Feature Friday: Enoughness

With so many stories of having to flee our planet, so much in the news that reads like those books, it’s can be hard to imagine avoiding that end. It may not be easy, but I believe it is possible.

It is time for a shift from self-sufficiency to sufficiency–#enoughness, collaboration, a new way to calculate our balance sheets.

Learn more at FirstPeoples.org. You can also check out Yes! magazine’s recent article “Bigger Than Science, Bigger Than Religion” which tells a related story from a different angle.

The Green Book

The Green BookTITLE: The Green Book
AUTHOR: Jill Paton Walsh
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
PUB DATE: 1982
DISASTER: Unspecified climate disaster
SECONDARY THREAT: Survival on a new planet

I hadn’t meant to segue into escaping to space when I started writing about Parable of the Sower, but sometimes that’s how things go. You find a thread and you follow it. And that thread lead me back to a book written for children that I read ages ago.

Father said, “We can take very little with us.”

Pattie and her family are among the last people evacuated from a dying Earth. The wealthy have already fled to more promising distant planets, while Pattie’s ship is old, small, and ill-fitted for exodus. Each family could bring only a very few things essential to survival, plus one book each.

The Green Book itself is small–only 69 pages of mid-sized text and meant for readers age 8 through 12. On the surface it’s about how Pattie and the other travelers adapt to a new planet that may or may not support life. The language is simple, the story is simple, but between the lines there is so much more:

  • Nods to socio-economic inequality in the conditions of the ship and the unspoken recognition of those left behind
  • References to climate change in comments about old photographs
  • The impact of selfishness when trying to build a community
  • How often children see more, feel more, and are willing to take more risks than the adults around them who are set in their ways

But truly, the strongest through-line is the power of story, how essential it is–for entertainment, bonding, and who we become.


Last night I finally saw the movie Interstellar. I had tried to see it when it first came out, but couldn’t seem to fit it in. Now I’m glad I didn’t.

Interstellar begins with a world facing many of the same challenges we find in Parable of the Sower–food shortages, widespread poverty, and a government that has turned its eyes from the stars to the ground, unable to justify money spent on dreams when there are so many problems to be solved in everyday life. And, like Lauren Olamina, Cooper, a former pilot, cannot let it go. His world, he knows is dying, and they are running out of other options. And when coded messages from a “they” no one can seem to identify lead to a covert NASA operation headed by one of Cooper’s former teachers, Cooper leaves everything and everyone he loves–including his 10 year old budding scientist daughter, Murph–behind for the chance to save them.

There are the usual assortment of questions that move the adventure plot forward, including:

  • Can they find a new world that can support life before it’s too late?
  • Will Cooper make it back to his family?

But the one question that the story most pivots around is one of ethics:

Who do we save, the human race as a species or the individual people we know and love?

The adventure is harrowing, as it must be, to keep us rooted to our seats for nearly three hours, and the decisions are difficult heart-rending , as are the emotional impacts on the families back home. And, as expected, the worlds are nothing like they imagined they might be.

Of course, at the end it they find themselves in crisis, and without giving too much away, it devolves into the sort of strange spiritual mumbo-jumbo that we have seen in other epic space movies, like Contact. But perhaps that’s how it is when science started delving into areas so far beyond our comprehension that they begin to resemble God.

And as for that one big question, perhaps if we are either very, very lucky or very, very unlucky, we just might be able to save both.

Learn more about the science of Interstellar.

Feature Friday: If I Die on Mars

In the Parable of the Sower, Lauren’s new religion, Earthseed has a single focused ultimate mission:

The Destiny of Earthseed
Is to take root among the stars.

Despite debt and poverty. Despite a government that threatens to cut all spending to space programs. Despite scarcity of fuels and raw materials. Despite all the problems that must take precedence on the ground. Or maybe because of all of those things.

In the book,  chapter three begins with the death of an astronaut on July 30, 2024 during the most recent manned mission to Mars.  Lauren talks about her worries that the space program will be shelved despite believing that space is their only hope.

But this isn’t just a story. This is where science fiction and science fact begin to merge. Because in 2012, Mars One announced plans to try and colonize Mars. Since then they have been recruiting. More than 200,000 people applied for the one-way trip. 100 are still in the running, three of whom are interviewed in the video that follows. That take-off is scheduled for 2024.

A Million Shades of White

Yesterday, NYC Midnight announced the winner of their 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge, A Million Shade of White by Swati Daftuar. The challenge had three parameters:

  • Genre: Open
  • Location: An iceberg
  • Object: A lighter

According to her blog, the author struggled with the story, with the prompts–grasping and coming up empty over and over again before the first words came to her. Oh, but when they did…

I heard the world fall apart.

Her story speaks of the end, of our arrogance in believing that one grand gesture could change our course, that one person’s spectacle could make a difference. It won’t. It can’t.

What might is the very process she used to create her deceptively simple parable–to look at the constraints we have been given and to open ourselves to what they may reveal. To remain still and silent as we reach, and reach, and reach again, until what is ours to write or make or build or do reveals itself in a whisper. And when it does, to stand up, to get to work, and to share what we’ve done and what we’ve learned.

Feature Friday: Red Sky

Lately I have been witnessing a shift in the way art is made, from DIY to what wonder tracker Jeffrey Davis calls DIT–Do It Together. Take for example recent works from photographer Cara Walton and poet Brenna Layne whose collaborative series, TempusVolat explores the question:

A photograph captures a moment, but what if those moments could speak?

The answers are both stunningly beautiful and lingeringly haunting. And this latest installment, Red Sky, their response to a request for a piece to feature in our Apocalypse Garden, is no exception. To see the rest of the series and purchase prints, visit the TempusVolat online gallery.

Red Sky
Red Sky ©Cara Walton and Brenna Layne, 2015

This is one example of DIT at its best–a creation that is more than the sum of its parts. And I can’t help but wonder, what if we brought DIT into the realm of apocalypse planning and survival, to the task of saving the world? So many preppers like to go it solo–to protect their hoards of water, weapons, and food. They feel they can do better on their own. But can we, really? I can understand the fear and scarcity thinking that might lead to this conclusion, but I have to stand on the side of safety in numbers and that together we can make a bigger impact, imagine more creative solutions,  and create more abundance than any one of us could alone.

And so, in the spirit of DIT, I offer you an invitation. Red Sky is the first new seed in our Apocalypse Garden planted by a reader. Guidelines and a call for submissions of art, poetry, stories, essays will be posted in the coming weeks.

Will you plant the next seed?

Feature Friday: Los Angeles is Burning

Like the Parable of the Sower, this Bad Religion video is set in a burning Los Angeles. Punk rock has long interested itself in political and social commentary–drawing attention to poverty, unemployment, corruption, hypocrisy, and questioning the status quo. Although often branded as self-destructive, violent, or anarchistic, much of the music reveals truths that many members of the establishment prefer to underplay or keep hidden.

Bad Religion: Los Angeles is Burning from Isaac Woodby on Vimeo.