Monday, June 27, 2016

Count Down to International Day of Peace

100 Day Countdown
Recorded on Jun 13, 2016
With Kimberly Mann: Chief of the Education Outreach Section in the Outreach Division of the United Nations Department of Public InformationJane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE: Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of PeaceDagmar Berkenberg: Office Manager of World Peace Prayer Society (Europe)Kaja Imhof: Student at Fachmittelschule Oberwil and Intern at RadioChico, SwitzerlandAmbassador Mussie Hailu: Director of United Religions Initiative for AfricaFr. James Channan: United Religions Initiative Regional Coordinator for Pakistan and Executive Director of Peace Center, Lahore, PakistanZara Pervaiz: Student at Kinnaird College in Pakistan and Coordinator of Light of Hope Cooperation CircleMaria Ying-Matthews: Founder and Chairman of Peace International FoundationSharon Yuen: Student Peace Clubs Youth Leader & Head CoordinatorAthena Wong: Peace International Youth Orchestra Youth Leader and Vice-Principal CellistAngelina Gabaitse: Founder at Lemon & Vinegar, Coordinator at We, The World & The WE CampaignMpho Sebina: Singer-Songwriter, Botswana
Hosted by Deborah Moldow
The UN has dedicated the 2016 International Day of Peace to “The Sustainable Development Goals–Building Blocks for Peace.” The Summer of Peace leading up to September 21 gives us the opportunity to shift from concern about the great challenges facing our nation and our world to taking a stand on Peace Day as one human community united in hope. We will discuss plans at the United Nations and hear guests around the world highlighting the actions of people serving a wide range of causes yet building together a new culture of peace. Each international guest will partner with a young person from their region, some of whom will recite a poem or play music.

Kimberly Mann

Kimberly Mann is the chief of the Education Outreach Section in the Outreach Division of the United Nations (UN) Department of Public Information. This Section is comprised of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, The Remember Slavery Programme and the Model UN Programme (UN4MUN).  Since 2006, Mann has developed an international network of partners and a multifaceted outreach initiative on the Holocaust that includes print and online educational materials, seminars, exhibits, student video conferences, a film series and teacher training. This approach is now being followed by the Remember Slavery Programme, which honors the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to help fight racism. She has achieved a global impact with both of these programs, working closely with the United Nations Information Centres. Together with the UN4MUN team, Mann developed the first Model UN Programme on the Holocaust and Genocide Prevention. She also represents the UN at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a global task force for Holocaust remembrance, education and research.

Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE

In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, traveled from England to what is today Tanzania and bravely entered the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars. But with her unyielding patience and characteristic optimism, she won the trust of these initially shy creatures. She managed to open a window into their sometimes strange and often familiar-seeming lives. The public was fascinated and remains so to this day. Today, Jane’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share. The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of local people who are critical to chimpanzee survival. Our community-centered conservation programs in Africa include sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. These programs began around Gombe in 1994, but have since been replicated in other parts of the continent. Likewise, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which Jane started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, is today the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program for young people from preschool through university with nearly 150,000 members in more than 130 countries.

Dagmar Berkenberg

Dagmar Berkenberg is the Office Manager of World Peace Prayer Society in Europe. She lives in the outskirts of Munich, Bavaria, with her husband Peter and daughter Laura. She attended the Munich Institute for Translators and Interpreters and had been working in the tourism industry of Australia before she met Hiroo and Masami Saionji in 1993. Dagmar began to establish a Continental Europe office for them and has been working there ever since. The variety of possibilities to spread the message MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH still impresses her. Apart from her passion to network with people worldwide, Dagmar loves homeopathy & natural healing, reading and travelling and for the last 3 years volunteering for refugees who look for peace in Southern Germany.

Kaja Imhof

Kaja Imhof​ is currently completing her practical training at RadioChico Switzerland. In the future she very much wishes to work in the field of media. She is a student at Fachmittleschule Oberwil in Switzerland.

Ambassador Mussie Hailu

Ambassador Mussie Hailu is a peace activist working at national, regional and international levels for peace, reconciliation, interfaith harmony, disarmament, the Golden Rule, world citizenship, right human relationships, and international cooperation. He identifies himself as a Citizen of the World, strongly believes in the interdependence of human beings, and celebrates cultural diversity. He sees the differences in race, ethnicities, religions, politics, and nationalities as important elements of the one and indivisible humanity. Mussie, building on Scarboro Mission’s Golden Rule poster, is circulating tens of thousands of an African version of the poster. He has served African and global organizations, including United Nations agencies, and he is a founding member of United Religions Initiative. Currently he serves as regional director of URI for Africa and representative of URI at the Economic Commission for Africa and African Union.

Fr. James Channan

Fr. James Channan OP is a Pakistani Christian and a Catholic priest. He is the URI Regional Coordinator for Pakistan and Executive Director of Peace Center, Lahore. He served as Globe Trustee of URI. He worked with the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims for 5 years and as Consultant to the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue for 10 years. Pope John Paul II appointed him as Consultant for both of these responsibilities. Fr. Channan attended the Pontifical Institute for Islamic Studies and Arabic language in Rome from 1982-85 and obtained a Licentiate Degree. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Emmanuel College, Boston, USA, and received graduate credits from Harvard University, USA, and a course on Peace Building from American University, Washington, DC, USA. He earned an Honorary “Doctor of Divinity” Degree from Norway. He served as Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Christian Muslim Relations for 17 years. He was the primary organizer of URI's 1,500-mile Journey for Peace from Karachi to Khyber. He keeps on travelling around the globe to participate in and give presentations in international conferences on interreligious dialogue. He is the author of 4 books, 2 in English and 2 in Urdu. He has devoted his life to promoting dialogue among religions.

Zara Pervaiz

Zara Pervaiz is a youth from Pakistan and a student of BA Honors in linguistics at Kinnaird College of Women in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Zara is a very active member of the United Religions Initiative in Pakistan and she is also coordinator of "Light of Hope CC" in Lahore, Pakistan. She has been a speaker at the Symphony of Peace Prayers 2016 and Soul of WoMen programs.

Maria Ying-Matthews

Maria Ying-Matthews is Founder and Chairman of Peace International Foundation. The Hong Kong-based non-profit organization was established in 2008, with the mission to advance United Nations peace initiatives through youth-centered education and empowerment in Hong Kong and beyond. Maria began her career with the Australian Trade Commission, where she specialized in student education. She entered the commercial sector, working as Manager and then General Manager starting with the Inchape Group, Cartier, Femina Publishing and the Royal Selengor Group. She then set up her own companies Markets Asia and Tablecharm in Hong Kong and Australia, which provided consultancy services in project planning, marketing and management in the Asia-Pacific region. She also provided private personal development coaching to senior executives and organized launch events for international companies seeking to establish a presence in Hong Kong and Mainland China. Maria’s extensive experience in commerce, along with her long-term passion for world peace, led her to delve into the non-profit sector and develop an international platform to promote peace among the youth of Hong Kong and beyond through the launch of the Peace International Foundation. Maria trained as a teacher at Northcote Teachers Training College and studied Sales and Marketing Management at Syracuse University.

Sharon Yuen

Sharon Yuen is currently a senior student at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong. Extremely passionate about creative work and helping others, she has initiated and led various activities for community service and charity. Her focus at PIF is on designing and organizing activities for youths to learn more about the Culture of Peace, and to understand and accept diversity in order to live harmoniously within the society. Sharon is outspoken about sexism, racism and ableism, and cares deeply about the environment. She believes that the first step to change is to become aware. She aspires to work toward eliminating different forms of discrimination, and improving the environment, for a better world for mankind.

Athena Wong

Athena Wong is currently a Form 5 student studying in Diocesan Girls' School in Hong Kong. She is the principal cellist for both the school's string orchestra and symphony orchestra. Joining the Peace International Youth Orchestra in 2014, Athena became a member of the management committee in 2015, as the secretary of the orchestra; at the same time continued to play in the orchestra as the vice-principal cellist. Athena also helped in recruiting members and organising events for the UN International Day of Peace /Hong Kong Peace Festival 2015. Athena has a strong commitment for peace and harmony through music. 

Angelina Gabaitse

Angelina Gabaitse does Partner Outreach and Coordination for We, The World and the WE Campaign in Botswana, Africa. She is planning programs and events during 11 Days of Global Unity September 11-21 that foster collaboration and cooperation between local groups in support of the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN International Day of Peace September 21st. She is working in partnership with the Environment Department of University of Botswana on a Video that conveys the effect of Climate Change in the Southern African Region. This video will serve as a tool to raise awareness and to advice policy makers on solutions that can assist on building a better & greener future.Angelina is also the Founder and Director of Lemon & Vinegar (PTY) LTD,a company that focuses on the production and preservation of fruit and vegetables. She is also doing course-work with Chartered Institute of Management Accounting.

Mpho Sebina

Mpho Sebina is an emerging singer-songwriter in Botswana. Before pursuing her career in the music Industry, she studied & graduated with an honors degree in international business from the Multimedia University Malaysia. It was during her studies that she started exploring writing, recording & vocal training. She frequently performs during  corporate functions as well as local music festivals where she shared the stage with international legends such as Ringo Madlingozi, HHP, Smith Black Mambazo, Shanti Lo, Nnunu Ramogotsi & Louis Mhlangato to name a few. In 2016 she brought Naked Soul Sessions to life, an intimate acoustic night which features a different local artist every month.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer News

The rising grade five garden club, under the direction of Dr. Gregory, harvested a variety of vegetables over the past two weeks. The young gardeners proudly delivered the following produce to Sage:  head lettuce, onions, okra, potatoes, and beets. Next week they plan to harvest turnips, and the remainder of the beets and potatoes.  The vegetables are being used for summer lunches.

Cherylynn Gregory-O'Melia

7th Grade English Teacher, SEE and MD Service Club Coordinator

Purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear and loss --Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit: Falling Together

--by On Being, syndicated from, Jun 25, 2016

What follows is the audio and transcript of an interview between Krista Tippett and Rebecca Solnit.
MS. KRISTA TIPPETT, HOST: Rebecca Solnit describes her vision as a writer like this: “To describe nuances and shades of meaning, to celebrate public life and solitary life…. to find another way of telling.” She is a contributing editor to Harper’s magazine and the author of profound books that defy category. She’s emerged as one of our great chroniclers of untold histories of redemptive change in places like post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. She writes that so often, “when all the ordinary divides and patterns are shattered, people step up to become their brother’s keepers. And that purposefulness and connectedness bring joy even amidst death, chaos, fear and loss.”
MS. REBECCA SOLNIT: I want better metaphors. I want better stories. I want more openness. I want better questions. All these things feel like they give us tools that are a little more commensurate with the amazing possibilities and the terrible realities that we face.
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being.
[music: “Seven League Boots” by Zoe Keating]
MS. TIPPETT: Rebecca Solnit’s books include the luminous and recently re-releasedHope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities and A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut and moved with her parents to the San Francisco Bay Area when she was young.
MS. TIPPETT: I usually start my conversations with an inquiry about the spiritual background of your childhood. And however you would define that. And, as I look at the sweep of your writing, I see so many elements that to me are profoundly spiritual, a long sense of time or a robust commitment to hope. You describe your childhood in so many ways, and in one place — these are words you use, “A scrawny, battered little kid in a violent house.” And I wonder how you would think about that notion of the spiritual background of your childhood. And it occurs to me that perhaps some of these things were seeded by absence, as much as by presence.
MS. SOLNIT: I think that’s true. And when you asked that question, what comes to mind is kind of a map of where most of my childhood took place. I wrote somewhere that I had an inside-out childhood, because every place was safe but home. If you went just on the other side of the backyard fence was a quarter horse stud farm and then dairy farms and open space. And the landscape and the animals, domestic and wild, were this huge refuge, and really fed me and encouraged me, and there was a sense of community with the non-human. And so that was if you went north, even just to the other side of the fence and beyond, just endless open space, and oak trees, and grasslands, and wildlife.
And then if you went south, there was a really great public library. And the minute I learned how to read, it was as though I’d been given this huge treasure. Every book was a box I suddenly knew how to open, and in it, I could meet people, go to other worlds, go deep in all kinds of ways. And I spent my childhood in the hills and in the books. And those — so that was not maybe what people think of conventionally as spirituality, but that was my company, my encouragement, my teaching, my community.
MS. TIPPETT: That’s lovely. The sweep of your work is wonderful and it’s daunting as an interviewer, but I actually thought I would start with — I’d just love to have a conversation with you about this piece that was in Harper’s not that long ago about — I can’t remember the title of it, but it was — it was ostensibly about the choice not to have children.
MS. SOLNIT: Oh, yeah. It’s called “The Mother of All Questions.”
MS. TIPPETT: “The Mother of All Questions.” And part of what you were reflecting on, or a jumping-off point for your reflection was the fact that people are so curious about that, and in fact, so presumptuous about it. And I think you make the case very quickly that it’s a valid and life-giving choice not to have children, but in fact, the piece, like so much of what you write, becomes a reflection on kind of the vast expanse of what it is to be alive. And so there’s this, you said, “People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity, in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfill your capacity to love, even though the list of monstrous, ice-hearted mothers is extensive. But there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.”
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. Exactly.
MS. TIPPETT: Right? And you say, I love this phrase, “There’s so much other work love has to do in the world.” I just feel like that’s so worth just putting out in public life and reflecting on.
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah, and it’s partly — we kind of over-emphasize this very specific zone of love. It’s as though we’ve sort of hyper mapped it and obsessed about it, and shone lights on it and things. And then there’s this whole other territory of relationships to the larger world in particular, and to public life, to — I hang out with a lot of climate activists, and there’s this profound love they have for the natural world…
MS. SOLNIT: ...for the future, for justice, and that really shapes lives and gives them tremendous meaning. And it benefits all of us that they have this, and that this motivates them, because they’re acting on behalf of all of us. And we should call that love. And we should look at it ...
MS. TIPPETT: And it’s a passionate love, right? It’s a passionate love.
MS. SOLNIT: Absolutely. It’s just — it’s ferocious, and it’s protective the way that mother love can be, and if anything’s going to save the planet, it’s that love. But mostly we don’t even acknowledge that it exists. And so we have these blank spots on the map of who we are. And I want to try and fill those in and encourage people to go there to recognize that actually their lives can take place or are already taking place there. And that this will give them this bigger sense of self.
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah. So, a lot of the themes that run through your work, the things you care about — I want to say they’re kind of outliers in terms of what we know how to talk about in public. Certainly in intellectual circles, right? And so, maybe, let’s talk about hope, because I think hope is one of those.
MS. SOLNIT: I can talk about hope until the, I think, the cows come home, but ...
MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Well, I just — yeah, I want to start — I mean somewhere you write that your fascination with this, maybe you began to articulate your fascination with this when you registered your emotions and the emotions of others in response to the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. And my sense is that what you — how you responded and how you saw others respond, was not perhaps what you would have expected.
MS. SOLNIT: The amazing thing about the 1989 earthquake — it was an earthquake as big as the kind that killed thousands of people in places like Turkey and Mexico City, and things like that, but partly, because we have good infrastructure, about 50 people died, a number of people lost their homes, everybody was shaken up. But what was so interesting for me was that people seemed to kind of love what was going on.
And when I’d ask people — or when it would come up in conversation, because for years afterwards around here, people would be like, “Oh, where were you at 5:02? or is it 5:03, P.M. on October 17, 1989?” And people would get this expression that I later ran into when I visited Halifax, Nova Scotia after a big hurricane there, when I talked, and then eventually I did a whole book, on this mysterious emotion. People would light up, and everything we’ve been told about disaster by trashy Hollywood disaster movies with Charlton Heston and Tom Cruise, everything about the news is that human beings are fragile, disasters are terrible, and we’re either terrified, because we’re fragile, or our morality is also fragile and we revert to our best-deal savage, social, Darwinist, Hobbesian nature, and go out raping and looting. Those myths became a secondary disaster, worse than the hurricane that hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, because that’s why it was — the city was shut off, turned into a prison city, why the police were shooting black people in the back, why people were not allowed to evacuate, and supplies were not allowed in while people were dying of exposure, and lack of medication, and et cetera.
So that was part of where I got hopeful. And then also, in a larger sense, one of the things I’m really interested in is what are the stories we tell and what are their consequences, and are there other ways of telling, other ways — other stories that don’t get told? And hopefulness is really, for me, is not optimism, that everything’s going to be fine and we can just sit back. And that’s too much like pessimism, which is that everything’s going to suck and we can just sit back. Hope, for me, just means a Buddhist sense of uncertainty, of coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen, and that there’s maybe room for us to intervene. And that we have to let go of the certainty people seem to love more than hope, and know that we don’t know what’s going to happen. And we live in a very surprising world where nobody anticipated the way the Berlin Wall would fall or the Arab Spring would rise up. The impact of Occupy Wall Street, Obama was unelectable six months before he was elected.
MS. TIPPETT: But I wonder as you just described that just then, I mean, what you said, in those moments of disaster, of crisis, we come face to face with the reality that unexpected things will happen. As you said, that life is surprising in good ways and bad. That’s just true, but is there something life-giving, even energizing, about people actually having to face those bedrock realities in those moments?
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. And there’s a way a disaster throws people into the present and sort of gives them this supersaturated immediacy that also includes a deep sense of connection. It’s as though in some violent gift you’ve been given a kind of spiritual awakening where you’re close to mortality in a way that makes you feel more alive, you’re deeply in the present, and can let go of past and future, and your personal narrative, in some ways. You have shared an experience with everyone around you, and you often find very direct, but also metaphysical senses of connection to the people you suddenly have something in common with. And then oftentimes, the people who do the really important work in disasters, which doesn’t get talked about much, are the neighbors. Who’s going to rescue you when your building collapses? When the ice storm comes and the power goes out? It’s probably going to be the neighbors. And so the question is really like two things. One is how can we get there without going through a disaster, and ...
MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] That’s right. That’s the question, isn’t it?
MS. SOLNIT: And I think of that as kind of this funny way the earthquake shakes you awake, and then that’s sort of the big spiritual question. How do you stay awake? How do you stay in that deeper consciousness of that present-mindedness, that sense of non-separation, and compassion, and engagement, and courage, which is also a big part of it, and generosity. People are not selfish and greedy. So and then the other question is why has everything we’ve ever been told about human nature misled us about what happens in these moments? And what happens if we acknowledge, as I think people in the kind of work that neuropsychologists and the Dalai Lama’s research projects and economists are beginning to say, like, what if human — everything we’ve been told about human nature is wrong, and we’re actually very generous, communitarian, altruistic beings who are distorted by the system we’re in, but not made happy by it? What if we can actually be better people in a better world?
[music: “Third” by Hiatus]
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today with writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit.
MS. TIPPETT: A story I have always loved that, to me, Dorothy Day, I just feel, gets quoted all the time, more and more. I mean, she’s — somehow she’s really come to the forefront of consciousness. And you do write about in your book A Paradise Built in Hell, which I loved so much. You write about the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906, which killed 3,000 people and annihilated the center of the city, as you say, and shattered this hundred-mile stretch.
But Dorothy Day was in Oakland, she’s eight years old, she watches this thing that, in some place you describe as, you say, yes, people fall apart, but in disaster, there’s also this falling together that we don’t chronicle. And she — the questions she asked was, she saw, to me — this is me looking at this — she saw that people were capable of this, that all along, they knew how to do this, right? To take...
MS. SOLNIT: Exactly.
MS. TIPPETT: of each other. And she said...
MS. TIPPETT: …“Why can’t we live this way all the time?”
MS. SOLNIT: No, that is her formative experience. She said while the disaster lasted, people loved one another. And Dorothy Day is such a key figure for that book, both because the earthquake becomes a spiritual awakening and kind of the template for what she pursues in her life, and because she’s somebody who had a partner and a child, and she kept the child, but she gave up family life for this larger sense of community she pursued as the founder of Catholic Worker.
And she treated poverty as the disaster in which she would create this kind of communitas, this deeper, broader, higher, more spiritual sense of community than private life had offered her. And she’s so interesting as somebody who renounces it directly and connects this other sense so directly to disaster.
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, and you talk about, in all the places you looked, and in your own circle as you were in that disaster, there’s virtue that arises, and that there’s a joy, there’s a hope and a joy, and I was thinking about that phrase of hers, “the duty of delight.” Right? So it’s not — so yes, there’s — she makes sacrifices that seem — that would seem extreme in the context of most of our lives. But that joy was also something she claimed and hung onto.
MS. SOLNIT: Joy is such an interesting term, because we hear constantly about happiness, “Are you happy?” And it’s — emotions are mutable, and this notion that happiness should be a steady state seems destined to make people miserable. And joy is so much more interesting, because I think we’re much more aware that, it’s like the light at sunrise, or the lightning or something that is epiphanies in moments and raptures, and that it’s not supposed to be a steady state, and that’s OK. And I think it’s a word that comes up a lot more in spiritual life than happiness...
MS. TIPPETT: Absolutely. Yeah.
MS. SOLNIT: ...that millstone happiness. Yeah.
MS. TIPPETT: You draw a connection often between, I would say, the reasonableness of hope and the reality of darkness. Would you say something about that?
MS. SOLNIT: Well, I really wanted to rescue darkness from the pejoratives, because it’s also associated with dark-skinned people, and those pejoratives often become racial in ways that I find problematic. So I wrote a book called Hope in the Dark about hope where the — where that darkness was the future, that the present and past are daylight, and the future is night. But in that darkness is a kind of mysterious, erotic, enveloping sense of possibility and communion. Love is made in the dark as often as not. And then to recognize that unknowability as fertile, as rich as the womb rather than the tomb in some sense... ...and so much for me of hope is not, as I was saying, not optimism that everything will be fine, but that we don’t know what will happen. A guest of yours last year, whose name I’m going to mispronounce, Walter Brueggemann?
MS. TIPPETT: Yes. Yes. Theologian of the prophets. Yeah.
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. We’re putting out a new edition of Hope in the Dark, and I listened to his interview and he talked about how much hope is grounded in memory and I was so excited to hear someone say that. We think of hope as looking forward, but memory lets us know if we have a real memory that we don’t — we didn’t know the Berlin Wall was going to fall, and the Soviet Union was going to fall apart. And the binary arrangement, those of us who are older grew up and where it seemed like capitalism and communism…
MS. SOLNIT: ...and the Cold War standoff was going to last for centuries. If you study history deeply, you realize that, to quote Patti Smith, “people have the power,” that popular power, civil society, has been tremendously powerful and has changed the world again, and again, and again. That we’re not powerless. That things are very unpredictable, and that people have often taken on things that seemed hopeless — freeing the slaves, getting women the vote — and achieved those things.
And I feel so much of what we’re burdened by is bad stories, both people who have amnesia who don’t remember that the present was constructed by certain forces to serve certain elements, and can be deconstructed in that things could be very different, that they have been very different, that things are always changing. And that we have agency in that change. And one of the simple examples I often go back to is that when you and I were small, to be gay or lesbian or otherwise, something other than standard heterosexual, was to be considered mentally ill, or criminal, or both. And punished accordingly. And to go from there to national same-sex marriage rights is an unimaginable journey. It’s — and that’s a lot of what my hopeful stuff is about, is trying to look at the immeasurable, incalculable, indirect, roundabout way that things matter.
My friend David Graber has a wonderful passage about how the Russian revolution succeeded, but not really in Russia. It terrified, or at least motivated, leaders in Europe and North America and elsewhere to make enormous concessions to the rights of poor and workers, and really furthered economic justice in other places. And if you can say that a revolution was successful but not in the country it took place in, then you can start to trace these indirect impacts.
[music: “Oobleck” by Kaki King]
MS. TIPPETT: You can listen again and share this conversation with Rebecca Solnit through our website, I’m Krista Tippett. On Being continues in a moment.
On Being is supported in part by Penguin Press, publishers of the New York Times bestselling book by Krista Tippett Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living. Maria Popova hails Becoming Wise as, “A tremendously vitalizing read. Touching on every significant aspect of human life with great gentleness and a firm grasp of human goodness.” Available now, wherever books are sold.
[music: “Oobleck” by Kaki King]
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today I’m with Rebecca Solnit. Her writing celebrates the unpredictable and incalculable events that so often redeem our lives, both solitary and public.
MS. TIPPETT: You have this wonderful sentence that “History is like the weather, not like checkers.” Do you — you talk about, here’s another. “Sometimes cause and effect are centuries apart, sometimes Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice is so long, if you see its curve, sometimes hope lies not in the looking forward, but backward, to study the line of that arc.” It’s an un-American way of thinking, but it’s an essential way, I think, to inhabit this century in particular.
MS. SOLNIT: And there used to be products advertised in comic books and things, instant results guaranteed or your money back. If disappointment is your goal, that’s a sure-fire recipe for it. And for example, Occupy Wall Street was pronounced a failure before it had really gotten going, and et cetera. And, at one point there were Occupies in New Zealand, and Japan, and Europe. And in California alone, there were about 400 Occupies at the peak in late 2011. And they dispersed as these encampments in people — in which people had these extraordinary dialogues. The impact of those dialogues is hard to measure. But you can look at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as and in Bill de Blasio of New — the mayor of New York as people who are kind of carrying those frameworks into the mainstream. And into electoral politics. And you can also look at both national things, the movement against punitive student debt and …
MS. TIPPETT: I mean, so let me ask you this. I very much appreciated your writing about Hurricane Katrina and the world after Hurricane Katrina — and this is one of these places where we’ve told the story in a certain way, and we — and even from the very beginning the story was narrated and presented in a way that was largely just incredibly demoralizing. If you met someone, say a Martian, who [laughs] who was not here and had never heard of this. How would you tell — start to tell the fullness of that story? Of Hurricane Katrina, what happened to this city called New Orleans — and how that history is still being made now?
MS. SOLNIT: I should say that all my work on disaster draws from these wonderful disaster sociologists who had this — do this incredible work documenting what happens in disasters, and have since World War II. You — I’m kind of their popularize and people like Kathleen Tierney and — but, and they say there’s no such thing as a natural disaster, meaning that in an earthquake, it’s buildings that fall on you. So what are the building codes? Who lives in substandard housing? Who lives on the floodplain? Who gets evacuated? Who gets left behind? What happened to New Orleans is that the levees failed, about 7/8 of the city flooded, meaning that a lot of it was from a few feet to 15 feet or more deep in water. And just all systems failed. And some hospitals were able to run on generators. There was a supposedly — there what was called a mandatory evacuation, but people who didn’t have the resources to evacuate were left behind to face what happened. So that’s the set-up for that creates a disaster.
And in Cuba, when there’s a mandatory evacuation, everybody receives the assistance they need to evacuate, so it’s our kind of laissez-faire, every-man-for-himself system, that left what were often portrayed as “the criminal element” was a lot of poor women, single moms with kids, a lot of elderly people, and a lot of the guys who got portrayed as gangsters and things were the wonderful rescuers and these really able-bodied young guys who did amazing things. Then things happen like they basically get sealed off. You can walk out of the central city to dry land, but the sheriff of a suburb called Gretna and his thugs get on the bridge with guns and turn people back at gunpoint. You cannot walk out of New Orleans to dry land. So you’re trapped — you’re a prisoner essentially.
MS. TIPPETT: And that was because of the narrative they were working off, in terms of who these people were?
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. Well, the — all the clich├ęs and — that surfaced in the 1906 earthquake, all the crap about human nature, about how we all revert, especially poor people, especially non-white people, how we revert to our savage social-Darwinist nature were aired. And the mainstream media, and this includes the New York Times, and the Washington Post, and CNN, and The Guardian, all the major news outlets. It wasn’t — were the unindicted co-conspirators, I always say. They start publishing all this garbage about how there’s mass killings in the Superdome, and that was just believed so much that the Federal Emergency Management Agency sends a gigantic tractor trailer refrigerated truck to get what turns out to be six bodies, not the 200 that are supposed to be there. There’s all these stories that people are shooting at helicopters so you can’t have helicopter rescues.
And so they mount a campaign not to treat suffering human beings and bring them resources, but to reconquer the city. Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana said we have troops fresh from Iraq and they have M16s that are locked and loaded... ...and they know how to use them. It was — that is not a humanitarian effort. M16s are not how you help that grandmother dying on the roof. And those grand — some of those grandmothers died. And so, people were not a victim of a hurricane. They were a victim of vicious stories, of the media’s failures, of the failures of the government on every scale from the city of New Orleans that left prisoners locked in flooded jails, to the federal government.
And so that’s political failures. But behind those politics are stories. And what’s interesting is that a lot of people believe those stories. And we often treat stories like they’re very trivial, they’re story hour for kids or that — but people live and die by stories. And people died of vicious stories in New Orleans. And everybody could have been evacuated in 24 hours. Everybody could have been evacuated beforehand.
MS. TIPPETT: Well, and stories you also tell that we don’t hear, which were life-giving, that in the immediate aftermath more than 200,000 people invite displaced strangers into their homes through, which I never heard about. That the massive number of people who went to New Orleans, went to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild, that was the freedom summer in Mississippi magnified a thousand-fold. So there’s also that taking place, and those lives one at a time.
MS. SOLNIT: And there was — from the very minute it all began, there was tremendous altruism. The first round of rescuers were people who were themselves inside the city who got boats, or did other things to rescue people who came together in buildings that weren’t damaged and formed little communities, and took care of the vulnerable. But there are these extraordinary stories, and people really — that impulse to help is so powerful. And they talk — they call it disaster convergence, and it often becomes a problem where you have — you remember after 9/11, people lined up around the block. Like half the country to give blood. People really want to help, and that’s who we are. And New Orleans, for years afterwards, had all these people, church groups, and I saw amazing Mennonite builders rebuilding houses, and Habitat for Humanity. And I kind of loved it. It was a whole spectrum from Catholic charities, to the Mennonites, to pretty radical anarchists, and people working with Common Ground, which was in some ways founded by the Black Panthers and young white supporters and became a project that did a lot of different things, and not all of it worked out perfectly, but some of it was amazing. And it became really a part of the conversation.
But they founded the first really good clinic for people who needed emergency care, who needed their diabetes medicine, or their tetanus shot, or their wound disinfected. And that split off into Common Ground clinic, which is still going strong more than 10 years later. And that’s the kind of indirect consequences that I find so interesting to trace, is that here’s something that came out of Katrina that’s still helping people every day.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. So, we talked a little while ago about love, and your idea that love has so many other things to do in the world, aside from these silos of loving our families, and loving our children. So if I ask you just what story or people come to mind if you think about the word “love” as a practical, muscular, public thing in New Orleans ten years after Hurricane Katrina, what comes to mind for you?
MS. SOLNIT: In so many things, it’s a really magical place — people have deep connections in New Orleans. I would try to explain that people in New Orleans and Katrina lost things that most of us hadn’t had for generations. A lot of people lived in a neighborhood where they knew hundreds of people. They knew everybody who lived near them.
They might have extended family. They might be like Fats Domino who was born in a house in the Lower Ninth Ward, delivered by his grandmother. People live in their grandparents’ houses. They have these deep roots and wide branches. And they engage in public celebration. They talk to strangers. And they — it’s a deeply Dionysian place, with the second line parades all... ...40-something Sundays a year, not just carnival, not just Mardi Gras. And it’s a profoundly spiritual place. So all these things are part of the place and so they’re already really rich. But a lot of people after Katrina felt, OK, we really have to engage to keep this place alive. And there’s a real rise in civic engagement and a number of institutions around justice and policing were reformed.
The police were actually taken over by the federal government because it was the most corrupt and incompetent police department in the United States. They got a semi-decent mayor for a change, after a lot of corruption, particularly from Ray Nagin, who went to jail for it — the mayor during and after Katrina. And people really started to dream big about, OK, here we are on the fastest eroding coastline in the world, in a city that’s partly below sea level, in an era of climate change, increasing storms, and rising waters. How do we adapt?
And people are having this really exciting conversation about rethinking the city, and how water works in the city, building systems of survival. And again, this is like all disasters — the storm was horrible, it killed about 1,800 people, it displaced a lot of black people who were never able to come back. And impacted the continuity and mental health of the community. But it did create this engagement and this really creative planning of the future. And New Orleans might have just continued its gentle decline without Katrina.
MS. TIPPETT: Right. And it’s kind of an incubator now, isn’t it? Kind of a ...
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of the young people, these young idealists who moved there, fell in love with the place and stayed. And it’s complicated. Some of them are the white kids who are gentrifying traditionally black neighborhoods. But they’re also — some — they’re not all white, and they are people who are bringing a passion for urban planning, community gardens — for thinking about these social and ecological systems. And the place is very energized right now in new ways, and it has retained quite a lot, if not all, of the energy it had before.
[music: “Fire Once Again” by Washboard Chaz Blues Trio]
MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett and this is On Being. Today with writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit.
MS. TIPPETT: It seems to me that story of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina becomes just an extreme example of a larger reality you see. And so here’s something you wrote where it’s so beautifully stated, and in fact, each one of us individually if we stopped to take it apart, has a story of a million events or actions or people without which we would not be. And you wrote, “Trace it far enough, and this very moment in your life becomes a rare species, the result of a strange evolution. A butterfly that should already be extinct and survives by the inexplicabilities we call coincidence.”
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. And it’s also about the unpredictability of our lives. And that ground for hope I talk about that we don’t know what forces are at work, what — who and what is going to appear. What thing we may not have even noticed, or may have discounted that will become a tremendous force in our lives. People in this culture love certainty so much. And they seem to love certainty more than hope. And — which is why they often seize on these really kind of bitter, despondent narratives that are they know exactly what’s going to happen, that the tar sand pipeline is going to pass, and there’s no way that all this rabble of activists in places like Nebraska are going to stop this tremendously powerful fossil fuel pipeline and upend the oil industry.
And and that certainty just seems so tragic to me, being — and of course, we did stop the tar sands pipeline, because for six years, people, even when it was thought to be a lost cause and ridiculous and unlikely, kept pushing. So yeah, so tracing those things — I want people to tell more complex stories and to acknowledge these players who aren’t in the limelight. That sometimes we win, and that there are these openings, but an opening is just an opening. You have to go through it and make something happen. And you don’t always win, but if you try, you don’t always lose.
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, you don’t always win, but I think, I come back to your idea that history is like, and in fact our lives, are like the weather, not like checkers. So, your point, which actually is — I would say is the kind of complexity that I think theology at its best imposes — that you walk through the openings and perhaps you don’t win that battle, or you don’t see the result you’d hoped for, perhaps you outright lose, but the way — the complex way you’re wanting to tell the stories of reality and of our lives is that whatever we do, there are always consequences that we don’t control, and can’t see, and can’t calculate, but they matter. They count.
MS. SOLNIT: The guy I’m involved with loves to say, and I’m getting — it’s from Foucault, and I’m getting it wrong, that “We know what we do, we know why we do it, but we don’t know what we do does.” And I love that sense that, we don’t know consequences. We can learn and surmise, and a lot of what matters is indirect and nonlinear, and it’s like even checkers seems too sophisticated and complex for the metaphor. I used bowling, where people are — either we knocked all the pins down with this bowling ball, or we had a gutter ball and nothing happened. And it’s — my wonderful environmentalist friend, Chip Ward, likes to talk about the “tyranny of the quantifiable.” And I’ve been using that phrase of his for about 15 years and it is a kind of tyranny. And I think — and it does get mystical where you have to look at what’s not quantifiable. Martin Luther King is assassinated in 1968. A comic book about how civil disobedience works out was distributed during the Civil Rights Movement, gets translated into Arabic, and distributed in Egypt, and becomes one of the immeasurable forces that help feed the Arab Spring, which is five years old right now. And most of it doesn’t look that good, but they did overthrow a bunch of regimes. And the French Revolution didn’t really look very good five years out.
MS. TIPPETT: Oh, I know.
MS. SOLNIT: I was saying the other day. And...
MS. TIPPETT: It’s so important that you point that out, that we — and also our revolution. I mean these things are messy, and they take generations. And we forget that. And we’re already calling it as a loss and it’s absurd, really. It’s absurd.
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah, and I think that there are really good points to be made that, for example, that overthrowing a dictator is nice, but you need democratic institutions. In Egypt, for example, the military was a power that didn’t go away and you need to not just have that amazing moment in the streets, and that rupture, but you need to have an ongoing engagement with transforming the system and making it accountable. But what happened mattered nevertheless, and I think for people — many people in the Middle East, just the sense that, it’s not inevitable that we live in authoritarianism. We’re not powerless. And I think of Alexander Dubcek, the hero of the Prague Spring of 1968, which was quashed, playing a role in the 1989 revolution...
MS. SOLNIT: ...that liberated that country.
MS. TIPPETT: That’s so true. Yeah.
MS. SOLNIT: And I want better metaphors. I want better stories. I want more openness. I want better questions. All these things feel like they give us tools that are a little more commensurate with the amazing possibilities and the terrible realities that we face. And, what we get given so often are just these kind of clumsy, inadequate tools — they don’t help. They don’t open things up. They don’t shed light. They don’t lead us to interesting places. They don’t let us know how powerful we can be. They don’t help us ask the questions that really matter. And that start with rejecting the narratives we’re told, and telling our own stories, becoming the storyteller rather than the person who’s told what to do.
[music: “Hopefulness” by Miaou]
MS. TIPPETT: I’m very much kind of a comrade in your reverence for something called public life. And, which I think we’ve narrowly equated with political life in recent generations, but kind of opening that language up more. You’ve said public life enlarges you, gives you purpose and context. I want to come to this idea that [laughs] maybe this is — this analogy is more apt I think. I mean, we’re in the middle of this presidential election year, which is so confusing, messy. But — and there’s a lot of anger in the room. And where am I going with this? You I don’t want to compare it to a natural disaster, but you said [laughs] I think I am in my mind. [laughs]
MS. SOLNIT: Oh, go, do it. [laughs]
MS. TIPPETT: ...but you said like in the middle of a natural disaster, there’s this joy that rises up. So, on the one hand, we have this spectacle of, I think, let’s just say I think I can safely say this. A presidential election is — which is not what any of us — how any of us would want it to be, perhaps. But tell me where are you taking joy in public life right now? And that might have nothing to do with politics.
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah, I totally agree. We need a broader sense of public life, that it’s a sense of belonging to a place by which I mean the physical place, the trees, the birds, the weather. The coastline, or the...
MS. TIPPETT: The people.
MS. SOLNIT: ...the hills or the farms, as well as the people and the institutions. And it’s one of the reasons I love New Orleans. People really engage with each other as in every day. And where sometimes living in the Bay Area, it feels like I’m in a zombie movie. Everybody’s walking around in a trance, staring at their phone. And nobody’s in the private world your phone opens onto. And but it’s funny, kind of the way you describe it, because I think there’s a kind of self-forgetfulness and a sense of having something in common that brings that joy when it comes in disaster. And of course the presidential election is the exact opposite. It’s partisanship and this sort of deep attachment to “I’m right and you’re wrong.” And the squabbling.
Ms. Tippet: But, so put that aside, because I think that’s not very joyful for you or me. But where are you finding joy in public life right now? Where do you want to look in terms of the larger narrative of who we are, and what we’re capable of, and what this moment — you often talk about — you say, “Whenever I look around me, I wonder what old things are about to bear fruit, what seemingly solid institutions might soon rupture, and what seeds we might now be planting, whose harvest will come at some unpredictable moment in the future.” So where are you looking right now with intrigue?
MS. SOLNIT: The climate movement, which was this kind of embryonic, ineffectual thing ten years ago and I was in Paris for the climate conference... ...and it’s global, it’s powerful, it’s brilliant, it’s innovative. And remarkable things are happening and real transformations. And ten years ago, we didn’t even have the energy options. We didn’t really have good alternatives to fossil fuel the way we do now, as Scotland hedged towards 100 percent fossil-free energy generation. All these remarkable things happen. So we’re really in an energy revolution that’s an evolution of — a revolution of consciousness about how things work, and how connected they all are. And that has a kind of profound beauty, not only in only some of the individuals I’m friends with who are doing great things — but a kind of beauty of creativity, of passion, of real love for the vulnerable populations at stake... ...for the world, the natural world. For the sense of systems in order — the natural order of the weather patterns, sea levels, things like winter. And ...
MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Yeah, things like winter. Yeah ...
MS. SOLNIT: Yeah. Yeah. Winter as it used — winter and spring as it used to be, where the bird migrations happened in coordination with these flowers blooming, and these insects hatching, et cetera. And what we recognize when we address climate change is this infinite complexity that has a beautiful kind of order to it. And it’s falling... ...into disorder. And so I — the love, the intelligence, the passion, the creativity of that movement, there’s one — and there’s many other things I could say, but right now that’s just so exciting. And it’s negotiating. It’s negotiating. And this is what hope is about for me. It’s not saying “Oh, we can pretend that everything’s going to be fine, and we’ll fix it all, and it’ll be as though it never happened.” It’s really saying, the difference between the best-case scenario, and the worst case-scenario is where these people in Philippines survive. Where these people in the Arctic are able to keep something of their way of life, and we’re going to do everything we can to fight for the best case rather than the worst case. Without illusions, without thinking that we’re going to make it all magically OK, and like it never happened. And so that tough-mindedness is also really beautiful, that pragmatic idealism.
MS. TIPPETT: That tough-minded hope.
MS. SOLNIT: Exactly.
MS. TIPPETT: I think you’d give it that word.
MS. SOLNIT: And hope is tough. It’s tougher to be uncertain than certain. It’s tougher to take chances than to be safe. And so hope is often seen as weakness, because it’s vulnerable, but it takes strength to enter into that vulnerability of being open to the possibilities. And I’m interested in what gives people that strength. And, what stories, what questions, what memories, what conversations, what senses of themselves and the world around them.
MS. TIPPETT: Mm. We’ve run — well, we’re just over about a minute. I just want to ask you one last question.
MS. TIPPETT: It’s a huge question. But just where would you start thinking about this, how is your sense of what it means to be human evolving right now as you write and as we speak? What contours is that taking on that perhaps you wouldn’t have expected ten years ago or when you were 15 and miserable? [laughs]
MS. SOLNIT: [laughs] Yeah. I was a really isolated kid, and my brothers teased me when I did girl things, so I wasn’t very good at girl things. So I wasn’t very good at connecting to other girls.
And I was just the weird kid with her nose in a book. And stuff. I have really wonderful people around me, really deep connections. And that’s incredibly satisfying. And it’s all kind of amazing. I think a lot of us wish you could send postcards to your miserable teenaged self. I always thought that “It Gets Better” campaign for queer kids, should be broadened, because it gets better for a lot of us.
My mother in her ever un-encouraging way when I won some big prize said, “This is all such a surprise. You were just a mousy little thing.” [laughs] But it is kind of a surprise. And it’s very — and it’s like to have this ability to participate and really kind of maybe be helpful to other people, to do really meaningful work. It’s all just this kind of astonishment.
[music: “Narghile” by Randall]
MS. TIPPETT: Rebecca Solnit is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a regular writer for publications including The Guardian, and The London Review of Books. She is the author of 17 books including A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster and a new version of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.
We’re excited to announce the launch of two new short-form podcasts here from the On Being studios. The next Becoming Wise episode with Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein is a great complement to this show with Rebecca Solnit. And the just-launched first season ofCreating Our Own Lives - C.O.O.L. for short — is about running as a spiritual practice. FindBecoming Wise and COOL wherever you get your podcasts.
[music: “Thule” by the Album Leaf]
On Being is Trent Gilliss, Chris Heagle, Lily Percy, Mariah Helgeson, Maia Tarrell, Annie Parsons, Marie Sambilay, Tess Montgomery, Aseel Zahran, Bethanie Kloecker, and Selena Carlson.
Our major funding partners are:
The Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide at
The Fetzer Institute, helping to build a spiritual foundation for a loving world. Find them at
Kalliopeia Foundation, contributing to organizations that weave reverence, reciprocity, and resilience into the fabric of modern life.
The Henry Luce Foundation, in support of Public Theology Reimagined.
And the Osprey Foundation, a catalyst for empowered, healthy, and fulfilled lives.

This interview originally appeared in On Being, and is reprinted with permission. Krista Tippett is the host of the award-winning show 'On Being'. 

Quote Bulletin

If you have a dream and don't work at it, what good is the dream?
Rita Simo
Search by keyword: Happiness,WisdomWorkScienceTechnology,MeditationJoyLoveSuccess,EducationRelationshipsLife
Contribute To   
Upcoming Stories      

Subscribe to DailyGood

We've sent daily emails for over 16 years, without any ads. Join a community of 169,772 by entering your email below.
  • Email: