24 August 2014

Have We Waited Too Long? Is It Too Late?

Was it just last week that I suggested we could "make it" if we took the bold step of throwing our military resources (funds and (hu)manpower) at the climate change emergency? After yesterday, I'm starting to feel a panic.

You see, yesterday was the day of the Fall Fair in my little community. It's the biggest event of the year. I love convening the Young People's Agriculture section (we had to create a new category this year for the four giant pumpkins that kids entered into the Any Other Variety division against garlic and canteloupe). People see other community members they haven't seen all year. It's a happy time. For most.

One woman was sent off to the hospital by ambulance, likely for dehydration. I felt strange all day, hot and lightheaded -- but the high was only 22ºC or so. Then a local farmer bent my ear for a while, telling me of biosecurity issues on our island (a fungus being carelessly spread from farm to farm) and being "scared shitless" of what's on the way -- or here already. "We're in a little bubble here," he said. "We have no idea what's coming." 

As someone who understands the climate change emergency and sees what's happening around the world, I was nevertheless shocked to hear it come from someone else, especially someone local. (We really do live in a blessed little bubble here.)

So imagine my angst when I came home to an impassioned email from a friend who recently moved to a farm a couple of hours away. She wrote that she's afraid to sell or share any of her produce or farm products this year. That's because there are practically no insects or animals anywhere on her property -- not even a worm in her compost -- and she's fearing the worst. (Fukushima fallout? The worst of climate change?)

There's someone up her way, a biologist and diver, who just spent 9 days surveying 200 kilometres of coastline and in that time saw only one live seagull, one crow, no insects, minimal showings of only 4 other species, and no trace of anything else.

My husband I have been noticing the scarcity of seagulls (we never appreciate what we've got till it's gone) for quite a while, at least several years before Fukushima. We used to see huge flocks of them around here. His elderly mother in England, during her last years, lamented the loss of birds and their birdsong (Silent Spring, anyone?). Peter often decries (and cries about) the lack of butterflies these days. His childhood was filled with butterflies. 

One of the most invisible and most insidious effects of a more variable and unpredictable climate is that predator / prey relationships are being thrown into chaos. If a prey insect hatches early because the sesasons have shifted but the predator bird hasn't returned from its migration, that's a problem. If a predator shows up early, but the prey is late, that's a problem. 

It's a North American (and perhaps EuroAmerican) habit to think in only black and white terms, forgetting the greys and all the other colours of the rainbow. What I'm getting at is that there's probably no one origin of this situation. It's probably not just habitat destruction. Not just Fukushima radiation. Not just climate change. Not just karma. But because we don't think in systems, we want one enemy, one reason, one proven cause. 

And while waiting for that one enemy, reason or cause (that we can what? shake our fist at? throw military might at?), it seems they've all been ganging up on us. I'm not going to say it's too late, but holy shit, we'd better wake up and get our act together! 

My friend wrote that if there's hope, we need to be determined and heroic. "Can we take [this biologist's] lead and do our own research? Official sources are letting us down. Understand this onslaught is sudden and inevitably headed [our way]. How quickly? What are people seeing this season that was not noticeable last? How quickly can we think, work and cooperate?"

Even U.S. President Obama weighed in recently, at the University of California Irvine commencement on 14 June 2014:
So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest. The question is whether we have the will to act before it's too late. For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place. And that is to leave the world a little bit better for the next generation.
Someone on FB said this morning, "It needs courage to face the mess we are in. The fight has only just started and will be painful. But optimism is a moral duty, without which the fight cannot be won." Courage and compassion, folks. Courage and compassion. Leave the dishes and the TV shows and video games. Let's get to work!

(Thanks to Mike at Tau Zero for the photo of the very pissed off seagull.)

17 August 2014

So, Do We Really Have Time to Avert Climate Catastrophe? Yes, If We Deploy the Military

Anyone who understands the climate change emergency deeply knows that our Climate EMERGENCY Countdown is a desperate, last-ditch effort to ensure that world leaders at the Climate Summit this September in New York City get us on a path that at least gives us a hope in hell of a future.

Someone responded to the Countdown on FB by saying "This is a realistic plan, but it is also too slow. 2ºC is already locked in at present CO2, methane and NO2 levels. We need to slash the defense budget and use it to convert everything to renewable energy ASAP." 

Yup, all true. But if we start our decline in carbon emissions by next year, then we'll already be on a different trajectory -- one that gives us that hope in hell. And next year is as close to now as we're going to get. (Though the financial crash in 2008-2009 showed us how quickly greenhouse gas emissions can be turned around.)

Several years ago, we and Anthony Marr were talking about a Global Green Fund -- paid for by a 10% donation from each country's military. That would have got the ball rolling, but it didn't happen. (Indeed, ha ha ha ha ha. What were we smokin'?)

Doesn't mean it wasn't a good idea, or that my FB friend's friend's idea isn't a good one. Imagine a world where the soldiers are all busy, not fighting each other (and invisible enemies), but retrofitting whole cities and countries and kickstarting the solar age. Imagine armies of people taking constructive rather than destructive action. (Imagine the increase in military self-esteem!)

So, do we have time? Yes, just. But first, to ensure our success, we have some important things we need to do ... fast. And since we all know who can mobilize fast, let's ask the calvary and the National Guard and the King's Army and the FBI and the CIA and maybe the Mafia and street gangs, too, to lend us a hand. After all, they're all human beings with beloved children in their lives. Why wouldn't they want to help?

10 August 2014

Despite the Climate Change Emergency, There's Some Good News to Report

Okay, the baseline is still that we're in a planetary climate change emergency, and if governments don't get their act together at the upcoming UN climate conference (COP20) in Lima, Peru this December, we're hooped. 

(Easy peasy, lemon squeezy solution: Write to every elected official you can think of to demand that governments put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, start the decline in carbon emissions next year, and opt for RCP2.6+ as the basis for their next global, legally binding agreement at Paris (COP21) in December 2015.)

We're presenting the Climate EMERGENCY Countdown in our own community this coming week. It's not all bad news (after all, if governments put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, start the decline in carbon emissions next year, and opt for RCP2.6+ as the basis for their next global, legally binding agreement at Paris (COP21) in December 2015, then there's some hope!), but at the request and behest of some friends who don't have the stomach for any of the bad news, we're going to make a point of presenting some good news on the climate front. Here's a bit of it, collected from various sources:

1. A handful of chemistry companies are mimicking photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide emissions into products such as chemicals, fibres and jet fuel. (Source)

2. The UK is transforming old coal mines into solar farms. (Source)

3. The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States is proposing a Clean Power Plan. (Source)

4. Both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, both understand the urgency. Perhaps they'll be able to (what's a nice word for) knock some sense into world leaders.

5. Climate Action Network International's June 2014 position statement, Long Term Global Goals for 2050, is the best ever. 

(Hey, I didn't say it was a long good-news list!)

03 August 2014

Compassion Tune-up: Change The Earth, by Gaiaisi

It's been a while, and this song just came my way, so it's time for a new compassion tune-up. 

Here's the line that went straight to my heart: "All I really care's life's got a place to grow." (Watch the video below and you'll see what I mean.)

Gaiaisi (pronounced Gaia's eye, but spelled to include the three words Gaia is I) is a Canadian musician, climate change activist and animal advocate. Here's what he has to say about Change The Earth:

"There is quite literally no issue more important on this planet as no specific conflict or problem afflicting the human race today will matter if the atmosphere heats up to a temperature inhospitable to the biosphere that allows us to breathe, drink, eat, and for life as we know it on this planet to exist. 
The current trajectory of global warming is headed at full speed towards a scenario where previously frozen methane deposits locked under the Arctic and Antarctic are beginning to erupt, releasing massive amounts of a greenhouse gas four times more potent than carbon dioxide. 
The last time a similar eruption of methane occurred in the Earth's history 251 million years ago it caused the single greatest mass extinction event in the planet's history, extinguishing 70% of all species on land and 95% of life in the oceans. 
This is an emergency and this video can play a critical role in awakening millions of people...."

by Gabriel Nicolau

I want to speak to the world out there, said
I want to speak to the world out there
I want to speak to the world out there, said
I want to speak to the world out there, I'll say...

(Verse 1)
The sun goes around, everything now
Seem like it's heating up, steaming from the ground
Said the traffic lights go, everything slow
Engines still burning though, you can smell the smoke
Blowing and it rise, haze up in the sky
Coughin'/Coffin on the ground, another day goes by
As we drip, drip die, struggling I
Wondering if life as I know can survive
Cause it seem like everything is gone before you blink
Politicians still smiling while we flying by the brink
It's like we on a ship, only thing different is
Where you gonna swim when the whole city sinks and...

Change, oh change gonna come
Some day, some day the waves are gonna rain and
Change, yeah change gonna come
Cause nothing remains the same, it'll become
Changed under the blazing sun
To something, oh I don't know what, but
Change, yeah change gonna come
You better wake up and run cause...

(Verse 2)
No matter location, dollar denomination
Political placement or religious persuasion
The nature of the globe is a single situation --
We all facing the same devastation, frame:
A rainforest where it ain't raining
That's what's happening in the Amazon Basin
Where deforestation leads to desertification
...No more trees to breathe, we'll be suffocating
I hope it won't happen, but I fear that it will
If we don't start to see how meat truly kills -- it's
More than just the chicken and the cow and the pig
It's the space it takes up to make them live
Gotta give the utmost place to Nature
So this sacred cradle can stay stable
And start protecting her last precious living bits
To nurture Earth, like the treasure that she is, where....

( Chorus Same as 1st )

I don't really care if it all goes up tomorrow
Bodies dropping now gotta stop it today, ya
I don't really care now if my wallet is hollow
When the paper that it's made of's all going up in flames, ya
I don't really care now if you follow or go on your own
Sky is falling and we all in the same boat
I don't really care now if you profit or go broke
All I really care's life's got a place to grow
(Instrumental Break)

(Verse 3)
All right now come on listen 'cause we
Really got no time to waste, we gotta face it
Flames on the rise today, try to escape it
But where you gonna hide away -- asphyxiation
Make you wanna fry but wait -- don't be afraid 'cause
There's still a little time to take for the occasion
'Fore it caves in and breaks, we better brace
Even if it makes you cry -- the haste, for me to say
This could be one of the last days
...To change
Ever since the beginning
Of this civilized killing age we've been erasing
Cutting down the forests and plains and replacing
With stains but it can't sustain, 'cause it's straining
The soils and the streams -- our veins ... now it's changing
The weather and it's getting so insane!
That the atmosphere depletes, feeling the pain
Now if the heat keeps raising and the rains ...
This Earth may go up in flames

(Final Chorus)
Change, ohh change gonna come
One way or another something's gonna break and
Change, yea change gonna come
But what are we waiting for? Are we numb from
The pain, that makes us run
Away but we can't escape from the one:
Change, yea Change gonna come
Someday, some day has come

27 July 2014

The Perfect Education Model for Our Times - Forest Schools

Charlotte's beautiful eagle, after storytelling in the woods

I seem to do at least one nifty thing every summer that I want to share with you here. I've told you about my nature daycamps and growing wheat with my students and my community's Fall Fair Young People's Agriculture division. Well, this year it's the Forest School Educator training program I attended last week. 

Forest School Canada's Maureen Power and Jon Cree from the UK's Forest School Association spent a week with us, pretty much all in the woods (on an urban university campus, so it doesn't have to be in the wilderness), including two rainy days in the middle of the week. 

The magic of the program came partly from the wonderful synergy of the 18 participants, partly from the lovely wooded site that was chosen for the training, partly because the instructors work (and play) and teach so well together, partly from the great food, and partly because I was so ready for this. 

Forest School is as close to our species' original education "model" as you can get. It's based on regular and repeated access to the same natural space, whether for half a day per week or every school day. Children and adults spend their time in "their" woods or other natural setting in every sort of weather, year round. 

The kids play (play is a child's learning work) and the role of their teachers is to supply "loose parts" like tools and art supplies, and to keep the children safe while observing their growth and development. 

All the things we were learning and developing
It's not the same as outdoor education or environmental education where there is a pre-determined learning goal. In Forest School, the "curriculum" is emergent, which is to say that the children choose what they want to do next and so that's what they'll learn next. The learning is experiential, inquiry-based, play-based and place-based. 
Making a mallet (woodcraft and safety)

It might be climbing a rock or a tree (they'll learn courage and strategy, gross motor skills and pride of accomplishment) or sitting quietly in their magic spot with a journal (where they'll develop self-regulation skills, the gift of contemplation, and perhaps their writing skills and artistic side). 

Our week of training was a rich, warm, powerful, loving and learningful experience.

Here's what I know, for sure, in the depth of my heart. If our training course was a taste of what we can create in our own educational settings, then it's what I want
for my students ... and for all the human children in the world!

(For a history of this movement, check out Forest and Nature School in Canada: A Head, Heart, Hands Approach to Outdoor Learning.)