MP: That's nice.
Rob: ...and you talk so much about really grassroots ways people are connecting and what I love about your book is it's really a story about your experience and your thinking going through the process of caring about climate change and then facing the fact you're in Nebraska, a relatively conservative state, where progressive messages don't really resonate that well and you describe in detail your experience and your process and the emotions involved in spending a number of years fighting Keystone XL.
MP: I'm still fighting that. We're still fighting that. But if you don't mind Rob, let's back up and kind of share with the readers that process just a little bit. And"
MP: I read Bill McKibben's book, Earth, and that book just basically lays out the facts about the effects of climate change on everything, you know, on the economy, on sea coastal areas, on plants and animals and food supply and so on. And it's just a devastating factual book and after I read that book, I just could hardly talk for 2 or 3 days. And I had my little grandkids over here picking raspberries and I just wanted to cry. I was just so aware of how fragile our world seemed. Well now that state of hopelessness and despair is a very uncomfortable state, not only for me, but for everybody and I couldn't stay in it long. And when you're in that state of despair, you sort of have two choices: you can go numb and just not be in despair anymore because you've killed all the emotion in yourself, or you can figure out some way to move to a different state and the only way to do it is really by some kind of transcendent experience, where you decide, "I'm going to turn all this pain and anguish into something bigger than myself."
Rob: And you talk about the trauma to transcendence cycle.
MP: Right. Basically we all are really familiar with this. We've all seen people who got cancer that rose to the occasion and had the best, most loving relationships of their lives. And we've seen people in a disaster give away everything they own to other people. It's not uncommon. As Barbara Solnit says...Rebecca Solnit, I'm sorry, "Transcendence sneaks in everywhere as a survival response." We all see this in friends around us and ourselves, but there's basically, in my opinion, three standard ways that people achieve transcendence. One of them is through action. You hear this in the news or read it in the paper that somebody whose child is killed by gun violence and decides to devote their life to fighting guns. That's a transcendent response to pain.
Another is increasing one's moral imagination so that life isn't just about me and my family and my pain, it's about the pain of the world and the pain of the trees in the Amazon, the pain of the animals and the great grandchildren of the animals to come if we don't do a better job.
And then the other thing that's very important in transcendence is if you're going to make a decision to deal directly with pain, you have to figure out a way to counterbalance those kinds of painful experiences with bliss so that you can be happy. It doesn't make any sense to be unhappy. We all get one life and we all have a right to be happy. And there's a lovely quote, Anna Tennant Moore, which is, "It took me a long time to learn that being miserable doesn't alleviate the world's misery." And I very much feel that way that one of my goals in my own life is to be happy and to be happy every single minute of my life if I can.
But one of the really great ways to be happy is to be an activist, and to be involved in a community of people that love what you love and care about what you love and will go to the very end with you on working to save what you love in this case. So what happened was, I had a friend who was an organic gardener named Brad. He's a young guy, 30 years younger than me and he was over here helping me prune trees and we started talking about the planet. And Brad actually said, "Well let's do something. Let's get a group together and figure out what we can do in Lincoln." And I go, "Well that's great! Let's make it fun."
So the first group was here at my house and I made a really nice dinner and I brought a couple of bottles of French wine and we invited 2 or 3 people and we just talked about, well what is in Nebraska that we can all try to work on together? It was very good timing because that was just when the Keystone XL pipeline was getting ready to come over our Ogallala aquifer, which is the source of 40% of the fresh water in this country, and through our very fragile Sandhills ecosystem, which is porous.
So immediately all agree. Let's work on that Keystone pipeline. And we met again in a week or two and we had another potluck and other people brought the wine and pretty soon we had a group of 20 people who really cared about this issue, who educated themselves, who had different connections that could do different things. We had a lawyer. We had a PR guy. I'm a pretty good leader and conceptual person for a group like this and we just had a lot of stuff going on. We had a fundraiser. We had a guy who lobbied for the legislature that understood the process of how that legislature worked.
So we really started to figure out stuff quick and we started to educate each other. We started to educate our community. We started out with educational forums, but before we knew it, we had allies and our most unusual allies -- and this is really amazing -- were the conservative ranchers and farmers in the West. Because they don't agree with urban progressives like me on hardly anything, but one thing we can all agree about is we need fresh water in this state. We need good water. They make their living on water. They make their living farming and raising cattle that need good water. And as one old farmer said, "You can't feed a cow bottled water. It just doesn't work economically." So the ranchers started coming in and working with us and that was amazing and it was really transformative.
Like one place in the book I talk about...me and my friends in Nebraska, we have always been the royalty of lost causes. We're never on the winning side of anything. And I haven't been on the winning side of an issue in this state for the 40 years I've lived here. And all of a sudden, I was working on an issue that actually had a lot of popular support. And at first we didn't know what to do with that, but we leveraged that support and we kept working, and Nebraska has kept that pipeline out of our state and out of this country for 4 years now. And so our little group...we didn't think we had a chance to do anything. But you know, if you believe you're powerless, you're not. To believe you are powerless is to cede all of your power to other people. And the same is true in the opposite direction: if you act as if you have power, you create power from thin air. And this experiences of fighting the Keystone XL, big international corporation, great big PR firms, bought and paid for our legislature, we'd been fighting this 4 years now and it has taught me so much about how things work in this country. In fact, if you want to see how things work in this country, try to change it and especially if you're change involves dealing with international corporate oil companies. It's really been a learning experience. But so far, we're still on the victory side of all this. It's just really been wonderful and we're sane people, we're tight, we love each other and it's been a really positive and joyous experience.
Rob: So, okay. So I want to get into some of the details because I really think that what you've done in this book is think through some of the process, some of the experience, the psychology, that could be very, very helpful to activists and people who want to make a change and people who are frustrated with the way things are and don't see a way...because I think that's one of the things that's really great that you do so let's start off. You talk about...you have a different opinion about Maslow and his hierarchy. Can you talk about that?