Change in the air

As we breathe the fumes of a poisonous political atmosphere, there is plenty of reason to worry about our long-term health. We are reminded daily of the growing conviction that the answer to our country’s economic crisis is to assault the environment. Jobs equate to progress, never mind the degradation.

Drill, dig, blast, extract, pollute.

Disputed data aside, most of us understand that these are acts of desperation by a way of life, and a way of thinking about that life, which has no relevance if there is to be a long-term, sustainable future.

Polls differ, but in general they reveal a wavering public. Americans want to lift themselves out of this economic malaise, some with little regard for the environment, others with a commitment to keeping or making the world a place worth living for themselves and their children.

Writers, as always, react to such inputs.

Some express frustration and discouragement—a pathos that works to keep the conversation moving forward.

Others advance the dialogue by brokering wise discussion and fostering more.

Andrew Revkin keeps our feet on the ground and our expectations in check, although the message that positive change will be painfully incremental and incomplete brings a wince. So when I read the headline “Environmental journalism and an antidote to the tragic storyline”, I click on the link wanting to drink at the fountain of hope.

A few try to drive change through action. Bill McKibben, for example, heroically putting thoughts into action by occupying the front lines of activism.

I’m grateful that these writers are out there because they bring visibility to what otherwise could be lost in the smog of partisan conflict. But for those of us writing in obscurity, these times raise the question of purpose more acutely than ever. Without a wide audience, it seems too easy for to fall into constant lament at what has come to pass. At least, it seems that way for me. Choosing merely to chronicle loss is a bitter measure of productivity.

Maybe it’s time for a little change in perspective.

We’ve been told to prepare for a decade of hard times economically—a decade filled with difficult choices and harsh realities. If so, then it makes sense that grim determination may be the strategy for environmentalists. Little victories and incremental advances may be the best for which we can hope.

So here’s to determined writing about little victories—moments that offer reason to believe there will always be something in our world to put into beautiful words.

Worthy labor, whether or not it pays.

About Eric Dieterle

A writer of environmental literature and a public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University.
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