Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5 Hopes for Our One & Only Home

I like to look for hope and solutions.  People can only take so much doom and gloom including yours truly.  So when I wasn't finding much good news myself -- overly distracted by ocean acidification and shark fin soup I suppose -- I was happy to find some.

This piece below was written by Peter Rothberg in The Nation with the excellent title "Why I'm Not Totally Bummed Out this Earth Day."

It’s hard to feel hopeful when contemplating climate change. I’ve found it increasingly difficult as I’ve become the father of two children. Both the science and the abundance of money on the denialist side make for a pretty grim picture. But there is another perspective, seen though countless inspiring signs of people recognizing and grappling with the impact of climate change. Only history will tell how sufficient the response but, for now, I want to highlight some of the heroes of the climate change movement, which at least on my better days, lend me hope that my children will inherit something salvageable.

1. Student Divestment Movement

There’s a tired trope that the students of today are politically apathetic, too busy branding themselves on social media to care much about the real world and their actual place in it. I’ve found this to be patently false and we hope that the StudentNation blog is a daily reminder of the deep dedication young people are showing to social justice, economic equality and environmental responsibility. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the burgeoning student campaign for divestment from fossil fuel companies. More than 400 campuses currently have campaigns and six schools have already pledged divestment. As many critics have rightly pointed out, this movement, even if broadly successful, still would lack the economic impact necessary to radically change corporate behavior. This is totally true but there’s a broader benefit in the way these campaigns make it much harder for individuals and institutions to ignore climate. And it can’t hurt to have children of the elite go home for holidays with nagging questions that make their parents’ business-as-usual lives less comfortable.

2. 350.org

350.org was founded with the goal of uniting climate activists into a movement, with a strategy of bottom-up organizing around the world. Activists in 189 countries have organized 350.org’s local climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions. In India, organizers have mobilized people to speak out against the country’s dependence on coal for growth. In the US, the group has campaigned to divest public institutions like municipalities and universities from the fossil fuel industry, to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and to press for environmental regulations to be included as part of international trade agreements.

3. Idle No More

Idle No More, a group of largely Canadian Native North Americans, was born in the fall of 2012, when Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper pushed a law, known as C-45, through Parliament rolling back both environmental protections and indigenous peoples’ sovereignty in order to make the country’s tar sands easier to exploit. Resource extraction projects, like the tar sands, often hurt North America’s indigenous populations more than anyone else. In protest of C-45, the group organized rallies in major cities across Canada. A leader of Idle No More, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, sparked a six-week-long hunger strike and protesters blocked rail lines and highways. International recognition and awareness of the issues followed, and the group continues to push back against environmental degradation and social injustice on numerous fronts.

4. Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded during the Vietnam War at a teach-in at MIT to protest the US government’s militarization of science. At first, the group organized against nuclear proliferation and around energy issues, but today, the bulk of the UCS’s work focuses on climate change. The organization is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous affects of climate change globally and continues to function as an intellectual bulwark against lavishly funded denialist junk science.

5. The Super-Rich are Waking Up

Billionaire investor Tom Steyer recently announced that he’s planning a $100 million push to make climate change a key issue in the 2014 midterm elections. He’s also been been a major voice of opposition to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Even Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, has been outspoken in his calls for climate action. No social movement can ever rely on the 1 percent, but increasing enlightenment among the global class of super-rich investors doesn’t hurt the cause.

This piece was written by Peter Rothberg in The Nation with the excellent title "Why I'm Not Totally Bummed Out this Earth Day." 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Try Yes

As I recently read through the long list of comments on Bill McKibbon's Rolling Stone article about climate change, I decided to try to say yes more often.

The comments ran the gamut as you might expect.  Human nature played out ugly and beautiful around these big, complicated, and somehow emotional issues.

So many people love to show how smart they are by finding weak points or having a debate to see who's the most logical of them all.  Worst of all, some simply prefer to name the huge challenges like leaving heaps of horse crap on someone's doorstep with no shovel in sight.

It's so easy to say no and easy to feel helpless.  It's easy feel safe and informed, and often safe and misinformed, too.

So I thought: try saying yes.  Try asking yourself if burning fossil fuels is a good idea.  Is pollution really a good thing?

Bill McKibbon is helping us try to get away from pollution and fossil fuels.  He doesn't have all the answers and neither do I (no way!) or anyone really, but if you weigh the negatives of say a wind farm or solar panels -- and yes, there are negatives -- they pale in comparison to what we get with fossil fuels.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Winning Images: Fresh Look at Raw Beauty

Winners of 2014 Deep Underwater Photo Contest.  Which is your favorite?