25 March 2012

Apathy and Climate Change? Fake It Till You Make It

Bill Mollison, the godfather of permaculture, once said "I think it's pointless asking questions like 'Will humanity survive?' It's purely up to people – if they want to, they can, if they don’t want to, they won't."

I just learned about that quote and it's got me thinking "What's the use?" again. Because it sure seems that people "don't want to."

Oh sure, they themselves want to survive. Very few of us actually want to die. And we don't want our kids to die. But in our culture, we've lost any attachment to the goal of being good ancestors. And we have little or no sense of "humanity" – no consciousness of humans as a species. (That would make us too much like animals, wouldn't it?)

So we are apathetic toward the need to fight for the survival of our own species in the face of the climate disruption threat. We talk about endangered species, but we always mean (other) animals or plants. No scientific organization has listed human beings as an endangered, or even threatened or vulnerable, species because we're viewed as too numerous and too wily. To wit:
"Look up Homo sapiens in the IUCN's 'Red List' of threatened species, and you will read: 'Listed as Least Concern as the species is very widely distributed, adaptable, currently increasing, and there are no major threats resulting in an overall population decline."
— New Scientist special issue on The Deep Future: A Guide to Humanity's Next 100,000 Years
I guess those new scientists don't understand how exponential change works or the story of the pond scum. (I'm sure I've said it here before, but the big problem with so many scientists is that they are reductionists by training, and therefore by training are not able to see the connections between say, increasing global average temperature and losing our food security. You know, those two tiny threats we face.)

Someone I know only through a listserve keeps lamenting those of us who claim public apathy. "In the absence of any depth perspective, we continue to focus on the outer-most appearance of things, what we call 'behavior.' Rarely do we take the time, resources or creativity to explore what the heck may actually be going on."

I try so hard to be patient, and rarely do I respond, but the point isn't why our behaviour (or lack thereof) appears to be apathetic. (It does, no matter what inner machinations are at work.) The point is that our lack of action on the climate change emergency, even if it's not actually due to apathy, is foreclosing on the future of our species and most life on Earth.

So, here's a reminder of things we can all do, even if we are feeling apathetic. Let's fake it till we make it, so that once the climate change sh!t hits the fan in our own regions, we won't have to add guilt to the list of "what the heck may actually be going on."
1. Talk about the climate crisis with others. Get it out there. Talk can be a form of action! Bring it up at dinner parties. Let's stop being afraid or embarrassed to care.

2. Eat less meat. Or no meat. (Watch the videos of the 2012 Conscious Eating conference.) Learn how our food security is threatened by global warming. (Check out Climate Change - Food Security.)

3. If you read or hear a denier or skeptic, take enough time online to learn enough of the science they're disputing to be able to respond. You don't have to respond (those people aren't eating less meat, so they could well eat you up and spit you out, they're so well practised and rehearsed in their denial and skepticism!), but this way you will feel more confident in your caring. Remember, this is about life and kids and survival and their future. Who the hell would be against all that? Question their motives (and follow the money).

4. Create political will. Write, phone, fax and/or email your elected (and unelected) officials. Tell them you'd like them to help ensure a future for the children of all species.

5. Hold compassion in your heart for the least vulnerable everywhere. They are already losing their loved ones and livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes and entire homelands.
Great image from Sanitaryum.

18 March 2012

Rio+20 Earth Summit: "As Useless as Tits on a Bull"?

My dad used to use that expression. I know it's crude, but it sure makes a point, doesn't it?

In this case, it's this June's Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, with its focus on a "green economy" and poverty alleviation, that is going to be useless. Completely futile, in vain, to no avail, pointless, to no purpose, fruitless, unproductive and hopeless. You see, Rio+20 is not going to talk about climate change.

So, in the midst of the greatest threat ever to the survival of humanity and most life on Earth, this great gathering of nations is not going to discuss this threat. Hello? The only "green" economy is a zero-carbon economy, which is the only way to address the climate change emergency. And if we don't do that, then we've foreclosed on the future, let alone an economy that wants to pretend it's green. Here's the story.*
Back in January (2012), a Brazilian diplomat, Andre Correa do Lago, said that "climate change was too sensitive an issue for many countries, while sustainable development was something everybody could get behind [as though sustainable development is possible with catastrophic climate change hanging over our heads!]."

"'Climate change has very strong resistance from sectors that are going to be substantially altered, like the oil industry,' Correa do Lago said. 'The feeling we have, when we are discussing with such different countries, is that sustainable development is the right answer.' He said the refusal of many U.S. Republican candidates vying to challenge President Barack Obama in this year's elections to even acknowledge global warming was a problem highlighted the difficulty of addressing the issue in an international forum."
So here we go again letting the deniers and skeptics and American climate change a$$holes drive the international agenda while they drive the biosphere into oblivion. We are all so going to regret being such wusses when the climate change sh!t really starts hitting our fan. (You know, the rich white people's fan in North America.)

Please keep this in mind when June rolls around and nothing good or lasting or helpful comes out of Rio+20:

The only "green" economy is a zero-carbon economy.

11 March 2012

Earthworms After a Rain: A Metaphor for Climate Change Catastrophe

I took my (newly gluten-free and therefore pain-free) body for a run this morning. It had poured rain all night and so I wasn't surprised to find a huge earthworm on the road at the end of my driveway.

I couldn't just leave it there because it would soon be run over by a passing car. But I'm a bit squeamish about picking up worms (which does surprise me, since I played with them as a child). So I got a stick and gently tickled the long, thin worm into a squirmy spiral of fat worm (worms are so fascinating), which was then easy to pick up with the stick and move to the side of the road. Remembering the old joke about the Boy Scout who helped the little old lady cross the road, even though she didn't want to cross, I hoped I had put the worm on the side it was heading to.

I carried on my jog, feeling pleased that I'd done my good deed for the day. Another few steps, and DISASTER! Worms everywhere! More worms than I've ever seen before. Big mama worms, baby worms. Pink worms, bluish worms, terra cotta worms. I was stunned! The road was covered with soon-to-be squished or dried out annelids. I realized very quickly that there was no way I could rescue all these worms.... Especially if I was to finish my run and get on with my day.

All I could do was try to avoid stepping on them. My eyes welled up with sad tears, but that only made it worse because I could no longer see the road clearly.

And then it struck me. Here was a metaphor for what's happening in the world today, in the face of climate change catastrophe.
• Some people care, but feel helpless against the sheer size of the problem.

• Some people don't notice worms ... or vulnerable populations.

• Some people just don't care about worms ... or those who are already losing their homes and homelands.

• Some people are skeptical that thousands of worms on the road constitutes a problem. "Can you show causal effect? Maybe the moon's plasma whatever caused it."

• And some people deny the problem completely. "Worms? What worms? I don't see any worms. Those are just dead sticks on the pavement." "Global warming? What global warming? There's no global warming. Those refugees are just sissies who can't swim."
I hope the psychologists are ready for the day when these comfortable skeptics and deniers discover that their greed, their lack of compassion, and their refusal to see and accept the problem are responsible for their children's lack of a future. Progenycide.

Should we be trying to put all the earthworms out of harm's way? I don't know. Should we be trying to get to zero carbon as rapidly as possible? Oh yes.

p.s. Thanks to schwarz wetter for the great photo of an earthworm after the rain.

04 March 2012

Could Permaculture be an Answer?

Permaculture … when I first became interested in it, I knew the term was short for permanent agriculture and sensed that it had to do with seeing the possibilities and opportunities for growing food everywhere and filling the world with food!

Having just finished the first day of a 12-day course, I've learned a "proper" definition. Permaculture is an integrative, holistic design system, based in science and ethics and derived from Nature, that creates regenerative, sustainable human habitat. It's about a lot more than food and can be applied to many of our human endeavours.

I'm in a wonderful class of young people with a sprinkling of oldsters like me (when did I grow up?). Those in their mid-years who are working hard to raise their families probably couldn't afford the time or the money. We sort of discussed the fact that this "sandwich" generation is missing, and how much harder it's going to be for us to create transformation when they, through no fault of their own, have their noses to the grindstone.

So what is it about permaculture that I think can lead to transformation?

Well, you know that I'm a huge proponent of food security, and teaching people how to grow food before they have to. Permaculture is a systematic way to get down to doing that. It has the potential to take the willynilliness out of community learning for food security. It's based on three ethics:
  1. Earth care (the Earth provides us with everything we need, so we need to think beyond "sustainable" to "regenerative")
  2. People care (we need to take care of the people in our community, to create resilience)
  3. Fair share (we need to set limits on our consumption, then redistribute the surplus)
Permaculture has its own set of common sense principles, many of which aren't that common. The first, for example, is "observe and interact." But how many of us take time on any given day to simply observe what's going on around us, let alone observe how Nature already does something that works? Another is "produce no waste." Ha ha ha ha ha! Waste has come to be the definition of the word "human," it seems. Homo wasteful. But as green design guru Bill McDonough points out, in the natural world, there is no waste. Waste = food. The "waste" (abundance or surplus) from one process is food for another. There are several others.

The people in this course recognize that all is not well with the world. They don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation (the disappearing summer sea ice in the Arctic, for example), so they don't have the sense of urgency that I feel. But I think it's going to be a fun learning journey … getting my hands (and feet) in the soil will be a good thing. And we all know that if it ain't fun, it just ain't sustainable. It's probably not regenerative, either. Time for class!