My Response to Doublespeak on Environmental Issues

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

Anti-Fracking Rally, Sacramento, March 15

There is currently a debate among environmental activists about how to frame issues of concern.  Do we use language that will be acceptable to as many people as possible, in order to build bridges with Tea Party members and other conservatives?  Or do we speak directly to the heart of the problem of climate change and destruction of the earth, including identifying the necessity of transforming worldviews, lifestyles, and the system that is wreaking havoc all over the earth?

Clearly, I’m in favor of the latter.  I see no point in holding back, hoping that by moderating our message people who are on the other side of these issues will get on board.  It’s time to speak truth to power, expose falsehoods and denial, and pull out all the stops.  It’s time to take strong and courageous stands for the earth community and for future generations.

Today I wrote a response to a Letter to the Editor in my hometown newspaper, the Grass Valley Union.   The original letter included doublespeak commonly used by ultra-conservatives to denigrate environmental issues and concern for the common good.    Here is my response:

“James Butler’s March 14th letter about the suction dredge mining ban included examples of doublespeak, or  “language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.”   Mr. Butler may not realize it, but here are the misrepresentations:

“Agenda 21 can’t “dictate” anything.  It is a non-binding set of principles developed through the United Nations in a participatory process .  The guidelines are completely voluntary and unenforceable.

“The idea that our local government is “forcing UN socialist ideas down our throats under the guise of protecting the environment” is ludicrous.  Many locals want to protect the environment and rural quality of Nevada County.  The United Nations is not “socialist,” but includes countries with capitalist, socialist, and mixed economies.  Calling “sustainability” and “common good” buzz words doesn’t take away their actual meanings, which are positive.

“Our democracy faces many very real challenges, including the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the pending “McCutcheon” decision, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is binding and would give secret tribunals power  to overturn our democratically enacted laws.  These are bad for sustainability, bad for the common good, bad for democracy.

“Confusion, obfuscation, and deliberate misrepresentation are the last things we need.”

I have written more extensively on the issue in a previous blog posting called Agenda 21 vs. the TPP.  

Hope for Transformation

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As 2013 ends and 2014 begins, I carry hope in my heart for transformation, not just personal, but social.  The phrase “another world is possible” is, for me, a matter of faith.

There are many children in my life.  I have grandchildren and great grandchildren who live nearby.  I teach Sunday School.  What will the world look like when these beautiful children grow up?  I am invested in their future.

What do we tell our children about the great environmental dangers and social injustices that we face–about climate change, about war and violence, about foreclosures and unemployment and lack of health insurance, about cutbacks to services for the poor and tax cuts for the rich, about corporate domination of the political process?  How do we explain our inability to create a society that sustains life?  How do we equip them for the great challenges they will face?  Not by putting our heads in the sand, or focusing solely on our personal lives, or pretending that there is nothing we can do.  Rather, we can cultivate hope and set an example by taking part in actions that are transformative, both personally and socially.

This is a spiritual issue, for the ruling powers dominate through money and violence, and none of us are immune.  To the degree that we internalize the values of our culture and bow to the system of domination, we further the sickness of our age.  As we awaken to the extremity of our situation and realize that the system of domination itself needs transforming, we either succumb to futility and despair or find the inner resources that enable us to cultivate hope.

This is, in itself, an opportunity for personal transformation.  As we are transformed, we become agents of transformation, joining with others to create beautiful and compassionate alternatives that demonstrate the better world that is possible.  By taking hopeful actions, we become more hopeful, and make the world a more hopeful place.

For the sake of the children.  For the sake of the future.

A Call for Climate Justice

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Yeb Sano, fasting for climate justice.

People around the world have responded swiftly and generously to the devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever recorded.  In the wake of this disaster, it is important for us to go beyond simple relief efforts.  We must heed the warnings of climate scientists who point to present disasters and future dangers, including sea level rise and increasingly deadly storms linked to climate change.

In November, 2013, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, leaders from more than 190 nations met in Warsaw, Poland, for the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations (the 19th Conference of the Parties, or COP 19).  Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator from the Philippines, broke down in tears, made a powerful and emotional appeal for bold action, and pledged to fast for the duration of the talks unless commissioners come to a substantial agreement addressing climate change.

Many people around the world have joined him in fasting.  An interfaith group in Warsaw has joined the fast, stating that, “As we engage in COP19, it reminds us to relate the negotiations with our responsibility as a believer. We cannot live in isolation, but we must care for each other. As a principle of equity, we fast and reduce because we can for others who cannot.”

On November 20, the tenth day of Yeb Sano’s fast, developing nations walked out of the climate talks because of the refusal by wealthier nations to heed their call for a financial mechanism to address “loss and damage” caused by climate change.   This protest highlighted the fact that fossil fuels emissions now causing climate change have mostly come from industrialized nations, especially the United States.

The vast majority of scientists acknowledge that climate change is real, largely caused by human activity, and happening now.  If you have doubt about this, visit The Consensus Project,   Skeptical Science , or The Climate Reality Project.   People of faith, conscience, and reason should not avoid raising the alarm. Future and more frequent disasters will be coming if we don’t respond to this threat.   This is especially important because the people of the Philippines, the Maldives and other island nations, Africa, and other hard-hit countries are pleading with those of us in wealthier, more powerful nations to take climate negotiations seriously.  We must enter into solidarity with the people of the Philippines and other developing nations that are affected “first and worst” by climate change, and join them in calling for climate justice.

Go here for other blog posts by Sharon about climate change.

 Sharon Delgado  was part of the United Methodist delegation to the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro during the 1992 Earth Summit, where the original Framework Climate Convention was negotiated.  In the 1990s, she wrote about climate change for the General Board of Church and Society and for the National Council of Churches.  She is a trained presenter with the Climate Reality Project, and has been speaking and writing about climate change for many years. 

 

November Tomatoes and Climate Change

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November Tomatoes in the Sierra

It’s mid-November, and our plants are still bearing red tomatoes.  The days are  warm, it doesn’t freeze at night, and it hasn’t rained.  Maybe when we lived in Santa Cruz we still had tomatoes in November, but in the Sierra Nevada?  It should be raining or snowing here.

Over 50% of the United States is in the second year of drought.  Here in California, this is the driest year ever recorded.

According to California’s Department of Environmental Protection , climate change is impacting California through hotter temperatures, shrinking snowpack, more frequent and intense wildfires, warmer lakes and oceans, and rising sea levels.  And have you noticed?  Food prices are higher, as the USDA predicted they would be because of last year’s drought.

It seems that this year’s November tomatoes are a consolation prize of climate change.  If anything, these tomatoes are even tastier and sweeter than mid-summer tomatoes.  But my pleasure in eating them is tempered by the awareness of where we are headed with climate change, and of the suffering of many people for whom the devastation of climate change is already a reality.

Hurricane Haiyan, the most powerful storm ever recorded, hit the Philippines last week, wreaking havoc.  In U.S. news coverage, climate change is hardly mentioned, in spite of the fact that delegates from more than 190 nations are meeting in Warsaw this week for the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations.  Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator from the Philippines, broke down in tears,  made a powerful and emotional appeal for bold action, and pledged to fast for the duration of the talks unless commissioners come to a substantial agreement addressing climate change.

Not only does climate change threaten the civilization of which I have been a beneficiary, it threatens the life support system upon which we all depend.  These November tomatoes are a symbol to me of the sweetness of the gifts of the earth, but in a darkening time, a time of deadly threat, a time of loss.

I want my grandchildren and future generations to experience the sweetness that I have experienced in life.  I’m convinced that it will take hard work and sacrifice on the part of many people to change the system that has brought us to this extremity.  I pray that we will join together and rise to the challenge.

Meanwhile, the taste of November tomatoes reminds me to live my faith– to live in the moment, face reality, refuse to be in denial, practice prayer, enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, renounce fear, trust in the Love that undergirds the universe, and follow wherever that Love leads.

For Sharon’s previous postings about climate change, go to blog postings on climate change.  

Climate Change: What do we know? What can we do?

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I am happy to announce the release of my new educational CD, “Climate Change:  What do we know?  What can we do?”  The MP3 version is available to listen to or download below.  Contact me to purchase the CD version ($10).  It will be available through online distributors soon.   

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released the first part of its fifth report on the state of the earth’s climate.  The results are alarming.  They point to present and future impacts on the climate system of the greenhouse gas emissions being released by human activity.

At the same time, climate change skeptics are “cherry-picking” data in the report to bolster their claims that the earth is not warming, or that the warming is not due to the release of greenhouse gases, or that the warming will have good effects, or that there is nothing we can (or should) do about it.  Confusing for people who don’t understand the issues, to say the least.

What are scientists telling us about climate change?  If there really is a scientific consensus that the earth is warming, why is there so much controversy about the issue?  And even if  climate change is real, what impact could we possibly have on a problem that big?  What could we possibly do that would help to stabilize earth’s climate and prevent catastrophic climate change?  These are the questions that this CD seeks to answer.

As the earth continues to warm and extreme weather becomes more common, it’s important that as many of us as possible understand the basic facts about climate change.  The challenges before us are great, but the situation is not hopeless.  As I say in the final track of this CD:

Whoever you are, you can become an agent of transformation at this time when the earth needs us most.  Wherever you are, you can join together with people in your community and with millions of people on every continent who are calling for climate justice and are working to create the new world that is possible.  Whatever your situation, you can do your small part in the struggle to reign in fossil fuel emissions, avoid catastrophic climate change, and build up the foundations for a livable future.  In this way, we help create a sustainable future for everyone and everything that we hold dear.

Listen here or download the full MP3 version of  “Climate Change:  What do we know?  What can we do?  https://soundcloud.com/revsher/sets/climate-change-what-do-we-know

Contact me to purchase the CD version ($10).  It will be available through online distributors soon.

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