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

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.

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.”–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.”

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.”

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. ”

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.”


The Flood – climate change

a channel of water flowing out to sea, with the sun reflecting on the water.
Photo credit and prompt:

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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

The Beech Tree

I have become rather enchanted by a magnificent Beech tree I saw at the Geelong Botanical Gardens on Sunday.

Since my visit the tree has been entering my dreams. On Sunday night visions of it kept waking me up. At some point during the night I began thinking about the scientist, Suzanne Simard’s research into the way trees communicate with each other in a forest and how these communications stem from a ‘Mother Tree’.

I began wondering if Botanical Gardens can be classified as forests. If such places are forests they are forests which contain trees from all over the world. Could such a diverse and hybrid forest contain a Mother Tree? In my half awake state I decided that if there is a Mother Tree in the Geelong Botanical Gardens it would have to the Beech. The gardens were established in the 1850s and the tree was probably planted very early on. It is very tall and there is a plaque at the base stating the tree is on the National Trust Significant Tree register.

Images of the tree have been returning to me during odd moments since then. In my mind’s eye the top of the tree looks even more ethereal than it does in my photo and the tree itself has assumed a gentle, soothing energetic presence.

Intrigued by this I did some online reading. I was fascinated to learn the Beech is regarded as The Mother Tree is some cultures, both ancient and contemporary. In Japan a 400 year old Beech is considered the Mother of all Beech trees in that country. In Celtic Lore the Beech is called The Mother of the Woods.

The Beech also has long connection with writing. Paper and book covers have been made from the tree for centuries. The very first printed books were printed on Beech tree paper. Before that the bark of the Beech was used to write messages on. One legend has it that the Irish god Ogma, one of the Tuatha de Danaan, wrote the Ogham Alphabet on Beech bark.

For these reasons the tree has a symbolic connection writing, knowledge and creative expression. Because books can convey knowledge down through time the Beech has a symbolic link with the idea of bringing past knowledge into the present and on into the future. Developing this theme it is said that meditating beside a Beech tree enhances communication with one’s ancestors and ancestral knowledge.

silvery light
dancing across my dreams
– ancestral wisdom

Money, money, money

The family computer whisperer fixed my laptop! It turned out to be a problem caused by a Windows upgrade. Now I can finish blog posts I started but gave up on because writing them with a stylus on my cranky old tablet was just too difficult.

Lately I have been thinking about money. Nothing unusual about that you might say. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about money. What’s different about my current thinking is the direction it’s taken me.

It all started when I saw an online ad for a Prosperity Workshop that sounded interesting but – you guessed it – I didn’t have the money to go. The ad featured a long blurb explaining what the workshop would cover. There was all the usual stuff about identifying inherited negative ideas about money which is an intriguing line of thought I’ve pursued before. Unpicking ideas about money we may have subconsciously picked up when we were children is a useful way of dissolving some of the blocks around the flow of money in our lives.

The ad went on to talk about affirmations for wealth blah, blah, blah. I’ve never found them particularly effective myself and dislike the way such ideas imply that if you are not rich it’s because you are doing something wrong. What gets me about that kind of thinking is the attitude of spiritual materialism. I mean – come on – this is a planet of finite resources.
Sure we all deserve adequate housing, food and shelter but do we really need to live in a mansion, own a luxury yacht and have over 100 pairs of shoes? That kind of wealth just isn’t sustainable.

Ultimately what kept me reading this ad were some of the more unusual ideas about money that were going to be investigated at the workshop. One was identifying which goddess you associate with money.

How on earth could you possibly figure that out? The only connection I could make to the idea was through an old coin I have that came from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus in Turkey. Researching online I learnt the bee and the deer depicted on the coin were associated with the goddess Artemis. Apparently Artemis at Ephesus was more than the huntress figure we associate with later manifestations of Artemis/Dianna. At Ephesus she was a fertility goddess and, quite possibly, a later development of the earlier Hittite mother goddess that was originally worshipped at the site.

See the source image

All this made me wonder just when coins were first produced. A quick search led me to this information:- “Coins began to be used in business in India, Asia Minor, and China in the 6th century BC. But most historians agree that the ancient Greeks, living in Lydia and Ionia (on the western coast of modern Turkey), issued the world’s first coins in 650 BC.” Jun 14, 2005

Reading further I learnt that these first coins were minted by merchants to use as trade tokens. It’s interesting to reflect that coins were made simply to expedite trade. When you think about it bartering for everything with goods would get very cumbersome. What if you wanted some flour but all you had to trade was a bag of wool and the flour merchant had all the wool he needed. It makes sense that tokens or coins would make trading run a lot smoother. You could sell your wool to the wool merchant who would give you some tokens that you could then exchange for flour with the flour merchant.

I’m not sure these reflections on money are likely to make me any more prosperous but thinking of money as a trading tool and seeing its origins as being connected a fertility goddess does somehow liberate it from the emotional charge the subject often creates. Rather than seeing money as the root of all evil, as my father often muttered when faced with a lot of bills, or as one of the most desirable objects on Earth, money is really just a trading tool. Our emotional responses to it come from us, not from some inherent quality in money itself.

Personally what I think is inherently bad about money is the way we use it as a signifier of status and net worth. Perhaps one of the ways to move towards an ecologically sustainable world would be to move towards systems that ensure a living wage for all.

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 light filled centre

photo by Sue Vincent

The search had take so long – most of her life really.   Born in tumultuous times to passionate and volatile parents, upheaval and dissonance had been Christine’s story since earliest childhood.   Searching for a some place to call home – some place that offered her a sense of security and stability – had taken her across the globe and deep into the mysteries, legends and stories of other cultures.

gnomish-man[1] (2)

Now, as the years added up and her hair greyed at the temples, Christine retreated behind the closed door of the little flat she rented downtown.    Her forays out were of an essential nature.   Going to work, buying food and supplies, getting out for a walk in nature when she could – these events marked the passage of her days.  Beyond this she did not bother with going out and about as she had once done.   No, she told concerned friends, she was not depressed.   She just needed to be alone for a bit.

Sitting in her flat mulling over her life she came to see that what she was looking for was an inner centredness.   She’d called it a quest for a home and a sense of belonging during those years when she’d looked here, there and everywhere in the outer world but really, what she was looking for was a sense of belonging inside herself – a sense of coming home to herself.   What she was seeking was an inner foundation – a place where she could stand strong and secure within herself regardless of outer events.

Some of the things she’d learnt on her travels assumed a greater significance to her now.  Certain meditations and visualizations carried her into inner realms that nourished and sustained.  Some of the sacred objects she’d crafted in workshops with other women embodied spiritual energies she sought to integrate within herself.   Although the objects – the wands, drums, medicine bundles and spirit dolls – had their origins in other cultures, the women had fashioned their own meanings and contemporary applications into these ancient tools.    Looking at them now as they sat on her altar she saw they were still potent receptacles of ancestral, archetypal and spiritual energies.  These days too she often turned to the spiritual books she’d acquired and, increasingly, the online blogs and websites of contemporary spiritual practitioners.   These sources offered her guidance and reassurance that the inner journey she was undertaking was both profound and necessary.

Using these diverse spiritual tools drawn from many faiths and cultures she shifted through her personal memories and plunged into an investigation of her bloodline inheritances.    As time went by she found too that she began to unpick the cultural stories she’d assumed to be unassailable facts but now saw to be constructs erected to promote conformity to capitalist agendas and limited social structures.

As the months went by Christine began to wrestle some kind of treasure from her inner dross and darkness.   Her state of mind shifted and she began to experience extended periods  where she felt illuminated by an inner lightness of being.   She had occasioned upon these feelings before for brief moments during the drug highs and sexual bliss of youthful experiences then later, in deep mindfulness meditations.    Sometimes at sacred sites or sitting in circle with indigenous teachers similar states of consciousness had uplifted her temporarily.


Now as her mental and emotional landscape cleared the lightness of being became stronger and more stable.    Uncanny synchronicities and intuitive flashes of understanding occurred more frequently as she began to circle around an inner locus of being that was unassailable and immutable.

It was at this point that Christine realized integrating this new sense of self was, in fact, her life’s work.   Everything of any value flowed from that.     Even while she was still in the process of building this new inner structure she felt she needed to go back out into the world.  While there was a part of her that was quietly appalled by this idea  (some people were so damn scary these days) she came to understand that it was only in interactions with others that she could test her new found way of being.   Any places where she still needed to do some inner work would quickly become apparent that way. On a deeper level there was too the emerging knowing that knowledge gained meant little if it was not applied to real life situations.

photo by Sue Vincent.   prompt: