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

06 January 2019

I'm Becoming More and More Concerned About the State of Things

The Peruvian spectacled bear is facing an uncertain future
Here's a new year's compilation of what's got me feeling more and more worried these days.

We tried to watch Paddington the other night. You know, the live action movie about a sweet little talking bear from Darkest Peru? (It's supposed to be a spectacled bear, known for being playful and mischievous.) For some reason, one of the characters is a evil taxidermist (played by Nicole Kidman) who is not content with the animals she has already stuffed. We might have made it through her nasty scenes except that she suddenly let loose with a not-well-veiled screed against immigrants and refugees. We turned it off immediately, but I was shaken. That sort of manipulative mental violence is pretty insidious. :-(

Next, my hubby put together a film this week showing how little the latest climate talks (in Katovice, Poland) achieved — and then they lied about it, with the media lapping it up. It's bad enough that they haven't accomplished much of anything in 24 years of meetings, but to be deceptive about it, as well? That takes the cake. Perhaps we could blame it on their lack of sleep. Anyway, here's the movie. It's called Life Condemned: The Intolerable Evil Corporate Carbon Corruption. Says it all, eh? :-(

Next, do democratic governments around the world seem to be more and more at the beck and call of fossil fuel corporations? Here in British Columbia, Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted (they're not so mounted anymore) Police have warned that they're moving in soon to forcibly remove a First Nations community that has barred a natural gas pipeline from crossing its unceded territory. This makes me feel sick to my stomach. Sick in my heart. Sick for all the children, and for all that is sacred, healthy and beautiful in the world. :-(

Where is the love? Where is the care and concern? Where are the parents willing to make sacrifices for their kids? Where is any government willing to stand up for the people against Big Money and Big Oil? I never imagined it would play out so blatantly ... so cruelly ... right before our eyes. :-(