29 December 2013

2014 - A Year of Big Changes?

A year ago, I made a resolution to become an Earth Mama (you know, learning how to make soap and grow more food, stuff like that). I then sprained or broke my thumb (sure wish I'd had it x-rayed; it took seven or eight months to heal!) on the second day of the new year and promptly gave up on my resolution, with a newfound respect for thumbs.

Where I go to sit
This year, as I head into a six-month sabbatical to work on climate change education materials, a book or two on the climate change emergency, and GreenHeart Education projects around the world, I simply want to wish you a fruitful new year, filled with time for contem-plation and learning, and the joy of knowing you're doing something good for the Earth and its children. 

Because you are. Doing something good for the Earth and its children, that is. Right?
"... just the act of trying to make change, just the act of trying to do something, feels so much better than just sitting there feeling oppressed by the awareness that things are really corrupt and screwed up.... It doesn't have to be this way and it feels really good trying to make it better, as opposed to just feeling the weight of how bad it is." — Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation)



22 December 2013

Best Wishes for an Excesslessly Festive Season

The Brussel sprout Christmas tree
that becomes dinner
I have to admit, I enjoy the holiday season, and always have. Won't apologize for that. I think it's because I have a much younger sister and found myself enjoying keeping the Christmas spirit alive for her as she was growing up. 

We're still a fairly tightly-knit family, and it's still a special family time for us, though we've had our share of Hollywood-style Christmas dinner dramas, for sure. My heart definitely goes out to those who don't like this time of year due to family problems, loneliness, poverty or illness.

But when I read that the average North American (adult?) will spend $800 this holiday season, my first reaction was to almost throw up. My second reaction was to question the source. My third reaction was to laugh. 

That's because the joy in my gift-giving stems from spending next to nothing! I love finding things around my home or secondhand gifts at our local thrift shop (where all the proceeds go back into the community) that are perfect for each person on my list. Then I wrap them in newspaper, decorate the packages with drawings of holly leaves, and celebrate spending next to nothing. And this year, many of my loved ones have a donation to relief work in the Philippines in their name.

Thought experiment. When the climate change $#@! hits the fan and we have to go back (cuz we haven't moved forward) to a pre-consumeristic economy, and all the new "stuff" is no longer available, and most people are desperately trying to grow their own food (like in the olden days), what will gift giving look like then? How long could the circular economy (of regiving) survive? Just something to think about.

I hope the holiday season is lavishly kind to you in spirit this year — without material excess.

Blessed be.


The Rebel Jesus, by Jackson Browne





15 December 2013

A Round Up of Interesting People Proposing Interesting Solutions

Once again, it's time for a smorgasbord of solutions to what ails us globally. Three of these come from friends!


1. COMMONWEALTH FOR EARTH & HUMANITY

Let's start with my online friend, Sanford Hinden. I've never known anyone to try so hard to hit the right chord! This idea (or rather, amalgamation of ideas), I think, is resonating for people this time. It's the Commonwealth for Earth & Humanity. The Commonwealth for Earth and Humanity (CEH) Fund will invest in Earth, humanity and community.
Enlightened members of humanity are welcome to participate in the co-creation of the CEH. Qualifications for CEH Participants and Global Council Members:
1. See the vision of humanity as a whole.
2. Honor the Earth as sacred.
3. Remember the vastness of the universe and the preciousness of life.
4. Acknowledge that Earth as a planet with water and a climate that supports life is very special and rare in the universe.
5. Be devoted to creating sustainable families, sustainable communities and a sustainable planet.
6. Seek to promote new business models that honor the Earth and humanity.
7. Be patient, persistent, perseverant, co-empowering, collaborative and co-creative in creating the CEH. 
Sandy and his co-creators have all sorts of nifty plans. Check out the latest iteration here (which is a link that might change, so use the one above, if necessary). Maybe you'll want to hop on board one of their Development Teams: 

  • Whiz Kids Team
  • World Regions Network Connectors Team
  • Best Companies Research Team
  • Investment Regulation Team
  • CEH Celebrity Leaders Team 
  • Website Team
  • Young Investors Team
  • New Ideas Team
  • Global Meetings Team

If you would like to participate, people of all ages, from any nation, are welcome to contact Sandy (sanfordhindenATverizon.net).


2. ASAP ISLAND: "CO-CREATE, FLOAT, SHARE"

Here's an interesting adaptive measure for floods and sea level rise. Now, I can't vouch for the seriousness of this venture (much of the publicity surrounding it seems to be a tad tongue-in-cheek), but they're raising funds on Indiegogo. And I figure anything that brings awareness to the climate change emergency is a good thing. 

I actually had to laugh at myself reading about this project. Depending on your age, this description either will make sense or just won't make any!
Asap ["as soon as possible"] island is the vision of an autarkic [fancy word for self-sufficient] sustainable floating island, made out of recycled and renewable materials. It is low-tech, low-budget and open source, to help the people in flood-affected areas worldwide to raise their climate change resilience. It also serves as a global floating makerspace for open maritime innovations and eventually a realworld multiplayer game. Got it? A little open island for a better world. 
Asap-island will be low-tech, low-budget and open source, to empower the people in flooded and endangered areas to fight the results of climate change on their own. 
Started by the German street artist Joy Lohmann in the year 2000, the vision has meanwhile developed into a global community of makers, an artventurous concept and a feasible plan for how to realize it  A.S.A.P. 
THE GOOD NEWS: the construction of the "as-soon-as-possible island" is to be started in early 2014 within a 6-week workcamp in Goa/India. The location and riverside is set from our Indian team, 4 workshops will be held by experts from 3 continents and I bet, the glocal participants will deeply enjoy to get it done.

Check out their website (in German) and their blog (in English). They seem to be holding workshops all over the world. I think I'm going to splurge and go for co-ownership of one of these little floating arks. p.s. They're currently seeking mermaids.


3. ECO-SANITY

Our real-life friend Glenn MacIntosh in Toronto is still fighting the good fight. Through ecosanity.org, he puts out the most thorough compilations — probably in the world — on the global (lack of) response to the climate change emergency. Once you've spent some time going through an ecoS alert, you will understand the issue. Glenn's latest compilation, on the "betrayal of life" that was COP 19 in Warsaw, can be found here


4. "SAVE THE AMAZON" — A POEM

Another wonderful real-life friend, Cory Morningstar, is an investigative writer who is helping us see the unending strings attached between the neo-liberal corporate world and what is passed off as grassroots green organizing. Isn't it amazing how poetry can cut right to the point?
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet every summer you replace your Home Depot (teak?) patio set.
 
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet if I suggest a transition to a plant-based diet, anger fills the air.
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet if I tell you that the cause is capitalism, you smirk and walk away.
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet you acquiesce to the voice of the colonizer while you dismiss the Indigenous voice with an unspoken superiority.
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet, you accept that the words and thoughts of Indigenous Peoples must be conveyed by way of white mouths.
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
Yet I witness your acceptance of blatant, highly financed, white paternalism.
I hear you cry "Save the Amazon!!!"
And I know you are a liar.

08 December 2013

Who Should Be Apologizing?

There seems to be an upsurge in fault-finding and aspersion-casting these days. But the wrong people are taking the flak.

Why are the "green capitalists" (who at least are trying to raise awareness and create change, even if it's within a broken system) being excoriated by all parties while the vast majority of capitalists — the rape-and-pillage kind — pretty much escape censure and get to carry on, business as usual?

Why are outspoken climate scientists who mention nuclear as a partial solution to the climate change emergency being pilloried while the vast majority of climate scientists are not called out for their cowardice and their silence?

Why are people who care deeply about the future we're bequeathing our children getting blamed by friends and strangers alike for spreading doom and gloom (aka, the truth) while the vast majority of parents and grandparents (in my culture, at least) spend their spare time watching crap on the television? If you feel "blamed" then maybe you know deep inside that you bear some of the responsibility.

It's getting pretty tiring for anyone who's been trying to sound the climate crisis alarm to continually be called an alarmist. (What do you do for a living? Oh, I'm an alarmist. Full-time.) Why is it considered worse to be a scaremonger (when what's happening is seriously scary and we want people to wake up and be frightened!) than to be an ignorer, delayer, skeptic or downright denier?

And don't even get me started on what a vegan has to put up with these days. Apparently our lower-carbon dietary choice is a judgement, an imposition on people who want to torture and murder animals in the most inhumane ways possible in order to enjoy their hunk of flesh without guilt — at the expense of all future generations. Well, folks, if you're feeling guilty around a vegan, perhaps you should listen to that little niggle.

How can I apologize for caring? For passionately wanting to safeguard the future of life on this planet? Why should I have to? Why do I have to watch what I say at dinner parties and in cafés? Why aren't we all talking about all of this? All the time? With everyone we meet?

How will we ever transform political will if we can't muster some personal and social will just to discuss the emergency let alone face it and solve it?

Truthfully, who should be apologizing to whom?

01 December 2013

Has Peace Become Clichéd?


A simple float in a Santa Claus parade. People-powered. Colourful. Creative. Collaboratively designed. A globe with a dove sitting upon it. Peace on Earth. Literally and symbolically. Lovely, right? Nope.

Head honcho says: "Peace on Earth is trite."

SIDEBAR ===

I remember when Christmas was the most special day of the year! The week before Christmas was magical. Then I went off to school and Christmas began to take up the whole month of December, in the way that Earth Day has spread to Earth Week and now, in some places, Earth Month. 

That never bothered me. The days became more and more festive as the month went on. 

Nowadays, though, the Christmas season begins the morning after Halloween. (I suspect some window dressers are up all night changing the display!) And Black Friday? What's up with that? I think it must be called Black Friday to commemorate all the tramplings, including deaths, that occur the Friday after the American Thanksgiving. (See Greening the Holidays at School for more.) 

I know it's all about wringing more shopping out of shoppers. I understand the economics of it. I don't condone the economics, but I understand the feeling (and, I suppose, the reality) that Christmas buying will carry many retailers through the rest of the year. But sometimes, it just serves to make us all the more grinchy. 

END OF SIDEBAR ===

Could that explain someone — a newbie environmentalist with a lot of chutzpah and influence — forbidding "Peace on Earth" on a Christmas float because it's "trite"?

This must be someone who doesn't know that the world's militaries (with the US military in the lead) are the leading burners of fossil fuels on the planet. This person must not understand how incredibly destructive wars and conflicts (and illegal invasions) are to the human victims, but also to other species, and the land, the water, the air and the climate.



24 November 2013

Co-opted, Manipulated and Had

Another series of convergences in my life this week, the second week of the 19th COP in Warsaw, coal capital of the world. 

Last Sunday afternoon, I went for a walk with a friend who wanted to talk over some work ideas. But before she brought up her latest plans, we talked for a while about a dilemma she's been experiencing. She's someone who likes to focus deeply rather than spread her attention and resources widely. Which environmental NGO, she was wondering, should she support? That led to a discussion about hope (schmope) versus optimism (a topic I'm getting sick of) versus just getting busy promoting a change in political will. (Which didn't help her decision making because both the ENGOs she knows and loves are focusing on changing political will these days. Alas.)

That led to a discussion about conspiracies, particularly the theory (my theory, but not mine alone) that many ENGOs have been co-opted by the corporate world — not blatantly or overtly, but by being kept busy adopting business models (rather than keeping or adopting a grassroots model) and kowtowing to their foundation funders, most of whom are fronts for big corporate interests. 

The greatest example here on the west coast of Canada is all the money and energy being thrown into keeping (more) oil tankers from plying our coastal waters, and therefore stopping construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, and now the twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline. All the while that thousands of British Columbians are giving money (and getting money) to stop these potentials, rich Americans are actually already buying up rail lines and tank cars and are moving more and more tar sands oil by rail. I've actually had two or three environmentally concerned friends tell me they don't believe it. I guess they don't read Bloomberg or the Financial Post. (Or The Wrong Kind of Green.)

Oh man, what the heck was I telling you about? (I just got sucked into the internet vortex, looking for those links!)

Oh yes, convergences. 

A couple of days later, another friend sent me an article called How to Win the Media War Against Grassroots Activists. If you choose to read it, prepare to finally believe that ignorance is bliss. 

Ronald Duchin, of the PR firm Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin (MBD), once (or a dozen times) gave a talk entitled "Take an Activist Apart and What Do You Have? And How Do You Deal with Him/Her?" In it, Duchin referred to different subtypes of activists: "radicals, idealists, realists and opportunists." From the article:
Radical activists "want to change the system; have underlying socio/political motives" and see multinational corporations as "inherently evil," explained Duchin. "These organizations do not trust the … federal, state and local governments to protect them and to safeguard the environment. They believe, rather, that individuals and local groups should have direct power over industry … I would categorize their principal aims … as social justice and political empowerment." 
The "idealist" is easier to deal with, according to Duchin's analysis. "Idealists … want a perfect world…. Because of their intrinsic altruism, however … [they] have a vulnerable point.... If they can be shown that their position is in opposition to an industry … and cannot be ethically justified, they [will] change their position."
So, all you idealistic activists, you've been had! But there's more:
The two easiest subtypes to join the corporate side of the fight are the "realists" and the "opportunists." By definition, an "opportunist" takes the opportunity to side with the powerful for career gain, Duchin explained, and has skin in the game for "visibility, power [and] followers." 
The realist, by contrast, is more complex but the most important piece of the puzzle, says Duchin. "[Realists are able to] live with trade-offs; willing to work within the system; not interested in radical change; pragmatic. The realists should always receive the highest priority in any strategy dealing with a public policy issue."
So, all you pragmatic realists, you've been manipulated. 
Duchin outlined a corresponding three-step strategy to "deal with" these four activist subtypes. First, isolate the radicals. Second, "cultivate" the idealists and "educate" them into becoming realists. And finally, co-opt the realists into agreeing with industry. 
"If your industry can successfully bring about these relationships, the credibility of the radicals will be lost and opportunists can be counted on to share in the final policy solution," Duchin outlined in closing his speech.

We have all been had and manipulated. We've all been thinking that the corporate types, when they realized what climate chaos would do to their kids' future, would come around in time. But no. They are in a deadly game where the winner takes all, at all costs, then dies anyway, taking his children and most life on the planet with him.

Meanwhile, what of the environmental NGOs? Well, have a wander around The Wrong Kind of Green. It presents a fascinating look at how we've been manipulated, co-opted or, at best, simply kept "busy in the bushes," as a friend used to say about our movement.

A right-kind-of-green friend wrote to say that in an ENGO she's been involved with, "the people are so deep in denial and their own delusional idea of 'successful campaigns' that their posts are no longer worth reading. Same old nonsense. They refuse to accept where we are at. They refuse to accept/acknowledge science. We are so human-centric that I guess we believe that what we want is more powerful than nature herself."

This reminded me (convergences, remember?) of the film we watched earlier this week, The Island President. I hadn't realized that Mohamed Nasheed (of the Maldives) sold out at the Copenhagen climate talks. In the movie, you can pretty much pinpoint the moment when his ego takes over! It's an interesting point in the film (and if you're in love with this 350.orger man, you likely won't see it). 

He doesn't see himself slipping from "I must do something to save my people" into "I must do something to save these talks — because, look at all these important people who are meeting and talking with me." One of his key advisors (his environment minister, I think) notices the sell-out-in-the-making and calls him on it, but the president can't see it and pretty much asks him to be quiet.

In other words, it was almost like Duchin was there using his tactics to "deal with" this Maldivian idealist. In fact, that moment in climate change history would make an *excellent* case study of how we're all being co-opted, manipulated and had.




17 November 2013

Ho Ho Hum, Another Climate Change Conference


Here we are, in the middle of the annual United Nations climate conference (known as the 19th Conference of the Parties or COP 19) being held in Warsaw ... and who gives a flying leap? As Canada's CBC News explains: 
"Expectations for this one are even lower than usual, after the disappointments and plodding progress of the last few conferences."
Even that is overstating it. There has been no "progress" at these conferences at all. Some activists never got over the crash-and-burn fiasco (and complete loss of hope for global action) at the Copenhagen COP in 2009. (Remember Hopenhagen? Remember why I started this blog?) But hey, nice logo, eh?

No, negotiators from almost 200 countries just sit in a big hall and talk, and then they sit and talk some more, and sit and talk and sit and talk. And in the end, they dramatically stay up all night so that they can agree to maybe sort of kinda perhaps someday possibly agree to agree on something one day off in the future, if the stars are in alignment and not a single rich person or corporation anywhere has to lose one single cent to stave off the climate change crisis.

Why, oh why, do they bother with this charade? They would all be better off rehearsing for a Christmas pantomime together instead. (I'd pay for tickets to see it!)

It does seem there's a moment of realness at each COP, however. This year's moment, as I'm sure you know by now, was an impassioned plea from the Philippines' delegate, Naderev (Yeb) Saño, following the devastation of Super Typhoon Haiya that impacted hundreds of thousands of people in his homeland. He is now on a hunger strike, which people around the world have joined in on, until the end of the COP.



But there they sit (and talk and sit and talk and mainly sit), while the following headlines swirl around them:
Greenhouse gas levels hit new record high [oh, but the Americans shipped some of theirs overseas, so it must all be a hoax or something] 
Time for climate change fix running out, IEA warns [yeah, that's the International Energy Agency — you know, the fossil fuellers — telling us that]
World temperatures go off the chart by 2047, study says [yup, that's in our children's lifetime] 
Climate change draft report predicts war, heat waves, starvation [duh! how long have we been warning about this?]
Leading climate change understanders have been trying to warn the world for years. This year, a leading voice is Mary Robinson, former Irish president and head of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice. Speaking directly to my country, she said, "Moving to a low-carbon economy would be very good for Canadians' futures, and for everyone's future. And as well as that, we don't have a choice. We're running out of time."

Ms Robinson is also reported to have said that "If you're serious about preventing the worst of climate change, you have to leave that bitumen, oil and gas in the ground." Hey, is there an echo in here?

But they'll all just sit and talk and sit and talk. But it's not like they're sitting on their thumbs (which I suppose is an expression that means "doing nothing"). No, they're all sitting on their crossed fingers, hoping like hell that what just happened to the Philippines won't happen to their country. 

At least, not before the next COP.


(Please know that although I can sound flippant at times, I see this international procrastinating as the greatest ever crime against humanity ... and it breaks my heart.)

10 November 2013

Meeting a Witness to the Evil


EVIL

noun: profound immorality, wickedness and depravity

adjective: profoundly immoral and malevolent; harmful or tending to harm



Yesterday we had lunch with one of my husband's climate change heroes, a physicist. They've been corresponding online for many years and Peter holds this gentleman in very high esteem. So it was a great honour for us that he took time away from a conference he's attending nearby to spend some time with us. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting (green scales and horns, perhaps, recalling our last encounter with a physicist). I'm a humanities major, and science has always felt quite foreign to me. I'm happy to say that it turned out to be a wonderful experience! A meeting of like minds and hearts. The conversation was the kind you have with a good friend you haven't seen in years. It flowed well, with lots of laughter and agreement.

But there were some very serious discussions, too. When it comes to the world of climate change science, this fellow has witnessed what I would call "evil" at several different levels. 

For starters (and I must admit, I don't know what order to list these evils in), this man has been vilely slandered and threatened not only by people who are scientifically ignorant, but also by people who, it turns out, are raking in the money from their fossil fuel involvements and investments. Are not conflicts of interest like this, when implicated in keeping the public and their governments from acting on the climate change emergency, villainous?

Next, this climate change scientist has built his whole scientific career on observation, but observing is now considered out of vogue in this age of computer modelling. When the lives of billions of people are at stake, is it not reprehensible and unforgivable to ignore reality if it doesn't fit with your computer modelled view of the world?

And finally, he has been part of the IPCC and has witnessed the contempt of some of his colleagues in that process. It's worse than what I blogged about a few weeks ago (The IPCC: "All About Modelling, Not About Protecting the Earth"). It appears that in some cases, even though the Fifth Assessment Report accepted new research up to 2012, if that research disagreed with a particular bias, it didn't get included.
Now, I understand human nature and world views and biases (after all, scientists are only human), but that's where peer review comes in. Except that in some cases, that review was rejected. Sounds like ego to me. And when the future viability of our biosphere is at stake, is not allowing ego to interfere with good science, well, evil?
It was a lovely lunch with a wonderful gent, but I came away saddened that our suspicions, notions and observations of evil had been validated by someone within the fray of international climate change science.

It's time to redouble our efforts on the side of good!
UPDATE: I just heard about the possible death toll from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. My heart goes out to my friends there and to everyone impacted by this super storm. What a terrifying experience it must have been for them. 

03 November 2013

Woke Up This Morning - A Compassion Tune-Up


We're on a mini-vacation this weekend (to recharge our food- and rest-powered batteries). We live in a fairly small island community (13 square miles and 2500 people, many of whom disappear about this time every year). 

About twice a year, my husband and I get "cabin fever" and need to "get off the rock." This is one of those times. 

(Funny thing is, we missed tons of "excitement" yesterday! Monsoon-style rains and high winds brought a tree down across the main road, caused a car accident, and cut the power for four hours. One of our inter-island ferries hit a dock and nearly ran aground just off a neighbouring island due to gusting winds. And passengers on a ferry that did venture out into the strait later in the day saw a super pod of about a thousand white-sided dolphins! See what happens when we leave our little rock?)

So I'd simply like to share this beautiful, heart-rending song with you this morning, as a compassion tune-up. It's called Woke Up and it's by Emily Maguire. 

Listen closely. Feel deeply. Enjoy your day. Then get back into the fray of helping politicians and other leaders make the right choices for mitigating climate chaos, choices that are becoming more and more complex all the time, the longer we wait. 

(And remember, if the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska contributed to the GDP (gross domestic product), then certainly spending money to safeguard the future of life on our precious planet should be seen as benefitting the economy, especially if we adopt the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) as our measure. Don't let anyone tell you that it's going to be too expensive, or that it's going to ruin us. That's garbage.)

I offer this in honour of all those still suffering or struggling a year after Tropical Storm Sandy hit the East Coast of North America.




WOKE UP by Emily Maguire

I woke up this morning
All the trees were gone
A concrete jungle left outside
Oh no

They said on the radio
The seas were warm
And all the fish had gone and died
Oh no

So what do we do now?

I woke up this morning
All our water's gone
But now the ocean's at my door
Oh no

They said on the radio
A storm would come
And wash away my neighbourhood
Oh no

So what do we do now?

I woke up this morning
All the birds were gone
And politicians act alarmed
Oh no

They said on the radio
We'll wait and see
The economy cannot be harmed
Oh no

But can you see?
Do you believe it now?




27 October 2013

Happy Halloween ... It Doesn't Get Any Scarier Than This

Just a bunch of scary stuff for you this week, in honour of Halloween. (Wouldn't want to take our minds off the whole climate change emergency just cuz of a fun little holiday, now would we?)

Here's a very good movie called Last Hours. Scarier than heck, but presented in calm, soothing tones. Kinda creepy how that works.



*******

A couple of thoughts. I was reading an online article called How to Get People to Give a Damn About Climate Change and wanted to comment: "Really, all this is moot. Who cares what the public knows, understands or believes? It's governments that have to make sweeping changes …."

And then I thought, "Oh yeah, wait. The public votes in governments! Now I get it." (When people ask, "What can I do about climate change?" I often respond, "Help create the political will for the government to do something about it.")

There was a comment below that article: "It wasn't long ago that German scientists had a 100% consensus that eugenics was an excellent policy."

"Ah," I said to myself, "that could explain the IPCC's phobia about policy." (Did you know that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change refuses to say whether all this warming and climate chaos is dangerous?)

*******

Guess what? I discovered (rather belatedly) why Canada's last Environment Minister, Peter Kent, lost his job! "You don't have to convince me that climate change is a very real and present danger and we need to address it." Oh my, what a way to get fired by Not-so-Prime Minister Stephen Burn-It-All! Harper. 

The (okay, almost year old) article that I read reported Kent as saying "he talks to his U.S. counterparts on a 'more than monthly basis' and there's a general consensus that it's an issue that has to be addressed. 'We would ignore it at our peril.'" Which kinda proves my point that governments know exactly what's going on ... and they're ignoring it at our peril. 

*******

Did you know that there's a Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change? Me neither. But yup, there is. Retired Bangladeshi Major General ANM Muniruzzaman chairs it. And here's what he said about the climate change emergency and global security
"When I was a major general in Bangladesh’s military, my job was to avoid conflict while planning for the worst-case scenario. And, from the perspective of the military, the consequences of global warming constitute the worst-case scenario. 
"When I meet with my colleagues at the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change — generals and admirals from around the world, all with career-long experience in military planning and operations — I am struck by the similarity of our concerns. All countries of the world are experiencing changes that are destabilizing communities and increasing security concerns. Diseases are spreading, wells are drying up, storms are smashing cities and destroying crops, and rain is either a distant memory or an acute danger.  
In global security circles, we often speak of the 'international community.' Climate change is the ultimate global challenge and global threat, and the global community must meet it together. We cannot have our separate attitudes and plans."

*******

And I'll leave you with something that isn't scary. Once Halloween is over, it'll be November. And you know what that means, right? Yup, Christmas carols in shopping plazas! (Okay, maybe that is scary.) So here's a new idea. An alternative gift registry, where you sign up to let loved ones know what you don't want to receive (sort of). Anyway, have some fun exploring whether this would be useful in your life. SoKind Registry. Their motto is More Fun, Less Stuff. It's a project of The Center for a New American Dream, so to be honest, I don't even know if it'll work for the rest of us. If not, let the idea start to inspire some fun gift-making between now and the holidays. 


20 October 2013

The IPCC: "All About Modelling, Not About Protecting the Earth"


I've waited awhile to let the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) hype die down a bit. Man, it sure was loud! But I'm not sure which was worse: the deniers saying that the report "proved" (huh?) that global warming has stopped or the enviros claiming that the report says "we face a global climate emergency" when it doesn't say that at all (but should).

Both groups are wrong. But for different reasons. 

The deniers? Well, we've been pumping 90 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every DAY for ages (almost half of which has been absorbed by the oceans). Where do they think all the heat radiated by those extra greenhouse gas molecules has gone? (The answer, by the way, is that the oceans have been warmed and ice sheets and sea ice have been melted. It takes some heat to accomplish that!)

The enviro groups? Well, the mistake they've been making is not noticing how much the IPCC has left out — namely all positive (that is, amplifying) carbon and climate feedbacks. So the IPCC's new ("RCP") scenarios are actually underestimates of the dangers we are unleashing in the climate system. In other words, the situation is much worse, and much more urgent, than the IPCC's Working Group I (Physical Science Basis) report.

It's all very complicated and complex, and clearly the media have to simplify it for the public. But how can we rely on the IPCC's assessments when they don't include all possible sources of warming in their computer models (due to "carbon cycle uncertainties")? How can we trust the IPCC assessments when they offer a range, but then only speak to the "mean warming projections" (what they call "most likely")? 

Should not climate scientists use the upper end of the temperature range when talking of risk? Especially since risk equals probability multiplied by magnitude (and the upper range of possible temperature increases is the potential magnitude)? Yet we're not just risking the mean warming projections, are we? We're also risking the upper ranges. And we're not just risking the upper ranges, we're risking those upper ranges with several degrees caused by carbon feedbacks tacked on.

Unfortunately (and perhaps ironically), the IPCC does not "do" risk. This intergovernmental panel that synthesizes the science of climate change has a code of silence on dangerous, disastrous, or catastrophic climate change. They claim that they cannot define "dangerous" climate change because that is a "value judgement" that science cannot make. (Gee, last time I checked, doctors were scientifically trained and they can tell you what's dangerous and deadly to human life.)

I'm not sure why the IPCC hobbles its scientific contributors and their discussions this way. But perhaps if each country's general public asked for more scientific honesty and a scientific assessment of how dangerous climate change could become, they'd be able to change their terms of reference.

If human beings (and our food/agriculture systems) have never experienced the temperatures that we're heading for, doesn't that at least imply danger ahead? Not "Ooh, it's not looking good," but "Holy flying %$#!, we're heading into a dangerous climate change emergency!"

Worth writing a letter or two, anyone? After all, changing political will is about the only transformative action (beyond individual reductions in carbon emissions) the public still has the power to take.

So, with apologies to the great Welsh bard, I'll leave you with a Dylan Thomas rendition by my husband that reminds us what our response to the AR5 ought to be. 
Do not go gentle into this unnatural night.
Real people burn and rave at Mother Earth's deplorable plight.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rage, rage, rage with all your might.
— Peter Carter 

p.s. That quote in the title is also from my hubby, someone who spends many, many hours every day reading and synthesizing research on climate change.

13 October 2013

Blog Action Day: Climate Change and Human Rights


Blog Action Day is this Wednesday, October 16 and this year's theme is human rights. So you can probably already guess what my questions to you are going to be.

Is a safe climate a human right? Do we have a right to a safe climate? Do we? Conversely, do we humans ("we" as in EuroAmericans and those who have adopted the Western economy that we've globalized) have a right to make the climate increasingly unviable for other species? Indeed, isn't the climate change crisis a perfect point of overlap between human rights and the rights of all other living things?

And when we talk of human rights, which humans are we talking about? When it comes to climate disruption, are we talking about people in developing parts of the world? Today's children and future generations? Or just old white guys? 

And which rights are we discussing? I swear, some capitalists (the ecologically illiterate ones, and that seems to be most of them) believe that they have the right to "earn" (I use that term loosely) as much money as they want, damn the consequences. That's the whole basis of the neoliberal agenda.

If we can't decide, globally, as a species, that food and water — and the stable climate upon which both depend — are basic human rights, then the rest is moot. If we don't get this one right, then by default we're saying that we don't have the right to life.


06 October 2013

Compassion Tune-Up: How Hot Will It Get in Their Lifetime?

How how will it get for a child born today?
Every time I turn around, I read or hear "two degrees." Two degrees this, two degrees that. Two degrees has wormed its way into our climate-changed brains as though it's a goal or a target we're aiming for, instead of a temperature rise we don't want to go near.
The Independent: "A rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperatures [is] the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change ...." 
The Conversation: "Two degrees [is] the temperature rise we need to stay under to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change ...." 
European Union: "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 Degrees Celsius" 
The Guardian: "... the agreed 'safety' limit of 2ºC."
I've talked before (here and here) about the ill wisdom of setting 2ºC as some sort of guardrail, especially when we've got a bunch of yahoos driving the global go-karts. "Guardrail? Yeehaw, let's go for it!" Considering what's happening already with only an additional 0.8ºC of warming, how could anyone wish 2ºC on their progeny and descendants? 

Having said all that, if one recognizes the catastrophic danger that continued global warming poses, then one might find The Guardian's interactive How Hot Will It Get in My Lifetime? of use as a compassion tune-up. For example, here are screenshots for my birthdate versus the birthdate of my beloved niece. This helps me see that it's all inexorable without a huge push for zero carbon emissions.

Warming in my lifetime (click on image to see the whole graph)

Warming in my niece's lifetime (click to see the whole graph)
On current emissions trends (which show no sign of slowing, let alone stopping), when my niece reaches my current age in 2048 (and I'm in the ground or in deep decline), we'll have blown past the 2ºC "guardrail" and will be heading to over 6ºC of warming. 

By the way, here's how I look at that best-case lower limit of the range of warming. If emissions keep rising and the global temperature keeps going up, then there is no "best case." It's just a matter of the speed at which we're committing this greatest of crimes against humanity: progenycide.


29 September 2013

Climate Change Heroes Come in All Sizes

I enjoyed doing something nifty yesterday. I offered a keynote address to a small conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ... via the internet. Once we got the technology to settle down and behave, it went well and was virtually well-received. 

I went to bed the the night before this presentation still not quite knowing how to structure my talk. The audience was filled with teachers participating in a program called Little Green Thumbs (LGT), an indoor school gardening program available in a handful of Canadian provinces (though I know they'd like to expand within North America; contact LGT here to find out more about becoming a host organization). 

I knew that I wanted to talk to these teachers about climate change, and about the important role they're playing in preparing children for the future we're bequeathing them. But I couldn't quite put my finger on a unifying theme for my talk.

Just as I was drifting off, it came to me: Little Green Thumbs, Big Green Heroes. My subconscious then got me up at 4 am to make sure I was ready for my 12 noon presentation, and I had some fun creating that little green-caped superhero as my motif (with thanks to clipart and the LGT green thumb). 

I began my talk asking why we all chose to become teachers. Perhaps it's because we love children, or we love our subject area. Maybe we loved school when we were kids, or we simply love to teach, period. No matter what the reason, we probably didn't become teachers because we wanted to be heroes.

And yet, any educator who is teaching food growing skills to today's children has become a hero, even if inadvertently. Teachers now shoulder much of the responsibility for preparing children for their climate-changed and carbon-constrained future. It's a responsibility we're not facing, however. Our teaching, from now on, has to be imbued with both compassion and courage ... compassion for our students and their future, and the courage to acknowledge the climate change emergency and that it demands changes in what and how we teach.

Needless to say, the children in Little Green Thumb programs are going to be the food security leaders and heroes of their generation. As I've noted here before, we can't grow food overnight; nor can we learn to grow food overnight. Grown-up Green Thumbs will be the ones ready to take on the food-growing challenges presented by chaotic weather events and changing climatic patterns. 

So here's a salute to the educators — the big green heroes — who recognize the value of teaching "agriculture in the classroom" and who are passing on the vital skills of soil building and food growing.