27 November 2011

Durban, Meet Copenhagen - You Might Have Some Lessons to Learn

Tomorrow begins COP 17, the next great climate change circus. It is shaping up to be the worst set of climate talks yet ... leaders of all the rich nations have already decided they're only going for the champagne.

So, knowing this is an exercise in surreal futility, I would like to offer up a Copenhagen redux of past Compassionate Climate Action posts for Durban.

1. What the heck are all the women there, at the talks, doing? Why aren't they fighting for the right of their children and grandchildren to have a climate-safe future?

2. I can no longer be nice about this. Seriously, it's getting harder and harder to be nice to idiots who refuse to even look at, let alone examine, this excruciatingly difficult issue. I don't care that it's excruciatingly difficult — and might cause some emotional pain. Our emotional pain is laughable in the face of the pain that future generations are going to face. To not even want to know about it? From The Gloves are Off: No More Ms. Nice Guy:

The sense of failure and progenycidal disaster coming out of the Copenhagen climate talks hangs over me like a black cloud of betrayal. It seems that our human world is so entrenched in borders and boundaries and sovereignty that the negotiators and leaders just could not view the Earth as one planet, its atmosphere as the same atmosphere for all nations. The only thing that has been nearly globalized is our addiction to economic growth through fossil fuel use.
3. Hey, where's John Lennon when you need him? Power to the People! Time for a revolution, folks. No, wait, we've got one happening already! If someone from Occupy Wall Street wants to call me up, I'll explain how moving to a safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful perpetual (= renewable minus biofuels; The Burning Age is Over) energy economy will help them attain their goals. With all the economic breakdown in the USA, still people have no sense of how bad things are going to become when the summer Arctic sea ice disappears, taking with it the "air conditioning" for our summer growing season. A couple of years of bad crops failures in the northern hemisphere and POWWEE! economic chaos. And we thought only developing nations, like those in Africa, would be impacted. Ha.

4. We still see no willingness to sacrifice one iota of comfort or economic "growth" from the developed nations of the world. And yet, as Reuters' Edwards Hadas says, "Even for the very rich, the sacrifices needed to reduce inequality would be mild." And right now, the greatest inequality humanity faces is through our decision that future generations of human children don't have the right to live in a stable climate. Ah, but governments can't do everything alone.

5. I still believe that compassion will be what saves us. I have yet, in two and a  half years of blogging, to hear from one person (denier, skeptic, ignorati, delayer or otherwise) who has an argument against compassion. I think they know that, in the end, compassion will encompass them and their loved ones, too.

p.s. Illustration used with permission.

25 November 2011

A Request to All Women Attending the Durban Climate Talks

It was two years ago today that I sent out this heartfelt request to all the women who were going to attend the Copenhagen climate talks. Today, I send it again, to all the women, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Durban, South Africa. And to all the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Durban climate talks. Please ... speak up for the children, of all species!

A request to all women attending the climate talks!

Please inject some life into the talks — wear the colours of flowers and forests and sunsets and fresh fruit and children's smiles.

BE A MOTHER OR A GRANDMOTHER FIRST. Believe in your power! The "powers that be" need to hear that all the mothers of the world want what's best for the children of all species. Please represent all the mothers and grandmothers around the globe. Even if you don't have your own biological or adopted children, you are still a mother of all the children, everywhere. Speak up for them.

REMEMBER THAT CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS. Try to forget that you're in Durban, South Africa representing a country. Think of the planet as one nation, under one atmosphere that knows no boundaries. Speak for all human beings, as well as the rest of nature, which has no seat and no voice at the talks.

LET COMPASSION BE YOUR COMPASS. Remember that prosperity and a thriving economy are impossible if the natural environment is ailing. We must get our priorities right! If a decision doesn't have the Earth and the children's future at heart, then that decision is not a compassionate one.

CALL FOR ZERO CARBON ALONG WITH SOME URGENCY IN ACHIEVING IT. Try to rev up the imaginations of world leaders and negotiators of all ilks (even the heartless, uncreative ones). Help them envision the Golden Age of Renewable Energy that we're heading into.

LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Durban, though it won't be easy, will be simple. What a privileged position you are in! Please take advantage of it and be brave enough to speak up for all those who have so little — now and in the future. Be the peaceful warriors who safeguard the children.

REMEMBER THE GREAT WOMEN WHO HAVE ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEIR COURAGE, women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly Hill, Betty Krawczyk, Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Nahanee. Stand on their shoulders — and be climate heroes in Durban!

(click here to listen to part of this song)
by Joyce Johnson Rouse
(aka Earth Mama)

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth

We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us
They are saints and they are humans, they are angels, they are friends
We can see beyond the struggles and the troubles and the challenge
When we know that by our efforts things will be better in the end

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be here celebrating today

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be so very blessed today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold the ones who follow me

20 November 2011

So, Am I a Climate Change Chump?

I read someone's response to an online discussion about extinction, and it really miffed me. This person (someone I know and had respect for until now) seemed to be saying that old folks (like me ... I'm in the second half of my life) don't have the right to tell the rest of the world (aka the younger generations) that we're on a collision course with extinction due to potentially catastrophic climate disruption.

He intimated that because we're "old," we don't picture ourselves in the heaps of dead, rotting bodies and therefore we shouldn't talk about the possibility of human extinction. His assumption made me mad. I don't try to educate about the truth of the climate change emergency for my own sake. I do it for the sake of all the children, so that they'll have the opportunity to grow old in a climate-safe world. So whether the climate change $#@! hits the fan in my part of the world while I'm still alive or not isn't relevant. Whether it's going to kill me isn't germane to our work.

The issue is that there's an urgent truth that needs to get out there, that needs to be understood by anyone with any power and influence. So chastising "old folks" who are trying to sound the alarm even though they might not still be alive when the worst impacts happen is a form of denial, no? Denial of younger people's right to know the truth about their own future. (And we're not talking about telling the little children. That would be cruel, since they have little to no power to effect change. But there are lots of "young folks" between 15 and 50 who should know the urgent truth and might be able to do something about it.)

Tangent that this led me down:

For the first time, I've started to wonder if I'm a chump, a sucker, an ecoweenie (as I was once called ;-). Why should I be spending all this time, crying all these tears, feeling all this sadness for the children when so few other people are doing it? I mean, why don't I just go into denial instead of spending hours every week making sure I'm up to date on the science — so that I can share my understanding of the emergency with the 7 other people in the world who also care.

And why should I live in a cold house all winter to lower my carbon footprint when that selfish %$#@! I wrote about a while ago doesn't give a crap about today's children or future generations? (By the way, turns out he's read one book on climate change written by a denier, which of course makes him an expert. And he couldn't even spell my name right when he slagged me in his blog ... he kinda lost any last shred of credibility when I saw that.)

Alas, despite the cold, the slagging, the tears and sadness, the time and the trouble, I can't turn my back on the kids. If that makes me a chump, I'm going to wear it proudly. Besides, "climate change chump" kind of has a ring to it!

p.s. Keep (or start) writing to your elected officials. They need to know how many of us understand the threats of the climate change emergency, and how many of us are willing to make sacrifices today for the sake of the future. WE CAN HAVE SOME INFLUENCE. WE CAN CREATE POLITICAL WILL. WE CAN EFFECT CHANGE.

13 November 2011

"Patient Endurance"

This was a big weekend in my small community. Our first power outage of the coming winter season hit on Friday, the day before our Transition group's Energy Action Day. (Ironic timing, eh? Talk about pointing out our energy vulnerabilities.)

Our Energy Action Day was a great event (despite the school having only half power all day), with great speakers, great movies, great displays, great kids' activities, great local food — and a fire alarm that emptied the school gym right near the end of the day. (Okay, that part wasn't so great.) Many, many thanks to Zorah for making it happen!

With so many challenges, it was a day for patience. And then this morning, a friend showed me this quote:
"I think that staying power is a quality we need very badly and that very few people have. They seem to lack long-term courage, that creative patience – not the sort of patience that is basically a sort of apathy, but the sort of patience that knows how to go on and on until the end appears — to hang on to the vision until it is possible to be creative with it, and not to give up one's vision just because things seem hopeless.

"The New Testament writers had a special word for this: 'hypomene.' It meant 'patient endurance,' the ability to be poised to do what needed doing even though all the going seemed to be against one — staying power — desperately needed — and very few people have it.... And that staying power calls on deep spiritual resources, on a deep peace within ourselves."

— Thomas Cullinan, OSB, in Peacemaking: Day by Day

Someone else online describes hypomene as meaning "Stand your ground. Stick to your post. Don't give up. Don't go back."

Do you remember that last week I talked about climate change activism as spiritual work? Well, these quotes remind me of my husband's dedication and almost religious commitment to the climate change fight. I want to thank him for his patient endurance, and for teaching me to never give up. My love and gratitude and compassion go out to all others who have staying power when it comes to safeguarding the future for all the children.

06 November 2011

An Epiphany? This Work is a Spiritual Duty

I had an epiphany recently. I'm still struggling to put it into words that do it justice, so I'll just tell the story.

The news on the climate change front is getting worse and worse. People who don't follow the research probably won't (and don't want to) know this, although the more mainstream media are covering the release of these reports more and more. (I guess the news is finally too serious to ignore.) And no, F!x News is not a mainstream news source.*

As someone who stays fairly up to date on the climate change emergency and who works with children, I experience almost constant angst and dissonance. Why aren't their parents and grandparents outraged at the international inaction? What more could I be doing? How should I be helping to prepare these kids for their certainly uncertain future? And why am I putting myself through this pain (of knowing what I don't want to know, of doing what I'd rather not be doing) when the evidence is increasingly overwhelming that we're heading over the climate change cliff and still no one is putting the brakes on!?

I was battling myself almost daily: Why are you doing this? Why don't you just relax? Why aren't you having more fun? Why don't you take more time for yourself? Why don't you allow yourself to do other things and forget about this climate change stuff? (It didn't help that friends kept encouraging me to see the positive things that are happening, to lighten up, to not guilt trip people — even though it's myself that I've been guilt tripping.)

Then suddenly (that's usually how epiphanies come, right?), not long ago, it hit me, or should I say, it was revealed to me (from the Greek epiphainein "reveal"). I have to do this work because it is my spiritual duty. It's like trying to become illiterate after learning to read. I can't become climate change-illiterate now that I know what's going on. And because I know, I must act. (See? I can't articulate it very well.)

Because I know that my Mother Earth is in trouble, that all the children of the world, of all species, are in trouble, I cannot not act. My membership in the human race means that I have to reach out, I have to do something. As hard as this is, to stop caring would be worse. It would be a betrayal of all that I love. And therefore, in my heart, I know that what I am doing is a spiritual necessity for me.

Here's how Michael Bloch from Green Living Tips.com describes the dissonance:

"So, given the doom and gloom, should we just stop trying to green our lives? Well, we know from a very early age that regardless of what we do, we're going to die anyway, but most of us don't say 'what's the point' and take our lives or just sit around waiting for death to occur. Of course we should still try."
And here's what a new online friend, Michael Murphy of IBI Watch ("Unmasking Ignorance-Based Initiatives") wrote to me just this morning:

"You are clearly disappointed — like me — that efforts to stem climate destabilization have foundered. But you are carrying on, and we have to keep fighting, don't we?"
Yes, we do have to carry on. Because if there's anything worse (for me) than not engaging in this ultimate struggle to begin with, it would be giving up before it's over.

* Hey, did you hear about the psychology study out of Fairfield University in Connecticut (by Linda Henkel and Mark Mattson)? It turns out that reading a statement three times, as opposed to just once, makes people believe that what they read is true. Repeated viewing of a claim creates a "truth effect" or an air of truth to the claim — even when people are explicitly informed that the source of the information was untrustworthy. That explains how F!x News works. And it doesn't depend on the intelligence or media literacy of the viewer/reader, either. So, folks, remember that your world view is shaped by what you allow into your brain space!

p.s. Cartoon used with permission.