29 April 2012

Compassion for the Children

The world of climate change activism is a funny place. My husband (and guest blogger a couple of weeks ago), Dr. Peter Carter, creates educational movies on the science of climate change. Every time he posts a new one or even an updated one, some denier/skeptic/crank is there within half an hour with an idiotic comment.

Turns out that this commenter (I'm sure it's the same guy) found Dr. Carter's post on my blog, so now we know for sure that he (not sure why I assume it's a he) is trolling for my husband's contributions and targeting them. This is my blog, of course, and so I don't have to publish this fellow's comment (it's so illogical and dorky), but I'd like to use part of it as a jumping off point for this week's blog. Here's an excerpt:
"I think compassion is highly desirable for the children who have been scared by unscrupulous alarmism such as can be found in [name of famous climate change movie] ...."

Now, I find it interesting that this person can find it in his heart to feel compassion for children who have been scared, but not for children who have lost their loved ones or their own lives, their food security and water sources, their homes or entire homelands due to the ravages of the climate change emergency. How can one's compassion be so circumscribed? How can one's view of the world be so limited? How can one be so attached to one's position that one is not willing to look/see beyond it?

Those who know me know that I do not "alarm" children about global warming and climate change (I don't even talk to them about it), and frankly I have little success alarming those who should be alarmed: their parents and grandparents. But let us not, Mr. Troll, EVER mistake where our compassion should be aimed. Not when hundreds of thousands of children have already truly suffered and continue to suffer. Raising the alarm about something alarming is not alarmism. And what is unscrupulous is that multitudes of people like yourself refuse to make changes today for the sake of the children's future.

22 April 2012

Waking People Up

It's Earth Day, and I'll admit that after 20 years or so of being a big fan (and an events coordinator wherever I was living), I'm miffed with the direction Earth Day has taken, in Canada at least. (Their merchandiser is now called "Eco Bling." Is there something wrong with that, or is it just me?!)

Happy Earth Day, nevertheless. I'm staying with a friend this weekend, and last night we were talking about people needing to be spoonfed. "If you wake people up," my friend said, "you'd better have breakfast prepared for them."

Okay, okay, I'll admit that Diana is younger, more optimistic and obviously much kinder than I am. Because my reaction was, "Wait a minute. People have been making their own breakfasts since they were 5 years old, pouring cereal and milk into a bowl so they could watch Saturday morning cartoons on TV without waking up their parents. Why do we have to spoonfeed them solutions to the global warming crisis when there's a whole cupboard full of solutions available to them?" (It was late after an Earth Day festival so maybe I wasn't quite that eloquent or coherent. :-)

Diana makes a good point, however, and here's where I struggle. Most (most? the vast majority of) people do not spend their every waking hour feeling concern for the human race, Earth's biosphere, or all the other species we're taking down with us. Indeed, I would bet that most people don't even spend a minute a day thinking about these issues. So if we try to "wake them up" without having the smell of freshly brewed coffee (or whatever ... I don't drink the stuff) wafting into their bedrooms, they will simply roll over, pull the covers over their heads, and go back to sleep.

But climate change activists are tired, too! We'd like to be able to sleep in sometimes, too (and wake up from the nightmare), without always having to get up first to make the breakfast. Why can't our governments make the damn breakfast? Why can't fossil fuel companies quit stealing all the food from our cereal cupboard? Why can't people lay out their own breakfasts before going to bed the night before? Why must this be so damn hard, when the solutions are yummy and nutritious for everyone but those heavily invested in fossil fuels — though extremely healthy for their children and grandchildren!

Well, I've just made myself hungry for breakfast, so will leave you with this thought for Earth Day. If we don't make the solutions look, smell and taste incredibly delicious (and cheap and available), I guess it doesn't make sense to wake people up. They'll just get cranky with us! So, into the kitchen with us, fellow climate change activists. Let's get cooking together.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.

15 April 2012

The Power of Belief and Mythology - A Guest Post by Dr. Peter Carter

It is hardly surprising that the honourable few of us in the world who are telling the truth about climate change are seemingly not able to save the world. However, recent publications about the "opposition" have led me to realize that there is one factor we lack.

The other side is coming from, and presenting, a belief, a world view … all mythology. We on the side of the good reject any idea that the global climate change planetary emergency has anything to do with belief. What I have learned about belief systems actually tells me that we are wrong in this.

Joseph Campbell's brilliant realization was that people and cultures operate from belief, not from their intelligence or logic. In fact, people use their intelligence to rationalize their belief.

We have to do this. We have to identify the established belief system – one with a history – that we can then use as the platform for our activism. When we do this, we few will have the people power of thousands to millions of global citizens in terms of the human psychology behind us.

Some elements of the mythology are fairly obvious. But the essential one is many thousands of years old and very simple. It is the mythology of "Star Wars" that was borrowed from Joseph Campbell. This is the mythology of Good and Evil. The belief is that there is a constant war between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Clearly the other side in the global climate change struggle is the greatest evil that has ever existed and that could ever be imagined. Yet no one on our side is saying this!

This makes those who are on the side of good and who oppose this evil the greatest force of the good that has ever existed.

May a greater force be with us.

Thank you, Peter!

Dr. Carter's writings can be found at Climate Change Emergency Medical Response, Climate Emergency Institute, and Climate Change Food Security. His educational videos on climate change can be found on Youtube.

08 April 2012

Respect Your Youngers - Our Children's Trust Put to the Test

While kids are often reminded to respect their elders, we oldsters aren't often prompted to respect our youngers. But children certainly need us to put them first, especially when it comes to the climate change crisis, because they are a vulnerable sub-population who will be hit first, hit hardest and hit longest by the impacts of global warming on health, safety, food and water.

A judge in the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, in the United States of America, will very soon have the opportunity to demonstrate what respect for our youngest generation, and future generations, looks like. That judge will have the chance to turn to the fossil fuel junkies and traffickers (who say things like "Industry has a legally protected cognizable interest to freely emit CO2") and say, "Your right to profit from pollution and destruction of the Earth does not trump the right of children to a safe and habitable planet."

I told you a few months ago about this Kids Vs Global Warming lawsuit against the US government to protect the atmosphere as a public trust. Well, things are now underway, and a DC judge has allowed the National Association for Manufacturers and other corporate groups to intervene on behalf of the government. (I guess the American government is calling in some favours, eh?)

On May 11th, these intervenors will be calling for the motion to be dismissed. If I were anywhere near Washington, DC that day, I would be in that courtroom to show my support for the young people.

Now, the judge will have to base his or her decision on the motion to dismiss the suit on "the law." But the law is based on precedents ... so how's this for a precedent? The rules of NAFTA (through its infamous Chapter 11) and the World Trade Organization can force whole countries (e.g., Canada) to use dangerous substances (e.g., MMT in their gasoline) or pay huge fines so that the manufacturers' shareholders won't lose money — in the future. As this Third World Network briefing paper on Ethyl Corp. suing Canada over MMT explains, "The company argues that the ban will reduce the value of Ethyl's MMT manufacturing plant, hurt its future sales and harm its corporate reputation" [my emphasis added].

That gives *future* shareholders legal and economic rights — and future shareholders are de facto future generations. Ergo, there's a precedent for affording rights to future generations. Created by the very sorts of corporations who are now fighting a lawsuit that would have them lower their carbon emissions to safeguard the future. Man, these corporations really want to have their profits and eat them, too!

Please, follow the lawsuit and support these young people any way you can! Before their right to a future becomes a thing of the past. Check out the iMatter Movement, Kids Vs Global Warming, and Our Children's Trust.

01 April 2012

Friendly Insights on the Human Condition

A handful of insights this week from friends.

During a walk with one good friend this week, she exhorted me, out of concern for my emotional wellbeing, to quit writing to a local "newspaper" (the term is used lightly) about climate change. (It tends not to be a nice experience.) "You create change in people through example, by what you do, not what you say," she said.

At that moment it became very clear to me. I am trying to get other people to take the time and care enough to write to the paper about climate change (in defense of the future and the children and the planet), so I guess I'd better keep writing to that paper. (Talking about climate change, as I mentioned last week, is one of the most important things we can be doing right now. Praying would also be good.)

Another friend wrote: "And then I got to thinking, what would this planet be like if we all believed in our own beauty? And when did we get so disconnected from how wonderful we are? So... if we are, in fact, all connected — the earth, the cosmos, the plants, the animals, you and I — then when we look at the awesome beauty outside of us, perhaps we can use this as a mirror to see our own divine beauty. Just a thought...."

And at that moment, I realized that our culture certainly does not view humanity as connected to all other life on this precious Earth, but nor do we think of humanity as beautiful or worth saving (worthy of saving?). We have been so steeped in our own individualistic, neurotic need to be beautiful or feel worthy that we can't think beyond ourselves.

Another friend said, in conversation about food security and the climate change sh!t hitting the fan and social breakdown, "Oh, I don't think it'll get that bad. After all, during the Depression and the world wars, people looked out for each other." Ah, I thought to myself, economic crises and times of conflict are similar in that they both hold promise of improvement. When it comes to global heating and climate disruption, once the positive feedbacks kickstart the tipping points and lead to points of no return, there will be no "improvement" for centuries or thousands of years.

And finally, a cherished friend told me that he feels he's close to achieving what he set out to accomplish on the climate front (and his accomplishments are many!). That helped me realize that one of the reasons I feel like I'm flailing is that I have never defined exactly what I set out to achieve. (I should mention that I'd confided in another friend that I've been feeling like I'm sinking. You know, under the weight of all this knowing and caring. He said, "There is no sinking allowed." That pulled me back up!)

So, folks, you're hearing it here first ... I cannot "save the world," but I want to achieve transformation in the education system. If I accomplish nothing else in this second half of my life, I want to help children everywhere acquire the skills, understandings, and habits of mind and heart that they're going to need in order to create the best possible future out of the chaos we're bequeathing them. I want every school district everywhere to ensure that their students learn how to grow food, build soil, collect rainwater, and generate energy.

That's all. (Ha!) But at least it's a focus.

Thanks, dear friends, for your wonderful insights!