Forward on Climate

On February 17, I attended the largest climate change rally in U.S. history. Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for the Forward on Climate rally and march. I was very excited and honored to travel with a small group of people from Southern Illinois to speak out on behalf of all of the people who couldn't be there. Together with over 40,000 other people from many places and backgrounds, we raised our voices to say no to Keystone XL and yes to action on climate change.

The rally and march were an amazing experience. I've been to a few marches in DC before, so it wasn't an entirely new experience. Even so, something about the far-reaching implications of climate change and the impassioned speeches by climate change activists really made me feel like I was taking part in an important moment in history.

There were several times when I was moved to tears, both while listening to the speakers and while reflecting on the issue during the march. At the end of the day, I felt very excited and satisfied about how many of us had marched together on that day, and very encouraged at the thought of how many more people were back at home cheering us on and calling for action right along with us. In the midst of the day's inspirations and successes, however, I also felt a sobering sense of just how much work we have ahead of us and just how high the stakes are in this struggle.

We are engaged in a struggle for the future of humanity. We are engaged in a struggle for the continued existence of an Earth that is habitable for life as we know it. Yes, life will surely go on in some form regardless of the choices we make today. But if we choose poorly, dramatic shifts in climate will lead to massive droughts, floods, collapses of entire societies, and collapses of the most basic ecological systems that support the many communities of megaflora and megafauna that currently grace this beautiful planet with their presence. The consequences of these societal and climactic instabilities may render the world of a hundred years from now nearly unrecognizeable, and none too pleasant for any humans still around to witness it.

Is this the gift that we want to give to our children and our children's children? Is this how the story of millions of years of co-evolution in an incredibly rich tapestry of biodiversity will end for the majority of species that call this planet home? Do we really want to squander so much for so little when other options are available to us?

Responding to climate change often reminds me of the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. The basic premise is that the Galactic Empire is about to collapse and a group of people start a Foundation to respond to that collapse. They realize that collapse is inevitable, but through their efforts hope to dramatically reduce the incredibly long period of suffering and chaos that will result from the collapse of the Empire.

Given what we know about climate change, I feel like we're in a similar situation. The damage is done; even if we stop 100% of our greenhouse gas emissions today, there will still be dramatic consequences, perhaps even catastrophic consequences,from our past emissions. If we continue on our current course of increasing rather than decreasing fossil fuel use, we will surely encounter catastrophes by the end of this century that will cause tremendous ecological harm and test the stability of societies around the world.

It's easy to look at that picture and get discouraged. But you know what? I'm done being discouraged. There's no point in being discouraged. Human beings are creative, passionate, amazing creatures with tremendous potential to reshape their reality in accordance with their will. Right now, we're all tangled up in a big messy nightmare that's leading us to bing on fossil fuels and go on a destructive rampage that's threatening to render our planet virtually uninhabitable. But on a smaller scale, in the hearts and minds of many individuals, groups, and communities, I have seen wondrous potentials for healing changes that could set all of this right and create an amazing world if only we would let them.

To make a long story short, this trip inspired me. Where there's life, there's hope. So let's stop pretending that we have no power and start acting like we have the power to create a better world. Because we do. Take action to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and do whatever it takes to create a more socially just and environmentally sustinable world.

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First Draft of Change Complete

I am pleased to announce that the first draft of my upcoming novel, Change, is officially complete! I still have some revisions to make prior to publication, but I'm very happy to have a strong first draft in my hands. I'm confident that the revision process will go quickly and smoothly. I've asked several people for feedback on this draft and look forward to hearing their critiques and reviews. In fact, I've already started receiving my first responses!

The new release date for Change is May 8, 2013. In theory, I could still hustle and publish the novel by March 22. However, I'd rather take some extra time to hear back from my reviewers and make my final edits prior to publication. I've chosen this particular date because it's the 4 year anniversary of the Inland Hurricane of 2009. [The Wikipedia article now refers to this event as a "Super Derecho", but I still prefer the term "Inland Hurricane".]

The novel will be published in both print and digital editions. While I'm working on my revisions, I'll also be finalizing all of the details of publication and distribution. I'll post news about this process as it develops. In the meantime, if you know of any bookstores that would be interested in stocking this novel, doing a book signing, etc., let me know.

Thank you to all of my backers for your support! Thank you also to everyone else who has been there for me along the way. Your support has been essential in making this novel a reality — and your continued support during the promotion, publication, and distribution process can also help ensure that this novel is a success. Thank you, and I look forward to sharing Change with you soon!

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Believe in Your Future

The Southern Illinoisan, the largest newspaper serving the Southern Illinois region, recently published an editorial titled "Believe in your future; vote for coal candidates". I believe in my future, and I believe in the future of Southern Illinois. However, I get the impression that the editorial staff of the Southern Illinoisan and I have somewhat different visions of that future.

Different visions are fine. However, the vision presented in this editorial is such a far departure from reality that I felt inspired to reply. Currently, I don't have any sort of public vision statement of my own on the subject. I plan on developing one soon. [Hint: I support Paula Bradshaw for Congress.] In the meantime, I'd like to share my response to the Southern's vision for the future of Southern Illinois (and the nation and the planet).

Here's the one paragraph version:

Our region's economic and cultural heritage was built by the hard work of Southern Illinoisans. When a new energy source called "coal" came along over a hundred years ago, Southern Illinoisans embraced it. Now it's time to show that spirit of hard work and innovation again by embracing the green forms of energy that are booming today. Chasing the ghost of coal will just lead us to miss out on newer jobs with a better future than coal. It will also lead to more of the droughts and other climate disasters that have hit us so hard these past few years. Instead, let's build a better future for ourselves and our children by supporting candidates who embrace green jobs.

And here's the longer version:

I do believe in my future and the future of Southern Illinois. That's why I will never vote for a pro-coal candidate.
 
Our region's economic and cultural heritage wasn't built by coal. It definitely wasn't built by the out-of-state coal companies that Southern Illinois coal miners had to fight against time and time again during the heyday of coal. No, the strength of our economy and our region was built by the hard work and perseverance of Southern Illinois workers. That strength is suffering at the moment, but we can rebuild it again by looking for real opportunities for jobs instead of chasing ghosts of the past
 
When coal came along over a hundred years ago, the people of Southern Illinois embraced it. They didn't say: "Hey, digging rocks out of the earth is strange, and takes a lot of work, so we won't go there." They heard about a new energy source that would provide them with new jobs, and they did the hard work needed to make that energy source a reality.
 
Now it's time to show that spirit of hard work and innovation again. There are new sources of energy available, ones that can create jobs in Southern Illinois and don't require us to destroy our futures in the process. It will take hard work and clear vision to make those jobs a reality, but we can do it.
 
Coal jobs simply aren't an option anymore. As this summer's record-breaking drought indicates, the effects of global warming are getting worse. This summer wasn't an isolated incident. The research shows that there will be more droughts and more unstable weather, and that the greenhouse gases released by human industry are the biggest force driving this change in our climate. Even if you don't believe this to be true, you can rest assured that the people who do believe it will do everything in their power to shut down every coal mine and fossil fuel plant in the country.
 
So instead of chasing after a dying industry, our leaders need to ensure that our research dollars and job creation efforts go into industries that have a future. Coal is not one of those industries. Even this editorial strongly implies that coal will gradually be phased out at some point in the future. Why base our entire region's economy on a dying industry? Renewable energy is experiencing tremendous market growth, as are various other green jobs such as energy efficiency and green agriculture. If we build our economy on these industries, our economy will grow accordingly.
 
So don't listen to people who are chasing the ghosts of the past. Vote for candidates like Paula Bradshaw who embrace green jobs. And don't wait until election day to do something about green jobs either. Do your own reading, ask your own questions, and see what you can do to support shifting Southern Illinois to a green jobs economy today.
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Site Updates for Summer 2012

For the past few months, I've been working on an update to the design and content of my website. Unlike past updates, I decided to make incremental changes to arrive at a completely new look and feel. Now that the major aspects of this update are complete, I'd like to show you some of the features and invite you to help me test the functionality, update the content, and spread the word.                                                                                                       

Here's a summary of some of the changes:

  • Look and Feel: Since much of the site focuses on my work as Real Life Superhero, I decided to go for a bit of a comic book look and feel. I didn't go all out with this idea, but I did use a dot background, square blocks, and black borders as a tribute to the panels and printing style of a comic book.
  • Comments: You can comment on blog entries now by logging in via Facebook. So far, this works fine for me, but I'd like to see some of my Facebook friends test this out and let me know if they encounter any problems.
  • Mission: This talks about my superhero mission, including a personal mission statement and links to my Causes page and other Real Life Superhero sites.
  • Origins: This tells my superhero origin story, including a short version, long version [still under development], poetic version, and the origin of my name, Treesong.
  • Media: This lists references to me in local and regional media sources. There are additional ones I haven't put on here yet, so if you know where I can find links to any of these, feel free to give me a heads up.
  • Heroes: This describes a few of the people who have inspired my own hero's journey. It only has a handful of people so far, but I plan on adding new ones whenever I think of them.
  • Documentary: This features a short documentary about my superhero work by SIU cinema student Chris O'Malley.
  • Radio Show: This links to the website and podcast to Your Community Spirit, the show that I cohost with Aur "Da Energy Mon" on WDBX 91.1 FM in Southern Illinois.
  • Poetry: This is a list of my recent and past poetry. I perform poetry locally at Transpoetic Playground, an open mic that happens once every two weeks at Global Gourmet in Carbondale.
  • Books: This is a list of my published books, including versions available for digital download.
  • Speaking Events: I've only done a few professional public speaking events, but I've done plenty of public speaking and would like to start doing more of it professionally.
  • Consulting: I'd like to start doing some paid consulting work for small to mid-sized non-profits as well as "green" and "socially conscious" businesses. I have over a decade of experience working with such organizations. Much of my work has involved troubleshooting various organizational and strategic problems for cheap or free. I enjoy this work, but in order to make it sustainable, at least some of it needs to be paid work.
  • Blog: You Are Here!
  • Humor: Anyone who knows me personally or listens to my radio show knows that my sense of humor is at least as relentless as my dedication to activist causes. I've started my own collection of funny and thought-provoking images here.
  • Green Tips: This contains a few tips on how to live a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle.
  • Weddings and Handfastings: Not many people know that I'm ordained. I'm available to officiate at a variety of ceremonies, including same-sex marriages, interfaith marriages, and handfastings.
  • Courses: I'm not currently teaching any courses, but this contains information on past courses and will contain information on future courses as it becomes available.
  • Reading List: This is a list of some of my favorite fiction and nonfiction books. As with my Heroes section, this is just a humble start that I will add to over time. I have an account with an independent bookstore in St. Louis called Left Bank Books, so any books that you buy on this page will support an independently owned bookstore as well as my superhero work. If someone could buy a book here and email me about it so I can check and see if the links are working properly, I would appreciate it.
  • Gift Shop: This contains a few fun odds and ends such as Treesong T-shirts, climate change bumper stickers, and more. This is its own website that could probably use its own overhaul, so let me know if you have suggestions for additions or changes to the product selection.

There you have it! If you get a chance to take a tour of all of the new and improved features, let me know what you think. I'm always curious to hear what people think of the site and my work as a Real Life Superhero. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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