24 June 2012

If We Don't Know Where We Need to Go ...

[With an apology right up front to my American activist friends, who must be feeling as downhearted as I am, post Rio+20 (not that I had high expectations). And with apologies to the world for the part my country, Canada, played in opposing the call to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. We're working hard to oust our Prime Minister of Tar Sands, believe me!]

I wanted to use this post to rail against the Americans, or at least the American government and its negotiators at the Rio+20 conference, which ended Friday, June 22. Why do we keep inviting them to the party when we know they're party poopers out to sabotage all our efforts? Why don't we start boycotting them? Or simply not allowing them to attend international meetings about the future of life on this planet?

But I won't. I know there are approximately 37 Americans working very hard to change things. I know the rest have been numbed and dumbed by TV, Hollywood, video games, Facebook, Madison Avenue, a lousy education system, a deliberately created economic crisis, and the incessant drone of commercialism, materialism, and greed (draped in "American dream" clothing).

So no, I won't go on and on about America's bullying, foot dragging, obfuscation and downright lack of respect and cooperation when it comes to climate change and other environmental negotiations on the international front. (But I must ask, what kind of "tough love" will help the U.S. see that what's in our best interest is in their best interest? Oh, I know, I know. The 1% are responsible. The Big Money, Big Oil folks are determining American policies. But Big Money and Big Oil, well, they are actually people, and people with children – whose future they are foreclosing on. So what's best for the rest of the world is what's best for their kids, too.)

Okay, then. If I'm not going to continue railing against America, let me just quote one of their negotiators at the Rio+20 conference:
"I think the expectation that there is one document or one approach that can solve one of the major questions of our time – how do you maintain economic growth and protect the environment? – there's not one paper that can do that."                  — Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Hence the title of this post. Dr. Jones and her puppeteers just don't seem to get it. We needed to stop focusing on "economic growth" ages ago, and start heading toward sustainable development (human development that respects the ecological principles that govern life on Earth first, and then seeks and integrates social equity and economic well being). Why are we still stuck in that 20th century meme of "economic growth"? Or, as green designer Bill McDonough points out, why have we still not figured out what kind of growth we need? Growth in fossil fuel industry or growth in perpetual energy sources? Growth in sickness or growth in health? Growth in food scarcity or growth in food security?

I just keep thinking of that Yogi Berra quote: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."

We know where we need to get to. It promises to be an exciting, transformative journey, once we start down that new path. Isn't there some way the 99% could wake up and convince the 1% that their path is a deadly dead end? One way might be to insist that those with plans to ruin the party aren't invited to the party in the first place. (And that should include Canada, too, until we get a representative government again.) Until then, these international circuses will continue to be sad, sorry, wasteful farces.

"This is an outcome that makes nobody happy. My job was to make everyone equally unhappy." 
—Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the Rio+20 conference

17 June 2012

Compassion Tune-up: For Future Generations

It's been quite a while since I offered a Compassion Tune-up. This time round, it's a Christian rock song from a group called 4Him, and the message, whether heard in a religious or a secular way, is quite powerful. "We must be a light, for future generations." 

For Future Generations
by 4Him
The signs are obvious, they are everywhere
All that we hear about is the gloom and despair
Too many would be prophets sayin'
"It's the end of it all"
'Cause mother earth can't take much more
The hammer's gonna fall

So nature has its needs, that's a lesson learned
But it appears to me there are greater concerns
'Cause we can save the planet
Thinkin' we will somehow survive
But father time is calling us
To save somebody's life,

I won't bend and I won't break
I won't water down my faith
I won't compromise in a world of desperation
What has been I cannot change
But for tomorrow and today
I must be a light for future generations

If we could find a way to preserve our faith
So those who follow us
See the price that was paid
Then maybe when they question
What it's gonna take to survive
They'll find the strength to carry on
In what we leave behind


Lookin' in the eyes of the children
Knowing that tomorrow is at stake
When the choice is up to them
Will they have the strength to say

We won't bend and we won't break
we won't water down our faith
We won't compromise in a world of desperation
What has been we cannot change
But for tomorrow and today
We must be a light for future generations


10 June 2012

A New Low in Criminal Negligence?

My online friend and blogger, Michael Murphy, found a very timely quote this week: 

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
— Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, 2004
Now, leaving hope aside for the moment (you know the mantra: hope is not an action verb; action is our only hope, so we don't get the luxury of hope until we've done the work of ensuring a future for our children), today I'd like to discuss something that's taking place because we're not "shedding our fear" or "shifting to a new level of consciousness" or "reaching a higher moral ground." 

I'm starting to view this as a form of criminal negligence. Or worse. (Perhaps recklessness? Or an intended cover up?)

According to Wikipedia, criminal negligence is an actus reus ("guilty act"), accompanied by mens rea ("guilty mind"), that is "careless, inattentive, neglectful, willfully blind" and for which "the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest."

And the guilty parties? Arctic sea ice modellers and the peer reviewers and editors who are publishing their research. Okay, I know. Yawn, right? Climate change modellers as villains? Pretty boring story, eh?

But the problem is this: Climate scientists have the power to shift our consciousness, help us reach or at least reach for the moral high ground, and shed our fear to take action. Instead, they are carelessly, inattentively, neglectfully or willfully blindly basing Arctic sea ice models on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's mid-range greenhouse gas emissions scenario, not on what's actually happening in the world, emissions-wise. 

Still don't find that compelling? Well, we've been on the IPCC's highest emissions scenario (the A1FI) for many years now, but these "scientists" (are modellers truly scientists or are they glorified computer geeks who "use" science and advanced mathematics to make models that produce projections and "surprises," the latter admitted by the IPCC) are running their models using an irrelevant, outdated and now dangerous "scenario" (a concept invented for the study of climate change because it doesn't sound scary). 

Can you see how wasteful and careless (it sure seems they couldn't care less) and dangerous this is? They're basing climate "science" on irreality. So how could their projections possibly be real or helpful?

And what of their peer reviewers and publishers? Given the number of lives at stake if we get this wrong, you'd think they would demand the proper starting point or baseline for the modelling, so it doesn't look like they're all just playing around with numbers on computers.

We know the dangers of losing the Arctic summer sea ice. Russia of 2010, anyone? So are these people, these researchers, peer reviewers and editors, ignorant? Irresponsible? Willfully blind? Trying to cover up how bad the situation is? Working for the fossil fuel industries? In my view, no matter why they're doing it, the fact that they are "allowing otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest" makes them guilty of criminal negligence.

03 June 2012

INsuring Versus ENsuring Our Children's Future

We are a culture that eats its children and grandchildren.

— Tom Brown, Jr.

I read the abstract of an article this week about aquifer overexploitation and groundwater depletion in the US High Plains and Central Valley (hey, we all spend our spare time in different ways), and it got me thinking. Why is it

we're willing to INsure our future,
but not willing to ENsure our children's future? 

We're willing to pay money today (those of us who can afford it) to arrange for future financial compensation to our loved ones in the event of our own illness, injury or death. We "provide" for them financially. But we're not willing to make any sacrifices (of time, money, energy or comfort and luxury) today to make certain of providing our progeny with what they'll really need: adequate clean water, secure access to healthy food, shelter safe from extreme storms and heat waves. In other words, we insure our lives but don't ensure their lives.

Here again, it seems we can blame economics, and especially the EuroAmerican economy. (It's early morning and I feel like oversimplifying today.) According to our friendly Wikipedia, life insurance "began as a way of reducing the risk to traders, as early as 2000 BC in China and 1750 BC in Babylon." (See? Traders = economy?) Lloyd's of London (perhaps the most iconic insurance company) began in the 17th century as a group of merchants, ship owners and underwriters who met at Lloyd's Coffee House to discuss their deals.

Then there's the notion of future discounting (an accounting/financing principle that says "a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow"), which has crept into our collective EuroAmerican psyche: A life today is worth more than a life tomorrow. This is already true for us geographically or intragenerationally (a life here is worth more than one half way around the world), so why not intergenerationally as well?

Indeed, the noted economist, Julian "Doom Slayer" Simon (I predict he'll soon be renamed Julian "Future Slayer" Simon), once quipped: "Because we can expect future generations to be richer than we are, no matter what we do about resources, asking us to refrain from using resources now so that future generations can have them later is like asking the poor to make gifts to the rich." Pardon? See the kind of mindset we've been dealing with? Future generations don't stand a chance!

Here's another example I heard from a friend during the George W. Bush presidency. At an environmental conference in Seattle, a federal US employee with the National Marine Fisheries Service was asked, "Can you really support four more years of this administration's policies toward the environment?" Response? "I'm with George. He's all about right now. None of this future generations stuff. After all, what have they done for us lately?"

Perhaps saddest of all was the reaction recently to the World Future Council's call for Ombudspersons for Future Generations. (Please consider signing their petition here. It might be the only good thing that comes out of the Rio+20 Summit later this month.) They are calling for a network of special representatives to help protect the resources and livelihoods of future generations ... guardians of the future. The negative response I read (not to mention my husband's exhortation that this will come to naught if we don't give future generations legal rights), utterly disheartening, was it written mainly by selfish &%$#@! or by those who've simply never heard or learned about intergenerational equity?

Anyway, thinking like an ancestor isn't about buying insurance. It's about love for our children, our grandchildren, and all the children in our lives. It's about concern for our family's health, prosperity, safety and security, now and in the future. It's about child honouring ... placing the welfare and well-being of the children at the centre of all our deliberations and decisions. It's about ensuring a viable (livable, survivable) future for all the children. Of all species.

A man has made at least a start on discovering
the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees 
under which
he knows full well 
he will never sit.

— D. Elton Trueblood