This is the fourteenth installment in Peter’s “Bum Logic” series, about his investigation into our inadvertent complicity in climate change, continued from his last post, Excuse Me.
As far as I could tell, things were looking up. The semester’s end was at the doorstep and I was sitting, as had become my habit, in front of the cafe, next to the petition. It had grown to a size normally exclusively embodied by mythical serpentine nightmares.
The previous week, I’d presented the call for fossil fuel divestment to the Academic Advisory Council, the Karen Baxter-chaired Teachers Union. They responded with initial reservations and questions. However, after I demonstrated unflappable tact and grace, not to mention undeniable science and statistics, their worries lifted to be replaced with Howard Dean-esque enthusiasm. Upon parting they promised to solicit, via email, the support of their constituents.
Then Don Matthewson, the VP and CFO, approached me in confidence. “Peter,” he said, “if you report this to a news source I will deny it up and down and you will find the seas far more turbulent.”
His trust affirmed, he divulged, “I’m excited and want you to know that the Board of Trustees sub-committee on Audits, Investments, and the Endowment have placed a temporary moratorium on the purchase of all new fossil fuel stocks.”
Upon receiving those spoken words, I nearly swooned—though I soon started to wonder at the motivations behind his insisting on secrecy.
Sensing a lull in foot traffic, I leaned back and tickled my iPad towards displaying nytimes.com. That sight devastated me. Adam Lanza had just shot himself in the head after killing twenty elementary school students and six teachers inside a Newtown, Connecticut school.
“There is no single, universally accepted definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as ‘the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives’ (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)…”
It is often asserted that “technology connotes ideology.” Yet a more obvious truism, “terminology connotes ideology,” leaves American lips at a far less frequent rate. The result is that few whistles get blown when a company like say TransCanada labels as “eco-terrorists” those resisting, in the rich tradition of civil disobedience, the foreign corporation’s dreams of manifest destiny. Where, I ask, was their force or violence? And few whistles get blown when a man who kills twenty-six others and himself, without leaving a note or uttering a word, is called a “suicide terrorist.” What, I ask, were his political or social objectives?
As Americans, we seem doomed to have our cake and eat it. As Americans, we seem doomed to fight wars against words we cannot define, enemies we cannot identify: Ourselves.
My mood was not helped days later when I again perused nytmes.com:
Sitting in their offices high above Park Avenue late on Monday, the private equity executives who own the country’s largest gun company received a phone call from one of their most influential investors.
An official at the California teachers’ pension fund, which has $750 million invested with the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, was on the line, raising questions about the firm’s ownership of the Freedom Group, the gun maker that made the rifle used in the Connecticut school shootings.
Hours later, at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Cerberus said that it was putting the Freedom Group up for sale.
I felt the temptation to compare apples to oranges with a straight face. Concerned, I returned to an earmarked Ed Abbey quote:
Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am—a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.
Reconstituted, I made plans to wallow in the wild mid-western embrace of my immediate and extended family for the holidays. Then I signed up to attend an eco-terrorist training camp in Eastern Texas.
To be continued…
Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.