26 October 2014

Climate Change Happinesses and Sadnesses

I love xkcd's comics. They're pretty off the wall and fun (and sometimes delightfully inappropriate). And he's so generous that he allows non-profit folks to use them for free! The comic above is dedicated to my husband, who's always been someone who tilted at windmills, only the enemies he's been attacking haven't been imaginary. Okay, so maybe the hubby-as-Don-Quixote metaphor doesn't hold up (except in the minds of deniers, skeptics, ignorers and delayers). Hmmm. ;-)

On Friday, I attended a professional development workshop for educators on trauma. It focused on the impacts of trauma on child development, and how those impacts might manifest in our classrooms. The facilitator warned that it might bring up our own traumatic experiences, and by the questions and discussion that came up, I could tell that that was how most of us were making sense of the new information (especially about brain research) we were hearing.

The facilitator talked about Type 1 trauma, which is a single event, and Type 2 trauma, which is ongoing, such as a childhood filled with abuse, and that Type 2 especially creates all sorts of attachment disorders in children and therefore psychological (eg, anxiety) and psychosomatic problems later in life (eg, digestive problems). Everything is connected, and so this made a lot of sense. 

Today, I find myself wondering if we've subjected a whole generation of children (in the West and beyond) to a childhood of ongoing (Type 2) trauma, with parents and other caregivers disconnected from each other and the rest of Nature, within a polluted biosphere (light pollution, air pollution, water pollution, land degradation) and a polluted noosphere (the realm of consciousness), with fewer fellow creatures due to biodiversity loss (kids growing up without birds and butterflies is tragic), at a speed of human life and living that creates disconnections and anxiousness from the very start.

Just a thought. A sad one. Compassionate climate action would include giving children back a healthy, carefree childhood surrounded by caring, attentive parents and their loving Mother Earth. 

If you're not deeply involved in climate change activism, it's probably hard to imagine how incredibly traumatic it is to work and work and work for solutions ... and then constantly see only more obfuscation and delay on the global front. So imagine our sheer delight when we heard yesterday that Climate Action Network (CAN) International is promoting its fabulous 2014 climate change position statement far and wide! Thank you, thank you, CAN International and your 900 member organizations, not just for hammering out this powerful emergency response to the climate change crisis, but for pushing the important demands within it onto the international agenda. 

You know who these gentlemen are? When I saw this photo, I cried. This is Iraq's president, Fouad Massoum (left) and Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani. They attended the UN Climate Summit in September. Canada's not-so-prime minister did not. 

China, India, Russia, Germany, Australia, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and more did not send their presidents and prime ministers. I dunno, it just made me sad that so few world leaders of big nations took the time to attend. Though I have to admit that it warmed my heart to see Iraq and Iran sitting next to each other, knowing what they've been through together.

This Hopi prophecy is happy-making for it gives one (all right, me) a sense that yes, it makes sense to keep on trying.
"The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. For we are the ones we have been waiting for."
Here's to another week of feeling the fear and the sadness (and the joys of connecting and small successes) and carrying on with this vital work!

19 October 2014

How Climate Science Gets Tossed Around and Misrepresented

Exactly, xkcd! Thank you.

A couple of things this week helped me finally grasp that the field of climate change science is like any other human endeavour -- rife with human foibles, especially greed and ego.

First up, from Climate Parents, a little tale of greed (profit before integrity) [emphasis in original]:
Two major publishers have drafted new social studies textbooks for K-12 students in Texas that are filled with misinformation about climate change. Since Texas is the ... second largest buyer of textbooks [in the United States], books produced for the state are often sold nationwide.  
Among [the] egregious errors, the draft textbooks from McGraw-Hill and Pearson assert there is an active dispute among scientists about the primary cause of climate change. The climate change-denying Heartland Institute is given equal footing with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which integrates the work of thousands of credentialed, peer-reviewed scientists. 
McGraw-Hill and Pearson need to correct the many factual errors about climate change before its books are presented to the Board for final approval. Otherwise, students across the country could be denied accurate information about the biggest global challenge their generation will face.  
The publishers are responding to pressure from climate deniers on the Board of Education, who are determined to stop students from learning the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. It's crucial that we send a strong message right away that censoring climate science in order to sell books is unethical and an unacceptable disservice to students, and must be corrected.
You can sign their petition here, asking McGraw-Hill and Pearson to, you know, tell students the truth. (I'd hate to see what their science textbooks have to say about climate change!)

Next up, here's a tale of ego before integrity -- and science by haiku (which is a shortcut to misunderstandings). It seems the climate change blogosphere has been lit up with the story of a Twitter lynch mob at a recent fancy dancy scientific meeting. 

As a nonscientist who doesn't even make it onto the cartoon up top, it's been fascinating for me (while recuperating from the flu) to watch the perps and their groupies cry foul. "He hit me back first" sort of stuff. I figure if you're going to dish it out via Twitter, you'd better be able to take it in complete paragraphs. 

Anyway, it sure seems to be a case of the new (climate modellers) trying to oust the old (field scientists) -- a territorial thing? An ego thing? The only humour I've found in the whole sordid affair is that the main tweeter has two degrees, both in ... can you guess? Math. (See cartoon above.)

Here's an example of how the science got tossed around and misrepresented. 

The head honcho tweeter tweeted: So and so "clearly states that there is no physics behind his extrapolations." But here's how someone who was in attendance heard the same Q&A: Such and such "raised his hand to ask 'Is any of this based on Physics?' to which So and so replied 'no' referring to the fact that it is collected observational data." See the dangerous difference between what was communicated at the meeting and what was communicated in 140 characters? 

Perhaps those precious mathematical modellers are simply so high up there on their pedestals of purity that data collected through years of field studies is piffle to them -- even if it's data that, if extrapolated properly (and that's where peer review and scientific debate -- not condescending tweets -- come in), is quite foreboding. 

Man, talk about bursting my balloon. After all these years of thinking that scientists were somehow superior to us lowly humanities types, it turns out they're just human, too. 

12 October 2014

Throwing in the Towel on Climate Change? Not Yet, Thanks to Shane Koyczan

I have been sick for two weeks, laid low by a tenacious flu bug that's had me on a roller coaster of sore throats, coughing fits, horrifying headaches, plugged up ears (and still the autumn's rains were thunderous!), dizziness, clumsiness and fatigue ... huge, life-sucking fatigue. 

I haven't felt this sick in, well, maybe never. It sure has boosted my empathy for those with chronic illnesses, and it's given me greater admiration for my hubby, who has been battling chronic fatigue syndrome for many, many years. 

In the middle of all this, I had a breakdown. Cried and cried for hours. Realized how useless this little effort at raising climate change awareness has been ... how puny all of my efforts have been in the face of the enormity and all-pervasiveness of the climate change emergency. 

Yes, you could call it a pitiful self-pity party. But it was probably more a sudden and traumatic acceptance of how many (thousands or millions) more people we need in this fight. 

I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided that this would be my last blog post. Ever. (Okay, stop with the applause. ;-)

Then, I received this. Shane Koyczan's Shoulders

How can I give up now? I am part of that collective Atlas holding up the world. It's not the time for anyone to give up, it's time for more people to join in. (Which reminds me of another time I thought it was the end of this blog.)

And about that F-bomb, which some have said will keep this spoken word poem from going viral, Shane has this to say:
The fact that the world is more concerned with a single word over the fact that our planet is in crisis, just shows how completely lost we are. Every day we are subjected to images and articles of intense violence... but still we choose to object to a word that describes our feelings about the situation, rather than the actual situation itself. Our planet is dying... I can think of no more appropriate time to use this word... I can think of no better word to describe the immeasurable scope of despair and frustration I feel toward our treatment of the planet.
(Shane has discovered something I realized a couple of years ago ... that people are adamant -- they don't want to feel bad. They would rather their children die a horrible death in the future than have to feel bad today thinking about it. Alas, there is much to be done.)

05 October 2014

A Damn Good Idea - Let's Cancel Debt and Get to Work on Climate Change

The blog-o-sphere is still filled with rants by lazy or ignorant bloggers and commenters spewing their misunderstandings of the science (and economics) of climate change along with evidence of their complete unwillingness to triangulate the research and check some facts on their own. Instead they just steal sound bites from the primo denier blogs while accusing anyone who cares about the world of being in on the grand deception.

(Sheesh, how long will it take for deniers to get it through their thick skulls that the climate is changing? No, Ross, the warming didn't stop 17.85 years ago ... the warming has continued and the oceans have taken up the extra heat, which means that the heat hasn't been registering as an increase in global average temperature at the Earth's surface.)

So it is a great gift and a relief when something comes into my inbox that is a fabulously good idea! 

In Cancel developing countries' debt in exchange for climate change action, The Guardian asks "As the effects of climate change worsen and developing countries bear the brunt, could debt relief be a way to finance climate action?"

We had the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism, but its true success has been questioned because it relied on carbon offsets. We have the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Green Climate Fund, but aside from France (merci, vous autres!), nations are not racing to fill its coffers  to help developing nations with the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and there are concerns about involving private sector financing.  

But what if we all just recognized the climate change emergency we're in, said "Holy shit!" and decided we'd all better get on with doing things differently? What if we all just decreed that all debt was forgiven -- bam! With one caveat: that any and all existing debt repayment funds would have to be redirected and applied to helping that nation, state or province, town / city / village, or household get to zero carbon emissions as rapidly as possible. 

Oh sure, I know, that's pie in the sky mixed with a complete ignorance (at least I admit mine) of how the economy makes any sense at all. (Hey, if economist Ross McKitrick can keep passing himself off as some sort of expert on climate change, then I have the right to talk economics.) But here's the thing. The economy is going to tank anyway if we don't head it toward zero carbon and fast.

Civilization, which is based on the steady food production that agriculture gives us, which is based on the stable climate we've had over the last 10,000 years or so, is going to crumble around us. 

At the September 23, 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York City, IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri said, "The longer we wait the higher the risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts: food and water shortages, increased poverty, forced migrations that could increase the risk of violent conflict, extreme droughts and floods, the collapse of ice sheets that flood our coastal cities - and a steady rise in our death toll, especially among the world's poorest."

Now I know that people such as Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, don't believe that any of these impacts will affect them (and apparently these people don't care if these impacts hit their children and grandchildren). If they do admit the existence of climate change to themselves, you just know they're adding, "But I'm not poor, so no problemo!"

But the really crazy part is that these people hide behind economics when they don't understand the economic realities of mitigating climate change. Pachauri also said, "We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive. It will not. But wait until you get the bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of inaction."

If we have a giant jubilee debt forgiveness campaign and let everyone direct their money toward retrofitting the world for the transformation to zero carbon, no one will be able to say that safeguarding the future is too expensive.