Yesterday morning, I found myself in the middle of a maddening juxtaposition.
After years of again off again genealogical research, I’ve made great headway into identifying my paternal Great Grandfather who was out of the picture before my Grandfather was even 2 and was never spoken of again. It’s a knowledge gap I know my Dad would love to see filled.
During breaks in this difficult quest, I’ve gathered intel and filled in other information on other branches of my family tree. I’m finding facts that lead to imagined stories of soldiers (Civil War (Union army, I find myself happy to report), WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam) and stories of great passages to new lands where my ancestors knew no one, not even the language, in pursuit of a better life.
Everyone’s family tree has such stories - individuals sacrificing and working hard to better their future, the future of their kids, the future of those who may come after. You and I represent thousands of people who did what they did and through time, their perseverance and dreams came together to make us possible.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their latest report in a long series of reports warning of the damage we are doing to the planet. More than that- the catastrophic harm we are doing to humanity itself. (Because, let’s face it - after humans have gone, Earth will be just fine again in time.)
I am not a student of history but I know there are plenty of times throughout the existence of humans where we both faced foes together toward success AND couldn’t get out of our own way, our own shortsightedness or selfishness which lead to our doom.
We stand on the brink- and have been for decades, if we’re honest- and not enough people who have the power to make these choices toward saving ourselves (or, really at this point just making the future a wee bit less awful) are doing enough to solve these problems.
And here’s the kicker- WE HAVE THE TOOLS. WE HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE. We know what needs doing. ACTION is the last piece left. This is what enrages me the most.
Just three generations separated from hard struggle, I have leisure time, technology beyond my ancestors wildest dreams, and the means to do more than just feed and house ourselves. And in three more generations beyond me (or less), due to simple lack of action and infuriating shortsightedness, my family’s story- all of humanity’s stories- could be lost to what will become once again the daily toil and basic struggle to survive, to exist, in uninhabitable conditions.
I carried this infuriating bucket of feelings around with me all day. Annoyed at the powerful for making choices along the way that harmed the future. Pissed at those in power now for being unable to agree, decide, and put plans to action. Heartbroken for the future my son, his peers, their children will face. And let’s be honest. We live in Virginia, not Africa or a tiny agricultural island nation - we’ll be “fine” for longer.
We watched Galaxy Quest after kiddo had gone to bed. And you’re right, it has absolutely no business being as good as it is. A beautiful parody clearly made with great love and pitch perfect in pretty much every way. It also seemed to be a salve to the dread that consumed most of my thoughts that day. Never give up. Never surrender.
Sure, I am only one person - sadly incapable of saving the world. But there are still things I can do - and I will do them. Because giving up is not an option. This is why I love movies - sometimes there’s a larger message that strikes you in just the right way.
Have a great week!
I don’t know how, but I just knew that you were going to pivot to climate change from your opening. Maybe I just share that same deep dread, that same feeling like I’m pounding up against a wall, that same complete lack of power against are true foe.
I have a lot of dread thinking about the world in 20 years. By Grabthar’s hammer, and a lot of international cooperation and willingness to pull our heads out of our asses…
I find it really hard to understand how unprecedented the threats are today. I have no problem understanding their potential severity, but I think about the threat of nuclear war, the World Wars, the global flu pandemic (heh), or a world without antibiotics, and I wonder if every generation faces a world shattering threat. Does it feel that way at the time? Is it that each generation is called upon to actively demonstrate the will to continue?
We live in a world that has been so focused on individual action and maybe, just maybe, small community action. We have created a culture that abhors cooperation. We have whole parts of this country that meltdown at the idea of a collective decision to do something to save ourselves, fed an absolute horseshit information diet. We just have to get out of our own way.
We recently had a major revelation in my family via 23andMe. I’m not sure how comfortable folks are with me sharing the details, but let’s just say we learned about a pretty earth-shattering feeling secret that was taken to the grave, surprising all of us– in a good way. We’ve been able to welcome some new people into the family and expand their understanding of where they came from. Unfortunately, most of my family’s history was lost during the Holocaust. We have some idea of the scope – at one point across my father’s and grandmother’s side we counted close to 100 known relatives that didn’t make it– so it was nice to add to our tree for once.
Last night I finished The Once and Future Witches by Alex E. Harrow . It’s about a world where women have had power, but are constantly having to fight to keep it. Power is constantly stripped away from them. Their ways are unappreciated, ignored, reviled, and stolen. It’s about colonialism and feminism. But there is a real journey of empowerment by the end, and in these unprecedented times, empowerment is something we all could use a little more.
Time to pack to head out of Denver for a conference. Looking forward to next week’s letter.