Category Archives: Our Present Culture

The Climate Movement: What’s Next?

In June 2019, the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) organization sponsored a major forum The Climate Movement: What’s Next? which “takes stock [of] and debates strategy for a vital new phase in the struggle for a livable, resilient planet.” From my perspective, the organization is highly reputable, and I believe the contributions to be very valuable, worth repeating at least in brief précis form.

The contributors were asked to “weigh in on three core questions”:

  • What is the climate movement’s state of play?
    What has worked, and where has the movement fallen short?
  • System change, not climate change?
    Does defusing the crisis require deep structural and value changes, or can “green capitalism” get us there?
  • Do we need a meta-movement?
    Does the climate movement need to build overarching alliances with environmental, peace, and justice movements?

Although they are all available on the single website, I have decided to list them individually to highlight the scope of the discussion.

The Climate Movement: What’s Next?

Opening Reflections, Bill McKibben

A good summary of the shift from naiveté to the strong emergence of the climate justice focus of modern environmentalists. If we are to survive as a species, major changes are needed.

The Larger Struggle: Mitigating Capitalism, Hans Baer

A discussion of the complexity of many players at the table, with a major emphasis on the need for a new type of socialism offering true reform of the huge issues facing our civilization.

Charting how we get there, Guy Dauncey

A very good summary of the many steps (via a developmental model) that will be required for us to move to a healthy outcome, recognizing how grim the situation actually is and yet focused on solutions rather than despair.

Life-affirming carbon capture, Neva Goodwin

A response to the growing consensus of the need to remove massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some methods very positive (mainly orientated to soil restoration), others very dubious and dangerous (mainly promoted by the fossil fuel industry).

Report from the European front, Virág Kaufer

The climate debate in most European countries is at a crossroads, caught between progressives and political agendas, many of which are “hostage to the corrupted and corporate-captured national governments.”

Bringing the force of the law, Hermann Ott

A hard look at the need for strong assertion against those who “suffocate new developments and prevent them from growing,” implementing compliance with existing regulations together with writing new and better laws for climate protection.

Being the change, change the world, Karl-Ludwig Schibel

“[T]he only way to win is to act on the changes we want to see in the world.”

The dramaturgy of transformation, Mimi Stokes

A fascinating description of how we, as well the ancient Greeks, have failed to address our hubris, and how our cultural hopes of colonialism, capitalism and technology have reversed into tragedy, for all, including elites and deniers. Using the modern theory of tragic fates, we need to turn our wounds into gifts, creating a new global culture and planetary civilization.

Planetizing the movement, Tom Athanasiou

“I have been asking people what they think has changed in the last year, and why. Most seem to agree that something has definitely shifted. . . . We are in very serious trouble, and there is no way forward unless we admit it.” Yet, we need a meta-movement — we need to get serious about transitional justice, a truly international justice system.

The movement enters a new phase, Jeremy Brecher

“The climate movement in the US and around the world has gone through two main phases and is entering a third: . . . [first] the confirmation of man-made global warming. . . . [and second] a direct action movement . . . using civil disobedience targeting fossil fuel infrastructure to mobilize opposition.” The third “represent[s] a shift to using direct action techniques against governments and politicians, and expresses the massive activity around the Green New Deal (GND) in the US and Leap Manifesto in Canada. The article explores the strengths and weaknesses of the GND, the possibility of a meta-movement that will unite the various disparate parties.

A caring economy is key, Riane Eisler

“[T]o bring about systems change and effectively address climate change requires a closer look at the question of change from precisely what kind of system to what kind of system. . . . Through today’s technologies of destruction and exploitation, traditions of domination may lead to our species’ extinction. But we can change our course and bring about a Great Transition if we focus on root causes rather than symptoms.”

Renewables are not enough, Kerryn Higgs

“The biggest obstacles to success in limiting global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial (or, even more hopefully, 1.5°C) are the vested interests that oppose this endeavor. The problem is political. . . . No real solution can be established while corporate capitalism remains the dominant economic system almost everywhere on earth. It’s a system that demands consumption for the sake of expansion rather than serving actual human needs.”

On personal and political agency, Karen O’Brien

A brief yet comprehensive description of the nature of system change.

Moving from resistance to repair, Vicki Robin

“The climate movement has excelled at resistance but is missing a crucial, essential element: a focus on repair. It is clear about what it is against, but largely mum on a restoration project equal to the scale of climate change damage. . . . we humans act upon the earth for our benefit, but we do not act with the earth for healing all life. What is the earth healing path?” We need a justice movement that repairs for future generations.

Imploding the carbon economy, Gus Speth

“[S]omething is happening here today. The level of public, media and political attention is not nearly where it should be, but there some hopeful signs of movement in the right directions.” We need “an induced implosion of the carbon economy. , , , Our job is to make it happen, using all the tools we have.”

A climate emergency plan, Anders Wijkman

“While the tone of the debate has changed, people in general—here I include most policymakers—do not fully understand the difference between “incrementalism” (the weak mitigation policies so far pursued) and “transformation” (the deeper mitigation we desperately need).” Major actions in multiple domains are needed.

12 Years, Much Less Actually

Uphill1We are running out of time. The 2018 IPCC report, for example, indicates we have until about 2030 (12 years, not 11) before we exhaust out climate budget for staying below 1..5°C, our best chance of avoiding major tipping points. Many believe that to be an optimistic assessment, such that we have perhaps much less time. Even then, the need of political action (not talk!) will take significant time,, such that we likely need to make major changes within the next 18 months (especially with the coming US elections being a major player here).

Even if we are able to do so, we still face the immense task of dismantling our entire capitalist based civilization to create processes of equity, together with all the other consequences of our over-population and how we have mismanaged our world. A lot of work, yet necessary.

Recent links that I recommend.

Greta Thunberg speech in Assemblée Nationale (20190723)

An excellent talk by Greta Thunberg! Complete honesty, brevity, and a very good command of the relevant facts from the IPCC report, 2018.

Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months (20190724)

Another recognition that we only have a very limited time to establish the appropriate polity for safety of our species and many others.

Deniers deflated as climate reality hits home (20190807)

Progress is slow and the world is gradually coming to recover from the disinformation issues. In time? Who knows?

In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. (20190814)

A detailed and disturbing account of how the brutality of modern (American) capitalism is a direct outcome of the processes that began with the accounting systems of slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sad. Essential reading, very disturbing. What narrative will allow us to value ecology over economics; what narrative will allow us to value the intrinsic richness of what God (by any name) offers. I have no idea!

From dumpster to diesel: How a pilot project in Whitby is turning plastic waste into fuel (20190813)

On the lighter side, more positive. An interesting use of plastic waste by converting it to diesel fuel and gasoline. The article also names that the reduction of plastic usage and/or the complete conversion to recyclable plastics is essential to our future. Certainly something needs to be done with the incredible accumulation of plastics. I have two major reservations with the current process: first, how much energy (i.e., other fossil fuels) is used in the conversion, and second, usage of the newly converted fuel simply goes into the environment as any other fossil fuel usage. A more ecologically appropriate means of plastic usage is needed.

Our Uncertain Future

Anxiety2Resilience.org has recently presented an excellent forum entitled Uncertain Future Forum (20190715-20190726) highlighting “If collapse is imminent, how do we respond? Each is short, succinct, and pertinent to the issues.

Dancing with Grief, Dahr Jamail, 20190715

I have the greatest respect for Jamail as one of the most authentic writers of the issues of climate disruption. For me, this essay is one of his best.

Turning Toward Each Other, Meghan Kallman, 20190716

The need for community is our highest need, yet we are so poor at cooperation in this culture. We have a long way to go.

The Disabled Planet, Taylor Brorby, 20190717

An excellent comparison between individual health-disability and planetary health-disability, our need to recognize the huge inequalities inherent in modern capitalism.

The Seventh Fire, Winona LaDuke, 20190718

There is a huge need to access indigenous knowledge and skills, but for me, the risk is that they will simply become part of the capitalist system.

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum’s First Week, Daniel Lerch, 20190719

The bottom line: collaborate with others, be in community, tend to yourself.

On Listening to the Earth, Dahr Jamail, 20190722

How do we list for truth, our own truth of how to respond to the coming crisis?

Three Practices for a Time of Crisis, Meghan Kallman, 20190723

We need new practices: the practice of grieving so as to make space within, the practice of holding painful paradox, the practice of effective hope (somewhere between idealism and pragmatism where what we do might matter).

Biting the Hand That’s Fed Me, Taylor Brorby, 20190724

It is time to stop the insanity that has been so beneficial to us.

Find Your Mettle, Winona LaDuke, 20190725

Courage is needed.

Responding to Collapse: Uncertain Future Forum Wrap-Up, Asher Miller, 20170926

We have an obligation!

We Are Failing As A Culture

What follows are a multitude of links to the many aspects of how we are failing as a culture. Each is well written from my perspective.

I am aware that more and more we are talking about the climate crisis, yet we are still mainly at the stage of talking; we still fail to come together in collaborative ways, and as has been said many times, the window of opportunity is closing.

The first notes we have only 14 months to respond! The 2018 UN IPCC Panel indicated (in its highly conservative mode) what we must respond within 12 years; however, if the US does not get on board within the next election period, that window is likely not achievable, thus we only have 14 months to respond.

Not a good picture.

We don’t have 12 years to save the climate. We have 14 months. (20170726)

Leadership from the United States is required if the crisis of climate disruption is to be challenged — and this depends on the political state of the next presidential election, with all its consequences of dissension. What a mess!

We’re Failing Our Kids – Climate Emergency, 20190521

Asher Miller, Post-Carbon Institute Executive Director, presents a deeply vulnerable presentation of his fears for his children, together with the need for collaboration.

Do Americans Know How Much Trouble They’re In? (20190604)

An excellent article on the survival of democracy: a leader above the law, the abrogation of political access, the development of a pariah state all point to a potential tipping point in the continuing existence of political freedom for all.

Austerity and inequality fueling mental illness, says top UN envoy (20190624)

An excellent article — if we are to heal as a species, we must begin to address the overwhelming discordances created by capitalism, especially neoliberalism. Amongst other issues, the inequity of poverty fuels the many problems related to mental health.

Shifts in tourists’ sentiments and climate risk perceptions following mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef (20190624)

The varied responses to the impact of climate disruption on the world’s largest barrier reef point to the complexity needed in our response to this crisis.

Seeing Isn’t Believing: The Fact Checker’s Guide To Manipulated Video (20190625)

An interesting attempt by the Washington Post to identify and categorize the sophistication of modern misinformation. Technically I find the article difficult to follow (I would need much more detail and time) but I applaud the intention to clarify the many ways of distortion.

Fighting climate change may be cheaper and more beneficial than we think (20190710)

CBC News in Canada is gradually identifying features of climate disruption, often with a positive spin. There is certainly some benefit to this. However I have been deeply influenced by what I call The Force Field of Change, wherein change takes into account both positive features that move us toward a vision and negative forces that stop us. Unfortunately, until we deal with the negatives (our profound fear of climate disruption and our unwillingness to identify it), the impact of the negatives generally blocks the effect of the positives. I also believe that it is truly disrespectful of the vast majority of human beings to “protect” them from the painful truth that is climate disruption, on the assumption that it will overwhelm them — we need to deal with our grief!

Finally, I am aware of a number of significant forums in the past few months, forums that are willing to name the hard truths of what we face. I will be summarizing these in the next few weeks. I have had my own struggles with the painful truths over the past month or so.

More to come!

Canada Fails

ClimateChange7

An email received (20190621) from The Climate Mobilization, an organization I support, has this description of the Canadian response to climate disruption: “Canada fails on Climate Emergency.“ This portrayal is consistent with my own experience of Canadian and international politics.

The grassroots Climate Emergency Movement in Canada has been a global leader, with 404 governments adopting climate emergency resolutions at the local level. However, shortly after its House of Commons took up and passed a weak national climate emergency declaration, they failed to make it count.

The non-binding resolution was tied to an old, gradualist timeline rather than moving at emergency speed. It recommitted Canada to their commitments under the Paris climate accord without even on additional goal or legally binding commitment. Then, two days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, which is intended to vastly accelerate the extraction of Alberta tar sands oil, nearly tripling the capacity of the existing pipeline and locking in billions of dollars in investment in fossil fuel infrastructure and untold megatons of carbon emissions from the extracted oil.

The hypocrisy of these two parliamentary decisions demonstrates the gap between the will of the people and the power of the fossil fuel industry in the industrialized world. Declarations of Climate Emergency are a start — these declarations can unify the shared commitment of the movement, clarify the truth of the situation, and put lawmakers on record. But they are not enough — only a sustained global movement focused on winning power, launching a mobilization, and bringing the fossil fuel industry to heel, will give us a chance at survival.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline will negatively impact the entire globe, but it most seriously threatens the land rights of numerous Indigenous communities in its path. After the pipeline announcement, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) reaffirmed the commitment of leaders from across British Columbia, stating that they “remain staunchly opposed” to pipeline expansion, and “have vowed that it will never get built.” You can support the UBCIC’s efforts here.

Also, the following links speak to these issues.

Climate Change: Why is it So Often “Sooner than Predicted”? (20190619)

A reasonable article listing the many factors within the predictions. My personal experience is consistent with this: every major report I have seen has indicated the previous report was such that global warming is worse than previously reported.

Temperatures leap 40 degrees above normal as the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheet see record June melting (20190614)

Consistent with “Sooner Than . . .” I would never have expected this in my lifetime, in spite of the fact that I had briefly lived and practiced in the Arctic when I was a general practitioner. Given that the northern coast of Canada is the Arctic Ocean, high temperatures here likely have a major influence on the climate in North America (in more ways than geographic).

My Thoughts On The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (20190617)

Although in a sense limited to British Columbia, this is a well-thought-out exposition of the complexity of organizing in response to climate disruption. Unfortunately, as the article delineates, the overall political discussion is one of dissention rather than cooperation; this is one of the main reasons I have joined the Suzuki Elders and put my effort into a Salon entitled “Climate Change Conversations: Unpacking The Problem Of Conflict.”

What Would 3 Degrees Mean? (20100901)

An old link but one that is still pertinent. We are easily on a path to 3°C warming, and the outcome will not be pretty. My guess is that we are almost certain to reach 2°C even with massive effort.

Is Humanity Dying? (20190617)

The question is at some level meaningless — we either will or will not survive the coming apocalypse. Yet the sooner we start to take effective action, the less catastrophic will be the consequences. In any event, the world of my grand-children will be very different from the current one.

A Strange Culture

Acedia3My news sources have recently been dominated by American politics related either to a) what to do about the Mueller report or  b) speculation about presidential promises of the hopeful. For the most part, I have lost interest in both of these as I have no way of discerning important information from speculation. Canada is also gearing up for election so Canadian news also has lots of promises. However a small number of articles have attracted my attention, so I offer a potpourri on this occasion — we live in a strange culture of fearfulness, laziness, and self-righteousness.

Leading the Public into Emergency Mode: Introducing the Emergency Climate Movement (201905)

A well-written statement of what needs to happen for our civilization to survive the coming apocalypse. As evidenced by the Extinction Rebellion success in the UK and the increasing number of cities throughout the world who are at least espousing a climate emergency, we are gradually moving in this direction.

Scared About City Chemicals? Don’t Be. She Did Every Test in the Book. (20190528)

An excellent article on the complexity of our exposure to toxic chemicals within our environment. The title unfortunately belies the seriousness of the issue; in particular, the article names our cultural ignorance of a) at what level do we consider chemicals to be toxic as well as b) our even greater ignorance of synergistic interaction between toxins.

The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich (20190523)

A fascinating description of how much money is hidden, and how it is hidden, by the world’s wealthy. As of 2016, the top 0.1% hold 20% of American wealth and the top 1% hold 39%, surging (more than doubling) after the economic decisions of the 1980s. For me, these are staggering figures, and an indictment of the ills of capitalism.

What Will It Take?

acedia1For the most part, I have given up reading about the political gyrations of politics — for the most part, they are simply a distraction that hides the larger picture that faces our species. This post looks a few of these larger issues, unfortunately with a degree of pessimism, of what will it take for us to mature as a species,.

My current mantras remain:

High intention; low attachment.

Be at peace; come back tomorrow.

Nature is in its worst shape in human history, UN report says (20190506)

We are in the middle of the sixth great extinction crisis, but we don’t call it this because we are not yet at the level of 75% species loss. What insanity!

We must reverse biodiversity loss to save ourselves (20190515)

The title speaks for itself — I totally agree with its conceptualization. Nature is an incredibly complex interrelated whole such that our attention to saving individual species is not likely to be effective. I am reminded of a book I read a few years ago questioning “of the many issues we need to address, which is most important, most urgent?” The fundamental answer: “All of them!”

What Will It Take? (20190509)

Dave Pollard’s blog post of 20190509 to how to save the world, this time on Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) is one with which I strongly agree — it is not at all likely that the dominator powers of our world will stop until massive NVDA resistance occurs, such that “the economic viability of the destructive activity falls apart.” Yet it is also very likely that the final outcome will not change. And the falling apart of the economic models of capitalism and neoliberalism will not be pretty. Sad! I hope otherwise, and I act into the possibility of significant maturation of our species.

A Plague (20190525)

Another of Dave’s posts is intriguing as it draws parallels between the occurrence of plagues (“a destructively numerous influx or multiplication of a noxious animal; an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality”) and the activities of the human species. Although I do not subscribe to Dave’s pessimism, I find he writes thoughtfully and well.

 

To What Do We Devote Ourselves

Acedia3As readers of this blog will know, I am a member of The Climate Mobilization. I strongly believe that we face an existential crisis as a species, and that we are at risk of extinction, especially if we delay action for too long a period. Gradually major organizations, cities, and countries are coming to this realization; gradually our culture is shifting. But, as with most big issues, confusion abounds and many fuzzy feel-good statements flourish. The bottom line is to what will we devote ourselves.

I personally work to alleviate suffering as this is where my skill set lies. And I work to open  discussion of what to do — that is the purpose of this blog.

The following links address some of these issues.

UK Parliament declares climate change emergency (20190501)

Slowly the world is waking to the need to respond. Hopefully the waking is associated with definitive action.

Don’t say ‘climate emergency’ in vain! (target setting in the climate emergency) (20190505)

An excellent summary of the confusion that can arise when we are not clear as to what we mean by ‘climate emergency.’ And it truly is an emergency!

The battle against climate change by Paul Kingsnorth (20190426)

Worth watching. Simply one intelligent man attempting to cope, he having been a major activist in his youth. The whole basis of my PhD dissertation was that climate disruption is not a technological issue; it is a psycho-spiritual issue. I am heartened to see it identified as such in this video.

Climate Crisis Forces Us to Ask: To What Do We Devote Ourselves? (20190506)

A journalist whom I respect asks “From this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life? A moment by moment issue!

Climate Vision

GreenNewDealI think this animated video is important because we need a viable vision of the future. Like most US productions, it is orientated to the US — the message needs to be global.

We only have a few years in which to transform, so a video like this brings the message home — we can transform if we are willing to do so. We are story-makers — this video is a story!

The Green New Deal, both US and Canadian, is a stepping stone to the future. It will not be easy; hopefully it is possible. It certainly promises justice!

The Intercept: A Message From The Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (20190417)

More Climate Truth

Problems2This post is a series of articles I have found recently that illustrate for me the complexity of what we must deal with as a culture. I shake my head in wonder, and sometimes struggle to stay out of despair. Even in despair, I choose to be function in contemplative action.

A Look at Past and Future Climate Change in Less Than a Minute (20190218)

Two graphics that illustrate the changes in average temperature over the 20th and 21st centuries. Simple, impressive.

re: Generation (20190218)

An excellent article regarding our failure as a generation to respond to the existential crisis of climate disruption — we need now to support our youth as they stand up to our acedia. Hopefully they will manage better than we have done.

Rethink Activism in the Face of Catastrophic Biological Collapse (20190304)

The second in a series (the first is also online). Both express the vulnerability needed to come to terms with the possibility of our collapse as a species.

The strongmen strike back (20190314)

An excellent article on the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world. I am currently in a small group exploring issues of Power & Privilege; what I recognize from this article is that I am currently only exploring the tip of the iceberg.

The Gentrification of Payments (20190317)

The complexity of the issues whereby power infiltrates systems astounds me.

Here’s Why America Is Dumping Its Trash in Poorer Countries (20190309)

I assume it is also likely true of Canada. The denial of garbage is another illustration of the complexity we must overcome if we are to survive, let alone thrive, as a species.

Deep Earth: A Subterranean Galapagos Expands The Tree Of Life (20190203)

An amazing description of life existing in places where I would not have thought possible. The resiliency of life astounds me such that I imagine that even if we destroy ourselves, life will persist. Who knows — maybe in another billion years archeologists will wonder who we were.