24 April 2011

It's Official ... I'm Climate Cranky

"Climate crank" is a new term used to describe "the corporate lobbyists and right-wing ideologues who for twenty years have done all in their power to keep [us], especially the government, from seriously addressing the problem [of climate change]," as explained by Mark Hertsgaard. (Read his Confronting the Climate Cranks.)

So, I'm definitely not a climate crank, but I am definitely becoming climate cranky (crabby, irritable, ill-tempered). The slang word "cranky" is thought to come from the Dutch and German word krank, meaning sick. And in a way, I am sick ... in my heart and soul.

I'm not even sure I should admit how climate cranky I am, but here goes. After organizing a fun but poorly attended Family Earth Day Dance and Celebration on April 22, I attended a concert the next night in which several of my students would be playing or dancing. In my imagination, it would be a cute little concert and I pictured that my presence would help bolster the audience. Well, was I wrong! Hundreds of people showed up to hear these kids play their fiddles. The place was packed! And they weren't all adoring grandparents either.

The music was sweet, but my heart was sad. I realized that we humans, at least in my part of the world, still are not connected to the Earth. So as the atmosphere heats up ... as we burn up our children's future ... we carry on with life as "normal" with nary a concern about the climate. I wouldn't want the kids to stop playing their music, but I would like to see "normal" tempered with some adult reaction to the climate change emergency.

The next thing that's made me even crankier is an online community discussion about local energy self-sufficiency, which is now going off on a "biomass burning" tangent, something that I find terrifying. People don't realize how close to tipping points we are, so adding any unnecessary greenhouse gases (GHGs that could be avoided by using perpetual energy sources) is dangerous. Any notion that biomass burning is carbon neutral because that vegetation would have released its carbon someday anyway is upsetting because of the timelines involved. Today's CO2 and other heat-forcing molecules from burning biomass do not pass go and do not collect $200. There is no special place in the atmosphere for greenhouse gases from burned vegetation. All GHG molecules start radiating heat once they're up there. And burning biomass means fewer nutrients are left in the soil. (For things like, oh, I don't know, food maybe? Future trees? Plants for fibre?)

Ah, we're a crazy society, eh? Ergo, I'm even crankier.

Canadian Living magazine offers 8 Quick Cures for Crankiness. Hmmm, things like sprinkle on some baby powder. Sit in a rocking chair. Wear pastels. Listen to your mom. Okay, think I'll phone home. My mom usually knows how to cheer me up!

17 April 2011

Where Does Climate Change Go During Election Campaigns?

Here in Canada, we're in the midst of a federal election campaign, brought about by a conservative minority government that doesn't give a damn about the electorate, and a prime minister who has become a tyrant.

Now, I'm a bit of a language nut, I'll admit, but "tyrant" comes from the Greek tyrannos meaning "lord, master, sovereign, absolute ruler" — whereas "prime minister" literally means "first servant." Does anyone else see the problem here? Indeed, Rousseau explained that "in the exact sense, a tyrant is an individual who arrogates to himself the royal authority without having a right to it." Yup, that about explains our PM.

Okay, on to the topic at hand. The other day, our community hosted an All Candidates Meeting, and all four candidates showed up. It was a rather sedate affair for the most part (the moderator had asked, in the interests of time, that we not get too fired up and start applauding all over the place). But the strangest part was the complete and utter lack of talk about climate change.

Our incumbent conservative candidate certainly said nothing about climate change (his boss wouldn't let him). From the liberal candidate who is a climate scientist, we heard nothing about climate change. From a left-wing First Nations candidate, we heard nothing about climate change. Even from our favourite Green Party candidate who has written a book on climate change, still we heard nothing about climate change. Did I mention that climate change just didn't come up?

So, I've realized, political candidates only bring up topics they think the voters want to hear about. And of course, even though we should care about the mother of all topics (after all, which other "topic" is threatening the survival of most life on the planet?), we've been convinced by the silence of our politicians that it's not a topic of importance.

Just because our candidates don't talk about it doesn't mean climate change has gone away, folks. Politics in my country has made itself irrelevant — but very dangerous.

Just attended an early Earth Day rally with our Green MP, Elizabeth May (fantastic candidate, by the way!). I explained my concern to her and she assured me that climate change has come up in subsequent candidate debates. She also told me that in a recent TV interview, her whole segment on the climate crisis was edited out. So, I guess that along with a contemptuous prime minister, we also have censoring media here in this country I used to feel so proud of.

10 April 2011

Time for True Confessions

Today, by admitting my true confession to the world, I am going to break a recently formed bad habit and get on with saving the world.

BACKGROUND (also known as EXCUSES)

I don't remember ever being read to as a child. No memories of that whatsoever. Once I learned to read, I enjoyed reading (and am currently reading one of my childhood favourites to my own students) and read a lot. But not often fiction. It wasn't until I hit midlife that I realized how much I crave story and "plot" in my life.

Several years ago, once the US illegally invaded Iraq, my husband and I decided to stop watching television. We didn't want that violence and insanity in our home every evening. (Plus it hadn't helped that I shushed him once during a live show. Ooops! Humans before screens, I said to myself. ) So about once a week we'd snuggle up with a good movie (if there's a gun on the cover, we won't rent it). Once we got laptop computers, we'd snuggle up with a laptop and watch a DVD. Without TV every night, that's when our activism really took off, of course. (Winters are long and dreary here.)

After the fiasco called the Copenhagen climate change negotiations (you'll recall that this blog started as a countdown to the oxymoronically named "Hopenhagen" talks), I become quite depressed. Did I already mention that winters are drearier here than in Copenhagen? Plus I'd broken my ankle the previous summer and tendonitis was keeping me inactive. I, like many climate change activists, found myself at a loss. We'd been told (just like millions of people around the world who asked for peace before the US invasion of Iraq were told), "You don't matter. What you do, think, want or care about doesn't matter."


I started watching TV on my laptop. There, I've said it. I discovered that I could watch some interesting shows (no, not documentaries) for free online. For over a year now, several times a week — when tired after work, when depressed at the state of the world, when too lazy to figure out what to do next — I've turned on my computer and watched an online TV drama.

It almost makes me gag to admit it. But I have to. Keeping a bad habit a secret only makes it fester. Not to mention that my hubby became angry with me (he used the word "disappointed" but my reaction was the same) the other day for not having completed the updates to his website that I'd promised to do in February. Now, I can give you a huge list of all the other things I've completed since then (indeed, in my own defence, I created that list!), but I know in my heart of hearts that I've wasted many, many hours watching TV shows on my laptop when I could have been helping to save the world.


Quite often over the past year, I've told myself, "This is research." Watching TV was helping me figure out why so few people are engaged in the struggle to safeguard their children's future from the climate crisis. So here's what I've learned:
  1. TV can truly be addictive. It's easy, it's passive, it's mindless, mind-numbing and mind-dumbing. You are convinced that you're doing something while you're actually doing nothing, not living your life at all. What a waste of time! ("Luckily" I grew up in a family where the TV was never on before supper. Daytime television ... now there's a serious addiction!)
  2. Human beings need story. The indigenous peoples know that this is how we learn best. Plus, the TV/computer screen takes the place of the glow of ancient campfires. But watching someone else's pretend two-dimensional life night after night is not learningful — it's deadening.
  3. Ignorance is bliss. Watching TV can convince you that environmental problems don't exist. (Although there's this one family drama where they believe in global warming. Wow.)

So, I'm back. I'm not saying I'll never watch another episode of ... well, never mind. But I'm back on track with my activism, over the depression (it's springtime anyway!) and pretty clear again about what I can do to contribute to the climate change campaign.

And if you need a hand getting over a screen addiction yourself, just drop me a line. I've got lots of climate change work you could be doing, too! Or maybe you could just sacrifice one of your least favourite shows per week, and donate that time to some climate change activism. Seriously, let me know and we'll figure something out for you.

03 April 2011

Calling on the Feminine

Today is one of those days when everything came together to help me decide what to post about.

Depending on where you live, you might know that Canada is in the midst of another federal election campaign. And that the leader of our federal Green Party, Elizabeth May, has been banned, for no clear reason, from the upcoming televised debates (one in English, one in French) between our political party leaders. (Even if you're not Canadian, check out Canadian Election 2011: Demand "Democratic" Debates at ecoSanity.org — if only for the Rick Mercer rant, which rocks!)

But long before that debacle started, I made a commitment to myself to help get our dictator of a prime minister out of power. This is a man who must (there's just no other explanation) be numbed to any love he ever felt for his children. He is certainly completely ecologically illiterate, believing that humans can eat money. He's broken so many laws and done so many unethical things, I've lost count. And he has completely changed the feel of Canada here at home and the face of Canada on the international stage. (See The New Solitudes by Erna Paris, in The Walrus, for more info.) And it hasn't been a pretty transformation. Many of us don't even recognize our own country anymore. (You know how the best kind of love is when you like what you see reflected back when you gaze into your prime minister's, er, lover's eyes?)

It's a vast country, so I decided to help Elizabeth May get elected. By sheer chance, she's running in my riding, and we have the chance to make history here! (First Green MP in our parliament. Electing a future prime minister.) Elizabeth is bright, funny, with it, incredibly intelligent, well spoken and politically savvy. She understands the climate change emergency. She's calling for a more civil, more humane House of Commons. Her party has an outstanding policy platform that integrates fiscal responsibility with care and concern for the children and their future. And there's an excellent chance she's going to win here! (The Conservative Party incumbent fired our federal nuclear regulator when she pointed out something dangerous at one of our reactors, and he's also called for nuclear power plants to be built near the Alberta tar sands to speed up our destruction of the biosphere. A smidge of bad timing there.)

And then I started thinking ... what if all the women in Canada voted for their Green Party candidate? Isn't that an exciting thought? We could have a a complete sea change in the politics of this country!! We could move from an adversarial bunch of guys (and gals) in suits running the country to a consensus-building coalition of people who care about Earth, the future, and the children of all species, everywhere.

When my knowledge of what's happening to the world isn't crushing my spirit, I have moments of excitement at the potential for change! Read the Green Party of Canada platform (Vision Green) and send me anything you disagree with. (The only thing I've seen so far, and I'm reading through it carefully, is the mention of alternative fuels, or biofuels. No, we have to get away from burning altogether. The Burning Age is over. It's time for zero carbon energy. No more fuels. Period.)

And then a friend sent me this video. Men, listen up. Women, get your hankies. Then women, listen up and men, get your hankies. While honouring the good things that masculine energies have brought us, let's call on the feminine energies in all of us to create the transformation all future generations need us to make, today (and on May 2 here in Canada, as we vote).