18 December 2011

When Good People Think Positive Thoughts about Very Bad Situations

Post Durban, a young Canadian member of parliament, Justin Trudeau (whose father was a very colourful prime minister in his day), made the news this week by swearing at Canada's minister of the environment — right in the House of Commons! (Woke a few people up, I'm betting.) His outburst has created quite the commotion in this "I apologize if you step on my toes" country of ours.

To be fair, our environment minister IS a hypocrite of the first degree when it comes to the climate change emergency. Peter Kent, when he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), researched, wrote, directed and narrated a 1984 hour-long documentary entitled The Greenhouse Effect and Planet Earth. (Watch it here.) To wit, here's the show's description:
There's weather, and then there's climate. Weather patterns come and go, but forecasting has become much more accurate through improved meteorological techniques. Climate change is harder to predict. But, as the CBC's Peter Kent shows in this 1984 documentary, it's happening. Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere have been steadily rising, and by the year 2050 the average global temperature may rise by five degrees Celsius due to the greenhouse effect.
So, if Kent knew all that back in the mid 1980s and, after recently becoming Canada's Environment Minister, embarrassed us all at the climate change talks in Durban, then it would be quite fair to call him a hypocrite. Mr. Trudeau simply expressed it a different way, that's all.

Pundits have been asking (here and here ... but do come back, okay?) when we're going to start following suit. When is our sense of outrage going to boil over?

But I have to ask: What sense of outrage is that? I was at a Christmas party the other night and stayed late to talk with four women that I like and respect a lot. One knew nothing about climate change, one knows a lot and stayed quiet, and two talked about the importance of positive thoughts, even in the context of global warming.

Positive thoughts? POSITIVE THOUGHTS? I was having negative thoughts just thinking about positive thoughts!! How are positive thoughts going to safeguard the future for the children? Since it was a Christmas celebration, I too stayed quiet. Since then, I've been trying to figure out if they're onto something. But I think this is what I've decided:

If a child runs out in front of a car, it is not a negative thought to run after them. If someone is having a heart attack, it is not a negative thought to call for an ambulance and perform CPR. If 1% of the world's population is ruining the future for all life on Earth, it is not a negative thought to call them on it and try to correct the situation. I mean, what is the "positive thought" about the end of life on our beautiful, precious planet? And how can thinking positive thoughts change anything?

Maybe I'm a quantum physics illiterate (it's always struck me as a cop out, or selfish and self-absorbed somehow), but with 1% trying to suck every last drop of fossil fuel out of the ground and burn it up for profit, and most of the 99% either struggling to get by or watching TV to avoid the pain of the spiritual emptiness they feel, that doesn't leave very many of us to EXPRESS OUTRAGE!!!!

In other words, I'm with Justin Trudeau. If we don't start calling a spade a spade, and a piece of sh!t a piece of sh!t (that's Anglo-Saxon for hypocrite), then we will never garner enough outrage, political will or even interest in the climate change emergency.

So, yeah, I've decided that being real, feeling real, expressing real is more important than being nice and thinking positive thoughts (I've equated those two: nice and positive; if you can explain the distinction to me, I'd love to hear it).

My compassion is reserved for the children, and for those who are sick or on the streets or caring for others while working two jobs. The rest of us should be learning all about the climate change emergency and GETTING REALLY MAD!

p.s. We lost a giant this weekend. Vaclav Havel died in the Czech Republic. I'll leave you with one of his quotes. Though it might seem to contradict what I've just written, it doesn't. Lies and hatred can be concealed by niceness, while truth and love can come out in righteous anger.
Vaclav Havel: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred."


  1. we are going up later on today to turn our backs on that FCCC'ing "Piece of Kent", fasting, trekking, and a candle-lit vigil (in the rain according to weather reports) at the start of the longest night of the year (in so many ways)

    details here: http://torontoclimatecampaign.org/hungryforclimateleadership

    Hungry for Climate Leadership (resonates for me with Gabor Maté's 'Hungry Ghosts")

    I don't have any remedies for despair, I wish I did (though I have learned, the hard way, that it doesn't necessarily paralyse you) but here is a palliative that keeps me upright (if not sane) on days when I would just rather sit and weep: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCpQ92n60Dw

    be well.

  2. Thanks for that salve of Caetano Veloso's, David. Terra ... terra. (Funny, the word verification below is "noditere," which could roughly translate into "Don't say Earth.")

    You're right, despair doesn't have to paralyze us. Though I do find I have to be kind to myself when I'm feeling really down (spending time online with kindred spirits, for example).

    With the scarcity of climate leadership, we are certainly overdosing on climate complacency. I have so much admiration for people who have the courage to become leaders in this increasingly nasty field. Many thanks to you and the others who stood up to our unenvironment minister. I hope the candles stayed lit.

    I appreciate you visiting, and for taking the time to comment.


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?