Time To Pull Our Emergency Brake

 

I haven’t written a new blog post for over a year.

And I am amazed to discover — after visiting my stats page — that people have continued to visit my site.

THANK YOU to everyone who nosed around my blog while my creativity was lying fallow for the past thirteen months.

I’m sure exactly how or why I stopped writing new posts.

Partly — because we have created an economy which encourages us to replace and discard things as often as possible — I needed a newer computer, which a friend extraordinarily gave to me at the end of last year!

Partly I lost blogging momentum.

And partly I didn’t feel that I had much to share that would brighten anyone’s day.

ClimateChangeGraphicBut I HAVE continued to write new songs as well as create demos of my songs using Apple’s wonderful GarageBand program.

And I have continued to lead Music Together classes.

And I have continued to offer hour-long programs of music at retirement communities, assisted living homes, senior centers, and public libraries accompanied by pianist Joe Reid or pianist Molly Ruggles.

I started writing the song at the top of this blog post sitting on the porch with my dad and younger sister at a shared family cottage in upstate NY in the summer of 2015.

I was inspired to finish working on it by the youth-led climate march earlier this month.

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had a somewhat unusual childhood.

My mom, siblings, and I spent our summers at my grandmother’s home in Queens, NY (where my mom had grown up) while my dad stayed home in Washington, DC.

A few days each week we’d walk to the end of the block, get on a bus to Flushing, and then ride the #7 train into Manhattan so that we could go on interviews for TV commercials, voice-overs, modeling jobs, plays, and movies.

As I look back, I realize that it was rare for us ever to drive anywhere using a car during these summer months. We just used buses or trains.

Maybe this is why I still like to use public transportation.

When we started out, my older sister was five and I was an infant. Eventually my younger brother and sister were born and joined the process.

willa

This is what I looked like as a small child.

My family became very familiar with the lobbies, elevators, and waiting rooms of many advertising agencies (depicted in the TV series Mad Men) such as Young & Rubicam, Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, and Grey Advertising.

The ratio of interviews to actual jobs was very steep — and in my early years we considered ourselves a success if each one of us managed to film one commercial per summer.

However, the summer before fifth grade I was cast as a standby in a musical which was trying out at the newly-built Kennedy Center.

My parents allowed me to do this partly because we could live at home during the out-of-town preview period (although I would miss the start of fifth grade that fall), partly because most Broadway musicals flop, and partly because it would be exciting to watch Bob Fosse and the rest of his creative team build a new show,

The musical — Pippin — proved to be a hit, and we ended up moving to my grandmother’s house in Queens year round.

This is when my and my siblings’ careers gained a lot of momentum — since we were now able to audition for work year-round.

willc

This is what I looked like as my career gained momentum…

During the next three years I ended up doing many commercials, a couple of made-for-TV movies, another play, and a lot of voice-over work.

Then I entered prep school, and my life as a child performer came to an end.

willd

This is my last professional headshot.

With hindsight — and many years of psychotherapy — I have come to see how odd it was to learn to say “yes” to almost anything we were asked in an interview such as “Do you like to eat peanut butter on bananas?” or “Can you roller skate backwards?” or “Would you be comfortable singing and dancing on a tugboat in the harbor?”

People who said “no” (as one of my siblings did when asked if they liked to eat peanut butter on bananas…) didn’t get hired.

We were supposed to say “yes” and then — if we found out we had gotten a callback visit — we quickly learned how to do whatever we had claimed to be able to do during the initial interview.

Even more sobering is to realize that much of the time I was using my g-d given talents to encourage people to buy stuff that they didn’t need (more clothing, for example) or that was unhealthy to ingest (such as Ring Ding Juniors, Lifesavers, Oreos, and Dr. Pepper) as part of an economy built on our ongoing over-consumption of natural resources.

Protest6

The climate march this week and Greta Thunberg’s speech in Washington, DC a few days before it — in which she explains how necessary it is for all of us human beings to pull the emergency brake NOW on our fossil-fuel-driven lives — gave me a few minutes of much-needed hope.

But I continue to feel deeply discouraged by the stuckness/denial/apathy/fear regarding fossil-fuel consumption and climate change that I see all around me — in the media, in the advertising industry, in my neighborhood, in my friends’ lives.

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Almost everyone seems to be continuing to take lots of trips via airplanes and automobiles, continuing to eat lots of meat, continuing to use our air conditioners as much as we want, and continuing to behave as we have been behaving for the past many decades here in these not-so-united states.

And really, why should I expect anything different?

I know from psychotherapy how very difficult it can be to change one’s behavior.

Protest4

We in the USA have grown up in an era of hopes and dreams and habits and assumptions which are based on using way more than our fair share of fossil fuels.

Of course we can travel anywhere — and as often — as we want.

Flood1

Of course we can own as large a house as we want.

Cyclone

Of course everyone can own and drive a car, everyone can apply for jobs which require a car to commute, everyone can eat as much as we want in any season of the year — foods which may have traveled thousands of miles before ending up on our plates — and everyone can squander the amazing inheritance of fossil fuels from millions of years of photosynthesis by billions of plants that all of us here on planet earth have inherited.

CrackedEarthVersusMeadow

Deep sigh.

And if you can’t afford to do these things, you can pay for them using one or more credit cards and become ever more deeply in debt.

As you may know from having read previous blog posts, I am blessed to have cobbled together a very modest living during the past six years (after having been laid off from my day job helping run a non-profit in Harvard Square) which depends largely on bicycling and public transportation. GreenVersusDesertMindset

And I live quite happily without a cell phone.

But my sweetheart of 27 years DOES commute to work using a car.

And I gratefully use his cell phone when we drive to see friends and family around New England and New York.

Another deep sigh.

TiredPolarBear

What will it take for us to pull the emergency brake on our selfish, out of balance, unsustainable, fossil-fuel consuming, all-too-human habits?

Protest1

I think of the anecdotes I have read about conventional farmers who have converted to more sustainable, organic farming practices — but it’s often (very sadly) because they or someone in their family has developed some sort of disease as a result of exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.

MeltingIceberg

I wish we human beings could choose to make deep changes in our life habits without having to experience health/climate crises in our personal lives.

But maybe that’s the path we are on…

DeadTreeInDesert

What do you think?

How have you changed your daily habits in response to climate change?

Where do you find hope in these challenging times?

Protest2

Thank you, as always, to the folks who share their photos and graphics at Pixabay which is a wonderful resource for imagery.

Protest7

16 thoughts on “Time To Pull Our Emergency Brake

    • Worst in the sense of discouraging? If I understand you correctly, a small change in consumption choices from each one of us human beings would produce profound and healthy differences on planet earth. I often think about the brutal image of “death by a thousand cuts” and hope that the inverse/opposite is true — that healing can occur/accumulate one respectful, sustainable, grateful step at a time…

  1. Hi, Will–I am SO pleased to see you back here–I think of you often and missed your gentle voice. I can completely relate to your glum feelings and the sense of not having much to offer but your post does offer a lot–hope, good sense, practical ideas. I need to do more, every day . . . (and by the way, I ddin’t know anything about your upbringing–I guess I haven’t been around long enough to read the older posts about it. It sounds fascinating and stressful! But you might’ve been the cutest little boy ever!)

  2. Thanks for your kind welcome back to more active blogging, KerryCan! There were certainly stressful moments in my childhood — most of which my parents, I think, were somewhat oblivious to because neither one of them was a performer and thus had not experienced firsthand what it feels like to walk into a room full of strangers and attempt to charm them into hiring you. Over and over again. And then, once you get cast in a commercial, what it feels like to do take after take after take with the director saying, “That was great — now how about trying it again a little happier or sadder or calmer or more surprised or less surprised, etc. etc. etc. Remembering those years in my life reminds me to be grateful that I can call most/all of the shots these days in my creative/performing life. And your lovely message reminds me how grateful I am to be part of our WordPress community of writers and readers and weavers and musicians and nutritionists and pet-sitters, etc. etc. etc.

  3. Will! Where do I begin? I’ll start with how good it is to hear from you. Really. The history of your childhood is fascinating. Few kids ever have the opportunities or experiences you had. Riding a subway, auditioning for parts, all remarkable for a child. Love your photos! You were adorable.

    Then there’s starting prep school that changes everything. Was it you, or was it the prep school? I care, because I’m educator in New England surrounded by prep schools. And I care because of you. So, this important to me.

    Your values and voice are deeply important. Thank you for that. Thank goodness you are still doing music, as that is one of the greatest gifts. Today I pulled out the autoharp to play songs for the children. I felt like a spider web that attracted every bug. It was, and always is, wonderful. Music is the universal language.

    Best to you, Will! 🙂

  4. You’re an inspiration on reducing your carbon footprint. And you don’t have to be 100% perfect. As someone said recently, it’s more important for thousands upon thousands of people to do a little bit better than for a handful of people to be perfect. Thanks for blogging again. I’ve been checking back and hoping.

  5. An interesting blog, a pity the sound doesn’t work on my computer so I can’t hear the songs. I don’t drive, and for lots of years on and off we couldn’t afford a car. There is a car now on our driveway and luckliy Cyberspouse can drive it; very useful when one needs an urgent lift to the hospital or we’re helping carless friends and relatives move heavy stuff. Theoretically nobody should fly – anywhere – except of course when my sister comes over from Australia or our son and family fly back from the USA!

    • Thank you, tidalscribe, for reading even if you are unable to listen. Cars are indeed excellent for moving heavy things. My sweetheart and I camp each summer for two weeks, and a very full car gets us to and from Cape Cod… I like to pretend that I get a certain amount of fossil fuels to use each year and then decide how I want to burn this precious resource (inherited from plants and ecosystems going back millions of years!!!) So maybe one plane trip per year to see dear friends/family… or using a car to help a friend move something heavy once in a blue moon… or x number of bus/train trips per year… I understand that it is very difficult to awake from the cocoon/web of consumerism in which many of us have been raised and stop assuming that we can drive/fly anywhere and everywhere however often we desire (and/or can afford).

  6. I hope so. Mostly what I see in my peer group is everyone continuing to live their lives as they always have… traveling here and there, near and far while consuming fossil fuels with little or no awareness (or so it seems from my limited perspective) that the time for this behavior is over — or at least is over for the next decade until we see JUST how far out of balance we have tipped regarding climate change…

  7. So much is happening now. It is like we are going through rapids, trying to navigate our way through them. Careers that used to exist exist no longer, social mores are changing rapidly, and unbelievable wealth and power are settling into a very few hands. In one country millions of trees are being planted, while in another country sea creatures are washing up on shore, starved to death because the fish have been taken by greedy humans, and because they have been eating plastics, mistaking them for food. I’ve seen things that mattered deeply all my life become utterly irrelevant to current generations.
    When I’ve been on a raft, going through rapids, I quickly realize that my sphere of influence on events is extremely limited. All I can do really is focus on doing my very best within that small sphere, and hope that it all comes out right.

    • Thank you for your wise and poetic comments, Melissa. Your observation about careers no longer existing is very compelling — such a horrible feeling to have learned how to do something well and then no longer to be able to earn a living. At least one political candidate, Andrew Yang, is being very explicit about the challenges of so many jobs being taken over by robots. I switched the focus of my life to music (teaching and making it) just when Spotify and Pandora and Apple and the digital revolution began significantly reducing the amount of money that musicians/songwriters could earn from recordings — but I remain hopeful that the singular experience of live music-making will be hard to replace with robots for a couple more decades at least (notwithstanding the laser holographic re-creations of ABBA concerts that I recently read about…) The hours I devote to this blog are one of the ways that I “focus on doing my very best within (a) small sphere, and hope that it all comes out right.”

      • My brother tells a similar tale~just beginning to record right when those online services stepped in. You expressed it so much better than I did. It is indeed a horrible feeling to invest in a career, only to find it no longer viable. We have a lot coming at us, that is for sure, and it is so good to have people like you working to help us make sense of it all. Thank you for writing this wonderful blog.

  8. You are very welcome. I certainly don’t feel that I’ve made much sense out of anything, but I love the community of bloggers with whom I have become acquainted over the past few years!!! Thank you for making/taking time to read and then comment so thoughtfully…

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