Wednesday, October 06, 2010
America then & now: Mesa Verde, Van Jones & Big Oil
I just went over to see Mesa Verde today, a dream come true for me. My parents went to Mesa Verde on their honeymoon back in the 1930s and when I was a kid I used to look at their photos taken during that time and dream that someday I too would go there. And now I'm actually here! But the descendants of the people who built Mesa Verde are not -- not here. They are gone.
So. Where did they go? What happened to the Anasazi, the old-timey Ancient Pueblans? Rumor has it that they had to leave here because of various adverse changes in climate, including a severe drought and a mini-ice age. "Climate change drove them out," said a ranger. Now does that sound familiar or what!
I once wrote a sci-fi novel about Mesa Verde -- about how the folks there had to leave due to threats from neighboring raider-warriors and from man's inhumanity to man. But then, in my book, the refugees from Mesa Verde became immortal and lived in the stars for centuries and only returned to Earth 5,000 years later -- after some of its radioactivity had worn off. And will that happen to us too -- a repeat of the Mesa Verde story? Let's hope not.
Anyway, back at the real-life Mesa Verde I got to go down into a sacred ceremonial pit at Spruce Tree House -- which was totally cool and spiritual and mind-bending. Then I bought a whole bunch of souvenirs at the gift shop and ate traditional fry bread. I did it! I was actually there! And Mesa Verde lived up to all of my expectations too. But now I gotta go home and revise my novel.
The Ancient Pueblans apparently had to leave their homes because of climate change -- but what did they know? Not much. They were just pre-Colombian farmers from before the age of The Weather Channel. However, modern mankind knows a lot more about climate change than they did and we also know how to stop it from snowballing before it's too late. BUT. Will we act in time? Will we actually do what we know that we have to do in order to save the planet? Or will we too, like the Anasazi, be forced to leave our abandoned cities (and suburbs) behind?
I'm tending to be kind of pessimistic here.
"But, Jane, why are you being so negative about our ability to stop climate change?" you might ask.
I can instantly tell you why. "Because of California's Proposition 23." That's why. "And because of Van Jones." Van Jones, Obama's former Green Energy Czar? Yes, THAT Van Jones -- the alternative energy expert that was positively pilloried and crucified by Big Oil last year. Jones is one of the few men today actually standing up to protect us modern-day people from a deja vu re-play of what happened at Mesa Verde.
The other day, Jones gave a talk in Berkeley about the disastrous consequences for all of us Americans if California's Proposition 23 passes. Here's my almost-accurate recreation of that talk. Either read it and weep -- or read it and go out and DO SOMETHING!
"We need to make sure that people hear the truth about this state proposition. This isn't about us losing jobs in California like the TV commercials in favor of it would lead you to believe. It's about Texas oil trying to take on Silicon Valley." Why Silicon Valley? Because people in Silicon Valley are trying to develop a huge new alternative energy program right now and this intention has got the guys from Big Oil running scared.
"It isn't as if the Texas oilmen who are sponsoring this proposition are crying their eyes out because people in California don't have jobs." Remember the Texas oilmen who ran Enron? They weren't trying to help Californians either. They just saw us as suckers. And the same thing appears to be happening here.
"They claim that they are sobbing now, 'boo-hoo,' because they have to spend 20 million dollars just to give those poor Californians some jobs." That's just not true. Big Oil could care less about us -- us suckers and marks.
"Less than two years ago, both McCain and Obama agreed on one thing -- that we need to prevent radical climate change. The only common ground between both parties was that we had to do something about global warming. So. What happened?" Jones asked. "Special interests decided to knock out Silicon Valley -- by lying to us." And by lying about Van Jones too.
I've known Van since 2001 when we worked together to plan Robert Treuhaft's funeral (Bob was a founding member of the Lawyers Guild, co-wrote "An American Way of Death" with his wife Jessica Mitford -- her biography, "Irrepressible," just came out http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=11762559 BTW -- and Bob was my boss for a few years. But I digress). Jones is a good guy. I believe what he says. And I recommend that you believe him too.
"For the past two years, we've found that [lobby-based and Republican-based] lies to us have gone uncontested -- and so these lies grew. And now we find ourselves fighting these lies, even here in California. And the politics of hope are now fighting the politics of fear -- even here."
You want politics of fear? I'll give you politics of fear! If we don't stop the Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Weapons, etc. corporatists who now pretty much run America in their tracks ASAP, we're all gonna end up like the folks at Mesa Verde: Wandering, homeless and DEAD. And our grandchildren will be dead too. Is that scary enough for you? Apparently not.
"And in 2008, we connected the politics of hope to one man -- Barack Obama. And if he doesn't live up to your expectations, you blog against him. You Tweet against him. But. Hope started much earlier than 2008. Hope didn't start with political superheroes." Hope started with us.
"Then came Katrina." And the mask was stripped away and we saw just how uncaring the Bush dynasty really was. "And in 2006, something broke and something decent and honorable and good started moving in America. And that movement inspired Obama. But let's get this clear. Obama may have inspired us -- but you inspired him first. Obama is one of the most inspirational people on this earth -- and YOU inspired HIM." Go us!
"Then when you came home from the victory parties in DC, you expected change. But here's what we learned together in the past two years. They assassinated hope back in the 1960s when they assassinated John and Bobby and Martin and it has taken all these years to bring it back. But we need MORE than hope. We need change." Go you!
"When you see someone on television with flat abs and you think, 'I could look like that,' that's called hope. But when you actually go to the gym and work out? That's called change.
"Do we actually mean what we say when we talk about hope and change? Who are we as a movement?" And what kind of movement are we? I wanna be a movement that expedites the evolution of the human race into something we can be proud of -- not just an evolution into even more and better types of war, greed and hate.
"This is our summer of crazy climate. We had one-third of Pakistan under water. We had one-eighth of Russia on fire. Call anyone on earth and ask them if they have seen crazy weather this year and they will say that they did. This is for real. Al Gore's predictions have already come true."
Then Jones talked more about what us liberals need to do next.
"Was Obama's campaign a movement or a moment? The answer is in our hands. It's a 'moment' if you give up, if you walk off the field, if you cover 98 yards and then quit. Or you can keep running with the ball."
But, for me, this was the most important part of Jones message: "These people are not spending 20 million dollars on their Proposition 23 campaign because you have no power. They don't spend 20 million dollars on losers and nobodies. They don't have all these crazy people all shouting on cable TV because you are nobody."
If they had American voters in the bag and under their thumb, they wouldn't have to spend billions on campaigns, shock jocks and right-wing nuts like Limbaugh, Palin and Beck!
"You may think it doesn't matter what you do or don't do. This is what they hope you will think. There's a lesson to be learned from the BP oil spill, when BP made 62 billion dollars in profit yet someone decided to not spend $500,000 on safety, just to save money. And a decision based on greed created a completely catastrophic disaster. And one lesson to be learned here is that that you have no idea who you are and what your power is." Think of all the millions of dollars worth of ads that BP has run to try to convince you that they are a good company and that your gut feelings are wrong.
"And you don't have to go back to the New Deal or the 1960s to find your glory. One small act based on love can result in a huge positive outcome" -- just as one small act of greed had such a negative effect. "Now is the time for action."
Screw the corporatists! Screw Big Oil! Let's show our power! Let's speak up now -- before we too end up like those poor schmucks at Mesa Verde.
PS: Back in 2005, I turned the first chapter of my sci-fi novel about Mesa Verde into a play and posted it on YouTube. Fabulous acting! Fabulous script! I deserve a Tony award! (Or not.) In any case, here it is:
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1wMEy65urc
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnX_y3_uM-U
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giJhWyadnGA&feature=related
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4R20uXFV4k&feature=related