“In August 1973, three weeks past my seventeenth birthday, I packed my clothes in three hand-me-down Samsonite suitcases and left the only place I had ever called home.”
Anita Hill looks at the meaning of home in this series of stories that trace a journey from her family’s move to the “promised land” of Oklahoma to today’s sub-prime mortgage crisis. In Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home, Hill demonstrates how this search for a better place—a place to call home—has been stymied for far too long for many of our citizens by “institutional incentives that encourage separation.”
The search for home, of course, goes beyond the four walls—to the neighborhood, the community, and even the nation where we feel we belong. Our search begins with ourselves and our own family history:
When I began to explore my family history, I was in search of the perfect past. What I found were surprises and a messy, complicated reality that forced me to abandon the myths that filled my head about family, progress, and success.”
Hill discovers that the system established following slavery, to correct slavery’s depravities, had failed her ancestors. And yet, Hill’s ancestors “dared to imagine” a better place for themselves and their children.
This need for home runs deep in the American soul. From the first Euro-American settlers, to Abigail Adam’s arguments for women’s legal protections in their own homes, to commerce secretary Herbert Hoover’s Own Your Own Home campaign, to the twentieth century migration of blacks to the North, to George W. Bush’s Ownership Society, it is a need that has framed our national conversation.
Hill’s stories synthesize this history and conversation with personal reflections from herself and others, race and gender issues, government policies, and our enduring dreams for a better life.
After establishing the links among home, belonging, achievement and success, Hill calls for a new vision amidst the current housing crisis that has brought a great nation to its knees. This vision can take inspiration from the social networking communities that are being embraced, especially by younger citizens, as well as the story of President Obama, who’s “fervent search for home brought him to the presidency…”
The vision? “…not of movement, but one of place; not one of tolerance, but one of belonging; not just of rights, but also of community—a community of equals” Such a vision, Hill argues, could make an inclusive American Democracy where all of us feel at home.
This is a beautifully written, hopeful book.
The rise in gas prices at the pump, the damage to one of Japan’s nuclear power plants, and the U.S. Congress’s inability to come up with anything resembling a national energy policy has me in the emotional dumps. And it made me want to pick up a book I’d read a few years ago: Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil by David Goodstein.
I didn’t expect a review of this great little book would make me feel better—I knew it wouldn’t. But it’s a good overview of the plight we find ourselves in, as China’s and India’s need for energy collides with America’s insatiable appetite for a finite resource.
Goodstein says the world is much closer to peak oil than we think. Peak oil is when demand for black gold outstrips the supply. America actually reached Dr. M. King Hubbert’s theoretical peak in the mid-70s when production at home declined:
…in 1956, Hubert predicted that the rate at which oil could be extracted from the lower forty-eight United States would peak around 1970 and decline rapidly after that. When his prediction was borne out, other oil geologists started paying serious attention.”
We solved the problem in the 1970s by importing more oil. By depending so much on imported oil, we have, as Fareed Zakaria wrote in Time magazine, “built our house at the base of a volacano (mideast turmoil).”
That U.S. peak back in the 70s may look like a cake walk compared to global peak oil. It’s impact on the economy, human well-being, and world peace could be devastating.
Goodstein reminds us that it is not just oil, but energy itself, that is finite (the law of conservation of energy). He reviews possible technological innovations that could help us; reminds us that these technological fixes do not yet exist; reminds us of the dangers of climate change that go hand-in-hand with fossil fuels; and explores other problems that come along with other energy sources, from coal to natural gas to nuclear energy.
All of this, of course, is bad news. But it’s good to know it, because we need to know what we’re up against.
Goodstein wrote this back in 2004, when Americans were paying $2 per gallon at the pump and screaming to high heaven. Prices went down and we went back to SUVs. It’s time to pick the book up again.
So, Kitty’s starting off the New Year in a hopeful mood. Not so much me. I had the misfortune of watching a fascinating show on the History Channel the other night that scared me witless. Now, I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot on that cable channel that is basically BS, created to pull in big ratings. (Ancient Aliens, anyone?) But Prophets of Doom, which aired on Wednesday, was both sobering and pretty much legit, based on the news and articles I’ve already read.
Check out their bios, plus any links I’ve provided to their written work:
Michael Rupert, a controversial investigative journalist, spells out the big picture, focusing on the collision of peak oil and the population explosion. He’s author of Confronting Collapse and Crossing the Rubicon.
Dr. Nathan Hagens, economist, sees an economic collapse in our future. He compares our current world economy to a “global ponzi scheme.” Hagens is also fascinated with humanity’s inability to confront long-range problems because of our built-in cognitive dissonance, which lets us “discount” dangers if they are not staring us in the face. (You can read Hangens’s ideas on human “discount rates” here.)
John Cronin, co-author (with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.) of The Riverkeepers, reminds us that life itself is not possible without access to clean water, access that is dwindling rapidly as the world population grows and pollution increases. Time magazine named him a Hero of the Planet in 1999.
John Howard Kunstler is the author of The Long Emergency and Home From Nowhere, as well as other works that deal with the depletion and increasing costs of fossil fuels and other converging world crises that demand we transform the way we live if we are to survive.
Professor Hugo de Garis is a researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and his concern is the eventual evolution of AI intelligence to the point where our machines will become hostile to humanity.
Following a round table discussion, the six gentlemen decide that the coming water and economic crises are the most pressing, although all admit that a large enough bit of nuclear terrorism could trump that. The threat of hostile AIs is considered the least eminent, since the other potential crises could slow down or even halt further technological development.
After all of this doom and gloom, I needed a pick-me up. Cue the video!
I was feeling so much better… until I saw the cover story in the recent National Geographic Magazine! Ugh!