Thursday, October 15, 2009

blog action day 2009: climate change

So today is Blog Action Day. This is the third year I've taken part, but I have to say my feelings about it have cooled somewhat, and they were only tepid to begin with. I wonder what it really accomplishes, all of these blogs writing about the same thing for one day of the year. On the one hand, you could say that it raises awareness, and that's a good thing. But on the other, it's all just talk, which doesn't necessarily amount to anything.

I suppose that I feel the same way about public awareness of climate change. Climate change, as you can see from the above image, is this year's Blog Action Day topic. Yes, climate change is on the public radar more so than it was ten years ago, but on the flip side, there is so much greenwashing out there - products that have "eco," "bio," "earth" or "green" on their well-designed logo, claiming in a calming tone or font to be friendly to the environment while having no actual credentials. We all talk about the environment but for a variety of reasons things haven't reached their tipping point and it feels like society is carrying on, business as usual. At least, that's how it feels some of the time. We North Americans still have so many cars on the road and so much food being trucked in to our mega grocery stores. Sometimes a woman wonders if people are doing anything different, at all? As a society we're not walking our talk.

It's ironic that I was going to talk about how I do my dishes, and then yesterday while I was in the middle of a big kitchen project - making a bit pot of roast-vegetable-soup and two chocolate cheesecakes - the tap broke. No water! Cold or hot! I had to go to the upstairs bathroom to fill pots and buckets, bring them downstairs, and heat the water up on the stove to do dishes. And there was a considerable amount of dishes, most of them greasy with cheesecake ingredients. As I was doing all this schlepping, I was thinking about this post, about how I would be taking part in Blog Action Day, and what I might say about Climate Change. I came up with three things.

1. Do dishes to save the world.

Well, maybe this won't save the world. But, if climate change is about emissions, and electricity creates emissions (especially here in Nova Scotia where so much of our power is still made by burning coal), and heating water uses electricity, I've revolutionized how I do dishes. It's pretty simple, really.

I start out by organizing my dishes. This doesn't take any fossil fuels! Just my own time and energy. I get the least dirty dishes together, next dirtiest, and so on. Then I take the least dirty ones, plug up the sink with the stopper - the sink which is still empty - and squirt some dish soap on the scrub pad. (The least dirtiest are usually glasses, interestingly enough.) Then I use hot water to wash and rinse the dish. I continue this way, switching to cold water for the rinse when I see I'm nearing the end of my dish stack. (If I'm not too cold myself, or if the dishes aren't very greasy, I'll use cold water to wash them, too.)

This dish-doing method saves a lot of water on the old-school method of filling the sink first, and then putting the dishes in. And, it doesn't compromise on cleanliness!

2. Get outside and hang out with nature.

Here's something easy we can all do to alleviate climate change anxiety. I find when I'm getting stressed out, what calms me down best is a walk down a dirt road. If you haven't got dirt roads where you live, try a park, or a patch of grass. Wherever you can go that gets your near nature will soothe you and ease your stress. A little backyard you have with some plants and a patch of afternoon sunlight. A city park with benches where you can sit in silence and watch the wind blow the branches of a tree around. Even a concrete lot with grass and flowers stubbornly coming up through the cracks will serve the purpose.

And, the more time we spend in nature, the more we care about it. I don't have a study to back this up, although I feel like if I spent enough time I could dig up one. But it's common sense, really. That which you appreciate and connect to, you care for and will protect.

And, there's another benefit. I feel that after I've taken a walk in the woods or been outside to "refresh" my head, climate change doesn't seem as scary. Well, yes, it is still DAMN SCARY. But when I get a chance to get out there and see the living system around me, I feel that there is hope. Perhaps catastrophic change will happen. We don't know yet how bad it could be. But once you've seen how the system you live in deals with a major storm or a bark beetle infestation, or some other big change, you see that nature's got a lot of tricks up her sleeve. You see that the living things around you adapt.

3. Face what scares you.

OK, so even though you went outside, breathed the fresh fall air, and calmed down a bit, climate change still looms over you like, well, unknown global catastrophes just waiting to happen.

I think my best advice is to face what scares the crap out of you. This applies to climate change the way it applies to anything else scary in your life. Get more information about what it is that is scaring you. Deal with it in a way that allows you to feel the feeling - be angry, be sad, be confused, be whatever you need to be - and then process it. For me, it's writing. For you, it might be another creative outlet like painting or drawing, or it might be getting active - organizing people, making new choices, or talking about the issue more.

As a matter of fact, I do think that talking about the issue is helpful. I think that all these blogs getting together today will make a difference. It's just that there is no way to measure the total amount of change these blogs will bring about, and the timeframe in which they'll do so. That's what's so immobilizing about a global climate threat - it's happening on a global scale, while we humans exist, each in our own bodies, on a small, local scale. Part of coming to terms with climate change and the unknown is recognizing that, and recognizing that we won't see a direct correlation between our actions and the globe. But, processing our feelings and acting on them will make a difference to ourselves and our local communities.
What do you think? Do you think I'm crazier than a bag of hammers, or making sense, or somewhere in between?

I'd love to know what you think about climate change, and about how we're dealing with it as individual people and as a society. Click on "comments" to let me know.

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