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.”


Digital photos

When my laptop was resuscitated from its recent crash all my files had disappeared. Every image I had stored on it was gone. I have many on a USB stick and had copied a lot onto Memory Cards but it feels surprisingly good to have a clean computer.

Rather than downloading my chaotic image files onto it I’m finally doing that big photo sort I’ve been talking about doing for years. It seems strange to think that for most of my life I didn’t take photos of every little thing that grabbed my attention. I mucked around in a darkroom for a while in my 20s until the smell of chemicals drove me out. After that time I rarely took photos or even owned a working camera. Now with digital cameras and mobile phones I have thousands of images stored electronically. I realise this wouldn’t concern many but I am a serial declutterer. I find having less helps me become more focused. Sorting out my photo files is something I really want to achieve.

Some files are easy to sort out, others less so. It’s weird how attached I am to some images that really aren’t all that brilliant. Last night I whittled my photos of beaches down from 240 to 160 and felt like I’d achieved something momentous. This morning I woke up thinking ‘why do I need 160 photos of the beach? I live right near one.” I could think of no particular reason but still can’t bring myself to delete the whole file even though heaps of the photos look virtually identical. I did find this photo of my local beach descending into winter that I haven’t posted before.

When I do allow myself to get rid of inconsequential photos of inconsequential moments it does feel liberating – the process is akin to moving into neutral, non-attached spiritual states. It’s hard to do but the result is greater mental clarity – zen and the art of photo sorting or something.

Some groups of photos lend themselves to becoming digital collages – though this one looks like a really badly done tiling job. I guess it will hit the cutting room floor tonight when I have another go at this Arachne like task.

I do find making digital collages a great way of expressing complex ideas through photography though. I am slowly reading my way through a novel set in Barcelona, “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. One of my daughters lent me a copy telling me it was the best book she’d ever read. With that in mind I feel duty bound to at least try to read the book and, hopefully offer some affirmation of it when I eventually finish. It’s far more gothic than the kind of book I usually read. Dare I confess I read novels to relax and often read light hearted rom coms?

The book has inspired me to take a look at my old photos of Barcelona. I made this collage from them earlier in the week. The laptop crash wiped out my copy of Photoshop Elements. I didn’t particularly like the program but was stuck on the idea that I needed a version of Photoshop for digital imaging. It’s been exciting to discover I can use a combination of apps on my Android to make complex collages. For this one I used Snapseed, Pixlr and an app called Photo Editor. It isn’t as seamless as a Photoshop collage but maybe I can work this way after all. Come to think of it there is a free Photoshop app. I tried it once before and found it cumbersome. Maybe I need to persevere with it.

Perhaps I’ll print out the image and give it to my daughter as my critique of the book


Suddenly after weeks and weeks of extended autumn weather our skies are filled with clouds down here on the southern Australian coast. About a week ago the weather changed and icy winds blew up from Antarctica. Rain, rain and more rain falls day and night. Sunny breaks are rare. The temperature hovers somewhere between 7-14c but the wind chill factor can make it feel like 2c.

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.