15 January 2017

Greenhouse Gas Pollution — Our Greatest Enemy

Like many of you, I can still remember where I was on September 11, 2001. I can remember that I was at home, working hard to finish up a writing project before the deadline later that day. I can remember that the weather (in my part of the world) was soft and sunny. (Septembers used to be like that here.)

I can remember the phone call from my stepson, who said, "Do you have the TV on? Put the TV on" and hung up. I remember that I was alone, my husband away at a retreat (from which he came home the very next day after hearing one of the organizers say, "We should nuke 'em" — without even knowing who "'em" was).

I can also remember the growing sense of dismay and then horror as the American dogs of war were riled up against Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. Then Secretary of State, Colin Powell, insisted to the world that Iraq had WMDs: weapons of mass destruction. They didn't. I knew that. Lots of Canadians knew that. The Canadian prime minister knew that. How come Colin Powell didn't know that? (He sure knows it now, saying his speech to the UN about Iraq's supposed WMDs was the low point of his career.)

Anyway, I was reminded today in a TEDx presentation by Dan Miller (A Simple and Smart Way to Fix Climate Change) that one of the reasons we're not responding to the climate change emergency is that it's a threat without an enemy. (Is that why a majority of Americans believed — or more accurately, were led to believe — that it was Saddam who brought down the Twin Towers? Because they needed a face for the anger and the threat they were feeling?) 

The threats that our species responds to immediately, according to Miller, are those that have one or more "threat indicators" (Miller suggests envisioning a lion heading towards you on the savannah):
  • visible (versus global climate change, which is still invisible to many of us, especially on nice days)
  • have historical precedent (versus global climate change, which is unprecedented in human history)
  • immediate (versus global climate change, which is drawn out over months, years, decades and centuries)
  • direct personal impacts (versus global climate chane, which has unpredictable and perhaps indirect impacts ... but hold onto your hats, folks)
  • simple causality (versus the complex causes of global climate change)
  • caused by an enemy (versus, gulp, the climate change emergency, which is caused by almost all of us)
Well, all of this is my way of introducing something I've been working on: the vilification of greenhouse gas pollution. Pollution is "the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects." Yup, too much CO2 in the atmosphere has harmful effects, making it a pollutant (despite its beneficial effects on plants at the right levels, meaning before global warming causes heat waves, droughts and floods that harm plants).

So what do you think? Does that carbon dioxide molecule need a mustache to be seen as an enemy we can fight together? Or is it scary enough just the way it is? ;-)

08 January 2017

Believing is Seeing

I keep reading about the new understanding that people only allow in (to their lives, their minds, their outlooks, their consciousness) that which doesn't confront or contradict their belief system.

It's a sort of psychic safety mechanism against cognitive dissonance, and it is making it very difficult to educate those who don't understand — and don't want to understand — the climate change crisis. 

I experienced a funny incident the other day that not only proved this theory in myself, but also proved that believing is seeing. (So many people think the opposite is true, that seeing is believing.) 

I woke up early to get to a special event at work much earlier than usual. In the early morning darkness, I bid a silent goodbye to the shadowy lump in the bed next to me that was my husband and snuck down the stairs to get ready. I turned on several lights downstairs (including in the hallway and the bathroom, both near the guestroom) and as time passed and I had to quicken my pace, I started turning on more and more lights and making more and more noise — popping in and out of the guestroom to gather up items I'd put there the night before. 

Just before I left, I noticed that the dog had followed me downstairs and was snuggled up on the guestroom bed. When I went to pick her up to carry her back to the bedroom so she could snuggle with her "dad" instead, I tripped over a glass on the floor and noticed that my hubby had left his reading glasses and some writing paper scattered about as well. As I was making this racket, the dog climbed higher in the bed towards the pillows.

It wasn't until I leaned down to pick her up that my husband moved and scared the you-know-what out of me! I screamed, "What are you doing here"? I saw you up in the bed, next to me."

"No," he responded, "I couldn't sleep but I didn't want to disturb you. So I snuck down here in the middle of the night to do some work, and then I fell asleep."

I'm sure he'd managed to fall back to sleep before I was even out the front door — but I didn't leave until I'd tiptoed up the stairs again to check out that bulge in my bed. Sure enough, it was just the way the blankets were heaped that looked like a human being sleeping there. Climate change is real after all ... I mean, that wasn't my beloved in the bed next to me in the morning, but because it's what I believed I saw when I got up in the very early dawn light, I just couldn't see him in the guestroom bed, even with all the lights on and the dog on top of him!

So folks, that's just one little personal anecdote, but I think I'm going to start diverting my attention and efforts to building coalitions with people and organizations and politicians already doing the good work to safeguard the future. I have a feeling the others just won't be able to see the climate change emergency until something happens to wake them up to its ravages.

01 January 2017

San Francisco’s Official Response to the Election of Trump

It's an interesting time. My friends and I are tired. Weary. Worn out. There's a sense of foreboding in the air. And we're not even American. The news from south of the border keeps getting worse and worse. (Admittedly, that's from my compassion perspective.) We're trying to encourage each other to stay positive, but it's hard. The other day (post nuclear tweets by T****), my husband came out of his office saying, "And we thought things couldn't get worse." How is it possible that the last 50 years of social justice work can be tossed aside so indifferently?

Thank goodness a friend just sent me "San Francisco’s Official Response to the Election of Trump." I burst into tears of relief when I read it. (It means even more to me because I was just there.) It was a reminder that we can and must keep working on our social justice issues. Collectively, we can still create powerful impacts, even if we're each working with a more local focus.

I hope the San Francisco Bay Times won't mind me sharing this with you. Let's hope that other American cities adopt a similar resolution. Indeed, if you're American, please promote this in your municipality.


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution, introduced by Board President London Breed, in response to the election of Donald Trump. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected to become the 45th President of the United States; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That no matter the threats made by President-elect Trump, San Francisco will remain a Sanctuary City. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city great, and who represent over one third of our population. This is the Golden Gate—we build bridges, not walls; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we will never back down on women’s rights, whether in healthcare, the workplace, or any other area threatened by a man who treats women as obstacles to be demeaned or objects to be assaulted. And just as important, we will ensure our young girls grow up with role models who show them they can be or do anything; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That there will be no conversion therapy, no withdrawal of rights in San Francisco. We began hosting gay weddings twelve years ago, and we are not stopping now. And to all the LGBTQ people all over the country who feel scared, bullied, or alone: You matter. You are seen; you are loved; and San Francisco will never stop fighting for you; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we still believe in this nation’s founding principle of religious freedom. We do not ban people for their faith. And the only lists we keep are on invitations to come pray together; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That Black Lives Matter in San Francisco, even if they may not in the White House. And guided by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, we will continue reforming our police department and rebuilding trust between police and communities of color so all citizens feel safe in their neighborhoods; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That climate change is not a hoax, or a plot by the Chinese. In this city, surrounded by water on three sides, science matters. And we will continue our work on CleanPower, Zero Waste, and everything else we are doing to protect future generations; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we have been providing universal health care in this city for nearly a decade, and if the new administration follows through on its callous promise to revoke health insurance from 20 million people, San Franciscans will be protected; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we are the birthplace of the United Nations, a city made stronger by the thousands of international visitors we welcome every day. We will remain committed to internationalism and to our friends and allies around the world—whether the administration in Washington is or not; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That San Francisco will remain a Transit First city and will continue building Muni and BART systems we can all rely upon, whether this administration follows through on its platform to eliminate federal transit funding or not; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That California is the sixth largest economy in the world. The Bay Area is the innovation capital of the country. We will not be bullied by threats to revoke our federal funding, nor will we sacrifice our values or members of our community for your dollar; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we condemn all hate crimes and hate speech perpetrated in this election’s wake. That although the United States will soon have a President who has demonstrated a lack of respect for the values we hold in the highest regard in San Francisco, it cannot change who we are, and it will never change our values. We argue, we campaign, we debate vigorously within San Francisco, but on these points we are 100 percent united. We will fight discrimination and recklessness in all its forms. We are one City. And we will move forward together.


25 December 2016

A Christmas Compassion Tune-up — No child should ever cry on Christmas

I'm writing this on Christmas Eve, with just a few minutes left till midnight. I spent the evening with friends sharing a lovely dinner of potato pancakes (in honour of Hanukkah), cranberry sauce and warm winter salad, then watching a favourite movie.

Despite what's going on in the world, I still believe in my heart of hearts that the greatest way we could solve the climate change crisis would be to feel compassion for the children with the future we're bequeathing them. 

So my holiday gift for you this year will be this compassion tune-up. It's a song I've only ever heard once on the radio — a few years ago — (they don't play this one in malls and elevators) and it had me sobbing while doing my sit ups. 

At this special time of year for so many of us, let's remember to count our blessings. I count you as one of mine.

No Child Should Ever Cry On Christmas
by John Oates
sung by Hall & Oates

Father Christmas, Mother Mary
Bless the Child on this, His day
Round the world are so many families
Not enough to eat but still the faith to pray
Let the Holy star above
Shine a silver light of love
And turn this world around
No child should ever cry on Christmas
No child should ever be afraid
No child should ever cry on Christmas Day
Come the morning
Toys and laughter
Yeah that's the way
It's supposed to be
Then all the mornings
Ever after
Bring us hope and joy and harmony
Let the Holy star above
Shine a silver light of love
And turn this world around 
[Repeat Chorus] 
Let the Holy star above
Shine a silver light of love
And turn this world around 
[Repeat Chorus]