25 November 2018

A Message to All the Men Attending the Climate Talks (COP24) in Poland

Last week, I implored all the women who will be attending the climate talks in Katowice, Poland to be the embodiment of Mother Earth, to represent and speak for all the children, of all species — and to wear bright colours while doing it.

But I don't want to leave out all the men who attend COP24. The climate crisis is now so urgent that we can't do this without you. So here are my thoughts for you — the world's grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, godfathers, comrades and best buddies


Show off your ecological smarts. During the negotiations, remember that we are facing (some sooner than others) a threat to our very existence. Our lives and livelihoods, our food security and water sources, our homes and (for some) entire homelands are threatened by this climate change emergency — this enemy of our own making, this foe with no face. 

So share your ecological literacy, your understanding of the importance of biodiversity. Call others on their eco-illiteracy and their lunacy or lack of logic. Admit what you don't understand. Don't be afraid to pose questions (especially "stupid" questions ... many of us are thankful for those!)

We can't eat coal. We can't drink oil. We can't breathe natural gas. It is neither money nor the burning of fossil fuels that gives us life. They merely give us ease. Speak up for the true necessities of life.

In his "solider uniform"
Don't be a "soldier" for your country, be a warrior for your children ... for all the children. Arrive with compassion in your heart, courage in your pocket, and creative solutions in your briefcase. SPEAK UP and STAND UP! Then man up (a term I've never understood until now). Your job, since time began for our species, has been to protect those more vulnerable — especially the children. In Katowice at COP24, your vital role is to protect the right of all children to a viable biosphere, to a stable climate ... and to a future.

You can wear bright colours, too! Those suits you wear seem so drab and boring. You're not soldiers — you don't have to wear a uniform. Cut yourselves free this year. Undo your ties! Wear pink shirts or yellow shirts. Wear bright blue or green shirts. Be a feast to your own eyes. ;-)

Anote Tong, climate change activist and former Kiribati president
Let what you wear be a symbol of what you care about and what you will stand up for. Dress like the day, not the night — like a meadow of wildflowers in bloom, not the blackened walls of buildings during the Industrial Revolution. 

Be inspired by what men in the least developed (and therefore least polluting) regions and countries of the world wear. (How did business suits come to be synonymous with pollution and, well, death?) Wouldn't it be fun to be more colourful and more comfortable this year? And how will you come up with the creative solutions we need in order to address the climate crisis if you're dressed in your dreary, anemic, lackluster, cheerless, monotonous, and decidedly unimaginative suits? (Can you tell I'm not a fan of "the suit"?)

Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
It's time to grow up. Life is not a game. Men need to take it seriously, too. Life (both your own and on this planet) is a precious and sacred gift, and it comes with responsibilities once we become adults. Why continue to play these games well into adulthood? 

Most certainly, life is not a zero-sum game. There are no winners when even one of us is losing. And right now, we're all losing — even those of you who feel like winners. (If one doesn't understand how we're all losing, one could do more research before heading to Poland.) Perhaps you can have some fun turning this into a win-win-win sort of game.


Please, if the globe is going to be on fire, let it be with the passion and fervor of those of you meeting in Katowice to help save the world!


18 November 2018

A Message to All the Women Attending the Climate Talks (COP24) in Poland

This year's international climate change Conference of the Parties (COP24) will be held December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland, capital of the Silesia region. Katowice (pronounced kattoh-VEETzeh) has a population of over 300,000 in the city proper, with an additional 2.1 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. 

Historically, Katowice was Poland's main industrial hub, with its economy in the recent past focused primarily on coal (oh, the irony), energy, metallurgy, and chemicals. It's been said that Katowice was once "a crushingly gray industrial city," but that contemporary Katowice is now a vibrant cultural and business centre.  


It was nine years ago that I sent out this heartfelt request to all the women who are going to attend the Copenhagen climate talks. Today, I send it again, to all the women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Katowice. And to all the grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Katowice climate talks, please speak to them! Speak up for the sake of all the children ... of all species.  

A request to all the women attending the climate change talks! 

PLEASE WEAR BRIGHT COLOURS! Please inject some life into the talks — wear the colours of flowers and forests and sunsets and fresh fruit and children's smiles.
BE A MOTHER OR A GRANDMOTHER FIRST. Believe in your power! The "powers that be" need to hear that all the mothers of the world want what's best for the children of all species. Please represent all the mothers and grandmothers around the globe. Even if you don't have your own biological or adopted children, you are still a mother of all the children, everywhere. Speak up for them. 

REMEMBER THAT CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS. Try to forget that you're in Katowice, Poland representing your own country. Think of the planet as one nation, one biosphere, one shared home within one shared atmosphere that knows no boundaries. Speak for all human beings, as well as the rest of Nature, which has no seat and no voice at the talks — unless you represent her there. 

LET COMPASSION BE YOUR COMPASS. Remember that prosperity and a thriving economy are impossible if the natural environment is ailing. We must get our priorities right! If a decision doesn't have the Earth and the children's future at heart, then that decision is not a compassionate one and not a viable one. 

CALL FOR ZERO CARBON ALONG WITH SOME URGENCY IN ACHIEVING IT. Try to rev up the imaginations of world leaders and negotiators of all ilks (even the heartless, uncreative ones). Help them envision the Golden Age of Renewable Energy that we must quickly achieve.

LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Katowice, though it won't be easy, will be simple. What a privileged position you are in! Please take advantage of it and be brave enough to speak up for all those who have so little — now and in the future. Be the peaceful warriors who safeguard the children. Be willing to stand up, join arms, and say no (or yes!). 

REMEMBER THE GREAT WOMEN WHO HAVE ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEIR COURAGE, women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas, Patricia Wright, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly Hill, Betty Krawczyk, Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Nahanee. Stand on their shoulders — and be climate heroes in Katowice!
p.s. Whose name is missing? Send me the name of your female eco-hero (and a bit about her) in the comments section.
(click here to listen to this song)
by Joyce Johnson Rouse
(aka Earth Mama)

I am standing on the shoulders
of the ones who came before me
I am stronger for their courage, I am wiser for their words
I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future
I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this Earth

We are standing on the shoulders 
of the ones who came before us
They are saints and they are humans, they are angels,
they are friends
We can see beyond the struggles and the troubles 
and the challenge
When we know that by our efforts things will be
better in the end

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be here celebrating today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones 
who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold 
the ones who follow me 

They lift me higher than I could ever fly
Carrying my burdens away
I imagine our world if they hadn't tried
We wouldn't be so very blessed today

I am standing on the shoulders of the ones 
who came before me
I am honored by their passion for our liberty
I will stand a little taller, I will work a little longer
And my shoulders will be there to hold 
the ones who follow me 
My shoulders will be there to hold  
the ones who follow me

11 November 2018

Birds of a Feather Don't Necessarily Flock Together ... A Lesson for Us Humans

Am I the only person who's ever gone birdwatching without binoculars? I managed to pull that stunt this past week when I joined a small group of bird lovers from my community as we went on a field trip to a nearby area famous for its huge flocks of birds at migration time.

We met up with an equal number of host field naturalists and set out on foot to our first birding stop of the day. There, on the ocean in a bay not far from the shore, were hundreds of ducks and gulls paddling about. From a distance, they were all just ducks and gulls to me. But when I got the opportunity to look through someone's scope, I could see that there were several different species!

The best identifier among us spotted huge flocks of American wigeon, northern pintail and some northern shoveler and mallard. The gulls included glaucous-winged, Icelandic (aka Thayer’s), mew and a California. In the distance were many bufflehead, greater scaup, a dozen or more western grebes and horned grebes, along with the usual cormorants, common loon, and great blue herons.

All. swimming. together. 

Are you seeing where I'm going with this? 

As social discourse grows more and more brutish south of the border, I find myself panicking at the thought of how we're all going to "be" with each other as the climate change $#@! hits the fan more often and more extremely. (My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and beloved homes in the northern California fires this week.) 

A 2015 book by Wen Stephenson showed up in our home this week. It's called What We're Fighting for Now is Each Other. What an evocative title! But it's true ... or at least we ought to be fighting for each other's survival now — and certainly the children's.

Barack Obama said recently, "The character of our [i.e., his] country is on the ballot." On the ballot, and in presidential tweets, and on Fox News, and spattered all over the walls of the scene of another mass shooting in the "Greatest Nation on Earth." (My heart is also going out to all those who lost loved ones to the latest the-NRA-doesn't-believe-in-background-checks-for-people-with-mental-illness-and-a-history-of-violence gun incident, this time in a California bar.)

Folks, if we don't learn FAST how to live together in peace (or at least disinterest, like the ducks), how to support others when they're down so they'll support us when we're down, how to live by the Golden Rule when the world is falling apart around us, well, we can kiss resilience goodbye. 

We need to flock together, whatever the colour of our feathers. Hey, if several species of waterfowl can do it, then why can't we?

With thanks to Collective Wisdom


04 November 2018

Declaring—and Advertising—the Climate Change Emergency Closer to Home

Did that get our attention? Back in 2014, for a Climate Emergency Countdown, I wrote:
... And in every way we can think of, let's urge all government representatives and negotiators at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action to declare the emergency.

Once governments declare that we are "beyond dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system" (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), things will start to happen. This declaration would be an automatic trigger for the bureaucrats who work underneath politicians and within governments to start working on climate change solutions. Scientists say that determining whether climate change is an emergency is a value judgement that society must make. So let's make it! We're society. Let's get the CLIMATE EMERGENCY DECLARED!
Have we? No. Every time I (metaphorically) come running from my burning house, stumbling through the smoke and blaze with my beloveds (and my laptop, if I'm lucky), I find a ring of firefighters sitting on the front lawn in lawn chairs, discussing the need for more study of fire safety rules. Although I remember that they did publish another report on more serious fire safety rules just a few weeks ago, so things are looking up (or down?).
And among the lookie-loos on the street are those who say, "Fire? There's no fire at my house, so I don't believe in housefires." The more erudite and learned among the deniers will point to my house and say, "Sure, your livingroom's got some smoke and flames coming out of it, but look at your kitchen windows. Nothing. You're cherrypicking the data and exaggerating the risk." Ah heck, they're probably afraid the burnt-out shell of my house will lower their property values. Or they just can't face the possibility that a house fire can happen to anyone with a house.
Well, there's a sort of solution to the lack of global and national urgency on the climate crisis front. Municipalities are declaring the climate change emergency and doing what they can locally. Let's hear it for:
  • Oakland​, USA
  • Berkeley, USA ​
  • Byron Shire Council, Australia 
  • Darebin, Australia
  • Colorado Democrats
  • Richmond, USA​
  • Montgomery County, USA
We'll see if Tuesday's election in the United States brings more attention and voice to the issue, state-wide and federally. 

Near my home in Canada, we're working to have two local cities declare the climate change emergency. The Climate Mobilization offers a city-by-city campaign toolkit. We all live somewhere with some sort of local governing body, so this is something we can all do!

Here in BC, one of the province's best-known and loved environmentalists, Guy Dauncey, has launched The November Offensive in which he asks British Columbians to write to the province's governing (NDP and Green Party) MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to ask that 12 policy requests (inspired by the urgency of the IPCC's special 1.5ºC report) be included in BC's upcoming new climate action plan.
"The second goal is that people will step forward to seek a meeting with their MLA, to impress the same urgency and solutions in person. The concise, specific, actionable request is that the MLA you meet with will convey your concerns, hopes and recommended 12 Actions in person to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and to the Premier of BC."
"Actionable." If people want action on the climate change emergency, they have to TAKE ACTION. Which leads me to ....
Finally, I'm just reading The Climate Truth, an essay by Climate Reality presenter and psychologist, Dr. Joe Silverman. In it, he almost agrees with my take on cognitive dissonance:
"In some ways, action on climate change seems caught in a Catch-22. Politicians don't act because the voting public does not demand it. And much of the public is not fully engaged on the issue because their individual actions are a drop in the bucket that will do little to solve the problem."
(To me, the problem is that politicians are waiting for the public to demand climate action, but the public is waiting for politicians to take the lead and tell them it's urgent.) 
Dr. Silverman suggests that what's been missing in climate change problem-solving is "the need for engaging and motivating the public on this issue using a multi-dimensional [and, I would add, multi-media] publicity campaign." 
He's calling for a Climate Truth Campaign. "Despite all the efforts to communicate the urgency of global warming, this approach [a publicity campaign on the climate crisis] has never been tried" [his emphasis].
 "Advertising routinely sells the public on a number of unhealthy products (e.g., drinking soda, eating junk food), so perhaps it's not unreasonable to think that an advertising model could 'sell' a message about a healthy environment and sustainable future."
Give his essay a read. His idea is something that we can all contribute to and get going on, whether on/in local media or further from home.

We can't wait any longer for our elected officials to declare the climate change emergency. Many of them have only one aim, and that's to get re-elected. 

So let's declare the climate change emergency ourselves, in every possible media available to us. Let's do a GoFundMe®, a Kickstarter, an Indiegogo campaign, or just pass the hat at local events to raise funds.
And then, let's advertise it! 
Let's tell the world in, as Joe Silverman recommends, short, vivid, eye-catching, visual ways (even on radio!) that we're in a climate change emergency, and we all have to wake up, get out of the burning house, and start hosing it down together!