I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Contradiction: Why We Don't React To Climate Change

Apparently I am not the only person to wonder what climate change deniers and evaders are thinking and why they are not responding to an obvious, very serious problem. In May 2009, Kari Marie Norgaard published a working paper for The World Bank entitled Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change.
Her salient points are as follows (direct quotes:)
• If significant global warming occurs, it will be primarily the result of an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. And the single most important source of carbon dioxide is the combustion of fossil fuels.
• Climate change . . . . offers a new opportunity for global solidarity and unity.
• Global climate change is a highly significant issue of global environmental justice.
• Public awareness and concern regarding climate change is not a function of scientific information alone, but psychological and sociological issues as well.
• People ACTUALLY WORK TO AVOID ACKNOWLEDGING DISTURBING INFORMATION in order to 1) avoid emotions of fear, guilt and helplessness, 2) follow cultural norms, and 3) maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity.
• The one criteria of whether an issue will make it to the level of a recognized “social problem” is THAT THE CONDITION CAN BE SOLVED THROUGH COLLECTIVE ACTION.
• This seems to be rather a depressing list, doesn’t it? In response to the above problem, Norgaard asks “How can the knowledge that there are psychological and social barriers to our effective action be turned into a basis of pro-active public policy?” People DO care about climate change, and do support stronger climate policies.” Her solutions for policy makers and activists alike (direct quotes:)
• Frame climate message in ways that are non threatening and that appeal to a positive sense of the self.
• Create a set of realistic opportunities for participating in positive actions. This will contradict isolation, build community, [and] create positive frames of reference.
• Focus on what can and should be done rather than focus overly on information.
• Provide information on how local events are connected to global phenomenon.
• Contradict fear by providing honest information AND hopeful examples.
• Contradict guilt by acknowledging the present and providing opportunities to engage in more responsible behavior.
I would add that activists and policy makers should emphasize that the issue of climate change CAN BE solved through collective action.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Water Shortages in Canada Are Here

“Water disputes” can easily lead to trouble – even war – or so Gwynne Dyer suggests on page 20 of his newest book, Climate Wars. (Please see my earlier post on his book.)The World Bank is also fretting about water issues. They feel that “water management (In India) also remains a formidable challenge. The climate change projections indicate that even when farmers have largely adapted to arid cropping patterns, increased demand and consequent water stress could severely jeopardize livelihoods and diminish agricultural productivity.”
Oh well – that’s India – always troubled – really poor - very far away. No disputes about water are going to arise here in Canada – right? Hmmmnnnnnn – ask Mike Rose of The Quilchena Cattle Company in Merritt, BC. http://www.kamloopsnews.ca/article/20090922/KAMLOOPS0101/309229973/0/KAMLOOPS0102/rancher-calls-water-order-attack-on-agriculture
The BC Ministry of Environment ordered him to turn off his irrigation pumps on September 17, 2009. This order will cost him approximately $ 150, 000 for feed to replace the hay drying up without the irrigation water from the river. Understandably, Mr. Rose is hopping mad. I predict his problem – our problem – will worsen as climate change increases water scarcity. Global warming exacerbates and causes droughts: our lives are changing in a non linear fashion.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Water Consumption Woes

Why worry about conserving water?   Looking at the above photograph from the Interior of BC, we have plenty of water - right?  Short answer: no. Canada is already suffering from water woes: the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservaton Council is warning "In British Columbia, and elsewhere, water managers are faced with the challenge of balancing competing demands for water. Limits in supply or high demand create situations of water scarcity where not enough water is available for both human (out-of-stream) and ecological (instream) needs. As well, governing laws, institutions, or managers often do not to recognize that instream needs have a prior, or at least equal, right to water comparable to other users. In some situations water is allocated to out-of-stream users first, with instream needs being an afterthought or only if “excess” water exists. Current trends in B.C. suggest that balancing needs for water will become increasingly difficult in the future: the population is growing; rates of water consumption are among the highest in the country and the world; water use is currently in conflict with instream needs in many locations; climate change is increasing water scarcity; and populations of freshwater reliant fish species, such as Pacific salmon, are in decline. "
Remember that damage to ecosystems the OECD worries about if we waste water?  It rather looks as if a dubious future is upon us. 

The Characteristic That Defines Humanity

I think the characteristic that distinguishes humanity from the rest of creation is our ability to lie to ourselves.  Call it the "Easter Island Syndrome" if you like.
The UN has stated recently that the number of hungry people in the world is at one billion.  They blame this in part on climate change. The United Nations Food Programme states “in many countries, climate change is EXACERBATING (emphasis mine) already adverse conditions” and therefore creating starvation in human populations. The UN also states that “ unpredictable weather patterns are causing more weather-related hunger.” http://www.wfp.org/
In an article on drought and food shortages in Kenya, the Globe and Mail stated “It’s part of a much broader crisis across East Africa and the Horn of Africa . . . . climate change is believed to be at the heart of it. Droughts and floods are happening at nearly the same time.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/kenyan-farmers-watch-their-livelihoods-and-food-supply-disappear/article1284880/
Australia is suffering from the worst dust storms in 70 years: the CBC’s news website quoted an Australian environmental scientist as follows: “ Ten very dry years over inland southern Australia and very strong westerlies have conspired to produce these storms.”
Even the government of Australia, formerly an outlier on climate change, is taking global warming seriously now - as witnessed by thier web site.
And my point is ?  If we are not extraordinarily good at lying to ourselves, why do climate change deniers still post on every article I read on the Internet?
Samples: “where is the proof that global warming is man made?” “ETI said it before and Ill say it again … global warming is a crock of bulls####” “How did the AGW myth get perpetrated so thoroughly upon us?’ Incredible! Absolutely INCREDIBLE!   Please keep educating  climate change deniers - arm yourself with information and statistics.  Remind them of the hole in the ozone layer - no one disputes that was human caused and made a bigh impact on the environemtn. And PLEASE enail or write your MLAs, your MP, your Senators, and your Congresspersons and tell them effective legislation  on global warming is important to you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

True Confessions

Recently, I experienced an extremely uncomfortable moment at a Social Environmental Action committee meeting. There I sat, a dedicated environmentalist, in the midst of a group of environmentalists…. this doesn’t sound like a lead in to mental anguish, does it? But while discussing water conservation, I realized (roll doom-laden Wagnerian music here) that I enjoy squandering water. I like to hose down our red brick patio and the cedar deck in the heat of the summer. Everything is so fresh and clean afterwards – literally sparkling as the sun reflects on puddles of water – and the bricks are so cool I can cross them in my bare feet without doing an imitation of a badly trained modern dancer. I discovered I’m not alone in my water wasting ways. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the only people piggier about water than Canadians are the Americans. And every person in my home town  must use water the way I do: we use twice the water of the average Canadian.

Clinging to my delusion that this isn’t such a bad thing, I did some research. OuuuuUUUCCCHH! The OECD, that bastion of environmental concern, states “high consumption places stress on rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers and may require dams and flooding with serious ecological impacts.” They then intone “high levels of water use require ever increasing and expensive investments in water system infrastructure.” Yup, doing what I do hits the rest of Kamloops right in the pocket book: the water treatment plant is fast approaching full capacity. Get ready to pay higher taxes and utility fees if nothing changes.