Antidote to Despair: “Occupy the Y” in Ojai

Broadcasting from the Mojave wilderness, last week The Desert Oracle — also known as Ken Layne — in his wised-up late night radio voice delivered “a sermon,” as he described it, in podcast form. called Antidote to Despair (about climate). It spoke to me, so let me bring it to your attention in an easy-to-access and readable form.

The episode on the Desert Oracle site opens with this inspirational picture, of the great painter and wanderer, Georgia O’Keefe.

“Georgia O’Keefe never went to a Zumba class…but she managed to keep moving across the Texas plains and New Mexico’s high desert…the places she called home for so many years…usually just walking and roaming like our artists and sages and outlaws have always done” (Ken Layne)

Why O’Keefe? Because she was one of those rare souls, many of them artists or savants of various sorts, possessed by the beauty of the desert. John Muir. Mary Austin. Edward Abbey.

Layne speaks of the desert in a raspy voice of experience, surrounded by an encompassing soundscape all around him, from a fellow denizen of the dark known as [RedBlueBlackSilver ]. Layne sounds as old as the hills. His melds a laconic enjoyment of the harsh desert with a deep appreciation for the writers and adventurers of the desert and the West. In this episode he reveals more. He may live in Joshua Tree with the AirBnBs and the tourists, but he still cares about the desert. Deeply. And he points out that almost as as soon as we humans stop burning fossil fuels and pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, the atmosphere will stop warming.

[Here’s a “Talk of the Town” profile of the involving Oracle from The New Yorker, complete with a perfectly charming drawing]

Ken Layne, from a “Talk of the Town” profile in The New Yorker

He says, from last week:

“It’s the best time of year to walk, in North America anyway, these days, so I hope you’re doing that…this is our time…the only time we are alive…every age has challenges — disasters plagues war cruelty — every age has what seems to be cataclysmic ends-of-the-world likelihoods and possibilities….but we have to live in our time and make the most of it…looking back most of our greatest revolutionaries and thinkers, especially in the field of ecology and environmentalism, have been cheerful and energetic souls…think of John Muir, who witnessed the deforestation of much of America yet found in this horror a cause to give his life to a joyful direction in the face of adversity…despair eats away at our souls…the most Orwellian thing we can do is wake up in the morning and say to ourselves: I wonder how the war is going today? And then submerge our one and only soul in the depths of Internet content that is designed to make us feel bad. What is the antidote to such despair? 

[And then — to my surprise and delight — the cynicism falls away, and Mr. Layne reveals himself as a man who cares!]:

A lot of its local….local in terms of inside your head, what you’re doing, where you live…there are community gardens that could can use your hands and your attention, local land trusts and volunteer groups who help with trail maintenance and wildfire restoration, people who go to the beach every weekend and collect trash…when you do rewarding things with other people it works against not just the global despair but the personal loneliness of feeling like others don’t care. If the people around you right now don’t care find another group of people who do. 

Well, following that path, here in Ojai I will attend a gathering organized by my caring friend Jeff Otterbein and allies from Meiners Oaks, called “Occupy the Y!” A climate action for next weekend the 25th and 26th of March. This means taking residence of a tiny patch of grass near a major intersection, at a crossroads of two small state highways, to inspire action, with speeches, music, poetry, and camping.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

One thought on “Antidote to Despair: “Occupy the Y” in Ojai

  1. To add a link and some detail to support the claim, let me add a quote from Michael Mann, who first made his mark well over twenty years ago published a suite of studies supporting the famous and thoroughly verified “hockey stick” of escalating temperatures around the globe. From a Guardian story I will link to below. Although he’s become a well-known speaker and author, he continues to publish verifiable climate science on important changes in our evolving climate. Not all of that are bad.

    “Until recently, Mann explained in The Guardian, scientists believed the climate system—a catch-all term for the interaction among the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and other parts of the biosphere—carried a long lag effect. This lag effect was mainly a function of carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere and trapping heat for many decades after being emitted. So, even if humanity halted all CO2 emissions overnight, average global temperatures would continue to rise for 25 to 30 years, while also driving more intense heat waves, droughts, and other climate impacts. Halting emissions will take at least twenty years, under the best of circumstances, and so humanity was likely locked in to at least 50 more years of rising temperatures and impacts.

    Research over the past ten years, however, has revised this vision of the climate system. Scientists used to “treat carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as if it was a simple control knob that you turn up” and temperatures climb accordingly, “but in the real world we now know that’s not what happens,” Mann said. Instead, if humans “stop emitting carbon right now … the oceans start to take up carbon more rapidly.” The actual lag effect between halting CO2 emissions and halting temperature rise, then, is not 25 to 30 years but, per Mann, “more like three to five years.”

    In short, this game-changing new scientific understanding suggests that humanity can turn down the heat almost immediately by slashing heat-trapping emissions. “Our destiny is determined by our behavior,” said Mann, who finds that information “empowering.””


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