From the ground up

Taking personal responsibility is key to progress in tackling global warming

Let's get real, people: Humans vs Mother Earth??

Mother Earth is telling its human occupants to end their destruction now or suffer the consequences. Humans are the only species that can cause such widespread destruction while, at the same time, possess the capability to understand the impacts of their own actions as well as to stop the destruction. We have entered the era of the Anthropocene wherein "Humans now arguably change the Earth and its processes more than all other natural forces combined ... We need to communicate this as powerfully as possible to everybody". (Anthropocene: The film)

Mother Earth, the home to millions of life forms, is wounded and angry and there's no way to know how She'll react. In the end, Mother Earth will win but there won't be many spoils from that victory. In the longer run, time is on Her side and Nature will recover. Humans? Mother Earth will see to teaching humans harsh lessons about lighting fires in their own living rooms. We already know quite a lot about what form these lessons will take. This is hardball and Mother Earth has heavier hitters.

Impacts of a changing climate, combined with other human abuses, are already moving too fast to deal with them. Yet, this speed will increase. Governments, while talking about solutions, are continually being blocked. Businesses are not adopting climate friendly policies, instead falling back to BAU, or 'business as usual'. Kudos, nonetheless, to President Biden for trying to throw a blanket on this fire. But much of it is too little, too late. Burning million of years of sequestered carbon since the mid 1800s is rapidly destroying Earth's life-giving envelope.

In many cases, it is the government itself that is not climate friendly. Environmental protections have been cut back or ignored. Waste disposal laws are not enforced. Protected forests are being cut down. Mining companies leave scorched landscapes in their wake. Industries continue to produce nearly with impunity.

To push the baseball analogy a bit further, Team Humanity is going to need thousands, or even millions, of fielders, some way outside the park, to catch all the balls in the air.

Past in-action is no guide for future action

It is clear that the goal of 1.5° C temperature increase is now out of reach. The fact is that due to past in-action, we are now facing a 2 - 2.5° C global temperature increase. This is potentially catastrophic. Government and business promises and greenwashing will not reduce GHG emissions and they won't take action in time to save us from a World of hurt.

The fact that 'Conferences of the Parties' on climate change 1 through 27, at a cost well into billions of dollars for these conferences, have not achieved results that will deliver meaningful change. This failure should not be lost on anyone. Slowing the warming isn't possible, so COP 28, or anything after, will be also be too late. But, past in-action doesn't license anyone else to spectate. More in-action steepens the path to disaster. The United Nations through the Sustainable Development Goals along with the World Economic Forum profess sustainable climate action but who is acting on these goals —and will they do so in time to make a real difference?

It is clear that 'from the ground up' action is needed to deliver on tackling climate issues in a positive way because promises are not enough. As with most things Human, climate issues are not being dealt with until they become a crisis; this is a crisis. Maybe you think you've already seen this movie —but this is not a movie. Maybe you think you've heard it too many times already, but hearing does not make believers if they aren't listening and/or comprehending what is being said. In-action is not mitigating impacts and only results in further procrastination.

Even if we were to move to a perfectly circular economy today, the damage from GHGs, deforestation, resource extraction, industrial production, chemical pollution and improper waste disposal will persist for centuries. That is our, and previous generations', legacy. That is our childrens' inheritance. Worse still, we've known about the potential damage from GHGs for nearly sixty years when President Johnson was first advised in 1965. In fact, the evidence goes further back than this. Yet, we have done very little to end human contribution to GHGs. To add injury to insult, many climate change deniers, influencers and politicians are acting against the common good by publishing and distributing mis —or dis —information to cloud the air and waters even more. This version of collective action is clearly unhelpful in solving climate, or any, issues. We need better laws to protect against propogating falsehoods.

Even deeper, though, is the culture of conspicuous consumption and need for immediate gratification, forces that are so firmly embedded into our way of thinking that to depart from conventionality seems awkward and abnormal. But it is conventionality, combined with the lack of will to adapt to the new realities, that are inexorably pushing us towards disaster.

Can conventional thinking be changed? Indeed, it can and must be changed. As Albert Einstein once stated: "We cannot solve the problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". (Wikiquote)

So, what does this mean?

It means, if impacts are affecting you than it is your problem. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to see impacts as only affecting other people. It is becoming more and more irresponsible to simply watch the carnage but not actually doing something to mitigate it.

It means taking action now. It means not looking at climate issues as somebody else's problem. The pressure is on to act responsibly to achieve a sustainable future for our children. In fact, our children know more about what's going down than the older adults who have much of the power to make change but are the ones mostly lagging behind. They both know why.

Good news for biodiversity

2022 may mark a turning point. The recently signed COP15 agreement on protecting biodiversity is certainly good news for the "about 1 out of 5 people [who] depend on 50,000 wild species for income and food". (Popular Science) Each step towards protecting biodiversity is fundamental to our survival and benefits the whole Human population.

"Amid plummeting insect numbers, acidifying oceans filled with plastic waste, and the rampant overconsumption of the planetís resources as humanityís population grows wealthier and soars past 8 billion, the agreement, if implemented, could signal major changes to farming, business supply chains and the role of Indigenous communities in conservation. ... Governments have never met a target they have set for themselves on nature in previous decades, and the Montreal-Kunming agreement has been the subject of a major push to change the years of failure, apathy and environmental destruction". (The Guardian)

"All the elements are in there for a balance of unhappiness, which is the secret to achieving agreement in UN bodies," Pierre du Plessis, a negotiator from Namibia who is helping co-ordinate the African group, told The Associated Press before the vote. "Everyone got a bit of what they wanted, not necessarily everything they wanted." (CBC News)

This is clearly a significant step in the right direction. The goals are ambitious and will take a huge amount of effort. Now, it is largely up to industries such as agriculture and fishing to implement the necessary changes to follow through on these agreed goals. But, it is ultimately governments that will be on the front line to put the commitments made into practice. Holding their feet to the fire will be an important goal of Citizen action.

To be sure, the strengthening of laws to control the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides need further work.

Growth at any cost is not sustainable

Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fairytale. (The Delusion and Danger of Infinite Economic Growth, The New Republic, 2019)

Businesses that profess or adopt green policies and yet still seek industrial era growth need to be looked at with skepticism. The fact is that this BAU model —to have it both ways, is more and more unsustainable. Mass consumerism is not sustainable.

Cities and towns need to build up, not out. Large areas of single family homes, or single family homes on large lots, are also not sustainable, so zoning rules need to be adapted to create more infill and density, where possible. Building in greenspace also impacts existing neighbouring communities in serious negative ways and paves over valuable high-quality farm land.

Building infrastructure that does not currently exist —roads and highways, public transport, electrical and communications networks, water, sewer and drainage, schools, hospitals, shopping areas, community centres, churches, factories, etc, must be well planned so as to generate the minimum of unnecessary GHGs possible. Further to this, projects must also be planned so that users expend the minimum amount of energy using them.

Assessing current infrastructure to determine if it is underutilised or may need improvement can save money and resources. Adaptation of existing infrastructure may be a better course of action. Development of communities must be made to encourage less automobile use. Access to widespread safe and efficient mass transit, bicycle or walking paths must be a higher priority of the transportation infrastructure.

Impacts are very real in the Caribbean

There is no doubt that foot-dragging on solving emissions by industry have gone on for too long. However, this can't be used by Caribbean leaders as a smokescreen for lack of decisive action to mitigate impacts.

Caribbean nations —in partnership with suppliers must, collectively, find ways to reduce visitor numbers while at the same time increasing the proportion of visitor spending that stays in their nations. These stakeholders must develop ways to correct the imbalances in economic benefits that clearly exist. Political and business leaders must step up to act within a unified body to force foreign business entities to act responsibly towards the destinations they depend on for their profitability. Competitiveness, in the modern context, is not about simply delivering short term profit, it must also include longer term viability of the tourism 'plant' and this must include local people as well as local biospheres. Why is this important? Shifting this imbalance towards rewarding Caribbean nations for supplying the tourism product delivers more money for local governments, entrepreneurs and communities to redress the depletion of local resources and to repair the damage that tourism and climate change bring.

Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change are now irreversible and unstoppable. Even if action to reduce the generation of CO2 is successful over the next couple of decades, natural processes, such as melting sea ice at the poles or warming seas, cannot be stopped. This leaves Caribbean destinations with a myriad of problems. First, most people in the region are living close to the sea. Along with this, most tourism infrastructure is also close to the sea. It will not be possible to stop damage from occurring. So, the need for action to mitigate impacts becomes even more urgent. Further, the majority of tour operators are also dependent on attractiveness of coastal areas. So, as damage or depletion of coastal resources deepens, the profitability of their industries will certainly be under pressure.

In particular, the fact of sea level rise (SLR) has been known about for decades. But recent information has demonstrated that SLR is happening faster than earlier predicted. We have already seen numerous examples of coastal areas that have sustained significant damage. This kind of damage is bound to get worse and this will happen sooner than expected. This also has associated impacts where damage to coastal resources from storm surges and wave action will become worse in the very near future. Any structures or infrastructure with coastal exposure, whether existing or to be built, must be constructed to defend against this sort of intrusion.

The impacts are being felt everywhere

If your home, property or business has suffered damage due to a flood, wildfire or storm, it is one thing to say 'insurance will cover it' but over time insurance companies are excluding certain risks, or even whole areas, from coverage. Eventually it will become too expensive to insure certain risks, if this hasn't already happened.

Even when there is no obvious present danger or concern, it is becoming more likely to happen at some point. Areas that have never had any obvious threat in the past are suddenly in the path of catastrophic damage from these events. These impacts are also driving insurance rates up for everyone and may become unaffordable.

This will not abate but will increase because the impacts of the changes in climatic conditions will become more widespread and more intense. Just ask anybody that lives in the Ahr Valley or Pakistan, or lived in Litton, BC, or Paradise, CA or Fort Myers, FL. Just ask anybody in Ethiopia, Kenya or Somalia where droughts and famine are a reality.

Due to government and business in-action, this threat is increasing as time goes on. They may see it as a cost of doing business but no-one is exempt. Eventually this cost will become unbearable and failure due to inadequate handling of known risks may be the result. A government or large business failure has the potential to cause massive disruption in economic systems. Look at Argentina, Greece, Lebanon or Syria.

Extreme heat and longer heat waves are impacting more people. Cities worldwide are vulnerable and it is the poorest who pay the steepest price. Injuries due to falls caused by dangerous ice conditions resulting from the freeze/melt oscillation of Winter temperatures. Loss of sea ice is causing warming at the poles to speed up.

Droughts in food growing regions and the overuse of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides have caused widespread irreparable damage. Meat, as it is currently produced, is not sustainable. Same for transporting foods long distances.

Loss of habitat for wildlife is causing deep and irreversible losses. Think about Africa, the Amazon or Indonesia. Avian influenza (Bird flu) may be becoming more widespread due to climate change. The oceans fishes are being depleted at unprecedented rates. The loss of pollinators due to pesticide use. These all risk impacting the food chain.

War in Ukraine, as well as the Middle East and other areas, along with the destruction of Human and other life, is causing huge amounts of environmental and property destruction. The cost to rebuild is immense, will take decades and will generate massive amounts of GHGs. Plans to rebuild must include using every known technological advantage to reduce these costs as well as to 'build back, better'.

Trash gyres and plastics accumulating in the oceans, killing aquatic life and warming seas killing the coral. Wildfires in California. ... Lake Mead running dry ... ARGHH! ... the impacts really are being felt Worldwide.

Even in their own countries, people are being forced to move away from storm, fire or flood ravaged areas. All of these movements are putting additional strain on already strained infrastructure and housing development which in turn drives costs up. The Government of Canada's own immigration policy needs to be managed in such a way as to avoid contributing to these pressures.

Other risks such as the spread of tick-borne diseases impact people on a daily basis. With increased ranges of disease carrying mosquitoes along with out-migration of potentially infected people, other diseases that were once only in tropical regions risk being spread into more northern regions.

Connect the dots —these are, in fact, the 'canaries in the coal mine'. Earth burns but we all fiddle. The troubles in these not so far-off places is the cause for much of the migration to richer countries and yet, it is the richer countries that have largely caused the troubles. Just pick up a globe and try to find any region that is not under threat. Humanity truly is at a critical juncture.

So, we know quite a lot about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. But there is still much to be learned. There may be ways to make a difference that, as yet, haven't been tried.

Failing to collaborate is collaborating to fail

Whether a level of government, energy producer, large business, insurance company, urban planner or developer, citizens groups or whatever act on their own with no consultation or communication —risks resulting in uncoordinated action that is at cross purposes. We're all in this together but some leaders still don't get it!

How can anyone stay quiet when they know what Humanity is facing?

Governments and businesses don't act because the underlying perception is that most people, those unaffected by these issues are complacent but, again, it is up to individuals to change this perception. Nowadays it is becoming more clear that to be unaffected is simply blind luck. But to be unaffected does not infer to be uneducated.

Governments, businesses and communities are collections of individuals. The individual is the root in any of these organisations. Doesn't matter if you are a CEO or a tech support clerk or an elected official, each one is an individual. If the head is truly managing responsibly, s/he will heed what the tech support clerk —or the customer —or the voter, has to say. In fact, the leaders need to lead knowing what they know.

Can something good come from this?

Ground-based or grass-root action is where the biggest positive impacts are going to be delivered and it is local initiatives that will collectively result in clear benefits more quickly. Individuals can and will have the biggest impact when they are acting —in unison —at a local level. Also, this is where the benefits will be most felt and be most visible.

Also, individual action must be shown to be beneficial because no progress can be made until individuals take up the mantel of effective action. The fact is that helping to make their own cities work better will directly benefit them. Neighbour helping neighbour.

The increasing urgency will force us to think more about how we consume products and services. Underlying this consumption is the production of GHGs. Continuing to consume in a BAU, or 'business as usual' context means NO NET REDUCTION in GHGs. Asking producing companies to reduce their energy use will help. But that means that the consumer is placing the onus on someone else to reduce their own consumption. Person 'A' blames person 'B' blames person 'C' blames person 'A'. There's no winner in a circular argument.

By each person reducing consumption —we will collectively reduce GHGs. Sounds simple enough, right? But actually doing it requires some effort, discomfort and stepping away from conventional thinking. To my mind a little inconvenience now trumps the future of unknown consequences that Humanity is facing. If I am sounding repetitive, that's because I am. An 80, 70, or 50% gain is better that a 80% loss.

If you value the natural world, then it must follow that taking responsibility to help protect it is required.

What can a single person do?

The main action that individuals can take is limiting energy use, such as for automobiles or air conditioning. A second way is to install green energy systems for your home or business. A third way to take action is to limit personal water use, water takes energy to purify, distribute, to waste and then repeat the cycle.

Finding secondary uses for 'lightly used' grey water may also be helpful. For example, collecting grey water or rain water for gardening use and avoid using expensive, treated water for this purpose. Don't try to maintain a lawn, especially for small areas. Plant a garden instead. The goal is to reduce the buildup of atmospheric and oceanic GHGs.

A fourth category is also helpful, that of cleaning up after past abuses and damage. Another is to refuse to buy products from companies that do not support climate initiatives or invest in green technologies. Another is to debunk the mis —or dis —information spread by climate change deniers.

Yet another may be to buy carbon offsets and/or contribute to green energy projects directly. All of these things will bring tangible benefits and help to restore biospheres and ecological systems, the lungs and livers of the planet.

Improper disposal of waste is a dangerous practice. Even improper recycling can result in waste plastics ending up in oceans that are seen as infinitely capable of absorbing this trash. Plastics, and microplastics after they've broken down, are now found everywhere. They will never disappear. As it currently stands, these plastics cannot be removed and will become consumed by animals and fishes, eventually reaching into human consumption.

Importantly, individuals need to communicate their concerns to local government representatives. These people have been elected into public offices and represent the public. They won't act on their own without a push; so, give them a push.

For more ideas ... See: Think Small.

Local action is critical to success

Towns, cities and communities are on the front line and are the best equipped to confront and tackle climate issues. The smaller scale of the organisation is better suited to mobilising action and monitoring results. Community action to clean up pollution and damage from local industry are going to be felt first in the local community. Successful action can be used to demonstrate to other communities that improvement in handling climate and environmental issues is possible. Greening cities is possible.

Goals and policies may be set by government and business leaders but actions are initiated by individuals. People need to feel comfortable that taking some sort of action is OK. In fact, people need to recognize that taking some sort of action is required —and will make a difference. Governments can't solve problems that individuals won't act on by themselves. Technological solutions —also the creations of individuals, are in the pipeline but may not deliver results in a timely manner.

Listening to the ideas and suggestions of local people is also necessary for local leaders because the need for action to deal with the complexity of the issues cannot be done by one person, or even a small group. Local leaders are more in the line of fire and if they want to get re-elected, they must act in the interest of their communities and people. So, citizen groups tasked with presenting ideas to local officials are also beneficial.

Massive action by thousands of people does make a difference

Collective action of hundreds, thousands or millions of individuals —in the right direction, is what is needed and will be successful. The fight against climate change is a War, and like any War requires the mobilisation of huge resources —combined with effective leadership.

And, while an action by a single person may seem insignificant, we know enough to know that the same action repeated by thousands or millions of people will clearly add up to a meaninful reduction in the use of energy, water and other resources. By now, the natural way to act should be to reduce consumption instead of resistance and/or denial and/or falling back to conventional thinking.

The Egyptian Pyramids, and other ancient monuments, were built by the collective action of thousands of people and have stood for millenia as a testament to the power of collective action guided by a determined leader. But, where is this leader?

The current pandemic has also clearly shown that people with common goals and motivation can ultimately make a huge difference. Compared to the 1918 pandemic, the loss of life and the spread of the disease in the most recent one has been reduced dramatically. But we need these collective actions to continue because global warming —along with the pandemic, are ongoing threats.

A bleak future or a bright future?

The conditions we find ourselves in in ten, twenty or more years from now depend on all of us. If giving up a few creature comforts now means a brighter future then that's what we have to do. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

- o - o - o - o - o - o -

Learn more ...

The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions by Greta Thunberg, Penguin Books, 2022

In The Climate Book, Greta Thunberg has gathered the wisdom of over one hundred experts – geophysicists, oceanographers and meteorologists; engineers, economists and mathematicians; historians, philosophers and indigenous leaders – to equip us all with the knowledge we need to combat climate disaster.

We still have time to change the world. From Greta Thunberg, the world's leading climate activist, comes the essential handbook for making it happen.

We are alive at the most decisive time in the history of humanity. Together, we can do the seemingly impossible. But it has to be us, and it has to be now.

"Perhaps what is required, expected and demanded of each individual now, is that they renew their view of the relationship with nature and realise that there is no planet B and that our environment is worth fighting for". (Review by Mr Brian, Review at Goodreads)

How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real? ( https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/)

UN Sustainable Development Goals: Leave no-one behind (https://sdgs.un.org/goals)

World Economic Forum (https://www.weforum.org/)

How is garbage reaching the Arctic Circle? | DW Documentary on YouTube

Is this possible? Is our garbage really being carried to the Arctic Circle? Back in Dresden, filmmaker Steffen Krones canít get the question out of his head. He sets out on a quest to find the answer.

Citizens groups

Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-RAC) (https://climateactionnetwork.ca/)

Citizens Environment Alliance (http://www.citizensenvironmentalliance.org/)

Climate Legacy (https://www.climatelegacy.ca/) | The Network (https://www.climatelegacy.ca/network/)

Including The National Capital Region and Eastern Ontario

Ottawa Environmental Directory (https://greenottawa.ca/directory/)

Environment, sustainability & climate action in Ottawa, Gatineau and area …

Find your local representatives and communicate to them about your concerns:

City of Ottawa: Mayor and City Councillors (https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/mayor-and-city-councillors)

Provincially elected MPPs: Addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses (https://www.ola.org/en/members)

Federally elected MPs: Search current and past members by name, constituency or postal code (https://www.ourcommons.ca/Members/en)