With Highest Praise

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http://www.threadless.com

In just a few more days, I will graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a Bachelor of Science degree. The culmination of my higher educational journey has truly been a long and winding road. In fact, it began more than thirty years ago.

On December 14, 2018, I will sit among hundreds of other students in the Denver Coliseum, and listen to President Janine Davidson and others give inspirational speeches to our graduating class of 2018. Then, I’ll get in the queue with the rest, and wind my way up to the stage, as the announcer calls out my name, “Leigh Jardine, Summa cum Laude!” I’ll shake the Department Chair’s hand and receive my diploma holder. I’ll walk down the stairs, giddy, and proudly, in my full dignity, walk back to my seat as the rest of my class takes their turn doing the same.

In that moment, when the announcer calls my name to the crowd of thousands of people who have come to witness our graduation from university, I will realize an achievement that I had given up on long ago. For me, this commencement ceremony will be unlike any other I’ve experienced in life. It marks the public witnessing of my finishing, with highest praise, a journey of learning, growing, and accomplishing a goal that had eluded me for many years.

It seems like little in our modern culture is taken very seriously, or given much respect. The cynicism and practice of “dissing” others is a very real disease of society that has infected people through popular culture in a myriad of insidious ways. For many in western cultures, getting a bachelor’s degree is no more important or special than making it through high school—a means to an end, whether that is a decent-paying job or the ticked box when applying to graduate school. I know there are plenty of young people who only want to “be done” with their academic career so they can get out and start making money, and living a “real life” as opposed to the unreal life they led as an undergrad. My own response to that line of thinking now is incredulous.

Now into my sixth decade of living on Earth this time round, being a university student has been a profound joy. Especially because of the wonderful, self-designed major program I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of, I have had the delicious freedom to pick and choose the majority of courses I took. When some piece of the plan I’d set up with my advisor didn’t feel like the right fit, I’d go back to the drawing board and find a different course or set of courses that did. In fact, there’s a word for students like me: Multipotentialites.

According to the website Puttylike, a multipotentialite is “an educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among intellectually gifted individuals. [Multipotentialites] generally have diverse interests across numerous domains and may be capable of success in many endeavors or professions; they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices.”

The day I learned that what I’d struggled against my entire life, believing the socially-normative story that people like me are just losers who can’t get it together long enough to “make something of ourselves,” actually had a name and was recognized by some as a positive personality trait, was a turning point in my life. It was true, I’d never been able to stick with one job or career path for more than a few years before getting bored or burnt out, and then I’d begin the process of finding the next new thing to throw my creativity and curiosity into full-speed. For years I thought this was due to a serious character flaw, perhaps owing to my Gemini astrological sun sign, or maybe some dark, undiagnosed psychological problem I’d never been able to overcome. Then, sitting in a room full of other students and professors for a course on promoting our Individualized Degree, we were collectively enlightened to the fact that we weren’t losers or lame-beaus at all, but that we were, in fact, a bunch of cool Multipotentialites!
I went home feeling extraordinarily gratified that afternoon.

My bachelor’s degree is unique. It’s titled “Creative Arts, Women and Nonprofit Studies,” with a minor in English Rhetoric, Composition and Professional Writing. (The minor was already a thing; fortunately I didn’t need to invent that too.) The wonderful irony of me, Leigh Jardine, studying English as my minor, after being a writer my whole life and loving the English language with all its crazy wackiness and illogical frustrations—has been sheer pleasure.  Plus, most of the English professors whose courses I took are my kinda peeps—serious about learning, enthusiastic about English, words, and nerdy about the finer details of grammar, style guides, proper citations, annotated bibliographies, and the history of our absurd and wonderful mother tongue. It was gratifying to be among peers who loved the study of words and how they fit together into coherency.

We’ve all watched celebrities as they stand up at awards ceremonies, reeling off long lists of names, to thank all the folks along the way who helped them achieve their dream of fill-in-the-blank. We all know how tiresome that can be for the rest of us. But, in this moment of near-completion of my personal dream, I completely empathize with why they make everyone suffer through those five-minute-long-thank-you speeches. Nobody accomplishes their dreams on an island. We do it in rowboats, as teams in flow. I have many fine rowers to thank during the past eight semesters at MSU Denver.

The past two and a half years of being a student again have been enlightening in so many ways. I’ve learned a great deal about Millennials, intersectionality, racism, feminism, sexism, and many other isms. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of why higher education is so valuable for the upliftment of our society. I’ve come to greatly admire the work that many dedicated people are doing to lift up those on the margins in our communities and around the world. And, importantly, I’ve come to view the world we live in through a broader lens than I had before. My perspective has widened and deepened as I’ve come to view people in a more humane way than ever before. We are all doing what we can to survive under very chaotic circumstances in our world. I am fully aware of my privilege to be able to study in a peaceful city, to have plenty to eat and nice clothes to wear and to have a warm, cozy apartment I can afford. I’m fortunate to have my beloved daughters living nearby. I’m fortunate to be able to take a reliable bus downtown to campus each day and back home each evening. And I am privileged to possess an American passport. There are far too many in the world who have none of these things, and are suffering greatly in ways I cannot even begin to fathom.

I will be looking up when I stand to receive my diploma. I will also be looking straight ahead toward the future. Right now I honestly don’t know what I’ll be doing with my life in a year’s time. But at this moment, in the middle of December of 2018, in the smackdab middle of my life, I’m feeling fine with beginner’s mind. I don’t have to know, only to trust that I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be, shining as brightly and showing up as bravely as I can.

On Fucking as a Phenomenon

It’s the end of 2018. Besides an overabundance of absurd political drama, lots of people in our society (that would be America, or Los Estados Unidos) are as concerned with fucking as ever. Possibly more.

Back in the day…when I was a young woman, the word “fuck” was a curse word reserved for times you were really, really upset, or else kids would insert it into their vernacular to try to be cool. “yeah, fucking COOL, man” was a highly popular slang term at the time. But by now, the word “fuck” has been co-opted by, well, nearly everyone under fifty in this society. From little kids who have no clue what the word actually means, to Millennials on the bus, and pretty near everyone in-between.

Others talk about fucking as an activity, sort of like a sport that some follow. “Oh, he was fucking her, but then she let him know she wasn’t into him anymore, so now she’s fucking his roommate.”  The word is regularly used as an modifier: “fucking RIGHT.” Or, the ever ubiquitous “What the FUCK??!!”  Now, please don’t get the idea that I’m a prude or anything. I have personally used or done all that I’ve described above. The issue is that the term is just, mmm, slightly overused by now, wouldn’t you agree?

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image via https://jezebel.com/in-defense-of-the-word-fuck-1555610538

The word itself has interesting roots. According to Etymonline[1], until recently it was

“a difficult word to trace in usage, in part because it was omitted as taboo by the editors of the original Oxford English Dictionary when the “F” entries were compiled (1893-97). Fuck wasn’t in a single English language dictionary from 1795 to 1965. “The Penguin Dictionary” broke the taboo in the latter year. Houghton Mifflin followed, in 1969, with “The American Heritage Dictionary,” but it also published a “Clean Green” edition without the word, to assure itself access to the public high school market.”

There are different theories as to its actual origins, but some good linguistic guesses place it as coming from Germanic and/or Scandinavian words like “ficken. They often have additional senses, especially ‘cheat,’ but their basic meaning is ‘move back and forth.’ … Most probably, fuck is a borrowing from Low German and has no cognates outside Germanic.”[2]

My, we’ve come a long way from the late 19th century, haven’t we! Especially because the word has such popular derivatives, such as fucked, fuck it, fuck off, fucked up, fuck you, motherfucker, cluster fuck, and my favorite (that I just learned from Etymonline), fuckwit. During the 16th century (and probably earlier), the word fuck was considered vulgar English, meaning common, ordinary or of the herd. In 2018, though it’s still vulgar (probably more so than ever), it’s no longer forbidden from either dictionaries or everyday English usage.

Aside from its popularity as an adverb, the stubborn truth is that people in the United States (and plenty of other lands) are absolutely obsessed with copulation. There are probably upwards of about ten million things that humans could concern themselves with, throughout the course of any day. And, clearly some are thinking about some of those ten million things. But. Fucking, the thought of fucking, who is fucking who (or who ISN’T fucking who any longer), and an endless list of the nuances around these base thoughts seem to take up the majority of people’s grey matter.

Is it because humans cannot get a grip on their hormone levels? Doesn’t that start to regulate after about age 25? Or maybe it’s because climate change is hovering over humanity like some stupendous alien invasion, ready to destroy all life upon Earth AT ANY MOMENT, FOREVER? Or, is it possibly because people are really just extraordinarily bored, and obsessing about sex, bodily parts and all things related is a pleasant, harmless diversion?

What if we, as a species, were suddenly able to telepathically read each other’s thoughts whether we wanted to or not? A genuinely frightening notion this is, with vast implications.  I have to wonder if this were possible, would we quickly tire of thinking so very much about sex and fucking—wouldn’t it become passé once it was no longer a game created for our own amusement and titillation, and hyped to the nines by pop culture for profit margins?

Here’s a short anecdote to ponder:  Once, years ago, I met a guy I had gone to high school with. We’d been friends within a common friend group, and I’d always liked him a lot. He seemed like a thinking person to me at the time, and mused on about quantum physics and various other interesting topics that I knew nothing about. We’d been out of contact for many years. Then, in my mid-thirties, we suddenly connected through a mutual old friend. We decided to have dinner and catch up. After a couple of hours of talking and trading life stories over the last fifteen years, out of nowhere, he said aloud, “I wonder what you look like naked.” I laughed uncomfortably, and quickly changed the subject. Eventually, the evening ended and we said goodnight. Needless to say, I never saw him again. That one ill-placed remark completely ruined the evening, and my former fond memories of him forever.

There is a kind of grace to subtlety. Words well-placed, in the perfect moment, have impact. The word fuck used to have a certain power. But now? It’s lost all its former shock. Like so many other overused words, it has no more oomph, danger, or razzamatazz. Same with the continual conversation about the act of fucking. I suggest we start a revolution of thought, leading to a revolution of action. The new revolution will not be based around copulation, the most mundane act in all of nature. Instead, humans might take up thoughts like how to create a world without war, violence, or extreme inequality to while away the hours. Imagine if even a small percentage of people would shift their thinking from fucking to problem-solving, how the world might change. Overnight.

[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/fuck#etymonline_v_14228
[2] Ibid.

 

 

 

 

The Wild Ride of November

 

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Art by @jrbrook, #GoVote

What a wild ride we are on! It’s unimaginable to me that anyone in the United States wasn’t paying attention to the midterm elections held last week. However, I know that plenty of folks really could care less what happens in Washington D.C., or in their state or local governments.

In these times, I am continually reminded that what’s important to one person is not important to the next. The reasons for this phenomenon are complex—I’m not even going to pretend to be able to answer that one intelligently. I notice it all the time, from news reports to overheard conversations, from classmates’ observations to professors’ lectures, and of course, via the dreaded social media. Our differences are becoming ever more etched in relief, and it’s a constant practice to remember, and also focus on, our similarities. How can one species called homo sapiens be at such incredible odds with itself? And, even more importantly, how can we reconcile all our seemingly vast differences in order to create the new world that so many of us long for?

Last week. Last week and the preceding weeks leading up to the midterm elections were, in a word, frenetic. They were also anxiety-producing and crazy. Candidates’ campaigns reached unprecedented levels of delirium, with a slight edge of hysteria over the weekend before Tuesday’s polls opened.  By late Monday, I was deleting emails hourly; on Tuesday morning I received dozens of emails imploring me to GO VOTE!! Did I have a plan for voting? Did I have or need a ride to get to the polling place? I wasn’t going to forget to vote, was I? Forget?? How would that even be a thing in 2018? I wondered, as I hit delete, delete, delete. Then there were text messages—Support! Go do it! Knock on people’s doors! Text! Above all, Show UP, for Goodness Sake!! Our democracy depends on YOU. The Blue Wave is coming, if you show up and Do The Right Thing.

A super-sized dose of responsibility was heaped upon each and all of us on November 6th. We were hammered by hundreds of organizations to do our citizen’s duty and exercise our RIGHT to vote for the candidates and ballot measures and amendments of our choice. The thing is, it’s not so easy to get a handle on just what exactly we’re for and what we’re against. Watching mainstream media ads certainly won’t help anyone understand the issues or get to the truth of what the candidates stand for. We need a different system, and a whole lot more civic education, period.

Americans know we are collectively living through an age of disinformation, misinformation, false information, and just plain too much information. Some days I feel like everybody and their brother and sister are jumping on the bandwagon and standing up shouting at the crowd. Only by now, the crowd is made up of hundreds of millions in America alone, not to mention the billions of other people around the world who are also watching and listening to the craziness. Metaphors become meaningless against the sheer tsunami of voices competing for our attention on a 24/7 basis.

About that Blue Wave? Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic, “A “blue wave” that is widely decided, in the course of a day, to be neither blue nor a wave: Here is one challenge of reporting in metaphor. And here is a reminder as well that, at this particular moment in American life, metaphor might be all we have.”

Words matter. Or do they? It depends on whose words, at what moment they’re uttered or written, and also, on who’s listening. As a writer, I struggle with making meaning and sense, with writing thoughts that have substance, with choosing words that cause people to reflect, ponder, and consider things that they hadn’t before. Any serious writer acknowledges that it’s difficult, tedious work. Writers attempt to convey, through small symbols on the page (either physical or virtual) what is inside their mind and  heart, then offers it to the world in hopes of gifting the others with something inspiring, humorous, moral, ethical, or otherwise “important.” Yet, at least as often as not, the writer will fail. He will fail to reach people for any one of a thousand reasons. She will be unable to touch people’s hearts through her words. He will not inspire those he most wants to affect. The game ends in stalemate far too often.

But we writers don’t easily give up. As absurd as it may be, we continue to offer our words, our thoughts, our black symbols on the page out to the world. I recently heard a story of a young man who put out his writing to publisher after publisher, receiving nothing but rejection letters back. This went on for months; after a while he began pasting them up in his apartment as a kind of testimony to his willingness to endure rejection. More than one hundred letters later, his luck changed when a publisher decided to accept his manuscript. Sometimes patience pays off.

Back to the midterms. It hasn’t even been a week since Americans went to the polls, and it’s already feeling a bit like old news. Today is Sunday, 11-11-18, a significant day for many, depending on your perspective. It marks the hundred-year anniversary of the end of World War I. For others, 11-11 is a spiritually important day, signifying a greater influx of light onto our world from the cosmos. For still others, it’s just another Sunday to hang out, drink beer, and watch a football game. Meaning lies in the significance an individual attaches to the object of one’s attention. Cosmic forces coming to awaken humanity, the end of the Great War, or the winners of the football match—you decide.

Here’s an interesting article from New Republic, on how the Blue Wave was built ahead of the Midterms.  https://newrepublic.com/article/152130/outsider-democrats-built-blue-wave.  You can be sure that last week’s wave was only the beginning of a greater storm building between now and 2020, and metaphor will continue as a useful tool for writers in describing the chaotic times ahead.

Thirty Days to Go

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Is it possible to restore true democracy in the United States?

In thirty days, voters will decide who will sit in offices of power in every state of the United States. It’s another nail-biter moment for the millions of us who are beyond disgusted, beyond overwhelmed and beyond nauseated at the havoc playing out on a daily basis by the people in Washington D.C.

Many of us knew we were in for a hell of a ride after the dust settled in November of 2016. The Women’s Marches around the country ushered in the spirit of resistance and pushback against the Trump administration in January of 2017, and the collective call for justice and progressive change has only become more insistent with each passing month. Now the midterms are upon us, with the Blasey-Ford/Kavanaugh hearings fresh in our ears. The noise and brouhaha are deafening, as senators, representatives, justices, politicos, activists, and changemakers continue yelling at each other and at us. Everyone seems to be shouting, THINGS MUST CHANGE!!! But it’s anyone’s guess as to what exactly will change by November 7th.

Every single day now, I receive a long list of emails from many different political organizations, with variations on the same theme. The messages range from “aren’t you furious?” to a somewhat more realistic, even tone.  I get it—we are past the point of nicely asking the current power-elites for anything, anymore. I feel a lot of emotions about the current scene, but curiously furious isn’t on my list. Maybe Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine theory has taken hold, and I’m simply exhausted from the constant onslaught of bad news coming out of Washington. More than anything, I have sorrow and remorse for the current state of humanity’s lowest ebb. There are a lot of feelings just under the surface of my soul, awaiting any slight opportunity to make themselves known—any crack in a conversation to open it to what’s happening in our world is seized by me now.

Meanwhile, others around me also appear weary of the struggle. It’s been a marathon two years, filled with one disappointing battle after the next. I’m certain the constant attacks on everything good, true and beautiful in the world are highly scripted and calculated by certain shadow actors in an attempt to make us all shut up and sit down, as they continue to destroy what’s left of our world bit by horrific bit.

But we have news for them: It’s not working. In fact, it’s doing the opposite—as the damage being done to people, society and our beautiful, long-suffering earth continues, more and more of us are standing up and shouting out. More people of color are running for political office across America than ever before. More women. More young people. The Millennials are up and active, shouting and stomping and rapping for change. It’s a tug-of-war, and both sides are giving it all they’ve got. If ever there was a time to get up and loud about what you see happening in the United States today, now would be it.

This election is one that NO ONE can afford to sit out. Political slogans aside, it is truly a time of massive change, that can only happen if enough everyday folks like you and me take action. Make calls. Give donations. March and protest. Get loud, loud and strong enough so the elected officials in Washington and in every capital house in every state cannot ignore the sound of Americans demanding change. Make sure you understand every single ballot measure, and have educated yourself on where the candidates stand on the issues. Don’t only think of yourself when you tick the boxes. What will the measure mean for your neighbors, your community, and your state? Will the candidate work to protect nature and resources, or plan to exploit them even further? Take the time to do research and find out who is backing them: oil and gas corporate interests? The Koch Brothers? Or have they taken the pledge to NOT take dark money in order to win their race?

We are still The People, and we are still here, hurting. We still have power, regardless of outer appearances. It is time to take our collective power back into our hands. With thirty days to go, there’s a lot to do, and not a moment to lose.

Their Excellencies

This week I am glued to my smart phone, watching the United Nations’ 73rd General Assembly meetings each day. There is a lot going on globally, to say the least.

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President of the 73rd General Assembly Debate

It’s fascinating to watch and listen to each head of state stand at the podium and tell the rest of the assembly about their country, their perspective on world events, and make their plea to the United Nations for whatever is of the utmost importance to their people and culture. It is clearly apparent after only a short time of viewing, that the people in the hall are doing some of the most important work in the world, for they are together creating humanity’s future.

This year’s high-level meeting is unusual in that the United Nations lost the support of the United States, due to the current presidential administration’s political stance. For complicated reasons, the current administration has withdrawn support, including financial, for a majority of UN programs. Speaker after speaker has spoken of the “alarming trend towards unilateralism” and an unwillingness to work collaboratively, pointing towards the United States’ position.

It is alarming, to put it mildly, that the president of the United States came to the UN’s highest level meeting this year, and stated that, according to him, the United States isn’t interested in the rest of the world, that it’s all about him and his agenda for what he thinks is in the best interests of patriotism. Truthfully, I had to turn off his speech after not even thirty seconds of listening, the stuff coming out of his mouth once again souring my stomach to the point of nausea.

But here’s the glorious thing: The United Nations is a GLOBAL platform that offers all member states the great opportunity to be heard by the rest of the world’s members during these meetings. Each autumn, for one week, heads of state, diplomats, and thousands of support team members come together to appeal to one another, engage in dialogue, and work to hammer out a path forward for the year ahead. The challenges are massive. As I listened, I heard the whole gamut of humanity’s problems, from the smallest island states who are concerned about the oceans and fishing (as it is their main livelihood and resource), to the biggest and most industrialized nations who are concerned with cyber crimes and ecological destruction. Heartbreaking stories were told by the leaders of Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Speeches full of fury and self-determination were given by the heads of the Ukraine and Venezuela. Diplomatic and extremely eloquent speeches were offered by the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador. Compassionate and passionate appeals were given by several African states. And, some leaders, such as Theresa May of Great Britain, were mostly concerned with free trade and essentially holding on to power and privilege.

Many global leaders showed solidarity with Palestine, and called for legal and permanent recognition of a two-state solution to the fifty-year crisis in Gaza. Leaders appealed for allowing sanctions to be lifted against Cuba, yet again. Dozens of leaders exhibited great compassion towards the millions of refugees and the human migration crises occurring around the world, calling for all members of the United Nations to do more than simply offer rhetoric, and to move into more and greater concrete action.

In this age of fake news and alternative facts, with corporate media showing extremely selective and highly biased news stories to the citizens of the United States, it is really gratifying to be able to hear directly from the world’s leaders about what is happening in their home countries. It is sobering, absolutely, and also exhausting, but exceedingly important for Americans to have the opportunity to watch these important meetings and draw our own conclusions from them.

You can watch live, all this week. http://webtv.un.org/live/

YouTube’s United Nations channel

UN’s website: http://www.un.org/en/ga/73/meetings/index.shtml

Also, see this link: http://sdg.iisd.org/events/73rd-session-of-the-un-general-assembly/

 

Hurricanes, Typhoons and the Future

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Image source: https://blogs.nasa.gov/hurricanes/tag/tropical-cyclone-6/

As you are aware, September is hurricane season in the northern hemisphere. If you are a weatherphile, you’ve probably been following Hurricane Florence this past week as it wound its way west from the middle of the Atlantic towards the Carolinas, making landfall on Friday. Yes, it was extreme, with storm surges, uprooting trees and flash flooding, and about twelve unfortunate people who lost their lives in the storm. Amazingly, the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina were mostly spared, and the groups of wild horses who live on them (yes, there are still wild horses on the East Coast, incredibly), survived the storm and are doing fine, according to Facebook reports. This is good news, since all the major American news outlets reported for days on the possibly catastrophic damage that Florence could bring. It might have been much worse, so let’s count our blessings, right?

Southern Asia, on the other hand, has been hit hard by Typhoon Mangkhut this weekend. Here’s a link to a YouTube video with incredible raw footage of what’s been happening there (you might want to ignore the dramatic music, though).  https://youtu.be/rTQjpnUxp_I

According to the BBC news, (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45543664) dozens of people in the Philippines have died as a result of the typhoon. In Hong Kong, the effects of the storm, flooding and storm surge damaged buildings and stopped normal movement in the city. Right now, the typhoon is moving across southern China, through the Guizhou, Chongquing and Yunnan provinces. Over 2.5 million people have been evacuated from Guangdong and Hainan Island this weekend. The news report stated that over 200 people were injured in Hong Kong, with wind speeds reaching over 110 mph, and storm surges as high as 12 feet (3.5 meters).  Damage to high rise apartments included smashed glass windows, scaffolding crashing to the ground, metal plates careening through the sky, while on the ground cars and pedestrians were inundated by the flood waters. Many thousands were stranded as hundreds of flights were cancelled, roadways closed, and train service stopped. For the moment, the area has come to a standstill.

We can look at weather events such as these from various angles. One of the most obvious is that of scale. During the past decade, the frequency and magnitude of hurricanes and typhoons have scaled up. This type of upscaling of extreme weather has been predicted by meteorologists using cutting edge technology for the past several years. The science is solid: global warming is behind the increase of events, and their ever-increasing strength. Questions remain: how does the global community cope with nearly continuous extreme weather events, and what are we doing to mitigate their effects, and slow down the trajectory of tragedy in the decades ahead?

The Paris Climate Agreement was signed by world leaders almost three years ago. Since then, under the Trump administration, the United States reneged on their responsibility to keep their emissions under the 1.5 degree (Celsius) warming ceiling, and pulled out of the global agreement. However, state and city government leaders, along with the business community, made it clear immediately following the announcement from the White House, that they were fully still in the Paris agreement regardless of what the federal administration decided. Since that time, a coalition of mayors, governors, CEOs and community leaders from around the world have been working on innovating ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.

This past week in San Francisco, hundreds of those leaders gathered for the Global Action Climate Summit, hosted by California Governor Jerry Brown and a large team of dedicated people. Thousands of people from across the globe attended the event, which was live-streamed for two days via YouTube and Facebook. Here are some links to find out about some of the outcomes of this extraordinary and important event.

https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/step-up/

https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/

In a high-level talanoa (dialogue) held at the start of the summit, the following statements were made by world leaders on climate change action:

Paris was a great moment of bold and focused leadership; an example of what is possible when leaders are committed to stepping up ambition. But now, to move the vision of the Paris Agreement forward, to turn its words into action, and to deliver results on the ground, the world now needs a new kind of leadership.

We are already seeing this leadership emerging. Those who think globally and for the long term. Those who are convinced and concerned about climate change. Those who put the interests of society in front of their own. Those who are courageous, determined, committed and perseverant. And, above all, those who realize that they need to work together in pursuit of a common goal.

But the fact remains, no single leader will be able to take on this challenge by themselves. To reach a net-zero emissions society, we must move beyond a single company, a single sector or city, or a single country. Leaders from across the world must, within their constituencies and jurisdictions, listen to what science is saying, and translate a global vision into local action. They must make bold decisions, provide the necessary resources and motivate and mobilize the people they can influence to follow-through and deliver.  (https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/outcome-of-high-level-talanoa/)

The biggest call to action coming out of the summit was for 100% clean energy by all countries of the world, as soon as possible. This call is being emphasized and encouraged by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. The year 2020 came up over and over as a benchmark year: many believe that our world will reach an irreconcilable point with the effects of global warming, if we don’t make some major changes to our energy usage during the next two years. In other words, the time for real, on-the-ground action for clean energy is NOW.

Looking at the footage of Typhoon Mangkhut, (as well as extreme weather events happening every day across the globe) it is unimaginable that anyone living on Earth at this moment would not agree that humanity needs to step up and change the ways we are living. Fossil fuel use is simply killing life on Earth, it cannot be stated in any plainer terms. Positive change is on the horizon, and clever people all around the world are working tirelessly towards a clean energy future, not a moment too soon.

 

The mountain is very high, but is it insurmountable?

Ahead of this week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, gave a public speech from UN headquarters in New York City.  Amidst yet more news of wildfires in Northern California, typhoons in Asia, massive flooding in Spain, Turkey and Russia, and a possible category 4 hurricane making landfall off the Carolina coast this week, it feels critically important for all of us on Earth to hear and heed the Secretary-General’s impassioned speech.  Below is a transcript, and here is a link to watch it:

 

REMARKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE [as delivered]

Source: https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/secretary-general/

New York, 10 September 2018

Dear friends of planet Earth,

Thank you for coming to the UN Headquarters today. I have asked you here to sound the alarm. Climate change is the defining issue of our time – and we are at a defining moment.

We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.

That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere. We have the tools to make our actions effective. What we still lack – even after the Paris Agreement – is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.

Dear friends, Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis. We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures around the world. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began.

This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest. Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation. Last month the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flooding in recent history, killing 400 people and driving 1 million more from their homes. We know that Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in U.S. history.

Many of those people died in the months after the storm because they lacked access to electricity, clean water and proper healthcare due to the hurricane. What makes all of this even more disturbing is that we were warned.

Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen. Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands. We see the results. In some situations, they are approaching scientists’ worst-case scenarios. Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible.

This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up. This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere. Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further. Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps and making them melt even faster. Oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life. Corals are dying in vast amounts, further depleting vital fisheries.

And, on land, the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening well-being and food security for billions of people. As climate change intensifies, we will find it harder to feed ourselves. Extinction rates will spike as vital habitats decline.

More and more people will be forced to migrate from their homes as the land they depend on becomes less able to support them. This is already leading to many local conflicts over dwindling resources.

This past May, the World Meteorological Organization reported that the planet marked another grim milestone: the highest monthly average for carbon dioxide levels ever recorded. Four hundred parts per million has long been seen as a critical threshold. But we have now surpassed 411 parts per millions and the concentrations continue to rise. This is the highest concentration in 3 million years.

Dear friends, We know what is happening to our planet. We know what we need to do. And we even know how to do it. But sadly, the ambition of our action is nowhere near where it needs to be.

When world leaders signed the Paris Agreement on climate change three years ago, they pledged to stop temperatures rising by less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to work to keep the increase as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. These targets were really the bare minimum to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But scientists tell us that we are far off track. According to a UN study, the commitments made so far by Parties to the Paris Agreement represent just one-third of what is needed.

The mountain in front of us is very high. But it is not insurmountable. We know how to scale it. Put simply, we need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action.

We need to rapidly shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to replace them with clean energy from water, wind and sun. We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm.

We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency. Our cities and transport sectors will need to be overhauled. How we heat, cool and light our buildings will need to be rethought so we waste less energy.

And this is exactly where this conversation can become exciting. Because, so much of the conversation on climate change focuses on the doom and gloom. Of course, warnings are necessary. But fear will not get the job done. No, what captures my imagination is the vast opportunity afforded by climate action.

Dear friends, Enormous benefits await humankind if we can rise to the climate challenge. A great many of these benefits are economic. I have heard the argument – usually from vested interests — that tackling climate change is expensive and could harm economic growth.

This is hogwash. In fact, the opposite is true. We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change. Over the past decade, extreme weather and the health impact of burning fossil fuels have cost the American economy at least 240 billion dollars a year.

This cost will explode by 50 per cent in the coming decade alone. By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy 2 trillion dollars. More and more studies also show the enormous benefits of climate action.

Last week I was at the launch of the New [Climate] Economy report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Change. It shows that that climate action and socio-economic progress are mutually supportive, with gains of 26 trillion dollars predicted by 2030 compared with business as usual. If we pursue the right path.

For example, for every dollar spent restoring degraded forests, as much as $30 dollars can be recouped in economic benefits and poverty reduction. Restoring degraded lands means better lives and income for farmers and pastoralists and less pressure to migrate to cities. Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.

And clean air has vast benefits for public health. The International Labour Organization reports that common sense green economy policies could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030. In China and the United States, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries

And, in Bangladesh the installation of more than four million solar home systems has created more than 115,000 jobs and saved rural households over 400 million dollars in polluting fuels.

So, not only would a shift to renewable energy save money, it would also create new jobs, waste less water, boost food production and clean the polluted air that is killing us. There is nothing to lose from acting; there is everything to gain. Now, there are still many who think that the challenge is too great.

But I deeply disagree.

Humankind has confronted and overcome immense challenges before; challenges that have required us to work together and to put aside division and difference to fight a common threat.

That is how the United Nations came into action. It is how we have to helped to end wars, to stop diseases, to reduce global poverty and to heal the ozone hole.

Now we stand at an existential crossroad. If we are to take the right path – the only sensible path — we will have to muster the full force of human ingenuity. But that ingenuity exists and is already providing solutions.

And so dear friends, another central message – technology is on our side in the battle to address climate change. The rise of renewable energy has been tremendous. Today, it is competitive [with] – or even cheaper – than coal and oil, especially if one factors in the cost of pollution.

Last year, China invested 126 billion dollars in renewable energy, an increase of 30 per cent on the previous year. Sweden is set to hit its 2030 target for renewable energy this year – 12 years early.

By 2030, wind and solar energy could power more than a third of Europe. Morocco is building a solar farm the size of Paris that will power more than one million homes by 2020 with clean, affordable energy. Scotland has opened the world’s first floating wind farm.

There are many other signs of hope.

Countries rich in fossil fuels, like the Gulf States and Norway, are exploring ways to diversify their economies. Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in renewables to move from an oil economy to an energy economy.

Norway’s 1 trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – has moved away from investments in coal and has dropped a number of palm and pulp-paper companies because of the forests they destroy. There are also promising signs that businesses are waking up to the benefits of climate action.

More than 130 of the world’s largest and most influential businesses plan to power their operations with 100 per cent renewable energy. Eighteen multinationals will shift to electric vehicle fleets. And more than 400 firms will develop targets based on the latest science in order to manage their emissions.

One of the world’s biggest insurers – Allianz – will stop insuring coal-fired power plants. Investments are shifting too. More than 250 investors representing 28 trillion dollars in assets have signed on to the Climate Action 100+ initiative. They have committed to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse [gas] emitters to improve their climate performance and ensure transparent disclosure of emissions.

Many such examples are going to be showcased this week at the important Global Climate Action Summit being convened by Governor Brown in California. All the pioneers I mentioned have seen the future. They are betting on green because they understand this is the path to prosperity and peace on a healthy planet.

The alternative is a dark and dangerous future. These are all important strides. But they are not enough. The transition to a cleaner, greener future needs to speed up. We stand at a truly “use it or lose it” moment. Over the next decade or so, the world will invest some 90 trillion dollars in infrastructure.

And so we must ensure that that infrastructure is sustainable or we will lock in a high-polluting dangerous future. And for that to happen, the leaders of the world need to step up. The private sector, of course, is poised to move, and many are doing so. But a lack of decisive government action is causing uncertainty in the markets and concern about the future of the Paris Agreement.

We can’t let this happen.

Existing technologies are waiting to come online – cleaner fuels, alternative building materials, better batteries and advances in farming and land use. These and other innovations can have a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so we can hit the Paris targets and inject the great ambition that is so urgently needed.

Governments must also end harmful subsidies for fossil fuels, institute carbon pricing that reflects the true cost of polluting greenhouse [gas] emissions and incentivizes the clean energy transition.

Dear friends, I have spoken of the emergency we face, the benefits of action and the feasibility of a climate-friendly transformation.

There is another reason to act — moral duty. The world’s richest nations are the most responsible for the climate crisis, yet the effects are being felt first and worst by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable peoples and communities. We already see this injustice in the incessant and increasing cycle of extreme droughts and ever more powerful storms. Women and girls, in particular, will pay the price – not only because their lives will become harder but because, in times of disaster, women and girls always suffer disproportionally.

Richer nations must therefore not only cut their emissions but do more to ensure that the most vulnerable can develop the necessary resilience to survive the damage these emissions are causing. It is important to note that, because carbon dioxide is long-lasting in the atmosphere, the climate changes we are already seeing will persist for decades to come. It is necessary for all nations to adapt, and for the richest ones to assist the most vulnerable.

Dear friends, This is the message I would like to make clear in addressing the world leaders this month’s in the General Assembly in New York. I will tell them that climate change is the great challenge of our time. That, thanks to science, we know its size and nature. That we have the ingenuity, and the resources and tools to face it. And that leaders must lead.

We have the moral and economic incentives to act. What is still missing – still, even after Paris – is the leadership, and the sense of urgency and true commitment to [a] decisive multilateral response. Negotiations towards implementation guidelines for operationalizing the Paris Agreement ended yesterday in Bangkok with some progress — but far from enough. The next key moment is in Poland in December.

I call on leaders to use every opportunity between now and then — the G7, the G20 gatherings as well as meetings of the General Assembly, World Bank and International Monetary Fund — to resolve the sticking points. We cannot allow Katowice to remind us of Copenhagen.

The time has come for our leaders to show they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands. We need them to show they care about the future – and even the present. That is why I am so pleased to have such a strong representation of youth in the audience today.

It is imperative that civil society — youth, women’s groups, the private sector, communities of faith, scientists and grassroots movements around the world — call their leaders to account. As I was told myself by my Youth Envoy.

I call — in particular — on women’s leadership. When women are empowered to lead, they are the drivers of solutions. Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge. It affects every aspect of the work of the United Nations. Keeping our planet’s warming to well below 2 degrees is essential for global prosperity, people’s well-being and the security of nations. That is why, next September, I will convene a Climate Summit to bring climate action to the top of the international agenda.

Today, I am announcing the appointment of Luis Alfonso de Alba, a well-respected leader in the climate community, as my Special Envoy to lead those preparations. His efforts will complement those of my Special Envoy for Climate Action, Michael Bloomberg, and my Special Advisor Bob Orr, who will help to mobilize private finance and catalyze bottom-up action. The Summit next year will come exactly one year before countries will have to enhance their national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Only a significantly higher level of ambition will do. To that end, the Summit will focus on areas that go to the heart of the problem – the sectors that create the most emissions and the areas where building resilience will make the biggest difference. The Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders and partners to demonstrate real climate action and showcase their ambition. We will bring together players from the real economy and real politics, including representatives of trillions of dollars of assets, both public and private.

I want to hear about how we are going to stop the increase in emissions by 2020, and dramatically reduce emissions to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. We need cities and states to shift from coal to solar and wind — from brown to green energy. Our great host city, New York, is taking important steps in this direction — and working with other municipalities to spur change. We need increased investments and innovation in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies across buildings, transport, and industry. And we need the oil and gas industry to make their business plans compatible with the Paris agreement and the Paris targets.

I want to see a strong expansion in carbon pricing. I want us to get the global food system right by ensuring that we grow our food without chopping down large tracts of forest. We need sustainable food supply chains that reduce loss and waste. And we must halt deforestation and restore degraded lands.

I want to rapidly speed up the trend towards green financing by banks and insurers, and encourage innovation in financial and debt instruments to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable nations such as small island states and bolster their defences against climate change. And I want to see governments fulfilling their pledge to mobilize 100 billion dollars a year for climate action in support of the developing world.

We need to see the Green Climate Fund become fully operational and fully resourced. But for all this, we need governments, industry and civil society reading from the same page – with governments front and centre driving the movement for climate action.

I am calling on all leaders to come to next year’s Climate Summit prepared to report not only on what they are doing, but what more they intend to do when they convene in 2020 for the UN climate conference and where commitments will be renewed and surely ambitiously increased.

And it is why I am calling on civil society, and young people in particular, to campaign for climate action. Let us use the next year for transformational decisions in boardrooms, executive suites and parliaments across the world. Let us raise our sights, build coalitions and make our leaders listen.

I commit myself, and the entire United Nations, to this effort. We will support all leaders who rise to the challenge I have outlined today.

Dear friends, there is no more time to waste. As the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows, the world is changing before our eyes. We are careering towards the edge of the abyss. It is not too late to shift course, but every day that passes means the world heats up a little more and the cost of our inaction mounts.

Every day we fail to act is a day that we step a little closer towards a fate that none of us wants — a fate that will resonate through generations in the damage done to humankind and life on earth.

Our fate is in our hands.

The world is counting on all of us to rise to the challenge before it’s too late.

I count on you all.

Thank you.

 

Stitching the threads together

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image credit: pixabay

Welcome to Interrelated Planet. This blog is a sharing of stories, musings, anecdotes, ideas and field work that quilts together our collective hearts, minds and actions in relation to our beloved planet Earth.

Let’s be honest: we are living in anxiety-provoking times. The world bombards us 24-7 with reports of bad and worse happenings from all corners of our planet. The technology surrounding us has given us a two-edged sword, enabling us to magically retrieve the answer to nearly any question our minds want answered simply by asking Google on the one hand, while enticing us with all manner of distractions to prevent us from face-to-face interconnections on the other. The age of technology is plunging full-steam into the future as many of us hang onto the handrails, hearts in our throats, wondering what new terror may be lurking around the next bend. On this careening, reckless, driverless ride, it’s easy to wonder just what on Earth IS happening here? To what end? How will we survive the next catastrophe that’s certain to occur somewhere in the immediate future? Or even more specifically, will we survive?

As easy as it can be to feel completely overwhelmed and run screaming away (as if such a place exists on a small planet housing upwards of 7.6 billion human beings), what is needed so desperately now, by us all, is to remain grounded, stay calm, and connect. Wherever you happen to be, with whomever is before you­—whether of human, animal, plant or mineral kingdom—the cure for our societal dis-ease is connecting at heart level. Focus your attention, open your senses, and be with. That also includes yourself.

In order to master this, you must practice. As all students of meditation or mindfulness know, it doesn’t happen overnight. The forces working against you in the world are great. The temptation to shift your focus, turn away, change the song, get up, get a snack, a cigarette, a spliff, a beer, a pizza–a thousand things will call out to distract you. Persist. Learn to watch your own thoughts come and go like clouds passing across the azure sky. Notice the shadows of the setting sun spreading over the land, the houses, your own curtain, a friend’s face. Wonder at the changing colors as Helios makes it way lower and lower on the western horizon until everything is engulfed in deep purple. The sky changes from blue to gold and pink, with the peculiar absence of color above at the hushed moment of dusk. Liminal space is ever present when we open our minds and calm the noise enough to view the open door. We seek the opening, because our souls intuitively know that’s where freedom lies.

Interrelatedness refers to the connections among things, humans, and nature. It speaks to our connections with the most miniscule to the most vast mysteries of creation. The old paradigm of life on Earth told the story of separation, of survival of the fittest, of winners and inevitable losers, within those old textbook pages of history. Those days are nearly gone, thankfully. The new paradigm of life on Terra Gaia tells a different story: everything is connected in incredibly intricate, woven patterns that are constantly changing, dynamic, flowing, shifting in some kind of cosmic dance that we’ve only taken toddler steps towards understanding. It’s about time.

I welcome you to come along on this exploration of interrelatedness. Share your thoughts when you feel so inclined, and remember to be respectful and kind when you do. Let’s explore the journey towards wholeness with open hearts and minds.

Leigh Jardine, founder of Interrelated Planet.org