Late Night Thoughts on Love, Loss and the Urgent Need for Action

I had a rough night last night. I went to bed thinking about the April 15 “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse; unfortunately we could not see it here in the Northeast, but we certainly could feel the extra-intense full moon energy these past few days.

At some point in the wee hours I woke up to strong winds battering the house, and peering out the window I could see that our long-awaited springtime had been overrun by Old Man Winter again. Driving snow, accumulating steadily on the ground.

Shit. Yet another manifestation of the new normal of our wrecked climate.

After that I tossed and turned and couldn’t fall back asleep. Eventually, bored with my own churning thoughts, I fired up my tablet and started reading The New York Times in bed. Bad move. The first article that caught my attention was about how hazardous materials, particularly heavy crude and gas from the Bakken Fields in North Dakota, are being sent by rail to ports in the Northeast in exponentially increasing quantities, with virtually no regulatory oversight.

The map below shows the rail lines from North Dakota to the Hudson River, where tankers take the oil up to the refinery at St. John, New Brunswick, on the magnificent Bay of Fundy.

I live just two blocks from a train line, and I see the tanker cars that rumble past twice a day.

The tracks go right through downtown Pittsfield, the largest town in Berkshire County, and they go through many of our most lovely wilderness areas too.

But compared to cities like Albany, where schools are apparently sited right along the railroad tracks, or Philadelphia, which narrowly averted a major hazmat rail accident just recently, we have it good here in the Berkshires.

The point is, we are kidding ourselves if we think that nasty crude oil spills and explosions only happen somewhere else, like Ecuador or Nigeria.

We are kidding ourselves if we try to imagine ourselves as innocent bystanders in the nightmare of industrial devastation of our land, waters and air, and the destruction of our planet’s biospheric life support systems.

If Humans Are So Smart, Why Are We Destroying Our Home?

Surface of Mars

Surface of Mars

Surfing around the web bleakly in the middle of the night, I found myself reading articles speculating about how the dead, dry planet Mars lost its ability to support life.

The most likely scientific guess right now seems to be a catastrophic asteroid hit that changed the climate. Somehow the magnetic field of the planet was damaged, which allowed its atmosphere to literally blow away into space.

On Earth, our undoing will be the result of our own relentless industriousness and intelligence.

Human beings are so smart, we figured out how to split atoms and make atomic explosions! Too bad we haven’t got a clue what to do about the residual radiation and radioactive waste—waste with a half-life measured in the billions of years.

We’re so smart, we figured out how to harness the carbon energy buried deep in the ground in the form of coal, gas and oil. We even figured out how to turn oil into a different kind of substance that’s virtually indestructible—plastic! We just somehow overlooked the fact that we might quickly bury ourselves in plastic garbage, and choke ourselves in exhaust fumes.

We’re the smartest species on Earth. But like the Grinch, it appears that we have one fatal flaw—our hearts are many sizes too small for our outsized minds.

If we were guided by heart energy—that is, LOVE—in the application of our amazing technological abilities, what a very different world it would be.

It’s Time For Those With Loving Hearts to Speak in Many Tongues, Translating Love into Action

If future beings ever look back, shaking their heads at the demise of Homo sapiens on Earth and wondering how this once lush green and blue planet turned dead and brown, I wonder if they will be aware of the anguish of some of us living through these bitter transition times.

Will they know that some of us tossed and turned through the night, seeking futilely for a chink in the armor of the corporate stranglehold on our planet? Will they see that many of us, in these end times, tried to stand up for our values; tried to put into action the love we feel for the living creatures that share our beautiful Earth?

Always, it comes back to the question that keeps me up at night. What can we do to make a difference, now while there’s still time?

For a wordsmith like me, the obvious answer seems to be to learn to speak more tongues.

Since the corporations who are so bound and determined to keep fracking and mining and bulldozing their way to Kingdom Come only understand the language of quarterly profit and loss, this is the way we must speak to them.

The almighty priests of the Bottom Line and their henchmen the politicians could care less about emotional blather of love and respect for life and leaving a livable planet for future generations. So let’s speak to them in terms of losses.

The insurance company guys understand already how irreversible climate change will lead to losses on a Biblical scale. The fossil fuel magnates must also be made to understand that they are driving us all down a rapid road to ruin—and no gates will be high enough to keep the floods, fires and starving displaced populations out. We’re all in this together—rich and poor alike will go down with our sinking Mothership Earth.

To the church-going folks, we can speak the language of moral commitment and social responsibility. This weekend is a holy time in the Jewish and Christian calendars. When we’re thinking about the Resurrection and the miracle of Passover, let’s remember how these ancient holidays celebrate LIFE. For those who are religious, how can you claim to follow the Ten Commandments or the teachings of Jesus and allow the destruction of our planet to proceed unopposed?

To the ordinary folks who are just trying to keep their own lives on track, we must speak in a very pragmatic voice. It’s time to begin to pull together as communities and insist on re-localizing energy production (solar, wind, geothermal) and agricultural production in order to build resilience at the state and town level.

It’s time to insist on regulations that will put the safety of people and environmental ecosystems above the profit margins of corporations, and if the federal government won’t do it, the states and towns must step up.

Lying awake at night worrying and mourning is a poor use of my energy. I want to spend whatever time we have left raising my voice to motivate all of us who care to work tirelessly and passionately on behalf of the voiceless: the trees and the bees, the birds and the whales, the frogs, elephants and farm animals, and especially on behalf of the human children as yet unborn, who may never be born—or may be born into a nightmarish, unlivable world gone mad.

Bulbs contending with snow and temperatures in the 20s on April 16, 2014--western Massachusetts

Bulbs contending with snow and temperatures in the 20s on April 16, 2014–western Massachusetts

Leave a comment


  1. Robert D. Ludden

     /  April 16, 2014

    Best about this essay, Jennifer, is that you keep trying. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  2. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  April 16, 2014

    I really am heartened by what is starting to happen at the local level. For instance, I went to my local Pricechopper supermarket today and not a single plastic bag was to be seen thanks to the local ordinance banning them in my town. So everyone was suddenly packing their groceries into reusable bags, like it was the most normal thing in the world. We CAN change! We just desperately need to be the leaders we’re waiting for, and wait no more!

  3. gardenange

     /  April 16, 2014

    Hi Jen
    It is definitely a crap thing to do to a sad heart – stick your head in all the bleak news through sleepless nights. I do it often!!
    Jill Stein is the leader you yearn for.
    The Australian greens just polled at 27 percent in Western Australia on voter intention, and nationwide the vote is lifting, as we finally realise that our progressive Labor party just can’t rescue us from earth shattering damage. They continue to operate, like the far right, from a platform of fossil-fuel and unethically driven economic growth above all other concerns. Your Democrats are the same, with the one exception that your military will always be resourced, even if it’s a drain on the public purse.
    The Greens reject this model. There’s no economy on a dead planet. They push for transition to renewables, and prioritise ethics. It’s solid economic policy for our times.
    It would be so positive to have you support your Greens, Jen. Please revisit the idea?
    The UK, US and Australian Greens Leaders held an online forum a few days ago, All strong women! (with our impressive, just re-elected Scott Ludlam covering for Christine Milne till she could get there). You might enjoy reading it.
    (I know it’s impolite in some circles to spruik political affiliations – but well, i reckon with the latest IPCC report confirming our destiny, those days are spent.)
    All the best

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 17, 2014

      Thanks for this reminder, Angie, and good to hear from you! Yes, the Greens definitely do share my values. I guess I have just been brainwashed here in the US into believing that the Greens cannot win a national election. The spectacle in the last Presidential election of Jill Stein and her running mate literally kidnapped and sequestered in an undisclosed location (a warehouse) handcuffed to their chairs, to keep them away and out of sight during a candidates’ debate–this was so sickening to me that it made me retreat, mentally & emotionally, from national politics altogether. I believe we’re going to have to work at the local level, and at most by state, to build a system that can survive what’s coming. Maybe the Greens are still the best existing structure for this, but not if they are putting all their energy into the filthy, impossible national politics here in the US. I need to think more about this, clearly, so thanks for the kick in the pants! So glad to hear that from your vantage point the Greens are looking strong.

      • gardenange

         /  April 17, 2014

        Wow, the powerful must be damned worried to go to such disgraceful lengths to shut down the alternative voices!!!
        Jennifer, I do hope you throw your own powerful voice behind either or both of the contenders. Yes, politics is corrupt to the core, but government policy is a huge determinant of the biosphere’s survival, so i think we have to persist, no matter how disgusted we feel.
        Don’t forget, both parties get antsy about voter drift. If the Dems detect a large enough swing away, they will adopt Green policy to win voters back.
        To me, vigorous lobbying for the Greens could serve as an enabler for Obama by stirring up the party machine. Survival comes at any cost – betraying the BIG sponsors is fine if your votes are already assured and you don’t need the cash to roll out a campaign?
        What do you think?
        Take care,

  4. I’m sorry you had to go through a painful, sleepless night to get to it, but this is one of your most powerful posts. Your voice is strong, purposeful, and clear. You’re an inspiration. I’ll do what I can to share your words.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 17, 2014

      Thank you Audrey! The time is now–we really have to get into gear!

  5. I hear you, Jen, in the most profound sense of the word “hear.” And, Ange, I hear you about supporting the Greens. They represent my values also. The fear for so many of us U.S. voters who share those values is that a third party vote takes away a vote from the major political party that seems less destructive than the other one. We are always, it seems, voting the lesser of two evils, instead of going with the third party choice that espouses what we believe in. It is a conundrum in a political world where money plays a major role in whose ideas get heard. Thanks for encouraging us to think about this some more.

    • gardenange

       /  April 28, 2014

      Yes Jan, I understand the risk. You’re trapped.
      If only all you good women could metaphorically hold hands, count “One… Two… Three… JUMP!!!! and give each other the courage to go over together, guaranteed of a critical mass.
      You progressive women of America are the hope of the world.
      All power to you.

      • Well, somehow you just released in me a torrent of tears. I wish we could jump and I am going to try to figure out how to make it happen.
        Thanks for the encouragement. I will try to find that power and live up to being “the hope of the world.”

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