Which Side Are You On?

imagesFor the past few nights I have been putting myself to sleep by reading an advance copy of my friend Jan Krause Greene’s new novel, I Call Myself Earth Girl.

It’s not exactly a feel-good bedtime story, dealing as it does with rape, environmental disaster, death and bereavement.

But it’s also about empathy and love, between family members and also on a worldwide scale.

In Greene’s vision, the Earth and its denizens can be saved from catastrophe by mindful attention to what really matters: affirming life, both our own and that of the unborn generations to come.

Not since Starhawk’s 1994 masterpiece The Fifth Sacred Thing have I come across a book that so clearly matches my own waking nightmare of the terrible times that await us in the future, if we do not succeed in changing our ways now.

Let’s face it: it is possible that the kind of violence afflicting resource-starved places like Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia will become the norm in much more of the world, as climate instability creates food shortages and accelerates the pace of natural disasters beyond our capacity to recover.

America is a tinderbox just waiting to go off.  Imagine what would happen if suddenly it was not possible to go down to the supermarket and get your week’s worth of groceries?

Such a scenario is more or less unthinkable to people like me, who have grown up cradled by the richest breadbasket in the world.

We are only beginning to realize the costs that have come with our cornucopia: the destruction of the virgin prairies in the Midwest, the poisoning of the earth, water and air with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides; the grotesque factory farms of livestock and fish; the genetic alteration of seeds; the destruction of local farming by the huge predatory monster of American-style factory farms.

We have grown fat on these practices.  And now it’s time for us to accept responsibility for the outcomes of our heedlessness.

Those of us alive today have the privilege, and the responsibility, of presiding over what could very well be the end times for human civilization.

It’s somewhat analogous to the end times of specific human cultures, like the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the great Chinese dynasties….except that this time, we’re not just talking about the end of a single culture, we’re talking about the demise of humanity as a species.

It is possible to imagine, as Jan Krause Greene did, that our lush green planet could turn brown from environmental disaster, provoking a culture of armed militias surviving by means of ruthless violence—with women, as always, at the bottom of the heap.

Tornado bearing down on Moore, OK; May 21, 2013

Tornado bearing down on Moore, OK; May 21, 2013

It is already happening—just not yet here, in the gated community we call America.

Can we wake up in time to forestall total, worldwide environmental melt-down?

In the past week we had a deadly two-mile-wide tornado in Oklahoma, and the Russian science station in the Arctic Circle had to be evacuated because the ice was melting at an unprecedented rate.

Here in New England we are expecting temperatures in the 30s Farenheit this weekend—way below normal for what should be the start of the growing season.

What’s next?

We don’t know.  But I take heart from local initiatives like the rehabilitation of the long-dormant Great Barrington Fairgrounds into a vibrant community-supported agriculture site.

We are going to have to re-localize agriculture if we want to survive the shocks of the 21st century.  We need to re-imagine not just agriculture, but community along with it.

As I Call Myself Earth Girl shows well, the antidote to violence and fear is love and empathy.

We still have a choice. Which way will you turn?  Which side are you on?  How far will you go to protect the planet and the generations to come?


Leave a comment


  1. Hi Jennifer
    It’s especially horrible when these (probably) climate exacerbated events hit the primary schools. That’s my walking nightmare as a climate survivor with PTSD. The poor little ones of our first world – so unprepared by our schizophrenic mainstream culture. I was especially sorry for your Sandy Hook mothers whose anguish will always inflame when school children are not able to find safety.

    Wish it weren’t so horrible. Thankfully the brain has that way of getting distracted. Sometimes by the loveliness of an autumn day in a thriving food garden- a privilege and a mercy for which I’m grateful.

    It’s a shit being one of those that get it, so I hope your garden/walks and other contact with nature afford you some mental respite too, poignant though it feels these days.


    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 25, 2013

      Yes, it is the garden and the walks in the mountain forests here that are a balm to my spirit these troubled days.

      Good to hear your garden is thriving, Angie! It gives me hope….

  2. leavergirl

     /  May 25, 2013

    I am moving to Earthaven. Time to get out of the mainstream at least. I am not deceiving myself that this move will get me out of Babylon, but it’s a step. For example, I said several years ago that I want to be among those who show respect to the living world by no longer shitting in drinking water. I will finally be doing it. Every little step counts.

    I think among the antidotes to violence and fear is creating social structures that work. That too is the work ecovillages are doing. This is my beginning of walking the walk.

    How far will you go, Jennifer?

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 25, 2013

      This is exciting news, Leavergirl! I hope you will keep a blog-journal of your experience of “leaving Babylon,” to inspire those, like me, who are slower to change. I believe you are making the right decision. I wish I were ready to come along. But so far I remain in my groove…spinning my wheels a bit…trying to get up to “escape velocity” or to be pushed over the edge, whichever comes first.

      • leavergirl

         /  May 25, 2013

        It took me a while too, to get ready to jump. I will definitely blog it. Maybe keep some of my topics going, and alternating them with life at EH, and the skills I will be learning. I don’t think there are enough blogs that describe the nitty gritty of community living. You know me — I won’t be afraid to call it like it is! 😉

  3. RE: “It is possible to imagine, as Jan Krause Greene did, that our lush green planet could turn brown from environmental disaster, provoking a culture of armed militias surviving by means of ruthless violence—with women, as always, at the bottom of the heap.
    It is already happening—just not yet here, in the gated community we call America.”

    I am not sure this is NOT already happening here in a sense, regarding ruthless violence. How can it be that there are more sexual assaults in the U.S.’s “armed militias” this year compared to last year? Has our collective consciousness moved backwards to allow the assaults to increase? How is this in any way acceptable?
    It’s interesting to me that our military is enjoying high esteem, I think, and for most who serve deservedly so. Witness the events taking place this Memorial Day to honor our military, past and present, and yet 26,000 assaults occurred among their ranks this past year. How can I or anyone honor that?
    These books you mention sound like they encourage collective contemplation of earth’s mega-problems, and that is a positive step. Self-examination and empowerment to choose love and empathy and better choices are all good!

  4. Hey Leavergirl – congrats!

    Really impressive decision, to join an intentional community. I’m fascinated, given ICs represent for many the only honest and effective way to distance oneself from inflicting first world harm and for achieving some preparedness.

    I’ll be very grateful to hear your account of life in the community; the good and the difficult and especially insight into strategies that work.

    It’s a big change for an introvert, (something I hope you’ll discuss) so be gentle and forgiving of yourself and others through the transition.

    Hope you find some damned intelligent friends to chew the cud with!

    • leavergirl

       /  May 28, 2013

      Thank you, Angie, for the encouraging words. It’s a difficult transition for me, right now. I appreciate hearing from you. (Moving sucks.)

      • It sure does LG. I hope you have support, that your cats are happily re-homed ( a big ouch for you!!!) and your things look well in your new place. Bless you for having the guts and selflessness to walk our collective talk. Because you are astute, honest and uncompromising in your assessment I reckon you should put your experience and recommendations into a book. Getting community right is essential and we don’t need more corporate group psych about group dynamics to get us there IMO.
        So thanks, and feel appreciated.

  5. Pardon me Jennifer – I should really have said that on Vera’s site…

  6. I have read all of these comments with interest and I hope this conversation continues. this is the sort of discussion I hoped the story would engender. The book is not entirely without hope, and I feel that we who are so concerned about the environment must not be without hope. i think positive change only occurs in the context of hope and love, as opposed to fear and anger.
    I do hope you will read my book and pass it on to others to read, especially to those who are not in our “choir.” I tried to write a story that would grab most readers with its plot and, hopefully, get them to think about things from a different perspective. You can order it on Amazon.com now. It should be out in book shops (if they choose to stock it) by mid to late August.
    LG, I really look forward to reading about your move and your life at Earthaven!

    • Jan, hello, and I will definitely look for your book. I don’t know why my handle is no longer clickable, so my blog, where I will be writing about Earthaven and have written about other communities and related matters, is at leavingbabylon.wordpress.com. Maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂


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