31 August 2009

97 Days - It's All About the Methane (GO VEG!)

American President Bill Clinton's campaign team, back in 1992, made famous the line, "It's the economy, stupid." More and more, it's looking like we should borrow it for our climate emergency action:

IT'S THE METHANE, STUPID!

It's not the easiest of math. The heating effect of methane over its 12 year lifespan in the atmosphere is about 100 times stronger than the heating effect of the same amount of emitted carbon dioxide. But then the methane breaks down into water vapour, ozone and CO2 — all greenhouse gases — and can carry on emitting heat for hundreds of years longer.

The physics of methane heating (like the physics of global warming), however, is simple. Put more methane into the atmosphere, the atmosphere heats up more.

And keep in mind that we are emitting all these greenhouse gases constantly, so they are accumulating in the atmosphere.

Since so many human beings seem to be overwhelmed by the idea of safeguarding the future by lowering our CO2 emissions, what about if we focus for the next two years on just one thing: stopping our methane emissions?

And what if we (the people) focus on just one way to do that: not eating meat?

What if? There is some scientific conjecture that if globally we stopped eating meat as quickly as possible (within about two years), we could still save the day — and the future.

Here's a
Meat Free Petition I have signed and am happy to support.

And this
Meat Free Monday Canada site explains the background to the Meat Free petition.

Please think about this. We're going to have to get our carbon dioxide emissions down to virtually zero — but that can be a slightly longer term feat. Right now, let's see what we can accomplish by being more compassionate to the other animals we share this planet with and going vegetarian or, better yet, vegan.

30 August 2009

98 Days - We Have the Heart of Hitler...

We must face up to it. We are Hitler.

We are the doctors who performed unspeakable experiments. We are the scientists, engineers and architects who designed and built the .... We are the teachers who said nothing as we watched children disappear from our classes.

We are the soldiers who were "just doing their jobs." We are the neighbours, the citizens, the nation, the world leaders who turned a blind eye.

We are ALREADY murdering hundreds of thousands of people every year due to the ravages of climate chaos. We have ALREADY condemned millions more - along with most life on Earth - to a future with no future.

We have been so profoundly trained to only care about ourselves that we are blithely going along with this second holocaust, not questioning it, not taking any responsibility for it.

Why did Anne Frank's diary touch the hearts of countless millions of readers? Was it because she was a child? Or was it because it only came to light after the slaughter - when knowing didn't have to compel action?

Why do we seem so incapable of responding to the climate-change-innocent who are already suffering terribly? How is it that we can continue to live with obscene prosperity (damn The Secret), knowing that our wealth - the Western lifestyle that we so blithely accept without question - is killing 30,000 children per day because they don't have enough to eat?

Why, how have we allowed ourselves to be so blinded to the fate of these children, of our children?

Every day that we don't feel deeply for our brothers and sisters and children, that we don't demand a change, that we don't stop slaughtering animals and eating meat, that we don't implore our leaders to lead us away from climate catastrophe, we are no better than Hitler.

P.S. I do not, for one moment, say this lightly. It hurts so much to know this, to understand the science, to bear witness to the suffering in Africa and the Arctic and the Pacific island nations and now major world cities that are running out of water - and to see no movement towards an agreement in Copenhagen that will get greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero to safeguard this beautiful planet for my niece, my stepsons, and my grandchildren.
Compassion MUST go hand in hand with courage in this fight to save the world from climate catastrophe. We must be brave, damn it. Courage is feeling the pain, the fear, and doing the right thing anyway.

Courage comes via French from the Latin
cor meaning "heart." And, it turns out, the French word "courage" replaced the Old English ellen, which meant "zeal, strength."

Perhaps it's zeal and strength that we're missing. Maybe we're all numbed and flabby from our two-dimensional lives spent sitting down, in front of screens.


Please, could we muster a little zeal, strength, compassion and courage?

29 August 2009

99 Days - 5,000 Generations

Over at Climate Shifts, I read a passage in a post by Chris McGrath that took me aback.

We commonly think of our children and grandchildren [in order] to appreciate the consequences of our present actions but as our present emissions of fossil fuel will continue to affect the atmosphere for over 100,000 years, we should appreciate [that] the decisions on climate policies today will affect the next 5,000 generations of humanity and beyond.


Five thousand generations! Why, the Iroquois only demanded that we think of the next seven generations. And we can't even do that. This EuroAmerican culture of mine flatly refuses to make any sacrifices for anyone, including our children.

Alas, if we don't turn this climate change emergency around fast (via some Obamaesque miracle? some compassion and emotion in the negotiating halls in Copenhagen? someone winning Richard Branson's $25 million prize for a technology that sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere?), there will, within a lot fewer than 5,000 generations, be no future generations of human beings.

The jellyfish, I hear, however, will do just fine when we're gone. Until it gets too hot for them, too.

28 August 2009

ONE HUNDRED DAYS! Making Every Day Count by Joining Forces with Avaaz

Only 100 days until the Copenhagen climate talks. I'm not the only one noticing that time is tck, tck, tcking away.

Global campaigning organization, Avaaz, is asking everyone whether they should "pull out all the stops this month to beat climate change," making climate change their concerted focus for the next four weeks, until the next UN Summit in September.

I definitely voted
YES, and hope you will, too.

Here's an excerpt from their message:

Avaaz is considering a massive, network-wide push for a "global wake-up call" to world leaders on September 21st. This would be the biggest organizing effort we've ever done, aiming to bring our whole network out (peacefully!) to the streets, ringing alarms, holding massive rallies in major cities, and gathering to send wake-up messages from schools, homes, and public squares. From all these places, we would flood world leaders with phone calls, and the actual sound of these millions of voices would be recorded, condensed and presented to heads of state at the UN climate summit in New York the next day.

If we do this, Avaaz will spend the next 4 weeks almost non-stop on it, and it will take hundreds of thousands of us joining efforts to pull it together -- hosting and attending events, reaching out to our communities, using all our creativity and dedication. This is an important decision, and we need to make it together. From now until September 21 -- should we do it?

Here's the link for voting YES (it would be silly of me to supply the link for voting no): VOTING YES TO A SAFE CLIMATE

By the way, here's what their petition to world leaders will say:

We call on our leaders to go to Copenhagen and sign a global climate treaty that is:

AMBITIOUS: enough to leave a planet safe for us all.

FAIR: for the poorest countries that did not cause climate change but are suffering most from it.

BINDING: with real targets that can be legally monitored and enforced.

I wrote and suggested that their campaign also include a focus on

ZERO: carbon emissions, since zero is the only target with any hope of safeguarding the future.

COMPASSION: for all those already impacted by the ravages of climate chaos (since those who aren't affected yet are still being total jerks about pretending it's not going to impact them or their children).

I hope you'll take a moment to vote YES in Avaaz's campaign. They're a good organization that can really get things done.

27 August 2009

101 Days - Where Should We Focus Our Action - and Compassion?

Our actions, as one species (and, frankly, as one dominating culture), are foreclosing on the future. We know we are doing it. We are marvelling, incredulously, at the fact that we are doing it. We are tracking and recording, in ever-increasing detail, how we are doing it. We are gnashing our teeth about why we are doing it.

Wouldn't it be easier to just stop doing it? To get a grip as the dominator culture and come together as a species?

No, for innumerable psychosocial reasons, which I hope to some day understand, we ... must ... perpetuate ... the ... status ... quo ... even ... if ... it ... kills ... us.

Is that karma? Pride? The height of hubris? Addiction? Or just plain stupidity?

At this point, it doesn't matter! Those of us who are serious about safeguarding the future must get on with it!

There are so few of us that we have to focus our efforts and our compassionate action. What focus will give us the most "traction" as I've heard it called ... the most "bang for our buck"?

(Indeed, I wish we had some "bucks" for saving the world. It seems almost all the money is still to be made by those ruining the planet - and those invested in ruining the planet and who do so without lifting a finger.)

Here is a list of possible targets:
  • investors
  • climate scientists
  • media
  • government leaders
  • general public
  • educators
  • faith groups
  • children and youth
  • CEOs of corporations that are destroying the future
Any to add? Where should we focus?

Let's have a look at the role compassion could play:
  • investors - People are pretty attached to their money, and don't understand the connection between how they make and spend their money, what they invest in and what's happening to the planet. Do we have time to gently explain to people (with enough money to invest) that investing in the transition to a renewable energy economy would be the greatest gift they could ever leave their children and grandchildren?

  • climate scientists - People don't become scientists because they are brave, outspoken or community-minded. But today, climate scientists must start telling the truth - which is something they are trained to do. Do we have time to evoke the hearts of climate scientists and encourage them to become the heroes of our age?

  • media - Most media, at least those that don't pride themselves on being fundamentally rightwing, "get it" and are increasingly reporting on climate change. Do we have the time to write to the heads of media who need a nudge? What about a campaign of letters to editors expressing our concern for the future? How about writing thank you notes to the reporters who are covering this scary issue well?

  • government leaders - Courage hasn't been a criterion of political service to one's country for a long time. Our politicians do not have the courage to do the right thing and risk losing the next election. How can we encourage them to become heroes for the future? Do we have time to create non-partisan or multi-party coalitions that will promise not to punish a government that does the right thing (for example, bringing in a carbon tax)?

  • general public - There are a lot of people in the world. What kind of campaign would convince billions of parents that they have the power to safeguard their children's future?

  • educators - They make movies about brave teachers. The rest of us did not go into teaching because of our courage. So what will convince educators that they have the right, as well as the means, to stand up for their students and demand a climate-safe future for them?

  • faith groups - Religious organizations around the world have been making progress on the climate front. But again, courage seems to come into it. How could we encourage those who lead or belong to faith groups to take a stand and protect Creation from destruction?

  • CEOs of corporations that are destroying the future - CEOs of banks and oil companies etc. are people, too, although they certainly have been hiding their humanity under a bushel basket (that's an old expression). Can we form circles of compassion around them, explaining that we know their predicament, while encouraging them to break the rules of their corporate charter, put life before money, and do it all for their children and grandchildren?

  • children and youth - You know how I feel about this, but my mind is changing. With deep honour for their right to a childhood, I am starting to believe that only a radical revolution by the young people of the world will melt the ice in the hearts of their elders.

26 August 2009

102 Days - Forests: Damned If We Do, Damned If We Don't

"What will we do in the future without wood? The end of the forests has come."
The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

Another of those eerie twists of email fate: two messages about forests and their role in combating in climate change came in yesterday - one happy, the other immediately cancelling it out.

THE HAPPY ONE

The World Agroforestry Centre, based in Kenya, has discovered through detailed satellite imagery that although agriculture, particularly in the developing world, is often associated with massive deforestation, almost half of all farmed landscapes worldwide include significant tree cover.

The press release from UNEP says: "This is the first study to quantify the extent to which trees are a vital part of agricultural production in all regions of the world. It reveals that on more than 1 billion hectares - which make up 46 percent of the world's farmlands and are home to more than half a billion people - tree cover exceeds 10 percent."

Dennis Garrity, the Centre's Director General, says "The problem is that policymakers and planners have been slow to recognize this phenomenon and take advantage of the beneficial effect of planting trees on farms. Trees are providing farmers with everything from carbon sequestration, to nuts and fruits, to windbreaks and erosion control, to fuel for heating and timber for housing. Unless such practices are brought to scale in farming communities worldwide, we will not benefit from the full value trees can bring to livelihoods and landscapes."

Trees on farms are useful in several other ways:
  • fertilizer trees improve crop yields and enhance soil health
  • fruit trees enhance nutrition
  • fodder trees feed livestock
  • timber and fuelwood trees provide shelter and energy
  • medicinal trees provide remedies
  • other trees provide global commodities such as coffee, rubber, nuts, gums and resins
  • trees also contribute to erosion control, water quality and biodiversity
Garrity goes on to say that investment and developments in agroforestry over the next 50 years could contribute to the alleviation of climate change, removing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (Poor Mr. Garrity doesn't realize that we don't have 50 years.)

THE SCARY ONE

In a 24 August 2009 Associated Press article, Beetles, Wildfire: Double Threat in Warming World, by Charles J. Hanley, it becomes very clear that bad things are happening much faster than good things. (I think we'll need a new word for this phenomenon.)

The vicious circle of warmer weather allowing more insects to kill more trees in the boreal forests around the northern hemisphere, which then absorb less CO2 and add to carbon emissions through wildfires, is worsening year by year.

On the southern edge of the Siberian forests, warmer, drier weather is stifling regrowth of burned-out areas, turning them to grasslands.

Are we looking at peak wood? An Armageddon of insect-infested, burnt-out landscapes? What have we wrought? "The end of the forests has come."

25 August 2009

103 Days - Are the Children Demanding Enough of World Leaders?

UNEP's Tunza International Youth Conference on Climate Change ended on 23 August 2009 in Daejeon, Korea.

Youth delegates pledged to keep global warming high on the international agenda. "Climate change is the greatest threat we are facing in the 21st century, and many countries are vulnerable. If we the children and youth don't act now, we cannot be sure there will be a future for us, for future generations. We want to make sure that future generations will inherit a better place to live in," said 22-year old Jessie James Marcellones from the Philippines.

Regional Action Plans covering Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, and West Asia, include:
  • Mobilizing youth for the upcoming UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen
  • Reaching out to other environmental groups, especially during the 21-25 September Climate Week
  • Educating others on campuses, in school and among churches, sports teams and more
  • Letter-writing, phone banking, visiting officials to "Seal the Deal"
  • Social networking through the Unite for Climate, Facebook, Twitter and other e-fora, and
  • College campaigns and tree planting initiatives.
Okay, I'll admit that I was hoping for something more radical from this group. Something like:
  • The youth and children of the world will start disobeying their parents if we don't see positive movement at the upcoming preparatory talks. And if we don't get a just and effective climate treaty in Copenhagen, we will start rampaging through the streets. It will not be pretty. But it will be a whole lot nicer than what you older people are leaving to us.
I was, however, very happy to read the following:

Seventeen-year-old Yaiguili Alvarado Garcia, from the Kuna indigenous group in Panama, expressed the need for adults to hear and listen and understand why the young need their support. "There are a lot of indigenous cultures that are losing, because nobody wants to hear what we want to say, what we know about Mother Earth, and it is frustrating for us because we have so many things to share and the world doesn't listen to us. There are many things we asked the governments to do and we know it is hard, but we want to work with them, we just want to make a better place for the children, for the animals and plants. It is about time we stop thinking just for us and think also for other beings that cannot speak for themselves. It is time to stop being selfish.

"This global youth and children gathering under the Seal the Deal Campaign is the largest international gathering of young people this year advocating for climate change action. Their voices will and must be heard because they will inherit the outcomes of our actions," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [my eco-hero].

24 August 2009

104 Days - Celebrating Our Local Food Traditions

I spent yesterday at my community's wonderful little fall fair. I convened the Young People's Agriculture section, and was delighted to see so many people appreciating the children's produce and educational projects on food growing.

It wasn't until a lovely German tourist came through the displays and mentioned that there is nothing like it where she lives, near Frankfurt, that I realized the power and importance of our fall fair tradition.

Small-scale farming and organic gardening connect us to the past, connect us to the earth (and the Earth), and connect us to future generations. Celebrating the fruits of our harvest helps people understand where their food comes from.

And since agriculture depends on a stable climate, and the stability of our climate is already deteriorating, it would be good for all of us to appreciate what we've got before it's gone.

As the Arctic summer sea ice disappears, the whole northern hemisphere is losing its summer "air conditioner," so summer weather is becoming hotter in some places and more unpredictable in others.

I grew tomatoes in pots on my sunny deck this summer, and midway through one of our extremely rare heat waves, I started adding up how much water they were getting. I was shocked! (I've since started using grey water/dirty dishwashing water on my tomatoes.) If my few tomatoes needed almost 100 litres per week, how much water must our food producing systems use? Yet our fresh water is one of the resources most at risk due to global warming.

We don't have a clue how much things are going to change and how bad they're going to get (because they certainly aren't, despite the hopeful protestations of certain commentators, getting better nearly as fast as they're worsening), but in the meantime, let's find ways to honour our food growers and support them as they try to adapt to the changing climate.

23 August 2009

105 Days - 2Years4LifeonEarth Solutions

Here are more solutions to the problem of climate change apathy or ignorance that we came up with during our Sunday brunch (see yesterday's post). You'll notice a distinct "Sunday" feel to some of these suggestions.

"What can I do, now that I'm aware of climate change?" is a common lament.

  • Well, what do people do after they've had a spiritual conversion? They change their behaviour (start going to church), learn (read the Bible), and raise their awareness (take Bible study classes). They accept being told how to act (for example, the Ten Commandments). Can we create something like this - only for global rather than personal salvation?

  • Talk it up. Ask people to talk about climate change with their friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, fellow club members. Talk is action when it's spreading the word.

  • Pray. (Why not, eh? It's not exactly an action verb, but it's got more force behind it than hoping.)

  • Start imagining a world without fossil fuels. We must have a revolution to renewable energy. (Otherwise, back to the caves and thatched huts with us!) (That's a joke, by the way. A perpetual energy economy, if we make the transition in time, will be a wonderful transformation.) 

  • Realize (is realizing an action????) that we're creating a mass extinction of life. This despite the fact that we depend upon biodiversity. We are pushing thousands upon thousands of species of plants and animals to extinctions - and it looks like our species is going to be among them. START THINKING LIKE A SPECIES! START FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL!

  • Think like an ancestor. We've been so lucky as a generation - between world wars, lots of economic prosperity (at least in developed countries). It's time to burst the bubble and understand that we're killing the future and committing progenycide.

  • Insist on massive public spending to kickstart this revolution to a renewable energy economy. If we willingly go into debt for war, why not go into debt for life? That would be a debt that future generations will be grateful to pay off.

  • Protect carbon sinks! (First, learn about carbon sinks and why they're vital.)

  • Protect the remaining rainforests and coral reefs. Insist on them being protected, damn it!

  • Get emotional! Get angry! How can we talk about pissing away the future of our species and the beauty of life's diversity without getting emotional???

  • Insist that environmental and social health costs be internalized in our economics. Enough of externalizing environmental and social health costs so that WE have to pay for them with our health and our lives and the future of our children and grandchildren. Let the corporations or their shareholders or their consumers pay for them.

  • Understand that our goal must be 100% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible - if we're to save the future. We can't wait til the last minute.

  • The only hope is action. If you love your children/grandchildren, you will become part of the solution.

22 August 2009

106 Days - Two Years for Life on Earth

Two Years for Life on Earth was the working name that my husband and I gave our campaign to save the world, based on this quote from Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in November 2007: "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."

Had a yummy and thought-provoking brunch amongst like-minded and like-hearted people a while back. Thought I'd share with you this eclectic list of thoughts on and solutions to the climate change emergency.

  • Wayne: "I don't have time to save the world" is a common lament. How do we get people to see that there's really no time (left) for anything BUT saving the world? (How about "30 fewer minutes a day of watching TV to save the world?")

    Peter: "The answer is spiritual. The power that's needed to change things is spiritual." Others felt that the word "spiritual" puts many people off (funny what we get used to, eh?). Amanda uses "heart" to signify this realm.

    The Greenland shaman, Angaangaq believes "We must melt the ice in the heart of man." JJ: "Will it take global warming to melt the ice in the heart of man?" (Not aimed directly at males, of course!)

    Wayne: "We need a unified purpose with foreseeable, integrated solutions" (cultural, technological/engineering, economic, psychosocial, "spiritual")

    Actions - scale / incremental / small steps (JJ: do we have time for small steps, which should have been happening 20 years ago?)

    Amanda: short-term changes versus long-term changes.

    The Pope is calling for personal ecological conversion.

    Krishnamurti said:
    You have to change.
    You have to change completely.
    And you have to change now.

    JJ & Amanda: Venn diagram (Science + Spirit) became a triple Venn diagram: the overlapping circles are Heart/Spirit, Thought/Understanding, and Action.

    • 1. HEART/SPIRIT
      • denial/fear --> courage, sacrifice out of love, creativity, hope springing from action

      2. THOUGHT/UNDERSTANDING

      • learn the carbon cycle, learn about energy and combustion, learn about global warming and climate change
      • become ecologically literate
      • search for engineering "systems" that work

      3. ACTION - (see tomorrow's post)

    In the centre of our triple Venn diagram is TRANSFORMATION.

21 August 2009

107 Days - Ignorance is Blissful ... and Deadly (Is It Time for Sanctions?)

I feel as though I've stumbled into a parallel universe and am now looking at this world through a two-way mirror.

This sense of otherworldliness (or perhaps it's theatre of the absurd!) comes from knowing so much (some days it feels like too much) about the climate change crisis that is upon us, all the while watching so many people go about their daily lives as if nothing has changed.

When I do meet or hear from someone who "gets" what's happening to the biosphere, it's a bit of a surprise (albeit a pleasant one).

But it shouldn't be this way. We are so connected to the giant library we call the internet. They say that four billion people have cell phones - they can't be doing all that talking and not talking at all about climate change, can they? And bless them, the mainstream media are doing a better job of talking about the climate emergency than the vast majority of scientists and government leaders are. There ought to be more people talking about this issue.

But most, it seems, would rather be ignorant - and blissful. And dead (whether figuratively or literally).

Here's a real bugbear of mine: I reckon that if one has the technology and time to comment on an online article about the issue, then one has the technology and time to research the science of global warming and climate change. But I see so much ignorance there, too.

I used to think, "Oh, poor sods, they just aren't scientifically literate enough to understand." But for too long now, those of us who take the time to read what the scientists are discovering, and who have the compassion to note what is already happening due to climate disruption in other parts of the world, have refrained from criticizing the lazy and ignorant (stupid and selfish?) people
who take the time to make unhelpful comments like the ones I read in online Comments sections.

Perhaps taking climate change into the "moral arena," as suggested by Al Gore (and others such as
Tutu and Leape), could include social sanctions and moral outrage against those who continue to promote progenycide by sending in comments to online discussions of this issue that are out-of-date, ignorant of the science, and completely without empathy for present and future victims of climate breakdown.

Indeed, where
is the moral outrage surrounding this most disastrous of messes our leaders have ever got us into? Why do we cry for inquiries into tiny, inconsequential scandals about sex or money (or sex and money) but remain mute to the complete bungling of the climate change emergency?

Why is there no sanctioning happening? Are we that afraid that we would have to sanction ourselves in the process?

20 August 2009

108 Days - Safeguarding the Future Isn't a Question of "Either/Or"

Safeguarding the future should be, must be, a "Yes, and..." proposition.

But in the last 24 hours, I've read of two situations where two authors duke it out because they can't see that they're both right, and that life isn't all about either/or. Life offers a series of alternatives and possible solutions.

In the first example, Peter Ward declares that James Lovelock's Gaia theory is responsible for encouraging a set of fairy-tale assumptions about the earth (he probably means the Earth), and is determined to puncture them with his new book, The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?

See the either/or that Ward sets up? He purports that if he is right, then Lovelock must be wrong. But this planet is more like the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses — a spectrum ranging from those who give life to those who take it away — than the Old versus New Testament either/or proposition of the warring and vengeful Jehovah versus a compassionate and merciful Jesus.

Why must our view of the world be either life-giving or life-taking? It's so obvious to the rest of us that it is both. As a friend so aptly put it, "Why do white Western guys have opposing theories instead of complementary, inter-meshing, completing ones? Nature creates, nature maintains, nature destroys."

In another example, George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth go at each other in a series of letters published 17 August 2009 in the Guardian, under the heading Is there any point in fighting to stave off industrial apocalypse?

Monbiot and Kingsnorth seem to be arguing about whether to do nothing or do everything possible, whether to let the climate crisis take its course or try to "stave it off."

Again, it's all about either/or. Gentlemen, please. (Maybe this is a Western white male thing?) Sure, it might be good fodder for the newspaper, but except for the very beginning and the very end of life (you're either born or you're not, you either die or you don't), the rest of living here on this planet is not about either/or. It offers a range of possibilities and alternatives.

Not only that, but at no time do you mention that compassion might play a role in this "fight," as you call it. (Though Monbiot does suggest that losing billions of people through doing nothing is a little harsh.)

Alas, my point is that every time we catch ourselves thinking in terms of either/or, let's explore what's in the middle — all the possibilities between the either and the or.

19 August 2009

109 Days - Where Will You Live?

My husband has been studying computer modelled projections of which parts of the world will be habitable the longest, under a global warming of several degrees.

Tonight at the dinner table, he was explaining to our niece that a big factor in her decision about where to go to university should be where she can safely put down roots, learn to grow food, and live out her days in an overheated world.

That's a lot for a 17-year-old to think about! What a thing to have to ask young people to do.

But if we don't ask them to think about their "adaptation" to global warming and climate change, then we'd better be mitigating like crazy to make sure they don't have to adapt.

And for what it's worth, if we allow the global average temperature to go too high (well, it's already too high — since we're seeing carbon feedbacks already — but you know what I mean), then most species on Earth will not be able to adapt. We simply won't survive.

My niece and I are having fun this evening, so I don't think she was traumatized by the discussion, but it's sure got me thinking about where I'd like to be when the climate you-know-what starts hitting the fan in my part of the world.

P.S. I don't want to suggest places that people could start heading (areas that will continue to get precious rainfall, for example), but I have heard (as I've mentioned here before) that people with money are starting to buy up land in those areas. If you're concerned, please do your own research.

18 August 2009

110 Days - Ideas for Impassioning the Climate Talks at Copenhagen with Compassion

On 11 August 2009, Grist ran Climate disobedience: Is a new "Seattle" in the making? by Mark Engler.

It's an interesting article that's got me thinking about civil compassion (rather than civil disobedience). You know, protest-y type events, but where people simply teach and preach about love for our children and grandchildren and compassion for the rest of life on Earth.

So, very quietly (don't want word to get out or photo albums could be slammed shut all over the world), here's my best (so far) idea for the protests and "civil compassion" at Copenhagen in December.

Let's get photographs of all the children of all the climate negotiators and all the world's leaders (I already have photos of the children of Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper) and anyone who will be participating at the talks.

I know that my heart goes out to all the children of the world, but I doubt that hard-nosed politicians and bureaucrats will so easily have their deep inner sources of compassion tapped into. But seeing the faces of their own children and grandchildren hung on walls, flashed on screens and stuck on T-shirts might help them realize who they are negotiating for - or whose future they are negotiating away.

Sure, it's a tame idea. But tame isn't necessarily lame. And since we have to do absolutely everything we can, let's not throw out any ideas that stand a chance of moving even one heart - that one heart could turn out to be our greatest climate hero.

Writing the names of the children and their home country on all the photos will help people match hard-hearted (or is it cowardly?) negotiators with the real-life faces of the young people whose future they are willing to trade away.

Thoughts? Is it workable? Any other ideas for getting some compassionate action into the Copenhagen climate talks in December?

17 August 2009

111 Days - My Own Predictions for the End of the World

I'm sure you've been hearing or reading about all the "prophecies" that say our world will end on 21 December 2009.

Well, I think the Mayans and others are out by just a couple of days. I believe the world as we know it will start to end on 18 December 2009, the last day of the Copenhagen climate change "talks."


My prediction goes like this: Between now and 7 December 2009, very drably dressed people, chosen for reasons most of us will never fathom, will feel they are doing important work together as "The Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention" and other such committees and working groups.


But these drably dressed people will not, in their endless talks and thoroughly boring negotiations, ever put the survival of life on Earth at the top of their agenda and at the centre of their discussions.


They will talk about what their country wants, needs and "deserves" and they will not budge.


They will (bless them and damn them, for they will be complicit in the greatest evil ever) let life on this precious, miraculous planet go to hell in a handbasket.


All because they will not bring themselves to see past their invisible borders and their small-minded economies. They will not bring themselves to talk of their children and grandchildren, and the gardens they love, and the animals that bring them joy. They will not share stories and photographs of the beautiful sacred places in their lives. They will not wear their hearts on their sleeves nor put what they love on the negotiating table. They will not represent humanity and they will not speak out on behalf of life and the children of all species.


On 19 December 2009, the end of the world will have begun, because our climate negotiators, in their drab grey suits, will have negotiated their way to nothing.


And then it will be too late to try again — with colour, with verve, with life! With heart and soul and love and compassion. With tears and heartache and some small offering of regret to our children and all future generations.

P.S. In the hope that my prediction will not come true, I send out this request to the dozen or so women who wore bright colours at recent climate talks in Bonn, Germany: Please speak out! Stand up! Take a stand! Dance on the tables! Wake your co-negotiators up! Save the world! Please!

16 August 2009

112 Days - Yikes, Back to Climate Frustration

Well, it's back into the climate fray in an effort to get some compassion and action and compassionate action happening long before December's Copenhagen climate talks.

I figured out today — when confronted with all the latest bad news on the climate change front — that one of the reasons I loved my week of Nature Daycamp is that I could leave climate change behind. I was working with kids too young to be worrying about it, and so for one week, I didn't either.

What a rude awakening this morning when I started checking my climate-related emails again. For example, here is a little compendium of quotes from Mr. Yvo de Boer, current executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:
  • "...a climate deal in Copenhagen this year is simply an unequivocal requirement to stop climate change from slipping out of control."
  • "So with only 115 days of negotiating time left before Copenhagen, negotiations will need to considerably pick up speed for the world to achieve a successful result at Copenhagen."
  • "...if we continue at this rate, we're not going to make it [get an agreement in Copenhagen in December]."
  • "It [Copenhagen] must revolutionize international cooperation to combat climate change."
  • "...serious climate change is equal to 'game over'."

Scary, eh? I must admit, I cried when I read and heard Mr. de Boer's angst and warnings. This is the most important gathering of the human tribe ever, and people are treating it like a pissing match. And believe me, pissing will not put out this fire!

(The other scary thing is that Mr. de Boer feels he must say all this with a level tone of voice. What if he actually started to sound the panic alarm with some panic in his voice? What if he were more picturesque in his choice of language? What if he called for compassion from the government leaders and negotiators he is working with? People didn't buy into the consumer culture because a reasoned voice told them once or twice to do so. Our EuroAmerican Western culture bought into our destructive way of life because our whole audiovisualsphere was jammed with lively jingled commercials and brightly coloured advertisements. Over and over again. Constantly. Please, could we not take a leaf from the other side's book?)

15 August 2009

113 Days - Maybe Adults Need Nature Daycamp


Day 5 and my Nature Daycamp is over. What a wonderful week!

I've just remembered that several years ago, I did weekend workshops for adults not unlike this past week's Nature Daycamp. The adults who attended raved about their experiences and their learning. I remember one highly educated woman admitting that she'd never understood how trees worked until that weekend.

Perhaps that's what the world needs: more adults getting dirty in the woods. New rule: Grown-ups should not be allowed to rule the world unless they have made Nature's Perfumes, played Tickly Prickly, gone on a Gallery Walk, and listened for Nature's Symphony.

I just made that rule up, but imagine the difference it could make! People who actually love and appreciate the rest of Nature would be making decisions based on the needs of "all their relations" ... not basing them simply on what will make more money.

THE CREE PROPHECY
Only after the Last Tree has been cut down,
Only after the Last River has been poisoned,
Only after the Last Fish has been caught,
Only then will you find that
Money Cannot Be Eaten.

14 August 2009

114 Days - It's Easy for Kids to Be Green

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, while wearing my It's Not Easy Being Green Kermit T-shirt, I got to experience the look on a little girl's face when she held her first ever frog this morning. "That's the first REAL frog I've ever seen!" Mady exclaimed.


It's how we started our 4th day of Nature Daycamp, a day that was focused on visiting the "secret pond."


It was the tiniest little frog, quite cute, and very still at first - and then it leapt into my knapsack, to everyone's amusement.


After making "scopes" from juice cartons and getting our magnifying glasses and plastic jars ready, we finally hiked to the pond where the kids loved discovering more frogs, dragonfly nymphs, and a water boatman or two.


I think a lot of us forget that many, if not most, kids in North America these days don't get the chance to visit ponds and marshes and forests and wild beaches. We did those things as part of our everyday lives when we were children, but it's a special privilege nowadays.


I'm so happy to be providing that opportunity for a dozen little ones this week. I really think these children will grow up appreciating the gifts that Nature gives us.


What a concept, eh? Maybe all those CEOs of banks and fossil fuel corporations didn't get to go exploring when they were kids!

13 August 2009

115 Days - Nature's Rainbow


Another wonderful day of Nature Daycamp (well, except that I sprained and broke my ankle middway through the day — but the kids were great, finding me walking sticks and carrying my bags).

The highlight for me today was our time at the edge of a marsh, one that is protected from the sea by a berm but which is brackish/salty on the beach side and freshwater on the far (land) side. The kids and I thought this was pretty nifty.

After our Magic Spot time (a quiet time for reflection and writing or drawing in small journals), I did an activity with them called Nature's Rainbow. I'd found great paint chip collections at the local hardware store, and gave each group one of these brochures.
The kids had never thought about how many shades, tints and hues of green there are in the world! Especially in a marsh in mid-summer. Wow. It was grand watching them point out all the different greens (and a few oranges, reds and yellows) to their partners.

If you are ever at risk of losing faith in humanity, take a young person outdoors, have some fun together, then focus their attention and watch them connect with their true Mother. It will be an absolute delight!

12 August 2009

116 Days - "Everything Has a Heartbeat!"


With apologies to those who aren't really "into" kids, I'm pretty focused on them this week because of our Nature Daycamp.

Working with these wonderful youngsters is like a tonic after months and months of focus on the climate change emergency.

Today we visited the forest. We sat and talked with the birds, played Camouflage, did an activity called Hug a Tree (with uproarious laughter).

But my favourite activity was giving each pair a stethoscope to listen to the "heartbeat" of a tree. The best moment of the day was when Isabela came running back to tell me, after doing some experimenting on the moss and the rocks, that "everything has a heartbeat!"

Can you imagine a world where every human being, of every age, recognizes that the rest of Nature is living and breathing? We would treat everything as kin, just as the aboriginal peoples did.

And, I'm betting, we would remain childlike in our sense of awe and discovery in the world of our natural neighbours.
Tomorrow we're going to the marsh!

11 August 2009

117 Days - Kids and Rain (Why Was I Worried?)


I awoke very early this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. I felt sick to my stomach. Sure, we need the rain. It's been a hot, dry summer. But on the first day of Nature Daycamp? Why here? Why today?

Well, I needn't have worried one iota. Children love rain and they love getting wet (when their parents aren't telling them to stay dry). And they love the ocean, which is where we spent several hours today - in the rain.

I must remember to trust in children, to trust in the joy, excitement and fascination they still experience when face to face with the elements.

Tomorrow's Nature Daycamp will take us into the forest, face to face with trees and soil. I'm looking forward to it, rain or shine!

10 August 2009

118 Days - Falling Prey and Losing Confidence

Tomorrow I will start a five-day Nature Daycamp for children aged 5 to 12. It's something I should be excited about. Yet I'm anxious. Why is that?


My whole professional career — until now — I have revelled in opportunities to introduce youngsters to the joys of the natural world. At university during my education studies in outdoor and experiential education, I focused on sensory awareness when all my classmates were either athletic (and focusing on physical pursuits in the outdoors) or science majors (focusing on biology and ecology).


I do not have a scientific mind. I have had to work very hard to understand the science of climate change, and I feel confident in my knowledge of the fundamentals. But somewhere along the way, I have lost confidence in my ability to pass on my love for the rest of Nature.

Is it because I feel I need to "know" all the science we'll meet up with in the woods and at the beach? Or is it because I'm nervous about wired kids getting easily bored by the speed of the natural world? Whatever it is, I feel I am casting my fate to the wind.


Perhaps, then, it is the angst from my life as a climate activist pervading my work with children — and I don't like it one bit.


So tonight, my compassionate climate action is to take care of myself, treat myself gingerly, and trust in the wisdom of my friends and neighbours of other species. And then to relax and have fun tomorrow!

09 August 2009

119 Days - What IS the Public Feeling?

Another day of email conundrummy (I just made that word up).


First a message that the American Psychological Association (APA) is offering climate-change-related workshops, hosted by Psychologists for Social Responsibility and Earth Circles, at its annual conference:

Climate Activism for Psychologists: From Psychological Paralysis to Community-Based Action

and

Confronting Eco-Anxieties & Promoting A Healthy Eco-Identity in Clinical & Academic Work

My response to the listserve was this:

It would be interesting to hear from psychologists on this listserve about the prevalence / pervasiveness of "psychological paralysis" and "eco-anxiety" stemming from climate change.

I live in a small community where people just keep working - or travelling, golfing, fishing, sailing, watching TV and living their lives as always - so haven't seen evidence of these maladies.

Out there in the big, wide world, are there lots of people feeling overwhelmed by climate change?

Cuz I gotta tell ya, I'm not seeing anyone amongst my family, friends or community members (both geographical and interest-based communities) suffer psychologically because of climate change.


Except my loved one and me. We rage, we despair, we swear, we sob. My eyes well up with tears at the thought of what we're doing to the children in Africa. My husband weeps when he hears yet another tale about the fate of our beloved orca whales.


But we are very, very alone in this. We have one friend who feels it deeply. We know a handful of other activists who are doing good work but don't seem to feel it deeply (or at least, don't share that with us). Where is the paralysis and eco-anxiety?


Sure enough, the very next message announced an article by Andy Coghlan entitled "Consumerism is 'eating the future'" in the New Scientist of 7 August 2009.


In it, Coglan quotes Marc Pratarelli of Colorado State University at Pueblo in the USA:

"We have our heads in the sand, and are in a state of denial," he says. "People think: 'It won't happen to me, or be in my lifetime, or be that bad, so what's the point of change'."

Pratarelli is ... pessimistic. The only hope, he says, is a disaster of immense scale that jolts us out of our denial. "My sense is that only when the brown stuff really hits the fan will we finally start to do something."

So which is it? Psychological paralysis? Or sleepwalking through the climate emergency?

08 August 2009

Four Months til Copenhagen - Wind Power Cancelling Itself Out?

In a strange twist of email fate, I received two completely opposed messages one after the other in my inbox yesterday.


The first one was: "Wind-generated electricity finally feeds BC's power grid" (BC stands for British Columbia, the Canadian province in which I live). I felt some momentary pride (with a large splash of What took us so long?), until I read this next one:


"A wind farm is not the answer," in which all pro-renewable energy environmentalists are lumped together into a category of people who only care about "gigawatt hours, parts per million of carbon, peer-reviewed papers and 'sustainable development.'"


Talk about deflation.


This article from The Guardian by Paul Kingsnorth has some excellent points in it — only it's all too late. He says of a huge wind farm in Shetland, UK:

Does this sound very "green" to you? To me it sounds like a society fixated on growth and material progress going about its destructive business in much the same way as ever, only without the carbon. It sounds like a society whose answer to everything is more and bigger technology; a society so cut off from nature that it believes industrialising a mountain is a "sustainable" thing to do.

It also sounds like an environmental movement in danger of losing its way. The support for industrial wind developments in wild places seems to me a symbol of a lack of connectedness to an actual, physical environment. A development like that of Shetland is not an example of sustainable energy: it is the next phase in the endless human advance upon the non-human world - the very thing that the environmental movement came into being to resist.

Dear Mr. Kingsnorth: We have tried. We have failed. You're right, it's not nice that we have to mar the landscape with huge wind turbines. But remember that old saying, If you can't beat them, join them? Well, we can't beat them, but we might be able to steer them into a zero-carbon future.


If giant industrial windfarms will save the future of our species and innumerable others, then I'm not going to stand in the way. Where were all the wind farm protesters all these years when we were trying to fight Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Money? It's too late to fight "Big Wind" because we MUST get to zero carbon and we MUST invest in renewable energy to do it.


It appears that there aren't too many of us willing to make sacrifices or change our lifestyles for the sake of the children. So, we'd better give people what they want. With a twist of lime, but without the carbon please.