03 September 2017

We Are Witnessing the Great Unravelling

In 2004, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman authored a book called The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, which chronicled "how the boom economy unraveled." As an economist, Krugman writes about economics. 

Today, we are witnessing an even greater unravelling. This time it's all about that other "eco" word: ecology. Even as the climate change deniers, skeptics, ignorers and delayers are still out in full whacko force (just check the comments under any movie about the climate crisis), the Sixth Mass Extinction is playing out all around us. 

Timeframes (for things such as predator / prey relationships) that we've come to depend on and take for granted are getting all screwed up. For example, our local pods of resident orca whales have hardly been seen around here this summer because their food source — chinook salmon — has all but disappeared.

Seasonal weather and temperatures that we've relied on for our agriculture are no longer dependable: unprecedented heat waves, major wildfires, severe droughts, biblical floods, crop-damaging rainfalls ....

Homes and homelands that we thought were safe are collapsing, flooding or being swallowed up by the sea.*

What we have known is coming undone and becoming unknowable. We are bearing witness to (and many people and many other living beings are already experiencing) catastrophic climate disruption and deadly climate chaos. 

It is time for deniers — and anyone else who isn't willing to help hold the fraying edges of this delicate biosphere together — to be called out as the pariahs that they are.

* My heart goes out to the 41 million people affected by devastating monsoon rains and flooding in South Asia, and to those in Texas and Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Harvey. There but for the grace of ....




27 August 2017

It's that Harvest Time of Year Again

Young People's Agriculture entries at my local fall fair
Fall Fair time again! And what a delightful day yesterday was for my small community's annual harvest celebration. 

As I've been doing for eight years now, I once again convened the Young People's Agriculture section. I'm always in a big open-sided tent with all the other children's sections, so I get to witness their imagination and creativity in all sorts of arts and crafts categories along with their food-growing skills and commitment in my section. 

I get big smiles and hugs from little ones, handshakes from teenaged trophy winners, and lots of oohs and ahs from the visitors impressed by gorgeous, healthy fruits and veggies — not to mention giant zucchinis! 

(The whole point of fall fair judging 100 years ago was to teach what healthy produce should look like, which is why uniformity was sought. Nowadays, that uniformity often comes with the cost of GMOs and food waste, so we're starting to appreciate imperfect and blemished foods. But the initial intent came from a good place.)

Again I was reminded of the importance of teaching our young people how to grow food. I'm so convinced of the significance of this shift in our culture, our societies and our education systems that I'm presenting on it at the upcoming World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC 2017), being hosted in Vancouver, Canada in September. 


The title of my presentation is The Most Important Curriculum: Learning to Grow Food in a Changing Climate. Here's the abstract I submitted:
The climate change crisis, largely ignored by education systems in North America, is changing everything, but especially our food security (an issue largely ignored by North Americans). Climate disruption is leading to droughts, floods, heat waves, extreme weather events, negative impacts on yields in all major food-producing regions, crop failures, food shortages, volatile food prices, food riots, famines, conflicts, revolts, and starvation. For the last 10,000 years, human beings have evolved into a species dependent on agriculture, and agriculture depends on a stable climate — which is now disappearing. Developing resilience by learning how to grow food, build soil, collect rainwater and generate energy seems to be quickly becoming more important than learning to read, write and do math.
A few years ago, I was part of an environmental education workshop where someone derisively said, "Sure, we can teach kids to grow a cup of beans, but ...." What he added next was all theory and no dirt on hands (or hands in dirt).

Beans and beets
I realized then that this person must not understand global warming, carbon feedbacks and climate disruption. The greatest threat isn't melting Arctic summer sea ice, rising sea levels or even extreme weather events — it's what is going to happen to agriculture and our food security as these impacts worsen. 

We can't grow food overnight, and nor can we learn to grow food overnight. That "cup of beans" — if it is grown in a place that has been ravaged by climate chaos by someone who learned young how to "grow food in a changing climate" might someday mean the difference between life and death ... literally.

As the climate change emergency deepens, today's children need to learn the skills that will help them create their best possible future. Offering food-growing opportunities is one of the most valuable gifts we will ever give to young people. 

Let's provide them with as much access and exposure to — and experience in — home and school gardening and community farming as possible, throughout the school year and into the summer. Encouraging their entries at your local Fall Fair is one way to do that.

Learning to grow food in ways that respect the rest of Nature

 

20 August 2017

Toothache as Metaphor for the Climate Change Blame Game

From LifeHacks Mama
I, quite blessedly, reached the autumn of my life without ever losing a tooth or suffering from toothache. Well, all that has changed. And whose fault is it, anyway?

The year I turned 40, I landed in hospital twice — both times for "old people" problems. It was quite a shock to so suddenly "turn old." I'd thought I was healthy and fit. What the heck? (I'm happy to report that I haven't been in the hospital since, although I have sat in the emergency ward several times with a sprained or broken ankle.*)

Twenty years later and shortly after my 60th birthday, I'm suddenly in excruciating pain and facing my first root canal or tooth extraction. The funny part is that I've started playing the blame game!
  • Is it that new dentist's fault? Did he go a millimetre too deep when drilling to replace that lost filling?
  • Is it my old dentist's fault for not repairing the tooth properly in the first place?
  • Is it my fault for not getting to the dentist sooner?
  • Is it my community's fault for not finding a new dentist to replace the old dentist in a more timely way?
  • Is it my fault for not taking care of my teeth properly for the last 55 years?
  • Is it my parents' fault for giving me lousy teeth genes? 
And all of a sudden, I've realized how ridiculous the blame game is. What matters is not whose fault it is. The inventors of the internal combustion engine? The captains of industry who saw big profits in a world of manufacturing using fossil fuel energy? The car makers who, perhaps quite genuinely, pushed their automobiles as a way to clean the streets of smelly, unhealthy horse manure? Rich people in the USA for spewing more than their fair share of greenhouse gases in order to luxuriate in their wealth? Hollywood for promoting that lifestyle? The millions of people in Africa and Asia for burning wood to cook their paltry meals? Each one of us for partaking in what's available to us?

Sure, each and every sector must now be accountable for their role in the climate change emergency. Each must take responsibility for doing their part to save my tooth, er, the biosphere.

What matters is that I need to get my tooth fixed so the pain will go away. And we need to stop spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We need to get our carbon emissions down to practically zero, as rapidly as possible. We need to work together as a global community of nations to achieve this zero-carbon economy — or perhaps race each other to zero. 

I think a global race to zero carbon would be fun! Am I alone in this? The USA loved the race to the moon. Why not a race to ensure our survival? Developing nations have a head start, in a sense, because they haven't gone as deeply down the fossil fuel energy rabbit hole as we have (in the same way that they leapfrogged over landline telephones and went straight to cellular phone technology). 

So, getting my tooth fixed — or losing it completely — is going to be painful, but trying to pin the blame on anyone is not helpful. And I'll feel much better once it's done. Getting our energy mix down to zero carbon is not going to be easy, but we are going to feel so much better once it's done.


* Completely unrelated, here's the best advice I've ever heard for people with weak ankles. Every time you brush your teeth, stand on one foot for half the time, and then the other foot. This balancing act is what will strengthen the ligaments in your ankle. It's working for me. Touch wood, after seven sprains and three fractures, my ankles have been strong and healthy ever since I received this advice. (And tooth brushing has become much more fun ... even if it didn't work for this poor aching tooth!)

13 August 2017

Climate Change — and Baseball — Deniers are Just Afraid of Their Feelings

from Slate.com
Remember I talked last week about being called names for wanting to safeguard the future? Well, the latest epithet thrown at me was "drama queen" because, don't you know, humans are resilient and adaptable to increasing temperatures and heat waves and droughts and floods and storms and pests and crop losses and water shortages? Yeah, sure.

But this little episode of name calling helped me realize something. These so-called deniers must actually be scared witless about the climate change emergency, mustn't they? Otherwise why would they be spending so much of their time reading and responding to articles and social media posts about climate change? If they weren't somehow almost pruriently attracted to slagging climate change activists, they would be doing what normal climate change ignorers do. You know, gardening and jogging and reading novels and parenting and working for a living. 

It's like if I spent all my free time on baseball websites and baseball fan listserves and baseball FB groups calling people who like baseball nasty names and denying that baseball is an actual sport. In order to do that, I'd have to secretly have some attraction to baseball, wouldn't I? Otherwise I wouldn't throw my time at it, would I? I'd be sticking to macramé or gourmet cooking, wouldn't I? 

Baseball deniers probably love the sport but simply don't know how to express their feelings about it. They were perhaps always chosen last to play on a team. Or maybe they're embarrassed that they don't actually understand the rules of the game. It's possible that they dreamed for years of playing in the major leagues but they just weren't good enough. For whatever reason, baseball deniers just can't let baseball go, so they hang out with baseball lovers all the while slagging them and the sport.

So when that climate change denier called me a drama queen for wanting to protect the future for the children of all species, I suspect he was actually asking ... we're resilient and adaptable, right? I don't have to be scared, right? Everything's going to be okay ... right?

Sadly, wrong. We are witnessing the great unravelling of the web of life. If you're not skilled enough, educated enough or courageous enough to face it and to help, that's okay. But please, go play some baseball or do some gardening so that those of us with our fingers in the dike trying to stave off the sixth mass extinction can at least do it in peace.

The Hero of Haarlem

 

06 August 2017

There is Nothing Sexy about the Climate Change Crisis

Mr. Mr. called me over to his desk just before bedtime the other evening. "Check out these heatwave maps! Look at southern Europe! And check out this part of Canada!" (You can see some maps below.)

"You really know how to romance a gal," I said aloud. (Let's face it. There is *nothing* sexy about the climate change crisis.) 


But inside I was crying. Crying for what this means. Crying for all the people (human and otherwise) who are suffering and struggling in this heat, with these wildfires, under these droughts. Crying for all the times I was called an alarmist, too negative, a climate crank, a greenie, an ecoweenie, a doom-and-gloomer — and wishing they were right and I'd been wrong.

Through the orange haze of wildfire smoke from many hundreds of kilometres away, how I wish we could all just wake up and get back to "normal" lives of love and romance, work and fun, raising our kids and paying our bills ... without the stench of the future going up in flames plaguing my sleep with nightmares, plaguing thousands of people in my province with evacuation orders, and plaguing hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of people every year now to loss of loved ones and livelihood, food security and water sources, homes and entire homelands. 

http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/weather/maps/forecastmaps?LANG=en&CONT=namk&MAPS=vtx&LOOP=0&LAND=__&MORE=1&UP=0&R=0&DAY=0
  
https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/firemap/



August 5-6, 2017

16 July 2017

Everybody Deserves Some Time Off

When a friend said to me this morning, "I know all the environmental problems still exist, but ...." I cut her off by adding, "But you still have to eat breakfast, right?" "Exactly," was her response.

Well, I still have to eat breakfast. I need some time to recharge my batteries and reinvigorate my soul. It's been a taxing year, with illness and change and sad news. So I'm going to take some time off from this blog, and I'll see you back here when the spirit moves me.

Meantime, I'll leave you with some delightful news!



Gravity is illuminating sub-Saharan Africa

See this article in The Guardian about an innovative solution to burning kerosene (which produces black carbon, or soot, a byproduct of incomplete combustion; one kilogram of black carbon gives rise to "as much warming in a month as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide does over 100 years") for light. More than a billion people (250-300 million households) around the world burn kerosene as their primary source of light. 

Kirk Smith, professor at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and director of the Global Health and Environment Program, says: "There are no magic bullets that will solve all of our greenhouse gas problems, but replacing kerosene lamps is low-hanging fruit, and we don't have many examples of that in the climate world."

Says Jim Reeves, technical director of the Gravity Light Foundation and designer of this simple technology, "I was always a creative person, and did really enjoy making things. The potential outcome of some creative process, where you're just trying to solve a problem, where that outcome can be used in such a tremendously positive way, it really drives you to set about solving that problem.... If you're going to do anything that's vaguely innovative, then you're going to go through loops of real frustration and crushing disappointment. That's going to be part of that journey."

But, he added, "What we're trying to do is have a positive impact, improving life in general."

One of the first recipients of the gravity light said, "The bad thing with kerosene is that it is very expensive. Sometimes people get health problems because of the smoke. When you don't have money, you have to live in the dark." 

Until now. 

*****

What can you do about the climate change emergency? Encourage and support creative problem solving and innovation. Talk about innovative solutions like GravityLight with your family and friends, neighbours and colleagues.

09 July 2017

Summer Vacation

I'm offline for a few days, folks, while visiting friends. Hope you're enjoying summer (or winter), wherever you are.

My thoughts are with those affected by all the wildfires this season. 

Take care, everyone!

04 July 2017

My Big News ... and a Public Promise


This post comes a couple of days late. Sorry about that. It was a busy holiday weekend here for us, with guests (and more guests), and lots of fun things to do. 

But my big news is that I retired this past Friday. It was a relatively sudden decision, but it seemed (and still seems) the right (altough bittersweet) thing. After 32 (not all full-time) years as a teacher, I said goodbye to my official job title (and my benefits) and am now, officially, into my "endless summer" of early retirement.

But retiring from my job as a teacher (and what a wonderful job it was, too, with thanks to everyone involved with the Spring Leaves Family Learning program over the past 10 years!) doesn't mean I'm retiring from work as an educator — especially a climate change educator. 

Remember I told you last weekend about a wonderful nature attunement workshop I took? Well, a wonderful arbutus tree, with five large branches all reaching in the same direction, reminded me that it's okay to take another path, but that I'll probably always walk the path of a teacher in my heart.


This time, like all times, is a very good one
if we but know what to do with it. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

So what will I do with "this time"? Well, right here, right now, I want to make my commitment public. Because I don't plan to take up golf or spend all my time sailing. Besides cleaning up the loft in our house (a long-overdo task), I am going to:
  • create a GreenHeart Education course, to help teachers green the heart of the work they do
  • finish writing and editing several books, on climate change and a few other (surprising) topics
  • and write to all the school districts in North America, imploring them to teach their students the science of climate change and asking them to support (morally, at least, and perhaps financially) Our Children's Trust
There. You're my witness. With no deadlines (endless summer, remember?) but lots of dedication, I commit to achieving the above goals (including getting my loft organized!) for the sake of all the children, of all species, for all time.

p.s. If you've never spoken with a tree or asked the Universe for some advice, you've got a treat to look forward to!


25 June 2017

The Climate Change Emergency is a Crisis of Imagination


The gift I gave myself this year for my big birthday was a workshop called Intercultural Shamanism and Plant Spirit Medicine. The main purpose of this workshop is to deepen our connection with the rest of Nature. It's for people who "see plants, trees, and all of nature as sentient beings that live, breathe and communicate." (Yup, that's me!) It started yesterday and carries on today, with glorious weather, two wonderful teachers, and a lovely group of co-sojourners.

Two thoughts struck me yesterday as we hiked up through a forest to the spot where we would spend our afternoon together. One was a "message" from the dance of shadows along the path that the shade provided by trees is going to become more and more life-giving as the Earth heats up. (Note the record-breaking heat waves in the American southwest these days.) Residential tree cutting should now be considered — and treated as — a crime.


The other thought was a reminder that what has kept us on the business-as-usual track of rising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas concentrations is a society-wide crisis of imagination, something I've written about before. Our leaders, Don and Sandy Ollsin, explain that oftentimes, when people are doing what's called attunement work with plants and other sentient beings, they worry that it's their imagination coming up with things.

That thought, that concern, shows exactly why we're in the midst of a crisis of imagination. That worry belies a belief that a thought, an idea, an impression or notion that comes from the imagination is somehow worse than something that comes from our logical, rational side of the brain. Of course, I realized! It's not just that we've lost the ability to think creatively and let creative thoughts come to us (from all sources). It's also that we've downgraded the value of imaginative and creative thought. Here's what Don and Sandy have to say:
In general, in Western culture, rationalism is up and imagination is down, according to authors / researchers Lakoff and Johnson in their book Metaphors We Live By. They point out that we are under the domination of an outdated scientific paradigm that is still deeply ingrained in our thinking, language and practice. This is where we need to change — it is time to wake up from Descarte's dream and Newton's sleep! The idea of reductionism is outdated. The visible world is not all that exists — the invisible realm is alive and well. Everything is interconnected, field energies are real and have an impact on us, and the observer affects the observed.
Don and Sandy also shared some quotes from Albert Einstein on the importance of the imagination:

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination."
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."
 

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
"Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere."
I've often defined intelligence as the ability to make connections. I see now that it takes imagination to be able to see connections that don't exist until we make them. And if people don't trust or value their imagination, then they cannot develop their full intelligence. It's what leads to the black-or-white, either/or thinking that plagues us. 

As I've said before, people seem to think that either "life has to stay the way it is (comfortable and unsustainable), or it becomes sustainable and miserable." What about all the wonderful possibilities in between unsustainable and miserable? Surely, as I have wondered in the past, a generation raised on The Jetsons and Star Trek on TV can picture a different world, a different way of living, that works for the climate and the biosphere?

Maybe one vital solution is for all of us to simply stop and smell the roses ... and then listen carefully to what they have to say to us.

18 June 2017

What Parents Won't Acknowledge About the Climate Crisis is Going to Kill Their Children

I went seakayaking with a great group of students recently. It was a lovely west coast (of Canada) almost-summer afternoon ... sunny but not too hot. We spent the morning learning how to handle the boats and exploring the intertidal life along the shore.

We stopped for a lovely picnic lunch on a beach. Afterwards, I managed to fall in the water getting back into my kayak. (It's a habit I have ... I figure if I fall in, nobody else will have to. And it made for some comic relief.)

On the way back, the group was more focused on technique and speed, but I had a few moments of calm to talk with the leader of our outing as we floated under the bridge with the current. 

A seagull passed by us. "The whitest thing in the world," I proclaimed, "is a seagull's breast." The leader laughed and agreed. Then I said, simply to carry on the conversation, "Seagulls and other seabirds are in huge decline [see page 6 Seabirds Going the Way of the Dodo?]. Have you noticed that?"

"No ... do they know why?" she asked. I managed to get one or two reasons out (mainly, a decrease in their food sources) before she said, "I can't hear that stuff. I've got two young kids and it makes me too sad." 

Even on a gorgeous day with the wind at our backs in self-powered (i.e., zero-carbon) conveyances, still we can't face it. If we can't face it when our own circumstances are good, does that mean we're really going to wait until the local %$#@ hits the fan before we even acknowledge the impending implosion of global ecosystems?

If people who have wonderful little bundles of reasons to take action aren't taking action, truly, where's the hope in that? People want hope, but they won't pay the price for it. And the price is feeling the sadness of what's going to happen if we don't feel the sadness and let it motivate us to speak up on behalf of the children we love so dearly. 

Speak up. That's all I'm asking. Or even just listen. Hear. Open your ears and eyes. Open your hearts. Be willing to feel the pain, to lament the losses that have already led to precipitous declines in seabird populations. 

That same fate (environmental and ecological changes caused by climate change; pollution and habitat destruction diminishing the biodiversity upon which we depend) awaits our children if ... but you don't want to hear it.



11 June 2017

BioBlitzing to Help Us Fall in Love with the Rest of Nature

I'm taking a bit of a break this weekend as I'm hosting some international students from the university where I teach. In fact, this is part of the group I taught a course called Introduction to Sustainability to in the winter.

They're here in my island community to participate in Parks Canada's BioBlitz. According to their website, a bioblitz is a race against the clock to find and identify as many plants and animals in the park as we can in 24 hours. In this case, it's the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in south coastal British Columbia. We'll be listening for birds and bats, looking for intertidal creatures, and checking the lake for freshwater species.

I'm really looking forward to our weekend of camping together (these students come from all over the world) where every conversation will probably bring up a sustainability topic or issue. But it also means I won't be here to blog about compassionate climate action.

So, let's use this as an opportunity to remember to relish and spend time in the natural world that we're working so hard to safeguard.

Happy bioblitzing in your part of the world! Make as many new nonhuman friends as you can.

03 June 2017

Unleashing the Abundance of Hoarded Wealth

Do you know what made me cry this week? No, not that President T**** has pulled out of the Paris Agreement. (That man, all he seems to care about is money and attention.)

No, what made me cry was reading that former New York City mayor (and eighth richest person in the world), Michael Bloomberg, has pledged $15 million to pay the US share of supporting the UN Convention on Climate Change secretariat, "including its work to help countries implement their commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change."

There was something about a person with billions of dollars more than he needs actually doing something good and right and important with that money ... after all the bad news of late ... and I just burst into tears!

According to an article in The Telegraph, Bloomberg — also a UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change — said:

"Americans are not walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement. Just the opposite — we are forging ahead. Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up — and there isn't anything Washington can do to stop us."

*****

I've often thought, Imagine this world if all the rich people stopped hoarding their money ... if they remembered that they can't take it with them ... if they kept enough for their comfort (and sure, a bit of dazzle if they're into that) but shared the rest, realizing that their wealth actually belongs to the whole world ... if they finally learned that you can't eat money, and that a healthy Earth is our greatest wealth and security.  

This week, I caught a tiny glimpse of what the realization of that daydream — all that unleashed abundance — could accomplish.

p.s. There's MORE good news! Massachusetts Republican governor, Charlie Baker, has just signed his state onto the U.S. Climate Alliance, a growing coalition of states (started by Washington state's governor Jay Inslee, New York's Andrew Cuomo, and California's Jerry Brown) determined to meet and even surpass their greenhouse gas reduction targets. But hey, I guess it's not too surprising ... Boston has always been a seedbed of progress and innovation.

 

27 May 2017

When Political Parties Choose the Wrong Leader, We All Suffer

A traitor to his children's future? 
(photo adapted from one taken by Riley Sparks)

Canada's Conservative Party just chose a new leader — one who doesn't understand climate change any better than the old one did. I'm appalled that in 2017, in the midst of the sixth mass extinction and climate change chaos around the world, when they could have elected Michael Chong to be their leader, they chose Andrew Scheer, who doesn't seem to give a flying leap about his children's future. 

Back in September 2012, here's a letter I wrote to Scheer when he was speaker of the house (of parliament):

Dear Mr. Speaker,

I am practically seething as I write this, but I will try to remain polite – although I find it increasingly difficult to abide ignorance (or pignorance – pretend ignorance, as a friend calls it) and blatant progenycide. I just read your response to [New Democratic Party member of parliament] Megan Leslie's request for an emergency debate on this past summer's unprecedented meltdown of Arctic summer sea ice, and cannot believe what I saw:

Quote: "I thank the hon. member for Halifax for both the letter and the explanation of the issue. While I am sure it is an important issue to her, I do not think it meets the test for an emergency debate." Unquote

So, you think this is not an emergency? You think this is only an important issue to Ms Leslie? You don't KNOW that the meltdown of the Arctic sea ice in the summer has EVERYTHING to do with the welfare and survival of your four children, Thomas, Grace, Madeline, and Henry?

As I read on the Parliament of Canada website, "It is the Speaker's duty to interpret these rules impartially, to maintain order, and to defend the rights and privileges of Members, including the right to freedom of speech. To preserve the trust of the House, the Speaker's actions must be impartial." I don't think you defended the right of our MPs to contribute to (and to enjoy) a safe future, nor do I think your action was impartial. I beseech you to drop the Conservative party line (climate change? what climate change? emergency? we only see $$) in order to give your kids -- and all the children, of all species -- a chance at a future. 

I know that because of your postsecondary education, you have a grasp of history and politics. And your experience in the insurance industry should help you understand the climate change emergency: "Climate change is a subject that concerns us all. It is one of the greatest risks facing mankind [sic]. In recent years, Munich Re has actively supported and advanced climate protection and adaptation to global warming." (from the website of Munich Re, one of the world's largest re-insurers.

Unfortunately, neither your education nor your work history has made you scientifically and ecologically literate. It is not your fault, but it is now your responsibility to change that fact and learn what you need to know. You could start by researching the impacts that global warming is already having in your home province of Saskatchewan. Please keep in mind that research is increasingly showing that all crops in all regions will be in decline by the time we reach a warming of +3ºC. [Crop yields in all regions are all now in decline.]

"Research indicates river flows in some parts of the prairies have declined by 40 percent over the past 75 years. River flow in the late summer and fall is largely dependent on glacial melt. Much of the spring and early summer flow results from runoff from winter snows in the mountains and precipitation throughout the river basin. Evidence is that snowfall, both in the mountains and elsewhere in the basin, has decreased in the last 100 years. Summer precipitation is up slightly in the Prairies, but rates of evaporation due to higher temperatures tend to neutralize that increase.
"Climate change predictions show an average temperature increase of 3°-5°C in the southern Prairies by mid-century. Research indicates that an increase of just 1°C in mean annual temperatures can reduce stream flows by as much as 15 percent."

"Overwhelming evidence indicates the climate of the Prairie Provinces is warming and drying, resulting in decreased river flows. If climate change continues to accelerate as predicted, water will be in short supply for municipalities, industry and recreational users in the coming decades.

"Saskatoon is just one of many water users spread throughout a river basin that runs across three provinces. Even Regina, which is not located in the Saskatchewan River basin, relies on water diverted from Lake Diefenbaker on the South Saskatchewan."

But here's the scariest part of your decision. The summer Arctic sea ice serves as the air conditioning for the growing season of the northern hemisphere. Did you notice any heat waves or drought conditions in North American this summer? Did you notice the 2.5 million people impacted by summer flooding in Pakistan in 2010? Did you hear about the wild fires and crop failures in Russia that same summer? Wild fires that killed thousands (especially due to the carbon monoxide in the smoke) and crop failures that closed down Russia's grain exports and helped spark the Arab Spring due to high food prices?

We NEED a frozen Arctic in the summer, Mr. Speaker. We are now more than 7 billion human beings who evolved over the last 10,000 years to be dependent on agriculture, and agriculture is dependent on a stable climate. Not only do we lose our climate stability if we lose the Arctic summer sea ice, but that loss is also triggering further warming due to loss of the albedo effect, creating a vicious circle of carbon feedbacks that will soon – if unchecked – become unstoppable. Although it is not easy to picture our children at our age – and even harder to picture them living lives marked by food and water shortages, droughts and floods, famines and thirst, horrifying heat waves, and extreme weather events – THAT is the life you are contributing to for your children by not allowing Canada to move forward on treating the Arctic meltdown as an emergency.

And that is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of those more vulnerable to climate disruption and climate chaos who have already lost their lives, or their loved ones and their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes or entire homelands.

Please, please, please reconsider your decision, Mr. Speaker. This is an important AND VITAL issue not just to Megan Leslie, but to you and your children, and to me and the children I love. I'm sure you would agree that they all deserve a fair chance at a safe, clean, healthy future. Allowing this debate would be a simple nod to the precautionary principle, something that helps ensure intergenerational equity. Surely our children deserve something that simple.

You might, perhaps because of your Conservative worldview, be tempted to write off what I have written as hyperbole, but that would belie an ignorance of or refusal to apply risk assessment, whereby risk = probability x magnitude. The magnitude of this emergency is already unprecedented, and the probability continues to grow as we continue to pump out 90 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every day.

I hope, through my seething, that I have managed to remain polite – although somehow "polite" pales in importance compared to ensuring the children a viable future. Also, I must admit that I am getting rather impatient with having to stick up for your children and all the children of this country's Conservative MPs when it comes to the climate change emergency we're facing -- nay, already experiencing.

I would be happy to meet with you to explain the emergency further, if that would be helpful to you.

Very sincerely,
Julie Johnston
Pender Island, British Columbia

bcc to my MP and activist friends, including one who is currently fasting in Ottawa for climate justice

21 May 2017

Cassandras of the World, Unite and Be Heard!

I was never much interested in Greek mythology and didn't study it in school. In fact, I knew nothing about Cassandra until people starting calling me by that name. Suddenly Cassandra became a theme in my writings about climate change.

Today I want to say that it feels like the Cassandras of the world are starting to be heard — and believed. Which means, of course, that the deniers and Big Money and Big Oil are becoming more and more desperate and underhanded. But it also means that the Cassandras of the world aren't as lonely.

My husband stumbled upon this prescient ABBA song yesterday (video below). It's from 1982 and was the B-side (only oldsters will understand that reference!) to their song The Day Before You Came. "Pity, Cassandra, that no one believed you ... Some of us wanted but none of us would listen to words of warning."

To be clear, I'm not saying that I have Cassandra's gift (or curse) of prescience or clairvoyance. I merely make and take the time to keep up to date on the climate change science and then look around the world to see what's already happening. And I understand that what's befalling others will soon enough befall us. Then I make and take the time to write and teach about what I've learned. That's when I get called Cassandra.

Alas, there are more and more of us, and our collective voice is getting louder and louder. (It also helps that people are witnessing economic signs that the market is moving to renewable energy, even if our governments aren't switching fossil fuel subsidies over yet, which is deplorable and unforgivable.)

Enjoy this blast from the past, even if the message is a sad one. And hey, invite a Cassandra out for a tea or coffee this week!



Cassandra

(written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus; sung by Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog)

Down in the street they're all singing and shouting
Staying alive though the city is dead
Hiding their shame behind hollow laughter

While you are crying alone on your bed

Pity, Cassandra, that no one believed you
But then again you were lost from the start
Now we must suffer and sell our secrets
Bargain, playing smart, aching in our hearts

Sorry, Cassandra, I misunderstood

Now the last day is dawning
Some of us wanted but none of us would

Listen to words of warning
But on the darkest of nights

Nobody knew how to fight
And we were caught in our sleep

Sorry, Cassandra, I didn't believe

You really had the power
I only saw it as dreams you would weave
Until the final hour

So in the morning your ship will be sailing
Now that your father and sister are gone

There is no reason for you linger
You're grieving deeply but still moving on
You know the future is casting a shadow
No one else sees it, but you know your fate
Packing your bags, being slow and thorough
Knowing though you're late that ship is sure to wait

Sorry, Cassandra, I misunderstood 

Now the last day is dawning
Some of us wanted but none of us would

Listen to words of warning
But on the darkest of nights
Nobody knew how to fight
And we were caught in out sleep
Sorry, Cassandra, I didn't believe you really had the power
I only saw it as dreams you would weave
Until the final hour

I watched her ship leaving harbor at sunrise,

Sails almost slack in the cool morning rain
She stood on deck, just a tiny figure
Rigid and restrained, blue eyes filled with pain

Sorry, Cassandra, I misunderstood

Now the last day is dawning
Some of us wanted but none of us would

Listen to words of warning
But on the darkest of nights
Nobody knew how to fight
And we were caught in our sleep
Sorry, Cassandra, I didn't believe you really had the power
I only saw it as dreams you would weave
Until the final hour

(I'm sorry, Cassandra)