30 October 2016

Looking for Hope in All the Wrong Places

"Beyond sad," said the friend who sent me these headlines

Hopemongering. I don't know if I'm right or wrong on this, but I have a very strong sense that it's a disservice. 

Okay, a disclaimer up front: I guess I'm already showing my bias, since the word "monger" comes with negative connotations. According to my computer's dictionary, it means "a person who promotes a specified activity, situation, or feeling, especially one that is undesirable or discreditable (such as a rumormonger or a warmonger)."

So what, you might ask, is undesirable or discreditable about people wanting to promote hope in the world? Well, if you know me, you'll know that I don't see hope as as an action verb. I see "hoping" as a kind of hand-wringing distraction from action. "Oh, I hope everything will be okay." "Fine, but what are you actually doing to make it okay?"

Furthermore, hope (the noun) is a privilege — and one that much of the world no longer has access to, or never did. If you have hope in this day and age, it's because the climate change emergency hasn't knocked your world flat ... yet. It hasn't ruined your crops, swept your home into the sea, or killed your baby daughter ... yet. It just hasn't hit the fan where you live ... yet. 

But there's no time for resting on hopeful laurels. If you have the privilege of still "having hope," then you are one of the few in a position to be doing something about the climate change emergency. Not collecting hopeful stories. Not using magical thinking. Not creating Twitter storms about optimism. Not hosting optimism summits. Not constantly seeking some magical balance between "doom and gloom" and hope. Not celebrating the micro successes that are just going to be undone by rising temperatures and the resulting climate chaos.
No! We should be spitting mad! We should be standing up and demanding IN VERY LOUD VOICES that OUR CHILDREN DESERVE A VIABLE FUTURE! We should be standing in solidarity with Standing Rock — and with anyone else who recognizes the dangerousness of the fossil fuel economy and is brave enough to stand up to Big Oil and Big Money. 

Research likes to show that appeals to fear can lead to "defensive avoidance" or desensitization and disengagement. But who has studied appeals to anger? I mean, good gawd, they are stealing the future from your children for the sake of greed and profit! They are making the biosphere inhospitable to life! They are turning 10,000 years of a relatively stable climate (that gave us agriculture and civilization and Twinkies) to ratshit! Get angry, people! For Earth's sake! You're being ripped off!

If you're not convinced that anger is the "proper" emotion to be feeling and expressing right now, consider watching PBS's People's Century, Part 19: Endangered Planet. Watch it with just one question in mind: What role did anger play? (Minute 26 is an excellent example, but watch from the beginning to understand the context.)

Or let me put this another way. If a young child comes to you, with tears in his eyes, and says, "We're killing Nature, aren't we?" will you respond, "Gee, I hope not." Or will you say — and know it to be true because you are one of those people — "Sweetheart, there are thousands of adults around the world right now working very hard to make sure that does not happen."

23 October 2016

Let's Get Our Priorities Right

There's a little war going on in my tiny community. An arts group has fired its founder just as that person was handing over the reins to a new artistic director. Someone's retirement plans have been scuppered. Reputations and relationships are being ruined. Recriminations are zinging around the ether.

It's got me upset. But not for the reasons anyone involved might assume. I'm upset because all the time, money and energy being usurped to fight this battle would be infinitely better spent on fighting the climate change emergency.

I'm not saying the arts aren't important. They are. I know that music, along with other creative pursuits, has saved many a life -- and will become increasingly important as respite for those fatigued from battling government inaction, Big Money and Fossil Fuel Corporation intransigence, pignorant (from pretend ignorance) deniers, and, especially, pervasive public apathy in the face of the climate crisis.

But these days, ANY argument, quarrel, disagreement, squabble, fight, fracas, dispute, wrangle, clash, altercation, feud, contretemps, falling-out, tiff, row, blowup, rhubarb or shitstorm (thank you, online dictionary) that ISN'T about climate change and getting humanity to zero carbon is a dreadful waste of valuable time and energy and possibly money.

I'm trying to summon the courage to present that very rant at their next AGM. I'm going to ask them to rewind ... back to before the relationship went sour. (It's a technique that works in marriages.) And then to move forward like the adults they all are. Life is too short and there's too much good work to accomplish to squander precious personal and organizational time, energy and resources on misunderstandings, missteps and regrets.

Wish me luck! It's time we all start to realize what's important in this lifetime and get our priorities right.

Follow up: It's sadly vindicating when I write about a topic here on this blog and then a few days later see that someone famous and infinitely more scientifically literate than I am has since said something similar. Bill Nye, the Science Guy, has been lamenting the lack of scientific literacy in the United States. You can watch his video, How Science Skeptics Hold the World Back, here. (And hey, is he getting cuter or what? ;-)

16 October 2016

When You're a Climate Change Activist, Everything Looks Like ...

My 20-something niece is visiting from out east. It's fun spending time together. It's also incredible (as in, unbelievable) how many things she can (and does) do with her computer and her cell phone. 

One thing that she's shared with me is the phenomenon of (young) people watching other (young) people play video games while filming themselves making comments on those video games. For us old fogies, it would be like watching a film of a film critic watching a film while critiquing it out loud. I think. It's called Let's Play gameplay commentary. I guess my generation just watched sports on TV with announcers and "sportscasters" and Don Cherry (if you grew up in Canada).

My niece has a whale of a time, laughing right out loud (loudly!) while watching this one particular online, um, player (is that the term?). She's shown me a couple of his vids -- the ones where he's not playing a video game (I was never one for watching "sports" on TV) but talking with his fans (over a million of them!). 

No, wait, the particular fellow I'm talking about has (at present) ... wait for it ... 14.8 million subscribers. It only took Franklin D. Roosevelt 27,313,945 votes to be elected president of the United States. This guy could have a future in politics.

But all I keep thinking is: "This "Youtube personality" could be saving the world! This gameboy could be instructing all his fans on what to do about the climate change emergency! This guy could be a world leading climate change activist!" Yup, that's what is running through my head when I watch. (Sorry to my niece.)

It happens a lot. There's an expression that when you're a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. (Others might say "If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.") So yup, I'm a climate change activist, and everything to me is either a possible activist tool or a waste of a potential activist's time, money or energy. 

It's certainly somewhat of a curse, but it can be a party trick, too, of course. "Let's see how long it takes Julie to work climate change into a discussion of x, y or z." I can sometimes go as long as 20 minutes before making the connection. ;-)

Something similar happens when I find myself watching TV. We don't have a TV at home, so when I'm staying at a hotel, for example, I watch some television to see what the vast majority of North Americans are doing with their evenings ("On average, American adults are watching five hours and four minutes of television per day").

I was at a conference the other day and relaxed afterwards in my hotel room by watching a TV show about a couple looking to buy an island off the coast of Nicaragua. And it happened again. I started shouting at the TV: "Are you nuts? What about sea level rise? Look at the erosion that's happening already!" 

The realtor even pointed out the coastal erosion to these "investors" (he must have heard me yelling) but they bought it anyway. What a lost opportunity for that show to teach about the impacts of climate change, especially in the tropics. Nicaragua is in the top four countries most affected by climate change in the last two decades. (Who knew?)

Like I said, when you're a climate change activist, everything looks like an opportunity to teach (and learn) about the climate change emergency.

09 October 2016

Our Canadian Constitutional Right to Life — and the Right Not to Be Deprived Thereof

I've been quite buoyed lately by the hard work and legal successes of Our Children's Trust in the United States. It's one NGO that my hubby and I are proud and happy to contribute money (and some time) to.  

I've written about OCT before, here.  Their mandate is to secure the legal right to a stable climate and a healthy atmosphere for all present and future generations.

Ah, those pesky future generations. I've written about them before, too -- here, and here, and here. So today I'd like to tell you what I just found out. Guess what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Constitution Act, 1982) guarantees to all Canadians? Yup, "life, liberty and security of person." Here's what that means: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

So folks, on the basis of our constitutionally enshrined (ooh, listen to me, all legalesy) legal right #7, we should be suing the @$$es off the federal and provincial governments that aren't taking the climate change emergency seriously! 

And while we're at it, take a look at 15. (1) under the section called Equality Rights: "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

Did you catch that part about age? Children, in other words, also have the right to a secure future. So let's support Our Children's Trust - Canada and get our legal challenges by young people and on behalf of future generations going.




 Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms

Rights and freedoms in Canada

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Under the section called Legal Rights

Life, liberty and security of person

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Then, under the section called Equality Rights

Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Under the section Enforcement

Enforcement of guaranteed rights and freedoms

24. (1) Anyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.

02 October 2016

When Did So Many of Us Become So ... Um, Dumb?

Still reeling from the dimwitted (not to mention progenycidal) approval of yet another fossil fuel production facility in my Canadian province -- at a time when we need to be shutting down fossil fuel production and heading rapidly to zero-carbon energy -- I stumbled upon a recent article that really demonstrates how governments can get away with this. It's because we're, um, well, dumb.

The article in question was published on a prominent business website, usually known for its sane coverage of the climate crisis (though, to be fair, they made a point of putting "This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board of So-and-So Company and its owners" at the end of the article).

What disturbed me most and made me question our intelligence in this North American culture of ours is that the author compares climate scientists to economists and climate change science to macroeconomics. Her dimwitted thesis is that because economists couldn't seem to model and predict what was going to happen with the economy (I can, by the way: without a revolution, the economy is going to keep making the rich richer), climate scientists can't predict what's going to happen with the climate.

C'mon. Really? You're comparing the dismal pseudo-science of economics with the laws of physics studied by climate scientists? Really? That's idiotic.

Then this author insults those of us who understand the climate change emergency by implying that "lukewarmists" are more rational than we so-called "alarmists" are (obviously forgetting that it's not alarmist to sound the alarm when something is alarming). "[Lukewarmists] say that warming is likely to be mild unless you use a model which assumes large positive feedback effects. Because climate scientists, like the macroeconomists, can't run experiments where they test one variable at a time, predictions of feedback effects involve a lot of theory and guesswork."

How can an educated-enough-to-write-for-a-fancy-business-website columnist write that and not laugh at the ludicrousness of it?

Why is this a ludicrous argument? Well, first, because the sentence structure implies that a computer model is the only thing keeping "mild" global warming from becoming hotter global warming.

It's also ludicrous because
things are getting pretty scary all over the world already. For example, although fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions don't appear to have increased since 2014, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are increasing at a frighteningly accelerating rate.

And finally, it's ludicrous because we already have evidence that climate change models have been underestimating the impacts of global warming, not the other way around.

Besides, all the nations that attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and signed on to Agenda 21 agreed to the precautionary principle, which means we shouldn't fall prey to this asinine pretension called lukewarmism -- especially when we're already locked in to dangerously high global warming, with catastrophically dangerous heating just over the horizon.

So are we simply dumb -- too dumb to think critically about the climate crisis and about articles like the one I read? Perhaps
all the toxics in our air, land and water have damaged many of us neurologically and intellectually to the point where we're no longer capable of critical thought. 

But I suspect the "powers that be" are happy to have dulled us and numbed us and dumbed us down so we'll be like those frogs in the proverbial pot of water, never complaining about the intensifying heat -- allowing them and their toadies (including that writer) to continue battering life on Earth with their evil, moronic greed.