11 November 2018

Birds of a Feather Don't Necessarily Flock Together ... A Lesson for Us Humans

Am I the only person who's ever gone birdwatching without binoculars? I managed to pull that stunt this past week when I joined a small group of bird lovers from my community as we went on a field trip to a nearby area famous for its huge flocks of birds at migration time.

We met up with an equal number of host field naturalists and set out on foot to our first birding stop of the day. There, on the ocean in a bay not far from the shore, were hundreds of ducks and gulls paddling about. From a distance, they were all just ducks and gulls to me. But when I got the opportunity to look through someone's scope, I could see that there were several different species!

The best identifier among us spotted huge flocks of American wigeon, northern pintail and some northern shoveler and mallard. The gulls included glaucous-winged, Icelandic (aka Thayer’s), mew and a California. In the distance were many bufflehead, greater scaup, a dozen or more western grebes and horned grebes, along with the usual cormorants, common loon, and great blue herons.

All. swimming. together. 

Are you seeing where I'm going with this? 

As social discourse grows more and more brutish south of the border, I find myself panicking at the thought of how we're all going to "be" with each other as the climate change $#@! hits the fan more often and more extremely. (My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and beloved homes in the northern California fires this week.) 

A 2015 book by Wen Stephenson showed up in our home this week. It's called What We're Fighting for Now is Each Other. What an evocative title! But it's true ... or at least we ought to be fighting for each other's survival now — and certainly the children's.

Barack Obama said recently, "The character of our [i.e., his] country is on the ballot." On the ballot, and in presidential tweets, and on Fox News, and spattered all over the walls of the scene of another mass shooting in the "Greatest Nation on Earth." (My heart is also going out to all those who lost loved ones to the latest the-NRA-doesn't-believe-in-background-checks-for-people-with-mental-illness-and-a-history-of-violence gun incident, this time in a California bar.)

Folks, if we don't learn FAST how to live together in peace (or at least disinterest, like the ducks), how to support others when they're down so they'll support us when we're down, how to live by the Golden Rule when the world is falling apart around us, well, we can kiss resilience goodbye. 

We need to flock together, whatever the colour of our feathers. Hey, if several species of waterfowl can do it, then why can't we?

With thanks to Collective Wisdom


04 November 2018

Declaring—and Advertising—the Climate Change Emergency Closer to Home

Did that get our attention? Back in 2014, for a Climate Emergency Countdown, I wrote:
... And in every way we can think of, let's urge all government representatives and negotiators at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action to declare the emergency.

Once governments declare that we are "beyond dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), things will start to happen. This declaration would be an automatic trigger for the bureaucrats who work underneath politicians and within governments to start working on climate change solutions. Scientists say that determining whether climate change is an emergency is a value judgement that society must make. So let's make it! We're society. Let's get the CLIMATE EMERGENCY DECLARED!
Have we? No. Every time I (metaphorically) come running from my burning house, stumbling through the smoke and blaze with my beloveds (and my laptop, if I'm lucky), I find a ring of firefighters sitting on the front lawn in lawn chairs, discussing the need for more study of fire safety rules. Although I remember that they did publish another report on more serious fire safety rules just a few weeks ago, so things are looking up (or down?).
And among the lookie-loos on the street are those who say, "Fire? There's no fire at my house, so I don't believe in housefires." The more erudite and learned among the deniers will point to my house and say, "Sure, your livingroom's got some smoke and flames coming out of it, but look at your kitchen windows. Nothing. You're cherrypicking the data and exaggerating the risk." Ah heck, they're probably afraid the burnt-out shell of my house will lower their property values. Or they just can't face the possibility that a house fire can happen to anyone with a house.
Well, there's a sort of solution to the lack of global and national urgency on the climate crisis front. Municipalities are declaring the climate change emergency and doing what they can locally. Let's hear it for:
  • Oakland​, USA
  • Berkeley, USA ​
  • Byron Shire Council, Australia 
  • Darebin, Australia
  • Colorado Democrats
  • Richmond, USA​
  • Montgomery County, USA
We'll see if Tuesday's election in the United States brings more attention and voice to the issue, state-wide and federally. 

Near my home in Canada, we're working to have two local cities declare the climate change emergency. The Climate Mobilization offers a city-by-city campaign toolkit. We all live somewhere with some sort of local governing body, so this is something we can all do!

Here in BC, one of the province's best-known and loved environmentalists, Guy Dauncey, has launched The November Offensive in which he asks British Columbians to write to the province's governing (NDP and Green Party) MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to ask that 12 policy requests (inspired by the urgency of the IPCC's special 1.5ºC report) be included in BC's upcoming new climate action plan.
"The second goal is that people will step forward to seek a meeting with their MLA, to impress the same urgency and solutions in person. The concise, specific, actionable request is that the MLA you meet with will convey your concerns, hopes and recommended 12 Actions in person to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and to the Premier of BC."
"Actionable." If people want action on the climate change emergency, they have to TAKE ACTION. Which leads me to ....
Finally, I'm just reading The Climate Truth, an essay by Climate Reality presenter and psychologist, Dr. Joe Silverman. In it, he almost agrees with my take on cognitive dissonance:
"In some ways, action on climate change seems caught in a Catch-22. Politicians don't act because the voting public does not demand it. And much of the public is not fully engaged on the issue because their individual actions are a drop in the bucket that will do little to solve the problem."
(To me, the problem is that politicians are waiting for the public to demand climate action, but the public is waiting for politicians to take the lead and tell them it's urgent.) 
Dr. Silverman suggests that what's been missing in climate change problem-solving is "the need for engaging and motivating the public on this issue using a multi-dimensional [and, I would add, multi-media] publicity campaign." 
He's calling for a Climate Truth Campaign. "Despite all the efforts to communicate the urgency of global warming, this approach [a publicity campaign on the climate crisis] has never been tried" [his emphasis].
 "Advertising routinely sells the public on a number of unhealthy products (e.g., drinking soda, eating junk food), so perhaps it's not unreasonable to think that an advertising model could 'sell' a message about a healthy environment and sustainable future."
Give his essay a read. His idea is something that we can all contribute to and get going on, whether on/in local media or further from home.

We can't wait any longer for our elected officials to declare the climate change emergency. Many of them have only one aim, and that's to get re-elected. 

So let's declare the climate change emergency ourselves, in every possible media available to us. Let's do a GoFundMe®, a Kickstarter, an Indiegogo campaign, or just pass the hat at local events to raise funds.
And then, let's advertise it! 
Let's tell the world in, as Joe Silverman recommends, short, vivid, eye-catching, visual ways (even on radio!) that we're in a climate change emergency, and we all have to wake up, get out of the burning house, and start hosing it down together!