09 December 2018

The No-Post Post (Living for Each Other)

Life is busy. Saving the world is hard — and never-ending — work, it seems, especially if one wants to also have a semblance of "normal" in one's life. In the interests of getting everything done that needs doing, I'm going to leave you this week with ... nothing. I'm depleted and yet still giving. 

So, with apologies, I'm going to get back to work now. I'll be here again next week, deadlines met (I hope!), dishes done, garden finally put to bed (talk about procrastinating) and friends lunched and tea'd and dinnered with. 

May something good come out of Katowice in Poland at COP24 this week. We have GOT to get moving on getting to zero carbon. (The biggest "enemy" in the world is chasing us, and it feels like we keep tripping each other up instead of helping each other run faster.)

p.s. Wait, here's something wonderful for us to meditate on. It reminds me of why I do the climate change work I do. It's not for me!

02 December 2018

In the Interest of Keeping Some Friends ... The Five Stages of Optimism

Am I a climate change crank? Possibly. I put my climate change work ahead of everything except my marriage (and my dog ;-). I put off friends if I've got a writing project on the go. I can't bring myself to attend social events that are going to be all happy happy. My house is a mess. 

I don't believe that "hope" is more important than action (but that action is our only hope). I rarely see my family "back home" because I don't want to fly. My social media posts are almost always about environmental issues (although I'm not averse to a joke or inspirational story now and then). And I can't remember the last time I got to go on a "real" vacation that wasn't a climate change conference (and the attendant stresses).

Yeah, maybe I am a climate change crank. But it's how I can live with myself. It's how I know I'm doing (almost) everything I can.

However, as more and more people discover how bad things are, they are talking more and more about their despair ... the despair I've been feeling for years and years, and crying about every. single. day. So in the interest of keeping some friends in my life, I'm not going to say, "What took you so long?" or anything snarky like that. However much I believe that truly feeling the pain of what we're losing and then lamenting it is vital, I'm going in a different direction today.

I'm going to share what Al Gore (my mentor in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps program) and other leaders presented recently on The Five Stages of Climate Optimism. (I suppose Mr. Gore wouldn't have anyone signing up for his trainings if he didn't present some sort of optimism.) 

BTW, please consult a qualified professional if you believe you may be suffering from anxiety or depression, or experiencing other forms of mental health distress. Or find a climate change buddy you can share this burden with. (Now that's a good friend!)

The Five Stages of Climate Optimism

In a TV interview earlier this week, Climate Reality Founder and Chairman Al Gore said this about the recent flurry of scientific reports about climate change:

“It is hard at times to hear all that and feel the tragedy of it and maintain your hope and optimism that we’re gonna solve this problem. I continue to believe that we will, because we have faced almost insurmountable obstacles in the past…and we have rallied, as human beings, to do what’s right.”

Even when scientists uncover new information about the impacts that will result from climate change, even when the research tells us that we have only a few years to make global changes if we’re to avoid the worst, here at Climate Reality we remain optimistic.

We each, as individuals, keep our hope tanks filled in different ways, but here are five things we’ve found to be particularly good for refilling our optimism.

1. Acceptance

As a climate advocate, you’re likely tuned in to the latest research and policy progress regarding climate change…and so it’s not news to you that the headlines aren’t always sunny.

Many people who contemplate climate issues find that they wrestle with a whole spectrum of emotions – including, for some, grief. And it’s no wonder.

But the five stages of grief end with acceptance, and there are many wonderful activists, researchers, and medical professionals working today to help people who are working through environmental grief to reach the acceptance stage and stay motivated. 

There is great power in acknowledging and talking about the feelings we have about the climate crisis – and accepting our own feelings is important if we’re to turn acceptance into powerful action.

2. Community

“Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”
― Joanna Macy

The best antidote to despair is a community of people you can talk with, learn with, and work alongside to make a difference.

When we meet directly with the people who make up the Climate Reality Leadership Corps – parents, teachers, doctors, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, community organizers, faith leaders, and so much more – we find at every turn that there are new reasons to be optimistic.

Did you know that just last week members of a US Climate Reality Chapter in Santa Barbara worked together with the students in a Campus Corps Chapter to get their local transit district to commit to using all-electric buses?

This community of passionate activists met together, campaigned together, and ultimately won together.

And this singular accomplishment doesn’t exist on its own – take it from those of us who see your Acts of Leadership come in every day. Thanks to people coming together to support and inspire each other, change like this is happening right now in places all over the world.

And that gives us hope.

3. Inspiration

"In the struggle between hope and despair, I always come out on the side of hope."
Vice President Al Gore

It’s not too hard to find inspiration in the work of Climate Reality Leaders, but where else can you go for a quick dose of hope?

The bad news often grabs the big headlines, but it continues to be true that in spite of attention-getting policy setbacks at the national and international level, the economy continues to turn in favor of clean, renewable energy. For instance, we just learned that in some parts of the US now, wind and solar are cheaper than coal and natural gas, and the We Mean Business Coalition now boasts 830 companies committed to significant climate action.

Companies, as well as local governments, continue to prove they can make big changes. Cities, which are responsible for approximately 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and a place where policies like building codes and renewable energy standards can make a real difference, are stepping up in a big way – in fact, 27 major cities (including London, New York City, and Melbourne) have succeeded in reducing their emissions by 10 percent over a five-year period.

Back in 2016, Vice President Al Gore explained some of the many inspirations for his optimism in a popular TED talk, most of which still apply today.

The truth is that the news isn’t all bad, even if it may seem that way sometimes – and we’re consistently inspired by the real world progress that we see beyond the doom-and-gloom headlines.

4. Action

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.”
Wendell Berry

Knowing the reality of the climate crisis is important – and we must see it for what it is before we can hope to fight it. But without hope and inspiration, it’s hard to maintain the will to act [this is where I disagree; I think that if we act, it maintains our hope and inspiration; otherwise, it's a cop out, but then I did say that I'm a crank! but just because I'm a crank doesn't mean I'm wrong] – which is one reason why Climate Reality continually looks to highlight and support the solutions that are already underway to fight the climate crisis.

If you want to be inspired by how people all over the world are taking action, make sure you tune in to this week’s broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves. We’ll highlight stories from around the globe not just about the impacts of climate change, but about the solutions that are already gaining ground. We’ll also share a unique way you can take action by contacting world leaders.

Watch 24 Hours of Reality live at 24hoursofreality.org on December 3-4.

5. Self Care

“Take breaks when you need them. Rest, take care of yourself, and return to the work. I promise it’ll still be there when you’re recharged.”
LaUra Schmidt

When confronting the existential crisis presented by climate change, we can’t always jump to our feet – sometimes the sheer scope and size of it all, and the weight of our emotions, means we must take time to sit with our feelings and take care of ourselves. [Now we're talking! This is what I mean by lament, and being willing to feel bad for the sake of the future.]

One way we like to recharge ourselves is to get out in a natural place – get close to the very environment we’re all working so hard to protect. Whether you head to the beach, forest, mountains, or local park, the simple act of being outside has numerous physical and mental health benefits.

Consider, as well, taking a break from the news and the science for a time. Consider disconnecting from social media or any other distraction that doesn’t directly contribute to your happiness and wellbeing. Whatever it is you do to care for yourself, make sure you make time for it. Often, taking a break from the action to pause and appreciate the life we have on this planet is just the thing needed to allow us to come back refreshed and ready to make change.

This fight won’t be over soon, and it won’t be easy – but if we look out for ourselves and each other, if we focus on sources of inspiration and opportunities to act, we can make a positive difference in the future that the next generation will inherit.

That is my gift of compassion to you this week! May you find a place in your heart where you can hold the pain so that young children don't have to.

25 November 2018

A Message to All the Men Attending the Climate Talks (COP24) in Poland

Last week, I implored all the women who will be attending the climate talks in Katowice, Poland to be the embodiment of Mother Earth, to represent and speak for all the children, of all species — and to wear bright colours while doing it.

But I don't want to leave out all the men who attend COP24. The climate crisis is now so urgent that we can't do this without you. So here are my thoughts for you — the world's grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, godfathers, comrades and best buddies


Show off your ecological smarts. During the negotiations, remember that we are facing (some sooner than others) a threat to our very existence. Our lives and livelihoods, our food security and water sources, our homes and (for some) entire homelands are threatened by this climate change emergency — this enemy of our own making, this foe with no face. 

So share your ecological literacy, your understanding of the importance of biodiversity. Call others on their eco-illiteracy and their lunacy or lack of logic. Admit what you don't understand. Don't be afraid to pose questions (especially "stupid" questions ... many of us are thankful for those!)

We can't eat coal. We can't drink oil. We can't breathe natural gas. It is neither money nor the burning of fossil fuels that gives us life. They merely give us ease. Speak up for the true necessities of life.

In his "solider uniform"
Don't be a "soldier" for your country, be a warrior for your children ... for all the children. Arrive with compassion in your heart, courage in your pocket, and creative solutions in your briefcase. SPEAK UP and STAND UP! Then man up (a term I've never understood until now). Your job, since time began for our species, has been to protect those more vulnerable — especially the children. In Katowice at COP24, your vital role is to protect the right of all children to a viable biosphere, to a stable climate ... and to a future.

You can wear bright colours, too! Those suits you wear seem so drab and boring. You're not soldiers — you don't have to wear a uniform. Cut yourselves free this year. Undo your ties! Wear pink shirts or yellow shirts. Wear bright blue or green shirts. Be a feast to your own eyes. ;-)

Anote Tong, climate change activist and former Kiribati president
Let what you wear be a symbol of what you care about and what you will stand up for. Dress like the day, not the night — like a meadow of wildflowers in bloom, not the blackened walls of buildings during the Industrial Revolution. 

Be inspired by what men in the least developed (and therefore least polluting) regions and countries of the world wear. (How did business suits come to be synonymous with pollution and, well, death?) Wouldn't it be fun to be more colourful and more comfortable this year? And how will you come up with the creative solutions we need in order to address the climate crisis if you're dressed in your dreary, anemic, lackluster, cheerless, monotonous, and decidedly unimaginative suits? (Can you tell I'm not a fan of "the suit"?)

Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
It's time to grow up. Life is not a game. Men need to take it seriously, too. Life (both your own and on this planet) is a precious and sacred gift, and it comes with responsibilities once we become adults. Why continue to play these games well into adulthood? 

Most certainly, life is not a zero-sum game. There are no winners when even one of us is losing. And right now, we're all losing — even those of you who feel like winners. (If one doesn't understand how we're all losing, one could do more research before heading to Poland.) Perhaps you can have some fun turning this into a win-win-win sort of game.


Please, if the globe is going to be on fire, let it be with the passion and fervor of those of you meeting in Katowice to help save the world!


18 November 2018

A Message to All the Women Attending the Climate Talks (COP24) in Poland

This year's international climate change Conference of the Parties (COP24) will be held December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland, capital of the Silesia region. Katowice (pronounced kattoh-VEETzeh) has a population of over 300,000 in the city proper, with an additional 2.1 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. 

Historically, Katowice was Poland's main industrial hub, with its economy in the recent past focused primarily on coal (oh, the irony), energy, metallurgy, and chemicals. It's been said that Katowice was once "a crushingly gray industrial city," but that contemporary Katowice is now a vibrant cultural and business centre.  


It was nine years ago that I sent out this heartfelt request to all the women who are going to attend the Copenhagen climate talks. Today, I send it again, to all the women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Katowice. And to all the grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Katowice climate talks, please speak to them! Speak up for the sake of all the children ... of all species.  

A request to all the women attending the climate change talks! 

PLEASE WEAR BRIGHT COLOURS! Please inject some life into the talks — wear the colours of flowers and forests and sunsets and fresh fruit and children's smiles.
BE A MOTHER OR A GRANDMOTHER FIRST. Believe in your power! The "powers that be" need to hear that all the mothers of the world want what's best for the children of all species. Please represent all the mothers and grandmothers around the globe. Even if you don't have your own biological or adopted children, you are still a mother of all the children, everywhere. Speak up for them. 

REMEMBER THAT CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS. Try to forget that you're in Katowice, Poland representing your own country. Think of the planet as one nation, one biosphere, one shared home within one shared atmosphere that knows no boundaries. Speak for all human beings, as well as the rest of Nature, which has no seat and no voice at the talks — unless you represent her there. 

LET COMPASSION BE YOUR COMPASS. Remember that prosperity and a thriving economy are impossible if the natural environment is ailing. We must get our priorities right! If a decision doesn't have the Earth and the children's future at heart, then that decision is not a compassionate one and not a viable one. 

CALL FOR ZERO CARBON ALONG WITH SOME URGENCY IN ACHIEVING IT. Try to rev up the imaginations of world leaders and negotiators of all ilks (even the heartless, uncreative ones). Help them envision the Golden Age of Renewable Energy that we must quickly achieve.

LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Katowice, though it won't be easy, will be simple. What a privileged position you are in! Please take advantage of it and be brave enough to speak up for all those who have so little — now and in the future. Be the peaceful warriors who safeguard the children. Be willing to stand up, join arms, and say no (or yes!). 

REMEMBER THE GREAT WOMEN WHO HAVE ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEIR COURAGE, women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas, Patricia Wright, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly Hill, Betty Krawczyk, Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Nahanee. Stand on their shoulders — and be climate heroes in Katowice!
p.s. Whose name is missing? Send me the name of your female eco-hero (and a bit about her) in the comments section.
(click here to listen to this song)
by Joyce Johnson Rouse
(aka Earth Mama)

I am standing on the shoulders
of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth

We are standing on the shoulders 
of the ones who came before us
They are saints and they are humans, they are angels,
they are friends
We can see beyond the struggles and the troubles 
and the challenge
When we know that by our efforts things will be
better in the end

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be here celebrating today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones 
who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold 
the ones who follow me 

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be so very blessed today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones 
who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold 
the ones who follow me 
My shoulders will be there to hold  
the ones who follow me