20 September 2009

77 Days - Where Has All the Courage Gone? (How I Have Wimped Out)

No sense harping on climate scientists (see yesterday's post) when I often find myself standing at a moment when some courage (or at least a little boldness) would see me do something for the Earth, the future and the children ... but I don't do it.

My most common example is not having the nerve to ask idling drivers to turn off their parked cars. I usually have to give myself a good talking to and remind myself that I'm breathing in those fumes before I'll get out of my car or venture over and use that little hand gesture (turning the key in the ignition to off). I've never had a problem (except for the one fellow who ignored me, despite the fact that he was idling right by a no-idling sign, underneath the windows at a school), so I don't know why it's still so hard for me to do it. Perhaps because I'm not a confrontational person in other areas of my life.

So, to vindicate the climate scientists somewhat (well, they're not vindicated, so to have some compassion for them), here's an email I wrote yesterday that I just can't bring myself to send. It's in response to the notice of an October 24th Climate Action Day event in a nearby community that read in part (all identifying hints removed):

"What can people here do to cope with climate change, peak oil and other challenges that threaten the resiliency of our rural communities?

"That's the question [our group] will ask a public gathering of community members on October 24 at the local secondary school.

"It's a serious question, but organizers promise that the 'gathering' won't be gloomy. The goal is simply to encourage and celebrate the people and programs that will keep our community a wonderful place to live and visit."

Here's my response:
"Hi So-and-So,

"I am pretty saddened that your community has decided to turn October 24th into a day of celebration when hundreds of thousands of people are dying and millions more are losing their livelihoods, their food security, their water sources, their homes and their entire homelands due to global climate chaos. At least one of your speakers will be stating the truth.

"If you have some insight you could share on why people in North America (or at least on your organizing committee) are so deathly (and I mean that literally) afraid of doom and gloom when the situation, as your after-lunch speaker points out, "could mean the end of humanity," I would appreciate you taking the time to share it.

"We're going to do a gloomy event in our community that day. A day of lament. Of course, no one will come to ours. And the denial will continue. Alas.

"All the best with your event. The emcee and the keynote speaker you have chosen will keep it hopping.

"p.s. I am pressing the Send button with reticence and a heavy heart. I mean no ill will to anyone, but I keep seeing images in my mind's eye (perhaps my mind's eye is too close to my heart) of African children afflicted by climate-change-related drought and famine, and Inuit homes crumbling into the sea, and the president of the Maldives begging for action on the international stage. We are so blessed here in our beautiful little communities. We are experiencing no pain (yet); so why are we so unwilling to even feel some of the pain that others are going through? Think of the gloom of their lives."

Is that a terrible email? Why am I afraid to send it? It has struck me that with allies like this, who needs enemies? So far, we live in the luckiest part of the world, but it's sheer luck! We celebrate this luck every day that we live here, free from climate tyranny and, for the most part, political tyranny. Are we flaunting our luck by celebrating it?

Why — and I ask this sincerely — must we spend this day, which is devoted to climate action, celebrating locally when there is so much to lament globally? Are we callous? Wimpy? Narcissistic? Blinded? Numbed? Or simply unwilling to feel the pain of others?

If you can figure this out, please let me know. This is really bothering me — and worse, it does nothing to forward the cause of getting radical emergency climate action happening. We've spent the last 40 years or more trying to cajole people to embrace a more "sustainable" way of being in the world. Cajoling has failed. It's time for painful truth-telling (and truth-hearing) and some heavy-duty, internationally defined but nationally implemented zero carbon legislation. Which we needed to have in place yesterday.


  1. Lady, get a grip. You are doing more worrying by yourself all other people on earth combined. This isssue is out of your hands. Al Gore will get his billions so relax, get some sleep.

  2. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your concern. Actually, I do sleep well at night, because I do everything I can for the children and all future generations.

    You certainly haven't laid my fears to rest, but have proven a point I like to make (that if Americans hadn't turned this into a political football because Al Gore used to be a politician, we might have seen some action on climate change before it reached emergency proportions).

    I figure that if everyone worried a little bit, I wouldn't have to worry so much, but until then ....

    Thanks again for writing!


I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?