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!


(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)

14 May 2017

Something to Cry For

It's been a weepy week for me. Another few days in bed with the flu gave me lots of opportunity to watch lots of videos that had me alternating between crying, sobbing, whimpering, bawling and blubbering.

As usual for me, most of the tears came when I was reminded of what we're taking away from all the children — of all species. But also what we're inflicting on those more vulnerable and less to blame. 

So this week, instead of blathering on, I'd just like to share two videos with you, both of which have had me weeping this week. After all, if we don't allow ourselves to feel the pain of what we're losing, we probably won't fight to save it.

TRAILER Raise A Paddle: A Journey from the Pacific to the Tar Sands

07 May 2017

New York Times Declares Climate Change Emergency (Nah, I Just Made That Up)

Credit: The New York Times (funnily enough, they don't see the irony)
Climate change has stripped me of all my sentimentality. And if you've known me since I was young, then you know how much of me that is.

It's a sad loss (not, in my view, a healthy shedding). Defined as "excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia," my sentimentality is what connected me to the human condition. And yes, some might have seen my empathy and compassion as excessive because it did often make me feel sad. But I'm a people person and an extrovert — so my connections to others make me feel complete and worthwhile. (Yes, introverts of the world, we extroverts have our own existential demons.)

Oh, what am I trying to express today? I think it's that I'm finding it more and more exhausting and depressing to, on the one hand, recognize that the climate change emergency fight is pretty much lost already due to global apathy, while on the other hand still wanting to punch through that fatigue and depression to deal with the likes of T**** and the denier NGOs — and now The New York Times, as well?

Yes, I'm going to weigh in, briefly, on the NYT's hiring of an opinion columnist whose views diverge, shall we say, from the laws of physics.

1. Buddy, only you would call 0.85ºC, or about 1.5ºF of warming of the Earth (it's not "earth") since 1880 (most of it quite recently) "modest."

That modest warming unleashed natural disasters that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. And now that "modest warming" is up to 1.38ºC (March 2017), and all indicators are on the rise. This is observation, not projection. Which part of "it's happening and you can see it if you only look" don't you grasp? And then you have the gall to say something about "the possible severity of its consequences." How cavalier, inhumane and unfeeling of you. 

2. "[O]rdinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power."

No, sir, ordinary, scientifically illiterate citizens do NOT have the right to question the science of climate change. Citizens who read and keep up to date on the research — especially the evidence of what's already happening — have the right to pose questions. But giving people who still think we were invented 6000 years ago the power to weigh in? No. If you need proof of human wreckage, turn on the nightly news — or better yet, a weather channel.

And "overweening scientism." What the hell is that, but the sound of a writer who likes his own voice?

C'mon, New York Times, you hired a skeptic (oh, no, this fellow doesn't "deny" climate change — he's a delayer, which is just as bad) as a fumbly, feeble attempt to make T**** supporters feel welcome? While campaigning on the importance of truth? Your opinionator is being irresponsible and dangerous, and his opinions and his writings are promoting progenycide. (If you think that's hyperbole, then know this: I WANT TO BE WRONG. But I don't want time to prove me wrong because by then, it will be too late.)

Please, if you want controversy, why not declare the emergency? That'll get people talking! And give the kids and their future a break.

And so, as my husband laments, not only is there no action on declaring this an emergency, but nor is there any sorrow, any sadness, any regret, any apology about what we're losing. There's just people like the NYT's opinion writer and his cleverness, while a whole lot of other people are snoring.

30 April 2017

What's the Right Word for "Emergency"?

Holy flying freak out! The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide hit over 412 parts per million (ppm) this past week! We're still setting temperature records, especially in the Arctic. Despite fossil fuel CO2 emissions being flat over the last few years, CO2 concentration is still increasing — and at an accelerating rate. Sea level is rising at an accelerating rate. The oceans are heating at an accelerating rate. Unprecedented ocean acidification is increasing at an accelerating rate. And ocean de-oxygenation is on the increase, as well.

If you understand global warming and climate change, you'll understand how distressing all of this is. But if you don't understand it, what can I say to explain that this is an emergency — even though you're not bleeding or in pain? Yet.

Look at this. It's a fuzzy version of what my hubby just presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. Just note how all the graphs are on the upswing.

All of these data trends point to a planetary emergency ... but still, amongst the public (and even amongst the vast majority of scientists, it seems), there's no sense of panic or urgency. No sense of impending calamity or danger. No sense of crisis or emergency.

What's a gal who cares about the biosphere — and all the children, of all species — to do? What WORD is going to help people grasp the plight we are in? What metaphor will help people get that we're in a doomsday scenario?

Please, I'm begging for help here. Can we put our heads (and hearts) together globally and come up with the right words to say? The right metaphors and analogies? The right graphs and graphics? Can the advertising agencies of the world do some pro bono work in order to help us safeguard the future? Can the artists and musicians come up with ways to wake up the public? 

We are so close to the point of no return (if not already past it) that my plea is a desperate one. 

Can you help solve this problem? Or do you know someone who might be able to?

23 April 2017

Earth Day Emergency ... and More

I'm writing this on Earth Day 2017. It's also the 26th anniversary of the day my hubby and I fell in love — at an Earth Day sunrise ceremony — and our fourth wedding anniversary (yes, it was a sunrise ceremony). So it's always a special day for us. I hope it was a lovely Earth Day for you, too, wherever you celebrate it. 

Here's a small collection of thoughts and poetry for Earth Day.

The Rainbow Warriors
by Nicola Beechsquirrel
Come, all who ever loved our Earth
Who lived in peace amongst her creatures
Gentle, loving, caring folk
With healing hands, and wisdom in your souls.
Come, incarnate once more
Come to Earth in her greatest need.
Help us rid her of her burdens
Cleanse her of all poisons
Close up the deep sores on her sacred body
And cover it once more in soft green.
Walk amongst us again
That we may relearn ancient skills
And long-forgotten wisdom
And tread lightly upon our Mother Earth
Taking from her only what we need
Living her ways in love and joy
Treating her creatures as equals.
Teach us how to reach those who exploit her
How to open their souls to the beauty of Life
That they may destroy no longer.
Come to us, Rainbow Warriors
Share with us your wisdom
For we have great need of it.

Climate change impacts have now been documented across every ecosystem on Earth, despite an average warming of only ~1°C so far. (Scheffers et al, 2016, in "The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people")

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. 
— Marie Curie

 Information is everything.
— Pamela Anderson

     To understand that humanity is on a collision course with the laws of Nature is to be stuck in what I call Cassandra's Dilemma. You can see the most likely outcome of current trends. You can warn people about what is happening and underscore the need for a change in course. Some people can understand you, and a few may even believe you and try to take action — but the vast majority cannot, or will not, respond. Later, if catastrophe occurs, they may even blame you, as if your prediction set in motion the process that resulted in disaster (self-fulfilling prophets are the most reviled). If, however, the World manages to avoid the potential catastrophe, thanks in part to the work of those who were motivated to action by your warning, many will point to that escape from danger as evidence of your incompetence as a prophet.
     The role of Cassandra, issuing unpopular warnings of avoidable danger, is a no-win situation. Failure to convey the message effectively results in catastrophe. Success in being understood — which leads to action to avoid that catastrophe — means ultimately being proven 'wrong.' 
     Being willing to be 'wrong' is, by itself, not enough. Your timing and your tone must be perfect. You must be 'wrong' at the right moment, because once proven 'wrong' — and the World will use every possible means to label you mistaken, as soon as possible — your credibility will be destroyed, so that thereafter your effect on the World will be minimal. Moreover, your means of communication are severely limited: if your warnings are too shrill, you will be ridiculed; too sober, and you will be ignored.
     Even the best-case scenario — predicting disaster at precisely the right moment, in the most strategically balanced tone of voice — does not guarantee a successful outcome: a failed prediction of disaster. Warnings are notoriously ineffective. People may believe you and still do nothing.
     The worst and most painful outcome for any Cassandra is to be proven right. 
— Alan AtKisson, in Believing Cassandra: How to Be an Optimist in a Pessimist's World

Earth Day Emergency
by George Elliott Clarke
Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada

Earth Day should be Thanksgiving, not Mother
Earth’s Good Friday, when Extinction’s spectre—
Those ghosts of the Endangered or those Dead 
Creatures haunt us—souls polluted by lead,
Mercury, arsenic, acids, and seeds
“Frankensteined” genetically. Live meat bleeds
As it conveyor-belts from plains to plates—
Shrink-wrapped, sporting “Best Before”-stamp, stale dates—
While dolphins and whales, having gulped down our
Plastic garbage and water bottles, lour,
Thrash, and beach themselves, their bellies starving,
And tides turn as red as blood spilled, carving
And serving mad cows or sick swine, all ill
From ingesting strange flesh and/or feces,
Contracted in ponds, scum-green with algaes.
Earth Day should be Eden Revival Day,
Not a “Mayday! Mayday!” Emergency,
When the Apocalypse sounds factual—
Angels strike, and precious seem wine and oil,
And the seas belch up blood, and all fish die,
And sun scorches like fire, so wetlands dry,
And locusts chew roots, leaves, fruits, and Famine 
Eats every human down to skeleton,
And skies shine with poison Radiation 
Or go dark with choking smog. No nation
Is immune from terra firma that shakes!
One must ask: Does fracking trigger earthquakes?
Ebola, SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu,
And other pestilential plagues renew,
Plus West Nile Virus, and other disease—
Infections without treatment, deaths sans cease.
Lethal’s now the baffling kiss of sunlight—
Intricately broken down is skin, white
With pus, putrid with boils, palpably raw,
While tornadoes whirl and swirl, clout and claw,
Oceans go soapy as a laundromat,
Foaming; skyscrapers totter; homes go splat;
A tsunami of trash washes away
Hospitals, leaving unsanitary
Cadavers. Each toxic anatomy—
In obscene inundation—heaps awry.
Oil spills, clear-cut forests, firestorms, sink-holes
Swallowing suburbs whole, are routine tolls
Now, for “Progress.” Condemned seas and damned winds,
Waste lands, Rust Belts, vast contaminations,
Thorns and rubbish, smashed glass, cracked ceramics,
Charred remains, scorched-earth, war-zone Economics,
Bomb-blast disasters ever more drastic,
Atomic threats, arms races elastic,
Ever expanding, is just a short list
Of unpalatable residues unjust,
The catastrophes now making us sick—
Unsustainable—and uneconomic.
Is Capital the acceptable
Villain, or are our choices culpable?
If Mother Earth now faces assassins,
Who are the culprits if not we humans?
This Earth Day demands deliberate turns
Back to Nature: Balance: What each child learns.

16 April 2017

It's a Holiday ... Let's Just Have Some Fun!

This is a holiday weekend for many people in the world, so I thought I'd keep it short and light. Well, short and fun (cuz the topic of climate chaos is never light). 

Please enjoy Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Climate Chaos. This hiphop artist's lyrics are both ingenious and educative.

09 April 2017

Ask (the Deniers) and Ye Shall Be Answered

Isn't synchronicity a wonderful thing? Just a couple of days after wondering, in last week's post, what it will take for climate change deniers to see the light (or should I say, feel the heat?), a book arrived in the mail. This book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer, had been recommended by a friend, and it came as if to answer my question.

The inside front flap explains everything, quite succinctly:
[A] network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs — that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom — are sincerely held.
I would like to invite these "exceedingly wealthy" people to never again use public services like highways and hospitals that were built and paid for by a government (that is, by your taxes). I know that lots more things are privatized in the United States than they are in other countries, but you can't tell me the US Government does nothing with the tax money it receives. Mind you, if Americans had health care and public schooling like the rest of us in the developed world, they wouldn't be complaining about taxes. Instead, they have crumbling infrastructure, the most costly health care system in the world and one of the worst education systems in the OECD. And they (well, some of them) will fight to the death to maintain their rights to crumbling and costly and lousy. (I have to admit that I keep wondering why they feel they have to spend over half of their taxes on their military — to protect what? Crumbling, costly and lousy? And the illusion of freedom? That's some weird arithmetic!)

I was asking what it would take to change the minds and hearts of climate change deniers, but I see now that the problem is an extremely deep and viscerally felt sense of disconnectedness and insecurity that (they believe) only greed ("intense and selfish desire for something"), mammon and "winning" can fill. This philosophical illness even has a name: pleonexia.

My sense is that only extreme shock therapy will ever have any hope of transforming greedy, insecure people who feel no connection to the future, to other people or to the rest of Nature. Perhaps it's a game to them ... let's see how close to the edge we can go.
Data visualization by Rosamund Pearce for Carbon Brief
Well, is this enough of a shock for them? Is four years close enough to the edge? A look (Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget) at carbon dioxide emission numbers for 2016 shows that we only have 4.1 years left (at current levels of emission) if we want to stay below 1.5ºC of global temperature increase. You've seen the havoc wreaked by 1ºC — how much more of this before even "exceedingly wealthy" people will start to be impacted? (If one single denier ever has the nerve to say, "Why didn't they warn us?" I will not be held responsible for socking them in the mouth!)

This CarbonBrief paper finally mentions something that my hubby and I have been promoting since 2014 when the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out. RCP2.6 is a "representative carbon pathway" (I call it Really Cool Plan 2.6) described as:
[a] "peak and decline" scenario where stringent mitigation and carbon dioxide removal technologies mean atmospheric CO2 concentration peaks and then falls during this century. By 2100, atmospheric CO2 reaches around 420 parts per million (ppm) – about 20 ppm above current levels. In this scenario, global temperatures are likely to rise by 1.3-1.9ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
Note that RCP2.6 is the only scenario that will keep us below a 2ºC global temperature increase. And if that doesn't sound like much, remember that +2.0ºC, before it became bandied about as though it's a target we're aiming for, was suggested as a safety guardrail. 

Now consider this: Once you've hit the guardrail, it's almost always too late — you're already spinning out, caught up in a catastrophic accident. 1.5ºC is those little bumps that wake you up when you fall asleep at the wheel and start swerving — oftentimes disastrously, sometimes luckily not. A 1ºC rise in global average temperature is the equivalent of all the lines painted on the road that we need and ought to stay within. And we're there already. If we keep veering all over the road, we're all going to die. Including the climate change deniers and the "exceedingly wealthy."
Photo by Roger Gendron

02 April 2017

I Have a Question for Climate Change Deniers: What Is It Going to Take?

It was a bad week for those who believe that the children (of all species) deserve a future — one with a viable biosphere and a survivable climate.

First, "President" T**** (I refuse to give his name airtime) decided to halt American momentum on the climate crisis. Is that ignorance? Stupidity? Negligence? Or just plain cronyism? (With his biggest crony being Putin, who cares not for the Russian people but for the Russian gas and oil industries and their continuing profits.)

Then we got word that the climate change denial group, the Heartland Institute, is sending their denialist drivel of a book (authored by three fossil fuel industry shills with PhDs), intended to seed even more doubt about anthropogenic global warming in the minds of the scientifically illiterate American public, to 200,000 science teachers throughout the United States. Good grief — no, bad grief. 

As I commented online about a Washington Post piece about this travesty of propaganda, there is a bright side. The Heartland Institute has just set the precedent that will allow us to send a copy of Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to 200,000 science teachers, too! After all, fair's fair. Thanks, Heartland.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power trailer

I got up the nerve to ask Heartland Institute to explain their mindset given the climate change emergency we're facing down. Another commenter wrote: "You do know of course that in a matter of time, very distant time, the sun is going to burn up and that will bring about the end of life on earth as we know it. Our piddling carbon footprint in the grand scheme of things means very little."

My response? "So in the near future, you don't care what kind of world we're leaving the children? Because the sun's going to burn out in a few billion years?" (I was glad to see that others suggested her comment was inane if not a little hard-hearted.)

I am really trying to understand a mindset that seems to put profit and greed ahead of life. I feel like I'm missing something. We can't drink oil, breathe "natural" (methane) gas, or eat coal. So why do so many North Americans continue to defend those industries ... at our peril?

To another Heartland supporter and climate change denier who likes the idea of spewing pseudo-science to teachers across the United States, I suggested that they follow the money. "If you do your due diligence, you'll soon discover innumerable links between the authors, fossil fuel and (for at least two of the three) tobacco companies, and 'think tanks' or other organizations (such as Heartland) funded in part by Big Oil or Big Coal (Exxon, Koch Brothers, Peabody, etc.). Even the person who wrote the forward for this second edition works for a lobby group 'funded by New Mexico oil and gas industry interests' (Sourcewatch). What the authors Bob Carter, Fred Singer and Craig Idso do (and continue to do with this publication) is called shilling."

The Heartland Institute Facebook page has a Ronald Reagan meme up top: "Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." Then why, I asked, isn't the American government protecting its most vulnerable citizens (its children) from the hellish future that is already being unleashed by climate chaos? I just don't get it.

On a friend's FB page, in a discussion of T****'s climate change policy devastation (and the suggestion that he's doing this for the profit), someone wrote: "Exactly gore has made what a billion off of climate change." [sic]

I flipped on the guy. I'm so sick and tired of people ranging on Al Gore. I wrote: "The man has probably done more to make us aware of the climate change emergency than any other living human being. Gore understands that the fastest way to curb greenhouse gas emissions is through market mechanisms, which can turn on a dime (which T****'s stupid tweets have proven). I don't agree with him on everything (I don't agree with anyone on everything!), but revolution takes a lot longer than people think -- and we don't have that time." I invited him to read The Planet-Saving, Capitalism-Subverting, Surprisingly Lucrative Investment Secrets of Al Gore.

But I couldn't stop there: "If you want to rang on someone/something, why not rang on the governments (i.e., taxpayers) the world over who are still giving trillions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuel corporations every year! (And that's while they say that renewable energy companies should be able to stand on their own two feet. Gimme a break. Fossil fuel corporations have never stood on their own two feet. Society has always had to pay the social/health and environmental costs of fossil fuel pollution.)"

Another one that made my blood boil said that abnormally high snowpack in the Sierras proved that climate change is a scam and the California drought is over. Look, we all hope and pray for California that their drought will end (heck, Canada gets nearly 50% of its food from that American state, so you know we've got our fingers crossed for good luck), but it's not as simple as one horrendously rainy season (five deaths!) and a high snowpack. All those aquifers and reservoirs and wells are going to take years to refill.

What is it going to take for climate change deniers to see that their delay tactics are endangering us all? Oh well, let's face it. It's just been a bad and sad week for the climate.

26 March 2017

Let's Not Keep Quiet

We might have found our anthem (thank you, Connie Lim, aka MILCK). But if that's the case, please let this song (also) be about climate justice ... because if we don't get that right — and fast — in a very short while there won't be any safety, justice or equal rights for anyone, anywhere.

Please let's not keep quiet about the climate change emergency, about its perpetrators (and perpetuators), and about how their denial for the sake of greed is killing our children's future.

p.s. I'm working on a climate change verse, but I'm no songwriter, so it might take a while. (Send me your suggestions!)

Published on Youtube on February 17, 2017:
In the face of adversity, MILCK refuses to be silent. The Los Angeles-based singer went viral at the Washington Women’s March with her song “(I Can’t Keep) Quiet.” We loved it. So we invited her to come sing it with us.

On February 6th, a sold-out crowd of 1300 singers at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto raised their voices to protest the current US administration’s threatening action on global liberty, women’s rights, healthcare, etc. Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, co-founders of C!C!C! [Choir! Choir! Choir!], taught their arrangement of “Quiet” to the pumped-up, all-ages crowd, and an hour later, MILCK joined them to sing lead and record a powerful show of peaceful, harmonic resistance, with proceeds going to support the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Quiet” has quickly grown from female empowerment anthem to a unifying message of hope and raucous protest for young and old, and for all genders. Play it, feel it, share it!

by Connie Lim and Adrianne Gonzalez 

Put on your face
Know your place
Shut up and smile
Don’t spread your legs
I could do that

But no one knows me, no one ever will
If I don’t say something, if I just lie still
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let them hear what I have to say

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, no oh oh oh oh oh oh

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone

Cuz no one knows me, no one ever will
If I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
They may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh, I can’t keep quiet

There'll be someone who understands
Let it out 
Let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands
Let it out 

Let it out
Let it out now
Must be someone who’ll understand
Let it out 

Let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands
Let it out 

Let it out
Let it out now

I can’t keep quiet

19 March 2017

The Age of Consequences

My faithful readers — all 11 or 12 of you (thank you!)— will know that this blog flows from my deep compassion for all the children, of all species, who are facing a hellish future due to climate chaos. (Many live in places already hit hard by the climate change emergency.) 

You will also know that I don't have much compassion anymore for the greedy, evil, pignorant (pretend ignorant), and ecologically illiterate bastards who refuse to pull the plug on this brewing hell on Earth. My patience has worn right through.

Now I find myself also losing patience with those who aid and abet the bastards, out of their own ignorance, selfish wishful thinking, or just plain being behind the times. 

Case in point is a movie reviewer whose critique of a climate change movie I read this week. The Age of Consequences*, a documentary directed by Jared Scott,
investigates how climate change impacts resource scarcity, migration, and conflict through the lens of US national security and global stability. Whether a long-term vulnerability or sudden shock, the film unpacks how water and food shortages, extreme weather, drought, and sea-level rise function as accelerants of instability and catalysts for conflict. Left unchecked, these threats and risks will continue to grow in scale and frequency, with grave implications for peace and security in the 21st century.
Does that sound like a hand-holding movie to you? A benevolent primer on the greatest threat ever to face our species. A gentle introduction to the greatest ever crime against humanity? No, right? It sounds hard-hitting. It sounds like it pulls no punches. It sounds like it's trying desperately to make America (and, hopefully, the rest of the world) safe again. Yet a New York City movie critic describes it as "stylishly edited and timely" but "too angry, exhausting and repetitive while failing to be inspirational, balanced or truly enlightening" (from Rotten Tomatoes).

WTF? A movie about the inching-ever-closer climate-racked end of the world has to be inspirational? Balanced? Enlightening? Give me a break! Give the blessed children a break! 

I am reminded of an Earth Day post from 2012 in which I suggested the early morning equivalent of this scenario: If I discover a fire in a crowded movie theatre and start yelling that people should leave by the nearest exit, I don't want to hear anyone responding, "You didn't say please." I am doing my duty by alerting you to the danger. Now you should just head for the exit. Don't question. Don't ask for a second opinion. Don't wait to get your ticket refunded. Just get out!

Do we feel SO entitled in this society that we can't watch a documentary about the urgency of climate disruption without expecting enlightenment and inspiration for the same price of admission? Sheesh.

By the way, several critics appreciated the movie. For example, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat call it "a startling documentary that presents new twists on the global climate change crisis and what to do about it." Hmmm, sounds like they were inspired and enlightened! Watch for The Age of Consequences to find a cinema near you soon.

* Full disclosure: I helped fund the making of this movie through a Kickstarter campaign, however, as of today I have not yet seen it. In fact, I'm trying to figure out why I didn't get my very own copy of it as a Kickstarter reward!

12 March 2017

Experiencing Censorship in All the Wrong Places

Censorship. A simple definition might be "the examination of material (such as books, movies, news, and art) and official suppression of any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security (adapted from my computer's dictionary). It is closely related to censure, which means harsh criticism or to criticize harshly.

We used to think of censorship merely in terms of what happened to books and movies that hadn't yet been released. Next came book banning and even book burning. Then some (of the very people who liked to ban and burn books) started equating political correctness with censorship. (I've always considered political correctness to be society's fancy way of labeling what mothers everywhere used to urge: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.") And with the election of T**** in the United States, saying nasty things about "others" is now considered freedom of speech, so any talk of censorship is seen as unconstitutional — almost tantamount to treason. (Sheesh.)

But lately, censorship seems to have gone wonky in other ways, too ... some consternating and some downright dangerous. Within the last three days, I have experienced censorship in conversation with three different friends.

First, I was telling a friend about a disturbing incident that I'd read about in the paper. "Does this have a sad ending? If so, I don't need to hear it." The story was a cautionary tale about her field of work, but it did, indeed, have a sad ending. So with that, I was shut down. 

And I felt shut down — censored. But mostly I felt sad that there are people who won't (can't?) allow themselves to feel the sadness of others. Have some of us become so fragile that there's no strength and no room left for empathy? How are we going to face the extreme sorrow of the climate change emergency if we can't even share a story about a sad incident in a next-door city?

I don't just tell stories willy-nilly. There's a point to a story that I choose to share — sometimes it has a connection to the other person, but sometimes it's simply something that I found interesting or edifying. In the second incident, I recounted a short TV show that I'd watched on Netflix and found instructive for my own career. I'll admit that my menopausal brain might have made the story more meandering than it needed to be. But my friend, instead of engaging with the story, said (I'm paraphrasing), "You know how people who watch TV will talk about shows they've watched and bore you to tears? You just did that."

Ouch. Obviously her mother never instructed her to say nothing if she didn't have anything nice to say — that was my first thought. But then I began to mourn the lack of patience our society has developed. Can't we just talk about "stuff" with friends anymore? If we don't have the time and patience for everyday — uncensored — conversations, how will we ever have the time and patience to listen to how serious the climate crisis is, the science behind it, and the solutions we needed to implement yesterday?

On my way to tea with a third friend, I kept chanting, "Don't talk about T****, don't say anything negative. Don't talk about T****, don't say anything negative." This friend is (what I think is being called) a progressive. I'm simply someone who likes to get to the bottom of things, so months before the American election, I'd been reading up on T****'s growing popularity. My friend and I had a falling out because I wanted to talk about it (the rise of T****) and she didn't. I've been self-censoring around her ever since. (In fact, it didn't even cross my mind until just now that I could have said, "I warned you.") 

Positive thinking does not stop evil and greed. It just doesn't. It doesn't get the good people elected. It certainly hasn't mitigated climate disruption. Talking about how Big Money and Big Oil are killing the future, what their strategies are, and how we can beat them — that's how we will, well, beat them. Not by pretending that everything is goodness and light. 

If we're going to fill our lives with censorship, I'd like to suggest some Censorship for the Planet. Let's stop giving column inches in our newspapers and blogs to climate change deniers. Let's stop watching news and other shows that give air time to climate change deniers. Let's stop "sharing" the dangerously misleading drivel and "alternative facts" of climate change deniers on our social media channels. 

Folks, let's stop censoring ourselves, our friends and our loved ones (and our climate scientists) and start really listening to them. If we're going to censor at all, let's censor (and censure) those who are committing the greatest evil and the greatest ever crime against humanity: climate change deniers who have delayed urgent action on this emergency for decades, causing millions to lose their lives or their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes or entire homelands. 

Let's be very clear that freedom of speech and expression should not, does not, cannot include the freedom to commit progenycide.

05 March 2017

Compassion Tune-Up: "There's a Choice We're Making, We're Saving Our Own Lives"

Do you remember the song We Are the World? It's a song that was recorded by umpteen famous American singers in 1985, to raise money for African famine relief. I remember at the time thinking, "There go those Yanks again, thinking they own the world." But the single went quadruple platinum and they raised over $63 million US (the equivalent of $138 million today), so who was I to judge? 

You know, one million people died in Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985 due to famine. Today, the lives of 5.6 million Ethiopians are threatened by drought and famine. As La Rochefoucauld said, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 


That was a long-winded way of introducing this week's blog post. My hubby and I were despairing earlier this week that nothing is changing. People still don't feel the emergency, the crisis, the climate chaos and the ocean devastation, and they're not demanding change. 

That reminded Peter of Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian philosopher "discovered" by the Theosophical Society in 1909.

For Peter, the wisest thing that the very wise Krishnamurti ever said was that (I'm paraphrasing) we are the world, so if we ever expect to change the world, we'd better change ourselves. Right now. 

To explain it better, some pictures might be worth a thousand words or so. 

We Are the World
— Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie

There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it's time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can't go on pretending day by day
That someone, somewhere will soon make a change
We all are a part of God's great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving
There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives
It's true we make a better day
Just you and me

Send them your heart so they'll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand


When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there's no way we can fall
Let's realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one