19 March 2017

The Age of Consequences

My faithful readers — all 11 or 12 of you (thank you!)— will know that this blog flows from my deep compassion for all the children, of all species, who are facing a hellish future due to climate chaos. (Many live in places already hit hard by the climate change emergency.) 

You will also know that I don't have much compassion anymore for the greedy, evil, pignorant (pretend ignorant), and ecologically illiterate bastards who refuse to pull the plug on this brewing hell on Earth. My patience has worn right through.

Now I find myself also losing patience with those who aid and abet the bastards, out of their own ignorance, selfish wishful thinking, or just plain being behind the times. 

Case in point is a movie reviewer whose critique of a climate change movie I read this week. The Age of Consequences*, a documentary directed by Jared Scott,
investigates how climate change impacts resource scarcity, migration, and conflict through the lens of US national security and global stability. Whether a long-term vulnerability or sudden shock, the film unpacks how water and food shortages, extreme weather, drought, and sea-level rise function as accelerants of instability and catalysts for conflict. Left unchecked, these threats and risks will continue to grow in scale and frequency, with grave implications for peace and security in the 21st century.
Does that sound like a hand-holding movie to you? A benevolent primer on the greatest threat ever to face our species. A gentle introduction to the greatest ever crime against humanity? No, right? It sounds hard-hitting. It sounds like it pulls no punches. It sounds like it's trying desperately to make America (and, hopefully, the rest of the world) safe again. Yet a New York City movie critic describes it as "stylishly edited and timely" but "too angry, exhausting and repetitive while failing to be inspirational, balanced or truly enlightening" (from Rotten Tomatoes).

WTF? A movie about the inching-ever-closer climate-racked end of the world has to be inspirational? Balanced? Enlightening? Give me a break! Give the blessed children a break! 

I am reminded of an Earth Day post from 2012 in which I suggested the early morning equivalent of this scenario: If I discover a fire in a crowded movie theatre and start yelling that people should leave by the nearest exit, I don't want to hear anyone responding, "You didn't say please." I am doing my duty by alerting you to the danger. Now you should just head for the exit. Don't question. Don't ask for a second opinion. Don't wait to get your ticket refunded. Just get out!

Do we feel SO entitled in this society that we can't watch a documentary about the urgency of climate disruption without expecting enlightenment and inspiration for the same price of admission? Sheesh.

By the way, several critics appreciated the movie. For example, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat call it "a startling documentary that presents new twists on the global climate change crisis and what to do about it." Hmmm, sounds like they were inspired and enlightened! Watch for The Age of Consequences to find a cinema near you soon.

* Full disclosure: I helped fund the making of this movie through a Kickstarter campaign, however, as of today I have not yet seen it. In fact, I'm trying to figure out why I didn't get my very own copy of it as a Kickstarter reward!

12 March 2017

Experiencing Censorship in All the Wrong Places

Censorship. A simple definition might be "the examination of material (such as books, movies, news, and art) and official suppression of any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security (adapted from my computer's dictionary). It is closely related to censure, which means harsh criticism or to criticize harshly.

We used to think of censorship merely in terms of what happened to books and movies that hadn't yet been released. Next came book banning and even book burning. Then some (of the very people who liked to ban and burn books) started equating political correctness with censorship. (I've always considered political correctness to be society's fancy way of labeling what mothers everywhere used to urge: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.") And with the election of T**** in the United States, saying nasty things about "others" is now considered freedom of speech, so any talk of censorship is seen as unconstitutional — almost tantamount to treason. (Sheesh.)

But lately, censorship seems to have gone wonky in other ways, too ... some consternating and some downright dangerous. Within the last three days, I have experienced censorship in conversation with three different friends.

First, I was telling a friend about a disturbing incident that I'd read about in the paper. "Does this have a sad ending? If so, I don't need to hear it." The story was a cautionary tale about her field of work, but it did, indeed, have a sad ending. So with that, I was shut down. 

And I felt shut down — censored. But mostly I felt sad that there are people who won't (can't?) allow themselves to feel the sadness of others. Have some of us become so fragile that there's no strength and no room left for empathy? How are we going to face the extreme sorrow of the climate change emergency if we can't even share a story about a sad incident in a next-door city?

I don't just tell stories willy-nilly. There's a point to a story that I choose to share — sometimes it has a connection to the other person, but sometimes it's simply something that I found interesting or edifying. In the second incident, I recounted a short TV show that I'd watched on Netflix and found instructive for my own career. I'll admit that my menopausal brain might have made the story more meandering than it needed to be. But my friend, instead of engaging with the story, said (I'm paraphrasing), "You know how people who watch TV will talk about shows they've watched and bore you to tears? You just did that."

Ouch. Obviously her mother never instructed her to say nothing if she didn't have anything nice to say — that was my first thought. But then I began to mourn the lack of patience our society has developed. Can't we just talk about "stuff" with friends anymore? If we don't have the time and patience for everyday — uncensored — conversations, how will we ever have the time and patience to listen to how serious the climate crisis is, the science behind it, and the solutions we needed to implement yesterday?

On my way to tea with a third friend, I kept chanting, "Don't talk about T****, don't say anything negative. Don't talk about T****, don't say anything negative." This friend is (what I think is being called) a progressive. I'm simply someone who likes to get to the bottom of things, so months before the American election, I'd been reading up on T****'s growing popularity. My friend and I had a falling out because I wanted to talk about it (the rise of T****) and she didn't. I've been self-censoring around her ever since. (In fact, it didn't even cross my mind until just now that I could have said, "I warned you.") 

Positive thinking does not stop evil and greed. It just doesn't. It doesn't get the good people elected. It certainly hasn't mitigated climate disruption. Talking about how Big Money and Big Oil are killing the future, what their strategies are, and how we can beat them — that's how we will, well, beat them. Not by pretending that everything is goodness and light. 

If we're going to fill our lives with censorship, I'd like to suggest some Censorship for the Planet. Let's stop giving column inches in our newspapers and blogs to climate change deniers. Let's stop watching news and other shows that give air time to climate change deniers. Let's stop "sharing" the dangerously misleading drivel and "alternative facts" of climate change deniers on our social media channels. 

Folks, let's stop censoring ourselves, our friends and our loved ones (and our climate scientists) and start really listening to them. If we're going to censor at all, let's censor (and censure) those who are committing the greatest evil and the greatest ever crime against humanity: climate change deniers who have delayed urgent action on this emergency for decades, causing millions to lose their lives or their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes or entire homelands. 

Let's be very clear that freedom of speech and expression should not, does not, cannot include the freedom to commit progenycide.

05 March 2017

Compassion Tune-Up: "There's a Choice We're Making, We're Saving Our Own Lives"

Do you remember the song We Are the World? It's a song that was recorded by umpteen famous American singers in 1985, to raise money for African famine relief. I remember at the time thinking, "There go those Yanks again, thinking they own the world." But the single went quadruple platinum and they raised over $63 million US (the equivalent of $138 million today), so who was I to judge? 

You know, one million people died in Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985 due to famine. Today, the lives of 5.6 million Ethiopians are threatened by drought and famine. As La Rochefoucauld said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 


That was a long-winded way of introducing this week's blog post. My hubby and I were despairing earlier this week that nothing is changing. People still don't feel the emergency, the crisis, the climate chaos and the ocean devastation, and they're not demanding change. 

That reminded Peter of Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher "discovered" by the Theosophical Society in 1909.

For Peter, the wisest thing that the very wise Krishnamurti ever said was that (I'm paraphrasing) we are the world, so if we ever expect to change the world, we'd better change ourselves. Right now. 

To explain it better, some pictures might be worth a thousand words or so. 

We Are the World
— Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can't go on pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We all are a part of God's great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart so they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand


When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there's no way we can fall
Let's realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one


26 February 2017

Why Are We Losing the Climate Change Battle?

We've spent this weekend with a wonderful new climate change activist friend who's collaborating on a writing project with my hubby. It's such a comfortable treat to spend time with a like-hearted soul.

One of the questions all three of us have been asking ourselves lately is how it is we've come this far and the deniers are still winning. In an email I received recently, Avaaz put it this way: "Just as we thought that crazy climate deniers were fading into history, they're back, with their hands on the levers of power in the country that emits 14% of the world’s carbon!"

Three answers to why this is so came my way yesterday. 

1. Canadian blogger Rolly Montpellier wrote: "Claiming that we can take effective action on climate change and ramp-up fossil fuel production at the same time is delusional. But for the most part [our prime minister Justin] Trudeau has been able to convince Canadians that this is a wise and a prudent course for Canada to pursue. He has lulled his followers into a deep sleep while climate change makes its ugly consequences felt around the globe."

According to science historian, Naomi Oreskes, "a new form of climate denialism is at work … one meant to persuade the public that fossil fuels are necessary and renewables unreliable…. Alternatives to fossil fuels are disparaged by a new generation of myths."

Rolly continues: "Trudeau is an artful practitioner of public messaging intended for mass consumption by a receptive but naive Canadian public. We Canadians want to believe that we are acting quickly on the climate problem. But we are not. So if you think that climate deniers are finally irrelevant, then think again. Deniers have found more creative and sneaky ways to support the strong interests of the fossil fuel industry. It would be dangerous to imagine that the era of climate denialism is over. Because, it’s simply not so!"

2. My response to Rolly's post helped me realize what we're up against: "We are going to extinguish most life on this precious planet because of a failure of imagination. Besides all the small addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, cleaning) we suffer from as individuals, there is just one big culture-wide (and increasingly globalized) addiction that is killing us: money. The reason money is winning out over life itself is that people don't have (or aren't using) the creativity to imagine a world powered differently. So they fall back to the 20th century default ... money, profit, greed and fossil fuels."

3. The other answer came from an article in a(nother) new rightwing, depressive (is that the opposite of progressive?) online rag (the quote is so, um, stupid, that I can't even share it here), which showed that "the other side" is still quoting denying dorks with no credentials, trotting out years-old denial bullsh!t, slinging insults without apology, stating misfacts without flinching, and uttering nonsense without the slightest hint of embarrassment. And they somehow always out-time us, psychologically projecting by calling us the names we ought to have called them. But as usual, our side is too nice (after all, we're the ones who care about the climate change emergency), so they get away with it. 

And if you want a free trip into the Twilight Zone, just visit the comments section. You will read (if you can stomach it) the most illogical, irrational, unreasonable, unsound, groundless, incorrect, fallacious, preposterous, specious and disingenuous arguments ever presented on any topic, I'm sure. Yet it would take you a day or two to counter all their lies and mistakes and non sequiturs, so you won't do it. (The last time I tried, I was hung out to dry in a local newspaper so I don't blame you for not even attempting to set the other side straight.)

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that climate change deniers don't follow any rules, respect any rules, have any rules. They literally say whatever they want, even if it's totally cracked or untrue or irrelevant or debunked. The truth does not matter to them. They don't care enough about their children to check out what the current state of climate change is. They're too stupid or un(der)educated to realize that they're applying no critical thought to what they're (poorly paraphrasing from some denier website somewhere and) spewing.  

I feel for these people. I really do. But how can we possibly counter their deceit, their greed and their nonsensical rubbish when they're a moving target and our feet are stuck in the truth? My brain wants to explode just thinking about it.