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Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

Understanding climate:

“It’s either the whole or it’s nothing…”

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/gavin_schmidt_the_emergent_patterns_of_climate_change?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=image__2014-05-01

 

Gavin Schmidt said this at the Ted conferences in early May. I feel it is the easiest way to sum up  what is in front of us:

 

It’s either the whole or it’s nothing…

 

Either we embrace that our Earth must be cared for as a whole rather than a whole lot of separate island nations, or we humans all sink together into a kind of desperate living only Hollywood can adequately portray. And with a lot of pain and suffering for so much we love along the way, animal, plant and human alike, in this miraculous, Eden-like habitat we call home.

 

This wholeness can be really positive if embraced as a reason to care now — for each other, for the animal and plant life that is the miracle of our world, for the shreds of wilderness left intact that we protect, and for the areas of Nature now rehabilitating with or without our notice — with as much determination as we can find within ourselves.

 

Yes, let’s respond to the whole as a whole; we have the technology, and the heart and art to do so.

 

Is there any among you who can put a webcam of melting ice and stranded polar bear and cubs on the Megatron in Times Square where we city dwellers can stand, rapt with concern, and root for their survival? That might occupy attention to our wholeness. How about another webcam 24/7 on the screen at the airports, documenting not just the latest extreme weather event we watch in awe anyway, opening our hearts and wallets for those people displaced, but also one which provides a glimpse of mammals seeking water during the newest drought or fire, wherever it may be? Live, as it happens…

 

Too tough to watch, I hear many protesting. Yes, but it is real-time reality TV that simply underscores our connection to each other, our care piqued as we are a species that does have a good heart when seeing pain, and we do respond to help.

 

If we can see and experience the whole, with our eyes and hearts engaged, we can create a culture of care for the whole.

 

Really, we can.

 

 

 

 

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Or why we face a future with a changed climate and degraded habitat with seeming aplomb … until it’s a crisis.

 

 The Fates, of course, refer to the Greek incarnations to which all — humanity and gods — had to submit. They defined destiny, spinning the line of life, allotting its length, maintaining an unturnable outcome. Fates — or Fate, seeing the ladies in the singular today —are the epitome of destiny, but also a principle of divine natural order, thought to be unchangeable by man… oh, maybe until now perhaps, when we have the tools and the will to tinker on a global scale.

 

We submit to an unalterable power of Fate**, which is why humans are often lauded or accused, depending on circumstance, of fatalism: What happens has to happen. It is a necessity, given the story thus far, the narrative we’ve woven as a global community. There’s nothing to do to change it.

 

But is it a necessity?

 

Enter Feelings, those nice and nasty players shrieking into our brains as first-responders long before logic and reason weigh in. Our survival mechanism perfected, Feelings are insta-fast responses to our world, engaging without our knowing but, explains writer Chris Mooney, determining our behavior and subsequently our convictions about our behavior, in such a way that we can see what we want to see, believe what we want to believe, and against all fact or unchemically-altered observation. “The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience,” Mooney writes in Mother Jones. “Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion. … We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Doing so proves our viewpoint correct: That was a lion about to eat us – or at least it was a lion and we felt afraid so we ran (flight). That is a maniac with a finger on a button of destruction, but presenting himself as a world leader, so we feel we should take him to be able to negotiate a diplomatic solution or take him to battle (fight). That is a huge storm, category 4 or 5 again, and it was a danger to life and limb and city but, now over, I feel my experience of it had nothing to do with my actions previous to today, nor the culture I’ve had a hand in creating (flight or, perhaps, freeze response).

 

“Fatalism is the narrative thesis that some action or event was bound to happen because it ‘fits’ so well with the agent’s character…” the late UT-Austin professor Robert C Solomon wrote in Philosophy East and West (Vol. 53, No. 4, Oct, 2003).

 

“Fate and fatalism… is the story of who we are and of what happens to us and how what happens fits into the larger scheme of things. It is the dramatic story, not the scientific one, even if many or most of the details are the same. … Thus fate and fatalism  focus ‘locally’ on what is most significant about us, our births, our sweetest romances, our best successes, our worst failures, our calamities, our deaths.”

 

 

Our feelings justify our fatalism all too often, creating conviction against all the facts that we can, in fact, call upon our character to meet the challenges of slowing climate change.

 

Climate Access, in offering tools to communicate about climate change in a way that gets us out of fatalism, suggests these tools for a start:

“Understand that hope is a precondition to effective action…

 

“Building and sustaining hope is an interior practice . . .

 

“Be clear on what we can hope for… It is not the climate of yesteryear.”

 

Hope is a feeling that serves every one of us.

 

It is empowering and lifting rather than leading us into the web of the Fates or bathing us in the Feelings that any one of us is just too minor a character in this narrative to make a difference.

 

It is my living hope that we will soon meet the challenge of our own character — individually, collectively, and as players in a great narrative — and thus learn to live in a way that doesn’t further degrade our habitat as we love it, or leave to the Fates our only home.

 

May you day today be filled with hope—

Elizabeth Darby

 

Side note:

**’God’s will’ and ‘Acts of God’ (the ones your house insurance may or may not cover) seem to be different than a Fate, in that they are not ‘necessary’ or dependent on ‘character,’ but rather ‘authored’.  God’s will or Acts of God are based on the idea of being in ‘good hands’ — maybe not always what you or I want, but ‘good hands’ all the same — and thus a relief compared to the anonymity of the Fates.  Since the “Acts of God” clause covers most of what Nature throws at us, I’m always amazed that there is any debate whether Nature is thought to be part of God and vice-versa, but that’s an earlier blog…

 

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Make a wish… what would it be?

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For me, it would be to create and foster a Culture of Care for the Earth, moving humankind out of this age that is a culture of consuming the Earth. It would be the end of the Age of Earth as merely Resource for man’s industrial progress and the Beginning of an Age of Tending the Earth in recognizing it is our only habitat home and its resources and life simply amazing in the grand scheme of things. Like when viewed from space.

That’s my wish: inspiring everyone possible to leave behind the old and grey, smoke and churning of toxins that is the Normal now and taking real steps forward into seeing and working with the Earth as the miracle it is.

Progress is great; can’t we now do it without polluting? A Culture of Care would find the solution to do that.

Money that comes from progress, development in nations, growing economies — these are all great especially as they help to feed the hungry, support literacy and open our eyes to our common heart as a species. A Culture of Care rather than our current Culture of Consumption would create the solutions to achieve all these while working in partnership with what we have here on Earth, rather than be based on destroying what we have.

A home planet where we keep in conservation the original models, areas of land and ocean habitat sufficient to resolve the damage already done to the environment as an intricate web, allowing us a ‘back up’ in case of human mistake, this too is possible when progress and daily living now is based on a Culture of Care.

We have the solutions needed for this; what we need is a change of heart and a change of ‘bottom line’; it’s based by living a Culture of Care for our Earth-home.

Everyone of you has a role to play and a position of power to use in shifting us toward this new paradigm.

It starts inside and is revealed in your actions, large and small, but now.

We do engage the Earth, our home and habitat, differently if we see it as a miracle.

That’s my wish for today.

What’s yours?

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Picture

Historical photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, USA

We, none of us, ever know when we are living in the moment that will be pointed to in time to come as the defining moment.

 

We might have a vague feeling that our daily lives are, to borrow from 20th C history, similar to the days of living in the ‘tinderbox of Europe’ or the last days of the Belle Epoch. But we don’t know until the War to End All Wars has come and gone and we are on the other side of it, that we were on a precipice, having ‘lived’ through the ravages history creates in our lives, whether in families or in nations or in the world wholly.  Surely then, as now, there were warning voices for decades before such large-scale changes that made “history” took place. And surely then, as now, the people hearing them heeded or ignored, worried and debated, and no doubt felt too small to do much of anything to change the forces of such global change.

I feel strongly that this, too, is one of those times. In observing all the evidence discovered, reported on and written about during my own long career as a conservation journalist, these last 30 years reveal all the signs of warnings, worries, and moments of opportunities gone unheeded by us in meeting the imbalance  our industrial society has pressed upon our natural Home and Habitat.

At my personal website  elizabethdarby.com, I was going to write about volcanoes and whether they are good or bad for climate change  . . . but I found the geologic and atmospheric research so profoundly sad and the amount we now know about the Earth’s natural forces so profoundly amazing, that I instead resolved to look for good, for change, for a moment of brilliance in environmental solutions rather than just more sad, bad news.

After decades of writing about the environment, the wilderness, the Land and loss of wildlife, reporting on such omni-disasters takes its toll on the soul;  constantly ringing alarm bells make one as welcome as the original Pandora. A bit — actually a lot — of news that speaks to human creativity and resolve in meeting and solving our challenges is badly needed.

 

I have in mind an adjunct project to this Earth: Sacred/Possession book and curriculum I’m working on which is to create a new environmental journal to be titled Re/Solve. It will focus on solutions — to conservation disasters, micro- and macro-shambles occurring, whether in village, city, valley, wilderness or range— offering not just the small and mostly insufficient actions offered elsewhere, but rather real, simple and successful solutions. And the challenge is how to reach the 2/3 of the world that is without internet access to provide these simple now solutions that can be undertaken at the family and village level

And in setting out on this course, I found this recent Ted talk by Allan Savory. linked below . . .

 

Ironically, I met Allan Savory over 25 years ago — when as a young staff reporter for Newsweek, I was trying to change national journalism from within to create  a ‘news-beat’ on environmental and conservation issues, and on environment as national (and international) security. It hadn’t really been done at the national scale in the late 1970s and early 1980s and certainly not by a female journalist back then as it was still a man’s domain, this environmental reporting stuff.

In attempting this, I relentlessly sent ‘environmental’ stories to my beleaguered and patient editors at Newsweek, Allan being among the many. While I wrote 5,000 word articles on the complex emerging environmental issues, my editors dutifully reworked them into 750-word boxed features, save for drought and desertification of our nation’s agricultural lands. For that we achieved an award-winning cover article and I an early reporting award.

Allan had recently emigrated from Zimbabwe and was working on the damaged and desertified rangelands of my native Rocky Mountain West. His ideas for ending desertification of rangelands were shocking at the time – more livestock, not less — but I watched as his calm insistence in hotel conference rooms and meeting halls, small town by small town, won over ranchers throughout the Intermountain West.

Now I see here that Allan has an idea — a brilliance based on his life’s very important work — that will no doubt prove to be an even more important answer to climate change, writ global.

He offers an approach, a solution, a something regions, localities, individuals and nations can do. And his calm insistence that he is profoundly right demonstrates the kind of resolve I hope to have grace the content of my dream project of Re/Solve.

Take time to absorb this great solution, as nearly a million others watching TED already have… For Allan, his talk represents a lot of years of work. Thank you for your gracious persistence, Allan!

 

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Grizzlies on action cam of a Rockies forest. Image courtesy of USFWS.

The US Ninth Court of Appeals recently ruled that Grizzly Bears in the Yellowstone area must remain protected as an threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, because a main food source for the largest mammal of our North American forests is being wiped out by pine beetle and drought, maladies laid at the feet of climate change. Until the US FWS can establish a measure of the threat posed by the complex relationship between the grizzly and its important Autumn food source in white pine nuts, the magnificent predator will remain listed.  


It’s an example of the depth and complexity of the problem of habitat before us —  rapid climate change leading to swaths of dead habitat throughout a region the size of South Carolina, leaving the wildlife of the area without a vital source food at a time of feeding for winter.  
How do we preserve a forest, a habitat of such size as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, much less an Arctic habitat for the polar bear?  The size of change taking place with climate change is truly unfathomable; that it is happening at a rate several times faster than what was predicted should chill us all.  
But this change is largely out of sight of the mainstream urban populations, thus 37 percent of Americans maintain that climate change is a figment of scientists’ imaginations, a number largely unchanged since last May, in a study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications. “A Gallup poll from last month found that Americans rated global warming as the environmental problem they worry about the least,” noted US News in August 2011.
Perhaps one of these Americans could explain this disbelief to a starving grizzly bear in the Yellowstone area.
Pregnant females are needing to eat high calorie foods, such as the rich nuts of the white pine tree carefully collected into the middens of red squirrels, to survive a winter of bearing their young.  The bear is an amazing animal — if the female runs out of sufficient calories while hibernating, her young do not make it to term within her.  If there are barely calories enough to carry to term, the female can easily starve while the young are born and nursing as she still hibernates before the spring thaws of the high mountains reach her snow-bound den.  The female bear teaches her young where to find food at each time of year, and this knowledge is passed from generation to generation, year after year, ensuring the life of the species as the years carry on.
The grizzly is a beautiful creature of muscle, shaded coat and ooh-inspiring cute young; it is easy to how they inspired  the old fairy tales of royalty hidden and bewitched inside their golden, brown or white coats.  One is blessed to ever get to watch their care of their young in the wild, as I was once honored to spy on an early morning in Yellowstone a decade ago.  On an early June morning, a huge brown and golden female gently swatted her two lagging, playful cubs into rolling balls of fur over the far mountain meadowof glistening green grass, potently urging them to stop romping and rush to the safety of the white pine forest before the sun and danger of discovery rose any higher.  In such wide-eyes moments, one’s breath stops at seeing — nay, feeling — the wild garden thrive in our ruled and paved world. It is possible to feel more — and finally — at home in this edenic place, among the life and wilds in which we too were planted as a partner within Nature.
We come home to wilderness; we must relearn our way on the paths of the forest, and remember what it feels like to be hungry and desperate to feed our young in a habitat that no longer supports us. While our feelings could not be so different than those of that grizzly bear when finding the winter food source is not there,  it is also a feeling we share in common with millions of other mammals, including fellow humans.
How do we save an entire forest for the trees — and the bears — if we do not even see it or the climate change destroying it?

We will be poorer without the bears and the other members of their complex white pine forest habitat, should it or they not survive the rapid change of our shared home planet Earth.



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From The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture)

From a photo gallery published in the Guardian.UK (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture) by wildlife photographers Will Rose and Kasja at 70˚North, a multimedia project

The polar bears (above) have returned, pacing day after day, on this beach of an island in the Arctic Sea where they are marooned.  The are looking for the sea ice their mothers and the mothers of their mothers taught them was their way to survive. Day after day, they are finding the sea ice is not there.

 

 

Biophilia: Eric Fromm (1964) reimagined by the equally brilliant biologist Edward O. Wilson, introducing the ancient concept — some might even say primitive or indigenous or mythic  (and not meaning these are the same thing) — of a human innate love of our bios, our habitat, our living world, from the cute and cuddly to the breathtaking beauty of forests, ocean, sky, natural spaces. It is a Love of the Garden, as I like to call it, in all its wildness, resilience, force, and tear-inspiring awe. We have left the Garden so completely, and thrown ourselves into the black, outer-world of exile where there is much gnashing of teeth, that Wilson offered us a reminder that such care, even such love, of our natural world is a natural, ingrained response within us. At Lexic.com it is noted that the medical definition of biophilia is the instinct for self-preservation (love of one’s life).

 

BioMimicry: Coming soon in 3.8, helping us to discover — again, as our ancestors knew so well — that as Nature progresses she teaches us to evolve or survive, reconnect and hopefully resolve our destructive tendencies to come (return?) to a way of living that is more sustainable in the face of the laws of Nature. Put in Nature’s way of work: Evolve or Die; To Be (Clever), or Not To Be.

 

 
BioEthics: Boiled down greatly to a decision regarding how an individual chooses (or is forced) to live or die in the medical sphere.  Perhaps it should have meant what has become known as Environmental Ethics, a wilderness in which we are led by the brilliance of Holmes Rolston III, among others, in considering how (not whether) Nature has standing and thus value — just because it exists — in our human system of values.  Also consider BioCentrism, as explored by Paul Taylor in the age of environmental enlightenment of the 1970s and 1980s, as an attempt to balance our species’ plague of anthropocentrism.
Biocide: Traditionally a means developed by scientists to kill off living organisms, presumably the ones humans choose to be dangerous or a distraction.  Of course, with little movement on this slippery slope, we find ourselves wonder whether we are also killing off our bios, our habitat in which case it transmogrifies to suicide.
BioEmpathy: The Institute for the Future defines it as “The ability to see things from Nature’s point of view” and is becoming a taught concept within the Episcopalian Church of the US.

 

 

I would add another meaning, however. BioEmpathy is not only the ability to see things from Nature’s point of view, but also the ability to feel what the object of our focus in Nature is feeling in any given moment.  BioEmpathy means to allow ourselves to feel the suffering, the sorrow and the mourning, em pathos, in understanding and suffering, just as the “other” feels.

 

 

In the instance of these polar bears, BioEmpathy is to be willing, able and strong enough in Spirit to allow your self to feel the pain of hunger these bears feel after weeks of being unable to leave the island in the Arctic Sea. It is to allow yourself to feel their fear and bewilderment at the startling recognition that their “normal” way to leave this island in the middle of the Arctic is not there, and that they are starving.

In the face of this choice of starve or swim in search for sea ice, some polar bears strike out into the ocean, their adaptation as strong swimmers and instinct to survive leading them on.  In the case of at least 8 bears discovered floating dead in the Arctic Sea by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, led by their will to live, these beautiful, powerful creatures drowned during their swim to survive. They died trying. We have no way of knowing how many more of these magnificent mammals are lost each day of each month while trying to survive long enough to adapt to the new conditions of their Polar habitat.

Lost.

 

Doesn’t that word alone invoke feelings of desperation and desolation within you, and within your spirit?

 

Can you feel the bears’ hunger?  Can you feel their confusion at what to do next?

 

Can you empathize with what they feel at what they see:  in this case no way out and no “normal” Way of survival?

 

Are you brave enough to feel this — and does it cause a few tears to well in your eyes for these polar bears’ situation?

 

If so, that is BioPhilia — love of life and love of self-preservation. For you are then feeling alive and connected to another mammal who lives with you on our Earth, our habitat and home, our Garden and Life-Support.

 

 

It is only when we can be strong enough to feel as these bears do and to feel their lurch of desperation in our own hearts and a cry of panic in our own spirits, that we then also feel the impetus and inspiration to change and nurture their future — the future of so much of our Garden habitat that we love — and thus change and nurture our shared and common life in our Earth home.

We are able to do something about global warming. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

We are able to do something to lessen or even halt the spread of pollution in their habitat and the invisible leaching of PCB’s through their water. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

Let’s do this — Now.

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Why is it we call ‘Natural Disasters’

Acts of God?

Does is mean that, for a moment, we see Nature as being part of God?

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