Behold the Women Volume 1 Number 3 July 2022
A Celebration of Women & our work to save the planet
Welcome back. It is summer time, and if only the living were easy! With the heat waves we’ve been having, even the sharks off Cape Cod are staying in the deeper waters. But all this heat reminds me of one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes: “A woman is like a teabag. You can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” And, have we all been in too much hot water for far too long!
And being in hot water for far too long reminds me of the fable about how to boil a frog. If you plunk a frog into a pot of hot water, it will exercise the good common sense that too many of us lack and it will jump out. [If common sense were common, it would not be so remarkably special.] But, back to the frog, if you put it in tepid water and gradually increase the temperature, it will not notice to the danger and then will be cooked to death. Seems to me that is an apt story and warning as the effect of climate change and global warming increase around us. And so the news of the newsletter this odd month is about women and our work related to climate change. There is a lot going on, a lot to be done, and a lot to know, so this month the my curated choices are laden with books! (Please note, my descriptions of the works listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them.)
First a poem to touch your heart and mind.
I Don’t Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We’ve Done to the Earth
so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;
your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted
the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment
was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it
so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.
Fatimah Asghar is an artist who spans across different genres and themes. A poet, a fiction writer, and a filmmaker, Fatimah cares less about genre and instead prioritizes the story that needs to be told and finds the best vehicle to tell it. Play is critical in the development of their work, as is intentionally building relationship and authentic collaboration. Fatimah Asghar is the author of the full-length collection If They Come For Us (Random House, 2018) and the chapbook After (YesYes Books, 2015)
Books with climate change as a theme
You should definitely start with Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History just to get grounded in some background knowledge.
Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.
In prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, The New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
Then get a bit more current with Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2021 Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world's rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a super coral that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.
One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation.
If reading those books left you uttering, “Sweet Mother of the Goddess,” then you just might want to read, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet 2021 which presents teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh interspersed with commentary by his student Sister True Dedication. “The beauty of the earth is a bell of mindfulness,” Thich Nhat Hahn said, and waking up to this beauty is waking up to the truly transformational compassion that the crises of ecological destruction, climate breakdown, inequality, and injustice all require. We learn that meditating is not a way to distract or numb one’s self to such suffering, but a way to experience it directly, and be changed by it. Amidst despair and seemingly insurmountable difficulty—and indeed, the certain impermanence of every civilization and creature—the one thing each of us has the power to change is our mind.
In these troubling times we all yearn for a better world. But many of us feel powerless and uncertain what we can do. Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) is blazingly clear: there’s one thing that we have the power to change—and which can make all the difference: our mind. How we see and think about things determines all the choices we make, the everyday actions we take (or avoid), how we relate to those we love (or oppose), and how we react in a crisis or when things don’t go our way.
Meditation trains us to see reality as it is. But many of us have a distorted view, caused by negative stories about the world and ourselves that have become ingrained. To use our mind for change, we must see clearly. Thay shows us how us to alter our way of thinking, to break free from the notions that block our way, to find truth and touch reality as it is. By breaking down these old stories, we gain the insight and energy we need to take the right kind of action to save the planet and ourselves.
Filled with powerful examples of engaged action he himself has undertaken, inspiring Buddhist parables, and accessible daily meditations, this powerful spiritual guide offers us a path forward, opening us to the possibilities of change and how we can contribute to the collective awakening and environmental revolution our fractured world so desperately needs.
And if you are now feeling like its time to get up off the meditation cushion and so something, check out Natalie Isaacs’s Every Woman's Guide To Saving The Planet
Part memoir, part toolkit by the inspiring founder of 1 Million Women, the global movement empowering women to take action on climate change Sydney mother of four and former cosmetics manufacturer Natalie Isaacs used to think climate change was someone else's problem. But when she set out to reduce her power bill by 20 per cent and achieved it easily, she had an epiphany. Realising that women make most of the purchasing decisions in the home and so have genuine power to make a difference, she went on to found 1 Million Women. With members and followers now numbering more than 700,000 and counting, the community is a global movement that actively empowers women to engage with and take action on climate change by making simple changes to the ways they and their families live their lives. Every Woman's Guide to Saving the Planet is Natalie Isaacs' inspiring story combined with a practical tool kit for reducing your carbon footprint and mobilizing your community around the biggest issue of our time - climate change. With loads of tips, tricks, easy-to-understand info graphics and an inspiring can-do message, this book is for every woman who wants to make a difference but just isn't sure how. Find out more at 1millionwomen.com.au
And, here is a work of fiction to round out your reading.
Migrations: A Novel, by Charlotte McConaghy 2020
Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool—a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime—it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny's dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption?
Epic and intimate, heartbreaking and galvanizing, Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.
Bonus Bit: an organizations dedicated to addressing climate change
One Earth https://www.oneearth.org/our-mission/
One Earth is a nonprofit organization working to accelerate collective action to solve the climate crisis through groundbreaking science, inspiring media, and an innovative approach to climate philanthropy. The solutions for the climate crisis already exist, and the latest science shows we can achieve the 1.5°C goal through three pillars of action – a just transition to 100% renewable energy, protection and restoration of half of the world’s lands and oceans, and a shift to net-zero food systems and fibersheds. To achieve this goal, we must rapidly scale climate philanthropy to meet critical funding gaps over the coming decade.
Thanks for reading. See you in September!