26 September 2010

My Blahg — and One Bright Light in Cancun (Klimaforum)

There was an excitement, a real sense of anticipation in the air, before the Copenhagen climate change conference a year ago.

But the mood this year, in lead up to the COP 16 Cancun climate change conference, feels more like a forced smile. And I don't think it's just me who's feeling rather blah about it.

I know that Copenhagen was an engineered let-down, and I resent having been manipulated last year. But this year, "they" are manufacturing complete pessimism, saying that nothing will be agreed to at Cancun (including the outgoing and incoming executive secretaries of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). I ask myself, then, Why bother?

Why bother even holding the meeting if the point is to agree to not agree on anything? What a waste of time, money, people's energy and fossil fuels! What a waste of optimism.

For about three minutes yesterday, I thought, Wouldn't it be neat to do a Countdown to Cancun — and blog every day until it starts on November 26? But why force the smile? Why expend the time and energy for something that has already decided to be a failure? It's too, well, blah.

There is one bright light, however, and that is Klimaforum, which is planning a grassroots initiative in parallel to the COP 16 summit. Organizers are calling it "an autonomous environmental summit, an atmosphere in communion with nature, an inspiring space, where people of all creeds can focus on the search for consensus on international actions towards climate justice."

Their low-carbon Global EcoVillage (with camping spaces for thousands of participants and a vegetarian "world kitchen") will offer forums, expositions, workshops, conferences, and cultural events — all in a natural environment.

Here is Klimaforum's rallying cry:
Beyond corporate interests or political influences, a transparent global voice for the Earth is summoned.
The stabilization of the climate is essential to the survival of all species on Earth. It is a matter of intergenerational justice. People of all ages and creeds unite in the demand for effective solutions that will preserve life on the planet. We, the people, have the capacity and the necessity to solve these issues with understanding, solidarity and perseverance. We have the possibility to create another world!
Change the system, not the climate!
I know that the Klimaforum10 Mexico organizing committee has already faced formidable challenges, so I want to wish them all the very best. What an exciting, optimistic alternative to the UN climate meeting they are organizing! Please support them in any way you can. They're the best news in a long time!

You can visit their website at klimaforum10.net or klimaforum10.com/en/the-committee/international-call. Prepare to be inspired and leave the blahs behind.

20 September 2010

I Went There ... and I Cried

I was trying to ignore the Russian summer. And I was definitely trying to not notice the floods in Pakistan and the drought and famine in Niger. (I haven't "noticed" the landslides in China yet.)

And I certainly did not want to go "there" — there meaning, Russia's deadly fires and heat waves mean they lost a lot of their crops, so they're not exporting any grains this year ... and Pakistan's crops have been washed away while Niger's never came.

The United Nations estimates that over 21 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan (killed, injured, homeless, without food, whole villages destroyed). Imagine that! Australia's whole population is less than 21 million. There was a point where about one-fifth to one-quarter of Pakistan's total land area was underwater due to the flooding.

And Niger has experienced a "double whammy" leading to their worst ever famine disaster. According to Christy Collins, the country director for the American charity Mercy Corps, "in most years, even if the country's primary crop failed, at least the secondary crops survived. This year there was so little rain that not only did the fields of millet not bloom, but the secondary greens used for animal fodder also failed." This means that their livestock — their only "insurance" against famine — is also starving.

I didn't want to notice these disasters of epic proportions. But they finally found their way into my life, into my heart. And I cried.

By the way, is it "compassion fatigue" or just downright mean-spiritedness that leads people to make comments like this (truly):
"Who gives a crap?"
"Floods in Pakistan, killer smog in Russia, and famine in Niger. Tragedies all, but sorry, the good old USA is out of $$$$$ and has problems of its own in the Gulf States, in Iowa and in the economy. These people are just going to have to do the best they can, we are tapped out."
"And there are kids starving in every country... and the point is? Isn't that country against US or UN assistance, except when it benefits certain entities? It would be better to put the money into a failed stock than to give it to that country. Same difference. Sorry, those are humans there. But there are humans here. And just about everywhere on this fragile Earth that is being exploited. Let them work out their own problems."

p.s. We are going to organize a fundraising event here in our small community. In the short term, it seems to be all we can do to help. In the longer term, we need to stabilize the climate — fast. "There but for the grace of God go I."

12 September 2010

How to Make Change

I'm reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die). I'd like to share a couple of their ideas with you. But first...

Ever since I was introduced to "denialism" as invented by professional deniers (those who have been paid by vested interests to deny the threats of smoking, asbestos, global warming), I've been reading things with two minds open: my regular old "me" mind as well as a mind that is watching my reactions to what I'm reading. In other words, I'm trying to become more aware of how my worldview makes me believe or disbelieve, welcome or eschew things I read. I so don't want to be guilty of that which miffs me in the amateur global warming denialists and skeptics.

Anyway, having said that, I found it fascinating that Brothers Heath support — coming at it from a completely different direction and background — my hypothesis about hope. If you've been here before, you know that one of my mantras is "Hope is not an action verb. Action is our only hope."

"When you engineer early successes, what you're really doing is engineering hope. Hope is precious to a change effort. It's ... fuel [for our emotional side]."
What they're not saying is that hope leads to action. What they are saying is that action — or, in this case, a celebration of what people have already accomplished, sometimes without even knowing it — leads to hope, which then leads to further action and change.

Here's what I would say: 
"Please, don't ever view wanting to safeguard the future for the children of all species (hells bells, the present for people all over the world!) as demoralizing! Call to action, call to courage! Action is our only hope (and hope is not an action verb)."

Or how about "You think these scientific predictions are demoralizing!? Imagine what your children are going to feel like when all this hits them in the face!' How can this be depressing news when it's the most exciting time ever in the history of humankind? When we can, literally with our bare hands on our rooftops and backyards, be part of the greatest transition (away from the Burning Age of Fossil Fuels) and revolution (to the Age of Zero Carbon and Perpetual Energy) our species has ever witnessed! How can anyone find this depressing?"

Anyway, on we go. I'm getting some great ideas for change from Switch ... I'm only half way through but I think I would recommend it!

05 September 2010

We Are So Afraid of the Truth

The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.
— Gustave Le Bon, 1895

The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.
— H. L. Mencken, 1926

Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives... by make-believe.
— W. Somerset Maugham, 1938

Delay is the deadliest form of denial. 
— C. Northcote Parkinson, 1950s

Man today is in flight from thinking. This flight from thought is the ground of thoughtlessness. But part of this flight is that man will neither see nor admit it. Man today will even flatly deny this flight from thinking. He will assert the opposite.
— Martin Heidegger, 1959

The trouble about man is twofold. He cannot learn truths which are too complicated; he forgets truths which are too simple.
— Rebecca West

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
— Denis Diderot

For us to maintain our way of living, we must… tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves… the lies act as barriers to truth. These barriers… are necessary because without them many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.
— Derek Jensen, 2000