It’s the same old story
Tell me where will it end
I got the same old blues, same old blues again
— J.J. Cale
I’m gonna lay down these Doomsayer Blues.
The fourth National Climate Assessment under the U.S. Global Change Research program was released on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend — the traditional burial ground for stories that those in power want to deep six. Read the report — or its executive summary (the full report is huge) — for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Take a look at the yellow vest protests in France; angry people out on the street rioting over higher fuel costs and a generally rising cost of living. Draw your own conclusions.
You don’t need me singing the same old blues again.
The purpose of Running Iron Report is to explore ways to adapt and overcome in a rapidly‐changing world. It’s about holding onto ancient verities. It’s about doing, NOT about merely bitching about a sorry state of affairs. That’s too easy — and it erodes the soul.
Just when it was needed, our correspondent from Austin, Texas, Rick Schwertfeger sent a dispatch with the beautiful words of the grand old curmudgeon Edward Abbey. They punched a cloverleaf through the X‐ring:
“Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast…a part time crusader, a half‐hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizzlies, climb the mountains, bag the peaks. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive.…”
That’s it, isn’t it? I admit I’m a little pissed at myself, having to be reminded of something I fundamentally know, but I’m not singing the Backslider Blues, either.
I’ll simply fall back on some principles articulated by the Dark Mountain Project manifesto:
• We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
• We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
• We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
Take the last point first: Craig and I are working on a podcast series on “The Stories That Shaped Us.” The plan is to offer these as some added value for those of you who want to travel a little further down the trail with us. Prepping for these pieces has really brought home the profound power of Story. No amount of polemic can match the impact of a well‐wrought tale that engages on every level — emotional, intellectual, spiritual. Truly, stories shaped my sense of who I am and how to walk in the world — and I know I’m far from alone in that.
My efforts in the coming months, here and at Frontier Partisans, will be bent toward telling stories that point toward “how we live with it.” I’ll be doing my best to weave a little skein of reality in this corner of the world.
Part of figuring out “how we live with it” comes down to picking what battles we’re going to fight.
It’s important to decide where you draw your lines; where you’ll lay down your sash and drive a lance through it, staked out and shouting “It’s a good day to die!”
For me, those battles are going to have to be local and immediate. The country where Craig and I live is getting settled up at an accelerated rate, and like Aunt Sally’s well‐meaning assault on Huck Finn, they’re trying to sivilize us, and we can’t stand it. We been there before.
Lighting out for the Territory ain’t an option, so we have to make a stand.
But resources are finite; they must be spent wisely and effectively. I am resolved to engage only on issues that directly impact the way of life of me and my people.
We helped stave off Initiative Petition 43 in Oregon, which would have criminalized a whole class of legal firearms owners, including us. I fought a losing battle to keep a local shooting area open and am currently engaged in staving off pressures on another one.
Access to public lands is another ongoing battle worth fighting — and it gets weird and complicated. The Forest Service has announced plans to limit access to local wilderness areas that are being “loved to death.” I have very mixed feelings about this: On one hand, the problem is real: It ain’t a wilderness experience when you’re surrounded by hordes of spandex‐clad yahoos who think it’s all there for them to have a big Instagram shoot.
On the other hand, something deep bridles at being required to seek the king’s leave to walk the country.
So let the robots march, let the Aunt Sally’s attempt their sivilizing mission and let the Grand Old Republic continue its march to… wherever it is headed. We’ll be out here breaking trail, rediscovering old paths, making wrong turns and walking in circles till we figure it out, chasing the ghost of Ed Abbey in the desert, doing our level best to keep our brains in our heads and our heads firmly attached to the body.
It’s a full time job.