Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

My new eco science fiction Knocking on Heaven's Door is just released. A number of early reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Apocalypse: Not in My Backyard

Sharman Apt Russell

Where I live in the rural Southwest, I am literally surrounded by apocalyptic vision. To my left, a neighbor prepares for the collapse of civilization once the supply of cheap oil disappears and the trucks stop running and the government crashes. To my right, another neighbor waits for the biblical end of days prophesied in Revelations. Both the Peak Oil doomer and fundamentalist Christian seem almost happy about the approaching catastrophe. The human race has sinned, and we deserve to be punished.

I’m not so happy with the human race, either. My apocalypse is spelled six degrees and goes something like this: in the next ten or twenty years, if we fail to reduce the percentage of greenhouse gases in the air, we’ll cause a two to three degree rise in the earth’s temperature, triggering the further release of methane gases in the north, the continued acidification of the oceans, and the flaming out of the Amazon rainforest. Feedback loops will lead to a runaway four or five degree increase in global warming, resulting in even further desertification, famine, war, and poverty on a scale virtually unimaginable. At six degrees, everyone dies from a broken heart.

In my own backward—which now includes a beautiful view of the Gila River winding south from the Gila Wilderness and Gila National Forest--the cottonwoods and willows will be long gone. The river has become a curve of dust. Water is a memory.

If I squint one eye, I can almost see them--those fires burning in the distance. If I try really hard, I can smell the smoke. If I stand on one leg and hop backwards rapidly five times, I am sure to fall down. Just a little effort and I can make myself truly miserable.

I love a good apocalypse as much as the next person. Only lately…I’ve decided to just say no. I still believe in climate change. I still believe that we might actually, foolishly, heat up the earth with catastrophic consequences. But it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t live in that future—yet.

Instead, I am on the board of a local group called the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, and we’re working hard to reintroduce the otter to the Gila River (way overdue), prevent a foolish diversion on the river, and regulate the use of off-road vehicles in the national forest. I am on my town’s Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Climate Protection, and we have just gotten stimulus money to set up an Office of Sustainability—to weatherize buildings, promote solar energy, and reduce the town’s emission of greenhouse gases. I teach Nature Writing at the nearby university, and my students are producing some awfully nice essays. I am on another board to reduce hunger in Grant County through neighborhood gardens and a Food Security Center with energy-efficient greenhouses, a permaculture system of farming, and a commercial kitchen open to the community. We got federal money for that, too. I’d give up a nonessential body part to keep President Obama in power for another six years. I would even canvas again in Buckhorn, New Mexico (and that was a pretty terrible experience). I am happy doing everything I do because it’s mostly fun and it makes me feel better about over-consuming resources and not living as simply as I could.

I would be the first to admit I’m a flawed human being. I fly in airplanes. I drive a car. I’m part of the problem as much as the solution. At this point, I may be irrelevant. Maybe nothing I do now, good or bad, matters any more.

But I’m not giving up. I’m not ready to consign the human race to ashes. We’re a young species. Maybe we’re too smart for our own good. Maybe we suffer from an addictive personality. I think of my own children and feel a motherly compassion. I think of how much I love my children. I think of how much I love my life, the beauty all around me, the curve of cottonwood trees following the river, shafts of light and flat-bottomed clouds in a sky so gorgeous I almost fall to my knees and sing my own version of Hallelujah. I’m not giving up.

The apocalypse? Not in my backyard.

1 comment:

Cirrelda said...

I am so glad to read this post. I love the subject it deals with and the full telling of how you come around to a refusal to dwell on the bleakest outlook. Thank you for writing it and thank you for sharing it.