I keep waiting for the band to strike up “Happy Days are Here Again,” the classic song heard in dozens of 20th century films and political campaigns signaling that the War, or the Depression, or the bad guys or whatever, were over and done with, and the good people of America, or Mayberry or wherever could get on with their otherwise perfect lives. But in the 21st century, I haven’t heard it so much. We partied like it was 1999 but soon imploded into a post-September 11 hangover from which we’re still suffering. It feels more like another classic — “The Party’s Over,” a phrase that ran through my mind repeatedly during the Great Crash of 2008. It turns out that rumors of Wall Street’s demise were greatly exaggerated and its party continues (even as the Occupy Wall Street movement takes a blow). But the rest of us have entered a new era, one of fiscal austerity and financial insecurity in a climatically tempestuous world.
Feels like it’s time for a laugh. But who has the time? There are tweets to track and protests to protect. In the 21st century tradition of multi-tasking, may I suggest the online environmental magazine Grist a full service enviro source providing in-depth coverage of a wide range of stories you never knew you needed to know, free of excessive anger but with just the right amount of goofy snarkiness. (Full disclosure: they did a favorable interview with my husband, John Amos and his organization SkyTruth in January 2007.) As I post this, the current issue includes everything from a guide to heritage turkeys for Thanksgiving to the debunking of a Washington Post article criticizing federal investments in renewable energy. They don’t all inject the same level of levity. But just when you’re getting ready to rant about the state of climate politics, Tim Dechristopher will introduce some cat videos to cool things down (you don’t have to agree with him about how to solve the world’s problems, but you do have to laugh at the cats on the treadmill, if only for the Rocky soundtrack that accompanies it.)
I went through “humorous news withdrawal” for a few weeks recently when we lost cable access and I could no longer watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night. I realized then how much I relied on a regular laugh to cope with it all (bringing to mind Jimmy Buffet’s Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes “if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”) I can’t argue that Grist fills the same need. But if you’re looking for in-depth environmental news coverage that inserts some comic relief just when needed, check it out at grist.org.