14 December 2014

And With That, Lima, We're Through

* Click here for an update. A happyish update.

What's the word for what happened in Lima at the COP20 climate change conference over the last two weeks? Besides ZERO, I mean. Nothing, nada, nichts. Nothing was accomplished. Absolutely sweet $#@! all. But what's the word to describe hundreds of countries and thousands of people getting together to solve the climate crisis and ACCOMPLISHING NOTHING? 
Despicable? Obscene? Callous? Negligent? Criminal? Suicidal? Ecocidal? Progenycidal, for sure. 
When I was out yesterday, I heard people talking about the French Revolution. The guillotine. Aristocratic heads rolling. People getting sick and tired of the oligarchy having their way with the planet. Why are the rich not afraid of an uprising? 

Not one gawddamn blessed thing that is actually going to safeguard the future was agreed to. Not one! I'm sure they would disagree, with their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and their Multilateral Assessments and their Adaptation Knowledge Initiative and their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and their Nazca Climate Action Portal (no, not NASCAR). But not a single one of those, well, whatever-they-are, gets us even heading in the direction of zero carbon, which is where we need to be by mid-century (with our emissions declining by the end of 2015 ... not sort of waiting until 2020 to even get started sort of thinking about slowing our emissions). I didn't hear any talk at all of adopting the IPCC's best-case scenario, RCP2.6! [Update: There is no mention of it in the draft agreement, although the spirit of it seems to have been included.]

Here's a short history of global action talk on climate change:

  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • Bali Roadmap
  • Poznan, um, nothing?
  • Copenhagen Accord
  • Cancun Agreements
  • Durban Outcomes (and the Durban Platform for Advanced Action)
  • Doha Climate Gateway
  • Warsaw Outcomes (Come on, Poland! "Outcomes" again -- can't you be more creative?) (p.s. Turns out they also offered the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts)
  • Lima Call for Climate Action

I've had respect until today for the UNFCCC and its difficult task and the daunting process of bringing nearly 200 nations to consensus. But each year, it's more of the same old nothing. New names (ahem, Poland) for the same old empty promises. Now I'm convinced that this whole thing has been a charade, a farce played out to appease us -- no doubt so that we won't rise up!

You can read the pile of bollocks here: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lima/lima-call-for-climate-action-puts-world-on-track-to-paris-2015/

So, I'm through. I'm finished. Over and out. If the fossil fuel corporations and the fossil-fooled governments of the world so badly want to extinguish most life on the planet, who am I to get in their way and try to ram a stick in their wheels? I mean, those poor rich bastards don't have all the money yet, so how can people like me even think of asking them to stop this deadly global game before they're through? The Burning Age truly is over, but it seems world leaders need to be burned before they'll admit it and embrace the Golden Age of Perpetual Energy.
Meanwhile, I think I'm going to focus on teaching children how to grow their own food, build their own soil, collect their own rainwater, and generate their own energy. I'm not saying that's going to be easy -- there are still lots of parents and teachers in my culture who don't recognize the threat that climate disruption poses to their children's food security. But at least I'll be doing something, and not just "talking" here with you every Sunday morning, achieving nothing (though I've enjoyed "meeting" some of you along the way).
This blog started out as a compendium of compassionate climate actions in countdown to the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. That COP15 finished off a lot of climate change activists. High hopes were dashed to smithereens. 

Many of us re-emerged a few months later and we've been slightly reinvigorated over the last few years (no thanks to the COPs but to sharing in a global civil society movement, and more recently, thanks to CAN International and to the IPCC's Really Cool Plan 2.6, which gave us some small remaining hope in hell of surviving this). 

But I, for one, have lost much of the resilience I came into this fight with. I don't want to hang around waiting for the utter disillusionment and anguish that the Paris COP21 seems likely to produce. My puny efforts won't make any difference anyway. (I can imagine how all the small island states must feel.) 
So picture me in the garden with the children at my school! Sowing, tending, harvesting in our six little beds. Building bat boxes and pruning raspberry canes. Playing Photosynthesis Relay and sitting quietly writing garden poetry or creating garden art. Baking pizzas we've made from scratch in the outdoor cob oven we built ourselves. 
Below is my parting gift for you. If the uprising happens (and not just in my pizza dough), I'll be there in a flash! Till then, take care.

p.s. Here's my favourite thing I've posted: 0 Days to Copenhagen - The Power of One (+ 3,741,952 Others) 



[p.s. If you're on a Mac using Safari and you get a "Blocked Plug-in" message, it means you need to update your Adobe Flash Player. (Ooh, listen to me, all technical!)]


Rise Up
by The Parachute Club

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

We want lovin' we want laughter again
We want heartbeat
We want madness to end, we want dancin'
We want to run in the streets
We want freedom to live in this peace
We want power, we want to make it okay
Want to be singin' at the end of the day
Children to breathe a new life
We want freedom to love who we please

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) Everybody is dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

Talkin' 'bout the right time to be workin' for peace
Wantin' all the tension in the world to ease
We wantin' love while walking on the streets
We want to be free, we want that be free

Talking about a new way
Talking about changes and names
Talking about building the land of our dreams
His tightrope's gotta learn how to bend
We're makin' new plans
We're gonna start it again

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) Everybody is dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

Rise up now

It's time, it's time, it's time

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Everybody's time has come
Spirits time has come
Spirits time has come

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come
Willing time has come
Spirits time has come

(Rise up)
Everybody
Time for you and me



07 December 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Frightening of Climate Change Finance


Lima, yada yada. As suspected, it's not looking like anything transformative is going to come out of the COP20 taking place in Peru this past week and next. [NEWS FLASH! DECLINING OUR EMISSIONS BY 2015 AND ACHIEVING ZERO CARBON BY MID-CENTURY ARE BOTH ON THE NEGOTIATING TABLE! 
IF WE CAN WE KEEP THEM THERE, THAT WILL BE TRANSFORMATIVE!] 

But climate change finance seems to be on the table more than ever before. Which means that countries are starting to show their true colours. (Ah, money. Doesn't tend to bring out the best in us, does it?)

THE GOOD
Hmmm, let's see. We're a little light on the "good" side. 

Indigenous and farmer communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon are taking Chevron, who dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into pristine rainforest, to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The company has been charged $9.5 billion (probably a mere drop in their bucket of oil) for the clean up, but refuses to pay. The ICC can legally prosecute individuals and corporations for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Perhaps ecocide and progenycide will be added to that list soon.)


In British Columbia, Canada, the Teachers Federation had the following very exciting (and timely) motion passed at the recent BC Federation of Labour convention (yeah, I know, it's all still just talk on paper, but I warned you that the "good" was skimpy):

Resolution GE:53
BECAUSE pension investments in companies whose practices are not socially and/or environmentally responsible undermine the labour movement's commitment to social justice; and
BECAUSE through strong advocacy for socially and environmentally responsible changes, pension trustees can greatly influence pension investment choices by the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) which invest on behalf of Teachers' Pension Plan, College Pension Plan, Municipal Pension Plan, Public Service Pension Plan, and WCB Pension Plan; and
BECAUSE there is strong evidence that socially and environmentally responsible investments may perform as well or better than other investments; now
THE FEDERATION WILL encourage affiliates with pension investments in bcIMC to advocate collectively for socially environmentally responsible changes to its investment practices; and
THE FEDERATION WILL call on affiliates to develop consultation processes on social and environmental investment issues.

The Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) reported that "real dollars can start being funnelled into adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Global South" as the Green Climate Fund announced in Lima that they will soon start accepting proposals. The Green Climate Fund was created as part of the Financial Mechanism of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries. Developed countries have been invited to make "ambitious and timely contributions" that "reflect the needs and challenges of developing countries in addressing climate change."

Unfortunately ...


THE BAD
Lots of this stuff.

The CYD also reported from Lima that the negotiators from the United States and Switzerland openly opposed legally binding commitments on climate financing. So all the poor big rich countries in the world "could essentially pick and choose how and when they would contribute to international climate funds (no big deal, we're only $90.2 billion short at this point)." 

According to Bloomberg, "The fund is meant to channel a portion of the $100 billion a year in climate-related aid that industrial nations promised in 2009 to bring to developing nations by 2020." (Mind you, it's said that the US doesn't want anything "legally binding" because then their climate-change-ignorant Congress has to get involved, and you know which way they're going to vote. But that shouldn't be the rest of the world's problem. Get your act in gear, America!)
"Yes, disappointment over perceived unfairness, injustice, promises not kept, tends to go hand in hand with increasing prosperity. Expectations are dashed. What can I say!"
 ~ Mary Douglas
Then the Swiss representatives threatened developing countries that any demands for finance commitments would jeopardize a strong outcome from COP20. Oh, pulleez Switzerland. (This earned them the Fossil of the Day award that day. Good. Canada spoke in support of the Swiss threat. Sheesh! But then, we've been wandering in the moral desert ever since a certain climate-change-ignorant prime minister was barely elected.) 

Me thinks the Swiss -- and several most other developed countries -- have forgotten that they signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which included signing onto this:
"Industrialized nations agree under the Convention to support climate change activities in developing countries by providing financial support for action on climate change -- above and beyond any financial assistance they already provide to these countries. ... Industrialized countries also agree to share technology with less-advanced nations."                                 


THE DOWNRIGHT FRIGHTENING 

I'm starting to see "net zero" as a goal for greenhouse gas emissions. Folks, there is no such thing as "net zero." There is zero and there is a boondoggle. "Net zero" does not exist. (As someone who has been calling for ZERO carbon emissions for years now, I can say, it feels quite icky -- and disheartening -- to have "zero" co-opted. C'mon, people. WTF?) 

The world still seems intent on REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other financial mechanisms that will turn natural ecosystems into a marketplace. As one friend explained by tweet: "REDD: Buy credits in order 2 keep polluting." Can't we just stop polluting and put our money into making the transition to a zero-carbon economy?

And finally, how about this for a headline?

Besieged by the rising tides of climate change, Kiribati buys land in Fiji 
Nation finalises purchase of land on Vanua Levu, 2,000km away, but it may be just the first of many seeking refuge  

The Guardian reported in July 2014: "The cost of protecting these places against rising sea levels, compared with national income, is among the highest in the world. Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives are among the 10 countries where the financial impact of climate change is the most severe. This explains why small island states think it is so important to set up an international mechanism for loss and damage, to compensate for the irremediable consequences of global warming."

Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles ambassador at the United Nations, said: "When a population is forced to leave its country, it is no longer a matter of adaptation. Where will these countries find funds? It is up to the industrialised countried, which caused global warming, to shoulder their responsibilities." Jumeau wants to make the loss and damage mechanism a priority for the global deal on climate change slated to be signed a year from now in Paris.

But of course, poor impoverished little Switzerland isn't going to allow THAT!



30 November 2014

One Day to Go Till the Lima Climate Conference - We Know How to Save the World

Well, there's only a day left before the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru (COP20) begins.  I'm not a betting woman. I prefer to work a little magic. So let's, instead of taking wagers, conjure up the best possible outcome. 

Let's manifest that all the delegations from the laggard nations, developed or developing (you know who you are, Canada, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands!) never make it off the runway due to freak snowstorms and heat waves, or get lost en route along with their luggage. (Or maybe someone simply locks them in their hotel rooms in Lima.) They just don't show up and therefore can't stall the proceedings.

Then let's manifest that the big industrialized nations all shake hands with China and the USA, congratulating them for their hokey little historic pact. At least they're finally recognizing that Houston has a problem (translation: that there really is a climate change emergency). So we've got the two biggest emitters on board, and their cronies (Europe, Russia, etc.), wanting to bask in the accolades, jump on board, too. (Reminds me of my father, a 3-pack-a-day smoker, who quit smoking because of all the attention we gave my mom when she quit!)

Then the big players, who have found their hearts and their conscience, decide to listen to the little players. You know, the countries where people are already losing their lives, their loved ones and their livelihoods; their food security and their water sources; their homes and entire homelands, all due to climate disruption and chaos. They listen to the stories and the pleas of the G77, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDC), the Africa Group ... all negotiating blocs that have basically been ignored until now. 

Next up is a little international fireside reading of a very grim (get it? Grimm?) storybook: the IPCC's AR5 Synthesis Report, which "leaves no doubt: Climate change is set to inflict 'severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts' on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly." SHARPLY and RAPIDLY, as my hubby points out, means at the least adopting the IPCC's best-case scenario, RCP2.6. "We have a rallying cry," he says.

And then, all together, these nations -- their negotiators and their leaders (who have just jetted in for the last couple of days) -- decide to lend an ear to the members of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, who have come up with the best-ever civil society emergency response to the climate change crisis

  • Start the decline in emissions next year. 
  • Get to zero carbon by mid-century. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the simple magic that can save our world. Abracadabra!


23 November 2014

One Week Until Lima ... Copenhagen Redux - A Message to All the Women Attending COP20


It was five years ago 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, nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Lima, Peru (COP20). And to all the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Lima climate talks. Please ... speak up for all 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 Lima, Peru representing your own 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 should be quickly heading into.


LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Lima, 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, Patricia Wright, 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 Lima!

16 November 2014

A Big Step in the Right Direction: China and the US Agree to Do the Right Thing on Climate Change

Several years before I started hearing about climate change (and way before I morphed into a climate change activist), I made a childhood dream come true by travelling around the world. I took a leave of absence and my plan was to be gone for a year, but China's capitalist economic development had other plans for me.

My date of departure was carefully chosen. I left my home in British Columbia, Canada on the gorgeous September morning that I would normally have been heading back to school as a teacher.  The first stop on my trip was more random. The airline I booked with was about to start flying to Beijing. It seemed as good a first stop as any. I was on their inaugural flight. 

I hadn't thought it through very well. At my very first destination, I found myself completely illiterate and quite helpless. I quickly learned the character (or hanzi) for women's washroom, I can tell you. And I only found out later how blessed I was to spend my week there in sunshine. The Gobi desert didn't want me taking its sand home, and the streets were still filled with buses and bicycles, not cars.

Anyway, I had lots of adventures in China (and a few misadventures), but what I really want to share with you is what I witnessed there: the rapid rise of Chinese capitalism. And it was not a pretty sight. I met two doctors, married with one child, who were making the equivalent of $30 per month between them. They made me an absolutely delicious (and delightful) dinner, and when I suggested that they could open a restaurant, their food was so good, they admitted that they'd wanted to do that, but didn't know who to bribe in order to get the permits.

I wrote in my journal, "The Chinese are adopting all the very worst aspects of capitalism so fast that it's annoying." They just didn't seem to get that I was not going to buy their souvenirs on my way UP the Great Wall, no matter how much they accosted me. 

Not only that, but the Chinese economy was heating up so fast that with my Lonely Planet Guide for China only a year or two old, I spent three months' worth of my savings on only two weeks in China! That's how much the prices had soared. 

All that to say that it makes complete sense to me that China would want to make a commitment to fight fossil fuel greenhouse gas pollution. Over at ClimateProgress, Kiley Kroh explains:
"Late Tuesday night [11 November 2014], the U.S. and China announced an historic agreement to combat climate change, a major step forward from the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. Not only does the agreement hold the two nations to taking additional steps to bring down the carbon emissions that drive climate change, but China just pledged to deploy a tremendous amount of clean energy."
Of course, it's not enough. Not by a long shot. Neither country is talking zero (carbon emissions) or 100% (renewable energy), but Obama is finally doing what he should have done in 2009 for the Copenhagen climate talks. And China ... well, much of China can barely breathe, so they couldn't hold out much longer either. 

Congrats to both President Obama and President Xi Jinping for taking this step in the right direction. Now, if they could just drag Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott and Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper along, kicking and screaming, we'd really get somewhere.


09 November 2014

The Importance of Creativity -- and Clarity -- in the Fight for Climate Justice

I just finished reading Roger von Oech's A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative. (Yes, I have a life that is totally undirected at climate change at times. I read this book to help my students understand what innovation is, and how to innovate around different challenges we're facing in our school garden.)

von Oech explains that there are four roles our minds need to play in order to be successfully creative:

Explorer: Seeks the material ("facts, concepts, experiences, knowledge, feelings," etc.) needed to build a new idea. "During the course of your searching, you'll poke around in unknown areas, pay attention to unusual patterns, use different senses, and seek out a variety of different information." 
Artist: Takes what the Explorer found and gives it a new twist to come up with a new idea. "You experiment with a variety of approaches. You follow your intuition. You rearrange things, look at things backwards, and turn them upside down. You ask 'what if' questions and look for hidden analogies." In other words, innovation doesn't come out of thin air. There's some artistic work to be done. 
Judge: Helps evaluate the new idea, "critically weighing the evidence, looking for drawbacks, wondering if the timing is right. Unfortunately, this is the stage that many people start at (did school teach us creativity skills and mindset ... no, probably not), which explains why there is so little innovation in the world. 
Warrior: Brings your innovative new idea to fruition (without implementation, it's just an idea floating around in your head, waiting to be stolen by someone else with more guts or wherewithal). You "develop your strategy, and commit yourself to reaching your objective.... You may have to overcome excuses, idea killers, temporary setbacks, and other obstacles. But you have the courage to do what's necessary to make your idea a reality."
von Oech's book focuses on the first two roles, guiding the reader through numerous fun and evocative creativity exercises. He explains the importance of ambiguity, for example, in helping us to "think something different." He quotes American General George S. Patton, who said, "If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you'll be amazed at the results." von Oech explains that posing a problem in an ambiguous way [gives] more people's imaginations more freedom.

When we think about all this in relation to the climate change crisis, we can see that our lack of progress truly is a crisis of imagination and creativity. Children have great imaginations, but it's like a muscle that atrophies if not exercised. 

But there's something else that's important when trying to create a compelling vision of a zero-carbon future for people -- and that's clarity. Back in 2009, I wrote about a learn-in during which I asked people to close their eyes and picture a future of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide. They couldn't do it. That concept doesn't create a clear image in the mind's eye. Here's what I wrote:
Now try this. Picture a zero-carbon world. A world where we no longer burn fuel to create energy. A world of wind turbines and solar panels, tidal energy and geothermal installations to heat or cool our homes, to run our appliances, to move the public through transit infrastructure. [...] 
Once we can picture that zero-carbon world, it's easy to discuss and picture how to get there: a zero-carbon economy that subsidizes renewable energy and taxes carbon and other forms of pollution; moving towards self-sufficiency in our food and energy production; giving up meat as a gift to our grandchildren; staying closer to home and taking 100-mile vacations; doing all this out of compassion for the people already horribly impacted by climate disruption in Africa, the Arctic, the small island nations, and, increasingly, all those depending on water sources that are drying up, even if just seasonally.
General Patton suggested that we have to clearly tell people what the destination is -- in this case, a carbon-free world. (We're not even doing a very good job of being clear about that!) Now, let's use our creativity and our imaginations to innovate our way out of the Burning Age as rapidly as possible.

02 November 2014

Putting My Money Where My Roof Is ...

This blog is often a place of lament and, dare I admit it, whining about the lack of global action on the climate crisis. Today's post is going to be more positive -- and practical. 

Yesterday I attended a workshop on solar power and solar technologies that was put on by Heartwood Folk School here in my community (disclosure: I am on their board of directors). Despite a time conflict with the all-candidates meeting for our local elections, dozens of people turned up. 

We heard about solar thermal energy for hot water systems. We heard about solar photovoltaic for electricity. (As someone who lives in the shade -- my hubby is sun sensitive -- I've never considered these to be viable for my house.) Next we heard about heat pumps (that technology sure has improved over the years). And then we heard from a friend of ours, Ian Gartshore of Shore Energy Solutions, who is a dealer/installer for the SunPump™.

Suddenly the workshop went from "interesting and informative" to "Oh my gosh, that's a possibility for my roof!" Imagine one hybrid system that is solar thermal (hot water), solar photovoltaic or PV (though I might skip that component due to our shade), and heat pump for home heating. 

The SunPump™ works in the cold, in the rain and in the dark as well as in the sun. That's because the roof panels are filled with refrigerant (not water or glycol) that transfers the heat even if it's -25ºC (-13ºF) outside.

The system is about 50% more efficient that a regular heat pump. Plus it turns out the system costs less than installing these technologies separately -- BONUS!

I'll admit that I'm electrically illiterate (did I ever tell you that I was hit by lightning as a child -- maybe explains a few things about me! -- and I've been afraid of electricity ever since), so I'm going to have to count on Shore Energy Solutions to walk me through the process of getting the most bang for my buck. But it sounds like this system will provide a much more comfortable home while also heating our water -- allowing me to join the Solar Age even while living amongst the trees. 

Never have I been so excited about what's happening on my roof. 



26 October 2014

Climate Change Happinesses and Sadnesses



HAPPINESS
I love xkcd's comics. They're pretty off the wall and fun (and sometimes delightfully inappropriate). And he's so generous that he allows non-profit folks to use them for free! The comic above is dedicated to my husband, who's always been someone who tilted at windmills, only the enemies he's been attacking haven't been imaginary. Okay, so maybe the hubby-as-Don-Quixote metaphor doesn't hold up (except in the minds of deniers, skeptics, ignorers and delayers). Hmmm. ;-)


SADNESS
On Friday, I attended a professional development workshop for educators on trauma. It focused on the impacts of trauma on child development, and how those impacts might manifest in our classrooms. The facilitator warned that it might bring up our own traumatic experiences, and by the questions and discussion that came up, I could tell that that was how most of us were making sense of the new information (especially about brain research) we were hearing.

The facilitator talked about Type 1 trauma, which is a single event, and Type 2 trauma, which is ongoing, such as a childhood filled with abuse, and that Type 2 especially creates all sorts of attachment disorders in children and therefore psychological (eg, anxiety) and psychosomatic problems later in life (eg, digestive problems). Everything is connected, and so this made a lot of sense. 

Today, I find myself wondering if we've subjected a whole generation of children (in the West and beyond) to a childhood of ongoing (Type 2) trauma, with parents and other caregivers disconnected from each other and the rest of Nature, within a polluted biosphere (light pollution, air pollution, water pollution, land degradation) and a polluted noosphere (the realm of consciousness), with fewer fellow creatures due to biodiversity loss (kids growing up without birds and butterflies is tragic), at a speed of human life and living that creates disconnections and anxiousness from the very start.

Just a thought. A sad one. Compassionate climate action would include giving children back a healthy, carefree childhood surrounded by caring, attentive parents and their loving Mother Earth. 


HAPPINESS
If you're not deeply involved in climate change activism, it's probably hard to imagine how incredibly traumatic it is to work and work and work for solutions ... and then constantly see only more obfuscation and delay on the global front. So imagine our sheer delight when we heard yesterday that Climate Action Network (CAN) International is promoting its fabulous 2014 climate change position statement far and wide! Thank you, thank you, CAN International and your 900 member organizations, not just for hammering out this powerful emergency response to the climate change crisis, but for pushing the important demands within it onto the international agenda. 


SADNESS
You know who these gentlemen are? When I saw this photo, I cried. This is Iraq's president, Fouad Massoum (left) and Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani. They attended the UN Climate Summit in September. Canada's not-so-prime minister did not. 

China, India, Russia, Germany, Australia, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and more did not send their presidents and prime ministers. I dunno, it just made me sad that so few world leaders of big nations took the time to attend. Though I have to admit that it warmed my heart to see Iraq and Iran sitting next to each other, knowing what they've been through together.


HAPPINESS
This Hopi prophecy is happy-making for it gives one (all right, me) a sense that yes, it makes sense to keep on trying.
"The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. For we are the ones we have been waiting for."
Here's to another week of feeling the fear and the sadness (and the joys of connecting and small successes) and carrying on with this vital work!

19 October 2014

How Climate Science Gets Tossed Around and Misrepresented

Exactly, xkcd! Thank you.

A couple of things this week helped me finally grasp that the field of climate change science is like any other human endeavour -- rife with human foibles, especially greed and ego.

First up, from Climate Parents, a little tale of greed (profit before integrity) [emphasis in original]:
Two major publishers have drafted new social studies textbooks for K-12 students in Texas that are filled with misinformation about climate change. Since Texas is the ... second largest buyer of textbooks [in the United States], books produced for the state are often sold nationwide.  
Among [the] egregious errors, the draft textbooks from McGraw-Hill and Pearson assert there is an active dispute among scientists about the primary cause of climate change. The climate change-denying Heartland Institute is given equal footing with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which integrates the work of thousands of credentialed, peer-reviewed scientists. 
McGraw-Hill and Pearson need to correct the many factual errors about climate change before its books are presented to the Board for final approval. Otherwise, students across the country could be denied accurate information about the biggest global challenge their generation will face.  
The publishers are responding to pressure from climate deniers on the Board of Education, who are determined to stop students from learning the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It's crucial that we send a strong message right away that censoring climate science in order to sell books is unethical and an unacceptable disservice to students, and must be corrected.
You can sign their petition here, asking McGraw-Hill and Pearson to, you know, tell students the truth. (I'd hate to see what their science textbooks have to say about climate change!)

Next up, here's a tale of ego before integrity -- and science by haiku (which is a shortcut to misunderstandings). It seems the climate change blogosphere has been lit up with the story of a Twitter lynch mob at a recent fancy dancy scientific meeting. 

As a nonscientist who doesn't even make it onto the cartoon up top, it's been fascinating for me (while recuperating from the flu) to watch the perps and their groupies cry foul. "He hit me back first" sort of stuff. I figure if you're going to dish it out via Twitter, you'd better be able to take it in complete paragraphs. 

Anyway, it sure seems to be a case of the new (climate modellers) trying to oust the old (field scientists) -- a territorial thing? An ego thing? The only humour I've found in the whole sordid affair is that the main tweeter has two degrees, both in ... can you guess? Math. (See cartoon above.)

Here's an example of how the science got tossed around and misrepresented. 

The head honcho tweeter tweeted: So and so "clearly states that there is no physics behind his extrapolations." But here's how someone who was in attendance heard the same Q&A: Such and such "raised his hand to ask 'Is any of this based on Physics?' to which So and so replied 'no' referring to the fact that it is collected observational data." See the dangerous difference between what was communicated at the meeting and what was communicated in 140 characters? 

Perhaps those precious mathematical modellers are simply so high up there on their pedestals of purity that data collected through years of field studies is piffle to them -- even if it's data that, if extrapolated properly (and that's where peer review and scientific debate -- not condescending tweets -- come in), is quite foreboding. 

Man, talk about bursting my balloon. After all these years of thinking that scientists were somehow superior to us lowly humanities types, it turns out they're just human, too. 


12 October 2014

Throwing in the Towel on Climate Change? Not Yet, Thanks to Shane Koyczan

I have been sick for two weeks, laid low by a tenacious flu bug that's had me on a roller coaster of sore throats, coughing fits, horrifying headaches, plugged up ears (and still the autumn's rains were thunderous!), dizziness, clumsiness and fatigue ... huge, life-sucking fatigue. 

I haven't felt this sick in, well, maybe never. It sure has boosted my empathy for those with chronic illnesses, and it's given me greater admiration for my hubby, who has been battling chronic fatigue syndrome for many, many years. 

In the middle of all this, I had a breakdown. Cried and cried for hours. Realized how useless this little effort at raising climate change awareness has been ... how puny all of my efforts have been in the face of the enormity and all-pervasiveness of the climate change emergency. 

Yes, you could call it a pitiful self-pity party. But it was probably more a sudden and traumatic acceptance of how many (thousands or millions) more people we need in this fight. 

I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided that this would be my last blog post. Ever. (Okay, stop with the applause. ;-)

Then, I received this. Shane Koyczan's Shoulders



How can I give up now? I am part of that collective Atlas holding up the world. It's not the time for anyone to give up, it's time for more people to join in. (Which reminds me of another time I thought it was the end of this blog.)

And about that F-bomb, which some have said will keep this spoken word poem from going viral, Shane has this to say:
The fact that the world is more concerned with a single word over the fact that our planet is in crisis, just shows how completely lost we are. Every day we are subjected to images and articles of intense violence... but still we choose to object to a word that describes our feelings about the situation, rather than the actual situation itself. Our planet is dying... I can think of no more appropriate time to use this word... I can think of no better word to describe the immeasurable scope of despair and frustration I feel toward our treatment of the planet.
(Shane has discovered something I realized a couple of years ago ... that people are adamant -- they don't want to feel bad. They would rather their children die a horrible death in the future than have to feel bad today thinking about it. Alas, there is much to be done.)

05 October 2014

A Damn Good Idea - Let's Cancel Debt and Get to Work on Climate Change

The blog-o-sphere is still filled with rants by lazy or ignorant bloggers and commenters spewing their misunderstandings of the science (and economics) of climate change along with evidence of their complete unwillingness to triangulate the research and check some facts on their own. Instead they just steal sound bites from the primo denier blogs while accusing anyone who cares about the world of being in on the grand deception.

(Sheesh, how long will it take for deniers to get it through their thick skulls that the climate is changing? No, Ross, the warming didn't stop 17.85 years ago ... the warming has continued and the oceans have taken up the extra heat, which means that the heat hasn't been registering as an increase in global average temperature at the Earth's surface.)

So it is a great gift and a relief when something comes into my inbox that is a fabulously good idea! 

In Cancel developing countries' debt in exchange for climate change action, The Guardian asks "As the effects of climate change worsen and developing countries bear the brunt, could debt relief be a way to finance climate action?"

We had the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism, but its true success has been questioned because it relied on carbon offsets. We have the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Green Climate Fund, but aside from France (merci, vous autres!), nations are not racing to fill its coffers  to help developing nations with the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and there are concerns about involving private sector financing.  

But what if we all just recognized the climate change emergency we're in, said "Holy shit!" and decided we'd all better get on with doing things differently? What if we all just decreed that all debt was forgiven -- bam! With one caveat: that any and all existing debt repayment funds would have to be redirected and applied to helping that nation, state or province, town / city / village, or household get to zero carbon emissions as rapidly as possible. 

Oh sure, I know, that's pie in the sky mixed with a complete ignorance (at least I admit mine) of how the economy makes any sense at all. (Hey, if economist Ross McKitrick can keep passing himself off as some sort of expert on climate change, then I have the right to talk economics.) But here's the thing. The economy is going to tank anyway if we don't head it toward zero carbon and fast.

Civilization, which is based on the steady food production that agriculture gives us, which is based on the stable climate we've had over the last 10,000 years or so, is going to crumble around us. 

At the September 23, 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York City, IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said, "The longer we wait the higher the risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts: food and water shortages, increased poverty, forced migrations that could increase the risk of violent conflict, extreme droughts and floods, the collapse of ice sheets that flood our coastal cities - and a steady rise in our death toll, especially among the world's poorest."

Now I know that people such as Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, don't believe that any of these impacts will affect them (and apparently these people don't care if these impacts hit their children and grandchildren). If they do admit the existence of climate change to themselves, you just know they're adding, "But I'm not poor, so no problemo!"

But the really crazy part is that these people hide behind economics when they don't understand the economic realities of mitigating climate change. Pachauri also said, "We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive. It will not. But wait until you get the bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of inaction."

If we have a giant jubilee debt forgiveness campaign and let everyone direct their money toward retrofitting the world for the transformation to zero carbon, no one will be able to say that safeguarding the future is too expensive.

28 September 2014

Hey, Look! We've Done This Before! Our Greatest Human Venture Ever ... Innovating to Zero Carbon

Today, all I want to do is share this movie with you. It was just created by someone I love and respect deeply for his passionate commitment to safeguarding the future. And it says Look! We've done this before! 

We (and especially the United States of America) have spent billions to tackle huge issues, employed thousands, and succeeded. So why do we think that retrofitting the world's energy systems can't be done? Look! We've done this before. Sure, sometimes out of conceit and hubris. Sometimes for what seemed in hindsight like evil purposes. And sometimes for the good of humanity. But we have taken on mammoth challenges in the past and triumphed.

Way back during Selfish &%$#@! Week, I wrote: "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."

But it's more than that. Making the leap to the Golden Era of Perpetual Energy is going to be a colossal benefit to the global economy -- the biggest ever! We have to stop seeing and describing this transformation as a cost. Every time a coal-fired power generation plant is built, it's seen as an economic benefit because it provides employment. Every time a new gas or oil well is dug, it's considered an economic benefit because jobs are created. When an oil tanker spills its oily guts all over a coastline, it's seen as an economic benefit because it creates employment.

So as you're watching this short movie, try to get a sense of how many people were employed in the Apollo Program, the Manhattan Project and the Marshall Plan. And then think to yourself, "Hey, look! We've done this before!"