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Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution
This book explores a lot of territory. It discusses climate science, climate policy, and aquifer depletion— as well as mythology, meditation, and beekeeping. These and other topics herein have been written about in greater detail elsewhere. There are entire volumes devoted to backyard chickens. So why mention them here, in a book with “climate” in its title?
The answer has to do with the nature of our predicament: global warming touches every aspect of our lives. It connects gardening to population growth, bicycling to flying in a plane. Most of all, global warming challenges us to rethink humanity’s place in the web of life on this beautiful planet— to reimagine what it means to be human. Global warming is, perhaps first and foremost, a failure of humanity’s collective imagination. As such it doesn’t ft neatly inside any single box or discipline.
How, then, can we respond as individuals? In searching for answers, I’ve read books about science, policy, practical action, and spirituality. But none spoke to my being as a whole. And they tended to be too polite, too careful, too narrow; they didn’t ask enough of me. Their suggestions were not on a scale commensurate with the scale of the predicament. And far too many were joyless.
As I learned more about climate change, my need to do something intensified. The path was far from clear, but I did my best, gradually and systematically changing my daily life. My response draws on science, practical action, and spiritual examination, and these threads interweave on every level. You hold the unique result in your hands: a book written from the perspective of a meditating climate scientist who has nearly eliminated his own greenhouse gas emissions— and who discovered this to be surprisingly satisfying, empowering, and relevant to collective change. In place of burning fossil fuels, humanity can become smarter, more creative, kinder.
Since beginning down this path, I’ve covered a lot of ground. I’ve changed many things about my life and had a lot of fun. At the same time, I’ve come face-to-face with the seriousness of our climate emergency. To continue business as usual is to tacitly place a blind-faith bet on the emergence of some techno-fix; this amounts to magical thinking. And global warming is happening with a rapidity that leaves me speechless. The longer we take to change direction, the more suffering we’ll experience and the longer this suffering will last. And for what? A consumerist lifestyle that doesn’t even make us happy. We must do everything we can to change direction. And a big part of this is imagining, living, and telling the stories of what comes next.
In addressing something so all-encompassing, you’ll ultimately need to forge your own response. My hope is that this book will support and inspire you as you do so.
Writing it has been a long journey, both literally and figuratively, and I’m grateful to the wonderful people who have nourished and sheltered me along the way. These include Audrey, Katie, Christina, my mom and dad, Therese Brummel, Abe de la Houssaye, January Nordman, Lin Griffith, Maya Saran, Baldeep Singh, Paul Livingstone, Mark Rice, John Hopkins, David Sneider, Susan Rudnicki, Paul Taylor, Daniel Suelo, Victoria and Alec Loorz, Russel Greene, Alan Weinstein, Joao Teixeira, Mark Richardson, Ryan Pavlick, Mat Lebsock, Brian Kahn, A.B., Angie Pendergrass, Bryan Allen, Jim Waterhouse, Rob Haw and the rest of the awesome PF-CCL team, Markus Loefer, Clay Folk, P.J. Parmar, James Bakner, Tera Litle, Sarah Baird, Sarah Reber, Ben Denckla, Brent Ranalli, Elizabeth Mathews, Sam Bower, Erik Knutzen, Kelly Coyne and Pancho Ramos-Stierle— many of whom provided detailed comments which greatly improved PR EFACE xiii the manuscript. It was a pleasure working with the artist Sam Bower and the editors Robin Rauzi and Betsy Nuse. I’d like to thank the good folks at New Society Publishers (especially Rob West), and the other good folks at YES! Magazine (especially Tracy Loefelholz Dunn), for believing in me— and for enabling new voices to take part in this crucial conversation.
Above all I thank my wife, Sharon Kunde, for a lifetime of challenging discussion, insightful comments, unwavering support, and plain old companionship; and for patiently putting up with my many foibles and crazy projects. I couldn’t ask for a better Dhamma partner.
— Peter Kalmus