24 December 2011
18 December 2011
There's weather, and then there's climate. Weather patterns come and go, but forecasting has become much more accurate through improved meteorological techniques. Climate change is harder to predict. But, as the CBC's Peter Kent shows in this 1984 documentary, it's happening. Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere have been steadily rising, and by the year 2050 the average global temperature may rise by five degrees Celsius due to the greenhouse effect.
Vaclav Havel: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred."
11 December 2011
LEGAL ACTION: Coordinating an international mobilization of scientists, attorneys, and youth for legal action on the climate crisis.
COMMUNICATIONS: Creating ground-breaking documentaries examining the geographic, economic and societal impacts of climate change on our youth and their communities.
ADVOCACY: Giving a voice to youth.
I hope the federal court in the USA gives these youth their "day in court." (See more info on the case, including fascinating expert declarations, here.)
We're at a point in the climate change emergency where the only thing we can do is to keep on doing everything we can do. Climate activists are starting to realize that we've lost this fight — the ultimate battle for life on Earth; that the fight was too big and the enemies of life on Earth too many in number and too strong in influence. But each one of us can keep fighting because to not fight is not an option. I used to say "Hope is not an action verb; action is our only hope" but now I think it would be more honest to say "Fighting is our only salvation."
But all that is a long-winded way to share with you two comments from the original Grist article on this court case:
1. "So the Environmental Groups have resorted to using children to get their message across? There is just all kinds of things wrong with that." This comment (that's all they wrote; talk about not "getting it") reminds me of the time my husband suggested that an environmental group focus on children's environmental health. (Children, as a vulnerable sub-population, are like bellwethers ... canaries in the mineshaft.) His suggestion was shot down because it would be "using children." So we're allowed to injure children and ruin their future with our pollution, but we're not allowed to focus on their health and wellbeing. (This commenter missed the part in the article about young people being the ones "using children to get their message across.")
2. Another commenter said that "Conservative Republicans and their corporate multi-national masters are ABORTING the future of our nation's children." Now, I don't want to get into American politics today (after all, their Democratic president has done NOTHING to address the climate change emergency, a point the kids are pointing out!), but the terminology is correct.
I used to say we were foreclosing on our children's future, making their future a thing of the past, committing progenycide, but "aborting their future" is exactly what we're doing: halting, stopping, ending, axing it; calling it off; cutting it short; discontinuing, terminating, arresting, cancelling, scrubbing it ... pulling the plug on their future.
It breaks my heart to think that so many people care so little about the children, their own children, all the children. What kind of civilization have we become?
04 December 2011
Now, let's apply this as a metaphor. Your child (or your wife, in the case I witnessed) is stung on the neck by a wasp. You always carry an EpiPen, just in case. Well, this is the "case" you've been waiting for, but instead you decide to wait and see. Why use an EpiPen if you don't have to, right? I mean, heck, nobody wants to be given a medication they don't need. Right? And why waste the money?
Fast forward about 30 minutes. You carry your child (or your wife, in the case I witnessed) into the emergency ward. They're almost dead, but the doctor works feverishly, injecting this and that, setting up a drip, calling the helicopter ambulance, staying with your child (or wife) to monitor their condition until the moment the helicopter ambulance closes its door. Just before that door closes, eyelids flutter and open slightly, and a very weak voice says, "I was almost gone there, wasn't I?" Your child (or your wife, in this case) lives. The doctor is shaken for weeks. He knows how close he came to losing your child (or your wife). He's just happy he didn't have to perform a tracheotomy but keeps asking the same question, over and over. Why, if they had an EpiPen, did they not use it? (My husband was the doctor, I was his assistant. This incident took place many years ago. As you can tell, I am still shaken by this memory.)
(You think I'm being overly dramatic, perhaps for effect? No. Once we allow the summer Arctic sea ice to disappear, the northern hemisphere will lose the cooling "air conditioner" effect during our growing season. Remember Russia, 2010? It won't take too many widespread crop failures before we descend into global chaos.)
How many people deal with their bee sting allergy by just living life indoors all the time? Not many. Most choose to go outdoors — and carry an EpiPen. We've been carrying a metaphorical EpiPen around since at least 1988: the concept of living the same lifestyle but lowering our global greenhouse gas emissions, moving to renewable energy, being greener.
Now we've been stung, and we refuse to use our EpiPen. It's too expensive, we say. We can't afford it. It's too inconvenient. "I'd rather die comfortable than live uncomfortable." (Real quote, that one.) I'm not going to use my EpiPen unless China uses its Epipen! Blah blah blah.
So what are we going to do? It's an emergency situation! What are we going to do? We're actually facing down the prospect of extinction of our species! What are we going to do?
Folks, the tracheotomy is an emergency procedure for emergency situations. Our collective tracheotomy is geoengineering: "deliberate large-scale engineering and manipulation of the planetary environment to combat or counteract anthropogenic changes in atmospheric chemistry" (Wikipedia).
If we're already saying no to the possibility of geoengineering, then we either don't realize the emergency we're in, or we're choosing a future with no future for our children. The Canadian Youth Climate Coalition naively, in my view, calls geoengineering "a false solution."
Friends, geoengineering is not a false solution, it is our last resort — and soon to be our only solution. We have been stung. We are ignoring the allergic reaction. We are refusing to use our EpiPen. If we don't get some adrenalin into our system soon, we'd better be open to a tracheotomy (pardon the pun). Because otherwise, we are opting for death.
27 November 2011
So, knowing this is an exercise in surreal futility, I would like to offer up a Copenhagen redux of past Compassionate Climate Action posts for Durban.
1. What the heck are all the women there, at the talks, doing? Why aren't they fighting for the right of their children and grandchildren to have a climate-safe future?
2. I can no longer be nice about this. Seriously, it's getting harder and harder to be nice to idiots who refuse to even look at, let alone examine, this excruciatingly difficult issue. I don't care that it's excruciatingly difficult — and might cause some emotional pain. Our emotional pain is laughable in the face of the pain that future generations are going to face. To not even want to know about it? From The Gloves are Off: No More Ms. Nice Guy:
The sense of failure and progenycidal disaster coming out of the Copenhagen climate talks hangs over me like a black cloud of betrayal. It seems that our human world is so entrenched in borders and boundaries and sovereignty that the negotiators and leaders just could not view the Earth as one planet, its atmosphere as the same atmosphere for all nations. The only thing that has been nearly globalized is our addiction to economic growth through fossil fuel use.3. Hey, where's John Lennon when you need him? Power to the People! Time for a revolution, folks. No, wait, we've got one happening already! If someone from Occupy Wall Street wants to call me up, I'll explain how moving to a safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful perpetual (= renewable minus biofuels; The Burning Age is Over) energy economy will help them attain their goals. With all the economic breakdown in the USA, still people have no sense of how bad things are going to become when the summer Arctic sea ice disappears, taking with it the "air conditioning" for our summer growing season. A couple of years of bad crops failures in the northern hemisphere and POWWEE! economic chaos. And we thought only developing nations, like those in Africa, would be impacted. Ha.
4. We still see no willingness to sacrifice one iota of comfort or economic "growth" from the developed nations of the world. And yet, as Reuters' Edwards Hadas says, "Even for the very rich, the sacrifices needed to reduce inequality would be mild." And right now, the greatest inequality humanity faces is through our decision that future generations of human children don't have the right to live in a stable climate. Ah, but governments can't do everything alone.
5. I still believe that compassion will be what saves us. I have yet, in two and a half years of blogging, to hear from one person (denier, skeptic, ignorati, delayer or otherwise) who has an argument against compassion. I think they know that, in the end, compassion will encompass them and their loved ones, too.
p.s. Illustration used with permission.
25 November 2011
20 November 2011
I read someone's response to an online discussion about extinction, and it really miffed me. This person (someone I know and had respect for until now) seemed to be saying that old folks (like me ... I'm in the second half of my life) don't have the right to tell the rest of the world (aka the younger generations) that we're on a collision course with extinction due to potentially catastrophic climate disruption.
He intimated that because we're "old," we don't picture ourselves in the heaps of dead, rotting bodies and therefore we shouldn't talk about the possibility of human extinction. His assumption made me mad. I don't try to educate about the truth of the climate change emergency for my own sake. I do it for the sake of all the children, so that they'll have the opportunity to grow old in a climate-safe world. So whether the climate change $#@! hits the fan in my part of the world while I'm still alive or not isn't relevant. Whether it's going to kill me isn't germane to our work.
The issue is that there's an urgent truth that needs to get out there, that needs to be understood by anyone with any power and influence. So chastising "old folks" who are trying to sound the alarm even though they might not still be alive when the worst impacts happen is a form of denial, no? Denial of younger people's right to know the truth about their own future. (And we're not talking about telling the little children. That would be cruel, since they have little to no power to effect change. But there are lots of "young folks" between 15 and 50 who should know the urgent truth and might be able to do something about it.)
Tangent that this led me down:
For the first time, I've started to wonder if I'm a chump, a sucker, an ecoweenie (as I was once called ;-). Why should I be spending all this time, crying all these tears, feeling all this sadness for the children when so few other people are doing it? I mean, why don't I just go into denial instead of spending hours every week making sure I'm up to date on the science — so that I can share my understanding of the emergency with the 7 other people in the world who also care.
And why should I live in a cold house all winter to lower my carbon footprint when that selfish %$#@! I wrote about a while ago doesn't give a crap about today's children or future generations? (By the way, turns out he's read one book on climate change written by a denier, which of course makes him an expert. And he couldn't even spell my name right when he slagged me in his blog ... he kinda lost any last shred of credibility when I saw that.)
Alas, despite the cold, the slagging, the tears and sadness, the time and the trouble, I can't turn my back on the kids. If that makes me a chump, I'm going to wear it proudly. Besides, "climate change chump" kind of has a ring to it!
p.s. Keep (or start) writing to your elected officials. They need to know how many of us understand the threats of the climate change emergency, and how many of us are willing to make sacrifices today for the sake of the future. WE CAN HAVE SOME INFLUENCE. WE CAN CREATE POLITICAL WILL. WE CAN EFFECT CHANGE.
13 November 2011
"I think that staying power is a quality we need very badly and that very few people have. They seem to lack long-term courage, that creative patience – not the sort of patience that is basically a sort of apathy, but the sort of patience that knows how to go on and on until the end appears — to hang on to the vision until it is possible to be creative with it, and not to give up one's vision just because things seem hopeless."The New Testament writers had a special word for this: 'hypomene.' It meant 'patient endurance,' the ability to be poised to do what needed doing even though all the going seemed to be against one — staying power — desperately needed — and very few people have it.... And that staying power calls on deep spiritual resources, on a deep peace within ourselves."— Thomas Cullinan, OSB, in Peacemaking: Day by Day
Someone else online describes hypomene as meaning "Stand your ground. Stick to your post. Don't give up. Don't go back."
Do you remember that last week I talked about climate change activism as spiritual work? Well, these quotes remind me of my husband's dedication and almost religious commitment to the climate change fight. I want to thank him for his patient endurance, and for teaching me to never give up. My love and gratitude and compassion go out to all others who have staying power when it comes to safeguarding the future for all the children.
06 November 2011
"So, given the doom and gloom, should we just stop trying to green our lives? Well, we know from a very early age that regardless of what we do, we're going to die anyway, but most of us don't say 'what's the point' and take our lives or just sit around waiting for death to occur. Of course we should still try."
"You are clearly disappointed — like me — that efforts to stem climate destabilization have foundered. But you are carrying on, and we have to keep fighting, don't we?"
30 October 2011
As in circus: |ˈsərkəs| A traveling company of acrobats, trained animals, and clowns that gives performances, typically in a large tent, in a series of different places.
28 October 2011
Kari Marie Norgaard is an American sociologist who spent a year in a small city in Norway interviewing people about their beliefs and attitudes concerning climate change.... Norgaard says that global warming is difficult for ordinary Norwegians to think about because it threatens their individual and collective sense of identity. Norwegians tend to view themselves as egalitarian and socially just on an international scale, so it is difficult for them to acknowledge that their country's large production of oil and gas contributes to global warming....Given their knowledge of climate change and their political values, it upsets Norwegians to think that global warming is a threat to human well-being, so they steer clear of thinking and talking about it.... Norgaard plausibly argues that explanation of climate change denial by ordinary Norwegians needs to be framed in terms of complex links between emotions and social structures. Denial results not just from individual thought processes, but also from processes of social interaction that encourage people to talk and think in some ways rather than others.
27 October 2011
26 October 2011
So, another day, another look at how selfishness is finishing us off.
25 October 2011
I actually like the sound of "climate change wussies" but I'm going to stick with "selfish %$#@!" anyway.
However, the idea must have been rolling around in my head last night, because I woke up with this thought:
People who are working to slow global warming and to mitigate the climate change emergency are people who know that any "costs" involved in doing this will be miniscule compared to what it will cost if we don't stave off climate catastrophe. We've looked at Pascal's Wager, and we've made our decision. (See the video below.)
Our fear is grounded in deep care and concern for our children and their future. But where is the fear of climate change wussies grounded? I'm afraid it might now simply be a deep-seated fear of being wrong.
As I stated earlier this week, I would LOVE it if we climate change activists were wrong. The BEST NEWS IN THE WORLD would be finding out that the denialists were right. I would gladly trade my years of learning all this stuff, writing about all this stuff, crying about all this stuff for the news that it was all unnecessary.
Tragically, risk assessment won't let me give up. (Nor will my love for life.)
Risk = Probability x Magnitude.
Probability? It's already happening. Northern British Columbia's forests are orange, not green. Hells bells, even the cedars in my front yard are dying! University of British Columbia professor, Lori Daniels, says the death rate of cedars corresponds with the rise in average temperatures in the past few decades [pdf], and the ensuing longer dry periods and drought stress.
Scientists have been loathe to blame climate change for any one specific weather event — until now. According to a new computational approach, there's an 80% chance that climate change was responsible for the Russian heat wave of July 2010, which killed 700 people* and was unprecedented since record keeping began in the 19th century. "While the influence of climate trends on weather is recognized as 'loading the dice,' making extreme events more likely, individual events are still described in general terms of fitting patterns."
And magnitude? Oh my gosh. This is where I get really upset. I can see denialists not looking out the window, not following the news, not giving a damn about the more vulnerable populations in the world who are already suffering from climate change-related disasters. But I cannot fathom them being unable or unwilling to look to their own (grand)children's future. Why do they not want the best for them? And by "best" I mean food and water security. Why are they willing to gamble with their (grand)children's future for the sake of giving up some creature comforts today?
Our generation (at least in EuroAmerican cultures) has had it the best of any generation in human history. Hands down, no argument. And that has turned us selfish and lazy — but do we truly not give a damn about the future? Are we just lacking in imagination, and can only picture more of the same for them (which belies complete ecological illiteracy, sorry)?
Or are most of us afraid? Afraid of the monster our culture has created. Afraid to admit to it, to face up to it. And afraid of the consequences of not facing up to it, but afraid to admit they've been wrong?
Alas, maybe I'm overstating my case. Perhaps they're all just selfish %$#@!, and this has nothing to do with fear.
Time for some soul searching on the part of climate change denialists. Some heavy-duty, what-do-I-truly-value soul searching. Some "what do I want my legacy to be" soul searching. Some "my parents don't control me anymore so why am I still afraid of being wrong" soul searching. Some "do I believe in heaven or karma" soul searching. Some Pascal's Wager soul searching.
And if, after all that soul searching, the denialists still want to deny, may they please do it over a beer at the pub, instead of in forums where they're going to look selfish and mean-spirited. Cuz don't forget, we're trying to safeguard the future for your (grand)kids, too.
* The heat wave in Russia in 2010 didn't kill 700 -- I really don't know where I got that number from. It's estimated to have killed 55,000!