31 May 2009

189 Days to Go - Compassionate Solution #4 Call for Demilitarization

The annual budget of the world's militaries tops $1.2 trillion. Can you imagine the carbon footprint that goes along with that? Not to mention the fact that the raison d'etre of armies these days seems to be protecting oil and other fossil fuel interests. With our children's future as "collateral damage"!

No folks, military might is not sustainable. Let's start dreaming of all the ways the world's armies could contribute to ensuring a future for all the children instead of dooming it! (And they call environmentalists doom and gloomers. Sheesh!!)

Let's create a list together. Send me your ideas for what our armies could do once they're demilitarized. Here are a few to start with:
  • get to work immediately to retrofit all the cities
  • work on habitat protection and anti-poaching teams
  • contribute 10 percent of their budgets for a United Nations Global Green Fund (please support this petition)
  • get trained fast in alternative energy technologies and start building the new infrastructure
  • learn how to respond to extreme weather events in timely fashion (militaries have the capacity to deploy rapidly) and how to build decent refugee villages for victims of climate catastrophes

30 May 2009

190 Days to Copenhagen - "I have lived for love, but now that's not enough"

If Julian Lennon's Saltwater doesn't make you feel, please get your heart tuned up. We must feel deeply if we're to safeguard the future for the children of all species.

Denial is not an option.

29 May 2009

191 Days to Go - Could Climate Compassion Lead to Climate Heroes?

This morning, I received several grateful responses to a posting I made yesterday to an environmental education listserve. In response to a research study showing why people aren't responding to the climate change crisis, I spoke about the importance of compassion.

In response to this quote from the article:

"Danger brings emotional reactions, dread, a feeling of alarm. Evolution has equipped us with that," says Elke Weber, director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. "The threats we face today are not of that type. They are psychologically removed in space and time."

I said this:

This is a developed-world response. Millions of people in Africa, the North and small island states are already facing danger, today, right now. Those of us who still look outside and see a beautiful day and then buy all the food we need in a grocery store might think our species is not facing immediate danger, but we are ... if we count our brothers and sisters in climate-change-vulnerable regions as "us." Sadly, our EuroAmerican-based cultures tend to psychologically remove us from any feeling of species/special connection with other human beings living in developing countries. Time to bring back compassion.

And to this quote:

But that will require overcoming some very basic impulses, she acknowledges. "People are very unwilling to sacrifice," she says. They base many decisions on the immediate cost. "It hurts us a lot to give up whatever we think we are due, such as our standard of living," Weber notes."

I said:

People *nowadays* in our EuroAmerican cultures are perhaps unwilling to make sacrifices. But parents elsewhere, indeed animal parents everywhere and throughout history have sacrificed to ensure their child/ren's survival. People *are* willing to sacrifice, but we have been brainwashed into believing that only chumps make sacrifices. [Chumps are gullible, foolish people who are easy to take advantage of.] ...Let's bring back the notion of heroes — people who give a damn about others. And then let's all be one. Compassionate climate change heroes!

What do you think? If anyone out there is reading this, I would love to hear from you. Could the promotion of compassion for climate-change-vulnerable people in other parts of the world turn us and our elected so-called leaders into climate change heroes? If you think so, how could we go about promoting such compassion? And if you don't think so, what other ideas do you have for getting through to people that we're already
in a climate emergency because our brothers and sisters in other regions are already being impacted?

To help you decide, have a look at the two very sobering maps on this webpage:

28 May 2009

192 Days to Copenhagen - Sharing Some Fantastic Learning Resources on Climate Change

Short and sweet tonight. My action today is sharing with you the following excellent audio/visual learning resources on climate change.

Changing the Chemistry of the Atmosphere is a slide show created and narrated by Dr. Holmes Hummel. She is an expert in climate change policy, based at the University of California, Berkeley. This first segment of the Climate Policy Design Pro-Series is a new and clearly explained 9-minute "primer" on climate change.

Goldilocks and the Greenhouse: Science and Climate Change is a 6-minute video that asks, "What makes Earth habitable?" This LiveScience original, redited to Dave Brody at IMAGINOVA STUDIOS, explores the science of global climate change. By the way, the temperature is indeed poised to rise as high as Arrhenius predicted, if we don't get our greenhouse gas emissions down to zero and start removing CO2 from the atmosphere. There is a time lag of about 30 years between emission of CO2 and its felt impact on the Earth's climate.

With vegetarian followers all over the world, perhaps it is not surprising that Supreme Master Ching Hai truly understands the climate change threat. This spiritual leader is now focusing much of her energy on this emergency. Here, from Supreme Master Television, is a dramatic 5-minute video called SOS Climate Change. (Scroll down on that page if you'd like to watch SOS 2.)

For less than 20 minutes of online "watching," you'll gain a much deeper understanding of the climate change emergency. Please pass these resources on, and watch for them on the GreenHeart Climate Change Primer webpage.

27 May 2009

193 Days and Counting - Passing on Good Ideas and Good Events

I'm back from a great camping experience with my students (what a wonderful way to witness "the whole child" and guide each student to Mother Nature's marvels) and realizing that a compassionate action to take would be to pass on other people's compassionate actions! So here goes. Please keep in mind that people living in the North, especially those living traditional lifestyles, are already being gravely impacted by climate disruption.
Countdown to Copenhagen is Isuma's six-month internet campaign to promote the importance of Inuit (indigenous people of the Arctic) knowledge and human rights in the global discussion of Climate Change. Monthly webcasts on IsumaTV from May to November will culminate in Live From the Floe Edge, ten days of daily internet streaming hosted by Zacharias Kunuk live from his arctic wilderness hunting camp during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, December 7-17.

The series will launch with a live webcast on Friday May 29, featuring Siila (also known as Sheila) Watt-Cloutier, Inuit climate activist and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, speaking on Inuit, Human Rights and Climate Change live from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada to a worldwide audience. The program leads off at 7:45 pm EST with the World Premiere of Tungijuq, Isuma's new 6-minute video starring Inuit jazz and throat-singing sensation, Tanya Tagaq. At 8 pm Siila Watt-Cloutier delivers the 9th annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, introduced by John Ralston Saul, The Right Honorable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, Isuma's Zacharias Kunuk and The Honourable Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, Commissioner of Nunavut.

If you live in Canada, some screenings have been organized in big cities for Friday, May 29. (Visit the website below for more info.)

If you live elsewhwere, tune in by internet at home. Or get your own group together to watch the launch! Maybe in a screening room/small cinema or just at somebody's house with a good internet connection - anybody interested in climate justice, native issues/culture, or else fans of Isuma's films (Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner, Journals of Knud Rasmussen, Before Tomorrow). Invite your friends, make it a creative happening/salon - we need some grassroots (cross-continental) energy to start going viral!

Throughout 2009 Countdown to Copenhagen Live Webcasts will be downloaded to a growing network of digital screening rooms from Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal to as far as Tromso, Norway and Alice Springs, Australia. IsumaTV has the goal by December 2009 of a network of 1000 local-to-global screening groups around the world watching Live from the Floe Edge through digital download-to-projection.

Watch at: http://www.isuma.tv/hi/en

26 May 2009

194 Days - Compassionate Solution #3 Support Public Investment in Renewables

I won't be back from camping with my students for a couple of days, so today's compassionate climate action comes as a short question.

If you were a kid, which national/global debt would you rather pay off as an adult, once you're grown up — the debt for fighting an illegal war in a far off land, or the debt for making the switch to a safe, clean, healthy,
equitable and peaceful renewable energy economy?

Let's call for using at least 80 percent of all the economic stimulus money floating around to kickstart the renewable energy revolution. For the sake of, you guessed it, today's children of all species, the rest of Nature, the global poor and vulnerable, and all future generations.

25 May 2009

195 Days - Compassionate Solution #2 Think Spiritually

A quick post before I go camping with my students.

Our second compassionate action for climate change is to start thinking spiritually. Thinking scientifically just isn't reaching into people's hearts to make them want to join the good fight for the future.

We need to start holding compassion in our hearts for today's children of all species, for the rest of Nature, for the global poor and vulnerable, and for all future generations.

Let that be our mantra.

24 May 2009

196 Days - Helping People Love Where They Live

My action to save the world today was to help a dozen members of my community fall in love with the intertidal zone. A handful of us have been doing this for ten years now, studying four local beaches each summer, and tracking our findings.

People love coming to the beach with us; becoming "community scientists" gives them new insights into the fragility of life - along with its wondrous diversity!! (There is no richer ecosystem on Earth than where the land meets the sea.)

As we input our data, we're starting to notice some trends ... and not happy ones. We might need someone with a degree in statistics to help us figure this out, but we sense that we're starting to see changes — and possibly due to a changing climate. (We haven't had any oil spills or other events that would explain the drop in numbers of some usually abundant species.)

Anyway, every once in a while in the big fight to save the big world, it's important to spend a local day remembering why we love living in this place.

Check out this book I wrote with friends on the intertidal zone in our part of the world — Get Your Feet Wet! Intertidal Notes from the Pacific Northwest.

23 May 2009

197 Days - Support for Zero Emissions Comes from an Unlikely Place - Reader's Digest!

Someone put a copy of the April 2009 issue of the Canadian edition of Reader's Digest in my mailbox at school — I suppose because I'm the "green teacher" there.

I didn't open it up until today, and what did I find on page 71? An excerpt of an interview in the Indian edition of Reader's Digest with one of the most influential men alive — Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And what did Pachauri say in India that our news media in the West did not pick up on? Exactly what we've been trying to communicate for months! He was asked whether it's possible to reverse global warming. Here's his response:
"Theoretically, yes. You will really have to bring down your emissions to below zero and find ways by which you can absorb existing carbon dioxide. Technologically, that's entirely possible."

Pachauri isn't asked how quickly we have to get to zero emissions, but he does explain something important:
"If you look at projections for the future, even if we were to stabilize the concentration of atmospheric gases today, climate change will continue for several decades." He explains that it's mainly the developed world that is responsible for current global warming: "You are not dealing with today's emissions. It's the cumulative effect of emissions over time, for which developed countries are responsible."
That means that today's emissions — our greenhouse gases, emitted today knowing full well that we are killing the future — haven't had their impact yet. That safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful world of renewable energy looks good right now, doesn't it?

So my action today is to get Pachauri's response out there, first on my Climate Primer webpage, next on the Climate Change Emergency Medical Response homepage, and then on various listserves. People around the world have to hear and understand that ZERO is the only viable target, the only target that will give us a chance at safeguarding the future.

Spread the word. And the word is "zero"!

22 May 2009

198 Days - Learning to Go Local by Growing Local

With new appreciation for the Italians, I tried making my own pasta today. It was a disaster, but my heart was in the right place — I'm trying to go as local as possible.

My students and I grew our own wheat last year and made pizzas from scratch. It was a wonderfully transformative experience for me — sowing the seeds, tending the crop, harvesting, threshing and milling the wheat, and then making pizza dough from the freshest flour in the world. Talk about the circle of life!

My students are so young that they probably didn't recognize this as an extraordinary experience for practically all Canadians. This year we're planting enough wheat for everyone in our whole school to make their own pizza from scratch.

My pasta was decidedly not delicious, but it was a fun way to start realizing how we can start going local.

It's not just the Italians I feel new-found respect for, it's the "ancients" who somehow knew/learned how much of everything they needed to grow and store for the winter.

One of the categories in our Fall Fair's Young People's Agriculture section is "If I grew the food my family needs, I would...." I wonder how many of us adults could answer that question correctly! (Nifty math lesson though.)

And to keep you reading on learning to feed ourselves as transformative education for sustainability, check out Orion Magazine's Destined for Failure by Jason Peters.

My students' pizzas, made from scratch...ing in the dirt, planting, tending, harvesting, threshing, milling, mixing, decorating and baking.

21 May 2009

199 Days - Still A Lot of People Who Don't Understand Climate Change

My "action" today was attending a book launch of a friend and neighbour, Hans Tammemagi. His new book, Air: Our Planet's Ailing Atmosphere, is all about the most important thing on Earth — what we breathe!

Here's a description from the publisher:
"Tammemagi's fascinating exploration of air illustrates that it is far from being an empty void; rather, it is a vast ocean of gases that are layered, constantly mixing, generating weather, and providing the basis of life itself. While illustrating the beauty and mystery of air, Tammemagi also examines its declining quality in chapters that discuss smog over cities (and elsewhere), acid rain, the depletion of stratospheric ozone layer, and, of course, global warming. As a scientist, writer, and activist, Tammemagi explains the key issues associated with air in a clear, lucid, and compelling style. Air is a vital piece of reading on an issue of rapidly growing urgency."
After reading aloud from a few chapters — and admitting that he's feeling rather pessimistic these days — Hans led a discussion amongst the attendees (from our small rural community) that showed how many people still have a lot to learn about the urgency of the climate crisis.

So, fellow educators, how do we reach our neighbours, friends, colleagues, acquaintances? How do we make this most obfuscated of environmental and scientific issues ever, crystal clear for people like several of those I sat with today?

First, let's make sure we understand it ourselves — and find a way to stay up to date with the ever-growing body of research. Try
Climate Emergency News, for starters.

Next, let's work together to find that happy medium — somewhere between holding it up to their faces and rubbing their noses in it — that helps people hear, see and learn things they just don't want to open up to.

I guess I'm suggesting that we don't just need compassion for people who are already being impacted by climate change. We also need compassion (no time left for patience) for those who are so far removed from what's happening in other parts of the world that they cannot feel compassion for the most climate-vulnerable people themselves.

Sometimes this isn't easy. So let's go easy on ourselves if we muck it up somehow. We're still learning too! Let me know if you need some morale-boosting or inspiration.

20 May 2009

200 Days - Talking It Up!

In my excitement to start listing our Compassionate Climate Actions yesterday, I forgot to tell you my action for the day.

We had lunch (sunshine veggie curry) with a young friend who is a student activist on climate change issues (and bicycling across the country this summer to prove it). It's so rejuvenating to spend time with someone who gets what's happening in the world — and who isn't going to let the future slip through her fingers as long as she can do something about it.

We shared ideas, gave her some advice on how to deal with colleagues who think that "strategy" is more important than life on Earth, and came away with a renewed sense of purpose — it's her future we're diddling with while the Earth burns (with apologies to Nero), and we intend to safeguard it for her.

Some people think talk is cheap, or a form of procrastination, but when talk is learning, and good medicine, then talk is action.

19 May 2009

201 Days to Copenhagen POST #1 - Solution #1 GO VEG!

Every one of my posts will speak of compassionate climate action in response to the global climate change emergency. In this first post, I would like to suggest that the fastest, easiest (really!), and perhaps most compassionate action to take as an individual or family is to go vegetarian, or even vegan (consuming no animal products all all).

United Nations research from the FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization (Livestock's Long Shadow) showed that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock industry. So getting off meat is a quick way to reduce your carbon footprint and be kind to the planet. Think also of the benefits to your health, and to our hungry brothers and sisters around the world (less meat for us = more grains and beans for them) -- and to all the animals, too! The meat industry is also tied to land degradation, air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

If you work in an educational setting, explain to administrators why your school cafeteria should go veg. If special lunches are provided, perhaps by the parents' group, ask them to make their lunches vegetarian. If students bring their lunches, make at least one day per week "Vegetarian Day" as the city of Ghent in Belgium has just done.

And if people complain that they won't know what to eat, challenge them to find one meal that can't be "vegetarianized" these days. But offer (do some online research, if necessary) to make a list for them of the pastas, Indian foods, Chinese foods, Greek foods, Thai foods (need I go on?) that are vegetarian, healthy — and delicious.