This is John Roosevelt Boettiger's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following John Roosevelt Boettiger's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
John Roosevelt Boettiger
Mill Valley, CA, Seattle, WA, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, CA, Amherst, MA, Hyde Park, NY, New York City (Manhattan), Dedham, MA, Vikersund, Norway, Paris, France, Sebastopol, CA, Berkeley, CA
Author, writer, editor, psychologist, father, grandfather, great-grandfather
Interests: Writing, reading, conversation, hiking, walking, bicycling, asking and responding to intriguing questions, metta, silence, prayer, meditation, justice (social, economic, judicial, political, familial, personal), the wily craft of coyote politics, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, family trees, redwood trees and live oaks, marsh land, hillsides, mountains, geese in flight, birds of a feather
Recent Activity
A Hotter Planet Takes Another Toll on Human Health A new hypothesis about heat waves, redlining, and kidney stones. By Bill McKibben January 19, 2023 The planet is getting steadily hotter, and large swaths of it are moving past the point at which it’s safe to do heavy outside labor in the middle of the day.Photograph by Dominique Berbain / Getty Shortly after the New Year, the Washington Post ran a story with a headline that would have seemed inexplicable, even runic, to most readers just a few years ago: “The world’s torrid future is etched in the crippled kidneys of Nepali workers.” But we’re growing used to the idea that the climate crisis, in Naomi Klein’s phrase, “changes everything,” so why not the internal organs of Nepalis? Remarkable reporting by Gerry Shih tells a series of unbearably poignant tales: young Nepali men, struggling to earn a living in their impoverished homeland, head to the Gulf states to do construction work in the searing heat, some without access to sufficient water, some until they collapse. (Other reporting also shows that some Nepalis who work abroad resort to the black market for a transplant that might keep them—and the families that... Continue reading
Ken Burns Turns His Lens on the American Response to the Holocaust Commemorating the Holocaust has become a central part of American culture, but the nation’s reaction in real time was another story. By James McAuley September 18, 2022 The New Yorker When we begin “The U.S. and the Holocaust”—a six-and-a-half-hour, three-part documentary about America’s actions during one of history’s greatest atrocities, the Nazis’ attempted extermination of the Jews—we find ourselves in 1933 Frankfurt, where a bourgeois German-Jewish family is going out for an afternoon promenade. This is the Frank family, whose youngest daughter, Anne, has yet to begin the diary, chronicling her days in hiding until her capture and eventual death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, that will one day make her a household name around the world. In 1933, all of that is still to come: the inhuman brutality of the Holocaust is still beyond the comprehension of well-to-do Jewish families like the Franks, and indeed of most everyone else. But now, after the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, in January of that year, it is clear that something in the air has shifted. The Franks knew they had to leave the country in which at least... Continue reading
What Planet Do I Live On? A Little Bit of a Rant Bill McKibben The Crucial Years September 16, 2022 Yesterday, Rep. Ro Khanna’s energy subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee released a tranche of documents from various Big Oil companies, designed in part to build support for a windfall profits tax on the huge sums that these firms have sucked in this year thanks to Vladimir Putin’s war. The documents show how mercenary and devious the companies have been, pretending to back climate action like the Paris climate accords, but in fact working to make sure they are a dead letter. But I confess I got stuck on the very first document the committee released. I got stuck because it’s…about me, and who doesn’t, in their heart of hearts, love/hate reading what people think of you? From what one can decipher from the email chain, a woman named Virginia Northington, who once had worked for the great historian Douglas Brinkley, later joined something called the Brunswick Group which “helps companies navigate a complex array of societal challenges, as well as articulating a company’s ‘purpose,’” and whose “Climate Hub helps businesses respond to climate change.” There Ms. Northington... Continue reading Continue reading
How Bad Is It? by Bill McKibben September 8, 2022 I got a phone call last night, from a person I admire as much as anyone I know; she’s spent her life working, with great effectiveness, for a wide variety of progressive causes. I turn to her for guidance on dozens of questions. But last night she was turning to me, and with a simple, despairing question: “is it just all over for the climate?” She’d been reading stories from the past week about the truly horrific flooding in Pakistan (watch this video, please—it’s the single best depiction I’ve seen of what the crisis feels like, and though it’s on CNN, the most mainstream of media, it does not shy away for a second from talking about the blame that falls on the global north for the climate crisis, and the need for reparations), and about the giant Thwaites glacier in the Antarctic retreating twice as fast as scientists had thought, and about a new study showing that even if we stopped emitting carbon now melting ice on Greenland would produce almost a foot of sea level rise. I heard from one of the co-authors of that study, Jason Box,... Continue reading
The Man Who Found His Inner Depths August 18, 2022 By David Brooks Opinion Columnist New York Times One morning in the fall of 1936, 10-year-old Frederick Buechner and his younger brother were playing in their room. Their father opened the door, checked on them, and then went down into the family garage, turned on the engine of the car and waited for the exhaust to kill him. Buechner and his brother heard a commotion, looked out the window and saw their father on his back in the driveway. Their mother and grandmother, in their nightgowns, had dragged him out of the garage and were pumping his legs up and down in a doomed attempt to revive him. There would be no funeral, or discussion of what happened. Their mother just moved the boys to Bermuda to escape. The rules in that family were, “Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel.” They became masters at covering themselves over. Many decades later, after his mother had died, Buechner wrote of her: “The sadness of other people’s lives, even the people she loved, never seemed to touch her where she lived. I don’t know why. It wasn’t that she had a hard heart,... Continue reading
The Democrats Finally Deliver The Senate’s passage of a sweeping, if imperfect, climate-change-and-health-care bill is a landmark moment in U.S. policymaking. John Cassidy The New Yorker August 8, 2022 When Joe Biden departs on Wednesday for a vacation on Kiawah Island, South Carolina, he will have reasons to be cheerful. Last Friday, the Labor Department reported that employers created more than half a million jobs in July, confirming that Biden was right when he said the economy isn’t in recession. The House of Representative looks set to pass the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 later this week; Senate Democrats voted the legislation through over the weekend, and it includes parts of the President’s Build Back Better policy agenda. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the new legislation, which provides extensive tax breaks for clean energy and authorizes Medicare to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs, is that it survived at all. Just a month ago, when Senator Joe Manchin told Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, that he wouldn’t support the bill, it seemed dead. Thanks to Manchin’s change of mind and Schumer’s cat-herding, the bill was resurrected and rushed through the Senate before the summer recess, a feat... Continue reading
August 8, 2022 issue of The New Yorker: Congress Looks Set to Finally Pass Historic Climate Legislation The bill, now supported by Joe Manchin, reflects the growing strength of the environmental movement, but also the lingering influence of the fossil-fuel industry. By Bill McKibben July 31, 2022 The longest-maintained temperature readings of any location on earth are in the Midlands of England. A monthly tally began in 1659, and the daily record dates back to 1772. One can imagine mutton-chopped clerics and ruddy-faced retired colonels, in the centuries since, tromping out to take those readings; some days it was hot and some days it was cold, but, until last month, the highest daily mean ever measured there was 25.2 degrees Celsius, or about 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit, in August of 2020. Then, on July 19th, as an epic heat wave swept across the British Isles, the mark was reset at 28.1 Celsius, or 82.6 Fahrenheit. If that hadn’t happened, topping the previous high by a full 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit would have seemed statistically impossible. The fact that it did happen is frightening—a sign of a world coming unstuck. But, more happily, a different sort of record fell last week—the thirty-four-year stretch... Continue reading
For the Third Time in Three Decades, Congress Punts on Serious Climate Legislation Joe Manchin tanks Congress’s big chance to cut the heat. By Bill McKibben The New Yorker Saturday, July 16, 2022 NASA just declared that this June has tied with that of 2020 for the hottest we have ever measured. At the moment, forecasters are predicting that, on Monday, the United Kingdom, which maintains the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world, may see the hottest day that nation has ever recorded. This was the backdrop to the news on Thursday that Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, won’t support climate legislation, bringing to an apparent end his long and excruciating flirtation with Joe Biden over the climate portions of the Build Back Better bill, the President’s ambitious economic package, which contained the most sweeping climate measures ever to reach the Senate floor. To provide the even more excruciating context: this is the third time in the past thirty years that Congress has balked at serious climate legislation. In July, 1997, the Senate voted 95–0 (led by another West Virginia Democrat, Robert Byrd) to pass a resolution stating that the United States should not be a... Continue reading
STUCK Our politics is in a rut, and it will take new energy to climb out. Bill McKibben May 27, 2022 In the mountains of the northeast, where I’ve spent my life, we have a season in between winter and spring—mud season, it’s called, when snowmelt and rain can turn the region’s dirt roads into quags and mires from which escape is difficult. (And sometimes impossible, with nearly fatal consequences). Driving down a mud season road, the ruts just keep getting deeper—and either you reach a patch of dry ground and escape, or you sink into the muck till at some point your tires start to spin or the undercarriage of your car hangs up. At which point you need a friend with a tow chain and a truck. The worst parts of the Uvalde and Buffalo massacres, obviously, were the massacres: dozens dead, families broken, survivors scarred forever. But there was also the secondary horror that, as usual, nothing happened in response. Unlike a long list of other countries that dramatically tightened their gun laws after mass shootings, our politicians lapsed quickly into their well-worn grooves: it’s a mental health problem, perhaps we should only have one door at... Continue reading
Also from The Guardian, focused more on the failure of the United States government to control the use of guns. Outrage and inaction: how the push for US gun control rises and falls with each school shooting Map of US with circles where there have been school shootings. Composite: Getty Images The country experiences a mass shooting nearly every day while federal gun control legislation remains a distant dream. Alvin Chang and Andrew Witherspoon The Guardian, 26 May 2022 On Tuesday, an 18-year-old shot and killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. It was the second deadliest school shooting in American history, behind the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting when 20 children and six adults were killed. Mass shootings are so common in America that most of these tragedies barely make a blip in the gun control debate. The country experiences a mass shooting nearly every day, and once every three weeks someone is shot on school property, according to data from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. The large majority of these shootings don’t get coverage in national media outlets, and after a day or two, the media moves on to the next... Continue reading
The following is an excellent short summary from The Guardian of the catastrophic and virtually unique toll of gun possession and misuse in the United States. This week’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was one of more than 3,500 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting a decade ago. It was America’s 215th in 2022 alone. It came as the nation still reeled from another massacre, this one targeting Black Americans, in Buffalo, New York, just a week prior. The horror of 21 people, including 19 small children, being killed in their classroom is hard to grasp, but for one former firearms executive, it’s not a surprise. Ryan Busse, who spent his career in the industry and now advocates for gun control, published a powerful op-ed in the Guardian arguing that contrary to a familiar refrain, America is not broken – it’s working as intended. “The truth is that Americans now live within an escalating system of radicalized gun tragedy that is working exactly as expected,” Busse writes. He argues that the profit motives of the industry, along with the extremist rhetoric of the National Rifle Association, has fueled a warped incentive structure that rewards “conspiracy-mongering, racism and fear campaigns”... Continue reading
The Power of Allurement By Betsey Crawford PUBLISHED IN SPRING 2020 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson I’m pondering one of nature’s most intriguing mysteries: why is so much so beautiful? Why all those luscious colors, gossamer wings, silken petals? Why rainbow-decked waterfalls cascading into deep, curving rivers disappearing into the folds of magnificent mountains? Cool forests of feathery ferns at the base of towering trees, full of the elation of bird song? Why rustling waves of grasslands, filled with flowers, chirping crickets, soaring meadowlarks? Deserts lit withluminous cactus flowers, the call of ravens, the song of coyotes? Why clouds on fire with the setting sun? The easy answer is that we evolved the senses and the consciousness to find all this beautiful. And so we did. But why? We could have evolved to find a much duller world satisfactory. Bees and hummingbirds could have evolved to pollinate a planet full of white flowers. Butterflies and birds don’t need their luminous jewel tones to fly or find food. Peacocks and prairie chickens could have figured out calmer ways to attract a mate. It’s... Continue reading
Remembering Roger Angell, Hall of Famer In the course of a well-lived century, he established himself as the most exacting of editors, the most agile of stylists, a mentor to generations of writers, and baseball’s finest, fondest chronicler. By David Remnick, editor The New Yorker May 20, 2022 In recent years, as his odometer headed toward triple digits, Roger Angell became known around our office for the way his cheerful longevity complemented his talent. He was not only the greatest of baseball writers; he had also lived long enough to see Babe Ruth, of the Yankees, at one end of his life and Shohei Ohtani, of the Angels, at the other. Age conferred authority. When Roger covered the Yanks in their late-nineties heyday, Joe Torre, the team’s heavy-lidded chief, would sometimes interrupt one of his avuncular soliloquies to a clutch of young reporters and look to him for affirmation: “Roger, am I getting that right?” Sitting in his office, Roger, much like Torre, held court, telling stories about playing Ping-Pong with James Thurber, editing William Trevor and Donald Barthelme, and watching ballgames with the Romanian-born artist Saul Steinberg, who would put on a flannel Milwaukee Braves uniform before sitting down... Continue reading
I am posting below the text of a speech Martin Luther King gave at Riverside Church in New York City, on April 4, 1967, a speech that became famous at the time but is largely forgotten now, 55 years later. He called it "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." I was there on that occasion, and its text sends shivers down my spine as it did then. As you read, note especially the enlargement of his focus halfway through, in the paragraph beginning "The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit." His values and the issues he addressed on that occasion are as important now as they were then. On the holiday next Monday, we legitimately celebrate Martin Luther King as a civil rights leader. He was that, of course, and his message — "beyond Vietnam" — as this talk makes clear, reveals a man who addresses us today as deeply as it did 55 years ago. The US had joined the Vietnam War, bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail and North Vietnam, sending troops who were fighting, killing and being killed. I would have been drafted, but was exempt... Continue reading
The Greatest Danger by Joanna Macy Yes! Magazine From Joanna Macy, Ph.D., author and teacher, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with learnings from six decades of activism. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and postmodern science. The many dimensions of this work are explored in her thirteen books, which include three volumes of poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke with translation and commentary. As the root teacher of The Work That Reconnects, Joanna has created a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Based in Berkeley, California, close to her children and grandchildren, Joanna has spent many years in other lands and cultures, viewing movements for social change and exploring their roots in religious thought and practice. How do we live with the fact that we are destroying our world? What do we make of the loss of glaciers, the melting Arctic, island nations swamped by the sea, widening deserts, and drying farmlands?... Continue reading
[Note from John: I've been absorbed for many years by the writing of Marilynne Robinson; absorbed and moved. I should say especially her five novels, Housekeeping (1980), Gilead (2004), Home (2008), Lila (2014), and Jack (2020). Her five collections of essays on diverse topics — The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (1998), Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (2010), When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays (2012), The Givenness of Things: Essays (2015), and What Are We Doing Here? (2018) — are equally revelatory of her extraordinary mind and gifts as a writer, as are her as yet uncollected articles, essays and reviews in Harper's, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books and other publications. Even the simple act of assembling that list astonishes me with the evidence of her consistent productivity. If I've been especially taken — that is the word — by her fiction, by the care, generosity and coherence, the grace of her novels, that certainly expresses my own deepest drawing to narrative, to storytelling as a genre that has always, as long as I can remember, been most compelling in my love... Continue reading
1. Possibilities I prefer movies. I prefer cats. I prefer the oaks along the Warta. I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky. I prefer myself liking people to myself loving mankind. I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case. I prefer the color green. I prefer not to maintain that reason is to blame for everything. I prefer exceptions. I prefer to leave early. I prefer talking to doctors about something else. I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations. I prefer the absurdity of writing poems to the absurdity of not writing poems. I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries that can be celebrated every day. I prefer moralists who promise me nothing. I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind. I prefer the earth in civvies. I prefer conquered to conquering countries. I prefer having some reservations. I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order. I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages. I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves. I prefer dogs with uncropped tails. I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark. I prefer desk drawers. I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here to many things I’ve... Continue reading
The Fish Elizabeth Bishop I caught a tremendous fish and held him beside the boat half out of water, with my hook fast in a corner of his mouth. He didn't fight. He hadn't fought at all. He hung a grunting weight, battered and venerable and homely. Here and there his brown skin hung in strips like ancient wallpaper, and its pattern of darker brown was like wallpaper: shapes like full-blown roses stained and lost through age. He was speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime, and infested with tiny white sea-lice, and underneath two or three rags of green weed hung down. While his gills were breathing in the terrible oxygen —the frightening gills, fresh and crisp with blood, that can cut so badly— I thought of the coarse white flesh packed in like feathers, the big bones and the little bones, the dramatic reds and blacks of his shiny entrails, and the pink swim-bladder like a big peony. I looked into his eyes which were far larger than mine but shallower, and yellowed, the irises backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil seen through the lenses of old scratched isinglass. They shifted a little, but not to return my... Continue reading
Editorial notes from John: (1) Please don't read the final paragraph of this story until you reach it as you would normally, as your final act of reading a story. (2) Then, and only then, read that last paragraph one more time to be sure it is in your mind. I have added a third and fourth note to this paragraph, but shall reserve them to the end, as a suggestion for contemplating Borges's intentions. The Gospel According to Mark - a short story by Jorge Luiz Borges (1971) The incident took place on the Los Alamos ranch, in the southern part of the township of Junín, during the last days of March,1928. The protagonist was a medical student named Baltasar Espinosa. We may describe him, for now, as one of the common run of young men from Buenos Aires, with nothing more noteworthy about him than an almost unlimited kindness and a capacity for public speaking that had earned him several prizes at the English school in Ramos Mejía. He did not like arguing, and preferred having his listener rather than himself in the right. Although he was fascinated by the probabilities of chance in any game he played,... Continue reading
What did I find so fetching about that photo? His eyebrows and his smile; his whimsey. During my undergraduate years at Amherst College (1960-1964) and later when I was a member of the Amherst faculty, Frost often came to read to a gathering in Johnson Chapel. Those were memorable experiences. I was so glad that JFK asked him to read at his inauguration on January 20, 1961. I recall, as Frost began to read a new poem he had written for the occasion, a special moment later captured so well by Life Magazine: "Perhaps the most heartfelt words uttered that day came not from JFK, but from the 87-year-old poet Robert Frost. A four-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the quintessential New England bard, Frost penned a new poem for the inauguration, but the intense glare of the January sun made it impossible for him to read his own manuscript. After struggling for a bit, and after Lyndon Johnson stood and tried to help (using his own top hat to shield the page), Frost abandoned the effort and instead recited, from memory, a famous earlier poem: 'The Gift Outright,' written nearly 20 years before, which reads in part, 'we gave ourselves... Continue reading
The Road Not Taken BY ROBERT FROST Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Continue reading
Thanks to my dear friend Al Braidwood for sharing with me the wisdom of some Buddhist remarks about death, following a few personal recollections of my own. I was eleven when I first encountered death, that of my father. Early one morning at our home in Berkeley my mother received a telephone call. When I heard the tone of her voice — only a few words as she listened — I knew she was hearing an important message. Minutes later she came to my room — I was still in bed — to tell me what she had learned. I can't remember my feelings in response. I didn't go to school that day. My mother asked a grownup friend of hers, a man I didn't know, to come to my room — to see, I suppose, if I wanted to speak about my father's death. To a stranger? To anyone? Not for many years. My mother came to understand. She wrote several months later, "Johnny still hasn't reached the stage where he talks naturally and normally about his father... [W]e can never be quite sure of what goes on deep inside a child, and Johnny has been almost completely 'bottled... Continue reading
A major Guardian investigation has found that authoritarian governments around the world are using a powerful surveillance tool to hack the phones of political opponents, prompting a global backlash and anxiety over the international spyware market. As the whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted on Sunday: “Stop what you’re doing and read this. This leak is going to be the story of the year. The Guardian this week is publishing stories exposing the widespread use of Pegasus, a powerful spying tool sold to governments by NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm selling its spyware with the permission – and possible help – of the Israeli government. Working with a consortium of 16 other media organizations from around the world, our journalists examined a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers believed to be slated for surveillance by NSO’s clients. The list was shared with us by Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based non-profit media organisation, and Amnesty International, who initially had access to the leaked list. There aren’t a lot of outlets in the world that are capable of leading this kind of project. From the first Wikileaks disclosures to Snowden's revelations and Cambridge Analytica, the Guardian has earned its stripes when it comes to... Continue reading