Sunday, April 28, 2019

McKibben is Banking on Protests

Bill McKibben in The Guardian:

"Luckily, we have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement. . . . Before we can best employ these technologies, we need to address the two most insidious ideas deployed in defence of the status quo. The first is that there is no need for mass resistance because each of us should choose for ourselves the future we want. The second is that there is no possibility of resistance because the die is already cast. . . . The reason we don’t have a solution to climate change has less to do with the greed of the great, unengineered unwashed than with the greed of the almost unbelievably small percentage of people at the top of the energy heap. That is to say, the Koch brothers and the Exxon execs . . . Let’s operate on the assumption that human beings are not grossly defective. That we’re capable of acting together to do remarkable things." 

I have a commenter who thinks it unconscionable for me to provoke students to skip school to protest. Anon (of course) thinks protesting is a matter of privilege because only the wealthy can get tutors to catch up on the work they missed in that one afternoon each month. I responded that tutors aren't really necessary, and later was reminded of all the times parents take their kids out of school to go on vacation for a week or two, and all the time they miss for sports or to rehearse for the school play or to look at what happens at our local waste facilities or how a cow is milked. All those are important things, and none require paying for a tutor to catch up.

BUT none of those, seriously, are as important as slowing climate change and saving many species from mass extinction, including our own.

ETA: It's not like Trudeau is standing up to big oil, but here's this anyway:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Can We Change by 2030?

The timeline of 12 years has stuck to the point that we're continuing to say it after the first year has passed. We have until 2030, which is 11 years from now. This BBC doc says we can do it!

We've done amazing things, and we have to treat our current crisis as if it's an alien invasion. The entire world has to band together to overhaul any outdated (i.e. dinosaur-dependent) infrastructure, transportation systems, agriculture, and general production methods. We also have to just stop buying crap we don't absolutely need and stop going places for our entertainment like the entitled monkeys we are.

It's the top earners who have the biggest impact: David Wallace-Wells wrote, "If the world's richest 10 percent were limited to that [European] footprint, global emissions would fall by a third." The top 10% globally includes anyone making over $70,000 in Canadian dollars. According to this site: "A $70,000 income in Canada has enough buying power to put you in the 90th percentile globally for per-person income. Within Canada, your income falls around the 50th percentile." That means almost 20 million Canadians need to go on a GHG diet.

Absolutely we have to change policies and politicians. But, at this point, it's a both/and proposition. I don't know about you, but I have significantly more immediate and certain control over my own behaviours than over the type of government that gets into power. I can also protest the shit out of them, though!

For Earth Day, write a letter to your MP, MPP, Mayor, and city councillor begging them to make this their top priority. Here's a poem for inspiration:
To have an impact on GHGs,
ditch dryers, A/C, and food to freeze.
We have to reduce cars, planes, and meat,
then put on a sweater and turn down the heat.
Basically, anything that burps, heats, or cools
uses a ton of fossil fuels.
Reducing consumption of our unnecessities
can also remedy future generations' obscenities.
But electricity from the tides, wind, and sun
allows us to keep having lots of fun!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Life After Warming

David Wallace-Wells's book The Uninhabitable Earth starts out with a repetition of facts that won't be news to anyone paying attention, but he has a lovely way with words.

Four of the last five extinctions were from greenhouse gases, and now we're adding carbon to the atmosphere 100 times faster than at any other time, and "guilt saturates the planet's air as much as carbon, though we choose to believe we do not breathe it" (5). In the last 40 years, more than half the worlds' vertebrate animals have died and the flying insect population declined by three-quarters (26). His focus is largely on humanity, but we'll be taking most other life forms with us when we go. Our continued actions are at the level of a genocide, and the "Kyoto Protocol achieved, practically, nothing; the the twenty years since, despite all of our clime advocacy and legislation and progress on green energy, we have produced more emissions than in the twenty years before" (9). Even if we stop short of the two degree mark, we'll still have a sea-level rise "to draw a new American coastline as far west as I-95" (13). "Our current emissions trajectory takes us over 4 degrees by 2100" (27). At 5 degrees, "Parts of the globe would be literally unsurvivable for humans"(39). And "heat death is among the cruelest punishments to a human body, just as painful and disorienting as hypothermia" (48).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Like Rats Jumping a Sinking Ship

My class had a great conversation the other day about discrimination and W.E.B. DuBois's "double consciousness." I discussed the theory and solicited for comments, but there were none, as I expected. This kind of thing needs to sit a little and gel before we can really address it. So I rambled on a bit about the history of the term and its origins in Freud's writing before I asked again for comments or connections. Then the hands started and a conversation developed. We can only talk about our own experiences with racism and sexism in a room where trust has been established. That is exponentially true when we start talking about our own racist or sexist thoughts and feelings and that time we threw our own group under the bus by letting someone's joke go by without mention or by joining in to feel like part of a group that openly disparages people that look like us, but have decided that, somehow, we're different.

There is no way that conversations like this will happen online. We need face-to-face interactions so we can read the room. We need to see that nodding head across the rows in order to be brave enough to tell our stories. And teachers need to catch any subtle eye-rolling or smirking with, "Let's look at the other side of the argument too," to get it out in the open to be addressed and gently (but firmly) dismantled. And there might not be a course like this at all if the new class size formula wipes out this elective.

If we want to create a society that is divisive and full of hatred and blame for one other, Ford's new education policies are right on the money. And it's starting already:
"The discussion between private and public schools appears to be growing, with several independent schools in the region seeing an increased demand. Teachers and students alike are more seriously considering going the private education route, a debate that seems to be intensifying following recent changes to public education. . . . the founder of St. Jude’s and Scholar’s Hall, Fred Gore, says registration is up 30 per cent."
We can see what happens when people with means move their kids out of public schools by looking next door. It's a mess. Some schools have the newest developments, while others scrounge for basic supplies. The wealthy compete against one another for places at the very best private schools, while public school kids have to take four busses to get clear across town to the last remaining building that offers knowledge for free.

If we want the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, we elected the right man for the job. Brilliant! Once Scheer gets in this fall, we may as well just go ahead and eliminate that longest running border. Manifest destiny for the win!


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Varoufakis's Economic History for Dummies

First published six years ago, Varoufakis's book, Talking to My Daughter about the Economy, addressed to his then 12-year-old daughter, is a quick read in economic theory that would benefit from some dates and locations in its lessons to cement examples in history. He was still discussing the text in a podcast last June, so he must still stand by his claims. And it rests on one very important point: "You cannot afford to roll your eyes and switch off the moment words like 'economy' or 'market' are mentioned" (10). We've lost the luxury of ignorance now. We need to all understand how the system works.

Yanis Varoufakis was the finance minister in Greece for six months in 2015, and we know what happened there. Some say he couldn't possibly have fixed the problem, particularly as an outsider of sorts. When asked if he was sorry he hadn't resolved things sooner, he responded,
"Your question, sir, is the equivalent of putting to the British people in 1940 that Winston Churchill's speech, with which he raised the sentiment of the British people against the invaders, was responsible for the suffering of the Londoners after the Blitz or during the Blitz. The shortages, the rations, and so on and so forth. There's no doubt that freedom and rationality sometimes needs to be defended by means of a great deal of suffering. But to turn to the victims and blame them for what the villains have done is the height of audacity."
Regardless Varoufakis's role, one critic of his action as Greece's finance minister, the Minister for Finance in Ireland, who expected to hate the book, was surprised to find it "a stimulating and elegant perspective on market economies . . . accessible but not simplistic. . . . I found the section on public debt somewhat poetic. Even if this dimension is not evident to other readers, the lucidity of the explanation will be." But he found the solutions to it all "baffling in its brevity."

So, let's have a look.