Thursday, April 4, 2013

How do you say "Climate Crisis" in German?!

There's something about Kaya going to spend the night at her grandparents that often leaves me feeling inspired to write. Granted, I'm one of the very lucky ones in the world with family who not only lives close, but family members who are completely enamored with and passionate about playing a big role in Kaya's life. Thus, she goes there weekly, as you may have heard me reference in the past, and I get one day (and night!) to play 'woman' vs. my usual role as Mama.

This week, however, I'm lucky enough to get TWO nights (I don't think my all caps THANK YOU can come through loud enough to my wonderful in-laws across the river)--so even though it's midnight-thirty right now, I know that I not only get time to sleep in tomorrow (did I say 'lucky'?!), but I also get time on top of that to catch up on work, on gardening, on cleaning, and even some time to run alone. Thus, I'm inspired to write without the pressure to get to bed. Seems like it should be my birthday, not Grahm's...!

So, this afternoon as I was riding this emotional high from a presentation I'd just given, I had this idea to try something a little different on my blog. Generally, I do my best to make my posts here as Kaya-related as possible, though I have certainly veered towards thoughts and feelings that surround us in our bilingual journey. The presentation I gave this afternoon, however, was a bit further removed from Kaya, and specifically from our bilingual adventure. When I thought about it more, however, I realized that it has everything to do with Kaya and her future, not to mention your future (and possible present!), as well as that of your children, grandchildren, and the children of your friends. Thus, my post tonight will include the first of four parts to the presentation we gave this afternoon entitled, "Danger and Opportunity: A UU Response to the Climate Crisis".

As you may be aware, UU stands for Unitarian Universalist, and according to the Unitarian Universalist Association, is a "liberal religion that embraces theological diversity; we welcome different beliefs and affirm the worth and dignity of every person." As a fellow Unitarian, and part of the Community for Earth group, I had the opportunity to do a presentation today with with Katherine Jesch, a Minister for the Earth and the minister that I happened to randomly choose 7 years ago to marry my husband and I (before even starting to attend the UU church). As hesitant as I am to bring 'religion' into my blog (as non-religious as I tend to identify), I was really happy with not only the presentation itself--and my excitement and overall calm in giving the presentation--but with the feedback we received by the audience afterwards.

Thus, as important as this topic is to me, and as important as it is to all life forms of this planet, I share Part I of "Danger and Opportunity: A UU Response to the Climate Crisis". (By the way, before diving into this part, we led an interactive paired-share for the group, where they shared their response to the term 'climate change', and then shared some of what they heard in the large-group.)


Evidence of the Impending Disaster
As evidenced by many of your responses, the term Climate Change brings up a number of reactions. I, too, have had a variety of reactions to the information that I've learned over the past many years, and until recently, did a pretty fine job of avoiding any input (which was most!) that left me feeling helpless and overwhelmed. After finally realizing over the past few years, however, that my actions CAN and DO make a difference, I am better able to truly look with open eyes, and let reality in--without the debilitating overwhelm that I used to feel. It is in this vein that I share some evidence of the gravity of what we're facing--with the hope that you, too, will be able to find inspiration in the truth.

There are five main points that serve as evidence of severe climate change and the drastic need for us to take immediate action to turn things around: an increase in CO2, temperature and extreme weather, as well as the rise in sea level and acidification of the world's oceans.

I'll briefly touch on each of these to give you a better idea of what we’re facing.

As you may know, 350ppm is the upper limit for safe levels of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, and we are now at 396. While there have been clear undulations in CO2 levels over the past 800,000 years, never in the record of human history, much less in the 200,000 years of human existence, have CO2 levels been as high as they are now.

Excessive CO2 and other greenhouse gases cause the earth to warm. During the prolonged heat wave last spring, 671 heat records were broken, including the hottest March since record-keeping began back in 1895.

Hurricane Sandy and the widespread fires in Colorado and Eastern Oregon are just two examples of the extreme weather caused by warmer temperatures. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, 2011's severe weather events struck communities all over the US, breaking over 3200 monthly weather records.

The rising temperatures are also causing a rise in the global sealevel, mostly due to melting land ice from Antarctica and Greenland. According to the EPA, since 1870, global sea level has risen by about 8 inches, and over the next 100 years, is expected to rise at a greater rate than during the past 50. While this may seem negligible, the flooding of coastal areas as well as the ultimate overpopulation of cities which are currently more inland, will not be.

And lastly, while the acidification of the oceans may not seem like much of an issue, when you consider that the acid is dissolving the shells of the organisms at the bottom of the food chain, it puts it in better perspective. The acidification is actually occurring so quickly that it poses a serious threat to biodiversity and all marine life, and could destroy all our coral reefs by as early as 2050. As you can imagine, it has the potential to disrupt other ocean ecosystems, fisheries, habitats, and even entire oceanic food chains. 

Carbon Budget Story
What really matters from all of this, however, is this: There is a limit on the amount of carbon we can emit. When scientists calculate how much carbon the atmosphere can absorb before the impacts are intolerable, they estimate at the present rate of emissions, we’ll exceed that level in just 13 years. …  13 years is a very short amount of time to turn around our total lifestyle in order to minimize the risk of climate catastrophe.  My daughter will be 17 then, on the brink of her adult life. How do we turn things around on such a grand scale in such a short amount of time? 

That’s what I find myself wondering, anyway, and imagine that many of you might, as well. Assuming you’re still “here” that is. As I began to talk, I mentioned that I used to avoid any input that would leave me feeling helpless and overwhelmed. And when I consider all of the facts that I just shared with you, regarding the severity of the situation we face, I’m aware that each of you in this room similarly has your own personal reaction and way of processing, or not, the information you just heard. It’s an awareness of this response, coupled with a willingness to manage it, that is the true beginning to “tackling” this issue. So, if you would, take about 15 seconds to check in with yourself, with your body, to see how all this information is sitting? Did you check out at any one point and start thinking of something else? Do you feel a sadness in your heart or belly? See if you can become aware of the reaction without judging it, but just letting it be what it is. 

I hope you'll join me for Part II over the next few days...the power of our presentation, I believe, is in coupling the facts with gentle guidance for response, specifically focusing on the hope that is necessary to let it all in and ultimately take some action. To take in the facts and be left with despair, with no exit into hope, is debilitating, and the last thing I want for anyone to experience as a result of what I share. 
So, please, come back soon, and don't hesitate to share your comments below. Thanks!


  1. Way to end on a cliffhanger! I want to know what we can do in 13 years!

    And will tr world treat this as a crisis like Y2K?

    Enjoy your two days of freedom! I went to England for a wedding last October and they were beautiful days, not least because I got a great big hug when I came home!!

    1. Thanks Perogyo, just a little bit more patience, and I'll post some follow-up! Just for the record, though, it's not like we have "13 years left" to do something, rather, the effects of what we do now, at the current rate we're doing them, will be intolerable (at best) in 13 yrs. In other words, we need to do something now (yesterday, in fact) to really make strides...
      More soon!


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