By Kathleen Stocking
When the world spins out of control, which it does sometimes or seems to do sometimes, and in the last year, the last decade — what with species extinction and climate change and children in cages at the border and migrants drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to escape drought and famine — when the spinning has been dizzying, then it is good to remember that we are part of a mystery, little bits and pieces made from stars, literally.
There’s a star out my window in the southern sky above the river that runs through Traverse City. It’s Sirius, the brightest star, most visible in the winter at 2 a.m. It’s beautiful, luminous and I’m falling in love with it.
Christmas morning, I talk on the phone to my youngest granddaughter in Connecticut. “Grandma Kathy,” she exclaims. “I’m losing my teeth!” She knows this is news. She says it with surprise and amused joy.
Losing teeth when you’re five is normal. Losing species because human beings are poisoning the planet is not normal. Or, more accurately, is not good for our survival.
Environmental journalist David Quammen, in his 1996 book “The Song of the Dodo,” writes, “Species extinction is central to the question of how Homo sapiens affects its own world.”
What do we need to do to create a livable earth on which our grandchildren can be delighted to discover we are all made from stardust?
This summer in Traverse City I saw municipal workers spraying pesticides around lampposts to kill weeds, pesticides that would find their way into the river and the bay. The reason for this custom — the Cherry Festival, keeping up appearances – was explained to me, but I couldn’t help clinging to the heretical notion that the right amount of poison in the water our children swim in is none.
There’s a young man, Scott Mills, not far from here, in Maple City, who has a blog called Polylith in which he addresses the cognitive dissonance of these times. “That woozy rumble we feel? It’s not just the climatic plates slipping, but on an intersecting plane, it may be capitalism breaking up as it is pulled beneath the faintly glowing stratum of the Anthropocene.”
Young people the world over are grasping the loose threads of the logic of customs that still hold sway over the needs of human survival.
We need to take responsibility and love each other. That’s what the young man, Yegor Zhukhov, said when he was on trial a few weeks ago and sentenced to four years of silence. Mashen Gessen, The New Yorker writer, has translated his comments.
There’s a photo of Yegor Zhukhov. He’s clear-eyed, intelligent. Like Greta Thunberg. Where are these wonderful young people coming from? They resemble, in the clarity and courage that shines from their faces, Joan of Arc. Their honesty and intelligence, in these times, is a great comfort.