Friday, December 24, 2010
There are two blogs I read all the time, and recommend. One is Jenna Woginrich' Cold Antler Farm. The other is Stephanie Pearl McFee's blog about knitting and life: http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/
Stephanie's December 23/10 post says, beautifully, that we do not need another trip to the store as we get ready for Christmas. Chances are we have Enough, as she titles the post.
Best wishes for a Happy Christmas,
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Donald Mount Hunten’s obituary is found on the University of Arizona site. He sounds much like his sister Janet, a genius who sees the connections between many fields of endeavor, and who is a razor-sharp advisor to many individuals and organizations .
There’s much about James Hansen on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen
His NASA homepage is: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/jhansen.html
His Home Page at Columbia University [ http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ ]
has more information on it, including things like an interview between Hansen and James McKibbon, of 350.org, which will be included in the paperback version of Storms of My Grandchildren [due out in a month or so].
The world is small.
Following my last blog, about climate change, I got to thinking that I wanted to know a bit more about James Hansen. His name comes up a lot. Hansen is head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He was one of the first climate scientists to present scientific evidence about human-made (anthropocentric) climate changes. In 1988 he made a presentation to a committee of the United States Senate on this. That would have been a huge deal at the time.
Hansen did not begin speaking as what would be termed an ‘activist’ until the last ten years, however. A new book he has out traces his story. Storms of My Grandchildren: the truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity.
I started reading. In the Preface, Hansen talks about his earliest entry into the sciences. In 1963 he was a 22 year old sciences student and observed a lunar eclipse. He and his fellows noted that predicted light levels did not occur; they had been changed by a huge volcanic eruption 9 months previously. Hansen went on to graduate school, studying planetary atmospheres. In 1978 he was well established in this field and preparing technical stuff to go on NASA's Pioneer space probe to Venus. In 1978, he was also becoming interested in the ways in which the atmosphere of Earth seemed to be having changes as the result of human activity (transportation and manufacturing that release gases and particles into the air).
Venus? Planetary atmospheres? Wait a minute! Isn’t my friend Janet’s brother Donald a prof, well known in that field?
I went to the index: Donald Hunten. Page 97.
In 2004, James Hansen was readying a paper to present at the University of Iowa. It would be critical of the George Bush government’s lack of policy to do with climate change. Hansen didn’t like public speaking. He was thinking a lot about implications for himself and his work as a climatologist and just about everything. He had to decide whether to go ahead with this talk, and – very likely – change his life to a much more public one. In Hansen’s own words from Storms of My Grandchildren:
‘It would be nice, for the sake of this book, if I had thought of my grandchildren at that moment. Instead, I thought of a cryptic four-word enigma that had stuck with me for decades. It was advice from Donald Hunten, who, along with Richard Goody, had been the father of the Pioneer mission to Venus. Hunten is small in stature but very authoritative. He speaks with a gravelly voice, seeming to push the words out from deep within his throat. I presumed Hunten had been responsible, at least in part, for the selection of our experiment to measure the Venus clouds as part of the Pioneer mission. Thus in 1978, when I wanted to resign as a principal investigator on Pioneer Venus so I could study Earth’s climate full-time, I felt that I should seek Hunten’s approval. I remember his advice as four gruff words: “Be true to yourself.” What did that mean? Venus or Earth? I was not about to query him further.’
Hansen gave the talk. Hansen wrote the book. I got the book out of the library on Tuesday, December 14/10 and read the anecdote above.
On Wednesday, I was speaking to my good friend Janet and she told me her brother Donald had died the day before.
I did tell her Hansen’s recollection, just as I’d intended to.
And wondered at how small the world is, and how connected we all are.
Best regards, as always. I hope you have a conversation today with someone you've not met before. Who knows how your world will be small and when you'll find out connections you have.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I’ve just been watching the A-Channel TV news. Something called a ‘streamer’ – a weather phenomenon having to do with moisture coming off a lake – has been passing along a zone west of London, Ontario. It’s built up 2 metre (6.5ft) drifts of snow along areas of highway between Strathroy and Sarnia. Seventy tractor trailer trucks and even more cars have been absolutely bogged down in the snow. People were stuck in their cars for 12 hours, 18 hours, more than 24 hours … and rescued by four wheel drive vehicles, snowmobiles and even military helicopter. It’s an unbelievable scenario. So near to here, but so different from the relatively light snow we’re having.
So I'm thinking more than a bit on climate change!
Some years ago, the term was global warming … meant to refer to fact that there’ll be an overall average worldwide temperature increase due to greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere through the many ways we overuse fossil fuels. I’d been concerned that wide media use of the term ‘climate change’ might be a glossing over of the warming that will have bad effects on agriculture, coastal flooding, Arctic and Antarctic ice melt.
Weather disturbances worldwide over the last few years have lead me to prefer that ‘climate change’ term, however. Increased numbers of hurricanes at sea and hitting land. Droughts where there shouldn’t be. Extremely heavy rainfall and flooding where there shouldn’t be. And, right here in southwestern Ontario, really weird snowfall … this month, in my city, my neighbourhood.
Anyone who’s read my blog from the beginning knows that I named it as homage to Elizabeth May’s terrific book How to Save the World in Your Spare Time (Key Porter, 2006). The book is a handbook on how to tackle city hall and other levels of government, how to make your voice heard, bring an issue forward and make change. It’s a how-to do a petition, get an issue into the news, target an audience, deal with media, get your point across, plan for the victory party and have some fun with it all. It’s a terrific book.
May, who just happens to be head of the Green Party of Canada (http://greenparty.ca/) was just in Cancun Mexico, as part of the Conference of Parties 16th talks about climate change (COP16). She – the Green Party – sent out an e-mail today in which she gives an overview of some of the positives of that meeting. Titled: Copenhagen to Cancun: what just happened?, she gives a much more readable summary than most newspapers did, at least for me, since I’m not versed in this
Here are some things I take from May’s blog (excerpts are in quotation marks, italicized) and other reading I’ve done. Basically, I find it incredible that 190 countries agreed to a document, the Long-term Cooperative Action document [ http://greenparty.ca/files/cop16_lca.pdf ] where it says that climate change is real and urgent and threatens us.
Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa (facilitator of the meeting) and her team managed to re-build some trust between participants as different groups worked on issues. Groups were not closed; people could cross over between them.
‘The documents do not by themselves obligate governments to take any new steps. What they do is build a strong foundation for agreements to be reached at COP17 next year in Durban, South Africa.’
‘The language is strong and unequivocal. In the LCA [Long-term Cooperative Action -see May's blog post, at the bottom for link] decision it is stated “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet, and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties.”
‘The decisions confirm that the science and IPCC advice is compelling. It commits to find ways to avoid allowing global average temperature from increasing to 2 degrees C, but recognizes the need to consider that the high point should be 1.5 degrees C. For the first time in a UN decision, it mandates that all nations should immediately determine the year by which GHG emissions should peak and begin to fall. It states all parties agree “that Parties should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.” It states that industrialized countries should reduce emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020.’
‘Further it states that “addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that offers substantial opportunities….”’
‘It deals extensively with the need for adaptation (creating a Cancun Adaptation Framework and Adaptation committee), for financing, it creates a new Green Climate Fund, as well as funding to help arrest deforestation. There are many detailed elements. Not all were great. Many were disappointed to see Carbon Capture and Storage added to acceptable technologies for the Clean Development Mechanism'
‘New and welcome elements were language recognizing the importance of human rights in implementing climate policy, respect for indigenous peoples, women, and gender-related issues, and a clear victory for labour in the reference to the need for a “just transition.” Cities and sub-national governments finally get the respect they deserve as partners.
‘What does it mean?
It means Kyoto is still alive, but the parties are not committed to a second commitment period when Kyoto’s first period ends in 2012. It just means there could be a second commitment period. Anchoring of voluntary pledges from the Copenhagen Accord may fit into the language of the LCA text, but the Copenhagen Accord targets are laughably weak. Hence, the language calling for industrialized countries to “raise the level of ambition” in their targets.’
There’s still a lot to be done, internationally and here.
Here in Canada, we need to communicate with every level of government and every individual we can.
Canada – represented by Environment Minister John Baird - again won the Colossal Fossil Award for putting up the most obstructions to events at the climate change meetings. As Elizabeth May says, before the next round of talks in Durban, SA in 2011: ‘‘we have to get a change in our government’s position, or get a new government. Canada stepping up to commit to a second commitment period, even on weaker targets, could help shift the balance to saving Kyoto.’
I haven’t read a lot about the climate change talks until just lately. I’m learning. Big topic. But, as always, I’m trying to locate positives which can be built upon.
Best regards to all of you,
Note: And putting this at the bottom of this post doesn’t mean this is unimportant! I just couldn’t figure out another place to put it.
One country, Bolivia, did not put its name to the Cancun document because it believed it was not strong enough. At the last climate change meetings in Copenhagen, Bolivia took the lead in producing a document called the Cochabamba accord, a strong statement about the need for economic and environment change. I’ve read excerpts from this (will find the link) and find I nod my head in agreement with it. At the Cancun meetings, Bolivia was given its due opportunity to state its position. Concensus decision making protocol does say that in situations where everyone is given the chance to voice an opinion, a ‘concensus’ decision is said to be reached when everyone else agrees and a disagreement is registered. So, it can be said that there was concensus on the Cancun document. I don’t doubt that many individuals and countries will go to Durban to bring an agreement that has many more of Bolivia’s ideas.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Good morning everyone,
Just to show that there's nothing like a snow day for doing things one doesn't usually get 'round to, here's another blog entry!
On November 3/10 Dr. Vandana Shiva delivered a lecture titled Give Mother Earth a Chance, as the winner of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize. Feel free to skip my words and go directly to the 45 minute long video of her acceptance speech: http://www.vandanashiva.org/ or http://www.vandanashiva.org/?cat=25
If you are concerned about sustainable agriculture, corporate control of agriculture, citizens’ rights to save and breed seeds by traditional methods, patenting of life and genetic modification, women’s role in agriculture, global economics or peace please settle in and listen.
If you don’t think you can sit at your computer and just listen for 45 minutes, try ironing or using hand weights or lying on the floor for the time it takes you to listen to her.
I think Vandana Shiva is brilliant. She speaks for the earth, for women, for farmers of small acreages, for sustainability, for saved seeds. I think her organization, Navdanya, is brilliant. From its website:
‘Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India. Navdanya has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country. Navdanya has also set up a learning center, Bija Vidyapeeth (School of the Seed) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttranchal, north India. Nav Navdanya is actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. It has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering, defended people's knowledge from biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalisation and climate change. Navdanya is a women centred movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity.’
The Sydney Peace Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation begun in 1998 as a partnership between business, media, public service, community and academic groups. It promotes peace with justice – an important pairing – which it says ‘relates to a way of thinking and acting which promotes non-violent solutions to every day problems and contributes to the development of civil societies.’ [www.sydneypeacefoundation.org.au/index.shtml]
I think it is brilliant that Sydney Australia has a Peace Foundation, brilliant that it is endorsed by that City’s government, brilliant that the Foundation sees the direct relationships between peace and people’s ability to provide food for their families and communities.
Right now the sun is shining brilliantly on the snow and ice in my back yard. It is sparkling.
I hope you all have a brilliant day.
Much information is available about Vandana Shiva and Navdanya at www.vandanashiva.org or her organization website www.navdanya.org
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I just received an e-mail from Toban Black, directing me to his September 2010 audio interview with Ada Lockridge. It is on a site called Media Co-op. Go directly to this if you want to!
The interview is clear and gives a lot of information about the toxic industries affecting the Aamjiwnaang community located within Sarnia’s Chemical Valley and efforts to get information about pollutants and stop them. Lockridge is a real person, a good person, a hardworking person. She says at one point: ''I get sad, I get angry, I cry ... and that makes me do more things' ‘
Toban does not impose himself into the interview. He deserves praise for asking good questions that allow Lockridge to tell her own and her people’s story.
You may have heard about Aamjiwnaang on the news. It’s the place where the birthrate is completely out of kilter (with something like one boy being born to two girls), and has a rate of cancers and other health problems much higher than average. Aamjiwnaang is surrounded on its three Canadian sides with toxin-spewing chemical plants; the Michigan side has a coal plant.
As Toban’s text says, ‘Ada and another member of Aamjiwnaang -- Ron Plain -- have filed a lawsuit against Suncor and the Ministry of Environment, through the organization Eco-justice. … this legal case is one of many approaches which she and other community members have taken as they have been trying to improve their health and environment -- in spite of industry opposition, and government negligence.’
I love the four 'D's that Lockridge cites in how companies/government cover things up or sow discontent amongst environment groups: deny, divide, delay, discredit.
Toban’s overview gives more information, succinctly, as well as resource materials/sites. The full audio interview is worth a listen.
The Media Co-op site posts information about quite a few topics!! Thanks Toban for bringing it to my attention.
For Londoners wanting to become involved in fossil fuel reduction issues, I’ve also posted a link to London’s Post Carbon group (www.postcarbonlondon.ca).
Best regards to everyone,
London, Ontario is up to its thighs in beautiful snow. Oxford Street, a four lane road which runs not far from me, seems to have only about 25% of its usual traffic. There is almost quiet. I’d left a garden fork in the back yard, standing straight up. The handle-hold and about 15 cm (6 inches) of handle are above the snow.
I have a vague idea that there was a huge snow storm back in the dark ages when I was at university for the first time but cannot remember anything like this since.
Hoping your own day has some beauty!