On Saturday, October 24th, events will take place around the world to convince business and political leaders to DO SOMETHING in Copenhagen in December, when they meet to draft a Climate Treaty to succeed Kyoto. The events are organized under the auspices of 350.org, an organization named for the scientific belief that Earth's carbon dioxide levels need to be stabilized at 350 parts per million to maintain life as we know it. Currently our CO2 levels are at 388 ppm and many changes are occurring. (See http://www.350.org/) Melting Arctic ice, destabilizing permafrost in Alaska, severe drought in Australia and the Sahel region of Africa. . . .not a lot of happy thoughts in that list. How then, to be joyful?
Over the past 11 years, the duration of my self-conscripted time in the "green" movement, I have learned many things about the state of our biosphere, few of which elicited a laughing response. My main motivating force is not laughter but my children. The thought of their future fuels me to educate other people and to try to build a movement for positive change - change in energy consumption, buying habits, eating habits, and policies that could encourage such changes. I want all of the cute kiddos on the playground to have clean air, (enough) clean water, myriad plant and animal species to view with awe, and a stable world both climatically and politically. When I read that "without drastic action, by the time our kids reach their 40s. the Southwest will have become a dust bowl" (Mother Jones, Nov/Dec issue p4) I tend to react. Yet in the next paragraph the Mother Jones editors admit, "no one enjoys dread and guilt," and suppose that this negativity is responsible for Americans' listing climate change at Number 20 on their list of problem issues.
How then, to educate people and encourage action around climate change? The answer must surely be as diverse as there are people in the world, and I have recently seen a few unique attempts. The Maldives' Cabinet members put on scuba gear and held an underwater meeting last Saturday, attempting to highlight the threat of climate change and rising sea levels to their country, the lowest-lying nation on Earth (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/17/maldives-climate-change.html).
The accompanying photo really was quite humorous, as they had a complete table with name cards and official looking documents to sign. Definitely smile-worthy.
Religious leaders may exhort their church members to follow the moral imperative of living simply so that others may simply live, Denver urges its residents to do just five simple tasks to live greener, artists create giant sculptures of people or fabric, or make fantastic images to show the plethora of bottles, newspapers, electronics and other objects that we discard. Artists and rhetoricians use their voices powerfully, but they are lost in the shuffle of information that bombards our lives.
I have heard that people learn better when they are laughing; if that is true the climate change issue lacks educating heft. Punch lines are hard to come by in a shifting world where climate refugees already exist and where their numbers could increase exponentially. Yet again, one must pull away from statistics, realize the gifts we Americans have of clean air, water, bird songs, autumn leaves and ocean swims. . . and be joyful though we have all the facts. Thanks to Mr. Berry for reminding us that our joy is a powerful force by itself; let us take joy in our earth and then act to preserve its wonders for future generations.
This Saturday, if you are near a 350.org event, please take part.