21 August 2016

The Saddest Sad Thing about the Climate Change Emergency

It was a sad week around the world. As athletes from around the world vied to break sporting records at the Rio Olympics, India and the Middle East experienced record-breaking temperatures. Massive floods and forest fires are killing and "homelessing" people left, right and centre. Amidst all this, the denial campaign is doubling down (their efforts to obfuscate the need for an emergency response are mind and heart boggling) and the scientific community, for the most part, just keeps calling for more research. Aaaarrrgghhh!

But the saddest sad thing this week was a series of posts and comments on the question of bringing children into this changing world -- a world that is changing for the worse in practically every way.

Children are a vulnerable subpopulation, and as such they are more susceptible to the ravages of climate chaos. On top of that, we're doing an excellent job of ravaging their future.

An NPR article asked "Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change?" Lots of commenters weighed in:
"Should we be protecting our children by not having them?"

"Of course yes, we should protect future children by not having them! Knowing what we know about climate, and the inevitable wars and struggle and suffering that will happen in the near future - how could anyone create another person, someone they claim to love, and willingly subject them to all of that?? If they can, then I don't understand it at all. I wish I did."

"Investors have a moral obligation to safeguard their grandchildren's future against climate change." [See my webpage on Future Generations for more information on this idea.]

"Decided not to have kids because I know it would break my own heart to see them grow up in a dying world." [I responded that this decision must have been heartbreaking in itself.]

"Too late for me but I have had this discussion with my only child, a 16 year old son." [Good point ... how are young people feeling about a future with no children?]
And in response to From Epic Fires to a 1,000-Year Flood: The Climate Change of Here and Now:
"What must it be like to have a new born baby in your arms and look out the window at a line of fire as far as the eye can see beneath a looming wall of smoke and ash that blots out the future! What will be the future as the infant grows up and enters the world as an adult?

"What world will they see in twenty years? The deniers smirk as they pocket their profits and bribes while knowing the truth. Just one more golden egg from the Golden Goose they keep saying. Just one more pipeline, just one more deep water drill, just one more fracking well!

"They will never say enough is enough and worse they will probably start saying that it is too late to do anything about climate change already anyway. They plan to say that eventually. They'll say whatever it takes to be able to squeeze out one more golden egg before the goose dies."
So, yeah, I believe the saddest of all the sad things these days is the idea that the future has become a thing of the past, no longer something to look forward to. And that the greatest joy in the world for so many people -- having children -- has turned into something cruel.

14 August 2016

Get Outside!

Perseid shooting star

Get outside. Whether it's midwinter or the middle of summer holidays where you live, get outside!

Spending time outdoors is vitally worthwhile because it will remind you that:

• you're infinitesimally insignificant in the universal scheme of things -- and therefore so are your woes and your worries

• you're alive! and therefore, even though you and your problems are like one grain of sand on a never-ending stretch of beach, you've been given a gift that you share with every other living thing on this whole precious planet

• if we don't %$#@ it up with our blinkin' greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon (soot), the Earth will continue to provide us with everything we need
Last night, several of my students and their families and I spread out our blankets and sleeping bags and giggled and snacked well into the night, oohing and aahing as the Perseid meteor showers performed their fireworks. 

The last to leave, I was overcome by a sense of well being. The Milky Way suddenly became a colossal eagle in flight, its wings spread open to envelope me. The Big Dipper, having swung through the sky as the evening wore on, now was dripping honey and nectar on me. Certainly, the mosquitoes reassured me that I was not alone in the world. ("Okay, guys. Guys, really, you can go to bed now." But no, they stayed up to watch the sky show as well. Right next to my left ear. Friendly little fellas.) 

(p.s. The Perseids continue until August 26, 2016 and come every August.)

I remember writing longing poetry long ago as a teenager about the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Last night, as the whole night sky kept me company after my gaggle of students went home to their comfy beds, I didn't feel alone or lonely. 

I am part of the Great Story of Life unfolding, and even though I am but an extra playing a bit part, I am playing my part with joy, with love, and with care and compassion in my heart for all the children ... of all species ... for all time. (Thank you, Bill McDonough.)

Get outside, folks. Soak in some of the gifts freely given by this precious planet of ours. And then send out your heartfelt thanks and appreciation.


This post is dedicated to a dear young friend who, despite an agonizingly sad medical diagnosis and uncertain prognosis delivered this week, has cheerfully told us all, "It's not how long you live that counts, it's how joyfully you live the time you've got." Thank you, special angel, thank you. Love you!

07 August 2016

Faith, Hope and ... Activism?

Out of the blue the other day, a friend told me he'd looked up the original Greek words for the three theological virtues of "faith, hope and charity" to see what they originally meant or referred to. 

Faith, yup, no surprises there, from what I recall of our conversation. Hope had more of a sense of promise, like when we reassure worried children that there are no monsters under the bed -- or that there are many adults in the world working to take care of Nature.

But charity, that one surprised me. As you know, "charity" and "love" are often used interchangeably in the Biblical expression, "... but the greatest of these is charity / love." So let's define it first.

In the original, the form of love referred to was agape (αγάπε) (in Latin caritas, which led to the English "charity"). Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love ("as distinct from erotic love or emotional affection," according to my dictionary), not easy to translate into English. Someone named Michael on a Catholic listserv explained it this way: 
"Picture someone we've treated shamefully, and have beaten to within an inch of his life, jumping on a mine one of us has triggered, while pushing us out of the way, in order to save our lives, and you should have the idea. This is a love we could never hope to produce on our own, and it was seeing this love in action that caused Roman pagans to leave their comfortable, and safe, seats in the Flavian Amphitheater to join the Christians on the floor below so that they could die with them."
Mother Teresa certainly understood agape. "Love has to be put into action," she was known to say. So charity is activism and to love and be charitable is to serve, to act on behalf of good causes. 

The next time a couple uses that passage from 1 Corinthians in their wedding ceremony, you might wonder what kind of activism they will be putting their agape love towards and sharing in together. Let's hope it's climate change activism, because we need as many souls as we can get to win this one for all the children.

Just want to share a bit of an epiphany I had this past week. Want to weigh in?

I've always thought that people didn't want to talk about climate change because it makes them feel bad. That's definitely part of it, but I think there's a middle step I've been missing. Because (some/many/most?) people (in North America) see climate change as negative, they deliberately push it out of their realities and make a choice not to read or watch videos about it. 

Then, because these people haven't spent the time and emotional energy to learn about it, they don't have anything to say about it. (Not that that ever stops the deniers / skeptics / ignorers / delayers!) These people are then uncomfortable participating in a discussion about it, and that discomfort tends to shut the conversation down.

Does this make sense?

31 July 2016

Climate Change: What's Greed Got to Do With It?

Like many people around the world whose mediascape is (at times sickeningly) filled with sound bites and film clips, photographs and FB memes of candidates in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, I am trying to wrap my head around how far the American Republican party has strayed from its roots with their current choice of candidate. (Think Theodore Roosevelt. He was a(n admittedly progressive) Republican president, but also an environmental champion.)

You can probably guess why this American election (even though I'm not American) has had me thinking a lot about greed. And that, in turn, has got me thinking about the role of greed and greediness in the climate crisis. 

My own swirling thoughts have gone something like this: Greed, at its deepest subconscious level, must be a form of defensiveness, a seeking of security in people who don't believe in the abundance of the Universe. Which means there must also be a streak of ecological illiteracy inherent in greed, as greedy people don't seem to understand the collaborative nature of, well, nature (of which we're a part), and the fact that there is enough for everyone's need (as Gandhi pointed out).

The catch-22 is this: How do we help the greedy people who are ruining the biosphere feel more safe and secure at a time when their greed has made the climate (and therefore life itself) less safe and secure? Bad timing, eh? It feels like we're hooped. 

I decided to do a smidge of research to see what others put greed down to. The dictionary says that to be greedy is to have or show an intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth or power. (That certainly describes a certain Republican candidate.)

Thought leader (I love that term! I want to be one!) Frank Sonnenberg also equates greed with selfishness. "Greed is a term that describes ruthless people with naked ambition, people with an insatiable appetite for riches, those who give new meaning to the word selfish." We're living in a time when rich people can't have as much as they might want, because it all comes with carbon emissions that the world can't afford anymore. Maybe we just have to tell people like Donald Frump and the Rhymes-with-a-Soft-Drink Brothers that -- literally -- enough is enough. But that's going to take a huge shift in worldview, isn't it? After all, we're fighting not just hundreds of years of capitalism, but also a couple of decades of woowoo new age you-can-attract-everything-you-want brainwashing.

Sonnenberg quotes the character Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street: "It’s not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses." And yet, in ecosystems, there are no winners as long as there are losers. So are greedy people those who (think they can) live above the laws of nature? Is that why they just keep burning fossil fuels with nary a care for the biosphere -- because to them, metaphorical "winning" is more important than actually surviving?

Now as Sonnenberg points out, it's unfair to automatically "equate success and wealth with greed. The fact is, many successful people give generously of their wealth and/or their time. It’s also true that you don’t have to be particularly wealthy in order to be able to give.... [Some] people without means contribute generously of their time and skills every day, yet others don’t. Greed doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor."

But according to Oxam, when it comes to global warming and climate change, the world's richest 10% produce half of global carbon emissions, while the poorest half of the world's people contribute to just 10% of emissions.

Let's wrap our heads around that. "An average person among the richest 1% of people emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 1%, Oxfam said." So in order not to be considered a greedy bastard, I guess one really has to consider -- and lower -- one's sense of entitlement, and then one's carbon footprint. 

So yeah. Greed => climate change.

p.s. Check out Oxfam's report, Extreme Carbon Inequality: Why the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest emitting and most vulnerable people first, here.