As Continents Burn


A Semi-Poetic Reflection on the Nature of Reality

Half a world away,
A crisis is unfolding.

 

Some say the crisis has been here a long time,
we are just now noticing.
Some say it is not really a crisis at all.
Others say that how we respond will define humanity for generations.
Still others say it is already too late,
The choices before us are about adaptation and a new normal.

 

Some blame our governments.
Some blame the corporations.
Some blame each other.
Some just wish we would all shut up about and go hang out at the mall.

 

What is this crisis?

 

Some say it is climate change.
Some say it is the economy.
Some say our way of life is under attack.
Some say we must impose our values on others for the sake of “love” and “order”.

 

We all say a lot of things,
But is anybody listening?
Is anybody doing?

 

Australia is burning.
But it could just as easily be the Amazon,
Or the Serengeti,
Or cousin Ed’s house down the road.

 

An entire continent could be lost.
We can’t even agree on what’s happening,
Or how,
Or why.

 

Will reducing waste solve it?
Travelling less, taking public transit more?
Eating less meat, carrying reusable water bottles?
Will recycling and buying local solve it?

 

“Conflict arises at the point of perception vs reality.”
I read that in a book once.
Or at least I got the idea from a book, it is not an exact quote.
The author was talking about personal turmoil.
I think it applies here too.
How we perceive impacts how we interact.
What we value impacts the pieces we choose to ignore.
If we perceive incorrectly and reality disagrees, conflict.

 

Reality always wins in the end.
We can ignore it,
We can try to fight against it,
Objective, scientific, physical reality cannot be willed into non-existence.

 

To be anti-science, is to be anti-reality.
You can question science.
You can continue to collect data and test theories,
but at some point, you are going to have to accept what the results tell you.

 

The crisis we current face is multifaceted.
It is not just about climate change,
or economics,
or values.
It is all these things and none of them at the same time.
It is truly a crisis of perception vs reality.

 

Until we agree on the parameters that define reality,
We will continue to argue about perception.

 

As continents burn.

Mercy, Mercy Me, (The Ecology) – Pacifist Lamentations Part 2


Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no [Marvin Gaye, 1971]

earthonfireWhat is the role of mankind upon the earth?

According to Genesis Chapter one, mankind was made in the image of God. That’s all of us as I wrote about last week in the first installment of this series on why I am a pacifist and why I believe pacifism is the true calling of the Christ-Follower.

Continuing from where I left off in the scriptures we read this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]

If we stop there it becomes fairly easy to justify all of the ways in which mankind has been raping and pillaging the earth for the last hundred or so years. This is the mindset that is prevalent among most climate change deniers on the so called “Christian” right and the mindset that has permeated the corporate world, politics and average humans since the 1960s.

When Rachel Carson, an employee of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, first published her research into the disappearance of certain bird species in the book Silent Spring no one had even heard of Global Warming. That was 1962 but Carson had been studying bird populations in the US Mid-West for over a decade at that point.

The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment, caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation about the safety of their products. Not surprisingly the book drew fierce criticism from corporate America, specifically companies like DOW Chemical and Monsanto. But as a result of Carson’s undaunted pursuit of the truth and meticulous documentation she was eventually credited with starting the debate that resulted in the North America wide banning of DDT and many other similar pesticides.

But the work Rachel Carson started more than 50 years ago is far from done. And the naysayers have been far from silenced.

In 2013 it was widely reported that 97.2 percent of scientists believe that humans are playing a major role in climate change. Another way to say that is that is if you put 100 scientists in a room together, 97 of them would think the remaining 3 are idiots! But if that’s what the experts say then why is it that only 33 percent of people in the general public believe them?

smokestackAs a Christ-follower and a pacifist, I believe that part of the blame lies with our incomplete and misdirected understanding of the creation story from Genesis.  We have been taught that the role of mankind on the earth is to “rule over” and “subdue” our environment. In so doing we have inadvertently and irrevocably changed it. As Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently in 1971, a result of our ruler ship, “things ain’t what they used to be.” And we continually refuse to see the evidence that is right in front of our eyes. We caused this. And if we continue on this path we will continue to cause ever increasingly severe and irrevocable damage to our domain.

But there is another way to look at creation. You don’t even really have to read between the lines or change your interpretation of Genesis 1:28, you just have to keep reading and see what else God says about mankind’s role in creation.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

Do you see it?

“Take care” of it!

Ruler ship from the perspective of a caretaker is very different from ruler ship from the perspective of a master. If mankind is the master of this world then we have no one to answer to but ourselves and there are no consequences for our actions. Many climate change deniers, when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge the evidence will use as a last line of defense some variation of the notion that sure maybe there is something going on that we have caused but it will take so long for the ice caps to melt that we won’t be around to see it and future generations will have time to evolved and adapt.

This is not only rude and callus, it’s just wrong on several fronts!

sewingseedsThe fact is there is a master and He is not us. We are merely caretakers of His creation. Caretakers have to take responsibility for their actions, maintain balance and submit to the authority of the master. They have to do their jobs and then hand over the garden to the next generation in as good or better shape than they found it. It’s not ours we don’t have the authority to alter it irrevocably. We are merely caretakers.

As a Christ-follower and a pacifist my role in all of this is to remain conscious and consciences about how I am altering the environment. And make no mistake; I am altering it, that’s unavoidable. I must be aware of the amounts of carbon and methane that I personally cause to be released into the air and do my part to control and mitigate the damage that I do. If I do my job well I can hand over the reins to my replacement, the next generation, without saddling them with an unmanageable problem that I caused.

God created me to rule over His creation, not as the ultimate master but in submission to His will and His design. God created me to be a caretaker for Him. And that is what I believe is the only proper response of a Christ-follower on questions of environmentalism and climate change.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and my Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or go to Twitter and follow the hashtag #pacifistlaments.  Stay tuned to this space for the next installment of Pacifist Lamentations where I plan to discuss the problem of evil from the perspective of pacifism.

Is Social Responsibility Worth It?


csr

The latest issue of Canadian Business Magazine features a report co-authored by American Express entitled “Is Giving Back Worthwhile?”

AMEX polled 500 small Canadian firms to find out whether they invest in socially responsible causes and if it’s worth the effort. At the time of this writing only the hard copy issue is available on newsstands with the on-line version scheduled to be posted to their website on May 1 but here’s the spoiler.

Most businesses just don’t get it…

There are a lot of stats wrapped up in the report that are made to look rosy and show that small business is in tune with the environment and what their communities want. 92% for example “feel a duty to give back to the community.” But buried in all the hippy-dippy happy numbers is a startling truth. In the middle of the graphic, in the small type it says, only 30% consider their companies to be socially responsible.

What?

If 92% think it’s their duty how come only 30% think they are actually doing it? Right below that it says 86% agree the ability to contribute to the community is one of the rewards of business ownership, but again, only 30% think they are taking the right steps to leverage that.

Why the disconnect?

Clearly small business owners want to give back to their communities, don’t they?  They see the benefits, and they understand that they exist to serve their customers, right?  But they aren’t doing a very good job of it and most of them freely admit it.

At the Meekonomics Project we think the problem is two fold.  First off, business owners are capitalists at heart and while they might say one thing when the rubber meets the road, (or their wallet) it’s really hard to make an investment in something that might not bring an immediate return.  That’s just business.  But the bigger issue is that a lot of business owners just don’t know where to start.  So we are developing tools to help businesses get better at engaging with both their customers and their workers in a socially responsible way.

According to the survey 77% of business owners agreed that a good social responsibility plan would help attract and retain like minded employees but only 34% are using it to drive client retention. That makes sense to us; you have to start with the people closest to you, your employees. Once they are engaged they become your greatest assets and ambassadors.

The programs we implement start by looking inward, building a quality organization and retaining the right kind of staff, then we can branch out tell the world.  The cynic in us likes that plan too because it’s a whole lot less costly than hiring a marketing firm to tell the world how responsible you are before you’re ready to walk the walk.

Does your firm have a social responsibility plan?

What does it entail?

Want to learn more? Write to; themeekonomicproject@gmail.com

 

Political Ping-Pong


What Phil Robertson Reminded Me About Politics

phil

I am really getting tired of the polarized political debate we are currently facing in North America.

Gay marriage, income inequality, Obama Care, oil pipelines, corporate bail-outs, hanging chads, global warming, whatever, it’s seems it’s being going on forever and it’s never going to stop.

It’s nothing more than a game of political ping-pong.

ping

To be honest I’ve never played much ping-pong so my analogy may fall apart but here’s the way I see it.  Ping-pong is at its heart a very simple game.  You bounce a ball back and forth across a table with a paddle about the size of a dessert plate.  Two players of equal skill can go on bouncing that ball back and forth forever with neither one scoring any points. (The longest rally in history lasted for over 8 hours). More often, one player will be caught off balance and the ball will slip by resulting in the other player scoring a point.  When both players are equally matched this happens on both sides pretty much an equal number of times.  The official rules of ping-pong state that the game is won when one player reaches 11 points but if both players reach 10 points the game continues until someone wins by 2.  Again, when players are equally matched the game can in theory go on forever.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest ping-pong match in history took place in 1971 and lasted 59 hours and 30 minutes.

Here’s the point.  The endless debate between the political left and right has become nothing more than a marathon ping-pong match between two equally skilled players and it’s getting really boring.

At the end of the day nobody has a corner on the truth.  When someone tries to appeal to some higher law, such as they might find in the Bible (a – la Phil Robertson’s comments this past week) or science (a – la Global Warming) they are branded as uneducated, in-tolerant or bigoted.  To quote another popular TV series from a bi-gone era, “The Truth is Out There”.  But we’re too busy trying to score points in a game of political ping-pong to see it.

The truth is not subject to your political ideology, it just is.

Global warming is a fact; the climate data does not lie but according to many seeing that makes me a lefty pinko who hates capitalism.  Gay marriage is wrong, at least from a religious point of view, but that makes me an uneducated bigot who’s on the wrong side of history.  But wait, I made a distinction between religion and the legal status of two people united in Love and socio-economic reasons, by separating marriage from religion and placing it in the sphere of politics and the economy I’m back to being a relativist firmly ensconced on the left.

Or am I?

Maybe I’m [*gasp*] a centrist!  Which as we all know is just another term used by people on both sides describe an equal opportunity bigot.

Here’s the big idea.

When Phil Robertson states that he believes Gay marriage is wrong because it goes against what the bible teaches, he’s making a statement of truth.  The question isn’t, do you agree with Phil Robertson, the question is do you agree with the Bible.  We can quibble over the underlying meaning of the scriptures and whether or not certain passages that seem to support equality and freedom of choice supersede others or whether the bible should be used to influence what is essentially a socio-economic issue unique to this point in history, just like we can (and should) continue to test the science of Global Warming.  But at the end of the day, the truth is the truth and even as we continue to push the boundaries we must remain cognizant of those who have gone before us.

While our forefathers (is that politically correct? maybe I should just say our predecessors) may not have had all the facts, they too were searching for truth and they did the best they could with what they had.  As we continue to search for truth in our time maybe, just maybe we need to accept the idea that our forefathers (sorry, predecessors) had it right all along.

PS – I hate ping-pong!

Greed, Hubris and Downright Nasty @#$%


So this morning, like every other morning I got up and scrolled through my twitter and facebook pages to see what’s going on the world.  As you can well imagine the internet is full of some pretty interesting stuff, some if it uplifting, most of it fairly innocuous but today one thing jumped off the screen at me as downright nasty. 

That was the story that author and marketing guru Seth Godin published today on the birthday of Thomas Midgeley.  You can read Seth’s take on the man here – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ but here are the cliff notes. 

Thomas Midgeley was the chemist who discovered that if you add lead to gasoline it makes your car engine run quieter.  Psychologically if a car engine is quiet people assume that it is efficient.  Midgeley knew that wasn’t really the case, he also knew that even brief exposure to lead vapor could lead to lead poisoning and he knew that to really get the results people wanted the best way would be to add grain alcohol to gasoline instead. 

Midgeley’s bosses knew that grain alcohol is expensive and lead is cheap.  And the rest, as they say, is history…

If that was the end of the story we could forgive Midgeley for his role in what, to this day has amounted to countless deaths and billions of dollars in environmental damage.  We could put him in the same category as hundreds of other scientists who made discoveries that seemed like a good idea at the time but ended up having unfortunate and unintended consequences.  We could call him a brilliant man who’s genius was exploited by greedy business men.  But unfortunately, for history and the legacy of an undoubtedly brilliant scientist the story doesn’t end there. 

You see Midgeley not only allowed his discovery to be used by deceptive and greedy business men, he actively participated in it.  At a press conference designed to show the safety of the stuff he sniffed and washed his hands in leaded gasoline, even though he knew the risks and as a result ended up contracting lead poisoning himself.  Shortly after that press conference he had to take six months off of work to recover! 

Greed can make people do stupid things!  Blinded by greed people tend to; deny the truth, distort the facts, take unnecessary risks and force unsafe products and practices on people who don’t know any better, even if they won’t use the product themselves.  It reminds me of the story I posted here last fall about Canada’s export of Asbestos to developing countries, all the while having banned the product for domestic use over 30 years ago.     

Thomas Midgeley was just one in a long line of scientists and lobbyists who became blinded by greed and are thus complacent in the deaths of millions of people and the destruction of the planet.  It’s time to wake up and stop letting greed overrule good science. 

Remember, if four out of five dentists agree that brushing with fluoride twice a day helps to reduce tooth decay, the fifth one doesn’t know a secret he’s just crazy!  Think about that the next time someone tries to deny global warming or the health risks of smoking cigarettes.

Hot Enough For Yah?


That has got to be the most inane question anyone could ask; right up there with cold enough for yah or how do you like all this rain?

Somebody actually asked me that yesterday and with today set to be the hottest day in Toronto in over 75 years I’m sure I’ll be asked again.  Just to be a smart-ass I answered “no actually, another 2 or 3 degrees would make this idea!”

Well today I may get my wish; forecasters are calling for temperatures to reach 37 degrees, (that’s 99 for my American friends) in Toronto, well over 40 when you factor in humidity.

During the current heat wave as many as 22 people have died as a result of high temperatures.  More are expected before the system breaks.  But no, it’s not hot enough for me, how about you?

As early as January CNN was reporting that heat related illness was on the rise and this summer could see the most people ever admitted to hospital with complications due to extreme heat.  And as recently as June we were all complaining about how cold and wet it was.  Even here on this very blog I talked about climate change and worried that if the rain didn’t stop soon the farmers wouldn’t be able to plant their crops.  “Quit Complaining About the Weather”

Well now that the rain has stopped and the crops are in the ground we need the moisture more than ever!

Last week, while driving not far from my house I saw a dust cloud kicking up out of a valley.  As I approached I noticed that maintenance workers were attempting to mow the lawn in a city park.  The grass is dead, hasn’t measurably grown in 2 or more weeks but they have a contract to keep it cut regularly so there they were, running their high speed mowers over a dead and dusty field.  It reminded me of the dust bowl of the 1930s.

And that’s where we’re at my friends.  A cold wet spring forced farmers to plant late, now a hot dry summer is stunting the growth of crops and the last time temperatures reached 37 degrees in Toronto was 1936. We all know what the history books say about the 1930s.

Yup, we’re screwed!

But hey, why not smile and ask a stranger if it’s hot enough for yah?  That’ll be funny, right?

BBC News Article on World Food Prices


Just read an really interesting article on the rising price of food all over the world.

According to Oxfam food prices wordwide are up on average 36% from this same time last year. Think about that! What would you do if the cost of anything you rely on daily had increase by a third?

And that’s just an average. Since it hasn’t happened here (yet) the places were it is happening are seeing an even more pronounced increase.

What’s the cause? Climate change largely, but also increase in transportation costs, like the rising price of oil. Read the artcile, I’ll have more to say later. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13597657

Quit Complaining About The Weather


Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it – Mark Twain

So it rained today. 

To anyone who lives in the Great Lakes basin of North America, that’s not news.  By the time everything is said and done this spring will likely go down in history as one of the wettest on record.  As of May 15 Toronto had received nearly 80 mm of rain for the month, up from just less than 40 mm for the entire month of May last year and remains on track to more than double the monthly average of 76 mm. 

Everyone is sick of it and we’re getting cranky!  I get it, believe me but to those people who have nothing better to do than to complain about the weather all I can say is “Suck it up.” 

Yes – it’s wet out, you can’t get out and plant your garden, or play with your kids in the park – big deal.  Sooner or later it’s going to stop raining.  The Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a hot dry summer and there will be plenty of time to get out and enjoy it.  But city folks have no idea how serious a problem an excessively wet spring really is.

Consider this;

According to the Grain Farmer’s Association of Ontario less than 1% of the arable land in the province has been planted so far, most farmers are more than 3 weeks behind schedule.  The growing season in the region is much shorter than our neighbors in the USA and if the rain doesn’t stop soon many farmers will be faced with losing the season altogether.    That could spell disaster on so many levels I am hesitant to even think about it.

Apart from the obvious, soaring food prices and bankrupt farmers, grain is used is so many things and the economy is so completely integrated that a lost growing season would cripple the GDP so as to plummet the entire country to third world status almost overnight! 

Okay – maybe not third world status but a debt crisis similar to Greece or Iceland wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

I’m no climatologist, and I’m certainly not about to go all Al Gore on anybody but it’s pretty obvious to me that we’ve messed with our planet way too much.  It might not look like global warming right now but when the currents in the oceans change weather patterns shift and some places might get colder and wetter at first, that’s part of what’s happening here.  Increased volcanic activity in Iceland might have something to do with it too. 

There’s no point in going into all the possible causes right now.  I don’t have any answers either and I don’t mean to be all pessimistic but I’m tired of listening to everyone complain about the weather when all they want to do is play Frisbee in the park with their dog.  Make no mistake, this is climate change, and it’s a much bigger problem than whether or not Fido get’s his regular exercise.  

The effects of long term abuse of the environment are coming home to roost.  This much is certain, it’s going to a get worse before it gets any better.    So quit complaining, we haven’t seen anything yet!