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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.

 

Professor John Webb of the University of Cape Town has done much pioneering work in the teaching of maths and has been active in organising Maths Olympiads in South Africa.   Today I was fortunate to be able to listen to him address the University of the Third Age on “Maths in the Media: how Newspapers Handle Maths Stories”

The audience, who only needed a knowledge of High School Maths to appreciate the nuances of these factual blunders, were entertained by the lecturer’s examples of mathematical ignorance or sloppiness demonstrated by newspaper journalists writing for both specialist and general publications.

Fun with Numbers

I have been attending a monthly meeting offered by our local U3A entitled “Fun with Numbers.”   A small group of enthusiasts who are fascinated by the intricacies of mathematical logic have been meeting on a monthly basis for the past 6 years.   Our collection is headed by a retired maths teacher named Alison Kitto who has the capacity to engage us in fascinating puzzles around the intricacies of numbers, so this was a talk in which I was definitely interested in attending.

Journalism and Maths

Professor Webb introduced us to the topic by quoting an oft admitted shortcoming confessed by journalists who may self-effacingly state, “I was never very good at maths.”   This naive statement was amply demonstrated many times during his presentation.   No journalist would be able to get away with similar gaffs were they made within the grammatical rules of the English language.   The lack of general awareness among the public of these omnipresent inaccuracies, seems to imply that most people who casually read numbers do not actually attend to their significance.

Different Currencies

“The price that Elvis Presley payed for his home of Graceland was about R731237,”   read an announcement in The Times, 17 August 2010.   A somewhat innocuous sum of money, but meaningless when you consider that South African currency was not quoted in Rands in that era, but in Pounds. The country introduced decimalisation only in 1961, which was when the Pound became the Rand.  In addition when a six digit figure is quoted it is somewhat meaningless to prefix it with the description of ‘about!’, as was done in this example.

So let’s try and work out what the logic may have been to reach the sum quoted above.    We know that he pound value of Graceland in 1957 was £36 600.   When South Africa decimalised its currency in 1961 the South African Pound became two Rands.  Multiplying 36 600 by two we get 73 000.   It seems this must have been the logic behind the figure – however the calculation remains incorrect by a factor of ten!

Drinking Straws

There has been much publicity recently about the accumulation of plastic drinking straws which have collected in the depths of the oceans.   So much so that any restaurateur who has a minimal conscience about pollution would be offering his customers paper straws by now.  The statement quoted claimed that, “A person uses 38,000 straws in his life-time.   Let us look at this figure a little more closely.   Say you live to the age of 100.    There are 365 days in the year, so if you were to use 1 straw a day you would use 365 x 100 = 36500 straws in your lifetime.    That requires a dedication to drinking through a straw once a day every day of your life. You still have 1500 extra straws to use during the year!

Language Errors

The Pan African Mathematics Olympiad hosts many countries which are French Speaking, for example Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Ivory Coast.    It is interesting to note the extent that Africa was colonised by the French. The French language is spoken by an estimated 120 million people in Africa, and these francophone countries are spread amongst across Africa’s 24 different political entities.   Instructions for the local Olympiad are therefore translated into French leading the words “Pan African” to be translated as ‘casserole’

Future Projections of Age

This one was particularly intriguing for me as I am so often reading about the projections for the number of people who will be suffering from Alzheimer’s in the future.   In a 2013 publication it was estimated that, “By 2025 more than 1.2 million people in the world will be older than 120 years of age.”   A pretty innocuous projection until you look at the statement a little more closely.   People who are 120 years old in 2025, would need to be 108 in 2013.   However if you look up the statistics of world population figures, there were only 10 people alive in 2013 who were 108 years old. Most people reading this exaggerated statement would not stop long enough to think about its inaccuracy.

Climate Change Denialism

It makes me wonder how many statistics about Climate Change would be contrived inaccurately to create the impression the writer wished to present.    Those who promoting the Denialism of Climate Change could well be reading the type of reports where figures are being quoted with no logical basis.   The naïve can be so readily influenced by sloppy journalism and could be quoting figures with no factual basis to support their non-scientific perspective. Maybe this is something about which I could do some research!