17 March 2019

It Used to Be Cliché, But Now It's Reality (Youth Are Now Our Hope for a Future)

The climate strike at the Legislature in British Columbia, Canada's capital city, Victoria (photo by Laura Hinton)
We used to say that "children are our future" and I'd mutter "Duh!" under my breath (with all due respect to Whitney Houston). It was so obvious as to be cliché. We used to say that young people were our hope for the future and I'd get mad — "Don't lay it on them; it's our responsibility to fix this!"

But we didn't fix it. While we waited for a silver bullet remedy to the climate crisis, we crossed our fingers and hoped a hero would come forward. When Al Gore stepped up, half of America excoriated him for making climate change a "political" thing (like it was his fault he was a former Vice-President). He's done a ton of good work in waking the world up to the crisis, but the nasty US Republicans (I'm sure there are some nice ones) made sure he didn't reach hero status. 

And so we kept waiting. And like that carnival game Whack-a-Mole, we ignored or denounced anyone who dared try to lead us to solutions. We ignored Ban Ki-moon and James Hansen; we shat on Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, reminding me of that old adage "You can't win for losing." Perhaps we'll listen to António Guterres, the current secretary-general of the United Nations, who has said:
If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
Climate change is an existential threat to most life on the planet.
And then a braided young Swede sat down last summer in front of her parliament on a "climate strike," which continued into the school year on Fridays. The founder of We Don't Have Time "discovered" her (he has since sincerely apologized for the way he did that, but has been excoriated nonetheless), and the rest — cliché alert! — is history.

Since then, Greta Thunberg has garnered the attention of youth around the world. Sure, people (on both sides of the issue, grrrrrrrr) are casting aspersions on her, but Greta seems unfazed. She knows what's at stake, and she just keeps sayin' it. 

The worldwide youth climate strike this past Friday, March 15th in over 100 countries took its inspiration from Greta's school strike. It proved beyond a doubt that young people — fighting for their own future — are, in reality, our only hope. Their speeches were eloquent and bang on the climate science! Their posters were colourful and poignant! Their songs were fun! Their energy was high and their mood was exuberant! 

Two of my former students holding up my (uncolourful) sign: "Climate safety is a human right" (with thanks to Diana Lindley and her lyric)
I felt very privileged to be part of their strike (standing off to the side at the back of the crowd). I was inspired to create a new social media page that will collect positive affirmations and "prayers" for positive action on the climate change emergency, Positive Affirmations for a Healthy, Vibrant Future on Earth: https://www.facebook.com/Positive-Affirmations-for-a-Healthy-Vibrant-Future-on-Earth-2811092489116966/

I have just one wish for these young folks, who invited all of us to bring 10 friends to the next strike. Please, don't be afraid to be disruptive. Walk down the middle of whatever street you want to block. People's "right" to convenience is trumped by your right to a viable future. Their right to be on time does not trump your right to have time to grow up. Go for it! Blessed be ... and see you at the next climate strike.

03 March 2019

Hats Off to President T**** for Giving Us the Emergency

 Well, we owe a debt of gratitude to that childish "leader" south of the Canadian border. If it wasn't for him, we would still be fighting for a declaration of the climate change emergency. But he has, with his feckless "wall" emergency, managed to ignite a sudden firestorm of concern for the climate crisis.

Sure, others worked hard to lay the groundwork — some for decades (thank you, James Hansen, Al Gore, my hubby, Greenpeace, the IPCC), others for several years (this blog celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!). But nobody listened.

No, it took an American Republican climate-change-denying puerile president having a tantrum to get his own way (ya just know he wants to put his name on that border wall) to wake up the American Democratic asleep-on-their-hopium yawning citizens to the possibility that their next president could call an emergency of her own — a climate change emergency. 

If the whole situation wasn't so frightening, we could view it as a tragicomedy. 

1. For starters, those of us who have known this was an emergency for YEARS (see When 1000 is Greater Than 300,000) have been told repeatedly — REPEATEDLY — that talking about the urgency and the potential disastrousness of climate change would shut people down ... immobilize them. Indeed, we heard it again yesterday. (We've never agreed with those people — see You CAN Handle the Truth! — and explained why, but nobody listened.) And yet, all it took was a loud enough orange flame (sorry, couldn't resist) to ignite concern of one-upmanship (I guess nobody thought Obama's swine flu emergency declaration was ill advised.)

2. For years, I always hushed my voice when talking about climate change in a public place. Now, I'm hearing people all over the place talking about climate change! (It's a day of exclamation marks, I'm afraid. ;-)

3. For years, people have been excoriating former Vice-President Al Gore for making climate change "political." Suddenly it IS political, and people are trying to score political points with it all over social media.

4. I never imagined we'd have to come to a climate change emergency declaration through the back door by having it supplanted by a wall emergency declaration, with half the American population then rising to its defense. Now, here's the thing. Is their concern actually for climate change, or just for the right of their president to get her emergency of choice declared? 


Perhaps it doesn't matter where the concern came from. People are fired up now, and that's what matters. Now, to the task of giving them something to do with this newfound energy and interest in the climate crisis.

A) Everyone needs to write / phone / fax / email / visit their elected officials at every level to insist, require and demand that all fossil fuel subsidies be stopped forthwith. We can't keep handing the fossil fuel industries our tax money ($5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies every year worldwide, according to the IMF) when we're trying to get to a ZERO-CARBON ECONOMY by 2050. 

B) For a long time, the lack of urgency on climate change has stemmed not just from the lies and cheating of the deniers, but also from a crisis of imagination. People just haven't been picturing that a fossil-fuel-free world of perpetual, everlasting renewable energy will be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful. The Golden Age of Solar Energy has the potential to be the best ever era in human history. It certainly would give children back their future. 

But we have to get our carbon emission into decline by 2020. Can we do it? We did it by accident during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, so we can certainly do it on purpose — with a sense of purpose — by using our imaginations, our creativity, our care and concern and compassion, and the millions of solutions already out there. And if we can always afford to go to war (right?), then we can most certainly afford to mobilize to safeguard our precious biosphere. 

C) If all this makes you feel sad or angry, that's okay. It makes perfect sense! Then turn that anger or depression into action. (And remember, talking about it is a form of action.) But put some good news in your back pocket first, both for the naysayers and to bolster your own resolve to be part of this good fight. For example, check out the enthusiasm and ambition of Costa Rica to be part of the solution:
Costa Rica Launches "Unprecedented" Push for Zero Emissions by 2050

Or be inspired by young Greta Thunberg — and take her deeply honest words to heart. She has definitely contributed to waking up the world (along with the IPCC's October 2018 Special Report on 1.5ºC).

Do anything, but please just don't go back to sleep. The world needs, as Paul Gilding says, all hands on deck to deal with this emergency!

24 February 2019

Touché! Two Can Play at the Government's Game

Well, last week got away from me and I completely forgot to post a blog. But today, as if to make up for it, I woke up to this exciting news!

Some of you will know that my beloved and I are huge supporters (in all ways possible) of Our Children's Trust (OCT) in the United States. (If you haven't added your name to their call for intergenerational climate justice, please do it now!) Those 21 beleaguered youth plaintiffs have discovered just how convoluted the American (and likely any) justice system can be — and how tight-fistedly the fossil fuel industry rules the world. 

Truly, it's like all the politicians (except for a small handful), at least in Canada and the US, are afraid that Big Oil is going to pull their Big Money from election campaigns (like that would be the end of the world or something ... snark alert). Or is it worse, and lives have been threatened? (I've watched enough American TV to have a few conspiracy theories of my own.)

President T****'s government has tied this case up in dozens of knots (imagine, an appeal before the case has even been heard! now that's desperate — and practically proof of their guilt), but I've got to hand it to the lawyers handling the OCT case. They have spoken truth to power with their latest Urgent Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Table of Contents alone had me cheering this morning! (Check out section VI. B. below. The plaintiffs, by the way, are the young people, and the defendants are the departments of the US Government that deal out death, I mean, deal with fossil fuels.)

Here are a few choice quotes:
"The record shows that, for decades, Defendants have knowingly and affirmatively placed Plaintiffs in peril of present and worsening climate change-induced harms, with shocking, deliberate indifference to the known and obvious dangers in advancing a fossil fuel-based energy system."

"Defendants made every effort to prevent Plaintiffs' case from being decided, all while accelerating fossil fuel development [as President T**** promised he would do as part of his election platform] and increasing GHG emissions to the point where it will become impossible for Plaintiffs to protect themselves from the climate danger Defendants have had a role in causing. Defendants have deliberately chosen to prioritize use of fossil fuels in our national energy system, disregarding decades of knowledge that this path would destroy our Nation and the lives of children and future generations. This injunction will serve and protect the public's interest in national security and liberty and prevent further inequity to Plaintiffs."

"Dr. Stiglitz confirms that '[t]he current national energy system, in which approximately 80 percent of energy comes from fossil fuels, is a direct result of decisions and actions taken by Defendants.' In his expert opinion Dr. Stiglitz avers: 'The fact that the U.S. national energy system is so predominately fossil fuel-based is not an inevitable consequence of history. The current level of dependence of our national energy system on fossil fuels is a result of intentional actions taken by Defendants over many years. These actions, cumulatively, promote the use of fossil fuels, contribute to dangerous levels of CO2 emissions, and are causing climate change.'"
Folks, I see this as a watershed moment. If the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit does not immediately grant this urgent motion, then we're going to know just what we're up against and how dumb it would be to remain peaceful and calm and good and kind and sweet in our protests to safeguard the future of life on this precious planet! 

Our Children's Trust, meet Extinction Rebellion. I, for one, rebel against the extinction of the children — of all species — that I love so dearly.

10 February 2019

The Cold, Hard Truth

Another storm with high winds caused a 24-hour power outage this weekend for my community. My beloved and I spent that time in the cold and the dark (why we didn't build a fire in our woodstove and stay cozy and warm is a longer story). 

I had a fun novel on hand (thanks to a friend) and lots of marking (done by flashlight, candlelight, and then sunlight) to keep me occupied. Peter is reading Matthieu Auzanneau's Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History — the perfect book when the power is off and the lights are out.  

All this to preface what I realized yesterday, curled up in bed with a toque and mitts on. I am overwhelmed. Well, I'm feeling overwhelmed (and realizing that we ain't seen nothin' yet). Between schoolwork and housework and trying to hang on to friends and trying to keep up with all the climate change happenings (but definitely not succeeding), I'm not doing anything well. 

Not only is the climate change emergency going to continue to shower us with [pick your region's worst nightmare: storms, floods, droughts, sea level rise, food shortages, water conflicts], but while we're dealing with those crises, life has to continue. We have to continue to make meals (sometimes without power and, in the not-too-distant future, without ingredients that used to be widely available). We have to keep getting the kids ready for school (until schoolyards are taken over for food production and the children are growing it). We have to continue to do our jobs (until societies break down and jobs are useless because everyone's labour is needed just for survival). 

In 2018, the world experienced 39 weather disasters that cost over $1 billion. (We're talking hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and severe weather.)
The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018 of any country, with 16. That's its second-highest total on record, behind the 20 billion-dollar weather disasters of 2017. NOAA has not yet released its final list of billion-dollar disasters for the U.S. in 2018 due to the government shutdown. China had seven billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018.

The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 394 weather and earthquake disasters catalogued by Aon in 2018 was $225 billion (2018 USD), which is 33 percent above the 1980-2017 inflation-adjusted average of $169 billion. The great bulk of the 2018 total came from weather-related disasters ($215 billion of the $225 billion).

And yet, I still read comments like:

"CO2 is fine the way it is, without need of 'fixing.' Plants in greenhouses with fortified CO2 do much better of course." [Ooh, ooh, I love that one. Because of course the real world of agriculture is just like a giant experiment in a greenhouse. With no pests, no storms, no floods, no droughts, no heatwaves to worry about. No sirree.] 

"While flooding and more severe weather events are bad consider the alternative if nature takes it's [sic] course." [I think she's taking her course and it's obvious she's miffed.] 

"We still haven't returned to the Medieval or Roman Climate Optimum. Until then, I am not worried. :)" [That's someone who doesn't get the "global" in global warming.] 

"So, you're afraid of the havoc wrought by milder winters and nights?" [Sigh, yeah. Some people just have zero ecological literacy. Milder winters = less insect kill = an increase in vector-borne diseases + huge swathes of trees killed by bark beetles. Oh, and milder winters also = less snowpack lasting for a shorter time in spring = lower drinking water supply + water shortages by summer.]

I would love to know who created this ... it's brilliant.
You know what? I've just realized what's overwhelming me. It's the inertia. It's that there only seem to be 37 people (and that feels generous) in the whole world fighting against Big Money, Big Oil and Stupid Government in order to safeguard the future. Talk about tilting at windmills. The Don Quixotes of the world are still being laughed at by armchair "experts," excoriated by fake news pundits, fake-scienced by paid trolls, and ignored by the millions (or is it billions) of people who are too overwhelmed with their own lives to share a care for the future. 

Okay, well, now that I understand my overwhelm, I think I'll be okay. I think I'll be able to become Person #38 again, and get back into the fray. Thanks for listening and helping me sort this out. And if you ever need the same sort of help sorting through the cold, hard truth, my hearing is still pretty good and I've got strong shoulders. Send me a message!