Youth Sue Government Over Climate Inaction

Now this is what I’m talking about — the youngest among us speaking truth to power. I loved this article, and this action. Blessings on all of these wise young people, fighting for their future.

Youth Climate Movement

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/4/youth-sue-governmentforclimateinaction.html

 

Urban Homesteading Gets the Thumbs Up

Climate Change Needs the Politics of the Impossible

We keep learning more about the catastrophe in front of us, but it isn’t helping us solve the problem.

It’s starting to feel like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could keep issuing its reports from here to eternity. The Fifth Assessment Report, released just in time to avoid April Fool’s Day, continues a steady trend: our knowledge is increasing, just about everything that matters is getting worse, and all we can realistically hope to do is soften the edges of a slow-moving catastrophe.This pessimism may be the most realistic view of the climate crisis. Politics is the art of the possible, and climate change may be impossible to prevent or even shift. That leaves us trying to blunt its impacts with seawalls and mass relocations, which look more and more like the realistic way forward. But this realism is also a hasty and cheery despair. It gives up too much too quickly. Sometimes politics is the art of changing what is possible. That deeper realism is part of the answer that climate change needs.But first, back to the Report. Once again, deepening paleo-ecology research, ever-more refined computer modeling, and incremental gains in courage led the IPCC to say that “we”—the Global Community of Very Cautious Knowers—are a little more certain about trends in global warming, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification. The Report predicts more floods in temperate places like Europe and most of the U.S., more droughts near the Equator, with overall food production taking a nasty hit.

Everything that is already hard is going to get harder. Ecological zones will be reshuffled. With many species already in danger of extinction and conservation efforts focused on preserving habitat, lots of that hard-won habitat is going to be irrelevant—too warm, too dry, too something—as suitable habitat shifts faster than species can travel. Fisheries, already stressed by pollution and over-harvesting, will now confront warming and acidification. Droughts and food shocks may intensify political and military conflict: more resource wars, more grain-price revolutions.

Being poor, in particular, gets worse as climate changes.  Nature has always been hardest on the poor, because infrastructure, transport, medicine, and the rest of our capital-intensive technologies are the key ways we tame her violence.  To be poor—for an individual, and even more for a country—is to be vulnerable to the whims of the natural world.  Recall the very worst of Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the poorest parts of New Orleans in 2005 and then project those onto Bangladesh, a country of 155 million—almost half as large as the population of the US.

There’s lots of uncertainty about details—as the Report itself painstakingly documents; but most people not in denial have known the broad outlines of this picture for well over a decade.  It was 1989—when the Berlin Wall came down—writer Bill McKibben was already announcing “the end of nature” in the era of climate change.  But with every IPCC report, the optimistic scenario, where “the world” slashes greenhouse gases and stabilizes climate change, feels more like a weak deus ex machina.  Meanwhile, the drastic scenario—where everything accelerates, the Greenland ice cap melts sometime in the next century, sea levels rise 20 feet or more in our grandchildren’s lifetimes, and the Gulf Stream and the Amazonian forests both consider giving up the ghost—that scenario feels more and more like a weather forecast: unseasonably warm this weekend with a growing chance of apocalypse by Sunday evening.

But “apocalypse” is probably exactly wrong, even though floods, droughts, and storms are just the kind of thing that one might expect would presage an apocalypse.  Instead, living in a climate-changed world is becoming a post-normal normal, a chronic crisis.

The IPCC Report reflects this, spending four chapters on “adaptation” to climate change. Already, commentators are celebrating the move to adaptation as a win for gritty practicality over empty idealism, local and private efforts over “grand international declarations.”  Of course it’s true that we need adaptation, especially for the poor regions that are the most vulnerable and can’t wait while the waters rise.  But pretending that giving up on big climate action means a victory is nothing but rationalizing defeat.

This passivity is tempting because political action has done so little and doesn’t seem likely to do much about climate, and doesn’t exactly look poised to do more that is more than symbolic. Because climate change is distributed around the world and has a very long lag time, whatever we do about it here and now mostly helps faraway and future people. So it’s very tempting to come up with excuses for doing nothing, or just enough to feel righteous about what you’ve done.

Sure enough, in international negotiations, the U.S. has long refused to do anything meaningful until China and India “did their share,” while those countries answered that the U.S. had added more than its share to the problem and needed to lead in paying for the solution.  At all scales, down to the nation and even the individual, the same puffed-up hemming and hawing works out nicely for the living—who enjoy our energy-intensive lives now—and badly for the future.

Ordinary politics, with its self-interested deal-making just barely hidden under high talk, is a lousy tool for global problems that play out over centuries and would require the living generation to do something costly and inconvenient.  And there is not much that is more costly and inconvenient than retooling your infrastructure, from energy to transport to manufacturing, when that infrastructure is where we all live.

That leaves us with, basically, two ways out. One is extraordinary technology: either a silver bullet to produce cheap, renewable energy, or a reliable geo-engineering technique to adjust the global atmosphere-temperature-weather system directly. Either might happen—the first likely will, maybe too late to prevent permanent crisis; but waiting on clean energy is a very big risk, and geo-engineering brings huge risks of its own, from getting only half the problem to ending up making the system even more unstable. The “simplest” geo-engineering proposal is to bounce a bunch of earth-warming sunlight back into space by launching mirrors or particles into the upper atmosphere; but (1) it’s a half-measure, since the oceans would continue acidifying, stressing and maybe destroying many marine life forms and disrupting other global processes; and (2) if anything ever happened to the mirrors, sunlight would pour in and our carbon-enriched atmosphere would start to warm up like an oven.

The other way out is extraordinary politics: politics that goes beyond the usual interest-swapping and sets new commitments for the country and the world.  This, admittedly, is a desperate measure.  It is the last thing you want to rely on—other than, possibly, launching mirrors into space to adjust the planet’s atmosphere.  These, however, are desperate times, at least where the global climate is concerned.

One reason for hopefulness, even for measured optimism, is something our hyper-knowing, reflexively cynical political culture trains us to forget: extraordinary politics is a real thing, not just an idle wish.

Consider the end of slavery—not in the U.S., but in the British Empire, which abolished the practice thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation, by an act of Parliament, with compensation to slaveholders.  The economic cost was huge.  For decades, historians assumed it must have been a subterfuge for someone’s economic benefit—otherwise, how would such a thing be possible?  But the historians’ view these days is that British emancipation was, in fact, a wildly expensive and disruptive moral commitment, executed through extraordinary politics.  The powerful thing about this example is its scale: the global economy of the British Empire was nearly as entwined with slavery as ours is with the fossil-fuel economy.  The change wasn’t just costly: it pulled some institutions up by their roots.  If that never happened, we’d really be out of reasons for hope on climate change.  But sometimes it does.

We should learn to look at climate change simultaneously through two very different lenses.  Keep one eye on the scientists’ reports, with their steady accumulation of reasons to worry, and the Silicon Valley technologists’ innovations, with their promise of landing on an extraordinary technology.  But cast the other on the activist kids who don’t know enough to realize they can’t win—the ones getting arrested outside the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and pressing universities and pension funds to divest from fossil fuels, as if Exxon were R.J. Reynolds, or Apartheid South Africa.  And don’t forget the people who are experimenting with low-carbon living in their “transition town” projects, trying to recast energy sources and other infrastructure in a less carbon-intensive form.

It’s easy—ridiculously easy—to show that the activists shouldn’t expect to win, and that whatever they did succeed in doing wouldn’t be enough to stop this massive global problem.  But that is true at the beginning of every episode of extraordinary politics.  That why histories of abolition, the civil rights movement, even environmentalism, don’t begin with people who are powerful, realistic, or even normal.  They begin with people who don’t know better, and who find the world they are born into intolerable.

That is key, because if we end up tolerating a climate-changed world as the new normal, then it probably will last forever—or as long as anyone is around to care about it.

Our current normal is built out of principles that used to be considered impossible—gender equality, racial equality, democracy—and became common sense long after some people were too unrealistic to give up on them.  Once they win, these principles get absorbed into common sense—and, of course, get betrayed left and right, like any civic piety.  But a world where they are elements of common sense is still vastly different from one where most people accept that they are impossible.

We sort of know this about human freedom and equality, even if we tend to forget it in practice.  But environmental issues tend to get cast as technical problems for scientists and bureaucrats, or as hopelessly politically divided between liberal greens and conservative climate-skeptics.  But that is only half the picture.  Historically, environmental attitudes have changed almost as dramatically as attitudes around gender and sexuality: Americans used to hate wilderness, love to see a forest burn, and wage war on wolves and other large predators.  Even more basically, they had no conception of the global web of life that we call ecology, or just “the environment,.”  A series of political movements and cultural revolutions changed this, beginning as far back as the nineteenth century.  Today’s climate activists are aiming at the same kind of change: to help see, and feel, a disrupted and dangerous world as their problem, their responsibility, something they love enough not to give up on it.

So the age of climate change doesn’t just need climate scientists, or even technologists, and adaptation engineers.  They are essential, but if we just rely on them, we’re likely to drift further into passivity and pessimism.  We also need, in incremental and experimental ways, to keep building up a real politics of climate change.  That politics will be both environmentalist and human-oriented, because there’s no separating the two in the age of climate change.  It will have to ask how the peoples of the world are going to live together and share its benefits and dangers, and also how we are going to use, preserve, and transform the world itself.  Braiding together human rights and distributive justice with environmental ethics and the human relation to the natural world isn’t just a nice-sounding, if daunting idea.  It’s quite simply the only way forward.

Any answers that we succeed in giving these questions will transform us as earlier extraordinary politics changed people: those who ask the question are no longer the same once they givereach an answer. That transformation, to a culture and economy that could change the trajectory of climate change, is exactly what seems impossible now. And that is why everyone should be paying respectful attention to the activists who refuse to believe in impossibility, and even more to the parts of ourselves that refuse to believe it, too. This isn’t idealism. It’s a higher realism, and should be scheming a little impossibility of our own.

reposted from the Daily Beast: 4/6/14 Jedediah Purdy: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/06/climate-change-needs-the-politics-of-the-impossible.html

Follow the Leaders

climate_street_art_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac Cordal’s “Follow the leaders.” Berlin, Germany, April 2011.

“Politicians discussing global warming” — that’s what social media users have dubbed this tiny puddle sculpture by Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal. With sea levels projected to rise up to three feet by the end of the century, it’s a stark reminder of our collective failure to act on climate change.

Or maybe not.

As it turns out, Cordal’s sculpture is actually called “electoral campaign” and it’s part of a larger street art installation called “Follow the Leaders.” The tiny cement figures, arranged in bleak scenes of urban disintegration, represent the faceless businessmen who run our capitalist global order.

“These pieces reflect our own decline,” says Cordal. “We live immersed in the collapse of a system that needs change.”

Frack Off

I don’t go to a lot of demonstrations these days. I’ve got plenty of good excuses – too busy, too much work, too many family demands. And the most nagging – they don’t work. But I am up at night worrying about fracking, cause 3:00 a.m. seems to be my time to worry about water. Fracking seems to be to be so psychotic, so off the charts flat out DUMB and suicidal and I just want it to stop. So when a bunch of organizations pulled together a Don’t Frack California demonstration in Sacramento, I decided to take my whole family there. Because it’s a good thing to do. Because my daughter should know about resistance culture. Because you never know. Because sometimes it’s important to stand up and be counted. Even if it doesn’t “work.”
In the end, my daughter conveniently caught a cold and her dad stayed home with her, and I went with two friends who share my concerns and commitments about the environment. We were glad we managed to extricate ourselves from our family lives and show up. The whole thing gave me a good opportunity to explain to my daughter how you can go to a demonstration and not get arrested, and what you can do if you want to get arrested. I said, “Well, you just sit down when they tell you to move.” And she said, “That’s all it takes, to get arrested?” And I said, “Sometimes that’s all it takes.”

I sat down a lot at the demo, under the beautiful trees in front of the Sacramento Capitol building, but no one arrested me or anyone else, so far as I could tell. I listened to the speeches, and read the signs and posters. I got a t-shirt for my partner that said “Those who have the privilege to know have the responsibility to act,” because we’d been talking about privilege a lot and what it demanded of us. He hasn’t worn it yet because he thought the tag line of “to know” was a bit arrogant, but I think that’s just him avoiding the truth – he does know, he must act.

I don’t know what the demo “did” for the anti-fracking movement except bring people together and energize us to imagine our collective resistance can make a difference. There is a pending piece of legislation in Sacramento now that would put an anti-fracking moratorium in place. Perhaps showing up in this peaceful way helps our politicians do the right thing. It’s the sorry best we can hope for. Democrats control both houses in California, which makes the passage of this amendment more possible, but let’s face it; Democrats are no guarantee of environmental protection. Look at Jerry Brown. And Barack Obama. And etc.

Still, heading to Sacramento to stand and be counted felt meaningful, and is something I would do again. I’d even drag my daughter there next time, cold and all.

Here are some photos from the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/120397232@N02/13180229555/in/photostream/

Fracking’s a fantastic risk to the water supply in communities everywhere. Hook into your own local anti-fracking movement and work to protect the waters.

 

Where’s the Water?

Check out this graphic on where California’s water goes. The mind-blowing statistic of this month is that 90% of all water used in California is used by industry and industrial agriculture. That makes me want to take a long hot shower, and get involved in policy discussions at every level about water distribution. As with all the other problems in our culture, the persistent unequal distribution of resources–with those at the top of the “food chain” who can most afford to pay being charged the least for the resource–holds trye for water as well. We have to direct our activism not only to our own backyards but to the bigger policy issues which affect the distribution of all resources.

what the rich, and industry, don't want us to know

Water Use in California

Talking About What’s Really Going On: Climate Change, the New Normal and You

what's really happening

Climate Change, the New Normal, and You
A Support to Action Group

 

Where’s the Water?

This week, gardener divine Wendy Krupnick and I penned a letter (to anyone who would listen) about the scarcity of water in our county. The Press Democrat picked it up, and hopefully a few others will as well. County Supervisors are responding as well.  Here is the Press Democrat link for the letter: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20131231/opinion/131239969 and here is the letter printed in full:

To: Sonoma County Supervisors and Water Agency

Re: Drought leadership needed

The driest year in California’s recorded history is about to come to a close, and there is no promise that the drought will end any time soon. Even if there was substantial rainfall in the next few months, will it be sufficient to replenish severely depleted groundwater reserves? What if that rain does not come? Too many human, animal, biological and economic lives are dependent on this scarce resource for us not to take immediate measures to preserve what we have.

The specter of extended drought is as scary as the “super storms” which have been happening in other parts of the world. Equally frightening is the deafening silence of our public officials, who have so far failed to acknowledge this crisis and call for mandatory conservation measures. Climate change is clearly happening here and now.

We know that:

  • In 2002 Sonoma County reported that approximately 40,000 wells existed within the county, serving 90,000 residents. Groundwater provides drinking water in part to 42 percent of the population, with nearly all of the county’s residents dependent on groundwater as either a primary or backup drinking water supply source.
  • Sonoma County issues about 500 well permits each year. California is one of only two states with no groundwater regulation. Increasing amounts of water are taken out of the ground and decreasing amounts are being replenished.
  • In the Santa Rosa Plain alone, there are about 12,000 wells operated by the five cities, the county water agency and private homes and ranches. Virtually all farms and ranches – the lifeblood of our county’s economy – depend on private wells for water.
  • Groundwater in many parts of the county has been in “overdraft” for many years and some wells are now drawing on “ancient” deep aquifers.  Other areas have many dry wells, and subsidence has occurred in some regions.

In spite of the information above, we are told that our county does not need to worry about this unprecedented lack of rain, because there is still water in Lake Sonoma. As we can see, Lake Sonoma water is completely irrelevant to a very significant part of our population. And what if Lake Sonoma does not refill this winter?

In the 1970s California experienced a drought that was not as severe as the current one, but there were mandatory conservation measures enacted in many communities. Lawn watering and washing sidewalks and cars with hoses were prohibited, and low flow water devices were distributed. We learned to let “yellow mellow” and took short showers. These measures made a big difference and we found that we could do just fine using much less water. There are additional water conservation measures that could be actively supported by the agencies now, including grey water systems.

Why have such measures not been called for now? Are we afraid to scare off developers? Of the political battles that will ensue if we recognize the drought for what it is? It’s insanity to continue with business as usual when it comes to water–one of life’s true essentials.

Some of the cities have good water conservation policies “on the books”, yet dozens of acres of lawns adjacent to commercial enterprises waste thousands of gallons of water every month. And in many unincorporated areas water use is still extravagant. As long as private water districts like the Country Club neighborhood are allowed unlimited access to “their” water at nominal cost to their residents, water will continue to flow down those streets into the storm drains daily.

We the undersigned residents of Sonoma County call on our Supervisors, the Sonoma County Water Agency and its municipal clients to enact mandatory water conservations measures immediately. In addition to appropriate prohibitions and fees, there should be incentives for businesses to convert their landscapes to low water use plantings. Independent water districts and home owners associations should be required to provide water conservation information to their residents and to change their fee structures.

And we ask every resident of our county to count every drop of water as the precious, scarce resource that it is, and to do their part to adapt to our changing world.

Sincerely yours,

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch Butterflies and Bees – We Need You!

This (slightly scary) article about Monarchs and Bees can be a good reminder of how important it is to grow native plants to create and maintain pollination opportunities for our important pollinators.
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The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear
By JIM ROBBINS
Published: November 22, 2013

On the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

“It does not look good,” said Lincoln P. Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar College.

It is only the latest bad news about the dramatic decline of insect populations.

Another insect in serious trouble is the wild bee, which has thousands of species. Nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids are implicated in their decline, but even if they were no longer used, experts say, bees, monarchs and many other species of insect would still be in serious trouble.

That’s because of another major factor that has not been widely recognized: the precipitous loss of native vegetation across the United States.

“There’s no question that the loss of habitat is huge,” said Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, who has long warned of the perils of disappearing insects. “We notice the monarch and bees because they are iconic insects,” he said. “But what do you think is happening to everything else?”

A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.

Another major cause is farming with Roundup, a herbicide that kills virtually all plants except crops that are genetically modified to survive it.

As a result, millions of acres of native plants, especially milkweed, an important source of nectar for many species, and vital for monarch butterfly larvae, have been wiped out. One study showed that Iowa has lost almost 60 percent of its milkweed, andanother found 90 percent was gone. “The agricultural landscape has been sterilized,” said Dr. Brower.

The loss of bugs is no small matter. Insects help stitch together the web of life with essential services, breaking plants down into organic matter, for example, and dispersing seeds. They are a prime source of food for birds. Critically, some 80 percent of our food crops are pollinated by insects, primarily the 4,000 or so species of the flying dust mops called bees. “All of them are in trouble,” said Marla Spivak, a professor of apiculture at the University of Minnesota.

Farm fields are not the only problem. Around the world people have replaced diverse natural habitat with the biological deserts that are roads, parking lots and bluegrass lawns. Meanwhile, the plants people choose for their yards are appealing for showy colors or shapes, not for their ecological role. Studies show that native oak trees in the mid-Atlantic states host as many as 537 species of caterpillars, which are important food for birds and other insects. Willows come in second with 456 species. Ginkgo, on the other hand, which is not native, supports three species, and zelkova, an exotic plant used to replace elm trees that died from disease, supports none. So the shelves are nearly bare for bugs and birds.

Native trees are not only grocery stores, but insect pharmacies as well. Trees and other plants have beneficial chemicals essential to the health of bugs. Some monarchs, when afflicted with parasites, seek out more toxic types of milkweed because they kill the parasites. Bees use medicinal resins from aspen and willow trees that are antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral, to line their nests and to fight infection and diseases. “Bees scrape off the resins from the leaves, which is kind of awesome, stick them on their back legs and take them home,” said Dr. Spivak.

Besides pesticides and lack of habitat, the other big problem bees face is disease. But these problems are not separate. “Say you have a bee with viruses,” and they are run-down, Dr. Spivak said. “And they are in a food desert and have to fly a long distance, and when you find food it has complicated neurotoxins and the immune system just goes ‘uh-uh.’ Or they become disoriented and can’t find their way home. It’s too many stressors all at once.”

There are numerous organizations and individuals dedicated to rebuilding native plant communities one sterile lawn and farm field at a time. Dr. Tallamy, a longtime evangelizer for native plants, and the author of one of the movement’s manuals, “Bringing Nature Home,” says it’s a cause everyone with a garden or yard can serve. And he says support for it needs to develop quickly to slow down the worsening crisis in biodiversity.

When the Florida Department of Transportation last year mowed down roadside wildflowers where monarch butterflies fed on their epic migratory journey, “there was a huge outcry,” said Eleanor Dietrich, a wildflower activist in Florida. So much so, transportation officials created a new policy that left critical insect habitat un-mowed.

That means reversing the hegemony of chemically green lawns. “If you’ve got just lawn grass, you’ve got nothing,” said Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society, a leading organization in insect conservation. “But as soon as you create a front yard wildflower meadow you go from an occasional honeybee to a lawn that might be full of 20 or 30 species of bees and butterflies and monarchs.”

First and foremost, said Dr. Tallamy, a home for bugs is a matter of food security. “If the bees were to truly disappear, we would lose 80 percent of the plants,” he said. “That is not an option. That’s a huge problem for mankind.”

Jim Robbins is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and the author of “The Man Who Planted Trees.”

Framing the Climate Debate with Something Other than Fear

Sometimes when I find myself thinking about climate change all the time, and the many things we can all do to mitigate disaster, and I see how small my actions are and how the major power players–corporations, governments, and the mass of most people–are just going on with business as usual, I feel insane. I am always searching for ways to motivate, rather than terrify, and this was a big issue when I wrote the book. It was clear to me that hitting people over the head with facts and dire predictions would do to them what it did to me–freak them out and make it impossible to take action.

And yet, the time for action is way past NOW. We have to figure out how to inspire and lead individuals, families, communities, regions, etc… toward a more ecologically possible future.

This article written by Susan Strong of the Metaphor Project, www.metaphorproject.org, was really inspiring and motivating in this regard and I reprint it here in full.

 
Framing Climate Change Action Now
by Susan C. Strong

There is evidence that a number of American citizens know we have a climate change problem. But many of them experience it as something we can’t fix technically, socially or politically. So they ignore it to keep going day by day. Among the already convinced, that’s where the issue is stuck. But we also have fellow citizens who haven’t heard or thought much about the issue, and of course, we’ve got the fossil fuel gang still funding denial. Recent research shows that the public is primarily focused on jobs, the economy, and D.C. gridlock instead.

So, to make any headway on this issue, we will have to get a lot smarter about framing climate change problems and their solutions. For too long climate change activists and professionals have been talking to each other and to the sympathetic. It’s time to get serious about framing the issue in a way that reaches mainstream America.

Let’s start with educating the convinced about possible fixes. Years of research have shown that trying to motivate people on this issue by scaring them fails. Up-to-date framing research proves that people respond better to a “prevent damage” message than to an “avoid risk” one.(2) So, the real focus of our framing on this issue should be action to prevent more damage to our economy: who can do what, who is doing what, what is working now.(3) Americans are pragmatic, action-oriented optimists.  We need to pose the climate change problem as a challenge we can all meet.

Along these lines, some language picks I’d make from the Metaphor Project’s “American Story” lists include these: being prosperous, saving money, being clean, safe, and healthy, being free, and doing it ourselves. Big political change in this country always starts with the grassroots. That bottom-up path calls on our most prized national traits –doing things in our own communities, being part of a grassroots groundswell, being innovative, pragmatic, showing can-do, rolling-up-our sleeves, helping to reinvent a new, healthier economy from the ground up. “

So much for educating the convinced about solutions. What about convincing more of our fellow citizens that the problem is real? First, we need to bear in mind the fact that most Americans are primarily extroverted sensing types—they require proof about the reality of a problem from their five senses. Climate change is a bit like cancer—it’s silent, and it’s been happening somewhere else. The warning signs are easy to miss for the average American. So be understanding of anyone who honestly seems to be unaware or incredulous. Start by talking about how much we all want a prosperous new economy. Then describe climate change as the “growing climate crisis that threatens our economy and our way of life,” because for some it may not seem like a full-fledged “crisis” yet. When we get to the moment for going into detail, we need to use stories about what’s already been happening to other Americans lately: increasing drought, mega-storms, floods, fire storms beyond anything we’ve seen before, rising sea levels, bad changes in local weather patterns and their costs. Once you get people’s ear this way, you can quickly move on to talking about suggestions for positive action. (If you encounter a Fox News denial fan, just laugh, and say, “Oh, you’ve been watching Fox News!” and then walk away laughing. Don’t stay to argue. Especially don’t argue about what the majority of scientists say. Don’t waste your energy on hardcore deniers.)

If you need to give a cause for the climate change problem, describe it as the result of too much carbon getting into our air. (To learn more about natural ways to get carbon back where it belongs in plants and in the soil, see Note 4.) Pollution is something everyone knows is dirty and bad for your health And please avoid talking about “greenhouse gases.” To the general public, greenhouses are good things that help you grow more food! (It would be nice if even the experts stopped saying “greenhouse gases” to each other too. That unfortunate metaphor inevitably slips out in public and harms the cause of reform. I like “hothouse gases” better, because it sounds more like the real thing and nasty too. Also please avoid using any evidence that relies on pictures of or references to the fate of the “environment,” or of other species of all kinds such as polar bears, penguins, etc. Avoid talking about polar and glacier melts, using charts or graphs, and talking about CO2!” Everyone who can be convinced by the means I’m criticizing here is already on board.

Now it’s time to consider our third task, which is actually quite separate from the two previous ones above. As Bill McKibben and others have pointed out, we do have to hold the carbon crooks and climate crisis deniers up for public shaming. But even when your project is shaming the fossil fuel gang, it’s vital to start and conclude with a positive vision of the clean energy world and prosperous economy we could have instead. In between these two positive notes there are a number of classic American negatives you can sound: the deniers are “telling lies and betraying the public trust.” They are on the take, they are stealing subsidy money from the taxpayers, they are sabotaging our clean energy future, they are blocking progress, they are holding our country and our economy back or hostage, and they are profiting from damaging our health, our economy, and our country. Their CEOs are blocking the dawn of a new energy age, they are criminal cons, they have gone too far, they are corrupt, and as for their ‘wait and see” strategy—do you wait until your house burns down to buy insurance? They are costing us too much. You can also warn people that everyone will soon be selling their fossil fuel stocks and moving their money into alternative energy investments, because “the carbon bubble is going to burst.” (For more about this “divestment” strategy, see www.350.org.)

So much for going negative. Always, whatever our messages or audiences might be, we must always start and end by returning to the positive: “We can do it, it will be good for us, it will prevent new damage, it will save and make money and jobs, save our health, our economy, our communities. We can improve our economy by meeting the climate change challenge!“

Let’s put powerful new American Story energy into all of our campaigns now and get the massive liftoff we so desperately need!

Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org,  and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How to Get America’s Ear.  The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997.
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Notes

1.This fact has recently been noted in “U.S. Energy Policy: A Bridge to Nowhere,” by Bob Burnett, on Huffington Post: http://huff.to/1dxyhwA.
2. The following links provide details about the new research on framing climate change action: http://climateshiftproject.org/winning-the-conversation-framing-and-moral-messaging-in-environmental-campaigns/; http://talkingclimate.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Language-Words-and-Phrases.pdf; http://valuesandframes.org/blue-valuing-green/;
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378011001051;

3. For action ideas, see http://www.icleiusa.org/action-center/engaging your community/ICLEI_Climate Communication_Local Governments.pdf

4. Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth, by Judith D. Schwartz, (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013.)

Science is Telling Us to Revolt

This would make Derrick Jensen breathe a sigh of relief, if that’s something Derrick Jensen ever does.

 

An awesome piece by Naomi Klein – “How Science is telling us all to Revolt” in the current issue of the New Statesman. This issue was edited by revolutionary comedian Russell Brand.

 

Naomi Klein Occupy Wall Street 2011 Shankbone 2

Naomi Klein Occupy Wall Street 2011 Shankbone 2 (Photo credit: david_shankbone)

 

Basic premise: the only way to stop the insane spiral of capitalism which is destroying the planet is to get down to some serious resistance and lay our bodies on the line. Nothing else slows the pace of destruction down fast enough to make a difference for human beings and planet earth.
http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/SCIENCE-SAYS-REVOLT