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The Challenge of Our Times: 
A New Story

It's all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. — Thomas Berry

You have heard. For decades many scientists, environmentalists, and world-wide government officials have warned us that humanity and most species will face dramatic climate change scenarios as a result of human waste, degradation of the environment, and neglect of the Earth’s carefully balanced eco-systems. 

On the other hand. Other people agree that climate change is happening, but believe that it is primarily caused by natural cycles rather than human behavior. They oppose many of the mitigation efforts, such as required reduction of carbon emissions, reducing coal or oil generated energy, and large investments in renewable energy or other related developments.

Can We? Regardless of what position we believe, polarization may prevent us from asking other important questions such as “Can we as a planetary community evolve eco-agricultural methods that preserve the health of the soil and feed everyone?  Can we design energy systems that work in concert with nature rather than depleting natural resources? Can we recognize that economic factors are deeply tied to the success of sustainable projects? ” Or, perhaps most importantly, “Can we create and foster a global dialogue which embraces dual or multi-positions and strives to secure a better life for all?”

An Answer. In his landmark book, Dream of the Earth, American philosopher Thomas Berry had a simple answer to these questions.  Concerned that humanity kept telling itself stories of scarcity, domination, greed, and conflict, Berry believed that “It is all a question of story. [We do] not have a good story. We are between stories.“ He went on to say that the challenge of our times is “to reinvent the human at the species level, reflectively, within the community of life systems….Thus, Berry urged us to leave the old stories behind and live new stories of sustainability, prosperity, and harmony that works for all.

A New Story. In the New Story or myth that Berry envisioned humanity lives in harmony with nature and is a contributing member of a thriving, diverse planetary community.  The New Story calls for the old story’s themes of duality, conquering, scarcity, isolation, and competition to give way to the new themes of relationship, interdependence, diverse unity, sufficiency, and collaboration. Taken as a whole, the Earth community would care for each other in life-affirming ways.

How? The question becomes, “How do we get to the New Story or myth?”  And, equally important is the question, “Do we have enough time to create the New Story before environmental collapse?” or as the sign along Rt. 17 in Crestone CO, implies, “Can we learn to Take Care of Our Home?”

What are examples? If we are to reinvent a new species, it is vital that we end our alientation or ignorance of nature and invest in reconnecting people with the earth (see eco-healing).  And, we need to tell each other stories of hope, stories that capture what the New Story looks like and how the reinvented human beings think and behave.

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Earth Rising
The Earth Rising from the surface of the Moon.  NASA Photo

The Ecozoic Era Rising: Inner and Outer Climate Change

New Story Human Beings. The new story human beings imagined by Thomas Berry are engaged in the creation of what he and Brianne Swimme called, the Ecozoic Era.  In the Ecozoic Era, people cherish the Earth's community of life and strive to develop their capacities as agents of societal-global healing and environmental restoration. They are committed to whole systems healing and have their eyes on planetary wellness at all levels.  

Humanity needs inner and outer climate change for this potent new story to emerge and become bedrock in human values.  Impossible?

Earth Dance BookAnother Example. One of these new story human beings, evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris, author of Earth Dance: Living Systems in Evolution, suggests that far from being impossible this reinvention is organic to all life.  According to Dr. Sahtouris (YouTube video), most life forms compete with each other until they’ve reached a point in evolution when competition is detrimental to their collective evolution.  From that point onward, they strive to live in balance with the other species within their community. For example, plants in a garden compete until they’ve discovered the right relationship with soil, the sunshine they must have to survive, the water that sustains life, and each other. 

Humans Are Organic, too. The perspectives of Thomas Berry and Elisabet Sahtouris do not imply that humanity doesn’t face unprecedented environmental challenges or potential disaster, but only that human beings are organic and natural, too.  It is possible that the worldwide movements to mitigate what we’ve done and are doing to the environment and alter our behavior going forward, regardless of whether or not we face environmental collapse, represent the adaptation any species undergoes when adjusting to new realities.  In short, as a species it is possible that we are choosing cooperation over competition in more and more circumstances.

Glocal. One key to this evolution is for each of us to develop the capacity to be local and global simultaneously in our thinking, planning, and actions. The term for this simultaneous capacity is “glocal.”

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Going Glocal: Caring for Future Generations of Life

Scale. We encounter a problem of scale when moving from local to a global.  The term glocal captures the popular phrase, “think global; act local.” It implies the capacity to simultaneously think and operate in a small-scale and a very large scale. Glocal can be associated with the terms 'going–to-scale', or 'scaling up' that are presently used in international business  and education.

Bridge. Most human beings relate easily to their family, friends, and community, but struggle with how to relate to a planetary community, especially in terms of their every day lives.  Interestingly, many influential leaders in environmental work have succeeded because they successfully translated, bridged, and transcended the distance between local and global.

Care. In their care for future generations, these individuals showed us how the local was relevant to the global, or how the global is reflected in the local.   They are models for us now and will be, to one degree or another, heroes and heroines to future generations.

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Glocal Heroines and Heroes

Two Heroines

Interrelated. Two examples of glocal heroines are Rachael Carson and Donna Meadows. Both women were able to frame their messages by subtly introducing how local problems and global challenges are interrelated.

Silent Spring BookA Story. In her legendary 1962 book, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson simply described and documented the changes in a local freshwater spring.  She was able to demonstrate that the decreased population of birds was due primarily to the impact of DDT.  The science and tenderness she brought to the story captured hearts and minds in many lands. It was the beginning of the end of the indiscriminate use of all pesticides. Carson showedÊthat what happens locally can also happen globally.

Village of 100. Environmentalists Donna Meadows searched for a way to make the difficult statistics of world poverty, hunger, disease, and conflict real to each person on Earth.  The numbers are so big, how would anything she’d do speak to everyone? Her brilliant solution was to ask people, and children in particular, to imagine the entire world was one village. She then described this village as having a high percentage of people unemployed with a few employed; a high percentage of people living with very little water with very few people enjoying an abundance of water, etc. Her idea of taking the entire earth and treating it like a village  captured people’s imagination. Today there are many groups listed on Google providing information about “If the world was a village of 100 people…” or “If the world was a village of 1000 people….” http://www.familycare.org/news/if_the_world.htm  or the You Tube version at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v9xJPiIlQU

Two Heroes

Will StegerHighest and Lowest
Having gone to the highest point on the Earth (the North Pole) and the lowest point (the South Pole), Will Steger—the recipient of many awards as one of the world’s greatest adventurers—decided to bring what he’d learned as a global adventurer back to Minnesota, his home state.

Will realized on his travels that many of the cultures, people, and wildlife he encountered were endangered species. Therefore, he left his quiet, reclusive North Woods life in Minnesota to launch the greatest expedition he’d ever mounted.  The relevant territory, the human heart and mind, was ‘ice bound’ in misinformation or ignorance, and needed the sunlight of knowledge to survive.

Life prepared him thoroughly for this work. He knows how to keep the end goal insight, adapt to changing circumstances, and look intently for unforeseen ways to succeed.  From his firsthand global experience, nothing less than life as we now know it is at stake. He pleads with each one of us to accept the threat of global warming and rethink how we live our local, daily lives.  In short, he invites us to become glocal for the sake of all life.

Recognizing the importance of education, Steger founded the Will Steger Foundation that offers education materials on Global Warming 101 from K – 12 grades.  See the Four Organizations Serving Climate Harmony for more information about the Foundation.

Inconvenient Truth BookDefeat and Victory. Al Gore, the Presidential candidate in 1999, was defeated in the most hotly contested election results in American history.  Rather than totally withdraw from public life following his defeat, Gore decided to turn his attention to environmental degradation, a subject he had been devoted to since college. He updated an old slide show and began showing it wherever he was invited in the United States—school classrooms, community gatherings, environmental meetings, etc.  While previously Gore had known fame as a national leader, he now returned to local roots with a message about the globe. Reflecting public ambivalence about climate change, Gore called his presentation, Inconvenient Truth, and focused his efforts on educating people about the facts of climate change. Eventually, his presentation became the most viewed documentary movie in history and was seen by 2 million people within 2 months of its release. It eventually led to Gore’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.    Although Gore jokingly introduced himself at his presentations saying, “I am Al Gore.  I used to be the next President of the United States,” this statement did capture his change of scale—from one of the highest offices of the land (Vice President) to local PTA presenter.  Interestingly his defeat at the Supreme Court, lead him on to victory in the court of wider humanity.. To see and learn more about the film:  http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2078944470709189270

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Strong of Heart

Straight Spoken and Strong of Heart. The heroes and heroines referred to, as well as people like Thomas Berry and Elisabet Sahtouris, share one thing in common:  they are straight spoken and strong of heart.  None of them hesitates to speak directly of the depth of challenge we face and to provide scientific basis for their perspective. 

EPA logoFacts. To learn more, visit the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  Facts and Figures. Previous to the December 2009 UN Copenhagen event, there was a lot of controversy concerning emails expressing frustration that the data varied and ­some people felt like it proved the IPCC’s reporting was biased. On March 31, 2010, the British parliamentary panel investigating these allegations stated that it had found no evidence to support the charges. However, the data can be very confusing.  For example, in the United States meteorologists who deliver weather reports to the American public tend not to believe in climate change.  However, climatologists who are responsible for long term and large scale weather prediction tend to be believers in climate change. Some mutual exchange of views has begun to see if both points of view can respect each other’s position. Each person is advised to read the facts from a variety of sources and draw his or her own conclusion.  One place to start is The New York Times learning blog on Global Warming. It has excellent examples of how to learn about these concepts and move beyond political positions.

Meet You In A Field. In some quarters the debate on Climate Change is beginning to rise above one group trying to convince another group what is true or false.  Following the poet Rumi’s suggestion,There is a field beyond right doing and wrong doing.  I’ll meet you there, both sides are beginning to focus on things they can agree upon, e.g. healthy air, water, and soil; renewable energy sources; sustainable practices, etc.

Become a global thinkerBecome a global thinker. All of these considerations, however, benefit from every person becoming a global thinker and actor.  A responsible global thinker and actor has the courage of heart to read, watch, and listen to information that states and implies the community of life on earth is already facing dislocation, loss of habitat, potentially catastrophic loss of farm land, disappearing coast lines, loss of potable water, extinction of species, etc.

Island Nation Suffering. For example, the water table in the island nation of Maldives is already damaged by rising salt water from the sea.  Their impacted cropland can no longer support agriculture. Maldives’ President Modhamed Nasheed'simpassioned COP15 plea or his nation’s survival, the survival of the world’s coral reefs, forests, and life as we know it, [add comma after it] called for the world to agree on capping the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. We are already at 387 parts per million.  For more information, see 350 in the Four Organizations Contributing to the Evolution of Climate Harmony below.

Draught and Famine. African nations suffering from extreme draught and famine also made a plea for agreement at Copenhagen (see Hopenhagen). Jim Garrison of the State of the World Forum (see article on Brazil below) posts many articles about our climate challenge worth reading.  Here are a few selections from a variety of perspectives:

Dangerous Release of Methane Gas:  What Does It Mean?
New Fuel for Jets:  Algae
The Amazon: Preservation Needed 

YouTube offers unique views of the Climate Crisis.  Two quick media pieces that provide first hand information on changing and climate and insight into our life styles are:
350 Days in the Life of a Retreating Glacier
The Story of Stuff

Not Powerless. The message is that we are not powerless.  We can educate ourselves about the issues, change our lifestyles, and take actions based on whatever positions we hold make a difference.  For direct feedback on your or your family’s contribution to improving the environment, visit: Your Carbon Footprint.

What more have reinvented human beings done? While Al Gore, Thomas Berry, Elisabet Sahtouris, Donna Meadows, Will Steger and many others are examples of the reinvented human beings imagined by Thomas Berry, what other major projects have been accomplished? Where can we find hope on a large-scale level?

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Loess Plateau
The Loess Pltaeau in Northern China

Stories of Hope

Loess Plateau: Earth Restoration the Size of Belgium

A New Story Model:  In 1995, John Liu was assigned to China by the World Bank to document the restoration of the Loess Plateau, a landmass the size of France.  What was for thousands of years a fertile home for the largest human ethnic group, the Han, had become uninhabitable thus dooming its occupants to lives of abject poverty and starvation.

Once covered in green and lush with water, the land looked like a moonscape and was ravaged by annual river runoff carrying tons of silt and soil downstream.   This runoff clogs healthy rivers causing further damage.

The task was formidable. The restoration timetable was 10 years.  Could human beings do it?  Could they work with nature rather than against her to allow her to restore what humans had destroyed?

      People slowly turning this.....                                                    into this.....
Leoss Plateau

Discovery.  After studying the possibilities for 2 years and talking to local people for another year, the team realized that success depended on linking environmental restoration for the land with economic restoration for the people. Without the integration of these two factors working in tandem the work would not succeed.  This is a very important model.

No Words. Because no words can describe the impact of watching a huge dry and desolate tract of land in Northwest China be transformed into lush, green territory with flowing rivers, blooming flowers, and plenty of wildlife in 10 years, a short version of John Liu’s film, Earth’s Hope:  Responding to Climate Change by Healing the Planet, was created for all the United Nation’s December 2009 Climate Change Conference members to view. Full Video:  Earth's Hope  –   Partial Video, Earth's Hope

Before they began work, John Liu researched environmental degradation and deduced a cascading process that is described on the Earth’s Hope website as:

  1. Evolution leading to Equilibrium

  2. Pristine fully functional ecosystems emerge – Humans gravitate toward
    the most nurturing places.

  3. Human intervention with emphasis on extraction of food, resources fuels
    short term gains in well being

  4. Humans ignorant of natural systems cause deduction of biodiversity
    leads to
  5. Reduction of biodiversity results in reduction of biomass
    leads to
  6. Reduced biomass means reduced accumulation of necromass and
    reduced soil organic matter
    leads to
  7. Reduced soil organic matter means reduced fertility – which often could
    lead to further destructive agricultural methods to increase productivity
    leads to
  8. Reduced organic matter and reduced vegetation cover also means reduced
    infiltration and retention of rainfall
    leads to
  9. Essentially reduction of vegetation means a loss of the tree and grass
    canopies
    leads to
  10. Loss of tree and grass canopies means physical alteration of evaporation
    and respiration rates (higher evaporation – lower respiration)
    leads to
  11. Higher evaporation and lower respiration are the signs of arid and
    semi arid regions
    leads to
  12. This trend leads to lowered rainfall drought is a logical outcome – as is
    the collapse of civilizations taking this route.

 

Village of Hope:  Another Story
The Spring 2010 Yes! Magazine has an article, “Village of Hope,” by Seth Biderman and Christian Casillas. Inspired by the book, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman, and a subsequent visit to Gavitos, Coumbia, Biderman and Casilas describe another large landmass restoration in the acidic savannah soil of Columbia.  Approaching the area from the air, the authors were unprepared for the site of 20,000 reclaimed acres of forests, streams, and farmland surrounded by a sea of barren soil.

Once again economic factors are tied to sustainable community success. The founder of Gaviotas, Paulo Lugari, reveals that the economic heart of Gaviotas is its pine-resin processing and packaging factory that generates 80% of the community’s revenue.  The entire factory runs on renewable energy.

To read more about Gaviotas, visit http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/rx-for-the-earth/842/?searchterm=Village AND of AND Hope*

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The Earth Charter InitiativeThe Earth Charter:  A Covenant with Life

A hope document created with the input of millions from all over the Earth. A milestone in people-to-people agreements that guide values and actions in human relationships with ourselves, with others, and with all life.

The Earth Charter:  From the Preamble
We stand at a critical moment in Earth's history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. — The Preamble, The Earth Charter

Millions have endorsed. In addition to the physical work of restoring the Loess Plateau in Northwest China, this new emergent humanity has created a shared agreement—a covenant with each other and all life—on the values and principles necessary for building and sustaining a healthy world.  Over 2000 organizations representing millions of people have endorsed this agreement, the Earth Charter.

The Earth Charter is history in the making. Historically, Western world governments, organizations, and people have created great documents to guide human behavior and embody our highest aspirations.  For example, the Magna Carta in England changed the balance of power giving the common people rights and protections from the decisions of kings, queens, and other rulers. The Unites States of America’s Declaration of Independence is a document that expanded on these rights and established democracy and self-government by the people and for the people.

The Earth Charter is potentially an historic document of this magnitude.  In 1987 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development suggested that the world needed a statement of values and principles that would guide the creation of a just, sustainable, and peaceful world in the 21st century.

The text was drafted in the largest people-to-people consultation process in the world. From 1994-2000 the text was circulated through 5 continents, read, and edited by tens of thousands of people.  Four main pillars emerged:
         1. Respect and Care for the Community of Life
         2. Ecological Integrity
         3. Social and Economic Justice
         4. Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace
The Earth Charter Commission approved the final document in March 2000 and it was officially launched at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands on June 29, 2000. Read the Earth Charter

More Than Just a Document. The Earth Charter is more than just a document.  As a living document it is an education platform for the development of world citizens.   The Earth Charter Initiative provides children, students, teachers, parents, organizations and other interested parties information about how people are using the Charter world-wide; suggests individual, community, or class room activities; how governments are using the Charter; a list of all those who have ascribed to its values and principles; and suggestions of how business and others can apply Earth Charter principles.

10 Things You Can Do Visiting Earth Charter Initiative

  1. Read the Preamble and Earth Charter
  2. Endorse the Earth Charter
  3. Watch You Tube Videos about the Earth Charter
  4. Click the world map and find out what is happening in your country
  5. Visit different countries’ Earth Charter websites
  6. Download the Earth Charter Tool Kit for you, family and friends
  7. Explore the Virtual Library for the Earth Charter’s Teacher Guidelines
  8.  Look up Earth Charter areas of interest, e.g. art, business, sustainability
  9. Discover how the Spanish Ministry of Education is using the Earth Charter
  10. Find a bibliography of Earth Charter publications in many languages

World Parliament of Religion. For a quick You Tube video of a young man’s presentation about the Earth Charter at the most recent World Parliament of Religion’s gathering in Australia, see: Michael C. Slaty  Michael captures what excites youth about the vision of the Earth Charter and the world it promises.

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UN’s COP15:
Learn, Adapt, & Evolve, Humor, and Hopenhagen

The New Story and Autopoietics

Chaos and Complexity. The new science of chaos and complexity has provided accurate descriptions of such non-linear events as group dynamics, coral reef behavior, traffic flows, the stock market, the weather, finance, population changes, ecological behavior, etc.

The Butterfly Effect
Results of Edward Lorenzo’s
research, 1972

The science has given rise to descriptions such as:

  1. The Butterfly Effect—meaning that a simple change in the beginning of a system can create huge differences across the whole system. As is commonly stated, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world will impact things around the world.
  2. Six Degrees of Separation—meaning, for example, that each person is only 6 connections away from any other person in the system, e.g. 6 connections away from the President of the United States.
  3. Tipping Points—meaning that systems behave in a consistent way until enough small changes have occurred to reach critical mass thereby creating change throughout the whole system.

Autopoietics. Another chaos and complexity term that is important in creating a response to climate change is autopoietics. Autopoietics describes two attributes of living systems.  The first is ‘auto’ meaning self and ‘poises’ meaning creating or producing.  Autopoietic refers to a living systems’ ability to maintain an independent identity and existence by replication AND its capacity to interact, learn, and adapt to the environment in which it lives.  In short, the system is both independent and dependent.

Learn and Adapt. Humanity has done quite well in the first requirement (autopoietics), replicating itself throughout its short history on planet Earth. The second requirement of autopoietics, the capacity to interact, learn, and adapt, may represent a huge challenge to humans and, as a byproduct, any other species that needs similar environments. According to many, as a collective we may not have learned fast enough to adapt and change our destructive behavior before climate changes impact our globe. The lack of agreement at COP15 may signal humanity’s inability to learn from signs that some of the Earth’s environment is changing as a result of human activities.

Avatar. The New Story of humanity’s creation of Climate Harmony must incorporate examples, metaphors, and analogies that capture global imagination and provide a path for going forward as a species. The world-wide acclaim afforded the movie, Avatar, speaks to the popularity of caring for the environment, but does little to forward a coming together of diverse points of view in order to address a common problem.  The story is basically a good guys vs. bad guys theme with the protagonist committed to working with nature and the antagonist dedicated to conquering nature.

Positions. These positions reflect actual debate around the world and the tensions between (1) developed nations that have relied on a conquering nature strategy and (2) the developing nations’ desire to achieve comparable standards of living without having to accept environmental limitations. These proposed limitations are especially difficult to accept because developed nations either do not readily accept them, or they are no longer necessary for their achievements.

Tension. The tension generated by these two positions permeates negotiations whenever and wherever they occur.  As stated earlier, our species has not yet generated imaginative and compelling answers to our shared dilemma.  

Dr. Seuss-type Humor Comes to Copenhagen

New York Times Dot Earth writer, Andrew C Revkin's video
Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times Company

Clowns and Roving Troubadours. Throughout the ages, humanity has adored its clowns and roving troubadours, poets with humorous or cynical commentary, writers with tongue and cheek skills, and stand-up comics.  Humor is a healthy response to anger, frustration, and disappointment. It helps us gain perspective and distance when we are challenged. As physician Norman Cousins stated, “Laughter is good medicine.”

Comic Summary. New York Times Dot Earth writer, Andrew C Revkin, concludes his December 23, 2009 article, “View of China’s Role in the Greenhouse” with a link to a YouTube comic Dr. Seuss-type rendition of the Copenhagen meeting.  Anyone who has sat through meetings frustrated at their inefficiency and lack of progress will enjoy this presentation. Please scroll to the end of the article to find the Dr. Suess-type presentation. Listen to Comic Summary

Hopenhagen

Hopenhagen Ad Campaign. Before COP15 began, the UN backed an ad campaign called ‘Hopenhagen’ that was aimed at educating global citizens as to the importance of the December 2009 Climate Change meeting.  Like the proposed Climate Change agreement itself, the ad campaign began with a flurry of impressive partners, but within a short period of time all but one, OgilvyEarth, had reduced their commitment or withdrawn their commitment to the campaign.  Although the Hopenhagen campaign faltered, the concept of Hope coming out of the Copenhagen meeting did not.

Three Hopeful Results. Three of the most hopeful results are (1) the agreement among many nations to continue REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) talks, (2) the number of youth representatives at COP15, and (3) the international role of religious and spiritual organizations.

1. REDD. Deforestation is thought to be responsible for 20% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. That is as much as all the world’s transportation vehicles emit annually.  Therefore, a reduction in deforestation could have a big impact on carbon emissions.  Indonesia and Brazil are listed as the 3rd and 4th biggest emitters of carbon dioxide following the United States and China because their forests are being rapidly destroyed. At COP 15 Indonesia and Brazil and other countries came close to agreement on rules for reducing deforestation through achieving credit reductions on industrial emissions standards.  However, because of the collapse of formal agreements at COP15, individual countries seem to be pairing up to create their own agreement.  For example, the USA and Brazil reached a memorandum of understanding to slash greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation. Secretary of State, Hilliary Clinton, signed the formal agreement in Brasilia in March 2010 marking the first time that Brazil and the United States agreed to work together on deforestation and a break from Brazil’s traditional reluctance to open the Amazon to any outside government influence.  Indonesia has reached a comparable agreement with Australia.

Deforestation Money. In addition, a one-day deforestation conference was held in Paris, France in early March 2010 to help nations decide how to disburse the $30 billion dollars pledged by rich countries over the next three years.  The discussions will continue in preparation for the May conference in Oslo, Norway.

2. Youth Represented

Making a short address to the plenary at COP15, 2009, Christian Ora, Youth Delegate from the Solomon Islands stated:

"I was born in 1992. You have been negotiating all my life. You cannot tell me you need more time." For YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjG2-7ANe1g

YOUNGO. On September 28, 2009, the United Nation’s Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized youth as an official, separate world constituency.  This recognition required the Secretariat to treat YOUNGO (Youth Non-Governmental Organization) as a stakeholder in the UNFCCC process informing YOUNGO of its activities and receiving input from YOUNGO in their negotiations.

According to Ambika Chawla of UN-Habitat, more than 1,500 youth leaders from more than 100 countries gathered in Copenhagen to attend COP15.  Although many youth representatives were disappointed with the official results of COP 15 and that their official meeting with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon was cancelled at the last minute, they universally reported how empowering it was to be together with dedicated climate change youth from all over the world. The NGO organization, 350 (see below,) brought 350 youth representatives to the gathering who earned the praise of their peers from across the globe.

As the voice of the future, youth are central players in the development of climate harmony and the creation of the new story. If you are an interested youth or you know any interested youth, in honor of 2010 as the International Year of the Youth, the World Youth Conference will be held in Mexico City from August 23 – 27, 2010.  The conference will start with the NGO Global Meeting and the main objective is to create a youth’s declaration concerning topics such as poverty and exclusion, employment, education, social justice and human rights, sustainable development, etc.

For more information on how to apply please visit: http://www.youth2010.org/registro/Youth_2010/?lang=Ing

3. Spiritual and Religious Presence. Another positive ‘Hopenhagen’ outcome is the cooperation and support given to climate change by religious and spiritual organizations present at the Klimaforum or the “People’s Climate Summit” in Copenhagen. The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) organized a program entitled, “Addressing Climate Change by Awakening to Oneness,” with presentations on the relationship between inner and outer climate change; the roots of oneness in all traditions; and the implications for action based on one’s tradtion and/or faith.

A Reflection, the quote

”It seemed like the world's people were convening. Looking around and listening, it became so clear that there still is a thriving and beautiful diversity of people and cultures on this planet. It was a very peaceful atmosphere, an unplanned celebration of diversity, no less a celebration of unity in all this diversity, as we were all longing for the same "resolution" and had all gathered with a common dream. To me, that was very powerful, it gave hope in spite of all the reasons to feel despair….I came home feeling stronger than ever before that we need everyone - and I mean every single one – to partake in this journey, to take full responsibility in his/her own life to come closer toward caring for our shared atmosphere, our shared planet.” — Nanna Borcher 

Declaration. You can explore the growing religious and spiritual commitment to Climate Change by visiting The Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change.

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Building A New Story of Climate Harmony

A Two-Pronged Approach. A two-pronged approach is essential to achieving climate harmony between human behavior and global environment health.

Mitigation. We need increased efforts to mitigate (lessen) the impacts of climate change through whatever approaches bring the desired results.  Such changes can be in technology, consumption patterns, production methods, type of energy use, food preferences, means of transportation, other areas, and a combination of these areas.  These changes are being sought  by the worldwide NGO environmental community, other non-NGO environmental organizations, the eco-agriculture movement, etc. For a list of top 100 global organizations with a strong emphasis on mitigation visit:  http://www.world.org/weo/climate

Adaptation. Since many scientists report that it may be too late to avoid large changes, adaptation is also necessary to achieving a climate harmony story. David Berry, manager of the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable, recommends a variety of adaptive actions to increase our capacity to adapt to predicted negative climate change results.

  1. Eliminate thirsty crops such as cotton, corn, and rice from areas with predicted reduced water supplies, e.g. the valleys below the Himalayas and the Sierras in the American west may not be receiving water from an abundant ice pack melt.
  2. Plan to plant new appropriate crops in agricultural areas affected most by reduced or increased precipitation, warmer or colder climates, and longer or shorter growing seasons.
  3. Slow human habitation and development at or near sea level. This will reduce the need to relocate people during next 3 or 4 generations.
  4. Prepare policy and support systems for the tens of hundreds of millions of people likely to be displaced by changes in precipitation and then sea level over this century.
  5. Create a basket of plans on populations, clean energy, insulating buildings, sustainable agriculture, financial incentives for sustainability, and a culture of moderate consumption to mitigate future even more severe impacts.

New Story Preparation. Preparation for the new story of climate harmony includes exercising a strong heart willing to explore some difficult facts. One category of facts on the impact of rising temperatures appeared Friday, December 18, 2010 in The Guardian, a British newspaper. The article, entitled “Copenhagen Climate Summit:  Five Possible Scenarios for our Future Climate”, describes the changes that would accompany a rise in temperature of 1C, 2C, 3C, 4C, and 5C.

Sea Level Animation. If you want to know about a specific response to rising sea levels in Florida, the East Coast, Louisiana, etc., you can visit the University of Arizonia’s animation program. There you will find maps based on the present sea level and then subsequent changes to the land as the sea level rises of 1- 6 meters.

Human-Nature Interaction. New stories or myths arise based on need within the collective.  For example, long before Western marriage was based on personal love rather than arranged marriages the story of the Holy Grail emerged in Europe.  It is and was a transition story that captured changing values in work and love.  Today we need a global story that captures the imagination of all people and encapsulates new values and perspectives on the human-nature interaction.

Characterized by Climate Harmony. Part of the new story is found in the actions of organizations that are laying the groundwork for creating a global civilization characterized by climate harmony.  The following organizations exemplify the efforts we need to actualizing an outcome that provides us with both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

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Four Organizations Serving the Evolution of Climate HarmonyEarth Policy Institute

1. Providing the Best Overall Information:
The Earth Policy Institute

Offering A Plan for Success: Founded by Lester Brown, who The Washington Post named “one of the world’s most influential thinkers,” The Earth Policy Institute offers a unique focus on workable SOLUTIONS to environmental degradation and its complex relationship to a healthy, sustainable planetary community of life.

Go-To Place. The Institute is the ‘go-to’ place for current, relevant statistics in a broad range of areas, Data Center, and information on a variety of indicators about our Earth systems, such as population, global economy, forest cover, water resources, fish catch, etc. Eco-Economy Indicators.

Plan B 4.0Healthy World. Lester Brown’s most recent edition of his plan to save civilization, Plan B 4.0 guides people, communities, organizations, and governments through specific steps we can take today that will result in a healthier world by 2020.  The date, 2020, is key to Brown’s thinking as he proposes that civilization cannot survive if it delays committing to carbon emissions reduction and other vital environmental changes until 2050.

Brown, who founded the World Watch Institute, began warning about the impact of overfishing the oceans, stripping the trees, and farming the land into dust as early as 1978. Throughout the 1970s, Brown played an important role in developing the 3-pronged (economy, environment, social) concept of sustainable development.  He has received 400 honorary degrees and, recognizing his influence, the Library of Congress requested his papers in 1986.

Throughout his career, Lester Brown and those working with him have been concerned with letting ordinary people know the facts and what they can do to help create a healthier world.

Lester Brown For one of the most thorough lists of what we can do to contribute to positive changes, visit the Earth Policy Institute’s: What you can do
Lester Brown, founder of the
World Watch Institute
 

For More Info:  The Earth Policy Institute

2. Expedition: Education for the New Climate Harmony Story

The Will Steger Foundation Educate, Inspire, and Empower

Why the Will Steger Foundation?
As eyewitness to the reality of global warming, and as an explorer taking on daunting challenges, the Will Steger Foundation inspires people to embrace the transition to a low-carbon economy: exploring the path forward, and leading the way through exciting education, citizen engagement and international cooperation.
Climate Citizen
  New Education Program: 
Climate Citizen

New Story Education. A main focus of the Will Steger Foundation is educating children and their teachers on climate change and other planetary issues. Their new Citizen Climate teaching manual for high school students, Grades 9 – 12, emphasizes global climate solutions thereby educating for the new climate harmony story.

According to their website, the Climate Citizen “curriculum emphasizes civic engagement and helps teachers and students understand the critical and complex climate solutions being discussed on the national and international stage. It also allows students to formulate statements about what they would like to see happen in climate policy and how these policies and actions can be replicated in their states and local communities.”

The Foundation publishes an Educator’s Resource Binder, Global Warming 101, that provides teachers with a curriculum for Grades 6 – 12. The materials can also be used by parents and interested family members. For your convenience, the Will Steger Foundation’s home page has a list of Quick Links to these and other materials as well as links to Kristen Poppleton’s informative blogs on topics such as Bringing Engineering into Climate Change, Age Appropriate Climate Change Education, Fun Modeling Tools…, etc.

In 2009, Life Science Foundation took part in the Foundation’s summer institute for teachers and educators and found it most useful. The 5th annual Will Steger Foundation Summer Institute for Climate Change Education will be held August 12, 8:30 – 4:30 PM at the University of Minnesota’s Continuing Education and Conference Center.  For more about the 2010 Institute.

 

3. Global Activities for You to Help Create A Climate Harmony Story

350.org

Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

350.org

Why 350? The name, 350, derives from scientists who state that the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere is 350 parts per million. As we go above 350 CO2 parts per million, we begin to endanger planetary life as we know it. Since we are already above that number (see chart below,) it is important that we take steps to (1) stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere and (2) begin to reduce the 387 number until we are back to the number 350.  The organization suggests the global community strives for achieving an 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050 and provides a lot of information about the science behind 350. http://www.350.org/about/science.

350 Chart350 founder, Bill McKibben, who co-wrote one of the first books on global warming, The End of Nature, and his partners have been successful at organizing large-scale events. For example, they spearheaded the 2007 USA campaign, Step It Up, that engaged people on climate change in all 50 states. On October 24, 2009 he and the 350 team organized the historic International Day of Climate Action, the largest global action on behalf of climate change to date with 5,200 organizations in 181 countries taking part. For a full review of photos from both the Step It Up Campaign and the Oct. 24 International Day of Climate event, visit Flickr or their Home Page

The following sample photos are from the International Day of Climate Action, October 24, 2009.

350 in Egypt
In Egypt

350 in Almaty, Kazahkstan
In Almaty, Kazahkstan

350 in Manana, Bahrain
In Manana, Bahrain

350 Monks
Monks

The 350 organization brought 350 of the 1500 youth representatives to the UN’s COP 15 in December 2009 and continues to engage people everywhere in actions on behalf of climate health. To know how you can participate in 350’s ongoing events, please visit their website. 350.org

 

4. Brazil’s Leadership in the Climate Harmony Story

The creation of a Climate Harmony story requires creative, informed, and motivated leadership at every level. Brazil, the 5th largest country in the world with the 2nd largest rainforest, has accepted a major 21st Century climate leadership role. The goal is to create climate prosperity and climate justice for all. Once known for its deforestation and its indifference to environmental degradation of many types, the Brazilian government, environmental groups, educators, engineers, and general population are now working to address climate change within their borders, across South America, and on the world stage.

The State of the World Forum, an American based non-profit with a history of exploring global challenges and bringing communities together on behalf of a better life for all, is supporting Brazilian climate change leadership as part of a ten-year Global 2020 Campaign.

2020 BrazilThe Global 2020 campaign was launched in Belo Horizante, Brazil in August 2009 with 1800 people attending the opening event followed by 3 days of meeting for more than 200 experts from all over the world.  In addition to support from various government agencies, scientists, educators, and environmental organizations, the fourth largest commercial network in the world, TV Globo, demonstrated its commitment to Climate Change on opening night.  Participants watched a newly developed TV clip that educated the public about climate change and urged viewers to get involved in its issues. One of the world’s largest Latin American and around-the-world exporters of telenovelas (television serials similar to American soap operas,) TV Globo also agreed to write dialogue about climate change issues into its scripts.  The work of Meshworks, a web-based methodology that fosters multi-stake holder collaboration and the emergence of collective intelligence, was another unique aspect of the 2020 Belo Horizante launch.

Since August, the 2020 Campaign has attracted interested groups in Nigeria and dedicated collaborators in Mexico preparing for December 2010 COP16 that will be followed by a 2011 meeting in South Africa.  Jim Garrison, President of the State of the World Forum, suggests that everyone support countries making similar commitments to climate change such as Sweden, Costa Rica, and the European Union nations. In addition to countries, global climate change campaigns such as 350 (see above) and Four Years To Go express the urgency of our need to act with as many members of our planetary community as possible.

Inviting everyone to get involved, State of the World Forum provides a 3-step summary of what you can do for climate change (Get Informed, Get Going, and Get Involved with Others) as well as an excellent Resource section.

The 2020 Campaign is raising funds for Rapid Response Teams that will eventually be responsible for going to climate challenged areas to develop carbon footprint assessments; develop strategies to reduce carbon emissions while promoting savings, jobs and opportunities; and help implement plans to achieve their goals.

May 27 – 30, 2010 the 2020 Campaign and its partners Globo TV and the Roberto Marinho Foundation are convening a 2020 Global Climate Leadership Forum sponsored by Braskem and a consortium of corporate industrial groups, and supported by the Bahia State Government and the city of Salvador.

For more information about the 2020 Campaign, efforts in Brazil, and activities throughout the world, please visit 2020 Climate Change Leadership Campaign or State of the World.

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