24 December 2011

Happy Green Christmas

It's not easy being a climate change activist at this time of year. (Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year in Canada, and because it's become quite secular, practically everyone celebrates it or has to deliberately try not to.) Everybody wants a break from the climate change bad news.

So I'd just like to tell you about our gift to the world, and then I'll wish you a happy holiday with beloved family and friends. Oh, and please, if you really "must" eat the traditional bird with your Christmas meal, at least say thank you for the sacrifice it made.

My husband is now a member of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, a virtual think/action tank based in the UK. For the last few weeks, he and I have created their website, edited their package of urgent information on the Arctic methane emergency (which was put together by eminent Arctic researchers, scientists and engineers), had it printed (on FSC paper), researched the contact information for every head of government in the world (well, we might have missed out South Sudan, the newest nation), collated everything, addressed and licked over 200 envelopes, and stunned the folks at our local post office when we walked in on Christmas Eve morning with boxes and boxes of these envelopes to mail.

And now that project is done. Phew! Feels good. In a world where more and more people who shouldn't be are having green Christmases because of global warming, the governments of the world will no longer be able to claim ignorance of the climate change emergency.

As I send you love and compassion ... may your day be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be the right colour.


18 December 2011

When Good People Think Positive Thoughts about Very Bad Situations

Post Durban, a young Canadian member of parliament, Justin Trudeau (whose father was a very colourful prime minister in his day), made the news this week by swearing at Canada's minister of the environment — right in the House of Commons! (Woke a few people up, I'm betting.) His outburst has created quite the commotion in this "I apologize if you step on my toes" country of ours.

To be fair, our environment minister IS a hypocrite of the first degree when it comes to the climate change emergency. Peter Kent, when he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), researched, wrote, directed and narrated a 1984 hour-long documentary entitled The Greenhouse Effect and Planet Earth. (Watch it here.) To wit, here's the show's description:
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.
So, if Kent knew all that back in the mid 1980s and, after recently becoming Canada's Environment Minister, embarrassed us all at the climate change talks in Durban, then it would be quite fair to call him a hypocrite. Mr. Trudeau simply expressed it a different way, that's all.

Pundits have been asking (here and here ... but do come back, okay?) when we're going to start following suit. When is our sense of outrage going to boil over?

But I have to ask: What sense of outrage is that? I was at a Christmas party the other night and stayed late to talk with four women that I like and respect a lot. One knew nothing about climate change, one knows a lot and stayed quiet, and two talked about the importance of positive thoughts, even in the context of global warming.

Positive thoughts? POSITIVE THOUGHTS? I was having negative thoughts just thinking about positive thoughts!! How are positive thoughts going to safeguard the future for the children? Since it was a Christmas celebration, I too stayed quiet. Since then, I've been trying to figure out if they're onto something. But I think this is what I've decided:

If a child runs out in front of a car, it is not a negative thought to run after them. If someone is having a heart attack, it is not a negative thought to call for an ambulance and perform CPR. If 1% of the world's population is ruining the future for all life on Earth, it is not a negative thought to call them on it and try to correct the situation. I mean, what is the "positive thought" about the end of life on our beautiful, precious planet? And how can thinking positive thoughts change anything?

Maybe I'm a quantum physics illiterate (it's always struck me as a cop out, or selfish and self-absorbed somehow), but with 1% trying to suck every last drop of fossil fuel out of the ground and burn it up for profit, and most of the 99% either struggling to get by or watching TV to avoid the pain of the spiritual emptiness they feel, that doesn't leave very many of us to EXPRESS OUTRAGE!!!!

In other words, I'm with Justin Trudeau. If we don't start calling a spade a spade, and a piece of sh!t a piece of sh!t (that's Anglo-Saxon for hypocrite), then we will never garner enough outrage, political will or even interest in the climate change emergency.

So, yeah, I've decided that being real, feeling real, expressing real is more important than being nice and thinking positive thoughts (I've equated those two: nice and positive; if you can explain the distinction to me, I'd love to hear it).

My compassion is reserved for the children, and for those who are sick or on the streets or caring for others while working two jobs. The rest of us should be learning all about the climate change emergency and GETTING REALLY MAD!

p.s. We lost a giant this weekend. Vaclav Havel died in the Czech Republic. I'll leave you with one of his quotes. Though it might seem to contradict what I've just written, it doesn't. Lies and hatred can be concealed by niceness, while truth and love can come out in righteous anger.
Vaclav Havel: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred."

11 December 2011

We are Aborting Our Children's Future

Each week, I read many different things that I'd like to tell you about on Sundays when I write this blog, but of course I can't share them all. This morning, there is one story that is still resonating for me.

Kids in the United States are suing their federal government and several state governments for lack of action on climate change. You can read the story, The Young and the Restless: Kids Sue Government over Climate Change at The Grist.

The young Alec Loorz (who was about 12 when he founded Kids vs. Global Warming), is leading this initiative, probably with an unbelievable amount of disbelief at how so many adults have done so little, er, so much nothing. These are young people who understand what's happening. We can't begin to fully grasp their sense of frustration.

Our Children's Trust (a magnificent play on words) is supporting the initiative. Their byline is: "Protecting Earth's Climate for Future Generations." Sounds like good people. Their campaign has three aspects:
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

Geoengineering, Our Metaphorical Tracheotomy

If your child is deathly allergic to insect stings, what do you do? You buy an EpiPen® (or two or three) and keep it near your child at all times. An epinephrine auto-injector could save your child's life one day if a bee sting or wasp sting leads to anaphylactic shock.

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.)

WE ARE ALL ALLERGIC TO METHANE. The Arctic is warming and spewing methane. This is creating a huge allergic reaction (or positive feedback loop). The methane, a potent greenhouse gas, creates more warming. According to the latest satellite data, the Arctic is now warming four times faster than the rest of the world. This extra warming is leading to more melting permafrost and more destabilized (thawed) methane hydrates along the continental shelf, releasing more methane, leading to more warming. It is a viciously vicious cycle, and we are dangerously close to letting it kill us.

(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

Durban, Meet Copenhagen - You Might Have Some Lessons to Learn

Tomorrow begins COP 17, the next great climate change circus. It is shaping up to be the worst set of climate talks yet ... leaders of all the rich nations have already decided they're only going for the champagne.

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

A Request to All Women Attending the Durban Climate Talks


It was two years ago today that I sent out this heartfelt request to all the women who were going to attend the Copenhagen climate talks. Today, I send it again, to all the women, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. And to all the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Durban climate talks. Please ... speak up for the children, of all species!

A request to all women attending the climate talks!

PLEASE WEAR BRIGHT COLOURS!
Please inject some life into the talks — wear the colours of flowers and forests and sunsets and fresh fruit and children's smiles.



BE A MOTHER OR A GRANDMOTHER FIRST. Believe in your power! The "powers that be" need to hear that all the mothers of the world want what's best for the children of all species. Please represent all the mothers and grandmothers around the globe. Even if you don't have your own biological or adopted children, you are still a mother of all the children, everywhere. Speak up for them.

REMEMBER THAT CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS. Try to forget that you're in Durban, South Africa representing a country. Think of the planet as one nation, under one atmosphere that knows no boundaries. Speak for all human beings, as well as the rest of nature, which has no seat and no voice at the talks.

LET COMPASSION BE YOUR COMPASS. Remember that prosperity and a thriving economy are impossible if the natural environment is ailing. We must get our priorities right! If a decision doesn't have the Earth and the children's future at heart, then that decision is not a compassionate one.

CALL FOR ZERO CARBON ALONG WITH SOME URGENCY IN ACHIEVING IT. Try to rev up the imaginations of world leaders and negotiators of all ilks (even the heartless, uncreative ones). Help them envision the Golden Age of Renewable Energy that we're heading into.


LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Durban, though it won't be easy, will be simple. What a privileged position you are in! Please take advantage of it and be brave enough to speak up for all those who have so little — now and in the future. Be the peaceful warriors who safeguard the children.

REMEMBER THE GREAT WOMEN WHO HAVE ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEIR COURAGE, women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly Hill, Betty Krawczyk, Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Nahanee. Stand on their shoulders — and be climate heroes in Durban!

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS
(click here to listen to part of this song)
by Joyce Johnson Rouse
(aka Earth Mama)

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth

We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us
They are saints and they are humans, they are angels, they are friends
We can see beyond the struggles and the troubles and the challenge
When we know that by our efforts things will be better in the end

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be here celebrating today

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be so very blessed today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold the ones who follow me

20 November 2011

So, Am I a Climate Change Chump?


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

"Patient Endurance"

This was a big weekend in my small community. Our first power outage of the coming winter season hit on Friday, the day before our Transition group's Energy Action Day. (Ironic timing, eh? Talk about pointing out our energy vulnerabilities.)

Our Energy Action Day was a great event (despite the school having only half power all day), with great speakers, great movies, great displays, great kids' activities, great local food — and a fire alarm that emptied the school gym right near the end of the day. (Okay, that part wasn't so great.) Many, many thanks to Zorah for making it happen!

With so many challenges, it was a day for patience. And then this morning, a friend showed me this quote:
"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

An Epiphany? This Work is a Spiritual Duty

I had an epiphany recently. I'm still struggling to put it into words that do it justice, so I'll just tell the story.

The news on the climate change front is getting worse and worse. People who don't follow the research probably won't (and don't want to) know this, although the more mainstream media are covering the release of these reports more and more. (I guess the news is finally too serious to ignore.) And no, F!x News is not a mainstream news source.*

As someone who stays fairly up to date on the climate change emergency and who works with children, I experience almost constant angst and dissonance. Why aren't their parents and grandparents outraged at the international inaction? What more could I be doing? How should I be helping to prepare these kids for their certainly uncertain future? And why am I putting myself through this pain (of knowing what I don't want to know, of doing what I'd rather not be doing) when the evidence is increasingly overwhelming that we're heading over the climate change cliff and still no one is putting the brakes on!?

I was battling myself almost daily: Why are you doing this? Why don't you just relax? Why aren't you having more fun? Why don't you take more time for yourself? Why don't you allow yourself to do other things and forget about this climate change stuff? (It didn't help that friends kept encouraging me to see the positive things that are happening, to lighten up, to not guilt trip people — even though it's myself that I've been guilt tripping.)

Then suddenly (that's usually how epiphanies come, right?), not long ago, it hit me, or should I say, it was revealed to me (from the Greek epiphainein "reveal"). I have to do this work because it is my spiritual duty. It's like trying to become illiterate after learning to read. I can't become climate change-illiterate now that I know what's going on. And because I know, I must act. (See? I can't articulate it very well.)

Because I know that my Mother Earth is in trouble, that all the children of the world, of all species, are in trouble, I cannot not act. My membership in the human race means that I have to reach out, I have to do something. As hard as this is, to stop caring would be worse. It would be a betrayal of all that I love. And therefore, in my heart, I know that what I am doing is a spiritual necessity for me.

Here's how Michael Bloch from Green Living Tips.com describes the dissonance:

"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."
And here's what a new online friend, Michael Murphy of IBI Watch ("Unmasking Ignorance-Based Initiatives") wrote to me just this morning:

"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?"
Yes, we do have to carry on. Because if there's anything worse (for me) than not engaging in this ultimate struggle to begin with, it would be giving up before it's over.

* Hey, did you hear about the psychology study out of Fairfield University in Connecticut (by Linda Henkel and Mark Mattson)? It turns out that reading a statement three times, as opposed to just once, makes people believe that what they read is true. Repeated viewing of a claim creates a "truth effect" or an air of truth to the claim — even when people are explicitly informed that the source of the information was untrustworthy. That explains how F!x News works. And it doesn't depend on the intelligence or media literacy of the viewer/reader, either. So, folks, remember that your world view is shaped by what you allow into your brain space!

p.s. Cartoon used with permission.

30 October 2011

One Month Until This Year's Climate Change Circus Begins!


From Bali in 2007 (when we still thought we had a chance to get it right) to Poznan (where nothing whatsoever seemed to happen), then from Copenhagen in 2009 (where Obama and his henchmen, including the prime minister of my country, threw every climate change activist in the world into a depression of some duration) to Cancun in 2010 (where the very courageous Pablo Solón representing Bolivia was the lone voice for a rapid and scientifically rationale response to the emergency), the UN's climate change negotiations have become more and more circus-like.
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.
The Durban Climate Change Conference starts one month from tomorrow, and will run from November 29 to December 9, 2011. Durban is a (mostly) lovely seaside city in South Africa; too bad it, too, will be turned into a circus. (The name "Copenhagen" is now associated with farce and failure.)

We've had a Bali Road Map, a Copenhagen Accord (see? nothing happened in Poznan, Poland), a set of Cancun Agreements — and still, absolutely NO national or international declaration that we've reached "dangerous interference with the climate system" (a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change trick: if we don't declare it, we don't have to do anything about it). NO declaration that we're in a global climate change emergency. NO emergency response. NO result from any of these conferences that has actually led to any nation, anywhere, moving toward a zero-carbon economy. (Even the disappearing Maldive Islands are only heading for carbon neutrality, not zero carbon.)

Where's our global imagination? Why aren't we excited about working together to envision the zero-carbon economy? (After all, it'll be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful than what we've got now!) Why do our leaders and negotiators feel such disdain for our (and their own) children and grandchildren? For our whole species? For life itself? Why do they act the role of such ecologically illiterate, callous clowns when they get together at these climate change conferences?

May this year's negotiators keep the world's most vulnerable, the children of all species, and future generations in their hearts and minds as they do their negotiating. Who else could they possibly think they're negotiating for???

*******

Hey, great cartoon, eh? I commissioned it from Stephanie McMillan, award-winning editorial cartoonist. If you want to use it, let me know and I'll send you a high quality version. Visit her Code Green website to see more ("Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down..."), or to commission your own cartoon.

28 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Friday

So many sad things in the news these days. I suppose the reason we here in the West (in EuroAmerican countries) are okay with committing atrocities overseas and allowing or even supporting atrocities overseas (short-term and long-term atrocities) is that if we don't think about it (look at it, hear about it, talk about it), it's not a problem.

For example, a new study out of Norway shows that Norwegians are in denial about climate change not because they "don't believe in it" (it's not a religion, after all), but because acknowledging climate change will challenge their image of themselves as nice people who don't harm anyone (except with the greenhouse gas emissions from their economy based on oil and gas). Here is Paul Thagard describing the research at Psychology Today:
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.
What if we turned these thought processes and social norms on their heads, and started asking Americans and Canadians and Norwegians and all the other comfortable, fossil-fuel producing/consuming people in the world to approach the climate change emergency with compassion, altruism, and selflessness. Because caring about the world's most vulnerable will, in the end, be good for all of us.

Selfish &%$#@! Theme Week is wrapping up today, so I just want to say it one more time. Selfishness when it comes to what we do (or don't do) today to mitigate climate change for future generations will come back to bite us in the butt. And if you're so old that you scoff at that notion, then please consider your role as an ancestor, or simply as a fellow human being.

And yes, to the man who said those incredibly selfish things in our local newspaper, I am talking to you. Please, have a heart and get some compassion. For your karma if not for your kids. Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about the science.

p.s. I'm taking tomorrow off. Going to spend the day with some very unselfish, wonderful friends.

27 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Thursday

Selfish &%$#@! do this self-righteous, oh-poor-me thing whenever anyone challenges their fabrications, mis(anthropic)interpretations and cherry-picked data.

These climate change denialists keep forgetting that (a) they do indeed have the right to their own opinions (even when those opinions make them look like selfish &%$#@!), (b) they do not have the right to make up their own facts, and (c) all the evidence, all around them, shows them to be wrong, dead wrong. With tragic, lethal and catastrophic results.

And now that panel reports are showing the economic costs of climate change, and research reports are showing the urgency of the climate change emergency, and agronomists (you know, those scientists who study soil management and crop production) are freaking out about the dual hazards of too much or too little water and higher temperatures — well, now we're seeing the true colours (and complete ignorance) of some of our favourite selfish &%$#@!.

For example, as Reuter's reports, (Canada's) "Environment Minister Peter Kent responded by saying the report showed the importance of adapting to climate change." Dear kind sir, how do people adapt to burning forests, withered crops, unsafely high temperatures, increasingly freakish weather? How? If you had an ounce of understanding (of the, ahem, environmental science underlying the climate crisis, Mr. Environment Minister), courage or compassion, you would be talking about lowering Canada's greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, as quickly as possible, starting yesterday!!

But because you selfishly put your campaign contributions and your narrow worldview before the lives of all the young people alive today, you do nothing but kowtow to fossil fuel interests.

I could go on, and on and on and on. But I want to — selfishly — enjoy the rest of my day. So let me just leave you with this. Now there are complaints that renewable energy infrastructure is leading to ugliness ... as though power lines and oil pipelines are not ugly. As though famines and droughts and floods are not ugly.

I don't know ... can selfishness get any deeper? Any more callous? "I want my (own ugly) brand of beauty back!" Then stop using so much energy, doughbrain! Sheesh. (Oops, am I going to get in trouble for calling someone a doughbrain?)

p.s. For an interesting look at transmission tower as art, by extension proving that wind turbines and solar panels can also be seen as art, click here.

26 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Wednesday


So, another day, another look at how selfishness is finishing us off.

Has anyone else felt sickened by what's happened to Libya? A country that was taken from poorest in the world to highest standard of living in Africa (and if you think that's not saying much, higher standard of living than Russia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, I've read) ... trashed because our EuroAmerican culture cannot tolerate economic diversity!

We are so selfishly and slavishly attached to our deadly capitalist, free-market mono-economy that Qaddafi's form of socialism (you know, free health care and education, affordable housing, shared profits from nationally-owned oil fields, a debt-free nation) drove us nuts. Indeed, drove us to foment revolution, which turned us into murderers and assassins — killing the people we said we were going there to protect. The real reason the US led NATO into Libya is that Qaddafi was forming an African economic union around the gold dinar, and the US doesn't like anyone using a currency that isn't theirs. Can you say Saddam Hussein? (Do some research, people!)

Free-market economy. Yeah, sure — except when it's someone else's. Our Western nations cannot stand being left out of a game!

So what's all this got to do with climate change? Indeed, Libya's wealth was oil-based, so it wasn't all roses. But if you're willing to look deeply into what happened in, er, to Libya, you'll discover why the Big Boys won't make or allow the necessary transition to a zero-carbon economy. They want to own everything themselves. They want to have all the money. They want to be the only winners. They want everyone else to be losers. They are, in short, selfish &%$#@!.

Compassion? Okay, I'm betting that most of these people in high places had horrible little childhoods with no love from their parents. And either too much money or not enough of it. So I can feel sorry for them for that.

But you know, teachers have a saying: "Judge the behaviour, not the child." However, when it comes to adults, I'm judging them by their behaviour! So if their behaviour is selfish, then so are they. And if their behaviour is mean-spirited, then so are they. Ergo, they are selfish &%$#@!, pure and simple.

25 October 2011

"Selfish &%$#@!" Theme Week: Tuesday

My husband suggested that I choose a different name for my theme week. Something like "Climate Change Wimps Week." As in, what's driving the denialists and their denialist campaign is their fear; they are afraid to face what we're doing to the atmosphere and hence the biosphere. 

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.
p.s. Here's one flaw I see in Greg Craven's version of Pascal's Wager. Costs. How come building new coal-fired plants and digging new oil wells (and cleaning up after them) and putting in new highways is never considered "costs" — but doing stuff to protect the children's health and future is "costs." That just doesn't make sense.

* 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!