Rev Billy talks...

| 1st June 2002
We interrupt our regular programming for
a moral advisory... My country's war on the natural world parallels its war on that other silent Other, namely people who live far enough away to have their own God, to avoid our products, to traffic about in robes and dark skin.

For environmentalists, Shock and Awe also means Drill and Log.

The Administration's macho disdain for the Kyoto Protocol flows right to the terror of Abu Ghraib prison.

This was one reason why it hit folks so hard when The New York Times and New Yorker magazine, our the US's liberal print media - failed to be emphatically against the war. In that time after 9/11 when Bush (and Blair) gassed up their fog-machines for the dazzle of war, peace activists were demoted to the status of nomadic comedians. At a peace march, which might be reported in a little box far back in the paper, an eccentric grandmother from Vermont would get the lead quotes, and the writer would sit back with passive derision.

This culminated in the corporate media's treatment of the huge peace marches around the world on 15 February 2003. Millions of us shouted in unison 'we want peace!' that day. The US president called us a 'control group with which I disagree'. Consumerism meets George Orwell. What was the press thinking, not to find this simply outrageous, and not then to go back and look a little harder for Saddam's radioactive scimitar hidden deep in his dark sand?

Even The New Yorker, which Americans depend on to be free of sentimental patriotism, got embedded with Bush. I remember a piece by the writer Larissa Macfarquhar which nonchalantly assassinated Michael Moore. His political beliefs were to her a clever career ploy borne of barely suppressed childhood neuroses. It was an ill-timed attack on a peace worker at precisely the moment when we needed him most, with so few progressive heroes still standing. Through this time it was as if, to journalists in this country, peace was not real.

Peace activism naturally becomes environmentalism, because protecting your children from bombs will also save the life of the earth within that bomb's impact radius. (Nothing is quite as super-toxic as war, and by that I even mean military exercises back home - in the form of fossil-fuel exhaust, terrain destruction, ammo storage.) Now writers in the liberal media, after their gulping meae culpae, no longer find dressing up in Bush drag all that wonderful. And sure enough, after war stopped being their favourite news, the earth began to
vie for the front page. Specifically (here's big news), global warming seems to have pierced the corporate media bubble.

For the longest time, we pornographicised our own demise, in blockbusters like Deep Impact and The Day After Tomorrow. Now The New Yorker's three-parter 'Five Minutes After Midnight' is bringing radical climatic change into the mainstream, and you can feel the shift.

The writer is Elizabeth Kolbert. She has visited scientists and tribal peoples who are witnesses to the acceleration of warming in the north. Her report on the American-led death wish for the human species may come from deep-ice samples or from a prayer in the wind, but to the reader she is always a poised host.

She holds her writer's voice, even if she's speaking up many years after the earth's voice was first heard giving us this message, a sustained howl of heat on the ice and the bleeding of melting water. Nevertheless, her mild astonishment in the piece, as a sophisticate who must consider what apocalypse really is snuck up and broke in me like a revelation.

While it remains true that advertising and it's corporatised media still redirect reports away from peace, away from the earth, and toward its billionaire investors, there is no denying that in recent months a coming home of sorts has been underway. The earth has signed up a new group of ghost writers.

They are not necessarily naturalists, but they came to this point of worrying and hope by way of our failed peace movement. We remember joining hands in great numbers, carrying language on signs, speaking out in song and rallying cry the words of peace. Somehow, a number of public writers, perhaps at a distance, were swept into an unexpected co-authoring with the earth.

Now they pick up the science journals and take an interest in, say, the shifting of the breeding range of sub-Arctic water birds. Then they translate the intelligence, the statement, from those flocks, and they write to us. And in that message the earth also writes to the writer, perhaps saying, 'Welcome, it's very late, but welcome.'

This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2005


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