For our granddaughter Madeleine's fourth birthday, my husband gave her a Sound of Music DVD. She was pleased enough, but when we sat down to watch the gift, a conflict arose. Madeleine insisted on Star Wars instead, with us. Since we most definitely did not want to watch Star Wars ourselves, I dusted off my mediator skills to determine why Madeleine was going to the mat for Star Wars. The answer? Darth Vader, a major league bad guy.
Ah. Easy to solve. We had convinced Madeleine that Sound of Music was a happy, singing, dancing love fest when she is currently fascinated with monsters of all stripes. When I explained that Sound of Music actually has some of the worst bad guys in history -- real ones, led by the evil monster Hitler -- Madeleine was satisfied. She changed into a princess costume, and we settled in for an afternoon of nuns and Nazis.
With that set-up, I found Sound of Music to be very disturbing. It was unsettling to watch the characters on screen -- based on real people -- go blithely about their lovely lives with picnics, puppet shows, and a gala ball despite the fact that their country was about to be devastated. So much suffering was just around the corner, yet no one seemed to know or care, except the Captain. Even he, though, was largely absorbed in his own life.
The problem is, that's more or less where we are right now -- singing, falling in love, and having parties while the climate change monster is on our very doorstep, at best. In many places, the ravages of climate change have already barged right through the front hall with never-before-imagined fires, droughts, super storms, and crazy temperatures.
Life where I live often seems normal, but it isn't -- and it isn't normal where you are, either. Metaphorically speaking, the telegraph boy singing to our daughter in the garden is a Nazi. Peril is upon us. Beating back this monster will take a great deal more than the Captain's defiant yanking down of the Swastika flag hanging from his villa. We have to rise up and take creative, strong, bold, and united action.
Montpelier, Vermont is not as stunning as Salzburg, Austria where the Sound of Music takes place -- but it is heart-breakingly lovely here, especially in spring when the sun returns, the frogs again begin their loud mating rituals, and the Farmer's Market comes back outside. It is hard to appreciate that we are living under the most dire of threats. But we are. We are. We are.
Of course the Sound of Music can only go so far. How many of us actually make play clothes out of draperies? And I by no means wish to imply that all the hard working men and women in the fossil fuels industry are Nazis. We are all complicit in building and maintaining the system.
Here's the good news, the really really good news: the climate justice movement is huge, a worldwide collaboration -- growing in numbers and audacity. From May 4-15, Break Free from Fossil Fuels will burst forth with an unprecedented global wave of mass actions targeting the world's most dangerous fossil fuel projects to keep coal, oil, and gas in the ground and accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable energy.
This tremendous resistance, led by local and international organizations, grassroots groups, and regional coalitions, is aimed at stopping fossil fuel projects with more than a dozen major mobilizations on six continents. Break Free's planned actions are an outstanding illustration of the perseverance and courage of citizen activists all across the planet. Thank god for their willingness to put their bodies on the line to free us all from the unspeakable suffering of climate change!
Equally important, Break Free is working to build a brighter future for all. There are viable solutions. In fact, in his book The Great Disruption, Paul Gilding says creating this better future should be easier than vanquishing the Nazis, once we're all on board.
Sadly, we're still not all on board -- specifically, governments worldwide remain irresponsibly slow to take real climate action. Thus the need for popular resistance. Break Free proponents say we are close to an historic, global shift in our energy system. The way we get there is by peaceful direct action that confronts those who are profiting from climate change and takes power back for the people. This will often mean arrest, and creating situations that inconvenience and/or confuse others.
I know not everyone will applaud those taking part in the Break Free actions. But here's the thing. It is easy now to look back to the time of Sound of Music, and the war that followed, and applaud the disobedience and resistance against the Nazis any and every citizen mustered. Even, wish there had been more. How much more will that be the case in the future, as our grandchildren's children reflect back on our actions? Particularly since none of us can climb over a mountain to reach safety? There is no safety. Resistance is our only hope.
A final note. What does this have to do with happiness? Everything, it has everything to do with happiness. You may have seen the meme floating around the internet proclaiming that "Happiness is an inside job." Sure -- and it is also an outside job. Just how happy do you think the von Trapps were in exile, as they learned their friends and neighbors back in Salzburg were being murdered by the Nazis? As they themselves struggled to build their new life? And what of love and compassion? How happy do you think I feel when I consider the world my beloved Madeleine will grow up to inherit? Oh, yes, and food. Food makes me happy. What if climate change destroys the crops? Etc. Ad nauseum.
I'll wrap up with one more look at the von Trapps. Their love, music, play, resilience, and courage were all excellent coping qualities in extremely hard times. Our challenge is to emulate their strengths as we face the peril of our age. Fine, let's be playful: I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that spring will come again -- besides which you see I have confidence in the climate justice movement! Let's Break Free!