By Nicole Caldwell for Better Farm
On Nov. 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28% below the average of the previous 29 years: not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts. -Noam Chomsky, Truthout interview
At Better Farm, being inclusionary is integral to our ethos. Hell, it is our ethos. It was what my Uncle Steve, Better Farm's founder, referred to as the "suspension of disbelief."
If we go out into the world listening only to our own voices and convictions and hanging around people who are just like us, we stand to learn very little. No matter which side we think we walk, we become our own enemies when we refuse to allow other ideas in: varying perspectives, truths, empaths, visions, voices, worries, loves, dreams, and questions. A suspension of disbelief requires you to shut up, check your pride at the door, and listen to what other people are saying. It's what would have allowed everyone in this country to realize what was actually happening throughout this election cycle: that there were dissenting viewpoints, bigger problems and issues not being addressed. There were totally separate resources people went to for information; and that information rarely overlapped political lines.
You can suspend your disbelief without succumbing to half-truths, hate, greed, xenophobia, narcissism, racism or bigotry. Listening to each other won't make you a tree-hugging communist or system-milker. No, no, no. Paying attention and listening is what will make you understand the why of what the hell is going on around here. You will understand #blacklivesmatter. You will see why people want to defend their second-amendment rights. You'll get why people have issues with Obamacare. You'll track down some empathy for Syrian refugees. LISTENING doesn't mean turning tail or denying your values: it means educating yourself on how things are the way they are -- and what it will take for us to all work together to make things better. And you can do these things without being cruel to each other.
At Better Farm, we pride ourselves on suspending our disbelief. It's not enough to say something can't be, or isn't possible. It's not enough to be afraid of what's to come. It's not enough to say "this is how it's always been done" or "this is how it is now." We are here to ask questions. To think creatively. And to make things better. We're proud to have an open-door policy for everyone: republicans, democrats, libertarians, socialists, communists, politicians, the politically incorrect, people who came from great privilege, the underserved, people who've been shut out socially, minorities, individuals who have been marginalized for their religion, ethos, gender, sexuality or ideas... women, the LGBTQ community, straight (and rich!) white males, the undereducated, the overeducated, the artistic, the brilliant, the wondering.
This election cycle took a lot out of a lot of people. And while Redwood's (perhaps ironically) a place more civil to differences of opinion than the cities and towns I used to live in, it was a trying time: with perspectives on the world that come from my upbringing, privileged experience, perspectives as a woman, and as someone so deeply committed to social equality and environmental protection... and my understanding and empathy for the working-class community here and what their life experiences have taught them to be true.
I try to keep politics away from Better Farm; and instead push much harder to find what's universal about all of us. We focus on the ways each individual can be more their purest, smartest, most capable, creative, loving self. We live like the world we want is already here. Yes, we need certain environmental regulations, social policies and the like in order to hold things together and continue pushing forward. But many of us don't wait for those rules to get us to live a certain way. We're doing it already -- and trying to encourage people around us to pre-empt the insanely slow gears of policy and public reform by making changes all the time for the good of our communities, families, environment and selves.
We do these things because we believe in them, and we believe in improving what we found so we can leave something better behind. We do this with a tribe of people from every income level, education, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, religion, or place of birth. We love all of you.
And that's why we're pushing one issue that it's really time for everyone to embrace regardless of politics. Because this issue transcends opinion: it's based in fact, it affects everything and everyone here, and we are literally destroying our opportunity to maintain this way of life if we continue to ignore the catastrophic damage we are causing. Yup -- I'm talking about the environment.
And I'm asking you to suspend your disbelief -- because what is happening to our planet is, if nothing else, unbelievable. And in the words of my buddy the Lorax: UNLESS SOMEONE LIKE YOU CARES A WHOLE AWFUL LOT, NOTHING IS GOING TO GET BETTER. IT'S NOT. We can not sit back on our haunches and allow our reason for being to dry up. We can not stand by and watch this big blue-green orb become uninhabitable. Now, more than ever, it's time to ACT. Let's get it together, everyone. Heads, out of the sand. Now. Suspend your disbelief -- you are not helpless. Everything's not lost.
1. THE PLANET DOESN'T CARE WHO WON THE ELECTION.
If you can't breathe, or if there's no access to fresh water, or millions of people are displaced from a region that's rendered uninhabitable... you can forget about the relative luxury of arguing over Roe v. Wade, prayer in schools, universal healthcare, gun control, trade agreements or equal pay in the work force.
That's not to belittle those issues! Every item I just mentioned is HUGELY important to all of us, if it even affects one of us. If a Muslim in America feels threatened, we are all threatened. We are all stitched together, I promise you. And prison reform, sensible drug policy, international trade agreements, universal healthcare initiatives, and securing our borders ALL MATTER IN VERY BIG WAYS TO THE UNITED STATES AND ALL ITS PEOPLE. Also, who you want to lead this country, matters. But what I'd like to urge you to do is to consider that which is allowing you to be here to even think about these things. It's the planet you're hanging out on right this second -- and what we do with the information about what's happening to Mother Dearest will dictate our future far more than one presidential term.
2. THE IMMIGRATION 'PROBLEM' IS (AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE) ROOTED MORE IN CLIMATE CHANGE THAN TERRORISM
“A majority of immigrants flooding Europe today are not coming from Syria or Iraq. Three-quarters are from arid zones in central Africa, where the combination of climate change and runaway population growth are making small-scale farming unsustainable.”
— New York Times
In Bangladesh alone, tens of millions are expected to have to flee from low-lying plains in coming years because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today's pale in significance. With considerable justice, Bangladesh's leading climate scientist says that "These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States." And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment. These catastrophic consequences can only increase, not just in Bangladesh, but in all of South Asia as temperatures, already intolerable for the poor, inexorably rise and the Himalayan glaciers melt, threatening the entire water supply. Already in India, some 300 million people are reported to lack adequate drinking water. And the effects will reach far beyond.
It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history -- whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know -- and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster. -Noam Chomsky, Truthout interview
3. CLIMATE-CHANGE IMPACTS ARE ALREADY HERE, FROM MIAMI TO ANTARCTICA... AND THEY'RE GETTING WORSE.
“The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought.”
— Bill McKibben
Climate change does not care about the law of the land in the U.S. It cares about the laws of physics. Trump can change laws in the U.S. He can’t change them in the atmosphere.
In the coming months, there’s going to be a lot of speculation about what’s in store for the U.S. when it comes to climate policy at home and abroad. Here’s a reminder of the climate change impacts we’re already dealing with, and what we can expect. It’s not an exhaustive list, merely the most clear, obvious impacts based on simple realities of physics. The world will have to take heed or deal with the consequences on society. (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN)
“Scientists say that to have even a two-thirds chance of staying below a global increase of two degrees Celsius, we can release 800 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere. But the Rystad data shows coal mines and oil and gas wells currently in operation worldwide contain 942 gigatons worth of CO2. So the math problem is simple, and it goes like this: 942 > 800
“What we found is that if you burn up all the carbon that’s in the currently operating fields and mines, you’re already above two degrees,” says Stephen Kretzmann, OCI’s executive director. It’s not that if we keep eating like this for a few more decades we’ll be morbidly obese. It’s that if we eat what’s already in the refrigerator we’ll be morbidly obese.”
— Bill McKibben
From the World Meteorological Organization:
It is very likely that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, with global temperatures even higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015. Preliminary data shows that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to an assessment by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Global temperatures for January to September 2016 have been about 0.88° Celsius (1.58°F) above the average (14°C) for the 1961-1990 reference period, which is used by WMO as a baseline. Temperatures spiked in the early months of the year because of the powerful El Niño event of 2015-16. Preliminary data for October indicate that they are at a sufficiently high level for 2016 to remain on track for the title of hottest year on record. This would mean that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century (1998 was the other one).
Long-term climate change indicators are also record-breaking. Concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase to new records. Arctic sea ice remained at very low levels, especially during early 2016 and the October re-freezing period, and there was significant and very early melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
4. REGARDLESS OF YOUR POLITICS, YOU CAN NOT AFFORD TO PRETEND THE SKY IS NOT BLUE.
“We’ve already raised the world’s temperature by one degree—enough to melt almost half the ice in the Arctic, kill off huge swaths of the world’s coral, and unleash lethal floods and drought. July and August tied for the hottest months ever recorded on our planet, and scientists think they were almost certainly the hottest in the history of human civilization. Places like Basra, Iraq—on the edge of what scholars think was the Biblical Garden of Eden—hit 129 degrees Fahrenheit this year, approaching the point where humans can’t survive outdoors. So last year, when the world’s leaders met in Paris, they set a new number: Every effort, they said, would be made to keep the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees. And to have even a 50–50 chance of meeting that goal, we can only release about 353 gigatons more CO2. So let’s do the math again:
942 > 353
A lot greater. To have just a break-even chance of meeting that 1.5 degree goal we solemnly set in Paris, we’ll need to close all of the coal mines and some of the oil and gas fields we’re currently operating long before they’re exhausted.”
— Bill McKibben
During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening -- with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it's all uncertain, but we don't have to do anything because we're producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that "we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it."
The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.
Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump's top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama's temporary block on the Dakota Access pipeline. The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world's largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump's victory, registered a 50 percent gain...
Effects may soon become even more vividly apparent than they already are... Similar observations hold for the other huge issue concerning human survival: the threat of nuclear destruction, which has been looming over our heads for 70 years and is now increasing. -Noam Chomsky, Truthout interview
5. MORE THAN EVER, YOU NEED TO BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.
This is not the time to wait for policy to be handed down. More than ever, and in light of every new report that has come out in the last 12 months, we need to make changes in our everyday life. That means greening your home. Reducing your impact. Eating your zip code. Growing your own food. Reducing your reliance on fuel, gas, treated water and electricity. Buying from reputable companies that give back. Calling your representatives. Kicking off initiatives in your hometown: for compost, recycling, planting trees. You do not get to sit back and wait for the ship to sink! You are the possibility to make things better!
- This is the time to SUPPORT THE #NONDAPL movement (read the Army Corps Of Engineers statement here, then OFFER SOME HELP!)
- This is the time to UNDERSTAND THE WATER CRISIS -- Flint is not an isolated incident, everyone!
- One of Clinton's proposals was to get every house in America running off renewable energy by 2020. It was ambitious, but was touted as possible by several experts -- but we don't necessarily need her to make that happen. Those of us who can, and while there are still tax credits, absolutely MUST look into this possibility: for our schools, businesses and homes. Tesla has solar shingles. Panels have dropped way down in price. There are options! Rechargeable cars! Things you can do that matter!
- Reduce your meat consumption -- You don't need a president to tell you how to eat. We already know cutting down on meat will reduce carbon emissions. And yeah... it's also way healthier, better for the environment in general, and reduces the amount of animals raised in insufferable, unhygienic, unhappy conditions.
- Run for local office -- Care about the issues? Get involved. We need grassroots people at every level of government. Get out there.
And for goodness sake, PUT DOWN YOUR SMARTPHONES, LOG OUT OF FACEBOOK, AND TALK TO EACH OTHER! We need you. The planet needs you. Desperately. So talk to each other, and love and forgive, and let's get on track to actually make some stuff better -- no matter who it is hanging around in the Oval Office.