Tag Archives: climate change

The sun stood still, and it all began again …

Solstice moon at Ballin Temple.
Solstice moon at Ballin Temple.

The solstice passed today at 4 in the morning (UTC).

For most people, it is ignored or unknown, while for a few it is recognised as the event that gives rise to all the other seasonal holidays at this time of year – Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Saturnalia, and the calendar new years like Hogmany and New Year …  I used to be in the former group, but now, living closer to nature, find that recognising the solar cycle helps me stay in touch with the reality of our world.

While you celebrate the traditions of your culture it is fun to recognise the foundation for them.  Solstice, Yule, saturnalia and so on might be labelled pagan, but that is not as bad as it sounds.  It merely means “of the countryside”.  Well, isn’t that just nature?

If you’re fond of Christmas, this year is a good one to recognise our connection to nature because Pope Frank’s encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise be to Him), is all about respecting nature and treating the gift of nature with appropriate Christian humility.  Spare a prayer for nature which is so squashed by humanity that even cynics are now admitting the fact of human induced climate change.  (Even state media reported that 2015 temperatures are 3° above normal and the manager of the largest state nursery is startled by rain intensity he hasn’t experienced in 40 years.)

In nature there is no beginning or end.  At least not practically speaking.  The cycle continues around and around.  When we have the shortest day (today), with the sun directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, our antipodean friends have the longest.  As our days begin to lengthen, theirs begin to shorten.  The date is an illusion but the perspective of the sun on our planet is not.  The sun is the timepiece of nature and one of the signals for plant life to regrow.  Other signals, like cold weather, also tell plants when to regrow, and they are changing, but the solar cycle does not.   The sun stands still (sol stice) and then bounces back in the other direction (of course it is Earth that is tilted as it spins around the sun which is stationary relative to Earth, making one circuit every year).

What does the coming year hold?  The trends of weather volatility and climate change will continue, so now we plan for a different growing cycle, a more Mediterranean one.  The impacts of civilisation continue to increase and the future of current economic, industrial and social systems is limited – they will change by force or choice because there are limits to the capacity of nature to absorb pollution and limits to the capacity of people to be cheated.

People are becoming more thoughtful as social media spreads memes and as access to education grows so the brainwashing of traditional mores becomes less persuasive and the natural curiosity of people to ask “does it have to be like that” is enlivened.  That is evidenced by the popularity of conservative politicians around the world, like Trump, who express people’s dissatisfactions.  (Sadly their solutions are ignorant and ineffective but since more moderate leaders are not supporting enlightened system change, the radical populists are drowning out all others.)

For our part we will continue to explore new, whole systems.  Ways of living that engage body, mind and spirit.  Lifestyles that give us the delights of human culture and the bounties of nature, as one.  It is not always easy to retrain the cynic, but even I have started to do yoga regularly (5 minutes a day) so there is hope even for the most egregious suits among us.

Happy new year to all!

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.

Numbers That Matter – COP21

Is the scale of marches for change today a significant number?  They are certainly the largest individual marches and the largest globally coordinated march, and the first to include a virtual march which allowed people to participate without travelling long distance.

Marching (without marching) - the Avaaz virtual march. https://secure.avaaz.org/en/paris_virtual_march/
Marching (without marching) – the Avaaz virtual march.
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/paris_virtual_march/

They say about 600,000 marched (excluding virtual marchers) around the world. That’s a lot of people bothering to go out to do a chore.

Maybe the number is higher.  There are more on virtual marches.  And many who were there in thought and spirit if not body.

It might not be enough. Politicians listen to money.  Businesses might see opportunities, but are good at greenwash and we’re good at being blind-sided by advertising and mod cons – phones to cars, fast food to fast clothes, … must haves?

So we must remember tomorrow that we must still say no to more than enough.  Less consumption.  Less flying and driving.  Less packaging and chemicals.  Less deception and greed.  It’s easy.  We all know what to do if we think.

Does it matter?

Yes, in many ways.  Climate is just one.  Everything is connected.  We must change the system to bring dignity to humanity, fix the financial system, clean up the food system, stop the waste of corruption and redress the pain of war.

melting-EarthLooking at climate alone, the temperature rise since 1850 has been 1 o C, while 2 o C is agreed ‘gateway’ to dangerous global warming.  We’re well on the way to tipping point, if not there already.
We can emit up to 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.  At this rate we’ll have done that in 15 years.  That means we’ve got 15 years to stop, not we’ve got to stop in 15 years.  By the way, oil companies have in their current reserves 2,795 gigatonnes worth of carbon dioxide – so they have an incentive to sell that stuff, which will kill the planet as we know it.  (Living on Mars might be better…)  And just so you know how much they want it the CEO of Exxon gets paid $100,000 a day, yes a DAY.  And you’re paying it.
There’s been a 4% decline in Arctic sea ice per decade since 1979
9 out of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000

It’s not a debate.  If you’re smart it’s immoral to question whether humans are the cause or if fossil fuels are the problem.

There are other important facts.  Like that the human population has doubled while half the wildlife has been wiped out in my life.  Like the 30 million millionaires owning more than 3 billion people.  Like the suicide rate among farmers.  Like not being able to afford the food you buy.  It’s not about religion.  We’re all in this together.  It’s crazy.  We need common sense.  We need to take a breath and do the right thing the right way.

We need to say no to the bad things and use alternatives.  Drive less, travel less, turn the thermostat down, eat less junk, throw away less (and don’t buy it in the first place), cheat less, …  Eat more veg, run and bike more, say sorry, say I’m wrong, be with family and friends more.  And if we’re in charge, we’ve really got to do better.  We all are part of the system and we need to change the system.

Avaaz.org

350.org

Why Naomi Klein Must Not Blame Capitalism

I haven’t finished reading the book; I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate, but I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”
–Stephen Colbert, interviewing Naomi Klein (23 Sept 2014)

colbertandkleinKlein’s new book This Changes Everything sets out the urgency of climate change and how Big Capitalism works. Much of her argument chimes perfectly with Astraea’s view – that climate change is happening; that it’s extremely urgent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; that our relationships with nature must change; and that globalisation is giving multinationals unprecedented access to cheap labour, and monetising other people’s disadvantages. That’s the negative side of capitalism.

But she misses the point. Capitalism is a tool. Just a tool. It can be used for good and for evil. No better means of exchanging value has appeared. In fact, when Klein describes the globalisation and free trade zones as deals between Big Business and government to get easy access to cheap labour and similar advantates, she’s not describing capitalism. She’s describing collusion, corruption, cronyism. Business and government have failed us in policies and priorities, but it would be misleading to pretend that capitalism is broken – as Colbert’s remark underlines, it worked perfectly to get Klein’s book into many people’s hands, quickly.

Capitalism gives us power, and with power comes responsibility. If we don’t like the world, we must change it. Educate ourselves as to how things are produced, choose products with no or recycle-able packaging, choose local holidays instead of flying abroad, choose organic foods, choose ethical labels.

We use capitalism every day to promote our beliefs and choices. Everything we buy is recorded and analysed, and retailers make their purchasing decisions based on what we buy today. They market to us based on our prior purchases (and even “views”, online). That’s why, for example, when I was pregnant, my purchasing patterns signaled to stores that I would soon need baby goods, and began to receive promotional material months before the baby arrived.

Unfortunately, people who ‘value goals such as achievement, money, power, status and image’ tend to behave in unsustainable ways and hold more negative attitudes toward the environment (Klein quoting Kasser & Crompton 2009). Those are the very same people who tend to run those powerful multinationals.

Individuals know that their decisions always impact others – whether at high levels or in the local shop. That’s where the paradigm shift must happen: we must care, individually and collectively, enough to change our own behaviour. Fast.

So don’t blame capitalism – just make it your weapon of mass improvement.

It might already be too little too late. But do you really want to wait any longer to start trying?

Read our book about a personal story of change – from venture capitalist to organic farmer http://www.abigpicturestory.com/