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Birchbark Blog

Happy Winter

Louise Erdrich - Tuesday, February 05, 2013

I had simply been too nice, for too long, as this is Minnesota.  So I read the Patrick Melrose Novels, by Edward St. Aubyn, practically weeping with relief.  Vicarious cruelty, sordid little lusts, an epic search to score heroin while carrying a parent's ashes, it has helped enormously. 

Patrick, on his parents vodka fueled marriage: "Perhaps, on the contrary, it was her money that had cheapened him.  He had stopped his medical practice soon after their marriage.  At the beginning, there had been talk of using some of her money to start a home for alcoholics.  In a sense they had succeeded."

The four novellas contain abuse, incest, indelicacies, vicious cuts at the person of Princess Margaret, hilarious descriptions of clothing, party swag, and the venal behavior of the British upper class.  There is also bewildered tenderness and a narrator who staggers toward something that resembles hope.  

Birchbark Books is going to Washington D.C. via train to take part in the Feb 17th 350.org action on curbing the fossil fuel industry.  We'll let you know how that goes, how the train goes, what we see and what we are reading.  

I might take the St. Aubyn and read it all again.  Or the new Karen Russell book, short stories including one about a Vampire in a Lemon Grove -- I just glimpsed an intriguing review -- 

Yours for books,

Louise

(View Louise's Facebook Page for more thoughts about the climate action in DC)

Back to Real

Louise Erdrich - Sunday, December 02, 2012

So that was a great night in New York City but home again is better, sweeter, and as everyone says "weirdly warm."  And oh, did we talk about Hurricane Sandy? Tomorrow is will be 50 degrees and this is December in Minnesota. When people speak of these warm days there is an uneasy smile, a half-laugh, "guess there's an upside to global warming", or an almost wistful, "we should get out and enjoy this before the cold hits." In the back of our minds, these thoughts: How long before it just doesn't get cold here anymore? How long before, as NASA climatologist James Hanson predicts, the southern half of the United States becomes uninhabitable? How long before the corn scorches in Iowa? How long before Lake Superior's waters warm? Before they recede ten, fifteen, twenty feet? How long before we lose nearly half the Arctic?

Oh, that was last summer when we lost the Arctic.

Back in the real we'd like to link everyone to 350.org. Bill McKibben brought 350.org's Do The Math tour to Minnesota a couple of nights ago. I was there. Ted Mann hall was packed and the event was long sold out. There were many people, but . . .   

When you were small and just falling asleep, did you ever have the sense that your boundaries blurred, that you were huge, vast, big as the earth? Bigger? A sudden sense of growing wildly beyond all possibility? I wish that was the way I felt the other night. Instead, I had the sense that this problem was that huge. I looked around at the people and we were so few, just a handful among the billions, and we were all perfectly ordinary. 

Not only that, but annoying too. Honestly? I hate the way I am sometimes, but some speakers (NOT McKibben) annoyed the hell out of me. They were right, but my heart sank. It was a little like being at a giant AA meeting where you know you're sick and doomed and, worst of all, you are in a place where you're going to hear a whole lot of platitudes. And then, horrifyingly, those platitudes will turn out to be true. And even worse -- in order to live with any decency at all, you're going to have to admit them into your own dark, anti-social, Minnesota-nice resistant, heart.  

It is true. All of us ordinary, annoying, scared, crazily hopeful people are called upon to fight, together, the greatest fight in human history. I know that sounds like a B movie trailer -- but like I said . . . true is true. The fight is simple: to keep a planet we can live on. The most important thing I took away was this: none of us really want to use fossil fuels. Given an alternative, hey, who wouldn't choose clean burning energy? But the fossil fuel industry -- giant and complex -- has blocked alternative energy. The fossil fuel industry, all of the oil companies -- Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell, etc., have decided that immediate profit is more important than a world.

We have to stop them.  

When Bill called upon us all to pressure our colleges and universities (not to mention any wealthy persons you know) to divest, to stop investing in fossil fuels, it was like a light went on. It worked for apartheid. Let's apply the pressure. If there isn't yet a group working to divest your college, form one, join one, write letters. Join 350.org. Find out how. Let's take EVERYBODY'S money out of fossil fuels.  

We were out of time twenty years ago -- but hey -- check out Germany.  Check out China. They are going green anyway and we are behind the curve, just where big oil wants us. 

This is supposed to be a book blog -- and so here is the book part:  I want there to be a world where we ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and on and on, can lie back on a cool summer night, the windows open, myriad sighing crickets and unknown little bugs singing, a lamp, okay a solar lamp, casting a pool of radiance -- in which we are reading together.

Yours truly, Book People,

 
Louise

Join the movement at 350.org.
Read Bill McKibben's key article on climate change: Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
Purchase Bill McKibben's book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

   

Why The Tar Sands?

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dear Bookish Ones,

Why would our inoffensive little bookstore, loving as we do to please our friends and customers, suddenly decide to show a move that will break your heart?   

H2Oil, the movie that we will be screening on October 27 and 28, at next door Kenwood Cafe, is honestly so upsetting that it is hard not to cry when you watch the trailer.  Why would we ask you to see such a film? Why would we become so compelled by this particular issue, when all we've ever done before is recommend books?

Why so crucial, why this urgency? Simple. There is nothing more important -- right now, right here.

The Tar Sands operation in Canada produces three to four times more carbon that regular oil extraction. Bill McKibben has called it a carbon bomb. Climatologists have termed the operation "game over" for our climate. The boreal forest is basically scraped away in this method of strip-oil-mining -- removing the lungs of the earth. As you watch the movie, you will understand the tragic impact of this project on Native people and communities. Billions of gallons of fresh water are used to steam the tar out of the sand, and the Keystone XL pipeline, a huge plan enlarging drastically on pipelines already built, could spill into our largest fossil water aquifer, which lies beneath South Dakota. Even now, living where we do, we are using 80% Tar Sands oil.

Wildly profitable oil companies don't want you to know this: the future belongs to those countries who conserve their fresh water and develop clean energies.    

At this moment, President Obama could just say no. He could stand up for our future -- stand up to big oil. He could keep his promise to heal the planet and reduce our dependence on oil in favor of clean energy. Obama could stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and send a powerful message to the world. He is expected to make his decision in mere weeks.

That is why it is so important to show H2Oil, to see this film, to tell your friends, and to pull up Bill McKibben's website 350.org and find out what is happening, and why, on November 6 -- it will be a historical day for the climate.

I don't have any books to talk about tonight. Friends, our existence is a narrow miracle. Can it really be that we'll make earth, this green joy, into a place where we cannot survive?

Louise

H2Oil Trailer

 

Bill McKibben and 350.org
Encircle the White House and Stop the Tar Sands on November 6!


Connect with people working on this issue:

Indigenous Environmental Network
Website: www.ienearth.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Indigenous-Environmental-Network/186264980641
Twitter: twitter.com/IENearth

Tar Sands Action (National)
Website: tarsandsaction.org
Facebook: facebook.com/tarsandsaction
Twitter: twitter.com/tarsandsaction

Tar Sands Action (Minnesota)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Twin-Cities-Tar-Sands-Action/275481812467416

350.org (National)
Website: 350.org
Facebook: facebook.com/350.org
Twitter: twitter.com/350

MN350 (Minnesota)
Website: MN350.org
Facebook: facebook.com/MN350
Twitter: twitter.com/MN_350


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