09 October 2011

A Global Suicide Prevention Strategy

Canada's House of Commons agreed this week (something its members don't often do) to create a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. The vote was practically unanimous, I've heard. Everyone agrees that suicide is tragic and heartbreaking. Media pundits believe, however, that talk is cheap and that talking about developing a strategy to prevent suicide is not the same as taking action to prevent suicide.

I am very lucky that my life has only ever been peripherally touched by suicide. My heart goes out to anyone who has ever felt suicidal or been devastated by the suicide of a loved one. I know it leaves nothing but a trail of tears and questions behind. (Was there more I could have done? Something I could have done differently? Some clue I should have picked up on?) I know its causes are innumerable — from mental health issues (such as depression), to socioeconomic despair (suicides are rising amongst farmers around the world), to not taking seriously the immense pain felt by a young person whose first boyfriend or girlfriend has broken up with them. (It's not just "puppy love" to them.)

All of this got me thinking about suicide in broader terms, and I wondered (due to our parliament's unanimity) if the idea of global suicide prevention is something people could easily grasp and get behind.

The English word "suicide" comes from the Latin sui "of oneself" + caedere "kill." And it is true that we are killing ourselves — certainly our species, our progeny (hence, my coined term "progenycide"), if not our own children or grandchildren.

As with personal suicide, there are still many who can't, won't or just don't see the danger signs. There are still many who deny the insanity of our system, which is based on infinite growth on a planet of finite resources. There are still many who are ecologically (and historically) illiterate and don't understand the connection between civilization, agriculture/food security, and a stable climate. There are still many who pooh-pooh the seriousness of the climate change emergency, a risk I've never fathomed. (Think how those people can gloat if those raising the alarm are wrong. Think of the perilousness of their stance if they themselves are wrong.)

So what would a global suicide prevention strategy look like? Here are my ideas. Please feel free to add your own.
  1. Declare the planetary climate change emergency.
  2. Immediately stop all subsidies to fossil fuel industries. (They are doing quite well on their own, thank you, and we should not be continuing to feed the AGW* beast.)
  3. Immediately switch all subsidies to promote the growth of renewable energy technologies and businesses.
  4. Immediately make it law that all businesses must pay for their hitherto externalized social and environmental costs.
  5. Immediately tax carbon. (Create an international even playing field.)
  6. Immediately create a Global Green Fund with a donation from every nation of 10% of its military budget.
  7. Plant trees. Plant trees. Plant trees. Plant trees. Everywhere, everyone, at every level of government.
  8. Teach children how to grow food. NOW.
  9. Put the children and all future generations of our species at the centre of all our talks, conferences, summits, and negotiations.
  10. Do everything in our power to refreeze the summer Arctic sea ice. (Prepare to paint every black roof and dark surface in the world white, which will create reflective, cooling albedo.)
  11. Create a Global Suicide Prevention support group. This stuff is scary and we need friends and like-hearted community members to help us face all this and work at it. Most of the actions above are not things that individuals will do, but together we can be change the political will of our governments.

* AGW = anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming

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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?