Gen Z activism

BBC News has an article today on how Gen Z is an activist generation. The article has the usual platitudes, like Gen Z activists are different because they’re digital natives — um, we’ve heard the same thing about the Millennials. And Gen Z activists are different because they feel like there’s not much hope for the future — um, when I was a teenaged peace activist in the late 1970s, there was a high level of hopelessness among my peers around the high probability of a nuclear holocaust, and the certainty of environmental disaster. So yes, there are differences between Gen Z and previous generations, but I think journalists are playing up the differences more than reality indicates.

One thing I think the BBC piece gets absolutely right is that Gen Z is energizing older generations. I feel energized by Gen Z activism. And not internationally famous Gen Zers like Greta Thunberg, but rather the Gen Zers I’ve met face to face. Like the teens I got to know in California who organized Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action. Like the college music major I met this summer who’s using their music to promote activism. On the other hand, I’m not so thrilled with, for example, Gen Z anti-abortion activists. Yet I have to admit that those Gen Z anti-abortion activists also energize me, by making me more committed to regaining legal access to abortion.


Early New England meetinghouses, used for both public worship and for town meetings, differ from later church buildings in a couple of ways.

First, meetinghouses lack the axial orientation of churches. A church is rectangular, and you enter through the main door in one of the short walls. The congregation is aligned along an axis facing the pulpit. Meetinghouses are either square, or the main entrance is on the short wall; typically there would be entrances on three walls. Instead of an axial orientation, a meetinghouse has (to my mind) more of a communal orientation. You can see the lack of an axial orientation in the photo below, which shows the interior of the meetinghouse of First Parish in Cohasset, my new congregation.

Interior of the meetinghouse, First Parish in Cohasset

Second, meetinghouses were typically not built with a bell tower. If a bell tower was added to a meetinghouse, it would often be placed to the left or right of the pulpit, not opposite the pulpit. A church, by contrast, typically has the bell tower over the main entrance, opposite the pulpit. The placement of the bell tower in a church has the effect of reinforcing the axial orientation. The meetinghouse of First Parish in Cohasset has the bell tower off to one side, which to my eye tends to diminish any sense of an axial orientation in the building.

Front of the building with the main entrance, First Parish in Cohasset

A final difference: meetinghouses typically have less ornamentation than a church. A meetinghouse tends to place the emphasis, not on the building, but on the people in the building.

I’ll be interested to see whether the form of the building makes any difference in the way people interact. Ask me about this in six months or so….

Heat and humidity

The National Weather Service calls this “oppressive” heat and humidity. When I got up at 6:00 a.m., the temperature inside the house was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was maybe two degrees cooler outside.

I went for a walk while it was still relatively cool. A light breeze was coming in off the water, just strong enough to blow the deer flies away. Down on the town beach, you could see maybe a few hundred yards out into Buzzard’s Bay — it wasn’t exactly fog, the air was just murky with moisture. There was no horizon: the gray water shaded into the gray murk which got slightly brighter as it shaded into the gray sky.

Double Crested Cormorants rest on rocks in Buzzard’s Bay

I walked slowly, stopping to look at the periwinkles slowly making their way along the sand, and at green seaweed (Ulva intestinalis?) waving in the water. Though I walked slowly, within a quarter of an hour I was drenched in sweat.

This heat humidity has been going on for weeks now, with only an occasional break. This is not the summer weather we had in New England twenty years ago. It feels more like summers in Philadelphia when I lived there in the 1980s. Or maybe even summers in the Deep South.

Scientists tell us that you can’t tell if climate change is happening based on one weather pattern of a few weeks. So OK, I’m willing to trust the scientists on this one. Nevertheless, this doesn’t feel like the New England weather I remember from the past. Maybe I’m just another old guy waxing nostalgic for lost youth. (Or maybe I’m just an old guy who can’t take the heat any more.) Then I read about the extreme heat in Europe this summer, and what I’m experiencing fits into a larger pattern. Climate change is happening.


The pagan holiday of Lughnasa traces its roots back to old festivals that celebrated the first fruits of the harvest. In northern Europe, early August was the time when agriculturalists would begin to know what kind of grain crop they’d harvest this year. And they’d begin to have fresh grains again, instead of having to rely on what was left from the previous year’s harvest.

When I’ve lived in New England, as I am once again, Lughnasa becomes a bitter-sweet celebration. More and more fresh vegetables make their appearance at farm stands and farmer’s markets. Raspberries are at their peak, and it won’t be long until we start getting the first summer apples.

Yet at the same time, this is the time of year when you first begin to sense that the days are growing shorter. Some birds begin to drop out of the morning chorus; when I went out for a walk early this morning, I didn’t hear any more Willow Flycatchers. In a drought year like this year, you even begin to see red leaves in early August; we took a long walk on Sunday and here and there were Poison Ivy vines with brilliant red leaves.

It’s both the peak of summer, and the beginning of the turn towards winter.