Tag: Paolo Bacigalupi

Annapolis Green Reads Book Club

The Water Knife: A Dystopian Climate Future

the water knifeOur book group recently read the dystopian science fiction novel The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi about water rights and climate change in the western United States. Most of the readers found value in reading the violent story because of the realistic portrayal of characters and the role of institutions and corporations. Given that it’s important to reach people on important issues wherever their sensibilities lie, there could, feasibly, be many individuals who could connect to environmental concerns by reading a book like this.

I didn’t finish this book. The violence triggered an aversion to the subject matter with anger that I was being subjected to torture scenes in service to the story and feelings of eco-anxiety. Eco-anxiety is the feeling of overwhelm about the future of our environment and our place in it. I wanted to distance myself from the poor decisions that leaders could make on water rights in the western part of the country. All of the environmental issues we face are interconnected but I found myself wanting to reject this storyline and deny the possibility of chaos and destruction in hope that we can find a better path. I wonder, “How can we manifest a better, smarter future for the planet if we are entertaining the worst possible outcomes instead of the best?”

How can we deal with moments of eco-anxiety when we feel them? Many of us have already tapped into the therapeutic resource of time spent in nature; immersion, whenever possible, is immensely beneficial. When we touch, see, hear, smell, and taste aspects of the natural world, it calms and centers us. We reconnect with who we are. So, more of that! Another possibility is to contact a local environmental organization and get busy working with them. Getting out of our own heads and working to serve our community can feel so good. Turning toward education on environmental issues and learning about the efforts to resolve them can be helpful to dispel some fears. Ignorance is not blissful for many of us; knowledge can be reassuring. However, recognizing when we’ve reached our threshold is also a necessary part of self-care. Yet another outlet might be to listen to stories that people tell (ahem, book club!) or each write our own stories –  the human brain responds well to narratives and helps us to make sense of all that is around us. Finally, in these days of continued overwhelm, we can each consider talking with a mental health therapist to help us get through the times when things just seem too much.

a new garden ethic

Our next book is A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future by Benjamin Vogt. If you would like to join our discussion, please contact me. We are meeting in person and on Zoom to accommodate everybody’s comfort level.

–Karen Grumbles

about the Annapolis Green Reads book club

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annapolis green reads

“We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be.” – John Holdren, a Harvard energy expert, as quoted in the book, The End of Ice.

The End of Ice book coverThe End of Ice by Dahr Jamail was a challenging read for many of us. There were no reassurances that all will work out for the environment and for humankind. Jamail wrote about what he has seen on his global adventures of the disruption to the environment caused by the climate crisis and he supports his observations with facts. With such a well balanced book, denial is not an accessible space for us to embody. Instead, he calls for an acceptance and an appreciation of what is still here in the present moment. There is a spiritual aspect to his perspective which some of us in the group found comforting. We also found it a stark and stunning wake up call and thought that many more people should read this book to recognize the level of degradation of the environment.

As Jamail says on page 216, “No one knows if the biosphere will completely collapse. Our future is uncertain. Given the fact that a rapid increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coincided with previous mass extinctions and that we could well be facing our own extinction, we should be asking ourselves, ‘How shall I use this precious time?’ Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us of the value just in being present with what is happening to the planet: ‘When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief.’”

Thich Nhat Hahn, the renowned Buddhist monk, addresses suffering in many of his books. He referenced the environment a bit in his book, The Art of Living, and offered this lovely sentiment: “Mother Earth is always doing her best to be as beautiful and fresh as she can be, to be as accepting and forgiving as she can be… And we, who are children of the Earth, can learn from her. We can learn to be as patient and tolerant as she is. We can live in such a way that we cultivate and preserve our freshness, beauty, and compassion.” His writings have been very helpful to me as I move from hope toward acceptance. From a place of acceptance, I can feel motivated to act with clarity and not feel quite so devastated by the harsh reality around me.

the water knifeOur next book is The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, a science fiction novel. We will discuss it on Monday, September 27 at 7 pm. If you would like to join our discussions, please contact me.

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