commentary on humanity.

You will find awe and grief and hope among the pages of Horizon.

Lopez does not shy away from making eloquent yet blunt statements about the state of the world as he observes it. Some people may not want to read these words but for me, they speak the truth.

“I read daily about the many threats to human life—chemical, political, biological, and economic. Much of this trouble, I believe, has been caused by the determination of some to define a human cultural world apart from the nonhuman world, or by people’s attempts to overrun, streamline, or dismiss that world as simply a warehouse for materials, or mere scenery.”

He also embraces all of humanity and delivers messages that I believe are universal.

“It has long seemed to me that what most of us are looking for is the opportunity to express, without embarrassment or judgment or retaliation, our capacity to love.”

The Bottom Line

Barry Lopez is an adventurer, artist, and author. Judging by the opportunities he receives to visit far-flung places to work alongside archaeologists, biologists, and other scientists, he must know an inordinate number of people and be an adequate field researcher who possesses excellent camping skills.

He has traveled extensively around the globe sharing his observations of the non-human natural world as well as the people who inhabit it now, did in the past, or may in the future.

In the beginning, reading Horizon was kind of a chaotic experience. It seemed as if one minute Lopez was describing a patch of land on the Oregon Coast, then he would switch to talking about Captain James Cook’s attempt to land there hundreds of years ago, and the next moment he would be discussing the avariciousness of humans.

Then I realized that I liked this. It was as if I was accompanying Lopez on his travels and having a conversation (all be it one-sided) with him that went on for 512 pages.

I paused often to mark passages with sticky flags or to form my own response to something he had just said. Sometimes I would bring topics to the dinner table to discuss with my family so in a way they were on the journey, too.

All through the book, Lopez acknowledges that each person perceives places, people, and information in their own way. He throws his observations out there and then steps back allowing you to feel and think for yourself.

Horizon is worth the time it will take you to read it.

“We are the darkness, as we are, too, the light.”

Featured Image at Top: View of Cape Foulweather from the Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint on the Oregon coast – photo credit MightyFree/Wikipedia.

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Your Individual Climate Actions Matter and this is Why

One action can lead to another.

Do your individual climate actions, mine, and everyone else’s matter? I strongly believe that they do—in more ways than you may think.

Yes, I have read many articles and blog posts followed social media threads and watched interviews of climate scientists and environmental experts declaring that our individual climate actions will not be enough to avert the worst of the climate crisis or to mitigate its effects.

Yet, here I am advocating for individual climate actions and averring that they do indeed matter.

“Is she in denial or just naively promoting wishful thinking?” are logical questions. Let me assure you that I do not inhabit a fantasy world or an alternate reality. However, I do reject the premise that what we do as individuals does not matter.

In this post, I will attempt to explain why I believe that our individual climate actions do matter. Perhaps my reasoning will resonate with you or perhaps not.

We Need Massive Structural and Social Change

Climate experts and many others keep repeating the mantra that the climate crisis requires massive structural and social change. Our energy, transportation, food, water, land use, justice, and economic systems—our very way of life—needs to be completely transformed if we (meaning people) are going to continue to be able to live on Earth now and in the future.

This is an undertaking like no other that has ever occurred in human history. It is going to take all of us changing our own lives and demanding that corporations and governments act like there is a climate crisis because there is one.

Who do you think is going to get that done?

It is going to be people, individual people. After all, it is individuals who make up families, neighborhoods, cities, corporations, nonprofit organizations, government bodies, and international climate movements.

You, I, and everyone else are the individuals that can collectively change the world. Our children, their children, and all the non-humans with which we share the planet are counting on us.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama

That brings us back to individual climate actions and why they matter.

Action Begets Action

When faced with a mind-bogglingly complex and seemingly insurmountable situation, like the climate crisis, some people immediately step up and take action. I am humbled by and grateful to these people. But that does not describe me and maybe not you either.

Many, if not most people will feel overwhelmed. You are just one person. What could you possibly do that would make any positive difference? You may feel powerless and afraid. Freezing like a deer in the headlights you do nothing. You are in a state of inertia indisposed to motion, exertion, or change.

“Well, duh.” you may be thinking. “But, how am I supposed to get over feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and afraid?”

Do something, anything, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

Taking action breaks the cycle of inertia. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. A feeling like you can do something. One action can lead to another which leads to another and so on.

Lois Gibbs in Her Kitchen with Her Kids in 1978
Lois Gibbs with her kids in her kitchen making calls about the Love Canal toxic waste dump – photo Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

Then one day you will realize that you are one of the millions of other climate activists around the world who are all striving to live more lightly on Earth and in harmony with all the other living beings that share the planet.

Are you wondering what action you should take to get started? It is up to you. Consider choosing something that you actually want to do and that you feel confident you can accomplish. You can work on the harder stuff later.

Ideas and inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Talk with your family, friends, and coworkers, watch a film, go for walk, read a book, check out social media, attend an event, or read blogs posts here on Green Groundswell.

I am not suggesting that I am a paragon of anything or that I am a model climate activist. But I do know that my own journey began when I purchased a reusable water bottle and filled it up with water from my kitchen sink faucet.

Naysayers will suggest that we cannot wait for each person to find their inner climate activist. The thing is you cannot force another person to change. The only person that can change you is you.  

Water Drops and Ripples

Water Drop Creating a Ripple
Photo – Shutterstock/science photo

Let us say that you switch to reusable shopping bags, plant a pollinator-friendly garden, or install solar panels. Patting yourself on the back you feel that you have done your bit for the climate movement.

Is that enough?

Chances are that whatever climate actions you are doing, there are millions of other people around the world doing the same thing where they live and millions of other people are doing different climate actions.

Just as tiny drops of water will fill up a bucket all these actions add up to a significant positive impact.

Another benefit of taking action is that you are setting an example for other people that action is empowering. Your action could start a ripple of other actions.

Will incremental climate actions be enough to stave off the climate crisis? I do not think so.

However, as long as you, me, and everyone else is engaged in climate action at any level there is always the possibility that we will move beyond our comfort levels and do what is necessary to transform our society.

I will look for you along the journey.

Featured Image at Top: Newton’s Cradle perpetual motion device with one blue sphere – photo credit iStock/26ISO.

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