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!


(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.