By Tom Hallock
Now we get to feel what it’s like to live in extreme weather. The 16’’ of snow we just received, on top of the 80” we already had—most of which arrived in the past three weeks—has changed the way we live and work. We are experiencing the world we’ve created by our collective failure to address climate change and invest in public transportation. Our offices have been closed 5 of the past 15 workdays.
Meanwhile, we adapt and our work continues. Since our warehouse and printers are located elsewhere, new books ship on time and we are staying in stock with reprints. Our publicity team reaches out to media about new titles, royalties and vendors are paid, new lists of books are launched and promotion continues. We held an editorial meeting via conference call and acquired two books.
We are living and working differently, though, adapting to this change in our environment. My new assistant started her first day by working at home. New moms on staff (and their partners) have had to deal with daycare closings and snow-bound nannies. I missed another day to deal with ice dams. (The roofer turned out to be writing a book and said, “I’ve been looking for someone with your skills." I said, “And I’ve been looking for someone with yours!”). Our Director Helene Atwan emailed to say Ha Jin has agreed to write the foreword to a poetry collection we’ll publish in the fall called Liberation—and that she has frozen pipes. Cornel West had to take a red eye to get to Chicago ahead of a blizzard there, and drew 2,000 people to an event that happened at the height of the storm. A bookseller from Seminary Coop arrived on skis to handle book sales.
We published a title in 1990 that warned us about the world in which we are now learning to live: The Greenhouse Trap: What We're Doing to the Atmosphere and How We Can Slow Global Warming (World Resources Institute Guide to the Environment) by Francesca Lyman. Although the book was published twenty-five years ago, it still garners reader reviews online such as this one: “a treatise on global warming written at the relatively nascent stage (1990) of this phenomenon but which remains surprisingly fresh and relevant today. Frankly, Ms. Lyman should be making the rounds of the talk shows as I write this in July 2014!"
As publishers committed to earth stewardship, we will continue to publish books about the great challenge of climate change with a new, lived sense of urgency. Wen Stephenson, for example, has a remarkable book coming this fall entitled What We’re Fighting For Now is Each Other: Climate Justice and the Struggle for a Livable World. In it, he argues that climate change is not an environmental issue, but instead a humanitarian and social-justice issue much like abolitionism and civil rights—and carries the same moral weight and immediacy. We’re also publishing Philip Warburg’s Harness the Sun: America's Quest for a Solar-Powered Future. These titles reflect core elements of our work—to awaken hearts and minds, and to show us new ways to live.
I write this just having spent four hours clearing snow from our driveway and sidewalks where the snow is now shoulder height. We work with neighbors to dig out cars and remove icicles, in one case by using a hair dryer on a selfie-type stick. Now, my wife and I are going to use the roof rake to clear the roof of our house. We learn to use new tools for the new times in which we now live…
Tom Hallock is Associate Publisher of Beacon Press.