The Anthropocene and the Fierce Urgency of Now

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

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I’m horrified when I read about the annihilation of entire species. I can’t steel myself against our Anthropocene and the sixth great mass extinction we are currently experiencing on the planet. I wonder how other people can.  I read this story in the Washington Post, In pitiful animal die-offs across the globe — from antelopes to bees to seabirds — climate change may be culprit and it terrified me.

And I wonder how the collective we can have time for everything else except the elephant sitting beside us in the room.

We blame it on elected officials who have their hands in the pockets of big oil and say they must feel pretty lonely. But is calling them out action? We blame our municipalities for not putting in proper mass transit or recycling programs as if those we elect to serve are somehow going to do this without our political pressure.

And still the average person drives to work, shuffles their kids to music or soccer practice, volunteers at bake sales, and sits on their yoga mat. All while the problems get larger; species drop off in record numbers, more people die, the methane is still leaking, it no longer pays to recycle plastic.

“That’s awful,” then return to eating dinner or sitting on their mat. “I wish someone would do something about that.” And the world around them continues to fly off the rails.”Hmm, the price of oil has been really low for a while now, let’s go buy an SUV.”

But, truth be told, you won’t be able to meditate this away. Gandhi didn’t just sit on a mat. Leadership comes from within. What happens to the oceans is happening to you. The oceans are you. So are the trees and the antelope. When an entire species is extinguished we all languish.

And we don’t live in a time we can expect someone else fix this or being a nice person is enough. Get connected- get empowered – start working for a better world. You won’t get it unless you create it.

Here are some places to get you started:

Citizens Climate Lobby – create the political will for a livable world.

Climate Reality Project – become a leader.

 

Want to Change the World? Then Start a Climate Change Group

by Brian Ettling

Brian EttlingIt’s Thanksgiving.  What I am most thankful?  I started two climate change groups: St. Louis, Missouri and southern Oregon. I am even more grateful for Larry Lazar and Susan Bizeau.  The truth is that I would have started ZERO climate change groups without them.  The credit really goes to them for all their hard work.  I was just extremely lucky to be at the right place and right time when they said YES.

LARRY LAZAR. I first met Larry at a St. Louis Science Center lecture in April, 2011.  We both knew we wanted to take some kind of action on climate change when we met, but we were not sure what it should be. We stayed in contact that summer when I returned to my seasonal ranger job at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.  That October, we started meeting regularly at Starbucks for breakfast to brainstorm ideas.  One morning, Larry announced, “Brian, I am thinking about creating a climate change meet up group.  Would you be interested in joining me?”

I jumped at the idea!  Larry immediately had me go to www.meetup.com to get my own account and become the first member of the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up.

Our group meets monthly with a designated speaker to teach us about climate change.  Because of my seasonal job at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, I am gone six months of the year.  Larry has done amazing job in my absence of holding the group together. Larry does this by scheduling top climate scientists and communicators from across America to speak to our group via Skype, such as Scott Mandia, Dr. Michael Mann, John Cook, Peter Sinclair, science comedian Brian Malow, Paul Beckwith, etc.

As a side note, I met my girlfriend Tanya through our meet up as she was attending our meetings from January 2012.  Hence, I also have Larry to thank for being an accidental matchmaker.  Even more, my advice now for single people looking for to date: Become an activist and start a meet up group!    

CAROL BRAFORD. One person who came to our Climate Reality meetings was Carol Braford, St. Louis group leader with Citizens Climate Lobby.  Carol Braford was very persistent with me that I should come to a monthly Citizens Climate Lobby conference call.

When I finally came to Carol Braford’s house in April, 2012 for a Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) monthly conference call, I was extremely impressed CCL.  I love their mission to empower individuals to effectively lobby their Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend.

Various groups from North America called into the conference call: Atlanta, New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Madison, Seattle, and new groups in Portland and Eugene, Oregon.   I immediately thought: Why isn’t southern Oregon represented?  At the close of the meeting, I boldly told Carol that I was going to establish a CCL group in southern Oregon.

When I returned to Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, in May 2012, I persistently sent out over 50 messages to locals in Ashland, Oregon to see who who could help me create a local CCL group.  In late June, I made breakthrough when I was exchanging messages with local southern Oregon resident, Susan Bizeau.

In December, I received an e-mail from Amy Hoyt Bennett, Director of Operations for Citizens Climate Lobby.  She wrote: “I wanted you to know we are headed to a CCL group start workshop in Medford, Oregon on Jan 14!  I am planning this with Susan Bizeau. YAY! Thanks for all your help.”

SUSAN BIZEAU. Ever since I first met Susan in person in August 2012, I have been so impressed with her.  With Susan’s tenacity, persistence, and great organization skills, she was able to get a Citizens Climate Lobby group up and running during the beginning months of 2013.  This whole time, I could not wait to return to southern Oregon to see my new group.

When I returned to work at Crater Lake, Oregon in May 2013, I attended my first Citizens Climate Lobby meeting in Ashland, Oregon on Saturday, June 1st. I was blown away to see 16 people at this meeting!  Susan and I developed a great rapport.  She really challenged me as an activist to write opinion editorials.  As a result, in September and October, I had six op-eds published in Oregon newspapers on the impact of climate change on Crater Lake and the need for a carbon fee & dividend.

Thank you Larry Lazar, Carol Braford and Susan Bizeau for being fabulous leaders and great friends! You helped me manifest one my favorite quotes:

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”  — Tom Peters, business-management writer.

Brian Ettling is a winter resident in St. Louis, MO and a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. He co-founded Climate Reality-St. Louis Meet Up. He is co- leader of the local St. Louis group of Citizens Climate Lobby. Brian blogs at begreenstartingnow.blogspot.com. He can be reached at b.green.ettling@gmail.com.

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Al Gore and Political Will in the Concrete Forest

As I descended off I-95 into the concrete forest that now covers the city of Miami, I pondered the artificial shade. Darkness permeated while the sun rested high in the sky.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair Construction raged on even in the early morning hours of Saturday. As the construction workers labored, the homeless slept. The forest was still, despite the jack hammer vibration penetrating the silence.

I looked upward at the pervasive high-rises that the city touts have surpassed 60% occupancy, although that is not obvious from appearance. Too bad that Miami can’t house some of its homeless in these buildings. It would be good public relations for the city, not like the messy shantytown farther up the road.

But that would never happen in the concrete forest. Here, corruption and bad political decisions spread like the invasive melaleuca trees that swallow the Everglades to the west.

It is amidst this concrete forest, I had come to the Miami Book Fair to see former VP, Al Gore promote his book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis(Rodale Books, $26.99).

Gore’s presentation was articulate, engaging and funny. He discussed the more than thirty summits he’s convened around the world, bringing together the eminent voices of climate change science. The good news, Gore told us, is that we have everything we need right now to solve the climate crisis. In his book he outlines some of the solutions from renewable energy to CCS to soil initiatives. We have everything we need, except perhaps ‘political will’. Gore closed his presentation with his classic line, “ but political will is a renewable resource”. Al Gore at Miami Book Fair

As I held that thought in my head, I wanted to ask him about this line he’s been using since before the film, An Inconvenient Truth,  “political will is a renewable resource”. We all lived that. Last November we had a historic election. We voted in unprecedented numbers for change.

We changed our political leadership but climate change still sits on the backburner in the Senate. The US with 5% of the world’s population still produces the majority of the total greenhouse gas emissions. There are some figures that show China- who now holds almost all of our manufacturing jobs- dumped more heat trapping gases into the planet’s atmosphere in 2009. Although looked at on a per capita basis, the USA still holds the award for world’s largest polluter.

We know the historic legislation, H254: American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House this summer doesn’t adequately addresses the severity of this crisis we are facing.

Al Gore at Miami Book Fair “We need to go quickly and together,” Gore said. Yes, as we approach December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen the world’s population agrees, but does the US government? And, how do we get there with the democratic leadership we have? That is the question I wanted answered. Surely, Gore must have some opinion.

But, before I got a chance to ask him, his publishers had me pulled out of the book signing line because I was holding a DVD of An Inconvenient Truth. The line was only for people who purchased copies of their book, Our Choice.

Thus, I am left with my unanswered question and a few photo souvenirs.


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