The 1968 photograph showed me standing on the edge of a roadway somewhere in west Texas. I had caught a ride overnight in a semi owned by a friend’s father to visit my parents in Big Spring. The truck driver must have been taken it early that morning. It was summer as I am wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt and my long hair hung straight and the flat landscape seemed to be a dry foreboding of the future yet to come.
The bent and stained photo, randomly appeared on my front porch the morning after returning from Hollywood’s Climate Summit. In the span of a week, I had attended events on both coasts organized by our nation’s most concerned about the Climate crisis we are all experiencing: “practitioners” (men and women in suits) and actors and filmmaking climate activists. Both groups were storytellers. Some with graphs and numbers, the others depicting loved places and impacted life stories.
Who knew in 1968 that we would need people focusing on and dealing with a world-wide crisis threatening life on earth? We were knee-deep in stopping the war in Viet Nam, dissatisfied with our political leaders and experiencing a culture war between generations. Rivers were catching on fire. It took a few years before enough people rallied to hold the first Earth Day and the Government pressured to establish the Environmental Protection Agency and pass both the Clean Water Act AND the Clean Air Act because lots of people understood both air and water are essential to survive and thrive. Since then, pressures on Congress have weakened the protections we thought would be there. So, all these decades later, the water is still not clean, air is not always safe, and what fueled our economy has actually changed the climate.
You all know this. Storms are stronger, more intense. The drought settling in on us will dry up more cattle ponds and crops will fail to be able to provide for us. We deal with man-made floods already with how GRDA manages the Grand Lake levels, but climate driven storms may add to our risk in the future.
At What Point Managed Retreat? Habitability and Mobility in an Era of Climate Change was an event held in New York City’s Harlem at Columbia University and I served on the Climate Induced Human Migration: Engagement and Professional Development for Practitioners and Communities panel. This might never happen to you, but I looked out and lost my place and felt inadequate as I looked at the packed room and wondered what on earth, I would be able to share with this crowd.
The very next day, I traveled to: get this… Hollywood for their Climate Summit! I was to serve on a panel there as well on: The Importance of Intergenerational Climate Advocacy. I was invited because the young Native filmmaker, Loren Waters was accepted as a panelist and I am serving as her mentor. There we were, lined up on the Samuel Goldwyn Theater stage, sitting between twin much larger-than-life golden Oscar statues.
The panel featured Oscar-nominated actor Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once, myself, Tar Creekkeeper, Loren Waters, Filmmaker/Activist, 16 year-old Genesis Butler, Pooja Tivawala, Mimi Kennedy, Actor/Author/Activist.
While we had waited in the “green” room, I looked out from the 7th floor to the actual hills of Beverly Hills. I had been in that neighborhood sixty-five years earlier as a child visiting my mother’s sister Jewel and her husband Dana, who became my son’s namesake. We were living that summer with my dad who was installing microwave towers on the highest accessible sites throughout the western states. Anywhere we stopped it was common for us all to bend and actually kneel by any waterbody, creek or river and scoop up handfuls of refreshing water and drink it. All these years later, I don’t know a soul who could do this with any waterbody in the country, and I wonder about the state of water throughout the world and its quality.
Many of the same sources impacting our water quality have been partners to the companies and processes that has put our earth in peril. All done in a lifetime.
None of us will be on that big screen, but we can all do our part to protect us from our man-made flooding. When asked, do tell your story. Do get on the bus and stand as one with all who want to protect your property and your way of life. Write FERC. Mark your calendars for the 25th Tar Creek Conference and the Picher Project, the musical both coming October 10-12. We will save you a seat.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim