In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasely—a nice reasonable man, who in our world would probably be a big-hearted engineering geek, wearing a sweater and setting up solar panels on The Burrow decades before anyone else, sort of like Jimmy Carter—reprimands his daughter: “‘Ginny!’ said Mr. Weasley, flabbergasted. ‘Haven’t I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brains?’”
Harry Potter is not commonly placed in the canon of stories addressing the slippery scourge of climate change altering our world in manifold and insidious ways. Yet, when it comes to the absolute basics—a dark threat to a good world, the ferocity of love as our strongest weapon—there is a good deal of common ground. Voldemort spews evil and hate into the world by making people feel alone and unloved. Climate change is a product of churning human lives trying to make, own, use, and be enough, (spewing fossil fuels in the process.) These are not entirely dissimilar forces in the world—fictional Wizard or real Muggle.
Let’s replace the idea of Dark Lord-ish magic with the reality of nasty unknowns buried in a cultural pattern of convenience and over-consumption of resources that is causing climate change. The break room at my work, for example, has a coffee machine that takes in little foil and plastic pods of coffee grounds and spits out piping hot coffee a few seconds later. I don’t see where the water comes from, where the heat comes from, or where the plastic pods go.
In essence, I can’t see where this convenient—friendly-as-Tom-Riddle’s-diary—machine keeps its brains. This seems bad. Even if there isn’t a corporeal basilisk lurking around, I have the sense that I am being hypnotized and participating in something I don’t like.
I’ve had Mr. Weasley stuck in my head for a few weeks now, reminding me to look for the brains. Further, if I can’t find or don’t like the brains, then I am trying to eliminate and reduce my reliance on whatever nefarious good or service this sneaky-brained contraption may provide.
I am not fully there. Yet. But looking for the brains feels like a start, and with something as dour and daunting as climate change, that’s basically the same sort of shot in the arm as calling Voldemort Voldemort.
Bethany Taylor lives in New England, blogs and blogs at Granite Bunny and Hothouse Magazine, works as a farmer and a librarian, and generally tries to have a good time saving the world and writing about it.