26 October 2021

A Message to All the Women Attending the Climate Talks (COP26) in Glasgow

This year's international climate change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be held the first two weeks of November in Glasgow, Scotland. With the UK and Italy co-hosting this all-important COP (2020's COP was postponed due to Covid-19), Glasgow was chosen as the site due to its experience in hosting international events at facilities deemed first-rate (the Scottish Event Campus or SEC), and its commitment to sustainability

Indeed, Glasgow was recently awarded the status of Global Green City, and it is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Good on you, Glasgow!

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, cousins, godmothers and girlfriends who are attending the climate talks in Glasgow. And to all the grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins, godmothers and girlfriends of all the men who will be attending the Glasgow 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 Glasgow, Scotland 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 Glasgow, 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, Berta Cáceres, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Chai Jing, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Greta Thunberg (and other young activists), 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 Glasgow!
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 (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

A Message to All the Men Attending UN Climate Conferences

Almost every year, I implore all the women who will be attending the COPs (big UN climate conferences / negotiations) 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 these Conferences of the Parties each November. The climate emergency is now so urgent that we can't do this without you. So here is my invitation to you — the world's grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, husbands, partners, 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 crisis — 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!). Name evil where you witness it.

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. At the COPs, 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 middle of the night — like a meadow of wildflowers in bloom, not the soot-begrimed 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 FOR EVERYONE TO GROW UP. LIFE IS NOT A GAME. Men need to take it seriously, too. Life (both your own and this planet's) is a precious and sacred gift, and it comes with responsibilities once we become adults. Why continue to play games (with our survival!) 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 the climate conference.) Perhaps you can have some fun turning this into a win-win-win sort of game.
Finally, if you know any women who are going to this year's COP, please invite them to listen to this request. And please, if the globe is going to be on fire, let it be with the passion and fervor of those of you who are going to the COP to help safeguard the future and save the world!

19 September 2021

Compassion is Starting to Taste Quite Different

My husband said something shocking to me recently — something that made me hang my head. "What's wrong?" he asked. "It's just sad that we even have to contemplate that," I replied. "Well, it's even sadder for the rest of Nature if we don't" was his response.

So what shocking thing did my husband say?

What is left of the land and oceans must be left to restore itself. As I see it now, the only solution is that as much food as possible must be manufactured from chemicals and cell culture to set the land and oceans free.

A couple of days earlier, he'd passed on the link to a February 2021 research paper entitled Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss: Three Levers for Food System Transformation in Support of Nature. While those three levers are all solutions I've thought of often, it was good to see them in (someone else's) print from a prestigious outfit, Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which is a world-leading policy institute based in London, UK. Here are the three levers they are suggesting for "creating a more biodiversity-supporting food system" (pp. 22-29):

Lever 1. Dietary change to reduce overall demand for food - We produce more food than we need per capita; one third of the food we produce is lost or wasted; the environmental footprint [foodprint?] of animal-sourced foods is generally larger than for plant-sourced foods; trends towards consumption of high-impact foods are increasing. In other words, we need to make a shift from beef to beans (and anyone who's had a yummy black bean burger knows that this isn't an imposition or a sacrifice). 

Lever 2. Setting aside land specifically for the conservation and proliferation of habitats and wildlife that support biodiversity - We have to return vast tracts of pastureland and farmland to native forest cover (or tall prairie grasslands, where appropriate), as this will provide the greatest potential for carbon sequestration, especially in developed nations that "account for 70 per cent of the carbon that would be sequestered by restoring land currently occupied by animal agriculture" (p. 25). 

Protecting or restoring undisturbed habitats and whole ecosystems of significant size is vital for species recovery, especially of large animals at risk of extinction. [I mean, c'mon, do we truly believe that our species — despite the impacts on every other species — has the right to every square inch / centimeter of this planet? Are we truly that arrogant? What a fatal hubris!]

Lever 3. Adapting the way that land is farmed - We must "adopt more biodiversity-supporting modes of food production." There are two avenues for this: i) Retain wildlife habitat "pockets" within agricultural lands; ii) change farming methods. 

The report suggests three "key avenues" for changing how we grow our food:

  • Reducing the volume of inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, mulch, water, etc.) and using inputs more efficiently (something called precision agriculture) through the "4 Rs" principle: the right source, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right time.
  • Substituting more sustainable alternative inputs, such as crop rotation to ensure soil fertility instead of using chemical / synthetic fertilizers. Another example is using no-till methods to limit disturbance of natural processes in the soil. Still another example is supporting natural pollination and pest control rather than using pesticides.
  • Switching to modes of production that use land quite differently, through agroforestry, agro-ecological and organic approaches, and permaculture principles. These practices eschew monocultures (huge tracts of land on which only one crop is sown), recognizing that biodiversity is the farmer's friend. This is sometimes called Nature-friendly farming.

Now here's the catch:

Someone commented over dinner last night that we're still not doing much "forward thinking." (The Natural Step calls it backcasting — picturing what we want or where we need to get to, and then working backwards to figure out what we must do to achieve these goals.)

Indeed, the increasingly intersecting climate emergency and biodiversity crisis (can you say Sixth Mass Extinction?) represent what I call a crisis of imagination. Despite the millions of people who read science fiction and no doubt equal numbers who enjoy fantasy and sci-fi movies, apparently we can't imagine our way out of an economy that is destroying all the life-sustaining properties of our biosphere.

So here's my contribution for this week. We need a "significant reduction in overall demand for food"? Then let's stop manufacturing Cheetos®. They're a non-vegetarian (there's animal-derived rennet in the so-called cheese) "crunchy corn puff snack" that people just. don't. need. Imagine how much farmland could be saved and shared with the rest of Nature if we got off our addictive junk food habits! This boycott idea fits the three levers described above: 

Dietary change to reduce overall demand for food (this idea would help mitigate the obesity crisis, too)

Using less land for farming so it can be re-naturalized (no more junk food crops = less land needed for farming)

Changing how we farm the land (no more corn monocultures)

Here's to a diet that includes fresh corn on the cob rather than "crunchy corn puff snacks"!