Bye, Facebook

Friends: At the Vipassana retreat, I decided to leave Facebook for an indeterminate period. Please leave me your email to stay in touch. (And wish me luck!)

The rationale might sound annoyingly self-helpy, but I so want to share the benefits of Vipassana that I’ll take a stab at a summary.

First: life is suffering, and suffering is caused by craving or aversion to impermanence. We all die. Peace–learning to live well–starts with starving the dangerous monkey-mind. Day three of just sitting on my pained ass trying to focus on my breath, I realized that my rapid-fire like/dislike mental habit pattern is strengthened by Millennial information flows that exercise my reactive brain. I understood on a physical level how anything engineered to create attachment to self, or to see things as I want them to be instead of as they really are, is literally hurtful.

By equanimously observing arising and passing sensations, one starts clearing away old garbage to walk a taller, lighter, and with an easier smile. If I’ve dedicated my life to a stable climate for the good of fellow beings, my first responsibility is to my own happiness. How will I prevent others’ heartbreak if I keep identifying with my own? Vipassana teaches that “When we suffer, we do not keep our misery limited to ourselves; instead, we keep distributing it to others.” It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

Detachment isn’t not caring. On the contrary: reacting less means acting more on behalf of what matters. You save your life and countless others by observing the road instead of worrying about bugs on the windshield. I want to be an excellent driver who can take busloads of partying people to great places.

All in all, this is just a small way to reallocate energy to developing the happiness, wisdom, compassion, equanimity and determination to navigate change, global and personal. Meditation, work, and friendships are going to fill the saved time. I’m going to have my password changed and will check in once in a while for messages.

Please email me at camilathorndike@gmail.com. I’m also one of those people keeping post offices open; snailmail rocks. And consider going to Vipassana! There are beautiful centers all around the world, and it’s totally free. It might also end up being the best thing you ever did for yourself.

Much love.
xoxo C

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Burning Man

On the Playa

A week ago Dan and I skirted the alluvial slopes of the Eastern Sierras on a long drive north to the Black Rock desert for Burning Man. (Another planet worth visiting.) Over the holiday weekend, we spun in the outer orbits of decadent spontaneity as the playa dust and California smoke slipped into our bloodstream. Northward-bound again, this time in a jet, I see that the Yosemite fire is still billowing.  Thousands of feet above the flames a white cauliflower head rises suspended in a lavender-gray expanse of airborne trees and critters.  Their remains travel far to the Arctic Circle.

Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego: looking out over the cholla-studded green plains, and seeing a jackrabbit lop from shade to creosote; imagining it like a prehistoric mammal, huge among trees. Big ears swivel towards us like two tethered snowshoes tied together. It’s unhurried. We wonder what jackrabbits eat, and if there are coyotes that eat them. Twenty years ago, who knows – someone might have wrestled with developers or someone looking to pave a freeway through the land. But they fought and won. And today, even though it’s hotter, the rain is scarce, the animals fewer – we got that moment of solitude, to feel the rocks, the history, and so Dan rightly says: There’s so much left to save.

Amtrak

Amtrak, oh joy

Riding Amtrak is what public space is all about: democratic and full of surprises. On the trip from LA I sat next to Raul, a retired nuclear engineer headed to Albuquerque to spoil his grandkids. [Note: I didn’t prompt any of what follows]. The waste problem makes him conflicted about nuclear energy–pack pools with radioactive spent fuel rods and wait hundreds of thousands of years? What really keeps him up at night is why we’re “committing collective suicide” with extractive energy. “Don’t people care about their grandchildren?” he asked. At his recommendation, I picked up The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.

Across the aisle, an obese young mom fed Cheetos and back-to-back movies to her two adorable children, no older than five. She alternately smacked them on back of the head and tenderly tucked them under a pink fleece blanket. “Dad always did that when he was drunk,” she said loudly into her phone to a sister, perhaps. “I can’t believe Felipe” (a brother?) “is doing the same thing now.”

David, a college student with a backwards white ballcap, crossing the US on a “Free Hugs” tour, lent me his Samsung for a wifi hotspot so I could send some documents off. He gives a good hug. People have told him he’s saving lives.

These trips are taking on a familiar pattern. Last fall en route to Walla Walla I remember waking up under a big leather coat as we rolled through pine forests along the river. My seatmate, an older gentleman, had noticed my goosebumps as I slept curled against the window. On one trip back to Tucson through the wind turbine country outside Palm Springs, a little girl of another angsty young mother crawled into my lap and colored for an hour.

People’s smiling eyes dart together when the conductors get on the intercom, cracking themselves up with the same grand announcements and hyperbolic praise of the dining cart. Through the overhead glass of the viewing car, I’ve seen desert thunderstorms whip lightning onto jagged mountain profiles. Triple rainbows as dessert. Expanses of desolate grazed scrublands baking under the sun. Graffiti-lined corridors of coal and gas freight trains in waiting. Herds of thin wild horses galloping across undulating hills of dying piñon pines. I’ve criss-crossed the Central Arizona Project canal and blinked as its angular snakepath flashes white with the passing sun. The ripples of the LA “river”–half trickle, half green slime–lap thinly through the concrete tube car racing scene of Grease as we approach Union Station. Time to roll out of town.

Featured in the Citizens Climate Lobby 2013 video

The CCL organizes people for a national carbon tax that would appropriately price carbon and solve the root cause of climate change. I love the CCL’s smiling, Ghandian approach, and am heartened more by their focus on efficacious policy than any other organization.

I talk at 3:00 and 5:45.

Join or start a chapter where you live! (Yes, they do need more young and diverse people to join; why not you?) http://citizensclimatelobby.org/

Call for Oregon Climate Leadership: A Price on Pollution

SPEECH: Oregon Climate Action Day, May 22 2013

I wrote this in collaboration with Hannah Sohl and Dan Golden. KC Golden offered key edits.

Credit: WestTurn Picture Co.

Welcome to the first Oregon Climate Action Day! Thank you for being here and to the amazing all-volunteer team that made it possible.

My name is Camila Thorndike and I am a third-generation southern Oregonian. I am here today because I am worried about climate change, and I am asking our leaders to deal with it.

I want to have kids here one day and be able to show them what I love about Oregon – the evergreen forests, lakes that haven’t dried up, I want them to pick flowers at my mom’s farm and not wake up afraid of the weather every day.

Many of the folks who helped organize this day are in their early twenties.  In many ways our generation is the ‘climate change’ generation.  We were just learning to walk when NASA first testified to Congress that climate pollution dangerously heats the earth.

A few years later as our climate generation was going on our first awkward dates, another important thing happened. The Titanic came out. If we learned nothing else from that timely documentary featuring Leonardo DiCaprio—it is that class, diversity, and age don’t matter when you’re going down. It takes a sinking ship to bring unlikely allies together.

The climate movement is just synonymous with survival. Science tells us increasing the global average temperature by more than 2 degrees Celsius would trigger catastrophic climate disruption. On our current path, we’ll be locked into that dismal future within five years, right about the time I’d be thinking about having my own kids.  But contemplating that future makes me pause when I think of having those kids at all.

So far, we have already raised the average temperature by .8 degrees Celcius. And look at the past year—Sandy, severe drought in over half US counties, historic Oregon wildfires, the shellfish collapse on our coast due ocean acidification. This is happening.  It’s not a science experiment in a lab; it’s not an academic model – it’s our home, our only Oregon.

Climate change is a real problem that deserves a real solution. Political games won’t fix it. We need to get practical and get serious, and that means addressing the source of the crisis and attacking it at the roots. Otherwise we can’t expect to win—because we are working in a very tight frame of time to turn this ship around.

Individual action alone won’t cut it. What we need now is political action. We need responsible governance.

The fish you see over there (finding its way to the river with the rain) is a great example of how communities of people who don’t necessarily agree on a lot of things can come together to protect what we love.
People were asked to decorate cardboard houses showing what they love about life in the Rogue Valley? and What worries them about climate change? Over 1,300 people put stories, worries, and passion into that Salmon. From all over the valley.  From all political and economic backgrounds. Of all ages.

We learned a few things along the way:

The first is that people really do care.  They want to leave a beautiful, stable world for their kids and grandkids. It doesn’t matter if they are a democrat, or a republican. Our imperiled generation doesn’t have party loyalty–whoever has the best plan and gets it done wins our vote. It doesn’t matter if people are a doctor or a farmer. We are worried about how our climate is changing.  And we want real solutions.

The second is if we are focused on a goal, together, we can win.

So today we are asking our leaders to move forward with a real solution to control carbon emissions and get a hold on climate change: A carbon tax.

Why? The most effective way we can decrease the amount of carbon we are pulling out of the ground is to make the price of fossil fuels reflect their true cost to society.

Fossil fuel companies are making record profit– the most any industry on earth, ever. But we’re all footing the bill for their pollution.  For example, last year the federal government spent $136 billion taxpayer dollars on climate-caused disaster relief. And it seems like there is another disaster every day. We are paying the operating costs of fossil fuel business with these bills, in public health problems, in increased water scarcity, in burning forests, in decreased agricultural productivity. They are using our public atmosphere as an open sewer. That’s not how the market’s supposed to work. It’s broken.

Fossil fuel interests can afford a fee that will fix our market. What we can’t afford is to keep using their product.

A tax on carbon has two main benefits:

First, it makes it so oil, gas, and coal companies pay their fair share.  You pay for your garbage service, so should the big fossil fuel companies.  No more free carbon dumping.

Second, if prices tell the truth about the real cost of fossil fuels, we’ll find better ways to meet our energy needs.  We’ll waste less, and use cleaner energy sources. That means there won’t be a market for coal trains, for gas pipelines, for oil rigs. The playing field will level out for renewable energy and conservation. Cleaner, more affordable energy sources will be able to compete and win, without having to swim against the tide of unfair subsidies for fossil fuels

A fee on pollution is a win-win. It’s been proven that we can lower emissions in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s pocketbooks or the economy.

We can do it if the tax is revenue-neutral.

What that means is that the revenue from the tax will come right back to citizens. That way, we can offset increasing prices at the pump and invest in renewable technologies.

A revenue-neutral tax has options for us. This policy could be a “fee and dividend”, with rebates arriving as checks in the mail every year.  Or we could enact a “tax and shift” that would take advantage of a simple principle:  When you tax something, you get less of it.  So why not tax what we want less of – climate pollution – and use the revenue to LOWER taxes on what we want MORE of, like income!

British Columbia is a great model for Oregon.

Four years ago, they instituted a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Since then, their use of petroleum has decreased at least 15% while rest of the country is using more.

Meanwhile, even through the recession, their economy grew and added jobs.

Why not take this opportunity in Oregon? States are the laboratory for democracy. We could lead the U.S.

There are lots of ways to frame this policy.  I encourage you to see Paula Sohl’s new book on the table called “Greening Power.”

But figuring out the policy details is not our most important job.  That’s what we elect our state representatives to do.

Our job is to show leaders that we demand they act. Oregon can lead the country with this comprehensive but simple climate solution. We are proud to be Oregonians. We expect great things of our leaders.  And we face an urgent threat to our future, we expect them to rise to the challenge, not play political games.

Let’s address the root of climate change with the most effective solution out there. Let’s stimulate our economy and add good green jobs that protect our families. Let’s take action now for a stable future, because there’s no time to waste.

We know what to do.

This isn’t a technology problem; we know how to produce clean energy and use it efficiently.  This isn’t a policy problem; we know that a carbon tax will work.  This is at bottom a POLITICAL problem.  It’s a question of whether our elected leaders have the courage and the will to do what’s right and necessary.

On Air

Hi friends,

Real quick post.

Yesterday morning, I was on the local NPR station talking* about action to solve the climate crisis: http://ec.libsyn.com/p/1/3/4/13406a263c769a20/The_Jefferson_Exchange_01_14_2013_Hour_1.mp3?d13a76d516d9dec20c3d276ce028ed5089ab1ce3dae902ea1d01cd8f35d2c15ee28c&c_id=5311865

Truth be told, I was minor part of the show. “The Jefferson Exchange” program primarily interviewed Amy Bennett (wonderful outreach lead for the Citizens Climate Lobby), thanks to fellow interviewee Alan Journet, who often speaks on climate issues and started our local Southern Oregon Climate Action Network (SOCAN).  Amy visited from S. California to initiate the 77th chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.  We were excited to host her and start to get organized behind a “fee and dividend” national carbon tax that will…

– Internalize the high and rising costs (AKA “externalities”) to society inflicted by fossil fuels, which are getting subsidized (AKA rewarded) to high heaven–and for what, doing a really good job of wrecking civilization?

– Account for higher prices at the pump and at the store by being “revenue neutral” in nature.  Such a carbon tax means we–ordinary Americans–get checks in the mail/$ in the bank to (more than) offset increased fossil fuel prices

– Level the playing field for renewable energy and thus transition our lives and economy into a sustainable paradigm

Check it out–this is an exciting and relatively politically feasible solution on the scale required to face up to the crisis. (Ok, before you do anything else, see the latest government report charts on the gravity of our predicament).  Now, click here to learn about the revenue-neutral carbon tax, and check out Van Jones and Green for All’s advocacy as well.

* In case you’re pressed for time but absolutely must enjoy the soothing sound of my climate-comforting voice, know that I pipe up at minutes 38, 40, 46, and 51.

I talk up this exciting community art event that fellow Ashland High School grad and recently-returned Watson Fellow Hannah Sohl and I are planning at the Medford Library, 1-3:30pm on Sunday, Feb. 17 in conjunction with the national Keystone XL protest outside the White House (expected to draw 20,000+ people — see the global movement site 350.org for the why, how, and sign-up).  Back here in the Rogue Valley, we are going to create a giant (120ft) image of a salmon from hundreds of participant-created art pieces about HOME.  We want you to come!  For the juicy details and overarching idea, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/415679618508101/?ref=ts&fref=ts

We'll take a photo like this from a huge crane...  Expecting 100s of people, sign up now!

We’ll take a photo like this from a huge crane… Expecting 100s of people, sign up now!

Up’n’up,

Camila

PS If the first link doesn’t work, search “Citizens Climate Lobby” for Monday, January 14, 2013 at http://www.ijpr.org/onlineaudio2.asp?SectionID=1012&programId=11.

How to Live with Water: The WMG Way

My personal fundraising goal is gettin’ there!  Can you help me reach $200 by the end of the year? I will send you a hand-written letter. Promise. Just give me your address.

Photo by Josh Schachter (http://www.joshphotos.com/)

Photo by Josh Schachter (http://www.joshphotos.com/)

A Love Letter

How to Live with Water: The WMG Way

Queridos amigos,

In years of dabbling in Western water issues, I haven’t met a worthier organization than the Watershed Management Group. Why the enthusiasm? WMG’s appeal extends far beyond the realm of water geeks. I believe that this organization is positioned at a nexus of social and environmental progress that will propel humanity out of our most dire fixes.

If urbanites – now the global majority – were to more fully participate in natural resource cycles, people would better understand what sustains us and would thus make wiser decisions, individually and together. People would be healthier and our communities more beautiful. This is exactly what WMG is achieving in Tucson and across the world.

Rainwater cisterns, stream meanders, neighborhood curb cuts, recycling wastewater back into the earth one backyard at a time: a few of the ways WMG brings modern life into a more natural alignment. Water systems stewardship shapes civilization, and vice versa. The WMG do-it-yourself approach to improving this relationship is a critical piece of how to thrive in an increasingly complex global puzzle.

The WMG trick is to help us help ourselves. Replacing pavement with native plants lessens the urban heat island effect. Backyard greywater installations and composting toilets replenish aquifers and save energy (since southern Arizona relies on CAP water pumped 300+ miles uphill by coal-fired power, it even curbs climate change!). Helping youth build their own schoolyard gardens fosters in them a sense of place. Collaborating with local artists inspires in us all a value for water… Best yet, the WMG staff, volunteers and neighborhood Co-Op members do it all with contagious commitment and a sense of humor. Please join me to sustain and multiply WMG’s work as a worldwide leader in sustainable community building!

Click here to join the honor roll of wonder: http://watershedmg.org/civicrm/contribute/pcp/info?reset=1&id=21

With gratitude and best wishes for 2013,

Camila Thorndike
Treasurer & Past Chair, WMG Board of Directors

PS  I send pretty nice letters. There’s no minimum donation to receive one.  Well, ok, maybe $5 — a fancy latte’s worth of support.  Doable, right?  My pen’s ready…

COAL: The Musical … is creative community engagement for climate.

>> Can you conceive of a musical about the energy paradox of our times–-that begins when the curtains close?

>> Can you imagine together celebrating a way out of our climate mess–-into a real future for ourselves and all living communities?

>> Can you commit just few a hours a week to do what is needed?

Check out the below post with a brief video introduction my latest endeavor, COAL: The Musical.

EXPLAIN THIS TO ME…

COAL is a mythic coming-of-age story set in the present time. A boy, Olam, must reconcile his mining heritage, notions of manhood, and contemporary values with a deep-rooted love for the imperiled natural world, his home. Olam must decide what kind of man he will be.

Through his moral journey, we too are challenged to join the head and the heart, the analytical and emotional–in other words, to grow out of our consumptive adolescence into a mature society. No matter the audience, COAL is personal. Your family stars in this show.  COAL zeroes in on the central paradox of our times: that our gadgets, homes, transport and machines are fueled by poisons inking a tragic global sentencing down the fossil fuel storyline (every dig, move, and burn). This powerful, uplifting, and even funny story–yes, trust me!–is about how we are complicit and thus empowered to move forward together.

No, I wasn’t sure, either, how this story could fill a theater. But tears were running down my smiling face by the last pages of the script.  The music is snappy-catchy and the characters unforgettable.  And the story is just the beginning.  The Musical of COAL will serve to spark and boost individual and community ACTION in host towns, universities, cities and regions across the country.

The first staged reading of COAL takes place February 8, 2013 in Santa Fe, NM.  Let me know if you want to come!  Early 2014, COAL premiers in four host cities including San Francisco, CA–and from there hits the road.  Follow this blog for updates throughout our incredible journey.

HOW DID I GET HERE?

This summer in Alaska I met COAL creator Molly Sturges of the non-profit organization Littleglobe. As she wrapped up her TEDx Talk I knew, sure as a lightning strike, that I needed to follow this woman. Over the past year+, Molly has delved into our moral-environmental climate crisis driven by fossil fuel use and emerged with COAL: The Musical. Since October 2012, I have been collaborating with the wonderful Adam Horowitz as a Community Engagement Strategist for COAL. In 2013 look forward to deeper work on this imaginative, invitational, and inter-generational project of immense importance. (An alliterative meld of the i’s I like best).  It is an honor to work creatively on what I believe is the biggest challenge and most beautiful opportunity you and I are faced with today.

WHY IS IT WONDERFUL?

STORY! It’s all about telling the right story: Who are we humans? What do we need? How can we do what is good? And it’s all about listening carefully to the response–so we can weave new stories together, for they create our lives just as surely as our bodies, bank accounts and blood.

As I’ve said before, I’m not the musical “type.” As a movement-builder, I see COAL as a vehicle for changemaking. To me, COAL is about using an optimistic, family-oriented, and authentically American art form to EXPAND and ACTIVATE the audience for climate action. In the production, local kids will be on stage asking the audience to step up their game–from caring to doing. This will ignite the fierce love of parents, grandparents, and communities for whom the climate crisis can no longer be distant.  Once seen for what it is–a personal problem–the reality of climate change will call forth moral strength to rectify our energy paradigm. The crisis is here, and so are rising heroes. COAL asks: How will you join them?

Solutions to climate chaos exist. The ignited will to activate them is not … yet. COAL is about lighting that fire under our collective behinds.

Vamanos ya, muchachos. El tiempo ya se acaba.

Yours,
Camila

P.S. Contrary to the Indiegogo site’s funding bar, we actually came just a few $Ks short of the $12,000 goal. Thank you to all who contributed to realize this dream.  Your support goes far beyond the dollars — it fuels, grounds, and uplifts me more than anything in the world.