Tag Archives: Climate Change

Happy Belated Earth Day!

This is a special Earth Day post in the ongoing Deepening Resilience project organized by Syren Nagakyrie.

“We can make the Anthropocene into a new era for both our civilization and the Earth. In the end, our story is not yet written. We stand at a crossroads, under the light of the stars, ready to join them or ready to fail. The choice will be our own.” – Light of the Stars – Adam Frank

Happy (Belated) Earth Day everyone!

For this post, I wanted to explore something that has been on my mind for some time. We live increasingly in uncertain times, with the climate crisis on our doorstep, and whether we succeed or fail as a species is in the balance. That to me, gives Earth Day a whole different kind of meaning. A kind of urgency, to do all we can to make the future at least a little bit better.

It brings with it a deeper kind of spirituality. For me, animism and ecology are the two sides of the same coin. There’s a reason I started this post with a quote from Carl Sagan. I tend to be more naturalistic in my animism, as I don’t like to default to ‘occult’, ‘supernatural’, or ‘paranormal’ explanations in my understanding of the world. How I understand spirits, spirituality, and my place in the whole is just that, natural. No “outside” gods or spirits needed.

But what exactly does that mean? For starters, I have defined my version of animism many times before. I use Graham Harvey’s definition; that animism is view that the world is full of persons (most of which are non-human), and life is lived in relation to others. Animism as I understand it is worldview, a way of relating and connecting to the world.

Compare this to the definition of ecology; ecology is the branch of biology which studies the interactions among organisms and their environment. Objects of study include interactions of organisms that include biotic and abiotic components of their environment. – Wikipedia

In broad strokes, both animism and ecology are talking about the same thing from different perspectives; our relationship to the environment and the world around us. This is the delicate dance of science and spirituality. Physics, astronomy, biology, art, writing, stories, civilization, the Earth… All of it becomes an experience of the spiritual.

“Thus, strange and trite as it may seem, the survival of civilisation itself could in part depend on a fusion of science with animism.” – Stephan Harding

It should come as no surprise then that Earth Day in particular holds a special place for me in the procession of the year. I think it should be nothing short of a Global Holiday. This year especially, as we get report after report of the pressing problems of climate change. Earth Day is a day about Earth-Centric spirituality; animism and ecology. It asks us to question our relationships with the world, and our place upon it.

At the end of the day, we are the Earth. As Carl Sagan was so apt to point out, we are all stardust. We are the current result of billions of years of the life and death of stars, of billions of years of biological evolution on a single Pale Blue dot in the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy. We are all travelers on the only known Class 4* world, the only planet we know of that is home to life. We are all the children of the Earth and the land of waters of this world. That is true in the very real iron in our blood, the soil in our food, and the air in our lungs. We are the planet, and that makes the current crises all the bigger, and Earth Day all that more important.

To truly come into a cooperative coevolution with a biosphere, a technological civilization must make technology – the fruit of its collective mind – serve as a web of awareness for the flourishing of both itself and the planet as a whole.” – Adam Frank

This comes with important implications of our relationship to the natural world around us. We are not separate from the planet, nor is our civilization from us. We are an extension of nature, and all our creations are an extension of ourselves. Planet’s are the engines of turning starlight into something interesting, and that makes our planet one of a kind. We are the children of starlight, and we are the Earth building amazing and wonderful things for itself.

The science is settled, that the climate is rapidly changing and this is mostly entirely the fault of us, the consequences of our actions and our relationships to the Earth. This is at the heart of both ecology and animism, our relationship to the land, the spirits, and the world around us. It asks us to live responsibly in a way that is sustainable, not only for ourselves, but for all of nature and the Earth.

Sustainable Civilizations don’t “rise above” the biosphere, but must, in some way, enter into a long, cooperative relationship with their coupled planetary systems… “ – Adam Frank

The climate crises is all our unhealthy relationships with the planet coming back home to roost. We can no longer continue to burn fossil fuels, or continue to pursue economics that rely on growth for the sake of growth. That is not a healthy relationship, and it will be our downfall if we don’t correct the path we are on. We need to walk more softly, and be more aware of our actions and the consequences of our relationships. This is where animism and ecology both have lessons to teach. Indigenous people across the world form deep reciprocal relationships with their ecosystems, and those ecosystems build relationships with them too.

That is something that we lack in the West. For all our ‘progress’, for all of our science, we are broken and uprooted from our ancestral lands and cultures. In many ways, the world has moved on. Those cultures may not even exist anymore, and for those of you like me, ‘returning’ to ancestral cultures is not an option. Aside from financial limitations, and the time pressures of modern life, I no longer feel as I am ‘part’ of any of the cultures that I can claim ancestry to. I don’t speak the language, and I have never lived in the lands those cultures are rooted in. My ability to ever travel to them may well be a pipe dream.

Which means that animism and ecology ask me to engage where I am right now. In Michigan, in the lands of the Great Lakes. With the forest and wetlands ecologies around me, and those roots might start to form once more. I can start shaping new relationships, ones that live in mutually beneficial ways with my environment. Ways that help both my environment as well as myself to flourish. That work goes well beyond me, Earth Day, and even beyond my local ecosystems. This work is daily, weekly, yearly, season after season. This kind of work is a way of relating to and viewing the world, a lifetime of relationship tending. It includes me, the air, the water, plants, animals, humans, cities, civilizations, and eventually the Earth and the stars.

We as humans don’t get a pass, and neither do our civilizations. In a way, as an extension of ourselves, civilization is our process of bringing our intelligence to the planet, and the planet becoming ‘intelligent’ in the process. We need a plan, a blueprint for the next thousand years. Not only for ourselves, but for the planet too. Animism and ecology are at the heart of that too. Building relationships where all can not only survive, but flourish.

Our project of civilization must become a way for the planet to think, to decide, and to guide its own future. Thus, we must become the agent by which the Earth wakes up to itself….“ Adam Frank

The climate crises to me presents a unique opportunity, I think, to get our shit together as a species. To understand ourselves deeply as a part of the Earth, not as in anyway separate from it. The planet is us, and we are the Earth. The climate crises represents not only the consequences of our action, but also a sobering view of our own power. Humanity has reached a point where we have the power to shape and change a planet, and not always for the best. With that kind of power, comes a great responsibility. A responsibility for the survival and flourishing of the entire planet. We have grown as children of the Earth, but now we are starting to mature. As we come of age, the health of our planet is starting to fail.

Will we be responsible children, and care for an ailing parent? The answer to that question stands firmly in the intersection of science and spirituality. In the understanding that we are the result of billions of years of emergent physics and biology. Once we start to understand that the earth is our flesh and bone, the waters our blood and sweat, and the airs the breath in our lungs… Then we start to realize that our relationship with the Earth is in need of a desperate rethinking.

I am grateful for the new animism, because it counts for something. Its importance cannot be overstated. It is a beginning, even without the history and aboriginal connection to this land. It says the human is searching and with a need to be in touch with this land, or other lands of origins in a time when the world is so achingly distressed.” – Linda Hogan

Happy Earth Day!

 

Notes:

* Class 4 is a category created by Adam Frank. Earth is the only known class 4 planet, which is basically a planet with a robust biosphere. Technically in Frank’s classification, the Earth is between a Class 4 and a Class 5 planet, which is a robust biosphere with a growing planetary civilization and intelligent species. That is, you and me.

Light of the Stars, by Adam Frank. 2018.

Harding, Stephan http://wildethics.org/essay/towards-an-animistic-science-of-the-earth/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecology

Hogan, Linda; quoted from her article in the The Handbook of Contemporary Animism edited by Graham Harvey


Grieving the World to Come (Week 5)

(All I got are quotes this time…)

This is another post in the ongoing Deepening Resilience project I have been taking part in. Every two weeks, we are given a new writing prompt that focus on climate change and community resilience in the wake of a rapidly changing planet. This week, I am exploring this question;

How do you experience ecological grief? How can communities respond to environmental trauma?

As I said in my week 3 post, it would be a drastic understatement to say I have a lot of complex emotions when it comes to facing climate change. Sadness, grief, anger, more anger, depression, and a whole host of others across the human spectrum of emotions.

It’s hard to state cleanly how much climate change is already changing our world. The last year alone brought a whole plethora of wild fires, hurricanes, flooding, cold snaps, and on and on… Yes, we can admit that these are common annual natural disasters, but it is the scale of these disasters that is accelerating. They are getting more powerful, more devastating, and more destructive. That has real impacts for not only human communities, but non-human ones as well. Especially those that are not adapted or use to these kinds of disasters.

The truth is, the temperature is still rising, and so are the sea levels. A whole lot of cities are at risk, and are already working to mitigate what they can. But it doesn’t change the fact that it might not be enough, and that millions of people could become climate refugees…. It scares me as much as it makes me grieve. Entire cities; people and ecosystems are at risk here.

To put this into perspective, because of Cyclone Idai, the city of Dondo has been called “The First City Completely Devastated by Climate Change”;

The city of Dondo, about 30 kilometres from Beira, central Mozambique, didn’t escape the strong winds of Cyclone Idai. It is estimated that more than 17,000 families were displaced and more than a dozen schools were destroyed in the city.”

17,000 families, and the natural environment around them. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s also important to keep in mind that this is a clear sign of what is to come. It may be the “first” city, but it likely won’t be the last. We are already seeing record flooding in the Midwest, which is predicted to get worst by reports such as the IPCC and the National Climate Assessment.

It is hard for me to put into words the kind of grief that makes me feel. It’s sad, it’s devastating… It’s the all encompassing feeling of despair and hopelessness when faced with something like the climate crisis. It’s large, global, and complex beyond our abilities to comprehend that kind of immensity. It makes me feel a powerlessness that borders on paralyzing sometimes. Is there anything that can be done when facing such a force?

While wildly misinterpreted, there has been a huge loss of animals, and insects and… and… and. The list goes on, and there is no lack of bad news. It’s too much sometimes, at least for me. The scale, and the real risk of watching social systems and ecosystems break down and collapse in real time… That’s a kind of both existential dread, and of existential grief. Crippling, debilitating grief.

But, perhaps that kind of grief is useful. The anger, the despair, the desperation… That can come with drive. A drive to change, and impetus to action. In the words of Greta Thunberg;

We have to understand the emergency of the situation. Our leadership has failed us. Young people must hold older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We need to get angry, and transform that anger into action.”

I think that idea can be applied to grief as well. We need to grieve, and from there move into action. That leads into the second question for this week. The trauma is not something that is “coming”, it is already here. People are already being displaced, cities and lands are already underwater. We are teetering at the top of an existential precipice, a place where all our actions matter. Shall we fail, and face extinction of ourselves and our environments; or will we rise to meet the challenge of our times. Of our lives, of our existence?

That is part of grief, and many other emotions. Anger, despair, grief…. All of these have within them an impetus, an unspoken power. It is not healthy to avoid these emotions, no, and we have to face them head on. We have to cope, and I know I have my own ways. I write, I walk outside, I play games that let me imagine possible futures. But we can’t lay down, we cannot give up.

We can grieve, and we should. We should cry, and wail, and channel all our grief and anger into songs and poems. We should express that, and let that raw emotion overflow. And then, direct that towards the changes that need to happen.

It is not enough, to be overwhelmed by grief. It is insufficient that we should pull the covers over our head (or stick it in the sand), and wait for the world to end. Now is the time for loud anger, and for louder grief. The unmistakable voice of the displaced, the refugees, and the dead. The world is in crisis, and that grieving should be heard to all corners of the planet.

That we hear the grief of the planet, and that we share in that grief. That we suffer as the planet suffers, and that is an ecological truth. If the world overheats, if the extinctions continue, if our ecosystems collapse… Humanity will not be far behind. All of our cities and technology, all of our achievements over 6+ million years of our species will not matter at all. We will follow the same fate as the dinosaurs, but not at the hands of some cosmic asteroid. It will be by our own hands, our actions that have brought us to this point, and those that follow from here.

So how can our communities face the coming crisis and the traumas that will come? Certainly, there are people that understand that work a heck of lot better than I do. Trauma resilience is something I know only a little about, and there are those far more versed in those issues.

But I can offer a few suggestions from what I do know. Mitigation is the first; doing every thing we can to lessen the impacts of the climate crisis, and that includes emotional/traumatic impacts. That might be reducing emissions, or building seas walls, creating rebust community ritual or mental health… Or countless other valuable works. Any mitigation effort is worth it, because in the long run mitigation is about harm reduction. We can do work today that will lessen loss, grief, and trauma in the long run. Prevention I think is a viable strategy.

Adaptation is the next. We must be forthcoming in the fact that we cannot avert everything the climate crisis threatens. This is a long process, and in some cases in may already be too late. For those situations, adaption is the key. It has been the key of survival of our species in the past, and all all species on the Earth to date. Those that could not adapt to changing conditions went extinct. I do not desire that fate, and believe firmly that we are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. We have a whole host of methods, technologies, and techniques at our disposal. Some of these are deeply rooted in ecosystems regeneration and restoration. Again, adaption is the acknowledgment that we cannot fix everything, but we can reduce the impact. It is another method of harm and trauma reduction.

That, I think, gets at the heart of what I am trying to say. Grief is going to be a fact that comes with the climate crisis. We shouldn’t, and probably can’t, avoid that. It is healthy to grieve loss, and some measure of loss is certainly on the horizon. We will have to learn to cope with that, not just as individuals, but as communities, as a planet. There is immense amounts of work to be done there, and we need that now.

Thank you for reading!


Random Book Recommendations!

Hello again folks!

I just wanted to drop by quickly and say a few words. First of all, thank you all for reading this blog. There have been an above average number of reads this year, and I am really grateful for that. Thank you for sharing this journey with me,

That said, I keep seeing the above meme circulating around social media. It frames our existence in terms of four pretty well known dystopian novels. I think this speaks deeply to the times we live in, but also speaks to the power that narratives have in our lives. That we can see our own troublesome reality in rather depressing stories says a lot. It means we are living in times of fear, and that we need to be on guard for things like authoritarian governments, misinformation, and the erosion of women’s rights, and the separation of church and state.

Yet, it also speaks volumes to the power of narratives to shape our outlook on the world. Consider Christianity and the Bible, a book that has undeniably shaped the West and our history in the US. There has been no shortage of dystopian stories, and this is a product of living in uncertain times.

However, it also shapes our perspective on the present as well as the future. Narratives are inspired by our experiences, and they simultaneously shape those experiences. What I am trying to say is, we need to be careful that a grim present doesn’t limit us to a grim future. Just because we can see ourselves reflected in the four stories in the meme above… Well, this should not be the measure by which we shape the future. We have other options, and so I give a short list of some great books that have a little more positive view, even if they are far from perfect.

Fiction

The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

What can I say about this one that I haven’t said already? This is a great series that involves the terraforming of Mars, and all the scientific, cultural, religious, and political aspects that go along with that. It had a huge impact on me and helped shaped by views of democratic socialism, science, and where we are going as a species.

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

It should go without saying that I am huge Kim Stanley Robinson fan, and this book has been one of my favorites. New York 2140 is a great story about the city of New York in the aftermath of rising seas. Yet, life goes on, and the people start to come up with new ways of living in a drowned city. If you want a great fictional introduction about climate change, capitalism, and what a post-capitalist society might look like… This book is for you.

Gardens and Glass – Solarpunk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibari

I’m an unashamed solarpunk, and this is a great introduction to the genre! Inside are all kinds of short stories that show what a world changed by climate change might look like. But instead of grim and dull, these stories are bright, scientific, and full of promise. Yes, the climate crisis is real, but another world is still possible. That world may just be in these pages.

Non-Fiction

Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken

There is a lot we can do to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis, and the best of those solutions are within this book. From solar farms, to wind turbines, to the rights of women and indigenous peoples; those solutions are ranked within Drawdown. It’s a great starting place for what we all can do right now, with the technology and methods we have available to us.

Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku

I love this book for a lot of reasons, even if I don’t fully agree with every point. (And this is true no matter the book.) That said, this book is a great overview of the science and technology that will be available to us in the near future, and paints a fairly progressive and optimistic view of what that could look like. It’s a great compliment to the other books already on this list.

Light of the Stars, by Adam Frank

Last, but definitely not least, this has been one of my favorite recent reads. In a way, this book is a love letter to Carl Sagan. But more than that, it highlights all the scientific knowledge that informs how we might face climate change as a planet and as a civilization. It lays out what we learned from other planets about climate, ideas like the Gaia Hypothesis, and Drake’s Equation. It’s a wide ranging book, and very enlightening to where we stand now as a species, as a planet, and what our future might be. And no, not all hope is lost.

We still have numerous possible futures open to us, even though the present is full of troubles. But we can let present troubles define our possible futures. That is still up to us.

Thanks for reading!


What are we Afraid of? (Week 3)

Hello again everyone!

First thing, I want to to give a solidarity shout out to the growing Global Climate Strike (and Fridays for Future)  that is protesting across the world on Friday. All the youth, adults, and everyone else that is striking and protesting tomorrow, you have my full support! Give them hell, and move us towards action to tackle climate change!

With that said, today it is time to explore the next question posed by the Deepening Resilience project.

What are your fears about climate change? What barriers to preparedness do you face?

I have been writing about climate change and environmentalism for a long time, and it is never far from my mind. I’ve been in the thick of the the most recent reports, and so many doom and gloom inspired hit pieces and media commentary. To say that I have not been affected by that would be a bold faced lie. I have, and my emotional and mental reactions to the ongoing (and accelerating) environmental news has spanned the full spectrum.

I have felt grief and sadness at the growing loss of biodiversity, anger and betrayal at the inaction of governments and the greed of corporations, and definitely a fair amount of fear about the future. Because, let’s put this in context for a moment. I’m a millennial, and I’m 32 years old at the moment. The years of 2030 and 2050 are at least within my possible lifetime.*

2030 is the 12 year date of the IPCC report, where the window for mitigation starts rapidly closing. 2050 is the make or break moment, and all of our projections circle around this date. The date fossil fuel use needs to be zero, and renewable energy needs to be expanded to a large scale. If I am alive, I will be in my mid sixties come 2050. That means, I will see this process play out in real time. I will be witness to the the changes in our climate, and all the social, economic, and political dramas that play out as a result.

I will have a front row seat to a world in rapid transition, and perhaps even, to the end of the world.** I’m terrified of that. I’m scared that all our best efforts (if they happen) might be in vain. I’m afraid that there is no other future than an incinerated world. I’m afraid, for all the lives (human and non), including my own, that may well be lost as the world climate crises advances.

I’ve written about this before, and I think it is worth sharing again. The below chart is part of astrophysicist Adam Frank’s work, and I think it clearly lays out what possible futures we may be looking at.

(From Adam Frank’s, The Light of the Stars)

I don’t want either of the extinction futures (C, D), and I’d really rather not have scenario A, where estimates range as high as a 70% die off of the human population. Seven out of ten people you know, dead, gone. That could be me, or my wife, or many of my close friends.

That fucking terrifies me.

And suffice to say, that’s not the future I want. Scenario B would be my ideal, but we all know that reality isn’t ideal. It may well be somewhere between A and B. That is another part of my fear, that creeping existential dread. Because, not only could we possibly be facing the extinction of our species, but we are also facing an unknown future. That uncertainty, that unknown, that scares me too. I write a lot about a sustainable future, and the huge we would have to make even in a best case scenario (such as B). The status quo isn’t an option, nor is ‘business as usual.’ We are in a time of transition, but the truth is that I don’t know what the end result will be. Given the nature of the process, it’s likely I won’t see the end of it, even if I get a long relatively healthy life. (Which is not guaranteed,)

All my hope towards a sustainable future, that could be misplaced. I could be wrong, in all I think and believe. We could be on a one way trip to hell, and there is nothing we can do about it. I don’t believe that is the case, but I could be wrong. I’m human, I make mistakes, I’m fallible, and the future will not be the work of one blogger. That blogger could be mistaken.

And that fucking terrifies me.

More than that, my wife and I have recently been talking about children. To say that this terrifies me would be an understatement. This is because ultimately it is not just about me, but future generations (human and non-human). What will future will they have? Will they look back on my generation, and place the blame for failure on our heads? It brings with it all kinds of thoughts about ethics and morals. What kind of future will my child have? Is it morally acceptable to even bring a child into this kind of world? What if that too, is a mistake?

That’s coupled with fears about long term stable employment, and the ability to provide food and shelter for my family. What if climate change displaces my day job? What if I can’t pay my mortgage? What if I can’t put food on the table? There is a huge amount of fear that goes with that, and that unknown sense of stability.

Which brings us to the second part of the prompt, what barriers stand in the way of preparing for that kind of uncertainty in a changing world? To be honest, I could probably write a book or two on this question. Because the barriers we face are immense, and systemic in a way that I individually have no control over them.

At the largest scales, some barriers to preparing for climate change are baked into the political reality. Not having to worry about food, shelter, or health care would be a great start. The idea of basic income, health care for all, child care and education; these would all go a long way towards sustainability. It at least means that some future family wouldn’t go without if their day job goes under from labor or resource shortages.

That same idea comes down to smaller scales too. I’d love to be able to build a more resilient household for myself, for my neighbors, and for my local community. But there are huge financial, resource, and time constrains on all of that. There are barriers imposed by the lack of distributed renewable energy, the lack of common land for gardens and food, and the constraints on my time and energy from having to work forty plus hours a week just to survive.

Honestly, something that would go a long way would be a foundation of some kind of solidarity/mutual aid networks, where most of our local (and regional) needs can be met if things should really go pear-shaped. I’m not sure governments in their current form are going to be effective in meeting the challenges of climate change. How do we survive if that is the case? Mutual aid networks within our local communities would be a good start.

A network of cooperatives would be another, especially at the local and municipal level. That way, we can organize our work democratically, and make sure basic needs such as parts, tools, and food are met in efficient ways. Food cooperatives, and tool and equipment sharing would be nice. This could also extend to housing, medicine, health care, energy, and manufacturing. That way we could cover the basics; keep people alive and keep the lights on.

I think that would be a good start, at least.

Thanks for reading!

Notes:

*That is exempting terrible accidents, famine, war, plague, lack of health care, and many other terrible things that are associated with human actively, and the growing threats of climate change.

** It goes without saying that a dystopian apocalypse is not the future I want.


Random Roundup 2/8/19

(A hand picked random meme from Facebook for this roundup)

Hello again folks!

I am busy working around on a few different projects, so I wasn’t able to get anything of length ready for publication just yet. So today, I am bringing you another roundup of ideas and news that I think are good ones.

First, something local (for me);

“Consumers Energy says it plans to dramatically increase its reliance on solar energy in the next few decades.

Battery storage can save some of the energy that solar panels produce during the day, so it can be used at night.”

It’s no secret that I’m a big proponent of solar energy, and so it warms my heart to see more and more local projects being installed. I think we need to ambitiously address the problems of the climate crisis, and solar panels are energy storage are a good start.

Second, something that is a great step in the right direction;

“The plan to eliminate coal-burning plants as well as nuclear means that Germany will be counting on renewable energy to provide 65% to 80% of the country’s power by 2040. Last year, renewables overtook coal as the leading source and now account for 41% of the country’s electricity.”

Germany is commiting itself to ambitious goals to combat the climate crisis. The 2018 IPCC report is very clear that we need to drastically reduce emissions and fossil fuel use in the next twelve years, and we are in need of models to show how that change could happen. Germany is offering one such model, and I think the world would be wise to pay attention.

Last, the Green New Deal;

“In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal legislation laid out by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy.

In that vein, the proposal stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.”

The IPCC 2018 report and others are very clear about the need to mobilize on a massive scale if we are to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. Local and regional governments can certainly take up that charge, but frankly, we need all the resources we can get. I for one would love to see the United States step up to the plate here, and I think a form of the Green New Deal is a great start to figuring out what that looks like.

I hope to have more stuff for you in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading!


Random Roundup, 1/11/19

Random Roundup 1/11/19

Hello everyone!

This is a new thing I’m going to try for a bit. I’m calling it “Random Roundups”, and the goal is to share some random articles or media with you that I found interesting throughout the week. In part, it helps me publish short content, but also helps me keep track of articles I tend to forget about…

I need an image for this thing…

So here is this weeks Random Roundup!

Environmental Story Telling Can Help Spread Big Ideas for Saving the Planet*

Research increasingly suggests that trying to promote behavioral change through fear can be counterproductive, leading to anxiety or depression that results in an issue being avoided, denied or met with a sense of helplessness. However, in education, news and fiction, stories with positive role models and which focus on the positive outcomes of solutions are much more likely to inspire action to solve it. “

Story telling is vital to how we shape our place and experiences in the world. The narratives we hold to can drastically shape how we confront the crises ahead. In short, I think we need more stories of a better future, and less dystopian ones.

There is no Planet B

“If, however, we change our technologies and our economic system to better match the physical and biological realities of life on Earth, the resulting history could be quite amazing, what some are calling “a good Anthropocene.” That future would, in effect, be the story of humanity devoting itself to nurturing the health of the biosphere and creating a sustainable prosperity for all the living creatures on this planet. While not exactly utopia, that future could be called optopia—the “optimal place,” the best possible outcome given the current conditions.”

On the topic of environmental story telling, Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite contemporary authors. So when he speaks about threat of Climate Change we all face, I tend to listen. It’s well worth the read!

And last, but simply not least. If positive story telling can help us each take action to help mitigate climate change, then perhaps it is best to end with a positive story!

This old coal plant is now a solar farm, thanks to pressure from local activists

For more than half a century, a coal plant in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts spewed pollution into the air. Now, the plant is closed, and 17,000 solar panels and a battery storage system–the largest in the state–send clean power to the grid. “

Shutting down all coal plants is going to be essential to building a sustainable future for our planet. So will be the installation of renewable energy. Why not do both at once?

I hope you enjoyed this roundup, and feel free to leave me feedback if you did! I will continue to work on other pieces for my next post, but I feel this was a nice change of pace.

Thanks for reading!

*I don’t agree with any article 100%, so I might have my quibbles with any article, but I still think there is value in each.


Climate Change & Animism

“There should be no shortage of motivation. Solving climate change presents humanity with the opportunity to save civilization from collapse and create aspects of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community.” The work would endow our lives with some of the oldest and most numinous aspirations of humankind: leading a good life; treating our neighbors well; imbuing our short existence with timeless ideas like grace, dignity, respect, tolerance and love. The climate struggle embodies the essence of what it means to be human, which is that we strive for the divine.” – From Here

(Artist Nick Pederson)

Hello again folks!

I have a lot of projects in the pipeline for this coming winter. I’m going to be switching gears soon and going to start writing fiction again. No long novels or anything, but short stories. There are some things I want to flesh out in my Liminal Worlds universe, but they aren’t suitable for novel length stories. So there will be lots of little ones, and I may well share some of them here. I’m also going to be doing some spiritual writings, mythos and folklore type stuff, and I may share some of that here too. So there are some much less serious writings coming your way!

But all that aside for now, I want to talk a bit about that big IPCC report that came out a couple of weeks ago. As I am sure all of you are aware, environmental issues are high on my radar. So is doing everything we can to create a more sustainable world, for both humans and non-humans.

In fact, human rights and ecological issues are central my understanding of animism. In short, both humans and non-human (which is, nature) have the right to exist with dignity and respect. Which means, if we are going to build a better future, then all the peoples of the planet need to be included in that future.

The original report is here.

I’ve read the report all the way through now (it’s like 700 pages), and so the fatalism and nihilism in the headlines was a bit unnerving. The Guardian was fairly benign by saying We Have 12 Years to Limit Climate Catastrophe.  Others, were way more problematic, as NPR said Climate Report Warns of Extreme Weather, Displacement of Millions without Action. 

But, having read the report, I can say that the news is a little more optimistic than problematic headlines let on. Even digging into the articles themselves, we find some reasons for optimism.

First off, we have twelve years, until 2040, to mitigate the worst climate change has to offer. I have said before we probably have a decade or two, and that is pretty consistent with the scientific literature (of which the IPCC scientists reviewed some 6,000 articles.) In short, we’re not done yet. But it is also noteworthy, that I said mitigate. The climate is changing, that cannot be denied. We cannot stop that process, but we can cushion the landing. And we still have time to do that. That’s important.

In fact, in many ways, the next twelve years or so, will determine “how bad” climate change is going to be. How bad will storms, droughts, and fires be? How high will the sea rise? How many will be displaced; thousands, million, billions? We are making those choices right now. If you want a great illustration of what that looks like, may I recommend this articleIt has a great visualization of the differences between 1.5 degree Celsius and two degrees. (Which is central to the IPCC report, that 1.5 degrees helps to mitigate a lot of the bad things.)

We have twelve years, but what do we need to do? Well basically, we need to reduce emissions by 40-50% by 2030, and be near net zero by 2050. Sounds easy right?

Well, it won’t be. It will be an unprecedented challenge, and there is no guarantee we are going to pull this off. It is an existential crisis, of the kind we are deciding if we have a future on this planet at all. We are literally making the choices between sustainability, slow die offs, and extinction.

What Can We Do?

In short, we need to decarbonize, and fast. There are a lot of solutions, many of which can be found in Drawdown and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The report itself highlight four major areas; cities, energy, industry, and land use. The image below lays out each of the pathways, and some major factors on what we have to do for each.

(From the IPCC report.)

As I hope you can see, each of the pathways involves major decarbonization, but also major expansions in renewable energy (70 – 80% total primary energy), and zeroing out fossil fuels. So what can you do? One of our most impactful scenarios is in renewable energy, but also land us and our food system.

Find ways to organize, first and foremost. There may well be already be groups in your area doing the work. Maybe they are installing solar panels, investing in windfarms, or crowdsourcing urban gardens. Every little bit helps. Find a way to make your own life more energy efficient, that will help too.

Maybe you don’t have a group near you. Do you have 20 friends? Make your own group! Figure out what your own sphere of influence needs, and find a way to make it happen. Maybe that means helping a friend put a garden in, or fundraising to invest in a renewable energy project. We have a lot of options, and there is a lot we can do in groups.

But we also have to admit that individual actions will not be enough. They are good, but not enough. We need collective action, so the more work we do as communities, networks, cities, and nations, the better. But, I think that the bulk of this work needs to come from the bottom up, grass roots style.  If you are like me, and live in the US, there are serious doubts in the Federal government will help in this work at all… And that is going to have an effect, definitely.

Still, it is also important to remember that almost 90 cities in the US have already committed to 100% renewable energy, as well as the states of California and Hawaii. This is something we can do at the local and regional level, with great global impacts. It would be super great to have the Fed onboard too, but most of this work we have to do ourselves.

Our communities, and our cities, and states can take the lead on this. We need all the resources and help we can get. As Gandalf said, it is the everyday deeds of everyday folks that keep the darkness at bay. Those every day people are you and me.

Thanks for reading!

  • If you want more information, my recent post exploring more aspects of this is here.