News with Nuance: Nov. 18, 2022
Your Friday dose of News with Nuance: the week's biggest stories, unpacked + more ..
Welcome to News with Nuance. My plan for this post is, every Friday, I will break down some of the week’s top news stories and put them into context, with special attention to the impact of these stories where I live: Middle America; and also an analysis of these stories with historical, political, and spiritual context. This is the kind of work that breaking news journalists often simply don’t have time to do — and I’m hoping it supplies the needed nuance and context that’s often missing from our news cycle, humanizing the people and places behind the headlines.
Last night I finished up a busy stretch of speaking engagements and events related to the release of my latest book, the updated version of Red State Christians. After the busyness of last week’s midterm elections (you should check out the midterm elections debrief podcast I did here with Exvangelical’s Blake Chastain) and then preaching Tuesday at Luther Seminary and speaking Wednesday night in Mankato, Minn., to a sanctuary filled with hundreds of middle schoolers - today feels a little bit like the calm after the storm. I’m going to try and take some time to be grateful for what has occurred and not lament the things that didn’t work out (like my ill-fated continuing education trip).
I think that internal longing for calm and also for hope/contemplation of what’s ahead is reflected in the stories I chose for this week’s News with Nuance. So without further ado, here are the biggest stories of the week - with nuance - plus an update on the week in Christian Nationalism …
Like I suspect many of us, I have developed issues with my attention span. It takes a lot for me to sit and watch a news video for more than five minutes without simultaneously doing something else.
That being said, this news story (it’s actually an 8-minute long video) easily held my attention. The climate change crisis can often feel so weighty, insurmountable, and overwhelming that it’s hard to get our heads around it, rhetorically. And so as I stare outside at mounds of pillowy white snow here in Minneapolis, maybe it would be easy to just pretend for a few minutes that climate change won’t really have to bother me.
This video and reporting from the L.A. Times’ Jack Dolan easily captivated me, and it did what good journalism always does: takes a global issue and makes it personal, following a narrative arc through storytelling and, in this case, arresting images, to make you care in a way you didn’t before. That’s what I found so compelling and important about this video, and why I wanted to share it with you.
Dolan’s reporting begins in the jungle of equatorial Africa, in the country of Tanzania. He tells the story of the porters who work on the mountain, acknowledges the colonialist image of Black men and women carrying (mostly) white peoples’ items up the mountain for them, but importantly Dolan also makes sure that the porters get the chance to share their story for themselves: he doesn’t speak for them, and he honors their work.
Dolan explains that what has been so unique and powerful about Kilimanjaro is that it encompasses so many different types of climates and landscapes on one mountain. The summit is still breathtakingly beautiful, but every piece of this beauty is tinged by the reality of global warming and resulting drought. On one night of camp, the river and tributary where they usually get water is bone dry, causing porters to walk 90 minutes and carry sloshing jugs of water back to camp.
When Dolan reaches the summit, Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro are mostly no more. The landscape is brown and dry, scattered with lonely and isolated vestiges of once-grand glaciers. It’s a scary portent as I think of other places, further north, where glaciers have provided such important beauty and climate regulation, even not so far from home in the Northwoods of Minnesota. Our world is unbearably fragile.
I have a funny personal connection to Mount Kilimanjaro. In elementary school, one of my classmate’s grandmothers came to our class to share a presentation about how she had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, I recognize what a feat it was - but then - this merely seemed like a reachable goal. I imagined that someday I too would climb Kilimanjaro like Tom’s grandma. That I too would stick my walking stick in the snows of Kilimanjaro and return to the jungle below. Little did I know that it would not only be my lack of climbing prowess and my lack of funds that would keep me from sharing Tom’s grandma’s experience - little did I know how much our world would already have changed before the time I turned 40.
I wonder, what world am I leaving to my kids?
The Quote: “You’re standing at one of the highest places in the planet. I got emotional and so did my climbing partner, but it’s also bittersweet because my childhood image of Kilimanjaro - that is gone.
It’s just desolate and dusty, and there are little fragments of glaciers there, but they’re just sad and lonely like little icebergs in a sea of dust. That hit hard.
The fact that the glaciers are disappearing on the top of Kilimanjaro is undeniable. They’ve lost 90 percent of their ice since the end of the 1800s, and unless the weather pattern changes to dump a whole lot more snow on that mountain very soon, those glaciers will be gone
Honestly why does Kilimanjaro matter more than everywhere else on the planet that’s suffering? It doesn’t, but it is so symbolic, and it is so iconic especially if you’re into mountains. And the change is wrenching.”
The Headline: Pelosi to step down as House Democratic leader
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