Channeling Fear

What happens when fear for a place you love moves you enough that you’re willing to give your life for it?

In 1979, Mark Dubois chained himself to a rock behind New Melones Dam in the USA’s Stanislaus River Canyon and threw away the key. His action focused national attention on a place and a cause in a way that hadn’t happened before. Mark and the community lost the Stanislaus River in the end, through a combination of big money from the agricultural lobby and the use of dishonest campaign tactics. But his action launched a movement and gave voice to wild rivers and the ecosystems they nourish.

Mark went on to co-found many environmental non-profit organizations, including International Rivers, dedicated to protecting rivers and defending the rights of the communities that depend on them. In his words, “Overall, the lesson I got from the river is, we’re one and the same. We’re connected. By trying to protect that place, I was helping protect me.”

Many of us are afraid for the planet these days, in the very same way that Mark feared for that river and its beautiful canyon. This short film raises the question of what we are willing to do about it.

In related vein, in a very different yet engaging voice and style, look for Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species, by Ana Pêgo and Isabel Minhós Martins, a middle grade nonfiction title published in an North American edition by Greystone Books.

In 2015, marine biologist Ana Pêgo decided to name the plastic trash she’d collected along shorelines—she called it “plasticus maritimus.” There is much in this book to reflect upon and discuss, but its greatest strength lies in its clever, persuasive invitation to take action. Originally published in Portugal.

India and Black America

India and Black America have often been on intersecting paths, paths that have largely been ignored in the national discourses of both countries.

Example: the influence of a former Inner Temple lawyer from Gujarat upon the life and thinking of a young Black minister from Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been gripped by that story since 2006, and the resulting book will be out later this year.

But Black and Desi people share history along many dimensions, as this India Currents article demonstrates. Snippet:

…a young Black man sat down inside the British Embassy in Washington, DC, and refused to move. African American pacifist Bayard Rustin became director of the Free India Committee in 1945, working to end British rule in India. But it wasn’t enough to just talk, so Rustin began leading sit-in protests at the British Embassy, repeatedly getting arrested as he worked to help free India, two decades before he went on to organize the 1963 March on Washington, site of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I have a dream” speech.

The history of Indians in the US and Canada has been all about navigating the complexities of racialization.

And of course, there’s Kamala Harris, personifying an identity that went under the radar until now. Today, the Blindian Project celebrates Black and South Asian relationships.

All of which seems appropriate to think about, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in this still-new year.