Confronting Climate Change: theme for the week of 12/9/12

What is the climate conversation we most need to have now?

Our podcast is now up for the Monday Cafe Call

A lot has been happening recently on the climate front.  Hurricane Sandy put the issue front and center after it was virtually ignored during the elections.  Echoing the anti-apartheid efforts of the 1980's, has started the new Go Fossil Free campaign, which calls on students to demand that university endowment funds divest from the coal, oil and gas industries.  And the COP18 talks just finished up with another round of failed negotiations, highlighted by a tearful delegate from the storm-ravaged Philippines pleading for action on behalf of the seven billion people on this planet.

Join us this week in the Cafe for a conversation on the varied dimensions of this crisis.  What is moving in the world?  How might this online community participate? What are the personal challenges this subject brings up for you?  Explore these questions together here on our forum, and on each of the three Cafe Calls we will be hosting.  Monday's Vital Conversation will start us off with an overview, Connect2012 on Tuesday will focus on what this community might do and Thursday's Occupy Heart will address the inner struggles a crisis like this evokes.  See the schedule on the right side of this page for times and registration links.

We will be testing out MaestroConference's new "social webinar" feature this week, which allows you to see who else is in your breakouts with you.  Click here to access this feature once you are on a Cafe Call (note: you will need your call-in and PIN handy to sign up).

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definitely cute mr. ben

Nice to see you here again, my friend.  But what are you referring to?

Continuing to read Trungpa this morning and he's describing how the Shambhala warrior is always joyful... This brings to mind a quip from a presenter at the Bioneers intensive I attended in October on Catalyzing a Resilient Communities Network.  It went something like this:

When I tell people something depressing and they ask me to stop because it's making them depressed, I find that depressing!

Anyone else find, as I do, that this is a core challenge with climate conversations?

I find that a core challenge with all topics that touch upon reality, as our reality happens to be depressing. People don't want to think about it or talk about it.

Today's modern warrior is usually joyful, even when they bomb a helpless village, a school, a hospital, or a church or mosque and joyously proclaim, "Bug splat!" But we also have an epidemic of suicide among the military, which I believe might be due to the reality of what they've been doing penetrating their consciousness. I find that rather depressing also--if people recognize that they've been destroying the planet, will they kill themselves quickly as soon as they realize that they've been killing themselves more slowly?

What I would like is for people who understand that they've been doing bad things, such as delegating the power to make climate change policy decisions to a capitalist government that bases its policy decisions on profits rather than on social or ecological sanity, to just stop doing bad things. It really is possible to forgive oneself and compensate for having done bad things by working to help others stop doing bad things. Many veterans belong to anti-war groups doing exactly that. The few I know personally seem to be happy.

Hmmm.....I wonder if people might be more open to refusing to vote for a government that is destroying the planet than they are to refusing to vote for a government that is killing innocent people. While many people have no way to relate to the innocents our government is killing, they do have some connection, however tenuous, to the planet we all live on. And since US military aggression is one of the biggest drivers of global climate change, in order to save the planet, we'd have to stop killing innocent people anyway. Sort of a collateral benefit instead of collateral damage.  ;)

Today's modern warrior is usually joyful, even when they bomb a helpless village, a school, a hospital, or a church or mosque and joyously proclaim, "Bug splat!"

Ummm, yes... And Trungpa is not talking about that kind of warrior, Mark!  Shambhala is a tradition of spiritual warriorship.  

Richard asked, "What would be the effects of fossil fuel divestment," but he seems to have deleted his question. Since I've already composed my reply, I'm going to post it anyway:

Some people wouldn't notice any effects. For example, the half million U.S. families living below the poverty line, many on Indian reservations, who are only able to heat their homes during freezing winters because Venezuela's CITGO gives them free heating oil, wouldn't be any worse off than they are now.

More affluent people might be severely discomforted, particularly if the government prioritizes what fossil fuels it has to use for military purposes. Delivering gasoline to a remote military outpost in Afghanistan costs us $400 a gallon, and we have military bases all over the world. Not only do they need huge amounts of fossil fuel for their tanks and planes, but they also need diesel for the lawnmowers to keep their golf courses trim in case the military brass wants to play. Congress, of course, would exempt itself from any rationing, and corporations would probably be given preference over citizens.

I'm 72, I've never owned a car, and I've spent many years living off the grid in places like Afghanistan and Honduras, so I'm not really concerned. I live in a low-income senior apartment building now and we do have central heating and air conditioning, but since I'm in San Diego where we don't get extremely hot or cold, I don't use it.

Germany decided to shut down their nuclear power plants and they're switching over to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, etc. Compared to the U.S., they seem to be technologically advanced, so it might be more difficult for us.

If we stopped using most of our resources for resource wars, we wouldn't need as many resources, but our government is too heavily influenced by the military-industrial complex for that to happen. So we have to keep fighting the wars to get the oil to fight the wars to get the oil to fight the wars.....

You've been in the oil industry, Richard, so you know who's calling the shots.

Mark: I think you may be confusing "divestment," which involves institutional (and individual) investors selling off their holdings in companies in the fossil fuel industry, with the end result that action is meant to catalyze, i.e. a shift away from the use of fossil fuels themselves.

You're right, Ben. Our military uses more fossil fuels than all other institutional (and individual) investors combined, so in order to make an impact, we'd have to catalyze a shift in government policy.

I think our government is so entangled with the fossil fuel industry that if other institutions divested, it would probably slash more social programs and increase taxes on the working class in order to compensate the fossil fuel industries for any losses they incur, as the government is extremely dependent upon fossil fuels to power the military, which is the biggest part of our national budget. It would bail out the fossil fuel industries the same way it bailed out the banks, because they're also "too big to fail." Oh, and "essential to national security," whatever that means. I'm not sure how the destruction of the planet can be essential to national security, but then nothing our government says or does makes sense to me.

Mark, I deleted my question because I wanted to think about it.  Is the answer obvious?  Now, I don’t think so.  I asked: What would be the effects of fossil fuel divestment?

When we push on a complex system with multiple feedback loops, the effects are seldom straightforward.  The students shown in your link, Ben, liken their actions to pushing over the first in a line of dominos.  In their minds the dominos are all aligned.  I’m not so sure.  The price of petroleum shares go down, but then what?

I would more willingly support something that reduces demand.  The students need to get out of their cars and urge others to do the same.  The system’s vulnerability may be in the highway systems around major cities.  I saw a video report that the San Diego freeway in Los Angeles recently came to a complete standstill for several hours.  I used to drive that highway in years past, and any little distraction, like a stalled car on the road, could almost bring the system to a halt.   

Mark, money calls the shots in the oil industry.  Exploration drilling is very expensive, but lucrative.  Greedy people will continue to buy shares or loan money at high rates of return.  I don’t know that we can affect that dynamic.  

Here are two links about a true warrior-patriot-citizen...and young man named Tim DeChristopher who is currently serving a two year federal prison term for an act of civil disobedience in "disrupting" a federal (Bureau and Land Management) oil and gas leasing auction in Utah in 2008.  

The first link is to the transcript of a 3-hour interview Tim did with Terry Tempest Williams, published in Orion magazine earlier this year.  I've read this interview four times in two Tim gives voice to what my experience has been and is. 

"This is what love looks like."  is what Tim said to the federal judge before being handcuffed and carted off to federal prison after being "convicted" for his act of civil disobedience.

The second link is to a recent post on Grist that gives an update on Tim as he makes the transition from incarceration to a halfway house...and how the federal bureau of prisons has prevented Tim from taking a social justice position with the Unitarian church...his own faith tradition...because the position relates too closely to the "crime" he committed.

I long to find the "right action" for me in the midsts of this moment in human history.  For now...I find mySelf grieving.

There is some hope for realistic optimum solutions to our petroleum pollution problem.  I’m thinking the of the electrofuels projects sponsored by the Department of Energy (ARPA-E).  At the risk of some over simplification, these processes turn renewable energy sources and waste products into gasoline.  The processes and the burning gasoline produce almost no air pollution.     

The Obama administration and DOE head, Steven Chu, deserve much credit for initiating these projects.  Here are a couple of links.

I’m not sure how soon these processes could come on-stream.  There is a lot of information about electrofuels on the Internet, but I’ve read only a small portion of it.  Research from others would be appreciated.

I have some fear people will come to believe a solution is at hand, and will cease to work as diligently to reduce petroleum pollution, but that’s a problem with any potential solution.



Fascinating how my reading of Chogyam Trungpa's Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior continues to be so directly relevant to our conversations here in the Cafe.  We heard people speak on the Cafe Call just now about grief, broken-heartedness, fear and tenderness.  Here is a passage I read just before the call:

[A]rrogant warriorship does not work.  It does nothing to benefit others. So the discipline of renunciation also involves cultivating further gentleness, so that you remain very soft and open and allow tenderness to come into your heart.  The warrior who has accomplished true renunciation is completely naked and raw, without even skin or tissue.  He has renounced putting on a new suit of armor or growing a thick skin, so his bone and marrow are exposed to the world.  He is able to be, quite fearlessly, what he is.

At this point, having completely renounced his own comfort, and privacy, paradoxically, the warrior finds himself more alone.  He is like an island in the middle of a lake.  Occasional ferry boats and commuters go back and forth between the shore and the island, but all that activity only expresses the further loneliness, or the aloneness, of the island.  Although the warrior's life is dedicated to helping others, he realizes that he will never be able to completely share his experience with others.  The fullness of his experience is his own, and he must live with his own truth.  Yet he is more and more in love with the world.  That combination of love affair and loneliness is what enables the warrior to constantly reach out to help others.  By renouncing his private world, the warrior discovers a greater universe and a fuller and fuller  broken heart.  This is not something to feel bad about: it is a cause for rejoicing.  It is entering the warrior's world.  (pp.68-69, 1984 paperback edition)

The climate conversation seems as if it is steeped in these notions calling for us to step into just this kind of warriorship and laying bare the futility of any other approach.  That seemed to me to be a clear implication of today's Cafe Call (podcast coming soon!)


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Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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