26 January 2014

Too Nice ... Why Are We Always Too Nice?

Walt Whitman, American poet, journalist and humanist, once said, "Be curious, not judgmental."

And during an Unlearning Racism workshop I attended many moons ago, we were taught the difference between openly saying "I wonder who you are" versus an inner "I know who you are," which is a prejudice (or prejudgement).

But times change, don't they? As I noted back in October 2011, during my Selfish &%$#@! Theme Week
Teachers have a saying: "Judge the behaviour, not the child." However, when it comes to adults, I'm judging them by their behaviour! So if their behaviour is selfish, then so are they. And if their behaviour is mean-spirited, then so are they.
So what do we do with this situation? My husband is on a climate change listserve that was started and is moderated by a lovely person ... who insists that if two brothers — whose family name starts with K and sounds like a soft drink — walked (virtually) into their group, she would expect all members to treat them with respect and kindness, because they're humans, too.

That attitude, so bloody pervasive amongst New Age-leaning lefties (or are they left-leaning New Agers?), makes me sputter (or is it splutter?). It's, it's ... ludicrous, absurd, ridiculous, preposterous, foolish, mad — and dangerous.
"Hello, Mr. and Mr. Progenycidal Mass Murderer, come in. Welcome. Please take a seat. May we offer you a cola? Thank you for taking the time to allow us to show you how important niceness is to our side. In fact, niceness is more important than safeguarding the viability of life on this planet. So please, do enjoy your soft drink. Oh, you'd like to keep getting stinking filthy rich from choking off the future for the children of all species? By all means, go ahead. We're too nice to stop you. Politeness ... where would life be without it?"
I would like to point out that if compassion is going to have a hand in saving us, it's not compassion for the Soft-Drink Sound-Alike Brothers and the rest of the fossil fuel and big money mafia that we need.

What we need to conjure up in our hearts and minds is compassion for all children, everywhere. It's compassion for the millions who have already lost their livelihoods or their loved ones, their food security or their water sources, their homes or their entire homelands. It's compassion for the billions who are going to be affected by climate chaos.

We need to express to the K--- Brothers and their co-conspirators the derision, disdain, scorn and contempt they and their actions richly deserve. Indeed, their deeds should be judged as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court (but it doesn't seem there are many Rich White Guys getting tried there these days). 

We're talking about the ongoing, now-deliberate destruction of the viability of the Earth's biosphere — its ability to support life. There can be no forgiveness when they know exactly what they do. They deserve no compassion. I refuse to "suffer with" the rich bastards who refuse to leave one ounce of fossil fuel in the ground, even as they're killing off their own descendants. 

19 January 2014

LOST MOJO - Reward If Found

At the same time that I've been sensing a growing interest in all things climate change and zero carbon, I'm also starting to hear from fellow activists that this is a particularly difficult time for them.

One friend wrote to say, "Most everyone I know that is working in the light is having challenges these days. Lots of changes spiritually. We just need to hold on. And fill ourselves with loads of sunshine!"

Another pointed to the challenges of working so hard and staying so focused on helping people see and understand the truth about the climate change crisis that personal relationships suffer.

The expression "I've lost my mojo" started floating through my head the other day — so I finally looked up the word "mojo." The Urban Dictionary says the word originally meant a charm or a spell, but now it's more commonly used to mean sex appeal or talent. Now I'm not talkin' about sex appeal here (although wouldn't it be nice if the whole climate change fight were sexier?), but when you're up against all the millionaires / billionaires / gazillionaires (and a handful of thousandaires, as Jon Stewart recently called climate scientists on The Daily Show) who see their money tied to the fossil fuel economy, one can start to question one's talent for effecting change.

According to Wikipedia (and who knows better than old Wik?), a mojo "in the African-American folk belief called hoodoo, is an amulet consisting of a flannel bag containing one or more magical items. It is a 'prayer in a bag,' or a spell that can be carried with or on the host's body."

Ah, so it's like a medicine bundle in the First Nations/Native American tradition. 

So if I want my mojo back, perhaps I can make it for myself! Let's see ... what would I include in mine?

  • A bit of lavender to help calm me, and a sprig of rosemary to remind me of the abundance of food in my life (and the whole plant world).
  • A small photograph of my niece, and perhaps of my class of kids at school, to help me remember for whom I'm doing this work.
  • A little animal charm, perhaps an orca whale, to remind me that I'm doing this work for the children of all species.
  • Another little symbol of an otter or an elephant, my two animal totems (guardian animals) who bring to mind for me my greatest strengths and gifts (playfulness, compassion). 
  • A mini Earth, because this planet is my true mother and my true home.
Then I'll wrap all those in a tiny bit of rainbow fabric as a reminder of all the different peoples on this planet who can work in unity (and, I hope, in harmony) to create and transition to a safe, clean, healthy, peaceful and equitable zero-carbon economy before it's too late.

If/when I get my mojo back, I'll let you know! Until then, here's a lovely (and increasingly famous) quote to help us realize that our true mojo is inside of us.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. 
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. 
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. 
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. 
— Marianne Williamson

12 January 2014

Learning from – and Standing Beside – Our First Nations Sisters and Brothers

Thanks to Nina for writing last week with the title of a book to check out. Reading about it reminded me of something I was told long ago.

Indigenous (Native or aboriginal) North Americans (First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada) have withstood assault after assault after assault by the marauding European explorers, settlers and resource exploiters. Assaults on their territories, their livelihoods, their health, their sovereignty, their pride and their identities. 

And yet, they're still here. Try as my European ancestors might, they could not eradicate, annihilate, obliterate or even assimilate the people who were here first. The First Nations "won" (if we ignore the attempted genocide, disintegration of families and communities, continued discrimination, rampant poverty and associated widespread health problems) because of their resilience.

Aboriginal peoples around the world showed themselves to be resilient. And now, climate change is testing that resilience once again. Many Native communities are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate disruption.

I'd never considered resilience as something that could be asserted. Yet, there it is, in a title: Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis. This 2012 book edited by Zoltán Grossman and Alan Parker is a collection of Native and non-Native voices and perspectives on the climate change crisis. From the description:
"Indigenous nations are on the frontline of the current climate crisis. With cultures and economies among the most vulnerable to climate-related catastrophes, Native peoples are developing responses to climate change that serve as a model for Native and non-Native communities alike. 
"Native American nations in the Pacific Northwest, First Nations in Canada, and Indigenous peoples around the Pacific Rim have already been deeply affected by droughts, flooding, reduced glaciers and snowmelts, seasonal shifts in winds and storms, and changes in species on the land and in the ocean. 
"Having survived the historical and ecological wounds inflicted by colonization, industrialization, and urbanization, Indigenous peoples are using tools of resilience that have enabled them to respond to sudden environmental changes and protect the habitat of salmon and other culturally vital species. They are creating defenses to strengthen their communities, mitigate losses, and adapt where possible."
Winona La Duke, executive director of Honor the Earth and White Earth Land Recovery Project, said:
"In the times of the unraveling of our world, it is essential to stand against the combustion, mining and disregard for life. Life is in water, air, and relatives who have wings, fins, roots, and paws, and all of them are threatened by climate change — as are people themselves. 
"Grossman and Parker have done an excellent job in telling the stories of climate change, and the people who are standing to make a difference for all of us. Change is indeed made by people, and climate change must be addressed by a movement, strong, strident, and courageous."
Reviewer Chris Arnett suggests that "in promoting an indigenous worldview, there is a slight tendency throughout the text to essentialize Indigenous people for their unique resilience or capacity to weather change, when resilience is a characteristic of all people." He then admits, "All contributors acknowledge that Indigenous people, or any people in a close relationship with place over time, have unique firsthand knowledge of place and, as this book shows, science supports such a view."

That reminds me of a suggestion that came up at the Council of Canadians AGM a year or two ago. Well, it came up in conversation out in the hallway, with someone who could maybe be considered a little "fringe." He thought that all Canadians should ask to be adopted by a First Nations band (tribe) and then renounce their Canadian citizenship. That way, he said, we could really join together to fight the federal government and their "Tar sands and pipelines of the people, for the people, by the people" philosophy. 

You know how much I like synchronicity. At dinner with a friend last night, she mentioned a 2011 documentary called People of a Feather (see the trailer here), which tells the story of the Sanikiluaq Inuit community in Hudson Bay, whose traditional dependence on the eider duck has been threatened by giant hydro-electric projects. "Inspired by Inuit ingenuity and the technology of a simple feather, the film is a call to action to implement energy solutions that work with nature."

Our friend at dinner also mentioned a segment of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks science show called The Mental Health Toll of Climate Change. It seems the resilience we spoke of earlier is starting to meet its match among Labrado Inuit as the changing climate impacts their traditional lifestyle so negatively. That's got to feel like a real kick in the teeth, after surviving so much.

05 January 2014

We Certainly Live in Interesting Times

Know what? I'm sensing (and perhaps it's simply new year's verve I'm picking up on) a turn in our attitude towards the climate change crisis. My Debbie Downer side would say it's coming too late, but let's, for the sake of optimism, say it's not. People seem to finally be "getting" that decarbonizing and making the world a better place would, well, make the world a better place!

Robert Kennedy, in a speech in Cape Town, South Africa in June 1966, said:

There is a [now debunked] Chinese curse which says 'May he live in interesting times.' Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of [women and] men than any other time in history.

So as climate scientists are dreaming up ever fancier ways to tell us that +4ºC is the new +2ºC (which, as a European Union policy "guardrail" decided upon in 1996, was already way too high since crops will start failing at +1ºC and extreme weather events are already upon us) and that we're hooped, here are some examples of the new enthusiasm and creative energy that's happening in the webosphere these days. [Bold emphasis added.]

1. Guy Dauncey is one of Canada's best known and loved environmentalists. He's the one who taught me that we have to create "a compelling vision" of the future we're trying to create (which is why I go on and on about a zero-carbon world being safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful than one based on depletable fossil fuels). If Guy ever gets down about the future, he doesn't let it show. Here's something he wrote in his first blog post of the year. It's number 7 in his "'Wouldn’t That Be Amazing!' Wish-List for 2014."

The World Embraces Climate Solutions Treaties
Why are we stuck in negative when it comes to the biggest crisis of them all — the global climate crisis? We have treaties to reduce this and mitigate that, but none of it cries out, "Come on over here — this is amazing!" When was the last time you used the word "mitigate" over the dinner table? "Honey, can you mitigate this soup? It’s so bland."

We need to have amazing confidence in how great a sustainable world beyond fossil fuels will be, and how much better it will be for everyone once we stop grubbing around in the dark of the Arctic Ocean and the beauty of Alberta’s forests to scrape out the last gooey substance to satisfy our addicted craving for oil. As well as Kyoto-style reductions treaties, we need Climate Solutions Treaties in which nations agree to work together to accelerate the many solutions, from solar energy to electric vehicles, from soil carbon storage to ancient forests protection.

How could that happen? I see a big gathering attended not by national leaders but by climate leaders in the world's cities, businesses and universities, all of whom are working hard to implement the solutions. They could develop some draft treaties, and then seek support from the new E-17 Group of Nations [something Guy proposes in #6 to replace the old G-20] to advance them to the global agenda in time for the big UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014.

2. Murray Dobbin, a Canadian commentator, is calling 2014 The Year of Living Consciously.
The terrible irony of our situation is that just as we all need to be what I call "intentional citizens," we are, unconsciously and even unwillingly, becoming less and less engaged, more and more individualistic. Just what are we to do, as individuals, when faced with crises so overwhelming that our minds reel at the thought of the varied, frightening consequences: "Oops, better not go there. Way too scary. I know! Let’s go shopping!" 
Our collective institutions are similarly at their weakest points just as we need them to be at their strongest and most imaginative. Our democracy — including political parties — is increasingly unable to deliver what it once promised, let alone what we want. Universities are increasingly corporatized, jettisoning traditional ethics for corporate loot to pay their bills. 
Regulations developed over decades to protect us are either being eliminated or simply unenforced by governments whose job it once was to ensure our safety. Major media, which once, nominally at least, entertained the notion of political debate about society's direction, have been hijacked by corporatist ideology and are thus rendered incapable of seeking the truth, let alone telling it. 
So, as always, it is up to us to reverse this juggernaut, to get in its way, to make clear statements through our actions as individual citizens until a time when we constitute a critical mass of citizenry that becomes a movement for social change. And it will take time. My generation will only see the start of it. 
How realistic is such a notion? No one can say for certain how the next five to 10 years will unfold regarding democracy, inequality, climate change and peak oil. But the notion that we can behave as if it is business as usual will not wash. We can hardly expect our institutions — which like it or not are reflections of us — to address the moral imperative of facing the crises, if we don’t do so personally.

3. As if to support Dobbin, Faith Morgan (Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, which works in Cuba) wrote:
Given the lack of political will to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, it is time for us to embrace the future, and say, "A life of less energy consumption can be a good life. Let's seek it, develop it, and stop fighting the inevitable, pretending it won't come." This long view is what we are developing at Community Solutions, ways to have hope and joy in life as it is and will be. At a talk at Antioch College this fall, Wendell Berry was asked how he was able to stay positive. He didn't mince words about the problems he sees. But he said we must also keep wonder in our lives; see the beauty around us, in the earth, family, and friends. Believing there will be a good tomorrow helps. 
I learned several things from Cuba that I think are important. First, before 1990 when the Soviet Union collapsed, there were people who foresaw the approaching catastrophe and began developing solutions, living as if they already didn't have what the Soviet Union was providing. They persisted and developed and refined their approaches, even though few other people were interested. Once the emergency was upon the country, the knowledge and skills developed by these visionaries were needed and valued. So, I encourage people to find ways to curtail their energy use, experiment in living a simpler, less consumptive life — for you, for the earth, and as an example that others can follow when conscience or circumstances brings them to change. 
Second, when our Cuban friend Roberto Perez was asked whether people would turn on each other when times get bad, he paused, then said, "That's not what happens. People come out and help each other. The best comes to the surface... I know, [because] that's what happened in Cuba."

4. Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of Marinaleda, Andalusia, an intentional utopian community in Spain, says:
We have learned that it is not enough to define utopia, nor is it enough to fight against the reactionary forces. One must build it here and now, brick by brick, patiently but steadily, until we can make the old dreams a reality:  that there will be bread for all, freedom among citizens, and culture; and to be able to read with respect the word "peace." We sincerely believe that there is no future that is not built in the present.

5. Polly Higgins, who instituted the Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative, reminded us of John F. Kennedy's challenge of landing a human being on the moon, Nelson Mandela's challenge of working for his people despite life imprisonment, and William Wilberforce's challenge of ending the slave trade.

The impossible happened. How? Each set an intent, never let it waver, empowered others to help make it happen and expanded people's vision. Each of them shifted their vision of what is possible — and the world shifted its vision too. 
In fact, the impossible happens many times and in many ways in all of our lives every day — it just may not be as dramatic as the image of the first astronaut setting foot on the moon, or the day apartheid was declared a crime or the moment the British Slavery Abolition Act was brought into force. Shifting our vision — meeting the challenge that comes with facing the seemingly impossible — brings with it the means to get there. Each step takes us closer.
Each of these men handed over the baton to others to help make their vision become true. What they sought was something greater than any one person could achieve and they united many in a common intent to help make something truly remarkable happen. Each of them helped create a legacy from a place of genuine belief in a greater good. 
What we do know, and can learn, from each of them, is that each of us can bring our vision of a greater world to bear, be that through our standing up for bringing an end to an injustice or by supporting others who are speaking out. We each have different roles and often it is not until later that we see how each of our lives can and does have impact. 
It seems to me that the starting point is to challenge ourselves — especially when the justice we seek seems to be so impossible. For me, one phrase keeps on coming back: "It's up to us what happens next." I wonder how many times each of the above said to themselves words to the same effect.

We definitely are living in interesting times. Let's work together to make that a blessing rather than a curse.