22 January 2010

Where are we going, and why am I in a handbasket? — A Guest Post

I love that saying on a bumper sticker! A "virtual friend," Norma Lundberg, wrote the other day to say that her father used to use that expression ("We're all going to hell in a handbasket"), and would then add, "One of these days, people will get off their hind legs and then we'll see." (We're not off our hind legs yet, unfortunately.)

Today, I would like to hand over this space to my online friend, Norma, who is wise and artistic and eloquent: a Renaissance Woman, storyteller, quilter, polyglot, lover of the arts and culture and a mentor in considering how these traditions can help us do the right thing today for future generations — if we choose to.

Cassandra ... had the power to predict the future, and none of us has that. Climate change science people are getting very good at predicting trends derived from all the data accumulating, but you don't have to be a scientist to have lived long enough to note some significant changes over time that indicate sufficient deterioration leading to high risk of collapse. Just think: it was only in the past year that Toronto city council [in Ontario, Canada] decreed that it would now not be illegal to hang clothes to dry in one's backyard.


In fact, you don't have to be a futurologist at all to see, from our privileged and only partly informed position in the well-to-do northern countries, that the disaster has ALREADY struck, is already ongoing, in the poorer countries to the south after decades, centuries of ongoing pillaging, plundering, and rapacious greed from the north, demolishing cultures, social systems, natural resources, local governments and so much more, leaving in their wake drought, disease, famine, warfare, and dictatorships practising fear and torture. Too many years of treating the planet and all its creatures as disposable.


[...]


You wrote that "it's good to have resources for starting to learn what this new world could look like," [but people] don't listen to the music, look at the work by people making art engaged with the land and the weather, don't read poetry, don't read much of anything it seems, don't read philosophy, don't speak or read other languages, don't gather for coffee and actually TALK about politics....


[...]


Yes, call people stupid and incapable and feed them sanctioned pablum, don't for whatever god's sake be passionate, partisan, informed.... Listen to Shostakovich, read about his work, his times, the history, and see if you're not a little bit stirred by the music. It doesn't need subtitles. It just needs to be listened to, and poetry needs to be read, and art has to be looked at. It's all part of having eyes, ears, senses, and of finding out what we think of what we see, hear, sense. We don't have to be told what to like, but we do have to think, and experience, and wonder, and question. Isn't that what education is about? Isn't that what being part of the world means?

My appreciation, Norma. Anything earnest and honest is a joy to read these days (given the "pablum" we're mostly fed). I should point out that Norma's heartfelt "rant" was in response to my rant in response to an educational listserve's discussion of the role of education in transforming the world in order to safeguard the future for our students.


*****

Many thanks to artist Camille Rose Garcia and Jonathan Levine Gallery for the image, Going to Hell in a Handbasket, a 2005 painting in acrylic and glitter on panel. I'm not an artist, nor am I an art critic, but this painting speaks to me of the innocence of those whose future we will turn into hell if we don't change course.


10 January 2010

The Call: World People's Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth's Rights


Copenhagen offered nothing to the ordinary people — especially those living in so-called developing nations. (The "developed" nations still have much to develop ... like compassion, a conscience, a wee bit of ecological literacy perhaps.) So we were cheered to read this "Call" from Bolivian president Evo Morales to support, promote and possibly attend the People's World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth's Rights, in Cochabamba (don't you love that name?) 19-22 of April, 2010.

03 January 2010

How Does One Address a Dictator? (Petition Alert — See Below)

One day, I'm living in a free democracy. The next day, I wake up in a dictatorship. And damn, just when I was starting to feel a bit better.

So, is it Mr. Dictator? Honourable Dictator? Seriously, how does one address, with any due respect, a man who dissolves a democratically elected parliament at the drop of a hat — and for malevolent rather than benign or benevolent reasons?

Our so-called prime minister here in Canada (yes, the one that keeps winning us the Colossal Fossil award at climate change meetings) has decided to prorogue our parliament — again! (This is a "leader" who already appears to have broken three laws — through fraudulent election funding, contravening his own fixed-date election law, and ignoring Canada's Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act — so he's not big into ethics and doing the right thing.)

Prorogue comes from the Latin prorogare, pro- "in front of, publicly" + rogare "ask." I don't see how this man "asked" (it seems all he has to do is snap his fingers), and he certainly didn't do it publicly — he waited until we were all busy with the holiday season.

And while he says it's until the Winter Olympics (to be hosted by Canada in the Vancouver area) are over, and members of parliament in other parties say it's to avoid answering to concerns about Canada's involvement in torture in Afghanistan (by the way, most Canadians have forgotten why we're there), and commentators say it's so that he can restack our appointed senate with his cronies, I'm sure many of us know what it's really all about. And it proves something important.

This proves that Stephen Harper (just the name makes me shudder now) is not stupid or ignorant when it comes to the climate change emergency. It proves that his intentions are downright evil. All this is a ploy to gain a majority government by kowtowing to fossil fuel industries, Big Money, and all those who refuse to know the truth about the global climate change emergency — and to continue putting off any action on climate change. Indeed, prorogation will ruin any chances of Bill C-311 (our greenhouse gas reduction bill, which still isn't strong enough but beats what we're doing now) being passed, even though he says that the bills of private members of parliament will be "safe." In early December 2009, the House Standing Committee on the Environment finally sent Bill C-311 back to the House of Commons for a final vote — in the new year!

Harper is determined to make sure his "new Canada" thinks the economy is more important than life itself, so after appointing several new conservative (or Conservative?) people to the Senate, there's no way this bill is going to pass.

Harper is undoubtedly ecologically illiterate. In a December 2009 address to National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), he proved that he thinks people can eat money. As host of the G-20 meeting in June 2010, he said he is going to urge member countries to put economic recovery before efforts to protect the environment.

“Without the wealth that comes from growth, the environmental threats, the developmental challenges and the peace and security issues facing the world will be exponentially more difficult to deal with,” Harper said. He doesn't seem to realize that if the world doesn't achieve zero carbon emissions as rapidly as possible, there will be no economy — no "wealth that comes from growth" — because there will be no human beings. No humans = no money. Economics does not exist except in our human world.

Back to the prorogue ... Harper's toadie, er, spokesperson, said that the government sought the suspension to consult with Canadians, stakeholders and businesses as it moves into the "next phase" of its economic action plan amid signs of economic recovery.

I always thought that Parliament was the way the Canadian government consulted with Canadians — through our elected officials. There's just so much I don't know, eh?

Well, folks, if the Canadian not-so-prime minister wants to consult with Canadians and stakeholders and businesses, I'm two out of three. Bring it on, dude! My place or yours? Any day but Wednesday would suit me just fine.
"Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt. It may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege."
— Tommy Douglas, father of medicare and voted Canada's Greatest Canadian
*****

I've signed this petition to have Harper removed from office for negligence. Please consider signing it as well. And protests are being planned for Saturday afternoon, January 23, across Canada.

If you aren't living here in Canada, I'm sure the not-really-prime minister would love to hear your thoughts on this issue nonetheless, considering it concerns the fate of the planet!

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON
Canada K1A 0A2
Email:
pm@pm.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-6900

These might be some of the most compassionate climate actions we ever take!