17 March 2010

"Own the Issue"

I'm off to the Paralympic Games in Vancouver with my students and their families today (homeschoolers always do things with their parents and siblings, which makes my job as their resource teacher much richer). School bus and lunch bags — the whole field trip thing. I'm pretty excited about watching a sledge hockey game this afternoon with everyone.

So it's a perfect day to talk about an Olympic metaphor that might be useful in climate change mitigation efforts.

Last week, I heard a fellow presenter at the climate change conference recommend that we all "own the issue" of climate change and food security. That got me thinking about the Olympics.

Although I hadn't heard about it until my country started winning medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics near here in Vancouver, four years ago (or more) Canada instituted a program to support Olympic sports and athletes called "Own the Podium." I'm still not sure what I think of that name, or the $$$$$ that was poured into the program for just a handful of elite athletes, but, well, it has been successful. Canada won more medals during these Games than any other country ever has. And we did it as the home team. There sure was a lot of maple leaf waving during these Games!

Here's the analogy. A lot of people abdicate even thinking about the climate change issue let alone acting on it because they're not scientists and they don't think they know enough. But look at the number of armchair athletes (in other words, fans) who "owned the podium" along with the Canadian Olympic athletes. If people who couldn't throw a curling rock or ski down a hill to save their lives can feel that they "own the podium," then certainly non-scientists can feel some stake in the climate change emergency.

How about "Own the Future"? What if we got countries competing on greenhouse gas reductions (instead of racing to come up with the best excuses for not lowering them)? What if we gave out medals for countries and communities that "owned the issue" and made the greatest cuts?

Or what if we had the Climate Change Olympics — and nobody came because they all wanted to win more gold medals by not burning fossil fuels to get there? Okay, I'm getting silly now, but I hope I'm making my point. If non-athletes can "own the podium" and take pride in the accomplishments of athletes, then why can't non-scientists (other than the shrill deniers) own the issue of climate change and make a difference in the world?

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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?