Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Is The Movement

Yes, these are dangerous and desperate times, but they are also incredibly exciting. We've never seen this before. Joanna Macy may be right. A Great Turning.

Boycott is Back!

I had enough folks ask if I was doing another performance at Klimaforum, that I emailed Nanna, my "handler" to see if there was any chance of a repeat.

Oddly enough, she emailed me back yesterday, and I never got her email. But she called me this morning, and we went into commando mode, and the show is a-happening!

I've been emailing people all morning, and it turns out my buddy and incredible supporter Jeff Wolfe from groSolar is in town, and he's bringing a crowd. Jeff wasn't able to make last week's show, and having him there makes it all worthwhile!

Barbarina Heyerdahl, Supporter #1 Of All Time is also in town (I'm sharing her hotel room) and will be running sound for me. Barbarina has a mind like a steel trap, and I think has the thing memorized already.

So, no telling, really, how many people are going to show, but this trip has been proceeding with great surprise and unexpected fortune, and so I have faith that regardless of the numbers, we will definitely have a good time.


This is a great summary of where the talks are at right now.

Though it doesn't even begin to address the problem that far more people have been accredited to get into the Bella Center than the place can hold, and it's become a logistical nightmare.

People have been waiting in the cold for hours, missing their own side events, and feeling very disregarded and silenced.

But at least it's a very democratic process. Al Gore had trouble getting in, the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council waited outside in line for 5 hours, and it only took me an hour (of course I had a badge from having registered last week - these guys just got here).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Photos from The March

There were two marches on Saturday. One of them began at 10 and went through town to a building where industry is discussing carbon trading. The other went from the center of Copenhagen all the way out to the Bella Center.

My ankle is still in rough shape, so I only attended the first march. I took the train out to the Bella Center to meet up with the second march, but it took them 3 hours to go 6 km, and by that point, I had to get back to check out of my B&B.

But here are some shots from the smaller march. Folks are in blue because they're symbolizing rising water levels.

Bangle for the Bard

I had an incredible My Dinner With Andre style encounter last night with Kimo Goree, from the International Institute for Sustainable Development, his co-worker Liz Willetts, and a zingy powerhouse of a gal named Velma MCColl, a high-flying Canadian political consultant.

We talked strategy, philosophy, personality, inherent genius, wu wei (active inaction). Though I must admit I interrupted the flow for a Girlie Moment to complement Velma on her very beautiful bracelet.

We talked about knowing who has "valence," the person in any situation who can make things happen, and being clear that when you're trying to make change, that's who you should be dealing with.

We talked about the U Theory Of Change. This is the idea that to make change, you have to have an open mind, an open heart, and an open will. There are moments when each of these components are open, and they can be engaged, and you come out the other side having been transformed. Imagine moving down one stem of a U and coming up the other side.

Velma said that she's really interested in engaging people just as they're coming up from the bottom of the U.

Velma also talked about how she feels like something is really shifting here: valences, debates, influences, paradigms, institutions.

Kimo pointed out that Copenhagen is self-selecting for the most passionate, the most engaged, the most creative and committed people working on climate change at all levels. He also said there has never been a time in our history when this many top leaders came together in one place for 36 hours to try and fix a problem. It's an enormous amount of concentrated world power, of people who have, to borrow from Malcom Gladwell, blink energy. Rapid, immediate cognition.

We talked about how the inherent role of countries is to look out for the self-interest of a specifically defined collective of people, but that this Moment requires a re-constitution of the inherent purpose of government. These world bodies must now be infused with altruism, compassion, and generosity as the only means of ensuring our survival. We need to take half-formed thoughts in half-formed realities, and vast contradictions and complexities, and at a quantum pace, transform them into immediate and seemingly impossible action.

We have to storm the status quo, crack prime numbers, and remembering that we live on a pale blue dot in an infinite sea of black. We need to go Micro, Macro, Meta, Mundo because it is not acceptable for us to wait for global catastrophe before we act.

It was a heady, invigorating, elevating conversation when went on for hours. We closed down the restaurant and got free wine from the manager, who thanked us for our work.

On the way home in the taxi, I told Velma
about what my friend Shyla said to me about my current Purpose. She said I am in the lineage of the Bardic Stream, a storyteller of this Moment. What Joanna Macy calls The Great Turning.

As I got out of the taxi, Velma gave me her bracelet - the one I had admired early in our night together. She said it was a Bangle for the Bard.

This moment is the reason I came to Copenhagen.

Tuvalu Testimony

Ian Fry, the COP15 delegate from Tuvalu. "The fate of my country rests in your hands."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Courtside at the Cop

December 8. Sitting in on a plenary session at COP15. The first time I have ever seen such a thing. They're having a…discussion (and I use this term loosely) about a particular point in the climate treaty having to do with “carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in geological formations.”

This basically means pulling all the carbon out of the effluvia from, say, the smokestack of your coal-fired power plant, wadding it up into a big ball, and burying it deep in a handy hole in the ground. For example, in a dried-out oil well in Saudi Arabia. More on that in a moment.

CCS is more of an idea and a focus of ongoing research than anything else. It certainly isn’t a proven, workable, and cost-effective technological solution to excess CO2. This is why, when people talk about clean coal, they’re philosophizing more than strategizing. Clean coal depends on fully-functioning CCS technologies, and we don’t have that. Therefore there is no such thing as clean coal.

The proceedings are difficult to follow at first because every delegate making a comment was reading from a statement prepared by an official working group, and which used dense, arcane, highly academic/political language designed to (as far as I can tell) not annoy your allies and not commit to anything you haven’t been authorized to commit to while still trying to move things in a generally positive direction.

I’d been wondering why it’s been so hard for the world to come up with a solid climate treaty, and here's the answer live in front of me.

Burkina Faso (all the delegates are referred to by the name of their country – it’s very Shakespearean that way) talks for 2 minutes about the relationship between energy, ozone-depleting chemicals like CFCs, and carbon dioxide, but I have no idea what he's actually saying.

Brazil goes totally over my head, and Sweden says some generally positive things about the idea of CCS, but doesn’t seem to have a big emotional investment in it.

Australia is the first moment when my Effluvia Meter goes into the red zone. I'm prepared for some shuck and jive from Down Under because they’ve just had a big political turnover and the incoming party is very right wing and opposed to doing anything to save the planet.
Australia is all about making robust CCS projects.

I would imagine since the majority of the continent is dry, hot, wasteland, they feel like they’ve got a lot of room to bury the rest of the world’s carbon. For a reasonable fee, of course.

Within the space of a sentence or two, we hear that “CCS is a mature technology” (well-developed and ready to roll) and that “CCS is in need of much more development” (not a mature technology).

Now comes Saudi Arabia, who says, “The most promising technology to achieve the objective of reducing CO2 is CCS.” Mr. Arabia is very upset about the fact that there are no CCS projects in his country (even though there aren’t any CCS projects anywhere), and demands in a petulant, teenager-like way, inclusion of CCS in the treaty.

The Saudis want CCS because pretty soon they're going to have a bunch of big holes in the ground where their oil used to be, and like Australia, they’d be very happy to let us stick our carbon there. For a reasonable fee.

Kuwait pipes up like Saudia Arabia’s annoying younger brother. “It’s true! It’s true!” he whins. “CCS works! Look on the internet!” I’m serious. As if all the delegates here are going to turn around, slap their foreheads, and say, “Oh my Allah, Kuwait! I never thought of that! The internet!”

And then, from out of the proverbial darkness, speaks Mighty Little Grenada, of Conquered-By-Great-Britain-In-A-Weekend Fame. In a voice of Truth and Clarity, he basically says, “Why are we spending so much time on an immature technology? Australia is full of crap. Let’s get on with it.”

Jamaica promptly gives Grenada the equivalent of a High Five and Buttslap, and Paraguay drives the point home with the moral argument that focusing on CCS implies that emissions can continue unchecked, and this sort of thinking will stand in the way of real plans to end dependence on fossil fuels.
I started to cheer and applaud for Paraguay, when I realize that this sort of thing is frowned upon at formal UN negotiations. I’m such a barbarian.

More news as events progress...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Activists Can Do

This was at a session of the Americans for Prosperity (climate deniers) "Hot Air Tour" speakers series. Note that the protesters actually made up the bulk of the audience!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climate Justice

Climate Justice

This is a term with which the developed world is going to become increasingly familiar, so I thought I'd write a little primer. Basically, here’s how things look to the developing world (and this is a vast oversimplification, of course, but a place to start):

The last several hundred years of human history have been rife with one version or other of colonialism – from when Portugal and Spain could throw their weight around and the sun never set on the English empire to multinational corporations making gazillions of dollars while polluting the planet and owing no money or allegiance anywhere but to their stockholders, to whom they are unconditionally obligated to maximize profits.

The countries which have been getting the short end of the stick (pointy end of the sword/bang end of the rifle/downstream end of the sewer) on this colonialism deal are full of large numbers of very poor people who are only getting poorer.

These same countries, which have contributed very little to greenhouse gas emissions, are the ones who are currently suffering the most severe effects of climate change. Low-lying island nations like Tuvalu and Maldives are already experiencing rising sea levels which threaten their very existence. African nations like Sudan are locked in drought and their farmers have very little chance of growing enough food to feed their long-suffering people. Countries like Bolivia (or most of SE Asia) which get their fresh water from glacial runoff are having their water supplies threatened by rapidly melting glaciers.

As you might imagine, they’re feeling pretty pissed about it, and they want this climate treaty to make sure that the US and other rich countries pony up enough money to help them develop in a low-carbon, sustainable way, and help pay for all the damage they’ve sustained up to now.

As you might imagine, the rich countries don’t want to do that.

This is a big problem. And it doesn’t even get into how some of these countries feel about free-market capitalism overall, but I’m not going to get into that, because then you get into economic buzzwords that start with sounds like “com” and “soc” and people just stop listening to you completely.

The bottom line is that we’ve been eating all the snacks, using all the toys, and pooping in the sandbox, and the rest of the kids are tired of it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Gauntlet Is Thrown

I got this email from a woman named Helen Hill today:
global warming is a hoax to tax the people thanks for being taken in, and helping spread the scam. Be careful in your desire for fame
Leaving aside any comments about her lack of punctuation (or any further comment on the whole hacked email hoax hoo-ha), here's my response back:
Helen, I wish it were a hoax.

But I am here in Copenhagen with people from all over the world - people from Pacific Island nations who are already suffering rising sea levels, and people from Africa who are already suffering drought, and people from the Andes and the Himalayas who are watching their glaciers shrink before their eyes - glaciers which provide their sole source of fresh water.

All of these folks are already having their lives threatened by climate change.
I'm sorry you've been mislead by the climate deniers - who tend to be funded by big oil. Exxon-Mobil alone has funded 39 climate change denier groups.

The people - you and me both - have already had money taken from us to fund subsidies to big oil and coal. Switching to renewables can only serve us all, both financially and environmentally.

Best regards, Kathryn

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Alex and Elke

I'm staying in the London flat of my friends Alex and Elke - a lovely, slightly unlikely couple. Alex is an African-American actor from Los Angeles, Elke is a civil servant who works for the German Embassy. They met on an adult hook-up site, fell in love, and got married.

They've been in London for the past few years, and will be moving back to Germany this summer where Elke will divide her time between working at the embassies in Berlin and...Baghdad.

I took them out for dinner tonight, and we got into an interesting conversation about Purpose In Life.

Alex talked about how while he feels like he's here to make the world a better place, he's very non-political about it, and can't imagine engaging in a cause-driven life such as mine. He said that he's too much of an obsessive personality, and would end up pulling his whole existence, including his relationships and his marriage, into his work.

Elke said that she's very interested taking care of the people she loves, but that if she allowed herself to focus on the big issues of the world, it would just make her angry and incapable of functioning.

The remarkable thing is, though, they might not be cause-driven, but they're living examples of something really important.

Alex is devoted to his personal growth, and he's a loving, generous presence who brings a kind of peaceful music into the room with him wherever he goes. I guessed, and he confirmed, that when he's in a show, he's the go-to guy of the cast. When people have problems, they come to him. When conflicts need addressing, Alex is the peace-maker. When he's not in a show, he writes, plays his guitar, walks the city, and explores his inner life.

Elke loves her job - even though it's a fairly low-level clerical job. And she has no desire to go any further up the chain of responsibility. She's good at what she does, she finds it fulfilling, it supports her well, and she doesn't have to take it home with her. She's able to support both herself and Alex. While they do have a TV and a computer, they don't have a home full of extraneous stuff. They live a pretty simple, non-consumerist existence. And every few years, they get to move to a new country. After Germany, they're hoping for South Africa or Nepal.

I so admire the fact that they've created lives of such elegantly simple contentedness and deep personal devotion. Every time I visit them I feel like I've landed in a safe haven, a place of nurturing and relaxation. I can't help but note that
with purpose, but without ambition and drive, they live pretty lightly on the planet.

Perhaps this is an active, vivid part of the vision of the future that we're trying to create for ourselves. Perhaps it's not the toys in our lives but the tone of them, the music we carry with us, which will help us find our way.

New Promo Postcards

Given the intense, overwhelming nature of COP15, and the fact that so many people will be there trying to get attention for the work they're doing, a friend suggested I make some new promotional postcards which might be a bit more eye-catching. If I can't achieve fame, I might as well shoot for infamy.

The Devil's Woman

My friend Susan Andrews, daughter of revered High School drama teacher Alan Greiner, just sent me this picture with a note reading:

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says, "OH CRAP, SHE'S UP!"

How has everyone managed to identify my idealized self-image? Am I that transparent?

This gal must be related to the naked babe with the rifle posted below.

Climate Scoreboard

The group Climate Interactive has developed this scoreboard to calculate the long-term climate impacts of proposals under consideration for the climate treaty.

It will automatically update to reflect changes in the negotiations. Very, very clever.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Women Of Earth!

More interwebs love...

Sally hooked me up with a painter named Peter van Straten who emailed me this morning with a wonderful message:

A friend emailed me news of your show, and I just found it so wonderful because I recently made a painting with the exact same theme (attached) called: "Women of earth are you blind to your power?! Deny all access to your bodies until a greener future is designed to your taste."

Just thought I had to send it to you.

It's astonishing to think how much power women actually hold in this regard - seen from this perspective
their power surpasses that of men a hundred-fold.

Lovely as his note was, his painting is just fabulous. I love the boots, rifle, teeny car combo. Power to the Wymmyns, indeed!

Fire Dogs

Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, I have just hooked up with a South African author named Sally Andrew, who's written a wonderful book called The Fire Dogs of Climate Change. She's written a series of essays about engaging the emotional and philosophical aspects of the climate crisis, as well as offering tangible solutions to the problem. An excerpt:


I have hit my head with a tennis ball. It is dark, and I am in my back garden. In each hand I am swinging a chain with a ball attached to it. I move them around in figure-of-eight patterns above my head. My cat looks at me like I’m crazy, but when I get it right she comes to sit smugly at my feet. My left wrist is moving over and under my right in an impossible dance and the balls are spin ning, miraculously not crashing into each other or me. I am elated. It feels like someone has oiled my creaky brain. I immerse myself into movement that I can not understand, but which makes my whole being sing.

I am learning to dance with fire. When I am ready, I will replace the balls with burning wicks, and I will dance. If I get it wrong, I will get burned. It will be my trial by fire.

It has been a good year to learn to fire-dance: the Year of the Fire Dog, ac cording to Chinese astrology. And in African cosmology (a sangoma told me) it is the Year of the Fire Gods.

‘The fire-spirits are close by,’ he said. ‘It is the year for trials by fire.’

‘Global warming,’ I said. ‘That’s the trial by fire for humans. We must learn or we must burn.’

As I spin the balls around my body, I look up at the dark night sky, scattered with stars, and I feel as if I am learning one of the oldest dances of the universe. I sense the Earth under my feet - a spinning ball of rock dancing around a giant sphere of fire. Spheres of rock or gas are moving around each of the billions of fire-stars in the sky.

I love her sense of the poetic and the mythic as it interweaves with the practical and the political. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work - and I can, since she sent me a pdf of the book. Thanks Sally!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The MLK of the Climate Vulnerables

President Nasheed was also the guy who held the underwater cabinet meeting for 350.org's day of action. He's a remarkable guy with Frodo-like dedication. We should all be so compassionate and brave.
Address by His Excellency President Nasheed
at the Climate Vulnerable Forum
Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We gather in this hall today, as some of the most climate-vulnerable nations on Earth.

We are vulnerable because climate change threatens to hit us first; and hit us hardest.

And we are vulnerable because we have modest means with which to protect ourselves from the coming disaster.

We are a diverse group of countries.

But we share one common enemy.

For us, climate change is no distant or abstract threat; but a clear and present danger to our survival.

Climate change is melting the glaciers in Nepal.

It is causing flooding in Bangladesh.

It threatens to submerge the Maldives and Kiribati.

And in recent weeks, it has furthered drought in Tanzania, and typhoons in the Philippines.
We are the frontline states in the climate change battle.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Developing nations did not cause the climate crisis.

We are not responsible for the hundreds of years of carbon emissions, which are cooking the planet.

But the dangers climate change poses to our countries, means that this crisis can no longer be considered somebody else’s problem.

Carbon knows no boundaries.

Whether we like it or not, we are all in this fight together.

For all of us gathered here today, inaction is not an option.

So, what can we do about it?

To my mind, whatever course of action we take must be based on the latest advice of climate scientists. Not on the advice of politicians like us.

As Copenhagen looms, and negotiators frantically search for a solution, it is easy to think that climate change is like any other international issue.

It is easy to assume that it can be solved by a messy political compromise between powerful states.

But the fact of the matter is, we cannot negotiate with the laws of physics.

We cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature.

We have to learn to live within the fixed planetary boundaries that nature has set.

And it is increasingly clear that we are living way beyond those planetary means.

Scientists say that global carbon dioxide levels must be brought back down below 350 parts per million.

And we can see why.

We have already overshot the safe landing space.

In consequence the ice caps are melting.

The rainforests are threatened.

And the world’s coral reefs are in imminent danger.

Members of the G8 rich countries have pledged to halt temperature rises to two degrees Celsius.

Yet they have refused to commit to the carbon targets, which would deliver even this modest goal.

At two degrees we would lose the coral reefs.

At two degrees we would melt Greenland.

At two degrees my country would not survive.

As a president I cannot accept this.

As a person I cannot accept this.

I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any about it.

Copenhagen is our date with destiny.

Let us go there with a better plan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we look around the world today, there are few countries showing moral leadership on climate change.

There are plenty of politicians willing to point the finger of blame.

But there are few prepared to help solve a crisis that, left unchecked, will consume us all.
Few countries are willing to discuss the scale of emissions reductions required to save the planet.

And the offers of adaptation support for the most vulnerable nations are lamentable.

The sums of money on offer are so low, it is like arriving at a earthquake zone with a dustpan and brush.

We don’t want to appear ungrateful but the sums hardly address the scale of the challenge.

We are gathered here because we are the most vulnerable group of nations to climate change.

The problem is already on us, yet we have precious little with which to fight.

Some might prefer us to suffer in silence but today we have decided to speak.

And so I make this pledge today: we will not die quietly.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in humanity.

I believe in human ingenuity.

I believe that with the right frame of mind, we can solve this crisis.

In the Maldives, we want to focus less on our plight; and more on our potential.

We want to do what is best for the planet.

And what is best for our economic self-interest.

This is why, earlier this year, we announced plans to become carbon neutral in ten years.
We will switch from oil to 100% renewable energy.

And we will offset aviation pollution, until a way can be found to decarbonise air transport too.

To my mind, countries that have the foresight to green their economies today, will be the winners of tomorrow.

They will be the winners of this century.

These pioneering countries will free themselves from the unpredictable price of foreign oil.
They will capitalize on the new, green economy of the future.

And they will enhance their moral standing, giving them greater political influence on the world stage.

Here in the Maldives we have relinquished our claim to high-carbon growth.

After all, it is not carbon we want, but development.

It is not coal we want, but electricity.

It is not oil we want, but transport.

Low-carbon technologies now exist, to deliver all the goods and services we need.
Let us make the goal of using them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A group of vulnerable, developing countries committed to carbon neutral development would send a loud message to the outside world.

If vulnerable, developing countries make a commitment to carbon neutrality, those opposed to change have nowhere left to hide.

If those with the least start doing the most, what excuse can the rich have for continuing inaction?

We know this is not an easy step to take, and that there might be dangers along the way.

We want to shine a light, not loudly demand that others go first into the dark.

So today, we want to share with you our carbon neutral strategy.

And we want to ask you to consider carbon neutrality yourselves.

I think a bloc of carbon-neutral, developing nations could change the outcome of Copenhagen.

At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible.

They never make commitments, unless someone else does first.

This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.

We don’t want a global suicide pact.

And we will not sign a global suicide pact, in Copenhagen or anywhere.

So today, I invite some of the most vulnerable nations in the world, to join a global survival pact instead.

We are all in this as one.

We stand or fall together.

I hope you will join me in deciding to stand.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Believe

Written for the Burlington Free Press.

"Not only is another world possible, she is on her way.

On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing."

- Arundhati Roy

As a climate activist, someone who spends the bulk of her time trying to awaken the community to the realities of climate change and peak oil and enliven people to do something about it, it’s very easy to focus on where we’ve gone wrong. It’s almost effortless to bemoan the amount of destruction we humans have heaped upon the planet. I have no problem alternating between fear, despair, and rage when I contemplate how many climate tipping points we’ve crossed and how close we are to losing the planet’s ability to support life and civilization as we know it. It’s so easy to feel both flabbergasted and powerless in the face of our apparent lack of passionate, gung-ho readiness to do something about it.

Despite the remarkable spectacle of people in 181 countries creating 5200 events for 350.org’s international day of climate action on October 24, despite the pole-to-pole call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis, I am deeply influenced by the doubt most experts express at the ability of the delegates at this December’s international climate conference in Copenhagen to walk away from the table with a solid, science-based, toothy climate treaty in hand.

I want more than anything to believe we are capable of addressing the climate crisis, and in fact I do believe more than anything that we’re capable of it. I’m just not so sure we’re willing to take it on. Why? Because the reality of addressing the problem involves profoundly scaling back from the lives we’re currently leading.

We are a civilization which has built its foundations upon fossil fuels. We use them to get us to the corner store and we use them to get us into orbit. We use oil to make everything - from asphalt to aspirin, deodorant to duct tape, vitamins to volleyballs. We use fossil fuels to build our homes as well as light and power and heat them. Oil is the mainstay of commercial agriculture’s pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and antibiotics – and oil drives all the machinery and equipment used to grow, harvest, process, and distribute our food.

The reality we’re facing is that not only does all this industrial and agricultural activity pour carbon dioxide and a host of other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and heat up the planet – which is bad enough – but we’re also facing the fact that we have maximized global oil production. This is known as Peak Oil. We’re not running out per se, but oil is getting harder to find and more expensive to produce. Which means that all the elements of our society which have been based on cheap oil and the massive amounts of energy contained therein are going to get much more expensive as well – prohibitive to the smooth running of the global economy as it’s currently structured. Or, as Dr. Fatih Birol, chief economist with the International Energy Administration, recently stated: “We must leave oil before it leaves us.”

But here’s the thing: I don’t blame us. We may have wreaked incredible havoc on the planet, but we didn't mean to. In fact, I’m in awe at the depth and breadth of humanity's creativity and ingenuity. We found a mess of black sludgy stuff in the ground, and look what we’ve done with it! In fact, I look at what humanity has created during the vast scope of our history, both pre-oil and during this little energy boom, and I’m blown away.

We've made paintings on grains of rice and built rockets to the moon. We've made cathedrals and tinker toys and spandex and haute cuisine and rock and roll and the Hubble telescope and iPhones and sneakers and giant Buddhas and pyramids and mummies and illuminated manuscripts and samurai swords. We built the towers of the World Trade Center and then tightrope-walked between them. We research and dissect and explore and learn and dance.

So, what do I believe? I believe that if we can harness ourselves, we can clean up the mess we've made – even now, at the 11th hour. More than clean it up, I believe we can re-make the world with a constructive power that rivals and even surpasses our destructive power. I believe that even in a carbon-constrained world, we can have remarkable lives of novelty and meaning and humor and adventure and purpose and fun and love. I believe that in 20 or 50 or 100 years things probably won’t look anything like they do now, and that the shocks to our collective system and the changes to our way of life will be challenging to absorb at first. But I also believe that we are incredibly courageous, infinitely creative, and supremely adaptable, and I believe it is our moral responsibility to step up to this task placed upon us. It’s up to us. There is nobody else.

I also believe that no matter what happens, there’s meaning and value in taking action, in being part of this chapter of humanity’s story. Because in all likelihood, something or someone will survive. And whatever the conditions of their life are, whoever they are, I would want them to know that someone tried to hold things together on their behalf. I would want them to know that someone was thinking of them, living there, farther on down the road. I would want them to know that someone, whoever they were, didn’t give up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Big Lie

"From the first, let us dispense with the Big Lie. You know the one we refer to: the eternally repeated claim that we cannot make real and deep and radical change in our way of living, even if it is the right thing to do. The Big Lie narrows both our perspective and our perception of our alternatives, while making our failures seem natural and inevitable. The Big Lie claims that we are cowards, that we are weak, that we are no longer the inheritors of our revolutionary past and that we lack moral integrity. it is a slander, and yet we believe it. And until we stop believing it, we cannot lift our hands, our voices or or shovels and get on with the work of change.

So let us dispense right this moment, today, now, with the Big Lie. We can be the moral descendants of those who fought back against slavery and oppression, those who overthrew unjust rulers, who marched and stood firm and said "No" and backed it with their action. We are those people - there is nothing inherent in us that makes us less courageous or less good, strong or moral than the world's ordinary, heroic people. All we need to do is to begin, to take up the courage and honor, morality and strength as our banner, and to bury the Big Lie beneath a thousand working shovels."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Promo Video

We just finished the promo video for the dance party. Feelin' goooood!

Vermont 350 Dance Party!

I'm organizing a really fun event. It's part of 350.org's international day of climate action. We're having a concert at Higher Ground with 2 great dance bands:

Spiritual Rez

and Barefoot Truth

Then the concert is getting simulcast on line and on cable so that people all around the state (and world) can have their own parties with the live feed from Higher Ground.

For more info, including finding a dance party or hosting your own, please visit our website.

Climate Justice Fast

I'm volunteering on the PR team for Climate Justice Fast, an international hunger strike taking place from November 2 through to the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The fasters are a group of incredibly committed, engaged people from all over the world, and I'm honored to be helping out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Transition Tabling

with Nancy Severance

I helped staff the Transition Charlotte table at the Charlotte Town Party, and it was an illuminating experience. For one thing, we learned that in order to draw more people to us, we should have either had a plateful of free snacks or teamed up with the Pug Rescue folks because those curly-tailed little snorters were getting all the love.

What was interesting about the day, though, other than coining the new adjective “pugly” (meaning gone so far around the homely bend you’re back into cute before you know it), were the responses we got from all the passers-by.

Some folks ignored us (no interest/no snacks/no Pugs), others took a flier and moved on, a number of people stopped to chat and share stories of their own eco-activism. But the really juicy encounters were with the people who wanted to challenge us, who approached with either cynicism, defensiveness, or even anger.

To be honest, I can understand where that kind of reaction might come from. Here’s the town of Charlotte, trying to have a fun little summer celebration, and over in the corner are a bunch of folks who seem to be saying, “Hey everyone! The world is sliding rapidly towards runaway global warming and serious ecological collapse, and also, we’re on the downslope of global oil discovery and production while demand for fossil fuels is going up, up, up, and oh, by the way, it’s all your fault so you better give up everything now, live in a yurt, and become a mule-riding potato farmer with no snacks and no Pugs. Have a nice day.”

While that’s not exactly what we were saying, the truth is that climate change and peak oil are real and they’re happening - which is a scary reality. More than scary, it’s overwhelming. It’s hard to imagine how we could even begin to address these problems, much less make any significant headway towards fixing things. It’s really no wonder that people would be aggressive or cynical – which I think is really just masking a sense of deep despair. Or as economist Paul Hawken said in a commencement address at the University of Portland, “If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data.”

But Hawken followed up that comment with an entirely different statement: “if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

That’s what the Transition Town movement is really all about. It’s about acknowledging the seriousness of our situation, but believing firmly, passionately, that we are absolutely capable of addressing the problem. It’s about building community, disseminating knowledge, and coordinating action. It’s about approaching our lives on this planet with an attitude of love and compassion and caretaking and stewardship. It’s about tackling our challenges head-on, with intelligence, creativity, courage, innovation, vision, and a gigantic bucket-load of hope. It’s about knowing that you’re not alone.

Signs of the Times?

I've been doing a bit of traveling lately, and I keep seeing some rather interesting billboards in airports and metro stations. Talk about getting a lot of media hits. I think it's rather clever - though, of course, with some of these I'm a little suspect about what the company is actually up to. But still, even using the language means they think this is the way to reach people. The rising tide floating all boats may be the seas rising due to melting ice, but at this point, I gotta think: whatever it takes to keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

50 Years From Now

I was asked by the Lake Champlain Quadrecentennial folks to write an essay called Observations From A Day 50 Years From Now. It will be read in early July as part of a panel discussion on imagining the future.

So I wrote a piece from my 90 year old self, talking about surviving what I believe are some serious and inevitable "troubles." It's called Observations From A Day 50 Years From Now. Here's a bit for you:

As everything we’d been warned about started to happen, as the world cracked, so did our hearts. And when your heart cracks, you can either die of grief, duct tape it together and solider on, or you can let all those cracks and open spaces get filled up by love. It’s like cracks in cement. Water gets in there, and things start to grow. Life happens in those cracks. The same is true for us, and it’s an amazing thing to see.

Things could have gotten so much worse. But we finally woke up. We finally got startled and scared by the idea that we are just a bunch of critters living on one tiny, miraculous rock in space and we have absolutely nowhere else to go. We finally realized how much we love our little rock, and we finally decided that it was worth being unstintingly selfless and heroic and creative and courageous in order to save it. And ourselves.

And in that moment, we came together as one people. You could feel it in the air. You could see it in the eyes of strangers when you walked down the street. As scared as we were, there was also a kind of marvelous, miraculous determination which settled in. We really and truly changed. We grew up. We adopted, as a global people, that beautiful old Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. We made it our creed, our manifesto, our purpose.

You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Paul Hawken Rocks My Soul

Paul Hawken gave a magnificently inspired commencement address at the University of Portland called You Are Brilliant and the Earth is Hiring.

Here's a nice bit:
There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring.

The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

The poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.” There could be no better description. Humanity is coalescing. It is reconstituting the world, and the action is taking place in schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, campuses, companies, refuge camps, deserts, fisheries, and slums.

To read the rest, go here.

The Singing Revolution

I just read in Yes Magazine about how, from 1987 and 1991, Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation in a non-violent revolution. How? They sang.

Basically, once Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, and proclaimed a new era of free speech, the Estonians decided to test it by singing (frequently a highly patriotic song called "Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love") every time they wanted to protest something. It proved an effective tactic, with no violent repercussions.

They came to realize that as long as the Estonians didn't shed any blood, Gorbachev couldn't justify sending in tanks to quash demonstrations. So they developed a highly conscious tactic of non-violence, and in the end, achieved Estonian independence.

There's now a documentary film about it called The Singing Revolution. Here's the trailer. Be inspired.