17 March 2019

It Used to Be Cliché, But Now It's Reality (Youth Are Now Our Hope for a Future)

The climate strike at the Legislature in British Columbia, Canada's capital city, Victoria (photo by Laura Hinton)
We used to say that "children are our future" and I'd mutter "Duh!" under my breath (with all due respect to Whitney Houston). It was so obvious as to be cliché. We used to say that young people were our hope for the future and I'd get mad — "Don't lay it on them; it's our responsibility to fix this!"

But we didn't fix it. While we waited for a silver bullet remedy to the climate crisis, we crossed our fingers and hoped a hero would come forward. When Al Gore stepped up, half of America excoriated him for making climate change a "political" thing (like it was his fault he was a former Vice-President). He's done a ton of good work in waking the world up to the crisis, but the nasty US Republicans (I'm sure there are some nice ones) made sure he didn't reach hero status. 


And so we kept waiting. And like that carnival game Whack-a-Mole, we ignored or denounced anyone who dared try to lead us to solutions. We ignored Ban Ki-moon and James Hansen; we shat on Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, reminding me of that old adage "You can't win for losing." Perhaps we'll listen to António Guterres, the current secretary-general of the United Nations, who has said:
If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
Climate change is an existential threat to most life on the planet.
And then a braided young Swede sat down last summer in front of her parliament on a "climate strike," which continued into the school year on Fridays. The founder of We Don't Have Time "discovered" her (he has since sincerely apologized for the way he did that, but has been excoriated nonetheless), and the rest — cliché alert! — is history.

Since then, Greta Thunberg has garnered the attention of youth around the world. Sure, people (on both sides of the issue, grrrrrrrr) are casting aspersions on her, but Greta seems unfazed. She knows what's at stake, and she just keeps sayin' it. 

The worldwide youth climate strike this past Friday, March 15th in over 100 countries took its inspiration from Greta's school strike. It proved beyond a doubt that young people — fighting for their own future — are, in reality, our only hope. Their speeches were eloquent and bang on the climate science! Their posters were colourful and poignant! Their songs were fun! Their energy was high and their mood was exuberant! 

Two of my former students holding up my (uncolourful) sign: "Climate safety is a human right" (with thanks to Diana Lindley and her lyric)
I felt very privileged to be part of their strike (standing off to the side at the back of the crowd). I was inspired to create a new social media page that will collect positive affirmations and "prayers" for positive action on the climate change emergency, Positive Affirmations for a Healthy, Vibrant Future on Earth: https://www.facebook.com/Positive-Affirmations-for-a-Healthy-Vibrant-Future-on-Earth-2811092489116966/


I have just one wish for these young folks, who invited all of us to bring 10 friends to the next strike. Please, don't be afraid to be disruptive. Walk down the middle of whatever street you want to block. People's "right" to convenience is trumped by your right to a viable future. Their right to be on time does not trump your right to have time to grow up. Go for it! Blessed be ... and see you at the next climate strike.

03 March 2019

Hats Off to President T**** for Giving Us the Emergency

 Well, we owe a debt of gratitude to that childish "leader" south of the Canadian border. If it wasn't for him, we would still be fighting for a declaration of the climate change emergency. But he has, with his feckless "wall" emergency, managed to ignite a sudden firestorm of concern for the climate crisis.

Sure, others worked hard to lay the groundwork — some for decades (thank you, James Hansen, Al Gore, my hubby, Greenpeace, the IPCC), others for several years (this blog celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!). But nobody listened.

No, it took an American Republican climate-change-denying puerile president having a tantrum to get his own way (ya just know he wants to put his name on that border wall) to wake up the American Democratic asleep-on-their-hopium yawning citizens to the possibility that their next president could call an emergency of her own — a climate change emergency. 

If the whole situation wasn't so frightening, we could view it as a tragicomedy. 

1. For starters, those of us who have known this was an emergency for YEARS (see When 1000 is Greater Than 300,000) have been told repeatedly — REPEATEDLY — that talking about the urgency and the potential disastrousness of climate change would shut people down ... immobilize them. Indeed, we heard it again yesterday. (We've never agreed with those people — see You CAN Handle the Truth! — and explained why, but nobody listened.) And yet, all it took was a loud enough orange flame (sorry, couldn't resist) to ignite concern of one-upmanship (I guess nobody thought Obama's swine flu emergency declaration was ill advised.)

2. For years, I always hushed my voice when talking about climate change in a public place. Now, I'm hearing people all over the place talking about climate change! (It's a day of exclamation marks, I'm afraid. ;-)

3. For years, people have been excoriating former Vice-President Al Gore for making climate change "political." Suddenly it IS political, and people are trying to score political points with it all over social media.

4. I never imagined we'd have to come to a climate change emergency declaration through the back door by having it supplanted by a wall emergency declaration, with half the American population then rising to its defense. Now, here's the thing. Is their concern actually for climate change, or just for the right of their president to get her emergency of choice declared? 

*******

Perhaps it doesn't matter where the concern came from. People are fired up now, and that's what matters. Now, to the task of giving them something to do with this newfound energy and interest in the climate crisis.

A) Everyone needs to write / phone / fax / email / visit their elected officials at every level to insist, require and demand that all fossil fuel subsidies be stopped forthwith. We can't keep handing the fossil fuel industries our tax money ($5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies every year worldwide, according to the IMF) when we're trying to get to a ZERO-CARBON ECONOMY by 2050. 

B) For a long time, the lack of urgency on climate change has stemmed not just from the lies and cheating of the deniers, but also from a crisis of imagination. People just haven't been picturing that a fossil-fuel-free world of perpetual, everlasting renewable energy will be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful. The Golden Age of Solar Energy has the potential to be the best ever era in human history. It certainly would give children back their future. 

But we have to get our carbon emission into decline by 2020. Can we do it? We did it by accident during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, so we can certainly do it on purpose — with a sense of purpose — by using our imaginations, our creativity, our care and concern and compassion, and the millions of solutions already out there. And if we can always afford to go to war (right?), then we can most certainly afford to mobilize to safeguard our precious biosphere. 

C) If all this makes you feel sad or angry, that's okay. It makes perfect sense! Then turn that anger or depression into action. (And remember, talking about it is a form of action.) But put some good news in your back pocket first, both for the naysayers and to bolster your own resolve to be part of this good fight. For example, check out the enthusiasm and ambition of Costa Rica to be part of the solution:
Costa Rica Launches "Unprecedented" Push for Zero Emissions by 2050


Or be inspired by young Greta Thunberg — and take her deeply honest words to heart. She has definitely contributed to waking up the world (along with the IPCC's October 2018 Special Report on 1.5ºC).


Do anything, but please just don't go back to sleep. The world needs, as Paul Gilding says, all hands on deck to deal with this emergency!