28 August 2016

It's Time to Grow Up

I want to talk with you today about an interesting incident on social media this past week, in which a friend of a friend (a used-to-be trusted term that has completely lost its meaning due to Facebook) totally miffed me by conflating her ideological beliefs with what was actually said in a video that my real friend had posted.

This person called the actions of the character in question in the video "illegal" and "despicable" when the video's narrator (a trusted news reporter) explained that, while shocking, the individual's actions were, in fact, legal. My friend's "friend" said it would be unfair to blame the national organization (which, ironically, no one had even mentioned!) that happens to incessantly lobby for and defend to the death this kind of shocking behaviour when it was this one individual's fault. Even when that one individual was only doing what the national organization has convinced society is completely normal and legal behaviour. 

(To make this story easier to understand, I'm talking about the going-viral video of a 13-year-old American boy (an undercover actor) who tries to buy beer and is not allowed, then tries to buy cigarettes and is not allowed, then tries to buy an adult magazine and lottery tickets and is not allowed -- but then walks into a gun show and easily buys the first .22 calibre rifle he picks up.)

I pointed out to this "friend of a friend" the illogicality of blaming the individual gun seller when what he did is legal and accepted in his culture. I did this by quoting the narrator word for word -- the same words she had heard in the video. That's when she became defensive and wondered why I was picking on her. 

Picking on her? Hmmm, picking on her. Let's see. Because I drew attention to the exact quote in the movie that contradicted her sweeping statement that individuals rather than culturally accepted norms should be blamed? 

I unfriended my real FB friend (sorry, friend!) in order to stop bumping into this woman's comments (this wasn't the first thing she'd said that made my blood boil). Who wants to "socialize" with friends of friends like that? I know I don't. And if you think that makes me narrow-minded or something, well ... here you go (literally).

Her reaction reminded me of three things. First, a crazy spoof video on White Fragility Training in the Workplace (link). "Ooh, you just called me out when I did something racist, but I don't think I'm racist, so you're mean and you hurt my widdle feewings." The article White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, explains "White Fragility" quite clearly and graphically -- as does the going-viral video I mentioned.

Second, this FB person's reaction reminded me of an old movie I watched recently. Gentleman's Agreement, starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire, is the 1947 story of a reporter assigned to write an exposé on anti-Semitism in post-war New York City. Short version? He is blown away by all the different ways he is discriminated against when for six months he pretends he is Jewish. But what really hurts (and I thought Peck did an admiral job of depicting the pain) is the lack of awareness in people around him who don't see themselves as anti-Semitic yet remain silent in the face of it. 

Finally, having to go through the video again to pull out the exact quote to point out how this woman's comment was illogical and incorrect (note: I said nothing about the woman herself) reminded me of all the time that has to be spent by climate change activists, reporters and scientists to caerfully and completely accurately explain and correct wild claims, false information and cherry-picked data spewed by climate change deniers, skeptics, ignorers and delayers. It's. so. wearying. And then they, too, sometimes claim to have their "widdle feewings" hurt.

I do what I do for the sake of the children. My compassion is in short supply these days, so I'm saving it for the children -- of all species. I'm sick and tired of people abusing their adult power in any way that threatens the viability of the climate, the health of the biosphere, and the day-to-day or future safety of the children. If someone's "widdle feewings" are hurt by having some truth, logic or laws of physics pointed out to them, then they can just grow up.

21 August 2016

The Saddest Sad Thing about the Climate Change Emergency

It was a sad week all over the globe. As athletes from around the world vied to break sporting records at the Rio Olympics, India and the Middle East experienced record-breaking temperatures. Massive floods and forest fires are killing and "homelessing" people left, right and centre. Amidst all this, the denial campaign is doubling down (their efforts to obfuscate the need for an emergency response are mind and heart boggling) and the scientific community, for the most part, just keeps calling for more research. Aaaarrrgghhh!

But the saddest sad thing this week was a series of posts and comments on the question of bringing children into this changing world -- a world that is changing for the worse in practically every way.

Children are a vulnerable subpopulation, and as such they are more susceptible to the ravages of climate chaos. On top of that, we're doing an excellent job of ravaging their future.

An NPR article asked "Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change?" Lots of commenters weighed in:
"Should we be protecting our children by not having them?"

"Of course yes, we should protect future children by not having them! Knowing what we know about climate, and the inevitable wars and struggle and suffering that will happen in the near future - how could anyone create another person, someone they claim to love, and willingly subject them to all of that?? If they can, then I don't understand it at all. I wish I did."

"Investors have a moral obligation to safeguard their grandchildren's future against climate change." [See my webpage on Future Generations for more information on this idea.]

"Decided not to have kids because I know it would break my own heart to see them grow up in a dying world." [I responded that this decision must have been heartbreaking in itself.]

"Too late for me but I have had this discussion with my only child, a 16 year old son." [Good point ... how are young people feeling about a future with no children?]
And in response to From Epic Fires to a 1,000-Year Flood: The Climate Change of Here and Now:
"What must it be like to have a new born baby in your arms and look out the window at a line of fire as far as the eye can see beneath a looming wall of smoke and ash that blots out the future! What will be the future as the infant grows up and enters the world as an adult?

"What world will they see in twenty years? The deniers smirk as they pocket their profits and bribes while knowing the truth. Just one more golden egg from the Golden Goose they keep saying. Just one more pipeline, just one more deep water drill, just one more fracking well!

"They will never say enough is enough and worse they will probably start saying that it is too late to do anything about climate change already anyway. They plan to say that eventually. They'll say whatever it takes to be able to squeeze out one more golden egg before the goose dies."
So, yeah, I believe the saddest of all the sad things these days is the idea that the future has become a thing of the past, no longer something to look forward to. And that the greatest joy in the world for so many people -- having children -- has turned into something cruel.

14 August 2016

Get Outside!

Perseid shooting star

Get outside. Whether it's midwinter or the middle of summer holidays where you live, get outside!

Spending time outdoors is vitally worthwhile because it will remind you that:

• you're infinitesimally insignificant in the universal scheme of things -- and therefore so are your woes and your worries

• you're alive! and therefore, even though you and your problems are like one grain of sand on a never-ending stretch of beach, you've been given a gift that you share with every other living thing on this whole precious planet

• if we don't %$#@ it up with our blinkin' greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon (soot), the Earth will continue to provide us with everything we need
Last night, several of my students and their families and I spread out our blankets and sleeping bags and giggled and snacked well into the night, oohing and aahing as the Perseid meteor showers performed their fireworks. 

The last to leave, I was overcome by a sense of well being. The Milky Way suddenly became a colossal eagle in flight, its wings spread open to envelope me. The Big Dipper, having swung through the sky as the evening wore on, now was dripping honey and nectar on me. Certainly, the mosquitoes reassured me that I was not alone in the world. ("Okay, guys. Guys, really, you can go to bed now." But no, they stayed up to watch the sky show as well. Right next to my left ear. Friendly little fellas.) 

(p.s. The Perseids continue until August 26, 2016 and come every August.)

I remember writing longing poetry long ago as a teenager about the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Last night, as the whole night sky kept me company after my gaggle of students went home to their comfy beds, I didn't feel alone or lonely. 

I am part of the Great Story of Life unfolding, and even though I am but an extra playing a bit part, I am playing my part with joy, with love, and with care and compassion in my heart for all the children ... of all species ... for all time. (Thank you, Bill McDonough.)

Get outside, folks. Soak in some of the gifts freely given by this precious planet of ours. And then send out your heartfelt thanks and appreciation.


This post is dedicated to a dear young friend who, despite an agonizingly sad medical diagnosis and uncertain prognosis delivered this week, has cheerfully told us all, "It's not how long you live that counts, it's how joyfully you live the time you've got." Thank you, special angel, thank you. Love you!

07 August 2016

Faith, Hope and ... Activism?

Out of the blue the other day, a friend told me he'd looked up the original Greek words for the three theological virtues of "faith, hope and charity" to see what they originally meant or referred to. 

Faith, yup, no surprises there, from what I recall of our conversation. Hope had more of a sense of promise, like when we reassure worried children that there are no monsters under the bed -- or that there are many adults in the world working to take care of Nature.

But charity, that one surprised me. As you know, "charity" and "love" are often used interchangeably in the Biblical expression, "... but the greatest of these is charity / love." So let's define it first.

In the original, the form of love referred to was agape (αγάπε) (in Latin caritas, which led to the English "charity"). Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love ("as distinct from erotic love or emotional affection," according to my dictionary), not easy to translate into English. Someone named Michael on a Catholic listserv explained it this way: 
"Picture someone we've treated shamefully, and have beaten to within an inch of his life, jumping on a mine one of us has triggered, while pushing us out of the way, in order to save our lives, and you should have the idea. This is a love we could never hope to produce on our own, and it was seeing this love in action that caused Roman pagans to leave their comfortable, and safe, seats in the Flavian Amphitheater to join the Christians on the floor below so that they could die with them."
Mother Teresa certainly understood agape. "Love has to be put into action," she was known to say. So charity is activism and to love and be charitable is to serve, to act on behalf of good causes. 

The next time a couple uses that passage from 1 Corinthians in their wedding ceremony, you might wonder what kind of activism they will be putting their agape love towards and sharing in together. Let's hope it's climate change activism, because we need as many souls as we can get to win this one for all the children.

Just want to share a bit of an epiphany I had this past week. Want to weigh in?

I've always thought that people didn't want to talk about climate change because it makes them feel bad. That's definitely part of it, but I think there's a middle step I've been missing. Because (some/many/most?) people (in North America) see climate change as negative, they deliberately push it out of their realities and make a choice not to read or watch videos about it. 

Then, because these people haven't spent the time and emotional energy to learn about it, they don't have anything to say about it. (Not that that ever stops the deniers / skeptics / ignorers / delayers!) These people are then uncomfortable participating in a discussion about it, and that discomfort tends to shut the conversation down.

Does this make sense?