The real heroes in the hall

 

Climate-Action-Summit_activists_2019
Greta Thunberg and her colleagues at Monday’s UN Climate Summit. image via Deseret.com

The weekend of September 21 and this week of September 23-27 are biggies in our world. The United Nations holds its annual General Assembly and debate each year at this time, and this week is its 74th meeting. Most of the world’s leaders and national spokespeople come from all corners of the planet to this highest-level meeting to discuss what is important to them, and to hopefully make or strengthen commitments they’ve already made towards supporting the work of the United Nations in many directions.

This year is an even more special one for the United Nations and world, due to the Global Youth Climate Strikes that were held the Friday before the General Assembly. On Saturday, Sept. 21, the UN hosted a Youth Climate Summit, and on Monday, a General Climate Summit for all interested parties to come together and give their practical ideas and action plans for how to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invited youth activists to speak at Monday’s Climate Action Summit. (Watch here)

In his opening remarks, Guterres spoke enthusiastically of the young people who had come to the summit demanding accountability and action by world leaders and actors. He proclaimed, “they are right.” Guterres said his generation has failed in its responsibility to protect our planet, and that must change. He claimed we have the tools we need, including the knowledge of how to reduce emissions and achieve the goals of the Paris agreement. We have the roadmap, in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And, he continued, we have the imperative, irrefutable science, according to the IPCC report of 2018, that confirms we must stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise, or face irreversible and terrible consequences for humanity in this century. He went on to say that the IPCC report also shows it is still possible to create a future world that is livable, but only if we make drastic and fundamental transformations away from a world based on burning fossil fuels for energy. It will entail transformation in all areas of life, including land use, agriculture, economics, and transportation. The transformation also requires changes that will create “less suffering, and more justice and harmony for people and planet.” Guterres reiterated that there is a cost to doing everything, but the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidizing a dying fossil fuel industry, continuing to build coal power plants, and in order to change, we must admit that “we are in a global climate hole, and to get out we must first stop digging.”

Three young people came on stage after the Secretary General spoke. One was a young activist and lawyer from Brazil, who is fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes and youth in the Amazon from the continued exploitation and destruction of their lands by foreign oil and gas interests. Another was a young entrepreneur from India, now living in Singapore and asking for world leaders’ help to back and support youth start ups for inventions and innovation platforms to help those in countries where the digital divide remains, such as African farmers. And the third young person on the stage that morning was the invincible Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who is the person mainly responsible for sparking and mobilizing the global youth #ClimateStrike movement.  When the MC asked Greta what was her message to the world leaders, this was her response.  (Watch here)

My message is that we’ll be watching you.

This is all wrong.

I shouldn’t be up here.

I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

Yet you all come to us young people for hope?

How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.

And yet I’m one of the lucky ones.

People are suffering.

People are dying.

Entire ecosystems are collapsing.

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.

And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.

How dare you!

For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.

How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you “hear” us and that you understand the urgency.

But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that.

Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.

And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5C degrees, and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

50% may be acceptable to you.

But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice.

They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us –we who have to live with the consequences.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business-as-usual and some technical solutions.

With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures today.

Because these numbers are too uncomfortable.

And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us.

But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.

The eyes of all future generations are upon you.

And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this.

Right here, right now is where we draw the line.

The world is waking up.

And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

After Greta delivered her powerful and emotional speech, for a moment it seemed the audience was stunned, then broke into enthusiastic applause. Secretary General Guterres then followed up with his own reaction to their speeches. He thanked the three young people for their eloquent testimony, and remarked that “it is amazing and fantastic that young people around the world are not only standing up and speaking truth to power to ensure the world becomes committed to climate action, but they themselves are taking action towards providing solutions to the enormous challenges we face.” Guterres said it’s the duty of decision-makers around the world “to not only listen to the voice of young people, and to do what they ask us to do, but also to support them in their own actions for climate action around the world.”

As I continue to watch the world’s youth waking up, standing up, and literally shouting to world leaders to finally listen to the scientists and Take Action Now, I am more convinced than ever that truly the ONLY thing that gives humanity a chance for a future that is not utterly catastrophic and unlivable is their energy, determination, creativity and will to change how we are collectively living on this beautiful, damaged planet we call Home. The real heroes in the hall of the United Nations Monday are these young people who are telling the truth about the imminent danger we face. Greta Thunberg’s passion, frustration and emotional appeal to them encapsulated what many millions of us feel every day. Simply put, there is no magic bullet or savior who will come to save us all from the changes all around us. It is up to us, especially the world’s political leaders and power elite, to make the urgent and necessary change of weaning ourselves off of dirty energy and the global economy derived from it. Not in twenty or thirty years, but NOW.

Greta is absolutely right: Change is coming. The world is waking up, and the changes will continue. The flooding, fires, volcanoes, ice caps melting, and animals going extinct will continue. Those feedback loops are baked in our common cake at this point. Yet, as was so clearly repeated during the past days, weeks, and months, there is still time for us to get onto a less catastrophic trajectory if we make radical, and immediate changes to our mode of living. From the looks of things on YouTube, (millions of views of her speech since Monday, Sept. 23), and all the news stories generated from her speech, it seems she has hit a raw nerve with the collective. If Donald Trump is taking the time to mock her for her speech, it’s clear she is a threat to the global status quo, and that is a very good thing.

Confusion, contradiction and turmoil

cognitive-dissonance
image via https://askaboutworkerscompgravytrains.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/cognitive-dissonance.jpg

Have you been hyper aware of the continuing split between your inner and the outer world lately? I know I sure have. We are at the tail end (I hope) of the hottest summer ever experienced by humans on Earth. For me personally it was perhaps the most uncomfortable and often miserable summer of my life. I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, in fact, that at this point I no longer really know where my comfort zone even is or how to find it. These are the times we are living in.

As many of you probably did, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the news media showed daily and hourly updates of Hurricane Dorian’s path through the southern Atlantic, culminating in its plowing through the Bahamas as a category 5 storm. The whole scenario had an eerily familiar ring to it, being so similar to last year’s Hurricane Maria that wiped out most of Puerto Rico. These extreme weather events have become a kind of dystopian reality show for millions of watchers around the globe. I watched a short video from a reporter who spoke with a man who watched his “little wife” get hypothermia and then drown in their home as the water rose all around them. He was able to swim out and to his crabbing boat, thus saving his own life. One story of thousands showing human misery amidst our current world conditions.

Scanning through news articles from the New York Times, The Guardian and now CNN (I succumbed to their phone app this week so I could watch the Live Town Hall on Climate Change with the Democratic candidates), I hardly have words to describe what is being reported. Mostly it can be summed up with these three: confusion, contradiction and turmoil. It’s pretty hard to argue the fact that our world is in chaos on most fronts: the natural world, society, economics, health, education, agriculture and land management, and of course, politics. In a word: dissonance.

What’s really happening here?, a thinking person will ask. Many of my blog posts are in some way attempting to find answers to this question. I would say that humanity is currently undergoing the biggest test of our existence and we are in the eye of the needle, or hurricane, or pick your own metaphor. Both personally and collectively we are being stretched to the limits of our endurance on all levels—mental, emotional, physical and etheric. Some with strong traditional Christian beliefs could argue it’s Armageddon time, folks. Others explain it in more neutral terms, such as the scientific community acknowledging we are reaching Earth’s planetary boundaries for life’s carrying capacity. Some are fast asleep through all the changes, and hardly even notice all the chaos around them. Others prefer to stay in denial, wanting their world to simply continue as it has been during their lifetimes with no real changes to their lifestyle.

greta-thunberg-t-online.de
via https://www.t-online.de

Then there are the activists, who are growing in numbers and strength all around the world. They are the ones who are standing up through their speech and direct actions to hold those responsible for bringing humanity and Earth to the brink of destruction, accountable for their actions. The tension between those who are holding onto their power at all costs and those who are shouting, staging die-ins (Extinction Rebellion), marching in the streets and in front of the world’s government centers has become extreme. Look at Hong Kong during the past months as one prime example.

Charles Eisenstein, whom I love, released a short YouTube video today, in which he tells of his six month media fast. He said that when he finally resumed catching up on the news media, he was struck by the constant spin of war mentality with Us vs. Them implied in nearly all of it. He commented that for someone like him, living outside of the matrix of mainstream culture and refusing to take sides, it is even more dangerous than if he were the enemy of someone or something. This is so because those of us who refuse to engage in the Us vs. Them game aren’t easy to understand or peg in a definite way. The world of duality despises those who refuse to see the world as either/or. This also reminds me of Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru cum Democratic presidential candidate who briefly rose to media prominence this summer, then just as quickly was squelched. There is a fascinating long read on her campaign in the New York Times magazine. Williamson is in the same camp as Eisenstein, that of refusing to engage in Us vs. Them; instead she built her platform around the idea that Love is stronger than hate and warmongering, and she would win the presidency from the current POTUS via a David and Goliath strategy, hitting the American goliath in his third eye! Although clearly America is nowhere near ready to embrace the idea of Love being the foundation for a new kind of political leadership, I give her kudos for being so audacious and brave as to suggest that it’s what is needed and possible.

Like many, I laughed at Williamson’s campaign. But then there was the debate: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.” This one quote was breathtaking in its simple recognition of what Trump actually is, and how he has destroyed all he can of what we believed our country was, or might be. And it addresses the fact that standard political strategizing is not going to win this election. This insight alone validates her campaign. I am very glad she is running. But we really need someone with political experience in the White House.

12 Replies373 Recommended

Share
from Readers’ comments on the Williamson article, Sept. 3, 2019

This was a bit of a rambling tonight, dear readers. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my observations and thoughts. I am admittedly at a low ebb at the moment. Perhaps, like some of you, I’m hoping for some glimmer of any good news to appear. We humans have an amazing capacity for resilience and compassion when up against the wall. In the meantime, my prayers and love extend to those in the Bahamas who are in such great need right now.

Greta’s pure audacity

She is a phenomenon, utterly fearless.

She takes no prisoners, calling out the glitterati, high profile political and corporate leaders. To Greta, it matters not whether a person is powerful, rich or famous, she pays no deference. Her mission is completely clear.

Greta has the gift of absolute clarity, and articulates our situation with razor sharp language. At a recent German entertainment award ceremony in Berlin, she used her words to lambast celebrities for their excessive lifestyles, criticizing their excesses, such as jetting around the world to enjoy exotic vacations and yoga retreats, without considering the environmental costs of air travel. For a taste of her speech, check out her Twitter feed below.

https://twitter.com/GretaThunberg

There are few news stories which give me joy these days. But the speeches Greta continue to give before large and powerful audiences bring me unreasonable joy. And I am far from alone in feeling jubilant. Here are a few replies on Facebook from people who watched Greta’s speech at the Goldene Kamera awards:

greta_goldenkamera_fb-replies

The irony, as Greta so pointedly states in her speech, is that she was invited to the entertainment award ceremony to receive a climate prize, and once she’s called out all the stars in the audience (reminding them of their huge influence in the world, that billions of people see them as gods), she tells them all that, basically, we need you to help us get our message to the political leaders, since you have the influence and fame that we do not. Fortunately, that’s quickly changing as Greta is becoming a unique kind of celebrity in her own right. She doesn’t need bling-bling, makeup or fancy clothes to be a star, because she has a fascinating kind of egoless charisma that is impossible to ignore.

The jewel and money-dripping crowd at the Goldene Kamera awards seemed, from the looks on their faces, more than a little uncomfortable at Greta’s speech and admonitions targeted at them. I know I am not alone in feeling glad she made them squirm a bit to hear the truth. The entertainment industry spends obscene amounts of money and fossil fuels to pump out entertainment to the masses, while mostly turning their backs on the issue of global warming. From Davos to Brussels to Berlin and beyond, Greta Thunberg is calling out abuses by the world’s power elite. It is JOYFUL to see her activism taking hold in people’s imaginations so quickly, to watch as tens of thousands of youth, teachers, activists and ordinary folk join her movement for Climate Strikes. I encourage everyone reading this blog to follow Greta on Twitter and Facebook, and in the news as she continues to inspire, scold, and speak Truth to power. Go Greta!!

greta_twitter_goldenkamera
To click on the links, go to @GretaThunberg on Twitter