Last week after I sent off my column about why I wrote Last Days in Ocean Beach, a novel about living on the border between dread and wonder in the Anthropocene, the news cycle was full of coincidental but eerie echoes.
A Los Angeles Times story observed of the recent floods in Kauai, “A Hawaiian island got about 50 inches of rain in 24 hours. Scientists warn it’s a sign of the future,” while the Washington Post reported, “’Fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never observed so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring.”
And then, flying underneath the radar while the Trump circus dominated the headlines as always, there was this story, also in the Post , “Earth’s atmosphere just crossed another troubling threshold”:
For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have exceeded 410 parts per million averaged across an entire month, a threshold that pushes the planet ever closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed “safe.”
The reading from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii finds that concentrations of the climate-warming gas averaged above 410 parts per million throughout April. The first time readings crossed 410 at all occurred on April 18, 2017, or just about a year ago.
Carbon dioxide concentrations — whose “greenhouse gas effect” traps heat and drives climate change — were around 280 parts per million circa 1880, at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They’re now 46 percent higher.
The significance of this was underlined by Ralph Keeling, the director of the CO2 program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who explained in the same article that, “We’re just moving further and further into dangerous territory.”
Of course, it’s not a surprise that such news was not greeted with great public outcry with so many of us so hopelessly distracted. Still, one might have hoped that more people would have noticed the painful contrast between what scientists are telling us about the environment and the heedless rush down the suicide path by the Trump administration. But we just carry on, moving from one constructed spectacle to the next—unless, of course, a sufficient number of us cause a big enough stink to cut through the noise and bring the fate of the planet that we all depend on to live into the center of our collective attention.
In other words, we need a movement.
This is what movements are for, and while there are many forms of important activism going on and lots of good people working the inside game politically hoping to bring about more positive outcomes, the one organization that I think has the best understanding that it will take a large, intersectional movement to bring about climate justice is 350.org whose local branch, San Diego 350, has been working hard to make this happen for several years now.
Please join me this Saturday, May 12th at 4 PM for the final release event for Last Days in Ocean Beach, a benefit for San Diego 350. All the proceeds of every book sold go directly to San Diego 350.
San Diego 350 Fundraiser at Torque Moto Café, 3604 30th Street, North Park. To RSVP click here
Last Days in Ocean Beach is the story of William, a scientist working at the Center for Extinction Studies, a think tank at the College of the Sun funded by a green billionaire. William lives “on the border between dread and wonder” as he desperately works to raise the alarm about climate change and its dire consequences to an apathetic public, learns to live with grief, and hold on to love. Along the way, we meet the residents of his wonderfully shabby apartment complex in Ocean Beach–bikers, hippies, skate punks, adventure tourists, reggae singers, aimless young professionals, Iraq war veterans, decadent retirees, a hospice nurse, and a Buddhist monk, all of whom are searching for something, looking to live more fully. Last Days in Ocean Beach is a blues song moaning and rocking the beach party at the end of the world.
“Jim Miller’s protagonist observes what each one of us knows–we’re all heedlessly driving and flying our way to oblivion. At a time when our planet is under siege, this important novel explores how delicately our individual lives and our relationships are woven into its future and the future of human life.”
–Sandra Alcosser, author of Except by Nature
“Jim Miller manages to find real warmth in the cold light cast by our apocalyptic moment; this is a rare instance of actually dealing with, instead of attempting to ‘fix,’ the cascade of emotions and ideas that naturally come from the immensity of the challenges around us.”
–Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
For more information on City Works Press and to buy a copy of Last Days in Ocean Beach, go here: www.cityworkspress.org