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It is Sunday 8th November 2020. Joe Biden’s success in the American Election has been announced.   The writer’s paralysis I have experienced during the past few weeks is starting to heal.  Now, with some relief. I feel I can  share my thoughts and reflections of the past tense pre-election weeks.

Never before had I invested so much of my emotional energy in an election.   Whilst I look forward to the change with some cautious optimism, what a pity the present occupant of the White House has vowed that he is not going to leave without a challenge.   This position he has taken up despite the flimsiest of legal claims he can muster to justify retaining his present status.

Making Sense of Our Times

Going through my emails as a facilitator of TED Circles I have just come across this 8-minute video which I found inspiring, and I suggest you spend a little time watching it

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat who helped to promote the historic Paris Agreement of 2015. She eloquently describes the accelerating climate emergency. How this is the deciding decade to ensure that we do not condemn our children and their descendants to a world that is increasingly uninhabitable.

“We can, however,” she says, “cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half over the next 10 years ensuring our cities remain green, our supply of food remains stable and equitable living standards are generated throughout the world.”

“This ambition is daunting because we have procrastinated way too long. We now have one last chance to truly change course. It is the decisive decade in the history of humankind. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I am convinced of this truth.   If we continue on present path of carbon emissions, we condemn our children and their descendants to a planet unable to sustain their needs.    They will live in a world with exponentially growing levels of disease, famine, conflict, and irreversible ecosystem failures,” she continued

Fire Drill Fridays

Another woman with whom I can identify is Jane Fonda, who at the age of 82 has initiated Fire Drill Fridays.   Each week on Capitol Hill, Washington. Fonda demonstrates, together with a variety of activists, to pressurise the government to espouse legislation which will help to reduce carbon emissions.   “The climate crisis is not an isolated issue,” she says, “it involves every part of our economy and society.”

“Because of that, each weekly demonstration has a different focus. Scientists, movement leaders, experts, activists, Indigenous leaders, community members and youth come together to share their stories and demand that action be taken before it’s too late.”

Despite having been arrested for “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.” she has not curtailed her weekly demonstrations.

How happy I am that Joe Biden has confirmed that on the first day of his inauguration, he will bring America once more in compliance with the Paris Agreement.  (And, or course, that he is the president for All Americans.)

I do believe that  it is essential to limit carbon emissions right now.   Further delay will cause permanent damage to the earth’s atmosphere.   The use of oil, gas and coal for the production of power, needs to be rapidly replaced by solar and wind installations.

The Personal and the Political

I was personally challenged this week by a friend who had played a very positive role in my life last year. Whilst Johannes had during 2019 spoken out and supported me around some contentious personal issues, I had not been in touch with him this year since the outbreak of the pandemic. My espousal of the movement around climate change and its numerous manifestations was new to him.

Our conversation rapidly became confrontational, as he expressed his opinions around ‘climate denialism.’ I was prepared to drop the topic of conversation. I realised I was not going to influence a man with his views, who was additionally a Trump supporter. But then Johannes challenged me. “OK,” he said, you send me 6 references supporting the negative effects of the warming planet, and I will send you 12 references debunking them!”

Of course, I had to accept the challenge.  This is what I found. Googling “97% agreement of Climate Scientists” led me to this impressive link To clinch the deal, you might like to follow up with this list: A list of World Wide Scientific Organisations  It may be redundant to report that I have had no response since sharing this information with my challenger.

Would you like to volunteer?

I am feeling a strong need to make changes in my lifestyle to incorporate this new reality.  There is so much personal and public work which needs to be done.  Is there any one among the readers with similar urges to contribute to this important, immanent and challenging work?  You are welcome to contact me with their thoughts and ideas around a joint venture!   There is a form at the bottom of this page which allows you to communicate with me!

Summing up

I was born into the Second World War, a war which had a devastating effect on the world economy.   Some revolutionary post-war thinking initiated schemes like The Marshall Plan.   The success of this initiative resulted in the the two generations following this event, were able to enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents. This trend has subsequently diminished and my offspring will  probably need to be satisfied with fewer possessions, travel more sparingly, and develop a taste for locally produced rather than imported food.

We know that the way things have been done during the past seven decades will not be maintained in the 21st Century.   There will be more hurricanes, floods, droughts and rising seas if we continue this lifestyle which is dependent on massive emissions of carbon. We need to transition to living more modestly and more sustainably.   Recent climate events show that now is a time of an urgent transition.   These changes can now longer be postponed.   We are all needing to participate in the transformation.

We need to move into a pattern of living which is compatible with the natural reserves of our home planet.

 

 

New Feelings

I have shared with you in previous blogs the strong feeling that pervaded my consciousness early this year.   These meandering thoughts were around the need for me to become an active participant in promoting healthy habits of consumption to conserve our planet from immanent destruction.

But, in the Past

I had been actively sharing my ideas, my habits and my theories on successful aging for the past decade.   I had assumed that would be where I could make a contribution to the wellbeing of the human race during my lifetime.   So what was this about consumption and its implications for the health of the planet which was dominating my thoughts?

New Events

It was in the third month of this year that Covid-19 reached the shores of South Africa and the ‘Stage 5’ lockdown commenced on 26th March.   For the first time in the history of humankind, the occupants on this planet were forced by their government to give up their livelihoods.   If you were in the tourism business, the restaurant industry, in the world of entertainment, your means of livelihood were directly forbidden by government decree.

Imagine it is the beginning of December 2019.    You own a successful small restaurant which you have built from scratch during the past 5 years.   You have just paid off you debt.  The business is starting to offer you a livelihood.   How would you have felt if someone had come along to you and said? “You know Grace, I have some bad news for you.   Something unimaginable is going to happen in three months’ time which will mean you have to stop trading and close your business.   Maybe, you should think of preparing yourself for this eventuality.”   Would you have believed it?

I doubt if anyone would have taken such a pessimistic prognostication seriously.   Yet, thousands of businesses throughout the world have been directed by government decree to close down.  The knowledge that a deadly virus was threatening human life on the planet was sufficient to ensure that populations were compliant with government rulings.  Millions of people have lost their livelihood.  Such changes have devastated the lives of the vulnerable.   However, there is a tacit realisation that these changes are necessary for reasons of life and death.

The Psychology of Changing Habits

It is my belief, based on the scientific evidence which I have studied, that the implications of unwise habits of consumption, harvesting and energy production pose a threat to civilisation and the lifestyle we have known during the past few centuries.   Yet, business, industrialists and private people continue to follow habits they know are potentially destructive to our health and that of the planet.   The only difference between the scenario of Covid-19 and Climate Change is that the threat of the former is immediate, and the threat of the latter is long term.   It is easy to ignore the slow and gradual symptoms of Climate Change, but it is not easy to ignore an immanent death threat.

Since World War 2 the amount of noxious gas being spewed into the atmosphere has grown to such an extent that the carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere was caused massive disruption in climate throughout the world.   The number of droughts, floods, fires and hurricanes have increased in number of volume year by year during the past two decades.   We are assured by the experts of the relationship between the production of noxious gases by the use of both chemical fertilizers and the creation of power is a direct cause of these extreme weather patterns.

New Lifestyle

Our new lifestyle since the lock down has provided us with both challenges and opportunities.   I have always been an early adopter, and my migration into the zoom room was inevitable.   Yes, it did come with some teething problems.   The anxiety of running a meeting in zoom and not being able to cope with the requirements of the technology were quite over powering in my early endevours.   The blips in the ability of the participants to enter the zoom room caused me much anxiety.   Acquiring the skills of facilitating a dialogue with this new method of communication was a challenging learning experience.

However, I also experienced some great excitement with this new method of communication.    So many opportunities for learning new skills and information were enticing me to participate and explore areas of expertise which had previousaly been unavailable.   I learned that Al Gore’s Climate Reality was offering a free nine day course on line.   It was at no cost.   Here was my opportunity.   And, now I am entering this new field of activity as a Climate Reality Ambassador with this 24 hour challenge

“For 24 straight hours, Vice President Gore and Climate Reality Leader activists across the planet will lead digital presentations and discussions exploring the historic conjunction of climate change, COVID-19, and structural racism that not only threatens our lives and deepest values, but opens the door to truly transformative change”   It is hoped that 3000 presentations will be made either face-to-face, or on zoom.

Here is the link to my presentation which will take place at 16h00 South African Time

New Meetings

It would be such fun if this could provide me with the opportunity to meet many of my readers on zoom!   A great chance for us to get to know each other.   I encourage you to diarise this event, as well as signing up your attention to attend on the webpage.

The time is now. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to become aware of the role we can play to promote conditions which result in the health of the environment.  We need to co-create the conditions which will push back on the continuous climate devastation of recent years.   Please join me in this challenge.

 

South Africa has been in lockdown since 27th March 2020 – that amounts to 13 ½ weeks at the time of writing.    What have I learned about myself, society and the human condition during that time?  How am I making sense of all these constraints on my personal freedom?  How am I coping with the anxiety of an ever more threatening future?

Being Subjected to Outside Disciplinary Measures

I live in a village for Senior Residents.   I was told by the Village Manager yesterday that I was not allowed to visit my daughter who lives about 15K from my home and has just returned from hospital after a surgical procedure.   I was somewhat stunned to internalise this restriction on my liberty, but realised that a protest would evoke unpleasant repercussions from my community

So my plans were thwarted.   Despite spending yesterday morning making vegetable soup and kneidlach, spring rolls, and stewed apples;  topped by homemade rolls and a fresh carrot and cabbage salad, my aspirations were stymied.    My intention was to share these symbols of my love with my two daughters over a celebratory supper.

However, when my younger daughter arrived at the security station to fetch me and the fondly made repast, she was not allowed inside the Village grounds.   Not even to collect the food.   Furthermore, I was told by the village Manager that if I left the village to visit my recuperating offspring, I would not be allowed back into my home again!   And, I did not even protest!

School Goers also have Disciplinary Features in the Daily Routine

Our local scholars have just returned to school after three months of home learning.   They are not allowed to play in the grounds during the break, but must sit in their desks to eat their snacks.   Teachers are not able to walk between the children’s desks, let alone hug them or shake their hands.   Standing in line to have temperatures taken and hands sanitised is the opening ritual on arriving at school.   So, I am certainly not the only person in the world whose activities are being thwarted.

Some Sanity from a Wise Psychiatrist and Environmentalist

I had the privilege of listening to Ian McCullum putting into perspective the anxiety-provoking circumstances of our present lifestyle.   He drew my attention to some profound new understandings initiated by the confluence of the Covid pandemic, together with the virulent reaction to the death of George Floyd.   There have been many demonstrations over the years when police violence in America has been out of proportion, however this particular event was witnessed all over the world with the 8 minute 46 second video, circulated by a bystander.  The unexpected consequences have been monumental.

Our Defence Mechanisms

Dr McCullum offered some profound insight.   He described the response to the present unique circumstances in terms of four “viruses.”  More traditional psychological theory might have labelled the qualities ‘defence mechanisms.’

  • Ignorance is manifested by those who do not have the ability to recognise that all humans and animals are interconnected. Many do not have the curiosity to internalise this concept of inter-dependency.
  • Entitlement is a quality possessed by many people who are in denial of their privileges. The present challenges have demonstrated clearly that it is the poorer and less privileged who are the worst victims of this scourge.    It is not true to say, the virus does not discriminate.   Statistics show that a lower socioeconomic status puts the individual at greater risk.
  • Indifference is displayed by arrogant people who think it is their right to come first, and are incapable of internalizing the significance of their privileges.
  • Defeatism is used as a tool for those who declare it is too late to do anything about climate change. They declare that to be optimistic is to be foolhardy.   However, active hope is an essential tool for humankind if we are going to find a “new normal”
Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change.

The confluence of the challenges of Covid-19, Racism and Climate Change has brought to my attention the necessity for each and every one of us to examine their personal values and beliefs.  We have just undergone a massive worldwide change in our behaviour.   All over the globe citizens of many countries have had their freedom curtailed by government regulations.

The threat of the virus is immediate, whereas the threat from climate change is long term.   There is no immediate repercussion for the individual if he or she continues to use plastic indiscriminately.   Racism has existed all our lifetime and the destruction of the spirit of those with darker skin hues gets condoned because their hurt feelings are not visible.

We can change our behaviour, turn our lifestyle upside down virtually over-night when potential death is on our doorstep.   What an amazing demonstration of the fact, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

My Hope

The unprecedented times through which we are passing allow us to slow down, feel our feelings, examine our thoughts, meditate on our actions and re-evaluate our belief systems.   My hope is that the wisdom bearers amongst us will be able to use the present circumstances to mobilise human resources to create a more fair and equitable world.   And, I predict that it will be the generation of my grandchildren who will come up with the necessary revolutionary perspectives and creative ideas to enable the transformation of human behaviour and its relationship to the environment.

 

“Your true purpose is found at the intersection of your greatest aliveness and the world’s critical needs.”  This statement was made by Frederick Buechner to define wisdom.

My Search for Wisdom

It was some years ago that I realised I had reached the stage of my life in which I was supposed to be wise.   However, I did not feel wise, so decided to make it my business to find out what this state of being was all about, and how I could acquire it.

I have always believed that it is easier to approach such a deep question in the company of others who have a similar mind-set.

Engaging with a group about Conscious Ageing

I approached our local University of the Third Age to let them know I wished to recruit members to explore both Wisdom and Conscious Ageing.    The group has been meeting now for the past decade, and has grown to incorporate new ideas as they become part of the present zeitgeist.

Wisely and Consciously Engaging with Today’s Existential Challenges

In the third decade of the 21st century, nothing is more important than coming to terms with the problems around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.   Inspired by the clarion calls of Greta Thurber, Extinction Rebellion and other similar movements I have been researching what the present day elders are doing about these environmental threats.

Forest Fires in South East Australia

At the time of writing, uncontrollable fires have been raging in South East Australia for the past six months.    This spontaneous combustion has been caused by both prolonged drought and the raising of the temperatures.   Millions of acres of forest have been destroyed, vast quantities of wild animals decimated, as well as the considerable loss of homes and lives reported.   Despite international co-operation, there is little hope of being able to control this destruction until the rainy season.   This is a wake-up call which must arouse the wider public’s awareness of the potential devastation instore for Mankind.    There is no time to waste.   We urgently need to change our destructive consumption of coal and gas.

The Role of the Unconscious in Understanding Climate Change Denialism

Jeffrey Kiehl worked for 30 years studying climate change.  He noticed that when he gave public lectures, his audience would become very uncomfortable when he offered them factual information about the dangers of the changing climate. His well researched scientific evidence made his audience uncomfortable, so they tended to reject the quoted statistics and factual information.   Kiehl decided this denialism must be related to unconscious feelings.  He was so keen to understand this rejectionist attitude that he changed career to study Jung’s Theory of the Unconscious. Today he is a respected Jungian Analyst.

How does the unconscious operate?

Studying Kiehl’s ideas has offered me a new understanding of why it is so difficult for many people, business leaders and politicians particularly, to accept the scientific data.   There is a human predisposition to reject information which makes us feel uncomfortable.    No one wants to change their lifestyle.   The public is frightened by the realisation they may have to consume less in the future in order to maintain a healthy environment.

Crises offer us an Opportunity for Change.

I am reminded of learning about Crises Intervention at the Child Guidance Clinic many years ago.   A good time to create changes in the attitude of emotionally disturbed children is when they are going through a personal crisis.    Maybe the crises created by the present dangers of flood, famine and fire will help us to understand we all depend on each other to maintain conditions for sustainable life on this planet.  The Buddhists told us many years ago that all mankind was inter-related.   Ubuntu in Africa is based on this mutual interdependency.

In Conclusion

The Wise Elder needs to find avenues for co-operation with the younger members of the community to make progress in finding a way to work together to halt and reverse carbon dioxide

There is no doubt that we live in a world today, Saturday 27th April 2019 at 12h15, in which we suffer from information overload.   Whatever your perspective on an issue, there will always be multiple examples of expert evidence to confirm your beliefs.

I am not sure if it is my chronological age or the era in which I live, that has caused me to suffer, for the first time in my life, from a degree of existential angst.   A strong feeling of what can I personally do to fight the decisions of politicians who continue to feather their own nest at the expense of the future health of the planet. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live on an Earth where the quality of life has been compromised or even jeopardised if they do not realistically deal with the ecological threats of today

Pinker and Enlightenment Now

It was with some relief that I was internalising some of the reassurances offered by Steven Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now,” subtitled The case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.   I was starting to be persuaded in his latest book that the average person was worrying too much about the potential disasters of climate change.

He has followed up his optimistic view of the benefits of a contemporary lifestyle which he elaborated on in a heartening exposition in his previous book, “The Better Angels of our Nature.”   In this previous work, Pinker explores the everyday safety in which we live today, as opposed to in the past eras.   I was happily reassured by his rationale and the evidence he brought to the table.    Pinker persuaded me that life today is safer than it has ever been, and the percentage of the world’s population actively engaged in a war situation is proportionately lower than in any past era.

My fair in “Enlightenment Now” was shattered however then my monthly blog arrived from Jules Evans ( whose website you can find at www.philosophyforlife.org,) and his pessimistic, or potentially realistic, assessment entitled “Is Extinction Rebellion Self-Indulgent Therapy?”

David Attenborough

Evans described how shocked he was to listen this week to David Attenborough eloquently describe on the BBC, just how significant the current temperature changes have been in devastating the tranquillity of earth’s balance of nature.   The measurement of the atmosphere as 1 degree warmer, has resulted in wildfires in Australia and California, storms and floods in India, Mozambique, Mid-West USA, and Ottawa.   What Attenborough did not mention is that Cape Town, South Africa where I live, has suffered a drought the past few years which has resulted in water rationing becoming a ubiquitous feature of our everyday life.  Water restrictions for our gardens are now a permanent part of our horticultural management system, whilst the use of water in the household is strictly rationed and very expensive.   Washing dishes is a once a day operation, and daily showers are obsolete!

James Lovelock

Evans carries on to remind us what was said in 2008 by James Lovelock.   “Enjoy life whilst you can,” said Lovelock, “in 20 years global warming will hit the fan.”   Lovelock has been dispensing predictions from his one-man laboratory in an old mill in the South of England since the 1960s with consistent accuracy.    Whilst he may be a bit of a maverick, he is one of Britain’s most respected independent scientists.

Extinction Rebellion

For 10 days last week, thousands of activists unleashed strategic disorder in London to draw attention to the accelerating climate crisis. This coordinated effort was organised by Extinction Rebellion, a movement which was founded last year and is targeting the British Government to achieve net-zero greenhouse emission by the year 2030. More than 1,000 protesters submitted to arrest after barricading roads, bridges and other city landmarks.

Student Activist

The eloquent 16 year old Swedish Activist Greta Thurnberg addressed the crowds and in simple and persuasive language described what she sees as the role of her generation.   She said, “We have gathered here today because we have chosen the path we want to take.   Together we will make a difference.   The ecological crisis remains despite all the beautiful words.  The crisis has been ignored for decades.   The politicians and people of power have got away with not doing anything at all, but we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer.   Humanity now stands at a crossroads………………………”

Find out more

Steven Pinker, on the other hand, urges us, “to step back from the lurid headlines and prophecies of doom, which bring out the worst in our psychological biases.”   He believes that with the scientific knowledge at our disposal today, we will be able to control the malevolent forces of carbon dioxide which threatens to irrevocably pollute our environment.

Should you choose to read over 400 pages of Pinker’s positive rationale, together with the accompanying 75 graphs illustrating a thesis of continuous human improvements in living standards, you may be comforted by his perspective that mankind has overcome all the challenges of the past, so why should the environmental challenges of today be any different.   I would like to accept Pinker’s perspective, but am more inclined to vote with the young Swedish activist!