Holding Patterns

words by Willow Defebaugh

Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.

Photograph by Google Earth

Reflect upon this simple statement: The way you do one thing is the way you do everything.


Just as ravines mirror rivers and galaxies spiral out like storms and seashells, nature is a series of repeated patterns, and you are a part of nature—therefore your existence is a series of patterns. The way you treat yourself is no different from the way you treat others which is no different from the way you treat the planet. Integrity (defined as a state of being undivided) is when we become cognizant of this. Dishonesty (division) is when we try to separate our actions and compartmentalize them.


This week, we saw Jeff Bezos announce his $10 billion Earth Fund. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice were quick to illuminate the hypocrisy of the fund when they released the following statement: “We applaud Jeff Bezos’ philanthropy, but one hand cannot give what the other is taking away. The people of Earth need to know: When is Amazon going to stop helping oil and gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells? When is Amazon going to stop funding climate-denying think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and climate-delaying policy? When will Amazon take responsibility for the lungs of children near its warehouses by moving from diesel to all-electric trucking?”


It is not far from President Trump’s recent announcement that his administration would be contributing to the Trillion Tree Initiative, while contributing evermore to the erasure of the country’s environmental regulations, and supporting the fossil fuel industry that has created the need for the trees to be planted in the first place.


With the election looming, integrity seems to be on everyone’s minds. It was an emergent theme of the most recent Democratic Debates, thanks to Senator Elizabeth Warren who set the tone for the evening when she called into question Mayor Bloomberg’s treatment of women: “Here’s who we’re running against: A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mike Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.”


This question of integrity is perhaps why Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as the frontrunner (every one of the most recent national polls show him in the lead following the debates). Removing corporate money from politics has been a platform of his campaign, and so he chose to fundraise through grassroots measures (which has largely worked out in his favor; he raised more than $34 million in the fourth quarter of last year alone).


In a world riddled with compartmentalization, our task is to be constantly integrating (the root of the word integrity) and evaluating how our actions are aligning with our words and our beliefs. If we want to affect real change, we need to embody that change in every aspect of our lives. If we want to create a sustainable world, we first need to create sustainable lives for ourselves. And I’m not just talking about reducing, reusing, and recycling: We need emotional sustainability, sustainable working conditions, and sustainable relationships and community. We need to take responsibility for the patterns we hold, and then we need to re-pattern. We need to give with both hands.

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