20 August 2017

Toothache as Metaphor for the Climate Change Blame Game

From LifeHacks Mama
I, quite blessedly, reached the autumn of my life without ever losing a tooth or suffering from toothache. Well, all that has changed. And whose fault is it, anyway?

The year I turned 40, I landed in hospital twice — both times for "old people" problems. It was quite a shock to so suddenly "turn old." I'd thought I was healthy and fit. What the heck? (I'm happy to report that I haven't been in the hospital since, although I have sat in the emergency ward several times with a sprained or broken ankle.*)

Twenty years later and shortly after my 60th birthday, I'm suddenly in excruciating pain and facing my first root canal or tooth extraction. The funny part is that I've started playing the blame game!
  • Is it that new dentist's fault? Did he go a millimetre too deep when drilling to replace that lost filling?
  • Is it my old dentist's fault for not repairing the tooth properly in the first place?
  • Is it my fault for not getting to the dentist sooner?
  • Is it my community's fault for not finding a new dentist to replace the old dentist in a more timely way?
  • Is it my fault for not taking care of my teeth properly for the last 55 years?
  • Is it my parents' fault for giving me lousy teeth genes? 
And all of a sudden, I've realized how ridiculous the blame game is. What matters is not whose fault it is. The inventors of the internal combustion engine? The captains of industry who saw big profits in a world of manufacturing using fossil fuel energy? The car makers who, perhaps quite genuinely, pushed their automobiles as a way to clean the streets of smelly, unhealthy horse manure? Rich people in the USA for spewing more than their fair share of greenhouse gases in order to luxuriate in their wealth? Hollywood for promoting that lifestyle? The millions of people in Africa and Asia for burning wood to cook their paltry meals? Each one of us for partaking in what's available to us?

Sure, each and every sector must now be accountable for their role in the climate change emergency. Each must take responsibility for doing their part to save my tooth, er, the biosphere.

What matters is that I need to get my tooth fixed so the pain will go away. And we need to stop spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We need to get our carbon emissions down to practically zero, as rapidly as possible. We need to work together as a global community of nations to achieve this zero-carbon economy — or perhaps race each other to zero. 

I think a global race to zero carbon would be fun! Am I alone in this? The USA loved the race to the moon. Why not a race to ensure our survival? Developing nations have a head start, in a sense, because they haven't gone as deeply down the fossil fuel energy rabbit hole as we have (in the same way that they leapfrogged over landline telephones and went straight to cellular phone technology). 

So, getting my tooth fixed — or losing it completely — is going to be painful, but trying to pin the blame on anyone is not helpful. And I'll feel much better once it's done. Getting our energy mix down to zero carbon is not going to be easy, but we are going to feel so much better once it's done.

* Completely unrelated, here's the best advice I've ever heard for people with weak ankles. Every time you brush your teeth, stand on one foot for half the time, and then the other foot. This balancing act is what will strengthen the ligaments in your ankle. It's working for me. Touch wood, after seven sprains and three fractures, my ankles have been strong and healthy ever since I received this advice. (And tooth brushing has become much more fun ... even if it didn't work for this poor aching tooth!)

13 August 2017

Climate Change — and Baseball — Deniers are Just Afraid of Their Feelings

from Slate.com
Remember I talked last week about being called names for wanting to safeguard the future? Well, the latest epithet thrown at me was "drama queen" because, don't you know, humans are resilient and adaptable to increasing temperatures and heat waves and droughts and floods and storms and pests and crop losses and water shortages? Yeah, sure.

But this little episode of name calling helped me realize something. These so-called deniers must actually be scared witless about the climate change emergency, mustn't they? Otherwise why would they be spending so much of their time reading and responding to articles and social media posts about climate change? If they weren't somehow almost pruriently attracted to slagging climate change activists, they would be doing what normal climate change ignorers do. You know, gardening and jogging and reading novels and parenting and working for a living. 

It's like if I spent all my free time on baseball websites and baseball fan listserves and baseball FB groups calling people who like baseball nasty names and denying that baseball is an actual sport. In order to do that, I'd have to secretly have some attraction to baseball, wouldn't I? Otherwise I wouldn't throw my time at it, would I? I'd be sticking to macramé or gourmet cooking, wouldn't I? 

Baseball deniers probably love the sport but simply don't know how to express their feelings about it. They were perhaps always chosen last to play on a team. Or maybe they're embarrassed that they don't actually understand the rules of the game. It's possible that they dreamed for years of playing in the major leagues but they just weren't good enough. For whatever reason, baseball deniers just can't let baseball go, so they hang out with baseball lovers all the while slagging them and the sport.

So when that climate change denier called me a drama queen for wanting to protect the future for the children of all species, I suspect he was actually asking ... we're resilient and adaptable, right? I don't have to be scared, right? Everything's going to be okay ... right?

Sadly, wrong. We are witnessing the great unravelling of the web of life. If you're not skilled enough, educated enough or courageous enough to face it and to help, that's okay. But please, go play some baseball or do some gardening so that those of us with our fingers in the dike trying to stave off the sixth mass extinction can at least do it in peace.

The Hero of Haarlem


06 August 2017

There is Nothing Sexy about the Climate Change Crisis

Mr. Mr. called me over to his desk just before bedtime the other evening. "Check out these heatwave maps! Look at southern Europe! And check out this part of Canada!" (You can see some maps below.)

"You really know how to romance a gal," I said aloud. (Let's face it. There is *nothing* sexy about the climate change crisis.) 

But inside I was crying. Crying for what this means. Crying for all the people (human and otherwise) who are suffering and struggling in this heat, with these wildfires, under these droughts. Crying for all the times I was called an alarmist, too negative, a climate crank, a greenie, an ecoweenie, a doom-and-gloomer — and wishing they were right and I'd been wrong.

Through the orange haze of wildfire smoke from many hundreds of kilometres away, how I wish we could all just wake up and get back to "normal" lives of love and romance, work and fun, raising our kids and paying our bills ... without the stench of the future going up in flames plaguing my sleep with nightmares, plaguing thousands of people in my province with evacuation orders, and plaguing hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people every year now to loss of loved ones and livelihood, food security and water sources, homes and entire homelands. 


August 5-6, 2017

16 July 2017

Everybody Deserves Some Time Off

When a friend said to me this morning, "I know all the environmental problems still exist, but ...." I cut her off by adding, "But you still have to eat breakfast, right?" "Exactly," was her response.

Well, I still have to eat breakfast. I need some time to recharge my batteries and reinvigorate my soul. It's been a taxing year, with illness and change and sad news. So I'm going to take some time off from this blog, and I'll see you back here when the spirit moves me.

Meantime, I'll leave you with some delightful news!

Gravity is illuminating sub-Saharan Africa

See this article in The Guardian about an innovative solution to burning kerosene (which produces black carbon, or soot, a byproduct of incomplete combustion; one kilogram of black carbon gives rise to "as much warming in a month as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide does over 100 years") for light. More than a billion people (250-300 million households) around the world burn kerosene as their primary source of light. 

Kirk Smith, professor at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and director of the Global Health and Environment Program, says: "There are no magic bullets that will solve all of our greenhouse gas problems, but replacing kerosene lamps is low-hanging fruit, and we don't have many examples of that in the climate world."

Says Jim Reeves, technical director of the Gravity Light Foundation and designer of this simple technology, "I was always a creative person, and did really enjoy making things. The potential outcome of some creative process, where you're just trying to solve a problem, where that outcome can be used in such a tremendously positive way, it really drives you to set about solving that problem.... If you're going to do anything that's vaguely innovative, then you're going to go through loops of real frustration and crushing disappointment. That's going to be part of that journey."

But, he added, "What we're trying to do is have a positive impact, improving life in general."

One of the first recipients of the gravity light said, "The bad thing with kerosene is that it is very expensive. Sometimes people get health problems because of the smoke. When you don't have money, you have to live in the dark." 

Until now. 


What can you do about the climate change emergency? Encourage and support creative problem solving and innovation. Talk about innovative solutions like GravityLight with your family and friends, neighbours and colleagues.