Yesterday, I sent out my fourth email newsletter since devoting myself full time to the freelance life four months ago.
Daniel Katz (right), co-founder of the Rainforest Alliance, chastised the national green groups at SXSW ECO last week for failing to network in the nation’s grassroots organizations — a shortcoming he blamed for our failure to achieve strong national climate legislation. Austin’s sustainability manager quickly shot up in response: Any movement that bills itself as an environmental one, she said, was a “non-starter” as far as the public is concerned.
While I don’t buy that, I hear her. A sizable block of folks in this country simply cannot register the urgency that comes along with our climate crisis, the damages of extreme extraction pursuits like the tar sands or fracking, or the pain of our biodiversity crash and collapse of the world’s fisheries as the oceans turn warmer and more acidic. Many of these stalwarts of the status quo, I don’t mind telling you, are newspaper editors and publishers.
My experiment in syndication of Lone Star Green has been, as expected, a slow-rolling affair. Even when it was offered for free, no Texas papers opted to run my foundational column on Human Rights, Human Responsibilities. Too radical?
Three months into the experiment, the op-ed editor of my hometown daily still refuses to so much as respond to my emails. Thankfully, there have been braver souls. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran my column on Lamar Smith’s Magic Unicorn Ride, for instance. The Cherokeen Herald ran my screed against those who blame population over conspicuous consumption for the intense strains we’ve placed on our world. The Gilmer Mirror ran my Goodbye to the Horny Toad; the Fort Worth Weekly tackled Fiddling as the Sea Rises; and the Marfa Sentinel has run most of my recent offerings. Even my former colleagues the San Antonio Current saw something of interest in Policing the Oil Patch.
But considering the hours involved and the payments (sometimes) received, it’s proving not to be a sustainable equation.
Freelanced news features have come few and far between. Texas Climate News, the Texas Observer, and the Guardian, are a few of the clients I’ve been able to interest in the issues that have captured my attention of late. But for every story that I’m able to sell, there are easily a dozen or more pitches that go unresponded to. It’s been a long, lonely four months with more than its share of rejection. Not a good formula for someone already prone to depression, as folks in Austin know me.
So while I take time to consider alternative futures (and, really, pass along any ideas), I am sending you one more missive in the hopes that
if you see something of value in Lone Star Green that you will share it with your local news editor.
Today, I’m even less interested in building new clients for Lone Star Green as finding a new path for myself.
The hardness of this time no longer feels like a challenge to sharpen my resolve but a harbinger of re-direction.
Even as I strive to sink my roots in deeper, I’m ambivalent about my decision to make San Antonio home. In past years, there’s only ever been limited use for me. Examples run from the local clean-tech energy newsletter that refused steadfastly to pass along links to my writings (even when I was breaking news of relevance to their members) to the organizer who told me she couldn’t share my stories because the Current, my employer at the time, was “not considered credible.”
Facts are not enough. Even these must have an origin story acceptable to that cultural and economic force former councilmember (and very nearly mayor) Maria Berriozábal knows as the the metaphorical “17 white men” running the city.
And as I’ve struggled to establish myself as an independent journalist, even some of the state-level enviro groups have proved to be something of an oppositional force, rejecting my requests for a simple share on Facebook for one story or another about an issue of mutual concern.
The personal, too, has played a considerable role in this locational ambivalence. Not only have I received few words of encouragement from many I did my best to encourage in the past, but when I got sick last fall and had to go into treatment for my major depressive disorder, later participating in a clinical trial in my search of wellness (a process I honestly didn’t know if I would walk out of), only a single work colleague reached out to see how I was doing.
So, as I begin to dream and consider what should be, I recognize:
My network, whatever shape it takes, must be stronger than this.
My community relationships should weave me together with others who hope and dream as I do.
The work I perform must offer restoration on the other side of its exacting demands.
The disappointments of recent years have led me to something like a point of departure, calling me to look beyond journalism as vocation; and in my activism, toward places I have not known.
It could be the outward appearance of what I do and who I am changes very little. As long as the inner transformation I’m seeking arrives, I wouldn’t mind that in the least.