Category Archives: Inspiration

Like all social movements, this one must confront despair. Here’s some inner fuel for the soul.

Interrupting the bad news with kindness

A Democrat and a Republican were on a plane

It sounds like a set up to a political joke, doesn’t it?

It’s actually real. On a recent four hour-flight to Chicago, my seatmate and I enjoyed something that has become rare in these times: a civil exchange of ideas and a surprising consensus. He was from rural Oregon, a gun owner, and a Republican. I’m from “the valley,” a moderate Democrat, and very concerned about gun violence in our country.

Had we followed the script, we might have eyed each other suspiciously, muttered insults under our breath, and tuned each other out with the in-flight entertainment. Instead, he asked about my work, and I shared how I created the Americans of Conscience Checklist.

“Oh, wow,” he said. “That sounds really great.”

“It’s non-partisan and meant to engage all people in their democracy by speaking up for our shared values. I really think our nation needs more listening and better collaboration.” He looked thoughtful and then nodded in agreement.

Taking a courageous risk

When I asked his views on the increasing gun violence, he surprised me by saying, “I believe people should have to get trained and pass a test—just like a drivers license—before they can own a firearm. There’s no good reason to oppose this.”

“I’m surprised,” I confessed. “That’s not what I expected you to say.” He grinned at me.

We’d found common ground. Our conversation was a humbling reminder that our neighbors—red, blue, and green Americans—are more than the labels we put on them. I could have smugly written him off with misinformed biases, but he wasn’t a caricature. He was a real person with values, cares, and concerns just like me. In listening deeply, I came to understand this person and appreciate his thoughtful, nuanced views.

As we landed, I thanked him for sharing so openly with me about a contentious issue. He thanked me for being curious and listening despite our differences. We agreed our country would be better if everyone showed respect to one another, even when we don’t see eye to eye. I got off the plane feeling more hopeful than I had in weeks.

The value of choosing kindness, even now

When I started the AoC Checklist three years ago, my vision was—and remains—to create a kind and thriving nation. This worthwhile effort can take many forms and many small steps to achieve, but it’s fundamentally grounded in hope.

Despite evidence to the contrary, kindness is part of the fabric of our nation. You need only peruse our Good News section in each issue to find generous souls and organizations doing good because they can. Although we may temporarily forget this kinder nature in the rising tide of hate and fear, it’s still there waiting when tragedy strikes and we decide to be part of the solutions. Kindness isn’t magic; it comes down to making a choice.

Thriving means much more than having a good leader in the White House. In a thriving nation, every person enjoys dignity and respect, health and happiness. That’s why, week after week, our Checklist offers ways for all Americans—red and blue and green—to steer our nation in the direction of a healthy democracy that represents all its people. Every time you take an action, you help create this.

The future is up to us

Feeling discouraged is normal. Our team feels it. I feel it. Everywhere you look there is so much to fix, the project seems impossible. If you notice this discouragement too, here’s a reminder that if a conservative and liberal on a plane can talk civilly, respectfully, and meaningfully about a hard topic (and come out smiling!), maybe all isn’t lost just yet.

That’s why Americans of Conscience Checklist is still here, keeping the flame lit and held high. We believe that a brighter future is possible, no matter how bleak things may seem at the moment. It won’t be easy create the kind and thriving nation of our vision. It will take listening and advocacy. It will require tenacity and generosity. And. Every time you and I show up with courage and compassion—every time we take small but meaningful actions, we say YES to that brighter, flourishing future.

We create that vision by choosing it. If you need a place to start (or re-start), join us in creating a kinder, thriving nation this week.

Jen Hofmann
Americans of Conscience Checklist, creator and editor

Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food, and a Green New Deal

Grassroots Rising by Ronnie Cummins, founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association, will be available January 28. This is one of the most important books Chelsea Green has published, and we are offering activists and organizations the special discounts listed below.

$17.95 paperback – 208 pages – ISBN 9781603589758 – Available January 28, 2020

“This is a book that should be in the hands of every activist working on food and farming, climate change, and the Green New Deal.”
—Vandana Shiva, scientist, environmentalist, social activist; author of Earth Democracy, Soil Not Oil, and Stolen Harvest

Continue reading

Yarns From the Farm – Climate Basics

Nan Bray is an oceanographer and climate scientist
who has farmed superfine merinos near Oatlands since 2000

Note to my readers: This is the first in a series I’ve written on climate change for our local monthly newspaper. I wanted to go back to the basics of the science behind climate change.
I’ll post them in coming Yarns.
Cheers, Nan

Leading Australia’s
Antarctic Program

A Climate Basics Series

Carbon dioxide: nature’s tiny solar panels

Hopefully, more to come . . .

Chicago Review of Books — Burning Worlds

The Man Who Coined ‘Cli-Fi’ Has Some Reading Suggestions For You

by Amy Brady — February 8, 2017

“Burning Worlds” is a new monthly column dedicated to examining important trends in climate change fiction, or “cli-fi.”

It astonishes to think just how long humans have known that the Earth is getting warmer. The term “global warming” didn’t enter public consciousness until the 1970s, but scientists have studied our planet’s natural greenhouse effect since at least the 1820s. In 1896, a Swedish chemist named Svante Arrheniussome concluded that human activity (like coal burning) contributed to the effect, warming the planet further.

And yet, here we find ourselves in 2017, still wrestling with man-made climate change like it’s a new phenomenon. Why have we not acted sooner? The answer may lie in what Indian author Amitav Ghosh calls humanity’s “great derangement”: our inability to perceive the enormity of the catastrophe that awaits us.

That’s where fiction writers come in.*

For years, authors have been writing climate change fiction, or “cli-fi,” a genre of literature that imagines the past, present, and future effects of climate change. Their work crosses literary boundaries in terms of style and content, landing on shelves marked “sci-fi” and “literary fiction.” Perhaps you’ve read one of the classics: Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain. Then there’s Ian McEwan’s Solar and J. G. Ballard’s 1965 novel The Burning World, from which this column derives its name. Each of these novels—like others in the genre—help us to “see” possible futures lived out on a burning, drowning, or dying planet.

Here at the Chicago Review of Books, we feel it’s time to give cli-fi more attention. To that end, we bring you “Burning Worlds,” a new monthly column dedicated to examining what’s hot (sorry) in cli-fi. It’ll feature interviews, reviews, and analyses of the genre with the hope of generating a larger conversation about climate change and why imagined depictions of the phenomenon are vital to the literary community—and beyond.

Kicking us off is an interview with journalist and former teacher Dan Bloom, the man who coined the term “cli-fi” (read more about Bloom in his interview with Literary Hub). Bloom founded and maintains The Cli-Fi Report, the web’s most comprehensive site dedicated to cli-fi. He is a tireless crusader for the genre, a self-proclaimed “cli-fi missionary.” In this interview, we discuss what inspired his passion for climate change fiction, why he thinks the term “cli-fi” caught on, and what he recommends we all read next.

Continue to read the interview . . .

Nature is Speaking

Nature doesn’t need people.
People need Nature.
Nature holds at least a third of the solution to climate change.

What Force Of Nature Are You?

Sky — Joan Chen
Ice — Liam Neeson
Mountain — Lee Pace
Water — Penelope Cruz

Flower — Lupita Nyong’o
The Soil — Edward Norton
Forest — Shailene Woodley
The Ocean — Harrison Ford
Home — Reese Witherspoon
Coral Reef — Ian Somerhalder
Mother Nature — Julia Roberts
The Redwoods — Robert Redford

Here: Poems for the Planet

Here: Poems for the Planet is a lovesong to a planet in crisis.

Summoning a chorus of over 125 diverse poetic voices—including Mary Oliver, Robert Hass, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ross Gay, W.S. Merwin, Natalie Diaz, Kimiko Hahn, and others—this anthology approaches the impending environmental crisis with a sense of urgency and hopefulness.

“The Road And The Sky”

While listening to Jackson Brown’s album “Late for the Sky” for the ump-teenth time, the words of “The Road and the Sky” suddenly registered with my new climate activism. In 1974, he was singing about climate change and I hadn’t noticed. Listening with “new ears”, I realized he was telling the story of our time. Have a listen, or read the words:

When we come to place where the road and the sky collide
Throw me over the edge and let my spirit glide
They told me I was going to have to work for a living
But all I want to do is ride
I don’t care where we’re going from here
Honey, you decide

Well I spend my time at the bottom of a wishing well
And I can hear my dreams singing clear as a bell
I used to know where they ended and the world began
But now it’s getting hard to tell
I could be just around the corner from Heaven or a mile from Hell

I’m just rolling away from yesterday
Behind a wheel of a stolen Chevrolet
I’m going to get a little higher
And see if I can hot-wire reality

Now can you see those dark clouds gathering up ahead?
They’re going to wash this planet clean like the Bible said
Now you can hold on steady and try to be ready
But everybody’s gonna get wet
Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet

I’m just rolling away from yesterday
Behind the wheel of a stolen Chevrolet
I’m going to get a little higher
And see if I can hot-wire reality