Be The Change

Welcome to Week 40 of Be the Change!

I saw a meme this morning that resonated: it said, "I'm tired of living through major historical events." Perhaps people always feel that the present moment is of great consequence, but the past six years--Trump, COVID-19, accelerating climate change, and now Ukraine--have seemed particularly rife with news that my three-year-old's children will one day study.

I am, like so many around the world, horrified by the scenes of devastation in Ukraine. The tragedy and evil of this war is particularly difficult for me, as my mom was born and grew up in Ukraine, emigrating to the U.S. in the 1970s, and she still has friends there. The war is not taking place in a vacuum, however. Decisions all of us have made over the past few decades--over energy usage, corruption, wealth accumulation, geopolitics--have set the stage for Putin's crimes.

Numerous commentators have noted that were it not for the world's ongoing fossil fuel addiction, Putin would have much less money to fund his war machine, and even less leverage: oil and gas account for almost 40% of Russia's federal revenue, and 40% of Europe's gas comes from Russia. As I discuss in one of this week's poems, The Price of Gas, our ability to sanction Putin is constrained by his ability to wreak havoc on global oil markets and, in turn, the global economy.

Bill McKibben (writing in The Guardian) and Derek Thompson and Robinson Meyer (both writing in The Atlantic) have great articles arguing that Putin's invasion should put the world on a war footing, marshalling resources at scale to eliminate fossil fuels as soon as possible so as to tackle the climate crisis, create jobs, and rob petro-state autocrats of their sources of wealth and power. Moreover, they note that as we electrify everything--from cars to heating and cooling to industrial processes and more--we will insulate ourselves from fluctuating energy prices and volatile supplies, while depending on locally produced clean energy. After all, if Europe's economy were 100% based on renewable energy, Putin would have very little leverage over them, or us.

At the same time, the West has for decades turned a blind eye to, if not openly welcomed, the money of Russia's oligarchs as they've bought up sports teams, yachts, political support, and property in Miami, New York, London, and elsewhere. We could have turned off the spigot of money, cracked down on the money laundering and corruption--but too many people were making too much money.

Lastly, let us not forget that the reason Ukraine is able to put up such a spirited resistance is that we have provided them with weapons--and that Trump's first impeachment was over his withholding of said weapons in exchange for dirt on Biden. When you hear Republicans say that Biden isn't doing enough, well, just ask yourself how outspoken they were about Trump's admiration for Putin (hint: only one Republican, Mitt Romney, voted to convict him in his first impeachment trial.)

I hope you enjoy this week's poems, both of which are about Ukraine, war, and sacrifice. May Ukraine inspire the rest of the world to be brave in the fight against hate, intolerance, corruption, greed, and the destruction of people and nature.

Please forward this to your friends and ask them to sign up too.

- Andy

The Price of Gas

The Price of Gas
Russia invades Ukraine on many fronts in ‘brutal act of war’” - AP

I’ll do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump.” – President Biden

Things we don’t know include what shrapnel feels like;
the humidity of a metro-turned-bomb shelter;
why birds behave the way they do in war;
why humans shoot at birds for fun;
the difference between bravery and bravado;
the difference between price and cost.

No one is to blame for anything anymore.
Or is it that everyone is to blame for everything?
Maybe the world has gotten too small: so many billions
of us, incomprehensible to ourselves, let alone
one another, crowded together on this flammable
rock in this flammable galaxy in this flammable universe.
Why are we surprised when all goes up in flames?

War is bad for birds—see them scatter from decapitated
tree to decapitated tree!—and people, to be sure, but
even worse for the price of gas, which, incidentally,
is one of the few things we do know these days:
by the barrel, the gallon, the tankful...

So when a madman invades and millions suffer,
how else are we to quantify the cost of action?

Thursday, February 24, 2022


There are so many ways to say it:

on the verge
on the cusp
on the precipice
on the brink

of catastrophe, apocalypse, war

Then war breaks out
and we see it never stopped—not for those
within range of artillery and propaganda—that
long before the stamps commemorating peace,
before factories resumed churning out grenades,
some made off with blueprints for reconquest,
taped them to the walls of their dreams
and nightly filled those dream-rooms
with gold.

When such people come to power
we act surprised that they do
exactly what they said they’d do.

And like a wildfire sunset,
if you don’t think too hard about it,
our condemnation, swallowed
by clouds of white phosphorous,
is rather beautiful.

On February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine while the "free world" loudly condemned his instigation of war—and did little else to stop a madman
If you want to help Ukraine, NPR has a list of suggested ways to do so.

- Andy