Singing in the Coal Mine

So…… in spite of my best intentions I have not posted in quite a while. No excuse really, just a nagging sense that things are spiraling into a new epoch of destruction that threatens to break my heart. The everydayness of catastrophe steals the words from my very mouth.

I have been reading books about everyday life, the power of conversation and photography (two of my favorite pastimes), and walking to heal life’s deep hurts. (One of the books was about photography and writing as healing.)

The theme of walking has a peculiar kind of resonance as I have arrived at that post-polio juncture where walking has rather done in my legs and has now become challenging. I find myself puzzled by the number of books that praise walking and the near total absence of books that speak to not being able to walk, yet wanting access to the non-man made world.

The thing is that the trails and relative wilderness remain, if under threat, but very few are accessible to the non-walker, or those of us who can still travel afoot a bit if the trail is kind. Here and there an organization has put in boardwalks but they are often too uneven for a scooter and too narrow for crutches. It is as if those of us with mobility concerns are just not terribly important in the greater scheme of things.

I guess I should not be surprised. Society creates disability through practices that deny accessibility. I am continually amazed at how one simple step up can deny one entry into a desired destination. As I become more reliant on a scooter or power chair, these small obstacles become larger and more limiting, and the lack of enforcement of existing laws governing accessibility becomes more glaring.

Often the personal and the global intersect. The privatization of the commons and the destruction of habitat are disabling for one group or species or another, are both forms of systematic exclusion. I often get the sense that only a small portion of people care that species decline or die out simply because they have no where to live, or that other folks are removed from the social sphere by systemic practices of exclusion.

Clearly, unless society acts now we will soon find that as resources are used up and the temperatures warm to levels no creature can endure, we will all be increasingly disabled and excluded form the natural world. Those of us with disability are simple the proverbial canaries in the coal mine.

18 thoughts on “Singing in the Coal Mine

  1. So good to read you, Michael. I had a four month break earlier this year and it truly helped – but as you say, things, many things, don’t look good. Yesterday I read about #IceLoss and it was extremely depressing and scary. Love to you always.

    1. Hi Lara,
      I find I have to limit my reading just to have some semblance of sanity. For me limiting exposure is not hiding one’s head; rather it is a way of staying alive enough inside to advocate for necessary change.
      I notice I have had several long breaks from blogging in the last couple of years. Sometimes I just have nothing to say in the face of catastrophe. The residential school burial discoveries of the last few weeks have just served to underscore all this.
      I am so appreciate of your persistence.
      Love to you,

  2. I wish I had some intelligent words to add here, but I don’t. The word ‘disability’ is quite broad these days especially if it includes all the seniors who are struggling with a long list of physical issues. I guess we can stay informed, express our concerns, and always vote. Stay well.

    1. HI Judy,
      Yes there are many forms of disability and most meet roadblocks to inclusion. Voting is important but so is raising the issue when we notice the barriers. Often local folks speaking up at restaurants and other public spaces is the most powerful force for change. The larger fight for environmental stewardship and justice has its roots in English common law and the enclosure movement. All that history is terribly difficult to get past.

  3. So very sorry about not finding areas that will accommodate a scooter or crutches. It’s important for everyone to be out in nature. As for the climate crisis…I find it terrifying. As you have read on my blog, my husband and I have cut back in all kinds of ways. In the scheme of things, it probably doesn’t make much difference, but I fel as we must do what we can.

    1. Hi Laurie,
      So good to hear from you!
      Yes, we can only do what we are able to do, even as we would like to do more. There are always tradeoffs as we try to navigate the craziness of the world, and the terror that goes with it. We try to use heat and AC as little as possible but my needs often trump conservation, a dilemma that too often confounds us. This becomes more true as my legs give out and I focus on trying to conserve what I can of them.
      Anyway, we have had rain and cooler temps and the gardens have exploded!

      1. I also think that people with mobility issues need to get out and about for their own mental health. If that involves driving a bit more than you would like, then so be it. And I be you combine things whenever you can.

  4. Beautiful and powerful words. There is much need for improvement in our world, and it is important to keep raising the issues. I wish people would be more thoughtful about making things accessible. 

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for taking time to write!
      I also wish people were more thoughtful. It is not just disability advocacy that is important. As we dismantle the world’s ecosystems we destroy much that is fair, and much that we need for survival. Sadly, the rage that meets disability advocacy also meets environmental advocacy. Folks just do not like to be inconvenienced by the truth.

  5. Nice post, Michael. I hadn’t labeled what I am experiencing as heart broken but it sure seems to apply. It seems like everything I have cared about is attacked in some way or another. Maybe it is dis-illusion – good for my soul and mind but not for my sense of security.
    As far as inaccessibility, probably we can also blame greed. It doesn’t make money to cater to the minority, and there are those who, as you say, are invisible to the those who are making decisions. I am finding that the aged are in that category, too. The backlash against inclusion and equality of opportunity makes my heart ache – to the point of brokenness maybe.
    Thanks for, once again, stimulating my thinking.
    Oh, have your read any of Michael Freeman’s books on photography. I really appreciate how he has a bent towards the emotional aspects of photography as an extension of the technical – his writing seems to focus a lot on thinking like an photographic artists, if that makes any sense to you.

    1. Thanks, Pat. I have requested a couple of Freeman’s books from the library.
      Yes, it is all about the money and immediate gratification, rather than long term good, or even survival. I think the backlash against inclusion and equity is just one aspect of a bigger push back that includes a refusal to acknowledge just how dependent we all are on one another and the creatures we live with, let alone the planet as an ecosystem. It is a sort of mass death wish I guess…….
      Anyway, as always it is good to hear from you. I keep wishing to be better about writing and reading others’ blogs as I find that rewarding. I think the sheer overwhelm of heartache at the moment makes that ever more difficult.
      I like to think that body, emotion, and eye, as well as thought, go together to make good photographs. Then again, sometimes it is just being at the right place, noticing that, and snapping the shutter……

      1. That’s what I depend on – and then I make up some grand analysis of what might have happened. LOL

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