Climate Change – What can we do?

This week Sue Vincent offers a number of photos for her #write photo challenge. I have chosen the image of person looking at the sea and am using it as an opportunity to compile a list of things individuals and communities can do on a grass roots level to combat climate change.

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.
Photo credit – Sue Vincent

“There is no cavalry coming to the rescue, but what happens when ordinary people decide that they are the cavalry? Between the things we can do as individuals, and the things government and business can do to respond to the challenges of our times, lies a great untapped potential. It’s about what you can create with the help of the people who live in your street, your neighbourhood, your town. If enough people do it, it can lead to real impact, to real jobs and real transformation of the places we live, and beyond.” Rob Hopkins – Transition Towns Movement https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/15/transition-towns-way-forward

Here’s a list of some of the ideas I have come across. It’s in no particular order but is simply compiled as I remember things I’ve read:-

  1. Reduce the amount of animal products you consume.

“The researchers found a global shift to a “flexitarian” diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2C, let alone 1.5C. This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds. This would halve emissions from livestock and better management of manure would enable further cuts.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown

2. Grow Permaculture Food Forests at a community level
Growing food in permaculture style food forests could significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“According to project Drawdown, food forests can be integrated into some existing agricultural systems and others can be converted or restored to it. If adopted on an additional 46 million acres of land by 2050, from the current 247 million acres, 9.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide could be sequestered. This roughly amounts to China’s total carbon dioxide emissions in 2015.” https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/agriculture/can-permaculture-reverse-climate-change–58729

3. Move towards creating communities that supply their own energy needs through wind and solar power.

” The terms transition towntransition initiative and transition model refer to grassrootcommunity projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil,[1]climate destruction, and economic instability.[2] The “Transition Network”, founded in 2006, inspired the creation of many of the projects. A number of the groups are officially registered with the Transition Network.[3] The first initiative to use the name was Transition Town Totnes, located in the United Kingdom. Transition initiatives have been started in locations around the world, with many located in the United Kingdom, Europe, North America and Australia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_town

4. Plant trees

“Tom Crowther is a climate change ecologist at Swiss university ETH Zurich. Four years ago he found there are about 3 trillion trees already on earth — much higher than NASA’s previous estimate of 400 billion. Now, his team of researchers has calculated there is enough room on the planet for an additional 1.2 trillion — and that planting them would have huge benefits in terms of absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.”The amount of carbon that we can restore if we plant 1.2 trillion trees, or at least allow those trees to grow, would be way higher than the next best climate change solution,” Crowther told CNN.”https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/17/world/trillion-trees-climate-change-intl-scn/index.html

5. Reduce Food Waste

” Preventing food waste is the most effective way to shrink its impact on the planet. If we avoid producing food that we don’t eat, we can save the land, water, and energy that would have been used to make it. And awareness is a good first step; according to ReFED, educating consumers about food waste could prevent 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. ” https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/fight-climate-change-by-preventing-food-waste

These are just some of the ideas I’ve come across. While some require effort on a community level others can be achieved by individuals. We can all work on eating less animal products and reducing the amount of food we waste. The choices we make as individuals can have a global impact. As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said:-

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/06/06/thursday-photo-prompt-choices-writephoto/

The Flood – climate change

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.
Photo credit and prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/05/30/thursday-photo-prompt-yearning-writephoto/

As the rain falls – and falls – and falls the rivers flood across the plain and other places in the world bake in devastating droughts I find myself yearning for answers – what’s going on?

Climatologists have discovered a massive hole beneath Thwaites Glacier in western Antarctica.

A gigantic cavity almost 300 metres tall and two-thirds the size of Manhattan has been discovered growing at the bottom of a glacier in West Antarctica. .. They think it would have contained 14 billion tonnes of ice, and said most of that ice melted over the past three years.” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-06/scientists-discover-gigantic-cavity-in-antarctic-glacier/10785282

A National Geographic journalist, Elizabeth Rush, was onboard a research ship which journeyed to this glacier to investigate what was happening earlier this year. Her account of watching cracks form in the face of the glacier and break off into as huge icebergs (a process known as calving) is alarming yet the experience of seeing this awesome yet terrifying sight had an unexpected effect on her. Towards the end of her article she writes:-

“Along with Thwaites the overwhelming majority of the world’s glaciers have begun to withdraw. I have even recently read about their disappearance in the news, yet another reality that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Lately, I have been wondering if it might be possible to think of calving events as both a physical sign of the cracks our very lives press into the ice and also, as the definition suggests, a kind of birth. A rapturous moment where we might glimpse the opportunities that come with inhabiting an age of earth-shaking transformation, transformation that some human beings more than others set in motion, and that we, all of us together, have the power to slow and to shape.”
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/03/watching-thwaites-glacier-calving-antarctica/

This idea of shaping new ways of living on planet Earth has been something that has been preoccupying me for many, many months. Late last year I wrote of my quest to find new stories that could lead us forward. The quest has led me hither and thither but it wasn’t until I came across the idea of Symbiocene Era on Eoin Mac Lochlain’s blog that I began to see a way a draw all these disparate ideas together. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/560553/posts/2294320892

Searching online I learnt the Symbiocene is a word coined by an Australian environmental philosopher, Glenn Albrecht. He proposes that the Anthropocene* we hear so much about these days doesn’t have to be the end of life as we know it. The growing ecological crisis gives us an extraordinary opportunity to create a new era – the Symbiocene- an epoch where all life co-exists in harmony.

The scientist Suzanne Simard has discovered that different tree species in a forest communicate and send nutrients to each other through a complex network of fungi enmeshed in their roots. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/

This understanding of forest ecology can be seen as an example of survival through co-operation. Darwin’s idea of survival of the fittest is now being reworked as our understanding that survival is a group project grows. We’re all in this together – humans, the animals and the environment. So many indigenous and ancient cultures have always known this. Listening to them can expand our world view.

Beyond these finely tuned understandings of the material world another story is unfolding.

So many of us now are undergoing a strange and confusing inner transformation. The structures of our outer world are crumbling. The far right is rising, capitalism and patriarchy are fighting dirty yet deep within so many of us something fundamental has shifted. Increasingly we are questioning these dictates from those in power who seek to control us.

As we wake each night at 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 and 5:55 to stare into the darkness of our own inner landscapes we are haunted by our faults, our wounds and our traumas. As we go through a collective dark night of the soul we slowly clear away this inner debris using whatever spiritual tools we have learnt in the past – prayer, meditation, dream analysis etc. Slowly, slowly we grope our way towards a greater understanding and illumination.

We are more than our physical bodies. We exist on many planes. We feel the Earth’s pain. Species extinctions tear at our hearts. Environmental destruction, the dying rivers in the deserts, the seas choked with plastic and the clear felling of forests hit us at our core. Instinctively we know we must change – both within and without.

The floodgates have opened – whether or not you think human activity contributes to climate change or that we have 12 years to change things doesn’t really matter. The evidence is right there in front of us. The time to act is now and the way forward lies in co-operation.

* The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth‘s geology and ecosystems, Anthropocene including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropocene

Being in Nature

Having decided recently that I’m not going to write any more stories about people waking up and working together to save the planet before it’s too late my blog rapidly lost focus. The reason for my decision to stop writing those stories was because I got totally overwhelmed by the number of people who told me that scenarios like that would never happen. I agree it is unlikely – and apparently becoming more and more unlikely by the day.

While we may well be witnessing the beginning of the end of life as we know it I find the idea utterly depressing and hope it will be otherwise. However I no longer have the energy to keep beating my head against a brick wall. It is too tiring and stressful.

This morning I decided I would stop blogging. I’d reblog my piece about climate change as the third player then quietly disappear and leave my blog alone for the forseeable. The recent Australian election results depressed me and I needed to ground and centre myself. It was a beautiful autumn morning. The sun was shining. The wind was soft. The birds were singing. I decided to go out to a nature reserve I discovered a couple of weeks ago.

I drove out in a stream of traffic but once I turned down the narrow country road to the reserve I was alone. There were no other cars in the carpark. Yippee – I had the place to myself – just what I needed.

Walking across the hilltop I could see the lake beyond the trees. Light sparkled on the calm surface.

I saw a large flock of black swans flying up from the water. The sound of their wings flapping against the water as they became airborne was odd. Once in the air they cried out with a strange mewling cry. The haunting sound suited my mood perfectly.

Just as I realized something must have disturbed them I became aware of the faint sound of male voices. It took a while to spot where they were coming from and it was only when their boat emerged from the shadows that I saw them. Good – they were nowhere near me. They quickly moved out of earshot.

Forgetting about them I walked on to the mysterious medicine wheel I discovered on my previous visit to the reserve. I have no idea who made it or why but whoever they are they are not hiding.

Grateful for these anonymous earthwalkers I walked around the perimeter honouring the four directions. I then moved to the centre – the axis mundi – and made an impromptu prayer for the earth’s healing.

Exiting the wheel I walked on through the knee high grasses.

When I came to a clump of casaurina trees I found a warm, dry spot to sit. The fallen needles from the trees made a soft cushion on the ground. Above my head the trees murmured quietly to each other in the soft breeze. Out across the lake another flock of swans flew by giving their melancholy cry. Further out and higher still I saw an eagle circling lazily above the cleared paddocks of the farther shore.

Time passed. I breathed deep and the troubles of the world fell away. Out here I felt truly alive, free and utterly myself.

After a while I wandered on as far as could before the prickle bushes around the wetlands stopped me.

As I slowly made my way back to my car it came to me that there a point to my contuining to blog. I can offer you all posts like this – words and photos about my way of seeing the world and about how nature can restore, ground and centre us in these troubled times. I have no idea if humanity is going to survive. I believe that, with a total paradigm shift and a refocusing of our values, we could create a new, more holistic society. Whether or not we do is up to us. Governments will do what they do and the Right will continue to rise but we are not entirely powerless. We can work on our own healing. We can reconnect with nature. We can take practical measures to make our personal lives more sustainable. We can inspire each other to keep going.

None of us can fully see the future but losing hoping and giving into our fears will surely make our own lives and the lives of those around us miserable. It doesn’t have to be that way.

No doubt many of you will disagree but I refuse, unequivocally, to give up hope.

Driving home I took a detour and went exploring. I ended up here – it seemed very fitting.

The tree of life

I got a little Bluetooth keyboard to use with my tablet so that I can post stories despite my the demise of my computer.   It’s not ideal for I can’t figure out how to copy and paste images such as the wonderful image of the tree with exposed roots that Sue Vincent has used for her latest writephoto prompt –  https://scvincent.com/2019/05/09/thursday-photo-prompt-rooted-writephoto/  Here’s my response to the prompt though I will have to use my own photos:-

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Looking back the tree couldn’t say for sure when it had become aware of itself.   It had been a gradual process.

For ages it had the organic consciousness that all the tree in the forest have – that interchanging of information about weather and soil conditions – beyond that though – nothing.  The clear felling of parts of the forest and the reduction of habitat for the forest animals sent continual shock waves through the tree which may have prompted the initial leap into self awareness.

As the forest reduced in size humans were able to penetrate deeper in.  When they discovered the tree with its intricate exposed roots they took countless photos which they posted on social media.   The way the intertwined roots splayed out across the embankment led people to call it ‘The Tree of Life.’    A kind of cult following grew on the internet and people began to visit the tree to hold ritualistic ceremonies beneath its spreading branches.   The tree wondered if this veneration also contributed to its evolution of consciousness for it now stood alert and aware of its place within the larger world.

As the tree awoke so too did the other plants in the forest.   The animals were also evolving along a similar path.    As the forest and its denizens grew more sentient an awareness grew within them that it was clmate change that was driving their evolution now.   As the world got hotter species of insects humans were barely aware of became extinct.   As a result birds had less to feed on and had fewer young.   That meant there were less birds to spread the seeds of berry bushes.   Fewer berries meant less butterflies and so on and on it went through all levels of the forest’s ecology.

As these effects became more noticeable humans started waking up to the fact that it was their actions that were causing this fundamental change in the environment.    Those that came to venerate the tree now came with greater intent.   Their rituals were more focused and they sought genuine connection with the tree’s consciousness.

Warmed by their attention the tree opened up to them.  As the people slipped into deep communion with the tree many expressed deep grief at what was happening across the planet.  The tree felt their pain and opened even further to them.

As the heartbeat of the people slowed and they became more in tune with the natural pulse of life that surged through the tree their grief gave way to something new.   A greater understanding of the place of humans within the ecosystem of Earth began to awaken within them.

“We are the children of Earth,” they murmured to each other.   “We have a role to play as caretakers of the planet.   We have to find more sustainable ways of living that do not exploit the earth’s resources to satisfy our own greed.”

Some people left then to return to the cities and start action groups.   Others stayed on and journeyed even deeper into nature consciousness.   “We are part of nature,” they said, “and nature is part of the larger cosmos.   Everything is interconnected.   The old indigenous cultures know this, the Taoists once spoke of this and the old Mother Cultures once understood this.   We need to listen to these voices yet we also need to use our technological advancement to invent new ways of living on the planet.    Everything is changing – the seas are rising – the storms are increasing in intensity – it will be some time before the climate stablizes even if we take drastic action to halt climate change from this point on.    What is needed now is clear eyed resilence.   The future will about the survival of the most adaptable.”

The tree whispered its acknowledgement of these ideas in a gentle shaking of its leaves.

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On Climate Change

David Attenborough is a powerful man.
He has a world wide following
– I can’t say I’m a fan.

He says we ignore him at our peril
and has the pictorial evidence to prove
we are on the edge of extinction.

David Attenborough is a powerful man.
I agree we are on the edge but when he says
we can’t do much to change that – I think we can.

There is something disempowering
about the way he presents the data
and positions us as mute by-standers.

I can’t say I’m a fan
of watching TV document disaster
as seas reclaim the land.

We are not powerless here.
We can demand our Governments act.
David Attenborough is a powerful man
– I can’t say I’m a fan.

“Even when broadcasters cover these issues, they carefully avoid any mention of power, talking about environmental collapse as if it is driven by mysterious, passive forces, and proposing microscopic fixes for vast structural problems. The BBC’s Blue Planet Live series exemplified this tendency.”  George Monboit-  The Guardian – apocalypse

I attempted to use the villanelle form as outlined on https://dversepoets.com/2019/03/28/forms-for-all-the-villanelle/  here but I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the form – or that my efforts all that poetic.   Still, the ideas are worth talking about so I’ll post this anyway.

The Shift

( an episode in the life of Almurta – the character I write about on my other blog https://almurtasjournal.wordpress.com/

Staring into space Almurta thought over what she had been reading.  https://almurtasjournal.wordpress.com/2019/04/14/almurta-goes-exploring/
She agreed with the idea that the power structures that maintained the status quo across the globe were being rocked to the core.  Everywhere she looked she saw evidence of this.    In her own life too all that she had come to regard as permanent was shifting and changing.   Having the shed she lived in blow down in a storm was physical evidence of this.

Nothing was certain anymore.    Everything, it seemed, was in a state of flux.   Old certainties no longer offered the reassurance they once did. Political, economic and social structures were going through massive changes where outcomes weren’t obvious or predictable. More than that there was the weird way chance events were also hastening the collapse of the established order.   Earlier Almurta had been online and learnt that  the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame In Paris was burning.  Even things set in stone were shifting – literally.

Beyond all those cultural shifts Almurta was acutely aware of the environmental changes that threatened the entire planet.  Not only were the oceans warming and rising because of unchecked climate change, they were choking to death on plastic waste.  Climate change was also affecting weather patterns.   Floods, droughts and hurricane force winds were wreaking havoc across the globe.

All these disastrous outer events had the effect of driving Almurta deep inside herself.  Because she felt she could no longer rely on outer structures and conditions to give her life stability she felt an overwhelming need to find a stable place within herself.

Unsettlingly, what she found when she looked within was a mish-mash of ideas and beliefs she’d gathered around herself to explain her position in society.   A lot of these ideas came from childhood – things her parents had told – things her peers at school had said – things her teachers had drummed into her.    When she really looked at these concepts many of them didn’t really fit with her own secret, inner idea of herself.

The more she looked, the more it seemed to her that it was that secret, inner sense of herself that was demanding to be heard now.  Thinking about this she decided to go for a walk in the forest.   It was there she often felt the breath of the sacred – that immutable energy that was greater than any outer structure or concept she’d ever encountered in the world of people.

Rousing herself from her thoughts she looked out the window to check the weather.    It was only then that she realised the noise she’d been subliminally aware of was actually pouring rain.   She’d been so deep in thought she hadn’t really registered that the weather had turned bleak and miserable.   Looking out she saw that the rain was so intense it had created large puddles on the path leading to the forest.  At the same time the wind had picked up and was setting the trees sighing and swaying.   Definitely not a day for a pleasant walk.

Not sure what to do Almurta wandered around her room.    The idea of finding some kind of inner stability pre-occupied her.     “I need to find the sacred within myself,” she thought.  “Not some religious doctrine I was taught by others but some kind of abiding sense of a greater reality – some place where I transcend the limitations of the personal, worldly self.”

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At the Threshold

 photo prompt:
https://scvincent.com/2019/04/04/thursday-photo-prompt-threshold-writephoto/

Ryan always thought of the cave at the base of the cliffs as Plato’s cave.   Maybe that was because the local environment group held its annual beach clean day around the same time he delivered his lecture on Plato’s cave to his current lot of first year uni students.

Shouldering his collection sack he picked his way to the back of the cave where he knew plastic debris collected.   Sure enough there was the usual mounds of those hard little straws that came out of box drinks, fragments of sea worn plastic from unidentifiable sources and tangles of plastic twine washed overboard from ships.   It was always the same kind of debris in this cave.  He used to wonder why that was until someone suggested that could be because of the strength of  various ocean currents.   Different weight objects would get carried on different currents.   Whatever the explanation it was Sod’s Law that, by and large, the debris ended up in out of the way places where beach goers rarely went.

That thought led him back to Plato’s cave.   It was easy to imagine rows of people sitting in this wide shallow cave as they stared entranced at the projections of reality playing out on the rear wall.  For years when he gave the lecture he had imagined that because he was the one lecturing on the idea he was one of the few people who was actually looking away from the projections to the real world beyond.

As he stooped to tug a piece of twine from a mound of seaweed he shook his head at the arrogance of his own thinking.   For a start it was incredibly sad to think he’d been giving the same lecture for nearly twenty years.  Of course curriculums had changed in that time  but always Plato emerged somewhere along the line in first year studies. Somewhere along the line too Ryan had lost the conviction that he was on the way to some kind of intellectual breakthrough.   At some point he’d settled for comfortable mediocrity instead.

Tugging harder at the mass of twine he felt a twinge of pain in his lower back.   Age was creeping up on him and with it the realization that he was just as mesmerized by the projection of reality as everyone else.

He knew of course that Plato wasn’t thinking about global capitalism when he formulated his ideas.   That economic model didn’t exist then but it now occurred to Ryan that there was definite link between the two.   Everyone, himself included, was mesmerized by the products and pleasures capitalism provided.   Up until recently very few had looked at the hidden costs of producing those goods.

Now it was coming back to haunt them.   Tides of plastic waste were washing ashore in the rising seas created by climate change.    Stranded whales were found to have bellies full of plastic.   Turtles were accidentally caught in drifting masses of plastic rope like  the stuff he was now attempting to extricate.   Sea birds starved to death because their throats were blocked by plastic ties.

The rope he was tugging at refused to budge so he cut off what he could with his pen knife.   The task of freeing it all was hopeless.   Just as hopeless, he thought, as telling a bunch of first years they were caught in a web of illusion.   Only a few ever grasped the idea.  Just as hopeless too as the idea that a few environmentalists meeting on one Sunday of a year could make much impact on the world’s ocean.   Of course they weren’t the only group involved in ocean clean ups.   Some people devoted their entire lives to the task.   It was from them that he heard the notion that the task was impossible.  Hopeless.   There was just so much out there.   The only real solutions lay in deep systemic change across the globe.

Stuffing what he’d salvaged of the debris into his sack he made his way to the cave entrance.   At the threshold it struck him.   It was time everyone, himself included, turned away from the projections of reality and faced the real world beyond their own illusions.

Maybe talking about the ideas wasn’t so utterly hopeless after all.    Each year it seemed to him that his lecture on Plato reached more and more students.   Sometimes he felt he could almost see the light bulbs turning on above their heads as he spoke.  Maybe the seas of plastic debris were having the same effect.   This year the organizers of the clean up had remarked at the large number of young people who had turned up.  They’d never seen crowds like that before.

Straightening up Ryan left the cave.   He could see a group of young people clustered around the rock pools some distance away.   Eagerly he strode out to join them.  Chatting to them earlier he’d been struck by their enthusiasm for life and their acute understanding of the problems the world faced.   No, it definitely wasn’t hopeless.   As his old mum used to say “where there’s life there’s hope.”