Alliance of World Scientists Issue Bleak Warning

In 1972 the first United Nations Conference dedicated to the state of Nature took place in Stockholm. It spoke of the fragility of the planet’s ecosystems and helped spur the expanding interest in conservation. The UN Environment Programme was created in the same year to promote sustainability and stewardship for the Earth.
Seven years later, amidst growing concern about greenhouse-gas emissions, the First World Climate Conference was held in Geneva. This event was important because it laid out the internationally recognized concerns about climate change. Its Declaration stated: “Having regard to the all-pervading influence of climate on human society and on many fields of human activities and endeavour, the Conference finds that it is now urgently necessary for the nations of the world: (a) To take full advantage of man’s [sic] present knowledge of climate; (b) To take steps to improve significantly that knowledge; (c) To foresee and prevent potential man-made [sic] changes in climate that might be adverse to the well-being of humanity.”
Over the next nine years there were further gatherings of scientists and governments, culminating in the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
tinyurl.com/history-climate-activities
Forty years after the Stockholm Conference, the Alliance of World Scientists (AWS) came together to issue a warning to the people of the world to take action. They expressed their concern in a preliminary paragraph: “Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to ‘tell it like it is.’ On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.”
tinyurl.com/aws-warning
It is some of those graphical indicators that I wish to share with you. They are important because they speak about more, much more, than just atmospheric change, which until now has received most of the attention. The graphs are divided into two groups: the first sets out the human activities that have changed our climate, and the second focuses on the impacts of those activities.
A human population graph begins the first list. In 1979 there were 4.4 billion people on Earth, and now there are almost 7.8 billion, spelling out massive hurdles for our planet’s ability to sustain life as we know it if we continue on this trajectory. Total fertility rate has dropped considerably since 1979 but is beginning to rise again. More than 220,000 babies are born each day – over 80 million each year. There are close to 4 billion ruminant animals (cows, sheep and others), belching huge quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Per capita meat production has risen sharply since 1979 (causing huge biodiversity loss). World Gross Domestic Product has risen 80.5% every 10 years – but remember that this reflects every kind of ‘product’, including cleaning up the devastation and pollution following disasters such as hurricanes and fires. And the graphs go on, covering tree loss globally and, specifically, in the Brazilian Amazon; fossil fuel consumption, which overshadows the advances made in renewable energy; and air transportation, which increased from half a billion flights in 1979 to almost 4 billion in 2019. (A small percentage of humanity take those flights.) Individuals’ carbon emissions are continuing to rise, fossil fuel subsidies are going up obscenely, and carbon pricing has crashed. The only good news has been more divestment from fossil fuel stock.
What have been the impacts of these changes? Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 336ppm in 1979 to 413ppm in 2019. Methane and nitrous oxide – another greenhouse gas – have risen steadily, bringing surface temperatures to new heights. This alone defines our emerging climate crisis. In the last 20 years in particular there has been massive loss of ice in Greenland, the Arctic and the Antarctic, leading to higher and warmer oceans. Global glaciers, a major source of fresh water, have melted significantly, giving a billion people less security for their water needs. At the same time, ocean acidification continues, with disastrous consequences for coral reefs and other marine life. Finally, the graphs spell out the repercussions of extreme heat and fires. Sound bad? It is.
Do you think going out to buy discounted things on Black Friday is a good deal? It’s not. Make Black Friday a Buy Nothing Day! Over-consumption is both a symptom of the poverty of our inner lives and a direct threat to having a vibrant, balanced planet on which to live – and thrive. tinyurl.com/buy-nothing-day-2019

Questioning the Hypnotic Lure of Black Friday

Time magazine is famous for the ‘Person of the Year’ who adorns its cover each January, but in 1988 it decided to feature instead ‘Planet of the Year’: Endangered Earth. The image is of an embattled-looking Earth held together with twine. The precious Earth is frayed. The accompanying article, written by Thomas A. Sancton, is entitled ‘Planet of the Year: What on EARTH Are We Doing?’ These words could almost have been written today: “Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who can inspire their fellow citizens with a fiery sense of mission, not a nationalistic or military campaign but a universal crusade to save the planet. Unless mankind [sic] embraces that cause totally, and without delay, it may have no alternative to the bang of nuclear holocaust or the whimper of slow extinction.” – Time, January 2, 1989. [tinyurl.com/time-what-on-earth]

By 1989, Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature was spelling out the unfolding crisis of climate change. NASA climate scientist James Hanson had already told the US congress that greenhouse gas emissions were increasing as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and that this must stop. At the same time, trade deals were being signed and governments were more and more being asked by corporations to sideline climate-mitigation projects. So-called neo-liberalism and the advent of the outright hostility of extreme corporate capitalism (as well as Soviet-style communism) towards Nature and social justice has at its core the inability to end this climate emergency. We must recognize this! Thus it was that the 1992 Rio Summit turned into one more world conversation that ultimately did not move governments to act on solutions to save our endangered planet. 

Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, documents the unswerving attempts by corporate power to hamper efforts to ultimately save our planet and our last chance to find a just response to corporate greed through the Green New Deal that is being heralded by many as a solution for many of our ills. Here we are at the end of 2019, and fires are ravaging Australia. Australia’s government ‘leaders’ refuse to discuss the clear connection between climate breakdown and those deadly fires. On Fire also looks at our ingrained behaviour that fosters a constant reaffirmation and perpetuation of globalization and capitalist greed as well as the rise of the far-right nationalism, racism and ecocide of ‘Trump and company’: “Climate change demands that we consume less, but being consumers is all we know. Climate change is not a problem that can be solved simply by changing what we buy — a hybrid instead of an SUV… At its core, it is a crisis born of overconsumption by the comparatively wealthy, which means the world’s most manic consumers are going to have to consume less so that others can have enough to live.” With Black Friday (November 29) a few weeks away, the world is about to enact the grim spectre of overconsumption in hyper-mode. To counter this frenzy of buying things, Buy Nothing Day was conceived. And I’m told there are plans here in Sherbrooke to have some creative responses to Black Friday’s gluttony. 

Naomi Klein’s first book, No Logo, chronicles the rise and power of the brand name — Nike, for instance — and the iniquity of the foreign sweat shops that make our clothes as well as everything else, while her book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism graphically details how corporations profit when a disaster happens — New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, for example. Over the span of 20 years, her books have documented the growing dangers to the world’s peoples and to biodiversity.

So what is the Green New Deal? It was inspired by President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1930s America and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the second world war. Both schemes helped to give employment to millions of people. The Green New Deal aims to build on these successes to combat the war that is being waged against us and literally inflames the entire Earth. It is a response to the excesses of plutocracy that have led to the real possibility of climate chaos. What started with a few young and newly elected US congresswomen and an equally enthusiastic Sunrise Movement pressuring Washington Democrats has blossomed to unite many eco-socialist movements worldwide in demanding the end of racial and gender inequalities, protection of vulnerable workers, and universal health coverage, while we repair the damage of unlimited growth ideologies/market-based solutions and at the same time have a speedy climate-friendly transition to 100% renewable energy. The war on Nature, fanned by hideous austerity ventures by Donald Trump and his buddies, can be replaced by a Green New Deal that can rejuvenate democracy and end the climate crisis. 

For more details about the Green New Deal, please see dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal-report

Climate strike students praised by EU President

“I am glad to see that young people are taking to the streets in Europe to raise visibility of the issue of climate change. Their movement has spread to many cities and can bring about change. Our goal is to allocate a quarter of our budget to climate change mitigation.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

What do the following organizations have in common? 

Earth Strike, Fridays For Future, Global Climate Strike, 350.org, Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, The Climate Mobilization…

They are all asking us to join or support the global school and general climate strikes on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27. (On September 27, 1962 Rachel Carson’s powerfully illuminating book Silent Spring, detailing the destruction of the natural world by human activity, was published.) 

Global Climate Strike says: “This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.”

In the European Union, the equivalent of US$250 billion will be spent on climate change mitigation each year for seven years, starting in 2021, but Greta Thunberg, the youth activist and school climate striker, who was speaking to the President of the European Commission last February, said that there is more to do and that we cannot wait. Act now, she demands. We must drastically cut Europe’s emissions. Otherwise we will not be able to keep the warming of the globe under 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030, she explained. She went on to say, “There is simply not enough time to wait for us to grow up and become the ones in charge.” Meanwhile, more than 12,000 students marched in Brussels.

The science certainly agrees with Thunberg, but why then has Canada been such a climate action lagger? Why have adults in Canada been so reluctant to embrace the climate science? Many activists will say that we’re so enmeshed in the consumer-capitalist system that we do not know how to extricate ourselves from a ruinous pathway. The thought of a degrowth, ecologically based way of life is anathema to the vast majority of Canadians. Canada’s fossil fuel consumption continues to grow more rapidly than our politicians would have us believe, while the EU and Russia have significantly lowered their use. In 2016, individual Canadians used more than five times the global average of energy, 29% higher than the average American.

These energy facts are contained in Canada’s Energy Outlook, a recent report by J. David Hughes, one of Canada’s foremost energy experts: energyoutlook.ca

For an excellent, accessible critique of Hughes’ report, see award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s article ‘Nine Uncomfortable Canadian Energy Facts’: tinyurl.com/9-uncomfortable-energy-facts

While adults flounder and procrastinate, young people are demanding that governments tell the truth about the climate emergency. Around the world, students of all ages are responding in their millions to confront the apathy and half-measures implemented by governments. 

In the Sherbrooke area, plans are under way in the universities to strike for the climate.

And it is not only students who will be taking part. Adults will be supporting the young people and organizing their own work strikes, many with the recognition of their employers that we must all take a stand against climate and ecological chaos. According to the international environmental organization 350.org, “parents, academics, bakers, trade unions, doctors, farmers, caretakers, celebrities, and teachers” in over 6,000 cities in 169 countries have pledged to organise climate strikes this month.

Climate rebel dispatches from around the world

From Sherbrooke to Sydney, Rio to Delhi, climate protesters are demanding that governments act now to save us from extinction.

Here in Sherbrooke Extinction Rebellion launched its first action on October 12 and La Tribune and CBC covered the event. See tinyurl.com/xr-action-sherbrooke

We wanted The Record to be able to report on what is happening in Sherbrooke. I took part in the Extinction Rebellion ‘slow swarm’ that gathered at Jacques-Cartier Park. What is a slow swarm? It is a way of getting people to take notice without disrupting the movement of the public too much. On October 12, 50 people took their climate placards and walked to the traffic lights at the intersection of Boulevard Jacques-Cartier and Rue King Ouest. Each time the pedestrian light turned to green, a group would cross to the middle of the road and stand facing the cars to show their placards. When the light changed to green for the cars, the group would wait on the sidewalk and hold their signs up for the people in the passing cars to see. A huge proportion of drivers honked their horns in approval. This went on for over an hour. Some of the protesters were nervous to begin with, but they were soon delighted with the response. Many of the students had not participated in a demonstration before, and they were clearly empowered by their first action. Before the ‘slow swarm’ there was a palpable sense of purpose, particularly amongst the under-35s, a group that will feel the effects of climate breakdown most acutely.

Meanwhile, around the world Extinction Rebellion (XR) had a strong and at times very moving presence in many cities and towns. See rebellion.earth/act-now/events/news/ for images and reports.

The decision this week by the police to impose a London-wide ban on XR actions was highly criticized by Amnesty International, lawyers and politicians. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “I believe the right to peaceful and lawful protest must always be upheld.” In response to the ban, XR continued to hold non-violent civil disobedience actions while their lawyers went to court to oppose the decision. The ban brings up an ethically important question: what are the responsibilities of democratic governments to permit lawful and non-violent protest? The British Tory government claimed that protesters are not justified in continuing to occupy streets or monuments. “While we share people’s concerns about global warming, and respect the right to peaceful protest, it should not disrupt people’s day-to-day lives,” a spokesperson announced, but XR say that their actions are justified because of the urgency of the situation, and point out: “We have proven to the world that this rebellion is a truly global movement, growing rapidly within and between nations, and comprised of people with the selflessness, the creativity and the courage to resist the madness of this ecocidal system.” 

It is the business-as-usual ‘everydayness’ of the perceived right of banks, governments and financial corporations to finance by loans or subsidies the well-oiled machinery of accelerated climate chaos that XR demands citizens disrupt. Thus it is significant that XR decided to stage a protest in front of the Bank of England, even though the bank’s governor, Mark Carney, seemed to be agreeing with them by firmly warning that every corporation must take seriously the need to respond to a net zero emissions goal or else disenchanted investors could make them go bankrupt. This warning comes as it has been revealed that only a fifth of the world’s largest companies will meet the Paris climate agreement goal of a 1.5 Celsius limit in temperature increase by 2050. To XR, this target spells catastrophe. Why Extinction Rebellion has been out in force around the world is precisely to demand that the 2050 target be moved forward to 2025. ‘Day-to-day lives’ can’t wait for 2050 climate actions.

Back in Canada, with a federal election looming, a net zero carbon pathway plan has gained much traction as a valid campaign topic. For these politicians Extinction Rebellion has brought to the forefront what the perils are of failing to address the life/death issue of climate for humans and wildlife alike. 

For further information about Extinction Rebellion, please see rebellion.earth/the-truth/ 

Climate Strike!

CLIMATE STRIKE!

Friday, September 27, 1:00 pm

Université de Sherbrooke

2500, boulevard de l’Université, Sherbrooke, J1K 2R1

act.350.org/event/globalclimatestrike/19583

Climate reporter Barry Saxifrage’s article in Canada’s National Observer on July 31 this year has a headline that tells us where we are in combating climate change: “Fossil fuel burning leaps to new record, crushing clean energy and climate efforts”. The graphs spell out the bad news, with one (“Fossil fuel burn per capita: G20”) showing Canadians at second highest among the G20 nations, just behind Saudi Arabians in our fuel usage!

tinyurl.com/saxifrage-fossil-fuel-burning

When Sir David King, a former chief scientific adviser for the UK government, called the acceleration of climate change destruction “scary”, many in the scientific community were taken aback. The reason for this is that emotive language has never been part of the scientific lexicon. Peer review and painstaking accuracy via mathematics, statistics and graphs as well as precisely verifiable fieldwork have always been the hallmark of the scientific community. As the crises facing our climate and biodiversity have become indisputable, so, too, has the desire by scientists to somehow reach the public’s heart and influence the world’s people to respond to the growing global threat. Of foremost concern is the need to radically expand this conversation to a community that we are part of: western and rich (by any global standards), and… energy gluttons. The tragic inability to confront our climate chaos goes back to Hobbes and Locke and a mechanistic view of Nature. Governments wish our scientists to use a language that will never allow the general public to connect with dry scientific research. Until the last 10 years, scientists were muzzled.

“Heart” and “scary” are among the new words being used to collectively lift us off our La-Z-Boy and Girl recliners and prod us to influence each other as well as our equally lazy and corrupt governments. 

Many people claim that using emotive vocabulary depresses us and we’ll simply shut out the call to action; that children will become so overwhelmed that they will become paralyzed with fear. But Joanna Haigh, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, said: “David King is right to be scared – I’m scared too. We do the analysis, we think what’s going to happen, then publish in a very scientific way. Then we have a human response to that… and it is scary.”

But are children overwhelmed? I think not. Just look at the huge response of school-age students to their fellow student, Greta Thunberg, who will be visiting Montréal for the September 27 community strike. Finally they have one of their own who hasn’t participated in being part of the climate problem, if only by being too young to pollute excessively as we do so obsessively in North America!

When the planet’s most famous climate scientist, James Hansen, wrote his book Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, it was a very human appeal by a great scientific mind reaching out to the general public to respond. Fellow American scientist Michael E. Mann has also written for the public, but the most powerful force in the world for climate justice has been Bill McKibben, who has written a plethora of articles and books and co-founded the climate group 350.org. McKibben is not a scientist, and indeed we need everyone to contribute. His newest book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? is available at the Lennoxville library. The enormous frustration by the scientific community has led other non-scientists to take up the banner to inform the public. The efforts of George Marshall’s climate education group in the UK can be viewed at climateoutreach.org, and Guardiancolumnist and author George Monbiot writes on climate at monbiot.com. Here in Canada Naomi Klein writes with intense power. You have only to dip into The Shock Doctrine: This Changes Everythingand her new book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, to be inspired to stand up. 

Now it’s up to you to come out and support our youth to have a healthy world. We can complain about governments’ ineptitude all we want, but it’s up to the individual now to demand change. Make your voice known during Canada’s federal election campaigns.

… and with your friends, family and co-workers plan to strike on September 27!

act.350.org/event/globalclimatestrike/19583

Youth has become the inspiration for ecological stewardship

Swedish school student Greta Thunberg didn’t believe that her one-person strike in front of the parliament in Stockholm less than a year ago would have much of an effect on her government’s climate change policies, but her frustration with the rate of meaningful climate action by governments convinced her to protest. Last August she stayed away from school to engage people on climate action possibilities. Her reasons for not going to school were simple: why bother going to classes if her very future was being completely compromised by accelerating climate chaos? Her implacable view was that unless she did everything she could to push back this chaos a formal education was worthless for herself, her generation and future generations. Has her one-person climate action brought change? Resoundingly, but not in the way that you might think. The election last September didn’t prove to be a game-changer for climate policy in Sweden. “The politics that’s needed to prevent the climate catastrophe—it doesn’t exist today. We need to change the system, as if we were in crisis, as if there were a war going on,” Greta told The NewYorker magazine last October. Although many politicians and even Pope Francis, a climate action crusader, have met with her and expressed their solidarity and admiration for her resolve as well as her courage, what Greta’s school strike in front of parliament did was to galvanize the world’s students.
Many readers will remember the strike in Sherbrooke on March 15 this year. Several thousand people came out to walk from the Université de Sherbrooke to City Hall. Multiply that one action thousands of times across the globe, and you have the makings of a true youth civil disobedience climate action movement.
Last week I had the honour to speak with a class of high school science students. I wanted to hear from them how they viewed the biodiversity/climate crisis. Several students felt invigorated by the global student strikes and were planning next autumn’s civil disobedience actions. One student told me that the surge of support from her fellow students had given her a new purpose in life. Many students have felt betrayed by older people. For example, although adults speak about caring about and loving their children and grandchildren, they fly often and sometimes even compound that massive greenhouse gas pollution by then taking a cruise ship—unquestionably one of the foulest vacation choices possible. There doesn’t appear to be any carbon emissions budget that adults adhere to. Some buy electric cars to ‘offset’ their absurdly grotesque energy consumption, and thereby attempt to assuage their guilty consciences with one more purchase. Perversely, the over-fifty crowd, born to consume more than any other generation before them, through their political power, politics and life examples are the harbingers of worsening ecological chaos. The teenagers I met resent this deeply.
Where are older people in the climate action movements? Besides the traditional groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, which have helped forge a Green consciousness, Extinction Rebellion (XR), which began in the UK only last November, has had tremendous success in mobilizing public participation, including some older people, in its demand for worldwide government responsibility in responding to the climate emergency. Indeed, members of this burgeoning movement have now decided to bring the blight of air pollution caused by motor vehicles to London’s street protests. They have done so with enormous creativity. The movement has grown exponentially across the world, and here in Canada thousands of people are participating in actions. XR points to People’s Assemblies as a way to rekindle democracy and as a critical way to bring back and reignite people in our communities:
“Decades of inadequate political action have led to a climate and ecological emergency that poses an unprecedented existential threat to humanity and all life on Earth—‘politics as usual’ will not meet the challenge we face.
“A citizens’ assembly provides us, the people, with a way to request radical change, and a request from the people gives a legitimacy to government to act, and allows for cross party support.”
Find out more and join Québec’s XR group at https://extinctionrebellion.ca/quebec

Climate justice and ethics: some thoughts

“We must use this moment as crucial leverage to push the planet in a new direction. Let us try. If we succeed, then we have risen to the greatest crisis humans have ever faced and shown that the big brain was a useful evolutionary adaptation. If we fail—well, we better to go down trying.”

Climate activist Bill McKibben

After experiencing a record-breaking heatwave of 45.9C in France last week, scientists have concluded that the heatwave was at least five times more likely because of climate change.
The climate crisis is real, so here’s a question: in order to achieve climate justice, since most people seem reluctant to change their damaging habits, what if individually and nationally we put into law strict carbon budgets? For example, if you flew frequently, your budget to indulge would be used up more quickly. Once you had depleted your budget, if you wished to continue to travel by air, either a massive tax of, say, 1,000% would be levied on each ticket, or you’d simply be prohibited from flying.
Nationally, one more pipeline carrying dirty oil would exceed Canada’s carbon budget. The world’s population will be close to 10 billion by 2050 – World Population Day is on July 11 – and the individual carbon budget would need to shrink accordingly.
In the short term, before there is a mandatory budget for climate justice, should we begin to speak about the criminal liability of governments and individuals for excessive use of fossil fuels? If this sounds too radical, consider that this conversation has already started in the USA with a group of young people suing the federal government for just that reason.
We each need to question our own engagement in activities that will accelerate the breakdown of our climate, irrecoverable loss of biodiversity, and the impoverishment of billions of people. The term ‘climate apartheid’ is being used to describe how the wealthiest 10% of the population is ruining the lives of the other 90%. The urgency with which this conversation needs to take place becomes clear with a NASA report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month that a massive shrinking of sea ice is occurring in Antarctica, raising sea levels.
It’s as if we delegate our ethical responsibilities to our representatives in government to fix the problems of this world after voting them into power, thereby absolving the individual of doing anything. Back in 1992, 1,670 world-renowned scientists signed the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, which concluded with these words: “A new ethic is required – a new attitude toward discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and the earth. We must recognize the earth’s limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.”
In 2018 over 15,000 scientists endorsed a second Warning to Humanity. Clearly, government bodies, elected by their citizens, have failed to promote a new Earth ethic that perpetuates a healthy, inclusive world. But make no mistake: individuals have failed too.
In 1953 the American naturalist and writer Aldo Leopold had this to say: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds… [An ecologist] must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” Ten years later, the corporate vehemence and denial that attended the release of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring essentially summed up what most biodiversity scientists, climate justice activists and human rights advocates experience even today. So to say that the science is under siege is an understatement. Trump and Harper remain the kingpins for such activities, but Trudeau’s double-speak on supporting oil pipelines that he says will give us the money to wean ourselves away from fossil fuels speaks volumes. Many believe this to be a criminal activity. EcoJustice, Canada’s legal advocates for Nature, said: “The reality is that the government can put Canada on the path to a safe climate future… or it can push this pipeline through. It cannot do both.”
A new vibrant Earth dialogue has started. Will you join it?

Celebrating World Biodiversity Day with Action

The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22) focuses on biodiversity as the key provider for our food and health. Also called World Biodiversity Day, it emphasizes the critical link between a healthy ecology of diverse communities of beings and the viability of long-term human welfare.
It has long been known that the climate emergency has become a key catalyst in negatively transforming our planet’s ability to provide food and sustenance for humans and all other animals. Whereas past mass extinctions of species occurred over millions of years, the current mass extinction of flora and fauna started with the Industrial Revolution and most disturbingly has accelerated to new destructive heights in the last 25 years. Not only have rising carbon dioxide levels and ocean temperatures caused vast changes to marine life (notably through the destruction of many coral reefs), but also the stability of our atmospheric climate has been weakened to such an extent that the vast majority of recorded heatwaves have occurred in the last 25 years, resulting in ravaged places with seemingly unending wildfires and, paradoxically, flooding. California is a case in point. All of these crises have been spawned by western countries’ apparent total disregard for other people as well as for their planetary cousins.
In his recently published book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? climate activist Bill McKibben outlines the greed, the misinformation and ultimately the culpability of corporations such as Exxon that knew back in the 1970s that fossil fuels contributed to climate instability. He also details the deceit of coal baron billionaires who foster a new age of ecological disasters. Multinationals with untold millions at their disposal have lobbied governments to push for an agenda of the super-rich that celebrates hyper-individualism at the expense of social justice and a chance of prosperity for many of the world’s poorest people. Governments, including ours, have succumbed to these groups and individuals to such an extent that an insidious plutocracy has put democracy in dire peril and threatens to strip the Earth of its insects and amphibians as well as most other wildlife. People who dare to confront the anti-Earth lobbyists are suffering dire consequences.
May 20 is World Bee Day, acknowledging the crucial part pollinators play in providing food for all beings. Yet the Canadian government, unlike France and other European countries, refuses to ban neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to be toxic to bees and other insects.
Recently, Louis Robert, a Québec government scientist, gave the CBC documentation showing that the pesticide industry controlled some of the decision-making abilities of the Québec Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, he lost his job. Please see tinyurl.com/whistleblower-pesticides-fired
The climate emergency and the acceleration of the biodiversity crisis have caused a monumental shrinking of habitat. The abandonment of lands due to sea level rise and extended heatwaves has pushed flora and fauna populations to the brink of extinction, and humans are not exempt from this carnage. Consider the 93 deaths in Québec last summer from the extreme heat. Most of those people were elderly and/or living in poverty.
Climate change and biodiversity loss have already shrunk our cultural, economic and physical connections to this planet. Increasingly, humans and other sentient beings are becoming climate migrants driven from forest or farming communities by drought, floods or the destruction of their native soils. Contaminated river and coastal villages and polluted cities are making life unbearable.
McKibben’s Falter speaks of non-violent resistance and engagement in the face of entrenched power. But let’s first call this tragedy by appropriate names. The 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg put it this way: “It’s 2019. Can we all now call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?”
It is time to firmly resist fossil fuel lobbyists. At the same time governments must stop giving obscene subsidies to those same Earth destroyers and support solar power.
In marking World Biodiversity Day we need to affirm the right to move away from ecocide and once more embrace this planet’s fantastic diversity. Only then can we chart a course towards a new, just balance that respects and nurtures all life on Earth.
To celebrate all wildlife, please watch this amazing video featuring the monarch butterfly: www.thisiscolossal.com/2019/05/monarch-butterfly-sounds

Nature and Community Activism

The May 6 headline said it all: Human Society Under Urgent Threat from Loss of Earth’s Natural Life
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/06/human-society-under-urgent-threat-loss-earth-natural-life-un-report

Our Earthly inhabitants are at a dangerous crossroads. In 2002, the biologist E.O. Wilson said that humans and the other species on Earth are caught in the bottleneck of an accelerating ecological crisis. Industrial countries have lost their way, without the certain knowledge that we are capable of extracting ourselves or indeed willing to exit this relentless multi-faceted extinction squeeze on species ranging from insects to primates. Within just 150 years they have succeeded in threatening our planet’s viability. If humans won’t acknowledge and actively respond to the dangerous situation we have drifted into, we will sink with the remaining creatures into the quagmire of our making, for without pollinators, soil and seas we are doomed.
The daily scientific news is relentless: unless we change our ways, and soon, climate change will cast an unchangeable veil of greyness across the planet. The U.N. Climate Report last November warned that we have 12 years to drastically reduce our fossil fuel emissions so that global temperatures don’t exceed 1.5 °C. As the respected environmental activist Bill McKibben has stated through his many books, starting with his 1989 treatise The End of Nature, the world is rapidly moving towards “climate chaos”.
On May 6 this year The U.N. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services published its critically important 1,800-page Global Assessment Report. The outlook for us and our fellow Earthlings is becoming progressively bleaker. This fact is well established, but North Americans, and their politicians in particular, behave as if there were no planetary bio-climatic crisis. Québec’s Biodiversity Atlas demonstrates how serious the situation is in southern Québec, but few people know of this document.
Yet one single person can inspire the rest of us to rise to the enormous challenge, “where the voice that is in us makes a true response, where the voice that is great within us rises up”. Last year a schoolgirl named Greta Thunberg did just that, galvanizing her fellow teenagers to find their voices and demand that adults protect them from the ravages of climate change.
After centuries of feeling alienated from Nature, can we find our way back home ­– our only home? The path is tortuous, but we can focus on a vision that will allow us to succeed. Earthly community is the way forward. The 17th-century English poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind…” Now we know that our involvement must move to embrace all creatures.
People are finally reacting strongly to government indifference, and speak of the climate and biodiversity crisis as a deeper symptom of our general malaise: increasing social injustice, over-population and capitalism’s mantra for unlimited growth on a finite planet are among the grave concerns that are being voiced. A multitude of global initiatives have gained traction, including the Green New Deal championed by the youth-led Sunrise Movement. The recent 10-day Extinction Rebellion civil disobedience actions across the world shook up British politicians to declare a climate emergency. The student climate strikes here in Canada and globally have been hugely successful in creating a momentum that promises legislative change.
One example of how school and community can become involved in protecting and respecting Nature is Cookshire Elementary School’s transformation last year into a Living School, incorporating Nature into all aspects of learning so that the students and staff can benefit mentally and physically from a connection with the natural world. Dawson College in Montreal is a partner in the initiative, and St. Francis Valley Naturalists’ Club is sponsoring guest lecturers. Representatives from universities have visited the school, which it is hoped will serve as a model for other schools and campuses to follow.
My purpose in writing these articles is to celebrate what is best locally and globally that can bring us together to confront the ‘great thinning’ of our fellow inhabitants on this planet and create a viable community that includes all of us, not just humans. May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity. Let’s come together to celebrate our interdependence with the rest of Nature.

Thinking about emissions

Global emissions rose in 2018 with the USA increasing its emissions after three years of decline. Understanding the contributing factors is not enough — action at all scales is needed.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0411-2