02 June 2019

How Do We Cultivate the Courage We Need to Do What's Needed?

A friend sent that quote to me this past week ... a week during which I've been struggling to remain brave in the face of frustrating and nearly overwhelming personal circumstances and still so much nasty gawddamn denial of the climate crisis. Who *are* these deniers? Why are they *so* afraid to be working for a better world rather than the status quo? Because, make no mistake, denial of the climate change emergency is born out of cowardice ... and a shrivelled heart incapable of compassion.

Conformity to "everyone else" is killing us! Conforming to denialist beliefs. Jetting off to lie on some distant beach. Buy, buy, buying to fill some void. Building with steel and concrete rather than wood. Eating industrially raised meat and dairy. Using chemicals on their gardens.

Conformity is killing us.

Globally, crop yields have, on average, started declining. My worst fear (that food security would disappear while people are still arguing that "CO2 is good for plants") is coming true. I need to screw up my courage to a new level. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free."
― Jim Morrison
It's time for material and energy austerity, folks. All the bad things I've been talking about here for TEN YEARS (!!!) are not only happening but increasing, and increasing at accelerating rates.

WE have to get our carbon emissions into decline NOW. WE have to do that. We can't wait for governments anymore.

What if the Green New Deal was designed to be a giant distraction? What can WE be doing? I mean besides the stuff we've been half-assedly doing for 20 years.

We need to be buying nothing but food. We need to work with our neighbours and in our communities to get growing as much food as possible, in as many local places as possible.

Governments need to get their fingers out of their noses and build public transit that works for real people of all ages and abilities. We need to be using energy-dense nuclear power to smelt the metals to build this public transit infrastructure, as well as the renewable energy infrastructure. 

We need to be staying cool using fans and breezes and shade. No air conditioning. 

We need to be doing as little travel as possible by fossil fuel. Staycations instead. Walking and biking instead. Carpooling and public transit at the very least. WE NEED TO START INCONVENIENCING OURSELVES for the sake of the future. And for some crazy reason, in this most-comfortable-ever era in Western human history, it's going to take courage to do that. 

So screw up your courage, do your best to make whatever changes you can make (cancel a vacation, plant some food, stay home more often or walk/ride a bike), but don't be afraid to screw up or be a hypocrite sometimes (the zero-carbon systems just aren't in place yet!).

We all need good luck now (to be honest, we probably need an all-out miracle) but by being as brave as we can be and making these changes, perhaps we can create our luck, and our own miracle. Oh, and don't be afraid to reach out to others for help. There's more courage to be found in numbers.

(With apologies for a rather disjointed post — but we can't let perfect get in the way of good enough anymore. We just have to get stuff done. For encouragement, see my other posts about courage.)

26 May 2019

Compassion Tune-Up: An Oldie (But a Goodie), Like Me

Well, I've just celebrated another turn around the sun. I think I'm going to have to accept the fact that I'm not young anymore. ;-) And I think I feel a midlife crisis coming on. 

This new version of a wonderful Joni Mitchell oldie by Counting Crows is an excellent reminder that we don't have to throw out the old to make room for the new in the work we're doing. It's also a sad reminder of how much worse things have become in the last few decades. (This song was released in 1970, and Mitchell is 75 now!) Plus it has prompted me to examine my life, to be sure that I do know what I've got before it's gone.

Here, for your melancholic listening pleasure, is Big Yellow Taxi. Enjoy.

Big Yellow Taxi

by Joni Mitchell
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot 
With a pink hotel, a boutique 
And a swinging hot spot 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees 
Put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged the people 
A dollar and a half just to see 'em 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer 
Put away that DDT now 
Give me spots on my apples 
But leave me the birds and the bees 

Don't it always seem to go 
That you don't know what you've got 
Till it's gone 
They paved paradise 
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
© Siquomb Publishing Company

19 May 2019

Faith Rather Than Hope

We "countryfolk" are housesitting for friends and getting an extended "city fix," which is always fascinating. City streets sure are lonelier, especially with everyone checking out their "screens" as they bustle along. But shopkeepers and restaurant servers have been quite friendly (perhaps reflecting back our small-town vibe?).

Hanging in our friends' kitchen is this little sign:

"And faith for the future" ... that's the part that struck me. You know how I feel about hope and hope mongering, where feeling hopeful about the climate crisis is more important than actually doing something about the climate crisis. (If what environmental education guru, David Orr, says is true — that hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up — I figure it's only because it wants to get a tan on its arms.)

But faith. Faith. Doesn't that seem different somehow? The non-religious definition is "complete trust or confidence in someone or something." The moment I read that sign, I realized that I do my work on the climate change emergency with some sort of faith in my heart that ... well, that we humans will at last pull together. 

It could well be too late by the time we get our act together (indeed, it's maybe too late already, given all the warming we're already committed to due to the ocean heat lag ... and all the warming that will be added when we stop fossil fuel burning, since fossil fuel particulate pollution has been masking a certain percentage of the warming to date), but if nothing else, I'd like today's younger generations to know that we finally, after a huge collective forehead slap, "got it" and came together for their sake. 

Still waiting for our collective facepalm
The quote below isn't quite correct. The IPCC has told us that we only have until 2020 to get our carbon emissions into rapid decline if we want to be able to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets (50% reduction and virtually zero, respectively). 

But the sentiment is one that resonates for me. It speaks to the faith that arises when people — listening to the love in their heart, instead of the fear — start doing exciting, courageous work together.
It is true that the IPCC tells us that we have only 12 years to act ... but in the world there are thousands of projects. They do not start from pessimism or optimism, they start with people who choose to follow their heart, and do what they feel called to. Science tells us that it is possible.  — Diego Galli

21 April 2019

A New Anthem for Saving the World? From Lil Dicky?

ALERT: I am about to shamelessly show my age!

The other day, a young friend sent me this new music video by Lil Dicky (never heard of him). It's called Earth (not very original, but I'll take enviro songs wherever I can get 'em ;-). 

You know, we've been searching for an anthem for the climate change movement. Environmental activist extraordinaire Guy Dauncey explains the importance of finding a song for this movement.
"[An] Earth Anthem ... will inspire our hearts to sing. As soon as that song is written, we will know it — and from that moment on, victory will be that much more possible. We need to believe in the future. Earth's creatures and our own children and grandchildren ask nothing more."
I'm not sure we've found the anthem in this song though. But I do like the simple chorus (it's the rest of the song I'd have a problem singing while marching in a protest):
We love the Earth
It is our planet
We love the Earth
It is our home
My questions to you. (This is where I get to show my age.) Is this song edgy, or just offensive? Is it cool, or just stupid? Is it helpful (for a certain generation — not mine, that's for sure!), or just gratuitously over-the-top? It has 2 million likes (as of today) but also 51,000 dislikes (so I'm not the only one feeling torn about the usefulness of this song?) and several "reaction" videos (which I haven't watched). What do you think? How does the song make you feel?

This part at the end is cool: "Honestly, everybody, scientists are saying that we have about 12 years* to turn this environmental crisis around or we're screwed. Whaddya say? You guys wanna save the world? Of course you do!" 

You can visit this website "for more information on how to save the Earth": https://welovetheearth.org

* Actually, while many people seem to have latched on to the "we only have 12 years to save the world" meme (which gives people an out for the next 11 years or so), the IPCC has warned in several assessments over the last several years that emissions must be in decline by 2015-2020 to give us a chance at keeping global temperature increase to a survivable level — which gives us ONLY ONE YEAR to "save the world."

Lyrics are available here (but if you're my age, better to leave some lyrics unheard): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDNNGhsL9Oo&frags=wn

Now, if that song kinda makes you feel a bit slimed (you know, cuz you're of my vintage) but you'd like to share it, here's a link to a cleaned up version: https://youtu.be/S2SMvfGe72U.

And then let me leave you with this lovely thought on this day before Earth Day 2019:
"What is the mark of a good life? Who should be considered a success? Easter offers a surprising and helpful answer: success is not about obvious worldly triumph, it’s about developing an ability to use one’s own suffering as a route to compassion for others…. May we transform individually, so we can truly transform collectively, building a better world, a better life. This Easter Sunday, let's think about the kind of world we’d like to create."
— Prof. Kamran Mofid, Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI)

14 April 2019

David Buckel Memorial Day of Mourning for the Climate Crisis

from a 2017 photo of David Buckel by Terry Kaelber
Today, my beloved and his co-author, Elizabeth, spoke at the local Unitarian Church about their book, Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival. Afterwards, we participated in a webinar with The Climate Mobilization entitled Meditation for Climate Emergency—Grieving the Future you Thought You Had. It was only after the webinar that I realized we hadn't said a prayer for David Buckel, who died one year ago today.

I wasn't blogging much at this time last year. My depression had kicked in, and I remember that I was gardening every chance I got in order to ground my grief and anger about the climate change emergency. If I had been blogging, I would have told you about David Buckel. 

David S. Buckel was a leading LGBTQ+ lawyer in New York City. Then he became interested in environmental issues. He died in Prospect Park (the scene of a huge Extinction Rebellion event today called Extinction Mass: Remembrance for Lost Species) early in the morning after setting himself on fire. The email he left behind read:
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
Comparing his death to the self-immolation of Tibetan monks protesting oppression by the Chinese government, he continued:
“This is not new. Many have chosen to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see. Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard. I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others.”
May David Buckel's suicide inspire courage in the rest of us — the courage to be of service in all the different ways that can fight the climate crisis. (I'll leave you with a list below.)

  • Don't fear sacrifice. Grieve what has to be given up ... and then get busy being a climate change activist.
  • Become politically active. Create political will by writing, emailing, faxing, phoning or visiting your elected officials — at all levels. Ask them (if they haven't already) to declare the climate change emergency. And then ask them what climate action they're supporting. Don't vote for anyone who isn't putting climate action first.
  • The most important demand to make of our government leaders? They must stop subsidizing fossil fuel industries around the world to the tune of $5.3 trillion every year (according to the IMF) in direct and especially indirect subsidies. Make the polluters pay the costs of the social (health) and environmental damage they create. The moment these subsidies stop, that famous invisible hand” of the market will swing investments over into clean, renewable, everlasting energy technologies.
And don't forget to, you know, conserve water (a huge percentage of a city's energy usage is for pumping domestic water!), drive less, and eat lower on the food chain if you're not already vegan.

24 March 2019

Compassion Tune-up - World

It's time for a compassion tune-up. There are a lot of mean-spirited people saying unkind things on social media these days, so let's remember that we create the world we live in through our choices.

Enjoy this song, World, from Five for Fighting, also known as the one-man show, John Ondrasik. Lyrics are below.

Got a package full of wishes A time machine, a magic wand A globe made out of gold No instructions or commandments, Laws of gravity or indecisions to uphold Printed on the box I see: ACME's Build a World to Be Take a chance, grab a piece Help me to believe it What kind of world do you want? Think anything Let's start at the start Build a masterpiece Be careful what you wish for History starts now ... Should there be people or peoples Money, funny pedestals For fools who never pay Raise your army, choose your steeple Don't be shy, the satellites can look the other way Lose the earthquakes, keep the faults Fill the oceans without the salt Let every man own his own hand. Can you dig it, Baby? What kind of world do you want? Think anything Let's start at the start Build a masterpiece Be careful what you wish for History starts now ... Sunlight's on the bridge Sunlight's on the way Tomorrow's calling There's more to this than love What kind of world do you want?
What kind of world do you want? 

What kind of world do you want? 
Think anything Let's start at the start Build a masterpiece History starts now Starts now 

Be careful what you wish for Start now Now...

17 March 2019

It Used to Be Cliché, But Now It's Reality (Youth Are Now Our Hope for a Future)

The climate strike at the Legislature in British Columbia, Canada's capital city, Victoria (photo by Laura Hinton)
We used to say that "children are our future" and I'd mutter "Duh!" under my breath (with all due respect to Whitney Houston). It was so obvious as to be cliché. We used to say that young people were our hope for the future and I'd get mad — "Don't lay it on them; it's our responsibility to fix this!"

But we didn't fix it. While we waited for a silver bullet remedy to the climate crisis, we crossed our fingers and hoped a hero would come forward. When Al Gore stepped up, half of America excoriated him for making climate change a "political" thing (like it was his fault he was a former Vice-President). He's done a ton of good work in waking the world up to the crisis, but the nasty US Republicans (I'm sure there are some nice ones) made sure he didn't reach hero status. 

And so we kept waiting. And like that carnival game Whack-a-Mole, we ignored or denounced anyone who dared try to lead us to solutions. We ignored Ban Ki-moon and James Hansen; we shat on Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, reminding me of that old adage "You can't win for losing." Perhaps we'll listen to António Guterres, the current secretary-general of the United Nations, who has said:
If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.
Climate change is an existential threat to most life on the planet.
And then a braided young Swede sat down last summer in front of her parliament on a "climate strike," which continued into the school year on Fridays. The founder of We Don't Have Time "discovered" her (he has since sincerely apologized for the way he did that, but has been excoriated nonetheless), and the rest — cliché alert! — is history.

Since then, Greta Thunberg has garnered the attention of youth around the world. Sure, people (on both sides of the issue, grrrrrrrr) are casting aspersions on her, but Greta seems unfazed. She knows what's at stake, and she just keeps sayin' it. 

The worldwide youth climate strike this past Friday, March 15th in over 100 countries took its inspiration from Greta's school strike. It proved beyond a doubt that young people — fighting for their own future — are, in reality, our only hope. Their speeches were eloquent and bang on the climate science! Their posters were colourful and poignant! Their songs were fun! Their energy was high and their mood was exuberant! 

Two of my former students holding up my (uncolourful) sign: "Climate safety is a human right" (with thanks to Diana Lindley and her lyric)
I felt very privileged to be part of their strike (standing off to the side at the back of the crowd). I was inspired to create a new social media page that will collect positive affirmations and "prayers" for positive action on the climate change emergency, Positive Affirmations for a Healthy, Vibrant Future on Earth: https://www.facebook.com/Positive-Affirmations-for-a-Healthy-Vibrant-Future-on-Earth-2811092489116966/

I have just one wish for these young folks, who invited all of us to bring 10 friends to the next strike. Please, don't be afraid to be disruptive. Walk down the middle of whatever street you want to block. People's "right" to convenience is trumped by your right to a viable future. Their right to be on time does not trump your right to have time to grow up. Go for it! Blessed be ... and see you at the next climate strike.

03 March 2019

Hats Off to President T**** for Giving Us the Emergency

 Well, we owe a debt of gratitude to that childish "leader" south of the Canadian border. If it wasn't for him, we would still be fighting for a declaration of the climate change emergency. But he has, with his feckless "wall" emergency, managed to ignite a sudden firestorm of concern for the climate crisis.

Sure, others worked hard to lay the groundwork — some for decades (thank you, James Hansen, Al Gore, my hubby, Greenpeace, the IPCC), others for several years (this blog celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!). But nobody listened.

No, it took an American Republican climate-change-denying puerile president having a tantrum to get his own way (ya just know he wants to put his name on that border wall) to wake up the American Democratic asleep-on-their-hopium yawning citizens to the possibility that their next president could call an emergency of her own — a climate change emergency. 

If the whole situation wasn't so frightening, we could view it as a tragicomedy. 

1. For starters, those of us who have known this was an emergency for YEARS (see When 1000 is Greater Than 300,000) have been told repeatedly — REPEATEDLY — that talking about the urgency and the potential disastrousness of climate change would shut people down ... immobilize them. Indeed, we heard it again yesterday. (We've never agreed with those people — see You CAN Handle the Truth! — and explained why, but nobody listened.) And yet, all it took was a loud enough orange flame (sorry, couldn't resist) to ignite concern of one-upmanship (I guess nobody thought Obama's swine flu emergency declaration was ill advised.)

2. For years, I always hushed my voice when talking about climate change in a public place. Now, I'm hearing people all over the place talking about climate change! (It's a day of exclamation marks, I'm afraid. ;-)

3. For years, people have been excoriating former Vice-President Al Gore for making climate change "political." Suddenly it IS political, and people are trying to score political points with it all over social media.

4. I never imagined we'd have to come to a climate change emergency declaration through the back door by having it supplanted by a wall emergency declaration, with half the American population then rising to its defense. Now, here's the thing. Is their concern actually for climate change, or just for the right of their president to get her emergency of choice declared? 


Perhaps it doesn't matter where the concern came from. People are fired up now, and that's what matters. Now, to the task of giving them something to do with this newfound energy and interest in the climate crisis.

A) Everyone needs to write / phone / fax / email / visit their elected officials at every level to insist, require and demand that all fossil fuel subsidies be stopped forthwith. We can't keep handing the fossil fuel industries our tax money ($5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies every year worldwide, according to the IMF) when we're trying to get to a ZERO-CARBON ECONOMY by 2050. 

B) For a long time, the lack of urgency on climate change has stemmed not just from the lies and cheating of the deniers, but also from a crisis of imagination. People just haven't been picturing that a fossil-fuel-free world of perpetual, everlasting renewable energy will be safer, cleaner, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful. The Golden Age of Solar Energy has the potential to be the best ever era in human history. It certainly would give children back their future. 

But we have to get our carbon emission into decline by 2020. Can we do it? We did it by accident during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, so we can certainly do it on purpose — with a sense of purpose — by using our imaginations, our creativity, our care and concern and compassion, and the millions of solutions already out there. And if we can always afford to go to war (right?), then we can most certainly afford to mobilize to safeguard our precious biosphere. 

C) If all this makes you feel sad or angry, that's okay. It makes perfect sense! Then turn that anger or depression into action. (And remember, talking about it is a form of action.) But put some good news in your back pocket first, both for the naysayers and to bolster your own resolve to be part of this good fight. For example, check out the enthusiasm and ambition of Costa Rica to be part of the solution:
Costa Rica Launches "Unprecedented" Push for Zero Emissions by 2050

Or be inspired by young Greta Thunberg — and take her deeply honest words to heart. She has definitely contributed to waking up the world (along with the IPCC's October 2018 Special Report on 1.5ºC).

Do anything, but please just don't go back to sleep. The world needs, as Paul Gilding says, all hands on deck to deal with this emergency!

24 February 2019

Touché! Two Can Play at the Government's Game

Well, last week got away from me and I completely forgot to post a blog. But today, as if to make up for it, I woke up to this exciting news!

Some of you will know that my beloved and I are huge supporters (in all ways possible) of Our Children's Trust (OCT) in the United States. (If you haven't added your name to their call for intergenerational climate justice, please do it now!) Those 21 beleaguered youth plaintiffs have discovered just how convoluted the American (and likely any) justice system can be — and how tight-fistedly the fossil fuel industry rules the world. 

Truly, it's like all the politicians (except for a small handful), at least in Canada and the US, are afraid that Big Oil is going to pull their Big Money from election campaigns (like that would be the end of the world or something ... snark alert). Or is it worse, and lives have been threatened? (I've watched enough American TV to have a few conspiracy theories of my own.)

President T****'s government has tied this case up in dozens of knots (imagine, an appeal before the case has even been heard! now that's desperate — and practically proof of their guilt), but I've got to hand it to the lawyers handling the OCT case. They have spoken truth to power with their latest Urgent Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Table of Contents alone had me cheering this morning! (Check out section VI. B. below. The plaintiffs, by the way, are the young people, and the defendants are the departments of the US Government that deal out death, I mean, deal with fossil fuels.)

Here are a few choice quotes:
"The record shows that, for decades, Defendants have knowingly and affirmatively placed Plaintiffs in peril of present and worsening climate change-induced harms, with shocking, deliberate indifference to the known and obvious dangers in advancing a fossil fuel-based energy system."

"Defendants made every effort to prevent Plaintiffs' case from being decided, all while accelerating fossil fuel development [as President T**** promised he would do as part of his election platform] and increasing GHG emissions to the point where it will become impossible for Plaintiffs to protect themselves from the climate danger Defendants have had a role in causing. Defendants have deliberately chosen to prioritize use of fossil fuels in our national energy system, disregarding decades of knowledge that this path would destroy our Nation and the lives of children and future generations. This injunction will serve and protect the public's interest in national security and liberty and prevent further inequity to Plaintiffs."

"Dr. Stiglitz confirms that '[t]he current national energy system, in which approximately 80 percent of energy comes from fossil fuels, is a direct result of decisions and actions taken by Defendants.' In his expert opinion Dr. Stiglitz avers: 'The fact that the U.S. national energy system is so predominately fossil fuel-based is not an inevitable consequence of history. The current level of dependence of our national energy system on fossil fuels is a result of intentional actions taken by Defendants over many years. These actions, cumulatively, promote the use of fossil fuels, contribute to dangerous levels of CO2 emissions, and are causing climate change.'"
Folks, I see this as a watershed moment. If the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit does not immediately grant this urgent motion, then we're going to know just what we're up against and how dumb it would be to remain peaceful and calm and good and kind and sweet in our protests to safeguard the future of life on this precious planet! 

Our Children's Trust, meet Extinction Rebellion. I, for one, rebel against the extinction of the children — of all species — that I love so dearly.

10 February 2019

The Cold, Hard Truth

Another storm with high winds caused a 24-hour power outage this weekend for my community. My beloved and I spent that time in the cold and the dark (why we didn't build a fire in our woodstove and stay cozy and warm is a longer story). 

I had a fun novel on hand (thanks to a friend) and lots of marking (done by flashlight, candlelight, and then sunlight) to keep me occupied. Peter is reading Matthieu Auzanneau's Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History — the perfect book when the power is off and the lights are out.  

All this to preface what I realized yesterday, curled up in bed with a toque and mitts on. I am overwhelmed. Well, I'm feeling overwhelmed (and realizing that we ain't seen nothin' yet). Between schoolwork and housework and trying to hang on to friends and trying to keep up with all the climate change happenings (but definitely not succeeding), I'm not doing anything well. 

Not only is the climate change emergency going to continue to shower us with [pick your region's worst nightmare: storms, floods, droughts, sea level rise, food shortages, water conflicts], but while we're dealing with those crises, life has to continue. We have to continue to make meals (sometimes without power and, in the not-too-distant future, without ingredients that used to be widely available). We have to keep getting the kids ready for school (until schoolyards are taken over for food production and the children are growing it). We have to continue to do our jobs (until societies break down and jobs are useless because everyone's labour is needed just for survival). 

In 2018, the world experienced 39 weather disasters that cost over $1 billion. (We're talking hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and severe weather.)
The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018 of any country, with 16. That's its second-highest total on record, behind the 20 billion-dollar weather disasters of 2017. NOAA has not yet released its final list of billion-dollar disasters for the U.S. in 2018 due to the government shutdown. China had seven billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018.

The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 394 weather and earthquake disasters catalogued by Aon in 2018 was $225 billion (2018 USD), which is 33 percent above the 1980-2017 inflation-adjusted average of $169 billion. The great bulk of the 2018 total came from weather-related disasters ($215 billion of the $225 billion).

And yet, I still read comments like:

"CO2 is fine the way it is, without need of 'fixing.' Plants in greenhouses with fortified CO2 do much better of course." [Ooh, ooh, I love that one. Because of course the real world of agriculture is just like a giant experiment in a greenhouse. With no pests, no storms, no floods, no droughts, no heatwaves to worry about. No sirree.] 

"While flooding and more severe weather events are bad consider the alternative if nature takes it's [sic] course." [I think she's taking her course and it's obvious she's miffed.] 

"We still haven't returned to the Medieval or Roman Climate Optimum. Until then, I am not worried. :)" [That's someone who doesn't get the "global" in global warming.] 

"So, you're afraid of the havoc wrought by milder winters and nights?" [Sigh, yeah. Some people just have zero ecological literacy. Milder winters = less insect kill = an increase in vector-borne diseases + huge swathes of trees killed by bark beetles. Oh, and milder winters also = less snowpack lasting for a shorter time in spring = lower drinking water supply + water shortages by summer.]

I would love to know who created this ... it's brilliant.
You know what? I've just realized what's overwhelming me. It's the inertia. It's that there only seem to be 37 people (and that feels generous) in the whole world fighting against Big Money, Big Oil and Stupid Government in order to safeguard the future. Talk about tilting at windmills. The Don Quixotes of the world are still being laughed at by armchair "experts," excoriated by fake news pundits, fake-scienced by paid trolls, and ignored by the millions (or is it billions) of people who are too overwhelmed with their own lives to share a care for the future. 

Okay, well, now that I understand my overwhelm, I think I'll be okay. I think I'll be able to become Person #38 again, and get back into the fray. Thanks for listening and helping me sort this out. And if you ever need the same sort of help sorting through the cold, hard truth, my hearing is still pretty good and I've got strong shoulders. Send me a message!

27 January 2019

The Real Truth About the Climate Crisis

Sorry that I'm posting later than usual this week. I saw my hubby off to a big health conference in New York City this morning (everyone else was flying to Mexico!), and just got home a while ago.

Peter will be speaking on The Global Climate Change Emergency: From Personal to Planetary Health, and then joining a panel that includes one of his greatest heroes, the preeminent climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, who wrote the foreword to Peter's book (co-authored with Elizabeth Woodworth), Unprecedented Crime: Climate Science Denial and Game Changers for Survival.

The real truth about the climate crisis seems to be finally seeping into the public consciousness, doesn't it? (Perhaps that's the real reason President T**** shut down the American government! He wouldn't want people questioning his commitment to "clean coal" — the greatest oxymoron EVER.) 

More and more municipal governments are declaring the climate change emergency — which is a declaration of their intention to spend money doing something to safeguard the future for their citizens.

20 January 2019

“Take It and Run” — Navigating Earth in Decline

Today, we welcome Salt Spring Island (British Columbia, Canada) teacher, writer and activist extraordinaire, Jan Slakov, as our guest blogger. Enjoy!

In his unforgettable commencement address, activist, entrepreneur, author Paul Hawken stated, “Class of 2009, you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on Earth at a time when every living system is declining. […] if you look at the science about what is happening on Earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this Earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

Ten years later, and I could feel myself losing hope. When asked what news story from 2018 made him angry, Tim Fontaine of Walking Eagle News replied, "Uh, that the world was gonna end in 20 years and everybody just promptly ignored it.” He referred to the IPCC's special 1.5ºC report on climate change that “was so laid out, it was both a road map to the end of the world and a road map to how to save it and we were more concerned with [anything else, from the royal wedding to flossing].” It’s all the more difficult when solutions, such as those outlined by Project Drawdown, which Hawken is now involved in, would make the world a happier, healthier place.

I know of people who ended up alienating those close to them with their gloom. Feeling myself sinking towards despair, I decided to look for help. I read Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind. Climate activist and healer Christine Penner-Polle offered to include me in her “Climate of Love” energy healing work, I spent more time outside in the garden and woods I love. I read Think No Evil about how an Amish community responded to a mass shooting in one of their schools with radical love and forgiveness. I started making time to focus on sharing loving kindness, for myself and those I love, yes, but also for those whose actions are causing great pain, who I find hard to love.

And then, once again, I went up Burnaby Mountain, this time for an Earth Witness worship meeting. We sat just outside the Kwekwecnewtxw or sacred Watch House, our circle including people of differing faith backgrounds or no religious affiliation at all. It felt like our sharing of silence, gratitude, sorrows, song, followed by warm tea and snacks, was helping to strengthen the spiritual power of that place. No doubt it was also being in community with others who are doing their utmost to protect the world we love.

Romilly Cavanaugh, the environmental engineer who used to work for TransMountain pipeline and then went up Burnaby Mountain last March 20, uncertain if her career would be damaged by getting arrested, was there too. That day in March, she knew she was doing what she was meant to do, as the welcome from indigenous leaders brought tears to her eyes. To this incredibly diverse group of people in which she found herself, they said, “If you come here with an open heart, we welcome you.”

After our Earth Witness circle, Romilly got a text from Stephanie, a doctor who also has been drawn to help land defenders at Burnaby Mountain. The text was an invitation to come down to an Unist’ot’en/Wet’suwet’en solidarity rally at Victory Square, in Vancouver’s downtown east side. By the time we got there, the rally was at Hastings and Main, completely blocking traffic.

Gradually I came to see what a privilege it was to be there. I’m sure many of the people in that space have survived abuse and pain beyond anything I’ve ever known, personally. One woman in the inner circle was crying. I suspect those were tears of joy, to see her people rising up.

I tend to get anxious about inconveniencing others, so I went up to a truck driver who was stuck with a “front row seat” he never asked for: “I’m sorry; I hope you understand.” He didn’t roll down his window but I could tell that, at some level, yes, he did understand. When three police officers made their way through the crowd towards that inner circle, I followed, hoping to be able to help de-escalate confrontation, if need be. One of them embraced a man in that circle; I went back to reassure my friends — these police officers are here to help, no need to worry.

Not long after that we started to move, heading towards the entrance to the Vancouver Port, and occupying the eastbound lanes of Hastings. Two indigenous women were leading; now and then one lowered the megaphone to a girl who was her daughter, I think. Her tiny voice called out: “The people united will never be defeated.” The call back was not tiny. There were hundreds of us slowly heading east, serenaded now and then by westbound vehicles honking their support.

I know some people see Extinction Rebellion tactics of blocking traffic as counter-productive. Often, at rallies, I find myself wishing for something more beautiful and inspiring than tired slogans. But I’ve come to see how we need everyone, doing what they can. As the RAVEN indigenous solidarity group puts it, this is a time to “pulltogether.”

We need Romilly getting arrested, but also her paid work, through offsetters.ca. We need the inspiration and vision of policies elaborated in the Leap Manifesto, policies congruent with those of the Green Party’s “Vision Green.” The policies would result in economic transformation, not economic ruin. (In 2011, Canada's federal Green Party made a special effort to get its platform reviewed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) at the time, who judged the platform favourably. With new legislation giving the PBO a mandate to review party platforms, hopefully Canadians will have a useful tool to better understand the fiscal implications of various proposals.)

It is hard to work for change in a system that feels stacked against us. And maybe we are indeed doomed. But let’s look at how people have faced terminal cancer or killer despots in the past. Some give up the desire to live, knowing death is stalking them and those they love. Some see, in a heightened way, that all that really matters is love.

And for some, there are many would be called miracles. Somehow they live on, defying diseases, abuse or attacks that have been, for others, deadly.

As he ended his commencement address, Hawken spoke of the generations before who had failed. “They got distracted and lost sight of the fact that life is a miracle every moment of your existence. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. […] This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.” 

— Jan Slakov

13 January 2019

There Are So Many Things We Can Be Doing!

I think I'm just going to make a list today. I haven't offered this sort of thing in a long time, but we attended a meeting the other night where lots of ideas for what a nearby city (and the capital city of my province in Canada) can do about the climate crisis. I'll add in some of my own ideas.

Change now, as philosopher Krishnamurti taught. Picture … dream … envision how the world needs to be: free of war, terrorism, violence, cruelty and slaughter. A world free of fossil fuels, a “golden age” of zero-carbon renewable energy, will be safer, cleaner, kinder, healthier, more equitable, and more peaceful. It’s a beautiful vision, isn’t it?

For the sake of the children – of all species – find the strength, the courage and the compassion to truly feel the pain of the climate crisis. Next, lament. And then, get active. Remember that the most vulnerable are being impacted worst and first, but we are all impacted. People around the world are losing their lives or their loved ones, their livelihoods, their food security and water sources, their homes and entire homelands, in extreme weather events caused or exacerbated by climate chaos. We also need to understand this from the perspective of indigenous people, who have nowhere to move to because they are their land.

If you and your family are not already eating a plant-based diet, go vegan now, for the sake of your own health and the health of the planet. It’s the quickest – and most significant – way to lower your greenhouse gas emissions. Further, how can we create peaceful transformation in a world filled with slaughter and cruelty?

The Burning Age is over. Support a carbon fee and any other strategy that will encourage people to switch their investment money to zero-carbon, non-combustion renewable energy. Work towards a combustion-free society by transitioning away from the internal combustion engine.

Call for your government to keep its pledge to end taxpayer subsidies to fossil fuel industries. According to the International Monetary Fund, every year governments around the world give $5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuel corporations. Just think how much faster we’ll make the transition to zero-carbon, non-combustion energy when all that money is switched to renewables.

Make a plan for reducing your family’s carbon footprint as rapidly as possible. Invest in the future by ensuring that your investments are ethical and green. Divest from fossil fuels. Vote with your dollars. Invest in a heat pump for your home to lower your heating bill. If you need to drive, save up to purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle. Figure how far you and your family are willing to walk, bicycle, take public transit, car share, etc., and set up systems to help you use these greener modes of transportation more often. Be willing to make changes, compromises, even sacrifices for the sake of the future.

Support fair elections and electoral reform so that governments are made up of elected officials representing all voices, not just those beholden to fossil fuel industries.

Learn the basic science of the unprecedented crime of greenhouse gas pollution and the anthropogenic (human-caused) climate and oceans crisis it has led to. Then learn why climate disruption and the trifecta of ocean heating, ocean acidification, and ocean de-oxygenation represent an urgent emergency. Understand that the climate change denial campaign is deliberate and extremely well funded. They can sound convincing, but don’t be fooled. Do your own research, check your sources, and stay strong.

The greatest immediate threat is food and water insecurity. After all, we have evolved over the last 10,000 years into a species dependent on agriculture – and agriculture is dependent upon a stable climate, which we’ve had globally for the last 10,000 years – until now. Encourage ecological and regenerative agricultural practices and the implementation of permaculture principles. Mulch your garden. Plant trees. Lend support (time, money, energy, expertise) to food-growing programs for children and schools. We can’t grow food overnight; nor can we learn to grow food overnight. Be a champion for a different kind of education … one that will help create the world we need.

Permaculture the heck out of your community. Turn public spaces and boulevards into food forests. Build food security, food sovereignty, food resilience. (If climate chaos is going to lead to worldwide hunger, at least we'll be among the last to go.)

Get your local municipal government/s to declare a climate change emergency. (The Climate Mobilization can offer guidance with this.)

Protest outside of any bank that is investing in global destruction. Divest while you're at it, and put your money into a community bank or credit union.

Pull off some "intersactions." Take your protest signs to the busiest intersection in your community and keep crossing the road when the walk sign is on walking around in a square. Get it? High visibility. Not illegal. Drivers won't be turned off because you're not blocking traffic.

Remember to make your planning meetings and your public actions inclusive (invite others who might not normally participate) and accessible (for example, to people with disabilities, to parents with small children). 

Finally, do your spiritual work – pray, meditate, dance, go for walks, whatever – but don’t stop there! Remember, we all have at least a little bit of time, money, energy and/or expertise to share.

 And hey, if none of these actions feels right to you, you can always bake muffins for those on the front lines of saving the world. Even protestors have to eat!

Adapted from Henry Van Dyke