31 October 2009

36 Days - Creating that Compelling Vision of a Renewable Energy Future

If you're following this blog, you'll know that I struggle with the 350 campaign. They're running a damn fine campaign, they know how to use the new media, and I'm sure their hearts are in the right place. Part of me has thought all along that we should be trying to get back to below 300 ppm, not just to 350. But I've finally figured out exactly why I struggle with it.
One of Canada's best known and best loved environmentalists, Guy Dauncey, talks of offering people a compelling vision of the future, a sustainable future, a future that will be safe and equitable for our children and grandchildren. I read something yesterday that helped me "see" the importance of creating this compelling "vision."
As an educator, I know that about 80% of us (at least in North America) are visual learners. We take things in and make sense of the world mainly through our sense of sight. For example, when I hear something spoken, I have to take it in, visualize it in my head, and only then can I respond to it.

I was looking through a week-old paper that described the October 24 - International Day of Climate Action events that were to take place in a nearby community. "Do Whatever It Takes to Get Us Below 350 ppm!" was the headline.

Raise your hand (yes, I'm speaking figuratively, unless you need the exercise) if you can picture what 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere looks like? Can you see in your memory that day in October 1989 when we surpassed 350 ppm? What did the sky look like before it became dangerously high in CO2?

Now try this. Raise your hand if you can picture a zero-carbon world. A world where we no longer burn fuel to create energy. A world of wind turbines and solar panels, tidal energy and geothermal installations to heat or cool our homes, to run our appliances, to move the public through transit infrastructure.

I did this at our local October 24 event, and I could see people's eyes going up, doing that NLP (neurolinguistic programming) thing that happens when we're trying to construct a picture of something in our mind's eye. Participants started nodding and smiling. Yes, they could picture a carbon-free world!

Once we can picture that zero-carbon world, it's easy to discuss and picture how to get there: a zero-carbon economy that subsidizes renewable energy and taxes carbon and other forms of pollution; moving towards self-sufficiency in our food and energy production; giving up meat as a gift to our grandchildren; staying closer to home and taking 100-mile vacations; doing all this out of compassion for the people already horribly impacted by climate disruption in Africa, the Arctic, the small island nations, and, increasingly, all those depending on water sources that are drying up, even if just seasonally.

Even if we're able to picture 350 ppm (other than on a graph), then what? The concept doesn't hold within it the compelling picture of how to get there.

So, the most important number in the world is still that zero at the end of 350.

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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?