17 October 2010

One Single Little Declaration Would Change It All

DANGER! We are beyond DANGEROUS climate change!

That one little declaration on the part of any nation with influence at the international level would change the game — and the future — at the Cancun climate talks coming up later this year. (And yes, I'm oversimplifying to make a point.)

That's because "avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system" is the objective of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to which most nations in the world are signatories (and therefore legally bound). Since we have no only not avoided dangerous interference, we have surpassed dangerous interference, there should be huge legal and political ramifications.

But the developed (Annex 1) nations get away with this because they haven't yet "defined" dangerous interference. And if there's no definition, well, how can we be held responsible? Annex 2 (developing) nations, I'm afraid, are just as guilty here — they could have (and should have, considering they're already experiencing the dangers of interference with the climate system) defined and called dangerous. I think they're afraid of larger nations cutting off aid and development funding. (Don't get me going on that one! The UNFCCC says that developed nations should be helping smaller nations develop clean energy technologies, etc. but not much of that has been happening either. We are SO short-sighted and stingy!)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says they can't define "dangerous" — it's a value judgement that only society can make. Only a handful of climate scientists has dared wander into this fray. James Hansen, John Holdren, Hans Schellnhuber, Bill Hare, and perhaps a few others have stated that we're flirting with climate catastrophe (my words, not theirs!).

Society (at least in influential countries) ain't about to declare "dangerous interference" anytime soon, partly because the denial industry has people so confused all they want to do is watch TV, and partly because their favourite TV show is coming on in just a few minutes. Certainly anyone intimately connected to rape-and-pillage capitalism isn't going to sound the alarm.

So, maybe that leaves the one profession that mops up after "dangerous" every day: the healthcare profession: doctors, nurses, public health officials, and other associated groups. But it can't be about "change the lightbulbs in your clinic" — we're way beyond that personal actions stuff now. If no one else will do it, all the doctors of the world should stand up with their allied colleagues and declare, in a loud, influential voice: "HOLY CRAP! IF THIS ISN'T DANGEROUS INTERFERENCE WITH THE CLIMATE SYSTEM, I DON'T WANT TO BE AROUND WHEN THE $#@! REALLY HITS THE FAN!"

Oh, sorry, did I say that out loud? Let's try it again:

Doctors and other healthcare professionals should stand up with their beleaguered colleagues from Russia and Pakistan and Niger and say firmly: "We know danger, and this is it."

Visit Climate Change Emergency Medical Response for more information.

11 October 2010

What I Learned on 10/10/10 - Real Life Compassion and Ladders of Engagement

Since we were in town anyway (granddog-sitting), we were able to accept the invitation of a fine new friend to his "Bring Your Own Laptop" work party to commemorate 10/10/10, an international day of action on climate change.

The original agenda for this work party included a widget campaign (see the widget at the top left of my blog as an example, which you can download at CO2 Now), but our strategic discussions and just plain connecting with like-minded and like-hearted souls here in town and in Seattle and the Maldive Islands took up our time. We left feeling recharged and revved up.

I'd like to share with you some stuff I learned and experienced on 10/10/10.

Never underestimate the importance of "preaching to the choir" because (a) it feeds the soul, and (b) you never know if there are new members of the choir there that day.

Connecting via Skype with a wonderful science teacher (who had just held a full day of activities for his students and their families) on the island of Gemanafushi in the Maldives meant that we were able to hear directly of the impacts that climate change is having on a more (or, shall I say, earlier?) vulnerable region. Because of stormier weather, it's becoming harder for people of the Maldives to go out fishing while at the same time, supply shipments by boat are hampered at times and residents sometimes have to go without. When was the last time a whole community in North America had to "go without"? The point is, we had the opportunity to feel compassion almost in person ... it wasn't a theoretical someone in a foreign country: it was a real man living in a real community in a real country that is under siege from the changing climate. Call it self-interested compassion, if you want ... what is happening to the Maldives (and Russia and China and Pakistan and Niger) now is going to happen to us in some way or another in the not-too-distant future.

Our host and CO2Now.org's founder, Michael McGee, presented a wonderful idea — not sure if it was his idea, another's idea, or a hybrid idea, but it's basically a set of metaphorical ladders (drawn on paper to make them more visual) where each rung represents a more advanced step on the way to the full solution to climate change.

Michael suggested and we talked about a Climate Literacy (and Numeracy) Ladder that would help people learn (through education, training, public awareness campaigns) the concepts and the "numbers" of global warming and climate change to help them understand why it's an emergency; a Local and Global Leadership Ladder (both grassroots and "grasstops" leadership) that would help people see what their next steps are; and a Zero Carbon Emissions Ladder that would start with personal/family emissions reductions and then move up to community-wide efforts, etc.

(Ah yes, I just remembered. Michael said that evangelical churches in the USA use engagement ladders, where a potential new congregation member might be invited to a potluck dinner at the first rung, but several rungs later they might be invited to fund a huge church campaign.)

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I am grateful that I had the opportunity yesterday to meet some very committed climate activists. I am grateful for the luck and timing that have afforded me a life and a living so far unaffected by the ravages of climate change (though we're starting to see changes in our climate, for sure). I am grateful that my family still has abundant food on the table whenever we are hungry. I am especially grateful for the love, kindness and compassion of those working around the world (and right beside me) to help ensure a future for the children of all species.

p.s. Don't forget ... the most important number in 350 is that little ZERO at the end. And why not support the call for 300 pppm (since human civilization was built on 280 ppm) and zero carbon emissions in the Cochabamba People's Agreement — now included in the draft negotiating text for the Cancun climate conference! Woohoo!

03 October 2010

Let's Start Honouring the Children

I was reminded again today of the vital new philosophy or worldview suggested by Raffi Cavoukian, a world-renowned Canadian children's singer/entertainer who has turned his focus to the adults of the world, knowing that it's adults who make the decisions. (Too bad it's not the kids! See Speak for the Children.)

Child honouring is the simple — but transformative and, for many cultures, revolutionary — notion of putting the children at the centre of deliberations and actions. A sort of golden rule:
Do unto the world what will be best for all the children.
I said it was simple! But it makes a damned good guiding principle, doesn't it? Especially if one understands that children are more sensitive to famines and environmental toxins and other degradations than adults are — in the literature, they are called a "susceptible sub-population."

So if we care about the children of the world, and we love the special children in our own lives, please, can we start implementing the precautionary principle? I commented the other day to someone who knows our prime minister that I think he must hate his children. She responded that he probably loves them more than anything in the world (besides his cats) — he just "doesn't believe in climate change."

"Well," I responded, "that's the same as hating his children." He is certainly condemning them to a hellish future, and that — to me, at least — does not come across as love.

It is time to put the children at the centre of our moral compass!


p.s. Somalia and the United States of America are the only two countries who have not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That sort of fits the US attitude to the climate change crisis as well, doesn't it?