The Unbelievers – from Orchestras to Global Warming

Every time I try to remember my breakup from my first husband, there are loud voices, the two of us standing in the kitchen shouting, then phone calls when he pled with me not to leave. At least we were communicating!

Lately the Minnesota Orchestra musicians and management have come under more scrutiny than perhaps ever before in their 14-month (?) lockout. Are their patrons becoming restive? Does it look like the organization may disintegrate before our very eyes? I think the chances are good. And I blame both sides.

It’s a stretch but I imagine that the musicians, priding themselves on their excellence, can’t, still can’t believe that their former management could do such a dastardly thing to them. Their audiences have something of the same problem–witness the ploy in the only public meeting I’ve attended: “Answer the following question in your small-group discussions: “Do we want to have a worldclass orchestra?”

Hmmm! Is that really the question to ask at this juncture, when there’s been virtually no negotiation face-to-face except through the mediation of George Mitchell? And even that has fallen flat. As someone said to me recently, “Of course, Mitchell will succeed. He negotiated with the two Irelands.” Well, he’s just met very  stubborn worldclass musicians.

Aren’t they hurting financially? Some must be because they’ve left. But I’m guessing the bulk of the orchestra is still sitting somewhere with their arms folded across their worldclass bodies, a very aggrieved look on their faces.

As to the management–well I can’t speculate, though I suspect the management NEVER expected their worldclass musicians to hold out so long. From what I’ve read in the paper, the offers from management do cut salaries, but as several friends have commented, these are still living wages we’re talking about–hovering around $90-100,000 a year. Worldclass by my standards.

Now let’s stop to contemplate recent news about global warming. A beautiful and extremely sad article in the Star Tribune Sunday about a search for living coral reefs. The swimmers found many bleached beyond redemption. Gone for good. Another article, also in the Sunday Star Tribune, about forests in N. Minnesota showing evidence of extremely rapid change, either through die-offs of boreal trees who can’t tolerate increased warmth, or the appearance in northern range of more southern trees. Some extrapolate a loss of forests entirely along the northern tier of Minnesota within 50 years–only a rough-hewn form of prairie.

I’ve been convinced of global warming for almost ten years. And I’ve done things that a single-family can do–put in UV-protective glass and very tight windows, changed almost entirely to compact flourescent or LED lights, led a plan on the homefront to reduce energy use–everything from turning down the furnace AFTER we turn it up in the morning to simply doing without as many lights. Plus both my husband and I drive a Prius, not the only low-energy choice, but a good one.

Still I know it’s not enough for one family. The entire neighborhood, city, county, nation needs to make changes in energy production–to wind and solar. In transportation energy use–to mass transit and cars that run far less thirsty for fuel. If we did these two things, and did them very very fast, say within three years, or four, we just might be able to keep from the tipping point, after which there is no return in anyone’s lifetime. We are headed for sunstroke disaster.

Yet, bigger and bigger cars (really they’re small fat trucks) idle daily in my neighborhood for no apparent reason, spewing CO2 from their tailpipes, Here are houses lit up like carnivals. Here are traffic jams that boggle the mind. Isn’t being stuck in a jam every day of the week evidence enough that something is truly wrong with the way we’ve orchestrated our cities?

I’ve very very pessimistic that we can change our tunes, step up to the plate and actually play the game we are supposedly interested in playing – let’s go all the way and saying, interesting in staying alive in relative comfort and handing over a decent world to our children and grandchildren.

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