16 September 2018

Here's Proof that the Climate Change Crisis is a Crisis of Imagination

I read something at Inside Climate News the other day that made me laugh and nearly cry at the same time. 

Have you heard of the Heartland Institute? Their mission is "to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems." Sounds pretty benign, until you remember that it's free-market capitalism that is killing the biosphere. (The "free" in free-market economics means capitalists are free to make as much money as possible in any way possible with as little government regulation as possible. But who was it who said, perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, that the role of government is to keep corporations from getting away with murder?)
Heartland co-founder Joseph Bast provoked laughter by recounting carmaker GM's response to the Trump administration proposal unveiled last week to freeze fuel economy standards. Quoting the vision statement of GM CEO Mary Barra—that the company is working toward a future of "zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion"—Bast said: "That is impossible, and it's absolutely ludicrous. Zero of each of those things mean zero cars. It means zero respect for people's personal choices of transportation. It would mean a devastating impact on the economy."
Imagine, a car company is envisioning a future of "zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion" — and the Heartland Institute laughs. That would "mean zero cars," they say. 

So because they can't imagine a different future, a better future, a future where "people's personal choices of transportation" aren't killing off the future, they just deny the climate change crisis and focus on free-market "solutions." 

These free-market men in suits take themselves very seriously. But if they don't have the creativity or imagination — both signs of intelligence, gentlemen — to envision, or at least support, creative and imaginative zero-carbon solutions, then how can we take them seriously? 

I never thought I'd lend my support to a car company. But when it shows vision, inspiration, inventiveness, resourcefulness, ingenuity and originality; proposes some nifty ideas for fighting the climate change crisis; and uses government regulations as the parameters within which to innovate, well, I'll go with a company with that kind of imagination to make the changes necessary to safeguard the future. I think the Heartland Institute forgets that there is no economy — let alone a free-market economy — on a planet devoid of human life.

09 September 2018

The Talanoa Dialogue for Climate Ambition — An Opportunity to Have My Say

The United Nations 2017 climate conference (Conference of the Parties or COP23) was hosted by Fiji (though, sadly I'm sure for many attendees, it was held in Bonn, Germany). 

A lasting keepsake of the Fiji talks is the Talanoa Dialogues, to which I contributed yesterday.

Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The process of Talanoa involves the sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.

The goal of the Talanoa Dialogue is to help implement and increase ambition in each nation's commitments to emissions reductions and other climate action (their Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs) by asking stakeholders to answer three questions:

  1. Where are we?
  2. Where do we want to go?
  3. How do we get there?
I responded to the first question on behalf of GreenHeart Education (my professional me), and would like to share it with you here. The Dialogue is open for submissions until 29 October 2018, so that input can be compiled before the next UN climate change talks in Katowice, Poland in early December. Go for it if your organization has got something to say!

By the way, you'll see why I laughed at my captcha ("school") when you read my contribution. 

--> Question 1: Where are we?

a) The commitment (planned and/or announced) as well as the actions taken so far that are in line with aims of Paris Agreement, the 1.5/2 degrees’ goal and the transition towards a net-zero emission society by this mid-century [Maximum 300 words]

Where we are is in a climate change emergency, but one we refuse to acknowledge. Where we are is still talking all sorts of numbers when the only number that counts is ZERO – zero carbon, zero combustion, zero emissions of greenhouse gases. Where we are is the poor and the vulnerable being hit by climate diasters first and worst. 

Where we are is smack in the middle of a crisis of imagination and empathy – only compassion and innovation can save us now, but it seems they’re in short supply. Where we are – but we just don’t know it yet – is in the most exciting time ever to be a human being: at the very start of a huge global race to ZERO … or bust. And luckily, because developing countries perhaps aren’t as (politically) entrenched in fossil fuel energy as the so-called developed nations, they all have a headstart in the race to ZERO.

b) Progress made so far against the above commitments, including success stories, case studies and gaps [Maximum 300 words]

Sadly, in many educational circles, climate change is still seen as controversial (thanks to the highly funded and highly successful denial campaign), and therefore barely gets taught. Because human beings have evolved over the last 10,000 into a species dependent on agriculture, and because agriculture depends on a stable climate (which we’ve mostly had for the past 10,000 years), the impacts of a destabilizing climate are threatening food security around the world. 

The Most Important Curriculum
We cannot grow food overnight and nor can we LEARN to grow food overnight, therefore learning food growing skills must become an important part of every school’s curriculum (along with soil building, water collections, and energy generation). While literacy and numeracy will always be part of education, they are of no importance to people who are starving. 

This is one area where we are seeing progress around the world, although we still have far to go. The spread of permaculture, agroforestry, carbon farming, and organic and regenerative agriculture is helping to build resilience in food
systems while we work toward ZERO

greenhouse gas emissions.

c) Quantitative impact so far with respect to mitigation, adaptation, resilience and/or finance [Maximum 300 words]

I’m sorry I don’t have numbers to share. But perhaps this is where 100% (the opposite of zero) should come in, in the form of a global goal to get a learning garden into every schoolyard around the world.

I just received this message re my input:

On 2018-09-12 06:12, Talanoa Dialogue wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam, 

Thank you for your message. In order to inform the Talanoa Dialogue, the COP president invited Parties and stakeholders to the Convention on Climate Change as well as expert institutions to submit input.

We regret to inform you that we cannot publish inputs by individuals.

We would encourage you to affiliate yourself with a non-Party stakeholder to the Convention for submitting your input.

Best regards, 

Talanoa Dialogue Team 

Here's the response I sent:

I'm sorry to hear that you don't consider GreenHeart Education an "expert institution." However, I do appreciate you letting me know. (I'm not sure how far you'll get in the fight to safeguard the future by only listening to those who haven't yet managed to safeguard the future. But there's the conundrum.)

Julie Johnston
GreenHeart Education

02 September 2018

Dragonflies, Depressions and Climate Crimes

Somehow, through sheer coincidence or rather eerie synchronicity, it's exactly one year since my last post. Last fall, I started this post and never finished it:
It seems I took an unintentional break from blogging last month. I didn't mean to. August was a blur of toothache and doctor appointments. Then suddenly September became a blur of post-retirement busyness! Conferences, courses, meetings, seminars, editing to deadline. And now suddenly it's October.
Now it's a year later, and what a year it's been. In fact, just as I started writing this, a huge dragonfly scared the wits out of me by buzzing outside the window and smushing its wings up against the glass. It's attracted to the light, I thought, but then I decided to look up the symbolism of dragonflies.
"The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world, symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life."
— www.dragonfly-site.com
Change, transformation, renewal, lightness and joy. Robyn Nola said, "Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and we can reflect light in powerful ways if we choose to do so." Perfect encouragement to get me writing again!

As I mentioned, this was my first year of retirement — and somehow I've been busier than when I was working. I helped my hubby and his co-author birth their book, Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival. You can order it here, through Clarity Press. (I'm boycotting Amazon until they improve how they treat their employees, but it's available there, too.) 

People in positions of power and influence all know that we're in a climate and oceans emergency, but most of them are knowingly and negligently ignoring this knowledge in order to keep lining their pockets with filthy fossil fuel money. It's disgraceful, and it's time we started calling climate change criminals exactly that.

The last thing I want to talk about this week is depression, namely my depression. It's really hard to function effectively when cursed with the knowledge and vision of what's going to happen to all the children in the world if we don't get our freaking greenhouse gas emissions in check. 

But, as Dragonfly has suggested to me today, I can look at this from a different perspective. I can encourage myself and others to see this as an exciting time to be a human being. With so much hanging in the balance, every choice and every decision we make holds weight. Are we going to condemn today's young people by ignoring our knowledge of the climate and oceans crisis? Or are we getting down to work to ensure them a future, out of sheer love in our hearts?