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This issue of Martha’s Quarterly explores the climate crisis in relationship to self-care. - Passenger Pigeon Press
BODY HEAT was designed and edited by Tammy Nguyen and produced by Téa Chai Beer.
About the contributors:
Nicholas Cerone is the co-founder of Raise the Bar Fitness, a personal training facility in the Sunset District of San Francisco. He supports a whole foods diet.
Drea Cofield grew up in a small town in Indiana. She earned an MFA in Painting from Yale in 2013 and has been living and working in Brooklyn ever since.
Irene Gardner is a registered dietitian, specialist in sports dietetics, and personal trainer at IG Nutrition & Performance based in San Francisco, CA.
Eban Goodstein is an economist and public educator who directs the Center for Environmental Policy and the MBA in Sustainability program at Bard College in New York.
Here are a few things that I understand about how I can eat in a way that helps the climate crisis. I know that I should drastically limit my consumption of meat and dairy, because many of those production methods require an exuberant use of fossil fuel and energy to produce. I should eat mostly vegetables that are seasonal and local: it’s good for my body, and if it has come from a closer location to where I live and produced in a smaller quantity with a slower method, it likely consumed less human and fossil fuel-based energy. I know that not all plant-based things are made equal: almond milk, for example, takes an incredible amount of energy to produce, and much of it is produced industrially. Low-level fish such as sardines and anchovies are good to eat, because they reproduce quickly and cost relatively low amounts of energy to get to our table. Oysters and seaweed are also good, because by eating them I support ocean farming, and shellfish and seaweed in particular contribute to detoxifying the ocean. But not all seafood is made equal: tuna, for example, requires an incredible amount of energy to produce and ought to be enjoyed rarely; on the other hand, wild Alaksan salmon produced by the Indigenous people of Bristol Bay, Alaska is very good to eat because their business is at risk of being taken over by pebble mining, and they keep one of the most sustainable and clean fisheries in the world. (1)
For a few months now, I have been following this diet. I have been learning about my food, where it comes from, especially what it took to produce, and how to create delicious and balanced meals in terms of flavor and nutrition to contribute to a sustainable lifestyle and planet. And, I feel good.
However, what remains abstract to me is the power of the collective and how my individual efforts can be felt on a mass scale, enough so that there is more visible action on a policy and industrial level to mitigate climate change. Politicians and other media spokespeople have used the talking point “2 degrees” on many occasions: if the planet goes up “2 degrees,” if we can keep the temperature down and avoid “2 degrees…” I could tell you that I had heard it, but I could not explain to you exactly what was being said nor what I totally understood. What I did take away, though, was that something about the rise in temperature would lead to humanity’s demise; still, there is a fog of confusion in terms of how to understand what exactly is happening to our planet in a clear and visceral way.
Martha’s Quarterly, Issue 14, Winter 2019, Body Heat, aims to connect some of the phenomenal (and therefore abstract) aspects of the climate crisis with our bodies. By doing so, the issue hopes to make the large issues about our planet more palatable. We have invited four contributors for this season. Dr. Eban Goodstein is an economist, author, and public educator who directs the Center for Environmental Policy and the MBA in Sustainability at Bard College. He strongly advocates for a solar dominant future coupled with civic action. His piece goes into the details of his infrastructure vision, but he offered one of the most compelling analogies to the condition of our planet’s suffering. At the beginning of his text, he compares the climate crisis to getting a fever, that the atmosphere around the earth is like an apple skin or a blanket, and that just as we can each die from a prolonged fever, the Earth will head inevitably towards its demise if the temperature increases more than the 2 degrees Fahrenheit it has already increased by. Passenger Pigeon Press took this analogy and expanded it into an exploration of our bodies in the context of a fever. We did so by inviting Nicholas Cerone, a physical trainer, and Irene Gardner, a nutritionist, to offer remedies in exercise and dieting that can manage and reduce a fever. Their advice is functional and useful to relating issues of the planet’s crisis to our own bodies in crisis.
The structure of this book is evocative of care and aims to further emphasize the relationship between our singular human bodies and the earth. When you first see this book, it is wrapped in a flannel “blanket;” as it unravels, you’ll see that one way of reading the book features Dr. Goodstein’s writing, and when you flip it over you can read Mr. Cerone and Ms. Gardner’s contributions. Then, you’ll further notice that the background texture is the skin of a fuji apple, referring back to Dr. Goodstein’s analogies.
I would also encourage you to take some of Mr. Cerone’s and Ms. Gardner’s advice by following the drawings made by Drea Coffield that accompany the weight and stretching routines, and by cooking “Martha’s porridge,” which we created as inspired by Ms. Gardner’s nutritional prescription.
Just this last Dec. 12, 2019, the British elections resulted in a landslide victory for the Conservative party. This implied overwhelming support for Boris Johnson’s proposal to complete Britain’s departure from the European Union by January 31, 2020. (2) In the wake of this, I was reminded of Al Gore’s speech at an event on his sequel documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power when he boldly claimed that climate change caused Brexit. In his 2017 explanation, he described that the “principal” cause of the Syrian Civil War was the extreme drought that caused the “incredible flow of refugees into Europe, which is creating political instability and which contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the UK to say ‘Whoa, we’re not sure we want to be part of that anymore.” He further went on to say, “Some countries have a hard time even in the best of seasons, but the additional stress this climate crisis is causing really poses the threat of some political disruption and chaos of a kind the world would find extremely difficult to deal with.”(3)
This relationship between people and the climate crisis is something that I think should be treated with more of a wartime mentality– when people come together, see the connections between the environment and political tension, and rally towards mitigating the problem with collective power. However, because the relationship between people and the environment has to be explained through several linked relationships, like what Vice-president Gore described, the urgency gets lost.
I’ll part with this. Last Christmas (around the time this issue is being published), I entered a lovely stone cottage in County Tyrone of Northern Ireland, an area with many folks supportive of Brexit. There I was, in a beautiful warm home talking to an old man who turned out to be Pierce Kelly, the former drummer of the legendary hard rock band Thin Lizzy. I was smitten; he even wore a monocle. He was an old friend of my husband, and it had been a while since they had seen each other. We were warmly welcomed with hot tea and a basket of Christmas biscuits. As we talked, one thing led to the next, and we soon learned that Mr. Kelly didn’t think that Brexit was all too bad of an idea. Something needs to be done about the refugees, his many explanations expressed. I didn’t get a sense that Mr. Kelly disliked the refugees for being different; rather, I felt more of a sense of resentment and apprehension towards the local chaos the massive migration of people presented: it felt unstable and threatening. I really appreciated listening to Mr. Kelly, and it was the first time I heard firsthand from a person who supported the Brexit cause. My political opinions still differ, and we did not once talk about climate, but what is important to note here is the tea, the biscuits, and the warmth. While this issue tries to connect our planet with our personhood, I think that it also tangentially tries to hint at something else– which is that body heat, expressed through our compassion for one another over food and stories, is a reliable way to listen to the other side.
– Tammy Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief