“You have to understand,” said Cherokee elder Stan Rushworth as he sat across the table from me at a downbeat Santa Fe breakfast joint last week. “All this,” he continued with a sweep of his arm that encompassed the café, the high-end boutique selling Native-themed knickknacks next door, the city, the state and indeed the entire country from sea to shining sea, “is occupied territory to us.”
At Stan’s right arm sat my friend Hannah, an artist who moved to Santa Fe from New England 10 years ago. To Stan’s left was Truthout’s climate reporter Dahr Jamail, who was in town to deliver a lecture on anthropogenic climate disruption for the Lannan Foundation. Stan was there for Dahr. I was there to introduce Dahr at the beginning of the lecture and then get out of the way. Little did I realize how transformative the experience would be, beginning at that table over a plate of huevos rancheros and a cup of coffee.
We were there together because of Dahr’s new book, an essential yet harrowing read titled “The End of Ice.” The lecture he would give that night detailed his long journey around the world to places where climate change is not an argument, but an indubitable, constantly evident fact. From the retreating glaciers of Denali to the methane bombs lurking beneath the permafrost just south of the Arctic Circle to the dying coral of the Great Barrier Reef and beyond, Dahr saw and touched and tasted the climate of this world even as it radically shifted before his eyes.
The Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet, is disappearing at a rate of 1.5 acres per second. You can no longer get a 30-year mortgage in Miami because the ocean is coming, and that city’s freshwater aquifer is in mortal peril. The Great Barrier…