November/December 2014

Matthew Shapero, one of several first-generation farmers profiled in an article in this issue of Orion: “Becoming a farmer felt like the most radical vocation I could choose.” Other features include Sharman Apt Russell on citizen science; Robert Michael Pyle on the importance of wild play during childhood; an illustrated poem by Wendell Berry; and short stories by Scott Russell Sanders.

This issue also includes the latest installment of Orion‘s “Reimagining Infrastructure” series, a photographic tour of a highway system in Montana that’s taking the daily commutes of nonhuman lives into account.

Also: Poetry by Kathleen Jamie and Allen Braden; Lay of the Land dispatches from Elizabeth Kolbert and Eula Biss; reviews of new books by Judith Nies and Paul Greenberg; and more.



TODAY, AS WE GO to press with this issue of Orion, we’re in the gap between yesterday’s People’s Climate March and the United Nations Climate Summit, which begins tomorrow. No one knows yet whether or how the march will influence the summit’s deliberations, which in turn will set the stage for the discussions that will take place at the international climate treaty talks in Paris next year.

But we do know what happened at the People’s Climate March. The march, which took place in New York City on September 21, was a spectacularly powerful statement made by hundreds of thousands of people who have grown tired of waiting for the world’s leaders to address climate change in a meaningful way. Organized by over a thousand participating organizations, including and Avaaz, it was colorful, diverse, and huge. There were giant puppet birds and balloons and a block-long banner that read CORPORATE CONTROL = CLIMATE CHAOS. Marchers raised signs proclaiming THERE IS NO PLANET B and NO COMPLACENCY and UN PLANETA SALUDABLE and thousands of other messages. Everyone laughed at a sign that read THE LORAX SAYS FUCK NO, which happened to be carried by the Lorax himself. Two elders held an oversized image of an ultrasound that showed their yet-to-be-born grandchild; no one laughed at that.

When I asked my own child, who’s eight, what he thought of the march, he said, “It’s loud.” And loud it was. Snare drums, kettle drums, and plastic buckets beaten with sticks. Trumpets and vuvuzelas. Bodhrans, damroos, and congas. At least a few tubas and lots of whistles. And that was just the New York City march. People were making rackets all over world, in over twenty-five hundred other events that took place in over 160 countries. Compared to the United States, many of those countries have experienced more of the consequences of climate change, including loss of land, displaced people, or extreme weather.

Perhaps the clamor was the most significant thing about the People’s Climate March, because it embodied a need to be heard — a cacophonous demand for new climate policy and a new set of rules for how the planet’s future will be shaped. It’s not hard to imagine that when Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, President Obama, and 120-some other heads of state meet later this week at the UN, that even though the actual sound of the march has ended, the news of its loudness will be ringing in the ears of the attendees. We hope too that it will be ringing in the ears of the politicians who still want to believe that politics can be separated from the health of the planet — and that registered voters’ opinions about climate can be ignored.

Of all the signs we saw yesterday, perhaps the one that resonated the most was IF NOT NOW, WHEN? It is a question that takes on more urgency every day that humanity sits on its hands. We need action on climate change now.

Hear sounds from the People’s Climate March, below.

H. Emerson Blake is Editor-in-Chief of Orion.